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FAQ’s: Plumbing Edition!

Why do my pipes make a rattling noise? What’s the biggest advantage or disadvantage of installing a tankless water heater, as opposed to a traditional water heater? What do I do if my garbage disposal stops working? When it comes to residential plumbing, you’re not the only one that may feel a little confused or even overwhelmed by the many facets of a complete plumbing system! 

For those that have followed along on our blog, you’re likely well aware of the fact that we like to cover a wide range of plumbing topics. Furthermore, each weekly blog post is typically centered on one specific issue, like this recent blog on sewer line inspection cameras. This week, we’re going to approach it from a slightly different perspective. Primarily from a residential point of view, we’ve gathered some of the most common questions we’ve been hearing from fellow Kansas City homeowners. With all of these compiled, this week’s blog is going to be a fully-comprehensive FAQ edition geared towards making everyone more plumbing-literate! Let’s dive right in!

What are the benefits of a tankless water heater?

There’s no denying that tankless water heaters have become increasingly popular in recent years. And for good reason! Think of a tankless unit as an “on-demand water heater.” It’s only going to heat up the water you’re using, as opposed to the water sitting in the tank. As you might guess, this is certainly going to save money on your monthly utility bills. Plus, you’ll never run out of hot water! Tankless water heaters also occupy much less space and can easily be mounted on your wall. For many Kansas City residents, this is a major advantage from an aesthetic point of view.

Before we move on, keep in mind that tankless water heaters aren’t the perfect solution for all homeowners. They do require a higher up-front investment, in addition to not being the best fit for those households using larger amounts of hot water daily. If you’re unsure what makes most sense for your household, give us a call and one of our licensed plumbers can provide a recommendation.

FUN FACT: The first electric tankless water heater was actually invented way back in 1929 by Stiebel-Eltron. While they took some time to turn mainstream, it’s amazing to think they were being experimented on in the early 1900’s!

How do I know if my toilet is leaking?

Being a life-long plumber myself, here we have a question I’ve gotten asked more than a few times. Your water bill keeps ticking up a little bit each month, yet it doesn’t appear that you’re using any more water than normal. To add to it, you don’t see any noticeable leaks, so what are you supposed to do? 

Chances are you’re looking at, (for lack of a better term) a silent or hidden leak. The best place to start in this investigation is your toilet. Toilets can leak for a number of reasons and more often than not, it’s a simple repair. For detecting whether or not that’s the issue, use the food coloring strategy:

  1. Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank of your toilet.
  2. Wait 45 minutes to an hour (without using the toilet).
  3. Check inside the bowl. If there is color, then you have a toilet leak.

What’s the easiest way to extend the lifespan of a water heater?

First off, most traditional tank-style water heaters are going to last roughly 10-15 years. Meanwhile, tankless water heaters can easily last north of 20 years. Keep in mind that these numbers can fluctuate based on manufacturer. Nonetheless, a popular question many homeowners have is in regards to extending the lifespan of one’s water heater. After all, it is one of the more expensive plumbing pieces in a residential setting.

The easiest way to get your water heater to last longer is to properly maintain it. And a great way to make this a reality is through an annual flushing of the sediment built up at the bottom of the tank. The more build-up there is, the harder your water heater has to work and as a result, it’ll break down quicker! 

Want to schedule a time for one of our experienced technicians to flush your water heater? These are typically quick and easy projects that our plumbers can get taken care of in no time! Fill out this form for a free quote!

What CAN I even put down my garbage disposal?

Everyone is guilty of clogging up a garbage disposal at one time or another, plumbers included! No matter how careful you may be, eventually something bad will find its way down the disposal. While we could go through the countless number of items that can’t go down the disposal, it would likely be easier to just mention the items that can go in it! Soft food particles, cold water, ice cubes, non-grease liquids, dish soap. These are the most common items that can be permitted. Anything outside of this has the potential to cause issues.

Just remember, anything capable of getting caught on the blades or pipes immediately poses a risk of future issues. For those wanting to dive deeper into the garbage disposal topic, check out our FAQ blogpost. We covered sizing, maintenance, freshening up your disposal and much more!

Hard water. Soft water. What’s the difference?

Ever seen a news snippet saying, “Kansas City has higher rates of hard water.” While we hear this from time to time, chances are many wonder if this actually has any impact on one’s daily lifestyle. The biggest question people ask plumbers is “what is the actual difference between hard and soft water?” The USGS defines hard water as being “high in dissolved minerals, largely calcium and magnesium.” Hard water is safe to drink and wash with. However, that doesn’t mean it’s void of any downsides. A few of these include making it difficult for soaps to dissolve, soap residue on your skin, skin drying out and leaving a film on your sink and other surfaces.

On the flip-side, soft water has lower concentrations of calcium and magnesium. Due to the lack of calcium, soft water does little when it comes to strengthening our teeth and bones. However, in most cases, you’re not relying on the minerals in the water to supply the needed-amounts of calcium and magnesium. A healthy diet will take care of that! In addition, soft water is perfect for cleaning, as it doesn’t cause any mineral stains or soap scum.

Can fixing a leak be considered a DIY project?

Unfortunately, for the majority of Kansas City homeowners, we advise against turning any type of plumbing project into a DIY effort. While we’re more than happy to provide advice on plumbing repairs, we’ve also seen shoddy repairs turn into major headaches far too often! Whenever you have a leak, make sure to get an experienced plumber on the phone and determine the best course of action then.

As a side note, a valuable piece of advice to train everyone in your household on is knowing where the main shutoff valve is. Trust us, this is invaluable knowledge.

My drain is running a little slow. Should I just pour some chemical drain cleaner down it?

Not to sound blunt, but the answer to this question is always a resounding NO! While hiring a plumber for a simple drain cleaning sounds nominal, it’s worth the investment in comparison to utilizing chemical drain cleaners. After all, there’s a reason why most drain cleaners have numerous warning labels on them! Even though it may seem they get the job done at the time, the truth is they’ll gradually eat away at your pipes. Before you know it, you’re hiring a plumber to run new drain lines, as opposed to just running a snake through it. Guess which one’s more affordable?

Should I be concerned with a dripping faucet?

While the question above was answered with something definite, this one is actually a “maybe.” Yes, you’ll want to get it fixed as quickly as possible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with anything serious. Chances are you could just have a loose washer that needs tightened. In that case, you either tighten it yourself (or call in a plumber to look it over real quick). Worst case scenario, the answer to the problem will involve replacing the faucet. The primary reason I say to get it taken care of ASAP is because a dripping faucet adds up. It’s wasting water and over time, will inevitably result in an ever-growing monthly water bill. 

Have any more questions? Call Stine-Nichols Plumbing!

Having gone through this frequently asked questions blog post, we hope you learned a thing or two about residential plumbing! For many, plumbing is something we expect to always be working correctly and in those few instances where it doesn’t, it can be incredibly frustrating! However, understanding the in’s and out’s of plumbing can allow you to act in more of a proactive manner, as opposed to a reactive one. If you ever have any questions or would like a free quote on a project, we encourage you to fill out this form or call our team at (816) 348-3481. 

If you would like to follow along on our daily adventures as Kansas City plumbers, give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram. From extensive commercial design-build projects to routine residential service calls, you can expect something new each and every week!

By |2020-05-06T10:35:50-05:00May 6th, 2020|Residential Plumbing, Tips and Tricks|