Archive for the 'Water Savers' Category

Repair or Replace?

Aug. 1st 2012

Should you service your existing plumbing fixtures or replace them?

The world of a do-it-yourselfer is full of surprises, and full of decisions. The typical homeowner decides which plumber to hire, which heating and air conditioning contractor to hire, and other, similar decisions. The do-it-yourselfer has more complex decisions to make. Can I gain control of this situation in a time of crisis? Am I able to solve the problem and return things to normal using only my own ingenuity and resources? Can I save some of my hard-earned money by eliminating the labor costs of a professional?

A properly functioning plumbing system is a sensitive balance, containing many various and individual parts, all playing their roles to provide modern convenience to your home. But each component, as it performs its task, is wearing out, or being deposited with sediment, or otherwise approaching the point at which it will fail. Some components show warning signs that failure is imminent, but some simply fail, without any indication of trouble.

Many components have a “life expectancy”, which aids the homeowner in deciding whether repairs will be worth their cost, or if they will amount to throwing money and energy at a losing proposal. This article will help you to ask the questions that are part of the decision whether to replace a failed appliance or fixture, or whether to replace a component of it in order to make a repair and put it back into operation.

An important factor in determining your course of action is the cost of repair as compared with the cost of replacement. For instance, if a part for your thermostatic shower control is half the cost of replacing the entire valve, and you’ve used the valve for ten years already, perhaps it would be wise to replace the entire valve while you have it opened up. If you do, you can reasonably expect to have about ten more years of trouble-free operation. If you spend only the amount necessary to change the part, you may not be confident that no other part will need replacement before long. It could be that repairing part after part will lead to a higher cost than total replacement.

A water heater is an expensive plumbing fixture that can be found in nearly every home – every occupied building of all types, in fact. When problems with the water heater arise, they can be caused by many different things. If your pilot light stays on, but no fire ignites, it may need a new thermocouple, a part that costs between $5 and $10 and takes about ten minutes to change. In this case, it is probably worth the expense, even if you have owned the water heater for 12 years, the typical life expectancy of a gas heater.

But suppose there is no gas supplying the pilot light, and a faulty gas valve is the culprit. If you’ve had the heater for ten years or more, it may not be wise to spend nearly $200 just to keep it working for an expected 2 more years. Average out the total cost of ownership over ten years of use, without the added expense of a gas valve, and you will find you have gotten your money’s worth. Spending the extra money on a new appliance will add years of trouble-free operation – and it comes with the expensive part included in the price!

Of course, the decision about whether to patch up an ailing appliance rather than replace it will depend largely on the available budget of the homeowner. Sometimes a homeowner will have little choice but to spend as little as possible to get things working again, but from another perspective, spending as little as possible to restore the plumbing system is a recipe for overwhelming future problems.

Cost, however, is not always the dominant factor in such a decision. The market value of your home is affected by maintenance decisions you make. Aesthetic value is another factor. A cracked lid on your toilet tank is an eyesore, but you will likely need to replace the entire toilet to resolve the issue. While replacing your toilet in such an instance is perhaps wasted money to some, from another perspective it provides a satisfaction that cannot be measured in dollars.

It may not always be the best course of action to defer your judgment to a professional plumber at times when such a decision is needed. Plumbers, while in business to serve the needs of their customers, are also in the business of making sales. If a fixture is serviceable after repairing it, it may be substandard in the eyes of a professional who is in constant contact with new, and sometimes innovative plumbing fixtures and appliances.

But it is not necessary for a functioning system that it be new. The test for the homeowner is whether the system is functioning as it was designed to do, and whether costs and efforts are contained within reasonable limits, allowing for the homeowner’s time and money to be devoted to other needs.

The decision, then, to replace or repair any durable plumbing fixture – toilets, garbage disposals, water heaters, etc. – will depend on how much repair you’ve had to perform on the item previously, and how much repair cost can be eliminated by the installation of a new one. It is rarely an easy decision, but with due diligence and thoughtful consideration of all the factors, your decision can be easier to make.

Choosing The Right Toilet

Jun. 29th 2012

Toilets are toilets, right? Everybody needs to use one about every day, so as long as they do what they were designed for, what is all the fuss about choosing one over another? A toilet by any other name would smell – the same, wouldn’t it?

