Many home buyers are drawn to shady streets with mature trees that add a lovely touch to the property and neighborhood. As lovely, and eco-friendly as they might be, trees can also wreak havoc with your property. One of the biggest threats is tree roots which can cause serious, costly damage to underground pipes. While it might seem impossible for a tree to break sewer lines, the larger the tree the more intrusive the roots. This increases the risk for pipe damage.
The Impact of Tree Growth
Trees depend on their roots to provide life-giving water and nutrients that keep them alive. As trees mature, the root systems become quite complicated, spanning a large area. Not only do they spread, but they also grow as they have to support the growth and height of the trunk and branches above. All you see is a lovely, green, and shady tree, but what lies below is not just the tree’s roots, but the sewer lines servicing your home.
How Roots Cause Sewer Line Damage
Tree roots can sense the water and oxygen coming from pipes. Since they need this to survive, they will create a path leading to the pipes. If there is a cracked pipe, the roots are even more likely to seek out the pipe’s location. Once the roots reach the pipe, they will break in through the crack. As the tree grows, the roots grow, causing more and more damage. It is not just cracked pipes that roots can damage. The force of the roots can break through pipes in good condition, causing just as much damage.
How Roots Affect Sewer Lines
Once a root enters the sewer line it leads to many issues. Not only will growth continue to crack and open the pipe, but it will also grow into the pipe leading to blockage. This is a scary thought because everything is happening underground, so you won’t know something is wrong until it becomes serious. As a result, the roots continue to grow eventually causing complete collapse of the pipe.
Signs of Root Damage on Sewer Lines
If you do have trees on your property, you should be on the lookout for signs they have broken your sewer line. An early red flag is if gargling toilers or foul smells coming from clean sinks and toilets. The sooner you speak to your Columbus plumbing experts at TSC Plumbing, the sooner you can confirm you have root damage. As things become more serious you might also notice the following issues:
- Structural damage to your property such as cracks in your driveway or walkways
- Sewer backups or overflows near your property
- Soggy grass or foul smelling water on your lawn
- Signs of sewage leakage from cracks in your driveway or walkways
All of these signs indicate your sewer lines are damaged and require immediate attention.
Repairing Damaged Sewer Lines
Speaking to a reputable Columbus plumbing team is the first step. You want a company offering video inspection services as this is the best way to quickly discover root damage. They can pinpoint where the issue lies and how much damage has occurred. When tree roots are the problem, depending on the extent of the damage, sewer line replacement using root-resistant materials might be recommended. The roots will have to be removed and then measures taken to control the roots from causing further damage.
In some cases, it might require re-routing of the sewer line, or using herbicides to control growth. Steps to clear blockages include using special equipment to break down the roots such as drill and rodding machines and then doing a final blast using hydro-jetting equipment to wash away the debris. Once this is done, we will have a better idea of how much damage the roots have caused and make recommendations on the repairs or replacements required.
How to Prevent Broken Sewer Lines
There are a few ways to reduce the risk for broken sewer lines including:
- Consulting with the team at TSC Plumbing to determine where it is safe to plant trees and shrubs
- Speaking to your local landscaping company to determine which trees have the least damaging root systems
- Identifying the trees on your property that are fast-growing and require replacement before they can cause damage
- Arranging for regular sewer line inspection and cleaning
These steps allow you to take a more proactive approach to property care which in turn reduces risk for sewer line damage.
It might not seem like something as basic as turning off a water heater would be difficult. Many homeowners find themselves scratching their heads when trying to figure out what valves to turn! And because it varies based on whether your system is gas or electric, it can take a few extra steps to make sure everything is shut down completely. Here are easy instructions to turn off both gas and electric water heaters to make sure you do it properly.
When You Should Turn Off Your Water Heater
The only time you need to turn off your water heater is when you have a leak. This can happen for many reasons from age and rust to a malfunction with the valve. As soon as you realize your water heater is leaking, you should turn off the water supply until someone can come and have a look to determine what is causing the leak. They will make repairs or suggest a replacement if the tank can’t be repaired. Some people think they need to turn off their water heater before they go away, but it is not necessary.
First, when you turn your water heater off completely you will return home to find you have no hot water. Second, you can also add wear and tear to your water heater from the effort required to shut down, turn back on and then heat an entire tank of water. It makes more sense to either lower the temperature to about 50 degrees F or to set your water heater to VAC for “Vacation Mode”. Most new models provide this handy setting.
