Extend the Life of Your Water Heater: How to Drain a Hot Water Heater

Extend the Life of Your Water Heater: How to Drain a Hot Water Heater

Have you noticed that your hot showers are getting shorter and less steamy? If this is the case, there’s a chance your water heater is losing some of its potency. But don’t worry, you don’t need to completely buy a brand new one or suffer through cold showers. You can easily learn how to drain hot water heaters and flush it to bring back some of its vigor.


Certain minerals like calcium and magnesium can build up over time in your water heater, causing you to need to drain the hot water heater. This is especially common in areas with hard water, and if you don’t counter the hard water with a water softener. This build-up reduces your hot water heater’s effectiveness, and can also start demanding more energy than usual to heat your water (driving your utility bill up). As such, it may be smart to start flushing and draining hot water heater once a year. And the fall is a great time to do it. This will extend the lifetime of your water heater, saving you from having to eat the cost of a replacement.

Supplies Needed:

Garden hose (yeah; that’s about it)

Note: some water heater tanks need to be completely full to avoid damage to the heating elements or gas burner. And of course, always read and follow all manufacturer’s directions and warnings for your particular water heater. If you don’t feel up to the task, contact a professional.

Step 1

Turn off your cold water supply valve at the top of the water heater.

Step 2

Turn off your water heater. If you have a gas water heater, turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting. If you have an electric water heater, turn off the electricity from your main electrical panel. This is extremely important as exposed heating elements can burn out if the water level in your tank drops below the level of the hot elements. Water in the tank can remain hot for hours, so once you turn your water heater off, wait overnight before proceeding.

Step 3

Attach a garden hose to the drain valve of your water heater tank. This can be found near the bottom of the tank. Make sure to place the opposite end of the hose on the driveway or in a floor drain. You can also use buckets, just make sure to be careful as the water can be extremely hot as you work unless you’ve given it sufficient time to cool.

Step 4

Locate the nearest water tap to your water heater, preferably on the floor above. Doing this can help alleviate some pressure in the water heating system, allowing the water to drain far quicker from the tank.

Step 5

Now open the drain valve and let the water completely drain from the tank. Again, the water may be hot, so use caution. Once the water has completely drained from your tank, briefly turn the cold water supply back on. This can help stir up any remaining sediment. Turn off the cold water supply again, and then repeat the draining process again. You can continue to repeat this process until the water runs clear. Sometimes, there is severe sediment build-up which can block the opening of the drain valve. If this is the case, it may be best to call an expert for assistance.

Step 6

You can now close the drain valve and remove the garden hose, turning the cold water supply back on. Your water heater tank will start to fill back up. Remember to go back to the tap that you had opened up earlier; once cold water begins to flow from the tap, you can turn it off. You can now turn the electricity back on to the tank or the gas valve back on from the pilot position. Make sure to check the valve opening once it’s closed to make sure there aren’t any water leaks.

Knowing how to drain a water heater can come in handy, as installing a new water heater can cost anywhere from $795 to $2,800. The time it will take you to flush and drain the hot water heater is usually a better option than having to shuck out hundreds of dollars to replace it. Start flushing your water heater once a year to avoid needing to replace it, and helping extend its life.

Water You Doing?: How to Read Your Water Meter

Water You Doing?: How to Read Your Water Meter

Knowing how to read water meter can be a very helpful skill to learn. For instance, you can use the water meter to figure out how much water your household uses on a daily basis. To do so, read your meter at the start of the day and again at the end of the day and compare the totals. A water meter can also help you check for leaks. If you suspect a leak, turn off all the taps in your home then look at your meter. If it’s still turning, you most likely have a leak somewhere. 

Of course, in order to measure daily usage or monitor leaks, you need to know how to use your water meter in general. Here’s how you can locate and read your water meter.

Locate Your Meter

To start, you’re going to need to locate your meter. Your water meter is generally located near the front curb of your home. In colder climate areas, you may find it inside, usually in the basement. If your meter is outside, it can be found in a concrete box in your yard marked “water” or in a meter pit with a cast iron lid.

Gently remove the lid with a screwdriver or pliers. Be careful: spiders or other little critters may have taken up residence in your meter. 

Reading Water Meter

In the U.S., water meters typically measure volume in cubic feet or gallons. Water charges on your bill are based on 100 cubic feet or 1000 gallon units.

There are two basic types of water meters—a round-reading meter with several separate dials or a straight-reading meter that looks a lot like an odometer in a car. The straight-reading meter tends to be the most commonly found.

