How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Home During COVID-19

Spring cleaning is typically the perfect time to sweep out the garage, reorganize the linen closet and wipe down the windows. But in Spring 2020, our cleaning goals are slightly different.

While shelter-in-place orders around the country may be giving families plenty of time to tackle those Marie Kondo-inspired tidying-up projects, these guidelines are essential to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Here are some helpful cleaning strategies that may help you keep germs at bay, even if your family is in good health:

Protect Yourself

Remember to wear disposable gloves when you’re cleaning, and wash your hands before and after to help minimize the spread of germs. It’s also best to work in a well-ventilated space, as disinfecting chemicals can be very strong. Also, never mix cleaning chemicals as this can create toxic off gassing.

Clean First, Then Disinfect

The CDC explains that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. Cleaning helps remove dirt, debris and other residue, whereas disinfecting helps kill bacteria and pathogens.

First, wipe down surfaces with a cleaning towel or soap and water to remove dirt. Then follow up by using an EPA-approved disinfectant or a diluted household bleach solution containing 4 teaspoons of unexpired bleach for each quart of water.

Your disinfectant will need to remain on the surface for a certain amount of time, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For a household solution, wait at least 1 minute.

Focus on High-Touch Surfaces

The CDC also recommends cleaning high-touch surfaces in high-traffic areas. These include bathroom and kitchen surfaces, faucets, doorknobs, hard-backed chairs, lightswitches, game controllers, computer keyboards and mobile devices.

Explore Cleaning Guides from HomeServe

If you’re like me and have become somewhat obsessive about keeping your house clean and wanting to try to keep the coronavirus at bay, check out the following HomeServe blogs for general cleaning tips and tricks that may help with hard-to-clean spots and surfaces.

Don’t forget to bookmark this post so you can come back to these helpful hints when next year’s Spring cleaning season comes around.

Cleaning Products to Use Around the House

Bathroom Cleaning Guides

Kitchen Cleaning Guides

Living Space Cleaning Guides

Prepare for the Unexpected With a Home Repair Plans

As you and your family follow shelter-in-place orders and spend more time at home, you’re counting on your essential home systems to stay in working order. Now, more than ever, your home is playing a major role as your living space, office, schoolhouse, play zone, fitness center and more. An unexpected home system breakdown could have consequences for all of these aspects of your life.

Being prepared for the unexpected with a repair plan from Service Lines Warranties of America is a good strategy.

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

What Is the Cost to Install a Water Heater?

A few months ago, I wrote about my water heater mishap. (I know I’ll never forget that feeling of a freezing cold shower). I’m glad to report that my new water heater is still providing our family with hot showers and clean laundry – but I’m always on the lookout for the signs it might need maintenance.

During the frigid winter months, it’s more important than ever to check in on your water heater. If you do catch a problem early on, or realize you need an entirely new system, you can be proactive in receiving repairs (and won’t be caught in a mid-shower frozen surprise).

From my experience, I learned that installing a water heater is half the battle – and the majority of the cost – of purchasing this essential system. Don’t settle for lukewarm showers and half-washed dishes. Here’s everything you need to know about the cost to install a water heater.

The tank vs. tankless debate

The fact of the matter is, installation costs depend on the type of water heater you need or already have. Home Depot breaks down two of the most popular choices for homeowners:

  • Traditional water heaters: Typically store between 20 and 80 gallons of water heated by gas or electric power. The average total cost for a new traditional water heater and installation is $1,308.

  • Tankless water heaters: Gaining popularity in recent years, these units are also fueled by gas or electricity but only heat water as needed. They’re accepted as being more environmentally friendly, though they come with higher upfront costs. The average total cost for a tankless water heater is around $3,000.

Total costs include everything from the unit itself, permits, materials, installation, labor costs and removal of the old unit. Thumbtack.com estimates the national average cost of installing a water heater ranges from $500 to $1,000.

What’s your fuel source?

Water heater installation costs aren’t just affected by the type of water heater chosen, but also by the fuel sources available. Both traditional and tankless heaters can use gas or electricity to warm up water. A gas water heater may cost $50-100 more to install than an electric tank water heater. Likewise, you can expect to pay $500 more for a gas tankless water heater than an electric water heater.

If you need – or want – to switch fuel sources, you’ll most likely need to add some room to your budget. Going from an electric to gas water heater may require the addition of a gas line, that usually costs $500 to install, reports Homewyse.com.

Other factors to consider

The size, model, home layout and any additional – necessary – work can all contribute to the costs associated with installing a water heater. Traditional water heaters may require expansion tanks to minimize the risk of pressure damage to the plumbing system. TheSpruce.com explains this is mostly needed in closed water supply systems, so always factor that into your water heater costs.

While tankless heaters come with higher upfront costs, they can require less maintenance in the long run and families can see energy costs decrease because water is heated on a need-only basis. Both kinds of water heaters have energy-efficient models available for more cost savings.

Though each system comes with its own unique costs, installation can also vary based on your needs and wants. Always make sure to do your research before deciding on the best water heater for your home and have a licensed professional install it.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes Better Than the Holiday Meal

Remember that episode from Season 5 of “Friends” entitled “The One With Ross’ Sandwich” where Ross has an actual breakdown after someone steals his Thanksgiving leftovers? (One of my all time faves!)

Apparently, Ross had been looking forward to that Thanksgiving sandwich all year long – ‘cause it’s just that good.

While you binge on Netflix after the parade and pumpkin pie, wondering what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers, why not bookmark a few of my favorite post-Thanksgiving recipes?

My kids say these are better than Thursday’s turkey and stuffing — but I’ll leave it to you and yours to decide.

Breakfast

Try these low-carb stuffing waffles with a dollop of cranberry sauce. Or start your morning with Thanks Benedict, featuring stuffing cakes smothered in a sage hollandaise sauce, by one of my favorite chefs, Giada de Laurentiis.

For a weekend brunch with friends (and mimosas), I love making a sweet potato and kale frittata with creamy goat cheese, or this stuffing and turkey quiche.

The kids will adore breakfast sausage and stuffing bites — they’re so good you’ll want to pop a few before heading out for the Black Friday doorbusters.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

Soups and sandwiches

My favorite turkey soup is a creamy, one-pot recipe for turkey and dumplings. It’s a great way to use up whatever turkey meat and veggies you have left.

I also recommend this hearty leftover turkey chili recipe. With a bowl filled with leftover goodness plus edamame and a homemade spice mix, it’s a great way to help your taste buds (and waist line) transition out of the holiday weekend.

And, while you can easily throw together a turkey sandwich to relive the flavors of Thanksgiving Day, why not take it up a notch with a gooey brie, apple and cranberry grilled cheese sandwich? Simple but oh-so indulgent.

Savory pies

If you’re in the mood for comfort food, don’t miss this Thanksgiving shepherd’s pie. Or, remix the same festive flavors into a turkey pie with a cornbread stuffing crust.

I also can’t speak highly enough of Paul Hollywood’s ham and turkey pot pie. As seen on the Great British Baking Show holiday masterclass, it features a creamy sauce with leeks simmering beneath rough-puff pastry and looks as impressive as it tastes.

Get a plan from Service Lines Warranties of America today

For something quicker, pop these easy Thanksgiving leftover hand pies into the oven. They’re made with store-bought pie crust and the kids will enjoy crafting their own homemade hot pockets.

Pizza

Leftover pizzas are a serious crowd-pleaser! Layer up turkey and sides into a Thanksgiving pizza baked in puff pastry. This version is topped with fried onions for an extra crunch.

My kids always request this yummy mashed potato pizza with leeks and bacon crumbles, but I also like to make up another pizza with turkey, cranberries and barbeque sauce for the grown-ups.

Before you get busy using all your appliances in the kitchen, it’s a good idea to have an appliance home warranty plan in place – just in case there’s a breakdown. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of America can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY Shower Pressure Fixes

Low or declining shower pressure may be a frustrating situation. Fortunately, most of the causes of low shower pressure can be fixed quickly, easily and without a lot of personal expertise.

To determine the culprit behind this issue, there are a number of places to look. The best place to start is in the shower itself.

Here are some DIY shower pressure fixes you can complete without the assistance of a plumber:

Remove shower head sediment

Older homes may experience water pressure problems due to years of sediment build-up in the shower head.

You may be able to clean out an older shower head with a simple life hack: An eight-hour soak in vinegar. Inspect the shower head afterward to see if that fix solved the problem and clear any remaining debris manually. If you’re still experiencing low shower pressure, it’s probably time to buy a new shower head.

Adjust necessary valves

If you just moved into a new home, you might find the pressure isn’t to your liking because the builder or previous owner installed a low-flow shower head. Try removing the flow regulator to improve the water stream.

If the problem persists, the low shower pressure may be the result of a water-restrictive shower valve instead of the shower head itself. Adjusting the central shut-off valve may increase the pressure.

