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Old 06-11-2019, 10:23 PM   #1
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An odd water issue

I was at a state park for a while and had no running water, so I had to use my fresh water tank and pump. All was good until the last day I was there. I suddenly lost hot water flow. There was still a little bit, but nowhere near as much as there should be. I assumed I just ran out of water in the tank so the pump was having a hard time pushing enough air through the lines to push out the little bit of water that was left.


I made it to a private campground earlier today and filled the fresh tank again and ran the pump a bit to get it re-primed and flowing again. Cold side is fine, but hot side is still barely trickling out. I bypassed the water heater and it made no difference, so the issue isn't in the heater fortunately. Unfortunately, the issue is somewhere between the water heater and the rest of the camper. Every faucet is slow, as is the low point drain outside.


What the heck could it be? Right now, I'm thinking that the pump managed to suck up something that is now in the line. I'll probably try backflushing the lines to push out the blockage, but I'm not even sure that's what the issue really is. Any advice on how to go about figuring out where the issue is, or even what it is?
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:40 PM   #2
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Water pumps should have a small screen filter on the input side of the pump. The clear plastic cup unscrews and can be cleaned. If the fresh water tank ran low/dry it may well have sucked dup any gunk in the bottom and plugged the screen. I doubt that any material big enough to block your pipes got past this filter and the pump.

Do you get normal water flow on city water?
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:14 PM   #3
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Cold water side is OK BUT hot water side is barely a trickle............


What Brand/Model is your water heater?


If pump sucked up anything and it got thru the suction strainer, thru the pump it would have had to go into COLD water line first then into water heater.
Doubt that is issue


Water heater HOT out CHECK VALVE has failed
Bypassing should have restored full flow to hot water lines.........should have but that depends on how valving is set up and how bypass connects to hot line



Disconnect the fitting on HOT Out at the WH Tank
Inspect the check valve in the nipple in HOT out
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:28 PM   #4
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Did you by chance leave the low level drain for the hot line open and are just dumping "hot" water out the drain?

Are you sure that the water heater is full of water? When you say the hot side just drips out, is just a low flow or a kind of sputtering with any air? After doing the bypass are you sure that all valves got turned back fully to where they had been?
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:18 AM   #5
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If the single bypass valve works, you should be able to bypass the tank and get cold water to the hot faucets even if the heater outlet check valve is clogged. You say the flow is still bad when bypassed, so that's a key clue.

I think you have ruled out the water heater tank itself, but it's possible the bypass valve has failed and simply isn't allowing water into the tank or to bypass it either. You can check for flow thru the bypass and into the tank by opening the tank PT relief valve (let it cool a bit for safety sake!). A good, continuous flow out the relief would show that water is getting into the heater and that the cold feed to the heater tank is good. After that point, you have to disassemble water lines to prove it out.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old-Biscuit View Post
Cold water side is OK BUT hot water side is barely a trickle............


What Brand/Model is your water heater?


If pump sucked up anything and it got thru the suction strainer, thru the pump it would have had to go into COLD water line first then into water heater.
Doubt that is issue






Water heater HOT out CHECK VALVE has failed
Bypassing should have restored full flow to hot water lines.........should have but that depends on how valving is set up and how bypass connects to hot line



Disconnect the fitting on HOT Out at the WH Tank
Inspect the check valve in the nipple in HOT out



This is the answer^
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rarebear.nm View Post
Water pumps should have a small screen filter on the input side of the pump.

