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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (136)

Thursday, 19 July 2018 00:00

Aging In Place - Accessible Plumbing Design

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As we age our kitchen and bathrooms can become less convenient and more hazardous. Slippery floors, hard to reach faucets and cabinets, poor lighting – all can create real challenges as we age. Thankfully, there are many ways to keep our homes safe and comfortable with plumbing fixtures that adapt to our needs rather the the other way around.

Aging In Place Plumbing

Here are a few plumbing ideas for aging in place.

Accessible Bathrooms For The Elderly and Disabled

For individuals who must be seated, vanities can be designed with knee clearance under fixtures and faucet handles that are closer in range. Plumbing fixtures are available that are operable with one hand, and don't require a tight grip or turning of the wrist. Careful placement of grab bars in bathtubs and showers can prevent slip and fall accidents.

Permanently fixed shower heads are rarely one-size-fit-all. Newer shower head designs come with a vertical sliding rail system that allows the tallest and shortest members of the household to adjust the shower head to the perfect height.

Comfort Height Toilets

Standard toilets are 14 to 15 inches high from floor to the top of bowl rim. Comfort height toilets have more comfortable heights closer to the height of a chair, from 16 to 17 inches high. The additional height can make it easier with persons having a limited range of motion or back problems.

Slip-resistance is another important consideration for providing safety in bathrooms. Many shower enclosures and bathtubs are now designed with traction surfaces, in both enamel and acrylic finishes.

Finally, good lighting is appreciated by everyone, but is essential for persons with visual impairment. Compact LED fixtures can be placed under cabinets, in showers and bath enclosures to create a well lit space.

Have questions about making your home's plumbing more comfortable and safer? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
Thursday, 12 July 2018 00:00

The Benefits of a Water Heater Expansion Tank

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Hot Water Expansion Tank

Because water expands when heated, excess pressure inside a water heater tank needs to escape. In the past, the pressure would force water in the tank to drain back out into the water supply where it came from.

Today, the water main is designed to prevent the backwards flow of water, known as backflow, by means of a check valve. The check valve prevents waste water from inside the home from returning to the water supply where it could contaminate the supply of fresh water.

How a Water Heater expansion Tank Works

A water heater expansion tank is another small tank that is attached to the water supply pipe of the water heater. The expansion tank is designed to handle the thermal expansion of water as it heats up in the water heater, preventing excessive water pressure.

If water pressure gets to high it can damage valves in plumbing fixtures, joints in supply pipes and the water heater itself. Expanding water from the water heater flows into the expansion tank, relieving water pressure in the system.

What if my water heater doesn't have an expansion tank?

Most homes that have a check valve on the water main do not have an expansion tank, since it wasn't required until recently. This may or may not cause excessive pressure buildup, depending on the specific design of the plumbing in the house.

If you are noticing that washers in plumbing fixtures are deteriorating rapidly, or water is dripping from the relief valve on the water heater, it may be wise to add an expansion tank. It can be low cost insurance against more costly damage to your home's plumbing system.

Have questions about water heater expansion tanks or other plumbing systems? Call ABC Southwest Air Conditioning and Plumbing, we're here to help.1
Garbage disposals are a great invention, saving time and keeping our kitchens clean. They will dispose of just about any kind of food waste we put down them. However, they can sometimes break down. Here are some things to check when your under sink disposal is not working correctly.

Garbage Disposal

First, for your safety never place your hand inside the disposal!

It may seem obvious, but first check that the disposal is plugged in. If the disposal is plugged in, check the reset button located on the bottom of the disposal if the button has popped out, push it back in. If these steps do not work, check the circuit breaker to see if it has tripped. If the disposal still won't turn on and it is not making a humming sound, then there is an electrical problem with the unit.

Slow Disposal Drain

Slow draining of a garbage disposal can be caused by a number of problems. Assuming you've given the disposal enough time to run and clear the garbage, you probably have a clogged drain line.

We recommend against using chemical drain cleaners in a garbage disposal. You can damage the disposal and aside from being ineffective, most drain cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can cause severe skin irritation and damage to plastic and metal surfaces.

Preventing Disposal Problems

Avoid grinding coffee grounds, potato peels and eggshells. They stick to any waste in the pipe and are likely to create a clog. You can keep your disposal working by occasionally grinding up pieces of lemon peel and ice cubes.

Have questions about your garbage disposal or other plumbing systems in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning anytime. We're here to help.
Sewer lines can fail for many reasons, and the older the line, the greater the risk of damage from tree root intrusion, ground shift, and cracks. Because the connection from the house to the main utility connection in the street is the homeowner's responsibility, and is not covered by most homeowner's insurance policies, it's important to ensure that the line is in good condition.

