Every home depends on a constant supply of water. Whether it’s to shower, wash our clothes, clean our dishes or quench our thirst. We use water like a tool, but rarely do we stop to think that there may be ways to make that tool more efficient.
Roughly 85 percent of homes in the U.S. depend on a hard water supply, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Water is very good at holding things, either by dissolving them or suspending them. While water is in the ground it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium, which make our water hard.
Hard water can make our water supply a less effective tool in the home, causing damage as well as other household nuisances. By investing in a water softener you can eliminate many of the issues caused by hard water.
How Does A Water Softener Work?
A water softener is an appliance that attaches to your home’s water supply system. A water softener replaces those hard minerals with something else, in most cases sodium, which reduces the amount of hard water flowing through your pipes.
Salt-Free vs. Salt-Based Water Softeners
If adding sodium into your water supply is a risk health-wise for your loved ones, there is another option. Salt-free systems are often called “water conditioners.” They do not require salt or hard chemicals to run. Instead, they alter the chemical structure of water minerals through the descaling process. The main concern with salt-free systems is that they are not as effective in places where water sits, like in your water heater, whereas salt-based systems are.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about water softeners as well as your options, let’s review the many benefits of installing a water softener.
Less Soap Scum
Cleaning isn’t easy when forced to use hard water. Soaps and detergents lose their effectiveness by combining with the minerals in your water to form coagulated soap curd that gets left behind after washing. This is what leaves behind white spots, streaks, and residue on your dishes, tubs, showers, and faucets. It also dulls your hair and clothing by leaving behind icky residue.
By installing a water softener you’ll actually be able to use less soap as it increases in effectiveness. Your hair, skin, and clothes will feel softer and look brighter. Your dishes, sinks, and tubs will be shiny and clean.
Longer Living Appliances & Plumbing
The calcium and magnesium in hard water can build up over time inside of your appliances and your plumbing system. This buildup works to decrease efficiency, as well as shorten the lifespan of both your plumbing and appliances like your washing machine, water heater and even your coffee machine.
Installing a new appliance may not seem like the way to save energy, but a water softener will reduce the energy spend throughout your home. Soft water heats faster than hard water, increasing the efficiency of your water heater, which in turn uses less energy. It also increases the lifespan of your appliances, which conserves raw materials and the energy used in manufacturing. Over time water softeners have become even more efficient and are able to use up to 75% less salt than original models. This makes water softeners a great option not just for your wallet but for the environment too.
Bonus: Better Tasting Food & Water
Not only can a water softener save you money, time, and energy, it can also make your meals taste even better. By removing the hard minerals from your water, you’ll allow the natural flavor of food to come out, making your meal even better.
Contact your local plumber here at Ranck to start improving your home’s water supply today!
Bathroom-related injuries are more common than we think. We all spend a portion of our day in the bathroom, often with no harm done. But did you know that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit the emergency room each year due to bathroom-related injuries? Over 80% of these accidents are due to slips and falls, and nearly 20% of accidents occur near the toilet. While we may think nothing of a regular trip to the bathroom, it can often be a hazardous environment.
Most people will wait until after an accident or illness to take action in increasing the safety of their bathrooms. But the best way to keep your loved ones safe from harm is to be proactive. We’ve gathered some helpful tips to keep both your children and seniors safe when visiting the bathroom.
Safety Tips for Children
- Monitor – The best way to keep children safe in the bathroom is with constant vigilance. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under 4 years of age should always have an adult present when near water. Just a few inches of water can become a drowning hazard to young children.
- Temperature – Children are often more sensitive to varying temperatures in comparison to adults so it is important to take water temperature into consideration before giving a child a bath. Always wait until the bathtub is done filling before placing your child in the water as temperatures can often change unknowingly. Make sure your water heater controls are accurate. 120 degrees Fahrenheit is the Department of Energy’s recommended temperature for hot water heaters. It is the ideal temperature to get plenty of hot water while also remaining energy efficient and reducing burn-related injuries. Ranck recommends having your water heater controls checked for accuracy and installing anti-scald faucets or shower valves to prevent hot water from leaving the tap and accidentally burning someone.
