Insulating Pipes: Is The Cost-Saving Worth the Effort?

Pipe insulation seems to be a hot topic. Home improvement celebrities on television, contractors with blogs, and articles on social media all point to insulation as a great way to increase the value of your home while saving energy and money. Do the costs and labor really add up to significant benefits?

That depends who you ask.

One of the primary factors that drive people to insulate pipes is money. Insulated pipes helps reduce the energy lost as water travels from the water heater to the shower/dishwasher/etc. In turn, you’re able to lower the temperature on your water-heating unit and save some money — without settling for cold showers. However, insulating your pipes may not allow you to turn down that thermostat as far as you might hope.

The True Savings Behind Pipe Insulation

You can reduce your cost by 3% – 5% for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit that you turn down the water heater. After insulation, the average family can turn the heater down by four degrees without noticing a difference in temperature at the tap, for a cost reduction of about 2%. When you factor in the average annual water-heating bill of $400 – $600, you’re looking at savings of about $8 – $12 per year. Sure, that number seems small, but insulation still saves energy and eventually will pay for itself, right?

Maybe.

The cost for a professional to insulate your pipes can range from $100 to $1,000. The true costs depend upon your geographic location and the scope of the job. Even if you have a relatively small job and your home is located where labor costs are reasonable, the least you will pay is about $100. It will take more than 10 years to get back that investment. The return on investment, however, is much more promising if you do the job yourself.

Insulation for pipes actually is quite inexpensive, as far as materials go. Many homes can be outfitted for approximately $10, which one year’s worth of energy savings when do the labor yourself. It can be uncomfortable to spend time in your home’s crawlspace, but the actual task of installing the insulation is quite simple: just wrap your pipes and secure with tape.

Avoid a Costly Accident With Proper Pipe Insulation

If you have your pipes professionally insulated, the energy savings may not add up to make it worthwhile, but the cost of avoiding an accident definitely can. Wrapped pipes are the first defense against frozen lines. If a pipe busts in the cold, you could be out thousands of dollars in home repair and wasted water costs. For homeowners in areas with winters that see temperatures below freezing, insulation is a necessity more than an option.

As with any home improvement decision, it’s important to do your research and find out the true cost for your specific project. Once you look at the numbers, you can determine what is right for you and your family. If you need help determining if insulating pipes is right for you, contact us today.

Is the Water In Your Home Safe for Drinking?

It’s not always easy to tell if your home tap water is safe for drinking. Some contaminates have an obvious odor or taste, but most serious contaminates that can make their way into drinking water are invisible, odorless and tasteless.

Most home tap water comes from municipal systems, which are required to test water frequently and notify the public if contaminate levels aren’t below public safety standards. As a result, most people can be reasonably sure that their drinking water isn’t harmful. However, the only way to know for sure that your water is safe to drink is to test it.

When to Test Your Water

Under certain circumstances, having your water tested independently may be a good idea. Municipal systems test for contaminants at their water treatment plants, and there is the small possibility that harmful substances may get into your water as it travels from the plant to your faucets.

If you have lead pipes, brass faucets (which contain lead) or copper pipes, you may want to have your water tested for these metals. New pipes and faucets are permitted lead levels of eight percent or less, and old plumbing may have much higher levels. Lead poisoning can be extremely serious, and copper poisoning can also involve a number of nasty symptoms.

Rural residents who get their water from private or shared wells should definitely test their water regularly. These residents are solely responsible for their own water quality, which is not managed or tested by a municipal water agency.

Ways to Test Your Water

If you want to test the water from your own faucet, you can request a test from your local water agency or a certified lab, or perform a test yourself. Many local water agencies are willing to perform home drinking water tests, and some will even do so for free.

If your local water agency doesn’t offer tests, state-certified or nationwide labs can test your water for you. Depending on the number of contaminant levels you want to check, the cost of these tests can vary from tens to hundreds of dollars.

You can find a certified lab in your state by visiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, or calling their Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

Home testing kits are also good but limited options. Reputable home tests like PurTest and Discover Testing allow you to check your water for lead, arsenic, bacteria and pesticides. Labs are able to test for many more contaminants, but there are also much more expensive that these home tests.

The EPA reports that 90 percent of municipal water systems meet federal safety standards. That’s pretty good, but it’s not perfect—if you want to be absolutely certain that your water is safe, testing is the way to go.

