How can I keep my kitchen drain clear through the holidays?

Here are three simple things that you can do throughout the upcoming holiday season to ensure your festive gatherings don’t compromise the function of your kitchen drain and result in a plumbing emergency:

  1. Put food waste in the trash (even if you have a garbage disposal)
  2. Invest in a drain strainer
  3. Get your drains professionally cleaned

A constantly running toilet can drain your bank account by causing your monthly water bill to rise. Being able to diagnose and repair a running toilet will help you keep your home’s plumbing system in good condition.

Here are three steps that you can take to help prevent a toilet from running constantly:

  1. Check the flapper to see if it is malfunctioning
  2. Adjust the float to prevent the tank from overfilling and continually emptying into the bowl
  3. Call a plumber to conduct a thorough investigation of your existing fixture to determine if repairs can be made

Theory and practice are often very different, and many jobs are much more difficult than they appear. This is because of unplanned obstacles that can only be discovered through extensive experience in a specific field. Plumbing is one of those fields that look simple on paper (or video), but are fraught with unforeseen — and often unpleasant — difficulties.

In short, you work hard for your money, so why not pay a professional plumbing company to work hard for you on your plumbing needs?

Follow these preventative measures to help you avoid clogs and other plumbing problems:

1. Clean your drains regularly with all-natural household products.

  • Vinegar and hot water – Pour vinegar down your drain, let it sit for several hours, and then flush the drains with hot water
  • Baking soda and vinegar – Sprinkle the drain with baking soda and vinegar, then allow the solution to sit in your drains for several hours before flushing with hot water
  • Lemon juice and vinegar – Pour vinegar into the drain, flush with hot water, and then chase the solution with lemon juice

2. Sharpen your garbage disposal blades periodically.

  • To sharpen the blades, pour rock salt and ice into the garbage disposal, then run water into the garbage disposal and turn the garbage disposal on. This is a good activity to do before holiday dinners and parties or monthly if the garbage disposal is used frequently

3. Flush your water heater as needed

  • To flush the sediment from your water heater, start by turning off the power and cold water supply to the unit. Open up a hot water faucet somewhere in your house and allow a trickle of hot water to run. This prevents a vacuum from forming in the pipes. Next, hook up a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the water heater, and point the hose into a bucket or drain
  • Open the spigot and allow the water to drain from the water heater. As soon as the water runs clear, you can stop draining the unit and turn on the cold water supply to the heater. When the tank is finished filling, restore power to the unit
  • Lawns and gardens – 36%
  • Showers and baths – 20%
  • Toilets – 19%
  • Clothes and dishwashing – 16%
  • Potable uses – 9%

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program is making it easy for consumers to identify high-efficiency toilets in the marketplace. Toilets that are certified by independent, third-party testing to meet EPA’s rigorous criteria for both efficiency and performance can earn the WaterSense label.

Here are some WaterSense toilet facts:

  • WaterSense labeled toilets get the job done
  • WaterSense labeled toilets meet or exceed plumbing standards
  • With the potential for rebates and lower water bills, WaterSense labeled toilets can save you more money than you think
  • WaterSense labeled toilets are available in a wide range of models
  • WaterSense labeled toilets must meet strict criteria for water efficiency and flushing performance
  • WaterSense labeled toilets meet or exceed national plumbing performance standards
  • With cost savings on water bills and potential rebate options, WaterSense labeled toilets can be cheaper than other, less efficient models
  • Water usage is measured by consumption units. One consumption unit is the same as 748.5 gallons or 100 cubic feet
  • Water consumption may be high for many reasons, including more people in the home and hose use during the summer
  • You can test the accuracy of your meter by running water until the test dial (the red sweep hand located on the face of the meter) points to zero. The test hand will be straight up in the 12 o’clock position when it is on zero. Fill a one-gallon container with water. Check the position of the red test dial. It should measure .1333 cubic feet
  • Newer types of water meters have a leak indicator on the face of the dial
  • To check for leaks, look at the indicator when no one is drawing water. It should not be moving. If it is moving, check every plumbing fixture at the property, i.e., toilet, sink, outside sprinkler, washer, etc. Shut off the valves that supply each fixture, one by one, and check the indicator after each shutoff. When closing a valve stops the indicator from moving, or slows its movement, you have found the location of a leak

Silent toilet leaks will waste from 30 to 500 gallons of water per day, and the ones you can hear will waste much more. Find out if your toilet has a leak with the dye test.

