Why a Heat Pump Won’t Switch from Cooling to Heating (and Vice Versa)

January 30th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

As you probably already know, part of what makes heat pumps such great choices for home heating is that they can fulfill both heating and cooling roles. This saves you money and space by removing the need to install an air conditioner in your home. However, being able to provide both of these functions also makes the heat pump a more complicated system. The more complicated a system is, the more ways it is possible for the system to break. If your heat pump won’t switch from cooling to heating, or vice versa, read on to find out why.

How a Heat Pump Works

Heat pumps are not combustion based systems. They don’t burn any kind of fuel to create heat. Instead, they siphon heat from the surrounding air and move it from one place to another. This is done through the use of the two primary parts of a heat pump, the inside unit and the outside unit. These two units are connected to each other by a conduit that both provides power and refrigerant. When the heat is turned on, the outside unit evaporates refrigerant inside a coil to draw thermal energy out of the air. The refrigerant gas, now carrying all of that thermal energy, flows inside to the inside unit. The inside unit then condenses the refrigerant back into a liquid, releasing the thermal energy so that it can heat the home.

The Reversing Valve

The direction the refrigerant flows through the system is what determines whether the heat pump is in heating or cooling mode. If the refrigerant is flowing one way, the outside unit captures heat to send it inside. If the refrigerant flows the other way, the inside unit captures heat and sends it outside. The part that determines the direction of refrigerant is called the reversing valve.

The reversing valve is a 4-way junction in the heat pump’s refrigerant line, which determines the direction that refrigerant flows through the system. In heating mode, a slide in the valve forces the refrigerant to flow in one direction. In cooling mode, the slide moves to force refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction. If a heat pump won’t switch modes, it’s a sign that the reversing valve is stuck in one position. If the valve can’t move, the refrigerant flow can’t be reversed and the heat pump becomes stuck in one mode.

If your heat pump is having issues, schedule an appointment with Saddleback Plumbing today. We provide professional heat pump repair throughout Lake Forest, CA.

What Can Cause Damage to My Water Line?

January 22nd, 2015 by Bill Chronister

There are some really big repairs homeowners really don’t like to deal with: replacing roofs, re-wiring their homes and repairing either a water line or sewer line. While these types of repairs are ultimately good for your home and you, they are big repairs that tend to be costly. There are a few ways in which water lines can become damaged, and here are some of the more common scenarios our Saddleback Plumbing technicians have seen:

  • Aging of pipes – over the years, water lines have been made of a various metals, and some age better than others. Metals like iron can last over a hundred years while galvanized piping lasts about 50. If your water line is made of a type of metal that ages earlier than other types, it may age more quickly.
  • Corrosion – it’s hard to keep metal from corroding when it constantly comes into contact with water; safeguards are taken to help reduce the level of corrosion on piping, but once it starts it doesn’t stop. Corrosion leads to cracks and holes, which will cause your water line to leak.
  • Tree roots – tree roots are incredibly strong. They can wrap around a pipe and crush it or they can infiltrate small cracks and holes and as they suck up the water in the line, become stronger and bigger.
  • Ground shifting – the ground doesn’t necessarily stay put over the years, and even small shifts can cause a break in a water line.
  • Pressure – if a major clog forms deep in the system, the pressure from this clog can cause the water line to burst.
  • Fluctuating temperatures – if your water line pipe is exposed to highly fluctuating temperatures, the metal will expand and contract. Enough expanding and contracting can weaken the pipe and cause cracking, which can eventually lead to a break.
  • Freezing – it takes a lot to freeze a water line pipe, but if it does freeze, the ice crystals put tremendous pressure on the pipe from the inside; many times, this pressure is enough to cause a break in the pipe.

Soggy areas in your yard, dirt in your water and low water pressure are all signs that you may have a water line break. If you are seeing these signs, then it may be time to call Saddleback Plumbing and schedule an appointment for water line repair service in Trabuco Canyon.

Plumbing FAQ: What Is Water Hammer?

January 14th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

If you notice a loud knocking noise in your pipes whenever you use a sink or after you take a shower, don’t write it off as a usual household noise. Water hammer is a plumbing term used to describe a specific circumstance that could be hazardous to the pipes. If the noises seem to occur whenever you shut off a tap in the home, you should seek an Irvine plumbing specialist immediately.

