Plumbing Category

Avoid Frozen Pipes – A 3-Step Checklist

avoid frozen pipesSimple steps you can take with drain pipes to avoid frozen pipes can also help prevent the repeated annoyance of a frozen drain. When freezing temperatures persist for a length of time—particularly when they are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit day and night—both water supply lines and drain pipes may freeze. Just as with any other type of drain blockage, a drain pipe that is obstructed by ice will not drain water freely.

Here are three things you can do to avoid frozen pipes.

  • Insulate exposed segments. Anywhere you can access spans of drain pipe—such as in the crawl space or basement—cover these segments with foam pipe insulation. Supplied with a slit down the length of the segment, this slip-on insulation can be placed on the pipe without disconnecting the plumbing. Where the drain pipe goes underground in the crawl space, it’s a good idea to insulate the pipe at least twelve inches below the soil to reach the frost line—the point where the pipe is unlikely to freeze.
  • Keep cold air away. Look for any gaps in the exterior wall of the house that allows frigid outdoor air to reach drain pipes and other plumbing routed inside the wall spaces or the crawl space. Small cracks can be sealed with exterior caulking. Larger gaps, such as those where plumbing pipes penetrate the exterior wall, can be filled with expanding spray foam insulation that comes in a can. Still bigger openings in the wall need to be permanently patched with wood or siding.
  • Fix dripping faucets in the house. Drain pipes that don’t contain any water can’t freeze. Though drain pipes are typically installed in a way to empty all water into the main sewer line, one or more dripping faucets creates an ongoing presence of water throughout the span of the drain pipe. If temperatures drop low enough, the drain may freeze.

For more advice about what you can do to drain pipes to prevent freezing this winter, contact the plumbing pros at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.


How to Prepare a Water Heater for Winter

water heater seasonal maintenanceBecause this is not the season to be stuck without hot water, take time to properly prepare your water heater for winter. The water heater’s typically the most frequently replaced major appliance in the house. Many last less than 10 years. One of the things that can help extend water heater service life is seasonal maintenance. Here are some suggestions to prepare a water heater for winter and ensure you have plenty of hot water for the cold weather to come.

  • Set the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees. Temperatures higher than that pose a danger of scalding and don’t get hot water to you any faster when the pipes in the house are cold, anyhow. Also, the higher the temperature of water inside the water heater tank, the quicker it loses heat while on stand-by—particularly during winter if the water heater is located in a cooler location like a garage or utility area. Rapid tank heat loss means the water heater cycles on and off more frequently to compensate, consuming more gas and increasing operating costs.
  • Insulate exposed sections of cold and hot water pipes. Buy slip-on foam pipe insulation at a home center and place it anywhere you can reach the cold water supply line leading to the water heater and the hot water line leading away from the heater. Also, any other accessible segments of hot water pipe elsewhere in the house should be insulated, as well. This prevents freezing in winter and aids water heater performance by reducing heat loss.
  • Drain and flush. Mineral sediment present in the water supply accumulates inside water heaters. It’s a major cause of higher water heating costs and shorter water heater life expectancy. A qualified professional plumber can drain the heater tank, flush out sediment accumulation, as well as verify proper function of the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve, an important water heater safety check.

For qualified service to prepare a water heater for winter, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Problems that Point to Plumbing Replacement

leaky pipe plumbing replacementSometimes plumbing services in Cincinnati mean a simple fix. Other times, plumbing replacement is what’s required in a residence. Residential plumbing doesn’t come with a lifetime guarantee, unfortunately. If you keep your house long enough—or you’ve just moved into an older residence—you may notice certain signs that mean you’ll need plumbing replacement now or in the near future. Sometimes these are subtle annoyances you’re simply putting up with. Others are warnings of major malfunctions that require immediate plumbing services in Cincinnati. Here are some signs to be aware of that plumbing replacement may be required in your home:

  • Low water pressure. Bath and shower pressure is feeble, the washing machine takes forever to fill and flushing a toilet in one part of the house interrupts water flow everywhere else. The most likely cause in older residences is galvanized steel supply lines that have become gradually clogged with mineral deposits like calcium carbonate. Because mineral deposits also accelerate corrosion, these pipes are also at greater risk to rupture at any time. Replacing supply lines with modern copper pipe or PEX tubing is required to restore proper pressure.
  • Discolored water. Water that appears rusty or brown often indicates corrosion and/or accumulation of mineral deposits in pipes. Generally, this is a system-wide problem that is rarely limited to just one individual water line in the house. Therefore, replacement of supply pipes is the only way to clear up the water supply and get sparkling clear water again.
  • Evidence of leakage. Leakage from water supply lines is not “normal” and should never be ignored. Tiny pinhole leaks on pipes in the house may appear minor. However, they are often a red flag that indicates acute corrosion hidden inside the pipe—a condition that could result in a catastrophic pipe rupture that inundates your home with hundreds of gallons of water. Since all the supply lines in your home are generally the same age, repiping is called for to ensure that the entire system is reliable again.

