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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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.

Pigeon

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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New Water Heater Standards This Month

Submitted by Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath BlogEvery year, the date of April 15 generally has some significance for most Americans as the deadline for filing our taxes. This year, the following day, April 16, also has some significance, as it is the date that all residential water heaters manufactured in the United States, on and after this date, must meet the increased NAECA energy-efficiency standards.

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was enacted in 1975 to create efficiency standards for household appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and water heaters. The standards help ensure that manufacturers build products at maximum energy efficiency levels. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a ruling that as of April 16, 2015, the energy efficiency standards, as measured by the energy factor (EF Rating) will change on almost all residential gas, electric, oil and tankless gas water heaters. These changes will affect not only the manufacturers, but also the distributors, contractors, and consumers.

The EF rating measures how much of the energy source delivered to the water heater is converted to hot water. Of course, the higher the EF rating, the more efficient the water heater. For example, a 50-gallon electric water heater has a current standard of .90 EF. The 2015 standard for the same electric water heater will change to .95 EF, which means that 95 percent of the electricity used is converted to hot water. According to the U.S. DOE website, these new standards will save approximately 3.3 quads of energy and result in approximately $63 billion in energy bill savings between 2015 and 2044. While that sounds pretty good for everyone, there are some important considerations.

Water heaters manufactured prior to April 16, 2015, that do not meet the new NAECA standards can still be sold and purchased after this date. Consumers may want to consider purchasing a prestandard water heater now, even if their existing water heater is not in need of replacement. Consumers may be able to realize savings in buying an older model now, and then saving it until needed, as manufacturers and distributors will likely be competitively pricing these older units to clear inventories. It is estimated that the newer water heaters will be 20 to 30 percent higher in price.

The newer water heaters will most surely be larger in size due to the standards, possibly 1 to 2 inches taller and wider. Changes in size and output may require relocation of the unit if the existing space is not large enough to accommodate it. Some units, depending on size and energy source, may require additional technology, such as heat pumps or condensate disposal systems. Eventually, water heaters over 55 gallons will be phased out, which might mean that some consumers may need multiple units.

Although the initial costs for new standard water heaters will likely be higher, the long-term value will be realized in increased energy savings and better performance.

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