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Hot water is brown, cold water is clear ... can someone recommend a plumber?

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  1. #1
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    Default Hot water is brown, cold water is clear ... can someone recommend a plumber?

    I have a 10 year old electric Rheem 2-element 300 litre hot water system. When a sink is filled or the bath is filled, there is a noticeable amber discolouration to the water. However our cold water runs clear.

    I don't know if something can be replaced (an element?) or the whole tank needs replacement.

    Can anyone recommend a good plumber who services the suburb of North Melbourne for this job?

    Cheers,
    -T.

  2. #2
    rrobor
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    It may be gunk which is due to the old pipes of North Melb and not your system so you may pay quite a bit for no result. I doubt if a bit of rust will cause you harm, If it were me I would leave it, If its the water heater it wont last much longer, fix it then.

  3. #3
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    10 years is about the average life span of a HWS these days, Id be replacing it if I were you it wont last much longer.
    Plumbers were around long before Jesus was a carpenter

  4. #4
    rrobor
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    Sorry to barge into the post but Wonderplum can I ask a question. which is this. Does the temperature of the water make a difference to the life of the unit. My water heaters seem to outlast my neighbours ones. I ran them so the kids will not get burnt by hot water, now its grand kids. I fitted my 2nd water heater in 33 years 2 years ago so I get 15 years out of them.

  5. #5
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    Sounds like a rusting hot water cylinder to me. It won't be too long before it starts to leak so now's the time to investigate your options. New electric one the same as existing? Solar? Gas? Now's the time to think about that.

    As for the temperature effect on lifespan, I'm no plumber so can't comment on what actually happens, but in theory it should last longer if the temperature is lower. Basically any reaction, and rust is just a reaction between the metal and water, happens more slowly at lower temperatures. You'll also use a bit less electricity / gas if the temperature is lower due to reduced heat losses from the tank and pipes.

    I don't think HWS in general are made as well as they used to be. The one at my parents' house was installed in 1978 and so far it's still running nicely. 160 litre Rheem mains pressure electric.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by rrobor View Post
    Sorry to barge into the post but Wonderplum can I ask a question. which is this. Does the temperature of the water make a difference to the life of the unit. My water heaters seem to outlast my neighbours ones. I ran them so the kids will not get burnt by hot water, now its grand kids. I fitted my 2nd water heater in 33 years 2 years ago so I get 15 years out of them.
    15 years isnt uncommon mate, it depends on how much they get used etc. but bare in mind that they must be above 60 degrees to kill legionella bacteria.
    I replaced a 50L rheem in a cafe recently that was only three years old, it gets flogged for 15 hours a day 7 days a week, rheem wouldnt warrant it due to excessive use, on the other hand I replaced another 50L unit from an elderly ladies apartment that was installed in 1992, so from my experience it seems to come down to usage more than anything.
    Plumbers were around long before Jesus was a carpenter

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonderplumb View Post
    I replaced a 50L rheem in a cafe recently that was only three years old, it gets flogged for 15 hours a day 7 days a week, rheem wouldnt warrant it due to excessive use, on the other hand I replaced another 50L unit from an elderly ladies apartment that was installed in 1992, so from my experience it seems to come down to usage more than anything.
    I don't doubt what you're saying based on experience, but I'm truly puzzled as to how usage can so drastically affect the life of a water heater.

    Think about it... It's just a tank full of water with an element, thermostat and some plumbing valves. I can understand that higher usage might wear out the valves and electrical parts, but I just can't understand how having a greater volume of water going through would rust out the tank any faster. I mean, the tank is full of water 24/7 whether used or not so I can't see how changing the daily usage would affect the rate that it rusts.

    But as I said, if your experience says that usage affects lifespan then fair enough. I just don't understand why it would be that way - it's just a tank after all.

    Funny thing these water heaters. The one at my parents house is 31 y.o as I said before. But the house next door was only built around 1983 and is on at least it's third water heater, the second one having turned their garden into a swamp when it failed.

    One question though, what about the different types of tank materials? I assume stainless steel should last a long time? And what about those "top of the range" models versus the standard ones that Rheem etc make? Is it worth paying extra for the "top of the range" models?

    As for my own experience, the one I have was very rusty inside when I bought the house. Actually the very first job I did (before I even moved in) was to drain it completely, flush it out and install a new anode (the old one had completely disappeared). A huge amount of dark brown muck came out of the tank along with a lot of rusty water. I was hoping to get a few months out of it since I was a bit short on cash at the time but it's lasted 23 months so far. The location of the tank is such that it won't cause any real damage if it bursts so I'll just keep using it until it dies. It's a Rheem 250 litre electric, manufactured date is marked as 1994.

  8. #8
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    mate my thoughts are the tanks are all the same rheem make 10 yr warranty tanks by putting in a 2nd anode and taking the gamble it will last and if you read the warranty on what is included it isnt really worth the paper its written on.

    i think stainless steel tanks should last but i find other parts break down and sometimes it comes into cost effectiveness whether to replace or fix.

    i find wonderplumbs experience to be the same as mine i think usage comes into the equation on how long a hwu can last, maybe its to do with the constant heating and cooling of the water.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smurf View Post
    I don't doubt what you're saying based on experience, but I'm truly puzzled as to how usage can so drastically affect the life of a water heater.
    I've actually pondered this myself after replacing a HWS.

    I would suggest it might have something to do with the dissolved minerals in the water - greater usage = more potential for a reaction, particularly from mineral salts, and this would probably be why it doesn't last as long with high usage.

