Archive for Plumbing

Preventing Frozen Pipes

Frozen Pipes – 20 minutes can save you thousands of dollars & a major headache

These simple steps can help you prevent frozen pipes when the temperatures plummet.

The pipes most at risk are those in unheated interior spaces such as basements, attics, and garages. But even pipes running through cabinets or exterior walls can freeze. The good news is there are some easy things you can do to keep your water running and your house dry.

  • Keep your garage doors closed, especially if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. (If you have small children or pets, be sure to remove any harmful cleaners and household chemicals.)
  • Let the cold water drip from a faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe—even at a trickle—helps prevent pipes from freezing. And if the pipes do freeze, the release pressure in the water system will reduce the likelihood of a rupture.
  • If you normally turn the thermostat down at night, don’t do it during frigid temperatures. Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.

Don’t forget your outdoor faucets.

In frosty temperatures, the outdoor water spigots installed on the wall of your home can easily freeze and burst. Unfortunately, the rupture in the pipe often occurs just inside the walls of your home, where it can lead to water damage if not quickly spotted. But it’s easy to prevent this problem with a couple of winterizing steps.

  • The first preventive step is to disconnect garden hoses. A hose that remains attached to the faucet may prevent residual water from draining. This trapped water can then freeze and cause the faucet to burst.
  • The next step is to install an outdoor faucet cover over each spigot on your home. These cost less than $10 each and can be purchased at local hardware stores and home improvement centers. They are very easy to install and are cheap insurance against potentially costly damage.
  • If you want to take an extra precaution and your home has a separate shut-off for external faucets, turn it off and drain the water from those faucets.
  • Turn off and drain sprinkler systems. You may want to call your professional service provider to find out the best steps for your particular system.

Here’s how to thaw frozen pipes if you wake up to problems.

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, it’s likely a frozen pipe. There are a couple of steps you can take to try to solve the problem yourself.

  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • To find the frozen section, just feel for where it is colder than the rest of the pipe. Apply heat to the section of pipe that is frozen, using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. DO NOT use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Keep applying heat until full water pressure is restored. Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Call James River Air if you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe.

What to do if you have a burst pipe?

When a pipe ruptures, act quickly to prevent as much water damage as possible until you can get professional help from a plumber.

  • If the rupture is near electrical fittings or cables, turn off power to the area.
  • Turn off the water supply.
  • If hot water is leaking from the pipe, turn off the supply valve coming from the water heater.
  • If your pipes aren’t frozen, open the faucets to drain the water. If the burst pipe is frozen, repairs need to be made before it is thawed.

Caution: If you need to drain the water from your pipes, first turn off your water heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

We hope that these simple preventive steps will save you from having any problems. But if you do end up with frozen or burst pipes that you cannot fix, our experienced plumbers are ready to come get your pipes running properly. Just give us a call at (804) 358-9333!

Why Is My Sump Pump Not Working?

Why Is My Sump Pump Not Working?

You’re probably asking this question because you’ve experienced some water in your basement during or after a heavy rain. There are a number of steps you can take to diagnose and fix the problem before the next storm hits.

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What are the main causes for a sump pump to fail & how do I fix them?

  1. The sump pump is not getting power.

  • Check to make sure the electrical outlet the pump is plugged into is working. Plug something else into the outlet & if it’s not working, then check to see if the circuit breaker has been tripped.
  • Sump pumps require a lot of electricity, so you want it to be on its own circuit breaker.
  • If you have to use an extension cord, make sure you’re using one that can handle the voltage.
  1. There is a problem with the float switch.

    • Before checking anything inside the pump, be sure to unplug it from the power source.
    • The float switch on your sump pump operates in a similar way to the float switch in your toilet. If it can’t engage properly, the pump will not turn on or off.
    • The pump may have shifted inside the basin, causing the float switch to lodge against its side. Check to make sure it’s in the proper position.
    • Debris may also be a factor in preventing the switch from operating freely, so clear away any that you see.
  2. The screen inside the pump is blocked.

    • Sump pumps have an intake screen at the bottom through which the water flows into the pump. Check to make sure that it hasn’t been plugged by debris and that water can flow freely.
  1. The discharge line has become clogged.

    • Sump pumps typically expel water out of your basement and away from your foundation through a discharge pipe. If water can’t exit your home, the system will not work.
    • The end of the pipe will be outside your house, with the drain pipe on a downslope leading away from the house.
    • Inspect the end of the pipe to make sure there isn’t any debris blocking the water flow. Be sure to shine a flashlight into the pipe to see if something is farther inside. Clear away any debris you find.

I think I fixed the problem but how do I test my sump pump to make sure it’s working?

First, make sure the sump pump is plugged back into the electrical outlet. Then dump enough clean water into the pump to raise the float switch and listen for it to start up. If you can, have someone outside to make sure the water comes out of the drainage pipe.

If you couldn’t find the problem or your sump pump is still not working after you test it, then it could be the pump motor is broken, the sump pump itself is defective, or there is a clog in the drainage line that you can’t access. In that case, just give us a call at (804) 358-9333 and one of experienced plumbers will be right out to make sure your sump pump is working before the next heavy rain comes! Learn more about us at www.jamesriverair.com.

