One of the most common water related incidents at rental properties is leaking or failing water heater. There has never been a time when hot water might be more essential, with all of us on stay-at-home orders, than during the COVID-19 pandemic. A failing water heater can sometimes be a big mess if there is leakage that requires further remediation. Other times, it can be a quick and easy fix but still a huge inconvenience to the homeowner or tenant who has to live without hot water for some period of time.
Scott Costa represents a company that specialized in one thing ... water heaters. Hence the name of their business, Water Heaters Only. They ONLY service and install water heaters so they know a thing or two about the topic. On this episode, Bob and Scott discuss why water heaters fail, what are the signs to look for when a water heater needs to be replaced, what the options are for selecting a water heater, and the new California building codes related to water heater installation.
A full time-stamped transcript of this episode is below.
[1:10] Bob offers listeners a copy of his eBook Best Practices for Renting Your Home
[3:20] Scott's background and intro to Water Heaters Only
[4:45] Getting a water heater 24/7/365
[6:30] Keeping hygienic and sanitization practices during COVID-19 pandemic
[9:20] Why do water heaters fail?
[11:10] Building codes in California and San Diego pertaining to water heaters
[17:25] Why do water heaters cost so much more than they used to?
[19:00] Circumstances which might favor installing a tankless water heater
[26:05] The Emergency Shutdown Instruction Sticker on the front of the water heater
[28:13] Signs that a water heater might be starting to fail
[31:00] Recommended regular service and maintenance for water heaters
[32:35] Potential danger of carbon monoxide emissions
[34:30] Scott shares some great feel-good success stories
Connect with Scott
Water Heaters Only
Connect with Bob
Free eBook: Bob Preston’s new eBook, Best Practices for Renting Your Home, is offered as a free download on the North County Property Group website, find it here as a free download! https://www.ncpropertygroup.com/ebook
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Bob Preston: 01:09 What's going on Brainstormers? Before we get started today, I'd like to offer you a copy of my new eBook called Best Practices For Renting Your Home. It's a quick read and offers all of my tips from being in the property management business for over 20 years. Navigating the pitfalls and safety nets that come with being a landlord. The eBook has recently been published and is offered as a free download on the North County Property Group website. Find it at this web link and download it for free, www.ncpropertygroup.com/ebook. That's ncpropertygroup.com/ebook.
Bob Preston: 01:55 Welcome listeners to the Property Management Brainstorm show. I'm Bob Preston, your host, broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar, California. If you're new here, please subscribe so you have ongoing access to all of our great episodes and if you like what you hear, please, please, please pay it forward with a positive review. One of the most common water related incidents or areas of repair we have here in San Diego County and our rental market is a leaking water heater. It seems like we have quite a few of these every year, maybe one or two a month in our portfolio and sometimes it can create a great big mess if there's leakage into drywall and insulation that requires further remediation. But other times it's just kind of an inconvenience. If the water heater was installed properly, can be a quick and easy fix. I'll be it. You know the tenant goes without hot water for a period of time and it can still be a significant expense to the property owner. Today on our show we have Scott Costa from Water Heaters Only a company that specializes only in servicing and installing water heaters. He's going to tell us a lot about it and perhaps kind of water heater is best if you're in the position where you need a new one installed. Hey Scott, thank you for joining me on Property Management Brainstorm.
Scott Costa: 03:07 Oh, thank you so much for having us and really exciting to be here and talk a little bit about water heaters.
Bob Preston: 03:12 Hey, it's always a good place to start by telling us about yourself and I guess also at the same time the concept behind Water Heaters Only.
Scott Costa: 03:20 Well, absolutely. Well first things again, Scott Costa, I'm in the sales and marketing with Water Heaters Only been here almost six years going on in May and I deal with a lot of property management accounts. In fact, I'm the Southern California and Phoenix area rep. Um, but in a small to midsize company we wear many hats. So, I'm also doing online blog posting. Uh, you know, you name it. We're probably doing all kinds of videos, hosting our YouTube, podcasts. Well maybe not that, but you know, it a lot of other blogs and things like that. So, let me rephrase. Uh, but yeah, blog, we do our YouTube channel. The main, my main job is working in, in the Southern California, in Phoenix, property management area rep. As far as Water Heaters Only goes, we've been in business since 1968 our owner started in the Bay area and he was a plumber and he saw, well, quite frankly, an opportunity, he realized, uh, everyone's got a water heater. He can specialize in that. Their trucks don’t have to carry a thousand different parts for a thousand different plumbing issues. We can specialize in water heaters, we know what we're talking about and we can carry the parts that we know we need and quite frankly, again, never looked back to 52 years later.