Put some food dye in the tank and then leave for 15 minutes. When you return, look into your bowl to see if there is now dye color in the water spot. If there is color, or if you already can hear and or see water running in your bowl, it’s time for a new flapper!

Common cloggers:

  • Disposable diapers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Grease
  • Hair
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Hot Wax
  • Paper products
  • Toothpaste
  • Food particles
  • Oil (cooking)
  • Dirt
  • Soap
  • Mineral build-up from hard water

Household hazardous wastes:

  • Gasoline
  • Oil (motor)
  • Antifreeze
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Paint
  • Mohenjo-daro, a town of 40,000, supplied water to its bathrooms and lavatories in 2500 BC
  • By 400AD Rome was supplied with drains, sewers, aqueducts (carrying over a million cubic meters of water per day), fountains, and public and private baths
  • Medieval sewerage in many larger houses and castles used a “garderobe” (changing room) built into an external wall with a drop to a river, stream, or into a pit or barrel, which would have to be cleaned out by relatively well-paid workers
  • In Britain, as the population increased and centralized into cities, rivers such as the Fleet and the Thames became open sewers. Real change only occurred after outbreaks of typhoid and cholera were linked with polluted water supplies
  • Plumbing fixtures designed to supply drinking water and carry water-borne wastes within buildings and the first filtration systems were installed. The Public Health Act of 1848 legislated that every house should have a flushing toilet, privy, ash pit, or some form of sanitary arrangement. The government also invested five million pounds in sanitary research and engineering and began to build a sound sewer system
  • The first modern flushing toilet was designed by Sir John Harrington in 1589, but only himself and Queen Elizabeth I owned models
  • In 1778, Joseph Bramah, a London cabinet-maker, patented his hinged valve water closet, which continued to sell until 1890 when the plumber, Thomas Crapper designed a new version
  • Thomas Twyford, in 1885, provided us with the toilet we know today
  • Though a small amount of copper is required by the human body as an essential nutrient, long-term exposure to elevated levels of copper in drinking water may cause serious health problems, such as gastrointestinal disturbance, including nausea and vomiting, and liver or kidney damage.
  • Corroding pipes and brass components of household piping systems are the primary sources of copper in drinking water
  • Signs that drinking water may have elevated levels of copper include a metallic taste or blue to blue-green stains around sinks and plumbing fixtures
  • There are two types of copper corrosion: uniform and nonuniform. Both types are caused by certain characteristics of water chemistry, including low pH, high alkalinity, and the presence of sulfates or nitrates
  • All public water utilities must abide by the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations
A quality pump should last three or more years, with 10 years being reasonable, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development. When purchasing a pump, look for one that is built and tested according to the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association (SSPMA) specifications.

1. Diaphragm switch

The diaphragm switch is a popular type for professionals and is also the most expensive. The entire sump pump is immersed underwater and on it is a membrane that is sensitive to water pressure. As the water level rises, the water pressure increases and the diaphragm becomes concave, thereby activating the switch to turn on the sump pump. When the water level drops, the switch turns off. Since there is no float, there is nothing to get stuck, which is a common problem with other types of sump pumps.

