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Electric Water Heaters Efficiency and Recovery vs Gas – Hard water effects

There is usually a lot of confusion about the differences between Electric and Gas water heaters. Electric water heaters cost less upfront for the unit and install than gas, but depending on your local utility costs, electric water heaters are typically more expensive in the long run. Gas water heaters generally make up for that cost difference in your utility bills, sometimes even within one year.

Gas water heaters use the heat from burning a fuel (usually natural gas) to heat water, while an electric water heater uses electric resistance coils.

water_heaters_parts_diagram1

When comparing gas vs electric water heater operating cost, its said that gas is almost always cheaper than electric. Gas water heaters typically cost about $30 a month to run, while electric water heaters run closer to $42 a month, depending on utility rates, of course. This analysis of gas vs electric water heater water heater operating costs is based partially on the fact that natural gas is typically less expensive than electricity. Assume that you already have access to natural gas in your home. Having to put in a natural gas line would add expense and mean that it would take much longer to realize any potential hot water heater savings.

Thermal Expansion

Thermal expansion is important to know about when you have a closed plumbing system in your house. A closed plumbing system is when you have a check valve installed in line, that restricts the water from back flowing into the cold side of the system. A check valve at the at the water meter or a PRV (Pressure Reducing Valve) that will make your home a “closed system”.

Thermal Expansion of water in a closed plumbing system can create a number of annoying and potentially dangerous problems. These include; the build up of unusually high pressure in a system (even when a pressure reducing valve is installed), pressure surges, and the continuous dripping of your temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P). In Addition, dripping faucets, leaking toilet fill valves are also symptomatic of thermal expansion.

water-system-expansion

More serious problems can also occur due to thermal. When dangerous pressures are built up in a water heater, internal parts may fail such as the internal flues, fittings or water connections. If a flue way collapses it can lead to the potential release of toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide into living spaces. Thermal expansion can also lead to a ruptured or distorted  hot water heating tank and may void the manufacturers warranty.

Plumbing codes require you to address this safety issue. No matter what your thermal expansion problem may be, whether for new construction or for retrofitting or remodeling an existing there are plenty of affordable options to fix these issues.

When water is heated it expands. For example, water heated from 90 degrees F to a thermostat setting of 140 degrees F in a 40 gallon water heater. It will expand by almost one-half gallon. This is because when water is heated, its density decreases and its volume expands. Since water is not compressible the extra volume created by expansion must go someplace. During no-flow period in a system, pressure reducing valves, backflow preventers, and other one way check valves are closed. Thus eliminating a path for the expanded water to flow back to the system supply. Hence, system pressure increase. This is where thermal expansion tanks and valves come into play.

Thermal Expansion Tanks and Valves

When the water is heated in a closed system it expands. Water is not compressible, therefore, the additional water volume has to go someplace. When an expansion tank is installed the excess water enters the pre-pressurized tank (set at normal house pressure). As the temperature and pressure reaches its maximum, the diaphragm flexes against an air cushion (air is compressible) to allow for increased water expansion. When the system is opened again or the water cools, the water leaves the tank and returns to the system.

expansion-tank

As the water temperature increases, the expanded water is received by the tank.

expansion-tank-2

As the water and pressure reaches its maximum, the diaphragm flexes against the air cushion to allow for increased water expansion.

Thermal Expansion Valves 

Thermal Expansion Relief Valves are used in the same circumstance as expansion tanks, but instead of expanding within expansion tank, the expansion will escape within the valve and go out through a drain port routed to your nearest floor drain. These are commonly used when there is not enough room for an expansion tank, when these fail you will see a steady flow of water going through the drain tube rather than a normal couple drips. If this problem goes unnoticed for long periods of time you will begin to waste a tremendous amount of water. So make sure you have this routed to a visible floor drain!

Anode Rods

Most water heater tanks are steel with a thin glass lining to protect the metal from corrosion. Since the lining eventually cracks due to the minerals, rust and sediment in the water. Water heaters need a second line of defense. A long metal “anode rod” that attracts all the corrosive elements in the water. These anode rods are made from magnesium, aluminum or aluminum/zinc alloy. Anode rods usually are completely corroded after 5 years, but if you have hard water and are aware of that, the rod may last as little as 2 years. This is something that can be replaced periodically and can sometimes double the life of your water heater. This little bit of maintenance can really save you money in the long run. People are often unaware that you are able to replace these rods and extend the life of your water heater!

