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Can Water Heater Sediment Clog Kitchen Appliances?
Old 01-14-2010, 02:42 PM   #1
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Can Water Heater Sediment Clog Kitchen Appliances?

We've had a lot of bad luck lately with our rental townhouse's plumbing. Anyway, we had Sears replace the 14-year-old water heater a year ago.

One year later, the new tenants were not getting hot water to the kitchen or washing machine, but the showers had hot water. Also, the tenants determined that the kitchen faucet was clogged with sediment.

Several plumbers and lots of $$ later, we had Roto-Rooter clean out the kitchen pipes. The Roto Rooter guy told the tenant that he suspected the water heater was causing the sediment clog in the kitchen pipes. The kitchen faucet (new in November 2009) was "ruined" and was replaced. The lines to the dishwasher were clogged, which apparently has ruined the dishwasher too. We have our fingers crossed about the washing machine (also new in November 2009).

Sears sent someone to inspect the water heater and the company reluctantly agreed to replace it, as it was under warranty. It seems plain to me that Sears's bad WH is responsible for ruining the kitchen appliances. I would like to make a damage claim against Sears in small claims court. Am I whistling into the wind, do you think?

Has anyone had experience along these lines? I know WH's are prone to sediment build-up, but can't see how sediment could get into pipes that are a floor above the WH...that seems like defying the law of gravity.

(Yep I am fully aware that this is why other people don't want to be landlords...no need to rub it in ).

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Old 01-14-2010, 03:23 PM   #2
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If the root cause of the sediment is hard water, then certainly it will affect your entire system unless it is filtered out.. I've had similar problems, but I came away convinced the cause was the water. The sediment I have seen in heaters was hard as concrete for what that may be worth. I think before you try a claim you will need to rule out the water. Maybe gather opinions from some elder plumbers who have some local history under their belts.

The real evidence here may be what caused Sears to replace the heater. What defect did they find? You said they were reluctant to replace it--why? What was their reasoning?
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Old 01-14-2010, 03:31 PM   #3
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Well, I do know that sediment in water heaters is just one of those things homeowners have to deal with. The harder your water the more minerals present and the heating action causes calcium in the water to form a precipitate (think solidification) which sinks to the bottom of the tank. I'm not sure about the sediment coming out of the tank and going into the pipes and appliances.

I've heard that the buildup of sediment at the bottom of a water heater tank can also make for buildup in bacterias that are corrosive - or something along those lines anyway.

It seems like a natural process that is caused by the water heater doing it's job. The aggravating factor can be a high mineral content in your water.

Most water heaters have different gizmos that are supposed to minimize the buildup, but I'm not sure how well they work. I replaced two water heaters well within 10 years of moving into my new house because the water source from the utility was well-water and it was loaded with minerals. Since then the city switched to surface water and we've had about 15 years of no problems.

Still, we get sediment in faucets, shower heads, dishwasher, etc. I discovered that when my shower kept getting weaker and the dishwasher seemed worthless. Doing some disassembly led me to discover they were clogged with a white, rock-like calcium buildup. Using an ice-pick I was able to remove the buildup in the dishwasher, the shower head I just replaced.

Now, about twice a year, I run a mineral remover, like CLR, through the dishwasher, washing machine, and soak the shower heads in a cup of it to remove built up calcium.

So, some of this is just natural, but I'm curious about why Sears replaced the year-old water heater. We had an office discussion about this one day back when I was still w*rking because a co-worker's house flooded when the water heater tank developed a leak. The company refused to honor the warranty because the tank was clogged with sediment and they said that an overload of sediment lead to weakening and that caused the leak. According to them - sediment happens and it's not a manufacturer's defect.
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Old 01-14-2010, 04:29 PM   #4
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...sediment happens...
You can say that again.
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Old 01-14-2010, 04:33 PM   #5
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You can say that again.
Sediment happens.

I'm glad somebody caught that artful phrase.
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Old 01-14-2010, 05:16 PM   #6
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If the HW heater's dip tube were to slowly disentegrate it would show up as small particles of plastic in the HW lines. Dip tubes used to always be made of copper, but many (if not most) are now made from synthetics.

I had one of these 'new' style tubes go to pieces and experienced some of the same things you describe. These plastic particles would clog up the filter screens in the sinks so I guess it's possible they could get hung up in a dishwasher inlet valve.

The only way to prove it was the Sears heater would be to open it up at the inlet where the tube drops in. In my case I found a dip tube that was several inches long instead of going all the way to the bottom of the heater.
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Old 01-14-2010, 05:24 PM   #7
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Additional thought on this, are your pipes made of copper or some other material?

