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How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

Pipes

Wicked winter weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst, causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Taking preventive measures before winter sets in can reduce and eliminate the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats.

Related: How to Protect Your Home From Severe Cold

Where the trouble lies

“Some pipes are more prone to freezing than others because of their location in the home,” explains Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter.

Pipes most at risk for freezing include:

Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.

Pipes located in exterior walls.

Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.

Preventative measures for outside

A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.

If you don’t have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. They cost only a couple bucks and are worth every penny. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage.

Exposed interior plumbing

Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.

Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climes, opt for wrapping problem pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps.

Under-insulated walls

If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.

“When nothing else works, say for a northern wall in a really cold climate, the last resort is to reroute a pipe,” notes Abrams. Depending on how far the pipe needs to be moved — and how much damage is caused in the process — this preventative measure costs anywhere from $700 on up. Of course, putting the room back together is extra.

Heading south for the winter?

For folks leaving their houses for an extended period of time in winter, additional preventative measures must be taken to adequately protect the home from frozen pipes.

Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees.

Shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets.

In extreme situations (vacation home in a bitterly cold climate), Abrams recommends having a plumber come to inspect the system, drain the hot water heater, and perhaps replace the water in traps and drains with nontoxic antifreeze.

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Where the Water is Flowing: New Trends in Plumbing Technology

Where the Water is Flowing: New Trends in Plumbing Technology

Where the Water is Flowing: New Trends in Plumbing Technology

When you think about all of the categories within a home improvement store where technology has had an impact, plumbing may not be the first to come to mind. However, technology is playing an increasingly important role in the plumbing department whether in the form of products designed to make the kitchen and bath more comfortable, keep living spaces more sanitary or reduce a home’s impact on the environment.

Understanding what new options are driving product changes within the plumbing category will also be important as more homeowners look for the latest tech options to spruce up their homes.

Overall, the plumbing category is expected to see steady growth over the next several years as homeowners begin to make greater investments in home remodeling projects.

The plumbing fixtures and fittings market “is projected to advance 6.3 percent per year through 2017 to $12 billion. The residential market will account for over three-fifths of demand and will see the most rapid gains,” according to research from the Freedonia Group.

While tech-driven products will only represent a portion of these sales, it is important to understand that as younger consumers gravitate to more high-tech living spaces, these future-forward options in plumbing will certainly have an impact on consumer demand.

In this story, we’ll discuss some of the latest technological trends in the plumbing category. We also distributed a questionnaire to a panel of retailers who provided their insights on plumbing trends and on the role technology is playing in the evolution of the category.

Adding Value to the Home
When consumers are in the market to upgrade their surroundings, they are considering projects that will customize their homes while making them more comfortable as well. This often means starting in the kitchen and bathroom, the two rooms where homeowners traditionally spend the bulk of their time.

shutterstock_128813446Whether retailers have large showrooms filled with plumbing fixtures and the latest appliances or only offer a convenience assortment of those products, their understanding of the future of plumbing technologies can help determine long-term inventory game plans.

To discover retailers’ opinions on these new technologies, we sent a questionnaire to a panel of home improvement retailers. All of the responding retailers sell plumbing products in their stores, and the majority believe technology will continue to make its way into customers’ homes through that category.

What we discovered from this panel was that nearly 2/3 of respondents felt that homeowners’ desires to build a smarter home will continue and that plumbing products will be part of this trend.

Technology Adds Personal Comfort
Many of the newest technologies in the bathroom and kitchen are designed around adding personal comfort for users. For example, more and more products are being introduced that allow users to stream live music to their showers through wireless technology. One system even allows users to control lighting and water pressure through a digital interface.

Not only is bathroom music emerging in the plumbing category, but LED lights are also being integrated into plumbing products. Examples of products incorporating LED technology include lights in toilet bowls, which illuminate the commode for nighttime use. Also new on the scene are LED light rings in bathroom sinks that glow red or blue to indicate water temperature.

Green Products Save Resources and Money
While streaming music in the bathroom and shower control systems are gaining attention, environmentally friendly plumbing technology is also growing in consumer interest.

Environmental products are not only relatively affordable, but they also save money by reducing water use over time without compromising day-to-day use. Products that are innovative and promote green building practices are great items for retailers to offer, as consumers will begin to make the switch over time.

