Plumbing Tips (26)
A home's plumbing system will make a wide range of noises under normal operation. By understanding which noises are normal and which could be the sign of a bigger problem you can often prevent expensive plumbing repairs.
Whistling sounds are often caused by a toilet fill valve that is leaking. You can often stop the sound temporarily by remove the lid of the toilet tank and adjusting the fill valve mechanism until it stops. The fill valve should be replaced to eliminate the leak.
This is another sound often caused by a toilet's fill valve. When the gasket inside the top cap of the fill valve is old and worn, it becomes less flexible. When closed, the poor seal can cause vibrations in wall near the toilet. Check the fill valve by removing the tank lid and activating the fill valve from the arm. If the vibration stops, the fill valve is worn and should be replaced.
If you hear banging noises when using faucets in the home it may be caused by improperly secured pipes behind the walls. If the piping is metal the problem may be caused by expansion and contraction when the pipes run through the joists or studs.
Another common cause of banging noises is "water hammer". This occurs when there is high water pressure in your plumbing system. Water flowing in one direction does not want to stop moving. When you turn off a faucet, the water still has considerable force to be absorbed by the pipe. If the pipe is against a stud or joist, it will bang against the wood. Having a water hammer arrestor installed can eliminate the banging noises.
Rumbling sounds are often heard when a water heater has excessive sediment build up. When water is trapped in this sediment and starts boiling the heat is not transferred out of the flue as efficiently, causing turbulence and noise.
Carefully draining a few gallons of water from the water heater tank using hose attached to the drain valve can remove much of the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the tank.
When you consider the damage that a flooded basement can cause, a sump pump is cheap insurance against the stress and hassle of extensive water damage. Unfortunately, as with any mechanical device, sump pumps eventually fail to work or simply wear out.
Here are 5 common reasons your sump pump may fail:
1. Power Failure
Because severe storms are often accompanied by power outages, unless you have a standby battery back-up sump pump, it's not going to work when the power goes out.
2. Stuck Switches
A mechanical float switch is used to activate the pump when the water in the pit as the water rises. Testing your sump pump annually will ensure the switch is moving freely. Enclosing the sump pump pit with an cover will also prevent any potential interference with the operation of the pump.
3. Low Quality Sump Pumps
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
4. Old Pumps
Because they work in a damp environment sump pumps will eventually wear out an become less effective and prone to failure.Because you never know when a pump will fail, have an experienced plumber inspect the unit if you are concerned about the unit's condition or age.
1. Fix leaking faucets and pipes
That small drip from a leaking faucet washer can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day. Leaking outdoor faucets and pipes can waste hundreds of gallons.
2. Don't use the toilet as garbage disposal
Flushing paper waste like facial tissue and other items that could go into a wastebasket can save up to 7 gallons per flush.
3. Repair leaking toilets
To see if your toilets are leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes without flushing, have the toilet fixed.
4. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators
These inexpensive devices are simple to install and will result in significant water savings with hardly any noticable difference in water pressure.
5. Check for hidden leaks
After you have repaired all detectible water leaks in faucets, toilets, show heads, etc., it's a good idea to check for hidden water leaks. Simply read your water meter then wait for a two-hour period during which no water is being used. If the water meter has changed, you have a leak.
1. Fix Leaks - Inspect shower heads and faucets for leaks. A single dripping faucet can waste hundreds of gallons of water in a year. Check toilets for leaks by adding several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the tank is leaking, colored water will appear in the toilet bowl.
2. Test Your Sump Pump - Test the sump pump by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pump pit. The pump should turn on right away, remove the water, then turn off.
3. Sewer & Drain Maintenance - Check that all drains have strainers to prevent debris clogging the drain lines. Schedule a sewer line inspection. A video sewer line inspection will help to find the small issues before they become a major problem.
4. Ensure Plumbing Systems Are Regularly Used - Exercising faucets and water valves under sinks and toilets will prevent them from sticking from under use.
5. Maintain Your Water Heater - Drain a few gallons from the water heater tank to remove sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and can shorten the life of the water heater. Check with your water heater manufacturer's instructions for your specific make/model.
1. Only put the proper kinds of waste into the disposal
- Soft foods
- Ice cubes
- Some softer bones
- Softer fruit pits
- Citrus peels
- Coffee grounds
2. Avoid putting these types of waste down your disposal
Fibrous material like:
- corn husks
- celery stalks
- onion peels
- Seafood with shells, like shrimp
3. Always run a full stream of cold water
Let the water run for another 30 seconds after you turn off the disposer. Don't use hot water while you're grinding waste, although it's fine to use hot water when the disposer is off.
4. Let the disposal run only as long as it takes to grind the waste
This is usually less than 30 seconds.
5. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners in a disposer
The chemicals in most store bought drain cleaning products can damage your home's plumbing, and can be dangerous to use. If your disposal is jammed or backed up, call a professional plumber to clear the drain line.
