Environmentally-Friendly Drain Maintenance

In today’s world people are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible in many, if not all, of their daily activities. Whether you own your own home or you rent, if you have indoor plumbing you have certainly had a drain issue in your life time. There are a lot of products available to address drain problems, however the vast majority are the quick fix type. The most common products are literally acids that burn through the stoppage and provide no permanent solution. They are also dangerous and can destroy your plumbing pipes and fixtures – not to mention that they can maim or even kill if they are not properly handled. The best method of drain maintenance is actually ongoing preventative maintenance. Using products such as “Bio Clean” or “Total C”, you are treating the drain with a natural enzyme that will start working immediately and continue to work by slowly digesting the organic build up in the drains. This method of using enzymes is not the quick fix. It is however the best fix because through continued use, it will open the drain and keep it open. It will also open the drain to nearly the full pipe diameter as opposed to just burning through just a small hole. For the environmentally conscious it is also the right choice because it is natural and harmless. In our early days of providing “Bio Clean” our plumbers would even taste it right in front of our customer to show them how safe it is. We don’t do that so much any more because it really doesn’t taste that great and honestly people nowadays don’t need to be convinced. Our most popular enzyme product is our “Total C”. The reason is its ease of application. The “Bio Clean” comes in a powder so there is a process of mixing with room temperature water prior to application. With the “Total C” you can mix it prior to application but if you don’t want to mix it, it is as equally effective by just adding it to the fixture because it is in a liquid form. The other benefit is that it has a very pleasant citrus odor so not only are you treating with the enzyme, you are also controlling drain odors.

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PLUMBING 101: WHAT IS BACKFLOW?

backflow device

When you say the word “backflow” most people thing about a drain backing up. In the plumbing world, however, “backflow” refers to the water distribution side of things. A backflow preventer such as a check valve, or an RPZ (reduced pressure zone valve) are devices that are installed in your piping system to prevent bad water from backflowing into your goo drinking water. On a low hazard situation a check valve may be all that is required, but when you are talking about the supply to a boiler that has chemicals in it or a lawn sprinkler system you need the greater protection that is provided by an RPZ. The RPZ has 3 components that are designed to give very good protections. It has 2 internal check valves and a third component, a relief that will open and dump the bad water in the event that either of the 2 check valves fail. In the highest of hazard situations where you need 100% guaranteed protection of the drinking water system we install what is called a cut off system. A cut off system actually has a complete separation of the danger from the drinking water. It fills a tank with an atmospheric break so that there is no physical connection. Once the water is delivered to the tank it is then repressurized and delivered to the area of concern. All of the plumbers at John Baethke are specially licensed to identify backflow dangers and how to address them. We all have what is called a CCCDI License. That stands for Cross Connection Control Device Inspectors License.

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WHY WE USE “FLAT-RATING” RATHER THAN HOURLY RATES

Why would a customer prefer a flat rate price as opposed to hourly? First of all, almost everything you buy on a daily basis is flat rated these days. When you go out to dinner everything on the menu is a set price. When you buy an item of clothing it is at a flat price on the tag. Even when you get your auto fixed they will give you a flat price so that you know what the final cost is even before they start. We do the same thing with our menu price books that our plumbers use. Once one of our professional licensed plumbers visits your home he will speak to you about your concerns, he will diagnose any and all options for possible repairs and then using our price guide he will give you options to get that work done. The peace of mind comes from knowing exactly what the cost will be before any work begins.

Most people would want to have the peace of mind of knowing what they are getting into. There are still some companies out the that charge by the hour. The biggest negative to hourly pricing is that you don’t know the cost of the job until it’s done. Of course, after the job is done it’s too late to say “NO, that’s too much.” You’re working at a disadvantage. The other negative is that if you think about it, if you happen to get a SLOW working plumber, that job could cost you more. I personally don’t think that the poorest mechanic who happens to also be the slowest mechanic should charge the most money but with time and material that is exactly what you get.

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MY DRAIN IS CLOGGED. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO UNCLOG IT?

Every drain is different. For a toilet obstruction most people can clear that on their own. We even have a helpful video on our website to give you a little advice on how to do it. For obstructions in showers or sinks the first thing I would say is DON’T use harsh chemicals. Drain cleaning chemicals are acids and are very dangerous. They are dangerous not only to people but also you property. They can take the finish off of the fixture that you are using it on and they can also eat through the pipes. If you want a home remedy we recommend more of a preventative measure such as enzymes. Enzymes are harmless to you plumbing and harmless to people. They only break down the organic matter in your drains. As always, if you have a question on what you can do with your particular concern just give me a call. Just last week one of our good customers called with a clogged garbage disposer and wanted to set up a service call. I was able to walk him through a little trick and he saved the cost of a service call and possible rodding by getting the drain cleared himself.

