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HOT! Water Heater!

     I love it when I come up with yet another way to make Barbara and Leslie go scurrying off to check their water heaters.  Well beaten paths are easy to follow.  Water heaters should be cool to the touch.  Now if you put insulation around them, the tank will feel warm between the tank and the insulation after a while.  If you hold your hand against the side of the tank long enough it will also feel warm---after a while. 

     So what does it mean if the water heater feels warm to the touch?  (And no, the sun isn't shining on it and the cat is not sleeping on it)

     Between the outer metal shell of the heater and the inner hot tank there is insulation that shows down the rate of heat transfer.  If that insulation gets wet it will conduct the heat from the tank and warm the outer shell.  This picture shows the surface temperature of the water heater---definitely warm to the touch.

water heater 

    This tank had a very slow leak at the connections at the top of the tank and had been leaking long enough to saturate the insulation and damage the wall next to the heater as well as in the adjacent room.  Note the rusting at the connection at the top of the tank as well as at the access panel under the thermometer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Buell 

     PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed)sunsmile all  pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.

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Comment balloon 18 commentsCharles Buell • April 23 2008 07:14PM

Comments

Charles Buell, I AM NOT GOING TO CHECK MY WATER HEATER TONIGHT.  I AM TIRED AND I'M JUST GOING TO WORK ON MY BLOG!  REPEAT........NO WATER HEATER CHECK.  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH MY WATER HEATERS! ................wellll, be right back......
Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago

Barbara, you are toooo funny---and a good sport!  sunsmile

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago
Where's Steve?  Did he decide to go off and check the boat that you'd already inspected?  : )
Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 10 years ago
Barbara, he taught all last week and has been catching up on a whole bunch of inspections----and whining quite loudly I might add:)  I will be in the same boat next week!
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago
Charles, we all get into a little hot water know and then, so why can't the water heater?
Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Charlie,

My ears were burning. Stopped in here, to take a break from whining, and now I know why the ears were burning.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Michael,  they are almost always in one sort of hot water or another!

Steve, you got hot water in your ears again?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

HHHmmm, Interesting. Thatis not a problem that I've ever experienced thank goodness.

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) over 10 years ago
Sean, it is actually a lot more common than you would think.  The connections at the top of the tank often leak and that leaking water follows the pipe into the tank and insulation.
Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago
hmmm.. thats interesting thanks for the info. I just recently changed out my hot water heater I better inspect it!
Posted by Andy Laughlin (ConnectRealty.com) over 10 years ago
Actually, that is a great inspection technique to help determine if your water heater has internal leaking, is inefficient, and possibly headed for complete failure. Thanks for the post reminder. (Noted the rust at the bottom of the element inspection panel-which you pointed out, another sure sign of internal leaks)
Posted by Kevin Corsa, H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector (H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)) over 10 years ago

Andy, thanks for stopping by

Hi Kevin, thanks for the comment

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

I never had this leaking problem before with my hot water heater before, I just looked again after insulating the hot water pipes coming from my water heater all in the basement.  People don't realize how much energy is lost through not insulating these pipes. Forget insulating the water heater, if its new, you dont need insulation.

Posted by Joe almost 10 years ago

Also, if anyone cares, I bought fiberglass pipe insulation online from www.buyinsulationproducts.com  they shipped same day, got it the next day, and were about 40% less expensive than Home Depot and Loews.  Just FYI.

Posted by Joe almost 10 years ago

Let's face it, the heater is not new!  New heater probably pay for itself in a couple of years.  

Jack

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

Joe, not only is it a good idea to insulate the water pipes in most jurisdictions that follow energy codes it is required in new construction.

Jack, I hear you and you may be right.  That said, on the Planet Charlie I would require heater manufacturers to provide at least 5" of foam insulation around the tank.  If you don't believe that even newer tanks are poorly insulated, try taking a 16 inch piece of fiberglass insulation and tape it to the side of your water heater for a couple of hours and then feel the tank behind the insulation----and fiberglass is lousy insulation and you will still notice the heat loss.  With five inches of foam you loose this effect.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Planet Charlie, hmmm.  Is that the place where the buyers actually listen to you and everything is made with the consumer in mind?  I've never been there, but think I would like to at least visit.

Jack

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

Jack----that would be the place:)---stop by

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

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