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PLUMBING • DRAINS • COOLING • WATER QUALITY

ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning

Tuesday, 19 March 2019 16:27
Preventing Sewer and Drain Line Problems
A backed-up sewer line can be a real disaster, resulting in extensive damage to your home and in many cases requiring expensive repairs to your plumbing system. It's important to know the warning signs of sewer and drain problems to prevent the small problems from becoming drain disasters.

Knowing the Warning Signs

A home's sewer and drain system is designed like a tree, with branches of drain pipes leading to  main trunk line that runs out of the house to the sewer main. If there is a clog in a secondary line it's going be isolated to that line. For example, if your bathroom sink is clogged and the toilet flushes normally, it's isolated to the sink drain. However, it the problem is with the main line, the toilet may percolate and waste water may come up from the shower or tub drain or floor drain in the basement.

Slow to empty drains and gurgling noises from toilets are often the first warning signs that your sewer system is obstructed. It's important to have a sewer line inspection as soon as possible to identify and correct the problem.

Preventative Sewer Line Maintenance

Most home owner's insurance policies do not cover sewer line problems and repairs and in most cities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer line that runs form the house to the sewer main by the street.

You can reduce the potential for sewer and drain clogs by keeping materials like cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, baby wipes and other waste products out of toilets. This would include products marketed as "flushable". Pouring paint, grease and oil and other chemicals down the drain is not only harmful to the environment, it can cause problems inside the pipes.

Among the most common cause of sewer line backups and damage is tree root intrusion. A sewer and drain line inspection is cheap insurance and can find potential problems with tree root intrusion, broken or disconnected pipes, debris build-up and more. If problems are found your plumber has many tools to help clear or repair the line, including rodding, water-jetting, and trench-less sewer line repair. A follow-up video camera inspection will help to ensure that the repair was successful.

Have questions about your sewer and drain lines? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. From video camera inspections to sewer and drain line cleaning and repair, we can help.
Monday, 18 March 2019 15:01
Spring Plumbing Checklist

Spring is a good time to take a look around your home to find any plumbing issues that could lead to expensive damage to your home. Problems like water leaks, and inefficient plumbing fixtures can also lead wasted water and energy as well as higher utility bills.

Kitchen Plumbing

  • Check the faucet for drips and repair if needed
  • Check under the sink for signs of water leaks, including water stains or mold
  • Inspect the operation of the disposal, does it sound louder than it should?
  • Do the kitchen drains empty quickly, or do they need cleaning?

Bathroom Plumbing

  • Look for drips and leaks around toilets
  • Check for cracks in the toilet tank and bowl
  • Does the toilet run for longer than it should or does the handle need to be held down to empty completely? The parts may be worn out and need replacement
  • To see if the toilet is leaking, add several drops of food coloring to the tank. Check the bowl 30 minutes later. If the water has become colored, there is a leak
  • Check drains by filling sinks, tubs and showers with water. Do they drain quickly? Or do they need cleaning?
  • Check faucets and shower heads for mineral build-up. Soak fixtures in vinegar overnight to dissolve the deposits

General Plumbing

  • If plumbing fixtures are unused for long periods of time, exercise faucets and valves under sinks and toilets to prevent sticking
  • Check the water heater thermostat. It should be set to 120 or lower to prevent scalding
  • Flush the water heater tank to remove sediment at the bottom of the tank that can reduce efficiency and lead to corrosion. Check your water heater manual for the proper procedure for draining and maintaining the unit
  • If the water heater is over 12 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model
  • Ensure there ere no flammable liquids store near the water heater
  • Check washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or other signs of wear. Replace with stainless steal hoses if needed
  • Pour a bucket of water into floor drains to fill the trap and prevent odors
  • Check for signs of water leaks in ceilings and under sinks
  • Ensure that pluming vents outside the home are free of obstructions such as bird nests and debris
  • Ensure the sump pump is working properly by pouring a bucket of water in the pump pit. The pump should turn on a drain the water away
If you have water leaks, slow drains or other plumbing problems, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help with all your plumbing repair and installation needs.
Friday, 08 March 2019 22:44
Natural Drain Cleaning Products

When a bathroom or kitchen drain becomes clogged many homeowners will reach for a commercial drain cleaner to clear the clog. While chemical drain cleaning products can be very effective at removing grease, hair and other organic material, they can be hazardous to your health and damage your plumbing if not used in a safe manner.

