Repairing our toilet

At our house, the toilet is a constant problem.  Sometimes the toilet will endlessly run until we are short of water.  Sometimes the toilet will continually clog, refuse to flush, or overflow.  My husband and I have cautioned the kids to use very little toilet paper and never flush any foreign objects.  We keep a plunger within easy reach, and always have a supply of toilet parts on hand.  At first, we used to call a licensed plumber for toilet repair.  Hiring a plumber is extremely costly, and we soon realized that we could not afford professional assistance.  My husband began researching on the internet, and taught himself how to resolve toilet concerns.  He invested in a good set of tools, including a very large pipe wrench, plumber’s tape, a snake and the best plunger on the market.  I’m extremely impressed with my husband’s toilet repair skills.  He can replace a toilet in  under an hour.  Over the years, we’ve learned that buying the cheapest toilet available is not a good way to save money.  The substandard models tend to wear out quickly, provide inadequate flushing, and stain more easily.   We have two bathrooms in the house, and it seems that one toilet or the other is always malfunctioning.  I’m not sure if these problems are caused by our hard water or the fact that we have five children.  We deal with plumbing emergencies so often that we now call my husband Toilet Man, and we’ve even come up with a catchy theme song for him.  My husband even gets calls from the neighbors for help with their plumbing problems.

new toilet 

I hate hard water

When my husband and I first bought our home out in the country, we were delighted with the wide open spaces and privacy.  We loved that there was no traffic on our road and no neighbors.  We were excited by seeing deer, groundhogs, fox, and rabbits in our backyard.  It never occurred to us that having a water well, instead of city water, would be such a nightmare.  We have extremely hard water, and it destroys everything it touches.  Our water is contaminated with rust, iron and lime, and it corrodes, stains, and creates harmful scale.  All of our sinks, tubs, and toilets become horribly stained, and the harsh cleaning chemicals destroy the finish.  A water heater, that should last approximately fifteen years, tends to last less than five years.  Our hard water corrodes the tank, and we frequently end up with a flooded basement.  I gave up on the dishwasher, because my dishes came out looking worse than when they went it.  The supply hoses of the washing machine frequently clog, and I need to clean the aerators on the faucets every month.  We also deal with stained laundry, dry skin, and frizzy hair because of the water.  Our drains clog, the pipes corrode, and we can’t drink or cook with the water.  The only solution was to invest in a water softener.  I consulted with a local plumbing contractor to recommend and install a suitable water softener.  The problems with our water are so severe that even a water softener can’t completely solve them.   Although I love the location of our house, we have considered moving because of the hard water.

local plumbing 

Hard water on the plumbing

My husband and I chose our  house because of the location and the amount of property.  We had always rented apartments in the city, and we were anxious to move to the country and enjoy  open spaces and privacy.  We have enjoyed putting in gardens, mowing the lawn, and spotting deer, rabbits and fixing our yard.  Because we had always had access to city water, we never considered the many drawbacks of well water.  Our home is equipped with a well that provides a plentiful supply of water, but it is overrun with contaminants.  The water has such a high level of calcium, lime and rust that we can’t drink it.  We need to have monthly deliveries of spring water to drink and cook with.  The hard water tastes awful, smells terrible, and destroys everything it comes in contact with.  I cannot run a dishwasher because our water stains the dishes and ruins the appliance.  The buildup of lime, rust and scale means that I need to replace my washing machine and water heater every couple of years.  I need to clean the aerators in the faucets every month and my sink and tub fixtures quickly corrode and must be replaced.  The sink, tubs, and toilets are always stained and the harsh cleaning chemicals wreck the finish.  Our white linens and clothing gradually yellow, and my dentist has informed me that my teeth have more plaque buildup because of my hard water.  The hard water is also a problem for our skin, hair and every aspect of the plumbing system.  Our drains clog, the pipes gradually become obstructed and corrode, and even the toilets malfunction frequently.  I swear that I’m forced to call a plumber nearly every week and the costs add up.  

