Slow Draining Toilet? Here’s What is Going On

No, you’re not crazy, your toilet really is not working like it’s supposed to! A slow draining toilet is a common problem for many folks and there are a few potential causes for this problem. Let’s talk about it, get it fixed up sooner than later so you can stop worrying! This time on the Economy Plumbing Services blog, we’re answering what causes a slow draining toilet.

When a toilet isn’t draining correctly, it isn’t operating as effectively and efficiently as it should be. This can cause a whole mess of problems down the line (pun intended). So let’s address it now before it gets worse.

There are a number of different reasons for why your toilet might be draining or flushing slowly, not all of them terribly complex, but not all easy either. But there is always a reason. And when there’s a reason, there’s a fix.

Four Most Common Reasons for a Slow Draining Toilet

Not Enough Water

When you press the flusher on the toilet, you’re opening up a flapper that allows water to flow from the back tank into the bowl itself. This creates downward suction in the flush. If, for whatever reason, there’s not enough water in that tank it won’t create the right amount of suction.

So, what do you do?

You’ll want to make sure your tank is filling up with water, up to about an inch, an inch and a half below the drain pipe. Lower than that and your flush will be weak. You might also have low water pressure, valves that aren’t fitting correctly or assemblies that aren’t keeping a seal can all mess with the water available. If your components aren’t fitting quite right your friendly neighborhood plumber can take care of it for you! (*ahem* that’s us!)

Mineral Build-Up

Specifically mineral build-up around the ol’ jet holes! Jet holes are the holes on the underside of the toilet’s rim. During a flush, water is shot through the holes. Because of their location (underside of the toilet rim and out of sight) and their relatively small size they are easy to forget about when it comes to cleaning! Over time minerals can build up around the holes and causing a blockage, slowing down the flush.

The jet holes are the holes on the underside of your toilet’s rim. Water shoots out of the jet holes during a flush. Toilet jet holes are small and out-of-sight, which means they tend to be very easy to forget about. They’re also easy to forget to clean. If you don’t clean your toilets’ jet holes frequently enough, minerals can build-up around them. Over time, these mineral build-ups could block water flow–and slow down your flush.  

Use distilled white vinegar and a small stiff bristle toilet brush to break up the buildup around jet holes. First, spray the build-up with the white vinegar. Let the vinegar sit for thirty minutes. Then,  simply use the brush to scrub the build-up away. Make sure to wear gloves while you do this!

Flapper Valve Troubles

The flapper valve is the rubber stopper located at the bottom of the toilet bowl. It covers the passage that leads from the toilet tank to the toilet bowl. Whenever you depress the toilet handle, you’re lifting the flapper and uncovering this passage. Water flows from the tank to the bowl through the passage you’ve just uncovered, triggering the flush.

Just like everything else,  flapper valves wear out over time. If the flapper wears out, it may not be able to cover the passage between the tank and bowl. Some water will leak from the tank to the bowl constantly, which will weaken the flush. It’s relatively easy to replace a flapper yourself, or you could have your plumber do it.

And of Course… Clogged Drains

Clogged drains affect all the water-using appliances in your home, including your toilet. A backup in any pipe or drain will slow the movement of water throughout your home. The easiest way to fix this (and avoid it long term) is to invest in regular professional drain cleaning.

Clogged drains often happen when someone accidentally flushes something down a drain that they shouldn’t. Pay close attention to what you’re flushing down your drains. Don’t treat your drains like a garbage can–especially your toilets.

How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

Welcome back to another entry here at the Economy Plumbing Services blog! Winter is well and truly here! We may have thought that last month but these past few weeks is when the temperatures really started to dip, and just in time! The winter holidays are just around the corner. If you’re planning on going on any trips this winter, perhaps to a family cabin, you might want to take some steps to keep your pipes from freezing!

How to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing with a Few Easy Tips

Insulate Pipes

The number one thing you can to do keep your pipes from freezing this winter is to insulate those bad boys!

Despite what you might think at first, pipe insulation is relatively inexpensive – especially if you compare it to the repairs costs of a burst pipe! Keep a particularly close eye on spaces where pipes are in unheated and interior spaces of your home. Places like the attic, garage, basement are all places where the pipes are exposed to ambient temperature. 

Most pipe insulation is made up of fiberglass, foam, polyethylene. If you’re expecting a cold front to blow in and you don’t have anything on hand, you can even use newspaper and duct tape if you’re in a fix. But, regardless, insulating your pipes is a huge first step to keep your pipes from freezing!

