Saturday, July 30, 2016

water heater sludge

My hot water heater is full of sludge.  Yay!

My water heater makes banging and popping noises when it refills and heats fresh water.  I read online, and a plumber confirmed for me, that this noise is caused by mineral build-up inside the tank.  We have pretty hard water here, so it makes sense that minerals would build up over time.

Water containing high concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions is considered "hard".  Soap doesn't lather as well in hard water.  Hard water doesn't feel slimy like soft water does.  The hardness of the water is determined by the type of rock the water flows through on its way into your municipal water system.  If your aquifer is high in calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, your water is going to be hard.

So, apparently if you live in an area with hard water, you're supposed to empty your hot water heater tank once every year or two to prevent mineral build-up and flush out the sediments.

Right.  I'm sure everybody does that. <eyes roll>

I thought it was worth a try, though.  Using the process described on this website, I tried to flush my water heater tank.  It did not go well.

After letting the tank cool down for a while, I hooked up a hose to the water outlet, but the water only came out as a trickle.  After a while, it stopped.  I unhooked the hose, put a bucket under the spout, and let the water heater drain into the bucket.  Out came a trickle of muddy brown water and some sludge, and then it stopped.  I banged on the tank, and a little more came out with some more sludge, but then it stopped again.

Following more advice I found online, I tried backflushing the valve.  Using a female-to-female hose coupling, I hooked up a hose from a faucet and send the water into the water heater tank to loosen up whatever was blocking the valve.  This worked temporarily.  I got some more muddy brown water out of the tank, but that eventually trickled to a stop.  I tried this a few times, but I think the amount of water I was backflushing in wasn't significantly less than came out each time.

So, the entire exercise was fruitless, and I've determined that my water heater is unflushable.  Oh well.  Despite the banging, it still works fine.  It's probably just not as efficient as it was when it was new due to the sediments.  It's 10 years old already, so it's not worth worrying about it further.  If it needs replacement at some point, I'll consider a tankless hot water heater.

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