I was listening to Jill Schlesinger this morning on my way to the office. She is on WBAL every Friday morning with some sound financial observations and advice. The topic this morning was jobs outlook for current college graduates. Jill said the job market is very good.
A college graduate this year can expect to land a job making a $50,000 annual salary. She said that is a very good salary for someone just out of college entering the market. Jill also said that the average debt from college expenses is $37,000.00. She believes that a graduate with a $50k job will be able to handle that debt.
Well, this got me to thinking about the trades (electrical, carpentry, HVAC, plumbing, etc…) in general and my trade, plumbing, in particular. And I’m thinking that it is good to be a plumber.
Let’s take a look at where young person will be after four years of “Plumber College” at Apple Plumbing:
After finishing four years of Plumbing College at Apple Plumbing and successfully passing the State Journeyman Test, he/she will be earning anywhere from $50,000 -$80,000 annually .
During his/her four years of Plumbing College an apprentice will have earned approximately $104,000 in pay. Wait a minute! We are paying someone to go to our Plumbing College? They aren’t accumulating college debt? WOW!
In addition to great pay, there are other benefits an Apple Plumbing College graduate is entitled to:
Last March (2017) Apple Plumbing installed this Elkay water cooler with bottle filler at The Hill Family Y in Westminster. Members can fill their personal water bottles with cool filtered water saving our landfill from discarded plastic water bottles. The water cooler is located just outside the workout room and gets constant use.
Take a look at how many water bottles the members at The Hill Family Y have saved in the last year with this water cooler. Well over 50,000!
I did a little research and discovered that the Hill Family Y members saved over 29 barrels of oil that would have been used to make those 53,547 plastic bottles. The Pacific Institute estimates that a ½ liter plastic bottle has a carbon footprint of 3 oz. That means the members of The Hill Family Y have prevented 10,040 lbs. of carbon from entering our atmosphere.
That’s 5 tons folks!!
In addition, it is estimated that in the good ole U S of A, it takes 1.39 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of bottled water. The .39 gallons go down a drain. That means in the last year the Hill Family Y has saved roughly 2,767 gallons of water by using the bottle filler on this water cooler.
Thanks to Jason, Luke and Brandon for giving up their Sunday to work in frigid temperatures to repair a broken water main for Carroll County Dental Associates. The ground was frozen to 15” deep and was like concrete. The frozen layer had to be broken up with a heavy duty jackhammer mounted on a Bobcat. Luke installed a temporary water connection on Monday morning so Carroll County Dental Associates could take care of their 100 or so patients they had scheduled and Jason could continue with the slow task of breaking up frozen dirt. Thanks guys!
Here is a video of Jason breaking up the frozen dirt like it was concrete:
A look at ACCUWEATHER this morning shows a prediction of subfreezing temperatures now until Saturday JANUARY 6.
The lowest predicted temperature during that period is forecast to be 7⁰ with a wind chill of -4⁰!!! The next week carries a recipe for frozen and busted water pipes. What’s a person to do? Well, you’ve come to the right place:
-When a leak occurs, TURN OFF YOUR WATER. Sounds simple but when a leak happens, panic ensues. Water is gushing. Books, furniture, pictures, and anything in the deluge are getting soaked. Soaked drywall is falling from the ceiling. This is a panic situation and often people just don’t think clearly.
-RIGHT NOW, find your main water valve and make sure it works. Turn the valve off and open a faucet. Water may flow for a few seconds before it stops, but if your valve is working, the water will stop flowing. If your valve does not stop the water flow, it needs to be replaced. Better to know that now so you can get it replaced. Too late when you’re in the middle of a flood.
-If you have a well, find the switch or circuit breaker that shuts off the pump. Sometimes a freeze-up occurs at the tank or in the pipe from the pump to the tank. This is all BEFORE your main water valve and shutting it off does nothing in this situation. Turning off the electric to your pump will stop the flow of water…eventually. Any water remaining in your well water tank will empty after the pump is turned off.
-After you get your water turned off you need to make three phone calls:
Apple Plumbing to get your leak repaired - 410.840.8118
A restoration company (such as ServPro) to get started on clean up. Keep this in mind: If your pipes are frozen, many others have frozen pipes too. Restoration companies operate on a first come, first served basis. Don’t dilly dally, you want to get on their list ASAP.
