Archive for December, 2015

water heater tubeNothing is more frustrating than losing your access to hot water… except probably losing all access to flowing water in general, which sounds like kind of a drag. Either way, if you’re used to it, you’re not going to like going without it. But say you turn the hot water on in your shower and only cold water comes out. How do you know if its a plumbing issue or an issue with your water heater specifically? To an untrained eye, these issues are difficult to navigate, but with a little help (which I hope this article will give you) you’ll be getting to the bottom of your hot-water problem in no time.

  1. In a situation in which no tap in your house will yield hot water, it could mean that the pilot light in your hot water heater has somehow been extinguished. This can happen due to weather, wind, a catch in the gas line that feeds the light, and a variety of other fluke-type causes. Check the pilot light and relight it if its out (should be as simple as lighting the light of your oven, but make sure to look up the directions in your owner’s manual just in case). If it looks like the model you have makes this process complicated or dangerous or in general you’re just not feeling confident about lighting the flame yourself, contact a professional company technician to do it for you.
  2. If your water heater is making odd noises that you don’t remember it generally making, you’re likely hearing minerals or hard-water scale that has accumulated within the tank and eventually broken off. Unfortunately if this is the case, you’ll need to drain the tank and clean out the sediment before you start seeing weird stuff come out your pipes. This is generally a good job to hand off to professionals.
  3. water heater broIf a puddle has formed around your water heater, you’ve got a leak and water is seeping from your tank. The water could be coming from anything from a loose valve to a leaky pipe. If you can’t find any leaky pipes, see if you can tighten the valve in general. If the valve is loose, water could easily leak out of the heater. Otherwise you may just have a faulty valve, an obstructed vent or a defective heating element.
  4. If there is hot water but it’s not sufficiently hot, the first thing you can do is check out the thermostat to see if it’s set up the the temperature of your liking. If it is at the setting you originally chose but no longer yielding hot enough water, think about when the last time was that you flushed out your tank. The same minerals causing the weird noises may have built up in your tank and made it so it was more difficult to heat up the water properly. If your tank has been flushed recently, you may want to check out the heater’s dip tube to make sure it isn’t broken (which would cause the tank to not heat up properly). You can check the dip tube by removing the cold water supply line and taking the dip tube directly out of the tank.

Your toaster uses infrared radiation to crisp up your bread. When you see those toasty coils glow red, that’s the radiation. Infrared radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that sounds like it’s different from heat but it’s just heat. The coils provide a gentle drying and charring effect on the surface of your bread.

toasterMost toasters use nichrome wire wrapped back and forth across a mica sheet to heat up yo bread. Nichrome is an alloy of nickel with chromium (and sometimes iron) commonly used in high-temperature applications such as electrical heating elements. Its electrical resistance allows for it to generate a lot of heat when currents are run through it. Nichrome is also useful because it does not oxidize when it is heated (like iron would, leading to rust). ┬áMica is a shiny sillcate mineral with a layered structure generally found as minute scales in granite and other rocks, or as crystals. It’s used as a thermal or electrical insulator.

With a couple mica sheets wrapped in nichrome, you could get the toasty job done. However, things like bread crumb catchers and spring-loaded toast-announcing movements have come to be expected.

When you look deep into a toaster’s crevice, you’ll generally notice a metal holder rising up and down in the slots to raise and lower the bread as well as a pair of grates that line either side of both slots. When you push the holder down, metal springs at the bottom of either slot get compressed which in turn squeezes the grates inward, towards each other.

The handle is attached to the holders. When you push the handle down, a mechanism activates which holds the handle down until the toast is ready, electric current is sent through the nichrome wires, and a timer is initiated that counts down until the toast pops up.

fork in toasterHere’s how it happens: When you push the handle down, you complete a circuit that allows for electric current to flow through the nichrome wires. Another simple current made up of transistors, resistors and capacitors turns on and supplies power to the electromagnet. The electromagnet then attracts a piece of metal added to the handle, holding the bread down. Another simple circuit is responsible for acting as a timer. A capacitor charges through a resistor and when it reaches a certain voltage it cuts off the power to the electromagnet. Without the magnetic charge holding the piece of metal (and the toast) down, the springs at the bottom of the toaster release their tension and pop up the bread. The springs also push the plastic handle up, cutting off the power to the toaster all together.

A lot of toasters allow for toast darkness settings by using a variable resistor. Changing the resistance changes how fast the capacitor charges, which in turn affects how long it takes for the electromagnet to be cut off from the electricity that allows it to hold the piece of metal and the toast down into the toaster and maintain current flowing to the nichrome wires.