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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (148)

While every home is required to have a shutoff valve inside to turn off water when plumbing work is being performed or in the case of an emergency, the location can vary. Knowing where your shutoff valve is important, so here is how to locate the valve.

Basement Shutoff Valve

Basement shut-off valves are usually located near the front foundation wall. The main water supply will come through the concrete floor or the wall. The valve is typically within 3-5 feet of where the main water enters. In other cases, the main water may enter somewhere else, like a ulitiy room, up through the floor, or near the water heater.

Crawl-space and a Basement

The shut-off valve may be where the water enters the basement or in some older homes, the shut-off may be inside the crawl space.

Crawl-space with no basement

The shut off valve will usually be located near the water heater or under the kitchen sink, but may be in another location. It may be inside the crawl-space; in which case, you may want to consider a secondary valve located up in the living space (near the water heater or under a sink).

Slab-on-grade construction

The shut-off valve will typically be located near the water heater or under the kitchen sink.

Have questions about locating your home's water shutoff valve? Give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call, we would be happy to help.

Most running water sounds in the home are familiar, but what should you do if you hear unexpected water sounds? When should you be concerned?

First, before you have a plumbing emergency it's important that everyone in the home know where the water shutoff valve is located and how to turn of the water supply.

One of the most common unexpected water noises is running toilets. If a toilet suddenly starts running it is usually caused by a stuck flapper valve.

Bubbling water sounds can be a sign of a water heater that has an excessive amount of sediment that is causing air bubbles and boiling inside the tank. Flushing the tank will remove the sediment.

Trickling water sounds are often made by refrigerators. If it has an icemaker, it is probably the ice tray filling with water. Another sound you may hear is when the freezer is on a timed defrost cycle and causes water to drip from places where ice or frost has built up into an evaporation tray under the unit.

Another common source of water leaks is washing machine hoses, which can wear out over time and burst.

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

Thursday, 19 November 2015 21:41

The ABC of Plumbing - How a Water Softener Works

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A water softener is designed to remove minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause "hard water". These minerals dissolve into the groundwater from surrounding rock. When you have hard water in the home you will find that the mineral scale shows up on glassware and in your tub and shower. When severe enough, hard water scale can harm you home's plumbing system by clogging pipes and reducing the effectiveness of your water heater. It can also make laundering clothes more difficult by reducing the effectiveness of soaps and detergents.

The Answer to Hard Water is a Water Softener

A water softener is a mechanical appliance that is attached to a home's plumbing system. Using a process called ion exchange the minerals in the water are exchanged for sodium. A mineral tank filled with tiny polystyrene beads that create a negative charge. Because the minerals in the water carry a positive charge, they will cling to the beads as the water flows through the mineral tank.

Water softeners have a separate tank with a brine (liquified salt) solution. When the brine is added to the mineral tank the sodium ions, which also have a positive charge, it saturates the beads and displaces the magnesium and calcium "softening" the water.

The sodium attaches to the beads, replacing the calcium and magnesium, which get rinsed down the drain. Once rinsed of minerals, the tank is flushed of brine and refilled.

Have questions about hard water in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 19:06

Troubleshooting Water Heater Problems

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When water heater problems arise they usually present a few symptoms, these include:

No hot water

With a gas water heater, this is usually caused by a faulty pilot light, thermocouple or pilot control valve.

Hot water is running out too soon

Sometimes the tank is simply too small to meet the demands of the household for hot water. Other reasons could be a broken dip tube that is allowing cold and hot water to mix or a gas supply issue that is preventing the burner from reaching the preset temperature.

Discoloration of water

Rust colored water is usually an indication that corrosion is happing inside the tank. If the anode rod has failed corrosion can start attacking the inside glass lined tank, discoloring the water.

Water odors

Rotten egg and other smells could mean there is bacteria growing in the tank. Sediment fed by the corrosion of the tank anode tube is usually the cause. Flushing the tank can remove the sediment and the odors.

Unusual noises such as rumbling, popping or whining

When excessive sediment builds up at the bottom of the tank it can cause the water to boil and make noises as it percolates upwards. The tank should be flushed to remove the sediment.

Water leaks near the base of the water heater

Broken temperature or pressure relief valves are usually the cause of water leaks. Also check the plumbing supply connections above the tank for possible leaks.

If the water tank is getting up in years it could be a leaking storage tank caused by excessive corrosion. If this is the case, the water heater will need to be replaced.

Have questions about your water heater? Give ABC Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call, we can help.

Thursday, 12 November 2015 23:10

Annual Plumbing Maintenance Checklist

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Many of the plumbing problems we see could have been avoided if homeowners had followed some simple maintenance tasks. Here are some maintenance procedures that are best performed at least once a year to keep your plumbing system working smoothly.

1. Repair leaks. That leaking shower head or faucet is more than just an annoyance. It could be costing you lots of money every year on your water bill. Replacing worn out washers is simple and inexpensive.

2. Clear out slow drains. Eventually that slow sink, shower or tub drain is going to clog, leading to a major clog that will require professional help to clear.

3. Clean faucet aerators and shower heads. If you're experiencing low water pressure the culprit may be mineral deposits that have built up in the fixture, reducing water flow. Remove aerators and soak them overnight in vinegar to remove mineral build up.

