Plumbing, Drain and Sewer FAQs

Plumbing, Drain Cleaning and Sewer - Frequently Asked QuestionsYou’ve Got Questions. We’ve Got Answers!

Horizon Services, Inc. is THE plumbing, drain cleaning and sewer authority in Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, South New Jersey, and Northeastern Maryland.

Over the years, we have fielded thousands of questions from customers like you about toilets, sinks, faucets, tubs, showers, hot water heaters, pipes, garbage disposals, dishwashers, septic tanks, sewer lines, drains, leaks and drips. Below are answers to some of the most common questions we receive.

Every few minutes, water runs into my toilet tank. What can I do?
If your reservoir empties out on a regular basis or never completely fills, check the rubber flapper in your toilet and make sure that is it not corroded or become warped. Some chemicals can cause rubber parts to distort and thus allowing water to leak out of the reservoir. Jiggling the flush handle to get the flapper to seal may work for a while, but eventually even this fails. When this happens, you’ll need to replace the flapper with a new one. Most toilets utilize a universal flapper, but some brands require custom flappers to be made by their own manufacturer. The best thing to do is shut off the water to the toilet and remove the flapper. Bring the flapper to a hardware store and find a comparable one to replace it with.

Should I be concerned if my toilet is running?
You bet. Not only is it annoying to listen to, it’s a waste of water and money. Leaky toilets can add almost $100 extra per year to your water bills. If the toilet continues to run after the toilet is flushed, it indicates that some part of the internal mechanism is out of order or broken. Often a little jiggling of the toilet handle solves the problem. Sometimes a simple part needs to be replaced. The worst case scenario is that the entire mechanism needs to be replaced. No matter what the cause, Horizon Services can diagnose and fix the problem.

My water bills appear to be high. I have not noticed any water leaks. What else could be contributing to my high water bill?
Check to see if a toilet is leaking. Here’s how:

  1. First, make sure that the water level in the tank is not overflowing by way of the overflow pipe (the pipe in the middle of the tank with a small tubing connected to it). If water is running into the overflow pipe, adjust the fill valve to stop the flow approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube or to the water level mark stamped on the side of the tank.
  2. Second, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank to test the flush valve mechanism. If the water in the bowl changes color within 15 minutes, this is an indication that water is leaking into the toilet bowl and that the ball or flapper needs to be replaced.

How do I know if my toilet is leaking?
Sometimes leaking toilets can go unnoticed for a long time. Signs that your toilet is in need of repair or might be leaking:

  • A toilet that is not being used should be silent. Any noise coming from it might be an indicator of a leak.
  • Water keeps running from the tank into the toilet bowl after it has been flushed, even just a trickle.
  • After flushing, the toilet the tank won’t fill again and you can’t flush again.
  • You have to move or jiggle the toilet handle to make the water stop running.
  • The toilet handle is loose.
  • You need to keep holding down the toilet handle while flushing in order to complete the flushing process.
  • Water spots or mold along the wall behind the tank.
  • Phantom flushing: your toilet turns the water on without your flushing it.

If these problems persist, call Horizon Services.

I hear a whistle sound that seems to be coming from the plumbing system. What could be causing this?
These kinds of sounds are usually caused by a toilet fill valve that is slowly leaking. To locate the leaking toilet, remove the lid of each toilet tank and adjust the fill valve mechanism until it stops. Once you have found the toilet causing the problem, repair or replace the fill valve.

My toilet flushes weakly. Is there anything I can do about this?
Here are some reasons why you may not be getting optimal flushing power:

  • What is your toilet’s flush capacity? When the government made the 1.6 gallon flush mandatory a few years back, most of them did not flush very well; however, manufacturers now have them perfected so they do a good job.
  • Check the water level in your tank and always set the water level to just below the over flow tube this will create more water force when flushed.
  • You may have something stuck in your trap on the toilet or something in the sewer line. If your toilet is very old, the smooth porcelain finish in the trap may be eroded away causing slow flushes.
  • The holes around the rim where the water enters the toilet are plugged.
  • Your toilet may not be properly vented.

