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Pipe Cleaning and the Techniques Used to Remedy Clogged Plumbing

Pipe Cleaning and the Techniques Used to Remedy Clogged Plumbing

This plumbing article was originally published October 16, 2013.

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 clogged plumbing 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 clogged 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 clogged 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 at 941-306-3715.

The Most Common Plumbing Problems and When to Call a Professional

The Most Common Plumbing Problems and When to Call a Professional

This article was originally published April 8, 2013.

Almost every homeowner or renter has a few essential tools on hand to cope with minor plumbing emergencies. Many times, a clogged toilet or slow drain may only need a little elbow grease and a plunger to work as intended. If you’re handy around the house, you can generally tackle a small repair such as changing out a worn washer or replacing a drain cover. However, bigger plumbing repair jobs need professional attention. Trying to repair some common issues such as slow drains or leaking toilets could lead to bigger problems later.

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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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