Of the retailers we reached out to for our questionnaire, nearly 90 percent already provide green products in their plumbing category. When asked if customers were actively seeking out green products, 47 percent of the retailers say they have had customers coming into their stores and requesting these green, money-saving products.

shutterstock_119359192 copyOne example of appliances that integrate both technology and eco-friendly functions can be found in dishwashers. Manufacturers are continuing to develop products that meet higher energy-efficiency standards and save water, with some using water from the rinse cycle for the next wash. An average family who washes dishes four times per week could save 700 gallons of water each year through the use of a smart dishwasher, according to Reviewed.com.

Additional emerging technologies combine home automation technologies with green practices. For example, new sprinkler systems attach to controllers that use Wi-Fi to download seven days of weather forecasts, adjusting the sprinklers accordingly.

Finding ways to conserve and, in some cases, reuse, water, is extremely important, according to an article on Ecobuildingpulse.com. Builder Online states that the cost of water is rising, increasing 6 to 7 percent a year.

With this increase in cost, consumers will be looking to hardware retailers for plumbing products that decrease water use without affecting their day-to-day activities. One way to make this transition is through a greywater recycling system.

This system uses water from showers, sinks, washing machines and dishwashers that is relatively clean, containing very few pathogens. This water, unlike black water, which comes from toilets, requires very little treatment before it can be reused for non-drinking purposes, such as for toilet flushing and lawn watering with sprinkler systems. shutterstock_181470512 copy

The cost of installing a greywater system into a new home ranges from $500 to $2,500, according to an article from HGTV. Continuous technological advancements will allow this system to be integrated into more homes.

Another eco-friendly product that continues to gain popularity in the plumbing category is the tankless water heater. A storage water heater is an insulated tank holding 20 to 80 gallons of water. Tankless water heaters provide constant hot water and energy savings. A 2008 Consumer Reports’ article found that tankless water heaters use about 22 percent less energy than their storage-type counterparts.

Despite the benefits in water savings, tankless units tend to be more expensive than storage units so retailers should be able to discuss the positive and negative aspects of these products.

In addition to some of the newer, technologically advanced green products mentioned above, green practices in plumbing have led to a new program, called WaterSense, from the United States Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The WaterSense program was created to find ways to use water efficiently for consumers, communities and the environment, while helping conserve resources for the future. Retailers interested in having WaterSense-labeled products can work with the EPA to get approved products in their stores.

While green practices are sure to continue to evolve and develop, retailers who have environmentally efficient products should communicate to their customers the green options provided in-store. Not only will it aid those looking to save money on their water bills, but it will also contribute toward better conservation practices.

Plumbing Innovation Leads to a Healthier Home
Keeping a healthy home can be done in a variety of ways, and several new plumbing products help aid in a more hygienic living space. Touch-free faucets are becoming an option more homeowners consider, as they allow users to have a hands-free experience while also avoiding the spread of germs and contaminants. According to an article by Plumbing and Mechanical magazine, “hands-free faucet technology will continue to evolve and will likely be offered on more and more items through more and more manufacturers.”

Photo Courtesy of Delta

In the bathroom, a touchless toilet allows the user to wave their hand above the toilet to flush it. After they’re finished, the toilet lid will automatically close without slamming.

Only 20 percent of retailers from our questionnaire offer touchless technology for customers to buy; about 30 percent of retailers say they have customers seeking touchless technology for their homes.

Technological advancements also have had an impact on water filtration both for the whole house and at point of use. According to NSF International, previously known as National Sanitation Foundation, home water treatment systems fit in one of two categories, either point-of-entry or point-of-use systems.

Point-of-entry systems treat an entire home from the moment water enters and are usually installed at the water meter or pressurized storage tank and include water softeners, as an example.

For retailers, point-of-use systems cover a wide range of products throughout the home and give the opportunity to sell replacement filters. Water filters for faucets in the kitchen or bathroom are great options as they improve the quality of drinkable water from the tap. The need for filter replacements will also bring customers back to the home improvement or hardware stores frequently.

