Welcome to 2020
As we begin yet another new year, it’s time to have a realistic look at your home or businesses heating, ventilation, air conditioning and overall plumbing. Some of these items are easy to plan and budget for, while some unfortunately are not. No matter how many times your plumber warns you about the remaining, if any, life expectancy of your hot water heater tank, you’re likely going to wait that one day too many. At that point, it’s no longer a hot water tank replacement. If you’re home is like many, there is a utility side where the heating system sits alongside the hot water heater tank. On the other side is a finished basement, usually carpeted with, depending on who else lives there, a sofa, a big screen TV, some electronic game console like a Microsoft Xbox or a Nintendo Switch. There might be a table for snacks during NFL, NBA, or MLB games. There could be an exercise bike, bought with the best intentions 4 years ago, and a total of 21 miles on its odometer.
Hot Water Heater Tank
Let’s start the new year with our first lesson on the ubiquitous hot water heater tank. You see unlike the boiler or furnace, which last decades, hot water heater tanks have a life expectancy. The better the brand, the longer the life span. Determining the age can be easy of challenging. It’s easy if your town’s plumbing inspector placed a signed and dated an inspection sticker, from when he approved the work. Since the adoption of a 4 inch exhaust from the hot water tank to and through the chimney, closer inspections to ensure installations are up to this new code have become a vital step in ensuring that no CO2 (the exhaust from burning gas to keep the hot water hot) is escaping into your home or business possibly causing a serious health exposure. Alternatively, regardless of when you purchased your home or last replaced the hot water heater tank, there is a manufacturer’s plate of when it was built, and it can be used to confirm the build date. Hot water heater tanks do not linger in wholesaler’s or plumber’s warehouses very long, so a manufacturer’s date is a viable choice to determine its age.
Regardless of when it was last replaced or installed, water in Bergen County, NJ water has become “hard”. What is hard water? Hard water is water that has high mineral content. Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone, chalk or gypsum which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates and sulfates. In addition, and, despite water filtration centers throughout Bergen County, the pipes that deliver the water to your home have been underground for decades. As bits of those pipes loosen, they become part of the water supply that enters your home. Now before you think these are 5-pound rocks, in reality they are no bigger than sand. But they combine with the aforementioned deposits of multiple minerals. And unless you have installed a whole house water filtration and purification system, the cold-water supply line to your hot water heater tank contains these imperfections. Here is a link to a 2016 report on Bergen and Hudson Water Contamination http://bit.ly/37ndPzA
Try this test. On the edge of most kitchen faucets, there are a series of screens to minimize that sediment from becoming a part of your morning cup of coffee. If you visit the Muccia Plumbing Facebook page, we review the components and the process of cleaning the screens to which helps to renew water pressure when the get clogged with sediment. Basically, there is an aerator housing screwed into the faucet end which you likely need to remove with pliers. Because you don’t want to damage the finish, we recommend wrapping a rag to loosen the cap. You will then see several screens and you want to take note of their sequence in the cap as you gently flush some running water to remove any sediment. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly, and again a rag should be used to avoid marring or scratching a chrome fixture when tightening the threaded aerator housing, though hand-tight with no leaks is acceptable. Start slowly to avoid crossing the threads.
Draining the Tank
Back to the hot water tank heater. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a similar screen, and therefore over years the sediment can build up at the bottom of the tank. It’s possible to extend the like of the tank by draining it through the hose fitting and continue to allow fresh water to enter the tank. You should see brownish color water as the tank and the sediment empty out to whatever drain you have close by. Once the water is clear, you have gotten as much sediment as possible out, but certainly not all.
One other choice is to replace the anode rod that is placed in every hot water heater tank. These anode rods are made in different materials.
Aluminum rods were made many years ago, and you had parents buying bottled water since consuming aluminum is unhealthy.
Magnesium anode rods are the most popular EXCEPT where hard water is present, like Bergen County, NJ. In fact, replacing the manufacturer’s anode rod may actually accelerate the corrosion and with it, the end of the life of the hot water heater tank.
Zinc rods are made of a combination of aluminum and zinc, 1 proportion of zinc to 10 proportions of aluminum. Zinc serves to reduce the smell of sulfur which can affect some water tanks, although modern water heaters are not typically supplied with zinc anode rods installed at the factory.
Impressed Current Rods – These are anodes which use electricity to attract corrosion. These rods do not have a sacrificial metal, nor lack the self-created currents which the anode rods are typically capable of. Impressed current rods do not need to be removed and replaced, as they don’t corrode, but they do need to be infrequently cleaned in order to maintain the electrical charge. Please note that impressed current anode rods are usually found in large commercial water heaters, where the risk of corrosion is higher than usual.
Combination Anodes Rods – The combination anode is an ordinary anode which is attached to an unusual place. Most anodes are at the top of the heater, attached by a hex head screw. Some water heaters have an anode attached to the hot water outlet. This anode is installed inside the pipe, and can be difficult to reach, often involving the removal and breakage of the pipe, and the unscrewing of the hot water pipe nipple section. You can add a combination anode by lowering a rod into the pipe after removing the nipple attachment and replacing it with a rod.
Before heading off to your local plumbing supply house to replace an existing anode rod, there are some important considerations. First, if you look at the top of a typical 40-gallon tank, you’ll see a 6 sided “nut”. That is the part holding the anode when it was delivered from the manufacturer. It is installed by a machine, set to an exact torque, and is extremely hard to loosen. Next, within a 3-4-year span, in Bergen County, NJ and other parts of the US dealing with hard water, it’s likely that the original anode rod is a mere skeleton of its original self. Between the difficult position and tight fit of the factory anode nut, even the strongest do-it-yourselfer might be ale to crack it open and remove it, but the costs of a typical anode rod of $25 may make it seem like a wise decision, but if you do make sure you take the make, model and capacity of your current hot water heater tank. While I am certainly a fan of saving money, the best choice is to budget for a new hot water heater tank every 8-10 years, and most plumber offer financing since the cost of a quality hot water heater tank, if it needs the expansion for the exhaust from 3” to 4” will average between $1,700 and $2,000. Play it safe. If the nut on top crack due to the pressure necessary to remove it, you will have no hot water until it can be replaced.
Summary: Muccia Plumbing, Heating and AC Service has been serving Bergen County homes and businesses for over 43 years. We service any brand of hot water heater tank. We recommend Bradford-White tanks because of their superior performance and longevity. The are proudly built in the USA. Muccia Plumbing overs 24 x 7 x 365 including weekends, holidays and late-night. Our technicians are factory trained to not only service HVAC systems, but to offer advice on how to get the most out of your hard-earned money. Call us at 201-343-1414 or visit our website at www.mucciaplumbing.com for discount coupons and subscribe to our newsletter for special offers, new products, tips for the “Do-It-Yourselfer” and more.