When we hear the phrase “water heater,” most of us probably get a picture in our heads of the traditional storage water heater. Although many other types of water heaters are now available, the standard storage water heater remains the most commonly seen in homes across the United States. A storage water heater consists of a tank or reservoir that holds water. A pipe brings cold water into the tank, where it is heated. Warm water rises to the top of the tank and is disbursed through another pipe whenever hot water is needed throughout the house. Storage water heaters all do basically the same thing, they just use different sources of energy for heating the water. Let’s take a closer look.

 

STORAGE water heaterBasic Structure

The basic structure of a storage water heater is pretty simple. The visible part — the drum — is a tall cylindrical tank made of heavy metal, a layer of insulation and an outer shell. Tanks hold 30 – 80 gallons of water, depending on size. Coldwater enters the tank through the dip tube. The end of the heat-out pipe lies near the top of the tank, ready to whisk heated water wherever it is needed. Other essential parts of each storage water heater are the thermostat, drain valve, pressure relief valve, sacrificial anode rod, and a shut-off valve. The heating mechanisms differ in how they supply the heat needed to warm the water. We’ll look at gas water heaters first.

 

Gas Water Heaters

Gas water heaters, as the name implies, use natural gas or propane to fuel the heat for your water. The heating system for this type water heater has two main parts: the burner and the venting system.

gas water heaterThe Burner

The burner sits beneath the tank in a small chamber. This burner operates on the combustion principle. Gas — either natural gas or liquid propane (LP) flows through a valve into the burner. A thermostat located outside the tank projects a heat sensitive probe inside the tank. The thermostat controls the flow of gas to the burner. Combustion occurs when the pilot light ignites the gas flowing through the burner. Flames heat the bottom of the tank, transferring heat to the water inside the tank. Small openings in the combustion chamber allow air to enter.

As long as gas and air continue to flow into the combustion chamber, the burner will continue to heat water. Thermostats are generally set between 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit , although newer models may restrict the upper limit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. An energy cut off switch acts as a safety mechanism within the thermostat. If the probe detects water temperature above 190 degrees F, the energy cut off valve shuts off the gas flow. If this happens, you usually have to replace the entire gas valve mechanism. The combustion process, though very efficient for heating, produces harmful fumes and requires proper venting.

gas water heaterThe Venting System

Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide produced in the combustion process are harmful to breathe. They must be vented outside the home or office to protect the people inside the buildings. Gas storage water heaters use a flue and hood venting system. The flue consists of a bottom hood within the combustion chamber. This hood collects and directs the exhaust fumes up through the flue. The flue itself is a small tube rising through the tank and exiting at the top. Many flues now contain baffles. A baffle is a shaped like a helix. It deflects the exhaust push the heated air to the sides of the flue to help heat the water. Exhaust exits the tank through the draft hood located just above the top of the tank. The draft hood prevents back drafts into the flue and vents noxious gasses outside the home or office.

Electric Water Heaters

storage water heaterElectric storage water heaters have the same basic parts as their gas-fueled cousins. Rather than heating water with fire, though, electric water heaters use electricity. The heating system for an electric water heater also has to main parts: the elements and the circuit control.

The elements

The elements in this system work much like the burners on an electric stove. Elements may be stainless steel or copper-plated. They consist of a wire surrounded by filler material encased in a U-shaped tube of either stainless steel or copper. They project into the tank about one-third down from the top of the tank and one-third up from the bottom. Each element has its own thermostat. As electricity flows through the inner wire, resistance in the wire generates heat. The heat passes into the filler material and outer sheath of the element to heat the water. The upper element operates first to heat the top one-third of the water to the temperature set on the thermostat. Once the upper water has reached this temperature, the lower element comes on and heats the middle third of the water.

