Category Archives: Uncategorized

Correctly Charging AC Units

Many people may wonder why HVAC companies will not maintain or recharge your AC unit on a cold day. It is simply not an effective way to test freon levels.

Cold Temperature Charges

You can work on these units in the cold and some technicians use “insulated blankets” to wrap the outside condensing units with to create a head pressure rise. This simulates a hot day, they can then add or remove refrigerant based on that reading. The problem with this technique is the head pressure rise is more of an estimate. With this estimate of head pressure you are not getting an accurate reading therefore it would be easy to overcharge or undercharge the unit.

This results in you as the customer being inconvenienced by your unit still having issues and possibly having to pay for the same service to be done on a hot day. When charging your unit on a hot day you will get a accurate reading therefore resulting in a cheaper repair and peace of mind that your unit will be operating correctly. This is the preferred method to work on AC units because we know we are getting a correct reading and will not have to worry about an unhappy customer or wasted time. The correct temperature for recharges is 70-75° F.

 

R22 Refigerant Phase Out – Environmental Impact

What does the R-22 Refrigerant Phase out mean for your Hvac system?

The current phase of of R-22 Refrigerant in residential and commercial properties leaves home and business owners with unanswered questions. As R-22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.

HCFC Phase out

Service to current HVAC systems

Production of new air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020, the servicing of R-22 based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants.

If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it probably utilizes R-22. The good news is existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units.

More than likely, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R-22, unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, costs to charge existing units leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. We urge our customers to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from the rising cost of refrigerant. The best thing you can do properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. You can do so by participating in routine tune-ups in the spring and fall. Remember, routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.

Retrofits and Converting units

Retrofit units, converted R-22 units utilize a substitute refrigerant, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Substitute refrigerant can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher worker pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated. This provides consistency in the refrigerant  cycle, as one coil cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years.

The EPA wanrs of potential safety hazards related to the use of unapproved refrigerants in home air conditioning systems as they are not designed to handle flammable refrigerants.

Impact on the environment

Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment. Remember to always select a reputable dealer to handle refrigerants.

Refrigerant R-22 is used in a number of refrigeration and air conditioning systems. R-22 is the halocarbon compound named monochlorodifluoromethane with chemical formula CHCIF2 and it is the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). R-22 is one of the most popular refrigerant used in cooling system, but unfortunately, the halocarbons (chlorine and fluorine) present in these compounds have the potential to cause depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere leading to greenhouse effect. The ozone layer destroying potential of R-22, which is HCFC is much lesser than the other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), still in the long-term they do have detrimental effects on the atmosphere.

The depletion of ozone layer from the upper layers of atmosphere results in ultraviolet rays of the sun to reach the surface of the earth. This leads to high temperature on the earth and the ultraviolet ray themselves are very harmful to the skin of humans. To avoid the long-term dangers of the R-22 and other CFCs, it has been decided to phase out the use and production of R-22 completely along with other CFC refrigerants.

ozone depletion

New units

A important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy efficient system. Today’s air conditioners use much less energy, provide cost savings in maintenance an electric costs, and offer a green alternative to R-22 units. Rebates and tax credits also help to offset the cost of new systems.

The best time to switch is before your hit by the high costs of repairing a refrigerant system. Take into account the age of your current unit (as a general rule, systems should be older than 10 years) look for the energy star label to save up to 40 percent on utility bills and consider the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specification.

montreal protocol imagechlorine vs oxygen

Water Stop Replacement

Importance of Replacing Stops Upon Fixture Installation

When you get a new Faucet or Toilet, replacing the water shut off is often overlooked. The reason why this is so important is the Neoprene rings inside the valve get very brittle over years of sitting. Then your valve is open and closed when your fixture is replaced. The neoprene ring will often times break down or get dislodged, when these begin to fall apart they will get stuck in supply lines or cartridges of your new fixture and could make it so your brand new faucet is going to need worked on or often times even replaced. This is something that often goes overlooked by plumbing companies and they are left with unhappy customers.

multi turn stop diagram

New Style Quarter Turn Stops

These new style stops have way less issues over time and often times will not need to be replaced unless they are broken physically or the ball gets dislodged from the handle, causing it to not turn off properly. The reason is they do not have these Neoprene gaskets on a stem, they instead have a turn style ball connected to the valve handle. These have less parts to fail and are better in the long run.

