To Flush or Not to Flush? That Is the Question…

Our toilets can sometimes seem like magic. You turn the flush handle, the bowl fills up and whatever is inside disappears down into the sewer. But being careless about what you send down can have serious ramifications. A clogged toilet, a call to the plumber, and not to mention damage to the city’s water treatment system and the environment, are all possible outcomes.

flushing-medicationThe answer to the question of what can be flushed is very simple: human waste and toilet paper. Anything other than that should be disposed of in a trash receptacle. Here’s a list of some common and uncommonly flushed items that should NEVER be sent down the toilet.

  1. Wipes: Pre-moistened baby wipes and adult wipes may seem like good candidates for flushing, but they don’t break apart like toilet paper. This can lead to clogging and damage to sewer systems.
  2. Medication: Flushing medication may seem like a good way to get rid of it, but filtration and water treatment systems don’t always remove them, leaving them to affect water supplies and harm wildlife.
  3. Feminine Products: Tampons and pads are designed to absorb moisture, meaning they can expand and cause massive blockages in your plumbing. Make sure to throw them away.
  4. Cat Litter: This one might make sense, because it’s waste, but the particles in kitty litter are designed to suck in moisture and clump together, a perfect recipe for a clog.
  5. A Snake: Hard as it may be to believe, an Australian man was surprised one day to find a python nearly ten feet in length in his toilet! This should go without saying, but snakes or other live animals should never be flushed!

 Of course, should any clogs arise, don’t hesitate to call MET Plumbing! You’ll be glad we met!

Plumbing Problems and Cold Weather Woes

When your home’s plumbing system is functioning properly, you don’t notice it. Ideally, we’d never have to spare a thought for the pipes and valves which live behind the walls Plumbing Problems and Cold Weather Woesand under the floors of our houses, but it’s important to be aware of how they work and potential causes of malfunction that could end up costing thousands of dollars.

An ounce of prevention in the form of an occasional once-over by a licensed plumber should be all it takes to keep everything running smoothly all year, but unusually cold weather can wreak havoc on your home’s pipes.

In colder climates like the Midwest and the Northeast, homes and buildings are typically erected with pipes fully within the insulation of the home itself. It makes sense, as these places average three or four below-freezing and snowy months every year. In our part of Texas, that’s not usually an issue, so it’s extra important to be aware of unusually cold weather fronts which can wreak havoc on uninsulated piping.

Cold Weather and Burst Pipes

It’s a nightmare scenario; you go out of town for the holidays to visit family or friends, only to come home to a burst pipe and the litany of headaches that this inevitably entails. The average insurance claim for homeowners whose pipes have ruptured due to cold weather is well over ten thousand dollars because it isn’t just the broken pipe that needs to be serviced.

A tiny crack in a water supply line can flood your home with up to two-hundred-fifty gallons of water per day, every day. If you’re out of town when it happens, and it goes unchecked, this can be an absolute disaster, resulting in damaged flooring, walls, and furniture, not to mention ruining irreplaceable heirlooms or emotionally valuable items.

In addition, water soaking into the walls and floors of your home can create a fertile breeding ground for toxic mold and other fungal infestations if not properly dried out during the repair process, which in itself is a costly and time-consuming endeavor.

Cold weather causes pipes to freeze when the heat from the water within the pipe is dissipated through the metal into the below-freezing air around it. This means that, usually, Your Pipes Could Freezethe municipal water supply lines and the main line which supplies water to your house are not going to freeze; latent heat energy in the ground itself, as well as the pipes being below the frost line, generally protect against this eventuality. It’s the connection to your house, where the line comes closer to ground level and enters your home, where heat can dissipate and begin the freezing process.

While water will freeze at thirty-two degrees in a controlled environment, it usually needs to be colder than that for a prolonged period of time in order to cause freezing within pipes. Water within the pipes typically retains enough heat from the municipal source to stave off freezing problems at this temperature. That said, a drop of a few degrees can cause all the difference, and it’s better to be prepared for cold weather than to foot the bill for, essentially, rebuilding an entire portion of your home.

