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Apple Blog

Filtering by Category: Helpful Tips

Fixing a Broken Frozen Water Main

Pat Scheper

Thanks to Jason, Luke and Brandon for giving up their Sunday to work in frigid temperatures to repair a broken water main for Carroll County Dental Associates. The ground was frozen to 15” deep and was like concrete.  The frozen layer had to be broken up with a heavy duty jackhammer mounted on a Bobcat.  Luke installed a temporary water connection on Monday morning so Carroll County Dental Associates could take care of their 100 or so patients they had scheduled and Jason could continue with the slow task of breaking up frozen dirt.  Thanks guys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video of Jason breaking up the frozen dirt like it was concrete:

ARE YOU READY FOR THE IMPENDING COLD SNAP?

Pat Scheper

A look at ACCUWEATHER this morning shows a prediction of subfreezing temperatures now until Saturday JANUARY 6.

The lowest predicted temperature during that period is forecast to be 7⁰ with a wind chill of -4⁰!!!  The next week carries a recipe for frozen and busted water pipes.  What’s a person to do?  Well, you’ve come to the right place:

-When a leak occurs, TURN OFF YOUR WATER.  Sounds simple but when a leak happens, panic ensues.  Water is gushing.  Books, furniture, pictures, and anything in the deluge are getting soaked.  Soaked drywall is falling from the ceiling. This is a panic situation and often people just don’t think clearly.

-RIGHT NOW, find your main water valve and make sure it works.  Turn the valve off and open a faucet.  Water may flow for a few seconds before it stops, but if your valve is working, the water will stop flowing.  If your valve does not stop the water flow, it needs to be replaced.  Better to know that now so you can get it replaced.  Too late when you’re in the middle of a flood.

-If you have a well, find the switch or circuit breaker that shuts off the pump.  Sometimes a freeze-up occurs at the tank or in the pipe from the pump to the tank.  This is all BEFORE your main water valve and shutting it off does nothing in this situation.  Turning off the electric to your pump will stop the flow of water…eventually.  Any water remaining in your well water tank will empty after the pump is turned off.

-After you get your water turned off you need to make three phone calls:

  1. Apple Plumbing to get your leak repaired - 410.840.8118
  2. A restoration company (such as ServPro) to get started on clean up.  Keep this in mind:  If your pipes are frozen, many others have frozen pipes too.  Restoration  companies operate on a first come, first served basis.  Don’t dilly dally, you want to get on their list ASAP.
  3. Call your Homeowners Insurance and file a claim. DON’T CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENT.  She/he cannot file a claim.  They can give you the phone number to call.  However, if this happens at night or during a holiday, you may not get a hold of your agent.  THEREFORE, find that phone number to file a claim NOW.  Again, first come, first served.

If you cannot find your main water valve, give us a call.  We can help you with that!

You are welcome!

“TOILETS! Cheese and Crackers!”

Pat Scheper

My dad, Clements August Scheper, was a plumber. His business was C. A. Scheper & Son in Randallstown. The “son” was first my brother, and then was me.  Note the singular “son”.  Dad was difficult to work for but he knew plumbing and he taught me a lot of plumbing. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll relate a trick of the trade that he taught me in the spring of 1977.  Sue and I were engaged and I was working for my dad. We installed a new 3” copper water main and connected it to an existing 3” steel water main in a building. We finished on a Friday afternoon, turned on the water, and lo and behold (do people say “lo & behold” anymore?) the joint where our copper connected to the steel was leaking.  Not a bad leak, but a leak none-the-less. …and this was Friday afternoon!

I asked Dad what we were we going to do?  He gave me a dollar and sent me to a local grocery store for a can of Morton Salt. Dad spread his handkerchief on the floor, poured a thick line of salt diagonally on the kerchief and rolled it up.  He then tied the salt laden handkerchief around the leaking joint and said “let’s go home”.  Monday morning that pipe joint was dry as a bone and has been ever since.  I have a bag of tricks like this that he taught me.

