How To Avoid A Plumbing Emergency

1. Get to know your plumbing system

Do you know where your main water valve is and how to turn it off? If there is a leak or another problem with your system, you’re likely to be the first person to notice, so it’s important that you’re familiar with the system so you can turn off the water as soon as possible and avoid any further damage to your home.

2. Don’t misuse your system

Some plumbing problems are caused by flushing things down the toilet that the system can’t handle. Toilets are built to process specific types of waste only, so don’t try to flush things like baby wipes, cotton wool, paper towels or anything else that isn’t toilet paper.

If you happen to have a garbage disposal, there are certain things you shouldn’t put down there either. Greasy or oily food can leave a film on the blades making them ineffective, while pasta and rice can swell with water and clog up the unit. Egg shells and fibrous vegetable peels can wrap themselves around the blades and should be disposed of in small quantities. Finally, non-food items shouldn’t be put in a garbage disposal because they cannot be broken down enough to be washed away.

3. Replace or service old parts

How old is your boiler? It’s a good idea to keep track of how many years you’ve had your system – boilers last up to 15 years, so if yours is on its last legs it may be time to think about getting a new one. No matter how old your system is, it’s also important to get your boiler serviced annually. This can keep your boiler running efficiently and it means you may get a few more years out of it than you otherwise would.

4. Use chemicals sparingly

Home plumbing chemicals such as drain cleaners may not be strong enough to tackle every problem you may run into. Some clogs are caused by major build-ups that have hardened in your pipes, and they may need a professional plumber to take care of them. Some chemicals are designed for specific pipes and can even cause damage to your plumbing or cause clogs if used incorrectly.

5. Don’t try to do repairs yourself

If you’re not very confident of your plumbing skills, don’t attempt to repair a problem yourself contact a professional at VanMech, Trying to fix a problem such as a leak without professional help can worsen the problem and create more damage. If in doubt, call an emergency plumber – at VanMech we can fix the problem for you with much less hassle.

What is Commercial Plumbing?

When speaking about the plumbing industry, there are two major differences in types of plumbing: new construction and service & repair. Both new construction and service & repair plumbing can be applied to different types of properties, typically commercial or residential.

Commercial plumbing relates to buildings such as hospitals, hotels, small and large businesses, multi-family units, high-rise office, and residential spaces. While plumbing typically functions the same in commercial, business, and residential spaces, there are vast differences in plumbing use, potential problems, as well as the types of plumbing fixtures and piping involved.

Commercial Plumbing Use

Perhaps the biggest difference between residential plumbing and commercial plumbing is the amount of demand for plumbing systems. Commercial spaces such as high-rise office buildings and medical facilities are in constant use. Drains and fresh water plumbing systems are in high use and require much more maintenance and care. Where residential homes should invest in annual maintenance and plumbing check-ups commercial spaces rely on a daily overview of what is happening.


In multi-story buildings and medical facilities, drain use, flushing toilets, and water use see thousands of people each day. While the buildings would be built with more industrial grade and heavy-duty materials, common drain clogs are still an issue, especially when it is more challenging to control what building tenants and visitors may flush. With multiple story building, it is also important to tackle drain repairs with more caution. For example, snaking a lavatory sink on the tenth floor of a building can potentially cause damage down the line or “stack.” Many companies, including VanMech, have strict policies on snaking common lines in a multiple story building. The policy requires checking down the line for every snaking. It is important to ensure that the plumber is not pushing a clog down into another line. This could lead to flooding, and if it is not checked could end up in costly damages.

If leaks or overflows happen, it is also more likely they will go unnoticed longer than in-home use. After all, tenants and our customers are not responsible nor looking for possible plumbing problems when using facilities. Most commercial spaces have facilities managers on site to routinely check on possible plumbing problems.

Water Lines

In a home, if a water line is leaking, homeowners will most likely notice signs of change in water pressure or a leak, even if it is a slow one. Hearing water running or seeing signs of moisture are two big signs. In a heavily trafficked commercial space, it is harder to pinpoint possible water leaks inside of the walls. By the time a leak is noticed, it may have caused damage, not only to the area around the leaking pipe but possible to units or spaces below.