When pipes burst due to freezing, it’s not actually the ice which does the damage; it’s the water within your residential plumbing system being pressurized by an ice plug and having nowhere to go. Without an outlet like a faucet or the main water line, pressure will build and build until the pipe bursts laterally and begins costing you lots of money. There are a few easy ways to help prevent this during exceptionally cold forecasts and avoid that emergency plumber call:

  • Install insulation sleeves on any exposed piping in the attic, garage, or crawl space during the fall, well before potential cold fronts move in. These pipes are most susceptible to bursting, as they aren’t kept warm by your home’s regular insulation.
  • Close vents and seal cracks or gaps in exterior walls and your house’s foundation. This will help guarantee that your pipes aren’t unnecessarily exposed to any cold outdoor air, and it’s generally good advice for optimizing energy efficiency in your home.
  • Maintain a household temperature of at least fifty degrees around the clock, and make sure the warm air inside is circulating as much as possible to areas with exposed piping.
  • If you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out, call a plumber Attempting to treat frozen pipes on your own can be dangerous, and it can be difficult for an untrained lay person to pinpoint where exactly the freeze has occurred in the first place.

Water Heaters Working Overtime

There are few things more frustrating than waking up on a freezing cold morning, only to realize that your hot water is out. It can derail your entire day; in the summer it may be feasible to simply rinse off in cold water, but, when weather hovers around freezing, cold showers are absolutely off the table.

Having a water heater in good working order is an absolutely essential comfort during the colder part of the year, and having to repair or replace one on short notice is not going to be cheap. As such, it’s important to keep abreast of your water heater’s functionality, during autumn, and to be aware of any potential issues before they arise.

During the cold months, there are a lot of factors which can negatively impact your water heater’s normal functionality. For one, we tend to use a lot more water when it’s cold Water Heaters Working Overtimeoutside; families will opt to stay in and hunker down rather than leaving the house to be social, leading to a general increase in usage during winter months. We also opt to enjoy hotter, longer showers than we do during other times of the year since nothing feels better than warm steam on a cold morning.

If you have a family and everyone is using hot water around the same time, you’re probably going to see a marked decrease in the amount of hot water available at any given time. This doesn’t necessarily mean your water heater is malfunctioning—it just has to work a lot harder to heat the water to your specified level when the incoming water is colder due to the weather.

When your heater is set to one hundred degrees, it’s going to do its best to get the water to that temperature as quickly as possible for your enjoyment. During warm parts of the year, this isn’t a very difficult task, and hot water may replenish so quickly as to seem unlimited.

However, when the weather is closer to freezing, your hot water heater is going to have to do a lot more work to raise the temperature of the water coming in from outside. Let your hot water tap run for a bit and look for steam before you despair; sometimes, your water heater just needs a little time to work.

Hot water heaters generally last ten to thirteen years before their heating elements begin to weaken and performance starts to dip. If you live in an area with unusually hard water, where mineral precipitate makes a harder job for the machinery, you may need to consider a replacement on an earlier timeframe. Ditto if you have a big family and the water heater is in near constant use; in this case, consider buying a heater with a larger tank.

When in Doubt, Always Call a Professional

While performing your own jury-rigged plumbing repair job based off of YouTube tutorials or online checklists might seem like a great way to save money, your pipes are one area you want to leave to professionals. Shoddy workmanship can come back to bite you to the tune of tens of thousands, so, ultimately, it’s always better to consult with someone who does this for a living.

A semi-annual plumbing inspection is a good idea just to make sure that no surprises rear their heads at inopportune times of year. Even if everything seems to be in good working order, a seasoned plumber’s eyes on your property will alert you to any weak points in your home’s plumbing system and help you keep ahead of repairs.

It’s always a worthwhile investment to make sure your house’s plumbing system and hot water heater are in tip-top shape; better to have peace of mind than to be surprised by bursts and leaks in the winter time and have to spring for emergency repair work.

How to Tell You’re Ready for a New Toilet

Your toilet is one of the most critical installments in your home, and having one in disrepair can be very distressing. Knowing when it’s time to call a plumber and replace it doesn’t have to be a mystery, though. There are a few things to look out for to clue you in on when it’s time to upgrade your throne.

toilet-replacement

The most obvious sign is damage to the toilet itself. Are there any cracks in the bowl or tank? Even a tiny crack will eventually get larger, leading to serious water leaks and potential damage to your floors. An investment in a toilet replacement today will pay dividends when it saves you from more expensive repairs down the line.

