In the middle of a summer vacation, you are off to hiking on a hill station. You have been hiking for almost two three hours and it feels like you have taken a shower, you’re that much sweaty. After the hiking is done, you come back to your hotel, sit under a fan or an air conditioner and grab a glass of water. Since you have a family gathering, you decide to take a shower. Before taking a shower, you look into the mirror and see that your face is slightly burnt due to the scorching heat.
You ignore it at first thinking that it will vanish once you take a shower. After your shower, you think of looking again in the mirror to see whether your sun burn is still the same or has it vanished, but wait! You forgot to turn the exhaust fan on and you see that the mirror is now covered with a mist. To remove the mist, you wipe the mirror with your one hand and see that there are water beads on the mirror. Now you might be wondering, where did the mist or water beads come from?
This all happened because of a process known as condensation. Condensation is a process in which, water vapor in the air is changed in to liquid water. To make it relevant to the example given above, the water in the air, known as water vapor, from your hot shower is cooled when it met a cooler surface which is your mirror. This process caused the water vapors to condense and change into liquid form. How did we get to know this? By looking at the water beads and the mist formed on the mirror.
You can think about condensation from a different perspective. It is basically the opposite of evaporation. Evaporation is a process of a liquid turning into a gas. You can easily see this whenever you boil the water. You see the bubbles inside a water and a steam going upwards. That happens when the boiling water is turning into gas, evaporation.
Condensation is very crucial to the water cycle because it is the main source for the formation of clouds. The clouds later on produce precipitation which is one of the primary route for the water to return to the surface of Earth.
You don’t have to take an example of a cloud to understand the concept of condensation. As the example mentioned above, the fog formed on your mirror after taking a shower is also a process of condensation. Not just this, but condensation is also responsible for a humid day, the water that drips off of a cold drink such as ice tea and for the water that appears on the inside of a window when it’s cold outside.
The phase change that happens when the water moves between vapor, solid or liquid form, is found in the arrangement of water molecules. However, water molecules inside a vapor are arranged more randomly. While in liquid form, they are arranged in a manner. As a result, when condensation occurs, water molecules become organized and then the heat is released in to the atmosphere.
The condensation and the boiling point of water are totally the same. These processes occur at 212 degrees Fahrenheit or a hundred degree Celsius. If you increase the water from more than hundred degrees Celsius, it will boil. If you reverse the process and decrease the level from a hundred degree Celsius, the water will first condense and then it will return to its liquid form.
Condensation occurs at almost all temperature between thirty-two Fahrenheit, which is also 0 Celsius and 212 Fahrenheit which is also a hundred degree Celsius. It is also quite visible if there is a huge temperature difference between the object and the atmosphere. For example, you may see the beads of water that you saw on the mirror, outside a bucket of ice cream on a very hot day. In this case, condensation is in action!
Even after hours late, you can see that the bucket of ice cream is melted and the water beads have also vanished. Here comes the turning point. Condensation is still occurring, it’s just not visible to you but it is happening at a very slow rate. Keep this in mind that there is always water in the air.
What is water heater condensation?
When the natural gas inside gas water heaters burns, moisture in the shape of combustion is released. So when the water vapor is chilled to a point, water heater condensation occurs. The point at which it is chilled is the point where vapors turn into a liquid state, also known as condensate.
First you turn on the main gas burner. Once it is on, it produces a lot of different flue gases which condensate by colliding with colder surfaces. An example of where condensation might happen is when a pipe is cooled down by the low water temperature that flows through it.
The process of water heater condensation is not leaking. Condensation is a normal process that occurs frequently in gas water heating appliances when they start working. In the next phase of this article, I will be talking to you about how to recognize the condensation is water heaters, what you can do to stop it and problems related to water heater condensation and its solutions!
Why does it happen?
In order to understand the problems related to water heater condensation, you must need to know the symptoms first. Given below are some of the main reasons for the occurrence id condensation inside the water heater:
- First symptom is when right after the start up, when the gas heater is filled up with cold water and the main burner is on, the heater will start to condensate.
- The water heater condensation usually happens when you are dealing with a new heating appliance for the very first time.
- You can identify the third symptom very easily. When you see a condensation after a very long draw of hot water in a very short time and also when the water refilled is very cold.
- Usually condensation occurs when the temperature is set very low. You can easily avoid this by increasing the temperature a bit.
