Tips for how to fix Plumbing problems and when to call Henry Plumbing.

Tankless Water Heater or Tank-based Unit?

The difference between a tankless water heater and a tank-based one

In our article on tank-based water heaters, we mentioned “it is more effective and energy efficient for it to cycle temperatures.” While cycling is more energy efficient than remaining on high, it leaves efficiency to be desired. That is the big difference between a tank-based heater and a tankless water heater. While tank-based heaters always expend energy, a tankless water heater is more frugal. In fact, a tankless water heater doesn’t use energy unless it must.

When does a tankless heater use energy?

What is meant by “unless it must?” It means you only activate a tankless water heater when you need hotter water. In turn, you avoid standby heat loss. This may result in a lower ecological footprint. In fact, the alleged reduction in energy is one of the reasons tankless heaters have grown more favor in the recent era. Because a tankless water heater only delivers for the faucet valves, it is also known as a demand-type or instantaneous heater.

How does a tankless water heater use the energy?

A tankless heater uses a variety of components; it begins with two: a heat exchanger and a flow sensor. The faucet engages the water transmission, which passes into a sensor. When the sensor detects a liquid, an exchanger raises the heat to a desired level. There are two caveats here. First, an electrically-based exchanger needs a flow of electricity all the time. Second, there isn’t any heat until needed, so there can be a delay between the faucet and water.

What to do about a delay of water

One of the aspects of tankless heaters that compensates for a delay in access is the variety of heaters. A tankless water heater is available as a whole-house unit or a POU (point-of-use). Whole-house units are larger than POUs, although they are smaller than tank-based units, which are big as they contain as many as 100 gallons. POUs are ideal for smaller faucets, like a sink, where they reduce lag. Naturally, additional units will be more expensive.

Is a tankless water heater less expensive than a tank-based water heater?

A tankless water heater only uses energy when necessary, which is a measure of savings. If you only have one unit, some water may be wasted once the exchanger is activated. A tankless water heater can be up to four times as expensive as a tank-based one. Therefore, you should figure out how much water you’ll actually need. An increased flow rate can mean a replacement for further piping in order to allow more water.

Which is better for me?

The major difference in those who would benefit from a tankless water heater and those who wouldn’t is lifestyle. The better option depends on how much water you need and how much you are willing to pay. A tankless water heater is more efficient and one may save you 10-20% on a heating bill. They also last almost 10 years longer than tank units. The overhaul of interrelated piping and circuitry may offset energy savings, at least for a while.

The installation of a tankless water heater can range from one to several thousand dollars. According to energy.gov, if your home uses 41 or less gallons of water a day, a tankless heater may be 24-34% more efficient than a tank-based heater. If you use 86 gallons each day, a tankless heater may be up to 14% more efficient. Installing a POU at each outlet may save up to 50% of energy usage, which is on top of a $100 a year reduction for a single unit.

How Does a Tank-Based Water Heater Work?

There are three main kinds of water heater that may appear in a given home: a tank system, a boiler, and an independent heater near the source of the water. The water that goes through your pipes is mostly on the cooler side, which is fine for drinking. Of course, we make more demands on water than being a beverage. Therefore, something has to happen to it between the time that it is in those pipes and the time you use it in a shower or washing dishes.

Parts of a water heater

While tankless water heating systems have gained in popularity, a tank-based heater is still the most popular. This article focuses on the latter. Of the tank-based systems, there are two varieties: electrically powered and fuel-fired. The heater has many components, but the following are the most important parts: a dip tube, a shut-off valve, a heat-out pipe, a thermostat, a heating mechanism, a drain valve, a pressure relief valve, and a sacrificial anode rod.

As expected, the thermostat is responsible for moderating the temperature inside the heater tank. The typical desirable temperature is between 120° and 140° Fahrenheit. Keeping the heater on the lower end can save energy and prevent people from burning themselves. If you do not intend to use hot water for a long period, it makes a lot of sense to lower the temperature.

Water enters the tank through the dip tube and is gradually heated by a heating mechanism. The basic guiding idea of a heater tank is that heat rises. This is why the heat-out pipe is at the top of the heater tank. As the device manages heat, some will be lost over the course of the transference due to entropy.