Sediment and Hard Water

Is sediment buildup harmful? The amount of sediment that builds up in your water heater will depend heavily on where you are located. If your city water supply is filtered and you water is naturally soft with little mineral content, then you may have very little sediment, but that little amount of sediment will separate from your water once heated. Build up in the bottom of the water heater tank. In other areas you may have a large build up of sediment.

A small amount of sediment at the bottom of your water heater is not serious, and can be removed by flushing your water heater annually. This can really extend the life of your water heater because the minerals in the sediment attack the tank and cause leaks over time. A deep layer of sediment displaces water and reduces the amount of hot water available for your use. This sediment can also affect the efficiency of your water heater because the burner is then having to transfer the heat through the sediment and can overheat the bottom of the tank. Overheating can weaken the steel and damage the lining of the tank. With Electric water heaters, if the sediment covers the bottom heating element, the element can overheat and burn out. If it gets into got water circulating systems it can cause problems with the pump, valves and fixtures they are serving.

Sediment can cause noises like popping and other strange sounds as water between the tank bottom and layer of sediment turns to steam bubbles. This is a warning sign that your water heater may be on the verge of going out and you should be maintaining your system in a different way in the future. A simple flush could add years onto your water heater, this removes some of that harmful sediment that causes issues within your water heater.

Hard water will have a similar effect as sediment except picture white calcium build up instead of sediment. This can build up much faster in certain situations and will cause very similar issues. If you know your water is extremely hard then you should consider  filters, or water softeners. These can make a huge difference for all your fixtures, appliances, look of your water, and most of all the taste. These are all extremely important variables to consider that will save you money in the end. If you address these issues correctly you could increase the life span of your water heater by as many as 5 years in serious cases.water-heater-corrosion

Gas Water Heaters

Cost Less To Operate

Lasts Average Of 13 Years

Takes Less Time To Reheat Water

Works During Power Outage

Less Efficient. More Heat Loss.

Electric Water Heaters

Costs More To Operate

Lasts Average Of 12 Years

Takes More Time To Reheat Water

Won’t Work During Power Outage

More Efficient. No Heat Loss.

 

 

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Troubleshooting Power Vent Water Heaters

Venting

When troubleshooting a Power Vent water heater the venting often goes unnoticed even if there is an issue. The venting is so important to inspect on Power Vent Water Heaters because if they are sloped the wrong direction condensation will makes its way to the blower and damage it. Power vents don’t always form condensation, but there are a couple different variables that do cause them to condensate.

-Ambient temperature and humidity of installation location

-Ambient temperature and humidity of venting space

-Vent distance, slope, and correct product usage

-Vent has slope minimum of 1/8″ AWAY from the blower – Horizontal Applications

-Know the proper vent lengths for the model water heater (see table below)

These are the variables you need to pay especially close attention to when inspecting the venting. If you do notice an issue where the Power Vent is condensating a condensate kit is available to install. This is a Fernco exhaust adapter with a drain outlet that you pipe to the drain using vinyl tubing. An inexpensive part that will solve the condensate problem.

Check for vent blockage and determine if the vent could become clogged by surrounding vegetation. If so, consult with the home owner on a solution to make sure the problem does not repeat itself.

Its extremely important to make sure there is adequate air for combustion and ventilation. An insufficient supply of air will cause re-circulation of combustion products resulting in air contamination that may be hazardous to life. In Such conditions you will notice a yellow,luminous burner flame, causing carbon build up or sooting of the combustion chamber, burners and flue tubes with possible damage to the water heater.

Vents are susceptible to freezing and can be very easy to overlook. If the burner wont stay lit you should check to make sure there are no obstructions and investigate the possibility of frozen vent.

Troubleshooting codes and Vent Length Table

The link below includes a table to troubleshoot any issues you may have

The link also includes Maximum vent length including number of allowed elbows

vent-length-table-troubleshooting-codes-and-cause

Proper Combustion Air

Combustion air is very important for a water heater to run correctly. All different variables should be considered. When an exhaust fan is installed in the same room with a water heater, sufficient openings for air must be provided in the walls. Undersized openings will cause air to be drawn into the room through the venting and causing circulation of combustion products. A very common solution to this problem is the installation of a louvered door.

