Category Archives: Plumbing FAQ

“Plumbing FAQ – Our two cents on water filtration!”

I often get approached by clients and prospective clients asking about water filtration and/or their desire to have a water filter installed. I usually ask one question that stops most in their tracks. “What are you wanting to filter out of your water?”

Let’s break this down a little: There are an overabundance of devices, fixtures & apparatus that claim to “filter”, alter or condition the native state of your water.  However, there are also many different “medias” (aka filters) that filter a wide range of particulates, chemicals & bacteria etc. (see images below)  You have “whole-house” filters, “point of use” filters and many other types of filters.  All of the aforementioned filters have varying “housing” units to which the filters attach.  Most filters or other media are proprietary to the manufacturer of the filter “housing,” so you must consider the cost & moreover the availability of these filters in the long-run.  I’ve done many service calls to remove & abandon filtration systems due to the fact replacement filters are discontinued, unavailable or too expensive!

Water Filters 1

Let’s get back to the original question, what do you hope to remove from your water by filtering it in the first place?  I would respectfully point out that most clients don’t have a solid answer.  Start by gaining the knowledge of what your water source contains that is undesirable or that you may be sensitive to, then seek to find the filter that’s right for you.  Do you want “it” removed entirely from all the water entering your home – or perhaps just one glass at a time at the sink?  Contact your water service provider for the most recent water quality report or have your water tested by an independent facility.  The latter of the two can carry a cost.  Have you ever heard the saying “everything is enjoyed by comparison?”  It just so happens that most of Portland and the surrounding Tri-County area gets our water source from the Bull Mountain watershed.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/29784

This is pretty darn good stuff already compared to some other areas in our great country! Personally, I don’t blink an eye to a tall glass of local bull mountain watershed water for a drink for myself or my family. Please note that this is my opinion only, we would prefer that you educate yourself as to what any water source contains that may adversely affect you.

We don’t have a recommendation for any one filtration system or presume to know what is best for you and yours.  So we do recommend that if you still want a filtration system of any kind – ask yourself first – what is it you’re wanting to accomplish.  Then, are you prepared to invest in maintaining it? Do some digging around and you’ll quickly find many companies claiming to have the very next best thing in the filter department – but you can decide on that for yourself.

You might be inclined to get an all around multi-purpose filter – only to find that levels of what you’re trying to remove are hardly present. If there were only one or two things you want removed/filtered from your water – get filters that do just that!

Let’s not try fixing what isn’t broken.

Water Filters 3

Plumbing FAQ – Strange sounds inside your walls?

Question: I often hear a sound like dripping water, clicking or tapping inside my walls when the water is on but I never see anything wet or evidence that there’s a leak. Should I be concerned about these noises – is there something that should be done?

Answer: These sounds are more common than you might think!  It’s likely what you’re hearing are the water pipes expanding & contracting as the water flowing through them fluctuates in temperature. These sounds are most prevalent when a water pipe is rapidly heated.

When you turn on a hot water faucet, the hot water travels from the water heater, via pipes to the faucet that was just turned on. The rapidly heated pipe expands.  That pipe is routed through a series of holes drilled in the wood framing, and rubs or “scoots” by these wall studs & floor joists etc., as the pipes expand.  Generally speaking, the lower temperatures cause matter to constrict or shrink in size, while higher temperatures result in the opposite effect.

Here’s the good news & the bad news: The good news is that these sounds are more of an annoyance than a serious problem. The bad news is that fixing it permanently can be tricky, labor intensive & expensive. We could get lucky and find the exact place where it’s happening but that probably means tearing out sections of drywall, searching for the culprit and strapping, anchoring, and/or isolating sections of pipe. An unlucky scenario would be that we keep tearing more & more drywall out until we find the exact location of the problem.

I feel it’s worth mentioning as well, there’s a practice used by plumbers when installing water pipes that prevents this from happening.  It’s called “isolating,” wherein a hole is drilled for a pipe to route through and then isolated from the wood and/or other material used for framing. The part used is suitably named a “pipe isolator”.  (See image below).  This way, when the pipe expands & contracts it’s never touching the framing or structure resulting in a much quieter system all together.

