Ask a Plumbing Expert

Throughout our years of service in Vancouver, Richmond and Delta, we’ve found that many people have the same questions for their plumbing expert. Here are some answers to these frequently asked questions.

If you’re planning a vacation, use these maintenance tips to save energy while you’re away.

 

(Q) I am tired of running out of propane and lugging heavy BBQ tanks to be refilled. How hard is it to add a natural gas connection point to my patio?

(A) A lot easier and cheaper than you might think. PJB Mechanical Plumbing Heating can provide a free estimate to install a natural gas connection point for you. We offer custom conversion packages, including converting your existing propane BBQ to natural gas. All of our installations come complete with a permit from the local municipality and an inspection from a city inspector. If you already have a natural gas connection point on the outside of your house or on your patio, our gas fitters can simply convert your existing BBQ’s burners to adapt to natural gas. You can even drop your BBQ off at our shop and we can convert it for you. All of our conversions come standard with a 10 flexible connector to allow you the freedom of locating your BBQ in a number of spots on your patio.

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(Q) How do tankless water heaters work, and how long do they last?

(A) Tankless water heaters work on demand – they only heat water when necessary. When a hot water fixture is opened or hot water is required by an appliance, the water heater will sense the demand and heat water accordingly. Tankless water heaters continuously heat the water through a heat exchanger. Instead of wasting energy and money re-heating and storing water when it is not needed, tankless water heaters provide only as much hot water as needed. Tank type water heaters store and heat water at all times, thus incurring higher operating costs, whereas tankless water heaters only heat water as needed. In addition, tank type water heaters have a limited supply of hot water and will run out of hot water while tankless water heaters provide an unlimited supply of hot water – you will never run out. Also, the size of a residential tankless water heater is about the size of a carry on suitcase and can be installed virtually anywhere inside or outside. This will allow you to reclaim valuable space in your home. The Energy Commission estimates that a tank type water heater uses approximately 25% of all energy consumed by any household. Using a tankless water heater will allow a home to use up to 50% less energy for water heating, which can save hundreds of dollars per year. Tankless water heaters can last 20 or more years, which is 2-3 times longer than a traditional tank type heater. They are extremely reliable as units are manufactured with the highest quality parts and put through very rigorous testing and quality control.

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(Q) Should I service my furnace or boiler every year? If so, when is the best time?

(A) I usually recommend to our customers that they have their heating equipment looked at every year. In fact, with our sophisticated software we can tell you the last time we serviced your equipment, what we did to it, and remind you when it is time to service it again. Both boilers and furnaces have a lot of working and moving parts. Just like your car, they need to be lubed and oiled and visually checked once a year. By having our technician service your equipment, you reduce the emergency call for no heat when the cold snap hits and you need heat right away. Why not turn your heat on with the confidence of knowing that a PJB Mechanical Plumbing Heating service professional has already looked at your equipment? You’ll have peace of mind in knowing you won’t freeze. The best time of year to service your heating equipment is usually the end of August or the beginning of September, just before we hit fall. We are currently offering a summer service special for both hot water boilers and forced air furnaces. Please don’t hesitate to call and ask for an appointment today as bookings are starting to fill up. Don’t get caught out in the cold. Call today!

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(Q) What should I do to prepare my house for the fall and winter seasons?

(A) As we move into fall and the rainy season, the first thing you should do is inspect your gutters and storm drainage system; clean them out if required. If you have any catch basins or storm water sumps you will want to check the solids levels and shovel them out if needed. Storm lines can easily be tested by putting a garden hose into each down pipe and running the water. If they convey water, chances are, they are working fine. If the water starts to back up you may have a problem. I would also recommend checking these again after all the leaves fall from the trees. Moving towards the end of October, you will want to make sure all outside taps (hose bibs) are turned off for the winter. To do this, you must locate the isolation valve for each outside tap. Upon shutting the valve off (to isolate the outside tap) you must open the outside tap to let the water drain out. You may have to open a small bleeder nut on the side of the isolation valve to allow the water to drain out of the outside tap. If you have a hose attached to the outside tap, it is critical that you disconnect the hose and remove. Hoses can prevent the water from draining out after the isolation valve has been turned off. If you cannot find a shut off valve to turn off the outside tap, you can put some insulation around the outside tap to protect it from freezing and cover it with a plastic bag to protect it from the rain.

