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Apple Blog

Filtering by Category: Leaks

Fixing a Broken Frozen Water Main

Pat Scheper

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:

ARE YOU READY FOR THE IMPENDING COLD SNAP?

Pat Scheper

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:

  1. Apple Plumbing to get your leak repaired - 410.840.8118
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

You are welcome!

Toilet Repair Month

AdminSheila

OCTOBER IS:

NATIONAL TOILET TANK REPAIR MONTH

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.

 

flush with cashOr, 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.

How A Toilet Flushes by 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.

Plumbing and the Holidays

Pat Scheper

Can you believe it? The holiday season is upon us. There are holiday displays going up in stores, Christmas themed music being played by a few excited folks, and holiday gatherings are in the process of being planned. If you’re the designated person in your family to host the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve or any other holiday get-together this year, we’ve got a few reminders for you in helping you get your house holiday-ready!

With an influx of people in and out of your house, some perhaps staying for a few days, here’s some things that may prevent you from having an unexpected, holiday charge to fix something you could take care of now:

  • Drop some dye tablets into your toilets tanks (especially ones that are used led frequently) and let them sit for 2 minutes. The dyed water will color the water in the bowl if you have any leaks. Have any faucets that aren’t used regularly, like in a guest bedroom? Turn them on/off and make sure hot comes out of hot and cold out of cold to be sure those are running properly! Similarly, running water through unused drains will help you avoid a surprise leak or clog.
  • If you know that you have roots on or near your main drain line make sure to treat your drains with root killer.
  • Have a septic system? Make sure it’s not overdue to be pumped out!
  • To see if your water heater is heating correctly, turn on a faucet all the way to hot, and with a thermometer check the water temperature. Factory settings are around 120 degrees if you haven’t manually adjusted the settings.

Well, those are just a few of our tips on avoiding plumbing disasters during the holidays. And note, “plumbing disaster” could refer to anything from losing hot water to having your mother-in-law point out that her bathroom sink faucet is dripping. We’ll help you out with both of those problems and anything in between!

It's Almost That Time of Year!

Pat Scheper

fall-leavesWell, autumn has come around once again folks! The leaves are changing and falling, outside it feels crisp and the scent of pumpkin-spiced everything wafts through the air. While that’s all nice and enjoyable, soon enough it’s going to start getting colder and things will start to freeze.  

Did you know your plumbing can freeze too? As we learned back in grade school science classes, when water freezes, it expands. So, when those types of pipes and fixtures get too cold, your pipes can swell and burst, outdoor hosebibs can leak, and you can have a mess of a problem on your hands as a result of that. Not fun! So, if you don’t already, it’s a good idea to have us come out and WINTERIZE for you!

What should you have winterized?

frozen pipeGenerally, if you have any water lines that are less than three feet below ground or buildings with no heat (such as barns, workshops, etc) you will want to have those winterized. In addition, any outdoor frost proof wall hydrants should have the hose disconnected and standard hosebibbs on your house ought to be winterized as well.

 

burst_water_pipe

 

The other time to winterize is when a house or building is standing empty and uninhabited through the winter- with the heat turned low and house unused, toilets, faucets, pipes and everything else should be winterized or come spring, that empty building is likely to have quite a lot of messy, wet problems!

 

So, whether this is something you think you’ll need done this year or it’s something you do yearly, here’s your friendly reminder to have your plumbing winterized!

What Is A Submersible Well Pump?

Pat Scheper

Glad you asked!

So, last week I said we'd spend a little time on water quality. That can be a rather long subject to talk about and I was informed this morning that I tend to be long-winded in these blogs. So, in the interest of brevity, I'll postpone the water quality volume for a week and briefly talk about submersible pumps. To wit:

 

submirsible wp

This is a submersible well pump.

 

Have a great week!

