Frequently Asked Questions About HVAC, Plumbing, Electric Systems and Services
- What is the SEER Rating?
- Why is the SEER rating on the Energy Guide different than what my dealer quoted?
- Why should I have regular (or preventative) maintenance? And how often should I have it performed?
- What equipment requires regular (or preventative) maintenance?
- I need help troubleshooting a problem with my equipment.
- What are the advantages of a programmable thermostat?
- What type of filter should I use? And how often should I replace it?
- Why can’t I find the correct size furnace filter at my local home improvement store?
- Which American Standard equipment will best fit my home?
- What is the life expectancy of my unit?
- Where can I get parts for my American Standard equipment?
- What does my warranty cover?
- Do I Need a Surge Protection System?
- Why Does My Circuit Breaker Trip So Often?
- What Does it Mean When Some of The Electrical Outlets in My Home Stop Working?
- Is it Dangerous When the Electrical Breaker is Buzzing?
- What Causes the Lights in My Home to Flicker?
- What are the Advantages of LED and CFL Light Bulbs?
- If I Replace My Circuit Breaker With a Larger One, Will it Stop Tripping?
- What is the Safest Way to Run Electricity Outdoors?
- Can I Replace a Light Switch?
- How Long Does Electrical Wiring Last?
- I am Buying an Older Home. Does it Need Professional Rewiring?
- Is it Dangerous to Use a Bulb with Higher Wattage than a Light Fixture Suggests?
- What Should I Do When a Plug Falls Out of the Outlet?
- How Do I Know if My Kitchen and Bathroom Outlets Have Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)? What if They Don’t?
- When Do I Need to Call an Electrician?
- How Long Do Smoke Detectors Last? Do They Need Maintenance?
- When Should I Get an Electrical Inspection?
- I Feel A Shock Whenever I Plug Things In – What Does This Mean?
- Should I Repair or Replace My Broken Ceiling Fan?
- Why does my sink or bathtub drain so slowly?
- Why does my faucet drip non-stop even after I’ve turned it off?
- My toilet won’t stop running. What should I do?
- How can I safely unclog a drain or toilet at home?
- Why won’t my garbage disposal turn on?
- What does it mean when a foul smell is coming from my sink or garbage disposal?
- Can poor water pressure be fixed? How is it done?
- How often should my septic tank be pumped?
- How can I tell if my pipes are leaking?
- When should I opt for drain cleaning?
- What products are available to seal pipes?
- What type of piping is best for my home?
- How do I know what size water heater I should buy?
- Why doesn’t my water get hot enough?
- My water gets too hot. What should I do?
- Do I need water heater maintenance? How often should maintenance be performed?
- How can I get rid of roots in or around my drains and pipes?
- Why isn’t my toilet filling up completely?
What is the SEER Rating?
The SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is how the efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment is measured. The SEER is the amount of cooling your system will deliver per dollar spent on electricity, as compared to other systems. For example, a 3-ton unit may have a SEER efficiency rating of 13, 14, or 15. The higher the SEER the more efficient the system will be. The SEER rating of any given unit can range anywhere from 13 to 21.
Why is the SEER rating on the Energy Guide different than what my dealer quoted?
Each split system cooling unit has a nominal SEER rating. This rating can be increased with the upgrade of the same series indoor unit. The SEER rating of a system is based on the combination of equipment installed in the home. The outdoor equipment (heat pump or air conditioner), as well as the indoor equipment (evaporator coil and furnace, or air handler), play a vital role in the total rating.
Why should I have regular (or preventative) maintenance? And how often should I have it performed?
Your heating and cooling systems work incredibly hard to perform their functions for your home everyday. The constant stopping, starting and continual operation can wear down any machine if the proper care and maintenance is delayed. However, by performing regular maintenance, you can maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit and guard against many common equipment failures. Preventive maintenance inspections performed on a regular basis can uncover leaks, rust, rot, soot, frayed wires and corroded electrical contacts. You should have maintenance completed on your system regularly to ensure maximum efficiency and prevent possible problems that may occur in the near future.
