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Repeated water heater failure

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russhmeyer
russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
edited September 2017 in Domestic Hot Water
We have repeated water heater failure - they seem to only last about 18 months before rupturing. 10 years ago, we remodeled and added an Apollo HydroHeat air handler for 2 additional bedrooms. That air handler draws hot water off the the water heater. To accommodate it, we increased the size of the water heater to 70-gallons. It provides hot water for both the air handler and for domestic hot water usage. Since the remodel, we go through a water heater every approx. 18 months. I'm trying to figure out why - whether the air handler is part of the problem or if it's something else. Any thoughts as to why the repeated failure?
HVACNUT
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Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,426
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    Water heaters are not intended to function as sources for space heating. Period. Without knowing what aspect of the water heater is failing, it would be foolish to say that it was, for instance, excessive use of the elements and scaling on them, or just excess flow through the heater, or just what -- but for sure it's the wrong piece of machinery for the application.

    Get a small proper boiler for the space heating -- air handler -- and a good water heater for the domestic hot water. You will be a lot happier.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kcopp
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Do you have an expansion tank on the water heater tank?
    Typically a water heater backs the increased water pressure into the cold water system. However with this being heating there should be a back flow or check valve between the hot water and house cold domestic.
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
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    We do have an expansion tank as a part of this system for that reason.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Those tanks can lose their charge and become water logged and ineffective. I believe the air pre-charge needs to match your household water pressure. That is checked disconnected from the piping.....as if it were still in the box.
    Mark Eatherton
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,861
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    Is the hydro coil seperate from the domestic with a heat exchanger, or is there street pressure going through the hydro coil?
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    It has happened that an expansion tank is placed on the wrong side of a check valve feeding the tank. Of course this makes the expansion tank isolated from the water tank.
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
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    If I understand your question correctly, in the Apollo system the hydrocoil is the heat exchanger, so no separation - the domestic water goes through the hydro coil, then back down to the water heater.
    newagedawn
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,331
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    Hello, Have you looked at the old tanks to find clues for failure? This would include where they leaked, what condition the anode rod was in, the nature of sediment from the tank, (if the tank was subject to too much pressure, you will likely see blue glass flakes in the sediment), evidence of relief valve activity, tank bulging (you might see this in the combustion chamber), a pile of rust on the burner, (from too much condensation in the flue or bad supply air) and lastly, streaks of rust running down the heater's legs or in the pan (this would be another sign of condensation from too heavy usage.

    Try putting a pressure gauge on the drain valve of the existing tank and see if it ever gets over 80 psi. Use a gauge that has a pointer that records the highest pressure.

    What is the water quality like? Do you soften the water?

    I'm sure we'll have more questions!

    Yours, Larry
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
    edited September 2017
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    Larry - All great ideas. Because I'm 3000 miles away from the house and the water heater (tenant is in the house currently) I've had plumbers replace the tank but haven't gotten any info from them as to why they failed - and I'm not there to examine it all myself. Seems like a very logical activity that I'll have them undertake with this tank.
    I know there was a pressure gauge on the drain valve (when I left 5 years ago), but don't know what the reading is currently. Will ask my tenant to look for/at it and see what that tells us.

    We don't soften the water. The water quality is good. (?) We're on the city of Oakland water system.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,426
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    Sorry to sound like a stuck record. Whether it's electric or gas, it's a water heater. You are trying to use it like a boiler. It isn't, and was never meant to be. I'm sure with some detective work -- as suggested above -- you find the direct cause of the failure, but that won't fix the problem.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,251
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    There are a lot of those Apollo systems out there, they are still installed in some areas.

    In addition to excessive pressure I'd look at the operating temperature also. If they have it cranked to 150- 160 or hotter, that really diminishes the life of tanks.
    The type of water, hardness and ph as well as how much water goes through the tank is part of it. Checking anode rods would also give clues to what is happening inside the tank.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    Gordy
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
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    Jamie - Appreciate your thoughts. I understand your suggestion. The challenge is that Apollo's recommended installation for the unit is with a water heater, not a boiler. Which is why we initially installed it with a water heater and not a boiler. Two other clients of the architect who designed our system are using it with a water heater without failure. But it could very well be that we need to replace one large water heater with a smaller water heater and a boiler for the Apollo system. Right now, I'm just trying to consider all the things it could possibly be so that we can be thoughtful about the solution. I'd rather not be back here again in 18 months after spending $5500.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,613
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    @Jamie Hall, I agree with what your thinking and your right but were use to 2' of snow.

