Plumbing Tips & Advice (12)
A traditional tank-style water heater has a lifespan of around 8-10 years. Depending on how much use it has had over that time and whether it has been properly maintained, it may last significantly longer or need replacement a lot sooner. So how do you know when it's time for a new water heater?
Water Heater LeaksSome water heater leaks may are the result of a faulty valve or leaking pipe. If this is the case, it may just need a simple repair to keep it operating. If the water heater is leaking because of corrosion, it may be time to replace the unit.
The Water Heater Heating SlowlyFirst, check that the thermostat on the water heater is set high enough. If demand for hot water has increased in the home, you may just need a larger capacity tank installed, or a tankless water heater. Slow heating can also be caused by a build-up up rust and sediment. Flush the tank to remove the sediment. If the water heater is still not heating fast enough after flushing the unit, it may be time for a new water heater.
Malfunctioning Water HeaterIn some cases the water heater may be have broken parts that need replacement. A plumber can check the heating element (electric water heaters) thermostat, gas burner and thermocoupler to make sure they are functioning. Consider the age of the unit against the cost of repairs when deciding whether to repair the unit.
Have water heater questions? MR Plumbing can help.
Under Sink Disposal Not Working? Here Are a Few Things to Check
First, for your safety, never place your hand inside the disposal!
It may seem obvious, but first check that the disposal is plugged in. If the disposal is plugged in, check the reset button located on the bottom of the disposal if the button has popped out, push it back in. If these steps do not work, check the circuit breaker to see if it has tripped. If the disposal still won't turn on and it is not making a humming sound, then there is an electrical problem with the unit.
Slow Disposal DrainSlow draining of a garbage disposal can be caused by a number of problems.Assuming you've given the disposal enough time to run and clear the garbage, you probably have a clogged drain line.
We recommend against using chemical drain cleaners in a garbage disposal. You can damage the disposal and aside from being ineffective, most drain cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can cause severe skin irritation and damage to plastic and metal surfaces.
Preventing Disposal ProblemsAvoid grinding coffee grounds, potato peels and eggshells. They stick to any waste in the pipe and are likely to create a clog. You can keep your disposal working by occasionally grinding up pieces of lemon peel and ice cubes.
Have plumbing problems? Call MR Plumbing today.
Many people purchase a conventional tank water heater and simply forget about it until it stops working and it's time to replace it. However, with a few simple water heater maintenance steps you can increase the lifespan of the unit while also making it work more efficiently.
1. Flush the water heater tank annually
Almost all water heater manufacturers will recommend flushing the water heater tank annually. Draining the tank will remove the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the tank which will allow the burner to work more efficiently. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the correct procedure for draining your model of water heater.
2. Check the anode rod and replace it if needed
The anode rod hangs in the tank to help prevent its inside from rusting out. It should be checked annually when the tank is drained. Replacing a badly corroded rod is far cheaper than replacing the water heater.
Without a good anode rod, hot water will rapidly corrode the inside of the tank, shortening its life.
3. Insulate the water heater tank
This is a step you only have to do once. Wrapping your water heater in a blanket of insulation can improve it's efficiency up to 40 percent.
Have questions about maintaining your water heater? Call the experts at MR Plumbing, we're here to help.
• Does the problem only occur first thing in the morning?
• Does it happen after the water has not been used for a while?
• Does the problem clear up after you run the water for a few minutes?
• Is the problem isolated to the hot rather than cold running faucet?
If any of the above cases is true, it could be caused by your water heater.
Water Heater OdorsBad smells, such as a sulphur odors, are sometimes caused by bacteria growing in the water heater tank. When the water heater goes unused for long periods of time bacteria, while usually harmless, can cause unpleasant odors. A sulphur, or rotten egg odor, is sometimes caused by a corroded anode rod inside the water heater. The rod should be inspected and replaced if needed.
Hard water can also cause sediment to accumulate at the bottom of the tank, causing odors. Installing a water softener should fix the problem.
