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Tips for saving water inside your home

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

If you water your yard regularly, more than half of your household water consumption is going into your lawn. The other half is used inside the house. A quick plumbing inspection and a few replacement fixtures can go a long way toward saving water — and your hard-earned dollars.

The federal government recognized the importance of indoor water conservation when it passed the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which established national water-conservation standards for plumbing fixtures. The act set the stage for water-saving fixtures such as low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets for residential use.

Some state and municipal governments have stepped up to help encourage water conservation in their communities. For example, in Atlanta, a national leader in water conservation, the Department of Watershed Management has invited its customers to take a water conservation pledge. The city also has taken significant steps to educate residents about high-efficiency and low-flow plumbing fixtures through literature and its website.

Bathroom

The program targeted toilets because almost three-quarters of the water used inside your house is consumed in the bathroom, and your toilet is the single biggest culprit. You could save hundreds of gallons a year by replacing your older big-tank toilet with a modern, high-efficiency model that uses a fraction of the water previous models use. Consider replacing your standard showerhead with a low-flow version. Another shortcut to saving water is to take shorter showers and save baths for special occasions.

Kitchen

Did you know that if you scrape your dishes really well instead of rinsing them before you put them in the dishwasher, you can save up to 20 gallons of water per load? A modern, more efficient dishwasher can help save water in the kitchen, too. Only run your dishwasher when it’s full; that way you won’t waste water on partial loads. Consider placing a low-flow aerator on your kitchen faucets, as well.

Leaks

Leaking pipes and fixtures can waste hundreds of gallons of water every year. So can poorly insulated pipes. To get yourself on the road to water conservation, call a plumbing professional to perform an inspection. A licensed, experienced plumber can offer more tips and advice on how to save water and money in your Georgia home.

Image source: Flickr

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Put water hammer to rest – once and for all

Monday, March 10th, 2014

It’s not uncommon for Atlanta homeowners to deal with rattling pipes. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s a pleasant experience. While the noise is a nuisance, the effect that rattling pipes have on your plumbing system can be very damaging. Learn the causes and effects of water hammer, or rattling pipes, and what you can do to resolve the problem.

What is water hammer?

What’s happening behind the scenes when you hear the pipes rattling? Basically, the pressure in the pipes increases due to an adjustment in either the velocity of the water or the direction it’s going. For instance, when you turn off the faucet, the force of the water quickly changes, creating what is similar to shock waves in the water. That is the sound you hear coming from the pipes, which plumbers refer to as “hammering.”

What causes rattling pipes?

Most home plumbing systems employ air chambers designed to buffer the shock waves, in effect softening the noise created. When these chambers fail, or if the plumbing system wasn’t designed with air chambers, a hammering noise starts up. Another common cause of rattling pipes is the pressure-reducing valve, which contains a gasket that can fail.

What are the effects of rattling pipes?

While the noise of rattling pipes alone may not be enough to move you to hire a plumber to resolve the problem, leaving the issue unchecked can cause serious issues like:

  • Damage to appliances
  • Damage to the pipes
  • Higher water bills

How can you resolve the problem?

Unless you’re a savvy DIYer, in most cases you’ll need the help of a plumber to put a stop to the rattling. Experienced plumbers can listen to the noise the pipes are making and know exactly what is causing the problem. Some of the solutions include:

  • Replacing the gasket in the pressure-reducing valve
  • Flushing out the pipes to remove the air
  • Clearing out debris from the section of pipe where the air chamber is located
  • Reducing the pressure of the water
  • Installing air chambers if the system doesn’t currently have them

Get expert advice when you’re plagued by water hammer. The plumbers at RooterPLUS! are happy to help.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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A water filter gets rid of the junk and improves taste

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Are you thinking about installing a water filter on your kitchen faucet? You may want to go even further than that and opt for a whole-house water filtration system instead. Water quality dictates health, and poor water quality can pose a significant health risk. Rain and snow runoff from roads and roofs can carry toxic chemicals and organisms, and controversial practices such as fracking may exacerbate groundwater pollution. The best way to protect your Atlanta home from contaminants is to use a water filter.

Here’s how you’ll benefit from using filtration:

  • Filtration that operates via reverse osmosis removes harmful contaminants from drinking water, but it can also remove essential minerals too, like calcium. As a result, the water’s pH level decreases. A high-quality filter will include a second step, moving the water through a carbon filter of some sort and raising the pH level.
  • Drinking water with a balanced pH may promote health benefits, improving the absorption of water in the body, helping weight loss and reducing the impact of aging.
  • Installing a filter on your kitchen sink provides immediate access to pure drinking water.
  • Using filtration on other faucets in the home, including the shower, bath and bathroom sinks, provides cleaner water for hygienic purposes.
  • Pure water is not as harsh on the skin. Water that contains chlorine and other chemicals will lead to drier skin.
  • Clean water is easier on hair, too. When bathing with clean water, your hair won’t sustain the damage that comes from washing it with chlorinated and chemical-laden water.
  • Removing chlorine from the home’s water offers significant benefits, as some reports link the use of chlorine with increased cancer risks, heart issues and senility.
  • Filtration systems that address mold and mineral buildup in pipes can aid those who suffer from allergies.
  • When you use filters, your tubs and sinks will be easier to clean because less rust and minerals will be released from the pipes.
  • Using pure water for the entire household prevents contaminants from harming dishwashers, washing machines, coffee makers and any other appliances that use water.

