Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bracing Your Home for the Relatives – Tips to Help Your Plumbing Survive the Holidays

The holidays are right around the corner. Yes, already. And, although you’re probably unaware, at this very moment your home is silently bracing itself for the onslaught of visitors that are sure to arrive, bearing gifts, food, well wishes… and a potential workout for your home’s plumbing. 
Here are a few tips on how you can help your home cope with holiday stress while making your home a hospitable place for all.
Spare Your Visitors an Arctic Showering Experience
Unless you’ve had a tankless water heater installed that has the power to provide a seemingly endless supply of hot water to your shower head, you will likely encounter times throughout the day when your water heater simply isn’t capable of keeping up with the demand. 
Your visitors need to shower – some more often than others – and in the interest of giving everyone a harmonious, well-scented visiting experience, you will have to take steps to ensure that none of them inadvertently step into the shower to find themselves chilled to the bone by a blast of ice cold water.
Have an open discussion with your guests. Let them know that they are more than welcome to shower, but offer a word of advice by delivering a bit of fair warning about the hot water supply. To do your best to prevent the familial squabbles that are all too likely to erupt, consider posting a shower sign-up sheet on the door of each bathroom. 
As silly as this may sound, doing so will have the dual effect of spreading out your hot water use throughout the day in addition to raising the awareness level of your guests so that they don’t take extravagantly long showers that will waste water unnecessarily. Ensure that guests understand they should wait at least ten minutes between showers to allow hot water to build back up again. Then again, it’s also not too late to consider a tankless water heater either!
Crank Up the Temperature
Yet another option for squeezing every last warm drop from your overworked shower head is to turn up the temperature of your water. 
This can be done by slightly turning the regulator knob on your water heater, but it’s crucial that you don’t turn it up too far and that you never exceed the 125 degree mark. Doing so could put you, your family, and your guests at risk of scalding and could make for some seriously unhappy campers in your Yuletide abode.
Test Your Waterworks in Advance
Planning ahead never hurt anyone. If you’re expecting visitors this holiday season, it would be prudent to check the temperature on your water heater and test the water pressure of your showers long before that first welcome knock at the door. 
If the water pressure coming out of your shower head seems abnormally low, this could be due to a clog or a shower head in need of cleaning.If you’ve already maxed out your spending account on Christmas presents and buying a new shower head is out of the question, just be sure to clean it thoroughly. 
This can be accomplished by simply removing the shower head and soaking it in vinegar overnight to break down the buildup and then scrubbing it clean the following day.
Save Your Toilets from a Choking Death
Your toilet bowl wasn’t invented to be a garbage receptacle, but, in many instances, this is exactly what it winds up becoming when one guest after another passes through. 
Short of standing guard and barking orders at each bathroom visitor, what can you do to prevent your toilet from being clogged up with unflushables like paper towels, cotton balls, toothpicks, floss (and possibly even fruitcake)? Simple.
Make sure you have a large, visible waste basket next to the toilet – and make it a point to empty it frequently so that you don’t wind up getting an enormous plumbing bill for Christmas alongside that impossibly loud sweater you’re destined to receive.
How do you prepare your home plumbing for holiday visitors? Feel free to share your ideas with us. Or, if you have questions, drop us a line.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Tips from Pete’s Plumbing

Believe it or not, plumbing companies typically experience a spike in emergency calls during the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Is it a result of frozen water pipes bursting at the most inopportune times? Apparently not, since even plumbers who work in states that don’t see sub-zero winter temperatures also experience the very same spike in calls. So, what gives? The reasons may surprise you.
Relatives on the Loose
Thanksgiving is the time of year when many brave souls open their homes to their relatives. Doing so keeps the bonds of family strong, but it can also inadvertently take its toll on your home. The bottom line is people behave differently when they’re not in their own home. Although they have a tendency to be a bit neater out of consideration for their hosts, they’re also given to do some rather silly things – like accidentally clogging up your bathroom by using too much toilet paper. And, then, of course, there are the children to consider. 
Even if you’ve got your own, housing an additional half dozen youngsters can leave your home open to some serious mischief, especially if the little ones aren’t constantly watched. Such hazards that plumbers over the years have reported include the occasional stuffed animal flushed down the toilet or the odd Matchbox car finding its way down the kitchen sink.
Speaking of kitchen sinks, that brings us to the number one most common reason for emergency Thanksgiving plumber calls.

