What to Do When Your Toilet Won't Flush

  • By Tony Diciacce
  • 04 Oct, 2017

We generally take toilets for granted, not thinking much about the convenience of flushing away our waste. A blockage in the toilet drainage pipe exposes us to germs and can cause damage if the toilet is allowed to overflow. Here are some ways to deal with a stopped up toilet so everything can get cleared away: 

Check it out  
Is it organic waste or a foreign object like a toy? Determining which one is causing the problem will determine the method for clearing it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell so you have to assess it based on how the toilet fills up. Is it filling and draining slowly? Or is it not going anywhere after leaving it for several minutes? The former is likely organic and the latter might be a solid object blocking the flow.

Use a plunger Plungers work by creating suction and pushing forces in the water that’s in the bowl and drain. These forces are usually enough to loosen and push down large pieces of organic waste that are meant to go into the sewage system. Keep in mind that foreign objects may be loosened and pushed down but that could create another blockage downstream.

Use a plumbing snake or auger  
Plumbing snakes or augers are long snake-like devices, which are flexible enough to fit into the toilet drain. They can either push the object further along, or twist into the object for you to pull it out. There are multiple types of drain snakes so if you decide to purchase one, make sure you learn the correct way to use it.

Use drain cleaner
These cleaners work by breaking down any solid organic waste that might be causing the blockage. Pour it into the toilet and wait the recommended time by the manufacturer (usually overnight). This works for organic waste only, not foreign objects.

Avoid harsh chemicals if possible  
Keep it in mind as a last resort, but only if you are able to use it with proper ventilation and you determine there are no children or pets at risk of exposure. Limit your own exposure and follow the instructions for use closely. There are multiple types of drain cleaner chemicals so pick one specifically designed for clearing toilets.

If all else fails or if it keeps happening, give us a call 585-500-Help and we’ll clear your toilet as well as any other sections of your sanitary system that’s causing you drainage problems.

By Tony Diciacce 16 Oct, 2017
  1. Check your heating system.  Have a professional inspect your burners, filters, fan, fan motor and all electrical components. Hire a specialist to clean your ductwork as well. Clear vents and chimneys to make sure you’re not at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
  2. Review all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors While a fire can happen at any time, the risk is greater while running a furnace or boiler. Same for carbon monoxide. Change batteries as needed and replace faulty detectors.
  3. Drain outdoor faucets.  Pipework to outdoor faucets must be clear of water that can freeze. Close the shutoff valve to the faucet and turn on the tap to drain the piping.
  4. Go shopping early for the kids.  Children grow like weeds,which means almost a complete wardrobe change annually. Make sure they have warm clothing before they need it.
  5. Complete all renovations that involve your home exterior.  Prioritize sealing windows and doors with caulking and weather stripping. Upgrade attic insulation and any other insulation necessary to keep the heating bills down.
  6. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, stock up on wood chips or logs. Fill oil tanks for oil burning heating appliances. Do the same for diesel if you have an emergency generator.
  7. Bring out the snow blower  and make sure it's ready to go.
  8. Stock up on emergency supplies  like canned goods (with a can opener!) and keep enough water to last a week (1 gallon per person per day). Avoid a scramble to the supermarket just before a winter storm hits and knocks out power.
  9. Get your flu shot . It’s no guarantee, but you’ll reduce the chances of spending time in bed and possibly the hospital.
  10. Change over summer tires to winter tires.  To reduce stopping distance and lower risk of skidding on ice (and to save gas), switch tires once the temperature drops below 7°C (45°F)
  11. Put a winter emergency kit into your car.  Include: thermal blankets, tire chains, a shovel, first aid kit, sand, booster cable, batteries, a torch light, canned food, a can opener, water, important medication and a battery operated radio.
  12. Top up all fluids in your car:  fuel, windshield washer fluid, brake fluid, etc. Take care of critical repairs to keep you safe on winter roads.


If you need help with any of these items, give us a call today 585-500- HELP so you’ll be ready for whatever Jack Frost and his buddies have in store!

By Tony Diciacce 16 Oct, 2017

Three reasons to go tankless

  • Tanked heaters use energy to maintain water storage temperature, even when not in use. This is essentially wasted heat. Having a tankless heater when your use is intermittent will save you energy, lowering your bills.

 

  • In order to decrease the amount of energy used and increase efficiency, new tanks require more insulation, making them bigger. With a tankless system, you get that space back.

 

  • If you’ve ever been the last person to take a shower, you know the frustration of having the water get colder as you use the last trickle of hot water. Depending on the size and type of tanked heater, it could take an hour or more to get the water hot enough for your bath. Tankless systems don’t have this problem. Water is heated as it flows through it so there’s no waiting.

