One of the most-used and least-thought-about appliances in your home lives tucked away in either your basement or an out-of-the-way closet. Your electric storage tank water heater. We do remember it, though, when we run out of hot water. Although problems are not common, they do come along from time to time. Let’s take a look at the most common problems you’ll see with electric water heaters. Safety tip: Remember to UNPLUG the appliance before you start troubleshooting.

 

Temperature problems

Problems with water temperature far outrank any other water heater problems. Thankfully, repairs tend to be inexpensive for these types of issues.

water heater circuitNo hot water

When you have no hot water at all, check your circuit breaker to make sure a breaker has not been tripped. If the circuit has been tripped, switch it off and back on again to reset it. If the problem is not the breaker, you will want to check the hot water temperature reset button above the upper thermostat inside the heater. In electric water heaters, failed heating elements or a faulty thermostat can also cause no hot water. If this is the case, you will need to check both the upper and lower elements and thermostats and replace whatever is malfunctioning.

Not enough hot waterwater heater tank size chart

Tank size. The primary cause of not enough hot water is a tank that is too small to meet your family’s needs. If your family has grown since you bought your home or if you have added newer water-using appliances (i.e. dishwasher, washing machine) your tank may not be able to keep up with the increased demand. In this case, the best option is to replace your tank. The Department of Energy provides guidelines on sizing your water heater tank needs. We also encourage you to consider multiple options such as our tankless or on-demand water heaters.

Electrical issues. A thermostat that is set too low can also explain why there is not enough hot water. Other culprits can be a failed upper water heater, a faulty thermostat or loose wiring. The elements can also become encrusted with sediment which prevents them from heating the water adequately.

 

Water too hotwater heater thermostats

This problem most likely stems from a thermostat that is set too high. You will have to access the thermostats for each element to lower the temperature. If you are unable to lower temperature settings, your thermostat has most likely failed and will need to be replaced.

 

ball valve inletLeaks

The second most common problem with electric storage heaters is leaking. Leaks present significant safety hazards and should be dealt with as soon as they are discovered.

From the top

While water leaking from the top of the tank poses a less immediate threat, you still need to address it in a timely manner to keep it from becoming a more serious issue. Water leaking from the top of the heater tank can come from only a limited number of sources, most of which can be easily remedied. Check the ball valve in the cold water inbound line. If this is the source of your leak, simply tighten the nut securing the handle to the valve. Another potential leak site is the temperature and pressure relief valve on the top of the tank. If this is leaking, you will most likely need to replace it. If water is leaking from any of the pipe joints, you will probably want to call in a professional to make repairs.

leaking tpr drain pipeFrom the bottom

Water under your tank can be coming from a loose heating element gasket, simple condensation, or a little run-off from the TPR valve releasing some water. It can also be a case of corrosion rusting out the bottom of your tank, in which case, the tank will have be replaced.

 

CONCLUSION

Electric water heaters don’t generally have problems, but when they do, you’ll know what to look for. If you decide to replace your water heater, we’d love to talk with you about your options. Water heating isn’t just for tanks anymore!  As with any type of plumbing issue, if you feel uncomfortable troubleshooting or managing repairs, give us a call! We offer 24-hour emergency service and welcome the opportunity to serve you and your family.

Gas water heaters remain a popular option among homeowners. In spite of competition from their electric counterparts, gas storage water heaters supply hot water to about 60% of America’s homes. How you choose to heat your household water makes a difference in an economy where heating water in the home has become the second-largest household expense, according to the Department of Energy. Gas storage water heaters are a great option for lots of families, but they can still have some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems associated with a gas storage water heater.

Gas water heater problems with performance issues

Typical gas storage water heaters tend to outperform same size electric storage water heaters. They just have a faster recovery time. Sometimes, though, older — and even newer — units can malfunction. Here are some common gas water heater problems.

no hot water, water heaterLittle or no hot water

Arguably the most annoying hot water heater problem, reduced or no hot water when it’s needed ranks as the most common issue. Little hot water results from a variety of issues.

