Monday, May 23, 2011

When Every Day is Halloween – Dealing with Otherworldly Noises from Your Home’s Plumbing

It’s only spring and far too early to be thinking about decorating your home for Halloween. But, if you’re one of those unlucky souls dealing with pounding, rattling, and squeaking pipes, it can seem like every day is Halloween. If this describes your day-to-day existence, there is something you can do about it that doesn’t require you to call the local Ghostbusters agency. 

Follow the tips below for ways that you can go about quieting your household’s plumbing so you don’t inadvertently wind up on a future episode of Ghost Adventures.

Identifying the Culprits
Your first step is to identify the cause of the noisy plumbing. Since we’ve already determined that intermittent hammering sounds in your walls and occasional eerie squeals are most definitely of an earthbound origin, it’s time to close in on the solution bravely. 
The top three most common causes of otherworldly noises from your home’s piping are:
1.      Loose piping;
2.      Excessive water pressure; and
3.      A waterlogged air chamber.

Silencing the Spirits… Err, Plumbing
Depending on the source of the noise, the course of action you take to reclaim silence in your home will differ. But, there’s nothing to say that you should be forced to live with the annoying, sometimes frightening, sounds that can emerge from your walls.

Rattling or Pounding – This can occur anytime you turn on the water and is typically caused by pipes that run between your home’s walls that are either not well anchored or have come loose over the course of time. This disturbing phenomenon is far more likely to be experienced in older homes, which, as you can imagine, has led many to automatically assume “haunting” instead of arriving at a far more easy to deal with solution. 

It can be taken care of by adding pipe straps or cushioning pipes with rubber. Just remember that if you’re going to anchor your pipes, you need to leave a bit of wiggle room for expansion.

Squeals and Odd Tones – Houses don’t speak, but when and if they do, it’s time to sit up and take notice. If running your water results in a variety of strange squealing sounds and odd humming or whistling tones, this is a dead giveaway that your water pressure is set too high and should be turned down. The sounds that you hear are the result of pipes vibrating under the excessive water pressure, an issue that’s simply addressed.

Hammering Sound – Usually caused anytime you shut off running water too suddenly, the hammering sound and vibrations that can immediately follow don’t have to be cause for alarm. However, it is good indication that the air chambers which exist behind your appliances and water fixtures have become clogged with water and aren’t able to do their job properly. 

Fixing this problem requires you to shut off your water supply and open all of your home’s faucets to drain the excess water and allow air back in.

Although most of the solutions above can be done without the intervention of a professional, you may want to contact your local plumber to have them take a look and give you their professional opinion on what it will take to bring back some peace and quiet to your home.

Have you experienced any strange, mysterious sounds coming from your home’s plumbing? What did you do to address the problem? Feel free to share your creative solutions and personal experiences – we’d love to hear from you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Three Signs the a House Has Plumbing Issues

The discouraging statistic that almost half of all home buyers end up calling a plumber within a year of moving in shouldn’t cause you to give up your plans of owning your dream home. If anything, it should simply strengthen your resolve to take steps in advance to ensure that the plumbing in the house you’re buying is in good shape.

Here are three things to look for that’ll save you from having to pay money on expensive diagnostics and that can help you determine if a house has had plumbing problems in the past.

#1: Check the Bathroom
This is where a lot of water usage happens in a home, and it’s likely that if a house has seen some plumbing issues in the past, they’ll have left their mark here. The first thing you want to look for are any discolorations or stains around the toilet’s base, which can be a dead giveaway to prior water damage and leaks.

It’s also a good idea to check the bathroom floor for signs of weakness that may have been caused by water damage. This can be done by simply standing with a foot on either side of the toilet and shifting your weight back and forth. If you feel any significant movement or any give, this could be a sign of rotting.

#2: Check the Water Heater
Some water heaters are difficult to get to, but it’s important that you at very least check the date of the water heater in the home. This can be done by reading the serial number on the face of the water heater itself. The date of the water heater’s manufacture will appear as the first four digits of the serial number. For example, if the first four digits read “1199” this means the water heater was built in November of 1999.

With some water heaters, the serial number will start with only two numbers, which also indicate the year (i.e., a serial number that starts with “89” tells you that it was made in 1989). Water heaters over 15 years old should be replaced, and those that exhibit signs of rust externally or inside the water tank are also plumbing incidents waiting to happen.

#3: The Home Water Test Drive
You wouldn’t think about buying a car without at least taking it on a test drive, would you? While it’s not practical to ask that you be allowed to take a shower in someone else’s home in order to determine if it’s got plumbing or piping issues, the next best thing should be attempted: run the water in the bathtub and sinks throughout the house. 

If the water flow seems restricted, it might be an indication that the home’s piping is clogged with calcium deposits and may need to be replaced.

Be Plumbing Smart
It can be a true heartbreaker to discover that the home you’re seriously considering purchasing has plumbing issues, but that’s not nearly as heartbreaking as having to sink thousands of dollars into fixing the problem after you’ve been living there for a year. So before you go falling in love with any homes, be sure to give the plumbing all of your attention.  
Have you had experience snooping out plumbing problems in the past? What approaches did you take and what worked best? Share your opinions and experiences with us.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Harvesting the Rain – How Rainwater Can Cut Your Bills and Make for a Healthier Environment

There’s an old saying you’re probably very familiar with that says, “April showers bring May flowers.” But, depending on where you live, there’s a high likelihood that the arrival of May has done absolutely nothing to chase away those ever present storm clouds. If this is the case, take heart. Before you go chanting, “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” remember that there’s actually plenty you can do with all that excess rainfall that’s good for both the environment and your water bill.

It’s called rainwater harvesting, and even though the concept may be entirely new to you, it’s actually something that people have been doing for a very long time. Essentially, rainwater harvesting entails collecting and storing rainwater for the purposes of reusing it throughout your home for a variety of different purposes.

How Do I Collect Rainwater?
Methods of collecting rainwater range from the complex to the simplistic, but, in the end, any method of catching rain and works just fine as long as you take measures to keep it free of bugs and random debris. This proves that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket and once again helps to dispel the rumor that “green living” costs an arm and a leg.
Your Very Own DIY Rain Barrel
One of the best places to position a rain barrel is immediately underneath your home’s exterior rain gutter where rainwater is channeled down and emptied out into the ground. Depending on the setup of your rain gutters, you may have to select what you use for a rain collector accordingly. If there’s very little room between the end of your rain gutter and the ground, consider using a small bucket with a screen that will effectively filter out any large foreign particles.

If you’ve got a bit more room to work with, upgrade your container to something a bit more sizable so that you don’t have to switch it out every few minutes on a particularly rainy day. But, don’t make it so big that you’ll have difficulty carrying it away without straining yourself – water is heavy!

Once you’ve got a fair amount of water collected, you can store it and save it to water your backyard and garden in the dry season or immediately put it to use for a variety of different around-the-house purposes like:

  • Watering indoor plants.
  • Mopping floors and wiping down surfaces.
  • Rinsing dishes. Imagine how much water you could save if you kept a small bucket of fresh rainwater beside your kitchen sink and used that instead of running your faucet.
A Bright Spot
Who said that rainy days have to be gloomy? If anything, they should be a reminder to you that even the direst of circumstances can result in positive things. Next time it pours, make a rain barrel and do some good. You can significantly impact the amount of water you waste and lower your water bill at the same time.

What other household purposes can you think of to use fresh rainwater? Share your ideas for a better, greener world below.

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