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PLUMBING • DRAINS • COOLING • WATER QUALITY

If you're noticing changes to the water coming out ouf your tap – such as strange colors, tastes or odors – the cause may be your water heater.

Water heater and water quality problems

To find out if the water heater is the cause, note the following:
  • Does the problem only occur first thing in the morning?
  • Does it happen after the water has not been used for a while?
  • Does the problem clear up after you run the water for a few minutes?
  • Is the problem isolated to the hot rather than cold running faucet?
If any of the above cases is true, it could be caused by your water heater.


Water Heater Odors

Bad smells, such as a sulphur odors, are sometimes caused by bacteria growing in the water heater tank. When the water heater goes unused for long periods of time bacteria, while usually harmless, can cause unpleasant odors. A sulphur, or rotten egg odor, is sometimes caused by a corroded anode rod inside the water heater. The rod should be inspected and replaced if needed.

Hard water can also cause sediment to accumulate at the bottom of the tank, causing odors. Installing a water softener should fix the problem.


Water Discoloration

Brown, red or yellow tinted water can be caused by rust from a corroded water heater tank, or pipes inside the home. The iron present in most water is not a significant health risk, but it can stain clothing and dishes and leave drinking water with a metallic taste. Your plumber can help track down the cause and determine if the water heater is the source of the problem.

White or tan particles in the water are usually a sign of calcium or magnesium. While not generally harmful to ingest, the minerals can clog pipes and drains over time. A water filtration system or water softener can remove the minerals from the water.

Have concerns about water quality in your home? Give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call. We can help identify the cause of the problem and recommend effective solutions for cleaner, better tasting water.
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.
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.
One of the concerns many homeowners have when making the switch from a conventional tank-style water heater to a tankless, or on-demand water heater, is whether it can get the water as hot as a tank water heater. The short answer is yes.

Most tankless water heaters have a thermostat that can be adjusted between 100° to 140°, depending on the brand and model. By comparison, most tank water heaters have the temperature set around 120°.

The key to ensuring the water heater can supply a consistent 120° or higher is the climate and number of sources the tankless water heater will need to supply. It is critical that a tankless water heater is sized based on a household's needs. If the unit is too small for the amount of flow it’s being asked to produce it may work fine for a shower, but not work as needed when a washing machine and a shower are in use at the same time.

Tankless water heater ratings are based on the rise in water temperature they produce. The colder the temperature of the incoming water supply, the lower the maximum temperature of the heater. This means in a warmer climate like Florida, you don't need as large a tankless water heater as someone living in a colder climate, like Minnesota.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
Tank storage water heaters are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home, second only to heating and cooling systems. By changing some habits and installing a few simple accessories, you can reduce energy consumption from your hot water heater significantly.

1. Reduce hot water usage at the source. One of easiest ways to cut hot water usage is to install water saving shower heads. The minimum flow rate on a shower head should be no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). Many water conserving shower heads can reduce flow to as little as 1.6 gpm while maintaining acceptable water pressure. The water savings for a household of four could be as much as 14,000 gallons a year along with greatly reduced energy required to heat the water.

2. Insulate the hot water distribution system. Even in a small home, as much as 10 percent of the energy used to heat water can be lost in the pipes that supply the hot water. Insulating hot water pipes is an inexpensive way to significantly reduce heat loss.

3. Use a water heater blanket. While many new water heaters have sufficient insulation built into the tank wall, many older tanks will allow heat to escape. The larger the water heater, the more surface area that will allow heat to escape. Prevent heat loss by wrapping your water heater tank in an insulation blanket available from most home supply stores. Some manufacturers recommend against installing insulating blankets on their energy-efficient models, so be sure to read your owner's manual before adding a blanket.

4. Water heater maintenance. Over time, storage tank water heaters can accumulate sediment that reducing heating efficiency. Flushing the tank annually will remove the sediment and make it easer for the burner or heating element to heat the water.

Have questions about your water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
Because most water heater tanks are made of steel coated with a thin layer of glass, the lining will eventually crack and begin to rust. To head off corrosion a metal "anode rod" is used to increase the life of the tank. The anode rod is a magnesium or aluminum rod that encapsulates a steel core. The rod is screwed into the top of the tank and suspended in the water. An electrochemical process causes the exposed steel of the rod to react with the corrosive elements in the water. By causing a primary corrosive reaction inside the tank the rod sacrifices itself to help protect the steel tank from corrosion, greatly extending it's life.

Inspecting and Replacing the Anode Rod

One of the most important plumbing maintenance task is to ensure the anode rod is still working inside the tank. The rod can be accessed from the top of the water heater by unscrewing it and sliding it out. If the rod has significantly eroded away it should be replaced with a new rod. Replacing a worn out rod is far less expensive then replacing an entire rusted out water heater!

Need help checking your water heater anode rod? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015 16:38

Water Heater Safety

Water heaters are energy efficient and provide a reliable source of hot water. What you may not know is they employ numerous safety features to reduce a few common safety hazards, these hazards include:

Excessive Hot Water Pressure

One of the most important parts on a water heater is the temperature and pressure relief valve. If the water pressure or temperature inside the tank get too high, the valve will prevent damage to the unit.

Hot Water Scalding

Preventing scalding is especially important in households with children or elderly. Because the temperature of the water that first flows out of the tap can be very hot, a temping valve is used to reduce the danger of scalding.

Bacterial Infections

When the temperature of the water is kept too low bacteria such as legionella, which causes Legionnaire's disease, can grow in water heaters if the water is not hot enough to kill it. The best way of preventing bacteria from growing in your hot water system is to ensure the temperature stays above 122° F.

Wastewater Backflow

Backflow occurs when drinking water and non-potable wastewater mix. It most often occurs when the pressure in the system changes and waste water is drawn into the supply system. To prevent backflow contamination water heaters use a one-way valve and in some cases a pressure overflow tank to prevent contamination.

Have questions about your water heater? Give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call, we're here to help.


Thursday, 05 July 2018 22:39

Water Heater Leaking? Here's What To Do

A leaking water heater can range from a small, barely noticeable drip to a full-blown flood. Either way, the damage to your home and property can be expensive; ranging from damage to walls and floors, to unhealthy mold and mildew.

Water heater leaks

If you see water accumulating near your water heater, it may not actually be coming from the water heater. Nearby appliances and condensation on pipes near the water heater can cause moisture to accumulate nearby. Closely inspect the base of the water heater and valves for signs of leaks.

If you determine the water heater is the cause of the leak, the first step is to turn off power to the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off from the circuit breaker. A gas water heater can be shut of from the power supply attached to the unit, usually be turning a knob to the off position. Next, turn off the water from the cold water shut-off valve located near the top of the water heater.

Water heater leaks can occur in several locations, including: the cold water inlet and hot water outlet, the pressure relief valve, the drain valve, and the bottom of the tank. Fixing a water heater is not a do-it-yourself project. A qualified plumber should make the repair. Depending on the location and severity of the leak, your plumber will either have to repair the water heater, or recommend replacing it.

Preventing damage from water heater leaks.

For an extra measure of protection from unexpected water heater leaks, specially designed pans can be installed under the water heater to divert water leaks to a nearby floor drain. There are also special water leak alarms that can turn off the water when a leak is detected from the water heater or another source.

Have a leaking water heater or other plumbing problem? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
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