As a plumber I get asked a lot of plumbing questions in both my personal and professional life. I’m a bit of a plumbing nerd so I kind of like it. And nobody has every accused me of not talking enough. So I thought I would make a list of the 11 things in a plumbers home you should have.
Whenever I need to purchase something that I know little about I ask the salesman what they have in their home. This way I can be sure it’s a quality product. So that’s the reason for this post. These are the 11 things I have in my own home about which as a plumber I feel very strongly. I hope it’s helpful.
1) Water Pressure Reducing Valve
The water pressure reducing valve is probably the single most important plumbing item I install. As it’s name implies, it lowers the incoming city water pressure to a more manageable and less damaging level.
All this means is that all the pipes, fixtures and appliances that are attached to your water system are rated for a certain amount of water pressure. If the pressure is too high it could lead to early failure. Some of these things are:
- Washing machine
- Ice Maker
- Water heater
- Water softener
- Any water filtration system
- Water pipes
I install the highest rated brand and model that I can find. It’s just too important to go cheap on this item. I always prefer the Watts 25AUBZ3 water pressure reducing valve. It lasts longer. If you’re not sure if you have one in your home check by the whole house water shut off or as we call it the entrance valve. It’ll be just above the entrance valve. If you’re not sure if you need one, call your water company and ask them what the city water pressure is in your area. If it’s 80 psi or higher, you need one. And set it as low as you can tolerate. The lower the water pressure, the longer everything lasts. That means you won’t need to call a plumber as often.
2) Reverse Osmosis Water Filtration System (R.O.)
A R.O. system is a water filtration system that purifies your drinking water to it’s absolute purest level. It’s essentially bottled water without the bottle. With all that’s been on the news about Flint, Michigan I would think that this would be a no brainer. If your plumber installs one in his home, what does that say about the confidence he has in your local governments ability to deliver clean drinking water.
There are those that argue that it takes flouride out of the water. Well, I won’t fight that fight. I would just say that in all of human history there has never been chemicals in our drinking water until the industrial age. And while I’m not antigovernment, I don’t trust them enough to tell my daughter to drink up from the tap. Read your annual water report that’s mailed to you. It mentions how much of the awful things that are allowable and how much there is in your drinking water. I prefer none.
3) High Efficiency Hot Water Heater
A high efficiency hot water heater is high on the list because I like my comforts. I love a long shower without worrying about the washer running or my daughter showering at the same time. A good quality hot water heater will give you all the hot water you could ever hope for with a minimal rise in energy usage.
There are those that want to be green and save mother earth. I feel the same way. We recycle all plastics, cardboard and tin in my house. I even save old copper and brass and recycle them once every couple of years. But lets face it, a long luxurious shower is the main reason.
I have an A.O Smith Vertex tank style hot water heater. It’s 96% efficient. That means that only 4% of the heat generated is lost. The exhaust flu is plastic drain pipe. It’s awesome. But why don’t I have a tankless water heater? Because I’m lazy. I don’t want to circulate vinegar water through my hot water heater every 6 months. That’s what the big corporate entities don’t tell you. A tankless water heater heats water so quickly that sediment build up is accelerated. While they don’t have a conventional tank they do have copper coils that close with hard water deposits quickly. If you don’t do the maintenance routine they’ll clog up and that $3000 or more hot water heater you bought will have to be thrown away.
4} Water Softener
After 25 years of telling people water softeners are an unneccesary luxury I have one. I’m a total hypocrite. I’m also in love with my water softener. It helps so much with dry skin. Soft water saves a lot on soaps for cleaning. And the ladies love what it does for their hair. It’ll make their hair come alive with body. It does prevent scale build up in and on all your plumbing pipes, fixtures and appliances, as well.
As a plumbing professional, I don’t trust new plumbing products. I want everybody else to beta test on themselves and their plumbing customers. So I prefer the conventional salt pellet style water softener. I don’t think the ultra expensive water softening systems are worth the gamble that they actually do more than the conventional style. I could be wrong. But my water is soft. And I didn’t spend a fortune. You can pick one up at Sears or a box store. They’ll work great. Just get used to adding a $10 or so bag of salt every month or two.
