ABC Blog

Say Goodbye to Dry Hair With Water Softeners

Want your hair, skin and everything else to shine like it should?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably taken a shower that just didn’t make you feel very clean. It’s possible that the soap didn’t lather properly. Maybe your hair felt dry and frizzy as soon as you shook out the excess water. Whatever the effects of this unsettling experience, it’s likely that it was due to hard water. Many homes in the San Antonio area have hard water, but there’s a relatively easy fix that can preserve your sanity.

What Is Hard Water?

According to chemistry experts, hard water is any type of water that contains dissolved minerals. Just like there’s a pH scale to determine the concentration of oxygen and hydrogen ions in water, there’s a gradient scale that measures the “hardness” of water. Although municipal water is rarely as mineral-rich as water that occurs in nature, even small … Read Full Post »

Beat the Heat: What Summer Means for Your Pipes

Plumbing trouble isn’t just a cold-season phenomenon

Winter isn’t the only season that can wreak havoc on your pipes. In central Texas, the mercury exceeds 100 degrees on dozens of days per year, and an unprepared plumbing system can take a serious hit as a result. Below, we outline some of the most common hot-season plumbing problems and offer some common-sense tips for dealing with them.

Sweating Pipes

When the weather warms up, your skin isn’t the only thing that sweats. Poorly insulated pipes can “sweat” excess water and create serious leaks that eventually threaten the integrity of your ceilings or floors. Due to contraction in the pipes themselves, sweating pipes that are already constrained by clogs can suffer catastrophic backups.

Sewer Backups

Although summer tends to be a fairly dry season in central Texas, occasional thunderstorms and unseasonable rains can cause unexpected sewer backups that devastate your home’s lower levels or yard. Likewise, tree … Read Full Post »

10 Things You Should Never Put Down the Garbage Disposal

Save them for the trash bin—and save your garbage disposal’s motor

If you were fortunate enough to have a garbage disposal when you were growing up, you probably weren’t very careful about what you threw into it. After all, that scary motor seemed to take care of just about anything. Over time, though, you may have learned that garbage disposals are just as susceptible to clogs and breakdowns as other appliances. Now that you’re older and wiser, take care not to throw these 10 items down yours.

1. Non-Organic Trash

It might seem obvious, but plastic and metal can seriously damage your garbage disposal blades. Even smaller items like paper and cigarette butts can wreak havoc.

2. Grease and Animal Fat

Once it passes through the disposal, this stuff can congeal in your pipes. This often has devastating effects for your plumbing system.

3. Rice, Pasta and Other Starches

This stuff expands dramatically when soaked and is … Read Full Post »

More Than a Trickle, Less Than a Flood: Achieving the Perfect Water Pressure

It’s not as hard as it sounds!

We’ve all been there before. You turn on your faucet or shower and are blindsided by a deluge of fluid that practically knocks you off your feet. Alternatively, you’re greeted with a pathetic trickle that’s barely enough to get your skin wet. In either case, your home’s water pressure needs adjusting—and fast. While this might seem like a task for a professional plumber, it’s possible to do on your own. Your family is sure to thank you for it.

How Can You Adjust Water Pressure on Your Own?

Every residential structure that doesn’t use groundwater is outfitted with a pressure regulator that protects its water system from the industrial-strength flow of water through municipal pipes. This reduces the average flow into your home from about 200 psi—an extreme torrent—to about 50 psi. However, various factors can interfere with this flow, and your regulator can fail as … Read Full Post »

Hair Balls and Bath Toys and Dirt Clods, Oh My!

Keeping your drains free and clear

Nothing is more annoying than a slow-moving drain or a drain that just won’t clear at all. Whether you’re stuck with a slow-running toilet or are trying to figure out why it takes so long for your kitchen sink to clear, it pays to think about common causes of clogged drains. Figuring out what’s slowing down your drains is key to addressing the issue and preventing future problems.

What’s Stuck Down Your Drains?