Bob Preston: 04:34 Cool concept. Well, I think one of the toughest aspects of a water heater when, when they do go bad is finding someone to respond quickly. Now you guys have a service that's 24/7, 365 how do you, how do you do that?
Scott Costa: 04:46 Well, two, two things. First of all, uh, when we realized we, excuse me, when the owner realized that he specialized in water heaters, you need to make yourself available. So, we don't charge extra for weekends or holidays, seven days a week, 365, you will always get someone on the phone 24 hours a day. We do have evening service. We've got seven days a week service. If you call this a 2:00 AM you get our live sales staff, we'd probably book you for first thing in the morning. But other than that, we realize it's important. Water heaters go out on Sunday. Water heaters go out on Thanksgiving morning and last thing we want to do is not be available. Again, when your specialty is water heaters, you better be ready to attack it when the problem happens.
Bob Preston: 05:27 Okay, cool. Now you and I booked this appointment to record today over a month ago, right? I think it was in early February. And who knew? I mean, um, for our listeners we are, Scott and I are not, not together. We're doing it with proper social distancing right smack. I'd say a few hundred miles. Yeah, right smack in the middle of this, you know, COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic. Now the show must go on though. I mean if somebody needs a water heater and it's this week, how do you guys, how do you guys do that? What precautions are you and your team taking if you enter home to replace a water heater?
Scott Costa: 06:02 Absolutely. And you're right. We had no idea. And of course, initially I was going to be down there in studio with you and looking forward to it. I love my trips to San Diego on a side note. So it was going to be all nice. But first things first, when we realized this was going down, we decided to cancel my trip as most people decided non-essential travel. And as far as our office goes, uh, we're doing the same thing. If you can work remotely, it's great. Now our emergency sales staff, well they've got to be here answering the phones, but of course we've upped our cleaning protocols, wiping down the phones before and after every shift, keeping distance, any hint of a cop, you're going home. But for the people that are listening, obviously it's our technicians in the field that are be, you know, most important concern to them. And a couple of things. First of all, our technicians always, you know, hygienic and clean. But of course now they've been stocked up on sanitizer. Same, stocked up on wipes, uh, refraining from the handshake. And quite frankly, except for the initial interaction with a, uh, you know, person explaining, here's the water heater, what's going on. Six feet is not so hard to keep a distance and still explain what's going on. And then while we're working on the water heater, we really don't have to have any interaction. The only time it comes about is maybe after a water heater installation when we maybe have to bleed the lines or check and make sure. And that's where we've noticed the last week or two people that they, you know, you can tell that they're okay with it, but they're thinking twice about it. At that situation, we've been explaining to people, listen, if you'd like us to walk through the last process, we're happy to do so. Um, and, and really no one's taken us up on it, but we're offering every opportunity to keep that six feet, um, and then yet still give them service. Uh, when we do a job, we have a construction contract, which is probably standard in the industry. Uh, people can sign that online. They do not have to get close enough to even write on a piece of paper if they don't have to. We can leave the warranty and the information and explain how to use a new water heater from a safe distance. And really, that's kind of worked out. And that's how it been anyway. We didn't have to do a whole lot, but we're just letting people know that if you even uncomfortable with six feet and we're trying as much as possible, we're here for you.
Bob Preston: 08:10 Yeah. I mean they don't need to be hovering over your shoulder while you're installing the water heater.
Scott Costa: 08:15 No, they want to usually. But that's a whole different reception. Well they like to, but no, it also serves as they do not have to, and we can explain how they use that water heater. Again, there's going to be times where you're going to be inclined at close proximity. But we, we, we've worked with very well and so far it's been working. We haven't noticed a drop. You still need hot water. And in fact, I'd say more so now, especially if you're staying home, working from home, you want it anyway. But you're definitely aware sooner than later. So, we're doing everything we can to be, to be understanding and work with them and their concerns.
Bob Preston: 08:47 Yeah. And a lot of this is common sense stuff. You're full disclosure here. Water Heaters Only is one of our vendors and we've been really happy with their service. And you'll get an email from us today just saying, Hey, Hey guys, we still need to maintain homes. Please use common sense CDC guidelines and respect, social distancing. But please help us keep our properties maintained. It's part of the job.