Sizing your tankless heater
The benefits of a tankless water heater evaporate quickly if it's sized incorrectly. Tankless heaters are sized according to maximum flow rates and temperature rise.

To get flow rate, add the flows of fixtures likely to run at the same time. Showers flow at approximately 3 gallons per minute (gpm), faucets at 1-2 gpm, washing machines at 2-3 gpm, dishwashers at 1-2 gpm. Check manufacturer information for accurate values.

The temperature rise is the difference between the temperature of incoming water and the desired hot water supply temperature. For safety, the supply temperature should not exceed 120oF (49oC) at the fixtures. The incoming water can be as low as 40oF (4oC). In that case, the heater would have to increase the temperature by 80oF (45°C).

Service requirements for installation
Since tankless heaters are instantaneous and must provide heat in a short timeframe, they require larger electrical or gas services than tanked heaters, which heat the water more slowly.

If you’re replacing an electrical tanked water heater with a tankless device, you would need to upgrade the electrical service to the heater and possibly to your house. Replacing a gas-fired tank heater with tankless may require a gas supply upgrade as well as changes to the venting system.

For both gas and electric, the water pipe measurements are the same since they are both sized to provide hot water to the same home’s fixture.
Even with its numerous advantages, making the decision to install a tankless heater requires thought and professional analysis.

Call us today 585-500-HELP to talk about your options for a tankless heater in your home.

By Tony Diciacce 09 Oct, 2017

Signs of an Aging Furnance  

Higher utility bills
 
As furnaces age, they use more energy to provide the same heat. Increased consumption over time is a good indicator that your furnace is reaching its end of life.


Noises  
A furnace on its way out will bang, rattle, squeal and otherwise protest its demise. As soon as you notice it, call a professional.

A cold house
Air blowing through the vents feel cool if the burner or heat exchanger are malfunctioning. If the airflow is warm but too low, the fan is the problem..

Burner flame color
should be blue in natural gas furnaces. If it’s yellow, that indicates incomplete combustion, which creates more carbon monoxide. Your burner will need to be checked and cleaned or replaced immediately.

Health issues  
If your furnace is producing more carbon monoxide, your family’s health will be worse than usual. Similarly, if there’s an increase in respiratory illnesses, your furnace could be circulating dust, mold and other allergens.

So how do you prevent the breakdown? Regular maintenance is key, especially as winter approaches.

· Check the burner  to make sure the flame is the right color and is burning steadily.

· Check fan operation to ensure the air is being blown and distributed. The fan blades must be cleaned and the motor inspected by a professional.

· Clean or replace the filter . If your filter becomes too caked with dust, there's a domino effect in your furnace as the airflow drops, wreaking havoc with other components.

· Make sure your combustion air intake  is clear. If the furnace does not get enough air, incomplete combustion will take place, creating carbon monoxide.

· Have a professional look at your heat exchanger for cracks that can leak gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulpher dioxide into your home.

· Also, have a professional look at the control system to make sure it keeps the furnace running.

Analyze whether to repair or replace  
A typical furnace life cycle is 15-20 years. With proper care, you can prolong its life, but the higher fuel and maintenance could potentially pay for a new furnace.


If you are concerned about your furnace, give us a call today 585-500-HELP and we'll make sure you stay toasty warm for the season.

By Tony Diciacce 04 Oct, 2017

Check it out  
Is it organic waste or a foreign object like a toy? Determining which one is causing the problem will determine the method for clearing it. Sometimes it’s hard to tell so you have to assess it based on how the toilet fills up. Is it filling and draining slowly? Or is it not going anywhere after leaving it for several minutes? The former is likely organic and the latter might be a solid object blocking the flow.

Use a plunger Plungers work by creating suction and pushing forces in the water that’s in the bowl and drain. These forces are usually enough to loosen and push down large pieces of organic waste that are meant to go into the sewage system. Keep in mind that foreign objects may be loosened and pushed down but that could create another blockage downstream.

Use a plumbing snake or auger  
Plumbing snakes or augers are long snake-like devices, which are flexible enough to fit into the toilet drain. They can either push the object further along, or twist into the object for you to pull it out. There are multiple types of drain snakes so if you decide to purchase one, make sure you learn the correct way to use it.

Use drain cleaner
These cleaners work by breaking down any solid organic waste that might be causing the blockage. Pour it into the toilet and wait the recommended time by the manufacturer (usually overnight). This works for organic waste only, not foreign objects.

Avoid harsh chemicals if possible  
Keep it in mind as a last resort, but only if you are able to use it with proper ventilation and you determine there are no children or pets at risk of exposure. Limit your own exposure and follow the instructions for use closely. There are multiple types of drain cleaner chemicals so pick one specifically designed for clearing toilets.

If all else fails or if it keeps happening, give us a call 585-500-Help and we’ll clear your toilet as well as any other sections of your sanitary system that’s causing you drainage problems.