The Problem with Water Hammer

Water hammer occurs when water is forced suddenly to stop or reverse, creating pressure waves that can vibrate against the pipes. Not only is this sound somewhat obnoxious; it can also cause problems for your pipes. The pressure can cause your water line to collapse or burst, which can mean flooding in your home or a damaged foundation. Generally, plumbing systems contain air chambers that help to prevent water hammer from occurring, but there may not be enough chambers, or these may become clogged or waterlogged over time.

Correcting Water Hammer

There are a few different ways you may be able to stop water hammer from occurring, but in any case it will require the expertise of a professional. You may be able to have a plumber install a pressure-reducing valve at the water supply, but this can cause the pressure from our sink or shower to feel too low. A plumber may instead recommend additional air chambers to properly trap water using a pocket of air as a cushion, or you may only need to clear out an existing air chamber that is clogged.

Some plumbers actually recommend against air chambers as they may need to be quite large and can occasionally become waterlogged. You may be able to simply install a water hammer arrester at the source which also provides a reliable source of air cushioning. Depending on the state of your plumbing system, an expert may instead decide to install valves that shut slowly, or they may need to redesign some of the pipes that lead to that faucet only.

There may be any number of solutions for water hammer, but a plumber must assess the state of your pipes to determine the proper course of action. Call Saddleback Plumbing to let a trained professional evaluate and repair your plumbing in Irvine.

The Heat Exchanger: The Secret of a Furnace’s Success

January 7th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

Furnaces have a number of components that help them to operate safely and effectively, but there are 3 key components that could be dubbed the “workhorses” of the system: the blower, the burner and the heat exchanger. While every component is necessary, should a problem develop with any of these 3, you most likely won’t have any heat, or won’t have safe, sufficient and efficient heat. Today we’re going to talk about the heat exchanger: how it works, why it’s important and how a cracked heat exchanger can be a serious problem. But remember that for any furnace repair issues you may have in Orange County, the experts from Saddleback Plumbing are always available.

What Is a Heat Exchanger?

The heat exchanger in your furnace is a medium-sized, serpentine component that sits directly above the burner. The tube of the heat exchanger is open at both ends, which allows the toxic combustion byproducts to enter at the burner level and exit through the flue, which is connected to the top of the heat exchanger. The warm air that is generated on the outside of the heat exchanger is the warm air that is blown into your home.

Why Does a Heat Exchanger Work Like This?

The heat exchanger is the component that separates the toxic byproducts from the combustion, including carbon monoxide, from the warm air; without it, these byproducts would be blown into your home along with the heat.

Why Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger Dangerous?

Heat exchangers have an average lifespan similar to that of your furnace: about 15-18 years. The heat exchanger is constantly heating and cooling, which causes the metal to expand and contrast regularly throughout the winter months. After years of this action, cracks can develop in the heat exchanger. The reason this is dangerous is that a crack in the heat exchanger can allow the toxic byproducts to escape and enter your home, including carbon monoxide. Heat exchangers can’t be repaired once a crack develops, but they can be replaced.

The best way to ensure that your furnace is repaired properly is to hire a professional. The trained and certified experts at Saddleback Plumbing are available for any furnace repair in Orange County that you may have, so if you are experiencing problems with your furnace, call us today.

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

January 1st, 2015 by Bill Chronister

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at Saddleback Plumbing hopes you have a wonderful 2015!

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

December 25th, 2014 by Bill Chronister

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Saddleback Plumbing!

The Problems of Pinhole Leaks in Plumbing

December 17th, 2014 by Bill Chronister

The name says it all: “pinhole leak.” A tiny hole in your copper plumbing piping that can cause a whole lot of damage if it isn’t detected. Copper piping is quite durable, but like other metals, it can develop corrosion, commonly known as “pitting”. There are a few reasons why pinhole leaks/pitting can occur with your piping, but if you are seeing signs of corrosion on your copper piping anywhere, it’s important to call your Saddleback Plumbing expert for help right away. We provide quality plumbing repair in Tustin, CA for home’s with serious water damage, so don’t wait to get assistance.

How Do Pinhole Leaks Develop?

It’s a bit of a mystery why pinhole leaks develop, but studies point to corrosion problems as developing from chemical reactions with water and/or soil. All corrosion is part of a chemical reaction, and because water treatment plants use different combinations of chemicals to treat their water, some treatment plants may use certain chemicals that cause and accelerate the corrosion process, leading to pinhole leaks. The same can happen with soil in certain areas. Other causes of corrosion can be:

  • Faulty materials (i.e., the copper wasn’t manufactured properly)
  • Poor installation
  • Copper piping that is used to ground electrical wiring

What Can Homeowners Do?