For qualified experienced plumbing services in Cincinnati, contact the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

3 Reasons to Choose a Water Treatment System

whole house water treatment systemA whole-house water treatment system connected to your home plumbing system protects all the water entering your house—not just selected individual faucets. That’s because water quality is an issue that affects the entire household. While many people are concerned about the quality of water they consume, the water you bathe in and wash clothes in may also raise health concerns, as well as harm your plumbing system at large. Here are three specific reasons to consider installing a water treatment system in your home:

  1. Questionable quality. If you get your water from a local municipal source, chances are it meets the government standards for quality. The question is: Are those standards high enough to meet your standards for your family’s health and safety? Long-term effects of chronic exposure to low levels of contaminants like chlorine, lead, pesticides and others —which meet official permissible limits—may still be a concern to you, however. To ensure a higher standard of water purity for your family than what the acceptable standards offer, consider water treatment for your plumbing system.
  2. Hard water matters. Municipal water in some locales is hard; i.e., it contains a high quantity of dissolved minerals. Most mineral content is not considered a health threat so water utilities aren’t required to reduce mineral content of water. However, hard water can be an ongoing annoyance: soap won’t suds, shampoo doesn’t rinse, glasses and cutlery look dull and foggy and white laundry turns somewhat gray. In addition, mineral deposits accumulate inside household water supply lines, causing low water pressure. Mineral deposits inside pipes also accelerates corrosion, leading to premature pipe ruptures and potential water damage.
  3. Aesthetic issues. A rusty tint due to high iron content and/or gritty sediment are common in some areas and not a health threat. However, these and other visual effects do make water appear less appetizing and inviting. A home water treatment system filters out impurities before they reach the faucets and fixtures in your house.

Do you have questions about your water quality? Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing about water treatment for your plumbing system.

Drain Clearing: When to Throw in the Towel & Call a Pro

plumber drain clearingA clogged or slow drain may require professional drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati — or not. What it takes to resolve common clogs differs greatly from house to house. Some will be cleared by basic DIY methods while others resist the do-it-yourself approach and require drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati. What are the factors that make the difference?

The Clogged Trap

If debris washed down the drain has accumulated in the p-trap—that u-shaped bend in the pipes just below the sink—you may be able to restore proper drain function yourself.

First try a standard drain plunger. If a few rounds of vigorous plunging don’t work and you’re handy, you may try to clean the trap manually. A PVC p-trap can usually be readily removed by loosening the large slip nuts on either side of the trap and pulling the trap down and off the drain pipes. Clean out the trap and reinstall, hand tightening the slip nuts. Check drain function.

If the clog persists, avoid the temptation to pour caustic drain cleaners down the drain which may damage your pipes and cause expensive repair bills. Now’s the time for professional drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati to deal with these issues:

Deeper Clogs

Debris past the p-trap, deeper in the drain system, usually resists plunging. Consumer-grade household drain snakes, meanwhile, often aren’t long enough to reach it and/or may not get past sharp bends in the pipe. Professional intervention and equipment is required.

Sludge Accumulation

This gooey concoction of soap scum and grease accumulates in drain pipes and eventually stops flow of waste water. Plunging is ineffective and/or use of a drain snake only pokes a hole in the sludge, which quickly closes again and the clog recurs. A plumber can dissolve sludge with hydro-jetting technology that cleans the inside of the pipe with high-pressure hot water or utilize power-rodding equipment with rotating mechanical blades to scour internal pipe surfaces and restore drain function.