For Gas Water Heaters
- Find Your Water Heater
If you aren’t sure where your water heater is located, they are usually in the basement, a utility closet, or sometimes in the garage or attic.
- Find the Temperature Dial
For gas water heaters, you’ll need to look for the temperature dial which is usually at the front on the bottom. Turn the dial off.
- Find the Plumbing Line
The plumbing line is either at the top or bottom of your water heater. Once you turn the valve off, you have successfully cut off the water supply.
- Draining the Heater
If your intent is to drain the heater, you’ll need a hose hook up to the boiler drain. You can then put the hose outside to let the water drain into your yard, or you can use a bucket. However, a bucket might not be big enough depending on how much water is in your tank.
- Locate the Gas Supply Valve
The valve tends to be on the right side of the water heater. To shut off the gas you either have a lever or a knob. If it is a lever turn it perpendicular. For knobs turn it clockwise.
- Locate the Relief Valve
The final step is to look for the relief valve near the top of the heater. Once you turn it off it allows air to enter the tank.
For Electric Water Heaters
- Find Your Water Heater
Your electric heater will be located in the same areas as gas water heaters.
- Find Your Breaker Box
For electric water heaters, you’ll need to find your breaker box. In most cases, the box is located either in the garage or on the exterior of your house. From there you need to find the breaker line providing power to your water heater and turn it off.
- Find the Plumbing Line
The plumbing line is either at the top or bottom of your electric water heater. Once you turn the valve off you cut off the water supply.
- Draining the Heater
As with gas water heaters, if you need to drain the heater, you can attach a garden hose to the boiler drain. Either put the house outside to let the water drain into your yard or use a bucket. However, watch the water level on the bucket to as it might not be big enough depending on how much water is in your tank.
- Locate the Relief Valve
The final step is to look for the relief valve near the top of the electric water heater. Turn it off to allow air to enter the tank.
If you are having issues with your water heater or can’t figure out how to turn it off, speak to your Columbus plumber expert at The Service Company today.
Tankless water heaters can be an excellent option to provide ample hot water for your household while creating a more energy-efficient home. Here are the pros and cons of a tankless water heater to help you decide it is the right solution for you.
Pros of a Tankless Water Heater
Instant hot water: Once the cold water sitting in your pipes is flushed out when you turn on the hot water tap, you instantly get a stream of hot water.
Longer lifespan: Generally tankless units can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance where a standard, high-quality water heater lasts about 10.
Reduced monthly costs: Tankless water heaters are more expensive at the time of installation, but they save money in the long term as they are far more energy-efficient. This translates into continued savings over time, so you more than make up your slightly higher upfront investment costs over time.
Less space: Tankless units are smaller, so they take up less space than your standard bulky storage models. This frees up space in your home for storage, an especially attractive pro for small homes.
Potential tax breaks: In some areas, you can find tax credits because the tankless water heater is so energy efficient. The federal government also offers a 10% tax credit when you buy and install a tankless unit.
No “Standby Loss”: Standby loss is the loss of energy used to keep the water heated in a storage unit. You eliminate this cost because the water is heated as it is used.
A steady stream of hot water: As long as people use hot water consecutively instead of all at the same time you can enjoy a steady stream of hot water as you aren’t depending on a reserve of hot water that will eventually run out.
Choose between electric or gas models: You can choose between electric or natural gas-powered models depending on your local infrastructure. This allows you to save money as you don’t require costly gas line rerouting.
Longer warranties: Because tankless units have a longer life expectancy, they also have longer warranties that often last as long as the water heater.
Cons of a Tankless Water Heater
Temperature inconsistency: It is possible to experience temperature inconsistencies with tankless water heaters when the multiple outlets are on at the same time. Just be sure people take turns and you time things right.
Water supply: Tankless units don’t have a limitless supply of hot water although they do provide a steady stream. As with above, you can experience low supply when more than one person is trying to use hot water at once.
Upfront investment: As mentioned in the pros, you will pay a higher initial cost at the time you install your tankless water heater. This is a consideration if you feel coming up with $1,000 in hand with labor costs can pose a problem. You will make the money back over time, but if cash flow (or available credit) is a problem, this unit might not be an option.
