Hard Water and Your Water Heater

March 4th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

Modern water heaters are built to endure, and they will resist corrosion and other damage for many years, provided that they receive annual maintenance visits from professionals. However, one factor in your home that may threaten your water heater with damage and even an early replacement is hard water coming from the municipal supply. This is a serious issue, and if it’s occurring in your home you should contact Saddleback Plumbing right away. We not only provide excellent repair service for water heaters in Orange County, but we can also install water softeners to eliminate hard water trouble.

Why hard water is a problem for water heaters

Hard water is water that contains a high amount of minerals suspended in it, principally magnesium and calcium. These minerals often enter the water supply on its way from the municipal treatment plant through ground water seepage. Hard water is almost never harmful to drink, but it can cause major issues for your home’s plumbing and its water heater.

The high temperatures inside a water heater tank will create a substance called limescale from the minerals inside hard water. Limescale will begin to build up along the inside of the tank. Because limescale acts as an insulator, it will prevent heat from escaping naturally from the tank. The result is a temperature imbalance inside the water heater that will often lead to overheating and high pressure that can damage the system. In addition, limescale deposits will start to block valves and connections in the water heater, creating additional pressure problems that can lead to leaking.

Repair technicians can de-scale a tank to remove the deposits from hard water and restore the water heater. However, if you are encountering hard water issues, you will need to go a step further and get to the root of the problem with the installation of a whole-house water softener. This will both protect your water heater and the rest of your plumbing, which will suffer from calcite deposits in the piping that will create spikes in water pressure.

Saddleback Plumbing is experienced with working on water heaters and installing and servicing whole-house water treatment systems. If you are experiencing trouble with your water heater due to hard water, give us a call right away. You can trust to our more than 35 years of experience with servicing water heaters in Orange County and finding solutions for water quality problems.

3 Things You Should Know about Your Gas Furnace

February 25th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

Gas furnaces are the most common type of heating system found in homes today, a position they have held for decades. Furnaces have retained this top spot because of their high energy output as well as their affordable operation. If you have a home with a gas connection, chances are high that you have a gas furnace to take advantage of the lower costs of natural gas compared to electricity.

Here are three things that our technicians at Saddleback Plumbing would like you to know about your furnace in Mission Viejo, CA. These facts will help you increase your understanding of how your furnace works and how to best care for it so that it continues to work its best. You can always call our technicians whenever you need assistance with your furnace, whether it’s repairs, regular maintenance, or a replacement. We are proud of the quality heating we have provided for homes in Orange County since 1981.

#1. Your gas furnace isn’t inherently dangerous

The common conception that natural gas furnaces are major risks for homes is erroneous. Gas furnaces can create hazards from carbon monoxide, but it is extremely rare for this to happen with contemporary furnaces. Manufacturers construct furnaces with multiple safety measures in them, such as furnace limit switches and automatic gas shut-off valves. However, you still must see that your furnace receives regular professional care and prompt repair work whenever necessary so you can reduce the potential risks to their lowest level possible.

#2. Your furnace won’t run without electricity

A furnace may burn natural gas to create heat, but it also has a number of components necessary for its operation that run on electricity. The blower fan must have electricity to power it, and without a blower fan a furnace cannot distribute heat. Most modern furnaces use electronic ignition systems (which are safer and more energy-efficient than standing pilot lights), so if the power goes out, you won’t be able to turn the furnace on.

#3. You must schedule annual maintenance

No heating system should go without an annual inspection and tune-up from a professional, but with gas furnaces it is especially important to schedule this service to keep it working safely. The best time to arrange for maintenance is during the fall before the colder weather arrives. However, if your furnace has gone for more than a year without maintenance, you should schedule it right away and avoid the possibility of repairs, safety hazards, or inefficient performance.

The next time you need service for your furnace in Mission Viejo, CA, or if you are interested in installing a new furnace, give our heating experts at Saddleback Plumbing a call. They will be glad to arrange for whatever work you need.

Signs That You Need Drain Cleaning Services

February 16th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

The average household uses approximately 400 gallons of water per day, with almost ¾ of that amount dedicated to indoor usage. Reading this statistic should give you a good idea about how much use your drains get on a daily basis and why it’s a good idea to be aware of when it may be time to schedule drain cleaning for your plumbing.