Moen Arbor in Spot Resist Stainless (10)

Consumers are looking to have filtered water from the moment it enters the home. Many customers also are interested in different products for throughout the home that filter water when necessary. In addition, customers are buying filters for water filtering systems inside their refrigerators.

Retailers looking to expand upon filtration products should consider stocking filtered water bottles and pitchers with pour-through filters. Once again, these will require filter replacements and in turn will keep customers returning every few months.

Whether trying to avoid germs that build up on faucets or filtering out contaminants from tap water, advancement in regards to home health is becoming an established feature retailers can promote.

How Retailers Can Take Advantage of Plumbing Technology
As customers’ plumbing purchases continue to trend toward new and exciting technologies, retailers looking to embrace these new products will likely see an increase in customer traffic. By promoting the trends available to customers looking to replace a sink, toilet, kitchen appliance or more, retailers can establish their business in the community and stay ahead of the curve.

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What you must know before hiring a Plumber!

What you must know before hiring a Plumber!

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Blessings uses the latest technology to solve plumbing problems

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Water heater buying guide

Water heater buying guide

Getting started

Used to be that when a water heater needed replacing, most homeowners just bought a new tank to replace the old one. But now with federal regulations that took effect in April 2015 requiring tank water heaters to become more energy efficient, buying a new one just got a little more complicated and possibly more expensive. Although you will save money on your utility bill over time.

If you haven’t replaced your water heater in a few years, you’ll discover that you have more choices than before so it’s worth doing your homework. In addition to conventional tank water heaters, tankless water heaters have improved since the days when the “cold water sandwich” left you shivering in the shower. And most tankless water heaters, which only heat the water you draw, already meet efficiency standards. Other choices include hybrid electric/heat-pump models, solar water heaters, and condensing gas water heaters. (Note: This report does not include Ratings.)

To comply with new Department of Energy efficiency standards, the water heaters used in most homes won’t seem that different and will get a modest boost in efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). But larger units—those 55 gallons or more—will need to shift to new technologies to achieve the efficiency gains. Doing so can cut utility bills by 25 to 50 percent depending on the technology used.

That’s good news for homeowners because water heating amounts to nearly 20 percent of a home’s energy costs. The new standards apply to gas (50 percent of U.S. households), electric (41 percent), and oil residential tank water heaters.

The majority of homes have conventional water heaters that hold less than 55 gallons of water. If you’re replacing a water heater of this capacity, the new more energy-efficient model may be an inch or two larger than the old one and can likely be placed in the same location unless it’s in a very tight spot such as a closet. For such units, the new standards will increase efficiency by an average of 4 percent. According to the ACEEE, water heaters that comply with the new standards are already on the market, including models from A.O. Smith, Bradford White, and Rheem.

Water heaters that hold 55 gallons or more will see bigger efficiency gains. But to attain those gains, the larger water heaters will need to use technologies that are less familiar to consumers including electric heat pumps, which transfer heat from the surrounding air to water, and condensing gas heaters, which capture heat that usually goes up the flue.

For homes with electric heat, replacement options include hybrid heat pumps, for the biggest efficiency gains, or two conventional models with capacities of less than 55 gallons each, which won’t be as energy efficient. Options for homes with gas heat include a large condensing gas tank water heater or, again, two smaller conventional models.

Also known as hybrid water heaters, heat pump water heaters transfer heat from the surrounding air to the water. The ACEEE says that condensing water heaters are designed to reclaim escaping heat by cooling exhaust gases below 140 degrees F, where water vapor in the exhaust condenses into water. When replacing a large water heater with either of these types, keep in mind that they may require more space. For more information on specific models, check manufacturers’ websites. Most water heater makers geared up production well in advance of the new regulations.

Repair or replace?

Before you shell out hundreds for a storage-tank heater or thousands for a tankless or solar water heater, see whether your old one can be fixed. A corroded storage-tank model is history. But a leaky drain or pressure-relief valve or a burned-out heating element can often be fixed. Rule of thumb: Consider a repair if the labor cost (which warranties often exclude) averages less than $50 per year over the years left in the warranty. Otherwise, buy a new one, especially if the warranty has expired.

Most storage-tank water heaters look alike on the outside. But sawing open a cross-section of gas and electric storage-tank models in the Consumer Reports lab confirmed that paying a little more typically buys a better water heater. Those with longer warranties tended to have larger heating elements, thicker insulation, and thicker or longer corrosion-fighting metal anodes.

