Guess What Day It Is?!

Saw this and couldn’t resist posting it…

 

christmas hump day

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Important Reminder!

Well well well, the winter snows are officially here! Messy and inconvenient at times, but they sure do make everything look beautiful.

Have a sump pump? It may be a good idea to fill it up with buckets of water until it turns on, to ensure it’s working. The last thing you need is for your sump pump to fail in the midst of all this precipitation (melting snow can build up faster than you think!).

Better to proactively check the pump than wait until you need it to find out it doesn’t work!

melting-snow-1910

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Plumbing and the Holidays

happy-holidaysCan you believe it? The holiday season is upon us. There are holiday displays going up in stores, Christmas themed music being played by a few excited folks, and holiday gatherings are in the process of being planned.
If you’re the designated person in your family to host the Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years Eve or any other holiday get-together this year, we’ve got a few reminders for you in helping you get your house holiday-ready!

 

With an influx of people in and out of your house, some perhaps staying for a few days, here’s some things that may prevent you from having an unexpected, holiday charge to fix something you could take care of now:
Drop some dye tablets into your toilets tanks (especially ones that are used led frequently) and let them sit for 2 minutes. The dyed water will color the water in the bowl if you have any leaks.
Have any faucets that aren’t used regularly, like in a guest bedroom? Turn them on/off and make sure hot comes out of hot and cold out of cold to be sure those are running properly!
Similarly, running water through unused drains will help you avoid a surprise leak or clog.
If you know that you have roots on or near your main drain line make sure to treat your drains with root killer.
Have a septic system? Make sure it’s not overdue to be pumped out!
To see if your water heater is heating correctly, turn on a faucet all the way to hot, and with a thermometer check the water temperature. Factory settings are around 120 degrees if you haven’t manually adjusted the settings.

 
Well those are just a few of our tips on avoiding plumbing disasters during the holidays. And note, “plumbing disaster” could refer to anything from losing hot water to having your mother-in-law point out that her bathroom sink faucet is dripping. We’ll help you out with both of those problems and anything in between!
Feel free to share any of your own tips over on our Facebook page!

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Holiday Help: What Not To Put Down Your Kitchen Drain

With the holidays, family visits and lots of cooking coming up we stop our “Hump Day Pump Day” theme we’ve been loosely following to look at some common problems our customers typically run into when it comes to clogged drains through the holidays. We’ll call it “Hump Day: The Holidays Edition”.

cloggedkitchensinkNot only are clogged drains on a holiday inconvenient (and yes we come out on holidays to unclog drains for the unfortunate few!) but they can be damaging and frustrating. So without further delay, here are a few tips about kitchen drains during the holidays:

- Never put grease down a kitchen drain. Sure there are tricks/theories on how to get grease safely to the sewer or septic, but drain systems are stressed enough with the increased activity from visitors and extra cooking. Grease further stresses the system and is the number one cause of clogged kitchen drains for our customers during the holidays.

- Garbage disposals are for tiny particles of food stuck on plates after scraping them off into the trash. Just because the disposal chops it up doesn’t mean a drain is meant to handle all food. Heavier, denser foods sink in water and are outrun by water, causing them to sit on the bottom of the drain and catch other solid waste until the drain clogs. Large amounts of food also stress disposal motors and breaks them, so scrape it off!

- If you notice a drain running slow, don’t use store bought chemicals. Cleaners such as Drain-O and Liquid Plumber don’t always work on a clogged drain and our plumber’s still have to come out. Unfortunately those chemicals eat through our cables and cause them to snap so our techs will have to clean out the chemicals before we can clean the drain. Instead, if you notice a slow drain, pour vinegar or baking soda into the drain followed by a large pot of boiling water.

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Let’s Talk Salt!

As we wrote in a previous blog, water softeners use salt to create a brine. That brine rinses off the hardness (calcium) from the resin inside the softener. It then recharges it with more sodium to continue removing hardness from the water. So, let’s look at the salt needed to complete this act.

rock-saltNow, there are two different types of salt- solar salt (left) and pellet salt (below)- that can both be entered into the brine tank of a water softener. Solar salt looks likes the salt that used to de-ice roads, or just much larger versions of grains of table salt. Pellet salt looks like packaging peanuts. Both are still salt so 1305774207286they both create the same effective brine mixture to rinse off the resin. But, as professionals, we recommend using solar salt- not because it is better but because of an unfortunate occurrence that is all too common with pellets.

