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Answering Common Plumbing Questions

Where is my water shut off valve located?

In emergency situations, you may need to cut off the water supply for the entire house. You will want to know where the shut off valve is located before you find yourself in a situation where water is gushing through your house. Typically the main shut off valve is located on the perimeter of a home and on the side facing the street, as that is where the water enters. If you aren’t able to find it, look at your property inspection report or call your water company’s helpline.

Traditional water heater or tankless water heater?

Electric or gas water heaters are in most homes in the United States. Both have their pros and cons, so it really comes down to user preference and budget. Tankless tend to be more costly than water heaters with a storage tank, but they also save energy and space. Tankless water heaters heat water as you need it. If you previously had gas or electric, it may take some time to adjust to tankless. For example, if you’re running the dishwasher you may not be able to take a shower at the same time.

Should I use chemical drain cleaners?

Aside from these products being extremely toxic, they also can tear apart your home’s pipes. If that were to happen, you’d be looking at a very costly repair. Many of these products promise a quick fix but leave you with a larger problem in the end. When you have a clog, always call a professional plumber.

Why won’t my toilet stop running?

We can’t give you an exact answer without a plumber assessing the issue, but we can give you a few likely causes. More than likely the flapper has to do with this issue. It may be worn out, not closing properly, or the seal may have broken.  In most cases, the flapper needs to be pushed down or replaced. If the flapper is not causing the toilet to run, the chain could be the wrong length, the float may be too low, or the fill tube may be disconnected.

How to get musty smell out of bathroom

Bathrooms have more heat and moisture than other rooms, making them the perfect habitat for mildew and mold. If you’re noticing a mildew scent in the bathroom, it should be gotten rid of quickly. Thankfully this issue can easily be resolved. Sometimes the fix is as simple as washing your towels more frequently. Here are a few things to do when you start to smell mildew.

Wash towels, rugs, and curtains 

The mildew smell may be coming from towels, rugs, or curtains. If this is the case, you’re actually in luck. A simple trip through the wash with vinegar or tea tree oil will do the trick. If the items can withstand bleach, we recommend adding that to the wash as well. In the future, make sure that you hang all towels to dry, and do not wad them up or throw in a hamper while they are still damp. Towels should be changed every few days, and rugs and curtains washed every other week.

Air out the bathroom

When possible, leave the bathroom door open to increase air circulation. Opening windows will also help. Turn the exhaust fan on while you’re showering and leave it on afterward until the moisture in the air has decreased. If mildew in the bathroom is a reoccurring issue, we suggest investing in a dehumidifier.

Keep it clean

Cleaning your bathroom on a regular basis will also help prevent mold and mildew. Soap scum and dirt lead to mildew growth. An initial deep clean should clear it up and remove the smell. After that, regular maintenance cleaning should keep mildew away. If you can see mildew growing around tub caulking or grout lines, scrub these areas with a bleach and water mixture. In severe cases, you may need to recaulk or regrout these areas.

Why does my toilet keep clogging?

Toilets are not meant to clog frequently and it can be very frustrating when this continues to happen. Thankfully no matter what is causing this issue, we will be able to provide a solution. We can’t tell you the exact cause of frequent clogs without having a plumber look at it, but we can provide you with a few likely possibilities.

Not enough water in the tank

If the tank isn’t fully filling up, you won’t get enough water when you flush. First, check to make sure the knob on the water supply line is all the way open. If it is already open, we recommend having a plumber verify that you are getting enough water when you flush. They also can make sure that the rubber float isn’t set too low.

Old, low-flow toilet

The first generation of low-flow toilets don’t have enough flushing power and have received many complaints regarding reoccurring clogs. Low-flow toilets have significantly improved since the first ones came out, but many homes still have original models. If your toilet falls into this category, it may be time for a new one.

User caused

Some people treat their toilets more like a wastebasket. Toilet paper and human waste are the only things that should ever be flushed down the toilet. Items such as tissues, tampons, contraceptives, and dental floss can all cause clogs. Sometimes products are labeled “flushable,” but really are not good for your home’s plumbing. Even if these items seem to flush, they may be causing issues farther down the pipes.

Worn Out Parts

The parts inside the tank don’t last forever and eventually will need to be replaced. The frequent flow of water causes wear and tear on them. If anything from the flapper to the flush valve is not in good working order, your toilet will not flush properly.

