Why Every Homeowner Should Consider Insulating Their Water Heater This Winter

Getting the Water Heater Ready for Winter

With winter just getting started, it’s time for homeowners to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead. Most people know to winterize their plumbing and get the heater serviced, but another vital part of the home may need a little help to get through the winter – the water heater.

With colder water coming into the home and many water heaters located in parts of the house that tend to be exposed to colder temperatures (be it a garage or an unfinished basement), adding insulation to the water heater can help protect the appliance and help it perform better. Homeowners can keep reading to learn everything they need about water heater insulation!

The Importance of Insulating the Water Heaterinsulating

Between the cold water coming in and the cold air surrounding the unit, a home’s water heater always works hardest in the winter months. The burners or heating elements will have to run longer and hotter to heat the incoming water to the correct temperature, then run more frequently to maintain that temperature in the hot water tank.

So by insulating the water heater itself, homeowners can reduce the amount of standby heat loss that occurs, which cuts down on the water heater’s workload. This will allow the unit to run more efficiently since incoming water will heat up faster and stay hot longer. And, of course, greater energy efficiency means lower utility bills. It’s estimated that homeowners can save as much as 16% on their water heating costs by adding insulation.

Insulation is particularly beneficial if the homeowners have an electric water heater since these tend to be less efficient and electricity generally costs more than natural gas, depending on the region. Most standby heat loss in gas water heaters goes up the exhaust flue, but insulation can still help reduce heat loss around the tank.

Does the Water Heater Need Insulation?

Most water heaters have some degree of insulation built in, but that doesn’t always mean they don’t need more. For instance, older units typically aren’t as well-insulated as newer models. Fortunately, manufacturers use a rating system to denote the efficacy of the tank’s insulation. This is known as a water heater’s “R-value” and can typically be found in the owner’s manual or the unit itself.

If the water heater’s R-value is below R-24, it’s a good idea to add insulation. Many new units are rated at R-24 or higher and likely don’t need to be insulated. Some utility company regulations and local building codes prohibit using certain types of insulation. So if homeowners have doubts or can’t find the R-value anywhere, they can ask their local plumber if their water heater can (or should) be insulated.

Types of Water Heater Insulation 

insulationThere are several different types of water heater insulation on the market today. These are typically flexible materials that can be wrapped around the water heater, which is why they’re usually referred to as water heater blankets.

Fiberglass blankets are the most common and tend to be the most effective, thanks to their thickness and the insulative nature of fiberglass. Still, they can be scratchy and uncomfortable to install. Reflective foil is another popular material that reflects escaping heat back to the tank. Other water heater blanket materials include foam, cotton, and denim. Some blankets combine foam or fiberglass with reflective foil for even greater insulation.

Installing water heater insulation typically involves wrapping the blanket around the water heater, securing it with tape, and cutting holes around valves, drains, and burners. This must be done correctly to prevent fire hazards and avoid hindering the unit’s functionality or safety mechanisms. Some electric water heaters may also benefit from rigid insulation on the bottom of the unit, but this is best done when installing the unit. Homeowners can also add foam pipe insulation to the pipes going to and from the water heater to reduce heat loss further.

About Heil Plumbing

Heil Plumbing is a locally owned and family-owned company serving Jessup, MD, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, professional values, and a plumbing maintenance plan. Call them today for water heater services in Jessup, MD.

When Is It Time To Get a Water Softener?

What Is Hard Water? 

The U.S. Department of the Interior notes that, inevitably, minerals accumulate in water over time. Some homeowners don’t notice these minerals since the water heater eliminates them. However, if calcium and magnesium are in a plumbing system, one may experience “hard water.” 

While unpleasant, hard water doesn’t have to last forever. Using a water softener can eliminate or reduce the minerals in the plumbing system. A water softener uses a process called ion exchange to eliminate the minerals that make up hard water.  