- If your heater is undersized or your family, then condensation is definitely going to take place. Even if it is according to your family size, condensation is still going to take place. Thought the condensation won’t occur as it occurs in the undersized heater. To eliminate this problem, get yourself a heater which meets your family demands for shower, hot water and cloth washing.
These were the symptoms of problem. Now I will be talking about the real problems caused by condensation.
Problems due to condensation:
- If you see excessive condensation coming from your water heat, it is not normal at all. It is only visible during early spring or during the winter season, when the temperature outside is the lowest. This is one of the main reason for pilot light outage. Pilot light outage refers to the premature corrosion of the burner area and the tank. Black or red granules can be seen on the main burner and on top of the heater and they are quite small.
- The main reason why the heater corrodes is because hydrocarbons and carbonic acid are found in the condensate. Some of the parts which are exposed to the condensation are baffles, burners and flue tubes.
- Due to the moisture coming out from the combustion products, cooler tank gets condensed and water droplets are formed which later dip on the burner or any other hot surface on the heater. This results in various things such as sizzling, frying or a popping sound inside the burner are.
- Flue tube gets weakened due to the continuous exposure to the condensation. With this process, carbon monoxide is produced which can majorly affect the gas combustion.
- Since this process happens so fast with condensation, the problem might be considered as leaking. You must keep I mind that on and a half gallon of condensate forming every hour is quite normal for residential heater. It takes about one to two hours for the tank to warm up and condensation to vanish.
- Since the new high tech heaters use a lot of powerful gas burners and with additional technology, they extract more heat from the flames, they will condensate even more than the old heater used to.
- To eliminate the problem of condensation, another solution can be applied, that is a good venting. This can help gas appliances operate even more efficiently and vent the combustion and the water vapors, both at the same time.
- Since flue gases are considered as the main reason for condensation problem, you can eliminate this by raising supply air temperature, increase the temperature of the water that is stored or increase the size of the tank.
- Make sure to install a suitable metal drain pan which should be at least two inch wider than the heater should be installed. This will make the heater collect the condensate and not damage any other part of the heater.
Discerning between Condensation and Leaking in Household Equipment
- Ascertain that there is not any water present under the heater, and should there be a puddle it should be wiped off.
- Subsequently, the thermostat of the gas control system is to be turned on to a pilot position.
- Allow some time, e.g. few hours or an entire day to check if there is any accumulation of water under the equipment.
- Ascribed to the properties of water, if it is heated above the temperature of 110 Fahrenheit, the process of condensation should cease.
- Now, at the end of the procedure, if you are among those lucky folks that have set the equipment right, no water should be present. Alternatively, if there are traces or a puddle of water then one should look for leakage.
Condensing Water heaters
Water heaters which employ the phenomenon of condensation with particular tank types such as the ones produced by AO Smith, Navien, or Noritz produce condensation fluid which is largely acidic in nature with a pH value lower than 3. This liquid remnant, due to its corrosive property cause loss of pigment in various materials and in cases are known to cause severe structural corrosion to the sewer system.
However, as with many things, there is a fix to it – All thanks to Chemistry and students start learning the process of neutralization as early as grade 7. The placement of such tanks should be concomitant with a quality purchase of neutralizer kit which treats the condensate to make it safe for disposal into the drain. However, for systemic efficiency, the drain should be closer to the unit and the conduit pipe should offer a free flowing slope to the liquid to prevent accumulation of fluid in the pipe. Additionally, when accumulation is feared to cause problem to the assembly, the condensate pump may be installed to remove it using external force other than just gravity.
The reason for the clear passage is quite clear so as to prevent backflow of the condensate through the hose. Many automated condensation equipment such as the Noritz NRCP model displays the error codes relevant to the problem to identify and diagnose problems. Such diagnostics is essential in the cold weather and especially, when the temperature reaches below the freezing point of water.
Conclusively, most of the water heaters, including many sophisticated models, do produce liquid remnants associated with condensation ascribed to a host of reasons which are not limited to an improper fixing work or increased air moisture. Additionally, regulation and controlling the air moisture is not an easy task and sometimes, in cases of normal discharge of fluid, one should make peace with the fact and may resort to alternative palliative measures such as placing a ceramic container under the discharge. However, should there be excessive condensation then a plumber may be required for diagnostics and reworking the tank to prevent premature tank and heating element corrosion.