4 Tips to Prepare for a Plumbing Emergency Before Disaster Strikes

By definition, emergencies are unexpected. They usually come out of nowhere and leave their victims scrambling to cope.

Plumbing emergencies are no different. If raw sewage starts backing up into your home, a pipe cracks and floods your kitchen, or a hurricane destroys your plumbing and floods your lawn, it’s hard to know exactly what to do in the moment.

Fortunately, even though you don’t know when an emergency can strike, it’s possible to prepare for one. Below, we’ll give you a few tips that can keep you safe and calm and minimize property damage if a plumbing emergency does occur.

1. Know How to Find and Turn Off Your Main Water Shutoff Valve

If you use your city’s water, the water flows to your home through a main water shutoff valve. In an emergency situation-for instance, a bathroom flood or a hurricane-you should shut off the water flow to your house to reduce damage and danger to your family.

If you’ve never had to shut off your home’s water before, you might not know where your main water shutoff valve is. Usually, you can find it in your on the first floor or next to your home’s other utility boxes.

You can cut off the water supply by turning the valve counterclockwise. Most homes have one of two types of valves: gate valves, which are slightly harder to turn, and ball valves, which only need a quarter turn to shut off.  

You might want to check and make sure you can actually shut off the valve by giving it a practice turn, especially if you have a gate valve-the middle of a hurricane is a bad time to find out you need a lever or other tool to turn the valve.

It’s also a good idea to make sure everyone in the home knows the valve’s location. If you’re at work when a pipe starts to leak and flood the kitchen, someone else who lives with you, like a roommate or your oldest child (as long as he or she is a teenager), should know how to reach the valve.  

2. Find Individual Fixtures’ Shutoff Valves

Along with locating your home’s main water shutoff valve, you should locate the shutoff valves connected to each plumbing fixture. Your toilets, sinks, washing machine, water heater, and dishwasher all have valves that shut off the water to each fixture in case one of them starts to overflow or leak.

You can turn a fixture’s shutoff valve rather than the home’s main line if you only experience a problem with one appliance. For instance, if your toilet is overflowing and you can’t get it to stop, you should shut off the fixture’s valve instead of the home’s main water line. You should also shut off the water supply to different fixtures before you perform any repairs.

Of course, you should leave dangerous or extensive repairs to professionals. But if you usually do small maintenance tasks like safely flushing your water heater, for instance, you should always shut off the fixture’s water line before you get started. Doing so prevents electrical emergencies and other disasters.

3. Store Safe Drinking Water at Home

Imagine a hurricane strikes and you do have to turn off your main water valve. If your family plans to stay at home for a few hours until the storm passes, you’ll probably still need drinking water. And, in a worst-case scenario, a storm might strand you in the house for a few days without safe water, in which case you need a larger store of clean drinking water.

Keep an emergency water supply at your home for emergency scenarios like the one described above. According to the CDC, you should try to store enough water to support each person in your home for at least three days. Store at least one gallon per person per day so that each person has three gallons of water to use in an emergency.

Keep your water in a cool, dark, dry area of your home. You can either purchase water bottles or invest in safe water-storage barrels. If you use water bottles, check their expiration dates and replace them as needed. If you use water barrels, switch out the water in these barrels every six months.

4. Keep a Plumber’s Number On Hand

In the middle of the night or the middle of a storm, you don’t want to frantically flip through the Yellow Pages or google the nearest possible plumber. In an emergency situation, you’ll probably scramble to call the first plumber you can find, but he or she might not be the right person for the job.

Instead, keep a trustworthy plumber’s number in your phone so you can get in touch with a plumber you’re already familiar with as soon as an emergency strikes.  

At First Class Plumbing, we’re happy to help as soon as a disaster happens. Follow the tips listed above so you can keep a level head and protect yourself and your family during an emergency, and call one of our capable plumbers for help as soon as you can. 

Hurricane Season? How to Prepare Your Plumbing

Florida is known for its beautiful beaches and warm sunshine. Millions of tourists visit to capture the beauty of the blue ocean and soak up a few tanning rays. But for six months out of every year, Floridians may be bombarded with storms and hurricanes, beaten by high winds and torrential downpours.

Hurricane season is simply a part of local life, but it can be stressful and, at times, frightening. The extreme weather can be a danger to your family, and the onslaught of water and wind can easily damage your home.