Another easy tell is age. An older toilet, even an older low flow toilet, will use much more water than a modern toilet. Your bathroom uses the most water of any room in the house, and your toilet is responsible for much of that. Switching to a newer, more efficient toilet will pay for itself in the long run.

More subtle signs can let you know when it’s time to make a change. Do you spend a lot of time on maintaining your toilet? Do you find yourself unclogging it every week, or needing to make multiple flushes after each use? Is it always running, making hissing and trickling noises, or leaking from the bottom? These are signs of worn out components. This might be as simple a fix as replacing the specific parts, but costs can quickly add up, and upgrading to a newer toilet might be your best option.

Creepy Crawling Creatures That Can Crawl Up Your Toilet!

For most of us, the thought of skittering creatures being anywhere near our bums is pure nightmare fuel. If you’ve spent time browsing the internet, chances are you’ve seen some terrifying pictures of toilets containing uncomfortably large spiders and other unwelcome hangers-on.

Plumbing

Unfortunately, it’s not all urban legends and internet memes. The following are a few examples of real pests that can actually show up in your toilet.

Drain Flies

One of the most common bathroom drain pests is the aptly-named “drain fly,” which reproduces in stagnant water. To get rid of them, clean the toilet thoroughly, snake out any grime, and swat any remaining adults.

Rats

There have been numerous examples of rats getting into sewer pipes and escaping through a toilet. Unbeknownst to many people, rats are excellent swimmers, capable of making their way up full drains rather quickly.

Frogs

As amphibians, frogs are naturally adept at swimming. Of course, toilet drains aren’t their ideal environment. According to the Tampa Bay Times, toilet frog sightings can be prevented by putting a mesh screen over the toilet vent and leaving nearby house lights off at night.

Snakes

Just as a plumber can snake a drain, a real snake can do it, too. So long as the snake is able to get into an open sewer and swim comfortably through the system, it’s entirely plausible (though rare) to find one sitting in the bowl.

Want to know more about how to prevent and deal with unexpected toilet critters? The experts at Met Plumbing can help! Call us at (281) 599-3336 to ask questions or make an appointment.

8 Ways to Recycle: Bathroom Products and More

In today’s environmentally-conscious society, nearly every family and company is striving to do their part to protect the planet. From LEED-certified buildings and green roof projects to all-natural cleaning agents and water conservation programs, the response to ecological concern has been huge across homes and industries.

Today, we take a look at 8 ways you can make an impact through recycling both at home and at work.

8 Ways to Recycle - Bathroom Products and More

1. Recycle Empty Toiletry Bottles and Toilet Roll Cores

One of the most common solutions in practice, it’s a good idea to recycle any appropriate bottles, bags, or containers when they are empty. To take your efforts up a notch, try to Recycle Empty Toiletry Bottles and Toilet Roll Coresrinse as much product residue as you can before recycling. Although the containers will be washed during the recycling process, pre-rinsing could help make the process more efficient by reducing the amount of washing required. Don’t forget your metal shaving cream can! If it’s marked as recyclable, it can go in the bin, too.1

Another simple bathroom-related solution is to recycle the cardboard cores when the toilet paper rolls are empty. This is an oft-forgotten opportunity, as it’s usually convenient to toss the empty core into a bathroom trash can. Go the extra step by walking the cores to your recycling bin. To make things even more convenient, set up a core-specific recycling bin right next to the bathroom garbage.

 

2. Recycle the Plastic Shrink Wrap and Cardboard Boxes from New Products

Similar to our first point, removing a new product from its packaging can be a somewhat mindless task that can lead to hastily tossing plastic and cardboard packing materials into the trash. Encourage your family (and/or coworkers) to be mindful and set aside these materials for recycling when unpacking. If you run a business, set up a dedicated recycling bin in the receiving area and/or any other location that sees a lot of unpacking.

 

3. Go Beyond Just Recycling: Reduce and Reuse!

We’ve all been taught the three Rs of Earth-friendly action (reduce, reuse, recycle), but with recycling at the forefront, the other two are easily forgotten. In addition to using all Go Beyond Just Recycling - Reduce and Reuseof the recycling tips listed here, make an effort to reuse items as much as possible and reduce the amount of disposable material you use.

Switching to reusable canvas grocery bags is one of the most popular ways to reduce one’s use of disposable products. Another method of re-use that’s gained significant ground in the age of Pinterest is the act of “upcycling”—taking a used product and converting it for another use rather than disposing of it.

