Category Archives: Troubleshooting

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.

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.

 

The Advantages of Installing a Boiler for Your Heating

Boilers were among the first of whole home heating systems, so they’ve been around a long time – but don’t let that imply they are not up to date with today’s standard for energy efficiency. Today’s boilers have average efficiency ratings of 89%, in addition to providing other benefits for your home heating. But quality installation is just as important as having good equipment, so if you are ready to install a boiler in Northern Colorado, make sure you call the people you can trust: Ace Hi Plumbing, Heating and Air.

Two Types of Boilers

Boilers are part of a hydronic system, meaning they use hot water or steam to heat your home. There are two ways in which the water can be heated

  • Water Tube
  • Fire Tube

With a water tube boiler, the water is held inside metal tubes that are heated on the outside via flames or hot gases. In a fire tube boiler, the opposite occurs : tubes are placed inside the water container; the tubes are then heated with combustion gases. and the heat from the tubes transfers into the water. The two most common fuels used are gas and oil, but other fuels like wood or wood pellets can also be used.

Advantages of Boiler Systems Comparative to Furnaces

Boiler systems have a few advantages that make them attractive to homeowners:

  • Good for allergy sufferers – hydronic systems do not rely on forced air distribution, instead utilizing radiant heating systems or radiators. As such, there is no circulating dust to worry about, which can be very beneficial should you have allergy sufferers in your home.
  • Even gradual heating – the heating of a boiler system is very gradual, as outlet points radiate the heat as opposed to blowing it out, as with a forced-air system.
  • Easy zoning – the piping used with a boiler system can be easily zoned then duct-work. Also allows for more comfort from room to room with designated zones.
  • Quiet operation – the only time you hear noise is when your boiler is heating the water in your system, otherwise, the operation is very quiet.
  • Retains heat longer for better over all efficiency. With a furnace, if you open your door you lose a lot of your heat and have to recover that gradually. With a boiler your heat stays retained within the pipes keeping your floors warmer with significantly less heat loss.

Hydronic heating is a safe, comfortable and economical way to heat your home. Hydronic systems circulate hot water through baseboards, radiators and or radiant tubing in your floors or ceilings. There are many advantages to heating your home using a hydronic system, whether it is a new install or retrofit for your existing system.

The Importance of Boiler Maintenance

One of the most significant reasons why good boiler maintenance is so important is because it helps prevent unexpected shutdowns which could not only be inconvenient but also costly for after hours calls. Getting set up on a scheduled boiler maintenance and inspection helps increase the life of your boiler and takes all the worry out of the last minute service calls.

This scheduled maintenance is especially important to check for leaks on your flues and heat exchanger. If your flue or heat exchanger is damaged from lack of maintenance you are putting you and your family at risk of Co2 exposure. Your boiler technician will check for Co2 levels to make sure your family is safe against this silent killer. This also goes for a heat exchanger on your furnace.

Side Arm Tanks

Side arms tanks are used so that the boiler can provide both space heating and domestic hot water (DHW). The tank stores a consistent temperature water similar to a hot water tank so when there is a call for heat in the home your hot water use will not be compromised. These can really make a huge difference in your home comfort if you already have a boiler without a sidearm that also provides DHW for your home. The thermal mass of the side arm tank stabilizes domestic hot water delivery temperature during long demand periods. This help reduce fluctuation in delivery temperature throughout your daily use.

 

 

Boilers have been around a long time for good reasons. If you think a boiler system in Loveland is a good fit for you, call Ace Hi Heating and Air Conditioning, Today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation specialists.

Troubleshooting Water Heater Pilot Lights – Ace Hi Plumbing, Heating & Air

Troubleshooting  Water Heater Pilot Lights

Important: Before troubleshooting any pilot light problems, keep in mind that pilot flame is always ON and the flame should be mostly blue. If it is yellow it needs adjustment. Also, make sure the tank is completely filled with water before lighting the pilot light.

 Pilot Light Will Not Stay Lit

 It is crucial that you read the manufacturer instructions carefully to prevent problems with the water heater pilot light; How to Maintain Gas Water Heaters and How to Light it. It is also important to understand when troubleshooting pilot light problems that gas heaters are equipped with the safety elements. There are many factors that can cause a water heater to not stay lit.

Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Thermocouple goes out
  • Gas utilities being turned off
  • Air temperature
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Defective gas control valve
  1. All gas water heaters use pilot lights to ignite the main gas burner used to heat the tank reservoir. The pilot light plays a significant safety role as it ensures that any gas supplied to the main burner is ignited and not allowed to accumulate prior to the main burner is immediately ignited and not allowed to accumulate prior to combustion, thus creating a potentially dangerous explosion.

A thermocouple is a sensor used to measure temperature under a wide variety of temperature ranges and conditions and designed automatically to shut off the unit when the flame is not present or extinguished for any reason. The thermocouple stands guard over the functioning of the pilot light. It accomplishes this by continually monitoring whether the pilot light is burning and by providing an immediate “fail safe” by shutting down gas supply system when the pilot lights fail to burn, before uncombusted gas can accumulate at the burner head.

If the thermocouple connection is loose, tighten it. It should be embedded in the flame and tighten correctly, first hand, tighten and then use the wrench for an additional 1/4 turn. If you have the faulty thermocouple, replace it with a new one. The gas control valve should be creating at least 10 millivolts.

2. If there is no gas, or gas pressure is too high or low, check with your utility company.

3.  The air present in gas lines could prevent the pilot light from lighting. Purging the air from a gas line should be performed by a professional.

4.  Replace the thermostat, or gas control valve, if the inner elements are faulty or if the thermostat ECO switch is open.

Gas water heaters use two different elements to control the gas flow to the water heater. The gas cut-off valve is situated on the gas line leading into the water heater. The gas line feeds from the cut-off valve to the gas control valve assembly.

The gas control valve is part of the gas burner control module. This unit operates to control gas flow to the pilot light and as a thermostat by turning the gas to the burner off after water reaches the desired temperature. A thermocouple sensor detects when the temperature of the water drops and sends an electrical impulse to the thermostat control. The Thermostat causes the burner to light and bring the temperature of the water back up to the temperature setting on the thermostat.

Pilot flame is too large

The Main reason a pilot light is too large is if the gas pressure is too high. There is nothing you can do about this problem except to gall the gas utility company and check with them. The wrong size of the pilot burner orifice is another reason.

 Pilot flame is too small 

You may experience the flame being too small if the gas pressure is too low. Check with your utility company about this problem. Also, the pilot light tube’s orifice might be clogged with the dirt found in the gas line. Some elements you can clean, but if there’s dirt on the incoming gas line, you should notify your utility distributor and check with the gas technician about installing the dirt trap in the gas line. If you have the wrong pilot burner, replace it with the correct one.

 Pilot light will not light

One reason why you don’t have hot water is because the burner did not ignite. This happens when the pilot light does not light. Listed below are a few reasons.

  1. If the pilot light is clogged, you should clean or replace it.
  2. Faulty Piezo igniter. The water heater uses the piezo igniter to light the main gas burner and when pressed, it releases the electric spark. The spark gap is factory set. When Troubleshooting the light problems, it is recommended to test it first. Turn the gas OFF to the water heater and press the piezo igniter. Once pressed, the electrode should release the spark.
  3. Check to make sure the wire connections are properly tightened.
  4. Be sure that the electrode is not broken and replace it if it is.
  5. If there is soot and/or carbon deposits on the pilot light, you should clean the tip of the electrode from the dirt, rust and other deposits by using a dry cloth and sandpaper.
  6. No gas or faulty gas valve does not release the gas.

Pilot light goes out due to condensation  

Most of today’s water heaters will produce a certain amount of condensate. If there is excessive condensation, it will effect the light and extinguish it. In this extreme case, condensate is running down the flue tube and is dripping on the main burner, resulting in the pilot outage.

Pilot light goes out due to improper venting or air supply 

Improper venting will cause the pilot light outage on direct vent gas water heaters . Even a down draft from a ceiling fan or if there is a draft at the bottom of the unit, can blow out the pilot light. If there is a restriction on the fresh air delivery, find the reason and remove the obstructions. The proper air supply should be delivered when the unit is installed in a small, confined place. If there is wind blowing directly into the DV vent, it may cause the pressure imbalance.