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Posts Tagged: plumbing

Why hire a professional plumber?

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Here’s why a professional is often the best choice:

Mistakes can be costly.

You wipe your brow, admire your handiwork, and all of a sudden, the leak intensifies. Water seeps into your carpet, warps your hardwoods, and before you know it, you’re firing off repair checks faster than you can say ‘regret’. Oftentimes, well-intentioned DIY-ers end up causing more harm than good by attempting repairs themselves. What would have been a relatively small fix (and an inexpensive cost) ends up being a major repair that you must call a plumber for anyway.

The following issues should always be handled by a professional:

  • Extensive water damage
  • Frozen pipes
  • Installation of new toilets, sinks, tubs, or pipes
  • Weak water pressure throughout the home
  • Remodeling or new construction that requires building permits
  • Septic tank leaks
  • Sewer line stoppage, breaks, or leaks
  • Water heater issues

It’s complicated work.

Every plumbing issue and installation is different. As much as the thousands of videos and online DIY tutorials try to help, they are no substitute for professional work. With years of expertise, special tools, and a solid understanding of the intricacies of plumbing systems, Washington Energy Services’s Lynnwood & Tacoma plumbers can recommend solutions, repair issues, and install new products accurately and efficiently.

 You’ll gain peace of mind.

When you’re under the sink or disassembling the toilet, can you ever truly be sure that you’ve done it correctly? When you hire a professional plumber, you’re not just receiving expertise during the repair—you’re getting a guarantee that your sink, faucet, bath, or toilet will continue to function in the future. To ensure long-term peace of mind, always make sure that your plumber is willing to stand behind their work after the check has been written.

Plumbing issues are an unfortunate, yet inevitable, part of home ownership. When they strike, call Washington Energy Services and get the area’s leading experts on the problem. We guarantee expertise, the right plumbing solution, and peace of mind for the future.

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3 common toilet problems (and how to fix them)

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Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle…

A gurgling toilet is not a welcome sound. While there are a few possible causes, two of the most common are faulty tank equipment or a clog.

The first cause, faulty tank equipment, can be diagnosed fairly easily. Before you throw out older pieces, first adjust the float level to ensure enough water is filling the tank. Generally, the water level should be about ½ inch below the overflow tube. If you require new parts, such as a flapper or valve, despair not—they are generally inexpensive.

Clogs are often simple to fix… but not always. First, try a plunger. If you’re lucky, this tried-and-true tool will be enough to remove the blockage. If not, it’s possible that the vent is clogged. This might require a more in-depth clearing process, including putting a plumber’s snake through the toilet vent on top of your roof. We recommend calling a skilled plumbing specialist, such as Washington Energy Services, for a clog that requires this more invasive step.

The toilet is either running or trickling.

A running or trickling toilet isn’t just annoying—it can be a costly waste of water. If you see trickling water coming into the toilet bowl, the reason is usually a leaking toilet flapper. An alternate cause is the toilet flush valve. We recommend checking the toilet flapper and its components first, since it is the least expensive to replace. Inspect the chain and make sure it isn’t tangled or hung up, as this alone can cause the trickling water. If it is in order, purchase a new toilet flapper from the hardware store.

If your toilet is constantly running, the toilet fill valve could be to blame. This device fills water into the tank and features a float device that causes the valve to shut off when the water gets to the correct level. The valve can be adjusted or replaced to keep the water at the proper height.

Phantom flushing… spooky.

Have you ever heard your toilet flush in the middle of the night? No, it’s not a ghost. (Probably.) Your toilet is phantom flushing. Luckily, the fix usually isn’t difficult and can often be remedied with a new toilet flapper.

If you are experiencing any of these issues and simple fixes aren’t working, call Washington Energy Services. Whether it’s a running toilet you just can’t stop or a major water-leaking situation, our technicians have the knowledge and skill to get your toilet back to doing what it does best… we’ll leave it at that.

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3 ROI-friendly home upgrades for Puget Sound home sellers

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Invest in new fixtures and hardware.