What equipment requires regular (or preventative) maintenance?
Heat pumps and air conditioners require a professional tune-up twice a year; in the spring and fall. Inspections on boiler and furnace systems should include ductwork, pipes, dampers, valves, the chimney, registers, radiators, pumps, blowers, fuel lines, oil tank and every part of the actual furnace and boiler. Meanwhile, heat pump and air conditioning unit inspections should also include inspections of the fan, compressor, indoor coils, outdoor coils, and refrigerant lines.
I need help troubleshooting a problem with my equipment.
As your local American Standard dealer, we are your troubleshooting expert, and is glad to help you. In addition, American Standard also provides a network of troubleshooting technicians at American Standard Distribution centers across the country which we will utilize to address your concern. Should we encounter a situation that requires additional factory help, we will contact our factory supported Service Manager(s) for assistance.
What are the advantages of a programmable thermostat?
Since they are electronic, programmable thermostats are more accurate and efficient than thermostats that contain mercury. With programmable thermostats you can control the temperature in your home at different times of day without ever touching your thermostat. Because everything is automatic, you will never forget to change the setting on your own.
What type of filter should I use? And how often should I replace it?
Standard filters work to keep your system and its ductwork clean, but they don’t really improve indoor air quality. To do that you need a media air cleaner. The media filter rests between the main return duct and the blower cabinet and will improve dust and particle removal up to seven times that of a standard filter. However, upgrading to a pleated media filter will remove everything from dust to airborne viruses from the filtered air. Always choose a filter that matches your blower’s capacity. For optimal efficiency and filtration, we recommend that you replace your disposable filters at least once a month. If you have washable filters, they should be cleaned once a month.
Why can’t I find the correct size furnace filter at my local home improvement store?
Filters for your American Standard unit are made from higher-quality materials than those of the disposable filters found in retail stores. For that reason, replacement American Standard filters can only be purchased through an American Standard dealer. However, keep in mind that some American Standard filters are reusable, and can be washed by hand in cold water.
Which American Standard equipment will best fit my home?
There are many factors that affect the sizing and specifications of your system, including square footage, insulation, window surface and configuration, geographic location of your home, duct sizing and arrangement, and many others. We can perform an in-home load analysis to determine which equipment combinations will perfectly suit your home and your family’s needs. Depending upon the construction of your home, one (1) ton of air conditioning can cool anywhere from 300 to 800 square feet of home. The only way to ensure the size of the system you purchase will be large enough to heat or cool your home, but not any larger than you need, is to have your home’s individual heating and cooling needs evaluated by a licensed professional.
What is the life expectancy of my unit?
Dependable American Standard products are among the longest lasting heating and cooling products available. For your specific equipment, there are many variables that affect life expectancy, including, of course, the regularity of routine maintenance.
Where can I get parts for my American Standard equipment?
As an American Standard dealer, we are the best resource for identifying and supplying the correct, current parts for your system, as well as pricing and availability.
What does my warranty cover?
Under the standard factory warranty, American Standard covers parts that fail during the warranty period due to defect in the part. The warranty does not cover labor. A warranty certificate was included with your homeowner information packet, and is specific to the model numbers, serial numbers and installation dates of your products. All American Standard equipment that we install is registered with American Standard Corporation to ensure your 10 year parts warranty. If you cannot find your warranty certificate, we will also be able to provide you with that information.
Do I Need a Surge Protection System?
In short, yes, you need surge protection. Given the amount of sensitive electronics in the modern home, surge protectors are more important now than they ever have been.
A surge protector protects against voltage spikes that are too high for your home’s electric or electronic devices to handle on their own. Lightning is the classic cause of power surges, but malfunctions in the public power system can be just as dangerous. Even momentary exposure to voltage that’s too high for your electronics can destroy them instantly, so it’s very important to keep a surge protector between your devices and the wall outlet.
Be sure to distinguish between power strips that just provide extra outlets and true surge protectors. You don’t need to go overboard and get maximum protection; 1500 joules is enough to protect against anything short of a direct lightning strike.
Why Does My Circuit Breaker Trip So Often?
