Common Hot Water Heater FAQs
The reason why you have to raise your water heater is to prevent fires. In the San Francisco Bay Area, and also along the Peninsula, there are plumbing standards that you have to comply with in order ensure your own safety. This is why many municipalities have safety codes that you may not understand, but at George Salet Plumbing we do. This is why you should talk to an experienced local plumber about why you should do things like raise your water heater when you install it.
A water heater installation is a great example for the reason why a consumer or a do-it-yourselfer needs to understand local building codes as well as the reasons why they are put in place. Gas powered water heaters are especially at risk if they are not installed properly.
Many people on the Peninsula and also around the Bay Area have gas water heaters because they are energy efficient. However, they also have to be aware of how to install them. If you have a gas water heater, it will also have a pilot light. Depending on where your gas powered water heater is located, it could actually explode if flammable liquids like household cleaners and gasoline are spilled around it. The pilot light from your water heater is the flame that will ignite the fumes from any spilled flammable liquids.
If your water heater is NOT a flammable vapor ignition resistance water heater, it must be raised to 18 inches if it is located in the garage where a car would be parked. In some of the cities on the Peninsula and in the Bay Area, you may install a flammable vapor ignition resistance water heater on the ground in a garage. However, even with this kind of water heater, you can save a lot of money because when a water heater is raised. This is because you don’t have to clean as many contaminants out of the filters and vents.
A shorty water heater is called that as a nickname because it is actually shorter than standard water heaters. However, these kinds of water heaters don’t have less capacity than regular water heaters; they just fit in different spaces. This is because a shorty water heater has different dimensions than more traditional water heaters.
A shorty water heater can be installed where other water heaters won’t fit. A taller water heater (which is about sixty inches in height) may not fit in spaces where it has to be elevated about 18 inches off of the garage or utility floor. This is in accordance with local ordinances which don’t allow taller water heaters to sit on the floor of a garage space or utility room where flammable liquids could potentially be spilled. Generally, this is because a gas powered water heater has a pilot light that can ignite flammable materials.
A shorty water heater works well in San Francisco and Peninsula area because it can maintain the same amount of hot water that a normal water heater would and still fit in a smaller space. A shorty water heater can also be raised up to the required 18 inches off of the floor, which is a benefit to homeowners who may be doing renovations in place like condos and older homes.
The reason why that shorty waters heaters work in cramped spaces is that they are bigger around the middle. One misconception about shorty water heaters is that they are smaller and heat less hot water, but this isn’t true. They hold the same amount of hot water as their taller counterparts; they just do it in a different way. So, shorty water heaters are a great option if you want to do a condo restoration, or if you need to comply with plumbing regulations that require your water heater to be installed higher because of local building ordinances.
Earthquake strapping helps restrain your water heater from falling or damaging pipes during an earthquake. It is required on all water heater installations in the state of California. No one wants the worst to happen, but when there is an earthquake in California, the last thing that you want to have happen is a gas water heater with a pilot light coming out of the wall and landing near flammable liquids that may be in your utility room or your garage. Along with busting the pipes that are attached to the water heater, this is a disaster that is just waiting to happen.
For do-it-yourselfers, the state of California has a website with instructions that tells you how to strap your water heater to the wall, but you had better prepared to work. After you locate the studs in the wall behind the water heater (and also on one side of the water heater) you’ll need to do more measuring. The water heater needs to be supported approximately 9″ down from the top and approximately 4″ above from the controls. However, this may be for a larger water heater. If you have a shorty water heater you may only need one strap.
How do you know? It’s best to ask your local plumber. We can assess the situation and make sure your water heater is earthquake safe. For example, did you know that steel plumbers tape is what you need to buy in order secure your water heater? This kind of steel plumbers tape comes with 1/4″ diameter holes and 1/8″ diameter holes, but you’ll need pliers to break it apart. Then you can start drilling holes in your wall to make sure that your water heater is earthquake compliant.
There is a lot more to earthquake strapping for a water heater than you might think. This is because you may have walls that are uneven or other structural concerns that need special attention. That’s why it’s important to call George Salet Plumbing, where we can make your water heater earthquake compliant as quickly as possible.
