Category Archives: heat

Hot Water Heaters Expansion Tanks, what do they really do?

Thermal expansion of water in a closed plumbing system can create a number of annoying and potentially dangerous problems. These include: unusually high pressure in a system, pressure surges, and the chronic or continuous dripping of a temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve. In addition, dripping faucets and leaking toilet tank ball cock fill valves are also symptomatic of thermal expansion.   More serious problems can also occur due to thermal expansion. When dangerous pressures are built up in a water heater, internal parts may fail such as the internal flues, fittings or water connections. If a flue way collapses it can lead to the potential release of toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide into living spaces.

Virtually, every modern plumbing code requires the installation of an expansion tank on hot water heater installations. The reason is simple. Water expands when heated. This extra volume of water needs to go somewhere. Before the widespread usage of backflow preventers, check valves and pressure reducing valves, this expanded water simply pushed the cold water back into the city water main. Now with these devices required in new construction and most permitted remodels we have successfully closed this system.

Where does the pressure to go?

Expansion tanks are really simple devices. They contain compressed air and a special rubber bladder. When your hot water heater turns on, the water within your piping system begins to expand. This expanding water slowly enters the expansion tank as the water is brought to temperature. Eventually, hot water is drawn from the system thru a faucet and the expansion tank releases the extra water into the piping system.

The installation of an expansion tank is a simple upgrade for any hot water systems.  There are some things you need to know before running out and purchasing your unit such as existing water pressures, capacity of the hot water tank, and ensuring the unit you purchase is for potable water systems.   I always recommend working with a licensed plumbing contractor.

Winterization Tips for Your Home

Follow these steps to get your home ready for the cold weather.  For more detailed information about insulating your attic or dealing with air leaks around the home feel free to contact me at info at amsinspection dot com.

  

1. Clean gutters.
Clear debris from your home’s gutters before the winter sets in.  Clogged drains can bend gutters, promote ice dams and cause water buildup- all resulting in possible moisture infiltration through your roof and/or walls.  Make sure the downspouts are carrying water away from the home’s foundation.  Clogged downspouts won’t help you either.  After a big wind storm sometimes downspouts will fall off the drain pipes, so make sure they are firmly attached.

  

2.  Winterize underground irrigation systems.

You may want to call a professional service to winterize your underground irrigation system.  Turn your system off, then bleed the line (release pressure) and drain the water.  Confirm that the settings are adjusted or that the system is completely turned off before the first freeze.

  

3. Clean the furnace and baseboards vents.
Due to seasonal dust buildup, you’ll probably notice a weird smell when you turn them on for the first time.   Using “duster” computer keyboard cleaner works great for cleaning the vents on your furnace and baseboards but you can also use a dust broom or vacuum attachment.  Throughout the winter you should change the furnace filters regularly. A dirty filter reduces air flow and efficiency and is a potential fire hazard.

  

4. Chimney sweep.

Inspect your chimney for creosote (baked soot) buildup which is highly flammable.  Inspect the chimney for any obstructions: limbs, leaves, baseballs, etc.  Wood stoves should be swept routinely throughout the winter.  Make sure the spark arrester is properly screened to avoid debris buildup. 

  

5. Wrap pipes.
Dealing with a busted pipe is never a good thing especially in the winter.  Wrap exposed pipes in crawl spaces, basements or garages with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. Heating tape is an added measure that is commonly used in our area.

  

6.  Store water hoses.

Turn off the water to your hose bibs.  You should find a valve turnoff inside your home.  Drain the lines and hoses.  Then store the hoses away from the elements.

 

7. Check alarms.
Fire departments have tried to educate us that when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings, it’s also a prefect time to change your smoke detector batteries.  Detectors should be replaced every 10 years. Additionally, testing them with a small bit of smoke is always a good idea. Check your carbon monoxide detector or buy one if you don’t already have one.  Refer to the installation manual regarding correct placement for the detector.

Heating & Cooling: Is it time for an upgrade?

There are plenty of ways to heat and cool a home: natural gas, pellet, oil, electric, propane, wood, coal, solar, hydronic, evaporative, absorption, radiant, and many others. Older systems may not be as efficient as newer ones. Either they have been poorly maintained or have run their course. Faulty heating and cooling systems could be the cause of serious safety or health issues. Upgrading to a new system can be quite an investment, but you’ll realize gains in your energy savings. In Seattle you may not need a central cooling system but in Wenatchee you’ll definitely be glad you had air conditioning during July. When you decide to upgrade check out the US Department of Energy’s website. They have some really helpful information about sizing your system, average BTU, fuel types, costs, etc.  If you’re concerned about your current heating and/or cooling system, give AMS a call for a maintenance home inspection.  We’ll give you a professional opinion.