- Child Locks – Applying child locks to both toilets and medicine cabinets can be a safe and effective way to keep children out of danger. Adding a lock to your toilet will not only prevent accidental drowning but it will also keep toddlers from clogging your toilet with toys and other found objects. A lock on your medicine cabinet is also very important, as we all know children like to explore and medicine can often look like candy or mints to a small child.
- Products – Keep all cleaning supplies along with shampoos and soaps out of children’s reach. These products can make surfaces slippery when spilled or squirted. Place all of your cleaning supplies on the top shelf of the laundry room or linen closet to reduce the risk of injury or ingestion. Many household cleaners are filled with harsh chemicals that should be safely stored where young ones are unable to reach.
- Appliances – If you use any appliances regularly in the bathroom such as curling irons, beard trimmers or hair dryers, always check to make sure they are unplugged. Children can accidentally get a hold of them and bring them into the water not knowing of the dangers.
Safety Tips for Seniors
- Non-Slip – As we mentioned earlier slips and falls account for 80% of bathroom-related injuries, so it is important to take every precaution when it comes to floors and surfaces. Install non-slip strips or mats in your bath or shower, as well as non-slip flooring to prevent accidents. Any flooring that can provide traction will help to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
- Grab Bars – Getting in and out of the shower can be a dangerous activity for many seniors. Ranck recommends having grab bars strategically placed within your shower or tub to increase safety. Make sure they can support the full weight of an adult by having them anchored to wall studs.
- Faucets & Hand-Held Showerheads – Many senior citizens deal with symptoms of arthritis that can cause pain when using their hands. This can make small tasks like turning the faucet on and off difficult. Replace your faucet with a model that is easier for seniors to grip and turn or install a touchless faucet. A hand-held showerhead can also increase bathroom safety making it easier for seniors to clean themselves, especially when used in combination with a shower chair or bench.
- Raised Toilets – The average toilet is around 14 inches tall. Many senior citizens have trouble getting up and down from lower toilet seats, which can lead to an accident or increased pain over time. Replacing your toilet with an ADA-approved raised-height model (16” – 16.5”) or installing a raised-height seat can help to reduce the risk of accidental injury and allow seniors to maintain this important personal independence.
- Walk-in Tubs & Seating – Taking a shower becomes a tricky task as we age. This is where the risk for slips and falls increases greatly. Consider installing an easy access walk-in tub, bench or chair to make taking a shower an easier task for the elderly. Many walk-in tubs feature seal-tight doors to help prevent the buildup of water on the bathroom floor.
We Can Help
Here at Ranck, we offer many services and solutions to make your bathroom a safer place for you and your loved ones. Among the bath safety and comfort solutions we offer are:
- Check of water heater controls for accuracy
- Installation of an anti-scald faucet or shower valves
- Levered faucet handles for senior comfort
- Strategically placed grab bars for senior safety
- Comfort-height toilets for seniors
- Easy-access walk-in tubs
- Shower seating and hand-held spray
If you’re looking to make your bathroom a safer place, contact us today.
When the temperature drops the pipes in our homes become vulnerable to freezing, which ultimately prevents water flow throughout the home. That alone is a concern, but the larger issue happens when a frozen pipe bursts. Keep in mind, a 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing serious damage to your home.
Many people mistakenly believe frozen pipes only occur in climates with extremely cold temperatures. While regions like that do have an increased risk, frozen pipes can happen here in Central Pennsylvania. Here’s why.
Pipes freeze due to a combination of factors:
- A quick drop in temperature
- An extended period of extreme cold temperatures
- Poor insulation around your pipes
- The thermostat may be set too low
You can’t prevent the temperature from dropping, but there are steps you can take now to reduce the likelihood of an in-home disaster this winter.
- Disconnect outside garden hoses.
