What About Solar Water Heaters

When it is time for replacing your water heater or if you are looking to go green and cut down on your electric use, you may want to consider installing a solar water heater.

Using the sun to heat water is much more effective than using it to produce electric, so the cost of a solar hot water system will pay for itself rather quickly. One of the draw backs is it only supplies hot water during the day, so it has to be supplemented with  a backup heat source.


Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don’t.


There are two types of active solar water heating systems:

  • Direct circulation systems
    Pumps circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. They work well in climates where it rarely freezes.
  • Indirect circulation systems
    Pumps circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger. This heats the water that then flows into the home. They are popular in climates prone to freezing temperatures.

Illustration of an active, closed loop solar water heater. A large, flat panel called a flat plate collector is connected to a tank called a solar storage/backup water heater by two pipes. One of these pipes is runs through a cylindrical pump into the bottom of the tank, where it becomes a coil called a double-wall heat exchanger. This coil runs up through the tank and out again to the flat plate collector. Antifreeze fluid runs only through this collector loop. Two pipes run out the top of the water heater tank; one is a cold water supply into the tank, and the other sends hot water to the house.


Passive solar water heating systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but they’re usually not as efficient. However, passive systems can be more reliable and may last longer. There are two basic types of passive systems:

  • Integral collector-storage passive systems
    These work best in areas where temperatures rarely fall below freezing. They also work well in households with significant daytime and evening hot-water needs.
  • Thermosyphon systems
    Water flows through the system when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. The collector must be installed below the storage tank so that warm water will rise into the tank. These systems are reliable, but contractors must pay careful attention to the roof design because of the heavy storage tank. They are usually more expensive than integral collector-storage passive systems.

Illustration of a passive, batch solar water heater. Cold water enters a pipe and can either enter a solar storage/backup water heater tank or the batch collector, depending on which bypass valve is opened. If the valve to the batch collector is open, a vertical pipe (which also has a spigot drain valve for cold climates) carries the water up into the batch collector. The batch collector is a large box holding a tank and covered with a glaze that faces the sun. Water is heated in this tank, and another pipe takes the heated water from the batch collector into the solar storage/backup water heater, where it is then carried to the house.



Most solar water heaters require a well-insulated storage tank. Solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collector. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.

Three types of solar collectors are used for residential applications:

  • Flat-plate collector
    Glazed flat-plate collectors are insulated, weatherproofed boxes that contain a dark absorber plate under one or more glass or plastic (polymer) covers. Unglazed flat-plate collectors — typically used for solar pool heating — have a dark absorber plate, made of metal or polymer, without a cover or enclosure.
  • Integral collector-storage systems
    Also known as ICS or batch systems, they feature one or more black tanks or tubes in an insulated, glazed box. Cold water first passes through the solar collector, which preheats the water. The water then continues on to the conventional backup water heater, providing a reliable source of hot water. They should be installed only in mild-freeze climates because the outdoor pipes could freeze in severe, cold weather.
  • Evacuated-tube solar collectors
    They feature parallel rows of transparent glass tubes. Each tube contains a glass outer tube and metal absorber tube attached to a fin. The fin’s coating absorbs solar energy but inhibits radiative heat loss. These collectors are used more frequently for U.S. commercial applications.

Solar water heating systems almost always require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand. Conventional storage water heaters usually provide backup and may already be part of the solar system package. A backup system may also be part of the solar collector, such as rooftop tanks with thermosyphon systems. Since an integral-collector storage system already stores hot water in addition to collecting solar heat, it may be packaged with a tankless or demand-type water heater for backup.

Source: US Dept. of Energy

If you live in an area where there is a great amount of sunshine, or you can use most of your hot water during the day, a solar water heater may be a great investment.

Installing a Frost Proof Outdoor Faucet

A broken pipe from a frozen outdoor spicket could cost upwards of $15,000 to clean up and repair.

If you live anywhere that the temperature drops below freezing, installing a Frost Proof Outdoor Faucet is a great idea. Areas where you just get an occasional overnight freeze can be more damaging to outdoor faucet, as owners don’t prepare properly.

Needing to turn off the water and drain your outdoor faucets before winter sets in is a must. Sometimes winter comes sooner or stays later than we anticipate.  So before mother nature steps in and catches you off guard, it is best to replace your outdoor faucet with a frost proof one. This will prevent from having broken pipes and a flood in your basement.

These faucets are designed to stop the water inside the house where it is warm and drain out the water in the pipe and faucet to keep it from freezing.

