Water heater configuration for SHTF

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by oil pan 4, Jun 25, 2016.

  1. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Whats Junes topic? Water of course so here is a little about using the water in your water heater for drinking.
    Lets say you cant put up rain barrels or store a lot water for some reason, or maybe you just want every available drop of water to be drinkable.
    To weather short term water service disruptions with out major water storage you likely have a water heater right?
    Then chances are it holds at least 40 to 50 gallons doesn't it?
    Now you are thinking, water service gets disrupted you will just drink it? Wrong.
    Chances are unless you have a premium line water heater then it likely has an aluminum sacrificial anode. This device uses the anode cathode relationship between aluminum, steel and water to keep the steel tank from rusting out.
    The problem is the aluminum anode is sacrificial, that means as it gets used up and the byproducts settle to the bottom of the tank in the form of a crystal filled sludge. Most of the aluminum byproducts of an aluminum anode oxidizing are generally not water soluble and most importantly these byproducts are not good for you.
    There are a few reports of people for some reason or another getting desperate enough to try and drink whats left in the hot water tank via the drain. From what I have read this causes almost most immediate debilitating arthritis that never fully goes away. So its bad for you, don't take any chances. The aluminum salts likes to attack joints.
    In a premium water heater they don't normally use aluminum anodes. Most of the time the premium water heaters use a powered anode or a magnesium sacrificial anode.
    The powered anode uses external power of a watt or 2 to make the anode have a positive charge, attracting all the oxidizing agents to its self. The traditional sacrificial anodes use the potential difference created between the anode and the steel tank created by dissimilar metals in an electrolyte. So to reach the zen of achieving full preparedness you should be able to use the last 40 or so gallons even in your water heater. So you will want to have this magnesium or powered anode to do so.
    Most of the magnesium compounds produced by the anode action are water soluble so they collect on the bottom and I think most people would agree magnesium is a lot better for you than aluminum. The powered anode should also not create anything that will collect in the bottom of the tank. Now certain compounds do become less soluble as the temperature increases, these will collect in the bottom of the water heaters tank. Since these compounds are already in the water they shouldn't be too bad for you. But you should still flush the water heater once or twice a year, or before any impending disaster.
    Can you convert an aluminum anode to a prepper friendly magnesium or powered anode? Sure, but good luck getting all the aluminum salts out of your water heater unless you are willing to completely remove it, tip it up on its side and flush everything out. I spent hours doing an in place flushing out of my aluminum anode contaminated gas water heater this spring and still didn't get it all.
    To make flushing a breeze I connected the T/P safety valve drain line that already dumps outside to the drain valve, now all I do is open the drain for a few minutes and reclose the drain and the flush is complete, no more dirty garden hose running through the house.
    To get your self a powered anode or a magnesium anode I say go to waterheaterrescue dot com. That is where my friend and I got our magnesium anodes from (my house has an addition and therefor has 2 water heaters, his house has 1 water heater). Get the longest anode that will fit and don't run it down to the steel supporting wire, you have to replace these things every few years, so pull them and check them every year or so. Your water heater will almost never go bad so long as you keep a good anode in it. Plus not calling a plumber out to replace a water heater means more money for other preps.
  2. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    My well went bad and I had about 3 inches of sediment that collected in my hot water heater. It was bad red gunk. I flushed it but am sure I didn't get it all out. I think a hot water heater on public lines would be safer then well HW heaters. One would not know if there had been issues in the past.

    PS- make sure open the correct one. Cost me $$$ because the wrong valve was opened at the top and I had to call a plumber to come replace it. It made the water drain faster and the flush better but was costly.
  3. AD1

    AD1 Monkey+++

    On but "slightly off topic" You should always drain your water heater every 6 months. That way you can have clean water w/o sludge through the drain valve so if you dont have water pressure you can use gravity and the drain valve to get access to the water.

    On the slightly off topic part......
    Otherwise if it goes bad and you have to replace it, you are looking at 280 lbs min(just for 40 gallons of water) cuz you cant drain it and another 100+ for the dry tank.

    If yours is like mine its 24 inches off of the garage floor due to it being natural gas to keep it from igniting gasoline vapors (per code)

    We remodeled the house due to mold and it took 2 years. The tank went bad and in prep for replacing it, I tried to drain it...... The bottom had about 8 inches of sludge in it and NOTHING came out of the drain valve.

    Almost broke my arm (really) getting off of the pedestal.

    So as a PM, drain every 6 months and you will be ready to use it or replace it.