The formula to correctly determine proper openings

All air coming from inside the building: an opening must have a minimum free area of 1 inch² (6.5 cm²) per 1000 BTU (0.29 kw) per hour of the total input rating of all gas utilization equipment in the confined space, but not less than 100 inches² (645 cm²). One opening must be within 12 inches (31 cm) of the top and one with 12 inches (31 cm) of the bottom of the enclosure.

All Air coming from Outdoors: The confined space must be provided with two permanent openings, one commencing within 12 inches (31 cm) of the top and one commencing within 12 inches (31 cm) from the bottom of the enclosure. The openings must communicate directly, or by ducts, with the outdoors or spaces (crawl or attic) that freely communicate with the outdoors.

  1. When directly communicating with the outdoors, each opening must have a minimum free area of 1 inch² (6.5 cm²) per 4000 BTU (1.2 kw) per hour of total input rating of all equipment in the enclosure.
  2. When communicating with the outdoors through vertical ducts, each opening must have a minimum free area of 1 inch² (6.5 cm²) per 4000 BTU (1.2 kw) per hour of total input rating of all equipment in the enclosure.
  3. When communicating with the outdoors through the horizontal ducts , each opening must have a minimum free area of 1 inch² (6.5 cm²)  per 2000 BTU (0.6 kw) per hour of total input rating of all equipment in the enclosure.
  4. When ducts are used, they must be of the same cross-sectional area as the free area of the openings to which the connect. The minimum dimensions of rectangular air ducts must be not less than 3 inches (7.5cm)

Specially Engineered Installations

The requirements noted under the CONFINED SPACES above must not necessarily govern when special engineering, approved by the authority having jurisdiction, provides an adequate supply of air for combustion, ventilation, and dilution of flue gases.

Sequence of Operation

The sequence of operation is important to know so you can properly diagnose the problem.

Control Sequence of Operation

Start up sequence

Upon powering up, the control checks for the presence of the resistive plug, if the resistance is in the expected range the control will begin normal operation after 5 to 8 seconds.

Normal Heating Sequence

  1. The thermostat senses a need for heat.
  2. The control checks the pressure switch condition.
  3. If the pressure switch is open, the control sends power to the blower motor.
  4. The blower starts moving combustion air through the combustion system.
  5. The pressure switches closes.
  6. The control senses the closed pressure switch and starts the ignition process by providing a spark at the pilot electrode and allowing gas to flow to the pilot.
  7. When the pilot is lit the gas control senses the pilot flame and opens the main gas valve.
  8. The main burner is lit.
  9. The main burner and blower continue to operate until the thermostat is satisfied.
  10. When the thermostat is satisfied the main and pilot gas valves close.
  11. The blower operates for a short post purge period before shutting down.
  12. The water heater remains in the stand-by mode until the next call for heat.
  13. Make sure Power Vent is plugged into a grounded outlet.
  14. Make sure you have correct continuinty

Maintenance

  1. Annually check the operation of the thermostat
  2. The flow of combustion and ventilation air MUST NOT be restricted. Clear the combustion air openings of any dirt, dust, or other restrictions. WARNING! The ventilation air system may be HOT.
  3. At all times keep the water heater area clear and free from combustible materials, gasoline and other flammable vapors and liquids.
  4. Bi-annually conduct a visual check of the main and pilot burner flames to determine that they are burning properly. see Burner Flame Check. If sooting or other burner anomalies are evident, shut down the water heater by turning off the gas per the instructions listed in this manual or as listed on the water heater.
  5. Annually remove the inner door and main burner assembly to clean orifices and related parts of any dirt or other foreign material. Inspect the burner ports for obstructions or debris and clean with a wire brush as needed. Wire brush and/or vacuum clean the combustion chamber as needed to remove scale deposits and debris. NOTE: It is imperative for proper operation of the water that the inner door replaced in the original location.
  6. At least once a year, check the combination temperature and pressure relief valve to insure that the valve has not become encrusted with lime. Lift the lever at the top of the valve several times until the valve seats properly without leaking.
  7. Monthly drain off a gallon of water to remove silt and sediment.
  8. If the combination temperature and pressure relief valve on the appliance discharges periodically, this may be due to thermal expansion in a closed water supply system. Contact the Ace Hi Plumbing, Heating and Air to help correct this problem. Do not plug the combination temperature and pressure relief valve outlet.
  9. A combination sacrificial anode rod/hot water outlet nipple has been installed to extend tank life. The anode rod should be inspected annual and replaced when necessary to prolong tank life. Water conditions in your area will influence the time interval for inspection and replacement of the anode rod. The use of a water softener may increase the speed of anode consumption. More frequent inspection of the anode is needed when using softened (or phosphate treated) water.
  10. The blower has sealed motor bearings and does not require adding oil.

