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

Why a tankless water heater is really thankless.

Posted by Brian Johnston on Thu, Apr 21, 2011
earth-dayOn the eve of Earth Day, I find myself doubting all marketing that says it is "good for the earth" and "green". Especially when green marketing of an appliance is a nicety, not a necessity. (i.e. a "green" clothes dryer...is a clothes line and it is not available with a steam feature, LCD screen, or a clothes are dry app for your phone)

We have a lot of residential plumbing customers who want to become more environmentally friendly. Most want to start with the purchase of a tankless water heater in hopes that they can save substantial amounts of money on their utility bill and it is considered "green".

However Floridians and other warm climate residents should be mindful of over zealous marketing of tankless water heaters. When it comes to looking at all of the costs involved, you may not be able to save as much money as advertised with this type of water heater.

It is true that tankless water heaters are more efficient than their counterparts. Tankless water heaters can operate at over 80 percent efficiency, while tank water heaters generally operate at 50 or 60 percent.

This will allow you to save a little bit of money on your heating bills at the end of the year.water-heater

However, here in Florida both water heating methods have less work to do. Considering they have to warm the incoming cold water more in Michigan than Florida since the groundwater coming into the unit can be 30°F colder in Michigan (42°F) than Florida (72°F). According to Florida Power and Light, the water heater uses a large amount and the average household spends about $15 per month to heat water.

Tankless efficiency comes at a price quite a bit more than what you could buy a traditional water heater for. In fact, many of them cost as much as three times more than a regular water heater. In addition to that, you will have to run special lines into the water heater which can get very expensive if you are installing one into an existing house.

With this large initial investment, it would take you many years to be able to break even on your original investment with the savings that you are realizing from the utility costs. Many estimates have said that it would take you over 15 years to repay the initial cost of purchasing the tankless water heater.

For a much less investment and efficient alternative, consider a Hot Water Recovery Unit. Most in Florida have and use central Air-conditioning or a Heat pump system that the Hot Water Recovery Unit on the cooling cycle uses heat that would normally be wasted to outside air to help heat the water. 

Using a Hot Water Recovery Unit to recycle wasted heat from your central A/C to provide free hot water to your tank hot water heater, thereby removing the cost of hot water from your electric or gas bill.

A hot water recovery unit added to your central A/C unit can almost offset the cost of running the air conditioning.

If you have a heat pump unit then the savings are even greater. A heat-pump unit typically uses 1/3 (33%) the electricity to make heat as straight electric heat. Of course, an electric water heater uses 100% electricity to make heat. If connected to a heat-pump whenever the unit is running, hot water is being made at a reduced rate.

So happy Earth Day! And know that going without the need of hot water is better for the earth than being pushed into tankless water heater because the green marketing.

Tags: Shop Talk, Residential Plumbing

Ways to upgrade your bath or kitchen plumbing with tax refund money!

Posted by Brian Johnston on Wed, Mar 23, 2011

Spring brings many things...warmer weather, blooming plants and tax refund checks! Plumbing and taxes--two things we all have in common.

This is the year to rejuvenate your bath or kitchen plumbing fixtures with your tax refund!

Trends are showing people are spending more time at home and moving less so upgrade your surroundings now with better fixtures. Especially since you are home to enjoy them more often, the personal ROI for upgrading and fixing plumbing issues has never been greater! 

Blake Ellis, staff reporter for CNN Money, says the average 2010 refund is about $3000 -- a 5% boost from the previous year.

Here are some rejuvenating renovation examples using half and all of the average tax refund money:

Option One: $1,500

Shower Bath Upgrade

  • one standard water closetrejuvenate-your-kitchen-plumbing
  • one china lavatory replacement
  • single handle lavatory faucet

Or

Kitchen Upgrade

  • new stainless steel sink
  • single handle sink faucet
  • garbage disposal
  • ice maker water line

 

Option Two: $3,000


Tub Bath Upgraderejuvenate-your-bath-plumbing

  • standard tub replacement
  • one water closet
  • two single handle faucets

And

Personal Shower Upgrade

  • one rain shower head
  • multiple standard shower heads
  • body sprays


All fixtures and faucets to be standard contractor grade and may not be those pictured. Also note, the price examples do not include any other trade's work that may be necessary such as wall board, tile, cabinets etc.

Here are some tips to selecting a craftsperson to complete the work and why a do-it-yourself type agrees to call a professional!

 

Do you plan to reinvest your tax refund dollars back into your home?

 

Images: Morgan Bros Supply

Tags: Residential, Residential Plumbing

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