Increased demand for hot water prevents the water heater from fully heating water before delivering it. Are you remodeling? Do you have guests or a new family member? How about a new, larger washing machine? All of these can increase the demand for hot water and affect how quickly the water heater recovers. Other common causes of reduced hot water supply are:

  • Thermostat set too low
  • Thermostat malfunction
  • Faulty dip tube
  • Sediment build up in tank
  • Incoming water pressure is low
  • Dirty or faulty gas burner

Adjust the thermostat to a higher temperature and see if this resolves the issue. If not, you may need to check the thermocouple. This is a safety device that shuts off the gas if the pilot light goes out. It is fairly easy to replace. A faulty drip tube delivers cold water into the tank at a higher level than designed. This allows the cold incoming water to mix with the hot water at the top of the tank and cool it down. Replacing the drip tube can remedy this problem. Over time, sediment build up in the bottom of all storage water heater tanks. This layer of sediment prevents the burner from heating the water as efficiently. Annually flushing your water heater eliminates this problem. The gas burner beneath your water heater may also be in need of cleaning or replacement.

No hot water

If you have no hot water, you might have a problem with your pilot. Pilot lights can go out when there is no problem with the unit. If this is the case, simply relight the pilot. If the pilot fails to stay lit, you probably have a bad thermocouple. Older gas water heaters have a pilot easy to light with a match or a candle-lighter. Newer models, however, have a button you push to activate a spark igniter inside the burner compartment. If the problem is the thermocouple on an older unit, you can DIY the replacement. A newer unit requires the services of a professional because the thermocouple is behind the sealed compartment and not easy to access safely without the proper equipment. If the thermocouple is not the problem, you might have a faulty gas valve. In this case, definitely call in the professionals.

 

Leaking

If you find water on the floor under or near your water heater, you need to find the source of the leak. Leaks can occur in several different places on your water heater. One potential leak location is the top of the tank where the cold water enters the drip tube. This leak presents an easy fix. Just tighten the connections. The T & P (Temperature & Pressure) relief valve sits on the outside of the tank near the top and has a small pipe running to a drain near the heater. You can repair a leak from this valve, but if the leak originates in the bottom of the tank, you will have to completely replace the tank.

 

 

 

Gas water heater problems with sounds and smells

Faulty plumbing and normal wear-and-tear provide a homeowner with plenty to do. Unfortunately, gas water heaters have a reputation for some additional types of problems.

Sounds

Rumbling. Popping. Ticking. Sizzling. Hissing. Hammering. Knocking. Gas water heaters have a reputation for conjuring all of these noises. Fortunately, each sound indicates a specific problem or two for you to check and correct.

electric water heater maintenance tips Pleasant How to Remove Water Heater Sediment Top Water HeatersPopping:

This occurs when sediment has built up in the bottom of your tank. The sediment causes the water to boil. Water bubbling up through the sediment makes the popping sound.

The Fix: Flush your tank annually to keep sediment from becoming a hazard. Or, install a water softener system to prevent sediment from collecting in the tank at all.

Ticking:

Ticking noises come from a couple of problems. The first, variations in water pressure, you really can’t fix. The second, however, presents an easy fix. The pipe straps holding the hot water lines that come out of the tank can be loose and cause an annoying ticking sound.

The Fix: Pick up some plastic spacers at the hardware store and install them to keep the straps from slapping into the pipes.

Sizzling or hissing:

This sound also arises from a couple of possible sources. A tightly closed relief valve can generate a sizzling sound. Water dropping onto the hot gas burner assembly will also cause a sizzling noise.

The Fix: Not so easy this time. The water dripping onto the burner is probably coming from the bottom of your tank. A leaky tank can’t be fixed. It must be replaced.

Rumbling:

This is also a sound you really don’t want to hear from your tank. A rumbling sound occurs when the tank has begun to rust out from sediment build-up.

