Don’t Let a Plumbing Emergency Press Your Panic Button

Reacting calmly when a plumbing emergency occurs can help you avoid the mess and expense of extensive water damage to your home. Don’t panic, call a licensed plumber and then follow these steps.

plumbing emergencyShut Off the Main Water Valve

Make sure you’re prepared for possible plumbing emergencies by memorizing the location of your home’s main water valve in advance. When water starts spurting from a burst pipe or overflowing from a fixture, you’ll need to get to it quickly to prevent serious damage. Once it’s turned off, check whether a fixture or appliance is the source of the leak and shut off its supply valve too.

Open the Outdoor Water Spigot

After you’ve closed the main water valve, go outside and open the spigot on your hose bib. Leave it open until the plumber arrives so any water still in the lines can drain outdoors instead of flooding the interior of your home.

Turn Off the Gas to the Water Heater

If the water heater stays running after the main water valve is shut, water pressure and temperature in the tank can rise to hazardous levels. To avert a possible explosion and the risk of accidental scalding, shut off the gas supply to the appliance and leave it off until the plumber turns on the water supply again.

Address Water Pipe Leaks

If you’ve identified the pipe that’s leaking, try sealing the leak temporarily with plumber’s tape or epoxy. If that’s not possible, try to control further flooding by putting a trash can or bucket under the leak, wrapping the pipe with rags or towels, and mopping up any water that overflows.

Deal with Clogs

If just one plumbing fixture is blocked, immediately shut off its supply valve, clean up any water on the floor, and use a plunger to try and clear the clog. When water is backing up in multiple fixtures, it’s most likely caused by a sewer line blockage that needs to be investigated and addressed by a professional plumber.

Learn more about Aqua Plumbing & Air’s other plumbing emergency solutions, or call us at 941-306-3715 for immediate help!

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Alert: Water Heater Standards to Change With New Efficiency Regulations

A water heater manufactured after April 16, 2015, is going to be significantly different than one manufactured previously, as new, more efficient water heater standards are going into effect.

The Department of Energy (DOE) released these guidelines in January 2015. The standards raise the energy factor (EF) rating for water heaters manufactured after April 15, 2015. This is going to change the way storage water heaters are manufactured and installed; tankless water heaters have already met the new standards.

What Is the Energy Factor Rating?

water heater standardsEvery water heater manufactured for use in the United States must provide the energy factor rating. This is a measurement of how much hot water is produced per unit of fuel in a typical day. The higher the rating, the more efficient the water heater is going to be.

The energy factor considers a number factors, including:

  • How efficiently the heat from the energy source transfers into heating the water.
  • How much heat is lost every hour for storage water heaters
  • How much heat is lost as the water circulates through the water heater and inlet/outlet pipes.

Changes Made in the Energy Factor Ratings

With the new water heater standards, the changes are as follows:

  • Gas-fired water heaters, with 20- to 55-gallon storage capacity, need to have an EF of 0.675 or better. That’s slightly higher than the 0.67 old standard.
  • Gas-fired water heaters, with 55.1- to 100-gallon storage capacity, need to have an EF of 0.8012 or better, or more than 0.13 higher than the earlier 0.67 standard.
  • Oil-fired water heaters, with less than 50 gallons of storage capacity, need to have an EF of 0.68 or better. That’s 0.09 higher than the previous 0.59 standard.
  • Electric water heaters, with 20- to 55-gallon storage capacity, need to have an EF of 0.960 or better, which is slightly less than the previous 0.97 standard.
  • Electric water heaters, with 55.1- to 120-gallon storage capacity, need to have an EF of 2.047 or better. That’s more than double what the previous standard was at 0.97.

These new standards are designed to save American consumers over $63 billion in energy costs between 2015 and 2044. It will avoid dumping 172.5 million tons of carbon dioxide in the air, which equates to the output of almost 34 million cars.

What Does This Mean for a Homeowner?

