The Beginner’s Guide to Sump Pumps

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Systems

If you own a home in the Chicago area, you’re no stranger to humidity, rainstorms and snowstorms.

Chicago’s location and weather conditions can make the area susceptible to floods. For instance, in June of 2015, a storm set off tornado sirens across the city and it rained hard enough that the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning.

If you live in the top half of an apartment complex, you don’t need to worry about floods ruining your property. But if you live in a suburban home, complete with one or two stories and a basement, you need some way to deal with potential floods.

Because of this flood risk, most homes in the area come equipped with sump pumps, which keep floodwater out of your basement. Of course, sump pumps only protect your property if they’re well maintained, so read on to learn more about how these units function, how a plumber can help you maintain them, and how often they need to be replaced.

What Are Sump Pumps, and How Do They Work?

Sump pumps are small pieces of equipment that a plumber installs at the deepest part of your home’s basement or in your crawlspace. This miniature pump has one job: to move water that pools beneath your house away from the home’s foundation. When the pump functions correctly, it should prevent water damage to your basement, foundation, and crawlspaces.

Plumbers usually position sump pumps in a sump pit. The water that pools beneath your house runs into the sump pit, and the pump then funnels this water away through a discharge pipe. Usually, the pump directs the water into a dry well or storm drain.

Sump pumps should not funnel into sewage systems as per most municipal codes. The pipes from old homes might still channel into the local sewer system, so if you recently purchased an older home, contact a plumber. He or she can figure out where you sump pump runs and install a new run-off system as needed.

Most homeowners have one of two types of sump pumps:

  • Submersible pumps are self-contained pumps with a waterproof seal around the motor.
  • Pedestal pumps sit on pedestals that elevate them above the water.

Most modern homes already have sump pumps if needed, but a plumber can retrofit your home to fit one if you live in an older house. A plumber can also talk to you about the right type of pump for your home based on factors like its layout and location.

What Are the Most Common Problems My Sump Pump Experiences?

If you experience a problem with your sump pump, one of the following culprits might be to blame:

  • Your sump pump can’t cope with its current load because it’s too old or hasn’t been well maintained.
  • Your sump pump was installed incorrectly.
  • Your sump pump is backed up or clogged.
  • Your sump pump’s operating switch is stuck. If you have this problem, some force has shifted the pump so the switch is jammed, or a piece of debris has jammed the switch.
  • Your sump pump’s pipes have frozen.

The length of time your pump lasts can vary. You want to consider having your plumber check your pump every spring, just in time for the rainy season.  A reliable working pump brings peace of mind.

How Do I Know If My Sump Pump Works?

Because your sump pump shouldn’t have to work as often as your other appliances, you might not know if it’s experiencing any of the problems listed above.

Of course, you don’t want to wait until the middle of a storm to find out if your sump pump works or not. Fortunately, you can identify a few key signs that indicate if it might be failing:

  • You notice mold and mildew around your house, especially in the basement or crawlspaces.
  • You can see mud and debris around your sump pump.
  • You can hear your sump pump’s motor running constantly.
  • Your basement feels unusually humid.

If you can see water pooling in the basement, contact a plumber to fix your sump pump as soon as possible.

Get in Touch With a Plumber

If you think you have a problem with your sump pump, call a plumber who can diagnose the issue and replace or repair the pump as needed.

With a little maintenance and the occasional repair, your sump pump can effectively keep you and your property safe from floods all year long.


Scrub-a-Dub-Dub: Comparing Showers and Baths

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips

Every day, there’s one task you can’t skip: your daily cleanse. Your bathroom may have a tub-shower combo, just a shower, or both fixtures independent of each other. Which method do you use to freshen up? In this blog, we’ll compare bathing to showering and offer tips for helping you enhance the time you spend washing up.

The Big Question: Water Usage

When comparing showering and bathing, you face one unavoidable question in today’s eco-conscious world: which method uses more water? If you guessed showering, you’re right-most of the time.

In general, people will use less water during a 10-minute shower than they would taking a bath. Obviously, large whirlpool or freestanding tubs require quite a bit of water-70 gallons or more with a person inside. Average-sized five-foot tubs hold closer to 45 gallons when someone bathes in them. By contrast, a 10-minute shower under a regular showerhead will release about 25 gallons of water.

Of course, the length of your shower can hugely affect how much water you use. If you indulge in a shower that lasts 20 minutes or more, you’ll use a minimum of 50 gallons of water. Based on those numbers, you may want to choose a bubble bath instead if the point of your activity is extended relaxation.

Now that we’ve addressed the most intriguing question, let’s talk about the pros of each cleaning method. Each has its own vocal supporters.

Reasons People Love Showers

Showers are far and away the most popular cleaning method. People prefer this method for several reasons, including the following three.

1. Showers Take Less Time

Many people can get their daily scrub finished faster when they shower. Some individuals even have it down to a system. They can shampoo and condition their hair, shave, and wash off grime and sweat in under 10 minutes.

