Here’s a selection of our most valuable plumbing tips for homeowners — and answers to some of our customers’ most frequently asked questions. For more information and guidance, call us at 263-1011.
How do I find the water shut-off valve for the house?
There are several locations possible for the water shut-off valve, that shuts off the water supply to your house. It depends mainly on what kind of foundation you have.
If your house is simply mounted on a concrete slab, with no space under it, the main shut-off valve is usually:
in a closet nearest to the water meter, OR next to the water heater location.
If your house has a crawl space under it, the main shut-off valve is usually:
in the bedroom closet nearest to the water meter, OR just inside the crawl space opening, OR in the garage.
If your house has a basement under it, the main shut-off valve is usually:
at the foundation wall nearest to the water meter.
If the location for your type of foundation isn’t the answer, try some of the other answers above. If you still can’t find it…:
Search the basement & garage.
Check the laundry/utility room.
Check around the water heater.
Search every closet and crawl space in the house.
Check around your porch & foundation.
Keep in mind that the shutoff valve may be covered by a panel, hatch or housing.
Additional shut-off valves for sections of your plumbing, or specific appliances, may be found around them. This typically includes the plumbing around the water heater, behind washing machines and dishwashers, under sinks and toilets, behind a panel in the wall on the opposite side of the wall from your tub or other bathroom fixtures (or in the basement directly under them), and near other major plumbing appliances.
Remember that many appliances have TWO separate shut-off valves– one for hot water and one for cold water.
Don’t wait for an emergency! When everything is OK, take a few minutes to find out where your shut-off valve is. In an emergency, knowing where it is can often enable you to prevent extensive damage to your home and belongings. Also locate the other shut-off valves, for future reference.
For further assistance, give us a call at 263-1011.
We’re limited to using one plumbing fixture at a time because the pressure is too low. How do we fix this?
This problem is typically an issue with the water service, or with the pipes in the house. It’s too often assumed that the water pressure is inadequate. Actually, the pressure may be OK, with simply a limit on the volume of water able to pass through the system.
Many homes built before 1975 have galvanized water service lines, and many homes built before 1965 have galvanized piping throughout the house. Galvanized pipe rusts over time. Eventually the pipe fills with rust, choking the flow of water.
Many homes see a major benefit by replacing the water service line, thus allowing them to run multiple fixtures — simultaneously — without the water volume dropping. If you would like to have this done – give us a call. We’ll be happy check your home and give you a free quote.
My water bill this month is high, and my usage hasn’t changed — and I don’t have any leaks that I’m aware of. Is the local water department overcharging me?
Typically, this tends to be a leak in the water service line. Homes built before 1975 commonly use galvanized pipe for their service line, which can be vulnerable to breaks. Most of the time, it’s more cost-effective to just install a new water service line, than to hunt for the leak in the old one. If it’s a copper or plastic continuous line, it might be worth the cost to search for the leak — but generally we recommend replacement. We have some simple tests to figure out if there’s a leak in the water service line.
Sometimes, though, the water department may bill you based on a usage average. After they’ve read your meter, the bill reflects the difference between your actual usage and the amount they already billed you.
If you’re unsure, and want help, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you figure it out.
When we use the plumbing in our house, the downstairs bathroom or bathtub fills with water. What’s going on?
Sometimes, a toilet or bathtub fills with water on a lower level – unknown to you. People typically discover this by a smell, or notice something that isn’t draining well. This is a common issue in older homes, especially. It’s generally caused by something clogging the sewer.
We can clear it out with some of the tools in our array of drain-cleaning equipment. However, it’s seldom a permanent fix.
After the immediate issue is addressed, we can run a camera in the lines to discover the precise problem(s), make recommendations, and provide an estimate on a more permanent fix. Most common causes we find are root intrusion and pipe separation in sewer lines.
I’ve heard bad things about polybutylene (“P.B.”) pipe. How can I tell whether I have it in my home?
Polybutylene pipe (also known as “P.B.” or “Poly”) is common in homes built between the early 1980’s and the mid/late 1990’s. Primarily, it was used just for water service lines (the water supply lines entering houses from public water mains). In some cases, though, it was also used for the piping inside homes.
A few years ago, there was a federal class-action lawsuit against plastic fittings used in P.B. piping systems. Because of the lawsuit, P.B. piping is no longer installed in residential or commercial properties.