The control circuit

storage water heatersThe control circuit includes the elements, thermostats, a high limit control switch, and a reset button. As in the case with the gas-powered water heater, the electric water heater also carefully monitors water temperature and pressure. If water temperature in the electric water heater exceeds the established limit, the high limit switch activates and shuts down the entire unit. You can restart the unit once it cools by pushing the reset button on the thermostat.

which storage water heaterConclusion

Well, there you have it. Although both types of storage water heaters provide the same function, the do so by very different means. When you’re considering a new water heater, be sure you review all your options carefully. Both types of heater have energy efficiency and safety features built in. Just how much money you can save will depend on the needs of your family or business. Give us a call today. We’ll walk you through all the details and help you make the best choice for your particular needs.

Whether you’re renting your home, or you own it, one issue you are bound to have is the dreaded “slow drain.” Thankfully, this problem is typically nothing too serious, and you should be able to fix it on your own. Before you try to fix it, you should have a clear understanding of how your sink works and what is the probable cause for your sink or shower draining slowly. Once you understand the basics, there are a few key tricks that can help you unclog your drain, DIY style.

slow drain fixesWhat Type of Drain is Slow?

As previously stated, knowing how to fix your slow drain depends on two things:

  1. Which drain is slow?
  2. What are the common causes for that particular drain?

After those two things are figured out, fixing your drain should be a breeze.

Bathroom Drain

slow tub drainIf your shower or bath tub drain is not working as well as it use to, the most common reason for this is hair. It doesn’t matter if you have short or long hair, if you give it enough time, the hair will build up in the pop-up assembly of your shower/tub drain and cause it to drain much slower than normal. If this isn’t taken care of, your hair will soon trap other sorts of debris which will eventually lead your drain not draining all together.

Kitchen Drain

slow kitchen drainThe most common reason your kitchen sink would not be draining will be food related. One of the biggest culprits is grease that gets trapped either in the P-trap, which is the curved section of your drainpipe that is located under your kitchen sink, or the drain basket itself. Food itself can get stuck in the bottom of the P-trap and hinder waterflow. Not only will this problem be inconvenient, but it can also get smelly.

Other Common Drain Problems

Its important to know that just because your drain is draining slow, doesn’t mean that the problem is right at the surface. You should also be well informed about how your venting and sewer lines function, and what the signs are of a malfunction.

Sewer Lines

sewer line clogsThese are the main lines that will carry your household waste water and sewage away. One of the biggest things that can mess up your sewer lines is tree roots. The tree roots are attracted to all the nutrients that flow through these lines, and the roots will find any weak points, cracks or holes in your sewer lines. They will push their way into the pipes, rendering them useless. Its also important to know how old your pipelines are, because another common cause for sewer line problems is that they have begun to collapse or deteriorate. One big red flag that is indicative of a sewer line problem is if your toilet constantly clogs or flushes slowly.

Vents

vent stacksVent stacks are an important part of your plumbing because they allow air into your pipelines, reducing the vacuum effect that would restrict water flow. These stacks are in your bathroom and kitchen areas around your house. Typically, vent stacks are the pipes that are protruding through your roof. The most common reason they get clogged is by leaves, sticks and sometimes bird nests.

DIY Fixes

There are several things that you can try before calling in a professional to come and fix it for you. Just remember to clear out any standing water in your sink or tub before you try to move the blockage, as the water will get in your way.

Boiling Hot Waterboiling water for clogs

This is going to be your cheapest way to try and fix your draining problem. With this method, all you have to do is boil some water on your stove, make sure that there is little to now standing water in your way, pour the hot water into your sink and wait. You may have to repeat this process, but if the clog is small enough, this should move the clog along and out of the way.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

slow drain clogsFor this method, you poor about a cup of baking soda into your drain.  Next, pour the same amount of either white or apple cider vinegar down the drain. This combination will bubble initially, then it will calm down. Once this happens, put the stopper in your drain and wait for about 15 minutes. After that time frame, run hot water to see if this cleared the clog.

