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Apple Blog

Filtering by Category: Plumbing

It's Good to be a Plumber!

Pat Scheper


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:

  • 80 hours annual paid time off
  • 24 hours annual sick time off
  • Health, vision and dental insurance
  • Company iPhone
  • Company truck to take home
  • Paid training and continuing education
  • Paid re-certifications
  • Quarterly performance bonus
  • Matching IRA up to 3% of earnings
  • Company paid uniforms
  • Company credit card
  • Personal tool replacement
  • Paid holidays

Not bad at all for someone fresh out of college.



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:


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!

“TOILETS! Cheese and Crackers!”

Pat Scheper

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: .  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!)

New Propane Boiler Installation

Pat Scheper

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


All About Pressure Reducing Valves

Pat Scheper

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
  • Leaking faucets
  • Running toilets
  • 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!!

Toilet 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.

Why Sewer Pipe Inspections Should be on Every Home Buyers Inspection List

Pat Scheper

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.

pipebelly_AppleplumbingOne 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.

Apple Plumbing with Bobcat

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!

New Water Heaters for The Hill Family Central Y


YMCA In late June, Apple Plumbing & Heating, Inc. installed a new, high efficient hot water system for The Hill Family Center Y.The following photos and description details the work that was done, the planning that went into it and how this installation helped the Y reduce their carbon footprint.

The old system that the Y of Central Maryland was using consisted of two 80 gallon propane water heaters with a 200 gallon storage tank. This old system had an efficiency of less than 60%.


The Y chose to have us install a new, high efficiency tankless water heating system. This system consists of five 95% efficient propane-fired water heaters with a recirculating pump and integral system controller. We chose Noritz water heaters for their dependability, ease of programming and factory support. Off the bat, we estimate the Hill Family Center Y will burn over 2,500 LESS gallons of propane gas annually. By my research and calculations that is over 31,000 lbs LESS carbon dioxide being emitted into the air each year! The new system has no storage tanks that need to be constantly heated even if no hot water is being used. The heaters only heat water as needed. If no hot water is flowing, the heaters are not burning gas. The system comes with a controller that monitors hot water flow and turns on heaters as needed. If a little hot water is required, only one heater will fire. In addition, each heater modulates its gas usage from 15,000 BTU to 199,000 BTU.


As you can see, the system is compact which reflects its efficiency. Our team of Jordan, Bruce and Luke worked long days for a full week in order to get the Hill Family Center Y back on line with hot water. Jordan spent a full day the week before the job planning out the installation. There was quite a bit of piping installed in a very small space. They had to install gas piping, cold water piping, hot water piping, recirculating piping, condensate piping and flue piping. All in three days. In total, the project took five days. The last two days were spent on electrical wiring and control wiring. Tim Kyle Electric was our subcontractor for the electrical work. His crew was challenged to integrate the new system with old controls and wiring. It took some creative thinking but Tim Kyle Electric, along with Jordan, figured out the sequencing and was able to fire up the system on Friday afternoon to bring the Hill Family Center Y back on line with hot water as promised.


All of us at Apple Plumbing congratulate the Hill Family Canter Y for their commitment to our environment. They chose a system that provides their members with an abundance of hot water while saving energy and decreasing their carbon footprint. Their decision results in a great benefit not only for their organization and members, but to the community they serve. Jordan, Bruce, Luke, and all of us at Apple Plumbing are honored to have been given the responsibility to design and install a high efficient hot water generating system for the Hill Family Center Y. We value the confidence placed in our team and are proud of the product we delivered.

Getting Ready for Winter!

