Category Archives: plumbing

How to Protect and Preserve Your Garbage Disposal

And Prevent Plugged Pipes in the Process!

Garbage disposals are rugged, durable, can-do appliances. Most of us take them for granted—expecting them to grind on forever without malfunction or interruption. But they require care and careful use if they are to remain in prime working order.

How to protect and preserve your garbage disposal.

What NOT to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Even the highest-quality garbage disposals are designed to handle a restricted range of food products. The list of items they should not be asked to grind up include the following:

  • Large animal bones
  • Grease or cooking oil
  • Fruit pits
  • High-fiber foods (lettuce, artichokes, onion skins, celery, etc.)
  • Potato or banana peels
  • Pasta, rice, beans and other foods that absorb water
  • Coffee grounds

These food items can clog drain pipes, jam or dull cutting blades, strain disposal motors, and create unpleasant but persistent odors. While you may not realize it, you’ll be shortening the lifespan of your disposal every time you ask it to process any of these substances.

Tips for Efficient Garbage Disposal Use

You should feed waste items into your disposal steadily and gradually with water running the whole time. A disposal can easily be overloaded and you should never stuff anything down into it before you turn on the machine.

A steady stream of cold water should always complement a garbage disposal in operation. Grind everything you put down the drain thoroughly and completely before turning your disposal off, and leave the cold water running for at least 15 seconds after the machine is finished with its work.

DIY Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Repairs

With a proactive approach to garbage disposal maintenance, you should be able to prevent clogged pipes, jammed blades, and the emanation of perpetually disgusting odors.

Here are six quick tips on how to keep your disposal clean and in tip-top condition:

  1. Never use hot water when grinding food items in your disposal. Hot water causes the grease in foods to dissolve, liquefy, stick to blades and coagulate inside pipes.
  2. Be sure to use your garbage disposal regularly, preferably on a daily basis. This will stave off rust and corrosion.
  3. Don’t use bleach or chemical drain cleaners in your sink and disposal under any circumstances. These harsh substances will damage cutting blades and slowly eat away at the inside of your pipes.
  4. Once or twice a month, throw a handful of ice cubes down the drain, turn on the cold water, and let your disposal loose. The sound of grinding ice cubes is not pleasant, but the shards of the frozen water will sharpen your disposal’s blades and chop right through any greasy accumulation.
  5. Grind up half of a citrus fruit (orange, lime, lemon) once a month to help remove bad odors and leave your sink and disposal smelling fresh and clean.
  6. Every two weeks, use a vinegar and baking soda paste (two parts vinegar to one part soda is a good mixture) to scour and clean your disposal. Pour the paste down the drain, and let it sit for 30-60 minutes before scrubbing vigorously with a long wire brush. When you wash the remaining paste down the drain, it will clean your pipes and the interior of your disposal as well.

How to Fix a Jammed or Non-functioning Disposal

If your garbage disposal refuses to start, nine times out of ten the problem can be fixed by hitting the reset button. This button will be either red or black and will be located somewhere on the outside of the unit.

Should your disposal somehow become jammed, before you do anything be sure to unplug the appliance so electricity is not an issue (forget to do this and you may be in for the shock of your life, figuratively and literally). On the disposal’s underside, you should find a small hole large enough for a ¼″ hex wrench. Insert one of these wrenches, and turn it forward and backward several times, and if the jam is not too serious, this should loosen it.

Next, use a pair of pliers to remove the object responsible for the jam—assuming you’re able to get it out. If this two-step approach doesn’t work and your disposal is still jammed, that would be the time to call a plumber.

Don’t Treat Your Garbage Disposal like Garbage

Good garbage disposal care is straightforward and simple. All you need is a little time and a conscious commitment to treat your disposal with respect. Do this and it should keep rolling along without breakdown for years to come.





Water Heaters: What You Need to Know

What you need to know about water heatersUh-oh: you went to take a shower, and the water was ice cold! It’s time for a new water heater, but what do you need to know before you replace you old unit?