Scott Costa: 09:05 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely correct. And our technicians are aware and, and, and we are willing to work with whatever is necessary and still provide hot water because that's still super important. Coronavirus or not.
Bob Preston: 09:16 Okay. So let's get on with the topic at hand here. So, what's the deal with water heaters and why do they go bad? I mean, we seem to have them go leaking periodically here in San Diego. And is it because of water quality or what's San Diego County unusual in that regard or what's the deal?
Scott Costa: 09:30 Well, I'll tell you, it's not unusual. There are a number we service the Bay area, all of Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, there are pockets that have bad water. San Diego does get hit with it. In fact, uh, we run into a lot of water softeners in San Diego, which can be very detrimental to a regular storage type tank, water heater. Um, uh, so it's not so much the hard water, although that can cause failure sooner, no question. But actually, ironically the water softener they’re using because of the hard water can limit, you know, reduce the amount of years of the water heater. It goes good without getting too technical. The sodium from the water softener causes the anode rods inside the water heaters to corrode sooner and quite frankly, uh, that can lead the water heater to fail a little sooner as well. But in general, yeah. Oh yeah. And, and, but conversely, they're really good for tankless water heaters, which I think we'll be talking about a little bit and I can elaborate on that. But yeah, they're very good because of course they're removing some of the, uh, corrosive elements and that helps a tankless. But for a storage type, it does reduce the life in general though, honestly, they make water heaters to last about 8 to 10 years. You know what, you should be recommended annual flushing that will help get the sediment out. Uh, we recommend, you know, keep an eye on, on them. Uh, if you see some leaks, nip them in the bud before Russell start. Um, there's a number of things that can be done, but really it's all about usage and just the fact that they're going to go out 8 to 10 years. That's just kind of how they're built. Again, hard water can be, there are some other outside circumstances that can cause it to fail sooner, but that's kind of the life of them no matter what.
Bob Preston: 11:10 Or a lot of new building codes in California I've been told and I've heard, and of course some of them might even be local to San Diego pertaining to water heaters. And I think for now, let's talk about the typical water tank type, at least in this regard because that's the most common still. What, what are the codes? Can you tell us about that and what are the changes?
Scott Costa: 11:31 Absolutely. Well, obviously we work with the California plumbing code, uh, and uh, we take great pride in the fact that we do everything up to code. So, uh, we're aware of all the recent code changes and they're, they do change. And not only do you have different code changes statewide, but each individual city or County, uh, you know, depending what area you're in, uh, they have their own choices on what they would, how they want to do that code. So, some, some areas, uh, they may not push the expansion tank. That's an area, uh, actually the expansion bottle that in San Diego we're seeing that a lot of, and I'm not sure you know about the expansion bottles. I do. Yeah. The expansion tank, right? Yeah. Expansion tank, expansion bottles, uh, that we are finding that in the last year or two they've been really been required in San Diego. And basically there are another fail safe that goes onto the cold water line of the water heater. And when thermal expansion occurs, you've got the TMP that, you know, lets the water out. That's that pipe going down. The water heater that sometimes get stuck. Basically, the expansion bottle has got a little bladder inside. Thermal expansion occurs. The expansion can go into the expansion bottle as opposed to pushing out on the water heater itself, fatiguing the metal. So that's one of the ones that's actually the biggest, most recent thing that's been taking curve as far as the codes in San Diego. But of course, uh, everything, you know, earthquake straps are required by code, uh, drain lines. TMP lines need to be run to the outside unless there are certain outside closets if they're not going to cause any damage. I'd say another thing that you probably a noted a couple of years ago, actually 2016, uh, the ultra low NOx water heaters. And those are build to don't know. Uh, there was low NOx and in San Diego is actually one of the last holdouts in the state. And, but in 2016, San Diego decided I'll water heaters, how to be ultra low NOx. And what that basically means is that when the burner burns in the water heater to heat it up, uh, it produces nitrogen, nitrogen oxide, and that's basically a pollutant. So they wanted to reduce that. So instead of low NOx, they went to ultra-low NOx, which just reduces the amount of pollutant the nitrogen oxide put out. That was a recent change in 2016. Um, another thing was the 2015 department of energy guidelines and, uh, that was basically an efficiency requirement for water heaters. And what that did is mean they needed to be more efficient, so they had more insulation, more insulation, made them bigger. So now when we go to pull out a water heater, depending on where it's located and inside closet, uh, it may not fit. We run it at San Diego, LA, you'll get a 30-gallon inside a kitchen, uh, and it just barely fit when they put it in 20 years ago. And now we've got an issue because the new one, it will not fit. So those are some of the things that code requirements expansion bottle of San Diego specific, uh, the ultra-low NOx that happened in 2016 and the new efficiency standards are some of the latest things the last four or five years that really come about.
