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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (144)

By default, many water heater manufacturers set the temperature on the thermostat at 140 Fahrenheit. For most households, this is simply too high. One rule of thumb: if you can't hold your hand under the tap with the water on it's hottest setting, the water heater is turned up too high, and your wasting energy. In addition, setting the temperature too high increasing the risk of scalding, of particular concern if there are young children or elderly residents in the home.

Setting the water heater to 120 Fahrenheit work well in most cases. Turning the temperature down 20 degrees saves 6 to 10 percent on energy costs. If you're finding that 120 F is leaving you wishing the water was hotter, gradually adjust the setting upward until a comfortable setting is achieved.

Have questions abut your water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
In response to water conservation concerns in the 1990's, low-flush (or high efficiency) toilets were introduced to significantly reduce the number of gallons used per flush (GPF). Low flush toilets use 1.3 gallons per flush, while a regular toilet 1.6 or more gallons per flush. The average US home will save US$90 per year, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet, according to the EPA. To be eligible to the EPA's Water Sense label, a toilet cannot be more than 20 percent less than the maximum allowed.

As the name suggest, a dual-flush toilet is uses two buttons or handles to flush different amounts of water. Depending on the design, the amount of water can be cut in half. While they can save a significant amount of water, the downside to dual-flush design is added complexity with more parts, as well as higher initial cost.

Have questions about low-flush toilets or other high-efficiency plumbing fixtures? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can can help with all your home plumbing installation, repair and maintenance needs.
If the supply of hot water heater in your home is not sufficient, even after turning up the thermostat, there are a number of possible causes.

1. The Dip Tube Is Damaged

Cold water enters the water heater through the dip tube where it is forced to the bottom of the tank for quick heating. When the tube is broken the water remains at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is, causing it to return cold water with the heated water.

2. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank

Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This causes a gradual reduction in heating efficiency that will make the water heater work harder and eventually resulting in less hot water. Flushing the tank annually will prevent sediment build up.

3. The Heating System Is Malfunctioning

Most water heater problems occur with these systems:
  • Thermal switch
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element
A licensed plumber should inspect the water heater and repair the part as needed.

4. Hot Water Heater Is Too Far From Where It's Needed

If the water eventually heats up, the problem is sometime a hot water tank that is too far from where it's needed. In the cold months in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the faucet where it's needed. Insulating the pipes can help reduce heat loss.

5. The Water Heater Tank Is Undersized

If you have recently noticed that your water heater suddenly seems to supply less hot water, or runs out suddenly, it could be that your water heater tank is too small to keep up with demand. Installing a larger tank or tankless water heater will ensure that you have all the water your household needs.
When a bathroom or kitchen drain gets clogged many homeowners will purchase chemical drain cleaning products to try to clean out the obstruction. While drain cleaners can be effective at removing organic material from drains, they also carry a few risks.

Liquid drain cleaners usually contain corrosive alkaline, bleach and lye in concentrations up to 50 percent. They dissolve organic matter like food waste, hair, grease and other material. However, the further the clog is from the drain opening, the less effective they will be. This is why drain cleaners are usually not very effective for unclogging toilets.

Drain cleaners are also highly corrosive and are among the most hazardous household products you can purchase. To reduce the risk of injury, the manufacturer's instructions should be followed carefully and the products stored in a safe location where they cannot be reached by children.

When using chemical drain cleaners it is important to avoid contact with materials near the drain such as wood, paint, fiberglass and aluminum. Wear rubber gloves and protect your eyes.

The alternative to chemical drain cleaners is professional drain cleaning. Physically removing obstructions using a drain snake or water jetting is the safest, most effective way to remove tough clogs from sewer and drain lines. At ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric we provide fast, affordable drain cleaning, so you can skip the chemicals and rest easy knowing the job will be done right and there are no dangerous chemicals stored in your home.
Plumbing traps, or P-Traps, are designed to perform two duties. First, they prevent sewer gases and odors from entering the home. Second, they are designed to trap debris from the sinks to prevent clogs from forming further down the plumbing system. In addition, if you have ever dropped something down the sink drain, you'll appreciate that the trap can also help you recover the item by simply removing the clean-out section of the trap and emptying the contents into a bucket.

Why Is It called a P-Trap?

The P-trap combines two 90 degree joints with a horizontal overflow pipe, giving it the shape of the letter “P.” One of the 90 degree joints exits the drain and then is joined to another which contains standing water that seals the pipe to allow water to flow down the overflow pipe, but not backward toward the sink. This prevents the backflow of water odors.