A little bit of plumbing knowledge and a few tools will make this an easy job for a DIYer. Which tools you will need will depend on the current plumbing in your house.

Calling a plumber will cost you some money, but not as much as a flooded basement.

Head Over to the Next Page for instruction on installing a Frost Proof Outdoor Faucet yourself.


Unclog a Toilet

There are a few ways to unclog a toilet, but most are messy and require you to have some special tools.

If you don’t have a plunger or before you call a plumber or sewer guy, who will hand you a hefty bill, try this little trick.

In this short video you will discover a little trick to unclog your toilet without any tools.

Sometimes a second dose, or letting it sit overnight may be required.

If this trick doesn’t get it done, check out homediyfixes.com/is-your-toilet-backing-up

Repairing Your Electric Water Heater!

You don’t have hot water or your electric water heater seem to be running out of hot water faster than it used to or taking longer to make hot water? It could be the heating element has gone bad or is corroded with minerals from the water. This can be a simple DIY fix.

The first thing to check is the circuit breaker that supplies the heater. If that has not tripped, next sheck the reset button inside the water heater cover. If it still is not working you will need to test the elements.

Visit Family Handyman for a great tutorial on replacing the heating elements in you water heater.

Inside a water heater

What’s Inside and How It Works!

Most residential electric water heaters have two heating elements: one near the top of the tank and one near the bottom. Power enters the top and runs to the high-temperature cutoff switch, and then to the thermostats and elements. The top and bottom elements are controlled by separate thermostats. When the water on the top of the tank is hot, the top element turns off and the lower one heats. The upper and lower heating elements never come on at the same time.




Replacing a Bathroom Sink Drain!

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Is your bathroom sink drain corroded or leaking? Replacing it is a simple project any DIYer can accomplish in a short period of time. With just a couple of tools and a little knowledge that you can get from the video below you are on your way to taking care of this little problem.

When replacing your sink drain you should be aware of the quality on the replacement parts. A good drain replacement will be made of brass part and will last a long time. You can buy the cheaper version that is made of plastic parts but can easily break.

Check out the video on replacing your bathroom sink drain.

Is Your Toilet Backing Up?

Is your toilet backing up? Before you grab your phone to call a plumber, here are a few things you can do easily to save yourself a lot of money. They are relatively easy steps and do not require a bunch of expensive tools. But be prepared to possibly get wet or messy.

How To Unclog a Toilet

If water is threatening to overflow the bowl, you can lift off the tank lid and reach in and push the flapper down into the closed position. This will stop most of the flow of water into the bowl. However, some will still run down the sides of the bowl as the tank refills. You can stop this by pulling up on the float and closing the fill valve. You can also reach behind the toilet and turn off the valve that comes out of the wall or floor, to turn water supply to the toilet.

When water overflows the bowl it means there is something blocking the toilet or drain. There are a couple of clues to help you find whether the clog is local to the toilet, the bathroom or may be a house wide problem. In most cases, if the bathroom sink does not back up, then the blockage is in the toilet or very close to it. If the sink (or some other bathroom drain) is backing up, then the clog is farther along in the drain line. If drains elsewhere in the house are backing up, then the problem is likely to be somewhere in the sewer line. This article focuses on clearing those clogs that are in or near the toilet. Clogs farther along the drain or sewer lines will require different equipment and have to be accessed through a clean-out or by removing the toilet from the floor.

Caution: Please read our safety information before attempting any testing, maintenance or repairs.

If the clog might be an object dropped into the toilet, such as a toy or a washcloth, then it is best to try and retrieve it rather than force it threw the pipes. Other clogs resulting from normal flushed waste can be cleared with the use of a toilet plunger or closet auger.

Start With a Plunger to Unclog a Toilet

We recommend a plunger with a flange, rather than the old fashioned cup style. The flange fits into the opening at the bottom of the bowl and exerts more pressure than the old style plunger.

  • If the bowl is full, put on some gloves and bail out water until the bowl is only half full.
  • If the bowl is empty, add water to fill it to half full.
  • In order to avoid the possibility of splash back, drape a large towel over the bowl and under the toilet seat.
  • Place the plunger in the bowl and completely cover the drain opening.
  • With the plunger completely under water, press and pull it rapidly for 15-20 seconds.
  • If the water drains out of the bowl, add some more water and plunge again.
  • If the water seems to be properly draining, go ahead and try flushing the toilet.