{snip}

Do you get normal water flow on city water?
That's exactly why I'm confused. It's acting as if there is a big slug of something physically blocking the line. But with the filters, how the heck could it ever get in there? I filled the tank with water through a filter, and the sump has a filter on it as they all do, yet here I am Nope, I get the same trickle on city water. It's got me scratching my head.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Old-Biscuit View Post
Cold water side is OK BUT hot water side is barely a trickle............
What Brand/Model is your water heater?
If pump sucked up anything and it got thru the suction strainer, thru the pump it would have had to go into COLD water line first then into water heater.
Doubt that is issue
Water heater HOT out CHECK VALVE has failed
Bypassing should have restored full flow to hot water lines.........should have but that depends on how valving is set up and how bypass connects to hot line
Disconnect the fitting on HOT Out at the WH Tank
Inspect the check valve in the nipple in HOT out
It's an Atwood on demand tankless. I don't recall the particular model number. The bypass is simple. It's all PEX. Cold water splits into cold for the whole RV, and a second line that runs past the water heater. In that second line, there are two Tees with a ball valve between. First Tee goes to a ball valve, then inlet on the heater. Outlet of the water heater goes to a valve then the second Tee. Then that's the hot water line from there to the rest of the RV. Close the valve between the Tees and all the water flows through the heater. Open that valve and close the two between the Tees and the heater, and the heater is bypassed but only cold water is available in the RV.



I guess it's possible that a ball valve failed, but that's extremely rare, and more than just one would have to fail 90% closed to produce the issue I'm having. Odds of that are astronomically low.



Quote:
Originally Posted by rarebear.nm View Post
Did you by chance leave the low level drain for the hot line open and are just dumping "hot" water out the drain?
Thought about that. The drain point drain is just as slow as the faucets. The cold drain is right next to it, and water shoots out of that thing like there's no tomorrow if it's connected to city water.

Water heater is full because it's tankless. No air sputtering, just terrible flow.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary RVRoamer View Post
If the single bypass valve works, you should be able to bypass the tank and get cold water to the hot faucets even if the heater outlet check valve is clogged. You say the flow is still bad when bypassed, so that's a key clue.
{snip}

After that point, you have to disassemble water lines to prove it out.

There is a ball valve just before everything that I put in as a fail safe to shut off all of the hot water in the odd event that I might need to. I suppose it could have failed, and could produce effects similar to what I'm seeing. Ball valves failing like that are pretty rare, but it is possible. I'll have to check on that tomorrow.


I really don't want to start trying to tear into water lines to prove the system. The only way is from the under side, and that involves cutting into a few things that I'd rather avoid cutting.





I appreciate the input from everyone. It's probably going to take a while to figure out what's going on, but in the meantime, I'm using the bath houses at the RV parks I'll be staying in. I hate public showers, but I also hate cold showers.
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Old 06-12-2019, 10:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Itchytoe View Post
Cold side is fine, but hot side is still barely trickling out. I bypassed the water heater and it made no difference, so the issue isn't in the heater fortunately. Unfortunately, the issue is somewhere between the water heater and the rest of the camper. Every faucet is slow, as is the low point drain outside.


What the heck could it be? Right now, I'm thinking that the pump managed to suck up something that is now in the line. I'll probably try backflushing the lines to push out the blockage, but I'm not even sure that's what the issue really is.
You've got an interesting issue going here for sure- no comfort to you.

All things on the table in thought...

Is there any chance something might have pinched a section of PEX on the hot line after the heater? Not likely I know.

How would "backflush" the system? Starting from where and at what point would the water dump? The pump has a check valve to prevent back flow. If the pump is installed with flex hose on input and output sides you could bypass the pump with a simple 1/2" pipe nipple. Thus back flushing into the fresh water tank- perhaps. Or better yet maybe, disconnect the output line from the pump and connect it to a length of gardenhose to dump it outside. Get a 1/2" male NPT to male hose thread adapter. I would enable the heater bypass you've got. Perhaps you could attach a live garden hose connected to the shower hose to supply water. Alternatively, you could run the "back flush" the other way and check flow at each facet.

I just don't see how anything got past the pump's filter screen. It is in the plastic housing??? But then how to get junk though the pump without tearing it apart????

Any chance something from the water heater broke loose and traveled down the hot side?

I've never seen a ball valve fail as would be required in this problem, not yet anyhow. Any chance the handle for a valve got put on 90* offset?? So that its on when handle points off and visa-versa.

This is strange and I'd like to learn the final outcome.

