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HANDYMAN Q&A

With Hot Water, It's a Question of Degrees

June 28, 1998|POPULAR MECHANICS | FOR AP SPECIAL FEATURES

QUESTION: Most hot-water tanks have a dial for water temperatures at the bottom. They read hot, warm and normal. What would be the minimum temperature, the next temperature and then the hot temperature? I have heard of a code in most places that the minimum temperatures should be 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the maximum 140 degrees.

ANSWER: Not all water heater manufacturers use the same names for the thermostat settings. Nevertheless, the settings are basically hot, medium and warm. On some water heaters, there is also a vacation setting. According to the manufacturers, the respective temperatures are 160, 140, 120 and 60 degrees. These temperatures are not too precise, as there can be a difference of 10 degrees or more between the dial setting and the water's temperature.

The thermostat for a tank-type water heater is at the lower portion of the tank. Since hot water rises, the temperature of the water at the top of the tank (where the hot-water outlet pipe is located) will be higher than the water surrounding the thermostat.

You must also consider that as the hot water flows through the distribution pipes, some heat will be lost. Consequently, the water temperature discharging from the various faucets will be lower than the water temperature at the top of the heater tank.

For the most part, a thermostat setting that produces a water temperature of 140 degrees will be adequate for household appliances such as clothes washers and dishwashers. However, when washing dishes by hand or bathing, a water temperature of 120 degrees is probably too hot for most people and needs to be tempered with a bit of cold water.

Setting the thermostat to exceed 140 degrees wastes energy and shortens the life of the water heater. Water temperature in excess of 160 degrees is a potential hazard because of the possibility of being scalded while showering if the shower's mixing valve is faulty.

Railroad Ties Aren't Good Option for Wall

Q: I built a retaining wall of used railroad ties. In a few areas the rot is creating holes. Is there any way I can remedy this situation besides rebuilding the entire wall?

A: There really isn't much you can do about repairing the rotting sections in your retaining wall. There are epoxy fillers that are used to rehabilitate rotting trim in houses, but they are not intended for retaining walls. If you have only a few sections that are rotted and if the structural bracing for the wall has not deteriorated, then reconstructing the entire wall should not be necessary. You can remove the extensively rotted ties and replace them.

Rotten used railroad ties are not unusual. This is because the species of wood used for railroad ties are difficult to impregnate with creosote. Consequently, there is quite a lot of untreated wood and moisture in the interior of the ties. When the ties dry, they check and split, exposing the interior portion to some decay.

Proper Use Assures Recharger's Safety

Q: I have a question regarding rechargeable tools and small appliances around the home. Most rechargeable items plug into a charger-transformer that, in turn, is plugged into a wall outlet. If the transformer is plugged in, but the appliance is not connected to the charger cord, does the transformer still use electricity? Is there any fire hazard with these transformers?

A: The transformer does use electricity, but at a lesser amount than it would draw if the appliance were plugged in to the transformer while being recharged. Providing that the transformer is used properly and has a UL listing (or any other third party testing agency's label) attached to it, there is generally no fire hazard associated with the device.

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