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Around the House: Water softener shouldn't harm water heater

May 11, 2013

Dear Ken: A plumber told me that a water softener can harm a water heater. Can you shed any light on this? - Keith

I can't think of how it could harm a water heater. Since the water softener exchanges calcium and magnesium ions (hard) for sodium ions (soft), it makes sense that the softened water would result in less corrosive mineral build-up inside the tank.

You should drain the water heater once a year to eliminate any build-up of mineral deposits, sand and grit. It's easy to do. Turn off the gas to the water heater. Close the cold water inlet valve and drain the tank through a hose connected to that little faucet on the bottom. Then, manipulating that same valve, blast jets of new water on-off-on-off into the tank to roil up whatever material might be lying on the bottom. When the hose runs clear, close the faucet and reverse the process.

Incidentally, I hope you were able to run a 'hard ' cold water line to the kitchen faucet. That way, you, the pets and the plants aren't getting extra sodium. If you were unable to re-plumb that separate pipe, consider a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink. It's an arrangement of tanks, filters and pipes, the heart of which is a semi-permeable membrane that removes almost all contaminates, including sodium, from the water.

Dear Ken: I have a 1906 house without much insulation. What do you think about paint that is supposed to insulate? - Ray C.

Not much. There are some high-tech coatings out there that are touted to not only last a lifetime but also to provide extra insulation. When you think about it, the efficacy of any product that insulates you from inclement temperatures is directly proportional to the amount of air trapped inside. That's why fluffy fiberglass, cellulose or Styrofoam does such a good job - they contain millions of little air pockets.

Paint, on the other hand, is hard and thin, so it can't help much. In fact, when you try to pin down the R-values of these coatings, the numbers get a little fuzzy.

Dear Ken: How can we maintain the garage door ourselves? - Scott and Ricky

For almost all garage door repairs and maintenance, you should contact a professional. There are highly torqued springs, pulleys and cables that can cause severe injuries.

I recommend a garage door 'tune-up ' every couple of years. It'll cost $75 or so, but it's worth it to keep everything working as designed. The technician will tighten the several dozen bolts on the door frame and side tracks. They'll also rebalance the springs and opener and ensure the door assembly is plumb and square in its opening.

In between times, spritz a little lubricant on the rollers and their brackets plus the side track, especially the part near the top that curves.

Dear Ken: Our swamp cooler has damaged our roof quite a bit. I think we should get another one. Any recommendations? - Joan G.

I like any brand that is made of plastic. These new evaporative cooler models are built with polypropylene - a strong material that, of course, never will corrode and is amazingly easy to maintain and clean.


Ken Moon, a homebuilder-turned-home inspector in the Pikes Peak region, broadcasts 'Around the House, ' on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5, at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Visit aroundthe to contact Ken.

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