Let’s face it. Summer is for fun – travel, entertaining, backyard bar-be-ques, swimming, fun in the sun, relaxing, and recharging for the busy Fall ahead. All of these activities mean more traffic in your home, which means more loads of wash, flushes of the toilet, and dishes to clean. You no doubt will use the hose more often to water flowers, fill pools and sprinkle the lawn. Many of us also take extra showers during the warmer weather.
Too often, we never question whether or not our utilities are ready for all the extra traffic.
Plumbing is no doubt one of the most important of these utilities since it is the system of pipes and pumps that bring water to us and sends it away are essential to basic sanitation. One unpleasant plumbing problem can cancel out the best bar-be-que ever planned.
There is a host of hands-on, pro-active measures we can take to better prepare for the summer months and help make sure we spend our time enjoying them instead of fretting about leaks, clogs, low pressure, and other plumbing problems.
Don’t Go Plumb Crazy. Look for Leaks.
Summer is the best time to check for plumbing leaks, since a long winter can have an impact on plumbing that we might not even see, and you’ll want to take advantage of the warmer weather to take care of any issues. Check faucets, toilets, showerheads, and other fixtures. Look inside cabinets under sinks and around toilets for any water damage. Leaks are one of the most common culprits for wasting water, no matter the season.
Watch for leaks in your sprinkler systems. Sprinklers create many of the summer plumbing problems as they notorious for wasting water because they sometimes spring leaks underground. These leaks often go undetected when sprinklers operate on a timer and not supervised. Merely fix any broken sprinkler heads by removing the old heads and taking them to the hardware store to find an exact replacement.
For the toilet: How to check your toilet for leaks 1. Remove the toilet tank lid. 2. Drop one dye tablet or 10 drops of food coloring into the tank. (Dye tablets are often available for free through local water providers.) 3. Put the lid back on. Do not flush. 4. Wait at least 10-15 minutes, and then look in the bowl. If you see colored water, you have a leak. If not, you don’t.
In the bathtub: See if the grout is all around the edges and securely sealed to the wall tile. A little chip enables water to leak into places it shouldn’t be. Hidden leaks. If you suspect a leak but can’t see one, there are some “tricks” to test your water system. Pick a time when no one will be home for at least 15 minutes, even better, an hour or two, and a time when nothing that uses water needs to be running. Now, check your water meter and jot down the numbers. If the numbers are the same when you re-check in a couple of hours, there probably aren’t any “hidden” leaks. If the numbers change, it might indicate a problem. Also, if your yard seems saturated in one area, it’s possible the water is coming from the buried water lines. In this case, you want to consult with your water utility or a licensed plumber, because it’s never good to dig prior to a professional estimation.
Give J&A South Park a call before you ever attempt any digging on your property because of possible water leaks.
Keep the Toilet Flowing.
With kids home for the summer and their friends coming over during the day, your toilets are going to be working much harder during the middle parts of the day. While this usually means your water bill might be a bit higher, it also means the rate of using the toilet increases dramatically, increasing the chances of common plumbing problems; like a clog. The best way to deal with clogs is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Make sure everyone is on the same page as to what can and what cannot be flushed down the toilet. You might consider putting up signs around the kids’ toilets reminding them what does (and doesn’t) get flushed down the pipes.
You also might want to hold bathroom etiquette classes to show the little ones how to take only a few pieces of toilet paper with every bathroom use.
Toilet Tip #1: Keep a toilet plunger in sight near each toilet and make sure family members know how to use it. Use a plunger with a higher, rounded hood and extended flange rather than a conventional one intended for sinks or other uses.
Toilet Tip #2: You require at least enough water in the toilet to cover the plunger and can add some if needed.
Toilet Tip #3: Replacing older toilets with newer water-saving units can most likely save enough money on the cost of water to pay for their replacement.
Slow-Clearing Shower Drains? Keep Calm and Plumb On.
Whether your summer adventures include sand and surf, hiking trails or ATV’s, it’s a good bet it comes with an extra dose of dirt at the end of the day. When cleaning up after your day’s fun, be sure to keep the worst of it out of your drains. They’re not designed to handle sizable amounts of sand, mud or other debris and could become clogged, even damaged.
Hose everyone down, including any four-legged friends, outside. And knock any extra debris from your clothes before placing them in the washing machine. Your drains will thank you.
Some Foods Don’t Agree with Your Garbage Disposal.