Effective use of a water heater

Rather than having the heater on high at all times, it is more effective and energy efficient for it to cycle temperatures––even when you are not using hot water. This prevents some heat loss that would occur if the heater remained idle. Another element to keep in mind is that most tank heaters only contain enough water to occupy about 70% of their volumetric capacity. If you know the approximate amount of water you need, it makes go 30% bigger than that number.

Further housekeeping

The heater employs an anode rod to prevent the rest of the tank from corroding. Because corrosion is the rod’s function, you can expect it to do that eventually and do it completely. Therefore, it is important to check on the status of the rod with some regularity (one time a year). If you do that, you may prevent more significant repair and replacement on the rest of the heating unit.

How to Fix a Toilet Clog

Keep a plunger handy

The vast majority of toilet clogs can be fixed with just a plunger. So it kind of goes without saying that you’re going to need a plunger (preferably one with an extension flange on the rubber end).  But even with a plunger, there are better and worse ways to use it to fix a toilet clog.  Here’s what you need to know:

Why is my toilet clogged?

There are several possible reasons for a clog or what appears to be one. The most apparent is when the toilet is entirely obstructed. In this case, stop  flushing or else risk a flood. Sometimes a clog is caused by low water pressure. This might be caused by plumbing system, but it might also be because of a specific malfunction.

Assessing a toilet clog and plunging technique

Check whether enough flush water is getting into the bowl, clog or no. In order to evaluate whether a clog exists, open the tank and lift the flapper valve to let a bit of flush water into the bowl and note whether the water level decreases. Make sure you seal the valve after this test to prevent more water from entering. Once you have determined there is a clog, you could wear a rubber glove and try to dislodge the blockage manually. If rubber gloves and poop are not your style or it didn’t work, it’s time for the plunger.

The right way to use a plunger to fix a toilet clog

When you put the plunger in the bowl, tilt the bell of the plunger up a bit and let all the air out (you should see some bubbles).  Then put the bell over the entire toilet hole and begin pumping. The first few pumps should be slower to allow for the air that is being directed into the toilet. Continue as many times as needed until the water starts to drain. Sometimes the water will drain even though the toilet is still clogged. In that case, push the lever until the water level rises again––be sure to keep the plunger in the bowl, but uncover the toilet hole, or things will still flood.

Toilet clog remover alternative (no plunger)

If the plunger isn’t working, you can just allow some time to pass in order for the matter to break up. Alternatively, you can be proactive by introducing a new substance into the water. This ranges from hot water to an enzyme cleaner.  After you put the hot water or enzyme into the bowl, you will probably have to wait as directed by the instructions on the liquid container. If using hot water, give it several minutes.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

In the event none of the above is effective, contact a plumber for a more resourceful look. Otherwise, your toilet should be free and ready to be clogged once again.

How to Find and Fix a Leaky Pipe

Diagnosing a leaky pipe

Every season poses unique challenges for an effective plumbing network. While a number of people associate leaky pipes with cold weather, heat is its own issue. There is little risk of a frozen line, but it is a good idea to check for other impediments. Over the spring and summer, you are more likely to entertain friends and family. This means that your piping is under a lot more stress. It may mean a sprinkler or a hose if not more flushes. A pool is a lot more spacious than a toilet bowl.

As you attempt to diagnose a leaky pipe, it is useful to understand a few things:

  • You don’t need to be an expert to meaningfully curb the damage. Even if you are unable to repair the malfunction, you are still in a position to cut a few of your losses.
  • If you do nothing, you risk compromising other features of the residence, from the structural integrity to more specific elements like outlets and other electrical implements.
  • A leaky pipe can eventually lead to more environmental hazards, including mold. It is important to remain apprised of the possibilities because the most effective deterrent is prevention.

Old buildings and new leaky pipes

If you are aware of living in a home that is more than 50 years old, you’re going to want to keep an eye out for leaks. Puddles and rust are indicators of a degraded infrastructure. Your piping may no longer be under warranty––it’s worth inquiring about it with the manufacturer. 

How to Find a Leaky Pipe

If you are able to recognize a soggy stain on any surface, it may indicate a deterioration. Malformation and discoloration are other expressions of a leak.  In the event you suspect a bigger problem than you see, it is a good idea to call a plumber.

