Author Archives: laurelpsg

Why We Chose Tankless Water Heaters

The best reviews always come from people who have used a product over the long term, right? Well, we sell plumbing and plumbing related products, but we also use many of the products we sell.

Photo of the Eemax EZ95 point of use water heaterSo we think we’re in a great position to offer our opinion on the Eemax EX95T point of use thermostatic electric tankless water heater.  We have had two Eemax EX95T electric tankless water heaters installed in our building since 2001 and we love them. They work great and have needed service very rarely. Elements have been very easy to replace and last quite a while, even though both units are used at least a dozen times daily (like many bathroom sinks). Best of all, they do exactly what we need them to do – bring water to a good temperature for washing hands.

So, why are we so happy with our Eemax EX95T units? We knew exactly what we needed the water heaters to do, and knowing  how tankless water heaters work, we were able to choose the best unit for our needs. Since we got what we expected, we have been thrilled. Make sense?

How do you know if an electric tankless water heater is for you? Well, there’s a few main points to consider.

The first thing to consider is your needs. How hot does the water need to be and how much of it needs to be heated? If you need 80 gallons per minute at 140 degrees, your needs are dramatically different than someone who needs 1 gallon per minute at around body temperature.

The next thing to consider is electrical. What does electricity have to do with plumbing? In this case, you need an electrical supply available to meet the needs of the heater. Many point of use tankless water heaters can simply use standard 120V while most whole house units need dedicated 240V circuits, like most major appliances.

Example of the guts of a whole house unitThe main things to consider with any electric tankless water heater is the “rise.” It takes a certain amount of energy to raise the temperature of water, and an electric tankless water heater only draws a certain amount of energy to heat water. So, if the tankless water heater you’re considering has a rise of 30 degrees at it’s minimum flow rate of a half gallon per minute, and your incoming water temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, then the water will come out at 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 1/2 gallon per minute. With me so far? When you compare that 80 degrees Fahrenheit with the average human body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you can guess that this water will feel very cool to the touch, which would make this hypothetical tankless water heater a good choice for a restroom sink, but not so great for providing a hot shower.

Another thing to remember with tankless water heaters is their minimum flow rate. To prevent the water heater from prematurely burning out the element, tankless water heaters all have minimum flow rates, usually around a half gallon per minute for point of use heaters, which means that a dribble out of a faucet will never get hot. Considering a dribble from a faucet even on a tank style water heater will not get hot before you get tired of waiting, this doesn’t make much of a difference for most people. However, if you have an extremely low flow faucet, you will need to pay greater attention to the minimum flow rate of tankless water heaters, while people with higher flow faucets will need to pay more attention to the temperature rise at higher flow rates.

Now, the Eemax Ex95T we installed will turn on at .75 gallons per minute and has a rise of 65 degrees Fahrenheit at a flow rate of one gallon per minute. Our ground water temperature has a tendency to average around 62 degrees Fahrenheit according to our local water authorities. This means that we’ll definitely be able to have nice warm water for hand washing, which is what we want. However, with that rise and our average water temperatures, it’s possible this heater may make the temperature too hot for comfortable hand washing. We could have added a thermostatic mixing valve to control the top end temperature, but the Eemax EX95T is a thermostatic model, which means it can handle this task too. So we now have the power to have the perfect hand washing temperature even if our incoming water temperature varies a bit (which is common) without the worries of ever having water that’s too hot and without the hassle of additional pieces of equipment.

If we didn’t know what our local water authorities had to say about the temperature, we could simply run the cold water line for a few minutes and test with a thermometer. Compare that with the average body temperature of the human body (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and you can get a pretty good idea of whether the water will feel cold, lukewarm, or rather hot once you raise the water temperature with a point of use electric water heater.

A few different styles of Eeemax electric tankless water heaters

As you can see, point of use electric tankless water heaters can be exactly what you need if you know what you’re looking at. If you don’t, we’re here to answer questions and provide direction.

Your turn: have you ever had a water heater selection turn out unexpectedly?

The New Grab Bar

When you hear “grab bar”, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s those long bars you see in public bathrooms or hospitals. You know, those stainless steel, industrial looking chunks of metal bolted to the wall.

What if we were to tell you that you may have encountered grab bars and thought they were something else? What if we were to tell you that grab bars are great for more than just public restrooms and hospitals? What if we were to tell you that the addition of elegant grab bars, placed discreetly, could increase the value of your home? What do you think of grab bars now?