Perhaps one of the least expensive upgrades you can make, new fixtures add shine and newness to any room. An older bathroom sink can instantly be brought into the 21st century with a new faucet, which can quickly and inexpensively be replaced by Washington Energy Services. The same goes for a leaky or outdated bath faucet.

Updated hardware is also a quick and inexpensive way to upgrade your home. For example, doors with scratched brass doorknobs are given new life with modern brushed metal options. Changing or adding modern or classic cabinet hardware is also a way to upgrade the kitchen—an important and lucrative area when selling a home.

Open the door to higher offers.

The National Association of Realtors develops a report each year that compares remodeling cost versus value. This report rates home projects with the highest and lowest return on investment. Door replacement consistently ranks very high in terms of ROI. That’s because a front door—good or bad—makes a first impression. An old or damaged door screams cheap, while a new or well-maintained door says sophistication.

Door options from Washington Energy Services can replace your outdated or worn-out door with a classic, traditional, or modern option. If a new door isn’t in the budget, invest in a high-gloss paint and give your door a pop of color.

Make the move to vinyl windows.

Many older homes still have single pane or aluminum-framed windows. If you have a few (or more) of these in your home, consider replacing them with vinyl windows. The presence of single pane or aluminum-framed windows are a deterrent that are noticed by potential buyers, because they are less energy efficient, collect condensation, and can be drafty.

If a full window replacement isn’t an option for your home because of budget, pick a few of the more prominent or drafty windows to replace.

Just because it’s a seller’s market doesn’t mean your home shouldn’t stand out. Most homes can benefit from a few quick upgrades, and your bottom line can as well.

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Common plumbing problems you shouldn’t ignore

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Leaky Pipes

While leaky pipes are common in older homes (because they often have galvanized steel pipes), they can happen in any home. If you see wet spots on the ground, ceiling, or under a sink, don’t wait to locate and repair the leak. While tightening the joints may be all that’s needed, if this is a recurring issue, contact Washington Energy Services. We can take a look and re-pipe where needed.

Dripping Faucets

Drip, drip, drip, drip…. We all know the sound and the dreaded anticipation of the next drip. Don’t ignore this annoying, surprisingly harmful issue. A dripping faucet doesn’t just waste a valuable resource—it wastes money. Check out this tutorial for fixing the leak and regaining your non-dripping solitude.

Clogged Drains

It’s no secret that clogged drains aren’t just irritating—they can be pretty gross. Before you opt for the Drano, which can be damaging to the environment and your pipes, try a drain stick. This is typically a plastic tool with “teeth” along each side. After removing the stopper or strainer, slide and twist it down the drain. The goal is to grab hair and other blockage.

For substantial clogs, contact us. Our drain cleaning services are quick and cost efficient.

Running Toilets

A running toilet is a big deal. In fact, it can waste up to 200 gallons a day. We don’t need to tell you that this is expensive and should be fixed ASAP. Check out this article from Family Handyman to stop your running toilet from running away with your wallet.

Failing Water Heater

There’s nothing like an ice cold shower to wake you up in the morning… right? Wrong. If your water heater hasn’t been heating properly, is leaking, or is causing poor water pressure, it may be in need of repair or replacement. If your water heater is less than 8-10 years old, give us a call. We can perform maintenance to get your hot water flowing again. Consider replacing an older water heater with an energy efficient tank or tankless water heater.

If you know you’re experiencing plumbing problems, but can’t pinpoint them, call Washington Energy Services. Our plumbing experts can perform an in depth plumbing inspection to help you avoid potential flooding and other issues before they take you to the bank.

If you have a plumbing issue or want to schedule a plumbing inspection, contact us for an estimate.