Pat Scheper

Remember the Polar Vortex last winter? During the week of January 6-10, we did well over 100 frozen pipe emergency calls!! Sub zero tempBy Wednesday afternoon that week, all of our techs had put in 40 hours and were into overtime. I’ve been in the plumbing service business 46 years and I have NEVER seen anything like that. And it continued on for weeks. Weather forecasters are predicting a “colder than average” winter for the East Coast this year. Because of an early snow in the Siberian Dessert we stand a good chance for another Polar Vortex. Dang! So, there are a few things you need to consider with your plumbing system to prepare for the possible frigid weather this winter:

Outside hoses and faucets. I suggest removing your hoses from your hose bibs and drain them completely. Coil them up and store them in a safe place. Outside hose bibs should be winterized too. If you have frost free hose bibs, all you generally need to do is disconnect your hose. These faucets are self-draining….for the most part. In some situations the frost free feature has been compromised through faulty installation or interior changes in your house such as a basement finish. Check it out. Traditional hose bibs do not have a frost free feature and must be shut off with an interior valve and the pipe drained. If you have plumbing on an overhang, you need to make sure the piping in the overhang is properly insulated, that the building insulation is properly installed, and that any cracks or openings in your siding and exterior finish are sealed.

Well pits. Last winter we had more than one customer with an old time well pit in their yard. This is basically a cinderblock pit anywhere from 3’-6’ deep and 5’-6’ squared with a concrete lit and an access opening. We had such a prolonged sub-freezing period that the pipes in the pits would freeze. In most cases a portable heater will keep the pipes from freezing. Be aware that well pits are very moist environments so protect yourself from electrical shock. You may want to have a licensed electrician take a look for you.

Pipes in exterior walls. Many people last winter experience frozen pipes in exterior walls that, fortunately, froze but didn’t burst. They were lucky!! If you had this situation, you should investigate your situation and look for cracks or openings in your wall and make sure you have sufficient insulation. Barring that, what you can do is when frigid weather is predicted is open a faucet in the affected sink or bathtub and let water trickle out. The moving water generally keeps pipes from freezing.

Sump pumps. Make sure your sump pump discharge pipe is clear and the outlet is not blocked by snow and ice. Many people have water treatment and/or condensing furnaces that discharge into the sump pump pit. If the sump pump pipe is blocked and your water treatment regenerates, you could have a mess in your basement. So find your sump pump discharge pipe outside now when there is no snow hiding it.

Power Outages. This has not much to do with plumbing as with life safety. Many people don’t have the luxury of an emergency generator. So, what to do when the power goes out and it’s cold outside? We lost our power twice last winter and, boy howdy, did it get cold in the house. We are fortunate enough to have a fireplace in our family room. So, we built a fire, lit some candles, shut the door and hunkered down for a cold night. There is one plumbing task I did before I turned in: I shut off my main water valve and drained the pipes. I also shut off the electric to the water heater. I opened every faucet in the house and let the pipes drain down to the laundry tub (the lowest fixture in my house). I you experience a prolonged outage in sub-freezing temperatures, your pipes will freeze….and possibly burst.

Sprinkler pipes. Many houses now have a fire sprinkler system. Some older ones also. In many of those sprinkled houses there are sprinkler pipes in the attic. Over time, attic insulation can settle and exposed the sprinkler pipes. Also, homeowners store items in their attics and can disturb the insulation. Sprinkler pipes can freeze, burst, and cause severe property damage. We had a customer in Hampstead last winter who experienced this very situation. As best we can tell, her attic sprinkler pipe burst shortly after everyone left for work in the morning and water flowed for about 10 hours. The entire house had to be gutted and redone. New kitchen cabinets, new carpet, new hardwood floors, new furniture, all clothing had to be dry cleaned and the family had to live in a hotel for months. If you have a sprinkler system, check your attic insulation. Even with homeowners insurance, the disruption can be overwhelming.

That’s about it. The best advice I can give is “Be Prepared”. Frozen and busted water pipes can cause quite a bit of property damage….especially if they burst while no one is home.


Apple Plumbing & Heating Adds Two Plumbers to the Team

Ben Scheper

Westminster, Maryland. June 12, 2014. Apple Plumbing & Heating Inc., a full service plumbing company located in Westminster, Maryland recently added two plumbers to the Apple Plumbing Team. Apple Plumbing welcomes Master Plumber Jeremy Mason of Mount Airy with 19 years plumbing experience and Journeyman Plumber Bruce Edwards of Finksburg with 20 years plumbing experience. 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. Since then, the company has expanded its shop space and now has a full team of seven plumbers and apprentices, three office personnel, five trucks, and 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 and 2013, Carroll County Chamber Business of the Year 2012, Maryland Breakthrough Business Award 2013, and Angie’s List Super Service Award 2013.