4. Have your sewer line inspected. One of the most costly and disruptive plumbing problems a homeowner can experience is a backed up sewer main. A video sewer line inspection will find any potential problems, including breaks, misalign pipes, and tree root intrusion that can lead to sewer line failure.

5. Flush your water heater tank. Flushing your water heater tank will prevent rust and sediment from building up at the bottom of the tank where it can reduce heating efficiency and shorten the life of the water heater. 

Have a tankless water heater? Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the line filter.

6. Fix that flapper. A running toilet can waste a lot of water. Replacing the flapper is inexpensive and simple to do.

Need help maintaining your plumbing system? Call ABC Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015 18:36

Tips For Plumbing Emergencies

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Ever come home to a broken pipe or a major leak? There’s never a good time for a plumbing emergency, but in an instance where a problem arises, you should be familiar with a few quick fixes. Follow the tips below to keep the mess under control until the plumber gets there:

In case of a leak, know where the main water shut-off valve is located. This will allow you to turn off the flow of water to prevent major water damage. Heavy duty paper towels or rags will help to clean up the water until the plumber gets there to fix the problem.

“Backing off” will allow your plumbing system to maintain its integrity. In order to keep the stress off of your plumbing, use two wrenches at once, turning in opposite directions.

How can you temporarily fix a cracked or burst pipe? Duct tape or pipe sealing tape will help pull the crack together, but again, this is only a temporary solution. Call in a plumber for a permanent fix.

Have a clogged toilet or sink drain? A cup plunger can be used to solve the problem. They have a funnel that applies extra force down the drain, which is useful for sinks or toilets. As a reminder, any time you use a plunger of any kind, you’re putting extra force on your pipes. This can cause the pipes to crack or shift, and can break seals. We suggest calling an expert plumber, who can clear the drain in the safest way possible for your plumbing.

The next time you experience a plumbing emergency, think fast! Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning and we’ll be there to fix the problem!
Thursday, 22 October 2015 18:48

Why Is My Tankless Water Heater Makes Loud Noises?

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Tankless water heaters will all make some noise when starting up and heating water, but the noise levels are usually reasonable and not cause for concern. When the noise occurs when there is no hot water being used, it's likely there is a vacuum that's siphoning water away from the unit and causing loud noise and vibration. In most cases the solution is to have a plumber install a check valve in the water line to prevent other plumbing fixtures from interfering with the flow of water to the water heater.

Another common problem that can create noise in tankless water heaters is a dirty flow sensor which controls how much gas is sent to the unit. Other sources of noise include blocked or inadequate ventilation or a defective or improperly set pressure valve.

Because there can be many causes of the noise, it's best to have your plumber diagnose the problem and fix the unit if needed.
Thursday, 15 October 2015 00:22

The ABC's of Plumbing – Water Heater Anode Rod

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Because most water heater tanks are made of steel coated with a thin layer of glass, the lining will eventually crack and begin to rust. To head off corrosion a metal "anode rod" is used to increase the life of the tank. The anode rod is a magnesium or aluminum rod that encapsulates a steel core. The rod is screwed into the top of the tank and suspended in the water. An electrochemical process causes the exposed steel of the rod to react with the corrosive elements in the water. By causing a primary corrosive reaction inside the tank the rod sacrifices itself to help protect the steel tank from corrosion, greatly extending it's life.

Inspecting and Replacing the Anode Rod

One of the most important plumbing maintenance task is to ensure the anode rod is still working inside the tank. The rod can be accessed from the top of the water heater by unscrewing it and sliding it out. If the rod has significantly eroded away it should be replaced with a new rod. Replacing a worn out rod is far less expensive then replacing an entire rusted out water heater!

Need help checking your water heater anode rod? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015 23:27

What Causes Noisy Pipes in the Home?

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Pipes that are banging, clanking or gurgling, can be more than just an annoyance, they can be the symptom of plumbing problems. If pipes bang while running hot water, the cause is likely copper pipes that are expanding as the hot water runs through the pipe causing it to rub against a stud or joist as it contracts. It is unlikely to cause a leak in all but the most extreme cases.

If you have access to the pipes from a basement or crawlspace adding foam rubber to the holes where the pipes pass through can solve the problem. Replacing metal pipe brackets with quieter plastic ones can also help.

If your pipes are making a banging noise when running both cold and hot water, you are probably hearing what is called "water hammer". Water hammer happens when the water is turned off at a faucet or other valve. Lowering water pressure the the pipes to 60 psi or lower with a pressure-reducing valve will usually reduce the noise. Another option is to have your plumber install air chambers, or water hammer arresters to absorb the energy inside the plumbing system.

Have questions? Call ABC Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
Thursday, 08 October 2015 20:36

6 Tips to Save On Your Water Heating Bill

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Heating water is one of the most energy intensive tasks in most homes. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to ensure your water heater is working as efficiently as possible and to reduce your hot water usage.

  1. Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or "normal."
  2. Use a water heater blanket to insulate the tank and prevent heat from escaping.
  3. Install energy-saving low-flow shower heads. These will save a significant amount of hot water with little effect on water pressure.
  4. Wash your laundry using a cold water detergent. Many laundry detergents are available that are formulated for cold water.
  5. Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
  6. Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.

It's also a good idea to flush your water heater tank at least once a year. This will remove sediment that can reduce heating efficiency and shorten the life of the water heater. 

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


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