A homeowner’s guide to plumbing
As a homeowner, you’re faced with the responsibility of staying on top of every aspect of your home. One of the most important of these elements is plumbing. In fact, making sure your plumbing is in great condition is essential to having consistent and reliable access to hot and cold water. This, in turn, is key to ensuring your shower and taps operate at full potential and appliances like washing machines and dishwashers can function properly.
While you might have a rough idea of how plumbing works, you’re probably not familiar with the myriad of components that make up your home plumbing system. In this article, we’ll demystify some of these components and explain how they work. We’ll also discuss some ways to avoid plumbing problems and protect your system from clogs and other common plumbing issues.
Home plumbing basics
Before delving into the nuts and bolts of plumbing components, it’s important to first understand how the system works as a whole. In fact, having a firm grasp of how plumbing works is required if you want to properly maintain your home plumbing system and identify minor issues before they morph into major problems. The sections below will go over the basics of how home plumbing works.
How water comes into your home
The way water comes into your home depends on where you live. If you live in a city, your water will flow through a set of pipes connected to a local freshwater supply source. Your local source stores water in a reservoir or water tank and distributes it to different homes in the area. As for the mechanism employed to bring the water into your home, a set of water pressure pumps are used to push water through the pipe system.
If you live outside of an urban area, your water will generally come from a well. This is a more localized water supply system that involves tapping into a groundwater source through a pipe.
Kitchen plumbing systems
Your kitchen is one of the two areas of the home where your plumbing system is found. The primary components in the kitchen are the sink, dishwasher and refrigerator if it’s equipped with a drinking water spout on the door.
The kitchen sink’s plumbing is typically found inside the base cabinet. In most kitchens, there are two valves below the sink that control the supply of hot and cold water through the supply tubes. The dishwasher connects to the sink’s hot water supply and the drain pipes.
Bathroom plumbing systems
The bathroom is the other part of your home that features a plumbing system. The components commonly found in bathrooms include sinks, bathtubs, showers and toilets.
The bathroom’s plumbing needs are handled via a water supply system that delivers hot and cold water through two supply lines. Most fixtures in the bathroom are connected with both, whereas toilets are generally connected with just the cold water line.
How water leaves your home
The mechanism by which water leaves your home varies depending on a few factors. If the home is located in a remote or rural area that lacks adequate wastewater pipeline infrastructure, water will be delivered to a septic tank that is usually installed underground in the backyard. The tank treats the wastewater naturally by separating solids and liquids, which ensures safe disposal.
In more urban areas, a drain waste system gets rid of the wastewater through pipes that connect to a sewer line.
Water heaters explained
Water heaters are an integral component of every home plumbing system, as they are the primary source of supplying hot water through the home. Below is a thorough look at how this system works.
Types of water heaters
The first thing that we should discuss is the different types of water heaters commonly used in homes. Here are some types of water heaters you may encounter on the market:
- Storage water heater: A storage tank water heater is the most commonly used type of water heating system. As the name suggests, this system uses a tank to store hot water, which means the amount of hot water you have access to at once will depend on the size of the tank.
- Tankless water heater: This type of water heater is designed to do away with the need for storage tanks. Unlike conventional heaters, a tankless water heater provides unlimited access to hot water. This is accomplished by a set of super-heated coils that heat your water the instant you demand it.
- Heat pump water heater: Unlike the heaters discussed above, heat pump water heaters don’t use electricity to generate heat. Instead, they use electricity to draw heat from the surrounding air before transferring it inside the storage tank. Heaters that use a heat pump are highly efficient when it comes to saving energy.
- Solar-powered water heater: Solar water heaters draw energy from the sun using roof-mounted panels. This type of system is equipped with a heat-conductive material that harnesses solar energy and uses it to heat the water in the tank. It’s important to note that a backup heating system is required, as solar-powered water heaters can’t be used when there is insufficient sunlight.
Maintaining your hot water heater
Like most built-in systems and major appliances, hot water heaters require maintenance to remain functional. Here are the main points you should cover as part of your water heater maintenance checklist:
- Clean sediment from the tank. One of the most common problems that homeowners encounter with their water heater is the sediment buildup in the bottom of the tank. This can create a separation between the water and the heating material of the system, making it difficult to provide hot water for your kitchen and bathroom. To get rid of the sediment, drain the tank and stir up the bottom using water from the cold water supply line.
- Inspect the anode rod. The next thing you need to ensure is whether the anode rod is still in good condition. This is a critical component that prevents rust from building up in the middle lining of the tank. As part of your yearly water heater maintenance routine, inspect the anode rod to see if it is corroded or thinning.
