Monday, April 22, 2013

How the City of Ottawa's Free Water Efficiency Kit Cost $85

A month ago my wife found on the City of Ottawa's website a free residential water saving kit to any resident in the City of Ottawa. She also attended the City Hall service's centre to pick up the kit and was given a second kit for free as well.

City of Ottawa's Residential Indoor Water Efficiency Kit
I opened the twist tied clear bag to find four pieces.  1. A Low flow showerhead, 2. An aerator for a tap, 3. a blue bag like thing that clips to the inside of your toilet and 4. Instructions with the City of Ottawa's logo on them.  The bag itself had the "Conservation Warehouse International" logo and contact information it along with instructions on how to use the bag to determine if the existing fixtures in your house are water efficient or not.  The whole thing seemed simple enough.

A couple of weeks later I started the project.  I had just finished recaulking a bathroom tub.  I lucked out that the existing shower head had the gallons per minute etched right on it.  I compared it to the one supplied by the city and set to work. The only thing missing from the list of "Materials required" was Teflon tape.  A short trip to Canadian Tire rectified that problem.

Low Flow Showerhead
A quick watch of a two YouTube videos and reading the City of Ottawa supplied instructions, I was ready to start the project.  I slowly removed the old showerhead, cleaned off the old Teflon tape using a toothbrush, put new Teflon Tape on and installed the showerhead.  With fingers crossed I tested for leaks, SUCCESS!  No leaks! I'm awesome! Of course I had my wife test it for satisfaction.  1 job done, onto the next one.

I reviewed the aerators (the place where the water comes out of your taps) on all the existing taps.  The flow rate was also etched on the existing aerators at gallons per minute and noticed they were higher than those supplied by the city.

City of Ottawa supplied Aerator

I reviewed the city supplied instructions and started the project.  The old one needed a little bit of a wrench to get it unstuck.  No problem though getting it out.

The new aerator from the kit turned into a bit of an issue.  First the teflon tape was twice as wide as the threads of the aerator.  I tried cutting the tape in half, no luck. I tried leaving the Teflon overlapped on the top or doubling it up, no luck either.  Each  I would hand tighten the aerator into place, give a little wrench to ensure tightness and turn on the tap.  The aerator would inevitably leak.  After three tries, I gave up and explained it to my wife.

My wife removed the old tape and rewound new tape like perfectly like a perfectly ribbonned Christmas present.  I tried hand tightening the aerator into place and then turned on the water, leaks. I tightened it a little bit with the wrench, still leaks.  I gave up on it and only wanted to remove it.  The aerator would not come out.  It was stuck in there.  I tried with the wrench behind a cloth to protect from scratching, no luck.  I tried the wrench without the cloth and not only did the aerator come out but so did the thing it was attached too in the tap.

City supplied aerator (silver) and tap piece (brass)
Great, now I have a broken tap as well as a free useless aerator.  At least the tap itself worked as no water was leaking. The homebuilder who built my home also thought it would be awesome not to put secondary taps underneath the sink as well. Feeling angry, I left if for the evening to stew about what to do next and how much this seemingly simple do it yourself project might end up costing me.  I knew the water savings from the showerhead were just as well flushed down the nearby toilet due the aerator.  I felt sunk.  

A couple of days later, I took a couple of pictures with my phone and visited the Rona store.  The kind gentlemen in plumbing and I pieced what I had to do in pictures.  The project would be about $85.00 and include a new tap and under the sink turn offs.  Not a lick of plumbers putty or Teflon tape was required.  The only issue now was what does the wife want the tap to look like?  I left Rona with the two under the sink turn offs and instructions on how to measure from those new turn offs up to the sink to ensure I did the job right.

The wife and I visited Wal-Mart that weekend to find the taps and hoses to finish the project.  She loved a Waterpick tap that was decently priced. I reviewed the basement water plumbing system from start to finish.  Not only did the builder of my house not put under the counter turn offs, but did not put in additional turn offs in the basement to section off the plumbing system to different parts of the house.  ARGH!  

I filled a pail of water in case there were any emergency nature's calls to the bathroom. I then turned off the main water valve and turned on the taps in the basement to drain the water from the pipes.  We were good to go.

The awesome part of having PEX Plastic piping in your house is it is easier than copper to make changes.  I took a black magic marker and put a "H" and "C" on the hot and cold lines.  Again the builder had made life interesting by having these plastic pipes come up on the wrong side at the base of the cabinet to where they would connect above on the tap.  Thus, the connection between the PEX and the tap would would have to cross eventually to ensure everything works correctly in terms of hot and cold.

I was lucky the builder had left me with about a foot of slack at each tap location.  I took my hacksaw and made a straight cut across just below the crimped connection under the sink.  Perfect.  I then took an exacto knife and cut away any small bits of plastic to make a smooth edge.  So far so good, then I put the under the counter turn offs one by one. I had my wife turn on the main water to see if the taps were open or closed, unfortunately, they were open and we had a small flood underneath the counter.  Awesome!

I closed the taps, mopped out the bottom of the counter and we reattempted turning on the water again.  Success no leaks!  Only 30 minutes without water to the entire house.  

I read the instructions that came with the tap and watched a Home Depot video as well.  Seemed simple enough.  I installed the caulking and the tap in short order.  I did notice that the aerator supplied with the tap came preinstalled.  Perhaps that is why the old tap's aerator was a little hard to come off as it was also probably factory installed as well.

I finish up connecting the hoses from the newly installed under the counter water turn offs to the tap.  I double check, using my previously marked "H" & "C" to ensure the lines were attached correctly to the tap.  I turned the under the counter water on.  A slight tightening of the cold with the wrench and we were good at the connection point.  But why was the water dripping from inside the tap?  I peered in with my flashlight and could not see anything.  Was there a manufacturing defect on the tap? Just my luck I thought.  Hmmm...what to do.

I decided to leave the tap for the evening to dry out.  Perhaps there was water on top of the sink that was dropping down somehow via the tap holes or perhaps water sprayed up there from when the under the counter taps were installed.  Nervously, I went to bed to let nature's skills in evaporation run the course.

The next day, success! No  leaks as I played with the tap at a full blast.  I'm a handy man after all.  Of course in order to be a true handyman there has to be wife approval, which I had in spades!

Out of the kit, I still have a second aerator, two bags for the toilets and 1 showerhead.  I have yet to install these in fear of these kits costing me anymore handyman money.  In the end I learned a couple of things: 1. My house's plumbing is easy to fix if there any issues. 2. Never touch an aerator on a tap by yourself as it may end up costing $85.00!

Thanks goes to the City of Ottawa's water conservation programme for providing a free kit that in the end cost me $85.00!

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