Plumbing in Kalamazoo is Our Passion

We’ve been sons and daughters of Kalamazoo almost our entire lives. As such, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give back to the community.

In all areas of Kalamazoo County, we’ve donated our support, plumbing supplies, plumbing services, and plumbing planning to both public, non-profit, and underserved communities.

Whether it’s sponsoring a youth sports team or doing a complete buildout of a Habitat For Humanity project, or even donating our services to local government buildings like we did in Richland, MI and Kalamazoo, MI, we’re more than grateful to give back to the community that’s helped us so much.

kalamazoo plumber sponsored youth football team

Kalamazoo Plumber Habitat For Humanity

Kalamazoo Plumber Sponsors Youth Baseball Team

We Give Back Because We Care; And There’s a Lot to Care About

Our community in Kalamazoo is everything to us. It’s given us and our families so much: from employment and a thriving business, to relationships and friendships that will last to a lifetime. Kalamazoo is where we call home and we’re darn proud of it.

We are concerned though with our community’s water system

With the recent Flint water crisis, we’ve been alarmed and shocked at the potential for great damage to public health that can occur through water systems. We’ve recently been recommending to all of our clients to have their water tested for lead content. It’s a bigger problem than you might think and if you have lead water pipes leading into your home, it’s a problem you have to address immediately. We’re here to help.

According to a recent article on MLive.com:

“Kalamazoo replaces lead service lines during street restoration projects, repairs to service line breaks and whenever targeted sampling indicates lead and/or copper in the city’s water supply exceeds 15 parts-per-billion (ppb) — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulatory limit for lead in drinking water.

It’s worth nothing that 15 ppb is a regulatory measure and public health agencies and advocates consider that generous. The World Health Organization says that, while no level of lead is safe to drink, 10 ppb is guideline level for action. Virginia Tech researchers consider 5 ppb a “cause for concern.”

In 2014, Kalamazoo tested at 13 ppb. “

How to Find Out if You Have Lead Issues & What to Do About it

At Petro Plumbing & Mechanical, we want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. That’s why we’ve been glued to this story and concerned about the general health of our community’s water system, which is the second largest water system in the state of Michigan.

We’re here to be a resource and help wherever we can.

If your home was built before 1970, there’s a chance you could possibly have lead pipes in your home. Here’s a quick video from Severn Trent Water in the UK about how you can check if you have lead pipes in your household.

Here’s a link to an article from the CDC about what you can do if your home has lead service pipes leading into it.

Get In Touch With Us If You Think You May Have a Lead Problem

As a plumbing company, the safety of our customers is always paramount. If you believe that you may have a lead problem in your home, the best thing to do is replace all the lead piping that may be leading into or actually in your home.

Call us today for a free consultation about the water quality in your home.

 

 

Flush For Longer Water Heater Life

Is your water heater making knocking noises? Have you noticed colder water or higher gas or electric bills?

Your water heater may need to be flushed. This is something that should be done once a year. If you haven’t ever done this, drop what you’re doing now and read the rest of this article.

Water Heaters Collect Sediment

As water comes into your water heater unit, it carries minerals with it. These minerals settle to the bottom of your water heater tank. After time, they build up enough that they start to prevent the efficient heating of the water in the tank. This causes increased water heating bills and can result in knocking noises that will irritate you and probably scare your children.

Flush The Sediment From Your Water Heater

As a part of the routine maintenance of your home plumbing system, you should flush your water heater once a year. To do this safely and cleanly, follow the steps below. If it sounds like too much of a task for you, call a certified plumber to do it for you. It’s a relatively cheap service and will increase the life of your water heater unit.