Longer warranties were also a good indication of better quality for tankless water heaters. But their added complexity can mean more potential problems. Some tankless heater manufacturers shorten the warranty for units used with hard water and in multi-family homes. And most recommend service by a qualified technician once a year.

Hybrid heaters meld an electric storage-tank heater with a heat pump that captures warmth from the air. Those we tested provided annual savings of about 60 percent over electric-only models. You’ll also save by replacing a broken oil-fired heater with a hybrid. Solar heaters supplement an electric heater with heat from the sun’s rays. The best in our past tests saved us about 80 percent over an electric storage-tank heater alone during the summer months at our Yonkers, N.Y. headquarters. But those savings plummeted to about 30 percent during cold weather. How much a solar system saves you can vary widely based on where you live, your home’s sun exposure, and which system you choose.

Choosing the right capacity

Most water heaters are sold on the basis of how many gallons they hold. For example, two to four people might use 80 to 85 gallons per day—enough for about three showers, one laundry load, running the dishwasher once, and turning on the faucet nine times. But the first-hour rating (FHR) for storage-tank water heaters and the gallons-per-minute rating (GPM) on tankless water heaters are more important, because they tell you how much hot water the heater can deliver during a set period. A pro can calculate how much you’ll need.

While almost half of homeowners replace their electric water heaters themselves, it may be wise to consult a professional or at least a manufacturer to fully understand the new regulations and what they mean to your particular installation. You may also need a local building permit. Proper installation and maintenance can optimize a water heater’s energy efficiency so it may be best to have a qualified plumbing and heating contractor install your water heater. You can find an installer on phccweb.org, the website of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association. For more information, check the websites of the ACEEE and the DOE as well as the manufacturer of any water heater you may be considering.

Types

Heating water accounts for up to 20 percent of the average home’s energy budget. Some gas-fired tankless water heaters are claimed to cut energy costs by up to half over regular storage heaters. But their added up-front costs mean it pays to look before you leap. Compare the types of water heaters.

Most of these are essentially steel cylinders fed by a cold-water inlet pipe (the dip tube) that protrudes into the tank (this line includes the shutoff valve). Water is heated in the tank, and hot water exits through a hot-water pipe atop the tank. Another pipe that emerges from the tank includes the temperature and pressure-relief valve, which opens if either exceeds a preset level. You’ll also find a drain valve near the tank bottom and a control unit outside for setting temperatures and, on gas models, controlling the pilot-light valve.
Gas is the fuel of choice if you already have natural gas service or can run a gas line to your home economically. Gas models cost more than electrics. But on the basis of national-average fuel costs, a gas water heater will cost you about half as much to run as a comparable electric model. Thus, a gas heater might amortize the up-front difference in cost in as little as a year. While you’ll also find oil-fired storage heaters, they’re relatively expensive, because they include the tank and an oil burner. That’s why homes with oil heat typically use an electric water heater.

Tankless models (a.k.a. instantaneous water heaters) are suitcase-sized units that heat water only when needed by using an electric coil (typically for low demand) or natural gas (for high demand) to heat water passing through a heat exchanger inside. They eliminate the risk of tank failure and the energy lost by constantly reheating water, though their heat exchanger can clog or fail. What’s more, they’re expensive to buy and install, and include limitations on hot-water flow rates, a possible issue in large households. And cooler incoming water in winter typically means your hot water may not be as hot as you like.

These have a conventional electric storage heater paired with a heat pump that extracts heat from the surrounding air and uses it to help heat the water. Models we tested used about 60 percent less energy than standard electric heaters, which account for about half of all water heaters sold. And while hybrids cost more than electric-only models, installation is similar and payback time is short.

 

But hybrids also have their downsides. Because the heat pump is usually on top, they need as much as 7 feet clearance from floor to ceiling. You’ll also need up to 1,000 cubic feet of uncooled space to capture enough heat from the air, along with a condensate pump (about $150) if there’s no drain nearby. Hybrid heaters are noisier than conventional storage-tank heaters, exhaust cool air, and can rob some heated air in winter.

