Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Fire Sprinkler Blog

Plumbing System: How to Detect Leaks

Posted by Brian Johnston on Fri, Aug 19, 2011

plumbing_system_how_to_detect_leaksA troublesome issue that you may come across involves leaks in your plumbing system. Though you can enlist the help of a plumber to help fix the issue, some methods can be used to detect the leaks on your own to make sure that another underlying culprit is not causing the issue. After all, allowing leaks to continue and go unresolved can result in corroded pipes that need to be replaced. In worst case scenarios, mold and or pipes can burst, leaving you with a mess in your home if not taken care of immediately.

Listening for the Leak

You laugh? There is a business model, and one I have referred to for help, dedicated to adding air pressure and or performing the "gas" test. This involves filling the water pipe with industrial hydrogen and paying attention to the movement of it through the pipes with an acoustic listening device.

So before you spend the $300 for this service, perhaps the first troubleshooting step you can take to figure out this plumbing issue is to listen for the leak. Before you can do this, you need to find the water supply valve in your home and shut it off. After you close the valve, listen for leaking water wherever it may be–in the bathroom, kitchen or crawl space. It helps to get another person and two phones—ask the other person to turn off and on the water as you move around the suspect area. You can use duct tape or a similar patch to make sure that the leak is temporarily stopped once you find it, but calling a plumber soon after is essential if there’s no way for you to fix it yourself.

Looking at the Water Meter

The second step to take to definitively figure out if you have a water leak–assuming the "listening" test didn’t work–is to look directly at the numbers on the water meter. Depending on where you live, this can be plumbing_system_how_to_detect_leaksa small box on the ground or on the side of your building. Look at the digits to determine if they are moving and whether the number rises. Ask that no one in the house uses any water and I would suggest also turning off all the water supply’s to the toilets. If the numbers do fluctuate and increase, you’ve verified that you have a water leak and should notify a plumber. Pictured is a recent case, wet carpet and concrete was determined to be coming up from a leak in the pipe, in the slab, two rooms down the hall. Water travels—it flows downhill and follows the path of least resistance. 

Getting Help from a Plumber

If you’re certain that you have a plumbing leak or if you want to get a second opinion, the next step is to call a trusted plumber. One of the first steps that a plumber is going to take is going to be to confirm that you actually have a leak.

plumbing_system_call_a_plumberAll things considered, leaks should be detected immediately no matter if it is verified by you or a professional plumber. Even minor leaks can turn into serious problems, resulting in higher bills or damage to pipes or home appliances. Even worse in humid environments is mold. Detecting the leak–and having it fixed immediately with the help of a plumber–is crucial to the health of your home plumbing system.

Tags: Residential, Residential Plumbing, Outhouse Tips

6 Air Conditioning tips to keep you cool this summer.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Tue, Jun 28, 2011

Your summer electric bills in Florida will likely be the highest bills if you compare the dollar amounts throughout the year. I can say this from personal experience. Here are a few tips to keep you cool this summer and your air conditioning system working properly.


1) Check your air intake filter monthly. I know that this sounds excessive,6_air_conditioning_ tips_to_keep_you_cool but it is not. You will be surprised how many airborne pollutants are in your house all of the time. If it is dirty, change it. They are usually located under the air handler unit, in the hallway ceiling or wall. I also pour bleach in my condensation line to keep it clear from algae build up that may prevent proper drainage. Good time also to check the condensing unit has adequate clearance around allow for ventilation! Keep plants trimmed back 2ft from the unit and check that the condensate line is free from obstruction.

2) Set your thermostat to 78 degrees while you are at home and 83 degrees while you are away. When home and tempted to go lower the 78, first try turning the unit’s fan from the auto setting to "on". The circulation may help with hot spots and save on cost. When leaving, there is no reason to run the ac when you are at work.

3) Go programmable! To help remember to turn the temp up, consider installing a programmable thermostat. This feature allows you to set your A/C to turn on 30 minutes or so before you expect to get home.

4) Use your shades, install some heavy curtains or light blocking shades. Closing the shades prevents additional sun rays from heating up the air inside of your house.

5) Use fans. It really doesn’t matter whether it is a ceiling fan or an oscillating fan as long as it moves air. Moving air appears to feel cooler than still air. However, remember to turn the fans off when you leave the room.

