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Use Caution When Planning Plants, Trees & Shrubs Near Your Home’s Foundation or Plumbing System

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Landscaping our properties is one way to make our homes unique and more beautiful. There are things to consider when planning your lawn and garden. Certain shrubs and trees may cause damage to our sewer system or home’s foundation from their aggressive roots when planted around drainpipes going in and out of the house. It’s important to remember roots of trees and shrubs naturally grow toward sewer lines. Save yourself the headache of costly repairs by planning ahead.

We encourage you to learn which plants are safe and which are riskier to have on your property by reaching out to your preferred garden center or local landscaper.

Tips to Consider Before Planting

*Be knowledgeable of your plumbing system’s location and condition.  If needed, reach out to a local plumber to inspect your plumbing system for any leaks to avoid ending up with roots blocking water pipes.

*Have a concrete understanding of each plant or tree’s water needs, root depth, and canopy growth.  A safe “rule of thumb” is such a tree needs to be at least as many feet away from your plumbing system or foundation as it could grow to be tall. For instance, a tree expected to grow to 50 feet tall at maturity should stand at least 50 feet away. It may be possible to install root barriers to try to divert tree roots from invading your sewer system.

*Slow-growing, small trees and shrubs are generally a safer idea near your home’s foundation or plumbing system, with the exception of a few shallow-rooted shrubs and trees. Again, consult with your local nursery for examples.

Safe Plants and Trees

You shouldn’t be so concerned about damage that you don’t plant anything near or above your sewer system. We simply suggest you choose the right kind of vegetation – in fact some are actually advisable. Plants can help prevent erosion and remove excess moisture.

Perennial plants and grasses (including ornamental) are ideal for landscaping. These have shallow root systems and are less likely to cause damage from the roots. There are countless examples of attractive and functional plants you could employ. When deciding, first consider the growing conditions:

  • If the area is sunny, find perennials that are listed as “full sun” from your retailer.
  • If the space is shaded, there are many plants and grasses that will cover the ground, reduce water runoff, and look nice.

If you insist on growing shrubs and trees in the area, choose the shallow-rooted kinds, including:

  • Azalea shrubs
  • Boxwood shrubs
  • Cherry trees
  • Dogwood trees
  • Dwarf tree varieties
  • Eastern redbud trees
  • Holly shrubs
  • Japanese maple trees

The Riskiest Trees & Plants to Grow

Some of the worst offenders are shrubs and trees with root systems that aggressively seek out water sources. Below are a few of the most commonly found trees and shrubs that can cause serious damage.

  • American sweetgum trees
  • Ash trees
  • Aspen trees
  • Beech trees
  • Birch trees
  • Elm trees
  • Japanese willow shrubs
  • Lombardy poplar trees
  • Maple trees (most, other than the Japanese Maple)
  • Pussy willow shrubs
  • Weeping willow trees
  • Tulip trees

If you already have one of the riskier trees or plants mentioned above in your yard and it is near your home, consider having it removed as soon as possible. Replacing the missing item with a safer one will help you avoid having to deal with costly plumbing or home foundation problems in the future. Remember, if you happen to be facing plumbing issues, you can always count on A&A Plumbing & Drain Services at 402-932-3899.

DO SEWERS EVER CROSS YOUR MIND?

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To be honest…probably not. When one thinks of sewers at all, one is likely to envision that (most likely rat-riddled) complicated network running under city streets. If you’re like most folks, you may not realize that your home contains a microcosmic sewer network all its own…where each drain contains its individual pipeline which ties in to that larger, subterranean conduit, which, in turn, hooks your home to your town or city’s sewer network.

These secondary lines are ripe for all manner of plumbing issues, including blockages. In a similar vein, resultant problems in the main line can, if not dealt with in a timely fashion, cause major property damage. (It’s important to remember that homes with septic systems or digesters operate with different function than those residences with conventional sewer systems, so not all of the information that follows may necessarily apply.)

The sewer network in your home was created to make sure water doesn’t ever flow in the wrong direction; as it leaves your drains, it courses through a succession of features whose purpose is to keep the system free of gasses and wastewater that might reverse their natural, intended direction. It’s a great system, when it works as it is supposed to, but, as we know even the best systems can break down, many of which could be dire enough to cause health issues or property damage.

