Category Archives: Plumbing

5 Tips for a Worry-Free Bathtub Installation

Bathtub installation
With good planning, your new bathtub installation can be a worry-free job.

Bathroom improvements rank among the highest in return on investment. So most of every dollar that you spend converts straight into a higher home value. A new bathtub installation is worth it, especially if the one you have now has seen better days. And you might even install it on your own.

Plumbing doesn’t pose big dangers the way that electrical work does, but it not always simple, either. We have no doubt that you can install a new tub on your own. But before you begin, we have a few tips that can help make the job a little easier. And if you decide that you’d rather let someone else hands it, Rodenhiser is just a phone call away.

#1: Measure the Bathtub and Doorway First

Bathtubs are large, but most doorways are not. So moving a bathtub through a doorway usually poses a few problems. If the tub is original to the house, it might never have come through the finished doorway at all. So you shouldn’t assume that it will fit through on its way out.

Measure the tub, doorway and also the replacement tub before you take on the project. Also take note of any obstacles, such as the toilet or sink, that you’ll need to work around. You might be surprised by how many people forget this headache-saving step.

In a worst-case scenario, some old tubs can be cut into pieces for removal. But you’ll still need to bring in the new one.

#2: Consider the Plumbing Fixtures Carefully

All tub and shower faucets and figures are not created equal. In fact, some of them are completely proprietary.

If you want to install a whole new set of shower and tub plumbing fixtures when you install the new tub, stick to the same manufacturer as toehold set or count on replacing all of the plumbing at the tub. That might include what’s behind the tile or shower wall.

Most shower handles are designed with notches or grooves on the back side that align with opposing notches or grooves on the stems that jut out from the wall. If they aren’t compatible, the handles won’t work. Some sets are universal, but you won’t find as much style and design variety with those.

#3: Turn off the Water Supply Before Anything is Disconnected

This might seem like overstating the obvious, but more than a few homeowners have disconnected a water supply line only to send a spray of water throughout the room. Never disconnect any line before you shut off the supply. Your bathtub installation with thank you.

If you’re lucky, the hot and cold shutoff handles, which look the same as the shutoff at the toilet water supply line, will be accessible inside a panel on the wall behind the shower. For example, if the bathroom adjoins a bedroom, look on the bedroom wall for a plumbing access panel.

In many cases, there is no shutoff at the tub. Look elsewhere, such as at the water heater, under the sink on in the basement under the bathroom. When all else fails, you’ll need to shut off the main water supply to the house.

#4: Get a Helping Hand

Tubs are bulky. Even lighter-weight tubs made of acrylic usually require two people, if not for the weight then at least to manage the awkward design. Two people are nearly always required.

If it’s a cast-iron tub, you will probably need more hands to help carry it. They can weigh as much as 500 pounds, and some custom designs weigh even more.

If you can’t find a helper, it’s really important not to take on the job alone. You’ll need a plumber. There are too many possibilities for accidents or injury, and there’s also the risk of damaging the tub and other fixtures in the room if you go it alone.

Silicone performs better than acrylic caulk for tubs, which easily degrades in steam and water.

#5: Plot the Bathtub Installation

An old, freestanding clawfoot tub usually stands on its own. As long as it aligns with the drain in the floor, the rest of the installation should be simple. But nearly every other style requires lots of measuring, leveling and anchors to hold it in place. Some also require reinforcements in the floor.

Bathtub bottoms slope down toward the drain, which allows them to empty out without leaving puddles inside. But that’s built into the design. When you level the tub, you ensure the slope is correct. A dry fit before you’re ready to install lets you level the tub and mark the surrounding wall so anchoring it will be a simpler job once you’re at that step.

And finally, if the tub is quite heavy, think about reinforcing the floor’s framework. You might need the help of a contractor for that. A large, cast-iron tub can easily exceed 1,000 pounds when it’s full of water and there’s a bather inside.

Whether you’re taking on a full bathroom renovation or you just want a new tub, replacement is always a big job. And each job is different, too. If you follow step-by-step directions by the tub manufacturer or in a DIY guide, you will still nearly always run into a problem along the way. Good thing you know a plumber with several generations worth of experience.

Rodenhiser has improved the lives and homes of our Massachusetts friends and neighbors for over 85 years. And we’re happy to improve yours with a brand new bathtub and all of the fixtures. You could take on the DIY work, how much nicer will it be to let someone else handle the hard part? Call Rodenhiser and we’ll do the heavy lifting.

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What a Set of Pipes! Which Piping Material Makes the Most Sense for Your Home?

