Category Archives: Tips

Cold Tempratures – Are Your Pipes Going to Survive?

Whether you own a home or a condo – make sure you are prepared for winter!

Water pipes burst because the water inside them expands as it gets close to freezing, and this causes an increase in pressure inside the pipe. When the pressure gets too high for the pipe to contain, it ruptures.

We grew up with water all around us and so this expansion phenomenon seems natural, but interestingly, it is a chemical anomaly. Most liquids do not expand just before transition to solid. You should be thankful for this; it is one of the reasons that life exists.

When a liquid cools the molecules slow down (temperature really is just a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules). This slowing down allows the molecules to get closer together and increases the density of the liquid. This happens with water too, and when water is cooled down, it gets denser and denser, down to 3.98°C then, something interesting occurs; it starts to expand again.

BOTTOM LINE  – Don’t let pipes FREEZE!

How to Protect Pipes From Freezing
Before the onset of cold weather, (WHICH  IS  NOW!)  protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:

  • Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
  • Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
  • Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
  • Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a “pipe sleeve” or installing UL-listed “heat tape,” “heat cable,” or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
  • Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F. (or if you have a basement – keep it at 55!)

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Fall Winter Plumbing Tips

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Cooler  fall temperatures serve as a  reminder that when winter arrives it can be sudden, often leaving homeowners unprepared for the troubles associated with extreme Chicago cold. A few simple plumbing preparations now will help prevent headaches and costly repairs later.

    • Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected, water in the hoses can freeze and expand causing faucets and connecting pipes inside your home to freeze and break.
    • Make sure outside faucets aren’t dripping or leaking. Make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before freezing temperatures arrive. Be aware that when pipes freeze, water pressure builds causing cracks – no matter if the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash enough water to cause serious damage or flooding.
    • If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from outside lines.
    • Cover outside faucets using a Styrofoam faucet insulation kit available at home centers.
    • Insulate pipes in unheated areas, such as garages or crawl spaces. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around pipes that are exposed and prone to freezing.
    • Seal leaks around doors and windows to reduce cold air penetration.
    • Your water heater works harder during winter months. Flush it out and remove sediment buildup, which causes corrosion, shortens life span and reduces heating efficiency. Drain several gallons from the faucet near the bottom of the tank. Connect a hose to the faucet and direct water into a nearby drain. Check your water heater manufacturer ‘s website for specific instructions concerning your make and model.
    • Carefully test the water heater’s pressure relief valve (Danger: water is very hot) by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. The valve should allow a burst of hot water into the drainpipe. If not, call a professional to have a new valve installed. Caution: if your water heater is more than five years old and the pressure relief valve has never been tested, you can actually cause a leak by testing older valves that have corroded or stuck seals. A plumber should be consulted.
      • Check the temperature setting on your water heater’s thermostat. Set at 120°F for optimum performance.
      • Clear leaves and debris from outside gutters and downspouts to ensure easy drainage when water freezes and thaws throughout the winter season.
      • Inspect and clean sump pump and pit. Pumps exposed to extreme cold can freeze, preventing the pump from operating.
      • When leaving home for extended periods, shut off the main water valve and drain the system by opening faucets at the highest and lowest points of the house. Make sure the heat is left on and set no lower than 55°F.

      Caution! These plumbing tips are intended for homes that will be inhabited throughout the winter months. Many additional steps should be taken to winterize vacation properties that will be left unattended for weeks or months at a time. Seek professional help for winterizing such properties.

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Quick and Easy Spring Plumbing Tips

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Whether you are a renter  or  home owner – Spring is a good time  to check everything over and make sure it’s  running smoothly.

 

  • Check your toilet for leaks. A fast and inexpensive way to do this is to put a few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank. If there is a leak, the food color will end up in the bowl within half an hour. While you’re at it, check out the bowl for any cracks or leaks.
  • ALSO  be sure your toilets  are flushing correctly. If you must hold or shake the handle, you need to replace the parts of the toilet which are responsible for flushing. They do not cost much and in fact will save you money on your water bill. LANDLORDS DO NOT WANT TO WASTE  MONEY!  Trust me, they will fix it!
  • Check your water supply valve by turning on and off occasionally. This will prevent them from sticking. If it leaking even the slightest bit – GET IT REPLACED  before a huge problem  explodes!
  • Your sink takes forever to drain.  In the bathroom – Pull out the sink’s pop-up plug. Any accumulation of hair or other debris can prevent water pouring into the sink from draining through. You can take the pop-up out and clear out the drain by manually pulling out the debris using tools like needle-nose pliers, or you can get special plumbing tools that are designed to clear out drains.