How to Flush Your Water Heater

  1. Grab some heavy duty gloves. Your water heater is HOT!
  2. For gas water heaters, turn the setting to “Pilot.” For electric water heaters, turn the water heater off at the circuit breaker.
  3. Turn off the cold water intake valve on the water heater.
  4. Allow the water heater 30 minutes to cool down. This water is typically warmed to 140 degrees Fahrenheit so don’t rush it.
  5. Now, connect a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of your water heater.
  6. Place the other end of the hose somewhere that water and sediment can drain and that is downhill or level with your water heater’s drain valve.
  7. Open a hot water faucet somewhere in your house to prevent a vacuum in your pipes.
  8. Turn the tab on the drain valve to the left.
  9. Remove the tab on the pressure relief valve.Water Heater Drain Valve
  10. Let the water and sediment drain out of your water heater.
  11. Now turn the cold water intake valve back on to flush any remaining sediment out of your water heater.
  12. Once the water is running clear, turn off the cold water intake valve.
  13. Disconnect the garden hose and replace the tab on the pressure relief valve and close the drain valve.
  14. Turn your cold water intake back on to let the water heater tank fill.
  15. Return your heat setting to your desired setting.

You’re Done!

Perform this procedure once a year to get the longest life out of your water heater.

Did You Know That Water Heating is 15-20% of Your Monthly Utility Bill?

Why You’re Losing Money on Your Water Heater

Without asking this question first, we’d be starting off on the wrong foot. Water heaters operate inefficiently when heat is lost and water has to be reheated. Your water heater maintains your household water supply at a constant temperature, typically around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat loss is a fact of science, and life, and as a solid, liquid, or gas is heated, the energy of that heat is spread to whatever container or other substance is near or touching that heat. We can see then, that having heated water will result in heat loss. Cutting down on this heat loss from your water heater will save you hundreds of dollars throughout the course of a year. 

First, Turn Down the Temperature on your Water Heater

Since most water heaters are heating your household water at a factory preset 140 degrees Fahrenheit, go ahead and knock it down 20 degrees. 120 degrees is typically between the “Medium” and “Low” settings. This will not be a noticeable difference in the vast majority of cases and is a relatively simple procedure to do by yourself. Energy.gov says that each drop in 10 degrees on your water heater will save you 3-5% on your water heating bills. A 20 degree drop on your water heater setting will result in up to a 10% decrease on that water heater bill.

Next, Insulate That Water Heater!

If, like most hot water heaters currently installed in most of Kalamazoo, MI homes and throughout southwest Michigan (and across the country), you own a tank style water heater, you’ll want to insulate the tank and pipes coming in and out of the water heater. It’s very important to follow manufacturer’s guidelines on how to do this. In fact, it’s probably best to have a certified plumber to help with this step. They’ll know how to insulate your water heater safely and completely.

If you’d like to do it by yourself, make sure you have plenty of clearance around any gas lines that run to your water heater and  the air intake valve. Don’t forget cold water pipes that come into the water heater. This water often sits at room temperature while waiting to enter the water heater. Keeping it as warm as possible using the passive heat that is in your house will result in less of an energy cost to heat that water after it enters your water heater tank. Again, to do this correctly, it’s probably easiest to call a plumber for a low cost job then it is to risk any kind of fire hazard.

You can get a water heater insulation jacket for $20 – $30 on Amazon.com that you can install yourself. These jackets alone can save you up to 20% on your water heating bill each year!

Now, Install Low Flow, Aerated, Faucets & Shower Heads

This is where the pedal hits the metal. Now that you’ve potentially reduced your water heater bill by already 30%, let’s focus on using that hot water efficiently. By installing low flow shower heads like the one below, you can save up to 30% on not only your water heater costs, but also 30% on your water bill. In the typical two bathroom house found in Kalamazoo, you’ll double your energy and water savings for only about $14!

Installing a new shower head is a relatively easy process but if you don’t want to deal with the hassle, call one of our Kalamazoo plumbers and we can install the shower heads for you while you’re at work and you’ll be saving money when you shower later that evening.

Make Sure Your Water Heater Has Heat Traps

Most newer water heaters have heat traps built in already but if your water heater is more than five years old, you’ll want to check if it has heat traps installed. Heat traps are installed on the hot and cold water connections going to and from your water heater. These heat traps prevent what is called “thermosiphoning” from the already hot water and the cold water going into your water heater. They are a simple invention that can decrease your hot water bill by around 5-10%.

For about $10 you can order these from Amazon and have them on hand for your water heater experts at Petro Plumbing to install.

