When To Replace Water Heaters – An Economy Plumbing Guide

Water heaters are an absolute comfort in the home, giving us relaxing showers and baths, helping in cooking and cleaning – they just flat out make life easier. But what happens when that ease, when that comfort goes away? You ever jump in a shower just to have the heat disappear on you? It’s awful! Keeping an eye on your water heater’s ‘health’ as it were is critical to avoiding catastrophe down the line. This time on the Economy Plumbing Service blog we are answering the question, ‘How to know when to replace water heater?’

When To Replace Water Heater – 4 Signs

Age of Water Heater

The biggest determining factor of whether or not you need to replace your water heater is the age of the unit itself. Most water heaters are built to last about eight to ten years, some can reach up to 15 or 20 with proper maintenance. If everything works in perfect order they might even last longer. But nothing ever works perfectly. It’s very likely you’ll need to replace your water heater before then to avoid a total unit failure.

Bills Skyrocketing

Water heaters are made to work efficiently. They convert energy into heat to warm water, and so long as everything works as it should, that is an easily tracked cost. If it starts to rise you can be sure something isn’t working up to snuff. 

It could also be your repair bills that are running higher than normal. If you are having to call out an expert (*ahem* like Economy Plumbing Services) twice a year or more, it might be worth the investment to replace the unit entirely.

Low Volume

Ever take a nice warm shower only to have the heat die out on you three minutes in? You’re not crazy! Water heaters work by heating up a set volume of water to be on hand and ready for use. As they wear out, they fill with sediment, which lowers the amount of open space for water. If cold showers are becoming an all too common occurrence, well you’ll know when to replace water heater.

Rusty Water

Red coloration in your water is a sign that the pipes the water travels through is rusted up. If the red water only comes out of the hot water tap, well then you know where it’s coming from! It means the water heater itself is rusting out and it’s probably time to get a new heater in.

Can My Water Heater Keep Going?

Not all problems need immediate replacement, though they need to be looked at! Here are some of the less dire water heater problems that your unit can likely survive (with proper attention of course!)

Leaky Water Heater

Leaky water heaters are a dime a dozen I tell ya. There are a few likely spots where that water leakage can occur: the water supply pipes or the pressure-relief valve. If it’s either of these parts, you are in luck! Replace the pressure-relief valve or tighten (or replace) the water supply fittings as needed.

plumber repairing leaking water heater

Strange Noises

Strange noises and water heaters go together like peanut butter and jelly it seems. These noises are usually caused by sediment gather in the water heater tank. To handle this you’ll want to drain the tank until the water and sediment clears out. Clean the elements inside, following all safety instructions first of course, and scrub the collected scale and the noises should slow down.

Whether you need to replace the whole unit or just make some minor repairs, we hope this blog has helped you get your water heater woes settled. If you need help or want to see what a new unit could cost, don’t hesitate to give us a call! We are happy to help you in any way you need.

Sewer Lines and You

Whether you’re moving in to a new place, repiping your home, or experiencing some troubles with your plumbing, knowing what you are dealing with is perhaps the best thing you can do. Part of knowing what you’re dealing with is understanding the sewer lines connecting your home to the rest of the sewer system. This time on the Economy Plumbing Services blog we are going to give a decent (we hope) beginner’s primer on sewer lines.

Private and Public Sewer Lines

Sewer lines are the connections from your homes interior plumbing system to the public sewer system (or if you’re living outside of city limits a septic system). They are the lines that take the waste water off to treatment plants for their next big thing.  There are two parts to the line the public and private portion of the line. The private line is what you are responsible for as a home owner, once it connects to the public system then it is up to the city to maintain.

diagram of public and private sewer lines
Sewer Lines, Private and Public. Image from Pima County

The Kinds of Sewer Lines

There are a few different kinds of sewer lines out there, they all typically fall within these three categories: Sanitary, Storm, and Combined. Typically they all run about 6-10” in diameter. 

Sanitary Sewer Lines

As you have no doubt guess, the sanitary line is what handles the flow of waste water from your home. Toilets, sinks, showers, all of those are connected to sanitary sewer lines.