What does this have to do with toilets?  Well, nothing really, except to introduce you to my Dad.  Dad was old school through and through.  It took him years to start using PVC drain piping instead of cast iron and steel.  Dad would call people in the trade who used plastic pipe and fittings ”hacksaw & glue plumbers”. He hated plastic pipe. Once a plumber stopped in the office to apply for a job. He told Dad that "he just did new plumbing" and not service. Dad asked him what would he do if he installed a new toilet and it didn’t work, call a plumber?  Needless to say, that guy didn’t get hired.  I often think about Dad and how he would see the plumbing trade today.  My guess is he’d tell me we’re doing it all wrong and should stop using plastic pipe!

When I came up in the trade (late 60’s and 70’s) there were no big home box stores where anyone can purchase most anything for the home; stores that are geared to the do-it-yourselfer.  Back then, if a customer needed a new toilet, we would pick it up at the supply house and install it. There was no choice for the homeowner. It was either American Standard or Eljer and they took what we provided. Same with faucets. The only place a homeowner could buy plumbing parts was the local hardware store. In Randallstown it was Deer Park Hardware on Liberty Rd.  It seems you could buy anything there.  In 1978, when Sue and I were just one year into our marriage, I bought a ceramic mixing bowl set that we still use.

Again, I digress.

Back to toilets. When Dad was in business, every toilet tank had pretty much the same parts:  a ballcock, a flush valve, a tank ball, a float ball, lift rods, a float rod, and an overflow tube.  If I kept those parts on my truck, I could pretty much repair any toilet. The only toilet that those parts didn’t work for was a one piece toilet.  For that, I just made a trip to the supply house.  Now, there are high efficient toilets and imported toilets and comfort height toilets and dual flush there are almost 4,000 different toilet sold in the United States. That’s a lot of different parts, and impossible to keep them all on a service truck.

Also, now every toilet sold is given a MaP rating.  This rating tells you how much waste a toilet will cleanly flush in grams. The ratings go from 250 to 1,000.  We only install toilets with a rating of 800 or better. You can check it out yourself:  http://www.map-testing.com/ .  Toilets now come in a seemingly infinite variety of colors and styles. And prices.  A customer once paid us over $1,300.00 for a new toilet!  And then there are heated toilet seats, toilet seats that will wash your bum when you finish, toilet seats that are bidets, and even toilets that flush themselves when you are finished!

When Dad was amazed or startled by something he would never take the Lord’s name in vain by saying “J…. C…….!”.   He would instead say “Cheese and Crackers!”  Today he would say “TOILETS…Cheese and Crackers!”

(Oh, the reason the pipe stopped leaking is that the salt caused the metal to oxidize. It rusted the metal thus plugging up the leak. Once the salt was removed the oxidation stopped. For a man with only an 8th grade education, Dad was pretty smart!)

New Propane Boiler Installation

Pat Scheper

Jason and Luke just finished installing a nice new Burnham ES2 propane boiler for Greg & Amy.  We removed their old oil fired boiler to make room for this beauty.  They upgraded to a much more efficient heating system. We estimate they will reduce the carbon they emit into the atmosphere by 9,545 lbs. annually. Jason installed the new piping around the boiler so that Greg & Amy can install high efficient variable speed circulating pumps at a later date.  Greg & Amy opted to have Jason install an Outdoor Reset Control with an outdoor sensor.  This control modulates the boiler water temperature in conjunction with the outdoor air temperature so that on mild winter days they can heat their house with lower temperature water giving them additional savings.