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Bob Preston: 15:20 That's great information. I was told by one of the plumbers, one of an another plumber that we work with, that the low knock and with the amount of insulation, they tend to run really hot, really quite a bit hotter. And that was one of the reasons why they went to the expansion tank code that the two are kind of related. Do you agree with that?
Scott Costa: 15:36 You know, I, I've taught, I talked to the techs in the field every day. I can't confirm that. That doesn't, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Uh, really the expansion bottles, it was just an added amount of safety, um, for the water heater in general. So, I can't, I can't say that I've run into that. That doesn't mean it's true, but that's not one of the ones that I've talked to the techs and heard a lot about.
Bob Preston: 15:58 Okay. What are the other things we've heard about and it's not, I don't think a necessity, but it is a desirable feature when properties sell. I know. And that's called the sediment trap on the gas line.
Scott Costa: 16:08 Oh yes. Absolutely. Uh, the sediment trap that is required by code and we replaced them with every installation. We don't, we don't reuse them. Uh, and we replaced them well or if it doesn't have it and basically that's it's just a little, not an L but it's, if you saw it on the water heater, it's a pipe and basically it's catching parts, particularly it's particle matter from the gas and it catches it. There it is. One of the things that is absolutely required by code. We put it in on just about every installation. If it doesn't have one, of course we replace it. Uh, and it's just another, uh, safety feature keeping, you know, keeping particulates out of the gas line when it's burned and going through the burner.
Bob Preston: 16:51 Yeah. And if our listeners are wondering what the heck we're talking about, it's typically a vertical piece of pipe that extends down what, five or six inches from the main line that goes into the water heater.
Scott Costa: 17:01 It looks very nondescript. You wouldn't be, if you thought I could point it to you, but otherwise you would never notice even looked at it quite frankly. And yet it's been required and is required by code.
Bob Preston: 17:10 Okay. So, uh, without getting into the cost of water heaters in great detail, if, if you're a property owner and you have a 15 year old water heater that you've installed back then and you're used to the cost of installing a water heater at that point in time with these new codes, the low knock, the energy efficiency requirement, the earthquake strap, the pressure tank, the sediment trap, even talked about the drain pans, which are also very common nowadays to make sure that you don't get leaking into your house. I mean, I mean the typical cost today is, is a bit more than it was 10, 12 years ago. Is that right?
Scott Costa: 17:44 Uh, absolutely. Uh, not only does you have to do more things and yes, the drain pan is a big one. And quite frankly, we were just on a job earlier today where we're not only did I have to put a pan, but we weren't able to run the drain line out. So we had to put in a flood stop that was not an initial and that basically stops the water if a leak happens because when you got an inside closet and it doesn't have anywhere to go, uh, if no one notices that water leak that Pam's going to fill up pretty fast. And I didn't mean to get on a quite a tangent, but that will add to the cost. But in general, water, water heaters themselves over the last 10, 15 years almost doubled in cost. We get a lot of repeat customers that'll call us off their receipt and we put a water heater in for them in 2003 and I had to say, I hope you're sitting down because I'm really sorry about the sticker shock you're about to get. But they say, Oh my God, I paid XYZ. And I'm like, I know. And it really is the tank. Now of course, some of the extras, as I mentioned, do add up, but really it's just honestly the cost of the water heaters have just doubled in price.
Bob Preston: 18:43 Yeah. And for our listeners and our property owners in San Diego County, it's just the way it is. We've, we've seen it and w we have had the same experience where some of our owners that we go to to get approval, they, they have a little bit of a sticker shock. Okay. So there was a period of time a couple of years ago where the tankless water heaters, where all the craze are, they still a thing. And I guess what are the circumstances in which a homeowner or a property owner should consider tankless versus traditional?