For optimal removal of contaminants, consider a whole-house water filter that works on removing harmful chemicals and minerals the moment that water enters your home. In this way, you’ll protect your home’s plumbing pipes, the water coming out of your sinks for drinking and hygienic purposes will be purified, and your appliances that use water will stay clean, too. For more information about water filtration, contact the plumbing experts at RooterPLUS!

Image source: Flickr

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As a polar vortex sweeps through Georgia, frozen pipes raise concern

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Considering that Greater Atlanta winter temperatures average between 34° F and 37° F, recent single-digit temperatures have put residents into deep-freeze mode. But it’s not just your fingers and toes that sense the frigid conditions. Freezing temperatures also could lead to frozen pipes.

Cause for concern

Water freezing inside the plumbing pipes is a problem for one specific reason: Water expands when it freezes, so it puts the pipes in a precarious position. As the water begins expanding, the pipes will succumb to the pressure and burst, sending gallons of water into your basement or crawl space.

In places like Atlanta, where many homes have pipes running through crawl spaces or attics that either don’t have enough insulation or any insulation at all, the risk for frozen pipes increases.

When pipes burst

If you find yourself in the unenviable position of dealing with a burst pipe, it’s best to call a plumber right away. Figure out where your home’s main water-supply shutoff valve is. Then get there quickly and shut it off. This should cause the water to stop flowing out of the broken pipe. Once the plumber arrives, he or she will identify the problematic portion of pipe, assess the condition of the entire plumbing system and replace the pipes that have burst.

Before the problem gets worse

If you’re lucky enough to notice the problem before it gets so bad that the pipes burst, you can take steps to thaw frozen pipes. Here’s what you can do:

  • Open the faucet. Doing so relieves pressure within the pipe and will perhaps prevent the pipes from cracking or splitting. As the frozen water begins to melt, water running through the pipes will help to slow the blockage.
  • Use heat to melt the section of pipe. With a heating pad, hair dryer or portable heater, apply heat to the pipes. You can also moisten towels with hot water and wrap them around the pipes. Avoid using any type of heating component with an open flame, which can be hazardous.
  • Stop when full pressure returns. You can tell that any blockages of ice have melted when the water running out of the faucets is normal and pressure isn’t minimized.
  • Check every faucet. If pressure isn’t normal for other faucets in the home, repeat the steps here, following the plumbing pipes down to the basement or other area where they’re accessible.

Even if you avoid having to deal with a burst pipe, it’s best to have a plumber evaluate the entire system to ensure that the pipes are in good condition, and that the water didn’t expand enough to cause damage. For expert plumbing advice or help dealing with plumbing problems, contact RooterPLUS! today.

 Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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How to unclog a bathtub drain — and when to call a pro

Monday, January 6th, 2014

There’s nothing more unpleasant than discovering a gob of residue-filled hair in the depths of your bathtub drain. So you don’t have to stand in ankle-deep water while you shower, let’s take a look at how to unclog a bathtub drain, and how to decide it’s time to call a pro.

How to unclog a bathtub drain

Bathtub and shower-stall drains are susceptible to blockages because soap residue, shampoo and conditioner accumulate in them over time. The problem is compounded when these elements get tangled in hair making its way down the pipes.

In general, homeowners shouldn’t take on the task of clearing a badly clogged drain; however, because this problem happens so frequently, you can safely try to remove blockages with these few steps:

  1. Shape the end of a wire hanger into a hook. Slowly and gently move the wire down the drain a few inches and try catching the hair.
  2. Plunge the drain. Stop the overflow drain first, then plunge it. The vacuum that plunging creates should dislodge a small clog.

Enlist an expert

Without the necessary experience and tools, using drain cleaners with harsh chemicals or improperly using a snake can damage your plumbing system. This is especially true if the problem originates deep within your plumbing system, as it may be due to a leak or tree-root infiltration. Do-it-yourself techniques like plunging the drain won’t improve the situation at all. Rather than wracking your brain about how to unclog a bathtub drain in particularly bad shape, get expert help to properly resolve the issue and ensure the health of your home’s plumbing system.