Here’s a quick technique you can try to boost flushing power. Bend the float arm upwards. This makes the water rise higher before the ballcock shuts water off. The higher water level allows more water to flush before the flapper closes. Likewise, bend the float arm down if the water level rises above the overflow tube or if you desire a weaker flush.

If weak flushing persists after your attempts to resolve, please call Horizon Services. We can review your many options with you.

What should I avoid flushing down the toilet to prevent clogs?
The toilet should not be used as an all-purpose disposal device. Technically, you shouldn’t flush anything down the toilet, other than human waste and toilet paper. Do not flush the following:

  • Baby wipes, napkins, facial tissue or paper towels. They may flush OK for a while; but they won’t dissolve in water like toilet paper, and they can easily cause clogs.
  • Sanitary products or diapers.
  • Q-tips, cotton balls or dental floss
  • Hair
  • Food scraps – that is what garbage disposals are for.
  • Small toys

My toilet is loose and rocks. What should I do?
There is a series of round cap on the back or sides of your toilet. Remove the caps and you will see a nut which you can tighten. You also may have an uneven floor. For this, the bowl will need to be shimmed to stop the rocking. If the rocking is excessive, you should remove the bowl and check the stool flange to make sure it is not broken and replace the wax seal to make sure there are no leaks.

I had a new toilet installed and it leaks at the base. What’s the problem?
A leaky toilet base is often caused by a flange not being sealed all the way. The top of the flange that the toilet sits on must be even with the floor. If the floor is uneven or if the flange is too high, then the toilet might have to be shimmed. If the flange is too low, place a wax ring on the bottom and another one on top with the plastic horn insert.

Why do I have hot water in my toilet?
It could be due to a bad flapper in the toilet tank or a bad fill valve. Some toilets have a mixing valve to prevent condensation; this adds a little hot water to raise the temperature. When this system is not functioning correctly, the bowl can fill up with hot water! Try replacing the flapper; if this doesn’t fix the problem, call Horizon Services.

My toilet is not flushing and water is backing up into my shower/tub, what is wrong?
You probably have a clogged drain or sewer line. Horizon Services can clear this with a drain cleaning machine or a rooting machine. This is a device that sends a long cable down your drain attached with a cutting head at the end. This cutting head will cut through and clean out whatever is blocking your sewer and drain pipes. The cable comes in different sizes to fit different fixtures ranging from tubs and small sinks to large sewer lines.

What causes my faucet to drip?
Most faucets work with a rubber or composition washer that closes onto a metal washer seat. Over time, the washer hardens and cracks or simply gets worn down. This causes the faucet to leak. You can close the faucet tighter to stop the drip, but this is just temporary. In fact, you’re just increasing the internal damage to the washer and faucet and the problem is only going to get worse. Usually when a faucet drips, the problem has a relatively simple solution: the washers or other internal mechanisms need to be rebuilt or replaced. You can do this yourself or a Horizon Services plumbing technician can fix this easily and inexpensively.

Is there a way to extend the life of my washers?
Yes. Turn your faucets on and off gently rather than forcefully. This will greatly reduce wear and tear.

My single handle faucet drips, but if I move the handle just a little bit it stops dripping. How come?
The washers are beginning to wear out. It’s time to rebuild or replace your faucet. This will normally take care of you problem. You can buy a faucet kit at your local hardware store. You may want to disassemble the faucet and bring the parts with you to match them against what the store has in stock.

Why does my sink faucet rattle?
The most common cause of rattling pipes is a loose washer in the faucet. To fix, remove the screen at the end of the faucet, then flush the washer out by turning on the water. If that doesn’t work, dismantle the faucet and replace the old washer.

I have a two handle kitchen faucet. When I turn on the cold water, it chatters loudly. What causes this?
This chattering sound probably means you have a loose faucet washer. To fix, turn your water off at the faucet and take your faucet apart from the top two handles and tighten the washers or replace them. Or call Horizon Services and we can do it for you in a jiffy.

