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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (148)

Performing plumbing projects around the home can be a satisfying way to improve your home and save a little money. However, before tackling those plumbing projects it's important to understand the potential pitfalls to stay safe and avoid damaging your home.

DIY Plumbing Mistakes to Avoid

1. Chemical Drain Cleaners

When a drain becomes clogged the first thing many homeowners think of are the commercials they have seen for chemical drain cleaning products. While they can be very effective at clearing certain kinds of clogs, they come with important safety warnings.

The same chemicals that quickly dissolve organic matter like hair and grease can cause chemical burns to your skin or even blindness if they come in contact with your eyes. They can also damage metal pipes, plumbing fixtures, and other finishes in the kitchen and bathroom if not used correctly.

A far safer way to clear a clogged drain is with a little elbow grease and a plumbing auger. There are also natural drain cleaning products that use enzymes to break down organic material. Baking soda, vinegar and hot water is another natural method to clean out a drain. These natural methods may take a little longer to do the job, but can just as effective as more caustic drain cleaners.

If none of the above options work for those stubborn clogs, your plumber can solve the toughest clogged drain problems safely and quickly.


2. Not Shutting off the Water Supply

Most plumbing projects require turning off the water. Forget this step and you'll be dealing with gushing pipes and a big mess. If you can't locate the local shut-off valve near a fixture, turn it off at the water main.


3. Not Getting a Permit

You've just had your brand new hot tub delivered and you're all ready to install it in your new sunroom. Before you begin, do you need a permit? Some municipalities allow homeowners to pull their own permits, while others require a contractor. Always check before you begin any remodeling or installation project that you have all the required permits. This will ensure that the project is up to code and installed safely. You'll also avoid the hassle of potential fines or red flags down the road when you try to sell the home.


4. Bad Pipe Connections

In homes with copper pipes, it's important to understand the proper way to connect copper to galvanized pipes. If the two metals are connected directly, they can quickly corrode, leading to water leaks. This type of connection requires a special fitting called a dielectric union, which prevents the two metals from contacting each other.


Ask the Pros!

If you're not sure you have the skills to tackle your next plumbing project, give us a call. We would be happy to explain what's involved in completing the project. After all, there's no replacement for experience.
LWater Saving Toiletooking for ways to reduce your water bill? Toilets are one of the most water-intensive plumbing devices in the home, using as much as 7 gallons of water with each flush. By comparison a low-flow toilet uses just 1.6 gallons. If you aren't ready to replace all your toilets with low-flow toilets quite yet, but want to reduce the amount of water your toilets are using, there are a few easy to install options available that will make your toilets more eco-friendly.

Install an Adjustable Flapper

An adjustable flapper give you control over the amount of water used to refill the tank. It can save up to three gallons of water with each flush and is simple to install. First, check that the flapper is compatible with your toilet model. Once installed, adjust the flapper to get the right amount of water needed to do the job.

Install a Tank Bag

You may know about the old trick of placing a brick to the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per flush. Unfortunately, a brick can erode over time, leaving damaging grit inside the tank that can wear out rubber and plastic parts. A better solution is to use a tank bag. You simply fill the bag with water and attach it to the toilet tank. By displacing water it will reduce the amount of water needed to refill the tank after each flush. Of course, the amount of water you save is equal to the amount of water you put in the bag, so experiment to find the right amount to effectively flush the toilet.

Install a Fill Cycle Diverter

Because the toilet bowl fills faster than the tank and the fill valve doesn't shut off until the tank is full, excess water is fed into the bowl. A fill cycle diverter can eliminate this waste, saving a half-gallon or more per fill, by diverting water back to the tank when the bowl is full.

TIP: Many utility companies offer water-saving devices to their customers for free, so be sure to check with your local utility company before purchasing a water saving device.
Hot water scalds account for 20% of all burns and every year more that 2,000 U.S. children are treated for scalding. Scalding can also lead to secondary injuries such as heart attacks, falls, and broken bones, particularly among the elderly. Most scalding accidents occur in the kitchen and bathroom, and the vast majority are avoidable.

Hot Water Safety

Because infants, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to burns when exposed to overly hot water in the bath, one of the most important ways of preventing scalding is to ensure your water heater temperature is set to a safe temperature.

In addition, you should always check the water temperature before placing a child in the bathtub and never leave a child alone or with other young children in the bathtub.

Most water heaters come factory set between 120°F to 140°F - this temperature may be too high for many households. The chart below shows how the scalding risk and time it takes to cause a burn.

Water Heater Thermostat Setting Exposure Time Effects of Exposure to Hot Water at High Temperatures
Water at 100 degF or below - Most water heaters are unlikely to scald an adult
Water at 120 degF 5 minutes 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 130 degF 30 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 140 degF 5 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 150 degF 1.5 seconds 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin
Water at 160 degF .5 second 2nd & 3rd degree burns on adult skin

Scald Protection Devices

Scald protection devices are a must in homes with young children, the elderly and physically challenged. In many areas they are required to be installed to meet code requirements. While caution is the first line of defense to scald prevention, scald protection devices can help to maintain safer water temperatures.