The plumbing pipe in your home is used every day, so your choice should last.

We’ve come a long way in potable water supply lines, and in some ways we’ve ended up nearly where we began. But that’s a good thing. Copper pipes are the top rung in residential plumbing. And they’re not as expensive as you might think.

Of course, many homeowners now opt for PVC and CPVC. And PEX is becoming much more popular in retrofits because it’s flexible. The important thing is that you have choices. Safe piping material that’s available today doesn’t put your family at risk of hazardous materials, not like the old galvanized. And certainly not like lead pipes that were astonishingly not banned until 1986.

If you’re building a new home or replacing the pipes in an older one, here’s what you can expect.

PVC and CPVC are Sound Choices

The vast majority of new construction homes use PVC and CPVC plumbing pipe. Many renovations use it, too. It’s an economical choice. And unlike copper, it doesn’t require soldering. Lengths of PVC and CPVC pipe are joined using a combination of primer/cleaner and glue or a glueless compression fitting. Compression fittings aren’t appropriate for every joint.

PVC is polyvinyl chloride, and CPVC is chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. Both are safe for water supply lines, but CPVC can withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees. PVC can’t. For this reason, you’ll often see both types in a residential plumbing job. Rigid PVC pipe is frequently used for sanitary sewer lines. And because CPVC can withstand hot and cold, it’s often used for both the hot and cold water supply.

A good soldered joint has a very low rate of failure.

Copper Pipe Lasts for Generations

You might imagine that the water supply pipes used in ancient Egypt would have undergone a few improvements by now. But copper is resilient in more ways than one. Of course, it’s prone to some corrosion, but it takes many, many years. By way of comparison, old galvanized plumbing pipe is often the root cause of poor water pressure. It corrodes from the inside out, which makes the thick sediment both invisible without cutting into the pipe and hazardous to water purity. Copper doesn’t do that.

Some homeowners balk at the idea of copper because of the expense. But that’s not as accurate as you might think. Yes, copper does cost more than PVC and CPVC. But it’s much stronger, has a natural biostatic quality that doesn’t breed bacteria, and it’s environmentally friendly, too. Copper recycling is big business.

PEX Pipe Works in Unusual and Confined Spaces

Cross-linked polyethylene or PEX pipe is really more of a hose than a pipe. It’s incredibly flexible, which means it will bend and curve instead of breaking or kinking when used in unusual or confined spaces. This flexibility also means PEX can be installed with fewer fittings, as it bends around corners.

PEX has a shorter lifespan than copper. And it’s sometimes prone to fitting failures. Any pipe is capable of developing a leak, but the brass fittings used with PEX are more likely than a joint that’s soldered well. PEX also has limitations. It can’t withstand freezing as well as CPVC or copper, so it shouldn’t be used in a crawlspace.

PVC and CPVC cover the plumbing in the vast majority of American new construction homes and remodels. But that doesn’t make them better. They’re convenient to install and have a lower price point. PEX is more of a specialty plumbing pipe, although it can be used for a home’s entire water supply in some areas. Some homeowners love it, and for some it’s a method for navigating a difficult space here and there where copper and PVC pose a great challenge.

Copper costs a little more and offers many benefits. It has a higher resistance to breakage in freezing conditions, which makes it an ideal choice for Massachusetts homeowners. It also has a remarkably long lifespan. There’s no glue involved with the installation, and the low corrosion and natural properties of copper help reduce the likelihood of bacteria in the water supply.

Whichever you choose, Rodenhiser can install new plumbing or re-plumb your existing home using the most reliable and safest pipe on the market. When you need an expert plumber in Framingham, Marlboro or anywhere in the Route 495 / 128 area, call Rodenhiser.

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5 Signs You Have a “Sneaky” Leak

Not every leak can carry you away.

Leaks aren’t always as obvious as a puddle under the sink or a drip that comes from the ceiling. Sometimes they’re sneaky, hidden things that waste natural resources, drive up utility bills and even risk the integrity of your home. Left to continue, the damage will always worsen. But caught and repaired early, you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.

The evidence might not always be plain, but it does usually emerge in time. Here are 5 signs that you might have a leak in or around your home.

#1: Soft Spots in the Floor

Water and wood are not the best of friends. If unprotected wood, such as your floor joists and subfloor, stay wet for an extended period of time, they’ll eventually break down and rot. And that leads to soft or saggy-feeing spots on the floor.

Water that drips from a pipe or seeps out from around the shower or another fixture can soak the wood subfloor and joists for days, weeks, months or even longer before you realize that there’s a leak. If your home has a soft spot that’s near any plumbing fixture or pipe, a call to a plumber right away can help minimize the extent of the damage.