By Tony Diciacce 29 Sep, 2017
Do a regular visual inspection of your home's plumbing. .
This might seem obvious but in the chaos of everyday life, it’s easy to push it down the priorities list. Run water in each sink to see how quickly it drains and if there are any changes. Pay attention to the length of time you can run a hot shower before the water gets too cold. Look in the cabinets under sinks for evidence of leakage

Keep Drains Clear with regular drain cleanout sessions. .
Use natural methods like pouring boiling water down the drain to avoid having to resort to harsh, toxic chemicals that can erode metal pipes over time. Do this when flow is smooth to attack any small deposits before they build up

Use a drain cleaner as soon as flow begins to slow to reduce the number of sessinos you need.

Repair faucet leaks as soon as they start or even before.
Sometimes you can tell a faucet is starting to give trouble if you have to squeeze tighter or fiddle with it to shut off the water completely. Don’t wait until you have a continuous drip to repair.

Replace cartridges, washers, or gaskets depending on the source of the leak or the type of faucet.

Ensure you never put the wrong things down the drain.
Fat solidifies when it cools so avoid anything containing grease. Use strainers to catch hair in the bathroom or food in the kitchen sink. Discard and clear the strainer often to keep it clear and to prevent anything from slipping past.

Carry out water heater maintenance.
Drain your heater’s tank to stir up and clear sediment that reduces tank efficiency and shortens equipment life expectancy. How often you do this depends on water conditions. Start every other month and if water runs clear immediately, stretch out frequency until you notice debris every time you drain the tank.

If you live in an area with hard water, consider installing a water softener.
“Hard water” contains minerals that destroy your plumbing system over time by depositing sediments throughout piping, fittings, fixtures and equipment like your water heater. Most municipalities publish information on the water hardness. Consult a contractor to confirm the benefits of water softening for your home.

Call a professional
If things have gone too far and you need a professional touch, give us a call 585-500-HELP and we’ll help you keep your home’s plumbing in working order.

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By Tony Diciacce 27 Sep, 2017

Why does your air system need a filter?  
The filter protects the furnace itself. Dust from your home gets drawn into the unit through the return ductwork. Without a filter, this dust would build up on the fan, heat exchanger and coil, reducing efficiency and eventually causing failure.

An overview of residential HVAC filters  
Residential filters are either flat (made from fiberglass) or pleated (made from various materials). Filter efficiency is indicated by its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The larger the MERV, the more particles it can capture.

More efficient filters have larger pressure drops as the air flows through. This makes the fan work harder, lowering system efficiency. You need to balance your furnace fan capabilities and energy use with the level of protection you want from your filter.

There are many levels of residential filters - from the most basic with a MERV 4 to HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filters capable of capturing microscopic particles. For typical households, MERV 8 gives the right balance between efficiency and air cleanliness. If a family member has respiratory problems, you may have to go to a higher MERV value for your furnace.

Reasons to keep it clean  
Better airflow: Dirty filters prevent the air from flowing through them. This reduces the amount of heating and cooling your furnace can do. One major issue is that you can freeze your evaporator coil if the airflow across it is too low, eventually causing your AC unit to fail.

Efficiency: Because your fan has to work harder to pull the air through a dirty coil, the system efficiency drops off as the unit consumes more electricity. A clean filter that allows airflow will keep your consumption down.

Cleaner air overall: If the filter is choked up with dust and the air isn’t flowing freely, dust can settle in other parts of your ductwork and your home, providing breeding grounds for mold, dust mites, bacteria and allergens.

How to do it  
Most furnace filters are disposable. The replacement frequency depends on multiple factors. Smokers, pet owners and people with allergies will need to replace it more often. The thickness and type also have an impact. Thicker filters need to be replaced more often, and fiberglass filters must be changed sooner than pleated filters.

If you’re concerned about the state of your filter, give us a call 585-500-HELP and we’ll make sure you (and your furnace) breathe easier.

By Tony Diciacce 25 Sep, 2017

Safety First 

Most people don’t consider this when deciding on a new heating system, but you could be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning from an old furnace with a cracked heat exchanger. Another safety aspect is whether you run the risk of having a boiler break down during the coldest time of the season (which is when it tends to happen). It’s more than just comfort. Exposure to low temperatures for too long has health impacts, especially for the elderly and young babies.

Why Repair? 
When things are tight and you’re trying to save cash, sometimes a simple repair may be more than sufficient, depending on the age of the boiler or furnace. Just remember to consider labor costs, as well as the cost of parts. The first thing to make a note of is the age of the equipment compared to its life expectancy. Furnaces typically last in the 15-20 year range while boilers can go for 20-30 years. Some boilers even last up to 40 or 50 years!

