Home Electrical System
Some Components of a Home Electrical System
Electricity has become an essential part of contemporary life, energizing lights, appliances, heat, air conditioning, televisions, telephones, computers, and many other modern conveniences.
Electricity arrives at your house from your local utility company by a power line or underground though a conduit. Most homes have three-wire service—two hot wires and one neutral. Throughout the house, one hot wire and one neutral wire power conventional 120-volt lights and appliances; both hot wires and the neutral wire make a 240-volt circuit for large appliances such as air conditioners and electric furnaces. An electric meter, monitored by your electric utility company, is mounted where the electricity enters your house.
A Basic Electrical Circuit
The main panel is usually right next to or under the meter. This is the central distribution point for the electrical circuits that run to lights, receptacles, and appliances throughout the house. A circuit, by definition, is a circular journey that begins and ends at the same place, and this is essentially how electricity works. Current begins at a power source, powers the appliance or device along the circuit, and then returns to the power source. Any interruption in this path will render the circuit dead.
A circuit consists of a hot (usually black) wire that goes from the main panel to a series of lights, receptacles, or appliances, and a neutral (usually white) wire that returns to the main panel. In addition to the neutral wire, a grounding wire also returns to the main panel and, from there, to the earth. The purpose of the ground is to divert electricity from any short-circuiting hot wires into the earth, preventing electric shock.
Subpanels in other locations of the house, connected to the main panel, provide power to areas that have a number of different circuits or large appliances, such as the kitchen and laundry room. They also are equipped with a secondary set of circuit breakers.
Low-voltage electrical systems are also common in houses for powering doorbells, intercoms, sprinkler timers, outdoor lighting, and some types of low-voltage indoor lighting. Relative to conventional voltage wiring, these systems are much safer for homeowners to work on. The standard for household power used to be 60 amps. But modern homes may need as many as 200 amps to run air conditioners, computer equipment, high-definition televisions, and high-tech home automation devices.
Does Your Electrical System Need Updating?
Don’t wait for sparks to fly; learn how to tell if your electric system needs an upgrade. Does your home’s electrical system need an upgrade? Learn some good reasons why you may want to consider upgrading sooner, rather than later.
Should I update my electrical system?
Your home’s electrical system is similar to your body’s circulatory system. Your electrical panel is the heart of your electrical system. The circuits that carry electricity to all the plugs, lights and appliances in your home are like your veins and arteries. Your panel determines how much power is available for the circuits to distribute to all the appliances, lights and outlets in your home.
The number and size of the circuit breakers determines how that power is distributed throughout your home.
The first and most important step in updating your electrical system is to:
• Upgrade your panel (bringing more power from the utility to your home); or
• Replace the existing meter and circuit breaker box to allow it to handle more power; or
• Replace an electrical panel or circuit breakers that are obsolete, damaged or dangerous. This doesn’t affect the wiring inside your home; it just gives your system the ability to have more power to distribute. The second part is to add additional circuits to distribute the power to your rooms and appliances. Updates also often include adding new electrical outlets and replacing the old receptacles. Replacing an old circuit breaker box merits the expense for a number of reasons.
Why should electrical panels in older homes be updated?
The most important reason to update your home’s electrical system is safety. When many older homes were built, they were designed with only 30, 50 or 60 amps for the entire home, using just a few circuits. A circuit consists of all the outlets linked on one wire operated by a single fuse or circuit breaker. Circuit breakers protect your home by tripping and turning off when the wire running from your electrical panel to your appliances or devices becomes overloaded and in danger of becoming hot and catching fire. Unfortunately, in many older electrical systems, the circuit breakers don’t trip, even when the circuit is overloaded. Typically, a breaker will not trip due to a loose connection somewhere within the circuit. Sometimes a homeowner gets tired of of the circuit breaker tripping, and unknowingly adds to the danger by replacing it with a larger circuit breaker than the wire is rated to carry. To protect people from an overload, or the danger of electrocution and shock, safety devices such as ground fault circuit interrupters are now installed. How do you know if it’s time to update your electrical panel?
