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Old 07-02-2017, 01:32 AM   #1
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Anode / Drain Plug Torque Spec?

Does anyone happen to know the correct torque spec for the water heater anode rod / drain plug on the Suburban SW6DE water heater (2015 19')? I have been using the old standard plumber's approach of "tighten it till it doesn't leak", but am wondering what the proper spec is. Suburban didn't bother to answer my e-mail inquiry. When using teflon tape on the threads, it seems like ~ 216 in.lbs. (18 ft.lbs) seals it, but I would like some assurance that I'm not over-torquing it. Plus, I would like to be torquing it consistently the same amount from one installation to the next - and yeah, my wife says I'm OCD!

Thanks.
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Old 07-02-2017, 01:46 AM   #2
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I've never torqued it. Just make it snug, and use Teflon tape on the threads.

EDIT: There's a spec from the maker of a Camco anode rod that says to use only 7 to 8 ft-lbs of torque, so your 18 is a bit much.



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Old 07-02-2017, 02:00 AM   #3
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Yes, no one is using a torque spec that I have ever heard and certainly not on ours. You are lucky to get it in and then to get it to turn. Turn it pretty much until you can't and that's it.
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Old 07-02-2017, 02:05 AM   #4
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My understanding is that the correct tightening of an NPT thread is expressed in either take-up - how far the fittings pull together - or normal engagement length rather than torque. One source says:
Quote:
Over-tightening threads can be just as detrimental as insufficient tightening. For sizes 2" and below, hand tighten the components and, with a wrench, tighten 3 full turns. For sizes 2½" and above, hand tighten the components and, with a wrench, tighten 2 full turns.
The thickness and type of sealant used will change the torque required to engage the desired number of turns of thread.

I have occasionally purchased fittings for propane use from suppliers who offer assembly at no extra charge... and I've been surprised how far they crank those bits of brass together. They probably do three turns, which takes a lot of torque... more than I am comfortable applying to plumbing fittings and appliances with questionable threads. It's probably a lot more than needed for low-pressure propane or for domestic water pressure.
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Old 07-02-2017, 09:55 AM   #5
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Good to see that they recommend using Teflon tape; I thought I might have made a mistake when I did so when replacing the anode. It leaked afterward. It appears that the leak has stopped now; presumably enough crud has built up on the threads to seal it again. I don't want to mess with it until I get home.
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Old 07-02-2017, 10:55 AM   #6
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The only addition I'd suggest is the if you replace the magnesium anode with an aluminum one (all you can get at most RV service departments), the aluminum rods don't get eaten away like the magnesium. I'm not sure how you tell when to change them.
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Old 07-02-2017, 11:00 AM   #7
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The only addition I'd suggest is the if you replace the magnesium anode with an aluminum one (all you can get at most RV service departments), the aluminum rods don't get eaten away like the magnesium. I'm not sure how you tell when to change them.
And they do not protect the tank as well as a magnesium anode. Cheaper to more frequently replace a magnesium anode than the water heater itself.
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Old 07-02-2017, 11:05 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by C&G in FL View Post
And they do not protect the tank as well as a magnesium anode. Cheaper to more frequently replace a magnesium anode than the water heater itself.
True, but even when I specifically ordered a magnesium anode from my local dealer, his supplier shipped an aluminum one.

I do agree with frequent inspection. My first anode lasted 2 years before it was 1/2 way gone, but was down to the bare center wire 6 months later.
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Old 07-02-2017, 11:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vermilye View Post
The only addition I'd suggest is the if you replace the magnesium anode with an aluminum one (all you can get at most RV service departments), the aluminum rods don't get eaten away like the magnesium. I'm not sure how you tell when to change them.
That's true Jon, but there is debate about which is better in spite of that.

Part of the reason the aluminum ones last longer is that they don't conduct quite as well as magnesium. Another part of the reason is that the aluminum ones often get mineral buildup on the surface which hardens and forms a sort of "cover" across the material, instead of eating into it. This cover means the anode's ability to sacrifice itself is reduced. It lasts longer, but it's not doing as good a job sacrificing itself to protect the tank lining.

There are also some claims that the aluminum ones, by leaching trace amounts of aluminum into the water, are a health hazard. The aluminum supposedly increases the risk of certain diseases like Alzheimer's. I find this evidence sketchy at best, but just putting it out there.

There are even technical notes and other publications that state the choice between aluminum or magnesium should be dictated by your water chemistry. I don't think that's practical at all in an RV, since you are likely to get water from different places with different chemistries.

We prefer the magnesium ones even if we have to change them more frequently. After all, they're called sacrificial. The fact that they deteriorate rapidly theoretically means that the tank doesn't.

As for when to change them, most manufacturers recommend changing once 50 percent of the material is gone.

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Old 07-02-2017, 11:17 AM   #10
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Interesting table found here on Wikipedia

Metal Potential with respect to a Cu:CuSO4
reference electrode in neutral pH environment (volts)

Carbon, Graphite, Coke +0.3
Platinum 0 to -0.1
Mill scale on Steel -0.2
High Silicon Cast Iron -0.2
Copper, brass, bronze -0.2
Mild steel in concrete -0.2
Lead -0.5
Cast iron (not graphitized) -0.5
Mild steel (rusted) -0.2 to -0.5
Mild steel (clean) -0.5 to -0.8
Commercially pure aluminium -0.8
Aluminium alloy (5% zinc) -1.05
Zinc -1.1
Magnesium Alloy (6% Al, 3% Zn, 0.15% Mn) -1.6
Commercially Pure Magnesium -1.75

Seems Aluminum, zinc and Mag alloy are very close or similar.
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Old 07-02-2017, 12:13 PM   #11
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And they do not protect the tank as well as a magnesium anode. Cheaper to more frequently replace a magnesium anode than the water heater itself.
They do not have our water. I'm amazed that a week at Stephen Foster campground ate a section of the anode to the wire.
If you spent a month there it would eat the whole anode.
I've noticed a lot more activity when I pull the anode after we've been in our campgrounds.
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Old 07-03-2017, 03:48 PM   #12
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Update

Thanks to everyone for their responses.

