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Is Your Drinking Water Really Safe to Drink? How to Be Sure

safe drinking water

It’s fun to watch movies about backcountry hiking or read books about how to survive if you get lost in the woods.

These types of activities can spark your imagination as well as lively conversation.

But in many parts of the world today, finding sources of safe drinking water, food, and shelter is not a mental exercise but a daily necessity.

And even here in Canada, large-scale waterborne disease outbreaks have made news headlines as recently as 2010, with a death toll of seven right here in Ontario.

As modernized as our water treatment protocols have become, they are by no means failsafe or foolproof. As of 2015, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) article reported that half of all waterborne disease outbreaks occur in smaller drinking water systems.

Here, the primary causes have been either a failure of an individual water system or a failure of a local water treatment facility. Nearly 300 unique outbreaks were studied, each of which affected the drinking water in certain regions of Canada or the United States.

With statistics like these, how can you know for sure that your drinking water is really safe? We have the answer—and it isn't trusting the local water treatment centers!

Bacteria, Parasites, Fungi: Drinking Water's Hidden Dangers

What types of contaminants can lead to unsafe drinking water conditions? And what types of water systems are most vulnerable to contamination?

The NIH study showed that reservoirs, wells, water bodies, cisterns, and even underground springs are all vulnerable to contamination by a wide range of pathogens.

Bacteria, parasites, fungi, chemicals, viral matter, and other pathogens can enter these and other types of water supply systems in any number of ways.

Documented entry points include storms that lead to flooding, waterline breaches, sewer line backflow, inadequate filtration, and poor system maintenance. These and other similar factors have all been implicated in permitting pathogens to enter the water supply and contaminate drinking water here in Canada.

As well, as Canada's weather patterns are becoming more intense and unpredictable, floods, fires, and other extreme weather events are becoming more commonplace and placing more strain on city and rural water treatment systems from every direction.

Actions by homeowners and renters can have their own measurable impact. For example, as many as one-quarter of Canadians may be a carrier for Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a potent micro-parasite present in feline waste.

Simple improper disposal of used kitty litter can cause local water supplies to be infiltrated with this incredibly resilient micro-organism, which can cause irreversible fetal birth defects as well as toxoplasmosis in adults and children.

The Government of Canada points out that use of certain household chemicals such as cleaners, paints and solvents, bleach, adhesives and glues, pesticides, and oil products can leach into the water supply through storm drains and rain runoff.

Improper disposal of household items—everything from dental floss to diapers—can also cause major backups at local water and sewage treatment facilities, making the job of keeping drinking water supplies safe just that much more difficult.

What Works to Keep Your Personal Drinking Water Safe

As development continues and the human population increases, this places ever-increasing strain on all community systems. The local water treatment facilities are no exception. This means that we are all relying on each other to do our utmost to keep our shared water supplies clean and pure.

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on the “honor system” to make sure your own personal supply of drinking water is safe to consume!

As it turns out, the very best water purification technology isn’t human-made at all. It comes from our the sun. The sun emits ultraviolet light in three bands—A, B, and C. Bands A and B are already hard at work attempting to keep our planet from being overrun with toxins.

Band C is the most powerful natural purifier and cleaner of all, but the ozone layer that surrounds our planet keeps it from getting through into our atmosphere. Here is where nature and human ingenuity come together to do what neither can do on their own—keep your drinking water pure and safe!

Today’s ultraviolet water purification systems use human-generated UV-C spectrum light to neutralize 99.9 percent of waterborne toxins on contact. Unlike with chlorine and similar water additives, UV-C light doesn’t change the appearance or the taste of your water. It also doesn’t change the natural composition of your water in any way, other than to neutralize toxins that could impact your health.

When you add an ultraviolet light water purification system to your home’s water supply, you get lovely pure, clean, fresh water that tastes great and truly is safe to drink.

Ultraviolet Water Purification Maintenance

The use of UV light to purify water and air is not a new invention. It has been happening since the beginning of time naturally, and for many decades in commercial and residential applications.

Best of all, this type of system is incredibly economical to maintain. Aside from changing the UV bulb every 12 to 24 months, the system is self-maintaining. And you won't see a spike in your energy bill, either. A whole-home UV water purification system runs on the same amount of energy it takes to power a single 60-watt lightbulb.

Get in Touch

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, Heating & Electric, we have more than 70 years of industry expertise to serve all of your HVAC and plumbing needs. We are not just a local business. We are residents, too, and proud to call the Muskoka area home!