#2: Higher Water Utility Bills and a Busy Water Meter

Utility bills can go up for a number of reasons. Rates might be higher at certain times of the year. And sometimes rates increase permanently. But if your water bill is inexplicably high, some of the water that you pay for every month might never make it to any tap. If your water meter moves when there’s no water running inside, it’s a pretty safe bet that a leak is the cause.

Leaks can happen anywhere there’s a pipe or plumbing fixture. Sometimes, they’re in an obvious place, which lets you tackle the repair quickly. But some sneaky leaks waste gallons upon gallons of water and leave no trace of evidence except for a utility bill that keeps getting higher and a meter that keeps advancing.

Where there’s a mold issue that requires cleaning, there’s a moisture problem that might indicate a leak.

#3: Unexplained Mold

Mold needs a food source, oxygen, some warmth and water to grow. The food may be natural fibers, bread, grease, soil and many others. The paper on drywall can harbor mold. So can wood and any surface that’s dirty. Oxygen and warmth aren’t hard to come by in any house. As for the moisture, a water leak will do the trick.

Mold is especially common in bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. But it can grow almost anywhere. The telltale, moldy, dark stains are a clue that you might have a water leak from a water supply line or a broken drain.

#4: Sour or Musty Smells

Water might be pure when it flows through a supply line, but it doesn’t stay that way for long unattended. That’s especially true in summer, but it can happen any time of year. Chronic wet conditions can create musty odors or sour ones, and they’re often difficult to track down.

Musty smells usually indicate mold and mildew. They smell a bit like soil. Sour odors, however, can mean that water has pooled and stagnated, which can breed all manner of bacteria. If the odor is foul and repugnant, you might have a sewer line leak that’s letting gas permeate the house.

#5: Cracks in the House Foundation

Most homes develop a crack or two in the foundation over time. That’s a natural effect of settling. But a brand new crack is always a good reason to investigate. If a water leak is the cause, stopping it will help prevent further damage to the structure.

Water softens up the soil that stabilizes your home’s foundation. If there’s much water, it can wash the soil away. That puts the whole house in danger. And in wintertime, a concrete foundation or the mortar between bricks can easily crack under the pressure of expanding frozen water.

Water is an incredibly versatile thing. It’s vital for life, and no one can live without it. But it’s also a destructive force that can create widespread damage. Unfortunately, some of the damage might be done before you realize that there’s a leak afoot.

If you suspect a leak in your home, time is of the essence. Fortunately, Rodenhiser has helped Massachusetts homeowners in the Route 495 / 128 area for over 85 years and counting. Call us today and we’ll find the leak that’s plaguing you.

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When Should I Replace My Garbage Disposal?

Garbarge disposalYour kitchen garbage disposal gets a real workout, and it might even take more than its fair share of abuse. You may never know how many chicken bones, half-eaten sandwiches, and even small coins have run through the powerful jaws by the time you need to replace it.

The disposal serves an important purpose, and that means it’s one of the most frequently used appliances in the kitchen. Since nothing lasts forever, here’s how to spot a disposal in distress so you can replace it before frustrating damage and costly repairs start to creep in.

You Constantly Fight Clogs and Jammed Blades

Clogged drains and jammed blades don’t always mean that someone tried to dispose of no-no’s such as fibrous veggies or a plastic action figure. If your disposal seems to be more trouble than it’s worth, then maybe it’s just not doing its job. Not all models are the same and yours might be undersized for the amount of use that it gets. A larger replacement could solve all of the ills.

That said, age, wear and tear could also be the culprit. Blades dull, motors get weak and garbage disposals do eventually break down. At H&R block’s Block Talk blog, guest contributor and Apartment Therapy writer, Taryn Foil, says you can expect about 10-to-12 years from a disposal, depending on how often it’s used. If you push the reset button frequently, it’s probably time to let it go.

Garbage disposal
Sometimes a leak is simple, and sometimes it’s a sign of expensive trouble.

Leaks Keep the Sink Cabinet Soggy

Your garbage disposal is a heavy appliance. If you’ve never handled one, you might be surprised by how much it weighs. That’s one reason why it’s rarely a good idea to install one on your own. The sink does support the disposal’s considerable heft, but even a small gap around a seal can lead to major leaks.

Disposals can also leak in other places besides the mounting hardware and top seal. Every seam in the appliance has the potential for a leak, especially considering how operation makes the unit vibrate. If water drips out, you might have a bigger problem than a simple loose connection.

