A Complete Guide to Water Heaters

The water heater is a vital part of your home’s infrastructure. It’s responsible for more than just hot showers; your dishwasher, washing machine, and kitchen faucet all require hot water as well.

The water heater can also be a significant contributor to your energy bill, so it’s important to make sure your home has an energy-efficient setup. You should also make sure you have the right water heater size for your home so you have as much hot water as you need but aren’t using more energy than necessary. In many cases, it’s worth the cost to upgrade to a newer model before your old water heater breaks down.

There are several different types of water heaters, and each one offers unique benefits and disadvantages. Use this guide to figure out which option is best for your home.

Conventional Water Heaters

Most people are familiar with a conventional water heater. This type of water heater has a large tank that stores hot water so it’s ready to use quickly. It’s the most common type of water heater in older homes, and there are many brands, models, and sizes available.

Pros

  • The most affordable type of water heater
  • Straightforward installation
  • Provides fast hot water delivery

Cons

  • Once the tank is empty, hot water is unavailable for a while
  • Not as energy efficient as other types
  • Requires regular maintenance, including draining and cleaning the tank

Bottom Line

Conventional water heaters are generally affordable and easy to install, but they tend to use a lot of energy and are slow to refill once emptied.

Tankless Water Heaters

After conventional water heaters, tankless models are the most popular option for homeowners. Instead of maintaining a large tank full of hot water, a tankless model heats water “on demand” whenever it’s needed. This means hot water takes slightly longer to get to the tap, but it doesn’t usually run out.

Pros

  • Uses much less energy than a conventional water heater
  • Provides unlimited hot water on demand
  • Fits easily into small spaces

Cons

  • Can be difficult to install
  • Higher initial cost than a conventional model
  • May require retrofitting in older homes to provide adequate electricity or gas power

Bottom Line

A tankless water heater is an energy-efficient option that can cut utility bills and provide endless hot water on demand. However, the initial investment can be high, especially in older homes.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Also called a hybrid water heater, this style uses an electric pump to move heat from the air or ground, rather than heating the water directly. Because this style uses existing heat from the environment to warm the water, it’s extremely efficient.

Pros

  • Minimal maintenance requirements
  • High savings on utility bills
  • Excellent energy efficiency

Cons

  • Requires a lot of physical space, making it unrealistic for some homes
  • High initial cost
  • Not practical for climates with extremely high or low temperatures

Bottom Line

If you live in an area with a moderate year-round climate and have the space in your home to install the large components, a heat pump water heater can be an extremely cost-efficient and eco-conscious choice.

Condensing Water Heaters

Condensing water heaters heat the water by capturing and redirecting hot exhaust gases, rather than directly using electricity or natural gas. There are traditional styles with a hot water tank and also tankless models. While there are some residential options, this type of water heater is typically used in commercial applications in the U.S. In the U.K. however, approximately 70% of homes have condensing water heaters (also called combination boilers).

Pros

  • Better energy efficiency than most other styles
  • Eco-friendly with little wasted energy
  • Fast recovery rate eliminates the risk of running out of hot water

Cons

  • High initial price tag (up to three times as much as a conventional water heater)
  • Installation can be complicated and expensive, especially if gas lines need to be moved
  • Only practical for homes that run on natural gas

Bottom Line

Condensing water heaters are extremely efficient, making them an excellent choice for homes that use natural gas and homeowners who don’t mind the high initial cost.

Solar-Powered Water Heaters

As the name implies, a solar water heater uses the sun’s energy to heat water. This type of water heater requires enough roof space to hold the necessary solar panels and other equipment. There are both active and passive options. Active water heaters use a pump to distribute the water throughout the home, whereas passive models rely on natural processes (e.g., gravity, thermodynamics) to move the water.

Pros

  • Uses eco-friendly renewable energy
  • Lower utility bills
  • May qualify for tax credits in some areas

Cons

  • Requires consistent sunshine, which is not available in all climates
  • High initial equipment and installation costs
  • Solar panels may need professional maintenance

Bottom Line

If you live in an area with lots of sunshine and have enough roof space, a solar water heater is an excellent, eco-friendly option. Tax credits and savings on your utility bills may offset the high initial expense.

Contact Johns Plumbing for Expert Advice

Your home’s water heater is vital to your family’s health, comfort, and well-being. If your water heater is old or unreliable, upgrading it is an excellent choice that will save you money and hassle. There are many different styles to consider, and an expert plumber can help you determine which choice will work best for your home’s existing infrastructure. Whether you need emergency service for a broken water heater or want to discuss replacement options, Johns Plumbing is here to help. We serve clients throughout the Triad, providing repair, maintenance, and installation services. We’ll help you find the best water heater option for your home and budget. To schedule a service appointment, contact us online or give us a call at 336-294-2301.

