Cannot figure out how my water heater is plumbed or the house for that matter

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JoeyBradshaw

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So many issues to discuss here, stay with me.

Backstory: I installed a water softener several years back. However the softener only works on the left side of the house and the right side is clearly not running through the softener because there is still massive buildup of calcium stains. I confirmed this by turning all the shut-off valves and the bypass valve into their off position and turned on the water in the right side of the house and it still flows... So today I'm trying to correct this but I'm running into multiple issues that I don’t understand. When I originally plumbed the softener in there are two 3/4 copper inch lines marked with blue coming out of the concrete in the garage. I cut a 2 inch section out of one, turned the water back on and observed that the one I cut was luckily the only one of the two actually spewing water out so I went ahead and plumbed the softener to it.

First issue is the water heater. One line feeds the heater which is marked as cold (blue), one line comes from its hot outlet and is marked as hot (red), and a third line is the pressure relief pipe. The issues are:
1. The pipe coming out of the hot outlet is chilly to the touch and is wrapped with insulation… Why isn’t it at least warm or hot?
2. The pipe going into the cold inlet is hot to the touch all the way back to the concrete, 4-5 feet away from the inlet, where it comes out of the floor and is clearly marked as cold (blue). It too is wrapped in insulation. This is clearly the line that feeds into the cold inlet so why is it hot to the touch? It makes no sense at all.
3. The relief pipe goes directly into the concrete to who knows were. Is it possible or normal for the relief pipe to be plumbed right back into the cold water coming in from the street?

Second issue is the right side of the house. Is it common in new home construction for the copper lines to be split under the house to service different sides of the house? I’m starting to think that is what was done and not per plan but simply to save money on copper piping… If this is the case would an average plumber be able to determine this and what would you estimate the costs be for just confirming this?

Thanks,
Joey
 

havasu

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When I purchased my house, it had already been plumbed for soft water. As I looked around, I had gate valves in several areas and could not understand why. I later found out the original owners installed these valves in order to stop the soft water from exiting the exterior faucets in order to water the yards.

Tracing water lines is fairly simple, if you start at the main and work back into the house. Yes, a plumber can and will help you, but depending on their hourly costs coupled with their initial service charge, may cost you a few hundred dollars, which might be well worth it, if you are in the least confused regarding your routing.
 

majakdragon

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I can recommend a couple things to try. Look on the top of the water heater and see if the inlet and outlet are marked hot and cold. Most have raised lettering for this. The heater could be plumbed backwards. If you turn on a hot faucet, you should be able to feel the cold water supply line turn colder as water is used. It may only be hot due to a bad backflow preventer in the inlet side of the water tank.I am guessing that the relief valve piping goes outside. The end of the line should be visible. In Florida, T/P valves were required to go outside the house and into a french drain. I have not seen a split water service line in a house, unless the house has two water heaters at separate ends of the house.
 

JoeyBradshaw

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Thanks. You are correct, last night I confirmed the water heater was plumbed correctly and the cold water pipe was hot because the water wasn't flowing through the unit. As you said the back flow preventer, if there is one (there is no preventer on the pipe itself but perhaps this water heater has one built in, is broken or this is just by design that the pipe becomes hot. So in short the water heater mystery is solved and I re-routed the pipe that fed it into the water softener too.

Now the only issue is figuring out were the pipe is that is feeding the right side of the house cold water. I live in Round Rock, TX and this doesn't seem to be up to code to me but then again I'm no expert. Has anyone ever heard of a new home (2002) with a slab concrete ever having its cold water supply split under the house like this and is this allowed per code? This is realing annoying and I think this one done by the plumbers as a way to save costs while screwing me and I'm thinking of filing suit against the builder.
 

havasu

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I'm certain there was a method to the plumber's madness. If by chance you are in a tract home, is it possible to visit some similar house homeowners, and ask them if they have the same set up? If not, I know plumbers are proud of their finished work and if you can locate the original plumber by plot plans or county records, I'd give them a call and it might be possible they would explain what they did over the phone.
 

JoeyBradshaw

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Update:
1. Water heater went bad last week. Lucky for me that I've been looking at the plumbing trying to figure things out when it went bad, otherwise it would have flooded the house. The plumber didn't bother putting a drip pan under the original unit.. At least the unit did last 10 years which is excellent. I replaced the water heater and now I know why the cold inlet was hot and the hot outlet was cold on the old unit; the unit was going bad and that's apparently a tale-tale sign of a bad unit.. Just installed a new water heater and the cold inlet is definately cold and the hot outlet is hot as it should be.

2. The water heater is now correctly hooked up to the water softener. Good stuff!

3. Just finished digging up the yard with an excavator yesterday ;) Boy that was fun, never used an excavator before. I got to get me one of those someday. I had a leak in the main line leading to the house because of a sprinkler system installation gone horribly bad earlier this summer (my fault). I dug up the entire pipe to see where the leak was and at the same time I really wanted to see where the hell the pipe went into the house. I expected the entire run to be copper but only the first three feet from the shut-off box is and then it turns into 1" schedule 40 pvc. The jack waggon who plumbed it used the absolute worst fittings to transition from the copper to pvc and clearly just jerry-rigged it together with whatever he had left over at the bottom of his toolbox. Its no wonder the transition cracked so easily! In short the pvc runs directly to the right side of the house under the slab and must split somewhere under there making it impossible to plumb the entire house to the water softener without breaking up the slab and running more pipe to the garage. I also talked to my neighbor and his softener does service the entire house. Confirmed by turning all valves to the off position at the water softener and no water flows in the house. So why does my main line not run first to the garage? Because my home is odd numbered and the street service for all odd numbered homes is on the right side of the house which is always the opposite side of the house with respect to the garage. So effectively everyone with an odd numbered street address is screwed in the neighborhood and everyone with an even number is fine. Unfortunately for the builder I'm going to get the community involved because I believe this to be one of those shortcuts to save a few bucks but effectively screws hundreds of home owners out of their quality of life and the calcuim build-up is what I believe to have contributed to failure of a previous washer and a dishwasher not to mention the visible build-up on toilets, sinks, bathtub, and all water dispensing fixtures that I've found impossible to completely get rid of. Way to go Main Street Homes! Passing the buck to the little guy..
 
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