A plumbing system is vital to any home or business. Knowing how it works can help homeowners avoid bad situations, improve operations and make better decisions about their plumbing system.
Each home consists of two plumbing systems; one that bring the incoming water supply and the other that carries away wastewater. A meter is installed in every home to measure the water coming in. The main valve to shut off your water system is usually located next to or near this meter. In case of an emergency, it is vital that you know where the main shutoff valve is.
Hot and Cold Water
When it comes to cold water, the water from the main supply is immediately ready for use. But if you’re looking to use hot water, it must go through your water heater.
A pipe carries cold water from your plumbing system to your water heater. Once the water is heated, another pipe carries the hot water to all areas of your house, including fixtures and appliances. Water heaters have a thermostat that maintains the temperature of the hot water.
Common Types of Water Heaters
- Storage Tank Water Heater - It has an insulated tank that stores hot water until needed. This is the most common type of water heater, but you are limited to how much hot water you can hold. These water heaters are available in gas and electric models.
- Tankless Water Heaters - Also called on-demand water heater, this kind of heater consists of super-heated coils that provide fresh hot water when it's needed. It has no tank. These heaters are more efficient but you need to make sure you purchase the right size for your household. A smaller tankless water heater will not be able to keep up with your water usage
- Heat Pump Water Heater - These water heaters use heat in the air and the ground to heat water. Since they only use electricity to move heat from the ground/air to the water, they use up to 60% less electricity than traditional water heaters.
- Solar Water Heating System - This water heater uses roof-mounted solar panels as its energy source. The system consists of a storage tank and a solar collector. The downside is that it does require a backup (electricity or gas) in case the water heater can't run on cloudy days.
What Size Water Heater Do You Need?
Choosing the right size water heater is important. A water heater that is too big will lead to high energy costs. But one that is too small will make it impossible to have enough hot water. residential tank water heaters range from 20- to 80-gallon capacities. Generally speaking, 30 gallons is good for a 1-2 person household. You can increase by 10 gallons per additional person in the home.
Gallon Capacity Recommendations:
- Family of 1 to 2: 30 gallons
- Family of 2 to 3: 40 gallons
- Family of 3 to 4: 50 gallons
- Family of 5+: 80 gallons
Drainage systems help dispose of all wastewater - from toilets to showers - from your home. There are two types of systems: sewer and septic. But what’s the difference?
A sewer system connects whole towns and communities to one centralized drain field. Series of underground pipes haul away waste water from your home. The wastewater is then treated in a water treatment facility before being returned to the environment. Sewage systems are paid for and maintained by local governments. So as a resident, you don't have to handle the maintenance and labor, but do have to foot the fees.
Septic tanks are generally the responsibility of private homeowners. The water is held in a tank in the ground beneath the property, and over time that water is filtered out of the system and into the drain field area.
Pros and Cons of Sewer Systems
Sewer systems are by far the most used type of draining system, and loved by homeowners since they don’t have to worry about the upkeep. But they do have some downsides.
- Low maintenance - local government agencies are responsible for the upkeep
- Can take on more non-human water than septic systems
- You still pay for sewer system just as you pay for electricity and water
- You are still responsible for the sewer line that connects your house to the public sewer system
Pros and Cons of Septic Systems
Most homeowners have a negative view of septic systems, mostly due to their upkeep. But same as with the sewer system, there’s pros and cons to this system.
- Environmentally friendly - no chemicals or power is required to clean the water. Waste water is filtered through the ground.
- Since homeowners are responsible for upkeep, septic systems usually make homeowners more responsible about the type of waste they produce.
- The tanks need to be pumped every 3 years or sometimes more depending on the size of the tank.
- More sensitive to solid waste that can get flushed down the pipes of a home.
When you move into a new house or property, whether or not that house has a sewer or septic system might not be up to you. But knowing the difference between the two will help you make an informed decision if the community decides to move away from one system to another.
