Simple Care for Your Dishwasher

Most of the time you throw your dishes into the dishwasher, add detergent, press a dishwasher button and go. Sometimes, after several years, you suddenly realize your dishes aren’t getting sparkly clean as when you first began using the dishwasher. Maybe it isn’t draining well and there may even be a bad smell coming from it.

There are a few simple things you can do to prevent the dishwasher from developing some bad habits and cause you problems.

Check out the door seal. Over time & repeated usage (along with the drying heat) the seal will become weathered, just like the weather stripping on your front door and needs to be replaced. A weakened seal can cause leaks that can damage your floor or cabinetry, which could develop into an expensive problem. You can contact the manufacturer to get a replacement seal, or schedule a plumber to come out, inspect the appliance and replace the seal.

Just like the lint catcher in your dryer, the dishwasher has a screen in the bottom to collect large chunks of debris from your dishes. This screen should be cleaned often to prevent odors and allow for proper drainage.

Most dishwashers have moveable spray arms that can be taken off and washed in warm soapy water to remove any buildup. Be sure to clean each nozzle opening; you can use a soft brush or toothbrush.

Mold is a common problem for dishwashers. It’s a steamy, damp environment, ripe for mold and mildew growth. There is an easy fix and prevention: simply pour about 2 cups of white or apple cider vinegar into the dishwasher & run it on the heaviest setting. If you do this on a regular basis, it will help prevent mold.

Is your dishwasher level? Believe it or not, if the dishwasher is not level you will not get the optimum performance out of the appliance. Plus, an off-kilter dishwasher could cause drainage problems.

Was your dishwasher plumbed properly with a drain trap? That is a section of pipe that looks like a “U” close to the drain opening. It should be installed on the proper side of the drain to prevent odors and catch accidentally dropped items in the dishwasher (i.e. wedding ring)

A healthy dishwasher should give you many years of service with proper maintenance.

Getting Your “Ducts” In A Row

duct and duckThe ducts in your home are like to the “lungs” of the house. They conduct warm or cool air throughout your home. Most people ignore the health of their ducts until something goes haywire; you suddenly see debris in the air or it seems to take forever for the heated/cooled air to reach you.

Maybe it’s time for a duct inspection. Your ductwork may have developed a leak that needs to be sealed. Duct sealing is used when there is a small tear in the ductwork. Even if the leak is small, it can effect up to 30% of your heat or cool output!

You should hire a licensed HVAC technician to inspect your ductwork properly. They have the necessary equipment that can test and locate any issue without causing any problems.

If they discover a leak, and depending on its size, they will plug the leak with a substance called mastic. Mastic is a malleable putty that can be molded over the leak on the outside, to create a tight seal over it. The mastic will dry and harden. It is able to “move” somewhat and flex with the ductwork to a certain point. The technician may choose to cover it with a regulation metallic duct tape. This duct tape is not the same as the store bought type most people have on hand.

Duct sealant can last a very long time, sometimes up to 10 years; but it is prudent to have your ductwork inspected about once a year, especially if there are patches on the ducts.


Taking the “Mystery” Out of Misting Systems


misting system2If you’re contemplating installing a misting system in your back or front yard, here are some things to consider.

If you live in a humid climate, misting systems may not be a cost effective way to cool down, since you are using water to do the job in an environment that is already heavy with water. Dry climates get the most benefit from a mister, but you need to consider the water usage vs cooling effects. If you have a mister in a greenhouse, that’s a completely different issue.

A mister can provide up to a 30° cool down the immediate area, depending on the system, temperature and relative humidity. Even in water restricted communities, a mister may be better than running your air conditioner and here’s why:

To generate 1 kilowatt of electricity, it takes about 25 gallons of water. An air conditioner must use about 3-5 kw each hour (that’s 75-125 gallons of water). A small pump for the mister only uses about 250 watts (¼ of a kilowatt) per hour. Most misters have 1 nozzle for every 3 feet, so an average 10’ x 10’ deck or patio would only use a little over 26 gallons of water per hour.

High pressure misting systems are more expensive, may cost more to operate, (not as misting system low pressuremuch as an air conditioner) but have superior cooling effects (nozzle clogs are rare). Low pressure misting systems are cheaper, easier to install and operate; but will not cool as efficiently as a high pressure mister and the nozzles can clog if not properly maintained.

It is important that you plan the layout of your misters, taking into consideration the natural shading on your backyard, patio or deck. You might also want to consider placing your mister in an area so it can double as a watering system for some plants.

If you are so inclined, you may want to consult a plumber or contractor about installing a permanent misting system that connects to the water lines in your home and is permanent. Of course, this will add a substantial cost to the project.

Some misting systems are made of pliable tubing that is connected to an outside hose bibb and should be disconnected and stored away in the winter (unless it is attached to a pergola, wall or railing). With proper maintenance, your misting system should last a good, long time.

Plumbing: A Nobel Profession

thinking peopleDeath, taxes and…plumbing! These three things everyone will experience in their lifetime. It’s hard to realize that plumbing plays such an important part in your life, but think:  without proper plumbing, you could not have the convenience of fresh water at your fingertips; could not flush your toilet, could not have a warm bath or shower, could not water your garden or lawn; and so on.