    ALSO  – use a plunger in order to dislodge clogs. Plungers can be extremely effective in unstopping stopped-up sinks. Make sure the sink overflow is covered with something like duct tape before you start plunging. Covering the overflow will help ensure that you get the best possible suction as you plunge.

  • Clean your shower head with vinegar to remove mineral deposits that can clog. I know most people don’t know this little trick of the trade. Take a Zip Loc bag and fill it with white vinegar. Place the Zip Loc bag on the shower head in place and wrap the bag with a few heavy rubber bands securing the bag to the shower head. Leave for 24 hrs and the mineral deposits should breakdown leaving your shower clean as a whistle.

By checking the bathroom, kitchen, appliances, equipment and more common areas, both within and outside the home, you can be prepared and help prevent any plumbing problems that occur. Just think of it as an extension of your spring cleaning project!
Check your drains, gutters and downspouts – which should be clear and free of debris to ensure proper operation. Many regions of the country experience a large amount of rainfall this time of year and you want to make sure you’re ready. If you let the debris build up, gutters and drains can clog, causing water damage, leakage and mold growth – not something you want to deal with!

 

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How to Keep Your Drains Flowing

keep drains water flow flowing

Slow running drains are a common problem. But  some preventative actions,  are the way to keep the water flowing down the drain.

Whether you rent or own, you want to make sure all the drains (Kitchen and shower) have some sort of strainer in place, to catch debris and hair. One of the simplest ways you can prevent clogs and slow running water  is to use a sink strainer. These simple items prevent objects from going down the drain and clogging it.

For the kitchen, a larger-holed strainer will likely do the trick. Consider a combination strainer and plug to make doing the dishes even easier. In the bathroom, think about getting a finer mesh strainer to keep the drain hair and soap scum free. You can pick these up at Home Depot, your local hardware store and even Target.

 

If your kitchen sink does not have a garbage disposal, be careful what goes down the drain.

Some things should never go down the drain. Many, many kitchen sinks are clogged from common food items. Grease, coffee grounds and other food items are common culprits of clogged drains in the kitchen. Here are a few tips to help you dispose of these items properly:

  • If you’re cooking with grease, let it solidify in the pan after you’re done cooking. Scrape it into the garbage can afterwards. Try wiping out the pan with a paper towel post-scrape to ensure that you get all that grease. Don’t want to wait? Pour the liquid grease into an old can, then throw it away after the dishes are done.
  • Coffee grounds should always go into the garbage. If you’d rather make an eco-friendly choice, coffee grounds are an excellent addition to a mulch pile or compost area. Never put them down the drain.
  • Other bits of food that end up in the sink should get caught by a strainer or pulled out before they go down the drain. If you have a garbage disposal, this may not be such a big deal, but if the food is on the other side, catch it before it goes down. Small bits of food may stick to grease in your pipes and cause a clog. AND SMELL!

Take precaution with your TOILET also.  Flushable cat litter – SHOULD NOT BE FLUSHED. Whoever came up with this idea, should be shot! I tell all cat owners, do not flush it and risk it clogging the line.

Other things NOT TO FLUSH;  condoms, feminine hygiene products, dental floss and large amounts  of toilet tissue and kleenex. Keep a little waste can in the bathroom for excess paper products.

Preventing a clog doesn’t have to be a challenge. With a little prevention, you’ll be able to keep your pipes clear and free. Before you spend hours unclogging your drain and calling a plumbing professional, try stopping these issues in the first place with these tips.

 

 

Winter Plumbing and Water Tips

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When temperatures drop to freezing lows, plumbing problems are very common.  There are many things that homeowners/condo-owners can do to prevent these problems that have the potential to cause severe damage to your home or unit.

Garden hoses can cause major damage if not disconnected. During winter, if a garden hose is left connected, ice will form and pressure will build up in the water lines inside your home.  Once this occurs, a water line leak or break is common.  This can cause severe damage to the home. Disconnect garden hoses and drain outdoor pipes to prevent damage during the winter.

After disconnecting hoses, you should install an exterior, insulated faucet jacket.  This will protect your outdoor faucets, as well as the connecting lines running into the home, from freezing temperatures.

Also, be sure to utilize the shut-off valves located inside your home to drain water from pipes leading to outdoor hose bibs.  These valves can typically be found under sinks, in crawl spaces or basements, near your water heater or your meter, but every home is different and some homes may not be equipped with these valves.

Circulating warm air helps keep pipes in the walls from freezing. Keep your house temperature above 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing and open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets and near exterior walls to help circulate warm air and keep pipes warmer.  55  is also  good  for basement temps.

 Be sure that snow is not restricting your water drainage. Watch the area around your sump pump discharge line used to avoid flooding indoors, as this line drains from a basement to an outside area.  If the drainage area is blocked by snow or flowing into a puddle, freezing could occur as well as water backing-up into the house.   

 

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