Brooks Plumbing Co. Blog: Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Plumbing Guide: Sump Pumps Provide Relief for Wet Basements

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Many homes in the Lacey area require sump pumps to keep their basements dry. Sump pumps are placed in pits or “sumps” in the basement floor. When the basement floods, it starts at the lowest point, which is the sump. As the sump fills with water, the pump is automatically activated and begins to suck the water out of the sump and discharge it to a drain or a line leading away from the house before it can flood the basement.

 How Sump Pumps Work

The pump’s base has openings to allow water to flow into it. When water fills the sump it also fills the interior of the pump. When the water reaches a certain level it triggers a floating switch that activates an electric motor. The motor spins a metal shaft immersed in the water at the bottom of the pump. The shaft is attached to an impeller, which resembles a small, sideways water wheel.

As the impeller spins at high speed it whirls the water away from the center of the pump, forcing it into a discharge pipe that rises up out of the sump. The discharge pipe connects to a length of hose or pipe that empties the water into a sink or outside the foundation of the house. As the water is forced out of the pump it creates a vacuum that pulls more water into the pump and out of the sump. The impeller keeps spinning and pumping water into the collecting pipe until the water level inside the pump – and the sump – allows the float switch to drop low enough to shut the motor off.

 Types of Sump Pumps

There are pedestal sump pumps and submersible sump pumps. In pedestal pumps, the motor assembly is above the base of the pump and the impeller, and doesn’t contact the water. The activation switch for the motor is attached to a long shaft with the float on the other end that drops into the water. As the water rises, it pushes the shaft up and activates the switch. Submersible pumps are smaller units with the motor, activation switch, and impeller all on one level. The motor compartment is waterproof. Either style pump is usually connected to the house electric circuit. But some homeowners connect them to backup battery power supplies so the pump will work in the event of a severe storm and power outage.

 Which Lacey Homes Need Sump Pumps

Every homeowner in Lacey should understand the concept of the water table. Simply put, the water table is the permanently saturated layer of soil, sand, or rock below most of the surface of the Earth. In some places it’s hundreds of feet below the ground, but in most areas it’s much closer to the surface. In temperate or seasonal areas, the depth of the water table can rise and fall.

The foundations of homes in the Lacey area are built above the water table. But seasonal fluctuations and heavy precipitation can cause the water table to expand upwards. If a basement isn’t completely waterproof, and few basements are, the water will seep in. Land near rivers, streams, and wetlands tends to have a very high water table, so homes built in those areas are particularly susceptible to flooding.

Although most basements are not waterproof, they should be able to withstand an occasional increase in the saturation of the soil around and beneath the house. A permanently damp basement could indicate that the foundation is close enough to the water table to prevent the basement from ever completely drying out.

If you are interested in learning more about sump pumps, give Brooks Plumbing Co. a call!

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Plumbing Question: What Causes Low Water Pressure?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Low water pressure in your Olympia home can make just about everything from showering to cleaning more difficult. It is frustrating, but it often seems like there is very little you can do about it. In fact, you may be able to improve your water pressure in a variety of ways, but the appropriate technique will depend on the root cause of your problem.

There are several different possible causes for low water pressure. If the problem is limited to certain areas or fixtures in the house, it may very well be because the pipes feeding that area or fixture are too small. Smaller pipes will only allow a smaller amount of water to pass through at once, making it impossible for you to get the force you are after.

Fixing this, of course, means putting in larger pipes, and that may be easier said than done. However, if the problem is on a small scale, you should not have too much trouble or need to pay too much to have a Olympia plumbing professional complete the job. A problem in a particular fixture can also result from small clogs or backups in the fixture itself, and this is a relatively easy situation to remedy as well.

A low water pressure problem that affects your whole house can result if the main pipes feeding into your house are too small. This could be the case if your house has been added onto since it was built or if you have more people living there now and using more water.

Replacing those incoming pipes is a big job, but it is often the only way to increase your water pressure and make it possible for the system to satisfy the water needs of the house. This is definitely something you will want to have a professional work on, and while it can be costly, it will be well worth it in the end. For more tips on how to improve your Olympia plumbing, give Brooks Plumbing a call!

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How to Lower Energy Costs for Your Home: Water Heater Tips

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

If you want to lower the energy costs for your Lacey home, the water heater might not be the first place you’d think to save energy. However, when you add up the savings from a few easy steps that can improve your water heater’s efficiency, it can make a significant difference in your utility bills.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce the use of hot water in the home and increase your energy savings.

Saving Energy by Using Less Hot Water

Even if you own an energy-efficient, tankless water heater, and you try to conserve water as much as possible, hot water usage can always be reduced in other areas. Installing low flow faucets and fixtures can provide up to 60% in water savings because they reduce the flow rate (gallons per minute) for each fixture. Tankless water heaters are also more efficient when they are used with any application with a lower flow rate.