Straight-Reading Meter

On a straight-reading meter, the numbers found below the words “cubic feet” are where you will take your reading. Say the meter reads 81710.03, this is the total number of cubic feet or water recorded since the meter was first installed. If your utility bill comes in units of 100 cubic feet, then your utility company would just read this as 817.

On some straight-reading meters, a small blue triangle can be seen next to a two-digit number. This number is the low flow indicator. This triangle will spin if water is flowing through the meter. This is one way you can check for leaks.

On straight-reading meters, the size of a meter is printed on the dial. If you see that the final number on your meter has “turned over” but the big sweep hand hasn’t passed the 0.6 mark, be aware that this meter number isn’t completely correct. For example, if the number shows 2426 and the big sweep hand is at 0.9, the correct reading on your meter is actually 2425.92 cubic feet.

Round-Reading Meter

A round-reading meter is a bit older and less common, but many are still in service. This kind of water meter has several small dials, which means it can be a bit more difficult to read. For water meter reading of a round-reading meter, each dial is marked off in divisions of 10 and can be read more like a clock, although the hand on every other dial turns counterclockwise. In order to read this kind of meter, start with the 100,000 dial and then read each dial around the meter to the one-foot dial. If the hand sits between numbers, use the lower number.

Reading a Digital Display

Today, some water meters will have a digital display. Knowing how to read a water meter gallons or cubic feet is a lot easier on these than analog meters. Digital water meters need light for activation, so grab a flashlight and shine it on the display for a minute or two. A digital display will alternate between the flow rate and meter read. The flow rate equals the number of cubic feet or gallons per minute that flows through the water meter, while the meter read equals the cubic feet or gallons used. A few digital display meters let you review your water use history. This can help you track your water use trends and even show when leaks have occurred.

You can check your water provider’s website for more information surrounding your water meter. Keeping an eye on your meter can ensure you stay on top of leaks and ensure your household’s water usage is within a reasonable range, so check your water meter out today!

Stain in the Neck? Here’s How to Get Stains Out of Carpet

Stain in the Neck? Here’s How to Get Stains Out of Carpet

How to get stains out of carpet is an age-old question that has plagued many a homeowner. The frustration that comes with it can cause many people to just ditch carpet altogether and go for an easier cleaning floor material, like tile or wood.

But for those of you who love the luxurious, soft feel of carpet beneath your bare toes, there is hope out there. The best place to start with any stain is knowing exactly what caused it. Then you can attack the problem head-on with one of our nifty carpet stain remover tricks.

Note: for each of these tips, be sure to use a clean, white cloth and always dab at the stain, don’t rub.

Coffee & Tea

You wouldn’t think it, but one of the best ways to get a stain out of your carpet from these beverages is to grab another beverage—beer! Pour a bit of beer right on top of the stain and then lightly rub into the carpet. Repeat a couple more times until all traces of the stain are gone.

Small Spills

There are a couple things you can do for small spills ,like juice from a sippy cup. First, shaving cream. Blot the stain with a clean cloth, then pat it with a wet sponge. Squirt a bit of shaving cream on top, and then wipe away with another clean, damp sponge.

You can also try using a bit of vinegar. Rub a small, light stain with a solution of 2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Allow the solution to dry and then vacuum it up! This is also a solution you can use for how to get old stains out of carpet before completely ripping the carpet out.

Red Wine

Before you do anything to figure out how to get stains out of carpet caused by red wine, remember to always blot the spill first. You want to remove as much wine from the floor as possible; dilute any remaining wine with cold water using a clean cloth.

You can now clean the spot with a sponge and cold water. After this, sprinkle salt onto the stain and wait about 10 minutes, then vacuum everything up. Some stores carry carpet stain removers specifically targeted at red wine. You can also purchase one of these to have on hand for a spill.

Paint

Vinegar isn’t just for the kitchen or laundry room. You can use vinegar to clean up several different kinds of stains — including paint! That said, you’ll need to move fast, because dried paint is a much bigger problem. While the paint is still wet, mix a solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar with 1 1/2 teaspoons laundry detergent and two cups of water. Pour the solution on top of the stain and then using a sponge, sponge away the solution and paint before it dries and sets in. Rinse everything with cold water.

Grease & Oil

Shaving cream can also work on grease and oil stains. Spray the cream on top of the stain, and then gently work it into the stain, allowing it to soak into the shaving cream. Let everything dry and then rub it away with a soft, damp cloth.

Another great carpet stain remover for grease and oil is to use cornstarch and milk. Mix the two together to create a paste, then apply it to the stain. Let the solution dry then vacuum it up! You can also just pour straight cornstarch onto a grease or oil stain. Allow it to sit for a few hours and then vacuum it up.