Scott Costa: 19:09 Absolutely. Well, they to to correct you, there still a thing that is probably when I'm at a trade show, um, uh, property managers or an AARP have lunches, uh, and, or even just regular homeowners or, you know, people that just have a couple apartment buildings. It is still maybe not the number one topic, but I guarantee it comes up in 60 to 70% of the conversations I have. I was just out and actually in Arizona and they're all about electric tankless. So, it is still very popular. And I don't blame people, uh, quite frankly, uh, over in Europe and in Asia. That's what they use now. And I would suggest that we're probably heading that way, but right now honestly it's not for every situation. And that's what I tell people. You got to ask yourself a couple of questions. When you're thinking tankless, why do you want tankless? Are you running out of hot water? Is current water heater under size for your needs? Typically, when a home is built apartment, they're very good at sizing the needs. You know, a two bedroom, uh, home. Well, you know, typically we have a 40-gallon storage tank, water heater that'll do it. If you put an a jacuzzi, maybe you've adding a bathroom, maybe you've got three or four kids that moved back in with you. These are times to maybe consider a tankless because your 40 gallon that helped take care of your showers. No problem. Every morning you're now running out and taking that cold shower. These are times consider if you've got an inside closet in the kitchen and you don't want up there anymore, you want to move it. Sometimes a tankless is a good option for removal, moving to another location. The other thing to think about is honestly, you're looking at quite a bit more cost upfront, uh, to install one. Uh, without getting too much into the details of the, of the dollars. Honestly it could be twice or a little bit even more to install a tankless water heater. Now you take care of it, you may get 15 to 20 years as opposed to 8 to 10 years. But again, more often than not, unless we're having any of those issues, I always suggest to stick with what you have.
Bob Preston: 21:08 So, I guess with the tankless, it just depends upon your situation. I suppose one scenario might be we do have a portfolio of vacation rentals where sometimes the property will sit vacant. That might be a good recipe. Right?
Scotta Costa: 21:20 Well, yeah. You know, and actually I guess that could have elaborate a little further as well. I mentioned earlier running into the 30 gallons inside the inside kitchen or something like that. If the newer one doesn't fit and you know, they do make skinny versions of various store site tanks, that might be a time and we do run into that. They are not infrequently where you know what, you're going to have to put a tankless here. That's just what's going to have to go. So, there's a situation like that and yeah, it will help. If you don't want a water heater running, you don't want to just turn it off or have to turn it back on. That's one of the nice things. What makes them so efficient is that they're not, you know, they're not heating water constantly. Uh, you know, not constantly, but they're, they're not keeping it up to temperature. It's an on-demand system. And so, there are a lot of nice things. We're not down on tankless, but people, they get it going and it's like, well let's find out what you're really looking for out of it and then we can discuss it. It's really your best situation moving forward.
Bob Preston: 22:16 Okay. Really great information. Now, it seems likely when you need to have someone take a look at your water heater, and I'm going to ask you to explain your process here in a minute, but typical plumbing company needs to come visit the property, maybe take some measurements, figure out the proper replacement tank, maybe run back out to a plumbing supply warehouse, acquire the tank return and install it. Process can take a while, right? Sometimes 24 hours or more. It can be quite expensive. Walk us through how Water Heaters Only does that and what your process is.
Scott Costa: 22:43 Absolutely. Uh, first and foremost, uh, again, when you're a company that focuses just on water heaters, you know how important it is to get hot water and you need to be the ones to be able to get there quickly and, and turn around quickly. So, the process is very simple and it works. What we do, we get that phone call, whatever time it is. We more often than not are same day service. And so, you call us at noon. More than likely we'll be out by the afternoon. We always get out for there within 24 hours of a phone call though. That is how that, that's just how it needs to be. That's how we do things. What we also do, whether it's dealing with the property manager or just regular retail client calling, we try to collect as much information ahead of time, model and serial number. What's going on. Can you at least tell me the size of it? Our drivers want to show up with everything they need to do the job right then and there. And now listen, it's, sometimes you got to order a part. Sometimes it's a specialty tank, but more often than not a 40 gallon or a part, maybe it's a gas control that needs to be replaced. Uh, we try very hard to have everything there, uh, and ready to go. So, if we go this a 30 gallon, a technician needs to come to the warehouse on his way there. That's what he'll do. So, either the customer, once they approve the Mount, we tell them they, uh, we're ready to do the job right then and there. Two, three hours later you've got hot water. Same with property managers. I mean, once we get the information, we're calling you saying, Hey, if you say go, we have the water heater, we have the part, uh, we just understand it's important. First of all, we don't want to make 27 trips. That's not good for business. We could be doing other jobs. More importantly, we need you to get your tenant their hot water on, or it was just the retail customer. No one wants to wait to know. You don't want to wait here. I'll be back tomorrow and it's to do the job. I'm doing the job right now. Again, circumstances come up. We have to order a part specialty tank. Um, perhaps there's some water damage, things repaired. There are certain extenuating circumstances, uh, but more often than not, we try very hard to make it a one trip would show up. We're ready to go, um, and get the job done.
