Chilly fall temperatures serve as a polite reminder that when winter arrives it can be sudden, often leaving homeowners unprepared for the troubles associated with extreme cold. A few simple preparations now will help prevent headaches and costly repairs throughout the winter months.
Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected, water in the hoses can freeze and expand causing faucets and connecting pipes inside your home to freeze and break.
Make sure outside faucets aren't dripping or leaking. Make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before freezing temperatures arrive. Be aware that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds causing cracks - no matter if the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash more than 250 gallons of water in a single day.
If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from lines.
Cover outside faucets using a faucet insulation kit available at home centers.
Insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as garages or crawl spaces. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around pipes that are exposed and prone to freezing.
Seal leaks around doors and windows to reduce cold air penetration.
Your water heater works harder during winter months. Flush it out and remove sediment buildup, which causes corrosion, shortens life span and reduces heating efficiency. Drain several gallons from the faucet near the bottom of the tank. Connect a hose to the faucet and direct water into a nearby drain.
Carefully test the water heater's pressure relief valve (Danger: water is very hot) by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. The valve should allow a burst of hot water into the drainpipe. If not, call a professional to have a new valve installed.
Check the temperature setting on your water heater's thermostat. Set at 120°F for optimum performance.
Clear leaves and debris from outside downspouts to ensure easy drainage when water freezes and thaws throughout the winter season.
Inspect and clean sump pump and pit. Pumps exposed to extreme cold can freeze, preventing the pump from operating.
When leaving home for extended periods, shut off the main water valve and drain the system by opening faucets at the highest and lowest points of the house. Make sure the heat is left on and set no lower than 55°F.
Caution! These tips are intended for homes that will be inhabited throughout the winter months. Many additional steps should be taken to winterize vacation properties that will be abandoned or left unattended for weeks or months at a time. Seek professional help for winterizing such properties.
The holidays are coming, bringing together family, friends and a few plumbing emergencies. A majority of Americans take part in holiday parties with 11 or more guests around Thanksgiving and Christmas. These extra guests put a serious strain on a home's plumbing system, which results in more emergency calls to plumbers.
Big holiday meals require a busy kitchen. Too much grease and food finds its way into the kitchen drain or disposer. Holiday guests also equate to extra showers, bath and lots of extra toilet flushes. It all adds up to potential plumbing disasters.
Pipes clog because of a gradual buildup of grease, hair, soap or food particles. All it takes it one major overload, like a house full of guests, to exasperate the situation and create a clogged drain. Follow these tips to avoid a plumbing disaster.
Avoid pouring fats or cooking oils down the drain because liquid fats solidify in the pipes and create clogs. Wipe congealed grease from pots.
Never put hard-to-grind, stringy, fibrous waste into the garbage disposer (poultry skins, carrots, celery, pumpkin pulp or banana peels). The disposer can't sufficiently grind these items and they will clog your sink drain.
Run cold water down the drain for about 15 seconds before and after using the garbage disposer to flush waste down the main line.
Turn on the disposer before adding food debris.
Run the dishwasher and washing machine at night or at off times to conserve water temperature and pressure for your guests.
Plan ahead, spread out showers throughout the day; wait 10 minutes between showers rather than taking one right after another.
Turn up the water heater slightly to retain hot water. To avoid scalding, do not exceed 125°F.
If shower pressure is weak, pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag, place it over the showerhead, and soak. Use a twist tie to hold it in place overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off the mineral deposits to help restore water flow.
Provide a trash bin in the bathroom so the toilet isn't used as a garbage can. Never flush cotton swabs, cotton balls, hair, facial scrub pads, diapers, sanitary products or similar items down the toilet. These items will not easily dissolve and are responsible for most clogs.
April showers bring May flowers and the onset of spring, which means it's time for "spring cleaning." ADS offers these maintenance tips to protect your home against plumbing problems.
Check faucets for drips or leaks. Make repairs to save water.
Ensure that all drains have strainers to prevent hair, soap and debris from clogging the drain lines.