Call your Homeowners Insurance and file a claim. DON’T CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENT. She/he cannot file a claim. They can give you the phone number to call. However, if this happens at night or during a holiday, you may not get a hold of your agent. THEREFORE, find that phone number to file a claim NOW. Again, first come, first served.
If you cannot find your main water valve, give us a call. We can help you with that!
My dad, Clements August Scheper, was a plumber. His business was C. A. Scheper & Son in Randallstown. The “son” was first my brother, and then was me. Note the singular “son”. Dad was difficult to work for but he knew plumbing and he taught me a lot of plumbing.
If you’ll indulge me, I’ll relate a trick of the trade that he taught me in the spring of 1977. Sue and I were engaged and I was working for my dad. We installed a new 3” copper water main and connected it to an existing 3” steel water main in a building. We finished on a Friday afternoon, turned on the water, and lo and behold (do people say “lo & behold” anymore?) the joint where our copper connected to the steel was leaking. Not a bad leak, but a leak none-the-less. …and this was Friday afternoon!
I asked Dad what we were we going to do? He gave me a dollar and sent me to a local grocery store for a can of Morton Salt. Dad spread his handkerchief on the floor, poured a thick line of salt diagonally on the kerchief and rolled it up. He then tied the salt laden handkerchief around the leaking joint and said “let’s go home”. Monday morning that pipe joint was dry as a bone and has been ever since. I have a bag of tricks like this that he taught me.
What does this have to do with toilets? Well, nothing really, except to introduce you to my Dad. Dad was old school through and through. It took him years to start using PVC drain piping instead of cast iron and steel. Dad would call people in the trade who used plastic pipe and fittings ”hacksaw & glue plumbers”. He hated plastic pipe. Once a plumber stopped in the office to apply for a job. He told Dad that "he just did new plumbing" and not service. Dad asked him what would he do if he installed a new toilet and it didn’t work, call a plumber? Needless to say, that guy didn’t get hired. I often think about Dad and how he would see the plumbing trade today. My guess is he’d tell me we’re doing it all wrong and should stop using plastic pipe!
When I came up in the trade (late 60’s and 70’s) there were no big home box stores where anyone can purchase most anything for the home; stores that are geared to the do-it-yourselfer. Back then, if a customer needed a new toilet, we would pick it up at the supply house and install it. There was no choice for the homeowner. It was either American Standard or Eljer and they took what we provided. Same with faucets. The only place a homeowner could buy plumbing parts was the local hardware store. In Randallstown it was Deer Park Hardware on Liberty Rd. It seems you could buy anything there. In 1978, when Sue and I were just one year into our marriage, I bought a ceramic mixing bowl set that we still use.
Again, I digress.
Back to toilets. When Dad was in business, every toilet tank had pretty much the same parts: a ballcock, a flush valve, a tank ball, a float ball, lift rods, a float rod, and an overflow tube. If I kept those parts on my truck, I could pretty much repair any toilet. The only toilet that those parts didn’t work for was a one piece toilet. For that, I just made a trip to the supply house. Now, there are high efficient toilets and imported toilets and comfort height toilets and dual flush there are almost 4,000 different toilet sold in the United States. That’s a lot of different parts, and impossible to keep them all on a service truck.
Also, now every toilet sold is given a MaP rating. This rating tells you how much waste a toilet will cleanly flush in grams. The ratings go from 250 to 1,000. We only install toilets with a rating of 800 or better. You can check it out yourself: http://www.map-testing.com/ . Toilets now come in a seemingly infinite variety of colors and styles. And prices. A customer once paid us over $1,300.00 for a new toilet! And then there are heated toilet seats, toilet seats that will wash your bum when you finish, toilet seats that are bidets, and even toilets that flush themselves when you are finished!
When Dad was amazed or startled by something he would never take the Lord’s name in vain by saying “J…. C…….!”. He would instead say “Cheese and Crackers!” Today he would say “TOILETS…Cheese and Crackers!”
(Oh, the reason the pipe stopped leaking is that the salt caused the metal to oxidize. It rusted the metal thus plugging up the leak. Once the salt was removed the oxidation stopped. For a man with only an 8th grade education, Dad was pretty smart!)
Jason and Luke just finished installing a nice new Burnham ES2 propane boiler for Greg & Amy. We removed their old oil fired boiler to make room for this beauty. They upgraded to a much more efficient heating system. We estimate they will reduce the carbon they emit into the atmosphere by 9,545 lbs. annually.
