Plumber’s Tip: Common Types of Building Supply & Drain Piping Materials

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what the various pipes in your Orlando home and other buildings are made of? How come some Orlando plumbing systems use different materials than others? What are the differences between common types of pipe materials? This brief guide covers all those questions.

 Plastic

The newest piping material is plastic. Usually made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plastic piping has been in use in some form or another for about 50 years. Although many purists tend to shy away from plastic piping, it is popular as a material for both water supply and drain piping because it is cheaper and easier to cut than copper, and doesn’t present the corrosion problems of other metal piping materials.

Sometimes, plastic piping can crack or break because it was installed improperly, especially when done by an installer who is not used to working with ABS or PVC materials. These pipes have to be installed differently than copper would be, so it is important to use a contractor with expertise.

Copper

Despite the relatively recent popularity of PVC and ABS, copper has been and remains the industry standard for most piping jobs, especially building water supply lines. Copper has advantages over other metals in that it is softer and easier to manipulate, doesn’t corrode easily and isn’t toxic to humans and animals.

There are three kinds of copper piping used in plumbing, which are assigned letter types depending on the thickness of the pipe walls. Type M is the thinnest and is used for above ground plumbing, while Type L and Type K copper piping have thicker walls. Occasionally, flexible copper tubing is used for plumbing, but because of the high cost, use is usually limited to spaces where the extra flexibility is essential.

Steel

Galvanized steel piping is not commonly used for drain piping or building water supplies any more, with both copper and plastics being far more common choices for new construction. The zinc coating on galvanized pipes stalls rust, but doesn’t prevent it completely, which can shorten the life of the pipe and cause flaking on the interior pipe walls.

Cast Iron

Although not often used in new construction, cast iron can still be found in a lot of buildings because it has been used as a plumbing material for more than a hundred years.

Lead

Lead has been found to be toxic to water supplies and should never be used in new construction. Nearly all buildings with lead piping have had the water supply and drain piping replaced with newer, safer materials.

If you are interested replacing the pipes in your home, call Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. today!

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Plumbing Tip: What’s Causing that Leaky Toilet?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Most homeowners have been there. You go into the bathroom in the morning, still a little bleary-eyed from sleep, and are shocked to find that the floor is wet. Then your realize your toilet is leaking.

The tricky part is determining where that leak is coming from in order to fix it. Try these simple methods to diagnose the problem quickly before you call an Orlando plumber.

 Sweating Toilet

One possibility is that your toilet is not leaking at the base itself, but that the toilet is sweating and the liquid is pooling at the base. It is easy enough to make this distinction; just check the toilet throughout the day to see if there is any moisture on the outer surface. If so, your toilet is sweating.

“Sweating” is caused by humid air condensing on the cold porcelain. The only way to fix this problem is to insulate the toilet.

 Bad Tank Seal

Another possibility is a bad seal. There are two main seals on your toilet that can leak: the tank seal and the wax seal.

To check for a bad tank seal, put some food coloring in the tank. You don’t need a lot, just enough to noticeably change the color of the water. Then, let the toilet sit without being used for a few hours. If the water on the floor is colored, then the tank seal on your toilet needs to be replaced.

 Bad Wax Seal

The other seal that can leak is the wax seal that is located at the actual base of the toilet. Diagnosing this problem is similar to the tank seal method above.

Again, add food coloring, this time to the water in the bowl. Then flush and repeat. After adding coloring the second time, let the toilet sit like in the steps above. If the colored water starts collecting around the base of the toilet after a few hours, the wax seal needs to be replaced.

Once you have determined the cause of the leaking, you can properly fix it. Some home owners are savvy enough to do toilet repairs on their own, but most will need to call an Orlando plumber like Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. Fixing a toilet seal is a relatively quick job and worth the expense.

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Orlando Plumbing Guide: Calculating Water Usage and Tips to Conserve Water

Monday, May 21st, 2012

How much water do we actually use every day?  Much research has been done on this subject, and by calculating water usage it is seen that on average, an American household of four uses 400 gallons of water per day of direct indoor water use, not including outdoor water usage which can bump that number up drastically higher.  To pinpoint exactly where water is being used the most, extensive research has been done.  Below is a list of indoor and outdoor water usages per household item or appliance; it can be used to easily identify the best places in a home to focus on in order to conserve water usage every day. To find out much water your home uses, talk to your local Orlando plumber!

Average Indoor Household Water Usage

  • Toilets (27%)
  • Washing Machines (22%)
  • Showers and Baths (19%)
  • Sinks (16%)
  • Water Wasted (145) – leaky faucets, toilets, and showerheads

Average Outdoor Household Water Usage

  • Lawn care accounts for 50% of indoor and outdoor water usage combined
  • Swimming pools take 19,000 gallons of water to fill on average, and when left uncovered that water evaporates at a staggering 1,000 gallons per month.  Pool covers can keep 30% to 50% of that water from evaporating.