Have questions about preventing hot water scalding in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your questions.
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
A home's plumbing system is designed to keep odors from building up inside the home. When you smell persistent odors it could be the sign of plumbing system problems. Here are some things to look for.

Bathroom Plumbing Odors

If you have a foul odor when flushing the toilet it could be caused by a worn toilet wax ring. The wax ring is designed to seal the toilet against the floor. Whenever water goes down a drain it pushes the air away. If the wax ring is not fully sealed, it will force the air between the floor and the bottom of the toilet, instead of down the drain pipe.

Air is also released out the main vent through the roof of the house. If the roof vent becomes blocked, the air has no place to escape. To eliminate the bathroom odors, reseal the wax ring on the toilet and ensure the main vent is not obstructed.

Basement Plumbing Odors

Traps are designed to seal out foul odors by sealing the drain with water. When the water evaporates, the seal is broken and odors enter the basement. To eliminiate the odors, simply pour a bucket of water down each trap. In addition, sinks, shower and floor drain that are used infrequently can be refilled with water to prevent smells from entering the house.

Kitchen Plumbing Odors

Foul odors in the kitchen are often caused by a garbage disposal that has a buildup of food debris. To eliminate the odor, turn on the faucet and grind ice cubes and lemon peels in the disposal, followed by a small amount of liquid dish detergent. Finish by rinse the disposal with cold water for 30 seconds.

Have questions about your plumbing system? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
A leaking water heater can range from a small, barely noticeable drip to a full-blown flood. Either way, the damage to your home and property can be expensive; ranging from damage to walls and floors, to unhealthy mold and mildew.

Water heater leaks

If you see water accumulating near your water heater, it may not actually be coming from the water heater. Nearby appliances and condensation on pipes near the water heater can cause moisture to accumulate nearby. Closely inspect the base of the water heater and valves for signs of leaks.

If you determine the water heater is the cause of the leak, the first step is to turn off power to the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off from the circuit breaker. A gas water heater can be shut of from the power supply attached to the unit, usually be turning a knob to the off position. Next, turn off the water from the cold water shut-off valve located near the top of the water heater.

Water heater leaks can occur in several locations, including: the cold water inlet and hot water outlet, the pressure relief valve, the drain valve, and the bottom of the tank. Fixing a water heater is not a do-it-yourself project. A qualified plumber should make the repair. Depending on the location and severity of the leak, your plumber will either have to repair the water heater, or recommend replacing it.

Preventing damage from water heater leaks.

For an extra measure of protection from unexpected water heater leaks, specially designed pans can be installed under the water heater to divert water leaks to a nearby floor drain. There are also special water leak alarms that can turn off the water when a leak is detected from the water heater or another source.

Have a leaking water heater or other plumbing problem? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
The causes of low water pressure in the home are many, and the cure can range from simple point source fixes to more complex water supply upgrades. The following are some helpful tips to diagnose and fix some of the most common causes of reduced water flow in the home.

Low water pressure

Obstructed Faucet Aerators

Hard water and debris can cause faucet aerators to become dirty and clogged over time, eventually restricting the flow of water. By regularly removing and cleaning the faucet aerator screens you can keep the water flowing freely. Vinegar can be used to dissolve mineral deposits on faucet aerators and shower heads. Simply submerge them overnight to dissolve the mineral deposits.

Low-Flow Shower Heads

If your shower head has a low-flow fixture in place, try swapping it out with a regular shower head fixture to increase the flow of water. Inexpensive, high-pressure shower heads are also available that can make your shower flow better.

Check the Water Supply Valves

If the water supply valve in your home has recently been shut off, it may not have been returned to the fully opened position. Check to ensure it is fully opened.

Advanced Solutions For Low Water Pressure

If you've checked the techniques above to increase your home's water pressure without success, ABC Southwest can help with more problematic water pressure problems.

One solution is a residential water pressure booster. A water pressure booster is a supplementary water pump that works with your home's existing water supply to increase water pressure.

Water Leaks

ABC Southwest can also help find more serious sources of low water pressure. If you have a water pipe that is leaking, it will affect the water pressure in your house significantly– and increase your water bill. Try turning off the water supply both inside and outside your home, then check your water meter. Check the water meter once more a couple hours later to determine if the water usage has increased. If so, you probably have a leak that needs to be located and repaired.

Water Supply Main Pipe

Another option is to increase the size of the main pipe supplying water to your house. See if you can determine what type of water pipes you have in the home and running to your water meter. Pipe size is an important factor in the amount of water pressure you'll get in your home. The larger the pipes, the more the water pressure, so you may want to consider increasing the size of the main pipe servicing your house.

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