What Is a Water Softener? 

softenerHard water contains a lot of minerals. The plumbing system must get rid of those minerals to get rid of hard water. This involves installing a water softener. Here’s how a water softener works: 

  • Hard water enters through the plumbing system and into the water softener. 
  • The water endures ion exchange, and resin beads attract the minerals. 
  • Finally, the water exits the water softener free of minerals. 

Homeowners can have whole home water softeners in different places. Some may have them installed near their water mains where water enters the plumbing system. Others may have them attached to their water heaters. 

The Four Signs of Hard Water 

signsHard water isn’t dangerous, but it’s inconvenient. Some signs of hard water include: 

  • Spots on dishware. After removing dishes from the dishwasher or washing dishes by hand, one may notice grayish spots on their glasses. These are built-up minerals on the surface due to hard water. It prevents dishes from getting as clean as they could. 
  • Dry skin and film left after washing hands. After washing their hands in hard water, homeowners may find that their skin is very dry and that a film remains on their hands. Again, this is from the minerals in the water. 
  • Water doesn’t stay as hot. When sediment builds up in the plumbing system, the minerals prevent the water from getting (and staying) as hot. Build-up occurs faster with hard water, which is more than inconvenient but can increase one’s energy costs. 
  • Faded clothes. When washing clothes with hard water, the colors of certain garments may fade quicker over time, and clothes can wear out faster. 

The Many Benefits of Water Softeners 

There are many reasons to install a water softener in one’s home. Some reasons include: 

  • It expands appliances’ lifespans. Hard water is hard on washing machines and dishwashers. Soft water is better for pipes and increases the likelihood that these fixtures and appliances will last longer. 
  • Cleaner dishes. Soft water erases hard-to-remove stains left by hard water and leaves glasses sparkling every time. 
  • More hydrated skin and hair. Taking a shower should make one clean––not covered in calcium and magnesium. These minerals found in hard water dry out skin and hair. With a whole home water softener, hair and skin can stay hydrated. 

About Heil Plumbing 

Heil Plumbing is a local family-owned company with over 40 years of experience serving its neighbors in Jessup, MD, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, 24/7 emergency service, and professional values. Call them today for plumbing services in Jessup, MD.

How To Spot a Hidden Water Line Leak

Pro Tips for Finding Underground Water Leaks

Plumbing leaks can come in many forms, from running toilets and dripping faucets to frozen pipes and loose pipe fittings. But of all the types of leaks, none is more insidious than an underground water leak. Hidden leaks can go unnoticed for months or possibly years, but those in the underground plumbing system can be even harder to detect than those hidden behind walls or under floors.

Any hidden pipe leak can waste dozens of gallons of water every day and cost homeowners hundreds of dollars on their utility bills, so it pays to know how to spot them. Keep reading to learn a few ways to tell if the home has a hidden water leak!

Watch Out for Common Signs of a Leak

water billWhen it comes to spotting leaks, it’s best to start with the easiest method, keeping an eye (and an ear) out. Hidden leaks inside the home will often be accompanied by visual evidence such as peeling paint, bubbling wallpaper, warping, or discolored spots. With an underground water leak, visible signs include soggy spots or puddles in the yard and patches of grass that grow thicker or faster than the rest of the lawn.

Unusually high water bills may indicate a leaky water pipe, as even a tiny leak can dramatically increase the home’s monthly water consumption. Low water pressure could also be the result of a hidden pipe leak. If homeowners notice a sound like running water (typically a muffled hissing) when no one (or no appliance) is using water, the likely culprit is a water line leak. 

The Water Meter Test

For a more definitive sign of a leak somewhere in the home’s water supply system, homeowners can perform the time-honored “water meter test.” The first step is to ensure no faucets or water fixtures are in use anywhere in the home (including outdoor hose bibs and irrigation systems). The next step is to find the home’s water meter, typically located either down by the street or on the side of the house itself.

A series of numbers will be displayed on the meter face, either on a digital screen or mechanical counter. Homeowners need to write down the numbers they see, then wait one hour, making sure not to use any water in the meantime. After the hour is up, they can compare the number they wrote down with the one on the meter. If the numbers are different, there’s almost certainly a leak.