Here are some symptoms that indicate your system is in need of an upgrade:
• Circuit breakers trip frequently.
• Your lights dim when you turn on other appliances.
• You have to use extension cords or adapters to create additional electric outlets for your home. Circuit breaker panels have a life span of 25-40 years. If yours is older than that; if it’s in poor condition; or if it’s old and has only a few circuits, and your breakers DO NOT trip … those can be danger signs as well.
Also: If you are adding high power-consumption appliances such as an air conditioner or a spa, it’s likely that your system will need an upgrade to accommodate the additional demand. Don’t know if your home is grounded? Get a test. What are the benefits of an upgraded home electrical system? The most important benefit of upgrading your electrical system is that your home will be protected from fire hazards caused by overloaded circuits. You can sleep better knowing your home and family are protected. You will be able to use your modern appliances safely and your expensive electronic equipment will be protected. Updating your electrical system also can increase your home’s resale value.
Can I upgrade my electrical system as a DIY project?
Electricity is not a good candidate for a DIY project. Amateur or DIY wiring is not only dangerous but can be far more costly to repair in the future. Electrical work also is not an area where you’ll benefit from hiring the cheapest provider. Unlike your new cabinets or countertops, your electrical system is invisible. There are many ways to cut corners with electrical work, and most consumers won’t know the difference. That’s why it’s important to choose your contractor based on referrals, using resources. If you are remodeling your kitchen or bathrooms, we suggest upgrading your electrical panel first. And of course, wiring should always be done before any cosmetic work. You’d hate to have to cut open your painted walls or remove your new cabinets to access the wires behind the walls! 5 Signs it’s Time to Upgrade Your Home’s Electrical Panel Your home’s electrical service panel consists of a series of circuit breakers and fuses that allow you to control all the electrical components of your home. The electrical panel divides all the electrical power into different circuits, each of which is protected by a circuit breaker. Circuit breakers can be quite fickle and sensitive to various factors. Here are five signs that your home’s electrical service panel might need an upgrade. Faulty wiring issues Faulty wiring is one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States. The risk of a fire caused by faulty wiring dramatically increases based on how old your house is. Older wiring may not meet code, and wire insulation and other materials tend to deteriorate over time.
Have a professional electrician inspect the wiring in your electrical panel and throughout your home. Warning signs of faulty wiring include:
• Flickering or dimming lights
• Slight shock or tingling sensation when you touch appliances
• A persistent burning smell
• Sparking or discolored power outlets Installing new appliances We’re not talking about a new blender or toaster here. If you plan on installing a new hot tub, air conditioner, refrigerator, or other machine that consumes lots of energy, your electrical panel may not have enough power to keep those appliances going. Standard electrical panels provide 100, 150, 200, and 400 amps of power. Anything less than that is actually illegal. If your amps don’t meet your electrical needs, your circuit breakers will trip any time you try to turn on that air conditioner or hot tub, so it’s a good idea to upgrade to a higher amperage. This also applies to any large remodeling projects (e.g. adding a new room or story). Replacing fuses with circuit breakers Fuses and circuit breakers both essentially perform the same function: they prevent short circuit or overload by disrupting (or breaking) electrical currents that channel to any connected devices. Fuses, however, are one-time use. When they detect that a current is running at too high of a level, the fuse will melt, interrupting the flow of electricity. Circuit breakers simply have to be reset. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with fuses, they are outdated; designed for an age when homes didn’t have so many things plugged into the electrical outlets. These days, fuses can actually pose a fire hazard, and many insurance companies will actually refuse to insure homes that still use fuses. Excessive use of extension cords and power strips If you find yourself plugging nearly everything into one power outlet via power strips and extension cords, it’s a good idea to upgrade your electrical panel. You can allow each circuit to run straight from the panel or install a new electrical outlet and circuit, minimizing the fire hazard. Planning ahead Who knows the types of devices and appliances we’ll be using ten or twenty years from now? If you’re already remodeling or upgrading your home, it’s a good idea to invest in some quality wiring, namely structured wiring, which consists of heavy-duty cables that enable the latest features in all your electrical devices. Structured wiring will also increase your home’s value.