master rooter 

Plumbing problems at our rental property

I own an apartment building with six rented units.  I try to take very good care of the building and property, and keep up with any necessary maintenance and repairs.  It can be quite a challenge and extremely frustrating.  Very often, the renters are not considerate or careful, and actually cause damage.  While I can manage the simple things, such as mowing the lawn, painting, and replacing light bulbs, I hire professionals for the rest.  Constantly calling an electrician, HVAC contractor, and plumber is rather costly.  However, I feel it is necessary to hire a licensed contractor to ensure safety, energy efficiency, and reliability.  I don’t get upset when the furnace or water heater wears out after twenty years, or the pipes corrode.  I am willing to update the electrical system to accommodate the need for more outlets, exterior lighting and a security system.  What aggravates me is the repairs that are directly caused by the negligence or stupidity of the renters.  I once had a renter who assumed that there was a garbage disposable in the kitchen.  She dumped a whole pot of mashed potatoes down the sink drain.  She clogged the drain so badly that I had to pay a licensed plumber to resolve the issue.  I’ve also had a renter flush a stick of deodorant down the toilet.  The deodorant lodged midway down pipes, and resulted in a huge problem.  We couldn’t reach the obstruction with a plumber’s snake, and no amount of plunging would dislodge it.  Once again, I hired a professional plumber to take the pipes apart to find and remove the obstruction.  This cost me a lot of money and was totally unnecessary.  

licensed plumber 

I should resolve some problems

Problems with the septic tank are the absolute worst.  Hiring a licensed plumber to handle any septic issues is extremely expensive.  My husband and I tend to tackle concerns on our own, but it is really nasty job.  Last summer, we ended up with a flooded basement.  I wouldn’t have been terribly upset if the basement was simply flooded with groundwater.  Instead, the sewer was backing up into the basement and it was filled with several inches of wastewater.  My husband and I put on rubber boots and rubber gloves and waded into the problem.  We started by working on the drain located in the floor of the basement.  We attempted to plunge it and then snake it.  We also tried sticking the garden hose down the drain, hoping to use the water pressure to flush away the obstruction.  When none of these efforts accomplished anything, we turned to the backyard and dug up the access to the septic. Since I have a garden planted there, we destroyed a whole bunch of flowers.  This was the middle of July, and the outside temperature was in the upper eighties with high humidity.  Digging up the septic was a sweaty, dirty, and horrible job.  Once we had access, we once again used the garden hose to combat whatever obstruction was causing the lack of drainage.  We finally had to rent a commercial plumbing snake from the local hardware store.  We spent our entire day working on the septic problem, and spent a small fortune on tools and supplies.  Although we managed to get the job done, I think we should have hired a professional plumber.  By the end of the day, I would have paid any amount of money to avoid that disgusting job.

professional plumber 

Running into plumbing problems

For the first five years of our marriage, my husband and I rented apartments.  We always complained about wasting our money on rent and relying on the landlord to handle everything.  We saved every dime and worked overtime in order to afford our own house.  While I am very happy to own property, it is far more difficult than I ever realized.  While we were renting, none of the problems were our responsibility.  If the toilet wouldn’t quit running, the tub refused to drain, or a faucet leaked, I simply called the landlord.  I had no idea how expensive it is to hire a professional plumber.  I also had no clue how much can go wrong with plumbing, and what a disgusting mess it can make.  We’d only been living in our new house for a couple of months when the majority of drains weren’t working effectively.  There was constantly standing water in the sinks and bathtub, which left soap scum behind, and required frequent cleaning.  We tried plunging, poured chemicals down the train, and even purchased a plumber’s snake.  Reluctant to hire a plumber, we just tried to ignore the problem and hoped it would go away on its own.  Then I noticed that the bathroom floor was always wet.  At first I thought my husband wasn’t toweling off properly when he stepped out of the shower.  Unfortunately, a pipe under the tub was leaking, which rotted the floor of the upstairs bathroom and caused a giant water stain on the  ceiling of the room directly below it.  

pipe cleaning 

The HVAC industry

You see the acronym HVAC often on signs, trucks, and ads but many people don’t know what the letters mean. The letters stand for the words Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

The purpose of HVAC technology is to improve indoor air quality and to provide a comfortable, clean environment for businesses, homes, and vehicles. It falls under the umbrella discipline of mechanical engineering, utilizing scientific principles of thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid mechanics. It all sounds very complicated, and in some cases, it can be. That’s why it’s important to hire only HVAC certified technicians to work on your heating, cooling and air purification systems.

