When colder weather starts hitting the air, it is time to think about preparing your home for the holidays-mulching the gardens, digging out decorations, and reviewing the condition of your plumbing system. Yes, you read that right: The last months of the year happens to be the busiest time of the year for plumbers, says Don Glovan, a Mr. Rooter owner in Asheville, North Carolina. “During holiday season, you’ll have guests in your house,” he observes. “With all the extra use, if you have minor problems, they’ll turn into major ones.”
The first step, says Glovan, is to repair slow drains before visitors come over. Because a clog in one place can cause backups elsewhere in the line, it’s advisable to check every sink, tub, and shower in the house. If water accumulates in the basin instead of going swiftly down the pipes, a call to a plumber is in order.
Once drains are clear, it’s important to keep them that way. In the kitchen, the major culprits are grease and food trimmings. Inevitably, some oil and food particles will make their way into waste lines, but you can reduce the buildup by scraping pans before washing them-and by keeping a strainer in the drain when you let the water out. Unless your dishwasher is of recent vintage, you’ll probably want to scrape and rinse plates before loading them.
Garbage disposals also require thoughtful use. “People often put too much in their disposal,” notes Glovan. “They cram it full without enough water, to get the job done fast.” The right method is to turn on the cold water first, switch on the disposal next, and then add food waste. Let the disposal and water continue to run until all the scraps have been ground up, and listen carefully. “There shouldn’t be any sound of stuff bouncing around,” Glovan explains. When the process is finished, turn off the machine before closing the faucet.
In bathroom sinks, soap, innocuous enough on its own, can combine with hair to wreak havoc. Shower strainers are rarely fine enough to keep wayward curls from entering plumbing lines. For extra protection, try using plastic traps, available at most home product stores, on top of drains. Cleaning the strainers and the traps regularly will improve their performance.
Maintaining hot water supplies for multiple users can be a challenge, particularly in older homes with small water heaters. Wrapping the heater in a thermal jacket will reduce standby heat loss. The jackets – usually made of fiberglass, with a plastic outer shell – have slots to accommodate pipes. Depending on the system, there may be some advantage to sheathing the pipes themselves in foam sleeves. Otherwise, short of replacing the heater, which is an expensive proposition, the easiest fix is to arrange a bathing schedule. Regarding the actual water temperature, Glovan reports that legally, plumbers cannot set it higher than 125°F, to reduce the chances of scalding anyone in the tub or shower.
As far as other bathroom issues are concerned, multiple users of bathrooms can lead to clogs. Because newer quilted toilet papers stay together as a clump, the best way to prevent clogs is to choose thinner paper, which liquefies quickly. If waste doesn’t clear with a single flush, there may be a partial blockage. Or the mechanism in the toilet tank may require tinkering – permanently immersed rubber parts tend to degrade over time. Speaking of things that can create problems, cat owners should resist the temptation to flush clumping litter down the toilet, where it can turn into a large, hard-to-remove plug.
To make sure exterior lines are working, consult a plumber. In recent housing developments, or homes where the sewers have been replaced, you may be able to check the clean out by yourself. “Flush the toilet five or six times, and go outside to see if the water backs up,” suggests Glovan. If your house has a septic tank, get it pumped out every three to five years, and make a practice of pouring an enzyme-free, surfactant-free, live bacteria product into the toilet. The good bacteria will travel into the septic tank and help digest waste.
This article was provided by Mr. Rooter. Before visitors arrive en masse, why not give your hardworking household pipes a break: Treat them with Mr. Rooter’s BioChoice ES, a live vegetative product suspended in a liquid. Unlike spore-form bacteria, which takes time to become effective, “BioChoice ES goes to work immediately,” says Glovan. By depositing a bio film wherever it’s poured, the solution speeds digestion of waste, paper, and grease. The only organic material it can’t break down is hair. Better yet, the solution is not caustic, so it won’t burn people or plumbing. Glovan recommends that homeowners should treat all their sinks, pouring half a cap of BioChoice ES down every drain once a month. The product is also good for septic tanks. If your house has this kind of system, pour one-third of a cap into each toilet every week. Visit Mr. Rooter online at www.mrrooter.com .
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