Hot water heater question/problem in a new home


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Old 11-07-07, 11:59 AM
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Hot water heater question/problem in a new home

My wife and I had a new home built a little over a year ago. It is a ranch about 1800 square feet.

We had the same issue last year, but at that time we chalked it up to being a new home/plumbing that needed to sort itself out.

The problem seems to be that the water heater is not maintaining temperature overnight. When my wife gets up at 5:00 am to take a shower, the water is cool. She has to turn on only the hot water to take even a warm shower. By the time I take a shower about an hour to an hour and a half later the temperature is fine.

Same thing goes with the faucets, that it is near impossible to get hot water first thing in the morning. After my wife takes a shower or starts using the water, if you go down in the basement to the heater, you can hear the burner kick on... and as I said, about an hour later everything seems to be fine.

During this past summer things seemed ok, though I wouldn't say that the water was getting to the temp that the heater is set to. Once it started getting cold, and therfore (I assume) colder ground temperature... this problem started again. It has been getting progressively worse as the outside temp gets cooler. This past week the temperatures around here have gotten down to the upper 20's overnight, and it has been near unbearable for my wife in the morning.

Does anyone have any idea's? Things to check? Other symptoms to check for? Or should I just call someone in to look at it?

Thx,
Irish
 
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Old 11-07-07, 04:15 PM
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Electric or gas WH?

If it's electric, is it on a timer?

Regardless of electric or gas, does the hot water system have a recirculating pump that is on a timer?
 
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Old 11-07-07, 04:55 PM
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Re

Thanks for the response.

It is gas.

No timer that I can see anywhere.

Irish
 
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Old 11-07-07, 05:23 PM
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Since it's gas, the WH can't be on a timer.

Since it's obviously a long ways from the WH to the shower and all of the other valves, a recirculating pump would certainly cure the problem. There are several styles available, and depending on how accessible the plumbing is, it may be worth considering.

If the plumbing is exposed in the basement, insulate all of the hot water lines. The slip-over foam works well and is a very easy DIY project that doesn't cost much. That will greatly reduce the heat loss that is occuring in the pipes.

The recirculating pump can be a DIY project, if you can get to the pipes and can solder.

There is a style that interconnects between the hot and cold supply water lines at the farther valve from the WH and uses the cold water line as the return line to the WH. I'm not real fond of them because they introduce hot water into the cold side of the system.

Calling a plumber in to assess the situation is probably the place to start. He can actually see it and should be able to make some suggestions. I wouldn't expect him to do an inspection for free, but he may be willing to credit you for at least some of the cost of the inspection if he gets some sort of a job out of it.
 
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Old 11-07-07, 05:35 PM
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Wink

Just how far is the H/W tank from the shower???? Im thinking more a bad tstat on the gas valve
 
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Old 11-07-07, 06:42 PM
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In even a large house how many seconds does it take water to get from the water heater to the shower on full blast? Going from 140F to lukewarm in those few seconds from heat loss in the pipes? Nah.

He did say this was a morning issue. I hear of this problem all the time. It has been called a deadband problem. The thermostat just doesn't kick on at the temperature you'd like it to. You can call that thermostat "bad", sure... but for warranty purposes I've heard manufacturers say that this is well, normal. In this case however, "lukewarm" is definitely a problem.

You have three options:
1. Turn up the thermostat a bit, especially if it's already on the low side.
2. Replace the thermostat.
3. Run a hot water faucet briefly first thing in the morning to cause the WH to kick on. You said the temp was fine an hour later when you took a shower but that doesn't mean it took that whole hour to warm up. 10 minutes before a shower might just be enough to make it tolerable for your wife.

-core
 
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Old 11-08-07, 07:45 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions guys.

As to the location of the shower, it is nearly right over where the heater & water heater are in the basement, I can't imagine it's a problem of needing to insulate the pipes. Especially since it is ok after it kicks on and heats for the first time in the morning.

Let me respond to core's questions/suggestions:

#1. That was the first thing I did, last year. The temperature is now set to just one tick below the upper limit. It hasn't helped much, just made it so when i do have hot water, it's hotter.

#2. This seems the most reasonable to me. Is this something I could do on my own?

#3. This is what my wife has been doing lately, however it simply makes it a bit better. She runs it for 10-15 minutes when she first gets up, and then about 30-45 mins later when she takes a shower it is "better" but still not how it should be. Regardless, this is a house that is just over a year old, and the WH is just over a year old, shouldn't have to that should we?

