The Geiler Company Blog

Why did my water bill increase so much?

[fa icon='calendar'] Mar 16, 2018 3:34:13 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in water bill

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If your water bill increased sharply from one month to the next, the reasons can vary from the simple to a bit more complicated.  First, do you have any new house guests who are using more water?  Did you buy a new or additional water consuming appliance like a dishwasher or washing machine?  If the answer is no, and nothing else had changed in your water use habits, then it's time for a little detective work.  Here are some possibilities in order of likelihood.

1.  A leaky toilet

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the toilet is the single biggest source of indoor water use, accounting for 26.7% of consumption in an average home.  A leaky toilet can run through up to 200 gallons in a day.  That's 1400 gallons a week or 6000 gallons in a month.  A three person household typically uses about that much, so a leaky toilet can double your water bill.  There are a couple of simple ways to check if your toilet is leaking.  First, just listen.  If you hear a hissing noise, that's the water entering the toilet tank.  If it's doing that constantly that means the water is leaving constantly as well, likely through a faulty flapper at the bottom of the tank.  Another way to test for a toilet leak is to put food coloring in the tank.  If the color makes its way to the bowl, you have a leak.  A new flapper is an easy fix for most people, but if it looks like a different problem or it's one that you don't want to mess with, call a professional plumber.  The money you spend will be made up in lower water bills.

2.  Leaky faucet fixtures

One drip per second is 3000 gallons per year literally down the drain.  It's also about an extra 10 percent of water use per month for a family of three.  Double the drip rate is double the water wasted.  These are easy to spot, and now that you know they are costing you more money than you think, sometimes easy to fix.  Many faucet fixtures can simply be unscrewed and examined.  If you find a bad washer, which is usually the culprit, it can be easily replaced.  If you are hesitant about messing with your fixtures, it's time to call a professional.  Just like with a leaky toilet, fixing a leaky faucet will pay for itself sooner than you think.

3.  Irrigation leaks

Now things start to get more complicated.  If you have an irrigation system built into your landscaping, you could have a cracked water line or loose joint.  If that's the case, water (and money) are leaking out underground.  To check for leaks like these, take a look at your yard.  Is there a damp or sunken in patch?  Is there a spot where the grass is fuller and greener than the areas around it?  If so, you may have an underground leak.  In a case like this, it's best to call a professional plumber right away to see what you are dealing with and the best way to fix it.   

4.    Lateral line leaks

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5 Easy Ways To Fix A Clogged Toilet

[fa icon='calendar'] Feb 19, 2018 2:02:00 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in Clogged Toilet

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How do I fix a clogged toilet?  Sooner or later, we all have to seek the answer to that question.  Fortunately, there are a few ways to accomplish what many consider to be a dirty job.   

The first question you have to answer is "What is down there?"  If you know it's a child's toy or other hard object, it may be time to call a plumber.  If you end up pushing it further down the pipe and making it harder to get to, it could end up being more expensive to fix the problem.

If the clog is, shall we say "organic", there are some options to getting the water flowing again.  The first step is to get some rubber gloves on in case you need to "go deep" and place some paper towels or newspapers around the toilet to pick up the inevitable water that will splash out of the bowl.   
 

5 Easy ways To Fix A Clogged Toilet

 
Use a plunger-  This is the first and easiest option.  This method is more effective with higher quality plungers that have a shaped bottom to ensure a good seal rather than the cheaper "suction cup" types.   

A good seal under water is required for a plunger to work properly.  It's the force of water, not air, that will cause the clog to clear.  If the bowl has drained, fill it with water from the sink until the plunger is under water.  You can also run the plunger under hot water to soften the rubber to ensure a good seal.   

Be careful with that first push, because there will be air in the seal.  This is especially important if there is water in the toilet that you definitely don't want splashed around.  Once you get a good seal, push and pull up firmly without breaking the seal.  It can take ten to twenty pushes to dislodge a stubborn clog, so don't give up.  Check your progress by breaking the seal and seeing if the water drains out.  If it does, flush the toilet to see if it drains properly.  If it does, congratulations.  If not, make the seal and plunge again.  Sometimes this cycle needs to be repeated three or four times before a clog is fully dislodged by being broken up or pushed down the drain.

If plunging doesn't work, there are some other options.

Use a wire coat hanger- Unravel and straighten out a wire coat hanger.  Wrap the end with a rag and seal it with duct tape.  This will prevent the hanger from scratching the porcelain in your toilet.  If the obstruction in the drain is within reach of the hanger, this method will generally work.   

Twist the wire in circles and move it back and forth to try and break up and/or dislodge the clog.  If you feel the obstruction, push against it.  If the water begins to drain, you are making progress.  Keep going until the toilet flushes normally.  If you can't reach anything with the wire coat hanger...

Use a plumbing snake-  These tools are designed to go into and through the twists and turns of pipes to get to clogs.   Plus the snake down the drain, just like you tried with the wire coat hanger.  If you feel the obstruction, try to break it up or dislodge it.  Again, the water draining out of the toilet will tell you when you are successful.  If the snake doesn't work...

