Today we are going to discuss your water heater. It sits there quietly in the basement and goes unnoticed, that is, until you go to get in the shower in the morning and there’s no hot water. “What do I do now”?
The first thing to check, if you have a gas water heater, is to see if the pilot light is lit. Most water heaters have a pilot light that is lit all of the time, and when the thermostat calls for more hot water, the burner lights up from the pilot. This does involve getting on your hands and knees, removing the cover plate at the bottom of the water heater to see if there is a small, blue flame. If there is no flame, it could just be a matter of re-lighting the pilot. They can sometimes go out for various reasons. The water heater should have instructions near the gas control valve that will have step by step instructions on how to light the heater. If it does not stay lit, it may be a faulty thermocouple, and unless you are comfortable working on appliances, you may want to call a plumber.
We’ll now talk about the “industry standard” life expectancy of a water heater. Depending on which source you find, a water heater is expected to last anywhere from 8-15 years. I do take issue with the standard life expectancies that are listed for different components of a home. To me, it’s like asking someone, “What’s the life expectancy of a car”? There are a lot of factors that go into the longevity of any component of a home, including the water heater. I can tell you that our current water heater is 27 years old, and in our last home, the water heater was 37 years old when we sold. I will also say that I am ready to replace the water heater at any time, but I won’t replace it as long as it is doing its’ job.
There are a few things that you can do to prolong the life of your water heater. I think that the most effective maintenance item that you can perform is flushing the tank at least once a year. This will help clear the sediment from the bottom of the tank, not only helping the longevity, but also making the water heater more efficient. You can find information online on how to flush your water heater.
Another maintenance item that you can do is to replace the anode rod. This can be done at the same time that you are flushing the tank, since you will be emptying the tank. It is recommended to replace the anode rod every 5 years. I will let you know that it can be a challenge to break the old anode rod free. The anode rod is a metal rod that is usually made of aluminum, zinc or magnesium. It is often referred to as a “sacrificial” rod. It degrades over time from electrolysis, instead of the steel tank degrading. Once the anode rod has completely degraded, the electrolysis will start attacking the tank itself. The tank is the one item of the water heater that can’t be replaced. If you have a tank leak, it is time to replace, and soon! A small leak will turn into a big leak, and there is no telling when this will happen, so it is recommended to replace water heater as soon as possible.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this blog and I also hope that you have a Merry Christmas! Feel free to comment below and hit the Facebook like button below!
With the holiday season coming up, today we’re going to talk about the always important range, oven, stove, or whatever else you may know it as. It is something that gets used on a daily basis, pretty much year round.
The first topic I’d like to discuss about ranges is the anti-tip device. I would estimate that 85-90% of the homes I inspect do not have one installed. They have been included in all ranges since 1991, and many companies were supplying them prior to that. What is an anti-tip device? It is a small, L-shaped bracket that attaches to the wall near the floor, behind the range. When the range is slid into place, the back foot of the range goes below the bracket, keeping the range from tipping forward. The usual cause of a range tipping is a child opening the oven door and standing on the door, causing the range to tip over onto them. It can also tip if you have something heavy in the oven, such as a Thanksgiving turkey, and you slide the oven rack out.
I think that most of the time they aren’t installed simply because people don’t know the purpose of the bracket. Sometimes, when I’m inspecting a home with a new range, the bracket is still in the oven with the manuals, or in the lower drawer. Although fatalities are rare from tipping ranges, you can imagine the types of injuries that can occur, especially if there is something cooking on the stove. It is easy to check if you have the anti-tip device installed, and if the range is properly engaged. First, clear any items off of the stove top (salt & pepper shakers, spoon rest, teapot, etc.), then make sure that there is nothing in the oven – don’t ask me how I know to check this! Then place your foot at the bottom of the range to keep it from sliding out while grabbing the top part at the back of the range. If you tip the range forward more than an inch, or so, there either isn’t a bracket, or the range isn’t engaged. If the back of the range isn’t nearly flush against the backsplash, try pushing it back further. The range may have simply slid forward enough through use that it is no longer engaged.
If you’re range doesn’t have the bracket installed, depending on the age of your range, you may be able to get one easily. Get the model number of your range and call the manufacturer. If the range originally included the bracket, most companies will send you the proper bracket free of charge. It is cheap liability insurance for them to simply send you the bracket. If is not available, a universal bracket can be installed.
Did you know that you can calibrate the temperature setting for your oven? If you find that you are constantly compensating your temperature setting because it seems to run a little hot, or not hot enough, you can make adjustments. You can buy an oven thermometer for less than $10. On ovens that have the adjustment knob, there should be screws on the back that allow you to adjust and compensate for the difference. On models with electronic displays, you can refer to the owners’ manual for instructions on how to adjust the temperature. Keep in mind that an oven can have a fairly large swing in temperature from when the burner or element shuts off, and when it turns back on. So if you set the temperature to 350 degrees, it may heat up to 380 degrees, turn off, and then not turn back on again until the temperature drops to 320 degrees. So in this case, the oven has a +- 30 degree swing. So when you’re checking the temperature, keep a close eye on the thermometer when the oven shuts off, and when it turns back on.