While your roofing and siding might be common concerns, what about your plumbing? What kind of damage can such a storm do to your plumbing system? Below, we’ll discuss what kind of damage a hurricane or storm can inflict on your plumbing, what preventative measures you should take, and what you should do once the storm passes.

Storm Issues

The high winds of hurricanes and heavy storms can wreak havoc. Major gusts can rip branches from trees and sometimes tear the roof off a home. These kinds of extensive structural damages to a building can negatively impact every system of the structure, including plumbing. Gas piping can rupture, explode, or catch fire, and any water piping can break or crack.

However, the excess water a storm supplies can also present a number of challenges. Overcome by the sudden rush of water, drainage systems can overflow and cause flooding and water damage in yards and foundations. Sewer systems may also be overwhelmed by the torrential rain and rush of water from the sea, leading to messy backups and flooding in the home.

Flooding can also contribute to a contaminated water supply, presenting health risks for local residents. To protect yourself and your family, it’s important to take any precautions you can before and during the storm.

What to Do Before the Storm

Some storms come without warning, but others may move slowly enough to allow for preparation. There are some plumbing problems you can’t necessarily prevent, but it’s important to minimize the damages. If a hurricane or storm is on the forecast, take the following steps to protect your home and your family:

  • Shut off the main water valve. If you don’t know where you main water valve is, take the time to locate it as soon as you can. Just before the storm hits, shut off the valve, even if you’re evacuating the area. Doing so can prevent contaminated water from getting into your plumbing system, essentially protecting your family from illness and disease.
  • Check the drains. If you have time before the storm, check the drainage system on your property and the drains along the road. Clear away any debris or other obstructions to ensure the drains can handle the excess of water. Doing so can prevent potential water damage to your foundation or flooding of sewer systems and can keep underground pipes from becoming overwhelmed by compacted dirt or debris.

Taking these steps beforehand can help protect your family and home from potential water issues. If you’re unsure if your drains are completely clear, call a local plumber to take a look and clear out the drainage pipes. He or she can also help you locate the main water valve if necessary.

What to Do During a Storm

If you’re at home during the storm or hurricane, keep the main water valve shut off. Again, you don’t want to invite any contaminated water into your home. However, if you need an extra source of potable water for whatever reason, you can use the water that’s currently stored in your water heater. Just remember to turn off the electricity or gas that fuels the water heater before the storm hits.

What to Do After a Storm

Once the storm has passed, don’t rush to turn on the main water valve. First, check with the local utilities department to verify that the water is safe to use and drink. If everything appears to be fine, go ahead and switch on the main valve.

After you’ve turned on the valve, check all the faucets and toilets. You may also want to take a look outside to determine if your trees and shrubs are still in the same place. Shifted roots can pose a problem for any underground pipes on your property.

Call a Professional

Hurricane season can cause a lot of complications, but taking the right precautions and keeping an eye out for issues after a storm can protect your home and family from any serious issues.

If there are any problems with your plumbing or something just doesn’t seem right, call a professional to take a look. First Class Plumbing of Florida can inspect your plumbing system to pinpoint the problem and make the necessary repairs before the weather gets out of hand.

7 Signs Your Garbage Disposal Needs Repair or Replacement

You don’t worry about your garbage disposal most of the time-after all, it sits out of sight and out of mind. You only worry about it when you have to clear a backup in your sink or flush food debris down the drain. You might also feel anxious when you have to fish a ring or other valuable out of the disposal’s depths. But for the most part, you don’t think about this home feature much.

Even though this device doesn’t play a starring role in your everyday comfort, you’ll notice when it doesn’t work properly. If your garbage disposal exhibits any of the signs listed below, then it either needs repair or replacement. Call your plumber right away so you can have a working disposal again as soon as possible.

1. Your Garbage Disposal Won’t Even Turn On

If you flip the switch for your disposal and nothing happens, then you know you have a problem. But before you call your plumber, check the circuit breaker or fuse connected to your disposal. You may have to hit the reset button on a nearby outlet, or you might have to go to your circuit breaker box and flip a larger switch there.

Once you’ve checked the breakers, try to use your disposal again. If it still refuses to move or make noise, turn it off and check the interior to see if anything has jammed the blades. If you don’t see any obstructions, and if the circuit hasn’t blown, then your garbage disposal has probably burned out, and you’ll need a plumber to at least inspect the device. He or she will probably have to replace it.