Tips to Conserve Water in Daily Life

There are some simple ways to conserve water in our everyday lives.

  • Fix leaky faucets, taps, showerheads, and sprinklers
  • Run the dishwasher only when it is completely filled
  • Rather than rinsing dirty dishes, scrape excess food into the trash or compost
  • Wash vegetables in a bowl of water while using a vegetable brush, rather than running them under the sink faucet
  • Boil food in as little water as possible, just enough to cover the food completely
  • Turn off the tap when not directly in use such as while brushing teeth or shaving
  • Place a plastic bottle filled with water in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used for each flush, or consider installing low-flow toilets
  • Spend less time in the shower, take less baths and keep water levels low when you do bathe
  • Only do full loads of laundry
  • Don’t overwater plants
  • Use a pool cover to keep the pool cleaner and to keep water from evaporating
  • Water the lawn during the cool part of the day to ensure minimal evaporation, and ensure sprinklers are set to only water foliage, not the sidewalk
  • Switch out water-thirsty lawn for more climate-friendly landscaping or plants which need less watering

By calculating water usage in order to see where the average consumer uses water on a daily basis, it makes it easier to identify suitable areas where water can be conserved. For any Orlando plumbing repairs or to install low flow fixtures in your home, give Modern Plumbing Industries a call!

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Plumbing Tip: Stop Sink Clogs Before They Start

Monday, May 14th, 2012

A clogged bathroom sink can disrupt your morning routine. A clogged kitchen sink can make preparing dinner a frustrating task. Stop those annoying plumbing problems before they happen in your Winter Springs home by understanding how clogs occur. The main culprits are grease, hair, and food.

Hydrophobic and Hydrophyllic

In the world of chemistry, substances that dissolve in water are hydrophyllic. Salt and sugar are the most obvious examples. Substances that don’t dissolve in water, such as grease, oil, and organic solvents, are hydrophobic. They will quickly cling to any available surface that allows them to separate from water. Grease and oil from different sources will clump together rather mix with water.

When grease and oil are poured down a sink, they coat the inside of the drain pipe. Water will not remove them. Soaps and detergents are effective cleaners because they have both hydrophobic and hydrophyllic properties. They can pull some of the grease and oil away from the walls of the drain and into the  water, but the base layer of grease stuck to the pipe will not move. Over time, the grease stuck inside the drain accumulates. Hair and food debris gets caught in the grease. Eventually, the clot becomes large enough to stop the water from moving. No matter how much water you flush down the drain, the grease clot stays put.

Hair and Food

We all know we’re not supposed to flush things down the drain, but when we use a bathroom sink for routine grooming, it’s almost impossible to prevent an occasional hair from falling into the drain. When cleaning the dishes after meals, a small amount of food waste inevitably makes its way into the kitchen sink drain.

Over time, the strands of hair and bits of food accumulate in the U-shaped portion of the drain called the trap. Once an object becomes snagged inside the trap, it becomes an anchor for other objects to grab hold of. A clot of hair,  food particles, and other debris slowly accumulates.

Preventing Clogs

Most homeowners know that cooking grease should never be poured down a sink. But they may not realize that many foods, even lean foods like chicken or fish, give off small amounts of grease or fat when they cook. Scraps of food ground up in the garbage disposal can release grease that clings to the walls of the drain. For any busy kitchen, it’s nearly impossible to prevent some grease or oil from making its way into the drain. To help prevent a grease build up in the kitchen sink, add some dish detergent whenever you put cooking liquid, food scraps, or plate scrapings into the sink. Follow up with lots of hot water. For bathroom sinks, when you see a hair fall into the sink, try to wipe it away with tissue before it slides down the drain.

For any Winter Springs plumbing repairs, give Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. a call!

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Plumbing Guide: Garbage Disposals

Monday, May 7th, 2012

For most Orlando homeowners, the garbage disposal is an essential kitchen convenience.  Food preparation and cooking become much easier when peelings and scraps can just be whisked into the sink and down the drain. Many of the earlier environmental concerns about garbage disposals have been resolved. Most municipal water treatments plants now have the technology to extract the pulverized food debris from waste water and turn it into sludge that can be sterilized and disposed in a landfill or used for fertilizer.

When to Replace a Garbage Disposal

Obviously, when your garbage disposal stops working it’s time to either fix or replace it. While it’s possible to service a garbage disposal, it would probably be cheaper to replace it. But if your disposal is still operating, how do you know when it’s time to for a new one?

