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Old 11-11-2015, 10:11 AM   #1
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Vinegar in Hot Water Heater

End of season for our 2015 32BHDS and I have drained and flushed out Atwood water heater (using that nice angled hose wand by Camco).

QUESTION: Do folks add vinegar to their HW heater to remove calcium buildup and then flush?

Some information I've found recommends this but others just say to flush with fresh water once or twice a year.

Seems like a good idea.

If recommended, then how to introduce the vinegar-water solution into the hot water heater?

Many thanks,
Dave
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Old 11-11-2015, 10:46 AM   #2
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My advice: Don't bother.


If you've got an anode rod, remove it and lightly wire brush the scale off. Reinstall in the spring after anther light brushing.


As part of the spring bring-up when flushing out the anti-freeze... Flush the lines first and leave the drain plug out of the water heater when you switch the bypass to summer mode. Allow it to run a minute or two. Close up and sanitize.


The chlorine-based sanitization process is slightly acidic and will dissolve any minor calcium deposits that may form.


Besides, how much hot water do you go through in a season of camping?


This is from someone who bought a 25 year old unit and sold it 6 years later. Never had issues with the water heater.
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Old 11-11-2015, 11:53 AM   #3
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Thanks, Mike.

Our Atwood hot water heater is aluminum (no anode rod) and has a nylon plug.

Here in central Texas the water is very hard so I'm leaning to wanting to do the vinegar method (fill tank with 50/50 vinegar-water, turn on water heater for a few hours, turn off, let cool down, drain, flush).

Just not sure what best way is to get the vinegar solution into HWH tank (e.g., remove high pressure relief valve and pour in using funnel, fill using winterizer kit and water pump (anti-freeze method), etc.).
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Old 11-11-2015, 12:12 PM   #4
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If you do use vinegar, use the distilled white vinegar. That's what I use to clean my coffee brewer and it is a recognized cleaner for water scale and lime buildup.

But I would be hesitant to use it if the water heater has an anode rod. Not sure how the vinegar would react with that.

Just my opinion.
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Old 11-11-2015, 12:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsmith3 View Post
Thanks, Mike.
Our Atwood hot water heater is aluminum (no anode rod) and has a nylon plug.
Here in central Texas the water is very hard so I'm leaning to wanting to do the vinegar method (fill tank with 50/50 vinegar-water, turn on water heater for a few hours, turn off, let cool down, drain, flush).
Just not sure what best way is to get the vinegar solution into HWH tank (e.g., remove high pressure relief valve and pour in using funnel, fill using winterizer kit and water pump (anti-freeze method), etc.).
I've got the same water heater and also hard water. Most folks in my home county use water softeners to remove the mineral ions. We like the taste, so we just filter the bigger chunks out.

The only way to fill the water heater is via the plumbing ports. However, the mineral deposits generally fall to the bottom, don't they?

So, if you want to unscrew the TPI (relief valve) and reinstall the drain plug, throw in a gallon or so of vinegar/water solution and let it sit. Fire up the heater for only a minute (or less) to warm the solution.

Pull the plug to drain and then flush using the garden hose into the TPI port and out the drain. Repeat if desired.

Check for leaks at the TPI and drain plug once you re-pressurize when sanitizing the system.

Seems like a waste of perfectly good vinegar to me, though.
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Old 11-12-2015, 08:31 AM   #6
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Every spring I flush the entire system with a weak vinegar/water mixture after the sanitizing. This sits there for a few days, then is dumped and reflushed with fresh water, and removes any bleach residue. So my water heater gets that annualing, no ill effects, but pretty weak ratio.
Since I installed an easy drain hose/valve on my WH it gets drained many times over the season, always showing a small amount of sediment flushed out, initially.
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Old 11-12-2015, 09:23 AM   #7
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Can I use just my winterizer kit on my water pump (i.e., what I use to introduce anti-freeze into fresh water lines) to draw up vinegar/water through that clear hose to fill my empty hot water heater?

Seems like that would work.

I'd prefer to not remove pressure relief valve on water heater (as an alternative way to pour in vinegar/water using funnel).

Thanks,
Dave
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Old 11-12-2015, 09:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsmith3 View Post
Can I use just my winterizer kit on my water pump (i.e., what I use to introduce anti-freeze into fresh water lines) to draw up vinegar/water through that clear hose to fill my empty hot water heater?

Seems like that would work.

I'd prefer to not remove pressure relief valve on water heater (as an alternative way to pour in vinegar/water using funnel).

Thanks,
Dave
Yes. And that's what I would do to perform that procedure. It's the easiest. And I would not recommend removing the P/T valve on the water heater, anyway. But I DO open that valve to fill the water heater. It fills a lot faster that way and you will not get any air bubbles in the tank.
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Old 11-12-2015, 11:21 AM   #9
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Yes. And that's what I would do to perform that procedure. It's the easiest. And I would not recommend removing the P/T valve on the water heater, anyway. But I DO open that valve to fill the water heater. It fills a lot faster that way and you will not get any air bubbles in the tank.
Mike, Thanks for that confirmation.

This will be our first time to use this water pump/draw method. How do I do it exactly?

Do I just turn on water pump, put the clear hose in the jug of vinegar (after flipping the valve on the pump) and then turn on ANY hot water faucet? Is that what will pump the solution into the water tank?

Thinking I can best do this using the kitchen sink since the pump is below the sink and I can keep a watchful eye on jug level.

My Atwood water heater is 6-gallons so I thought I'd pump 3 gallon jugs of white distilled vinegar into the hot water heater and then follow up with 3 gallons of fresh water to rinse out the hose and water pump and hot water plumbing lines.

Then turn on the water heater for a couple of hours and finally drain/flush water heater when it cools down.

Did I miss anything?
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Old 11-12-2015, 11:47 AM   #10
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I would pre-mix the vinegar and water - about 1 part vinegar/2 parts water. Drain the HW heater, turn the valve to winterizing position, then use the clear hose and pump to suck in the vinegar/water solution. Open your faucet to full hot position (or the hot valve, if you don't have a mixing valve type of faucet). You will know it's full when the solution starts flowing from the faucet.

It will probably take about 7 gallons of the solution, minimum. You have the heater tank to fill, as well as all the lines to and from the pump. And keep other faucets closed, or those lines will fill with the solution, also, which will make the flushing process longer.

Let that sit for several hours, then drain your HW heater again. Switch the winterizing valve back to the normal position and flush thoroughly. I would just use the pump to fill the heater tank and open the T/P valve so you are flushing the tank very well, first. Then flush the lines. That would be much quicker than trying to flush all the vinegar solution out. Otherwise, you might fill your gray tank while flushing and STILL not get all the solution out of the system. Dumping that 6 gallons will really shorten the flush time!

And be sure to open other faucets to ensure all the solution is flushed from your system - hot water lines, then cold. Some solution could creep into the lines to other faucets and some could cross over to the cold side - especially if you have a mixing valve type of kitchen faucet.

Good luck! And let us know how it goes.
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