Additional equipment: In some cases, you might find you need a water softener to optimize your tankless water heater’s performance. This can add to the above-mentioned costs and even eat into the space savings we mentioned as a pro. Together the two appliances could take up more than a traditional water heater, so if cost and space savings are your motivation for a tankless unit, then a standard storage unit might be best.
Additional labor: Due to their non-traditional set up you might find your installation requires your gas line to be rerouted. This is one of the reasons you pay more upfront for a tankless unit. New vents might also be required. Remember you can choose an electric model to avoid the additional labor costs.
Possible ROI issues: While you will see the money invested in your tankless unit be paid back, sometimes your ROI is not as good as you hoped. Although ultimately you will come out ahead, it could take as long as six to 12 years to see those month over month savings add up enough to cover those additional upfront costs.
If you have a smaller space, smaller household or want to enjoy a steady stream of hot water, a tankless water heater could be the ideal solution for you. Speak to your Columbus water heater experts at The Service Company today for more information on the benefits of a tankless water heater.
Most of us take the readily available water in our homes for granted, whether it is for drinking, cooking, cleaning, or personal hygiene. You can access hot and cold water by simply turning on a tap. However, throughout history, how we receive water has often presented health risks, and continues to do so in many parts of the world. With this in mind, here is a look at the surprising ways plumbing contributes to your health every day.
The First Plumbing
The first plumbing systems seemed to emerge as far back as 6000 BC. The Roman Empire was known for its ingenuity in developing what even by today’s standards would be considered an advanced plumbing system. Consisting of aqueducts and underground sewage, the Romans used lead pipes to transport water, greatly improving sanitary conditions and in turn public health. You can still see the remains of the Roman’s original aqueducts showing how sturdy the construction was and why they continue to inspire modern plumbing systems today.
Unfortunately, most ancient civilizations were not so lucky. As a result, many societies suffered at the hands of water-borne diseases including the plague. Illness spreads quickly in larger populations where people accessed poor quality water. This was made worse due to a lack of proper waste disposal. Poor sanitation made cities dangerous where improper waste disposal contributed to diseases such as cholera, and typhoid fever well into the early 1900s. This was a major contributor to shorter life expectancies.
Dr. John Snow
British doctor John Snow was the first to notice the tie between water supply and cholera outbreaks back in 1849. However, it wasn’t until 1854, when a cholera epidemic killed 616 people that he finally got people to listen to his theories. Dr. Snow lived in the Soho area where he discovered that within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days.
He immediately suspected water contamination at the area’s street-pump. After much investigation and facing doubt from city officials, he finally tied the cholera outbreak to contamination at the water source by dirty diapers. Snow is considered the pioneer of public health research. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control still uses his approach when finding the causes of many diseases.
Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, there were many advancements in regulations to help improve sanitation. In 1848, the National Public Health Act was passed which positively impacted plumbing standards. The Act created a sanitation revolution that spread worldwide improving the health of the general population. These advances in the early twentieth century doubled the average lifespan of Americans by stopping the rapid spread of water-borne diseases.
As more advancements expanded the water conundrum, closed sewer systems and the invention of the modern toilet made major improvements to the health of citizens in developed countries. More and more cities embraced the ideas of people like Dr. Snow and determined they could stop the spread of many common diseases through improved sanitation. At the same time, hazardous waste was being safely moved away from homes and streets, the installation of more toilets helped people dispose of waste safely.
The Right to Clean Water
On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly acknowledged access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation as a human right. Resolution 64/292 calls upon states and international organizations to help provide financing to help improve capacity-building and technology for countries in need of safe, clean, accessible, and affordable drinking water and sanitation. Water for personal or domestic use must be micro-organism, chemical and radiological hazard-free to reduce threats to a person’s health. Guidelines are provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help set national standards that ensure the safety of drinking water.
Americans are not out of the woods yet with up to ten million homes still receiving water through lead pipes. When lead service lines are corroded the lead leaches into the water. Although utilities add chemicals to reduce lead, the best solution is a complete replacement. However, lead pipe replacement is an expensive process that can be too much for many homeowners to bear. Through a collaborated effort of water utilities, public health, environmental, and consumer organizations, national organizations exist to try to help provide funding to assist in lead service line replacement. If you would like more information about keeping your home water safe in Columbus, contact us at TSC Plumbing today.
