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Posts Tagged: home protection

Is emergency planning just too scary?

Posted On: Filed Under: Doors, Windows, Plumbing, Insulation No Comments on Is emergency planning just too scary?

Is emergency planning just too scary?

Have you put off emergency planning because the thought of serious disaster is too scary? Our local authorities advise having 3 days of water, food, and supplies on hand and a list of other emergency items. And yet, only 30-40 percent of us do this, according to Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.

The most likely disaster scenarios in the Northwest are power outages and storm flooding. The non-profit group Take Winter By Storm. www.takewinterbystorm.org has a list of tips for creating your storm plan. Even just doing the basics of this plan is better than nothing – so don’t be overwhelmed that they have a lot on their many checklists.

In addition to water/food/first aid and a communications plan, they do recommend some preventive actions to get your house ready to weather the storms of winter. We think this is important not only for storm preparation but general maintenance of your house – and your personal comfort.

Here are the highlights from their list, and you can see the full list on their website under home maintenance checklist. These tips can help limit damage to your home, even without a big 100 year storm.

  • (We think this is the most important one on the list) Locate the electric, gas and water shut off valves in your house. Keep tools needed near gas and water shut offs and teach family members how to turn off utilities. If you turn the gas off, a utility representative must turn it back on.
  • Inspect insulation in your attic and crawl space. Seal areas around recessed lights, attic hatch, plumbing vents that may allow warm air to enter the attic.
  • Clean gutters and drains. Direct them away from the foundation and from walkways or driveways to prevent ice.
  • Check Doors and Windows for cold air coming in that may compromise your heating efficiency. Weather strip doors. Replace caulk and weather stripping that has lost contact with surfaces.
  • Check roof for loose or damaged shingles and make sure flashing is secure around vents and chimneys.
  • Plumbing pipes near outer walls or in attics and crawl spaces can be susceptible to freezing. (This is especially true for mobile homes where pipes are exposed under the house.) Insulate exposed pipes to protect them from bursting.
  • Cover outdoor faucets or replace with frost proof models. (Faucet covers are usually less than $5 and available at local hardware stores.)
  • Check your water heater, (or if in doubt get it inspected by a water heater company.) Most tank water heaters last 8-12 years. Wet spots on the floor or a rusted tank may be signs of a problem. Make sure your tank water heater is located near a floor drain.
  • Have professionals check your heating or cooling system. Consider having your air ducts cleaned and filters replaced.
  • Check siding, soffits, walls and flashing for damage or looseness and secure.
  • Check foundations for signs of settling, such as bulging or shifting. Have a professional inspect cracks more than 1/8 in wide. Check siding and foundation for openings where pests can enter and seal up.
  • Keep snow build up off of surfaces that could collapse.
  • Test your sump pump to make sure it works. If you are in an area that floods and has frequent power outages, consider installing battery operated backup sump pumps.
  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

You know that old “ounce of prevention makes a pound of cure” saying. We’re here to help. Washington Energy Services provides many of the preventive products and services mentioned by Take Winter By Storm’s checklist, and in case of trouble, call us 24/7 for Emergency service for plumbing, water heater and heating emergencies. Call us at 800-398-4663.

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Plumber’s corner: Orangeburg pipe risks

Posted On: Filed Under: Plumbing 13 Comments on Plumber’s corner: Orangeburg pipe risks

What Orangeburg Pipe is and why it matters

If you said YES, you have a high potential of having sewer line pipe made of a material called Orangeburg. Since these pipes are going end of life underground now, and since the sewer line is your homeowner’s responsibility, this has come up as a highly requested topic for our Newsletter.  Here is the important information you need to know about Orangeburg pipe.

Orangeburg pipe is bituminous fiber pipe made from asphalt impregnated layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together – essentially tar paper. Lightweight and brittle, this piping absorbs moisture and deforms under pressure It started out as a substitute to cast iron pipe, which was heavily taxed during WWII to support the war effort.  We have recently performed two sewer line replacements in one block in Tacoma because of problems with this piping material.

How long does Orangeburg Pipe last?

Orangeburg has a life expectancy of approximately 50 years. After 30 years, deformation may begin to occur. All homes with Orangeburg pipe are pre-1972 and 40 or more years old. That could put your house at risk.

What happens when the Orangeburg piping begins to deteriorate?

Once the product begins to break down homeowners can expect frequent clogged lines, tree root invasion and even total pipe collapse. Once the deterioration process begins, Orangeburg sewer pipes deform quickly, allowing tree roots to break in to them and literally shred them.

How do you tell if your Washington home has Orangeburg pipe?

If your house was built between 1940 and 1972, there’s a chance you have Orangeburg. The product was used as the standard piping as late as the 1970’s. Also, if you have frequent clogs in your main sewer line or you see indentations in the front yard that line up with where the sewer should be, it’s might be a sign of Orangeburg pipe deterioration. If your neighbors have Orangeburg, you probably do too.

You have Orangeburg Pipe in your home. What is the solution?

We recommend having a licensed plumber come out and perform a side sewer camera inspection.  This is a video camera review that does not require digging anything up. If it’s determined Orangeburg has been used and is showing signs of deterioration the solution would be to replace ALL of it at once with PVC.  The bottom line is this material will deteriorate after a certain amount of time do to pressure and moisture.  If you do not address the problem, eventually your sewer line will fail which could cost thousands in preventable repairs.

If you would like more information about Orangeburg pipe, please call us at 1-800-590-4969.  PlumbWorks is a division of Washington Energy Services.