What you can do and what you shouldn’t do with a leaky pipe

In addition to visible and tactile moisture, you may pick up a scent. If it smells of mildew, it is likely mildew. The scent is especially telling if it is a general one and not specific to an area. One way to test leaks is using food coloring. In the case of a toilet, use 10 or so drops in the tank and see whether it shows up in the bowl. If the assessment strains your expertise, leave it for a qualified professional. It is also worth considering how dripping isn’t always a sure sign of a leak, but a pipe that leaks in one area often does the same in others.

How to Fix a Leaky Pipe

Here are few options for how to fix a leaky pipe or at least curb damage until a plumber arrives.  

  • Turn off the water valve of the pipe and empty any faucets that may have residual water.
  • Dry it off using a cloth and apply plumbing epoxy on the crack.
  • Cover the area entirely using a rubber layer and a clamp. After it is entirely covered, allow the layer to set and then apply electrical tape. To ensure this process is a success, flip the valve back on and note whether any more water emerges. As in many areas of life, you can also use duct tape if needed.

A leak can’t always be measured in terms of what you see

Be aware that a pipe can be damaged in a lot of ways. Some times you won’t see until the damage is done; for example, prolonged exposure to UV rays can result in a crack or outright failure. Furthermore, some of the apparent damage isn’t always what it appears to be: a pipe may look like it is leaking even though it is merely sweating through condensation. It is good to be up to date on your pipeline so that when the time comes to fill your pool you don’t already have one in your basement.

Nothing lasts forever and it is especially true of a pipe that has been around the block or is laid there. If you live in an older home, it is a matter of time until a leak is sprung or a less obvious problem emerges. No matter how attentive you are, you will probably need to replace a pipe eventually. When the time comes, we are happy to help. Henry Plumbing 912-352-9827

Kitchen Sink Clogged

How to Prevent and Fix a Kitchen Sink Clog

Kitchen Sink Clog: The Most Common Plumbing Problem

Plumbers get more calls about a  kitchen sink clog than anything else.  Sometimes clogs come from regular usage, but many are preventable.  Here are some tips to prevent a clogged kitchen drain.

Kitchen Sink ClogPreventing a Kitchen Drain Clog

Where Do Kitchen Sink Clogs Come From?

The kitchen sink is the most used sink in the house, and it is the one that gets clogged most frequently.  Kitchen sink stoppages are usually caused by liquid fats (e.g. oils or meat fats) that congeal somewhere in your pipes.   These fats dissolve in warm dishwater and flow down the drain through your pipes.  As the fats cool, they become more solid and begin to accumulate on the walls of your pipes.  Solid food matter like coffee grounds and other particulates get caught in the cool sticky fat and accumulate to cause a stoppage.

How to Prevent a Kitchen Sink Clog

The easiest way to prevent kitchen sink clogs is to get in the habit of pouring liquid fats into the garbage instead of the sink.  If you’re concerned that fats might drip into the garbage, then put them in a ziploc bag or a tin can before putting in the garbage.

If you have a “garbage disposal” or “food disposer”, make sure to use plenty of cold water to flush masticated material thoroughly through your pipes.  Using more water will help food material dissolved in the waste water to get out of your home plumbing system before it cools and can congeal in the pipes of your home.

What to do When Your Kitchen Sink is Clogged

A “plumber’s friend” (aka a plunger) can unclog your sink similar to the way that a plunger unclogs a clogged toilet.  I know, I shouldn’t have to say it, but DON’T USE THE SAME PLUNGER.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

If you have a double sink in your kitchen, seal the second (unclogged) drain to prevent the water from splashing out.  Simply putting the plunger over the drain and plunging vigorously several times is often enough to dislodge a simple clog. You can also try adding a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to the drain.  This will often push some simple clogs out.

If these things don’t clear your drain, it may be time to call Henry Plumbing.

Related Articles

 

water heater

When to Replace a Water Heater

water heaterThe Basics of Knowing if You Need to Replace Your Water Heater

Most water heaters last between 8 and 12 years.  If any of the following is true of your water heater, you probably need to replace it:

  • Water heater is more than 10 years old
  • There are leaks around the base of the tank
  • The hot water heater works erratically or not at all

How long your water heater lasts varies based on the location and design. Quality of installation, maintenance schedule and water quality also play a big role.