If you see water accumulating near your water heater, it may not actually be coming from the water heater. Nearby appliances and condensation on pipes near the water heater can cause moisture to accumulate nearby. Closely inspect the base of the water heater and valves for signs of leaks.
If you determine the water heater is the cause of the leak, the first step is to turn off power to the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off from the circuit breaker. A gas water heater can be shut of from the power supply attached to the unit, usually be turning a knob to the off position. Next, turn off the water from the cold water shut-off valve located near the top of the water heater.
Water heater leaks can occur in several locations, including: the cold water inlet and hot water outlet, the pressure relief valve, the drain valve, and the bottom of the tank. Fixing a water heater is not a do-it-yourself project. A qualified plumber should make the repair. Depending on the location and severity of the leak, your plumber will either have to repair the water heater, or recommend replacing it.
Preventing damage from water heater leaksFor an extra measure of protection from unexpected water heater leaks, specially designed pans can be installed under the water heater to divert water leaks to a nearby floor drain. There are also special water leak alarms that can turn off the water when a leak is detected from the water heater or another source.
A water heater expansion tank is another small tank that is attached to the water supply pipe of the water heater. The expansion tank is designed to handle the thermal expansion of water as it heats up in the water heater, preventing excessive water pressure. If water pressure gets to high it can damage valves in plumbing fixtures, joints in supply pipes and the water heater itself. Expanding water from the water heater flows into the expansion tank, relieving water pressure in the system.
What if my water heater doesn't have an expansion tank?Most homes that have a check valve on the water main do not have an expansion tank, since it wasn't required until recently. This may or may not cause excessive pressure buildup, depending on the specific design of the plumbing in the house.
If you are noticing that washers in plumbing fixtures are deteriorating rapidly, or water is dripping from the relief valve on the water heater, it may be wise to add an expansion tank. It can be low cost insurance against more costly damage to your home's plumbing system.
However, with a few simple water heater maintenance steps you can increase the lifespan of the unit while also making it work more efficiently.
1. Flush the water heater tank annuallyAlmost all water heater manufacturers will recommend flushing the water heater tank annually. Draining the tank will remove the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the tank which will allow the burner to work more efficiently.
Check the manufacturer's instructions for the correct procedure for draining your model of water heater.
2. Check the anode rod and replace it if neededThe anode rod hangs in the tank to help prevent its inside from rusting out. It should be checked annually when the tank is drained. Replacing a badly corroded rod is far cheaper than replacing the water heater.
Without a good anode rod, hot water will rapidly corrode the inside of the tank, shortening its life.
3. Insulate the water heater tankThis is a step you only have to do once. Wrapping your water heater in a blanket of insulation can improve it's efficiency up to 40 percent.
Is Your Sump Pump Ready For Winter Thaw and Spring Rains?Many homes in the Colorado mountains experience some amount of below ground water seepage. Even a small amount of water entering the home can cause damage if left unchecked. Excessive moisture can also create an environment for mold and mildew to grow, causing health concerns.
A sump pump is an electric pump that is installed in the basement or crawlspace of a home to keep water from accumulating. A sump pump is typically placed in a sump pump pit designed to allow water to drain below the floor and allow the pump to remove the water. As the pit fills with water, the pump turns on automatically, moving the water out of the pit through a drain pipe that exits the home and releases the water awy from the house. The pipe also has a check valve near the pump to keep the water from flowing backwards.
Testing Your Sump PumpWith the winter snowpack thawing and the spring rains just around the corner, spring is a good time to ensure your sump pump is working properly. Because sump pumps are usually hidden out of sight, we often don't think about them until a problem arises. To test your sump pump slowly pour a bucket of water into the sump pump pit. The pump should turn on a begin removing the water. If it does not turn on, ensure power is reaching the pump. If the pump still doesn't work, call Grand Lake Plumbing to have the unit tested and repaired if necessary.
Tips For Maintaining a Tankless Water HeaterTankless water heaters have dramatically changed how water heaters work by heating water on demand to save energy and ensure an endless supply of hot water for bathing, cooking, laundry and more. They are also one of the most technologically advanced plumbing devices available, and require routine maintenance to ensure that the operate reliably and at peak efficiency.
Flush the system to remove mineral build upOver time, tankless water heaters will accumulate minerals on the inside of the tank's heating chamber. To remove the mineral build up the unit should be flushed regularly, usually one a year, to remove these accumulated mineral deposits. The steps involved will vary by manufacturer, but the procedure usually involves attaching a hose and flushing the tank with vinegar.
Clean the line screen filterThe second tankless water heater maintenance task involves cleaning the in-line screen filter to remove any accumulated debris. Turn off the incoming water supply. The filter is located on inlet fixture on the cabinet. Unscrew the plug to remove the filter. Rinse the filter off and reinstall it on the unit. Always read your water heater owner's manual before attempting any maintenance.
Have questions about maintaining your tankless water heater? Call Grand Lake Plumbing. Our expert plumbers are here to help.