Blog - Wisler Plumbing

Are ‘Flushable’ Wipes Good For Plumbing Systems?

You’ve probably seen wipes and hygiene products that say they are flushable right on the package. It might not actually be a good idea to flush these products, depending on what they are made of. It helps if you have an idea of how septic tanks and sewage treatment plants work.

 

With a septic tank, the water and solid materials (paper, particles, etc.) go into a holding tank. The heavy sludge will fall to the bottom of the tank, while the lighter paper and floatable items will flake to the top of the tank. The water will be in the center, and it will then exit the tank and go into a leech field. (A leech field is basically pipes with holes and gravel around them.) Whenever you use flushable wipes that aren’t biodegradable, they float to the top of the septic tank and gradually accumulate. They aren’t able to decompose or break down.

 

I had a client with a cancer patient in the home who was using flushable wipes to clean up as they were going through treatment. It completely stopped up the whole home and backed up into the house, causing a huge mess. When we took the top off the septic tank, we saw thousands of wipes sitting there. Because they couldn’t go anywhere, they had built up and eventually stopped up the system. If they cannot decompose, break down, and sink to the bottom of the tank, they shouldn’t go in there.

 

If you’re not sure, look on the package of flushable wipes. If they say ‘100% biodegradable’, they are fine to put down the septic tank. Otherwise, if it’s more of a fiber wipe that isn’t biodegradable, I wouldn’t recommend it. I also wouldn’t recommend putting down applicators or hygiene products that aren’t biodegradable simply because they will also gradually build up and stop up the septic tank and inlet.

 

With a municipal sewage treatment plant, all of the solids, paper, and other materials that cannot break down end up at the plant where they get strained out and hauled away to the garbage. Sometimes they burn them or sanitize them so they are just left with a liquid. Imagine larger areas that have hundreds of thousands of homes. If every home flushes five wipes, it compounds into a very large amount of material that the treatment plant must deal with. Their facilities aren’t designed to deal with these things, so it’s becoming a very big problem in municipalities right now. Toilet paper, on the other hand, breaks down into really small pieces that are nearly invisible. They are able to degrade wherever the liquid ends up.

 

You should definitely be conscious of how septic tank systems and sewage treatment plants work. If you keep that in mind, you’ll know why it’s not a good idea to flush or put items down the drain if they aren’t completely biodegradable. If you have any questions, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Finding the Right Water Softener

If you have a decent amount of calcium in your water, it can be referred to as ‘hard water’. Water softeners are installed to remove the calcium from the water. Here’s how you can choose the right water softener for your home.

 

Sizing

 

One of the first steps is figuring out what level of calcium you have in the water. Different areas, wells, and subdivisions all have different levels of calcium in the water. It would definitely be a good starting point to have the water tested by a professional who knows how to size a water softener properly. Knowing the amount of calcium in the water is important because the water softener removes calcium and holds it until it regenerates or backwashes to dump the hardness/calcium down the drain. If you undersize your water softener, you’ll experience very frequent regeneration or backwash cycles, which will use excessive water and salt. A properly sized system will prevent excessive cycles, saving both water and salt.

 

Capabilities

 

It isn’t a good idea to jump to a decision and install a water softener without addressing other potential materials in the water. If you also have chlorine in your water, we have a product that removes both hardness and chlorine. Municipal water typically has a high amount of chlorine, so it would be a better and more efficient choice to use one unit that resolves both of these issues. I always encourage people to speak with a professional that knows water softener and water treatment equipment before installing a water softener in the home.

 

Efficiency

 

Not all water softeners are created equal. Although most of the concept of how they work is the same, the differences lie in the brains of the water softener, which consists of the computers and control mechanisms. A water softener might be very efficient or inefficient, and its efficiency is largely assessed by how much salt it uses. I think anyone would prefer to buy and transport less salt. A water softener that has smart technology for managing regeneration and backwash cycles will use less salt and be more efficient overall. It will probably end up saving you money in the future.

 

Should Homeowners Self-Install?

 

When we’ve seen homeowners try to install water softeners themselves, most of the time they purchased the unit from a hardware store or big-box store. These units simply don’t have very much longevity. Just like everything else, you get what you pay for. In my opinion, these shouldn’t be throw-away appliances. It’s best to have a system that will service you well for many years to come.

