Maintaining your plumbing system
Proper plumbing system maintenance is a crucial part of being a homeowner. A well-maintained plumbing system will last a long time and provide you and your family with clean water year round. But, over time, without proper attention and care, you can accrue high costs in repair bills and replacement. Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to reduce your liability for plumbing-related expenses. If you want to reduce your risk further, consider a home warranty to reduce your liability to a low monthly payment.
Reduce pressure on your pipes
The pipes that run through your house, delivering clean water and removing waste, are often difficult to access, making servicing them an expensive undertaking. High pressure running through your pipes will put a strain on them, reducing their lifetime. To check for pressure, buy a hose bib gauge at your local hardware store – these are available for under $10. A PSI of more than 85 means that the pressure on your pipes is too high. If this is the case in your home, consider investing in a pressure reducer. Hiring a plumber to install a pressure reducer costs around $400, according to HouseLogic, but the cost is well worth it in the long term.
While high pressure is bad for your pipes, it does feel good in the shower. If you want to reduce the stress on your pipes, but you don't want to sacrifice water pressure in your shower, invest in low-flow appliances. Low-flow appliances will aerate the water coming out of your faucets, increasing the pressure with less water overall, which can also save you in water bills.
Watch what you put down your drain
One of the most common causes of blockages is homeowners tossing things down the drain that don't belong there, according to HouseLogic. When in doubt, it's best to throw something in the trash – not down the drain. Hair in your shower drain and food scraps down your sink drain are two of the most common offenders. Even if you have a sink disposal, you may be guilty of putting unnecessary strain on your pipes. A sink disposal can only handle soft food scraps, so items like egg shells and avocado peels are too harsh. Hot grease is another problem for your drain. While bacon grease is liquid while it's hot, it will cool quickly going down your drain. As grease cools, it hardens and sticks to the side of your pipes, causing blockages.
Another mistake homeowners make is throwing trash down the toilet. A toilet is only made to handle waste and water, anything harder to dispose of is too much. While not everything you flush down a toilet will cause a blockage, you never know what will. It's much cheaper to play it safe.
Soften your water
Hard water – or water with a high mineral count – is full of particles that, over time, will build up on your faucet filters, potentially blocking them. The first step in checking for hard water is to look at your faucets and shower head for a white buildup. If you find a significant buildup, hard water may be causing your plumbing system to work harder than necessary, shortening its life. Every municipality is required to submit an Annual Water Quality report to the Environmental Protection Agency, so if you suspect hard water, check with the EPA to see the mineral count for your area's water. Anything over 140 parts per million is considered hard water.
To soften your water, consider investing in a water softener. There are two types of softener – sodium-based and electrical-based. An electrical softener is cheaper, according to HouseLogic, at around $200, but will require access to an electrical outlet. A sodium-based softener needs to be installed by a plumber and will run you considerably more.
Check for corrosion and leaks
It's important to regularly check for corrosion and leaks to ensure proper plumbing. Leaks can be found by puddles that they leave around your piping or loose tiles in your kitchen or bathroom. Not only do leaks hurt the efficiency of your plumbing system, they also can lead to mold and other problems local to the leak. If you suspect a leak, you should call a plumber as soon as possible to repair the problem to avoid further damage.
Corrosion can be more difficult to spot, depending on its location. Look at your pipes to see if they are discolored in any way. Copper and brass pipes turn a greenish hue when they are beginning to corrode, while old steel pipes corrode to a yellow or orange color. Corrosion can lead to leaks and poor connections, as well as higher metal content in your water, so the sooner you get the offending pipe section repaired, the better.
Avoid using chemical drain-clearing products
While it may be tempting to run for a chemical drain-clear product the second you encounter a blockage, HouseLogic recommends that you avoid these products. Chemical products will erode cast-iron drainpipes over time, which can be very expensive to replace. Additionally, these types of product often won't clear the entire block, as they slip through as soon as there is a large enough opening, meaning that in a few months you'll be running out to the store to buy more, further eroding your drainpipes. Instead, either hire a plumber to snake the drain for you, which should cost between $75 and $100, or buy a snake at a home goods store for significantly less and attempt to remove the blockage yourself.
To further protect yourself against the potential costs of an aging plumbing system, consider purchasing a TotalProtect® Home Warranty if you havn't already. A home warranty is a smart investment in your home's future, and will increase your homeowner's confidence by reducing your liability to a low, monthly payment.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.