The Fix: The rusting metal leads directly to a leaking tank, which, as stated previously, leads to a replacement.

rust-colored water running out of a faucetDiscolored water

Has this ever happened to you? You turn the hot water on, step into the shower and get splattered by reddish brown streams jetting from your shower head? Hopefully, it hasn’t. But, if it does you can narrow it down to a couple of sources. Rust in plumbing can cause water to appear yellow, brown, or red. The rust could be in the pipes inside your home. It could also be in the outside pipes leading into your home or even in the water heater. The good news is that it’s not really a health hazard. The bad news is — well — it’s pretty unsightly. It also causes the water to taste metallic and can leave stains on clothing and toilets and tubs. This fix has to be handled by installing a water treatment system.

Rotten egg smell

Unfortunately, discolored water is often accompanied by a nasty, sulfur-like rotten egg odor. This sewage-like smell indicates that bacteria are growing in your water heater. This happens for a few reasons. If you’ve been away and turned the water off or turned the thermostat too low to keep the water hot, bacteria will take advantage of a prime place to colonize. Although the bacteria are not harmful, it’s best to have a professional plumber help you deal with this problem.

 

CONCLUSION

Your gas water heater provides essential service for your family. Make sure you take care of it.Whether your gas water heater is new or old, if you’re experiencing any of these issues, Knoxville Plumbing is here to help. Give us a call today for any of your plumbing needs!

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. Cold water 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.

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.

Solar water heaters have the potential of being an ecofriendly and cost-efficient way of heating one’s household water supply. The process is simple and does just what the name implies. This type of system harnesses sunlight, turning it into heat through a device called a Solar Thermal Collector.

Direct solar water heater systems

There are several types of solar water heaters on the market. While it’s true that these water heaters can work in any climate, some do work better in warmer areas.

Open loop

One of the most common types of Solar Water Heaters is called a Direct System, also known as an “active” or “open loop”.  The process for the Active system is simple: Water is circulated from the water tank, up to the roof to the Solar Thermal Collectors. The water is then heated in the collectors and transferred down to the water tank and into the household, ready, for use. This type of system is best for tropical climates, as it doesn’t require assistance in heating one’s water.

Closed loop

The most common Solar Water Heater, in the Direct System, is the Indirect or “closed-loop” system. These work best in climates where temperatures drop below freezing. This system uses a combination of sunlight and antifreeze to heat the water. Antifreeze is circulated from the water heater up to the Solar Thermal Collectors, heated, and then moved down into the heat exchanger, heating the water in the tank, indirectly. The cooler antifreeze is then pushed back up to the collectors where the process begins again.

Common Problems with Solar Water Heaters

Leaking

Probably the most common problem with a Solar Water Heater is leaking. The most plausible explanation for this is a leaky temperature and pressure relief valve on the solar heater. Do not try to repair this problem on your own. It’s better to call and have a technician come out and replace it. Another reason leaks can occur is because the piping in the solar panel has burst. This may be due to either freezing weather conditions or simply too much pressure in the pipes. It is best to call a technician to come and assess this problem as well. The problem could also be that the pipe fittings just need to be tightened.

Not enough hot water

The second most common problem is not having enough hot water. To address this issue you can do a couple of things.

Make sure the solar panel is in the correct placement on the roof, i.e. away from tree shading, facing south with the recommended tilt. Also consider if the solar panel size is correct for the household size. The amount of hot water that you use will help determine the size you need. Not having enough hot water can also be caused by a leaky or stuck valve. Make sure that if there is a back up storage tank, that the thermostat is set to the right temperature. Be mindful in the winter months that the solar panel is given an adequate slope, so the output end is higher. There could also be a system blockage. If so, all you need to do is flush the system until the flow is no longer blocked. The most important thing you can do is make sure that the solar panels are properly insulated.