 

If you want to get the right water softener for your home, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Plumbing Tips for Kids/Teens

There are a few simple tips that I think every person should know about a home’s plumbing in order to prevent serious issues from arising. It’s a good idea for us to teach our kids these smart plumbing practices. That way they’ll know what they should do in these situations, especially when they become teenagers and start staying home by themselves more often.

 

Using the Main Water Valve

 

First, mostly everyone in the home should know how to shut off the water using the main water valve. It’s typically located in the basement (if you have one). Otherwise, it could be in a few different areas. It’s a good idea to find out where the main water shutoff is located so you’ll be prepared just in case. You can show people 5-8 years or older how to turn it off, unless it’s really old and hard to operate. If water started spraying or pouring through the ceiling, or if there was ever a flood in the home, the best thing to do would be to turn the water off using this valve.

 

What Should/Shouldn’t Go Down the Kitchen Drain

 

Everyone should also know what you should and shouldn’t put down the kitchen sink drain and garbage disposal. A garbage disposal is not necessarily for leftovers and cleaning out the refrigerator. It’s really for scraping small things off of a plate and grinding them into smaller particles. It’s definitely not a good idea to dump any kind of grease or very hot items down the kitchen sink drain. If you cover this information with everyone in the family, it will save you from a very nasty stopped up pipe in the kitchen.

 

What to Do When a Toilet Backs Up

 

If you flush a toilet and the water starts rising up, it could be bad enough to lead to the toilet overflowing. If that ever happens, the best thing to do is locate the shutoff valve on the left hand side towards the back of the toilet. Use it to shut off the water to the toilet, which will prevent it from continuing to fill.

 

How to Turn Off the Water Heater

 

This is especially important if your home has a gas water heater. You should know how to shut off the gas supply, which is a potential safety concern. If you have an electric water heater, there’s a breaker in the panel box that you can just flip to the off position. You don’t have to be very mechanically inclined to know how to locate the main power breaker or main shutoff for the gas. You would want to do this if something was to happen with the water system or if the water was to stop working.

 

What Not to Flush Down the Toilet

 

It’s surprising to me how many teenagers aren’t aware of which items aren’t suitable to be flushed. You shouldn’t flush anything that isn’t biodegradable. That means any type of hygiene products, baby wipes, or household objects. If a toothbrush, comb, or other bathroom item falls into the toilet, don’t flush it! Take it back out, because if it’s flushed it will cause problems further down the pipe that will need to be resolved. Be careful not to flush things that you’re not supposed to.

 

If you need some assistance from a qualified professional plumber, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Determining if Your Home’s Drinking Water is Safe and Healthy

When it comes to what’s in our water, how can homeowners figure out what’s safe and healthy to consume? This is a very interesting topic to talk about, especially because of events like the Flint water crisis that are going on around the country. The reality is, we take it for granted that our water is suitable to drink. That may or may not be true, and it’s important that homeowners are educated about the different things that should (or shouldn’t) be in the water, especially if they rely on a community to provide water or they use a municipal water system. Drinking water regulation does exist, and the standards apply to any public water source. A public water source is defined as a system that provides potable water to five or more homes.

 

First, let’s cover a few things that are in the primary regulated standards. (There are lots of other things that technically cannot be in the water, but we’ll go over the main ones for the sake of simplicity.) There are no bacteria or microorganisms allowed in a regulated drinking water system. These are things that would be harmful to someone if ingested, potentially resulting in stomach issues and/or sickness. If you have a private water system, you should get a lab test for verification. It’s the responsibility of the system’s owner to take a sample to a lab and have it tested for bacteria.

 

Lead is another thing that’s regulated, which can be harmful to infants or pregnant women. In rural areas where fertilizer is spread, nitrates from the fertilizers can get into the water source. Chlorine is put into water to remove bacteria and make it safe to consume. Four parts per million is the limit allowable in a public water source. To put that into perspective, the recommended level of chlorine in a swimming pool is half that amount, at two parts per million. If you’re drinking water that falls well within the accepted level, you’re practically drinking swimming pool water. That’s a tremendous amount of chlorine.

 

Next, let’s take a look at the secondary standards. These are things that aren’t necessarily harmful to you, but they can potentially be harmful to your plumbing system, fixtures, or appliances. Hardness in the form of calcium can cause scale buildup, and it’s a non-regulated item. PH is a regulated item, and it should be 6.5 or higher (7 is perfect). Iron is a regulated item. It isn’t harmful, but it will stain and clog up fixtures. Knowing the differences between primary vs. secondary standards goes a long way towards understanding your water.

