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I have a gas water heater in my garage that was installed when it was built for the radiant heating. The issue I've had is that it appears to draw in dirt from the area and burns out and the water heater eventually shuts itself down.

Is there a better way to manage this situation? Maybe creating a sort of "chimney" vented through the roof and somehow sealing the intake area under the water heater off, so it only draws from the outside?

Is there a better style of water heater that's more appropriate for this sort of environment?

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    Would not try to modify it yourself. Talk to the gas heater installer and see if they can change the intake of the burner. Think your idea would cause more, possibly dangerous problems.
    – crip659
    Aug 9 '21 at 12:09
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    Why can't you simply clean up the area the boiler is so there isn't any dirt for it to suck in? Aug 9 '21 at 13:29
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    Can you raise the heater onto bricks? That should reduce dirt intake.
    – rtaft
    Aug 9 '21 at 13:32
  • If you can't raise it as was was mentioned you could build a small frame around the bottom area to help reduce the intake of dirt. Aug 9 '21 at 15:00
  • I have a 4" PVC pipe coming from outside with a screen on and the other end opens at the base of the water heater, mine stay nice and clean but the floor is also kept clean and it is raised about 4" from the floor.
    – Gil
    Aug 9 '21 at 16:16
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There certainly do exist sealed combustion water heaters. These are designed to draw their combustion air from the outdoors, burn the gas in chamber sealed from the room, then blow the exhaust back to the outdoors. Your suggestion is to DIY-build exactly this.

Does the existing heater have a traditional draft-type exhaust in which the only force driving it is convection caused by the heat of the exhaust gas, or does it have an inducer fan to blow the exhaust out? If the inducer fan type I can imagine there might be enough air flow to draw in some dirt. But if the heater is the draft type there's no way it has enough air flow to pick up and draw in dirt.

In either case, keep the area around the heater clean. Then the only "dirt" it could draw in would be dust that is suspended in the air -- if there's a great deal of dust suspended in your air evaluate what can be done in the landscape or elsewhere to cut down on airborne dust.

I think it's likely that you're not really seeing dirt at all. Instead it may be sediment that is rusting away from the combustion chamber walls. Apart from routine cleaning I'm not sure there's much to be done about that.

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