Changing an American paradigm is tough. We’ve all experienced (and likely adopted)“disruptive innovations” — inventions that create a new market and eventually revolutionize an industry. Common examples include the mass-produced automobile (so long, Ol’ Paint!), indoor plumbing, the Internet, Spotify, the Drudge Report, ebay and so on.
In the world of plumbing, disruptive inventions are fairly uncommon, and the jury is still out on whether a tankless water heater is a disrupter or a flash-in-the-pan. It is, however, an up-and-comer worth exploring. Since entering the market a few years ago, tankless technology has come a long way.
Tankless: Then and Now
In 2008, our friends at Consumer Reports reviewed tankless water heaters and rendered this blunt opinion: “They’re efficient but not necessarily economical.” At that time, the break-even timeframe was over 20 years, the cost was double that of a tank water heater, installation / maintenance was tricky, and uneven delivery of hot water were tangible problems.
Since then, tankless manufacturers have been working hard to turn a “promising” product and turning into “mainstream”. And the folks at Consumer Reports took the opportunity to give tankless water heaters another look. According to a recent issue (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/02/have-the-new-tankless-water-heaters-improved/index.htm), “Manufacturers haven’t given up on the technology, however. And their commitment might just be starting to pay off.” Their report focuses on the how manufacturers are aggressively tackling the top 4 struggles with tankless water heaters:
Easier/Less Costly Installation – When new products hit the market, it can be difficult to locate skilled installers. Manufacturers have worked aggressively to streamline the installation process. Improved designs that simplify connections to existing water pipes makes it easier to retrofit tankless heaters into existing piping and ductwork configurations. Easier installation reduces the cost of installation.
Consistent Water Temperatures – When Americans want hot water, we want it now. Improved engineering in tankless designs include recirculating pumps and “buffer tanks” that ensure water is hot from beginning to end.
Easier Maintenance – Let’s be honest – performing maintenance on any hot water heater is low on most homeowner priority lists. Tankless heater manufacturers have addressed this by “developing isolation valves that make routine maintenance and descaling the unit easier.”
Is Tankless for You?
It depends. Even as the tankless industry matures and improves, the approach might not meet your needs. For those with electric (vs. gas) water heaters, tankless requires a tremendous amount of energy to operate – think back to that “efficient does not equal economical” statement earlier. If you have an electric water heater, you may want to consult an electrician to determine whether your current circuitry is up to the demand. Also, tankless heaters work best when the incoming water is not exceptionally cold (which may be a challenge during frigid Ohio winters).
Water You Waiting For? If your water heater is getting on in years and you’d like to free up some space in your utility area, tankless may be an option worth looking into (especially if you are replacing a gas water heater). Call Ray to learn his thoughts on the tank-vs-tankless conversation. (513) 396-5300.
Frost-free makes winterizing exterior plumbing a snap.
I realized last week, while scraping frost off the car windshield, that we had completely forgotten to put the garden hoses away for the winter. DOH! A total rookie mistake. A garden hose holds “leftover” water, which can freeze, expand, split the hose and also back up into the exterior faucet causing splits in the water lines.
Luckily, we recognized our mistake before any damage was done. And, a few years ago, we had the foresight to replace our 2 exterior sill cocks with frost-free exterior versions. That was one of our best home improvements, ever.
As a gardener, I am a constant user of outside water. When we installed the frost-free spigots, we were able to extend our outside water usage by several weeks in the spring and fall because we no longer had to turn off the water for winterizing. It’s fantastic.
According to ehow.com: http://www.ehow.com/info_12059571_freeze-proof-outdoor-faucet-work.html, “Frost-free faucets, sometimes called freeze-proof faucets, function in the same way as ordinary spigots. They have a compression valve that tightens down on the water inlet to stop water flow. The difference is that the valve chamber of a frost-free faucet is 24 inches long — so when one is installed on the side of the house, the valve is indoors where it’s warmer. When the faucet is off, there is no water near the faucet spout to freeze”
Identifying a Frost-Free Faucet
It’s possible you have a frost-free/frost-proof faucet and may not realize it. How to tell? Typically, if the spigot handle is perpendicular to the house, it’s probably a frost-free faucet. These types of handles work by turning a long stem (about 24″ long) that closes a valve inside the house where it’s warm.
On the other hand, if the handle is at a 45 degree angle, it’s likely not a frost-free spigot and it must be drained and turned off during the cold season.
Be Sure – Ask an Expert Plumber
Uncertain? The professionals at Allied Reddi-Rooter can talk you through the identification process either in person or over the telephone.
Water You Waiting For? Life moves fast – the last thing anyone needs is a frozen pipe. Frost-free faucets can simplify home maintenance, reduce frozen pipe risks, and make outside water usage much more enjoyable. Ray’s team of trained plumbers will cheerfully support your decision to go frost-free. Call today: (513) 396-5300. Coupons apply – visit our web site to get ’em!
Planning now can save $$$ this winter.
In winter, things freeze. We protect our cars against fuel line freeze-up, we protect ourselves against frost bite. Before things get too cold, taking a few steps now can ensure that your pipes are protected, too. Ice water in the pipes can create expensive, time-consuming problems that are easily avoided. Below are a few tips.
1) Insulation – According to wikihow.com, “insulate all water pipes from cold moving air and keep them dry. Be aware that insulation alone does not prevent freezing, it only slows down the transfer rate of heat to cold.” Pipe insulation is readily available at any good hardware store.
2) Warmth – Assuming you have electricity (many frozen pipe incidents happen during extended power outages), heater tapes wrapped around the pipes may be helpful. Follow manufacturer instruction as the tapes must be carefully applied in order to be effective. If your power is out for an extended period and you are concerned about frozen pipes, contact a plumber and request assistance.
3) Keep the Water Moving – If heat is unavailable, open the tap so that a slow, constant drip takes place; moving water is unlikely to freeze. If you have two taps (such as a bathroom sink with both hot and cold handles), start a slow drip on the hot side faucet, then a faster drip on the cold side faucet.
4) More Insulation – Certain areas are prone to cold (crawl spaces, outside walls, basements. Add insulation as needed to help protect your pipes from becoming overly chilled.
5) Thawing Frozen Pipes is Tricky – If your pipes are frozen solid, visually inspect them for splits or holes. Once the water is flowing again, these will become leak points. Turn off the water at the main, place a bucket under the hole, and contact a reliable plumber for assistance. Most plumbers will tell you that thawing is a process that needs to be handled carefully to prevent damage (flooding, fire, carbon monoxide poisoning). Never attempt to use kerosene heaters, welders, torches, or other fuel-based tools to thaw frozen pipes – it’s dangerous. In almost every circumstance, the area (read: the air) surrounding the pipe needs to be warmed; never the actual pipe.
6) Outside Spigots – ALWAYS disconnect the garden hose before winter temperatures set in. Trapped water in the hose can freeze, expand, and back up into your piping, causing a burst line.
Water You Waiting For? Frozen water pipes in the dead of winter are more than annoying, they are expensive, time-consuming and potentially dangerous. If you have problem pipes, call Ray to learn how Allied’s plumbing team can keep your water flowing. (513) 396-5300.