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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

This page contains helpful information about your plumbing.  Naturally, if you have questions that aren't answered below, please give us a call.  We'd be happy to talk with you and try to answer you question without obligation.  Below are FAQ's about various plumbing systems, just CLICK on the link below to get more information on that topic.

 

Clogged Drains
Dishwashers
Garbage Disposals
Faucets
Furnaces, A/C, & Heat Pumps
Leaking Pipes
Water Heaters
Toilets

 

When to Fix or Replace

"Can't you just fix it?" is a common cry of the homeowner when they learn that the cost of major repair for many home fixtures and appliances is close to the cost of replacement.  Here are some things to consider in deciding whether repair or replacement might be the better option. Regular care and maintenance can forestall most of these breakdowns at a fraction of the cost of repairs. Have your plumbing, heating and air conditioning inspected, cleaned and checked at least once a year.  Just CLICK on the link below to get more information on a topic.

Clogged Drains

Many of these calls could be avoided by taking greater care in what you put down drains - especially the kitchen sink; the most used and most clogged drain in the house.  I recommend regular treatment with Bio-Clean, a biological drain cleaner sold only through plumbing contractors like Dunright Plumbing.

 

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Dishwashers

Automatic dishwashers are another appliance that should last a decade or more.  However, you often can save money by buying a newer energy-efficient unit.  Brand new units can be bought for $400 to $600 while repairs of various operating mechanisms typically run $150 and up. If your dishwasher is getting near the 10-year mark, a major repair may be a signal that other components are also on their last legs. It won't take many service calls to pay for a brand new dishwasher.

 

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Garbage Disposals

Stoppages and minor malfunctions are worth repairing.  You are better off though replacing the entire unit if the motor goes out or the blades break.  This is especially true if you deal with a plumbing company that warrants the product for 5-10 years or even longer.  We recommend models with stainless steel blades for longer life and higher horsepower motors for faster food disposal and fewer clogs.

 

Clogs can be a messy headache. Here are several tips to keep your disposal in good working order.  First, always run cold water when grinding to move the waste all the way down the drain lines.  Fats and grease congeal and harden in cold water and can be flushed through the system.  Hot water should not be used because it can dissolve fats and grease, which may then accumulate in the drain line.  Almost all biodegradable food waste can be fed into disposals.  However, they should not be used to grind clam or oyster shells, cornhusks or other material with high fiber content.  Under no circumstances should you put glass, plastic or metal non-food materials though a disposal.  This includes bottle caps, tin covers or aluminum foil which are some of the items service technicians commonly find in clogged or broken disposals.  These metals are best recycled. 

 

Regular maintenance is easy.  Grinding eggshells actually helps clean the disposal by scraping away stubborn deposits.  Grinding a little ice, citrus peels like grapefruit, orange, and lemon are another way to clean deposits and get rid of odors.  For the most part, though, disposals are self-cleaning.

 

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Faucets

Fixing a dripping faucet is an annoyance that most business and homeowners have to deal with from time to time as the washers in the faucets wear out with use. You can extend the life of your faucet washers by not turning them off with too much force.  Replacing a faucet cartridge, washer or other internal component can repair leaking faucets. Tarnishes and nicks to the finish are harder to fix.  Good faucets will give at least 5 if not 10 or more years of trouble-free operation.  Plumbers can keep them operating almost indefinitely.  Most people, however, would rather pay a few more bucks for a replacement that offers better styling and convenience.

 

You may also consider replacing your older faucets with those that feature washerless valve cartridges instead of rubber washers. Since the valve mechanism is contained in one cartridge, these faucets are easier to repair and replace.  In addition, cartridges are generally more durable and do not leak, because they do not deteriorate with friction or age as washers do.

 

Many business and homeowners replace faucets not only when they break down, but for decorative reasons as well.  A few people buy a faucet from a home center and then call a plumbing firm to do the installation.  Be forewarned that the plumbing firm will warrant only its workmanship, not the faucet itself.
 

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Furances & Heat Pumps

These are the most costly systems to replace, so naturally you want to get as many years of use out of this equipment as you possibly can.  The best way to do this is to make sure you have your system professionally serviced at least once a year.  Many heating and cooling contractors offer service agreements that assure routine inspection and cleaning at a minimum. Prices usually are a real bargain considering that a new home heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) system will cost many thousands of dollars.