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A pipe winterization checklist for Seattle homeowners

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If you’re concerned about preparing your pipes for winter, look over this quick checklist and contact a plumbing service to help ensure your home’s pipes are properly prepared for the winter months:

  • Check out your pipe insulation – Pipe insulation is one of your most effective means of defense against frozen pipes. Pipes should be wrapped in insulation of recent manufacture. It’s tough to check all of the necessary pipes yourself, as they may run through some hard to reach areas, so it’s worthwhile to have professional plumbers check insulation.
  • Visually inspect your pipes – Taking a look at your pipes can be one of the quickest ways of identifying problems. If pipes show cracks or leaks, you’ll need to get a professional to repair or replace the faulty pipe. Again, finding pipes and identifying damage can be tricky, so it’s worthwhile to get a plumber to handle the work.
  • Inspect your home for cracks – Cracks and holes along the outside walls of your home or in your foundation can allow cold air to reach your pipes. By inspecting your home for these flaws, you can take proactive steps to seal cracks and holes and better prepare your home for winter.
  • Check for signs of frozen pipes – Identifying frozen pipes and correcting the situation can help prevent damage to your home. If you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out, it can be an indicator of frozen pipes. Also, if you’re hearing water running even when your faucet is turned off and no water is coming out of it, it’s likely that your pipes are leaking.

If you have frozen pipes, a professional plumbing service can help safely thaw your pipes. Under no circumstances should you use a blowtorch to thaw a frozen pipe, as you may injure yourself or start a house fire.

  • Common sense solutions – If you know a cold snap is coming, take proactive steps to avoid frozen pipes such as disconnecting water hoses, turning off and draining sprinkler systems and wrapping up exposed pipes.

Water damage to other portions of your home is typically the most costly consequence of a burst pipe. It can be quite expensive if leakage or flooding goes on for an extended period of time. The average insurance claim for water damage resulting from frozen pipes is around $15,000, according to State Farm Insurance, so it’s well worth your while to invest a little time in inspecting your pipes and calling a plumber if necessary. When choosing a plumber, it’s important to pick one with an established track record of exceptional customer service and professional expertise.

Washington Energy Services is a family-owned business providing heating and cooling services as well as professional plumbing services.  Founded in 1957, Washington Energy Services has generations of experience in providing comprehensive plumbing solutions, including sales, installation and service. A member of the Puget Sound Energy Contractor Alliance Network, Washington Energy Services has an excellent local business reputation.

Contact us today for a plumbing inspection

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The hidden costs of your new home

Posted On: Filed Under: Siding, Home energy audit, Plumbing No Comments on The hidden costs of your new home

Perhaps you’re ready to sit back and enjoy the granite counter tops and open layout. Maybe you purchased a fixer upper and you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and make it the home of your dreams. In any case, purchasing a home is filled with anticipation, excitement… and unforeseen expenses.

Particularly for prior renters, the extra responsibilities and costs associated with home ownership can come as a surprise. Lawn care, appliance purchases and maintenance, property taxes, and home furnishings add up quickly. This is in addition to the tweaks that make the house uniquely yours—fresh paint, new fixtures, hardware updates, and more.

Finally, there are the costs that haven’t happened yet, such as energy inefficiencies, plumbing issues, and safety failures that can arise in any home. Washington Energy Services can help curb these potential costs before they start with a Home Energy Audit or Plumbing Inspection.

Home energy audit

The home inspection you received when you purchased your home only told part of the story. The Home Energy Audit from Washington Energy Services tells you the rest. You’ll learn where energy is being wasted, how much it’s really costing you, and what you can do to improve the performance of your home to save money. In fact, we’ve saved our customers an average of 21% in energy usage following Home Energy Audits!

Here’s an at-a-glance look at what’s included in Home Energy Audit:

  • Blower Door Test
  • Infrared Imaging
  • GoPro Camera Inspection
  • Utility Bill Analysis
  • Plumbing Inspection
  • Insulation Inspection
  • Equipment Inspection (water heater, furnace, etc.)
  • Carbon Monoxide Tests
  • Flue Pipe Exhaust Inspection
  • Ventilation Inspection
  • Duct Leakage Test
  • Indoor Air Quality Test
  • Lighting Upgrade Inspection
  • Safety Tests

After the three-hour audit, you’ll receive a comprehensive 16-page report, which we’ll review with you in-person so you fully understand the findings and get your questions answered.