Bonus Petro Pro Tip: Think About Tankless

If you’re looking for the ultimate in energy efficiency, you’ll want to take a look at tankless water heater units. Because the unit is tankless, hot water is not stored but rather created on demand. This means that heat loss is removed from the equation in your energy bills. Although the upfront cost is more on these units, the energy cost, maintenance costs, and problems associated with the unit are significantly decreased.

Not only will you save on energy bills related to your water heater, you’ll recoup more of your investment when selling your home.

To get a free estimate for a tankless water heater in Kalamazoo, call us today at 269-629-0278!

Clogged Drain

A New Fix for an Old Problem

So you have a clogged drain. You can’t take a shower without the water rising above your ankles before you get out. The slow draining is leaving your tub dirty and stained. You’re just about ready to go get some Draino from Meijer on Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo….

Not so fast! You probably already have everything you need to clean that drain in your kitchen.

Walk into your kitchen, pull out the vinegar and baking soda, and let’s unclog that drain!

  • First, pour a pot of boiling water into your clogged drain.
  • Now, scoop 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda into the drain.
  • Let sit for five minutes.
  • Next, pour a solution of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water down the drain.
  • Almost done. Our next step is to cover with a drain plug (if you have one) and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  • Finally, rinse with another pot of boiling water.

And voila! You’ve got a clean drain!

Wait, What Just Happened?

When you add acid to a base (never add a base to acid!!) like you did when you added the acidic vinegar to the alkaline (or base) baking soda, you get a very powerful chemical reaction that rocks sludge and debris off of your drainage pipe. All those bubbles that came out of your drain went to work so you didn’t have to!

Why Wouldn’t I Just Use Draino?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many liquid plumber drain cleaners are highly toxic and very corrosive. Over time, they will wear down your drainage pipe, causing cracks and eventually leading to water damage. Using vinegar and baking soda is a great way to avoid this and treat the environment correctly by using a much less toxic method.

My Drain is Still Clogged….

Well, shoot. That didn’t work? Not a good sign. You’ve probably got more than just the run of the mill clogged drain and it’s time to call a plumber.

If you have a clogged drain in Kalamazoo, call us today for a free estimate!

 

Plumber

Plumber.

Kind of a weird word when you think about it right?

The word plumber actually comes from the times of the Roman Empire! Since the Latin word for lead is “plumbum,” there’s clearly a tie to lead and plumbers. In the Roman times, plumbers were actually those who worked with lead, which was used on drain pipes, piping, and building baths. When plumbers were working mainly with led, they were considered and expert of lead, or a “plumbarius.”

Later on, the name was shortened to “plumber,” falling into a nicer fit to the lexicon for the “doer” occupations.

Considering the amazing amount of damage that we’ve since learned lead can cause to ourselves and our children, it’s a little strange that the roots of the name for technicians who work to provide clean water to citizens relate directly to something that’s very dangerous to their customers.

So next time you’re looking for a great piece of trivia to stump your friend, look no farther than the origins of the word “plumber.”

The Art of Plumbing from María Villaseñor on Vimeo.

Here’s a really neat and touching video about how a young man found art through plumbing and how it’s helped him on his journey through life.

Here at Petro Plumbing, one of our former staff members used to create art with plumbing hardware that would amaze everyone on the team. So we take a lot of joy in sharing this with you and finding old friends in new people’s stories.

Woooooof! You’ve clogged the toilet again, and guests are coming over for dinner in a few hours. What do you do to take care of this mess in a clean, quick way?

Step 1.

Wait ten minutes for the toilet to drain itself for at least ten minutes. This way, the water level will fall to a reasonable level that you can work with. If the toilet is near overflowing, every plunge will push water out of the toilet bowl and onto your floor; which is the last thing you want at this juncture.

Step 2.

Grab a plunger. Preferably one with a flange that will fit into the flush hole. This design puts some serious air through your drainage system. Make sure your first plunge is a gentle one, otherwise the air will fly out of the toilet drain pushing water out with it.

Step 3.

Start plunging at a consistent, gentle rate, generally building up to more powerful strokes. This should clear most plugs within 3-5 minutes.

Step 4.

If you’re still not getting clearance, try alternating between gentle and quick strokes followed by 3-4 powerful strokes. Be patient. This method will clear 90% of clogs.