The new water heater standards are a significant boost in energy efficiency. However, to meet these new standards, water heater manufacturers are having to make major changes to their equipment designs. These changes will impact homeowners in a few ways:

  • Water heater prices are likely to go up due to higher manufacturing costs. The costs could rise over 30 percent.
  • The new water heater units are going to be larger due to increased insulation around the tanks. Some tanks could grow 2 inches taller and 2 inches wider. This could make replacement difficult for water heaters in small spaces.
  • Installation is going to be more complex because of the insulation and venting requirements for the new water heaters. This could drive installation costs up.
  • Many water tanks are going to shrink due to the added insulation requirements. So, a 50-gallon tank may shrink to 46 gallons.
  • Some manufacturers aren’t going to produce tanks over 55 gallons in capacity, due to the higher EF ratings required for larger tanks.

What Should You Do?

If you have a relatively new water heater, most experts are saying you don’t need to deal with these changes until your current water heater stops functioning.

However, if your current water heater is 10 years or older, or having problems, consider calling a plumber and replacing it as soon as possible before the new standards go into effect. This will give you more options without the worries of higher installation and purchase costs.

Another option available is going with a tankless water heater. They take up very little space, save on energy costs, and provide a steady flow of hot water whenever you need it.

If you think the new water heater standards will affect you, you need to take action now. Check out Aqua Plumbing & Air’s water heater solutions or call 941-306-3711 today.

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Don’t Sweat Air Conditioner Problems — Try These 5 Troubleshooting Tips

Not sweating air conditioner problems may be easier said than done in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas. However, many air conditioner quirks can be fixed quickly enough, and others may need the expertise of your HVAC pro. Try these common air conditioner troubleshooting tips to see if you can get your system cooling without a service call.

air conditioner problemsThermostat Trouble

  • Settings and power – Check the thermostat again and make sure it’s in “cool” mode. Check the circuit panel for a tripped breaker.
  • Heat anticipator – If you have a manual thermostat, remove the cover to check the thermostat heat anticipator. This device prevents quick-cycling when room temperature hovers at set point. Move the pointed metal switch a notch or two until cooling cycles begin closer to the set point.

Poor Cooling

  • Coils – The air conditioner or heat pump has an indoor evaporator coil and outdoor condenser coil. These coils place refrigerant under alternating pressures to instigate heat extraction from your home and release the heat outdoors. Check the evaporator to see if it’s dirty. Even a thin layer of dirt inhibits heat extraction. Use the garden hose to thoroughly spray the outdoor cabinet. Do this every month or two during the cooling months.
  • Filter and registers – Clogged air filters increase energy bills, hamper blower operation and contribute to poor cooling. Make sure you check the air filter each month during the summer. Wipe all supply registers clean and make sure they’re open and air pressure is normal.
  • Air conditioner and duct sizing – HVAC equipment must be sized correctly for optimal cooling and heating. If you noticed air pressure differences from the registers, there could be an obstruction in the ducts or leaky ducts. If your air conditioner is sized wrong, a variable-speed blower can help mitigate the problem, rather than replacing the system. However, if your air conditioner is older than 10 years, you would really benefit with a new higher-efficiency model.

If you run into air conditioner problems this summer, don’t sweat it. Learn more about Aqua Plumbing & Air’s air conditioner solutions, or call us at 941-306-3715 to schedule a service visit for your Sarasota and Bradenton area home.

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5 Tips to Keep Your Pipes Safe for the Rare Occasions of Cold Winter Weather

During mild Florida winters, temperatures rarely get anywhere near freezing, but when they do, it can spell trouble for your pipes. Remember these tips when you need to keep pipes safe in the event of abnormally cold winter weather.

1. Disconnect outside water sources – Remove water hoses and outside equipment that’s connected to your home’s water lines. Shut off any valves that lead to outdoor water sources. Fixtures that lead outside are the most susceptible to freezing.

