Archive for September, 2012

Water Filtration Systems

Sep. 28th 2012

Only about 1% of the Earth’s supply of fresh water is available for human and animal consumption at any given time. The United States is blessed with plenty of fresh water, though some major metropolitan centers are forced to transport fresh water from hundreds of miles away.

With the growth of population seemingly straining our resources at times, and with the increase of pollution which accompanies human activity, often our water supplies are less pure than they should be for optimal health. Governments have set quality standards for drinking water, but too often, the combination of contaminants with remedial efforts leaves the water “safe” to drink, but by no means “pure”.

Our public water supplies are tainted with chlorine, fluoride, arsenic and organic toxins, like viruses and parasitic water creatures. There can even be traces of carcinogens in many of our public water supplies, as well as in the water table, from which private wells draw their supply. In up to 1/3 of fresh water sources in the United States, different mineral contaminants have undesirable effects on clothing and human health, and produce unpleasant odors.

Bottled water has been very popular as a supply of drinking water, but it is costly (compared to tap water), and suspicions arise from time to time that these products are not as pure as they purport to be.
Boiling water kills any microorganisms that might contaminate it, and it will remove added chlorine, but it does nothing to remove heavy metals or minerals that may be present. Distilling water will leave you with pure H2O, but is a rather impractical solution. Filtration will help to reduce sediments, rust and other solid particles which can cause an unpleasant appearance – and odors – and which can lead to blockage of plumbing fixtures, such as shower heads, over time.

There are different methods of filtration, depending on your individual needs; a test of your home’s water quality will help determine the best type of filtering. Many filtration vendors will perform such a testfor free. Municipal water utilities will also provide a water quality report for your area upon request. Lead content may not be accurately represented in public water quality estimates, because it may be introduced after it enters the home. If your home or business is older, and it is possible that lead may be found in your pipes, the more reliable test is one that examines the water coming from your tap. Levels of contaminants will vary with the season, or with the weather, so that must be considered when reading a water quality report. Filtration will allow you to maintain a consistent level of purity.

The primary methods of filtration are carbon filtering and reverse osmosis systems. Carbon filters out chlorine, chloroform, pesticides and other organic chemicals. Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems filter out fluoride, iron, nitrates, lead and organic contaminants. It is possible to combine both filtration methods in order to eliminate the widest range of contaminants, and many RO systems include an activated-carbon post filter.
Bear in mind that a reverse-osmosis system discards about 4 gallons of water for every clear gallon produced, though there are various remedies being investigated to reduce this waste. If this option is attractive to you, talk to the vendor about the various waste reduction methods.

There are also different installation methods, ranging widely in price. The least expensive option is to purchase a pitcher which filters drinking water. There are also faucet-mounted filters, which can filter the water from a tap. A more complete – and more expensive – option is to install a system which filters all the water entering the home or business. Chlorine, commonly found in drinking water – aside from being poisonous in large quantities – dries out hair and skin. Filtering this chemical out of the water supply will provide a noticeable improvement when showering. Only an in-line filtering system will provide filtered water for the shower as well.

A faucet-mounted system, while relatively inexpensive, requires more frequent filter changes, while in-line systems can be installed which last several years between filter changes. Indicators can also be included to tell you when the filters are due to be changed. Medical experts suggest that we should drink at least 8 cups of water daily, much more water than most of us drink. 80% of our daily water intake is from what we drink. There is water in many things we eat, but most of our intake is from drinking it.

Water that tastes better will make it more attractive to us, and we might be encouraged to drink more of it if the unpleasant odors and unsightly solids were removed. A whole-house filtering system would also make it more likely that our pets and even our potted plants and gardens get pure water, which would improve their health.

Posted by plumber | in Drinking Water, Filters, Pipes | No Comments »

Troubleshooting a Hot Water Heater

Sep. 14th 2012

The hot water heater is a very important component of your home’s plumbing system. Not only is it one of the most expensive components, but it is the first to be missed when it malfunctions. These are a few of the most common problems that can occur and some tips for preventing them by performing scheduled maintenance.

The most troublesome issue experienced when you have any water heater is when the water comes out cold. On a gas heater, the pilot may have blown out. If it is an electric heater, its circuit breaker may have tripped. Once you reignite the pilot or reset the breaker, look into the reason before assuming the issue is resolved.
If your water heater takes too long to heat up, it may be that deposits have formed in the tank. Sediments in the tank will insulate it from the flame. Drain and flush the tank occasionally to remove sedimentary deposits.

Reduce the rate of sediment buildup by lowering the water temperature and by softening household water. Set thermostat to 125°F. Temperatures below 120°F can allow the growth of unhealthy bacteria within the tank. Also, if sediment becomes too thick on the bottom of the tank, the tank bottom may overheat in a gas heater, causing the water at the bottom to boil. This may produce a funny popping or rumbling sound. Draining and flushing the tank occasionally will eliminate this issue.

If your tank is not big enough to provide enough hot water on demand, stagger showers throughout the day, or get a tank big enough to store 15 gallons for every member of the household. My 40-gallon tank only runs cold on the rare occasions when all four of us take baths or showers one after the other.

When an electric water heater supplies too little hot water, or water that is too hot, check the thermostat, heating elements and limit switches. Replace them if they are damaged or encrusted with sediment. The limits of a do-it-yourselfer in regard to electric heater components are to inspect them for loose or disconnected wires, and to tighten and reattach them. Never attempt to work on an electric water heater until you are sure the power has been disconnected at the panel.

If water from a gas heater smells rotten, replace the anode rod. The location of this rod is detailed in the owner’s manual. This rod, made of magnesium or aluminum, is in place because of the electrochemical reaction created when water is heated. The reaction will corrode the rod over time, so that the tank itself remains unaffected by it. For this reason the rod should be replaced periodically (every 2 to 5 years). Pull it out after 2 years (or if the heater is more than two years old and you never have before) and inspect it for wear. Charts are available to show how much service life remains in an anode rod.

If your heater is gas-fired, have the burners cleaned once a year. Take this opportunity to inspect flues and vents, or use a carbon monoxide detector to ensure no dangerous exhaust is escaping into the house.

The T&P valve (temperature and pressure relief valve) should be tested once per year. Test this by lifting the handle until pressurized water escapes through the drain tube attached to the valve. Release the handle, and the flow should stop completely. If it drips, there may be sediment which has lodged in the valve seat. Release a little more water a few times, until it stops completely. If you find water pooled under the heater, and it is not coming from the T&P valve, look above the tank nearby, to see if there is a drip from any of the other pipes in the area. If not, inspect the bottom of the tank, above the burner, for excess corrosion and wetness. If you find it is leaking through the tank, the heater will need to be replaced.
Water heaters are routinely ignored as long as hot water is delivered on demand. But setting a maintenance schedule and inspecting the tank on a periodic basis will prolong its trouble-free operation and performing these simple maintenance tasks will extend its life beyond the expected 10-15 years.

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