Stubborn Odors Linger

Think about how much food has gone down the disposal since you’ve owned it. If you’re not the first owner of the house, you can add more to the list. Every food particle can potentially lodge under a blade or deep inside the unit. When that happens, no amount of vinegar may resolve it.

Disposals are sometimes a major source of sour, spoiled kitchen odors. If you do a lot of food prep in the sink, there’s the potential for food contamination, too. So if every trick that Pinterest has to offer still leaves you with a smelly sink, a new unit could solve everything.

You’re Remodeling the Kitchen

If you’re getting a kitchen remodel, you’ll probably get a new sink in the process. While it’s possible to uninstall a garbage disposal and reinstall it once the new basin is in place, you could be asking for trouble.

Disposals are intended to stay in place throughout their whole lifespan. Because of the unique way that they lock with the sink drain opening, removal could damage the mechanism. Factor a new unit into the kitchen remodel budget and you’ll have many years of sharp blades, a powerful motor and good service ahead.

Some people love garbage disposals for the convenience that they offer, and some people think they’re nothing but trouble. As long as they’re maintained properly and kept clean, yours should last for over a decade. But when signs of trouble pop up, it’s better to be on the safe side. Replace your unit and scratch one more stress inducer off your list.

At Rodenhiser, we’ve built a reputation on reliable, professional and courteous plumbing service. It’s been that way for over 85 years. If you live in the Massachusetts Route 495 / 128 area and need a garbage disposal replacement, call Rodenhiser today.

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7 Situations That Demand a Professional Plumber

Some jobs are too big, dangerous or costly to think about anything but professional work.

DIY work is perfectly fine for some jobs that you face around the house, but chances are you’ll one day need a professional plumber. We live in an era where homeowners are empowered through detailed project books, online repair videos and project episodes on home-improvement television shows. And that’s a great thing. But some projects fall more into the advanced category.

Get a complex project right, and you’ll have plenty of reasons to feel proud about your plumbing abilities. But get them wrong, and you might be injured, cause more damage than you’re trying to repair or even face a fine from the city.

To be on the safe side, always call a plumber if the project is far beyond your capabilities. Here are 7 of them where a pro might be a better choice than DIY.

#1: Every Plumbing Job That Requires a Permit

If the job that you plan to take on requires a permit, you need a professional plumber. These are typically bigger jobs, but “big” can also be relative. A plumber will know which work needs an official green light from local code enforcement and which doesn’t.

For example, you could likely replace a faucet or your washing machine water supply hoses without applying for one. But if you need a new gas line, you definitely need a permit and a plumber.

Permits help prevent shoddy workmanship and safety issues that can affect the home, neighboring property, and the city. They’re issued for a fee. And once the project is complete, there’s usually an inspection. If a permit is involved, take the safer and easier route and go pro.

#2: When There is a Problem With the Main Line

It’s happened to most homeowners. There’s a blockage somewhere in the home, and it affects more than one room. Maybe the kitchen sink is backed up, so is the guest bathroom sink and two of the toilets in the house won’t flush properly. It might indicate a blockage in the main line, and you’ll probably need a plumber to resolve it.

Issues with the main line often need a lot more than a bottle of caustic drain opener. Any number of problems might be behind the blockage, and DIY attempts to clear the line might actually make it worse.

Tree roots can grow into the main line and sometimes foreign objects get lodged inside. And sometimes a line breaks and requires excavation and replacement. A plumber has the right knowledge to diagnose the problem and the skills to make it right.

#3: If You’re Replacing a Water Heater

Water heaters can be fragile appliances and tank-style models are fairly heavy and awkward. Tankless styles are smaller, but they’re no less fragile. One false move and you might throw out your back or break the new appliance. Then you’ll be back at square one with a much lighter wallet.

Water heater replacement usually falls into the “hire a pro” category. It’s not only the simple way to handle the job, it also helps avoid expensive loss from damage. And then there’s the issue of disposal for the old unit. You can’t set it out with the household trash.

Aside from handling the water heater without risking damage to yourself or your property, there’s also the electrical wiring and gas line to think about. And if you have a tankless heater, the job might be doubly complicated. Unless you have plenty of experience, leave this job to a plumber.

Even a new showerhead might be more complicated than it looks, once you consider the hardware that you can’t see.

#4: When You Need a New Bathtub or Shower

There’s nothing particularly technical about a bathtub or shower stall unit. In most cases, they’re molded from metal, fiberglass or acrylic and have no moving parts. But even a small shower is larger than an average doorway. How will you remove the old and bring in the new?