Should I Upgrade My Electrical Panel?
September 21, 2017. Posted by Ryan Downer in Electrical • San Antonio Owning a home has many benefits. Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages is that things break. Sometimes, you have no clue why something isn’t working. Diagnosing the problem is only half the battle. When it comes to electrical issues, most homeowners have little idea what exactly the problem is, much less how to fix it.
If you’ve had trouble with electricity or appliances working properly, this post will shed some light on if you need to upgrade your electrical panel, how to determine your panel’s capacity and why hiring an electrician is the best way to go if you are thinking about how you can change your electrical panel yourself.
What Is a Breaker Panel?
Before we discuss how and why your electrical panel might not be working, let’s talk about the breaker panel itself. An electrical panel is the central point that connects the wires from outside to the wires inside your home and how your electric service provider provides electricity to your home. It’s often also called the main breaker box, the fuse box, a distribution panel, a load center and even a breaker panel. This is where you go when you need to flip the breakers off and on to get the power back on when you’ve tripped the breaker. It is usually located in the garage, on your home’s exterior or in a utility room, but can be anywhere in your home.
There are a few different types of panels: main breaker panels, main lug panels and transfer switches.
Main Breaker Panels
These panels have a main built-in breaker that can shut off all the power to your property. This double-pole circuit breaker both identifies the capacity of your panel’s circuits and protects those circuits from becoming overloaded.
Main Lug Panels
Instead of having a main breaker, line wires go to lugs in these types of panels. Main lug panels have a separate shut-off system, which could be near the meter or connected to the main panel’s breaker. Having a disconnect near your meter allows firefighters to cut your power without needing to enter your living structure.
If you need more than one circuit in a particular area, such as in a greenhouse or a workshop, you may want a sub-panel. Sub-panels typically don’t have their own disconnect and are generally powered from the main panel.
A particular type of sub-panel that is used to transmit portable generator power is a transfer switch. Transfer switches are often recommended in areas with frequent storms, where alternate power sources can be needed on occasion. This setup allows a homeowner to easily switch to a backup power source when the regular source of electricity is unavailable. Manual transfer switches are less costly, but require you to manually switch the power load to your backup system, while automatic transfer switches provide a homeowner with more reliable protection.
The main types of circuit breakers are single pole, double pole, arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCO) and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). You can choose between full size, half size and twin or tandem single pole breakers, which provide 120 volts of electricity. Hot water heaters and appliances tend to have double pole circuit breakers, which provide 240 volts of power. AFCIs turn off power to an area when worn or damaged wires are present. These typically are installed in common areas and bedrooms. An electrician will recommend that kitchens, bathrooms and garages have GFCIs, which protects homeowners from electrocution around wet areas.
Most of the time, you don’t think much about your breaker panel. However, like other equipment in your home, electrical panels sometimes need to replaced or upgraded. There are a variety of reasons for this.
Does your home still have a fuse box?
If your home still relies on an old-fashioned panel with fuses, which is common in homes built prior to 1960, then you probably want to upgrade to an electrical panel with circuit breakers. Fuses burn out and need to be replaced and circuit breakers just need to be reset with a flip of the switch.
Is your home more than 20 years old?
If your home is more than 20 or 30 years old, you may need an upgrade. Older homes typically have panels that top out at 60 or 100 amps. Newer homes usually have 200-amp panels which fit our lifestyles. Today’s electricity needs are greater than before with high-definition televisions, computers, smart refrigerators and other appliances.
Is your electrical panel warm?
If the panel feels warm to the touch, it could be a sign that the panel is overloaded, improperly installed or defective.
Does your electrical panel smell?
If the panel gives off a burning smell, this could be a sign that either there is a bad circuit breaker or that a wire isn’t properly connected. Either one of those warning signs can put you at risk for an electrical fire.
Does your electrical panel trip often?
If your electrical panel trips often or if it makes a crackling sound, it may need to be replaced. The system will trip when you plug too many appliances into a circuit which requires more power than the circuit can accommodate. The “tripping” or cutting off power is a safety measure to prevent the wires from overheating. This may mean that just the breaker needs to be replaced and not the whole panel.
