Author: Oregon Cascade

Is Your Water Soft or Hard?

hard water 2Depending on where you live, your water will be considered either hard or soft.

In definition: hard water contains higher than ordinary levels of dissolved minerals. An example is magnesium and calcium. When they come into contact with carbon monoxide, the result is water that is deemed hard. Evidence of hard water include: white to greenish residue around pipe joints and openings; soap that does not suds up well and a sticky residue when hard water and soap come together.

Soft water contains low concentrations of calcium and magnesium ions. Rainwater is naturally soft because it has not been filtered through the ground, picking up minerals and other natural compounds that transform it into hard water.

If you live in a location where these minerals are not filtering into the water, then your water will be soft.

Both are safe to drink.

Many people will introduce water softeners into their water system to improve the uses of water, such as making laundry soap clean more efficiently and cleaning tubs and sinks. Hard water can leave laundry dingy and a “ring” or scale around the bathtub after bathing. Some people don’t feel they are clean after taking a bath or shower, because the soap does not rinse well.

Softening your water means you have added material containing high amounts of sodium. Water softens as it passes through these sulfonated beads, exchanging the ions. The hardness minerals attach themselves to the beads, while the beads release the sodium into the water.

In the Central Oregon area, we are fortunate to have plenty of lava beds underground that act as an excellent water filter.


Cleaning Your Faucet Aerator

aeratorIf the water doesn’t seem to flow from your faucet as freely as before, it’s possible you need to either clean or replace the faucet aerator. This is something that is fairly simple to do. If you are unfamiliar with the aerator, it’s the little mesh insert in the faucet that helps curb the water usage by mixing air with the water stream. You save up to 30% of the water usage with an aerator.

As with all maintenance or repair projects, always assemble the tools and supplies you think you will need to get the job done. (In fact, it might be a good idea to be over-prepared.)

For this simple repair, you will need the following:


A couple of rags

A rubber wrench

A cup of vinegar, teaspoon of backing soda & some water (not mixed together yet!)

Old toothbrush

WD-40 or similar lubricant

First check to see if you can loosen the aerator by hand. If not, then gently try using the pliers to loosen the aerator from the faucet mouth. You may want to wrap the pliers head in a rag to prevent scratching. You may choose to use a rubber wrench if you have one.

You might have to wiggle the pliers or wrench back and forth a bit to loosen the sediment that has settled in crevices. If it is still stubborn, try using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda on it to dissolve some of the sediment. If you are still struggling, spray a little WD-40 on it to loosen. Once the aerator is loose, it’s easily cleaned with the vinegar mixture, old toothbrush and water.

Once the aerator is cleaned and dried, it can be put back into the faucet. Make sure all parts are completely dry before reassembling (that will prevent sediment or rust from getting a leg up).

Viola! You should have ample water streaming from your faucet now.

It’s A Tankless Job

Common problems with tankless water heaters:

-No hot water

First, check the electric power, gas line and water line
Check the shut off valves to see if they are closed
Is the burner working?
Check for an error code
If in the winter, check to see if the unit or water lines are frozen

-Low water pressure

First check with the utility company to see if there is a low water pressure
problem on their end.

The plumber will:

Check your gas pressure. The gas pressure can effect of water flow to
your appliance and make it work harder to meet the requested
temperature you desire.
Check the water filter for obstructions and other fixtures or plumbing for

-Hot Water Fluctuation

Check the cold water intake to see if there is any debris before calling the

The plumber will:

Check to make sure your vent pipe is the appropriate length
Check the flow sensor to see if it’s damaged
Check the gas line for the correct size and (max.) BTU
Check the plumbing network for any fluctuations

-If the water is too hot:

Check the thermostat to verify where it is set
Check shower heads, faucets for clogs or other blockages that will affect
the temperature.

The plumber will:

Flush and descale the unit, if needed
Check the output temperature sensor. It could be misaligned or broken

-Water not hot enough

Water temp set too low?
Check the venting system; is it clean of debris & does it provide enough fresh air
for proper combustion?

The plumber will:

Check for a crossover where cold water is mixing with hot. Possibly the
single lever mixing valve was improperly installed, or it has failed.

-Burner not igniting/no flame.

Make sure gas, electricity & water are turned on.

The plumber will:

Bleed all air from gas line

-Unit is too noisy

Check fan for debris
Make sure the burner is throwing a light blue flame
 Preventing Problems:

Regular annual inspections will go a long way to prevent a costly repair.

-Make sure all vents, motors and passageways are clear of debris

-Look at the flame to be sure it is burning clear blue and evenly across the surface of the burner

– Flush the heat exchanger and descale if you see a mineral build up

-Keep the area around the vent clear of snow & ice

If you notice the fan continuing to run after you use the hot water, this is normal. The appliance is programmed to make sure any combustibles are vented out. Also, you might notice a white “smoke” being vented out. This too is normal, especially if it is cold and the exhaust is warmer than the air temperature, thus causing the visible vapor.

Preventing Washing Machine Blues

washing machineWhile in college, you didn’t give much thought to a washing machine. You just hoped you would find one open at the laundromat.  Fast forward: now you’re a homeowner, or live in a house and you have your very own washing machine.

Like many appliances, you take them for granted until something breaks. Having the floor flood with suds is a funny scene on a TV show, but a dreaded problem when it happens to you. Let’s go over a few things that will help you keep that washing machine in tip-top shape and save you money!

Just as you are supposed to clean the lint trap in the dryer after each load, the washing machine should also be attended to after each day’s use.