2. You Have to Press the Reset Button Every Time You Use Your Disposal

If you have to push the reset button on the outlet or flip the switch on the breaker every time you use your garbage disposal, then you either have insufficient wiring or your disposal has started to age. You’ll probably have to replace the disposal if it caused the problem. Again, contact your plumber for an inspection. If he or she says your disposal has worn out, then you should get a new one.

On the other hand, if your plumber says that the disposal didn’t cause the problem, then you have to speak to an electrician. Even an older electrical system should support a garbage disposal. If yours doesn’t, then you could have a serious, even dangerous, wiring problem on your hands. Have a professional check it right away.

3. Your Garbage Disposal Has a Perpetually Bad Odor

You’ve tried everything. You have used hot and cold water, citrus fruits, chemical agents, and other methods to try and get the smell out of your garbage disposal-but without success. At this point, you should probably consider having a professional disassemble and clean your garbage disposal. You can also replace the device and instantly have fresher air.

4. Your Disposal Takes an Excessively Long Time to Break Down Food

Your garbage disposal should have the power to break down food waste in a matter of seconds. If it takes longer, then the blades have probably dulled. You don’t need to replace your entire device in this instance, but you do need your plumber to sharpen or replace the blades.

5. Your Disposal Clogs or Jams Every Time You Use It-Even When You Flush Small Food Items

Again, your disposal should have the power to break down any kind of food waste. So, if this feature jams even when you put small morsels in it, then it at least needs an inspection. Call your preferred plumbing professionals, and they’ll tell you whether a repair or replacement will return your garbage disposal to normal.

6. Your Garbage Disposal Makes a Loud Metal-on-Metal Noise When It Runs

When your disposal makes a sound like metal on metal, then its parts have started to grate or move incorrectly, so it needs a tune-up. If you don’t give it a tune-up, the motor could burn out or the parts could wear so much that you’ll have to replace your garbage disposal instead of repairing it.

7. You See Water Leaking From the Disposal

Plumbers can fix the leaks around the device’s seals, but if the leak comes from a crack in the device, you’ll have to buy an entirely new disposal. Luckily, with a new model and a professional installation, you won’t have to worry about repairing your disposal again for a long time.

 

Don’t try to repair your garbage disposal on your own. You could endanger yourself and anyone around you because of the device’s sharp edges and power supply. Instead, leave the repair or the replacement to the experts, who have the skill and the equipment to keep themselves safe while they work. With a professional disposal installation, you can have better confidence that your device will work properly.

How to Prep Your Home’s Plumbing for Spring

How to Prep Your Home’s Plumbing for Spring

Certain areas of Florida see more moisture than other areas. You work your hardest to keep water out of your home, but what happens if your home’s plumbing fails you? You don’t want to let the problem run rampant, and you definitely shouldn’t have to deal with aftermath of a burst pipe, backed-up tub, or other plumbing issue.

As you prepare your home and landscape for springtime, remember to include your home’s plumbing on your to-do list. Follow the five simple steps listed below to prevent any serious plumbing issues and keep your home’s interior as free of water as possible.

  1. Stop Leaky Pipes

Leaky pipes can cause a large amount of damage to your home’s walls, floors, and structural supports. When these structures become unstable, they can put your family at risk for injury, and your home could need significant repairs.

Additionally, the constant, slow stream of moisture provides the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. If you and your loved ones are exposed to these spores, you could become ill or develop serious health issues (such as respiratory problems).

You’ll already encounter a lot of moisture in the outside air, so make sure that your home stays free of water and repair any leaky pipes. You may be able to see some leaks easily. For example, if the pipes under your kitchen sink leak, you can spot the problem fairly quickly. But if a leak is further along the pipeline, you’ll need a plumber to fix the issue.

To determine if you have a leak, make sure no water is running in your home. Then, stand near your pipes and listen for dripping or running water. You can also look at your water meter or water bill. If the numbers are higher than normal, you probably have a leak.

  1. Check Your Appliances for Leaks

You’ll also want to check your appliances for leaks. Inspect the toilets, sinks, washers, dishwashers, and water heater for leaks in the piping and tanks. If the appliances do leak, you’ll likely see a puddle of water surrounding them.

  1. Unclog Drains

If you have clogged drains anywhere in your home, you’ll want to unclog them immediately. Clogs prevent water from flowing away from your home, and that water could backflow into your house. The last thing you want to deal with this spring is repairing water damage caused by an overflowing toilet.

