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If the pilot light pilot light on your gas water heater will not stay lit or the burner that will not ignite, you likely have a defective thermocouple. A thermocouple works by sensing the heat from the pilot flame and, when the temperature is high enough, it sends a signal to the gas valve to supply gas to the pilot light.

Water Heater Thermocouple

A thermocouple is an important safety device that prevents gas from being sent to the pilot and burner if there is no source of ignition. If the gas were to continue flowing to an unlit pilot light, the result would be a hazardous buildup of natural gas. While the part sends an electric signal to the gas valve, it doesn't use any electricity itself, but instead uses heat to generate an electrical impulse.

The first sign that a thermocouple is failing is that the supply of hot water is reduced or stopped altogether as the thermocouple receives false signals and shuts off the gas, thinking the pilot light is out. If the pilot light remains lit but the gas supply is shut off, the thermocouple is the likely culprit. A plumber should inspect the unit to diagnose the problem. If the thermocouple has stopped working, it is not repairable and should be replaced.

Have questions about your water heater? Cll ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 21:57

Protect Your Family From Hot Water Scalding

Hot water scalds account for 20% of all burns and every year more that 2,000 U.S. children are treated for scalding. Scalding can also lead to secondary injuries such as heart attacks, falls, and broken bones, particularly among the elderly. Most scalding accidents occur in the kitchen and bathroom, and the vast majority are avoidable.

Hot Water Safety

Because infants, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to burns when exposed to overly hot water in the bath, one of the most important ways of preventing scalding is to ensure your water heater temperature is set to a safe temperature.

In addition, you should always check the water temperature before placing a child in the bathtub and never leave a child alone or with other young children in the bathtub.

Most water heaters come factory set between 120°F to 140°F - this temperature may be too high for many households. The chart below shows how the scalding risk and time it takes to cause a burn.

Water Heater Thermostat Setting Exposure Time Effects of Exposure to Hot Water at High Temperatures
Water at 100 degF or below - Most water heaters are unlikely to scald an adult
Water at 120 degF 5 minutes 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 130 degF 30 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 140 degF 5 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 150 degF 1.5 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 160 degF .5 second 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin

Scald Protection Devices

Scald protection devices are a must in homes with young children, the elderly and physically challenged. In many areas they are required to be installed to meet code requirements. While caution is the first line of defense to scald prevention, scald protection devices can help to maintain safer water temperatures.

Have questions about preventing hot water scalding in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your questions.
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 14:44

The ABC's of Plumbing – Energy Factor

The ABC's of Plumbing – Energy Factor

If you're planning on replacing your old water heater, one of the most important things to consider is how efficiently it will produce hot water. To make it easier for consumers to compare water heaters and select the most energy efficient model, the US Department of Energy has developed a standard for residential water heaters, call the Energy Factor.

As with cars and Miles Per Gallon (MPG), the Energy Factor (EF) rates how efficiently a water heater uses its fuel source. When comparing standard products of the same fuel type, a water heater with a higher Energy Factor rating uses less energy, resulting in both energy and cost savings.

Water Heater Energy Factor

The Energy Factor is determined by performing a 24-hour simulated test on residential water heaters. During the test a measured number of gallons of water are drawn from the water heater in six equally spaced draws that begin one hour apart. After the beginning of the last draw a standby period of 18 hours follows.

The result of the test is expressed as a decimal. For example, a gas water heater with an energy factor rating of 0.5 means it's 50% efficient. It will use 50% of the gas to heat the water, while the remaining 50% is heat going out the exhaust flue.

When comparing water heaters it's important to consider the fuel source. While an electric water heater may have a higher EF rating, electricity is typically more expensive than natural gas. Also, be sure to compare the EF for the same type of water heater, the EF rating for tankless and hybrid water heaters is measured differently than it is for conventional tank water heaters.

Have questions about choosing the best water heater for your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

What's the Best Kind of Water Heater?