5) High Efficiency Toilets
A toilet probably uses the most water of all your plumbing fixtures. A switch to the newer 1.6 gallon flush toilets will save you significantly. And mother earth won’t mind too much either. The stuff you’ve probably heard about them not working as well is true, unless you get a high efficiency toilet. High efficiency simply means it uses the water more efficiently. Not just that it uses less water. You can find a few of them that work great. They use that little amount of water very well.
I prefer either the Toto Drake or Gerber Maxwell, Gerber Viper or Gerber Avalanche toilets. There are other brands out there that are good, as well. I like these specificly because of their simplicity. Some models are switching to a flush tower style mechanism instead of the simiple flapper. I feel, right or wrong, that this is the manufacturers attempt to sell overpriced parts. The flapper system works fine. Why reinvent the mouse trap?
I prefer the taller toilet bowls. That couple of inches in extra hight really helps the old knees when getting up and down. And if there are boys in the house you have to have an elongated bowl rather than a simple round bowl. As I tell my plumbing customers, “8 to 80 all men dribble.” Not eloquent but true.
6) Moen or Delta Faucets
A faucet is another plumbing fixture that should remain simple. And the manufacturers should give you a great warranty on their products. Moen and Delta make a great faucet. They also back them up with a lifetime warranty. You just can’t get better than that. And as for price, I feel they’re your best value. They’re moderately priced, simply built and backed with a great warranty. And yes, you can find them in the pretty style you found on the internet.
For a kitchen faucet I prefer the single handle gooseneck pull down spout style. See the picture above. It’s really popular now and for good reason. As for bathroom sink faucets I prefer the 2 handle mini gooseneck style that swivels. I hate having my hands touch the sink when I wash them because the faucet spout is too close. And I like the option of moving the spout out of the way to wet my hair in the mornings. For shower valves I only install one model: the Moen Positemp single handle pressure balancing shower valve. It’s simple which means it’ll work well for a long time and it’s easy to repair. It’s compact which means it’s easy to install inside small wall spaces.
7) Stainless Steel Garbage Disposals
I don’t like garbage disposals. Let me say that again. I don’t like garbage disposals. If you have garbage put it in the garbage. If it’s slimy garbage either store it in the freezer until garbage pickup day or flush it down the toilet. You can also compost. But using a garbage disposal is like eating a donut every day. Yeah, they taste good. But you’ll clog an artery eventually and that leads to heart attacks. Well, that’s what a clogged kitchen sink is…a clogged pipe having a heart attack.
Ok. Ok. I have a wife too. We have one. But we have a stainless steel one. It’s not super quiet. It doesn’t slice and dice 5 different ways. It’s a simple Insinkerator Badger 15 stainless steel garbage disposal. The stainless steel is the grinder chamber. The usual badger 5 or less models have a galvanized steel grinder chamber that rusts and fails much sooner. The Badger 15 is the simplest model that just plain works. It’s a great value.
8) Zoeller Sump Pumps
I technically don’t have this one. But it’s worth mentioning. I won’t have a house that needs a sump pump system. I feel that if you have ground water in your foundation then the home builder failed. No house should have water in the foundation if it’s constructed correctly and the ground is sloped properly. But sometimes you can’t squeeze that extra home in a development and have all houses with proper grading.
If you have to have a sump pump I prefer the Zoeller sump pumps. They have the best mechanical switch on the market. That’s the part that usually fails. They have cast iron bodies that make it sturdy and keeps the motor cool. And even the lowly M53 1/3rd horsepower Zoeller sump pump will shoot a half inch rock through it’s impeller without jamming. They’re thermally protected so if they start to overheat they’ll shut down to protect themselves. And they have power. A 1/3 horsepower M53 is usually enough for us average homeowners. If you have a larger home or at the bottom of a hill you may need the M98 Zoeller 1/2 horsepower sump pump. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. They’re a good value.