Pat Scheper

 

Back-Up Sump Pumps, Part 2 of 2

Pat Scheper

If you’ve been keeping up with our special “hump Day, Pump Day” series on sump pumps, you’ll remember that we’ve so far discussed sump pumps and their uses, and we’ve moved on to back-up sump pumps. Last Wednesday I went over one type of back-up sump pump with you, the battery-powered back-up. This week, I’ll explore the second type: water-powered back-up sump pumps. How do these work? Well, the pump utilizes a phenomenon know as the “Venturi Effect”. Essentially, CITY water flows through a nozzle in a pipe extending into the pit. The water flowing through the nozzle increases in velocity, thus decreasing pressure in the pipe. This decreased pressure “sucks” water out of the pit. It combines with the city water and is discharged to the exterior. Two bummers with this system: One- you MUST have CITY water. It will operate with a well pump, but if your electric goes off causing your sump pump to not work, the same power outage will cause your well pump to not work also. So, city water it is. Two- same as with the battery pump, the water powered pump will pump about ½ the volume as the primary pump. Again, this is still better than nothing.

I have seen some Do-It-Yourself videos on how to install a water-powered sump pump, and generally here are two rather important installation cautions that are either glossed over or ignored: first, back flow prevention. This pump is connected to your potable water system. It is also immersed in nasty water in your sump. This is known as a cross connection. It is possible for the nasty water to get into your potable water piping and contaminating it. The back flow preventer is designed to prevent this. However, there are varying degrees of cross connection hazard and, thus, various back flow devises. Back flow devises range from a dual check to a Reduced Pressure Zone back flow. Basically, back flow devises are a whole series of blogs that will bore you to tears. Suffice it to say, a back flow preventer is required on a water powered sump pump. My experience is that local codes require a Reduced Pressure Zone type of back flow. This is an expensive piece of equipment and must be tested by a licensed back flow professional. You don’t want to be cavalier about this-call your local plumbing inspector and make you have the proper back flow device installed-whether your hire a plumber or do it yourself.

Second, most installation videos show the discharge pipe from the water powered pump connecting to the discharge pipe of the primary sump pump. Again, check local codes. Some jurisdictions require the discharge pipe to run to the exterior INDEPENDENTLY of each other. Baltimore County, Maryland requires a reduced pressure zone backflow device AND separate discharge piping. Be attentive to the code requirements… they are there for your health and protection.

I trust by now, you’ve got the basic idea of sump pumps and their various back-up options. What do you have? Do you feel secure in the event of pump failure, a power outage and possible flooding? I hope so! Check back next week for an all new pump-related discussion!

Back-Up Sump Pumps: Part 1 of 2

Pat Scheper

On our first “Hump Day-Pump Day” we talked about sump pumps. As we learned, a sump pump is a very necessary item, especially when there are heavy rains. So, what happens when your electric goes out during a storm? Or when your sump pump just fails? Without a functioning sump pump, the rain water will eventually flood your basement. Just a ¼” of water, which is about 156 gallons per 1,000 square feet, can do great damage. It will soak your carpet, into wood molding the bottoms of cardboard storage boxes, furniture legs, etc. So if your sump pump fails to work during a storm, wouldn’t it be comforting and practical to have a back-up system? Fortunately, there are two sump pump specific products on the market that can help you out… This week we’ll look at battery back-up sump pumps.A battery back-up system is a small, secondary pump operated by a 12 volt DC, deep cycle marine battery. It is not intended to be the primary pump, nor can it operate indefinitely under battery power.

back up sump pump

The illustration shown depicts a typical battery back-up sump pump system. The system consists of: • Small 12 volt pump • 12 volt deep cycle marine battery (typically sold separately) • A float switch/alarm • A charger/controller • A battery box • A tee with check valves • Associated wiring

The pump is installed in the sump and connected to the discharge pipe of the primary sump pump. The float/alarm is mounted above the primary pump. The charger controller keeps the battery charged and, on some models, sounds an alarm when the back-up pump kicks on. In addition, on some models, the controller sounds an alarm when the battery charge drops. The system operates in this way: When the primary pump fails, water in the sump rises above the “on” level to the level of the float switch. When the float switch rises it energizes the back-up pump and your basement is saved from drowning. Of course, the battery will eventually use up all of its electrons and the back-up pump stops running. My experience is that a fully charged battery will operate the pump for approximately 8-10 hours, which is plenty of time to have our plumbers out to replace the failed pump or to safely run electric to the pump from an exterior generator. There are some models that use two batteries, thus doubling your running time. Check it out, and check back next week for a (shorter than these first two, I promise!) post on the other type of back-up sump pumps.