Keep Garage Doors Closed

For many homeowners, their plumbing runs through the garage in a number of ways and the water heater might be there as well. This is unfortunate because the garage is kind of perfectly built to let things get cooold. Garages have lots of smooth concrete that keeps the place cold. If you keep the door open and let the cold air in well you’re just turbocharging those freezing conditions. 

Open Doors & Cabinets

While we’re on the subject of keeping doors closed, there’s also power in keeping things open inside.  Here’s why! Keeping interior doors open, helps your home regulate and keep a consistent temperature. Now as for cabinets…

Pipes are often exposed in your bathroom and kitchens, well ok not exposed, but they’re outside of the walls in these locations, usually tucked into a cabinet. These cabinets, if left closed can trap cold air in them, and keep your pipes cold.

By going about your home and opening doors and cabinets you keep the warm air circulating around and warming the plumbing. 

Leave Faucet Running

This might surprise you, but if you leave a faucet dripping, ever so slightly, just a drip you’ll help prevent your pipes from freezing over. Here’s why. 

Running water, even just a tiny amount, has more energy than standing water, this energy, this friction created by the movement of water produces the tiniest amount of heat, making the water harder to freeze over. So by allowing a faucet to drip, especially one that is fed through exterior or exposed pipes, you’re opening up a pipe for water to flow through.

The other benefit? Opening a faucet releases pressure from building up in the cold pipes. This will keep the pipe from bursting as the combination of pressure and solidifying water overwhelms the space. 

Thermostat Consistency

Just like the thought process behind opening doors & cabinets, keeping your thermostat at a consistent temperature will help keep your pipes from freezing over and potentially bursting. If you’re using your heater during the day, don’t turn it off at night in an attempt to save energy as you could risk the temperature dropping drastically and the water in your pipes responding.

Seal Cracks and Openings

Really, this should go up there next to insulating pipes as one of the best things you can do to keep your pipes from freezing over and bursting! Look around your home for any holes, gaps, cracks, or openings that can allow cold air to find its way into your home and walls. Look for cracks around windows and doors, look at the holes that utility wires for cables run through. Look at the places where your plumbing comes out of exterior walls. If there any cracks at all, caulk them up to keep warm air in, and cold air out. This helps your home’s insulation in a big way!

These are just some of the ways you can prevent your home’s pipes from freezing over.  For us here in Tucson we are pretty fortunate that the temperatures don’t dip that deep too often so usually following these precautions are more than enough to ensure our plumbing stays in tip-top shape. If you’re worried about the state of your pipes heading into the winter, give Economy Plumbing a call! We’ll do a plumbing inspection that will sort you right out!

Fixing Leaky Sinks and Toilets

The leak has been identified, found, and marked. Your enemy is clear, this loose gasket, this punctured piece of PEX tubing. Now it’s time to take matters into your own hands and fix it. Luckily you’ve come to the right place! Read on for more info on how to fix leaky toilets, sinks, and more!

Fixing a Leaky Toilet

The Toilet

Toilets have two main pieces. The bowl that sits on the floor and the tank, or ‘back’ of the toilet that holds the water. Either of these can be the place for leaks to crop up.

Fixing a Running Toilet

Hands down, the most common problem toilets have is running. It’s not a typical leak but it is still wasting water nonetheless. This is an easy fix though, and you can handle it right now at home!

A toilet is running likely because of two possible errors. The flapper isn’t sealing itself correctly or the water level is too high. If the water level is too high, the excess water will constantly be forced to flow into the overflow tube, creating the appearance of constantly running water. 

Either way, these are easy enough fixes for most folks to handle on their own. You can adjust the refill valve in the tank to reset the water level. As for the flapper you may just need to work with the chain that connects the flapper and the flush lever. If it’s too short the flapper won’t sit just right, too long and the flush won’t work right. Make sure it’s just the right length and you’ll be golden.

Fixing Leaks at the Toilet Base

Toilets can also leak at the base, where water might leak out onto the floor. 

First things first, if you are experiencing a leak around the base of your toilet it is most likely dirty water. Stop using the toilet right away, until the leak is repaired.

A leaky base is most often caused by a defect or problem with the seal between the toilet and the drain opening in the floor. This seal is made with a wax ring which, over time, can degrade and leave gaps for water to leak through. To repair this you’ll need to remove the toilet to get to the wax ring.

First, shut off the water to the toilet and flush the water, emptying out the bowl and tank. Then you can use a tool to remove the bolts and nuts that secure the toilet to the floor. With these removed the wax ring is easy to access, simply swapping it with a new one and working backward, securing the bulls then turning the water back on and letting it refill.