Tank Water Heaters – Bradford White

There are many different choices out there on the type of tank water heater to have installed in your home. And we will explain to you why we choose Bradford White over many of the other brands.

When your spouse doesn’t have hot water do you want to wait over the weekend while waiting for parts to come in for your other brand water heaters? Bradford whites parts are readily available for same day repair. There should be no reason you go that weekend or even a night without hot water when you chose to install a Bradford White product.

While many other companies have moved manufacturing facilities out of the country, Bradford White stays invested in American Jobs and Growth. As demand grows they continue to grow their manufacturing facility in Middleville, Michigan.

Types of Water Heaters

There are many different types of water heaters to choose from. If you already have a specific type installed it is recommended you go with the same type.

Direct Vent

Direct Vent water heaters utilize a co-axial (pipe inside a pipe) vent pipe that takes air in from the outside (outer vent) and vents combustion gases directly back to the outside (outer vent). It is perfect choice for situation with insufficient combustion air. Direct vent water heaters water is heated by the heat of fuel combustion. A Direct vent system typically results in lower heating costs, because the exhaust gases are vented vertically, with no extra power required as in the case with the power vent water heater. No electricity required. Used in both LP and Natural Gas applications.

direct vent

Atmospheric Vent

This is the most common gas water heater. Its called “atmospheric vent” because warm air rises, the hot gases created by combustion are pulled by natural convection up a vertical metal flue through the roof to the outside. The air around the base of the water heater is pulled into the burner chamber for combustion by the same convection flow. Its a very simple system that does not require electric power or moving parts. Which is why you see these used in most applications.

There is also a Damper Atmospheric Vent model that feature an automatic flue damper that helps reduce stand by heat loss. The flue damper, combined with additional insulation and heat traps, These units have one of the highest Energy Factor (EF) ratings for atmospheric vent models.

atmospheric vent

Power Vent

Power Vent models are power vented for positive exhaust. They offer greater installation flexibility with the ability to vent through the wall or roof, with either 2″ or 3″ PVC, ABS or CPVC pipe. Power vent water heaters use a blower or fan to exhaust gases by pushing them through the vent pipes that are horizontal. In some situations, this may be the only type of water heater that makes sense, because a chimney or vertical vent is not necessary. Some locations don’t have access to a chimney or vertical vent so your options are limited. These are nice because a Power Vent can be vented by simply running inexpensive pipe horizontally.

However the drawback to this type of water heater is the total cost considering the blower/fan portion of the vent requires electricity to operate as well as the cost of the blower and running a power line to the unit. Noise is also a disadvantage from the blower fan running. But when installed properly the noise can be minimized or nearly eliminated.

power vent

Power Direct Vent

Power Direct Vent models are the solution to installation that lack sufficient air for combustion and require installation flexibility. All models of power direct vent water heaters can vent vertically or horizontally and are also approved for direct-vent, closed combustion applications. Solid core PVC is used for the exhaust vent and Cellular core PVC is used for the combustion air in. This application does require electricity to power the direct vent.

High Efficiency

 High Efficiency (HE) water heaters  extract heat out of the exhaust gases to heat the water, just like your standard Atmospheric Vent water heaters. But they include a secondary heat exchanger that maximizes the heat transfer process to extract as much heat energy as possibly out of the combustion process.

Sealed Combustion water heaters maintain the “seal” by using designated intake and exhaust pipes to connect them directly to the outside. They are controlled so when hot water is needed the blower kicks in and draws air directly from the outside into the combustion chamber, with the fuel, and the exhaust gets power vented directly out of the building with the same blower that drew it in but through another designated pipe rather then through a chimney.

