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Plumbing Tips and Advice

Plumbing Tips and Advice (144)

Installing low-flow toilets is a great way to conserve water and reduce your water bill. By using about half the volume of water as a standard toilet, you can save around a gallon and a half of water per flush. That adds up to thousands of gallons of water saved every year.

Many states and municipalities now require low-flow toilets on new homes or when replacing a toilet when remodeling a bathroom. For most homeowners, the process is simple and straightforward, but what if your home is 50 years old or older? Can your plumbing system handle a lower flow toilet?

The key to whether a low-flow toilet will function in an older home is the waste drain pipe slope. The waste pipe beneath a toilet needs a slope of between 1/8-in. and 1/4-in. per foot for the water to carry solid waste to the sewer. If it's too steep or not steep enough, the flow of water could allow waste to collect, causing a clog.

In some older homes the slope may not have been carefully planned. Since older toilets had plenty of flushing power with 3 gallons of water to work with, it may not have been a concern.

If you have an older house, here are some things to be aware of if you decide to install low-flow toilets.

1. If your current toilet backs up occasionally, even when solid waste isn’t being flushed you may have a clogged waste line. Have the waste and sewer line inspected prior to installing a low-flow toilet.

2. When the toilet is lifted off the floor for other maintenance, use a flashlight to check the drain for standing water in the waste line. Even if it’s just a small amount, it could be a sign that you have a negative pipe slope.

If you're concerned that your older plumbing system may not be able to safely handle a low-flow toilet, consider installing a unit with a pressure-assisted flush that uses water pressure to charge a compressed-air tank inside the toilet tank. When flushed, it will use the compressed air to drive water out of the bowel fast, forcing it down the drain and into the waste line with enough force to remove solid waste.

Have questions about low-flow toilets? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your plumbing questions.
If you're noticing water around the base of your toilet, the cause may be a worn toilet wax ring. Made from a molded wax loop around a short plastic tube, wax rings are designed to fit almost any toilet and floor drain by conforming to the shape and size of the fitting. One benefit of wax is it's ability to resist mold and bacteria and retain a secure seal for many years.

Whenever a toilet is removed for any reason the wax ring seal should be replaced. If the toilet wobbles from side to side, or the height at the base is changed (when going from a vinyl floor to tile, for example) the toilet anchor flange should also be replaced or a spacer added to fill the gap.

If you're replacing a wax ring because of a leak around the base of the toilet, be sure to inspect the subfloor around the toilet for water damage and make any necessary repairs before mounting the toilet back to the floor.

Need help installing a new wax ring on your toilet? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can help.
One of the concerns many homeowners have when making the switch from a conventional tank-style water heater to a tankless, or on-demand water heater, is whether it can get the water as hot as a tank water heater. The short answer is yes.

Most tankless water heaters have a thermostat that can be adjusted between 100° to 140°, depending on the brand and model. By comparison, most tank water heaters have the temperature set around 120°.

The key to ensuring the water heater can supply a consistent 120° or higher is the climate and number of sources the tankless water heater will need to supply. It is critical that a tankless water heater is sized based on a household's needs. If the unit is too small for the amount of flow it’s being asked to produce it may work fine for a shower, but not work as needed when a washing machine and a shower are in use at the same time.

Tankless water heater ratings are based on the rise in water temperature they produce. The colder the temperature of the incoming water supply, the lower the maximum temperature of the heater. This means in a warmer climate like Florida, you don't need as large a tankless water heater as someone living in a colder climate, like Minnesota.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
When choosing a new water heater there are several types to choose from. Each offers advantages and disadvantages, here is a comparison, starting with the most popular water heater designs.

Storage Hot Water Heaters

Advantages
  • Available in a wide range of sizes
  • Inexpensive to purchase and install
  • Energy source gas or electric 
  • Average EF rating 0.67
Disadvantages
  • Tank size has increased with NAECA standards, so installation requires more space
  • Limited supply of hot water during extended use
  • Can waste up to 15% of energy through radiant heat loss
  • Life expectancy of 10-15 years

Tankless Hot Water Heaters - On Demand Water Heaters

Advantages
  • Consume 20% to 30% less energy than storage tank models
  • Meets NAECA standards without increase in size or installation costs.
  • Take up less space, can be mounted on a wall
  • Very little standby energy waste
  • Virtually endless supply of hot water
  • Life expectancy of 20 or more years
  • Average EF rating 0.75
Disadvantages
  • Hot water flow rate is limited by the size of the unit
  • Typically more complicated and expensive to install
Many consumer products are labeled as "flushable" while others seem harmless enough, but the reality is many common items can cause a major clog when flushed down the toilet.
  1. Cigarettes — Cigarettes can not only clog a plumbing system, like prescription medications, they are bad for the environment.
  2. Cotton Balls, Q-Tips, Paper Towels and Facial Tissue – Unlike toilet paper, these products do not break down readily and should not be flushed down the toilet.
  3. Disposable Wipes – Wipes of all kinds are popular these days. There are floor wipes, leather wipes, wood wipes, baby wipes, and more. While some may say they are flushable, play it safe. Most are not biodegradable and can clog your toilet.
  4. Feminine Products – Sure, many manufacturers say they are flushable, but many a clogged toilet has been caused by feminine products.
  5. Prescription Medications — While they are unlikely to cause plumbing problems, prescription medications can end up in the water supply where they can harm the environment.
  6. Dental Floss – This stringy material loves to wrap itself up in balls and clog plumbing systems. It's much safer to just toss it in a waste can.
Have drain problems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Heating we can help.
When most people think of water heaters the first thing that comes to mind is a conventional tank storage water heater. Tank water heaters store 20-80 gallons of hot water and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, because they must maintain a large volume of heated water, they can be more costly to operate. Newer technology is designed to address some of the shortcomings of the traditional water heater.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless or demand-type water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. A gas burner or electric element heats the cold water as it passes through the water heater. Households that require a lot of hot water can benefit the from a virtually endless supply of hot water. One downside to tankless water heaters is they typically cost more to purchase and install, although they can last longer than conventional tank water heaters if properly maintained. Another disadvantage of tankless water heaters is they can take longer to heat the water initially when the tap is first turned on.

