Sacramento got pounded by rain this winter. There was flooding, fallen trees, and the end of a drought that had been plaguing Northern California for years. We’ve seen sunnier days lately, though, with highs in the 70s. And the city seems to have gone into spring cleaning mode, carting off the massive trees and branches that fell during the winter storms, and doing all kinds of other cleanup to get the streets and parks back into shape. In fact, the city even repainted the water tower on Interstate 5, the silver one that used to say, “Welcome to Sacramento, City of Trees.”. After the new paint job, it now reads, “Welcome to Sacramento, America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”
My friends and I have been debating which motto is better. We’re famous for our trees (and our allergies), especially in spring when leaves grow back and everything turns green. But our location in a river delta gives us both abundant agriculture and pretty vegetation—along with a healthy appetite for farm fresh food. So, my stance is to just enjoy the bounty that grows here, whether that be on the branches above our heads or the salad on our plates.
Besides, there are more important water-related things to be concerned about. Responsible homeowners should focus on spring cleaning, and not just in closets and garages. It’s also prudent to perform upkeep on a home’s drainage system and pipes. Forget what it says on the water tower, and instead focus on these spring plumbing tips for Sacramento residents. When the water flows from the tower to your house, you need to be able to use it effectively, to shower, to enjoy a glass of water—or to rinse your farmers market veggies.
Drain Directions and Faucet Forewarnings
Spring cleaning usually has to do with trimming, shining, and tidying up, but spring plumbing tips have more to do with inspecting. I suggest starting with your faucets and drains, two plumbing components we often take for granted. Follow these tips to make sure they’re in great shape:
- Check faucets for leaks and drips: If a faucet is dripping, you’ll notice it right away. What’s harder to spot is a leak. I recommend drying the area around the faucet, then turning on one or both handles. If moisture leaks from the area where the faucet connects to the sink, you clearly have a leak—a simple problem for any plumber to fix.
- Make sure drains have strainers: Strainers, also known as drain screens, are invaluable parts to the plumbing puzzle because they keep hair, soap, and other debris from causing clogs. I recommend having a plumber install one on all of your drains. Strainers vary in terms of width, depth, and inner and outer diameter, but a good plumber will be able to fit them to your home’s needs.
- Snake your floor drains: Our incredibly rainy winter has led to a rash of burst pipes in homes and sewage backups in Sacramento. If you have a basement or garage with floor drains, I suggest snaking them to avoid a flood in case of a repeat of this winter next year. Maybe you’ve used small plastic snakes to unclog your bathroom sink before. But, in this case, you’re going to need a more powerful electric auger or a hydro-jetter, sometimes referred to as a Roto-Rooter, so I’d suggest getting the help of a professional plumber.
A Scientific Method for Toilet Maintenance
Let’s make plumbing fun. Think of inspecting your toilet for leaks as a science experiment, one that requires only your eyes, hands, and some food coloring. Just follow these easy steps:
- Check the toilet’s bowl and tank for leaks. Is there water pooling on the ground around its base? If so, you may have a problem.
- Check for hidden leaks by adding food coloring to the toilet tank. Six drops should do it. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in your bowl within 30 minutes. Use green coloring to commemorate Sacramento’s trees (optional, of course, and entirely for fun).
- Twist the water supply valve under your toilet to make sure it doesn’t stick.
- Flush the toilet, checking to see if the handle must be held down or jiggled to get it to stop running.
- Enlist the help of a plumber to fix any problems you identified. A toilet that runs or leaks can drive up your water bill. In fact, research has shown that a continuously running toilet wastes up to 200 gallons a day.
Water Heater Words to the Wise
Spring is blooming Sactown, putting us closer to our hot and dry summers, but don’t assume you can ignore your water heater. It’s worked hard through the cold winter season when it’s usage rate is at its highest. With the cold weather now behind us, you’ll want to take the time to make sure it’s still functioning at its best.
- Check that the heater is set below 120 degrees. For a gas tank, the thermostat dial should be near the bottom on the gas valve. For electric models, thermostats are generally positioned behind a screw-on panel or plate. Any hotter and it can scald you and your family.
- Drain several gallons from its tank. This will flush any sediment, which causes corrosion and reduces a heater’s efficiency, both of which shorten its lifespan.
- Replace your water heater if it’s more than 15 years old. The first four numbers of a water heater’s serial number are the month and year it was made. Don’t, however, replace it yourself. This is tricky work, best left to professionals.
According to the US Department of Energy, water heaters account for up to 12 percent of a household’s utility bill. A more efficient model can reduce this through better insulation, solar energy use, or tankless on-demand heating, though. Whether or not a new water heater is right for you will depend, but a knowledgeable plumber is your best resource when making this choice.
If I had my way, our water tower would say, “Welcome to Sacramento…Take Care of Your Plumbing This Spring.” But nobody’s asking me; obviously, I’m not an expert on marketing our city to tourists.
I am, however, an expert on how to clean and maintain the plumbing in your home. Besides, none of these suggestions are even all that demanding on your time. You just have to set aside a few moments for inspecting your faucets, toilets, and tanks; clean out your water heater and drains; and then defer to a professional plumber for the hard stuff, if need be. These spring plumbing tips are nothing that can’t be done with the time you’re bound to spend debating which motto we should have painted on our city’s water tower.
After you’ve done your spring cleaning and inspecting, it’s time to call a professional. The expertly trained plumbers at Bell Brothers are available today to help you finish the job.
Image courtesy Jordan Whitt via Unsplash