Water Heaters

Residential water heating can be achieved with a standard storage tank style heater and tankless or on-demand style water heaters. These can be used in both natural and/propane gas, as well as electrical applications. What differs greatly from commercial building spaces is the size, placement and most often, commercial spaces have many water heaters servicing different applications.

Most office buildings do not require water heating for purposes such as showering, and may not have a traditional water heater. Rather, they use instant-hot water heaters in office kitchens and bathrooms for hot water.

Large condominiums, hotels, and multi-use spaces have large boilers or Ray-Pak systems that require specialized knowledge and experience. And in the hospital and medical facilities, it is especially important to have the right water heating equipment for patient safety and sterilization purposes.

When a water heating problem occurs in a commercial space, it may not be as simple as repairing a water line or replacing a single 40-gallon storage tank heater and requires the commercial plumber to keep services for the occupants of the commercial building while repairing the plumbing problem.

Service & Repair Professionals

It is important when choosing plumbers for commercial space, that facilities managers and owners ensure the commercial plumbing company they choose is experienced in Uniform Plumbing code and the unique needs of all commercial spaces including hospitals and medical facilities, multiple story condominium units, and business use buildings.

Commercial plumbers should be fully licensed and insured and will offer solutions to the many challenges commercial spaces face when dealing with major plumbing.

Building Maintenance

VanMech Plumbing recommends to homeowners that an annual maintenance and overall plumbing checkup should be performed by a licensed professional. During residential maintenance, items to check include water pressure, active and past leaks, plumbing fixtures, and testing drain lines.

Commercial spaces should also have routine plumbing maintenance, but depending on the building use, maintenance should occur more frequently. Most commercial facilities managers have in-house maintenance teams to check on daily problems and oversee the general health of the building. In these cases, a professional commercial plumbing maintenance visit twice a year is a good timeline to follow. For buildings that do not have the on-site personnel, owners should consider scheduling a quarterly maintenance visit. Because commercial properties plumbing sees a more excessive use on a regular basis, the potential for plumbing problems increases. Also, commercial spaces may not be 24 hours, and if a plumbing problem, such as a burst shut off valve, or even a slow water leak occurs, it could go unnoticed for days. An unattended leak not only increases the cost and time to make a plumbing repair, but it can also lead to major water damage that will require extensive remediation and incur higher costs than if it were either prevented or caught before the damage becomes major.

Schedule Water Heater Maintenance Today!

With cold weather here in Vancouver, BC and only expected to get worse, you need hot water for your home to be more reliable than ever. The last thing you need is a water heater that can’t do the job, or worse: one that suffers a serious problem right when you need it the most. The best thing you can do to prevent such a problem is schedule a water heater maintenance session today. Not only will it allow your technician to spot a potential problem before it gets started, but will provide numerous other benefits designed to lower your bills and extend the life of your system. Here’s a quick look at some of the specifics.

Anode Rod

The anode rod absorbs the rust in your water heater and prevents the tank from becoming corroded. It needs periodic replacing, or else your tank will start to rust. Eventually, the corrosion will eat a hole through the tank and/or cause rust flakes to show up in your water. Replacing the anode rod is part of most maintenance sessions and will ensure that you never have to face the rust monster.


We get hard water sometimes in this neck of the woods, which isn’t a huge problem by and large. However, it can often create sediment that builds up in the bottom of the tank, coming between the burners and the water it needs to warm. Not only does that force the heater to work harder to get that hot water to you, but over time it can damage the bottom of the tank, necessitating its replacement. A maintenance session involves draining the tank and clearing out the sediment, ensuring that it doesn’t interfere with the function of the heater.

For these and other benefits to your water heater, call VanMech Plumbing & Heating to schedule a maintenance session!

The Problem with Scaling in Your Water Heater

If you’ve never heard the term “hard water” before, we’d be surprised. If you told us you don’t know what hard water is or why it’s a problem, we’d be less surprised. The truth is, even though hard water is a very common thing, not a lot of people know what it actually is.

Hard water is water with a large presence of minerals in it—namely calcium, magnesium, and sometimes iron. These minerals are harmless to ingest, which is probably why not too many people worry about hard water. Unfortunately though, this complacency can lead to plumbing problems.