Kitchen Disposal Woes
It’s that time of year for clogged garbage disposals. Think about it – although if it’s already happened to you before, you’d probably prefer not to – but it makes perfect sense. Unless you’re given to throwing football parties every weekend during NFL season or hosting gatherings for no particular reason other than the joy of having a full house, Thanksgiving is probably the only time of year that your kitchen really gets a serious workout.
So many mouths to feed also equals so many uneaten leftovers to get rid of and this can translate into serious abuse for your kitchen garbage disposal. This is especially the case if your visitors are well-intentioned enough to want to “help out” in the kitchen afterwards. Potato peelings and coffee grounds are the most frequently identified culprits, but it’s really the sheer volume that really does the trick.
Preventing Unwanted Plumbing Mishaps
This doesn’t mean you have to skip Thanksgiving duties at your home. Those of you looking for an excuse to get out of hosting next year’s big family gathering won’t get off the hook that easy, unfortunately. 
But, there are a few smart, subversive steps you can take that will minimize the risk of your guests overburdening your disposal – allowing you to focus on other aspects of the day’s activities without having to constantly police your kitchen for destructive do-gooders:
  • Use paper plates. It’s substantially more eco-friendly to separate your food and recycle your paper plates, but when you’re entertaining an army of visitors, enforcing this sort of thing could be the equivalent of taking on far too big of a task. You may ask, How will using paper plates keep your garbage disposal free and clear? Simply put, it will encourage your guests to throw away their plates when they’re done rather than marching into the kitchen to rinse them off and clogging up your disposal with uneaten leftovers.
  • Make room for extra garbage cans in the kitchen and dining areas. This doesn’t mean that each person should be handed a bucket or that you have to create some sort of bizarre obstacle course of 30-gallon trash barrels for your relatives to negotiate. The simple placement of two or three additional waste bins near the kitchen entry way or the dining room exit will have the effect of heading your well-intentioned guests off at the pass, making them far more likely to dispose of their waste in the nearest available receptacle instead of using your kitchen garbage disposal.
  • Plan your menu accordingly. Serve mashed potatoes --makes sense, considering that the number one item that causes the most amount of clogging damage to garbage disposals across the country on the last Thursday of November are potato peels. Using the same rationale, you might think that buying a new (and, incidentally, more eco-friendly) coffee maker with a reusable filter would prevent your disposal from becoming clogged with used filters. However, unless you’re the one constantly manning the coffee pot, it’s far more likely the disposed grounds will end up down the drain where they’ll expand and clog up your disposer’s workings faster than you can say, “None more for me, thanks.”
  • Ensure your kitchen garbage disposal is in optimum working order. Doing so doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily condoning its use, but it’s far better to play it safe. One method of keeping your disposal clean and running smoothly is by occasionally tossing easily grindable bones – like chicken bones – into your unit and turning it on and running a steady stream of cold water as it works. Doing so cleans the disposer’s blades and also removes any gunk that has collected there over time
In a perfect (green) world, composting your food is a far better alternative to using your garbage disposal or throwing your leftovers in the garbage. It decreases your carbon footprint, lessens the load in our landfills, and prevents sludge buildup in our municipal sewage systems.

But, sometimes, we have to make compromises. And, what Thanksgiving would be complete without those?
Your Thanksgiving Stories
Send us your Thanksgiving plumbing stories, tip, or plumbing questions related to keeping the holidays festive and worry-free.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Saving Money by Going Hybrid with Your Home Water Heating Efforts