Replacing older appliances that require a lot of hot water with more energy-efficient models is worth the money and effort because of the energy savings you will get in the end. Make sure you fix any leaks on older hot water faucet or fixtures. A leak that costs a dollar or two extra per month doesn’t seem like much, but it will add up over time.

Lower the Temperature on Your Hot Water Heater

For every 10°F that you lower the water temperature on your hot water heater, you save between 3% to 5% in energy costs. The manufactured setting for most water heaters is 140°F, but most homes only require a maximum temperature of 120°F. Check your owner’s manual before you lower the temperature on your water heater to find out what the recommended settings are and how to change them.

Insulate Your Water Heater Tank and Water Pipes

Whether you have a gas or electric hot water heater, you can find fairly inexpensive and easy-to-install insulators or “jackets” for your water heater tank. Every tank has an R-value that determines how much heat it loses, so unless it is a high value, your water heater tank needs insulation. Call a Lacey plumber or check your owner’s manual for the R-value of your hot water heater, but the general rule is that if the tank is warm when you touch it, you need more insulation.

You can reduce emissions and your energy costs simply by paying more attention to how much hot water you are using in your Lacey home. For more tips and expert advice, call Brooks Plumbing Co to speak with one of our technicians.

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Plumbing Guide: How to Stop a Toilet from Overflowing

Monday, June 18th, 2012

An overflowing toilet is a really unpleasant problem, and one you will undoubtedly want to correct right away. Toilets are reliable in that they tend to last a long time and not act up much, but when yours does start to malfunction, you pay attention right away.

To start with, examine the root cause of the overflow problem. There are three major causes of overflow: a clogged or blocked drain that does not allow your Lacey toilet to flush properly, an improperly adjusted float that allows the tank to overfill and a blocked vent pipe that replaces the air in the pipe after each flush.

Each of these requires a different course of action, so let’s discuss each individually.

If the drain is blocked, you will probably know right away. For one, water will overflow from the toilet’s bowl rather than the tank. For another, there will probably be quite a mess. Treating this type of overflow problem is straightforward—remove the clog. For simple clogs, a plunger and some elbow grease will get it done. Another trick is to stick the open mouth of an empty two liter bottle into the drain and squeeze. The blast of air can knock the clog free.

If your toilet is clogging and overflowing frequently, however, the problem may not be with the drain or with anything you are doing. It may be that the vent pipe is clogged. A vent pipe moves external into the plumbing system to replace the air that is pumped out with each flush. When it is blocked, the toilet can’t flush properly, which can lead to overflowing. If you have trouble with frequent clogging, call a plumber to inspect the situation.

In both of those situations, the toilet bowl will overflow. Another possibility is that the tank overflows, which is a different kind of problem. This is often cause by the filler float being set too high, so the tank fills with too much water. You can fix this by simply adjusting the mechanism inside the tank that controls the level of the float.

Whether it’s one of these three, or something else entirely, when your toilet overflows, be sure to check it out and get it fixed right away. Call Brooks Plumbing for any plumbing repairs in the Lacey area!

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How Slab Leaks Can Cause Damage for Homes

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Slab leaks in Olympia, or also known as a foundation leaks, can cause a serious problem in your home. A typical cause of a slab leak occurs when the foundation for the home is poured. While the cement is still wet and setting, copper plumbing is installed, and it is laid in to run wherever it needs to go for the plumbing system of the home. This is a fairly common practice.

The problem occurs when the copper piping is soft. As the cement hardens, any kinks, bends, nicks or other imperfections in the pipe are exacerbated. Over time, these problems can become more and more magnified, eventually resulting in one or more tiny leaks in the pipe. This causes water to leak directly into the concrete foundation.

This causes a number of problems for homeowners, both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, it reduces water pressure and increases water consumption, resulting in higher monthly bills for poorer water delivery. These are inconveniences and annoyances, but nothing compared to the long-term damage that a slab leak can cause.

The moisture in the foundation becomes a breeding ground for mold. This mold can spread throughout the foundation and the house, which is a serious health risk for you and your family. Mold and mildew spores negatively impact air quality and can lead to illness. Plus, the moisture weakens the foundation gradually over time. Eventually, you have a home that is less structurally sound and may succumb to mold, which can cause thousands of dollars to eradicate and repair.

Slab leaks can be repaired, but sometimes after repairing one, another will crop up shortly thereafter. However, they still must be repaired immediately before the problem spreads and becomes too big to handle.

