Keeping the Environment in Mind

earth

Since today is Earth Day, it’s gotten us thinking about things that we can do to help protect the environment on a daily basis. With so many homes using septic systems in the Pacific Northwest, it is important to keep the environment in mind. That means taking good care of your septic system.

If you do not routinely maintain your septic tank, it may lead to a system failure. Such failures could result in expensive repairs. If your septic tank overflows or otherwise does not function properly, you could be putting your health and quality of water in harm’s way. Some major issues include:

  • Threat of contaminating local shellfish beds and beaches
  • Exposing your family or pets to sewage
  • Excessive nitrogen and phosphorous levels, which leads to algae growth and lower oxygen levels in lakes, rivers and streams
  • Contamination of surface water and ground water with nitrates and disease-causing pathogens

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for on Earth Day and every day:

Soggy spots on lawn

If the drainfield is clogged, it will flood and cause sewage backups. The blockage creates an unclean environment for the grass. Areas of more lush grass growth over the septic tank may be signs that the tank is leaking or backing up and spilling effluent – a sign of potential trouble.

A Foul “Rotten Egg” Odor

Sewer gas is a complex mixture of toxic and non-toxic gasses that can be present at varying levels depending upon the source. It is formed during the decay of household waste, typically the anaerobic decomposition of sewage and sludge. A common source of sewer gas odors in the home is a “dry trap”. This occurs when a sink, shower, floor drain, or toilet is not used for a long time, and the water in the trap eventually evaporates out, allowing the sewer gas to enter.

Excessive Water Usage

One way to cut down your water usage is to collect and reuse the greywater in your home. Although greywater looks dirty, it does not need to be immediately flushed into the sewer or septic tank. This type of water is still considered safe to use and it can be repurposed. For example, you could use your dishwater to water your lawn or plants. Using greywater can reduce the amount of water going directly into your septic tank at any given time.

Avoid Chemical-based Drain Cleaners

Chemicals that are strong enough to clear a clog in your drain will also cause damage to your skin and eyes, not to mention the environment. Chemical drain cleaners get washed into the sewer system and eventually the local waterways and can damage plant and animal habitats. Environmentally aware homeowners opt for greener solutions for drain cleaning. These harmful cleaners also kill the good bacteria living inside the septic tank that work to break down and clean the wastewater.

Protect Your Drainfield

Even though your drainfield is buried, and might not be the first thing on your mind, it is important to know where your pipes are so you don’t drive or park on them. Your pipes are sensitive to pressure and the weight of a vehicle may cause the pipes to crack. Cracked pipes allow roots to begin growing inside the pipes and will eventually create large blockages that will require extensive plumbing work to remove and restore.

Along with keeping your septic system in working order, hopefully these tips will get you thinking about other things you might be able to do the make the environment a little cleaner on Earth Day.

For more information on Earth Day, and to learn what you can do, visit https://www.earthday.org/

earth

Drain Cleaning: Using Chemicals to Unclog Your Drain May Not Be the Best Solution

drain

Slow drains are a common plumbing problem. If you notice that your shower or sink seems to be draining slower than usual, time is of the essence. A slow drain can quickly get worse over time and turn into a drain that is completely blocked. Although many homeowners may resort to reaching for a chemical agent for tough clogs, you may be surprised to learn that using a chemical clog remover as your first line of defense may not always be the best option.

drain2While using a chemical drain cleaner can be a temporary fix, professional plumbers agree that chemical cleaners are rarely effective and are used far too frequently by consumers. Most importantly, chemical cleaners can cause more problems than they solve. Some chemicals can be harmful to pipes and actually cause serious damage. Using a chemical clog remover can cause serious backups into other pipes in your home. A backup into the dishwasher or washing machine could potentially cause a very serious issue.

Clog removing chemicals can also damage professional plumbing tools. A drain snake is a commonly used tool to unclog pipes and it can be damaged by these chemicals. It is a long flexible metal rope with a spiral of metal at the end and is fairly low-tech. Some companies may even charge for the damaged equipment which could cost as much as the service itself.

