Archive for the ‘Hot Water Tanks’ Category

Winterizing Plumbing

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Uncategorized on January 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm


I have many questions and concerns regarding winterizing my home while I am away for the winter months. I hope you can help shed some light on this for me.

I was reading your blog and you said that even if I keep the heat on (which I definitely planned on keeping it at 60 degrees) you recommend shutting the water off at the meter and add antifreeze to all the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains and sink traps. What if I turn the water off at the meter and after flushing all the toilets (but without draining the other lines) and just add anti-freeze to the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains/traps, will this be okay? In other words, is draining the complete system necessary? Is leaving all the faucets open crucial? Pipes could freeze and burst, right? You state in your blog that damage would be minimal.

I was also going to turn my hot water tank to the “vacation” setting. My concern is, will I be accidentally turning off the pilot light too? Another thing, when I turn the water off at the meter, will my water-powered back up sump pump still be working?

When I get back in town all I would have to do is just turn the water back on at the meter, right?

What if I don’t shut the water off at the meter, but instead just shut off the supply lines under the sinks, toilets and the spigots for the washing machine? What bad things could this lead to if something were to happen?

I bought Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol, alcohol based winterizer. It’s a non-toxic anti-freeze protection. It was $2.50 gallon at Home Depot. It says it is ideal for winterizing boats, pools, water systems and plumbing systems. But then I noticed the alcohol is ethyl alcohol. Did I buy the right stuff? Will the alcohol mean evaporation or will it affect the seals? I will also use cellophane to cover the toilet bowls as you suggested. Is it all right to use this in the kitchen sink as well as the garbage disposal?

If all of this isn’t freaking me out enough, I spoke to a friend of mine, and told him I was shutting off the water at the meter and doing the antifreeze thing and he was telling me that there is a possibility of evaporation occurring so that rats and other creepy things can crawl up into the toilets and sinks. He said it happened to him, although he lives in Florida. So I’m now wondering and worrying.



The Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol is the correct antifreeze and I highly recommend doing this.

When you turn the water off at the meter, I would open all the faucets, including any in the basement. That will prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting since there shouldn’t be any water in them. If the faucets are closed it’s like blocking one end of a straw with your finger and the drink stays in the straw until you lift your finger. Opening all the faucets allows the pipes to drain.

I recommend shutting the water off at the meter, and not just shutting off the supply lines and spigot. You be a lot more prone for burst pipes doing it that way.

What I meant by “Damage would be minimal” is if you don’t drain the pipes completely they could still freeze and burst, but it wouldn’t flood the house until you turned the water back on at the meter and then you might find leaks.

As for your sump pump, if the water stays on to the sump pump when your water is shut off at the meter, that’s great. If not, I don’t suspect it would be a problem since the ground is usually frozen at that time of year and your sump pump shouldn’t be coming on (unless you are in a very high water table area). You should know that answer to that one. Does your pump come on during the winter months? If so, and you plan on leaving town for an extended period of time every winter, install a battery operated back up pump. Another alternative have a plumber install by-pass plumbing directly to the back up pump so you can turn all the water off in the house but leave water on to the back up sump pump.

The hot water tank dial should be turned counterclockwise. The opposite of where the dial says “Very Hot” or “High”. Doing so will NOT turn off the pilot light. That is a different valve, which is usually on the top of the control. The dial you will be turning is on the front of the control.

Stop worrying and enjoy your vacation.

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Removing Tub Decals / Wrap the H20 Tank- Save Money / Fixing a Wobbling Ceiling Fan

In Hot Water Tanks, Painting Tips, Q&A on September 4, 2012 at 3:12 pm

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I have tried, but still cannot remove the dirty and worn non-skid decals from the bottom of my bathtub. How do I remove those bathtub appliqués if they won’t come off?


For those of you not as “sophisticated” as I am, we’re talking about removing those rubber bathtub decals. Most of the time, you can’t even get your fingernail under the edge to try and pull them loose. Well, don’t fret, put a piece of paper towel over each appliqué and soak the paper towel with mineral spirits. After twenty minutes they should loosen up. That also should have made the adhesive easy to remove. If not, try one of those super removers like Goof-Off® from W.M. Barr and Company or Goo-Gone® from Magic American Corp. Those are just a couple of the products that should help you come clean in the tub. They’re also available at any hardware or drug store.

