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Heating water accounts for up to 30 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some makers of gas-fired tankless water heaters claim their products can cut your energy costs up to half over regular storage heaters. So is it time to switch?

Probably not. Gas tankless water heaters, which use high-powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger, were 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the gas-fired storage-tank models in our tests. That translates into a savings of around $70 to $80 per year, based on 2008 national energy costs. But because they cost much more than storage water heaters, it can take up to 22 years to break even—longer than the 20-year life of many models. Moreover, our online poll of 1,200 readers revealed wide variations in installation costs, energy savings, and satisfaction.
With the help of an outside lab, we pitted Takagi and Noritz gas-fired tankless water heaters against three storage water heaters. We didn’t test electric tankless heaters because many can’t deliver hot water fast enough to replace a conventional water heater if ground­water is cold. Even in areas with warm groundwater, most homeowners would need to upgrade their electrical service to power a whole-house tankless model.
Our tests simulated daily use of 76 to 78 gallons of hot water. That’s the equivalent of taking three showers, washing one laun­dry load, running the dishwasher once (six cycles), and turning on the faucet nine times, for a total of 19 draws. While that’s considered heavy use compared with the standard Department of Energy test, we think it more accurately represents an average family’s habits. We also ran more than 45,000 gallons of very hard water through a tanked model and a Rinnai tankless model to simulate about 11 years of regular use.
Here’s what else we found:

Water runs hot and cold Manufacturers of tankless water heaters are fond of touting their products’ ability to provide an endless amount of hot water. But inconsistent water temperatures were a common complaint among our poll respondents. When you turn on the faucet, tankless models feed in some cold water to gauge how big a temperature rise is needed. If there’s cool water lingering in your pipes, you’ll receive a momentary “cold-water sandwich” between the old and new hot water. And a tankless water heater’s burner might not ignite when you try to get just a trickle of hot water for, say, shaving.

Nor do tankless water heaters deliver hot water instantaneously. It takes time to heat the water to the target temperature, and just like storage water heaters, any cold water in the pipes needs to be pushed out. And tankless models’ electric controls mean you’ll also lose hot water during a power outage.

Up-front costs are high The tankless water heaters we tested cost $800 to $1,150, compared with $300 to $480 for the regular storage-tank types. Tankless models need electrical outlets for their fan and electronics, upgraded gas pipes, and a new ventilation system. That can bring average installation costs to $1,200, compared with $300 for storage-tank models.

Tankless units might need more care During our long-term testing, an indicator on the tankless model warned of scale buildup. We paid $334 for special valves and a plumber to flush out the water heater with vinegar. Many industry pros recommend that tankless models be serviced once a year by a qualified technician. Calcium buildup can decrease efficiency, restrict water flow, and damage tankless models. Experts suggest installing a water softener if your water hardness is above 11 grains per gallon. Ignoring this advice can shorten your warranty.

Efficient storage models are priceyWe also tested the $1,400 Vertex, a high-efficiency storage water heater by A.O. Smith. The manufacturer claims its installation costs are similar to a regular storage model. But its high cost offsets much of the roughly $70 per year the Vertex will save you. Instead, we recommend buying a conventional storage water heater with a 9- or 12-year warranty. In previous tests, we found that those models generally had thicker insulation, bigger burners or larger heating elements, and better corrosion-fighting metal rods called anodes.

Posted: September 2008 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: October 2008

WHAT IS KITEC

Kitec is a plumbing system  that was manufactured by a Canadian corporation named IPEX sold in the  United States until IPEX discontinued the product line in 2007.   Kitec became a popular alternative to copper in the mid-1990’s due  to its inexpensive cost and simple installation. IPEX marketed Kitec  as a rugged, corrosion-resistant alternative to copper that would hold  up under aggressive water conditions.