Flexible Pex plastic piping (white, red or blue) has generally replaced P.B. piping, and has been determined to be safe and reliable.
If you have P.B. piping– whether throughout your home, or only in your water service line –and the fittings are gray plastic, you have reason to be concerned. If the fittings are copper or brass, you may be safe.
To determine if you have P.B. pipe inside your house, the easiest place to look is on the top of your water heater, where the water pipes connect. If you see plastic pipe that looks gray or light blue, then it’s probably P.B. — and it was probably used throughout your house.
If you’re not sure about the P.B. piping situation in your home, and want a professional opinion, give us a call!
In the spring, when I connect my garden hose to my outside faucet and turn it on, the faucet leaks water inside the exterior wall. I thought the outside faucet was supposed to be “freeze-proof.” I normally disconnect the hoses in the winter, so why is my faucet freezing?
This is a very common problem for many homeowners. Bowers Plumbing Company replaces 10 to 12 outside faucets each year because the outside faucet froze, splitting the faucet piping/housing (between the cold water connection and the faucet handle on the exterior wall).
Most homeowners’ outside faucets are “frost proof” by manufacturer design. When the handle is turned off, the flow of water is actually being stopped approximately 10”-12” inside the exterior wall.
Most homeowners disconnect their garden hoses when winter comes and store them until next spring. With the hose disconnected, air can enter the faucet, allowing the residue of water in the faucet piping/housing to then drain out the end of the faucet — creating a 10″ to 12″ barrier between the outside cold and the water inside the pipes, protecting the faucet from freezing.
However, if the hose is left connected to the faucet, the water becomes “vacuum-locked” in the hose and will not drain out of the faucet piping/housing — making it susceptible to freezing, and bursting.
Unexpectedly for most people, most outside faucets freeze in October/November, rather than December/January. The reason is that the outdoor temperature — even though it is still above freezing during the day – is dipping below freezing at night, (when most outside faucets freeze). By the time the homeowner remembers to remove their hose, the faucet has already frozen.
Because of this problem, manufacturers have now designed an outside faucet that is truly “freeze-proof”. This new “freeze-proof” faucet has a built in “vacuum breaker”, near the handle, that allows the outside faucet to drain even if the hose is left connected.
Give us a call if you are interested in the new truly “freeze proof” faucet.
Usually my kitchen drain line works fine without any problems, but occasionally when we have family or guests over for holiday meals my kitchen drain will back and my garbage disposal won’t drain. Why does this happen?
1.) Usually when the homeowner hosts a holiday meal or big dinner, (depending on the season), mashed potatoes or watermelon is being served.
2.)When large quantities potato peels or water melon rinds are disposed of through the garbage disposal the following may occur.
a.) While the kitchen faucet is on during the disposal process, the garbage literally “floats” on a stream of water while passing through the 2″ kitchen drain to the 4″ main house drain.
b.) As soon as the kitchen faucet is turned off, the flowing stream of water passing through the 2″ kitchen drain line stops. Any garbage that was “held in suspension” — floating in the stream of water — immediately settles to the bottom of the 2″ drain line.
c.) As the homeowner continues to intermittently use the garbage disposal, more and more ground-up garbage settles into the 2″ kitchen drain line — which eventually causes a complete stoppage.
SOLUTION (preventive measures):
1.) Never dispose of potato peels or rinds of any kind into the garbage disposal. Always dispose with household trash, in a trash container.
2.) When disposing garbage through the garbage disposal, let the kitchen faucet continue to run 10 to 15 seconds after the sink basin and disposer are empty. This will allow the stream of water to continue to flow, holding the garbage in “suspension” until it reaches the 4″ main house drain — where bathroom discharge will flush garbage into the sewer main.
When showering, if a toilet is flushed, I’m either scalded or frozen! What can you do for this?
A classic complaint. To overcome this, the government required installation of “pressure-balanced valves” back in the early 90’s. Homes built before then, however, often do not have them. The simplest fix for most homes is replacing the shower valve, or installing a “tempura valve.” Depending on the house layout, we normally recommend replacing shower valves to fix this problem. Typically, we can do this without any tile work. Give us a call, and we’ll gladly discuss the possible solutions with you.
I love my older toilet, which uses more water than the newer ones, because you don’t have to flush them twice (as I’ve heard about the new, low-consumption toilets). Are there any good new toilets available that flush really well?