Getting Ready to Replace Your Water Heater

You can probably replace your water heater with the same or similar type of unit that you have now.  However, a lot has changed in the last 10 years. You might be surprised how much better a new water heater can be.  The new water heaters on the market today can save you money and can deliver more hot water more efficiently than what you are used to.

Here are some features to consider:

  • Capacity (40 and 50 gallon water heaters are the most common)
  • Recovery rate (how many gallons can the unit heat in an hour)
  • Dimensions (how much space do you in your house where the unit will be stored)
  • Energy efficiency ratings (units should have a sticker on the side with the estimated annual cost of operating the unit)

The nameplate on your existing water heater should have a lot of information that will be helpful in choosing your new unit.  Here’s what to look for:

If your unit is electric it will also have the wattage capacity and voltage of the heating elements.

Considering a Tankless Water Heater?

The tankless water heater is one of the most innovative inventions in home water heating.  A tankless water heater can save you money, save energy and provide hot water to your home with no wait time (i.e. you never run out of hot water). For more information, check out our article about tankless hot water heaters.

Do Better Home Toilets Clog Less Often?

ToiletIf your toilet clogs often, you’re probably wondering if a better toilet might fix the problem.  It might.  Toilets are surprisingly complicated machines.  Like any machine there are better and worse designs. Here is some information to help you make an educated decision about whether a new toilet will solve your problem.

How does a toilet work?

When you flush your toilet it releases stored water in the tank above the toilet bowl.  This water flows through small holes beneath the toilet seat as well as through a larger hole which pushes waste out of the bowl.  Here’s a good video that shows how it works:

Better engineering means that water moves more effectively and more powerfully from the reservoir to the bowl.  If your toilet is clogging frequently, it is possible that a better engineered toilet will deliver the efficiency to keep your toilet working.

You might also consider using a thinner toilet paper or flushing more often.  Often kleenex or other non-toilet paper materials will cause a more difficult clog than toilet-paper.  If your toilet is clogging frequently, you might consider avoiding any papers that are not toilet paper (e.g just use toilet paper).

Toilets That Use More or Less Water

Toilets use more water than anything else in your home (source: https://www.epa.gov/watersense/residential-toilets).  The federal standard for regular home commodes is 1.6 gallons per flush.  However, recent improvements in toilet design has enabled 1.28 gallons of water to do the same or better performance as conventional 1.6 gallon commodes.  

The EPA has a “WaterSense” label for toilets that perform better with less water per flush.  In some areas your utility company may even give you a discount for using a WaterSense toilet instead of a conventional 1.6 gallon commode.

Should You Buy a High Efficiency Toilet or a Regular Toilet?

According to Consumer Reports “more water flushed sometimes (but not always) mean more complete flushing” (read more here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/toilets/buying-guide).  It’s hard to make generalizations, and good performance really depends on which toilet you choose.

For help choosing a toilets that meet your family’s or business’s needs, call Henry Plumbing at 912-352-9827.

hot water heater for shower

The Savannah Homeowner’s Guide to Water Heater Problems

Not every hot water heater problem will mean that you need to replace the unit, but some can be very dangerous.  So, it’s worthwhile for every lay person to have at least some idea about how to recognize a potentially dangerous problem with a water heater and more minor problems.  At Henry Plumbing we also believe that an educated consumer is our best customer.  Here are some guidelines for understanding what is happening with your water heater when something is not going right.

Finding a Leak in Your Water Heater

If your water heater is leaking it’s not necessarily a dangerous or even a very costly problem.  It really depends where the leak is coming from.  The general rule is that a water heater does not need to be replaced unless the leaks is coming from the the temperature and pressure relief valve (TVP valve).  Most other problems can be fixed by a professional plumber in a few hours.  Keep in mind though, this is a general rule, and there can be exceptions.  When it comes to your water heater, it’s always best to call an expert.

Regular Care for Your Water Heater

Your water heater should be checked by a professional plumber every five years to make sure everything is working correctly.  The relief valve (TVP valve) should be replaced every five years.  

We don’t want to scare anyone here, but water heaters can explode and do explode.  According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.gov), 19 people died in the US in 2000 from water heater explosions (https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/hazard_app.pdf).  They did not list more recent statistics, however they did mention that both tankless and conventional water heaters have exploded in the US in the past.  