Let’s Look at How a Home Sewer Network Should Work

As water moves from your toilet or sink, it should course through a P-trap—a pipe with a U-shape. An amount of water always remains in this pipe, designed to keep gasses from erupting from the drains and exiting the home via a vertical vent conduit. As this happens, the pipes containing wastewater connect to the sewer lateral—the main sewer pipe which exits your home and connects with the Swede line of your municipality. This latter pipe is a large conveyance called the sanitary main, which courses beneath the center of the street outside your home.

What Causes Backups?

Items flushed down the toilet constitute one of the chief causes of backups in the sewer. Too much toilet paper—even though it is crafted for easy breakup—can easily cause a troublesome blockage. Water pressure buildup can force the clog deeper, compacting it into a mass that calls for a proper draining cleaning to effectively remove the issue. Other potential hazards include baby wipes, paper towels, and personal care objects. Should these clogs find their way to that main sewer pipe, backups can result, household-wide. Landscaping, a less obvious feature, can also cause problems, when deeply burrowing roots puncture the sewer lateral; if not addressed, they can completely block off the pipe. If the tree happens to abut a public sidewalk, it can wreak havoc involving pavement removal, generating significant expense to extricate the compromised pipeline.

An additional occasional cause of backups is flooding, especially that which occurs following a drought. Junk can accumulate in your property’s outdoor drains and in the sanitary main, which can lead to floor drains and cause the basement to flood. This latter misfortune can also owe to poor drainage near the foundation. If you’re unsure of the exact cause, a professional examination can help narrow this down.

Detecting Backup or Risk Indicators In the Sewer System:

Here are a few things to look for:

> Hair, grease, and other debris are chief culprits of drain clogs.

Single clogs, which can be easily removed, are common, but should you notice multiple, simultaneous clogs, this probably means that the sewer itself has a blockage, especially if it occurs in rarely used drains.

> Because drain systems have been engineered to avoid backups, it’s relatively simple to identify existing blockages when you hear bubbling or gurgling noises in other drains throughout the household. Learn to listen for little signs like a shower that gurgles when a toilet is flushed, or when that toilet bubbles when the washing machine is running.

> Be alert should your drains issue a foul odor, which can mean that gasses are not being properly blocked by the P-trap and are being forced to the vent pipe. Gas that escapes can hint at blockages that create sufficient pressure to supersede the water flow in the P-trap.

> Overflow of the basement drains can indicate a potential problem in the sanitary main, the sewer lateral, or both.

Dealing with Drain Backups:

The issue of handling clogs in your sewer system—depending on the degree of severity and the location of the problem—are simple enough to to outline. Though many of the suggestions are comparatively inexpensive, keep in mind if the sewer lateral is damaged, you may be looking at expensive measures, such as excavations. It’s always a good idea to keep a photo record and an inventory of items that flooding may have damaged beyond repair.

Should a clog appear, you may have to enlist a professional plumber, who will use a snake (or drain machine) to clear the clog, a process which typically is not a complicated scenario.

In the Aftermath of a Backed-Up Sewer…

In addition to wreaking flood damage, sewer backups also carry the risk of contamination, making eye protection and gloves vital if there is a risk of coming into direct contact with raw sewage. If standing water is present, make sure to disconnect electricity prior to tackling any cleaning.

Prior to initiating insurance filing, it’s a good idea to photograph any damage, following up, thus:

> Use a sump pump, rag, or wet vac to get rid of any and all standing water.

> Take care to to discard all contaminated materials and solid waste after you’ve removed them. This includes any furniture or carpeting the sewage might have compromised.

> Get rid of any sewage or trace dirt by completely scrubbing down the contaminated area, and wait for it to dry.

> Employ a mix of nine parts of water to one of bleach to thoroughly clean the area, permitting the solution to dry.

Might the Municipality Be Held Responsible?

Backups on your property are primarily your responsibility—even though the city oversees its sewer system, including the sanitary main; the homeowners must maintain the sewer system in their homes, including the pipes on their property and the total lateral that leads up to the sanitary main. The only time the city may incur responsibility for cleanup is if it is found in negligence of the sanitary main’s maintenance. Usually, the homeowner must bear the onus of any and all repairs the backup causes, including sidewalk replacement. Should a tree owned by the city be deemed responsible for any root damage, it’s possible the homeowner may be on the hook for only part of the repair bill.

An Ounce of Prevention…

So, how can homeowners reduce or prevent the peril of a sewer blockage? There are simple ways to keep the sewer system flowing smoothly, just as there are alternative tactics to minimize damage caused by storms. To list but a few: fill your sinks periodically, allowing them to drain at the same time, creating pressure that can ease any debris through the pipes; when the tub or sink appears to drain sluggishly, use an enzymatic and bacteria cleaner such as Bio-Clean.  The use of chemical cleaners can damage the plumbing system and are not environmentally safe; consider enlisting a sink trap to collect hair of food particles and prevent them from entering the drain; and, judicially dispose of grease, feminine napkins, and sanitary wipes, to minimize complications.