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What Should I Do If My Basement Floods?

Basement flooding can cause serious damage, up to thousands of dollars. While some floods can’t be anticipated, there are certain steps you can take to manage a flood and protect your home against future floods.

Why Basements Flood

There are a number of reasons why a basement can flood, from weather conditions to problems with the house itself. Some of causes of a flooded basement include:

  • Burst pipes
  • Sudden downpours
  • Large amounts of melting snow
  • Leaky windows
  • Broken gutters
  • A damaged foundation
  • Tree removal
  • Earthquakes
  • Plumbing

Preventing a Basement Flood

Staying on top of home maintenance can help prevent a basement flood. The following measures can improve the quality of your basement, as well as the condition your home overall.

  • Fix sealants around leaky windows.
  • Call a foundation repair specialist if you notice cracks or other damage to the foundation.
  • Call a professional to assess your landscaping, roof and gutters if you think your soil is overly saturated.
  • Contact a plumber or repair person immediately if you notice problems with your plumbing.
  • Waterproof walls inside the basement.
  • Install a sub-pump to get rid of unwanted standing water.
  • Make sure any plants or boarders are at least 12 inches from the foundation.
  • Make sure the ground next to your foundation is slanted away from your home.

What to Do If Your Basement Floods

If your basement does flood, you’ll want to take certain steps right away. Don’t wade through any standing water until you’ve turned off electricity to the area and are sure that no open circuits are standing in the water. Call a basement contractor, foundation contractor or sub-pump installer. Use a wet vacuum or a bucket to suck as much water up as possible. A flood cleanup crew can clean and remove damaged items as well, and you might want to remove any valuable items from the basement until the water is gone. An electrician should inspect any electrical items that have been exposed to water, and don’t touch any electrical equipment while standing in the water. Don’t use any appliances without having a repairperson assess them if they have been sitting in water. You’ll probably need to tear out any fabric or carpeting and replace it with something new.

These preventive measures and fast-acting steps can help keep your home from flooding and minimize damage when a flood does occur.

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What Causes Toilets to Keep Running?

Sometimes trouble comes in a trickle instead of a flood.

That’s certainly the case with a constantly running toilet, which can drive up your water bills even as it’s driving you crazy.

Fortunately toilet technology is uncomplicated and with just a little bit of knowledge you can obtain the know-how you need to fix that unwanted flow yourself.

Identifying the Problem

A bit of trial-and-error might be necessary to discover the real reason why your toilet keeps running. In most cases the source of the trouble can be traced to one of four possible causes, each of which—thankfully—can be fixed with relative ease.

Here are the possible culprits:

#1 Faulty flapper

Problem: The flapper is the rubber stopper that pops open to let the water in the tank rush into the bowl after you flush. Once the flushing cycle is complete the flapper drops back into place so the tank can refill.

But flappers can become cracked, worn or coated with mineral deposits. This prevents them from fitting tightly over the pipe that supplies the toilet bowl with water. As a consequence water will leak continuously from the tank into the bowl.

Solution: To gain access to the interior of the tank turn the shut-off valve clockwise to cut the water supply, flush, and wait for the tank to empty. If the flapper is in rough shape remove it and replace it (a new one will cost about five bucks at the hardware store).

#2 Excessive chain length

Problem: The chain that lifts the flapper is too long and occasionally gets caught inside the lid of the flapper, preventing the latter from closing completely. If this is the trouble the constant running will tend to come and go.

Solution: This foul-up will be easy to spot when you lift the top off the tank. To fix it, empty the tank and turn off the water so it can’t refill, and then unhook the chain by its ends and remove it. Use a wire cutter to snip off a few links (but not too many!) and re-install.

#3 The float valve is set too high.

Problem: The float valve is designed to shut off the water flow when the tank has refilled to an adequate level. But if it is set to the wrong level the water may continue to rise until it begins to empty into the overflow pipe, which in turn empties into the toilet bowl. The float valve can’t trigger a shut-off then because the water level in the tank can’t rise any higher.

Solution: Your float valve will be either a large, round ball that bobs on top of the water (older toilets) or a floating black cylinder that fits over an assembly on the left side of the tank. In either case a screw will be provided to adjust for height, and you can use a flat screwdriver to drop the float down to a lower level.