Best Water HeatersWhen choosing a new water heater for your home there are more choices than ever. Here's a comparison of the most common types of water heater and the advantages and disadvantages of each style.

Electric Tank Water Heater

Heats and stores water using electricity
  • Purchase Cost (less installation): $300 - $1,200
  • Advantages: Lowest upfront cost, Good for small or large households
  • Disadvantages: More expensive to operate

Gas Tank Water Heater

Heats and stores water using natural gas or propane
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $380 to $1,500
  • Advantages: Lowest upfront cost, Good for small or large households
  • Disadvantages: More expensive to operate

Tankless Gas Water Heater

Heats water on demand when its needed.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1000+
  • Advantages: Good for smaller households, lower operating cost, small footprint
  • Disadvantages: More expensive to operate

Electric Heat Pump Water Heater

Uses electricity to move heat from one place to another
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: Great for warm climates like Florida
  • Disadvantages: More expensive than a conventional water heater

Condensing Gas Water Heaters

Heats and stores the water using gas, then uses the combustion gas to further heat the water.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: Lowest operating cost. Can save a household $100+ a year
  • Disadvantages: Higher up-front cost

Hybrid Tankless Water Heater

Combines the advantages of a small storage tank with a tankless water heater.
  • Purchase cost (less installation): $1,000+
  • Advantages: Lower operating cost. Less standby heat loss than a conventional tank water heater, and no "cold water sandwich" that can occur with tankless water heaters.
  • Disadvantages: Higher up-front cost
Need help choosing the best water heater for your needs? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your questions.
Tuesday, 08 August 2017 00:55

A Simple Way To Save On Hot Water

Even in the warm climate of Southwest Florida, heating water takes up a big part of the average home's utility bill. One inexpensive way to conserve hot water is to install a water heater blanket. Available at most home improvement stores for $15-$20, water heater blankets are simple to install and can pay for itself in less than a year.

You may be asking, can a blanket help when the tank feels cool to the touch? Yes. Because it takes more energy to heat water than air, so insulation will help. Still not convinced? Once the blanket is installed for a day or so, put your hand under the blanket and you'll notice that it's nice and warm. That's heat that will keep the tank warmer for a longer period of time rather than radiating out.

A word of caution on water heater blankets – some manufacturers advise against them because if they are not installed properly they can block controls and valves. So be sure to cut away around controls and the pressure relief valve.
Thursday, 23 March 2017 01:06

Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters

When most people think of heat pumps in the home, it's usually as a source of central heating or cooling. But a heat pump also can be used to heat water. Heat pump water heaters work by transferring heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. As a result, they can be up to three times more energy efficient as a conventional water heater.

To move the heat, heat pumps works sort of like a refrigerator in reverse. While a refrigerator draws heat from inside the appliance and exhausts it to the room, an air-source heat pump water heater draws heat from air in the room and transfers it – at a higher temperature – into the water heater.

Hybrid heat pump water heaters are available as stand-alone, integrated unit with a built-in water storage tank and back-up resistance heating elements. Or, an existing tank storage water heater can be retrofitted with a heat pump.

Heat Pump Water Heater Requirements
To operate efficiently heat pump water heaters need at least 1,000 cubic feet of air space around the water heater with a temperature that is in the 40-90 degree fahrenheit range.To optimize performance they can be installed in a space with excess heat, near a furnace for example.

Have questions about choosing the right water heater for your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help.
By default, many water heater manufacturers set the temperature on the thermostat at 140 Fahrenheit. For most households, this is simply too high. One rule of thumb: if you can't hold your hand under the tap with the water on it's hottest setting, the water heater is turned up too high, and your wasting energy. In addition, setting the temperature too high increasing the risk of scalding, of particular concern if there are young children or elderly residents in the home.

Setting the water heater to 120 Fahrenheit work well in most cases. Turning the temperature down 20 degrees saves 6 to 10 percent on energy costs. If you're finding that 120 F is leaving you wishing the water was hotter, gradually adjust the setting upward until a comfortable setting is achieved.