Circuit breakers can trip for many reasons, but they’re all indicative of problems with your home’s electrical system. Don’t just ignore the issue! First, try tightening up any loose electrical connections, which are a very common cause of tripping.
Sometimes, circuit breakers trip because the system is overloaded. Try unplugging any high-load appliances and see if that fixes the problem. You may need to unplug some appliances before using others to keep your system from being overloaded.
When your circuit breaker trips, try to reset it once by turning it off and on again. If it trips again immediately, don’t try to reset it again, as this probably indicates a direct short.
If your breaker feels hot to the touch, it may be improperly installed or defective. Once you’ve unplugged high-load appliances to confirm that your system isn’t just overloaded, call an electrician to diagnose and repair the problem.
What Does it Mean When Some of The Electrical Outlets in My Home Stop Working?
When a single circuit breaker trips, some of the outlets in your home may stop working. Try resetting the breaker to see if the problem is resolved; if the breaker trips again, it may be overloaded.
If you’ve lost an outlet in your kitchen or bathroom, the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) may be to blame. Modern building codes require outlets located near sinks to be GFCI, which means they’ll shut down by themselves when a short is detected. Resetting all GFCI outlets in the room usually fixes the problem.
Outlets can literally burn out; if you see any blackening around the plug, discontinue use immediately. Finally, some outlets may shut down for no apparent reason, especially in older homes. You’ll need an electrician to come in to repair the problem.
Is it Dangerous When the Electrical Breaker is Buzzing?
Loud humming or buzzing is a serious red flag that indicates a significant issue with your electrical system. Often, buzzing means that the breaker is carrying a large load but is unable to trip and shut itself off. To prevent overheating, the breaker should be replaced right away.
If sparking or fizzling accompanies the buzzing sound, there may be a connection problem. If the breaker buzzes and immediately shuts off, there’s likely an issue with the electrical circuit rather than the breaker. Depending on the extent of the damage, a repair may be as simple as fixing the circuit or as involved as replacing the entire breaker. Either way, the problem should be fixed immediately to prevent further damage.
What Causes the Lights in My Home to Flicker?
Sometimes, a large appliance such as an air conditioner or heat pump can cause the lights in your home to flicker when it powers on. If you notice flickering when your air conditioner starts up, have a technician look at the unit and confirm that the electrical connections are not loose or defective.
If the flickering is confined to one room or one general area of the house, you may have bad light bulbs, a bad connection between the bulbs and fixture sockets or a loose wire in the circuit for that part of the house. Loose wires can be tricky to diagnose because of the number of connections in the entire house, so you’ll likely need a professional circuit diagnosis to identify the issue.
Flickering throughout the house may indicate a problem with your main electrical service, such as a loose service conductor in the main electrical panel. Loose conductors will only get worse with time, so you’ll need to have an electrician address the issue right away.
What are the Advantages of LED and CFL Light Bulbs?
As compared to ordinary incandescent bulbs, CFL and LED lights last much longer and use much less energy. To get the equivalent of a 60 watt-incandescent bulb, you’ll only need a 15-watt CFL bulb or an 8-watt LED. Using high-efficiency bulbs throughout the house can cut your electric bills by hundreds yearly, and the bulbs themselves won’t need to be replaced as often.
Both CFL and LED light bulbs produce much less heat than ordinary incandescent bulbs, and their high energy efficiency reduces carbon dioxide emissions. LED bulbs are also very durable; they can handle bumping and jarring without breaking and aren’t affected by frequently being switched on and off. However, the high up-front cost of LED bulbs makes CFL a significantly cheaper option with current technology.
If I Replace My Circuit Breaker With a Larger One, Will it Stop Tripping?
Because your circuit breaker is sized for the wiring in the electrical circuit, replacing it with a larger breaker can actually be a fire hazard. For instance, if you have a 15A breaker, the wire is most likely 14-gauge. Replace the 15A with a 20A, and the 14-gauge wire will have to carry more current than it’s rated to pass. Over time, this can cause overheating and destroy the insulation.