For more information, contact Ben Scheper at 410.840.8118, ####

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!

Holiday Help: What Not To Put Down Your Kitchen Drain

Pat Scheper

With the holidays, family visits and lots of cooking coming up we stop our “Hump Day Pump Day” theme we’ve been loosely following to look at some common problems our customers typically run into when it comes to clogged drains through the holidays. We’ll call it “Hump Day: The Holidays Edition”. cloggedkitchensinkNot only are clogged drains on a holiday inconvenient (and yes we come out on holidays to unclog drains for the unfortunate few!) but they can be damaging and frustrating. So without further delay, here are a few tips about kitchen drains during the holidays:

- Never put grease down a kitchen drain. Sure there are tricks/theories on how to get grease safely to the sewer or septic, but drain systems are stressed enough with the increased activity from visitors and extra cooking. Grease further stresses the system and is the number one cause of clogged kitchen drains for our customers during the holidays.

- Garbage disposals are for tiny particles of food stuck on plates after scraping them off into the trash. Just because the disposal chops it up doesn’t mean a drain is meant to handle all food. Heavier, denser foods sink in water and are outrun by water, causing them to sit on the bottom of the drain and catch other solid waste until the drain clogs. Large amounts of food also stress disposal motors and breaks them, so scrape it off!

- If you notice a drain running slow, don’t use store bought chemicals. Cleaners such as Drain-O and Liquid Plumber don’t always work on a clogged drain and our plumber’s still have to come out. Unfortunately those chemicals eat through our cables and cause them to snap so our techs will have to clean out the chemicals before we can clean the drain. Instead, if you notice a slow drain, pour vinegar or baking soda into the drain followed by a large pot of boiling water.

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.




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!

Pump Up Your Savings!

Pat Scheper

savingsMuch of the time, having to call a plumber isn’t something you usually plan on doing. Often times, you suddenly find your house without water or a pipe in the basement spurting all over.Maybe your well pump gives out and it needs to be replaced.

Whatever the cause, needing a plumber can be an unexpected cost you may not be prepared for. For such events, Apple Plumbing and Heating happily offers 0% financing over 12 months to give you a little extra relief. Weren’t expecting to wake up to no hot water and find out your water heater needs to be replaced? No problem!

We’re here to not only resolve the problem but also to make the financial aspect a little easier on you. Give us a call today, we’re here when you need us!

All About: Submersible Well Pumps

Pat Scheper

In previous blogs, we have talked about wells and the various plumbing aspects of it, and following in that trend, today we will look at the submersible well pump.The most important, and most obvious, component to a submersible well system is the submersible well pump.

A submersible well pump has two components- the motor and the water end. In general, homes in Central Maryland have well pumps with motors that range from ½ horsepower to 1½ horsepower. The motors are made of stainless steel and are about 4” in diameter and 12”-18” long. On top of the motor sits the water end. Like the motor, it too is comprised of stainless steel and is also approximately 4” in diameter and 12”-18” in length.

Inside the water end is a shaft that is turned by the motor and sticks down into it. Inside the water end and connected to the shaft are a series of impellers that spin as the shaft spins. Finally, in between the motor and the water end is a gap of about 2” that lets water be sucked into the water end.

pump_cutaway So how does the submersible well pump work?

Well the submersible well pump is connected to a pipe and wire (electric source) and stuck down into the well. The pump sits 10’-20’ off of the bottom of the well to avoid sucking up sediment/dirt in the well. The electric wire coming down the pump is connected to the motors wire and then we melt a plastic tube over the connection to make it water tight.

