Ask your favorite plumber and they’ll tell you the holidays are their busiest time. Our licensed plumbers tell us that this is the time of year when water heaters fail and main drains back up. Why, and what can you do about it?
Tank water heaters fail at the holidays?
There’s nothing like the combination of extra use and cold outside temperatures to push an old standard tank beyond its limits. If your tank is limping through its 10th or 15th year of life, parts in it are likely to be worn and fragile. The cold temperatures outside (or in your basement) make the water in your plumbing colder. This causes your tank water heater to work a little harder and longer to get the water to your set heat. In addition, the differential between the hot water on the top of the tank and cold water coming in at the bottom is greater, causing extra flexing of the tank itself. And then you add extra use from Thanksgiving dishes, holiday guests and students who are home from college and it’s a meltdown waiting to happen.
4 Ways to avoid water heater failure:
Our emergency water heater team is standing by 24/7 in case your water heater gives up, but you can be proactive about this in several ways.
- If you know your water heater is old but you don’t want to replace it, consider a leak detection and protection system. This will shut off the water and alert you if there is a leak, giving you peace of mind.
- Replace your old water heater proactively with a new tank water heater or a tankless.
- Give it some TLC with a flush of sediments and if needed an anode rod replacement to ensure it’s running the best it can.
- Make sure your temperature setting is 120 degrees or less. 120 degrees F is the standard temperature for water heaters. Sometimes people crank up the temp thinking that the water heater will produce more hot water. It won’t, it will produce the same amount of hot water, but it will be scalding hot. It also puts more wear and tear on the parts inside. The only way to get more quantity of hot water out of your tank is to make sure you have flushed out the sediment build up.
Plumbing or side sewer backups are common during the holiday season
It happened to one of us (the author of this article). Thanksgiving day, the guests were arriving and I made a mad dash to the basement to get something from the freezer. Oops , the main drain had backed up into the basement! Fortunately, our plumbers are available 24/7 and even on holidays. We had the drain cleaned quickly and sent the plumber home with a to-go plate of turkey dinner.
Plumbing, and particularly mainline drains, backup around the holidays, not just because you are using more water and flushing more toilets but your entire neighborhood is doing it too! Add in some grease poured down the drain, dishwashers running and extra showers, plus if you live in a older residential neighborhood (like Ballard or Queen Anne,) possibly shared piping with another house, and it’s a recipe for overloading the plumbing. And then the water goes back where it came from, into your house. Hence the term “back-up”.
What to do:
Our emergency plumbing team is ready 24/7 in case the holiday emergency strikes your home, but you can be proactive in these ways:
- Have a plumber come and snake your drain before your holiday rush. Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid a disaster. Also, if you’re hosting, avoid using your garbage disposal. It may seem like an easy way to quickly dispose of greasy leftovers but the solids just sit out there in the drain and with all the extra plumbing system use, this compounds the risk of backup.
- Boiling water with our without a cup of liquid bleach can be used to clear sinks. The boiling water will break down solids and is better for your pipes than liquid drain cleaner. Some people try to use vinegar and hot water.
For plumbing or water heater sales and service, call Washington Energy Services at 800-398-4663. Or you can call our plumbers directly at 800-590-4969.