And remember, we are always on call for you with our 24/7 emergency repair service that includes holidays, weekends, and evenings. Contact us online, or give us a call at 877-885-3403 to request a free quote for an ultraviolet water purification system, learn about our line of standby generators, schedule HVAC maintenance, and more!

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Save On Your Hot Water Costs & Save the Planet Too!

hot water heat recovery

If you have never heard of drain water heat recovery (DWHR) until now, you are in for a treat! We love this energy-saving, water-saving, cash-saving way to get more out of every drop of hot water you use.

Let's say you turn your faucet to the hot water setting. The moment the heated water starts to come out, you use what you need and then turn the tap off again. But in that simple, brief time, much of the hot water coming out of your faucet has actually gone right down the drain unused!

The U.S. Department of Energy explains how anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of the energy draw to heat your water disappears with the unused portion of your hot water. What a waste of perfectly good (and not cheap) extra heat energy!

With a drain water heat recovery system, you can put that otherwise wasted heat energy to good secondary use—preheating cold water for future hot water needs. Keep reading to learn more about how this innovative energy and cash saving system works!

What is Drain Water?

There are three different types of water: white, grey, and black. White water is fresh tap water that has not yet been used for any purpose. Black water is, essentially, toilet water.

Grey water comes from sinks, tubs, showers, and washing machines. So this water may contain a bit of other matter, such as soap residue, hair, skin flakes, cooking oil, and washing or cleaning products.

Drain water is grey water. Essentially, grey water is "gently used" water that can still be re-purposed for a variety of energy-saving uses. For our purposes here, this water will be reused for its remaining heat content.

The way that this energy is captured for re-use will depend on what type of hot water heater system you have, so that is what we will look at next.

Re-Using Water Heat With Your Hot Water Heater

There are two basic types of hot water heaters: storage and non-storage (otherwise known as on demand).

Storage hot water heaters will use the remaining heat energy from your home's grey water to preheat the stored water for future uses.

Non-storage hot water heaters will use the remaining heat energy to preheat the water that flows out to meet immediate hot water demands.

What is important to know here is that both types of hot water heater systems can make use of this otherwise wasted heat energy.

As well, both types of systems use a heat exchange coil to capture and reuse the heat energy. The placement of this coil is just different depending on what type of system you use.

How the Heat Exchange Process Works

Different systems may have slightly different names for their heat exchange technology. Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we work with a wonderful company called RenewABILITY Energy. Their system is called the Power-Pipe® DWHR.

The Power-Pipe® is a patented system that harnesses grey water heat energy through a process called Falling Film Heat Exchange.

Here is a brief step-by-step of how this system works:

  • Unused hot water falls from the tap down the drain.

  • The 1 mm wide wall of fast free-falling hot water hits the sides of the drain pipe.

  • As it falls, this water hits a section of special copper drain pipe surrounded by coils of copper wire (this section is added to your drain pipe system during Power-Pipe® installation).

  • When the water enters the Power-Pipe® section of copper drain pipe, an energy hand-off occurs when the water transfers its remaining unused heat to the surrounding external copper coils.

  • The copper coils, in turn, are full of fresh incoming cold water, which receives the transferred heat and begins to warm up in advance of any future hot water demands.

  • Current estimates indicate that incoming cold water can increase by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit before the water even enters the water heater unit itself, which is an energy draw savings of up to 25 percent of what your hot water heater normally requires to function.

This system is what is called a Double Wall Heat Exchanger. The "double wall" is what ensures the incoming cold white water and the still-heated draining grey water never meet and mix. Rather, the combination of copper-on-copper permits safe transfer of the unused, re-usable heat energy while keeping the two water sources completely separate.

Who Can Use a Drain Water Heat Recovery System?

Here is the best news of all—the reason why we are so passionate about introducing our clients to the Power-Pipe® system of heat energy re-use: This system can be used safely, effectively, and affordably in ANY type of structure!

Single-family homes, multi-unit residences, commercial businesses, factories, and industrial warehouses are all good candidates to harness this otherwise wasted source of heat energy to save money and help conserve our planet's dwindling freshwater resources.

What Type of Savings Are We Talking About Here?

How much you save on hot water heating-related energy costs annually will depend on how much hot water you use. The Power-Pipe® system is designed to help you save up to 40 percent on your hot water heating costs annually.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that it will take anywhere from 2.5 to 7 years following installation to recoup your investment. Here, of course, the price of the initial installation as well as your average hot water usage both impact this estimate.