If your circuit breaker is defective, replacing it with a new breaker of the same size is likely enough to fix the problem. Don’t try to install a larger breaker without calling an electrician to confirm that your electrical system can handle it.
What is the Safest Way to Run Electricity Outdoors?
There are two safe ways to bring power outdoors for outbuildings or garden appliances. The first is to run cable overhead or underground. If the overhead span to be crossed is less than 10 feet, you can use ordinary PVC-sheathed cable; otherwise, you need a tension support wire and cable buckets. If you choose to go underground instead, you can use PVC conduit or an underground cable.
The second option is to install a dedicated outdoor socket outlet, eliminating the need for trailing extension cords. To protect anyone working outdoors, either use an outlet with its own GFCI protection or connect it to an existing GFCI outlet inside the house. Regardless of the method you choose, you’ll need to contact your local building codes department to make sure your outdoor setup is compliant and get it inspected and certified.
Can I Replace a Light Switch?
Replacing a light switch isn’t terribly difficult, but as with all things electrical, safety comes first. First, go to your electrical panel and confirm that the circuit you’re going to be working on is switched off. If there’s anyone else in the house, put a sign on the panel to make sure no one accidentally switches it back on while you’re doing work.
With the power off, remove the wall panel and use a volt meter to confirm that this particular circuit has been shut off. Loosen the screws on either side and remove the wires, then loosen the screw on the bottom and remove the ground wire. For safety reasons, the ground wire should always be the last off and the first on. With the wires disconnected, discard the old light switch.
Installing the new light switch is as simple as reversing the removal process. Connect the ground wire first, then the wires on either side. Re-secure the mounting screws, replace the wall plate and go back to the electrical panel to turn the power back on.
How Long Does Electrical Wiring Last?
If it’s not corroded, overloaded or physically or mechanically damaged, copper wiring lasts indefinitely. Conversely, wiring that is overloaded and abused will wear out quite quickly. In short, the age of your home’s wiring has relatively little to do with how long it will last.
However, the insulation and switches are not quite so durable. Anything with moving parts can wear out, so old buttons and switches should be replaced if they show signs of trouble. Likewise, insulation can deteriorate over time; if it’s no longer intact enough to work, it should be replaced right away.
I am Buying an Older Home. Does it Need Professional Rewiring?
At least as far as wiring is concerned, you may be better off buying a historic home than opting for one built around 1970. Some homes constructed in between 1965 and 1973 have aluminum interior wire, which should be upgraded or replaced as soon as possible. Aluminum tends to vibrate excessively during use, loosening connections, and is much more prone to deterioration than copper.
Very old homes may have wire with cloth insulation, which is much more prone to deterioration than modern materials. The copper wiring itself, however, can last indefinitely as long as it was up to code when the house was constructed. You may need professional work on portions of the house to get GFCI protection and add safety grounds to older two-pronged outlets, but there is probably no need to re-wire the entire house.
Is it Dangerous to Use a Bulb with Higher Wattage than a Light Fixture Suggests?
The industry jargon for this is “overlamping,” and yes, it is very dangerous. Every light fixture has a wattage rating recommended by the manufacturer; if you go over that rating, the offending bulb will produce intense heat. Over time, overlamping can melt the light socket and the insulation on the fixture’s wiring; even if you later remove the bulb, there may be lasting damage to the fixture.
Overlamping doesn’t just cause issues for the light fixture itself. Any time you have wiring or insulation damage, your home is at risk for arc faults, electrical currents that leave their intended path. Arc faults are one of the leading causes of home fires.
Fortunately, most light fixtures are labeled with their recommended wattage ratings, so it’s easy to avoid overlamping. If you have an older fixture that doesn’t have a wattage recommendation, play it safe and use a 60-watt bulb.
What Should I Do When a Plug Falls Out of the Outlet?
Above all, don’t just plug the appliance back in and continue on as if nothing happened! In most cases, the plug is to blame rather than the outlet, so try plugging other cords into the same outlet and see if those plugs stick. If everything you try falls out, though, you likely have an issue with the outlet itself.
