Friday, November 28, 2008

I need plumbing help

Hot water heater

First of all, we're seriously considering a new hot water heater. The one we have at present is a ten year model that is 14 years old. The faucets in our showers seem to yield warm water at best. This morning, I turned up the temperature on the tank, and hope that will help, but I expect to have to buy a new hot water heater in the immediate future. Given how difficult it can be to find someone to install a tankless hot water heater, this is something I hope to address sooner rather than later - before it becomes a real problem.

I'm inclined toward the Rheem models at present simply because they only require a single vent line, something that I think can be accomplished more easily given the current set up in the basement - I have a small window that a single vent line could be run through. Alternately, I'd like to run the vent through the chimney, as is the case with the current hot water heater, but this doesn't seem to be an option. I'd be interested to hear any thoughts, feelings, or recommendations on the subject.

Another plumbing related issue - three of the five toilets in our house are original, 1926 vintage TePeCo (Trenton Potteries) models. I'd like to replace the guts, as they all seem to be starting to fail, but I can't seem to find a good source for parts, especially for the rubber bits. If you have a source for such things, I'd love to hear about it.

Finally, in my search for the perfect stove, I found this incredible 1920s or 1930s Magic Chef in Pittsburgh, for a mere $250. While it won't fit our kitchen, I know that someone out there must need it.


Perhaps I should clarify my question. Given that there are several window wells in the basement, a chimney that is presently used by the boiler and hot water heater, and that the exterior walls of the house are brick, is there a non-ugly way to vent a hot water heater? ]


Todd said...

Depending on the code using the window may not be legal unless you completely block off the entire window. Also, make sure you're far enough away from other windows and vents.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...


Point well taken. I should clarify that the window in question that I want to use is but a single pane, perhaps 9x16" at the most, so blocking it off entirely shouldn't be an issue. Distance also isn't an issue.

The other pair of windows in the room can be seen here. I really really want to avoid doing anything to them, and in a perfect world, I'd like to find a way to vent the dryer through the chimney. Regardless, I don't want to put any holes through the side of the house.

Gene said...

I'm not sure if its in the national building code or local here, but you can no longer vent through a chimney in Oakland, CA.

Warm vs. hot water might be a problem with the pipes, instead of (or given the age, in addition to) the 14 yr.old water heater. Do you have galvanized or copper pipes? If they're galvanized, they may be corroded, limiting the amount of hot water that can get to the showers. Does turning on just the hot water in the shower produce less pressure than turning on just the cold water?

Todd said...

I would vent the dryer directly through the wall. You can drill a nice 4" diameter hole in the wall and install a proper vent cap outside. The shorter the run the better to prevent lint buildup and a fire.

StuccoHouse said...

As far as your 1920s toilets. First, I am green with envy and mine was yanked out and replaced with new. Nothing flushes like those old ones. Next, in my former house I went through a series of plumbers that looked at my vintage toilet and told me there were no longer parts....then I happened upon a plumber who looked at me as if I was nuts when I told him this and used new stock parts. There wasn't a whole lot in those toilets that could go bad, but he did replace the entire plunger mechanism w/ new. So, it might not be as hard as you think.

I'll be curios to see what you discover about the tankless water heater & venting. I'm about two steps behind you on this project.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Stuccohouse - I've finally worked up the courage to look in the tanks of the other two toilets. The other Trenton Potteries one, in the first floor bathroom, appears to have had its internals replaced at some point.

The one in the basement, though, ugh. It's a cast iron Kohler. Very cast iron. I can't even see into the water in that one - and I've flushed it recently! I'm truly afraid what I might find.

As for jealousy, there are things to be said before and against this house. For instance, I've yet to find a single electrical outlet in this house that will function without me jiggling the plug a bit.

Anonymous said...

Nice house! I think your hot water problem is not the heater but the pipes. If they haven't been replaced, then they've probably reached "end of useful life". We've a 1930s house, and we replaced the basement overhead horizontal lines, distributing water to the various bathroom locations upstairs. It was a big improvement, but we probably also need to do the vertical risers - which is far more expensive and requires access into the plaster-walled plumbing chases.

Mike said...

I know this is a little late but you may find this useful in you next home. If you seem to be running out of hot water in one use of the shower, I would suspect that the fill tube is broken and needs replaced. this is about a $10 fix. also flush the tank and remove any sediment that may be built up.