Kost's Korner

Plumbing and Power Outages

plumbing power outage Power outages are already tough to deal with, leaving you without access to your wifi, losing cold and frozen food, and needing backup light sources until power is restored. But do power outages also affect your plumbing?

In short, yes. Fortunately, cities and municipalities usually get water to your house from rivers, reservoirs, and wells, which are pumped into water towers. The towers are placed in high-elevation areas, so gravity allows water to flow into your house.

If your water comes directly from your own well, however, you could really be in for some headaches during a power outage. The pump that runs your well runs on electricity, so no power means no water flow. There’s usually a reservoir that holds between 10 and 50 gallons, so depending on the length of the outage, if water is used conservatively, you’ll have water until the reservoir goes dry.

For city and municipality dwellers, life is a little easier during a power outage. You should be able to operate your sink and toilet normally, but how much hot water you’ll have will depend on the type of water heater you have and if there is any water left in the tank. Whatever hot water is in there, following a power outage, will probably only stay warm for about an hour or so.

The real trouble you’ll run into is with appliances that rely on electricity. There aren’t many homes with sump pumps for the basement to prevent flooding in Florida, but if you happen to have one and lose power, you could have a real issue with a water backup. If a storm with rain occurs during your power outage, the best way to avoid a water backup is to connect your sump pump to a generator.

For the most part, common toilets use water pressure and gravity for flushing, which means if you own a traditional toilet, you should still be able to have normal use of it during a power outage.

However, if your toilet has a pump to generate stronger water flow, your toilet’s tank will eventually stop filling because no power is getting to the pump. If you have a toilet that uses a pump, definitely only flush when it is a must to avoid running out of tank water.

Keep in mind that some toilets use pumps for better flow, but some sewer systems do as well. If you know a power outage is coming ahead of time, start storing water in whatever containers you have and fill up your bathtub. Know where the main water shutoff is located in your house and have bottled water on hand.

In essence, power outages affecting plumbing depend on your home’s specific type of water flow system. The best way to get through it smoothly is to know what systems your home has and prepare accordingly.

Scientist Are Creating Electricity From Used Toilet Paper

toilet paper Toilet paper isn't often considered a precious asset, given that most people prefer not to think about it much at all (unless there's a pandemic, apparently). Toilet paper is an entrepreneur's dream because it is just a few raw materials with a negative cost. Treatment facilities pay per ton to get rid of it!

Scientists have proposed a two-step process for converting toilet paper, taking it from unwanted waste to a product that's quite useful. For chemists actively researching the idea of using toilet paper as a resource for generating electricity, they hope to achieve the "ultimate waste recycling concept."

Since the cellulose contained in toilet paper comes from trees, the electricity produced is renewable. It offers an excellent opportunity for meeting society's demand for renewable energy. Further, while most renewable resources often show discontinuous peaks (plant stems can be recycled, but only after the harvest; sunlight is only available in the daytime and depends on cloud cover, and wind supply is unpredictable), waste toilet paper, on the other hand, is a continuously available resource.

The proposed system's capital costs are still relatively high (mainly due to the fuel cell investment costs). Still, they are expected to decrease as the fuel cell market develops.

While the project team is currently undertaking the Amsterdam project, they are excited about plans to take their concept abroad, even speculating the first Waste Toilet Paper to Electricity plant being built in China.

When is It Time to Ditch the Hot Water Heater

water heater replacementThere's nothing better than a nice, relaxing, hot shower. But what happens when that hot water doesn't stay hot for very long anymore, and that relaxing shower is now an ice bath? It might be time to chuck your old hot water tank and invest in a new one! 

Water heaters have a typically long life-span at around 8 to 12 years. Still, those who move into an older home may only get to experience a working water heater for a couple of years before issues crop up. So what do you do when you need a new hot water tank?

First, you need to figure out which model you're going to be getting - which will more than likely be the same kind you already have, just new. Hot water tanks come in gas or electric and vary in size. Size is an essential factor in getting the most out of your water heater. Nothing is worse than someone using all the hot water cleaning dishes for dinner while you're in the middle of a hot shower, only to get pelted with ice-cold droplets. For a typical four-person family who uses two showers, their hot water tank's size should be at least 65 gallons. The bigger the tank, the higher the cost is to maintain all that water, so make sure to pay extra attention to the big yellow sticker on your choice tank. This will give you insight into how much you will be paying out annually to run that size tank.

To remove your old hot water tank, you will either need to turn off the gas using the cut-off valve or unplug it. After shutting it off, the next step is to drain all the water left in the tank. To do this, you will need to shut off the water supply and then turn on every hot water faucet in the home. You may need to use the hose from outside to ensure the tank is completely emptied. To remove the tank itself it will require cutting the line or connection with water heater hoses. It's not recommended to cut any lines in the plumbing. If you are not familiar with this job type, it's best kept to a professional not to rupture any pipework. If these things are easily disconnected, it is still recommended to help you move the tank itself because of its heavyweight.

