O'Brien Plumbing

Expert Tips

Avoid the horror of a blocked toilet

Flushing your toilet, only to find the water rising back towards you is not something you want to see. So, to reduce the risk of a blocked toilet there are certain things you never flush.

Baby/face wipes

Unlike toilet paper, baby/face wipes are not made to break down when wet, so they don’t disintegrate and can cause a blockage. Even ‘flushable’ wipes don’t break down so avoid flushing any type of wipe.

Cotton wool balls & pads

Just like wipes, these don’t break down and can swell, causing a blockage.

Sanitary products

These will expand if you flush them and are a sure-fire way to block your toilet.

Kitchen paper & napkins

You might think that kitchen paper is just like toilet paper, but it’s used to absorb spills in your kitchen and soak up water. They become heavy and difficult for your system to remove.


Don’t flush leftover food down the toilet as it won’t break down quickly enough.

Fats and oils

Yes, some people actually flush fats and oils down the toilet. As soon as fats hit the cold water, they solidify and can cause a fat blockage.

If you do experience a blocked toilet, don’t keep flushing to try and clear it. It may overflow and you’ll have the contents all over your toilet floor. Call your local plumber to come and sort it out quickly.

Regular servicing for longer life

As the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’ and this also applies to your gas hot water heater. A traditional storage gas water heater should last for 10-12 years, but there are things you can do to extend its life. The sacrificial anode in your tank protects it from the naturally occurring chemicals in the water. If you have this anode replaced every 5 years, along with an annual service, your gas storage heater could last for an extra 5-10 years.

Do you have a ticking time bomb underneath your sink?

Flexible braided hoses, also known as flexi hoses, are rubber pipes encased in braided lengths of stainless steel. They are easily bent into shape are widely used under kitchen and bathroom sinks. The bad news is that when they are a few years old, they can suddenly burst. The good news is that there are signs they may need replacing.

Here are 3 things to look out for if you have flexible braided hoses in your home:

  1. Check the hose regularly for any kinks or twists.
  2. Look for any rust spots.
  3. Check the hose to ensure there are no lose or broken braids.

The hoses last for about 5 years, so check them regularly for any damage. Make sure that any new hoses are installed by a licensed plumber and show everyone in your home where the main water valve is located; this way, the water can be turned off quickly in the event of a burst hose.

Winter is coming! Will your hot water system make it through winter 2020?

Colder days and nights are fast approaching, and hot, relaxing showers are a must. But as temperatures drop, our hot water systems have to work harder than usual and the last thing you want is to wake up to a cold shower in the morning Here are four signs that your hot water system needs repairing or even replacing.

Your hot water system seems to leak a lot

The pressure release valve is designed to let out a small amount of water out, but if it’s more than that, it’s time to act. If the leak is coming from the tank, then it could be corroded and need replacing. If the leak is coming from pipes or fittings, often these can be repaired or replaced.

You hear strange noises like creaking, cracking or popping

Scale has most likely built up at the bottom of your tank due to minerals in the water; the noises come from steam bubbles escaping from underneath the sediment when the water is heated.

The water coming out of your taps is discoloured or brown

Corrosion in the hot water system will happen over time and this can result in rusty coloured water flowing through the taps, which can taste bad and discolour clothes. It’s another sign that the hot water system is on the way out or at the very least needs the anodes replacing.

The pilot light keeps going out

If the pilot light keeps going out or you can’t relight it, it may be a faulty thermocouple. This stops the gas from flowing if the pilot light goes out. It may need a service or replacing. As a rule, hot water storage systems will last 8-12 years and should be serviced every 2-3 years.

Save shopping trips and money with a home water filtration system

Right now, shopping for essentials isn’t what it used to be! Well, at least you can stop shopping for bottled water by having a home water filtration system installed instead. This may reduce your number of trips to the supermarket, will definitely lower your use of plastic and you’ll save money into the bargain.

Bottled water can be up to 30 times more expensive than home filtered water and worldwide, around half of single use plastics end up in landfill (not to mention the amount of water used to produce the bottles in the first place). So, saving money and the environment has never been easier!

The water filter is installed under your sink, out of sight and you will literally have filtered water on tap - which is better for everyone.