 

Why am I running out of hot water faster?

Have you noticed that your hot water isn’t lasting as long as it used to? Maybe the end of your showers are cold or it’s taking longer to get hot water to wash the dishes. It can be difficult to determine the root of the issue without a professional plumber, but here are some likely causes.

Thermostat issues

The first thing to do when having hot water issues is to check the reset switch on your water heater. On an electric water heater, it is usually a small red button at the top of the thermostat. A lit up switch means that it is tripped and needs to be reset. If this becomes a reoccurring issue, have a plumber look at it to diagnose the underlying issue.

Sediment buildup 

The water heating process causes minerals such as calcium and magnesium to form into sediment particles. These particles settle at the bottom of your water heater tank and cause sediment build up. When this happens, you will notice that you have less hot water and your energy bill will go up. The good news is the fix is simple; a water heater flush done by a professional plumber will clear out the sediment. We recommend having your water heater flushed once a year.

Old water heater

If you keep up with annual water heater maintenance and you still are running out of hot water heater faster than you used to, it may be time for a new water heater. The lifespan of water heaters varies, but if yours is pushing the 8-10 year mark, it is most likely time for a new one.

Water heater is too small

If your water heater has never produced as much hot water as you’d like and you keep up with annual maintenance, you may need to consider upgrading to a water heater with a larger tank. A professional plumber can make a recommendation on tank size and give you a free estimate.

Thanksgiving Garbage Disposal Tips

Thanksgiving usually means more food and more people in your home. You will probably be eating different types of food than you usually do. It’s important to remember that your garbage disposal is not a trash can and it can only handle so much. Review our list of foods to avoid putting down the drain and check out our tips to keep your disposal in good condition.

Here’s What Shouldn’t Go in a Garbage Disposal:
Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, Celery, Lettuce, Marshmallows, Oil, Grease, Gravy, Bacon, Fats, Bones, Egg Shells, Bread, Pasta, Rice, Pie, Coffee

Garbage Disposal Tips:

  • Run cold water while using disposal
  • Only use disposal for scraps left on plates; large amounts of food waste should be thrown in trash
  • Pour small amounts of lemon juice down the drain to keep it smelling fresh

If you do run into garbage disposal issues this Thanksgiving, call Lantz’s Lakeside Plumbing and AC at 512-267-1188.

Do I Really Need a Furnace Tune Up?

It’s common for people in Austin get an annual AC tune-up because of the intense heat during summer. However, many people underestimate the importance of furnace tune-ups in the fall. Austin winters are usually pretty mild, but don’t let that fool you. Here are just a few of the reasons why furnace tune-ups are just as important as AC tune-ups.

Keep your heater’s warranty valid
Most manufacturer warranties on heating systems require annual maintenance to stay valid. Almost 75% of all winter calls could be prevented or less costly with annual maintenance.

Extend the life of your system
Just as you have regular maintenance done on your vehicle, you should also have regular maintenance done on your heating and cooling systems. They are expensive units and you want to get as much life out of them as you can.

Keep your family safe
Even small issues, such as a cracked heat exchanger, can lead to gas or carbon monoxide leaks. A properly trained technician will be able to catch brewing issues and make repairs before it turns into a larger, more costly issue.

Increased energy efficiency
When your heating system is operating at peak condition, without any repairs needed, it will use less energy. Ultimately, this will save you money on utility bills.

To schedule your furnace tune-up, call Lantz’s Lakeside Plumbing and AC at 512-267-1188.

 

Does My Water Heater Work Harder During the Winter?

The short answer is yes! Your water heater runs every day of the year, but it does have to work harder during the winter months. From increased use to cold weather outside, there are several factors that contribute to the extra strain on your water heater.

Increased Use:
Fall and Winter bring colder temperatures, so naturally hot water use is going to increase. When it’s cold outside, there aren’t many things better than a hot shower!

Heat Loss:
The cold air outside results in more heat escaping from the tank. This means your water heater must work even harder to produce enough hot water.

Cold water enters the tank:
During the summer, your water heater doesn’t have to work very hard because the water that enters it is already warm. Likewise, it takes much more energy for a water heater to heat up cold water.

