Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Understanding Your Timer on Solar Hot Water

Quick notes on Water Heater Timers:

1)      The number one problem with the Timers called the Little Gray Box or LGB, is that after a power outage, the time will be wrong.   So reset the time to correct time, and then review it later that day to make sure it is spinning
2)      After a HECO power outage, sometimes the Timers just get jolted by the power spike on power return, and are fried.
3)      They are electro-mechanical devices which work 24/7 and control a lot of amperage to heat your water.  They will occasionally just fail and replacement is the answer, repair is too risky on this high power device.
4)      If the timer tabs are put on too loosely, i.e. just by using hands, they can slide and jam, and this will occasionally cause the death of an LGB.   Always use a tool to tighten down the on/off timer tabs.    
5)      In general timer tabs are set at 5AM on, 9AM off and 5PM on 9PM off.    However, you can adjust these as you see fit.   Those will smaller family sizes may choose to completely remove the “on” pins, thus preventing the heater from ever coming on by itself ---maximize savings, then you can still flip the switch to on when you know there is not going to be enough hot water.   But keep the off pins in place, otherwise, if you forget to manually turn it off, you could get a high electric bill
6)      When setting timer pins, it is safest to turn off the power at the breaker box, as there is live 240V inside the timer box.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Some Tips On Troubleshooting Tank or Pipe Noises

A customer emailed in for some free tech support and I wrote up helpful how to that could save her a $105 service call. 

I thought it good to replicate it here on the blog. 


Usually any knocking sound from a heater system is going to be caused by air somewhere in the system.   The noise can sometimes be heard very far away from the actual source, and not heard at the source.

Air is sometimes delivered in city water and builds up over time.

1) Sometimes you can convince the air to move out by a fast flow all the hot water faucets and tubs in the house at once, and listen for and gurgling/popping to confirm air removal.   Running for 2 minutes should be more than enough.

2) Air can be trapped in the tank, at the pressure relief valve or up in the panels.    The pressure relief valve is the valve with a small level, almost always in the dead center top of the tank.    These should be replaced every 3 years in the required "solar tuneup".  You can simply "pop" the lever and if there is air it will burp out.

For air in the tank or panels, simply do the exact same process as the important "annual flush".    You are doing the customer annual flush right?   Sheesh even I forget to do that on my system.    But it's pretty easy to do, you don't even have to go on the roof.   The description of how to do it is here:
Second link down in the article

3) If there has been new construction or plumbing work, suspect those for entrapped air or  for pipes that are not properly supported or cushioned.

4) Finally there are plumbing water hammer arrestors (WHA) in most residences.   These sometimes fail or depending on the design, just fill up with water as the air is dissolved into the water.    It’s the air that creates the cushion that prevents knocking.    This is probably a call to a plumber, or a really good handy man friend.  Typical WHA below

Hope this helps, advise on results.