Be Mindful of Storms.

Though city sewers are supposed to manage wastewater, they may be put to the test when a major storm generates flooding. To minimize damage in this quarter, keep an eye on downspouts and gutters to make sure there’s no drainage into the lateral pipe. Drainage valves to protect against backflow and prevent flooding are also an efficient, and relatively inexpensive investment.

Additional Considerations.

Should your terrain have shrubs or trees, consider accessing a property map to locate your sewer lateral, and look into removing fauna near the pipeline to ward off any invasion of roots. If the lateral pipe is a segmented or older line, investigate PVC as a lateral pipe replacement. Lastly, remember to seal foundation wall cracks to head off flooding, especially if your home is at a lower elevation from the road, a scenario that can cause a sanitary main overflow.

Does Insurance Against Sewer Backups Make Sense?

Because such coverage is generally not a part of conventional home insurance policies, a sewage backup rider is worth investigating. Such coverage usually runs in the neighborhood of $100 annually. It’s difficult to judge the status of your home’s lateral line without enlisting a camera inspection, but it’s important to remember that the plumbing in all homes saddles some measure of backup risk. Newer homes carry a reduced chance for problems, but older homes—or those in locations that might flood or be susceptible to backups—are likely candidates to make such a rider at least worthy of consideration. Any additional expenditure now just might save money for a homeowner over time.

For More Information:

The IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) is a Standards Developing Organization that serves more than 25 counties, providing certification and guidelines for companies engaged in professional cleanups. Consult the iicrc.gov website for a searchable database of certified cleanup companies.

Additionally, the Connecticut Department of Public Health has made available a fact sheet that specifically addresses sewer backups. With its 2020 revision, the tips on prevention methods and dealing with sewer backups remain up-to-date. The City of Papillion, Nebraska has produced a document that provides an extensive explanation of where a municipality may carry responsibility for backups, along with some useful sample guidelines that might facilitate filing a claim.

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For answers to these and plumbing issues involving your household, please contact A & A Plumbing & Drain at (402) 827-3207. Check out our website— anaplumbing.com.

How to Turn Your Home’s Sprinkler System Back on After Winter

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PROJECT OVERVIEW

APPROXIMATE WORKING TIME: 30 – 45 mins

SKILL LEVEL: Beginner

Residential irrigation systems deliver the proper amount of water and typically save much more water than their rubber hose counterparts. They also help you keep your lawn or garden healthy and green with very little effort.

Most Nebraska homeowners with in-ground irrigation systems have them flushed dry and turned off in the winter for many reasons, especially so the pipes don’t burst from freezing. But now that spring is around the corner, you will soon want to turn it back on so you can keep your property watered all through the warm weather months.

Some homeowners hire a lawn service or irrigation contractor to winterize the system in autumn and turn it back on the following spring. If you have the time and desire to turn it back on yourself, there is no reason to pay for this service. It’s very easy to do yourself, in just a matter of minutes. We have a few tips on how to do it:

 

What You’ll Need

  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Sprinkler valve key (as needed)
  • Pliers
  • Notepad or scrap paper with pen or pencil

 

WARNING

When turning on a sprinkler system after winter, the most important thing to do is to turn on the water very slowly. If it’s turned on too quickly, you may cause a shock wave (sudden change in water flow). That may burst fittings or even pop off some of the system’s sprinkler heads. When you open the system shutoff valve slowly, you allow it to pressurize gradually. If you have any reservations about doing this yourself, please give us a call.

 

STEP ONE: Locate the Main Shutoff Valve

These are usually found in your basement or crawl space. Look for piping coming into the home, near the ground level. That piping should include a single shutoff valve (usually a ball valve with a lever-type handle). If there is not a sprinkler system shutoff inside your house, look inside the sprinkler system valve boxes in the yard. The shutoff valve has a cross-shaped handle and could be below ground level, inside a large pipe or ground box.

 

STEP TWO: Locate the Vacuum Breaker

The Vacuum Breaker is usually above ground, located near the house. This is a copper valve assembly, connected to 2 pipes, each with a small shutoff valve.

