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Discussion in 'Environmental Discussion' started by Celtic Blue, Aug 23, 2009.
I just got installed a Bradford White Defender tank gas water heater for $830 installed
Not if you have a good water softener!
I'm actually anal enough to open the drain valve on the hot water tank once a week, and drain out a few gallons
As far as dealing with major plumbing problems, eg pinholing of copper pipes, I'd consider two options:
1. Throw match to house and walk away without even a backwards glance
2. Heavy drinking
We have one now, and it does help.
Ever do that, only to have the drain valve refuse to seal? Of course this only happens when one of the following is true:
1) You are heading out of town for a trip, and take a few minutes to finish some chores.
2) It is after hours and no hardware stores are open.
3) Any major holiday.
I just love it when some minor thing turns into a major PITA. As for water heaters, our building has four, so I have some experience with their sneaky tricks.
Day and night difference. I hate having crocodile skin after showering with hard water. The softener salt makes a big difference too. If you use softener salt already mixed with citric acid (Same food additive that gives iced tea drinks a tangy taste), you'll have much better results
I only have to clean the resin bed every 12 months or so. With regular salt, every month or two
Gate valves are famous for that. The old saying "use it or lose it" applies here. If you regularly make a habit of cycling the gate valve on the water tank, perhaps after a few years the stem seal will start a slow drip.
Or not. With the hobby farm, I did the routine tank drain every month, and after 5 years it was still leak free. AFAIK, it still works fine
If you never, ever touch a gate valve - think master shutoff for the entire house - then when you finally do have to use it, it will be seized, or will leak like crazy
I never ever do such PM items if I expect to go somewhere, especially to catch a flight. Murphy's Law applies here
You can never have too many spare parts on hand. Not like keeping milk in the fridge, they don't have a shelf life in the conventional sense
I believe major holidays should be banned just for that reason. But I'm kooky that way
Dave Barry claimed that plumbing was actually the most intelligent life on earth. He may be right
Better yet, wait until one of those plastic drain valves shears off.
I quit blowing down my water heaters periodically about 10 years after my wife noticed a leak in the drain valve one evening. The color of the drain valve and some minor encrustation made it appear to be brass... IIRC the leak appeared to be in the packing, so I gently put a wrench to it to see if I could snug it a little. I no more than touched it when the whole valve came off (minus the nipple threads still stuck in the water heater.) Plastic tends to crack over time when exposed to heat, and a thread line is a great place to conceal a crack, hence the actual source of the leak on the topside of the valve.
I was wearing shorts and doing my best to reach the shut off the hot water while the wounded tank was doing its best to scald me. Then I had to rapidly clear the room of anything that would be damaged by water and create a dam to direct water to an exterior door so I could squeegee it out.
With all the water shut off to the house I called a plumber (after hours of course) to put in a replacement valve as I had nothing to fit it and more importantly...needed to get the offending plastic out of the hole before I could fix it. Both of us had things scheduled in the next 24 hours that made it imperative to get the water running again.
Dufus the plumber shows up with his van full of junk. Of course, Dufus doesn't have anything in that van that can do the job. No valves that will fit a water heater. No bushings to fit another valve to it. Nothing with which to clear the broken bits from the hole. This is a common theme I've noticed with plumbers--roughly half of them are like babes in the wilderness when it comes to actually fixing anything. Apparently their vans are only stocked with things they never use. Why? I suppose it is because the things they actually need get used and never replaced.
So I ended up digging out my old ka-bar knife and a nice new wire brush to clear the threads which the bits of plastic seemed to be welded to. Took way too long, ruined my brush, but the plumber wasn't getting it done. (Remember, I'm paying this "expert.") He was perplexed about what to do about the hole. I finally gave him instructions about what I needed and sent him back to his shop to do some scrounging for the bushing and valve.
I kept the valve and bushing when the water heater was replaced. It might get some use soon.
Ah, plumbing is so much fun. I've spent the day so far over the sink and under the dishwasher. The repair guy's been and gone - he fixed the handle and said the dishwasher was working perfectly: I should call a plumber. After carefully wrenching a rounded plastic (!) nut loose, I wrapped the threads with teflon tape and tada! no leak. Then I spent an hour or two augering the drain pipe on the kitchen sink, which hadn't been done in about 70 years. The water now drains faster, though still slowly, and doesn't gurgle any more, which I'm taking as a good sign. Finishing the cleanup of the flood's aftermath in the basement will be fun, too. Those ceiling tiles sure can soak up lots of water.
