Winter has arrived and we’ve experienced the first of undoubtedly many winter weather advisories. When the forecast calls for freezing rain, snow and record low temperatures, you want to make sure your plumbing is prepared.
Which Pipes Are At Risk?
- Pipes located on the exterior of the home that are in direct contact with the elements
- Pipes located in exterior walls (especially walls that aren’t insulated well)
- Exposed pipes located in unheated areas of the home
Tips For Preventing Freezing:
- Let the water drip over night from faucets that are connected to pipes that run along exterior walls.
- Open kitchen/bathroom cabinets on exterior walls that house pipes, allowing the warm air in your home to circulate and reach the pipes.
- Set up a portable space heater and direct it towards exposed pipes in unheated areas (basements, crawl spaces). Make sure anything flammable is a safe distance away and do not leave space heaters unattended.
- Don’t turn the thermostat down at night. You may experience a slightly higher heating bill but it’s better than paying for a costly repair due to pipes freezing and bursting.
- Shut off outside water.
Have you ever had a conversation with your plumber, and then walked away only to realize you had no idea what they were talking about? Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Unless you are an expert plumber, you are bound to come across a few terms you don’t know! Here are a few common terms:
What it means: Pounds per Square Inch. You’ll hear PSI used as a measurement of pressure inside a given object (your water pressure).
What it means: Gallons Per Minute. This term is used when describing how many gallons of water a given fixture uses to operate.
3. Thermal Expansion
What it means: The change in dimension by solids, liquids and gases in response to temperature changes at a constant pressure. Basically, thermal expansion occurs when your hot water heater heats the water and it expands in volume. This can be dangerous because that pressure is building up excess water and forcing it to go somewhere. Evidence of thermal expansion can be seen in leaky faucets or in the set off of the relief valve on hot water heaters.
4. Soft or Hard Water
What it means: Soft Water is water that has a low calcium and magnesium content. Hard water has a high calcium and magnesium content. Hard water can be evidenced by unsightly mineral buildups on faucets and showerheads, or residue on dishes after going through the dishwasher.
What it means: Redox is a term that refers to the reduction-oxidation of potential water. It tells how easily chemical reactions are taking place in a tank. A high redox value is better than a low one.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, after all, it’s your home they’re working on and you need to be in the know!
Your garbage disposal is a wondrous piece of machinery that makes life much easier when preparing food, cooking and cleaning. However, every garbage disposal has its limits. Surprisingly, many people forget that there are certain items that you should never thrust into the garbage disposal.
Here are 8 things you should never put down your disposal:
- Grease or oil. This clogs up the machinery and can cause damage to your pipes. Plus, it can create a gross environment where all sorts of bacteria can grow, and bugs can breed.
- Corn husks, onion skins, banana peels and artichoke skins. These materials are very fibrous, and those fibers can get caught on the disposal’s blades.
- Potato skins. After peeling your potatoes, throw the unwanted peels into the trash, or compost them. Because of the starch in potatoes, they will tend to form a mush when put into the garbage disposal.
- Animal bones. Again, animal bones are just too heavy for your garbage disposal to handle.
- Coffee grounds. This is a bit of a conundrum, because a small amount of coffee grounds can help reduce drain odors. On the other hand, too many coffee grounds usually end up settling in pipes and causing a mess down the road.
- Uncooked pasta or rice. What happens when pasta and rice meet water? They gradually get bigger, of course! The same thing holds true for any uncooked pasta or rice product you put in the garbage disposal. They can form solid balls of thick, gooey waste that becomes trapped in the pipes.
- Egg shells. Have you heard that egg shells might strengthen and sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal? It’s untrue. The membranes on the eggs can wind up causing headaches… and a need for a plumber!
- Fruit and olive pits. Like bones, pits are too difficult for your disposal to crush.
Note: If you feel that something has gotten into your disposal and needs to be removed, NEVER put your hand inside and feel around. Call an expert plumber immediately to play it safe.
Reminder: Heat Tape For Exposed Plumbing
Winter is coming, and the last thing anyone wants to deal with is frozen pipes. Using heat tape to protect exposed or exterior pipes can help prevent unnecessary headaches.
Where to Apply It:
- Apply heat tape over any exposed or exterior pipes (anything in direct contact with cold, winter air).
- Any spaces in your home that are unheated or don’t have proper air circulation (crawl spaces, sinks located on an exterior wall, basements).
In addition to heat tape, particularly worrisome areas can be aided by small space heaters. If you’re worried about the pipes under your kitchen or bathroom sinks freezing, you can also open your cupboard doors to let the air from your heaters circulate around the pipes.
If you’re uncertain how heat tape works, or how to apply it, contact one of our expert technicians and make sure your home is ready for winter today!