 

Dual Stops

Dual stops have the same styles of valves, therefore you will run into the same issues upon replacement of fixtures. These stops are commonly used for your kitchen faucet and dishwasher or your kitchen faucet and fridge supply. These do not take much longer to install in comparison and can be worth the time so you do not damage your  appliances or faucet.

Lead Valves

The new regulation for lead free valves in potable water systems is very recent. The federal law in effect since January 2014, dictates much lower lead content for certain systems and components than in the past. Potable water systems being involved in this standard. Water stops touch all your drinking water. Its very important to be aware that your old stop does contain lead. The new stops can give you peace of mind that your family is not being effected by this lead.

Lead Poisoning

Lead Poisoning can be very hard to notice and often times will go undetected for years before a proper analysis will be made. Signs and symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.

Symptoms of lead poisoning in Children

Developmental delay, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss and seizures.

Lead Poisoning symptoms in newborns

Premature birth, lower birth weight, slowed growth and loss of appetite

Lead Poisoning in adults

High blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.

Living an older homes puts you at risk for lead exposure. Lead based paints were banned since 1970, older homes and buildings often retain remnants of this paint. People renovating an older home are at even higher risk.

ace-hi

Importance of Outside Sewer Cleanouts and Maintenance Explained

Knowing your sewer system on your home is extremely important. What kind of pipe you have running to the street (underground), other potential problems your sewer line has had in the past, different access points (where we will be able to clean your sewer from). If you have outside cleanouts (outside access to your sewer) this will make cleaning your sewer much less of a hassle for many reasons.

Without these outside cleanouts technicians are having go inside your home with the sewer machine, which is not only big and bulky but can be very dirty. In order for us to clean the sewer we may have to pull a toilet and reset it. There may also be an inside cleanout to access the sewer. Either way when we are running our machine from inside your home, we are only able to use 3″ blades the majority of the time. This is problematic because your sewer running to the street is 4″ in size, with 3″ blades it is not cleaning the sewer to its best potential.

This means that you will have more frequent clogs and end up spending more money to maintain your line. Cost of labor is constantly increasing therefore putting off big repairs may cost more money in the future.

Having outside Two Way Cleanouts can be a very worthy investment in your home. If you are already spending money to maintain your sewer annually, this could extend your time between maintenance’s and pay for itself in a matter of time.

sewer-diagram

With newer plumbing code, cleanouts are required every 100 feet on your sewer line.

Benefits of Outside Cleanouts

  • All the nasty sewer machines and equipment stay outside – no mess inside your home!
  • No risk of damage done to your toilet upon removal and re-install
  • No risk of damage done to your walls, floor, etc. – Machines are Big, Smelly, Heavy and Awkward
  • Your sewer will no longer back up on your floor, the mess stays outside!
  • Properly Clean your sewer with the correct size blades. (most indoor access points are 3″ when your sewer outside is 4″)
  • Easier access for Camera Inspections
  • Easier to Locate potential problems and come up with solutions
  • Cheaper to Maintain – Do not have to remove toilet and drag machine in and out of house.
  • The ability to high pressure water jet your line. Being able to water jet can be crucial if you have a long line with roots and flat spots. This will clean out all the residue and roots much quicker and more efficiently than your normal snake. Being able to clear out flat spots in your sewer line can make the difference between being able to maintain your line and having to replace it.

high-pressure-water-jetting-diagram

“Flushable Wipes or Feminine Products”

When the manufacturer of these products label them as “Flushable” in reality that means they will make it down the toilet. But they will cause problems in your sewer line. If you have already have problems with your sewer they will cause even more serious issues. What they don’t tell you is that this wipes are clogging the city sewer systems aswell, costing millions of tax dollars a year to get rid of them. The problem with these wipes is they do not break down, toilet paper will disintegrate when it sits in water. Wipes, paper towels, and feminine products do not break down. Most of these products are made up of plastic fibers therefore they are do not disintegrate. Wipes have the same effect as plastic waste when they make their way to the ocean. These get ingested by sea creatures, such as sea turtles who mistake them as jelly fish and then eventually die. The same thing that happens with plastic bags. One sewer clog can cost you upward of $100 per hour! Occasionally this end result will mean you need to repair your sewer line, which is extremely expensive. So be sure to put your wipes in the trash to eliminate this possibility!