There are a few different methods for repair, including breaking up the foundation with a jackhammer and laying new pipe or lining the existing pipe with epoxy. Consulting with a professional is the best way to figure out which method is right for you.

Common symptoms to detect slab leaks early are reduced water pressure or inexplicably high water bills. If you notice either of these occurring in your home, you may have a slab leak, so call a professional to get it checked out right away before it leads to much bigger problems.

To fix a slab leak quickly contact Brooks Plumbing Company.

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Things to Remember When Remodeling Your Bathroom

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Remodeling your bathroom in Olympia can be a great way to not only make it look better and more inviting, but also more hygienic, while giving the resale value of the whole house an upgrade.

As with any big home project, there are some caveats and tips to doing it right. Here are some of those tips to consider before diving right in

  • Before starting on your plumbing or any remodeling project, work out a budget first. Establish what you want it to look like and how much you have to spend, then choose the options that fit into that framework. There are few things worse than having a bathroom left unfinished because you ran out of money halfway through the job.
  • Remodeling is a great opportunity to assess the ventilation in your bathroom and upgrade it if necessary. Proper ventilation improves air quality and prevents mold growth and water damage, so an upgrade in equipment can be an investment that is well worth the expense.
  • As tempting as it may be to make wholesale, sweeping changes to everything in your existing bathroom, try to avoid moving any plumbing around. It’s costly, messy and can really extend the time it takes for the job to be done. Is it really worth an extra week of work to have the tub against another wall?
  • Finally, to save your budget, consider refinishing certain fixture versus replacing them. Refinished tubs and tiles can look just as shiny as new, but without the extra cost and labor.

Keep those tips in mind as you consider that bathroom remodeling job, and you are likely to have the whole experience work out much more pleasantly for you…and isn’t that the whole point?  If you have any questions about bathroom remodeling please call Brooks Plumbing.

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How to Clear Pipes and Sewer Lines with High Pressure Water Jetting

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Many plumbers in Lacey have started using a high pressured water jetting to rid sewer lines and drains of debris and clogs. This new tactic for plumbing maintenance was adapted from industrial water jet cutters which are powerful enough to cut through stone, metal, and composite materials.

How it Works

The basic idea of water jetting is very straight forward. Water is pumped under high pressure through a large diameter hose into a jetter nozzle with a much smaller diameter hole. A thin stream of water shoots out of the nozzle at pressures that can reach 100,000 PSI for industrial jetters. Lower pressures are used for plumbing applications, usually in the 3,000 to 5,000 PSI range, otherwise the water stream would be unmanageable and could damage the pipes.

Sewer jetter nozzles have a forward-firing jet to break up clogs, and back-firing jets to push the nozzle through the pipe while scouring the walls. The nozzle is attached to a long hose that delivers the pressurized water. The nozzle pulls the hose along with it as it moves down the pipe. Debris, grease,  and other material loosened by the jets are pushed back to where the nozzle entered the pipe. Plumbing contractors typically have water jets that can clear up to 200 feet of pipe.

High pressure jetters are most frequently used to clear exterior drains,  sewer, and septic lines. But they can also be used to clear interior waste pipes.

Benefits over Traditional Techniques

The traditional way to clear sewer and drain lines is to run a flexible metal cable or “snake” through the line which rotates and scrapes the inner walls of the pipe. Snakes do a good job, but they don’t always clear grease or mineral deposits. Snakes can sometimes push through a clog without really clearing it or loosening it.  They can also become snagged on tree roots.

Water jets can efficiently remove grease, mineral deposits, and other debris clogging the sewer line. The jet can also cut through roots that have worked their way into the line. The properties that make water jetting so valuable as an industrial tool make it well suited for plumbing applications. Water is non-toxic and doesn’t react with plumbing materials. Water jetting doesn’t release noxious fumes and doesn’t cause the metal piping to heat up. The spent water just continues down the drain flushing any loose sediment with it.   Please call Brooks Plumbing Company with any questions.

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Advanced Green Plumbing: Recycled/Reclaimed Water Systems

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Let’s face it, Olympia bathroom plumbing or sewage is not a fun topic to talk about, even if it is classified as “former” sewage. The topic of human waste has long been the butt of jokes (no pun intended). But there is something to talk about that makes this a thought-provoking topic. That topic is recycled (or reclaimed) water.

By definition, recycled water is former sewage water (often referred to as black or grey water) that has been treated to “remove solids and certain impurities.” While treated water is not recommended for any type of human consumption, it has been used for landscape irrigation, dust control, and fire suppression. Reclaimed water contains valuable nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. When

used properly, these nutrients can promote good plant growth.