Try an enzyme product-  These products are designed to break down organic material in pipes.  They are used in septic tank repair and other plumbing tasks.  Just pour the solution into the toilet and leave it overnight.
 

Try a homemade drain cleaner- Boil a half gallon of water and then let it cool for a few minutes.  Boiling water can crack porcelain.  Put the water near the toilet and add two cups of vinegar to the water. Finally, add one cup of baking soda.  Add the baking soda last, and be prepared for the mixture to fizz quite a bit.   Pour the mixture into the toilet and let it sit overnight.

Try a chemical drain cleaner- If you try the enzyme or the vinegar/baking soda method and the toilet is still clogged the next day, it's time to move on to the last option before calling a plumber.   

Chemical drain cleaners have very caustic chemicals that should not be inhaled.  Follow instructions and use only the specified amount.   Also make sure that the product is specifically made for toilets.  Make sure that the room is properly ventilated, and do not use a plunger after you pour the chemical in.  You risk splashing it on your skin.

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6 Ways To Keep Your Pipes from Freezing

[fa icon='calendar'] Feb 4, 2018 3:25:09 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in Plumbing

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Frozen pipes are one of the biggest cold weather frustrations.  When you go to turn on the water and you get silence instead of the familiar sound of flowing water, your pipes are frozen and you have a major problem on your hands.   

Here are six ways you can keep your pipes from freezing before the next cold snap hits.

Keep the heat on - This one may seem obvious, but many people try to save a few dollars by turning down the heat in the winter, especially if they are leaving for a few days.  Who wants to pay to heat an empty house?   You do, if you don't want to come back to frozen pipes.

The amount of money you save by turning down the heat will be more than burned up by the cost of fixing frozen pipes, especially if they have burst.  If you absolutely must turn down the heat, you can compromise by keeping the heat set to at least 50 degrees.  Depending on the level of insulation and other factors in the home, this may be enough to keep the pipes from freezing.

Let the faucet drip - Pipes burst because of the water pressure and the ice forming and expanding inside the pipe as it is freezing.  Letting the faucet drip keeps the water moving in the pipe, making it less likely to freeze.  It also reduces the pressure in the system, which might help prevent a frozen pipe from bursting.  Yes, you will spend a little money on water that is literally going down the drain, but it's a very small cost compared to your pipes freezing.

 
Open interior doors- Don't shut off the heat to individual rooms in your house, because plumbing goes everywhere.  You never know when you are opening up a section of pipes to freezing by shutting interior doors.  Also, open cabinet doors in bathrooms, kitchens and anywhere else you have plumbing.  A little bit of heat in the right place could make a big difference.

 
 
 
 
 
There are also some longer term solutions that you can put into place to keep your pipes from freezing.

 
Apply heating tape- Heating tape can be wrapped around exposed pipes to bring warmth directly to the source.  You can buy it with an internal thermostat that will sense when heat is needed so it goes on and off automatically.  If you prefer a cheaper option, you can simply plug it in and it will stay on all the time.  Using tape with constant current requires you to unplug it during warmer months.  Either option requires you to check on the heat tape periodically to make sure that there are no electrical issues that could cause a fire.

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Seal cracks and holes-  Being able to keep cold air out and warm air in can make the difference in whether a pipe freezes or not.  Take a few minutes to see if any cold air is getting into your home near the pipes and patch any holes or cracks that you find.

 
 
 
Add extra insulation-  Pipes located in basements, attics or other areas with lighter insulation are more vulnerable to freezing.  You can insulate the pipes themselves with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves, or insulate the entire space.

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What is that smell when you turn the heat on?

[fa icon='calendar'] Jan 10, 2018 4:58:46 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in What is that smell when you turn the heat on?, indoor air quality

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It's that first cold day of the year.  You turn on the heat and suddenly you are hit with an odor. 
 
What is that smell when you turn the heat on? 
 
The answer depends on the problem.  Let's talk about the most serious one first.

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4 ways to prevent mold in your home

[fa icon='calendar'] Jan 5, 2018 10:39:14 AM / by Reid Geiler posted in mold

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Nobody likes mold.  It's bad enough when it's on your bread, but it's worse if it's in your walls or carpet.  Once it gets a foothold, it's hard to get rid of.  Mold can even cause health problems for those with allergies or respiratory issues.

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What You Need To Know About Carbon Monoxide Detectors

[fa icon='calendar'] Dec 11, 2017 5:03:08 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in indoor air quality

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Reasons to have a Carbon Monoxide detector

Every year, almost 200 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, with thousands more visiting the emergency room.  Many victims die in their sleep without ever knowing that a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas is slowly killing them.  Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is not completely burned.  If you have an appliance that uses natural gas such as a stove or clothes dryer, or you have a fireplace or a space heater, you are at risk for carbon monoxide exposure.  Any home heating system that burns fuel like natural gas or propane is also a potential risk.  