Check with your water provider

For homes that get their water from municipal sources, there may be a problem with the amount of water flowing into the property as a whole.

You can increase the flow of water into your home either from the curb-side main or via the one coming into the house. This should be done carefully, however, and may require a call to your water provider.

Look for leak

In some cases, valves themselves could be the source of the problem. If decades-old pipes start to leak, you’ll encounter reduced water pressure in not only the shower, but also throughout the whole home. However, those issues may only present themselves in the shower. If you have low water pressure in your home overall, you may have bigger issues to deal with, like an issue with your water service line.

If you discover any leaks in your home plumbing system, you can attempt to patch them up – if the pipes are relatively new – with little fuss. All you’ll need to do is shut off the water to that pipe, make sure it’s dry and apply either a tape- or epoxy-based sealant, available at most hardware stores, to the affected area of the pipe. Some patches may not be advisable for lines that supply drinking or shower water, so check the packaging to make sure you get the right one.

When You Might Need to Call a Professional

As we have discussed, many low shower-pressure issues can be fixed on your own with a quick trip to the local hardware store to buy a replacement shower head or valve, and a few DIY how-to videos.

Once you have completed these repairs by yourself, it’s a good idea to plan for the future. Should you have any future problems, having a home warranty for your interior plumbing and draining system is a good idea.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

Reasons to call a professional plumber

Not sure if you need the help of a professional plumber? If the issue falls under one of these scenarios, you should definitely call a professional for expert help.

When the water pressure is low

If the water in your home isn’t flowing at its normal pressure, there could be a blockage or leak in the system, fractured pipe or eroded waterline. It can be difficult for the typical homeowner to pinpoint an issue like this. A plumbing professional can identify the source of low water pressure and advise on appropriate solutions.

When there’s no hot water

If your water isn’t heating up efficiently, it’s likely a water heater problem. As these units run on electric or gas systems, it can be dangerous to do repair work on your own. Similarly, if there is no water at all, call a professional to determine the cause.

When you notice severe pipe issues

If you think you have blocked, burst or frozen pipes, call a plumber immediately. Look out for signs, such as strange noises when the tap runs, sewage smells coming from faucets, lack of water or frost on exposed pipes.

Blockages are typically caused by sediment buildup or large debris in the sewer line. DIY attempts to fix these issues can cause more damage, resulting in a much larger repair bill. Even worse, a failed repair to a broken sewer line can cause issues for an entire neighborhood.

When you hear concerning noises

If you hear an extremely loud noise coming from the pipes, it may be a sign that something in the system is broken or about to break. If you hear a gurgling sound coming from the drains or pipes, it can be a sign of a clogged or compromised plumbing system. The sounds will likely appear when you’re using the toilet, shower, washing machine or dishwasher. If you hear these sounds, turn off the water immediately. This step will prevent the system from backing up into the house until the plumber arrives to inspect the issue.

When you’re doing a home renovation project

If you’re renovating the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or other areas of the house that involve plumbing, make sure you get professional advice before starting the project. Relocating or installing plumbing-related items, such as sinks or dishwashers, requires the correct placement of supply lines and drains. A plumber can tell you if your renovation plans are feasible and ensure you have the proper permits. With that advice, you could save money on a potential repair or re-installation.

When you notice water damage

Look out for signs of water damage, such as leaks, water stains and mold growth. It’s ideal to catch water damage before the mold growth gets too severe, as the fungus is a health and safety hazard. A plumber can determine the source of the moisture and perform appropriate repairs to prevent further mold growth.

When DIY solutions aren’t enough

There are easy DIY fixes to many common plumbing issues, such as leaky faucets or clogged drains. Keep these plumbing do’s and don’ts in mind if you are attempting to repair the issue on your own. However, if the problem persists even after you’ve tried to fix it, a more serious problem may require expert plumbing knowledge to repair.

If you’re uncomfortable performing DIY plumbing, never hesitate to call a professional – even if it’s for a simple fix. A mistake could lead to a more severe issue, so it’s better to save yourself the hassle and get it fixed properly the first time around.Being prepared before home maintenance issues arise is always a good strategy. 

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

DIY plumbing: How to install a toilet

If you’re ready to put your handyman skills and toolbox to use, a toilet installation is a relatively simple job to start stretching your DIY muscles. Here are some tips you need to know about installing a toilet on your own.

Reasons to take on the project:

  • Replace or upgrade an old toilet
  • Remove and replace during remodeling
  • Save water and energy

If your toilet troubles are persistent, such as excessive clogging or cracking porcelain, the best option is to replace it. You can save money on your water bills by upgrading your unit to a low-flushing, energy-efficient model. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets are responsible for 30 percent of a home’s average indoor water consumption. Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label for high-performing, water-efficient models. Be sure to measure your bathroom before purchasing so the new toilet will fit in your space.

How to remove the old toilet:

Keep your safety in mind, and try to avoid breaking the toilet as a way to remove it. Plus, if it isn’t in terrible condition, you can sell or donate the unit.

Here’s how to dismantle the toilet without breaking it:

  1. Turn off the water supply. The valve is on wall or floor behind the toilet.
  2. Drain all the water from the bowl. Start by flushing the toilet, then use a plunger, small cup or sponge to remove any excess water.
  3. Disconnect the supply line. Use a wrench to carefully release it.
  4. Remove the tank. Start with the lid, and then use a wrench to loosen the bolts at the bottom of the tank. Lift it straight up, but gently twist it side to side if you feel resistance.
  5. Remove the bowl.Take off the bolt caps at the base of the toilet, then use pliers or a wrench to remove the bolts. Gently rock the bowl back and forth until you can pick it up entirely.
  6. Clean the floor. Use a putty knife to remove any gunk from the floor and around the mounting flange. Wipe down the surface before installing the new toilet.

 How to install a new toilet:

Just like removing the old one, you’ll install the new one in pieces. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for any specific guidelines.

  1. Place the wax ring on the flange. Pro tip: Lowe’s recommended making sure the ring is warm before placing it, as it will be softer and easier to work with.
  2. Set and secure the bowl. Place the toilet bowl onto the flange, aligning it with the bolt holes. Place a washer and nut on each bolt, and tighten into place. Alternate from side to side to make sure you tighten them evenly. Be cautious of over-tightening, as this can crack the porcelain. Place the bolt caps, and use a sealant around the base of the toilet to secure its position.
  3. Install the tank. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placing the rubber gasket (if it’s not already installed.) Insert the mounting bolts through the inside of the tank, and then place it into position. Alternate tightening the bolts, like you did on the base.
  4. Secure the toilet seat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Reconnect the water supply line. Turn the water back on, and then flush the toilet to test your work.

Not everyone is a DIY type, but if you are, it’s definitely worth a shot. If during the task you find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, don’t hesitate to call in a professional. Serious plumbing issues can become a huge inconvenience, so it’s never a bad idea to have a certified plumber check out the problem.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Mold Removal

As a homeowner, you’re bound to deal with troublesome maintenance troubles. However, spotting problems early can help minimize the severity of the issues and protect your wallet from the burden of significant home repairs.

To catch and help avoid mold-related issues, here’s what you need to know about removing this common fungus from your home:

What is mold?

While it can be a nuisance inside your home, this fungus is a natural part of the environment. Mold can grow almost anywhere – on plants, food, wood, paper, carpet and tile grout – as long as there is moisture in the area. You’ve probably seen it darken the grout lines in your shower or build up on damp outdoor decks. The most common type of mold is mildew, which starts as little black spots and grows into a larger infestation. Black mold can be furry and possibly toxic, so homeowners should take extra precautions when trying to remove it. There’s also hidden mold, which you can usually smell even if you can’t see it.

Mold can occur at any time throughout the year, so, unfortunately, you and your home are always vulnerable. The fungus can cause health issues for you and your family, including allergic reactions, asthma and skin irritations, so it’s important to remove mold before it gets to be severe.

Can you clean mold?

With the right tools and precautionary measures, you can usually clean the surfaces where mold develops. Always wear a mask, goggles and gloves while cleaning to limit your exposure to the mold.

The first step for DIY mold removal is to dry the surface and vacuum any dust or debris. Then, scrub the mold off the surface with a bristle brush and mold cleaner, rinse and dry the area completely. For light surfaces, such as tile grout, you can use diluted chlorine bleach to remove the mold. According to The Maids, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda are effective natural, non-toxic cleaners. However, if there is black mold, you may need to purchase a specific cleaner to disinfect the area. While these methods work for hard surfaces, keep in mind that absorbent materials with mold, such as ceiling tiles or outdoor seating cushions, should ideally be discarded and replaced.

How can you avoid mold?

Your cleaning efforts will go to waste if you don’t control the moisture in the area. To prevent mold from growing, start by identifying the source of the moisture, which could be leaks, condensation, humidity or poor ventilation. Once you know where the water is coming from, the key is to act quickly. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible, and dry materials within a day or two of leaks or spills.