One thing about solar salt is that it is smooth in texture and dissolves into water through erosion. Pellets, on the other hand, are porous and the dissolving process is a lot more like melting than erosion. The pellets get soaked by the water in the brine tank and soften before they dissolve. When the brine water is removed from the tank the pellets harden and meld together. This is where it becomes a problem.

Brine tanks always fill to the same water level to create the brine mixture. The water dissolves the salt, and as it does the salt above falls down to the bottom of the tank. However, in some instances the water will touch just the very bottom of a layer of pellets and will then harden them together to form one long sheet of hardened salt (pictured below in example illustration). This can create what we call a bridge and prevent the pellets from falling into the water. Now the softener is being rinsed with just water and not brine so the resin stays full and the softener stops working.

salt-bridge

This is generally not caught by homeowners until they notice they haven’t used salt in 6 months and the result is that Apple has to break up and remove the harden pellets or just replace the entire brine tank. It doesn’t happen to every system using pellets, but for the unfortunate few it is a costly problem.

One thing to note is that some pellets come premixed with an iron removal substance and solar salt does not. But for systems that need a low level iron removing agent you can add a product called “Iron Out” in addition to solar salt to your brine tank.
For those on a low sodium diet, fear not, generally the amount of sodium added to your water is very low- generally less than 12.5 milligrams per 8 oz. glass of water; much lower than the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for “very low sodium”, which is less than 35mg of sodium per serving. A “low sodium diet” according to the USDA is less than 1500mg/day, or 120 glasses of softened water! But if sodium is just a deal breaker, there is a company that makes pellets of potassium-chloride that can be used in place of salt. But beware, those pellets can bridge!

Solar salt, potassium chloride, and iron out can all be purchased from us here at Apple.

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It’s Almost That Time of Year!

fall-leavesWell, autumn has come around once again folks! The leaves are changing and falling, outside it feels crisp and the scent of pumpkin-spiced everything wafts through the air. While that’s all nice and enjoyable, soon enough it’s going to start getting colder and things will start to freeze.

 

Did you know your plumbing can freeze too? As we learned back in grade school science classes, when water freezes, it expands. So, when those types of pipes and fixtures get too cold, your pipes can swell and burst, outdoor hosebibs can leak, and you can have a mess of a problem on your hands as a result of that. Not fun! So, if you don’t already, it’s a good idea to have us come out and WINTERIZE for you!

What should you have winterized?

frozen pipeGenerally, if you have any water lines that are less than three feet below ground or buildings with no heat (such as barns, workshops, etc) you will want to have those winterized. In addition, any outdoor frost proof wall hydrants should have the hose disconnected and standard hosebibbs on your house ought to be winterized as well.

 

burst_water_pipe

 

The other time to winterize is when a house or building is standing empty and uninhabited through the winter- with the heat turned low and house unused, toilets, faucets, pipes and everything else should be winterized or come spring, that empty building is likely to have quite a lot of messy, wet problems!

 

So, whether this is something you think you’ll need done this year or it’s something you do yearly, here’s your friendly reminder to have your plumbing winterized!

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How Does a Well Tank Work?

For this blog, let’s dive on in and discuss another type of pump you may have in your home!
Your pump tank, or well tank, is the blue steel tank in your home. It is generally in your basement or in a utility closet and has the well pipe from your well pump connected on one side and the cold water main to your house connected on the other side. This is how your pump tank works:

WellTank1Inside of that tank are two bladders that sit on top of each other. The top bladder is completely sealed and filled with air. The air pressure in the tank varies for the house, but the standard is when the tank has no water in it we pre-charge the air pressure to 38psi. The bottom bladder is a water reservoir that is connected to the plumbing system. When we first turn on the well pump it fills the bottom bladder of the well tank with water. As the tank fills up the top bladder filled with air is contracted and as a result the air pressure builds.