Next, Try a Closet Auger

If the water still is not draining out of the bowl as it should, then use a closet auger. A closet auger is a drain clearing tool designed specifically for use with a toilet. Typically it has a sharp spiral of wire on the tip and a semi-rigid wire that can flex through the bends in the toilet bowl. It also has a guide tube and an offset hand crank, to turn the spiral tip and clear the obstruction. Do not use other types of drain snakes with a toilet as they can damage the toilet.

  • Insert the guide tube with the curve facing the direction of the drain. Some bowls drain to the front and some drain to the rear.
  • Crank the auger in one direction until is becomes tight then crank in the other direction. Repeat this until the auger is in as far as it will go.
  • Crank the auger to clear the obstruction.
  • Pull the guide tube out of the toilet. If it gets stuck push and pull gently or turn a crank back and forth while gently pulling up. Do not force the auger or you may break the toilet bowl.
  • Repeat the process using the plunger.
  • If the water seems to be properly draining, go ahead and try flushing the toilet.

Great advice from acmehowto.com/plumbing

We hope this helps get you out of a potential disaster, for more on sewer issues see our other articles.

Does Your Bathroom Faucet Need Replacing?

Saving money on your utilities is always a good deal! Doing your own Home Repairs can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Just by repairing a leaky faucet that only drips slightly can be a major savings. If that faucet is not repaired it can also cause major damage to your siding or foundation, and even undermine your home, causing major costly repairs.

Some times a faucet will just need a new washer or flow cartridge. Sometimes you will need to replace the entire fixture!

A typical bathroom or kitchen faucet replacement will take an hour or so.

Step 1

Identify the Type of Faucet You Already Have

There are three main faucet types available today: single hole, 4” triple hole, and 8” triple hole. In the single-hole faucet, the center control typically not only serves as the spout but the mixing valve as well. In the triple-holes faucets, the center device is usually just the spout with the mixing valves 4” or 8” from the center on each side respectively. Depending on your existing situation, the faucet may be installed to the countertop or the sink, so if you are replacing one or the other, you have the option to change faucet type. If not, purchase a new faucet to match the type you already have. The one exception would be that single-hole faucets can typically be used in a 4” triple-hole sink or countertop if they come with a blank base plate to cover the additional holes. One added benefit of separate mixing valves is that most manufacturers use one valve with many different trims. This will let you change the style in future with less waste and work. In our case, there was a 4” three-hole faucet installed to an integral sink cultured-marble top. Because we were also replacing the countertop and sink, we decided to go to a widespread 8” triple-hole faucet to match the new larger sink.

Step 2

Assemble the Parts

Once you have the new faucet picked out, assemble all the parts you need, and double check so you can complete this at one time and without multiple trips to the hardware store. Be sure to specifically check the fittings on the end of the faucet versus your existing water line extensions. Since it is an opportune time to replace the flexible lines, choose a set with an auto leak shut off. A small valve in the base of the line detects excess water flow and shuts off preventing further damage and flooding. If you are also replacing the sink drain, be sure to specifically check your P-trap setup in case any new o-rings or extensions are needed.

Step 3

Remove the Old Faucet

Start by shutting off the wall valves and turning on the faucet to drain down residual pressure. With a bucket handy, use an adjustable wrench to loosen and remove the flexible extension from the faucet. Drain the remaining water into the bucket. Next, remove the flexible line from the shutoff valve.

Step 4

Remove Hardware

Under the sink, there are typically nuts and washers securing the faucet. Remove any hardware in this area including the clamp bolt from the drain rod extension. Lift the faucet out from the top. It may need some gentle persuasion from years of corrosion or a sticky base gasket.

Step 5

Install New Faucet

Faucets can vary greatly among manufacturers, so consult your installation manual. The steps seen here will be generally applicable but might need modification for your particular setup. I find it helpful to mock assemble the part first to better visual what you will likely be feeling and not seeing when laying in a dark cabinet. Generally, from the top down there will be the spout, a gasket or plumber’s putty, the sink or countertop, a large washer or saddle, and a mounting nut. In this case plumber’s putty is called for instead of a gasket. If you’ve never worked with plumber’s putty before, imagine gray modeling clay. To use, take a small bit in the palm of your hand, and roll it back and forth until you form a 1/4” diameter rope. This putty is applied around the new spout base to prevent water splash from running into the cabinet. Install the center spout, and tighten the mounting nut from below with an adjustable wrench.

