Interview with Master Plumber, Paul – Talking about Water Heaters Part 1/3- All about Water Heaters with Master Plumber Paul

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Interviewer: Tyler

Interviewee: Paul

“Hi, I’m Paul, I am a Master Plumber and one of our trainers on the plumbing side, I been here for about fourteen and a half years and I’m going to talk today about water heaters and maintenance for those water heaters.”

Q: What kind of maintenance should you be doing for a water heater?

A: “Well, clearly it depends on the type of water heater you have. Most water heaters right now have been built since about 1995. Where the burner is, the design has changed to where you can’t get in to actually clean the burner pan easily, but they do have filters on there that have to be maintained.”

“Everybody’s heard about flushing the tank. Manufactures recommend that even on a tank type water heater, you’re flushing it once a year. Probably 99% of the water heaters never get touched. It just helps them last longer and helps them remain more efficient, because over the years minerals will build up in the tank. Mostly you always just want to be safe and keep the area around your water heater clear. You don’t want to store any paint, paint thinners, or anything that is gasoline too is close to it, because it can cause a major problem. So a little common sense comes into play as well.”

Q: What kind of issues could arise if you don’t keep up with the maintenance of your water heater?

A: “In the Kansas City area, the mineral content is pretty high in the water and because of the concentrated heat at the bottom of that water heater, it has a tendency to cause the minerals to settle and build in the bottom of the tank. If you hear your water heater rumbling when it kicks on or making popping sounds, it’s usually an indicator that you have mineral build up in the bottom of that tank. Flushing can help that, but it can get so hard that if you don’t flush it once a year, you can’t get it out because the sediment hardens over time. Water heaters won’t last twenty-five and thirty years anymore. Eight to twelve years is the normal life of a tank in our area- if you keep up with the regular maintenance.”

Q: By doing the regular maintenance, can you extend the life of your water heater or is it just going to be the eight to twelve years?

A: “Well it’s not so much that you can necessarily extend the life. Potentially that will help the life of the tank but what happens is that if you can keep that mineral from building up in the bottom of the tank. That is going to keep it more efficient. So basically all the gas energy of that burner is going into the water instead of just up the flue pipe. That’s assuming we are talking about a gas type water heater.”

Q: Do you have to do anything different with a gas vs electric water heater?

A: “Well, there are different things with an electric water heater. There is no burner chamber to keep clean, you also don’t have to worry about whether the flue pipe going up is stable and safe or that it’s drafting properly, pulling the exhaust out.”

“There is more that can go wrong with it though because you’ve got two thermostats, two elements, (assuming that it’s a standard 30 or 40 or 50 gallon tank). So there are some things you’re going to have to worry about but they are just different as far as they are designed. They still recommend them being flushed though, but there is a couple of specialized things, especially on an electric water heater you have to do if you’re going to drain and flush it. If you don’t shut the power off to it you are going to cause those elements to what they call dry fire and it’s going to burn the elements up in the water heater. Then when you fill it back up, it’s not going to work.”  


Q: Is there an anything else a home owner should know about their water heater?

A: “Manufactures don’t always make it easy to flush a water heater. A lot of water heaters have an extremely cheap drain valve made of plastic that aren’t what we call full port. That means they’re not completely open to the same size of the pipe, clear to where the water comes out and it’s hard to get sediment out of that. “

“One of the things you always want to look for when shopping for a water heater is to make sure it has a brass drain valve. It may still not be a full port but it is much better than having that little piece of plastic drain valve on there. That also shows the quality of the water heater itself. Water heaters also have an air intake because they have a vapor lock burner chamber. Basically they are designed so that if it had gas, paint thinner or something that could cause an explosion. It will allow those fumes to get into the burner but doesn’t allow that flame to come back out and ignite any vapors in the room. So it may burn off inside that chamber but it’s in a concealed safe area. Now, there are safety devices inside that tank if that happens that will shut that tank down instantly. It’s a safety feature and a lot of times water heaters are designed so that if that trap door closes that water heater is done, you’re going to have to buy a new water heater.”

About Interviewer:













Hi, my name is Tyler, I’ve been working at Bob Hamilton’s for about 4 years now. I’m on a journey to help homeowners and myself learn more about their plumbing and HVAC systems.


About Interviewee:













Paul has been with Bob Hamilton for 14 years, but has been a plumber for 4 decades. He is the one of the plumbing trainers and is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.


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