The pump head is connected to the pipe in the well and secured with clamps so that it doesn’t become disconnected. The wire extends all the way up the well, exits the well casing at the top and is buried underground where it goes into the house to connect to the electric panel and pump controller. The pipe extends all the way up the well casing and exits the well through the side of the casing about 3’ below ground (below the frost level). It exits with a special fitting that is called a pitless adapter. This adapter has 2 parts. The first is on the outside of the well connected to an underground pipe that goes into the house and connects to the plumbing system. The second piece goes inside of the well and is connected to the pipe coming up from the pump.

The two pieces connect to each other through a hole in the well casing, and when connected, form a water tight seal that allows nothing from the outside of the well to enter in and contaminate the system.

Soo… when the well pump is told to turn on the motor spins the shaft and the shaft turns the impellers. The impellers have fins on them so as they turn they create an upward driving force, which sucks water in through the opening between the water end and the motor, which in turn forces the water upwards through the well pipe in the casing. The water goes up the well pipe, through the side of the casing through the pitless adapter, through the underground pipe into the home and into the plumbing system. And just like that, we have water!

So how does the well pump know when to turn on? That is the job of the well tank, which we will discuss in next weeks’ blog.

A Note on Sizing: We mentioned that there are different sized motors and water ends, and we know you are wondering just how we determine the size of each. As we said above, motors come in different horsepowers. Water ends come in different gallons per minute ratings. The more impellers inside of the water end the more water it can pump and the higher gallons per minute rating it receives. They generally range in ratings of 5-25 gallons per minute. Different sized motor and water ends can pump different amounts of water.

To make things more complicated, the amount of water any given pairing can pump also depends on well depth, water levels, distance of a well from the house, well tank size, number of plumbing fixtures and the list goes on.

All of this information is used to look up motor/water end pairings on a series of graphs and charts provided by the manufacturer’s engineers to tell us exactly which well pump we need to install in your well. Simple, we know. But rest assured that all our technicians know how size a well pump and that Apple Plumbing will make sure that all you have to do is turn on the faucet!

Water Softeners

Pat Scheper


The last two blogs have been devoted to hard water and water with high iron content. Both problems have something in common, and that is how they can be resolved. Both hardness and iron are media that need to be removed from your water, and the way that is done is via a water softener.What is a Water Softener? Basically, softeners utilize two tanks and operate using an ion exchange system. The ion replacement takes place in one tank filled with small polystyrene beads, or resin. The beads are negatively charged and are bonded to positively charged sodium ions. As the water flows past the beads, the sodium ions swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions, which carry a stronger positive charge.

In the other tank is salt. After several cycles, calcium and magnesium replace all of the sodium in the beads. When this happens the unit can no longer soften water. To solve this, the softener enters a regeneration cycle during which it soaks the beads in a mixture of water and salt (sodium chloride). The large amount of sodium in the brine causes the calcium, magnesium, and iron ions in the beads to give way and the beads are then recharged with sodium. After this regeneration, the softener flushes the remaining brine as well as the calcium and magnesium down through a drainpipe.

For those on a low sodium diet concerned with the amount of salt your water is flowing through, generally the amount of salt added to your water is very low- generally less than 12.5 milligrams per 8 oz. glass of water; much lower than the Drug and Food Administration’s standard for “very low sodium”, which is less than 35mg of sodium per serving. A “low sodium diet” according to the USDA is less than 1500mg/day, or 120 glasses of softened water! But if sodium is just a deal breaker, there is a company that makes pellets of potassium-chloride that can be used in place of salt.

Standard Water Softener vs. Iron Water Softener. Although we use the same water softening equipment to remove both hardness and iron, there is a slight difference between a system meant to remove just hardness and one meant to remove hardness and iron. An Iron Water Softener uses a smaller, finer resin bead than a standard water softener. This finer resin allows the softener to remove a higher level of iron than the standard resin. A standard softener should only remove a small level of iron whereas the finer resin can remove up to 10ppm of iron. Why not just use the finer resin in all softeners? Simply, it is more expensive, so let’s not spend our hard earned money unless it is necessary!