Here's a grab bar with finials in a polished brass finishLovely example of a satin nickel grab barHow about a great antique brass grab bar?

First of all, grab bars these days come in all shapes and sizes and in a lovely selection of finishes. Long gone are the days of only one option, though of course the stainless steel tube is still widely available. But if you’re in the market for something more elegant, we suggest taking a second look at grab bars.

Example of a child pulling on a sturdy grab barSecond, by definition a grab bar is incredibly sturdy – it is designed to hold hundreds of pounds of weight without breaking or pulling from the wall. Hmm… when was the last time your toddler swung from the towels when you were trying to get him in the tub? Or knocked the towel bar down when trying to stuff the towel over the bar? How many times have you reinstalled or replaced that cheap chrome towel bar only to have to do it again? A solid and durable grab bar begins to look like a great investment after a while, doesn’t it? A sturdy, all brass designer towel bar, while not designed for the weight of a person, may stay on the wall longer, but for the same price or sometimes less, you can get a grab bar that is ADA compliant so you know it’s been tested and rated to hold the weight of a person; Tarzan Jr. won’t be able to budge it!

Grab bars on the side of a whirlpool tub are safe and stylishAnd thirdly, and possibly the most important, the sense of safety a grab bar can offer is amazing. If you fall and try to grab for something, towel bars will buckle, plain walls offer no grip, and shower doors should never be used as handholds or safety grips. If you or your loved ones ever reach for a towel bar or the shower door to steady yourself, you know how reassuring it can be to have a good handhold when you need it, so why don’t you install a grab bar right where you automatically reach to steady yourself? You’ll be glad you did!

Believe it or not, there are three grab bars in this pictureSo, for your next home improvement project, consider investing in your safety, style, and beauty and add a grab bar or three!

Your turn – what convinced you to finally install grab bars in your home, and were they plain or pretty?

Quick Fix?

When you find a leak, but can’t fix it properly right away, what can you do? Do you let it drip, or do you jury-rig it? You don’t want to waste the water or allow a leak to damage your home, but sometimes your choices are limited.

Well, while we usually recommend fixing something properly the first time – it really does save you time, money and frustration in the long run – sometimes the quick and dirty fix actually works. Please note, we never recommend a makeshift repair anywhere you can’t get to easily or if you’re unlikely to get back to it soon. In those cases, call your plumber right away so no further damage is done. Depending on what caused the leak, there may be more of an issue than the drip you can see.

That being said, we recently added a product to our inventory that’s good for a quick fix, and a whole host of other things.

A variety of colors of silicone repair tape

Rescue Tape is a silicone self-fusing tape designed to be a versatile tool in your gotta-fix-it-now toolbox. According to the manufacturer:

You can repair leaks on plumbing and hoses in a flash, use to insulate electrical wiring or as shrink wrap, wrap tool handles, and much, much more.

Sounds great, right? We thought so and checked this stuff out. The idea of Rescue Tape is nothing new – we’ve seen silicone repair tapes on tv, at the box stores, on auction sites, you name it. And we’ve seen the reviews. People seem to love it or hate it. We’re going to try to explain why.

While we’re simply not able to test all of the claims (like whether or not it insulates up to 8,000 volts per layer), we did reproduce a few common things that might prompt the use of silicone tape.  

Example of rescue tape used on a hose connectionThe results? We successfully stopped a leak on an outdoor garden hose  connection. We wrapped a greasy pipe and kept it from leaking when pressurized to 80psi. When we cut the Rescue Tape away after wrapping, the layers looked like they had all fused together; it was one chunk of silicone! As a bonus, it didn’t leave any sort of residue.