Water pipes can generate sound and vibrations just by the water rushing through them as well. These sounds can reverberate through the framing and wallboards.

Pipe Isolator

Unfortunately, these days it’s more & more common for high production expected at lower price points to force plumbing systems installed with speed & low-cost as the priority over quality plumbing work. It’s kind of disappointing when you figure it would take all together two hours & about $50 extra to ensure that all of the water pipes are installed with pipe isolators in a typical residential new construction home build.

If we wanted to – Sutherland Plumbing could comprise on a very long list of our own installation standards that far exceed today’s “minimum code” requirements. The difference you ask?  Quite simply, we don’t like coming back to say sorry!  Once again – that’s the Sutherland Plumbing “difference!”

Plumbing FAQ – All about washing machines & mold.

Question: “I have a HE (high-efficiency) front-load clothes washing machine, lately it seems our clothes come out smelling terrible like moldy mildew or something! Is there something a plumber can do to help this?”

Answer: What’s worse than a mountain of dirty laundry? A mountain of laundry you’ve just cleaned that smells of mildew. Especially towels!

If you have a front-load, HE washer, this scenario is far more common than you might realize. While the technology in HE washers is wonderful (they use much less water than traditional top loaders and their spin cycle is truly awesome) over time, humid conditions can lead to mold in two zones: the gasket (that rubber seal on the inside of the door) and the drum.

The Causes of HE Washer Mold:
Let’s start with the gasket, which is the most common culprit when it comes to washer mold. The reason is simple: the gasket doesn’t get much of a rinse. During a typical wash cycle, only a small amount of water is splashed past the seal, and over time, detergent and gunk accumulate in the folds as the water evaporates. Combine that with the fact that humidity stays trapped in the folds and you’ve got a recipe for the stinky stuff. If you notice a strong moldy odor when you open the door to the washer, pull back the rubber gasket examine the folds for black mold.

The second area in which mold residue forms is the inside of the drum. The main cause here is humidity combined with residue from laundry detergents & fabric softeners that cling to the inside of the washer.

How to clean your washer to keep it smelling fresh:
If you do have mold in your washer, there’s no need to panic. Getting rid of it is very straightforward and the preventative measure you can take to keep it from coming back is one & the same.  I can attest to the ease of dealing with this problem first-hand, as earlier in the year, our washer had a bad mold problem.

Pour plain white vinegar in the bleach reservoir to the very top with each load. Not only does it kill the bacteria causing odor, it softens your clothes as well. I was skeptical of this at first thinking I would replace the moldy smell for a sharp vinegar stench. NOT the case, everything comes out smelling like laundry mom used to do!

Facts & Myths about Water Heaters!

Facts & Myths about Water Heaters:

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve already learned some of the basics about water heaters. Now let’s take a look at some of the facts & myths that are circulating about water heaters.

Myth: A new water heater offers significant savings
The Reality: New water heaters only offer marginal savings, and even replacing a 15 year-old water heater will only save about $6.30 a month in energy costs. These savings don’t take into account the additional cost of the new water heater. What may matter more is how you choose to use hot water in your home.

Myth: Older water heaters = dirty water
The Reality: Water heaters are designed to work for years without accumulating rust buildup.  If you do notice a rust-colored tinge to your hot water or feel it’s taking longer than normal to heat the water, call your local service provider.

Myth: Proactive maintenance improves efficiency
The Reality: Proactive maintenance will improve efficiency only under the most severe conditions of sediment or lime accumulation. Maintenance is best done when homeowners notice a problem, like insufficient hot water or a rust-colored tinge to the hot water.

Myth: Older water heaters do not meet safety standards
The reality: As long as the initial installation was completed by a licensed, qualified professional, water heaters are installed according to code at the time of installation.