Jason installed the new piping around the boiler so that Greg & Amy can install high efficient variable speed circulating pumps at a later date. Greg & Amy opted to have Jason install an Outdoor Reset Control with an outdoor sensor. This control modulates the boiler water temperature in conjunction with the outdoor air temperature so that on mild winter days they can heat their house with lower temperature water giving them additional savings.
We estimate they will save an additional 15% in annual heating costs with this control. Their new boiler will quietly and efficiently heat their home throughout the heating season. Give us a call and we'll get you on the road to saving on your heating bills too! 410.840.8118
If you have City Water, chances are you have a pressure reducing valve on your water main where it enters your house. What is a pressure reducing valve and why is it there?
A pressure reducing valve does exactly what its name indicates: It reduces the pressure in your plumbing system. Plumbing fixtures, faucets and appliances are designed to operate at a pressure between 25 psi and 80 psi. In fact, some manufacturer’s void any warranty if the pressure exceeds anywhere form 80-120 psi. In addition, local and national plumbing codes do not allow pressures greater than 80 psi. The ideal pressure in a home is 50-60 psi.
Excess pressure can have a variety of effects on your plumbing:
Excessive wear and tear on faucets, fixtures and appliances.
Banging or noisy water pipes when turning on or off water at a faucet
Spitting from the water faucet aerator when water is turned on
Shortened water heater life
Reduced washing machine or dishwasher life due to leaks
Septic drain field flooding and failure if your building is connected to a private septic system
Increased sewer bill costs in communities who base their sewer charges on water usage metering.
Increased hot water heating costs: if water pressure is unnecessarily high, the increased volume and rate of cold water flowing through a home water heater increases the operating cost of that appliance.
Wasted water - running water at higher-than-needed pressure and flow wastes water in daily fixture use.
Water heater tank explosions. THIS IS IMPORTANT: When water is heated, it expands. Because water is an incompressible fluid, when it expands the pressure in the system increases greatly. If there is no mechanism to absorb or relieve the increased pressure, the water heater can explode. Check it out: Mythbusters Water Heater Explosion. I’ll get into the mechanisms to prevent this in another blog.
So, how does a pressure reducing valve work? MAGIC. Seriously, here is a short video that explains how a gas regulator works and it is the same principal for water. If I find one for water, I’ll post it. Beware: this video is very dry-you might want to grab a cup of coffee first: How A Regulator Works
If you think you have excessive pressure, give us a call and we’ll stop by to check your pressure and make any necessary recommendations. No charge to check your pressure. We love this stuff!!
A sump pump. It is one of those household appliances you don’t really think about until it stops working. It sits in a hole in your basement floor, generally has a lid covering it. It’s in a remote corner of your basement with boxes of “stuff” piled around it…or shelves built over it. My sump pump sits in a small closet that stores “stuff” we haven’t used in years. It is easy to ignore it.
There are a few reason why a sump pump system fails….all can result in a flooded basement;
The pump is unplugged.
The pump has failed, burnt up, gave up the ghost, gone kaput…
The float is stuck and can’t rise with the water level to turn on the pump.
The check valve has failed.
The discharge pipe does not direct the water away from the house.
Ice & snow block the discharge pipe.
The best way to see if the system is working is to test it.
The best method to check sump pump system:
Make sure the sump pump is plugged into a working electrical outlet.
Remove the lid and inspect the sump with a flashlight. Look for debris in the sump. There should only be the pump and associated pipe in the pit. Clean out anything else.
Inspect the bottom of the pit. The pump should be sitting on a bed of stone, a cinder block or bricks. Silt can wash into the sump over time and build up on the bottom of the pit causing the pump to clog. If you see silt or muck around the base of the pump, you may need to have the sump cleaned out.
Also look for pipes extending into the sump. You may see a couple of black corrugated pipes and a couple of PVC pipes. Make sure these pipes do not extend into the pit such that they could interfere with the float on the pump.
Once you’ve completed your visual inspection you can actually test the pump. Slowly pour 5 gallons of water into the sump. Depending on the size of the sump, you may have to pour more than 5 gallons. As you pour in water the float will rise and activate the pump. At this point you should see the water level slowly drop and shut the pump off when your float drops back below the shutoff level. If that's not what happens, troubleshoot and repair/replace as needed.
Inspect the discharge pipe outside. You should see water flowing from it when the pump is running. It should be directed away from the house with a splash block or a pipe extension. If the pipe is discharging at the foundation wall you will need to make a change.
