Water Heaters

Second only to the cost of heating and cooling a home, hot water can be a most costly expense. It is used in almost every appliance and consumed at an astounding rate. In fact, hot water heating alone makes up approximately a quarter of every dollar spent in the home! Therefore, it is absolutely worth taking the time to explore some money saving techniques. Having an annual maintenance inspection by a certified plumbing technician is a sure way to keep costs as low as possible, and is one of the numerous services offered by National Property Inspections.

Other than lifestyle and the amount of use, you can reduce the amount of water used by testing to see if your showers and tubs are “low-flow.” To be considered low-flow, a shower head must produce water at a rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute. You can test this at home with your own bucket and faucet; if it takes anything less than 20 seconds to fill to the 1-gallon mark, your energy bills may benefit from a low-flow shower head.

To begin your transformation into efficiency, fix any water leaks right away to keep your pennies from dripping down the drain. Install low-flow fixtures in sinks, bathtubs and showers that keep water running efficiently without breaking the bank. Once you are ready for a bigger step, try energy-efficient dishwashers and clothes washers, which use less water in the long haul with a better pay-off for both you and the environment. If you decide to go away for more than a few days, be sure to turn down the temperature on the water heater to save on those costly utilities.

When it comes to water heaters, there are two kinds: those with tanks or without, or “instantaneous” heaters. Waterless tanks are 34% more efficient than tank water heaters, which must constantly heat and reheat a tank of hot water, whereas a tankless water heater only heats it as needed. On any given day households waste 6.35 gallons of water a day waiting for water to heat. With tankless water heaters, this problem is moot, heating in as little as five seconds compared to thirty. Costing between $650-$3,000 initially, the reduced energy and water costs make up for it in the long term, especially when serviced regularly.

Before purchasing a tankless water heater, there are some things to learn first. For example, it is extremely helpful to find out the groundwater temperature of your home. Since tankless water heaters draw directly from the underground supply lines, it helps to know the number of degrees the water will need to be heated as it migrates from the ground to your sink or shower. Second, the desired flow rate must be calculated at peak time to ensure you can run all appliances at the same time. Do this by considering what and how many appliances may be running at the same time, add up the number of gallons, and buy a heater that will be able to handle your needs.

With the help and knowledge of a trained National Property Inspections professional, it is simple to maintain an energy and budget efficient home. With the proper preparation, planning, and maintenance, your home can be the best of both worlds. Call today to talk about your next inspection and save money in the long-term.

Extending the life of your water heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

drain_water_heaterExtending the life of your water heater is something most homeowners don’t think much about.  Draining your water heater tank is something that you should do every year, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes.  How can this procedure extend the life or your water heater?

Over time, any type of water heater tank will build up sediment- which has three harmful effects on your home’s hot water system.  First, the sediment takes up space, effectively making your water heater smaller.  Second, the sediment can insulate the bottom of the tank in a gas water heater where much of the flame’s heat is absorbed into the water, or even cover a lower element in an electric water heater causing a reduction in heating efficiency.  Third, the sediment scratches the glass lining of water heater tank, resulting in exposed metal – which leads to rust and eventual tank failure.

You can extend the life of the tank and increase the efficiency of the system by simply draining a couple gallons of water off the bottom of the tank.
1. Shut the unit down, either by turning the gas valve to “pilot” or “off”, or flipping off the breaker to an electric unit.
2. Turn off the cold water supply line, usually located on the right side as you face the unit.
3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater tank, and run it to a drain.
4. turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to allow the water to flow, and then open the drain valve toward the bottom of the tank.

Check the color of the water that drains- at first it may appear dark, but after just a few gallons it will become clear.  At that point, you can close the drain, and turn off the hot water faucet you had turned on previously.  Turn the cold water supply back on, turn the power or gas supply back on, and you’re done!  The next time you turn on a hot water faucet, there may be a couple of air pockets, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise as the noise should abate quickly.

While it may also be a good idea to have your water heater examined by a professional on a regular basis, draining your tank is relatively easy and can save you some money while helping to extend the life of your water heater.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Prevent Hot Water Burns

Family at Home_shutterstock_151320977Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

This assessment has two parts: First, the inspector uses a thermometer, usually held under the water in the shower while operating at least one other water fixture to determine any significant changes in water temperature. The temperature in the shower is adjusted to about 105° F (40° C). Next, the inspector will flush the toilet and turn on the sink. If the water temperature in the shower shifts more than five degrees, the inspector will note it in the inspection report. This same test is also used help assess and report on water volume and flow in the home. The inspector will note visible changes in the water volume or flow when all three fixtures are operating.