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Carbon monoxide bonds with your red blood cells and prevents them from picking up oxygen to carry to your body.  It basically suffocates you from the inside out.  It can come in smaller quantities from a burned out pilot light or a burner on a gas stove that's slightly open.  More serious problems like a malfunctioning furnace or water heater or a blocked chimney can cause much higher levels to build up in your home quickly.  Leaving your car to warm up in an attached garage or using gas powered equipment without ventilation can also cause quick buildup of carbon monoxide, as can charcoal grilling.  At high enough levels, carbon monoxide can kill in as few as two hours.  

So how do you know if you have carbon monoxide poisoning?  The symptoms vary based on level of exposure.  The first thing you will feel is a headache at about 15 percent exposure.  Without getting some fresh air, the headache will get worse and nausea will set in at 25 percent exposure.  The symptoms will intensify as the gas is inhaled, with mental confusion and finally unconsciousness setting in at about 45 percent exposure.  Exposure over 50 percent is generally fatal.  The gradual appearance of symptoms is why many victims die in their sleep without every realizing that the gas is killing them.

What You Need To Know About Carbon Monoxide Detectors

 
Fortunately, you can buy a carbon monoxide detector for a little as $20.  There are two basic types.  Battery operated detectors are passive and don't go off until a threshold level of carbon monoxide is detected.  Household current units are more expensive, but most of them will take repeated samples of the air for a more accurate picture of the current levels in your home.  The type of detector you should buy depends on the amount of potential carbon monoxide generators in your home.   

So where do you put them once you buy them?  The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a detector on each floor of your residence, with one on the sleeping floor and one near the major gas burning appliances at a minimum. This will allow you to actually hear the alarm if it goes off and you are already dealing with the early symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure. Check the manufacturers installation instructions for placement, as some detectors have different sensitivity levels and features than others.

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Is Your Water Pressure Too Low?

[fa icon='calendar'] Dec 6, 2017 9:10:00 AM / by Reid Geiler posted in Plumbing

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Is your water pressure too low?  Here are some ways you can increase the water pressure in your home.

First, you need to find out what you have to work with.  Put a water pressure test gauge on an outside spigot and see what the pressure is.  They cost about ten dollars if you don't have one.  If it's below 40 psi, which is on the low end of standard, then it's time to do some more digging.   Standard water pressure is 45 to 55 psi.

Call your water provider and find out what the pressure is supposed to be at the water main tap.  If they tell you that it's higher than what you are showing on your test gauge, the problem could be a bad pressure-reducing valve.  These valves are located on your water main and can go bad after ten or twenty years.  When they do, they result can be either too much water pressure or not enough.  The pressure is adjusted with threads at the top of the valve.  If adjusting doesn't solve the problem, it's time to replace the valve.  It's a job that takes a little plumbing experience to handle, so if you are in doubt, call a licensed plumber. 
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What Do You Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking?

[fa icon='calendar'] Nov 22, 2017 4:15:25 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in Plumbing

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What do you do if your water heater is leaking? 
The first thing to do is find out where the water is actually coming from.  Like many other problems, some are easier, and cheaper, to fix than others.

The first place to start is at the top with the water supply lines. 
You may be seeing water on the floor, but that doesn't mean that it came from the bottom of the water heater.  Look at where the water lines come into the room and follow them all the way down to the top of the tank.  If you find water, try to trace the source.   

Flexible water supply tubes have been known to fail long before the water heater itself is ready to retire.  If there is insulation, be sure to remove it to see if it is wet underneath.  To replace the flex lines turn off the water supply and the water heater itself.  If you feel like the job is too big for you, call a licensed plumber.

If you have changed the water supply tubes and you are still seeing leakage, the next items to check are the water heater's nipples where the water is taken in to be heated.  Water heater nipples are difficult to remove, but it can be done.  Just be careful not to damage the water heater in the process.  Again, make sure the water supply is turned off and the water heater is off before beginning the process.
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The next item to check is the Temperature and Pressure (T&P) Valve.  This valve is designed to relieve, you guessed it, temperature and pressure inside the water heater.  If the T&P valve is leaking, this could indicate that the water pressure is too high or the heating element of the water heater is not regulating properly.  The valves are relatively inexpensive,so replacing one as an experiment is worth a try.  If the replacement valve still leaks, that is the sign of a bigger problem.  Time to call a licensed plumber.

There is a drain valve at the bottom of the water heater than can also be leaking.  Look closely to see if you see water coming from it.  If so, change the valve and see if that solves the problem.  The water heater will have to be drained and the water supply turned off before you begin.

Finally, look at the tank itself.  If the leaks are coming from there, it's time for a new water heater.  The average cost for a new water heater, including installation, is about $800.

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What Is That Smell?

[fa icon='calendar'] Nov 16, 2017 3:58:11 PM / by Reid Geiler posted in Plumbing, Smelly Sink

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"What is that SMELL?"

Those are usually the first words that come to mind when you discover that your sink smells like rotten eggs. 
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5 Ways to Reduce Dust

[fa icon='calendar'] Oct 25, 2017 7:10:54 AM / by Reid Geiler posted in Allergy Symptoms, indoor air quality

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What is dust?

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