Anyone have any further thoughts? I think a call to the builder tomorrow is in order, and then to a plumber if i don't get anywhere....
 
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Old 11-08-07, 09:23 AM
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"She runs it for 10-15 minutes when she first gets up."

No, that's too long. A minute or two should do to get it to kick on. Running it that long drains out what warm water you have.


If it's only a year old tell the builder you want a new thermostat or tank. Like Ed said, it's probably a bad thermostat.


Baldwin
 
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Old 11-08-07, 01:22 PM
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Your wife has so much trouble taking shower and you are
not calling for the warranty?

Ok, it is very simple. In the morning, go to where the water
heater is located. Turn on one of the hot faucets, feel the hot
water pipe (left one if you face the temp control) right on top of
the water heater. If it is only warm, your thermal stat is bad.
You should call them within a year so both labor and parts
are covered.

DIY may be tricky in this case since gas valve is risky to mess
around.


Originally Posted by theIrish1
My wife and I had a new home built a little over a year ago. It is a ranch about 1800 square feet.

We had the same issue last year, but at that time we chalked it up to being a new home/plumbing that needed to sort itself out.

The problem seems to be that the water heater is not maintaining temperature overnight. When my wife gets up at 5:00 am to take a shower, the water is cool. She has to turn on only the hot water to take even a warm shower. By the time I take a shower about an hour to an hour and a half later the temperature is fine.

Same thing goes with the faucets, that it is near impossible to get hot water first thing in the morning. After my wife takes a shower or starts using the water, if you go down in the basement to the heater, you can hear the burner kick on... and as I said, about an hour later everything seems to be fine.

During this past summer things seemed ok, though I wouldn't say that the water was getting to the temp that the heater is set to. Once it started getting cold, and therfore (I assume) colder ground temperature... this problem started again. It has been getting progressively worse as the outside temp gets cooler. This past week the temperatures around here have gotten down to the upper 20's overnight, and it has been near unbearable for my wife in the morning.

Does anyone have any idea's? Things to check? Other symptoms to check for? Or should I just call someone in to look at it?

Thx,
Irish
 
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Old 11-08-07, 06:01 PM
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What Baldwin said. Yes 10-15 minutes is way too long. Sorry, I should have been more clear: I just meant about a couple of minutes, 10-15 minutes earlier than the shower, not run it for 10-15 minutes.

I agree: If it's only a year old the builder should definitely be installing a new tstat for you. Although it's possible to DIY there's no need for you to attempt it here since you have someone to blame.

-core
 
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Old 11-09-07, 08:44 AM
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Suppose you have 60' or 3/4" water pipe between you and your shower.

That much pipe holds 2 gallons of water.

Now let's suppose you have a standard showerhead that flows the normal 2 gallons per minute. It's going to take a full minute for the water from the water heater to get to the showerhead.

Furthermore, we have to keep in mind the simple physics law that says heat will move to cold. So as the heated water starts it's one minute trip to the showerhead, that 60' of cold pipe in between is going to be sucking all of the heat out of the water.

That's why it'll take a couple of minutes until the water is warm. Insulating the pipes will help. Using pex piping will help. Using smaller diameter piping will help (but will cause other issues unless it is a dedicated/homerun type line).

The slick but expensive solution is to have a hot water recirculation system. The hot water piping is piped so that it goes near each fixture then after the last fixture a narrow pipe returns it to a pump that pumps it back into the water heater. Insulation is critical for this, otherwise it becomes a virtual heating system. Some simpler solutions just pump hot water into the cold water line until the hot water arrives, but anyone who sees the gunk in many water heaters, may not want to brush their teeth in that water!
 
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Old 11-09-07, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Who
Now let's suppose you have a standard showerhead that flows the normal 2 gallons per minute. It's going to take a full minute for the water from the water heater to get to the showerhead.
Agreed (without doing the ID math myself), but that still does not address the original post. In fact it has nothing to do with it? If that were the case, the water would _never_ reach the shower head at decent temps.

The OP stated that this only happens in the morning. He further states that when it's time for his shower the water is definitely hot.

Your post has just enough science behind it to make it sound believable. But if heat loss were the cause, the heat would CONTINUE to be lost, even as the water ran! In other words it wouldn't get hot. The OP said that he was able to take a hot shower an hour after his wife.

This is a thermostat problem. If you want to call it a "problem".