This is a fairly common wiring problem that’s usually caused by worn contacts in the outlet. If the contacts can no longer grip the plug properly, they’re loose enough to cause arc failures, which can start fires by igniting wood and dust.
Fortunately, replacing the old receptacle is a very inexpensive and easy task. If you’re comfortable doing the job yourself, the parts will probably run you about $2. Otherwise, an electrician will charge between $8 and $10 per outlet for parts and labor.
How Do I Know if My Kitchen and Bathroom Outlets Have Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)? What if They Don’t?
A GFCI is a device intended to prevent electrocutions by cutting off power automatically when a short is detected. Current building codes require any outlets used in damp environments, including bathroom, kitchen, basement and outdoor outlets, to have GFCI protection.
The main GFCI outlet in a particular area will have a test and reset button. In many cases, other outlets are installed “downstream” of the GFCI outlet to enjoy its protection as well. To check, just hit the test button and see whether the regular outlets in the room also lost power. If so, they are also GFCI protected.
If any of the damp areas of your home don’t have GFCI protection, they need to be fixed as soon as possible. Some appliances, such as hair dryers, have their own built-in GFCI protection, but it’s still best to have it on the outlets to protect every appliance you may use in the area. Call an electrician to get the job done.
When Do I Need to Call an Electrician?
Of course, you can call an electrician to help you deal with any electrical issue in your house. There are some procedures and problems, however, that absolutely require an electrician’s attention, including:
- Re-wiring your home to replace damaged or faulty wire.
- Dealing with fluctuations in the power supply, such as lights flickering on and off throughout the house.
- Frequent tripping of circuit breakers or GFCI receptacles that can’t be resolved by just unplugging appliances.
- Faulty outlets that aren’t simply switched off.
- Sparks, flames, buzzing sounds or burning smells that can’t be linked to an obvious source.
Finally, if you’re ever unsure what to do about an electrical problem, call an electrician!
How Long Do Smoke Detectors Last? Do They Need Maintenance?
Like any other electronic device, smoke detectors have a limited useful lifespan, but there’s no easy way to know exactly how long that lifespan is. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends replacing smoke detectors every 10 years, as do some manufacturers. Even if an older smoke detector appears to be functioning, it likely isn’t working as well as a newer system. If your alarm has turned yellow in color, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
Smoke detectors should have their batteries replaced every year to keep operating efficiently. In addition, it’s a good idea to vacuum around the edges of the detector to remove any dust particles or insects, which could cause the alarm to sound.
When Should I Get an Electrical Inspection?
The most important time to get an electrical inspection is before buying a new home, especially an older home. A professional inspector can find issues such as aluminum wiring, worn insulation, poor grounding, physical defects and more. Before you invest in a home, you should confirm that you have enough electrical service to take care of your needs and support any future additions.
You will also need to get an electrical inspection done before putting a new addition on your home. Finally, after doing significant electrical work such as running outdoor wires, you may need to have the work inspected to ensure that it is up to code. Get in touch with your local building codes department to find out what is required.
I Feel A Shock Whenever I Plug Things In – What Does This Mean?
Often, a shock when plugging things in is a result of poor plug safety. If you’re wearing metal jewelry on your fingers while plugging things in, or if your hand is wet, power may jump from the outlet to your body. Likewise, touching a plug that’s not all the way in the socket can lead to a sudden and forceful shock.
If you are consistently shocked even when plugging things in safely, though, there may be an issue with the outlet itself. The same shock that’s hurting you could easily ignite dry wood or dust and start a fire in your home. Call an electrician to check out the offending outlet, determine the source of the shock and fix the problem right away.
Should I Repair or Replace My Broken Ceiling Fan?
As with any other broken appliance, there is no one right course of action when your ceiling fan is broken. Take into account the cost of the repair, the age of your unit and the availability of more efficient upgrades.
If you don’t have an Energy Star rated ceiling fan, now may be the time to switch to a more efficient model and save money every month on your electric bills. A good ceiling fan is designed to work in concert with your air conditioner or heat pump by circulating air throughout the house, reducing energy consumption and extending the life of the unit. Some models even have reverse features to maximize efficiency during the heating season.