Chemical drain cleaners often contain chemicals such as lye, sodium hydroxide or sodium nitrate. Many of these chemicals can cause severe burns and blindness and must be handled with extreme care.

Enzyme Drain Cleaners

One safe and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical drain cleaners are enzymatic drain cleaners. Natural bacteria or enzymes are put into the drain to feed on  hair, food waste and other organic material. These living organisms multiply inside the pipe and gradually clean the clog away. While not as fast acting as chemical cleaners, they are generally not harmful to people.

Home-made Drain Cleaner

Another way to safely clean out a drain is to use vinegar and baking soda.
    
Step 1 - pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain.
Step 2 - pour half a cup of vinegar.
Step 3 - Wait 15 minutes
Step 4 - pour in hot tap water.

An alternative method is to mix equal parts salt, vinegar and baking soda. Pour the mixture into the drain. Wait one hour, and then pour in hot water.

Water Jetting
If you have a stubborn drain clog and don't want to bother with chemical or enzyme-based cleaners, water jetting is a good option. Water-jetting is a safe and effective way to scour the inside of drain pipes to remove all the residue that snaking and rodding can leave behind.

Need help with clogged drains? Call ABC
Saturday, 09 March 2019 21:25
Central Air Conditioner Smells
Is your central air conditioner emitting a musty or sour smell? There are a few things you can check. In addition to lowering the temperature in your home your air conditioner also dehumidifies the air by blowing warm air over coils that contain refrigerant. This both reduces the temperature of the air and extracts the moisture from the air through condensation. The moisture drips off the coil and collects in a condensate pan where it can flow down the drain.

Condensate Pan

The condensate pan is located inside the air handler right under the refrigerant coils. When dirt and debris collect in the pan it can clog the drain hole, causing mold and mildew to grow – resulting in a musty smell.

If the drain is clogged you can us a piece of wire or a paper clip to clean out the drain opening. If there are signs of mold or mildew, wipe the pan clean with a sponge and  diluted chlorine bleach.

Air Ducts

If humidity levels reach high enough levels it can cause the dirt inside air ducts to turn to mold. Mold in the air ducts can be a serious health hazard. If you notice mold inside air ducts, or experience musty smells coming from the air registers, your ventilation system could be harboring mold. You should contact a mold specialist to have the duct work inspected.

Dirty Air Filter

A dirty air filter can limit the amount of air that can cycle through the system, creating an increase in humidity and dampness in the ventilation system – creating an ideal environment for mold to grow. Replace your air filter at least once a month, or at the interval recommended by the filter manufacturer.

If you suspect your central air conditioner is causing strange smells in your home, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we can inspect the system and ensure that it is operating safely and reliably.
Thursday, 21 February 2019 00:41
How Long Should My Central Air Conditioner Run?

If you're noticing that your air conditioner is running for longer than usual, or not running for as long as usual, it's important to consider all the factors that determine the length of a cooling cycle. The air temperature outside, the size and condition of air ducts, the amount of insulation, and the quality of the weather stripping around windows and doors, are just a few of the factors that will determine the length of the cooling cycle.

Outside Temperature

The cooling cycle lasts until the temperature on the thermostat is reached. It shuts off at that point and starts again when the house begins to warm up again.  If it is just a few degrees warmer outside, it may run for a few minutes. If it is very hot and humid, with a 30 degree difference between the thermostat setting and outside temperature, it may need to run much longer to reach the desired temperature.

Air Ducts and Circulation

Because a central air conditioner performs best when cooling the entire house, it's best to keep all vents and doors open when possible. Closing off rooms will not save energy, it will only make the AC work harder. Keeping your AC properly maintained, including changing the filter regularly, will also ensure that it's performing at peak efficiency.