 

All municipal systems are required to either send out a letter or at least publish a public letter annually, which shows what’s in the water. If you haven’t received a letter, you’ll have to go online to find the published version that shows the content that was tested for in the municipal system. As far as what we can do at Wisler Plumbing, right now we’re running a special where we perform a comprehensive water test for things like lead, chlorine, nitrates, hardness, pH, and iron for $21.95. It doesn’t test for bacteria, however. This comprehensive test will allow you to find out if these things are in your water and whether or not it meets the national primary drinking water standards.

 

Great water is water in its purest form, with very little contaminants or materials in it. If you have a lot of stuff in your water, it’s probably not great water. Your best bet is to drink water that hasn’t picked up any contaminants or other things during the hydrologic cycle. If you have any questions about our comprehensive test for $21.95, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Good Plumbing Habits for Every Homeowner

Here are some things that every home owner can do on a regular basis to keep the plumbing system in top shape. First, it’s easy to forget about the filter cartridges on the main water supply that goes into the home. It’s a matter of out of sight, out of mind, even though the filter will affect water pressure and even get gummed up to the point where it can be very challenging to replace. Depending on the size of the filter and how bad the water is, you should determine the ideal frequency of how often to change them. Create a record and maybe set a reminder so that you’ll change them at the optimal time. You’ll have a system that works much better if you change these cartridges on a consistent interval according to your needs.

 

If you have a well system, it’s a good idea to flush out the pressure tank on a regular basis. This consists of simply turning the breaker off to the pressure tank and hooking a hose to the connection on the bottom of the tank. Run the hose outside and open the valve to flush out the water. The pressure should steadily dwindle until it’s depleted completely. A lot of times, you’ll notice sediment and debris will come out of the pressure tank. By flushing it out, you’ll keep it from getting into your home water system.

 

Drain maintenance is another good habit to pay attention to. We often use our drains without becoming aware of how much stuff actually goes down them. Think about how often you shave, brush your teeth, or wash your hands every day. Those sticky products, soap scum, and hair are all going down the drain and passing through a very small pipe. It’s easy for drains to get gunked up, especially around the sink. We recommend performing drain maintenance before you need to bring in a professional to deal with a bigger problem. You can go online to find a safe product to keep the drains clear and working optimally. (We use a product called Bio Smart.)

 

If you have a septic system, pay close attention to the toilets and make sure they aren’t leaking through the flapper. If your toilet sounds like it has been flushed even though you haven’t used it recently, that means that the toilet is using water (the toilet is running). This kind of leak puts a constant water flow into your septic system, allowing it to become saturated and even fail prematurely. The extra water usage can also be an unnecessary expense, so pay close attention to your water bill. If you notice that it has fluctuated drastically from one month to the next, it might be a signal that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. If you see bill that used to be 10,000 gallons but it’s increased to 15,000 gallons after a certain month, for example, that could be an indication of a leaking toilet.

 

If you have any questions, or if you want to make sure that your plumbing system is properly maintained, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

Fun Day Trip Destinations

Wisler Plumbing PicnicWhen we think about family trips, we often think about taking days at a time or going far away. But sometimes the best trips are spontaneous, and they might only last one day. If you’re near Franklin County or Roanoke County, here are some great day trip destinations where you can have lots of fun.

 

Franklin County lies between two lakes: Smith Mountain Lake and Philpott Lake. Smith Mountain Lake State Park is on the Bedford side of Smith Mountain Lake. It has a lot of fun activities like hiking, fishing, swimming, and volleyball. There’s even a beach café. It’s a fun destination for family to go and spend the day together. It’s very well-kept and nice to visit, especially during the summer months.

 

The Peaks of Otter is great for hiking, and you’ll get an awesome view at Shark Top (one of the three mountain peaks overlooking Bedford). This is a trip that will take most of the day. It might be a good idea to pack a lunch to give you an energy boost on the way up. If there’s anyone that wants to join you but isn’t able to make the hike, there’s a bus that goes right to the top. That way, elderly family members can still join everyone else and take part in the fun.

