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Plumbing Tips and Advice (155)

Preventing Sewer and Drain Line Problems
A backed-up sewer line can be a real disaster, resulting in extensive damage to your home and in many cases requiring expensive repairs to your plumbing system. It's important to know the warning signs of sewer and drain problems to prevent the small problems from becoming drain disasters.

Knowing the Warning Signs

A home's sewer and drain system is designed like a tree, with branches of drain pipes leading to  main trunk line that runs out of the house to the sewer main. If there is a clog in a secondary line it's going be isolated to that line. For example, if your bathroom sink is clogged and the toilet flushes normally, it's isolated to the sink drain. However, it the problem is with the main line, the toilet may percolate and waste water may come up from the shower or tub drain or floor drain in the basement.

Slow to empty drains and gurgling noises from toilets are often the first warning signs that your sewer system is obstructed. It's important to have a sewer line inspection as soon as possible to identify and correct the problem.

Preventative Sewer Line Maintenance

Most home owner's insurance policies do not cover sewer line problems and repairs and in most cities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer line that runs form the house to the sewer main by the street.

You can reduce the potential for sewer and drain clogs by keeping materials like cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, baby wipes and other waste products out of toilets. This would include products marketed as "flushable". Pouring paint, grease and oil and other chemicals down the drain is not only harmful to the environment, it can cause problems inside the pipes.

Among the most common cause of sewer line backups and damage is tree root intrusion. A sewer and drain line inspection is cheap insurance and can find potential problems with tree root intrusion, broken or disconnected pipes, debris build-up and more. If problems are found your plumber has many tools to help clear or repair the line, including rodding, water-jetting, and trench-less sewer line repair. A follow-up video camera inspection will help to ensure that the repair was successful.

Have questions about your sewer and drain lines? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. From video camera inspections to sewer and drain line cleaning and repair, we can help.
Spring Plumbing Checklist

Spring is a good time to take a look around your home to find any plumbing issues that could lead to expensive damage to your home. Problems like water leaks, and inefficient plumbing fixtures can also lead wasted water and energy as well as higher utility bills.

Kitchen Plumbing

  • Check the faucet for drips and repair if needed
  • Check under the sink for signs of water leaks, including water stains or mold
  • Inspect the operation of the disposal, does it sound louder than it should?
  • Do the kitchen drains empty quickly, or do they need cleaning?

Bathroom Plumbing

  • Look for drips and leaks around toilets
  • Check for cracks in the toilet tank and bowl
  • Does the toilet run for longer than it should or does the handle need to be held down to empty completely? The parts may be worn out and need replacement
  • To see if the toilet is leaking, add several drops of food coloring to the tank. Check the bowl 30 minutes later. If the water has become colored, there is a leak
  • Check drains by filling sinks, tubs and showers with water. Do they drain quickly? Or do they need cleaning?
  • Check faucets and shower heads for mineral build-up. Soak fixtures in vinegar overnight to dissolve the deposits

General Plumbing

  • If plumbing fixtures are unused for long periods of time, exercise faucets and valves under sinks and toilets to prevent sticking
  • Check the water heater thermostat. It should be set to 120 or lower to prevent scalding
  • Flush the water heater tank to remove sediment at the bottom of the tank that can reduce efficiency and lead to corrosion. Check your water heater manual for the proper procedure for draining and maintaining the unit
  • If the water heater is over 12 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model
  • Ensure there ere no flammable liquids store near the water heater
  • Check washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or other signs of wear. Replace with stainless steal hoses if needed
  • Pour a bucket of water into floor drains to fill the trap and prevent odors
  • Check for signs of water leaks in ceilings and under sinks
  • Ensure that pluming vents outside the home are free of obstructions such as bird nests and debris
  • Ensure the sump pump is working properly by pouring a bucket of water in the pump pit. The pump should turn on a drain the water away
If you have water leaks, slow drains or other plumbing problems, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help with all your plumbing repair and installation needs.
Natural Drain Cleaning Products

When a bathroom or kitchen drain becomes clogged many homeowners will reach for a commercial drain cleaner to clear the clog. While chemical drain cleaning products can be very effective at removing grease, hair and other organic material, they can be hazardous to your health and damage your plumbing if not used in a safe manner.

Chemical drain cleaners often contain chemicals such as lye, sodium hydroxide or sodium nitrate. Many of these chemicals can cause severe burns and blindness and must be handled with extreme care.

Enzyme Drain Cleaners

One safe and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical drain cleaners are enzymatic drain cleaners. Natural bacteria or enzymes are put into the drain to feed on  hair, food waste and other organic material. These living organisms multiply inside the pipe and gradually clean the clog away. While not as fast acting as chemical cleaners, they are generally not harmful to people.

Home-made Drain Cleaner

Another way to safely clean out a drain is to use vinegar and baking soda.
    
