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Old 09-29-2008, 11:19 AM   #21
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Hey, you are in luck! There's no need to sweat/sharkbite a new fitting on the cold water "in line--just turn off the valve and unscrew the current flex line. They did the job right on that side. It's only on the outlet side you'll need a new (male) fitting.
I didn't see the fitting in your earlier photo (covered in insulation, and I didn't notice the valve handle)

P.S. That's not a very pretty sweat job they did, either. It looks like some of mine--maybe the last guy did his first pipe soldering there, just like you are thinking about doing.. But, if it isn't leaking--it's fabulous.
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Old 09-29-2008, 11:29 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
That's interesting -- it really works, huh?

The biggest disadvantage I found, in going to an on-demand water heater, is that it takes longer before you get hot water at the tap. This is because the hot water doesn't diffuse into the pipes.
There might be some lag from that, but my guess is that it's more likely a lag caused by the time needed for the flow-demand sensor to trip the gas ignitor for the gas jets to come to full speed, for them to heat up the copper pipe, and (most significantly) for that heat to be transfered to the water in the heat exchanger. Of course, if you are using just a little hot water (e.g. washing your face with a low flow to begin with, combined with just a little hot water added to the cold) the tankless heaters wont come on at all and the water will just stay cold.

I wasn't convinced by the energy savings/payback of these things, and their long-term reliabilty hasn't been proven. A lot of folks havethem and like them, but i wasn't wiling to buy one. The last Consumer Reports comparison I saw wasn't very positive on them, either.


for that heatAl, can you explain this a little more? If the distance from yoeur old tank heater and the new tankless heater is the same, and if the hot water n te pipes (
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Old 09-29-2008, 11:44 AM   #23
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Hey, you are in luck! There's no need to sweat/sharkbite a new fitting on the cold water "in line--just turn off the valve and unscrew the current flex line. They did the job right on that side. It's only on the outlet side you'll need a new (male) fitting.
Are you sure about that? I saw the handle as well and thought I could unscrew the flex connector rather than cutting off the valve. But looking at it again, I wasn't sure if the flex connector could be unscrewed from the valve, or if it was sweated or permanently attached some other way.

Also, someone installed black foam insulation on the cold water pipe. I understand the insulation on the hot water line, but is there any reason to put it on the cold water supply line?
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Old 09-29-2008, 01:16 PM   #24
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If all your pipes are insulated in the wall, then I suppose its no issue. Otherwise all the pipes in your house act as a radiator pulling heat from the HWH and dispersing it into your walls. Sort of a lot of loss for someone who puts bubblewrap on his windows in the winter...
Agreed. Our system actually had a little pump that pumped the hot water through the pipes so that one could have instant hot water. I never used that.

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or that heatAl, can you explain this a little more? If the distance from yoeur old tank heater and the new tankless heater is the same, and if the hot water n te pipes (
Here's how I figure it. Let's say it's 20 feet to your hot water heater. With a tank, the (say) 10 feet of pipe closest to the heater always has hot water. The rest of it is a little warm. You turn on the faucet, and get pretty hot water after the water has moved 10 feet.

With the tankless, the water's got to move 20 feet.

You're right about the heating start time, but that's pretty minimal. Here's how I know. Let's say I use hot water, and then wait 30 minutes and use it again. What happens is that I get lukewarm water for a while (the water that is cooling off in the pipes), then cold water, then hot water. That cold water represents the water heater start up time. It isn't that long, compared with the water travel time delay.

Payback depends a lot on installation costs and energy costs. We pay $3.31/gallon for propane.
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Old 09-29-2008, 03:18 PM   #25
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A few things before you start:

First, we've found Family Handyman magazine to be well worth the cost of a $12-$20 annual subscription. They're either teaching you how to do things you never knew you wanted to do, or showing you the cool new tools that you never knew you needed, or helping you decide what you have no interest in doing.

Second, here's some soldering links to get you going:
The Family Handyman Magazine: Keyword Search Results

Third, more than you ever wanted to know about replacing water heaters:
The Family Handyman Magazine: Keyword Search Results

Fourth, if you're still with us and if your family/roomates aren't standing around hoping to get a hot shower within the next 24 hours, then you could experiment. I hate the performance pressure of breaking into a pipe at 8 AM and having to be done by 4 PM (including trips to the hardware store). But if you're patient, and especially if you don't mind a day or two of cold showers, then this job is well within the capacity of a first-time DIYer.