Summer brings out the bar-be-que and casual outdoor dining. They also bring a host of food scraps that shouldn’t go down the garbage disposal. Avoid flushing hard fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and corn down the disposal. These types of products can damage the blades or cause unwanted clogs. Hard seeds and pits, including popcorn kernels, can also be hazardous as can summertime goodies like macaroni salad and hot dog remains.
And NEVER put instant stuffing, potato mixes or similar “just-add-water” foods down the drain—they’ll create an instant clog when you add water.
Grilling out? Be sure guests know not to put bones or fat down your garbage disposal if you want to keep it running its very best.
Cooking oils are also common in summer plumbing problems and should never be dumped down your sink, whether or not you have a disposal. (Let oils and fats harden and scrape them into the trash instead.)
Disposal Tip:Running cold water at full pressure for 15 seconds before and after putting anything down the disposal will help ensure it gets flushed through.
Washing Machine Blues.
Like everything else in your house, the washer will get more use during the summer months. Long hot days require more changes of clothes as do summertime activities. This can put additional strain on your machine. Ideally, you should only run the washer when you’re home so that you’re there should a problem arise. That way, you can quickly stop the cycle and get professional help.
To prevent creating an indoor swimming pool in the laundry room, you should check the hoses at the back of the machine for any possible leaks. Also, replace your hoses every 3 years. When you do replace your hoses, consider spending the extra money on stainless steel hoses since they last a lot longer than conventional rubber hoses.
Also, some older washer models may need a “break,” so washing your laundry one load at a time instead of several loads at once can help.
Washing Machine Tip: Don’t push the washing machine too close to the wall as it could cause it to overheat and the pipes to clog. Leave at least 4 inches between your machine and the wall.
Summer Showers Tax Your Hot Water Heater.
Between all the extra laundry and extra bathing, you’ll also be overworking your water heater. This can be a severe problem, especially if you’re running late for work and are staring down an ice-cold shower.
If your water heater is roughly 10 or more years old, you’ll want to have it inspected to make sure it’s still in good working order.
Water Heater Tip: Turn the temperature on your water heater down to 120 degrees F.
When It Rains, It Pours – Into Your Basement.
Another part of your home’s plumbing that gets a workout during the summer is the sewer line. It’s quite common for older lines to experience back-ups during the summer months. This is especially true when afternoon thunderstorms hit, and the ground becomes saturated with rain. The last thing you want is sewage backing up inside your basement this summer.
Hire a licensed plumber to inspect your sewer piping. They can determine if you are susceptible to any sewer line problems or damage. He/she can also help you understand your best treatment for proper drain cleaning.
Sewer Tip: You might want to consider installing a drain plug in each drain to prevent water from backing up during storms. Check it out at J&A South Park.
Watch Out for those Pesky Tree Roots.
Tree roots are always spreading underground. During the summer months, they are reaching out in search of water; amazing when you think about it. Unfortunately, those roots can create serious plumbing problems, including damage and blockages in your underground pipes.
Unless you can see underground, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent this problem. If you do spot any issues like water backing up in one of your drains or see or smell any signs of sewer line trouble, such as water from the toilet backing up into the bathtub drain, this could indicate a tree root problem. Call for service immediately.
Is the sump pump pumping?
If you do have a basement or cellar prone to flooding, you most likely have a sump pump. Remember that summer brings with it the potential for heavy, unexpected downpours that can quickly turn into a flooding problem. Testing the sump pump will help ensure you’re ready for thunderstorms and any extra water they send your way.
When All Else Fails, Know How to Shut Off the Water
Should anything catastrophic occur with any of your water-using appliance or another area of your home, you want to be able to stop the water to deal with the plumbing emergency.
Of course, you can cut off the supply to most of your water-using appliances somewhere at the individual machine to minimize plumbing problems. For example, most sinks have a valve in the water line usually underneath in the cabinet, near the wall.
But it’s always a good idea to know where the main water shutoff to your home is located and, importantly, how to use it. Some homes have the shutoff valve within the structure, such as the basement or garage. Others are located outside in the yard or near the water main in the street or sidewalk.
One more thing. Don’t ignore odors; they are not the norm. A correctly operating plumbing system runs without odors, so any foul smell suggests a problem. Common culprits include leaks or cracks in the traps or vent piping of a septic or sewerage system, bad seals, or a failed component.
As it goes every season the best defense to ensure your plumbing systems are running properly is to schedule annual maintenance inspections. Talk to a plumbing expert at J&A South Parkabout common summer plumbing problems and what can be done about them.