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The Practical Guide to Indoor Water Conservation

California legislators have recently been in the news for passing a law that would make wasting water a $500-a-day offense. But California isn’t the only place in the country that water conservation is an issue. Water restrictions can be found across the majority of the Southwest and even as far east as Georgia! With that in mind, we created the Practical Guide to Conserving Water Indoors. While everything on this list won’t have the same impact, every little bit counts, – even reusing your ice cubes to water your houseplants! We’ve decided to divide our guide into easy, bite-sized sections that cover that major areas of the home. We’ll start in the number one area for water use in the house, the bathroom.

Bathroom

  • Check your current showerhead for flow rate. If the rate indicated on the head is more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), purchase a WaterSense labeled showerhead t replace it. If you are not sure how much water your shower uses, try to fill a one gallon bucket in the shower. If it takes less than 20 seconds, you will save water by changing it out.
  • Buy a shower timer or use an alarm to limit your showers to 5 minutes or less.  Every minute you shorten your shower will save you over 50 gallons of water per month. A family of 4 could save upwards of 200 gallons per month just by shaving one minute off daily showers.
  • Speaking of shaving, and other things you do at the bathroom sink like brushing your teeth, turn off the faucet while you aren’t using it. You could save 5 to 10 gallons every time you shave or brush even if you have a low flow faucet!
  • Yeah, Low flow faucets are a thing. A normal faucet can use up to 4 gallons of water per minute. Replacing it with a WaterSense labeled one can save up to 2.5 gallons a minute. Don’t want to shell out $100 on a new faucet, buy an aerator for each one at $10 each.
  • Speaking of shelling out cash, one place where you’d be well served by doing so is with your toilet. If your toilet was manufactured before 1992, you’re wasting water with every flush. Even those toilets aren’t the best. They use about 3.5 gallons of water per flush. New, low flow toilets only use 1.6 gallons. Dual flush models allow you to use a 1.1 gallon flush for liquid waste.
  • Toilets use the most water in the bathroom, and if yours leaks that can make it even worse. Check for a flapper leak with a dye test (food coloring is a good choice). Replacing the flapper on a leaky toilet could save 1000s of gallons every year.
  • Plug the drain when you start filling up your bathtub. Adjust the temperature while the tub fills to prevent losing water down the drain waiting for it to warm. Even better, don’t take a bath. Every bath uses 70+ gallons of water where a 5 minute show could use as little as 12.5 gallons.
  • Have your leaky faucets fixed. A single drip every minute adds up to 5 gallons every day. If you have multiple leaks across multiple faucets or showerheads, this could add up quickly.
  • If you’re waiting for the water to warm up in the shower, collect the cool water in a bucket and use it to water your plants. If you don’t have indoor plants, use the water on your outdoor plants.

 

Kitchen

  • If you are doing dishes by hand, fill up one basin with soapy water and the other for rinsing. This can save 100s of gallons over running water. Even better, use a dishwasher. Dishwashers use far less water than washing and rinsing by hand.
  • Instead of rinsing dishes over the garbage disposal and running water down, scrape them over the trash can. This goes for pots and pans as well.
  • Fill a pan with water to rinse your fruits and vegetables instead of using running water. You can save 10 or more gallons this way. Bonus water savings – use the water from the vegetable rinse to water your house plants.
  • Consider purchasing an instahot water heater in your kitchen. It will heat the water on demand and reduce the wasted water you use while waiting for hot water from the water heater to reach your tap.
  • Consider a drinking water pitcher for your refrigerator. This way you’ll always have a glass of cold water handy and you won’t have to run the tap to get it.

 

General Indoor Usage

  • Keep a close eye on your water bill. An unexpected increase could indicate a hidden leak somewhere in your home. Have your home inspected by a licensed plumber if you see this type of increase with no changes in your daily habits.
  • Look for leaks around the house at least once a month. Leaks can be found at indoor or outdoor faucets, pipe connections and along hose lines. Don’t forget to check behind the washing machine!
  • Only run your dishwasher or washing machine when they are full. If you are in the habit of running them daily, you could save over 1,000 gallons of water a month.
  • If you have a fish tank, when you clean it out, pour the water on your plants. The water contains nitrates that are perfect for the plant growth.
  • Set your water softener so that it runs the minimum number of times necessary for the water you use throughout the day. Most 4 person households can go two days between softener cycles.
  • Washing your dog? Do it outside in an area of the lawn needs watering. That way you aren’t wasting water down the drain.

 

Obviously there are some little things that you can do every day that will help you reduce the amount of water you are using or wasting. The real key is being conscious of what you are using your water for.

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How Sewer And Drain Lines Work

Many people have no more idea of how sewer and drain lines work than they do about space shuttle mechanics. But unlike space shuttle mechanics, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Here is a quick explanation of what you see in your house every day, but probably didn’t understand.

I need air!

Ever notice a 2” pipe sticking out of the roof of a house? Maybe several? You might even know them as  “ventilation pipes” without realizing they are there, not to ventilate the house, but to allow air to flow freely behind the water as it drains. If not for the ventilation pipes, the water would drain slowly, if at all, because it would not be able to push the water out of the trap, the U-shaped bend in the drain that keeps sewer gases out of the house.