The EPA further recommends reducing the humidity levels in your home by 30 to 60 percent in order to decrease mold growth. To do so, make sure there is proper ventilation in all bathrooms, and take action by completing small steps like running the fan during and after your shower. Adding insulation to windows, doors, piping and floors can reduce condensation and improve the airflow inside your home. Dust also causes mold to grow, so make sure to clean your home regularly, focusing on baseboards, floorboards and air vents where dust is prone to build up quickly.

When should you call a professional?

When it’s ignored, mold can become excessive and cause health risks, so it’s never a bad idea to have your home inspected by a trained professional. Plus, while cleaning can be an effective temporary home mold removal solution, the mold may persist or you may experience plumbing or HVAC problems that only a professional can completely and safely repair.

Preparing for the future is the best line of defense when dealing with issues in and around your home. See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

8 Ways To Conserve Water At Home

Long showers feel great, but with every minute you spend pampering yourself, your wallet and the environment struggle. Along with saving money on your monthly bills, water conservation is critical for your community. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s likely that at least 40 states will experience water shortages by 2024.

Follow these tips for how to save water at home:

1. Be mindful of running water.

Don’t keep the faucet running the entire time you’re brushing your teeth or washing your hands. You may have heard this one before, but it’s easy to lazily run the faucet instead of turning it off while scrubbing and then turning the tap back on when you’re ready to rinse. Similarly, avoid luxuriously long showers. Try to limit shower time to 10 to 15 minutes maximum to prevent wasting excess gallons of water.

2. Fix leaks as soon as possible.

Look out for leaky faucets, dripping water from shower heads, rusting pipes and signs of water damage.Locate the source of the leak, and fix it immediately to avoid wasting more water.

3. Don’t let the toilet run.

If you notice that your toilet is constantly running, try replacing the flapper. Simply shut off the water to the toilet, and flush to drain the tank. Unhook the old flapper from the base of the tank and chain, and then replace it with the new one. Turn the water back on, and you’re all set. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to buy a new toilet. Look for an energy-efficient model, and follow these steps to remove the old unit and install the new one.

4. Wash full loads only.

Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. If you have a unit with energy-saving settings for light washes and smaller loads, take advantage of them. When it’s time to invest in a new machine, look for water-saving models with the settings that allow you to adjust to load size.

5. Use a compost bin.

An in-sink garbage disposal needs a lot of water to work efficiently, so opt for a compost bin instead. It’s healthier for the environment while reducing water waste and increasing the energy efficiency of your home.

6. Insulate pipes.

Be sure to insulate exposed pipes around the house, especially in the attic and basement. When they’re not insulated, it takes longer for water to heat up, meaning it’s running for longer periods of time. You can also cover the water heater with insulating blanket to further speed up the process.

7. Run the sprinklers in the morning.

The optimal time to water your lawn is early morning. This strategy prevents rapid evaporation from midday heat, which means less water is required to sufficiently cover the grass. Avoid rogue sprinklers wasting water by spraying the sidewalk or side of the house, instead positioning them to face the grass and landscaping appropriately.

8. Perform routine appliance maintenance.

Proper appliance care and upkeep can prevent potential leaks and wasted energy. This preventative maintenance includes regular cleaning and seeking professional advice when necessary. Plus, if it’s time for an upgrade, buy energy-saving products and appliances. According to the EPA, the average household can use about 20 percent less water with water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Complement your water conservation at home with these ways to increase energy efficiency. With mindful changes, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money each month.

If you notice spikes in your water bill, serious leaks or other maintenance issues during your water conservation efforts, don’t hesitate to call a professional.

See how plans from Service Lines Warranties of American can help with the costs of home repairs.

How to Fix a Screen Door

I grew up in a house with an outside deck. So I have many fond memories of sitting outside on warm, sunny days, reading and enjoying the view of my neighborhood. I would often open the sliding deck door to the adjacent living room while keeping the screen door shut so I could hear music from the living-room stereo without worrying about insects sneaking to the indoors.

So when that screen door started showing signs of wear and tear, my mom would complain how my brother and I were to blame (“too much rough housing” she would say) and “how in the world am I going to fix it?” What mom didn’t know is that while trying to patch a ripped screen door can seem difficult, it’s actually not so hard to fix.

We’ve compiled a list of common issues and helpful DIY remedies to make screen-door repairs a breeze:

Screen replacement 101

Because the screens in most screen doors consist of lightweight fiberglass, tears in the material are hardly unheard of, according to Popular Mechanics. Fortunately, they’re also easy and fairly inexpensive to replace. Your local hardware store will almost definitely have a replacement screen that fits your door. They’ll also have the specialized tool for dealing with spline – the rubber tubing that surrounds the perimeter of a screen and keeps it affixed to the door frame.

Let’s go step by step:

  1. Remove the old screen by lifting it away from the track-mounted rollers. Pull the bottom of the material out and then lower the door until the screen clears the top edge of the frame.
  2. From there, you can cut your own portion of screen material from a large roll, as HGTV noted, or purchase an a la carte pre-cut screen from your local hardware store.
  3. Next, unscrew the door’s handle, then remove the segments of spline surrounding the door frame with an awl. (Don’t get rid of your spline if it doesn’t show signs of damage, as intact spline can be reused.
  4. Use a screwdriver to remove the rollers and reattach either new or existing spline.
  5. Align the replacement screen with the frame, using the spline tool’s convex and concave rollers to press the rubber tubing into the frame grooves.
  6. Fit the screen snugly into the splined frame.
  7. Finally, trim any excess fiberglass and reattach any parts of the door (latch, rollers, panel and so on) you might’ve removed.

Learn More About Home Repair Plans Near You

Dragging wheels and other irritations

If opening your sliding screen door is a chore – it moves slowly, creaks or doesn’t close all the way – it’s time to remedy that situation. (Especially if you want to avoid insect intruders.)

The culprit behind the dragging screen is frequently worn-down or broken wheels along either the top or bottom edge of the door’s frame, according to The Family Handyman. But just like a torn screen, this problem isn’t too hard to remedy – and neither are some other issues that may be at play.

  • Make sure the wheel track is clean and unobstructed.
  • Addressing a jammed track is even easier than a wheel replacement: just clear any debris or dirt from it. If the track is bent, straighten it with a pair of pliers.
  • Check the screws holding the wheels in place – if they’re too loose or too tight, adjust as necessary.
  • Don’t forget to check the sliding screen’s top row of wheels. Because of their location, they don’t experience as much wear and tear, but better to be safe than sorry.

If these steps don’t address the issue, you probably need to change the wheels. As with replacement screens, you can easily find spare screen-door wheels at most hardware stores. To start, remove the screen door from its tracks. From there, you can unscrew the old wheels, affix your replacements to the door and put the adjusted door back in place. Ideally, it should move smoothly from then on.

Worst-case scenario

A screen door that is damaged beyond repair will need to be completely replaced. You can call your local hardware store, handyman, or big box retailer to find a new screen door that works for you.

Being prepared for home repairs before they arise is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Lines of America can help with the costs of covered repairs.

Ever Wonder What A Dishwasher Air Gap Is?

I’ll admit it, I never thought about the inner workings of my dishwasher until it started giving me issues, and I had to figure out why the dishes weren’t coming out clean. When someone asked me if I’d checked the “dishwasher air gap”, I had no idea what they were talking about. So, that prompted me to Google how dishwashers work. (I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed expert now.)

What I learned is: Your dishwasher is connected to the same plumbing infrastructure as the rest of your kitchen, meaning it’s eerily close to the dirty drain water that flows down your sink. If there’s a clog in your drains, that dirty water could flow back up into your dishwasher, contaminating your kitchen’s sanitation haven. Lucky for you, the dishwasher air gap is there to prevent such an unfortunate event from plaguing your appliance.

So what is a dishwasher air gap anyway?

Usually fitted to an existing hole on the sink or countertop and covered with a decorative cap, a dishwasher air gap connects to hoses below the sink or countertop. One is the dishwasher drain hose and the other typically connects to the sink’s drain pipe or garbage disposal.

As the unit runs, the dishwasher pump pushes wastewater to the air gap so it can exit through the drain hoses. If there is a backup or build up in pressure, the air gap also pushes fresh air into the hoses to prevent dirty water to flow back into the dishwasher. The process is essential for preventing cross-contamination between pipes and backflow into the dishwasher.

Does your dishwasher have an air gap?

I know, after all this talk about dirty sink water, why wouldn’t you want to have a dishwasher air gap? Well, some building codes only require minimal ventilation systems, so if you can’t find an air gap in your kitchen, odds are your area doesn’t consider it a compulsory component. However, if you’re planning on installing a new dishwasher any time soon, be sure to check local building and plumbing codes to determine if you should be including an air gap.

