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Apple Blog

Filtering by Category: Water conservation

Water Cooler and Bottle Filler Combo at the Hill Family YMCA

Pat Scheper


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.

Way to go Hill Family YMCA !

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!

Water Wells 102

Pat Scheper

Let’s jump right back in where we left off last week. If you missed it, I highly recommend you checking out last week’s blog entitled “Water Wells 101”. I gave an overview of wells, how they work and what they do. I mentioned there are different types but left you all in suspense. Well here we are, at the exciting conclusion to a two-part nail-biter of a blog miniseries! Read on! One type of well are called DRIVEN wells-a small diameter pipe with a screened well point on the bottom is driven in the ground. These wells are relatively simple and economical to construct, but they can tap only shallow water and are easily contaminated from nearby surface sources because they are not sealed with grouting material. Hand-driven wells usually are only around 30 feet deep; machine-driven wells can be 50 feet deep or more. We see these wells in areas with a high water table such as the Eastern Shore.

And there are hand dug wells. Historically, dug wells were excavated by hand shovel to below the water table until incoming water exceeded the digger’s bailing rate. The well was lined with stones, bricks, tile, or other material to prevent collapse, and was covered with a cap of wood, stone, or concrete tile. Because of the type of construction, bored wells can go deeper beneath the water table than can hand-dug wells. Dug and bored wells have a large diameter and expose a large area to the aquifer. These wells are able to obtain water from less-permeable materials such as very fine sand, silt, or clay. Disadvantages of this type of well are that they are shallow and lack continuous casing and grouting, making them subject to contamination from nearby surface sources, and they go dry during periods of drought if the water table drops below the well bottom. There are still some active hand dug wells around. We have a customer with a dug well that is about 8’ in diameter and 60’ or so deep. It is lined with stone and their pump just hangs in the water; it’s a little scary to work on that well. Years ago, my dad had a customer in Randallstown with a hand dug well. According to the homeowner, it had been hand-dug by slaves in 1850. It was about 30’ deep, 5’ in diameter and lined with some of the most beautiful stonework you’d ever see. That well continuously produced water…never went dry. Unfortunately, the homeowner passed away, the property sold and the well filled in. I think it was a historical artifact.

So, there you go: a brief lesson on wells. Before we get into well pumps, I think we’ll talk a little about well water quality next week.

Until then, GO ORIOLES!

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.

Vegetable Garden Watering Tips

Pat Scheper

A vegetable garden is a beautiful thing to behold. Plump juicy tomatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, herbs and spices, peppers, onions, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, strawberries, and so on…. Nothing like seeing and tasting your hard work through spring and summer. In our garden we grow an abundance of tomatoes, peppers and onions to make and can our own salsa. This year we added cilantro to our garden for our salsa. We also can tomatoes, corn and green beans. We make our own pickles and put them up too. This year we are raising pumpkins for Sue’s wonderful pumpkin pies in the fall and at our Thanksgiving table. Last year was the first we canned… and we love it. Brings back memories of my mom canning when I was a kid. The smells of tomatoes simmering and corn boiling sent me back to my youth in a flash!! It was a big investment purchasing a water bath canner, a pressure cooker and all the jars. But, boy, opening a jar of tomatoes in January to liven up a pot of soup was worth all the expense and work. Adding a jar of corn to lima beans for succotash at Thanksgiving was warming. Sue had never experienced canning before and she fell in love with it. We spent a great deal of time together in the kitchen putting up the bounty harvested from our garden. In the cold of winter we remembered the hot Saturday in August when we husked dozens of ears of corn in the garage… listening to the Orioles and sipping a cold beer. Great stuff!!

