Category Archives: plumbing

Top Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Plumbing

With budding plants and warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see the signs of spring here in North Carolina. This is a great time to take care of some annual home cleaning and maintenance tasks.

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, don’t forget about your plumbing! We’ve compiled a list of the most important tasks that can help you keep your home’s pipes and appliances in top shape for the year to come.

1. Inspect Pipes and Water Lines

Small cracks and leaks in your plumbing can quickly turn into serious issues if they’re not addressed immediately. Take some time this spring to check your home’s pipes for any cracks, leaks, or weak spots. The sooner you can find and fix them, the better.

It’s also important to check water supply lines. Along with the water main, most homes have other supply lines:

  • Faucets
  • Toilets
  • Washing machine
  • Refrigerator ice maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Water heater

Look for leaks, tears, bulges, or sharp curves in the water supply lines for fixtures and appliances. If you aren’t comfortable inspecting or making water line repairs yourself, a Johns Plumbing expert can help.

Finally, don’t forget about your home’s rain gutters and downspouts. These places tend to become clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris. Clearing them out will help prevent backups that can lead to leaks in your roof or water damage to your home’s foundation.

2. Check Your Appliances

It’s important to check your home’s large appliances at least once a year, and spring is a great time to look for problems and make proactive changes to improve performance:

  • Water heater: Verify the temperature (should be less than 120 degrees F), and drain several gallons from the tank to remove sediment and check for rust.
  • Washing machine: Clean the lint trap.
  • Refrigerator: Check for leaks in the automatic ice maker.
  • Sump pump: Test to make sure it’s working properly. You can do this by pouring some water into the container and making sure the pump turns on to remove the water and then turns off.
  • Dishwasher: Check for and remove built-up debris and food waste.
  • Garbage disposal: Test for proper operation, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A little bit of proactive maintenance can go a long way toward preventing expensive repairs or emergency replacements.

3. Look for Leaks

You’ve already checked for leaks in your home’s pipes and water supply lines, but don’t forget to check your faucets, toilets, and traps. Make sure there are no slow leaks or drips from any of the faucets in your sinks or tubs.

Look in your under-sink cabinets to check for drips from the traps. It’s also a good idea to clean out those traps to prevent clogged drains.

Finally, check your toilets for leaks. It’s easy to do this with some food coloring. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait about 20 minutes. If the dye colors the water in the toilet bowl, it means there’s a leak.

4. Clean Your Faucets and Shower Heads

Minerals can build up inside your faucets and shower heads, especially if you live in an area with hard water. You can use vinegar or a descaling product to remove the minerals. You might also want to check for mineral build-up in your coffeemaker.

5. Clear Slow Drains

Check on all the drains in your home, especially those that don’t get used often. Run some water to see how fast each sink’s main drain works, and don’t forget to check the overflow drain as well.

If you notice any slow drains, fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent a serious clog and backup. It’s also a good idea to pour a gallon of water into those infrequently used drains to prevent unpleasant odors.

6. Consider Upgrading to Energy-Efficient Appliances

It’s never fun to have to replace a big appliance because it breaks down. Proactively upgrading outdated equipment can prevent costly emergency replacement services. Plus, you get the chance to research available models to decide exactly what you want for your home.

If your water heater is over 15 years old, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it. Newer models are far more energy efficient. Replacing an old air conditioner with a newer model is another way to lower your utility bills.

Contact the Experts at Johns Plumbing

Taking some time every spring to inspect your plumbing makes it easy to find and repair minor issues before they become big problems. Spring is also a great time to consider upgrading an outdated water heater or air conditioning system to reduce energy consumption.

Whether you need an expert eye to check your drains or want to learn more about the latest energy-efficient appliances, Johns Plumbing can help. We’ll help you get your home’s water lines, drains, pipes, and appliances in top shape. You can also call us 24/7 for emergency service.

We serve clients in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and throughout the Triad area. You can use our convenient online form to schedule a service appointment. For after-hours emergency service, call us directly at 336-294-2301.

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)

Tankless

  • 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

Solar

  • 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

Source:

http://www.energy.gov/articles/new-infographic-and-projects-keep-your-energy-bills-out-hot-water

 

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.

Prevention

  • 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.

Cure

  • 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.