For many homeowners, “out of sight, out of mind” describes how they feel about their home’s plumbing. That is, until problems arise or a sudden plumbing emergency strikes. It’s always better to be in the know than to be caught off guard. Here are the top four things you should know about your home’s plumbing so that doesn’t happen.
The water from your home most likely comes from one of two sources: a residential well and private pump, or a public city water line. If you live in a rural area, you’re more likely to have water from a well. If you live in a suburb or urban area, you probably get your water from a public city water line.
Knowing where your water comes from is crucial. If you have water from a well, you’re responsible for all of the water treatment that usually occurs at the city level. This includes making sure the water is treated so it’s safe to drink and free from pathogens and other groundwater contaminants. While you won’t pay a monthly water bill, you’ll still incur expenses for inspections, as well as pressure tank and well pump replacements.
Where your home gets its water will also answer the question of whether you have a sewer or septic system. If you have water from a well, you more than likely also have a private septic system. In a septic system, all of your home’s waste is channeled into an underground septic tank. Liquid sewage gradually flows into a dedicated area of your yard known as a leach field or drain field. These fields are designed to remove contaminants from the septic system waste. Naturally occurring bacteria in the soil completes the purification process, creating safe groundwater.
If you have city water, the waste from your home makes its way through the city sewer system. Any sewer line maintenance is handled by the city government, with no responsibility on the part of the homeowner. For this convenience, you’ll pay a monthly fee in addition to your water bill.
You may hear people complain about low water pressure making their showers less enjoyable, or making it harder to wash dishes. But water pressure can have much bigger impacts on your home’s plumbing. High water pressure can damage plumbing fixtures, and even cause catastrophic blowouts in flex lines, pipes, or washing machine hoses. That’s why it’s important to test your home’s water pressure a few times a year, to identify potential problems before they become bigger and more expensive.
Testing your water pressure is easy and requires no special tools other than an inexpensive pressure gauge, which you can find at any home improvement or hardware store, pliers, and a screwdriver. The process takes only four simple steps:
If the pressure reading is below 40, or above 80, your water pressure isn’t quite right. Fortunately, there are several things you can do about it:
To reduce high water pressure, have a plumber install a regulator to ensure a maximum flow of 75 psi. This regulator is installed on your main water line and controls the water to your whole home.
The water pressure in your home may be low due to the municipal water lines delivering low water flow. If this is the case, you can have a water pressure booster installed to combat it. Low water pressure may also be due to a pressure regulator that’s set too low or isn’t functioning properly. In either scenario, contacting a plumber is the best thing to do.
It’s important to know where your emergency shutoff valves are before you need them. After all, there’s nothing worse than watching a rush of flowing water and wondering how to make a leak or overflow stop. For localized leaks, it’s easier to turn the water off to a specific fixture than to your entire house. Toilets, sinks, and washing machines have their own shutoff valves that can be found either behind or next to the fixture. Simply turn the valve clockwise to stop the flow of water.
Sometimes it’s necessary to shut off the water to your entire home. In these cases, you’ll need to access the main water shutoff valve. Depending on your home, this may be located indoors, in a basement or crawlspace or next to your water heater in the garage. Or, the valve may be located outdoors under a cover near the street.
Many homeowners don’t think about their water heater until it stops working. Hot water is a modern necessity, so knowing the basics of your water heater is important. At a minimum, you should know the age, type, and efficiency of your water heater.
Knowing the age of your water heater can help you form a rough timeline for any potential replacements. You can either ask your home builder or look back on paperwork to see when your heater was installed, or find the age using the serial number. The average water heater lasts between 8-12 years, depending on how well it’s maintained.
Three of the main water heater types are traditional, tankless, and solar. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, tankless or “on demand” water heaters remove the need for a large storage tank, making them ideal for smaller homes. Solar heaters are especially popular in sunny climates like Arizona, while traditional heaters provide the highest volume of consistently hot water due to their dedicated high-capacity storage tank.
Uniform Energy Factor, or UEF, is the newest metric used by ENERGY STAR to measure water heater efficiency. The higher the UEF, the more efficient the water heater is. EUF is determined by simulated use tests conducted by the Department of Energy. If your water heater is ENERGY STAR certified, you can find its EUF rating in their database, along with other useful information such as fuel type, vent size, and more.
Homeowners across the valley trust Chas Roberts to solve the mysteries of their home’s plumbing. No matter if you’re troubleshooting water pressure or looking to upgrade your water heater, you’ll enjoy superior service at every turn when you work with us. Contact us for all of your plumbing needs.