Step 6

Assemble Mixing Valves

If you are using a single-hole faucet, you will skip the next steps. Assemble the hot and cold mixing valves. In this case, a large nut and washer tightens the valve from below while a large washer and C-clip holds the valve at the top. Apply plumber’s putty to the sculpted bottom side of the top washer. Install the C-clip, and tighten the nut from below. Just as a reminder, the hot and cold valves are left and right respectively.

Step 7

Thread the Trim

For this faucet, the top trims are installed by threading onto the mixing valve. Make sure the handle is oriented parallel to the wall in the OFF position prior to threading the trim. Next, hook up the water lines from below. Luckily, this faucet features easy snap-end fittings. If yours uses threaded NPT fittings, be sure to use plumber’s tape on any connections not utilizing a rubber or gasket seal. Install the new water line extensions to the shut off and mixing valves.

Step 8

Reinstall Drain Rod

Finally, reinstall the drain rod to the extension, and tighten the clamp bolt. Double check all your fittings, and slowly turn ON the shut off valves one at a time. Look for leaks, and if all is well, test and flush the new faucet for two minutes.

Step 9

You’re Done!

While faucets tend to last a long time, they don’t always age well in the design department. Replacing your bathroom faucets can be a quick and rewarding project. Plus, if you choose ones with separate mixing valves and trims, you can more easily update the faucet in the future with less work and waste.

Thanks to Dylan Eastman for sharing this info. See the whole article at http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/rooms-and-spaces/bathroom/how-to-replace-a-bathroom-faucet.

When Doing your own Home Repairs, it is always best to take some to to be prepared. Whether  it is just a washer replacement or the whole faucet, read the instructions and make sure you have all the tools you need to complete the project before you start.

Adding a Garbage Disposal to Your Sink

If you are tired of your garbage can always smelling up the house, it may be time to install a garbage disposal in your sink so you can flush all that smelly stuff down the drain. A garbage disposal will fit into any standard sink and is fairly easy to install. If you are installing one where there never has been one before, be aware that you will need to install an electric circuit or outlet under the sink for the garbage disposal to work.

Here is a wonderful step-by-step video from how2plumb.com on how to install your garbage disposal.

DIY Dishwasher Replacement

If it is time for a dishwasher replacement, whether the current one stopped working or you decide it is time to replace it. Removing the old dishwasher and installing a new one is a project most DIY homeowners can accomplish without too much trouble. You will need a few tools and some basic knowledge of plumbing and electric.

Most dishwashers come in standard sizes so you can easily install a new one without any cabinet modification.

A few issues that you could possibly come across are:

  • New flooring was installed without the cabinets or appliances being moved and you may have a height issue when you try to replace the dishwasher.
  • The dishwasher was installed before the countertop and they did not make a big enough hole in the cabinet to get the hoses through.
  • If you have a granite or other stone countertop, the mounting clips may have been epoxied to the top, or it may be screwed to the cabinet on the side of the dishwasher.

Here is a great video from house-improvements.com with step-by-step procedures on replacing your dishwasher.

Locating Home Main Water Shut Off

Getting it the habit of turning off your main water valve when you leave home for any amount of time, is a great way to prevent severe damage.

If the power goes out or your heating system goes bad, Your pipes are going to freeze. Turning off the water supply to the house will prevent more damage from flooding once they thaw out. Even in summer if a water line breaks or a toilet valve goes bad it can be disastrous.

Locating your main water shut off could be challenging, but something you really need to do.

Types of water valvesGenerally when you are looking for your water main indoors

you will have one of these types of valves.

A 1/4 turn ball valve with a lever type handle

or multi turn gate valve with a round handle.

Both valves will turn in the clockwise direction to close the valve and turn off the water supply.

If you have a well, the main shut off valve will be located close to your water storage tank.

If you have city water there will be a valve somewhere by the road for water company access, but there should also be one inside or close to the house near the water meter.

The location of your main water shut off will depend on a number of circumstances such as the type of foundation you have, the distance from the road, the climate you live in and sometimes just on the mood or thinking of the person who installed it.

In Cold Climates the meter and shut off valve will be indoors in a basement or utility closet, usually along the the wall facing the street or driveway.

In warmer climates it could also be in a garage, crawl space or outside.

Once you have located your main water shut off, it is a good idea to make sure that the valve is operating correctly before you need it when a water pipe springs a leak. Start by turning the valve off, then open a sink faucet and see if the water stops completely. One way to know for sure if it is completely off is to look at your water meter and see if the small dial is moving, if it is then you still have water leaking thru the valve and it should be repaired or replaced.

Head over to the Next Page for tips on locating the main water shut off.