Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Don’t Have to Be Indiana Jones to Find a Good Plumber

Sometimes, finding a good plumber can be a task on a par with finding the Holy Grail or proving the existence of Bigfoot. Okay, maybe not that hard – but, if you’ve got a plumbing problem in your home that needs immediate care and you’re trying to run down the name of a plumber you can trust to do a great job without charging you an arm and a leg, it can sometimes feel that way. 

However, it doesn’t have to be so tough. Here are a few tips to help you find the best plumber in your area.

Get a Word-of-Mouth Recommendation
The importance of a good word-of-mouth recommendation can’t be overstated. By asking someone who has had first-hand experience with a plumber, you’re getting the unadulterated truth about a plumber’s abilities and level of professionalism. You also never have to worry that the person you’re talking to won’t be able to remember the name of a plumber they recommend. The fact is people have a great memory for two types of companies: those that have done them wrong and those that have provided extraordinary service.

Ask your family, friends, and even neighbors. If the same plumber’s name is mentioned more than once in the “highly recommended” category, find their number and give them a call. Or, you could take that information and research them further online before contacting them.

Scoping it Out Online
The Internet has drastically changed the way that businesses promote themselves, and it’s also given the power to consumers to raise their voices on issues of customer satisfaction, value, and overall competency. If you’ve already run down a short list of recommended plumbers in your area, all you have to do is enter that company’s name into the search engine of your choice and find out what people are saying about them.

Although you’re not guaranteed to find every local plumber plugged into some social network, you can also extend your search to sites like Facebook or MySpace. Another great resource of researching a plumber’s quality is by going directly to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) where you can look up the complaint history of any company. The only trick is they have to be registered with the BBB in order to be found there. If you’re searching for a plumber and have no names to go off, you can search the BBB’s directory to find accredited plumbers in your area and make your selection based on their overall rating.

Check Your Local Publications
When customers get great service, they like to shout it from the rooftops. When the local press catches wind of those shouts, they enjoy spreading the word by giving coverage to such companies and lauding them with recognition. For example, Pete’s Plumbing of Alpharetta was recently recognized in Around About Magazine, a regional publication, as the people’s choice selection of “plumber of the year,” leaving no doubt among locals as to the best local plumbing company. Always keep an eye on local publications, even if you’re not looking for a plumber now, so that you can stay up to date on who in your community is providing the best level of service and go to them in the future.

The Nightmare Scenario: What to Do?
So, you’ve done all of your research and you’ve finally set your sights on the plumber you’re positive you’ll get the absolute best service from – only to find that they’re booked up and can’t make it out to see you anytime soon. What then? Do you just go back to the drawing board? Not so fast. 

If the plumbing company of your choice tells you that they’re unavailable in the immediate future, ask them for a recommendation. A plumber with a trusted reputation and a history of providing great service will have met quite a few other local plumbers along the way. They should be able to point you in the direction of a professional who can adequately handle your needs.

Before You Commit
Here are a few common considerations to mull over before deciding on a plumber based off of the methods provided above:
·        Ask many questions about cost, procedures, and the plumber’s experience. A worthwhile plumber will be forthcoming about everything and will make the time to ensure all of your questions are answered.
·        Make sure the plumber has a physical address. This prevents you from inadvertently doing business with a company that’ll be here one day and gone the next.
·        Find out if the plumber is licensed. You can ask directly or you can contact your state’s licensing board either online or by phone and check on a plumber’s license status.
·        Ensure the plumber you’re hiring to work in your home is fully insured for all eventualities.

Have you had experience looking (either successfully or unsuccessfully) for a good quality plumber? What methods were successful for you? Share your experiences, trials, and tribulations with us – we’d love to hear from you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tankless Water Heaters versus Traditional Water Heaters: Which is Better for My New Home?

There’s been so much talk lately about the benefits of tankless water heaters that it’s easy for a person to get confused. Depending on who you listen to, tankless water heaters are either the greatest technological leap since the invention of hot running water, or a poorly performing waste of money. So, how do you know which one’s best for your new home?