 

STEP THREE: Close Vacuum Breaker’s Test Cocks

Test Cocks look like slotted screw heads. Turn them about 45 degrees to the direction of the nipples to which they are attached. Close them both by turning with a flat-head, standard screwdriver so the slot on the test cock is perpendicular to the nipple.

 

STEP FOUR: Open Shutoff Valves

Next, you will carefully open the two shutoff valves on the vacuum breaker. Each of the valves is located on a pipe leading to the valve and they typically have a butterfly-type handle. Similar to the test cocks, the valve handles should be already turned to be perpendicular to the pipe for winterization. Open the valves all the way by turning the handle so it is parallel with the pipe.

 

STEP FIVE: Reinstall Main Valve Bleeder Cap

Certain system shutoff valves have a small metal cap that threads onto a bleeder nipple on the side of the valve. This is for draining residual water from the pipes when shutting down the system. If your irrigation system’s shutoff valve has a bleeder nipple, be sure the cap is in place and snugly tightened.

 

STEP SIX: Open System’s Main Valve

Return to the main shutoff valve, and slowly open it to let water enter the sprinkler system. If it is a ball valve, turn the handle one-quarter turn until it is parallel to the pipe (that is the fully open position). If you have an in-ground shutoff valve, use your sprinkler valve key to turn it counterclockwise until it stops.

 

STEP SEVEN: Run a Manual Test

Once you have completed the steps above, set the system’s timer to run a manual test of all sprinkler zones. Run each zone for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Watch the sprinkler heads as each zone turns on to make sure they are working properly and write down any problems and/or take photos of them so you can resolve the issues. You will likely notice water sputter and blow out air when they first turn on. This is normal and should stop within 60 seconds or so.

 

STEP EIGHT: Check Valves & Vacuum Breaker

Open each of the valve boxes in the ground to make sure there are no leaking valves or any other issues. Look over the vacuum breaker and related valves and piping for leaks or any other possible problems. On the main shutoff valve (as applicable), check the bleeder. If that cap is leaking water, carefully tighten it gently with pliers.

 

STEP NINE: Prepare to Irrigate

If you found any problems during the manual test, correct them. Then adjust the sprinkler head spray patterns and/or replace any damaged heads. For the first time using the sprinkler system, you water when you can keep an eye on the whole system to make sure everything is working properly.

If everything is running well, keep in mind it is usually best to water at night, early evening, or in the morning before the heat of the day to conserve water.

A properly installed and maintained sprinkler system offers many benefits, including saving you time to self-water your lawn. Take the time to learn how yours works and how to troubleshoot potential problems. Of course, your friends at A&A Plumbing are just a phone call away to help!

The Problem with High Water Pressure in a Residential Home

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It is not uncommon, especially in older homes, to hear about low water pressure problems. If you are taking a shower and someone else in the house turns on a faucet or flushes the toilet, suddenly your shower’s water pressure becomes weak, it’s time to check your home’s water supply system pressure. Chances are it’s not going to be high enough.

Water pressure that is too low can be a nuisance for showering, but it can also cause your water-using appliances to not function properly. Unfortunately, water pressure that is too HIGH may also damage your home’s equipment.

Like a human’s body with high blood pressure, it needs to be regulated or fixed or it could become a serious problem.

If you suspect you have water pressure problems in your home, the first step is to find out if it is affecting only your house or your nearby neighbors. If they also have low or highwater pressure, there may not be much you can do besides contacting your water utility provider and request they investigate the problem.

If your house is the only one with LOW pressure, or if only parts of it have problems, your home’s pipes or valves are likely restricting the flow. If you only have high pressure in certain areas of your home, it’s best you contact your plumber to check it out soon.

 

Low Water Pressure

The most common reason for low water pressure in a 20+ year old home is usually that the older steel pipes have become clogged with lime deposits, restricting the flow of water. Your plumber can identify and give you an estimate to resolve the issue.

 

Issues with High Water Pressure

How can you tell if your home’s water pressure is too high? If you experience any of these six common signs of high water pressure in your house, give us a call to investigate the system for issues.