The risk of burns at home is higher than you might think. Most people have suffered a heat-related accident at home, often as a result of scalding hot water. Burns can be mild, or severe injuring more than one layer of skin. The painful site will either simply turn red, or can blister and become very raw. Burns are painful because the skin is highly sensitive. However, burns that go deeper become more painful as they can reach the nerves. Whether you live alone, have kids or care for elderly loved ones, these tips will help you avoid the dangers of scalding water and prevent burns.
Common Causes of Scalds
Scalds are most commonly caused at home via either hot water or steam. Common causes include:
- Spilling of hot beverages, soup, or hot water
- Steam from the oven, a kettle or microwave
- Tap water burns if the water is set too high
Scald burns take only seconds to cause painful injury.
How to Prevent Household Scalds
You can avoid scald related accidents by taking these steps:
- Test the waters: Whether you are using water for household cleaning, or personal hygiene, it is important to test the water temperature before plunging right in. Always start filling tibs, sinks or buckets of hot water with cold water first for a few inches. Then turn on the hot water and test the water carefully when it comes out of the tap. Adjust it to a comfortable level of heat. Never, let the water run in the bathtub or fill the sink or a bucket without tentatively testing the water before use with your elbow or a quick dip of a finger or toe. This will avoid larger burns and also provide a warning you need to cool the water down before use.
- Adjust the temperature: Even if you are just washing your hands, a quick test and adjustment are required. Remember, that even if you turn on the hot water and it seems comfortable at first touch, it will continue to heat as it runs. Therefore, always turn on the cold tap as well, to get a comfortable temperature.
- Adjust the water heater: This is perhaps the most important tip to help prevent household scalds. While you can adjust the water as mentioned above, scalds occur from the hot water tap if you have your water heater temperature set too high. Often, they are automatically set to a default of 140 degrees, and yet it only takes a water temperature of over 120 degrees to sustain a burn. Therefore, always set your water temperature below 120 degrees to reduce the risk of scalds.
- Microwave use: Scalds from steam can easily occur when removing food from the microwave. To reduce risk follow these tips:
- Make sure your microwave oven is easy to reach for everyone, ideally lower than face level for the shortest person in the home (Kids should not use the microwave on their own)
- Only use microwave-safe dishware to heat food
- Do not place an uncracked egg in the microwave
- Always set lids of containers to the side of the dish, or use a microwave oven cover to allow steam to escape and avoid build-up
- Always puncture the plastic wrap of microwave dinners to vent steam
- Allow heated food to stand for a minute or two before removing it from the microwave oven
- Slowly remove lids to avoid being scalded by steam, and keep your face back from the container
- Stir food halfway through the heating time to make sure the food is not overly hot in one area
- One tap rule: Make sure you have a rule in the home that if someone is in the shower no one can run a cold water tap or flush the toilet. This takes cold water away from the shower, and can quickly cause a serious scald, especially if your hot water heater is set to temperatures above 120 degrees.
- Kettles and pots: Always keep kettles and pots with liquids positioned on the back burner whenever possible so they are least likely to cause accidents. When boiling water in a kettle, turn the handle towards you when the water has boiled, so steam escaping from the spout can’t burn you. Keep handles when cooking turned inwards so people are less likely to knock them, and tiny hands can’t reach them.
These tips will help reduce the risk for burns from scalding hot water in your household.
If you would like to ensure your hot water heater in Columbus is safe, speak to the experts at The Service Company today.
You know the scenario. You wake up in the morning, turn on the shower and your water is frigid cold. You stand there shivering waiting for it to heat up and it seems to take forever. Or maybe it’s just you. Maybe you’re last in line and the rest of your family has enjoyed a nice hot shower, but when you turn on the hot water tap the water is freezing. Neither of these situations is normal. If your hot water heater is working efficiently and holds enough water for everyone, you should have nice warm water as soon as you turn on and adjust your hot water tap.
So why does your hot water run out so quickly?
Scenario #1: Your family has grown
This is an obvious issue. However, it might not just be your family has a few new additions, but also that your family has matured. Whether there are more people using hot water, or more people are taking longer showers or baths, this is draining your water tank more quickly. As a result, it might just be you need a larger tank.
