Category Archives: Plumbing

Pros and Cons of Going Tankless

If you are pondering whether or not to go tankless for your next water heater, we are here to help you decide with some pros and cons. Read on to learn more!

First, let’s establish the two types of water heaters – traditional and tankless. Traditional water heaters store and preheat on average 30 to 50 gallons of water in a tank. This water is used whenever someone does laundry, showers, washes dishes, etc. As the water is used, the tank refills and reheats again. Tankless water heaters use a heat source, like electricity or gas, to warm cool water on demand whenever you need it, rather than storing it.

We’ve done the research for you to help you decide if a tankless water heater will fit the needs of your home.

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  • Energy savings – tankless water heaters use 30 to 50 percent less energy than units with tanks. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates gas-fired tankless water heaters save each year an average of $100 in energy costs and about $44 in electricity bills, compared to traditional water heaters.
  • On demand – referred to as “on demand” because they heat water only when you turn on the faucet; you no longer have to pay to keep 30-50 gallons of hot water on hand.
  • Continuous supply of hot water – this is ideal if you have a family member that uses up all the hot water taking extra-long showers, or if you need to fill a Jacuzzi tub. If more capacity is needed, multiple tankless heaters can be hooked up together.
  • Compact design – smaller than a standard water heater and can be mounted on an interior or exterior wall.
  • Warranty – tankless water heaters typically have a 15+ year warranty, while traditional models only come with a six-year warranty on average.
  • Environmental benefits – besides wasting less energy, you are also preventing a rusty tank from ending up in a landfill when you go the tankless route.
  • Life expectancy – most tankless water heaters last well over 20 years, about twice as long as traditional models.
  • Tax rebates – many gas-powered tankless water heaters qualify for a $300 federal tax rebate, and many states offer similar incentives.

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  • Upfront cost – at initial purchase and install you will see a higher bill than if you chose a traditional water heater.
  • Special venting requirements – tankless units have high-powered burners, requiring a dedicated, sealed vent system that has to be installed by a professional.
  • Utility conversion – if your home utilities are electricity-only, your electrical system may need an upgrade, which requires hiring an electrician to ensure the proper voltage, amperage, and circuit breaker are in place.

The most important thing to remember when selecting your next water heater is to consider your household’s needs first. Select the unit that best fits your water usage, lifestyle, and budget. Be sure to get an estimate on installation as well as equipment, and have your water heater professionally installed. Unless you are a professional, this is not a do-it-yourself job. To further discuss options with our plumbing experts and what might fit your home best, contact us via our website or call 701.775.4675.

Five Solutions to Low Water Pressure

Are you bothered by a low water pressure problem? This issue can be frustrating and make minor tasks like washing dishes and clothes, showering, or watering plants take longer than necessary. It can also increase the amount of water you are using, which in turn increases your water bill.

A good way to tell if you may have a problem is your toilet cistern, which generally holds about 7.5 liters of water and should take no more than 1 minute and 40 seconds to refill. If you hear your toilet filling for longer, it could be a signal of a pressure issue. You can test water pressure on your own with a kit; normal pressure is around 50 PSI (pounds per square inch), so if your results show it’s below 30, you’ve confirmed a problem.

A few measures you can take to identify the origin of your problem and possibly increase water pressure include:

  • Defective valves – Locate your main water valve and make sure it is all the way open. It can unexpectedly slip without any sign or indication, and if the valve is turned off or even closed slightly, your water pressure can be dramatically impacted. If your pressure is low, this is a good place to check first!
  • Check elevation – If your house is located higher than the water storage tank, pressure will be difficult to maintain. If possible, have your tank elevated higher than your house to ensure the best water pressure possible.
  • Check for water leaks – Damaged pipes allow water to seep out, much like a straw with a hole in it; visually inspect water pipes for cracks, leaks, or debris buildup. If you are unable to find any leaks, turn off your main water valve to your home or structure and immediately check the water meter reading. After waiting a couple of hours, check the meter again and if the number increases, that’s a sign you have a leak.

 

  • Check pressure regulator – Locate the pressure regulator below the hose connection attached to your home. When a pressure regulator isn’t working properly, you will notice low water pressure at every faucet in your home. This kind of plumbing repair is best left to a professional.
  • Mineral deposit buildup – Over time, mineral deposits can gather and clog water pipes, blocking faucets and showerheads and restricting the flow of water. To remove mineral deposit buildup, try scrubbing the affected areas with a toothbrush using a commercial cleaner or a simple solution of white vinegar or lemon and baking soda. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to hire an expert.