AC Sizing

Air conditioners perform best when they are properly sized for the space they are cooling. The size of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs. One BTU is equal to the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. If your air conditioner has more BTUs than necessary, it will cycle more frequently. If it has too few BTUs, it will run much longer per cycle.

Assuming your central air conditioner is properly sized for your home, it should be able to cool and remove moisture from the air in 7 to 10-minute cycles. If not there could be a problem.

Have questions about your central air conditioner? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help.
Monday, 25 February 2019 14:49
Selecting a low-flow toilet
Toilets account for a large proportion of the water usedin the average home. When replacing  existing toilets it makes sense to check the gallons-per-flush to save water. You'll save money on your utility bill, and you help preserve our most precious natural resource.

High Efficiency Toilets

Low-flow toilets, or high-efficiency toilets (HET), have become more efficient and reliable, save more water while providing plenty of flushing power. To be classified as a HET by the EPA, a toilet must use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. They typically have an efficient design that uses gravity to empty the bowl.

Ultra-High Efficiency Toilets

Ultra-high-efficiency toilets (UHET) use only 1.28 gallons per flush. Some models use air pressure for flush assistance in the form of a special air tank integrated into the toilet. This can increase the noise when flushing due to the use of air pressure. They may also require a power connection, and could need more frequent maintenance.

Other low-flush toilets use a small pump within the unit to assist with flushing. While these toilets are sleek and modern, they also require a power source.

Dual-Flush Toilets

Dual-flush toilets, as the name suggest, can flush with different amounts of water. One button releases a small amount of water while a second empties a larger amount of water for solid waste, making them a smart and efficient alternative.

The more complexity and technology a toilet has, the greater the cost of installation and maintenance. So it's important to weight the long-term utility savings against the up-front cost of installation.

If you're replacing a new toilet and have questions about the different options available, give ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning a call, we can help all your plumbing questions.
Thursday, 14 February 2019 20:07
Why Do I Quickly Run Out of Hot Water?
Does your shower start out nice and hot, then rapidly run out after just a few minute? If the problem is only happening while taking a shower, it could be the shower mixer. A plumber should check the pressure balance and temperature control faucet. When they are not working properly, you will notice a reduction in the hot water pressure as when using a faucet. Temperature control shower faucets have a spring that turns the hot water supply down when it detects a change in the water temperature. As the spring ages and wears out it results in a loss of hot water temperature.

Broken Dip Tube

Another common cause of rapid hot water loss is a broken dip tube. This dip tube is a pipe inside the water heater that passes cold water through the hot water to the bottom of the tank so the burner can heat it up. If the dip tube falls off, the cold water empties into the top of the water heater and overruns the hot water outlet, sending cold water to the shower.

To determine if the dip tube is the cause of the problem and to stop the loss of hot water your plumber will need to pull the cold water inlet pipe out ot the water heater to check  the condition of the dip tube.

Water Heater Age

A water heater will typically last around 10 years. Over time sediment can build up leading to corrosion. The burning will gradually become less efficient and will produce less hot water in the same period of time as it used to. Consider the age of the unit when deciding wether to repair or replace the water heater.

Have water heater problems? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help diagnose the cause and recommend effective solutions to get the hot water flowing again.
Tuesday, 12 February 2019 21:08
Water Saving Plumbing Fixtures

1. Toilets

Older toilets use a lot of water. Once study concluded that if all the older, inefficient toilets in the US were replaced with newer, water-efficient models around 360 billion gallons of water could be saved every year. If your toilet was manufactured before the mid-1990s there's a good chance its wasting a lot of water. If you're concerned about the effectiveness of newer water efficient toilets, rest assured, most are rated highly and work well.

Another way to save water with every flush is to install "dual-flush" models. With two options for flush strength you can decide the amount of water that is needed.

2. Faucets

The EPA estimates that faucets account for 15% of indoor water use. By selecting a faucet with the WaterSense® certification you can reduce the water by at least 20 percent. You can also make most existing faucets more efficient by adding a water saving aerator.