Do you need to do anything with the air gap?

Your dishwasher air gap will generally get on with its business with little necessary maintenance. However, cleaning it regularly can prevent blockage issues. To do so, simply remove the cover and unscrew the plastic cap. DoItYourself.com recommended removing the air gap entirely so you can flush it with water and wipe away debris. While you have visibility to the hoses, check it for clogs. If you see any signs of trouble, you can remove them to rinse and dry. Once you get everything back in place, be sure to check for leaks during the next dishwasher cycle.

If you want to install an air gap for your existing dishwasher, you can purchase a kit and follow this step-by-step guide from SFGate Home Guides. Alternatively, a licensed plumber can easily handle the project.

Maintaining the air gap goes hand in hand with overall dishwasher upkeep. For instance, loading your dishwasher correctly and cutting down on excessive water use can boost the appliance’s efficiency. And while it may feel a tad counterintuitive, you should clean your entire dishwasher about once a month.

Being prepared for home repairs is always a good strategy. See how plans from Service Line Warranties of America can help with the costs of water sewer line repairs and replacements.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bathtub Drain?

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Bathtub Drain?

Bathtub Drain Replacement Costs at a Glance

  • Drain and parts: $100
  • Professional installation: $350

No one thinks about their bathtub drain. In fact, unless it’s clogged, you probably never do. But things happen. And sometimes your bathtub drain needs a little more care than a simple unclogging.

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If that’s the case, you’re probably left with two questions: Can you even replace the drain in a bathtub, and how much will that cost? We’ve got your answers.

Can You Replace the Drain in a Bathtub?

The good news is that, thankfully, a bathtub drain can be replaced. The process can be done either by a professional or as a do-it-yourself project. Usually, it’s a relatively straightforward process. Some drains can be easily replaced within a few minutes. Be aware, though, that others will require extensive plumbing work beyond that of a simple drain replacement. How involved the process is will likely be determined by the type of bathtub you have and the reasons you want or need to replace the drain.

Why Replace a Bathtub Drain?

There are many reasons people will need to replace the bathtub drain. It could be that you’ve tried every method you can think of to clear a clog and you’re still having issues. It might be that you’ve got a cast iron tub, and a drain that doesn’t work could lead to rust issues. Perhaps you have a fiberglass tub, and the drain is causing residue buildup. Any of these reasons — or a whole host of others — could lead you to want to replace your drain. Replacing your drain is also a step to take before going through the work required to replace the whole bathtub.

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What’s the Average Cost to Replace a Bathtub Drain?

Typically, the cost for the drain itself is somewhere around $100. However, you might be able to do it for less. The price of parts and labor associated with the cost to replace a bathtub drain vary based on a few factors. The two biggest will be the kind of bathtub you have and the type of work it needs. Free-standing tubs, for example, will require a completely different drain-replacement technique than a walk-in unit. Plus, if you’re just replacing the main drain interface of the tub, it will be much cheaper than if you need to hire a plumber to replace the bathtub P-trap.

If you go the DIY route, labor costs are zero, putting the total around $100 because you’re just paying for parts. Meanwhile, the cost to hire a professional to change out your bathtub drain will come in somewhere around $350. Keep in mind this price is just for the drain replacement, and it doesn’t include other bathtub drainpipe costs. The more the job extends into the plumbing beyond the drain area, the more it will cost.

How to Flush Your Tankless Water Heater: A 7-Step Guide

How to Flush Your Tankless Water Heater: A 7-Step Guide

Flushing a Tankless Water Heater at a Glance

  • Step 1: Turn of isolation valves and gas
  • Step 2: Connect hoses
  • Step 3: Attach hoses to circulation pump
  • Step 4: Add cleaning agent
  • Step 5: Open valves
  • Step 6: Flush cleaning agent
  • Step 7: Reconnect

One of the most important maintenance tasks you can do for your water heater is to flush it. Sediment like calcium and other minerals can build up inside the tank over time, causing it to erode, which shortens its lifespan. To deal with this problem, you need to flush it to get rid of these pesky minerals and other unwanted debris.

This May Also Interest You: What’s the Difference Between Tank and Tankless Water Heaters?

Whether you hire a professional or do it yourself, flushing your tankless water heater is something you need to add to your list of yearly maintenance tasks. By doing so, you can improve your water heater’s efficiency and delay an expensive water heater replacement down the road.

Why You Need to Flush Your Tankless Water Heater

Mineral sediment made up of calcium and magnesium can build up inside your water heater over time and disrupt efficiency as well as reduce its lifespan. Mineral buildup can also cause loud, unpleasant noises to come from the water heater. When you flush a water heater, the cleaning agent used helps remove this buildup in the process and restores the machine.

Water heaters aren’t cheap by any means, so by performing routine maintenance like flushing them, you’ll help increase your machine’s longevity.

How Often Do You Need to Flush Water Heaters?

You should strive to flush your water heater at least once a year at the minimum. This will keep things running smoothly and ensure it doesn’t need replacement before its time. If the area you live in has hard water, you’ll want to flush it even more often.

DIY or Hire a Professional?

With the right tools and knowledge, you can certainly flush a tankless water heater by yourself. In fact, there are water heater flushing kits you can buy online for the job, which come with everything you need. They include things like a circulation pump, hoses, a bucket and a cleaning agent.

However, this is not a project where you can put caution aside. If you’re not confident working with tools, it’s best to leave it up to a professional. Depending on where you live, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $250 per flush. Assuming you only do it once a year, the yearly costs of flushing are minimal compared to the costs of replacing a water heater. So, in the end, it’s a good long-term investment.

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How to Flush a Tankless Water Heater: Step By Step

Step 1: Turn Off the Isolation Valves and Gas

The first step is to turn off the isolation water valves that connect to your water heater — a blue inlet valve for the cold water and a red outlet valve for the hot water. A valve is turned off when it’s perpendicular to the pipe. If the valve is in the same direction as the pipe, then the valve is turned on. Always double-check that the valves are closed. You also need to turn off the gas valve by following the same steps above. You don’t need to turn off the power to your water heater.

Step 2: Connect the Hoses

Connect the hoses to the inlet and outlet valves. There might be a service port cap on both valves you need to remove before connecting them. If you didn’t buy a flushing kit that already comes with water hoses, you could always use water machine hoses as well. Connect the hoses to the vales and use pliers to ensure that the hose and valve are watertight. You don’t want the water to start leaking when you’re in the middle of flushing.

Step 3: Attach Hoses to the Circulation Pump

Now you need to use the circulation pump that came with your water heater flushing kit. Attach the other end of the inlet hose to the circulation pump and place it in the bucket. You only need to attach the inlet hose to the discharge side of the pump. For the outlet hose, you can simply place it in a bucket since the system you have set up will ensure the cleaner goes through the structure and cleans off any magnesium and calcium.

Step 4: Add Cleaning Agent

Once your system is all set up, simply add the cleaning agent to the bucket. The bucket should have at least one gallon of water in it before beginning the process.

Quick tip: If you don’t have a cleaning agent, you can always use vinegar. However, you will need to use at least 2 to 3 gallons of vinegar and let it circulate longer.

Step 5: Open the Valves

At this point, you just need to open up the water valves to let water flow through them and start the pump. You need to let everything circulate for at least 45 minutes and up to an hour and a half. The instruction booklet that comes with the cleaning agent will tell you how long you should let things circulate, but plan on at least an hour. If you’re using vinegar, you need to let it run even longer — for at least an hour and a half to 2 hours.

Step 6: Flush Out the Cleaning Agent

After the time has passed, turn off the pump to stop the circulation. Then turn off both valves and disconnect the inlet valve hose. You now want to flush out any remaining cleaning agent or vinegar. To do this, keep the hose connected to the hot water outlet valve and turn on the cold water inlet valve. This will push water up the system and flush out everything through the hose on the hot water side. Let the water flush for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn off the service port and the cold water inlet valve again. Finally, simply remove the remaining hose.

Step 7: Reconnect Everything

The tankless water heater has now been flushed, so now you can put everything back the way it was. Plug the service port caps back in and then turn on both water valves and the gas valve.

My Toilet Tank Is Spraying Water! How to Fix a Toilet Fill Valve

My Toilet Tank Is Spraying Water! How to Fix a Toilet Fill Valve

Is your toilet acting up? From toilet handle issues to clogs, a lot can go wrong with the busiest seat in the house. One of those things is the toilet fill valve, which controls the water that goes from the tank to the bowl. When you flush the toilet, it opens to let the water in the bowl. Then, it closes to refill the tank.

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When this valve fails, you’ll need to know how to fix a toilet fill valve to get your toilet back on track. Here’s what to do.

What Causes a Toilet Valve to Fail?

One of the most common causes of a failing toilet valve is simple wear and tear. The more times you flush, the more wear that happens to the toilet valve. This can cause the fill valve to move out of alignment or otherwise experience problems.