  1. Pipes are Leaking Water
    High water pressure puts additional strain on the whole plumbing system throughout your house. This may lead to pinhole leaks or loosened joints in the pipes. If not repaired, leaking pipes may cause mold growth, damaged items nearby, and other serious water problems to your home. Unfortunately, these small leaks are often found behind walls or in ceilings and floors. These out-of-sight places means damage can happen and go unnoticed until it gets so bad things can be very expensive to rebuild.
  2. Water Hammer
    If you have a “water hammer” (technically, hydraulic shock) you may hear a loud banging noise when you suddenly switch off a faucet. When the water flow suddenly stops or changes direction, high water pressure makes plumbing pipes bang into one another or nearby framing. While annoying to hear, this problem can loosen plumbing connections or even break the pipes.
  3. Appliance Damage
    High water pressure can put pressure on your dishwasher, water heater, washing machine, and other appliances. Few people realize that an appliance’s warranty may be voided if these they are damaged by high water pressure. Inspect appliances leaks and listen for unusual noises coming from your water-using appliances. Noises may indicate that the appliance seals or mechanical parts are at risk of extreme wear and tear.
  4. Water Bills Increasing
    If your water utility bill suddenly increases without reason it could be you have developed a high water pressure issue. Simply put, you’re using more water because it’s being forced out of the faucet with more volume. (The average amount of water used by running a faucet for 10 minutes is about 30 gallons at 50-PSI pressure, compared to 36 gallons at 60 PSI.) You’re wasting precious water and, ultimately, money on those high bills.
  5. Faucets Leaking
    One sign of high water pressure is one or multiple faucets constantly dripping, or spraying/spitting when you turn the water on.
  6. Toilet Won’t Stop Running
    If a toilet in your home never stops running (or possibly even randomly flushing on its own), it could be it has a faulty fill valve. A home with high water pressure may make the toilet fill valve wear out more quickly. Get it looked at if you’re confident the valve is new or in good working condition.

How To Fix High Water Pressure Problems in Your Home

Fortunately, resolving a high water pressure problem is usually fairly simple. Call our team at A & A Plumbing & Drain Services at (402) 932-3899 and let us know what you’re experiencing. We’ll schedule an appointment with one of our experienced plumbers to come out and check things out. If you do, in fact, have high pressure, we can install a device called a “water pressure regulator” (or “pressure reduction valve”).

Homes built after 2002 should have a regulator already installed, as per the Omaha Plumbing Code. But, these regulators may only have a lifespan of 7 to 12 years before needing replacement.

Tips to Avoid Plumbing Issues When Hosting Holiday Guests

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The holidays are here, and you may be hosting events for family and friends. When getting ready to entertain, be sure your plumbing system is ready to accommodate your guests. To help you, your friends at A & A Plumbing & Drain Services put together a list of helpful tips to reduce your chance of having a plumbing disaster.

 

  • Clear & Clean Your Drains

While many drain-cleaning products seen on TV say they will resolve clogs and other drainage problems, you should be wary of their claims. That is why we recommend avoiding these products. Have your drains professionally cleaned should you begin to see slow drainage, odd/foul smells, and other issues.

To prevent drain clogs, consider using a “hair catcher” in your shower drain and wearing a beard apron when shaving over your bathroom sink. These are often inexpensive and can be purchased online or at home goods stores.

 

  • Take Care of that Garbage Disposal

 

Garbage disposals are often powerful sounding and seem indestructible – and are thereby often put to the test by people who grind food scraps and more in them. They are not designed or built for such abuse in your kitchen and we recommend putting food waste into your trash can or compost bin. Chunks of food are difficult for the blades to grind them up and can eventually lead to expensive drain blockages.

Many individuals are unaware that you should only run COLD water when you use your disposal. Hot water makes the metal expand and care wear out the mechanical parts. To clean the disposal, simply use dish soap and follow with cool water.

 

  • The Toilet Paper-only Rule

Toilet clogs are the most common (and embarrassing) plumbing emergencies when you have guests. These are oftentimes caused by someone attempting to flush something other than toilet paper. Toilets are not designed to flush paper towels, pads, cotton balls, and other things.

To educate your family and guests to this fact, make or purchase and display a sign in the bathroom that reads “toilet paper only” or similar message. Also have an adequately sized wastebasket within reach for people dispose non-flushable items properly!

 

  • Have Leaky Faucets Repaired

In the typical American home, faucets are all over the place – kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, outside, and sometimes even in the garage. A dripping, leaky faucet is not only annoying for guests to hear, but it wastes a LOT of water and can take its toll on your water bill — especially if multiple faucets are leaking.

Did you know a leaky faucet may be a sign of or even cause damage to your home’s plumbing? If the leak is due to corrosion or worn-out parts, or built-up mineral deposits, it’s very important to have a professional find and resolve the problem before it worsens.

 

  • Check on Your Water Heater

As your water heater been checked this year? Like any home appliance, hot water heaters need to be checked regularly and maintained to keep it operating at maximum capacity while lengthening its usable life. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, you may want to look into getting a newer one that is more energy-efficient.