Your sump pump is needed most during a storm. However, storms can bring power outages causing the sump pump system to fail. What to do? A battery back-up sump pump is just the ticket. There are a variety of systems to be had with various whistles and bells. Just remember, on a battery back-up system the pump is smaller than your sump pump meaning is will pump less water. And, the battery will run out of power if the outage is prolonged. Zoeller Pump Company makes a water powered back up sump pump for houses with a municipal water supply. They are pretty cool.
If you need help with your sump pump, need it repaired or inspected, call us at 410.840.8118. We'll be glad to help!
Westminster, Maryland. December 22, 2016. Apple Plumbing & Heating Inc., a full service plumbing company located in Westminster, is pleased and proud to announce that Luke Tutin passed the Maryland Board of Plumbing’s journeyman examination and is now a fully licensed journeyman plumber/gasfitter.
Luke joined Apple in 2012 under the company’s Apprentice program which provides four years paid training of plumbing, backflow, gas, and hydronic heat trades, in preparation for the state journeyman plumber/gasfitter license exam.
Apple Plumbing provides general plumbing, well pump, water treatment, drain cleaning, and water heater services to Carroll, Frederick, Baltimore, and Howard County residents and contractors. The company now employs a full staff of twelve, running seven trucks, and has one Goldendoodle named Bunker.
Apple Plumbing & Heating has received numerous awards for excellence in service and for business innovation. These include: Carroll’s Best 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, Carroll County Chamber Business of the Year 2012, Maryland Breakthrough Business Award 2013, and Angie’s List Super Service Award 2013, 2014, and 2015.
For more information, contact Ben Scheper at 410.840.8118, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.appleplumbing.com.
Westminster, Maryland. August 11, 2016. Apple Plumbing & Heating Inc., a full service plumbing company located in Westminster, is pleased and proud to announce that two service technicians have received industry licenses.
Plumbing Service Technician Jason Winstead passed the Maryland Board of Plumbing’s masters examination and is now a fully licensed master plumber/gasfitter. Plumbing Service Technician Robert Eyler passed the Maryland Board of Plumbing’s journeyman examination and is now a fully licensed journeyman plumber/gasfitter.
Apple Plumbing provides general plumbing, well pump, water treatment, drain cleaning, and water heater services to Carroll, Frederick, Baltimore, and Howard County residents and contractors. Maryland. Apple Plumbing & Heating now employs a full staff of twelve employees and one Goldendoodle names Bunker.
Apple Plumbing & Heating has received numerous awards for excellence in service and for business innovation. These include: Carroll’s Best 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, Carroll County Chamber Business of the Year 2012, Maryland Breakthrough Business Award 2013, and Angie’s List Super Service Award 2013, 2014, and 2015.
For more information, contact Ben Scheper at 410.840.8118, email@example.com or visit the website www.appleplumbing.com.
Westminster, Maryland. May 18, 2016. Apple Plumbing & Heating Inc., a full service plumbing company located in Westminster, Maryland is pleased to announce that apprentice plumber/gas fitter Robert Harry Eyler has joined the Apple Plumbing Team. Robert has over six years experience in the plumbing industry including well pump installations, pressure tanks, sewer lines, and water heater installations. Robert will be taking his journeyman license exam in 2016.
Apple Plumbing provides general plumbing, well pump, water treatment, drain cleaning, and water heater services to Carroll, Frederick, Baltimore, and Howard County residents and contractors. The company was founded in 1994 by Pat and Sue Scheper both with strong ties to the community and a keen sense for customer service. The business grew by word-of-mouth and by 2009, son Ben Scheper came on board and the company soon moved to their current location on Aileron Court in Westminster, Maryland. Apple Plumbing & Heating now employs a full staff of twelve employees, and one Goldendoodle names Bunker.
Apple Plumbing & Heating has received numerous awards for excellence in service and for business innovation. These include: Carroll’s Best 2012 and 2013, Carroll County Chamber Business of the Year 2012, Maryland Breakthrough Business Award 2013, and Angie’s List Super Service Award 2013, 2014, and 2015.
For more information, contact Ben Scheper at 410.840.8118, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.appleplumbing.com.
I’m often asked “When should I replace my water heater?” or “When will my water heater fail?” The answer to both questions is “I don’t know! But I can give you and educated guess”.