 

In Roanoke, the Mill Mountain Zoo is great, especially for young children. This is where the Mill Mountain Star is located, so it’s very cool to go and watch it at night when everything is lit up. Even though the zoo is very small, it does have some interesting animals (but nothing very exotic). You can take it all in after a just a few hours, so it’s not somewhere you’ll go to every week/month. However, it’s a nice little outing, especially when you go out to the Star overlooking the Roanoke valley.

 

Downtown Roanoke is packed with history, and it’s another really fun location to visit. The science museum is great for children, and it has dinosaurs, gadgets, and lots of learning activities. The Transportation Museum has a selection of cars, trains, and buses, so it’s another fun attraction for kids. In the early days of the Roanoke valley, the area was known for its railroad. The art museum was also added in the past five years or so, and it’s really cool to check out if you’re more into art.

 

I’d really like to make a day trip to one of these places with my family in the near future. Of course, you have to make time for the things that are important, and family time together is definitely one of the things that matter most in our lives. If you’re in the area and you have any questions or suggestions about your family day trip, or if you have any questions about Wisler Plumbing, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

What are the Benefits of Water Softeners and How Do They Work?

Homeowners who have lived with hard water all their lives may not really know why it could be problematic. If you have hard water, there will be scale buildup developing in appliances, which can lead to premature failure. One of the benefits of removing the calcium is how it can protect the water heater or any type of appliance that heats water in your home (dishwashers, HVAC humidifiers, steam showers, coffee makers, etc.).

 

Hard water also doesn’t allow soap to work as effectively as it’s supposed to. If there’s hardness in the water, the soap will treat it just like dirt. It will attach to the calcium instead of attaching to whatever you’re actually trying to clean. By removing the calcium from the water, the soap has nothing to do but to attach to what you’re cleaning, making it more effective.

 

Water softeners work through something called ion exchange to remove the calcium that’s basically creating the hard water. ‘Ion exchange’ is a technical term describing the little beads in the water softener, which are typically made from plastic. Those beads have a negative charge, and calcium ions have a positive charge. As the calcium flows through the softener, it comes into contact with the bead and stays on there.

 

A sodium ion has a stronger positive charge than a calcium ion, so whenever we backwash the water softener with sodium, it pushes the calcium ion off the beads and into the drain. Most of the sodium is rinsed off, but there’s a small amount of residual sodium in the water softener. When calcium is attracted to the beads, that sodium is pushed into the water. It’s a very simple process once you become familiar with it. We’re really just catching the calcium, putting back a little bit of sodium, and cleaning it every so often depending on the capacity of the water softener.

 

If you think you’re noticing the signs of hard water in your home, you should start by getting an in-home water test. Contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382. Calcium is something we can test for right at your home for free. From there, we can speak to you about whether or not you have hard water. If you do, we can provide you with the options to solve it.

Why Plumbing Requires Expertise and Training

Even though plumbing might look easy, our industry requires continuous training. Modern indoor plumbing has been around for close to about 80 years now. As innovation has occurred in plumbing, many new products and materials have been used. There’s such a wide range of items in homes that are still functioning today, even though we might not have installed them for close to 50 years now. A successful, skilled plumber has to know how to correctly install, repair, remove, and hook up a wide range of different products. Training is necessary so that even a younger person entering the trade can be knowledgeable about what they may run into in an existing home.

 

Sure, a homeowner can run a pipe from point a to point b. If you’re lucky, you won’t even have any leaks. But then the question arises, if it was done correctly, how long will it last? If a jack-of-all-trades or an unexperienced person is doing plumbing, they very likely may have to replace their items more frequently. They might also have to redo repairs simply because they don’t have the experience of many years of learning the trade.

 

The trades, including roofing, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and masonry, are all hands-on and plumbing is really no different from any of them (specifically roofing). Would you put on your own roof? If you didn’t do it correctly, it could leak and ruin your home. Would you do your own wiring? It could potentially cause a fire if you did it wrong. What would happen if you did your own HVAC? That might end up costing you a lot of money because it’s tied to your utilities.

 

You shouldn’t mess with plumbing either if you don’t know what you’re doing. You could cause a sewer issue, where very unclean water would enter your home and result in disease or sickness. A significant leak could result in a very large damage claim. If you weren’t even aware that a leak had occurred, you could end up with mold growth. It’s simply not something that the average person should mess with, even though it does look easy.

