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Last week, we posted Part 1 of a two part series on common plumbing questions that arise for homeowners. In it, we addressed some common issues, from how to properly clean a disposal to maintaining plumbing fixtures properly. In this post, we’ll wrap up the series with five additional plumbing tips for homeowners to keep in mind. Here goes…


6. Is it ok to spend less money for a cheap product as long as it includes a warranty?

This one’s pretty simple. What you buy is what you get—even when a warranty is included. While having warranties is a great thing, they shouldn’t necessarily be the top consideration for product purchases, especially when it comes to plumbing products. Consumers should always think about the quality of the plumbing fixtures, accessories and other products before making the purchase. Sometimes spending a little more up front or having professional plumbers do the work can save a lot of headaches, time and money in the long run. Even if a cheap product is covered under warranty, that warranty will only replace it with the same or similar quality product. This could be a stressful cycle if cheap products keep failing or breaking, and does not factor in the value of your time and inconvenience.


7. Everything eventually goes down the drain—that means everything is working properly, right?

Not necessarily. Just because food, hair or other things make their way down a drain eventually doesn’t mean everything is in perfect working order. Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t apply in the plumbing world. Small food items, such as rice, tend to bloat and expand once they make their way down (or get caught in) drainpipes. This waste can build up over time and cause clogs or even corrosion. Remember, in order to prevent these types of drainage issues, proper precautions and preventative measure should be taken beforehand.


8. Are water pressure regulators always dependable?

While they can be effective, water pressure regulators aren’t always dependable and accurate. Sometimes, they can give misinformation to a homeowner, which could lead to some big problems such as floods, leaks or other problems. Measuring the pressure and adjusting by yourself can often be as effective as using a regulator. If you commonly have leaks, flooding, or notice constant draining noise from your toilet after flushing, chances are your water pressure may be too high. If it’s too low… well… you’ll notice with the lack of sufficient water.

Plumbing can be a tricky task – especially when you throw in all of the common misperceptions and “tricks” that Do-It-Yourselfers sometimes rely on. We thought it might be a good idea to post some common questions, with answers, to the wonderful world of plumbing.


1. How can I make my disposal smell fresh again?

It’s long been thought that a simple lemon will do the trick. However, putting a lemon down the disposal can actually do more harm than good. While this may be a temporary fix in terms of a nice fresh smell, the citric acid from the lemon (or any citrus fruit – depending on your scent preference) can cause corrosion on the metal in your disposal. A better idea is to put ice cubes down the disposal. While it will be noisy, the ice does a great job cleaning and polishing the disposal. It will remove the scum that is causing the bad odor in the first place.


2. Does running water really help wash down waste placed in the sink disposal?

This is something we have all done at one time or another. We place waste in the disposal and then flip on the faucet to watch it all go down. But, you may have noticed this doesn’t really work at times. The reason it’s not working? The food and waste is still traveling down the drain in front of the water. So, just like sending “dry” waste down the disposal, the buildup and block is occurring before the water arrives. This isn’t to say water won’t help in any disposal situation.  Filling the bottom of your sink with a little bit of water, adding the waste you want to send down the drain, then turning on the disposal should be effective. This gives the sitting water a chance to break up the food and let’s the two go down the disposal at the same time, making it a smooth process all around.


3. Are plumbing fixtures low maintenance?

While fixtures often seem sturdy and stable regardless of age, leaving them unattended to or unused can cause some big problems. The performance of these plumbing fixtures can suffer after long periods of ignored care or sitting for a long time without being used. Parts and pieces can deteriorate if you don’t turn fixtures such as faucets on every once in a while. Don’t forget about uncommonly used sinks in basements or garages and even water spigots outside. Taking a few short minutes to run these faucets can keep them running properly for years and ensure you’ll have water when you do need it from these sources.

With their 26 year-old furnace needing significant repairs, the Widdles of Carnation, Washington decided it was time to invest in a new heating system that provided much more efficiency than their current outdated unit. Their old furnace was a Rheem, which they had been happy with while it was in working order, so they decided to stick with that trusted brand. The old Rheem was replaced with a brand new, extremely efficient unit – the Rheem Classic Series High Efficiency Furnace.


old furnace (left), the work in progress (middle) and new Rheem 95% AFUE (right)


A favorite of customers wanting high efficiency and maximum indoor air quality, this gas furnace comes fully equipped with Rheem’s Dual Comfort Control technology. As we have mentioned in previous installation posts, the 95% AFUE 2-stage furnace is one of the quietest models on the market, providing home comfort without the annoying loud noise of older furnaces. Because of the new furnace’s high-efficiency rating, the Widdles also qualified for a furnace rebate through Puget Sound Energy. As a certified Puget Sound Energy contractor, our Bel Red team made sure they took advantage of this great rebate program.

As is the case in many new home purchasers, the Platt’s of Bothell, WA acquired an outdated furnace with his new house.  The furnace that was heating the house was a 30-year-old gas furnace that was low on efficiency and high on operating cost. John knew he needed to replace the furnace upon moving into the house, so he called in a team from Bel Red to get the work done right away.


On Mr. Platt’s wish list was a combination of greater efficiency and more comfort than the old furnace could provide. He also wanted something that could fit within his new home budget. The solution was a Rheem Prestige Series variable speed 80% gas furnace. This furnace with a 2-stage gas valve provides quiet operation and ensures comfortable temperatures throughout the home with more precise heating output and gentle mixing of the air. The last thing a homebuyer wants is fluctuating temperatures and uncomfortable air in their new house. Fortunately, the Platt’s won’t have to deal with that after this Rheem furnace upgrade. The Rheem Prestige Series 80% furnace also comes with Rheem’s trademarked Comfort Control System, which automatically detects certain problems with the furnace and alerts the homeowner when service is required.


Old furnace (left) replaced by Rheem Prestige Series (right)


To complement the new gas furnace and to improve overall comfort, the Bel Red team also installed a new base-can and rebuilt the old plenums. The new plenums were sealed and insulated to ensure maximum efficiency with the new system. A new return duct was also installed so that air could be mixed from both levels of the home, rather than just the upstairs.

The regional energy standards saga continues. If you’re a Bel Red blog regular, you probably remember reading posts about the rollercoaster energy conservation litigation between the Department of Energy (DOE) and members of the energy industry, including the American Public Gas Association (APGA).


As we discussed in the first post on the subject, in July 2011 the Department of Energy published a direct final rule as part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) that would require certain energy efficiency standards in different regions throughout the country.  One of these regulations was the implementation of a minimum 90% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) standard for non-weatherized gas furnaces in the northern regions. These standards were set to be implemented on May 1st, 2013. Many industry members, including the APGA, thought this was too extreme and challenged the new regional standards.


In January of this year, the APGA (along with industry members) and the DOE reached what appeared to be an agreement to settle the challenge. The settlement agreement would, among other things, vacate the energy conservation standards, including the 90% AFUE requirements for northern regions. The settlement agreement required court approval, which turned out to take longer than expected. With the May 1st, 2013 compliance date fast approaching, the settlement has still yet to be approved by the court. As we discussed in our most recent post on the topic, this delay has been causing much uncertainty within the industry. Without a ruling, many feared major problems when it came to installation and availability of certain furnaces. While some of these problems may still arise prior to an official court ruling, the Department of Energy recently released an important statement on the issue.