After the last load of the day, wipe out the washer and gaskets. That residual water could invite mold or mildew. Try to be prompt about taking clothes out of the washer when the cycle is done. Damp clothes sitting in there begins to smell musty pretty quick. It might be a good idea to leave the washer door open for a while for air to dry it out.

Make sure your washing machine is level. A machine that is out of kilter will put extra stress on the drum that could also affect other parts of the machine. Most washing machines have adjustable feet that can be raised or lowered to make the machine level.

Newer washing machine models come with a preferred type of detergent for use, such as low sudsing. They are designed with these detergents in mind and using the wrong detergent can harm your washer.

Several times a year inspect your hoses and cords. A weakened hose can disconnect and cause flooding. Those rubber hoses really only last about 5 years; so keep an eye on them.

If your washing machine is a newer model, it may have several filters that periodically need to be cleaned. Review the operating manual that came with your machine. It shows you where the filters are and their recommendation for cleaning. If you don’t have a manual, you can usually find them online.

We hope this information is helpful to you. While we do not repair washing machines, if you are finding a problem with getting water to the machine, we can help! Give us a call: Firkus Plumbing 541.382.7710.

Stinky Sewer Smells Drifting Out of Your Drains?

There are not many of us who can boast we can remember what life was like before stinky1indoor plumbing. While indoor plumbing is very convenient, when something doesn’t seem right a whole can of worms can be opened.

If you have ever noticed a funky smell coming from your kitchen or bathroom drains, it could be a sign of trouble. But, we’re happy to report, it might be an easy fix.

Looking at the plumbing under your sink, you know that “U” shaped pipe? Well, that is there to hold water (as well as collect things you accidentally drop down there). The water acts as a smell barrier from sewer pipes further down in the plumbing.

If the water has dried up in that pipe, the smells can waft up into the room. Fixing it is as easy as running water in the sink for a few seconds.

But what if the smell remains?

You can try a solution of bleach and water along with a long flexible pipe brush. Remove the drain cover to scrub away the filmy residue that has coated the walls of your pipe. Then rinse with plenty of water.

If the smell persists, it’s time to “go deep” and call a plumber. Firkus Plumbing will be happy to come out and give your drains a thorough cleaning. Call us today: 541-382-7710

Ladders: the Climb to Safety!

ladderLadders are the #1 source of fall injuries in the U.S. work place. Everyone has a ladder, and many people are not aware of the proper ways to use it safely.

Now that we are beginning the holiday outdoor decorating season (Halloween through Christmas), more people are using their ladders to decorate. Here are a few tips to remembers when using a ladder.

First, you need to inspect your ladder to make sure it is stable: no loose rungs, steps, connections, etc. You also need to be sure the ladder legs are able to give you a level, secure base when extended so you won’t tip. Also, check the weight allowance for the ladder.

Make sure the area where you will be setting up the ladder is free of debris or tools. Should you fall from the ladder, you certainly do not want to fall on a tool that is on the ground- that would cause some serious injury. Also, be sure you bring your tools down with you so they won’t fall on you when you need to move the ladder.

Always stabilize the ladder before climbing. If you are working on uneven ground, or if the ladder feels wobbly, know that the problem will get worse the higher you climb. Try to find a level area to support the ladder, or invest in a specialize ladder that compensates for the unevenness.

Wear proper shoes. Sandals, flip flops or bare feet pose too many risks on a ladder. Sandals & flip flops can get caught on a step or rung and bare feet are too exposed to falling debris or any sharp edges or snags from the ladder.

Ascend and descend the ladder the same way: facing the ladder. Never try to use the back side of the ladder; it is not designed for climbing. Only one person on the ladder at a time. There are specially designed ladder for 2 people, but generally most ladders are built for solo trips.

While climbing or working on the ladder, try to keep your hips positioned between the vertical rails. Leaning to one side or the other is placing yourself and the ladder in an off-balance situation and  that could cause a fall or ladder to become unstable.

Never, ever climb, sit or stand on the top rung or step of a ladder. It wouldn’t take much of a movement to cause the ladder to tip with all the weight at the top. And finally, read the directions that came with the ladder, if it is a new one!  Happy Decorating!

Think Winterization Now!

winterizeThe number one cause of water line breaks in the spring is lack of winterization in the fall/early winter.  Your outdoor hose bibb’s are the number one source.  Especially in older homes, if you do not drain the water source and insulate or protect the pipe, there is a very good chance that you will end up with a crack or split as warm up/freeze cycle takes over during the winter.

How to keep a happy hose bibb:

The first freeze is a definite signal that you should get your hose bibs and outside pipes drained or protected.  If you are dead set against turning off and draining the water, investing in coverings for the spigot/pipes might help.  When water freezes, it expands and forces the pipes to expand with it; then when a warm up comes, pipes will contract. All that movement can and most likely will lead to a split or crack in the pipes.

We could tell you horror stories about water damage to walls, floors, furniture and possessions from busted pipes.  It is a sad day for any homeowner to have to call a restoration service for something that could have been easily prevented. Vacation homes are also vulnerable, as owners do not think to winterize a place that they are in for just a short time of the year.

Investing in a frost free hose bibb can help, but you may want that “extra” layer of protection with proper insulation for the hose bibb or pipes.

You may opt to have all of your exposed pipes inspected for proper insulation and protection during the winter months when there are several freezing or sub-freezing days.  Ensuring your pipes are protected – especially if you are going to be away will bring you peace of mind that when the weather warms, those pipes that could have frozen, will have little change of leaking, splitting or bursting, causing any number of problems and damage to your home & property.

Call Firkus Plumbing  (541-382-7710) to schedule a professional to come and properly winterize your home.