Protect Your Plumbing

Protect your Plumbing from Frozen Northern Illinois Weather.

Its finally Spring and we are fortunate to have gotten through another Frigid and Cold Winter – Follow these tips to get through the next frigid Winter and Protect your Pipes, Plumbing and Fixtures.

While we appreciate your business, the best way to protect yourself from the perils of frozen & burst pipes is to prevent them from freezing in the first place…  Here are some tips:

  • Any time freezing temperatures are expected, be sure your home’s thermostat is turned on to heat mode, and set at 55° F or higher. NEVER turn off the heat unless your home has been professionally winterized (see below).
  • Pipes that are most susceptible to freezing are often run within outside building walls, located in unheated or outside areas, or exposed to air currents leaking through holes in the structure.
  • Exposed pipes subject to freezing temperatures should be insulated, and they can also be wrapped with self-regulating heat cables (always follow heat cable manufacturer’s installation instructions).
  • You should disconnect outside hoses, and protect hose faucets with insulated faucet covers.
  • If you have interior shutoff valves for outside faucets, shut them off and drain the piping.  Valve tags should be installed on shutoff valves to aid in identifying them.
  • While dripping water from the hot & cold taps on a faucet will cause the water in the supply pipes to move, making it less susceptible to freezing, beware of the ‘law of unintended consequences’!  If the fixture’s drain pipe runs in the same cold area with the supply pipes, that water dripping from the faucet could freeze and clog the drain, with disastrous potential consequences!  Be careful and make sure your drain doesn’t back up.
  • Open cabinet doors below sinks to allow warm inside air to circulate around pipes.
  • If a pipe does freeze, turn off the water supply to the pipe to reduce pressure, and prevent flooding if the pipe bursts. 
  • Know where your MAIN WATER SHUTOFF VALVE is located, be sure that it’s tagged and in working order, and know how to use it!  It can make the difference between a nuisance and a disaster.  In case you couldn’t tell, we feel pretty strongly about this one.  If you are able to shut off the water quickly when a leak is spotted, rather than having to wait for a plumber or the municipality to respond, the disaster you avoid is potentially huge!
  • If a frozen pipe is visible, you can use a hair dryer to thaw it and restore flow.  NEVER use a torch or any other open flame, because of the risk of fire!  Enough houses have burned down because of this. Trust us, don’t do it!
  • There are lots of things to remember if you want to winterize a home that will be unoccupied for an extended time. We recommend calling a professional – like us – to make sure you don’t end up with any unpleasant surprises next spring!
  • A lot of burst pipes and leaks occur when frozen pipes THAW, not necessarily when they first freeze.  Keep an eye out for leaks that begin when the temperatures begin to warm up after a deep freeze…  A loud bang in a wall could be a chunk of ice dislodging and flying down the pipe, hitting the next turn – an impact that could rupture the pipe, causing a leak!
  • Remember, you can always call HT Strenger Plumbing for fast, friendly service!  If you see a leak, if a faucet stops working, if a drain backs up, or if you just want a thorough peace-of-mind checkup for your plumbing system, we’re here to help with all of your plumbing needs.

So, remember to respect this dangerous weather, and be safe. And as always, call us if there is anything we can do to help!

Should I Replace ? Or should I Repair ?

When should I Replace ?
Or should I Repair ?

 

Agony is being told that a major household appliance is broken beyond repair. The job you thought might set you back $100 or so is going to cost many hundreds or even thousands.

“Can’t you just fix it?” is the plaintive wail we hear from homeowners in this situation. Sometimes we can, but often we can’t. Or we can, but it’s not in the homeowner’s best interest to do so. As with radios, TVs, VCRs, and shoes, the cost of a major repair for many home fixtures and appliances is creeping ever closer to the cost of replacement.

Here are some things to consider in deciding whether repair or replacement might be the better option.

