What is Orangeburg pipe?

One of the many wonders that the nineteenth century handed down to us, Orangeburg pipe began as an experiment. One and a half miles of the stuff was laid down for a pipeline in Boston in 1867. The prototype was a tremendous success, considering how inexpensive it was to make. The only catch was that the stuff starts falling apart about 50 years after it's laid in the ground.
The Orangeburg Pipeline Revolution
But, perhaps because of the less-than-enduring materials used to craft it (wood pulp and pitch) Orangeburg pipe did not gain widespread use in sewers until the second World War, when the metals normally used for piping were in high demand by the US military. At this time, the bituminized fiber, which had gone through a number of transformations to improve its stability, seemed a fine option, and many people had it installed under their homes.
The Problem – Short Life Expectancy
That sewer pipeline revolution occurred almost 60 years ago. Having 'dug up some dirt' on this type of piping on Wikipedia, I quote: “Lack of strength causes pipes made of orangeburg to fail more frequently than pipes made with other materials. The useful life for an orangeburg pipe is about 50 years. It has been taken off the list of acceptable materials by most building codes.”(Wikipedia: Orangeburg Pipe).
How does Wikipedia know this untold secret about Orangeburg pipe? Probably for the same reason you do. Now that most of the sewers made with bituminized fibers are roughly 50-60 years old, these pipelines cracking, leaving Californians with serious sewer problems.
Ask Not for Whom Orangeburg Pipe Tolls...
The most common of these issues arises when a crack in the tubing allows some water to escape to the soil within close proximity of the pipe. Then roots from surrounding trees are attracted to the water, eventually growing through the cracks into the line itself.
Specific areas can be treated for root blockages (See my blog: The Gritty Truth – When to Consider Sewer Replacement); however, it is normally more cost-effective in the long run to refurbish the entire sewer line with PVC or a different material because Orangeburg pipe will only continue to cause problems in other areas, accruing additional costs each time.
There is little anyone can do to avert replacement/remodeling because the material itself is the problem. So, if there is a moral to this story, always ask what type of material the sewer lines are made of before purchasing a home, and if Orangeburg pipe has not yet been replaced, ask a plumbing company for a free estimate for replacement. The realtor should not complain about taking the cost of remodeling out of the upfront cost of the purchase.

Sewer Cleaning – Keep Roots from Becoming Pipe Blockage

Most cases of sewer cleaning involve tree root removal. So, chance has it that if you are experiencing a sewer line backup, roots are most likely the cause.
How do Tree Roots Block Up My Sewer Pipes? How Do They Enter?
Ever see grass growing through the cracks in the sidewalk? The grass does not break the concrete with its sheer will to see the sun. Instead, the changing temperatures of the seasons expand and contract the sidewalk until it breaks under the strain. It is only after that point, when there are tiny holes in the concrete, that grass seeds that have lain dormant for years begin to sprout up through the cracks.
The same principle is true of tree roots and sewer pipes. As trees grow, their roots continue to expand throughout the surrounding topsoil, in search of water and nutrients to sustain the growing tree. The roots naturally grow in the direction of the most sustenance; that is how they provide the most value to the tree. In application to sewers, this is both bad news and good news.
The good news – tree roots will not be attracted to water-tight sewer pipes (there will be no sustenance around the pipes to take the roots' interest
The bad news – tree roots will be attracted to sewer lines that already have cracks in them (roots are drawn to increasing amounts of water, beginning around the sewer line and ending in the sewer line itself)
Over the Soil and Through the Cracks...
So, roots will enter through the cracks in the pipeline and begin to spread through the drain. Once they are thick enough to keep detritus from passing through, they will cause a sewer line backup. This means that if you have noticed a slight backup, acting quickly will be necessary, as the roots will only continue to grow, and waste material will only continue to build up.
What a Homeowner Can Do
Once a pipe blockage is detected, there are a number of different options one may choose from.
Chemicals are available for use on the pipeline directly, which are merely flushed through toilets. These chemicals are toxic to tree roots and our environment, killing all they come into contact with. While these chemicals can work for a time, they often will kill only the roots that hang down into the sewer water, leaving the rest to grow back. For this reason, these chemicals are best used as a temporary treatment.
Clean them yourself by following the step-by-step instructions found on web sites, such as Ask the Builder and Drains and Plumbing. 
Ask a professional to help you determine the best course of action.