Some Signs

There are a few ways your drains will let you know that it’s time for a professional drain cleaning:

  • Slow drains – having a slow drain means that a full-on clog is on its way. Why? Because it’s already there – it just hasn’t gotten big enough to fully block your drain yet. Slow drains usually indicate that there is a significant build-up inside your pipe; it’s better to remove this build-up before it becomes a full blockage, and the best way to remove the build-up is with a professional drain cleaning.
  • DIY remedies aren’t working – if you’ve tried some of the usual home remedies – boiling water, baking soda and vinegar or plunging – and your clog still won’t disappear, it’s time to call for an expert.
  • Gurgling sounds from the drain – a gurgling sound from a drain is actually the sound of air being released from air pockets that have been created inside your piping by build-up. The sound is an indication that there is a problem with build-up in the drain and it should be removed before it causes a bigger problem.
  • Multiple drains are slow and/or clogged – many times homes have 2 or 3 different drains on a single main plumbing line. If you find that you have multiple drains with issues, it is likely that there is a problem deep within your plumbing system, which will require the help of an expert.
  • A clog that won’t go away – if you have one drain that clogs repeatedly, even after being unclogged, it is likely the problem isn’t being fully resolved and requires the help of a trained professional.

The amount of water your drains handle is tremendous, so if you are seeing the signs that it may be time for a drain cleaning in your home, don’t wait to schedule an appointment – call Saddleback Plumbing today! We offer quality draining cleaning service in Irvine.

Lupercalia: The Origin of St. Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

Many people may think of Valentine’s Day as a holiday essentially created by card and gift companies, but the truth is that the holiday has long-standing roots going back to the Roman Empire. The name “Lupercalia” has its origins in the word “lupus”, which means wolf, and the reason for this is that according to Roman pagan religion, the she-wolf Lupa nursed the two orphaned infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.


The Festival

The Festival of Lupercalia spanned two days each February, from February 13th to 15th. The festival was about fertility and was led by Luperci priests, known as “brothers of the wolf”. The festival was serious with intention (fertility) but was executed as quite a romp for both the priests and citizens of Rome. The process was this: two male goats and a dog were sacrificed at the beginning of the festival by the priests; two young Luperci were then anointed with the blood from the animals, and the hides of the animals were cut into straps. As food and drink flowed, the male priests would run around the city wearing nothing but thongs made from the animal skins, and they also carried a strap from one of the sacrificed animals. The strap was used to strike the palms of Roman women waiting for the priests in the city, as it was believed that being hit with the strap could help with infertility issues and a safe, healthy labor for women who were pregnant.


The Transition to St. Valentine’s Day

The Christian influence of the holiday came around the 5th century. The Roman Empire was still strong, but Christianity was rapidly taking hold throughout the world. It is believed that to try and remove the paganism from the holiday, the deaths of two men, supposedly both named Valentine, were added into the mix. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, a law created by Claudius II forbade young men eligible for military service to marry, because Rome wanted a strong army. The two men named Valentine were priests, and married young couples in secret. Both were found out and executed on February 14th, although in separate years. The Church made Valentine a saint (they chose one), and Lupercalia became St. Valentine’s Day.


Here’s wishing you and your loved one a Happy Valentine’s Day!

How Tankless Water Heaters Work

February 5th, 2015 by Bill Chronister

When most people hear the words “water heater,” they typically think of the big, cylindrical appliance that resides in basements or closets. These days, though, homeowners have the option of installing a tankless water heater. It may seem a little wacky that you can have hot water from a device that doesn’t hold any heated water, but the process is actually fairly simple when explained. However, the installation of a tankless water heater in your home can be complex and should be left to a trained expert. This is where Saddleback Plumbing comes in. The experts at Saddleback Plumbing have been helping customers install, repair and replace hot water heaters in the Orange County area since 1981, and they bring this experience to every job they do. Have a water heater issue? Call us today!

Direct Heating

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, can provide almost instantaneous heating because they heat the water directly when it is needed. There are two ways in which a tankless water heater is fueled: electricity or natural gas. Both fuel types use a key component to heat the water immediately: a heat exchanger. The way a tankless system works is that the hot water process is triggered when you open a hot water tap. Two things happen simultaneously: first, the heat exchanger is heater, either by gas or electricity, and second, the cold water intake opens and the water starts to flow to the heat exchanger. Once in the exchanger, the cold water absorbs the heat from the heat exchanger, becomes hot, and flows into your home as needed.

Benefits of Tankless Water Heaters

There are several benefits to installing a tankless water heater that makes them worth considering for your home:

  • Energy efficiency – there is no standby heat loss with a tankless system; standby heat loss can account for up to 25% of a storage tank water heater’s energy use, which can be significant.
  • Endless hot water – with a tankless system, you won’t have to worry about running out of hot water.
  • Longer lifespan – tank water heaters have an average lifespan of 8-12 years while a tankless water heater has an average lifespan of 12-15 years.

Interested in what a tankless water heater can do for you? Call the experts at Saddleback Plumbing today!

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!