    Here is the pic of my arm the next day. Got caught between the water heater and the "dolly" we were trying to get it to land on. As the water heater hit the base of the dolly, it slammed the dolly againts the heater pinning my arm. DRAIN THEM
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    As long as you have a drill you always have the ability to drain them. It is not like you're trying to save it, so if you can't get it to drain out, punch holes in it.
    UncleMorgan, AD1 and Ganado like this.
  5. john316

    john316 Monkey+++

    in florida we don't have a" powered anode uses external power of a watt or 2 to make the anode have a positive charge, attracting all the".......most of the trash build up in the bottom of the water heater is limestone and will not hurt you other than clogging up the drain.( it can build up and cover the lower element and it may melt)
    if you pull the drain valve and pipe it to an outside space to a hose bib that you use every once in a while.....the tank will stay clean, the buildup will not melt your lower element, and you can all ways drain water out of the tank.

    if you wish to drain water when the water is off....the pipe must run down hill to the valve.
    UncleMorgan likes this.
  6. AD1

    AD1 Monkey+++

    I could not have water all over the floor due to stuff stored there. I had thought about it but the time it would have taken to move everything out and back in so it would not get water damaged it was not an option I wanted to entertain
  7. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    When lime builds up inside a water heater, there may be a distinct hissing sound when water is being heated,

    That's the bottom element, mostly buried in the sediment. It's blasting the water into steam because the sediment keeps the water from circulating freely. That makes the element run hot in places, and pretty soon it will burn right out.

    As soon as you start hearing that hissing, clean out the tank. That sure beats having replace a burned-out element.

    Either way, though, you'll have to clean out the tank.
    Motomom34 and AD1 like this.
  8. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Then drill at the top, and drop in a siphon hose.
    AD1 likes this.
  9. AD1

    AD1 Monkey+++

    Why drill? I have an inlet, outlet and the PR valve ports.......

    The point is I did not want to make a career out of the swap. Do it as fast as I could, it bit me but it was done quickly.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  10. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    This is all assuming you have no other method of draining. Either way, you can drain from the top with a siphon very easily.
  11. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    This whole conversation of "I'll just use my water heater" makes me roll my eyes :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes: because most people 1)probably have less than half capacity in the water heater due to age of the water heater and 2) most people aren't prepared for how to get the water out of the water heater.
    Motomom34 and AD1 like this.
  12. AD1

    AD1 Monkey+++

    Shall we delete the "OT" comments? Sorry for the slight diversion.....
    Ganado likes this.
  13. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    naw its a great thread, that comment was my personal prejudice ...
    AD1 likes this.
  14. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Staying sorta on topic, domestic water heaters MUST have a drain valve. How it's piped downstream is up to the installer and local codes. ASEE 501 is the reference, if anyone needs it, which I believe has been incorporated in all states as part of the building codes. Might be exceptions, dunno.
    "501.3 Drain valves.
    Drain valves for emptying shall be
    installed at the bottom of each tank-type water heater and hot
    water storage tank. Drain valves shall conform to ASSE 1005."
    In codespeak, "shall" means that if it doesn't have a drain valve it is illegal to be sold for home installations. For those that are thinking there's no way to vent the tank so it'll drain, that, too, is covered by codes. There MUST be a relief valve that can be lifted for test that can be manually opened. Alternatively, take a wrench to the pt valve and remove it. No drilling required unless billie-jim jury rigged something.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
  15. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    Don't know anything about anodes'
    Do know Grandma would build a fire in the front yard and throw a #3 tub on top of it and fill with water, Once it gets to steaming we would carry hot water to the tub inside so we could get a fairly warm bath, Don't know if that helps?
    VisuTrac, Ganado and tacmotusn like this.
  16. Tevin

    Tevin Monkey+++

    I keep a 10 foot marine grade hose in a sealed plastic bag next to my water heater. Marine grade hoses are different from ordinary garden hoses in that they are made for potable water and do not leech any chemicals from the hose into the water. A regular garden hose will work if you have nothing else, but since we are all peppers we should have the correct hose ready ahead of time, right?

    Once or twice a year I place a bucket under the drain on the hot water heater and open the valve. The first cupful or so is disgusting black gunk. I let it drain into the bucket until the water runs clear, then close the valve. In a SHTF situation, I would attach the hose and then have access to about 40 gallons of clean, perfectly drinkable water.

    Another hint: In a SHTF situation, close the inlet valve to your hot water heater to keep out any contamination from the public water supply.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2016
    Motomom34, AD1 and Ganado like this.
  17. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I have pickled up a few old water heaters and repaired them. some were beyond repair, but the sheet metal is some what useful.
    I clean them out and fill and pressure test and put them on line as resaivours . water cycles through them each time I do laundry. There is a check valve to prevent back flow into the system.
    the water pressure here varries from 75 to 100 psi.
    I have a secondary air tank ,that is usually installed in that system to prevent hammering, but I have it so the pressure remains in the system for the house, in the event there is a fire and there is no fire department.
    Gator 45/70 and Motomom34 like this.
  18. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    Take off the cheap drain valve.Get a 4" pipe nipple and a quarter turn ball valve and a 3/4" hose bib adapter to put in the valve. Mine runs outside via a short hose. Each month when the power bill comes, I change my air filter and dump a few gallons off the water heater.
  19. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine The Plumber Founding Member

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  20. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Rust build up is likely just the pipes, unless you have all copper piping.
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