We recently heard a local radio station running an ad for water softeners in the Greater Cincinnati Area. Having long been under the impression that Cincinnati water is among the finest in the country, we did a little checking. If our household runs on city water, why do we need anything more than a charcoal filter on the faucet?

Just What is Hard Water?
The experts at http://www.hometips.com state “Hard water is simply water that is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium carbonate, and manganese. If you find that soap and shampoo don’t lather well, dishes are spotted, the bathtub has a ring, laundry is dingy, and the coffee maker has scale deposits, your home probably has a hard water problem.” Water calcium and magnesium salts are the minerals in water that are responsible for its hardness.

Water hardness is measured on a scale of 1-10 “grains per gallon”, as indicated on the scale below:

water-hardness-calculatorHow hard is Cincinnati’s municipal water?
According to http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov, it’s surprisingly on the hard side of the water hardness scale. While hardness can create a more tasty drinking water, it can wreak havoc on your pipes, bathing/hair washing, laundry, hot water heater, and coffee maker.

In the Greater Cincinnati area, the GCWW Miller Plant (near California, OH) water has an average hardness 8 grains per gallon. Bolton Plant water (near Fairfield) has an average hardness of 147 milligrams per liter or 9 grains per gallon. Although hardness does not affect water safety, it makes it harder to get a good batch of suds going in the shower, kitchen sink and laundry. And the water heater takes a beating, too – hard water “scale” accumulates and increases the likelihood of premature failure.

According to a study commissioned by the Water Quality Research Council at New Mexico State University, water heaters operate 22 percent to 30 percent less efficiently when plagued with hard-water scale.

Types of Water Softeners
Salt-Based Ion Exchange Softeners (most common, requires about 9 square feet of floor space for the 2 tanks/piping and a regular supply of bagged salt). Salt-based softeners work through ion exchange, replacing hard minerals for sodium. For a complete explanation of how a conventional water softener works, please see: How a Water Softener Works.

Salt-Free Water Softener – (less common, small footprint, less effective). For those concerned about sodium intake, a salt-free option is available. This approach doesn’t reduce the hard minerals, but prevents them from being left behind in appliances and pipes. For more information, please see the article: Salt-Free Water Softeners.

Dual-Tank Water Softener – (less common, designed for heavy water demand). Typically, water softeners work by ‘regenerating’ during the wee hours of the morning, when water demand is at it’s lowest level. For homes or businesses that require soft water 24/7, the dual-tank option ensure that soft water is always available.

Size Matters
If you are considering installing a water heater, selecting the right size is important. As with water heaters, it’s good to know the demands of your household. With a softener, sizing depends on how frequently you wish to have the softener ‘regenerate’. They can regenerate as frequently as nightly or as infrequently as every 2-3 days. A good formula is to multiply the number of people in your home x 75 (gallons of water per person/per day), which equal the total amount of water used daily. Next, multiply the hardness grains per gallon x the total gallons per day of water usage. The resulting number will help you identify the softener capacity needed.

Water You Waiting For? If you are thinking of purchasing and installing a water softener, call Ray and discuss your needs. Our trained professionals are able to install, set up, and train you on water softener basics. Call today. 513-396-5300.

Thomas Crapper (1836-1910), the London plumber frequently credited with inventing the flush toilet*, knew a good thing when he saw it. Crapper became an apprentice plumber at age 14, and launched his own plumbing business at the age of 25. A big believer in the advantages of sanitary sewage approaches, Crapper received several patents for forward-thinking plumbing innovations (including improvements to the flush toilet).

Fast forward about 100 years to today. Toilets are among the most important and most under-discussed necessities of our lives. In today’s blog, we’re highlighting toilet innovations designed to make bathroom habits more pleasant, sanitary, and efficient. Also, we’ll tackle that age old topic: toilet seat etiquette.

Basic Toileting Options
In most applications (residential and commercial), there are two approaches:

Residential (and many small businesses): Gravity Tank Toilets – This is the standard one- or two-piece toilet in everyone’s home. A tank toilet stores water in the tank (about 1.28 – 1.6 gallons); the tank water uses gravity to flush toilet deposits down the drain.

Commercial: Flush Valve Operated Toilets – Commonly found in public and commercial restrooms, this type of toilet has no tank and is flushed either by a handle or wall button (or a motion detector). Flush valve toilets are directly connected to a building’s water supply. In newer commercial construction, flush valve toilets offer “green” options: a light flush for non-solid waste or a heavy flush for the solids (“…if it’s brown, flush it down”).