Our team members are very creative and found all sorts of other uses for it. How about, instead of painting tool handles to make them stand out, wrap them with Rescue Tape for a nice grip and a distinctive look (You there! Where are you going with my bright-orange-handled tools!)? Baseball bat handles, wagon handles, door handles, and basically anything you can wrap this around (pencil grips anyone?). One team member wrapped their child’s scooter handles when the original foam handles ripped off. So far, so good! How about the backyard swing set? Wrap the chain in silicone tape for a pinch-free swinging experience. So many uses, so little space to write about them all…

Using this stuff is pretty straightforward – you stretch it out and wrap it around whatever needs to be fixed. The catch is how much you need to stretch it and how to wrap it around. We’ve found that most of the issues result from not stretching enough and/or failing to wrap enough.  Also, it doesn’t stick to other stuff, so this is no good to use as weatherstripping for your car doors. The tight layers of fused silicone are what work together to fix things. This means that an uneven surface will probably allow a leak to continue since there’s stuff the silicone can’t seal around (though we didn’t actually test it on uneven surfaces). However, if you’re trying to even out a rough surface, say for a nicer splinter-free grip on an old wooden handled shovel, that would work much better.

First, you have to stretch this stuff out so that it pretty much is half the width it is when relaxed. Trying to do this and get it to stay while you’re trying to wrap a hose can really makes you feel like you need a couple more hands, but trust us, you can do it.

Then you need to overlap the tap by at least half its width so you’re basically creating a double layer as you wrap. Go back and forth over your original wrap a couple of times, still stretching the tape for all you’re worth, and keep going until you get to the the manufacturer’s recommended 3-5 layers and 3-5 inches to either side of what you’re trying to fix.

Things to watch for: uneven, gritty, or bumpy surfaces can have the tape wrapped around it, but it might not stop a leak. Greasy surfaces are okay per the manufacturer, but grease (or anything else) between layers of tape is a definite no-no as it will prevent the silicone from sealing to itself. Clean hands are your best bet when working with this product.

Also, extreme water pressure may prove to be a problem. One team member used this on his leaky garden hose. He successfully wrapped the leak with about five layers, but he has 130psi at his home. The end result: “It made a really impressive bubble before it popped!” Needless to say, we recommend a pressure regulator, but that’s another issue altogether.

Here’s what the manufacturer has to say about what will work:

There are no guarantees how long a repair will last. There are many factors which contribute to a proper repair, including but not limited to the surface, the environment, the quantity of tape used, and the amount of tension Rescue Tape is stretched to. Because conditions and methods of use are beyond the manufacturer’s control, neither manufacturer nor seller will assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this product. Rescue Tape is not designed to be a permanent repair; however, many of our customers have reported that they have made long-lasting permanent repairs.

Our conclusion? Well, like we said, it’s a great quick fix for some stuff. It won’t replace properly soldered connections for our peace of mind (really, what does?), and really high water pressure will put it to the test, so this is not recommended for industrial repairs. But, our hose fix at the warehouse is still leak-free months later, which is more than plenty of time to find a new garden hose. If applied properly, it’ll even probably keep your kitchen p-trap from leaking until your landlord’s slower-than-molasses-in-January handyman gets to it. So, yeah, we like it and several of us have rolls in our toolboxes. Tell you what, next time you order something, toss in a roll of silicone tape to keep near your plumber’s emergency number.… or your child’s sports equipment.

Your turn: What’s your favorite quick fix?

Water On Your Bathroom Floor?

If you’re concerned about some water that you found on your bathroom floor (near your toilet), please rest assured that there are a number of common possible causes for the problem. After you eliminate the most obvious cause (bad aim), consider the following before presuming the problem is with the seal between your toilet and the sewer line. Usually, the issue is less costly than the potentially expensive possibility of wastewater coming up from beneath your toilet.

The Two Best Places To Start

plunger

Condensation: Probably the most common cause for excess water on the floor of a bathroom is water condensing on the outside of the toilet’s tank and dripping onto the floor. This is commonly referred to as the tank “sweating.” Tank condensation/sweat is caused by the difference in temperature of the water inside the tank, which is usually very cold, and the temperature of the air outside the tank in the bathroom, which is often warm and steamy. Tank condensation sometimes occurs more often in the summer months rather than the cold winter months, but can occur any time of year if the conditions are right. There are easy solutions to this type of problem, such as toilet tank liners (which insulate the cold water inside the tank from the humid outside) or anti-sweat toilet tank valves (which mix cold and warm water coming into the tank to reduce the temperature variance inside and outside the toilet tank). Unfortunately, it’s not convenient to confirm the water on your floor is completely an issue of tank condensation/sweat. Basically, you will need to wipe the outside of your tank thoroughly with a towel and then over time, try to visually detect whether or not water is gathering on the outside of the tank again.