6) Have your A/C unit coils cleaned and inspected by a certified technician. You may need to have the air conditioner coils cleaned periodically as they develop a dirty buildup. During the same service call have the freon levels checked as it may be low due to a leak in the system.

Tags: Residential, Outhouse Tips, Air Conditioning

Tips to decide who does your residential plumbing repair.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Thu, Mar 10, 2011

So you have put off repair or replacement of a known plumbing issue for too long and now it is time to schedule the work.

Residential Plumbing Repair

It was springtime for me that prompted my service call for trimming and clearing of trees in my yard. This bad personal experience reminded me why I love getting and offering good customer service so much. It is why we should focus on building a relationship with reasonable people. Which in the end always leads to a good business relationship.

 

You want a company focused on client's who want and can afford excellent service and quality.

No matter the reason you put it off, better economic times, springtime, or waiting till it fixed itself, here is a task list for enlisting the right help at your home or business. Good service and quality comes at a price, you should be prepared for the cheapest to offer the least.

With that said, contact the residential plumbing repair company and really any service provider with the following in mind:

  • Look to see whom they have worked for and how they left the job. Past experience pays forward.
  • Do you have assurance the company will still be in business if you need the system repaired?
  • If you purchase a system directly from a big box retailer, can the residential plumbing repair person install it to save the homeowner money? Know that they will likely not cover this item under any warranty but a good way to possibly save material project cost and retain the best skilled labor for its installation.
  • Ask what the dollar amount of work requires a permit. Skipping the permit might cause pains when you go to sell the house.
  • Establish if it’s a quoted job or time and materials.
  • Determine the amount of money required to schedule the work. "All money required up front." Walk away. Run, if you can.
  • Licensed, insured, and background checked repair person is a must in our litigious society.
  • Due diligence says get more than one estimate. I try to get three but two works for a check and balance. If it is a huge difference between the first two quotes, go for the third however it is likely the lowest missed something in the scope of work requested.
  • Be prepared to pay for quotes and estimates. Find out if it will be deducted from the final billing if you select them to preform the work.
  • Lastly, seek a craftsperson…talented yet connected in the way they deal with your request and be able to meet your schedule with promptness.

Add to the list, start asking what was the cause of your recent disconnect(s) and what was it that made you not want to call them again.enlisting the right residential plumbing repair company

My breakdown with the tree guy was when the fixed quote amount changed at the end of the job. The price changing made me feel distrust and what prompted the behavioral vibe to disconnect with the idea of repeat business. I will use that to better my next service provider relationship.

Do you think about your previous disconnects before calling your next service provider? 

Tags: Residential Plumbing, Outhouse Tips

Learn to stop your water heater from leaking.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Tue, Feb 22, 2011

So you want to stop your water heater from leaking, there are several causes of water heater leaking ranging from loose valves to corroded thermostats.stop-water-heater-leaking

However, water pooling around your heater does not always signal a leak.

Depending on the location of your water heater, season, and if the water disappears, you may be experiencing condensation. The condensation forms when the cold water fills the tank and then drips down. If the problem appears when the tank is first but then disappears when the water in the tank has had a chance to warm up, this usually indicates condensation.

If the water pooling does not dry up, check out the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Tank

Water heaters have limited life spans; it’s possible that your tank has become corroded. If that’s the case, the water heater must be replaced and you’ll probably need to contact a qualified water heater repair person.
  • Vent

On gas water heaters, check for obstructions in the vent. If you find any, shut off the water heater and clean out the flue. If the problem persists, call a plumber.
  • Temperature-pressure relief valve

Water may be coming from the temperature- pressure relief valve, which releases water when it senses excess pressure. Excess pressure can be caused by the temperature being set too high, by the main water supply pressure to your house being too strong, or by special valves that reduce water pressure in your water supply system not allowing for hot water expansion in the tank.
  • Heating element gasket

On electric water heaters, leaks can spring from heating element gaskets. Turn off the electrical power, shut down your water supply, and drain all the water out of the heater before replacing the gasket. Also, before turning the power back on, be sure to turn on the water supply to the heater and run hot water into a sink in your house to release air from the water heater tank. Do not forget this step as failure to do so could destroy will dry fire the heating element. The element must be surround by water before you restore power to the unit.
  • Drain valve

If water leaks out of the fitting at the bottom of unit, simply tightening the drain valve. If the valve itself is defective, you will need to replace it.
  • Water pipes

Inspect the water pipes connected to your water heater. If you water-heater-leaking-repair-personfind the leak is coming from your pipes, tighten the fitting where water is escaping. If tightening does not work, you will have to replace the fitting. It is possible that this piping is copper and you should call a plumber.