Plumbing

Plumbing issues are messy, frustrating, and costly. A thorough plumbing inspection by a certified, licensed plumber can make all the difference. Unlike a standard home inspection, which typically includes a simple visual check of the fixtures and water heater, a plumbing inspection from Washington Energy Services provides a video inspection of the entire plumbing system to spot major issues—potentially saving thousands of dollars down the road.

Furnace filters

Keep an eye on the “little things” like furnace filters, too. A dirty filter causes your system to work harder and could cause it to fail prematurely.

Exterior

Managing water is important here in the Northwest. Siding protects your home’s exterior while gutters help move all that rainwater from of your roof and away from your foundation. Old leaky and drafty windows also put a strain on your home’s systems. If you think your home is in need of new windows, one of our home specialists would be happy to evaluate your current situation. New windows now can mean energy savings in the long run and potentially preventing costly water damage should there be an existing leak.

But you don’t have to talk all of this alone! Sit back, enjoy those granite counter tops, and contact us. We’ll boost your home’s performance and energy savings so you can use that money for something awesome—like those new appliances you’ve been eyeing.

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Are your pipes headed for a disaster?

Posted On: Filed Under: Plumbing 2 Comments on Are your pipes headed for a disaster?

Just like a new workout routine shows you where your muscles are weak, a change in use can reveal flaws and weaknesses in your home, particularly in your plumbing system. Your plumbing is hidden in walls and crawlspaces where issues often go unseen until it’s too late. Here are the clear signs to look for and steps to take to prevent a plumbing disaster.

Visible warning signs that piping is corroded and dangerous.

  • Low water pressure
  • Rust color in the water
  • Limescale buildup on fixtures and piping
  • Plumbing Leaks
  • Dramatic fluctuations in shower water temperature
  • Unusual change in water bills
  • Presence of substandard pipe

 

Worn on the inside: older homes

Piping wears from the inside-out, leaving you to guess when a leak could occur. Older homes built prior to 1970 may have galvanized steel pipes. These pipes do naturally corrode, and as they do, rust will appear in the water as minerals build up. Over time, the corroded pipes will leak. Small leaks can go undetected and create mildew and mold hazards long before you see them.

An additional risk for older homes is having a mix of pipes installed at different times by different plumbers over the life of the house. Knowing your plumbing history will help you predict future issues.

Substandard pipe failures: newer homes

Another issue is the use of substandard pipe brands, such as Kitec and Quest pipe (polybutylene), which were used in the last 40 years. Hailed at the time as “piping of the future”, both of these pipes are known to fail and burst causing flooding. There is such a high rate of failure (and numerous class action lawsuits), that plumbers often recommend proactively re-piping. Susan, from Lynnwood, a customer of Washington Energy Services plumbing told this story:

“We had just adopted a cat from the local shelter and made an area for her in the laundry room. The next day there was water on the floor, and we assumed she had knocked over the water dish. But the water came right back when cleaned up. It was coming from under the wall with no obvious leak anywhere else. Our plumber found the source, a burst piece of Quest pipe (see photo below). It was three rooms away! The water was leaking under the vinyl and wood flooring. The whole subfloor of the house was ruined. When we removed the flooring and parts of the walls there was mold growing. Needless to say, this was a big insurance claim, lots of our stuff ruined and months of difficulty.”*

Customer provided photo: Quest pipe leak, November 2014

Customer provided photo: Quest pipe leak, November 2014

Outside plumbing issues

Visible signs of an outside plumbing issue may be harder to see, with the notable exception of septic system issues. Some signs to look for are:

  • Trees growing above the path of your side sewer
  • Dips or water in the yard near the side sewer
  • Main drain backups into basement or crawlspace
  • Presence of Orangeburg Pipe

For most of us, running alongside our home is a side sewer. This is where the main drain connects from the house to the city or town sewer system at the street. While parts of this system may be on your property and parts on city property, the entire side sewer is considered your legal responsibility and it’s important to maintain it as you would your indoor plumbing.

