3 Ways to Prevent Clogged Drains

Smelly drains are drains that are likely to clog. That unpleasant odor wafting up from the sink usually indicates that the drain pipe is harboring sludge. It’s a gooey concoction of decaying organic material that has been washed down the sink or bathtub, combined with soap residue. Sludge accumulation gradually narrows the diameter of drain pipes, slowing the flow of waste water and generating odors. In addition, as water flow through the pipe decreases, clogs become increasingly more likely. A clogged, sludge-filled drain pipe may be temporarily opened by do-it-yourself methods like using a common plunger. However, clogs are likely to recur soon as long as the sludge residue remains.

In addition, as water flow through the pipe decreases, clogs become increasingly more likely. A clogged, sludge-filled drain pipe may be temporarily opened by do-it-yourself methods like using a common plunger. However, clogs are likely to recur soon as long as the sludge residue remains. Drain cleaning by a qualified plumber is usually required for a permanent solution to chronic clogging.

The best way to prevent smelly drains and accompanying clogs is to avoid the accumulation of sludge in the first place by practicing good “drain hygiene.” Here are some helpful tips:

  • Watch what goes into the drain. Avoid washing large food scraps down the drain—even if you have a disposal. Store grease in a container and throw it out with the trash. Don’t pour it into the sink. The same goes for coffee grounds.
  • Install drain hair strainers in bathtubs and showers and clear hair out of them weekly.
  • For regular DIY preventive maintenance, once a month pour about a cup of baking soda into each drain. Follow it with two cups of boiling water. After a few minutes, add another cup of baking soda, then a cup of white vinegar. Wait another few minutes, then flush the drain clear with more boiling water.

In addition to those indoor plumbing practices, every few years have your main sewer line outside checked by a plumber to ensure that sewage is flowing freely. Tree roots and other blockages can gradually restrict the flow and reflux sewage and odors back into the house.

For professional service to deal with smelly drains and the clogs that usually follow, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

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5 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Water Heater

Keeping up with water heater maintenance is a good way to decrease the odds of early replacement. Statistics say that the water heater is the most frequently replaced major appliance in a typical residence. While it was once common to get 20 years of service from a standard water heater, today the average is about half that. If proper water heater maintenance by a qualified professional plumber is ignored, a unit may fail in only five to six years.

Extend the life of your heater and cut operating costs by following these five water heater maintenance tips:

Flush The Tank

Minerals in hard water solidify when heated and form a layer of sediment in the bottom of the tank. This promotes tank corrosion and also causes the burner to run longer cycles, raising operating costs. Draining the tank regularly removes mineral sediment before it solidifies and can’t be removed.

Replace The Anode

The sacrificial anode inside the tank attracts corrosives in the water that would otherwise deteriorate the tank and cause early failure. Anodes eventually dissolve and need replacement. A qualified plumber can check the status of the anode and install a new one if necessary.

Test The Pressure Relief Valve

The spring-loaded pressure relief valve on the top or side of the heater opens automatically to protect the unit from dangerously high internal pressure or temperature. Once a year, open the valve, verify that water spurts out into the discharge tube, then allow the valve to snap shut. If water isn’t released or if the valve continues to dribble after it’s been released, have the valve replaced immediately.

Check The Temperature

Unnecessarily high water temperatures may accelerate tank failure and also present a scald hazard to occupants. Make sure the water heater thermostat is set to 120 degrees or less.

Soften The Water

If you live in an area with very high mineral content, a water softener that removes minerals like calcium from the incoming water supply can add years to the water heater’s expected service life.

For professional water heater maintenance, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing today.

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Does Attic Ventilation Matter in the Winter?

During summer, proper attic ventilation seems like a no-brainer. On a hot day, an under-ventilated attic can turn into a broiling oven that radiates heat down through the ceiling into living spaces below, raising cooling costs and diminishing comfort. It may not be as self-evident, but attic ventilation is also important in winter, although for less obvious reasons.

Ice Dam Prevention

Ice dams form when the upper portion of the roof is warmer than the rest of the roof, causing snow near the peak to melt faster. This runoff re-freezes as it reaches the lower, frigid zone of the roof, forming a barrier that prevents water from draining into the gutters. Pooling water on the roof quickly penetrates the shingles and roof sheathing, dripping into the attic and eventually leaking through your ceiling. Serious water damage is the result.