2. Winterize your sprinkler system – If you rely on a sprinkler system to keep your lawn hydrated in the warmer months, make sure that it’s properly winterized. All the water should be drained from it, and it should be disconnected from the water source so it won’t sustain damage in the cold.

3. Have a plan – Familiarize yourself with your home’s plumbing system now so you’ll know where you stand in case of an emergency. If you notice pipes beginning to freeze or leak, you’ll know how to turn off the water at its source to stop a disaster in its tracks.

4. Adjust your thermostat – It’s wise to keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees when you’re away from home. This will keep the pipes in your home at a safe temperature so they won’t freeze while you aren’t around. If you must be gone for an extended period of time, ask a friend or neighbor to periodically check in on your house to make sure things are safe and sound.

5. Insulate your pipes – Perhaps the most foolproof way to protects your pipes from the cold is to insulate them. Pipe insulation is affordable and relatively easy to install, and it should be applied to pipes that may be exposed to cold air such as those in the basement and attic.

To speak with an expert about how to keep pipes safe during the winter, please contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air. With nearly 40 years in the business, our dedicated team has solutions to all of your home plumbing and HVAC needs.

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Go With a Sarasota Area Plumber Who is Licensed, Bonded and Insured

When selecting a plumbing contractor, it’s important to find one that’s licensed, bonded and insured. It can be the difference between a good experience and a never-ending nightmare. Investing a bit of time up front will save you a lot of potential hassle later.

Licensing

Florida requires any plumbing contractor working in the state to have a current license. To receive a license in the state, the contractor must meet minimum requirements as set forth by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. This includes having the appropriate background, insurance and bonding.

Licensing protects homeowners by requiring contractors to meet certain standards. If the project needs a permit, only licensed contractors can get one. Plus, if a problem arises, the homeowner has fewer options for recouping losses.

Bonding

Florida requires contractors to carry a surety bond. This bond ensures that the homeowner is protected if the plumbing contractor does not complete the job properly or fails to pay for permits, materials, subcontractors and other financial items related to the job. It also protects the homeowner’s property from any damage due to the contractor’s negligence.

If something happens, the homeowner can contact the surety bond company and give proof of the problem. At that point, the bond company will cover the costs.

Insurance

Florida requires plumbing contractors to carry liability and worker’s comp insurance. The liability insurance covers property damage and injuries that happen while the contractor is on the job. (Bonds cover the costs of bad work, not normal damage and injuries.) The worker’s compensation insurance covers the costs of any injuries that happen to the contractor’s workers on the job site.

If a contractor does not have insurance, the homeowner or the homeowner’s insurance policy can be liable for paying for any damages or accidents that happen due to the job being done.

Take the time to find a licensed, bonded and insured plumbing contractor. Please contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air for your plumbing and HVAC needs. We have served the Sarasota area since 1974.

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Pinhole Leaks in Copper Piping Necessitate Repiping — 4 Common Causes

There are a number of vulnerabilities in copper piping that Sarasota area homeowners should be aware of. Repiping is recommended when copper pipes erode from within, forming pinhole leaks or small piping holes that send a continuous spray of water gushing out. Pipe leaks are common near the in-house water main where water pressure is highest, and can be caused by a combination of factors including:

  1. Age of pipes.
  2. City water pressure.
  3. Mineral content of water.
  4. Pipe configuration and installation (initial plan, layout and design including: elbows, corners and pipe bends.)

Where And How Pinhole Leaks Occur

  • Copper piping degrades faster when exposed to minerals and high pressure: Much like your hot water heater and plumbing fixtures, copper piping is affected by mineral deposits. Using water softener to condition the water supply doesn’t eliminate all the minerals.
  • Pinhole water leaks are common in and around pipe fittings: Pinhole leaks are quite common in vulnerable areas such as at or near pipe connections, joints, right-angle pipe fittings or pipe couplings. Whenever water passes the pipe joint, it creates strong turbulence. As the water swirls and revolves when moving through the pipes, it results in erosion.
  • Erosion in fittings due to installation errors: Pipe is pinched by the pipe cutter, creating a raised “lip” inside, which exaggerates water turbulence and force on vulnerable pipe joints. Poor installation practices like not reaming out the copper pipe after cutting contributes to pipe problems.