I keep replacing the washers in my two handle tub faucet, but they don’t last very long. When I take out the old washer it is chewed up. What causes this?
The brass seats on these old faucets are bad and have rough edges. Most seats are replaceable, but you will need a special wrench to get them out. This can sometime be a problem. Make sure you use Teflon tape on the threads of the new seats so they seal correctly.

I hear a dripping noise but no water leaks. What could it be?
If you have copper pipes, it is probably the sound of the pipe expanding and contracting as it heats and cools. This is normal for copper pipes; there is little you can do about it except to make sure the pipe is not rubbing against anything. This is often seen when a water pipe has been installed through a wood floor. During the original construction, the hole for the pipe going between floors is drilled too small, so the pipe rubs against the wood as it expands and contracts. The noise it makes simulates a dripping sound. The usual remedy is to make a hole in the wall, locate the pipe and insulate and or enlarge the opening where it penetrates.

What should I do in case of an emergency like water dripping from my ceiling?
If there are any electrical appliances nearby, turn off the electricity off at the main breaker to prevent any possible electrocution or starting of fires. Next, turn off your main water shut off valve to prevent the drip from turning into a flood. This valve is usually located near your water meter. Once the water flow has stopped, call Horizon Services and we’ll send a plumbing technician to your home to fix the problem.

My faucets and shower heads have a white substance around the area where the water comes out. Is there anything I can do other than replace them?
This unsightly buildup is caused by mineral deposits. To remove them, pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag. Place the bag over the showerhead or faucets and hold it in place with a twist tie overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and gently scrub off the deposits with an old toothbrush.

My garbage disposal won’t run after it was jammed. Do I need a new one?
Not necessarily. Chances are, breaking down could be due to various reasons and the disposal may not need to be replaced right away. Something might have just blocked the blades from moving. First, make sure the disposal is not jammed with a fibrous food or hard object such as silverware. Please make sure the garbage disposal is TURNED OFF or even disconnected from the power before reaching down into the disposal to remove any objects. If you don’t find anything that could have jammed the disposal, try to reset it with the reset button (usually located underneath the garbage disposal) or check your breaker switch in your breaker box. More often than not, this will do the trick. If not, the motor may be damaged and have to be replaced or repaired.

What can I put in my garbage disposal?
Contrary to popular belief, not everything! Here are some tips to keep your garbage disposal working properly:

  • First, always run cold water when running the disposal to move the waste all the way down the drain lines. Fats and grease congeal and harden in cold water, allowing them to be flushed through the system. Hot water, on the other hand, should not be used because it can dissolve fats and grease, which may then accumulate in the drain line.
  • Most biodegradable food waste can be fed into disposers. Non-fibrous foods such as meat, eggs, eggshells, apples, fruit and vegetable peelings are safe for most garbage disposal systems.
  • Avoid foods such as cornhusks, celery stalks, asparagus, artichokes or other material with high fiber content.
  • Under no circumstances should you put glass, plastic or metal non-food materials through a disposer. This includes bottle caps, tin covers or aluminum foil, which are some of the items service technicians commonly find in clogged or broken disposers. Avoid clam and oyster shells.
  • Maintenance is easy. Grinding small chicken bones and eggshells actually helps clean the disposal by scraping away stubborn deposits or citric acid and pulp. Grinding a little ice is another way to clean deposits and get rid of odors.

Should I let the water run while using the garbage disposal?
You should always run water while food is passing through the garbage disposal; even for a few seconds after you have turned the disposal off. This prevents the blades from running hot and it helps the food pass easily through the pipes.

Why is water backing up into my sink while I run the dishwasher?
There is usually a connection between the dishwasher and the drain from the garbage disposal. Food left behind in the garbage disposal can clog that connection to the main drain and back water up into your sink. To prevent this, make sure that your disposal is free of food before running the dishwasher. Run the garbage disposal with plenty of water before turning the dishwasher on.

My garbage disposal broke down, what now?
Don’t hurry out to buy a new garbage disposal – breaking down could be due to various reasons and the disposal may not need to be replaced right away. Something might have just blocked the blades from moving. First, make sure the disposal is not jammed with a hard object such as silverware (spoons, etc.). Please make sure the garbage disposal is TURNED OFF or even disconnected from the power.