Most people do not realize the value of plumbing until they have to live without it, even for a day! We take for granted the plastic (PEX), copper and iron pipes and don’t give them another thought when we are going through our daily routines.

One of today’s endangered species is the experienced, licensed plumber. While today’s youth seem to be attracted to technology, they don’t see the rewards the plumbing service industry offers.

Think about it: if you have ever had something go wrong where you live or work, you want the problem fixed quickly! Imagine your toilet is clogged; you can’t flush, or it overflows onto the floor with debris. Yuck! Your kitchen faucet continually drips or under the sink you discover a puddle – what a mess! Have you tried to take a warm shower when you were shocked with nothing but cold water? You don’t want to wait too long to get it fixed. When a plumber comes to the rescue, you quickly find out how much you appreciate them!

Plumbing 101

plumbing license guideAs in almost all trades, there is an apprenticeship program that requires plenty of classroom time (144-216 hours a year) as well as on-the-job training with a licensed professional plumber. This program can take several years to complete. Counselors with the program will be with each candidate every step of the way, from entry level through license testing. Plumbing has historically been looked at as a man’s profession, but there are much more women entering the trade every year!

While age-old plumbing practices are still used in many instances today, there is plenty of advancement in plumbing equipment and fixtures that require knowledge of computer programs and intricate platforms to install those new plumbing features and systems.

The State of Oregon has information regarding requirements to become a licensed plumber. Classes begin in the fall. You can find out more here:

If you know someone who is looking for an exciting profession – plumbing may be the right fit! Feel free to contact us at 541-382-7710 with questions about becoming a plumber.

Who Thought Up the Concept of Toilet Paper?

toilet paper 1In researching this subject; we found a lot of very graphic descriptions of things and procedures used before what we now know as toilet paper was invented. We will try to be gentle in our description!

The earliest description of a paper used for cleaning your nether regions was in China in the 6th century. Those inventive Chinese pounded bamboo to a pulp & mixed it with rags soaked in water and then dried it to form paper sheets. In the 14th century, mass toilet paper production was documented in the Zhejiang province. The sheets were about 2’ x 3’ (yes, that’s right- feet). The thought of toilet paper being that large today puts a chill down any plumbers’ spine.

In other parts of the world, people used such items as hemp, rags, leaves, lace (if you were well-heeled), corn cobs, grass, stones, seashells, moss, hay, fruit or animal skins, etc.; the list goes on. Nothing seemed to be out of the running. One of the most widely used was: the hand, along with some water. It’s still used in some cultures today.

Many people believe it is the only way to do a meticulous job when needed; the hand is shake handsthoroughly washed with soap after use. Most designate the left hand for the job, and this is why shaking right hands is the way of greeting or sealing a deal in many cultures.

The bidet was invented in the late 17th century in France. Its purpose was to be used after toilet paper did the initial job. Europeans quickly gravitated to this new invention and it’s found in most bathrooms outside of the U.S. today.

Around 1850, Joseph Gayetty introduced “Medicated Paper” for your toilette; it came in a medicated tpbook form. When Sears began sending out its mammoth catalog, outhouses all over were kept in constant supply of wiping material.

In the U.S., toilet paper began as a standard 4 ½” x 4 ½” single ply. Demands for greater comfort changed how toilet paper is produced; currently the paper has multiple plies and is manufactured with lotions or aloes to provide greater comfort. Also, the length of wood threads that make the paper are shortened to provide more softness (the wood pulp is finer).

In the 1960’s American toilet paper manufacturers began producing colored toilet paper, to keep up with consumer demands for paper to compliment the color palette in their bathrooms. That trend fizzled out by about 2004.

Americans have a love affair with their toilet paper, so much so that it’s the cause of most toilet clogs. Too much of a good thing!

Detecting a Gas Leak

A gas leak is nothing to wait on; it’s a dangerous situation and needs immediate attention!stinky

If you suspect a leak (you can smell it – like rotten eggs), call a professional plumber to come and “sniff” (yes, that is a professionally used term) for the source of the leak & repair it. You may have to shut off the gas until the leak is repaired.

Leaking gas could cause an explosion if exposed to a flame or spark.  Carbon monoxide is also a product of gas fumes. You can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, but it is deadly or could cause brain damage or worse. There are several products on the market that you can install in your home, garage, or out-building to help identify if you have a carbon monoxide leak.

Gas pipes can be made out of a variety of materials, depending on the location of the gas line. The gas pipe from the meter to the yard is made out of specially coated iron. A plastic composite pipe is used to connect from the meter to the pipe.

Iron pipe or corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) is generally used for gas pipes inside gas-piping-1the house. Iron pipe is usually placed up and over the home through the attic with one large main trunk that runs the length of the house. Tees come off of the main line to feed different appliances in the home. With CSST, it will go up from the main line to one central manifold where it feeds an individual line to each appliance in a radial type formation (picture bicycle spokes).