Can A Type Of Toilet Save You Money?
Did you know that your toilet uses 30 percent of your water supply? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), older toilets use about 3-6 gallons of water per flush.
With newer low-flow toilets, homeowners can save dramatically on the amount of water used per flush. The new standard of low-flow toilets is 1.6 gallons per flush. Some models with a WaterSense label can save you even more money, as they use only 1.25 gallons of water per flush. A WaterSense toilet is independently certified to meet the water efficiency and performance criteria set by the EPA.
Some utility companies even offer rebates and promotions to homeowners, just for switching to more efficient and water saving technology (including some low-flow toilets).
So don’t flush your money down the toilet! Save water and money and consider a low-flow toilet for your home.
Mineral buildups on your toilets, showerheads, shower doors and sink faucets, are caused by hard water. Water is considered hard if it has a high concentration of dissolved minerals (such as magnesium and calcium).
The best way to prevent mineral buildups is to remove excess water. The mineral deposits from hard water are what are left when the water evaporates.
To avoid this:
- Wipe down your faucets and countertops after use.
- Wipe shower doors and showerheads with a sponge after showering. If you’d prefer not to use a sponge or squeegee, use a spray cleaner on your shower doors to prevent the minerals from sticking.
Perhaps the most effective method of buildup prevention, is installing a water softening system (thus removing the stain causing issues directly at the source).
Can Changing Your Showerhead Save you Money?
Showering is one of the top methods of water usage in the home. A standard shower head uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
But did you know that switching to a low-flow or WaterSense labeled showerhead could save you money?
A WaterSense showerhead is independently certified to meet water efficiency and performance criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency. A high efficiency showerhead can save up to four gallons of water every time you shower. The EPA estimates that the average family can save enough electricity to power a home for 13 days each year, just from the energy savings created by switching to a more efficient showerhead.
Some utility companies even offer rebates and special promotions to homeowners that switch to water saving technologies (including showerheads).
How to Avoid Frozen Pipes
Frozen pipes are a hassle because they can lead to bursting and flooding in your home. This is why it’s always important to check for leaks and drips before the winter season starts, so you can avoid any unnecessary drama (or costly repairs).
Higher Risk Areas for Freezing:
- Exposed pipes in unheated areas of home (attics, crawl spaces, garages)
- Pipes in exterior walls
- Any exterior plumbing
There are a few things you can do to help prevent your pipes from freezing this winter:
- Make sure outdoor hoses are shut off and drained of excess water. Frozen hoses can lead to bursts in pipes indoors.
- Invest in inexpensive foam pipe insulation or heat tape.
- Drip your faucets –set your kitchen and bathroom faucets to drip both hot and cold water (set single lever faucets in the center) to keep water moving through the pipes. This also helps relieve any built up pressure in pipes if they should freeze.
- Open your cabinets – if your kitchen or bathroom cabinets are located on exterior walls, open the cabinet doors to allow indoor heat to circulate to the pipes.
Is Your Well Water Safe to Drink?
Well water safety is entirely up to the homeowner to regulate, as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), does not regulate private drinking wells. Contaminated well water could present a host of problems for homeowners, including physical illness if consumed.
The EPA recommends that well heads be kept the following distances:
- Livestock yards, silos, septic tanks and fields, leach fields = 50 ft. from well head
- Manure stacks = 250 ft. from well head
- Petroleum tanks, liquid tight manure storage, pesticide and fertilizer storage and handling = 100 ft. from well head
Ground water contamination can be caused by seepage through landfills, failed septic tanks, underground storage tanks, fertilizers and pesticides, runoff from urban areas and more.
You can keep your well safe by:
- Regularly maintaining your well and keeping up to date and accurate records of repairs, tests and installations
- Being careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn care chemicals and waste
- Regularly check underground storage tanks that house oil, gasoline or diesel
Keeping your well protected from waste from livestock, pets and wildlife
Why Do You Have A Noisy Toilet?
Have you noticed your toilet making noisy gurgling, bubbling or grumbling noises, or is slow draining? Don’t panic! This is actually quite common. You probably have one of the following:
- A blocked plumbing vent
- A blocked sewer line
If you have a blocked plumbing vent, it simply means that proper ventilation isn’t occurring. In order for complete drainage to occur, air is need in your plumbing pipes. A blockage will prevent that air from flowing thus stopping the pipes.
A blocked sewer line can be caused by debris, broken sewer pipes, or even tree roots interfering with your septic system. In addition to a noisy toilet, you may also notice water backing up into your shower or tub when you flush.
If you are unsure where the blockage is occurring, you can always try and plunge your toilet or snake it (it never hurts to try!). If neither of those work call a plumber.