For commercial entities, installation of a drain water heat recovery system comes with additional payoffs, including smoothing the path to obtaining and maintaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) sustainable building design certification.

Give Us a Call

It is simple and quick to install a drain water heat recovery system and the system itself is quite affordable given your return on investment.

Give us a call at 877-885-3403 or visit us online to schedule your initial consultation!

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Talking Toilets: How to Choose a New Toilet for Your Home

plumbing toilet

A toilet is something most people take for granted. The topic of toilets generally doesn't come up in casual conversation—unless the household toilet stops working.

When this occurs, suddenly the lowly toilet finds itself in the center of the spotlight at last. At this point, the questions usually revolve around how to fix it, why it still isn't working, and finally, which toilet to replace it with.

If you haven't had to replace a toilet in a long time or ever, there is a good chance you will be surprised by all of your choices. Today there is a toilet for nearly every shape and size of space. There are toilets with low-flow water-saving features. There are toilets in custom colors and styles. And there are toilets at widely varying price points.

This guide will help you sort through your options and pick the right new toilet for your needs.

Common Toilet Purchase Mistakes

Today's culture is all about choices. We have so many choices that sometimes it can feel like we have too many choices for our own good. This is never more true than when it comes to shopping for a new toilet.

The reason for this is simple: nothing is simply "standard" anymore. When you go to pick out a new toilet, you are suddenly faced with a dizzying array of sizes, shapes, heights, colors, configurations and extra features.

But when it comes to selecting home staples like the family toilet, choosing a non-conventional model can end up becoming a costly mistake when your toilet needs repairs or you decide to sell your house.

Here are some of the most common toilet purchase mistakes consumers make today:

1. Making your choice all about the cheapest price

If you can get a great deal, why not go for it? But if you are selecting a toilet based simply on the lowest price and nothing else, you risk getting what you pay for, which can be much more costly in terms of more frequent maintenance and repairs.

2. Purchasing a colorful (non-white) toilet

If you are old enough to remember the seafoam green craze of the 1970s, you already know why basic white is always the wisest choice for a toilet color. Coloured toilets, while making a comeback in some midcentury modern homes, are often dealbreakers for people because they look outdated or like a fad they’ll have to change not long after.

3. Choosing an elongated toilet bowl

While there can be an argument for some that the newer elongated toilet bowls are comfier, the common mistake here is not measuring nearby cabinet drawers, bathroom doors, shower doors, and other permanent fixtures that could become non-functional with an elongated toilet bowl blocking their way.

4. Not checking how the lid closes

Talk about things that go "bump" in the night—you definitely don't want one of them to be your toilet lid slamming shut after each midnight bathroom trip!

5. Not listening to the flusher first

Unless you enjoy the soothing sounds of aircraft taking off at close range, you will want to do a test flush before you make your final selection. Certain high-pressure models are so intent on delivering top-notch, no-clog flushing action they should be issued with earplugs for the user or heart attack meds.

6. Selecting a non-standard shape or sized toilet

While a square, rectangular, or oblong toilet bowl can be super-snazzy looking, it may also end up being difficult or costly to repair, since none of the more common parts will fit.

7. Customizing the toilet seat

So long as you will be using the toilet yourself, there is nothing wrong with customizing the toilet seat. But you don't want to buy a toilet that comes with an unusual toilet seat design, pattern, or color. Buy that feature after-market so you can put the standard toilet seat back on when you get ready to sell the house.

8. Assuming labels like "comfort seat” apply equally to all users

Toilets, like most standard household fixtures, are typically designed to be comfortable to users that fall within the standard height and weight measurements. For example, in Canada, the average male adult is 175.1 cm (5 ft. 9 in.) and the average female adult is 162.3 cm (5 ft. 4 in.). So for users who are shorter or taller than this range, a "comfort seat” might not be very comfortable at all.

9. Picking a complex toilet and bowl design

The more complex the toilet bowl and design, the more difficult it will be to clean and the more time it will take.

10. Buying a toilet with a non-insulated tank that sweats

If the toilet you select has a tank that isn't insulated, it will sweat. Not only will this increase dampness in your bathroom, which can then encourage mould and mildew to grow, but it will also look unattractive.

Two Toilet Options We Think You Will Love

Out of all the toilet brands we could have chosen to recommend, we chose these two for the reasons listed below (as well as for how they address all the mistakes above). We think you will love them both!