Fixing a Leaky Sink

Like toilets, there are two places where a leak is most likely to occur: the water supply and the drain. Left unchecked, leaky sinks can do a lot of damage so make sure you take care of them as soon as you notice.

Fixing Water Supply Leaks

Water supply leaks are usually because of fittings that aren’t secure and since the water coming into the sink from the supply is under pressure these leaks might be a spray or an active drip. 

So first, look to the shut off valve and see if it needs tightening. With two wrenches, hold the valve in one and tighten the nut with the other. Sometimes all it takes is a little tightening and the leak disappears. 

While you are tightening things, check the faucet fixtures too. These can get loosened over time and allow water to leak out. Use locking or adjustable pliers to get in close and tighten.

Fixing Drain Leaks

Drain leaks can be caused by a number of different problems, so get ready to do some testing to figure it out. These leaks can be caused by loose connections, corrosion, or blockages. 

First, let’s address the connections and see if that clears up the leak. If your trap is plastic, you can usually tighten these by hand simply enough. Metal nuts you’ll need a tool to get the proper force and grip to tighten it. If you notice that the metal fittings aren’t tightening despite how much you’re twisting it’s likely they are corroded and need to be replaced. 

If after tightening there’s still a leak, you’ll probably want to remove the trap completely and give it a good cleaning. Clear the line of any blockages you can reach while you’re at it. Reassemble and test for a leak. Good? Good!

If any of these steps seem just a bit beyond your paygrade or amateur DIY abilities, don’t sweat it! Economy Plumbing Service is here to help! Give us a call and we’ll take care of anything, whether it’s replacing a toilet’s wax ring or repiping your whole house – we’re your guys!

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

Identifying Leaks in Your Plumbing

When it comes to ensuring your plumbing is working right, you need to be vigilant about leaks. Read on, this time on Economy Plumbing Service, we’re running down how to identify if you have a leak!

There are a few telltale signs that one is lurking somewhere in your pipes. Water bill running high? Toilet running all night? Noticing a foul odor under your sink? You’re likely dealing with a leak. Let’s talk more about that!

Check Your Meter

First, the easiest way to ID whether or not you have a leak is to rely on your meter! 

To do this, first shut off all the water in your home. Make sure none of your faucets open, no washing machines, nothing at all that needs your water. With everything turned off, and the water shut off look at the meter and mark where it is sitting. After several hours, take another look and check the meter. Did it change? If so that means water is going somewhere it shouldn’t. 

Doing this process overnight when no one needs the water in your home is a good time to run this check.

Now, this won’t help you find where the leak is, as the leak could be anywhere in the system after the meter, but now you know there’s a problem! And that’s a start!

Test for a Leaky Toilet

Toilets make up about a third of all household’s water use. If there’s a leak there, it’s going to have a huge impact on your water use. Luckily, testing for a leak in your toilet can be incredibly easy. First get some food coloring, add a couple drops to the tank and wait, wait, wait some more. If after about 10 to 15 minutes your toilet bowl is showing that color, you know you have a leak letting water flow from the tank into the bowl. That leak means the tank is constantly draining and refilling and wasting water! 

Monitor Your Bills

Similarly to looking at your meter, you can take a look at some of your utility bills to get a good idea of what’s happening. Get the bills for the past few months and take a look at the usage amount and the total bill. Have your water habits been fairly consistent? Then the bill itself should be the same. If your water habits haven’t changed and your bill is rising, well that might mean a leak.

To make it easier on yourself, gather up as many monthly bills as you can to compare. And remember that some of your plumbing runs underground and you may never notice those leaks first hand, even though you’re still paying for them!

Check Your Outdoor Usage

At this point, you’ve probably noticed that we have mentioned a couple of times that not all leaks are going to be outside or above ground. A large portion of your plumbing system is outside your home and leaks can happen there too!

Check Your Spigots

Grab a garden hose and connect it to your spigot. If water is leaking through the connection then you probably have some broken down gaskets that need to be replaced.

Look at Your Yard 

Are there certain areas where the grass or weeds are growing like crazy? Your irrigation system might have a leak in it.  

And last but not least, use your common sense! Things like mold, odors, and wetness of course, all are signs of a leak. Look at the back of your cabinets, under your sinks. Finding leaks when they’re small and easily repaired will save you thousands down the road!

Speaking of, if you have found a leak and it is time to repair it, well you come back next time and we’ll lay out the simple fixes for leaky sinks, toilets, and drains. 

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

Smart Plumbing Coming Down the ‘Pipe’

First thing first, yes, yes of course we know the saying is coming down the pike, but forgive us a bit of plumbing pun would ya? Alright, so, with everything else in the home getting smarter shouldn’t our bathroom enjoy the increased IQ? That’s right, joining TVs, thermostats, fridges come pipes, toilets, faucets and more! This time on the Economy Plumbing Services blog were going to look at some of the cutting edge tech coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.