Sometimes surface clogs, like hair that rests in the opening of your shower drain, don’t take much effort to remove. However, for clogs that sit deeper in the pipe, you’ll need a plumber to manage the problem. Your plumber will likely use hydro jetting to push the clog out of the pipeline.

Additionally, hydro jetting can remove any tree roots that may have broken your pipes and grown in them. Your plumber can even use this service to clean the rest of the pipes in your home so that you reduce the risk of developing a clog later on.

  1. Flush Your Water Heater

Over time, sediment and mineral deposits build up inside your water heater tank. If left unchecked, that buildup could cause serious problems for your plumbing system. For example, the buildup could prevent water from flowing through your water heater and into your pipes. Or if the buildup becomes too big, it could crack or burst a pipe or a portion of the tank.

Contact a plumbing expert and ask him or her to flush the water heater and remove this buildup so you can conveniently enjoy hot water year-round.

  1. Inspect Your Backflow Preventer and Cross Connections

Depending on where you live, you likely have a backflow preventer somewhere on your property. Additionally, you probably have cross connections as well. The backflow preventer stops contaminants from entering public water sources from your individual pipelines, while the cross connections are devices that connect the various types of piping in your home.

The cross connections prevent other substances from getting into your water. For example, the connections carry solids, gases, chemicals, and other liquids that alter the quality, taste, color, and odor of your water.

To ensure that your home has a clean water supply, and to keep public water sources clean for your neighbors, have your backflow preventer and cross connections inspected. If a big storm hits, you’ll also want to have these devices inspected soon after to prevent contaminants from entering the water supply near your home.

 

Take the steps listed above to prepare your home’s plumbing for the spring weather. Remember to get in touch with a plumbing professional to perform many of these complex tasks. As you rely on a certified technician to perform these tasks, you reduce your risk for encountering issues in the future. You also ensure that your plumbing system works properly all season long.

Additionally, look for a plumber who offers emergency plumbing services—just in case you encounter a plumbing issue unexpectedly.

Want more tips about how a plumber can keep your home’s plumbing in optimal condition? Read through our other blog posts. You’ll find various articles that address a number of concerns and issues.

Decoding 8 Common Signs of Plumbing Leaks

You rely on clean water from a reliable source for many household essentials, from your morning shower to your home-cooked dinner. Unfortunately, damage to your plumbing system can decrease water pressure, lead to water contamination, and even pose a hazard to you and your family.

Luckily, trained plumbers can use testing and inspection to find and address leaks before they turn into emergencies.

On our leak detection page, we list some of the most common signs that you have a leak somewhere in your plumbing system. In this blog, we explain how and why these symptoms appear, as well as the threat they pose to your property, plumbing, and peace of mind.

1. Cracks in Your Home’s Foundation

Water seepage can cause sudden cracks in your home’s foundation. These cracks appear via the same process as canyons-erosion. When water flows over a surface continuously, even a strong surface, it begins to wear that surface down.

Foundation cracks caused by leaks can quickly destabilize your home. These fissures generally indicate a serious leak in the supply pipe.

2. Drainage Flowing Away From Your Property

Leaks can cause puddles anywhere along your piping, including near the outside of your home’s foundation or anywhere in your yard around the main water line. If you have a basement or exterior leak, you may notice water flowing away from your home into the street or onto your neighbors’ properties.

Contractors build most properties so that the home sits on slightly higher ground to decrease seasonal flooding. But this topography also means that your drainage affects the area around your property.

3. Dripping Pipes or Faucets

If you can hear dripping or see water flowing out of a faucet or exposed pipe, the leak’s location is fairly obvious. However, you may have a tougher time determining the cause of the leak.

Faucet leaks can occur because the hardware itself has become damaged. But pipe and faucet leaks can also appear due to a broken pipe elsewhere in the system, improperly installed parts, or loose components. Your plumber can evaluate the issue and determine the exact cause of a leaking pipe or tap.

4. Sinkholes or Flooding in Your Yard

When a leak appears near your foundation or out in your yard, it often causes the soil to shift. Even a relatively small amount of water can turn hard packed earth into mud. A little more water can create pools of stagnant water on your property.

Sinkholes and flooding generally indicate leaks in the water main or sewer line. Water main leaks can affect water pressure and cleanliness in your entire home, while sewer line issues can lead to sewage backing up in your pipes. Both of these issues require professional diagnosis and treatment.

