Technician Jack was dispatched to Morris, Illinois on a Rheem warranty service call yesterday. Upon arriving on site, Jack inspected the unit and its installation. He was surprised to find that the Standard Atmospheric unit was vented through a wall with a dryer vent used for termination. A simple diagnose and repair call turned into the discovery of a potentially life threatening issue because the water heater was not properly vented. | Note: We will be explaining water heater jargon in this article. If you do not know what a Standard Atmospheric unit is, you are about to find out!
What is a Standard Atmospheric Unit?
A Standard Atmospheric unit is the most common type of water heater. This means that the unit is built to terminate the gases that are created as a result of the [gas powered] unit heating the water. Since warm air rises, natural convection pulls the air up and out of the site via the venting. A Power Vent unit (shown on the left), however, is typically seen as more versatile in terms of where it can be located. Since a Power Vent uses a blower (a fan) to propel the byproduct gases out of the unit, they can be vented through walls. You can easily determine whether you have a power vent unit by looking at the top of the unit. Blowers are typically black and connected to PVC piping, located in place of galvanized steel venting that you see on a Standard Atmospheric unit.
Water Heater Venting Issues Are More Common Than You Think
Over the past couple of weeks our technicians have encountered a large string of improperly vented units. The majority of the units were located across Wisconsin, but this issue is common across the country. As a result, we decided to turn this negative into a positive by taking the opportunity to educate our customers on venting systems.
What is water heater venting and what does it do?
All natural gas and propane water heaters require a venting system to properly disperse of the moisture, carbon monoxide, and other gases produced when the unit is burning the gas. There are multiple types of venting, but they all work to remove the byproducts of heated natural gas and propane heaters. The venting is located at the top of the unit and depending on the exact type of unit, you will see PVC or galvanized steel leading out from the top of the tank. The type of material used for the unit reflects the type of unit. PVC venting systems are typically seen on Power Vent Water Heaters and Tankless Water Heaters. In the example photo on the left, the galvanized venting is denoted by the yellow square.
A.O. Smith Corporation @ Costco #378
Yesterday, four of our team members performed a water heater installation/changeout for A.O. Smith National at Costco #378 in Lake Zurich, Illinois. U.S. Water Heating Solutions was contracted to perform the install as our team is comprised of factory-trained and certified technicians who have attended A.O. Smith University and A.O. Smith Commercial School. Costco’s A.O. Smith BTR 197-118 unit was leaking and required replacement. A.O. Smith National called our company to replace the unit and to making adjustments to the piping and venting of the unit. Our technicians drained, disconnected, and removed the old BTR unit off site and installed a BTX 100 in its place.
The BTX 100 is part of A.O. Smith’s Cyclone Xi product line, which features “a light-duty, power direct vent, fully condensing commercial gas water heater with an internal helical heat exchanger.” It is also an impressive commercial unit, with its Energy Star Qualification and the ability to achieve 96% thermal efficiency. Cyclone Xi units are also equipped with a Blue Diamond® Glass Coating to increase the unit’s corrosion resistance, in comparison to that of other units on the market.
Earlier this month, several of our technicians participated in their local Menards’ contractor expos in Illinois and Wisconsin. Our technician, Ed, first discovered the event at his local Menards in Glendale Heights, Illinois; Technicians Kevin and Ryan followed-up with the event at the Waukesha and Onalaska branches. As a small business, our team members appreciated the opportunity to meet other local contractors, participate in networking exchanges, meet more locals, and provide consultations on water heater repair/replacement.
What water heater options are available at Menards stores?
Each major hardware/home improvement store typically has one major water heater manufacturer with which they are associated. Menards is an exclusive wholesale distributor of Richmond water heaters (with Rheem and Ruud products available via order as Richmond and Ruud are Rheem companies). You can purchase or order a water heater at Menards, then head over to their plumbing desk to find a local installation service.
Technician Kevin operates exclusively out of the Waukesha area and was able to consult with several prospective clients. He was able to guide one person toward a more efficient water heater: “One customer wanted information on replacing a 12 year old electric water heater with a new unit. He was considering installing a gas water and I explained the pro and cons when upgrading. Another customer talked about the benefits of installing a tankless gas water heater and I discussed maintenance and energy saving benefits.”
Noodles & Co. #512 | Mishawaka, IN
On Tuesday, two of our team members worked on back-to-back commercial water heater changeouts for A.O. Smith National Accounts.
The day began at Noodles & Company 512 in Mishawaka, Indiana. The restaurant had previously been operating a Bradford White unit, but required emergency service due to the unit leaking. Our technicians were on site at 7:30 am to remove the old unit and replace it with an A.O. Smith BTH 199 Cyclone Mxi unit (Before and After shown on the left).
Water heater replacements typically take multiple hours to complete, as technicians must drain and remove the old heater, then install the new heater, sometimes requiring piping or venting adjustments. Since Noodles & Company opens at 10:30 am, our service technicians worked diligently to ensure that the restaurant’s new unit would be in service in time for their afternoon lunch rush.