Stateline Water Heater Problem after plumber fix

newhomebuilderAugust 22, 2011

Our water heater started producing hotter water about a week and a half ago. It was hard to take a shower without turning the knob to cold. Then all of the sudden, we had no hot water. NOTE: This heater only serves the Master bedroom. We have another identical heater that takes care of the rest of the house.

We called our plumber who replaced both the upper and lower thermostats. Instant hot water ensued. We were able to take two scalding hot showers before the water turned cold again. Our plumber came back out and replaced both coils (are these the same as elements?)that had a nasty build-up of calcified junk on them. Once again, we received instant hot water for one day.

The next day - a Saturday, no hot water. Since I couldn't get a plumber on Saturday, I did some research and read about a reset button on the top. I took the cover off and pressed the button. The water heater came to life and soon we had hot water. All was fine until this morning and now no hot water again.

I called the plumber today and explained what was happening and about the reset button. He sounded frustrated and said he was tired of fooling with the heater and would just order another since it was still under warranty. The heater is almost 5 years. Of course, we will still have to pay for labor. In the meantime, I have reset the button.

My question: The thermostats are brand new, the coils are brand new, why the trouble? I just hate to replace the whole unit if it doesn't need to be replaced. The tank is not leaking.

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It is possible that the plumber connected some of the internal wiring wrong after the replacements and an element is not being controlled by the thermostat because it was accidentally bypassed. If the heater is that new and is not leaking, repairing is the better choice. Do you know someone who really understands the internal wiring of electric water heaters?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 4:23PM
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If you have hard water replacing the WH will only be treating the symptom and not curing the disease.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 4:23PM
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justalurker - So what is the disease in your opinion? hmmm

bus_driver - I did ask the plumber if he might have replaced the old therms with a faulty one, but he brushed it off. No, I don't know anyone with water heater electrical abilities. I was hoping that he would call me back this afternoon to say he would come take another look before ordering a new tank, but have not heard from him. Thought he might think about it some more after our chat.

On the bright side, we did get our second heat pump coil replaced today. Yes, it's been one of those months! Next on the horizon is my washing machine, I am afraid it is on it's way out.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 6:39PM
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"Our plumber came back out and replaced both coils (are these the same as elements?)that had a nasty build-up of calcified junk on them".

That is the disease... and most likely why the elements failed in the first place. If you have hard water it is already costing you in failed appliances... water heater, heat pump coil, washing machine.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 7:38PM
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You now have two new thermostats and two new heating elements in a pressure vessel that does not leak. In essence you already have a new water heater. What you do not have is a plumber that understands electricity.

What you now have is one of three problems:

1. The Thermostats are held in place by spring clamps. Sometimes while removing the old thermostat the springs are stretched too far forward and once the new thermostat is installed it is not held tight enough against the tank wall. That will result in a slight air gap between the sensing element on the T/stat and the tank wall which causes the t/stat to get a false reading. The t/stat is not triggering correctly and the lower heating element is not being turned on. Generally when that occurs the water heater will produce super hot water that will run out almost immediately when the hot water is turned on or the reset button will pop out frequently.

The solution is to turn the power off, remove the upper t/stat and slightly bend the springs so they will give more force in holding the t/stat against the tank wall. Also, while you have the T/stat off, use a piece of emery paper to clean any rust or corrosion on the tank wall behind the t/stat mount location.

The second, and surely the most common problem is in the wiring on the upper t/stat. Although the upper t/stats all look physically the same, there are two different wiring configurations used on the upper t/stats. You MUST check the wiring diagram printed on the new t/stat package and make sure the lower t/stat and element are connected to the upper t/stat correctly.

The third problem is generally only seen on installation of a new water heater, but if they had reason to disconnect the power cable from the internal wiring on top of the water heater, make sure the connections were re-connected using the proper size wire nut and make sure it is a tight connection. A loodr or improper connection will result in a voltage drop, which in turn increases the amperage draw and trips out the reset button.

Under no circumstances would I suggest a new water heater. What you need is either a new plumber that understands water heater wiring or an electrician to undo the mistakes.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 7:55PM
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Thanks justalurker, but since the damaged elements have been changed, the corrosion problem is not relevant with the current problem.

The heat pump coils were replaced because they were both defective (holes in coil) and have been leaking since day one.

The washing machine is making a banging sound when it goes into spin mode, so don't think that is hard water related, either.

However, you do bring up a good point, and one that the plumber pointed out on Friday. He suggested that we put in a whole house water filter to help prolong the life of all water appliances around the house.

lazypup - Great info...thank you! I will try my best to get the plumber to take a look at what you have suggested. Sounds to me like it's #1. I am going to print this out.

Thanks again, everyone...good night!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 9:53PM
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"... since the damaged elements have been changed, the corrosion problem is not relevant with the current problem"

Really? How did the elements get the "nasty build-up of calcified junk on them"? That calcified junk is precipitated hardness and the same damage has begun as soon as the new elements were installed.

There is NO whole house filter that treats hardness. Hardness is treated by a water softener.

If you're smart you'll get your water tested to see what you've got in it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 11:07PM
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With respect to the hard water part of the problem, softening the water in your home can definitely help. You can use a cheap test kit to figure out the hardness of your water in GPG (grains per gallon) and then see if a softener would help. Assuming you have a high enough GPG, there are a lot of different options when it comes to installing a water softener. I would recommend you take a look at - there is a lot of excellent info on water softeners there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to the HVAC and Water Site...

    Bookmark   August 22, 2011 at 11:07PM
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