Plumbing Tips from Experts

Plumbing Tips from Experts

Top Plumbing Tips from Plumbing Experts – Part 1

Good old fashioned plumbing maintenance is still the best method to save on your plumbing costs and to ensure that the times when you need a plumber are far and few between. However, a few tricks here and there can help make your life, and plumbing maintenance, a lot easier. Here are a few of our top tips.

need a plumber - our top tips

To quieten a noisy sink that continually makes a hollow gonging sound when objects are placed in it, simply spray the underside, and especially the crevice between the sinks, with expanding foam. This will absorb vibration and reduce the sound the sink makes. It is best if this is done by a plumbing expert before the sink is installed but can also be done when the sink has already been installed but this may be a little messier.

Insert a drip tray underneath your geyser to prevent geyser leaks and a burst geyser causing too much damage. A drip tray is essentially a large tray that catches the water that is expelled from a burst geyser or leaking geyser. It can by no means catch all of the water, but it can help to prevent some of the damage.

To make life a little easier later on, take pictures of the inside of your walls, particularly those with pipes, when you are remodelling your home. This makes finding and working on the pipes at a later stage a lot easier.

If you have a partially blocked showerhead that is just not delivering the same flow as it used to, try this top plumbing maintenance tip. Simply place enough white vinegar to cover the showerhead in a plastic bag. Tie this bag around the showerhead using an elastic band so that the head is completely submerged. Leave overnight and voila!

need a plumber - plumbing tips

This has to be our best top tip – always know where the main water supply valve is so that you can shut it down in an emergency. Knowing this can help you save a lot of money and prevent a lot of water damage caused by time-consuming searching in an emergency situation.

For more exciting and useful plumbing tips, be sure to keep a lookout for Part 2 of our top plumbing tips.

Conserving Electricity by Eskom

Conserving Electricity by Eskom

Conserving electricity

Kitchens
Lounges
Laundries
Heating
Water Heating
Outside

Kitchens

Dishwasher

  • Dishwasher energy consumption can be reduced by turning off the dishwasher after the final rinse and before the drying cycle. The clean dishes can then be wiped with a dry cloth.

  • Fill the dishwasher completely before operating. Partial loads waste electricity and water.

  • Short wash cycles, rinse-only cycles, mid-cycle turn-off, and other features are designed for energy conservation as well as convenience.

  • Connect your dishwasher to COLD water supply unless otherwise directed. Normally only one wash and one final rinse cycle requires hot water which is heated by an element in the dishwasher.

  • The dishwasher filters must be kept clear of debris. A blocked filter reduces efficiency and wastes energy.

  • Proper loading is important for the dishwasher to work efficiently.

Refrigerator

    • Choose a refrigerator of a size based on the needs of your family – a refrigerator operates at peak efficiency when filled.

    • Do not overload your fridge, excessive products in your fridge will lower the quality of the food and use more electricity – as much as 10-20% more for each extra product.

    • Do not set freezing temperatures lower than necessary, it wastes as much electricity as excessive heat.

    • Thick frost on chilling panels reduces cooling ability. If you do no t have a frost-free model, defrost your refrigerator when frost is between 0,6 to 1,3 cm thick.

    • Do not open your refrigerator door needlessly. By getting into the habit of removing and replacing several articles at once, you will reduce the loss of cold air.

       
    • Let hot foods cool down before placing them in the refrigerator. (To prevent bacterial growth allow about 20 minutes standing time).

    • Be sure the seal around your refrigerator door is intact. (Close the door on a piece of paper: if you can pull the paper out easily, the seal should be replaced).

    • Remove all heavy wrapping from food before storing it in the refrigerator.

    • Cover all liquids stored in the refrigerator (especially frost-free models).

    • Foods should be placed slightly apart on refrigerator shelves to allow the cooling air to circulate.

    • Exposed condenser coils/panels (usually at the back of the unit) MUST be kept clean and dust free. When cleaning you must be careful not to damage the panels.

    • Do not place the refrigerator near the stove or against an uninsulated wall that faces the sun.

    • Allow adequate space around the refrigerator for free air circulation. The air carries heat away from the fridge – if air can not circulate, the fridge can not work properly.