3. Shower Heads

Depending on how inefficient your current shower head it, swapping it for a low-flow shower head can cut water use by 50% or more. The standard for low flow heads is 2.5 gpm at 80 psi. A high quality low flow shower head will offer good pressure at both high and low water pressures. Some have flow restrictors that allow you to adjust the spray pattern and pressure to achieve the right amount of water flow for your needs.

4. Tankless Water Heaters

While tankless water heaters won't save a large amount of water compared to tank-style water heaters, they can save water by reducing the amount of time for hot water to be available. Their primary benefit is the energy savings they offer by only heating water when it's needed, not an entire tank.

5. Rain Sensors

Lawn and landscape watering are extremely water-intensive. In many cities, rain or moisture sensors are required to prevent irrigation lines and underground lawn sprinklers from over watering lawns.






Thursday, 07 February 2019 19:42
Choosing a smart thermostat

Smart thermostats offer many advantages over conventional thermostats, from increased comfort, improved energy savings and remote access to temperature controls. However, there are differences between manufacturers that you should be aware of. Here are a few questions to ask when shopping for a smart thermostat.

Is it easy to install?

Do you need a device that can be installed by a homeowner without a lot of technical know-how? When installing the thermostat it's important to keep it away from vents and sources of heat that could affect the temperature readings. Place the thermostat in an area with minimal disturbance such as an interior wall.

Do you have a C-Wire?

A C-wire, or common wire, provides continuous power to your smart thermostat display and WiFi connectivity. If you don’t have one or aren’t sure, give us a call and we can help install one if needed.

Does it work remotely from your phone?

If you plan to use it from your phone make sure that the app works on your device.

Is it compatible with Other Technology in Your Home?

One of most convenient features of smart thermostats is their ability to interact with voice assistants like Google Home, Alexa® and Siri®. Check the manufacturer's website to see if your assistant is compatible with the thermostat models you are considering.

Tracking Savings

If you're primarily interested in improving efficiency and lowering energy costs, consider a model with data tracking and reporting. You'll be able to see hour-by-hour and day-by-day how often your heating and cooling system are operating.

Have questions about smart thermostats? Give us a call, we're happy to help.
Tuesday, 05 February 2019 18:23
Tankless water heaters, or on-demand water heaters, have been around for over a decade now and have proven to be a reliable, energy efficient and a green alternative to tank-style water heaters. When problems do arise is often a result of installation issues or a lack of maintenance.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are hi-tech appliances that heat water rapidly only when it's need, resulting in less wasted energy and a nearly continuous supply of hot water. When properly maintained they will last around 20 years. Here are some of the most common problems experienced with tankless water heaters.

Hard Water and Mineral Build-up

Hard water can lead to scaly calcium buildup which can increase the maintenance requirements for the unit. The unit should be flushed with vinegar following the manufacturer's instructions to prevent minerals from reducing performance or potentially damaging the unit. If your home has excessively hard water, it's recommended that a water softener be installed to prevent excessive calcium deposits form accumulating in the water lines.

Corrosion

While you're more likely to experience corrosion problems with a conventional tank-style water heater, tankless water heaters can also be damaged by corrosion if condensation drips onto on the gas burner and causes problems with the gas supply.

Excessive Demand

Before installing a new tankless water heater your plumber will ask about your water usage to calculate which unit will best serve your hot water needs. If you exceed the capacity of the unit by showering, doing laundry and other water-intensive tasks simultaneously, the unit may shut down to prevent damage from over heating. If you use a lot of hot water at the same time in different areas of your home, you may be better off going with a larger tank-style water heater.

Improper Installation

When a tankless water heater is installed it's essential that the unit have enough ventilation to allow excess heat to escape, and in the case of gas units, for exhaust gases to vent to the outside of the home. If not properly vented, the unit may overheat and automatically shut down as a safety precaution.

Have questions about tankless water heaters? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your water heating concerns.
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