Storm Sewer Lines

Storm sewer lines are specifically made to handle excess storm water. The big reason for storm and sanitary lines to be separate is in case of flooding, the extra water might cause the sewer system to fail. It also helps ease the load on treatment plants as rain water doesn’t need treating.

Combined Sewer Lines

Bet you figured this one out already, you’re so smart! Combined lines handle both waste and storm water. They used to be much more common but now they see less use generally to prevent undue strain on water treatment plants.

How can I find info on my connection?

If you are Tucson locals like us, then look to the Pima County online database to find more info on your specific connection.

Common Sewer Line Problems

There are about four main cause of most sewer line problems. Let’s go over them briefly to help round out the basic sewer line 101 we’re providing here.

Roots

If you have trees in your yard you might experience this awful surprise. The root system of trees will grow through just about anything if given time and the right motivation, the sewer lines under your house are no deterrent to them! You likely won’t notice the first intrusion of roots but as your sink sand tubs begin draining slower (due to the constricted flow of the line) you’ll start wondering what’s wrong.

Damaged Pipes

Earthquakes, fallen trees, (or those dastardly roots we mentioned) there are plenty of ways you might end up with a crushed, broken or dislodged pipe.  A damaged pipe won’t flow the way it’s meant to and you could end up with flooding in your hard or shifting in your ground. 

Back Pitch

Sewer lines work because of gravity. The angle of the pipe from your home to the greater sewer system has a slight slope that helps nudge the water along on its journey. If the pipe doesn’t have that pitch you could end up with some serious drain issues. A back pitched pipe is usually a problem with the installation, though it is possible for the ground to settle and for the pipe to pitch weirdly.

Clogs

Perhaps the most common thing people think of when they think of sewer line troubles: the dreaded clog. When a clog hits, it hits fast, water begins to back up and soon you’re left with something awful flooding your home. The biggest cloggers of drains? Fat, grease, and oil. 

Ok, that may have been a lot to take in, but don’t worry if you are struggling. The beauty of having a plumber as experienced, as knowledgeable, as down-right handy as Economy Plumbing Services LLC means you don’t need to know or worry about any of that stuff! If you are having plumbing problems and need work done on your sewer lines, simply give us a call and we will be out in a jiff to handle whatever life has thrown your way. After all…

If water goes through it or to it, we do it!

Winterize Your Plumbing!

Welcome back to another entry here on the Economy Plumbing Services blog! Earlier this month we talked a lot about insulating pipes, doing your best to get them in shape so they don’t freeze over or cause any energy inefficiency in the home. This time around, we want to talk about a larger scale project that you should undertake whenever you’re going to be leaving your home vacant. If the title didn’t give it away, we’re going to tell you how to winterize your plumbing!

Why Winterize?

Freezing temperatures and pipes mix about as well as oil and water. When things freeze, they expand. When water that is sitting in a pipe freezes, it expands past the size of the pipes, often breaking through the material entirely which can cause leaks, and flooding. If you are in your home for the winter, using the water regularly as normal, then you don’t have to worry about the possible bursts as much, that water isn’t being allowed to sit and freeze. If you have a cabin, or are away for the winter, you need to winterize! It’s more than just about preventing water from cracking pipes and flooding, it also prevents your home’s water fixtures from being damaged.

How To Winterize Your Plumbing

First you got to start with a plan! Figure out and make an inventory of all your homes plumbing. The valves, the taps, fixtures. You want to make sure that as you go through the rest of these steps for winterizing that you are hitting each possible place water might be sitting. Once you have a full accounting of all the taps, faucets, etc., you are ready to get started in earnest.

First, shut off the main water valve to your home. Then, go to your water heater and water pumps and turn those off as well. If you leave your water heater on while there is no water flowing into it can cause damage to the heating elements and leave you with a bigger repair come spring!

With the water off, it’s time to go around and open up all the drain valves and taps throughout your home. Check each off your list as you go through emptying the remaining water left in the pipes. You’ll want to leave all the valves and taps open for the duration you’re going to be gone. Check to see if the sinks or tubs have drain traps. If so, adding antifreeze can prevent the water from freezing and cracking the traps.