If that doesn’t work, try using Un-Do® by Un-Do Products, Inc. It is the best sticker and tape remover I’ve ever seen. It’s also available at home and hardware stores as well as Wal-Mart and Bed Bath & Beyond.


I have a ceiling fan that vibrates and shakes. Does this mean I have to replace it?


Maybe so, but understand there are several reasons why a ceiling fan wobbles when operating. The fan blades could be out of balance, out of track or warped. The wobble could also be caused by the air turbulence that results from the blades being closer than six inches from one side of a sloped cathedral ceiling or ceiling beam.

You can check to see if the fan blades are out of balance by clipping a spring-type clothespin half way between the tip and the blade iron on the leading edge of one blade. Turn the fan on to the LOW speed and see if the weight stops the wobble. Try each blade to determine if it needs more weight. If the clothespin stops the wobble, it should be replaced with thin adhesive-backed lead weighted tape, which is available through the fan manufacturer’s service center.

Check to see if one or more blades are out of track. Using a yardstick, measure the distance from the ceiling to the tip of each blade. The distance should be equal for each blade. If it isn’t, contact the nearest manufacturer’s service center about correction or warranty replacement. If the blades are not out of track, try swapping blades to correct the problem. Switch the position of two adjacent blades while leaving the other two in their original positions. While the blades are off of the fan, lay them on a flat surface to see if they are warped. If so, then replace the blades. Now as for me being warped, that’s a different story.


Awhile back you mentioned that for about ten dollars I could save five to ten percent of my water heating utility costs. That sounds like easy money, but what is the catch?


There’s no catch. The 40 to 50 gallon tank of your water heater is like a hot water radiator that continually gives off and wastes heat. You can reduce this energy cost in two ways. First, lower the water temperature to 120-degrees. Unfortunately, the temperature setting knobs on most water heaters just aren’t calibrated in degrees. If you have the owners manual you can look up the temperature settings otherwise, use a meat thermometer and run hot water onto it. The point which the temperature stops rising is your hot water heater setting.

Second, cover your gas water heater with a special blanket. Buy a fiberglass blanket to wrap around your water heater. To do it safely, follow the directions that come with the blanket and it’s especially important not to do insulate the top of the water heater, do not cover the air intakes for gas burners, leave the controls and all valves exposed and do not cover any warning labels.

The only exception is some high-efficiency electric water heaters do not need extra insulation. Adding it can void the guarantee so check the owner’s manual. What are you planning on buying with the money you will save? New car? Jewelry? Present for me?




Noisy Water Heater / Phantom Flushing / Check For Asbestos Tiles First

In Asbestos Tile, Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing on August 6, 2012 at 11:00 am

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My gas fired water heater “cracks and pops” like a steam radiator during the reheat cycle. Is there a cure?


Providing no one spilled a box of cereal into your tank, you may just have purchased and inexpensive tank. Even so, there are a few things you can do.

First, turn down the temperature setting, on the dial, on your tank. It should be set to 120-degrees. Next, periodically turn off the gas and using the hose of a vacuum cleaner, vacuum out the sediment that accumulates on the top of the burner compartment.

Another thing, twice a year, drain a pail of water from the hose bib at the bottom of your tank. That will flush some of the sediment out and help the tank last longer and be quieter.

One more thing, many people think turning the temperature up all the way will give them more hot water or hot water faster. Wrong on both counts. All you’ll do is take years of life off the tank, spend a lot of extra money trying to maintain the temperature of the water, which you’’ just have to add cold water to so you don’t scald yourself.


I have a toilet that all of a sudden flushes by itself. I know something is wrong and I know it’s flushing money down the drain. But what causes this?


Depending on the frequency that could be a few hundred dollars annually down the drain.

To correct the problem, pour a few drops of food coloring into the tank. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes and lift the seat of the commode. If the water turned the color of the food coloring, you’ll need to replace the tank ball or flapper ball not the float. It is generally black or rust colored at the bottom, center of the tank.

Turn off the water and drain the box. Simple to install replacement kits, which are easy to attach to the overflow pipe are available at neighborhood hardware stores for under ten dollars.

But before you install the new flapper ball, lightly clean the rim that the flapper sits in with a fine steel wool, you’ll now have what is known as a “Royal Flush”.


I have an older 1940’s house with a tiled basement floor. Some of the tiles are cracked, broken or have become loose. Can the old tiles just be yanked out and replaced?