The Cure for Pinhole Leaks in Copper Plumbing Pipes

If you’ve had to repair pinhole leaks more than once, you may have a systemic problem – a disaster waiting to happen. Consider full repiping in order to prevent:

  • Catastrophic pipe failure.
  • Flooding in the home and elsewhere on the property.
  • Mold growth.
  • Property damage to carpeting, furnishings and stored items in the home.
  • Structural damage to the house due to wood rot and insect infestations in moist wood.
  • Homeowner’s insurance issues.
  • A huge water bill – occurring before leaks are discovered and water supply turned off.

Contact the residential repiping experts at Aqua Plumbing & Air for the highest quality HVAC and plumbing services.

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Is a Tankless Water Heater the Right Option for Your Home?

Are you considering replacing your traditional hot water heater with a tankless water heater? Tankless units are getting a lot of press these days, which has homeowners here in the Sarasota and Bradenton areas wondering if they should switch. Tankless water heaters, also known as on demand units or instantaneous water heaters, can be big energy and money savers. That, of course, doesn’t mean they’re right for every household.

The following information should help you decide if a tankless water heater is a good fit for your home:

The Plus Side of Tankless Water Heating

  • Eliminate standby energy loss – A conventional water heater can provide many gallons of hot water at once because it stores a full tank at all times. Family members can generally take showers, use the dishwasher and do laundry at the same time without emptying the tank. That’s great, but it takes a lot of energy for the heater to keep its big supply of water hot constantly.
  • Increase efficiency and save energy – Since a tankless water heater provides hot water only on demand, as needed, there’s no standby heat loss. When called for, as you turn on your faucet, the water is heated immediately. Cold water flows through small-diameter piping in the tankless unit and is heated with high-temperature electrical coils or a gas burner. You could reduce the water-heating portion of your energy bill by half.
  • Avoid empty tank syndrome – If your family uses up the hot water supply stored in your current heater’s tank on a regular basis, you’ll need to wait a half hour or more for additional water to fill the tank and heat up. You might get an unpleasant surprise if you’re running late with no time to wait or if the supply runs out mid-shower.
  • Little space is required – Tankless water heating units are about the size of a suitcase, so there are more installation and placement options.

On the Minus Side…

  • There’s no tank – A tankless unit can’t give you a large amount of water at once since it doesn’t store any. This could be a liability if a few of your family members tend to use water at about the same time. Also, if you turn your hot water faucet on and off several times within a short period, you can get a shot of cold instead. The flow rate of a tankless unit is up to 5 gallons per minute (GPM), which generally covers two types of water usage at the same time, for instance the dishwasher and clothes washer. (In contrast, a traditional tank model could give you nearly 10 GPM.)
  • More than one tankless unit may be needed – In order to match the water consumption needs of your home and family, a dedicated until can be installed, for example, to provide water for the laundry room. You could also opt to install tankless water heaters in a few different places in the house. This strategy could allow you to replace your old water heater and still meet all your water heating needs.

General Pricing Considerations

  • Electric tankless water heaters – These are less expensive to purchase and install than gas units because they don’t require piping changes, as a gas-fired model might.
  • Gas-fueled tankless water heating systems – The price can be up to double the price of a regular “tanked” water heater and a larger gas line (larger diameter) is often needed.

Determining Your Water Heating Needs

Your local HVAC and plumbing contractor will use the following information to plan your tankless water heater installation:

  • Fixture flow rates
  • Temperature of incoming cold water
  • Typical usage patterns in your household, such as how many faucets are used at once
  • Your average water usage, judging from recent water bills
  • Whether your appliances need hot water. Some dishwashers and clothes washers heat their own water.
  • Whether your gas and water supplies are adequate or if retrofitting with larger pipes is necessary

Your contractor can then explain any options concerning:

  • Number of units needed to fulfill your home’s hot water needs
  • Installation location(s) for flow needs and possible dedicated unit(s)
  • Installation for proper direct venting
  • Compliance with building codes

Which type of water heating system is best for your home? In the end, it’s an individualized decision that varies from one household to the next, but these considerations should help you get a general idea.

