How to Deal with Condensation in Venting on Power Vent Water Heaters

Condensation in venting systems, especially in power vent water heaters, is a phenomenon that homeowners and technicians frequently encounter.

This occurrence, while normal to some extent, can become problematic if not properly managed.

Understanding the basics of condensation-how it forms, why it occurs in venting systems, and its potential impacts-is crucial.

In this article, we will examine its causes, identify common problems associated with it, and explore effective strategies for prevention and management.

Richmond power vent water heater

Understanding and tackling condensation in venting: What you need to know

What are power vent water heaters?

Power vent water heaters are a specific type of gas water heater that use an electrically powered fan to assist in the expulsion of exhaust gases.

Unlike traditional water heaters (atmospheric) that rely on natural draft created by a chimney, power vent models use this fan to push the gases through the venting system and out of the home. This design allows for more flexible installation since the venting pipes can run horizontally and do not necessarily have to rise above the roofline.

The power vent system is particularly beneficial in modern, tightly sealed homes where natural draft is insufficient for safe and efficient operation of a gas water heater.

What is condensation?

glass and condensation

Condensation is a physical process where gas or vapor turns into a liquid when it comes into contact with a surface or air that is at a lower temperature.

It occurs when water vapor cools below the dew point, the temperature at which water transitions from a gaseous to a liquid state.

Condensate is commonly observed as the moisture that forms on the outside of a glass filled with cold water on a hot day, or when cold water flows through pipes exposed to warm air.

In water heating systems, condensate typically appears when a new water heater is initially filled with cold water or when large quantities of hot water are used in a short period, especially if the incoming water is cold. This is more prevalent in undersized water heaters, particularly during winter and early spring, when the incoming water is at its coldest.

In power vent water heaters, condensation occurs when hot flue gases, carrying moisture, come into contact with cooler surfaces.

A water heater can produce up to half a gallon of water vapor per hour of operation. This is especially noticeable in high-efficiency water heaters operating with lower flue gas temperatures.

Condensate is often mistakenly identified as a leak, evidenced by puddles of water on the floor around the heater after use. Once the water heater's temperature stabilizes around 120°F, the condensation typically ceases.

Due to its acidic nature, condensation is a concern in power vent water heaters. It often results from specific piping configurations and environmental conditions and should be carefully managed to prevent damage.

Problems associated with condensation

Condensation in venting systems can lead to several significant issues for power vent water heaters.

One of the most critical problems is corrosion.

The continuous presence of water, which is a byproduct of condensation, can corrode metal parts of the venting system and the water heater itself.

This corrosion can compromise the integrity of the system, leading to leaks or even system failures.

Additionally, excessive condensation can impact the efficiency of the water heater. The water heater has to work harder to achieve the desired temperature if the venting system is partially blocked or damaged due to corrosion.

This increased effort results in higher energy consumption and, subsequently, increased operational costs.

Health and safety concerns

Apart from the physical damages, there are also significant health and safety concerns associated with condensation in venting systems.

Excessive moisture can promote mold and mildew growth, which can be hazardous to indoor air quality and can cause health issues, especially in individuals with respiratory problems.

Water can drip on the burner and other hot surfaces producing a "sizzling" noise and a pilot light, causing pilot outages.

Moreover, if condensation leads to vent blockages, there is a risk of dangerous gases, such as carbon monoxide, accumulating inside the home.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal in high concentrations, making it imperative to ensure that venting systems are free from condensation-related blockages.

Thus, managing condensation is not only a matter of maintaining the water heater's efficiency and longevity but also of ensuring the safety and health of the home's occupants.

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Best practices for installation to minimize condensation

Most standard installations of gas water heaters do not require special methods for condensate disposal. This applies to installations in basements, garages, inside homes, and where piping runs through walls, attics, or other areas with short pipes.

We will examine two scenarios detailing the impact of venting pipe installation on condensation: the horizontal vent installation through an outside wall and the vertical installation through the roof.

Condensation in horizontal venting

In horizontal vent systems, the vent pipe can slope away or toward the water heater. If the vent pipe slopes away, the drain port cap located where the pipe exits the water heater (blower pipe coupling) should stay in place, and the slope has to have at least 1/8 inch per foot.

This is the recommended setup, but if it is not feasible, then the vent pipe will slope toward the water heater, so condensate collection and disposal must be provided. This is how:

  • Locate the blower pipe coupling at the top of the heater and remove the drain port cap.
  • Connect one end of the flexible tube to the blower drain port. The tube should be long enough to provide proper drainage, has the correct inner diameter (usually ½”), and is made of silicone for flexibility. 
  • Make the circular trap (P shape loop) about 12” below the top of the unit and secure it with the zip ties to prevent the loop from unfolding. The loop must be smooth, with no restrictions or kinks; it must provide free condensate drainage.
  • The loop must be filled with water to prevent combustion gases leaks into the room.
  • Direct the other end of the silicone drain tube to the floor drain or outside the house.

Condensation in vertical venting

In the case of the vertical venting, take the same action steps as described in the previous scenario, with the unplugged drain port and proper drainage via a silicone tube.

Keep in mind that all horizontal sections must slope toward the water heater at 1/8” per foot.

Installation tips

To effectively minimize condensation in power vent water heaters, proper installation is key.

  • First, ensure that the water heater is appropriately sized for the home's needs, as undersized units are more prone to condensation.
  • The venting system should be installed with minimal bends and turns to promote efficient airflow.
  • Use insulated vent pipes, especially in colder areas, to reduce the temperature difference between the gases and the pipe surface.
  • Additionally, the vent should terminate in a place where expelled moisture won't cause damage or safety hazards.
  • It's also important to adhere to all manufacturer and local building code requirements during installation.

Maintenance tips

Regular maintenance is crucial in preventing condensation-related issues in power vent water heaters.

  • Periodically inspect the venting system for any signs of blockage or corrosion and ensure that it remains clear and intact.
  • Check the temperature settings of the water heater; excessively high settings can produce more steam and, consequently, more condensation.
  • Drain and flush the tank annually to remove sediment that can affect heating efficiency.
  • Also, ensure that the room where the water heater is installed is well-ventilated to avoid high humidity levels which can contribute to condensation.


Addressing condensation issues in water heaters, particularly power vent models, is crucial for maintaining their efficiency, longevity, and safety.

Immediate solutions like installing condensate pumps or drainage systems offer relief from accumulated water.

However, it's equally important to regularly inspect and replace any corroded or damaged vent pipes to prevent exacerbating the problem.

For chronic condensation issues, upgrading to a water heater with an integrated condensate management system could be a wise investment.

Ultimately, consulting with a heating professional to assess and possibly modify the venting system or adjust the heater settings is essential.

By taking these proactive steps, homeowners can ensure the optimal performance of their water heaters while safeguarding their homes and health.