Scenario #2: Too much demand at once
Another common problem is putting too much demand on the hot water at once. This could mean anything from running a dishwasher or laundry load while someone is in the shower, to two people trying to take a shower in separate showers at the same time. Also, you might find the reverse issue. You’re in the shower and suddenly you get scalded.
This can happen when someone runs the cold water when you are in the shower, or if someone flushes the toilet. The easy solution is to simply avoid putting too much demand on your hot water all at once. Although this can be a challenge in a full house, it can be coordinated to work out. Otherwise, it’s shower taker beware! Be prepared to be chilled!
Scenario #3: Wrong temperature setting
It could be that your water heater is simply at the wrong setting. Ideally, you should have your temperature set to between 120 to 140 degrees. If it is below 120, simply turn up the heat. Just be careful not to set it too high as you can seriously scald someone. If you have small children, reduce the risk of burns by choosing a comfy 125.
Scenario #4: Broken dip tube
If temperature issues are more recent, it might be because a dip tube broke. To see if this is the case, you can look for small bits of plastic that might be found in your shower head, drain strainers, or appliance filter screens. If you do find plastic bits, your water heater’s dip tube is probably damaged. It is used to send cold water to the bottom of the tank to get heated up. When it breaks cold water stays at the top and so it comes out the hot water side instead. As well, because it isn’t below to get heated, it stays cold. If this is the case, call a professional to confirm the issue and replace the dip tube.
Scenario #5: Sediment build-up
Another issue that can interfere with hot water is sediment build up in the water tank. This happens over time as your water heater ages. If you haven’t maintained your water heater with annual system flushes, this could be the problem. Sediment is formed from loose minerals that are found naturally in water. When they settle at the bottom of the tank, it causes your tank to run out of hot water quickly.
Sediment can be things such as sand, silt, or rust that take up space in your water tank. As a result, your hot water supply dwindles. However, another issue with sediment is that your heating elements heat the sediment instead of the water, so it is slower to heat. The only way to remedy this issue is to flush out the system. While you can try doing this yourself, it might be best left to a professional from The Service Company who knows how to drain the water heater without the risk of flooding your basement!
A good rule of thumb is to arrange for annual water heater maintenance. This helps you avoid issues such as sediment build up and also provides a check-up to spot issues like broken dip tubes.
Find Long-Term Solutions
This is where we come in. As your Columbus water heater specialists, we can provide water heater maintenance, repairs, and replacement so you never worry about cold showers again. Give us a call today!
Nothing is worse than having someone use the toilet and within minutes of them flushing it’s clear that annoying running sound isn’t going to stop. This is a constant source of frustration as it’s a sound that’s hard to ignore. That means someone has to get up and “jiggle the handle” to hopefully get the running to stop.
This common annoyance occurs because there is an internal water leak in the toilet. Although it doesn’t seem to be causing any harm, it is actually wasting hundreds of gallons of water which you have probably noticed on your water bill.
So why is your toilet running all the time and what can you do about it?
Step 1: Check the “toilet flapper”
The toilet flapper is a common culprit for running toilets. These flaps are a seal for your toilet’s water tank. As they age, they can decay and crack. When this happens, the toilet flapper that is supposed to raise the lift arm in the tank, by pulling on a chain attached to the toilet flapper, has a hard time raising so water can fill the toilet bowl. However, where the issue occurs is when the flapper fails to drop back into position to seal the tank.
The cracks or damage allow water to continue to leak into the toilet bowl, so you hear that constant running water. If you look at the toilet flapper and it is clearly a little worse for wear, you can try replacing it yourself. They are available at your local hardware store. You have to turn off the water supply on the valves beneath the toilet, flush and then remove leftover water in the bowl. You can then unhook the flapper and attach the new one.
Step 2: Check the chain
If the flapper seems fine, it could be the chain attached to the flapper causing the issue. In some cases, the chain length can make it hard for the flapper to connect fully to seal the tank. When it’s too long, it gets caught beneath the flapper, so you just have to unhook the chain and rehook it so it’s shorter. You’ll have to do a test flush to make sure you get it in the ideal spot because if you miss the mark, the seal won’t work at all if the chain is too short.
Step 3: Check the toilet tank float ball and arm
These parts are pretty obvious based on their name. When you lift the lid from the toilet tank the plastic ball is the first thing you’ll see. It is attached to an arm and together they rise and fall as water empties and refills in the tank. Their purpose is to help monitor water levels and when the ball reaches a certain level, the water stops running. To see if it’s working properly, you need to lift the float arm and see if that stops the running water.
