What’s in your pipes??

Piping and tubing has led to the development of societies overall. We’ve been using piping for thousands of years. However, over time our piping and plumbing methods have changed significantly.

(Interestingly, the word plumbing comes from the Latin root word for lead.  Plumbers essentially are/were lead-ers.  Because at the time of the origin of the name, plumbers made and installed pipes from lead.)

The example of lead piping used in Rome is well known. It was used extensively, and it helped the civilization develop so that people could live in city centers.

Old corroded steel pipe, rotten out on the inside

However, even with the significant development over the past millennia, even in the last hundred years our methods of piping and tubing have changed significantly. Many old houses on Capitol Hill still have steel pipes such as the ones shown in the photos above.  (Many houses still have lead service lines as well, an issue DC and other cities are trying to slowly address.) At the time of installation, these pipes were one of the best methods available. Annealed copper, CPVC, and PEX used today were not a real option at that time.

But, just looking at this photo, you can see some of the problems with steel piping. The corrosion shown in these pictures is a perfect example of the corrosion typically found in steel pipes in Capitol Hill.

What’s in your water tank??

Replaced a water heater this weekend and — as always — when replacing a water heater, we drain out the water heater during or before removal. As is common and customary, we found the tank to be full of crud and you can see the water running out red in this picture.

This particular water heater was over 15 years old. However, even in new heaters, water in the tank can become discolored. It’s a good idea to flush your tank out periodically as part of a good maintenance program, annually or even more frequently.

In the photo above you can see a water heater which is been removed prior to disposal. The water heater is being drained out onto the ground and the Water Runs Out in a deep red color. Sludge and sediment have built up in this water heater over the period of 15 to 20 years and it's likely that this water heater has not been properly and regularly serviced.

Corroded or deteriorating pipes can accelerate sediment build-up and then discoloration due to sludge and sediment in the hot water heater tank. For electric water heaters, sediment can actually build up on the heating element or electrode. Build-up on the electrode lowers efficiency of the water heater because essentially insulates the electrode instead of allowing it to directly heat the adjacent water. Additionally, this scenario will hasten the deterioration of the electrode.

While not directly related to sediment buildup, overheating can accelerate the deterioration of the porcelain or glass lining on the inside of a water heater tank.

In a future post, we are going to talk about sacrificial anodes and galvanic anode protection in more detail.  (I just have to sift through all my photos and find the pictures I took of one of these.)

Old time telephone wires, still used in homes today

There was a time, not long ago, when every house depended on old-time phone wiring for any electronic connectivity.  Nowadays, we clearly have many alternatives to the old-time press button systems.  However, the old wire is still out there, overhead on telephone poles and underground, as in the case of the photo below.

Typically, in the old days, telephone wire ran into each house in a double two pair.  The red and blue wires were one pair and the telephone company might refer to this as an “R3 box.”  Here in this photo, you can see all the many wires landed onto the punchblocks.  It is likely a technology soon to be extinct, but very interesting.