Smart Plumbing Coming Your Way

While having a fridge know when to order fresh milk is cool, the real game-changer coming is are smart pipes! This isn’t a brand new endeavor, engineers have been looking to create a smarter pipe for half a decade now. The tech wasn’t quite performing like people hoped and wasn’t adopted far and wide to change the landscape of plumbing. The next couple of years might change that! Here are some components coming that when added to your plumbing will change the game!

Smart Leak Detectors

Moen, the company behind many fixtures and features, debuted a new product at CES called Flo.  It’s a puck-shaped device that is installed nearby common leak locales, such as the washing machine, hot water tank, or under sinks. The detector has various sensors to detect if there’s a change in temperature or the presence of water. Should it sense water or temperatures dipping into freezing it will send an alert to your smartphone to let you know ‘Hey! There’s a leak!’ Each of these pucks runs about $50 which individually feels expensive for what it does, but if it detects even one leak it can save you that and then some, easily.

As G.I. Joe says, knowing is half the battle. The other half…

Smart Shut-Off Systems

… is knowing how to use that knowledge! So you detect a leak and your smartphone pings with the update – what happens if you’re away from the house or on vacation? That’s where a smart shut-off tool can help! Moen has that covered too, creating a one-two punch of detecting and action when any leak crops up, stopping the water before the leak becomes too catastrophic. These tools detect signs of the leak, like fluctuating water pressure, and trigger the shut off. 

Another example of smart monitoring systems is Phyn XL. The Phyn uses machine-learning-based water sensing technology (right!?! That sounds like some Iron Man stuff!) This allows it to detect leaks or changes in the water pressure in the flow of the water. Phyn makes other tools that can dial in the monitoring to specific fixtures to really give you an in-depth look at your water flow.

As we know, a water leak can lead to some serious damages, and they’re 10x as likely to affect a house than a fire. It makes sense that smart water sensing tech is on the rise!

Smart Purifiers

Better, cleaner drinking water is huge, and more and more homeowners are installing RO machines and other water purification systems. Now those systems are getting better, smarter, and more advanced! Companies like Kohler are releasing the Aquifer Refine Purification System. You hook it up to your pipes and the wifi (for extra smart potential) and it gets to work! Okay, it doesn’t need to be wifi connected to do it’s filtering job but while it is it can shoot you messages to your smart devices updating on leaks, monitoring filter usage, and can be connected with Amazon to auto-order new filters when your current one is on it’s last legs. Anybody out there have an RO system and then just completely slack on changing filters? Well, now you don’t have to

Smart Toilet

Here we go, where the magic happens, the toilet. Bet you never thought your toilet would have more in common with your computer than your bathtub huh! That’s right, smart toilets have all sorts of features built in to make a better appliance.   

Here’s a list of just some of the potential features you can get in your smart toilet:

  • Automatic flushing
  • Overflow protection
  • Water-saving features
  • Massaging bidet wash
  • Automatic flush
  • Remote control
  • Self-cleaning features
  • Slow closing lid
  • Bluetooth 
  • Air dryer
  • Heated seating
  • Built-in sensors that alert you to possible tank leaks
  • Self-deodorizer
  • Emergency flushing system during power outages
  • Nightlight
  • Foot warmer

A new era in bathroom comfort has dawned!

Ready to upgrade your bathroom or need a simple clog cleared? Whatever it is, Economy Plumbing Service is here to help! Give us a call today and we’ll take care of you!

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

Candy Season: What Can’t Go Down Your Drain

It’s that time of the year again: the time where you and your family get a ton of sticky, sweet, and delicious candy. Regardless of how much you get, it’s inevitable that some of it will end up in the trash or in the sink. Most candies are fine going down the sink, but some Halloween treats should always go in the trash — if you’re not planning on eating them, that is! 

Protect your drains and avoid flushing these seasonal food items and candies down the drain and garbage disposal. 

Nuts

Nuts are a common ingredient in a few popular candy bars, including Snickers and Peanut M&M’s. A few nuts won’t be that much of a problem, but consider this: how is peanut butter made? A few nuts were ground down and spun to make a thick and sticky paste. The same thing can happen in your garbage disposal — the nuts, mixed with other components of the candy, and create a large sticky lump that can clog your pipes. 

Peanut Butter, or a thick peanut butter-like mix, can be a pain to clean out and may not be easily flushed out with drain cleaners. Try to limit the amount of peanut candy that goes in your sink and instead, put it to better use. Like eating it! 