2. Vertical action float

This type of switch is recommended because it is not as expensive as the diaphragm switch and it is superior to the tethered float. The float is a ball that floats above the water. As the water level rises so does the float which, at some point, will trigger the switch to turn on the pump. This float has limited movement up and down a vertical rod thereby giving it less freedom of movement and less of a chance to get stuck as the tethered float does for example. Vertical float switches are often of better quality than tethered floats and usually carry a longer warranty.

3. Tethered float

The tethered float is the most common and is used for pedestal sump pumps. The float hangs from the pump and floats on the water. As the water rises, so does the float and the switch is triggered. Common problems related to the tethered float include the float accumulating grime and causing it to lose buoyancy and even sink. Another common problem is that the float gets stuck to the inner wall or pump and as a result, when the water rises in the sump tank, the float may stay submerged and fail to activate the pump. Pedestal sump pumps have the added advantage of having the electrical unit above the water level. Other types are submerged and involve more risk of electrical accidents.

4. Electronic “Flood Free” switch

There is a fourth type of switch that can be used. It is electric and has no actual float. Instead, a probe wire is placed to sense the presence of water and is activated when it becomes submerged by rising water. A second probe wire can also be placed at a higher level to set off an alarm switch or another backup pump. This particular switch can be used in many types of applications.

What is backflow?
The water distribution system is designed to keep the water flowing from the distribution system to you the customer. However, when hydraulic conditions within the system deviate from the “normal” conditions, water flow can be reversed. When this backflow happens, contaminated water can enter the distribution system.
Backflow is possible in two situations, back-siphonage and back-pressure.
Back-pressure is created when pressure in a non-potable system, such as in a recirculating system containing soap, acid, or antifreeze, exceeds that in the potable system that provides makeup water to the system. This can force the potable water to reverse its direction of flow through the cross-connection. Non-potable substances can then enter the potable water system.

Four methods of backflow prevention are commonly recognized:

  • Air Gap
  • Double Check Valve Assembly
  • Reduced Pressure Principal Assembly
  • Pressure Vacuum Breaker Assembly


Your local water/sewer authority will determine which type of protection is required based on the degree of hazard that the property represents to the potable water supply.

A backflow preventer is an approved, testable assembly that uses valves, in different configurations, to prevent polluted or contaminated water from reversing direction and flowing backward.
An approved backflow prevention assembly has gone through an approval process consisting of laboratory/tests and a twelve-month field test.
Federal and State law require that water suppliers protect their water systems from contamination. State regulations may exempt single-family residences used solely for residential purposes from assembly requirements. However, residences used for other purposes, as well as commercial and industrial customers, may be required to install and maintain backflow prevention assemblies. When a determination is made by health officials that the potable water system may be subject to contamination through backflow, a backflow prevention assembly will be required. These decisions are made on a case by case basis.
Federal and State law require that water suppliers protect their water systems from contamination. State regulations may exempt single-family residences used solely for residential purposes from assembly requirements. However, residences used for other purposes, as well as commercial and industrial customers, may be required to install and maintain backflow prevention assemblies. When a determination is made by health officials that the potable water system may be subject to contamination through backflow, a backflow prevention assembly will be required. These decisions are made on a case by case basis.
The installation of the backflow prevention assembly should only be done by a licensed professional.
Generally, the backflow prevention assembly must be located as close as possible to the water service connection, but must remain on private property. A licensed professional can provide information on variances.
It is the sole responsibility of the customer to ensure that the assembly is in satisfactory operating condition at all times. Annual testing is required to stay in compliance. The customer must contact a recognized or licensed Backflow Assembly Tester to perform the test. If any repair work or maintenance is performed on the assembly, a recognized Tester must retest the assembly immediately and submit the test results to your local water/sewer authority.
My neighbor had this test done and was told the City water is alkaline and hard. Is this true?
Only if compared to water that is acidic and very soft. The pH (acid/alkaline level) of tap water leaving the treatment plants is about 7.5, which is close to neutral. Completely neutral water is 7.0 on a scale of 0 to 14. Water that is less than 7 is considered acidic. City water is discharged slightly alkaline to prevent corrosion of water pipes and to help maintain adequate disinfection of the water, which is more effective at a higher pH.
“Hard” refers to a measure of difficulty — how hard it is to form lather and suds — and to the hard mineral deposit left on fixtures. “Soft” water uses less soap and detergent to form lather and suds and can make clothing and skin feel softer.
Water hardness is expressed in one of two units of measurement. The first unit is parts per million (ppm) and the second expression of hardness is grains per gallon (gpg). A gpg equals about 17 ppm.
It depends on who you ask. The US Geological Survey established levels of hardness in 1962, but private organizations such as the Water Quality Association have changed the government classifications so that only water below 1.0 gpg is considered soft, and the level from 1.0 to 3.5 is called slightly hard. WQA is a self-monitoring trade association of the home and commercial water treatment industry.
No. The level of hardness is determined mainly by the amount of two minerals, calcium and magnesium. From a health standpoint, these minerals have no adverse effects and are, in fact, essential daily nutrients. In addition, water contains trace amounts of vital minerals that are found only in minute quantities in the human body. Researchers have found that these tiny amounts can have a beneficial effect on human health.
Very soft water won’t leave mineral deposits on pans or mineral scale buildup in hot water heaters. You will use less of household cleaning products like detergents, and less of personal hygiene products like shampoo. You may get a longer life from appliances like dishwashers and washing machines.

