It is easy to forget about home water plumbing until a problem arises. The following tips can help you avoid a plumbing emergency:
1. Schedule annual maintenance: A yearly home plumbing inspection can help keep your home plumbing in tip-top shape. Nevertheless, in most homes and apartments, very few water pipes are exposed. Pipes are mostly located inside walls, above ceilings and below floors, making it difficult to inspect them for leaks. Leaks may be indicated indirectly by damp or discolored walls or ceilings, or musty odors
Copper pipes may develop pinhole leaks, which form a green or blue crust as water seeps through the metal. The photo shows a “stalactite” of copper minerals formed from a pipe compromised by a patch of pinholes. This is visible on exposed pipes, but as noted above, may manifest itself as wall or ceiling damage or a musty odor where pipes are recessed. Plastic pipe (e.g., cPVC and PVC) and galvanized steel pipe rarely develop pinhole leaks. Leaks in galvanized steel pipe are more common at the threaded joints; leaks in cPVC and PVC may occur at the solvent weld joints.
Tip: If you purchase copper pipe, be aware that type “k” is of higher quality than type “m”. The probability of corrosion of different metals can be estimated for a given water system. Check with local plumbers and the water agency to see if they have information on corrosion indices.
2. Maintain your hot water heater: Follow manufacturer directions for annual maintenance, including temperature control and periodic draining.
Tip: Use hot water tank water only for washing or bathing. Water from the hot water tank is not of the same quality as cold tap water. It is not meant to be used for mixing infant formula or cooking. Additionally, Neti pot users should never use water from the hot water tank (hot tap water) to irrigate their sinuses. Instead, they should use distilled, sterile or previously boiled cold tap water (least expensive option) to make an irrigation solution (see: Neti Pots, Naegleria and Your Health).
3. Repair leaks: Leaky faucets and leaky water tanks on toilets should be repaired promptly. Both can waste a significant amount of water in one month.
The most common cause of a leaky faucet is a faulty washer or “o” ring, but sometimes the problem is the seat. Not all washers are the same. Most of the cheap washers found in discount stores are made of inferior material and actually begin to dissolve.