Water Heater Sediment Buildup: What You Need to Know

Sediment buildup in water heaters is an issue that occurs when the minerals that are naturally present in your water source accumulate in your water heater. If left unattended, not only can this cause overheating and reduce the lifespan of your water heater, but the impurities can also leach into your water supply. If you happen to use this water for cooking, you may even accidentally ingest the impurities. So how can one tell if their water heater is suffering from sediment buildup?

In this article, plumbing heating and air expert Palo Alto reveals the signs that indicate your water heater is suffering from sediment buildup and what you can do about it.

Low Water Pressure: Is It a Symptom of a Bigger Problem?

Having low water pressure is understandably frustrating, especially when it happens at the worst time possible. While this may be a sign of a bigger plumbing problem, don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve done the following: Read more

How to Find an Energy Auditor, and Why You Need One

An energy-efficient home provides many benefits, from energy savings to improved heating and air conditioning system performance. The first step to improving home energy efficiency is having an energy audit conducted by a certified auditor. In this blog, Palo Alto guides you in your search for an energy auditor. Read more

Answering FAQs About Furnace Repairs

The furnace is one of the most hardworking of all your home’s appliances. It has the unenviable task of keeping your entire home warm and comfortable during the coolest months. Without proper maintenance, however, its efficiency is bound to decline, which could lead to its premature failure. Read more

The Basics of Warm Air Heating Furnaces

Warm air heating systems are a popular heating and air conditioning option for most homes. They heat the air by using oil, electricity, or natural gas in a furnace. The air is then distributed throughout the home out of ductwork that spread out across the floor and ceilings and is then blown out in vents, registers, and wall or ceiling supplies to control the temperature of a particular area. The cycle is pretty straightforward but there are a few nuances which could help you understand issues that can arise from this particular system. Read more

Carbon Monoxide: What You Don’t Know is Putting Your Family at Risk

“It started as a nagging headache,” Diane said. “And then it became worse before turning into a horror show.”

It was around 9 pm on a cold December night and both of them were sitting in front of their fireplace, decompressing from the hard day’s work. The baby June was in her crib. Suddenly, Liam, Diane’s husband, became sick – headache, vomiting, the works. That made Diane concerned for her husband’s health but she chalked it up to the bug that was going around the neighborhood. “Must be the flu.”

Two hours later, Diane felt her heart thudding in her chest, wanting to come out. She became nauseous and lightheaded, and her whole body went cold. She panicked and rushed to “Google” the symptoms – finding it just might be Carbon Monoxide poisoning. She called 911 after finding out that they were indeed being poisoned by the stealthiest killer: Carbon Monoxide.

Her family was saved thanks to Diane’s quick reaction and pure timing but, everyone is not so lucky.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. That means between 1999 to 2010 most of the 5,149 Americans that ended up in graves because of non-fire-related Carbon Monoxide poisoning had no idea what hit them. No bad odor, no horrible taste, nothing – except for the untimely death.

Although, like all accidents you can minimize the chances of dying from CO, most people avoid taking the right precautionary measures until it happens to them. When, unfortunately, it is already too late. And the damage is done.

CO is produced any time you burn fossil fuels like in cars, trucks, fireplaces, and good old furnaces. Everyone is at risk regardless of gender or age, but children and elderly and those with preexisting diseases of heart or lungs are at higher risk of developing complications such as permanent brain damage, life-threatening heart complications, and death.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Affect Our Health?

Once inhaled, it goes into the blood stream and displaces oxygen from hemoglobin, that results in a deficiency of oxygen which leads to hypoxia and eventually death.
The symptoms of CO are non-specific and often don’t tell anything by themselves. Most common symptoms include altered mental status, headache, nausea, weakness and chest pain.

Fortunately, science has made it really easy to prevent against CO exposure. Take steps to prevent accidental exposure to Carbon Monoxide. Because it is real. And it kills.

How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Here are just a few ways that you can avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

1. Install and maintain a CO detector: This is the single most important thing you can do to protect your family against the possibility of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Make sure to buy a battery operated detector with a loud enough alarm to wake you up. But that’s not all, replace the battery every year and change the detector once every 5 years.

2. Don’t use portable gas camp stoves indoors. Small appliances like these also contribute to the buildup of Carbon Monoxide and when indoors, the harmful gasses can’t escape and your family can’t escape from them. Get rid of them folks.

3. Get your gas appliances checked by an expert. Make sure that they are working correctly and all the stuff that is supposed to be inside is staying inside and not spilling out to kill you when you’re asleep.

4. Never ignore any unusual odor coming from your refrigerator. CO itself has no odor, but in this case, other gasses mixed with CO have a particular odor that might give it away.

5. Clean your chimney. Debris can clog up your chimney real bad. So, now all the gasses would accumulate inside your living room instead of escaping through the chimney. Get your chimney cleaned before it cleans you.

