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Old 03-24-2019, 12:58 PM   #1
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Suburban Water Heater Issue - 12 Gallon Tank

Today was a greaat day to flush my Suburban water heater tank. I pulled the anode rod and opened the pressure relief valve to drain the tank. To my surprise the tank started to empty very slowly.

I used a probe to clear the blockage at the anode rod hole and out came some gel-like substance. The opening kept getting clogged and I had to keep working it to clear it to allow the water to drain.

The pictures below show some of the debris that came out of the tank. Has anyone seen this before? I am leaning toward an internal failure of the tank. The hot water has not lasted as long as it usually does (12 gallon tank). I am the original owner of the 2014 Dynamax Trilogy and perform regular maintenance on the camper and water system.

John

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You can see some of the junk that came out just below the burner pipe.

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Collected some of the debris and put a quarter in the picture to give an idea of size.

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Old 03-24-2019, 03:45 PM   #2
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It looks like a slime build up. I saw this in a fish tank once. I would get a water heater flushing adapter for the water hose and flush the water heater. Then I would put the old anode plug back in, remove the pressure relief valve, fill the heater with a mixture of bleach and water, let it sit 24hrs, then drain and flush again, hopefully that will clean it out.
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Old 03-24-2019, 03:59 PM   #3
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Great photos John. What does your anode look like?
I suggest you need to really power rinse your water heater. Filling it with water and vinegar might be an idea too.

Have you got one of these?
It’s like a giant size of the thing the dentist uses on you.
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Old 03-24-2019, 07:38 PM   #4
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The anode rod had some of the junk on it as well. I did power flush the tank with the tank wand. A lot of junk came out, including the debris from the anode rod sacraficing itself.

This is really odd. We have lived full time in the RV since Feb 2014. It has never been in storage. We have boondocked with it as well. Never had any issues. Just normal annode rod debris and that was it.

We are currently on Altus AFB and have been here since Aug 2018. The water here is dirty (I have to change whole house filter very often). I have complained to the base water department. They are next to worthless. They just open spigots and "flush" the pipes. Doesn't do a bit of good.

Will check the tank again in a week or so and if it is building up again I'll go with the bleach or vinegar suggestions.

Thanks to you both for the info.

John
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Old 03-24-2019, 07:48 PM   #5
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This is completely normal.

The sacrificial anode and any calcium in the water will make debris/gel at the bottom of the hot water tank. This is why you ALWAYS isolate the water heater with the isolation valves and drain the tank through the outside anode/drain port. That junk will get sucked into your inside cold water pipes if you drain via the low point drains.
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Old 03-24-2019, 07:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hagen View Post
Today was a greaat day to flush my Suburban water heater tank. I pulled the anode rod and opened the pressure relief valve to drain the tank. To my surprise the tank started to empty very slowly.

I used a probe to clear the blockage at the anode rod hole and out came some gel-like substance. The opening kept getting clogged and I had to keep working it to clear it to allow the water to drain.

The pictures below show some of the debris that came out of the tank. Has anyone seen this before? I am leaning toward an internal failure of the tank. The hot water has not lasted as long as it usually does (12 gallon tank). I am the original owner of the 2014 Dynamax Trilogy and perform regular maintenance on the camper and water system.

John

Attachment 199580
You can see some of the junk that came out just below the burner pipe.

Attachment 199581
Collected some of the debris and put a quarter in the picture to give an idea of size.

Attachment 199582
That's the same thing I have found in my house WH evey 2 years when I drain it. just clean it out and move on.
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Old 03-24-2019, 08:01 PM   #7
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John,

As far as the "the hot water does not last as long", you can check:

1) The water heater winterizing isolation valves. The crossover valve may be open (or partially open) causing cold water to mix with the hot water coming out of the heater. See photo

2) The outside shower wand valves may be open and the wand handle shutoff cross-valve button closed. In that case, cold water may be mixing through the open valves.

Herk
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Old 03-25-2019, 12:54 AM   #8
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Thanks Herk and Cavie. In my 10+ years of RV ownership and 30+ years of owning a house I have never seen the gel stuff. The anode rod debris, yes I have seen it and understand it. I know the water here is pathetic and constantly fails water testing standards. Maybe that is reason for this gel junk.

