Water Heater, Lights, Showers

“In order to light up a path or area, a wired low voltage system is best.”

Dear Maintenance Men:

A resident is complaining that their water heater is knocking and making rumbling noises. They are worried it might explode. What is the problem and how do I fix the rumbling issues.


Dear Jane:

First, the water heater will not explode; however, it could leak if this issue is left unchecked. Sediment collects in the bottom of the tank and traps water under layers of the minerals such as calcium and lime. When the burner heats the water, the trapped water boils and bubbles up causing the rumbling or knocking noise. The solution is to flush the water heater of any accumulated sediment. (We will assume the tank in question is not a commercial unit with a clean out port.)

Flushing procedure:

  1. Turn off the gas or breaker to the heater.
  2. Turn off the water supply above the tank.
  3. Connect a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank so the water can drain away from the heater. (Leave this valve closed for the moment.)
  4. Open a hot water valve in the unit such as a shower valve or kitchen faucet.
  5. Open the valve at the bottom of the tank to let the water drain through the hose. Caution: This water will be hot.
  6. Allow the tank to drain completely.
  7. Once the tank is empty, open and close the cold water valve above the water heater. This will help flush any remaining sediment from the tank. Do this until the water runs clear out of the hose connected to the heater drain valve.
  8. Close the drain valve and disconnect the hose from the bottom of the tank.
  9. Open the cold water valve above the water heater to fill the tank.
  10. When water starts coming out of the shower or kitchen valves, the tank is full. Turn off the shower and kitchen valves. Leave the cold water valve above the water heater open.
  11. Re-light the gas burner pilot and turn on the burner or switch on the breaker for an electric heater.

This procedure should be part of your preventive maintenance routine and done once a year, every year.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I want to install some low voltage landscape lighting in the courtyard of my apartment building and I need some advice. Should I go with a wired system or a solar powered system?


Dear Chuck:

Good question! Solar looks so attractive, and it is very easy to install. You can’t get more plug and play than sticking the light fixture in the ground and waiting for the sun to charge up the light. Unfortunately, as great as solar seems, it does have some drawbacks. The light produced can be dim and may not last the whole night. The fixture must be in direct sunlight to recharge.

If you want to use it to simply mark a path, it will do a good job; but if you want it to light up the path, it does not have enough power. In order to light up a path or area, a wired low voltage system is best. You will need to determine how many lights you will use and the wattage of the bulbs in each fixture. The wattage information will help you determine what size transformer and wire to use. Light bulbs range in wattage from 4 watts to 50 watts. Do not exceed the bulb wattage as dictated by the transformer. As an example: a 300-watt transformer will support twelve 25-watt light fixtures or thirty 10-watt fixtures. Transformers range from 88 watts, 100 watts, 200 watts and 300 watts. There are transformers that list their wattage as high as 600 watts and 900 watts.

Typically the 600 and 900-watt transformers allow the use of multiple cables from one transformer.

As far as what gauge wire to use, again wattage will determine the wire size. For example: max 150-watts, use 16 gauge wire, 200-watts, use 14 gauge wire, 300-watts, use 12 gauge wire. Keeping the above numbers in mind; using LED landscape lighting will dramatically change the amount of transformer power you will need. We highly recommend using LED fixtures in your landscape lighting designs.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I’m planning to rehab all the upstairs bathrooms in my apartment building. This is starting to be expensive and in order to save money, I am thinking of using heavy-duty shower curtains instead of the more expensive sliding shower doors. What do you think of this idea?


Dear Shelly:

We highly recommend that you try to save money elsewhere and install the more expensive sliding shower doors. In the long run this will save you more money in the form of avoiding water damage to the flooring, walls, and in the ceilings of the unit below. Not to mention possible rot of structural members and floor joists below the tub. Shower curtains invite water damage, because it is so easy for water to escape onto the floors and beyond. A little water can do a lot of damage.

Water Trivia: About 1,460 teratonnes (Tt) of water covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, mostly in oceans and other large water bodies. The above number pales in comparison with the perceived amount of water a clogged toilet will allow to flow over the rim after flushing and before you can turn off the water valve under the toilet….




WE NEED Maintenance Questions!!! If you would like to see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men” column, please send in your questions to: DearMaintenanceMen@gmail.com

If you need maintenance work or consultation for your building or project, please feel free to contact us. We are available throughout Southern California. For an appointment please call Buffalo Maintenance, Inc., at 714-956-8371. Frank Alvarez is a licensed contractor and the Operations Director and co-owner of Buffalo Maintenance, Inc. He has been involved with apartment maintenance and construction for over 20 years. He is also a lecturer and educational instructor for the Apartment Association. Frank can also be reached at Frankie@BuffaloMaintenance.com. For more info please go to: www.BuffaloMaintenance.com. Jerry L’Ecuyer is a real estate broker and has been involved with apartments as a professional since 1988.