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Noisy Water Heater Element - Odd


Bob Jones
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Hi Guys!

Over the last few days I noticed my water heater was creaky when it came on. I shut the electric off and the noise goes away. Turn it back on, noise comes on. I looked into it and it seems if the element is submerged in scale they can make noise. 

Flushing the Atwood is, largely useless. I found out a long time ago that the wand won't get it all, flushing through the blow off valve hole won't do it, so I pulled after a two hour wand session. Amazing how many rocks of scale came out. Anyway, now it's as clean as it can get so I put it back in, bled the air off and fired it up. 

Exact same noise. Turn off the electric, noise goes away. It's a 2000 watt element but I see that it typically is using 1821 watts. Never heard of that before (an element being noisy) but I ordered a new one, this time NOT a Camco, a Dernord, which is 3 or 4x as much but it looks like it's longer too. So we shall see. 

It literally sounds like the tank is expanding and ready to blow! But it IS the element. So go figure. 

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I kind of doubt it but I couldn't say for sure. It is, for all intents and purposes, just a solid steel loop. But it is definitely the element. It makes more noise when it starts up when the tank is cold. When it's fully hot it's silent again. Go figure. I could find nothing about it on the Internet other than if it's submerged in scale then it will do that. The new one I have coming is considerably longer and it's much higher quality. It may give the tank a more uniform temperature due to it's length. I just thought someone might have run into this before? I'd like to know what causes it. It will be interesting to see how much power the new one draws though. This one seems to be about 180 watts short of it's rating. 

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20 minutes ago, gdroberson said:

element probably has a pen hole in it they make a noise when it is shorting out when the hole gets big enough it will kick the breaker

A pin hole/shorting makes a lot of sense. My gut said it's on the way out since it seems to be getting more noisy. It's not lasted even a full year but I do recall that when I bought it I had the choice of buying one that was $10 or one that was $29.99 - I went with the Camco one for $10...I had a feeling at the time I should have bucked up! The good news is I found the one I *should* have bought the first time. 

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They're actually scale. It's caused by the water being a bit hard (well water). Apparently when the hard water goes into the tank and gets heated they appear. From what I've read it's much more prevalent on boilers, ie, the higher the tank temperature the worse the scale problem. This is probably why I have to deal with it annually. But when I got the unit from my Dad, after he had it for 30 years, it was way worse. We had never known you needed to flush the tank so it had 20 years of scale buildup in it !!

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Bob,

I think you are right on the boiler issue, the temps you are running on your water heater will result in more scale.  How often do you have to clean the strainer you put in.  At least with your tank most of the scale settles to the bottom.

I installed a tankless hot water heater in the new S&B we built and after a short while my wife was complaining about all the faucet screens/aerators getting stopped up.  So I installed a 200 mesh strainer, I have to empty it about every 3 weeks.  The tanksless pretty much just flushes them through.  I run vinegar through it about every 6 months to clean the scale.   

 

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As I recall when doing the boiler upgrade with the mixer valve installation I opted for the higher wattage element as well. With a strong light I could see the heavy build up as mentioned and was surprised at the amount. 

I do not remember clearly if I tried to flush it from inside the RV but do remember making a new wand myself by smashing the end of a copper tube soldered to a fitting. The tiny hole in the new wand really made a water pic out of it and cleared out the tank. I used a bore scope for inspection. 

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As I begin to remember slowly, the new wand I built I believe I took it inside with the element removed and blasted things loose. Then screwed it back in tight enough to let me flush that out. It took some time but based on my bore scope it came out very clean. 

 

I am about to embark on our first real trip in almost two years, even though we live in it full time. Health and Covid has kept us down but out for a three week adventure in a couple of days.

When I get back it is time to check my tank. I have not cleaned it since putting the new element, mixer, and thermostats.

My wife says this is about the best "modification" I have ever done. She can take a long shower now with almost enough water. If I kick the propane on to help it about keeps up. Why it takes her that long mystifies me. She doesn't play in the dirt like I do then needing two or three showers a day in the Summer. 

Of course as a Gi and growing up with lots of brothers we learned to shower quickly.

She can take all the time she needs because she comes out beautiful as always. 

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