By a failing water heater I mean a water heater that starts leaking. A leaking heater cannot be repaired…not ever. If a heater stops producing hot water, then it most likely can be fixed. But if it leaks, it is dead.
So, should a homeowner just wait until a heater starts leaking to replace it? No. There are some educated assessments that can be made. First, how old is the heater? Every heater has a sticker on it that gives some important information like the size (gallons), the energy source (electric, natural gas, propane gas, etc…), energy input (watts, btu’s, etc…), model number and serial number. With the model number and serial number a person can get online with the manufacturer’s website and find the date the heater was produced. Most water heaters take 3 months from the time they are manufactured until they are installed in a home.
We see most water heater failures in the 10-12 year old range. The oldest water heater I have replaced was 35 years old. It hadn’t failed, it just needed a new gas valve that was no longer available.
What I usually tell customers is:
If your water heater is 10 years old, it owes you nothing and you shouldn’t be surprised if it starts leaking
If your heater is 15 years old you can expect it to fail any time
If your heater is 20 years old, failure is imminent and you should replace immediately
My theory is that if a water heater hits 10 years, it should be replaced soon. Why wait for a possible flood? You don’t ride on your car tires until they blow out do you? Once tires hit the recommended mileage, we generally replace them. Same with a water heater. Once it hits the expected life time, change it.
Another reason to consider preemptively replacing a water heater is energy usage. I read an article the other day that quoted a trade magazine saying that every inch of sediment in a water heater requires 70% more energy to heat the water.
Every heater has some sediment in it. It’s a natural result of heating water. Some sediment is calcium from hard water, some is sediment from a well, and some is just particulates suspended in water. Any sediment in water just sitting in a heater tank will settle to the bottom. No avoiding it. Flushing out your heater annually will keep the sediment at bay. However, if you haven’t been doing that, then your heater probably has a fair amount of sediment in it. The more sediment there is, the more difficult it can be to flush it out. Sediment can also cause undue stress on the steel tank of a gas water heater.
The gas burner on a heater heats the bottom of the tank. A build-up of sediment insulates the bottom of the tank causing the burner to run longer and heat the steel to a higher temperature than normal. This higher heat stresses the steal causing premature failure.
With electric water heaters, sediment can build up to the point where it completely encompasses the lower element insulating it from the water to be heated. More energy wasted.
There are maintenance items that can be done to extend the life a water heater. More on that next time!
As I said in my last post, some toilets are high efficient (use little water) but are low performance. There is a way to determine if a high efficient toilet will flush well before it is installed. It is called the MaP rating. MaP stands for Maximum Performance.
MaP is a Maximum Performance scale that rates toilet efficiency and flush performance, plus gives detailed information on individual toilet characteristics. The result is up-to-date, independently verified comprehensive toilet information in a SEARCHABLE database.
IMPORTANT: MaP scores represent the number of grams of solid waste (soybean paste and toilet paper) that a particular toilet can flush and remove completely from the fixture in a SINGLE FLUSH.
History of MaP Toilet Testing
MaP was developed in 2002-03 in response to the many complaints of the 1990s about the new “low-flow” toilets (which, by the way, flushed with 1.6 gallons of water, less than 50% of the water used in its predecessors of the 1980s!). MaP development was sponsored by members of the municipal water utility industry. For more information on the background of MaP over the past two decades, click here.
While many toilet performance tests have existed for years (manufacturers tests, Consumer Reports and plumbing codes), ONLY MaP offers consumers the test results from closely replicating REAL WORLD demands put upon a toilet. MaP testing was initiated specifically to identify how well popular models performed using realistic test media (fecal simulation).
"MaP incorporates the use of soybean paste and toilet paper to duplicate the real world demands put upon toilets. Each toilet is tested to failure - - that is, soybean paste is repeatedly added to the toilet until the fixture can no longer remove it in a single flush. Since 2003, over 3,500 different tank-type toilet models have been tested and reported in the MaP online database. Today, 3,360 tank-type toilet models are listed in the MaP'searchable' database.” - MaP Testing, http://www.map-testing.com/
The above is taken directly from the MaP website. I couldn’t say it any better, so I quoted it.
The MaP scale ranges from 250 – 1,000. It is the number of grams of waste a toilet will flush cleanly. At Apple Plumbing will only install toilets with a MaP rating of 800 or better. Click the image below to see what the different ratings mean.
We had one customer who purchased a very nice looking Kohler toilet. We did not check the MaP rating prior to installation. Turns out is had a MaP rating of 250 and did not flush solid waste at all!