What Causes Your Water Heater to Make Loud Rumbling Noises?

What Causes Your Water Heater To Make Loud Rumbling Noises?

Loud noises coming from your hot water heater is obviously concerning. The good news is that it isn’t dangerous; it’s not going to blow up. But you do need to fix the problem so you can keep taking those hot showers we all enjoy, especially in the winter!

So what’s causing the noise and what should you do about it?

The most common culprit is that sediment has built up at the bottom of your water heater tank.

Where does the sediment in the tank come from?

It’s from the water itself. As water makes its way from rain falling on the ground, through waterways and into our water systems, it collects minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium.) Homes that have ‘hard’ water are particularly susceptible to mineral buildup.

What does this sediment do to your water heater?

As the sediment builds up in the tank you will began to hear a rumbling sound. As the amount of sediment increases, the noise increases.

The sediment sinks to the bottom of your tank where the heating element is. Water gets mixed in and trapped underneath the sediment. As your water heater’s burner heats that water, it creates steam bubbles that are forced to escape the sediment layers and that’s what causes the loud knocking or rumbling noise.

The sediment acts like insulation, reducing the heat transfer within the tank, so your water heater’s burner has to work harder. And working harder mean less efficiency and higher utility bills.

A bigger issue is that sediment buildup can overheat the water heater’s metal tank, causing it to deteriorate. It will only be a matter of time before the tank will rust and begin leaking or burst, causing possible water damage in your home.

So how is this water heater problem fixed?

Your hot water heater needs to be drained and the sediment flushed out. You can do it yourself or call a professional plumber. Draining your water heater is fairly straight forward but the process has number of steps that must be followed exactly to avoid damage.

We’re biased, of course, and suggest you let one of our licensed plumbers do it for you. While we’re there we can thoroughly inspect your water heater to make sure there are no other problems. An efficiently running water heater not only saves on utility bills but also prolongs the life of your water heater.

So if you don’t feel confident about doing it yourself or don’t have the time, just give us a call and we’ll be right over.

If you have any questions feel free to contact us at (804) 358-9333 or at jamesriverair.com. If you want to learn more about our Tankless Hot Water solution visit this link: Tankless Water Heaters.

Water Heaters – New vs. Old

As you may have heard, new regulations went into effect earlier this year that required design changes in residential water heaters.  The new style is more efficient, but has a significantly larger diameter.  Here’s a “Pre-2015” model on the left along with a “Current” model on the right.

If you think your water heater might be due for replacement, take a look at the space that’s available where it’s installed.  Plan ahead so that if and when your water heater does fail, you’re not caught by surprise with a space that won’t accommodate the new style heaters.

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Before & After Boiler Installation

Here are some impressive before and after pictures from Chris, one of our master plumbers.  Nice work!

Before:

Boiler Replace Richmond

After:

Boiler Replace Richmond

Cold Weather is Coming… Check Your Water Hoses

Just a friendly reminder that cold weather is coming, so don’t forget to disconnect your water hoses!  When it gets below freezing, this can lead to split pipes as seen below.  When it thaws out, you’ll have a nasty mess!

Broken Pipe Richmond

Our plumbers go anywhere… and we mean *anywhere*!

Here’s Chris Harlow, who heads up our residential plumbing team, going underground to check out a rainwater storage tank for one of our clients.  You can tell from the look on his face that this is one of his favorite assignments!

Plumbing Tank Richmond

Chris Harlow, Master Plumber

State Tankless Water Heater Install

Here’s a picture sent in by our team of residential plumbers of a State tankless water heater.  Our residential and commercial plumbers install tankless models in addition to regular tank water heaters.  Contact us today if you’re interested in learning more!

State Tankless Water Heater Install

State Tankless Water Heater Install

Water Pipe Replacement

Here’s a photo of a water line repair one of our plumbers are working on.   The client’s old copper piping had developed pinhole leaks.  They are on a well and had low water pressure (40 psi).  With the new pex piping, we are able to bump up the pressure to 70 psi.

James River Air provides the world’s best residential and commercial plumbing services, including water heaters, faucets, water lines, toilets, sewer repairs, garbage disposals, well pumps, and more!

Water Line Replacement

Water Line Replacement

 

Broken Water Pipes or Fittings Can Cause Catastrophic Damage to Your Home or Business

Seconds count, when a plumbing fitting or pipe breaks loose in your household or business.

Your family members or key business associates need to know where the water shut off valve is for your building.  Shut off valves should be clearly labeled, and checked periodically to ensure they function properly.  Business owners should consider an annual plumbing inspection to check these valves, and inspect key plumbing components as a preventive measure.

James River Air recommends you take a moment to locate your key cut off valves, have them labeled, and educate those you will depend on to minimize the damage by knowing where to cut the water off fast.  It is usually located inside the building right where the water line comes in through the wall or foundation.   If you need help locating this, a professional plumbing contractor, like James River Air Conditioning Company will be happy to assist and test this valve for you.  There are also often small localized shut off valves at sinks & other bathroom fixtures, for a localized solution.

For even faster ability to cut off your water main, and automatic shut of in the case of a large water release, James River Air recommends, and can install an electric water shut off valve.  Contact us today for more information!

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