flushable-wipesdont-flush-the-wipe

One Way Cleanouts vs Two way Cleanouts

Cleanouts are great thing to have at your home, they cut down the cost of labor and take the mess outside of your house! One way cleanouts only allow you to clean out toward the street. Therefore if your clog is under your home your still going to have to have a technician come inside your house with the messy machine. Now this is going to take much more time and cost more money.

one-way-cleanout

Two way cleanouts run both directions, into your house and away from it. Therefore in that same scenario if your clog is underneath your home, the technician may be able to reach it from outside. There are still scenarios that you may not be able to reach the clog from outside. But most commonly these cleanouts will simplify the drain cleaning process.

two-way-outside-cleanoutside

Line Settling ” Bellies”

Sewer line settling can happen because of ground shifting or because a line was not “bedded” correctly. This means they did not compact the dirt around the pipe as adequate as they should have and the pipe settled in place creating a low spot or “belly”. Depending on the length of pipe that has settled this can create a vast amount of issues. Toilet tissue,waste, wipes, grease and food from your disposal will catch in this belly and begin to “sludge” up and cause a clog. These clogs can be extremely difficult to clean with a normal sewer machine and even more so without outside cleanouts. Unclogging a “belly” can be very difficult depending on the length of the low spot. The sludge in these low spots continues to thicken up more and more to the consistency of mud. Picture a normal sewer snake cleaning these sludge spots being comparable to stirring a bucket of mud with a stick. It will take a long time to thin it out and move it down the line. If you have outside cleanouts you are able to use a high pressure water jetter. This will clean out the sewer line much better and more efficiently therefore costing less money to maintain the line. Without these cleanouts some people would recommend sewer line replacement. If you do have cleanouts it may be cheaper for you to maintenance this line. The more your pipe has settled the more chance you have of your sewer breaking, this is always something to be aware of when taking consideration of replacing your line.

pipebelly

progression-of-pipe-belly

If wipes or feminine products are put down the toilet upstairs and it clogs on its way down, the technician will have no choice but to remove the toilet and clean from there to reach the plug. Being conscience of how you dispose of these flushable wipes can save you lots of money in the end!

If you are having to maintain your sewer frequently and are wanting to explore the option of outside cleanouts in the Northern Colorado area or any drain cleaning needs,  give us a call at Ace Hi Plumbing Heating and Air 970-667-0300. We also do high pressure water jetting!

 ace-hi

Shower Valve Types And Repairs

When repairing a shower valve there are a couple different variables to be aware of when getting prepared to do the job. First you will need to know if you have a water shutoff specifically for the shower. If you do not you will need to turn off the water to the whole house. Usually located in the basement or crawlspace. Once the water is off. Bleed the pressure out of the shower by turning on the shower and letting the pipes drain out. Keep it open until water stops flowing through. Now you can start safely without any worries.

After you’ve turned the shower off, its normal for a little bit of leakage to continue for a few seconds. But if the water continues to drip at a steady rate for more, then a minute, you should double check to make sure your water is off all the way. If your water main will not turn off all the way, give us a call and we can get a new main water shutoff installed for you!

Water Mains

When turning back on the water make sure you bleed the air out of your water lines by opening every faucet. Do not be alarmed when it spits air. This is a very important step as you do not want air building up in your water lines. Sediment could also push up into your fixtures if the line is not bled correctly.

Tools needed for most shower valve repairs:

  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Small Flathead Screwdriver
  • Pocket Knife
  • Handle Puller and or Cartridge Puller
  • Crescent Wrench

Pressure Balancing Valves

A pressure balance shower valve can provide even temperature to a tub or shower valve despite fluctuations that may occur from other water usage in the home or building. Having a pressure balance valve is even more important if you live in an apartment or condo where water is shared by several units. Or if someone doesn’t take into consideration you being in the shower!

pressure-balancing-valve

Shower valves that are not pressure balanced can be dangerous due to the threat of scalding water, especially for homes with little children or elderly occupants. Most building codes require pressure balancing valves. If you have an older home or apartment it may be time to install a new shower valve to make the shower safer and more comfortable.

A pressure balance shower valve works by maintaining a balanced outlet of water from the hot and cold side. The valve has either a balancing spool or a diaphragm inside the valve body that reacts to drops in pressure from the incoming water to the valve and adjusts the outflow of the opposite water supply to match it so that the water does not change temperature.