Why so many sizes?

In construction, a plumber service chooses piping sizes based on what and how much fluid and solids will be going down the drain. Bathroom sinks are the smallest, since they transport very small amounts of water and even less solids. Kitchen sinks, shower drains, and washing machine drains are larger because of both the volume of water they must drain and the amount of dirt or food they must transport. Toilet drains are the largest. They typically flow straight to the main house drain, in order to avoid as many clogging problems as possible. That is why in a multi-story building, the bathrooms are often in the same place on each floor.

Preventing Clogs

Just before the main sewer pipe leaves the house, there is typically a Y-shaped clean out, or inspection valve. It is this valve that allows plumbers to check whether a clog is within the household plumbing, or outside of the house, where special techniques will be required. As routine maintenance, you should have a plumber out to do a video sewer-line inspection in order to assess and perhaps prevent problems in your sewer system before it backs up into your house.

If you have questions about your sewer drains, don’t hesitate to call your San Diego plumber, My Plumber Heating & Cooling– Same Day Service Guaranteed*! 1-877-697-5862

 

Is It Time For A Water Heater Service Or Replacement?

A hot water heater is a simple machine, one with few moving parts. As such, there is little to go wrong with it, but when it does, it’s impossible to ignore.

In general, hot water heaters should be serviced by a qualified plumbing service at least every three years, whether or not you are having problems or not. The reason for this is because there is an anode, or sacrificial rod inside the tank, which is meant to attract all the minerals which would otherwise cause corrosion to the tank itself. Depending on the mineral content of your water, the sacrificial rod will wear out over time, and it must be replaced before the tank itself starts to sustain damage.

There are tell-tale signs that your hot water heater needs attention, though. Is there condensation around the tank? Does the water appear rusty? There may be a leak in the tank or a faulty pressure relief valve.

Is there crackling in the tank? Do the pipes bang? This may be caused by a buildup of sediment at the bottom of the tank. If it smells like rotten eggs, you might have the additional problem of excessive bacteria buildup in the tank.

Conventional hot water tanks have a life expectancy of about a decade (on municipal water). If your tank is getting up there in years, be aware that nearly any mechanical issue will likely suggest replacement — new tanks are up to 20% more energy efficient and can save you a lot of money.

If it’s been more than a year since your hot water heater has been serviced, or you’re experiencing any of the problems above, call My Plumber San Diego at 1-855-410-2390 to get things fixed up right.

Sump Pump Maintenance Tips

A household sump pump is one of those appliances we keep around “just in case”. That’s good– it means we’re thinking ahead to possible problems. But in the hustle and bustle of day to day life it’s important to maintain these ‘just in case’ items so they’ll work when we really do need them.

In the case of sump pumps, depending on your location, they may pump periodically without you being aware, such as early spring when the ground is thawing. Because of this, you should not assume that nothing has changed since the last set of heavy rainstorms caused you to check your sump to make sure it was working properly. You should check it every season, just in case.

Sump Pump Maintenance Tips

Here are some things to check:

  • Check that the power cord is securely plugged in and that the GCFI switch is operational
  • If you have a back-up battery, check that it is connected, fully charged and operational.
  • Check the inlet screen for debris or gravel
  • Pour a pail of water in the sump hole to trigger the float switch and test the battery backup.

Make sure you know whether your unit requires regular greasing or other servicing. If you don’t have the manual, look up the make and model online and check.

Maintaining your sump pump takes only a few minutes a year, and is cheap insurance. If you aren’t very handy, or don’t want to be messing around in your basement, feel free to give your favorite plumbing service a call, and we’ll be right out to maintain your sump pump. Far better to be safe than sorry.

For any issue involving sump pumps or plumbing in San Diego, call My Plumber at (619) 447-5556

The Facts About Tankless Hot Water Heaters

Rising energy costs have us all thinking about ways we can reduce our usage and consumption– without reducing our quality of life.

In the average home, around 30% of the energy expenses can be accounted for by heating water. One way of reducing that cost is by installing a tankless water heater, which heats water on demand rather than constantly heating and storing it in a tank, thus conserving energy when not in use.

Tankless heaters use high-powered burners to heat water quickly as it passes through a heat exchanger, and they can average around 20% more energy-efficient than gas powered storage tank models, thus saving you money on your utility bill as well as reducing your impact on the environment.

Anywhere from 20-40% of the energy used by a storage tank model is wasted through thermal heat loss. In a tankless model, with no water being stored, this problem is almost completely eliminated. And a tankless model can run all day long while producing hot water; whereas a storage tank can be depleted by a long shower, a dishwasher, and a washing machine cycle, thus requiring a wait period as it builds water reserves back up.

Traditional heaters are generally set at extremely high temperatures (130°F or more) in order to reduce the wait time for hot water. Tankless heaters allow you to set the ongoing temperature closer to the level you will actually use it at, thus reducing the risk of accidental scalding and greatly reducing energy costs (a 10° reduction in temperature can result in about 4% savings in energy costs).

