Tips for Homeowners

There’s an old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

This is especially true in your home. Preventative maintenance takes just a few minutes but can keep your family safe and minimize costly repairs in the future.

If you want to avoid unpleasant situations like a flooded laundry room or a thermostat that roasts or freezes everyone inside, check out these easy tips, compiled as part of Professional Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractor Awareness Week:

Is your toilet leaking? To find out, add a small amount of red food coloring to the tank, and then check the toilet bowl later. If the water has turned red, water is seeping through from the tank, and you may need to change some tank parts

  • Always shut off the power or gas before doing anything to your water heater.
  • At least once a year, drain water from the tank to remove sediment buildup.
  • If your water heater is gas, periodically inspect the water heater burner. The flame under the heater should appear blue with yellow tips. If it’s mostly yellow, or if it’s sooty under there, your flue may be clogged, which is a dangerous situation.
  • At least once a year, have your water heater inspected by a service technician.
  • Cracked or defective/leaky washing machine hoses are one of the leading causes for Homeowners Insurance claims. Check your hoses periodically for leaks, and replace plastic hoses every three years.
  • Make sure that the drain hose is secured to the washing machine outlet box. If not secured properly, the pressure could cause the hose to jump out of the drain outlet when the pump activates, spilling tremendous volumes of water onto your floor.
  • Check the condensate hose to be sure it is not blocked with algae.
  • Clean the outside condensing unit screen of leaves.
  • Listen for unusual noises and call a professional when necessary.
  • The small water line that goes from your refrigerator—called a capillary line—can easily become kinked. Plastic lines also become brittle from use, which leads to leaks. Both situations can cause extensive damage to the walls, floor, and cabinets around the refrigerator. Be sure to check and periodically replace brittle lines and check metal lines for crimps or kinks.
  • A neglected in-duct humidifier can breed mildew and bacteria or add too much moisture to a house. After the heating season ends, don’t forget to pull the plug, shut the water valve and drain the unit. If the unit has a water reservoir, drain and clean it with white vinegar, a mix of one part chlorine bleach to eight parts water or muriatic acid.
  • Clean mist-type humidifiers regularly to remove mineral deposits.
  • Run plenty of cold water when using your garbage disposal.
  • Do not overload it or dispose of things like bones or corn husks.
  • Be sure your dishwasher does not drain into the disposal.
  • While thermostats rarely fail outright, they can degrade over time as mechanical parts stick or lose their calibration. Older units will send faulty signals if they’ve been knocked out of level or have dirty switches. To recalibrate an older unit, use a wrench to adjust the nut on the back of the mercury switch until it turns the system on and, using a room thermometer, set it to the correct temperature. Caulk the hole where the thermostat wire comes through the wall, or a draft could trick it into thinking the room is warmer or colder than it really is.
  • Know where your water cut-off valves are located, and know the difference between the outside water cut-off and the inside water cut-off in case of emergency.
  • If leaving your home for extended periods during winter months, set your thermostat at approx. 60 degrees and leave your cabinet doors open inside. As an added precaution, turn the water off. If the pipes do freeze, turn the heat up, open all cabinet doors, and close your crawlspace vents.
  • To help prevent clogs, fit all your tubs and shower drains with a strainer that catches hair and soap chips, and clean the strainer regularly. Be sure that overflow holes on tubs and sinks are clear and open to prevent water damage to floors and ceilings.
  • Do not rinse fats or cooking oils down the kitchen sink, as they can solidify in the pipes and cause clogs.
  • If you have a pipe that is completely clogged, avoid using caustic liquid drain openers (like Drano or Liquid Plumber). The caustic ingredients can get trapped in your pipes and could cause serious damage. Some people try environmentally safe drain maintenance additives, but these are more effective as preventative maintenance and are not meant for use on completely obstructed drains.
  • If you can’t snake it yourself, call a professional!
  • Most houses with forced-air furnaces have a standard furnace filter made from loosely woven spun-glass fibers designed to keep it and its ductwork clean. Unfortunately, they don’t improve indoor air quality. If you want better air quality, you need to upgrade to a media filter, which sits in between the main return duct and the blower cabinet. Made of a deeply pleated, paper-like material, media filters are at least seven times better than a standard filter at removing dust and other particles.
  • Although media filters can last up to two years, their tight weave can restrict a furnace’s ability to blow air through the house. To insure a steady, strong airflow through the house, choose a filter that matches your blower’s capacity.

When you are ready to hire a professional contractor to take care of more serious home problems, visit our UPHCA member page to take advantage of its licensed and professional contractors.

These tips are provided by PHCC a recognized national plumbing and heating association.

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