On the outside of a tank there is a pressure switch which measures the amount of pressure in the well tank. When the well pump has filled the tank to the point where the top bladder has contracted to 60 pounds of pressure the pressure switch cuts off electric to the pump and water stops flowing.WellTank1

Let’s now say someone in the home goes to take a shower. When we turn on the water to the house the pump doesn’t immediately turn on but rather the pump tank delivers the first wave of water (pun intended!). When we open up the shower faucet we are literally relieving the pressure from the well tank and the air in the top of the tank pushes the water in the bottom bladder (and the plumbing pipes) out through the shower faucet.

As this happens, the pressure in the tank decreases. When the pressure reaches 40psi the pressure switch sends electric down the pump which turns on and continues pumping water into the plumbing system. When you finish your shower and shut off the water the pump keeps pumping water into the pump tank until it reaches 60psi and then shuts off. The next time you turn on water the process repeats itself and we call that the pump cycle.

A few “fun” pieces of information:

We call the amount of time that a fully charged well tank can deliver water before the pump turns on is called the drawdown time. The larger the reservoir in the bottom of the tank (it varies between about 10 different models of tanks), the greater the drawdown time, the less frequent the pump has to turn on and off to deliver water during its life, which all results in a longer pump life.

We also size well tanks so that the time it takes for a well pump to pump water into a well tank to increase pressure from 40 psi to 60psi is no less than 1 minute (it is a slightly complicated formula that deserves a full lesson on its own)! The reason we need a specific run time is that well pumps motors are designed to run for at least 1 minute before turning off or else it overheats the motor and damages it. A shorter run time is what we call “cycling”. This also occurs when the air bladder ruptures in the top of the tank and the pump turns on every time a faucet opens.

 

And there ya go, all about your well tank!

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Pump Up Your Savings!

savingsMuch of the time, having to call a plumber isn’t something you usually plan on doing. Often times, you suddenly find your house without water or a pipe in the basement spurting all over.Maybe your well pump gives out and it needs to be replaced.

Whatever the cause, needing a plumber can be an unexpected cost you may not be prepared for. For such events, Apple Plumbing and Heating happily offers 0% financing over 12 months to give you a little extra relief. Weren’t expecting to wake up to no hot water and find out your water heater needs to be replaced? No problem!

We’re here to not only resolve the problem but also to make the financial aspect a little easier on you. Give us a call today, we’re here when you need us!

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All About: Submersible Well Pumps

In previous blogs, we have talked about wells and the various plumbing aspects of it, and following in that trend, today we will look at the submersible well pump.
The most important, and most obvious, component to a submersible well system is the submersible well pump.

A submersible well pump has two components- the motor and the water end. In general, homes in Central Maryland have well pumps with motors that range from ½ horsepower to 1½ horsepower. The motors are made of stainless steel and are about 4” in diameter and 12”-18” long. On top of the motor sits the water end. Like the motor, it too is comprised of stainless steel and is also approximately 4” in diameter and 12”-18” in length.

Inside the water end is a shaft that is turned by the motor and sticks down into it. Inside the water end and connected to the shaft are a series of impellers that spin as the shaft spins. Finally, in between the motor and the water end is a gap of about 2” that lets water be sucked into the water end.

pump_cutaway
So how does the submersible well pump work?

Well the submersible well pump is connected to a pipe and wire (electric source) and stuck down into the well. The pump sits 10’-20’ off of the bottom of the well to avoid sucking up sediment/dirt in the well. The electric wire coming down the pump is connected to the motors wire and then we melt a plastic tube over the connection to make it water tight.

The pump head is connected to the pipe in the well and secured with clamps so that it doesn’t become disconnected. The wire extends all the way up the well, exits the well casing at the top and is buried underground where it goes into the house to connect to the electric panel and pump controller. The pipe extends all the way up the well casing and exits the well through the side of the casing about 3’ below ground (below the frost level). It exits with a special fitting that is called a pitless adapter. This adapter has 2 parts. The first is on the outside of the well connected to an underground pipe that goes into the house and connects to the plumbing system. The second piece goes inside of the well and is connected to the pipe coming up from the pump.