Sudden changes in supply water pressure will reduce outflow of water from the shower head, but it will not change the temperature.

Pressure balanced shower or tub and shower valves can come in single, double or three handle varieties, so you can usually match the existing holes in the tile or surround when replacing an existing valve.

The conversion to a pressure balance valve may require some changes in the hot and cold water supply and the shower standpipe in the wall to allow the new valve to fit.

Thermostatic Valves

Thermostatic valves usually have two controllers. One knob/lever allow you to set the volume of water flow. Another to control the temperature. The two controls allow you to have a trickle of water flow or 100% full flow of water at any temperature you choose, from cold to hot.

thermostatic-valve

You can leave the temperature set at the same place for years if that is where you are most comfortable with it and simply use the water volume control to turn the water flow on and off.

The scald setting on a thermostatic valve limits the actual water temperature to a specific temperature. You can turn your water heater way up and the Thermostatic Valve will limit the temperature to whatever the valves max setting is. In comparison a Pressure Balancing Valve controls the ratio of hot to cold water.

The difference between the Thermostatic Valves and Pressure Balancing valves is something that you may never even notice. Both valves control the temperature very well and both are safeguards for scalding.

If you live in an older house where you notice a drop in pressure out of the shower when flushing a toilet then a thermostatic valve may be the better choice, this way you will have constant temp and pressure.

The thermostatic valve is also the better choice if you would like better temperature control or if you would like to reduce the amount of flow out of the shower head throughout your shower without changing the water temperature.

Valves That Can Be Repaired

There are some valves from big box stores that cannot be repaired, these valves need to be replaced. When we are being called out to repair a shower valve we ask our customers to look on the valve and see if they can see a brand name once the brand name is located we also ask for them to take a picture with their phone and send it to us. This helps us make sure our technicians are prepared for the job at hand and can repair the valve in the best and most efficient way possible. If the shower valve is the type that cannot be repaired we can notify them the cost and educate them on the product they have in their home, that way there is no surprises. Once we have a picture of the valve we may also be able to offer a trim replacement (different color finish) if this is something you are interested in. If we don’t have a different color trim in stock you would like, we will then do the research needed to insure you get the look you are after!

Single Handle Valves

If your shower works by sliding out and turning a single handle one way or the other to control hot and cold water, you have a cartridge system. The cartridge is a plastic valve with a brass insert that turns to allow more hot or cold water to the faucet. A few rubber O-rings keep everything in place, and these can turn brittle with age. Also, hard water can cause mineral build-up that will prevent them from working and sometimes cause the valve to need replacement.

single-handle-valve

  1. Remove the shower handle by popping off the cap to get to the handle screw. If the handle does not come off easily, you will need to get your handle puller. Handle pullers can be bought at most hardware stores.
  2. Remove the retaining device. Different manufacturers have their own ways of holding the cartridge in place. It should be either a clip or spring that can be pried up with a small flat head screwdriver. Do this carefully because you do not want to lose this piece. It can be a good idea to plug your drain so you do not lose these small important parts.
  3. Remove the cartridge. If it’s stuck, use pliers and gently pull with a twisting motion. Some manufactures provide a cap that threads into the valve to aid in removal, but if its really stuck you may have to buy a cartridge removal tool. These are specific to their manufacturer. Take note of who made your faucet.
  4. Cartridges are very specific to their faucets. You need to make sure it matches in every aspect or else you will have a leak.
  5. Insert the new cartridge in the same position as the old one that you took out. It should fit securely. If you put it in backwards your hot and cold water will be reversed, be very contentious of what direction it was facing originally.
  6. Replace the retaining nut and reassemble your faucet. Turn the water back on and make sure your faucet does not leak.

Two Handle Shower

A two handled shower can be either a washer style or cartridge style. A cartridge type is repaired in the same way as a single handled shower valve mentioned above. A washer style, also called a compression type is a little different.

two-handle-shower-valve

  1. Remove the handle the same as previously mentioned
  2. Locate the bonnet nut beneath the handle and, using a crescent wrench, turn it counterclockwise to remove it. If it is sunken back behind the wall. You may need a shower valve socket wrench.
  3. After the bonnet nut has been removed, use pliers to gently turn the stem counterclockwise and remove it.
  4. Remove the screw at the other end of the stem and remove the old washer, replacing it with a new one. The replacement washer should be an exact replacement and should be coated with silicon grease or petroleum jelly.
  5. Find the O-ring and replace it with an exact replacement coating it with the lubricant.
  6. Replace the stem, bonnet nut and handle.