- Beware of wind. Sustained wind can be the biggest problem as it penetrates through the insulation and exposes cracks.
- Inspect areas near your pipes and caulk any holes or cracks. This will keep cold air from entering your home.
- Check the insulation around the pipes in areas of your home that tend to get colder than others. This includes your attic, basement, crawl spaces and even your garage. If the insulation is lacking, add to it.
- Open the doors under the kitchen sink and vanities to allow room temperature heat to warm the pipes. This is especially helpful at night when the water is not being used.
- Wrap easily accessible pipes with approved heat tape, carefully following the provided safety warnings.
- Allow your faucet to drip, just slightly. This trick helps to alleviate pressure should pipes freeze, and help prevent an actual pipe burst.
Tips if you travel:
If you’re among the many snowbirds who head south for the winter, you need to take special precautions to ensure your home is safe while you’re away.
- Shut off the main water supply and drain your pipes by opening faucets and flushing toilets.
- Buy a sensor online that will call you if the temperature in a room goes below 45 – 50 degrees. Some alarm companies also have this type of warning system.
- Keep your heat at 68 degrees to provide enough heat to keep the pipes in your home warm, which helps to prevent any water left in your pipes from freezing.
- Have a neighbor check your home at least twice a week. A house can freeze up in a couple of days when the temperature stays in the teens.
If your pipes do freeze, make sure your faucets remain open as you apply heat to the frozen area using a safe device such as a heating pad or hair dryer. If this does not remedy the situation or if you can’t find the frozen area, just call Ranck.
With cooler winter weather comes dry air. As the temperatures start to dive you may consider purchasing a humidifier to help keep your family healthy and comfortable throughout the winter season. A whole-house humidifier helps put moisture back into the air of your home. Read on to learn why a whole-house humidifier may be just what your family needs.
What is Home Humidification?
Home humidification is the process of artificially regulating and adding moisture to the air in your home. Home humidity can provide many benefits to your home, health, and comfort. An optimal humidity level for your home is between 30 to 50 percent.
What are the Effects of Dry Air?
Low humidity can lead to many upper respiratory problems, such as colds, flu, viruses, and increased allergy & asthma symptoms. It can also cause sore throats, itchy eyes, dry skin, bloody noses, chapped lips, painful static shock and even an increase in snoring.
Dry air can also lead to damage in your home. It can cause wooden musical instruments, antique furniture, molding and hardwood floors to crack. It can even damage your electronics with static electric charges.
Last but not least, it can lead to high-energy bills. Dry air tends to feel colder so you set your thermostat higher to reach the same comfort level as humidified air. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), for every degree you lower your thermostat you could save an additional four percent on your heating bill.
What is a Whole-House Humidifier?
A whole-house humidifier delivers the right amount of moisture throughout your home, working to reduce the effects of dry air. Installed directly to your home heating system, a whole-house unit integrates with the blower system on your HVAC system and draws water from your water supply. You can easily have a humidifier installed when replacing your heating and cooling system or have a humidifier fitted to your current unit. Depending on the humidifier model and size of your home, you can expect to use 1.5 to 12 gallons of water per day while your system is operating.
Why Select a Whole-House Humidifier Over a Portable Humidifier?
Too much humidity in a home can be as much of an issue as too little. Many portable humidifiers do not include regulators to stop the humidification process, which can lead to mold, mildew, and dust mites. With a whole-house unit, relative humidity will be consistently monitored making sure the correct amount of moisture is applied to your home.
Compared with portable units, whole-house humidifiers require very little maintenance. They do not require refills as they draw directly from your home water supply. Portable humidifiers need to be filled almost daily. Many portable units have removable tanks, but some units require you to bring water to them.
Whole-house humidifiers require attention only one to two times per year. This includes a cleaning after the heating season to rid the unit of any mineral deposits from your local water supply. Portable units require frequent cleanings. They need to be emptied and filled with fresh (preferably distilled or demineralized) water and the filter needs to be changed often. If not cleaned thoroughly, portable units can become playgrounds for bacteria, mold, and germs.
