Category Archives: house stuff

There is suppose to be hot water in the water heater, right?

A local contractor installed a new furnace and water heater for me on 1/21/2013. The install appeared to go well. The furnace is keeping our house warm and the water heater runs without making crazy noise and it is producing hot water. All is perfect in the world, well not quite…

While checking out the water heater (AO Smith GDHE-50) I noticed that the lower side connect was quite cold, the brass drain was very cold too. My three other water heaters never exhibited anything like this when they had hot water in them. The valve and the side connectors were quite warm when the unit was at standby.

To quantify how much cold water is in the heater I did the following experiment. Immediately after the unit completed a heating cycle (120F, 8F differential) I turned the water heater off. I then closed the cold water value to the water heater and opened a hot water faucet to allow air into the system. Then I systematically drained a gallon of water at a time from the water heater drain and took its temperature with a digital thermometer, repeating until I hit water that was 120F. My best guess at starting was that there is at least 16 gallons of fairly cold water in the heater as each vertical inch is just under a gallon of water and the side connector is 16″ off the floor.

The water heater had 11 gallons of water < 60F. The results of this experiment indicate to me that something is wrong. Past water heaters, I was able to get very hot water instantly out of the drain.

OK, so what’s the problem as long as we have hot water coming out the top? Bacterial growth in the tank. See

This looks like the ultimate petri dish.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice …

American water heater company, the maker of the water heater I installed issued me a return authorization number for the water heater that would not run when installed per the instructions. I installed the new one (1/5) and this one works better (it will start), but still not great. It makes noise when starting and the flame is quite yellow and has bad shape. I have posted videos of the start and flame for technical support to look at.

This is the replacement unit starting :

I contacted technical support again via email and sent them video footage of the poor flame. After a few days technical support contacted me again and FedEx’d me a smaller orifice to try, a #30. The heater comes standard with a #29. I got this smaller orifice and installed it and the unit ran very poorly

At this point I gave up, I contacted a local contractor and scheduled an install of a new furnace and water heater. I was done trying to make this water heater work.

The replacement water heater was returned to Lowe’s for a refund. Lowe’s was very helpful throughout this very frustrating experience.

I didn’t do anything wrong

Ben, a plumber from K&S came by and spent 3 hours going over my install and inspecting the water heater. He found nothing wrong with my install, whew! After talking to technical support we got the unit running by removing the intake and restricting the exhaust. We had hot water, but the install wasn’t going to pass code as it deviated from the installation instructions.

Water heaters go virtually unnoticed, that is until they don’t work!

We need some air in here!

In a previous posting I mentioned running into an issue with our water heater failing to draft when all the exhaust fans and clothes dryer running.  I did some research and through testing I thought the entire issue could be resolved by adding more “make-up air”.   Thus I added a 6″ duct into our mechanical room.  This was in addition to our existing 5″.

You would think that after having ~48″ sq. of open hole to the outside would mitigate any possible negative pressure, but you would be wrong.  The water heater still failed to draft in worst case CAZ testing.

I called a local HVAC contractor to evaluate.  They spent 3 hours trying different things, including adding 3′ to our chimney, but no joy!

The pitfalls of making your home energy efficient

Over Thanksgiving I discovered a torrent of cold air pouring behind our shower in the basement and tracked it to a large opening in our attic. That same day I went and picked up some additional insulation and proceeded to close the opening. Problem solved right? Nope, instead I found out by sealing this rather large hole I made our home too tight. The problem is that in worst case testing (all exhaust fans running and the clothes dryer) a significant enough negative pressure was created which prevented our water heater from drafting correctly.

If you have one or more atmospheric vented gas appliances, make sure to test after home improvements!