Check toilets for hidden leaks. Add six drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.
Inspect tank and bowl for cracks or leaks.
Exercise water supply valves under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking.
Make sure toilets flush properly. If the handle must be held down for a thorough flush or jiggled to stop the water from running you may need to replace worn tank parts. They're inexpensive and you'll notice a lower water bill.
Clean mineral deposits from showerhead. Unscrew it and soak in vinegar or fill a plastic baggie with vinegar; place it over the showerhead and hold in place with a rubber band. Soak overnight then remove and gently scrub with an old toothbrush to remove deposits.
Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 120°F to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
Carefully drain several gallons from the water heater tank to flush out corrosion causing sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and shortens the life of the heater.
Consider replacing a water heater more than 15 years old. (The first four numbers of the serial number represent the month and year it was made.) Newer water heaters are more energy efficient.
Make sure flammables are not stored near the water heater or furnace.
Check dishwasher, washing machine and icemaker supply hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace hoses showing signs of weakness or older than ten years.
Clean out washing machine lint trap, if equipped, and place a wire trap or a piece of pantyhose over the end of the hose that drains the washer.
Pour a gallon of water into infrequently used drains (including floor drains) to fill the trap and prevent odors from entering the house. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they will carry away water quickly in the event of a flood.
Check exposed pipes under sinks and in the basement for signs of leaks.
If your home has a sump pump, make sure it operates properly by pouring a few buckets of water into the sump pit. The pump should quickly turn on, discharge the water then shut off without any problems.
Install a backflow valve in the floor drain if you live in an area where sewers sometimes back up into homes. This device will prevent future backups.
Inspect for slow leaks in your home by taking a reading on your water meter before bedtime. The next morning, without using any water overnight, take another reading. If the reading has changed you have a leak that should be repaired.
Install flood alarms. Like a smoke alarm, a flood alarm is a battery-operated device that sounds an alarm when it comes in contact with water. It alerts you to potential flooding or leaks.
Make sure yard drains, gutters and downspouts are cleaned out, open, and free of debris.
Check for bird nests in plumbing vent pipes.
Check faucets and hose bibs to make sure water flows freely. If an outdoor faucet drips or if there is leakage inside your home the first time the hose is turned on, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked and needs to be replaced.
Summer is the "home buying" season. Many new homebuyers find out too late that their dream home is riddled with water leakage or a poor plumbing system. In fact, 44% of consumers call a plumber within one year of purchasing a home. To avoid such unexpected and costly problems, we recommend that you visually inspect any potential home for problems and offer these helpful tips:
Check around the base of the toilet for signs of water damage (i.e.; rolled vinyl, black or white stains).
To check for a "soft floor," stand straddled over the toilet and rock back and forth on each foot. If the floor feels spongy, it is probably rotting or weakened.
Check to see how fast the toilet flushes.
Check for leaky or loose tiles by pressing on the walls where they come in contact with the bathtub. If the walls are soft, water may have created damage behind the tiles.
Water Supply Piping
Turn on water in bathtub and in the kitchen sink. If there is a noticeable reduction in water volume, the piping in the house may need to be replaced because of calcium and mineral deposits.
If the home has a basement, check exposed piping for signs of leaking or recent repairs.
Find the main line cleanout and ensure that it is accessible.
Check the date of the water heater. The first four numbers of the serial number on the water heater are the month and year. Any heater over 15 years old is a candidate to be replaced.
A rusty water tank is a sign of pending problems.
Check to make sure that the garbage disposer and dishwasher connections are tight and leak free.
Survey the inside of cabinets (with a flashlight) for signs of water damage, warped cabinet bottom or stains. Make sure that traps and supply tubes are not leaking.
Check washing machine hoses for rupture. Turn valves on and off to test for leaks.
Standing water is another common problem resulting from leaky or broken pipes. Excess water in a yard may be coming from a damaged sewer line and may contain waste from the home. Standing water is not healthy for children or pets, and is a breeding ground for insects and germs. Inspect the yard for areas that are too wet and with unusual plant or grass growth.