#4 The ballcock assembly needs to be replaced

Problem: Something has gone wrong with the entire mechanism
responsible for refilling your tank after it flushes.
In this instance discovery occurs by process of elimination: if the other possibilities have been discounted this is most likely the source of the trouble.

Solution: You can buy a new ballcock assembly at the hardware store and install it yourself. Instructions will be provided and it is not as difficult as you might think.

If Nothing Else Works …

If these DIY procedures all fail it’s safe to say you’ve got a real mystery on your hands, at which point calling a plumber may be your only realistic solution.

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How Do I Know If I Need A New Water Heater?

Though hot water tanks can last for years, they start showing symptoms of ageing when they need replacement. Determining if a water heater replacement would be necessary is a simple undertaking which one could go about by themselves. If necessary, one could even install a new water heater to save money and energy.

If the hot water tap only yields cold water, it’s probably time to replace the tank. This also applies if it the hot water supply no longer lasts as long as it used to. Puddles of water around the base of the tank are also an indication of a leak, which requires remedying by replacement.

The presence of smaller leaks around plumbing connections and fittings also indicate that it’s time to get a new tank. Heaters that make frequent unusual sounds indicate mechanical problems. Most tanks are warrantied for up to 10 years. While some last beyond this period, tanks that don’t perform optimally should be replaced if they’re more than 10 years old.

Installing a Hot Water Tank

This process needs to be carried out while adhering to model-specific information, safety notices, warnings and local codes. If in doubt, one should consult a qualified professional. The necessary tools include plumbing equipment, pipe joint, circuit tester/voltmeter and connectors that match the existing pipes.

To begin, one needs to locate the heater’s circuit breaker and turn it off. If there’s a fuse instead of this device, it should be removed. If the heater has a disconnect switch, one should turn it off.

Draining the Heater

To ensure that the power is really off, the incoming electrical cables should be checked with a voltmeter to ensure that the circuit being worked on is off. Draining involves turning on the hot-water tap and leaving it to run till it’s cool. The cold water supply should then be shut off when the tank is completely empty.

A hose pipe should be connected to the drain valve with one end placed in a drain. Having done this, the drain valve on the water heater should then be opened. As it drains, the installation instructions need to be reviewed one more time. When empty, the power and water lines should be disconnected in order to remove the old heater.

Temperature and Pressure Release Valve

If the plumbing system has a check valve, a thermal expansion tank needs to be installed near the water heater. This is attached to the cold water intake line and needs to be pressurized using air for it to work properly. The instruction manual should explain how to do this.

The temperature and pressure relief valve opens to relieve water pressure if it rises too much. One needs to use the new gadget that came with the new heater. Its discharge pipe should be terminated close to a floor drain while leaving an air gap of 6 inches or less. In some areas, one is required to terminate this pipe outside, while a floor drain would be more appropriate for colder climates.

Installing Hot and Cold Water lines

The heater’s outlet and inlet connections have non-metallic parts and should thus not be soldered. Instead, the threaded adapters should be connected to the shorter pipes so that the joint is sufficiently far from the connections on the heater. Having done this, the cold water supply pipe can be opened to fill up the tank.

Upon opening a hot water tap, air comes out at first, followed by spluttering and finally normal flow. The tap should be left to run for some time to allow the tank fill up completely. Before electrical connections can be completed, the tank needs to be completely full.

Connecting Power Wires

The water connections first need to be inspected for leaks, which mostly occur due to problems in the inlets and outlets. One needs to follow the installation manual, labels and wiring diagrams on the water heater. The existing wiring and circuit breakers should be in good condition and compatible to the model in question. The power lines can then be connected, with the ground cable connected to the green ground screw.

Setting the Thermostat

The upper and lower thresholds need to be set at the recommended temperature setting. With this done, the insulation, plastic protectors and access panels can then be replaced. The electrical junction box then needs to be covered.

Pressure Checks

If the hot water isn’t at the desired level, a voltmeter can be used to check the incoming voltage. The temperature setting on both thermostats can also be checked. If there’s no hot water even after several hours, one needs to ensure that power is reaching the heater. Follow us for more articles that will keep your heating and cooling systems running efficiently.

Steps To Take To Get Rid Of Drain Flies

Drain flies are disgusting pests. Unfortunately, they’re also pests that are very tough to kill. If you want to learn how to get rid of drain flies, you’ll have to follow a few specific steps. The steps aren’t hard, but they can be time consuming.