Bob Preston: 24:49 So you guys must keep inventory of water heaters on hand then at your warehouse?
Scott Costa: 24:52 We do, you know, we, we have warehouses located throughout our, all of our service areas and uh, except for commercial water heaters, uh, there are some that just, you know, we can have delivered within a few hours. So that's kind of situation as far as residential water heaters. We try to keep a wide variety on, on hand, which is again why we collect the model and serial number. Uh, so that we know what we're dealing with. Oh, this is a whatever, it's 40-gallon, you know, and so we're ready to show up. Uh, or Hey, not only that, but on a side note, maybe we do ask a couple of questions. We find out from the tenant, it's not actually the water heater. That way we've saved ourselves a trip. We don't have to take three hours to call you back and say you need to get someone else out here because it's not the water heater. There's a number of reasons for us to save that. But we absolutely try to keep a stock, not only our van of class parts, not classic parts, but parts that needed standard. But water heater is ready to go if the very least pickup. And of course, our drivers have standard residential on hand as well.
Bob Preston: 25:50 I've had this experience before and I'm guessing that a lot of our listeners have as well, where you suspect something's up with your water heater and you go to the front of it and you're looking at it going, what the heck? I don't, I wouldn't even know where to begin. You know, to engage in assessing what might be going on. Now you guys put an emergency shutdown sticker on the water heater itself every time you do an installation. Right. And so, can you walk us through what the purpose of that is and how might a tenant or a homeowner benefit from having that?
Scott Costa: 26:16 Absolutely. And, and, and for the record, let me just address that first bit. Uh, we're, we're the water heater people. It can be very confusing and to start, you know, the average person just looking out and going, maybe I see water, maybe I know I don't have hot water. A lot of people can at least maybe with the instructions, get through lighting it. But it can be very overwhelming and trying to guess. But as far as our shut down a sticker, it goes, we were first company to do that, uh, so many moons ago. It was a great idea then. It's a great idea now. And basically, what it does, it has, has shut down its structure, exactly what it says. It tells you how to shut down the water, shut down the gas. So, if your water heater is leaking, you know how to shut that down if you need to turn the gas up and just do that. So, at the very least, until we can get out, uh, there's no further damage going on. And it really, it's, and of course our phone numbers on it as well. I mean, we want you to be able to get a hold of us right then and there, but it gives very important information, whether we're, we're the ones you call or not, uh, to stop, help mitigate as best as possible, any further damage until help arrives.
Bob Preston: 27:22 So one of the, I guess there are two important things, right, is to look for the gas valve and shut that off and then also look for the water incoming valve and then can't get that shut. So, if the water heater happens to be leaking out, that's no longer pressurized.
Scott Costa: 27:35 Exactly. Correct. Yes. And then, you know, and that water shut up. A lot of people know, I wasn't trying to suggest that they don't, but then somebody, a lot of people don't. So, there's not only directions on the shutdown sticker, but of course there's diagrams as well. And yeah, you want to, uh, you know, again, there's a lot of fail-safe now on water heaters where they're trying to stop a gas leak. If that pilot light goes at that flame goes out, that's gas shuts off. But you, there are times you just want to make sure you turn that up. And mostly it's the water. If it's leaking, gushing, you, God forbid you want to stop that. And so, it's really easy to look at. We try to make it very clear right then and there and it's just good information. And we're always happy to, you know, it's 24/7 by phone. You're always having to call and say, Hey, I think I did this or I just freaking out. I didn't want to read the sticker. Can you walk me through shutting off the water? We're there, but that phone number is very bold to get you to some help. Nope, no question.
Bob Preston: 28:29 So, Scott, are there signs of water heater might be on its last days that is apparent before the obvious leaking or hot water situations emerge?