Pumpkin and Fibrous Vegetables

It’s October, which means pumpkin season is in full force. Whether you’re carving them, using them as decorations, feeding them to animals, or eating them yourselves, you should avoid putting any of them down the drain. 

Pumpkins are extremely fibrous on the inside. While they may feel slimy to the touch, that doesn’t mean the guts will slide down your drain without any problem. Actually, the opposite is true. The long and slimy strands can easily get caught in your drain and catch more debris as it gets flushed down the sink. 

The slimy gunk is ideal for clogging sink drains. It’s stringy and sticky when wet, and when it dries, it hardens into perfect choke-points for drains. So avoid carving pumpkins in the sink and instead opt to do it outside or in the garage, with newspaper laid down on the ground. 

Pumpkin guts can also get entangled in and damage garbage disposals. The same goes for veggies like celery and rhubarb. Throw long, stringy stalks straight in the trash to keep the fibers from causing a problem, but don’t worry about small pieces. When chopped up, the fibers are small enough to not cause a problem.

Also, don’t try to flush them down the toilet! The same kind of clog will form, but it will be further down the piping system. Instead, put them in the trash or a compost bin. 

Coffee Grounds

We know it’s not a seasonal thing, but sometimes you need an extra boost during the evening to help you keep up with the kids during trick-or-treating. While most nights end early, Halloween is definitely a longer-than-average feeling day. Sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up to help you get through it. 

Even though you’re tired, avoid putting those coffee grounds down the sink when you’re done with them. That’s because they’re hard, which can damage your garbage disposal, and they’re prone to clumping together in the drain. They will likely continue to build up over time and catch more and more food as it gets washed down the sink, thus resulting in a large amount of build up and an eventual clog. 

For a list of more things you should never flush down your drain, see our past blog on the topic. 

Why Is a Clogged Sink Bad?

You may be asking why it’s so bad to clog a sink for a day or two until you can get it fixed. Sure, it stinks and the water isn’t going away, but that’s harmless, right? 

Wrong. A clogged sink results in a slow drain, if any drain at all, which builds pressure in your pipe. This pressure, though not often enough to lead to a burst pipe, can cause cracks and leaks. 

Leaks are always a concern — the water can quickly damage your walls and floors, as well as cause potential hazardous mold. 

Water sitting in your sink could also attract pests and ignite irritations caused by allergies and asthma, especially when the water is contaminated with food particles and gives off an odor. While these types of issues typically only occur with severe clogs, it can become a major health concern if it does happen. 

What Do I Do If My Drain is Clogged?

If your drain is clogged or if you notice something unusual about it, such as loud noises, scrapping or bangs when you run the garbage disposal, it’s time to call a professional, like Economy Plumbing Service. 

Economy Plumbing Services serves all of Tucson and the surrounding areas including Vail, Sahuarita, Green Valley, Marana, 3 Points, Catalina, Saddlebrook, and Oro Valley. The business is family-owned and operated and ready to help you when you need it. If you’re in the area, give them a call

How Often Should You Replace Your Pipes

Pipes aren’t something you should think about replacing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it after some time. Every type of pipe has a different lifespan and here are a few signs for when you should call an expert plumber to replace them. 

Obvious Signs Your Pipes Need Replacing

There are a few obvious signs you should look for if your house is old and has older piping. One of the most obvious things are cracks and leaks. A cracked pipe should be pretty easy to spot — look for a crack in the pipe itself or leaks. If you notice a leak, follow it as much as you can (or call a plumber to check out the pipe from the inside), and you’ll likely find a crack. 

If you do notice a leak, call a professional immediately. It doesn’t take long for water to damage your floor or walls! A plumber might be able to repair a plumbing leak without replacing pipes. But they might also suggest pipe replacement if the pipes are in especially bad shape.

Corrosion

Corrosion is a natural process that destroys the material it affects. It usually occurs in refined metals. Corrosion isn’t that common with modern piping materials, but is possible in older homes. This is why the answer to “how often should you replace your pipes” isn’t as straightforward as saying “once every X years.”

Galvanized steel pipes, which aren’t as common nowadays, are known to corrode. Once corrosion sets in, it’s only a matter of time before you’re going to need to replace your plumbing pipes to allow water to flow through them freely again.

Less Obvious Signs that Your Pipes Need Replacing

There are times when your pipes won’t be clogged due to corrosion, where they will be as dry as the Arizona desert, and where no cracks are visible. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your pipes don’t need replacing. Be on the lookout for these less obvious signs. 