If you don’t find anything that could have jammed the disposal, try to reset it with the reset button (usually located underneath the garbage disposal) or check your breaker switch in your breaker box.

What can I do about foul odors coming from my garbage disposal?
Odors in the garbage disposal are usually caused by a buildup of food debris. To eliminate odors, try placing a handful of ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposal and running for about 30 seconds. Next, squirt some liquid dish detergent or ammonia into the disposal while it is still running. Finally, run cold water for about 30 seconds to rinse all the debris away.

Some other things you can try:

  • Stop the drain and fill the sink with hot water. Add 1-2 cups of laundry bleach and a few drops of liquid dish soap while the water is running. Then, when the sink is almost full, pull the plug and as it begins to drain, turn on the garbage disposal. This should reduce much if not all odor.
  • Pour half a box of baking soda down the drain. Then take vinegar and pour it into the drain slowly until the foam begins to go down. Turn on the disposal and the hot water when it stops foaming. Leave the disposal on for about a minute, and allow the hot water to run for 5 or 10 minutes.
  • Put pieces of citrus fruit in your garbage disposal and let it run every so often.
  • Don’t let large bits of leftover food accumulate in the garbage disposal.

Does it make any difference if hot or cold water is used while running my garbage disposal?
While it’s safe to run hot water from the sink through the garbage disposal, we recommend that you use cold water when you are operating the disposal. Use a strong flow of cold water and keep the disposal running at least 30 seconds after grinding has stopped so that all food particles are flushed through the drain line. Cold water will also any solidify fatty and greasy waste so they it be chopped up and flushed down the drain (hot water will make fat and grease liquefy and coagulate).

My dishwasher pumps out the water into my disposal. Is this normal?
Yes this is very normal it helps to clean out your disposal. Some codes do not allow this unless it goes through an anti-siphon device first.

My pipes rattle when the dishwasher runs. Should I be concerned?
Check to see if any pipes are rubbing against one another or on a rough surface inside the wall or floor. The copper water supply to the dishwasher may be rubbing against a rough surface. Dishwashers have a solenoid valve (and other electronic appliances) that shuts the water off in an instant. The sudden stop is what causes water hammer. Sometimes the noise is generated from water heaters that have energy-saving nipples on top.

Why is there rust in my dishwasher?
You may have galvanized pipes. These pipes are coated with zinc to protect against rust. . If this zinc barrier becomes corroded, the inside of your pipes will begin to rust. Unfortunately, galvanized pipes cannot be cleaned. Many dishwashers are equipped with a screen, located on the front- bottom panel of the machine. This screen may gather rust and be the source of the problem. You can try using a filter in the hot water line, but to fix the problem permanently, it’s recommended to replace the galvanized pipe with copper.

How do roots get into water and sewer lines?
Tree and shrub roots require oxygen and water to grow. During drought conditions and in the winter, thirsty roots will travel long distances in search of moisture and oxygen. Often they follow the trail of moisture vapors escaping from small cracks, holes, or poorly sealed joints in water and sewer lines. The roots penetrate the opening to reach the nutrients and moisture inside the pipes.

Some pipe materials are more susceptible to root invasion than others. Clay tile pipe is the most easily penetrated. Concrete pipe may also allow root intrusion, but to a lesser extent. PVC pipe usually has fewer joints and the tightly fitted joints are less likely to leak as a result of settlement around the pipe.

What happens when roots get inside lines?
If left undisturbed, the roots will completely fill the pipe with hair-like root masses. The root masses quickly become clogged with toilet tissue, grease and other debris flowing from your home to the main sewer. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed and enough waste material accumulates.

Once roots have entered the pipe, they continue to grow and expand, exerting considerable pressure at the crack or joint. This increased pressure can cause the pipe to break or collapse, in which case it will need to be repaired or completely replaced.

