The Tank › Getting ready for 1st new tank(s) since dip tube fiasco
- February 15, 2009 at 1:56 am #10701
My current tank is a 50-gallon NG Bradford White that was installed in 2000 as a result of the dip tube problem. The amount of available hot water has been slowly decreasing over the past year, and occasionally we get a whif of sulfur odor. Additionally, the 3 kids are coming into that stage of life where we’ll have the highest hot water demand of our lives over the next 8-10 years. A couple of additional points: I’ve always wanted to relocate the water heater about 6 feet from the current location. This would actually put it closer to the main flue and be less obtrusive in the room. The current location was simply chosen by the plumber during original construction for time savings and simple gas line routing between the tank and the furnace. I have the skills needed to re-route all connections. Last, the location is in my basement woodworking shop. I have commercial-grade dust collection in place and am careful about dust in general, but I have no experience with the new FVIR heaters. I wouldn’t want to put in tanks that could be damaged beyond repair because of a bit of dust in the area.
So… while I’m still able to act on this more or less on my own schedule, I’m thinking of bringing in a pair of 50 gallon NG tanks and doing as much pre-install as possible while the current tank is still operational, so that when that inevitable day comes all I have to do is make the final connections. I wonder about the following:
1) Of course the most basic question is, which tanks? I’ve heard the GE/Rheems at Home Despot are some of the best available direct to the consumer, but I’m wary of such statements.
2) What’s the bottom line need for dielectric unions? Needed? Not? Both hot and cold connections? I’ve used the 2-part dielectric unions on previous installations but then read that they weren’t really needed. The house is 15 years old and the electric service is grounded to both an outside rod and to the cold water line. All supply lines in the house are copper.
3) Are there any considerations (dielectrically or otherwise) when connecting a humidifier supply line to the outlet of the 2nd tank? Currently I have that connection running through a gate valve, which has become covered with a powdery whitish buildup.
4) If I operate this pair of tanks such that the 1st tank is set to a lower temperature (i.e., a “preheater”), and the 2nd tank brings the water to its final 125F, what would you expect to happen to my gas bill compared to the current amount? Is this a wise configuration? I’ve heard people say they went from one tank to two and saw no difference in their gas bill, but I don’t see how that’s possible.
5) What’s the bottom line on transporting new tanks on their sides? I realize the glass lining is very delicate, but the dip tube is plastic and I wouldn’t think the anode is flexible enough to make contact anywhere, so as long as the gas valve is facing up, what would it hurt?
I know this is a lot of questions, but thought I’d try to hit all of it with one post rather than many. Thank you for any and all input!
Kansas CityFebruary 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm #10707
I’ll answer the parts I can and perhaps one of my esteemed colleagues can deal with the rest. Rheems are OK as long as you don’t break the glass vial of the FVIR system and that is one of several reasons why you don’t want to transport them on their side. Another is that the anode, while stiff, could possibly bounce off the side of the heater and crack the glass lining. Sometimes Rheem’s resistor anodes passivate, sort of go to sleep, and we’re not crazy about them for that reason, but at least they’re magnesium.
I have yet to do the research, but I’m intrigued by Bradford White. Its FVIR system is reportedly less prone to dust problems, the same as Rheem’s, but it is supposed to have a simple reset switch that you can push if the FVIR system is activated. It also has magnesium anodes and they are not resistored. If you can get a model with both top and side T&P ports, you can use the top one to add a second anode.
We do like in-series plumbing. You can use one tank as a preheater, or if that isn’t enough hot water, you can set both tanks to max, but it gives you some flexibility.
You shouldn’t need dielectric unions, and we mostly think they’re worthless. They are hard to disconnect, and prone to leak. Just connecting a copper flex line to a plastic-lined steel nipple is sufficient.
The humidifier is the part I can’t answer, and maybe the one about the gas bill.
Randy SchuylerFebruary 15, 2009 at 8:02 pm #10709
Thanks Randy, I appreciate your reply.
It doesn’t sound like the GE’s are the way for me to go. It’s disturbing that BW (and Smith?) are only available through Plumbers who understandably must charge an arm and a leg to do something I’m fully capable of doing myself.
MikeFebruary 15, 2009 at 10:28 pm #10717
That IS a drawback of Bradford Whites. Do you have any contractor friends who can get one for you?
Beyond BW, the answer is complicated. I’ve mentioned Rheem’s drawbacks. Its advantage is that it’s less prone to dust clogging an air filter and shutting down the pilot light. Smith/State/Americans all suffer from that. Sometimes you can order a Smith with a regular magnesium anode, and there are other things we like about the way it’s made. But you may have to get that through a plumber, too. Americans and almost all States have aluminum anodes, which we don’t like, and the air filter issue.
Randy SchuylerFebruary 16, 2009 at 7:06 pm #10731
Unfortunately I don’t know of anyone who could help get me a BW. Other than availability, do you see any disadvantage to BW? If they are the least of all the evils (filtering, anodes, etc.), I’ll figure out what I have to do in order to go that way.
I had a guy tell me BW has gone to an unacceptably thin-wall tank, but he’s no more credible than anyone else. It’s too bad none of the important details in these things are visible to the buyer.February 16, 2009 at 11:31 pm #10735
I simply don’t know, on either of the things you mention. From the outside, BW looks good, and I’ve heard good things about them. I’m going to try to find some time to learn what I can, but it’s hard to find objective data.