A Drain Cleaning Resource for Everybody Tips on Drain Cleaning and Maintenance

Some people will fold up their shirtsleeves in order to clear their drains of debris; others would rather call a plumber. Both of these people have an easy, step-by-step method that will keep their drains flowing. For those who want to avoid blockages and backups entirely, read the next section for maintenance tips, but for those of you who would rather just wait until a blockage occurs, simply skip to the how-to resources below (In the Event of a Clog).
To Avoid Clogs Altogether
If the thought of a drain or the pipes under your sink make you queasy, then proper drain maintenance is the way to go. For all drains without a garbage disposal, long hair is usually the primary source of clogs, so anything that can be done to reduce the amount will keep pipes cleaner, longer. Additionally, follow this maintenance schedule as closely as you like:
Every week, boil a large pot-full of water; pour one round of water down the drains in the household; five minutes after that, pour down a second round.
Every month, throw an enzymatic cleaner down there – pour around the edge of the drain to fully coat the pipes underneath.
Every half-year, use an explosive combination to keep clogs away – Run the hot water faucet until the water is hot; reduce flow; spoon out some baking soda (about a half-cup for each drain); turn off the water, and flush with the same amount of vinegar; wait a few minutes and rinse.
(Do You really want to do all this stuff? and I'm not sure it really works)
For advice on Garbage disposals, read my other blog: xxx
In the Event of a Clog
While many clogs are easy enough to clear with caustic cleaners, some require drain snakes, or other methods. Covering them all myself would be a waste, since I found this do-it-yourself resource the most comprehensive guide out there. And of course, there is always a plumber to take care of it for you professionally, Without all the mess and frustration of doing it yourself

It's Saturday And We Are Open

What a beautiful day today is the sun is shining and I am sitting in the office fielding calls, Yes that's right we are open for business. Several years ago I thought I would try opening on Saturday at no extra charge to accommodate  some of our Customers who had a hard time fitting plumbing into their work schedule. Well you will never guess Saturday has become a very busy day. Today we have two plumbers doing all sorts of plumbing repairs from leaking gas lines to new faucet installations. A lot of times a homeowner who have started a home repair project calls and ask for help to get it completed. The project turned into more work than they were prepared for. If you need plumbing services, Give us a call, or find us on the internet were here to help! but call early Saturday fills up fast. And of course we are open Sundays for emergencies.

What to Expect from Tankless Water Heaters

As sales of on-demand, instant, or tankless water heater sales skyrocket in the US, more consumers are starting to wonder: are tankless water heaters worth it? As of 2009, they had taken roughly 8% of the market, with expected increases of that figure in 2010. Because the technology is beneficial to the environment but can involve some inconveniences, I feel that people should be able to look at an unbiased source to decide for themselves what is best for them.
Advantage Number One – Conservation of Energy
Reports indicate that tankless water heaters conserve between 10-30% of the energy that conventional water heaters use, which means that without a doubt they are beneficial to the environment. On average, each household spends about ¼ of its energy on water heating. So, going tankless, one can expect to shave 5% off utilities.
Problems with Going Tankless – Upfront Cost
But I would not cut off my right arm to save twenty gallons of oil each year, and I would not pay $2,000 to do so either. So, the question becomes, do the disadvantages to the consumer outweigh the benefits, or not? Here's the economic perspective:
Tankless units are more expensive (almost 2x the cost of conventional water heaters). However, one of the reasons they have become more popular, despite the price gap, is Energy Star, the Environmental Protection Agency's seal of approval on products that are beneficial to the environment. Any water heater with the Energy Star seal will allow for a tax refund for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500. For more information on Energy Star, see my other blog entry on Hybrid Water Heaters.
But even with the government incentives, tankless water heaters are still more expensive, especially due to increased installation costs. Gas powered heaters, in particular, which are more efficient and have a higher output (more gallons/minute) than their electric counterparts accrue installation costs that can rival the cost of conventional units, as new gas lines must be made from scratch. Free estimates in the California Peninsula can be found here.
Tankless – Less Convenient?
Consumers report that tankless water heaters have problems with either small or large demands. On the large side of the spectrum, that means that running the dishwasher and shower simultaneously can overrun some units. While paying a little more attention to the hot water consumption in one's home is not a deal breaker, at least in my opinion, it is definitely a red mark.
On the small end, the amount of hot water required for washing one's face, or shaving, is not enough to turn many units on. As a result, adjustments must be made, say, by filling the sink with hot water instead.
Some Useful Resources for Further Reading
The most useful consumer review
The most comprehensive, technical, but easy-to-understand explanation of tankless heaters, with gallon per minute (gpm) ratings on most household water sources, flow rates, etc.

