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How NOT Hiring the Right Plumber Can Endanger Your Home and Your Wallet

Why hire a professional team to install your tankless water heater? For an example of a tankless water heater installation gone dangerously wrong, read further. We don’t know if the customer chose a company based on cheaper rates, or if he “had a guy”, but what you’ll see below is nothing short of frightening.

A new customer contacted us because he noticed that his tankless water heater, which is installed in his attic, has been leaking from the attic through to the ceiling below. You can see the orange bucket he has placed below the tankless water heater, to capture the water leakage. Underneath this unit, there is a condensate valve, which has a cracked plastic cap, causing the leak. The cracked cap is most likely the result of an inexperienced technician forcing the cap on too tightly.

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Note also, that the previous plumber left the old tank-style water heater in the attic, rather than removing it for the customer.

The flue, which is designed to safely vent carbon monoxide gases out of the home, runs upward and then down behind this water heater, to the floor, and over to the soffit, which is illegal and dangerous. The danger is that this downward vent is still allowing the carbon monoxide and flue gases to enter the home. Instead, the flue should have been run out through the roof, using the same air-tight flashing the original water heater had used. Our assumption is that installer did not know the proper way to vent the gases, and it may have seemed, to the installer, that running a pipe to just above the soffit would send the gases outside. However, the rule in plumbing is that water drains downward, and gases vent upward. In this case, the gas is flowing right back into the attic.

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An additional area of concern is that each pipe connection is made with push-type fittings, which are known to leak when pipes are not completely straight, or when pressure builds in a pipe. The pipe on the right bends out to the right side, and is, therefore, a prime target for leakage. Pipe Wrench never uses push-type fittings, because of the risk of failure and leakage. These types of fittings are one way some other plumbers ‘cut corners’ on installation time and costs because of the ease of installation, but they create an expensive mess for the homeowner when they fail. In addition to being of questionable strength in a non-linear set up, push-type fittings are not designed to be used in areas in which they will be exposed to UV light, or in which they will make contact with the ground, as these environments can degrade the rubber seal. Furthermore, push-type fittings are not recommended in areas where pipes could freeze. In short, in our experienced opinion, push-type fittings are a poor solution in any situation other than a very temporary capping off a water line, when doing some remodeling work.

Next, the isolation valves, which enable the service company to flush and clean the tankless water heater, are installed upside down. There are ports on the side of these isolation valves, to which the service provider attaches the recirculate and flush kit, in order to flush cleaning fluid through the heat exchanger, thereby removing any mineral deposits. Because the isolation valves are installed upside down, there is no way to isolate the fluid to the tank, and therefore, no way to clean the tank. Tankless water heaters must be flushed once a year for maximum service and lifespan. Failing to do so on an annual basis will void your manufacturer warranty. Alternately, having your tankless water heater cleaned and flushed annually, will ensure your tankless heater is delivering peak performance for many, many years.

Finally, the gas pipe is run with a CSST type piping, which, incidentally, is lying directly on top of the furnace, creating a serious fire hazard. A gas line should never be in contact with a hot furnace. In addition, this gas pipe is undersized, which means that every time the water heater is engaged and fires up, it can’t draw enough gas through this small line for proper firing. This causes the unit to misfire, and burn fuel improperly, thereby creating even more carbon monoxide in the flue gases, which compounds the problem of the flue not being properly vented.

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Also, the CSST yellow type gas piping is tied into the black iron piping, and the black iron piping is not the proper size to accommodate the load of the new tankless water heater which runs at 199,000 BTUs, while the original tank-style water heater ran at only 50,000 BTUs. Based on the international fuel gas code, you can only carry 189,000 BTUS with a 20’ run of gas line, and this run shown in this photo is about a 35’ – 40’ run. The net result is that this fuel line can only carry approximately half the load required to run this unit. Before this installation even began, the “other plumber” should have installed a new gas line capable of handling the required load.

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Bottom line – this is an example of a tankless water heater installed by someone who didn’t quite have a grasp of what he was doing. The ONLY thing right about this installation is that the customer chose a Navien tankless water heater. Now the client has found himself in a situation in which he must invest more money to rectify the poor installment of this tank, and in the meantime, has been living in a potentially dangerous environment.

At Pipe Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Inc., we make sure to send out the most trained and qualified technician for each specific service call and installation job, to ensure that the job is done right, the first time. Your safety and peace of mind are our focus. When the job is complete, we encourage you to invest in an independent inspection of our work with codes enforcement, so you’ll have extra assurance that we have done the job correctly.

To schedule an evaluation of your plumbing and heating & cooling systems, call or email Pipe Wrench today! (865) 583-3957