Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hot water help!

So now that we're all staying in the house at the same time, we've noticed some hot water issues.

It first became apparent that something wasn't right when after Adam took a nice warm shower, I hopped into what quickly became a tepid-to-cold shower. Well, we thought, we haven't really got the hot water turned up very high; we'll crank it on up a little more...

And then the dishwasher started flashing that it wasn't getting enough hot water, or water that was hot enough. Same difference, I guess...details...Anyway, that means it heats up the water with its coil and that's really inefficient. We turned it up some more.

Then we noticed that the hot water tap in the kitchen runs really slowly. There's no water pressure in the hot tap only. Cold is fine. And it's isolated to the kitchen/laundry side of the house. The bathroom pressure is ok, but don't know about temperature yet-- we've been afraid to take back-to-back showers since then. I do know that I had only the hot water on, and it wasn't quite hot enough for my taste. But then again, I've developed "mom hands"-- remember how your mom could wash dishes in the hottest water imaginable with no adverse effects? And then she'd hand you a hot soapy rag to wipe the counter and you thought your fingers might burn off? Yeah, I've developed the "mom hands" over the last several years and the effect's migrated to the shower.

So here's what we've tried. As I said, turning the heat up. I think the water is maybe hotter, so it can be more diluted with the cold water and last longer, but I dunno if it's as hot as it should be.

We also tried draining off a few gallons of water from the tank. Then we tried backflushing the pipes (stopping up the kitchen faucet and running the cold water; it backs into the hot pipes, into the tank, and out the drain hose to the tub). Some sediment came out, and after we let the tank fill up a bit more, it seemed to have some better pressure. Then once the water coming out of the tap was hot, it had slowed down, and I noticed a little sputtering at one point.

So...anyone have this problem? Any ideas? It's a 40 gal Kenmore PowerMiser gas tank; it's 12 years old. Should we backflush again? I wondered if maybe something had become dislodged and then lodged again when water started flowing the correct way again.

We really want try all the tricks up our sleeves before we call a plumber who will charge us a few hundred bucks and tell us we need to spend $400 on a new heater.


Jennifer said...

I hope you get some good ideas....

but I fear that it may be near the end of it's life, however, since they are supposed to last only 6 to 8 years.

I learned that because we have a 14 year old water heater that is still kicking... and I wanted to know if we should think about replacing it... :) crossing fingers now.

That all being said, I'm definitely in the fix-it camp!

Anonymous said...

If the water heater has 2 heating elements, one of them might not be working - then the water doesn't heat up as quickly when a lot is used (like 2 showers one right after the other).

My husband seems to think it is an easy fix - but he's handy that way. I'm only helpful in that I can usually get the correct part at Home Depot (sometimes in less than 3 trips per repair).


Karen in Wichita said...

Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

It's a bad dip tube.

Ours has the same problem, except our water pressure is high enough (as the gas line installers discovered: that ours refills as fast as we can use it, resulting in the water running cold instead of running out.

It's fixable, except ours is old enough, and not-up-to-code enough, that we're going to put in a tankless system.