Sewer and drain line inspections

Video Sewer Line Inspections

To find out if the sewer line is clogged or damaged a sewer line snake with a small video camera is inserted into the line so a technician can see the inside of the pipe on a video screen and determine if there is an obstruction or damage.

If the sewer line is simply clogged, high pressure water jetting can usually clear obstructions in the line. Depending on the severity of damage and whether the pipe is cracked or ruptured it may be possible to repair the pipe without digging.

For your peace of mind, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning to schedule a video sewer line inspection.
If your water heater has a conventional storage tank, it's important to perform regular maintenance to ensure that it operates efficiently and does not wear our prematurely. Most homeowners have a water heater installed and simply forget about it until it stops heating or working altogether and needs replacement. However, with a few simple maintenance steps you can increase the lifespan of the unit while also making it work more efficiently. Annual water heater maintenance will save you money in the long run, extending the like of the unit and ensuring that it operates at peak efficiency.

Water Heater Maintenance

1. Flush the water heater tank annually

Almost all water heater manufacturers recommend flushing the tank annually. Draining the tank removes sediment build up that has collected at the bottom of the tank, allowing the burner to work more efficiently. If your home has hard water, it's especially important to drian the tank to remove mineral deposits like calcium and magnesium that will build up over time, reducing efficiency.

Before draining your water heater tank, check the manufacturer's instructions for the correct procedure for draining your model of water heater. If you're not sure what to do, play it safe and call ABC Southwest for help.

2. Check the anode rod

The anode rod hangs inside the tank to help prevent the interior walls of the tank from rusting out. It should be checked annually when the tank is drained. The anode rod is designed to corrode easily, reducing the amount of corrosion on other parts inside the tank. Replacing a badly corroded rod is far cheaper than replacing the water heater. Without a good anode rod, hot water will rapidly corrode the inside of the tank, shortening its life.

3. Insulate the water heater tank

This is a step you only have to do once. Wrapping your water heater in a blanket of insulation can improve it's efficiency up to 40 percent. Even though the tank may feel cool to the touch, after installing the blanket put hand under the blanket. You'll be suprised how warm it is! Before installing a water heater blanket be sure to check your manufacturer's instructions, some manufacturers advise not covering the unit. Also, be sure to cut openings out for all water heater controls, including the thermostat, pressure relief valve and other controls.

4. Inspect the exterior of the water heater for leaks

Look for signs of rust around the base of the water heater. Also check the overflow valve for signs of leaks. Are there water stains on the floor around the tank? If you notice signs of possible water leaks have the unit inspected by a plumber to ensure the tank is not rusted out or in need of maintenance. Note that some moisture around the tank is not unusual, and typically is the result of condensation on cold water pipes during humid weather.

Have questions about your hot water heater or other plumbing systems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
Tankless water heaters have revolutionized the home water heater. They produce more hot water, at a more consistent temperatures, using less energy than typical tank-style water heaters.

Tankless Water Heater Advantages

Here are some benefits to think about when considering a tankless water heater:

1. Energy Cost Saving

Because tankless water heaters provide hot water only when it’s needed, they can save you up to 40%* on your energy bill. They feature Energy Factors of 0.82 up to 0.96, while tanks are typically 0.60.

2. Endless Hot Water

Tankless hot water heaters do not store a large volume of hot water that can be depleted, but rather heat the water as it’s being used, giving you endless comfort in the form of continuous hot water at a consistent temperature. You can even use hot water for multiple tasks—such as showering, washing dishes or doing laundry—at the same time without worrying about running out.

3. Space Savings

Traditional tank water heaters can take up to 16 square feet of valuable floor space. Tankless water heaters, however, are a fraction of the size and can be installed on virtually any wall, indoors or outdoors.

4. Increased Lifespan

Tankless water heaters have a typical life expectancy of up to 20 years—twice as long as a tank-style unit.

5. Environmentally Friendly

Most tankless gas water heaters have earned ENERGY STAR® approval by meeting the strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

* As based on the average cost to run an electric tank water heater per the DOE Average
Plumbing Emergency

Plumbing emergencies can range from leaking pipes and backed up sewer lines to a faucets that won't shut off and water heaters that are leaking water. Because plumbing problems can happen anytime, it's important that everyone in the household know the location of the shutoff valve for every plumbing fixture and appliance, as well as the home's main shutoff valve.

