Ostrom Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning Ostrom Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning

Serving Roanoke & Southwest Virginia

Schedule Now
Plumbing Tips & Advice

Plumbing Tips & Advice (10)

Time to replace your old water heater? One of the most important things to consider is how efficiently it will produce hot water. Thankfully, the US Department of Energy has developed a standard for residential water heaters, call the Energy Factor that makes it easier for consumers to compare water heaters and select the most energy efficient model.

Energy Efficient Water Heaters

As with cars and Miles Per Gallon (MPG), the Energy Factor (EF) rates how efficiently a water heater uses its fuel source. When comparing standard products of the same fuel type, a water heater with a higher Energy Factor rating uses less energy, resulting in both energy and cost savings.

The Energy Factor is determined by performing a 24-hour simulated test on residential water heaters. During the test a measured number of gallons of water are drawn from the water heater in six equally spaced draws that begin one hour apart. After the beginning of the last draw a standby period of 18 hours follows.

The result of the test is expressed as a decimal. For example, a gas water heater with an energy factor rating of 0.5 means it's 50% efficient. It will use 50% of the gas to heat the water, while the remaining 50% is heat going out the exhaust flue.

When comparing water heaters it's important to consider the fuel source. While an electric water heater may have a higher EF rating, electricity is typically more expensive than natural gas. Also, be sure to compare the EF for the same type of water heater, the EF rating for tankless and hybrid water heaters is measured differently than it is for conventional tank water heaters.

Have questions about choosing the best water heater for your home? Give us a call. We can help you choose the best water heater for your needs.
Many homeowners only think about their sewer line when there's a major problem. When problems occur, there are many questions to consider. Here are some of the most common questions we receive from homeowners about their sewer lines.

How long will my sewer line last?

How long a sewer will last depends on a number of factors including the pipe material, proximity to trees, etc. If your sewer line is more than 40 years old, it may need replacing.

Even if the home is newer, its plumbing may be connected to an older sewer pipe.

If the sewer line is damaged, who's responsible for fixing it?

In most municipalities, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer line from the home to the sewer main.

Does homeowner's insurance cover sewer line damage and repair?

Most insurance policies exclude repairs to sewer lines caused by gradual wear and tear. Before problems occur, check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if it covers sewer pipe repair or replacement.

Some insurance companies will add a sewer and drain endorsement to your policy to cover losses related to a sewer line backup, to cover damage to your home.

What causes sewer line damage?

The most common problem with older homes built prior to 1980 is damage from tree roots that have invaded the joints of the pipes. Other causes include acts of nature, accidental damage from digging to close to the pipe, and inevitable deterioration to the pipes over time.

How can I prevent damage to my sewer line?

Even if your home is newer, regular video sewer line inspections are good insurance. By inspecting the pipes for bulges, joint failures, cracks and tree root intrusion, you can prevent a costly sewer line backup and extensive repairs.

Have sewer line questions? Call Ostrom Services, we're here to help.

What's the Best Garbage Disposal For My Kitchen?

Roanoke Garbage Disposals

When it comes time to replace your old under sink garbage disposal there are a number of things to consider. Not all disposals work the same way and its important to choose the right amount of horsepower for your needs. You'll also want to consider factors like durability, noise levels, price, and brand reputation.

The first factor to consider is horsepower. 1/3 Horsepower is the starting point and typically the units with the lowest power. While they may seem like a bargin, we recommend avoiding low powered disposals. They are more prone to jamming and are often made from cheaper components that rust out more quickly.

1/2 horsepower garbage disposals are the minimum recommended power for a home disposal. They are affordable and small enough to fit in tighter spaces. If you don't use a disposal very often and don't mind the higher noise levels of a smaller disposal, a 1/2 horsepower unit may be a good option. If possible, choose a disposal with stainless steel grinding components to increase the life of the unit.

For most kitchens, a 3/4 horsepower disposal will work best. It will have plenty of power to handle all those holiday leftovers and can safely grind potato peels, celery and more with no problems. While they will require more space under the sink than lower power units, they will usually operate with much less noise.

If you do a lot of cooking and entertaining, consider a 1 horsepower disposal. It can handle just about anything you can put down it. With a larger chamber, most will have premium stainless steel components that make quick work of everything from chicken and fish bones to fruit rinds. While 1 horsepower units are top-of-the-line, they can be very large, so make sure you have the room under your sink.

Whatever size unit you decide to purchase, it's important to always run a lot of water when grinding waste to ensure the waste does not build up inside the drain.

