5 Tips for Avoiding Post-Travel Troubles at Home
Hitting the road this holiday season? Getting out of town for a few days to spend time with family and friends is great. What’s not so great is coming home to a plumbing problem that cropped up while you were away. The best way to avoid this is to plan ahead. Here are a few things to check off your list starting a couple weeks before your trip to keep your home running smoothly while you’re away.
One – Two Weeks Before You Travel
Check for Leaks
There’s no telling when a small, unnoticeable leak will turn into a bigger and more destructive problem,. The easiest way to check for leaks is by observing your water meter, which is typically found in the basement, inside a wall-mounted box outside your home, or under a plastic lid near the curb. First, make sure no water is being used inside or outside your home. Next, check the ‘leak indicator’ on your water meter, which is usually a small triangle-shaped dial or a silver wheel that rotates when water is flowing through the meter. If the dial is moving, you probably have a leak. If your water meter doesn’t have a leak indicator, take a meter reading, wait an hour (with no water use), and then take another reading. No change means no leak, but if the reading is different, it’s time to contact a professional to find and repair the leak in your home.
Test the Sump Pump
Make sure your sump pump is in good working order in the event of heavy precipitation while you’re away. First, check the pump’s power by unplugging the two cords running to an outlet from your sump pump (one is for the pump and the other is for the float). Plug back in the pump cord only, make sure you hear the motor running, then plug the float cord back in as well. Next, slowly pour a few gallons of water into the pump pit. The float should rise and the pump should automatically turn on, and then back off after the water has been pumped. You might also consider a backup sump pump with a reserve power source in case a flood occurs while your power is out.
A Few Days Before You Travel
Clear the Gutters
It’s common for homeowners to forget about their gutters, especially during the coldest months of the year. However, that’s when they’re most likely to be filled with leaves and rooftop debris that have been mucked up by rain, snow, and ice, making the main gutter channel more likely to become clogged. Put on some rubber gloves and tuck in your shirt/coat sleeves, then use a sturdy extendable ladder to access your gutters. Next, use a small shovel or plastic scoop to scrape the gunk out of your gutters (Pro Tip: Spare your lawn by laying a tarp next to your ladder to catch the falling yard waste). Once they’re clear, flush some water through the downspouts to make sure that they properly direct water away from your home’s foundation, where expensive problems can happen.
Turn off Outdoor Faucets
During the coldest months of the year, outdoor faucets can freeze and burst. That’s why it’s a good idea to close the supply shutoff valve inside the house before you leave, even if you have frost-proof faucets. Once you’ve turned off the valve, it’s important to go outside and turn on the faucets to drain any remaining water from the pipes. Be sure to disconnect hoses and store them in a dry place. Finally, if there are pipes that are vulnerable to the cold and have frozen in the past, you should insulate them before you leave.
Prepare the Water Heater
By prepping your water heater before you leave for vacation, you can lower your home’s energy consumption (and your utility bill). Most water heaters have a setting on their temperature dial labeled “VAC” or “VACATION.” Turning the dial to “vacation mode” drastically reduces the temperature of the water in your home while keeping it warm enough to keep water flowing and prevent frozen pipes. If your water heater doesn’t have this function, manually adjust the temperature to the lowest setting on the dial, which is typically around 50°F.
Could you use a hand getting your home’s plumbing in order before you leave for the holidays? We’re happy to help! Maplewood Plumbing has been serving St. Louis-area homeowners for more than 30 years, and we’ve earned an A+ BBB rating and multiple industry awards. Give us a call at 314-207-2503 or fill out the contact form here to get in touch.
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