You probably don’t think much about the network of water and sewer pipes inside your walls that deliver your hot and cold water and eliminate your waste on demand. But giving your plumbing a little regular attention can prolong its life, prevent leaks, and avoid costly repairs.
Clogged drains are the most common home plumbing problem, and you can buy chemicals to clear them. But these products sometimes do more harm than good. They can actually erode cast-iron drainpipes.
Better to hire a plumber to snake the drain and completely remove the chunk of hair or grease that’s plugging the line. Or you can pick up a snake of your own and try clearing the drain yourself.
Clogs aren’t just nuisances. Backed-up water puts added pressure on your wastepipes, stressing them and shortening their lifespan. So avoid plug-ups by watching what goes down your drains. That means keeping food scraps out of kitchen drains, hair out of bathroom drains, and anything but sewage and toilet paper out of toilets.
Install screens over drains in showers and tubs, and pull out what hair you can every few weeks to prevent buildups. Scrape food into the trash before doing dishes, even if you have a disposal and never put liquid grease down the drain; pour it into a sealable container to put in the garbage after it cools.
As nice as high water pressure can be when you’re taking a shower or filling a stockpot, it stresses your pipes, increasing the likelihood of a leak.
By the way, adding a low-flow showerhead won’t affect pressure in the pipes. It only affects the amount of water coming out of the showerhead itself.
If your water has a high mineral content ‘known as hard water’ it can shorten your plumbing’s lifespan. Those naturally occurring minerals, usually magnesium or calcium, build up inside your pipes and restrict flow, increasing the pressure. Plus, they can corrode joints and fittings.
A white buildup on showerheads and faucets is a telltale sign of hard water. Or, if your house receives municipal water service, you can easily find out how hard it is. By law, every municipality must file an annual water quality report with the Environmental Protection Agency. If you have a well, check your most recent water test report for hardness information. Anything over 140 parts per million is considered hard water.
The only way to effectively deal with hard water is by installing a water softener. Most use sodium to counteract the minerals in your water, but new electronic softeners use electromagnetic pulses to dissolve minerals, and have the advantage of not adding sodium to your water.