Sometimes your city’s pressure may just not be what you hoped. The best solution here is opting for a pressure tank and pump. The pressure tank, incorporated into your plumbing after the main shutoff valve, will keep the volume of water in your system high and maintain pressure at a more stable level. To boost the pressure beyond that, you would need a pump to go with the tank, which takes the low-pressure water coming into your home and increases the PSI before sending it through the pressure tank. The right pump depends on a number of factors, and if you would like to discuss your options we would be happy to help.

More than likely, to fix your water pressure a professional plumber will be needed. However, identifying and sourcing low water pressure causes yourself may help isolate the problem so you can more easily describe symptoms to an expert. If you have low water pressure in your home, we can help you diagnose the problem and give you all of your available options to solve the issue. Contact us today to enjoy better water pressure in no time.

6 Tips to Save Money While You’re on Vacation

As winter arrives in North Dakota, warm, sunny beaches start to call our names! Are you heading out on a winter vacation? More than likely you have had the mail held and asked a neighbor to keep an eye on things while you are away, but did you remember to ready your electricity and HVAC system for your absence? It is important for not only cost savings, but also safety reasons.

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Below are six tips to remember when the packing is done and you are almost ready to set sail in paradise.

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Reset the thermostat on your HVAC system to 60 degrees. This will save you money without risking frozen pipes and flooding, while still preventing moisture from building up on your primary heat exchanger, which could cause a possible shortage as well as mildew problems. Temperatures below freezing make it unsafe to turn the thermostat entirely off, and in our area we have the humidity working against us. We also tend to turn the heat back up to 72 or higher upon our return, causing extra stress to the HVAC unit. A programmable thermostat makes it convenient to remotely check on the temperature in your house and slowly increase the heat back to a comfortable setting over a couple of days, helping to prevent overworking your HVAC unit.

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This lower temperature will prevent water in the lines and tank from freezing and causing damage, but won’t keep hot water on hand that you are not going to be using. If you are not quite sure how to change the water heater to its “vacation” setting, give us a call!

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Turn off the water supply to washing machines and toilets; this can help avoid an unexpected leak while you’re away. Double-check the insulation around water pipes that are close to unheated areas and add insulation if needed, as an added precaution to prevent a frozen pipe while you’re away.

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Be sure all interior doors are open. This will keep the heat circulating throughout the entire house and create less of a chance for cold spots where a pipe could freeze or a plant might die from inadequate warmth. If you have someone checking your home, it is a good idea to place a thermometer where it can easily be seen to notify the person of any dangerous temperature drops in your home.

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Set your refrigerator to 42 degrees and freezer to 5 degrees, to save money while also reducing the odds of returning home to spoiled food. If you are heading off on an extended vacation, donate or discard perishable food items and unplug your fridge to save even more. Also, unplug any “vampire appliances” that continue to use energy even when they are not in use, such as televisions, lamps, entertainment systems and coffee makers.

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If you don’t have motion detectors, it is a good idea to consider investing in them, especially when going on extended vacations. If you do, make sure all the lights are in working order and time them to come on in the evening as the sun sets. You could even set a radio on a timer to ward off possible burglars.

We hope these tips help you have a wonderful, stress-free vacation! If you would like additional information on the care and maintenance of your HVAC system, or help with prepping your system for an extended vacation, or to schedule services to make sure your system is running optimally, contact Vilandres and we would be happy to come give your unit a tune-up before your trip begins.

The Cost of Water Leaks

Did your water bill spike this month and you’re not sure why? A water leak may be to blame. The plumbing in your home or business is part of a simple but well-organized system that needs maintenance to perform efficiently, and it may require  a plumbing professional from time to time for emergency services such as this. Left unfixed, even the smallest of leaks can cause a higher utility bill, or worse, serious damage to your structure that can be expensive to repair.

What is the cost of a water leak? There are many varying factors that can affect the cost of leaks, such as the length of time it’s been occurring, the size of the leak, and the pressure of the water system. This chart gives you an idea of how a small amount of running or leaking water can cost you big.*

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*Chart based on estimates, not exact numbers. Calculations based on Grand Forks Public Works information and Grand Forks residential flow rates.

In addition to higher utility bills, leaks can also result in problems such as mold and water damage to flooring and fixtures. Monitoring your home or business and locating a leak as early as possible can prevent costly water and repair bills. The most common cause for a high water bill is toilet leaks, as these can be unseen and even silent. To check a toilet for leaks, put some food coloring dye into the tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes without flushing; if the food coloring appears in the bowl, there is a leak. As toilet leaks can be inconsistent, you may have to perform this test multiple times.

