Trump vs. Plumbing

Let’s talk about tariffs. I know this is the least sexy opening for a blog post you have ever read, unless of course you study eukaryotic organisms for a living. Perhaps you believe that unless you are an economist or doing business directly with the states you do not need to know about tariffs, but it needs to be discussed because it affects you in more ways than you know. For instance, that because of Canada’s retaliatory tariffs the cost of Heinz Ketchup and frozen pizza has left me without anything to make for my kids. For our purposes we will limit the conversation to the steel and aluminum tariffs that the US government has imposed on Canada. Don’t worry we are going to try and stay out of the political realm and stick with the good stuff, what it means to plumbing no matter how many great Trump memes there are. Bottom line a lot of plumbing material is manufactured in America therefore the cost of getting plumbing done around your home is about to go up.

Quite a few hot water heaters and furnaces are manufactured by the US using imported aluminum and steel. What this means to you if you need a replacement water heater or furnace is that these appliances will now cost you 10 – 20% more than they did before the tariffs came into place. There are brands that are not manufactured in the United States of America that will not be affected such as some Rheem water heaters, and Giant. However, these are not the brands that we would recommend. The unfortunate part of the tariffs aside from the price increase is the fact that quite a few of the better brands of water heater are manufactured south of the border leaving consumers with little to no choice but to choke on the price or purchase an inferior tank.The same is true for furnaces, the superior brands are manufactured in the united states, leaving either your home or your wallet colder with a 20% increase in price. Seems strange that in a county much colder than the most of the united states we do not produce our own furnaces.

An interesting side effect (depending on how you look at it) is that if you are in the market for a higher efficiency product such as a power vented hot water heater it will now be slightly cheaper to go with a tankless water heater. The amount of material used to create a tankless water heater is minimal compared to conventional sized water heaters which means the price increase puts these tanks below what was traditionally a cheaper tank. This plus the gas savings on a tankless water heater can save you even more money.

While it remains to be seen what will come of these tariffs and how long they may last there are still some options out there. Perhaps if they continue for a long period of time there will be more home grown options and voting with your wallet will become easier. For those stuck without a choice in an emergency you may unfortunately have to pay for the decisions of policy makers. Hopefully this will blow over and prices will return to normal but until then do as much research as possible and find a hot water tank that fits your budget and quality needed to last.


The Superhero of Heating

In a chilly world shrouded in inefficient heating options and a shortage of hot water, one appliance emerges to become the piece of equipment you not only want, but the piece of equipment you deserve. Other less efficient pieces of equipment refused to speak its name in a vain hope that by not directly naming it they would hold off their eventual trip to the scrap heap. The fear that even the sight of this great appliance would turn their motherboards to sludge was a reasonable one. The appliance that should not be named: The GF200 by NTI.

Why is equipment so fearful? For the simple fact that the GF200 takes two high efficiency appliances and marries them in a holy union of super efficiency that can handle heating your home and your hot water. By installing a Navien on demand water heater into a furnace featuring a variable speed motor and running forced air over a water tube heat exchanger NTI has created the most efficient piece of equipment you can install in your home. The GF200 is 97% efficient and removes two appliances in your home replacing them with one compact piece of equipment that has a single gas burner which only runs when there is a demand for heat or hot water. That is the most efficient piece of equipment on the market right now. Hot Water Tanks were already on their way out, being replaced with tankless (on-demand) systems but high-efficiency furnace’s thought they were still top of the heap. But how can a homeowner say no to the GF200 when it means that they will save space, money on utilities (one burner instead of two), and the environment? They can’t, and their old appliances know this.

When is the GF 200 right for your home? If you have a mid-efficiency furnace or conventional hot water tank and either of them is ready to give up the ghost, the GF200 would be a good fit for your home. In the city of Calgary, you must install a high efficiency furnace if you are replacing your older heating appliance. The GF200 was designed to handle the heating needs of 90% of homes. It can heat enough hot water for 4 showers to be running at once and heat a home up to 3,000 square feet at the same time.

Like every superhero there is always a weakness. The GF200 has two not really weaknesses. The first is that in Calgary we have large amounts of calcium and minerals in our water, so you also need to install a water softner. If you do not it will dramatically reduce the life and efficiency of the GF200. The other not really weakness is that it does not qualify for the Alberta Efficiency Rebate program at this time even though the demand water heater built into the unit, on its own, does qualify. We are not sure why this is however, we do not make the rules. If we did everyone would receive a huge rebate on the GF200.

If you are interested in more information you can give us a call with any questions you may have. All of our technicians are well versed in the capabilities of the GF200 and can go over options with you. After all even if this is a fantastic machine it may not be the right fit for you but we can certainly help you figure out if it is.


Rainwater, rain harvesting, sustainable plumbing, calgary, yyc, plumbing

Why Should I Get a High Efficiency Furnace or Hot Water Heater?