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Fix your home without breaking your wallet

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit No Comments on Fix your home without breaking your wallet


Absolutely! You just need to determine the financing strategy that makes the most sense for your situation. Options include:

  • Cash
  • Credit Union or bank financing through your home improvement dealer
  • Mortgage refinance
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
  • Home Equity Fixed Rate Loan
  • Credit Card

Here are some things to consider about each payment method:

Cash. If you have it, this is a good way to go because you don’t pay interest on borrowed money. However, if you have to reduce your savings significantly, or if you’re dipping into your “emergency fund” for a non-emergency, you may want to reconsider. When interest rates on borrowed money are low, you’re better off saving your cash for real emergencies and borrowing money at a low rate. You don’t want to find yourself having to pay for an emergency with a high-interest credit card.

Financing from a financial institution, via your home improvement dealer. This is a good solution because those who qualify can get great rates and quick service, depending on the lender. Washington Energy Services often arranges financing through credit unions such as Salal Credit Union, so customers get great rates, terrific service and quick responses to applications. Plus, customers become members of the credit union and can take advantage of all their products and services.

Mortgage refinance. When rates on mortgage loans are low, it can be a perfect time to refinance. You can save hundreds, even thousands, in interest over the life of a loan, plus you can lower your monthly payment or shorten the term of your loan! The extra cash in your pocket is a great way to finance that new, energy-efficient siding or an environmentally friendly tankless water heater.

HELOC. A home equity line of credit allows you to borrow against the equity you already have in your home, and the loan may even be tax deductible, though you’ll need to consult your tax advisor on deductibility. With a HELOC, you can borrow up to a high percentage of your home’s equity, but you only pay interest on the money you borrow. This is a great alternative if you’re not yet sure how much money you’ll need for the projects you’ve planned.

Credit Card. Of all your options, your credit card is probably the most expensive, due to usually higher interest rates. If you can pay off the balance on your card within your grace period, you’ll escape the finance charges and possibly earn some rewards, depending on the card you use. However, if it will take several months or more to pay off the costs of your project, some of the other options will likely cost less in the long run.

Courtesy of Salal Credit Union, SalalCU.org

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“Tanks” for being safety minded

Posted On: Filed Under: Tank water heaters, Tankless water heaters No Comments on “Tanks” for being safety minded

Corrosion is the enemy:
Inside your water heater is a metal rod called an anode. Over time, an electrochemical reaction causes the rod to corrode while the steel tank remains intact. It’s meant to do that – the anode sacrifices itself so the tank survives. But, if the anode has no metal left, well then the electrochemical process attacks the water heater itself. It rusts out and you find a flood on the floor. A qualified water heater repair company or plumber can replace this anode and extend the life of your water heater.

Put explosions in check:
On most models there is a safety device known as the temperature-pressure relief (T&P) valve located at or near the top. If an excessive temperature or pressure were to build up, this valve opens, relieving the effects and preventing an explosion. Once a year, test it by pulling up on the handle. If water flows out of the pipe attached to it, it is functioning properly. If sediments prevent the valve from re-sealing, pull on the handle a few times to flush it away. If it still does not seal, call a plumber immediately and do not cap the discharge pipe.

Get rid of sedentary sediment:
Traditional tank water heaters naturally develop sediment as water is heated and calcium carbonate settles to the bottom of the tank. While this sediment is not harmful to you, it reduces the efficiency and storage capacity of the tank, and its lifespan. To combat this, you can easily drain and flush your water heater. If you don’t have your specific manufacturer’s instructions for tank draining, look online for them. And if you are not ready to try it yourself, call a professional water heater repair company or plumber.

Get the sticker:
A water heater safety procedure sticker is important to place on the tank. This way, family members know the emergency shutdown procedures and have an emergency service phone number.

Your tank water heater is expected to last 8 to 13 years. Taking the actions above can extend its life and help you to avoid a water emergency. Looking for an alternative? A tankless water heater does not store water. It will last 15 – 20 years and is more energy efficient. Click here to see some of your options.

Learn more about water heater safety and get a free emergency procedure sticker for your water heater by emailing info@washingtonenergy.com or call 1.800.398.HOME.

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Your furnace tune-up can save lives

Posted On: Filed Under: Furnace No Comments on Your furnace tune-up can save lives

The Washington State Department of health concurs and recommends having a trained professional check your gas appliances and fireplaces annually.

Carbon monoxide, CO, can enter your home any time you have a defect in your furnace’s heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is the largest part of the furnace, usually made of aluminum or stainless steel, through which the poisonous carbon monoxide-containing exhaust fumes leave the furnace and are vented to the outside. Heat exchangers can develop holes over time or through manufacturer defect. The result is that some of the carbon monoxide will leak through these apertures and into your house. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious health risk, and over 1000 Washington residents were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a variety of sources between 1990 and 2005.

When selecting an HVAC contractor to perform the tune-up that the EPA recommends, it is extremely important to select a company whose technicians understand how to properly inspect heat exchangers. Few companies are eager to properly inspect your heat exchanger. Mostly because it’s hard to reach. The heat exchanger sits behind all of the parts you can see, including the motors, gas valve, pressure switch, circuit board, igniter, etc, and often you cannot see it even with the front panel open. Because of this inspection, the precision tune up when done correctly is a longer appointment. For example, Washington Energy Services furnace tune up takes 45 minutes to 1 hour on a furnace where no problems are found. When problems are found, this time obviously increases.

So how do you know your technician will do a good tune up? Ask your contractor if its technicians are NATE Certified. It stands for North American Technician Excellence (www.natex.org), and it is an HVAC industry certification of quality. You can be confident that NATE Certified technicians provide the kind of precision tune ups discussed in this article.


To get a precision tune up for your furnace call Washington Energy Services at 1 800 398-HOME. Washington Energy Services technicians are NATE certified.


For more information on Carbon Monoxide poisoning, see Washington State Department of health at  www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/IAQ/CO_Fact_Sheet.htm.


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