If the ball isn’t high enough to stop the running water, it might be hitting the tank because the arm is off-kilter. You can bend it away from the tank wall and see if this helps. If it appears the ball and arm are aligned, then the ball might be cracked which will cause it to fill with water and sink to the bottom of the tank. When this happens, the water keeps running because the ball isn’t reaching its proper position to stop it. All that water feeds into an overflow tube and just keeps running. This is a simple fix as you can just replace the float ball.
Step 4: See if the running has stopped
If you’ve checked the toilet flapper and replaced it, and adjusted the float arm or replaced the float ball and you still have that annoying running water sound, things are a little worse. Your last hope is that the entire ballcock assembly has to be replaced. You can head to the hardware store to find a ballcock assembly kit, which usually provides instructions to help the DIYer do the installation themselves. However, this gets a little more complicated and might be best left to the professionals at The Service Company. Also, should you do all of these steps including a complete replacement of the ballcock assembly and the toilet still runs, you might need a new toilet.
Find Long-Term Solutions
This is where we come in. As your Columbus plumber, we can quickly rid you of that annoying running water sound and save you money on water wastage. Give us a call today!
Know the fastest way to go from “peaceful snowy winter morning” to “what in the bleepity bleep bleep is happening”? Discover a burst pipe.
You have to:
- Find the pipe.
- Try to remember where the heck the water shut-off valve is.
- Clean up the mess.
- Figure out how to fix the problem.
- Explain to your kids why their long-anticipated family sledding adventure has to be postponed.
It can take so much time, energy, and money to repair a frozen or burst pipe. So here’s the best thing to do: Avoid it in the first place.
What causes burst pipes?
Pipes typically freeze when the temperature around the pipe is below 20 degrees. When water gets that cold, it freezes and expands, which increases the pressure in your pipes, causing them to burst. This means unheated spaces are more vulnerable—think basements, attics, and garages. But even pipes under your cabinets can freeze and burst, especially if they’re on an exterior wall!
There’s good news, though: Your pipes might already be prepared to face the cold temps. It all depends on just how extreme the weather is, the age of your home, the age of your pipes, and any upgrades you’ve made. No matter what your situation, we want to help.
Check out these top 8 tips to prevent burst pipes:
#1 Don’t forget your garden hoses.
As you’re getting your home ready for winter, take an extra couple of minutes to fully drain and disconnect all exterior hoses. Any leftover water in the hose can freeze and expand, which can cause a burst at the point of connection between your hose and the pipes leading into your home.
#2 Do some DIY insulating.
Products like pipe insulation or heat tape can warm your pipes throughout the coldest winter nights. Your local hardware store will carry foam insulation you can easily cut with a utility knife and wrap around your pipes. If you want to go a little more high-tech, heat tape may be your solution. But that stuff can be tricky, so call us first.
#3 Keep your garage doors closed.
Keeping your garage doors closed is especially important if you have supply lines in there.
#4 Keep your faucets running.
When it’s reaaaaaally cold outside, you should always keep one or two faucets dripping with cold water. The water moving through your pipes will prevent the lines from freezing and bursting. Sure, that’ll raise your water bill a tiny bit. But it’s cheaper than a burst pipe!
#5 Leave your cabinet doors open.
Since cold temperatures are the primary cause of burst pipes, you might be tempted to think your indoor, under-the-cabinet lines are safe. But not as much warm air reaches them as you might think! Open your cabinet doors to direct more warm air toward your pipes. And don’t forget to remove any hazardous cleaning supplies from under the sinks. An ER visit is definitely not the holiday activity your family needs!
#6 Look out for leaks.
Take a look at your pipes to identify any problem areas. Look for loose connections, leaks, cracks—anything that makes the line vulnerable. This is also the perfect time to seal any leaks that bring cold air into your home. Take a look at your electrical wiring, dryer vents, pipes, and around doors and windows. Even a teeny-tiny opening can let in enough cold air to burst your pipes.
#7 Keep your furnace going.
A small rise in your heating costs isn’t as expensive as a burst pipe. Always keep the thermostat set higher than 55 degrees, even when you’re not home. Your pipes will thank you.
#8 Consider your pipes in your vacation planning.