Chemicals that are strong enough to clear a clog in your drain will also cause damage to your skin and eyes, not to mention the environment. Chemical drain cleaners get washed into the sewer system and eventually the local waterways and can damage plant and animal habitats. Environmentally aware homeowners opt for greener solutions for drain cleaning.

In addition to chemical cleaners being harmful for you and the environment, we also recommend that they not be flushed down your drains because the toxicity of such products can cause a serious imbalance within your septic system. These harmful cleaners kill the good bacteria living inside the septic tank that work to break down and clean the wastewater. Pouring chemicals down the drain can actually increase the rate of digestion,
and may result in your tank needing to be serviced more often than what is typically required.

Instead of using a chemical cleaner, first, try a simple way to unclog a drain and use a plunger. This may save you a lot of trouble. Keep in mind that sometimes a DIY repair project can cause more harm to your plumbing than the clog itself. If your shower or sink is still draining slowly after plunging it and you haven’t been able to correct the situation, it’s time to call FloHawks for professional help. Exerting too much force can permanently damage a pipe or fixture. FloHawks has trained experts with professional tools that can clear blockages deep in drain lines.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A little precaution before a crisis occurs is preferable to a lot of fixing afterward, and the same goes for your plumbing. Clogs can be prevented by having a professional inspection every two to three years to ensure things are functioning properly. Regular maintenance inspections can help identify potential issues early on and save you headaches down the road, particularly if you have a septic tank.

FloHawks has been clearing drains since 1968. We will unclog your drain and provide maintenance tips for keeping your drains flowing freely. We know how much headache a clogged drain can cause – that is why we are available for drain cleaning, drain clearing and all your plumbing needs. Contact us online or call us today at (800) 356-4295.

What Exactly is Greywater?

faucet
According to the Washington State Department of Health, greywater is defined as used waste water that comes from your kitchen, laundry, bathroom sink or other similar sources. Compared to water in the toilet, blackwater, water from other places in your home is still fairly clean, but may contain food particles, grease, dirt or cleaning solutions.

Although greywater looks dirty, it does not need to be immediately flushed into the sewer or septic tank. This type of water is still considered safe to use and it can be repurposed. For example, you could use your dishwater to water your lawn or plants. Using greywater can reduce the amount of water going directly into your septic tank at any given time.

How to Collect Water in Your Home

rain-barrelsUnfortunately, modern plumbing does not distinguish between blackwater and greywater, and that’s where you come in. One way you can collect greywater is to put a bucket under the faucet while waiting for warm water. Depending on how far away from your hot water heater you are in your house, it may take a moment for the water to heat up, so instead of letting the cold water go to waste, you can collect it for other uses.

Using a rain barrel is another effective way to collect water for reuse. In 2009, Washington State made it legal to collect rainwater from your rooftop without a permit. Read the rainwater interpretive policy issued by the state to learn more.

Other uses for greywater

  • Watering down dusty driveway
  • Concrete mixing
  • Artificial water features
  • Toilet flushing

If you are new to collecting water for reuse, there is no need to completely redo your plumbing. Collecting water with containers is an easy way to use the water one more time before it goes back into the ground or down your drains.

watering-plants

Going Tankless: The Pros & Cons of a Tankless Water Heater

Thinking of upgrading your hot water heater? Whether you are building a new home or retrofitting an older one, there are benefits to considering a tankless water heater. Water heating is one of the largest ongoing expenses in most homes, accounting for about 25% of a home’s energy budget.

Conventional Water HeaterA conventional storage water heater is the most common type of water heater. It heats and stores water in a large cylindrical tank. It is always on and is continually heating the water in its tank, maintaining the set temperature at all times, regardless of whether it is being used or not. At some point, the hot water will run out, and you will have to wait while the unit recovers and heats more water.

Tankless Water HeaterTechnology has improved and tankless hot water heaters are becoming more popular in homes across the country. Instead of storing water in a tank, tankless water heaters heat the water as it flows through the unit on its way to a faucet or fixture. Tankless units heat the water whenever you need it, providing a continuous supply of hot water on demand.