Garbage disposals don’t last forever. No matter how well it’s made, any appliance exposed to thousands of gallons of running water, detergent, food scraps, bones, and the occasional spoon accidentally dropped into the drain is going to wear out. A disposal in good condition should be able to dispatch a few potato or apple peels in a matter of seconds. If your unit seems to take forever to accomplish a simple grinding task, it may be time for a new one.

A foul odor emanating from the disposal that won’t go away after a thorough rinsing may also be a sign that it’s time to replace it. As the components in the grinding chamber wear out, food can get trapped inside and rot. You may adapt to the smell, but guests will probably not appreciate it.

Even if your disposal is in good shape, you may want to look into replacing it. Garbage disposals are rated in horsepower. Basic models are usually rated in the 1/5 to 1/3 horsepower range, while top of the line models are in the 3/4 to 1 horsepower range. The difference may seem small, but it has a major impact on performance. If you have a smaller unit in the 1/5 to 1/3 range that is a few years old, and you like to cook, it may be worth your while to consider replacing it.

Size Matters

Most manufacturers offer a range of models with increasing power ratings. If you do a lot of cooking and use your disposal a lot, the few extra dollars investment in a 3/4 or 1 horsepower disposal is worth the money. Not only do more powerful units dispatch food scraps more easily, but they can handle tougher jobs like bones and meat scraps that might jam a smaller disposal. More powerful disposals are less noisy and they tend to break down less. The only drawback of larger disposals is that they tend to be larger and take up more space. It’s best to consult an Orlando plumbing contractor before buying a new disposal to make sure it will fit under your sink.

Call Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. today to learn more about upgrades you can make to your home’s plumbing!

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Plumbing Question: What is a Faucet Aerator?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Saving water is something that everyone would like to do, and your Orlando plumber can tell you about all the upgrades available today, one of which is a faucet aerator. A tap aerator or faucet aerator is located on the tip of water faucets which are used indoors such as kitchen and bathroom sink faucets.  Their purpose is to spread the water stream into a number of smaller streams, in essence adding air to the water stream.  This saves the amount of water which comes out of the tap at one time while also reducing the amount of backsplash which occurs when the faucet is turned on.

Utilizing faucet aerators can be one of the most inexpensive ways to save money on your Orlando home’s water consumption and save energy.

There are two main types of faucet aerators, some which use metal or plastic screens to separate the water, and some which do not use screens. One advantage to those without screens is that they eliminate problematic clogging which occurs on screen aerators due to sediment buildup.  There are also aerators with off-valves and swivel aerators which allow users to direct flow to wherever the water spray is needed.

There are three main flow-types seen today. The needle method creates a circular pattern of small, single streams of water with no water-flow in the very center.  The aerated method created a tubular flow with air mixed into the water, creating a single stream of bubbly water.  The laminar method has no air mixed in which makes for a single stream of water with no bubbles.

Many aerators are designed as more economical low-flow aerators which optimize the water flow while still providing optimal water-flow performance.  In kitchens these low-flow options decrease flow from 2.2 gallons per minute to 1.5 gpm or 1.0 gpm, saving anywhere from 32% to 54% of water-usage.  On bathroom faucets the water-flow is decreased from 2.2 gpm to 1.0 gpm or even 0.5 gpm saving from 77% to 84% of water usage.  When engineered properly, low-flow or economic aerators can provide increased perceived water pressure while in actuality helping to save water.

When purchasing new faucet aerators, ensure that you find the proper type (male or female) and the proper size (regular or small).  There are dual-thread options for those who do not know whether a male or female aerator is necessary.  Also, look at the tap aerator’s price in conjunction with how much savings it can provide in water usage annually and see how little must be spent on each faucet in order to save hundreds of dollars. Your Orlando plumbing experts at Modern Plumbing Industries can help you find the perfect fixtures for your home.

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Plumbing Repair Guide: How a Garbage Disposal Works

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Garbage disposals are becoming more and more prevalent in homes across the country. So the chances are pretty high that you have one in your home. Garbage disposals definitely make getting rid of food waste easier. Instead of scraping all those plates and dishes into the garbage first, you can simply flush it all down the drain, run the garbage disposal and it magically disappears.

But do you really know what is happening when you turn on your Orlando garbage disposal and where all your food is really going? The truth is that a garbage disposal is not a particularly complicated piece of equipment. There are some variations, but in general your garbage disposal has a motor attached to rotating blades which are located in a chamber below your sink that is attached to your drain.

When you put food down the garbage disposal and turn it on, these blades shred the food into small enough pieces that it can pass safely through your drain pipes and out into the sewer system. The shredded food then runs with the water back into your main drainage system and passes out of your house.