If you’re going away for the holidays, shut off the water to your home at the main valve. Without a water supply, your pipes are much less likely to freeze and burst!
Bonus Tip: Call us!
We’re your Columbus plumbing pros. We can help identify, prevent, and fix any potential disasters before they happen. Give us a call today!
Clogged drains can get the best of all of us. Mystery odors, backed-up sinks, and non-functioning disposals are definitely near the top of the Worst Things about Homeownership list.
Whether it’s a sink or a toilet, we’re always looking for a quick and inexpensive DIY fix. Today, our DIY might involve one of our favorite beverages. No, not that one; we’re talking about cola.
There are so many rumors about the DIY uses for cola. From cleaning pavement to removing corrosion from car batteries, cola seems like an easy and affordable tool for everyday maintenance. But what about your clogged drain?
Will Cola Work on My Pipes?
Cola uses phosphoric acid to give the tangy, semi-addicting flavor we all love. Phosphoric acid in large concentrations can be used to clean rust off metal parts, remove tough limescale, and clean the nastiest of toilet scum. But in your soda, the small concentrations have only a mild—we’re talking a very, very tiny amount—of corrosive ability.
Because the amount of phosphoric acid is so small, your cola probably isn’t the best choice of drain un-clogger. (Sorry to rain on the DIY cola myth parade.)
Cola might be somewhat effective under these conditions:
Your drain is really, really clogged. Cola needs a long time to work, so the cola has to be able to penetrate the clog for long periods of time. If your drain is only partially clogged, the soda will just pass through the pipe without any effect.
You don’t have standing water. Standing water in your sink means the cola will be diluted. The already small amounts of acid in the soda will be even less effective with added water.
You can wait a long time. Ideally, you would be able to leave the cola overnight. If you really want to try this hack for yourself, bring a 2-liter of cola to room temperature. Pour the entire bottle down the drain and wait for at least two hours, and preferably overnight. Then pour boiling water down the drain to see if it worked.
A Better DIY Drain Cleaner
First, a note on commercial drain cleaners. Traditional drain cleaners use sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid to clear backed-up pipes. These are heavy-duty, highly corrosive chemicals. They cause more damage to your pipes down the road. So, if nothing else, avoid the drain cleaner aisle at the grocery store.
To unclog a kitchen sink, there’s a much easier, faster, more effective solution.
- Turn off the power to your disposal. Unplug it or turn it off at the circuit breaker.
- Inspect the disposal with a flashlight. Clear any obvious clogs with a tool of your choice, as long as it’s not your fingers.
- If you don’t see an obvious clog, use a sink plunger. Fill the sink with a few inches of water to make your plunging more effective.
- Try a DIY cleaner that actually works. Mix one-part baking soda to one-part vinegar, and pour it down the drain. Wait about 30 minutes before pouring hot water down the disposal to flush out any broken-down debris.
- Turn the power back on and test it.
Preventing Kitchen Drain Clogs
Don’t use your disposal as a trash can. Most of us put anything and everything food-related down the drain. But there are some things that shouldn’t go down there:
- Fibrous foods, like celery, asparagus, or sprouts
- Fats, oils, and greases
- Coffee grinds
- Starchy food, like peels, beans, rice, or pasta
- Non-food items
Use enough water. Without flushing water, food waste builds up and causes those pesky clogs. Keep a good flow of cold water running before and after putting your food scraps down the disposal.
Keep those “blades” sharp. Try putting a handful of ice cubes down your drain once a month. Running the disposal with ice can keep the “blades” (technically, impellers) in shape.
Don’t expect a lifetime commitment. Disposals and pipes aren’t immune to wear and tear. If you’re noticing consistent problems, it’s time to call in the pros to discuss repairs or replacements.
We love hearing our customer’s DIY success stories. But if things don’t go quite according to plan, we’ve got you covered. We’re your Columbus plumbers and can handle clogs (or other problems) of any size. Give us a call!
Calling the pros for every plumbing issue in your home is time-consuming and costly. Now, don’t get us wrong: We love helping our Columbus plumbing customers with problems big and small! But if you’re feeling empowered to DIY your simple plumbing issues, we’re here to help you do that, too.
From regular maintenance to clogs to leaks, we’ve compiled 10 awesome plumbing hacks that will help you save money and headaches in the long run.