Flush your toilets, removing as much water from the tanks and bowls as possible. If for whatever reason you can’t get al the water out, add a little bit of antifreeze to prevent the water from freezing and breaking the toilet.

Head back to your water heater and get ready to drain it. If your unit doesn’t have a floor drain with it, you may need to get a hose to drain the water out of the heater and your home without making a mess.

Proper Pipe Precautions

While you are working around your home, make sure to take the time to examine pipes that might be especially at risk. Any pipes on the exterior of your home, outside of walls or where they enter the walls.

If your walls have any cracks, repair them. The less cold air that gets into your home the less you have to worry about. If you there are gaps in the wall where the pipes enter, fill it with caulk or another insulating material. Make sure to follow our tips on insulating your pipes and you should be in great shape this winter!

Need help? Give us a call! Our plumbing experts are happy to help, we have the experience, know-how, and attitude to get the job done right the first time!

Remember, if water flows to it or through it, we do it!

Pipe Insulation and You

It might surprise you to talk about now, but this month on the Economy Plumbing Services blog we are talking about pipe insulation and winter prep for your plumbing. “It’s September! Fall isn’t even here yet!” We hear you, but when it comes to pipe insulation and other winter prep, getting it done before winter is the whole point, it’s a proactive measure you need to take to make sure your plumbing doesn’t breakdown come the colder months. Let’s start with pipe insulation!

Pipe Insulation – What is It Good For?

You might be surprised to hear it, pipe insulation is good for keeping your pipes, more specifically what is flowing through them, the temperature they need to be for them to work like they are supposed to!

You might think ‘Hey, the pipes are in the walls, that’s insulated! Nothing to worry about here,’ and while in most cases, sure, the pipes might not need that extra help to keep their temp. Those interior walls keep the temperature regulated, but in unheated portions of your home there can be there can be unseen problems caused by the lack of insulation. For instance, cold water pipes might sweat, increasing the humidity in your home. Hot water pipes leaving the heater might lose some of their heat as they flow, making you crank the hot water handle to get it where you want and causing the cost to rise in turn!

For those pipes that are on the exterior of your home, or in the outer walls, they may be exposed to more extreme temperatures such as freezing cold putting them at risk to freeze, burst, and flood your home!

So, you want to prevent freezing pipes, you want to prevent loss of heat and energy inefficiency. That means its time to insulate!

Ways to Insulate Pipesman installing pipe insulation

There are a few different methods for installing pipe insulation. You can:

  • Use foam pipe sleeves
  • Add wall insulation
  • Use pipe wrap

Installing Foam Pipe Sleeves

These work best when long, straight stretches of pipe need insulating. Installing them is surprisingly easy, all you’ll need are the sleeves, maybe some duct tape, and something to cut the foam with! Simply lay the sleeve along the pipe, pry up the slit in the side of the sleeve and slide over the pipe. The slit may have a self-adhesive strip attached, may not, but either way it wouldn’t hurt to double dip and seal using duct tape after the fact. When you get to a point where the pipe bends or ends, simply cut the remaining length of foam and use it elsewhere. You may end up with some bends or places that aren’t as well insulated. If you’re handy enough, you can cut and wrangle the foam sleeves to cover the exposed  areas decently enough.

Adding Wall Insulation

If you’re in a place that gets freezing temps (and believe it or not, that includes us desert dwellers in Tucson!) you know that the exterior walls get cold. If you have any pipes in the exterior walls, you’ll need to make sure they are adequately insulated. This requires a bit more work than the pipe sleeves, including opening up your walls and placing new, better insulating materials into the space. If you have another remodeling project on the docket, now is the time to double dip and get a plan made for insulation.

Using Pipe Wrap

Pipe wrap is available in a bunch of different materials – flexible foam, bubble-film, foam-and-foil, foil-backed cotton, or rubber pipe tape. It’s easy to install and works well for small stretches pipe, or where there are so many bends it isn’t feasible to use something bigger. Whichever wrap material you go with, installation is dead simple. Tape one end on the pipe and get wrapping, spiraling the strip around the pipe overlapping each loop by about a half an inch. Tape the other end of the insulating strip into place and bing-bang-boom you’re in business!