One of the most common side sewer issues is invasion by tree roots. Tree roots can work their way into small cracks and then grow in the pipes. There is nothing a tree root likes better than a source of water. Depending on the species, tree roots can spread wider than the tree branches above. If your side sewer is hijacked by a tree, it will need to be removed and the pipe dug up and replaced, which can be a costly repair.

Many Seattle area outdoor pipes have been compromised because they were made of Orangeburg pipe that has gone end of life. This type of pipe, which was used from the war years until the 1970s, is made of tar paper and is no longer considered up to code in our state. It is prone to failure.

Time for re-piping?

The best approach is to start with an inspection of plumbing and ask for video inspection of your main drain. This will ensure that you know the status of all of your pipes.

If it is time for re-piping, it can be a complete or partial replacement of your system. The process may include using new high quality copper piping, stainless steel water supply lines and some plastic pipes depending on your home and its needs. Copper and PEX (plastic) piping will not rust. The new piping will be attached to all existing fixtures. If they have to open up walls to complete the re-piping, some wall patching will be required. Once the new piping system is installed, the plumbing system will be tested and flushed.

Washington Energy Services’ plumbers are re-piping specialists. Contact us for more information or to get a home plumbing inspection.

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Simple prep list for “northwest” winter

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Thinking about disaster is never fun, and it often hits the back burner, so if time is limited just start by taking this short list of basics to the store. Stock up yourself or use it to create a great holiday gift for someone you love.

Condition Prep List
Winter Driving Chains & instructions for putting them on*
Snow shovel and ice scraper in the car
with space blanket
Check tire tread. Consider winter radials if you travel over the passes.
Have your insurance card in the car, especially if you have emergency road service coverage.
Winter Sidewalks Rock salt is environmentally safe and melts ice on driveways, sidewalks and front steps.
Flooding
(non-river)
Check gutters to clear debris and ensure they direct water away from the foundation of the house.
Clear drains, a much city flooding comes from clogged drains.
Add weather stripping to doors to prevent water from coming in under them.
Test sump pump to ensure it is working.
Seal walls in basement with waterproofing compounds.
Power Outage Consider getting a gas powered standby generator or another alternate heating source.
Stockpile wood now for fireplace/stove.
Long burning safety candles
Batteries for the flashlight.
Keep car fueled up as power outages disable gas pumps.
Trim or remove trees on your property that could fall on your house or power lines.

Safety first! Never use portable generators or barbeques in the house – they produce lethal carbon monoxide. You can’t smell it and it can kill you.

Learn more about preparing for disasters at www.ready.gov. Washington Energy is here 365 days a year to help you stay warm and dry this winter. For more information on standby generators, or for plumbing and drain cleaning, give us a call at 800-398-4663.

*Note: chains are not recommended for use on some models of all wheel drive vehicles. Consult your auto maker.

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How to avoid holiday time water heater and plumbing failures

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Tank water heaters fail at the holidays?

There’s nothing like the combination of extra use and cold outside temperatures to push an old standard tank beyond its limits. If your tank is limping through its 10th or 15th year of life, parts in it are likely to be worn and fragile. The cold temperatures outside (or in your basement) make the water in your plumbing colder. This causes your tank water heater to work a little harder and longer to get the water to your set heat. In addition, the differential between the hot water on the top of the tank and cold water coming in at the bottom is greater, causing extra flexing of the tank itself. And then you add extra use from Thanksgiving dishes, holiday guests and students who are home from college and it’s a meltdown waiting to happen.

4 Ways to avoid water heater failure:

Our emergency water heater team is standing by 24/7 in case your water heater gives up, but you can be proactive about this in several ways.

  1. If you know your water heater is old but you don’t want to replace it, consider a leak detection and protection system. This will shut off the water and alert you if there is a leak, giving you peace of mind.
  2. Replace your old water heater proactively with a new tank water heater or a tankless.
  3. Give it some TLC with a flush of sediments and if needed an anode rod replacement to ensure it’s running the best it can.
  4. Make sure your temperature setting is 120 degrees or less. 120 degrees F is the standard temperature for water heaters. Sometimes people crank up the temp thinking that the water heater will produce more hot water. It won’t, it will produce the same amount of hot water, but it will be scalding hot. It also puts more wear and tear on the parts inside. The only way to get more quantity of hot water out of your tank is to make sure you have flushed out the sediment build up.

