Chris' Corner: Sediment Traps in Gas Water Heaters

Sediment Traps in Gas Water Heaters

Russel Ray, a knowledgeable home inspector working in the San Diego area, shared this information on sediment traps in a gas water heater.  I had never heard of them, and found this information very useful.  Perhaps you will also...

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You drip!

This post was inspired by Juli Vosmik of Dominion Real Estate Partners in Scottsdale, Arizona. Juli emailed me early yesterday about a gas drip leg that her plumber was saying was required at her new water heater to bring it up to code. He also wanted $150 to install it.

Here is what a gas drip leg looks like:

Dirt leg on gas line at the water heater


I prefer sediment trap so I'll use that term throughout the rest of this post. The purpose of the sediment trap is to catch sediment in the gas so that the sediment doesn't get into your gas appliances — water heater, furnace, stove, oven — and clog them.

That sediment trap happens to be installed wrong because the pressure of the gas will blow any sediment right past that sediment trap. Rather, you want the gas to blow any sediment into the sediment trap, so it should be installed like this:

Sediment trap


Notice in the first picture how the gas gets to go straight through while the sediment would have to make a 90° turn? In the second picture, it's the sediment that gets to go straight through and the gas has to make a 90° turn. The gas pressure makes it easy for the gas to make a 90° turn while forcing the sediment down into the sediment trap.

Home inspection standards and requirements differ depending on which state one is in, and sometimes even which county or city one is in. They differ because the building codes themselves differ depending on which city, county, and state you are in.

In some areas, the term drip leg is used to indicate a similar-looking pipe intended to catch moisture in the gas and is installed at all low points in a gas piping system for wet gas. A general rule of thumb is that areas east of the Mississippi River have wet gas and areas west have dry gas. It's general, though; check with your local authorities to see if a drip leg is required.

A sediment trap is installed at an appliance to catch tar, rust, scale, pipe dope, dust, debris, and other sediments that get into the gas. It is installed between the shutoff valve and the control valve of a gas appliance. Supposedly it is required by manufacturers and codes for all gas-fired water heaters and furnaces, but if it is required, then there aren't any people enforcing that requirement here in San Diego County since....

In my seventeen years in San Diego County doing property renovations and home inspections, I've only seen one drip leg/dirt leg/sediment trap, and you saw the picture of it above.

I suspect that the person who installed that sediment trap moved here from another state where they were required and doesn't know that they are not required or used here.

from Zoey the Cool Cat

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Comment balloon 0 commentsChris Smith • December 22 2011 05:30PM