Extreme water heater condensation

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Old 12-16-17, 10:46 AM
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Extreme water heater condensation

Hello,
First off I am absolutely not a plumber and have little to know knowledge of anything regarding this field.
I will recount my problem the way I have seen it and provide additional information if possible.

I have found myself care taking a closed hotel this winter, the hotel has 4 100 gallon water heats located in 2 different buildings. The newest 2 water heaters purchased and installed October 2016 had what I thought was a leak!
I set to troubleshoot and find the leak, I was unable to see anything leaking when I turned them off. Good news I thought, turned them back on and the water started again. So I turned them back off and called the company.

I called the water heater company Bradford White to inquire what I should do since they are under warranty. I was advised to contact the local plumbing contractor - which I did. The plumber inspected and told me my 2 water heaters were most definitely condensating. Since the hotel is closed the plumber said I could just turn them off if I wanted too. I called Bradford white back, they said i can turn the temperature up, heat the room, insulate the pipes, or create airflow. I did everything Bradford white mentioned and they still condensate.
The water heaters only do this when turned on and the burner is running, completely dry when turned off.
I have allowed them 30+ hours to get up to heat and they will not, they continue heating and continue condensating.
I am located in Montana, it is winter and very cold, the incoming water is frigid.
This is a problem for multiple reasons, these water heaters are on the second floor causing damage to the floor and ceiling due to leakage or condensate whatever you want to call it. Also they are under warranty only until March, I feel like they might be dragging me along until my warranty runs out which I do not want. Should I simply turn these off until May when the hotel reopens and the problem persists I will be SOL.

Any advice, any ideas, anyone with this problem before? I am clueless and in dire need of assistance.
I do have a 6 minute video from off to when the "leak" starts if I can somehow show that to anyone.

Thank you,
 
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Old 12-16-17, 11:10 AM
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If I remember my high school chemistry correctly for every molecule of natural gas that is burnt the reaction creates TWO molecules of water vapor. (It may be as much as four to one.) With the heater tank cold the gases of combustion, primarily the water vapor, WILL condense on the inner flue of the heater as well as the vent piping to the chimney. The only cure is to keep the water hot and the vent piping insulated. The bigger the heater the bigger the burner and that means more gas being burnt and more water condensing out of the flue gases.

Can you determine WHERE the majority of the condensation is taking place? Is the water running out of the vent piping on to the top of the heater or is it running out of the bottom of the heater? If only out the vent it points to a too cold stack which could mean insufficient draft and a likely cause is non-insulated vent and/or a chimney way too big for the BTU rating of the burner(s).
 
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Old 12-16-17, 11:14 AM
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Hello,
The water is coming from the bottom, almost out of the flame burners them-self from what it looks like.
The plumber who inspected took off the ventilation and looked down in the tank, he said it was condensating around the sides and going below out the burner tubes. (paraphrased he was a little more technical)
 
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Old 12-16-17, 11:36 AM
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Then probably the best that could be done is to re-install the heaters with a drip pan under them along with a drain to a safe location. There is a slight possibility that the fuel supply is insufficient, either because of too small of gas piping, too low of gas pressure or a or malfunctioning pressure regulator/thermostatic gas valve on the heater itself. The latter I would think of being extremely remote that all the heaters had the same defect. IF low fuel supply is the problem then the flame would be too small for the size of the heater, requiring too long a warm-up time and the results would be as you state. The next step is to use a manometer to check the gas pressure AT THE BURNER when it is firing and compare that to the manufacturer's rating plate.

Or, you could "clock" the gas meter, assuming you are able to shut off all gas except to the water heaters. You would read the gas meter and then fire the water heater(s) for a period of time, the longer the better, and then read the meter at the end of the test period. Convert the cubic feet of gas consumed and reduce it to cubic feet per hour by calculation. Then multiply the cubic feet per hour by the conversion factor shown on your gas bill, generally about 1050 BTUs per cubic foot. Compare this consumption to the rating plate to see if there is a huge discrepancy.
 
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Old 12-17-17, 11:32 AM
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Since the hotel is closed, just turn them off. Problem solved. Why would you need hot water readily available in a closed hotel anyway?
 
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Old 12-18-17, 03:38 AM
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They are under warranty only until March, I feel like they might be dragging me along until my warranty runs out which I do not want.
I am afraid it might be more than condensation and the problem will continue when they are needed to be turned back on.
 
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Old 12-18-17, 10:11 AM
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Bradford White is a quality company with quality products. If there was something inherently wrong with the heaters they would repair or replace them without question. You have an unusual installation problem and that, my friend, is beyond the scope of the manufacturer's warranty.
 
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