Will see what it looks like in a week or so.

As for the hot water not lasting long... The RV has never been winterized or put in bypass. All of the valves for those tasks are behind a basement wall. They should still be in the condition they were in when installed in 2014. I suppose they could be failing and leaking but I kinda of doubt it. However, it has to be something and your suggestions are valid. Will have to open up the panels in the basement to check it out.

Thanks again for the suggestions!

John
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Old 03-25-2019, 06:02 AM   #9
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Check the valves in your outside shower; that my be the culprit.

My house water heater had so much gel it had plugged the drain. Water pressure did not help; I stuck a wire up there to free it and it painted the cellar with that goop.

Took forever to clean it up.
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Old 03-25-2019, 06:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Hagen View Post
Today was a greaat day to flush my Suburban water heater tank. I pulled the anode rod and opened the pressure relief valve to drain the tank. To my surprise the tank started to empty very slowly.

I used a probe to clear the blockage at the anode rod hole and out came some gel-like substance. The opening kept getting clogged and I had to keep working it to clear it to allow the water to drain.

The pictures below show some of the debris that came out of the tank. Has anyone seen this before? I am leaning toward an internal failure of the tank. The hot water has not lasted as long as it usually does (12 gallon tank). I am the original owner of the 2014 Dynamax Trilogy and perform regular maintenance on the camper and water system.

John

Attachment 199580
You can see some of the junk that came out just below the burner pipe.

Attachment 199581
Collected some of the debris and put a quarter in the picture to give an idea of size.

Attachment 199582
Many of us plumbers refer to that stuff as “oatmeal” because of the way it looks and the consistency of it. It is mostly calcium deposits. I replace 3-4 residential water heaters every week and every one of them has this stuff in them — even those where the homeowner has flushed it regularly. Most of the heaters won’t drain quickly enough, if at all, because of this stuff, so we almost always just connect a pump to the drain and suck it out. Quite often, we have to remove the boiler drain from the heater and quickly swap it out with a 3/4” nipple because the openings in most boiler drains are so small, they clog.

It’s nothing unusual or something to be worried about. Just flush it out and go on with life.

Bruce
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Old 03-25-2019, 02:44 PM   #11
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Where?

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Many of us plumbers refer to that stuff as “oatmeal” because of the way it looks and the consistency of it. It is mostly calcium deposits. I replace 3-4 residential water heaters every week and every one of them has this stuff in them — even those where the homeowner has flushed it regularly. Most of the heaters won’t drain quickly enough, if at all, because of this stuff, so we almost always just connect a pump to the drain and suck it out. Quite often, we have to remove the boiler drain from the heater and quickly swap it out with a 3/4” nipple because the openings in most boiler drains are so small, they clog.

It’s nothing unusual or something to be worried about. Just flush it out and go on with life.

Bruce
Where do you live, Bruce, that this happens? Well water or river water?

Just wondering.

Larry
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Old 03-25-2019, 10:49 PM   #12
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Thanks Bruce and again, thanks Herk. I accept this as something I didn't know and will move on to other issues.

It's amazing how being 67 years old and still learning about things that I never seen or heard of in the past. I appreciate the knowledge you passed on my way!

John
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Old 03-26-2019, 03:49 AM   #13
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Where do you live, Bruce, that this happens? Well water or river water?



Just wondering.



Larry


I work in the Northern VA/Washington, DC area — Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. While all of these areas are serviced by different water companies, all of their water is supplied/purchased from the Fairfax County Water Authority. I believe most of the water provided by the Fairfax County Water Authority is drawn from the Potomac River.

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Old 03-26-2019, 10:39 AM   #14
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Curious...

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I work in the Northern VA/Washington, DC area — Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. While all of these areas are serviced by different water companies, all of their water is supplied/purchased from the Fairfax County Water Authority. I believe most of the water provided by the Fairfax County Water Authority is drawn from the Potomac River.

Bruce
That's curious. I would have associated calcium and hard water with well water, and the converse, no calcium and soft water with river water.