Water DiscolorationBrown, red or yellow tinted water can be caused by rust from a corroded water heater tank, or pipes inside the home. The iron present in most water is not a significant health risk, but it can stain clothing and dishes and leave drinking water with a metallic taste. Your plumber can help track down the cause and determine if the water heater is the source of the problem.
White or tan particles in the water are usually a sign of calcium or magnesium. While not generally harmful to ingest, the minerals can clog pipes and drains over time. A water filtration system or water softener can remove the minerals from the water.
Have concerns about water quality in your home? Give MR Plumbing a call. We can help identify the cause of the problem and recommend effective solutions for cleaner, better tasting water.
Finding a Toilet That FitsThere are many toilets on the market, but a rough-in distance, measured from the finished wall to the center of the sewer drain for the toilet, will narrow the options. The standard rough-in is 12 inches, and the widest number of toilets are available in this size. If a bathroom remodel makes use of an existing rough-in that is a different size, 14 or 10 inches for example, the options are more limited.
Most folks find elongated toilet seats to be more comfortable, but in a smaller bathroom, a round bowl will save some space, as well as a few dollars in most cases.
Taller toilets are also becoming more popular, which makes a bathroom accessible to all users regardless of mobility, because they make sitting down and standing up easier.
What Style of Toilet?There are a few toilet designs available. A two-piece toilet, which has the tank bolted to the top of the bowl, is usually a little more affordable. A one-piece toilet, with an single tank and bowl, can cost more, but are easier to clean because they have no seams. Wall-mounted toilets add design flair to a bathroom, and cleaning under them is a breeze. However, these high-end fixtures can be more expensive to install because they require a secure wall to mount the toilet and store the tank, and repair and maintenance could mean opening up the wall.
Flushing SystemsWhile having a perfect fitting and great looking toilet is important, it won't matter if it doesn't flush right every time.
Prior to 1994, toilets used around 3.5 gallons of water per flush. Then Congress, in an effort to conserve resources, reduced the amount of water new toilets could flush to 1.6 gallons per flush. Unfortunately, the first generation of low-flow toilets couldn't get the job done, and that's a stigma these commodes are still trying to shake more than a decade later. Manufacturers have since introduced low-flow toilets that work very well, using either a gravity or power-assisted flush.
Dual-flush technology features a split plunger-style flush mechanism on top of the tank. Pushing one button releases .08 gallons of water and pushing both doubles the flow to 1.6 gallons. Over the life of the toilet, a four-person family can save thousands of dollars.
How Hard Water Can Cause Problems With Your Home's Plumbing SystemHard water can cause problems for homeowners in both increased energy usage and a shortened lifespan of appliances. The two minerals most commonly found in hard water, calcium and magnesium, make heating water less efficient. It requires more energy to heat mineral heavy water compared to clear, purified water.
Hard water can also cause limescale build-up, drastically restricting the water flow in your pipes. Steel pipes are the most prone to this problem, copper and PVC are not as susceptible to limescale build up. Over time this scale build up can lower water pressure in your home's plumbing, eventually leading to costly damage to pipes and plumbing fixtures. As the flow in pipes becomes more restricted, the limescale buildup will happen at a faster rate.
The areas that you may first notice mineral build up are in areas around shower heads, plugs, faucets and valves. Slowly dripping faucets can cause scale build up on sink surfaces and could damage the rubber washers that are required to keep the mechanism water tight. If this occurs, the washers can sometimes be difficult to replace.
Valves that are found in various appliances, such as ice-makers, washing machines and dishwashers can also end up with scale build-up. If small amounts of limescale build up around the valves, they may not be able to completely close, which can allow water to leak.
Hard Water and Water HeatersHeating elements in water heaters can also quickly form mineral deposits. When there is limescale between the heating element and the water it will act as a barrier, preventing the water from heating up efficiently and causing the burners to work overtime. Mineral deposits from hard water can also dramatically reduce the lifespan of a water heater by clogging pipes, valves and drains.
Low water pressure can have a wide variety of causes, from simple to complex. Here are some tips to diagnose and cure some common causes of reduced water flow.
