Plumbing is wonderful to have, when it’s working. Most of the time our plumbing just continues on, doing what it’s supposed to do. Unfortunately plumbing, like everything else, wears down with time. Eventually pipes wear out or break, drains clog, etcetera. Below we have listed a few simple things you can do to help extend the life of your plumbing, and some ways to detect worn out plumbing early.
Outside Exposed Piping
Though it isn’t common in houses with foundations, some homes have outside pipes that are not buried in the ground. If you have pipes like this, it is important to insulate them. If the pipes remain uninsulated they will freeze during the winter, which sometimes leads to the pipes bursting. Insulating pipes is not particularly hard, just important. Premade insulation can be bought at Home Depot, Lowes, and other stores that sell plumbing supplies. The insulation is already round with a whole in the middle, so be sure to buy the right size. There should already be a slit on one side. Simply cut the insulation tube to the right length, then slip in on over the pipe. Once in place, tape in a couple places, and it’s good to go.
In some places it gets cold enough that just insulating the pipes isn’t enough. If you live in one of these places, we recommend adding heat tape underneath the insulation. Heat tape can be bought in most of the same places as the insulation. To install it, you need a bare pipe. Simply wrap the flat heating end around the pipe, sticky side towards the pipe. Then cover both pipe and tape with the insulation and tape the insulation into place. The power cord for the heat tape should run out from the bottom or top of the insulation. When it gets cold, simply plug the heat tape in to help keep the pipes from freezing. Be sure to unplug the heat tape in the warm months, though! As long as the heat tape isn’t plugged in when it’s hot, both the heat tape and insulation can be left on the pipes year round and it will not harm either.
Shut off Valves
If pipes burst, break, or leak, it is important to know where the shut off valves are. Shut off valves are also useful if you or your plumber are going to install new fixtures. If you don’t know where they are, you should find out. If you can’t find them, your plumber can help you locate any shut off valves. If you don’t have some, your plumber can also help you install them. It’s a good idea to have shut off valves before the water heater, and some under the sinks. That way you can do a localized shut off instead of having to shut off the whole house. The shut off valves should be tested at least once a year, so that you know they’ll work when you need them.
If the water pressure in your home is too high it can damage your water lines, fixtures, and valves. That’s why it’s important to test the water pressure and make sure it is neither too high nor to low. Since a lot of homes in Orem have a water pressure regulator, it is usually easy to fix water pressure problems. Simply use a test gauge to see what psi the water pressure is at. If you need help, your plumber can easily test the psi for you. The psi should be in the range of 40 - 65.
Old water mains and pipes are a lot more likely to break. Pipes can also be choked off or clogged by tree and bush roots. Roots cause problems either when they grow around and strangle a pipe, or if they grow into cracks in the pipes and then continue to grow inside the pipes. The growing roots can make the pipes bulge and warp, and they can makes the original racks grow bigger. Some older homes, usually ones that are built before the 1950’s, have pipes made from “Orangeburg.” Orangeburg is basically tar paper. Like all other paper, it will collapse and/or disintegrate over time when exposed to water. If this happens before the pipes are replaced, there is going to be a big mess and expensive repairs.
For these reasons Your Plumber Orem recommends having a video inspection of your plumbing at least once a year, and before you buy a new house. Video inspections can tell if there’s a clog, blockage, or leak. They also help diagnose pipes that are wearing out, or if pipes are made out of the wrong type of material.
Blockages & Leaks
About three times a year a homeowner should do a visual inspection of their pipes. Doing a visual inspection helps to detect leaks before they get serious, and helps to prevent further damage. Doing a visual check three times a year, and an in-depth check about once a year should keep your plumbing in good shape.
It is also important to check your drains. We’ve all probably seen a slow drain. Drains that are slow have a blockage inside of them that prevent the water from draining correctly. If you aren’t sure, just pour a bunch of water down the drain and see if it drains quickly. If it drains at a regular rate, but makes a gurgling sound there is probably a small blockage in there. Whether it is big or small, your plumber can help clear any blockage in drains.
To help prevent blockages and clogs, a homeowner should have the traps under the sink cleaned out a couple times a year. This will help get rid of the muck that accumulates in the trap, along with any associated bacteria. At the same time the homeowner should also clean out the disposal under the kitchen sink, if there is one. Too clean up the disposal, simply drop a few cubes of frozen white vinegar while the disposal is on.
Like the rest of our plumbing, it is important to have our water heater inspected once a year. Water heaters are especially important to stay on top of because they can explode, turn into a rocket, or at the very least rupture and start leaking all over the place. Yes, we said explode or turn into a rocket. The pressure of the water inside the tank is supposed to be let off every so often by a little valve on the heater. Unfortunately sometimes these valves malfunction. When the valve malfunctions, it sometimes doesn’t let off the pressure like it is supposed to. This leads to the pressure building up until the water heater can no longer contain it. Having the heater inspected once a year drastically reduces the chances of this happening. Your plumber can also flush out any sediment that has built up inside the water heater. This will help your water heater run more efficiently, and makes it use less gas or electricity to work.
Not everyone has or needs a sump pump. But if you live in an area where you need one, it is important to test it out at least once or twice a year to make sure it works before you need it. No one wants to find three feet of water in their basement and realize the pump’s gone out. To test the pump, simply pour water into the hole and see if it pumps out. If it does, your pump is fine. If it doesn’t, call your plumber because it needs replacing.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to get on top of your plumbing maintenance. These are very important steps in taking care of your home. If you need help maintaining, fixing, or installing plumbing in your home contact Your Plumber Orem today.