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this blog and I also hope that you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Feel free to comment below and hit the Facebook like button below!
It’s that time of year when the days and nights are getting cooler. You have had the opportunity to keep your windows open after the summer heat and let the fresh air in your home. Now it’s time for furnace to get to work and keep you warm.
Today, we’re going to talk about taking care of your furnace. It’s easy to ignore. It sits out of the way in the basement, and you expect that when you turn the thermostat up, the furnace responds. Having to replace or repair a furnace can be expensive. Murphy’s law seems to apply to furnaces. You won’t notice that there is a problem with your furnace on a mild, fall Monday morning- it will happen on a sub-zero Saturday night.
One of the most effective, cheapest and easiest maintenance items that you can do is change the furnace filter regularly. I inspect many homes that have furnace filters that don’t look like they have been changed in years, or even some that there is no filter at all.
The frequency that you change filter depends on a few different factors. First is the thickness of the filter. The filters range from 1” to 6” thick. If you have a 1 or 2 inch filter, it is recommended to change it out monthly during the heating and cooling seasons. Filters that are 4-6 inches can be replaced either once or twice a year. That brings up the second factor. If you have pets, or have any people in the home that have allergies, you may want to change the filters more often.
When you buy filters, they have a MERV rating on them. MERV is an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The ratings range from 6-16 and they rate how efficiently they remove dust and particles. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles they will remove from the air. People tend to think that they will simply get the highest MERV rated filter to remove the most dust and particles from the air, especially if someone in the home suffers from allergies. However, in a residential furnace, a MERV 13 is the highest rated filter that should be used. In speaking with HVAC technicians, they state filters with a MERV rating of 8-11 is ideal for furnaces.
The problem with higher rated filters is that, although they do filter out more particles, they also restrict air flow because of the density of the filter. And because they are denser, they need to be replaced more often. The problems that HVAC technicians see with the higher rated filters, is that the furnace is designed to operate at a certain air flow. When a higher rated filter is installed, it causes the furnace to work harder and, in turn, makes the furnace less efficient. In time, this can cause premature failure of the blower motor, or the furnace may simply shut down due to the lack of air flow.
My recommendation is to have your furnace and air conditioner serviced annually. You can find HVAC companies that will provide this service for around $100. They will clean, adjust and inspect the furnace for many different issues. Another recommendation is, if you’re furnace has electronic ignition, meaning that there is no standing pilot light, get the model number from your furnace and order an ignitor. This is a common problem with electronic ignition furnaces. The ignitor typically costs between $25-50 and they are specific to each furnace, so your HVAC company may, or may not, have the part you need when it fails. My theory is that if you have the spare ignitor and set it near the furnace, the installed ignitor will never fail!
Fall is here! My favorite season of the year has arrived. The dog days of summer are over which means no more sweltering attics for me. I enjoy smelling the cool, crisp fall air and watching the trees change colors. Speaking of trees – everyone loves trees, including myself. However, there is required maintenance when you have large, mature trees around your home.
Today were going to discuss the important role that your gutters and downspouts play in maintaining your home. It is said that water is a homes’ worst enemy, whether it is coming from the inside or the outside. Your roof is the first line of defense against rain and snow, and your gutters and downspouts are a close second.
I have seen homes that have had basement water proofing systems installed that were probably unnecessary and could have been taken care of with much less expensive exterior work. Sometimes simply maintaining the gutters and downspouts would be enough to solve many moisture issues in a basement. I inspect many homes that have proper gutters and downspouts, but the downspouts aren’t extended to direct the water away from the foundation.
I think that often homeowners don’t like the look of the extended downspouts, or they get in the way of mowing the lawn. Homeowners also like to simply direct the water onto a splash block, but unfortunately, in time, water washes away the soil under the splash block and it directs the water right back towards the foundation. One solution is to run underground piping and have the water discharge at a lower point away from the home if you don’t like having the downspouts extended.
Get ready for some boring calculations! The average size residential roof is 2,000 square feet. A roof that size will shed 1,120 gallons of water, per inch of rain. In the Kalamazoo area, we average 39 inches of rain per year. That’s over 43,500 gallons of water that an average roof sheds in a year, or enough to fill more than 4 residential swimming pools! That is a lot of water that can erode the soil around your foundation and eventually find its’ way into your home.
I always recommend that gutters and downspouts be cleaned and inspected twice a year. Once in the fall after most of the leaves have fallen, and then again in the spring. Cleaning obviously involves removing any debris from the gutters so that the water can run without any restrictions. Inspecting the gutters includes making sure that the gutters have the correct slope to the downspouts, checking the hangers that secure the gutters to the fascia and checking for any leaks that may have developed. Leaks tend to form at any seams, such as end caps, downspout connections, and any other connections.
If you are comfortable working from a ladder, this is something that you can easily tackle yourself. If however, you are not comfortable on a ladder and are afraid of heights, this is definitely a great job for a handyman. Licensed and insured handymen are available in the Kalamazoo area for as little as $80 per hour. I would estimate that most jobs would take no more than 2 hours to complete.