If these measures don’t do the job and you suspect the problem is more complicated, it’s wise to call in a professional Atlanta-area plumber to avoid making matters worse. A licensed plumber has the know-how and equipment to deal with clogged drains, which can be caused by any number of scenarios and may be more complicated than they look. Plumbers will quickly diagnose the problem and proceed with an effective solution, using diagnostic tools like a drain camera to inspect the entire plumbing system.

DIYers, beware: A drain that repeatedly clogs and system-wide slowness may be signs that widespread problems exist further down the pipes.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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Hiring a drain cleaning professional? Here’s what you need to know

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

A sewage backup, clogged sink or shower full of water often requires a professional plumber to provide drain cleaning services. You may not always know when a job is do-it-yourself and when to hire a pro. Here’s a guide to help you decide when professional cleaning is the best solution.

  • Tools. A professional drain cleaning service has access to commercial equipment that homeowners, DIYers and lone plumbers generally don’t. A reputable plumber will snake a high-tech video camera throughout the plumbing system and accurately locate the source of the drainage problem. Vet professionals by inquiring about the tools they utilize for diagnosing and remedying plumbing issues.
  • Experience. In addition, the pros have experience and training, so they know when to implement solutions without harming the pipes. While access to tools is important, so is knowing how to use those tools. A reputable plumber should have extensive experience implementing various tools and know how to respond to the unique needs of your plumbing system. For instance, home plumbing pipes can vary in size by as much as several inches. Therefore, it’s critical that the plumber select tools of the right size for your home’s pipes. Ask the plumber about the various scenarios he or she has encountered in the field and why certain solutions or tools are preferred over others.
  • Reputation. If you don’t already have an established relationship with a plumber, you’ve likely asked friends and family about their own experiences with drain service professionals. Go a step further and extend your search to include reputable websites and the Better Business Bureau, and ask the company for several valid references.
  • Cost. This factor should be the last consideration for a job like drain cleaning. Many new plumbers offer low prices, but that comes at the cost of know-how. An experienced plumber may charge higher prices, but you’ll get more value for your dollar. Weigh cost as one among many when considering hiring a drain cleaner, and remember that a plumber who has more experience, better training and state-of-the-art tools may charge more.

Work with a professional to safeguard your home’s plumbing system and get the job done right the first time around.

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Controlling the water pressure to your home

Friday, October 4th, 2013

You’ll probably only ever think about the water pressure in your home when it’s too low. The fact is, however, the pressure can also be too high. This can damage appliances that utilize your plumbing system, including the washing machine, the water heater and the dishwasher.

When it comes to pressure that is too high, the force of the flowing erodes materials within the plumbing components, such as seals. In turn, this can cause your water heater or other appliance to start leaking. Additionally, overly high pressure can cause “water hammer,” a situation in which an appliance’s valve is suddenly closed. This may cause annoyances like noise, but in more serious cases it can cause pipes to fail and shorten the life of those expensive and essential appliances.

Further, you should consider the annual savings you can realize on your water bill. For instance, if water pressure is reduced from 100 pounds per square inch (psi) to 50, you can reap a one-third savings on your annual water bill.

If the water pressure in your home is high, hire a licensed plumber to install a regulator. This can reduce pressure to your appliances without affecting areas where it ought to be higher, such as the garden hose or the shower. A very common task for a plumber, installing a regulator also can bring savings on the maintenance and repair of your plumbing system and appliances. Hiring a plumber to take care of this task for you will not only ensure that the part is installed properly but that it is adjusted properly, as well.

If you have any doubt about the pressure in your home or are experiencing any of the signs of high pressure, such as water hammer, be sure to contact a licensed plumber sooner rather than later to prevent serious damage.

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Dealing with a blocked drain

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Blocked drains, like taxes, are an inevitable part of life. Despite what advertisers say, solving the problem is not as easy as pouring some liquid into the stopped-up fixtures and letting it work its magic. Liquid cleaners are usually ineffective against blocked drains. Even worse, they are also caustic, as they contain potent acidic cleaners that can damage porcelain and sometimes even older trap pipes. In addition, your sink and pipes are now filled with acidic chemicals that may leak out onto hands and cabinetry when the drain lines are opened up to properly fix the blocked drain.

Enzymatic cleaners are a bit easier on the environment, but they are designed for preventative maintenance, not quick fixes, and can take a few days to clear a blocked drain.

For more information on the dangers of liquid drain cleaners, check out the U.S. National Library of Medicine report on the subject.

Fortunately, clearing a blocked drain can be easily taken care of by most DIYers.

For drains with pop-up stoppers, such as those in bathroom sinks, removing the pop-up plug and clearing away any hair, grease or other debris is a quick and easy way to remedy the problem. If the sink is full of water, take care to place a bucket and towel under the trap before loosening any parts. With necessary precautions taken, loosen the pop-up lever nut. This is located directly under the sink facing the back of the drain line. Remove the pop-up plug and clear away any obstructions. While the plug is off, look down the drain with a flashlight and remove any further clogs with a clothes hanger.