5. Temperature Changes in a Room

Water cools more rapidly than most other substances. This feature means that a room with leaks in the floor, ceiling, or wall will likely feel cooler than the other rooms in your house.

This room may also begin to feel damper or more humid than the rest of the house.

6. Warped Paint on Interior and Exterior Walls

Not all leaks show up as gushes or even drips. Some leaks only cause slow, seeping moisture that might not cause a lot of damage. One of the first forms of water damage you may notice, however, is warping.

Paint or wallpaper may bubble, peel, or flake when left in contact with water.

7. Water-Damaged Floors, Walls, or Ceilings

Water damage can appear on any surface of your home’s structure, and serious water damage affects more than just paint. When water begins to pool behind a floor, wall, or ceiling, you may notice the following types of water damage:

  • Cracks
  • Discoloration, sometimes red-brown
  • Mold growth
  • Spongy surfaces
  • Wet spots or puddles

You may also notice dampness or staining on your windows or in your window sills, especially in your basement or on the ground floor.

Any of these signs can indicate a serious hidden leak that must be addressed by a plumbing professional.

8. Wet, Moldy, or Musty Odors in Your Home

You may not hear or see a hidden leak. However, you will probably smell it. Over time, even the smallest leaks creates damp odors.

If you smell mold or musty odors, especially near drains, the smell may indicate a leak.

 

If you notice any combination of these warning signs, contact your trusted plumbing professional right away. Initially, most leaks only cause some wasted water and minor water damage. Over time, however, untreated leaks can encourage mold growth, cause interior flooding, or even undermine your home’s structural integrity.

Most plumbing leaks show the signs on this list when they first appear. Look for these warning signs to ensure that your plumbing stays safe and efficient.

For more information about home plumbing, visit our blog section.

10 Unusual Bathroom Features You Should Install in Your Home

From heated bathroom floors to residential urinals, you can incorporate a variety of unique features into your bathroom to create a one-of-a-kind experience. Need a little inspiration? You can find some of the most unusual, helpful, and interesting appliances below.

Toilets

  1. Bidets

After doing your business, bidets offer a more environmentally friendly method of cleanup. Instead of requiring the use of toilet paper, bidets spray water to clean you.

  1. Heated seats

Don’t like the shock or discomfort of sitting on a cold toilet? Heated seats can come to your rescue. They don’t use much electricity, and some seats even come with timers so they only heat when you want them to do so.

  1. Lighted toilet seats

Waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom can seem like a traumatic experience. The bright bathroom light burns into your eyes, or you stub your toes as you feel your way forward in the dark. Luckily, lighted toilet seats emits a softer, more pleasant light, allowing you to find and use the toilet in the dark.

  1. Self-closing lids

Toilet lids that slam shut can damage your toilet. To avoid this, self-closing lids close slowly and without you having to guide them. Depending on the model, you can give the lid a little push or a motion sensor will automatically shut the lid when you finish using the toilet.

  1. Separate toilets in the master bedroom

For some couples, the toilet becomes a source of contention. She might complain about the cleanliness, or he might complain the direction of the toilet paper. One unusual but effective solution to this problem is to have two toilets in the master bedroom. This way, each person has his or her own toilet.

Showers and bathtubs

  1. Touchpad faucets

A touchpad faucet is a high-tech feature that lets you have the perfect bath. You can enjoy the exact temperature you want with the touch of a finger. The touchpad also warns you if the water is too hot, which is especially useful when giving baths to little children or the elderly.

  1. Bathtub for two

If you and your partner like taking baths together but have a hard time fitting in the same tub, try a bathtub for two. In a yingyang-like shape, each person has his or her own tub, but sits close enough to the other to allow activities such as hand-holding and talking. This also enables couples to enjoy a bath at a temperature they each enjoy.

Sinks

  1. No-handle faucets

If you don’t like maneuvering a handle, opt for touch or sensor faucet. With the touch faucet, press a finger on the faucet head to turn on the water. With the sensor faucet, you don’t have to touch anything; simply hold your hands under the spout and water will flow. Although you can find these types of faucets in commercial restrooms, you can easily request one for your home as well.

  1. Color-changing water faucets

Some types of faucets can have water that changes color based on the temperature of the water. This can act as a safety feature as well as an interest-provoking focal point. Some models even provide a flat faucet head that provides a softer flow of water.