    This things in Oakland. They probably run heat for a total of40 hours for an entire heating season
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
    edited September 2017
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    Ebebratt - Correct. It probably runs maybe December to February on some days/nights and only heats three rooms in the house. But if we need to put in a boiler, so be it. That can't be much more expensive than what they quoted me for a high performance 70-gallon water heater (every 18 months).
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
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    Perhaps your tenants could take some pictures of the piping, tanks and devices connected to the piping. Some from far back to get the big picture and a couple of smaller items. They could send them to you and you could post them here. Just a thought.
    russhmeyer
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,861
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    Never heard of the Apollo system so I took a brief look.
    It says the tank should be set at 140* with a thermostatic mixing valve on the domestic side.
    It also says the HE in the A/H is prone to failure and to drain sediment from the tank regularly.
    Weird set up.
    russhmeyer
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Water heaters are not intended to function as sources for space heating. Period. Without knowing what aspect of the water heater is failing, it would be foolish to say that it was, for instance, excessive use of the elements and scaling on them, or just excess flow through the heater, or just what -- but for sure it's the wrong piece of machinery for the application.

    Get a small proper boiler for the space heating -- air handler -- and a good water heater for the domestic hot water. You will be a lot happier.

    Water heaters are used commonly for space heating in north east area...Manufactures approve it with certain models....Condos with hydro air are a big time user of them...
    russhmeyer
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    Many WH manufacturers give schematics for setup with hydro air.



    j a_2
  • kcopp
    kcopp Member Posts: 4,440
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    There are LOTS of thing you CAN do.... but Should you

    Need to move to a different set up.
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Point is, they are acceptable, per manufacture....
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,251
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    Some engineers design combined systems for large commercial buildings. This company was shopping for approved low lead zone valves, air seps, etc to use with their systems.


    http://www.williamscomfortprod.com/integrated-piping-system/
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,457
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    Is the tank actually bursting? Or, does the plumber you use change it because the relief valve is leaking. Don't laugh, I have seen it done. There are a lot of those hydro setup around here running on oil fired water heaters. Technically they are not a boiler, but they do work fine.
    Rick
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Rick I would have never thought of the guy replacing it for a relief valve popping, only because I assumed it was a tech of sorts....that worked on it.....But now that you say that it is possible....But I would hope nobody is that stupid
    kcopp
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 5,861
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    > @j a said:
    > Rick I would have never thought of the guy replacing it for a relief valve popping, only because I assumed it was a tech of sorts....that worked on it.....But now that you say that it is possible....But I would hope nobody is that stupid
    >
    >
    > or sly and greedy, knowing the owner is 3k miles away and hasn't been on site in 5 years.

    Warranty after 18 months? You'd think. But not labor.

    The science of deduction hits a fork in the road.
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Honestly I would be happier knowing installer was dumb,stupid or both as opposed to being a thief
    HVACNUTrusshmeyer
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
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    JUGHNE - Great thought on the pictures. I'll have my tenant take some photos. He sent me this one today. It's the pipe that comes out of the top of the water heater. It should be perpendicular to the tank top and it seems bent at about a 20-30 degree angle. To me that seems to indicate some serious distortion of the tank. But I'm not a professional.
    My tenant said they had a plumber come out and look at it, saw this pipe and said he'd never seen that happen before.
    Thanks all for the continued thoughts. It's been a puzzlement to me.
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,251
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    A simple lazy hand test gauge would identify an over-pressurization condition. Tanks will seriously distort when over pressurized.

    Most plumbers would check the operation of the relief valve and add a gauge to monitor the pressure fluctuations for a few days after seeing that connection. It took a lot of force to tweak that tapping like that, I doubt it left the factory in that position.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    russhmeyerdelta T
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,251
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    A gauge similar to this can be found at plumbing suppliers, maybe even the box stores. Screw it onto to drain valve at the tank bottom and watch the red hand as it will record the highest pressure.

    By code and usually shipped and installed in water heaters is a temperature and pressure relief valve to prevent pressure in excess of 150 psi.

    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,649
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    hot rod said:

    A gauge similar to this can be found at plumbing suppliers, maybe even the box stores. Screw it onto to drain valve at the tank bottom and watch the red hand as it will record the highest pressure.

    This. Even the lipstick Lowe's in my neighborhood has three of those on the shelf, albeit without the test teat on the side.

  • MilanD
    MilanD Member Posts: 1,160
    edited September 2017
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    I would have never thought that water heater can deform like that under pressure. Wow. And prv not being triggered? Is there a prv? I'd hate to see this thing turn into a rocket.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
    edited September 2017
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    JUGHNE - Great thought on the pictures. I'll have my tenant take some photos. He sent me this one today. It's the pipe that comes out of the top of the water heater. It should be perpendicular to the tank top and it seems bent at about a 20-30 degree angle. To me that seems to indicate some serious distortion of the tank. But I'm not a professional.
    My tenant said they had a plumber come out and look at it, saw this pipe and said he'd never seen that happen before.
    Thanks all for the continued thoughts. It's been a puzzlement to me.