These toilet valves can also become dirty or clogged when debris builds up inside of them. The inner components are often inaccessible, which means it’s difficult impossible to clean out the debris.

How to Know When to Replace a Toilet Fill Valve

All homeowners should know basic toilet maintenance — like when to replace or fix a toilet fill valve. In addition to spraying water, here are some signs that you need a new toilet valve:

  • Constantly running toilet
  • Strange noises, such as low humming or screeching
  • Tank takes a long time to refill
  • Weak flushing

Can a Toilet Fill Valve Be Repaired?

When the toilet fill valve fails, you usually need to replace the whole thing. A new fill valve is inexpensive. Plus, you get the peace of mind of knowing that everything is news and less likely to fail again soon.

That said, you can make some adjustments to your fill valve that could help. For example, if the toilet doesn’t fill to the appropriate level, there’s an adjustment on the fill valve that you can move up or down. You can also adjust the height of the fill valve if needed.

How Do You Repair a Toilet Fill Valve?

The easiest way to fix a toilet fill valve is to simply replace it. Sometimes, you can remove and clean the existing fill valve to correct the issue. But usually, the answer you want when you ask how to fix a toilet fill valve is to install a new one. If the valve is very worn, it’s probably best to replace the entire thing to prevent more problems. You’ll often spend more on wasted water than you would to buy a replacement valve.

How Do You Replace a Toilet Fill Valve?

If your toilet fill valve fails, you usually need to replace it completely. These steps should guide you in the process:

1. Shut off the water supply to the toilet. The shut-off valve is usually behind the toilet tank.

2. Flush the toilet to empty the tank. You might need to use a sponge or towel to soak up the remaining water in the tank to keep it from spilling on your floor.

3. Position a bucket on the floor underneath where the water supply line connects with the toilet. This catches any leftover water that you can’t remove from the tank, which will leak out as soon as you remove the old fill valve.

4. Disconnect the water supply line at the base of the toilet tank.

5. Unscrew the locknut on the toilet fill valve and remove it from the tank.

6. Position the new fill valve inside the toilet tank, referring to the package instructions if necessary. The tube on the valve goes into the discharge. There might be a clip to attach the hose as well, depending on the replacement valve you buy. The fill valve is adjustable. The overflow pipe in your toilet should be 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) below the critical level mark on the flush valve for things to work correctly.

7. Adjust the fill valve if necessary to get the correct height. You might need to cut off the top portion of the overflow pipe if you’ve extended the fill valve as much as possible, but the overflow pipe is still too tall.

8. Hand-tighten the locknut once you get the proper positioning of the toilet fill valve. You want it tight enough to keep the valve in place without overtightening and breaking it.

9. Reconnect the water line and turn the water supply on.

10. Test the toilet to make sure it flushes and refills correctly without leaking. You can adjust the water level inside the tank by squeezing the metal clip and sliding it up or down along the metal rod.

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What Type of Fill Valve Do I Need?

When you’re buying a replacement part, you might notice different styles of fill valves at the store. Some older models use a ball float to measure the water level and determine when to shut off the water. A more modern design is the float cup fill valve, which has a round float mounted around the shaft. The float goes up and down with the water level and determines when the water level is high enough. You can also get floatless fill valves that use a pressure-sensing diaphragm to control the water.

Tips on How to Fix a Toilet Fill Valve

Use these tips to help when replacing or fixing a toilet fill valve.

  • Try adjusting your current toilet fill valve first to see if that resolves the issues.
  • Keep a bucket under the water connection point until the replacement is completely done and you’re sure it’s not leaking.
  • Grab an old towel in case you need to dry up spilled water. Place the old fill valve on the towel to keep any water from leaking out of it.
  • Avoid using a wrench or pliers to tighten parts so you don’t break them.
How to Turn Off Your Water Heater — and When It May Come Up

How to Turn Off Your Water Heater — and When It May Come Up

If you notice a leak from your water heater or your water supply is cut off, it’s important to act quickly to avoid damage to your heater unit or surrounding walls and floors. Typically, this means turning off your water heater.

This May Also Interest You: Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover My Water Heater?

Knowing in advance how to turn off your water heater can give you the confidence that you know what to do in a plumbing emergency. Here’s a quick guide.

Is It OK to Turn Off a Water Heater?

It’s generally best to avoid turning your water heater off too regularly. Some homeowners try to save money by switching off their water heaters when they don’t need them, but the savings are unlikely to be significant enough to justify the additional wear and tear on your machine.

Furthermore, you’ll have to wait for around an hour for the water heater to produce enough hot water for a bath or shower after you turn it back on, which is bad news if you’re in a rush and don’t leave enough time. Switching your water heater on also puts it under extra stress, which could cause it to malfunction if you do it again and again. However, there are some situations when you’ll need to turn your water heater off.

When and Why Should You Turn Off a Water Heater?

There are a couple of situations when you should consider turning your water heater off. If your main water supply is turned off for any reason, it’s best to shut down the water heater as a precaution until the supply resumes. Continuing to run your water heater when the tank isn’t full could cause heat damage to the internal components.

The other time you should always turn off a water heater is if it starts leaking. This is a sign of a faulty valve or could indicate that your heater is simply too old and needs replacing. A water leak from your heater could cause damage to your walls or floors, so turn it off until you can get support from a professional plumber. You’ll also need to turn off an electric water heater before you flush it.

How Do I Shut Off My Gas Water Heater?

First, locate the temperature dial on your gas water heater and twist it into the off position. Look around the top of the water heater to find the supply line and switch off the valve to stop any more water from flowing into the heater.

Next, you need to switch off the gas supply to the heater. If you have a lever, turn it so that it’s perpendicular to the supply line. If you have a knob, twist it clockwise until it won’t go any further. Finally, turn the air relief valve off to let air inside the tank.

How Do I Shut Off My Electric Water Heater?

Start by finding the breaker box for your home’s electricity supply and turn off the line to your water heater. You can usually find the breaker box on an external wall. If you plan on flushing your water heater, now is a good time. Turn off the water supply valve, then switch off the air supply valve to allow the tank to fill with air.

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Can I Turn Off the Water and Leave My Water Heater On?

If you need to turn your water off for any reason, it’s always safer to turn your water heater off, too. While many water heaters will be fine for a while without a water supply, reduced water pressure or a low water level inside the tank could cause the heater’s components to overheat and burn. This could cause significant, expensive damage to your water heater.

How Do I Know If My Water Heater Is Off?

If you’re concerned that you haven’t turned your water heater off correctly, try turning on a faucet for a couple of minutes to ensure that the water runs cold. You can also try listening to the heater to check that it’s silent. While a water heater should be reasonably quiet if it’s in good working order, most make a low noise that will alert you if it’s still running.

8 Shower Storage Solutions

8 Shower Storage Solutions

Having an organized shower is crucial to making your showering experience smooth and relaxing. There are many types of shower organizers, and choosing the right one depends on different factors. Apart from functionality, shower organization also affects the aesthetic of your bathroom and impacts how much space you have.

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Since you spend a considerable amount of time each day in the shower, you want to design the area in the most effective way to save time and space. If you think shelving is the only way to get organized, you’d be wrong. There are other effective shower storage solutions that might be more convenient for you.

Can You Store Things in a Shower Without Shelving?

Shelving is often one of the most common solutions for organizing a shower. However, there are many other types of shower organization techniques that don’t require shelving. While shelving certainly has its benefits, it also takes up valuable space unless it’s already built-in. Other options can also make organizing more simple.

Organizers, Hooks, Caddies and More

Here are eight different shower storage solutions for your bathroom. Each one is suitable for different showers and organization goals, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs.

1. Built-In Shower Shelves

There are many showers out there that already have pre-existing, built-in wall shelves. These are typically large enough to hold your shampoos and soaps. In terms of space, they’re one of the most efficient solutions. Organization-wise, though, they aren’t the best, and if you have several items, it can quickly get messy or chaotic if something falls. If you’re remodeling your bathroom and getting a new shower, it’s worth considering built-in shelves if space is a big priority.

2. Corner Shelves

Corner shelves can be a great addition to a shower because you can easily store items while bringing some style to the shower. They are easy to install and can hold shower products like face wash, face scrub, razors, shaving cream and more. They don’t take up too much space, either. There are many designs for corner shelves and sizes, too. You can choose among glass, granite, ceramic and more. There are even shower caddy-style options.

3. Shower Caddies

After shelves, shower caddies are probably the second most commonly used shower organizers. Shower caddies are convenient if you live in a place where you share a shower with other people.

Michelle Hansen, a professional organizer who runs Practical Perfection, says caddies make it easy to corral all of your own items, and they don’t get mixed up with other people’s stuff. It also helps to designate a spot for all of your items so that it stays looking nice and organized.

There are many types of shower caddies, so it’s easy to find one that matches the style and size of your shower.

