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Water Heater Maintenance Facts You May Not Know

water heater maintenance

Your water heater is an important part of your home. Unfortunately, we often don’t realize it until one day, something goes wrong and we’re out of hot water. At Oliver, we suggest a water heater maintenance plan that can help keep your system running smoothly. We’ll evaluate your water heater on a regular basis to make sure it’s still in health and if not, we’ll fix it or replace it.

Here, we share some water heater maintenance facts you may not know:

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Is Your Hot Water Heater Leaking?

water heater leaking

Have you noticed water around your water heater? Even if it’s a small trickle, your water heater may be leaking. At Oliver, we suggest addressing the issue quickly before it gets any worse. Contact our plumbing experts – we can determine exactly what’s going on and what needs to be done to stop your water heater leaking.

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Water Heaters: Tank vs. Tankless

water heater service

These days, a water heater is an essential appliance in your home. Without one, you can’t take hot showers, wash your clothes in hot water, or use your dishwasher. Whether you’re buying a new hot water heater or looking for a replacement, here are some things to know:

How They Work

When deciding on a water heater, you’re going to want to know how each type operates. In a tank water heater, anywhere from 30 gallons to 80 gallons of water is stored in a large tank and is continuously heated. This means the water is ready to go whenever you turn your faucet or shower on. When you turn on the hot water using a tankless water heater, however, the water you need will travel into the unit on-demand and be heated by a heating element before it’s distributed.

Cost

As you can probably imagine, tankless water heaters cost about three times more than tank water heaters. This is because these units usually require larger gas lines and vent lines than tank units. Also, when it comes to replacements, a new tank water heater can usually use the same lines as the old one, whereas a tankless water heater may need new lines. Tankless water heaters tend to last a few years longer, however.

Energy Efficiency

Generally, tankless water heaters are more efficient than tank water heaters, however, the way you heat your home (whether it’s via gas or electricity) can play a part. According to energy.gov, “gas-fired tankless water heaters tend to have higher flow rates than electric ones [and] can waste energy if they have a constantly burning pilot light.” This means that they can be less efficient than a gas-fired tank water heater, since the pilot light constantly heats the water and the energy is wasted.

Power Outages

If you’re in an area that experiences frequent power outages, you may want to stay away from tankless water heaters. Because they don’t store hot water, you won’t be able to activate their heating element if you don’t have power. With a tank water heater, however, you’ll have a supply of hot water (though limited).

If you’re still not sure which water heater is right for you, call our water heater service experts. We’ll explain more about each kind and find out which fits your lifestyle.


3 Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Your water heater is one of the most important parts of your home – it’s used for everything from showering to doing laundry to washing dishes and more, which is why it’s important to maintain it. Learning how to do simple maintenance on your water heater can extend its lifespan and keep it running smoothly all year long. Here, our water heater experts share some tips:

Checking the Pressure Valve

Whether you have an electric water heater or a gas-powered water heater, you’ll find a safety devices called a temperature and pressure relief valve. It’s important to make sure this valve is operating correctly because if it’s not, it can mean an explosion.

First, turn off the power to the water heater and shut off the cold-water inlet. Next position a bucket of water underneath the valve and pull up the lever. (You should hear a rush of air and see some water vapor.) If water continues to flow out of the valve, drain the tank partway, unscrew the old valve, and replace it with a new one.

Replacing the Anode Rod

A water heater’s anode rod protects the exposed steel of the water heater when the tank is filled through a method called electrolysis. Because the rod protects from rust, it can become coated with calcium carbonate and should be replaced.

Start by connecting a garden hose to the tank’s drain valve and open the pressure relief valve and the drain valve. Let a few gallons of water drain out and close the drain valve. Next, look for the hex head of your anode rod on top of the heater or under the top plate. Once you locate it, fit a 1 1/16-inch socket onto the head and unscrew the rod. Examine it – if it’s less than 1/2 inch thick or covered in calcium carbonate, buy a new one, wrap its threads with Teflon tape, and replace the rod.

