Plumbing/water advice needed Arghhh!

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Deb862, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. Deb862

    Deb862 Well-Known Member

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    We live in a 2-family house and DD lives upstairs. When we bought the place we noticed that the hot water for the upstairs had a lot of white particles in it and after much arguing called in a plumber. Plumber emptied the HW tank for upstairs and it was basically all white stuff. He pulled some long rod out of the top of the tank and showed us that it was all eaten away and eroded and said that this was where all the white particles were coming from. Sounded and looked logical so we replaced HWH with a top 'o the line model last year and didn't think about it again.

    Well, that didn't solve the problem. DD has put a tap filter on her kitchen sink because of the particles in the water (this is city water) with not much help. The thing that is confusing to us is that we (downstairs) do not have this problem, so it must be something in the system for upstairs but what? DH pulled some water out of a faucet of theirs and it seems much hotter than the temp set on the heater. Could this be causing some deterioration in the HWH? These white particles are clearly visible when you draw hot water and do not dissipate but only sink to the bottom if left to stand for awhile. Again, since we do not have this problem in our apt, we are at a loss to understand what the heck is going on. We've tried calling some plumbers but they all say it is not something they "want to get involved in." :shrug: Any ideas?
     
  2. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    this is just a guess, but there are a couple of possibilities:

    1. the corrosion from the heater element on the old heater spread throughout the hot water lines, and they are not yet completely flushed.

    2. The plumbing upstairs, if it is a combination of old galvanized and copper may be getting this build-up from electrolysis. If you have both types of metal in the upstairs system, this would have been the original cause of the problem which showed itself in your heater element, but is still present. Basically, copper and galvanized when combined, interact chemically and there is a gradual corrosive process which produces white flaky stuff.

    If it is the latter, it can be a pain to correct, since much of the plumbing is encased in walls. How the situation occurs is usually (ironically enough) during upgrades, when people just upgrade the piping that is easily accessible to copper, and connect it to the old galvanized that they don't want to open the wall to get at.

    I am interested on theories others may have.
     

  3. Deb862

    Deb862 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Paw. I think scenario #2 is definitely plausible but when we bought the house we noticed in the basement that all the plumbing was new within the last few years or so, copper, and very well done, but you're right, there might be old stuff left inside the walls that we are not aware of. Would putting a high-filter on their water system help clear this up?
     
  4. arabian knight

    arabian knight Miniature Horse lover Supporter

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    White specks? That sounds like calcium deposits to me. Like builds up in coffee pots that has a resvore of water, like the Bunns one do.
    And that maybe coming from sediment in the Bottom of the hot water heater. I would Flush that out. Must less work then trying to replace piping etc. just to see if copper pipes are the problem.
     
  5. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    AK - I think Deb said they replaced the whole water heater, so that suggests it isn't sediment in the bottom. If they just replaced the heating element, I would agree with you.

    Deb - When people upgrade to copper, and only replace the accessible pipes, the basement is always the easy part. That probably explains why you are not getting the same problem downstairs, as your main floor plumbing was probably 90% switched over.

    If you look in the basement, try to trace which lines go upstairs (the risers) and look for where your shiny new copper connects. Usually it is beneath a main floor wall. If you shine a flashlight, you probably will be able to see the galvanized-to-copper connection without having to rip open walls.

    The only true fix is to replace the rest of the galvanized. I think putting a filter on the system would get the particles out, but the corrosion/calcification won't be solved. Eventually it can cause leaks at the connection between the copper and the galvanized. The good news is that I don't think it harms the water (but you may want to get someone to look at the particles just to confirm that).

    Good luck.
     
  6. arabian knight

    arabian knight Miniature Horse lover Supporter

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    Emptying is not flushing it out. The anode rod has dissolved and those particles is on the bottom. But just emptying IMO is not Flushing it out to get the particles that have settled in the bottom, along with other stuff.
    And this was also stated
    So by saying that the particles IMO are still in the HW Tank. If copper pipes though out the place then this would be IMO also happening when drawing cold water. Do you not agree?
     
  7. Chas in Me

    Chas in Me Well-Known Member

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    Are your pipes grounded?
     
  8. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    sounds like calcium to me to and for the future you can buy those tubes for the water heater
     
  9. Deb862

    Deb862 Well-Known Member

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    Chas, what are "grounded pipes"?

    Paw, I talked to DH and he said he did not feel that there was any galvinized piping, as he said he has traced all the lines (however, he may not have been completely thorough either). I think that is my next step, to get the water tested and see what comes of that. Maybe that will tell us what is going on.
     
  10. Farmer Willy

    Farmer Willy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    WK---they did say they changed the heater.

    Curious to see what you come up with.
     
  11. TnAndy

    TnAndy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The white particles are most likely lime ( calcium ). If you live in an area that has "hard" water, you will get this. The heat precipitates the lime out of the water and it forms the white chips you are seeing. The harder the water ( more alkaline ), the worse the problem. New water heater will make no difference.

    If you let it go long enough, it will build up in the bottom of the heater, cover the lower element, and cause it to overheat from lack of water around it, and burn out. I've vacuumed out literally a bushel basket of the chips when changing a lower element.

    You solutions are a water softener system or drain the tank on a regular basis.
     
  12. The Paw

    The Paw Well-Known Member

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    A few follow-up points:

    1. AK, if you read a little further in the original post, they replaced the whole heater after they pulled the tube. However, you are probably right that it would make it's way into the cold water line eventually. (unless the only galvanized left is on hot water only, downstream of heater?).

    2. I noticed in your original post that the water from the second floor tap is much hotter than the setting. When I googled hot water heater and calcium, the results say that the heating causes the calcification. So, if the thermostat was set too high (or malfunctioning), the rate of calcification would be higher, which is why you have it upstairs and not downstairs. Of course, if you replaced the entire hwh, then there should be a new thermostat in it, so that's not it....

    3. base on this new info, I have another theory.... If your upstairs daughter isn't home too much, doesn't do laundry upstairs, or otherwise has lower usage of hot water, the setting is just too high. If you are using lots of hot water, you set it high so that it reheats quickly for when you next need it. In your case, if you are constantly using hot water downstairs, you are likely drawing down the hot water before it completely reheats, keeping a lower average temp (and low calcification). In the upstairs case, the temp in the hwh climbs to peak and then sits there and stays hot all the livelong day. Higher average temperature, more calcification. Try turning the temp down.

    Good thing you didn't start tearing open walls.... :rolleyes: