Basement Plumbing Tips and Maintenance
These easy-to-follow tips should help keep the plumbing in your basement running efficiently: To prevent sewer gases from backing up into your home through your basement floor drain or other infrequently used drains, periodically pour a bucket of water down the drain to keep the trap seal full. Check your water meter during a period of time when no water is being used. Make a note of the meter reading and check it eight to 10 hours later. If the meter has moved, there is an indication that you may have an undetected water leak, which should be corrected. Stop annoying water hammer noises by installing shock absorbers that absorb vibrations in water lines. NEVER store flammable liquids such as gasoline, adhesives or solvents near the water heater, furnace or other gas-fired appliance as they may ignite. Check your washing machine hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace any hose showing signs of weakness. Conserve energy and prevent scalding by checking the temperature setting on your water heater. It should not be above 120°F or medium setting on older models. Septic tanks should be inspected and pumped every three to five years to help prevent costly replacement of the filter field.
Finding Your Water Meter and Main Shutoff Valve
The shutoff valve is usually found right where the main supply pipe enters the house coming up through your basement floor either next to or very close to the water meter. The main shutoff for the house will be one or two valves near the main water supply pipe that can be turned on and off by hand. There may also be an additional shutoff outside the house, buried in a cavity that is sometimes referred to as a "buffalo box." If you have a buffalo box, it will generally be found in the ground near the street or the edge of your property. The box will often have a round metal cover. Pry open the cover and look inside with a flashlight. There will be a valve that you can turn by hand or with a long-handled "key." If you will need to shut down the system often during the course of a project, find your external shutoff and use it to shut off the water. Don't depend entirely on the inside shutoff (particularly if you have an older home) -- it can break, leak or stop shutting off.
Annual Maintenance for Water Heaters
Once a year, drain several gallons of water from the tank to flush your water heater. Flushing will remove sediment buildup that can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency. Test the pressure relief valve by lifting up on the lever and letting it snap back. The valve should allow a burst of water into the drainpipe, if not, call a professional plumber to have a new valve installed. Check your temperature setting on the thermostat, it should be set to 120°F. Lowering the temperature setting lowers your energy use, reduces risk of damage to your tank caused by overheating and prevents scalding.