This is the last post . . I promise . . about the water heater/carbon monoxide issues.
This saga started before Memorial Day because it was the day after Memorial Day when our plumber came out.
At first, it happened about every other day. One of us would take a shower, the CO alarm in the bedroom would go off. In the water heater closet, there was a funky smell – Vince thought it smelled like propane; I thought it smelled like dust – like when you turn the heater on for the first time each winter. The plumber came out and, of course, we couldn’t make it do it. He made a few adjustments and we thought it was fixed. For about three days, we had no alarm. Then it started again. Then it stopped but by about mid-June, it was going off every time we took a shower so we’d take the alarm down, take it outside, keep the water heater closet door closed and the bedroom door closed and then before bed, we’d bring the CO alarm back in.
We called the plumber back and told him we wanted to replace the water heater and put in a fresh air supply line to the water heater closet. He’s very busy and it was Wednesday (two days ago) before he got out here.
The New Water Heater:
They replaced the water heater, put in the new fresh air line and now we’ve gone two nights with no CO alarm and no funky smell in the area of the water heater.
When they took the water heater out, the top of the tank, where the vent pipe was attached, all the plastic area had melted. Vince began researching about why/how that happened and found that it was caused by a downdraft due to lack of air flow and the hot air/gas was not going up the pipe but was hovering around the top of the tank and then dissipating into the room.
The Propane Guy:
Out of an abundance of caution, we called the propane guy to come out and check our regulators and make sure the appropriate amount of propane was going into the lines. He came out today and checked everything on the two propane tanks that supply propane to the house. The regulators were fine. He asked to look at the old tank and he looked at the bottom.
See the spider webs? Those tiny little vents are the ONLY way air gets into the tank for combustion and venting. Our tank sits in a tub that’s probably about 3″ high so there’s really almost no way to clean those little vents. This tank has only been in our house maybe 5 years. Because of the dust/spider webs on vents we can’t even reach, there wasn’t enough air flow to send the exhaust/gas up through the vent pipe.
It just seems like a horrible design . . a disaster waiting to happen. I hate to think what would have happened had we not had three times as many CO detectors as we need for a house this size.
Of course the exact same water heater is what we put in because we bought two when we bought the last one. We’re going to put sticky traps around there and hopefully keep spiders out of that area. It’s in an area that gets less dust than most of the house – no cooking, no flour, no baby powder, no hair drying with hair flying around.
I’m not going to say the manufacturer name but Vince called them multiple times and they suggested some of the most ridiculous fixes but NEVER mentioned checking the air intake vent on the bottom of the water heater. We didn’t even know it was there. It did have a little plastic screen type thing that went around the bottom of the tank and we have taken that off multiple times and cleaned it.
When Vince googled it after the propane guy told him, it’s obviously a problem others have had and I would have thought the first thing the manufacturer would have suggested would have been to check the very bottom of the water heater. Of course, I’m sure there’s something about it in the owner’s manual and even though it’s our responsible to read that, and obviously we didn’t, you would think that would have been something they would have at least mentioned.
The main solution the water heater manufacturer would have involved moving the water heater, which would have meant having to have new plumbing (on a concrete foundation), as well as running new vent and fresh air lines. Vince kept saying “It has to be something with this water heater because the house is 14 years old. We’ve lived here 9 years. We’ve never had this problem before! This water heater has worked fine for 5 years.” Knowing now that it was caused by the air supply intake being clogged . . it seems crazy to me that they didn’t mention that.
Our propane guy knew right off the bat what was wrong because he had the same problem with his own water heater.
It seems absolutely ridiculous to me that the design is what it is and that support from the manufacturer never ever recommended cleaning that vent.
I guess I should be happy that we survived this and stop complaining . . ok . . I’m done!