Flushing the Tank

As your water heater gets older, sediment will begin to settle in the tank and not only reduce the heater’s efficiency, but clog the lines. This is why you should flush your tank on a regular basis.

First, start by turning off the power to your water heater and shut off the cold-water inlet. Connect a garden hose to the tank’s drain valve and make sure the other end of the hose is in an area that won’t be negatively affected by hot water. Open the pressure relief valve, then open the drain valve. Let the tank drain completely and close the relief valve and drain valve. Turn the cold-water inlet back on and open up all hot water spigots in your home to refill.

If you’re uncomfortable working on your water heater, don’t hesitate to call our water heater experts! We can have your heater maintenanced in no time!


On Choosing a Hot Water Heater…

At Oliver, we know no one likes to take cold showers or wash their dishes with cold water. If you’re in the market for a new water heater, we can help you find the best one to fit your lifestyle.

Here are some things to consider:

Fuel Types

Before you decide on a water heater, you’ll have to figure out which type of fuel you’re going to use to operate it. The two most common fuel types are electric and gas, and while both can heat water, there are some differences:

Electric

Electric water heaters are available in both storage type and tankless type. They can use one or two heating elements to heat your water and are usually less expensive to install than gas water heaters.

Natural Gas

Unlike electric water heaters, gas water heaters use a burner to heat your water which heats the water much quicker than electric types. These are also available in both storage type and tankless type.

Size

Water heaters come in all different sizes, and which you choose depends on how much space you have to install it and how much hot water you’ll need. When you make an appointment with one of our water heater installation experts, we can help you decide which size water heater size is your best option.

Styles

There are three main styles of water heaters:

Storage

Storage water heaters are the most traditional style of water heater. Once the water is heated, it is stored in an insulated tank and you’ll have access to it whenever you need it. These tanks are available in both electric and gas types.

Tankless

Instead of storing hot water in a tank, tankless water heaters heat water on demand as it passes through a series of coils. This style of heater is smaller than a traditional tank heater, however, it can only  deliver a flow rate of approximately 3.5 gallons of water per minute (many homes require a much higher flow rate). This style is also available in both electric and gas.

Indirect

An indirect water heater also requires a storage tank, however, the tank houses a heat exchanger that is attached to you home’s main furnace or boiler. The exchanger then heats water from the furnace or boiler.

Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency of a hot water heater depends on many factors including fuel type, style, how often you use it, and how much water you’re heating at one time. However, in general: geothermal water heaters are the most energy efficient, followed by gas water heaters and then electric.

At Oliver, all of our hot water heaters have at least a 6-year warranty on the tank and parts. We also have high-efficiency models available. For more information, click here or contact one of our water heater installation experts.


7 Things You May Not Know About Water Heaters

Small Vanity

Small Bathroom

Every day, many homeowners take their hot water heaters for granted. In fact, we often forget about them until we run out of hot water (especially if it’s during a shower). Our hot water heater installation team thought they would share some fun facts about water heaters you may not already know:

1. Energy Usage

Around 1/4 of the energy usage in your home comes from using your water heater to heat water for laundry, showers, washing dishes, and more. On average, an American household uses between 80 and 120 gallons of hot water every day.

2. The First Model

The idea of a water heater first emerged in London in 1868, when a painter figured out how to heat cold water by placing gas burners at the bottom of the water pipes. This inspired a Norwegian mechanical engineer, Edwin Ruud, to create the first tank-type water heater and bring the idea to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

3. Exploding Water Heaters

The myth of the exploding hot water heater is rare, but true. While it’s possible for a water heater to explode, there are simple ways to prevent it. These include regulating the temperature and psi as well as checking for rust and smells of leaking gas.

4. Water Heater Lifespan

A typical tank water heater will last anywhere from 10-13 years, while a tankless water heater will last around 18-20 years.

5. Other Names

  • North America: “tankless hot water heaters” or “on-demand hot water heaters”
  • The U.K.: “multipoint geyers”
  • Australia and New Zealand: “instantaneous hot water units”
  • Argentina: “calfones”

6. A Greener Option

Geothermal solutions can be a way for you to forgo the traditional hot water heater and go green. Geothermal energy uses the heat of the earth to heat your water.

