Posts tagged ‘Safe Water’

“Mom, Our basement stinks!”

Home Service Corp. Plumbing

Finished Basement

Have you ever had an offensive odor in your home that you just could not find the source? Have you been able to determine it’s coming from the basement? From time to time we receive a call from a homeowner wanting us to send a Technician out to check into “a bad” odor in their home emanating from their basement.

The customer tells our Customer Service Rep that they have checked to be sure the dog or cat has not left a surprise for them in the basement. A search of the basement has not come up with a dead critter of some sort either. The children didn’t have an issue and put soiled clothing in the basement laundry basket, and the husband didn’t drop his sweaty gym clothes or sports equipment in the basement. The customer has tried covering up the odor with one of those new sprays but to no avail.

So we send a Technician out to the home to check out the situation and determine if there is a plumbing problem. When the Tech arrives, he will ask several questions of the homeowner to help him hone in on the source of the customer’s problem. Although the customer may have told the Customer Service Rep on the phone, the Tech will ask questions to be sure he fully understands the customer’s need and clarify any information he received from the office.

As the Tech begins his investigation of the odor, he will check into all the plumbing in the basement. An unfinished basement is often much easier to check since walls, floors, and ceilings are exposed and the plumbing can be traced. The Tech will check the drain piping for leaks and possible cracks. If there is a laundry area or a bathroom in the basement it will also be checked for cracked or leaking piping. The drain traps for each of these will be inspected to be sure there is water sealing each of the traps. If the trap is dry, sewer gases can escape from the system and enter the home causing the noxious odor. Although the Technician is not a general contractor or mold inspector, he/she would look for signs of mold near plumbing fixtures and other common mold occurring areas of the basement. Some forms of mold can have noticeable smells which we find offensive and could be a health hazard. The Technician would also check to be sure drain cleanouts plugs are in place and sealing the system and he/she would check the floor drains to be sure they have a good water seal in them.

Home Service Corp. Plumbing

Typical Trap

Many of these possible causes will require the expertise of a plumber or specialty contractor to solve, but a simple solution is often to add 2-3 cups of water to the floor drains in the basement on a monthly basis. This should also be done if there are plumbing fixtures that are rarely used in the basement since the water seals in the traps for those may dry up allowing sewer gas to escape into the home. Occasionally we find a floor drain trap that has rusted through the piping and requires the floor drain to be replaced.

If you have checked everything out without finding the source of the odor, give us a call. We can help.

Contact us for more information or visit our website at www.HomeServiceCorp.com.

Home Service Corporation serving our Michigan customers Heating & Air Conditioning , Plumbing and Electrical needs since 1980.

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Ouch! It’s Too Hot!

Home Service Corp Water HeatersThere is no easy answer to the how hot your water should be. It depends. It depends on the makeup of the family, the usage of the family, and safety for the family.

When I say safety, this is a two way street. If you look at the chart below, you can see it does not take a high temperature to cause burns especially for the elderly and the young. On the other hand water that is too cool can cause Legionnaire’s disease to form in the water. When a person is exposed to the vapor or water droplets the disease can form in their lungs as pneumonia. Each of these consequences are dire for a family. So what is the best option for the average family?

Let’s look at what the maximum temperature at a faucet where a child, an elderly individual or an adult may be scalded. These would be shower, bathtub, and combination bathtub/shower faucets. Very few faucets with separate hot and cold handles can be set for a maximum temperature so the solution for these would be to replace the faucet with a single handle faucet with a temperature limit built into it. The temperature limit must be set for each home since the incoming water temperature to the faucet can vary. The maximum temperature should be set below 120° F, preferably at 115° F. The faucet should also have at least a pressure balance feature. This feature reduces the flow of hot water when it senses a reduction of flow from the cold water supply. This could be caused by a toilet flush, a faucet turned on to cold, or a sprinkler operating.

Sinks do not require a maximum temperature on residential applications since higher temperatures may be desired and the thought is that a person could quickly remove their hands from the flow of water if it was extremely hot. In commercial application the code requires a maximum temperature of 120° F at sinks to protect handicap individuals. If you have a concern or a need to control the hot water temperature at a sink, there are controls which can be installed at individual sinks.

If you keep your water heater at 130° F or lower you are increasing the chances of Legionnaire’s Disease developing within the tank or piping. A water heater set at 120° F can have water inside of it as low as 100° F. The Department of Energy recommends 120° F set point but OSHA recommends 140° F to minimize the formation of the Legionnaire’s Disease bacteria.