Have questions about plumbing traps or other plumbing systems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help with all your plumbing, sewer and drain problems.
One of the best ways to extend the life of your water heater and ensure it operates efficiently is to flush the tank annually to remove sediment buildup. The process is straightforward, here are the steps:
  1. Shut off the water supply - Locate the cold water supply valve at the top of the water heater and turn it to the off position.
  2. Turn off the water heater - If you have a gas water heater, simply turn the thermostat knob to the “pilot” setting. If the water heater is electric, turn off the power at the breaker panel.
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located near the bottom of the tank. Place the other end of the hose near a floor drain, in a bucket (have several large buckets to empty into and rotate them if needed) or outside the home. CAUTION: Even though a water heater may be off for hours, the water in the tank may still be hot enough to scald.
  4. Open a hot water tap - Open a hot water tap on a floor above that is nearest the water heater. This will relieve pressure in the system, helping the water drain from the tank.
  5. Open the drain valve - After all the water has drained from the tank, turn the cold water supply at the top of the tank back on for a moment. This will clear out any remaining sediment. Repeat this step until the water runs clear.
When you're finished draining the tank, return it to operating condition by following these steps:
  1. Close the drain valve
  2. Remove the hose
  3. Turn on the cold water supply to refill the tank.
  4. Return to the hot water tap you opened earlier. Once cold water begins to flow from the tap, turn it off.
  5. Turn the gas valve back on from the pilot position or turn electricity back on to the tank.
  6. Check the valve opening to ensure it's not leaking.
IMPORTANT: Always read and follow all manufacturer’s directions and warnings for your particular water heater. Some water heater tanks must be completely full to avoid damage to the gas burner or heating elements.
If your ice maker has stopped making ice, here are some things to check:
  1. Check the Water Supply Line and Valve. The water supply line runs from the ice maker to a valve located behind the freezer, under the sink, or in the plumbing lines below refrigerator. Check that the valve is open enough to supply enough water. In most cases, it is recommended that the line be opened just enough to provide water pressure to fill the line. Check the line for pinches or kinks that could be obstructing flow.
  2. Check the shutoff arm. The arm should be in the down (on) position when making ice, and raised (in the off position) when the ice maker is filled.
  3. Check the Freezer Temperature. The freezer should be around 5 degrees (F) and the refrigerator around 36 degrees (F). The temperature controls can be found inside the freezer or refrigerator. To ensure the temperature is accurate, place a container of alcohol or cooking oil with a cooking thermometer inside the freezer and let it sit for about 2 hours. Because the oil or alcohol will not freeze, it will allow for an accurate measurement.
If none of the above items work, and you have confirmed that water is reaching the unit, it may a malfunction of one of the ice maker itself. Test the following parts for proper operation.
  • Ejector gear
  • Ejector motor
  • Ice mold heater
  • Holding switch
  • Thermostat
  • Inlet Valve
Need plumbing help? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
If you're considering buying or renovating an older home it's important to understand the problems that older plumbing systems can present. Many times pipes, sewer and drain lines and fixtures will require upgrades to operate reliably. Before buying an older home, it's a good idea to have a professional plumber inspect the home to ensure it is up to code.

Pipe Inspections

Prior to the early 20th century, lead pipes were common in Florida homes. Because lead can leach into the water supply, they should be replaced. In the 1960s, galvanized steel was a popular pipe material. because they have a lifespan of around 40 years, they should be replaced to prevent leaks. Polybutylene plastic pipes were popular in the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s. Because they can become brittle and are prone to breaking, they should be replaced.

Sewer and Drain Lines

One of the most common problems with older sewer lines is tree root intrusion. Once a sewer line has been damaged, it's only a matter of time before it completely fails. For this reason, older homes should have regular sewer and drain line inspections.

Other areas that should be inspected in older homes include:
  • Roof vents
  • Floor drains
  • Toilets
  • Water heaters
  • Disposals
  • Washing machine hoses
Need help with plumbing upgrades to your older home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
One of the most common causes of damage to the home, and insurance claims, is water. While some insurance policies may cover catastrophic damage from floods or hail, gradual water damage is usually not covered. Here are some tips to protect your home from water damage.
  1. Test your sump pump and water backup valve regularly.
  2. Notice changes in your plumbing. If you're experiencing low water pressure, have a professional inspect the plumbing system for leaks.
  3. Have your sewer and drain lines inspected. A video camera inspection is cheap insurance against a sewer line failure and backups.
  4. Check your water heater. A tank storage water heater will last around 10 years. You can extend the life with regular maintenance, including flushing the tank and inspecting the anode rod. For extra peace of mind, consider installing a drain pan under the water heater to drain potential leaks to the floor drain.
  5. Clean out your gutters and downspouts and ensure that there is adequate drainage away from the foundation.
  6. Check your washer hoses for cracking or buckling.
Have plumbing questions? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
There are several reasons you may need to drain your home's plumbing system. You may have a vacation home that will be unoccupied during the winter months, and the water needs to be drained to prevent damage from frozen pipes. You may be undertaking a major plumbing, repair, or you need to drain the lines to fix water hammer or another issue.
  1. The first step is to locate the main water shut-off valve. This is usually located near the water meter.
  2. Next, go to the highest floor in the house and open the sink faucets.
  3. In the basement or lowest level of the home, open the laundry tub faucet.
  4. Return the the top floor of the house and turn on the shower and tub drains.
  5. Next, flush the toilets on every floor.
  6. All the faucets should be left open and the water should be drained now.
Need help with your home's plumbing system? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditoning. From the kitchen sink to sewer lines, we can help with all your plumbing needs.
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