6. Be smart. Don’t burn charcoal indoors, use generators inside of your home or basement, or patch a vent pipe with chewing gum. We’ve seen it all and it’s always dangerous.

One last thing, if you ever suspect that you or a family member has been exposed to Carbon Monoxide, immediately evacuate the house and call 911. Learn more about how to maintain healthy air quality in your home and to have your HVAC system checked for safety, and contact us to schedule an inspection with us today!

A Quick Guide to Purchasing Water Heaters

Selecting a Water Heater

Over the last several years new advances in water heating technology have given the consumer many more choices than even just a short time ago. New heaters are more efficient, keep water at temperature longer, are quieter, and can save you lots of money over the life of the heater.

There are a few things you will want to keep in mind when choosing a water heater.

  • The size of your home
  • Budget
  • Hot water needs
  • Geographic location

Home size and budget are going to be your two major concerns followed by your hot water needs and geographic location.

Types of Water Heater

The most basic type of heater that everyone is familiar with is the tank-style of water heater. These are among the least-efficient options in heating water, however they are the least-expensive and they have gotten more efficient than they have been in the past. They will provide a lot of hot water over a long period of time.

One option for people in the sunnier parts of the US is solar. Solar is exactly as it sounds and will use the sun’s energy to heat water. Their downsides are weather, cost, and need for a supplemental water heater. The initial cost of these can be high and you will also need another water heater to help out when the sun isn’t out.

Inline water heaters are a new style of heater that has become popular over the last few years. They are among the most efficient systems however their initial cost can be a little high. Inline heaters only heat the water as it is passing through the unit itself. This saves a lot on heating costs however you may need to have more than one, which will raise the initial costs.

You can think of heat pump water heaters as something like a reverse air conditioner for your water. Very much like your ac run in reverse, these systems heat by moving heat energy from one area to the desired area. They are very efficient however to operate best they will need to be placed in an area that has fairly steady temperatures and won’t get too cold.

Follow the Palo Alto Plumbing Heating & Air blog for all the latest plumbing and HVAC information.

Humidifiers Can Help Relieve Your Allergy Symptoms

If you suffer from allergies, you know their symptoms can make life miserable. Obviously you’d be interested in anything that can bring you relief, and that’s why you may want to seriously consider buying at humidifier for your home.

What Is a Humidifier and How Does it Work?

Humidifiers are electrically-powered machines that use various methods to turn liquid water into vapor. The vapor is spread across adjacent rooms, moisturizing the air and raising relative indoor humidity in the process. Humidifiers are commonly employed during the winter time in cold climates, where excessive dryness of the air is a constant problem, and all year round in arid or desert climates where the air is chronically lacking in moisture.

Point-of-use humidifiers are portable devices that can be moved from room to room and are generally appropriate for any house or apartment. But another type of unit, known as a whole-house humidifier, disperses much larger quantities of moisturized air from a centralized location. Whole-house humidifiers are used in both commercial and residential settings.

How Do Humidifiers Help Reduce Allergy Symptoms?

Allergy attacks can dry out the throat or nasal linings even as they clog sinuses. Excessively dry air will only exacerbate the trouble, making this type of allergic reaction more severe than it otherwise might be.

Boosting indoor humidity can help eliminate most of this unpleasant dryness, and humidifiers are extremely efficient at doing this. Good-quality units usually include a control device called a hygrometer, and if you set it to produce relative indoor humidity of somewhere between 40 and 49 percent it should bring you almost instant relief. Colds and the flu often manifest in the same way as allergies, so humidifiers can also make you feel better when you’re sick.

Some allergies cause rashes or itchiness, which is also related to excessive dryness (of the skin in this case). People who suffer from eczema also experience much more intense and frequent outbreaks of this disorder when the air is dry. But higher humidity levels works as a remedy to skin allergies and eczema; comfortably humid air can moisturize the skin even more effectively than many over-the-counter topical creams designed to treat dry skin conditions.

One word of caution: if you let your indoor humidity get too high (50 percent or more), it can encourage the breeding of dust mites and the growth of mold, both of which are frequently responsible for allergic reactions. When using a humidifier for allergy relief you have to be careful not to overdo it.

Common Types of Humidifier

Evaporative humidifiers rely on the forces of nature (evaporation, in other words) to moisturize a home’s air gradually, while vaporizing humidifiers use an extra energy input to convert water directly to steam. Point-of-use and whole-house units both require the regular replenishment of water supplies in order to keep functioning, as do impeller and ultrasonic humidifiers, a couple of other options you may want to investigate.

Fighting Allergies with Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating and Air

If you or a family member suffers from allergies, adding a humidifier to your home’s climate management system may be the perfect solution.