Water Discoloration

Discolored water is not always a sign that you need new pipes, especially if you live in an area with a “boil order” in place, if you have well water, or live in a rural area. But if you filter your water and none of the above is true, it’s possible the discoloration is due to corrosion. This puts rust in your water, thus resulting in the brownish tint. Though rusty water may look and taste unpleasant, it is not a health concern. 

It is a concern to your pipes, though. The rust can cause minerals to build up, which in turn either clogs your pipe or slowly builds pressure in it. The pressure, if left unchecked, can cause the pipe to burst. A burst pipe can cause catastrophic damage to your wiring and insulation, and may even lead to a house fire.

If you suspect rust or corrosion, call a professional plumber immediately. 

Lifespan

Just like how technology goes in and out of style as new and better models are released, so does plumbing. Pipes have drastically changed in the past century to become more reliable and safe. Depending on when your home was built, you may want to consider replacing your pipes to modernize your home before any problems arise. 

Most modern systems use brass, copper, or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes. However, older buildings used cast iron, lead, and galvanized steel. Brass, cast iron, and galvanized steel have a lifespan of 80-00 years, copper lasts 70-80 years, and PVC piping only survives for 24-45 years.

Lead pipes are a huge concern if they’re in your home. Lead is highly toxic and should not be consumed in any quantity, no matter how small. It can be found in brass pipes too, as it is an alloy. Tests can reveal how much lead is in each pipe, and if it’s above the federally suggested level, you should cease water usage immediately.

Pex pipes are the newest thing in piping. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) tubing is a plastic material that has several advantages over previous materials like copper and PVC. It’s flexible, much easier to install, and has an estimated 100 year lifespan. It is also highly durable and heat resistant. 

So, Do You Need to Replace Your Pipes?

If you haven’t noticed anything unusual with your pipes, you probably don’t need to replace them. Be sure to keep an eye out for any of the signs mentioned above. If you’re looking to buy a house, ensure that the pipes are good to go by having them inspected (especially if the home is older). 

If you need prompt and reliable service to either replace a pipe or just check them out to be sure, contact Economy Plumbing. Their business is family owned and operated and is a member of the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Give them a call today!

A Breakdown of Water and Sewer Pipe Materials

Not all pipes are made out of the same material. In fact, there are many different kinds, both metal and nonmetal, that are being used today. Some, such as galvanized steel, are slowly being phased out as older homes and businesses begin to re-pipe, while others, like brass and PEX piping, are gaining in popularity. 

Here is a breakdown of each of the more popular sewer pipe materials. 

Brass Sewer Pipes

Brass was one of the more popular piping materials for older homes because of its long lifespan of 80-100 years, and it’s resistance to rust (especially if it’s made of 67-85% copper). They are easier to thread than traditional steel and offer great hot-water distribution. 

Brass pipes can easily be used for all of the following: 

  • Water supply lines
  • Water removal drains and lines
  • Some applications for gas lines, depending on local building code

Because brass is an alloy, one of the potential problems with this piping material is lead. Lead is highly toxic if consumed. If you have brass pipes, get them tested regularly to see if any lead is leaking into your water from the pipes. If the lead is in a safe range, you have nothing to worry about. If the levels are too high, you should shut off and replace your pipes immediately. Thankfully, most modern brass piping is lead free, so if you’re in the market for brass, lead should not be a concern. 

Cast Iron Pipes

You’ll likely see cast iron in older homes that were built pre-1950s. Cast iron plumbing pipes are normally manufactured as bell-and-spigot, or threaded joints. They’re quite heavy and are normally only used for water distribution or underground installations for moving water (like a sewer). It is extremely strong, durable, and both sound and heat resistant. 

However, cast iron is highly susceptible to rust overtime. Thankfully, sections can be easily replaced if rust becomes an issue. They’re not commonly used today due to their weight, but are still reliable and safe.

Galvanized Steel 

Galvanized steel was popular several years ago and will be found in many homes that were built post-1950. Its lifespan is relatively long at an average of 80-100 years. 

Galvanized steel pipes are prone to both rust and corrosion, meaning they’re not reliable in the long term. If your pipes are old enough, you may begin to experience discolored water due to rust, buildup or leaks caused from the corrosion. Because of this, they should be phased out of your home and replaced with a modern material when it’s time to get new sewer pipes. 

You can tell if you have galvanized pipes by checking to see if they’re magnetic. Simply grab a flat head screwdriver and a strong magnet. Find your water line and scratch the outside of the pipe with the screwdriver. If the surface looks shiny and silver, and if the magnet sticks to it, then it’s galvanized. 

