Contractors know all about the importance of maintenance on home heating systems. Convincing some homeowners, however, is a completely different story. Sometimes homeowners learn the hard way. That was the case for a resident in California’s plush Napa Valley. The 3,500-square-foot home, situated in one of the many vineyards that populate the area, included a swimming pool and jacuzzi.
The home was remodeled in 2015 and the solar power system purred like a perfectly tuned car engine upon installation.
Until it didn’t.
“There was no hot water on the property,’’ remembers Conor Crawford of Local Plumbing in nearby Sausalito, California, when he received the service call. “That was due to the unit never being serviced.”
HVAC equipment should be serviced a minimum of once each year. Regular maintenance prevents emergency situations from arising and extends the heating system’s effectiveness and service life.
“One of the things I used to relay to homeowners when it came to service was if the unit runs for 2,000 hours, that is the same as driving your car for 60,000 miles,’’ says John Monaghan, national training director for Ariston. “Would you drive for 60,000 miles without servicing your car? Then why do you expect your heating, air conditioning or water heating system to run without failures for even longer periods of time? Annual maintenance is extremely important.”
Cleaned Up Solar System
For Crawford and his team, this was no ordinary service call. The solar panels needed prompt attention.
“It was the height of summer, with temperatures over 100 degrees so we needed to start early in the morning to complete the service of the solar panels to ensure we could complete the work before the hot temperatures moved in,’’ Crawford adds.
The panels needed to be cleaned and workers completed an internal flush. They also applied new glycol.
Solar panels need maintenance every six months to a year to maintain productivity and effectiveness. Some panels may need more frequent attention if the homeowner lives in an area where more dirt and pollution accumulate on the panels.
Crawford said he also topped off the solar expansion tank, which controls thermal expansion of water in a domestic hot water supply system. It absorbs the increased volume of water generated by the hot water heating source.
Water Heater Maintenance
Solar panel maintenance was only the tip of the iceberg for Local Plumbing’s service call. The home also included an HTP Phoenix water heater that also required extensive servicing.
“We completed the basics for the HTP service,’’ Crawford says. “We cleaned filters, installed new igniters and flame rod, cleaned the burner, made an internal inspection of the unit and completed a tank drain down.”
Crawford said the team also performed service on the system as a whole, including radiant heat system drain down, flush out and refill, checked domestic/heating pumps for debris/blockages, checked expansion tanks and ensured proper readings at all gauges.
The HTP Phoenix has a thermal efficiency rating up to 96 percent, making it one of the most efficient water heaters on the market. The Phoenix has a 5:1 turndown ratio, is welded with a 316L stainless steel to resist corrosion and is also manufactured with a hybrid cupronickel/stainless steel heat exchanger for ultimate heat transfer capabilities. Crawford’s service restored the Phoenix to maximum efficiency.
Importance of Maintenance
Annual maintenance of water heating equipment is more than a good idea. There are multiple advantages in proper servicing.
With proper maintenance, the system will run better overall and reduce the likelihood that the system will need early replacement. A water heater should last at least 10 years, but with regular maintenance that could be extended to 15 years. A properly maintained system is also less likely to need regular repairs. With water heaters, as in many appliances, fixing small issues can help avoid big problems later on. Many of those issues can be discovered during maintenance visits.
Efficiency also improves with regular maintenance. Skipping on maintenance might feel like saving money, but in both the short and long term it’s actually costing the homeowner money.
“Annual maintenance is extremely important to the longevity of any product, especially condensing boilers,’’ Monaghan adds. “The premix burners have to be with in spec or combustion can get out of range resulting in sooting, high levels of carbon monoxide, excessive flue gas temperatures and hard light offs.
With the advent of more systems that use solar power, plumbing and heating contractors need to stay abreast of developments in more areas of interest to homeowners. That’s a good way to earn repeat business.
Especially for homeowners who don’t invest in proper maintenance, it’s essential for contractors to pay attention to the entire system to ensure proper operation.
“When we take on a project, we try to service the system as a whole, at the same time, rather than just take on the boiler portion,’’ Crawford explains. “We find many companies in the area just want to concentrate on one item of the system. We believe that if you maintain a good service of the whole system, it tends to lead to better overall performance and longer lasting. This also helps the property owner/manager save time and hassle, as we take on the responsibility of the systems.”
Thomas Renner writes on architecture, building, construction and other trade industry topics for publications throughout the United States.