Have a Question About This? Post a comment.

Tags: Residential Plumbing, Outhouse Tips

Know when it is time for residential piping replacement.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Fri, Jan 28, 2011

It’s one of a homeowner’s worst nightmares -- a pinhole leak has formed in the home’s copper plumbing. And then, shortly after patching the first leak, they find more. Even worse is when the leaks go undetected causing a long list of damages and mold.

Unfortunately, this is becoming more common for homes with copper piping in Florida as we have seen an unprecedented number of reports of problems with corrosion and leaks. I agree with leading corrosion experts that the EPA water utility standards residential piping replacementrequire them to remove more natural organic materials, such as leaves, from water supplies. Removing them is likely to be a problem since natural organic materials can help form a natural protective layer in metallic pipe. Several studies and research projects look for possible causes but none produced definitive results. I believe the combination of high pH, low organic matter, aluminum solids, and free chlorine is the only thing to change in the last 50 years we have used copper piping for domestic water so likely it is the cause.

Since 1963, over 5.3 million miles of copper plumbing tube has been installed in about 80 percent of all U.S. buildings. Copper is the most widely used material for plumbing systems because of its ease of use, resistance to corrosion, and resistance to permeation by liquids and gases, which may be sources of corrosion and contamination.

When to consider repiping

Best plumbing practice recommend repiping after three or four leaks at a cost that can run in excess of $8,000. But if you are still connected to the same treated water, repiping with copper is only a temporary solution until pinhole leaks return. I recommend to more homeowners to install CPVC or PEX pipe and fittings. Unlike copper, it will never pit and corrode.

Homeowners that have yet to see any leaks

It is difficult to totally eliminate or prevent copper pitting. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce them, such as:

  • Stock up on pipe clamps and be ready to install them over pinholes to temporarily stop leaks until permanent repairs can be made.
  • Examine accessible/exposed copper piping for small, bluish-green stains on the pipes - away from joints. This can be an indication of a pinhole leak. Call a licensed plumber immediately at the first signs of leaks.
  • Before purchasing a home, self inspect plumbing (or have a licensed plumber do so), ask about the plumbing history, and find out how long the house has been vacant, if applicable.
  • Have your water tested for pH value. It may be necessary to do this a number of times at several day intervals, to catch variations. Your water pH should always be higher than 7. If it isn't, talk to your water department. 
  • 

What do you think caused the increase of corrosion and leaks in copper plumbing?

Tags: Plumbing Service, Residential Plumbing, Outhouse Tips

Weekend Warrior: Ask for plumbing help

Posted by Brian Johnston on Fri, Jan 14, 2011

It is Friday, so this is for the do-it-yourselfer planning their next project.

Last weekend at the hardware store, I saw a guy buyingshower valve a few plumbing parts. I asked him what project he was working on. Clearly frustrated, he responded his intention was to change out a 20-year old shower valve. Initially, he purchased only the valve but returned to get a different plumber’s wrench and penetrating oil. With new tools, brute force and his inexperience, the shower valve broke off the pipe in the wall as he attempted to remove the original valve.

The trip today, he confessed was to check prices on replacing broken tiles and was forced to buy a bigger escutcheon plate to conceal the wall cavity the emergency service plumber had to make to complete the pipe repairs to get his one bathroom house operational before Monday morning. This guy ended up paying overtime plumbing rates for service on a Sunday.

The lesson here? Know when to ask for help. Coordinating this repair with a trained plumbing contractor would have been an hour and a half job, charged at the more reasonable, daily rates. Probably wouldn't have needed to get the tile replaced either.

Tags: Plumbing Service, Residential, Outhouse Tips