Have You Checked THIS Lately?

Pat Scheper

Almost every house has one. It’s generally located in a damp, dark hole in the floor, and most homeowners pay it no attention until they are standing ankle deep in water during a storm. Yup, it’s your sump pump. sump-pump Think of your basement as a reverse swimming pool. Instead of a hole in the ground keeping water in, you have a hole in the ground trying to keep water out. I say trying because most basement structures fail at keeping rainwater and ground water out. The soil around your foundation is very porous and holds water like a sponge during wet times. If your basement is 8’ in the ground, then the wet soil is like having a column of water 8’ high pushing against your foundation wall at your footers. That column of water is equal to 3.5 pounds per square inch (psi). That may not seem like a lot of pressure, but try blowing 3.5 psi on a gauge! A grown man can blow a pressure of about 1.4 psi. So, when it rains, there is a very real chance of water getting into your basement. Various construction methods help direct this rainwater to your sump which is where the sump pump comes in play. A good 1/3 horsepower sump pump will discharge about 44 gallons per minute (gpm) at 10’ of head. What’s that mean?! It means the pump will pump 44 gpm through a vertical pipe 10’ high, which is about the maximum vertical lift for a pump in a buried sump in a basement 8’ in the ground. So, is 44 gpm good? Let’s do some math: Let’s just say you live on an acre of ground. That’s 43,560 ft². And let’s say we get one of those kick a** thunder storms that spring up in the summer (we wouldn’t know anything about this year would we…). This storm dumps an inch of rain in about an hour; a lot of rain to be sure, but not an unreasonable amount for a summer storm. An inch of rain on an acre of ground is 3,630 ft³ of water, and a ft³ of water is equal to 7½ gallons. Your acre of paradise just had 27,225 gallons of water dumped on it! Now, not all of that water is going to be directed to your house and into your basement. Not if your builder did his job in grading and installing rain leaders. But, some of this water makes its way to your house. Let’s say 5% of that 1” of rain is going to get to your foundation and seep in through the foundation. By the way, I have no idea exactly how much will get to your basement, this is a HYPOTHETICAL example. Five percent of 27,225 is about 1,361gallons of water. Now, let’s go back to our sump pump that can pump 44 gpm. That equals 2,640 gallons per hour. That is about double the 1,361 gallons we are assuming is going to get through your foundation wall. So a GOOD 1/3 hp sump pump should be sufficient. We use the Myers MCI033 at Apple Plumbing. It is a nice, solid, cast iron pump with a float rod switch (less likely to hang up in the sump). Other good pumps are Goulds and Zoeller.

You should check your sump pump once a year, or have us check it out. We do this by pouring water in the sump until the pump comes on and observe the rate of discharge. Is it a strong, steady stream or a weak one? Make sure the pump is sitting on a solid base and there is no debris, silt, mud or stone in the sump that could clog up the pump.

That was quite a lot of information, but it really is too late to find out your pump doesn’t work when your basement is flooded!

Stay tuned for next week's post on back up pumps!basement-pool-cartoon

Some Easy Water (and Money!) Saving Tips

Pat Scheper

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has voted to increase water and sewer rates in order to pay for repairs to our sewer and water systems, which affects a large portion of our customer base. Because of this, I thought now would be an opportune time to remind everyone of a few basic actions we can take to ensure we're not wasting more water and money. These tips can save up to thousands of gallons of water. Potentially thousands of dollars, too. Many small problems can escalate to much larger issues if ignored. Routinely check for leaks. It's spring time, so our outdoor hose bibs (faucets for hoses) are once more being used. Check them for leaks! Do they drip when not in use? When you screw in your hose, does more water pour over the sides than is being funneled through it? The same goes for indoor kitchen and bathroom faucets. Even a small, seemingly inconsequential drip can waste a huge amount of water if it goes ignored for too long.

Check your toilets too. After flushing, make sure they don't continue to run. It's easy to barely notice the sound of a running toilet in the background, or to all of a sudden tune into it and realize it had likely been going for hours. Be aware!

Is your toilet an older model? You may want to consider an upgrade. Newer models use less water to flush, and many are designed specifically to use the least amount possible. You'd be surprised how those extra gallons per flush can add up!