 

Most generally, a homeowner will get started on a project and realize that they’re in over their head or frustrated because things aren’t working the way they should. If you know you have a plumbing problem, it’s necessary to correctly diagnose what is going wrong. The diagnosis is sometimes even harder than the repair itself. It’s crucial that you hire a skilled professional that knows how to diagnose the problem correctly so that you don’t waste money or perform unnecessary repairs with no results.

 

If you have an issue in your home right now, don’t be tempted to fix it yourself if you aren’t experienced with plumbing. Instead, get a professional to take a look at it. You’ll save money, time, and headache in the long run. Contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382.

What’s the Difference Between Water Treatment and Water Filtration?

It’s easy for homeowners to confuse water treatment and water filtration. Water treatment really just means that we are changing what’s in the water. Water softening is one kind of water treatment, which is used when you’re trying to remove the calcium in your water (hard water). Typically, if you remove something from the water, you have to put something back into it. (That’s just how the chemistry of water works.) Water softeners remove the calcium from the water and put back a very minute amount of sodium. Then the unit performs a backwash cycle where it cleans itself and gets rid of the calcium.

 

In general, water treatment involves removing something that you cannot see in the water. You might instead be able to smell it, taste it, or see the filmy residue or stain it leaves behind. On the exact opposite side of the spectrum is water filtration, which simply involves taking out the things that you can usually see. It uses a filter to remove visible particles like sand or grit from the water. Filtration can also remove particles that you may not be able to see because they are too small.

 

Water treatment can remove calcium (hard water), iron which causes staining, or low pH where we will add calcium to the water to balance the pH. We may use a UV light to remove bacteria or any type of ozone or chlorine. All those different water treatment products are either adding or taking away things from the water, whereas filtration is just removing particles with a filter or cartridge.

 

The kind of water your home has will determine if you need water treatment and/or water filtration. Some homes with very problematic well water will need both. Most of the time, community or municipal systems will only need treatment (not filtration). It’s best to have your water tested to find out for sure.

Contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382 for a free in-home water test to see if there is hardness, iron, magnesium, low pH, or high pH. We can also test for other things like nitrates, chloroform, or E. coli by sending a water sample off to a lab for third-party testing. We do that for a very nominal fee of $21.95.

Electric vs. Gas Tankless Water Heaters: Which is Better?

Most people roll tankless water heaters into one group, but there are many differences between electric and gas tankless water heaters. It is very common for a home not to have natural gas or LP gas, so if a homeowner is interested in tankless water heating, they tent to automatically assume they can get an electric tankless water heater. That’s often not the case, and in fact, we work with very few electric tankless water heaters.

 

Electric tankless water heaters take about 120 amps of electricity to run for the whole house, which is a very significant load on an existing electrical system. That would be equivalent to four clothes dryers or electric kitchen ranges. The reality is that there often isn’t enough space in the electrical panel to add an electric tankless water heater capable of providing enough hot water for the entire home. Electricity is the most inefficient way to heat water, so electric tankless water heaters are much less efficient than gas tankless water heaters. Most of the time, people consider tankless water heaters for efficiency, so it wouldn’t make much sense to put in an inefficient unit.

 

There are also some potential dependability issues with electric tankless water heaters. The elements that heat the water in an electric tankless water heater can burn out very quickly if any air passes through the unit itself. If the water was turned off for maintenance and someone forgot to turn power off to the water heater, it could result in a blown element that needs to be replaced. Another issue is the lifespan of the actual heater. An electric tankless water heater will have roughly about a 6-10 year life, whereas a gas tankless water heater will have double that. Even though it may be a little bit more money up front, the increased lifespan makes it worth the investment.

 

Most people see an electric tankless water heater online and think it will work for their home. I would encourage everyone to pay attention to the flow rate that the heater can produce. Most of even the larger heaters will only produce about 3 gallons of hot water per minute. That’s only enough for one shower at a given time, and the demand in a typical home will be much greater than what an electric tankless water heater can produce.

 

On the flipside of the coin, gas tankless water heaters are extremely efficient. In fact, they are one of the most efficient tankless water heaters you can get. They have a long lifespan, they are proven to be dependable, and the flow rates are around 5-7 gallons per minute, depending on the intended water temperature. They can definitely provide a whole home with the amount of hot water it demands.

 

Before you make the decision to get an electric tankless water heater, contact us online or give us a call at 540-483-9382. You may come to realize that there are superior options available for your home.