How can I control roots in my pipes?
If roots have entered your pipes, Horizon Services can remove the roots without tearing up your yard. And we can apply a compound which prevents future root growth. This compound will kill only the roots growing in the pipes and will not affect the rest of your tree’s root system.

What is the recommended method for preventing root intrusion in the main sewer line?
Proper preventative maintenance should include clearing out the drain on a regular basis. Your Horizon sewer and water line technician can recommend the proper maintenance schedule as well as any chemicals which might be placed in the drain system so as to prevent the roots from entering your pipes.

How often should I have my septic system inspected?
Septic systems should be inspected and pumped a minimum of once every three to four years. You may not be experiencing any problem now, but a full septic tank may allow unwanted solids to flow into and block the system’s drain field, rendering it ineffective. A blocked drain field is quite costly to repair or replace.

What can I do about a foul odor coming from a drain in my bathroom in my basement?
Most plumbing systems utilize a P-trap attached to each fixture’s drain to prevent foul-smelling sewer gases from seeping into your home. These traps retain water to create a seal between the house and sewer line, keeping those gases out. If a shower or drain is not used for a long period of time, the water in the trap can evaporate, allowing the sewer gas into your home.

To solve this problem, pour a bucket of water in each trap, sink, shower and floor drain. This will refill the water seal and prevent the odors from entering the house. If the smell persists, call Horizon Services.

What role do vents play in the plumbing system?
Roof vents are very important to your plumbing system, because they guide sewer gases out of your home. Air is needed to force the liquid down the pipe. If there are no vents, an unpleasant odor arises when drain liquid sucks air from plumbing fixture traps.

Do blocked vents affect water from draining?
Yes. A vent lets air into a plumbing system. Without this air, a vacuum will be created and water will drain slowly or even be blocked from flowing evenly. This can impact your toilet’s performance or prevent sinks and showers from draining properly. A toilet might not flush waste out of the bowl or a sink or shower may not properly drain if a vent is blocked.

Should I re-pipe my house with copper?
It’s your call. Copper is a much safer and more durable than traditional galvanized iron piping. New copper pipes should easily last the entire life of your house; galvanized iron, on the other hand, only last about thirty years tops and will start to rust and put unhealthy deposits into your water without you knowing it. Another option is PVC or plastic pipe. PVC is very common in Europe and becoming more popular in America. PVC is still fairly new and many cities still don’t approve of it. However, it is much cheaper than copper and faster to install.

What’s better: copper or plastic water pipe?
Copper pipe is generally considered a superior piping material than plastic. Copper is a permanent installation that almost never needs repair. It does not corrode, easily bend or become brittle. Plastic pipe, while more flexible, can become brittle over time and needs to be hung or supported so that the pipe does not bend. Plastic pipe also requires adhesive and takes longer to dry than soldered copper pipe. Plastic is also much cheaper than copper, a metal whose price continues to rise.

Some plastics are susceptible to damage from chemicals. The chemicals used to treat drinking water, such as chlorine, are drying agents. Over time, they can pull oils from plastic water pipes and fittings, causing fittings and joints to shrink, fail, and suddenly leak. Sometimes, the pipe actually splits, creating a catastrophic leak.

What is the difference between PVC pipes and CPVC plastic pipes?
Both are thermoplastic pipe and fitting materials. PVC (poly vinyl chloride) is designed for cold water only, whereas CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) is acceptable for both hot and cold lines. CPVC is a more ductile, crush-resistant, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant material. PVC is also commonly used in drainpipes.

Do I still have to be afraid of harmful lead in my water?
It depends on how old your house is. If your house was built before the 1980’s you have a higher chance of having lead in your water. Back then, lead was used in the installation of copper tubing. If water sits dormant in these pipes, the lead content in water will elevate. To protect yourself, either let the water run for a while in the morning, or consider a water filter.

I turned off my outdoor spigots in the autumn before the cold weather arrived. However, the pipes leading to our outside spigot still froze and broke. What happened?
Turning off the water is not enough. You must also disconnect the garden hose connected to the spigot to allow the water in the pipe to drain out. This will allow the pipes to withstand the cold weather.