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In order to keep plumbing costs at a minimum, do your best to be proactive with your structure and keep an eye out for running water or leaks. The sooner an issue is identified, the less time it has to cause damage to your home or office and create expensive repairs. Call a plumber sooner rather than later if you suspect a leak of any kind, and remember — Vilandre is available with 24/7 emergency services, including weekends, nights, and holidays, for your convenience.

What Your Plumbing is Telling You

Welcome back to the Advantage! In this edition we will discuss how to interpret the sounds coming from your pipes, to help determine whether the noises are normal or potentially indicating a serious issue. The first step in translating the language of your pipes is to locate exactly where the disturbance is coming from, and to determine if the noise happens when the water is turned on or when it is draining. Here is a list of common plumbing sounds and their causes:

Hissing

If you hear whistling or hissing when the water is turned on, you may have an intense water pressure problem. The best thing to do in this situation is to call your water supply company to determine if the water pressure is higher than normal, and inquire about solutions to eliminate the sounds by reducing the pressure. If your water is supplied by a well, call your plumbing professional to take a listen.

Chattering or Screeching

This occurs when a valve or faucet is turned on and usually disappears when it’s opened all the way, indicating loose or defective internal parts. Pumps and appliances such as dishwashers can also transfer motor noise to pipes if they are not properly connected. When appliances are installed, your plumber will utilize plastic or rubber hoses, rather than inflexible pipe, to reduce the amount of noise created.

Thudding

A thud followed by a shuddering sound, also known as “water hammer,” occurs when pipes are trying to absorb an intense buildup of pressure as water is turned on. This results in pipes moving and bumping into the surrounding materials, creating a thud. Tackle this issue by contacting your professional plumber to install pressure-reducing components, such as air chambers, as well as noise-softening devices on the pipes.

Other Noises

Scratching, squeaking, tapping, creaking, and snapping are often caused by the expansion or contraction of pipes used to supply hot water. The disturbances can occur when the pipes slide against loose fasteners or strike surrounding materials. Although generally harmless, these sounds can result in larger issues, such as leaks or flooding, due to excessive movement in your plumbing system.

Other plumbing noises may suggest a bad toilet fill valve or flapper. If you hear strange sounds when your toilet is flushed, lift the lid and manually lift the flapper to see if the noise ceases. If lifting the flapper stops the sound, you may need a new one. If the sound does not stop, the culprit might be the fill valve and will likely need to be adjusted or repaired.

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Stubborn plumbing sounds can often be resolved by upgrading fixtures. If you’re planning to replace plumbing products, such as faucets or toilets, we offer water-saving alternatives that are less noisy than conventional models.

If you are unsure of what the sound is or how to fix it, or have any plumbing questions or concerns, contact Vilandres to make an appointment. We would be happy to be the interpreter between you and your plumbing.

3 Reasons to Choose a Career in HVAC

Choosing a career can be a daunting task. In addition to finding a profession that you are passionate about and have a strong interest in, there are innumerable factors to consider: educational requirements, job security, salary, and opportunities, to name a few. With these considerations in mind, it would be beneficial to anyone looking for available positions to consider a career in the HVAC industry. Take a look at a few of the top reasons to consider a job as an HVAC specialist today:

Growth

In 2012 there were over 267,000 jobs in the HVAC field. In just 10 years, that number is expected to grow 21%, adding as many as 56,000 jobs by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is nearly double the average industry when compared to all other occupations. This predicted growth rate is based on a variety of factors, including the large number of existing systems that will need to be replaced and, perhaps more importantly, the serious need for workers with knowledge of new climate control units and skill in the installation and service of the increasingly intricate technology of advanced systems.

Opportunity

Did you know that for every three skilled workers that are retiring from the trades industry workforce, only one is entering in their place? This, coupled with an estimation that merely 6% of high school students are thinking about a future in the trades, leaves a huge number of jobs currently available in the HVAC field. These surprising numbers mean there are vast opportunities for job placement, career development, and expedited advancement into higher positions.

Security

With a high demand for skilled workers and a low supply of tradesmen entering the field, this leaves a world of opportunity for people entering the HVAC industry. As the current workforce moves towards retirement, it is leaving more positions available, especially to younger workers. So consider HVAC if you’re looking for job security, career growth, and exceptional benefits, not to mention an excess of possibilities for career development, including tuition assistance, apprenticeship programs, or continuing education opportunities.

Interested in learning more about the HVAC industry or employment opportunities?

At Vilandre, we are always on the lookout for motivated, hardworking, and dependable individuals looking for career development in a challenging profession. To learn more, visit our employment page or fill out our online application today.