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-   -   Weird water heater issue?!? (http://www.houserepairtalk.com/f111/weird-water-heater-issue-10005/)

markjsherrell 09-26-2010 09:56 AM

Weird water heater issue?!?
 
OK, I am a general fix it guy, but I have no experience with hot water heaters (it's electric) specifically. I am not even really clear on how they work actually.

Basically we had one in this old '77 single wide mobile home go it and leak all over. This was while I was away so my wife's loser son (he is handy if he isn't too stoned or drunk to bother; and she is the first to admit he is a loser) got one from another old mobile home and put it in and it's been fine for almost 4 years.

Now though all of a sudden it still heats water, still as hot as ever, but it is as if the capacity has been cut to less than 1/4 of what it was and this is overnight.

Now I imagine it is some sort of thermostat that is falsely telling it that it is full and all to the right temperature, but as I have already said, I only have the vaguest notion of how they must work, so any help will be appreciated.

P.S. It has no identifying information on it and access is extremely limited in the tiny hole it lives in. I can have some pictures if someone told me what to get a pic of. Let me know and I will be grateful for any help I can get.

oldognewtrick 09-26-2010 10:48 AM

If the unit has 2 heating elements the lower one has probably burned out. It may be replaceable, thus avoiding having to replace the entire unit. It's fairly easy to do. First find a replacement heating element, turn off the electric power and water supply, drain the tank and install the new heating element.

Did I mention turning off the electric power and water first?

Now open a hot water faucet and turn the water back on to get the air out of the tank and lines. After water flows with no air bubbles you can turn the power back on, that hopefully you turned off in the beginning, check for leaks and your done.

Now about the step son, your on your own there.;)

markjsherrell 09-26-2010 12:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by oldog/newtrick (Post 48946)
If the unit has 2 heating elements the lower one has probably burned out. It may be replaceable, thus avoiding having to replace the entire unit. It's fairly easy to do. First find a replacement heating element, turn off the electric power and water supply, drain the tank and install the new heating element.

Did I mention turning off the electric power and water first?

Now open a hot water faucet and turn the water back on to get the air out of the tank and lines. After water flows with no air bubbles you can turn the power back on, that hopefully you turned off in the beginning, check for leaks and your done.

Now about the step son, your on your own there.;)

That sounds like very sound thinking, but in my searching I did uncover a possibility, albeit one less likely than what you bring up; I read about a "dip tube", which is where cold water enters and is directed to the bottom of the tank. It was described as this cracking or not being installed causing cold water to enter at the top, thereby not activating the thermostat and not helping to keep the hottest water at the top.

I think I favor your idea just in that I think the water coming out would be cooler if this tube broke, and it isn't any cooler at all, there is just a lot less of it...?

In any case, I will look into that, but again, I am kind of baffled as to how. It seems to me that almost any work will require the power cut (obviously but thanks for mentioning it anyway) :), but also require the emptying and removal of the tank? Is this true of just checking on the elements too?

I guess I am also asking, is the element inside the tank in direct contact with the water or outside of it?, and, is it perhaps as simple as feeling the outside and temperature variation in the top and bottom? (Which I am about to go do now, just for lack of any other reasonable action at the moment.)

markjsherrell 09-26-2010 12:45 PM

DOH! Top is lukewarm to the touch but the bottom is noticeably cold, I think you nailed it!

markjsherrell 09-26-2010 12:48 PM

Oh and, how exactly does one empty it? I can slap together plumbing with the best of them, but as I said the water heater itself is outside my experience entirely!

kok328 09-26-2010 04:48 PM

There should be a drain valve at the bottom of the tank that you can attach a garden hose to and direct the drainage outside or to a floor drain. Before you go to the trouble of replacing the elements, make sure the hi-limit safety didn't pop. It's a red button in the middle of the thermostat. Press it in and see if it resets the thermostat.

DrHicks 10-15-2010 08:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by markjsherrell (Post 48943)
OK, I am a general fix it guy, but I have no experience with hot water heaters (it's electric) specifically. I am not even really clear on how they work actually.

Basically we had one in this old '77 single wide mobile home go it and leak all over. This was while I was away so my wife's loser son (he is handy if he isn't too stoned or drunk to bother; and she is the first to admit he is a loser) got one from another old mobile home and put it in and it's been fine for almost 4 years.

Now though all of a sudden it still heats water, still as hot as ever, but it is as if the capacity has been cut to less than 1/4 of what it was and this is overnight.

Now I imagine it is some sort of thermostat that is falsely telling it that it is full and all to the right temperature, but as I have already said, I only have the vaguest notion of how they must work, so any help will be appreciated.

P.S. It has no identifying information on it and access is extremely limited in the tiny hole it lives in. I can have some pictures if someone told me what to get a pic of. Let me know and I will be grateful for any help I can get.

I'm with OldDog/NewTrick on this one. I'd say it's one of the two elements.

Here's the good news... Unless this is an extremely unusual water heater, you can buy replacement elements AND replacement thermostats at Home Depot, and for fairly cheap.


Turn off your water supply. TURN OFF YOUR ELECTRICAL SUPPLY!!! Put a garden hose on the drain tap at the bottom of the water heater. Open a tap somewhere in the house. Drain the entire water heater. Then you can easily replace the elements (I'd do both at the same time if I were you).

Don't psych yourself out. This is not as hard as you might think!

joester 11-29-2011 01:55 PM

The only thing I wish to offer is that you don't know the vintage of the unit, make, or expected life span. I would be upset with myself if I replaced the elements, thermostat, ect... and had the bottom blow out due to age.

If you had a clue as to how much expected life it still has, I could see justification in replacing parts.

Personally, I would get a new one and be done with it. They aren't dirt cheap, but you can't put a price on peace of mind.

Joe

joecaption 11-29-2011 02:06 PM

To get that element out your going to need a special socket, there sold in the plumbing area where the tools are. It's a deep well hollow socket.

woodchuck 12-01-2011 06:59 PM

You can check the element before you take it out. Using an ohmmeter the terminals on the element will not show continuity with the wires disconnected. If it's good it will.


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