We estimate they will save an additional 15% in annual heating costs with this control. Their new boiler will quietly and efficiently heat their home throughout the heating season. Give us a call and we'll get you on the road to saving on your heating bills too! 410.840.8118

 

All About Pressure Reducing Valves

Pat Scheper

If you have City Water, chances are you have a pressure reducing valve on your water main where it enters your house.  What is a pressure reducing valve and why is it there? A pressure reducing valve does exactly what its name indicates:  It reduces the pressure in your plumbing system.  Plumbing fixtures, faucets and appliances are designed to operate at a pressure between 25 psi and 80 psi.  In fact, some manufacturer’s void any warranty if the pressure exceeds anywhere form 80-120 psi.  In addition, local and national plumbing codes do not allow pressures greater than 80 psi.  The ideal pressure in a home is 50-60 psi.

Excess pressure can have a variety of effects on your plumbing:

  • Excessive wear and tear on faucets, fixtures and appliances.
  • Banging or noisy water pipes when turning on or off water at a faucet
  • Spitting from the water faucet aerator when water is turned on
  • Shortened water heater life
  • Leaking faucets
  • Running toilets
  • Reduced washing machine or dishwasher life due to leaks
  • Septic drain field flooding and failure if your building is connected to a private septic system
  • Increased sewer bill costs in communities who base their sewer charges on water usage metering.
  • Increased hot water heating costs: if water pressure is unnecessarily high, the increased volume and rate of cold water flowing through a home water heater increases the operating cost of that appliance.
  • Wasted water - running water at higher-than-needed pressure and flow wastes water in daily fixture use.
  • Water heater tank explosions.  THIS IS IMPORTANT: When water is heated, it expands.  Because water is an incompressible fluid, when it expands the pressure in the system increases greatly.  If there is no mechanism to absorb or relieve the increased pressure, the water heater can explode.  Check it out: Mythbusters Water Heater Explosion.  I’ll get into the mechanisms to prevent this in another blog.

So, how does a pressure reducing valve work?  MAGIC. Seriously, here is a short video that explains how a gas regulator works and it is the same principal for water.  If I find one for water, I’ll post it.  Beware: this video is very dry-you might want to grab a cup of coffee first: How A Regulator Works

If you think you have excessive pressure, give us a call and we’ll stop by to check your pressure and make any necessary recommendations.  No charge to check your pressure.  We love this stuff!!

Check Your Sump Pump!

Pat Scheper

A sump pump.  It is one of those household appliances you don’t really think about until it stops working.  It sits in a hole in your basement floor, generally has a lid covering it.  It’s in a remote corner of your basement with boxes of “stuff” piled around it…or shelves built over it.  My sump pump sits in a small closet that stores “stuff” we haven’t used in years.  It is easy to ignore it. There are a few reason why a sump pump system fails….all can result in a flooded basement;

  1. The pump is unplugged.
  2. The pump has failed, burnt up, gave up the ghost, gone kaput…
  3. The float is stuck and can’t rise with the water level to turn on the pump.
  4. The check valve has failed.
  5. The discharge pipe does not direct the water away from the house.
  6. Ice & snow block the discharge pipe.
  7. Power outage

sumppump

 

The best way to see if the system is working is to test it.

The best method to check sump pump system:

  1. Make sure the sump pump is plugged into a working electrical outlet.
  2. Remove the lid and inspect the sump with a flashlight. Look for debris in the sump.  There should only be the pump and associated pipe in the pit.  Clean out anything else.
  3. Inspect the bottom of the pit. The pump should be sitting on a bed of stone, a cinder block or bricks.  Silt can wash into the sump over time and build up on the bottom of the pit causing the pump to clog.  If you see silt or muck around the base of the pump, you may need to have the sump cleaned out.
  4. Also look for pipes extending into the sump. You may see a couple of black corrugated pipes and a couple of PVC pipes.  Make sure these pipes do not extend into the pit such that they could interfere with the float on the pump.
  5. Once you’ve completed your visual inspection you can actually test the pump. Slowly pour 5 gallons of water into the sump.  Depending on the size of the sump, you may have to pour more than 5 gallons.  As you pour in water the float will rise and activate the pump.  At this point you should see the water level slowly drop and shut the pump off when your float drops back below the shutoff level. If that's not what happens, troubleshoot and repair/replace as needed.
  6. Inspect the discharge pipe outside. You should see water flowing from it when the pump is running.  It should be directed away from the house with a splash block or a pipe extension.  If the pipe is discharging at the foundation wall you will need to make a change.