The Benefits of Going Tankless
For some, cost isn’t quite as important as conservation and the opportunity to take steps at decreasing carbon dioxide emissions. While being significantly more expensive than traditional tank water heaters – on average two to three times more expensive, in fact – tankless water heaters have proven to be more efficient at cutting back on energy waste. It’s been estimated that on average, a gas-powered tankless water heater will cut back on energy usage by 22 percent over the traditional technology. This is no small figure, especially if you’re already dedicated to conservation efforts elsewhere in your home and are looking to make significant gains.

The Benefits of Sticking with a Tank Water Heater
Although a lot of emphasis has been placed on cost as one of the main reasons why a lot of people are opting to stick with what they know (at least until the price of tankless water heaters begins to come down), apparently affordability isn’t the only benefit of traditional tank water heaters. First of all, their overall efficiency has been on a steady increase and it’s not uncommon for newer versions to well outlive their 10- to 12-year warranties. But, probably the most important factor is their low level of maintenance when compared with tankless water heaters, which most experts strongly recommend should be professionally maintained once per year.

What the Owners Are Saying
It’s one thing to tally up the pros and cons of tankless versus traditional tank water heaters on paper, and another thing entirely to ask someone who’s been there, tried both, and can speak from experience. One of the most consistent complaints from consumers who have used tankless water heaters brings into question one of the technology’s most often touted benefits: the ability to provide an endless flow of hot water without having to wait for the water to heat up. Since tankless water heaters don’t store pre-heated water the way tank water heaters do, users typically have to run water until it’s been heated to the desired temperature.
Another major point of contention suggests that it’s impossible to run a trickle of hot water for shaving purposes because the water pressure has to reach a certain point in order to kick on the tankless water heater’s burners. Then again, if you’re the conservation-minded sort it’s more likely that you’d take the alternative approach of filling your sink with just enough hot water to do the job, eliminating the need to have a steady flow of hot water.

In the end, the decision is yours and yours alone to make. You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of each, and see which option will best suit your needs and help you achieve your overall aims. If the additional cost of upgrading to a tankless water heater in your home isn’t an option, you might find that opting for a high quality traditional water heater is your best bet. But, if you’re dedicated to saving as much energy as possible in your new home and it’s well within your means to opt for a tankless water heater, your decision should be an easy one.

What’s your opinion of tankless water heaters versus traditional tank water heaters? If you’ve had experience with both, feel free to share your thoughts – we’d love to hear them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Doing Dishes the Green Way

Did you know that you can save 400 gallons of water every month simply by not running your dishwasher until you’ve got a full load? This surprising bit of information is just one of many that highlights the impact that our efforts at incremental conservation can have on the world around us. But, that’s not the only positive effect that certain dishwashing practices can have. There’s more.

The Right Processes for Washing Dishes
As simple as technology has made it for us to wash dishes, you’d think there would be no wrong way to go about it. And, there really isn’t – not unless you’re interested in minimizing energy waste while saving water at the same time. Here are some tips on how to wash your dishes “the right way.”

Don’t pre-rinse your dishes. Although this practice flies in the face of what many of us perceive as common sense, the fact is that dishwashers nowadays are far different creatures than they used to be. For those of us who grew up during a time when a dishwasher was an in-house luxury, it’s an even stranger concept. But, dishwashers today are much more powerful than their ancestors, and newer models display a previously unseen aptitude at removing gross gunk and food particles. Of course, you don’t want to throw a half-eaten dish of rice into your dishwasher – that’s what garbage cans were made for – but it’s no longer necessary to scrub it clean beforehand. When you do, you waste water unnecessarily.

Use eco-friendly dishwashing detergent. Not only do dishwashers use up water and a good amount of electricity, but they can also deposit harmful chemicals into our rivers and waterways, making life miserable for innocent, unsuspecting fish. By opting for biodegradable detergents that don’t have any phosphates or other harmful chemicals, you can get dishes clean and feel good about not having to sacrifice the well-being of the environment to do so. Although some non-phosphate dishwashing detergents can leave spots on your dishes, you can add eco-safe detergent additives like Lemi Shine to balance it out.

Let your dishes air dry. An awful lot of energy is consumed when you wash a single load of dishes, and it behooves us all – both for the benefit of our monthly energy bills and the reduction of carbon emissions – to take measures to eliminate some of that needless waste. Many dishwashers have dry-cycle settings that you can change to specify “air dry” versus “heat dry.” Opting to let your dishes dry naturally uses a great deal less electricity and also prevents you from getting a face full of steam if you have to reach into the dishwasher for an extra plate or two once the wash cycle’s been completed.

