Your New Bathroom Is All About Digital

Bathroom’s Future Is Electronic

Toto neorest 750h

There’s An App For That

Last week’s internet outages really drove home the point that our lives now revolve around the web and connected digital devices. The server attacks that temporarily disrupted PayPal, Twitter, Amazon, and dozens of other high-profile sites were caused by a variety of what we now consider household items: web cams, apps that control garage door openers, t.v. remotes, WiFi routers, and more.

When we talk about high-tech bathrooms, we’re likely referring to digitally controlled (though not always through the internet) devices that control temperature, entertainment, lighting, and even toilet adjustments. Even old concepts like problematic steam baths are increasingly affordable, dependable, and highly enjoyable.

Self-cleaning toilets are already available, usually paired with self-closing seats and lids, night lights, and a seat warming fan. These aren’t cheap by any means. Expect to pay at least $4,000 and up, depending on manufacturer, make, and model. (Toto’s top-of-the-line NeoRest 750H retails for around $10,000.)

Making The Most Out Of Bath Time

Our baths, showers, and toilets are now available with a wide-ranging variety of options and accessories, all designed to render our time in the bath more relaxing and enjoyable. Enjoy singing in the shower? Kohler has a showerhead that will play your favorite tunes, even if the rest of the house is begging you to stop. And Toto, along with other top-of-the-line brands, has long offered an electronic toilet that users say has to be experienced to be believed.

For pure technical infrastructure, kitchens will continue to maintain a lead over bathrooms, simply because refrigerators, ovens, and stoves offer more and more opportunities for digital adaptation. But bath time, given the combination of today’s amazing range of design materials and finishes, combined with innovative entertainment and function options, is set to become a spa experience that transcends basic functionality.

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Community Support

McCallum Knights Band Boosters

Great Program, Great Cause!

We support a number of local causes, including our McCallum High School neighbors. Keeping it real in Austin, where we live and work!

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Childhood Development Depends On Clean Water

IKEA, Water.org Delivering Clean Water

This short video helps explain the crucial role clean, sanitary water plays in early childhood development, and the important ways small and micro loans are used to create safe water sources.

Healthy hygiene and proper sanitation depends on ready access to safe water, and government can’t always be counted on to deliver this basic commodity. Water.org has developed a number of programs to create awareness, deliver technology, and fund basic improvements around the globe.

If you take a few minutes to watch this video, you’ll better understand how critical the need is for communities around the globe to create safe sources for this basic resource.

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Plumbing Repairs Range From Simple to Complex

wilson-plumbing-faucetWhat’s The Worst That Could Happen?

To listen to the Big Box stores tell it, the answer to your plumbing problem starts with a trip down one of their tool or parts aisles and a few minutes spent discussing your situation with an “associate” will set things right. Chances are, you just need to tighten a fitting to fix that pesky leak.

How about a water heater that’s finally given up the ghost? Water plus electricity usually doesn’t end well if the necessary precautions aren’t taken. And working with gas can have severe consequences that far outweigh the potential savings if even the smallest detail is overlooked. Even finding the right faucet aerator can prove challenging.

Plumbing Fittings Date Back to 1864

There’s more. The range of unique thread counts, beginning with the NPT description that has nothing in common with the usual SAE or ANSI nuts and bolts used around the house, is confusing at best. Guess wrong, and you’ll crossthread a fitting before you know it. And if that fitting’s on the wrong end of the solution, you’ve just swapped a small headache for a big one.

The reality is that from garbage disposers to shower heads to water softeners to toilets, your home’s plumbing is a complicated and complex system of interconnected parts that rely on one another for peak performance. Making sure all those components are operating efficiently often goes well beyond the free advice you get from a part-time employee.

Licensed And Qualified Technicians

As with any mechanical device, plumbing repair and installation requires tools, knowledge, and quite often strength to make sure the job is done properly. Add in the fact that a lot of the time you’ll probably be working on your back in very cramped quarters and it’s easy to understand why those plumbing repairs that look so easy on the Saturday DIY reality shows are often anything but when you get started.

In addition, there’s a growing number of so-called “smart” devices that are finding their way into our everyday lives that, if not installed correctly, won’t fulfill their goal of making life easier.

