Millions of people journey millions of miles to be with their loved ones for the holiday season. Traveling to your old home or visiting your daughter’s new custom-built house is a great way to celebrate the holidays while you reconnect with your family and friends, but unless you take proper precautions you may wind up dealing with an emergency plumbing mishap from far away. You might have to go back home if the problem is bad enough. To avoid such an abrupt end to your holiday cheer, get your plumbing ready before you leave so you won’t have a single worry while you’re gone.
First Things First
The first thing to do is enlist a friend to watch your house for you. A neighbor can quickly walk around your property once a day looking for any obvious problems. A good, reliable house sitter is worth the extra expense just for peace of mind. But whether you hire someone or get a friend to check your home regularly, it’s nice to receive positive reports from the home front while you’re on vacation.
Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Make sure that whoever is watching your home knows what to do to make sure your pipes are safe in case there’s a sudden freeze. Naturally, you’re going to reset your thermostat to about 20 degrees lower than usual, around 50 or 55 degrees. To prevent the pipes beneath your sinks and behind your walls from freezing, open the cabinet doors so the pipes will stay warm and can resist freezing. For an extra level of security, open the valves in every sink a tiny bit to allow water to slowly flow through the pipes to keep it from freezing. It doesn’t have to be a stream, just a continual fast drip will do the trick.
Schedule a Checkup for Added Peace of Mind
Schedule a checkup with bluefrog Plumbing + Drain before you travel. One of our master plumbers will look over your hot water heater, your drains and all the appliances that use water for signs of possible upcoming problems. A quick tune-up is always good for your plumbing, and before you leave town for a lengthy vacation, you should have a plumber confirm that all your systems are in good shape and will not fail while you’re gone.
If, however, you haven’t been very vigilant when it comes to general upkeep, it might be a good idea to have the plumber clean the drains for you. A gallon of boiling water mixed with vinegar or baking soda will usually do the trick. Since the water’s already hot, and the vinegar is on hand, clean every drain in the house. Use crushed ice and lemon slices for the drain screens and the garbage disposal too. It can’t hurt, and it’ll be nice to return home to fresh, clean plumbing. After the drains have been cleaned, close them until you return from your holiday festivities.
Check Your Sewer Line
If you’ve suspected that you might have a problem with the sewer line, you should get it checked before you leave town. You could ask the plumber to close the sewer line after you leave and open it again right before you return. Then, you won’t have to worry about sewer backups due to flooding or ice storms.
Have a plumber check the septic system for any obvious signs of a problem with the waste pipes, the septic tank or the leech field. If the pipes are blocked by tree roots that have grown through the PVC, have them replaced. It’s easier to dig during early December than in January, so you’ll save money on labor.
Have the plumber turn off the water to the house at the main before you leave and turn it back on the day before you return. Drain the pipes to the sinks and the bath or shower. Use a can of compressed air to blow out the last drops of water. Then, you’ll be completely protected against any serious damage if your furnace would break down or if your pipes freeze. If you have an older steam-type heating system, you should check to see if it’s recommended to turn it off or leave it running while you’re gone. If it needs to be running, it’ll need water. You also want to make sure that your fire sprinkler system still has a water source in case there’s a fire.
Got a Hot Tub?
If you have a hot tub, lower the thermostat but keep it high enough that the water won’t freeze while you’re gone. By the holidays, most people have closed their pools for the winter, so just leave it covered and keep the heater on low to avoid freezing. Let it run normally with the filter on while you’re gone, and it should be fine.
The Toilet Trick
Another good idea is to cover your toilet bowl with plastic wrap so that the water in the bowl doesn’t evaporate. If it does, gases from the sewer can seep into your home and make it smell awful. That would not be a very pleasant homecoming.
Turn the water off on your washing machine and dishwasher. It’s easy and a foolproof way to protect them. Also, turn on any outside valves and empty the pipes to avoid having those pipes freeze.
Help for Frequent Travelers
If you travel frequently, you should ask one of the bluefrog Plumbing + Drain technicians about smart technology. Now, you can use it to monitor your home for developing problems from afar with newly developed leak sensors. They can notify you if a leak occurs so you can turn off the water main remotely, or you could have it set to immediately turn off the water to a leaking washing machine or dishwasher if there’s a leak detected.
Some of these tips will apply to your situation, and some will not. The best way to make certain your plumbing is protected while you’re roaming the countryside is to have a plumber from bluefrog Plumbing + Drain come to your home to examine your home. Give us a call today to set up your appointment.