POWER OUTAGE

Your sump pump is needed most during a storm.  However, storms can bring power outages causing the sump pump system to fail.  What to do?  A battery back-up sump pump is just the ticket.  There are a variety of systems to be had with various whistles and bells.  Just remember, on a battery back-up system the pump is smaller than your sump pump meaning is will pump less water. And, the battery will run out of power if the outage is prolonged.  Zoeller Pump Company makes a water powered back up sump pump for houses with a municipal water supply.  They are pretty cool.

If you need help with your sump pump, need it repaired or inspected, call us at 410.840.8118. We'll be glad to help!

What is the MaP Toilet Rating?

Pat Scheper

As I said in my last post, some toilets are high efficient (use little water) but are low performance. There is a way to determine if a high efficient toilet will flush well before it is installed.  It is called the MaP rating.  MaP stands for Maximum Performance.Open Door Toilette MaP is a Maximum Performance scale that rates toilet efficiency and flush performance, plus gives detailed information on individual toilet characteristics. The result is up-to-date, independently verified comprehensive toilet information in a SEARCHABLE database.

IMPORTANT:  MaP scores represent the number of grams of solid waste (soybean paste and toilet paper) that a particular toilet can flush and remove completely from the fixture in a SINGLE FLUSH.

History of MaP Toilet Testing

MaP was developed in 2002-03 in response to the many complaints of the 1990s about the new “low-flow” toilets (which, by the way, flushed with 1.6 gallons of water, less than 50% of the water used in its predecessors of the 1980s!).  MaP development was sponsored by members of the municipal water utility industry.  For more information on the background of MaP over the past two decades, click here.

While many toilet performance tests have existed for years (manufacturers tests, Consumer Reports and plumbing codes), ONLY MaP offers consumers the test results from closely replicating REAL WORLD demands put upon a toilet.  MaP testing was initiated specifically to identify how well popular models performed using realistic test media (fecal simulation).

Testing Procedures

"MaP incorporates the use of soybean paste and toilet paper to duplicate the real world demands put upon toilets.  Each toilet is tested to failure - - that is, soybean paste is repeatedly added to the toilet until the fixture can no longer remove it in a single flush.  Since 2003, over 3,500 different tank-type toilet models have been tested and reported in the MaP online database.  Today, 3,360 tank-type toilet models are listed in the MaP'searchable' database.” - MaP Testing, http://www.map-testing.com/

The above is taken directly from the MaP website.  I couldn’t say it any better, so I quoted it.

The MaP scale ranges from 250 – 1,000.  It is the number of grams of waste a toilet will flush cleanly.  At Apple Plumbing will only install toilets with a MaP rating of 800 or better. Click the image below to see what the different ratings mean.

 

We had one customer who purchased a very nice looking Kohler toilet.  We did not check the MaP rating prior to installation.  Turns out is had a MaP rating of 250 and did not flush solid waste at all!

I’ve see some toilets at the big box stores with a rating on the box of 1,250.  Beware, this would not be a MaP rating but a rating determined by the manufacturer or a testing agency no recognized by MaP or the EPA.  The maximum MaP rating is 1,000.  As I said, we only install toilets with a MaP rating of 800 or more.  We have found that those toilets flush very well with little or no problems to the consumer.  However, if you try hard enough, you can clog any toilet.  Also, beware of ads showing toilets flushing golf balls, balloons, etc.  You don’t flush these items during daily use of your toilet so the ads are meaningless.

Only judge a toilet by its MaP rating!