The idea of reusing a natural resource has been around for decades – and so has the debate. While treated recycled water eliminates the discharge of sewage water to lakes, rivers, and oceans, there is still the argument that recycled water still poses health and environmental risks. In 1997, the U.S. EPA stated that “bacteria from reclaimed water in sprinklers can travel more than 1000 feet in the air.”

Setting fears aside, the idea of using recycled water in the home has been supported by “dual pipe” installations. Basically, this is when a home is outfitted with two incoming water supplies: potable (drinking) and non-potable (for use in irrigation). The idea behind reusing water is that it reduces the demand for freshwater and thus the need for expensive filtration – saving earth’s most precious natural resource.

One example of a neighborhood that is utilizing the dual pipe system is the Vintage Greens subdivision in Windsor, California. The developers made dual piping an option for new home buyers and by the time all of the homes were sold in 2008, 52% of the homeowners opted for the dual pipe system. Using recycled water to irrigate their landscape, residents have saved 25 millions gallons of potable water each year.

Not only can recycled water be used for irrigation, but with new plumbing installations it can also be used for flushing toilets. The 2006 North Carolina Plumbing Code, “…allows for recycled gray water to be used for flushing of toilets that are located in the same building as the gray water recycling systems.”

Recycled water is an important part of the “greening of America” – even if it is gray.  Ask the Brooks Plumbing Company how you can make your plumbing more efficient today.

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Plumbing Repair Tip: Troubleshooting Drain Problems

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

It’s Saturday afternoon and you are preparing dinner for a number of guests. The kitchen is packed with groceries and you start to clean a lot of veggies for dipping. But there is a problem. The drain in your kitchen sink is “acting funny.” It drains slowly and is making a gurgling sound. In fact, it’s beginning to smelly funny, too.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Before you hit the panic button, let’s take a moment to troubleshoot the problem. Maybe there isn’t much of a problem with your Olympia plumbing after all.

First of all, is the problem confined to just the kitchen sink? There may be similar problems in other sinks, which would indicate a larger problem with the plumbing in your home. Hopefully, the kitchen sink is the only area you need to be concerned with.

Next, if you have a two-basin sink who should check to see if both sides are clogged or just one. Remove all dishes and utensils and run water on both sides. If water drains from one and not the other, there is a clog somewhere in the pipe leading to the union of both pipes. You have now centralized the drain problem. If both sides back up, the clog is further down the pipe. But it is still not a big problem.

One way to troubleshoot for drain problems is to simply run very hot water down the drain. This tends to break up clogs of grease by melting it away. The fix can also be as simple as running the garbage disposal long enough to dislodge any debris. You may even want to grind up some food you were planning to dispose of or take some lettuce greens and use the disposal on them. If this food takes a long time to grind or doesn’t at all, the disposal may be the culprit, leading to blocked drains.

And if you are preparing for your party by taking a shower and the shower drain is acting funny, don’t hit the panic button just yet. You may just have a build-up of hair or skin on the drain cover or screen. Use you foot to swish around the water and if water drains more quickly when you do this, the fix can be as simple as reaching down and picking up the debris. Having a plunger nearby helps, too.

None of this is brain surgery and quick fixes are easy to do. But if the problem persists and you don’t have the time or patience to work on your drain problem, call a Olympia plumbing professional such as Brooks Plumbing Co.!

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How a Storage Water Heater Works

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

For decades, residents of Olympia have used water heater tanks to heat and store hot water for future use. These tanks are very simple and in many cases have become much more energy efficient, but you probably are wondering how they actually work. Here is a quick overview of a storage water heater tank and how it works.

The Basics

A storage water heater is exactly as it sounds. A large volume of water is funneled into a storage tank of between 20 and 80 gallons and heated for future use. When you turn on a hot water tap, water from the top of the tank is removed through the hot water outlet and cold water enters the tank through the cold water inlet – replacing the displaced volume and heated by the gas burner beneath the tank.

Water heaters can be electric, gas, propane or oil depending on what is available in your area. When the water temperature falls (as hot water is pulled from the tank), the thermostat opens and the gas burner ignites, heating the water until it reaches the preset temperature of the thermostat and it closes.

The Tank

When a tank is turned on, it is constantly heating the water supply. As a result, standby heat loss occurs. However, modern tanks are being built with exceptionally high insulation ratings (up to R-25) to minimize the loss of such heat. Additional heat loss occurs in gas and oil water heaters that must vent fumes and gasses through an internal flue. Fan assisted gas tanks and sealed combustion tanks reduce this type of energy loss in gas water heaters.

Determining the Best Water Heater for You

If you would like to install a new water heater for your home, make sure you do your research and learn what types of water heaters will minimize heat and energy loss without reducing your comfort level. Modern tank water heaters are surprisingly efficient, but only certain ones. Call Brooks Plumbing Company to help you determine which option is best for you.

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