Hot Water Issue

mattasimmsDecember 13, 2009

I have had plenty of hot water for the past 1.5 years and now...not so much. I have 2 80 gal. electric heaters tied together with a recirculating pump.

I can no longer get 2 inches of hot water in a bathtub, but can take as long of a hot shower as needed.

I have just hooked a hose to the bottom of the hot water heaters and opened the valves...not much hot water at all...i even opened a faucet in the house to let it vent...

any suggestions? i have been meaning to get a new pump with a timer...(this one is on constantly and has been for 1.5 years..

i will be checking this pretty frequently (as this is a project fix for this weekend!) any help is appreciated.


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Ron Natalie

I'd try the plumbing forum.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 4:18PM
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Sounds like one or both aren't heating properly. I'd start with making sure you've getting 240v to the heaters. It's possible for one half of a double pole breaker to trip without it appearing to have tripped. After than it's a thermostat or heating element. Assuming there isn't some kind of control circuit.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 5:04PM
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i guess this sounds like i need to call someone versed in water heaters...plumber? electrician?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 5:51PM
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This would be a plumber's territory.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 6:39PM
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Something you can try for pretty cheap is to replace all the elements. You can do some troubleshooting to see if you have a bad element but since they're so inexpensive I recommend just replacing them. I would replace them all while you're at it also.
Take a shop vac and attach something to the end of it (I use 1/2" conduit since I have a ton of handy) so you can clean out all the sediment out of the tanks.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2009 at 7:43PM
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You have 4 heating elements total. The first step is to check the breakers. Any of the heating elements could be shot. If it was I, and I had not tools or knowledge for checking the heating elements, I would first isolate the two water heaters if possible. Turn off the pump, let them come to equilibrium and then and tap them individually to see if there is a difference in temp. After that, you might think about checking the recovery rate of both of them individually.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2009 at 2:41PM
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OK...well i am part of the way fixed, but not fully. I talked to my plumber and he said that he would start with a replacement valve (kohler faucet) and this got me much more hot water, but it still ran out within a few minutes. I cut the water off and then after a minute turned it back on and got hot water, but only for a few additional minutes. I am thinking now that maybe my heater is either not turned up high enough OR I have a faulty water heater (I have 2 80 gal side by side with a recirculating pump) I have used these heaters for almost 2 years now with no issues. an help is appreciated!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2009 at 8:22PM
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... you have at least one bad element or thermostat - the top one, who knows which tank - possibly both.

When the top thermostat 'senses' the water temperature is low, it energizes the top element and disables the bottom one. If the top one doesn't actually produce heat, it stays "too cold", and the bottom one never gets power.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 12:33AM
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I'm curious about your plumber telling you to replace one faucet? Is this a problem at only one location in the home?

For troubleshooting, I'd think you'd be much better off to draw water off directly from the tanks using the drain and a garden hose. As Ionized mentioned, try to isolate each tank and turn of the recirculating pump.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 11:36AM
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Matt, remove the cover plates from both water heaters. Behind the top plate, you'll find a thermostat and there's probably a "big red button" near the top of it. Press it, on both water heaters. If this solves your problem, awesome. If not, hexus offers you the simplest solution. Replace all four elements. I don't honestly know how much they cost in current dollars, but if it's reasonable (as hexus implies), go with it, it'll solve your problem almost guaranteed.

I don't think a thermostat is at fault, but there's no basis for that belief, I suppose.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 12:36PM
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Could you tell us more about how this is plumbed?

At first I was thinking that the recirculator pump was only for the purpose of equalizing two co-located hot water heaters. But when you mentioned that your plumber "started" by replacing a valve at one faucet, I'm suspecting that your hot water is plumbed in a loop, designed to make hot water available much faster at each point of use.

If you have a whole-house recirculating loop, then it might make sense to replace the recirculating valve under that faucet (not the faucet taps!) because, if that's the last outlet on the loop, it would be the point where cold water is supplied when hot water is being consumed anywhere else in the loop.

(That is, if that valve were defective and did not supply sufficient cold water, it could "starve" the hot waters of cold water replenishment and bring the recycling process to a virtual halt.)

Were you experiencing just insufficient hot water in terms of temperature, or was the flow greatly restricted as well? (Note that in a cold-water-starved closed system, you'll get a certain amount of initial flow from the expansion tank alone.)

While it remains possible that all of the problems are associated with bad heating elements or thermostats in the hot water heaters, there are certainly other possibilities, some of which could have helped fry the HWHs.

Does this system have a zone valve to swap between heaters? Also, a bad tempering valve can sometimes supply too much cold water even when a HWH itself is working fine.

While I'm all for the idea of isolating one or more HWH to verify whether it is (they are) working correctly, I believe Ron and Petey got this right: it belongs in the wonderful world of plumbing. Even if you repair one or more HWHs, you may not have fixed the real cause of the problem.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 12:42PM
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Find out what the ohms are suppose to be on each element and use an ohms meter.
Turn off power remove power leads and check for ohms.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 4:57PM
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ARGRGGHHGGHGHRHRRHHGGHHHHHH!!!!! PRISON AGAIN! terribletom why'd you have to bring that up?!

I totally forgot about systems like that. My last encounter with them was a minimum-security correctional facility. "Fix this." 'umm yeah, give me two full days to guess how it was supposed to work before it got hacked.'


    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 8:06PM
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Easy there, Mike (Pharkus) was all just a bad dream.

I'm not surprised that you would have encountered a recirculating HW loop there. I don't know how prisons are plumbed, but I do know that recirculating systems plumbed as loops are not uncommon in hotels and motels. Otherwise, the occupant in the end unit farthest from the mechanical room would have to run the faucet for a long, long time to get hot water at odd hours.

Now about those showers...

(Ah, sorry. That was a really low blow.)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 11:09PM
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I think that i have figured it out...but, have not taken action just yet (busy doing construction project at work).

The pump that was put in had no this means the HWH has been running constantly for about 2 years. (the way that i figure this is that the hot water has had to be continioulsy heated as it ran through the entire house all day and night...) So, i am assuming that a regular HWH runs for a few hours a day and with my set up...these things have been put through some long hours.

I am planning on buying and ohm meter (good reason to buy a new toy!) and figure out which heater and which element. I am going to buy a timer that i can use to run the pump on a schedule that mirrors mine, therefore using much less electricity and giving my heaters a vacation.

if any of this makes sense, let me know before tomorrow at 5pm! any suggestions on makers of ohm meters or a good timer?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 11:25PM
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