How can I prevent leaking pipes?
Early detection is your best weapon. Take the time to periodically inspect your pipes. If you see rust or lime deposits, this may indicate the start of a leak. Call Horizon Services to assess the problem. We can help you stop a small problem before it turns into a large one.

How long should my piping system last?
Typically, a galvanized piping system can last 30-50 years before you will begin to notice poor water quality. Some galvanized systems have started to deteriorate in as little as 3 years; others are 75 years old and look almost new. Lots of factors affect the lifespan of a water system, including the quality of the pipe material and the water quality and soil composition where you live. One common misconception is that copper piping will last forever. Although copper will typically last longer than galvanized, its lifespan can also be affected by the quality, water and soil.

I hear a rumbling, bubbling sound coming from the water heater. What could cause this?
Rumbling water heater noises usually mean that sediment has built up on the bottom of the water heater. What you hear is boiling water trapped in the sediment. As sediment accumulates, it will prevent heat from transferring to the water in the tank. You may try draining a few gallons of water off the bottom of the water heater tank. This is done by attaching a drain hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank. Allow it to drain for about five minutes. (BE CAREFUL. HOT WATER IS DANGEROUS. Discharge the water into a floor drain, laundry tub or bathtub. Do not discharge hot water onto lawn or into toilet.)

This problem is common in older models of water heaters. Many newer models have a feature that prohibits sediment buildup in the tank. If you have an older model water heater, it may be cost effective to replace your unit if the buildup is severe. If the problem persists, call Horizon Services.

My hot water temperature seems to be higher than what I think I need. How can I conserve energy, yet also be sure that there is an adequate amount of hot water?
Most people are comfortable with their hot water set at 120°F, which is also the new standard that manufacturers use when pre-setting it at the factory. If you have an older model (gas or electric), set the thermostat at medium.

When I take a shower, the water starts out hot then quickly turns cold. What causes this?
Two possibilities. First, the dip tube has broken off. This is a tube that forces incoming water to the bottom of the water tank so that hot water will be drawn off of the top. When the dip tube breaks, cold water enters the tank, mixes with the hot water and cools it down. This can occur in both gas and electric models.

Second, if you have an electric water heater, the problem could be a bad heating element or a thermostat malfunction. If so, the problem should be evaluated by a Horizon Services plumbing technician.

The water in the shower gets extremely hot when someone flushes the toilet. And if someone opens a hot water faucet, the shower gets cold. Why is this?
This is extremely common in older plumbing systems where you have too many fixtures on a small water line, and you just can’t get enough hot or cold water to your fixtures when someone flushes a toilet or opens a faucet. Your options are to replace the water lines and size them properly. Or install a pressure balanced tub faucet. Today’s newer plumbing systems utilize a pressure differential type valve for the shower, so this problem does not occur.

What happens if my water heater is leaking?
You should call Horizon Services immediately. Leaking water heaters usually indicate the bottom of the tank has rusted. Keep in mind that there are very few repair options for this problem; you most likely need a new water heater.

The water coming out of my shower in one bathroom is too hot. The water coming out of another bathroom in the house is cold and won’t heat up enough. What’s the problem?
Could be scaled guard faucets. They can be adjusted to the temperature you desire by removing the faucet handle and turning the adjusting ring to the hotter or colder setting. This can be a complex repair job and is best left in the hands of a Horizon Services plumbing technician.

I turned the valve off on my water heater. But now when I try to turn it back on, it just keeps turning and I can’t get the hot water back on. What happened?
You probably have what is called a “gate valve”, and the stem has twisted off. The best thing to do is replace the gate valve with a ball valve; it has a stem that won’t twist off. Most people have replaced their old gate valve with a ball valve for this exact reason. Call Horizon Services; we’ll do the job for you in no time.

Is there a temperature setting on my water heater?
Yes. The normal water temperature setting for a water heater is 120 degrees F. Setting it at this temperature will prevent accidental burns from hot water coming out of the faucet. Some water heater models have a digital temperature control and can be set up to 190 degrees F; there really is no need to go that high.