 

Plunger

slow drainsIt is a good idea to invest in a designated sink plunger, if you can’t fix the clogs with the previous methods. You can use a sink plunger on either a single or double sink. If you have a double sink, first seal off the second side with either a wet cloth or a stopper. To properly plunge your sink, you will need fill you sink up with enough water to cover the bell of you plunger. Then all you must do is plunge it like you would a toilet. If this works, you should hear the suction clear the clog, remove your plunger and run warm water for a few minutes.

Drain Snake

clogged drainsThis tool, also called an auger or plumber’s snake, can clear the clogs that might be stuck deeper in the system. You simply stick this down the top of your drain until you feel something stop it, which is probably the clog.  Then you twist it around until you feel the obstruction loosen. If the clog is even deeper, you will have to take apart your drainpipe and P-trap.

Conclusion

While DIY fixes save money, they do not always work out. If your DIY fails or if you just do not have the time to track down and fix the slow drain issue, we can help. Contact us today. We can help you get your drains flowing smoothly in no time!

Water heaters. We use them every day without thinking about them. The next types of water heaters in our series provide cost-effective and exciting ways to heat your water and save money.

What is a Tankless Coil Water Heater?

It is a device that supplies hot water, whenever needed, without the use of a water tank. It utilizes the hot water boiler to heat water for the household plumbing. In some cases, it is a slide in option for select boilers.

How Does a Tankless Coil Water Heater work?

When the hot water faucet is turned on, cold water is flooded into the inlet side of the heat exchanger in the boiler. The heat exchanger is located near the top of the water or steam boiler and is typically made of copper pipes. The copper piping ensures the best heat transference. After this process, the water is usually too hot for household use. As such, most setups have a regulated tempering valve which releases a small amount of cold water. This allows the water to cool to a safer temperature of about one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Pros of having a Tankless Coil Water Heater:

It’s easily fitted to most boilers, including steam boilers. It is far more cost-efficient in the winter months than a typical water heater. This type of water heater is much cheaper to install and maintain than basic water heaters. If something were to go wrong or break, these water heaters are easier to replace. It basically supplies limitless hot water to the household. The biggest pro is the saving on heating costs because it doesn’t lose any heat from standing heated water.

Cons of having a Tankless Coil Water Heater:

While it is cost savvy in the winter months, this isn’t a great option for people in warmer climates, or during summer months. This is due to the reduced need and frequency for hot water on demand. Also, it’s lifespan is not as long as other water heaters. The Tankless Coil Water Heater only lasts about 10 years if properly maintained. Unfortunately, the Tankless Water Heater is not compatible with a furnace. Something else to consider is the quality of water running to your household. If the household is on hard water supply, the Tankless Coil Water Heater will require a water softener to run smoothly and efficiently.

What is an Indirect Water heater?

The Indirect Water Heater is a more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly way to heat water. It is a little tank-like device that holds a coiled heat exchanger. The Indirect Water Heater relies on the boiler to heat the household water, as it does not produce its own heat.

How does an Indirect Water Heater work?

A closed-loop water pipe connects the Indirect Water Heater to the boiler, where the boiler supplies heated water to it. This boiler water never mixes with the water in the Indirect Water Heater. The water circulates through the heat exchanging coils, heating the water in the tank that is for the household use. The Indirect Water heater is basically a conduit. The household water flows through the water heater to be heated and pushed up to the household appliances. The Indirect Water Heater pays for itself as it saves on heating costs, and allows the furnace to turn off and on less often.

Pros and Cons of having an Indirect Water Heater.

The Indirect Water Heater is very similar to the Tankless Coil Water heater. They both are great money savers, both better for winter months/cooler climates. The main difference between them is that a Tankless Coil Water Heater cannot use a furnace in its functions, whereas the Indirect Water Heater is furnace compatible.

If you are in the market for a new water heating system and are looking to save some money then give us a call today! We are ready to help you with your next home improvement project.

Do you call a licensed plumber or DIY it? Despite the claims of popular DIY shows, not to mention YouTube videos, there are just some plumbing issues you cannot DIY. The key for the average homeowner is knowing their own limits. What might be a simple fix for a professional could run into two or three times the trouble and cost with a DIY-gone-bad.