Bidets: No toilet list is complete without mentioning this traditionally European option. Bidet’s use a warm water spray to gently cleans the perineal area in lieu of toilet paper. Bidets are increasingly popular in American homes.

Toilets with Style and Grace
It’s the home improvement time of the year and the creative minds at HGTV have compiled a very educational video clip (2:24) showcasing hot trends in toilet options. We’re especially fond of the Pee-Wee model for little ones, the dual-flush model for efficiency, and the “hygienic handle” lid attachment. View the video: http://videos.hgtv.com/video/toilet-trends-62439 (2:24)

Toilet Seat Etiquette
As we head into the holiday season, a common understanding of “up or down…who’s responsible?” paves the way for peace and goodwill towards all. With delicate topics such as “The Great Toilet Seat Debate”, we defer to the expert: Ann Landers. After much discussion, the prevailing (and least sexist) approach is that everyone should put the lid down. Few enjoy seeing the gaping toilet hole and a closed lid prevents accidentally dropping important items into the water (smart phones, pets, toothbrushes, sleepy spouses and small children).

Water You Waiting For? At Allied Reddi-Rooter, our team of professionals loves nothing more than helping select and install a new toilet or bidet. It’s one of our favorite home improvements/quick fixes. Call Ray today for a free quote. (513) 396-5300.
*According to UrbanLegends.about.com, Sir John Harrington invented and installed a working prototype flush toilet in the palace of his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. In 1775, Alexander Cummings received a patent for a “flushing water closet”, 60 years before Thomas Crapper was born.”

It’s not if, it’s when. Be prepared. 
For some reason, power outages in our urban Cincinnati neighborhood are common. Seemingly, our household power relies on a transformer that is frequently knocked out by traffic accidents. Outages typically last from a few minutes to hours, but have been known to last for days (THANKS, Hurricane Ike). With winter on the horizon, a good ice storm can put my neighborhood in the dark for hours.

When outages happen, it’s important to have a plan on how to handle them. According to Creek Stewart, Eagle Scout and thoughtful host of The Weather Channel’s “Fat Guys in the Woods”, humans can live 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

In plumbing, we think about water constantly. Clean, readily available drinking water is essential to our well-being. Below are a few tips on how your household plumbing can help get you through an emergency scenario.

• Always on Hand. Hot water tanks hold 40-50 gallons of potable water. It’s might be hot, but it’s definitely drinkable in an emergency.
• Have 1-2 clean pails (with handles) on hand so water drained from the hot water heater tank can be safely transported/handled.
• If your water heater has sediment in the bottom, keep a strainer or cheese cloth on hand and use it to filter the sediment away from the water.
• Drain water from the water heater tank with care – it’s HOT and can burn you.

Flush with discretion – “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Most city-dwellers will have plenty of water to ensure toilet flushability in an emergency (THANKS, Cincinnati Water Works). Rural residents who obtain their water from a well, however, understand the need to conserve. Well-based water requires an electrically powered pump; if the power is out, so is the pump. If the mellow yellow adage gives your kids and/or spouse the willies (THANKS, sanitized modern American society), candidly talk about it and practice it for a few hours. It’s no one’s favorite approach, but it may be one of necessity and everyone has to be able to work with it.

Cooking Needs – Whether it’s for cooking or clean up, water is a mealtime necessity. It’s good to keep some on hand – it stores for a long period of time. In our home, we buy store-brand small bottles by the 24-pack and keep them in the pantry. It’s the best $2.89 investment we make each week. Note: Never store water in a previously used milk jug. The milk odor/flavor will transfer to the water. Yuck.

Bathtubs Store LOTS of Water – There’s a useful under $25 gadget on the market known as a “waterBob” – it’s a plastic reservoir that fits neatly inside of a bathtub and cleanly stores up to 100 gallons of water.

Furnace Not Working? Hot water bottles make good bed warmers. During outages, we have water and natural gas with which to run the stove (THANKS, Duke Energy), but our furnace requires electricity. If the power is out, our furnace is out. In winter weather, our 1920’s era home gets cold quickly. A good quick fix is to fill the kids’ water bottles with hot water (make sure they are tightly sealed) and toss them between the sheets to warm things up a bit.

Water You Waiting For? At Allied Reddi-Rooter, we firmly believe in the importance of “always on”, clean, fresh water. If you would like to count on your water heater as an emergency clean water source, our trained professionals can assist with a water header flush, anode rod replacement, or new water heater installation. Call Ray today for a free quote. (513) 396-5300.