Why can’t my water heater be placed directly on the floor?
Your water heater has a pilot light. Raising your water heater and its pilot light off the floor prevents the likelihood of fires.

What are the different types of water heaters?
The most common type of water heater is the tank-type or storage water heater in which water is kept continuously in a large tank and ready for use. These may use electricity, natural gas, propane, heating oil, solar or other energy sources; gas and electric being the most popular.

Tankless water heaters are also available and gaining in popularity. These heaters heat the water as it flows through the device, and do not retain any water internally except for what is in the heat exchanger coil. They are installed throughout a household at more than one point-of-use. The advantage of tankless water heaters are that they save space, are energy efficient and provide a continuous flow of hot water. However, they are more expensive to install.

Should I get a gas or electric water heater?
Sometimes you don’t really have a choice. Here are some things to consider:

  • Gas water heaters are more energy efficient. Gas is a cheap energy source and heats water faster.
  • Gas water heaters have a pilot light and need to be kept away from flammable liquids since they can pose a fire hazard.
  • Electric water heaters are more expensive to use, but they don’t require gas and flue piping.
  • Electric water heaters come in a lot of different sizes and can be installed almost anywhere in your home.

What size of water heater should I get?
Water heaters come in different sizes, depending on the size of your living quarters and how many people are using hot water on a daily basis. A normal household with a family of four, two bathrooms, and typical fixtures and appliances will get by with a 40 gallon water heater.

What should I do to maintain my water heater?
It’s good idea to drain the water heater every now and then. Draining the water heater will clean the bottom of the tank from harmful sediment build up. These sediments can cause the tank to overheat and shorten its life.

How long does a water heater last?
Hard to say. A lot depends on the model/brand. A 5-year model will last anywhere from 5-7 years; a 10-year model can range from 10-12 years. Proper maintenance is extremely important. You should check your water heater on a regular basis for any rust or corrosions around the valves and pipe connections; that will give you a good idea about your water heater’s condition. Other factors that impact water heater lifespan include your water quality and proper installation.

Why does my drain get clogged?
Usually drains are clogged because people are not careful of what they put in them. The kitchen sink is the worst place – all kinds of solid foods and grease make their way down the drain. The bathroom is bad too; hair, dental floss, oil residue from soap and shampoo can create nasty clogs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We recommend that you be extremely vigilant about what you put down your drains and treat them regularly with a drain cleaner.

My kitchen drain takes longer than usual to drain. Should it be cleaned?
Yes. Most slowly draining kitchen sinks are due to a buildup of food products, soap scum, grease and hair. Using a plunger can compact the clog and just make it worse. Over-the-counter drain cleaning liquids can burn your skin or damage pipes and sinks. Call Horizon Service for these kinds of situations. We’ll remove the clog quickly and efficiently without any harm to your sink, pipes or kitchen.

Can I pour grease from cooking down my drain?
No. Hot liquid grease may seem to pour easily down the drain, but once it enters the cold pipes within, it hardens or puts a slick film on the inside of the pipes. After a while this film collects, thickens and restricts water flow…much like cholesterol does in your arteries. If enough accumulates it can completely block your drain.

Why does my water look rust-colored?
Often, this is due to lack of movement or water flow in your potable water system. Once the water hits the air, it oxidizes and turns orange/red in color. This is usually not harmful, but a sign of old, galvanized piping. Other possible causes:

  • Some chemicals create rust in the water lines. Owing to alteration in water pressure, the rust moves to the various fixtures and appliances and exits from them.
  • If the pipe has broken, dirt may have entered the water supply, thus discoloring the water.
  • Sometimes water can be discolored by sediment from the water heater which travels through the fixtures.
  • The metal jacket may rust due to some malfunction of the glass lining in the water heater.
  • There may be iron bacteria in water if you reside next to a well.
  • Your local water utility may be doing some work in your area, causing dirt and rust to temporarily get into the water supply.

