Every home owner, at some point in their lives, will have a plumbing nightmare. I know this because I used to work for a home insurance company. Plumbing insurance was our most popular, and most expensive, package. Our clients were prepared to pay thousands of dollars a year to protect their plumbing systems. They´d be crazy not to, but building your ark after the flood has come is crazy too.
Look around you. Almost every appliance you own is some way connected to your plumbing system. Directly, your washing machine, toilet, sinks, baths and showers all rely on healthy pipes. Indirectly, your kettle, coffee-machine, ice-maker and cleaning routine all need a steady flow of clean water to operate. Plumbing issues affect all of the above and, by flood or by shutoff, can make your home uninhabitable.
You can always rely on your insurance to fix the problem. Some plans will even provide accommodation for you or your family whilst the issues are fixed. But, speaking from experience, you´ll have to pay the first few hundred dollars yourself and every claim will increase your premium. Here are a few simple plumbing tricks that could save your household thousands of dollars.
Check your Water Pressure
High water pressure has the same effect on the inside of your plumbing as taking a hammer to them does on the outside. Water, by nature, erodes all obstacles. The more pressure there is, the greater the effect of erosion. Water companies will usually set water pressure to suit their own needs; fire hydrants, supplying whole cities as well as tall skyscrapers. On average, a water company´s supply will run at 100 psi. They can even run up to 150 psi. The pipes in your home are designed to withstand water pressure of 80 psi.
The water pressure from supply to your home is managed by a water regulator. Over time, these regulators can rust or become ineffective. Running a higher pressure than your pipes can handle will do significant damage to your internal pipes. You can check the water pressure using a pressure gauge. These are typically inexpensive to buy and can be fitted anywhere in your home. Fit the pressure gauge as close to the water supply as possible to make sure your water regulator is running effectively.
If your pressure gauge is returning normal values but you can hear creaking in your pipes it´s worth making a few more checks. Heating and cooling water causes it to expand. This builds pressure in the pipes. Check your boiler regularly to safeguard against pressure spikes.
An overflowing toilet is every homeowners´ worst nightmare. In truth, you´re lucky if a blockage remains in an appliance rather than travelling into your pipes. Water is a liquid with mass. When it´s movement is suddenly stopped by a blockage it causes a hammer effect that will wreck your plumbing. Plumbers have found all kinds of items causing blockages including medals, cigarettes and even snakes. Homeowners have lost thousands of dollars simply because someone has flushed q-tips down the toilet. It might seem convenient to pour oil down the sink or leave a chicken bone in the dish-washer but these small mistakes cause blockages that can destroy your plumbing.
Hard Water Build-up
If you´re a homeowner or just looking at a prospective home it´s always useful to find out what type of water supply you´re getting. The two types are hard or soft water. Hard water has minerals that are picked up from rocks or soils at the source. These minerals include calcium, potassium and magnesium. The Water Quality Association (WQA) defines hard water as having at least 1 gram of minerals per 1 gallon of water. In the US, 85% of the water supply is hard water.
Hard water build-up is when minerals are deposited in pipe junctions. Over time these deposits grow causing blockages and increasing water pressure. The tell tale signs of a hard water supply is in the build-up of white substance on glass, pipes or faucets around your home. It´s relatively simple to wipe off but inside pipes it can grow and cause problems. Some hard water is acidic, or copper heavy, and will erode metals creating leaks and burst pipes.
There are many ways to combat hard water build-up. Most household cleaning products will be specially designed to remove sediments in pipes and appliances. You can even buy a filter that will convert hard water into soft water. Soft water doesn´t damage your plumbing. It´s also better for your clothes skin and hair. Here´s another 5 benefits to installing a water softener plumbing system at your home.
Much of your plumbing system will be outside your home. In crawl spaces, basements or attics. In the winter months the temperature can easily drop below freezing. Not only do temperature extremes warp your pipes, they can cause cracks and blockages as well. To protect your plumbing against temperature damage it´s worth investing a few bucks into pipe insulation.
Insulating your pipes is a straight-forward task. If you do find any areas that are hard to reach a professional can help, usually for a low cost. Insulating your pipes will not only save you money in the long run it´s also more energy efficient, reduces condensation build-up and damp.
So there we have it. Four simple measures that could save you thousands in insurance premiums and plumbing bills. The golden rule is to keep an eye on your plumbing on a monthly basis. Purchase a cheap pressure gauge to make sure your regulators are fully functioning. Listen for creaks or leaks to avoid costly pressure build-up. Finally, check with your water supplier exactly what type of water you´re getting.
Preventative measures take the stress out of home-ownership. The last thing you want is to come home to a ankle deep swimming pool and see your prize possessions floating around in a bath of freezing water. Taking the time to check your plumbing will save you money in the long run.