On the other hand, if you have a relatively new and efficient fan, there’s no need to replace it to forego a minor repair. If the fan is wobbling or needs a new chain, you can likely fix the issue at very little cost and continue to reap the benefits of a cool breeze in your home.
Why does my sink or bathtub drain so slowly?
Slow drains in sinks or bathtubs can point to a variety of plumbing issues. If only one drain in your home is slow, it is likely that the drain has a clog that is preventing the clear flow of water. Clogged kitchen sinks may be caused either by grease or by particles of food that weren’t ground up by a garbage disposal. Avoid using drain-cleaning liquids in your sinks and bathtub as they can be highly corrosive and may damage your pipes.
If you’ve noticed slow drains throughout your entire house, your plumbing system may be suffering from a blocked vent. These vents are designed to equalize the pressure in your pipes, so the disruption of airflow can also cause changes in drain speed. A plumber can help you find the block or clear clogs so that your sinks and bathtubs drain efficiently.
Why does my faucet drip non-stop even after I’ve turned it off?
Leaky faucets that drip constantly are not only annoying, but can lead to a huge waste of water over time. If your faucet drips non-stop even when you’ve turned it off, it’s likely that some part of the faucet mechanism is broken or faulty. After you’ve identified the issue, replace the faulty part to avoid more costly repairs in the future. If you’re unable to find the faulty part, ask a plumber to help.
Problems with the O ring, a screw designed to hold the faucet handle in place, are a leading culprit when it comes to leaky faucets. It’s also common for a worn-out washer or a washer that hasn’t been installed correctly to cause continuous dripping. Washers can be replaced easily by most homeowners. If all seals and washers are in good condition, you may have a problem with the valve seat, which connects the faucet with the pressure mechanism’s spout. Get professional help to clean or replace a valve seat.
My toilet won’t stop running. What should I do?
A running toilet can be a serious nuisance, especially if it flushes fine but just doesn’t know when to stop filling with water. Before you get started, take the lid off your toilet tank and flush the toilet several times. Pay attention to how all of the components in the tank work together. You should be able to pinpoint the issue with simple observation.
The most common culprit is a faulty flapper. This is a flap of plastic that looks like a drain cover. The flapper is attached to a chain that lifts it up when the toilet is flushed. This changes pressure inside the toilet, allowing dirty water to escape. After dirty water has been cleared from the toilet, the bowl and tank begin to fill. The tank is fitted with a special float that is designed to stop the tank from filling once it has reached a certain level.
If your toilet won’t stop running, check to see if the flapper is closing all the way. If it isn’t, figure out what the problem is and fix it. You might need to replace the chain or buy a new flapper. If the chain is getting caught under the flapper, shorten it so that this can’t happen again. If this doesn’t fix the problem, make sure that the valve is open all the way and adjust the float arm. If you discover that your toilet has faulty valves, rely on a professional to take care of repairs.
How can I safely unclog a drain or toilet at home?
When it comes to tackling clogged drains and toilets at home, many individuals head for the cleaning products aisle and purchase drain cleaners. However, these products are extremely caustic and can cause damage to your plumbing system. Avoid using them, especially if you rent a home or apartment. Most leases expressly forbid tenants from using drain cleaners.
Instead, attempt to clear the clog first by using a plunger. You can use a plunger in your bathroom or kitchen sinks in much the same way as you use it in your toilet. If a plunger doesn’t work, try removing the stopper on your sink’s drain to see if something near the surface is clogging the pipe.
Many homeowners have success clearing small clogs by pouring boiling hot water down the drain or by pouring equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar down the drain. If none of these basic remedies work, you may need to talk to a professional plumber about having your drains snaked. Snaking can break up tough clogs, but you should also take care to cover drains and avoid dumping grease down them so that clogs don’t build up again in a few weeks.
Why won’t my garbage disposal turn on?