Have questions about selecting the right garbage disposal for your kitchen? Call Ostrom. We can help you choose the right disposal for your needs.

3 Signs It's Time For a New Water Heater

Tank-style water heaters have a lifespan of around 10 years. Depending on the amount of use and whether or not it has been regularly maintained, it could last significantly longer, or need replacement much sooner. So how do you know when it's time to replace the water heater versus repairing it?

Roanoke Hot Water Heaters

1. The Water Heater Is Leaking

Some water heater leaks could are the result of a faulty valve or leaking pipe. If this is the case, it may just need a simple repair to keep it running longer. If the water heater tank is leaking because of corrosion, it is probably time to replace the unit.

2. The Water Heater Is Slow to Heat Water

First, check that the temperature is set high enough by looking at the thermostat. If demand for hot water has increased in the home, you may just need a larger capacity tank installed, or a tankless water heater. Slow heating can also be caused by rust and sediment that has accumulated at the bottom. In some cases you can hear a boiling sound if there is sediment at the bottom of the tank. Flushing the tank will remove the sediment, improving efficiency and heating the water more quickly. If the water heater is still not heating fast enough after flushing the unit, it may be time for a new water heater.

3. Malfunctioning Water Heater

In some cases the water heater may be have broken parts that need replacement. Your plumber can check the heating element (electric water heaters) thermostat, gas burner and thermocoupler to make sure they are functioning. Consider the age of the unit against the cost of repairs when deciding whether to repair the unit.

What To Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking

A gas water heater will last an average of 8-12 years, an electric water heater will last a little longer, around 10 to 15 years.   As the tank gets older, the chance of a leak increase. A leaking water heater can range from a tiny pinhole leak to a major flood. Either way, the damage to your home and property can be extensive; ranging from damage to walls and floors, to mold and mildew.

If you see water accumulating near your water heater, it may not actually be coming from the water heater. Check nearby appliances or condensation from pipes near the water heater, which could be causing moisture to accumulate. Closely inspect the base of the water heater and the pressure relief valve located on the side of most water heaters for signs of leaks.

If you determine the water heater is leaking, the first step is to turn off power to the unit. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off from the circuit breaker. A gas water heater can be shut of from the power supply attached to the unit, usually by turning a knob to the off position. Next, turn the water supply off by closing the cold water shut-off valve located near the top of the water heater.

Water heater leaks can occur in several locations, including the cold water inlet and hot water outlet, the pressure relief valve, the drain valve, and the bottom of the tank. Fixing a leaking water heater is not a do-it-yourself project. A qualified plumber should make the repair. Depending on the severity of the leak and the age of the unit, your plumber will either have to repair the water heater, or recommend replacing it.

Preventing Damage From Water Heater Leaks

For an extra measure of protection from unexpected water heater leaks, specially designed pans can be installed under the water heater to divert water leaks to a nearby floor drain. There are also water leak alarms that can turn off the water when a leak is detected from the water heater or another source.

Have a leaking water heater? Call Ostrom Electrical Plumbing Heating and Air. We can help with all your hot water repair and installation needs.

New Water Heater Technology That Provides More Hot Water While Saving Energy

Roanoke hot water heatersWhen you think of water heaters, the first thing that may come to mind is the conventional tank storage water heater. Tank water heaters store between 20 to 80 gallons of hot water and are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. However, because they must maintain a set temperature for a large volume of water, they can be more costly to operate. In addition, if the tank is not sized to meet the needs of the household, you may run out of hot water when demand exceeds the tank's capacity.

Newer water heater technology is designed to address some of the shortcomings of the traditional tank-style water heater.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless, or demand-type water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. A gas burner or electric element heats the cold water as it passes through the water heater. Households that require a lot of hot water can benefit the from a virtually endless supply of hot water. One downside to tankless water heaters is they typically cost more to purchase and install, although they can last longer than conventional tank water heaters when properly maintained. Another disadvantage of tankless water heaters is they can take longer to heat the water initially when the tap is first turned on.

Hybrid Water Heaters

Hybrid water heaters are designed to combine the benefits of a conventional water heater tank with a tankless water heater's on-demand efficiency. They have a small attached storage tank that provides an initial supply of hot water, then switch to an on-demand heating system to maintain a continuous supply of hot water.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

Heat pump water heaters distribute heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly to providing hot water.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters use the sun's heat to heat water. A roof-mounted solar collector absorbs the sun's heat and stores it in a special fluid that circulates in a closed-loop system that heats water in a tank.