Do your appliances run at full capacity?
If your appliances aren’t running at full capacity, it may be a result of a faulty electrical panel. The circuits could be overloaded. If that’s not the problem, it may be that the panel is outdated and you need more electricity to handle the current load that your home requires.
Do your lights dim or flicker frequently?
If your lights dim or flicker frequently, especially when you use other appliances, this could be a sign of connection coming loose or something failing.
Are you upgrading your appliances or adding on to your home?
If you are considering a major new appliance upgrade or addition to your home that would require additional amps, you might consider an upgrade.
Do you find yourself using a lot of power strips?
If you need additional wall outlets throughout your home, you may consider upgrading the panel to supply the power you will need to run everything.
To learn about the capacity of your current breaker panel, look on the inside. There will be a tag, usually, on the door, that will list maximum voltage, current and power dissipation capability for the panel and busses. Most breaker boxes are 100, 150 or 200 amps. The average home typically requires 200 amp panels to fully operate all of your appliances and meet your electrical needs.
The main parts of your breaker panel are the main breaker, your circuit breakers and what’s called bus bars. What does each do?
This large circuit breaker protects your circuit breakers from becoming overburdened by limiting the amount of electricity which feeds into each breaker. The main breaker also pinpoints the amperage limits of your breaker panel.
Many homeowners are familiar with these parts, which are what “trips” when there is a power surge to a certain part of your home. Each breaker has an on/off switch that adjusts the amount of electricity going to each circuit.
These components bring power from your electrical meter through two black, thick wires to your individual circuits.
Neutral Bus Bars
Your neutral bar connects to the neutral wire of the main circuit and brings electricity back to your panel after delivering needed power to all the parts of your home. In some areas, your neutral bar is connected to the main grounding wire.
Grounding Bus Bars
All the grounding wires come together at the ground bar, which also connects to the grounding conductor, which goes underground.
An electrician also does more than just safely wire your home; he or she can expertly advise you on how much electricity your home actually needs to run properly. Be sure to tell him or her about any future big appliance upgrades or additions you have planned. Even a new TV and installing surround sound or other devices can make a difference in the amount of electricity your home needs. An electrician can also tell if your wiring is old or if circuits are damaged.
When looking for an electrician, make sure you get several quotes and remember that the cheapest option is not always the best. You want to select a trained and licensed electrician with references. The average electrical panel upgrade takes about 8 to 10 hours to complete. While the cost may be more than what you might spend having a ceiling fan installed or a new light switch put in, upgrading your electrical panel will prevent future problems and ensure your home can handle all its electrical needs.
If you have any questions about whether your electrical panel or wiring will pass inspection, you can check the National Electric Code or your local licensing or inspecting authority.
Leave Electrical Work For The Pros
While you can do electrical work on your own, it may not be a good idea. When dealing with electricity, there are many things that can go wrong. You also want to ensure that everything is up to code and working properly so you don’t have an electrical fire. The experienced, insured and licensed electricians at ABC Home & Commercial Services can help you with your electrical panel upgrades as well as any other electrical needs you may encounter during the upgrade.
A wiring upgrade can be messy and expensive, but there are times when it’s necessary to protect the safety, convenience, and value of your home.
The lights come on when you flip the switch, the TV works, and the refrigerator keeps food cold. That means the electrical wiring must be fine, right? Not necessarily. There may be times, especially if your house is more than 40 years old, when you need to upgrade electrical wiring for safety, or because the existing wiring no longer meets your family’s power needs.
Rewiring can be a messy and expensive proposition, but with a little upfront planning you can minimize the disruptions and even turn the job into an opportunity to add features that will increase the value of your home.
Safety Issues with Older Wiring
Faulty wiring is the leading cause of residential fires, according to a 2009 study by the National Fire Prevention Association. And the older your house is, the greater the chances that the wiring might be outdated or unsafe.