If you’re considering a tankless water heater for your home, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air for expert advice. We provide complete HVAC and plumbing services including system design, installation, repairs and maintenance services to homeowners in and around Sarasota.

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How to Detect Pipe Leaks

When you suspect a plumbing leak, of course you want to confirm your suspicion right away so the leak can be stopped. It’s important to know how to detect pipe leaks under and around your Sarasota area home. There are a couple of low-tech things you can do to help you determine if you have one:

  • Listen closely – First shut off the home’s water supply valve(s). Ask someone to help by turning the water supply on and off as you walk through the suspicious areas. Then listen and try to pinpoint the area of the water leak. It might be in the bathroom, laundry room, kitchen or in the crawl space under your home. If you find a leak in an accessible spot, you can try a patch (duct tape perhaps) to slow it down temporarily. Then call your local plumber for assistance.
  • Watch the meter – Turn the water supply off, including behind your toilets. Locate the meter, which may be a box on the ground or at the side of your house. Look at the numbers showing on the meter to see if they’re continuing to rise. If so and you’re sure you’ve turned the water off, you’ve confirmed you’ve got a leak somewhere. Call in a professional immediately.
  • Call the plumber – If you think you’ve located the leak or if you weren’t able to confirm you have one, call your plumber. He or she knows how to detect pipe leaks. Using specialized plumbing equipment and experience about where to look first, your plumber can confirm a leak and locate the source.

Even small leaks or drips can quickly become serious problems, so you must act fast and know how to detect pipe leaks. You could otherwise end up with a huge water bill, damage to pipes, household appliances, floors, walls, ceilings and more. An undetected drip or leak can also lead to harmful mold growth as well. Keep your home and family healthy by calling your trusted plumbing expert at the first sign of trouble.

For professional advice about how to detect pipe leaks, or for other plumbing or HVAC concerns, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air. We’re proud to help homeowners in and around Sarasota.

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Video Inspection – How Plumbers Use it to Clear Pipes in Your Home

Before video inspection, accurately locating and identifying plumbing problems involved a combination of educated guesswork and physical detection methods, such as excavation and even dismantling walls and floors. Today, your plumber has higher technology at his disposal to go right to the source of the problem and view it directly. Now the plumber can see exactly what’s going on inside your pipes. Even better, he can show you, too, so there’s no doubt about the diagnosis of a plumbing problem.

Video inspection facilitates the process of pinpointing and identifying the source of a wide range of plumbing dysfunctions and expedites effective repair.

A video inspection system consists of a flexible fiber optic cable that can be threaded deep into your home’s plumbing. This cable carries low voltage power to a waterproof micro-video camera mounted on the end of the cable. An infrared light incorporated in the camera head illuminates the inside of the pipe. The cable transmits images from the camera back to a monitor where the plumber can observe what the camera sees. The plumber can also record the camera images to make a permanent record of problems inside the pipes.

Video technology is useful for these common plumbing problems:

  • Blockages due to food particles, grease or hair
  • Accumulating sludge or other conditions that may cause clogs in the future
  • Broken or collapsed pipes
  • Infiltration by tree roots or other vegetation
  • Leaking or disconnected pipe joints
  • Corroded pipes that are leaking or about to fail
  • Offset sewer pipe segments that have shifted out of alignment due to ground movement
  • Pipes that have sunk or settled into the soil, creating low points that accumulate blockages
  • Unapproved or substandard plumbing buried underground or installed out of sight

To detect leaky pipes and other plumbing problems with advanced video inspection technology in the Bradenton area, contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air.