However, all the good vegetables from our garden came at a price: hard work in tilling and weeding, soil supplements in fertilizer, fish emulsion (best stuff on earth!), compost, and water… lots of water. During dry periods your investment in time and money needs protection or your vegetables will not produce well. How much to water is always a guess. Some say ½” per week, others 1” per week. Some vegetables need to be kept consistently moist. Whatever amount you need, you need water. How and when you water can save or waste large amount of water. First, I put a mulch of straw down in my garden when I plant. This serves three purposes for me: It helps to keep weeds down, it helps keep the soil underneath moist, and it looks nice. In the fall I can either use the straw in my compost bin or till it in to decompose in the soil over the winter. One year though, I think I got hay instead of straw… I had some of the best looking grass in my corn rows!! Anyway, back to water. I save plastic gallon milk and water jugs during late winter and early spring. I poke some holes in the bottom and 1/3 up the sides. When I plant a tomato I plant a jug next to it. I bury the jug up to the opening. Once a week I fill the buried jugs and I get water to the roots of my tomatoes. I am putting in 24 tomato plants this year (like I said, we can salsa and tomatoes). They will take up and area of about 420 ft² in my garden. If I used a sprinkler to water each week and put down an inch of water weekly, I could use up to 4,400 gallons of water just for my tomatoes this summer. If I use my jugs I could use as little as 384 gallons. That is less than one tenth the amount of water used with sprinklers!!

Jugs are not very good for corn, beans, cucumbers, etc… You really are left with either drip irrigation or sprinkler. I have not made the investment in a drip irrigation system… one of these days. Until then, I am left with sprinkling. As I said, I use straw to hold the moisture. I also water in the evening so the moisture can get into the soil without the sun evaporating it first. I also keep a rectangular cake pan (one with straight sides) in the garden. I use this to measure how much water I put down (a ½” of water in the pan means I put a ½” in the garden) and how much rain falls during a shower (a ½” of rain in the pan is a ½” I DON’T have to water).

I try to place my sprinklers so I’m not watering the roof of the shed or the soybeans in the field behind my garden. Most of all, I try to not over-water. I just read that more plants die from too much water instead of too little. There you go, enjoy your veggies!

Pat Scheper

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!

Pat Scheper Talks About Water – Part II

Pat Scheper

So only .75% of all the water on earth is usable by humans and that water is caught up somewhere in what we call The Water Cycle.

You can study the above diagram, taken from the USGS web site, and follow the path of water as it travels through the water cycle.  Most of the terms are common and self explanatory.

There are two terms above that I was not sure of when I first saw this diagram:


According to the Salinity Management Guide, "evapotranspiration is the sum of evaporation from the land surface plus transpiration from plants. Precipitation is the source of all water."

The other term that flummoxed me was


The USGS defines sublimation as sublimation as "the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, with no intermediate liquid stage. For those of us interested in the water cycle, sublimation is most often used to describe the process of snow and ice changing into water vapor in the air without first melting into water. The opposite of sublimation is ‘deposition’, where water vapor changes directly into ice—such a snowflakes and frost.”

So, ALL of the usable water is caught up somewhere in the water cycle. But, not all of it is actually available for use at any one moment. Some water is in snow and ice, some in clouds, some in soil moisture, some in ground ice and permafrost, and….well you get the idea.

Green Plumbers™ USA estimates that 0.25%-0.30% of USABLE water is actually available at any one moment for human use. Of course, this is an estimate.


Pat Scheper Talks About Water - Part 1

Pat Scheper

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.  There may be more truth to that statement than we think.  About 70% of the Earth is covered by water.  So one would think there is plenty to go around.  And, it appears that more water just keeps on coming. It rains-more water. The rivers flow-more water.  Wells get drilled-more water. Why, water just keeps coming and coming…there is so much of it and nature seems to keep making more!

No so.

The amount of water on Earth has always been the same….more water has not been created. Water moves through the “water cycle” and is not destroyed.  So, how much water do we have on earth….and how much is available and usable?  Let’s see:

About 97.5% of the water on earth is saltwater stocks.  That is to say it’s either in oceans, saline/brackish groundwater or saltwater lakes.  That leaves about 2.5% as fresh water.  Now, 70% of that freshwater (1.75% of all water) is in glaciers, snow cover or otherwise frozen elsewhere.  That leaves approximately 0.75% of all the water on the earth as fresh groundwater.

That is, only 0.75% of all the water on the earth is usable  by humans.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I'll talk about The Water Cycle.