If you have concerns about possible corrosion issues with your copper piping, the first thing to do is hire a licensed plumber to inspect all of your copper plumbing. Should corrosion be detected, the corroded piping should be replaced with new piping. Clamps can be placed around pinhole leaks for temporary relief, but the piping should always be replaced by an expert. Some plumbers offer an epoxy sealant that coat the inside of your piping, which can significantly reduce the level of erosion. Lastly, if you find that you have several leaks in a short span of time, you may want to consider re-piping.

Annual plumbing maintenance can help with the detection of pinhole leaks and corrosion, so if it’s been more than 12 months since your last plumbing maintenance appointment, you may want to schedule one. However, if you are seeing signs of leakage now, don’t wait to call for help. The experts at Saddleback Plumbing are here all day, every day to help with any plumbing repair you may have in Tustin, CA. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

The Dip Tube and Water Heater Repair

December 10th, 2014 by Bill Chronister

A traditional water heater works under a fairly simple heat rising principle. Hot water naturally rises above denser cold water, which is why water heaters use a large tank that heats water from the bottom so that it can flow into your home from a pipe located at the top of the tank. When your water heater quits working, you may fear the worst. But oftentimes, a problem with the water heater occurs in one of the simplest components: the dip tube.

When you notice a problem with your water heater, don’t want to wait to schedule repairs. The solution may be fairly quick and easy for a technician with a trained eye, or there could be a potential leak that must be addressed as soon as possible. The skilled experts at Saddleback Plumbing can diagnose any water heater repair in Orange County with integrity and accuracy.

What Is the Dip Tube?

The dip tube is essentially just a long tube, often made out of plastic, that leads to the bottom of the tank. This portion of piping connects to the cold water supply line to bring cold water into the unit. There is either an electric heating element or a gas burner located near the bottom of your tank which heats up the water so that it can rise to the top of the tank and remain available for use throughout the day.

There are a number of problems that could go wrong with the dip tube over time. Some indications that your dip tube is in need of replacement is if you notice intermittent bursts of hot or cold water, hot water that runs out too soon, or very little hot water at all. This occurs when the dip tube either snaps in half or breaks off entirely so that cold water stays near the top of the unit. Sometimes, shards from the dip tube can even block the pipes, further compromising the state of your water heater.

Don’t let your water heating issue go on for longer than it needs to.

Contact Saddleback Plumbing as soon as you notice that you’re in need of water heater repair in Orange County. Call us today!

Does My Water Heater Need to Be Flushed?

December 3rd, 2014 by Bill Chronister

Most people don’t think about doing maintenance on their water heaters. After all, water heaters are pretty durable and many times it seems easier to just buy and install a new water heater when yours fails. However, just as maintenance on your heating or air conditioning system can help reduce and prevent repairs to those systems, so can maintenance for your water heater. Part of maintaining your water heater involves flushing it a least once a year, and you may be surprised at how much it can help your system.

How Is a Water Heater Flushed?

A water heater is fairly simple. Your technician will turn off the power source (gas or electricity) and pull out the hose attachment at the top of the tank; this allows air to enter the tank, which makes it easier to drain. A small garden hose is attached to the nozzle at the bottom of the tank, and the nozzle is opened, allowing the tank’s water to drain out. Once the water in the tank drains, the technician will flush it with warm water to clear out sediment that may be in the bottom of the tank. If bacteria has developed, the technician may do a second flush mixing bleach with the water to kill and remove the bacteria from the inside of the tank.

Why Do a Water Heater Flush?

As mentioned above, flushing your water heater is part of maintenance. But why do it? Here are some reasons to consider:

  • Removal of sediment and minerals – all water has small amounts of sediment and minerals, but when allowed to build for a number of years, the amount that settles in the bottom of your water tank can be significant.
  • Better energy efficiency – when your hot water heater isn’t impaired by significant sediment and mineral build-up, it functions better, which can increase its energy efficiency.
  • Removal of bacteria – if you have ever experienced a sulfur smell around a water heater, you’ve experienced bacteria in a water heater. When water heaters aren’t properly maintained, bacteria can develop inside the tank and flourish; the result is a rotten-egg type of smell. Flushing the tank removes the bacteria and allows the technician to clean the tank, ensuring that upon refill, there is no more bacteria.

Flushing your water heater annually can help prevent water heater repair in Orange County. If you are interested in maintaining your water tank, call Saddleback Plumbing today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

November 26th, 2014 by Bill Chronister

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at Saddleback Plumbing, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!