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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
Posts: 2647 NorthWest NJ
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2012-07-13          184244


Last month my wife was doing the dishes when she noticed that no hot water was coming out of the faucet. I went down to our finished basement to the utility room to find at least 100 gallons of water on the floor in just minutes.

I had never had a Oil fired hot water heater fail, so the magnitude of the leak was much more than I imagined. Not really a leak but full burst at 7 gallons a minute the capacity of my well.

According to the plumbers this the typical end game for Oil Hot water heaters. And they said they usually go in the middle of the night!

Was thinking I should put in a sump hole next to the new one and either make masonry dam around it or cut a channel in the floor.

Any other ideas?

My other nightmare.....I have my Oil Tanks in basement in the same area. Could the sump for the water heater also handle an oil leak or could it cause a fire? It there a special way to handle both?

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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auerbach
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2168 West of Toronto
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2012-07-13          184250


Here's a simpler response.

Some appliances last seemingly forever, but water heaters are not on the list. When you install the new one, write the date of installation on the unit. Then find out when it too is due to fail -- because it will! Go by the guarantee -- it will probably die within a couple of years after it expires, and ask local plumbers how long heaters last in the area. Then, instead of waiting for the inevitable leak, replace it at your convenience near but before the end of its life. Write on it, REPLACE AROUND mid-2020.

It's like a four-bulb light fixture. When the first one burns out, you might as well replace all four, because the other three are soon to follow. ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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kwschumm
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5764 NW Oregon
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2012-07-13          184251


Not sure what code would say about it but it sounds like a prime opportunity to relocate the oil fired heater to the outside of the house. Maybe you could build a three-wall addition outdoors to contain the heater, run the pipes through the wall and provide a drainage channel away from the house. Of course everything would need to be insulated well but it seems a lot cheaper than the repair bills to a finished basement. ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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hardwood
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 3583 iowa
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2012-07-14          184252


Dennis;
Are oil fired things, (furnace/water heater) common in your part of the country? We lived in a couple houses with oil furnaces, but I never heard of an oil water heater. LP or natural gas is probably used in 90% of the homes around here with wood and electric taking up the rest. Our house in town still has the old flat side oil tank in the basement with no way to remove it unless it was cut up, so there it sits with a bit of fuel in the bottom yet.
Both of our houses have LP furnaces with one having an electric water heater and the other an LP water heater.
Thye electric heater has been replaced at about ten years with a leaking tank, the LP one is older than dirt and never needed any attention, yet.
I think every appliance including the LP furnace,(twice), except the fridge has been replaced in the ten to twelve year age, just out living the warrantys by a year or two. on the farm house built in 1997.

Frank. ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
Posts: 2647 NorthWest NJ
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2012-07-14          184258


I saw a valve that you can install that has a water sensor that is placed on the floor, it comes with a simple rubber dam that you loop around the tank in a two foot circle. If the sensor indicates water it closes the cold water valve and turns off the electricity to the burner. Wonder if it keeps working for the 8 to ten year life of tank? ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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greg_g
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1816 Western Kentucky
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2012-07-14          184259


Dunno what your natural gas or propane options are, but I suffered through two electric heater ruptures. Think it has to do with iron content in the water, tanks rust from the inside out. So I went tankless. Since we already have propane heat, I got a 199,000 BTU Bosch that is rated to support two simultaneous showers. Available for either propane or natural gas. Only about 18"x31"x9", it hangs on the basement wall, vents horizontally through the wall. In my case, through a basement window. Rather than bore two vent holes through 18" of plaster/block/brick, I boxed in a basement window.

Uses electricity only to power the temperature control board and spark the propane. When you turn on a hot water faucet, a flow switch opens the gas valve, sparks the flame; hot water anywhere in the house in about 15 seconds. Turn off the hot water tap, the flow switch terminates gas flow, flame goes out. You can power the controller with a generator during power outages, or just use a car battery and a cheap inverter.

Not sure about your county, but this type heater doesn't even require inspection/certification in mine. Takes up no floor space at all. No tank to leak, no heating element to replace, no oil filters to change, basically maintenance free. A little pricey up front, but I consider it to be the last water heater I'll ever have to buy.

//greg// ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
Posts: 2647 NorthWest NJ
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2012-07-14          184260


I considered that and contacted the heating/plumbing contractors. It seems in my area we have acidic well water that requires a calcium based neutralizer system. They told me that the calcium, iron and other minerals when combined with heat in the small capillaries of an instant on tankless system would be short lived as the heating core would rapidly calcify under the heat applied to it. ....