Step 1 - pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain.
Step 2 - pour half a cup of vinegar.
Step 3 - Wait 15 minutes
Step 4 - pour in hot tap water.

An alternative method is to mix equal parts salt, vinegar and baking soda. Pour the mixture into the drain. Wait one hour, and then pour in hot water.

Water Jetting
If you have a stubborn drain clog and don't want to bother with chemical or enzyme-based cleaners, water jetting is a good option. Water-jetting is a safe and effective way to scour the inside of drain pipes to remove all the residue that snaking and rodding can leave behind.

Need help with clogged drains? Call ABC
AC Efficiency
For most homeowners energy efficiency and lower utility bills are at the top of the list when deciding on a new furnace or air conditioner.

When researching heating and cooling systems you're likely to run across a lot of industry alphabet soup. While this alphabet soup can be bit confusing at first, they're meant to provide a simple scale to compare which systems that offer the highest efficiency and lowest energy costs.

Here are two of the most common measurements of energy efficiency.

SEER

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is a measure of efficiency for air conditioners. A high SEER number means more energy efficiency, and lower cost to operate. All new air conditioners have a 13.0 SEER rating or better. The most efficient systems can achieve SEER ratings over 20.

AFUE

For gas furnaces, the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is a common measure of energy use and efficiency. The AFUE rating tells you how much of the fuel used by your furnace is used to actually heat your home and how much is wasted. The higher the AFUE rating, the greater the efficiency. For example, a 90% furnace creates heat, 90% of which is used directly by the home with 10% lost, generally as a result of venting. Some newer gas furnaces have an AFUE rating that exceeds 98%.

Have questions about energy efficiency ratings? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
Selecting a low-flow toilet
Toilets account for a large proportion of the water usedin the average home. When replacing  existing toilets it makes sense to check the gallons-per-flush to save water. You'll save money on your utility bill, and you help preserve our most precious natural resource.

High Efficiency Toilets

Low-flow toilets, or high-efficiency toilets (HET), have become more efficient and reliable, save more water while providing plenty of flushing power. To be classified as a HET by the EPA, a toilet must use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. They typically have an efficient design that uses gravity to empty the bowl.

Ultra-High Efficiency Toilets

Ultra-high-efficiency toilets (UHET) use only 1.28 gallons per flush. Some models use air pressure for flush assistance in the form of a special air tank integrated into the toilet. This can increase the noise when flushing due to the use of air pressure. They may also require a power connection, and could need more frequent maintenance.

Other low-flush toilets use a small pump within the unit to assist with flushing. While these toilets are sleek and modern, they also require a power source.

Dual-Flush Toilets

Dual-flush toilets, as the name suggest, can flush with different amounts of water. One button releases a small amount of water while a second empties a larger amount of water for solid waste, making them a smart and efficient alternative.

The more complexity and technology a toilet has, the greater the cost of installation and maintenance. So it's important to weight the long-term utility savings against the up-front cost of installation.

If you're replacing a new toilet and have questions about the different options available, give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call, we can help all your plumbing questions.
Why Do I Quickly Run Out of Hot Water?
Does your shower start out nice and hot, then rapidly run out after just a few minute? If the problem is only happening while taking a shower, it could be the shower mixer. A plumber should check the pressure balance and temperature control faucet. When they are not working properly, you will notice a reduction in the hot water pressure as when using a faucet. Temperature control shower faucets have a spring that turns the hot water supply down when it detects a change in the water temperature. As the spring ages and wears out it results in a loss of hot water temperature.

Broken Dip Tube

Another common cause of rapid hot water loss is a broken dip tube. This dip tube is a pipe inside the water heater that passes cold water through the hot water to the bottom of the tank so the burner can heat it up. If the dip tube falls off, the cold water empties into the top of the water heater and overruns the hot water outlet, sending cold water to the shower.

To determine if the dip tube is the cause of the problem and to stop the loss of hot water your plumber will need to pull the cold water inlet pipe out ot the water heater to check  the condition of the dip tube.

Water Heater Age

A water heater will typically last around 10 years. Over time sediment can build up leading to corrosion. The burning will gradually become less efficient and will produce less hot water in the same period of time as it used to. Consider the age of the unit when deciding wether to repair or replace the water heater.

Have water heater problems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help diagnose the cause and recommend effective solutions to get the hot water flowing again.
Water Saving Plumbing Fixtures

1. Toilets

Older toilets use a lot of water. Once study concluded that if all the older, inefficient toilets in the US were replaced with newer, water-efficient models around 360 billion gallons of water could be saved every year. If your toilet was manufactured before the mid-1990s there's a good chance its wasting a lot of water. If you're concerned about the effectiveness of newer water efficient toilets, rest assured, most are rated highly and work well.

Another way to save water with every flush is to install "dual-flush" models. With two options for flush strength you can decide the amount of water that is needed.