Hack #1: The Emergency Shut-Off Valve
Let’s say you have an overflowing toilet that just won’t stop or a busted pipe in your basement. Your first step is to shut off the water at the source! Knowing where your emergency shut-off valve is can save you some costly clean-up, water damage, and mold issues.
Hack #2: Garbage Disposal 101
Knowing how to use your garbage disposal correctly helps you avoid repairs and blockages. There are several things you should never put down your disposal:
- Fibrous foods, like celery, asparagus, or sprouts
- Fats, oils, and greases
- Coffee grinds
- Starchy food, like peels, beans, rice, or pasta
- Non-food items
Hack #3: Clear the Clogs
While we’re talking about disposals, let’s talk about clogs. These steps can help you de-clog your disposal in record time.
- Turn off the power, either by unplugging or turning it off at the circuit breaker.
- Inspect the disposal with a flashlight. If you see an obvious clog, clear it with any long and sturdy tool. Never use your fingers!
- If you don’t see an obvious clog, use a sink plunger. Fill the sink with a few inches of water and start plunging.
- Use a DIY drain cleaner. Mix one part baking soda to one part vinegar, and pour the solution down the drain. Wait about 30 minutes, then turn on the hot water for about 60 seconds.
- Turn the power back on and test it!
Hack #4: Cleaning Your Disposal
There’s a pretty simple DIY tip for keeping your disposal blades sharp and eliminating those weird smells. Every now and then, put several ice cubes and a hunk of lemon peel down the disposal. Run it without water for about 30 seconds, then run some water and add a little dish soap. You’ll have sharpened blades and a lemony scent in less than a minute!
Hack #5: DIY Drain Cleaner
We can’t stress this enough: Commercial drain cleaners are bad news for your plumbing. They’re too strong and corrode your pipes over time. A DIY cleaner is safer, cheaper, and just as easy. For major clogs, try pouring boiling water down the affected drain, followed by ½ cup baking soda. Let that sit for 5 minutes. Then, pour in a cup of vinegar and wait another 5 minutes. Flush with warm water.
Hack #6: Tackling Toilet Clogs
Your first pro-plumber move for tackling toilet clogs is to have a plunger for every toilet in your home. When you’ve got an overflowing toilet, time is of the essence. You don’t want to be running upstairs for the only plunger in the house!
You can also fix a clogged toilet without a plunger! Stop the flow of water by disconnecting the chain in the tank or by turning off the water at the valve at the back of the toilet. Pour hot water—the hotter the better—into the bowl. Hot water and a little soap can also help break down a clog.
Hack #7: Finding Invisible Leaks
It’s the end of the month, and you’ve received a huuuuuuuge water bill you weren’t expecting. Next, you notice water damage, mold, and poor water pressure. Sounds like you might have a leak… but how can you know for sure?
Finding an invisible leak can be tricky, but it’s definitely not impossible! Turn off all the taps and take a water meter reading. Wait a few hours with nobody using any water, and check the meter again. If it shows water usage, you definitely have a leak somewhere, and need to call in the pros.
Another common place for leaks? The toilet! Try putting food coloring in the tank. If there’s color in the bowl after 30 minutes, you’ve got a leak from the tank!
Hack #8: Ultimate Shower Pressure
Low pressure leads to longer showers, which leads to higher bills. So why not lower your bill and have better pressure—but simply cleaning your shower head? Put a small plastic bag full of white vinegar over your shower head. Secure with a rubber band and leave overnight.
Hack #9: Tighten the Pipes
Threads on your pipes get looser over time, which can lead to small leaks. For a quick DIY pipe tightener:
- Turn off the water.
- Unscrew the leaky pipes.
- Wrap a single-layer of masking tape around the threads.
- Screw the pipes back together.
Hack #10: The Leaky Faucet
A leaky tap is the time-old plumbing nightmare. Even though it’s one of the most annoying household problems, a leaky faucet can slip to the very bottom of our to-do lists again and again and again. To stop the constant drip-drip-drip, secure a washcloth around the faucet with a rubber band. Then, when you’re ready to tackle the issue at the source, turn off the water, remove the tap body, put in a new washer or O-ring, and reassemble. Done! The same thing works for leaky pipes, but you’ll want to put a bucket underneath as well.
Want more Columbus plumbing tips?
We love helping you with your plumbing problems, big and small. Give us a call today for more plumbing tips and tricks!