Important Note* Make sure that there is enough water to cover the plunger while you’re plunging. If there’s not, you’re just pushing air into the drainage pipe and your efforts are increasingly ineffective.

Didn’t Work Yet?

It’s time to get out the snake. If you don’t have one, this might be the time to call a plumber.

Snakes can also be purchased at your local hardware store and generally run between $20 – $40.

Usually these will solve the problem by actually pushing through the clog. But remember, you’re going to have to clean it with extremely hot water afterwards to disinfect. The way that these tools work is by meeting the debris that is causing the clog and then the user will turn the snake clockwise to attach to the debris and allow it to be pushed through the drain. Once you’ve removed the clog, water will start to drain and you can then twist the snake counter-clockwise and pull the snake out. This should solve 95% of all drain clogs.

But You’re Still Stuck Aren’t You?

If you’re still experiencing clogs after all this, it’s time to do some major work. Namely, removing your toilet. Unless you have previous plumbing experience, this is the time to bring in an expert. Your toilet removal will take several hours and you’ll have to purchase a new wax ring and new mounting bolts to secure the toilet again. Errors in this phase of drain clogging could lead to unstable toilets, leaks, and seepage from flushed debris.

If you’ve tried the first two steps and would like to have one of our master plumbers give you a free estimate for a repair give us a call at 269-629-0278

fix frozen pipes

Frozen Pipes – A Homeowner’s Worst Nightmare

It’s cold out. Really cold. Your faucets are running and you take a warm shower before you go to bed. You wake up in the morning and your shower is lacking water pressure, you ignore it, and go on with your morning routine. When you get back home that evening, your faucet isn’t providing any water flow at all. You’ve got frozen pipes somewhere in your plumbing, and if you’re not careful, you could be in for a major insurance claim.

First, Why Did Your Pipes Freeze and Then Crack?

Pipes freeze because of unusually cold temperatures in exposed or drafty areas. Many homeowners don’t know that during high wind events, there can be up to a 50 degree differential between the core of the home and areas immediately near the exterior. This means pipes can freeze fast, virtually overnight. 
When the water in your pipes freezes, it expands. Ever left an aluminum can in the freezer too long? Same concept. This expansion can wreak havoc on pipes, causing cracks in running pipe and bursts at joints. If you’re not able to catch a frozen pipe before it thaws, you’re going to have a huge mess of water on your hands and a huge plumbing and restoration project.

So What Do You Do?

1. Locate your main water shut off valve and immediately turn off your water supply. Now, follow that pipe until you find frost on your pipes.
2. Call a plumber. If you’re in the Kalamazoo, MI area, and you have frozen pipes, you should probably call us. 😉
3. Grab your humidifier, a mop, a bucket, and a heating element (space heater, hair dryer, heat lamp) and begin thawing the pipe. 
As you start to thaw the pipe, any cracks that resulted from the expansion of the water in the pipes as it froze will start to leak. This is why we have our bucket. If you can catch any water before it hits the floor, you’ll save yourself a ton of headache from mold and mildew.
By this point, a master plumber from Petro Plumbing has arrived with all the tools necessary to replace the stretch of frozen pipe, insulate it from freezing again and get your water supply back up and running. 

Sometimes, you’ve got to call a professional, other times, you just need some basic tools and a little elbow grease. But how do you know when you need to call a plumber and when you don’t?

Common Plumbing Problems

In the Kalamazoo, MI area, the most common plumbing problems are:

  • Leaking faucets
  • Burst pipes
  • Water heater issues
  • Clogged drains
  • Injector pipe issues
  • Low water pressure
  • Septic tank leaks or back flows

If you’re going to tackle these problems by yourself, you may be opening pandora’s box. It’s always best to have a certified Kalamazoo, MI plumber’s number nearby in case the job becomes too big.

Leaky Pipes

A leak may start out as a nuisance but can quickly cause permanent damage. Water seeping into flooring or being absorbed by drywall can quickly start the growth of mold, cause discoloration, and even result in floors falling out; the ultimate catastrophe.

