Ask Aztec: How Can I Determine the Age of My Water Heater?

The expert plumbers at Aztec Plumbing & Drains receive some pretty interesting questions on occasion. We’ve compiled some of the best inquiries here to help you save water, operate your plumbing system more efficiently, and live more comfortably.

Why Salt-Based Water Softeners Aren’t the Best Solutions for Hard Water

Dear Aztec,

We’ve been combating hard water in my home for years now. Not only is the water hard, but it smells and tastes terrible. We have an old water softening system that requires us to dump bags of salt into the tank every now and then — real hassle! And we’re spending a fortune on bottled water.

We’ve looked into various solutions but we’re really confused about all of the options out there.

Can you help?

-Frustrated in Fort Myers

Dear Frustrated,

We understand your concerns! The groundwater in Southwest Florida is loaded with minerals like calcium and magnesium. While municipal water treatment facilities do a good job of making this water potable, there’s still room for improvement.

As you’ve already discovered, bottled water is not a sustainable solution. It’s expensive, the plastic bottles are an environmental hazard, and in many cases, bottled water is no better than your tap water. And there’s still the problem with showering. Hard water can damage your hair and your skin and interfere with the lathering process, so you’ll never feel truly clean.

Likewise, salt-based water softeners present a number of challenges, the least of which include lugging heavy bags of salt. Conventional water softeners discharge sodium back into our water supply and treatment facilities aren’t equipped to remove the sodium ions.

Your ideal solution is a combination filtration and softening system that removes sand, rust, and silt, as well as excess hard minerals and chlorine. The filtration system we install takes out debris as small as 5 microns in size so that you can enjoy pure water straight from your tap!

Why Flushable Kitty Litter isn’t So Great For Your Plumbing

Dear Aztec,

I have four cats. Needless to say, kitty litter requires frequent changes. It’s so convenient to scoop up the clumps and flush them down the toilet but I’m wondering if this has any long-term consequences on my plumbing. It’s called flushable kitty litter, so it can’t be bad, right?

-Cat Lover in Cape Coral

Dear Cat Lover,

The problem with flushable kitty litter isn’t necessarily the litter itself. Rather, it’s the cat feces. The litter draws moisture out of the feces so by the time you scoop them out (usually days later), you end up flushing little hard chunks that have the potential to cause clogs. Cat feces are also something for an environmental hazard. Some states prohibit flushing pet waste. California, for example, passed a bill requiring kitty litter manufacturers to place a label on the package discouraging pet owners from flushing litter down the toilet.

How to Determine the Age of Your Water Heater

Dear Aztec,

We recently moved into an older home and I’m concerned about the water heater. The previous owners didn’t know when the unit was installed. I suspect it’s pretty old but how can I know for sure?

-Concerned in Cape Coral

Dear Concerned,

You’re right to be worried about the age of your water heater. Other than your central air system, the water heater is the appliance you depend on the most. Most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years. You should replace it before it breaks down but without knowing how much useful life it has left, you’re in a bit of a pickle.

But fear not! There is a way to determine the age of your water heater if you’re willing to do a little detective work. First, find the serial number on the rating plate. Many manufacturers bake the date the appliance was built into the serial number. You’ll usually need to pay attention to the first four digits. For example, a model number reading 1199A39968 means the appliance was manufactured in November 1999.

Hope that helps!

How to Use the Toilet Without Water Supply

Dear Aztec,

Hubby and I are renovating our stilt home in Naples. As a result, our plumbing is going to be out of commission for a few days. We really don’t want to ask the neighbors every time we need to go to the bathroom. Do we have to rent a Porta-Potty or are there alternatives we haven’t considered?

-Exploring All Options in Naples

Dear Exploring,

If your toilet is going to be nonoperational for a week or longer, you should go ahead and park a Porta-Potty on your yard. But it’s only going to be several days, you can continue to use your toilet with this simple trick: Before you cut off your water supply, fill several 2-gallon buckets of water. Before using the toilet, fill the bowl with water from the bucket. And flush when you’re done! Your toilet will work just fine and you’ll spare yourself any awkwardness with your neighbors.

Why You Need Your Drains Examined Before Hydro-Jetting

Dear Aztec,

I understand that plumber use two methods for cleaning drains: using a high-pressure water jet or a plumber’s snake. I need to have my drains cleaned at some point, so I’d like to know which is best.

-Curious in North Port

Dear Curious,

In a perfect world, every drain would get the hydro-jet treatment. Hydro-jetting, or high-pressure water jetting, is the more effective of the two options. The process involves feeding a specialized nozzle into your drain line and clearing obstructions with forces of water exceeding 5,000 psi.

However, not every drain is a candidate. Before going in with your high-pressure jetting tool, we’ll conduct a video inspection of your pipes to determine their condition. The force of the water could damage old, fragile pipes, in which case snaking is the safer choice. When snaking a drain, we wind a cable down the pipe to remove blockages.

Either way, we’ll get your drains flowing again!

If you have questions you’d like to see answered in our next Ask Aztec, hit us up on Faceboook @AztecPlumbing. For more information about any of our services, contact Aztec Plumbing & Drains at 239-212-0299 today!

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