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____________________________________________________________________________________
How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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greg_g
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1816 Western Kentucky
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2012-07-15          184268


Ok. But it would seem to me to be just as destructive to any water heating method. So is this calcium based neutralizer system too expensive, or is there some other reason you've never installed one? I added a whole house filtration unit years ago. Carbon filters improve the taste of the water, but - from the perspective of the plumbing system (to include the heater) - blocks a helluva lot of iron too. I'm sure it blocks other minerals as well, but the captured iron is always visible because the filter turns a red-brown color near the end of its lifespan. Two micron replacement carbon filters cost $5 each, and are usually good for at least 3 months. Seems to me something similar should be available for your calcium-based issue.

I added the whole house system as part of a PVC upgrade. The original plumbing was all steel. Anyway, I don't know how to split out the labor cost for the filter part. I watched the plumber though, the whole thing took <30 minutes to install. It goes inline where right after the shut off valve for the public water supply. The hardware amounts to nothing more than a filter housing and a cut off valve (to keep previously filtered water from draining back while changing the filter). I'm gonna speculate $150 parts and labor up front, then just replacement filters after that.

//greg// ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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kthompson
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5219 South Carolina
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2012-07-17          184305


Dennis, think you will not find it reasonable to use same system for water and the oil. Am certain the EPA will require oil to be reclaimed if pumped out. Oil and water will need to have different systems I think.

A plumber I know has told there is a valve to go on the inlet line to help prevent some sort of issue with tank failure. Tried calling to ask but could not reach him. However here about the only type of tanks used are electric. He does warn tanks do not last as long as they did.

I imagine a solenoid valve could be installed in the inlet line and use a float switch to cut it off if the floor flooded in case of tank or line failure. I have seen electric probes for sensing water for sump pumps also.
....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
Posts: 2647 NorthWest NJ
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2012-07-17          184310


Quote:
Originally Posted by greg_g | view 184268
Ok. But it would seem to me to be just as destructive to any water heating method. So is this calcium based neutralizer system too expensive, or is there some other reason you've never installed one?........


We had to install the acid neutralizer system to be able to get the CO to move in 15 years ago (would cost $1500 today). The system is comprised of a whole house filter to remove as much iron and other minerals before the water goes to the acid neutralizer tank which takes calcite and or magnesium oxide. The system has to be serviced every 8 to 10 months.

Failure to maintain the PH results in pin hole corrosion to the the copper pipes in the house. The cast iron pipes on my well only lasted a little over 3 years before they were full of holes. Eventually replaced with PVC that could be hung for 450 foot well depth.

The calcite leaves calcium deposits on faucet aerators, shower tile grout etc.. The deposits are higher under heat like on the hot water tap.

So far I have had pin holes in the flex copper tubes that had to be replaced with thicker walled straight pipe or stainless steel for the ice maker.

It's a real pain...

A tank system is supposed to be better for my circumstances because the tank is a large capacious area that has two replaceable anode rods that are made of magnesium that are sacrificed to take the crap out of the tank. They need to be replaced every one to 2 years.

Aside from the flood risk that I just got taste of 15 years was good, now I just need to protect against the tank failure event down the road.




....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7147 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2012-07-18          184329


Dennis,

My oil-fired water heater is, according to the installation tag on it, now 32 months past it's 30th birthday, it was installed in May 1982.

The previous owner swore by the practice of flushing the tank twice a year to remove any sediment in the bottom of the tank. Since buying the place in 1999 I've done the same thing.

The theory is that when sediment builds up in the bottom of the tank it does a bad thing, it insulates part (the bottom) of the tank causing unequal expansion and contraction when it calls for heat, or fills with cold water. This is a recipe for a crack.

As back up though my heater is sitting in a large tray about 4" deep, and as you mentioned, there is a water & oil shut off and power disconnect if the sensor in the any moisture, water or oil.


Best of luck. ....

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How to safe guard Hot water Heater Burst

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DennisCTB
Join Date: Nov 1998
Posts: 2647 NorthWest NJ
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2012-07-19          184355


I was pretty good about flushing the tank during the 15 years I had mine as well. The old tank had a single anode rod but the unit was built in such a thoughtless way that it could not be removed unless you uninstalled and disassembled the unit. So I never changed the anode rod.

On that water sensor valve have you ever tested it bu pouring some water in the tray?

Is the sensor also 30 years old? Who is the manufacturer?

....

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kthompson
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 5219 South Carolina
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2012-07-20          184371


I suspect the tanks are not the same quality as they were when Murfs unit was made. We recently built and the plumber let me know what brand he wanted (AO Smith USA built brand) for that very reason. If you read the ones on the floor at say Lowes a lot that affects the price is how long they are warranting the tank for. My guess is a lot of electric water heaters (most popular by far here) last like Murfs with little care that were installed in the 60's and 70s for 30 or more years. Don't forget those units were not insulated as well and that may have something to do with the life also but metal expert will have to address that.
....

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