Start by tracking down the bugs. You might think you know the source of the infestation, but try to remember that drain flies will breed anywhere that they can find standing water. As a rule, these flies don’t go far from their breeding grounds, so you should be able to track them fairly easily. Look at all of your drains and try to figure out if you can see the flies. If you do, place a strip of tape over the drain. If you see flies caught on the strip over the next few days, you know that you’ve found the right spot.

Once you’ve found the right drain, it’s time to start cleaning. You’ll want to get rid of excess water by using a shop vac and then clean out the drains with warm water. Once you have this done, you will need a snake to get deep in the pipes and scrub out anything that’s attached itself to the sides. Remember, drain flies aren’t the only insects that might make your drains their home – you should take this time to get rid of everything that’s hiding in there. Once you’re done with the cleaning, you can use a simple gel drain cleaner to eliminate any eggs that remain in your drains.

If you get rid of a drain fly breeding pool, you shouldn’t have to worry about the pests again for quite some time. Unfortunately, failure to kill everything in the pool can lead to it returning in short order. As such, you should always keep the supplies around for cleaning your drains just in case. It’s labor intensive, but it’s worthwhile for those who want to get rid of the bugs. Follow us for more information about home needs and your heating and cooling systems if you want to learn more.

What To Consider When Purchasing A Water Heater

Water heaters have been rated some of the most essential, yet highest energy-consuming appliances in many premises. The efficiency of a water heater, consumed fuel, and function should, therefore, comprise key aspects to be considered during any water heater shopping activity. Well-chosen water heaters guarantee a steady flow of hot water, whenever needed, as well as saved energy costs.

Factors to consider when purchasing a water heater

Extent of function

A water heater’s service is a key factor to be considered when water heater shopping as the hot water needs of a person/ people determine the appropriate water heater system to be purchased and installed. Some water heaters can only deliver hot water from particular points/ faucets (Point of Use) whereas others can supply hot water throughout a building, simultaneously. Point of Use water heaters, such as shower heads, are most appropriate for small premises with minimal hot water needs, whereas Whole House water heater systems are appropriate for large facilities with numerous, simultaneous hot water needs.

Consumed Fuel

The cost of various fuels that power water heaters always impact water heater shopping decisions. Aggregate fuel costs usually comprise the cost of purchasing the specific-fuelled water heater, the installation and maintenance cost of that water heater system, as well as the cost-per-unit of the consumed fuel. Natural gas, liquid propane and electricity comprise typical water heater powering fuels. Whereas per-unit-cost of gas and liquid propane are small, the acquisition and installation of their powered water heating systems is advanced due to the required plumbing and safety measures. Whereas electric-powered water heaters have the highest efficiency, per-unit-cost of electricity is much higher than that of gas and liquid propane. The installation and maintenance cost of electric-powered water heaters is, however, lower than that of gas and liquid propane. Water heater shoppers should weigh their short and long term finances in regards to whichever fuel-powered heater they purchase.

Water storage capacity

The capacity of a water heater should be directly proportional to the heating needs of a building. Large-tanked water heaters consume excessive energy to heat water that is not entirely needed whereas small-tanked water heaters must overwork to supply premises with adequate hot water. During water heater shopping, people should consider their hot water needs at any given time, and the regularity of their water heater needs. Conventional tanks that keep hot water heated all the time are appropriate for all-time occupied premises whereas tankless water heaters are suitable for one-off hot water needs.

Water heater shopping should be a strategic and informed process rather than a random, cheapest water heater acquisition spree. Water heater shoppers should consider the hot water needs of their building, as well the consumed fuel and efficiency of a water heater. Follow us for more helpful HVAC information.

What Is Vacation Mode And Why Should I Use It?

Consumers often hear about how the technological benefits on newer appliances can lead to energy and utility bill savings. For the most part, we often think that we need to do nothing but sit back and let the appliance take care of the process. One of the areas where that attitude leads to a waste of energy is your water heater. Have you ever though about turning down the water heater before you leave on vacation?

Chances are, you probably haven’t given it a single thought. In recent years, manufacturers have begun to include a water heater vacation setting on their appliances, making it easy for homeowners to save money while they are out of town. Water heaters generally take about 20% of an average home’s energy, so saving money on heating water when you are not around can result in huge savings. That’s why the water heating vacation setting is ideal, especially for those times when you will spend several weeks away from your home.