Old wiring—even knob and tube wiring that dates back to the early 20th century—isn’t inherently dangerous, but unless you were around when the house was built, you can’t be sure the electrical system is up to code. Plus, materials such as wire insulation can deteriorate over time.
If you don’t know when your wiring was last inspected, it’s worth paying a licensed electrician to give it a once-over, especially if you have any of these warning signs:
• Breakers that trip or fuses that blow repeatedly
• A tingling sensation when you touch an appliance
• Flickering or dimming lights
• A persistent burning smell from a room or appliance
• Warm, discolored, or sparking outlets
• Two-prong ungrounded outlets throughout the house
• No ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in kitchens, baths, and other areas exposed to moisture.
Another reason to consider upgrading is that some carriers refuse to insure houses with older wiring, or charge owners higher premiums.
Be on the Lookout for Aluminum Wiring
Instead of the standard copper wire, many houses built in the 1960s and early 1970s have aluminum wiring, which is considered a safety hazard. “Aluminum wiring connections often loosen up over time,” says Greg Fletcher, a master electrician, educator, and author of several books on wiring. “That can cause overheating and possibly fires at receptacles when appliances are plugged in to them.” An inspection can determine whether it’s safe to leave the wiring in place. Sometimes the addition of copper connectors, called pigtails, at receptacles and circuit breakers can resolve potential problems.
When You Need More Power
Sixty amps used to be the standard for household power. Today, houses often need 200 amps to run air conditioners, flat-screen TVs, computer equipment, and all the other gadgets our parents and grandparents hardly imagined.
Not having enough power isn’t just an inconvenience; it can actually damage sensitive electronics. “It’s very hard on these devices if the voltage drops off,” says San Francisco-based builder Bob Hauser. Even with adequate power, you may need to add outlets to avoid relying on power strips and extension cords, an inconvenience and a potential safety hazard.
Prepare to have some walls Opened
Upgrading electrical wiring is a big job, for one simple reason: All the wires are behind the walls. Every house is different and prices vary by market. The vast majority of that is the labor involved to get to the wires, run new ones, connect them to every switch and outlet, close up the holes, and clean up the mess.
The easiest time to tackle this work is during a larger remodeling project, such as redoing a kitchen or building an addition, when contractors are knocking holes in the walls anyway. That speeds the process, which can take anywhere from five days to two weeks for an entire house, according to Lansdale, Pa., electrical contractor Wes Carver.
Depending on the circumstances, though, you might not need a top-to-bottom rewiring. Examples are when you need to add circuits to run a new appliance or power an addition like a swimming pool. In those situations, the expense and disruption could be reduced.
Plan Ahead for Future Power Needs
If you’re going to spend the money and cut holes in the walls, you might as well run all the wires you can. That way, you’ll be ready for any possible future power needs. “There are things to be bought and plugged into a receptacle 10 or 20 years from now that are not even invented yet,” says Fletcher.
One smart investment is structured wiring. These are heavy-duty data cables that enable the latest features of TVs, stereo equipment, computers, game consoles, phones, security systems—even Internet-based remote control of house systems like heating and lighting. While a standard electrical upgrade essentially maintains the value of your home, adding structured wiring can increase it. According to a 2009 study by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Home Builders Research Center, almost 50% of homes built in 2008 included structured wiring, a sure sign of its growing value to home owners.
5 Times You Should Call a Plumber
Jumping into a major plumbing project without the right know-how can result in personal injury, major property damage and tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. If you run across any of the following problems, it’s time to call a plumber.
1. Low Water Pressure
The cause of dribbling sinks and showers isn’t always easy to pinpoint. Pipe obstructions, city supply issues, and poor pipe design can all play a part in low-pressure fixtures. A plumbing professional will be able to recognize the source of your problem and provide an appropriate solution. Attempting to DIY a low-pressure problem can damage your home and sewer lines, as well as result in a continued low flow.
2. A Lack of Hot Water
No hot water is usually the result of a failed water heater. Water heater defects can stem from a variety of issues, ranging from total breakdowns to minor component defects. Regardless of the source of your water heater’s failure, it’s a good idea to hire a plumber or technician to handle the job. Water heaters operate using electrical and gas systems. Mistakes in working with these devices can result in personal injury and damage to your home.