No hot waterno hot water, water heaters

Finally, the third most often reported problem is no hot water at all. To avoid this problem, it is best to be preemptive. Make sure to maintain the absorber paint on the collector panels. If this paint deteriorates, it can cause the system to be less efficient. Make sure that the paint is both heat and UV exposure resistant. Also make sure to provide a small weep hole on the bottom of the collectors. When there is a lot of condensation inside the panels, the excess needs to be expelled so as not to affect the performance of the system.

Conclusion

Despite their drawbacks, Solar Water Heaters are a great option for alternative-energy conscious homeowners. If you are looking to save money, we’ve got everything you need to get you started on this eco-friendly alternative energy option for your home. Give us a call today!

scrabble tiles spell save on top of pile of moneyTankless or demand-type water heaters are a type of water heater that only heats up water when one needs it. They are a more cost-efficient way of heating water because they don’t waste as much energy on heating a whole storage water tank. They are also referred to as instantaneous water heaters.

How do they work?

 

diagram of how tankless water heater works

The way these water heaters are designed is quite ingenious. The hot water is turned on at the tap, and cold water is propelled though the pipeline into the unit. Once this happens, either an electric unit or a gas burner heats the water. This type of system practically insures that one will always have hot water available. It will produce about 2-5 gallons of hot water per minute. Keep in mind that a gas-burning water heater will yield larger quantities of flow rates than an electric-powered water heater. The beauty of this is that the demand-type water heater will do all of this without needing a hot water heating tank, saving space, money, and energy in the process.

While the tankless water heater itself is more expensive than the typical storage water heater, it will usually last longer. Tankless water heaters also cost less to operate, and as mentioned before, save energy. All that counters the initial purchase price. In addition, the storage water heater only lasts about 10-15 years, whereas a tankless water heater will last up to 20. It is also easy to keep up with the maintenance of a tankless water heater because its parts are so easy to come by and usually cheap.

What are some common problems with tankless water heaters?

Running out of hot water

One of the most common problems with a tankless or demand-type water heater is that it runs out of hot water too quickly. There are several variables that one must consider when dealing with this problem. One reason this could be happening is that tankless water heaters cannot supply enough hot water when the hot water is being used for multiple things at the same time. For example, if one household is using the dishwasher, the laundry machine, and the shower all at the same time, this will drastically impede the water heater’s ability to supply hot water to all three places. A simple but slightly pricey solution to this problem is to install an additional tankless water heater next to the original to help spread the hot water throughout the household. Another possibility is to install appliance-specific water heaters onto the appliances.

close-up of blockage in pipeMineral build-up

Mineral build-up can be another culprit. Hard water can be damaging and counter-productive for any water heater. Be sure to flush the tankless water heater about every six months or so to insure optimal usage. Consider a water softener to help keep the mineral build-up to a minimum.

flame lighting matchesFailure to ignite

Failure to ignite is a frustrating problem. This is often caused by blockage of the air supply or exhaust. Many tankless water heaters will have a display with an error code to tell that there is an air supply or exhaust problem. The demand-type water heater is most likely struggling with venting or combustion air. Make sure all the vents are clear. Look out for small animals, birds or even wasps. These creatures like to make their homes in or around the outside vents.

Flame failure

Flame failure is another common problem. This typically occurs from an electrical or gas pressure issue. Make sure that it is not because of an overdue gas bill or empty propane tank before calling professionals.

Sound good?

Give us a call if it’s time to change the way your house heats water! We have professionals standing by to help with the next chapter in your home improvement journey.

Whether your water heater broke or your family is growing, you might just need a new water heater. Choosing a new one doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just follow these tips, and this will be one of the easiest things you’ve done!

Research How Water Heaters Work

There are a lot of different kinds of water heaters. They range from tank to tankless and can be powered by gas, electricity, oil, solar or heat pump.

graph showing differences between electric and gas water heatersThe two most common tank water heaters run on gas or electricity.

Electric water heaters use coils that go down into the tank to heat your water. This type is ideal for a smaller household that doesn’t require much hot water. Although electric water heaters might be cheaper to purchase, they’re not as efficient as gas heaters in the long run. They also tend to be more expensive over time.