If the stain is caused by greasy food, you can mix 1 part salt to 4 parts rubbing alcohol and rub it hard into the stain. Wipe away with a clean cloth.

Vomit

Vomit can be a tough cookie to crack when it comes to a carpet stain. To tackle this particularly nasty mess, head to the store for a good carpet stain remover. Once back at the house, start by clearing away any solid matter from the mess using a fork or spoon (gross, I know, but important if you want to save the carpet). Next, grab a stain remover from the store and let it sit for at least 5 minutes. Then blot with a damp, clean cloth. You may need to repeat this process.

Dog & Cat Urine

These types of stains can be some of the most difficult to deal with, so you may need to invest in a wet vac or a store-bought remedy. Don’t use a steam cleaner as it can set the stain… and the odor. Instead, start by blotting the stain with a white cloth, then use a store-bought carpet stain remover specifically designed for pet messes. Repeat this process until the stain and smell are gone. You can also try to use a wet vac. Once you’ve used it on the stain, rinse the area with cool water.

Easy Tips for Saving Electricity

Easy Tips for Saving Electricity

Seeing a high electricity bill this month? Looking for ways to bring that nasty number down? Easy peasy. There are several things you can do each and every day to help you save electricity so you can not only save a little bit on your monthly bit but so you can also cut back on your carbon footprint. Check out our top electricity-saving tips below and then share them with your family members or roommates so you can all learn how to save electricity together.

1. Invest in a smart thermostat

These smart thermostats, like Nest, will show you a temperature range for your AC or heat. This range is an eco-friendly setting that will still offer money-saving benefits while still keeping your house a comfortable temperature. If you don’t have a smart thermostat, you can still save by lowering your set temperature by two degrees. Lower it by five degrees to save 10% on your heating bill.

2. Reduce heat in the kitchen

In warmer months, mix up your weekly menu to include more salads, smoothies, or meals you can cook on the barbecue outside. Avoid using your stove or oven as much as possible, this can help you reduce the heat in your home while also lowering your cooling costs.

3. Wash all laundry in cold water

Washing all of your loads in cold water is not only good for your electricity bill, it’s also better for your clothes. On average, washing three loads per week in cold water could save you $22 a year on your energy bill.

4. Set your dishwasher to air-dry

Stop using the heat-dry function on your dishwasher. Depending on how many loads you do in a day, you could be saving about $27 a year. While some things may be a little wet still after the load is done, you can just leave the door open and let it finish air-drying.

5. Unplug appliances you aren’t using

Instead of manually plugging and unplugging everything in each day, connect your items to a power strip and then simply turn that off when you aren’t using something. If you’re going away for vacation, unplug as many appliances as you can – though you should leave necessities, like your fridge, running. Although each device alone doesn’t drain a lot of energy, all together they can make a big dent in your utility bills.

6. Install/replace weather stripping

Weather stripping prevents warm or cool air from escaping out of your home. If air is escaping, your AC or heating system will have to work overtime to keep the temperature stable, leading to higher electricity bills. Check all your doorways and windows for any damaged or missing weather stripping and make the necessary replacements.

7. Turn off unnecessary lights

It’s worth getting in the habit of turning lights off when you leave a room. Two 100-watt incandescent bulbs switched off for an extra two hours each day could save you about $15 a year. Even better, switch all your bulbs to LED.

You can also use task lighting. This means using table lamps or under-counter lights to work in kitchens and hobby areas rather than turning on ceiling lights to light up the entire room. 

8. Use natural light

Did you know south-facing windows can illuminate 20 to 100 times its area? During the day, take advantage of the sunlight: open up blinds and curtains instead of flipping on lightbulbs.

9. Be smart with window coverings

Window coverings can help promote airflow along with block the afternoon sun. In the summer, if you’re not in a room, pull down the blinds or draw the drapes to keep heat from sneaking into the home and causing your AC to work overtime.

10. Take shorter showers

Heating up your shower or bath water is expensive. Start cutting back on your showers. You can save $30 a year by cutting your shower down by one minute. In hotter months, try taking showers in tepid water, rather than steaming baths.

11. Don’t leave the sink running

Along with cutting down your showers, start reducing your hot water usage by turning off the sink while you do things like brush your teeth, shave or wash dishes. Doing this can save you about $19 a year.

12. Bundle up

Turn down your heater a few degrees and add a layer or two. Get used to wearing socks around the home, along with a sweater. Use a blanket if you’re sitting at your desk or on the couch. This can help you save a little bit during the winter and fall months instead of using your heater to stay warm.