When to Replace
There are times when repairing your old furnace or boiler just won’t work. If you have to wait several weeks to get parts because your heating equipment is obsolete, it’s definitely time to consider replacement. Even if you can still get parts, you have to face the reduction in efficiency as your equipment ages. This translates into more of your money in the utility’s pocket. As long as you can afford it, there are some real benefits of replacing your system:


You have the opportunity to upgrade to a more efficient system. It’s more than just getting the 80% efficiency a new furnace would give. Nowadays, condensing type equipment can give upwards of 95% efficiency.

Even if you stick with the standard efficiency heater, your bills will come down simply because you regain your initial efficiency.

Once you have that new furnace or boiler, it is smooth sailing for the first five years. Not only is the heater new, but it will have warranty coverage for anything that does go wrong in that time.

The Right Support
Regardless of what you decide, you need the right technical support.  Call 585-500- HELP and Taylor Heating & Plumbing will make sure your home stays warm for the winter!

#call500help #needhelp #furnacerepair #newfurnace

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By Tony Diciacce 18 Sep, 2017

P-trap problems
The p-trap is the curved pipe directly under your sink drain. Its job is to create a barrier between the opening of the drain and the rest of the sanitary system. The p-trap does this by trapping water to create that barrier.

For sinks you seldom use, or haven't used in a long time, the p-trap might be dry. This allows smells from the sanitary system to waft into your home through the drain. Turn on the faucet to replenish the barrier or pour a cup of water down the drain. Even though p-traps are now standard, it might be missing from under your sink. Check to make sure you have a p-trap and it's properly installed.

Build-up of gunk  
I'm not talking about the surface of your sink here. You've probably scrubbed that raw by now. The place where smelly gunk builds up that we can't see is in the drain itself.

Pour drain cleaner or bleach down the sink. But never use multiple cleaners at the same time. Bleach and ammonia, for instance, react to form chloramine vapour, which is highly toxic.

Poor venting
 
Sanitary piping must be vented to allow free flow. If a vent is poorly installed or blocked, the air between the p-trap and the rest of the sewer pipework has nowhere to go. The water flowing down the drain pushes against this air, which bubbles past it, bringing all the foul gases right into your home.

Each fixture must be vented with a vent pipe connection close to the trap. If it’s too far, the slope of the drain will prevent the water from draining properly, letting stinky air bubble into your house.

Supply troubles  
If you get that smell when water is running, then it’s likely the municipal or well supply. You may have to call the city or a professional (in the case of a well) to test your water. Alternatively, your faucet might be causing the smell from gunk build-up. You might be able to clean it depending on the type of faucet. Otherwise you'll have to get a new one installed.

Getting the right   help  
For some of these problems, you can fix it yourself. For others, you need the right professional. If you need help getting your bathroom or kitchen smelling fresh again, give us a call today 585-500-HELP.

By Tony Diciacce 12 Sep, 2017

Fall is the perfect time to get your home ready for winter. Your highest priority for this season is heating and that’s where your furnace comes in. Take care of it now so you’ll be spared the freezing consequences later.

1.  Replace filters  you probably spend most of your time indoors during the cold months. Dirty filters will contaminate the air you breathe, decrease the efficiency of your furnace and overwork your blower. Regular replacement will prevent this problem, and keep your winter breathing clearer.

2. Clear your mechanical room of debris  remove unrelated items from the room, particularly flammable items. Make sure to leave the areas around your unit clear for servicing or repair. Concentrate on the area around the duct opening from outside. This outdoor air is critical for your furnace to burn gas completely so you don’t get carbon monoxide in your home when it’s all fired up in winter.

3. Do visual checks on internal parts like the blower and burners  Open your furnace and take a look at the blower belt and motor. Make sure the belt is tight and clean any dust from the motor and blower. This ensures your furnace’s efficiency is maximized and reduces the likelihood of failure when the fan is running at top speed during winter. Inspect your burner and gas connection for signs of corrosion, dirt or loose connections. This is critical for safety of you and your family.

4. Clean ductwork and check for leaks  have a professional clean your ductwork before the season starts to keep the air in your home safe and breathable this winter. Turn on your furnace (you can use the fan-only setting on your thermostat) and listen closely for air escaping from ductwork. Note whether there are grilles with not enough air coming through as this can indicate a leak in that branch of your duct system.

5. Clean the area around your flue exhaust  as with the combustion air intake, make sure the area around the flue exhaust is clear of debris to keep your furnace working safely and to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Remove branches and other debris from the flue outlet and when the snow comes, make sure it’s not piled around your flue vent. If the vent is on the roof, make sure there are no birds’ nests blocking the air from your furnace exhaust.

Have a professional inspect your furnace. Give us a call to do a full inspection and tune up so your furnace is completely ready for the coming winter.

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