You rely on your garbage disposal to eliminate small scraps of food and keep your drain clean. It can be extremely inconvenient if you go to use the disposal and it simply doesn’t turn on or makes a soft, whirring noise when turned on. If the disposal won’t turn on, check to be sure that it is firmly plugged into the power outlet beneath your sink. Plug a small appliance, such as a lamp or hand mixer, into the outlet to be sure that the problem isn’t with the power source.
If your disposal has power, be sure that it’s switch is in the off position and run the water for at least one minute. Then, take a pair of tongs and stick them down the drain, running them around the disposal. Check to be sure that no objects are stuck. Remove the tongs, turn on the water and try running the disposal again. If it still won’t work, it’s time to call a plumber.
What does it mean when a foul smell is coming from my sink or garbage disposal?
Foul smells emanating from your sink or garbage disposal generally indicate that a piece of food or other organic matter is caught in the pipes. As the food decomposes, it releases a foul odor that is drawn up into your kitchen through the drain. Foul smells can also be caused by a bacterial imbalance in your pipes. Pour a solution of equal parts baking soda and vinegar down the drain. Wait five minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. If this doesn’t eliminate the stench, call a plumber.
Can poor water pressure be fixed? How is it done?
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to wash your hair or do household chores with insufficient water pressure. While some water pressure problems may be caused by issues on the municipal end of your water delivery system, other pressure issues can be addressed at home. Ask a professional plumber to help you identify what’s causing poor water pressure so that it can be addressed. Common causes include:
- Debris or dirt in the water.
- Mineral deposits in your plumbing line or faucets.
- Faulty pressure regulators and water valves.
- Low municipal water pressure.
- Leaky or faulty pipes.
Cleaning your faucets and showerheads can help restore good water pressure. If basic cleaning doesn’t help, have a plumber inspect your home’s plumbing system. Your plumber will be able to fix any faulty valves or leaky pipes. Your plumber can also talk to you about using a pressure boost system or having larger pipes installed in your home.
How often should my septic tank be pumped?
Keeping up on regular septic tank maintenance ensures that your tank will work for the long haul. Pumping your septic tank on a regular basis also ensures that sludge levels don’t become too high, causing waste matter to be pumped out before it has settled. While the maintenance demands of septic tanks vary, most tanks are designed to be pumped out every three to five years. Check your owner’s manual and talk with your plumber to set the right maintenance schedule for your septic tank.
How can I tell if my pipes are leaking?
If you’ve recently had plumbing problems or live in a house that is more than 30 years old, you may be concerned that your pipes are leaking. Before you start budgeting for replacement of leaky or broken pipes, you should take some time to evaluate whether your pipes are leaking or if your plumbing problems are caused by something else. Do the following to check for leaks:
- Put a drop or two of food coloring in your toilet’s tank. If the coloring moves to the toilet bowl, there is a leak between the flapper in the tank and the toilet bowl.
- Locate your water meter. Turn off the water shutoff valve closest to your house. If the meter is still turning, there is a leak between your meter and your home.
- Find your home’s hose bib, which is the pipe to which hoses are hooked. Listen carefully for the sound of running water.
- Check outdoor hoses and sprinkler systems to see if the ground around them is soaked with water.
When should I opt for drain cleaning?
Most homeowners will struggling with a slow-moving or clogged drain at some point in time. If you’re frustrated by drain problems, you might wonder if you should opt for comprehensive drain cleaning. It’s a good idea to choose drain cleaning if you’ve had small but persistent plumbing problems that either cause inconvenience or drive up your water bills. You should also opt for drain cleaning if you plan to replace old fixtures and faucets so that your new devices don’t become clogged with dirt and grime as soon as they are installed.
What products are available to seal pipes?
If you’re plagued by a leaking pipe and want to try a do-it-yourself fix, you might be considering pipe sealants. Before you use any of these products, familiarize yourself with what each does and how it can be used in your home:
- Pipe clamps: These clamps can be fitted directly over your pipe and screwed down. They feature a rubber gasket to create a water-tight seal.
- Pipe thread sealant: These sealants are applied directly to the pipe, creating a lock-tight seal when the pipes are then joined together.