2. Faucets

The EPA estimates that faucets account for 15% of indoor water use. By selecting a faucet with the WaterSense® certification you can reduce the water by at least 20 percent. You can also make most existing faucets more efficient by adding a water saving aerator.

3. Shower Heads

Depending on how inefficient your current shower head it, swapping it for a low-flow shower head can cut water use by 50% or more. The standard for low flow heads is 2.5 gpm at 80 psi. A high quality low flow shower head will offer good pressure at both high and low water pressures. Some have flow restrictors that allow you to adjust the spray pattern and pressure to achieve the right amount of water flow for your needs.

4. Tankless Water Heaters

While tankless water heaters won't save a large amount of water compared to tank-style water heaters, they can save water by reducing the amount of time for hot water to be available. Their primary benefit is the energy savings they offer by only heating water when it's needed, not an entire tank.

5. Rain Sensors

Lawn and landscape watering are extremely water-intensive. In many cities, rain or moisture sensors are required to prevent irrigation lines and underground lawn sprinklers from over watering lawns.






Tankless water heaters, or on-demand water heaters, have been around for over a decade now and have proven to be a reliable, energy efficient and a green alternative to tank-style water heaters. When problems do arise is often a result of installation issues or a lack of maintenance.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are hi-tech appliances that heat water rapidly only when it's need, resulting in less wasted energy and a nearly continuous supply of hot water. When properly maintained they will last around 20 years. Here are some of the most common problems experienced with tankless water heaters.

Hard Water and Mineral Build-up

Hard water can lead to scaly calcium buildup which can increase the maintenance requirements for the unit. The unit should be flushed with vinegar following the manufacturer's instructions to prevent minerals from reducing performance or potentially damaging the unit. If your home has excessively hard water, it's recommended that a water softener be installed to prevent excessive calcium deposits form accumulating in the water lines.

Corrosion

While you're more likely to experience corrosion problems with a conventional tank-style water heater, tankless water heaters can also be damaged by corrosion if condensation drips onto on the gas burner and causes problems with the gas supply.

Excessive Demand

Before installing a new tankless water heater your plumber will ask about your water usage to calculate which unit will best serve your hot water needs. If you exceed the capacity of the unit by showering, doing laundry and other water-intensive tasks simultaneously, the unit may shut down to prevent damage from over heating. If you use a lot of hot water at the same time in different areas of your home, you may be better off going with a larger tank-style water heater.

Improper Installation

When a tankless water heater is installed it's essential that the unit have enough ventilation to allow excess heat to escape, and in the case of gas units, for exhaust gases to vent to the outside of the home. If not properly vented, the unit may overheat and automatically shut down as a safety precaution.

Have questions about tankless water heaters? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your water heating concerns.
Bathroom Remodeling Ideas
Remodeling your bathroom?  There are many plumbing upgrades to consider that can add value and efficiency to your home, here are just a few:

New Faucets

New faucets are an inexpensive way to bring bathrooms and kitchens up to date. Adding low-flow faucet aerators will also save you money on your water bill. To cut down on germs and add additional convenience, no-touch faucets have motion detectors that turn water on and off by moving your hand in front of the fixture.

New Shower Heads

Shower heads come a wide range of styles and finishes. A new trend is to install multiple shower heads rather than a single wall-mount shower head for a spa-like experience. The shower heads can be adjusted to produce a spray that ranges from fine to coarse and a water pressure that ranges from gentle mist to strong massage.

Top-mount or ceiling-mounted shower heads spray from directly overhead, life rainfall. Some top-mount heads can be installed flush with the ceiling in situations where the ceiling is too low to install a wall-mount head.

Sliding bar shower heads are mounted on a rail system to accommodate a wide range of heights.

Consider installing low-flow shower heads when possible. They use only around 2.5 gpm while maintaining an effective spray of water.

New Toilets

Installing a high efficiency toilets is one of the best plumbing upgrades you can make. If your home is older and has its original plumbing fixtures, you could save up to 3.5 gallons of water per flush!

Comfort height toilets are another popular option for older homeowners or homeowners with disabilities.

For all your bathroom plumbing needs, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We are here to help.
How Old Is My Water Heater?

Knowing how old your water heater is can be helpful when planning for replacement and knowing when you're better off replacing the unit instead of putting money towards repairs. In most cases, if a water heater is more than 10 years old you should consider replacement. As water heaters enter their second decade the risk of developing leaks increases, which can potentially cause damage to your home.

You can find the age of your water heater by looking for the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker near the top of the water heater. The serial number contains the date that the water heater was manufactured. It will not be in a standard date format, but will have a date code such as "G062052658".

G is for the month and G is the seventh letter in the alphabet, so it represents the seventh month, July. Next, the first two digits of the serial number are 06, which represents the year, 2006. So this water heater was made in July 2006. Each manufacturer uses a similar date code, but they may vary – so check the manufacturer’s website to learn more.

Have questions about your home's water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your plumbing questions.
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