Serving Greater Lynchburg

Preventing Kitchen Drain Problems

Preventing Kitchen Drain Problems

Kitchen SInk

Most kitchen drain clogs occur gradually over time as grease and food waste slowly accumulates. As the pipe narrows you may notice that sinks take longer to empty, or that there are gurgling sounds. These are the early signs of a clogged drain that you should not ignore. Thankfully, you can keep your kitchen drains flowing and prevent problems by following a few simple rules.

1. Keep grease out of drains

Grease, oil and fat are among the most common causes of clogged drains. You may get away with pouring grease down the drain for a while without noticing any problems, but over time grease accumulates inside the pipe and slows the drain down. This is a problem because grease creates a sticky surface for food waste to cling to the inside of the drain.

The safest way to dispose of oil and grease is to pour it into an empty container and put it in the freezer. The frozen grease can then be thrown into the trash. Thicker grease can be wiped off with a paper towel and thrown into the garbage.

2. Don’t overload the disposal

While garbage disposals are a great convenience, it’s important to realize there are limits to what they can grind at once and not rely too heavily on your disposal to get rid of food waste. Put food waste into a compost pile or the trash prior to rinsing dishes into the sink.

3. Don’t put starchy or stringy foods down the disposal

Food that becomes sticky and expands when wet, such as pasta, potatoes, rice, and so on, can cling like glue to the inside of pipes and create very stubborn clogs. Other food waste you should avoid putting down drains include stringy waste like banana peels, orange peels, and pineapple rinds.

4. Maintain your drains

A little bit of preventative maintenance can make a big difference. When using your disposal always run plenty of cold water, and keep the water running for 30 seconds after turning off the disposal. You can also keep your kitchen drain in good condition by pouring half a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar. After the solution stops fizzing, rinse out the drain with a few cups of boiling water. The chemical reaction will cut through the lighter layers of gunk that can accumulate over time.

5. Call a professional for tough clogs

If your kitchen drain has clogged, it’s best to avoid store-bought chemical drain cleaning products. Many of them contain hazardous chemicals such as lye that can be harmful to your plumbing system and your family’s safety.

If you notice that your drains are emptying slowly, give the plumbers at Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical a call. We can help clear the toughest clogs quickly and safely.

5 Popular Plumbing Myths

5 Popular Plumbing Myths

5 Plumbing Myths

There are many things we do around the home simply out of tradition or because they are considered helpful advice by so many people. When it comes to plumbing, some of this advice can actually be more harmful than helpful to your home’s plumbing system. How many of these tips do you believe?

1. Grinding Ice Cubes Will Sharpen Disposal Blades
Grinding ice in a disposal can help remove the grime that accumulates inside the chamber, but it won’t sharpen the blades. Why? Because garbage disposals don’t have blades; they have impellers with teeth that grind up waste using centrifugal force. The best way to keep a disposal in good shape is to avoid pouring grease or oil down the chamber and to always run plenty of water during and after grinding.

2. Run Hot Water When Using the Garbage Disposal
It’s certainly true that grease dissolves more readily in hot water. However, as it cools down it will more readily stick to the pipe surface farther down the drain. Running cold water allows the grease to remain in a solid state so it’s more likely to travel all the way down the drain without sticking to the pipe. Running cold water can also help your disposal last longer by preventing the motor from overheating.

3. Put a Brick In the Toilet Tank To Save Water
While placing a brick in the toilet tank will reduce the volume of water used to flush by displacing water, it’s not a good idea. First, newer toilets are already designed to use a minimal amount of water. Limiting the amount of water will reduce the force of the flush, which can cause plumbing clogs in the drain line below the toilet. In addition, with less water pressure per flush, a second flush is often needed to do the job, wasting water. Finally, a brick can deteriorate inside the tank, creating debris that will wear out rubber and plastic parts.

4. But It Said They Were Flushable…
As “flushable” wipes have become more popular in recent years, so have clogged drain pipes. The fact is they simply don’t break down as readily as regular toilet paper. Save yourself a big mess and a visit from your plumber… don’t flush anything down the toilet except plain toilet paper.