Have questions about which water heater is right for your home? Call Ostrom, we can help match the best hot water solution to your household's needs.
Many water heater manufacturers set the thermostat of water heater's at the factory to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For most households, this is often too high. One rule of thumb: if you can't hold your hand under the tap with the water on it's hottest setting, the water heater is likely turned up too high, and it's wasting energy. Setting the temperature too high also increases the risk of scalding, of particular concern if there are young children or elderly residents in the home.

In most households the water heater is the most energy intensive appliance, second only to the air conditioner and furnace. Turning the temperature down 20 degrees can save 6 to 10 percent on energy costs. Setting the water heater temperature to 120 Fahrenheit works well in most cases.  If you're finding that 120 F is leaving you wishing the water was hotter, gradually adjust the setting upward until a comfortable setting is achieved.

Have questions abut your water heater? Give us a call. It's your home, trust Ostrom.
If you have noticed that your water heater is not getting the water hot enough even after turning up the thermostat, there are a number of possible causes.
  1. The Dip Tube Is Broken - Cold water enters the water heater through the dip tube where it is forced to the bottom of the tank for quick heating. When the tube is broken the water remains at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is, causing it to return cold water with the heated water.
  2. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank - Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This causes a gradual reduction in heating efficiency that will make the water heater work harder and eventually resulting in less hot water. Flushing the tank annually will prevent sediment build up.
  3. The Heating System Is Malfunctioning Most water heater problems occur with these systems: the thermal switch, thermostat or heating element. A licensed plumber should inspect the water heater and repair the pasts as needed.
  4. Hot Water Heater Is Too Far From Where It's Needed - If the water eventually heats up, the problem is sometime a hot water tank that is too far from where it's needed. In the cold months in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the faucet where it's needed. Insulating the pipes can help reduce heat loss.
  5. The Water Heater Tank Is Undersized - If you have recently noticed that your water heater suddenly seems to supply less hot water, or runs out suddenly, it could be that your water heater tank is too small to keep up with demand. Installing a larger tank or tankless water heater will ensure that you have all the water your household needs.
Have questions about your water heater? Call Ostrom, we're here to help.
When it comes to preventing plumbing problems around the home, being aware of the early warning signs can make the difference between a major repair and damage to your home, or a simple do-it-yourself fix.

When inspecting a water heater, look for the following:
  1. Is the water heater consistently producing hot water? Sudden drops in hot water supply could signal a problem with the burner, or a build up of sediment in the tank.
  2. Check for unusual sounds. Gurgling sounds coming from a hot water heater are often a sign that sediment has built up at the bottom of the tank. Flushing the tank regularly can prevent sediment build up.
  3. Are there burn marks at the base of the water heater? This is often a symptom of back drafting. Because this is a safety issue, have the water heater inspected by a professional plumber.
  4. Check for proper ventilation. Ensure the draft hood is securely connected. The flu should be properly connected using a minimum of three screws per joint. Flues that are run into a chimney should be properly lined and connected to prevent carbon monoxide from re-entering the home.
  5. Is there a drain pan under the water heater? If the tank is on an upper level of the home, a drain pan will ensure that water leaks do not cause damage to the floor and ceiling below.
  6. Ensure a drip pipe is in place and is not leaking. The T&P or pressure relief valve should have a pipe that extends 6 inches from the floor.
  7. Keep combustable materials away from the water heater.
Need help with your water heater? Call Ostrom, we can help.

Water softeners are designed to remove minerals from a home's water supply that can cause problems with plumbing fixtures, laundry, drinking water and more. Hard water contains excessive deposits of calcium and magnesium carbonates causing a range of problems, including:
  • Spotting on dishes and cutlery
  • Streaking on shower doors and plumbing fixtures
  • Reduced effectiveness of laundry detergents and soaps
  • Faucets and shower heads that clog, reducing water flow
  • Clothes that look dull and feel less soft
  • Skin that feels drier and less clean
Today's home water softeners can solve all these problems cost effectively with little maintenance. Have questions about whether a water softener can help in your home? Give Ostrom a call. A water treatment specialists will analyze your home's water and recommend solutions for cleaner, better tasting water.
Why Ostrom?
Call, Or Schedule Online
Ostrom Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning • 1530 Plantation Rd Roanoke, VA 24012 • 540-342-0555

Copyright © 2018 Ostrom Electrical, Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. All Rights Reserved.