Fall Weather Beware: Plumbing Problems that Crop up This Time of Year

September 26, 2018

Leaves on a pipeEach season comes with its own set of issues for homeowners, and fall is no different. When it comes to your home’s comfort and safety systems, there are several things that fall brings that you don’t have to worry about during other seasons. Heeding these warning signs and preparing properly for the sudden dips in temperatures fall can bring is an important part of keeping your home cozy and keeping your plumbing, electricity, and heating/cooling systems operating at their highest possible levels. Let’s take a closer look at plumbing issues to keep an eye out for as winter approaches.

Water Heater Malfunction

Because of the way temperatures tend to shift quickly this time of year, you should keep an eye on your water heater. When the temperature fluctuates to the chillier side of things, the incoming water temperature typically changes along with it, which may spur an issue with your water heater as it starts working harder. If you notice that you’re struggling to get enough hot water at the tap or in the shower, or the water temperature is difficult to pin down, fluctuating widely, red flags should go up. If you spot water on the floor by the tank, or find that you have to crank up the temperature setting on your hot water heater significantly higher than was previously required, it’s time to pick up the phone and take a closer look with a pro. Ring up your trusted plumbing/heating company and make an appointment for an assessment, or to discuss upgrading.

Before you call, in order to help get to the bottom of what the issue may be as quick as possible, make accurate notes of the symptoms your water heater is presenting, as well as the model number and manufacturer information from the label on the unit. This last info. may already be on file if your service contractor has been out before to look at this equipment, and has good records.

Frozen Pipes

This is all about preparation and prevention. Ideally, if you prep for this properly, you’ll never have to call a trusted plumber to undo the damage a frozen pipe can cause. In order to prevent that dreaded call, make sure water pipes near or adjacent to unheated spaces (this might be an attic, crawlspace, exterior walls, garage, workshop…) will receive enough heat from your home’s heating system to avoid freezing, and that there is plenty of insulation between them and the outdoors. Make sure the thermostat that controls heat for those areas is set to an appropriate temperature to ensure it kicks in when things get sketchy.

However, if there is a particularly suspect plumbing spot in your home, where you can’t be certain enough heat will radiate from your existing systems, you may want to apply a UL (Underwriters Laboratories)-approved heat cable (or heat tape) to a pipe as a preventative measure. If this is the route you go, it’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and heed all warnings to the letter! – and make sure you have that tape inspected annually.

The good news is, with a few preventative steps, you can rest easy (and warm) knowing your supply of water will be free-flowing all fall and winter long. The key here is to make sure these things are in order before the temperatures fall below freezing.

Blocked Drainage

Fall leaves sure are pretty, but they can cause a pretty big mess if they block up your home’s outdoor drainage systems. Keeping your gutters and downspouts clear is important in this season of extra yardwork and falling leaves. When gutters and downspouts get blocked, you run the risk of water flowing toward your foundation instead of safely away from your home – not to mention other places where it doesn’t belong along your roof or siding. While you’re clearing out those gutters, check them for leaks that are prone to pop up around aging systems. Better yet, if possible, do a visual inspection when it rains (or after a brief, early snow), and make note of where you spotted water running or dripping where it shouldn’t be. If you spot a leak, grab the caulk and seal it up asap, once things have dried out – or call your handyman and have him take care of it for you.

What about the drainage around your walkways and sidewalks leading to your house? Is the water directed away from those walkways? Make sure rainwater and snowmelt is flowing in the direction you need/want it to, because as we all know, that water can quickly turn to ice, and icy pathways around your home are no fun for you or any unsuspecting visitors. As we mentioned above, this is also an important step when it comes to foundation stability and safety. If water is allowed to flow toward your home’s foundation/basement, you could be facing some serious structural damage, over time. This is easiest to take note of and adjust in early fall, when precipitation happens, but isn’t freezing over just yet.

Garbage Disposal

More family get-togethers and holiday prep for those big seasonal meals can mean trouble for your garbage disposal or your kitchen drains. When you’re prepping those meals, remember to avoid tossing coffee grounds, potato peels, bones, pasta, fruit pits, and celery into the disposal. All of these have the potential to do more harm than good for your drain pipes, as well as the disposal. Coffee grounds in the disposal can create a goopy sediment-like buildup, whereas bones and fruit pits can become potential projectiles, never really getting shredded in the blades like you want. Pasta expands, even well after it’s been cooked, and celery’s fibrous makeup gets tangled up in those blades quickly. Apply these same principles to other foods you know that share similar qualities with the big Nos, and your garbage disposal will be in a much safer place. Routine drain inspection and maintenance can help keep your garbage disposal and the piping attached to it healthy, too. Check out this guide for some of our top recommendations on keeping those drains clear and happy all year round.

If you do run into an issue with your garbage disposal, do NOT (we repeat, DO NOT) put your hand down there to try and dislodge anything that might be stuck. The best and safest advice we can give you is to call your trusted plumber and let them handle the rest.

Keep these things in mind and be proactive about safeguarding your home’s plumbing system, and even the trickiest thing fall throws at your home will be easier to handle. And if you end up in a position you didn’t see coming, don’t hesitate to give the trusted, experienced team at Save Home Heat a call. We’re proud to help you through even your toughest plumbing problems.