The two pieces connect to each other through a hole in the well casing, and when connected, form a water tight seal that allows nothing from the outside of the well to enter in and contaminate the system.

Soo… when the well pump is told to turn on the motor spins the shaft and the shaft turns the impellers. The impellers have fins on them so as they turn they create an upward driving force, which sucks water in through the opening between the water end and the motor, which in turn forces the water upwards through the well pipe in the casing. The water goes up the well pipe, through the side of the casing through the pitless adapter, through the underground pipe into the home and into the plumbing system. And just like that, we have water!

So how does the well pump know when to turn on? That is the job of the well tank, which we will discuss in next weeks’ blog.

A Note on Sizing:
We mentioned that there are different sized motors and water ends, and we know you are wondering just how we determine the size of each. As we said above, motors come in different horsepowers. Water ends come in different gallons per minute ratings. The more impellers inside of the water end the more water it can pump and the higher gallons per minute rating it receives. They generally range in ratings of 5-25 gallons per minute. Different sized motor and water ends can pump different amounts of water.

To make things more complicated, the amount of water any given pairing can pump also depends on well depth, water levels, distance of a well from the house, well tank size, number of plumbing fixtures and the list goes on.

All of this information is used to look up motor/water end pairings on a series of graphs and charts provided by the manufacturer’s engineers to tell us exactly which well pump we need to install in your well. Simple, we know. But rest assured that all our technicians know how size a well pump and that Apple Plumbing will make sure that all you have to do is turn on the faucet!

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Water Softeners

The last two blogs have been devoted to hard water and water with high iron content. Both problems have something in common, and that is how they can be resolved. Both hardness and iron are media that need to be removed from your water, and the way that is done is via a water softener.
Water-softener
What is a Water Softener?
Basically, softeners utilize two tanks and operate using an ion exchange system. The ion replacement takes place in one tank filled with small polystyrene beads, or resin. The beads are negatively charged and are bonded to positively charged sodium ions. As the water flows past the beads, the sodium ions swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions, which carry a stronger positive charge.

In the other tank is salt. After several cycles, calcium and magnesium replace all of the sodium in the beads. When this happens the unit can no longer soften water. To solve this, the softener enters a regeneration cycle during which it soaks the beads in a mixture of water and salt (sodium chloride). The large amount of sodium in the brine causes the calcium, magnesium, and iron ions in the beads to give way and the beads are then recharged with sodium. After this regeneration, the softener flushes the remaining brine as well as the calcium and magnesium down through a drainpipe.

For those on a low sodium diet concerned with the amount of salt your water is flowing through, generally the amount of salt added to your water is very low- generally less than 12.5 milligrams per 8 oz. glass of water; much lower than the Drug and Food Administration’s standard for “very low sodium”, which is less than 35mg of sodium per serving. A “low sodium diet” according to the USDA is less than 1500mg/day, or 120 glasses of softened water! But if sodium is just a deal breaker, there is a company that makes pellets of potassium-chloride that can be used in place of salt.

Standard Water Softener vs. Iron Water Softener.
Although we use the same water softening equipment to remove both hardness and iron, there is a slight difference between a system meant to remove just hardness and one meant to remove hardness and iron. An Iron Water Softener uses a smaller, finer resin bead than a standard water softener. This finer resin allows the softener to remove a higher level of iron than the standard resin. A standard softener should only remove a small level of iron whereas the finer resin can remove up to 10ppm of iron. Why not just use the finer resin in all softeners? Simply, it is more expensive, so let’s not spend our hard earned money unless it is necessary!

Advances in Technology
A traditional water softener has a time clock head that determines when to rinse off the resin with the brine solution. Basically, a technician takes the level of hardness, asks the homeowner about water usage details, and then makes a calculated guess as to when the softener needs to enter rinse mode because the resin can no longer soften the water. But thanks to modern technology, we now have what we call metered heads.

New softener heads have a meter that measures how many gallons of water have been used during the current cycle. The head is digitally programmed with the hardness level of the water and actually calculates when the resin is full. Once the resin is full the system enters the rinse mode. This saves energy, salt, and water!

And that is everything you wanted (or didn’t want) to know about water softeners!

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