The efficiency of your plumbing system may not seem like something you can personally do much about. After all, you’re not a plumber, and when there is a problem, you call in a professional to deal with it. But that does not mean that there aren’t simple steps you can take to help keep your plumbing system functioning properly and minimize the need for repairs.
Your plumbing actually uses up a lot of energy around your house. The hot water you use to wash clothes, dishes and to bathe all needs to be heated, and that costs money. Of course, you need hot water, but you can control just how hot it is.
Most water heaters are set by default to 140°F, which is hotter than you ever need your water to be. A great and simple step to reduce that energy bill every month is to turn your water heater down to 120°F. This is plenty hot enough to take care of all of your hot water needs but it will make a big difference in your total energy consumption.
You can also reduce the likelihood of plumbing problems if you reduce the number of chemicals you use around the house. Most of these chemicals eventually get washed down the drain where they can do some serious damage to your pipes. Switching to biodegradable alternatives will keep your plumbing healthy and minimize the number of costly repairs needed.
Another danger to the integrity of your pipes is excessive water pressure. While you certainly do not want your water pressure to be too low, very high water pressure puts a serious strain on your pipes and can cause them to break down more quickly than they would otherwise. Have your incoming water pressure tested and adjusted so that it does not exceed 60 pounds per square inch.
The main problem people tend to have with their kitchen plumbing is a stinky or backed up garbage disposal. If these sound like problems you are dealing with on a regular basis, here are some quick tips to help.
If your garbage disposal gets clogged repeatedly, you may be putting too much down it at once. Try to feed scraps in slowly so that your garbage disposal can clear the previous batch before the next one comes in. You also need to make sure that you are running enough water while the garbage disposal is in action. An adequate water supply is essential to smoothly process waste. If you do not give it enough to work with it will quickly become clogged.
Unpleasant odors coming from your garbage disposal are usually the result of food residue that has collected on and around the blades. You can often get rid of these smells by cutting up a lemon and putting that down the garbage disposal along with some baking soda. These natural odor neutralizing agents will be spread all over the inner chamber of your garbage disposal when you run it and are very effective at stopping the smell. Do this periodically to keep odors from coming back.
If the odor is strong or persisitent, you may need to deep clean your disposal. Before you start, make sure that all power to the unit is completely cut off. You do not want anyone accidentally flipping the switch and turning on the unit while you are working on it.
Next, take out the blades carefully and thoroughly wash them. You can also scrub out the inside chamber so that you are sure there is no residue left there. However, be sure not to use any harsh chemical cleaners, as these can damage the inner workings of the machine. Instead, use biodegradable soaps or natural cleaning agents like vinegar and baking soda to get the job done.
In the bathroom, one of the main sources of trouble is the toilet. If your toilet is running constantly or flushing randomly when no one is around, check the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank to make sure there is a good seal. Chances are that the seal is inadequate and water is constantly leaking from the tank into the bowl. This valve is quite easy to replace and you will be surprised how much water you can save by doing so.
Another frustrating problem that can develop in your bathroom has to do with your shower head. If the water is spraying out in all different directions or does not come out with consistent force, you probably have mineral deposits that have built up around the holes and inside of the shower head. Simply remove the outer covering of the shower head and clean the entire fixture thoroughly. That should take care of the problem.
If you notice a sudden increase in your water bill that does not correspond to an increase in the amount of water you know you were using in the house, you probably have a leak somewhere in your system. Without proper experience and diagnostic equipment, you will have a hard time pinpointing the source of the leak on your own. Your best bet is to call an experienced plumber who can inspect your whole plumbing system easily and figure out where the leak is and what to do about it.
Particularly if you live in an area with very harsh winters, freezing pipes can be a big issue. In order to prevent your pipes from freezing, you should turn off all outside faucets, disconnect the hoses attached to these faucets and drain the excess water from the system. Finally, wrap the faucets and outlets with dry cloth to further insulate them from the cold.
If your plumbing has never been inspected or you do not know when the last inspection took place, it is a good idea to have it done as soon as possible. Depending on your particular circumstances and the overall state of your plumbing system, a professional plumber can make recommendations about how often the process should be repeated.
If you live on a property with a lot of trees, for instance, you may need to have your plumbing lines inspected more often because of the chance that roots could begin to infiltrate the system. However, if there are no extenuating circumstances and your plumbing is otherwise in good shape, you could probably wait longer between inspections. In general, though, a plumbing system should be inspected annually.
A white buildup around your shower head and faucets is most likely mineral deposits that settle out from your water and accumulate over time. These can be cleaned off easily enough by soaking the fixture in vinegar overnight and then thoroughly scrubbing it. But that will not keep the problem from recurring. If your problem is severe or you would like to avoid future occurrences, you may want to look into having a water softener installed that can take those minerals out of your water before it reaches your taps.