All About Toilets

Pat Scheper

We all use it, many times every day: The throne, The Crapper, The Head, a Water Closet…The Toilet.  toiletjokeIt’s one on those inventions that has become so much an everyday item that we scarcely notice it…until it malfunctions.  The flush toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington when he described a new kind of water closet: a raised cistern with a small pipe down which water ran when released by a valve. It wasn’t until 200 years later that a man named Alexander Cummings created an S shaped pipe under the basin that kept seer gasses from entering the “closet”.  This was the S Trap.  Every plumbing fixture now has a trap between it and the sewer to prevent gases from entering the living space.

ThomasCrapper In the 1880’s Prince Edward of England hired a prominent plumber by the name of Thomas Crapper to install lavatories in several palaces.  Mr. Crapper invented the ball cock.  This is the valve in a toilet tank that allows water in to refill the tank and then automatically shuts off.  Contrary to popular belief, Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet….he just improved upon it.

Early toilets used as much as 7.5 gallons of water per flush.  That is treated water going down the drain.  And 7.5 gallons of waste water that needs to be treated.  Very few, if any, toilets in use today use 7.5 gallons per flush.  However, many current toilets use 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf).  That was the standard prior to 1994.

The 3.5 gpf toilet was a flushing fool.  The Energy Policy Act of 1992 required that all toilets manufactured for sale in the USA after January 1, 1994 use not more than 1.6 gallons per flush.  That is less than half the water used in the then standard toilet.  The Act became effective on October 24, 1992.  That gave manufacturers of toilets a scant 14 months to design, test and manufacture a totally new toilet.

The first few generations of the 1.6 gpf toilet were horrible.  You had to flush twice just to clean the bowl.  Many clogged way too easily.  People were hording 3.5 gpf toilets and selling them on the black market.  Canada had no such law at the time so many Americans were crossing the northern border to buy flushable toilets.  There is still some perception that the low flow toilets today don’t flush well.  Some don’t, but many do.

Some toilets are high efficient (use little water) but low performance. There is a way to determine if a high efficient toilet will flush well before it is installed.  It is called the MaP rating.  MaP stands for Maximum Performance.  See my next post to read all about MaP rating!

Toilet Repair Month

AdminSheila

OCTOBER IS:

NATIONAL TOILET TANK REPAIR MONTH

I have been involved either part time or full time with the plumbing industry for over 47 years, and I never knew that there is a National Toilet Tank Repair Month.  Or I knew and just chose to ignore it.

Regardless, it is now at the forefront of my consciousness and I am compelled to comment on National Toilet Tank Repair Month.  First, who or what entity declared such a month?  I have no idea.  I’ve spent the last 30 minutes searching the internet for the answer to no avail.  Enough time wasted on that question.  But if a reader knows who made the declaration, let me know and I’ll send you an Apple Plumbing t-shirt!

Back to toilets. A leaking toilet can waste A LOT of water.  The EPA says 1 in 4 toilets nationally leak wasting up to 70,000 gallons per year each.  That’s a lot of water.

I am always leery of statistics so I like to “run the numbers”:

  • 70,000 gallons per year equates to 191.79 gallon per day
  • That translates to 8 gallons per hour or 2 ounces per minute
  • Two ounces of water is a quarter cup in a minute.

Try taking a ¼ cup of water and pouring it into a sink at a steady, consistent stream for one minute.  It’s really just a trickle.  Chances are that same trickle in a toilet tank would be almost silent.  So, I think the EPA’s numbers work…a small leak that trickles in your toilet tank can waste up to 70,000 gallons of water a year!

That’s A LOT of water!

Let’s say you have a well and your well pump is a 5 gallon per minute pump.  Your pump would have to run for 14,000 minutes to supply your leaking toilet.  That’s 233⅓ hours!  For almost 10 whole days your pump would have to run to supply water to your leaking toilet.

 

flush with cashOr, let’s say you are connected to city water and sewer.  A quick check shows the City of Westminster charges $16.16 per 1,000 gallons for combined water and sewer.  Your 70,000 gallon running toilet would cost you $1,131.20 per year in water and sewer charges!  You could buy some seriously high efficient toilets for that kind of money.

