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Water Heater Flushing Question
Old 04-18-2012, 09:33 AM   #1
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Water Heater Flushing Question

It seems pretty obvious, but before I start this flushing procedure:



I want to get confirmation that I understand the schematic, and have identified the valves correctly:

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Old 04-18-2012, 10:16 AM   #2
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Actually, to my eyes, the schematic does not seem to match that valve arrangement, but functionally it looks correct and I think your ID matches the intention.

It's just that to me, the schematic shows V3 & V4 as simple on/off, and they look to be diverter valves in the picture, and vice-versa. But it works the same.

Do they supply the pump with the purchase? How often do you need to do the flush?

edit - the more I look at it the more confused I become. I would want to see those valves outside the system so I could understand which way they divert, it is possible they are installed backwards and it would work fine in the regular mode, but flushing would end up connecting you to the supply, not the coils.

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Old 04-18-2012, 11:10 AM   #3
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I've been meaning to do mine. Maybe this is a good weekend project. I don't have a pump tho. I always thought I'd just hold up the 5 gal jug of vinegar, above the valve, so gravity would do the work.
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Old 04-18-2012, 11:42 AM   #4
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I came to the same conclusions. I called their tech support, but it was very hard to communicate ("there's a valve that looks like a bird or a butterfly, and then..."). I sent them the above illustration and photo, and they replied "Please call our tech support department."

I bought a pump that attaches to my drill for $11,like this:



One is supposed to do the flush every year.
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Old 04-18-2012, 12:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
I came to the same conclusions. ...
I think their drawing is wrong, and the install is probably correct.

To test it, I'd:

A) take the cover off the V2 port, attach a hose and then open V2. The V4 valve should be diverted away from V2 as it is now, so you should maybe get a few drops, that's all.

B) Turn the V4 valve, and now V2 should be connected to the tank, so it will drain a bit, but that's all. If you get supply pressure, then that V4 would be wrong, IMO.

C) Return V2 and V4 to original positions.

D) Same process with V1/V3, except when you turn V3, you should get supple pressure (routed through the tank).

If the diverters are going the wrong way, you might be able to change it by removing the handle and swapping it 180 degrees - that might change the orientation inside. I'm guessing it is a ball that turns with a "T" channel in there which should be symmetrical, maybe, I think, well, could be, I dunno.

-ERD50
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Old 04-18-2012, 12:13 PM   #6
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I think Al's understanding on the schematic and valve markings are correct.

It will be very interesting to know what kind of descaling solution and its concentration will be called for. If it's only going to run through the heat exchanger for 45 mins, then the white vinegar probably won't do unless allowed to soak overnight.
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Old 04-18-2012, 12:47 PM   #7
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I think Al is correct.

The diagram can be related to the install:-

Gas line - marked as "gas" - this helps!!

V1&V3 are on the hot line with the curious symbol at the top - physically the hot line has a red washer (clue?) and a pressure release valve on the side with an overflow pipe going through the wall

V2&V4 are on the cold line with a filter - physically the cold line has a blue washer (clue?) and a black plastic item above - I think this the filter that needs to be cleaned after the flush

If the valves 3&4 were not installed correctly would the system work at all? As it has worked it is reasonable to assume they are ok.

Before starting the job the hot vs cold line could also be determined by touch.
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:02 PM   #8
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I've been meaning to drain (flush) my water heater for about a year. Great thread but it got me to wondering about the vinegar flush. I had never heard of this and it's got me interested. I know several guys that have done it and no one has ever mentioned the vinegar flush. Would having a softener make a difference in the need to flush the water heater?
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:19 PM   #9
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Are you talking about a tankless as in discussion here? Or a conventional tank type?
Tankless typically need descaling, tank-type just plain water flushing, and eventually anode replacement.

Softening is a benefit with scaling, I believe.
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Old 04-18-2012, 01:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JOHNNIE36 View Post
I've been meaning to drain (flush) my water heater for about a year. Great thread but it got me to wondering about the vinegar flush. I had never heard of this and it's got me interested. I know several guys that have done it and no one has ever mentioned the vinegar flush. Would having a softener make a difference in the need to flush the water heater?
T-Al has one of those fancy 'tankless' water heaters. They require an acid flush like this, as they are heating the water instantly, and any build up really hits efficiency. I've never heard of any kind of acid flush with a standard tank type heater.


Another thing seems odd in those instructions. It looks like they have you turn the water on and then remove the filter for cleaning? Unless it has some kind of built in disconnect valve built into that filter, that would seem like a Three Stooges type move. Have Lena take a video.

-ERD50
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:18 PM   #11
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Looks right to me. V3 and V4 isolate the water heater fro the rest of the domestic water system. V1 and V2 are diversion valves used of the flush and pump the cleaning solution through the heater the same way the water flows through the heater. Then the solution is flushed out with cold water and you reverse the process to get back to start.