Use fewer dishes. This isn’t to say you should save your plate from this morning’s breakfast to use again for dinner, but there are some dishes that you can use several times a day. Try limiting the number of glasses you use, for example. Most of us will pour a glass of water and put the used glass in the sink without thinking about it, then return an hour later for another glass of water and do the same thing. But, by using one less glass, you’ll cut back on the number of dishes that have to be washed and thus, on your water and electricity waste. This may not seem like much for the single person, but if you have a large family, it could be substantial.

Making the Right Selection
Picking the right dishwasher can also dramatically decrease the amount of water and energy waste in your home. If you’ve got an old dishwasher, consider replacing it with a new Energy Star-rated edition. These dishwashers are energy efficient and are much higher performing than older brands, and also eliminate unnecessary water waste by using a maximum of 5.8 gallons of water per cycle. If your model is dated pre-1994, you could be using as many as 15 gallons of water per washing cycle.
What methods of cutting back on water and energy waste do you use when washing your dishes? Have any neat tips and tricks? We’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Slab Leaks and How to Prevent Them

To those in the know, the words “slab leak” are the sobering equivalent of the words “boogey man” but they’re made all the more frightening by the fact that, unlike boogey men, slab leaks are very real and can cost you an arm and a leg to fix.

What Is a Slab Leak?
A slab leak occurs when pipes that are located underneath your home’s concrete foundation begin to leak. Diagnosis of a slab leak can be difficult, but dealing with the problem once it’s been identified is even harder and can be an incredibly costly endeavor.

Signs You May Have a Slab Leak
Some of the easiest ways to spot signs that you could have a slab leak in your home’s foundation include the following:
  • A suddenly skyrocketing water bill. If you haven’t recently changed your water waste habits or invited a family of compulsive bathers to take up residence in your home but your water bill shows evidence that something’s amiss, then this is a sign you need to heed;
  • Water pressure that can best be described as “low to none.” If you’ve already determined that your regulator valve isn’t the culprit (the first stop of anyone experiencing lower than acceptable water pressure) then the problem might be located further down below your foundation;
  • Signs of otherwise inexplicable water damage to your ground-level flooring that you can’t blame on anything else; and
  • Water coming up from below the foundation of your home.
Things You Can Do to Prevent Slab Leaks from Happening
Slab leaks don’t just “happen” – and although you can’t really do anything to prevent a slab leak that occurs as a result of Mother Nature’s wrath, like a powerful earthquake, there are other contributing factors that you can take proactive measures to avoid.
Maintain a water pressure that’s appropriate for your pipes. Everyone loves high water pressure. It can make showering a recuperative experience instead of a frustrating one, and can make dishwashing by hand an easy task rather than a painful chore. But, if your pipes are too narrow to handle such high pressure, this can eventually lead to pipe corrosion if the protective coating is worn away. If you don’t think that rushing water could possibly have this effect on a pipe, just take a look at the Grand Canyon.

Your water’s PH level could be too low or too high. In layman’s terms, this means that your water is either too soft or too hard. Both extremes can have a damaging, corrosive effect on the interior of your pipes – which will eventually lead to leaks. To determine the PH level of the water flowing through your home’s piping, contact a local plumber to come to your home and perform a diagnosis.

Use extreme care when pouring chemicals into your home’s drains. Pouring an entire bottle of liquid plumber gel down your shower might clear up a problematic, pain-in-the-rear-end clog like magic – but just remember, it can have a severely adverse effect on the health of your home’s plumbing. It’s also not ecologically sound. If you’re concerned about limiting damage to the environment and keeping the integrity of your pipes strong, look into alternative drain clearing products that won’t have as harmful an effect on either.

If you think you may have a slab leak, your first step should be to contact a professional plumber in your area to have them come take a look. Getting professional help early on is crucial to taking care of the problem before further damage can occur.

Have you had a slab leak occur under the foundation of home? What were some of the signs that led you to recognize the problem, and what steps did you take to address it? Share your experiences below.