4. Shower Hooks

If you’re looking for ways to organize things like shower sponges or a squeegee, you can use something as simple as shower hooks. Shower hooks are a great addition to bathrooms and showers, offering a convenient way to place things to hang off the walls. By having a place for each individual item, you can keep things clutter-free.

Another way you can use shower hooks is by hooking up a laundry basket on them. Then instead of adding one item, you can fit a whole bunch of things in the laundry basket. It’s not nearly as elegant as other storage methods, but it’s certainly efficient.

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5. Floating Shower Bench

Floating shower benches are growing in popularity because they add more than just storage. Convenience is another significant factor. You can place items on the bench or below the bench, knowing you won’t accidentally knock them over.

Apart from that, benches also make other things you do in the shower more manageable, like shaving your legs. It also makes for a great experience if you just want to sit and relax while the water falls on you. There are many designs available, and you can use different materials like marble, granite or quartz to match the bathroom design.

6. Soap and Shampoo Dispensers

Showers can quickly get cluttered up with shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles. Hansen suggests you can easily get rid of that clutter and have a perfectly organized shower by using a dispenser. Plus, using a dispenser cuts down on product waste — especially when you have kids. With a dispenser, only a certain amount of each product gets released each push.

However, you should choose carefully when buying a shampoo dispenser. Some of them might have little durability and can fall off the wall after a while, causing a mess.

7. Shower Baskets

A shower basket is another simple way of organizing the shower without taking up too much space. Shower baskets can be added to the corners or right by the shower walls. You have a wide range of choices when it comes to sizes as well. Some shower baskets will come with suction cups to attach them to tiles, but others require drilling. To eliminate this need, you can use a popular solution like Sugru Moldable Glue to hold it up instead.

8. Hanging Mesh Organizer

A hanging mesh organizer connects to your shower curtain tension rod. Depending on the one you buy, it will have several pockets where you can place things like shampoo, body wash, razors and bath sponges. Since they just kind of hang from the rod, they don’t take up any additional space like other shower organizers. They’re also pretty easy to set up, so they don’t require a tricky installation.

What’s the Best Shower Organizer?

Among all the types of shower organizers, which one is the best one? Well, there’s no exact answer to that. As mentioned, each shower organizer has its pros and cons. Even better: You can use two types of shower organizers at the same time. You can have corner shelves while also using shower caddies or product dispensers.

In the end, it comes down to how you want to style your shower and the space you have available. If you just want something simple and effective and you don’t care too much about how it looks, then shower hooks or hanging mesh organizers are a perfect choice. For something more stylish, you can equip the shower with corner shelves, shower caddies or built-in shelves.

Prevent Frozen-Pipe Problems by Knowing These Things Down Cold

Prevent Frozen-Pipe Problems by Knowing These Things Down Cold

As a homeowner, you should always be on the lookout for things that can cause damage to your home — and your bank balance. One of the things you should be on the lookout for when the mercury drops is frozen pipes. A frozen waterline can, unfortunately, be all too common among homeowners and can lead to the need for thousands of dollars in repairs.

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We’ll take you through some questions you should be asking yourself, and provide helpful answers to make you aware of problems to be on the lookout for and preventive measures you can take to avoid frozen-pipe problems.

How Long Does It Take for Pipes to Freeze?

Your waterlines — especially those located outdoors — are prone to freezing during cold temperatures. There’s no definitive time it takes for pipes to freeze — but be assured that, in extremely cold weather, it won’t take very long. It may seem counterintuitive, but houses in warmer climates are usually more susceptible to frozen pipes than houses in colder climates because the latter group typically have construction measures to guard against such issues.

Insulation and where your pipes are situated are probably the biggest factors in determining how long it might take the lines to freeze.

frozen faucet drip

How Cold Does It Have to Get for Pipes to Freeze?

Many homeowners believe that, because water freezes when the air temperature reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit that their pipes are in danger as soon as the thermometer dips to that number. Well, you may breathe a sigh of relief to learn that’s not the case.

You need to be concerned about your faucets when the weatherman forecasts temperatures of 20 degrees or less. At that point, how well-insulated your pipes are will dictate whether your pipes are sufficiently protected. With a reasonable amount of insulation, even pipes in an unheated area could take as long as six hours to freeze. On the other hand, if you have little or no insulation, your pipes could freeze in as little as three hours.

What Are the Risks of a Frozen Waterline?

Not only are frozen pipes a huge nuisance that can cause you headaches and your water systems problems, it can also cost you lots of money. When a frozen pipe bursts, which can happen if left unchecked, water damage is all but inevitable. It could cost you tens of thousands of dollars to repair the damage left behind.

That’s why it’s vital to call a professional plumber at the first sign of a frozen pipe. If a pipe does burst, it can be tempting to try to remove anything in the water’s path, but for safety’s sake it’s best to wait until help arrives, as standing water can hide sharp debris and tripping hazards. The water can also be extremely cold, and if there are electrical outlets or appliances touching the water, there’s a risk of electrocution.

Signs of a Frozen Pipe?

There are several warning signs of frozen pipes or frozen faucets. Unfortunately, to the untrained eye, some of these signs can be difficult to spot.

Here are some red flags to be on the lookout for:

  • Temperatures. As we previously mentioned, it has to reach a 20 degrees for your pipes to freeze, so once the mercury drops below 32 degrees, that’s the time to take precautions.
  • Frost on the pipe. If your pipes are visible, you may be able to see frost accumulating.
  • No water is coming out of the faucet. A lack of running water can be another telltale sign.
  • Strange smells. Odd odors could mean that your pipe is partially or completely blocked, possibly due to freezing, as the only direction for the stench to escape is back toward your property.
frozen faucet

What To Do If Your Waterline Freezes?

Once you’re aware that a pipe is frozen, you must act quickly to thaw it. Depending on the location of the pipe and your level of expertise, you can attempt to thaw the pipe yourself or you can contact a licensed plumber to do the job for you. In any case, it’s imperative to thaw the pipe as soon as possible because it has the potential to burst and cause extensive damage to your property.

Can You Fix a Frozen Faucet Yourself?

If you consider yourself a handy person or you’re interested in trying a DIY project to prevent thousands of dollars in repairs, you can try to address frozen pipes yourself. Keep in mind, it can be difficult to pinpoint the frozen pipes.

Here are some of the steps necessary to thaw out your frozen pipes:

  • Locate the frozen pipe. If the blockage is in an area of your home that you have access to, you should look for signs of a freeze.
  • Open the faucet. In order to thaw out the pipe, you’ll need to open the faucet that the waterline feeds into.
  • Begin the thawing process. You should always begin near the faucet, then work your way toward the blockage, which ensures that any melted ice can make its way through the open faucet.
  • Thaw the exposed pipes. You can use a hairdryer, heat lamp, hot towels or electrical heating tape.
  • Thaw enclosed pipes. For pipes you can’t see, you can try to thaw them out by increasing the temperature of your home, using an infrared lamp or cutting out a section of your wall for direct access.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to thaw out the pipes yourself, contact a professional for assistance.

How Can You Keep Pipes From Freezing?

The best way to avoid paying thousands of dollars to repair damage caused by frozen pipes is to avoid the problem in the first place. Here are some proactive steps you can take:

  • Keep your house adequately heated
  • Allow faucets to drip slightly
  • Keep interior doors open
  • Seal up holes and cracks
  • Add insulation, which as an added benefit helps keep your house warmer in general
  • Remove exterior hoses

Do External Faucets Have an Indoor Shutoff Valve?

Whether your external faucet has an indoor shutoff valve will largely depend on where you live. If you live somewhere in the North, for example, where it gets very cold in the winter, it’s common to have a valve somewhere in the house. In warmer climates, it’s not uncommon for there to be no indoor valve.

When winterizing your house for the season, you should turn the indoor valve off and leave the outside one open so the water can drip out. The danger is that trapped water could freeze and burst the pipe. The valve will likely be either very near to where the pipe feeding the exterior fixture exits the house, or where the pipe splits from the main trunk line.

What Should You Do When the Outside Faucet Is on and Water Leaks into the Basement?

This type of issue is not uncommon in homes that have hoses that are connected to a water source located in the basement. If water gets backed up into your basement, the first thing you should do is reach out to an expert — and the sooner the better, as a large buildup of water can lead to extensive structural damage.

There are steps that you can take to prevent this from happening in the future. For example, you should drain your faucet before every winter to ensure your pipes remain clear of potential frost. If you don’t drain the water in advance, or it leaks and then the temperature drops sufficiently, it could split the outer pipe, which might then leak when you open the faucet.

Should I Install an Insulated Faucet Cover?

We brace for the cold weather to take its toll on us when the winter months come around — but an unexpected temperature drop might not leave you enough time to take preventive measures. It doesn’t take long for a snap of icy temperatures to cause the water in your spigot or indoor pipes to freeze.