    • Switch on the energy saving switch, if one is fitted to the refrigerator.

    • Switch off, empty or clean your fridge, when taking an extended holiday.

Freezer

  • Freezers and refrigerators operate most efficiently when filled to the capacity recommended by the manufacturers.

  • Never forget that only one-tenth of a freezer’s capacity should be used for freezing of fresh food at any one time. The freezer must work harder to remove heat, and uses more power. Example, 28 litres (one cubic foot) will store 12,5 to 15 kg (25-30 lbs.) of frozen food and will freeze about 1,5 kg (3 lbs.) of fresh food at a time.

  • Food to be frozen should be placed in contact with those parts of the freezer that contain the refrigerant tubes, usually the sides of chest models.

  • Defrosting of chest type freezers should be done once or twice a year. For upright models, defrosting should be done two or three times a year. NEVER allow frost build up to exceed 0,6 to 1,3 cm.

  • By keeping a list of the location of foods in the freezers, the freezer can be kept open for a minimum of time, preventing the loss of cold air.

  • The freezer should be kept as full as possible to prevent heavy icing.

  • On all models keep condenser panels at the rear of the freezer clean and dust free for maximum efficiency and conservation of energy.

  • A second freezer should only be operated when necessary.

  • In a single door unit, it is essential that the separate freezer compartment has its own door intact. Otherwise the unit will tend to operate the whole of the refrigerator as a freezer – this can be expensive.

Electric stove

  • Use cooking utensils with flat bottoms and tight fittings covers.

  • Be sure pots and pans completely cover the stove plates.

  • Take advantage of the heat sensing control for stove plates. It allows the stove plate to cut of the electricity supply occasionally while still cooking. It does not affect the food, only your bill.

  • Use a pressure cooker to conserve energy when cooking foods that take a long time, such as pot roasts, stews and steamed puddings.

  • Do not overcook foods, especially vegetables. Overcooking destroys essential nutrients.

  • For full efficiency from radiant stove plates the stove plate reflectors (underneath the stove plates) should always be kept clean.

  • Bring foods to the boil quickly on the “high” setting, then turn the heat down to simmer to finish cooking.

  • Do not use the grilling compartment to make toast – it is very expensive.

  • Do not use the oven to heat the kitchen – it is very expensive and far less efficient than a heater

  • Keep oven doors completely closed until food is cooked. Every time the door is opened, the oven temperature drops, and the heat must be replaced.

  • Use the oven to prepare an entire meal – main course, vegetables and dessert. Remember to plan meals that cook in the oven at the same temperature.

  • Allow free circulation of heat within the oven. Place pans and containers so that they do not touch each other, or the sides of the oven.

  • To keep food warm place in a 66¦C (150¦F) or 82¦C (180¦F )oven. Do not leave it too long or your meal will be very dry.

  • When buying a new stove, choose one with a convection oven. This type of oven uses less energy than conventional ovens and cooking time is substantially reduced

Microwave ovens

  • Defrost your food in the refrigerator instead of the microwave oven: it is more economical.

  • Use your microwave oven to cook small to medium quantities of food. To cook larger portions of meat, it is better to use a conventional oven.

  • Some microwaves do not heat up foods evenly. Wrap foods in plastic to hold in the steam, this will help to give even heating. Be very careful not to cover the foods too well, steam can burn you badly when you open the packet, so leave a flap open for the steam to escape.

  • Cooking time is an important factor when determining energy efficiency levels. Compare cooking times when you cook the same food in the microwave, in the standard oven, on stove top elements or in a pressure cooker. You will easily see which method of cooking is more efficient depending on quantity, volume and food types.

  • Follow the Manufacturers instructions to ensure that food is cooked correctly. Keep in mind that microwave recipe books give the cooking times required by the appliance used by the authors. Adjust cooking times to suit your micro- wave rating.

  • Never turn your microwave on when it is empty, you could damage it.

  • Keep the edges of your microwave door and its hinges clean. To wash the inside of your oven, boil a cup of water in it and then wipe the sides with a damp cloth.