Copper Piping

Copper is the most popular piping material for homes built after 1970. It is estimated about 98% of homes built after that time have copper pipes. Copper is designed to last up to 80 years, however, if your water is acidic, it can cause heavy corrosion. 

Corrosion of copper pipes will introduce high levels of copper into your tap water, which is a serious health risk. It can also cause leaks, which can damage your home, and let other contaminants in your tap water. Once the dangers of copper pipes became better known, plumbers switched to brass pipes. If your water isn’t acidic, copper pipes hold up well and stand the test of time. 

Copper pipes are recyclable too and you can install them outside without much concern. 

The downside is that copper pipes are expensive and they may make water taste slightly metallic. 

PVC Piping 

PVC piping is popular for short-term sewer pipes and water drainage. It’s only designed to last 24-45 years, so it will need to be replaced relatively often compared to other piping materials. 

PVC pipes offer lightweight options that are safer to install, flexible, and resistant to fracturing. They’re also secure in terms of joint tightness. PVC pipes are available with deep insertion, push-together gasketed or solvent cement joints. 

PVC piping is a non-toxic and safe material that has been used for more than half a century. It is also the world’s most researched and tested plastic.

PEX Piping 

In 1968, German scientist Thomas Engle discovered a way to crosslink common plastic (polyethylene) through radiation to produce a much simpler form of the material, thus creating PEX. Today, it is cross-linked polyethylene tubing that is primarily used for water supply piping systems. 

PEX piping is flexible, easier to install than rigid metal piping, is durable, and offers high heat resistance. It also has a lifespan of about 100 years. 

However, PEW pipes are not suitable for use outdoors as the sun can break down the material, it cannot be recycled, and it does require special connectors and tools to install. 

 

Gas Water Heaters vs. Electric Water Heaters

One of the most important appliances in your home is something you don’t think about is your water heater. While that’s a good thing, once a decade passes, you’re going to want to start thinking about replacing it before your water heater fails. 

Nowadays, there are many choices, but it all boils down to gas water heaters or electric ones. For some, the choice is simple: if your house isn’t hooked up to gas, then you have to choose electric. But for most, you do have the ability to choose between the two. So, what’s the difference?

Both gas water heaters and electric ones are rated by their input, which is the measurement of gas or electricity used per hour to heat the water in the tank. Gas is measured in BTUs and electric heaters are measured in watts. 

The average input ratings for a gas water heater range from around 30,000 to 180,000 BTUs, depending on size. Generally speaking, the more BTUs, the faster the unit will heat water.

For Electric water heaters, the average input ranges 1,440 to 5,500 watts, and the same principle applies—the higher the wattage, the more quickly the unit will heat water.

The Cost of Gas vs. Electric

Like with any home appliance, the cost depends on how big, new, efficient, and high-quality the water heater is. The more expensive unit, the more likely it is to have a longer lifespan, be more efficient, and save you more money in the long term.

Gas and electric water heaters differ greatly in cost, though you’ll have to think beyond the initial payment to get a fair comparison. Gas water heaters are more expensive than electric, but they cost less to run (as gas is generally cheaper than electricity), while electric water heaters have a cheaper price tag, but often cost more in monthly electric bills. 

Which One is More Efficient?

This one is not as easy to answer, as some electric water heaters are more efficient than gas, and vice versa. Efficiency is measured by EF ratings — the higher the EF rating, the more efficient the water heater is. 

Many will be comparable, especially models made by the same manufacturer and ones that are similar sizes. However, certain types of electric-powered models—including heat pump and hybrid heat pump units, described below—have the efficiency advantage.

Though if you’re looking at a gas and electric unit of vastly different qualities and age, always go for the newer model that is higher quality.

Which One Heats Up Faster?

If you’re looking for a unit that heats up faster, gas is the way to go. This is because electric heaters often rely on drawing heat from the surrounding air to get going. If you’re in a warmer climate, you may not notice the difference, but if you experience cold winters or mild climates, you may want to consider a gas water heater. 

The pinnacle of efficiency in an electric water heater is the heat pump unit. Before you buy, do some research to see if the unit can withstand what you need it for. 

There are also hybrid options available for heat pumps. Hybrid heat pumps allow the consumer to choose different operating modes for different situations to increase the appliance’s efficiency. For example, most hybrid heat pump units have a vacation mode that reduces operating costs when no one is at home. Depending on the model, you could save up to 80 percent on hot water costs by choosing a hybrid heat pump over a standard water heater. 

There is a downside to hybrid units though. Most of them must be installed in a large area — at least 1,000 square feet — and are not appropriate for small utility closets. 

What About Tankless Water Heaters?

