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Calgary hot water heaters FAQ

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This page contains answers to common questions handled by our support staff at, along with some tips and tricks that we have found useful and presented here as questions. Please remember that if you wish to have a professional plumber solve and repair your problem fast, call (insert name and number of plumbing co. here)


How come my hot water is brown at times … ?

Quite often, water heaters are installed with galvanized nipples at the water inlet and outlet point. These nipples loose their protective lining after a few years of use. Once that happens, the galvanized metal starts to rust thus leaving you with burst of brown water.

One way to prevent this is by replacing the “Anode” rod on your water heater. Most quality brand water heaters have them, if you keep them fresh and new, you will get many more years of life out of your tank.

You also want to remember that flushing your water heater tank every couple of months will help remove the “Hard water build-up”  that will happen. If you have very hard water, an automatic flushing system can be hooked in to the tank to flush automatically every month.

I have my heater turned down but the water is still to hot … ?

If your water heater is heating your water beyond where the setting required, your “Unitrol”  is most likely defective. Your heater may be very old, and scale has built up to the point to where the “Unitrol sensor” cannot properly sense the water temperature and turn the gas off and on when needed.

I don’t seem to get enough hot-water from my tank anymore … ?

If your hot-water tank isn’t giving you the volume of hot water your use too, your “dip tube” . After a period of time, the dip tubes start to dissolve in the water, this allows the cold water coming into the tank to mix with the hot-water that is stored in the tank causing the water to cool off before getting to the tap. Replace the dip tube and your set.

My hot-water tank is leaking from a brass valve on the upper side … ?

On the side, near the top of every water heater you will find a safety device called a “relief valve”. This valve has a spring inside that will release pressure build-up that can occur when the burner fails to shut off causing the water to boil thus pressure build-up. Without it, your water heater can cause MAJOR property damage and death. After years of use, the spring gets a little weak and will cause water to leak out when there really isn’t a problem with the rest of the heater parts. Replacement of the valve is then needed. If you don’t want to do this yourself,  Call Mr .Mike’s Calgary Plumber for service.

How do I know what size of water heater to buy for my home?

It’s a good idea to try and match hot-water tank size to your family’s needs. If you get a water tank that’s too small, you’ll frequently find the water cooling down just about the time you lather up in the shower. If you buy one that’s too large, you’ll be paying more of energy than necessary to keep the tank heated.

Hot water needs can typically be measured by the number of bathrooms in the house, though some circumstances can skew these standards– a laundry-heavy family with small children or a house with an especially large bathtub, for example. Obviously, a couple living in a large house or a large family living in a small house require adjusting the figures. Minimum size unit for a 1-bathroom house should be 30 or 40 gallons, in either gas or electric. For a 1 1/2-bath house, 40 gallons is minimum. For a 2- to 3 1/2-bath house, choose a 50-gallon gas heater or a 66- to 80-gallon electric one (because electric water heaters take longer to heat water, large tanks should be bigger than their gas-fired counterparts). For a large, 4-bath house or a home with an extra-large bathtub, get a 75-gallon gas heater or a 120-gallon electric heater.

Are there more energy efficient water heaters I can purchase?

Water heating uses 17% of the energy in North American homes, and is the second largest energy expense in North American households. Solar water heaters or geothermal heat pumps are two renewable energy options for reducing the amount of conventional energy you use for water heating—but you can also save energy by purchasing more energy-efficient conventional water heating appliances.

If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it probably has no higher than 50% efficiency. An old water heater can operate for years at very low efficiencies before it finally fails. One way to reduce water-heating costs is to replace your old water heater with a new, higher-efficiency model.

In addition, you should reduce your hot water use by buying appliances with low water usage, such as front-loading (horizontal-axis) washing machines, and by installing water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

Reducing your water use in general saves you money and saves the energy used to purify the fresh water you use and the wastewater you dispose of. In arid climates, reducing your water usage can also help minimize your impact on the environment and help reduce the need for new dams and other water projects.

The following sections will help you to save water and heat it efficiently:

Do the “instant hot water” heaters work better than the storage type water-heaters?

Many manufactures of the tank-less heaters have done studies that show savings over the tank   style. Click on this link for good information on the tank-less energy efficient units.
Depending on where you live, you might get better use out of the tank-less water heaters vs. the storage type heaters. Many of the benefits are explained on this site Plumber Blog


I have an electric water heater, It is giving me little or no hot water?

If your experiencing little or no hot water from your electric tank, check to make sure the breaker is still on. Once your sure the power is getting to the tank, and your still not getting hot water, you most likely have one or more burned out elements. You can try to repair yourself by shutting off the power, removing the cover plates and testing for element operation with a electrical tester. I recommend you call Mr. Mike’s Plumbing

I live in an area with very hard water, does hard water cause harm to my water-heater?

