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Robert Lamoureux: The proper way to drain your water heater

Your Home Improvements

Posted: April 4, 2009 12:19 a.m.
Updated: April 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Hello Robert,
Some time ago I drained my hot water heater, as suggested by a plumber. After following his instructions to do this annually for about 8-10 minutes each time, I now have a loud gurgling hot water heater almost every time someone turns on water in the house. To me it sounds like air in the system. Would you please let me know how to eliminate the gurgling sound (air in the tank?) and the "proper" way to drain a hot water heater annually. Thanks for your help,
Richard C.

Hi Richard,
The proper way to drain it is to open up the petcock and let it flush. First, cut the power to the tank if you have an electric heater or turn the thermostat to pilot if gas. Turn off the water supply and pump. Open the hot water faucets inside your home. Then open the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank and open the petcock and let it flush itself out.

If you have hardened sediment in the bottom of the tank, there is nothing you can do about it because it is a sealed unit. Some of the gurgling could be attributed to these sediments once they have solidified and are causing restrictions in the tank. One way to check is to stick a coat hanger in through the valve. If you pull out any white, crusty sediment, or if the tank is eight years old or older, then it is time to get rid of it and change the tank out.

If the tank is new, then you can install an expansion tank which will relieve the pressure on your system and will probably stop those noises. Since heated water expands, it would go inside the expansion tank and save the wear and tear on your valves and pipes.

Hi Robert,
We have an overhead gate assembly that needs repair. One of the posts on the side is cracked and the welding company says it has to be replaced because it is crystallized. Isn't it possible to weld a new piece onto the existing post instead of replacement? Thank you.
Miriam B.

Hi Miriam,
It's not uncommon for those gates to weigh 800 lbs., or more. I personally would not put that amount of weight on a sistered post on crystallized metal. Crystallized means that it has already been repaired, probably several times. The heat of welding, then cooling, over and over changes the molecular structure of the metal to the point where it is no longer strong. Listen to the welders.

There is absolutely no way I would allow crystallized metal anywhere near an overhead gate. You do not want that gate coming down on someone or their vehicle. Take that old post out of there. Re-core, set and weld a new one in place. Do it once, do it right.

Robert,
I have three lights out in my office building. One downstairs and two upstairs. I had my handyman take a look at it and he said it was a "major electrical problem." He replaced the bulbs and they still did not work. I will call an electrician, but wanted to get an idea of what this might be beforehand. Thank you.
Oscar T.

Hi Oscar,
From what you're describing, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Offices are usually wired in a daisy chain - meaning half of the lights are wired on one circuit and the other half on the other. This way, if you do have electrical problems, the entire building won't go dark, only half. Since you only have three lights that are out on two floors, and not every other one, it means that you have an isolated problem to those fixtures. It sounds like you have some bad ballasts. All you need to do is replace those and you'll be fine. To be on the safe side, as with all electrical repairs, I strongly suggest using a qualified electrician.

Hi Robert,
We have an entrance gate that was put up about 10 years ago. I have never had any problems with it until this weekend. Usually when I get close enough the weight of the car will open it but now I have to use the remote to get out. Do you think I need a new sensor? It is a Sarasota. Again, we have never had any problems until now, Many thanks.
Randall H.

Hi Randall,
The way those loop detectors work is with a low impedance signal. It's got nothing to do with weight but apparently this is a common misconception. I've actually seen people jumping up and down on the loops trying to open gates.

Actually, a signal rotates through the wire and the minute anything metal travels over it, the signal breaks, closing the contact, which opens the gate.

There are several reasons that could cause the loops to fail. To troubleshoot this type of problem, you need to check that there is no exposed wiring and no insulator damage. Water can also cause the loops to fail so you want to be sure to keep those loops sealed. Tree roots damage the loops, or it could be a broken wire or it could be a bad loop detector.

With the old Sarasota systems, you have to dial and tune them yourself. They are easy to burn out if you don't follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly. These have six buttons that you have to pull in a particular sequence, dial in and reset the frequencies.

You may have two loop detectors - one safety and one exit loop. It's possible that you are getting some cross-talk. Sometimes homeowners or workers will come along and set the detectors the same, on the same frequency, which basically zeros both of them out. In this case, neither one would work and you would have to re-freq. This is also true with the self-tuners.
Also, you don't want any high voltage wiring around the loop detectors. This would create a magnetic field and cause them to stop working properly.

To check if the loop detector is bad, check the LED light. If it's red there is a problem and it's time to replace that old Sarasota technology. Throw it away and go for a self-tuning detector.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to Robert@IMSConstruction.com. His opinions are his own and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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