Tankless water heaters come in both gas and electric options. They heat water as you use it, opposed to storing it in a tank, which means they can be up to 35% more energy efficient. These are an entirely different breed and rely on “flow rate” measurements, so be sure to consult with an expert before purchasing one. 

Lifespan

The style of water heater, not what fuels it, determines how long it lasts.

For both gas and electric, tank water heaters last an average of 10 to 13 years, and tankless units last up to 20 years or longer. The average for electric heat pump water heaters is 12 to 15 years.

When in Doubt, Call The Experts

Get peace of mind and great service by hiring trained plumbers and technicians. They are highly knowledgeable on plumbing, building codes and technology innovations.

Need a job done as soon as possible? Economy Plumbing Service will always answer the phone. They provide comprehensive, first-rate service on every call. Their work is done on time, exactly to specifications, no matter the task. If you need a new heater heater, they have your back too. Call them today

What Can Cause a Sink to Clog

Thankfully, a clog sink is relatively easy to deal with, but the cause of it can be triggered by many things. To avoid a clog in the future, here’s a list of what probably caused it in the first place. 

The most common things to a clog a sink are hair, food, soap scum, or grease. 

What Clogs a Bathroom Sink

If your bathroom sink is draining slowly, or not draining at all, the culprit is likely hair. It’s the perfect material to clog drains: it clumps, is stringy, and easily sticks to surfaces. Pipe walls often catch hair clumps as they travel down the drain, so the hair sticks and gathers more and more hair as time goes on. This is also what causes your shower or bath to slowly drain. 

All hair clogs drains: from men’s hair, to women’s hair, from thin hair to thick, and even pat hair — it’s all a culprit. To reduce the number of clogs in the future, try to catch the hair before it goes down the drain using a drain straining device, or pick up the hair manually instead of flushing it away with water. 

Soap Scum

Soap scum can clog any sink, but is particularly common in the bathroom and laundry room. Soap scum occurs when chemicals in the soap react with calcium and magnesium ions in water. It looks like a filmy substance that clings to the bottom of the sink and the walls of pipes. Overtime, it can cause clogs and build ups. Like hair, it catches itself and other falling materials, creating a clog over time.

 Soap scum can create particularly frustrating clogs because it’s sticky. It’s not easy to clean away with a pipe snake or professional tool, or chemical to dissolve it. 

Having a water softener helps tremendously with reducing soap scum build up. The filter cleans out the calcium and magnesium ions, making it harder for the chemical reaction with the soap to occur. Heavier chunks of soap may also catch in the p-trap, so having a drain strainer will help with that too. 

What Clogs a Kitchen Sink?

The biggest thing that stops up a kitchen sink is food. It seems obvious, but certain foods aren’t meant to go down the drain, especially if it’s larger chunks. Any food that’s washed down the drain can get trapped in the P- or J-trap in the pipe system. Overtime, anything that’s caught in the pipes will catch other things, thus causing the build up to grow. 

To remove them you’ll need to use a drain cleaner or plumbing snake, or a drain friendly cleaner. 

To avoid getting food stuck in the drain, avoid putting it down there in the first place or installing a garbage disposal. 

Grease 

Grease kills pipes and drains because it is notorious for causing clogs. Grease creates sticky sediment that acts as glue in your pipes. It catches and traps other things and they get stuck for a very long time. A garbage disposal can’t dissolve grease either, so there is little you can do without chemical cleaners, professional tools, or new pipes all together. 

To avoid these clogs, don’t pour grease, fat, or oils down the sink. They should always go in the garbage. If you do put fat down the drain, run the garbage disposal and use cold water to help chop the fat up and move it through your piping system. 

Damaged Pipes

All kinds of pipe damage can cause clogs. When pipes corrode, the rust built up on the inner pipe walls can constrict water flow. Dented pipes will constrict or completely block off water flow if they’re damaged significantly enough. Even pipe joints can wear out or come apart, which could cause pipes to sag and block water flow. If pipes aren’t securely fastened, they could shift over time until they become displaced or disconnected.

Pipe damage is difficult to avoid because all pipes get worn down over time. 

Need a Plumber? 

Some clogs are just too stubborn to get out on your own, or you may need new pipes. If that’s the case, call a reliable plumbing service. If you’re in Tucson, give Economy Plumbing Service a call. Their plumbers are experienced and can get into any space to repair your pipes or unclog a sink. 

Economy Plumbing Service trucks are fully stocked and ready to repair all kinds of plumbing leaks and issues. Water heaters, toilets, faucets, stems, or cartridges, and all makes and materials of piping and fittings.

They will always answer the phone to help. Contact them today