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Archive for June, 2013

Plumbing Tips

Leaving for Vacation – do this first

If you are heading off on vacation you should probably shut off your water before leaving your home.

If it’s warm outside, you don’t need to do much else to your pipes.

If it’s winter however, you should drain your pipes to prevent them from freezing. If your pipes freeze they could burst, causing a major flood, and no one wants to come home from vacation to a mess.

If you are heading south for the winter it is usually best if you ask your utility provider to shut off the water to your home from the street. If you don’t want to do this or if you are on a well then just shut off the main water supply to the house.

Water Pipes –

Drain all of your pipes, beginning at the top floor of your home and working down. The best way to winterize is to blow all the water from the pipes with an air compressor. 

  1. Open all the faucets that you have in your house, including all the spigots, sink, and bathtub faucets that you have.
  2. Go outside and take off any garden hoses that may be attached to your outdoor spigots. Turn on your sprinkler system (if you have one) and drain outdoor faucets.
  3. You will have to drain your water heater as well. If you have a drain nearby, attach a hose to the water valve on your heater. Direct the hose to the drainage area and open the water heater valve and let it go. You may need a pump if you don’t have a lower area to drain the water to. .
  4. You should leave at least one valve open in your home to allow air to flow through and excess water to drain. This valve should be located in the lowest part of your house, preferably the basement. If you don’t have a basement, open a valve on the first floor, preferably in the garage or utility room.

Drainage Pipes 

Drainage Pipes can also freeze if there is water left in them and it is very common because most people forget that there is water in them. If you are going away, follow these steps to prevent freezing of your drains:

  1. Clear out the traps underneath your sinks. You can do this by removing the trap fully, or by opening the cleanout plug. Have a small bucket ready to catch the waste water 
  1. Your bathtub, toilet, and basement drain have hidden traps that should be weatherproofed. Use pipeline antifreeze or even windshield fluid that is rated for winter weather. Toilets require a gallon of fluid in the tank. Flush first, then dump the fluid in the tank, and flush again.
  2. .Bathtubs, floor drains, and other hidden traps require about one quart of antifreeze. Poor the quart down the drain. Simple!
  3. Clothes washers and dishwashers should be drained of water. Try to get as much water out as you can. Whatever you do, do not put windshield washer fluid into these appliances, as it will break them.

Now you will want to restore water to your pipes. Turn off all faucets inside and outside that you may have left open. Call your utility and ask them to turn the water if you had it shut off in the street. If you turned off your own water, turn the main water supply back on again, slowly. You should hear a bunch of sputtering. This is normal when you fill the water back into the pipes.

Be sure to turn on the gas or electricity supply to your water heater. It may take an hour or two before you get hot water!

*Don’t turn on the water heater before completely filling it you could damage the tank.

Please give us a call if you need us to do this service for you. 


Plumbing Tips for Sink Drains

It’s always best to prevent clogs before they happen. Be alert to the warning signs of a sluggish drain. It’s easier to open a drain that’s slowing down than one that’s stopped completely.

  • Run scalding or hot water down the drain to break up grease buildups.
  • If the hot water doesn’t work then there may be an object or hair in the drain. 

Clearing Drains with a Plunger— you thought it was simple but did you know

A Plunger often fails to work because it’s incorrectly used? Don’t make the typical mistake of pumping up and down two or three times, expecting the water to whoosh down the drain. Though no great expertise is needed to use this simple tool, here are a few tips to guide you:

  • Choose a plunger with a suction cup large enough to cover the drain opening completely.
  • Fill the clogged fixture with enough water to cover the plunger cup.
  • Coat the rim of the plunger cup with petroleum jelly to ensure a tight seal if you cant get it to seal.
  • Block off all other outlets (the tub overflow, second drain in a double sink, adjacent fixtures near the clog) with wet rags.
  • Insert the plunger into the water at an angle so no air remains trapped under it.
  • Use 15 to 20 forceful strokes, holding the plunger upright and pumping vigorously.

Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

If water is draining somewhat, but plunging has failed to open the drain completely, you may want to try using a drain cleaner. Routine use of chemical drain cleaners to prevent clogs may eventually damage your pipes but these cleaners can be helpful in opening clogged drains. Whenever you use chemicals, do so with caution and in a well-ventilated room. Be sure to take these precautions:

  • Never use a plunger if a chemical cleaner is present in the drain; you risk splashing caustic water on yourself.
  • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection to prevent the chemical from burning your skin or eyes.
  • Don’t use a chemical cleaner if the blockage is total, especially if the fixture is filled with water. It won’t clear the blockage and you’ll face another problem of how to get rid of the caustic water.
  • Never use a chemical cleaner in a garbage disposal or a toilet.
  • Read labels and match cleaners with clogs. Alkalis cut grease; acids dissolve soap and hair.

 The best method to unclog a drain is the use of a snake.


Plumbing Tips for Garbage Disposals

Most garbage disposals fail because of abuse. Many people tend to overwork their garbage disposals.

Here are some common mistakes:

Overloading: Put stuff into your garbage disposer a little bit at a time. If you shove a whole bunch of stuff in there at once, it could clog the blades or burn out the motor.

Running it dry: When you use your garbage disposals, always run some cold water at the same time. This will keep the motor from overheating. Continue to run cold water down the drain for at least a minute after you turn the disposal off. This will clean off the blades.

Dumping in the wrong stuff: Try to avoid putting foods that have a lot of fiber into the garbage disposal. These foods tend to clog up the works. Avoid onion skins, chives, celery, carrot, and potato skins, at least in large doses.

Over-greasing: Don’t put animal fat down the disposer. When it cools, it will congeal and clog the blades and the motor. It’s also doesn’t smell very good.

Grinding up solid matter: If you think something solid has fallen in there, get out your flashlight and peer in. Pull it out (carefully!) with a pair of tongs. Don’t use your fingers!

If your disposals no longer works when you turn on the switch then you may have tripped the overload switch. Let the disposer cool and then you can reset it. Just push down the reset button, which is usually a little red button and located on the bottom of the unit. If you can’t find a reset button, it may have a thermal breaker and automatically reset after cooling.

If your disposal doesn’t make a sound when you turn it on you may have tripped a circuit. Check the breaker box and reset any breakers or fuses.

If the unit’s motor is humming but not running, it could be jammed. Look under the disposal. Your unit may come with a crank and flywheel that you can turn to manually release the jam. If not, there may be a socket (Allen socket) in the center of the bottom of the disposal.  This is for the special wrench that came with the unit. If you’ve lost the wrench you can just use an Allen key in the socket.

If you have none of these special features or if you can’t get them to work, put a wooden broom handle into the sink. Move the blades back and forth until the jam is gone. Don’t use your fingers.

If your disposer is clogged, put a snake into the trap cleanout. Push the snake up towards the sink or towards the wall, depending on where the clog is. If you can’t find a snake, take the trap out and see if you can get the blockage out.

If your disposal still isn’t working give us a call and we will be happy to service it for you!


Plumbing Tips for How To Fix Sweating Pipes

Sometimes there’s so much water dripping from a pipe that you’re sure there must be a leak somewhere. On closer examination, however, you may discover there is no leak but rather sweating, or condensation, on the pipe.

Sweating occurs when the water inside the pipe is much colder than surrounding humid air. During the summer, the surrounding air is naturally hot; in winter, the air is heated by the furnace. In either case, when warm, humid air reaches cold pipes, drops of moisture form and drip as if there was a tiny hole in the pipe.

One effective way to control the moisture problem of a sweating pipe is to insulate the pipes. There are several types of self-adhesive thick “drip” tape designed to easily adhere to problem pipes.

Before applying the tape, wipe the pipes as dry as you can. Wind the tape so that it completely covers the pipe and the fittings. You should see no further signs of sweating.

Another method would be to add a dehumidifier to the basement or room. This will help pull the moisture out of the air and help reduce the “sweating” of the pipes.


Plumbing Tips for How To Stop Water Hammer

Water hammer is a specific plumbing noise, not a generic name for pipe clatter. It occurs when you shut off the water suddenly and the fast-moving water rushing through the pipe is brought to a quick halt, creating a sort of shock wave and a hammering noise. Plumbing that’s properly installed has air chambers, or cushions, that compress when the shock wave hits, softening the blow and preventing this hammering. The chambers can fail, though, because water under pressure gradually absorbs the air.