Small appliances

  • Using small kitchen appliances instead of the stove can save energy. Toasters, electric grills and skillets, slow cookers, electric coffee pots and bottle warmers usually require less energy than the stove when used correctly.

  • Use an electric kettle to boil water, not a sauce pan or a microwave.

  • When vacuuming, empty or replace the dust bag frequently.

  • A faulty appliance will not work efficiently and can waste energy. Repair or replace them promptly.

Lounges

Lighting

You will save energy, money and eye strain by lighting your home properly. Follow these guidelines:

  • The wattage of a bulb is not a measure of the amount of light it gives, but rather the energy it uses. For instance, a 100 watt bulb gives 50% more light than four 25 watt bulbs. (Image on Slide: Use Electricity Wisely – in the Bedroom)

  • Fluorescent lamps give five times the light and last up to 10 times as long as ordinary bulbs.

  • Fluorescent lighting is more economical – Watt for Watt than incandescent bulbs. They use less energy and can last about 10 times longer. (Image on Slide: Use Electricity Wisely – In the Bedroom)

  • Never confine lighting to one part of the room. Avoid heavy contrast by using lamp shades that direct light both up and down.

  • Try not to install multiple lights (lamps or lighting fixtures) on a single switch. Above all, turn lights off whenever possible because, they use electricity while they burn.

  • Clean your lamps and bulbs regularly, because dirt decreases the amount of light given out.

  • Dimming switches allow you to regulate the light level and reduce electricity consumption to some extent.

  • Use lampshades with a white liner. Liners should be sufficiently dense to hide the bulb but should transmit soft, even light.

  • Use low energy lamps for exterior lighting.

Air conditioning

Air conditioning circulates the air and makes your home more comfortable. It maintains the temperature at a suitable level, dehumidifies, and removes dust and particles from the air, Here are some ways to increase its efficiency:

  • Clean and inspect filter screens regularly. This will keep electricity consumption at its best and eliminate dust and pollen from conditioned air.

  • Use light coloured curtains to reflect sun and heat outward.

  • Set the air conditioning unit to re-circulate cool air instead of drawing in warmer outside air.

  • Protect the outdoor cooling units from the sun. Place them on the south or shady side of your house.

  • Be sure your television, radio and stereo are off when no one is watching or listening.

  • Generally, you should turn your heating/cooling system off when the space in unoccupied. You can use a time-clock to turn them on prior to occupancy again if you like. Do not heat storage and unoccupied areas, like the basement or garage.

Laundries

Washing machine

  • Buy a washing machine, which offers a variety of water temperature settings.

  • A front loading washing machine uses less water and costs less to operate even though the purchase price may be higher than a top loader.

  • Use warm and cold water setting as much as possible in order to cut down on energy needed to heat the water.

  • Take advantage of special features on your washer that can save money. For example, soak cycles remove stubborn stains in one wash cycle.

  • The automatic washing machine uses the same amount of electricity for a full load as it consumes for a single item. Save dirty clothes until a full load has accumulated.

  • Never overload your automatic washing machine. Overloading will reduce the cleaning action. (Varying the size of garments in a full load improves the cleaning action by allowing free circulation).

Tumble dryer

  • Clean the lint filter on the dryer after each operation to maintain full air flow and to maximise the drying efficiency.

  • Dryers equipped with an electronic humidity control are the most efficient because they automatically shut off the drying cycle when the clothes are dry. Other models are equipped with electric timers which, allow you to select the length of the drying cycle. Here it is important not to overestimate the length of the drying cycle.

  • A permanent press cycle with a “cool-down” period saves energy and dries efficiently.

  • Compact dryers are economical provided that you only have small amounts of clothes to dry. Never overload a tumble dryer but avoid under-loading as well.

  • Use correct temperature settings to minimise the amount of electricity consumed.

  • Over-dried clothes feel harsh and waste energy. Experiment to find the right setting. Some natural materials such as cotton and wool should retain some moisture to avoid wrinkling.

  • Clothes should never be placed in the tumble dryer dripping with water. They should have as much moisture removed beforehand and they should never be folded before being placed in the dryer.

