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Tips to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing

When a cold winter’s night is approaching, it is a wise idea to consider if you should do something to prevent your pipes from freezing. While you might go many winters without getting a frozen pipe, a single burst will be enough to make you cautious every winter after. Pipe bursts from freezing are major hassles that can cause serious water damage to your home, even to structural components.

They can cause mold, damage things like your furnace and do plenty of damage. They can also wrack up quite the water bill, along with the bills to repair and replace the pipe and everything it has damaged. At the start of every winter and before the worst record-breaking cold nights, you should consider if you need to do anything to prevent your pipes from freezing. Here are the steps that you can take to prevent pipe freezing.

Insulate Your Pipes

Just like walls, pipes can be insulated. Hardware stores sell insulation specifically for pipes, don’t try to put wall insulation on them. Also, you may not necessarily need to insulate every pipe in your home. Steel and copper pipes will be more vulnerable to cold temperatures than plastic ones because metal is a better heat conductor. When you insulate these pipes, you may also find that this solves condensation issues too.

Add Heat Tape

Heat tape is another option to keep your pipes from freezing. This can be a safety risk, so you should read the instructions for heat tape carefully and only use them where and how the manufacturers recommend it. Some tape is meant only for outdoor pipes and some only for indoor pipes.

Turn Up the Heat

Especially if the home is vacant, you should turn up the heat during winter nights. Excess heat can help protect the pipes from freezing and it can be protective of other features, appliances and surfaces in the home too, which are all likely not meant to be frozen.

Look for Foundation Problems

Cracks and gaps in the foundation can let in cold air even though the home is warm. These gaps and cracks are especially a problem if they are right next to pipes, as this will expose the pipes to the coldest air and increase the odds that they will freeze over. You can fill in these gaps and cracks before the cold weather arrives. Ideally, you’d have a professional do this to ensure that the crack is filled for the long-term, or you’ll find yourself out there next winter filling in the same gaps.

Drain Outdoor Fixtures

The outdoor fixtures are more likely to burst than the indoor ones, simply because they are exposed to colder temperatures and aren’t protected by the house. It is a good idea to disconnect the outdoor hoses and drain water from the pipes that lead to outdoor hoses. Though these are internal pipes they will also be colder than the other indoor pipes because they lead outside.

Run the Water

If all else fails, and a very cold night is approaching, then you can run the faucets a little. Just a small trickle for every faucet will keep the water moving, which helps prevent it from freezing. Moving water needs much lower temperatures to freeze than standing water, although it is still possible for them to freeze. And don’t forget to turn off all the taps in the morning.

What If My Pipes Have Frozen?

Well, worse has come to worst and you’re certain you have a frozen pipe. What steps should you take to prevent additional damage? Of course, you should call a professional plumber right away, to get them on the road to you as soon as possible. You should then take the following steps:

  • Turn off the water: Turn off the home’s main water valve to stop the flow of water or prevent it when the pipe thaws. There will still be some water in the frozen pipe though, so be prepared.
  • Do not use flame: Yes, thawing the pipe is the next step, but using an open flame in the house is dangerous.
  • Try a hair dryer: But don’t stand in water while you work.

Do you need help preparing your home for the next big freeze? Or, are you worried that you are dealing with a frozen pipe problem already? Reach out to us at The Service Company. We can help you minimize the damage to your home and recover quickly.

What’s That Smell Coming from My Garbage Disposal?

When it’s time to eat and you walk into the kitchen, it is awfully unappetizing to be greeted by a bad smell from the garbage disposal. How can you remove this smell for your own comfort, or quickly before guests arrive? In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to get rid of the gross smell from your garbage disposal. Plus, we will show you how you can avoid making this unpleasant odor in the future.

Tools and Materials

Here are the tools and materials you can use to clean out your garbage disposal. They might not all be necessary, depending on what kind of clean you want to give the disposal. So, give the instructions a read before you gather all of this up:

  • Sponge
  • Stiff-bristle brush
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Ice
  • Lemons
  • Candles
  • Baking soda
  • Deodorizing spray

Step One: Safety

When cleaning out the garbage disposal, it’s always a good idea to turn it off and unplug it. You don’t want to just turn it off because you could accidentally flip the switch. Or, more likely, a child or pet could. You don’t want to have your fingers anywhere near the blades when the garbage disposal could turn on.

Step Two: Scrubbing

Start with your sponge and work up a lather on it. Scrub all of the parts of the garbage disposal that you can see, including the flange and where it meets the sink basin. Any foodstuffs that are stuck here, even microscopic ones, are exposed to water all the time and are likely to rot and grow mold. This could be the cause of the smell.

Step Three: Soak and Spin

When you run the garbage disposal, water passes through it and could leave behind food bits everywhere. These could also be the source of your smell. There is a quick way to rinse them all out, with the added benefit of the scrubbing power of vinegar.