-core
 
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Old 11-09-07, 10:46 AM
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Core, we're all trying to help, right? And the heat is lost to warm up the pipes... the speed of the water keeps it from losing all the heat. I'm not trying sound anything so please don't pass judgment, we're all here to help one one another.

theIrish, have you measured the temperature at the tank during the morning? It would be nice to see what temperature the water at the top of the tank is to begin with? If it suddenly drops once the makeup water starts coming into the tank then perhaps it is top fed for the cold and doesn't have a dip tube or it is piped backwards... it's sucking the cooler water off the bottom of the tank, cold water is added to the top and works its way down... is the tank piped properly?
 
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Old 11-09-07, 11:07 AM
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Who, not passing judgement; definitely not doing so. Not my place, especially not in this forum.

But the OP has the three options I gave. I guess I did omit one option: a new heater altogether.
 
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Old 11-09-07, 05:00 PM
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Core,

I think that you and Ed are probably right. There's a very good chance that the gas valve is faulty, depending on how much pipe there is between the WH and the shower head.

theIrish1,

The place to start is with the builder of the house and the plumber who did the plumbing. If the gas valve is faulty, they'll replace it at no cost to you. But, like core pointed out, depending on how long the pipe run is from the WH to the shower, whoever takes the first shower in the morning is going to have to wait a bit for the hot water to get from the WH to the shower. All the water that sat in the pipe overnite is cold, and will have to be run down the drain to get the hot water there.

My house has the WH at one end (in the garage) and the master bath at the other. There's 75' of pipe between the two. Took a bit over 2 minutes every morning for the water to get hot at the shower, before I installed my recirc. system. Now, I simply wind the timer and let it run for a couple of minutes. All of the cold water in the hot water line goes back into the water heater, instead of going down the drain wasted. Costs about a penny in electricity to save about 30 cents worth of water every morning.
 
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Old 11-09-07, 06:51 PM
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Once again guys, thank you for all the suggestions and posts.

I would be surprised if it was a problem with to much pipe, and heat loss. I believe that insulating the hot water lines will probably always save engergy, but i don't think that this is the core of the problem here.

As I mentioned previously, the 2 upstairs bathrooms sit virtually right above the WH in the basement. When my wife, or whoever it is, takes the first shower of the morning, it is barely warm enough to take a shower. If you go down in the basement before running any hot water, the WH is idle. If you run the hot water for a few minutes the WH kicks on. Then wait about 20-30 minutes, and it is better but still not really hot, I assume because it hasn't had a chance to heat the water thouroghly yet.

What I'm having trouble with, is shouldn't the set temperature be maintained overnight? I don't know anything about the inner workings of a WH. Am I wrong in assuming that the WH should keep the water in it's tanks to the set temperature at all times? For example, the same way the heater and thermostat work? You set a temperature and it runs until that temperature is achieved and then shuts off? And then when the water drops below a threshold it kicks back on and heats it back up? Should the temperature not be maintained overnight?

It isn't a problem of having to run the cold water out that sat in the pipes overnight. The first shower of the morning NEVER gets hot, as in the water coming from the tank is not hot, it is simply luke warm. To the point that my wife pegs the hot water in the shower, with the cold water turned all the way off.

I'm not opposed to a recirculating system if it is really warranted, or will help, or will be an energy saver... but I have a hard time believing that this problem is because of the reasons you mention for having a recirculator.

We called the builder yesterday, and are waiting on a call back from the company that did the original plumbing to schedule an appointment. I plan on actually sitting down there with him to watch the work he does, and plan on asking all of the questions you guys posed about it. I don't mind if I have to pay labor because it has been beyond a year... but if it was hooked up backwards or otherwise improperly to begin with, they will have a hard time getting a nickel out of me.

Anyway, as I said.. hopefully they will have an appointment open next week, or the week after. I will post again after the plumber has come out.

Again, thanks for all the responses!

Irish
 
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Old 11-09-07, 07:24 PM
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theIrish1,

I think that there is a problem with the gas valve, based on all of the info that was provided. (It just took a few posts to get all of the details out!)

A WH will (assuming that it's working properly) keep the water inside the tank at whatever temp. the thermostat is set for, within a few degrees. The sensor on a gas WH is at the bottom of the tank (part of the gas valve). If the WH is set at 125 degrees, it will (or should) kick on whenever the water temp. it senses falls below about 115 or 120. That should be within a minute after turning on a shower valve because the incoming cold water goes to the bottom of the tank, because of the dip tube. The water at the top of the tank (where the hot water is drawn from) should always be hot.