7. Water Usage

On average, a person taking a shower will use 6-8 gallons of water, a person taking a bath will 15-20 gallons of water, a person doing a load of laundry will use 20-30 gallons of water, a person doing the dishes will use around 2 gallons of water per minute, and a dishwasher will use around 6-10 gallons per load.


What Do Those HVAC Ratings Mean?

HVAC ratings

Have you ever been shopping for a new HVAC system and noticed acronyms like “EER,” “SEER,” “AFUE,” or “HSPF” in the unit details? If you don’t know what they mean, you should – all of these acronyms are rating systems that are used to score HVAC units on their efficiency. Here are more details from our HVAC contractors:

EER

EER ratings, or “energy efficient ratio” ratings, were introduced in 1975 by the Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ACRI) and are applied to room air conditioners. To get the rating, experts calculate the cooling output of the unit (in BTU’s per hour) divided by the amount of electricity it uses. The higher the number rating, the more efficient the HVAC unit.

SEER

SEER ratings stem from EER ratings, however, they’re “seasonal” (hence the “S”). SEER ratings were introduced in 1978 after the ACRI realized that there are different seasonal conditions throughout the country. SEER ratings are applied to central HVAC units, but are calculated the same way EER ratings are. Again, the higher the number rating, the more efficient the HVAC unit.

AFUE

If you’re shopping for a gas-fired or oil-fired furnace, water heater, or boiler, you’ll see an AFUE (“average fuel utilization efficiency”) rating. This rating is calculated in percentages using the division of BTU output by how much energy the unit uses. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the unit is.

HSPF

When it comes to air-source heat pumps, look for the “heating seasonal performance factor” rating, or HSPF rating. Like the other ratings, a heat pump’s efficiency is measured by the ratio of BTU’s output per hour to the amount of electricity used. Higher numbers equals higher efficiency. In fact, heat pumps with very high efficiency (usually rated an 8 or higher) may even be considered for an energy tax credit.

If you have any other questions about HVAC ratings or about which type of unit is best for your home or business, give our HVAC contractors a call today.

*Photo credit: missionac.com


The Future of Water Heaters Looks Pretty Interesting…

hot water heater

At Oliver, we’re always interested in new plumbing developments – especially if they’re beneficial to homeowners. Recently, we came across an article in the Washington Post about the future of water heaters. Chris Mooney explains the potential future relationship between water heaters and the power grid:

Grid Interaction

“New research suggests that in the future, one of the most lowly, boring, and ubiquitous of home appliances — the electric water heater — could come to perform a surprising array of new functions that help out the power grid, and potentially even save money on home electricity bills to boot.

The idea is that these water heaters in the future will increasingly ‘grid interactive,’ communicating with local utilities or other coordinating entities, and thereby providing services to the larger grid by modulating their energy use, or heating water at different times of the day. And these services may be valuable enough that their owners could even be compensated for them by their utility companies or other third-party entities.

“Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in more than 50 million homes across the U.S.,” says a new report on the subject by the electricity consulting firm the Brattle Group, which was composed for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Peak Load Management Alliance.

The report finds that net savings to the electricity system as a whole could be $ 200 per year per heater – some of which may be passed on to its owner – from enabling these tanks to interact with the grid and engage in a number of unusual but hardly unprecedented feats. One example would be “thermal storage,” which involves heating water at night when electricity costs less, and thus decreasing demand on the grid during peak hours of the day.”

Deciding Factors

“Of course, precisely what a water heater can do in interaction with the grid depends on factors like its size or water capacity, the state or electricity market you live in, the technologies with which the heater is equipped, and much more.

“Customers that have electric water heaters, those existing water heaters that are already installed can be used to supply this service,” says the Brattle Group’s Ryan Hledik, the report’s lead author. “You would need some additional technology to connect it to grid, but you wouldn’t need to install a new water heater.”