Water Shutoff Valves

If a specific plumbing fixture or appliance like a faucet or toilet is leaking or malfunctioning, first look for the fixture supply valve shut-off valve and turn it clockwise to turn off the water supply to the affected fixture. The shutoff valve is usually located underneath the toilet or sink. Clothes washers will have two shutoff valves, one each for hot and cold water, often located behind the appliance

If the problem is not with a specific fixture or appliance, or you cannot locate the shutoff valve, locate the main shutoff valve to turn off the water to the entire house. The main shutoff valve will be on the inside where the main water supply pipe enters the house. Turn the valve clockwise to shut it off. If the valve is difficult to turn, keep a wrench near the valve for emergencies.

Have a plumbing emergency? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. Our professional plumbers will be there in minutes to help fix the problem.

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance


Tankless, or on-demand water heaters are high tech appliances that deliver an endless supply of hot water throughout the home. They can save a lot of energy by heating water only when it's needed, unlike a tank water heater that must heat the tank continuously. Tankless water heaters are also one of the most complex plumbing devices available for the home and require proper maintenance to ensure they operate efficiently and reliably.

Removing Limescale

Over time, tankless water heaters will accumulate minerals on the inside of the tank's heating chamber. This buildup can reduce efficiency and cause the unit to run louder than usual when heating. The unit should be flushed regularly, usually once a year, to remove to accumulated mineral deposits. The steps involved will vary by manufacturer, but the procedure usually involves attaching a hose and flushing the tank with vinegar. If you're not sure of the procedure you should have a qualified technician maintain the unit.

Cleaning the Screen Filter

The second tankless water heater maintenance task involves cleaning the in-line screen filter to remove any accumulated debris.  First, turn off the incoming water supply. The filter is located on inlet fixture on the cabinet. Unscrew the plug to remove the filter. Rinse the filter off and reinstall it on the unit. Because the procedure will vary by manufacturer, it's a good idea to have a qualified technician perform the maintenance. 

Have questions about maintaining your tankless water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.

Most people don't think twice about what they put down their kitchen disposal. Depending on the horsepower rating of the unit, it may be able to handle tough jobs like bones. But most disposal used in the home are 1/4 to 1/2 horsepower units that can be damaged if care is not taken with the types of food waste put down the disposal. Keeping your disposal working properly is simple if you keep the following tips in mind.

Garbage Disposal Tips

1. Only put the proper kinds of waste into the disposal

These include:
  • Soft foods
  • Ice cubes
  • Some softer bones
  • Softer fruit pits
  • Citrus peels
  • Coffee grounds

2. Avoid putting these types of waste down your disposal

Fibrous material like:
  • corn husks
  • artichokes
  • celery stalks
  • onion peels
  • seafood with shells, like shrimp

3. Always run a full stream of cold water

Let the water run for another 30 seconds after you turn off the disposer. Don't use hot water while you're grinding waste, although it's fine to use hot water when the disposer is off.

4. Let the disposal run only as long as it takes to grind the waste

This is usually less than 30 seconds, but can take longer in some cases. Running the disposal without waste can cause premature wear and tear.

5. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners in a disposer


The chemical drain cleaning products found in most stores can damage your home's plumbing and can be extremely corrosive when in contact with metal plumbing fixtures. Chemical drain cleaners can also be dangerous to store and require safe handling. Don't take chances,  if your disposal is jammed or backed up, call a professional plumber to clear the drain line.
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 00:00

Preventing Water Leaks Around the Home

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While water leaks can add up to higher utility bills over time, they can also cause extensive damage to your home and furnishings. Undetected water leaks can cause mold to grow inside the walls of your home, causing health problems.
Here are some areas to check for water leaks around the home.

1. Washing Machine Hoses

One of the most damaging water leaks that can occur in the home is a burst washing machine hose. If the washing machine is on the main floor or upstairs the damage can be even more extensive. Check the hose connections to make sure they are tight. If the hoses are over 5 years old, or show signs of cracking or buckling, they should be replaced. Consider installing braided stainless steel hoses, which can withstand more pressure than rubber hoses.

2. Leaking Toilets

Leaking toilets are often the most overlooked leaks in the home because they are the least likely to be noticed. To test for leaks add a few drops of food coloring to a gallon of water and pour it into the toilet tank. Without flushing the toilet if the coloring appears in the bowl there is a leak.

3. Water Heater Leaks

Water heaters that a beyond their life expectancy (typically 8-10 years) are most susceptible to leaks. Rust and corrosion inside the tank will eventually cause water to start leaking. To keep your water heater working reliably and reduce the likelihood of corrosion, flush sediment from the hot water tank annually.

4. Outside Faucets

That slow, constant drip can add up to hundreds of wasted gallons of water every year. In addition, water dripping against the house can cause decay and create an inviting environment for pests like termites and ants.

Have plumbing questions? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
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