 

Many repairs can be made on HVAC systems to keep them running for decades.  Central air conditioners and heat pumps have two major components: the indoor evaporator coil and the outdoor condensing unit (compressor), that cannot readily be fixed when they fail.  When one needs to be replaced, it is best to replace the other with a compatible unit.  Unmatched evaporator coils and condensers usually will operate together for a time, but with a steep penalty in performance, energy usage and premature system failure.  So, although it entails higher initial cost, replacing both components at once is the smart thing to do in the long run.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that about half the time, people opt for the cheaper but shortsighted single unit replacement.

 

While HVAC systems ought to last for decades, it's not necessarily a bargain to keep them running that long. Tremendous strides have been made in energy efficiency in recent years, leading to quick cost paybacks from lower energy bills. The United Homeowners Association (UHA) is a Washington-based consumer organization that offers the following advice:

"If your furnace is over 15 years of age, it's probably time to boot it out the door... If your furnace's efficiency comes in somewhere in between 50-75%, you ought to begin investigating rebate offers for buying a high-efficiency new furnace."  This is not a contractor talking. This advice comes from an organization dedicated to protecting consumer interests.  UHA can be reached at:

1511 K Street NW,

Suite 345,

Washington, DC 20005.

Membership costs $18 a year.

 

When your furnace or heat pump stops operating, it can make for a long, cold winter night.  An ounce of prevention here is worth a ton of cure.  It's important to make sure your heating system is functioning properly before the first cold snap hits, and your air conditioner is working right before the first heat wave.  Have a competent contractor do a thorough examination and cleaning in late summer or early fall every year.
 

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Leaking Pipes

In extreme cases, these can cause expensive damage to floors and belongings.  To stop a small leak from turning into a big one, look at your pipes periodically to check for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting.

 

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Water Heaters

Most often when you have a leak in your water heater, it's time to get rid of it.  Leaks usually indicate rusting through at the bottom of the storage tank, for which there is no good repair.  By the time this happens, the water heater is usually so old you'd benefit from replacing it with a more energy-efficient model anyway or better still a tankless water heater.  Tankless water heaters save a tremendous amount of energy, because they only run when you turn ON a hot water faucet, instead of keeping 30 to 50 gallons or more of water heated 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  Tankless water heaters also have the benefit of never running out of hot water halfway through your shower.  Many are eligible for various incentives and tax rebates.  Additionally, since there is no steel tank to rust out (the water is heated in more durable copper piping) they often carry 15 to 30 year guarantees on the heat exchanger.  So while they have a higher initial cost, they don't have to be replaced as often, and have a much smaller risk of leaking and causing damage.  They also take up much less space, and we can all use more space.

 

Industry statistics show that the average water heater lasts 12 years.  With regular maintenance and routine repairs, some keep operating two or three times as long.  As with HVAC systems, however, it's not always to your advantage to hang on to older units.  Modern high-efficiency water heaters often can pay for themselves in energy savings within 3-5 years.  Almost all components on a water heater can be fixed or replaced except for the tank. Once the tank rusts through, there is no way to rescue the water heater. Replacement is the only solution.  Water heaters come with internal sacrificial anode rods to protect against rusting.  An anode's sole purpose is to corrode away so the steel of the tank can't.  Replacing the anodes every 3-4 years (more frequently i f water is softened) will add considerably to the life of a water heater. 

 

Another main cause of failure is overheating from sediment buildup inside the tank.  Ask your plumber to inspect the anodes and sediment periodically.  Sometimes this can be done as part of an annual service agreement.  Some plumbing firms also offer extended water heater warranties lasting 10 years or even a lifetime.  If you plan to live in your home for quite some time, these warranties may be worth looking into.
 

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Toilets

Unless you crack the porcelain, a toilet can easily last a lifetime.  What will wear out are the flushing mechanisms comprised of moving parts.  Leakage may occur from the wax ring seal by the floor, but that can be fixed short of replacement.

 

Toilets are commonly replaced for reasons other than malfunction.  Water conservation is one.  Modern toilets operate with 1.6 gallons per flush or less compared with 3.5 -7.5 gallons for older models.  Depending on water rates, sometimes you can save money by replacing a toilet.  Styling and quieter flushing are two other reasons to replace. This is a matter of homeowner choice more than necessity.

 

Leaky toilets are not only an annoyance, but also a waste of water and money.  A leaky toilet can easily add upwards of $100 a year to your water bills.  If you hear a low humming noise or water continues to run into the bowl after it is flushed, this indicates that some part of the mechanism is out of order.  Sometimes a little jiggling of the ball cock or flush valve mechanism solves the problem without cost.  Otherwise, you may need to replace the entire mechanism.

 

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California Contractor's License # 732839

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