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(Q) What should I do to winterize my external plumbing systems?

(A) Winterizing your external plumbing system is the most important job if you live in areas that freeze in the winter. The simple fact that water expands when frozen has caused countless problems for homeowners when temperatures dip below zero. Ignore this job and you could be faced with flooding, water damage and thousands of dollars worth of plumbing bills. Unfortunately, many homeowners wait until snow hits the ground before they take these steps to protect their home:

  1. Drain exterior water pipes and any pipes that run through unheated areas (such as a garage, crawlspace or unheated porch). If draining these pipes isn’t possible, wrap them with foam insulation or heat tape.
  2. Disconnect and drain garden hoses. Store them in a heated area for the winter.
  3. Drain underground sprinkler systems.

If you are not sure how to do these things or cannot find valves to shut off the external water, give us a call today and we would be more than happy to show you how.

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(Q) I have plans to renovate or build my house. How do I choose a natural gas contractor?

(A) Whether they’re purely practical or driven by your dreams, natural gas can play a big part in your new home. When it comes time to connect your new natural gas furnace, water heater or appliances to your residential gas line, you’ll require the services of a registered natural gas contractor. They’ll not only make sure your new equipment is installed safely and to code, but can also help you select the equipment that’s right for your family’s needs.

Look for contractors who:

  • Are registered with the BC Safety Authority and employ licensed gas fitters
  • Are bonded and insured for liability and property damage
  • Offer warranties that cover equipment, materials and labour
  • Offer maintenance and service after installation and after warranties have expired
  • Provide customer references
  • Are members in good standing of the Better Business Bureau

When the contractor or gas fitter returns to install your residential gas line or natural gas appliance, ask to see the permit, which legally enables the work. With that document in hand, you’re ready to begin the work.

PJB Mechanical Plumbing Heating complies with all of the above criteria. We employ ticketed gas fitters. Don’t get caught with the wrong guys working on your gas equipment. You may not get a second chance!

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(Q) I have heard some talk about the Provincial Government requiring the installation of low consumption toilets. How does this affect me?

UPDATE: The Province of British Columbia is taking another step toward increased water efficiency through new high-efficiency toilet (HET) and high-efficiency urinal (HEU) requirements in the BC Building Code. Effective October 3, 2011, HETs or dual-flush toilets will be required in new residential buildings or when renovations involving plumbing fixtures occur. Whenever urinals are installed, HEUs will be required. We’ve got all the details here.

The City of Richmond is providing a Toilet Rebate Program to homeowners who install a low-flush toilet. We’ve got all the details on the rebate program here.

(A) The provincial Water Conservation Plumbing Regulation has been amended to require the installation of low consumption (6 litre) toilets in specific local government jurisdictions:

Effective January 1, 2005, all new toilets installed throughout the Lower Mainland must have a flush cycle no greater than 6 litres. The provincial government amended the Water Conservation Plumbing Regulation to require low consumption toilets in response to a direct request from specific communities. On a broader scale, increasing demand for water, combined with supply shortages, have highlighted the need to use existing water supplies more efficiently. The use of low consumption toilets is expected to produce significant water savings, which can:

  • Decrease water utility operating and capital costs
  • Reduce ecological impacts
  • Increase availability of water for other uses

What is meant by “new installations” you ask? Any toilet that is being installed for the first time is a new installation. This could be a toilet installed in a building that is under construction. It could also be a new toilet that is replacing an old toilet. If you have any questions on this topic or any other plumbing, heating and gas fitting problems, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

 

If you’ve got a question for a plumbing expert that hasn’t been answered here, please feel free to contact us.

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