The Kitec plumbing system consists  of both pipe and fittings. Kitec water pipe was manufactured as a composite  cross-linked polyethylene (“PEX”) and aluminum (“AL”) pipe,  whereby a thin, flexible aluminum layer was “sandwiched” between  inner and outer layers of PEX plastic.  Thus, Kitec water pipe  was commonly referred to as “PEX-AL-PEX” pipe. Kitec pipe and fittings  were connected together using either a crimped aluminum or copper ring  or a compression fitting using a locking nut and split ring.

THE PROBLEM WITH KITEC

In 2005, Kitec fittings became  the subject of a state class action lawsuit filed against IPEX in Clark  County, Nevada. Kitec fittings were for the most part made of brass,  which is mainly composed of copper and zinc. The Clark County lawsuit  alleged that Kitec fittings failed because of a chemical reaction called  dezincification. As alleged in the Clark County lawsuit, when hot and/or  “aggressive” water flowed through the brass fittings, the zinc leached  out of the fittings, thereby weakening the structural integrity of the  brass and, ultimately, causing failure in the fittings.

The Clark County lawsuit only  concerned Kitec fitting failures occurring in that jurisdiction, and  did not concern Kitec piping product, or Kitec fitting failures occurring  outside of Clark County, Nevada.  However, failures of Kitec hot  water pipe and fittings have been reported across the United States,  prompting the filing of multiple federal nationwide class action lawsuits  and investigations concerning the manufacturing process and composition  of Kitec hot water pipe. During the Kitec hot water pipe manufacturing  process, IPEX added an “antioxidant” to the PEX, which is a product  intended to prevent the PEX from quickly corroding under the effects  of light, oxygen, heat, and water exposure. In the case of Kitec hot  water pipe, it appears that the antioxidant is rapidly depleting from  the PEX, resulting in separation of the PEX-AL-PEX layers, corrosion  of the PEX and the aluminum core and, ultimately, premature failure  of the pipe.

WILL KITEC REALLY FAIL

A flood is one of the most  disastrous events that can occur to a home, given the damage that invasive  water can do to a home’s structure, appliances and furniture.   There have been numerous failures of Kitec fittings and piping components  reported across the United States, often resulting in severe damages  to homeowners (see map of affected states, below). Given the available  failure data, it is perhaps not a matter of if your Kitec Plumbing  System will fail, but when.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY HOME  HAS KITEC

Identification of Kitec plumbing  should be performed by a qualified plumber.

IPEX manufactured Kitec pipe  in two primary colors for the interior of a home: blue for the cold  water side and orange for the hot water side. A typical sample length  of Kitec pipe prominently displays that it was manufactured by IPEX  in Canada, along with its pressure rating and other information (see  sample photographs of Kitec hot water pipe, below). Kitec fittings are  likewise prominently stamped with “Kitec” and the place of manufacture  on the obverse side of the fitting, (often Taiwan, as shown in the sample  photographs, below) and rating agency information on the inverse side.

Contractors who plumbed homes  with nonmetallic plumbing systems often affixed yellow stickers to warn  electricians not to ground the electricity near the nonmetallic plumbing  system. Homes that were plumbed with Kitec may have a yellow sticker  inside the electrical panel box or on their boiler (see sample photograph,  below). If you find this sticker in your electrical panel box or on  your boiler, it is likely that your home is plumbed with Kitec  or another nonmetallic plumbing system. You should only open your electrical  panel box if you have experience with its safe use.

The proper way to determine  whether your home has a Kitec plumbing system is to have a qualified  plumber inspect your home. In many cases it may be necessary to make  drywall penetrations to determine what type of plumbing is installed.

By Natalia on April 2, 2010 |

Everybody knows it: it’s ‘conventional wisdom,’ passed down generation to generation. It applies to anything and everything and unfortunately, in many cases, it’s oversimplified or just plain wrong. The conventional wisdom in plumbing is no different; there are many myths. Freshen your drain with lemon? Run water with the garbage disposal? Good ideas? Find out as we explore the top 10 plumbing myths that cost you money!