  1. Ceiling-mounted faucets

Have you ever wanted a waterfall in your house? Ceiling-mounted faucets provide that effect. Streams of water pour from the ceiling, adding a touch of romance to your hand-washing experience.

 

No matter what type of bathroom you have, you need to maintain and upkeep your appliances so they keep working for you. Be sure to call your plumber to safely install or repair any of these features.

Propane and Your Home: What You Need to Know

If you feel hungry, dirty, or cold, one thing addresses all these problems: propane. From ovens and clothes dryers to central heating, propane gives life to some of our most frequently used domestic machines.

Propane also goes by “LPG,” or liquefied petroleum gas. Companies store and deliver it as a cold liquid to promote safety and save space. As a liquid, propane is 270 times more compact than in its gas form. As a gas, propane delivers daily comfort and warmth to millions of homeowners and companies nationwide.

How We Use Propane

We flip a switch, turn a dial, or push a button to release propane for everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, or recreational activities.

When ignited, propane fuels appliances and outdoor equipment, including the following:

  • Water heaters
  • Gas ovens
  • Gas stovetops
  • Clothes dryers
  • Backup generators
  • Pool and spa heating systems
  • Outdoor grills
  • Gas fireplaces
  • Agricultural and landscaping equipment
  • Some vehicles

Oftentimes we don’t notice how much propane we use each day. However, this widely-valued fuel also comes with dangers if you use or store it incorrectly. With propane education, you and your family can enjoy this gas’ benefits and stay safe from harm.

Propane in Your Home

Your home may have an underground tank with connecting pipes for propane. Other appliances, like a grill, may screw directly into a smaller propane tank.

Underground propane tanks often come with a valve to stop gas flow, a safety relief valve to release pressure, a regulator to control pressure, and a gauge to determine how much propane remains in the tank.

Propane lacks odor, so companies add certain chemicals to give it a strong identifying smell. When your propane delivery service brings propane to your home, you may want to ask the driver to let you smell propane briefly, so you know what to look for in the case of a future leak.

Call First Class Plumbing and Gas to completely empty, depressurize, and dispose of containers. If you try to dispose of containers yourself, know the safety risks involved, and be aware that in some areas improper disposal is illegal.

Danger Awareness

If you know the risks that propane presents, you can act quickly and safely if emergencies strike. Two main dangers of propane include combustion and carbon monoxide.

Combustion

Many appliances that use propane come with an igniter or pilot light. If you use flammable chemicals around these appliances, the pilot light may set off an explosion.

Propane vapors can also catch fire and even ignite an explosion. Do not store propane near heat or flame, and keep children away from propane and its appliances.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas without color, taste, and odor. If your appliances do not burn propane completely, this inefficiency leads to CO buildup in your home.

CO poisoning leads to brain damage or death. CO poisoning may also show the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion

Decrease the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning with these two steps:

  1. Repair or replace defective appliances that may leak CO into your home. Maintain appliances that use propane and other fuels, and check them often for signs of damage or improper functioning.
  2. Purchase a carbon monoxide detector. Some attach to the wall or ceiling while others plug straight into a power outlet. They are relatively small, easy to install, and may save your life.

When Problems Arise, Act Quickly

If you smell propane:

  • Put out open flames
  • Get everyone out of the house
  • Shut off the gas if safe to do so
  • Report the leak

Do not do the following:

  • Return to the building
  • Smoke or operate appliances, lights, or phones in the building

Use a phone outside the building to call a professional who deals with propane and leak detection. They will locate leaks and repair them safely.

 

When prepared, you can set worries aside and enjoy the benefits of propane safely in your home. For a list of our propane and gas services visit our Gas Division page.

6 Ways to Save Money on Your Water Bill

Perhaps you have a tight budget and you’d like to save on your utility bills. Or maybe you would like to conserve the world’s water resources and make your home more eco-friendly. Regardless of your motivation, you’ve come to the right place if you want to use less water around your home.

The average American family uses hundreds of gallons of fresh water every day. And while some of that water goes through purification for future use, a percentage of it doesn’t, and it pollutes the environment instead. In either case, your water usage costs you a significant amount of money. Preserve your bank account and your local environment by using the steps below.