I’ve see some toilets at the big box stores with a rating on the box of 1,250. Beware, this would not be a MaP rating but a rating determined by the manufacturer or a testing agency no recognized by MaP or the EPA. The maximum MaP rating is 1,000. As I said, we only install toilets with a MaP rating of 800 or more. We have found that those toilets flush very well with little or no problems to the consumer. However, if you try hard enough, you can clog any toilet. Also, beware of ads showing toilets flushing golf balls, balloons, etc. You don’t flush these items during daily use of your toilet so the ads are meaningless.
We all use it, many times every day: The throne, The Crapper, The Head, a Water Closet…The Toilet. It’s one on those inventions that has become so much an everyday item that we scarcely notice it…until it malfunctions. The flush toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington when he described a new kind of water closet: a raised cistern with a small pipe down which water ran when released by a valve.
It wasn’t until 200 years later that a man named Alexander Cummings created an S shaped pipe under the basin that kept seer gasses from entering the “closet”. This was the S Trap. Every plumbing fixture now has a trap between it and the sewer to prevent gases from entering the living space.
In the 1880’s Prince Edward of England hired a prominent plumber by the name of Thomas Crapper to install lavatories in several palaces. Mr. Crapper invented the ball cock. This is the valve in a toilet tank that allows water in to refill the tank and then automatically shuts off. Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet….he just improved upon it.
Early toilets used as much as 7.5 gallons of water per flush. That is treated water going down the drain. And 7.5 gallons of waste water that needs to be treated. Very few, if any, toilets in use today use 7.5 gallons per flush. However, many current toilets use 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf). That was the standard prior to 1994.
The 3.5 gpf toilet was a flushing fool. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 required that all toilets manufactured for sale in the USA after January 1, 1994 use not more than 1.6 gallons per flush. That is less than half the water used in the then standard toilet. The Act became effective on October 24, 1992. That gave manufacturers of toilets a scant 14 months to design, test and manufacture a totally new toilet.
The first few generations of the 1.6 gpf toilet were horrible. You had to flush twice just to clean the bowl. Many clogged way too easily. People were hording 3.5 gpf toilets and selling them on the black market. Canada had no such law at the time so many Americans were crossing the northern border to buy flushable toilets. There is still some perception that the low flow toilets today don’t flush well. Some don’t, but many do.
Some toilets are high efficient (use little water) but low performance. There is a way to determine if a high efficient toilet will flush well before it is installed. It is called the MaP rating. MaP stands for Maximum Performance. See my next post to read all about MaP rating!
We'll be at the Carroll County Home Show this weekend at the Ag Center, March 12 & 13. Bring us a sample of your tap water, and we'll test it for acid, hardness, nitrates, chlorine & iron right on the spot for you!
We'll have plenty of water sample containers on hand in case you forget. Chris, our water treatment specialist, will also be on hand to answer any and all questions about water treatment systems. See you this weekend!
I have been involved either part time or full time with the plumbing industry for over 47 years, and I never knew that there is a National Toilet Tank Repair Month. Or I knew and just chose to ignore it.
Regardless, it is now at the forefront of my consciousness and I am compelled to comment on National Toilet Tank Repair Month. First, who or what entity declared such a month? I have no idea. I’ve spent the last 30 minutes searching the internet for the answer to no avail. Enough time wasted on that question. But if a reader knows who made the declaration, let me know and I’ll send you an Apple Plumbing t-shirt!
Back to toilets. A leaking toilet can waste A LOT of water. The EPA says 1 in 4 toilets nationally leak wasting up to 70,000 gallons per year each. That’s a lot of water.
I am always leery of statistics so I like to “run the numbers”:
70,000 gallons per year equates to 191.79 gallon per day
That translates to 8 gallons per hour or 2 ounces per minute
Two ounces of water is a quarter cup in a minute.
Try taking a ¼ cup of water and pouring it into a sink at a steady, consistent stream for one minute. It’s really just a trickle. Chances are that same trickle in a toilet tank would be almost silent. So, I think the EPA’s numbers work…a small leak that trickles in your toilet tank can waste up to 70,000 gallons of water a year!
That’s A LOT of water!
Let’s say you have a well and your well pump is a 5 gallon per minute pump. Your pump would have to run for 14,000 minutes to supply your leaking toilet. That’s 233⅓ hours! For almost 10 whole days your pump would have to run to supply water to your leaking toilet.