If you combine both the pipe wrap and sleeve methods you can cover your exposed pipes with the necessary insulation fairly painlessly! Not up to snuff when it comes to handy stuff? Worried you might make the problem worse, or just want to have the peace of mind that comes with professional installation? You know who to call!

Next time, on the blog we’ll take a look at winter prep for all your plumbing including winterizing your pipes!

Leaking Water Heater, What’s the Deal?

Unfortunately for most of our customers, when they need a plumber they need a plumber stat! A toilet might be overflowing, drains clogged and causing a mess, or a leaking water heater. All of these are problems you want to act on quick, and are worth knowing their potential causes. The sooner you recognize the problem, the sooner it can be fixed, the less damage and cost falls to you!

To that end, this time on the Economy Plumbing Services blog, we are looking at what to do in the case of a leaking water heater, how to diagnose the source of the leak and more in this double sized entry!

Handling a Leaking Water Heater

WARNING: Believe it or not, water heaters get water HOT! Most heaters at factory settings heat water to around 125 degrees. That’s hot enough to cause first degree burns, some heaters run hotter and even indirect contact can burn. Be safe here!

Step One – Find the Source

There are a few possible reasons for water to be spotted pooling under a water heater. It could be a leak, yes, or it could just be condensation from pipes, nearby appliances, and the like. If you have a basement or the weather is particularly damp this might be the cause.

It could also be from water softener or furnace drain lines, or other sections of your plumbing could be leaking instead of the water heater. Here’s how to find the source!

  1. Dry the area completely and then inspect the plumbing and water heater fittings. Wherever the pipes and appliances join, look for water beading.
  2. If no water is spotted, look at possible nearby sources. Look above to where it may drip from. If there is still no obvious source, lay down some towels and check every so often for any additional leaks.
  3. If they don’t appear – hey! There’s nothing to be worried about!
  4. If water does reappear, and there isn’t any other obvious source, it very well could be the water heater.

Step Two – Turn Off the Power

Now that you know the water heater is the likely culprit, you need to turn the power OFF!

Electricity and water are a rough mix. If you have an electric water heater go to your circuit breaker box and look for the breaker for your water heater (if these aren’t labelled, make a note and take care of those when this is settled!)

Is your water heater running off natural gas? Look for a dial or switch on the tank itself, often near the bottom. Be sure it is set to OFF.

Step Three – Turn Off the Water

Most water heaters have a valve right at the top that supplies the cold water to the tank. Turn that off. Sometimes it’s necessary to shut off the water to the house but if you are still unsure of the leak location that can make it hard to diagnose.

Step Four – Where’s the Leak?!

Looking over your water heater with a closer eye for detail can help you identify the problem before calling in a professional, ensuring that they know as much as they can going into it.

Common Places for Leaksleaking water heater inlet and outlets

-Cold Water Inlet/Hot Water Outlet

The water inlet/outlet connections take the cold water to the tank to get heated before it is sent out to the feature needing hot water. These should be on the top of the water heater and if the leak is coming from these connections it might be as simple a fix as getting a pipe wrench and tightening a few connections. Not too bad!

-Drain Valve

At the bottom of the tank is something called the drain valve, bet you can guess what this one does! Check to see if the valve is closed completely. Check where the valve connects, there shouldn’t be any moisture. If the drain valve has a leak it can be fixed, it isn’t too serious.

-Temp/Pressure Relief Valve

Also located on the top (or side) of the tank is the temperature and pressure release valve and pipe. This safety device helps ensure that the water in the tank doesn’t get too hot and that the pressure being built up inside is not to the point of bursting. This lets water out of the tank, relieving pressure and bringing the temp down.  If the valve is closed and water is still flowing through the pipe then the valve is defective and in need of replacing. If the valve is open and the water coming then it’s a good bet the leak is fixable. Call a professional!

-Internal Tank

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. The internal tank of a hot water heater is completely enclosed in insulation and the outer shell. A leak inside the internal tank won’t be visible from the outside and the water will leak through the bottom. It is not an uncommon thing for the internal tank to start leaking. With age comes use, with use comes deterioration – when comes to fixing the internal tank the only real fix is to replace the entire unit.