I had posted the question since I was getting ready to drain the water heater tank prior to putting the trailer back into storage, and didn't want to guess at the torque when re-installing the plug. In the past, I had always used 12 ft.lbs. of torque to make the plug stop leaking when using teflon tape on the threads. Last week I installed it and then headed down the Oregon Coast and noticed that it was leaking. Not having a torque wrench with me, I just snugged it down using a ratchet till the leaking stopped, and when I got home I used a torque wrench and found that it had taken 18 ft.lbs. Taking out the plug, I saw that the tape was all wadded up and was bunched up against the hex - there was no tape in the threads so it was just metal-to-metal, which presumably facilitated the leaking. I had used the grey Oatey "FASTape - Best Sealing Tape", and looking closely at the tape it seems marginally stiffer and thicker than the "regular" thin white teflon tape I had used in the past. The Oatey labeling doesn't state whether it's teflon or not. From now on I'll be using the thin white teflon tape.

I'm still on my original anode, so hadn't bought a replacement and consequently hadn't seen the installation instructions provided by rbryan4. Just hope my 18 ft.lbs. didn't do any damage.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:12 PM   #13
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Are you sure it was leaking from the anode and not the pressure relief valve, which is directly above?
In the second picture, the valve is intentionally open, to ensure that the tank is filled.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg anode relief valve.jpg (178.6 KB, 14 views)
File Type: jpg anode relief valve open.jpg (172.0 KB, 15 views)
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:19 PM   #14
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If I had known that you had leaking, would have responded on that. As far as I understand, you can expect leaking in the water heater and we have had it many times. Not a problem that I know. You can expect to see it again no matter how you torque the anode! In addition to it from other parts there, I suppose it could be condensation also.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Great Eggstrications View Post
Thanks to everyone for their responses.

I had posted the question since I was getting ready to drain the water heater tank prior to putting the trailer back into storage, and didn't want to guess at the torque when re-installing the plug. In the past, I had always used 12 ft.lbs. of torque to make the plug stop leaking when using teflon tape on the threads. Last week I installed it and then headed down the Oregon Coast and noticed that it was leaking. Not having a torque wrench with me, I just snugged it down using a ratchet till the leaking stopped, and when I got home I used a torque wrench and found that it had taken 18 ft.lbs. Taking out the plug, I saw that the tape was all wadded up and was bunched up against the hex - there was no tape in the threads so it was just metal-to-metal, which presumably facilitated the leaking. I had used the grey Oatey "FASTape - Best Sealing Tape", and looking closely at the tape it seems marginally stiffer and thicker than the "regular" thin white teflon tape I had used in the past. The Oatey labeling doesn't state whether it's teflon or not. From now on I'll be using the thin white teflon tape.

I'm still on my original anode, so hadn't bought a replacement and consequently hadn't seen the installation instructions provided by rbryan4. Just hope my 18 ft.lbs. didn't do any damage.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:25 PM   #15
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18 lb-ft doesn't seem like enough to damage that size of pipe threads, to me.

There is no Teflon™ thread tape, because Teflon™ is a brand name belonging to a company which does not make thread seal tape... but I'm pretty sure that all thread seal tape is PTFE, the material of which Teflon™ is one example. It probably varies in quality, and certainly varies in thickness. The thinnest is usually white, yellow is thicker, and other colours are even thicker. Yellow is normally used for gas fittings, and white for water fittings, but it all does the same thing. If there is more tape in the joint, more torque will be required to reach the same (proper) degree of thread engagement.

The Home Depot listing for Oatey FASTape says it is PTFE, as expected. The Oatey page for thread seal tape doesn't show this specific product, but the others are PTFE. The PTFE isn't Teflon brand, which doesn't matter. I doubt any thread seal tape is any other material.

For me, the trick with thread seal tape is getting it tightly and evenly wrapped so it stays in place and does its job. If wrapped in the wrong direction, the free end catches on the female thread and the tape doesn't stay in place.

If you don't want to deal with tape, you can use thread seal paste or "dope"... that's what used in most factory-built applications, and by many plumbers. The paste came long before the tape.


I've never had an issue with leaking from the relief valve, and would not tolerate leaking from a drain plug or anode.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:31 PM   #16
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If you don't want to deal with tape, you can use thread seal paste or "dope"... that's what used in most factory-built applications, and by many plumbers. The paste came long before the tape.
This is what I intend to do when I reseal my anode again, barring a reason not to. I find the tape hard to use.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:34 PM   #17
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I would prefer the tape because the other stuff can get into the tank. And I would think that the tape is easier to deal with even though it takes a little trouble.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:37 PM   #18
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Also, you only need enough wraps that it doesn't come undone. Wrap counter-clockwise.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:53 PM   #19
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Yep, it was definitely the anode / drain plug that was leaking, not the temperature / pressure relief valve. Water had collected right at the bottom of the plug, and everything else was bone dry. I wrap the male threads, then roll it between thumb and forefinger to squeeze the tape into the threads a little, and always do it directionally so tightening wraps the tape instead of unwrapping it.
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Old 07-03-2017, 04:57 PM   #20
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All sounds good to me.
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