Uneven roof warming is caused by accumulation of heat in the attic. Because warm air naturally rises, heat conducted from the living spaces up through the ceiling into the attic accumulates at the underside of the upper roof, warming only that section and causing uneven snow melt. The remedy is a uniformly cold attic. Make sure attic vents up at the roof peak and down near the soffits are fully open and unobstructed to permit optimum attic ventilation and exhaust accumulating heat.

Condensation Reduction

In addition to warm air, water vapor from the living spaces may migrate up into the attic through small cracks and gaps in the ceiling and around recessed light fixtures. Humidity accumulates in an under-ventilated attic. When temperatures plunge on a cold night, water vapor in humid air naturally condenses. Attic insulation becomes soaked by condensation, degrading its insulating properties and spawning mold growth. Wet wooden structural members in the attic may warp and rot. Maintaining adequate flow of passive attic ventilation into soffit vents and out the vents at the peak of the roof maintains constant circulation of air to exhaust water vapor and prevent condensation.

In greater Cincinnati, ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more options to ensure optimum attic ventilation.

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5 Energy-Saving Myths Debunked

Relying on an energy-saving myth may cost you money and comfort this winter. All too often, home energy conservation decisions are based on outdated, debunked folklore that was once accepted as common knowledge. New technology proves that some longstanding beliefs about energy conservation are actually closer to fables than actual scientific fact. See if you recognize a familiar energy-saving myth from the list of five below.

  • Keep the furnace thermostat at normal comfort setting all the time, even while the home is unoccupied. People used to believe more energy was wasted warming up a cold house than by leaving the furnace at a normal setting 24/7. Turns out, it’s not true. Bumping the thermostat down 8 to 10 degrees while the home’s unoccupied for several hours saves more money than keeping the setting at its usual temperature.
  • A wood-burning fireplace saves money and heats efficiently. Are you gathering and chopping your own firewood? If not, purchasing commercial firewood is a costly way to buy BTUs of heat. Also, most heat produced by a fireplace goes straight up the chimney.
  • The higher you set the thermostat, the faster the home warms up. Actually, the furnace generates consistent heat whether the thermostat is set at the typical temperature—or cranked all the way up. Be patient. Higher thermostat settings lead to energy waste and a too-hot house.
  • To better distribute heat, close heating vents in unused rooms. A forced-air furnace and duct system is designed to convey a balanced amount of heated airflow into and out of every room. Closing heating vents in some rooms throws the system out of balance and may make heating throughout the house inconsistent. It also tends to increase air leakage from ductwork.
  • High-efficiency windows reduce heat loss and save money. That much is true, however, the savings may take many years to compensate for the cost of the windows. For more immediate payoff, inexpensive caulking and weatherstripping is a more cost-efficient and effective method of weatherizing doors and windows.

Relying on an energy-saving myth to stay comfortable this winter? Call the professionals Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

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Tripped Breakers: Causes & Solutions

The on/off switches inside your breaker box are automatic circuit breakers. Invented to replace old-school fuses that had to be discarded when blown, when a circuit breaker “trips” (automatically switches to the off position) electrical power flowing to the circuit controlled by that breaker shuts off. A sign of a tripped breaker switch is when multiple electrical components plugged into different outlets lose power at the same time, or when a single major appliance is suddenly without electricity.

Here are three common causes of a tripped circuit breaker:

Circuit Overload

Each circuit in your house is designed to handle a certain volume of electrical flow, measured in amps. When too many electrical devices are connected to one circuit, or when one device is malfunctioning and drawing excessive current, the affected circuit breaker will automatically shut off to protect the wiring as well as other devices. Shifting some devices to another circuit by plugging them into other outlets may redistribute the load and resolve the problem. If the breaker trips again, leave it off and call a qualified electrician immediately.

Short Circuit

When a hot (white) wire and a neutral (black) wire touch anywhere in a circuit, a short occurs that will cause the circuit breaker to trip. Inspect extension cords and power cords to all devices on the affected circuit looking for melting, frayed wiring or other conditions that could indicate a short. If you can’t identify any obvious cause, there may be a short in the internal wiring of the house that could be a fire hazard. Don’t continue to reset the circuit breaker. Contact an electrician.

Defective Breaker

Old circuit breakers sometimes become flaky and spontaneously trip due to wear and tear. An electrician can measure the current flow to isolate whether the problem is in the circuit or due to a worn-out breaker. Replacing a defective circuit breaker is a straightforward procedure for a qualified electrician but should be left to a professional for safety reasons.