5. Water Softeners Add Unhealthy Levels of Sodium To Drinking Water
One of the ways a traditional water softener works is by flushing hard water through rock salt. This does increase the amount of sodium to between 10-300 milligrams per quart, depending on how hard the water is. However, by comparison a quart of milk has 488 milligrams of sodium. So the amount of sodium in softened water is low. If you’re looking for softened water without adding sodium, consider a reverse osmosis water treatment system.

What Causes Drinking Water Contamination?

What Causes Drinking Water Contamination?

Drinking Water Contamination

Water quality is an important consideration for homeowners in the Greater Lynchburg area. Whether you get your drinking water from a well or your local municipal water system, it’s important to regularly test your water to ensure it’s safe and healthy to consume. Even if there are no noticeable changes in the taste, color or hardness of the water, unsafe levels of contamination may exist.

While water treatment plants are required to meet EPA standards for contamination levels, it’s up to homeowners to ensure that their well water is safe. Ground water contamination can occur from human activity such as agriculture, mining, and industrial production, as well as naturally occurring sources such as minerals and organic matter in the soil.

Here are some of the things that can contaminate drinking water:

Microorganisms
Harmful microorganisms include viruses, cryptosporidium and giardia, all of which can lead to gastrointestinal illness such as diarrhea, vomiting and cramps.

Disinfection Byproducts
Chlorite is a byproduct of drinking water disinfection. In can cause anemia and nervous system effects in infants and young children. Bromate and haloacetic acids are other byproducts of water treatment and have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Inorganic Chemicals
Inorganic chemicals include arsenic, asbestos, barium, cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, mercury, nitrates and other chemicals. These contaminants can occur naturally in soil that comes in contact with water, as well as from industrial and agricultural byproducts. Even in very small quantities many organic chemicals can cause serious health problems.

Organic Chemicals
Organic chemicals include benzene, dioxine, toluene and other chemicals that can be found in industrial waste and agricultural pesticides and herbicides.

If you’re concerned about your home’s drinking water, call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. If water tests show that the water has elevated levels of contamination, or high mineral content causing hard water, we can provide effective solutions for cleaner water, including water softeners and whole home water treatment systems.

Choosing the Best Garbage Disposal

Choosing the Best Garbage Disposal

Choosing a garbage disposal

Time to replace your old under sink garbage disposal? Not all disposals work the same way so it’s important to choose the right model for your needs. There are a number of factors to consider, including durability, noise levels, price, and brand reputation. In this article we will focus on horsepower ratings.

1/3 Horsepower is the starting point for disposals, offering the lowest power and lowest cost. While they can seem like a bargain, we recommend avoiding low-power disposals. They will be more prone to jamming and are often made from lower quality components that wear out more quickly.

1/2 horsepower garbage disposals are the minimum rating recommended for a home disposal. They are widely available, affordable and compact enough to fit in tight spaces. If you don’t use a disposal that often and don’t mind the higher noise levels of a smaller disposal, a 1/2 horsepower unit may be a good option. Choose a disposal with stainless steel grinding components, as they will resist rusting and wear and tear longer, increasing the lifespan of the unit.

For many households, a 3/4 horsepower disposal will work best. They have plenty of power to handle those large holiday gatherings and can safely grind potato peels, celery and more without complaint. While they require more space under the sink than lower power units, they are typically quieter than smaller units.

Have a large family or do a lot of cooking and entertaining? Consider upgrading to a 1 horsepower disposal. They can handle just about anything you can throw at them. With a large grinding chamber and premium stainless steel components they make quick work of everything from chicken and fish bones to fruit rinds. 1 horsepower units are the top-of-the-line, but just make sure you have the space under your sink!

Whatever size unit you decide to purchase, it’s important to always run lots of water when grinding waste to ensure that residue does not build up inside the grinding chamber, which can reduce the effectiveness of the disposal and cause corrosion.

Have questions about selecting the right garbage disposal for your kitchen? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We can help you choose the right disposal for your needs.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water?

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water?