Why are there gravel or sand particles in my water?
This could be the lining of some old galvanized pipe that is breaking loose or rotting from the inside out. Chunks of rust, iron & other minerals found in the pipe material can accumulate and then flow out of your faucet. This is a serious problem that can eventually lead to pinhole leaks in your pipes. The only remedy is a re-pipe of your water system. If you notice this, please call Horizon Services immediately. We’ll inspect thoroughly and let you know what your options are.

Why is my water pressure so low?
Several things can cause low water pressure. One could be the amount of water your local utility is pumping out. Another is the age of your pipes and the amount of rust in them. Blockages and other restrictions in your pipes can also lower water pressure. Other considerations are: a partially closed or malfunctioning shut off valve, a crimped water line, a failed or missing pressure regulator, plugged filters and malfunctioning water softeners. Call Horizon Services to troubleshoot and determine the exact cause of your low pressure.

What is a pressure reducing valve?
If you have high water pressure, a pressure reducing valve will help regulate the water pressure within your pipes of the house. Just a slight reduction can lower your water consumption and extend the life of your appliances such water heater, washing machines and dishwashers.

Where can I find fixture shutoff valves, and what do they do?
Fixture shutoff valves are located next to or underneath the toilet and sink, and can shut off the water supply to these particular fixtures if required. You may need to do so if a sink or toilet is leaking or flooding.

What should I do if my drain overflows with soap suds when the washing machine pumps out water?
This is probably due to the washing machine’s drain line being too close to another fixture’s drain line. The high rate of water pumped out by the washing machine forces the soap suds through the other fixture’s drain line. To prevent this problem, some plumbing codes require washing machines, kitchen sinks, showers, and dishwasher lines should be connected 5 feet or farther down from any branch of fixture drains.

Other possibilities:

  • If you have a septic tank, it may need to be pumped out. Also check the baffle where the main drain line enters the tank to make sure it is not blocked.
  • The sewer pipe outside your home could have a break in it, a septic tank drain field could be frozen, or there could be blockage in the main drain.
  • Your main drain line water drain may be interrupted by a caved in pipe, or possibly tree roots have blocked it.

If this problem persists, call Horizon Services. We can scope out your drain lines with a video camera to find the cause and safely remove or fix it.

What does it mean if my shower drains too slowly?
Most likely the drain is clogged with hair, soap scum and debris. If it’s not too bad or too deep, you may be able to take care of this yourself. First, remove the drain plug, if one is installed, and remove any hair or debris that may collect on the cross members of the drain flange with your fingers.

You may also try a store-bought liquid chemical product to dissolve the clog. If these attempts don’t work, you can use a small snake to unclog the drain and flush with hot water when the clog is removed. If the problem persists, call Horizon used chemicals so the plumber can use precautions necessary to prepare the equipment so that it is not damaged.

What does a plumber’s snake do?
A plumber’s snake is a long, flexible tool that can be pushed down pipes to loosen clogs.

How do I snake a bathtub drain?
First, remove the overflow plate from the wall of the tub (snakes cannot be pushed through the drain hole at the bottom of the tub. Remove any visible blockage with fingers. Next, try running the water for a minute and see if the drain clears. If not, then run the snake through the overflow to remove any debris.

How do I fix a leaking bathtub drain?
Most likely, you will have to remove the drain flange from the drain. It will have crosshairs, where you can unscrew it using a tool called a spud wrench. If you do not have this tool you could try using the handles of a channel locks. If you remove the drain flange, remove the old plumber’s putty then continue to remove the clog. When you are ready to replace the drain flange, clean it thoroughly and put a fresh bead of plumber’s putty between the shoe, the part with the female threads, and the underside of the tub. It’s okay for the putty to squeeze out the sides. It ensures a water tight seal.

What is an anti-hammer device?
An anti-hammer device softens the impact of water rapidly stopping at a point in the water line where an appliance is connected. Appliances rapidly shut water on and off, which causes the water volume to slam into the end of the run and suddenly stop. This creates a hammering affect which can harm the appliance. Modern plumbing codes require anti-hammer devices at the connection point for most electric appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, and ice makers that gradually increase or decrease the volume of water passing so that there is no hammer effect.

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