Water leaking from inside the toilet tank: Once you’ve confirmed that the problem you’re experiencing is not due to tank condensation, then the next best place to begin would be to eliminate the possibility of you having water leaking from the tank itself. This is a fairly easy thing to check. Start by removing your toilet toilet tank lid (be very careful, because tank lids are extremely fragile, can be heavy and are usually slippery when wet) and add some organic-based coloring (such as food coloring) to your toilet tank water. We even offer color test tablets on our site for this specific purpose! They can be obtained free with any order placed through our web site. Do NOT flush the tank, but instead wait a little while for the tank water to change color and settle. If after a half-hour or so (without flushing the tank) you find the water on your floor to be the same color as the colored water inside your tank, or if you see any colored drips coming from anywhere on your tank, then you’ll know you have water escaping from the toilet’s tank since that IS the only place you have the colored water. The next thing to do would be to identify where the water is coming from. Any cracks in the porcelain tank should be discolored and highlighted by the tinted water. The tinted water will usually help in finding any leaks around the bolts and rubber seals between your tank and bowl or from the foam gasket where the flush valve allows water to enter the bowl.

Water can leak from inside the bowl for a few different reasons. Read more…

Is It A Good Drip Or A Bad Drip?

If you think all drips are bad, we encourage you to think again.

We typically flood our yards and gardens with sprinklers and hoses, and a day or two later, flood them again. Not only is this time-consuming if you don’t have an automatic sprinkler system, but it’s wasteful. Much of the water sprayed by sprinklers evaporates before absorbing into the soil and nourishes the plants.  With rectangular yards and circular or semi-circular sprinkler patterns, the sprays often overlap and water the fence or the sidewalk. The result? Water washing down sidewalks, bark ground cover floating away, and children jumping in puddles, much to their mothers’ dismay. Your water bill climbs, and you still don’t feel like your plants are getting the care they need.

Example of drip system in useThe solution? A drip irrigation system. Ideal for gardens, borders, and container planting, drip irrigation allows you to precisely place the exact level of water your plants need delivered right to where they need it. Drip irrigation helps prevent soil erosion and reduces accidentally watering the weeds. Depending on the needs of your plants, you can install simple soaker hoses, or customize each outlet for the exact needs of the plant. You can create a drip system to provide a constant drip, or you can turn it on for only part of the day. Add a timer to automate it! Completely custom, very efficient, and easy to install and modify. We offer drip system components, so you can create your own from the ground up.

So, say goodbye to wasting water, let the kids know they’ll have to wait for the rain to puddle-jump, keep your ground cover where it belongs, and watch your plants flourish. Ready for more? Read on…

Is Your Copper The Same As My Copper?

Photo of a copper mobile

Lovely copper creation

Anyone who’s into DIY, crafts, fine arts, or anything else where you create or repair things knows that the part you need can often be found under multiple different names, often in five different sections of three different stores, and labeled in four different ways… even though it’s all the same thing.

For example, copper tubing can be used for installing refrigerators, in a still, for a craft project, hammered to make jewelry, even work hardened to create a hanger for your stuff. You’ll find the tubing in a variety of places such as plumbing supply houses, craft stores, jewelry supply catalogs, corner hardware stores, and here at PlumbingSupply.com.

Okay, but so what? Well, to continue the example,  while copper tubing is typically called copper tubing pretty much everywhere,  it comes in different grades and sizes, as well as soft and rigid versions. Your project might require refrigerator grade soft copper tubing because you plan on repairing a water cooler, while an art project may just need the malleability, color, or patina of copper, so the grade may not matter as much.

Photo fo copper tubing

Soft copper tubing

Some places will label their tubing differently depending on what type of person or profession they are marketing to, so whatever you need, definitely confirm that the copper labeled simply as 1/8” is really 1/8” OD (outer diameter), 1/8” ID (inner diameter), or something else you never thought of (what do you think nominal means in the plumbing world?).

While we used copper tubing as our example in this post, the idea really holds true for any component for any project, be it a computer chip, a paint color, or a pipe fitting. So, always be sure to double check the specs of what you need against the specs of what you find to make sure it will work for your project. If you’re not sure, ask! Better “waste” a few minutes double checking and be sure you have the right thing than have to start the hunt again.

Photo of brass compression sleeves

What could you do with these?

Ever found something you needed for a project in an unexpected store/department/location? What was the weirdest project component or component experience you’ve had?