Fifth, see if your local utility company has a rebate for high-efficiency water heaters. I don't know if gas is cheap in your area-- if it is then no one may want to pay you to buy a high-e heater.

Sixth, considering the heat you went through in your attic-insulation project, does your area offer solar water heating? Again if gas is cheap then this may not be worth the payback. But if you're going this route then all you have to do is find a solar contractor, and installing the new water heater (special models for solar systems) will be part of the job.

I've never bothered with a permit for a water-heater repair. I'm not sure that it's even necessary.

Some nanny states have incredibly detailed code specs for mounting gas water heaters-- off the floor to avoid gas accumulation or exposure to other flammable vapors, strapped to the wall in case of earthquakes or hurricanes, exhaust duct draft requirements, enclosed in a pan with a separate drain in case the shell leaks, and so on. The code might be more recent than your old heater, and it's worth checking your local newspapers or websites to see if there's any discussion of how to mount the new heater. If it's not done correctly then you'll have problems passing the home inspection when you sell the place.

You can drain the water from the pressure-temperature relief any way you want. What's there now is just intended to keep the relief from making a mess if there's a problem. Ideally the water never gets hotter than about 180 degrees, so the PVC will probably be fine-- they usually print the temperature limits on the piping.

Gas piping is very low pressure and hard to detect a leak, yet you really don't wanna screw it up. Use the soapy leak detector after you reconnect the joints.

When you're done with the heater and you've turned the water back on, leave the piping insulation off for a day or two in case you have leaks. After that waiting period, give all the joints one more torque before you hide them behind the insulation.

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Are you sure about that? I saw the handle as well and thought I could unscrew the flex connector rather than cutting off the valve. But looking at it again, I wasn't sure if the flex connector could be unscrewed from the valve, or if it was sweated or permanently attached some other way.
That solder looks kinda ugly. You could shut off that cold water valve, open a hot water valve to bleed off the residual pressure, put a wrench on the hex nut, and see what happens with gentle torque. You might need a second wrench on the valve to counter-torque it against the flex (and to avoid breaking the solder joint between the valve and the copper pipe of the supply line).

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Also, someone installed black foam insulation on the cold water pipe. I understand the insulation on the hot water line, but is there any reason to put it on the cold water supply line?
Not unless it feels warm to the touch. Some water heaters have thermal isolation fittings where the cold water enters the heater to keep hot water from heating the cold-water supply pipe. But a plumber figures that insulation is cheap and it keeps ignorant homeowners from thinking that they're not using enough of it.

Other things that I wish I'd known before I started a water-heater job:
- First and foremost, shut that cold-water isolation valve and make sure it does not leak before you disconnect any other gas or hot-water piping. You don't want to have to shut off the house water as well as the hot water.
- You're going to appreciate having two Ford (pipe) wrenches, each at least 12" long.
- You're also gonna appreciate having an equipment dolly and a ratchet strap (or strong rope) to rassle that water heater out of its hole and to get the new one in.
- Get a firecloth for soldering near the walls. The traditional (cheap) ones look like woven asbestos fibers but the modern (more expensive) ones look cool and are even easier to use.
- Depending on how close those pipes are to the wall and to each other, you may need a compact rotary pipe cutter. The regular ones are about 5-6" long but they make them as tiny as 2". Far better than a hacksaw of last resort.
- If you happen to remove that clamp/wire from the cold-water supply pipe, be sure to verify good contact with the bare piping when you put it back on. That's a grounding wire, and hopefully you won't have to mess with it.
- Before putting in the new heater, groom its anode rod. Buy a deep socket head to get the anode rod out of the heater. The socket will probably be something like 1&1/16" on a 3/8" drive, which means you may also need a 3/8" drive socket wrench. (You might even need a 2-3' iron pipe to slip around the end of the socket wrench for a torque assist.) Before you install the new water heater, unscrew the anode rod, wrap Teflon plumber's tape around the threads, and reinstall it. You'll be checking it every 2-3 years depending on your water conditions, but consider taking pictures/measurements of the anode rod for the day 3-5 years from now when you have to replace it.
- Buy extra copper pipe, fittings, and flex piping. You'll probably be returning it later but it's cheap insurance against the inevitable mistakes. You might even want to buy extra extra supplies for soldering practice.
- Soldering is 99% tedious prep work and 1% fun flame. Clean the pipe ends with fine-grit sandpaper or steel wool before putting on the flux. You want the pipe as clean & smooth as possible before you put on the flux & solder or you'll inevitably get a leak and have to start over.
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Old 09-29-2008, 03:34 PM   #26
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Also, someone installed black foam insulation on the cold water pipe. I understand the insulation on the hot water line, but is there any reason to put it on the cold water supply line?