How often do people get to choose their toilets, anyway? Generally, we buy a house, and it’s got a toilet in one of the rooms, or maybe more. But there do arise times when you may want to renovate a bathroom, and you consider the possibility of replacing the fixtures, include the toilet. You may even be building your dream house, and though it has been designed to include a toilet or two, there is a great opportunity to have a say concerning which toilet is installed. And of course, it is possible that you have cracked your toilet, or your elderly mother has moved into your home, or your family has gotten too big for one little toilet.

OK, so maybe the need to choose a new toilet is not so rare an occurrence. And if you have that choice before you today, there is a good bit to know before venturing out to your neighborhood home improvement center.

It might seem to you that even though there are differences in appearance between different toilets, they all seem pretty much the same. Are there important differences that don’t meet the casual observer’s eye? Is it fine simply to pick the one that you think best matches the decor of your bathroom? It may be, but it’s wise to narrow the list down a little before letting the decision rest on that factor alone. So, what are all the considerations that should be made in forming an educated opinion?

For most people, price is an important factor. Many assume that as the price of an item increases, its quality improves. In the world of toilets, this is far from certain. Low price toilets can potentially perform as well as some very expensive ones. And the features we will look into here will show you how.

The first distinction to be made is on the basis of the three major types of toilets. Numerous examples can be found of each of these types that function comparably:

Gravity-fed toilets – these are those with a tank mounted above the bowl (one-piece or two), and when the handle is pressed, the water rushes in from the rim or the siphon-jet (the small hole under the water in front of the drain), or both. This rush of water “pushes” the bowl contents into the drain.

Vacuum toilets – these suck the air from behind the trap, creating a vacuum which the bowl’s contents rushes to fill. This “pulls” the waste into the drain. Vacuum-assisted models combines the two methods, for a simultaneous “push” and “pull”.

Gravity toilets have a smaller water surface deeper in the bowl. This can mean that they get dirtier than the vacuum type.

Pressure-assisted toilets – these are quite distinct in appearance and in sound. Pressurized water is released from a sealed mechanism located in the tank to overwhelm the bowl’s contents and send it scurrying into the drain. The process is rather loud, and the mechanism requires a larger tank. These require a minimum household water pressure, so if you are considering one of these, check with the manufacturer or sales representative. Additionally, there are no user-serviceable parts in this toilet, so if that is an issue, scratch this one off your list.

Another clear distinction between toilets is their shape. The so-called “standard” shape is fairly round, while the other common shape is an elongated circle. This distinction is primarily according to taste, but there are some who maintain that the round bowl is suited to a better “vortex” for flushing –the swirling action of the water within the bowl that helps accomplish a more complete flush.

But the characteristics of the toilet which make a measurable difference are the diameter of the flush valve (the hole through which water leaves the tank) and the trap size (diameter of the trap, through which water leaves the bowl) A larger flush valve delivers water faster and more forcefully, and a larger trap can move a greater amount of waste without clogging. These numbers are not mutually exclusive – you can look for a toilet with large diameters of both of these openings. This is a more important consideration for homes built during or before the 1950′s, because the commonly used 4-inch cast iron waste pipe has a rough inner surface and requires either a large amount of water or fast-moving water to wash the waste completely out of the soil pipe.

Some might long for the days when we could flush 5 gallons of water into our toilets and walk away knowing that whatever we just put in there is long gone. Some recall the bad and inefficient products that hit the market when the current 1.6 gallon per flush standard first became Federal law. But what has not made much press is that innovation has stepped into the void and confusion, and the products we have today are as efficient and successful with 1.6 gallons (and some with even less) as our old ones were with 5 gallons.

You can buy toilets with concealed mechanisms (located behind a wall), toilets which hang from the wall, or floor-standing models, all using any of the three flushing methods. All manufacturers offer models which provide greater accessibility for handicapped persons as well. The major consideration which may limit any of your options is the space you have available for installation. Make sure you know the square footage of usable space and, especially, the rough-in measurement. This is the distance from the wall (ignoring the baseboard) to the center of the drain.