If you haven't started the heavy drinking, you *should*
Life just gets better. I wondered what the weird sound was behind the wall - sort of a sucking sound, alternating with a drip. After removing a few old sections of lathe and plaster under the sink, I discovered a wet lead pipe - even I know the water's supposed to be on the inside. Touching where the drip was, my finger destroyed what little integrity remained, and the drip became a spurt. The cast iron sections looks alright, which is good because replacing that means taking out a new wall, and half the basement floor. Why are houses built this way? Why can't the pipes go on the oustside? The good news is the dishwasher works fine - I just have to route the drain hose out the back door.
So, I called a plumber. Time for that drink, and to ponder what adventures await tomorrow.
It has been my experience with old iron drain lines that they become filled with rust. So while you have a plumber there make the most of it. Have it all snaked and thoroughly cleared (they've had to work through the vent on some of mine to even clear the clog.) Push an ungodly amount of water (high flowrate, not necessarily long duration) through it after each iteration all toward the main drain to flush all that iron oxide/sediment out. Otherwise you might just end up chasing the stuff around in different sections.
I've had this "drains full of rust" problem in several older homes. It was bad enough in the last one that the toilets wouldn't flush at times. The sinks were the initial problems, probably because of slow leaks that weren't promptly repaired by prior residents.
My first experience with it was an HVAC closet condensate drain. Even though I cloroxed it once a month to stop bio fouling it would not stay clear. Finally it packed completely solid. I finally called a plumber, had him thorougly clean out the old iron drain, then added on a tall PVC extension/standpipe and never had to mess with it again.
Don't drink before the plumber comes though...it's bad enough getting a plumber to fix something while you are sober.
If the plumbing ran externally, in most of Canada they would freeze solid in winter. Nothing like frozen human poop
But seriously, I've reno'd a couple of old homes and the first thing I had to do, after the total gut, was bust out all the old lead and iron piping. The new PVC and ABS pipe is all but impervious to tree roots, corrosion, and clogs are usually very easy to clear out
The one advantage cast iron sewer drain pipes have in a home is that they are quiet. Say you have an upstairs bath, and directly below is a guest bedroom. With ABS piping, every time the sh***er is flushed, it sounds like a waterfall in the guest bath
I can get the same level of quietness just by putting Roxul mineral wool insulation in the wall before I sheetrock over it
As far as your home, I'm afraid you're at the point you should just run away screaming. Otherwise you may lose what thin grasp you have on reality
Not only rust, but as the cast iron corrodes, the surface becomes pockmarked and rough. This allows uh "matter" to easily build up, reducing the pipe internal diameter until it clogs.
I had one old home that had a clog in one of the sh***ers. I tried rodding it out myself, and discovered the cast iron drain pipe was so corroded the snake actually poked through!
I'm pretty sure I hit the bottle once that happened
I find that plumbers are easier to deal with once you've had 4-5 drinks. Especially the inevitable plumber butt crack
Well Hyo, how is your sanity holding out?
I'm dreading the day that the iron drain pipe fails. I've had one of the sink drains fall off the main stack already (the sink drain came into the stack nearly level. apparently a small amount of water would always sit in the connection). A good piece of the storm drain was replaced by the previous owner (my inspector put his screwdriver through it), and one connection coming through the wall from the downspout isn't in great shape. Just thinking about it makes me want a drink.
By keeping an eye on the anodes, you can have have 6 year tank last as long as a 12. The 12 might have thicker insulation over the 6 though. Also replace the flush valve on a new tank with a ball valve. As was pointed out, the other valves will wear out with use, or fail with low to no use. The ball valve will also have a wider inside diameter that the others of the same size. Less likely to clog with deposits.
My understanding is that gas tankless heaters require stainless venting, which is what jacks up the install price.
Overall, electric tanks are inefficient. However, they have the option of hooking up a heat pump to them. Moving the heat from place to place is better than using resistance elements. With the compressor, they are less reliable than a basic, no moving parts electric heater, but as side benefit it will dehumidify a damp basement if that's where heater is at. Most also have duct hook-ups so the cold waste air can be pumped into a central A/C system.