2. Showers Help People Feel Alert

Those who love to shower often choose to perform this task as soon as they roll out of bed. The warm water helps them wake up and start the process of preparing for the day.

3. People Feel Cleaner After Showering

Many people who prefer showering over bathing feel that they get cleaner when they shower. They dislike the idea of sitting in water that gets dirty quickly, and they like knowing that most of the grime they wash off goes down the drain immediately.

Reasons People Love Baths

While baths are less popular than showers, they have some very big fans. A few reasons people relish bath time include these advantages.

1. A Bath Can Be More Relaxing

Some people enjoy taking regular baths so they can spend time relaxing in private. They can turn their bathroom into a mini spa by lighting candles and putting bubbles, bath salts, or essential oils in the bathwater.

2. Baths Give People More Thinking Time

Many people choose to bathe when they want to give their mind a rest or think through a nagging problem. People also use their bath time for reading or other multi-tasking activities that can’t be done while they shower.

3. Your Shower Curtain Doesn’t Accumulate Mildew When You Bathe

When you shower, the water hits your shower curtain, and much of that water remains when you step out of the shower. Over time, that water creates mildew on the plastic liner, and the mildew can be hard to clean off. On the other hand, when you bathe, you don’t need to use a shower curtain, and you can prevent further mildew accumulation.

Ways to Enhance Your Shower or Bath

Whether you stick to either bathing or showering or use each cleaning method for specific reasons, you can take a few steps to make your daily scrub more beneficial and enjoyable. Try the tricks below.

  • Invest in a low-flow showerhead. You’ll use even less water when you shower, so you’ll feel less guilty about indulging in a long shower or an extra-full bath from time to time. An expert plumber can recommend and install a suitable showerhead in your bathroom.
  • Take a cold shower. Scientists have linked many benefits to an occasional cold shower, such as healthier skin and hair, reduced stress and depression, and improved immunity.
  • Soothe your skin. If you have dry skin, a bath in water that’s not too hot can help you moisturize. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil to the water to enjoy this effect.
  • Lower your blood pressure. According to research, a soak in a hot bath improves your circulation and can help lower your blood pressure. Remember to consult your doctor before you take baths for this reason if you have any heart conditions.

Use these tips to enhance your next shower or bath. For a truly enjoyable experience, remodel your bathroom and put in a state-of-the-art shower or tub-or both. Talk to our expert plumbers about your options.

4 Ways Your Plumbing Can Help You Save Water-And Money-This Summer

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Plumbing Tips

When you live in green, lush Chicago or the surrounding areas, you might not think about wasted water very often. The year-round humidity and thick shrubbery mask the fact that the last several summers have been the hottest on record worldwide.

Recently, droughts in places like California and Colorado have gotten the most airtime, but Chicago isn’t exempt. In spite of chilly winters and summer rainstorms, Chicago suffered from an extreme drought in 2012 and 2013, and there’s no guarantee that something similar won’t happen in upcoming summers as well.

How can you do your part to conserve water this summer? Making a few simple changes around the house, performing a few energy-efficient upgrades, and changing some crucial habits can help you help the earth this summer-and you might just help your wallet along the way as well.

1. Fix Leaks As Soon As You Notice Them

Leaky taps don’t seem like a massive problem, especially when you only notice one drip of water slipping through the tap every minute or so. A steady stream of drips can distract you, but you still might not know just how much money this seemingly tiny problem can cost you.

According to the EPA, faucets that drip once per second waste 3,000 gallons annually-and all those tiny drips add up over time! Fixing a leak as soon as you notice it will conserve those 3,000 wasted gallons, plus help you cut down your water bill.

Of course, one leaky faucet won’t drain your bank account. Hopefully the water in your city is affordable and clean. But if you have a few leaky faucets, a running toilet, and a dripping pipe, you might start to see an increase in your water bills. As soon as you notice a leak in your house, get in touch with our capable plumber.

2. Update Old Appliances

Appliances that are 10 years old or older don’t work as well as they used to. If you properly maintained your water heater, for instance, it could last for around 15 years. But eventually, all old appliances need to be replaced.

Simply updating your fixture improves its energy efficiency for energy standards have improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years alone. However, when you upgrade your plumbing fixtures, consider investing in ENERGY STAR appliances. ENERGY STAR appliances go the extra mile to reduce your energy footprint. You might even qualify for a tax rebate if you invest in certain ENERGY STAR products.

You might also consider switching the make and model of certain fixtures. For instance, tankless water heaters warm your water the instant you turn on the tap. Thanks to this technology, you don’t have to run a faucet for a few minutes to wait for the water to warm up. But tankless water heaters aren’t for everyone-they can run out of water quickly, so they don’t work well for large families.

Ask our plumber about which plumbing fixtures you should update around your house. We can also recommend the right brand, make, and model for your property and living situation. 