Not enough hot water

Your water heater is one of the hardest working appliances in your home, second only to your heating and air conditioning system in total energy usage. If you have noticed that the water temperature is no longer hot enough, or you’re running out of hot water too soon, there are a few possible causes.

1. The Thermostat Is Set Too Low
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting a tank-based hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check to see if the thermostat has been set lower than the recommended temperature. If there are young children or elderly residents in the home, we recommend never raising the temperature above 120 degrees. Setting the temperature any higher increases the risk of scalding.

2. The Water Heater Is Malfunctioning
Water heater problems often occur when these systems are not working correctly:

  • Thermal switch
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element

A licensed plumber can inspect the water heater and repair or replace the parts as needed.

3. The Dip Tube Is Broken
Cold water enters the water heater through a tube at the top of the tank. The tube directs the cold water to the bottom of the tank where the heating element is located. If the tube is broken, the cold water will remain at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is located, preventing the water from fully heating. Your plumber can inspect the dip tube to ensure it is working correctly.

4. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank
Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This will cause a gradual reduction in heating efficiency and eventually lower water temperature. Flushing the tank annually, or on the schedule recommended by the water heater manufacturer, will prevent sediment build up and energy loss.

5. The Water Heater Is Located Too Far From Where Hot Water Is Needed.
If you have to run the tap for a long time before the water heats up, or the water never gets hot enough, the problem could be that hot water tank is too far from where it’s needed. During the winter in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the tap where it’s needed. Insulating the pipes and the water heater tank can help reduce heat loss.

6. The Tank Is Undersized
A tank that is too small to supply your household with enough hot water will run continuously and never be able to meet the demand. Besides switching to a larger tank, consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters heat water only when it’s needed to efficiently provide a virtually endless supply of hot water.

Not enough hot water? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We find the cause of the problem and recommend solutions to help keep the hot water flowing.

Plumbing Checklist for Spring

Plumbing Checklist For Spring

Plumbing Checklist

Spring is a good time to inspect your home’s plumbing to identify any problems that could lead to water damage, wasted energy, and unsafe conditions in your home. We have put together a list of plumbing systems to check inside and outside your home.

Kitchen

  • Check the faucet for drips
  • Check under the sink for signs of water leaks, including water stains or mold
  • Inspect the operation of the disposal. Does it sound louder than it should?
  • Do the kitchen drains empty quickly, or do they need cleaning?
  • Check behind the refrigerator for water that could indicate the ice maker is leaking

Bathrooms

  • Check for drips and leaks around toilets
  • Check for cracks in the toilet tank and bowl
  • To see if the toilet is leaking, add several drops of food coloring to the tank. Check the toilet bowl 30 minutes later. If the water has become colored, there is a leak.
  • Does the toilet run for longer than it should or does the handle need to be held down to empty completely?
  • Check drains by filling sinks, tubs and showers with water. Do they drain quickly?
  • Check faucets and shower heads for mineral build-up. Fixtures can be soaked in vinegar overnight to removed mineral deposits.
  • If plumbing fixtures are not used for long periods of time, exercise faucets and valves under sinks and toilets to prevent sticking.

Water Heater

  • Check the water heater thermostat. It should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding.
  • Flush the water heater tank to remove sediment at the bottom of the tank that can reduce efficiency and lead to corrosion. Check your water heater manual for the proper procedure for draining and maintaining the unit.
  • If the water heater is over 12 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
  • Ensure there are no flammable liquids stored near the water heater.

Miscellaneous

  • Is the water pressure consistent throughout the house?
  • Check washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or other signs of wear. We recommend using braided stainless steel hoses.
  • Pour a bucket of water into floor drains to refill the trap and prevent sewer odors.
  • Check for signs of water leaks around ceilings, walls and under sinks
  • Ensure that plumbing vents outside the home are free of obstructions such as bird nests and debris.
  • Check that the sump pump is working properly by pouring a bucket of water in the pump pit. The pump should turn on and drain the water away.
  • Check outside faucets for leaks

If your plumbing inspection turns up any problems, Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical can help with all your plumbing repair and installation needs.