    A friend of ours moved to the country & built a place in the early 90s. They installed the same type of HWS, as what we had in our old place, and the tanks had dates only 1 year apart. I've just replaced ours for the 2nd time, while theirs is still going strong.

    The difference? I'm on Sydney mains water. They are on tank water (collected off colorbond rooves - house & shed). It's not pressure related either - they run a pressurised system with a pump & accumulator to maintain mains pressure. I reckon it's to do with what's in the water.

  10. #10
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    Locality and water hardness can have different effects on them also, the tanks are enameled steel, yet to see a stainless one but wouldnt doubt that they exist.
    Like anything they are built to a specific purpose design, for example built on an average factor of say for the sake of argument X amount of showers, a load of washing and a sink full of dishes per day and so on.
    The brown sludge that comes out of them when drained is mostly rubbish that is in the water supply, have a look inside your kettle just for interests sake.
    A 50L unit like in the cafe is built to withstand a certain amount of work Eg. a small unit with one or two residents or a kitchenette etc. not to be flogged to within an inch of its life every day.
    As I said everything is built to withstand an intended purpose that some genius has worked out a law of averages for, a new Falcon is built to last ten years without major work on an average of 25,000 K's a year, put this same car into work as a taxi doing in excess of 1000 kays a day and things wear out and fail quicker than the average.
    You also get your lemons, a mate and I got a sweet deal on 6 piece 18V dewalt packs 5 years ago which included the DC988 cordless drill, in 5 years of abuse ( I dont treat my gear kindly!) I have only had the brushes replaced once and a new switch replaced in the trigger my mates one on the other hand had a gearbox and motor replaced under warranty and got thrown in the bin a year ago.
    Sorry about the rant got a little off track there!
    Plumbers were around long before Jesus was a carpenter

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonderplumb View Post
    yet to see a stainless one but wouldnt doubt that they exist.
    The Siddons heat pumps use a stainless steel tank.

    For my situation, that system with it's split design (like a split system air conditioner) suits very nicely since I could put the tank under the house with the compressor under the ramp to the back door - all nicely out of the way. But it's a pretty expensive system, about $4200 + installation before the various rebates, so hopefully the stainless steel tank would last a long time.

  12. #12
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    But how efficient would the heat pump actually be in Tassie in the winter time?
    Plumbers were around long before Jesus was a carpenter

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonderplumb View Post
    But how efficient would the heat pump actually be in Tassie in the winter time?
    According to the manufacturer it should average about a 70% power saving over the year in a cooler climate (Vic / Tas). That's their claim, it operates down to -10 (Hobart all time record low temp is only -2.8 according to offical stats) and has no booster element. It's basically a split system air-conditioner (the outside part) hooked up to a water heater.

    Allowing for installation and after the rebates it comes to about $3000 all up fully installed. Assuming that I'd need to buy a new HWS anyway (I'll only be buying the heat pump if that's the case) then it's somewhere around $1500 more than replacing the electric HWS with another one the same. Assuming it does save the 70% or $280 a year as promised, that's not too bad a deal as long as it lasts a while. It certainly beats bank interest on the money invested.

    My north facing roof area is small and already used for solar PV (electric) panels so that rules out solar HWS. No mains gas so forget that. And a heat pump unit with the compressor on top would have to sit outside in a spot where I really don't want it, hence the overall attraction of this split system. Put the tank under the house where the electric one is now and sit the compressor outside under the ramp to the back door where there's plent of space (and air flow).

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wonderplumb View Post
    But how efficient would the heat pump actually be in Tassie in the winter time?
    Well I'm about to find out...

    Went under the house to get some stuff I had stored there (it's high enough to walk under) and walked past the water heater. Noticed that it seemed to be radiating heat so investigated - the outside of it is quite warm (almost hot) on one side. Suspecting trouble I investigated further - took the plastic caps off the top and, sure enough, there's water between the inside tank and the outside casing. It can't be a big leak, there's no water visibly coming out of it (yet...) but obviously it's stuffed and there's a small leak.

    I'll be getting quotes for the Siddons unit tomorrow (hopefully). Assuming that comes in somewhere around what I'm expecting, I'll go ahead with it and should have it installed soon (hopefully before the leak in the existing water heater gets too big...).

    One thing I'm just wondering though, what would be the approximate cost of replacing the existing electric HWS with another one the same - 250 litre mains pressure in same location? I'm unlikely to do that, but I'd just like to know how much extra I'm paying to go for the heat pump before committing to it.

  15. #15
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    As the OP, I just wanted to thank everyone for their responses. This thread kicked off an interesting discussion about heater unit life.

    I ended up replacing the Rheem with an identical sized Rheem, but the next model up that has a temperature controller on it. When the unit was removed the anode was completely gone and a lot of rusty sludge came out of it. I may have been able to replace the anode, but I'd rather have a new unit and not have to worry about it for another 10 years.

    Thankyou to everyone for your replies.

    Cheers,
    -T.

  16. #16
    Old Chippy - 4K Club Member
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    Heat pumps are not much good in cold climates - the efficiency drops off dramatically below 10 degrees C as you can see from the attached brochure (graph & table p2). Note too the graph and table are taking water from 20 to 60 - in Tassie my bet is that the incoming water would be closer to 10 or 12 in winter anyway - or less (as here in ACT)!

    The split systems with the condenser in a warmer place such as under a house or in a roof space can make them work better with the ambient temp for the system staying above 10, but they are not quiet so often need to be installed with a timer so they do not run at night.

    They cannot compete for efficiency or cost with evacuated tube solar HWS - that's one of the reasons why the rebate for them is now $1200 not $1600. If you are in Sydney or in warm climate they work very well.
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