3. Make a Few Small Upgrades Around the House

If you have relatively new fixtures and appliances, you don’t necessarily need to replace them all with the most energy-efficient models on the market. Instead, you can make a few smaller upgrades to cut down on your home’s water consumption:

  • Install low-flow shower heads. You won’t have to cut your shower short to save water, and you likely won’t even notice a huge difference in the water pressure.
  • Install low-flow faucet aerators. Just like low-flow shower heads, low-flow faucet aerators decrease the amount of water your sink uses without reducing how quickly you can clean your dishes.
  • Add insulation to your water pipes. Insulation protects your pipes from freezing in the winter. It can also reduce the amount of time you have to wait for your water to heat up.

These small changes won’t cost you much, but they could save you quite a bit of money later on.

4. Run Full Loads

If you invest in an energy-efficient laundry machine and dishwasher, you won’t have to worry as much about wasted water every time you run a full load of clothes or dishes. However, you can maximize your energy savings but only running these plumbing appliances when you have a full load of clothes or dishes. If you have to wash a small load, you can change the settings on your appliance to circulate less water.

Ask Your Plumber for More Information

As summer approaches, it’s up to you to save water around the house-and your plumbing fixtures can help you. Combine high-quality appliances with good habits and you’ll save much more than money on your energy bills. You’ll also contribute to making a better world for future generations.

If you have other questions about how to make your plumbing systems more efficient or reliable, don’t hesitate to contact our plumber.

3 Signs of a Failing Water Heater

Written by Jim Dhamer Plumbing on . Posted in Water Heaters

Hot water is a modern convenience none of us can do without. Fortunately, over the past several decades, accessing hot water at the turn of a tap has become simpler than ever. Thanks to your water heater, your entire household can enjoy hot water all day long for showering, washing dishes, doing laundry, and enjoying a relaxing soak in the tub.

However, your water heater does quite a bit of work to ensure your family stays comfortable and happy. After years of performing the hard work of heating water whenever you need it, your water heater can start to falter and, eventually, break down entirely.

Fortunately, several warning signs indicate whether your water heater is on the verge of failing, which means you can nip the problem in the bud before you have to suffer through cold showers. If you notice any of these symptoms of a failing water heater, get in touch with a plumbing professional right away to discuss your replacement and repair options.

1. Your Tap Water Looks Discolored

Your water heater is made of metal, and since it stores large amounts of water, it needs some way to prevent rust from forming inside the heater. Every water heater has a component called an anode rod, which uses electrolysis to absorb corrosion and protect the heater’s metal.

If you don’t have a functioning anode rod, or if your water heater is several decades old, the anode is probably covered in corrosion. Since the anode rod can no longer do its job, rust might have spread throughout the unit.

However, if you have an old piping system, rusty pipes could be your problem-not a rusty water heater. Before you panic and purchase a new heater, make sure the unit is the real problem. Call a plumber to examine and drain the water heater. If the water still comes out rusty after your plumber fills several buckets, your rust problem lies in the heater, not the pipes.

2. Your Unit Is Over 10 Years Old

Some water heater units have a longer life expectancy than 10 years, especially tankless water heaters, which can last for decades. However, after 10 years, you can expect most units to start experiencing problems. If you don’t yet have many problems but want to replace your water heater before they happen, look at your unit’s serial number to determine how old it is.

Most manufacturing companies use similar date codes on their water heaters’ serial numbers. Your serial number should start with a letter from A to L. A, the first letter of the alphabet, represents January, the first month of the year. The letter should be followed by a two-digit number, like “12.” If your unit’s serial number starts with “A12,” your unit was manufactured in January of 2012.

Again, some companies don’t follow this practice, so look up the manufacturer’s information to determine if you can follow this date code guideline.

After 10 years, your unit could start leaking, rusting, or losing energy efficiency. Even if your water heater seems to work fine, get in touch with a plumber for seasonal maintenance to prolong your aging heater’s life. You could also consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient appliance to avoid future problems that stem from old age, and save extra money on your monthly utility bill.

3. Your Unit Takes Too Long to Heat Water or Makes Loud Noises

If you have to wait several minutes for your water to heat up, calcium deposits could be to blame. Have a professional drain your water heater and inspect it for hard water deposits. You can also have a plumber perform regular maintenance to deal with chemical deposits from hard water. Your plumber can even install a soft water filter to protect your appliance.

If you clean your water heater regularly, it should last for a very long time. However, if you haven’t cleaned your water heater in the entire time you’ve owned it, it could be too late to salvage it from hard water deposits.

Plus, if you hear a rattling or banging noise when your water heater turns on, you might have no choice but to replace it. This sound means that deposits and sediments have hardened on the bottom of your water heater, which can no longer operate efficiently. Check for leaks if you hear banging or rattling noises.

Talk to Your Plumber for More Advice

Still unsure about whether or not you should replace your water heater? Talk to your plumber. They can evaluate your tank’s current condition, weigh replacement costs with repair costs, and make a recommendation on how you should proceed. With a little help from your local plumber, you and your family members can go back to enjoying the convenience of hot water in no time.


Jim Dhamer
Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.


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