Earthquake Preparedness - 2 Common Mistakes Californians Should Know About

The 1906 Earthquake –
The most lethal earthquake in United States history struck San Francisco on April 18, 1906. More than 480 city blocks were obliterated, causing close to $400,000,000 in structural damage. But even though 250,000 people lost their homes, under 700 people lost their lives, meaning that roughly one person died for more than 285 homes destroyed.
How was this even possible, especially considering that the largest tremors struck at 5:15 AM, when most were still in bed asleep? The fact is: the initial quake only caused the tip of an iceberg of damage. The majority of homes were destroyed by the fire that raged unchecked across the city for the three days following. After the ground had stabilized, the vast majority of citizens were able to escape from their homes relatively unharmed, even if it meant living like refugees in the years to come. (More info on the 1906 quake can be found here.)
The Aftermath - Modern Earthquake Preparedness
With all that has been learned in the last century about fire control, a 6.5 on the Richter scale does not require my attention. I do, however, follow all the new guidelines and regulations that have responded to what we have learned from disasters, such as the 1906 quake. Tips, such as securing shelves, checking electricity and gas connections (to prevent fire after a quake), and organizing storage so that heavier items are stored closer to the ground are made available to everyone across the country on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.
Two Common Mistakes Californians
Because FEMA is a Federal organization, it is missing the regulations that are specific to California. These are crucial for households that may undergo an earthquake, because they decrease the likelihood of significant structural damage and fires resulting from earthquakes.
Forgetting water heater straps - The state of California has made water heater straps mandatory to prevent heaters from falling over during quakes. Simply check all water heaters for two thick straps attached to the wall. One strap should hug the top and one the bottom. If a heater is missing them, they may be installed either professionally or by the owner.
Not checking for an automatic earthquake gas valve – A study conducted after the 1994 Northridge earthquake concluded that roughly half of the resultant fires would have been prevented by earthquake gas valves. These will automatically shut off the gas to a home in the event of an earthquake, preventing damaged gas lines from causing fires and are now . For more information on how to know if you have one, see my page.
Additionally, comments, tips, regulations, or new technologies I have missed are welcome! We want to make sure everyone is safe and secure.

Hybrid Water Heaters Deconstructed

Hybrid Water heaters should be easier to understand, and so I'm setting out to “make it so,” as Captain Picard would say.  Although plenty of people know of their existence, hybrid water heaters can be a little more difficult to consider purchasing.  More so, applying for federal tax rebates, finding the right unit, and installing this new technology, especially without a clue as to whether these things will work well can deter many consumers.  Read the following for all the basics, and follow the links below to dig deeper if you like. 

Hybrid Water Heater Basics
These units, which use a combination of tank and tankless heating, electricity and gas,  typically cost more money upfront, and save a lot of money in the long run.  Compared to the normal, tank units, hybrids:

• Use about half as much energy – saving roughly $250/year (depends on region and usage)
• Last almost twice as long – roughly 20-year life-spans compared to the 10-13 year norm
• Contribute to the preservation of energy and the environment
• Cost about 3X the norm, including installation
• Many units are credited by government incentives, which pay 30% of the cost, up to $1,500

So, using the average values, if a hybrid water heater is purchased rather than an $1300 conventional heater, then it would take anywhere between 3-5 years to save enough money in energy costs to pay back the difference in the initial investment. 