Entrada Toilets

The design of Entrada toilets is simple and seamless. Our customers tell us these toilets are very easy to clean. The seats are equipped with SoftClose or Washlet technology—no bumps in the night here!

UltraMax II TOTO Toilets

UltraMax II TOTO toilets are simple and elegant and include the option of an in-wall tank, reducing your cleaning chores even further. If you've ever wished you could get your bathroom space back, now you can!

Give Us a Call

We at Gravenhurst Plumbing have been in the business for 72 wonderful years. If you need help selecting and installing a new toilet for your home or workplace, give us a call!

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What You Don't Know About Your Sump Pump Could Cost You

sump pump installation

The sump pump certainly isn't the most glamorous appliance in the average home. Often hidden away in rarely visited areas such as basements, sump pumps can easily get completely forgotten in the flurry of winterizing activities.

What this means is that winter time sump pump failure is more common than most people assume. You might be surprised to learn about all the unique ways a sump pump can fail during the coldest months of the year!

We always hate to get that emergency winter call from a valued client whose sump pump line has frozen or burst and flooded their basement with water. In this post, we share our top tips for winter sump pump maintenance in hopes this will never happen to you (but if it does, remember, we are just a phone call away!).

A Short Sump Pump Tutorial

Many homeowners inherit a sump pump along with a newly purchased home (in fact, according to CBC News, nearly all new construction in the Ontario area includes a basement-area sump pump).

It is important to know what a sump pump is and what it is supposed to do so you can make sure it is well maintained and working properly.

Definition of a sump pump

A sump pump is a smallish pump that is typically installed at the lowest point in your basement or crawlspace area.

Sump pump job description

The sump pump's sole job is to keep your home basement, crawlspace, and foundation moisture-free.

How moisture gets in

Moisture can get in from a number of directions. The most common ways are from groundwater seeping upwards through the water table, moisture falling off the roof and eaves through the downspouts, or backed up foundation drains.

How the sump pump gets the moisture out

A sump pump that has been installed correctly is perfectly situated to catch moisture in its surrounding sump pit and either pump it or use gravity to naturally drain it away from your home and back into the ground.

What happens when the sump pump doesn't work

When the sump pump stops working as it should, there is a risk of flooding in your basement or home and persistent moisture gathering around the home foundation.

What Causes a Sump Pump to Stop Working?

There are infinite possible reasons why a sump pump might stop working. These are some of the most common reasons:

  • The power goes out (the sump pump can't work without power, so unless you have a standby generator, it will stop working during a power outage).

  • The pump mechanism, motor, or other moving parts wear out.

  • The sump pump hose or discharge pipe freezes.

  • The sump pump discharge pipe has come loose from the sump pump itself.

  • The pipe becomes clogged or blocked.

  • The discharge pipe is improperly connected to the sanitary sewer instead of the storm sewer.

  • The check valve (that ensures water flowing out can't flow back in) has malfunctioned or is missing.

  • The water is being improperly discharged and flows back towards the home.

Critical Sump Pump Maintenance

After reading through this list of potential causes for a sump pump failure, you may find yourself eager to schedule a sump pump inspection and maintenance call.

The good news here is, winter is a particularly good time to schedule this type of maintenance with your Gravenhurst Plumbing technician.

Here is what will happen during our inspection and maintenance appointment:

  • First, we will visually inspect the sump pit, sump pump, hose, and discharge hose to make sure everything is set up properly.

  • We will do light cleaning on the exterior of the sump pump itself and in the sump pit to remove debris or excess gravel.

  • Next up is a test run to make sure the whole system is working properly, which we do by pouring water into the sump pit and observing the water removal process.

  • We will also test to be sure the sump discharge line is free and clear of any blockage or clogs.

  • During our inspection we will make recommendations to repair or replace any worn parts.

  • If you do not have a standby generator for backup power, we can also make recommendations for the best approach to keep your sump pump working as it should during a future power outage.

  • Finally, if there is any standing water, visible leaks, or moisture seepage/dampness, we can clean that up and make repairs as needed.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing to Schedule Your Sump Pump Maintenance

Gravenhurst Plumbing first opened its doors back in 1945 and we've been busy ever since. If you need help with installation, troubleshooting, repair, or maintenance for your HVAC, sump pump, or plumbing system, or you are ready to install a standby generator to keep your family safe during a power outage, we are on-call for you.