Advances in Technology A traditional water softener has a time clock head that determines when to rinse off the resin with the brine solution. Basically, a technician takes the level of hardness, asks the homeowner about water usage details, and then makes a calculated guess as to when the softener needs to enter rinse mode because the resin can no longer soften the water. But thanks to modern technology, we now have what we call metered heads.

New softener heads have a meter that measures how many gallons of water have been used during the current cycle. The head is digitally programmed with the hardness level of the water and actually calculates when the resin is full. Once the resin is full the system enters the rinse mode. This saves energy, salt, and water!

And that is everything you wanted (or didn’t want) to know about water softeners!

FAQ: Iron

Pat Scheper

Have questions about the iron content in your water? We've got answers! Q. What exactly is the iron in my water? A. Iron comes in two forms, ferrous and ferric. Ferrous means the iron is dissolved into the water so that the water contains iron but still appears clear. Ferric iron results when ferrous iron has been exposed to oxygen and oxidizes, which causes the iron to then separate from the water and become a suspended matter, much like sediment.


Q. How is it measured? A. Both ferrous and ferric iron is measured in parts per million, or PPM. The industry standard is that iron levels of over 0.2 ppm in a water system should be addressed and treated.


Q. How does it get into our water? A. As iron is found in deposits in the ground, water readily dissolves it as it passes through them in its underground flow into our water sources. It can also result from the corrosion of pipes and your various plumbing systems.


Q. What can iron do to a home and plumbing system? A. In the home, both ferrous and ferric iron show themselves by leaving hard-to-remove yellow or reddish-brown stains on fixtures, anything porcelain and cooking utensils. They can also leave similar stains on clothing in the laundry. Water high in iron also has that distinctive metallic taste to it. To your plumbing system, ferric iron acts similar to sediment/hardness and can contribute to the formation of clogs in pipes, wells and pumps among other systems.


Q. How are high iron levels reduced from water? A. Stay tuned to see the answer to this, and last week’s question on removing hardness from water in next week’s blog!

What Is "Hard Water"?

Pat Scheper

That’s a good question. Simply, the hardness of water refers to the level of dissolved minerals, most commonly calcium or magnesium, found in the water. These minerals are the result of your water passing through limestone deposits in the ground before the water makes its way into your water system and eventually out your faucets. The more limestone between ground level and the water supply, the higher the hardness levels will be. Though city water can be hard, hardness is especially present in well water, where water falls to the earth and filters through the surface down to aquifers or the water table from which well pumps draw water.

Water hardness is generally measured in grains per gallon (gpg). GPG refers to, just as it sounds, the number of grains of a given substance in one gallon of water. One grain is equal to 1/7000 lb. and one gallon of water equals 8.33 lbs. The guideline typically used for measuring hardness levels in residential water is as follows; 0.0-0.9 gpg=soft water, 1.0-3.9 gpg= slightly hard water, 4.0-7.0= moderately hard water, and 7.1-12.0 gpg= hard water. A level of over 12.0 gpg is considered very hard water.

One thing to keep in mind is that having hard water is NOT dangerous or detrimental in any way to your health. It can and does, however, cause problems both to your plumbing system and in your home. Hard water reacts to soaps and detergents and forms a “scum” rather than allowing the soap to lather and do its job. This presents a problem when doing laundry, cleaning the house, and yes, cleaning yourself. It can cause clothing colors to dull and white fabric to appear yellow or grey, shortens the life of fabrics in general, causes soap scum rings in your bathtub, streaks glassware and dishes and prevents the soap and shampoo you use from lathering up as well as they should when showering. On their own, each of these can seem like a minor nuisance.

But put them all together and combine them with what hard water can do to your plumbing system and suddenly it’s not such a small problem!

hardnessHard water builds up and forms deposits that clog up your pipes. These deposits, of course, restrict the flow of your water and can corrode pipes, dishwashers and washing machines as well as the various pieces of plumbing equipment you have in your home. Maybe most importantly, hard water causes scale and sediment buildup in your water heater (as pictured in the second image) decreasing heating efficiency, gallon capacity, and the life expectancy of the water heater.

If hard water is such a problem, how do we get rid of it? Stay tuned…!