- Sealing wrap: Sealing wrap, which looks like pipe or plumbing tape, is applied to the male end of a threaded pipe to create extra traction between male and female pipe ends.
What type of piping is best for my home?
When it comes to choosing new pipes for a home, most owners have two primary options: PEX or copper. While these pipe types are suitable for most situations, other types of material can also be used to replace or retrofit plumbing systems. Before you make a final choice, talk with a licensed plumber and familiarize yourself with these four options:
- Copper: Copper pipes have long been used in plumbing thanks to their durability and recyclability. Copper is a great choice if you need long-lasting piping and can afford to pay premium prices for this popular material.
- PEX: PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipe is highly flexible and can be snaked through walls with ease. Though PEX pipes have only been in use for 30 years, they’ve shown good durability.
- CPVC: CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipes are ideal for homeowners who want to take care of installation themselves. These pipes are relatively flexible and are installed with a simple joint system.
- Polypropylene (PP): PP pipe, which is used throughout Europe, is similar to PVC pipe but is joined together with heat instead of chemicals. It is considered the top choice when water safety is a concern.
How do I know what size water heater I should buy?
Choosing a water heater of the correct size will help you cut down on electricity bills while enjoying an ample supply of heated water for your home. How you size a water heater will depend on the type of heater that you buy.
If you plan on buying a demand or tankless water heater, you’ll first need to determine the flow rate and temperature rise required to provide sufficient water to your home. You can calculate the flow rate by making a list of all appliances in your home that use hot water and noting how many gallons of water each appliance uses per minute. Add all of these flow rates up to determine the minimum flow rate needed for your home.
Then, subtract the temperature of the incoming water from the desired water temperature. If you don’t know the input temperature, assume it is 50 degrees. Subtract 50 degrees from the maximum temperature to which you need water heated. This is the temperature rise needed for your home. Look for a water heater that meets both your flow rate and temperature rise needs. A professional plumber can easily make these measurements for you when you decide it is time to purchase or replace a water heater.
If you want to buy a solar water heater or a traditional, tank-based model, ask a plumber or HVAC contractor to help you with sizing calculations. Your contractor will be able to manipulate calculations to meet your efficiency needs.
Why doesn’t my water get hot enough?
If your water heater isn’t producing water warm enough for your hygiene or household needs, check the thermostat. Consult your owner’s manual if you’re unsure of where the thermostat is located or how to change temperature settings. Try turning the thermostat up slightly to see if that corrects the problem. If your water still isn’t hot enough, call a plumber. You may need to have your water heater cleaned or it may be time to replace its heating coil.
My water gets too hot. What should I do?
A hot water heater that consistently produces water that is too hot can pose a serious safety risk, especially if you live in a household with small children. If your water is too hot, check the water heater’s thermostat first and see if it needs to be turned down. If the thermostat is at an acceptable level and the emergency shut off switch hasn’t been tripped, it’s time to call a plumber. It’s likely that your water heater’s thermostat is faulty.
Do I need water heater maintenance? How often should maintenance be performed?
Regular maintenance helps protect your water heater from breakdowns and prevents the buildup of mineral deposits that can shorten the device’s lifespan or interfere with the production of hot water. If you use a hot water heater with a tank, you should flush out and refill the tank every four months to remove sediments. Remember to turn off the unit’s power and water before flushing the tank. You should also opt for professional maintenance and service for your water heater at least once a year. Opt for maintenance twice a year if you live in an area with very hard water.
How can I get rid of roots in or around my drains and pipes?
Tree roots can invade your plumbing system and cause major problems. If you find roots in or around your drains and pipes, it is essential that they be removed as quickly as possible. While you may be able to combat roots with chemicals that cause them to die over time, it’s better to ask a professional plumber to complete pipelining. This modification will eliminate roots from pipes and prevent them from causing problems again.
Why isn’t my toilet filling up completely?
If your toilet won’t fill completely, check the float in the toilet tank. If the float arm has become bent, the ball may be stopping water from entering the tank prematurely. Adjust the float and make sure that the water valve for the toilet is completely open. If this doesn’t fix the problem, call a plumber to help.