3. Pipe Blockage
Severe, regular backups are common signs of a blocked sewer line. These clogs are normally caused by tree roots, sediment buildup or non-flushable items affecting your sewer line. Attempting to clear your blockage by using chemicals or rodding machines can damage your sewer lines and cost you thousands to repair. A pro will have the experience and skill necessary to identify the source of your problem and provide a safe solution. This is especially important in the case of a broken or punctured sewer line. Attempting a DIY repair on a broken sewer line can expose your home and property to raw sewage, as well as incur thousands of dollars in damage to your neighborhood’s sewer lines.
4. Burst Pipes
Burst pipes usually occur in the wintertime when frozen water in the line expands and causes the pipe to break. Cracked pipes can cause major flooding and incur thousands of dollars in water damage. Additionally, affected pipes can be difficult to locate. Damage can occur in your yard, below your foundation or behind your walls. A plumber will be able to pinpoint the source of your leak and begin the water abatement process immediately. Searching for the source of your leak, even after you’ve turned off your main, will give water additional time to seep into vulnerable parts of your home. A professional plumber will also be able to recommend repairs in the case of damaged flooring, drywall or foundation.
5. Major Installations
Installing major appliances or fixtures will require the expertise of a plumber. Attempting an involved plumbing project without the proper knowledge and experience can result in expensive repairs, and sometimes entire re-installations. It’s especially important to enlist the help of a plumber during remodels and renovations. Many large overhauls include updated room layouts. In bathrooms and kitchens, this means moving appliances and fixtures. Relocating items like sinks and dishwashers will require moving supply lines and the necessary drains. Attempting these updates on your own can result in a ruined renovation and extremely expensive repairs.
7 Signs That it is Time To Call a Plumber
Plumbing problems are often depicted quite humorously on TV. Everybody gets a good laugh seeing a character’s struggle to repair the issue – but in a real life situation, nobody laughs when faced with a plumbing issue. Leaking pipes, toilet backflow, clogged sewers, gas leaks – all of these are truly nothing to laugh at. They can pose a huge inconvenience to households and commercial establishments. They compromise routines and expose people to health risks. Many homeowners are too grossed out by the idea of wastewater that refuses to go down the drain. This is why, more often than not, people can’t wait 24 hours until proper repairs are efficiently carried out. However, there are some folks who do not make such a big deal out of plumbing woes. There are those who think that time can solve the problem, and all they need to do is wait things out. They tend to refuse to think of plumbing problems as emergencies and will simply let a few days pass before calling a plumber. Although it’s nice to be a person who’s not easily frazzled by plumbing issues, it’s important to refrain from treating such problems so lightly because delayed action can easily turn a small plumbing problem into a big and complex one. In these cases, it’s always best to assess the situation carefully and study its potential impact. If you wish to avoid costly repairs and replacements due to plumbing problems, trusted plumbers recommend keeping an eye out for the following signs of plumbing problems. These indicate the need for professional plumbing services ASAP due to their serious consequences.
7 Signs to Watch Out For
1. Mold growth A damp environment encourages the growth of mold. If this is the issue in your home, it’s important to locate where moisture is specifically coming from. If there’s a leak somewhere in the plumbing structure of the building, it’s best to identify where it is and have it fixed instantly to prevent further proliferation of molds, which is a hazard to both health and safety. It’s worth mentioning as well that mold removal is a stringent and costly process, so if you can halt its quick proliferation, you can effectively prevent this disturbance in your home life and the need to renovate your home after the removal of contaminated components.
2. Frequent dizziness, headaches, breathing difficulty, fatigue, and nausea If you use natural gas for cooking and heating, these enumerated symptoms typically indicate a gas leak. This kind of leak is hard to detect, even if a scent has been added for easier detection and you have a heightened sense of smell. But it’s not just the health impact that you need to worry about in this case; with a gas leak, there’s always the potential for fire as well.