Softening units remove calcium and magnesium minerals and replace them with sodium. For each gpg of hardness removed, 7.5 milligrams of sodium are added to each quart of water, a possible concern to those on low sodium diets. Softened water is also not recommended for watering plants due to its sodium content.

Softened water increases the potential for leaching metal from pipes, solder, and plumbing fixtures. Increased levels of copper, lead, zinc, and cadmium are found in soft water, especially when it stands overnight in the plumbing system. These levels can exceed EPA primary drinking water standards, especially for brass fixtures and faucets.

As the home water treatment industry has grown in the US, the concept of water softening has often been misconstrued as a purifying and cleansing process. This is due largely to exaggerated advertising and to consumer misconceptions about water treatment. In reality, hardness minerals can be a nuisance at high levels, but they are not a threat to health.
What are the types of water heaters?

  • Conventional storage water heaters that offer a ready reservoir (storage tank) of hot water
  • Demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heaters that heat water directly without the use of a storage tank
  • Heat pump water heaters that move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly for providing hot water
  • Solar water heaters that use the sun’s heat to provide hot water
  • Tankless coil and indirect water heaters that use a home’s space heating system to heat water

  • Fuel type, availability, and cost: the fuel type or energy source you use for water heating will not only affect the water heater’s annual operation costs but also its size and energy efficiency
  • Size: to provide your household with enough hot water and to maximize efficiency, you need a properly sized water heater
  • Energy efficiency: to maximize your energy and cost savings, you want to know how energy efficient a water heater is before you purchase it
  • Costs: before you purchase a water heater, it’s also a good idea to estimate its annual operating costs and compare those costs with other less or more energy-efficient models
  • Electricity: widely available in the United States to fuel conventional storage, tankless or demand-type, and heat pump water heaters. It also can be used with combination water and space heating systems, which include tankless coil and indirect water heaters
  • Fuel oil: available in some areas of the United States to fuel conventional storage water heaters, and indirect combination water and space heating systems
  • Geothermal energy: available throughout the United States to those who will have or already have a geothermal heat pump system installed in their homes for space heating and cooling
  • Natural gas: available in many areas of the United States to fuel conventional storage and demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heaters, as well as combination water and space heating systems, which include tankless coil and indirect water heaters
  • Propane: available in many areas of the United States to fuel conventional storage and demand (tankless or instantaneous) water heaters, as well as indirect combination water and space heating systems
  • Solar energy: available throughout the United States — most abundantly in the Southwest — for solar water heaters.
  • Make sure gas-fired water heaters are installed according to code requirements
  • Where possible, elevate heaters 18 inches from the floor, whether installed in a basement or garage
  • Never use gasoline to clean equipment or tools
  • Use gasoline only as a motor fuel
  • Store gasoline only in tightly sealed red containers intended for gasoline
  • Keep all flammable materials and liquids away from gas-fired water heaters

The majority of injuries and deaths involving tap water scalds are to the elderly and children under the age of five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature will conserve energy and save money.

Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150-degree water for two seconds. Burns will also occur with a six-second exposure to 140-degree water or with a thirty-second exposure to 130-degree water. Even if the temperature is 120 degrees, a five-minute exposure could result in third-degree burns

How do I read the EnergyGuide label?
  • To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black EnergyGuide label. Although these labels will not show you which appliance is the most efficient on the market, they will show you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself.
  • The EnergyGuide label is required to be placed on all appliances by the manufacturers. The label provides information about energy consumption and shows you how much energy an appliance uses compared with similar models. Keep in mind that the numbers are averages: actual costs will differ somewhat depending on how you use them. The label shows the following:
  • Maker, model number, and size of the appliance
  • Estimated yearly operating cost (based on the national average cost of electricity), and the range of operating costs for similar models
  • The ENERGY STAR® logo indicates that this model meets strict criteria for energy efficiency
  • Estimated yearly electricity consumption
  • Key features of the appliance and the similar models that make up the cost comparison range

When referring to the efficiency of an appliance or energy system, we are actually talking about how much energy that system must use to perform a certain amount of work. The higher its energy consumption per unit of output, the less efficient the system is.

For example, an air conditioner that requires 750 watts of electricity to provide 6,000 Btu of cooling will be less efficient than one that can provide the same amount of cooling for only 500 watts.

The most common ratings applied to energy systems are EER and SEER for most central cooling systems; COP for some heat pumps and chillers; HSPF for heat pumps in their heating modes; and AFUE for gas furnaces and boilers.

What should I know about mold?
  • Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.
  • There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
  • If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.
  • Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.
  • Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
  • Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles, that are moldy, may need to be replaced.
  • Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
  • In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do not install carpeting (i.e., by drinking fountains, by classroom sinks, or on concrete floors with leaks or frequent condensation).
  • Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as:

  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Eye irritation
  • Wheezing
  • Skin irritation

Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include:

  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Some people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

  • Fix leaks and seepage
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces and be sure crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Vent your clothes dryer to the outside
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don’t become sources of biological pollutants
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses
  • Use insulation or storm windows
  • Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation
  • Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation
  • Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home
  • Pay special attention to the carpet on concrete floors because carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow
  • Use area rugs that can be taken up and washed often

The tips and techniques presented in this section will help you clean up your mold problem. Professional cleaners or remediators may use methods not covered in this publication. Please note that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage. It may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.

  • Fix plumbing leaks and other water problems as soon as possible
  • Dry all items completely.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely.
  • Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy
  • Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces
  • If you are unsure about how to clean an item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, you may wish to consult a specialist
  • Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet
  • Water can damage the motors in electrical appliances, such as furnaces, freezers, refrigerators, washing machines, and dryers
  • If electrical appliances have been under water, have them dried out and reconditioned by a qualified service repairman
  • Do not turn on damaged electrical appliances because the electrical parts can become grounded and pose an electric shock hazard or overheat and cause a fire
  • Before flipping a switch or plugging in an appliance, have an electrician check the house wiring and appliance to make sure it is safe to use
  • Use a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electric shock injuries
  • Check to make sure your smoke detector is functioning
  • Wet carpet and other furnishings can lead to the growth of biological pollutants
Am I eligible for tax credits?

Check your eligibility through Energy Star.

You can claim a qualifying tax credit by filling out Submission Form 5695 (2021).

Click here to find instructions regarding this form.