Best Plumbing Upgrades to Save Water and Money

If you’re thinking about taking on a renovation project, why not upgrade some of your home’s plumbing fixtures? Modern faucets, appliances, and showerheads save water over older models without sacrificing performance. Lowering your home’s water usage is good for the environment, and it also reduces your utility bills.

New Faucets

Replacing the faucets in your sinks is a great way to reduce water usage. Most faucets are inexpensive and simple to install. Older kitchen and bath faucets (especially those manufactured before 1994) use far more water than necessary.

In the U.S., modern faucets must limit water usage to no more than 2.2 gallons per minute (gpm). Many fixtures also have an integrated aerator, which reduces the water flowrate further.

Modern Showerheads

A low-flow showerhead is another great upgrade for your home, especially when you consider the minimal cost and installation time. While standard showerheads can use as much as 2.5 gpm, must low-flow models use between 1.0 and 1.5 gpm. That equates to between 40% and 60% less water. There are ultra-low-flow showerheads too, which use as little as 0.5 gpm.

Many modern showerheads have several additional perks besides better water efficiency. Different pressure and spray settings allow you to customize your shower experience, and some designs offer a handheld sprayer for versatility.

Low-Flow or Dual-Flush Toilets

In most homes, toilets use more water than other appliances, accounting for 30% of indoor water consumption (on average). There are two basic options to reduce the amount of water your home’s toilets use:

  • Low-flow toilets: Some models use as little as 1.6 gallons of water per flush, which is far less than the 6 gallons some older toilets use.
  • Dual-flush toilets: This style uses a two-pronged flushing mechanism with provides the option of a less-water flush for liquid waste and a more-water flush for solid waste. These models aren’t overly popular in the U.S. yet, but they are standard in some other countries.

By upgrading to low-flow or dual-flush toilets, you can make a significant dent in your water bill.

Tankless Water Heater

Another plumbing upgrade is a tankless water heater. These tankless designs are far more energy- and water-efficient than older tank-style versions. A tank water heater uses energy to constantly keep a lot of water hot, which is inefficient. Plus, a crack or leak in the tank can waste a lot of water very quickly and damage your home.

A tankless water heater doesn’t offer instant hot water like a traditional model, but it does have several advantages. This style only heats water when necessary, so it’s more energy efficient. Plus, you don’t ever have to worry about running out of hot water, even if you run the dishwasher and shower at the same time.

Low-Flow Appliances

You can also consider upgrading some of the larger appliances in your home, such as the dishwasher and washing machine. Newer models generally use far less water and energy than older styles, so you can lower both your water and electricity bills.

New Pipes

Replacing your home’s pipes is a bigger project than just installing a new kitchen faucet. But in many cases, the results are worth the extra time and expense. Older pipes may have small cracks or leaks that continually waste water.

Pipes can build up internal mineral deposits and rust, especially in areas with hard water. This buildup can affect the quality of your water. If your home’s pipes are old (or if you aren’t sure of their age), it’s a good idea to have an experienced plumber check them.

Lower Your Water Bills with Help from Johns Plumbing

Upgrading your home’s faucets, pipes, and appliances can save a significant amount of water, which is better for your utility bills and the environment. If you aren’t sure which changes to make first, we can help. Our experts can evaluate your home’s plumbing and appliances and recommend upgrades that provide the best return on investment.

Johns Plumbing has been offering residential and commercial plumbing and HVAC services for over 45 years. We serve clients throughout the Greensboro area, and we are available 24/7 for emergency repairs. To schedule a service appointment, contact us online or call our office directly at 336-294-2301.

Top Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Plumbing

With budding plants and warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see the signs of spring here in North Carolina. This is a great time to take care of some annual home cleaning and maintenance tasks.

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, don’t forget about your plumbing! We’ve compiled a list of the most important tasks that can help you keep your home’s pipes and appliances in top shape for the year to come.

1. Inspect Pipes and Water Lines

Small cracks and leaks in your plumbing can quickly turn into serious issues if they’re not addressed immediately. Take some time this spring to check your home’s pipes for any cracks, leaks, or weak spots. The sooner you can find and fix them, the better.

It’s also important to check water supply lines. Along with the water main, most homes have other supply lines:

  • Faucets
  • Toilets
  • Washing machine
  • Refrigerator ice maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Water heater

Look for leaks, tears, bulges, or sharp curves in the water supply lines for fixtures and appliances. If you aren’t comfortable inspecting or making water line repairs yourself, a Johns Plumbing expert can help.

Finally, don’t forget about your home’s rain gutters and downspouts. These places tend to become clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris. Clearing them out will help prevent backups that can lead to leaks in your roof or water damage to your home’s foundation.