3. Discolored water When water turns a different color, then you better beware and find out what may be causing the discoloration. Call your water company to find out if they are dealing with the issue, because if they are, they’ll be able to give you a time frame of how long the problem may last. However, if discolored water is not coming from the main source, then it’s quite probable that your plumbing structure has been compromised and contaminants have made their way into the system. Surely, no one would want to consume discolored water.
4. Backflow of wastewater This usually means that there’s a problem with the sewer line (which is not easy to see because your systems are underground). It can be caused by the buildup of waste (due to unhygienic practices, such as flushing wipes down the toilet) or tree root infestation.
5. Noisy drains or pipes, sinks, and toilets These may be due to bubbles in the system or fittings that have come loose; whichever the reason may be, it shouldn’t be ignored. A loud noise in water pipes, especially, should be inspected by a plumber right away because it indicates that something in the system is already broken or is about to break.
6. Low water pressure There may be a clog in your pipes that is preventing water from flowing freely. This is can be dangerous as the blockage may cause the pipe to burst or fittings to come loose, which then can damage your floors, walls or roof.
7. Indoor flooding When flooding happens indoors and it hasn’t been raining, it’s most likely due to plumbing problems such as an improperly working drainage system, a full septic tank, leaking water heaters, or a faulty washing machine hose. Indoor flooding is a huge hassle; it can negatively affect the quality of life at home because of the damage it can create, along with the health and safety risks it presents. When these signs manifest, you’ll know it’s time to call a plumber. These are all indicators of a complex plumbing problem that only properly trained plumbers should fix. The smart thing to do is to call one immediately in order to prevent further damage and to quickly restore the proper working order of your home systems.
The Most Common Plumbing Problems and When to Call a Professional
Almost every homeowner or renter has a few essential tools on hand to cope with minor plumbing emergencies. Many times, a clogged toilet or slow drain may only need a little elbow grease and a plunger to work as intended. If you’re handy around the house, you can generally tackle a small repair such as changing out a worn washer or replacing a drain cover. However, bigger plumbing repair jobs need professional attention. Trying to repair some common issues such as slow drains or leaking toilets could lead to bigger problems later.
One way to prevent costly repairs to your home is a regular maintenance schedule. Because many issues with your pipes sneak up on you, a thorough inspection is the key to catching small problems before they grow. Hidden leaks in sink drains or below water heaters are more than just a nuisance; over time, they can cause structural damage. Water that seeps into sheetrock or plaster contributes to mold growth. Porous tile or wood flooring can discolor or warp when wet.
Inspections from a certified plumber can give you a more in-depth look at your home’s pipes and drains. Your inspector will check the water heater, garbage disposal and every area of your home’s plumbing system. More thorough assessments might include remote video inspection of pipes, lead testing and filter system inspection. After a thorough inspection, remove and clean aerators on faucets and shower heads. Sediment can build up and slow water flow. If you opt for professional plumbing maintenance, your plumber will take care of this step and others for you. Some of the maintenance duties a licensed plumber can perform include: Drain treatment to maximize flow rate Cleaning of garbage disposals and water heaters Pressure tests to detect hairline leaks Water pressure assessment and adjustment.
Common Plumbing Repair Jobs
Even the most thorough plumbing maintenance inspection won’t prevent the occasional clog or leak, especially in older homes. The high water table in the Sarasota and Bradenton, FL area also contributes to septic system problems that can affect toilets and drains. Many of these common issues have equally common solutions.
If you’ve ever tried to fall asleep with a dripping faucet in the next room or wrestled with a kitchen sink that didn’t know when to stop, you know how annoying this common problem can be. A dripping faucet also drives your water bill higher. A single faucet can send hundreds of gallons of water per year down your drains a drop at a time. Water entering your home is under pressure to move it through the pipes. When you turn off the tap, rubber or silicone-based washers form a water-tight seal that prevents more water from pushing its way through the pipes and out of the faucet. Over time, washers can become stiff, torn or dislodged, allowing a tiny trickle of water through and creating that annoying drip. While you can replace washers yourself, the repair job can be more of a challenge than you might expect without specialized tools. If the leak has gone on long enough, the valve seat may have become worn or corroded, necessitating a more involved repair that’s best left to a professional plumber. Not all sinks have washers to hold back the flow of water. Ceramic taps, also called disc or canister taps, use durable ceramic plates that fit together to form a seal. Although they need maintenance less often than rubber washers, the repair job is more complex than a simple washer replacement. If you have a lever-operated sink or tub instead of one with separate knobs, you probably have a ceramic disc or canister tap.