There are other little things that can be done that we've all heard probably dozens of times: turn off the water while brushing your teeth. Wait to run the dishwasher and washing machine until you have full loads of dishes and laundry to clean.

 

These few, simple tips can conserve water and save you a headache and bigger dent in your wallet.

Outdoor Water-Saving Tips for Spring!

Pat Scheper

Well it’s taken a while, but it looks like the warm weather is finally on its way! Time to begin prepping our plants, flowers and shrubs for the coming heat. If you’re anything like most of us here in the office, you take great pride in your garden full of vegetables or walkways lined with blooming flowers. This spring and summer let’s also take pride in how much water we save! It’s easy to put out a sprinkler and forget it, or water the plants only to have them bone dry hours later from the sun. Check out some simple water-conservation tips we’ve compiled then get out there and start weeding the flower beds!  

-Use only the amount of water your plants need, when they need it. -Group your plants according to their water needs. This will prevent overwatering some while underwatering others. -For areas with only a few plants or trees, use a handheld hose or watering can. -DON’T drown your plants in water! More plants die from too much water rather than too little. -Before watering, check the soil 2-3 inches down. Only water the plants if soil is actually dry. -If you are using a sprinkler system, use one with an automatic timed shut off, or set an alarm in the house to remind you to go check on it. -Remember to periodically check a timed sprinkler, though, to ensure it is working properly and turning on and off when it should be. And don’t forget to turn off the timer in the event of an unexpected rainfall! -Check the position of your sprinklers- is the water reaching JUST your plants, or is there a lot of extra water being wasted on areas that don’t need it such as a driveway, street or side of the house? (Even if the drops aren’t reaching these areas, make sure to check for unnecessary runoff as well!). -Consider the time of day when watering your plants. More water gets wasted during the middle of the day as it evaporates much more quickly. Try watering in the morning or evening instead. -Find a sprinkler that sends out larger water droplets rather than a fine mist. This will ensure more water gets to your plants and less is evaporated immediately. -Check all of your outdoor faucets (hose bibs) for leaks. A seemingly slow drip can quickly add up to a large amount of wasted water! -Check to make sure your sprinkler head is firmly attached to the hose and that there is no water leaking out between the nozzle and sprinkler. -When possible, avoiding planting anything at the top of a slope or hill in the yard. When watering these plants, much of the water will run down and collect at the foot of the hill rather than staying with the plants.

 

Do you have any tips or tricks you use? Feel free to share them in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!

Shut Down Leaks with Leak-Guardian!

Pat Scheper

The Leak-Guardian® systems provide the best protection available for the prevention of uncontrolled flooding from pipes, hoses, etc. This system doesn’t allow loss of irreplaceable personal property, structure damage or thousands of dollars worth of remodeling efforts. The Leak-Guardian® system just shuts it all down!

The Leak-Guardian® system will prevent flooding from all of these common sources, and more:

  • Water supply hose ruptures
  • Water heater ruptures
  • Ice maker water supply line failures
  • Toilet overflows
  • Frozen or broken pipes
  • Washing machine and dishwasher overflows

The Leak-Guardian® system consists of a motor-operated valve, a controller/receiver and a battery-operated water sensor. The valve is installed on the water main directly at the main water valve. When the sensor detects water, it sends a signal to the receiver which in turn, closes the valve. The sensor is wireless and the controller has a radio receiver within it. An unlimited amount of additional sensors can be placed around the house at sites of potential leaks: water heater, kitchen sink cabinet, laundry room, toilets, etc.

The Leak-Guardian® offers two different systems available for purchase, both of which can be installed on either city water or a well water system: the basic system and the premium well tank system. The basic system includes the valve, receiver and one wireless sensor which can be placed anywhere in the house.

The premium well tank system includes one hard-wired sensor in addition to the valve, receiver and wireless sensor. The premium system also features a contact module within the standard receiver. This module allows for the installation of an electrical switch (contactor) which can then be wired to shut off power to the well pump when water is detected by one of the sensors. This option will detect the inevitable leaks that occur on features besides the main valve, including the well tank and other immediate piping and controls.

Call us for more details, 410.840.8118!