 

 

 

 

So.  Now that we are aware of National Toilet Tank Repair Month and the high cost of a leaking toilet what are we to do about it?  Check your toilet for leaks!  Or have a plumber check your toilet for leaks, although it is much cheaper if you do.  Click on the following link for a video on how a toilet flushes.  The video was produced by plumbing manufacturer Korky Flappers.

How A Toilet Flushes by Korky Flappers.

There are really only two ways a toilet leaks. the first is through the fill valve in which the tank fills to the overflow tube and water just runs down the tube, into the bowl and down the drain.  If you lift the lid from the tank and see water up to the overflow tube and running down it, your fill valve is leaking.

The other way a toilet leaks is through the flapper at the base of the flush valve, if the flapper doesn’t seal tightly and water slowly leaks into the bowl and down the drain.  The easiest way to check for this type of leak is to place a few drops of dark food coloring in the tank and see if it shows up in the bowl.  You may have to wait up to 20 minutes for coloring to appear. It’s that easy.

New Water Heaters for The Hill Family Central Y

AdminSheila

YMCA In late June, Apple Plumbing & Heating, Inc. installed a new, high efficient hot water system for The Hill Family Center Y.The following photos and description details the work that was done, the planning that went into it and how this installation helped the Y reduce their carbon footprint.

The old system that the Y of Central Maryland was using consisted of two 80 gallon propane water heaters with a 200 gallon storage tank. This old system had an efficiency of less than 60%.

YMCA WH 1

The Y chose to have us install a new, high efficiency tankless water heating system. This system consists of five 95% efficient propane-fired water heaters with a recirculating pump and integral system controller. We chose Noritz water heaters for their dependability, ease of programming and factory support. Off the bat, we estimate the Hill Family Center Y will burn over 2,500 LESS gallons of propane gas annually. By my research and calculations that is over 31,000 lbs LESS carbon dioxide being emitted into the air each year! The new system has no storage tanks that need to be constantly heated even if no hot water is being used. The heaters only heat water as needed. If no hot water is flowing, the heaters are not burning gas. The system comes with a controller that monitors hot water flow and turns on heaters as needed. If a little hot water is required, only one heater will fire. In addition, each heater modulates its gas usage from 15,000 BTU to 199,000 BTU.

YMCA WH 2

As you can see, the system is compact which reflects its efficiency. Our team of Jordan, Bruce and Luke worked long days for a full week in order to get the Hill Family Center Y back on line with hot water. Jordan spent a full day the week before the job planning out the installation. There was quite a bit of piping installed in a very small space. They had to install gas piping, cold water piping, hot water piping, recirculating piping, condensate piping and flue piping. All in three days. In total, the project took five days. The last two days were spent on electrical wiring and control wiring. Tim Kyle Electric was our subcontractor for the electrical work. His crew was challenged to integrate the new system with old controls and wiring. It took some creative thinking but Tim Kyle Electric, along with Jordan, figured out the sequencing and was able to fire up the system on Friday afternoon to bring the Hill Family Center Y back on line with hot water as promised.

YMCA WH 3

All of us at Apple Plumbing congratulate the Hill Family Canter Y for their commitment to our environment. They chose a system that provides their members with an abundance of hot water while saving energy and decreasing their carbon footprint. Their decision results in a great benefit not only for their organization and members, but to the community they serve. Jordan, Bruce, Luke, and all of us at Apple Plumbing are honored to have been given the responsibility to design and install a high efficient hot water generating system for the Hill Family Center Y. We value the confidence placed in our team and are proud of the product we delivered.

Getting Ready for Winter!