  1. Check for leaks.

Leaks waste a lot of water, and they often do so without your knowledge. For example, your toilet water may slowly trickle down the pipe between each flushing, and you probably won’t notice unless your toilet starts phantom flushing. If you have noticed phantom flushes (the toilet sounds like it randomly refills even if nobody has used it), call your plumber to check for leaks as soon as possible.

Faucets and showerheads usually exhibit more obvious leaks. They will drip or trickle. And while they might not look like they waste a lot of water, they do. Leaky faucets can waste several gallons per day, and you do have to pay for that water. Ask your plumber to fix these leaks as well.

If your pipes leak, you’ll notice water damage around your home. Water damage typically manifests as warping, discoloration, and mold. You’ll need a professional to open up your walls, floors, or ceilings and replace the pipes.

  1. Replace your faucets, showerheads, and toilets with low-flow fixtures.

Many toilets use up to seven gallons per flush, and some showerheads spray two-and-a-half gallons per minute. However, modern technology has created low-flow fixtures that keep you from using as much water. Just remember to adjust your home’s water pressure so it doesn’t damage your new fixtures.

  1. Insulate your pipes so you don’t have to wait for water to heat.

Most people will do anything to avoid that breath-stopping shock of cold water when they jump in the shower. So they wait anywhere between two and 10 minutes for the cold water to turn warm. In the meantime, they waste gallons and gallons of water.

Don’t pay for water you don’t use. Instead, insulate your home’s pipes so the water instantly comes out hot. You’ll use far fewer gallons and spend less on utilities.

  1. Run your dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.

Washing machines can use up to 70 gallons per load, so you shouldn’t run this appliance unless you have a full load. The same principle applies to your dishwasher.

Additionally, you should consider purchasing a low-flow, energy-efficient dishwasher and washing machine as well. These appliances may cost more up front, but they’ll soon pay for themselves in utility savings.

  1. Limit your shower time.

You’ve already installed a low-flow showerhead, but you still use quite a few gallons while you spritz off for the day. Limit your showers to 10 minutes, and try to get them down to five minutes if possible.

  1. Turn off the water while you scrub dishes, rinse your toothbrush, etc.

Most people let the water run while they brush their teeth, scrub dishes, rinse vegetables, etc. However, if you want to save money on water, you should turn it off between wetting and cleaning your toothbrush, between each vegetable, etc. You can even conserve more water if you simply scrape off your dishes and put them in the dishwasher rather than rinsing them.

The Bottom Line

With the tips above, you can spend less on your utilities than ever before, and you can save the planet while you’re at it. Don’t forget to call your plumber if you discover leaks or want to update your plumbing fixtures.

How Hosting Guests Impacts Your Plumbing

Entertaining in your home represents a great opportunity to bond with friends or family. Closer proximity means more chances to play, eat, and chat with each other. Unfortunately, having more people in your home, even for a short time, may negatively impact your plumbing. Here’s how.

High-Volume Use

The more people are in your home, you’ll have more dishes to wash, meals to make, and bodies to clean. Your family members understand the rules about your delicate plumbing, but your guests may not.

Problems

This increased use can strain your plumbing, especially your toilet. More flushes provide more opportunities for the toilet to clog, especially if you have an older model. Your toilet may overflow, clog, or run.

Prevention

Preparation provides the best way to avoid this problem. Check your flapper before your guests arrive (it’s the rubber device located at the bottom of the toilet tank). Over time, flappers corrode and become less effective. If your flapper looks deteriorated, have a plumber replace it.

It’s also a good idea to have your plumber snake or hydro-jet the toilet before your guests arrive. This can prevent clogs and resolve any preexisting issues.

Instruct your guests to only flush toilet paper and waste since other materials represent the largest clog culprits.

Increased Water Use

Not only does more use strain your appliances, it also strains your hot water heater.

Problems

Heater strain means less hot water for showers, dishes, and cooking. This can represent a huge inconvenience, especially if you’re entertaining during a holiday season. The strain can even damage your heater over time if it’s not properly handled.

Prevention

To keep the water hot enough for everyone in your home, create a shower schedule. Let the shower rest at least 10 minutes between each use. You can also adjust the water heater temperature to counterbalance the higher demand. Never raise the temperature over 49°C or 120°F. This increases the danger of scalding.

To improve the heater’s performance, have it inspected by a plumber. Over time, many water heaters have sediment build up inside it. A plumber can drain and flush out the sediment to ensure the heater continues working properly.