- Test the TPR valve. This is a safety device that automatically releases water in case of excess temperature in the tank. To make sure the valve is working properly, lift up the lever and let some water flow, and then lower the lever back down. If the valve isn’t completely sealed and water is still flowing, you should install a new TPR valve.
- Add insulation to the pipes. Adding extra insulation to your pipes is one of the most effective maintenance measures you can take to protect your water heater. Insulation also helps reduce heat loss and results in higher water temperature.
What about water softeners?
A water softener is a filtration system that removes calcium, magnesium and a host of other cations from hard water. The result is softer water that is more compatible with soap, gentler on the skin and less damaging to the pipes.
Water softeners filter the hard water via a set of negatively charged resin beads that attract the positively charged elements in the water. The softened water then exits the tank, whereas the filtered mineral deposits sit on the resin. Keep in mind that you will have to clean the resin beads on a regular basis to prevent excess mineral buildup.
Maintenance tips for your home plumbing system
Now that you have a good idea of how the components of your home plumbing system work, it’s essential that you learn how to properly maintain them. The maintenance tips outlined below should get you on the right track.
Fix leaking faucets
Leaky faucets are a common issue often ignored by homeowners. There are several reasons you should address this problem as soon as you notice it. Firstly, the amount of water that is wasted from a leaky faucet will quickly add up over time, which can result in an unexpectedly high monthly water bill. Wasted water is also detrimental to the environment, which is another reason you should urgently fix any leaks in your home.
As costly as water leaks can be, it’s important to note that a high utility bill is not the only thing they can lead to. As a matter of fact, leaky fixtures can cause substantial damage to various parts of your bathroom plumbing system, including the faucet washers and sink. Fixing the leak is a critical measure that could save you the hassle of replacing your faucet sooner than you would like.
Unclogging your drains is one of the most crucial tasks in your maintenance checklist. Using a drain cleaner and removing debris regularly is an effective way to ensure proper water flow and prevent future problems with your pipes.
Regular cleaning minimizes the impact of cumulative damage in your drains, which is essential to extending the life span of your water systems. Cleaning clogged drains will also help get rid of bad odors that can emanate from debris and food particles.
Routinely pump your septic tank (if you have one)
If you have a septic tank, your maintenance routine should consist of regularly pumping the tank. This allows wastewater to flow smoothly via your plumbing system. For most residential tanks, pumping is required every three to five years.
A thorough pump is needed to clean your tank and remove the waste buildup and residue that accumulates over the years. If not cleaned properly, these elements will block the system and cause backups in the water pipes.
Check pipe fittings for leaks
Faucets are not the only fixtures you need to check for leaks. In fact, leaks from plumbing pipes can lead to a significantly larger amount of wasted water. To make sure there are no leaks in your plumbing, check critical parts of the system, such as the sink pipeline and basement.
To inspect the sink for leaks, fill it up with water and use a dry tissue to wipe down the pipes and connections. If the tissue absorbs moisture, this generally indicates the existence of a leak in the pipes.
Fix leaking toilets
Toilet leaks can be tricky to detect. Like most plumbing issues, a leaking toilet wastes a lot of water, which will be reflected in your water bill. More importantly, these small leaks might turn into bigger ones that could potentially cause extensive damage throughout different parts of your home.
The simplest DIY method of checking for toilet leaks is to drop a dye tablet or any type of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait up to 20 minutes. If you see any colored water in the toilet bowl, there’s a leak in the tank and the services of a professional plumber are needed.
How do home warranties protect your plumbing system?
Your plumbing system is one of the most important components of your home, and ensuring that it is consistently operational is crucial. While maintenance goes a long way toward extending the life span of your plumbing parts, damage and repair costs are sometimes inevitable. This is why you should get a home warranty plan that covers your plumbing system.
Home warranties like those offered by Cinch Home Services can provide comprehensive coverage that includes everything from built-in systems to major appliances. A home warranty plan can help protect you from unexpected repair costs and save you the stress of tackling complicated plumbing repairs on your own.
Understanding the built-in systems plan from Cinch
The first step to protecting your home plumbing system is signing up for Cinch’s Built-in Systems Plan. This plan helps cover the cost of repairing or replacing many built-in systems due to normal wear and tear and gives you the ability to request plumbing service the moment something breaks down. Get a free quote now and learn more about how Cinch can help homeowners like you protect their plumbing systems and save money at the same time.