All solar heaters supplement an electric heater in basically the same way: A roof-mounted collector absorbs the sun’s heat and transfers it to an antifreeze-like fluid in a closed-loop system that runs to the water tank. The collector is typically a flat panel or an array of glass cylinders called evacuated tubes. The best delivered stellar savings in summer, making them an attractive option for warm, sunny areas. But savings suffered on cold and cloudy days. And even with federal and local rebates, the thousands you’ll typically spend to buy and install one can mean you’ll wait anywhere from 10 to 30 years before their savings pay for their costs.

Less familiar to consumers are condensing gas water heaters but under the new energy regulations, they have become an option for homes that need a water heater with a capacity of 55 gallons or more and that heat with gas. Condensing gas water heaters capture much of the heat that normally goes up the flue by cooling exhaust gases well below 140 degrees F, the temperature at which water vapor condenses into water.

Features

Daily usage of hot water by a family of two to four includes water for taking showers, washing the laundry, running the dishwasher, and simply turning the faucet off and on. Here are the water-heater features to consider.

Heating source

The water-heater market is split between natural gas and electric. Oil-fired heaters account for only a small percentage of sales, most likely because of their relatively high price and the small market for oil-burning equipment.

Warranty

Coverage for most heaters typically runs 3 to 12 years. While you’ll usually pay a bit more for longer-warranty models, we’ve found that they tend to have larger elements or burners that can speed up water heating, essentially increasing the hot water available, along with thicker insulation for less heat loss. We suggest choosing models with the longest warranty available.

Anti-scale devices

Some brands—notably, Kenmore, State Industries, and Rheem—advertise features that are supposed to reduce buildup of mineral scale at the bottom of the tank by swirling the water. While scale can shorten the life of the heating element inside an electric water heater, you don‘t need to invest in fancy features to get a long-lived model. Simply look for a heater with a 12-year warranty, which typically includes a longer or thicker element.

Brass vs. plastic drain valves

These valves are situated near the base of the unit to accept a garden hose for draining the heater. Look for brass drain valves, which tend to be more durable than plastic.

Glass-lined tanks

A glass-lined tank is another feature designed to reduce corrosion. During manufacturing, a coating is applied to the inside of the steel tank and heated to form a protective, porcelain glass-like layer.

Digital displays

Found mostly on hybrid and solar heaters, these help you monitor levels and customize operation. Some electric/heat-pump hybrid models let you digitally set a “vacation mode” that uses just the heat pump for added efficiency when you’re away. Displays on solar heaters often show tank and collector temperatures, along with pressure readings and other helpful data.

Size

A top-mounted heat pump on hybrid water heaters typically makes them taller than conventional models. Tougher federal standards have also spurred companies to beef up the insulation on regular storage-tank heaters, adding a few inches of width over earlier versions—a potential problem in tight spots. (Hint: Adding insulation to hot-water pipes that exit the heater can add efficiency to any water heater.) A condensing water heater may take up more space than the one it replaces.

Flammable-vapor ignition resistance

Residential tank-type gas heaters typically include flammable-vapor ignition resistance (FVIR) to prevent flashback fires when vapors from a flammable liquid such as gasoline contact the burner or pilot light. Also be sure your home has carbon-monoxide alarms if you have a fuel-fired water heater (or any fuel-burning device, including a fireplace). And because heaters are generally vented through the same chimney as a furnace or boiler, if you change venting for one appliance, you might need to change it for the other. Considering a tankless water heater? If you run a vent pipe to the outside of your house, you’ll need to use Category 3 stainless-steel venting to resist corrosion from any condensation that forms in the pipe.

Brands

Here are profiles of four of the leading manufacturers of water heaters. Use them to compare water heaters by brand.

A.O. Smith

A.O. Smith makes residential and commercial water heaters, boilers and storage tanks that are sold exclusively by plumbing wholesalers and plumbing contractors. It manufacturers tankless, hybrid, solar and high-efficiency tank water heaters.

GE

General Electric makes gas and electric water heaters. GE tank water heaters are available in multiple sizes, with energy-efficiency claims that vary by size and multiple levels of warranty coverage. The company’s tank water heaters are available exclusively at Home Depot. General Electric recently introduced a line of made in the U.S.—GeoSpring heat pump electric water heaters.