“Hybrid” is a word that’s sort of lost its luster as of late. Back in the old days, it was one of those futuristic buzzwords that brought to mind all sorts of Sci-Fi connotations. Today, it’s become a term used to describe energy-saving options that unfortunately don’t always convert to the monetary level we’d ideally like to see.
That is, unless you’re talking about the new hybrid water heaters available from such well-known and trusted manufacturers like G.E. Electric and A.O. Smith. 
In that case, you’re talking about something completely different. The latest generation in home water heating equipment, the hybrids offered by these companies as well as others, offer some of the most significant cost savings you’re likely to find anywhere.
Why Go Hybrid?
Let’s face it. If you’re going to mount a full-scale attack to trim down your home expenses, it only makes sense to go after the big guns. And, according to the experts, water heaters rank in the top three culprits associated with your home’s most costly expenses.
That alone should be enough of an incentive. But, with the added impact of water conservation as your secondary motivation, you may have a decidedly hard time coming up with reasons not to go hybrid.
The Hybrid in Action
In true “hybrid” fashion, hybrid water heaters combine the technologies of conventional water heaters and their more eco-friendly sibling, the tankless water heater – only with a few added bonuses. The hybrid water heater absorbs heat from the very air and transfers it into the water. This process of absorption prevents the need for generating heat, which, in turn, saves energy.
Hybrid water heaters also have a small reservoir where heated water is stored, ensuring that no cold water surprises when you hop in the shower or turn on the tap.
Multiple Benefits on Offer
So, what exactly are the benefits of installing a hybrid water heater? Read ‘em and weep (or count your dollars saved):
  • A hybrid water heater produces the same amount of hot water that a traditional water heater does, but, due to its unique method of heat transfer, only uses half of the energy to do so. Translated: Ka-ching!
  • Certain G.E. hybrid water heater models are capable of reducing the cost of heating your home water by as much as 62 percent. Translated: Serious savings!
  • A hybrid water heater has the potential to cut your overall home energy costs by up to 15 percent. Translated: Savings for your entire home! 
But Wait, There’s More!
By installing a G.E. or A.O. Smith hybrid water heater in your home, you’re not only doing something positive for the environment by limiting your yearly energy consumption, but you’re also fattening your wallet.
Thanks to federal tax credits that have been extended through December 31st, you can qualify for a tax credit, starting at $450. And, if you live within Georgia state lines, you might even be able to qualify for local tax incentives.
Interested? Talk to Pete’s Plumbing today to set up a consultation to install a hybrid water heater in your home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You Don’t have to Have a Good Reason to Want Purified Water In Your Home… But Here Are a Few Anyway

Being eco-conscious isn’t just limited to what you put into the soil and air around you. You also have to watch what you’re putting into your own body – and that includes the very water you drink. 
Depending on your location, the quality of the water supply may be less than desirable. For this reason, and to combat any health issues that could arise from drinking impure water, you may want to consider a water purification system.

How Does it Work?
A water purification system does just that – it purifies your water – through a method called reverse osmosis. This is just a fancy way of saying that the water coming into your home is run through a filtration system that removes unwanted chemicals, parasites, and other contaminants that might be floating around.
A water purification system is a bit more complex than a simple filter you install at the end of your tap and is significantly more effective at cleaning your water. For example, did you know that a standard water filter won’t reduce sodium fluoride and chlorine from your tap supply? However, a reverse osmosis purification system will.

Why Purified Water?
Do you really have to have a reason to want clean water coming into your home? Of course not! But, if you’re looking for reasons, there are plenty of them – and they’re not even all health related.

  • Taste and Health Benefits: Put simply, purified water tastes better. And, we’re not just talking about drinking water. Think of everything else that you make in your home that requires water – from coffee to pasta – and imagine how much richer the taste would be if the water you’re using is purified. Often times, unpurified water can contain unpleasant odors, probably never more obvious than during shower time. Bathing in water that hasn’t been purified can not only be a negative olfactory experience, but it can also lead to skin irritation and other dermatological health issues.
  • Economic Benefits: Home water purification systems are affordable and readily available. Having a water purification system installed in your home isn’t just a way to get great tasting, healthy water coming from your tap, but it’s also an investment that will pay off in the long run. First, you’ll no longer have to pay the exorbitant cost of bottled water. Right now, that price is about $3 per gallon for the pricier brands and more if you buy your water from a vending machine. This kind of habit, although far preferable to drinking unpurified water straight out of the tap, can amount to a significant expenditure. Second, the improved quality of the water flowing through your pipes and your appliances will keep them running for much longer.
  • Environmental Benefits: Believe it or not, installing a home water purification system in your home is a great way to decrease your carbon footprint. How so? Well, to begin with, purified water in your home will eliminate your dependence on bottled water. And, as you know, the bottled water industry is responsible for:
    1. More plastic bottles in landfills. Four out of five bottles aren’t recycled and end up being thrown away with your garbage.
    2. Increased fuel consumption and burning of fossil fuels. There’s a lot of transportation involved with bottled water -- from cargo planes that deliver the water from overseas to diesel trucks that make coast to coast trips delivering the water to your local grocery store.
    3. Higher levels of pollution from the manufacture of plastic bottles and the operation of bottling factories.
The Last Drop
In the end, it’s not just about the health benefits; it’s also about voting with your wallet. If you want to help lower energy consumption and waste, start by making changes in your home
If you’re interested in finding out how much it’ll cost to have a home water purification system installed, contact Pete’s Plumbing today for a free estimate.