Lastly, the color of your toilet can add substantially to its cost. A typical manufacturer adds 60% – 70% to the cost of a white toilet to produce a colored toilet.

When you have narrowed your list considerably and are ready to go out shopping, be sure to check with Consumer Reports. They have an excellent buying guide that is worth your review.

Posted by plumber | in Plumbers, Toilets, Water Savers | No Comments »

Green Plumbing Ideas

Jun. 20th 2012

There is great interest these days in environmental conservation, and applying ‘green’ concepts to household plumbing designs is a smart idea which can lead to substantial savings of water and of money. Even if water consumption is not regulated in your local area, many steps can be taken which not only reduce your dependency on public water supplies, but also reduce your negative impact on the environment.


One step which will have a huge impact will be the use of rainwater to supply toilets and washing machines, even sinks and showers. This can be done by means of a cistern. Many older homes in the rural United States were equipped with cisterns – usually concrete tanks buried near the house into which rainfall was harvested by means of the gutter system. Homes can be retrofitted for a cistern, using an underground tank or one that sits on the surface, but during new construction or renovation are the most cost-effective opportunities for the installation of such tanks, as retrofitting costs may be prohibitive.


Another important water-saving feature that can be added to a home is a treatment system for gray water. Waste water from sinks, showers and washing machines, while not clean, is known as gray water, as opposed to black water, which is the waste from toilets and food disposals. Gray water may be collected into a septic tank, to be treated and sent to a collection tank. From there it can be used for watering lawns and plants, a supply that costs nothing, and that has been redeemed from what may have been freely gathered rainwater to begin with.


Fixtures may be added to the plumbing system which serve to reduce water flow. Low-flow toilets, water-efficient shower heads and pressure reducers can add up to mean a great reduction in water usage. Even timely repair of leaky faucets and shower valves are very important water-saving measures.


In addition to the many undertakings that lead to a reduction in water usage, there is an increasing interest in more economical means of heating water for the home. Heating water for sinks and showers is a costly expense of a plumbing system. The costs of electricity and fuel – whether natural gas or Liquid Petroleum ‘gas’ – are unpredictable, except that they are sure to rise. The typical, traditional water heater is a tank in the home that takes in cold water and heats it to a predetermined temperature, letting it out into the pipes when the hot water faucet is opened. This is a rather inefficient system, since a tankful of hot water, when not being used, will cool down, and require continual reheating.


Recent innovations have allowed homeowners to move away from the water heater tank system though, and can provide significant savings because water will only be heated when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed.


There is a still more efficient method than either of these, and it is to use the energy from the Sun to heat your water. Solar energy collection is a mature industry, and one of the best developed implementations of renewable energy technologies on the market. A solar collector sits atop the roof and the fluid within transfers heat to the water supply, which is stored in a tank, ready for delivery to the plumbing fixtures.


While this system depends at its foundation upon sunshine, it is well known that there is no place where the Sun always shines. There may be several days – or, in some locations – even weeks, when sunshine is scarce. There is also Winter, when the energy from the Sun is decreased. For this reason, a solar heating system includes a booster, which keeps the temperature of the water at the desired level. If your home is in an area which receives a great deal of sunshine during most of the year, however, it is likely that the booster will not have to be engaged for weeks at a time, or longer.


Consumers are always looking for cheaper ways to supply their needs. While some of the ideas spoken of can be expensive to implement, the overall costs of operating with these environmentally friendly methods are far less over the course of time, and including these aspects of environmental stewardship at construction time will give you a far more efficient and more affordable option.


Dual Flush Toilets

May. 7th 2012

When you’re looking for the ultimate efficiency in a toilet, you’re motivated by more than just getting yourself the best looking or fastest flushing toilet on the market. Water efficiency, as well as a long lifetime of service, ought to uppermost on your mind. The drain on your water resources, as well as the drain on your budget, will also weight heavily on your mind. When you need the best, you’ve got to be prepared to spend a bit more to get it. Remember, when you’re thinking about installing a toilet in your home, you need it to be there and in tip top shape for the long haul!