Kenmore

Kenmore makes gas and electric water heaters. Kenmore water heaters are available in multiple sizes, Power Miser, and Hydrosense electronic-temperature-control configurations. Kenmore water heaters are available at Sears.

Rheem

Rheem manufactures and markets gas and electric water heaters. Rheem makes residential water heaters in tank, tankless, and point-of-use configurations and units that work with solar water-heater systems. Rheem water heaters are available in multiple sizes and with multiple warranties, with energy-efficiency claims that vary by size. Rheem tankless water heaters are available at Home Depot. Its tank water heaters are available online and through a network of dealers.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool manufactures and markets gas and electric water heaters. Whirlpool tank water heaters are available in multiple sizes, and standard and power vent configurations. Whirlpool water heaters are available at Lowe’s.

Plumbing Tips: Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips For Cold Weather

Plumbing Tips: Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips For Cold Weather

Plumbing Tips: Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips For Cold Weather

Fall and early winter is the best time to prepare your home’s plumbing for the coming cold temperatures ahead. As the weather begins to cool off, it would be a good idea to establish some good plumbing habits to protect your home. Here are a few things that you should do to prepare for the change in seasons: 

House basement old drain pipe for fall plumbing example.

Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips for Outside your House

  • Keep your gutters free from leaves and debris – if they get clogged it can create drainage problems. Rain water can overflow over the gutters and land on the ground around your house and then it is more likely to seep into your foundation, basement or crawl space.
  • Unhook outdoor hoses, drain with gravity, and store in your garage, or someplace that does not go below freezing temperatures. This will prevent your hoses from cracking. When spring arrives you won’t have to buy new ones to replace the ones that did not survive winter.
  • Get your sewer line cleaned and snaked. If you have a septic tank, now would be a good time to get your septic tank pumped. There are recommendation for how often this service is needed, and though it is a an item not often thought about, it is best to be proactive and keep the system running the way it was designed to do.

Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips for Inside your House

  • Insulate your pipes so that they are less likely to freeze. Check for the most susceptible areas to address. A frozen pipe means no water flow. If it is accessible, you can then attempt to thaw it with applied heat – but the increased mass of the internal ice could have caused a leak and create more than just a slight inconvenience.
  • Know where your main water valve is, and how to shut it off. In the event that a pipe bursts, knowing how to shut off the water could save you thousands of dollars. Also, it is wise not to just keep this info to yourself. Give a tour of the basement to your significant other, an older child or a trusted neighbor and draw a little basement map with emergency instructions. If you are away when something bad and unexpected happens with your plumbing, you don’t want someone uninformed to enter your basement with water spraying everywhere – and not know where to immediately go to shut off the main water valve.

Hose tap outside of house as fall plumbing example.

Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips for Water Heaters

  • Your water heater works harder in the colder months. Flush out any sediment that has accumulated in your water heater. This will extend its lifespan and increase efficiency to save you money.
  • Test the pressure relief valve by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. This should send a burst of hot water into the drainpipe. If not, you may need a new pressure relief valve. Be careful when doing this because the water will be very hot.
  • Set your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees F for safety and efficiency. If you have children at home or visiting, higher temperatures can cause burns just washing dirty hands.
  • Modern on-demand hot water heaters have their own service recommendations, and it is best to be familiar with your manufacturer owner’s manual.

Hot water heater in the basement as fall plumbing example.

Fall & Winter Plumbing Tips for Kitchen Sinks

  • Once a month, pour 1 gallon of bleach down either side of your kitchen sink, wait 20 minutes, fill both sides of your kitchen sink to the rim with hot water, and then remove the stoppers simultaneously. The volume and weight of the water will help flush the drain lines free of grease, preventing a stoppage. Send all those potato peels, scrambled eggs and other food debris out of the small drainpipe so that water from your sink and dishwasher (which usually uses the same drain) flows out easily.

Kitchen sink drain as a plumbing tip example.

So that’s our list of fall & early winter plumbing tips for the residential home owner. If anything happens that makes you feel like you are in over your heads – that’s when it’s recommended that you call a professional. A skilled and well trained plumber has already experienced all the things that can go wrong – even when you undertaking what at first might appear to be a relatively simple plumbing task. They have the knowledge, confidence and tools to remedy any plumbing issue. Plumbers also often deal with propane and gas appliances, and for items like these that have big safety issues – for your own and your family’s peace of mind – some tasks, repairs and maintenance are best not done by yourself.