Plumbing disconnect is another major factor. You might disassemble the drain and other plumbing hardware to remove the old bath or shower unit. But do you know how to put it back together again? And what if the drain line sags beneath the floor in the process?

Installing a new tub or shower takes more expertise. If the unit isn’t level, it might crack or align improperly with the existing water supply and drain. And some acrylic and fiberglass units require a custom foundation underneath to serve as support since those materials flex under pressure. There’s more to a tub or shower than meets the eye, so it’s a good idea to call a plumber.

#5: If You’re Swapping out an Old Toilet for a New One

Toilets also have no moving parts, at least if you only consider the unit and not the hardware. But they’re heavy, and separating the tank from the bowl to help facilitate removal is sometimes more challenging than it looks. That’s especially true if the tank bolts have rusted.

Unless you want to turn yours into a planter, there’s also the disposal to think about. A plumber will deliver the new unit and take away the old so you don’t have to worry about it.

Then there’s the installation of your new toilet. Although many use a reasonably standard measurement of about 12 inches, newer models vary. This measurement is called the rough-in, and it’s the distance from the wall to the center of the flange or ring that surrounds the drain opening in the floor. A plumber knows which toilet will work with your rough-in so you won’t have to move a drain.

#6: When You Need Sump Pump Repair, Installation or Replacement

Sump pumps are never in a convenient location. They’re in a crawlspace or basement. And if you need a new one, chances are there’s water to contend with, as well. This is usually a job for a plumber.

Sump pumps may be pedestal or submersible style. Pedestal units use a sensor that’s dropped into the water and ironically, submersible pumps float. While either type might last for 15 years or longer with regular maintenance and cleaning, you’ll probably have to replace one in time.

The reason most people need a plumber for sump pump work is that if you get it wrong, you’ll have a flood. And if that happens, you’ll spend a lot more for a professional to set it right again.

#7: If There’s a Mysterious Leak or Gas Odor That You Can’t Trace

One of the most frustrating things homeowners can face is a mystery problem that can’t be tracked down. Sometimes, it’s a faint whiff of sewer gases. And sometimes is water in an area where it shouldn’t be.

Plumbing gases are notoriously tricky to find. You might smell the odor for just a second in the foyer, but the real problem might be inside a plumbing vent stack near the back of the house. Or maybe it’s just a toilet or sink with a dried-out trap that hasn’t been used in weeks. Traps block gases, but only if the pipe bend stays filled with water.

Tracking a water leak can be equally frustrating. And where gases smell awful and even make you sick, a leak can slowly worsen over time to rot floors and structural components and lead to mold. But if the leak is hidden behind drywall, you might not find it until it’s too late. In either case, the professional plumbers at Rodenhiser can track down the culprit and stop it in its tracks.

DIY work is great and it can give you a sense of real accomplishment. But when the job is too big or the risks of getting it wrong are too great, the safer route is to call a professional plumber. You might save a lot of money, too. If that’s surprising, consider the costs of a repair or installation gone wrong. One call guarantees professional work the first time.

If you need plumbing work, rely on the same company Massachusetts homeowners in the Route 495 / 128 area have trusted for over 85 years. Rodenhiser can handle your plumbing issue no matter how big or small. So if you need a bathroom renovation or just a new kitchen faucet, call Rodenhiser and schedule an appointment.

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Washing Machine in Peak Form

Washing machine
Take care of your investment, and it will serve you and your family for years.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve owned your washing machine. They’re never cheap, so it pays to treat them with kindness. Even a very low-end model costs several hundred dollars. If a front-loader is your thing, the price tag jumps to over $1,000.

Extending the life of your washer doesn’t require any special tools, handyman experience or a plumber’s license. All that you need is a little bit of time and a good set of habits.

Here’s how:

#1: Check the Hoses Every Change of Season

About 4 times a year, take a peek at the supply hoses that carry hot and cold water to the machine. This is probably the most difficult part of ordinary homeowner maintenance. You might need a hand if the hoses are behind the unit and out of view.

Check for leaks at the connections and inspect the length of each hose for tears, kinks, abrasions and other damage. Hoses are incredibly cheap, and in most cases, they’re simple to replace. But left unchecked, a damaged hose could cause major flood damage.

Washing machine

#2: Read and Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions

You’re probably well-versed in operating a washing machine. But the owner’s manual might also have a few tips for better performance and tidbits for preserving the life of the machine. For example, a little detergent is great so why not use more on extra dirty loads? Most manufacturers warn against extra detergent. It’s better to launder twice.