9) Liberty Siphon Jet Water Powered Back Up Sump Pump
If you have a sump pump you should have a back up sump pump system. I don’t mean an alternative power source. That won’t help if a rock jams up your sump pump or just gets old and fails. You need a secondary pump with an alternative power source. I’ve installed the battery backup systems for years. They’re over priced and twitchy. They have a lot of design issues and are enormously expensive for the average home owner to maintain. That new battery every 3 to 5 years can cost a lot. The Siphone Jet water powered back up sump pump system runs on water. And it’s been around for about a decade. It works.
Like I said earlier, I don’t like new gadgets. I suffered through with the battery back up sump pumps for a long time before I’d even look at these. But they have been working pretty much flawlessly for a long time. If I had to have a back up sump pump system this is the one I’d have.
It works much like the lawn fertilizer sprayers that attach to the end of your garden house work. A “venturi” , see the link above, is created to draw the fluid out. The Siphon Jet back up sump pump system uses 1 gallon of water to draw 2 gallons of water out of your sump pit. Sounds like nonsense but it works. And it only uses water in an emergency which hopefully is never. The better the water pressure and water flow in your house the better it works. The only flaws I see in it is that it doesn’t pump as fast as the bulky battery back up systems. On average it’ll pump about 18 gallons per minute. The battery back ups will pump anywhere from 16 to 40 gallons per minute. And the other kink is you can’t shut your water off when leaving the house for a vacation. That shuts it off. And I wish everyone would shut their water off when leaving their home for more than a day. But I’ll leave that soap box in the closet for another sermon.
10) Burst Resistant Frostless Hydrants
A frostless hydrant is just your garden hose connecion on the side of your house. The burst resistant part comes into play because it’s a faucet outside. In cold winters you don’t want water to freeze so this faucet empties itself out so that the only water remaining is inside the conditioned space of your home. But none of that will work if you forget to take your garden hose of in the winter.
It can’t empy itself with those still attached. A burst resistant frostless hydrant means it shouldn’t break if you forget to remove your garden hose when winter comes. A little pressure valve is built inside this model to allow water to go backwards into the home plumbing system if it overpressurises like when water freezes.
I prefer the simple Woodford Model 19 burst resistant frostless hydrant. It’s a good value. It works. And why would you replace a frozen burst hydrant with one that can do it again? This is the only model I install. It makes me look good. And I need all the “look good” I can get.
11) Quarter Turn Water Shut Off Valves
For most plumbers this is a no brainer. The old water shut offs to our faucets, toilets, water heaters and even homes were the compression style. This means they were a screw with a peice of rubber on the tip. You turn the handle one way and the rubber pushed against a hole inside the valve that effectively stopped water flow. You turn it the other way it pulled away from the hole that allowed water to flow again.
The problem is the rubber would wear out or even worse crumble and clog your fixtures. Quarter turn water shut offs have a stainless steel or brass ball inside them with a hole drilled though it. You turn it one way and the hole lines up with the water pipe to which it’s connected and allows water to flow. You turn it 90 degrees and the hole no longer lines up with the holes in the water pipe which stops water flow.
It has teflon seals that are cleaned each time it’s turned on or off. It’s an elegant and simple design that makes sense. And again, these are all I install. If you’re a DIY kind of person and decide you want to install your own faucet or toilet always replace the water shut off if it’s the old compression style that you have to turn a full 360 degrees to shut off. If you don’t you’re very likely going to get a bunch of rubber bits stuck in that pretty new faucet or toilet fill valve.
Give Us A Call
I love my do it yourselfers. They’ll tell you that I’m always good for some free advise on the phone. I’ll even talk many customers out of hiring me because it’s such a simple repair and I hate to charge someone for something simple if I can instruct them over the phone how to do it themselves. But most things you really should call a plumbing professional. If you find yourself needing a new water heater, sump pump or garbage disposal give us a call. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. We’re honest. We’re reasonably priced. And we’re neighbors. So call Advocate Master Plumbing at 816-888-0599. I promise you won’t be disappointed.