Have questions abut your water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
Thursday, 12 January 2017 21:31

5 Causes of a Low Hot Water Supply

If the supply of hot water heater in your home is not sufficient, even after turning up the thermostat, there are a number of possible causes.

1. The Dip Tube Is Damaged

Cold water enters the water heater through the dip tube where it is forced to the bottom of the tank for quick heating. When the tube is broken the water remains at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is, causing it to return cold water with the heated water.

2. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank

Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This causes a gradual reduction in heating efficiency that will make the water heater work harder and eventually resulting in less hot water. Flushing the tank annually will prevent sediment build up.

3. The Heating System Is Malfunctioning

Most water heater problems occur with these systems:
  • Thermal switch
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element
A licensed plumber should inspect the water heater and repair the part as needed.

4. Hot Water Heater Is Too Far From Where It's Needed

If the water eventually heats up, the problem is sometime a hot water tank that is too far from where it's needed. In the cold months in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the faucet where it's needed. Insulating the pipes can help reduce heat loss.

5. The Water Heater Tank Is Undersized

If you have recently noticed that your water heater suddenly seems to supply less hot water, or runs out suddenly, it could be that your water heater tank is too small to keep up with demand. Installing a larger tank or tankless water heater will ensure that you have all the water your household needs.
One of the best ways to extend the life of your water heater and ensure it operates efficiently is to flush the tank annually to remove sediment buildup. The process is straightforward, here are the steps:
  1. Shut off the water supply - Locate the cold water supply valve at the top of the water heater and turn it to the off position.
  2. Turn off the water heater - If you have a gas water heater, simply turn the thermostat knob to the “pilot” setting. If the water heater is electric, turn off the power at the breaker panel.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank. Place the other end of the hose near a floor drain, in a bucket (have several large buckets to empty into and rotate them if needed) or outside the home. CAUTION: Even though a water heater may be off for hours, the water in the tank may still be hot enough to scald.
  4. Open a hot water tap - Open a hot water tap on a floor above that is nearest the water heater. This will relieve pressure in the system, helping the water drain from the tank.
  5. Open the drain valve - After all the water has drained from the tank, turn the cold water supply at the top of the tank back on for a moment. This will clear out any remaining sediment. Repeat this step until the water runs clear.
When you're finished draining the tank, return it to operating condition by following these steps:
  1. Close the drain valve
  2. Remove the hose
  3. Turn on the cold water supply to refill the tank.
  4. Return to the hot water tap you opened earlier. Once cold water begins to flow from the tap, turn it off.
  5. Turn the gas valve back on from the pilot position or turn electricity back on to the tank.
  6. Check the valve opening to ensure it's not leaking.
IMPORTANT: Always read and follow all manufacturer’s directions and warnings for your particular water heater. Some water heater tanks must be completely full to avoid damage to the gas burner or heating elements.
When most people think of water heaters the first thing that comes to mind is a conventional tank storage water heater. Tank water heaters store 20-80 gallons of hot water and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, because they must maintain a large volume of heated water, they can be more costly to operate. Newer technology is designed to address some of the shortcomings of the traditional water heater.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless or demand-type water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. A gas burner or electric element heats the cold water as it passes through the water heater. Households that require a lot of hot water can benefit the from a virtually endless supply of hot water. One downside to tankless water heaters is they typically cost more to purchase and install, although they can last longer than conventional tank water heaters if properly maintained. Another disadvantage of tankless water heaters is they can take longer to heat the water initially when the tap is first turned on.

Hybrid Water Heaters

Hybrid water heaters are designed to combine the benefits of a conventional tank water heater and a tankless water heater. They have a small storage tank that provides an initial supply of hot water, then heats cold water on demand with a heating element similar to a tankless water heater.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters distribute heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly to providing hot water.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters use the sun's heat to heat water. A roof-mounted solar collector absorbs the sun's heat and stores it in a special fluid that circulates in a closed-loop system that heats water in a tank.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
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