    That's crazy! I wonder what the flue looks like down the center?

    this is why we need to be detectives also. Be curious as to what could cause such events. Then correct them.



  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
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    Gordy - what should we be looking at with the flue? How would the flue cause pressure build up in the tank? (Sorry if these are dumb/obvious questions but I'm not a pro. Trying to know as much as I can before the plumber comes out to investigate next week.)
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,426
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    The flue won't cause a pressure build up. However, a pressure build up in the tank could cause the flue to collapse, or partially collapse. Which would interfere with the draught and possibly get combustion gas rolling out into the structure. Overall, not good. Not good at all.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    russhmeyer
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    ^ yes what Jamie said.
    russhmeyer
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,074
    edited September 2017
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    If expansion is connected wrong or defunct, the pop off valve may start to drip water.......I and surely others have seen this fixed with a pipe plug. Definitely a "fix" for disaster.

    Pictures, especially of the pop off relief valve and its piping, before the plumber arrives would be good. ;)
    russhmeyerZman
  • j a_2
    j a_2 Member Posts: 1,801
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    Gordy said:

    JUGHNE - Great thought on the pictures. I'll have my tenant take some photos. He sent me this one today. It's the pipe that comes out of the top of the water heater. It should be perpendicular to the tank top and it seems bent at about a 20-30 degree angle. To me that seems to indicate some serious distortion of the tank. But I'm not a professional.
    My tenant said they had a plumber come out and look at it, saw this pipe and said he'd never seen that happen before.
    Thanks all for the continued thoughts. It's been a puzzlement to me.

    That's crazy! I wonder what the flue looks like down the center?

    this is why we need to be detectives also. Be curious as to what could cause such events. Then correct them.



    That is crazy, someone's gonna get hurt.....Highly advise moving fast on getting to the bottom of the issue...
    russhmeyer
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    Thinking out loud here. There should be an x tank for the air handler loop as well as the domestic side.

    What I'm finding odd here is that the water heaters are only lasting 18 months. Is the failure from aggressive domestic water weakening the tank? Causing the tank to deform from domestic pressure which may not be high enough to pop the relief valve? Yet high enough to deform the tank?

    Hard to believe these water heaters all had defective relief valves.....

    What is water pressure on domestic?
    russhmeyer
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,251
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    No need to have multiple expansion tanks, it all the same water. One properly sized ThermTrol should do the trick.

    These tanks are supposed to be better quality and enameling than standard WH tanks. Glass lined tanks are usually able to handle most any water condition.

    Relief valve and expansion tank installation and operation needs to be confirmed.

    http://www.ableair1.com/pdf/apollo_brochure.pdf
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    russhmeyerdelta T
  • russhmeyer
    russhmeyer Member Posts: 19
    edited September 2017
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    Gordy - Thanks for the thoughts. Photo of the expansion tank below with pressure gauge. Date on the tank (1/23/16) is when we replaced the expansion tank and put in the current WH, which started leaking about 2 weeks ago.
    To your questions: "aggressive domestic water" - do you mean the chemical composition of the water? We haven't heard any of our neighbors having similar WH problems and we're all on the same Oakland city water line - wouldn't they have problems too if it were the composition of the water?
    "Domestic water pressure" - I ordered a high quality water pressure gauge to be sent to my tenant in Oakland. I'm going to have him put it on a hose bib near where the city line comes into the house, as well as on the drain valve of the WH to get a read of what the standing water pressure is in the house. About 12 years ago, the pressure from the city was so high we put in a water pressure reducing valve at the main water line in, But I don't know if it got set correctly at instillation or if it has somehow changed over time.
    I'm having the tenant take some more pictures of the tank, as well as close ups of the relief valve per other questions on this thread.
    I have someone coming in this week to examine and propose a solution. It's a plumbing company that also installs hydronics (for the air handling system that's that is attached to the WH). The plumber I've traditionally used isn't getting it fixed - after 3 tries.
    Thanks for all the various thoughts and threads. They're extremely helpful.

  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,546
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    hot rod said:

    No need to have multiple expansion tanks, it all the same water. One properly sized ThermTrol should do the trick.

    These tanks are supposed to be better quality and enameling than standard WH tanks. Glass lined tanks are usually able to handle most any water condition.

    Relief valve and expansion tank installation and operation needs to be confirmed.

    http://www.ableair1.com/pdf/apollo_brochure.pdf

    My bad on the double X tank. I thought there was an exchanger in the water heater for the airhandler loop. Now I really don't care for that setup.

    Is it possible the fitting took a blow from an external force?