For some, the choice is easy. For those with questions, here are some of the factors you may want to think about:

  • Initial Costs - Depending on models and retailers, the installed cost of a conventional tank water heater in your residence can range from $900 to $1,500. In general, the installed cost of a typical tankless unit can range from $2,300 to $4,500. Tankless water heaters cost more and can potentially be more complicated to install, so consider payback carefully.
  • Operating Costs - Since they only heat the water that you use, tankless options offer lower operating costs and lower utility bills over the life of the unit. On average, tankless water heaters are about 25-30% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters.
  • Lifespan - Tankless hot water heaters are durable and have a life expectancy of 20 years or more – nearly double a conventional water heater’s life of about 12 years.
  • Storage and Space Requirements - Compact and able to be installed almost anywhere, tankless hot water heaters eliminate the need to store large quantities of water and the risks associated with leaks. Leaking conventional water heaters are one of the leading causes of residential property loss due to water damage. Not to mention, there is usually a closet or significant amount of space in a garage or basement required for a tank water heater.
  • Rebates and Tax Credits - Unlike conventional hot water heaters, federal, state, and local tax incentives and credits may be available for your tankless hot water heater. Also, many utility companies also offer incentives.

If you are not sure if a tankless unit will best fit your needs, FloHawks can guide you through the options and help you get the right system for your home’s lifestyle. No matter the type, make sure you have a professionally licensed and insured plumber like FloHawks install or repair your water heater system. A poorly installed water heater can cause some serious plumbing problems in your home. It could ultimately cost you more money in repairs, shorten the lifespan of the unit, and keep the water heater from living up to its promises.

Our licensed and insured FloHawks professional technicians are available 24/7 to help with your water heater or any other household plumbing or septic issue. Call us today at (800) 356-4295 or contact us online.

Having Guests Over? 3 ways to keep your plumbing and septic system unclogged this Thanksgiving

Multi-ethnic family cooks Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner in grandmother's home kitchen.
When inviting guests over, it is important to keep in mind that your home was specifically designed with a plumbing and septic system to accommodate only a certain amount of people. More people in the house means more water being used.

Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few common plumbing problems that occur during family gatherings and events. Here are some quick tips to fix these problems.
One issue we see is the septic tank alarm going off during or after the party. This may be the result of more water being used over a short period of time. The added water in the tank causes the float to rise and trigger the alarm. Your system may be on a timer and if you push the silence button and leave it without using much more water for the next 24 hours, the system may be able to catch up and the red light will turn off. Calling out a service provider may just be costly and not change the need to cut back on water until the system catches up with the pump and filters the effluent out into the drain field.

Backups in the kitchen sink are also a very common problem. Sink clogs often happen because of food prep and washing the dishes. Bits of food and grease can quickly build up and cause the pipes to clog and backup in the sink.

Try putting a plunger over the drain and put a rag in the sink next to it (if you have a double sink). Pump the plunger up and down several times without lifting it up off the drain. If the problem is in the p-trap, it should clear the line and let all the water out. If you are still not able to clear the sink after doing this, call FloHawks, and one of our service technicians can remove and clean the traps. They can also bring a snake to cable the line and completely clear the pipes. We do not recommend liquid drain cleaner as it can be toxic to septic systems. If you are on a sewer system and liquid cleaner does not work, it can be dangerous to the technician and ruin his equipment and cables. Please be sure to inform us if you have used liquid cleaners.

Toilets backing up are another common issue at gatherings. These clogs may be easily fixed with a plunger or toilet auger. Sometimes though, that is not enough and the toilet simply needs to be removed by one of our certified technicians to clear or remove the objects that may be blocking it.

With a little extra care and attention, you should be able to avoid major plumbing issues, even with extra guests in the house. If a problem does present itself in the form of a clogged toilet or backed up drain, don’t hesitate to call FloHawks. We are here for you 24/7.

Call FloHawks at (800) 444-2371.