To ensure your guests have enough hot water while showing, it’s a good idea to maintain 15 minutes between showers so the hot water heater has time to refill and reheat.

 

Other plumbing related things to consider doing before your guests arrive include: removing exterior hoses from outdoor faucets (avoiding frozen pipes); having a sump pump installed; checking the hoses from your washing machine to the faucet; and getting a water softener or water purification system installed.

Call the team at A & A Plumbing & Drain Services at (402) 932-3899 for any emergency service or (better yet) to preemptively check out your plumbing system to be sure it’s running effectively and efficiency.

Happy Holidays!

Advantages of Having a Water Softener Professionally Installed

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Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa are areas of hard water. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 85 percent of American households have hard water, including homes getting their water from city (municipal) water and well water sources. The two most common minerals that result in the hardness of the water are calcium and magnesium.

Many people don’t understand how water gets “hard” from these minerals. When rain water moves down through soil and rocks, it dissolves magnesium, calcium, and other things which become part of the water source. Unfortunately, many other contaminants can also be absorbed through this process.

To combat hard water and the problems associated with it, the process known as “water softening” was invented to reduce the hardness of water – returning it to its natural “soft” state.

Common Problems Associated with Hard Water

Over time mineral deposits from hard water can ravage your entire plumbing system as well as your appliances. The accumulation of these minerals can clog your plumbing system (pipes, faucets, etc.). Eventually the clogging causes pressure throughout your plumbing system.

While hard water minerals are not typically a health hazard, recent research has found a link between its consumption and some diseases. We recommend talking with your doctor to learn more about this.

 Signs of Hard Water in Your Home

The minerals in hard water may not be toxic, but they can cause a number of problems around your home. One of the most common signs you have it is that you notice your hands, body, and hair feel slimy after washing them with soap and water.

Water spots on your sink, cloudy-looking glassware, and faucets/showerheads appearing rusty or with a white build-up are other signs of hard water.

Hard water also reduces laundry detergents’ lathering ability, making the detergent difficult to rinse off from the clothes. Oftentimes, white clothes appear dull after being washed in water concentrated with calcium and magnesium. Similarly, automatic dish washers do not run as efficiently when hard water is present.

Do You Need a Water Softener?

If you are experiencing some of these problems with hard water, we recommend contacting our plumbing experts at A & A Plumbing to have them come out to check out your water supply. If we identify hard water issues, we will provide you with a few options on how to resolve them with a system that resolves the problem based on your specific needs. Ultimately, the goal is to come up with a solution that provides you and your family with safe, crisp, clean water throughout your home.

Different Types of Water Softeners

If softening the water in your home is the determined, you will have two options from which to choose: salt-free and salt-based softeners. Of those two main methods, there are four types of water softeners.

Salt-Based Water Softener Systems

These are the most commonly seen water softener system. They work through a process where water enters the top of the water-softener tank and down through resin beads. This resin has a negative charge which attracts the positively charged minerals in the water. The mineral cling to the resin and the now-softened water exits the softener tank and flows throughout the house.

Occasionally the beads reach maximum capacity and can no longer attract any more mineral ions, and the softener tank must be regenerated (flushed) clean. When the system reaches a preprogrammed setting, regeneration automatically begins and salty water from the brine tank flows up the fill tube and into the softener tank. A rinse cycle begins and the salty water washes the mineral deposits off the resin beads. The regenerated water is flushed out the discharge hose and the system automatically reverts back to softening the incoming water.

Through this process, it slowly dissolves the salt or potassium chloride pellets in the brine tank. The homeowner or a service will need to occasionally refill that brine tank with these chemical pellets.

Salt-Free Softeners

Salt-free water softeners are a popular choice for many households, mainly because they are a chemical-free process. These use a filter instead of chemicals like salt or potassium. In this case, the minerals in the water are not altered.

But, how does that work? Salt-Free Softeners don’t actually ‘soften’ water, but conditions it – not removing the minerals, but making them unable to stick to pipes, surfaces, etc. This is done through a process called Template Assisted Crystallization (TAC).

These systems are simpler and easier to maintain than their salt-based counterparts, but the downside is that they don’t perform well for homes with very hard water. Plus, they are often less efficient in eliminating other water contaminants like pesticides, chlorine, herbicides, etc.

Ion Exchange Softeners

Also known as “Cation exchange water softeners”, these remove the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water by exchanging them with sodium (or potassium) ions. After the ions are fully exchanged, the softener performs a regeneration process, flushing the system of excess ions and recharges with new sodium ions.