Myth #1: Putting Lemons in Your Disposal to Make It Smell Fresh Is a Good Idea When life gives you lemons, don’t put them down your disposal! You might succeed in briefly creating a fresher aroma, but the citric acid from lemons corrodes the metal inside your disposal. The Better Alternative: Use ice to polish your disposal up inside, which works just like a rock tumbler polishing rocks; it’s noisy, but it works. Power wash the scum causing the odor from the drain without ruining your disposal.

Myth #2: “In Tank” Cleaners Will Keep Your Toilet Sparkling and Smelling Like Roses Spending money on “in tank” cleaners marketed to make your chores easier and decrease the time you spend scrubbing your toilet is one cost you can cut. These products bleach smelly build-up white, but don’t get rid of it. Eventually, the build-up can ruin your toilet. The Better Alternative: Use vinegar down the overflow tube. Vinegar removes smelly build-up that can damage the flow of your toilet for a fraction of the cost.

Myth #3: Lifetime Warranties on Bad Products Are Really Useful When you buy something cheap and it breaks, don’t expect to get it replaced with the latest and greatest product on the market. What you buy is what you’re stuck with. Plus, you’ll be spending time and money to keep reinstalling it. The Better Alternative: Buy good quality products the first time around and avoid trading in junk for junk.

Myth #4: Running Water While Using the Garbage Disposal Helps the Waste Travel Smoothly Sure, it seems like the perfect combo: letting the faucet run while using the garbage disposal to help wash waste down the drain. It’s something we’ve all done. And inevitably, we’ve all had to reach our hands down the drain to unblock whatever leftovers got jammed in the pipes. Following waste with water doesn’t help if the blockage has already happened before the water shows up. The Better Alternative: Fill the sink basin with a 4:1 ratio of water to waste so that the waste is separated and flows with ease down the drain.

Myth #5: As Long as Stuff Is Going Down the Drain, Everything Is Working Correctly Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t really apply to the plumbing world. Even if you can’t see it, food like pasta and rice will bloat in pipes causing clogs, blocking the passage for other waste to peacefully pass through the pipes. Without the proper amount of water to rinse it down, waste builds up in the pipes and makes drainage inefficient. The Better Alternative: Prevent blockage and clogging problems by using sinks, toilets, and showers correctly. Make sure to fill basins with water before draining. For showers, place a hair screen in the drain to reduce the human hairballs that rival anything your cat coughs up.

Myth #6: Water Pressure Regulators Are Always Dependable Water pressure regulators do give important information about water pressure, but don’t place all of your trust in the readings they provide. The Better Alternative: Personally check your water pressure! Doing so can save you a ton of hassle and money. How? Well, high water pressure is a major cause of floods, leaks, and that annoying sound your toilet makes as it continuously runs to relieve pressure.

Myth #7: Water and Soap on Bathroom Fixtures Makes Them Just as Sparkly and Clean as Your Hands You wash your hands at the sink and when you turn off the faucet, you leave a bit of soapy water on it. No big deal, right? Wrong! Water and soap cause faucets and fixtures to corrode, making them peel and bubble. The Better Alternative: Wipe the fixtures off after use. This takes an extra second, but it will help prevent your fixtures from corroding. This will also protect your lifetime warranties on products, which are void when soap has rotted the finish.

Myth #8: Users Manuals Are Only For People Who Don’t Know What They Are Doing User manuals aren’t just full of fancy labeled pictures and lists of parts. They actually contain some useful information as well. While they may not be the most entertaining read in the world, they can save you money and time in the long run. The Better Alternative: Read the manual. Twice. User manuals contain information on warranties and proper usage that will increase the lifespan of the product.

Myth #9: Plumbing Fixtures Are Low Maintenance Ignoring plumbing fixtures because they are hard as stone and cold as steel is not only mean, it’s detrimental to their performance. Lack of use allows a p-trap to evaporate, allowing dangerous sewer gas to smell up the house. If an electric water heater sits unused, it can create highly explosive hydrogen gas. In this case, you definitely want less bang for your buck. The Better Alternative: Don’t let your plumbing fixtures and equipment sit for long periods of time. Use them periodically to ensure health risks aren’t created. The time it takes to turn them on every once in awhile could save you a fortune if you prevent your home from exploding.