One of the primary reasons the manual is so important is that machines are so specialized now. Normal use and care for one might not be the same as with another. So put your feet up and skim through the booklet before you run another load. You might learn something surprising.

#3: Don’t Overload the Machine

Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done. It’s not unusual to squeeze a few extra items into an already full load. But overloading a machine can dramatically shorten its lifespan. It can also lead to expensive repairs.

Overloading causes undue strain on the motor and it can also throw the machine off balance. Your clothes won’t get as clean, and you might end up washing them again. So do yourself a favor and keep loads to a reasonable size.

#4: Level a Walking or Vibrating Washer

One laundry cycle consists of countless fills, drains, agitations and spins. That’s a lot of activity for one appliance, but it’s designed to take it. Over time, all of the movement might affect the balance, though. A machine that isn’t level might vibrate, rattle or even walk away from the wall during operation.

Leveling a washer isn’t difficult. Set a small level across the front edge to check it from left to right. And then check level from front to back. If the bubble isn’t centered, there’s a problem. There should be appliance feet under the washer, and they usually adjust up or down by twisting. Ask for help if you can’t reach or turn them.

#5: Keep it Clean

Soiled laundry, detergent and fabric softener can leave residue inside and outside your washer. Clean it away and you’ll preserve the machine’s finish plus reduce the possibility of transferring grime back to freshly washed clothes.

Front-load machines seal, and that gives them an additional problem. Mildew can build up when the machine can’t breathe. But cleaning the tub and gasket regularly resolves it.

Take care of your washing machine and it will take care of your laundry. It’s really that simple. Of course, mechanical issues might eventually arise no matter how careful you are. But many of them are repairable, which gives you years of service out of your investment.

If your washer is acting up, we can repair it or install a new one for you. That’s because Rodenhiser has 85 years of experience helping families just like yours. Call us and schedule an appointment today.

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When Should I Replace My Water Heater?

Water heaterNobody wants to think about replacing a water heater, but this is one appliance that falls into the “better safe than sorry” category. Poor efficiency eats up energy and costs you dearly on utility bills. But even more worrisome is the possibility of a leak that turns into a flood.

Nothing good can come from a water heater gone bad. Unless, of course, you count the installation of a shiny, efficient new appliance. If the hot water in your home has your attention for all the wrong reasons, here are a few indicators that it’s time to shop for a new model.

It’s Older and Maintenance Has Been Sketchy

Once a water heater reaches the 10-year-mark, it’s starting to feel its age. All sorts of problems might creep up one after the other. A 10-year-old water heater isn’t necessarily doomed to fail at any moment. But its days of clean and efficient operation are beginning to fade.

Age alone isn’t the worst issue, however. A lack of regular maintenance plus age is cause for more concern. If you’ve regularly flushed out the tank and maintained the unit properly, it might have a few good years left. If not, it could be on its way out.

You Keep Raising the Thermostat

Do you find that your water cools off at the tap much quicker than it used to? And do you adjust the thermostat to make up the difference? Water that isn’t hot enough might result from a tank leak. And each time you adjust the thermostat, you could put more strain on the appliance.

Colder weather might mimic a water heater problem. Water coming in from the city supply line requires more time and resources to heat. But if the weather is warm or mild and you still run out of hot water, a call to your technician is probably in order.

Water heater

Sediment Comes Through the Tap

The last thing that you might expect when you turn on a faucet is a handful of gunk. Grainy material or rust indicate that the water heater has sediment inside, and perhaps a lot of it.

Sediment can be naturally occurring. Minerals in the water build up over time and can spill out through the tap. This type of sediment can usually be flushed out, at least if the problem hasn’t advanced too far. But it might also indicate rust inside the tank or through older supply lines, which could mean that you need a new water heater.

Energy Bills Creep Up and Up

Even if the appliance is functioning like it should, poor energy efficiency might inspire you to replace it. A top-of-the-line water heater built several years ago won’t compare to modern standards. Check the label to be sure, as standards changed in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Energy‘s National Appliance Energy Conservation Act requires higher efficiencies now than ever before. Look for the EF Rating on your appliance and compare it with a few newer models of comparable size. As an example, the standard in 2010 for a 40-gallon electric water heater was EF .59, but in 2015 the standard raised to EF .62. This rating indicates how much energy is used to heat the water, and a small change can mean significant savings.

You’ve Started Chasing Repairs

The average homeowner probably doesn’t worry from day to day about when the water heater will finally go kaput. It’s when problems start creeping up that it really gets attention. Repairs are a primary reason to look into replacement.