Repair Yourself or Hire a Professional?

Now, with this information you have the know how to figure out where and what the malfunction might be. For some of these the fixes might well be within your own capabilities! Like we said with the inlet and outlets, simply tightening the fittings might be all that’s needed to settle the problem. For others, like the internal tank, replacing the whole unit is the only option or a fix. Be honest with your own abilities and ask “Is this something I can handle or will it just end up costing more?”

 

Ready to call in the professionals? Give Economy Plumbing Services a call for prompt, dependable plumbing service. Our professionals can have your problem sorted out before you know it, whether it’s repairing or replacing a leaky water heater, repiping a home or anything else you may need.

 

Remember, if water goes through it or to it – we do it! Call 520 -214-2149!

Repiping A Home – What to Know

Sometimes plumbing issues get to such a degree that simple spot repairs aren’t enough to fix the problem at hand. When this happens it may be time to consider repiping your home. We know, we know, that sounds like a lot of work and a little scary to boot. This time on the Economy Plumbing Service blog we are going to give you an overview of the process, from the signs it’s necessary to completion.

Signs Your Home Needs Repiping

Repiping a home can be an expense and rarely is it convenient. That’s why it’s crucial to be aware of the signs your home is in need for it! Getting it taken care of before something catastrophic occurs will make the whole process a lot easier to handle, and cheaper to boot!

Your Home is Over 50 Years Old

‘They don’t build them like they used to.’

No matter how good the construction, nothing lasts forever! Older homes, we’re talking up to the mid-twentieth century, used galvanized steel as the main material in their plumbing. That might sound strong to you (and it is, when new) it corrodes and after about 50 years it needs replacement. If you’re home is heading towards retirement age and hasn’t had it’s plumbing updated, be prepared. This might be a project you have coming up for you.

Frequent Pipe Leaks

Pipes leak, it happens. Sometimes a fitting is loose, or a bunch of other possibilities, but these should still be a rarity. If your pipes are leaking regularly that can be a sign that the plumbing as a whole is in need of replacement.

Mineral/Rust Build Up

There are two clear signs that you have mineral or rust build up in your pipes: low water pressure and red/brown water coloration. Over time minerals and rust can build up in the pipe restricting the flow of water reducing the water pressure. The rust can break off and come through the water giving it that red or brown color. That’s no good!

If you see any of these signs then it’s a good bet, you need to look at repiping your home.

plumbers repiping a homeHow Repiping Works

The first step in any repiping job is shutting off the water to the home. Replacing pipes with the water turned on is an easy recipe for flooding! Because of the need for shutting off the water, repiping is often done when the homeowner isn’t at home so they have minimal inconvenience but that’s not entirely necessary.

Once the water is off, the plumbing experts will make sure the areas are ready for the work, covering furniture and carpet to protect from debris, dust and making for easier clean up. Again, the idea here is to make this process as minimally inconvenient as possible. Repiping can be a big job, and the less headache the better.

Now that the water is off and the work area is ready the real repiping process can begin. Making cuts into the drywall to locate and map out the piping. This might have you on edge, ‘Cutting into my walls?!’ but trust us, when you have the kind of experience Bryan has, you can practically x-ray the walls with your eyes. We know how plumbing works and how plumbers think, making the process fairly quick and painless.

With the plumbing mapped out it’s time to remove it and replace with the new piping with higher quality materials. While we’re at work in this stage, if you wanted to upgrade other fixtures or appliances, now would be the time. Installing new water heaters and such are easier done when the piping itself can be manipulated to fit the appliance perfectly.

Finally, with all the piping replaced, the last step is to repair and resurface wherever the walls were cut into. After all is said and done, we want the only change in your home to be the working water!

Ready to Repipe?

Now that you know what to look for and what to expect, you have the power to make the decision. Ready to repipe? If you’re in the Tucson area and you’re looking for the fastest service available, give us a call at Economy Plumbing Service LLC. We can get the job done in TWO DAYS and you can stay home while we do the repair work! We make the process as minimally invasive as possible, and our new pipes are made to last longer and not break. We’re so certain of it we give a 25 year warranty on new pipes.