So, when you’re in search of the best, most efficient toilet that can be found on the modern market place, look no further than a dual flush toilet! A dual flush toilet is essentially a variation on the old tried and true 19th century flush toilet. Dual flush toilets use two separate, adjoining handles, to flush down two different, succeeding, levels of water. Dual flush toilets were first developed in Australia by the inventor and plumbing expert Bruce Thompson. Since its invention in 1993, the latest models have managed to cut water usage nearly in half. This has been a major breakthrough in water efficiency, with a natural reduction effect on the average water bill for families who make use of them.

In fact, today’s latest dual flush toilets have been clinically tested and scientifically proven to reduce 67% of water usage in homes that employ them. Of course, as noted above, the somewhat more complicated structure of dual flush toilets means that they will cost more to purchase and install in your home. However, this initial expenditure is more than offset by the resulting benefits that accrue during the succeeding twenty or thirty years of constant savings when it comes to water resources and utility bills.

Although modern 21st century dual flush toilets are a logical successor to the traditional Western flush toilet, they differ in several respects from the old fashioned design of siphon flush toilets. For one thing, dual flush toilets rely on the natural force of downward gravity to flush and disperse waste. Chiefly due to its dual flush mechanism, this modern brand of toilet dispenses with the traditional siphoning action, which thus enables it to use a great deal less water in performing its removal action.

Essentially, dual flush toilets perform their waste removal functions on the same basic principles as airplane toilets. The water line in a modern dual flush toilet will prove to be considerably lower than in a traditional single flush toilet. Again, this is due to the removal of the siphoning function. Less water used means less water wasted. As noted above, the dual flush toilet has two levers which release the water. These levers output water in two separate capacities: 0.8 gallons and 1.6 gallons. The smaller, 0.8 gallon, lever has been specifically designed to flush away liquids, while the larger, 1.6 gallon, is utilized to remove solids. The dual flush toilet makes use of a large, double shuttered, trap mechanism, which is designed to allow water to emerge more quickly and thus clean the bowl in more efficient fashion.

The advantages accruing from the purchase and installation of a modern, fully equipped, dual flush toilet ought to be obvious to even the most casual or jaded reader. To begin with, the estimated 67% savings in one’s family water utility bill ought to be enough to warrant the initial outlay of funds. And since dual flush toilets have been proven to possess a lifetime of thirty to forty years’ service, that’s an awful lot of service and savings to consider!

Of course, there are even more factors that ought to be considered. For one thing, with water in increasingly short supply all over the world, one’s consumption of this precious liquid ought not to be taken lightly. There are millions of gallons being wasted even as you read this sentence. Dual flush toilets, because they make much less use of water to begin with, are thus inherently more environmentally friendly than the standard, old fashioned, single flush model. When you’re consciously attempting to reduce not only your home’s carbon foot print, but also the drain you place on the nation’s supply of clean, fresh, water, a dual flush toilet seems to be the logical choice.

Conservation of energy, including water, ought to uppermost on everyone’s mind, and dual flush toilets are an excellent addition in the fight against energy waste. This issue is especially pertinent in the United States, where it is estimated that, by the year 2013, an estimated 36 states will be in the grip of a chronic water shortage. Get your dual flush toilet now, and be better prepared to deal with this swiftly oncoming crisis. Just as a passing example, a family of seven can save up to 49 gallons of water a day, simply by switching to a modern dual flush toilet. $9 gallons of water per day, over the course of an entire year, eventually equals 18,000 gallons. That’s nearly the size of an official Olympic swimming pool. If for no other reason, isn’t it better to be at least a tiny part of the solution, rather than just another part of the problem?

It’s also a fact that the average American family household spends roughly 1.5% of its budget on water and sewage utility bills. If that family were equipped with a dual flush toilet that could save that 18,000 gallons of water from being wasted every year, it would make for a considerable amount of money saved. Imagine being able to finally go on that long wished for Hawaiian or Australian vacation, thanks in large part to the savings you accrued by simply not wasting it all on your household water bill!

In short, dual flush toilets are the wave of the future, so to speak. Why not do some further research online and see for yourself the benefits that switching to a dual flush toilet could bring to you and yours?

Posted by plumber | in Toilets, Water Savers | No Comments »

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