How long a water heater lasts depends on how well it is maintained, the water quality in your area, proper installation, and amount of use. When you buy a water heater, it’s always good to look at all of the information that comes with it. That way, you will know what to expect. If you install your new water heater properly and maintain it, you can expect great results. For example, if your less expensive water heater is guaranteed to last for six years, with proper maintenance; it will probably last for eight.
It’s always better to buy a better water heater. This is because it works twenty four hours everyday for the whole year! So when you buy a water heater that is guaranteed to last for ten years it will probably last for twelve. Considering that the average family has a forty gallon water tank and uses quite a bit of hot water, it’s worth it to get the better hot water tank and have a plumber install it.
Believe it or not, even with professional installation, a great hot water tank only works out to about 32 cents a day to use. But in order for your water heater to work for longer than it should, you also need professional maintenance. This includes a yearly draining of your water heater. This gets rid of the sediment that will actually drive your energy bills higher because your water heater has to work harder to heat water.
When your water heater has to work harder because of sediment, it won’t last as long as it should. So whether you have just purchased a new home or want to sell your home, it is always a good idea to drain the hot water heater and make sure that it properly maintained. This process will add value to your home and also make sure that you have hot water for your shower, your dishes, and your laundry every day.
Most people who live in a single family dwelling buy a forty gallon water heater, which is more than ample for a family of four of five people. In order to figure out what size water tank you really need though, you have to take into consideration all of the uses for hot water that you might have. This is especially important if you own a multi-family building like an apartment complex. It is especially important that if you are the president of a local condo association to take the time to have a professional estimate of how much hot water the building will use in order for you to buy the right hot water tank.
The best way to figure out how big the water heater that you might need is to think about all of the uses for hot water that are necessary. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you call a local plumber to install the hot water heater that is right for you.
How many bathrooms do you have? How many people live in your home or in your building? What are the size and water output of the shower heads? How often is the dishwasher used? (In the case of a multiple unit building, you will have to consider how many units have dishwashers and how often they use them.)
Washing machines are also a consideration. In the case of a single family home, you have to think about how many people use it. If you have an apartment building with several tenants, you may need a larger unit to accommodate people who use more hot water when they wash their clothes.
The last thing to consider is the dishwasher. If you live in a single family home and run it once a day, a 40 gallon tank will suffice. However, if you own a commercial property like an apartment building or a restaurant, you will need to talk to an experienced plumber to figure out what size water heater you need.
Yes, it is important to drain you water heater once every year. If you are a homeowner, it is one more chore that you have to do, but it will make your water heater last a lot longer. This is because draining your water heater cleans out the sediment that collects in the bottom of the tank and also makes your water heater run more efficiently. All water heater manufacturers recommend that you flush the sediment from your water heater at least once a year. This should usually be done by a local plumber, and the cost of the visit pays off in the long run. As well, this is not a job you want to do on your own. There is not only a chance of scalding, but there is also a big mess to clean up if you don’t run the hoses right.
Many homeowners don’t understand what sediment is. Sediment is actually sand or grit that has gotten into the local water supply system. This is especially a concern around the Peninsula and Bay Area. The water pipes in the area can be extremely old, depending on where you live. Some pipes that transport water date back to the 1940’s and simply have never been replaced. This means that sediment from these pipes come into your home every time that you use water.
How often that you need to drain your water heater also depends on where you live. The quality of your water may have much more of an impact on your water heater than you might think. Besides having old pipes in your neighborhood, if you have water with a high mineral content, then you may have to flush the sediment from your water heater more often than other homeowners. Call your local plumber or local water authority. They can tell you the amount of minerals that you may have in your water and how often you should drain your water heater to make it last much longer than what the manufacturer guarantees that it will last.
If you own a home and you have never checked out your water heater, you may be in for a big surprise. Water heaters usually start gurgling because they have had problems that have been going on for quite some time. Water heaters are appliances that seem like they are maintenance free, just like refrigerators, but things aren’t always as they seem.