Note: When your shower was installed, it is possible that they cut a hole just large enough for the stem to go through. Your shower socket wrench may not fit in this hole. You may need to bore this hole out a little in order to fit the socket in.

Three Handle Shower

A three handle shower has hot and cold faucets, but it also has a diverter valve. The diverter valve is what sends the water to either the tub or the shower. If water comes out of both, it is time to fix it. The hot and cold handles are repaired as mentioned above, in the two handle guide. The diverter valve will either be a small handle on your tub spout or a handle on the wall of the shower.

three-handled-shower-valve

Tub Spout Type

  1. Using channel locks or a pipe wrench, turn counterclockwise to remove the tub spout. The old pipe should come off with it. If not, use the wrench to remove it (some spots are held on with a set screw on the bottom.) Check this before trying to turn the spout and remove it. Your Spout should then slide off.
  2. Clean the wall where the old spout was to ensure a snug fit.
  3. Your new spout should come with a new pipe. Wrap both ends in plumbers tape to ensure a good seal. (wrap the tape so that when you thread it in clockwise it wont come off.) For the end that goes into the wall a little plumbers dope can help ensure a good seal.
  4. Thread the pipe in and snug it up with a wrench. It doesn’t have to be extremely tight.
  5. Thread the new tub spout on snugging it up with the wrench. Wrap cloth or something protective around the spout to ensure you do not remove the finish of the spout with your wrench. (If it is the set-screw type) Slide it on to the pipe and tighten the screw.
  6. Apply a bead of caulk where the spout meets the wall to ensure a watertight seal.

tub-spout

Wall Type

  1. Remove the cap and handle as in the single handle guide. you may have a sleeve over yours. Gently remove it being careful not to mar the finish.
  2. To Remove the diverter valve, use the shower socket wrench.
  3. Wrap plumbers tape around the threads of the new diverter valve, leaving the first few threads bare to ensure a grip.
  4. Insert the new diverter valve and tighten it nice and snug, giving an extra quarter turn after it’s tight. Do not force it. If it doesn’t want to go it is fine.
  5. Turn the valve with the handle and test the water to make sure it only comes out of where its supposed to. This is also a good time to shine a flashlight into the valve and ensure there are no leaks.
  6. Reassemble the diverter handle

Is It Time To Upgrade?

When repairing these valves you need to be aware that it will be more difficult to turn then it was before. If you have arthritis this could be an issue for you. Before moving forward with the cost of repair, it would be beneficial to decide if you want to replace it instead of repairing it. Often times customers repair it because it is more affordable and then are disappointed when their valve is more difficult to open and close.

You might be tempted to upgrade your faucets and handles while you have them apart. (Trim Colors). This is a good idea when you already have the faucet completely apart.

Hard water may be leaving an awful residue, making your spout or shower head not only look crusty and gross, but perform poorly. The same residue can be building up in your valve, making a replacement a must. This will adversely affect your water flow and turn a relaxing shower into a frustrating chore.

Sometimes a simple upgrade of the faucets and handles is all that is needed to give your bathroom a quick face lift. You might be doing this for a sale, or you may just be tired of looking at the same old faucets day in and day out. If you’ve upgraded your shower from a plastic surround to tile or stone, you old faucets may look pathetically out of place.

The cost of upgrading your shower valve is really a long term investment. Then when it comes to selling your home it is one less thing to worry about!

Wolverine Faucets and Product Reliability – Hard Water Effects on Fixtures -Tired of Replacing Faucets?

Wolverine Brass was founded in 1896 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They are devoted to quality products and ensuring that not only the customer is happy with their products. Wolverine not only cares about the customer but also the plumbers installing their products, they want them to be confident and stand behind what they sell.

Not only are Wolverine faucets and cartridges reliable but their drain assemblies are also high quality. They have a 17 gauge pop-up assembly, with a brass pop-up plunger and cast brass tee. This are normally in chrome with other manufactures. The chrome corrodes much quicker and is also more susceptible to leaking, breaking or chipping off.