Water Heater: Important tips to help save money

Water Heater: Important tips to help save money

Five Tips for Lowering Your Hot Water Heater’s Energy Usage

My most valued tip is to find a plumber in Virginia Beach VA who has a strong customer service track record for consistently treating all their customers fairly and honestly. Whether your needs be commercial or residential in need we are the right choice. Call me, Craig Blessings anytime and I will be happy to assist you!

Water heating is the second biggest consumer of energy in an average home. It accounts for 20 percent of the annual utility bill. Although replacing the old water systems with a newer and more efficient is one of them many options, the cost still remains high and homeowners ends up digging deeper into their pockets. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the energy used in water heating. Below are some of the tips you can use to lower your water heating energy usage. Doing this will lower your bill by a substantial margin and help you save money.

Lowering the Thermostat

Many manufacturers usually set their models at 140 degrees Fahrenheit despite the fact that it is way too hot for residential use. This is a waste of energy because even a degree can have some difference in the amount of energy used. You can deal with this issue by lowering the thermostat temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit on the standard unit. Many electric versions have two thermostats – one is used for the lower heating element and the other is for the upper heating element. Both of them should be set at the same temperature to prevent premature wear of either element and save money.

Installation of Low-Flow Showerhead

Showers are more efficient than baths, but there is still a lot of water wasted. Low-flow model showers usually cut the water used meaning less water will be heated and less energy used in heating. It’s a good idea to replace the old shower heads with newer and more efficient shower heads. For homeowners with larger families, the cost of replacing the shower head will be recovered in savings in a very short period of time. One thing you need to know is that the Low-Flow Showerheads have enough power to get the job done.

Add Insulation

Adding insulation is one of the easiest and effective ways of reducing your water heating energy usage. Insulating the pipes and tanks helps prevent the loss of heat and saves on energy that could have been used in reheating the water. Before you do this, make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions. There are many manufacturers that are against doing this, and doing so void the warranty. Insulation won’t cost you a lot, and in the end cuts the amount of energy used in water heating.

Repair Leaky Faucets

A leaky or faulty faucet and/or showerheads can be expensive and annoying at the same time, especially when heated. They can usually be easily repaired or replaced. If the pipes are the problem, then you will need to contact a licensed plumber such as Blessings Plumbing quickly. Failing to do the correct repairs will result in the water heater working harder than normal.
Install a Timer

Traditional hot water heaters can be incredibly wasteful because they can run all the time. Electric heaters usually give the owner a chance to control usage with the professional installation of a timer. For those who travel a lot, automatic timers can be a good option.
The above tips will ensure you cut the energy use of water heating.

Craig Blessing | Owner, Blessings Plumbing
©2015 Blessings Plumbing

We handle all Size LEAKS!

We handle all Size LEAKS!

No matter what size leak you are experiencing… WE CAN HANDLE THE JOB!

We handle all size leaks!!!

Blessings Plumbing Maintenance Tips

Blessings Plumbing Maintenance Tips

Spot and resolve small plumbing problems before they become major issues at home.

Learn the Basics of Plumbing

DK – House Works, © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plumbing. It’s been with us since Roman times, but today’s homes have a lavish supply of hot and cold water on demand, thanks to modern plumbing systems. The principles are simple — pressure and valves — but if they fail, the household may be faced with a soggy mess. When this happens, act quickly to avert major problems.

Smart homeowners know how to spot and resolve small plumbing problems before they become major issues. Help your plumbing stay dry and happy with these tips:

Plumbing Maintenance Tips

Keep an eye out for trouble. When it comes to plumbing, little leaks can lead to big problems. Be alert to signs of impending plumbing failures: Leaking faucets, damp cabinets, rocking toilets or dripping refrigerators all signal problems that need prompt attention.

Repair problems early. A leaking faucet isn’t just annoying; the moisture it releases puts wear on sink fixtures and can encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Stay on top of problems to keep the household clean and dry.