The best way to prepare your water heater for winter is to schedule a flush and inspection. Winter is the worst time to be left without hot water! An annual flush and inspection will help ensure that your water heater is in top condition and running at maximum efficiency. If you are interested in scheduling annual water heater maintenance, call Lantz’s Lakeside Plumbing and AC at 512-267-1188.

 

Plumbing Myths Busted

Ice Cubes and Egg Shells Sharpen Garbage Disposal Blades
Garbage disposals don’t have blades; they have impellers. The impellers are blunt, so there is nothing to sharpen in a disposal. Sometimes ice can help with bad odors coming from the disposal, but this is not recommended to do often. Egg shells should never be put in the disposal.

Flushable Wipes
Nothing should ever be flushed besides human waste and toilet paper. Many products, such as baby wipes, claim to be “flushable.” However, this could not be farther from the truth. They may not clog the toilet, but they will cause issues in the pipes beyond the toilet.

All Plumbers are the Same
Not every plumbing company will give you the same quality of service and results. Do your research and read reviews on each company you are considering. All plumbers have different standards for their work. Make sure your plumber is certified and their license is up to date.

Plunging the Toilet Regularly is Normal
It’s okay to plunge the toilet every now and then, but if this is happening regularly it is a sign that you need a new toilet. More than likely the toilet is older and has low flush pressure.

Toilets Swirl and Flush in the Opposite Direction South of the Equator
This is an old tale that some believe is caused by the Coriolis Effect. However, you can find toilets that flush both clockwise and counterclockwise in both hemispheres. The Coriolis Effect isn’t strong enough to disturb the small amount of water in a toilet.

 

How to Avoid Plumbing Disasters with Kids

The swirling water when a toilet flushes can be very intriguing to young children. Toilets are the perfect height for children to stick their hands in or throw objects into. Children are prone to try flushing small toys, diapers, and other items down the toilet. These objects will likely cause clogged pipes and require an expert plumber. The best way to prevent this is by investing in toilet lid locks.

If your kids like to play in the dirt, make a habit of cleaning the mud off outside before they get in the bathtub. Mud can build up over time and cause clogs in your home’s pipes. In addition, this will help prevent mud from being tracked through your home.

Kids are curious and may begin exploring the cabinets as soon as they can walk, or maybe even before. If you keep products in the bathroom cabinets that kids shouldn’t get into (such as cleaners, soap, and hair products), cabinet locks will be your best friend. They’re easy for parents to unlock but make the cabinets nearly impossible for kids to get into.

There is no doubt that kids love playing in water. If filling the bathtub or sink to its highest capacity is one of your kids’ favorite things to do, you may want to consider having the overflow pipes inspected. They are meant to be used on rare occasion, so when used frequently they may leak.

 

Guide to Deep Cleaning a Bathroom

What is deep cleaning the bathroom, and how often should we do it? We’re not talking about a cursory onceover with the antibacterial wipes. Your bathroom needs a methodical cleaning every month or two to keep those pesky germs at bay. With deep, sanitizing treatment, you’ll be denying mildew, mold, and run-of-the mill scum an environment to grow in.

What are the most important duties when cleaning a bathroom?

Keep in mind, the purpose of deep cleaning is not only to present a clean environment to your friends, but to protect you and your family from bacteria and other unwanted hazards. Given the right humidity and warmth, mildew can easily grow inside the space to create a stinky, unsightly room. Nobody wants that.

Key Maintenance Checklist:

  • Deep clean the tiles (walls and floor)
  • Target the showerhead and bath faucet
  • Scrub down the toilet
  • Take on the vanity area
  • Sanitize the sink
  • Don’t forget the towel rack
  • Finish with the drains

To begin your bathroom deep clean, start by picking out a sturdy cleaning solution for your tile. While you can always drive to the store to purchase the latest tile cleaning product, a baking soda solution does the job well. For this solution, mix two parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide, then add a little dish soap before you stir it all together into the spray bottle.

For your drains, we recommend a similar baking soda treatment. Pour a cup into your shower/tub drain and let it sit for up to 5 minutes. Follow with a cup of white vinegar, which will react vigorously with the baking soda to clean out any residue or blockage. Be sure to cover the drain during this process. If you experience frequent drain clogs, consider calling your local plumber!