Residential water heaters are rated by energy factors (EFs), which indicate the amount of hot water produced for each unit of fuel. A higher EF indicates a more efficient water heater, so the higher the EF, the lower the electricity bills. Water heaters are the second-largest users of electricity in most homes, averaging 18 percent of electricity costs. Read on to learn about how different types of water heaters stack up.

Storage (traditional tank, 30-120 gallons)

  • Pros: Lowest cost
  • Cons: Large footprint (compared to tankless), relatively inefficient (Average EF of .95)


  • Pros: No footprint, great for small spaces, provides continuous flow of hot water
  • Cons: Expensive, relatively inefficient (Average EF of .95), simultaneous use of hot water can tax system

Heat Pump

  • Pros: Extremely efficient (Average EF of 2.4 to 3.39), can save homeowners $300 per year, cool air exhaust is a good dehumidifier, so perfect for damp basements or attics
  • Cons: Large footprint, in heated living spaces, cold air exhaust requires more heating output


  • Pros: Extremely efficient (50 percent more efficient than gas or electric), in sunny areas can pay for itself in three to five years
  • Cons: Storage tank with energy source is required for cloudy days, large footprint, expensive initial outlay



DIY Alert: You Can Treat Your Frozen Pipes!

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: pipes that freeze and then break, flooding the house and causing thousands of dollars in damage. The Piedmont has already had its first overnight freeze of the season; can the first major cold snap be far behind?How to fix frozen pipes yourself.

Cold snaps—several days in a row of very cold weather—can cause the water in your pipes to freeze. However, there are several things homeowners can do to prevent freezing. Even if the pipes do freeze, it is possible to thaw them before they burst and flood. Read on to learn how you can prevent and treat frozen pipes.


  • Keep the air around pipes at least 58 degrees. A slightly higher heating bill is much cheaper than fixing a burst pipe. Investing in extra insulation as well as sealing any gaps in the windows, foundation, or crawlspace can also pay off.
  • Insulate pipes in the basement, crawlspace, and exterior walls with foam insulation.
  • In extremely cold areas, invest in thermostatically controlled heat tape that automatically comes on when the temperature drops below a certain point. (All heat tapes are not the same. You need to check the product guidelines carefully, use the right heat tape, and install it correctly.)
  • Disconnect all garden hoses and shut off the water to all exterior faucets. Cover exterior faucets with foam insulation.
  • During cold snaps, keep warm water slowly dripping from interior faucets. It keeps water from freezing and also reduces built-up pressure in the pipes.


  • First, cut off the water at the main valve.
  • Next, open the tap (or taps) that lead from the frozen pipes.
  • Heat the sections of pipes that are frozen using a hair dryer. Make sure that you’re not standing in water as you do this!
  • If you can’t reach the pipes with a hair dryer, try wrapping the pipes in towels that have been soaked in hot water.
  • NEVER pour boiling water directly on the pipes or try to warm the pipes with a blowtorch; this can cause an explosion!

When all else fails

Call Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning, the experts who can fix the pipes and make sure they never burst again.

Sump Pumps Help Keep Basements Dry

Sump pumps can help keep your basement dryThe sump pump: is it North Carolina’s favorite appliance? It’s almost certainly in the top five, especially after the rainy weather we’ve seen this fall. The Piedmont gets an average yearly rainfall of about 42-46 inches, and when the water saturates the ground, leaky basements abound.

If you’ve never heard of a sump pump, consider yourself lucky; it means you don’t have a problem with flooding! But for many people in the Triad, a sump pump is a necessity to avoid a basement full of water. A typical sump pump sits in a pit  where water collects. It has a water control switch that is activated when the water in the pit rises to a certain level. When the pump turns on, it sucks the water out of the pit and expels it out of the house.