Whole-house humidifiers are also virtually soundless, creating a peaceful home humidification process. Whereas, portable humidifiers tend to be quite noisy, often as loud as a window air conditioning unit.
You may be thinking, where’s the catch? Well, there is none! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that a whole-house humidifier is relatively inexpensive. In addition, they only cost pennies to operate each year. A portable unit may have relatively low initial costs but once you factor in maintenance and the size of your home you are looking at costs well above the price of a whole-house humidifier.
Have a question about whole-house humidification – Just Call Ranck
Cooler weather is upon us, which means it’s time to turn on your heat. With heating costs on the rise, we want to remind you to adjust your return registers to ensure your heating system works efficiently, which will help to save you money.
The Lancaster area sees the weather vary throughout the year. It can get quite chilly in the winter, with temperatures dropping below freezing, and quite warm in the summer, with temperatures soaring into the 90s. By adjusting your return registers, you can keep your house the perfect temperature all season long, no matter how high or low the thermometer goes.
What is a Return Register?
Often referred to as high/low vents, ducts, and grilles, return registers are pairs of registers located near the ceiling and floor of rooms throughout your home. They contain slatted openings. You can recognize these registers because they are usually bigger than a supply vent.
Go through your home and identify all your register vents so you know where they are. By strategically opening and closing these registers, you can optimize the airflow and comfort throughout your home as the seasons change.
Did you know your register vents should be cleaned? You can actually do this yourself. Generally, you should leave the upkeep of your HVAC systems to professionals, but it’s OK to take off your registers and run them under water for a few minutes to get them clean. You can use a vacuum to gather any remaining dust.
Why Should You Adjust Your Return Registers?
If you have never adjusted your return registers before, you may find yourself wondering why you should start doing it now. Isn’t that just one more thing to keep track of in your already-busy life? While it does require a few minutes of your time each season, adjusting your register vents is well worth the effort. Just a few of the benefits of undertaking this task include:
- Saving money on your heating and cooling bills: More efficient registers that cool and heat the room will reduce your energy bills. You won’t have to pay as much for heat or air conditioning when air flows properly through your home.
- Turning it into a habit: When you make sure to adjust your registers every winter and summer, you set up a system you can continue to use to ensure you save money in the long term. Consider attaching your adjustment period to something on the calendar, such as Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. That way, you’ll remember to make the changes every year on those dates.
- Alerting you when your HVAC system needs attention: If you follow these tips and adjust your vents regularly, but you stop seeing a change in your energy efficiency, then it may be time for a technician to inspect your HVAC system. Think of register adjustment as an early warning system, a way to give you a heads up when things are out of whack.
You can find other advantages of adjusting your registers, too, as you get in the habit. As with all home maintenance, a bit of preventative action can save you headaches down the line. You can also always reach out to a qualified HVAC service provider in Lancaster to assist you with maintenance.
Adjust Return Registers for Winter
It’s important to remember that hot air rises and cold air falls. In the winter you want the cold air to be drawn through the return registers leaving the hot air behind. By opening the lower registers and closing the top ones you keep hot air in and draw the cold air out. Since cold air is heavy it will automatically flow down to the lower register.
Adjust Return Registers for Summer
In the summer you want the cold air to remain and the hot air to be drawn out through the return registers. By closing the floor registers and opening the ceiling registers you force the hot air out while keeping the cold air in the room.
What Are The Benefits?
By adjusting your return registers, you can optimize the airflow throughout your home to keep temperatures comfortable for you and your family. These adjustments also work to reduce energy costs, as well as your energy footprint. With this tip, your HVAC won’t have to work quite as hard to keep you cozy in the winter and cool during the summer.
Need Assistance Adjusting Return Registers? Ranck Can Help
If you still feel uncertain about adjusting your return registers, that’s OK. We can help you. Our well-trained team can show you how to do it and set you up for the next season. Contact Ranck Plumbing, Heating & AC today to learn more about our services and set up an appointment.