Category Archives: Preventative Maintenance

In A Little Hot Water???


How about a little hot water check-up?  Are you getting the temperatures you desire out of your water heater?  Would you like to make it last longer and perhaps extend its useful life? How about just making it a little more energy efficient?  I suspect that you would like all of these for your water heater.  So let’s get started!

First, you should determine what type of heater you have.  Is it gas or electric?  Both are common, however, some homes are not piped for gas.  Is it a standard, tank-type water heater or is it a “heat on demand” or “insta-hot” type unit?  If it is a standard, tank-type water heater, it will have an adjustable thermostat.  You should know a little something about the thermostat before you make any adjustments to it.  It will have some markings on it from low to very hot.  If you set it for very hot, you can accidently scald yourself with some older showers and most sinks, so you will want to be careful.  Also, setting it on the highest heat setting may actually cause your energy costs to increase.  The thermostat will keep water in the tank within a few degrees of the set point.  All day, every day, even when you are not home using the hot water.  So the higher the set point on your water heater thermostat, the more gas or electricity you will use keeping the water at the temperature that you enjoy when you are using it.  Just a little something to remember.   But by all means, if you are not getting hot enough water out of your heater, adjust your thermostat.     One little bit of preventative maintenance that you should perform every 3 to 6 months, depending on the water quality where you live, is a flush of the water heater tank.  To do this, you will first need to turn off the water heater.  You don’t want to be trying to heat water that you are just going to run out onto the ground.  If it is an electric water heater, then you can turn off the disconnect or the breaker.  If it is gas, turn off the gas supply valve.  Next, close the hot water valve to the house.  This is usually located on top of the unit.  You don’t want to flush cold water into the house, just drain the tank.  Connect a hose to the fitting provided on the water heater.  Run the hose outside or to a drain.  Close the water supply valve to the water heater.  You should drain the tank first, and then flush it with fresh water.  Let’s discuss draining it first.

When you are draining the tank, watch the water coming out of the hose.  If you are seeing small rock like particles, this is calcium and scale that have been building up in your water heater, decreasing the efficiency.  When there is no more water coming out of the hose, turn off the valve and then turn on the supply water valve to the water heater.  Let the tank fill for a few minutes, and then open the drain valve again.  This will help to flush any remaining particulates out of the heater.  When the water coming out of the hose runs clear, close the drain valve.  Open the hot water supply valve to the house, and then turn the water heater back on.  If is an electric heater, reset the breaker or disconnect.  If it is gas, after you turn on the gas supply valve, you may need to light the pilot.  Your water heater may have an electronic pilot, and ignite on its own, or it may have a pilot light that you will need to light.  On the gas valve, there is usually a setting for pilot.  Follow the instructions on the water heater for lighting it.

Draining and flushing your water heater on a regular basis will help to increase the efficiency and extend the useful life of your water heater.  Another way to save energy with your water heater is to wrap it in a blanket.  There are insulated blankets especially for water heater tanks that you can install that help to keep the water in the tank hot longer, so that your heater runs less, saving you energy and lowering your operating costs.

These are just a few fairly simple steps you can take to help extend the life of your water heater and save a little money on your water heating bill.  We will discuss in a future column some of the other energy saving tips for your water heater and your house.


Feeling A Little Draft?

The weather is warming up, and its time to check that weatherstripping on the doors. Let’s make sure that we are keeping the cool air in and the warm air out. It is always a good idea to check your home over at the change in seasons to make sure that everything is in good shape. A little prevention now can save you time and money later.
First, let’s check around the doors. Weatherstripping should be flexible and continuous. If pieces are missing, it needs to be replaced. A positive seal around doors and windows will help keep the cold air in and the hot air out, and also help to keep down dust infiltration.
Replacing the weatherstripping is relatively easy. First, since you are going to be replacing it, cut out a small piece using your utility knife. (See “The 12 tools every woman should own) Take this sample with you to the home improvement store. This will make it easier to remember what it looks like and match it up with a new package at the store. Make sure that you pick up a package that is self-adhesive. It is also a good idea to pick up a can of spray adhesive just in case. In addition, you should have some rubbing alcohol on hand.
Now that we have the new weatherstripping, it is time to remove the old weatherstripping. It may peel off easily, or you might need a small putty knife to scrape it off of the frame. Remove all of the old weatherstripping and adhesive. Make sure that you clean the top and both sides. Wipe the frame down with a clean rag, and then with rubbing alcohol. Make sure that you have removed all of the old adhesive.
Look carefully at the door and frame. You will need to determine which frame surfaces meet the door surface. Typically it is the inside of the door frame. The interior flat surface of the frame is where you will want to install the weatherstripping. Start at the top of the frame. You will want a separate piece for each side. Use your utility knife to cut clean corners. Now run a piece down each side. If there are any places where the adhesive does not seem to be holding securely, hold it out from the surface and add some spray adhesive. You want to make sure that the weatherstripping sticks to the frame.
After the weatherstripping is installed, close the door and check for gaps. Can you see light anywhere? Light indicates a gap, and that you do not have a good seal. If your door is wood, or if there are wear spots, you might need to pick up some thicker weatherstripping. If there is no light showing at the top or the sides, then this portion is finished.
There are all types of sealers for the bottoms of doors. I will discuss those in another column.
Just remember that the weatherstripping should compress when the door closes against it. This is what creates the positive seal. And if you cannot see any light infiltration, then there should not be any air infiltration.



It’s Spring and Time For A Little Cleaning

It’s Spring, and time to make a few changes that will help you breathe easier. There are a few simple things you should every 30 to 90 days that will save you energy and extend the life of your air conditioner and refrigerator.
First, clean or replace the filters for your air conditioning unit. To do that, first you will need to locate them. If you have a unit located on the roof of your home, there should be a return air register in a hallway. There may be more than one, and you should check them all for a filter. You should replace all of them at the same time. Sometimes the air conditioning filter will be located at the unit. This is more likely the case if you have both an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Only the indoor unit needs to be filtered.
Now that you have located the filter, you will need to open the compartment. If the filter grill is in a hallway, you may need a ladder to reach it. Now check to see how it is kept fastened. It may have some catches that simply pull down, or it may take a screwdriver to open it. It could also have some knurled nuts that will need to be unscrewed. Once you have it open, simply remove the dirty filter.
Before you replace the filter, it is a good idea to clean the register. You can use the soft brush on the end of the vacuum hose to remove the accumulated dust and particulates, or you can use a soft rag with some warm soapy water. Now that the compartment is clean, look at the dirty filter. The size will clearly be marked on the end. Make sure that the new one is the same size.
When you install the new filter, make sure that you check the direction of air flow. There should be an arrow marked on the filter that will indicate this. The air flow should be toward the unit, so the arrow should point to the unit. In a return air, air is pulled back to the unit.
Next, a word about filters. The higher the MERV rating, the more particulates that will be removed from the air. If you have pets, or live in a dusty area, it would be advisable to use a filter with a higher MERV rating. Just remember, because it is catching more, it will need to be changed more often.
Not only will the filter change have a positive effect on your air quality, but it will allow your unit to run cleaner and breathe better. This will save you energy (lowering your power bill) and extend the life of your unit.
Your refrigerator can also benefit from a little cleaning. It should be pulled out from the wall, and you can then clean behind and under it. Air needs to flow freely under it, as most refrigerators have the compressor and other similar components at the bottom. Keeping dust and other things from building up under it will keep it running more efficiently for a longer period of time.
Remember, the two appliances that use the most electricity in your home are the air conditioner and the refrigerator. Even though these things should be done more often than just spring, now is a great time to start.