Plumbing or side sewer backups are common during the holiday season

It happened to one of us (the author of this article). Thanksgiving day, the guests were arriving and I made a mad dash to the basement to get something from the freezer. Oops , the main drain had backed up into the basement! Fortunately, our plumbers are available 24/7 and even on holidays. We had the drain cleaned quickly and sent the plumber home with a to-go plate of turkey dinner.

Plumbing, and particularly mainline drains, backup around the holidays, not just because you are using more water and flushing more toilets but your entire neighborhood is doing it too! Add in some grease poured down the drain, dishwashers running and extra showers, plus if you live in a older residential neighborhood (like Ballard or Queen Anne,) possibly shared piping with another house, and it’s a recipe for overloading the plumbing. And then the water goes back where it came from, into your house. Hence the term “back-up”.

What to do:

Our emergency plumbing team is ready 24/7 in case the holiday emergency strikes your home, but you can be proactive in these ways:

  1. Have a plumber come and snake your drain before your holiday rush. Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid a disaster. Also, if you’re hosting, avoid using your garbage disposal.  It may seem like an easy way to quickly dispose of greasy leftovers but the solids just sit out there in the drain and with all the extra plumbing system use, this compounds the risk of backup.
  2. Boiling water with our without a cup of liquid bleach can be used to clear sinks. The boiling water will break down solids and is better for your pipes than liquid drain cleaner. Some people try to use vinegar and hot water.

For plumbing or water heater sales and service, call Washington Energy Services at 800-398-4663. Or you can call our plumbers directly at 800-590-4969.

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Don’t miss out on plumbing rebates for energy efficiency

Posted On: Filed Under: Tank water heaters, Plumbing, Tankless water heaters 4 Comments on Don’t miss out on plumbing rebates for energy efficiency

 

First, the US EPA has created a program similar to EnergyStar but for water efficiency products. This is called WaterSense.

There is a WaterSense label that appears on the products, just like you are used to seeing with the yellow EnergyStar label on appliances and windows. Through this certification program, they reward manufacturers who create products that save at least 20% of water use, without sacrificing performance.

Here’s what the WaterSense people have to say: “Upgrading to more efficient WaterSense labeled products can help us to save billions of gallons of water in the country every year. Something as simple as twisting on a WaterSense labeled aerator and upgrading to a WaterSense labeled faucet could save a household 11,000 gallons over the life of the faucet.”

The quality of reduced flow products is generally improving, and if you have ignored them because the early models gave you a trickle in the shower, you may want to give it another look.

What kinds of rebates can I get:

  1. Fixture (toilet, tap) rebates:
    There are significant rebates on WaterSense certified plumbing fixtures that are offered by the Saving Water Partnership which includes the Seattle Municipal water system and other local towns around the area. To get a rebate on WaterSense products, go to the utility or the Saving Water Partnership website listed. Get toilet rebates up to $75 for single family homes and up to $200 for a toilet in a 4 plex or multifamily building. Plus if you have a restaurant or small business they offer many rebates. PSE also offers $10 off WaterSense shower heads.To get a rebate on WaterSense products, go to the utility or the Saving Water Partnership website listed. Print it off and send it to the utility with a copy of your water bill and receipt for the toilet.
  2. Water heater rebates:
    Many of our local utilities offer rebates on energy efficient water heaters and hydronic heating systems (radiant heating). For rebates on Water Heaters from PSE or SCL, your Washington Energy Services water heater specialist will take that rebate off of your contract. Cascade Natural Gas Customers apply directly to Cascade after installation with a copy of their receipt.
  3. City light electric customers can get $100.  In addition, most electric utilities have programs where they pay you between $30-$50 for your old inefficient appliances (fridge, washer, dryer) and they also come and haul them away. Our plumbing division is able to help you install and maintain your energy efficient plumbing systems. We carry and install WaterSense toilets that qualify for the rebates mentioned.

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