Pipe insulation is cheap, and is easy to install on the exposed pipes. (It's not needed on a pipe that you can't see. That reduces heat loss overnight, and pays for itself in a very short time. But it's not going to make a noticable difference on your utility bill. (The difference between a $130 bill and a $127 bill isn't going to be noticed.)

A recirc. system is fairly expensive up front (really expensive if you are paying the labor to install it!!), and the savings are based on your water rates. A person on a well will benifit the most -- they are paying a power bill to pump their water. That well pump is usually about 1/2 HP. A recirc. pump (mine, anyway) is 1/360th HP. It only draws about 20 watts of power. That's less than a CFL lite bulb. I spent about $500 to install mine 15 years ago. Did it myself and it took the better part of a weekend. My house is on a raised wood floor, and all of the plumbing is exposed. It's paid for itself, but probably at the rate of about $30 a year. AW, but the convienience of having to not wait 2 or 3 minutes for the water to get hot as I watch the water run down the drain, wasted. I can listen to the windup timer run for 3 minutes as I'm getting ready to get into the shower, knowing that there is no KA-CHING happening on my utility bill.
 
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Old 11-11-07, 03:07 AM
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Originally Posted by theIrish1
What I'm having trouble with, is shouldn't the set temperature be maintained overnight? I don't know anything about the inner workings of a WH. Am I wrong in assuming that the WH should keep the water in it's tanks to the set temperature at all times?
That's how it should work, yes. But a heater with a deadband problem will allow the water to cool off somewhat overnight.

As lefty said, the dip dupe directs the cold water to the bottom of the tank where the temp sensor is. So during the day it gets jarred awake by that really cold water coming in. Overnight it's a different story: There's no cold water coming in; the entire volume of water cools off very very slowly. It never wakes up because it never gets that splash of cold water. Sure, it's _supposed_ to kick on but it just doesn't. Another way to think of it (and heck, it really may work this way in problem heaters): The VERY gradual cooling allows the temperature to "sneak past" the low trigger temperature.

-core
 
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Old 11-20-07, 12:08 PM
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Update...

So, the plumber who did the original work came out today. Not just the plumbing company, the guy who actually did the plumbing and installation of the water heater on this house.

He fooled around with it, looked it over, etc. He said that he thought it was a bad unit.

He decided to do a draw test on it. So he ran it completely out of water, then let it sit for 45 minutes while he went to lunch. He came back and drained 5 gallons out of it and tested the temperature... it was ~130. He drained another 5 gallons out and tested the temp, it was ~105. He drained another 5 gallons out and the temp was ~80, etc. All of this with the temp on the thermostat set to 190.

So, he took down the model number and the serial number and called the manufacturer. They said that there is a 6 year warranty on that WH, so they would send a technician out to fix it. BUT, that only parts were covered under warranty, that the labor to fix the lemon water heater was not covered under warranty. They said that even if we had called a month after we moved in, we would have had to pay for the labor.

Anyway, the woman he talked to on the phone said that they felt it was a bad gas valve and would have someone call us to have a technician out to repair it.

So... that's where we're at now. Waiting for a them to call me so they can send a technician out.

Irish
 
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Old 11-22-07, 11:23 AM
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Update #2

Ok, so the mfg sent out their "authorized" technician. He replaced the thermostat/gas valve. He was here for 45 minutes total (10-15 mins of that he spent on the phone with his office).

It appears to have fixed the problem. I will be more convinced a week from now if everything is still fine.

However, I was expecting to spend maybe $60-$80, especially since he was only here for 45 minutes. When he handed me the bill... it said $290. I almost fell over.

The bill is itemized as follows:

$40 Trip Charge
$25 Misc Parts
$225 Labor

Ugh. So I wrote the check and let him leave, because I didn't feel like arguing with him. But I am going to call his office Monday morning and see just how much they charge hourly. Seems extremely high to me.

Irish
 
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Old 11-25-07, 09:56 AM
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Many plumbing companies bill in the same manner as auto repair shops always have......using what is called the "flat rate manual". They have a book, they look up 'repair water heater thermostat' and the book says $225. You pay what they believe is the "average" labor for that job, even though yours was the easy one, which took less than average time.

I won't even get into the pros and cons of flat rate, because there is much controversy, and this thread would go on foerever. It is what it is.


As for the warranty, most manufacturers cover labor on repairs within the first year. After that, it is parts only.
 
 

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