This has been helpful as I need to do mine soon.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:26 PM   #12
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Probably run it thru a bit, then stop, letting the vinegar sit for a while. I have to go home and see what fittings the plumber put on mine. Not sure its a garden hose fitting.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:31 PM   #13
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Well, I finished the procedure, and all went well, and as expected. I did it before reading your test procedure, ERD50.

In progress:

WaterHeaterFlushProcedure.jpg

The only minor problem was that the hose endings all leaked, but by having all the junctions over the pail, that was manageable.

Also, there was packing grease in the water pump, which transferred to hose H1. Hopefully, not too much got into the water heater itself. I didn't see any in the inlet filter.

I caught the error concerning the filter, and left valve V4 off. There was a good amount of stuff in that filter (blue green tiny stones), but it could have gone for a few more years without problems.

The vinegar solution got pretty dirty. Next year it will be even easier.

I almost paid to have a plumber do this, not knowing it could be done by the consumer (my manual didn't have that page). So another $100+ saved. Thanks for the help.
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:40 PM   #14
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Sorry, I didn't look close enough at the photo except for the noted valves. I see now that it is one of the tankless type. My sister and BIL have one so I'll have to ask them if they ever service it in this manner. Excuse the mixup.
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Also, there was packing grease in the water pump, which transferred to hose H1. Hopefully, not too much got into the water heater itself. I didn't see any in the inlet filter.
I caught the error concerning the filter, and left valve V4 off. There was a good amount of stuff in that filter (blue green tiny stones), but it could have gone for a few more years without problems.
The vinegar solution got pretty dirty. Next year it will be even easier.
I was going to ask if the heater was even in need of cleaning, but the evidence speaks for itself!

No worries on the grease... it'll move briskly through the heater into the shower nozzle and wash right out when you shampoo your hair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JOHNNIE36 View Post
I've been meaning to drain (flush) my water heater for about a year. Great thread but it got me to wondering about the vinegar flush. I had never heard of this and it's got me interested. I know several guys that have done it and no one has ever mentioned the vinegar flush. Would having a softener make a difference in the need to flush the water heater?
A water softener makes a big difference in our house... we don't get mineral stains on the showers, tubs, or faucets. I suspect it'll keep a tankless heater clean, too. It might be discussed in your owner's manual or on the manufacturer's website.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bld999 View Post
Are you talking about a tankless as in discussion here? Or a conventional tank type?
Tankless typically need descaling, tank-type just plain water flushing, and eventually anode replacement.
Softening is a benefit with scaling, I believe.
I flush our (solar) water heater every year and never get any scale or minerals out... just steaming-hot clean water. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm risking more leaking/damage to the drain valve by using it than I'm doing good by flushing the heater.

When we replace our heater I'll have to see if I can cut it open for a post-mortem. I'd love to have a fiber-optic camcorder...
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:59 PM   #16
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Well, I finished the procedure, and all went well, and as expected. ...

The only minor problem was that the hose endings all leaked, but by having all the junctions over the pail, that was manageable.
Glad it worked out. I'm curious about the leaking hoses though. Assuming those are true Garden Hose Threads, the seal is formed by the rubber washer that sits inside the female connector. Did you have the washers in there? If they are normal tapered plumbing fittings, then you need tape or pipe dope, or just deal with the leaks as you did, no real harm from that.

-ERD50
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Old 04-18-2012, 09:21 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Glad it worked out. I'm curious about the leaking hoses though. Assuming those are true Garden Hose Threads, the seal is formed by the rubber washer that sits inside the female connector. Did you have the washers in there? If they are normal tapered plumbing fittings, then you need tape or pipe dope, or just deal with the leaks as you did, no real harm from that.

-ERD50
They leaked around the hose itself. The things you screw down to clamp the hose to the brass piping could not be made tight enough. I'm taking them back tomorrow.
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It's Broken! :(
Old 04-18-2012, 09:24 PM   #18
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It's Broken! :(

It worked fine all afternoon, and now it doesn't light. No hot water at all. The water runs, but it's cold.

I've rebooted it, and done everything I can do, but nothing.

So I'll call tech support tomorrow, and probably need a licensed service tech.

DIY doesn't always work.

Any ideas?
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Old 04-18-2012, 09:31 PM   #19
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Not familiar with tankless heaters, but sounds like it could be a defective thermocouple.
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Old 04-18-2012, 09:31 PM   #20
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If you have a manual with troubleshooting, look up something like "flow switch" and start there. I am not a tech, but I have read some about the new tankless hwt and condensing boilers, and flow switches are often implicated.
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