 

Furnace/Heat Pump/Boiler

These are the most costly systems to replace, so naturally you want to get as many years of use out of this equipment as you possibly can. The best way to do this is to make sure you have your system professionally serviced at least once a year. Many heating and cooling contractors offer service agreements that assure routine inspection and cleaning at least. Prices usually are a real bargain considering that a new home heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) system will cost many thousands.

Myriad repairs can be made on HVAC systems to keep them running for decades. Yet when a boiler section cracks, there’s little that can be done except replace the entire unit. Likewise, central air conditioners and heat pumps have two major components – the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor condensing unit (compressor) – that when they fail, cannot readily be fixed.

When one needs to be replaced, it is best to replace the other with a compatible unit. Unmatched evaporator coils and condensers usually will operate together for a time, but with a steep penalty in performance, energy usage and premature system failure. So although it entails higher initial cost, replacing both components at once is the smart thing to do in the long run.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that about half the time, people opt for the cheaper but shortsighted single unit replacement.

While HVAC systems ought to last for decades, it’s not necessarily a bargain to keep them running that long. Tremendous strides have been made in energy efficiency in recent years, leading to quick cost paybacks from lower energy bills. The United Homeowners Association (UHA) is a Washington-based consumer organization that offers the following advice:

“If your furnace is over 15 years of age, it’s probably time to boot it out the door… If your furnace’s efficiency comes in somewhere in between 50-75%, you ought to begin investigating rebate offers for buying a high-efficiency new furnace.”

This is not a contractor talking. This advice comes from an organization dedicated to protecting consumer interests. UHA can be reached at 1511 K Street NW, Suite 345, Washington, DC 20005. Membership costs $18 a year.

 

Water Heater

Industry statistics show that the average water heater lasts 12 years. With regular maintenance and routine repairs, some keep operating two or three times as long. As with HVAC systems, however, it’s not always to your advantage to hang on to older units. Modern high-efficiency water heaters often can pay for themselves in energy savings within 3-5 years.

Almost all components on a water heater can be fixed or replaced except for the tank. Once the tank rusts through, there is no way to rescue the water heater. Replacement is the only solution.

Water heaters come with internal sacrificial anode rods to protect against rusting. An anode’s sole purpose is to corrode away so the steel of the tank can’t. Replacing the anodes every 3-4 years (more frequently if water is softened) will add considerably to the life of a water heater.

Another main cause of failure is overheating from sediment buildup inside the tank. Ask your plumber to inspect the anodes and sediment periodically. Sometimes this can be done as part of an annual service agreement.

Some plumbing firms also offer extended water heater warranties lasting 10 years or even a lifetime. If you plan to live in your home for quite some time, these warranties may be worth looking into.

 

Dishwasher

Automatic dishwashers are another appliance that should last a decade or more – though here, too, you often can save money by buying a newer energy-efficient unit.

Brand new units can be bought for $400-$600, while repairs of various operating mechanisms typically run $150 and up. If your dishwasher is getting near the 10-year mark, a major repair may be a signal that other components are also on their last legs. It won’t take many service calls to pay for a brand new unit.

 

Disposal

Stoppages and minor malfunctions are worth repairing. But if the motor goes out, or the blades break, you are better off replacing the entire unit. Especially so if you deal with a plumbing company that warrants the product for 5-10 years or even longer.

 

Toilets

Unless you crack the porcelain, a toilet can easily last a lifetime. What will wear out are the flushing mechanisms comprised of moving parts. Leakage may occur from the wax ring seal by the floor, but that can be fixed short of replacement.

Toilets commonly get replaced for reasons other than malfunction. Water conservation is one. Modern toilets operate with 1.6 gallons per flush or less, compared with 3.5 gallons for older standard models. (A few 5-gal. and 7.5 gal. flush versions from many decades ago also are still in operation here and there.) Depending on water rates, sometimes you can save money by replacing a toilet.

Styling and quieter flushing are two other reasons to replace. This is a matter of homeowner choice more than necessity.

 

Faucets

Replacing a cartridge, washer or other internal component can repair leaking faucets. Tarnishes and nicks are harder to fix.