For example, an old house shutter can be upcycled into a shabby-chic indoor mail sorter with a fresh coat of paint (just place the envelopes into the slats). Or, stick with an old re-use standby: turn junk mail, old homework, and failed printer pages into scrap paper for notes, drawings, and more.

 

4. Turn Recyclables into Art Materials

Another method of reusing or upcycling materials is to use recyclable materials as part of art projects. Allow your kids to use plastic bottle caps, empty milk jugs, junk mail, Turn Recyclables into Art Materialscardboard boxes, and more as supplies for experimenting with mixed-media artwork. If you’re an artist yourself, put your junk to work in the form of glass mosaics, woven plastic bag totes, soda can jewelry, and more.

If you aren’t artistic and don’t know anyone personally who might use your recyclables for such crafts, check with local schools and other organizations to see if they might appreciate the materials. You’d be surprised how much treasure an art teacher can find in a box of trash!

 

5. Consider Recycling Your Water

No, this doesn’t mean you have to bathe in dirty water or stop flushing the toilet (eew). Water recycling can be achieved by allowing rain or shower wastewater to be used for Consider Recycling Your Waterflushing the toilet. If you’re a gardener, consider investing in a couple of rain barrels to capture rain for watering purposes.

If you use only biodegradable soaps and shampoos, collect your used bath or shower water to water your plants—but pay close attention to the products you use and their potential effects on the environment before taking this route. Additionally, be sure to consult with a plumber before making any major changes to your bathroom drain systems.

Though most offices don’t have shower facilities in their building, reuse of rain and other types of wastewater is still possible. Consider discussing with an eco-focused plumbing company whether there are feasible wastewater collection options for your commercial plumbing system.

 

6. Start a Compost Heap

Nature’s own recycling system lies in breaking down organic material (like food) and turning it back into its constituent nutrients and minerals. Start a simple compost heap in your backyard, or add a compost bin to your kitchen. If you’ve got a green thumb, compost also serves as a great DIY fertilizer!

 

7. Audit Your Own Waste Stream

No, not that waste stream. With regard to refuse, a “waste stream” is essentially the garbage that is produced by a group or company. Whether you plan to improve your family’s habits at home or kick-start eco-consciousness in the office, start by noting the kinds of materials that get disposed of (in a work environment, see if you can get people to voluntarily log their trash for a few days).

Once you have a good idea of what’s currently going on, try to identify opportunities to eliminate disposable material from your waste stream, re-use certain types of items, or improve overall recycling habits. Not only will you be reducing, reusing, and recycling, but you’ll be able to measure the change with another audit later on. In any environment, it can be especially powerful to see your impact in the data!

 

8. Know How to Properly Recycle Your Old Gadgets

Unfortunately, recycling a laptop, game console, or phone isn’t as simple as just dropping it into the bin. For this reason, it can be tempting to just toss non-functioning electronics into the trash and move on. Don’t give in to the convenience! Identify local electronics drop-off points to make sure that your devices are processed properly and that any hazardous materials in their components are handled safely.3

The Numerous Benefits of Recycling

Aside from the sense of personal responsibility and satisfaction that you can achieve from doing what’s right for the planet, recycling has a variety of benefits in both the homeStart a Compost Heap and business arenas. From a big-picture perspective, the primary environmental benefits of recycling are that it reduces the overall size and growth rate of landfills, and it helps to conserve natural resources like timber, water, coal, oil, and gas.2

From an industry standpoint, recycling (as well as the other two “R”s) can also be quite profitable. Installing a water-conserving plumbing system, for example, can directly save the company money on monthly water usage. Plus, most governments have policies that offer cash benefits for recycled materials.

When high-profile companies take part in eco-friendly behaviors, it encourages others to do the same. When companies and individuals participate in the process on a larger scale, recycling can help to boost the overall economy, reduce energy usage, and give companies a greener, more responsible public image.

By improving the ways in which their company interacts with the environment, business owners could see an increase in community engagement as a result of their alignment with customers’ eco-friendly values. Ultimately, more engagement means greater success and profit in the long run.

Sources

  1. https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained
  2. http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/benefits-of-recycling.php
  3. http://www.ecyclingcentral.com/