Is there may be a check valve installed on the hot line after the heater and the bypass Tees? I've added one to solve a cold shower blast problem in our MH.






I have tried to amp out your water system to figure this out. The heater bypass is indeed simple enough. Where does the city line join the line from the water pump? Is it before the heater or after on the cold side?
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:55 PM   #9
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How would "backflush" the system? Starting from where and at what point would the water dump?

I would physically disconnect the output of the water heater and add a simple hose out of that compartment that would drain onto the ground outside. Then I'd use a hose clamp to attach a hose to the hot water low point drain and essentially force water backwards through the system from that low point drain to the hose tied back by the heater. It wouldn't flush the whole system, but it should clear out anything between the heater and the drain which hopefully would force the blockage back out.



Quote:
Alternatively, you could run the "back flush" the other way and check flow at each facet.
Yep, that would help narrow down the location of the issue. If all the faucets work when backfilling from the low point drain, I'll know that the issue is definitely between the drain and the heater.


Quote:
I just don't see how anything got past the pump's filter screen. It is in the plastic housing??? But then how to get junk though the pump without tearing it apart????
I have absolutely no idea. I would think that anything solid enough to block a pipe would tear the impeller to shreds. Anything that could make it through the impeller would just clog an aerator at worst.


Quote:
Any chance something from the water heater broke loose and traveled down the hot side?

Is there may be a check valve installed on the hot line after the heater and the bypass Tees? I've added one to solve a cold shower blast problem in our MH.

There is a flow sensor of some kind inside the heater. There are a few ways to make such an item and I don't know how it's set up. It's possible that it has veins of some kind inside the flow that broke off. But the piece would have had to make it through a few PEX valves and fittings then get lodged further down. Hmmmmm.


No check valves anywhere associated with the hot side. Obviously, there is one in the pump, and one somewhere in the city connection. They are both working fine and are on cold side.


Quote:
I have tried to amp out your water system to figure this out. The heater bypass is indeed simple enough. Where does the city line join the line from the water pump? Is it before the heater or after on the cold side?
City line joins the stream about 2 inches from the pump discharge. It's in the main line before the split off for the hot side.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:29 AM   #10
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Just offering this up after following this mystery.

There are only two locations that seem to qualify as the problem spot—one is the T on the outlet side of the heater, and the other is the ball valve you installed to isolate the hot plumbing. Either one of those becoming obstructed would cause low water flow in the hot plumbing even if the heater is by-passed. The great puzzle is the low flow when heater is by-passed but those two connections would account for the problem. If easily accessible, try removing your installed ball valve and see if that changes things. Can’t imagine how a T connection could fail unless debris/scale from the heater got lodged in there, but if the ball valve is not the cause, the T is the next likely suspect if I understand your set up correctly.
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Old 06-13-2019, 05:54 AM   #11
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Have you inspected all the PEX lines? Sort of sounds like one got crimped or bent over somewhere. Could just be coincidence that it happens when you were low on water. Logical places to look would be any lines that move with a slide.
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Old 06-13-2019, 06:25 AM   #12
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Make sure the outside shower controls are turned completely off.
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Old 06-13-2019, 08:22 AM   #13
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From everything you have said, I suspect blockage between the Tee after the heater and the low level drain. Is the valve at the drain a three-way type or a simple Tee with a regular valve? If the the three-way type I might inspect that next.

Might inquire from the heater manufacture what would happen if water ran out as you described. I could see the pump producing several surges of pressure that have been a problem for the flow sensor in the heater and it might have come apart. That could explain what happened. Just an idea.

Do you have PEX cutters, crimper, crimps and some extra PEX line on board? I always carry that stuff.

Keep us posted....
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Old 06-13-2019, 10:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
There is a ball valve just before everything that I put in as a fail safe to shut off all of the hot water in the odd event that I might need to. I suppose it could have failed, and could produce effects similar to what I'm seeing. Ball valves failing like that are pretty rare, but it is possible.

Diverter-type valves seem to fail more often than simply on/off ball valves. The diverter is more complex, with one inlet and two outlets.
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