I ask because it struck me that while I have sediment in the dishwasher, shower head and faucets; I've never seen any sediment in the pipes. Not that I take my pipes apart and saw them in two or anything, but I have replaced most every fixture in my house in the last year to update/modernize. I put all new valves and supply lines in and did not see any evidence of anything inside the pipe. Just now I took off the shower head and looked up in the pipe with a flashlight - looked like plain old copper to me. The shower head had it's usual collection of calcified stuff on the inside.
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:28 PM   #8
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Need to have the water tested (you did not say if it was well or city water ... suspect well). My guess is a water filtration system will be recomended. But you might be able to get by with just a water softener (salt). Any well company will offer the service ... many are "free" (then they try to sell you a filtration system).

FWIW, I was "eating" thru hotwater tanks annually at one unit. Problem was the PH was out of wack. $1100 bucks later, an n10 filtration system was added. Now I rot thru the tank about every 3 years. Home Depot just honored a replacement warantee (but the plumber bill was mine).

Need to stay ahead of this one ... the tenants DRINK the water.
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:32 PM   #9
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Need to have the water tested (you did not say if it was well or city water ... suspect well).
Actually, it's city water. (I know what you mean, though; we have a filtration system for the well water for our own residence).

Also, the previous WH lasted 14 years without any problems, but this one was less than 1 year old.

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Old 01-14-2010, 11:38 PM   #10
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City water can be well water, mine was for years. It took four guys to carry the drained water heaters out of my house. All the weight was in the 12-18" of calcified sediment at the bottom.
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Old 01-15-2010, 10:31 AM   #11
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Sink faucets and washers have strainers that catch sediment and particulates. Never seen shower heads with strainers, hence the flow issues with faucets/washers but not showers. Sediment can come from many sources.

I too had replaced an old water heater, then cut it apart. Found about 15" of brown mess on the bottom.

Where we live now the water dept, flushes the main water lines twicew a year, ususally th enext day I flush the Hot Water tank by draining about 5 to 10 gal of water at the bttom spigot. I'll be curious when this one needs replacement how much sediment will I find.
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Old 01-15-2010, 11:32 AM   #12
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... ususally th enext day I flush the Hot Water tank by draining about 5 to 10 gal of water at the bttom spigot. I'll be curious when this one needs replacement how much sediment will I find.
Our water conditioners have pretty much eliminated sediment problems at both our house and our rental. In fact the cleaner water actually started moving some sediment out of the pipes, but everything's back to equilibrium now.

Those of you tired of cleaning shower heads might want to get one of these. Pricey but zero clogging or maintenance in over two years:
Oxygenics®- Super Charge Your Shower
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Old 01-15-2010, 02:51 PM   #13
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Our water conditioners have pretty much eliminated sediment problems at both our house and our rental. In fact the cleaner water actually started moving some sediment out of the pipes, but everything's back to equilibrium now.
What type water conditioner do you use??
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Old 01-15-2010, 04:34 PM   #14
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What type water conditioner do you use??
They're both ion-exchange resins with a rock-salt recharge. They're also sold as water "softeners".

The first one (in our rental) is an Ametek that I had to order online and have shipped ($$) via FedEx from the Mainland. $675 plus another $225 in copper pipes & valves. It's been in service since late 1997. The manufacturer claims that the resin is "burned out" after 10 years but we haven't noticed a problem. I had to rebuild the control valve a couple years ago but the O-rings were in stock at the local hardware store.

The second one (in our home) is a Kenmore from Sears. $450 plus another $50 in piping in 2003. Much sleeker and with fewer user-serviceable parts (electronic timer instead of electro-mechanical) but otherwise it looks a lot like the Ametek and probably shares a lot of components.

Looks like prices on the Kenmore 300 are still dropping:
http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_1...?keyword=water

Our water is hard enough to leave annoying mineral deposits on all horizontal surfaces (and toilet bowls) but not bad enough to clog plumbing. We probably go through a 40-pound bag of salt a month. I used to clean the accumulated dirt/debris out of the salt chamber but I don't even bother doing that anymore.

These days I see water conditioners all the time in Home Depot and Lowes.
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Old 01-15-2010, 08:40 PM   #15
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Oh yeah, I know water softeners..Went through several in San Antonio. When you said "water conditioner," I thought maybe you had created something really exotic like filtering water through one of those monkeypod trees of yours.
Here in the Ozark mountains we have city well water that is yummy but a bit heavy with minerals. Happily (somewhat) the water has softened a bit due to the far above average rainfall we have had. However, when that reprieve ends I'll hook a softener up to the hot side only.
There is some good water reading to be had in "the Blue Zones," a decent read about the hows and whys some people live very long lives. One of the keys in some places, is the locations hard water. Rich with calcium and magnesium, hard water with this makeup is believed to be very beneficial and superior to soft water. (No word how their toilet bowls look.)
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