Clean Your Faucet and Shower Aerator ScreensMineral deposits can often cause faucet aerators to become dirty and eventually reduce the flow of water. By regularly dissembling and cleaning aerator screens you can keep the water flowing freely. White vinegar can be used to dissolve the mineral deposits on faucets and shower heads. Simply soak them for several hours.
Change Your Shower HeadYou can find inexpensive, high-pressure shower heads at your local home center, and that may be all you need to make your shower flow better. If your current shower head has a low-flow head in place, try swapping it out with a regular shower head to increase water pressure.
Check the Valves In Your HomeIf someone in your home has turned off and then turned on a water valve in your home, it may not have been returned to the fully opened position.
Professional Solutions For Low Water Pressure
Once you've tried the methods above to increase your home's water pressure with little to no success, we can help with more problematic water pressure conditions.
One solution is a water pressure booster. A water pressure booster is a water pump that works with your home's existing water supply to increase water pressure.
M/R Plumbing can also help find more serious causes of low water pressure problems. If you have just a single pipe that is leaking, it will affect the water pressure in your house significantly (and raise your utility bill). Try turning off the water supply both inside and outside your home, and then check your water meter. Check the water meter once more a few hour later, and then determine if the water usage has increased. If so, you probably have a leak that needs to be found and repaired.
Another option is to increase the size of the main pipe supplying water to your house. See if you can determine what type of water pipes you have in the home and running to your water meter. Pipe size is an important factor in the amount of water pressure you'll get in your home. The larger the pipes, the more the water pressure, so you may want to consider increasing the size of the main pipe servicing the house.
MR Plumbing offers these tips:
- Check faucets for drips or leaks and repair parts as needed to save water
- Clean mineral deposits from faucets and shower heads. Unscrew them and soak them in vinegar overnight
- Cycle water supply valves under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking
- Ensure that all drains have strainers to prevent debris from clogging your drain lines.
- Pour about a gallon of water into infrequently used drains (including floor drains) to fill the trap and prevent odors from entering the house. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they will carry away water quickly in the event of a flood.
Sump PumpTest your sump pump for proper operation. Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly until the sump pump turns on and begins to pump out the water. Do not pour in more water than the basin will hold. Expect the sump pump to begin pumping out water when the water level reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches below the surface of the basement floor.
Washing machine hoses should be inspected for leaks or bulges. If the hoses are older than 10 years, they should be replaced. Consider using braided stainless steel hoses rather than rubber hoses.
Check your toilets for cracks or leaks. Add several drops of food coloring to the tank. If color appears in the bowl after 30 minutes, it has a leak that should be repaired.
If the toilet handle has to be held down in order to flush properly, or jiggled to stop from running, you may need to replace the tank parts.
Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 120°F to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
If you have a tank water heater, drain several gallons from the water heater tank to flush out sediment that can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency.
Tankless water heaters should be flushed to remove mineral deposits. Always check with your water heater manufacturer for specific instructions regarding maintenance of your specific make and model.
Ensure there are no flammable materials stored near the water heater or furnace.
Water Shutoff ValvesIf a specific plumbing fixture or appliance is leaking or malfunctioning, first look for its shutoff valve and turn it clockwise to turn off the water supply just to the affected system.
The shutoff valve is usually located underneath the toilet or sink. Clothes washers will have two shutoff valves, one each for hot and cold water, often located behind the appliance
If the problem is not with a specific fixture or appliance, or you cannot locate the shutoff valve, locate the main shutoff valve to turn off the water to the entire house.The main shutoff valve will be on the inside where the main water supply pipe enters the house. Turn the valve clockwise to shut it off. If the valve is difficult to turn, keep a wrench near the valve for emergencies.
Have a plumbing emergency? Call M/R Plumbing. Our professional plumbers will be there in minutes to help fix the problem.
One way to extend the life of your water heater and ensure that it operates efficiently is to flush the tank annually to remove sediment buildup. The process is straightforward, here are the steps:
- Shut off the water supply - Locate the cold water supply valve at the top of the water heater and turn it to the off position.
- Turn off the water heater - If you have a gas water heater, simply turn the thermostat knob to the “pilot” setting. If the water heater is electric, turn off the power at the breaker panel.