In Palo Alto and surrounding cities, we encourage you to visit Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating and Air if you’re in the market for a humidifier. We offer a complete line of outstanding humidifiers from Bryant, the preeminent name in the HVAC/air quality management industry. Contact us today and we’ll help you choose the best style, size and model of humidifier for your home—or for your place of business, if that is where you need it.

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All about Water Heater Anode Rods

Theoretically a water heater should rust out from the inside in a matter of months. But this doesn’t happen thanks to water heater anodes, the “secret ingredient” that keeps water heaters up and running and virtually rust-free throughout their existence.

Water Heater Anodes 101

Water heater anodes, which are more commonly known as sacrificial anodes, are long rods of magnesium or aluminum wrapped around a steel wire core. When placed inside a water tank they will gradually corrode and would eventually rust down to nothing if not replaced within two or three years. Because the sacrificial anode rusts away the steel interior of the tank remains untouched, and it will stay that way as long as new sacrificial anodes are added as needed.

It is a basic principle of science— when two metals are in contact inside a watery solution they will not rust at the same time. Instead, whichever one is more reactive (prone to rusting) will corrode away completely before the second metal is touched. As it happens magnesium and aluminum are both far more reactive than steel, and that is the secret to the sacrificial anode’s success.

Water Heater Anode Options

Sacrificial anodes come in one of two models. Hex-head anodes screw in at the tank and extend down into the water, while combo anodes are an integrated component of the hot-water delivery assembly, extending into the tank through the hot water outlet. Water heaters are generally sold with either a hex-head anode exclusively or with one anode of each type, which explains why some new heaters are sold with six-year warranties and others with 12-year guarantees (two sacrificial anodes are twice as effective as one).

For those who prefer an option that will keep on working continuously and without degredation, a powered anode can be used in lieu of the sacrificial type. This version of the protective anode is powered by electricity and stops interior tank corrosion by releasing a small but continuous flow of electric current into the water. This interrupts the electrochemical reaction that normally causes metallic corrosion.

Because it never rusts at all a powered anode can last indefinitely. Of course it is a far more expensive than the traditional option, generally running in the $250 range (a conventional sacrificial anode will cost from $40 to $75).

Magnesium sacrificial anodes are more common now than the aluminum versions. As it rusts aluminum leaves behind significant waste product that can clog water pipes and fill tank bottoms with nasty gunky sediment, which can threates a water heater’s long-term survival. Aluminum anodes also swell a bit as they rust and at times can be incredibly difficult to remove.

Meanwhile powered anodes have great utility when water is highly soft. Soft water is more corrosive than hard and will tend to wear out sacrificial anodes so frequently they’re no longer a cost-effective choice. Powered anodes will also kill bacteria that can infect water heater tanks and create terrible odors that follow the water wherever it flows.

Making a Change

Homeowners and landlords should remove sacrificial anodes from water heater tanks at least once per year to check for excessive wear and tear (this is an easy task, all that’s required is an adjustable wrench). If several inches of the steel wire core is visible too much corrosion has taken place and it’s time to get a new anode.

Water heater anodes are not automatically interchangeable, so anyone who needs to buy a new one should check with the dealer or the manufacturer first to find out which anodes are compatible with their heater.

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When To Replace Your Water Heater

Water heaters are often taken for granted. They work tirelessly 24 hours a day seven days a week. Most people tend to ignore the pops, hisses and small drips that an old or damaged water heater may make as long as they still have hot water. Ignoring or not recognizing the signs of a faulty or poorly working water heater can lead to higher energy cost and a lot of unnecessary stress and inconvenience. Here are a few signs to look for to help you decide if you need a water heater replacement.

Have a look

A visual inspection of the area around your water heater can reveal any problems that may require a replacement. Puddles around your water heater may indicate a severe leak. Also, look for streams of water that lead to a floor drain.

Take a closer look

After inspecting the area around your water heater, take a closer look at valves, fittings, and pipes. A water heater has few moving parts, so any problems can be quickly diagnosed. Some parts can be replaced relatively cheap, but if there is significant corrosion on the tank due to water exposure, then it should be replaced.

Check the age

If you happen to be moving into a new home, find out how old the water heater is before you close the deal. Any water heater over 10 years old should be replaced. A water can last quite a while after its warranty, but its efficiency will be reduced. Also, replacing an older water heater with a newer, more efficient one will save on energy cost.

Measure hot water time

If you discover that you have been running out of hot water a lot faster than you used to, then you may need a new tank.

Metal and water really do not get along well together. After time, minerals in the water will react with the metal and corrosion will occur. Sooner or later you will have to replace your tank even if it appears to be fine on the outside or you still get a decent supply of hot water. The heater could still have damage that reduces efficiency. Don’t wait until a leak occurs or you no longer have hot water to replace your heater, and always seek out a professional for advice and installation. Continue to follow us for more tips and information on how to keep all your heating and cooling systems working perfectly.