This is a pretty simple operation, but there are some things you should be aware of if you use a garbage disposal in your home. First of all, it is important to never reach into the garbage disposal when it is running. If you need to reach in, make sure the unit is switched off. It is even a good idea to shut off the power to the garbage disposal entirely so that it cannot be turned on by accident while your hand is in there.

You may notice a foul odor coming from the garbage disposal after a period of time too. This is common and easy enough to fix, but you will have to get down into the garbage disposal to get rid of the smell. The smell simply comes from residue of the food you have put down the garbage disposal and that needs to be cleaned off so the smell will go away.

Again, make sure you have the garbage disposal turned off completely before you reach in to take parts out to clean them. You can also put baking soda, vinegar or half a lemon down the garbage disposal and run it in order to combat a persistent smell or to keep one from developing.

For more tips about how to maintain your Orlando plumbing, give Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. a call!

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Plumbing Tip: Common Kitchen Plumbing Problems

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Considering how often we use our kitchen sink – i.e., many times per day, every day – and all the grimy business that it usually has to put up with, it’s kind of amazing that we don’t all experience headaches with our kitchen plumbing once a week. Chalk that up to the marvels of modern engineering and design.

That does not mean your Winter Spring plumbing is perfect, though, and all homeowners face problems with their kitchen plumbing from time to time. Fortunately, many such problems are fairly common and routine and therefore are easily remedied.

Below are 3 common kitchen plumbing problems and some possible solutions for each:

  1. Clogged drain
    Probably the most commonly aggravating of all kitchen sink problems is the clogged drain. If you have never had to deal with one, first thank your lucky stars and then brace for impact, because you’ll probably have to soon. This is usually caused by some piece of food or other deposit obstructing the sink. Try plunging it out, or breaking it up by pouring boiling water or white vinegar down the drain. This may take several attempts. If none of that works, you can resort to a commercial drain opening product.
  2. Leaky faucet
    Got a dripping sound keeping you up at night? Often, leaky faucets are caused by an obstructed aerator, which is that little screen thing on the end of your faucet. Unscrew that, clean it with water and put it back on. If the faucet still leaks, there may be a loose fitting somewhere further down the line, in which case you may need to call in a plumber. (Bonus tip: To quiet the dripping noise until the leak is fixed, tie a length of string to the end of the faucet. The water will run down the string silently instead of clanging into the basin all night.)
  3. Garbage disposal won’t run
    The quickest and most common solution to this problem is the reset the garbage disposal by pressing the button on the unit under the sink.

If these tips don’t work to solve your Winter Spring plumbing conundrum, then it is probably best to call in Modern Plumbing Industries. Plumbing is a tricky thing – and garbage disposals can be dangerous – so sometimes it is best to leave it to the pros.

 

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Plumbing Repair Guide: How to Stop a Toilet from Overflowing

Monday, April 9th, 2012

An overflowing toilet is a really unpleasant problem to have with your Orlando plumbing, 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 the 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. For any problems with your Orlando plumbing, give Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. a call today!

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Plumbing Repair Question: What Can Cause a Higher Water Bill?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

No one wants to pay too much for utilities in Orlando. You have probably already done a ton of research on how to lower your heating and electric bills.

Now, the problem is that after getting those bills to a manageable level by wearing extra sweaters and installing compact fluorescent bulbs all over the house, your water bill has gotten out of control. What gives? How can a water bill suddenly spike so high?

There are two main causes of a high water bill: a leak or a change in water use.

Leaks

When there is a leak anywhere in your Orlando plumbing system, water escapes and more water rushes in to replace it. This means a higher water bill. Some common culprits in these circumstances include:

  • Leaky or running toilets
  • A leaky faucet, especially one on the outside of the house where it can go undetected
  • A broken or cracked pipe within the walls of the house
  • A broken, cracked or corroded water main

Some of these are more obvious than others. If your toilet is leaky or running, you have probably noticed by now and should call a plumber. Do a check on all your faucets, indoors and out, to see if they are dripping. A leaky pipe or water main is also usually accompanied by a drop in water pressure. If your shower head seems weaker than it used to, or your clothes aren’t rinsing clean in the laundry, these can be signs of decreased water pressure brought on by leaky pipes.

Changes in Use

You may think that you would notice if you all of a sudden started using much more water than usual, but it is not always that obvious. Sometimes we use water in sneaky ways that we don’t even notice, which can build up over time if done habitually. Some of these covert causes of increased water usage include:

  • A new shower head with a higher flow rate
  • Overwatering the lawn
  • Doing laundry more frequently than usual (such as after a child is born, for example) or getting a new washing machine that uses more water

Chances are, your astronomical water bill is caused by one of these two main categories of causes. Look over the list and see if any of them might be contributing to your water bill spike. If you aren’t sure what the problem is, call the expert Orlando plumbers at Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc.!

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