When I looked around a couple years ago, there was just one company in the US selling them. They were more common outside of the country. In Australia, I found models that took the heat from solar panels instead of the room where it was installed.
Electric water heaters are much more efficient than gas heaters. Nearly 100% of the energy is transfered to the water.
You may be thinking of the process of electrical generation, which introduces its own losses. If you burn natural gas to make electricity, then use the electricity to heat water, then yes, you are better off burning the gas in the heater and avoiding the conversion losses. In many places, however, the cost of electricity is now competitive with gas. In these places the efficiency of an electric heater wins.
Since installing the Marathon I actually do blow 'er down on
occasion -- usually by hooking up a hose to the fitting, running
the hose up and out to the driveway, and using that nice lukewarm
water to spray the gunk off ... the Prius!
Correct. Energy factor starts in the 0.9 range and goes up with almost all of the losses being related to fittings/storage/standby.
Yes, it is analogous to running the Prius in EV mode vs. gas. The electric for Prius propulsion is coming from gasoline at an efficiency far lower than the efficiency of a standard nat. gas water heater (roughly 60% for the water heater when standby losses are included.) An ICE would be at what, 40% or so?
In EV mode the already low ICE efficiency is then multiplied by the efficiency of the battery/inverter/motor producing an even lower value. Best efficiency will be acheived when the conversion from ICE to electric and back can be avoided.
Where (as in do you have a location in mind to provide an example--not a challenge?) It would seem that this would only be true where nat. gas is expensive and electric is coming from hydro or some such source. Nat. gas has been so cheap for the past few months locally that it's a no brainer in the other direction. The issue here is that the local electric utility has been raising rates to cover future plant replacement, so electric is moving counter to the market. We've got nat. gas running less than $0.6/ccf and electric at $0.12/kwh which is really out of whack...but it is summer.
I thought it might be a useful excercise to see where the current state of things is for standard off the shelf water heaters:
GE 50 Gallon Electric = 4825 kwh/year @ 0.91 energy factor, $512/yr using 10.65 cent/kwh national ave. 2007 per Energy Guide
GE 50 Gallon Nat. Gas = 242 therms/yr @ 0.62 energy factor, $294/year using $1.218/therm national ave. 2007 per Energy Guide
So the rough factor for these efficiencies is 19.9 kwh per therm for a given heating increment. For these tanks at $1.2/therm the electric rate would need to be 6.9 cents/kwh to break even with electric. Or at 10 cents/kwh, nat. gas would have to cost $1.99/therm for electric to break even.
Managed to get credited for the TC and gas thermostat for the water heater. I should have bought a lottery ticket today...
Just thinking about *you* thinking about that, makes me want to have a drink!
You're thinking of a "desuperheater." That's a very common component of geothermal exchange heat pump systems installed in Manitoba
The desuperheater is of limited to no use during heating, but in summer when the heat pump is dehumidifying or cooling the house, the domestic hot water is free
Put another way: in a climate that has far more heating degree days compared to cooling degree days, whatever heat transfer occurs off the domestic hot water tank, keeps the room warmer. So it's not really "wasted"
You have hard water? I'd highly recommend a water softener, especially for an electric element water heater you maintain the heat output, as the elements aren't caked with scale
Manitoba Hydro has among the lowest power rates in North America. There are even homes that are fitted with electric furnaces instead of gas furnaces, and the total bill is within 5%
I like gas hot water tanks, as the recovery rate is much faster. Ditto the gas heater in my attached garage, its powerful and reasonably efficient. Unlike an electric heater, the gas heater keeps the garage bone dry in winter
Not sure how it compares to where you live, but in summer the only gas use I have is to heat hot water. That's around $45 a month. In winter, say January, I can expect a $380 gas bill.
That sounds high, but is still a good 30% lower than my neighbors, who do not heat their garage
Good point. Energy prices are a moving target. In Northern Michigan the price of electricity has not moved up with the price of other fuels. With our building, we buy our natural gas on a futures contract, which helps stabilize the cost and keep it down. We also heat with fuel oil and electricity, so I get to pay for all three. In recent years the electric heat has been nearly as cheap as the natural gas, and cheaper than fuel oil. Now that gas prices have dropped, this many not be the case this winter. During the summer I don't pay any attention to natural gas prices, since we only use it for cooking in the summer.
I'm not insane.
The rest of the world is. :madgrin: