Saturday, September 12, 2009

How To: Drain a Water Heater (electric)

Want to have your water heater last longer? Regular preventative maintenance will help ensure this. I recommend draining it two times per year.

Put a maintenance reminder in your electronic calendar.

Before you drain your water heater, its a good idea to turn off the electricity to it at the breaker box.

The example shown here is a Whirlpool 50-gallon electric water heater purchased in 2003. I have set up a regular schedule of draining it two times per year. It is located in my garage so I am able to drain it with the hose directly to the street by extending the hose through the garage and down the driveway.
Next you will need a hose to drain the tank. I simply detach my garden hose and use that temporarily for this task. You will be connecting the hose at the bottom of the tank as shown here. I would recommend having some old towels or rags available to slip under this area. Once you have a secure connection, take a screwdriver and insert it in the valve area (not sure of the name here) slowly open it up. You will discover quickly if your connection with the hose is tight enough. If there are no significant leaks, just let the water run.

Check the other end of the hose to see if water is coming out. On this particular maintenance I had rusty colored water coming out and then clear water. Sometimes I can actually see hard water deposits spitting out of the hose at the end. I let the water run until its clear for a while. When you feel satisfied that all sediment has been removed, go back to the water tank and tighten up that screw again. Now its safe to detach the hose.

Note: I did not touch the on-off valve at the top of the water heater. Here is a photo of what the top of this water heater looks like. The narrow gray tube is connected to a timer which is cropped out of this photo. The copper pipes to the water in and water out, have insulation foam around them.

That's it! Remember to turn the breaker back on for the water heater when the job is done. Good luck and may have you have many worry-free years from your water heater!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to: Replace Bathroom Valves and Hoses

Here are a few "before" picture of the hoses and valves I had under my bathroom sink. I discovered a leak under one of the two sinks in my master bathroom, so obviously maintenance was needed. In addition, I inspected the other sink and cabinet area, I realized the valves on this sink are just a flood waiting to happen. Time to replace!

Look at this bad boy! Dang! Definitely time to replace!

PREPARATION: Turn off main water source before working. Remove all items under the sink area so you have room to work. Grab some old towels, rags, etc. It is easiest to remove the old valve and install the new one with TWO wrenches or clamping pliers. Here are the two I used. You may find that the valve that needs replacing is challenging to remove especially if it has hard water deposits, rust, etc. If so, you may need WD-40 or some similar spray to loosen the connection.

On the left is the old valve that had started dripping recently. On the right is the new replacement valve to be installed.

Here is a close-up view of one of the valves that I purchased from Lowe's to replace the leaky valves. Its a 5/8" Inlet O.D. and 3/8" Outlet O.D. ($5.58 each):

Here is a view of the old hose that came with the faucet (gray plastic) and the 12" replacement braided hose, which will last much longer and prevent future leaks. This new braided hose was purchased at Lowe's also. ($3.78 each).

TIP: Be sure and install this braided hose to your valve before you have to go under the sink. You will have greater freedom to tighten it when not restricted to the tight quarters under the sink. Be sure to wrap some white plumbing tape around the connection grooves on the valve.

On the left is the new valve connected to the 12" braided hose. On the right is the old valve and gray plastic tubing that came with the faucet that was installed a few years ago.

Next step -- as shown below -- is to fasten the valves (with braided hoses already attached) to the copper pipes from the wall with the fittings.

Here is where the two locking wrenches may come in handy. You will want to fasten one to the brand new valve and one to the connector probably already on your copper pipe from the wall. You will want to keep the braided hose pointing down and just tighten up that connection by fastening the connector nut on the copper pipe.

Next connect the 5/8" end of the braided hose to the copper pipe that connects to the faucet.

And the final test... turn the main water back on and check for dry or wet connections. Adjust as needed. I let it sit overnight and check again the next day just to be sure there is no minor leak.

Finally, here is a tip for a record of your home maintenance.

Find a piece of plastic and trim it out to about 2-3" square. I used a scrap from a bag of Morton's salt for my water softener. Write on it with a Sharpie marker and note what has been replaced and when. Loosely fasten it with a plastic zip-tie. It'll be waterproof and help jog your memory as to when this repair was last done.

Total cost of repair per sink, for valves and hoses: approximately $20.