Hybrid Water Heaters

Hybrid water heaters are designed to combine the benefits of a conventional tank water heater and a tankless water heater. They have a small storage tank that provides an initial supply of hot water, then heats cold water on demand with a heating element similar to a tankless water heater.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters distribute heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly to providing hot water.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters use the sun's heat to heat water. A roof-mounted solar collector absorbs the sun's heat and stores it in a special fluid that circulates in a closed-loop system that heats water in a tank.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
We don't often think about our drains and sewer line until there is a problem, but there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your home's drains sewer line and are kept in good condition both from inside and outside of the pipe.

Homeowners are responsible for keeping the sewer lateral, the pipe that connects to the municipal sewer main.

You can help keep your home's plumbing system flowing freely from the sink drain to the sewer main by following these simple tips:

1. Keep cooking fats and grease out of your kitchen drain. Pour cooking oil and grease into a disposable container and place it in your freezer. Once it solidifies you can dispose of it in the trash.

2. Don’t flush wet towels, wipes, diapers, q-tips or hygiene products down the toilet.

3. Avoid planting trees and plants where the roots may spread near the sewer line. Root intrusion is one of the most common causes for sewer line damage.

4. Have ABC periodically inspect your sewer line to check for and fix the little problems before they become major repairs. Video sewer line inspections can find problems like cracks, tree root intrusion and obstructions.

Have sewer and drain line questions? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.

Tank storage water heaters are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home, second only to heating and cooling systems. By changing some habits and installing a few simple accessories, you can reduce energy consumption from your hot water heater significantly.

1. Reduce hot water usage at the source. One of easiest ways to cut hot water usage is to install water saving shower heads. The minimum flow rate on a shower head should be no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). Many water conserving shower heads can reduce flow to as little as 1.6 gpm while maintaining acceptable water pressure. The water savings for a household of four could be as much as 14,000 gallons a year along with greatly reduced energy required to heat the water.

2. Insulate the hot water distribution system. Even in a small home, as much as 10 percent of the energy used to heat water can be lost in the pipes that supply the hot water. Insulating hot water pipes is an inexpensive way to significantly reduce heat loss.

3. Use a water heater blanket. While many new water heaters have sufficient insulation built into the tank wall, many older tanks will allow heat to escape. The larger the water heater, the more surface area that will allow heat to escape. Prevent heat loss by wrapping your water heater tank in an insulation blanket available from most home supply stores. Some manufacturers recommend against installing insulating blankets on their energy-efficient models, so be sure to read your owner's manual before adding a blanket.

4. Water heater maintenance. Over time, storage tank water heaters can accumulate sediment that reducing heating efficiency. Flushing the tank annually will remove the sediment and make it easer for the burner or heating element to heat the water.

Have questions about your water heater? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
The sump pump is one of those plumbing systems that most homeowners don't think about. A sump pump is designed to turn on automatically when the basement begins to flood. If it malfunctions and doesn't turn on, it can cause expensive damage to your home. By following a few simple maintenance steps you can reduce the chances that your sump pump will fail when you need it the most.

IMPORTANT: Before removing the pump always disconnect the unit from the power supply, and reconnect it after cleaning.

Quarterly Sump Pump Maintenance

1. Clean the pump screen or inlet opening. If your sump collects the discharge from an washing machine, cleaning will be required for often.

2. Pour enough water into the sump pit to cycle the pump and ensure proper functioning.

Annual Sump Pump Maintenance

Remove and and clean the pump. Clean the pump pit also. Do not lubricate or perform any other maintenance unless the pump's instruction manual says to do so. Ensure that the float arm is able to smoothly move up and down to active the pump.

Have sump pump questions? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning.
If your frustrated by the lack of water pressure when taking a shower, filling a sink or performing other tasks, there are some things you can check.
  1. Check the water pressure regulator. The pressure regulator is designed to ensure that water pressure doesn't damage plumbing systems in the home. The reading should be between 50 to 80 PSI.
  2. Check the water main main shut-off valve at the water meter. Sometimes when work is performed on the plumbing system the water is not fully turned back on.
  3. Check the faucets. – First, check an outside faucet. If the pressure is strong outside and low on inside faucets, it could be worn faucet washers.
  4. If all of the above do not lead to a solution, it could be the clogged pipes. Sediment or dirt can buildup over the years. Your plumber can inspect the pipes and determine if replacement is necessary.
Have questions about water pressure in your home? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help.
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