When professional drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati is what’s required to clear a clog, contact the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Dirty Jobs: Tips to Avoid Sewer Clogs

If you need any more reasons to avoid sewer clogs, consider this fact: most standard homeowner’s insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for damage and cleanup if raw sewage backs up into your home due to a clog. The homeowner gets stuck with the entire bill. According to the Civil Engineering Research Foundation, sewage backups are increasing at a rate of 3 percent annually — mostly residential cases. To avoid sewer clogs that contribute to this alarming statistic, here are a few tips.

avoid sewer clogsWatch What Goes Down the Drain

One of the main sewer-clogging culprits is FOG — the acronym that stands for fats, oil and grease. In fact, according to the EPA, about 60 percent of sewer clogs are FOG-related. Inside the sewer pipe, FOG hardens and gradually obstructs free flow. Fats, oil and grease should be collected in containers and thrown out with the regular trash, never poured down the drain.

Only toilet tissue safely disintegrates inside your plumbing. Any other paper or fabric product should go out with the regular trash and not be flushed. Disposable wipes, used paper towels, cotton balls — all of these will not disintegrate inside the sewer pipe and may form a future clog.

Schedule a Professional Inspection

Because your sewer pipe is underground, only a qualified plumber utilizing technology like video evaluation cameras can tell what’s really going on inside. Inspections every few years can help avoid sewer clogs from these common sources:

  • Tree roots penetrate sewer pipes through joints and obstruct free flow. Roots may grow very far from the nearest tree, so don’t assume your sewer is safe. If an evaluation reveals tree root intrusion, your plumber can discuss effective ways to clear the pipe before a blockage occurs.
  • Collapsing pipe segments are a problem, particularly with older residential pipes. If an evaluation reveals a deteriorating pipe, options include re-piping with continuous plastic pipe that has no joints and withstands aging. This can usually be done without excavating your yard.

For advice and professional service to avoid sewer clogs, contact the plumbing experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Cracked Toilet: Can it Be Saved?

Is there any hope for a cracked toilet? If there is, does it make financial sense to attempt to fix it versus upgrading to a new model? Toilets can crack for a variety of reasons — sometimes there’s not even an obvious cause. The degree to which a cracked toilet is repairable largely depends on where the crack is located and how much time and trouble you’re willing to expend getting it done.

What sort of crack is it?

  • cracked toiletCosmetic cracks around the outside of the tank or bowl that only penetrate the outer veneer of the porcelain are generally not an issue that requires repair.
  • Cracks less than 1/16-inch wide above the normal water line of the tank may be filled using an epoxy porcelain repair kit available at a home or hardware store. Long-term fixes, however, are often unpredictable.
  • Cracks wider than 1/16-inch — or any cracks below the water line of the tank — aren’t worth the expense and effort to attempt repair. Moreover, these cracks can be a sign that the tank may totally rupture without warning, causing severe water damage in the house.
  • Cracks in the toilet bowl are another reason to replace rather than repair. Because the bowl is the main weight-supporting part of the toilet, any signs of defects (other than external cosmetic cracks) is evidence that the toilet is no longer structurally sound and should be replaced.

Replacement vs. Repair

In many homes, the toilet is the oldest fixture in the house. Worn-out internal components such as the float valve and flapper are typically replaced periodically, but the basic porcelain structure remains — often for decades. During that time, far more efficient models have been developed that save water and cut costs. While a toilet from the 1980s or earlier may consume as much as 7 gallons of water per flush, today’s new high-efficiency toilets (HET) consume only 1.28 gallons per flush; one more reason why replacing with a far more efficient toilet now may be a better option than repairing the old model.

For a professional opinion about whether to repair or replace a cracked toilet, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Is it Safe to Snake My Own Drain?

If you need drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati, maybe you’re considering doing it yourself, instead. Of course, utilizing caustic drain chemicals is a bad idea; while dissolving a clog, these corrosive substances can also permanently damage household plumbing. The common drain snake is another method of opening a clogged drain. Whether it’s right for you — or whether calling in professional drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati is a better idea — depends on the size of the clog, as well as the snake itself.

Smaller Clogs

professional drain cleaningRoutine, minor sink clogs like hairballs or food remnants, typically located in the u-shaped trap directly below the sink or only a few feet deeper in the drain pipe, may be cleared by use of a light-gauge, hand-operated drain snake. Typically, these are 1/4-inch diameter and no longer than 10 or 15 feet.

Larger Clogs

Larger clogs deeper in the drain pipe, however, are a different matter. Here are some reasons why drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati by a qualified plumber is a better idea for difficult clogs.