Or, let’s say you are connected to city water and sewer. A quick check shows the City of Westminster charges $16.16 per 1,000 gallons for combined water and sewer. Your 70,000 gallon running toilet would cost you $1,131.20 per year in water and sewer charges! You could buy some seriously high efficient toilets for that kind of money.
So. Now that we are aware of National Toilet Tank Repair Month and the high cost of a leaking toilet what are we to do about it? Check your toilet for leaks! Or have a plumber check your toilet for leaks, although it is much cheaper if you do. Click on the following link for a video on how a toilet flushes. The video was produced by plumbing manufacturer Korky Flappers.
There are really only two ways a toilet leaks. the first is through the fill valve in which the tank fills to the overflow tube and water just runs down the tube, into the bowl and down the drain. If you lift the lid from the tank and see water up to the overflow tube and running down it, your fill valve is leaking.
The other way a toilet leaks is through the flapper at the base of the flush valve, if the flapper doesn’t seal tightly and water slowly leaks into the bowl and down the drain. The easiest way to check for this type of leak is to place a few drops of dark food coloring in the tank and see if it shows up in the bowl. You may have to wait up to 20 minutes for coloring to appear. It’s that easy.
They say spring and summer are the peak times for real estate transactions, and for some home buyers, soon after moving into their new home is when they discover they have a sewer line issue.
This past summer, we’ve had more than a few customers who’ve recently purchased homes and soon after discovered that their sewer lines were cracked, crushed, clogged with roots or other matter, or had multiple sags or “bellies” (more on that later) in the line. All of these conditions will result in slow drains at best and sewage backing up into the house at the worst.
Most home buyers, prior to settling or closing on a house, have the “usual” inspections performed recommended by real estate agents – general home inspection, roof inspection, radon test, mold test, and if applicable, septic system, private well and chimney inspections. But most buyers don’t have sewer lines or plumbing inspected by a licensed plumber believing it is the county or city’s responsibility if something goes awry. The reality is that the county or city is rarely responsible for any problem that lies on your personal property – it’s up to you to maintain the portion of the sewer line on your property.
Many home buyers also believe that the general home inspection will uncover any problems with the sewer line or the plumbing. However, most general home inspectors will only check to see that the toilets flush, drains drain, and water flows without leaking. However, houses that have been vacant for even a short period of time will often pass this type of inspection easily.
The bottom line is that sewer line trouble usually won’t show until you and your family have been living in the house for a few weeks or even just a few days.
One recent home buyer noticed within a month after moving into their new house that the drains were slow, and eventually there was a backup into the basement sink. We cleaned the drain pipe, and soon after the problem recurred. After sending a camera down for inspection, we discovered multiple bellies in the line. A “belly’ in the line is a low area of pipe that negatively effects the slope of the pipe so that as water and solids go through the pipe they lose speed and can settle in the low area eventually causing a clog. They’re caused by either improper installation of the pipe or from earth settling beneath the pipe.
These home buyers needed approximately 65 feet of new pipe installed with the correct positive slope to fix the issue. The whole project took a day and a half, involved digging up the entire pipe, adding a layer of crushed rock to prevent settling, and then replacing the pipe on the correct slope - and wasn’t exactly cheap. If the problem had been discovered in the “inspection phase” of the home buying process, the home buyers could have negotiated with the sellers to have the drainpipe fixed or possibly even decide not to buy the house at all.
Below is a video of Master Plumber Pat Scheper sending a camera down the main sewer pipe of a home buyer’s potential new house. These home buyers discovered the bellies in the pipe before they purchased the home so were able to renegotiate the price of the house with the sellers based on the cost to repair the pipe.
Another customer noticed after they moved into their new house that the only drain cleanout was inside the house - right smack in the middle of a wall in the finished basement with new carpet and drywall. There wasn’t an exterior cleanout anywhere to be found on the property.
In the event of a backup, the only access to clean the main line out would be in the finished basement. The thought of opening up that pipe in the middle of the customer’s living room – well, grossed her completely out, so we installed an outside clean out shortly after they moved in.
To sum things up, a camera inspection of the main sewer line should be included along with all the other usual inspections buyers include in a home purchase offer. The sewer line inspection can be performed on the same day as other inspections and takes about an hour or two at most.
If you’re buying a home, call us to schedule for a camera inspection of the sewer line before you reach the settlement table!