The Fairfax County Water Authority 2018 Water Quality Report is here. Calcium isn't mentioned.

I wonder if the electrochemical reaction that sacrifices the anode rod rather than the tank is extracting some mineral (maybe calcium) from the water.

Larry
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Old 03-27-2019, 04:09 AM   #15
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That's curious. I would have associated calcium and hard water with well water, and the converse, no calcium and soft water with river water.



The Fairfax County Water Authority 2018 Water Quality Report is here. Calcium isn't mentioned.



I wonder if the electrochemical reaction that sacrifices the anode rod rather than the tank is extracting some mineral (maybe calcium) from the water.



Larry


I guess it would be more accurate to refer to it as limescale, but it really is still (Mainly) calcium. Limescale is the main cause of customers needing to replace faucets due to the way it will seize parts together, sometimes making it impossible to take faucets apart without leaving tool marks. Using the word “calcium” is just easier than using “limescale” because it doesn’t require me explaining what it is to customers.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limescale

Bruce
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:30 AM   #16
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That's curious. I would have associated calcium and hard water with well water, and the converse, no calcium and soft water with river water.

The Fairfax County Water Authority 2018 Water Quality Report is here. Calcium isn't mentioned.

I wonder if the electrochemical reaction that sacrifices the anode rod rather than the tank is extracting some mineral (maybe calcium) from the water.

Larry
My "city water" comes from a well house that's just down the block from our development. That is good for us since we are on the same power grid and we have a priority when the power goes out.

Our water is not "hard" but there is a good supply of minerals and calcium in it.

That stuff is in solution as ions and carries an electrical charge. The sacrificial anode attracts those ions (that would have attacked the exposed iron around the fittings) and removes them from the water by slowly oxidizing the Aluminum (or Magnesium) of the anode rod. That creates a precipitate of Aluminum Oxide that drops to the floor of the tank (and a small electrical current) and saves your water heater.

https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshel...rificial_Anode

This small electrical current allows a reaction with the metals and Calcium dissolved in the water. The product is the creation of insolvable precipitates of whatever metals are present in the form of Carbonates, Phosphates or Sulphates. These also drop to the bottom of the tank.

Magnesium Phosphate is a soapy slimy gunk.
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:36 AM   #17
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That's curious. I would have associated calcium and hard water with well water, and the converse, no calcium and soft water with river water.

The Fairfax County Water Authority 2018 Water Quality Report is here. Calcium isn't mentioned.

I wonder if the electrochemical reaction that sacrifices the anode rod rather than the tank is extracting some mineral (maybe calcium) from the water.

Larry
That report only discusses contaminates (things that are known to be harmful) in your water. Calcium (hardness) and Magnesium salts are essential to life and are not considered contaminants in normal quantities.

It is only when the water is heated and/or we try to wash with that water, that they become a nuisance to our appliances.
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Old 03-27-2019, 10:44 AM   #18
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Aha!

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I guess it would be more accurate to refer to it as limescale, but it really is still (Mainly) calcium.
...
Using the word “calcium” is just easier than using “limescale” because it doesn’t require me explaining what it is to customers.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limescale

Bruce
Aha! I was laboring under the misapprehension that river water is "soft" (no calcium) and well water is "hard" (contains calcium). A little more reading taught me that if the river course contains limestone (calcium carbonate, soluble in water), then the river water will be hard.

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...customers needing to replace faucets due to the way it will seize parts together, sometimes making it impossible to take faucets apart without leaving tool marks.

Bruce
You mean, of course, those *#@_(* Delta one-handle ball faucets. I've been known to use a torch on them, destroying the two plastic parts, to cleanly disassemble them. Then just replace those two parts.

Larry
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Old 03-27-2019, 12:44 PM   #19
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You mean, of course, those *#@_(* Delta one-handle ball faucets. I've been known to use a torch on them, destroying the two plastic parts, to cleanly disassemble them. Then just replace those two parts.

Larry
Yes! Exactly. The longer you let that water drip out without taking care of it, the worse it gets as the water evaporates, leaving behind the lime scale.

Bruce
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