Granted, Hledik says that in most cases, people probably won’t be adding technology to existing heaters, but rather swapping in so-called “grid enabled” or “smart” water heaters when they replace their old ones. In the future, their power companies might encourage or even help them to do so.”

How It Would Work

“Typically, a standard electric water heater — set to, say, 120 degrees — will heat water willy-nilly throughout the day, depending on when it is being used. When some water is used (say, for a shower), it comes out of the tank and more cold water flows in, which is then heated and maintained at the desired temperature.

In contrast, timing the heating of the water — by, say, doing all of the heating at night — could involve either having a larger tank to make sure that the hot water doesn’t run out, or heating water to considerably higher temperatures and then mixing it with cooler water when it comes out to modulate that extra heat.

Through such changes, water heaters will be able to act like a ‘battery’ in the sense that they will be storing thermal energy for longer periods of time. It isn’t possible to then send that energy back to the grid as electrical energy, or to use it to power other household devices — so the battery analogy has to be acknowledged as a limited one (though the Brattle report, entitled “The Hidden Battery,” heavily emphasizes it).

But the potentially large time-lag between the use of electricity to warm the water and use of the water itself nonetheless creates key battery-like opportunities, especially for the grid (where utility companies are very interested right now in adding more energy storage capacity).

It means, for instance, a cost saving if water is warmed late at night, when electricity tends to be the cheapest. It also means that the precise amount of electricity that the water heater draws to do its work at a given time can fluctuate, even as the heater will still get its job done.

These services are valuable, especially if many water heaters can be aggregated together to perform them. That’s because the larger electricity grid sees huge demand swings based on the time of day, along with smaller, constant fluctuations. So if heaters are using the majority of their electricity at night when most of us are asleep, or if they’re aiding in grid ‘frequency regulation’ through instantaneous fluctuations in electricity use that help the overall grid keep supply and demand in balance, then they are playing a role that can merit compensation…”

Great River Energy

“…using electric water heaters to provide some of these services has long been happening in the world of rural electric cooperatives — member-owned utilities that in many cases control the operation of members’ individual water heaters, heating water at night and then using the dollar savings to lower all members’ electricity bills.

Take, as an example, Great River Energy, a Minnesota umbrella cooperative serving some 1.7 million people through 28 smaller cooperatives. The cooperative has been using water heaters as, in effect, batteries for years, says Gary Connett, its director of demand-side management and member services.

“The way we operate these large volume water heaters, we have 70,000 of them that only charge in the nighttime hours, they are 85 to 120 gallon water heaters, they come on at 11 at night, and they are allowed to charge til 7 the next morning,” Connett explains. “And the rest of the day, the next 16 hours, they don’t come on.”

Thus, the electricity used to power the heaters is cheaper than it would be if they were charging during the day, and everybody saves money as a result, Connett says.

But that’s just the first step. Right now, Great River Energy is piloting a program in which water heaters charging at night also help provide grid frequency regulation services by slightly altering how much electricity they use. As the grid adds more and more variable resources like wind power, Connett says, using water heaters to provide a ‘ballast’ against that variability becomes more and more useful.

“These water heaters, I joke about, they’re the battery in the basement,” says Connett. “They’re kind of an unsung hero, but we’ve studied smart appliances, and I have to say, maybe the smartest appliance is this water heater.”…

A Smaller Footprint

“…in the future, it may be that our power companies try to sign us up for programs that would turn our water heaters into grid resources (and compensate us in some way for that, maybe through a rebate for buying a grid-interactive heater, or maybe by lowering our bills). Or, alternatively, in the future some people may be able to sign up with so-called demand response ‘aggregators’ that pool together many residential customers and their devices to provide services to the grid.

And as if that’s not enough, the Brattle Group report also finds that, since water heating is such a big consumer of electricity overall — 9 percent of all household use — these strategies could someday lessen overall greenhouse gas emissions. That would be especially the case if the heaters are being used to warm water during specific hours of the day when a given grid is more reliant on renewables or natural gas, rather than coal. Controlling when heaters are used could have this potential benefit, too…”


 

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