By installing an insulated faucet cover, you can protect your home from unexpected freezes. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t make the proper arrangements ahead of the colder months, but insulating your outdoor faucets with a Styrofoam cover can buy you some time when Old Man Winter sneaks up on you.

If you are dealing with frozen pipes, or you want to take steps to prevent frozen pipes, call the team here at Service Line Warranties of America to learn more about the packages we offer.

Since we’re all home now more than ever, being prepared for unexpected home repairs with a plan from Service Line Warranties of America is important. Having a plan in place gives you the peace of mind knowing that you can simply call our 24/7 repair hotline for covered breakdowns. See what plans are available in your neighborhood.

Thinking About a Solar Water Heater? Here are the Pros and Cons

Thinking About a Solar Water Heater? Here are the Pros and Cons

You hop into the shower and quickly jump back out again because the steaming water you were promised is nowhere to be found. If that’s the case, it may be time for a new hot water system. And as long as you’re in the market for one, consider a solar water heater.

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If you don’t know much about them, you may be hesitant to get a solar-powered water heater. (How much do they cost? How well do they work if the sun’s not shining?) But solar hot water systems can offer plenty of benefits to homeowners. You may find that buying one is a worthwhile investment for your home. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s a Solar Water Heater?

At their most basic, solar heating systems act as greenhouses for water. The technology isn’t new; the first system was patented in 1891. Systems have improved since then, and today, they use a set of solar panels — known as a solar collector — that trap heat. This heats the water, which is then stored.

When deciding on a solar hot water system, you can choose between an active system and a passive system. The main difference is that active systems have a circulating pump and controls. Passive systems tend to be less efficient, but they are less expensive and often last longer. An installer can help you determine which type works best for your home, water needs and location.

Is a Solar Water Heater Worth It?

The answer to this question is always going to depend on your individual circumstances, but most people find a solar water heating system is a good investment. If you’re trying to build a more eco-friendly lifestyle, solar water is a great addition to your home as it decreases your carbon footprint.

Even those not interested in going green for the environment find that a solar system helps give them more green financially by putting more money in their pocket. Although upfront costs can be high, these systems pay for themselves over time by reducing your energy bills.

However, solar hot water systems aren’t without their disadvantages. Your potential savings can differ depending on where you’re located, and some homeowners have to pay additional costs to prepare their homes for the systems. It’s important to understand both the pros and cons of installing solar hot water before deciding if it’s right for you.

What Are the Benefits of Solar Hot Water?

Cost Savings

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 19% of a household’s energy use goes toward heating water. In most homes, it accounts for the second-largest energy expenditure behind space heating. But once you have solar hot water installed, it doesn’t cost anything to heat the water because using the sun is free. The exact amount you can expect to save depends on a number of factors, such as how much hot water you use and where you live. However, the says that the average U.S. household saves 50% to 80% on their water heating bills after installing a solar hot water system. You’ll also be protected if there are fuel shortages or rising energy costs in the future.

Increased Home Value

Homes with green features are becoming increasingly popular, so solar hot water can help your resale value. It’s likely solar hot water will add value to your home when you’re ready to sell as buyers continue to look for energy-saving and environmentally friendly housing options.

Tax Credits

Currently, homeowners can get a federal government tax credit for the cost of materials and installation of a solar hot water system. The credit is 26% for systems installed before the end of 2022, which can help offset the initial cost of the system. Keep in mind that some states have additional credits available that can lower the cost of the system even further. The credit is only available for systems that heat water in your home, not those used to heat pools or hot tubs.

Environmentally Friendly

Solar hot water systems have a gas or electric backup system for overcast days, but most of your hot water is heated using 100% renewable energy. This means you’re lowering your household’s carbon footprint and keeping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

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What Are the Disadvantages of a Solar Water Heater?

Upfront Costs

HowMuch.net says the average cost of installing a solar hot water system is $4,120, but exact prices depend on the type of system and where you live. According to HomeServe data, replacing your old water heater with a regular, tanked model costs $1,741 on average.

There’s definitely a premium for installing solar. However, tax credits can help lower the costs. And according to Energy Star, solar hot water systems often last longer than traditional systems, so you can delay the cost of a replacement system.

Roof Space

Solar hot water panels are much smaller than solar electricity panels because they’re more efficient at converting sunlight to heat. Despite this, you do need room on your roof for the system. That space needs to be oriented in the right direction and can’t be covered by shade from trees or taller buildings. As the systems can be heavy, they may not be suitable for older houses. Or, you may need to reinforce the roof so it can hold the weight.

With all these considerations, you may find it hard to find an appropriate space for a solar water system. Installers are generally happy to visit your property to determine if a system will work for you.

Less Efficiency on Cloudy Days

Solar panels can generate heat on cloudy days, but you may find the system is less efficient in certain types of weather. This is especially true in northern states that get less sunshine during winter. The majority of systems have boosters that provide hot water when the sun isn’t up to the challenge, so you don’t need to worry about cold showers. However, you may have fewer financial benefits if you live in an area that lacks sunny days.

Maintenance Costs

All hot water systems need to be maintained, whether you’re flushing the system or checking the valves. However, solar systems can be more difficult to maintain yourself due to the nature of the parts. It can also be harder to find someone to do maintenance than it would be if you had a traditional system. You should keep these future costs in mind when making your decision.

Protect Your Home Against Flooding With This Sump Pump Maintenance Checklist

Protect Your Home Against Flooding With This Sump Pump Maintenance Checklist

During a storm, your basement is often the first place in your home to flood. Keeping it dry protects the rest of your home and possessions from water damage. You make even keep some of your most important possessions in the basement — like irreplaceable photos and important documents — which makes it even more important to have a working sump pump.

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How well you maintain your pump will impact how long it lasts — and whether it’ll be able to run properly when you need it to. Here’s a maintenance checklist you can use to extend your sump pump’s life and keep your home dry.

How Many Years Does a Sump Pump Last?

If you’re performing routine sump pump maintenance, you can expect to get up to 10 years out of your pump before you need to replace it. There are some factors that can reduce the life of your pump, so if you don’t test and repair it when you need to, you may find that it has a reduced operating life. Simple things such as not making sure that the pump is on an even surface and in an upright position may force the pump to work harder and for longer than it should. Accumulated debris inside of the pump pit, basin, discharge line and other operating parts can also damage the sump pump and cause it to malfunction.

Do Sump Pumps Need Maintenance?

You should perform sump pump maintenance at least once a year. Consider performing maintenance checks more often if you notice that it’s working more than usual because of an unusual accumulation of rain, snow or moisture due to the weather.

Preventative maintenance is less expensive in the long run than an early replacement. You run the risk of severe flooding if your pump can’t clear water from your basement as quickly as it accumulates. You should factor in the cost of repairing water damage to your home if this should happen. Some insurance companies might be resistant to pay claims if you didn’t perform regularly scheduled maintenance.

How Do You Test Your Sump Pump?

The easiest way to test whether your sump pump is working properly is to pour some water down the pit and see if the pump turns on. This is a great way to see how the entire system is operating because you can run outside and check the discharge line for signs of blockages or debris that has built up inside the pipe. Pay attention to where the water is exiting your home and the direction of the runoff.

You may need to make adjustments if the water is running onto your neighbor’s property or back toward your home. It’s a good idea to perform this test once a month so that you’re aware of any problems and can clean or repair your sump pump if necessary.

How Often Should You Clean Your Sump Pump?

You should clean your sump pump whenever you notice a buildup of debris or a change in how well it performs. Most of the time, you can resolve any issues by cleaning the components and locating the source of the obstructions in the system. If you clean your sump pump thoroughly and still notice that it’s not working properly, it might be time to have it repaired or replaced.

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How to Perform Sump Pump Maintenance

You can maintain your sump pump yourself most of the time. Follow these easy steps to make sure that your pump is set up correctly and that all the components are free of debris:

  • Check that the pump is positioned correctly. Your sump pump works properly when it’s on a level surface and upright. If it’s leaning or the floor is not even, water won’t flow into it properly and the pump may have to work harder to clear water, or it may be unable to pump out any accumulating water.
  • Remove the cover and look inside. You might be surprised by what you find inside of the sump pump, but you can often clean out the debris by spraying the basin and internal components with a hose.
  • Check the drainage line. Some clogs can be due to a frozen line or natural debris buildup. When you check the pipe, also make sure that it’s connected securely to the sump pump.
  • Inspect and clean the inlet screen. The inlet screen is another common place where debris and gunk can accumulate and clog your pump.
  • Make sure that the float is working. One way that sump pumps die quickly is by being overworked. If your float isn’t functioning, the pump may activate when it doesn’t need to, and the engine can wear itself out from running all the time. It could also keep the pump from turning on when it needs to drain water from your basement.
  • Test the pump. Using the method mentioned above, give the sump pump a test to make sure that it’s activating properly and moving water out of your basement.
  • Make sure that the pump has multiple power options. After making sure that the pump has a power source, consider that it may rain or flood when your home doesn’t have power. You can buy a backup battery or a generator to ensure that your pump can work during an emergency that knocks out the power.
  • Consider having a backup sump pump. If your primary pump fails for any reason, having a second pump on hand can prevent basement flooding and minimize the damage done to your home in a flood.