If the tiles measure 9-inches by 9-inches in all likelihood those tiles contain asbestos. Normally floor tiles with asbestos present no health problems unless the fibers are disturbed. The only way I know of doing that would be to use a buffer/stripper machine on the tiles or damage and break the tiles. Feeling bored and looking for something to do? First take one of the broken or loose tiles to a testing lab (check the yellow pages). If it’s not asbestos, pretend you’re married to me and ignore what I’m saying.

If they do contain asbestos, to remove the old tiles you’ll need a large, long handled, metal scraper. Of course, prying and scraping the tiles will indeed disturb the asbestos. The only way to do it safely is to keep them wet while you’re working. Once loose, place the wet tiles in a large double-bagged garbage bags and dispose of them properly. The remaining adhesive may also contain asbestos fibers so instead of sanding them down, use a chemical remover.

If the basement is dry and you’re planning on carpeting it, leave the asbestos tiles down and just replace the damaged, missing or loose tiles with any tiles just so the floor is even. Remember, the asbestos tiles will be a good insulator between the cement floor and your carpeting.


Stains Versus Paints / Hot Water Problem With a New Hot Water Tank

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Stains and Paints, Uncategorized on June 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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Stains Versus Paints

Stain is a thin paint with a low volume of pigments that provide deep colors, hiding power, and film-forming qualities.

There are two types of stains:

Semi-transparent- are considered true stains and solid color opaque, which more closely resemble paint because of their pigment content.

Stain penetrates surface wood fiber and dyes it, whereas pain seals the surface with a hard film. Stain costs less than paint, but a gallon of it may cover less area because it soaks in. Stain weathers and loses color faster than paint, but won’t chip, peel or blister so subsequent coats require little or no preparation.

The semi-transparent stain colors and protect bare wood without hiding its natural grain or texture, but accentuate defects such as knots, rust stains, uneven weathering and watermarks, so they work best on clear, fine-grained wood.

Semi-transparent stains penetrate better than solid blends, and oil-base semi-transparent stain penetrates better than latex-base. Rough or weathered wood absorbs the most stain. Two coats of semi-transparent stain on it will last six to ten years, compared with only two to four years on the new, smooth wood. Solid color stains, however, will last up to ten years on smooth wood.

As a rule, stain should be used only over bare wood, or to cover another stain or preservative of equal or better penetrating value. That means preservatives and semi-transparent stains go under paint or solid stains where they can act as a primer but not cover them, because they soak in.


If you are planning on painting your house, keep in mind that if you’re looking for color, stick with paints since the choice is obviously greater.

Paint also provides a better finish and more protection from the elements than stains. If you have new wood siding or trim, and you can’t decide whether to paint or stain, try some of those semi-transparent stains, you may like the results. Remember, you can and should try out the color on a piece of scrap siding or extra boards prior to doing the entire house. That way if you don’t like the color or look you won’t be living with a “white elephant”, so to speak.

Keep this in mind as well that both stain and paint, if properly applied, are durable but if you have a lot of blemishes in the siding, it’s better to use paint.

Choosing between latex or oil base paints is one of those preference things nowadays since many latex paints are as durable as oil base. Oil base paints dry slower and are definitely a lot more difficult to clean up.

Latex paints dry quicker, are water soluble, easy to clean up after and believe it or not, hold color better.

One misconception is that you cannot paint latex over oil base paint. With proper preparation, you can do almost anything. As a matter of fact, a quality latex topcoat over an oil base primer is probably the best finish to use.


I recently had a water heater installed and since then I’ve never had a consistently hot shower. A few times I have had the hot water shut off completely. The plumber who installed it claims that nothing is wrong. Do you have any suggestions?


It’s possible the hot and cold lines were reversed when it was installed, which you can check out yourself. On top of the tank where the water goes into the tank it will be stamped “cold”. Feel the pipe to see if it is warm or hot (it should be cold), they need to be switched or the dip tube moved to the hot side. Speaking of the dip tube, is it intact or damaged?

New tanks generally only heat the water 120 to 125 degrees. The lower settings save energy and reduce accidental scalding and burns.

You may need to replace your old showerhead. Older showerheads have a flow rate of 3.5 to 4.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, you’ll easily run out of hot water with a lower setting in approximately 10 minutes. Replacing the showerhead with a flow restrictor puts out 1.5 to 2.9 GPM and allows for a longer, hotter shower.

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