If the problem persists, the clog is likely further down the line. You can attempt to plunge the sink, though depending on the size and density of the blockage, this might prove futile.

If plunging and cleaning the pop-ups fail, you should contact a licensed plumber who can snake the line. While you can rent snaking equipment yourself, there is the risk of damaging the pipes, particularly with power augers, which can break through drain lines.

If you are dealing with a “slow block,” in which the sink backs up after water has been running for a little while, your clog is likely very far down the line. In addition to the slow buildup, other fixtures in the home will be slow to drain, as well. This is a sign that the clog is somewhere in a main drain line (and perhaps caused by tree roots) and will likely require some heavy-duty equipment. To resolve this problem, you should call a licensed plumber, as the equipment necessary for this job is powerful, and the potential for injury is high for those without experience.

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Got Plumbing Questions? We’ve Got Answers!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

In most cases, if you have plumbing questions, it’s best to call a professional plumber, who may be able to answer your question over the phone— with no service fee. During the call, the plumber will ask key questions and confirm that you’ve covered a few simple checks to be sure that your problem is a minor one.

Before calling in the cavalry, however, run through this FAQ. You may find the answers you seek. If you have a full-fledged plumbing emergency like a burst pipe or a drain that repeatedly clogs, however, it’s best to call a professional plumber right away.

How can I prevent frozen pipes?

Plummeting winter temperatures cause many homeowners to fear for their pipes, and rightly so: Exposed pipes in uninsulated areas like the basement are more susceptible to freezing. When ice forms within the pipe, the pressure of the blockage causes the pipe to burst, sending water all through your basement.

Here’s how to prevent pipes from freezing:

  • Wrap exposed pipes with insulating foam to maintain water temperature.
  • Insulate and seal the basement to keep cold air out.
  • If you’re going away for an extended period, give a family member or neighbor a key to your home so that someone can turn a faucet on to a drip when temperatures threaten to drop.

My water bill has jumped significantly. Could this mean I have a plumbing problem?

Unless your water utility has raised prices significantly, you may have a plumbing emergency on your hands. Check your home for evidence of a slow drip or a pool of water on the floor or under cabinets. Deal with leaks swiftly, and get a plumber on the scene.

How can I control water usage?

Toilets consume the most water of any home appliance. If a toilet in your home runs, try to fix it right away.

What plumbing emergencies must be dealt with immediately?

If you discover a leaky pipe, you can attempt to tighten the connections with a pipe wrench and then schedule an appointment with a plumber. Your need for a plumber’s services will be more urgent if you notice:

  • A gas leak.
  • A significant water leak.
  • A backed-up sewer.

A gas leak poses a very high risk to your family’s health. If you notice the smell of rotten eggs, get everyone out of your house immediately and call your local gas company or the fire department.

What are the most common problems that require a plumber?

Don’t hesitate to make the call if:

  • There is water under a sink or on the floor in the basement. This indicates a leaky pipe.
  • There is a decrease in water pressure.
  • You notice rust around your water heater or on the pipes connecting to it.
  • You find evidence of mold, which may indicate a water leak.
  • Noisy pipes.
  • Faucets that drip.

If you’re still not sure, or if you have plumbing questions or a plumbing emergency, contact a reputable plumber right away.

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No Hot Water? Call a Pro!

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Nothing wakes you up like the cold adrenaline rush you get when you step into the shower and discover … no hot water! A lack of hot water can be caused by any number of problems. There are a few things you can do to help your plumbing professional diagnose your hot water problem.

If you see water leaking from the bottom of the water heater, the unit may have an internal crack. This means that you will need a new water heater. Other problems are less catastrophic and can typically be repaired by a plumbing professional.

On the other hand, if your water heater is leaking from the top of the unit, the culprit is most likely a malfunctioning fitting or other part. In most cases, it’s a simple repair.

Some problems leading to a lack of hot water are because of the unit itself. If your hot water heater runs on natural gas and you don’t have hot water, it may be that your pilot light is out. This may be something you can fix yourself, but natural gas is nothing to play around with. Be safe and contact a professional to get your pilot relit and to make sure there’s not a bigger underlying problem.

On electric units, check to make sure that a circuit breaker has not tripped. If all breakers are intact and you still have no hot water, your unit’s thermostat may have failed. Again, this is a repairable situation and can be fixed quickly by a plumbing professional.

Sometimes a water heater is simply unable to keep up with a household’s demand. This can be caused by wear and tear, sediment buildup or simply increased demand. Whatever the cause, if you are experiencing a lack of hot water, don’t hesitate to call a pumbing professional right away.

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