Contact us at 705-687-3402 or fill out our easy online form to schedule your service appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Worried About Your Water Quality? You Don't Have to Be!

water quality

As Canadians, we are lucky. Our country takes air and water quality quite seriously. For instance, Environment and Climate Change Canada is an organization set up to continuously monitor the quality of water in all the provinces, both urban and rural, with the help of local partners.

But even so, the risk of water contamination from a variety of sources always remains a reality. From storm runoff to acid rain, human and animal waste to chemical by-products, the water we use to drink, bathe in, clean with, and swim in has an uphill battle to stay pure in the face of so many potential contaminants.

In this post, learn about what goes into keeping your water safe and pure and how to ensure you never have to worry about water quality.

How Water Purity is Defined and Measured

Scientists, biologists, and chemists know something most of us don't realize, which is that water is designed to be capable of cleaning itself. This happens with the help of two essential partners: sunlight and aquatic living organisms.

The living organisms transform sunlight into energy, which produces oxygen. Oxygen is a natural cleaner that helps break down organic matter present in the water. As this cycle continues, the water is continually cleaned and purified by the very cycle of life happening within it.

But this natural purification process cannot cope with the ever-increasing levels of toxins being introduced into our water supply today, many of which do not break down readily or at all over time.

This is why more Canadians are becoming concerned about having a backup water purification system for their personal use.

Waterborne Disease You Want to Avoid

When toxins and contaminants get introduced into the water supply, they don't always produce a tangible effect. So you may never realize you are using water that contains pathogens linked to serious waterborne diseases.

Here are just a handful of the known diseases linked to consuming or using contaminated water:

  • Typhoid fever

  • Dysentery

  • Cholera

  • Parasitic infections

  • Zoonotic (from animal to human host) diseases

While modern medicine has been developed to treat most known waterborne pathogens, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other monitoring agencies are continually tracking and monitoring waterborne diseases to facilitate earlier detection and create treatment approaches. In other words, there is always something new to be discovered about what may lurk in our water supplies.

How to Ensure Your Personal Water Supply is Pure

Here in Canada, unlike in many other nations, we have amazingly rich supplies of water. But even some of our purest waters are now under heavy pressure to keep their contents clean. As such, it is no longer safe to assume you can drink from a stream or lake and never have to worry about waterborne pathogens.

Happily, there is a way to ensure you can drink freely and deeply from your home water supply and never have a moment's worry about contamination.

You can achieve this by using an ultraviolet (U.V.) water purification system. There are so many great benefits of using a UV purification system. Here are some of our favourites:

  • UV comes from sunlight and is completely natural—using UV to purify your water doesn't waste any water as a result of processing.

  • Using UV replaces the need to add chlorine to purify the water. Chlorine does work as a purifier, but unfortunately it is now known to interact with other waterborne compounds to produce cancer-triggering by-products.

  • UV is a planet-friendly purification agent that has been in use for more than 100 years. Today, some of North America's largest cities (for example, New York) use UV as their main city water purification system.

  • UV is proven to destroy 99.99 percent of waterborne micro-organisms—no other purifier scores higher. It is one of only four water disinfection systems approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

  • UV (unlike chlorine and other additive-based purifiers) contains no odour or flavour that will dilute or overpower the natural taste of water itself.

  • UV purification is incredibly quick, reliable, and energy efficient. Even running 24/7, the energy it takes is equivalent to burning a single 60-watt lightbulb.

  • UV purification is a low-maintenance option, requiring only the annual replacement of the UV bulb and a routine inspection and cleaning every 2–3 years. You never have to deal with handling any additives or chemicals or disposing of dirty worn-out parts.

How to Use a UV Water Purification System

It is important to size the UV system you buy to the water use requirements of your household. Also, some users decide to install their UV system to work with just one tap in the house, while others install their system to work with every tap in the household, indoors and outdoors (this is the safest option, since you never have to worry you just took a sip of potentially unsafe water from another tap).

Your UV system will work best when partnered with a pre-treatment 5-micron sediment filter. This should be installed upstream of your UV system to be sure no large particles get through. Larger particles are sometimes capable of blocking or deflecting UV light, which can mean less-pure water for your household.

For households with hard water (lots of mineral and sediment deposits), it may be beneficial to install a water softener as well. This, too, should be installed upstream from your UV system.

Contact Gravenhurst Plumbing for Help

Here at Gravenhurst Plumbing, we take community water quality very seriously. After all, our families are drinking the local water too! If you need help selecting, sizing, and installing a UV water purification system at home, call on us for help. You can reach us by phone at 877.885.3403 (Canada) or 705.687.3402 or online at

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