Most of the brands have improved greatly from the early days of the low-flow toilets (using only 1.6 gallons per flush). Most major brands that we carry have solved this early problem, with new designs. At the top of the list is Toto, the world’s largest manufacturer of plumbing fixtures. Toto’s global reputation is excellent, and their designs lead the industry. We stock some of their most popular products, and can order many other Toto products (and other leading brands, too) at your request.
What is a normal lifespan for a water heater?
Water heaters that failed, which we have replaced, have come in a wide variety of ages. Typically, though, the top “professional” brands of gas and electric water heaters seem to last about 8 to 12 years, while the “consumer grade” units typically fail a bit sooner.
Electric water heaters tend to last slightly longer than gas water heaters. Gas-powered “tankless” water heaters, though, are typically promoted as lasting 20-25 years.
A major difference between “professional grade” and “consumer grade” water heaters is in their warranty. Professional brands generally have a full warranty for the scheduled life of the unit, but consumer brands are typically “pro-rated”, covering only a part of the value of the unit (an amount that declines as the unit ages).
For more information on water heaters, their longevity, and their warranties, give us a call. If you would like to have this done – give us a call. We’ll be happy check your home and give you a free quote.
My water heater is old, and I’ve seen various interesting rebates and ads for water heaters — both tankless and tank water heaters. What’s the best choice for conserving energy?
Other than your furnace, water heating is often the single largest cause for your home’s gas or electric bill. Improvements here often pay for themselves quickly, and reap huge rewards for your small investment.
When it comes choosing from the various options for water heating, each person’s situation is unique. We are able to install a wide range of top-brand electric water heaters, Rinnai tankless gas water heaters, and instant hot-water heaters. What works best for you is determined by reviewing your household and its water use.
How many people live in your house?
Do they all need to shower about the same time?
Do you have more than one bath?
Do you have several appliances that use hot water simultaneously?
How long are the lines from water heater to outlet?
Do you frequently need short, quick supplies of hot water at a sink?
Is your home all-electric?
There are other questions, too, to consider. Each can have a significant effect on your water heater cost, efficiency, and usefulness. Since every situation is different, it’s impossible to say which option is best without a review of your personal situation.
The good news is that there ARE many great options, today, for significantly reducing water-heating costs.
We’re available to discuss the options with you – just give us a call at 263-1011.
I hate wasting water when I have to run my shower or sink for a while before the “hot” water comes out truly hot. Is there an easy fix for this?
Every day, people waste massive volumes of water running their shower or faucets waiting for the water to get hot. The most popular solution is the Grundfos Comfort System. The system can sometimes save a single household as much as 16,000 gallons of water per year! It uses a small pump and special fittings, which we install in certain places in your home, to get hot water quickly to your fixtures.
I have a need to use hot water outside. How can that be done safely?
There are several great options available today to supply both hot and cold running water outdoors. Moen, for instance, offers a single-handle hose bibb, which uses both hot and cold water. If you are interested, call us and we’ll help you find a system that meets your needs.
In the winter, when it is extremely cold, my lines freeze up only at my kitchen sink, and sometimes at my vanity sink in the bathroom. We have insulated our water lines in the crawl space, and closed all the foundation vents — but the kitchen and vanity supply lines occasionally still freeze. Help! What can I do?
Cause: Your freezing problem may be a result of the following factors:
1.)Usually the kitchen and vanity sink cabinets are against the exterior walls of the kitchen and bathroom. In the winter, those walls can conduct cold into the house, especially around the pipes.
2.)Because the kitchen sink and bathroom vanity cabinet doors are kept closed, the ambient warm temperature of the house cannot offset the cold that is penetrating through the exterior wall …into the “unheated” cabinet space under the sink. The unheated cabinet space can literally dip below 32 degrees, causing the supply lines to freeze.
Solution:During extremely cold days, open the cabinet doors, and allow the heat in the room to counteract the cold that is penetrating through the exterior wall.
If your home has a history of water lines freezing it would be wise to install heat tape and insulate the water lines with pipe insulation. (For help with insulation or heat tape, call Bowers Plumbing, at 263-1011).
Another option (if you don’t mind wasting some water) is to allow faucets to drip continuously.
NOTE: A steady drip is just as effective as a running stream of water (because running water will not freeze), and that saves on your water bill.