  • Stubborn deeper clogs require larger, longer and more powerful snakes. If you opt for the do-it-yourself approach, you’ll need a powered snake from a rental facility. These thick, heavy-duty snakes are driven by an electric motor and may be up to 100 feet long. Aside from the expense of renting this equipment, the downside for the DIYer is that the size and power of these snakes is more than adequate to fracture fragile household drain pipes when used without experience. This can mean far more costly repairs than a simple clog.
  • Snakes don’t clean the drain. While a snake may dislodge the clog and resolve the immediate problem, accumulating sludge coating the wall of the pipe means clogging will likely recur. Sludge can only be removed by a plumbing professional equipped with specialized drain cleaning equipment like a powered drain auger with rotating blades sized to the diameter of the plumbing, or a hydro-jetting system that utilizes high-pressure hot water streams.

For professional drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati, contact the plumbing experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.

Plumbing Preventative Maintenance Tips for Summer

Plumbing preventative maintenance is a year-round matter. However, the focus changes as the weather warms up. While frozen pipes are a major concern in winter, summer brings other issues to the forefront. Neglected plumbing issues will waste water resources, raise your monthly bill and can be a precursor to household water damage if a supply line ruptures or a drain backs up. Here are a few items that should be on the summer plumbing preventative maintenance checklist:

plumbing preventative maintenanceSewer Backups

They’re more common in summer months due to reasons ranging from simply higher household usage to tree root infiltration to heavy summer rainfalls. If you haven’t had a sewer evaluation in a few years, schedule one now. Catching any problems before they happen is definitely preferable to cleaning up raw sewage inside your home on a hot day.

Sprinkler Problems

If you have underground sprinklers in your lawn, they’re probably activated for the summer and the water supply is turned on. A broken pipe underground may not be immediately evident but can waste thousands of gallons of water. Look for unexplained wet spots or depressions in the lawn or any areas where grass is unusually green. Also, keep up with replacing any sprinkler heads or valves that may be damaged by mowing.

A/C Issues

Your central air conditioner is connected to your household plumbing system to drain gallons of A/C condensate  produced every day. Algae forming in the air handler drip pan or drain line can cause a clog and damaging overflow. Pouring a cup of common household bleach into the drip pan at intervals during the summer inhibits algae growth.

Washing Machine Hoses

Summer frequently means out-of-town vacations. Check the condition of rubber washing machine supply hoses. If one ruptures while you’re gone, catastrophic water damage could occur. Before you leave, turn off the water at the hot and cold spigots behind the washer to be safe. For a more permanent fix, it’s a good idea to have a plumber upgrade to braided steel lines.

For professional plumbing preventative maintenance to keep your summer trouble-free, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.

3 Ways to Prevent a Clogged Drain in the Bathroom

The most effective technique for a clogged drain is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Bathroom drain clogs don’t happen out of the blue. In fact, they’re a very predictable result of daily events that eventually create a clog that requires a service call from a qualified professional plumber. Because the bathroom incorporates some of the most utilized plumbing fixtures in the house, drains carry a lot of waste water daily and can be a recurrent source of issues if certain preventive techniques aren’t applied. Here are some things you can do to reduce the probability of a clogged drain in the bathroom:

  • Clogged DrainScreen out hair. The number one source of bathroom drain clogs is a gradual accumulation of hair in the drain pipe — usually in the trap located just beneath the sink or under the shower or bathtub. A clotted mass of hair also traps soap scum, and together these factors form an effective and stubborn clog that often requires removing the trap to restore proper function. Install stainless steel mesh hair screens in both the sink and tub/shower drains to trap hair. Clean the screens of accumulated hair regularly.
  • Don’t flush foreign objects down the drain. Many disposable cosmetic items used in the bathroom should not be disposed down the drain. Common facial tissue, cotton balls and Q-tips do not degrade inside the drain pipe. Instead, they’ll form a clog that required the services of a plumber to clear.
  • Maintain the drain. Monthly use of enzyme-based drain maintenance products (not caustic drain openers) can help dissolve drain-clogging substances and prevent clogs on an ongoing basis. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of using these products, try this natural drain maintenance technique. Once a month, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of vinegar, added slowly. Wait five minutes, then flush the drain with a gallon of boiling water.

Contact the plumbing professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing for advice and service to resolve a clogged drain in your bathroom or anywhere else in your home.