Reverse Osmosis Softeners (RO)

Reverse osmosis is a process using a pressure-driven membrane where water is forced through that membrane with tiny pores. All molecules larger than the pore openings are trapped from the stream, along with a significant portion of the water. Treated water is collected on the other side.

This process is popular because of the reduction of sodium, bad tastes, and foul odors. RO is generally considered more environmentally friendly (and much more cost efficient) than bottled water.

Magnetic Softeners

Magnetic water softeners reduce your water’s hardness by passing it through a powerful magnetic field. The magnet pulls or alters the ions in your water before it enters the plumbing system.

Why have a Professional Install Your Chosen Softener System?

Whatever type of water softening system you choose, it is highly recommended you have it properly installed by a trained professional plumber. Here are just a few reasons you should do so:

  1. A professional can test your water before and after installation to identify what is causing the problem and how it is performing.
  2. They will know the best place to install your system.
  3. A reputable plumber will stand behind their work to be sure the unit is installed and running properly – and show you how to maintain it.
  4. You will save time and trips to the hardware store.
  5. Your professional installation expert can program your system to run with maximum efficiency.

10 Tips to Prepare Your Home’s Plumbing System for Winter

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There is a common old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This wise nugget of advice means that it is better, and often much easier, to stop a problem before it happens than to correct issues once they begin. So it is with winterizing your home’s plumbing system.

It’s now autumn, and the warm days and cool nights will soon lead to the first frost of the season. That means it is also that time of year again to make sure your home’s plumbing is ready for the bitter cold weather of winter.

To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting from extreme cold temperatures we offer these ten tips for you to take:

  1. Check all outdoor faucets to be sure they are not dripping or leaking water.
  2. Disconnect all water hoses from faucets on the exterior of your home.
  3. Faucets on the outside of your house, or other areas where the temperature can freeze, should be covered with Styrofoam faucet covers or hose bibb.
  4. If your house has interior shut-off valves for the outside faucets and pipes, they should be turned off and then the attached exterior faucet valves opened to prevent possible freezing.
  5. Have your rain gutters checked and cleaned to be sure they are free of leaves, twigs, and other debris.
  6. Check all areas in and around your home that are not heated to be sure the plumbing pipes are insulated.
  7. Each year it is recommended that you fully drain and flush your home’s water heater. This prevents sediment and rust buildup, and can enhance the appliance’s performance while extending its lifespan.
  8. Check all your house’s indoor plumbing fixtures and faucets (sinks, showers, toilets, washing machine, etc.) to be sure they are not leaking. If you find leaking, repair or call a trained professional to have it fixed.
  9. Where pipes enter your home, check to see if there are any gaps. If you find spaces, seal and insulate them.
  10. Clean and insulate sump pumps to avoid malfunctioning or possible freezing.

 

If you need help preparing your home’s plumbing system for the cold weather months of winter, give the trained and certified pros at A & A Plumbing a call at 402-932-3899. Our family business is locally owned and has the experience, reliability and customer care that will get the job done the right way, the first time.

Avoid Falling for these Plumbing Myths

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Indoor plumbing has come a long way over the years, yet there are some myths that have developed over time. As professional plumbers, it’s our job to educate our customers about their plumbing, and that includes dispelling the untrue myths they may have heard.

“Flushable” Wipes Un-Flushable

While you may have seen or used sanitary wipes marketed as “flushable” – they’re not truly flushable because they don’t dissolve like toilet paper. This means they can cause drain blockages. These include baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, and paper towels.

If you use these products for long, it is only a matter of time before your toilet backs up and can become a costly mess.

The Problem with a Slow-Dripping Faucet

It may not appear to, but did you know dripping faucets waste a LOT of water and drive up your water bill? A single drop of water leaking from a closed faucet every second seems insignificant, but did you know that single drip can eventually account for over 3,000 gallons per year?

With millions of homes around the world having dripping faucets, that means billions of gallons of fresh water wasted. Many areas on the planet don’t even have a readily supply of clean drinking water, and we simply must conserve this precious resource.

Hot Grease Down the Kitchen Sink?

Many homeowners and renters think it’s okay to pour hot grease down the sink. While hot grease is very liquid at the time, it quickly cools and sticks to the insides of their pipe. There it can harden and continues to build up over time until it fully clogs that drain and sink. To avoid this, we recommend you pour hot grease into a steel can until it cools and pitch that in your trash.

DIY Chemical Drain Cleaners?