Tankless models typically handle hard water minerals and sediments better (helping your sewer and drain system too). By not storing water, they are not as prone to leaking or rupturing due to hard water scale accumulation, and this helps account for their longer warranties and life spans as compared to traditional storage tanks (20+ years for tankless models; 6-12 years for most storage tank models). And don’t forget the ancillary cost-savings– Tankless models require less plumber service over their lifetime.

And tankless models are much smaller, with electric models comparable in size to a briefcase. Storage tanks take up a lot of room and are costly to recycle.

It’s not usually cost-effective to replace a perfectly good traditional heater with a tankless model, but if your water heater is on its last legs, you might want to consider the upgrade to a tankless heater. Contact My Plumber today at 619-447-5556 to learn what options are best for you!

Time for the Air Conditioner?

With such a warm winter, we can only expect a hot spring and summer. Today, with the temperature approaching 80 degrees, we’ve had many calls from people eager to turn on their air conditioners for the first time in many months. But, before you do, we recommend that you check a couple of things first:

  • Remove the cover. Cut back any old bushes near the unit and clean off any accumulated leaves.
  • Replace your air filters. A dirty filter means that dirt is sifting through the system and into your home, causing your system to run inefficiently.
  • Check your thermostat before using the system. You can do this by setting the system to auto-cool and lowering the thermostat setting to one degree lower than the actual temperature in the room. If the system turns on, the thermostat is working properly. Let it run for a few hours to make sure it remains consistent.
  • Check for Water Leaks .Your condensate overflow drain should work properly. Be sure to check for any potential leaks during the first 48 hours of operation. Small leaks now mean expensive problems later.

If you notice any problems, give My Plumber Heating & Air a call TODAY!  We can perform a Spring Tune-Up inspection to ensure that your air conditioner is ready for when you need it.

September is National Baby Safety Month

September is National Baby Safety month and the team at My Plumber Heating and Cooling would like to remind parents of some basic safety rules that can protect babies and toddlers from plumbing-related accidents in the home.

  • The law requires manufacturers of home water heaters to set the thermostat at 120°F. The reason for this requirement is because babies, the elderly and some people with disabilities burn easily or react slowly. Water temperatures above 120°F can scald in a matter of seconds. Homeowners can save on their energy bills and reduce the risk of scalding accidents by setting the thermostat on their water heater to 120°F.
  • Don’t leave standing water in a bathtub or a bucket; a toddler or baby can drown in as little as an inch of water. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death among 1-4 year olds, and the fifth leading cause of accidental death in infants under one year of age.
  • Keep toilet lids closed and consider using clamps to keep top-heavy toddlers from leaning over an open bowl and falling in.
  • Never leave a baby or a small child alone in the bathtub, even in a safety seat. Safety seats are not foolproof and it can take less than ninety seconds for a child to drown.
  • Face babies and toddlers away from the faucet during baths so they cannot grab a hot water spout or turn on the hot water. Consider installing a shower safety tap. This is a clear box that attaches around the shower tap to prevent children from turning on the water and burning themselves.

Accidents involving babies or toddlers are heartbreaking – even more so when they could have been prevented. We hope that by writing about the safety rules listed above, accidents will be avoided, and readers will be galvanized to put into practice the safety measures necessary to protect small children in their homes.

Bath Time Safety Continued

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Many people have mobility issues that make personal care difficult.Nerve degeneration, paralysis or problems born of the aging process each holds its own set of concerns that need to be addressed individually.The array of equipment available to assist with these issues is amazing; it requires research to find it all.Some implements are pretty standard for bathing and we will concentrate our attention on them.
One of the simplest methods you can use to make bath time easier for someone with mobility problems is to install a hand-held showerhead. Standing or seated, alone or bathing with the aid of an assistant people find that nothing directs the flow of water where it is needed most, better than a hand-held showerhead.
Grab bars are a major aid to anyone with mobility issues.The act of pulling their own bodyweight to a standing position or supporting their weight on the bar while they exit the tub encourages muscle strength.Make sure that the bars installed are institutional grade; stainless steel and they are mounted according to the manufactures instructions. Don't make the mistake of installing a towel bar with the expectation that it is going to support the weight of an elder family member or someone who is mobility challenged.It won't and the results could be painful and costly.
How the bars are installed and where will depend on the needs of the person, the plumbing layout and the bathtub or shower design.Please avoid the temptation to install a bar diagonally; a vertical or horizontal installation is always best. If the hand slips and footing is not secure a fall could ensue.
Bath tub seating can be as simple as a stool with suction cups on the feet setting inside the tub or a "bench" that sits half out of the tub and half in.The bather sits on the outside and slides across the bench to access the inside of the tub.There are also walk-in tubs with a door that seals shut for water retention.A favorite aid is the reclining lift-chair that eases the bather down into the water for a nice long soak.
For someone who has become mobility challenged many things that were routine become onerous and what used to be an everyday task becomes frustrating at best and sometimes completely overwhelming.The installation of well thought-out bath time aids will go a long way to make life a little easier for that person.