The makers are not going to tell us the weak points of their products, and anecdotal evidence is meaningless. Every plumber out there has a brand he loves and a brand he hates, based on his experiences, and they’re not all the same brands.
Every company makes a certain number of defective water heaters. If a plumber sees very many of those, he’ll hate the brand and love the one that has fewer. And there are sales and promotion policies that can prejudice plumbers one way or another.
Randy SchuylerFebruary 18, 2009 at 10:52 am #10758Pilsner73Participant
I just got a Bradford White 40 NG heater installed, was a little more than what Sears/HD would of charged for the heater/install but only like 25-75 more. Call around and see what plumbers install them and what prices you can get, you may find a decent price.February 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm #10763
Thanks, I’ve done that. I’d be looking at around $5-600 in labor to go from the one heater to two and move the location a few feet.February 19, 2009 at 3:46 am #10771
Hello: Those two questions Randy passed on about humidifier supply and gas bill… Why are you using heated water for a humidifier? Wouldn’t cold work as well? It is a small point, but seems a waste of heated water. As to the gas bill; having two tanks doubles the surface area to lose heat from, so standby loss is doubled. The more gallons of hot water you use, the smaller percentage-wise the standby loss is.
One unasked question is why you are thinking of putting in two new tanks now. If one tank is working and you’re considering putting good valves on both tanks, you’ll have the ability to valve off a leaking tank and deal with it at leisure. I see no need to replace a tank that hasn’t failed 😉
Yours, LarryFebruary 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm #10773
On supplying the humidifier with hot water – first, I must admit that I may be guilty of “we’ve always done it that way” syndrome since the plumber who did the original construction plumbed it that way. However, I do know for a fact that warm water is absorbed far more readily into a passing air stream than cold water is.
As it happens I have intimate knowledge of CPAP systems which some folks use to force their airways to stay open while sleeping (the most common treatment for sleep apnea). A vital part of any CPAP system is a small humidifier that the forced air stream passes through on the way to the patient. Most of these humidifiers are heated so that they can be used with the heater on or with it off. When the heater is on, many times more humidity is added to the air stream – and that’s only from raising the water temperature a few degrees.
Now, whether any of that makes any practical difference in the case of a whole-house humidifier, I don’t know. It would be nice to have some real test results on this point, as you are correct that it’s using (and wasting!) a fair amount of heated water over the course of a winter season. Any professional plumbers or HVAC guys on this board, please chime in with your experiences on this point.
As to the reasoning for two tanks – first, I’ve lived in this immediate area for all of my 47 years, and have gotten to know (based on the water hardness here, etc.) when a heater is on the way out – and this one is. Second, this will obviously be a large expense and right now I can do it financially; I don’t know if that will be the case 6 months or a year from now. And third, the relocation will mean having to make some changes to the flue ducting, and it would seem to make sense to do that all at once.
From a financial perspective, the current tank didn’t cost me anything because of the dip tube mess. So I’m not really out anything on that. At least, that’s the logic my wife would use. 😉
I appreciate your input.February 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm #10793
Hello: All good, but one more consideration. Warm stagnant water is a great place to grow bacteria. Might you be encouraging bacterial growth by using heated water for the humidifier? I have no doubt the question is something folks with humidifiers deal with daily. Here is a google search. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=humidifier+bacteriostatic+water+treatment&aq=1&oq=humidifier+bacteria 😉
Yours, LarryFebruary 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm #10797
Thanks Larry, that gives me something else to consider.February 21, 2009 at 9:26 pm #10799energyexpertParticipant
Unless the source heating the house is a great deal cheaper than Nat Gas then using heated water vs. cold would have no cost disadvantage. You essentially are having to flash water to steam (air downstream of the humidifier has a higher humidity than upstream air and downstream temperature will be lower than upstream temperature). The colder the water the more heat you take from the air to flash it and the more enery is thereby required from the heating system.
DavidFebruary 22, 2009 at 1:25 am #10800
Hello: If the water goes directly to be evaporated or turned to steam, then starting out warm or hot is fine. If it first sits in a reservoir where bacteria (think Legionella :shock:) could hang out, I’d want that water cool to slow bacterial growth. So, without knowing more about the equipment being used, I feel the need for caution. In the Google search, I did find folks making anti-bacterial potions for humidifiers, so at least some of the time it’s a problem.
Sometimes, even thermodynamics has to take a back seat. No good being energy efficient if it puts someone in the hospital 😕
Yours, Ol’ WorrywortFebruary 23, 2009 at 12:42 am #10814
Now I see your point. It’s not much of a concern with this system. The line runs from the heater outlet through a 1/4″ copper line for just a few feet where it connects to a General 1040 humidifier. In that unit, the water passes through a 24VAC solenoid valve, runs into the top of the case, drips down through a metallic mesh media “pad,” then anything still liquid runs out the bottom through a drain line to the floor drain. There’s no place for water to collect or stand.
There’s almost always water running out the drain line when the furnace is running, so it would be good to adjust the supply valve down to eliminate that waste.
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