Energy Star Requirements
The EPA has effectively created an energy-efficient stamp of approval that guarantees the federal rebate.  Few products receive the Energy Star label, and these are set apart from the competition by meeting a few, broad requirements:

• The product must conserve energy when compared to the national average
• The product must be verified to pay for its additional cost in energy savings within a “reasonable” period of time – Going by the numbers, this figure is definitely under ten years for water heaters, and if the product would not deliver on its own, then the government will often give incentives in the form of tax breaks, to bring the payback period “within reason”
• The product must meet performance and feature standards, as outlined by consumers
• The product must use widely available technologies that are offered by multiple manufacturers.

Currently, incentives (30% of cost, up to $1,500) are attached to all hybrid water heaters with the Energy Star label, in addition to other models that meet specific energy efficient requirements.  You can check out those requirements on the government web site, as well as download the application for the refund.

Product Reviews
But what are people saying about these new models?  How do we know, especially for those without the Energy Star label, they work as well as the tried-and-true conventional units?  I found only positive reviews when I searched, such as the one quoted below.  The following is the only overall disadvantage he/she found with the GE Hybrid water heater: “It took 3 guys around 3 hours to install (this is new for them as well) and took more work than a regular water heater. The most difficult aspect was the intake and outlet pipe had to be reworked into an "L" shape so that there was room to allow the air filter to be removed. You definitely want to be experienced with soldering pipes etc if you were to do this yourself. Our house is older, so we also needed an electrical line installed to replace the 20A we had in place (included in installation costs).” -trevorc45102 reviewed November 20, 2009

The reviewer commented further that, after tax breaks, there was an $800 difference in cost between the standard tank unit and the hybrid, which was expected to be paid back in energy savings within five years.  The full review can be found here; and if you want to have one installed, here is an San Francisco Plumbing company that will install them.
George Salet Plumbing

What is the PHCC and why do we belong?

As a Child my Father instilled in me and my brothers the value of a job well done. He used to say "be the best at whatever you do and you will never have to worry about a job". When I became a Plumber I took his words to heart and became the best plumber I could be. Eventually I went on my own to start George Salet Plumbing and my mission was to have the best plumbing company in the bay area. In my search to be the best I noticed the companies I admired as being top notch all belonged to the PHCC, which stands for Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors.
  The PHCC was started in 1883 and is the oldest trade organization in the construction industry, approximately 3,700 members nationwide. Originally formed to differentiate between trained plumbers and others in the new field of plumbing. Their mission statement is as timely today as it was over 125 years ago.

PHCC is dedicated to the promotion, advancement, education and training of the industry for the protection of our environment and the health, safety and comfort of society.

Wow were they ahead of their time?
Needless to say I joined, and what a great decision that was, today All of my Plumbers have been certified by the PHCC as Journeyman Plumbers or currently enrolled in training, because you can't be the best unless you have the proper training. The PHCC also allows me to meet with manufacturer and learn about new products and methods of installations. Today I am in Napa California with over 120 Plumbing Contractors from over four states at a PHCC convention were we will attend seminars about the newest and greatest in plumbing and the plumbing issues that confront us all.

Thanks for viewing,
George Salet
George Salet Plumbing
P.S I am having a Great Time

What I Want to Talk About

What i want to talk about in this blog is not just about why you should call my company but what is happening in our part of the world, our homes and maybe even in our bodies. And of course I want to talk about the good things that happen, Like a long time customer calling to say: She was so happy with her new faucet and wondered why she waited so long to have it installed. Of course there is the current issues like earthquakes, water shortages, flooding.
This blog is not just about plumbing but living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Speaking about the bay area we finally got some rain! actually up to a little past normal. Now that doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet. The rainfall has been below average for a couple of years now. But maybe we can water the lawn without feeling guilty this year

George Salet Plumbing