100 Year Warranty

The ceramic disc cartridge technology was invented by their plant engineers in 1971. Their cartridge carries a 100 year, drip free warranty. They are all manufactured in Conway, South Carolina plant and every faucet is hand inspected and water tested to insure no leaks. All faucets are triple chrome-plated and use only K-copper water lines and silver soldered joints. There is also a 100 year guarantee on the finish as well! The faucets arrive wrapped and complete, no need to order handles, handle inserts or additional parts.

This is one of the best warranties in the industry and that covers everything from the finish to the cartridge! Making this one of the favorite faucets for not only our customers but also for our plumbers!

Cartridges

Often times when looking at a lavatory faucet there may be multiple different cartridges that you will need to have in stock to fix a faucet. With wolverine one cartridge fits all with single handle faucets. And one cartridge fits all with two handle faucets. This allows standardization and eliminates large and expensive inventories of parts; no cups, springs, screws, etc. This makes for an easy and inexpensive repair for the customer and plumber alike! Overall the integrity of the fixtures and cartridges are much better then most competitive brands!

Hard Water Effects On Fixtures & Pipes

Hard water is water which has a high mineral content. Two of the minerals that are particularly problematic are calcium and magnesium. These minerals find their way out of the water and bind themselves together. This becomes a scale or mineral deposit. Scale sticks to the interior of pipes, household appliances and other surfaces throughout the home. Once this scale becomes attached to something its very difficult to remove it. This is what leads to clogs and other problems within the pipes and appliances. The hardness of the water contaminated with mineral deposits is rated on a scale of 1 to 10.

While these mineral deposits cause problems in the plumbing and other places in the home, they are not a health hazard. The problem is when the calcium and magnesium makes their way out of the water they can cause havoc for all sorts of appliances from which water passes through. They also stick to basins, faucets, shower heads, tubs and tiles in the bathroom and even to your pots and pans. Once the scale deposits itself on a surface, getting it off can be a challenge.

Imagine what the scale could be doing to the cartridge and innards of your faucet! With Wolverine Brass Faucets the 100 year warranty speaks for itself! The cartridges are made to be much more durable for any water quality, and if your water quality does cause any problems, Wolverine will stand behind their product and replace what is necessary to make your faucet not only look its best but work its best! These are just some of the reasons why we recommend Wolverine Brass faucets and shower valves to all of our customers!

Septic Systems – Why is my septic tank full after just being pumped?

Many people that have septic systems are unaware of how they actually work. Knowing how they work is beneficial to knowing the proper times and ways to maintenance your system. Maintaining your septic system and leach field is very important to the lifespan of your leach field and could save you Thousands of dollars. Even as much as a dripping faucet could affect your leach field and cause harm to how the water is being distributed.

Septic systems are underground wastewater treatment structures, commonly used in rural areas without centralized sewer systems. They use a combination of nature and proven technology to treat wastewater from household plumbing produced by bathrooms, kitchen drains, and laundry.

Most common septic systems consist of a septic tank and drain field, or soil absorption field (leach field).

septic-system-diagram

The septic tank digests organic matter and separates floatable matter (e.g.,oils and grease) and solids from the wastewater. Soil based systems discharge the liquid (known as effluent) from the septic tank into a series of perforated pipes buried in a leach field, leaching chambers , or other special units designed to slowly release the effluent into the soil or surface water.

Alternative systems use pumps or gravity to help septic tank effluent trickle through sand, organic matter (peat and sawdust), constructed wetlands, or other media to remove or neutralize pollutants like disease causing pathogens, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other contaminants. Some alternative systems are designed to evaporate wastewater or disinfect it before it is discharged to the soil or surface waters.

Septic

  1. All water runs out of your house from one main drainage pipe into the septic tank.
  2. The septic tank is a buried water tight container usually made of concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Its Job is to hold the wastewater long enough to allow the solids to settle down to the bottom forming sludge, while the oil and grease floats to the top as scum. Compartments and a T-shaped outlet (Baffle) prevent the sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling into the drain field area.
  3. The liquid wastewater (effluent) then exits the tank into the drain field (leach field).
  4. The drain field is a shallow, covered, excavation made in unsaturated soil. Pre-treated wastewater is discharged through piping onto porous surfaces that allow wastewater to filter through the soil. The soil accepts, treats, and disperses the wastewater as it percolates through the soil ultimately discharging into groundwater. If the leach field is overloaded with too much liquid, it will flood, causing sewage to flow to the ground surfaces or create backups in toilets and sinks.
  5. Finally, the wastewater percolates into the soil, naturally removing harmful coliform bacteria, viruses and nutrients. Coliform bacteria is a group of bacteria predominantly inhabiting in the intestines of humans or other warm-blooded animals. It is an indicator of human fecal contamination.