Yes, the cold water coming in will form condensation in humid weather, and drip and make a mess or cause mold if it's bad. The insulation can help with that.

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Old 09-29-2008, 03:37 PM   #27
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I've never bothered with a permit for a water-heater repair. I'm not sure that it's even necessary.
In California you're not allowed to touch a gas line with a tool unless you're a qualified contractor...who wont do it without a permit.

Not that this has ever stopped me from doing water heaters and stoves anyhow.

Twice I wasnt called on it by a buyer. Once i was. I said "Gee, I dont know if that was done with a permit. Guy who did it is on vacation, so if you want to wait a couple of weeks for me to get a hold of him and find out...but it looks like a good hookup to me..." and it seems they didnt feel like waiting.

You'll want insulation on both pipes if the WH is in an unconditioned space that gets cold in the winter.
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Old 09-29-2008, 04:17 PM   #28
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In California you're not allowed to touch a gas line with a tool unless you're a qualified contractor...who wont do it without a permit.
Just the nanny state I had in mind.

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Twice I wasnt called on it by a buyer. Once i was. I said "Gee, I dont know if that was done with a permit. Guy who did it is on vacation, so if you want to wait a couple of weeks for me to get a hold of him and find out...but it looks like a good hookup to me..." and it seems they didnt feel like waiting.
Yeah, no kidding.

And then:
*Shoulder shrug* "I dunno. If the home inspector thinks it's structurally unsafe then we can take a look at it. If you're concerned about a paperwork problem then you can apply for a permit after escrow closes. But if you think this is going to delay closing then I'll be happy to return your check and move on to our backup offer."

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You'll want insulation on both pipes if the WH is in an unconditioned space that gets cold in the winter.
Oops, I stand corrected. I forgot all about cold-weather condensation. It's almost as if I haven't had any recent experience with the phenomenon...
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drip leg
Old 09-29-2008, 05:22 PM   #29
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drip leg

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The old furnace had a drip leg, which is used to prevent any debris in the gas line from entering the furnace valve. It consists of a TEE (instead of a 90) and a short piece of pipe capped pipe.

Drip Leg

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Thanks, I've seen them but thought it was to add another gas item off of that.
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Old 09-29-2008, 05:43 PM   #30
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Nah, just to collect dust and stray moisture that comes down the gas line from clogging up the works.
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:04 PM   #31
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Nah, just to collect dust and stray moisture that comes down the gas line from clogging up the works.
There's actually some debate as to whether drip legs actually perform any function at all. After all, nobody ever empties the dreaded dust and moisture they are supposed to collect--wouldn't they eventually fill up? Their required length seems to vary between municipalities, so it is best to ask a local plumber or other tradesman before adding one to be sure it is the right length. Anyway, they are required by code, so we'll keep putting them in.
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Old 09-29-2008, 06:19 PM   #32
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samclem - re: drip leg - yes, but if it is moisture, maybe due to sudden temp changes, it would eventually get absorbed back into the gas (I think?).

Probably overkill, but that's usually a good thing with natural gas.

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Old 09-29-2008, 06:31 PM   #33
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Exactly. Gas supposedly has a range of moisture content, but sometimes it gets a little excessive or condenses. Eventually the drips get picked up by the gas when the moisture content is lower. Intent is to reduce the rusting and clogging of the burners.

I havent emptied any drip legs to see if they've collected anything, but I also havent had any appliances that have had them in place for very long. I put them on the appliances I replaced at my old house, and the new one, but the new stuff has only been in service a short time.

I'll unscrew one in a couple of years and tell you what I find.
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Old 09-29-2008, 08:06 PM   #34
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Thanks for all the helpful advice. When I said the heater was +10 years old, I actually meant it was 14 years old. So it's had a good run.

I might be willing to learn to sweat the pipe, but this is kind of an awkward space and if I foul it up, there's not much pipe left to cut and start over with. I'd also be worried about torching the drywall and/or myself.

I installed a compression fitting on a toilet supply line in order to replace the shutoff valve, and it looks like the sharkbite connectors are even easier than that. My only concern is how they will hold up over time with the heat and pressure (seems like a no brainer for a drain pipe). I could give the sharkbites a try and get the new heater installed. If they don't work, then I'd call a plumber to sweat on some new fittings - even if it comes to that, it should be much cheaper than paying them for the whole installation.