Scott Costa: 28:38 Absolutely. And uh, first things first, right out the gate. Uh, anything over 10 years old nowadays with a standard residential storage type, tankless, a little bit longer, uh, commercial, uh, you know about the same, anything over 10 years nowadays, sadly you're already, uh, on the last legs of its life doesn't mean it's going to go out tomorrow. You can get another 5, 10 years out of it with good preventative maintenance, which we can probably get into in a minute. But in general, I think over the 10 years of age, and that's why we collect our model and serial number not only will over the phone, not only will it tell us the size manufacturer, it'll give us the age. So if they're calling us the 20 year old water heater, you are definitely on borrowed time and we're going to be very clear, we're coming out to give you a replacement estimate because you don't want to spend the money on a repair and it's going to go out in a year anyway. It's just not, you know, just not, not good sense. But in general. So, anything over 10 years age, you're probably getting there. We always recommend taking a look, examining your water heater at least once a year. Uh, the obvious one, but I'll go ahead and say it because I need to, do you see water at the bottom? It's leaking. If you see water at the bottom of your water heater, that's typical of water heater failure, that's a good sign that things are going bad.
Bob Preston: 29:52 Or you could hear it right. Some, some people report, they hear water trickling.
Scott Costa: 29:57 Yeah. Or you can absolutely hear it. I, and of course then speaking of hearing your water heater, you hear that rumbling noise, uh, that's often the case of sediment, uh, getting, not having been flushed out properly and that hardens it almost a coral like subject, substance, excuse me. And then it makes your water heater work harder because then it has to heat the coral that gets to the water, makes it fail a little sooner. Uh, so that's on the preventative maintenance, but we hear it making a lot of loud noises. You could be getting towards it if you see rust on top of it. If it's gotten to the point where the incoming flexible water lines are outgoing, you've got a lot of rush going on the top, you're probably getting to the point of it. But other than that, I mean really seeing water heater failure, uh, possibly hearing some loud rumbling or seeing to the point where it's really gotten rusted. Those are some signs that you're probably on your last legs, but really, it's about age, uh, unless it's obviously leaking. If it's a 15-year-old water heater. If it's not today, it may be tomorrow and it's not tomorrow. It's coming pretty soon.
Bob Preston: 30:56 Okay. Earlier you mentioned kind of annually probably, flushing your water heater. What's the maintenance that is recommended by your team?
Scott Costa: 31:04 Sure. Absolutely. And it's so important to do, whether it's a tankless or a storage tank, water heater is to flush and drain it. You're just getting the sediment out and it's a good opportunity to do that every year. For a first standard storage types a we're happy to come out at, listen, uh, an owner can do it as well. We're having to talk over the phone, uh, and, and it's something to be done. You get that sediment out, helps us in the life. And when you're doing that once a year, that's your opportunity to take a look. The flex lines looking frayed, are you seeing condensation anywhere on the water heater that maybe it shouldn't be? Um, things that you may not be able to fix or know to fix, but you can certainly make a call, say, Hey, I'm seeing this. Could you come on out and take a look? But as far as maintenance goes, yeah, make sure everything looks tight. Make sure you know, obviously that's your, you'll know when you're taking a shower, if you've been there awhile. Uh, this is not giving me the same amount of hot water I've had prior, these kinds of things. But as far as maintenance, flushing, checking it out, uh, for tankless, we recommend not only flushing every year the scaling, but every two, three years a full breakdown, cleaning, blowing out, you know, cleaning the blower heat exchanger that really can help extend the life. Is it going to double the life of the water heater? Probably not, but when you go from 8 to 10 to 12, 14, that's, that's good. You know, tankless, maybe you get 25 years out of your tankless water heater and that's no small amount of extra, extra amount as far as, uh, you know, the life of your water heater.
Bob Preston: 32:32 So heat exchanger and blowers, that reminds me to ask about carbon emissions. Is that ever a concern with a water heater?