Most primary sump pumps are electrical; they need a dedicated circuit and should not be plugged into an extension cord. If your basement floods frequently, or if you have a finished basement, you should also have a battery-operated backup. You can check to make sure your sump pump works by pouring a bucket of water into the pit. As the water rises, it makes the float rise, which should trigger the pump to start working. If it doesn’t, call in the experts at Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning to make sure your basement stays dry.

Leaky Basement Repairs

Why Hiring a Professional Local Contractor for Your Residential Plumbing Job Is the Best Option

Of all the things we take for granted, water is one of the most dangerous ones. You won’t realize it unless you face a leakage problem in the basement. What starts as a dysfunctional pipe or tap  will creep deep into the foundation resulting in damage beyond your DIY repairs.


If not repaired properly, the damage will continue to grow, and the issues will soon go out of hand. To save yourself all the trouble, basement waterproofing and foundation repair jobs must be left for plumbing professionals who are trained and well-equipped to deal with them.

If you are still stuck on the idea of doing it on your own, make sure you have assessed the risks and resultant problems. Since professional local contractors are used to cleaning up a mess made by DIY efforts, there are a few reasons most of them believe that hiring a professional for residential pluming jobs is the best option:

Assessment is Easy

Professional waterproofing contractors are well-equipped. They don’t just have the technology but also the experience that allows them to assess the damage and identify the problem in the least possible time.

There are a variety of options for waterproofing repairs. Unless you have experience, your do-it-yourself job may cost  big dollars. If you haven’t diagnosed the problem correctly, you may end up making the wrong choice, such as only using waterproof paint or patching a leak with a sealant. Both of these options will fail if you have heavy rains or freezing temperatures. A professional can offer a custom-tailored solution for your problems since all leaks are different and may have an inside or outside cause for a particular location.

You Can Miss the Mold

When it comes to basement leakage and foundation damage, the problem may be bigger than it seems. If doing it yourself, you might focus on one problem and miss other causes. Professionals, on the other hand, look for all causes such as mold, which commonly goes undetected until it becomes a huge issue. There are a variety of mold species that may cause damage to your piping systems.  An experienced professional can analyze the type of mold and pinpoint the most effective means of destroying it.

Save Time and Money

When you hire professionals for residential plumbing jobs, such as repairing your leaky basement and damaged foundation, they ensure that the solution is long lasting. They take less time to provide a service that offers great value in the long run. You won’t need another repair job for years to come.

It is of paramount importance to know what the warranty from the waterproofing company covers and the validity period (10 years, 25 years, etc.). Additionally, you should also know if the warranty is transferable if you decide to sell your house.

Safety Is Important

Steady water can be dangerous as it becomes a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Exposing yourself to those risks is not a good idea for you or your family. Professionals  are well aware of the best safety practices and standards. They will keep you informed and take the necessary measures to protect you and your family.

Professionals Take Responsibility

One of the best things about working with a reputed professional local contractor is that he will take complete responsibility, even after the job is done. His work is guaranteed, and you can rest assured that you will be satisfied when the job is completed.

You Pay Only Once for Waterproofing!

Often the job done by a do-it-yourselfer does not address the source of the problem or is not the right solution for the repair needed, so the job becomes even more costly when he has to pay a professional to clean up his failed work and do the repair correctly.

You may think using the services of a professional is a costly option, but for most plumbing jobs that require minor repairs, the total cost ranges from $200-$350. For jobs that require major repairs, the total cost ranges from $2,000-$15,000. However, an average homeowner spends a little over $7,000 on basement waterproofing.

Bottom Line – Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should!

Basement waterproofing and foundation repair are tricky residential plumbing jobs and should be left to professionals. However, finding a good local contractor is the key.  Look for references and recommendations from previous customers. (A reputable company will be happy for you to hear from satisfied customers.) Check the Better Business Bureau’s rating to see if there are any complaints and whether complaints have been resolved. Check resources such as Angie’s List.

You  also need to know if the company you have decided to hire is licensed, bonded, and insured, and whether it uses subcontractors to get jobs done or does all the work themselves.

Once you have collected the information you need, you can hire a company that meets your unique needs and preferences.