I called Sears and they wanted about $270 plus permit for delivery and installation. However, they seemed to think that new flex hoses could just be screwed on - if the delivery crew had to remove and sweat on new connectors, the cost could increase.

This photo is the cold water supply line, I assume I would just use the pipecutter at the arrow?
go about 1/2" to the left of the arrow...away from the solder

But it does look like you might be able to unscrew that....gotta take a nice 12" wrench and give it a shot....

Dont forget to add shutoff valves if you cut one off....and shut off the water further upline
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Old 09-29-2008, 09:39 PM   #35
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Just make sure you hold onto the main pipe pretty good with something while you try to unscrew it.

You might end up turning the pipe at some joint in the wall somewhere instead.

I say this because I'm the master of breaking off pipes. Last time I did it I pulled up a piece of PVC irrigation pipe after a half a day of digging and while I was gluing the replacement in felt the pipe in the ground turn.

Another half a day and 12' of dirt later I found the joint I broke...
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Old 09-29-2008, 09:57 PM   #36
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Are you sure about that? I saw the handle as well and thought I could unscrew the flex connector rather than cutting off the valve. But looking at it again, I wasn't sure if the flex connector could be unscrewed from the valve, or if it was sweated or permanently attached some other way.
I'm not sure about it, but you should be able to tell by looking to see if the flex connector is screwed into the valve body or if it is sweated into it. Do you see any solder in the joint? Maybe a loose pieve of white teflon tape sticking out (indicating it is screwed in).

BTW, it is possible to ruin the valve if you get it too hot. This is less likely to happen if you use a propane torch, easier if you use MAPP gas. It's not a bad idea to put a wet rag over the nearest downstream joint or valve when you start sweating pipes. There's nothing more frustrating than doing a nice new connection, but realizing that you got the pipe too hot and the previously good nearby connection had the solder drip out and is no longer good. Especially if that now-leaking connection is in a wall. With a wet rag, the pipe under it shouldn't exceed 212 deg F until it has boiled the water off that is in the rag and in contact with the pipe. Try to keep this rag as far as possible from your work so you can get the "target joint" hot enough with the torch--copper conducts heat very well.
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Old 09-29-2008, 10:00 PM   #37
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I dont think teflon was invented yet when that WH was installed.
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:14 AM   #38
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The one thing I noticed from your Pics is the TP relief line is plumed kinda different. Most are plumed to discharge to the floor. Restricting the discharge of the relieff valve can turn your water heater into a bomb. I'm not saying yours is wrong just different than I've seen for a residential instillation.
A recommendation for the replacement. solder a sweat x npt fitting on the end of the supply line feeding the water heater. Where you have the arrow in your post. Then install a a ball valve, a short nipple then an npt x npt flex connector to the heater. On the discharge side of the heater install an sweat x npt fitting where the piping goes out to the house a ball valve ( optional) and a flex connector to the tank.
Oh yea hat puppy the old one) is gonna be Heavy.
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Old 09-30-2008, 01:02 AM   #39
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There's actually some debate as to whether drip legs actually perform any function at all. After all, nobody ever empties the dreaded dust and moisture they are supposed to collect--wouldn't they eventually fill up? Their required length seems to vary between municipalities, so it is best to ask a local plumber or other tradesman before adding one to be sure it is the right length. Anyway, they are required by code, so we'll keep putting them in.
We have a 30-year-old rental that's collected plenty in its drip leg. I just don't know whether it's happened a little at a time over the years or all at once-- I don't open it up unless we're working on the water heater.

Now air systems, especially HP but even 100 psi systems-- filthy. Filters and drip legs are essential.
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Old 09-30-2008, 10:15 AM   #40
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We have a 30-year-old rental that's collected plenty in its drip leg. I just don't know whether it's happened a little at a time over the years or all at once-- I don't open it up unless we're working on the water heater.
Cool! Wadjaget? Mostly little bits of rust and flecks of paste from the pipe joints? Does the inside of the cap look rustd, like there's been water in there? (I wonder if a natural gas environment even supports an oxidation reaction in iron). Our gas line is less than 4 years old, so I don't think I'd find many "treasures" in ours yet.
It wouldn't take much to clog a jet orifice, so I guess these drip legs things do perform a service. It would seem that there would be some rational sizing requirement for them, maybe based on distance from the last one. Also, specifying a length of drip leg seems arbitrary, it would be more rational to specify volume. Most of us would still use the same diameter as the main pipe, but there are locations where a shorter but "fatter" leg would be easier to fit.
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