Many water heater problems are simple to resolve with a call to your service technician. But if you find that you’re making the call more and more often, the end is probably near. Repair bills add up, and you’ll probably lose efficiency in the process, too. A new model will cause much fewer problems and save energy.

It stands in a basement, utility closet or even a garage and barely gets an attention at all. But you rely on your water heater every day. Most of the time, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You feed the appliance water and energy, and it provides delightful hot water for showers, baths, dishes and laundry.

Unfortunately, no appliance lasts forever. But Rodenhiser has been the trusted name in plumbing for Massachusetts homeowners in Route 495 / 128 area for over 85 years. If your water heater is on the fritz, we can help make it right. Check out our booking page and schedule an appointment today.

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Should I Switch to a Tankless Water Heater?

Tankless water heaterFar from the upstart little devices that homeowners once looked at with a lot of skepticism, tankless water heaters are becoming a lot more common. You can still choose between a traditional tank-style model and a tankless one that produces hot water as you need it. Both are readily available. But if you’ve toyed with the idea of making the switch to hot water on demand, here’s what you can expect.

Pros of Going Tankless

Tankless or on-demand water heaters never run out of hot water, at least in theory. Of course, there are limits. But in general, the design is such that when you turn on the tap, hot water is there as you need it for as long as you need it.

Tankless styles conserve energy, which can save you money. In a traditional tank-style water heater, 30 or more gallons of water are heated up to the setting that you prefer, then the insulated tank helps minimize heat loss. But once the tank cools to a certain level, as they all eventually do, the heating device, whether gas or electric, switches back on to reheat the water.

Traditional water heaters heat and reheat the same water again and again until it’s used. With a tankless style, the only time you heat the water is when you turn on the tap.

Tankless Water Heater Drawbacks

Although the claim is limitless hot water, any household that owns one can tell you that there are some shocking occasions when a blast of cold comes through the pipes. If you’re doing laundry, that’s not a big deal. If you’re taking a shower in February, you might be rather displeased. Thankfully, there is a workaround. With a supplementary mini tank of heated water, those cold shots are reduced or eliminated.

Another potential problem is the need for more than one appliance or a larger one to handle the load. In busy households, a smaller tankless appliance probably won’t keep up. If your family uses a great deal of hot water all at once, such as in the mornings, a large, traditional-style water heater might be a better choice.

Water waste and up-front costs round out the basic list of possible downsides. Unlike a traditional model, it takes a while for the water to heat up after the tap is turned on. So you might send a lot of cold water down the drain. And an on-demand water heater is usually more expensive than a traditional setup. Home Advisor says the average cost is about $1,500. Fortunately, the energy savings over the long haul helps make up for it.

Tankless water heater
Deciding if Tankless is the Right Choice

There are plenty of reasons to make the switch to a tankless style water heater. One of them is space conservation. Where a traditional tank-style appliance needs its own utility closet or a corner in a basement, tankless models are compact. You can install one almost anywhere.

Longevity is another reason to go tankless. The average lifespan of an on-demand water heater is about 20 years, at least with proper care. Unlike traditional models, many of these require a routine system purge to eliminate mineral deposits that reduce water flow and efficiency.

For some families, traditional is the way to go. And there’s nothing wrong with that decision. After the recent efficiency regulation updates, traditional models have more insulation and are designed to save more energy. Those updates also mean that the up-front costs are more comparable to tankless styles. So budget constraints might not be as much of a factor as they once were.

As with all technology, tankless hot water improves all the time. The cold blasts that plagued some systems are easy to avoid now. But with some brands, you’ll need additional equipment to manage it. Cost was another reason to stick with the tank, but tanks don’t save as much as they used to.

The primary benefit more and more comes down to energy savings. The right tankless setup saves money. But no matter which model you choose, Rodenhiser can install it in your home. Call us today to learn more about tank versus tankless.

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3 Reasons to Keep Your Sump Pump Clean

Sump pumpThe sump pump might not be the most glamorous part of your home, but it’s certainly one of the most important. Whether you have a full basement or just a crawlspace, this device helps prevent flooding, which can landslide into a host of other problems. The only thing that your sump pump asks in return is a little care, maintenance and cleaning.

As often as feasible, give your basement or crawlspace a quick check to ensure the equipment is removing water effectively. And at least a couple of times a year, give the unit a thorough cleaning or call us. Here’s why it’s a good idea:

Always Be Prepared for Wet Weather

Whether or not anyone is ready to admit it, winter weather is not far in the future. That brings snow and sleet, which could translate to water in your basement. Because you never know exactly when water will seep in, the best defense is a good offense.