  • Dry clothes in consecutive loads where possible. The dryer will be warm already and will save on initial energy consumption.

  • On sunny days take advantage of good weather and dry your clothes outside.

Iron

  • An iron consumes as much energy as ten 100 watt light bulbs. Several steps can be taken to increase ironing efficiency.

  • Iron low temperature fabrics first to reduce warm up time.

  • Iron large batches of clothing at one time to avoid wasting energy reheating the iron several times.

  • Switch your iron off before you are finished and complete the ironing on stored energy.

  • Prevent scorching and wasting energy by not over heating the iron.

  • Use only distilled water in steam irons.

  • Be sure to turn your iron off if you are interrupted whilst ironing.

  • Use the permanent press feature on your washer and dryer if it is available.

  • By removing clothing promptly from the dryer and folding them carefully, many items will require no ironing, or just a quick press.

Heating

Heaters

  • Infrared heaters are more electricity efficient than other space heating systems. These types of heaters can be used both for spot heating and area heating. They transfer energy directly by radiation, creating heat and comfort instantly without the use of air-circulation fans. An infrared heater will warm the people in the room rather than the space. Infra-red heaters often use metal-sheated infrared radiation elements, reflector lamps or quartz tubes.paitt

  • The oil filled heater is the safest type of heater for the bedroom. A thermostat control switches the unit on and off as required, but to save energy, only use on the lowest comfortable setting.

  • Electric blankets consume little electricity. However, the correct method of use is to switch them on to the highest setting and warm the bed just before climbing in – then switch them off.

  • Close doors and windows when using a heater.

Insulation

In parts of South Africa, during winter, the heating of rooms is one of the largest sources of electricity consumption in a home. Improving a home’s thermal insulation can save hundreds of Rands a year in space heating costs and improve the home’s comfort.

  • Insulate The Ceiling:
    • Insulating the ceiling helps make a home a comfortable electricity efficient place. As much as 50% of heat losses in a house can be attributed to a lack of ceilings and ceiling insulation. If a home’s ceiling is well insulated, heating and cooling expenses can be kept low. The effectiveness of ceiling insulation depends on the type of material from which it is made, its thickness and its density.
    • Ceiling insulation in SA varies from fibreglass insulation to a type of insulation prepared from a mixture of paper and other materials. The latter is blown into the ceiling, sealing the total roof area. Any of the methods are equally effective and the supplier of these insulation’s will be able to offer reliable information about ceiling insulation.

 

Top 10 Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Top 10 Tips for Hiring a Contractor

10 Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Sometimes it makes sense to hire a pro rather than take on a job yourself. But choosing the wrong contractor can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems. These guidelines will help you choose a professional contractor and ensure a good working relationship.

A contractor could be in your home and around your family for days, weeks, or even months while changing the way your house looks and functions. So if you don’t like a contractor for any reason, don’t hire him or her, says Tony LaPelusa, president of LaPelusa Home Improvements, Inc., in Niles, Ill., and past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

“The biggest thing is choosing the right contractor,” he explains. “If somebody says something that’s even an embellishment, it’s enough of a reason not to trust him and move on to the next contractor. You have to trust the contractor 100 percent, not 95 percent.”

2. Make Sure the Contractor is Licensed to Work in Your Area, Bonded, and Insured

Having a license and insurance demonstrates a contractor’s credibility and knowledge, says Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, co-owner of Associates in Building & Design Ltd., in Fort Collins, Colo., and chairman of the NAHB Remodelers Council. The license shows that contractors have taken an exam and proved they know building codes and processes. “A license minimizes the risk to homeowners of getting ripped off,” he says. To be sure, get the contractor’s license number.

If a contractor doesn’t have insurance and a worker gets hurt on your project, you could be liable. The same goes with accidents that damage your next-door neighbor’s home. “If you have scaffolding that fell and damaged the property next door, you want the contractor’s liability to cover the cost of that damage,” LaPelusa says. Get proof of insurance.

3. Pick a contractor who specializes in your project type.

3. Pick a Contractor Who Specializes in Your Project Type

“It’s important to research contractors to know if they have experience in a type of project,” Peterson says. “Today, so many projects are regulated and code-specific that you want someone who knows the details of what’s required.”