- Attach a garden hose to the drain valve - located near the bottom of the tank. Place the other end of the hose near a floor drain, in a bucket (have several large buckets to empty into and rotate them if needed) or outside the home.
- Open a hot water tap - Open a hot water tap on a floor above that is nearest the water heater. This will relieve pressure in the system, helping the water drain from the tank. CAUTION: Even though a water heater may have been turned off for hours, the water in the tank can still be hot enough to scald.
- Open the drain valve - After all the water has drained from the tank, turn the cold water supply at the top of the tank back on for a moment. This will clear out any remaining sediment. Repeat this step until the water runs clear.
- Close the drain valve.
- Remove the hose.
- Turn on the cold water supply to refill the tank.
- Return to the hot water tap you opened earlier. Once cold water begins to flow from the tap, turn it off.
- Turn the gas valve back on from the pilot position or turn electricity back on to the tank.
- Check the valve opening to ensure it's not leaking.
We've put together some tips to help you detect some of the plumbing problems that can cause serious damage to your home. By fixing these minor problems you can prevent bigger problems in the future.
Screeching Faucets - If you hear a screeching sound when your faucet is turned it can indicate that the air "bleed-off" system is not working correctly.
Low Water Pressure - Low water can have a number of causes, including clogged pipes, leaks in the plumbing or pipes that are inadequately sized to provide sufficient water pressure.
Rattling Or Pinging - These noises from can indicate that air has become trapped in the pipes.
Hidden Leaks - Enclosed areas of your home like crawl spaces and cabinets under sinks should be inspected for wet spots or mold, which can indicate a leak.
Gurgling Drains - If your drains gurgle, it could be a sign of blockage in the pipe. Once the blockage is removed, the gurgling should stop.
Backed Up Toilets - If your toilet frequently backs up it could be a sign that your septic tank needs to be emptied or that tree roots are obstructing the pipes and are causing blockage.
The water heater should be inspected for any signs of rust or corrosion on the tank or the pipes. If you have a gas-powered water heater, check the gas lines by putting soapy water on them and watching for bubbles, which could indicate a gas leak.
If you notice brown or discolored water coming out of your faucets, you may have an old water heater that needs to be replaced.
When the faucets are turned on, they leak water. This generally indicates that the O-rings or washers need to be replaced. If the faucets drip when not turned on, they may have a mineral build-up or need to be replaced altogether.
A drain that is slow is generally a sign of a blockage in the pipe. You might be able to remedy this by using a commercially available drain cleaning solution to dissolve the blockage, or you can try using a plumber's "snake" tool to break up and dislodge the blockage.
If possible, locate your main water shut-off valve and turn off the water to your home. When the water is turned off, check the meter to see if it is still running. If it is running with the water turned off, this may indicate a leak.
Have plumbing problems? Give MR. Plumbing a call, we can help.
1. Repair drips and leaks. That leaking faucet is more than just an annoyance, it's costing you money over time on your water bill. Replacing worn out washers is easy and inexpensive. If a leak is under a sink or in a wall it can cause mold and damage to your home and should be fixed as soon as possible.
2. Unclog slow drains. Eventually that slow floor drain or kitchen sink is going to stop completely, leading to a major clog that will require professional help to clear.
3. Clean faucet aerators and shower heads. If water pressure has reduced over time the culprit may be mineral deposits that have built up in faucets and shower heads, reducing water flow. Remove faucet aerators and soak them in vinegar to dissolve mineral build up.
4. Schedule a sewer line inspection. One of the most expensive plumbing problems a homeowner can experience is a backed up sewer main. A video sewer line inspection will find potential problems, including breaks, misaligned pipes, and tree root intrusion that can lead to sewer line failure.
5. Flush your water heater tank. Flushing your water heater tank will remove rust and sediment from the bottom of the tank that can reduce heating efficiency and shorten the life of the water heater.Have a tankless water heater? Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the line filter.
6. Fix that flapper. A running toilet can waste a lot of water. Replacing the flapper is inexpensive and simple to do.
Have plumbing problems? Give MR. Plumbing a call, we can help.
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