Scott Costa: 32:39 Yes. Uh, well there's specifically, uh, I mean carbon emissions are, are there carbon monoxide. Um, obviously when it comes to that, there's venting and one of the things you should be doing when you're taking a look at your water heater is look at the venting, make sure it looks like it's on properly for the atmospheric vent type. Those are the standard ones you have where it's just got the metal cone right on top and the metal vent going up top. As it been knocked off, it doesn't look like, you know, is it still looking in place? Um, but carbon monoxide, they do everything, you know, we do everything to make sure everything is very safe. The atmosphere advanced, they are made very safe. But if that, that vent gets off, uh, if there's a clog in the a that becomes in the chimney or the event itself, sometimes they'll, the events will actually meet up with the chimney and go out that way. Either way, a clog, the way you can look for some of the carbon monoxide looking at the top of your water heater. Do you see dark, condensation? That could be back-draft. That could be a cause of poor venting. That's when carbon monoxide can actually become a problem because it's not venting probably properly. It's got to go somewhere. Um, so it's not the ever present, you know, a danger, but it's definitely something to be looking for when you're doing your annual maintenance or just when you walk through the garage, take a look. Every once in a while, you really should be looking at it. If you notice it does not look right. Again, black marks on top of the water heater or extra condensation concern. Maybe somehow it got bumped and that vent, that vent hood got knocked off. These are times when you really need to get someone out to take a look at it.
Bob Preston: 34:15 Make the call. Yeah. Make the call to your friendly property management company or the property owner or, or two water heaters only.
Scott Costa: 34:22 Yes. You call, you can call North County. They'll call us.
Bob Preston: 34:26 Hey Scott. I like to tell stories. I'm, I'm, I just, it's kind of a thing I like to do. I, whenever I meet new clients, I usually have a couple of stories that I share and you know, I tell them I'm going to do it and everybody, everybody likes it. Is there a story that you'd be willing to share with us, perhaps something from your personal life or your business career that has had an impact on you and maybe how you outlook your job or your life today?
Scott Costa: 34:47 I'll tell you, there have been a number of times when I've talked to uh, elderly people or there was a mother with a baby and she'd was out hot water that had been a day or two, she'd been making some calls. Finally, were able to get us out in a timely fashion and you could hear it in her voice that she, it may not seem like a lot, but you know what? Cold water, uh, when you've got dishes, you've got a young one. Uh, this is an important thing we take for granted. Having hot water, uh, but hearing her voice, so we got out there, able to get out there that day and take care of it. It may not seem like a lot, but every once in a while, you forget that what we're doing is really helping people out. And again, whether it's the elder lady has been without hot water and she's so appreciative that we got out that same day that mom, her baby, uh, these are, these are stories that I remember. I will always remember talking to these people on the phone and uh, you know, it just, it makes you feel good and reminds you it's, it's important thing we're doing. And, and again, uh, it, it affected me personally in a very good way. And it, it just made me feel good about the job we're doing.
Bob Preston: 35:54 Hey man. Yeah, maybe mundane to you because you do this every day and you talk about water heaters. But to the person who hasn't been through it and hasn't had a, had, hasn't had any problem with their hot water for 10, 15 years and then they do anything but mundane. Right. So, they appreciate folks like you. I'm sure. Hey, this has been a fun conversation. I'd love to continue but in the interest of time, I've got to wrap things up today cause we're kind of at that length of time I like to keep as a, as a maximum for my podcast. Any last words or thoughts for our listeners today?
Scott Costa: 36:24 I just end by saying Bob really has been a pleasure. Thank you so much. I'm glad we finally got to do this. I am sorry it wasn't in person. Uh, when things clear up and I'm hoping it's sooner than later, I'll be by the office and say, Hey, I can tell you that right now but I really do appreciate. We'll start with the elbow bump. Maybe give me another month. I know, but I'm looking forward to getting down there. I always like popping by the office and I just want to make sure that I put in just the shameless plug at the end. If you have any questions, issues, please go to our website, waterheatersonly.com or in San Diego, 800-833-4571. Uh, but other than that now thank you so much. This is a great thing you're doing, and I hope the information has been awesome. Uh, and uh, yeah, just give us a call. We'll leave it at that.
Bob Preston: 37:11 Okay, Scott, appreciate you man. Especially in these strange times like we're recording and today, great conversation. I wish it was better news in our social climate, you know, with this pandemic going on around us. But Hey, like we said earlier, the show must go, must go on. And that applies to not only water heaters but also my podcast. So, thanks for coming in today. As we wrap up today, I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners to click on the subscribe or give us a like, please pay it forward with a positive reviews so we can help encourage more great guests like Scott to come on our show. And that concludes today's episode. Thank you for joining property management brainstorm show. Until next time, North County property group will be out in the field working hard for our clients to maximize their property value, their rental income, and to maintain top tenant relations. Scott, thanks again and we'll catch you next time.