Putting in the new hot water tank is relatively simple but still requires quite a bit of strength and knowledge of what lines go where. It consists of placing the tank where you want it - typically in the same spot as the old one and reconnecting hoses. While this is going on, it's essential to ensure that all the hot water faucets are still turned on when you turn back on the water supply. Let this run for at least a minute, making sure no air is trapped in the lines, and then once you're finished with the wiring, turn on the power and let the water in the tank heat up.

Now you can get back to enjoying a long, hot shower without the fear of being rushed out by cold water! Kost Plumbing can help with any hot water issues, either with repairs or helping you get the right unit for your home; contact us today!

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How to Properly Sanitize High Touch-Points in Your Home

coronavirus sanitizeEver since the arrival of Coronavirus life has been turned upset down. Hand washing and wiping down surfaces that could be contaminated has become a meaningful way to fight against this new invisible enemy. Cleaning products, hand sanitizer, and strangely, toilet paper became like gold and were hard to obtain. Now we are left wondering how to protect ourselves and our homes. 

Life is slowly returning to normal as the country slowly opens businesses up. We are left learning to adapt to living with a pandemic as a part of our daily lives. The way we live and our day-to-day behavior changes to help keep ourselves and others safe. This means we have to be more careful than ever when we go out because we could be potentially bringing the virus home, whether by accidentally touching something or the virus on our shoes or clothes. Shopping for food, ordering takeout, and even picking up the mail are all activities we once looked at as harmless. It could now be risky behavior to get us sick. We could unknowingly bring the virus into your home, and risk getting infected by Covid-19.

The CDC recommends that high touch surfaces such as light switches, doorknobs, keys, countertops, and cell phones be disinfected as much as possible. Experts say the virus can live on objects for many hours and even days on certain materials. A trip to the store could bring back the virus on your hands and other objects. The virus could spread to you and other family members if these high touch-points are not disinfected immediately.

Many cleaning products are still hard to come by. Don’t worry if you don’t have Clorox wipes. A small amount of bleach and water can be used to make an acceptable disinfectant. Just mix 1/3 cup bleach to every gallon of water. This mixture is safe to use on most non-porous surfaces around your home. Many electronics can be swabbed down with tiny amounts of 70% alcohol or commercial alcohol wipes. Read the labels of the manufacture recommendations for cleaning smartphones, keyboards, tablets, and all other electronics.

Clorox wipes, bleach water, or alcohol wipes can wipe down food packages and delivery items. Fruit can be rinsed off with hot water; citrus fruits can soak for a few minutes and then air dry. Counters and hands should be washed thoroughly after putting away items and other outside packages brought into the home.

To be on the safe side, carpets should be vacuumed as much as possible and keep the floors swept and mopped. Clothes linens and towels should be washed in the warm or hot water and dried in the dryer instead of being put up to dry.

Sanitizing high touch-points is essential to keep your risk of catching COVID-19 low. Read more on the leaning and sanitation recommendation from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cleaning-disinfection.html

Plumbing and COVID-19

Covid-19 has changed the world in many ways and has had a unique impact on the plumbing industry. With people staying home 24/7, the pipes in their homes are certainly earning their keep. While unemployment has skyrocketed across the country, many plumbers are busier than ever.

Some have called the Spring of 2020 the Great Toilet Paper Shortage. When news that the Novel Coronavirus had become a global pandemic, the human race started behaving in unpredicted ways. With Covid-19 causing severe flu-like symptoms, one might think everyone would run out and stock up on cold medicines, cough drops, and vapor rub. Instead, the world instantly became obsessed with finding and hoarding toilet paper. And then, when the toilet paper disappeared from the shelves, paper towels became the next best thing. People began displaying strange behavior and videos surfaced of soccer moms fighting in the supermarkets over the last roll of Charmin. Soon there wasn’t a square to spare, as they would say on Seinfeld.

Although we laughed at the cute memes on Facebook, soon, it wasn't long until plumbers were inundated with calls of backed-up toilets and overtaxed pipes. People can be extremely creative when it comes to to...er...their bathroom deeds. Paper Towels, baby wipes, and yes, even socks became everyday objects snaked out of many commodes. It turns out that even if the box says it is flushable, it doesn't always mean that it truly is.

Soon plumbers took to social media, pleading with residents to only flush toilet paper down the pipes. They offered advice on acceptable alternatives and suggested that people throw away their wiping apparatuses instead of flushing them. 

It seems as though the toilet paper panic is leveling off as the world tries to return to some normalcy. Even though this year has been turned upside down, we will one day look back and chuckle that toilet tissue became a hot commodity. Why the world became obsessed with collecting toilet paper may always remain a mystery.