As harmless as hard water is for us, it’s actually harmful to your pipes. What happens is scaling—scaling is when deposits are left behind from hard water. In your drain openings and on your shower head, this shows up as limescale. But in your water heater, it settles right down in there, where you can’t reach it. And there’s your problem!

How Mineral Deposits Get Left Behind

Have you ever noticed a flaky white, green, or yellow buildup around your faucet handle or the drain? You likely clean it off as part of your bathroom cleaning routine and don’t think about it again. But this is happening as a result of scaling, and is actually a sign that you should call a plumber team in Vancouver, BC.

These minerals don’t drain away as easily as water does, and they can cling to a metal surface even as water rushes through. This leads to mineral deposits getting lodged in the pipes—including those leading into and out of your water heater—and at the bottom of the water heater tank.

Scaling Damage

Scaling negatively impacts your water heater in a number of ways. First off, buildup can develop in your pipes and effectively block water from moving through the water heater, if the buildup develops thick enough.

More common is the damage that occurs to the water heater itself. Minerals build up and settle at the bottom of the tank, and make it hard to heat water evenly. Decreased efficiency, over time, results in unbalanced pressure levels in the tank. Additionally, these minerals will begin rattling around at the bottom of the tank and can force it to corrode through.

Signs of Scaling

We told you the signs of scaling in your drain pipes—you’ll see a chalky substance that you can clean off. But you’ll never be able to see scaling inside your water heater. Instead, you’ll need to listen for it. If you hear rattling coming from your water heater tank—also described as popping or knocking—then it’s a sure sign that scaling is occurring.

Scaling can also affect the temperature of the water, particularly in tankless water heaters (remember, even tankless systems have a small tank-like component that water must pass through), as the deposits coat the heat exchanger and make it harder for water to pick up the heat.

One last sign to watch out for is a decrease in hot water pressure, if the scaling is clogging up the pipes that lead out of your water heater.

If you think you have scaling in your water heater, the best thing you can do is call in a trained and experienced plumbing pro!

Five Heating and Air Complaints Solved

1. Heating and air never reaches the number set on the thermostat.

The thermostat is dirty.

Buildup or corroded wires halt proper communication with the heating and air system. A simple maintenance for heating and air can restore the health of the thermostat. However, in some cases, it is more cost-effective to replace the thermostat altogether.

Settings within the heating and air system moved.

With time and use, toggles are bound to shift and move, especially if the heating and air system sustains physical damages. These toggles include pressure settings, wires and switches. All of these micro-movements contribute to different heating and air for your home.

The home and/or the heating and air system has leaks and holes that encourage heat loss.

Leaks and holes in the air ducts lead to major issues. One of them is significant heat loss. With heated air escaping through the air ducts before reaching the house, heating and air almost never gets your home to the temperature set on the thermostat.

2. Heating and air is too noisy.

Parts within the heating and air system dislodged.

This includes a wide variety of heating and air parts. The rubber band that moves pieces within the heating and air system frays and creates a slapping noise. Nuts and bolts come loose and make a clattering sound. Covers come undone, pieces fall out, and foreign objects enter unexpectedly.

The heating and air system works through obstruction.

Obstruction includes anything from loose parts to organic waste and buildup. Buildup is far more damaging and expensive than most homeowners think. It creates many problems, and a noisy heating and air system is only one of them.

3. The home doesn’t heat evenly.

Registers and vents are not in the open position.

There are as many vents as there are rooms in the home. Frequently, in the busyness of everyday, homeowners forget that these vents were moved to the closed position. It is also common for furniture to block these vents and registers, limiting airflow.

Heating and air ducts have tears or blockage.

Depending on where the leaks are within the heating and air ducts, heated air may not reach certain areas of the home.

The home is not insulated evenly.

Rooms that are difficult to heat or cool may also have issues with insulation. If new windows were installed in these rooms, take a second look at the insulation work. Additional leaks may encourage heat loss, which is why heating and air does not feel even throughout the home.

4. Heating and air doesn’t turn off/cycles too often.

The air filter is full.