To test the general temperature of a home’s hot water, your inspector will turn on the hot water in the kitchen and test it with the thermometer. Inspectors frequently find that a home’s water is too hot, but the temperature setting usually can be changed on the water heater to protect people in your home.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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Today’s Tip: Don’t Neglect Your Water Heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you’re like most savvy homeowners, one of your main goals is to maintain your appliances for as long as possible before the need to replace them forces a new purchase. Water heaters are no exception to this, and they are one of the most important appliances in your home.

How Long Does the Average Water Heater Last?
According to manufacturers’ information, the average life expectancy of a traditional tank-style electric or natural gas water heater is around eight to 10 years. Some estimates show that electric water heaters may last slightly longer — up to 15 years. Years can be added or subtracted, however, based on weather, the unit’s design, its original installation, and the level of maintenance the unit has been given. Maintaining your water heater on an annual basis may add as many as five years to the life of the unit.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater
The first step in providing the appropriate maintenance is to have a professional plumbing company perform an annual inspection. When managing electricity or gas with water, you’ll want to ensure that repairs and installations are completed by thoroughly trained, licensed and insured technicians.

The majority of work takes place during the process of draining and flushing the water heater. This should be done at least once a year. A technician will test the temperature-pressure-release valve (this valve stops the tank pressure from climbing too high). Next, they will drain the heater and stir up sediment by opening the cold-water supply valve. They will repeat this process is until the water runs clear.

Excessive sediment is important to remove, as it will not only cause the tank liner to crack, but it will also coat the anode rod with calcium and allow it to corrode. The anode rod is used to slow down corrosion inside the tank and extend the life of your water heater, and it should be replaced if it’s less than 1/2 inch thick or covered. A technician can also adjust your thermostat to the recommended 120° F (49° C). This prevents the tank from overheating and causing damage.

Looking to save even more on energy costs? A technician can help you with that, too. By lowering your water temperature by 10 degrees, you may save up to 5 percent on your utility bills! Enclosing hot- and cold-water pipes with foam pipe insulation will preserve water temperatures as well.

When Should You Replace a Water Heater?
Age is not always a prime indicator for appliance replacement, but an appliance does warrant evaluation if you are investing in more repairs as the unit ages. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it could be on its last leg. Other signs that a water heater replacement is in your future: it operates intermittently, produces rusty water (a qualified plumber can tell you whether you have a rusty tank or the issue is in the pipes), makes rumbling noises (which may be caused by hardened sediment in your tank), or leaks.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.


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Water Heaters and Earthquake Safety

By Roger Pigeon, NPI Franchise Owner, San Diego, California

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you live in a house, condo or manufactured home in California that has a water heater — which most of us here in California do — you may have wondered about those metal straps around your water heater. This may be especially perplexing if you’re moving to California from another state. Here is what you should know about water heater bracing and safety in California.

Many years ago, California adopted a health and safety code that requires all water heaters to be braced or strapped with approved straps in order to help prevent catastrophic damage to a home in the event of an earthquake. It was found that during an earthquake, a water heater has the potential to topple over and fall. As if this weren’t bad enough, when the water heater falls, it usually results in to damage the gas, electrical and water connections to the water heater. A damaged gas line may result in fire, causing further serious damage to your home and threatening your personal safety. Damage to the electrical connection can pose an electrocution hazard. And, of course, damage to the water connections can lead to flooding of your home.


Figure 1

The diagram in Figure 1 shows an approved water heater strapping method. There are some key things you will want to look for when examining your water heater:

  • You should see two metal straps on the water heater, and these should be installed at the top and bottom third of the unit. These straps should be approved for use in securing water heaters. Water heater strapping kits are available at your local hardware store or online. Plumber’s tape is NOT approved for securing a water heater.
  • The metal straps should be attached to wall stud with at least 5/16 x 3-inch lag screws. If your water heater is not installed close to a wall, then you may need to contact a local contractor to design a method to properly secure your water heater.
  • You also should see flexible water connectors at the top of the water heater and flexible gas or electrical connectors (depending on whether your water heater is gas or electric). Flexible connectors allow for some movement of the water heater during an earthquake.

If you are unsure whether your water heater is safe or not, I urge you to call a local plumber you trust. And, when it is time to buy a new home, the professionals in your local National Property Inspections office will inspect your home thoroughly and make recommendations for repairs and safety upgrades.

Pigeon PhotoRoger Pigeon is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in San Diego. If you live in the area, call 760.420.8659 to schedule your home inspection with Roger.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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