To become a certified air conditioning and heating technician, a person will enter a trade school or paid apprentice program for 3 to 5 years. It can be difficult to find an apprentice program, so most would-be techs attend a trade or technical school to learn the basics first before attempting to obtain employment as a paid apprentice or entry-level AC technician. The field is competitive and getting a certification makes it that much easier to get the job you want.

Heating, cooling, and ventilation cover a variety of disciplines, from residential to commercial. Specialties may include refrigerated air, indoor air quality and air purification systems, gas and electric heaters and furnaces, air distribution, and exchange.

Inventors and entrepreneurs are continually working on methods to increase energy efficiency and smarter temperature controls. Components like the smart thermostat which operate via the internet are always being updated and improved.

The HVAC industry is an excellent career choice for those seeking advancement, good pay and the opportunity to grow with ever-changing technology.

Is this service agreement worth the money?

It’s no big secret that owning a home is expensive. You have your mortgage, home insurance, flood insurance, and property taxes and those expenses are just to get you in the door.

Next, you have appliances, utilities, and repair/replacement costs for roofing, windows, flooring, HVAC systems and more. It’s no wonder that homeowners fall prey for most any “service contract” or “maintenance agreement” that they believe will save them money.

An HVAC service plan is one such contract. Most maintenance programs offered by heating and cooling companies are helpful and will save you money. But some are not so clear cut.

Do your homework.

If you only need air conditioning or furnace maintenance visits once a year, then a service contract probably isn’t for you. You typically need at least two visits a year to balance the expense of a service agreement.

Many people believe that a heating and cooling service plan will save them money on all repairs. For minor repairs, this may be true, but heat exchangers and compressors are expensive components and are not usually covered. Check your contract to see exactly what parts and services are included and which are not.

One more thing: some unscrupulous air conditioning contractors use their semi-annual visits as an open invitation to aggressively upsell. If your A/C or heating technician continually tries to coerce you to buy expensive components, get a second opinion.

Before buying any HVAC service or maintenance plan, research the contractor. Check online reviews and your state’s licensing board. Make sure the company is reputable, reliable and honest. After all, no one cares more about your home than you do.

Protect your home – protect yourself.

reliable HVAC 

It’s time to do maintenance

Don’t think many people realize how important it is to take care of an HVAC system. We tend to get very consumed with our work lives to the point where we put off our household chores. I know that I am guilty of this. For a while, I waited until something was completely broken before I put any thought into maintaining it. I made a number of costly mistakes, that I am just now learning from. it took me some time to realize that I needed to change my air filters on a very strict schedule. In the past, I didn’t do this, and I would end up with a lot of dust and dirt circulating through my house that was not at all necessary. HVAC systems need to be cleaned on a regular basis, and I didn’t do anything of this nature. When my HVAC system would stop working on me I would have to call a technician to come out and repair it. The repair costs were always very high, and I was always kicking myself when I had to pay them because I knew that a little bit of preparation could have helped me prevent these all out failures of my cooling system. My approach is completely change, and I no longer put off taking care of my heating and cooling system. If I even suspect that there may be something wrong with it I hurry to have it looked at by an HVAC technician. I would much rather have someone come out and do an inspection and have to deal with a repair or replacement that I have not been planning on.

central heating and air 

HVAC units in our office

If it were up to me, it’s all controlled air conditioners would be an all Office Buildings. I think that employees should be able to adjust the temperature of their office because they may have a different preferred setting than their co-worker next to them. Unfortunately, most buildings do not have zone controlled climate control systems. Conflicts over how to adjust a thermostat were a regular event in my last office, and this led to some unnecessary arguments. If I had been the owner of the business, I probably would have settled the dispute by updating the HVAC system. It’s not fair to ask some employees to sit in an office that is too hot, while others have to deal with being too cold at times. Having a zone controlled HVAC system would also cut back on the utility bill, and cost savings are important at all businesses. Sometimes it is better to put money into an initial upfront cost rather than deal with expensive charges along along. It’s on control HVAC unit would save any business money in the long run, and this is why it is a smart decision to have one installed. My goal is to eventually own my own business one day, and this is something that I’m going to keep in mind. I don’t think people put enough thought into choosing their HVAC systems, but these are important planning decisions. Appliances really have a huge impact on how comfortable and office is and how comfortable employees are within that office. I hope that my experience in this area helps me thrive in the future.

heating installation