Installing Your Hot Water Heater

We cannot overemphasize the importance of proper installation for your tankless water heater or conventional water heater. There are lots of ways to purchase a hot water heater today, and lots of people who will install them.  Make sure that your water heater is installed by a professional plumber with a long list of references and positive reviews.

When in Doubt Call a Plumber

If you have any concerns about your water heater, call Henry Plumbing 912-352-9827.  We are always happy to help.

toilet

When to Replace Your Toilet

If your toilet is overflowing, you don’t necessarily need to replace it. However, if you are considering a new toilet, here are six different reasons that often make home owners decide to invest in a new toilet.

  1. Toilet Leaks
    Toilets can link from the tank (the top unit that you don’t usually look into) or from the bowl.  These leaks can damage the floor, subfloor, or rooms beneath the bathroom.  Sometimes these leaks undetected for a long time.  So if you see buckling or warping in the floor around the toilet, this is probably a good time to think about calling Henry Plumbing and possibly thinking about a new toilet.
  2. Toilet Uses a Lot of Water
    Toilets manufactured before 1980 can use up to 7 gallons of water per flush.  The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated that toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush (source: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/federal-regulations-toilet-gallons-88640.html).   A new toilet can literally save thousands of gallons of water a year.
  3. Your Toilet’s Ugly
    I know it’s cruel to say, but some commodes have really got to go (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).  It’s a bit amazing the sheer variety of colors and designs available in toilets.  You don’t really need to live with an ugly fixture forever.
  4. Toilet is Uncomfortable
    Toilets come in a variety of sizes, heights, and diameters.  If your toilet is uncomfortable, you can almost certainly find a better fit.
  5. Replacement Parts are Hard to Find
    Sometimes something simple like a “flush handle” breaks, and it can be hard to find one that matches the existing commode, or even one that fits.  This can be a good reason to get a new commode.
  6. Planning to Replace Bathroom Flooring
    If you’re replacing bathroom flooring, your toilet will probably have to be removed during the process.  Now is a good time to replace the toilet at the same time since you are already paying to uninstall and re-install the toilet.

Replacing a toilet does not need to be a tremendous investment, but it can make a big difference in the enjoyment and economy of your home.

shutoff-valve

Plumbers Tip: How to Easily Turn Off Your Water Supply

If a pipe burst or some other plumbing fixture is pouring something terribly fast, you may want to turn off your water supply before we can get there.  Here is how to turn off your home’s main municipal water supply.

There are usually two places to turn off the water to your house:

  1. Shut off the main valve as the water enters your house
  2. Shut off the municipal water supply to your property

How to Shut off The Water Supply to Your House

  1. Identify the main shut off Valve
    The valve maybe outside your house, but is sometimes in the kitchen a bathroom or a utility room.  It’s usually a brass valve with a round handle.  If you don’t know where this is, now is a good time to check.  You don’t want to searching for it during an actual plumbing emergency.
  2. Turn the valve clockwise.  That will cut off the stream of cold water into your home.  Appliances that use water will no longer work until the water is turned back on.

Shutting Off the Water Supply to Your Property (from Municipal Water Source)

Before you shut off the water to your house, it’s not a bad idea to call the city and let them know you’re planning to shut off the water to your house and why.  The Savanah Water company phone number is (912) 651-6460.  But they are only open Monday – Friday 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

3 Reasons to Shut off the Water Supply to Your Property

  • Shutting off the main valve in your house did not work, and you have a plumbing emergency
  • There is a leak between the street shutoff and the house shutoff
  • You are replacing the main shutoff valve inside your home (not recommended; much better to call us to handle that)

Steps to Shutoff Your the Water Supply to Your Property

  1. Find the outdoor shutoff Valve: most homes have a box in ground that looks a bit like a little manhole cover (sometimes rectangular).  The box should be somewhere between the street and your home.  It will probably have some marking on it that says “water”.
  2. Remove the cover; FYI covers are often designed to be heavy and/or difficult to open.
  3. Look for a valve or small handle you can turn. This should be the cutoff valve
  4. Turn the valve as far clockwise as possible.
    If the valve will not turn with moderate pressure, DO NOT FORCE THE VALVE.  Call Henry Plumbing or public works to assist you.

As with all true plumbing emergencies, Henry Plumbing strongly encourages you to call us and wait for professional assistance.  However, in a true plumbing emergency, shutting off your water supply can save a lot of damage.