Pat Scheper

Remember the Polar Vortex last winter? During the week of January 6-10, we did well over 100 frozen pipe emergency calls!! Sub zero tempBy Wednesday afternoon that week, all of our techs had put in 40 hours and were into overtime. I’ve been in the plumbing service business 46 years and I have NEVER seen anything like that. And it continued on for weeks. Weather forecasters are predicting a “colder than average” winter for the East Coast this year. Because of an early snow in the Siberian Dessert we stand a good chance for another Polar Vortex. Dang! So, there are a few things you need to consider with your plumbing system to prepare for the possible frigid weather this winter:

Outside hoses and faucets. I suggest removing your hoses from your hose bibs and drain them completely. Coil them up and store them in a safe place. Outside hose bibs should be winterized too. If you have frost free hose bibs, all you generally need to do is disconnect your hose. These faucets are self-draining….for the most part. In some situations the frost free feature has been compromised through faulty installation or interior changes in your house such as a basement finish. Check it out. Traditional hose bibs do not have a frost free feature and must be shut off with an interior valve and the pipe drained.

Overhangs.ice If you have plumbing on an overhang, you need to make sure the piping in the overhang is properly insulated, that the building insulation is properly installed, and that any cracks or openings in your siding and exterior finish are sealed.

Well pits. Last winter we had more than one customer with an old time well pit in their yard. This is basically a cinderblock pit anywhere from 3’-6’ deep and 5’-6’ squared with a concrete lit and an access opening. We had such a prolonged sub-freezing period that the pipes in the pits would freeze. In most cases a portable heater will keep the pipes from freezing. Be aware that well pits are very moist environments so protect yourself from electrical shock. You may want to have a licensed electrician take a look for you.

Pipes in exterior walls. Many people last winter experience frozen pipes in exterior walls that, fortunately, froze but didn’t burst. They were lucky!! If you had this situation, you should investigate your situation and look for cracks or openings in your wall and make sure you have sufficient insulation. Barring that, what you can do is when frigid weather is predicted is open a faucet in the affected sink or bathtub and let water trickle out. The moving water generally keeps pipes from freezing.

Sump pumps. Make sure your sump pump discharge pipe is clear and the outlet is not blocked by snow and ice. Many people have water treatment and/or condensing furnaces that discharge into the sump pump pit. If the sump pump pipe is blocked and your water treatment regenerates, you could have a mess in your basement. So find your sump pump discharge pipe outside now when there is no snow hiding it.

Power Outages. This has not much to do with plumbing as with life safety. Many people don’t have the luxury of an emergency generator. So, what to do when the power goes out and it’s cold outside? We lost our power twice last winter and, boy howdy, did it get cold in the house. We are fortunate enough to have a fireplace in our family room. So, we built a fire, lit some candles, shut the door and hunkered down for a cold night. There is one plumbing task I did before I turned in: I shut off my main water valve and drained the pipes. I also shut off the electric to the water heater. I opened every faucet in the house and let the pipes drain down to the laundry tub (the lowest fixture in my house). I you experience a prolonged outage in sub-freezing temperatures, your pipes will freeze….and possibly burst.

Sprinkler pipes. Many houses now have a fire sprinkler system. Some older ones also. In many of those sprinkled houses there are sprinkler pipes in the attic. Over time, attic insulation can settle and exposed the sprinkler pipes. Also, homeowners store items in their attics and can disturb the insulation. Sprinkler pipes can freeze, burst, and cause severe property damage. We had a customer in Hampstead last winter who experienced this very situation. As best we can tell, her attic sprinkler pipe burst shortly after everyone left for work in the morning and water flowed for about 10 hours. The entire house had to be gutted and redone. New kitchen cabinets, new carpet, new hardwood floors, new furniture, all clothing had to be dry cleaned and the family had to live in a hotel for months. If you have a sprinkler system, check your attic insulation. Even with homeowners insurance, the disruption can be overwhelming.

That’s about it. The best advice I can give is “Be Prepared”. Frozen and busted water pipes can cause quite a bit of property damage….especially if they burst while no one is home.