Signs of a Broken Sewer Line
Tubs, toilets and sinks that are continually clogged may point to more than just a clogged pipe. It could be due to broken sewer pipes that are buried beneath your yard. Here are some signs:
1) Easily clogged drains
If you notice isolated backups in just one area of your house, it may point to a clog in the pipe that services the particular fixture. But, if a clog starts occurring frequently, at multiple drains around your house, and sewage is backing onto your floors, you may have a broken sewer line.
2) Soggy or indented lawn
A broken sewer line can make your lawn soggy and greener and lusher in certain spots in your yard. Sewage acts as a fertilizer for your lawn and a broken sewer line will result in a lush and extra green appearance in your yard.
A broken line can also cause your lawn to become indented where the sewage mainline runs.
3) Bad Odors and Rodent Infestation
A broken sewer line can cause rodents and insect infestation. Rats, cockroaches, flies and other insects can make their way from the swear system into your house much more easily when there is a broken sewer.
Keeping Pipes from Freezing in Winter
In the cold months of winter, your home's water pipes may be susceptible to freezing temperatures whether they're located inside or outside. A burst pipe can trigger costly repairs and cause collateral damage to your house.
- The best way to prevent freezing pipes is to take action before the weather turns cold. Apply insulation to pipes that are located outside or in unheated areas of your home or commercial property, such as basements and crawl spaces.
- Set your home thermostat to maintain a temperature of at least 55 degrees at all times, even at night or when you're away from your home.
- Drain the water from pipes outside your house, including your swimming pool and sprinkler supply lines. Drain and remove outdoor hoses and close the valves that supply them.
Plumbing Maintenance in Summer
During the summer months, your family’s water usage can increase by 25% - 50%. Here are some summer plumbing tips to make sure your home keeps running efficiently during the summertime.
- Going on vacation? Turn down your water heater to save energy. There is no reason why it should be running while no one is at home to use hot water. Better yet, turn off your water valve while you’re away. A major leak can be catastrophic, especially if you're not around to deal with it. If your water pressure is running low through your pipes, and your plumbing system is left unchecked for a period of time, any leak can flood your home.
- Be mindful of summer thunderstorms and rain showers. Sewer pipes can gain excessive rain through cracks and lead to backups. Install a drain pump in each drain to prevent water from backing up during storms.
- Give your washing machine and dryer a break. With kids being home, outdoor sports and activities, and hot and humid temperatures, summertime can lead to more loads of laundry. Be sure to give your washing machine a break now and then to prevent extra stress on the machine. Inspect the rubber hoses and replace it every 3 years.
Steps to Take During a Flooded Basement
Broken pipes or downpours can cause a real mess in your basement. If your basement is knee-deep with water, you need to take action fast. Here are four actions to take right away when your basement is flooded.
- Call a contractor. With a flooded basement, damage could be done to your heating and cooling equipment. Never attempt to fix your heating or cooling equipment yourself. Instead, call in the professionals who will be able to perform repair work on your flooded system or replace damaged units with new equipment and parts.
- Remove water as quickly as possible. Pull out the mops, buckets and a wet vac. Getting water out as quickly as possible will prevent mold from growing.
- Dry out the basement using humidifiers and fans to discourage mildew and mold.
- Clear your gutters and drains.
Unclog a Sink
If a sink is clogged or backed up, follow these steps to clean the drain and allow water flow.
- Shut the main valve to cut the main water supply.
- Unscrew the U-shaped pipe joint underneath your sink. Be sure to place a bucket underneath before you do to drain any water.
- Remove the pipe and allow water and debris to drain.
- Re-attach the pipe.
A good plumber is a friend for life.
The key to avoidance of costly repairs is regular inspection and maintenance. At A. Borrelli, we see our customers as our friends and neighbors. That’s why we take extra care on each job to work with integrity. We can handle your plumbing needs, no matter how big or small your problem is. Don’t hesitate to call us the next time you need a plumbing home repair. We promise to get the job done right.