Hot Water Problems

On a cold morning, not much feels better than a hot shower. When the air temperature drops, it takes forever for the water temperature to increase. You turn on the shower, grab your clothes, brush your teeth, and make the bed, yet the water has just warmed up. Why is that? Do you have hot water problems?

There are four main reasons your hot water could be running slowly:

  1. The distance between the heater and the final destination
  2. The diameter of the pipe
  3. Flow rate of the fixture
  4. How much heat the cold pipes siphon off during the water’s journey

Length of Pipes

Unlike architecture, plumbing doesn’t follow a set structure. Instead, the layout is at the whim of the installer. Your water could have quite the journey from the water heater to your faucets.

While your home may not even be that big, it’s a more direct route for you to walk from the heater to the bathroom than for the pipes to travel through the walls. So if it’s 30 feet for you, it might be 50 feet for the pipes.

Diameter of Pipes

Two variables determine the speed at which water flows from the heater to its destination: the amount of water and pipe diameter. And that flow rate is usually determined by the flow rate of the faucet of the fixture.

For the speed of the water, the building codes limit water velocity in the piping. The limit is set from five to eight feet per second to prevent erosion of the pipe and fittings.

Let’s say you set your water for 40 psi, and you have ½” diameter copper pipes that have 100 feet to cover. The water would have a flow rate of higher than six gallons per minute and a velocity of more than 10 feet per second.

That means it will take five seconds for hot water to reach your shower, which is fast! However, old pipes may not be quite as efficient, and you’re left waiting minutes instead of seconds for a hot shower.

Flow Rate at the Fixture

The flow rate of bathroom sink fixtures is limited to one gallon per minute or less. Showerheads run at one gallon per minute. If that’s the case, it will take your hot water 32 seconds to travel through 50 feet of pipes.

The Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 required all faucet and shower fixtures to have a flow rate of no higher than 2.2 gallons per minute at 60 psi. The pipes have a higher flow rate, but the fixture flow rate limits water velocity.

Heat Siphoned by Cold Pipes

During the winter, pipes are just going to be colder and absorb the heat from your water. The slower the heat travels and the heavier the pipe material, the more heat absorbed.

This is why it feels like hot water takes forever to get to where you want it during the colder months. The time it takes for hot water to travel to the fixture can easily double due to the heat loss in the pipes.

So How Do You Get Hot Water Faster?

The fastest way to increase the speed of your hot water would be to install a recirculation system.

If you’re experiencing a delay in getting hot water to your sink or shower, contact the plumbing experts at Forrest Anderson. We can troubleshoot issues and provide some solutions that might work for your unique situation.

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Why Does My Water Smell Like Sulfur?

Have you noticed a strange smell when washing dishes, cleaning your face, or taking a shower? Sometimes, hot water can emit a rotten-egg smell, akin to sulfur. But why is that?

While there could be different reasons for that horrible smell, the most common reason is anaerobic bacteria in the water. They react with sulfur, magnesium, and aluminum sacrificial anodes in water heaters.

That chemical reaction results in hydrogen sulfide gas, the smell you’re trying to figure out. You’ll find this issue most often in well systems, whether that well is in your backyard or from the city.

How Water Heaters Play a Part

While it’s likely not a faulty water heater that is causing that rotten-egg smell, the heater does provide the perfect breeding ground. Sulfur bacteria grow and live in warm environments.

When It’s Not the Water Heater’s Fault

Sometimes, that sulfur smell has nothing to do with the water heater. It could happen in the groundwater or well instead because of decayed organic matter or chemical reactions with soil and rock that contain sulfur. In Arizona’s hard ground, we have all kinds of fun minerals that can add to that sulfur bacteria and create that lovely smell.

Pollution could also be the reason for the sulfur smell, and Phoenix has its fair share of that. Knowing what the cause of the smell is may be imperative for determining the solution.

Finding the Source

It’s pretty easy to notice there’s a problem when using the fixture. More often than not, the sulfur smell will be stronger coming from the hot-water side than the cold side. This is because the hot side vaporizes more of the gas. You may not even notice the smell most of the time, due to a bit of a dulling of your senses from smelling it all the time. It may not become noticeable until you’ve been away a while or when a friend comments on it.

If the smell is just on the hot side, it’s probably originating from the water heater. If you smell it from both faucets and you have a water softener, you might have sulfur bacteria living there. If you smell sulfur strongly when you first turn on the faucet there is sulfur bacteria in the well. If the smell is strong, then, you’re likely looking at an issue in the groundwater.

Solving the Problem

There are plenty of DIY solutions to the rotten-egg smell in your water, but perhaps the most common fix is to replace the anode in the water heater. So, if you have an older water heater, it’s probably ready to be replaced.

A way to solve this problem is by cleaning out the water heater. Other solutions include disinfecting the well, distribution center, or water-softening system

Your best bet is to call the plumbing experts at Forrest Anderson for a complete inspection of your plumbing system. Armed with comprehensive knowledge, you’ll be able to make the best choice for your home. Call us today to get started.

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