Condensing is the next key process to achieve higher efficiency. A second heat transfer process is achieved by lengthening the exit path the exhaust travels using a secondary heat exchanger, frequently featuring a coiled design for maximum surface area, though some models use a reversed travel path (down, up, down again) And as this heat transfer occurs, the exhaust gases cool to the temperature where water vapor condenses out of the exhaust’s air stream back into liquid water (just like water from the air condenses on the outside of a cold drink), releasing the latent heat of vaporization which is used to further heat the water in the system. (The resulting liquid condensate leaves the system via a designated condensate drain.) The exhaust gases end up cool enough that PVC can be used for the venting, but those gases also lose stamina as they travel, which is why all HE units are power vented (fan assisted).

high efficiency water heater.png

Warranty

When dealing with warranty issues you commonly have to deal with customer service. Normally that would be a headache. But with Bradford White you know you are getting better quality customer service than any other manufacturer and will make sure you are happy with your product.

Warranties are among some of the biggest concern to the customer, with good reason. Which is why we stand behind Bradford White. When your tank fails and is under warranty there is a process that we must go through to get your tank paid for. We must pay for the new tank being installed and wait for reimbursement from the manufacturer. If we did not  originally install the product there is a chance that you may have to pay for the water heater and get reimbursed from manufacturer. Bradford White water heaters have fewer problems than any other brands. And when there is an issue they will go out of their way to make it right for the installer and the consumer.

Big Box Stores

Typically when choosing a water heater a customer will go to a Big Box Store and pick one out themselves. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but with water heaters you are not getting the quality of product that we can get from our distributor and often times you are spending more money for that water heater. This is being said from years of installing both products and seeing parts fail more frequently on models from big box stores. The parts for these water heaters are not as readily available for a quick and smooth repair. In many cases when going with a Big Box Store for your water heater install you will be dealing with their warranty department which can typically be a 7 day wait. With Bradford White water heaters, you know you are getting a quality product at a reasonable price. If any parts do fail on your Bradford White at any point it will be possible to have a same day repair. Compared to having to wait 2-5 days for parts to come in on your other models. With our customers best interest in mind we strongly suggest to stray away from Big Box Stores brands.

Energy Star

There are a few things to have in mind when considering installing an energy star water heater. They advertise a rebate associated with having a certain EF Rating of .67 (Energy Factor Rating). This rebate comes to around  $70 in Larimer County and may be even less depending on your County. Getting a water heater with this EF rating will cost you more money upon install. Usually 300-500 dollars more.You will on average save 7% annually. When considering this install you should also consider future repairs and how long you may have to wait for these parts. This should be a huge deciding factor because often times you may have to wait 2-5 days for your parts to come in and will have to suffer without hot water.

Overall we feel Bradford White is a better install option for our customers.

atmospheric vent diagram

Short Cycling Boilers

Boiler Short Cycling is when the boiler overheats and shuts off before reaching peak efficiency. If your boiler just recently started short cycling, there can be many different factors causing this issue.

Thermostat

If your thermostat is out of calibration your burner will be bouncing on and off. If your thermostat has a mercury switch first make sure the thermostat hangs level on the wall. Also look to see if the thermostat is in a cold draft area or possibly hanging on a poorly insulated wall. These could all be contributing factors to your thermostat getting incorrect readings. Then causing your boiler to fire inconsistently.

Air Vents

Air vents are crucial to your system running correctly. If your vents are clogged air will become trapped in your system and it will pressurize causing an air bubble which water wont pass through. Your boiler wont be cycling the water at this point and will overheat quickly causing it to shutoff before being able to distribute hot water throughout the house. Often this will be caught in a boiler maintenance and fixed before causing any issues.

Over sized Boilers

If your boiler is over sized it will satisfy the space heating demands too quickly , then shut down until heat is required again. This is bad because the longer your boiler runs the more efficient it will be. This can often happen when you have multiple zones in a home but only one of them is calling for heat. Therefore the amount of water flowing through the boiler is a fraction of what was expected. When you have an on-off boiler (no modulation) this becomes more prevalent and the more the boiler is over-sized, the more often it will occur. A modulating boiler does good in this circumstance because it will adjust the flame according to the load, rather then just shutting down on high limit from lack of flow.