With the new carbon tax, energy conservation is a contentious issue in Alberta these days. However, your furnace and hot water heater do not care about your political beliefs. All new homes a high efficiency furnace and hot water heater are mandatory. We do enough service calls to know that some people are still trying to hold on to their old units, this blog is for you. We are going to focus on the few key benefits to you and your home.

They Will Save you Money

If your furnace or hot water heater was installed before 1995 there is a good chance that it is only 75% to 80% efficient. Just like people, as these appliances age, they get caked in dust and dirt and lose even more efficiency. This loss in efficiency means money out of your pocket in the form of higher utility bills.

New condensing appliances can save you anywhere from 25% to 35% on your utility costs. I have personally seen these savings in my own home in what I admit is an extreme case. I purchased a house in Calgary that was over 100 years old that contained a furnace that was over 60 years old. One winter it decided to die on me forcing me to change it to a high efficiency model. My natural gas bill on the old furnace averaged $350/month, after I changed the furnace I was paying $175/month. Those savings made me a believer.

In 2017 They will Save You Even More Money

How can a high efficiency appliance save you more money? Well the Alberta Government is rolling out a new program in 2017 to promote the installation of these appliances. They will be paying the installation cost. Although the full dollar amounts of this program have not been released free installation is nothing to scoff at. Depending on the age of your home, the new code requirements can increase the costs to upgrade your furnace and hot water heater but those may be negated by this new program! Keep an eye on the Governments website to see how much you may qualify for.

They Can Save You Space

Technology is a wonderful thing. Think of how many devices you used to use daily before you had a Smartphone. The world of heating your home and water is moving in the same direction. New technology such as NTI’s GF200 combination water heater, furnace combine a high efficiency furnace and water heater to give you one unit that is the size of a furnace. This option is great if you are developing or renovating and would like to save space in your home. It also saves you additional money by using one burner instead of two and according to energy rating costs roughly $200 a year to run.

They Are Environmentally Friendly

Like it or not most governments in the world are moving towards reducing their environmental impact. This means that these appliances are going to become the standard in most nations and if you can’t beat them you might as well join them. The environment impact one of these high efficiency appliances creates is minimal compared to their predecessors and you can go to sleep at night knowing that you have drastically reduced your carbon footprint.


boiler, plumbing, calgary, yyc

Maintaining your Hot Water Heaters

Hot Water Heater Preventative Maintenance

While you may never look at it or think about it much, your hot water tank is the heart of your home. It isn’t just about hot showers either, surviving a day with no running water is very trying. We’ve been living with the miracle of hot water for so long that no one really thinks about how this happens. Well lucky for you, Hot Water Tanks are the topic of this week’s blog post.

First, cold water enters the tank and thanks to the theory of relativity sinks to the bottom of the tank. Here the tank’s heating element increases the water temperature. Then when a hot water tap it opened that water surges out and provides you with the toasty warm shower that you’ve grown to expect and love. In Calgary, the average lifespan of a water heater is seven to ten years without preventative maintenance. The hard water in our city can wreak havoc on the internal parts of your water heater but with simple preventative maintenance you can keep that tank providing you with a steamy embrace for fifteen to twenty long years

  1. Drain Your Tank Once a Year:

Draining all the water from your tank once a year and then filling it back up helps to remove any built-up sediment that can cause your heating elements to fail prematurely. It also keeps this sediment from making its way into your pipes or clogging the hot water outlet of your tank.

  1. Inspect the Pressure Relief Valve Once a Year:

The pressure relief valve on your hot water heater is located on the side of you tank and is one of your warning signs that there may be something going wrong. Your pressure relief valve will start to drip water if there is an excess buildup of pressure or temperature in the tank. When you drain your tank each year this part should be inspected to make sure that it is not leaking.

  1. Replace Anode Rod Every Five Years:

Inside every natural gas hot water tank is a sacrificial anode rod. This anode rod gets dissolved by harmful elements in your water keeping any metal parts in your tank from rusting out. If this anode rod is replaced every five years, or every three years if you have a water softener, you can prolong the life of your tank by up to twenty years.

 Tankless Water Heater Preventative Maintenance

Tankless water heaters are a fantastic investment, they take up less space and are more energy efficient than a traditional hot water tank. Unfortunately, too often we see this brilliant piece of technology not properly installed, programmed or maintained. The two greatest enemies of your tankless water heater are scale buildup and lack of maintenance.

  1. Flush Tank Once a Year:

Having your tankless water heater flushed out and descaled once a year will save you a lot of headaches. This preventative measure prevents a buildup of calcium and other minerals from building up within the tubes of a tankless units heat exchanger. This buildup, unchecked, will destroy the heart of your tankless heater leading to a costly repair bill or a replacement tank.

  1. Pre-Filter To Prevent Calcification:

You can help to prevent this buildup with the installation of a water softener or at the very least a filter to help remove harmful minerals from entering the tank.

And as with every blog post, a shameful plug reminding you that if you would prefer to be out living life instead of maintaining your hot water heaters please give Firefly Plumbing a call, we would love to do it for you!!