Yes. Hard water can shorten the life of your water heater and cost you more to heat water. Follow a these tips to help decrease the damage to the hot-water heater.

Hard water build-up issues are different from gas to electric water heaters. In both, hard water build-up prevents efficient transfer of heat from the heating element or flame to the water to be heated. Because of this, it costs more to heat water and will greatly decrease the life of the water heater if the hard water build-up is not frequently removed . Over time, built up can decrease the holding capacity of the heater. In electric water heaters, scale first forms on the heating element then flakes off into the tank, building up on the bottom. Once the buildup is deep enough to cover the bottom heating element, conditions are good for the element to over heat and burn out.

Gas water heaters work by putting a flame under the water tank. Mineral deposits build up in the bottom of the tank causing it to over heat. A sudden boiling action causes the mineral deposits to be lifted up into the water. This makes a rumbling or popping noise when the tank is heated.

There are several ways to deal with problems related to hard water and the water heater. One is to install a water softener in the plumbing to soften the before water enters the water heater.

Another way to deal with hard water is to drain and flush the water heater tank on a regular basis. Recommendations are that it be done as often as every two or three months, some manufacturers suggest maintenance every six months. The water heater must be turned off. A hose is screwed onto the water outlet on the side of the tank, turn on the tap and let the water flush for 15 minutes. This should keep a good check on build-up. If you haven’t done this in the first few years from date of install, there is a good chance the hard water build-up is to severe to be removed with this (or any other) method. Another thing to remember is if you install a water softener on a old water tank that hasn’t been maintained, the minerals will start to dissolve in the old and and there is  a good chance you will experience a tank rupture thus you will find yourself with a flood and in need of a new water heater.  A clean tank saves money by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat the water and, by increasing the life span of the water heater. Also, remember to replace the anode rod often depending on how hard your water is once every two years should do the trick.

I have a water softener, does that increase or decrease the life of my hot-water tank. What about the instant units, good bad?

Yes and No.

A water softener that is installed when the hot water heater is new or near new, will increase the tank life by many years. If you install a new water softener and still have an old un-maintained water heater, you will soon dissolve the mineral build-up in the old tank exposing weakened and damaged tank linings. Your old water tank may already have a rupture, and the scale build-up is plugging the rupture preventing the water from leaking onto the floor.  Anode rods will break down faster with softened water. You will need to replace the anodes more frequently with softened water.

I have a strong smell coming from the hot water? What up with that?

If you live an areas surrounding Calgary, as with most other rural areas, you probably noticed a smell coming from your hot water. The rotten egg smell is derived from hydrogen sulfide gas dissolved in the water. As little as 1PPM can result in this odor. The smell is the result of 4 factors which must be present for the odor to develop in the water heater. 1: high concentration of sulfate in the raw water. 2: There must be little or no dissolved oxygen in the water. 3: There must be sulfate reducing bacteria within the heater. This bacteria is non-toxic to humans. 4:There must be an excess of active hydrogen in the tank. This is being provided by the cathodic action of the anode. With these factors hydrogen sulfide gas is formed, which gives off the rotten egg smell in the water. Active use of the heater will reduce the problem but  no use as a result of vacations, etc. will allow the accumulation of the gas and add to the odor problem.

Water softening also aggravates the odor problem by eliminating chlorine thus increasing the bacteria in the supply. In many situations the smelly water condition is not experienced until after a softener is installed. Smelly water can most easily be eliminated or reduced by replacing the anode with one of less active material (magnesium to aluminum) and then chlorinating the water heating system. Its not a good idea to remove the anode, thus leaving the tank unprotected. By doing so you are likely to void all warranty on the heater. Removal of the anode does not affect safe operation but will shorten the water heater life as the anode acts as a sacrificial rod thus slowing down the corrosion process.

What is a Hot-Water Tank Drip pan?

In the event of a water tank rupture, you can stop water from flooding your home with a drip pan. These pans are made of plastic or aluminum. the have provisions to pipe the pan to the floor drain. This will drain off any water that leaves the tank. Call Mike for any questions or to have one installed today.

What is a automatic water shut off valve?

If are serious about preventing flood from the plumbing system in you home, these automatic valves work well. They operate on an electric solenoid valve that is controlled by sensors placed through-out the home. Call Mike @ tel: (403)520-2040 for more information.

I have no hot water !!

You never really appreciate your water heater until you try to shower or bath and the water is cold. If your heater is cold, depending on the type of heater you have, your pilot light has gone out, in which case you can have a service man replace the thermocouple. If your heater is electric, you might have a blow breaker, or a burnt out element. Unless you are comfortable working with gas or electricity, we recommend you call a serviceman to fix these problems.