How Do I? Frequently Asked Plumbing Questions.
We have decided to write a blog on frequently asked plumbing questions from our clients.
For instance, How do I flush my water heater? How often should I flush my water heater? How do I unclog my toilet? How do I keep my drains flowing clearly? How much does it cost? Why are plumbers so expensive?
How Often Should I Flush My Water Heater?
Depending on the model of your water heater and water quality, most manufacturers recommend flushing your water heater every once a year.
How to Flush My Water Heater
Water heaters come in three varieties: gas, electric, and tankless. This how-to tutorial will be showing a natural gas water heater. , so these instructions will be geared towards flushing a gas hot water heater. The biggest difference between gas and electric is that with gas, you’ll be turning off the gas to your appliance; with an electric, you’ll be turning off the electricity.
1. Turn the Knob on Your Hot Water Heater’s Thermostat to “Pilot Or Vacation”
The thermostat on a gas hot water heater is usually found near the bottom of the tank. Turning the thermostat to Vacation or Pilot mode will prevent the water heater firing while you are draining the tank.
If you have an electric hot water heater, you’ll want to find your electrical panel and turn off the breaker to your water heater. Generally, this is a 30 amp breaker
2. Turn Off the Cold Water Supply to Hot Water Heater
water heater shut off
The cold water valve is usually near the top of your hot water heater. Turn it to off
3. Connect Garden Hose to Drainage Spigot
Before you turn on the spigot, make sure the other end of the hose leads outside or at least into a bucket. If your hot water heater is in the basement, you may need to get a portable pump in order to pump water out of the basement and to the ground floor.
4. Turn on Spigot and Drain
Drain your tank until the water runs clear and no longer has sediment. If your tank has a lot of sediment, you may need to drain it completely. As you can see in this picture above, the water when we first started draining was a bit brown and there was a lot of sediment at the bottom of the bowl.
5. Open the Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve
This helps water flow more easily while draining and it allows you to test your pressure relief valve. Make sure you have a bucket beneath the drainage pipe on your pressure relief valve before opening as water will be rush out. Be careful. This water will likely be very hot. If water doesn’t come out, you’ve got a faulty pressure relief valve and it will need replacing.
After you’ve opened the pressure relief valve, let the water in your hot water tank drain out through the attached garden hose. Once the water has completely drained out close the Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve.
To flush your hot water tank, turn on the cold water shut off leading into your hot water tank. Let it run for a few minutes until the water exiting your hose runs clear.
This may take a bit. While the water might be running clear and isn’t brown, you may still have some sediment. Here’s a picture of the water coming from my tank when I first started flushing:
As you can see, I still had some sediment (can be seen at the bottom) coming out. Continue flushing until you have very little or no sediment in your water. Turn off the cold water spigot leading into your hot water tank.
Once the water is running clear, it’s time to put things back to the way they were.
- Turn off the drainage spigot and disconnect hose.
- Close the pressure relief valve if you opened it.
- Open a hot side faucet on a sink or tub.
- Turn on the cold water shut off leading to your hot water heater.
- Once water is running clearly through the hot side sink faucet or tub you can close the faucet (be sure there is no air left in the tank).
- If you shut off the gas to your hot water heater, turn it back on.
- If you turned the thermostat off on your hot water heater, re-light the pilot light and then turn it to your desired temperature.
- If you have an electric hot water heater, flip the breaker switch on your electrical panel that gives power to your water heater.
- Wait about 30 to 40 minutes for the water to heat up. Turn on a hot water spigot somewhere in your house to ensure hot water is coming out.
- Put it on your calendar to do it again in a year.
How Do I Unclog My Toilet?
1. Stop the Toilet Bowl From Filling Up.
If it looks like the water might overflow out of the toilet, take the lid off the tank as quickly as possible and close the toilet flapper. The flapper releases water from the tank into the bowl. If you’re worried that your flush has a good chance of turning into a flood, take off the top before you pull the handle. Then you can keep one hand close to the flapper while the other hands pushes the flusher. The minute it appears the water is rising, you’re ready to stop the flow of water.
2. Get the Right Plunger
Once the disaster has been averted, it’s time to unsheathe your plunger. To effectively use a plunger, you need a good seal between it and the toilet bowl. Funnel-cup plungers are the best plungers for this. They’re the ones with a flange, or added piece, extending off the bottom of the rubber cup.
3. Warm Up Your Plunger
Stiff, hard plungers don’t work as well as soft and pliant ones. Run your plunger under some hot water before you use it. This will soften up the rubber, which will help you get a better seal on the toilet bowl.
4. Plunge Correctly
Stick the plunger in the bowl and use it to form a solid seal over the exit hole. Give a few good up and down strokes with the plunger and flush the toilet. If the water clears from the toilet, then you’ve successfully unclogged it. If the toilet starts overflowing again, just close the flapper to stop water from entering the bowl. Repeat the plunge and flush sequence until your clog is gone.