If you never had hammering and then it suddenly starts, most likely your plumbing system’s air chambers have become waterlogged. You can cure water hammer by turning off the water behind the waterlogged chamber, opening the offending faucet and permitting the faucet to drain thoroughly. Once all the water drains from the chamber, air will fill it again and restore the cushion. If the air chamber is located below the outlet, you may have to drain the main supply lines to allow the chamber to fill with air again.

The air chamber will not drain properly if it’s clogged with scale or residue from chemicals or minerals in the water. The chamber always should be larger than the supply pipe to preclude such clogging. Since the chamber is simply a capped length of pipe, however, all you have to do to clear it is remove the cap and clean out the residue.

What do you do if there are no air chambers built into your plumbing system? You must do something, because water hammer pressures may eventually cause damage: failure of fittings or burst pipes, for example. Because water hammer is most often caused by water pressure that’s too high, the first step is to reduce the water pressure if possible. Sometimes this isn’t feasible because a reduction in pressure may result in only a dribble of water at an upper-floor faucet if one on the first floor is turned on.

Where the idea is a workable one, you can reduce pressure by installing a pressure-reducing valve in the supply line that comes into the house. The same purpose is served by installing a globe valve at the head of the affected pipeline. But this too may result in pressure too low for proper operation when other faucets are open.

If pressure reduction is not feasible or is ineffective, install the necessary air chambers to prevent water hammer. If you have no room to make the installation without tearing into a wall, go to a plumbing supply dealer and find out about the substitute devices designed for such problem areas. Many of these devices have a valve that makes it easy for air to re-enter the system.

The next time you hear noises or clatter coming from your home’s plumbing system, try the solutions mentioned in this article. The same goes for leaking, sweating, or frozen pipes. If you can solve the problem right away, you can prevent it from becoming more serious.


Plumbing Tips for Oil Burner Air Purging 

If you had run out of home heating oil and have refueled your tank or disconnected your oil burner you will need to purge the air out of the oil line for your burner to work.

There are two types of oil feeds to a burner. A single pipe system and a two pipe system.  If you have a two pipe system you are all set. When the burner starts it will circulate the fuel in the lines and self purge the air from it.

If you have a single pipe oil feed then you will need to purge your oil line. There is a 3/8″ bleeder fitting on the fuel pump to the left of the burner. Near where the oil line come into the burner. It looks like a small black nipple with a nut on it facing the bottom of the burner. It is the least messy if you use a small clear hose, (1/2″ vinyl tubing usually works best) and a bucket. Using the wrench crack the bleeder fitting open and run the burner. You can start the burner by pressing the Red button on the top of the controller. Some new burners have a pre purge of about 10 sec before it will engage the pump, you will know when the burner comes on if this is the case due to the oil automatically feeding into the tube or if it is delayed. Either way you will eventually see oil feeding into the hose either in a foam state (indicating air) or a solid stream of oil which you want. At this point when you see a steady stream you will need to shut the bleeder fitting and your done. If there is a substantial amount of air the burner will shut down as your bleeding it due to it not firing after 30 seconds, in which case you will need to wait a second or 2 and then press the reset to start over. Continue doing this until the burner starts and runs.

Don’t forget to put the oil you removed back into the oil tank. The easiest place to do that is at the fill pipe where the delivery company fills it. 

That’s about as much as you can do without having the proper test instruments and knowledge of fuel oil.

If you are still having trouble please give us a call and we will be happy to service it for you!



Plumbing tips for your Toilet Tank

If you’re having a problem with your toilet and it isn’t a clog, than it is probably your tank. When you flush, there is a series of events that occur in the tank. Though it may look complicated, it actually isn’t.

After you flush, there is a stopper valve in your tank that lifts up, allowing water from the tank to flow into the bowl, whisking away the waste. Meanwhile, as the water in your tank is draining, the ball float lowers and the rubber stopper valve settles back into its valve seat. Then the tank will gradually fill up again with clean water that spurts out of the tank refill tube. If one thing breaks it will cause your toilet not to flush or to run constantly.

Here are some of the very common toilet issues and some tips on how to fix them. Don’t forget to shut off the water to your toilet before working on it!