Placing your water heater on a vacation setting is simple. Newer models have a setting marked as VAC. Turn the dial to this setting immediately before you leave. If you have an older water heater, you can also choose to turn the heater down to the lowest possible setting or even completely off if you prefer, depending on the type of heater you have. If you have an electric model, simply cut the power at the breaker or fuse in the service panel. Don’t turn off your water heater completely in winter if you live in a cold climate as this action can cause pipes to freeze. Upon your return, make sure you switch the setting back to normal and let the heater warm to 120 degrees before using it.

Placing your water heater on vacation mode while you are away has several benefits. It will lower your utility bill and have less of an impact on the environment at the same time. Saving energy is also good for the appliance itself as lowering temperature occasionally will prevent mineral build up and corrosion, prolong life and maximize usage.

The Benefits Of Tankless Water Heater Installation

The tankless water heater is a very different from the standard tank-style water heater. The tank-style held water in the tank and kept it warm whether you were using it or not, while the tankless water heater warms water on demand only, it doesn’t store warm water. When you turn of the hot water at the faucet the tank warms the water you receive. When you turn it off, the tankless water heater stops warming the water.

Tankless water heater installation can be made where ever there is plenty of combustion air. It can be installed where ever the tank-style water heater was formerly placed. Because of its compact size it can fit in many places the tank-style would not be able to fit. Place it in any room, basement, utility room, garage, and attic or place the digital temperature controller on any wall in any room.

Generally, tankless water heaters have a higher EF or efficiency rating making them less costly to operate than tank-style water heaters. Unlike the tank-style, there’s no pilot light that must be lit 24/7. Tankless units use direct ignition to send a spark to the main burner when hot water is needed. Another difference is that tankless burners modulate for maximum efficiency unlike tank-style burners which burn more frequently to maintain a constant temperature. Make sure you buy the proper sized water heater to service your particular home. The sizing is based on how many bathrooms and kitchens your home has. This will insure your hot water needs are met by your newly installed tankless water heater.

Just like the tank-style water heater, a tankless water heater allows you to adjust the temperature of the hot water. You can adjust the temperature by two degrees from 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit and five degrees from 120-140 degrees. This allows you to adjust the set point temperature to the level that suits your household members.

The greatest benefit the tankless water heater offers a homeowner is affordable hot water on demand. Instead of water being held in a reservoir, it is heated when needed, saving a lot of energy and water usage. If you think it’s time you saved some money you would like to consider tankless water heater installation, give us a call for your water heater and plumbing needs.

4 Signs That Your Water Heater Needs Repair

Your home’s water heater is one of the most important appliances. It is necessary to take a shower, wash your clothes, and wash your dishes. When you believe that there is something wrong with your water heater, you will often be able to have it repaired than pay to have it replaced, which can be much more expensive. It is important to be able to recognize that your water heater needs repair.

No Hot Water
When you are not getting any hot water from your faucets, changes are your pilot light can be out. If you do not know how to check the pilot light, or do not want to take the chance doing it on your own, you should contact a water heater specialist. This problem could also be related to a problem in the heating element.

The Water Gets Too Hot or Not Quite Hot Enough
If you find that you turn on your hot water, and it is scalding you, that can be a problem. Also, if you are trying to take a shower or do the dishes, and the water is not getting quite as hot as you like, it is likely a problem with the thermostat on the unit. The ideal temperature should be between 120 and 140 degrees. If your thermostat is set correctly, you should contact a water heater specialist to check if the thermostat is faulty.

Odd Noises
When you notice strange noises coming from your water heater, it does not mean that the heater is on its way out. In most cases, hard water sediment has built up within the tank, and it has broken apart. To have this repaired, a water heater specialist would come in to drain the excess water from the tank. Once the tank is empty, he would clean out the sediment.

Water Around the Heater
If you have puddles of water around the heater, there is likely a leak coming from the tank. Common causes of these leaks are a loose valve or a leaky pipe. You can also have an obstructed vent, a faulty valve, or the heating element is not functioning properly. These are all problems that can be repaired by a water heater specialist.

Knowing when your water heater needs to be repaired is very important. If you let the problem go for too long, it may be too late for a water heater repair, and you would need to replace it entirely. If you notice any of the above issues, you should schedule an appointment with a water heater specialist to repair the problem before it gets worse.