If Water Goes Through It Or To It, We Do It!

PEX Tubing Primer – The Future ‘Pipe’

Hello world! That’s what the site suggests we say here on our first blog post at Economy Plumbing Services, but that’s not all we want to say. We are committed to providing our expertise and services in our jobs but also here on our blog where we can talk at length about the topics our customers are looking for answers for! That’s our goal here on the blog and we’ll start by talking about PEX tubing!

PEX Tubing

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) tubing is perhaps the tube of choice when it comes to most building materials. Whether its heating or cooling systems, natural gas, or domestic water piping, it is a great alternative to PVC and CVC pipes.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty big fans of this amazing pipe!

The Power of PEX

The nature of PEX, the ‘cross-linking’ of the polyethylene makes it stronger, more resistant to abrasion and cracking, as well as being more resistant to heat and various other (rather scientific) benefits. For our purposes the benefits of PEX in plumbing are huge!
We use UPNOR WIRSBO PEX piping with a 25yr mfg warranty!

Flexibility

PEX pipes have incredible flexibility, are able to bend as space permits meaning that there are less joints and connections needed to pipe a home. They can’t handle a turn at a right angle so elbow joints will be needed in those instances, but in many cases a fixture or appliance can get water directly from the source with a single line. The fewer joints, splices, and other connections in the pipe means there is less risk of leaks and water pressure stays great throughout the whole flow.

Easy Install

PEX is so much easier to install than copper pipes for a few reasons. That flexibility we talked about? That helps. PEX also doesn’t require torches to solder pipes together, or adhesives for pipe fittings. Generally fewer fittings and connections are needed on a PEX job, simplifying the whole process.

We use a color-coded layout for pex pipes as well, with red tubing being used for hot water and blue for cold, and clear for hard water lines, meaning less chance for errors and mixups. No more turning the cold handle to get the hot water! This colored piping is uv protected vs clear/white piping. It is important to keep PEX pipe covered and not exposed to UV rays. We have all of our pipes stored in a warehouse away from any chance of exterior elements.

Oh, and remember how we said it doesn’t require a torch for soldering? That also brings the risk of a fire down! Installing PEX tubing doesn’t require a flame of any sort. Transitions from copper to PEX requires soldering however the use of open flame is minimal now.

pex tubing hub, showing ease of connection

Low Cost

Here’s a stat that’s bound to make you excited! Materials cast about a quarter of alternatives! The price of copper has gone up about 4x since 2000, and while it isn’t at it’s all time high, it still can’t beat the price of PEX tubing.

Durable

PEX is non-corrodible! Unlike copper pipes, moisture and minerals don’t corrode PEX. Further, the lifespan of PEX piping reaches up to 50 years making it an ideal material to replace thermoplastic and metal pipes throughout a home.

PEX can still burst from freezing temperatures but very unlikely to do so than PVC or copper piping. With PEX there is the option to add insulation to keep the water temperatures stable and help prevent freezing.

Adaptable

PEX is adaptable. If you don’t want to have your whole home re-piped (though if you do, we here at Economy Plumbing Service can do the whole job in two days!) you can begin with whatever repairs are immediately necessary and go from there. There are a bunch of fittings out there that allow PEX to interact with copper or PVC piping systems. And since the lifespan of PEX is so long, you don’t have to worry about the first sections of PEX going bad before you get to the rest of it.

PEX Tubing – All in All, an Amazing Pipe

As you can see, PEX tubing is an amazing option for homes, whether they’re used in radiant heating systems, or in water piping. It’s somehow that wonderful trifecta of cheaper, easier to work with, and more durable than other traditional pipes. We love using it in our jobs here in Tucson and can recommend it easily.

If you’re in the Tucson or Oro Valley area and you need plumbing services, whether they be installing new PEX tubing, fixing a water heater, or taking a look at gas lines, we are happy to help. Give us a call and remember…

If Water Goes Through It Or To It, We Do It!