At Wilson Plumbing, every one of our field techs is tested and licensed by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners. This means you have the assurance that both classroom hours and extensive apprenticeship are behind our master and jouneyman plumbing installers and repairmen. The next time you’re facing a drip-drip-drip and aren’t sure if you’re up to the task, just give us a call. You’ll find us on Angie’s List, Yelp, and the Austin Better Business Bureau, and we’d be happy to add you to our list of well satisfied customers.

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Angie’s List Award Winner 7 Years In A Row!

Super Service Winner For 7th Straight Year!

Angie's List 2016 Super Service AwardAngie’s List has again chosen Wilson Plumbing Austin to receive their 2016 Super Service Award, an honor that recognizes the hard work and professionalism of our dedicated staff and technicians.

Thanks to our wonderful customers for your trust over the years and for making us a Super Service Award winner since 2010.

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Upgrade To Quarter-Turn Valves

Quarter-Turn Ball Valves Best

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Installing a quarter-turn valve on appliances simplifies service, eliminate problems.

Dependable, Reliable, Long Lasting

Quarter-turn faucets are quickly becoming the default control valve used throughout the home, and for good reason. Performance, ease of use, and longevity make quarter-turn valves much more reliable than old style gate and gasket valves that are especially susceptible to failure when used infrequently.

From bathroom fixtures to shut-off valves to outdoor hose bibs to lawn irrigation, the quarter-turn design lends itself to reliable, maintenance free operation, particularly in situations that don’t see that much use over time, like a toilet shut-off that’s always been subject to corrosion and handle breakage.

Simple And Efficient

No gaskets means nothing to rot or wear down. No bushings means nothing to corrode, jam, or otherwise fail just when you need your valve to work. And instead of cranking endlessly to shut off the water supply – particularly awkward in undersink situations – just a quick flip of the lever guarantees no surprises when you break the connection downstream.

Replacing your old style valves with a new, convenient quarter-turn at the time of service could save you headaches down the road. In the case of the water heater shown above, a new valve had to be installed when the old gate valve failed after it was closed in one direction and couldn’t be reopened after the tank had been drained and flushed. The remaining gate valve controls the cold water supply to the refrigerator icemaker, and should be replaced as well.

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Austin Greywater Project Takes Off

Wilson Plumbing Greywater Project

Our First Greywater Installation Begins

Last month we got started on our first greywater project, one of Austin’s few whole house residential water conservation efforts to date. This is part one of our coverage on this environmental trendsetter.

While greywater recycling that simply diverts laundry room washing machine outflow from the indoor sewer drain to outdoor distribution has been in use for a long time, whole house efforts that collect and reuse everything but toilet, kitchen sink, and dishwasher output require a carefully engineered approach in order to effectively treat waste that contains concentrated amounts of nutrients, particularly phosphates and nitrogen.

Planning Needed To Avoid Problems Later

Simply collecting greywater without any further action simply turns an experiment into a nightmare, as the oxygen needed for aerobic breakdown is quickly used up while the resulting congealed mess turns into a greasy, smelly scum.

The best way to treat greywater is also the simplest: introduce it as soon as possible into a biologically active layer of topsoil, where naturally occurring microbial activity can begin the process of decomposing the unwanted contents.

Greywater stub out is obvious sign of recycling.

The rough-in’s finished. It’s critical that stub outs for hookup are clearly labeled as grey or blackwater – these definitely can’t be mixed!

Our project home will collect all the discharge except for toilet (blackwater) and kitchen/dishwasher waste in a 70-gallon underground tank. From there it’s automatically pumped through an above ground sand filter before being distributed through a drip irrigation system of low pressure emitters.

The end result is an overall reduction in downstream sewage treatment of up to 90%, as water that’s not considered hazardous is recycled rather than adding to the demand of Austin’s rapidly growing population on local plant facilities.

According to Wilson Plumbing General Manager Chris Siebenthaler, “We expect the average amount of reduction from the municipal waste water treatment stream to be between 85 and 90-percent of water use. At the same time, that recycled water will fulfill the owner’s irrigation needs, further reducing demand on our potable water resources.”