Plug your sink and fill it with warm water, about three-quarters of the way. While it runs, add dish soap to make some bubbles. You can also add up to half parts vinegar to help clean things out. Make a point of ensuring the sink isn’t full all of the way, or what you’re about to do next will be messy.

Plug the garbage disposal back in. Unplug the sink and then turn the garbage disposal on. The water will run into it and be propelled through the housing by the moving blades. It may sputter up a bit and should do a good job of cleaning out the far corners of the disposal.

Step Four: Ice and Salt

Did that not quite do the trick? You can follow the water flush with something a little more serious. First, place your ice into the garbage disposal. Salt running it, and then begin to pour in about a half cup of kosher salt. The salt abrasive and the ice helps it make an impact, without risking making a clog in the garbage disposal, as it will melt.

Step Five: New Smells

You have almost certainly removed whatever cause the smell. But, the molecules will still linger in the air for a little while. What should you do to get rid of the smell in the short term? You can run lemons or another citrus in the garbage disposal to make a more pleasant smell. Or you can try to absorb the smell with baking soda or a deodorizing cleaning spray (like Febreze). If you don’t have any of those, you could also light a candle in the kitchen and use that scent to mask the remaining smell.

How to Prevent Smells in the Garbage Disposal

While you can do major cleans like this to handle smells that develop in the disposal, it is probably more convenient to just follow a few simple tips to keep the disposal smelling good all of the time. Here’s what you can do:

  • Run the disposal for longer than you might normally. Running it for about five seconds more than is absolutely necessary will help clear out gunk and prevent smells.
  • Only use the disposal for what it’s designed for; soft foods. Starchy foods, peels and other tough objects won’t go down easily. They may make smells or even clogs.

Do you have other garbage disposal woes? If you live in Columbus, OH, you can call us at The Service Company. We’re happy to help answer your questions and keep your garbage disposal running smoothly.

Dishwasher Not Draining? This Should Help

Dishwasher Not Draining? This Should Help

How can an appliance that is supposed to be so convenient be so frustrating? That’s probably what our clients in Columbus are thinking when they call us because their dishwasher isn’t draining. If you’ve already taken the step of running your dishwasher a second time, just in case it got cut off during the drain cycle, and you still have the problem, then you probably need a professional’s help.

Don’t believe the internet hype about putting vinegar and baking soda into the dishwasher. For most problems, this won’t help at all, and when there is a clog there are cleaner, better ways to remove it. Here’s what could actually help your dishwasher drain properly.

Empty the Garbage Disposal

Your dishwasher drains out through the same pipe that your garbage disposal is in. So, if you’ve been putting starch and fats down there, or not cleaning food out from it properly, then you may have created a complete or partial clog in the drain. Then, the water from the dishwasher can only drain out very slowly, or not at all. To fix this one, you need to empty out the clog or partial clog. This can be as simple as running the disposal. Or, you may need a plumber to come in and get rid of a clop in the trap.

Once the disposal is clear, refamiliarize yourself with what you can put down the disposal and how to clear it out afterwards. Start running it for 15 extra seconds and then flush it with some hot water.

Here are foods that you should avoid putting down the garbage disposal:

  • Grease: Garbage disposals cannot do anything to help process grease. Instead, all you are doing is lining your pipes with a substance that can cause clogs.
  • Oil: Just like grease, oil is just causing problems in your pipes. Your garbage disposal will not help with it.
  • Shells from seafood: Garbage disposals are not meant to process clam, lobster and oyster shells. They are too tough and can cause serious clogs. 
  • Eggshells: One or two eggshells may go down fine, but if you are making a ton of egg salad, and dropping several shells down there, they may cause a clog. Take it slow and rinse properly or avoid putting shells down the disposal at all.
  • Vegetable peels: Many vegetable peels are too starchy to break down in the garbage disposal. Potato and carrot are both good examples.
  • Corn husks: Garbage disposals can rarely chop corn husks up well enough that they will not cause clogs in your pipe. They are too rigid and starchy.
  • Anything that isn’t food: Of course, you should not put any non-food items down your drain.

Also, if it turns out that the clog was actually in the dishwasher drain line, you may want to redouble your efforts to rinse dishes and remove food bits before you place them in the dishwasher. It cannot handle the same volume or types of food that a garbage disposal can.

What if You Don’t Have a Disposal?

If you don’t have a garbage disposal in your sink to create a clog, then you do have an air gap. It is created by a small steel cylinder placed inside the sink right near the faucet. The whole idea is to prevent clogs by preventing airlocks. On the other hand, the airlock itself sometimes gets clogged with debris from the sink and creates a clog of its own.