He points out that pros often take classes and research the kinds of projects they undertake, so they’re experts in their fields. This enables them to address potential problems and perform the work correctly. “A good remodeler knows how to anticipate the nuances of the work,” he says.

If you’re asking several contractors for a bid, make sure each one is using the same set of plans and specifications, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) advises on its website: “You can’t effectively compare estimates from contractors who plan to use different brands of building materials.”

4. Have a Detailed Contract in Place Before any Work Begins

The contract should cover costs, brands of items being installed, approximate start and finish dates, and the complete set of drawings being used with written specifications, LaPelusa says. “There’s never too much detail in a contract.” If a specific brand for a part hasn’t been agreed upon yet, the contract can include allowances instead, such as “up to $500 for a front door.”

A lot of homeowners talk to multiple contractors to get bids on the job, and then they can’t remember who told them what, LaPelusa says. The contract spells out everything. “A contract is really an expectation setting, right down to what color the hinges are,” Peterson adds. “It’s all about expectations. If we agree on everything upfront, then there are no surprises.”

5. Find out Who’s Performing the Work

Will the person you’re hiring do the work himself, or will it be subcontracted to someone else? It’s nice to know who will be showing up on your doorstep, and large jobs like additions and major kitchen remodels often involve multiple subcontractors, such as electricians and plumbers. General contractors often subcontract specialty jobs, like roofing or vinyl siding, to other pros.

“Having subcontractors is sometimes a good thing. They have a more thorough knowledge of their part of the job,” LaPelusa says. “It all goes back to hiring a contractor you can trust because he’s never going to put a bad subcontractor on your job.”

6. Give the Contractor Guidelines for Working In or Around Your Home

If you don’t want the workers showing up before a certain time, staying past a certain hour, using your bathroom, or you need to have the project finished by a specific date, tell the contractor before you hire him, LaPelusa says. The contractor may not want or be able to accept the job based on your parameters.

“The contractor has to know what your limits are and what your expectations are,” LaPelusa explains. “If people don’t want you starting until 9:30 and want you out by 4, that project—instead of taking 30 days—might take 45. That means it might cost additional money.”

7. Know What Your Responsibilities Are

You may have to move everything out of a room so it can be painted or remove a fence so a concrete truck can be driven into your backyard.

Peterson’s company, for instance, doesn’t move items out of a room because he doesn’t want to be responsible for broken TVs or stereos. Because he recommends a furniture mover, he holds a pre-construction meeting with homeowners to discuss their roles. “We set all of those expectations in writing,” Peterson says. “It may be that you need to take everything off those six walls and move the furniture out of the room.”

“My biggest fear, to be honest, is losing someone’s dog or cat,” he says. “We want to know upfront where they’re putting the cat or dog.”

8. Ask About a Mechanic’s Lien

Under the mechanic’s lien laws in some states, anyone who worked on or supplied materials to your project and is not paid can place a lien on your home. This means that even if you pay your contractor, but he doesn’t pay the lumberyard for your materials, you can be liable for that bill. “It’s important for homeowners to understand the lien laws in their state because they vary from state to state,” Peterson says.

And definitely check on your contractor’s legal status before you sign anything. “If a contractor owes $30,000 from his last job, there’s a good chance your money is going to pay the bills on that last job.”

If a contractor has a lien against him, it’s best to move on and avoid a potentially messy situation, Peterson advises: “It’s called a big snowball going down a hill.”

9. Look at Work Samples

This lets you see a contractor’s handiwork and may spark ideas for your project. “Samples are more important than references,” Peterson says. “They allow you to see the quality of our work. You can see the designs we came up with and how creative we are.”

Looking at a contractor’s past projects also lets you see the variety of work the company has performed, such as contemporary, Craftsman, or historic designs.

10. Think Locally

Area contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually reliable and safe bets for projects. If they didn’t do good work in your community, they wouldn’t still be around.

“I always say shopping locally is the best approach,” LaPelusa says. “The company is involved in the community, the workers are probably local, and if you have a problem later, a local contractor is going to be on top of it.”