Look out for leaks

Water leaks can sometimes be difficult to spot and can lead to major problems if they’re not fixed. Be on the look-out for wet spots or mould as these can be an indication that a pipe that’s hidden behind a wall may be leaking. The most common places where leaks may be lurking are around showers, bath tubs, and under sinks, so if you spot any water marks, damp spots or mould, call your local plumber.

Is your cooktop off colour?

Keep an eye on the flame coming out of your gas cooktop as its colour can be a signal that something is not quite right. It should always be blue, but if it isn’t getting enough oxygen it will be orange or yellow. This can be temporary and caused by dust particles, but if it continues, your cooktop needs attention from a gas plumber as it could emit unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.

Fat-free pipes and drains

If you pour fats and oils down your drain, you are asking for trouble. They are the main culprits for drain and pipe clogs, and this includes oils that are not solid at room temperature. When you've finished cooking, allow the fat/oil to cool in the pan. If it solidifies, wipe the pan with a paper towel and dispose of it in the bin. If you are using a fat or oil which doesn't solidify when cool, put it into a sealable container before putting it into the bin.

Q: There are strange noises coming from my hot water storage system. What could it be?

A: You’re probably hearing sediment or hard-water scale that’s accumulated at the bottom of the tank and broken off. In this case you’ll have to drain the tank and clean out the sediment. According to all major water heater manufacturers, the storage tank in your water heater needs to be drained and flushed free of sediment every 12 months. To make sure that this is done correctly, you should call a licensed plumber.

Q: Why is my tap still dripping even though I've changed the washers?

A: Many home owners will go about replacing their own tap washers, only to find the tap still drips after the new washers have been installed. It’s best to call your local plumber to take a look at the problem. He will have a special tool that can be attached to their drill which will clean the tap seat to make sure the washers sit flat when the spindles are pushed against them. If it is something else causing the problem – he’ll be able to diagnose and fix that too.

Q: Why is the water pressure low in my shower?

A: It might be time to change your showerhead. If you haven’t changed your showerhead in decades or if you’ve installed a low-flow showerhead, this could be the reason why you’re experiencing lower water pressure. Another reason could be corrosion inside your pipes. Over a period of time corrosion and build-up can happen inside the old pipes, especially if they’re galvanized. Replacing old and corroded pipes can drastically improve your water pressure. Call your local plumber to take a look and they can advise the best course of action.

Q: My gas storage water tank is running out of hot water a lot sooner than it used to. What could be causing this?

A: If you are getting some hot water, but not enough, your tank might need to be drained of sediment (caused by mineral deposits in water). Other causes could be the thermostat, a faulty thermocouple or a faulty pilot light. Gas water heaters can be dangerous, so finding the problem is a job best left to a registered gas plumber.

Q: My water bill just keeps going up. How can I reduce water usage in my home.

A: There are lots of things you can do around your home to reduce water consumption. You could install water saving shower heads, a dual- flush or a AAA rated toilet, limit showers to 5 minutes and don't leave taps running. But one of the effective things is to have leaking taps (especially garden taps) and toilet cisterns repaired quickly.

Q: How long should a storage gas hot water system last?

A: A traditional storage tank water heater should last for 10-12 years, but there are things you can do to extend its life. The sacrificial anode in your tank protects it from the naturally occurring chemicals in the water. If you have this anode replaced every 5 years, along with an annual service, your storage heater could last for an extra 5-10 years.

Q: The water pressure in my house has suddenly dropped. How do I find out what's causing it?

A: Water pressure can drop for a  number of reasons including malfunctioning water valves, leaking pipes caused by breakages or corrosion, blockages in the pipes or a build up of sediment. The best thing to do would be to call a  licensed plumber. who will be able to investigate the problem and provide a solution.

Q: Why is the water in my kitchen sink draining really slowly?

A: If water isn't draining from your waste outlets efficiently, you could have a blocked drain. Don't pour a harsh chemical cleaner down the drain though, as this can damage your pipes and cause an even bigger and more costly problem. Drain blockages can be caused by a number of things from hair to tree roots, so it's best to call in the professionals. They have the expertise and equipment to discover the problem, and fix it.