Problem: Water continues running even when tank is full
1. Your trip assembly is blocking itself and not allowing the cycle to finish. Take the lid off of the tank and flush. Check to see if everything looks like it’s working.
2. Your stopper chain is too long. Readjust it so that the chain is only about 1/2 inch longer than necessary.
3. You need a new stopper valve or valve seat. Reach into the tank and using your hand, push down on the rubber stopper. If it doesn’t run anymore, this is your problem. Get a new stopper.
4. Look at your float. If the float ball has water in it, it will drag it down. Get a new one.
5. Your trip assembly that is connected to the toilet handle has worn out. Flush the tank and look inside to see if the stopper still rises and falls back into place. If it doesn’t, replace it.


Problem: The toilet doesn’t flush completely
1. Your tank’s float ball could be set too high, which causes too much water to fill up in the tank. Bend the float down or adjust it to the proper height.
2. Your tank’s float ball could be set too low, preventing enough water from getting in the tank. Bend the float down or adjust it to the proper height.
3. Your float ball might have water inside of it.


Problem: Tank doesn’t fill completely

1. Your tank’s trip assembly may be blocking itself, preventing the tank from finishing it’s cycle. Remove the tank lid and flush. Look to see if everything is working correctly.
2. Your tank may not fill all the way if your float ball is too low. Bend the float upwards so more water can get in. If the ball has a lot of water in it, replace it.
3. Your tank’s trip assembly may be bent, stretched, or worn out. Look at your toilet handle and see if its loose. Tighten the handle’s screw inside of the tank. Check the trip lever and guide arm for any wear and tear, or any kinks. This can stop it from moving properly. Examine the wire that attaches the trip lever to the stopper. It could have stretched or worn out.


Problem: Tank sweats (has condensation on the outside)

If your tank has a lot of condensation you might want to insulate your tank. Turn off the water to your toilet and flush it until all the water is gone. Soak up any leftover water with towels or use a wet vacuum. Let the inside of the tank dry. Get some watertight glue and attach a 1/2 of foam rubber to the inside walls of the tank. Let dry before refilling. They also sell foam wall kits you can install.


Problem: Tank leaks

You will want to make sure the tank really is leaking and not just sweating. Put some food coloring in the tank water and let this sit for an hour or so. After, take a white tissue and rub it along the bottom of the tank. If it’s clear, than your tanks is just sweating. If it’s colored, than you have a leak. You will need new tank to bowl nuts & washers and also a new spud (gasket). This may require a professional plumber. I have found that the universal kits don’t work that great. It is always best to get the manufacturers genuine replacement parts.

 Give us a call if you would like us to do any of these services for you!


Plumbing Tips for Water Hammer

Water hammer is usually recognized by a banging or thumping in water lines. The noise occurs when the flow of moving water is instantaneously stopped by a closing valve. This sudden stop results in a pressure spike behind the valve which acts like a tiny explosion inside the pipe. This pressure spike will reverberate throughout the plumbing system, rattling and shaking pipes, until it is absorbed.

Normally, a sufficient pocket of air will absorb such a pressure spike, but if no pocket of air is present, expensive fixtures and appliances within the plumbing system will be damaged as they are left to absorb this pressure spike. 


Plumbing Tips for Water Heaters 

If steam or boiling water ever comes out of the safety blow off valve or the hot water faucets in your home, shut the heater off at once. If you ever hear a rumbling sound, shaking or banging assume the heater is overheating and turn it off. Give us a call for service!

We are often asked the question is there any maintenance for that can be done for a water heater? the answer is YES! we recommend that once a year your water heater is drained and flushed to help remove all the debris that collect on the bottom of the tank. this will help extend the life of the tank. there is also an Anode Rod inside the tank that can be replaced. this rod is made of a materials that the minerals in the water will attach to rather then the walls of the tank. thus extending the life of the tank itself. 


Water Temperature Chart

The following chart shows just how dangerous hot water can be.

 Water Temperature Time to Burn

150 F   2 Seconds

140 F   6 Seconds

125 F   2 Minutes

120 F 10 Minutes

Not Enough Hot Water?

If you can’t get enough hot water from your hot water tank we can install a mixing valve. This will allow us to raise the inside temperature of the tank to around 140 F and MIX the outgoing water (to your fixtures) temperature to 120-125 F. It will give you a longer reserve of hot water. At 140 F any bacteria inside the tank will eliminated.

Some areas require this to be installed on every new tank.