Fixing this one is relatively simple. You take out the air gap. Look for debris and wash it out. You can use a brush or just a spray of water (from another sink) will work.

Problems with the Dishwasher Itself

If you’ve exhausted the above options, then it is most likely that some part of your dishwasher is the problem. While you can attempt DIY repairs on these parts, it’s more likely that you’re going to need a plumber. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Drain screen: A clog in the drain screen can prevent water from draining.
  • Filter: Different dishwashers have different filters. Depending on the design of yours, it may have developed a clog or may need to be cleaned out.
  • Drain hose: The dishwasher has a drain hose leading to the main drain. If it is clogged it can keep the dishwasher from draining.

If you’re in Columbus and your dishwasher isn’t draining, then you can call us at TSC Plumbing to help solve the problem properly.

Why Is My Yard Soggy?

Nothing is more disturbing than stepping out onto your lush green lawn to find yourself standing ankle-deep in water. When this occurs it is a sure sign something is wrong with your plumbing. Here are some of the reasons your yard might be soggy and what to do about it.

Find the Source

First things first, you need to find the source of the leak. This is easy if you look around and see water bubbling up in the lawn. If you can’t spot the spray, try these tips:

  • Sewage Line Leaks: If you find the water smells bad, chances are it is a sewage line leak. This requires immediate attention as sewage leaks are toxic and hazardous to your family, pets, neighbours, and even local wildlife. If the water doesn’t smell overly strong, it could still be sewage-related. An easy test is to add food coloring to your toilet, flush it and then wait about 30 minutes or so. Check the soggy area to see if the water’s color has changed at all.
  • Main Line Leaks: The main line is the water supply from the town. These leaks won’t smell as the water is clean. If it isn’t a sewage leak, turn off the water supply for your house. Then look at the water meter for water flow to see if it still is showing you have water flow. If water is still flowing, chances are you have a main line leak.
  • Irrigation System Leak: If you have irrigation systems and sprinklers this can cause soggy lawns if a pipe or tube is damaged. Turn off the irrigation system’s water supply and listen for water running. If you hear water, it is probably related to a leak in your irrigation or sprinkler system.

If you try all of these things, and still aren’t sure what is causing the leak, it’s time to call your Columbus plumbing experts at TSC Plumbing. They can assess the situation to determine if it is sewer, main line or sprinkler related.

What are Signs of an Impending Yard Leak?

While a soggy yard is easy to spot, there are some underlying hints that might not be as easy to spot indicating you could have a leak with your sewer or main line. If you notice any of the following, it’s time to call the team at TSC Plumbing:

  • Rising Water Bills: Water bills tend to see the same costs on average from month to month. Although you might see some spikes, if you are seeing rising water bills out of the blue, it could be that you are paying for water loss due to a leak.
  • Decreasing Water Pressure: If you find you are constantly turning your taps up to full blast just to get enough water flow, this is a good sign you have a leak due to seeping water from your main line.
  • Running Water Sounds: If you constantly seem to be hearing water running even when water isn’t in use, this could be because your pipes are sending water to outside sources.
  • Moisture Along Your Walls: Leaks are a source of moisture that can affect everything around them. This moisture can appear both inside and outside your home. If you see things like warping, bulging baseboards, bubbling paint, dampness on your kitchen cupboards, etc. this is a definite sign you have a leak.
  • Puddles and Mud: You don’t have to have a completely soaked and soggy yard to have a leak. Leaks can be slow and instead might cause things like puddles and mud on your property. If you notice a lot of puddles or muddy areas and it hasn’t rained, this could mean you have a leak.

All of these signs combined are a sure sign you have an impending yard leak.

How Do Yard Leaks Happen?

Damage to main pipes is the main cause of yard leaks. Damage can occur for many reasons, from normal aging to tree roots and damage from digging to your property settling. These things can lead to breaks in your main water line, sewer line or sprinkler system. Since all of these main pipes and water sourcing runs underground when the pipes are damaged the water slowly seeps out and soaks your lawn. 

How to Handle a Soggy Lawn

As soon as you spot a soggy lawn or any of the other signs above, you’ll need to call TSC Plumbing in Columbus. They will know exactly what to do and will find out why your lawn is soggy and correct it.

Do Trees Break Sewer Lines?

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.

How To Turn Off Your Water Heater

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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

  1. Find Your Water Heater

Your electric heater will be located in the same areas as gas water heaters.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

The Pros & Cons of a Tankless Water Heater

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.

The Surprising Ways That Plumbing Contributes To Your Everyday Health

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.

Water-borne Diseases

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.

Sanitation Improvements

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.

Closed Sewers

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.

Lead Pipes

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 Dangers of Scalding Hot Water (and How To Prevent Scalds)

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.

Why Does My Hot Water Run Out So Quickly?

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!

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