That said, Knoxville Plumbing has put together a short list of plumbing issues that can usually be a successful DIY project along with ones that should be handled by a licensed plumber.

DIY

The most successful DIY projects will only require a minimal number of tools and will be in easy-to-access areas. They may require a trip to the hardware store, but should not take too much time out of your day.

Leaky faucets

Faucets leak from either the handles or the spout. To DIY repair the leak you have to determine where it originates. After you figure out where the leak is, turn off your water supply to the faucet. Next,  disassemble that part of the faucet, using appropriate tools. You may need to replace O rings, washers, cartridges, or an aerator. Taking the worn or damaged part with you to the hardware store will help you to figure out exactly which replacement you need.

 

Clogs

Most clogs respond well to DIY treatments. Try pouring boiling water down the clogged pipe, as long as it is not PVC. Other common and successful DIY tricks are plunging, baking soda and vinegar, or a small drain snake. You can also remove the P trap under the sink to try to find the clog. If the clog persists, or you do not want to start pulling your pipes apart, your best bet is to call a licensed plumber to get deeper into the problem.

 

Toilet “running” or “phantom flush”

If your toilet continues to run after the tank is full, it is usually an easy fix. These problems occur when there is a problem with the fill tube, the water level float, the flush handle/flapper chain, or the flapper itself. You will have to drain the tank and bowl to perform some of these repairs, so if it looks more troublesome than you have time for, just give us a call.

 

When to call a licensed plumber

We recommend every homeowner have basic plumbing tools, including a heavy pipe wrench, a water meter key,  an adjustable wrench, and a toilet auger. These jobs, however, can lead to much more complex problems and require specialized equipment and experience to correctly diagnose and repair. We recommend calling a licensed plumber for these kinds of jobs.

Pipes

Anytime you have to take pipes apart, you should have a licensed plumber doing the work. They will be able to assess multiple factors including the age of your pipes and the exact needs for your pipes when it comes to putting everything back together again.

Sump pumps

The sump pit, usually in the basement,  collects water that drains into the house from groundwater or perimeter drains. Once water has accumulated in the pit, the pump pushes the water away from the house. Your sump pump is an easy to forget — an out-of-sight, out-of-mind appliance. You do not want to forget or ignore it. The potential for serious problems if it is not working properly makes this type of installation, maintenance, and repair best for a licensed plumber rather than DIY. You do not want to deal with a broken or improperly installed sump pump.

Mainline backups

Gurgling sounds and water backing up in your drains, toilet, or bathtub indicate a major problem. Mainline backups require specialized equipment including a camera attached to a line to accurately assess the damage and plan repairs. The repairs often entail using digging equipment to access the damaged pipes. You definitely want a licensed plumber dealing with the wastewater rather than exposing yourself to this hazardous waste.

A failed DIY

If you get started with a DIY that turns into a nightmare, that is where we come in! Knoxville Plumbing has expert licensed plumbers standing by to help with any of your plumbing concerns. Here are a few of the most common DIY plumbing fails, according to Family Handyman. You can read details about each of these fails on Family Handyman.

 

10 Most Common DIY Plumbing Fails

  1. Overtightening connections
  2. Wrapping Thread Tape Backward or Using the Wrong Tape
  3. Using Drain Cleaners as a First Choice
  4. Tackling a Plumbing Job Without Spare Parts
  5. Not Turning Off the Water
  6. Using Too Much Muscle On a Stuck Shut Off Valve
  7. Sweating Copper Pipes With Water in the Line
  8. Not Having the Right Tools
  9. Mixing up Wyes, Tees, and Elbows
  10. Installing a Saddle Valve for an Ice Maker or Humidifier

Conclusion

DIY projects are a great option for many homeowners in the right circumstances. We appreciate the need to save money and the sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. But, if your DIY project gets out of control or if the plumbing problem is beyond your expertise, Knoxville Plumbing can help. Give us a call today!