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I’d like to help y’all better understand the different types of systems and the problems they encounter. This way you can be more educated when it comes to having to give that technician a call.
Every home in Israel has a water-heating system. We all love a nice hot shower, but many of us have no idea how the water is heated. All we know is that we press on a red switch, wait a while, and step into the shower! During the hot summer days there is usually hot water already available, without flipping any switches.
One other thing we know, is that once every few years or more that hot water stops flowing, and we are forced to call in a professional. This technician goes up to the roof, stays there for some time, and then goes on to say that the problem is solved. So far, so good.
He then says that he did some work up on the roof, perhaps throws in some jargon which we cannot fully understand, and requests payment for services rendered.
Was it really that big of a problem, to justify his fee? How can we tell? Everything that went on happened on the roof!
Because of this, it is important to approach a professional company with certified technicians. Most important of all is to seek out a company known for its dependability, so you can count on them and not worry.
Now, let’s go over the common water-heating systems, their common issues, and ways to avoid them. Having a basic understanding of your home’s systems will provide you with the confidence you need when speaking to a professional, and with the ability to ask practical questions, in order to figure out what was happening on your roof, and to understand whether his fee is fully justified.
Water-Heating Systems In Israel
The most common system combines two different systems: one, the electric boiler, and two – the solar panel. Often, the two will reside one next to the other: a large metal tank, meaning your water boiler, and a black panel made of glass and metal, meaning your solar panel.
Electric hot water boiler
The electric boiler functions under the same principles of the common electric household kettle. We flip a switch, and guide electricity to the heating element, which then boils the water. However, unlike the kettle – which stops the boiling process automatically – the water boiler will continue to heat your water as long as the switch is on. This is why is extremely important to remember to turn your boiler off, especially before leaving the house. Leaving your boiler on for prolonged periods of time will result in a high electric bill, and with the possible destruction of the boiler’s heating element.
The solar panel justifies its name, as it collects solar energy, and converts it to heat. The solar panel is connected to electric boiler, and it provides an alternative to electricity as long as the sun is shining (and for free!)
A solar panel is essentially a twisted coil made of copper, painted black, which is located in a compartment which is top half glass and bottom half metal. At the bottom of the compartment, there is a hose which transfers cold water into it, and at the top there is an opening through which hot water can be taken out.
Notice that many solar panels face south, since that is the direction which picks up the rays of sun in the afternoon, at a time when the temperature is peaking.
The sun heats up the black copper coils (black heats up the fastest, since it includes all of the colors, and takes in more energy). Heat energy naturally rises. When water heats up, it become less dense. The water flowing into the bottom of the panel heats up, and then leaves via the opening in the top, causing a constant circulation.
The water makes it rounds from the boiler to the solar panel’s heating element, and then back to the boiler once heated, so after a while, the boiler is filled with hot water.
Gas-powered hot water
There are also water-heating systems which operate using gas, and which heat up the water using fire. Those devices are commonly known as “Junkers”. Junkers is one of the world’s largest and most respected companies in the field of gas-powered water heating, which is why those systems bear that name, even though they could also be manufactured by an entirely different company (in the same way that Crocs are Crocs, even when they are made by a different company).
Gas-heated water is a whole other subject matter, and you can learn about the advantages and disadvantages here.
Common Water-Heater Issues
One of the most frequent causes of malfunctions in the boiler is the buildup of water scale. Just like the electric kettle, which needs to be clean and maintained periodically, our water boiler needs to be looked after.
How does scale form?
The scale is actually made of elements found in rainwater, which harden and solidify due to the water heating up.
Naturally, the scale – which is the by-product of heat – forms at the hottest point in the water tank, meaning on the heating element itself. This causes a blockage which separates the water from its heat, and forces the heating element to work extra hard in order to bring the water to the desired temperature. This water-heat-scale cycle causes even more scale to form, and also raises the amount of electricity used in the process. This usually continues, until the heating element burns itself out and incapacitates the boiler.
Many times, the buildup of scale will also cause a blockage in the connection between the solar panel and the water tank.
As stated previously, the water from the boiler is transferred to the solar panel, and then returns to the boiler once it is heated. The scale which builds up in the point of exit or entry from the solar panel can potentially block the passage of water, and knock out the solar panel as well.
How can we prevent the buildup of scale in a boiler?
First, the most useful thing we can do is acquire a “scale inhibitor” device. This protecting gadget hooks up to your home’s water system, and also helps prevent scale from building up in any appliance which uses water, such as the washing machine, dishwasher, electric kettle, and others.
The scale inhibitor filters the water as it comes into the house, and cleans it of rough dirt, sand, rust, and the elements in the water which cause scale to solidify.
Purchasing a scale inhibitor, and having it installed by a certified individual, will lower your electric bill (since it helps those appliances run smoothly) and perhaps even prevent the issues we mentioned.
The second recommended course of action is calling for a professional to give your boiler an annual checkup. This is best done after the winter months, since it is during the hotter months that the boiler will be used more frequently. It is also recommended to contact a professional whenever the water-heating system show any signs of malfunctioning. That way, we can detect any problems at their start, before more serious damage is caused.
This video explains a bit more how scale is formed – The particular filter showcased uses a chemical that inhibits scale build-up.
Another possible issue is that of water leaking from the solar panel or electric boiler. This usually occurs once the boiler/panel has aged and rusted, but there are times when a leak is caused when the system’s hoses are not connected properly.
If the end of the month brings with it a higher-than-usual water bill, there is a good chance that your system is leaking, and it is highly recommended to contact a professional immediately. If left unchecked, a leak in the boiler system can become a leak from the roof where the boiler is located.
If the boiler heats up, but does not seem to maintain the heat, it could be due to a leak, and it is best to investigate before things get worse.
Shorting Out The Electricity
If the electricity goes out when you attempt to turn your electric boiler on, it can be deduced that there is an electrical problem relating to the heating element. Although, there have been cases where the short circuit originated in the actual boiler switch, and if that is the case, it is an electrician you need, not a boiler technician.
However, since we probably cannot figure the source out for ourselves, it is best to contact a company which employs electricians and heating system professionals, and that way we can be sure that the problem will be resolved with the least amount of hassles and setbacks.
Remember! The electric boiler combines water and electricity, which can be extremely dangerous for uncertified do-it-yourselfers and non-professionals. It is not recommended to attempt to fix electrical issues having to do with the water systems, but rather wait for someone who is certified to deal with such situations.
So, now that we know a little bit more about our water-heating systems, and are able to differentiate between various issues, we can be sure that we are dealing with the source of the matter, and that we have a sort of common ground to stand on when dealing with the professional who comes to our aid.
Thanks for stopping by Efes Takalot we wish you a warm winter and zero issues!