septic-tank-diagram

Importance of Exposed Lids

It is very important to have your septic lids exposed. If you have a drain issue and a tech is there to fix your problem they may need to see exactly where your tank is and examine it to see if it needs to be pumped. This is also crucial in having your tank pumped, if your tank is needing pumped and your lids are not exposed, the pumping company will commonly tell you to call a plumber to have them locate the lids and bring them to the surface.

It is often required that your lids be exposed depending on the county you live in. There are different regulations for Accessibility for Inspection, Maintenance, and Servicing.

  • Septic tank lids shall have risers over each access manhole and all risers shall extend to or above final grade.
  • Septic tank access risers over effluent screens, pumps, siphons or other components needing maintenance other than cleaning shall extend to or above final grade.
  • Each treatment component of an OWTS (onsite water treatment system) shall be equipped with access manholes with risers that extend to or above final grade, located to permit periodic physical inspection, collection and testing of samples and maintenance of all components and compartments.
  • Riser Lids: Each riser, septic tank, or treatment component lid brought to the surface shall have a secure closing mechanism, such as a lock, special headed bolts or screws, or sufficient weight to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Components that require access for maintenance shall include but not be limited to: Submerged bearings, moving parts, pumps, siphons, valves, tubes, intakes, slots, distribution boxes, drop boxes, clean outs, effluent screens, filters, inlet and outlet baffles, aerators, treatment equipment and other devices.
  • Components shall be designed and constructed so that ,when installed, they shall be easily maintained, sampled, and serviced according to the manufacture’s recommendations. Easy physical access to treatment components by maintenance personnel and equipment shall be provided.

Without your lids exposed, you could be at risk of more cost when you need your tank pumped or have a backed up drain.

Septic Treatment Enzymes & Bacteria

The chemistry in your septic tank is very important. Therefore you want to make sure are conscious about what you put down your drains.

Toxic and hazardous chemicals should never be poured down the drains or flushed down the toilet. Chemicals such as paint, varnishes, pesticides, solvents, and caustic drain openers can kill off the enzymes and bacteria within the system and also could contaminate the ground water.

Non-biodegradable materials such as cat box litter, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, cigarette butts, and coffee grounds are not attacked by enzymes and bacteria. Therefore these inorganic materials will decrease the capacity of the tank and must be removed.

Every effort must be made to avoid letting large amounts of grease or oils into the tank. Grease is one of the hardest organic materials to be broken down by naturally occurring septic tank bacteria. Grease and oils will combine with soap and laundry detergents to form a scum that is very hard to break down and liquefy. If possible don’t use garbage disposals because they add extra solids to the tank. These large solids combined with other solid wastes such as cigarette butts, paper towels, etc. should be disposed of in the garbage.

Limit, as much as possible, any personal care products that kill enzymes or bacteria. Mouthwash is a good example of this. You have probably heard the commercial stating mouthwash kills germs that cause bad breath. Well, if it kills bad germs (bacteria) that causes bad breath, then it will also kill the good enzymes and bacteria that make your septic tank work. Baking soda mixed with water works good as mouthwash. Baking soda does not kill enzymes or bacteria.

The same is true of household products such as chlorine bleaches. Chlorine is one of the best killers of enzymes and bacteria. These types of products should be avoided and alternative products should be used.

Additives: The additive that we most commonly like to use is The Beast BioDrain this does not affect the chemistry of your tank. The Beast dissolves organic build up, digest fats, oils, greases, organic food waste and deodorizes as it opens slow drains.

Why Leach Fields Get Saturated

There may be a day where your leach field becomes saturated. You will be able to tell because the area where your leach field is will become a swampy marsh of septic water. This is because the leach field which exists under the lawn has become so saturated that the septic water has risen to the surface. This problem can occur for a wide variety of reasons, the most common of, which is the fact that the septic tank is over filled and too much liquid is being sent to the field at one time. There are a lot of reasons why a tank can be overfilled with liquid and subsequently lead to a saturated leach field, and finding the cause of the over fill is the first step toward fixing the over saturation problem.