2. Check Your Appliances

It’s important to check your home’s large appliances at least once a year, and spring is a great time to look for problems and make proactive changes to improve performance:

  • Water heater: Verify the temperature (should be less than 120 degrees F), and drain several gallons from the tank to remove sediment and check for rust.
  • Washing machine: Clean the lint trap.
  • Refrigerator: Check for leaks in the automatic ice maker.
  • Sump pump: Test to make sure it’s working properly. You can do this by pouring some water into the container and making sure the pump turns on to remove the water and then turns off.
  • Dishwasher: Check for and remove built-up debris and food waste.
  • Garbage disposal: Test for proper operation, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A little bit of proactive maintenance can go a long way toward preventing expensive repairs or emergency replacements.

3. Look for Leaks

You’ve already checked for leaks in your home’s pipes and water supply lines, but don’t forget to check your faucets, toilets, and traps. Make sure there are no slow leaks or drips from any of the faucets in your sinks or tubs.

Look in your under-sink cabinets to check for drips from the traps. It’s also a good idea to clean out those traps to prevent clogged drains.

Finally, check your toilets for leaks. It’s easy to do this with some food coloring. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait about 20 minutes. If the dye colors the water in the toilet bowl, it means there’s a leak.

4. Clean Your Faucets and Shower Heads

Minerals can build up inside your faucets and shower heads, especially if you live in an area with hard water. You can use vinegar or a descaling product to remove the minerals. You might also want to check for mineral build-up in your coffeemaker.

5. Clear Slow Drains

Check on all the drains in your home, especially those that don’t get used often. Run some water to see how fast each sink’s main drain works, and don’t forget to check the overflow drain as well.

If you notice any slow drains, fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent a serious clog and backup. It’s also a good idea to pour a gallon of water into those infrequently used drains to prevent unpleasant odors.

6. Consider Upgrading to Energy-Efficient Appliances

It’s never fun to have to replace a big appliance because it breaks down. Proactively upgrading outdated equipment can prevent costly emergency replacement services. Plus, you get the chance to research available models to decide exactly what you want for your home.

If your water heater is over 15 years old, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it. Newer models are far more energy efficient. Replacing an old air conditioner with a newer model is another way to lower your utility bills.

Contact the Experts at Johns Plumbing

Taking some time every spring to inspect your plumbing makes it easy to find and repair minor issues before they become big problems. Spring is also a great time to consider upgrading an outdated water heater or air conditioning system to reduce energy consumption.

Whether you need an expert eye to check your drains or want to learn more about the latest energy-efficient appliances, Johns Plumbing can help. We’ll help you get your home’s water lines, drains, pipes, and appliances in top shape. You can also call us 24/7 for emergency service.

We serve clients in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and throughout the Triad area. You can use our convenient online form to schedule a service appointment. For after-hours emergency service, call us directly at 336-294-2301.

6 Winter Plumbing Tips to Help Protect Your Home in Cold Weather

Cold winter weather can be rough on pipes and other parts of your plumbing system. There’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with blocked drains, a broken hot water heater, or leaky pipes in the dead of winter.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to get your plumbing system ready for the cold weather. These preventative measures can significantly lower the risk of plumbing problems. If you do end up with frozen pipes or other plumbing issues, you can always get prompt emergency service from the Johns Plumbing team.

1. Locate the Water Main Valve

It’s vital to know exactly where your home’s water main valve is and how to turn it off. Quickly turning off the water flow can prevent a burst pipe from causing flooding and water damage.

It’s also a good idea to shut off the water line before leaving your home for a trip. Once you turn the valve to the “off” position, drain the remaining water out of the pipes by turning on all the faucets and letting the water run until the pipes are empty.

2. Protect Your Indoor Pipes

When the pipes in your home get too told, the water can freeze, expand, and break the pipes. Sometimes you may not notice small cracks in your pipes until the water thaws and starts running through the pipes and leaking everywhere. A big crack in a pipe can release a lot of water very quickly, flooding parts of your home.

There are several ways to prevent your indoor plumbing from freezing:

  • Find any cabinets with water pipes in them and leave the doors open during cold weather to keep the space warmer
  • Regularly check all your pipes for cracks or weak points. Fix any damaged areas right away.
  • Keep your garage doors closed to trap head inside
  • Open your faucets slightly (look for a trickle of water) on extremely cold nights to keep the water running so it doesn’t freeze. You can catch the water in a bucket so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • Remove the bottom panel of your dishwasher to allow more heat to reach its water line.

These steps can prevent frozen pipes and keep your home safe from water leaks.

3. Prepare Your Outdoor Pipes for Cold Weather

It’s also essential to make sure your outdoor pipes and spigots are winterized. Insulate any exposed outdoor pipes leading from the water main to your house, including at the entry points.