Myth #10: Every Plumber Knows Exactly What to Do and How to Do It Just because a plumber holds that title doesn’t mean that they are educated in their field and licensed. Every plumber has opportunities to get continued plumbing education, certificates, and special cards to install some products. If a plumber installs something poorly or chooses the wrong fixture, you’ll just have to spend more calling another plumber. The Better Alternative: Use state boards and the BBB to ensure the plumber you are hiring is well qualified and well educated in the field.

by Greg Chick

He has been a water professional for over 30 years.

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Spend more time with the family.
  2. Take more exercise – Get fit.
  3. Lose (loose!) weight.
  4. Give up smoking (again).
  5. Get out of dept.
  6. Learn a new skill, take up a new hobby.
  7. Put something into the community -help others.
  8. Get organized.  Else buy shares in diary, or companies selling electronic planners!
  9. Become more security conscious.
  10. Give up drinking, at least for the first week of January!

Politician in Action

A Senator in the USA was once asked about his attitude toward whisky.

‘If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I’m  against it.  But if you mean the elixir of a New Year toast, the shield against winter chill, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I’m for it.  This is my position, and I will not compromise.’

Lecture Tour with A Difference

On New Year’s Eve, Daniel was in no shape to drive, so he sensibly left   his van in the car park and walked home.  As he was wobbling along,   he was stopped by a policeman.  ‘What are you doing out here at four   o’clock in the morning?’ asked the police officer.

‘I’m on my way to a lecture,’ answered Roger.

‘And who on earth, in their right mind, is going to give a lecture at   this time on New Year’s Eve?’ enquired the constable sarcastically.

‘My wife,’ slurred Daniel grimly.

Mark Twain Said

New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular   annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them   as usual.

As December draws near, many of us are busy determining what holiday gifts can be easily purchased and conveniently wrapped up and decorated with some ribbon.

This season, try to avoid making hasty purchasing decisions and buying a large quantity of merchandise that has been mass produced overseas. Instead, take the time to look at what products and services are available in your local community and show concern for the well-being of your hardworking business neighbors.

Following are some ideas for Out of the Box Giving:

Does your intended have a favorite eatery? This holiday season focus on locally-owned restaurants. Owners of these establishments rely on the success of their business to provide for their families. Gift your intended a certificate or two to the restaurant or take her or him there for a holiday meal. Don’t forget the servers; tip generously.

Follow the meal with an evening of entertainment. Find a community theater in your town, or a venue that regularly hosts local music or talent. This is a great way to support up and coming artists. Support your local community theater with a pair of season passes.

Instead of forking over a ton of cash for cheap plastic lights and other decorations, consider a more impactful use for your money. Attend a local craft fair to purchase ornaments and other decorations. This will give your gifts a more personal touch. Holiday craft fairs are often run by religious organizations or nonprofits who provide local charitable services.

Tip a hardworking service provider, such as a package delivery man or garbage man, or leave a house cleaner or baby sitter a large tip. Do you have gardeners, doormen, personal trainers, or others who regularly serve you? You may want to consider tipping them as well.

Most people get their hair cut frequently. Does your intended have a favorite local beautician, barber, or hair stylist? Ask them for gift certificates. Also, consider tipping your barber or stylist extra for the holidays.
Has your intended expressed an interest in car detail or repair? Would he or she like vehicle modifications? Any locally owned shop would be happy to supply certificates for these services. And don’t forget about oil changes. Most people need them every few months. Also, consider a book of coupons for a local car wash. Everyone’s car gets dirty from time to time.

Are you trying to figure out how big your next flat screen should be? Is a replacement really necessary? Maybe your family would spend less time in front of the TV with a gym membership. There are plans available for all ages and discounts for families.

Does mom need a break? Hire a local cleaning person to come before or after a large get-together at your home. Perhaps a local carpet cleaning service would also be appropriate after a family event.