One common cause of a saturated leach field, is that the area has experienced a severe amount of rainfall or snow melt in a short period of time. If this is the case, the simple solution to the problem is to simply reduce the amount of water that is being sent down the system for a couple of weeks and let the ground dry out on its own. It is imperative that after this condition you take the time to introduce bacteria to the system and compliment the treatment with some sort of aeration if possible. This will help restore the natural balance of enzymes and bacteria in the soil which help to clean the waste water that is ejected to the field.

Another common cause of leach field saturation is the tank itself being over filled with water. This can occur due to a crack in the lid of the tank or the seal of the lid. This can allow rain water, water from the irrigation systems, and other liquid into the tank which can in combination with normal water use lead to the tank being overfilled. The simple solution is to have the tank pumped out and re balanced. This can be done in some cases in little as an afternoon. They can also re balance the leach field once it is dried out which will normally take a couple weeks. Just make sure again to reduce the amount of water that is being sent through the system regularly until the leach field is dried out.

If your tank is getting overfilled constantly one of the first things to look at is the tank lids and seals. If they are all sealed properly then the next thing to look at is your fixtures in your house. Do you have any dripping faucets or showers? Do you have old toilets that use a lot of water? Fixing these issues could be the solution to your tank filling too quick. This is very important to address when on a septic system because all the extra water usage could eventually saturate your leach field.

Having a properly working distribution box is key to the integrity of your leach field. Distribution boxes often go unnoticed and unchecked when dealing with a septic or leach field problem.

Lastly, years and years of sludge buildup within the leach lines themselves can contribute to slow drainage and back ups. Again, bacteria is the key here since once the system is at this stage, only replacement or remediation remains as a viable method to restoration. These are a couple things that can be done to help with the situation of having an overfull tank and saturated leach field. This is a serious problem, but not one that is impossible to deal with.

Distribution Boxes

The septic distribution box is a crucial part of the conventional drain field system. It distributes the effluent (wastewater) evenly to the drain field (leach field). They are most commonly gravity fed from the septic tank to the distribution box and then from the distribution box to the leach field.

As effluent flows out of the tank, it travels a short distance into the septic distribution box. The box, which comes in many shapes sizes, handles effluent by sending the wastewater into various drain field lines or trenches.

A distribution box is concrete or plastic structure that has a number of openings. Septic pipes fit into the openings, usually they are fit in with a gasket for the seal. The distribution box has a cover because it will be buried under ground. For this reason concrete boxes tend to work better than other kinds, because the construction is sturdier. Also a concrete distribution box is easier to find (a probe rod can locate it) and inspect.

The distribution box openings can be fitted with flow leveling devices that rotate so that some openings are higher or lower than others. This is to ensure all of the drain field lines are receiving the same amount of effluent waste so one side of the field will not become over saturated.

distribution-box

It is very important for the distribution box to work properly. An improperly working septic distribution box is a main reason for drain field failure. The equal distribution of the wastewater will maximize the life of the drain field and the entire septic system overall.

An alternate distribution method uses pipes instead of a box to send wastewater into the drain field. In using this method, watertight pipes lead to the trenches in the drain field.

There are two types of septic distribution systems, the parallel system, in which the septic distribution box sends wastewater to all the trenches at the same time, and the serial system.

The serial system sends wastewater to the first trench, then the second, and so on. This type of system has an immediate disadvantage in that it often overworks the first trench. Generally speaking, the effluent runs into the first trench until it fills up. Then it flows into the next trench, so that first drain field line tends to be full all the time. Each drain field line functions separately from the other, and theoretically, if one line works less well than another, it will receive less effluent. On the other hand, a trench that drains well will receive a great deal of effluent. The efficiency of a drain field trench depends on the soil around it, how much sunlight it receives and other natural factors.If a serial system fails, another trench can be added at the end if a landowner has room to enlarge the drain field.

Time is the main culprit in a failing distribution box. The boxes are level when installed, but weather, including flooding and freezing temperatures, can make the boxes tilt to one side. Because the box is no longer even the effluent no longer flows properly into the trenches.

The distribution box is a very important component of a septic system. Without even distribution of effluent, the drain field will be used unevenly. As trenches in the drain field become overloaded, portions of the drain field will fail. The result of a poorly functioning septic distribution box is untreated wastewater appearing on the surface of the soil of the drain field. So pay close attention to that area and make sure nothing looks abnormal!