Water heater entraining water in exhaust flue
August 18, 2011 5:29 PM   Subscribe

Why is my water heater not working, and why is it throwing out exhaust gas entrained with cold water?

My rental water heater stopped heating water this morning. But it also started making a loud gushing noise, which I discovered to be due to cold water entrained in rushing gas (air?) going out through the exhaust flue vent.
My question is if the heater is not working, where does the exhaust gas come from? and why is it entraining so much water?
My landlord is going to call the plumber, but meanwhile I'm hoping for an answer so as to make sure nothing blows up (or my water bill doesn't kill me).
posted by drollix to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
It's hard to diagnose beyond the fact that it's Bad News. If it were me I'd shut off the cold water supply and the gas supply valves and make sure my landlord had the plumbers on the express plan, because it's got all the hallmarks of a big safety issue and in many (US) jurisdictions loss of hot water is on the short list of basic habitability issues. (In MA, when my tenants lose hot water I'm obligated to get it fixed the next morning or I owe them a hotel room until I do.)
posted by range at 6:20 PM on August 18, 2011

Thanks for the reply. I can't get the cold water supply valve to shut, but I did switch off the gas valve. Is it possible that the heater blower/draft inducer is forcing the air due to some broken sensor? The unit is a AO Smith gas heated EnergySaver model.
posted by drollix at 6:48 PM on August 18, 2011

I would keep an eye on it and be ready to shut off the main house supply valve or some other upstream valve. Water anywhere outside the reservoir is bad news and almost inevitably leads to more and more water. It may well be that a forceful water leak is entraining air and not the other way around. Most water heaters have no failsafe - once water starts coming out they are functionally identical to a garden hose left running in your basement.
posted by range at 7:11 PM on August 18, 2011

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