Well advertised as the go-to solution for a clogged drain, the chemical drain cleaners found in hardware stores, grocery stores, etc. can make some SERIOUS problems for your plumbing system. They are simply not that effective at eating away blockages and can do damage to your pipes. Plus, the chemicals in these products are incredibly toxic, with even the smallest splash on your skin possibly causing burns. We suggest the use of Bio-Clean, an effective and environmentally safe waste eliminator.

Grinding Lemon Peels in a Garbage Disposal

Of course throwing some fresh lemons into your garbage disposal will grind them up and smell lemony fresh, but most people don’t realize lemons contain citric acid – which can corrode a garbage disposal’s metal parts. If you want a safe and natural cleaner for your garbage disposal, we recommend simply using ice.

The Problem with Fluctuating Water Pressure

Despite what some people have heard or think, fluctuating water pressure can be a sign of a problem. Water pressure should remain consistent otherwise, it may be a sign of a leak somewhere or a failing pressure reducing valve. Get it checked out!

That Brick in the Water Tank Saves Water?

While it is accurate that placing a brick in your toilet’s water tank may conserve a little bit of water per flush, many people don’t realize that over time bricks decay and crumble and may damage a toilet’s mechanics. If you want to save water, have a high-efficiency toilet installed.

Keeping Toilets Clean with Bleach Tablets

There’s no question that bleach is a powerful cleaning product, but putting bleach tablets inside a toilet or its tank potentially may do more harm than good. Toilet parts including the gaskets, washers, and pipes are prone to corrosion. Having a corrosive bleach tablet sit in your toilet’s water may take its toll on it’s functionality.

Bleach may also damage the glazed finish of your toilet if it sits there for a long period of time at full strength before rinsing it. If you do use bleach or any other product containing bleach to clean your toilet, we recommend you wash it off with warm, soapy water soon after application.

8 Things to Consider Before Getting a New Toilet

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If your toilet is becoming a nuisance, it may be time to review the cost of having it repaired or replacing it with a new one. Installing a new toilet could be the best option, but it is not necessarily the only solution. We have seen it all in toilet issues over the years. Sometimes an adjustment or new part can make it work like new. The key is knowing when to repair a toilet vs completely replacing it. The following will help you to decide:

  1. Constant Clogging – Nobody likes to deal with a clogged toilet. If you are having to flush multiple times or (worse yet) grab the plunger to clear the bowl, it’s a sign you may want to upgrade to a new, more powerful toilet. But did you know that most of the newer toilets not only flush more effectively, but they save water doing so? Yes! Toilets have come a long way and the new line of water savers work much better.
  2. Cracks – If you notice puddles of water around your toilet, you need to check for cracks in the porcelain. Nearly invisible hairline cracks can develop in the tank or bowl of a toilet over time or through being struck. Unfortunately, these small cracks can turn into a flood of water at the worst possible time. We recommend you check your tank and bowl each time you clean the toilet. If you find one, we recommend you replace it right away, before it breaks completely. An unnoticed leak can lead to a ruined floor over time – a very expensive repair.
  3. Repairs, Repairs, Repairs! – Weighing the cost of repair or rebuild versus having a brand new toilet installed is a wise idea. If you are planning on replacing your toilet anytime soon, we recommend you save the money on the repair and upgrade to a new one. While it may be a larger expense up front, you should save money in the long run.
  4. Excessive Age – Everything in our homes has a limit to its age of usability. If your toilet is very old, a new one may be in order.
  5. Wobbling, Unstable Toilet – There are few things more unsettling than sitting on a wobbly toilet. It could be a simple fix of having shims installed. It could be floor structure damage. Have it checked out by a professional.
  6. Inefficient Flushing – Multiple flushes are annoying and can be embarrassing if you have guests. Plus, they waste a LOT of water. If it’s not flushing properly on the first flush, have it looked at to see if it can be adjusted, fixed, or should be replaced.
  7. Surface Damage – Over time if a toilet’s porcelain gets worn or scratched, it will become increasingly difficult to keep clean. If you find yourself having to scrub and clean the toilet more often, it might be time to have a new one installed and rid yourself of the extra maintenance.
  8. Built-Up Mineral Deposits – The water supply in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa is very high in minerals. These build up over time and if your toilet is not performing as expected, you may need to have parts replaced or simply to get a new, more efficient one.

Without considering the cosmetic issues of color, style, and the condition of the surface, there are still a few reasons when getting a new toilet is a good idea. To help you determine when to replace a toilet please give us a call.