The Cost-Benefit Analysis

In addition to reusing greywater for irrigation, the homeowner is also installing a rainwater collection system in the form of seven, 900-gallon tanks, for a total of 6,300 gallons that would otherwise end up as runoff. Together, the two systems – greywater recycling and runoff capture – will significantly lessen the environmental impact of the home’s footprint in terms of water consumption, disposal, and treatment.

In the most basic terms, the home’s owner will significantly reduce both his use of municipal water use and his contribution to the wastewater stream by recycling a big percentage of what otherwise would flow down the sewer and storm drain, and by capturing rainwater runoff to be used in place of treated tap water for irrigation and pool filling.

As for the cost, plumbing during rough-in on new construction doesn’t add that much to the overall budget. The collection, filtration, and irrigation systems, all of which are added after construction’s finished, represent the biggest portion of the overall cost. The good news is that when completed, inspected, and approved, there’s a $5,000 rebate available as further incentive.

In states like California, which are under extreme pressure to reduce consumption because of dwindling resources and growing demand, some municipalities are now requiring that greywater – and even blackwater – recycling be included in new construction. We expect that at some time in the not too distant future Austin will also consider how current and developing technology can be utilized to further help conserve water resources.

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Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Taking Care of Your Water Heater

A Simple Flush Can Extend the Appliance’s Life

Getting the most out of our household appliances involves following a regular schedule of maintenance items that are usually not that difficult for the average homeowner to perform.

When it comes to water heaters, we recommend flushing the appliance periodically to make sure the electric elements or gas flame are heating water – not dirt, debris, or the mineral buildup that occurs in areas served by hard water.

How Often Should You Drain Your Water Heater?

If you have a water softener, flushing can be done less frequently. If your water is hard, you’ll want to flush more often to prevent damage from buildup that can ruin the liner and elements long before they wear out from normal wear and tear.

If you do have a water softener, one thing that can really affect water heater performance as well as water pressure throughout the house is the inevitable breakdown of the resin bed that treats the incoming water. If the resins have broken down, they’ll migrate to the hot water tank and settle to the bottom in a thick tea colored sludge.

If this is the case, you’ll probably have already noticed the water is harder than and the pressure is lower than it should be, and you’ll probably need professional help to correct the problem.

Drain Regularly For Performance And Reliability

Depending on how comfortable you are in maintaining your appliances, regularly flushing the water heater can add significantly to the appliance’s lifetime.

This YouTube video from Sears covers the basics of how to go about draining an electric water heater. Whether you have gas or electric, it’s very important that the heat source be cut before attempting service. Here’s a more detailed video at what’s required to successfully flush a gas water heater.

About Quarter-Turn Faucets

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Install a quarter-turn valve on appliances to simplify service, eliminate problems

Quarter-turn faucets are quickly becoming the default control valve used throughout the home, and for good reason. Performance, ease of use, and longevity make quarter-turn valves much more reliable than old style gate and gasket valves that are especially susceptible to failure when used infrequently.

Replacing your old style valves with a new, convenient quarter-turn at the time of service could save you headaches down the road. In this case, a new valve had to be installed when the old gate valve failed after it was closed and couldn’t be reopened.

Here’s a tip: after a thorough flushing, clean the filters in the lavatory and kitchen fixture spouts. Do this by simply unscrewing to remove, then using an old toothbrush to dislodge sediment and debris that may have built up over time or that may have been stirred up in the draining process.

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Greywater – Once Banned, Now Encouraged

water-down-the-drain

Maybe If They Called It Something Else

(First in an occasional series.) Greywater recycling in various forms has been around for decades, mostly involving catch buckets in showers and kitchen dishpans emptied onto sidedoor flowerbeds. Both activities make a statement, but really aren’t that effective in reducing demand.

Here in Austin we’re getting ready to plumb our first whole house greywater installation, which will connect shower, bath, bathroom sink, and laundry into one collection point for on-demand reuse.

In many parts of the world replenishment of the aquifers has not kept up with drawdown.

California, much in the headlines lately because of their continuing record drought, enormous wildfires, and severe water shortages, has taken a 180-degree turn from originally prohibiting greywater recycling. West Coast cities and towns like Encinitas have moved from simply encouraging the reuse of clothes washer byproduct, to requiring whole house hookups in new residential construction. Continue reading

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A Glass Half Full

After you read the caption you’ll understand how crucial safe and sanitary water is in our daily lives.

 

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