A leak could occur anywhere. At the meter, underground, in the attic or near a stove or fireplace. It’s smart to know that your pipes have the proper protection (wrapped with special gas piping tape). Many times, underground pipes aren’t protected. They should be double wrapped where the riser comes through the ground. A gas leak typically occurs where the connection isn’t wrapped with the special black tape six inches in both directions.

Some typical gas leak problems:

  • Connections at the manifold and shut-off valves that have not been properly installed
  • Improper installation of flex lines, and gas lines in older homes, that have had pipes run with copper tubing
  • Natural gas eats right through copper, especially at connections where the copper has been flared

roof-repairThings to watch for: A gas line can leak when it has been improperly installed right next to the roof decking. Most of the time roofers don’t look to see what’s under the roof before nailing new roofing down. It’s common for gas pipes, especially corrugated stainless steel tubing, to be punctured by roofing nails.

  • Always look for a crisp blue flame, rather than an orange or yellow flame.
  • Likewise, look out for a pilot light that always seems to blow out.
  • On the outside of the appliance watch out for soot or any black or brown scorched areas around your appliances.
  • Watch out for excessive condensation on the windows, or a musty smell in the air.
  • If you are feeling light headed and/or dizzy for no apparent reason, it’s possible that there is some kind of gas or carbon monoxide leak in your house; it’s important that you get outside to fresh air and call either 9-1-1 or the gas company to identify the source of the leak.
  • If you do suspect a gas leak, do not operate any electrical switches inside the home, as there could be a spark when you flip the switch that could cause an explosion.


                               Being safe is in your own hands -Don’t learn safety by accident

Home Heating – How to Find More Money in Your Budget

Winter has a nasty reputation for devouring your home heating budget; but there are some things you can do (cheaply) that can cut that heating budget down to a comfortable size.

  • The simplest and most obvious thing is: replacing old, worn weather stripping. A ton weather-stripping1
    of heat escapes from your home though those seemingly small cracks or gaps. Weather stripping is surprisingly easy to install. Instead of turning up the heat, shut out the cold!

Some weather stripping needs to be replaced every few years
because of wear.

  • Check the bottom of your door (the threshold). If you see daylight, it is worn or out of whack and cold air is streaming into your home. If the threshold has leveling screws, adjust them to tighten up the gap. Make sure it is not rubbing against the weather stripping or it will get worn out.
  • Drafty electrical outlets. Especially if the outlet is in an exterior wall, it probably electric-outlet-coverdoesn’t have the insulation it needs to keep drafts out. To stop the leaks, remove the cover plates and fill small gaps around the boxes with acrylic latex caulk. If the gap is large, use foam sealant. Then place a foam gasket over the outlet or switch and replace the cover plate. The gaskets are very inexpensive & readily found at hardware stores.
  • Plug holes in exterior walls. Sometimes when contractors build homes or remodel the hole for pipes, cables and other lines may not be sealed up properly to prevent warm (or cool) air from leaking out. An expanding foam will seal up any opening, and will help keep critters out as well.
  • You may wish to invest in a portable heater. This gives you the option to turn the heat down in rooms you are not using, concentrating the heat in the rooms where you are. Did you know you can save 3% of your heating costs for every degree below 70°F? We can hear the pennies piling up now!
  • Fact: 25% of heat is lost through your windows. By covering the sliders and windows with plastic film, you can slow down that loss. The film is inexpensive & simple to put on your windows. It is easily removed.
  • If you’ve got a fireplace, the chimney may be robbing you of heat. They are beautiful and a must for Santa, but when there is no fire & even when the flue is closed, it’s easy access for heat to escape. You can buy something called a “chimney balloon” that blocks out a lot of the rising warm air. Follow the manufacturers’ directions.
  • Has your furnace had a once over lately? How about a visit from a chimney sweep?chimney-sweep Change that furnace filter at least twice a year. If you have a gas fireplace, cleaning the gas hearth will give you a much larger & warmer flame. There will be a little up-front cost to make sure everything is clean & ship-shape, but your energy bill will reflect the savings over time. An upside to preventative maintenance is; carbon monoxide problems can be identified & fixed.
  • Take a trip down to the basement or up to the attic to check the ductwork. Frequently, the ducts develop cracks or seam splits, allowing up to 30% of warm air to escape. Putting a mastic sealant or metal tape over the leaks will help.
  • Sunshine is free! If your windows face the sun, especially during the “heat” of the day- let the sunshine in to provide natural heat! Then close the curtains when that sunshine moves on to keep the heat inside. Why not let Mother Nature give you some heat instead of a power company?
  • Make sure nothing is blocking your heat registers. Give that warm air wide berth to spread the love!
  • Have you ever noticed that when you lock a door or window, the seal around it becomes even tighter? That means even less heat will escape – so lock ‘em up!
  • It might not have anything to do with heating, but here’s something that eats up your energy budget: your electronics. TV, cell phones, computers, etc. all have plug-ins of some sort either for usage or recharging. When they are not actively being used, they are still sucking up energy, even on standby. If you can “unplug when not in use” please do. You will see a savings!

***Warning: DO NOT use a BBQ grill or camp stove for indoor heat. They are designed to be used only outdoors and can produce carbon monoxide, an odorless and deadly gas. They could also be a fire hazard.