How to Prepare for a Plumbing Emergency

Plumbing emergencies can happen any time.  Being prepared will help you to cope with the situation and ensure that expensive damage and costly repair will be avoided.  Here are some useful tips that you may find extremely useful when faced with a plumbing emergency.

The Valves

You may not be aware of it, but valves are important components of every plumbing system.  These valves are used to control the flow of water from the supply line to the different fixtures in the various areas of your home.  During an emergency:

  • Turn off the isolation valve to stop the flow of water to the specific fixture that has a problem. This helps to control the potential damage that the plumbing emergency can do.  The great thing with isolation valves is that it does not affect the supply of water to the other parts of your home.  If you do not have isolation valves, consider installing them.  Regularly check the valves to make sure they are not stuck.
  • Another important thing about valves is that you should know where the main water shutoff valve is located so you can easily turn it off when necessary.

Tools

When I talked with plumbing los angeles staff, most of the time it is recommended that fixtures be hand tightened to make sure that it is not cracked or damaged.  However, especially during an emergency, it is handy to have at least two wrenches and a pair of pliers around.  Here’s how tools can help during an emergency.

  • You can use the “backing off” technique for hard to turn valves and pipes. Take two wrenches and turn them in opposite directions.  This frees up the pipe or valve without having the plumbing absorb the stress or pressure.
  • Collar nuts of the drain line can be easily loosened with a pair of slip joint pliers.
  • A blind cap comes in handy when a supply tube breaks; seal the leak until you can fix it.
  • Two plungers can be helpful when unclogging the kitchen sink. The second plunger will be used to cover the other drain to maximize the force of unclogging.
  • Use a forced cup plunger to unclog toilets. This can also be used for small drains like showers, bathtubs, and bathroom sinks.
  • When working with the garbage disposal or faucets, different sized Allen wrenches are needed.

Miscellaneous Tips

Other things that you should know during an emergency includes:

  • Learn how to turn off your water heater. For gas water heaters, make sure that it is in the pilot position.
  • Teflon tape is an effective way to stop leaks from scratched or dented supply tubes until proper repair is available.
  • Cracked pipes can be bound together with pipe sealing or duct tape as a temporary remedy until a plumber gets to your home.
  • To reveal the entire drain of bathtubs, you must unscrew the chrome cap. This gives you a better view of the clogging and will allow you to use the plunger better.  A second plunger should be placed over the overflow of the tub.

Emergency Kit

Just like any other emergency situation, it is important to have an emergency kit handy.  This helps you address potentially any type of emergency plumbing situation.  Your emergency kit should contain the following:

  • Five gallon bucket that can also be used as a toolbox;
  • One regular and one forced cup plunger;
  • Different types of adjustable wrenches;
  • Medium sized slip joint pliers;
  • Multi-bit screwdriver;
  • Assorted Allen keys;
  • Teflon tape;
  • Duct tape;
  • Variety of blind caps; and
  • Heavy duty paper towels and rags.

When you keep all these in mind and have your emergency kit ready, you can handle almost every type of plumbing emergency that can happen in your home.  Always call a professional plumber immediately while you do emergency repairs to control the damage.

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Keeping Water Heaters in Shape

Did you know that the efficient life of a water heater is about 10 to 12 years?  This of course can drastically shorten if you do not know how to properly take care of your water heater.  With the right type of preventive maintenance done periodically, it is even possible to extend its useful life.

Although, you must be aware that even if you extend it, there is a possibility that its efficient may have declined.  Here are useful tips you can use to maintain your water heater.

Physical Clearance

water heaterFrom the onset, you should already be conscious of protecting your water heater.  It is recommended that a physical clearance of about 2 feet around the unit is necessary, unless the manufacturer states otherwise.  This is a preventive measure to allow it to prevent accidental damage to the external surface of the unit.

Draining the Tank

Regularly draining about a quarter of the contents of the tank will help remove debris and sediments that may have settled at the bottom.  This is a great way to prevent corrosion from forming.  To do this you need to turn off the supply and hook up a garden hose to the unit’s drain valve.

Drain the water into a bucket until it is clear.  Try to open the water supply valve of the unit to stir up whatever remaining sediment is left in the tank.  This also helps the water heater to operate silently.

This practice can also extend the life of the water heater.  Read through the recommendations of the manufacturer to ensure proper draining.  Caution should be taken when draining the tank because the water can be scalding.

Temperature Control

thermostatFor water heaters, the thermostat is responsible for controlling the temperature of the water that it puts out.  The key is to set the thermostat to the “ideal” temperature so that the water is neither cold nor scalding.  For many, this is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit; although you can experiment to seek your comfort zone, which should not be a few notches up or down from this.

What is the benefit of setting it to the proper temperature?  For one, you can bring down your energy consumption by about 5% for every 10 degrees of reduction.  Second, you do not risk being burned by scalding water. And third, this helps to increase the life and efficiency of the water heating unit.

While you’re at it, take time to test the temperature-pressure relief valve.  Quickly discharge it about 2 to 3 times and check if there are any leaks coming from the valve after you test it.

Insulation

Using an insulation jacket or blanket for your water heater will help limit heat loss to keep the water heated longer.  An insulation can save anywhere from 25% to 40% of your heating cost and lessens the stress on the water heating unit.  An insulation jacket or blanket can cost around $16.17 to $21.57 depending on the type and brand.

The insulation can also be done on the water pipes to further limit potential heat loss as the hot water travels to the faucet or shower.  Insulation can help older water heating units improve efficiency, although newer water heaters come equipped with insulation.  Both the hot and cold water pipes should be insulated.

Professional Inspection

Inspection of water heaters must be checked regularly by certified plumbing technicians.  This is important especially for the anode that should be replace every five years or so.  This practice will minimize the possibility of corrosion and will extend the life of the water heater.

Replacement should be done by a certified technician if about 6 inches or more of the core wire is exposed.  When the rod is about half an inch thick or coated with calcium, you should seriously consider replacing it as well.  Buying a 13-inch anode rod made of zinc-aluminum is a good choice.  This goes for about $16.

To get more out of your water heater and maintain its efficiency, use the proper setting when going on extended trips away from home.

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