Test Your Home Plumbing Smarts

Photo: kakisky/morgueFileAs 21st century Americans, we rely on our home's plumbing system for efficient inflow and outgo. In layperson’s terms, that can be defined as bringing in clean water for drinking and cleaning purposes, and getting rid of unpleasant household waste. Every homeowner (and renter) knows how important it is to treat this essential system with healthy respect. But what does that involve, exactly? Answer these True/False questions to test your home plumbing knowledge.

1. Use the hottest possible water to get your toilet really clean. 

False.  Overly hot water may cause your toilet bowl to crack. Warm water is just fine. Use a brush for scrubbing power and to avoid accidentally flushing your cleaning cloth. For a green toilet cleaner, try a 1:4 mix of baking soda and vinegar.  Did you know Tucson plumbers also advise scouring your toilet tank once or twice a year (especially in New Mexico and other states with extremely hard water)?

2. Ice cubes are actually good for your garbage disposal blades.

True. Chopping up ice will give your blades a workout that keeps them sharp. Do not, however, overtax them with hard or stringy items such as bones or corn husks; put those in the garbage can or compost bin instead.

3. A tankless water heater gives you an instant supply of hot water.

True. This type of “demand” water heater saves energy by eliminating the need for standby heat. At the same time, it gives you the convenience of hot water for your shower or dishwashing – instantly. A tankless heater is also longer-lasting and space-saving.

4. The best way to reduce toilet water use is to put a brick into the tank.

False. This was once promoted as an excellent water-saving move. Problem is, inserting the brick may damage your toilet tank’s flushing mechanism. What’s more, the brick will tend to disintegrate over time, blocking your toilet with rubble. Better solutions are to replace your flapper or to install a new toilet with a water-conserving dual flush.

5. Commercial additives will improve the performance of your septic tank.

False. A properly working septic tank does not require the use of biological, odor control or solid reducing additives. It is designed to take care of those functions without additional help.

6. Before turning off the water supply to an electric heater, disconnect the power.

True. Allowing the water level to drop in an electric heater while it is still connected to a power source will tend to result in burn-out of the upper heating element.

7. Connect a plumbing joint securely by tightening it as hard as possible.

False. A firm connection (half a turn of the wrench more than hand-tight) is just right; an overly tight one might cause wrench damage, particularly if you have copper piping.    

8. A shower strainer is a device that helps keep your drains clear.  

True. A shower strainer (also called a drain cover) is a simple method of blocking hair and debris from getting into your bathroom drains. This handy device comes in different sizes for use in your shower, tub or sink. BTW, flushing hair combings and cuttings is not the healthiest thing for your toilet either.

9. Disconnecting your garden hose in the winter could save your pipes.

True. Leftover water in your garden hose will freeze and expand. This has the potential to increase the pressure on your interior plumbing, possibly causing your pipes to burst. Drain the hose and disconnect it from the outside faucet as part of your pre-winter routine preparations.

10. Don’t plant grass over your septic system drainfield; it interferes with function. 

False. Actually, grass will make the area look more attractive, while promoting evaporation and preventing soil erosion. Avoid overwatering and the use of sprinkler systems, though. You will also need to ensure that the roots of trees and shrubbery do not clog the pipes. NEVER tile or pave over your drainfield.


9-10 Correct:  Whiz.

6-8 Correct:  Well-informed.

5 or less:  Time to brush up on your home plumbing savvy!

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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