John Miller | President | Bio

Pipe Cleaning and the Techniques Used to Remedy Clogged Plumbing

Today’s pipe cleaning methods address the traditional causes of drain clogs with new technology. Plumbing in houses more than 25 years old may be prone to blockages which are, at the same time, harder to clear without damaging the pipes. Traditional measures such as using a large-gauge snake can over-stress older plumbing and cause leaks that make even more extensive repair procedures necessary. What’s worse, while these old-school methods may punch a hole in a blockage and provide a short-term correction, the conditions inside the pipe that promote blockages in the first place often remain unchanged. The inevitable recurrent clogs eventually leave major dismantling or excavation as the last option.

Advances in pipe cleaning technology including power-rodding and hydro-jetting have added important options to your plumber’s weapons against slow or clogged drains. These alternatives require the services of a professional plumber who’s invested in this specialized equipment and the training to use it correctly.

How Blockages Happen

Usually, it’s not the last solid object that swirls down the drain that causes a clog. The fact is, the clog that’s causing the headache today actually began long ago with the gradual accumulation of sludge on the inside of the pipe, slowly constricting its internal diameter and restricting free flow of water. Sludge is a sticky concoction of soap scum, grease, hair, food particles and even the dissolved minerals in the water. Once a layer of sludge forms, more sludge tends to accumulate in that segment of the pipe, increasingly narrowing the size of the pipe until only a small channel allows free flow of water. At that point, any minor bit of solid matter flushed down the drain may instigate a total blockage.

When a common drain snake, such as those sometimes used by do-it-yourselfers, drills a hole in the clog or pushes it down, water flow may resume. However, the accumulation of sludge that formed the foundation for the blockage is still intact. In time, another clog will form at that site. The homeowner knows only that his plumbing keeps jamming up and assumes that each clog is an entirely new occurrence when actually it’s just a replay of the previous event. The usual result is a familiar scenario to anyone who’s ever had to deal with this problem: After the messy, unsuccessful experience of attempting to clear a recurrent clog by himself, the homeowner finally consults a professional plumber. When a reputable, experienced pro arrives, he’ll come equipped with two alternatives to restore the flow of waste water in addition to rectifying the conditions that promote the blockage.

Schedule an appointment today to get your plumbing system serviced

Power-Rodding

Power-rodding is technology that takes the basic design of the plumbing snake, yet brings it into the 21st century to make it a precision device for pipe cleaning, not just clearing blockages. The equipment utilizes a thin metal cable which the plumber threads into the pipe to the location of the clog. At the end of the cable, the system incorporates razor-sharp cuttings blades that are sized to the measurements of the interior of the pipe. An electric motor rotates the cable at high speed and the sharp blades lacerate accumulation of sludge, scouring the walls of the pipe as it simultaneously liquidates the blockage. All this residual matter is reduced to tiny bits that are easily flushed away when a strong force of water is introduced into the pipe. Since the power-rodding equipment is sized to fit the pipe exactly and the cutting instrument is very efficient, the system is much less stressful to plumbing than an old-school universal snake that relies on simple blunt force to push clogs down the pipe.

Hydro-Jetting

This method represents the current state of the art. Hydro-jetting employs the power of high-pressure water to both eliminate clogs in plumbing and clean internal pipe surfaces of sludge to prevent a repeat blockage. Instead of mechanical cutting blades, a hydro-jetting system uses a high-pressure water line threaded into the pipe. The cleaning head at the end of the line integrates precision nozzles that discharge jets of water at approximately 3,500 p.s.i. This ultra high-pressure stream acts like a knife to cut through obstructions and scour the pipe walls. The blast of water instantly turns sludge and clogs to a semi-solid state and flushes it away into the sewer. While the high-pressure water obliterates sludge and blockages including tree roots, it does not traumatize plumbing pipes or joints like mechanical pipe cleaning equipment.

For professional pipe cleaning to clear blockages and reduce the likelihood of recurrent clogs, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air in Bradenton.