Before the weather turns cold, make sure to turn off your outdoor spigots and remove any hoses that are connected to them. Drain the remaining water out of the hoses, coil them, and store them indoors during the winter. Wrap some towels or heating tape around the spigots to keep them warmer on very cold days or nights. You can also find frost-proof spigot covers.

4. Add Some Insulation

In many homes, water pipes run through uninsulated crawlspaces, unfinished basements, or attics. These spaces can get extremely cold during the winter, which leads to frozen, cracked pipes.

Adding insulation can help prevent this issue. Insulating the crawlspace or attic can be a good DIY project, and it can help lower the strain on your furnace during winter. If you don’t want to commit to such a big renovation, you can also insulate the pipes themselves with specially designed foam sheaths. If you aren’t sure of the best way to insulate your pipes, ask an experienced plumber.  

5. Get Your Water Heater Checked

Fall is a great time to check on your water heater and make sure it’s in good shape for the upcoming winter. Draining the water heater can help flush out any built-up sediment, and it’s a great way to check whether there’s rust in the tank.

If the water draining from your tank is discolored, chances are there’s some rust. It might be time for a replacement. This is a good chance to consider switching to a tankless water heater or upgrading to a more energy-efficient tank model.

6. Program Your Thermostat

Setting your thermostat a little lower in the winter can reduce your utility bills and save energy. This is a great step for your wallet and the environment, but it’s not ideal for your pipes. Keeping your home’s temperature too cool can increase the risk of your pipes freezing.

It’s best to keep the temperature no lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Resist the temptation to lower your thermostat below this temperature even when you go out of town. The last thing you want is to return to a home with broken pipes and water damage.

Trust Johns Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning for All Your Plumbing Needs

Even the best preventative maintenance can’t always stop a plumbing emergency from happening. If you have leaky pipes or a broken water heater, call the team of experts at Johns. We service homes and businesses throughout the entire Piedmont Triad, including Greensboro, Summerfield, Kernersville, Burlington, and the surrounding area.

We offer quick repairs, top-notch installation services, and expert advice. Schedule an appointment online or call us directly at 336-294-2301 for after-hours emergency services.

Blower Door Home Energy Audit

Blower door testing is the most practical way to predict energy savings from air-sealing methods.how to do a blower door audit

Compare blower-door operation to inflating a leaky beach ball. When you inflate a beach ball, it doesn’t take much effort to fill it if there are no holes present. If the ball has a few pin holes, you have to apply a little more effort because eventually the air will leak out and the ball will become deflated. If there are holes that are bigger (such as raisin-sized holes), you will have to put forth an incredible amount of effort to keep the ball inflated. The total size of the all the holes and the pressure difference between the ball and the outside determines the rate at which you need to blow air to keep the ball inflated.

Like the blowing pressure of your lungs to keep a beach ball inflated, a blower door pressurizes your home by blowing air in or depressurizes the home by sucking air out. Depressurization, which creates a vacuum indoors, is the most common procedure because air comes in through air leaks, allowing you to feel and locate the air leaks in your home. The combined area of the building leaks and the pressure difference between indoors and outdoors determines how much air the blower door moves. The air flow is measured by CFM (cubic feet per minute). The standard for measuring a home’s air leakage is the air flow through the blower door at 50 pascals of house pressure (CFM50)

Blower door testing involves preparing the home for testing, setting up the blower door in a doorway, connecting the gauges, turning on the blower door, and reading the pressure reading on the gauges.

Prepare for testing by following these steps:

  • Close windows and storm doors.
  • Open all interior doors.
  • Disable heaters and water heaters by turning their thermostats down.
  • Cover ashes in wood stoves and fireplaces with damp newspaper to prevent them from being sucked into the home.
  • Shut fireplace dampers, fireplace glass doors, wood stove dampers, and wood stove air intakes.

The blower door operator should slowly bring the house pressure to 50 pascals. This is usually preset with the blower door gauges before he begins. With the house pressure at 50 pascals, the operator notes the CFM50 number from the digital air flow gauge. Then he begins to look around the home with a smoke generator to help find the air leaks in your home. I promise that you will be amazed to discover where the leaks are and the amount of leakage that occurs.

There are several common factors to help to determine the amount of air leakage you may have in your home. This is a little technical, but it will help you to understand the importance of a test of this nature.

  1. The 50 Pascal Airflow Rate: a blower door reading expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM50) is the actual flow measured at 50 pascals of house pressure.
  2. The 50-Pascal Air Change Rate (ACH50): a blower door reading expressed in air changes per hour at 50 pascals. This is calculated by multiplying the CFM50 by 60min/hour and then dividing by the house volume in cubic feet.
  3. Natural Air Change rate (ACH natural): natural air change is expressed in air changes per hour.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, the home energy auditor in your area will know just what to do with all these numbers and formulas. If you are wondering where to find an energy auditor, check with your local courthouse or utility company. Hiring a home energy auditor will be money well spent!