A dirty or overused air filter is the easiest way to destroy the heating and air system. If the air filter is full, airflow into the heating and air system is restricted. When there is not enough air to heat, the furnace stops the process to protect from itself from overheating.

There is buildup inside the heating and air system.

Buildup, like full air filters, hinders the heating and air process. Frozen evaporator coils, microbiological growth and stubborn buildup around fans, blades and tubes all add extra stress on the heating and air system. As a result, the cycles cut short. Once the heating and air system realizes that there’s still work to be done, it starts up again, only to shut off soon after.

5. Heating and air makes home air dirty.

The air ducts have leaks.

The attic space hosts thousands of different types of bacteria, allergens and particles. For the average home, this is also where air ducts are installed. Air ducts are healthy easily transport cleaned and heated air from the furnace into the home with no problems.

However, air ducts that sustain leaks allow heating and air to escape into the attic. Through the same leaks, dirty attic air enters the air ducts and, ultimately, the home.

The air filter needs replacement.

A dirty air filter also allows more particles to circulate throughout the home and furnace. Replacing the air filter is simple, and homeowners are encouraged to do so every few months. This avoids high-energy bills, poor indoor air quality and ineffective heating and air.

The Simple Solution to All Heating and Air Problems

Heating and air maintenance prevents 90 percent of all expensive repairs and permanent damages. It also saves your time and restores peace of mind.

Homeowners who have heating and air maintenance for their furnace systems experience:

  • Better indoor air quality
  • Reliable heating
  • Lower average HVAC costs
  • Longer-lasting furnace system

With every heating and air maintenance, your HVAC specialists work to:

  • Restore the health and cleanliness of the system
  • Ensure the safety and reliability of the furnace
  • Strengthen weak spots
  • Deliver preventative treatment

To save time and money from 90 percent of issues you have with your heating and air, rely on regular HVAC maintenance.

How to Keep Your Home Warm for Less

Whether you’re looking to cut back on expenses or conserve energy resources, there are plenty of smart and economical ways to keep your home warm for less. From changing how you use your central air system, to DIY sealing, learn to keep your home warm and efficient for cooler weather.

Program Your Central Air System to Save Heating Costs

When you come home from a long day out and find your home much colder than you’d like, cranking on the furnace only when you’re home may seem like the more economical idea. In actuality, this may be counter intuitive.

Ambient temperature in the winter can be quite low, making the home much frostier than we’d typically like. Indoor temperature can continue to drop making the climb up to a warmer temperature steeper and more costly. To save on energy expenditure, set your thermostat at a temperature lower than your comfort temperature. This way, the house is kept relatively warm so that when you return and turn up the heat, the climb to the desired temperature causes less stress on the central air system, using less energy sources. You can use the setback function or program on your thermostat to schedule these changes in accordance to your return home.

DIY Sealing and Caulking Shuts Out Cold Air

Weather-stripping or silicone-based caulking are easy do-it-yourself methods that help trap heat indoors while keeping cold air out. These instruments and products are available at any home improvement store.

These approaches to sealing should be used on windows, doors and even sliding glass doors. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you can see light passing through the cracks, it hasn’t been sealed well enough.

Use Home Fireplaces to Your Advantage

If your home is outfitted with a fireplace, consider its heating power. Different types of fireplaces offer different levels of heating. Those enclosed in glass oftentimes come with a light switch-type of on-and-off function. These fireplaces produce little heat and usually come without a fan, which is crucial for proper distribution of heat. Attempting to heat a home with this type of fireplace results in higher gas consumption for less heating because of its design. If your fireplace is among this build, consider having a fan installed. The fan is instrumental in distributing the heat from the fireplace throughout the room. Once a fan is put in place, your fireplace becomes an effective method to alternative home heating.

Standard wood burning fireplaces are efficient at producing heat. The only caveat would be that because the natural draft leads up the flue pipe, it creates a vacuum inside of the home. You might find that though the room nearest the fireplace is warm, the back rooms are much colder than before. This is because those rooms pull cold air from outside. To combat this, implement the fan-based fireplace heating system with proficient weather-stripping and caulking to reduce the amount of outdoor air brought inside.