For professional diagnosis and repair of tripped breakers inside your breaker box, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

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3 Reasons to Lower Your Water Heater’s Temperature

Like many people, you may not even be aware of the fact that you can lower your water heater’s temperature—much less, the fact that there are benefits from doing so. As long as water hot enough for daily use comes out when they open the tap, most homeowners never give it a second thought. Proper water temperature shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Water heaters come from the factory with the thermostat pre-set. However, the installer of the unit may alter that temperature, or fail to verify that it is still at its original factory setting at the time of installation. Here are three good reasons to check your thermostat setting yourself and perhaps lower your water heater’s temperature:

  • Water above 120 degrees accelerates the accumulation of hard water mineral sediment, especially common calcium carbonate, inside the tank. Sediment accumulation is a trigger for water heater tank corrosion and shortens the expected service life of the entire unit. A layer of sediment in the tank also causes the burner to run longer to heat water, increasing fuel consumption operating costs.
  • Water above 120 degrees increases the risk of scalding. Exposure to water at a temperature of 140 degrees can cause severe scalding in as little as 5 seconds of exposure. This is especially dangerous in homes with small children, the elderly, or others who may not be agile enough to quickly react to scalding water.
  • Water above 120 degrees causes excessive stand-by heat loss. Hotter water stored in the tank cools faster. This means that a unit on stand-by re-lights the burner more frequently to compensate for heat loss and to bring the water temperature back up to thermostat settings. Frequent burner cycles waste energy and increase operating costs. The average home in the U.S. spends about $300 per year for hot water from a gas-fired water heater. Lowering the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees can reduce standby heat loss and save up to 15 percent in annual water heating expense.

For more on why and how to lower your water heater’s temperature, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

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Recessed Lighting: The Pros and Cons

During a home makeover, kitchen lighting is often on the agenda. Kitchens impose special lighting needs, quite different from a bedroom or a den. The brightness and temperature of the bulbs as well as the focus of the light are important in the cooking environment. Also, cleaning is often an issue as kitchens produce humidity, smoke and fumes that may accumulate on light fixtures and dim the illumination. In general, the choice of kitchen lights begins with a decision about whether to install recessed lighting or standard fixtures, particularly where new LED lights are desired.

Here are some of the pros and cons of opting for recessed lighting in a kitchen:

Pros

  • Recessed fixtures emit light in a more focused area that concentrates lighting, usually the perfect choice for performing specific tasks such as food preparation and cooking.
  • Because the bulb is fully recessed into the housing, which is embedded in the ceiling, it’s less exposed to dust, smoke and humidity and requires less frequent cleaning.
  • Recessed lights provide an uncluttered look and don’t disturb the contour of the ceiling like external fixtures do. This clean, seamless appearance is particularly aesthetic in a kitchen environment. Once recessed lights are turned off, the fixtures almost seem to disappear.

Cons

  • Because the light fixture penetrates the ceiling, installation of recessed lights is generally more complicated than adding an external light fixture on the ceiling. Attention must be given to routing electrical wiring as well as the location of joists in the ceiling to properly place the lights.
  • For safety reasons, recessed lights that may come into contact with attic insulation above the ceiling must be specifically rated for that use.
  • Recessed lights are a permanent installation and not portable. If you sell the house and move, you can’t take them with you.
  • Certain ceiling materials such as ornamented plaster, concrete, or ceilings with a complex contour aren’t a good choice for installation of recessed lights.

Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more information about options for kitchen lighting.

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3 Reasons to Consider Installing a Water Purification System in Your Home

If you get your water from a municipal water treatment facility, is a home water purification system really necessary? Most water from municipal utilities meets minimum local and federal purity standards. When it comes to safeguarding their family, however, many consumers wish to go beyond the minimum. If you want water that exceeds the baseline standards of your local utility, you’ll have to take the initiative yourself and ask a qualified professional plumber about installing a home water purification system.

water purificationHere are three ways a whole-house purification system takes your home water supply to a higher level:

  • One system serves all fixtures. A whole-house water purification system filters water at the point of entry, where the main water supply line enters your house. This means all water at every plumbing fixture in the home is cleansed by a single, central filtration array—thus eliminating the expense and inconvenience of changing multiple point-of-use filters installed at individual sinks and fixtures throughout the house.
  • Better taste and appearance. Sediments, rust and iron are frequently present in municipal water. Though harmless, these substances may impart unpleasant tastes or odors to your water or cause a cloudy appearance that’s less than sparkling clear. The sediment pre-filter typically included in a whole-house system removes these substances and restores pleasant taste and aesthetic appearance to household water.
  • Chlorine reduction. While chlorine is necessary to disinfect your water at the municipal treatment facility, by the time that water reaches your home, chlorine has served its purpose and may actually be a negative. Many people experience skin reactions to chlorine in bathing water, and to the taste and smell of chlorine in drinking water. In a hot shower or over a sink, chlorine evaporates out of water and its fumes may produce an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. Some individuals simply wish to avoid ingesting chlorine in drinking water for personal health reasons. The carbon filter in a whole-house water purification system removes up to 95 percent of chlorine.

For more information about a water purification system for your home in greater Cincinnati, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

 

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When to Replace an Aging Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are sturdy beasts and reliably handle most of the stuff we throw into them. Over time, however, like any mechanical device that incurs wear and tear, a garbage disposal begins to show its age. Statistics show that the average service life of garbage disposals is around 12 years. Your mileage may vary, depending on how often you use the unit and how careful you are about keeping unapproved food scraps and other garbage out of it. Here are some signs that may indicate your disposal needs replacement sooner rather than later.

garbage disposalsFrequent Clogging

The unit is no longer adequately shredding and grinding food. Large leftover particles are causing clogs. This usually means the blades are dull and/or the motor is marginal. In most cases, it’s rarely worth the cost of attempting to repair a worn-out unit by installing replacement parts. Upgrading to a new disposal is usually the most cost-efficient option.

Repetitive Resets

If you frequently have to press the little red “Reset” button on the bottom of the disposal to revive a dead unit, this is usually a sign of a failing motor that’s drawing too much amperage. There’s no fix for this except replacement of the entire unit. If your existing disposal is a small one with minimum power—such as a 1/3-horsepower motor—you may wish to upgrade to a more powerful 1/2- or 1-horsepower unit for better performance in the future.

Perpetual Odors

Sometimes, all efforts to deodorize an old disposal fail. When residual food particles aren’t fully flushed down the drain pipe, odors from decomposing food inside the disposal eventually become permanent. They may be very noticeable when you stand over the sink or operate the disposal. Have a new unit installed by a qualified plumber. Each time you operate it, keep cold water running for 30 seconds afterward. This flushes residual food out of the disposal and down the drain. Once in a while, toss some orange or lemon peels in to clean and deodorize.

For professional advice about replacing garbage disposals, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.

 

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Do “Green” Drain Cleaners Work as Well as Chemical Cleaners?

Homeowners who need drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati sometimes ask if so-called “green” drain cleaners are a viable alternative to other chemical methods. Most professional plumbers aren’t big fans of heavy-duty caustic drain chemicals, typically formulated with corrosives like sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid. These harsh substances can disintegrate pipes and other components, often turning a minor clog into major expensive damage to your plumbing system. They can also be a safety hazard, not only to the homeowner who uses them but to the plumber called in to work on the system if the caustic drain chemical fails to clear the clog.

shutterstock_309060392Most green drain cleaners use natural enzymes instead of corrosive chemicals to remove clogs. These enzymes contain bacteria that actually consume the organic material that is by and large the most frequent cause of drain clogs. If you require drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati, here are some pros and cons of trying green methods instead of harsh chemicals:

  • Green drain chemicals are safer to use. No danger from chemical burns or severe eye damage, which can occur if caustic drain chemicals splash or reflux out of the drain.
  • The enzymes used in green drain openers are non-corrosive and harmless to your pipes and/or the septic tank.
  • Green chemicals pose no toxic threat to the environment at large or the municipal water treatment system.
  • A green drain cleaner may take substantially longer to clear a clog than a conventional caustic drain chemical.
  • The enzymatic approach offered by green drain cleaners is often best utilized as a regular preventive treatment to keep pipes clean and inhibit clogs before they happen.

Once a clog occurs, if green drain cleaners and/or simply plunging the drain fail to clear it, the most cost-efficient option at that point is usually to consult a plumbing professional. A qualified plumber arrives with an array of safe options to remove drain clogs of all sorts without endangering your pipes or the environment. For more information on drain clearing and cleaning in Cincinnati, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing today.

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