The worst possible time to find out that your sump pump needs maintenance is during or after a storm. And when the weather is cold, a wet basement can be a miserable place to work. Keep the sump pump clean and you’ll have a better chance of keeping the basement dry throughout the fall, winter and on into next spring.

Sump pump

Keep Your Socks Dry

Where water infiltration is a chronic problem, most homeowners opt out of finishing the basement into a living space. But basement laundry areas are still fairly common. If you’re one of the people who check the dryer in your stocking feet, water on the floor can be an awfully unhappy surprise.

Even a little dampness can also lead to mold. In an environment that’s already damp from the washer and dryer, that’s a perfect recipe for mold and mildew. So do yourself and your family a favor. Check the sump pump sooner rather than later.

Avoid Costly and Unnecessary Repairs or Early Replacement

Perhaps the most important reason to keep your sump pump clean is extending its lifetime as much as possible. If it’s left to do its job but isn’t cared for in return, the whole thing could go up in smoke long before its time is due.

A checkup and cleaning aren’t time-intensive. It doesn’t cost a fortune, either. And considering that every pump will eventually require replacement, cleaning and maintenance now mean your new sump pump investment is less likely to happen by surprise.

Most homeowners aren’t excited about showing off the sump pump. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as, say, a new sofa, stainless refrigerator or flat-screen TV. But the second that it malfunctions, it gets everyone’s attention. Fortunately, the problem can often be avoided with maintenance and care.

Avoid a water backup in your basement or crawlspace and keep your equipment working smoothly with regular cleaning. At Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating A/C and Electric, we’ve helped homeowners in the Route 495 / 128 area with plumbing issues for generations. And we can handle your sump pump, too. Call Rodenhiser today and we’ll handle the messy work.

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When Should I Replace My Toilet?

Replace my toilet

For one of the busiest fixtures in one of the busiest rooms in the house, the humble toilet doesn’t get much attention unless something goes wrong. It’s easy to decide that it needs replacement if there’s water all over the floor. But what about subtle issues that are just as detrimental?

Here’s how to decide if the porcelain throne in your bathroom is perfectly fine, or if you should turn it into a flower planter.

There’s a Crack in the Porcelain

Cracks are typically clear signs of a toilet problem. But some cracks are very small, and some don’t appear to affect the toilet’s function. If no water leaks out, wouldn’t it be fine to live with the damage and replace the toilet later, if the cracks get worse?

Any crack means that it’s time to replace the toilet. And there are several reasons why.

A crack in the bowl lets water escape, even if it’s in such small amounts that you don’t notice it. The last thing that you want is toilet bowl water leaking into the subfloor, but that’s what happens. It’s just not sanitary. Also, a crack is a very weak spot in the porcelain. You never know when the pressure of someone sitting down will worsen the crack or even break the toilet in half.

Replace my toilet

You Have a Vintage Toilet

We get it. There’s a big market for vintage homes and the vintage fixtures that to into them. But a vintage toilet is incredibly wasteful, no matter how great it seems to work.

Toilets have no moving parts except for the tank accessories. So a vintage model could last virtually forever as long as you replace the flapper and other parts as they wear out. But the one thing you can’t change is the size of the water tank.

A new toilet uses significantly less water per flush than an older toilet. And if you’re worried about low water equaling a poor flush, those days are over. New models are vastly improved over first-generation low-water toilets. Now you can save money, conserve water and get the operation that you need.

You Always Have a Plunger on Hand

If you have a newer toilet but find yourself wishing for an old, inefficient, wasteful one that never clogged up, you have another reason to upgrade again.

Low-flush toilets were a great idea in the beginning, but the design hadn’t quite been perfected with the earliest models. Repeated flushings negated the water conservation of smaller tanks. But one of the most annoying side-effects was recurring clogs. If you have to keep a plunger handy, it’s time to replace.

New low-flush toilets may use as little as a gallon per flush, but have no backup issues. That’s because the trap has been redesigned and there’s also a pressure-assisted flush mechanism that needs less water to work more effectively.

Just because a toilet can last forever doesn’t mean that it should. If yours is more than a few years old, it’s probably a good idea to think about a replacement.

Cracks can give way at any time. They also let unsanitary water seep out to your floor. Scratches inside the bowl also collect stains. Older low-flush toilets often suffer from bad design.

There are many reasons to upgrade your older, inefficient toilet, and few reasons to put it off. If you want to conserve water, reduce clogs and have an easier time with cleaning, let Rodenheiser bring your plumbing into the 21st century.

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