Almost all San Antonio homeowners will experience plumbing problems at some point in time. Among the most common of these problems are clogged or slow-moving drains, which can cause inconvenience and seriously impact the performance of your plumbing system. The first step in treating and preventing such clogs is understanding what causes them. Some of the most common causes of clogged drains are:

• Fats and greases that make their way down the kitchen sink
• … Read Full Post »

The Sticker Shock of High Water Bills

Finding the leaks and plumbing problems that are sabotaging your budget

Are hidden water leaks making your water bills skyrocket? Try these tips for finding the source.

Trust the Meter

Your water meter is the best tool you have for leak detection. When you suspect you have a leak, turn off everything in your home that uses water and go take a look at the meter. There should be a small red triangle on the face of it, which is known as the low flow indicator. If it’s moving, you have a leak.

Tricky Toilets

“Phantom flushing” in toilets can waste as much as 4,000 gallons of water per day. To test for a toilet leak, drip food coloring into the tank and wait about five minutes. If the water in the bowl becomes colored, you’re likely dealing with a leaking rubber flapper valve. Constantly hearing water trickle inside the tank could be a sign … Read Full Post »

The Ancient Romans Had a Goddess of Sewers and Drains

Her name was Cloacina, and she meant business

Ancient mythology is filled with some incredible characters, but few are as memorable as the Romans’ goddess of sewers and drains. Known as Cloacina, she was initially imagined to have presided over the city of Rome’s Cloaca Maxima, the city’s primary drainage tube. Over time, she came to be known as the patron of many additional things, including actual sewage, sexual intercourse between spouses and personal cleanliness.

A Brief History of Rome’s Sewers

As one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations, Rome has a long history of public sanitation. Along with its satellites, the city had open sewers since its founding. Beginning in the 6th century B.C., engineers constructed the first segments of covered sewers within the city limits. As Rome expanded, its sewer system grew along with it. Although its drains and tubes have mostly been filled in or built over, modern Rome … Read Full Post »

Conserve Water to Prevent Higher Rates in San Antonio

A classic cause and effect relationship

For two decades, San Antonio has struggled with perennial water shortages and persistent price pressures. Despite serving as a model for other southwestern cities, it’s unclear how much more the city can do to keep rates affordable—or even ensure that enough water reaches its residents and business owners. The next line of defense against urban drought might be locals who install low-flow fixtures, repair leaky faucets and conduct other important repairs.

The Lay of the Land (and Water)

Among American cities with limited water resources, San Antonio has long been regarded as a pioneer. The city was one of the first to see its water allocation curtailed as a result of a court order, and the amount that it pumps from the nearby Edwards Aquifer is likely to be capped in the face of competing sources like ranchers and endangered animal species. As a result, it’s a … Read Full Post »

Making the Big Switch From Traditional to Tankless

Stretching your energy dollars further

By now, you’ve probably heard something about the benefits of tankless water heaters. Compared to traditional water heaters, these pieces of equipment have plenty of positive implications for your home’s energy bills as well as the general state of your utility areas. While installing a tankless water heater isn’t rocket science, it does help to keep a few commonsense tips in mind as you embark on this money-saving project.

How Do Tankless Water Heaters Work?

Also known as “continuous flow” heaters, tankless water heaters live up to their name. Instead of taking in heating and storing water from an incoming main line, tankless water heaters deliver powerful blasts of heat that warm up the water that flows into a structure from outside without halting its movement. Since stored water has much more time to lose heat than rapidly flowing water, this dramatically reduces the amount of energy that … Read Full Post »

Castle Moats Were Sewers, Too

Not much of a fairy tale

It turns out that those fairy tales you read as a child all left out a very important truth: The moats that surrounded medieval castles weren’t just useful defenses against attack; they were also open sewers into which the castles’ primitive waste disposal systems flushed human excrement and other foul substances. The next time you have a plumbing problem, be thankful you don’t live near one of those.

More About Moats

The history of sewers is fraught with misconceptions and legends. However, it’s true that moats played a big role in sanitation for medieval Europe’s nobility. Whereas commoners used communal outhouses or open, out-of-the-way latrines, residents of Europe’s castles used rudimentary plumbing systems called garderobes. These were little more than holes or short tubes that dropped waste directly into the castle’s moat or onto a hillside that led down into the pool. Needless to say, moats were … Read Full Post »