Check your pipes regularly. About every six months or so. Leaks are usually found near joints. If you do find a joint that’s leaking, you may be able to replace it at your local hardware store. Make sure you bring the piece with you so that you know you’re buying the right part.

In the southwest Michigan area, leaking pipes often happen after water has frozen in pipes and caused a crack in piece of piping. If this happens, you’ll want to call a plumber to custom cut the new piece of pipe and make sure that it is properly installed.  You’ll also want to have a complete line inspection done at this point to see if there are any other potential trouble spots that need to be addressed.

Clogged Drains

Many readily available tools are there to fix a clogged drain. Plungers use air pressure to dislodge a clog but cannot remove it. Commercial liquids are safe for occasional use but if you’re constantly fighting a clogged or slow draining problem, you’re going to want to call a licensed plumber.

Petro Pro Tip: drain guards or screens are a great preventative measure in fixing clogged drains.

Water Heater Issues

In 99% of water heater issues, you’re going to want to call a plumber from Kalamazoo, MI. Since water heaters use gas or electricity to heat water for your home, the risk is increased and you’re now dealing with two different supply routes. If it’s just a pilot light that’s out (which you can easily diagnose by locating the pilot light) you can safely relight it. However, if you smell gas at all, start ventilating the area and call a certified plumber RIGHT AWAY.

If you’re not getting hot water, the quicker the problem is resolved, the more comfortable you’ll be. Pick up the phone and let the job be taken care of by a professional.

Low Water Pressure

If you’re getting a trickle where you should be seeing a tidal wave, you’ve got low water pressure. The most common cause of this is a clogged aerator. Water carries minerals that deposit themselves on aerator screens in shower heads, faucets, and inside pipes. Most of the time, simply unscrewing the aerator screen and soaking it in vinegar will remove calcium and return the water pressure and the properly aerated flow.

However, if you do see a sudden and significant drop in water pressure, you’re going to want to call a Kalamazoo, MI certified plumber right away. Leaks in pipes can cause major infrastructure damage to your home. This is an emergency situation and you’ll need a professional to help you ASAP.

Septic Tank Issues

Call a plumber right away. Septic tank issues are not only a health hazard but will significantly damage your home in short manner.

Petro Pro Tip: Always remember to turn off the main water supply whenever doing any type of plumbing work in your home. Also, dress to get wet. Most of the time, these jobs can turn nasty and wet in a hurry. 

 

 

With backyard showers and jumping in the lake not really an option as we get into December, it’s important to make sure you have hot water during the colder part of the year here in southwest Michigan.

To do that, you’ll need to make sure your water heater is in good running condition. Most  water heaters will last between 8 – 12 years. But that depends a lot on the maintenance the unit has received, the quality of the original installation, and the intensity of the use on the unit. If you’re not having your water heater checked every 1-2 years by a licensed professional, you’re flirting with shortening the life of your water heater.

The most common problems that you’ll need to keep an eye out for are:

  1. Any and all leaks from any part of the water heater.
  2. If you hear loud noises, particularly hissing and clanking, call a plumber immediately.
  3. Are you getting shorter windows of hot water? Does it seem like you can’t have hot water during a regular duration shower?

If you do experience these problems, it’s time to call a plumber. You might think that it’s easier and cheaper to replace the water heater unit yourself. However, if you’re thinking about doing that, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider first:

  1. Do you have the tools for the job? Depending on the types of piping that you have, you may have to do some soldering.
  2. How will you dispose of the water heater? Many areas in southwest Michigan like Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, have strict rules about disposal of water heater units. You’ll need to check with your local area before disposing of the unit.
  3. Can you physically handle the water heater? These units are often bulky and very heavy. It’s nice to have an extra hand when removing and installing the new unit.
  4. Finally, do you have the time? Water heater replacement isn’t something that can be done piecemeal over time, you’ll need to have hot water to keep a happy home.

If you have questions about your water heater, give us a call so we can make a recommendation about what should be done. In Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, you don’t want to play around with a water heater during the winter so if you think you might have a problem, just pick up the phone and we’ll be able to give you a free estimate. Don’t worry during the colder months, just call Petro Plumbing and we’ll take the worry off your shoulders; keeping you and your family warm and safe all winter long.