HOT WATER TANK MAINTENANCE
Hot water heaters mostly remain unseen and perhaps forgotten. Some owners have installed “On-Demand” tanks that don’t require a storage tank but can have problems of its own. However, Maui Vista’s pipe inspection (PIP) reports include your hot water tanks largely, because hot water tanks need routine maintenance for safety reasons. Hopefully, this article will help us learn some important facts.
On-Demand Heaters / “Tankless”
Tankless water heaters work by directly heating water on demand, as it is required. Unlike traditional hot water heaters using a storage tank, the tankless units have no storage tank thereby having no standby heat loss. (heat lost and energy wasted by heating water only to store it in a tank and is characteristic of traditional hot water heaters). Avoiding standby heat loss is primarily how tankless water heaters make their claim of being energy efficient.
One of the most frequent complaints seen in reviews is: ” I don’t get the hot water instantly.” Usually, tankless water heaters do not provide hot water straight away, unless it uses the recirculation pump or the buffer tank. The time it takes to deliver hot water from the heater to the fixture depends on the length between these two points. Other complaints vary from no hot water, water too hot, not hot enough or low water pressure. We have some owners on property who have these hot water tanks and found them a good option or minimally, haven’t mentioned any problems. There are 40amp and 80amp heaters on the market. The 40amp heaters are recommended for use at Maui Vista.
Standard Water Heater Tanks
Most residential tanks hold 40 to 60 gallons and have to be able to hold pressures running at 50 to 100 pounds per square inch (psi). Tanks generally have a liner to keep rust out of the water and insulation surrounding the tank. Other water heater parts include:
• A pipe to let hot water out of the tank
• A thermostat to control the temperature of the water inside the tank
• Heating elements similar to those inside an electric oven
• A drain valve that allows you to drain the tank to replace the elements, or to move the tank
• A temperature or pressure relief valve that monitors the pressure building up in the tank. If pressure builds, the valve .
• A sacrificial anode rod to help keep the steel tank from corroding
• A dip tube to let cold water into the tank
Temperature or Pressure Relief Valve (T&P)
A temperature or pressure relief valve functions to prevent water temperature or pressure exceed safe limits. All hot water tanks T&P drains should be hooked up to the provided copper pipe in the wall. If pressure builds up in the tank, the valve will open and allow hot water to flow out – rather than pressure building up inside the tank.
Some pipe inspection reports (PIP) have come back noting many drain lines leading from the temperature pressure relief valve to the copper pipe with an upward slope to tie into the copper pipe. (see #1 line on the attached H2O diagram). You can see the #1 line moves upward in order to “tie in” to the copper line. The proper “grade” for the connection is “downward”. This allows for optimum water draining (see #2 line on the attached H2O diagram). Not a big undertaking but we are asking owners to change this angle when your hot water tank needs changing. This requires your plumber to seal off the top “T” insert and open another “T” lower. Please notify us when you have this done.
Likewise, many of the recent PIP inspections found the temperature relief valve handle missing, corroded, frozen, or leaking when tested. These items need your immediate attention. If this valve is stuck or not operating correctly, it will not open when pressure builds up in the tank.
Many homeowners are unaware that sediment (like sand and dirt) get into the hot water tanks and build up over the year. Owners can address this sediment build-up by asking a plumber to flush the hot water tank through the drain valve at least once a year to remove that sediment buildup. This is rarely, if ever, done.
It is important to keep the temperature close to 130 degrees. Even though you can be scalded at 130 degrees if you spend long enough under the water, you’ll probably draw back before that happens. Temperatures below 120 degrees can promote Legionella Bacteria to grow and you or your guests could be affected when inhaling the mist when you take a shower. Temperatures above 130 degrees increase your scalding risk, encourages sediment buildup and wastes energy.
If you don’t rent your unit and are leaving for an extended period of time, set the hot water heater temperature at its lowest setting or turn it off until you return. This will save money and reduce the risk of any problems while you are away. Also, if your faucets are sputtering, spitting, and spewing, it could be a sign that your water heater is overheating.
The PIP inspections are meant to identify and repair potential pipe problems before they affect you or other owners. The inspection covers hot water tanks, water shut offs, hoses and faucets in an effort to support you and preserve your investment. The purpose of this information is to widen your knowledge and impress upon all owners that if not properly cared for, hot water tanks can result in serious damage.