13. Hang dry your laundry

If you have a large family, or several people living in your home, try hang-drying the laundry rather than using the dryer. If you do eight loads of laundry a week and hang dry half of those clothes, you could save $65 a year.

14. Run full loads

Try to only run a load of laundry when it’s full. Or try cutting out one load of wash each week. You could save another $20 a year simply by waiting to wash.

These tips can help you reduce the energy usage throughout your house with only minor adjustments. Learning ways to save electricity can save the environment and your wallet!

Back in the Grind: How to Install a Garbage Disposal

Back in the Grind: How to Install a Garbage Disposal

A garbage disposal is a wonderful appliance. Rather than having to deal with disgusting food refuse stinking up your kitchen garbage can, you simply wash the excess scraps down the sink, turn on the disposal, and let the grinding blades take care of everything. And if you’ve ever lived anywhere without one, you know how convenient they can be.

Unfortunately, sometimes, these units can fail or need to be replaced. The good news is that installing garbage disposal on your own is fairly easy and doesn’t necessarily require a professional. Learn how to install your own garbage disposal through our step-by-step process.

Supplies Needed

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • PVC cutter
  • Wire nuts
  • Plumber’s putty
  • Garbage disposal

Installing a Garbage Disposal

1. Your first step in installing a garbage disposal is to remove your existing assembly. However, you definitely want to place a large pan or shallow bucket below your kitchen sink in order to catch any water that could spill out from the drain as you disconnect it. Keep a towel nearby too. Now, begin by removing your existing assembly including the drain basket and P-trap.

2. Open up the box that houses your new garbage disposal. If the flange is pre-assembled, use your screwdriver to gently remove the ring and loosen the fasteners.

3. You will now apply putty to the flange gasket. Locate your flange gasket, if it came with a rubber gasket, remove this. Plumber’s putty is your best option and will give your seal a longer life than the rubber gasket. Roll the plumber’s putty into a snake shape about 3/8-inch in diameter. Make sure it’s long enough to wrap around the gasket, under the flange. Now, gently press the putty evenly around the underside of the flange, just like you would a pie crust.

4. Before attaching your new gasket, clean and wipe out your kitchen sink. Make sure there’s no moisture and that any gunk around the drain opening has been thoroughly removed.

5. Now, take your flange and insert it onto the top side of your sink. Attach the fastening system on the underside of your sink. Apply pressure to the flange from above. You may want another set of hands to help with this. Alternatively, you can use a heavy object to help keep the flange in place so you can attach the fastening system on the underside of the sink. You should be able to see the plumber’s putty oozing out from under the edge of the flange all around. If you don’t see this, you haven’t put enough putty on the flange. Remove and start over if you need to. If you do see putty all around the flange, carefully trim the excess with a rag, but only after a complete seal has been formed.

6. You can now attach the mounting plate to the underside of the sink. Use your screwdriver to fasten the screws, but don’t over-tighten. If you’re worried, start by attaching them first with just your hands, and then only use the screwdriver at the very end to guarantee a good seal.

7. Grab the tailpipe and attach it to the rubber seal on the side of your new disposer unit. You will secure it with the metal spring ring or the metal bracket that is attached to the tailpipe.

8. To attach your disposer unit to your flange, align the two together from the underside of your sink. Press the disposer into place against the flange and secure it loosely by rotating the lower mounting ring onto the ramp tabs of the upper mounting ring. Continue rotating the unit until the entire drain assembly is aligned. You may need to use a sturdy object to prop your disposer unit up as you rotate and align everything.

9. It’s now time to connect the P-trap. Using your PVC cutter, trim the extender pipe and then connect your disposer to your P-trap. With the drain assembled, rotate the lower mounting ring until all three mounting tabs are locked over the ridges that are in the slide-up ramps. You can now tighten these with a screwdriver.

10. Your unit is now installed, but you’ll want to make sure it’s secure before you start using it. Take the drain stopper and place in the drain, then fill the sink up with about an inch of water. Check under the sink for any leaks. If there are leaks, there’s an issue with your plumber’s putty seal. If you don’t detect any leaks, remove the stopper and allow the water to fill up the drain and P-trap. Continue checking for leaks and tighten any spots and needed.

Your garbage disposal is now ready for use! Plug it into a GFCI-protected receptacle. Move and organize your cords as needed so they don’t get caught in a mess under your sink.

Optional Step

If your dishwasher needs to drain through your disposer, there is another step necessary for you to follow in your garbage disposal installation — you will need to locate the breakout plate inside the inlet port. Gently remove it by tapping it with a hammer. You do not need to do this if your dishwasher won’t be draining into your unit.