Plumbing Maintenance

Water Heaters

There are basically three types of water heaters: gas, electric, and oil. All three tanks operate in a similar manner. When hot water is removed from the tank, cold water enters which activates the thermostat. The water is then heated to a pre-set tem-perature, usually 140 degrees. To save energy and avoid burns consider setting the temperature between 115 and 120 degrees.

Water heaters should be of adequate size to satisfy the needs of the home. A family of four will often find that a forty gallon system is adequate.

Many experts in the industry recommend draining a gallon or two of water from the tank monthly to avoid sludge build-up. (Check your manufacturers recommendations.)

The life expectancy of a water heater is typically 8 to 12 years, although there are exceptions on both sides.

Gas Piping

Any gas leak is a life threatening situation. If you smell gas, all occupants should leave the home immediately and contact the gas company from a neighbor’s house. Do not operate switches, door-bells, telephones or anything else that may cause a spark.

Sump Pump

The sump pump is used to lift storm or drain tile water from a low point in the home to a discharge point that extends away from the building.

The sump pump is electric, therefore susceptible to interruptions or failure. Since power failures often occur during heavy storms this could be a problem. A water driven or battery back-up system should be considered.


Supply Lines

GALVANIZED STEEL: Galvanized steel piping was used almost exclusively prior to 1950. The life expectancy, depending on several conditions, is typically forty to sixty years.

One of the most common problems with this material is corrosion. Rust may accumulate on the inside of the pipe, resulting in poor water pressure and flow.

Eventually the pipe will rust through, usually at the joints first, resulting in leakage. One of the oddities with steel piping as it corrodes, is that it may rust through in one spot and begin to leak. The rust may then form a scab over the leak and seal itself. This generally means that the piping is near the end of its useful life.

COPPER: Copper piping has been used residentially since about 1950 and almost exclusively since the mid 1950’s. The life expectancy of copper piping is indefinite unless unusual water conditions or manufacturing defects are present.

PLASTIC: Most plastic pipe applications have been made by the do-it-yourselfer. The pipe is easy to work with and connections can be made without soldering.

The two most common types of plastic used are: polybutylene (PB) and chlorinated poly vinyl chloride (CPCV). PB piping uses press-on fittings and CPCV uses solvent welded or glued fittings.

Polybutylene piping was removed from the Uniform Plumbing Code in the U.S. in 1989 as an approved water distribution material. In some instances, fitting failure has occurred possibly resulting from faulty installation. In some cases, the piping manufacturer will repair or replace the PB piping at no cost to the homeowner.

Drain Piping

The three most common materials used for drain piping are: cast iron, copper, and plastic.

Cast iron was used prior to the 1950’s. Cast iron piping generally fails in one of two ways. The pipe can rust through, typically in a pin hole pattern or you may notice splitting along the seams (especially horizontally). The life expectancy is fifty years and up.

Copper drain piping was used primarily from the mid 40’s until the mid 1960’s. In residential use it has become rare. This is due to the fact that plastic piping is much less expensive to purchase and install. The life expectancy is indefinite.

Plastic waste piping has been used almost exclusively since the 1960’ s . The piping is inexpensive, easy to work with and, very durable.

Plumbing Maintenance

  • Know the location of the main water and gas shut-off valves.
  • Periodically inspect the water supply and drain lines for leakage.
  • Drain a small amount of water from the water heater per manu-facturer’s recommendations.
  • Occasionally inspect the sump pump for proper operation.
  • Make sure all plumbing fixtures are firmly secured.
  • Have your septic tank checked annually and cleaned if necessary.
  • Outdoor faucets should be shut off from the interior and drained.
  • Be sure piping in areas such as crawl spaces are protected from freezing.
  • Drain sprinkler systems.
  • Drain pools and spas.


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