Gas heaters, be it natural gas or propane, are another common water heater choice. They use a gas burner that is vented through a chimney or small wall vent. Propane gas heaters are used when natural gas is not accessible. Propane tends to be cheaper than natural gas.

Above are great examples of tank water heaters, but there is another option: a tankless water heater.

graph of a water heater in a basementAlso known as the “on demand” water heater, it only turns on when you need hot water. There is no holding tank, which makes this a more efficient option. However, like the electric water heater, this also makes it a more expensive option.

You also need to consider the lifetime expectancy of the heater you choose. Where a tank water heater can hold from 40 to 60 gallons of hot water and last up to 13 years, a tankless heater can last up to 20 years.

Taking all this into consideration, it ultimately comes to what is most suitable for you and your household.

Size and Storage Of Water Heaters

You must factor size and storage into your search for a new water heater. To help with this, think back to how satisfied you were with how your old one worked. Some things to consider: Did you had enough hot water? How long did you have to wait for it to reheat?

graph of water heaters and sizes

If the old water heater didn’t provide enough hot water, you might want to upgrade the size of the new water heater.

For a storage tank water heater, a very important factor to consider is the amount of water that can be held and the recovery rate, which is basically the amount of water that can be heated in an hour. An energy sticker on the new water heater will display the recovery rate as First Hour Rating (FHR).

For example, a four-person household would require a 40- to 50-gallon water tank, whereas a two-person household could skate by with a 30- to 40-gallon tank.

Gas heaters have a better FHR than electric water heaters, which means they have a smaller tank with the same EF rating.

Now What?

Choosing your new water heater doesn’t have to be a headache. Just remember: do your research on types, sizes and storage options.

If you get stuck, give us a call. Here at Knoxville Plumbing, we have experts who can help you evaluate what your family needs and match these up with the heater that will work best for you and your household.

frustrated kid holding his headIt can be very frustrating trying to figure out if it’s time to replace the household water heater, or if it simply needs a little TLC. This article will help shed some light on whether it just needs a repair, or if it needs to be replaced.

There are plenty of signs that a water heater is about to fail. Below are some of the most common indications that it’s time to replace the household water heater. 

Common Signs It’s Time To Replace the Water Heater

rust-colored water running out of a faucet

If the water heater is 10 years or older, it will be in the best interest of the house to go ahead and replace it before it starts causing problems. To check the age of the water heater, simply look on the upper part of it and find the manufacturer’s sticker.

If rust-colored, metallic tasting water is coming out of the hot water faucet, this is another big indicator. Dark, metallic water is a clear sign that the inside of the water heater is beginning to rust. If this is left unattended for too long, it will severely damage the tank. It will also begin to leak and cause more damage to the home. 

sediment at bottom of a water heaterWith older water heaters, it is not uncommon to notice strange noises or rumbling coming from the unit. These are usually caused by excessive sediment build-up accumulating on the bottom of the water heater. As the water heater will frequently change temperature, the sediment will eventually harden. When this happens, it will be harder for the water heater to effectively heat the household water supply. This will ultimately cost more money to run it. 

leak underneath water heaterConsistent “puddles” around the base of the water heater could be a sign that there are fissures and cracks in the hull of the tank. As the metal heats and expands and then cools and shrinks again, this causes these fissures and cracks. While this is normal and should not cause problems for quite some time, in an older water heater it could be a sign that it is time to replace the water heater. But before doing that, make sure that leaky pipes or loose valves are not to blame.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water? 

shivering duckIt’s safe to assume that the biggest problem with water heaters is that there is often not enough hot water being supplied to the household. There are some simple explanations as to why this is happening, regardless of the type of water heater (i.e. gas or electric).

Electric Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes 

yellow lightning boltMake sure that the water heater has a proper connection to the power source, and then, reset the thermostat. There could also be too much sediment in the bottom. As mentioned above, this impedes the function and makes it harder to heat enough amounts of water. A good flushing of the water tank will make sure that all the sediment is removed.