A gurgling sound from your water heater may only last only 3-4 seconds, but be aware that if other appliances set off the gurgling affect from your hot water tank, you may have bigger problems. The gurgling effect from your hot water heater may start when you try to run a few appliances at the same time. A good example is when you try to run the dishwasher, the washing machine, and the shower all at the same time. There are all kinds of self-help fix it web sites, but you really need a professional plumber if your water heater is gurgling.
Problems with a water heater start with sediment, which builds up at the bottom of the tank, which may also cause the water in the tank to boil when you don’t expect it. This is not something that you want have happen. When you have a water heater, you want the temperature to remain consistent. This is for several reasons. First, it is important to save energy, but more importantly you do not want to get scalded when you are in the shower.
Generally speaking, if you own a home and have never looked at the water heater, you may get a break and fix it by having the tank drained. While a tank draining may save your water heater, you may want to look at buying a new one. You can drain the water heater yourself, but you probably won’t see any results that will help you. A new water heater will save you on energy costs, can get you a tax break, and even improve the value of your home.
The temperature on your water heater should be set so that it is just hot enough to satisfy your needs. However, many home owners don’t know what the standard temperatures are and set the thermostat on their water heater too high! 120 degrees is more than adequate for household chores, and especially for showers and baths. If the temperature of your water is 125 degrees Fahrenheit, you only have about two minutes before you will be scalded.
Never set your thermostat higher than that unless you have a special need, like sterilizing eating utensils. And always tell family members or other people that live with you that you have raised the temperature of the water with the thermostat. If not, they could be scalded in the shower.
The only real time that you need hot water that is more than 120 degrees is when you do the dishes. The water doesn’t even need to be that hot. Hot water that registers at 130 degrees will kill bacteria that can help with the spread of germs. However, this kind of temperature for hot water is generally run through the dishwasher. While you can manually wash dishes at this water temperature, you do so at your own risk. This is because this kind of hot water can actually scald the skin.
So really, there isn’t a need to set the water temperature in your home to the point where it might scald someone. Just remember that any water temperatures over 120 degrees can hurt someone. So always check your water thermostat and let someone who lives in your home know that you have it on a higher setting. Also, lowering the temperature can have an adverse effect. If you have more the one person living in your home, they might run out of the shower freezing.
In effect, if you want to save money and control the thermostat on your water heater, it’s a great choice for energy efficiency. But just like any other home improvements, you have to monitor it so that everyone is safe.
TIME / TEMPERATURE RELATIONSHIPS IN SCALDS
125° F 1 1/2 to 2 minutes
130° F About 30 seconds
135° F About 10 seconds
140° F Less than 5 seconds
145° F Less than 3 seconds
150° F About 1 1/2 seconds
155° F About 1 second
Table courtesy of Shriners Burn Institute
There are certainly debates about the differences between gas and electric water heaters. But usually, unless you are buying a new home, the choice between a gas and electric water heater is already made for you. This means that unless you want to go through an entire home renovation, you may be already invested in the utility devices that you have. It’s not a deal breaker if you buy a new home; having an electric water heater just means that you will have other responsibilities when it comes to being energy efficient.
While gas is cheaper to use and makes hot water faster, there are some advantages to electric water heaters. Most people think of electric water heaters as outdated devices that waste too much energy for the hot water that they provide; but they have come a long way since their invention.
Electric water heaters can be installed almost anywhere. They can be installed under your sink as a point-of-use water heater in a condo where you just might just want to wash your hands or a few dishes with water at the right temperature. This makes small electric water heaters more energy efficient if you live on your own.
Of course, if you have a larger family you may benefit from a gas water heater. Just remember, a gas water heater cannot be installed in a living area, a bathroom or a bedroom. In the Peninsula and Bay Area, this makes installing gas water heaters a challenge because not all of the homes are built the same. There are many historical homes and commercial buildings in the area, and if you purchase one, you will be presented with unique challenges when it comes to rebuilding them. It is always best to call a professional plumber before you start renovating a local building or home. So you should always check with local plumbers and municipalities before you install any kind of water heater to make sure if a gas or electric water heater will be more efficient and also will comply with local ordinances.