Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flush & Save $800 On Hot Water

If you don't flush out your water heater every 6 months, after 7 years (on a 6 year warranty) or 3.5 years (on a 3 year warranty) you can expect to have the bottom of the pressure vessel rupture and spew its contents.  In our case, the water heater decided to seize the opportunity of us being on vacation last week to rupture, and spill its contents all over our garage.  It cold have been Much worse - my father knew of a family friend's home in NW Indiana that had the water heater installed upstairs, and it ruptured while the family was on vacation and filled their home with water. Fun.

Igor, the very nice Uzbek plumber from Delta mechanical (Home Depot's exclusive plumbing installer contractor in Arizona), said to me "In good location, is good."  I learned from Igor that when flushing semi-annually, one does NOT need to drain the entire tank, just drain it until the water comes out clear and not cloudy.  "Everything settles to bottom" Igor astutely pointed out "and that is where it fail".  Dr Desert Flower's cousin is a plumber in the Cincinnati area, and he reassured DDF and I "no one flushes their water heater, it keeps us in business".  The 3 year water heaters are "Good", 6 year "Better"and 12 year warranty "Best" (as noted on the outside of the GE boxes - GE contracts Rheem, out of Alabama, to make their water heaters).  I opted for the "better" hoping to be out of this west side home in less than 6 years (or less!). 

Igor showed me how the "blue plastic plugs" on the input and output pipes were actually check valve / back flow preventers.  Had I tried to install the $417 water heater myself, I would have likely pried out what appeared to be plug caps - I learn something new everyday.  Igor also sweated the pipes, re-plumbed the copper drain line (which included adding another elbow and cutting 2 sections of 3/4 inch copper line) effortlessly, making it look so easy that I remarked "what just took you 3 minutes would have taken me probably 30 minutes, and 2 or 3 tries."  Igor got a kick out of that.

In a phone discussion with my father Sunday night, he remarked to me that the very first water heater he had in the NW Indiana home where I was raised, lasted 30 years.  It was built in East Chicago by a company that no longer exists.  He said each water he's installed thereafter lasted right about 6 years, and he's always flushed the water heater with a disciplined 6 month schedule, posted on the heater itself.  On the last two heaters, my dad said the heater took longer and longer to warm the water, and the flushing showed increasing amounts of sediment.  When I told him I was not very adept at sweating copper pipe, I was encouraged to hear him say "neither am I"  =)

When Dr Desert Flower and I lived in South Carolina, I flushed the heater twice - once 4 years after we moved into the new home, and again, 5 years later, just before we sold the house.  "You were lucky" my father admonished me.  I'll plan my scheduled maintenance more rigorously going forward, and the Next Time we go on vacation,. I will use the "Vacation" setting on the heater's thermostat AND turn off the feed water to the heater, to avoid an unexpected rupture.

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