Homeowners whose meters are located by the street can perform an additional step to get a general idea of where the leak is located. First, they’ll need to shut off the home’s main water valve (usually in the garage or basement), then go down to the meter and repeat the process described above. If the numbers are the same this time around, the leak is in the house. The leak is located in the main underground water pipe that carries water from the city water central to the home if they’re different.

Hire a Leak Detection Serviceprofessional

Once it’s been established that there is a leak somewhere in the home’s plumbing system, the next step is to track down its exact location. The best way to do this is to hire a professional. Professional water line leak detection involves using specialized tools like susceptible acoustic listening gear and flexible waterproof camera systems. This allows pros to pinpoint leaks with extreme accuracy.

Upon finding the leak and determining the root cause, a pro will recommend an appropriate solution. In some cases, hidden leak repair may require excavating the damaged pipe and replacing it. In other cases, a less invasive (and less messy) trenchless repair may be possible – such as running a line with a smaller diameter through the existing line or simply rerouting it to bypass the damaged pipe. 

Detecting and repairing hidden leaks is one of the best things homeowners can do for their plumbing systems – not to mention their monthly water bills!

About Heil Plumbing

The award-winning Heil Plumbing is a local, family-owned company that has served its neighbors in Jessup and the surrounding areas since 1977. They provide straightforward pricing and are available to answer after-hours calls, so call them today for plumbing services in Jessup, MD.

Detecting Hidden Water Leaks’ What Homeowners Need To Know

Three Ways to Tell if There is a Hidden Water Leak

It is never fun to deal with a hidden water leak, especially since it can cause so much damage to a home. One small leak can seep gallons of water slowly into a house, damaging flooring, the overall framework, or even areas in the front or back yard.

There are several ways to tell if there is a hidden water leak. When homeowners notice these signs, they should immediately call a plumber before the damage worsens. A plumbing expert should fix a hidden water leak because they have the proper tools and years of expertise.

Loud Running Water Sounds

running water soundsHomeowners that start hearing running or rushing water should be concerned and try to look for the exact cause. Sometimes, these hidden water leaks are easy to locate and found underneath sinks. But what happens when the water leak is not underneath the sink or in another obvious place?

When this occurs, homeowners should turn off all other sounds and try to find the general area where the sound is coming from. Sometimes, the looseness of a faucet causes the water to drip, while other times, there is a hidden water leak underneath the floor or inside the walls. Plumbers have leak detection tools to help them more accurately locate a hidden leak.

Swampy Areas in the Yard

swampy spot in the yardIf the water leak is coming from outside, the signs will differ. It may not be as simple as a sound, but a soggy and wet area in the yard can signify a leak. Although it is not uncommon for some spots in the yard to have dips that collect water during rain and with the sprinkler system, the water should not remain there afterward or during clear days.

That is a sign that something is wrong. Sometimes, wet spots are hidden since grass thrives on water, and the constant water activates the nutrients in the soil. Homeowners should note that if their grass is growing taller and more quickly, this is likely caused by a broken water line. This can occur when the roots of a plant or tree break through the underground water pipes.

Low Water Pressure and a High Water Bill

Sometimes, a hidden leak’s main cause or location is unknown, but a higher water bill can signify its existence. When this is the case, homeowners are also likely to notice lower water pressure. A leaking water pipe will cause water to go somewhere else instead of only to a faucet or plumbing fixture.

Higher water bills and poor water pressure are signs a water line needs repair since the pipes have either loosened, cracked, dented, or burst. If homeowners notice any of the signs above, they should call a plumbing contractor to fix the issue before any damage worsens.

About Heil Plumbing

Heil Plumbing is a local, family-owned business that has provided exceptional plumbing services to the residents of Jessup, MD, and Baltimore and Howard counties since 1977. They offer straightforward pricing and top-of-the-line service from trustworthy technicians that are background checked, drug tested, and fully licensed and trained. Call them today for plumbing services in Jessup, MD.