5. Old Plumber Trick: Hot Water and Dishwasher Detergent.
Add a few cups of hot water to the toilet bowl before you start plunging. After you pour the hot water in, let it sit for a few minutes. This will make unclogging the toilet with the plunger much, much easier. The heat from the hot water can sometimes break up the clog without plunging, so this could be a good tactic to use if you clog a toilet at a friend’s house and you don’t want to face the embarrassment of asking for a plunger.
Also, try adding some dishwasher detergent to the mix. The soap can help break the clog up, as well.
6. Another Old Plumber Trick: Use Baking Soda and Vinegar
Another trick to unclog toilets comes from your elementary science fair project. Pour one cup of baking soda into the clogged toilet and then slowly pour one cup of vinegar into the bowl. The chemical reaction and fiz can help break down the clog.
Harder Clogs, Use an Auger
If the plunger doesn’t work, its time to use an auger. An auger is a cable-like device that you snake through the toilet hole to help loosen up a clog. You can find augers at most hardware stores.
To use an auger, you simply snake the cable down the hole. Start turning the crank on the end you are holding until it stops. This means you’ve reached your clog. The auger will either break up the clog or hook on to it. If it feels like you’ve hooked the clog, pull it out. Discard any waste on the end of the auger. Give the toilet a few plunges to clear up any leftover blockage. The toilet should drain when you have cleared the toilet. We suggest wearing rubber gloves for this job in case you need to clean off some… matter from the plumbing snake.
When Should I Call The Plumber?
There are times when your own efforts just aren’t enough. How do you know when it’s time to call in the professionals to battle your clog? If you see water backing up in the sinks or showers whenever you flush, it’s time to bring in a plumber. Water backing up in odd locations when you flush means you have a clogged mainline, not a clogged toilet. A plunger and auger won’t get the job done. Call Clark County Plumbing & Drain for a free in-home estimate 360-210-7933
How Do I Keep My Drains Flowing Clearly?
Why Are Plumbers So Expensive?
Insurence: Water is a destructive and powerful force. Water is constantly trying to deteriorate and damage pipes, fixtures, and faucets. Therefore plumbing is considered a high-risk business. Plumbing insurance is very expensive because of this fact. To be properly insured in case of an accident plumbing companies have to charge properly to cover this expense.
Labor: Since the early 2000’s there has been a shortage of skilled labor in the trades. The shortage of skilled labor means that the supply and demand of the labor force dictates that there are higher wages for quality employees. To cover the higher labor cost of quality employees companies have to charge properly to cover this expense.
Marketing and Advertising: The age of smartphones and social media has changed the way customers find plumbing companies. This is great for customers because you can have multiple plumbing companies at the tip of your finger. This adds extra expense to plumbing companies because in order to stay relevant they need to advertise in every media source. Plumbing companies have to charge properly to cover this expense.
How Do I Hire A Plumber?
There is a myth that plumbers are dirty scoundrels that are out to steal every penny you have. The truth be told is that most plumbers and plumbing companies mean well. There are the rare few like in any business that are just no good.
When hiring a plumber or any contractor do your research. Online reviews are a great way to get a feel for what a company is like and how they treat their customers.
Get a referral, ask your friends and family if they have experience with a plumbing company. Chances are if your family had a good experience with Plumbing Company A, so will you.
Get a second opinion, on jobs that are more than $1500 call more than one plumbing company. Be sure that both companies are comparing apples to apples.
Don’t be cheap, just because a plumbing company gives you an estimate for more than what your budget allows does not mean that they are trying to take advantage of you. Customers often go with a cheaper company because the price fits into their budget. This scenario may cost you more in the long run because the cheaper company does not do the job properly. If you have done your research properly the price, online reviews and referrals should all align.
On several occasions, we have heard stories from our clients that they hired a plumber to repair something, they paid him and later had problems with whatever was repaired. When they called the plumber to come back he does not answer or return their phone calls. The majority of the time we find out that they chose this plumber because he was the cheapest. The customers state “that he was really nice and did really good work, he just doesn’t return our phone calls” From our experience we find that the plumber did do good work and perhaps he is a good person but that he did not charge enough to cover in case something went wrong. He can’t afford to go to a call back because he’s not even making a profit on the jobs that he’s charging for. In other words, he doesn’t know the cost of running a business. Does this mean he’s a bad guy or tried to rip someone off? Not intentionally, but the customer ends up paying twice because they tried to go with the cheaper plumber first.
We hope that this helps to answer some questions when it comes to hiring a plumber or dealing with plumbing issues. Please call
Clark County Plumbing & Drain for your free in-home estimate 360-210-7933