Myth: Tankless water heaters are right for everyone
The Reality: Tankless water heaters are more energy-efficient than a storage water heater, which could translate into savings of up to $5 per month. (Depending on the age of the water heater being replaced). Because tankless water heaters work differently than consumers may be used to, they should walk through a needs assessment with a reputable provider before investing in a tankless system.

Have questions about replacing or maintaining your water heater? Go to our main website at: www.sutherlandplumbing.com and click on the "Ask the Plumber a Question" link at the top of the page!

Have questions about replacing or maintaining your water heater? Go to our main website at: http://www.sutherlandplumbing.com and click on the “Ask the Plumber a Question” link at the top of the page!

 

Plumbing FAQ – Can I flush wipes & similar “flushable” products down the drain?

Q: I’ve recently read some articles which say that utility companies, municipal water companies and the treatment plants etc. are “freakin’-out” because folks have started to flush all kinds of pre-moistened towelettes down the toilet.  This wasn’t so much of a problem in the past.  Apparently these can cause havoc all the way down the plumbing system at the treatment plants.  What’s the deal with this?  Is it really that bad?  Can it affect my plumbing lines or only the municipal systems? Is toilet paper the only thing I should ever flush down the toilet?

A: The short answer is YES the treatment plants are “freaking out!”  Unfortunately, this translates into higher rates for everyone because they have to structure & modify their equipment to deal with all of these so-called “flushable” over-the-counter products like wipes, cat litter, female sanitary products etc. The main issue is this stuff does not macerate well like human waste and toilet paper. (Sorry for the visual!) Eventually everything makes it to a pump system or means of mechanically moving, sorting & filtering (the raw sewer). Some of these “wipes” are just short of a cloth rag. Flushable in that it will flush and go down but it’s no good for any part of the system down the line. Plumbers joke around the water cooler about how great these products are for keeping us very busy!!

The flushable cat litter is just as bad or worse because it absorbs a ton of water & swells up.  This can cause havoc in the plumbing system!

When I walk down the aisle at the supermarket and see a new flushable product I pause to thank the manufacturer for their patronage. This used to bother me more when I lived in a neighborhood forced to pay sewer rates, but now I have a private septic system.

The Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code addresses this issue: (Oregon plumbing specialty code chapter 3 - 306.1)

The Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code addresses this issue: (Oregon plumbing specialty code chapter 3 – 306.1)

Plumbing FAQ – Can I put coffee grounds down the drain?

Welcome to the first installment of Sutherland Plumbing’s “Frequently Asked Questions!” In this recurring section of our blog we will be presenting real life questions & answers from some of our customers, friends, family & associates. So without further ado, question #1 is:

Q: I have a coffee machine with a washable, re-useable filter. It’s easier for me to just wash the used coffee grounds down the drain as I’m cleaning the re-useable filter instead of putting a paper filter in the trash. Is this bad? Should I be putting the used grounds in the garbage? Is it okay to put used coffee grounds down the drain?

A: Coffee grounds can swell (absorb more water) even further after introduced into the drain, so Sutherland Plumbing always advises folks – no, you shouldn’t put used coffee grounds down the drain.

There are more than a few determining factors why drains slow and clog. It’s usually not one singular event, assuming abuse isn’t the case. It’s analogous to a human’s cardiovascular system & arteries. Poor diet, age, genetics etc.

Have you ever heard someone’s rebuttal to: “dairy, bacon and butter is bad for you.”

Well my gramps ate two eggs, bacon & hash-browns cooked in butter everyday of his life and lived to 99 years old!”

I hear it all the time when I tell people you “shouldn’t put this & that down the drain!”

They say: “I’ve been doing it that way for a 1000 years.”

Then the next service call, the drain is packed full of egg shells and coffee grounds! The determining factors are: The type of pipe and how it was originally installed (genetics). How long and what’s been going down the drain for years (diet & age) and how the system is used.(Lifestyle). See what I mean?

The short answer: it’s best not to put coffee grounds down the drain!

Drain clogged?  You know who to call!  Sutherland Plumbing, LLC at (503) 719-4015!

Drain clogged? You know who to call! Sutherland Plumbing, LLC at (503) 719-4015!