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Drain Chemicals Nearly Blind a Chicago Plumber

Drain chemicals almost blind a Chicago Plumber

We were called out to a customer’s home recently for a clogged laundry sink drain. While my plumber was rodding the drain, this old bottle of drain cleaning chemical dropped from the shelf, hit the sink and splashed onto my plumbers face. I am so thankful that my plumber was quick in his actions and he immediately stood up, turned on the faucet and started to flush his eyes and wash his face. My plumber very luckily avoided losing his sight and scaring his face but what scares me most is this: What if my customer’s child had this happen to them? It is possible that a child could have been the recipient of the falling bottle of drain chemicals. If that had been the case it is not likely that they would have known what to do so quickly. The reason why I am writing this post is that drain chemicals are first, not good for your pipes. Second, they are dangerous. Essentially, drain cleaning chemicals are acid. They ruin your pipes and if anyone gets the chemicals on them it can seriously hurt them. Any time I am in a customer’s home and I see any of these products I plead with the homeowner to dispose of them. It scares me to think someone might get hurt or scared should they come in contact with the chemicsl. If you want to be proactive and keep your drains open, then talk to your plumbing professional and find a product that is safe for your plumbing and safe for the residence.

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Every pump can get clogged!

Every pump can get clogged!

Often times plumbers out there believe that “one pump fits all”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When trying to decide on the sump or ejector pump that will make the most sense for you, you have to answer several questions?

  • What are you going to be pumping?
  • Do you directly control what will be pumped?
  • What caused the last pump to fail?
  • How long do you plan on being responsible for this pump?
  • What is your budget?

The first question, “What are you going to be pumping?”, is the most important question. If the liquid is just clear ground water you can install a pump as small as 1-1/2″ and it can be submersible or pedestal. The only trick is to make sure the size is sufficient to remove the incoming water at its highest volume. If the liquid you are pumping will have any waste then that will require you to install a 2″ pump. The 2″ pump can be either submersible or pedestal as well.

The second questions is, “Do you have direct control over what is being pumped?” A good example is if this is in a rental unit. That is totally out of your control. If it is in your own house and you are the only one living there and you never have guests over that is the only time you have total control. If you have a partner and kids there is the possibility someone else may put something down the drain that should not be there. What should and shouldn’t go down the drain? Only toilet paper and human waste should go down the drain, NOTHING else. No paper towels. No flush-able wipes, no Kleenex, no sanitary napkins or tampons, no cleaning products.

“What caused the last pump to fail?” If it failed due to age, submersibles only last an average of 7 years, then you might want to consider a pedestal pump. Pedestal pumps last an average of 30 to 40 years. If the pump failed because it got clogged then depending what clogged it, tampon, rags, or other fibrous materials, you might want to consider a grinder pump. Grinder pumps will literally shred anything that it has to pump. The only downside to a grinder pump is that it is more expensive than a regular submersible but has the same life expectancy.

“How long will you be responsible for this pump?” Any submersible pump will only have a life expectancy of 7 years on average. If you plan on being in your home for only a short period of time, then a submersible might make sense. If, however, you plan on being in your home for over 7 years, then a pedestal pump is the way to go. The pedestal pump will cost more but it will last from between 30 and 40 years. Far longer than most people are in a home. A pedestal pump should be the last pump that you will ever install.

“What is your budget?” This is the last way that you should want to choose your pump. The reasons listed above are good ways to base a decision for your next pump purchase. BUT, as far as cost goes the submersible is always the least expensive for the initial purchase. The grinder is next, and the pedestal pump is always going to be your most premium choice for a pump.

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Breaking Bad and Tankless Water heaters

Wow, I was sitting back, relaxing and I saw the actors in Breaking Bad fixing his own tankless water heater. What does that mean? Not too much, it is only a TV show but…….Every day we service all brands of tankless water heaters. In this particular episode the star of the show was adjusting his own atmospheric Bosch tankless water heater. He made it seem quite simple. Every day we are responding to calls where the tankless was either installed incorrectly or serviced improperly. This is a TV show and he seemed like he knew what he was doing but he was clueless. Trying to fix your own tankless or worse off hiring a non professional is the worst thing you can do. The plumbers at John Baethke & Son Plumbing have had hundred of hours in training in this kind of service. Don’t risk you or your families safety, hire the professionals to keep you safe and to keep your hot water flowing.

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