Another culprit might be that the pipes are not properly insulated, and the water is losing heat on its way up to the rest of the household. Another thing to assess is the heating element or thermostat. If this is the case, it would be best to just replace that part, rather than the entire unit. If all those things check out fine, it could just be as easy as raising the temperature.

Gas Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes

close up of water heaterThere are only a few differences when it comes to assessing problems with electric and gas water heaters. The first thing to check on a gas model is the pilot light. If the pilot light has gone out, relight it, and make sure that the gas valve is hooked up securely and properly. Another issue could be that the gas burner needs to be cleaned. The cleaning is a good time to go ahead and replace the thermocouple, too. Just like electric versions, it is important to flush to rid the tank of sediment. Also, keep an eye out for rusty water coming from the hot water faucet.

In conclusion, if the tank itself is presenting serious damage signs, it is smartest to replace the whole water heater. Give us a call, and we will be more than happy to help you make the right decision!

Looking for ways to cut energy costs? New, more energy-efficient water heaters are flooding the modern marketplace. High on the list are water pump water heaters.

This article series starts an exploration of heat pump water heaters.

What is a heat pump water heater?

A heat pump water heater, or HPWH, uses surrounding air to heat water. It takes in air, heats it to a higher temperature and then channels that air into a water tank to heat the water. The HPWH can be a stand-alone unit, or it can be retrofitted on a water tank.

The Geothermal Heat Pump

The most common type of HPWH is a geothermal heat pump. The geothermal heat pump uses heat from the ground during the winter months. During the spring and summer months it uses heat from the surrounding air.

 

Controls

Most units come with control panels displaying multiple operating options. Below is a list of possible modes listed on the control:

  • Efficiency/Economy mode: will only use the heat pump to heat water when hot water is needed
  • Electric/Heater mode: Least efficient option, this will only use the electric element to heat water
  • Vacation/Timer mode: typically referred to as “sleep” mode, this is not on all HPWH models,
  • Auto/Hybrid mode: this is a default setting for everyday use of sustained heat

How the HPWH Works

The HPWH is a far more efficient way to heat household water because it using air already present in the environment.  A common analogy to explain how a HPWH works is a refrigerator. The refrigerator is designed to expel heat and create a cold place. In a similar way, the HPWH pulls in heated air, internalizes it, heats it to a desired temperature and uses that air to heat water for the household’s benefit.

Common HPWH Problems and Solutions

Winter Issues

One of the most common problems with a HPWH is icing up, especially in the winter time. The outside unit will often be covered with frost or maybe even a thin layer of ice. This is completely normal. When everything is working properly, the device has a built-in defrosting system that will help to take care of this problem. However, say the unit is covered in a thick layer of ice, or maybe the coils are surrounded by ice, and in a worst case scenario, the entire unit is completely covered in thick ice and heavy snow. All those problems could obstruct the transfer of heat from inside to the outside refrigerant which would continue to delay the HPWH functions. If this is left untreated, this could severely damage the unit beyond repair.

Here are a few ways to troubleshoot this problem before having to call in an expert:

  • See if your unit is activating its defrosting system
  • Make sure the outside fan is working properly
  • Check that the refrigerant level is where it is supposed to be
  • Inspect the outdoor unit for obstructions,  like ice or snow
  • Make sure there is no water leaking onto the unit from gutters or other places

Never chip away at the ice.

This could damage the fan coils in the device. Instead, use water to melt the ice. Try removing what may be blocking the air flow– like snow or ice. If the HPWH still won’t function, then it is time to call in the professionals to help sort it out.

Summer Issues

We explained above what to do when your HPWH starts icing up in the winter. You may find, however, that your HPWH is icing up in the summer months. If this happens, do not waste any time and call a professional right away. If the HPWH is icing up in the summer, there is a problem with the device itself and it should be looked at immediately.

