Plumbing Tips

Getting the Water Shut Off

Most sink faucets should have a hot & cold shut-off valve underneath the sink that shuts the water off. In most cases, clockwise direction turns the water off and counterclockwise turns it on. “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.” Main shut off valves should be in readily accessible locations however this in not always the case. To locate the main shut off valve to your home or business, locate the water meter - usually found near the street curb. Inside the meter box can often be found a shut-off valve for the main water supply.

Draining Your Water Heater

Turn off the electricity or gas to the water heater, turn off the water supply, connect a garden hose to the drain valve, open the drain valve and then turn on a nearby hot water faucet to vent the water heater. This is a basic process for draining a storage tank type water heater. Other circumstances or factors may apply.

No Hot Water

If you have an electric water heater - check to see if the circuit breaker has tripped. If you have a gas heater, perhaps the pilot light has gone out. In either case this is usually a symptom of a core problem or other mechanical failure.

Winterizing Pipes / Preventing and Protecting Plumbing from Freeze Damage

There are a few things you can do to prevent problems that arise from frozen pipes. All we are trying to do here is limit exposure to freezing temperatures. Outside hose faucets - be sure to disconnect hoses from the faucet, next cover and protect the faucet with an insulating cover. These covers can be purchased at almost any hardware store. Some outdoor hose faucets have shut off valves that need to be shut during the freezing season. Done properly the entire water pipe downstream of the shut off valve is empty and void of water and unaffected by freezing temperatures. Insulating exposed pipes helps but if it gets cold enough insulation will only go so far without an energy source or heat to keep the pipe above freezing. Blocking off the foundation vents to your crawl space during freezing temperatures can help. This limits or prevents cold air blowing or circulating through the area of your home where most of the plumbing is installed. As a last resort - when all other efforts have been exhausted - leaving the faucets open slightly to trickle can help to prevent water pipes from freezing. The water constantly flowing through the pipe has less of a chance to freeze. Also be aware that plumbing fixtures have water seal traps in them. (Showers, toilets, sink drains etc.) For situations where drains are left to freeze, an approved anti-freeze solution can be poured into the trap. For peace of mind and to understand your homes plumbing readiness for the freezing temps contact Sutherland Plumbing.

Drain Clogged?

The use of so-called liquid drain cleaners or openers is discouraged! There is NO marvel of design in these products. Most are made of highly caustic acids that only serve to dissolve, eat and destroy anything in their path including your plumbing pipes. Some even go as far as to claim “safe for all pipes” even if the results from using these products are temporary at best. You be the judge. Drains clog for the most part as a result of grease, fats, oils and other matter accumulating inside the pipe. In order to CLEAN the drain one must scour the inside with proper equipment and knowledge. This is commonly referred to as snaking or "rootering" the drain. There is a big difference between “CLEANING” the drain as opposed to “OPENING” the drain. Baking soda and vinegar? Use at your own risk. Those items work best when baking or cooking food and are wasted when poured down the drain.

Dripping Faucets

If possible, put a bucket or container under the faucets to catch the water which can be used to flush toilets, water plants or fill the kitchen sink to do dishes.

Un-Jam the Garbage Disposer

Most garbage disposers, especially ISE brands have a ¼” allen key receptacle located in the center of the unit on the bottom that allows one to manually turn or unjam the unit. This is also referred to as the flywheel opening/hole. Sometimes in addition to unjamming the disposer, you’ll have to push the reset button or thermal overload switch. If the disposer is jammed and electrical power is on the unit will “trip”. It’s a factory built-in device that prevents the unit from self-destruction resulting from excessive heat generated by electricity.

What Not to put into a Garbage Disposer

There are a lot of rumors about what is and what is not to be put into a garbage disposer. The reason this can vary from house to house is simply that not every drain system is the same; age, condition, size, length etc. What works for one may wreak havoc for another. Here's the simple truth - garbage disposals are designed to dispose of cooked table scraps. Those little bits and pieces that wash off the dinner plate and macerate easily. The trick is water. The water should be on before, during and after the disposer is being used. The water is what carries the debris through and out of the pipes. I would not put much thought into what temperature the water should be. Grease should never be put down the drain!

Pressure vs. Volume

Pressure or PSI (pounds per square inch) is exactly that - a measurement of force while volume or GPM (gallons per minute) is a measurement of flow. In most cases, plumbing systems that deliver unsatisfactory performance have a volume problem not a pressure problem. The pressure is most often adequate - it is the pipes that are either undersized, corroded & restricted - or both. In many cases there is excessive water pressure and still symptoms of poor water volume delivery is present. Too much water pressure can cause a host of problems. Similarly, high blood pressure can go undetected or undiagnosed for years while the negative effects and irreversible damage occurs. A simple water pressure measuring devise can be purchased at most hardware stores for under $15. 80 Psi is considered high - anything over and you're asking for trouble!

Closed Water Systems and Thermal Expansion Relief

Thermal expansion is simply the expansion of something that is heated. Water inside of water pipes is no exception. In an “open” plumbing system, this expansion is relieved right out and into the main system that delivers water to your entire neighborhood. It’s perfectly normal and a non-issue. In a “closed” system however, thermal water expansion has nowhere to go. The excessive pressures prematurely wear plumbing systems and components. The most common of which is the water heater and/or the temperature/pressure emergency relief valve. A Properly installed thermal expansion tank can remedy this problem. A “closed” system scenario can be created when a regulator and/or a valve that allows only one-way flow is installed.

Adjusting the Temp on Water Heaters.

Gas: Turning the temp dial left or right to the desired temperature. We recommend adjusting in small increments allowing the new temp to be reached. Repeat until a comfortable temperature is set.

Electric: turn the electricity off, remove access panel(s) from front. Note: most residential electric water heaters have two thermostats - they both need to be set the same. Use a screwdriver to adjust the temp. We recommend adjusting in small increments and allowing some time for the new temp to be reached. Replace panels then turn the electricity back on. Note: If adjusting down - the hotter water inside will have to be used. When the tank recovers it will do so at the new, lower setting. Likewise, if adjusting higher the unit should turn-on when re-energized and heat-up to the higher setting.

Disclaimer for both: CAUTION! Risk of scalding increases with higher temps. This is especially important to consider in places where children and elderly people have access to plumbing fixtures!

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