If you’ve tried all these things and find that your pump isn’t working properly, the final step is to call someone that knows how to repair or replace your pump.

Tired of Tepid? Here’s How to Turn Up the Temp on Your Water Heater

Tired of Tepid? Here’s How to Turn Up the Temp on Your Water Heater

Turning Up Your Water Heater at a Glance

  • Step 1: Shut off power
  • Step 2: Remove access panel
  • Step 3: Pull back insulation
  • Step 4: Adjust thermostat temperature
  • Step 5: Replace insulation
  • Step 6: Reinstall access panel
  • Step 7: Turn power back on
  • For gas water heaters: Relight pilot light

A hot shower after a long day is soothing, but if your water heater is set too low, that’s a comfort you may be denied. Proper water temperature isn’t just about comfort. If the water coming out of your tap is only lukewarm, it may not kill harmful bacteria or get your dishes clean.

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Adjust the temperature of your water heater by following a few easy steps.

Why Might You Need to Turn Up Your Water Heater?

Although most homeowners want hotter water because of personal preference, there are two main reasons to consider raising the temperature on your water heater’s thermostat:

Safety

If your water heater is set too low, it can create an environment that’s ideal for bacteria. Disease-causing microorganisms such as Legionella — which causes Legionnaires’ Disease — thrive in lower temperatures. SFGATE says some health experts recommend setting your water heater to at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize bacterial growth.

Cleaning

If your dishwasher doesn’t have a booster heater, it may require higher temperatures for optimal cleaning. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the ideal range typically falls between 130 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where Is My Water Heater Located?

In most houses, the water heater is located against an exterior wall in the garage or basement. You may also find your water heater in several other common places:

  • Utility closets
  • Crawlspaces
  • Attics
  • Bedroom closets

technician with water heater

How to Turn Up Your Water Heater

Depending on the type of water heater, the temperature interface may vary. Tankless heaters typically feature an easy-to-use digital control panel to set temperatures, whereas traditional electric or gas water heaters may feature a dial near the unit’s base that can be adjusted by turning it to the desired temperature.

Adjusting the temperature on newer gas or electric water heaters may be more involved and can be completed by following these simple steps:

  1. Shut off power to the water heater at the circuit breaker.
  2. Locate and remove the thermostat’s access panel.
  3. Pull back the insulation.
  4. Adjust the thermostat’s temperature setting using a flathead screwdriver. If your heater has two thermostats, both need to be adjusted the same amount, with the top thermostat set a few degrees higher than the bottom thermostat.
  5. Replace the insulation.
  6. Reinstall the access panel.
  7. Return the circuit breaker to the ON position.
  8. For gas water heaters, you may also need to relight the pilot light.

Before adjusting the temperature setting of any hot water heater, you should test the thermostat’s accuracy. To get an accurate reading, run hot water from the faucet nearest the heater for at least three minutes. Then, hold a cooking thermometer under the hot water stream to get a temperature reading.

After adjusting the thermostat, wait at least three hours and check the temperature again using a thermometer. If the temperature needs additional adjustment, repeat the appropriate steps.

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What Precautions Should You Take When Turning Up Your Water Heater?

Turning up the temperature on your hot water heater may have its benefits, but it can also cause safety risks. Water above 130 degrees Fahrenheit can scald you, and water above 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause third-degree burns. Young children and the elderly are especially susceptible.

In extreme cases where the water in a heater tank reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it can turn to steam, which can cause the tank to burst, potentially resulting in major injuries and severe damage. If your faucet is releasing steam instead of hot water, or if your heater’s T&P valve has escaping steam or water, shut down your unit immediately.

How Hot or Cold Does Your Water Heater Go?

Water heaters can typically be set anywhere from 60 degrees to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some units feature dials that include settings ranging from “warm” to “very hot.” Most modern units have a default setting of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Will Turning Up Your Water Heater Increase Your Utility Bills?

Yes. The higher your water heater is set, the more energy you’ll use, resulting in higher utility bills. The opposite is also true. For every 10 degrees you lower your thermostat, you can save between 3% to 5% on energy costs. A smart water heater can also help improve energy efficiency.

What If Turning It Up Doesn’t Solve the Issue?

The thermostat setting isn’t always the cause of a lack of hot water. Other reasons for low or no hot water include:

  • Sediment: Over time, sediment can accumulate in your water heater. If your tank isn’t drained periodically, it could lead to reduced efficiency and clogs that reduce the water temperature.
  • A pilot light that’s out: On gas heaters, the pilot light can go out due to a breeze or downdraft, leaving your heater nonfunctional.
  • Power surges: Power surges can interfere with your heater. If you’ve recently had a storm, turning your unit off and then on again may solve the problem.
Here’s How to Hack Your Low-Flow Showerhead … But Should You?

Here’s How to Hack Your Low-Flow Showerhead … But Should You?

Low water pressure in the shower is annoying. Some days, it seems like the water is just trickling out of the showerhead, producing hardly enough flow to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. If you have a low-flow showerhead, this problem is probably all too familiar to you. These showerheads limit the water pressure to save on water and energy costs — but if it costs you your sanity in the process, is it really worth it?

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A quick internet search will reveal plenty of tutorials describing how to increase water pressure in the shower if you have a low-flow showerhead. However, using these DIY fixes could increase your utility bills and even put you on the wrong side of the law, as we’ll explain below.

What Is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

A low-flow showerhead is specially designed to use less water for cost and environmental reasons. According to Exelon, to qualify as low-flow, the showerhead should release water at a rate of no more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Low-flow showerheads can save you a significant amount of money on your water and water heating bills. They’re also helpful for water conservation. Using less water during your shower helps reduce the amount of saltwater that needs to be desalinated for drinking and washing. The desalination process uses a lot of energy and is expensive, so reducing the need for desalination is good for the planet and could even lower taxes.

Why Does My Showerhead Have No Pressure?

If you’ve just installed a brand-new showerhead and find that the pressure is suddenly lower, it’s probably because you’ve purchased a water-saving showerhead. Check the labels around the rim, or perform the showerhead GPM test as described below. If the showerhead flow rate is lower than the legal limit in your area, you could consider replacing it with a more powerful one.

If you had water pressure problems before installing a new showerhead and the issue continues, the reason for your low water pressure could be down to blocked, leaking or damaged pipes or an issue with the shower controls. In this situation, it’s best to call a professional plumber to inspect your plumbing and repair any damaged pipes or mechanisms.

How Do I Know If My Showerhead Is Low-Flow?

Often, you can determine whether your showerhead is low-flow by reading any labels printed around the rim. If your showerhead is labeled 2.5 GPM or less, you have a low-flow showerhead. Any showerhead labeled 2.6 GPM or above is a high-flow showerhead.

If your showerhead doesn’t have a label, try this trick to determine the flow rate. Place a bucket or container with a 1-gallon marker under the showerhead. If your showerhead can fill it to the gallon marker in 20 seconds or less, it is high-flow. If it takes more than 20 seconds, it is low-flow.

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How Do I Increase the Flow on My Low-Flow Showerhead?

Most low-flow showerheads have a rubber pressure-reducing valve (called a regulator) to maintain a lower pressure. You can increase the flow by simply taking it out. You could also consider enlarging the hole that allows water into your showerhead with a drill to increase the amount of water coming through.

Should I Remove the Regulator in My Low-Flow Showerhead?

The regulator in a low-flow showerhead limits the amount of water that can flow through it, reducing the pressure. Some people choose to remove the regulator to achieve less restricted water flow. While the obvious advantage of doing this is significantly higher water pressure, there are a couple of reasons why it might not be such a great idea.

The U.S. Department of Energy is likely to reimpose a legal flow rate limit of 2.5 GPM for showerheads as a part of its energy-saving efforts. The law was previously revised to allow for higher water pressure using multiple showerheads, but the Department of Energy has stated that it intends to return to the previous low-flow laws. Therefore, it’s a good idea to test your showerhead flow rate — especially after taking steps to increase the pressure — to ensure that it won’t fall afoul of federal law in the future.

Some states may impose tighter restrictions on legal showerhead flow rates, often to help maintain a steady freshwater supply during hot weather. For example, the standard legal flow rate in both Hawaii and Washington State is 1.8 GPM. It’s worth checking the restrictions in your area before tampering with your showerhead.

In addition, removing the flow regulator will also increase your overall water usage and the amount of power used for heating water, which is bad for your wallet and the environment.