Another common problem is when the HPWH is constantly running in the summer months. During winter, it may appear to be running all the time, however this is how the device was designed. The HPWH is not designed to consistently run during the warmer months, when the temperature is above thirty degrees. This could mean there is a serious service problem, such as:

  • leaky refrigerant
  • icing issues
  • a problem with the compressor
  • pump is too small for the household needs
  • improper insulation of exterior HP
  • unit is dirty and needs a good cleaning

Whichever the case, in a situation like this, it is best to call in an HVAC professional to help sort all this out.

HPWH: a great choice

Whatever other measures you take to help with energy efficiency, purchasing a HPWH is an excellent choice. Give us a call today to find out how we can help!

It’s something we don’t really think about — until it stops working. When your shower gets cold, that’s when things heat up!

Amidst cries of outrage about cold water showers and cold water dish washing, we scramble to figure out what caused the water heater to stop working. But, before we talk about things that can go wrong with water heaters, let’s take a look at their simple, yet creative design and discover how it is they do what they do to make our daily lives more comfortable.

 

WATER HEATER DESIGN

The majority of residential water heaters are storage water heaters. They are basically tall cylindrical tanks–sort of like a tall metal drum. They vary in capacity from about 20 gallons to about 80 gallons of water. Even though traditional water heaters don’t present a very dramatic appearance, the principles they use to supply abundant hot water to your home are pretty interesting.

 

COMPONENTS

water heater

                  photo credit: US Department of Energy

 

Storage water heaters are comprised of the tank and a couple of tubes, a series of valves, and a mechanism for heating the water. Storage water heaters are either electrical or gas operated. Here’s how all these components work:

  • Tank: The tank is made of heavy metal and is actually the inner component of the cylinder. It serves as a shell to hold the water. Tanks are often covered with some type of insulating material, a decorative “outer shell” and sometimes an additional insulating blanket-type cover.
  • Dip Tube/Cold Water Inlet: Cold water enters the tank at the top and flows through this tube to the bottom  of the tank. Because the water is cold, it stays close to the bottom of the tank where heating occurs.
  • Hot Water Outlet: This pipe is also at the top of the tank. Heated water at the top of the tank exits through this outlet and flows to areas where it is needed.water heaters
  • Shut-Off Valve: This valves closes off the flow of cold water into the tank.
  • Drain Valve: This valve is near the bottom of the tank and is used to empty the tank when servicing is needed.
  • Pressure Relief Valve: This valve serves to regulate pressure inside the tank.
  • Anode Rod: This rod, made of steel overlaid with either magnesium or aluminum, is suspended in the water of the tank to help reduce corrosion.
  • Heating mechanism: In a gas storage water heater, the heating mechanism is a gas burner and chimney system. An electrical storage water heater uses heating elements projecting into the interior of the tank to heat the water.
  • Thermostat: This device is a thermometer and a temperature-control device. Electric water heaters may have individual thermostats for each heating element.

HOW IT WORKS

water heatersStorage water heaters rely primarily on the scientific principle that hot water rises. Cold water enters the top of the tank through the dip tube or cold water inlet, flows through the pipe to the bottom of the tank where it exits the pipe, pushing the warmer water already in the tank upward.

The thermostat setting is usually between 120 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermostat should be set nearer the lower end of this range in homes with small children to prevent potential scalding injuries. As the thermostat monitors the temperature of the water inside the tank, it regulates the function of the elements (on an electrical water heater) or the gas burner (on a gas water heater) to heat the water accordingly.

Because heat rises, the hottest water is always closest to the top of the tank. When a hot water tap is turned on somewhere inside the home, the hot water exits the tank through the hot water outlet at the top of the tank and flows to the open tap.

What’s next?

Now that we have a basic understanding of the parts of a water heater and how it works, our next post will take a look at some things that typically cause water heater problems resulting in the dreaded cold shower.

Whether you have a malfunctioning water heater or a leaking faucet or a clogged drain, Knoxville Plumbing is here for you!

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