Table of Hot Water Scalding Temperatures & Times

Water Temperature Setting

Exposure Time

Effects of Exposure to Hot water at These Temperatures

Water at 100°   F or below See safety   note. Most   water heaters are unlikely to scald an adult occupant;
Water at 120°   F 5 minutes 2nd & 3rd   degree burns on adult skin
Water at 130°   F 30 seconds 2nd & 3rd   degree burns on adult skin
Water at 140°   F 5 seconds 2nd & 3rd   degree burns on adult skin
Water at 150°   F 1 1/2 seconds 2nd & 3rd   degree burns on adult skin
Water at 160°   F 1/2 second 2nd & 3rd   degree burns on adult skin
Safety Note:   Hot Water Scald Burn Warning for Infants, Children, Elderly: great care must be taken when   exposing infants or children to warm or hot water as they can be badly burned   quickly and at shorter exposure times.
Source: A.O. Smith

Our recommendation is to set you tank at a temperature no higher than 140° F also be sure your shower and bathtub faucets are set at 115° F as the maximum temperature. This will provide reasonable protection from scalding and Legionnaire’s Disease. As stated above, if you still have concerns about sink faucet temperatures, a control can be added to the sinks in your home.

Contact us for more information or visit our website at www.HomeServiceCorp.comHome Service Corporation serving our Michigan customers Heating & Air Conditioning , Plumbing and Electrical needs since 1980.

Lead in Your Water?

Beginning in 2014, all piping, valves, fittings, and faucets used in drinking water systems must be lead-free that are used for water consumed by humans in the United States. What are the issues and what has already been done to protect the public? First, let’s look at the history of lead and drinking water.

History of Lead and Drinking Water

Home Service Corp.

Old Lead Water Pipe

The definition of a plumber is a person who works with water pipes, once made from lead, or with lead solder for the joints. The Romans used lead pipes, and the word plumber comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbum. There is no Latin, or even Indo-European, etymology for plumbum but it bears a distant similarity to the Greek word for lead. Some historians believe the decline of the Roman Empire was as least partially caused by the abundant use of lead in piping, eating utensils, pots, pans and other uses. This is still an ongoing controversy. Lead piping was used for 2,000 plus years for drinking water distribution. Lead was used for solder to connect copper piping when copper replaced lead in pipe material primarily due to cost.

The Issue

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Infants and children who drink water containing lead in excess of the action level could experience delays in their physical or mental development. Children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure.”

What has already been done?

Prior to the 1960’s lead was often used for the water line from the city main into the home. In 1986 lead based solder for joining copper piping was banned. In 1988 all piping and fixtures were required to be lead free which required them to contain less that 8% lead content. So we have already had a significant reduction in the use of lead in our water supply system within a home. At present lead is either present in the systems of older homes or in the valves and faucets used in homes. Those valves and faucets are made of brass which is an excellent material for this use when lead in the amount of 2% is added to the copper and zinc to improve the machinability. This is the area that lead is required to be removed from the drinking water distribution system.

What is being done?

Manufactures of valves and fittings and faucets are approaching this challenge in several ways. Some are lining the water way through the valve, fitting or faucet with epoxies, plastics, stainless steel and other materials which are completely lead free. Some are building their products out of other materials such as plastic or stainless steel. Others are changing the components of the brass they are using to eliminate the lead content.

How can I reduce lead in drinking water at home?

If you have a lead water service in your home, replacement would be the very best option to reduce the chances of lead leeching into your drinking water supply. You will have valves, fittings and faucets in your home which will contain very small amounts of lead. Having your water tested would be a reasonable option.

If these are not options because of cost or other obstacles then flush your pipes before drinking, and only use cold water for consumption. The more time water has been sitting in your home’s pipes, the more lead it may contain. Anytime the water in a particular faucet has not been used for six hours or longer, “flush” your cold-water pipes by running the water until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take as little as five to thirty seconds if there has been recent heavy water use such as showering or toilet flushing. Otherwise, it could take two minutes or longer. Your water utility will inform you if longer flushing times are needed to respond to local conditions. As lead piping ages there is often a coating of calcium carbonate which provides significant protection from lead leeching into the water.

Use only water from the cold-water tap for drinking, cooking, and especially for making baby formula. Hot water is likely to contain higher levels of lead. The two actions recommended above are very important to the health of your family. They will probably be effective in reducing lead levels because most of the lead in household water usually comes from the plumbing in your house, not from the local water supply.

In lieu of replacing the hazardous parts of a plumbing system, there are several methods of treating water to make it less corrosive, or to remove lead from water. Water filtration may be a help to treat water to make it less corrosive, including:

  • Calcite filters
  • Carbon cartridge filters
  • Ion exchange resin cartridge filters
  • Activated alumina cartridge filters

Lead removal devices are typically applied individually to faucets and are not 100% effective, but can usually remove at least 85% of lead from a water system. They may employ such methods as:

  • Reverse osmosis
  • Distillation
  • Carbon filters

These procedures may not be appropriate for your plumbing system; you should consult us to make sure these measures are sufficient to reduce the lead content to acceptable levels before implementing them.

Contact us for more information or visit our website at www.HomeServiceCorp.com.

Home Service Corporation Celebrating since 1980 serving our Michigan customers’ Heating & Air Conditioning , Plumbing and Electrical needs.