More Debris in Drains

All of the drains in your home are called on to funnel out more water when you have guests. This also means more debris washes down your drains. Problems

Debris builds up in the pipes below drains, creating clogs and occasionally backflow into your shower and sinks.

Prevention

Have a plumber clean your drains regularly. Call one in right before your guests arrive. Then ensure the drains stay clear by taking the following steps:

  • Cover the drain with a strainer. Manufacturers make strainers specifically designed for kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and bathtub or shower drains.
  • Clean the drains after your guests use them, especially after showers. This prevents sneaky debris like long hairs from gumming up your drains.
  • Place a trashcan in the bathroom. When guests don’t find a trashcan, they may feel more tempted to flush waste down the toilet. This includes cotton balls, feminine hygiene products, face wipes, and other substances that don’t break down properly once flushed.
  • Set up guidelines about what comes into contact with your drains. Never put fatty, hard, stringy, or starchy foods into your garbage disposal. Fat solidifies in the pipes, creating blockages. Other difficult foods can impede the processing blades or even break the disposal.

Address any specific concerns you have with a trusted plumber.

You don’t have to wait until your guests are on your doorstep to protect your plumbing. Routine maintenance and annual inspections catch and resolve problems early on. This ensures your plumbing remains functional, even with a little extra stain.

Cross Connections: How Your Potable Water Source Becomes Contaminated

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 set a new standard for drinking water nationwide. But that doesn’t mean accidents don’t occur. Potable (or pure) water can sometimes become mixed with non-potable (or impure) water. When this happens, homeowners have a big problem on their hands. Of course, these contaminations aren’t always avoidable. However, knowing how a contamination occurs can help you prevent issues.

The first thing to become familiar with is the term “cross connection.” Put simply, this is any area where a public water supply and contaminated source are brought together. In your own home, these areas include the following:

  • Garden hoses
  • Pools
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Boilers
  • Pressure washers
  • Toilets
  • Dishwashers

A contamination source can be anything from fertilizer to sewage. The threat of a contamination is highest in these particular areas.

The Two Common Causes of Contamination

There are several factors that can cause contamination. Of these, the two most frequent are unprotected piping and backflows. When these two factors occur simultaneously, massive contamination can result.

Unprotected Piping

A piping system can become unprotected when it bursts, develops mold or other plant growth, or erodes. This is often the result of poor care and failure to schedule maintenance checkups. There are a range of other pipe protection methods. Primarily, you should be sure to implement the following tips into your maintenance routine:

  • Avoid putting antifreeze and other harmful chemicals into your piping system.
  • Drain hoses and bring them indoors when not in use.
  • Insulate cold and hot water pipes. You can do this by installing heat tape or pipe sleeves to the exterior of your pipes.
  • Keep garage doors shut if the garage contains a water supply source.
  • Allow water to run continuously (even at just a drip) through exposed pipes.

These common sense tips are your first step towards achieving protected pipes. If you would like to learn more, your local plumber should be able to provide more information.

Backflows

The water in your home normally flows in one direction. The flow begins in the original water supply and moves on to the piping system and finally through your home’s water fixtures. Unfortunately, certain conditions can cause the flow direction to reverse.

While these conditions are rare, they do occur. The best way to avoid these conditions is by taking action with the following steps:

Identify your home’s cross-connections.

  1. Install backflow prevention devices. These include vacuum breakers and double check assemblies.
  2. Keep hoses from becoming submerged in water.
  3. Turn off valves when they are not being used.
  4. Install thermal expansion devices on hot water pipes.

When you take these steps, you work to ensure that your water supply remains uncontaminated. This work also benefits your neighbors and community.

Schedule Regular Maintenance for Best Results

You’ve heard it before, but here it is again: regular maintenance is the best course of action. Choose a plumbing company that complies with state and federal standards. By doing so, you can avoid problems down the road. Most cross connection control services include the following:

  • Backflow prevention programs that install and maintain prevention devices.
  • Testing of auxiliary water sources to ensure that drinking water standards are met.
  • Testing and maintenance of private fire hydrants.
  • Repairs and replacements for backflow prevention devices.

Contact a Plumber for More Information about Your Cross Connection Risks

Of course, your best option will be to work with a local professional. He or she will understand your local climate and other potential threats to your water supply. You may have questions or be interested in learning more about water contamination avoidance. If so, we suggest you give a local plumber a call right away.