Low Water Pressure
When water that should gush, only trickles from the tap, you have low water pressure. This problem might not be related to the pipes in your house but to the municipal water supply. It’s rare, but a break in a main line can temporarily reduce your water pressure. A more common cause of this problem is a build-up of deposits or sediment on faucet aerators. The water entering your pipes carries dissolved minerals in it that eventually deposit themselves on metal surfaces. If you have a filtration system, these deposits wind up in the filters and get changed; without such a system, these mineral deposits collect on inner surfaces of aerators and shower heads, clogging screens and slowing flow. Most kitchen faucets have easily removed aerators that just unscrew from the tip of the faucet for easy cleaning. Taking off the aerator and soaking it overnight in a vinegar solution will generally dissolve the calcium deposits common in Florida water supplies. Shower heads and bathroom faucets may not be as easy to remove, but you can affix a plastic bag filled with vinegar to the shower head overnight to clean it. If you still notice low water pressure after cleaning aerators and shower heads of sediment and deposits, you might have a more complex issue. A leak or breach in pipes leading into your home is an emergency that could damage your home’s infrastructure or foundation. Sudden and significant reduction in water pressure with no known cause merits a call to a licensed plumber who can pinpoint the reason for the change.
If you’re tired of jiggling the handle to make your toilet behave after flushing, it might be time to replace its inner workings. Toilets typically run when the flapper valve that lets water pass from the tank to the bowl no longer fits properly, the float is imbalanced or the fill tube comes loose. Toilet repair kits work for most models and require little effort to install. Occasionally, though, toilets run for more complex reasons. If you’ve replaced the flapper, float apparatus and fill tube, you may have sediment that’s affecting proper flushing and filling. Higher water bills could also indicate a silent leak. To detect a silent leak in your toilet, add a few drops of food coloring to the upper tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes. Look in the bowl for any hint of color; if you see tinted water, your flapper valve isn’t working as it should.
Whether your regular inspection reveals a puddle under a pipe or you get an unpleasant surprise when you reach under your sink, leaks can be a costly nuisance. Leaks usually happen at joints, which is why commercial joint fillers and fitting compounds occupy plenty of shelf space in your local hardware store. These products are a temporary fix, though; a permanent plumbing repair may mean replacing a length of pipe or its fittings. Although replacing a leaky U-joint under your sink isn’t a complex repair, it is a messy one. You may want to have a professional handle it for you to save the clean-up time. Until the plumber can get to your leak, use a compression clamp and a rubber sheet or leak tape. These temporary repairs keep water from spraying but are easily removed when it’s time for a permanent solution.
Slow or Clogged Drains
When the water that goes into your sink, tub or toilet won’t go out, you probably have a partial or complete clog. In many cases, your trusty plunger can fix the problem. Plungers use air pressure to dislodge a clog, but they can’t remove it entirely. Commercial drain cleaners and clog removers are safe for most drains for occasional use, but these caustic materials can damage some pipe materials if used too frequently. If you’re dealing with clogs on a regular basis, it’s time to call a pro. Even if you don’t have a complete clog, debris in pipes can slow drainage to a trickle. Shine a flashlight into the drain and see if you can spot the problem. A pair of pliers or tweezers might be able to reach a clump of hair or fallen bottle cap that’s obstructing your pipes. Installing drain screens can prevent detritus from finding its way into drains.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
Some issues are too dangerous or complicated to tackle alone. Hire a certified Bradenton, FL plumber for the following tasks for your safety and the integrity of your home: Installation of new pipes, sinks or tubs Water heater problems New construction that requires building permits Septic tank leaks Sewer line breaks or leaks.