Know where to go when trouble happens. Should plumbing fail, will you know how to stop the flood? Locate the main shut-off valve for the home water supply. If it’s in a dark, hidden, or hard-to-reach place, gather any tools you’ll need for a quick shut-off, and store them nearby. There’s nothing like the frustration of a missing flashlight or a misplaced shut-off key when water’s pouring down the stairs from a broken pipe.

Shutting off appliances. Similarly, know how to shut off water to sinks, toilets, washing machines and water-using appliances like the refrigerator’s icemaker. Should they misbehave, knowing the location of the shut-off valve will save the day and a lot of wet cleanup.

Spot the sewer valve. Finally, hunt down the location of the household’s main sewer valve. It’s there to provide access to correct a clogged sewer line; don’t make the Roto-Rooter man spend pricey labor time looking for it when the toilets overflow.

Learn how to tackle small problems. With a few tools and a little knowledge, most of us can handle small plumbing emergencies. With a plunger, a pipe wrench and a sewer snake in your tool kit, you’ll be able to take care of small problems like clogged drains, blocked toilets, stuck valves and dripping faucets. How-to books, home improvement stores and adult education classes can pay for themselves when it’s time to call the plumber.

Cold snap: Keep plumbing safe in cold weather
In hard-winter climates, freezing pipes can create a sudden household emergency. Frozen water expands, cracking pipes; when the area thaws, the cracks vent a flood. Plumbing help can be hard to find in a weather crisis, so try these tips:

Prevent frozen pipes before they start. Best defense: insulation. Insulate exposed pipes in a crawl space or in the garage with easy-to-install plastic insulation. It’s a peel-and-stick solution. Before winter comes, remove exterior hoses, and apply insulating caps to outdoor fixtures, as a frozen exterior spigot can damage interior pipes. Households with automatic sprinkler systems can clear standing water with compressed air.

When cold weather strikes, go into action. Open the cabinets beneath sinks and bathroom fixtures; warmer household air will help prevent the pipes inside from freezing. Opening taps to a bare trickle keeps water flowing and avoids a frozen blockage.

If pipes do freeze, don’t panic. First, shut off the water supply to the house, then open a faucet near the blocked area to vent vapors from the frozen water. If you suspect that pipes in the hot water system are frozen, turn off the hot water heater. Use a hair dryer to warm the frozen pipe (never use an open flame to thaw a pipe), starting at the end of the pipe nearest to the tap. (Don’t use a hair dryer in areas of standing water.) You’ll know the pipe has begun to thaw when water begins to trickle from the open faucet. When the flow is restored, check the plumbing carefully for cracks or leaks.

Call a licensed plumber if your efforts are unsuccessful.

Maintaining water conditioning systems

In hard-water areas, water softeners condition water to remove unwanted minerals. Softened water uses less soap, prevents mineral buildup in pipes and extends the life of appliances and hot water heaters.

Keep them on the job with proper maintenance. Most models use a salt-exchange method that depends on a supply of salt pellets or nuggets. Use the type of salt recommended by your manufacturer for best results. Check the brine tank regularly to be sure salt levels are adequate. The salt should sit above the water line. “Salt bridging” occurs when a crust of salt forms over the top of the water in the brine tank; break it up by adding hot water to the tank or by poking the crust with a broomstick if it occurs.

After a period of use, water softeners will need to regenerate or recharge: The unit will flush collection areas of accumulated mineral particles pulled from hard water. If your unit offers an automatic regeneration scheduling, use it — you’ll have soft water automatically. If your unit requires manual recharging, stick carefully to the manufacturer’s recommended time intervals.

Reduce household water usage

A more sustainable and cost-efficient household means conserving water, but green living doesn’t have to be dusty and dry. Try these strategies to cut water use at home:

Load up the dishwasher. Hand-washing dishes may feel authentic, but it’s wasteful; automatic dishwashers use less hot water and energy than washing by hand. No need to rinse, either; most modern dishwashers are designed to remove food without need for pre-rinsing.

Go with the (low) flow. Household toilets can be water hogs; replace older models with low-flow alternatives.

Save in the shower. Keep showers short and sweet to stay sustainable. You can also save water — and money — by installing a low-flow showerhead, which use up to 50 percent less water than older models.757

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