Circulating Pumps

Circulating pumps are used to force hot water from the boiler through the radiating devices such as hot water baseboards or radiators. The circulators are switched on as needed or in some cases they will be designed to run continuously. If your pump stops working it will no longer be able to circulate the water in the zone causing your boiler to overheat and begin short cycling.

Boiler Dry Cycling

When the boiler currently at the temperature set point and is in stand by mode as no further heat is required from the system load (no zones calling for heat). Due to the ambient radiated heat loses, together with the flue drought heat losses (standing losses) The boiler will naturally cool down over time which may cause the temperature controls to instruct the boiler to re fire and return the boiler back to the set point temperature. In this case the heat is not being used by the heating system it is only replacing the “standing heat loss” and therefore wasting energy.

Boiler short cycling is unhealthy overall for your system. If you have any boiler issues in Northern Colorado, call Ace Hi Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Today and schedule an appointment with one of our heating specialists.

 

Tankless Water Heaters And Cold Shots of Water

The Navien Advantage

Only Navien tankless heaters offer “Comfort Flow” Technology to eliminate cold water shock associated with other tankless systems. Navien’s unique buffer tank in conjunction with the recirculation pump assures faster delivery of continuous heated water and no shots of cold water.

Navien was also first to offer dual stainless steel heat exchangers, rather than copper. This extends the life of the unit by resisting corrosion. Also backed by the industry’s strongest residential warranty, 15 years on the heat exchanger, 5 years on parts, 1 year on labor. The units are also LP/NG convertible.

Efficiency

Unlike systems that waste energy to heat large tanks of water. Navien tankless units utilize 99 cents on every dollar to heat your water. Unlike the conventional tank system, it only fires up when hot water is needed allowing great utility savings and a lower impact on the environment. Navien tankless heaters even reduce CO2 output by 1,216.8 lbs.* per year compared to the traditional tank type heaters. This would equal to saving 62 gallons of gasoline in your car.

The NPE-240A  is the best residential tankless unit, it has a 199,000 BTU rating. Meaning your unit will heat up more efficiently and have better water distribution. For instance while in the shower you will have the same continuous hot water and pressure even if someone decides to use the washer at that point in time. Units with a lower rating of BTU’s will have issues with GPM (gallons per minute) and keeping continuous hot water flow to all fixtures. Therefore making the NPE-240A the only unit we like to install.

Addition Features

The NPE-A series offer a couple different addons which give your unit an upper hand on efficiency and personal comfort.

First being the Navien Hot Button, The Hot Button activates the recirculation pump and gas-fired burner to heat up the water in the supply lines. Compared to the pump running 24/7 or on a timer. This gives you hot water when you need, rather than waiting for it to make its way to your shower, tub, etc. This add-on accessory saves you water and money.

Next, The H2Air kit utilizes the NPE-A pump to circulate the hot water for the use in a hydronic air handler. This removes the need to purchase an additional circulating pump for the heating system. Designed for both retrofit and new construction residential applications. The H2Air Kit consists of an add-on controller that allows for space heating and DHW system integration between NPE-A series tankless water heater models and a hyrdronic air handler. Also compatible with single or dual-stage thermostats.

Last but surely not least, The Navi Link wifi remote control system. This will enable customers to use their smart phones or tablets to control the temperatures remotely, access usage data and receive diagnostic notifications on all Navien products (NPE-A, NPE-S, NCB-E, NHB). Existing installations/stock may require the purchase of a new main PCB (control board) and front control panel.

 

PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS

Programmable thermostats are great if you know how to operate them.

The Honeywell Focus Pro6000 is capable of programming four time periods each day. It has different settings for weekdays and weekends.  They recommend the pre-set settings to help reduce your heating/cooling expenses.

It also allows you to override any settings for a temporary time period.  To cancel the setting you just have to push the run schedule button and it will go back to your programmed settings.

Double check and make sure your system is set to heat,cool or auto.

The thermostat also has Adaptive intelligent recovery.  This eliminates the guesswork when setting your schedule .  It allows the thermostat how long your furnace and air conditioner take to reach the temperature you want.