Holiday Plumbing Tips

Large Group of Happy People standing together.

With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s likely your home will see an influx of guests over the next two months, which can put a strain on your plumbing system. Take a few minutes this week to prepare your home before the hustle and bustle of the holidays begin.

If you’re traveling for the holidays

  • If you will be leaving your home for an extended period of time, consider turning off your water to avoid pipe problems, such as freezing.
  • Wrap pipes to prevent freezing.
  • Turn down your water heater to save energy while you’re gone.

If you’re entertaining for the holidays

  • Check your plumbing fixtures for leaks. This includes all sinks, toilets, tubs, washing machines and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Check for slow-draining sewers (the natural sign of a clog or problem).
  • Keep in mind what you shouldn’t pour down the drain – such as grease, food, household chemicals, etc.

If you have a problem

The last thing a homeowner needs over a holiday is a problem with plumbing – which is likely a clogged sewer or leaking pipe. Be prepared by keeping the numbers for your service line warranty provider on hand, as well as a local plumber you know that has 24-hour and holiday service hours.

What happened to an Atlanta homeowner on Christmas Day

Dear Felicia (City of Atlanta Councilwoman),

On Christmas Day my sewer line backed up into my house and into my tub! I could not flush toilets or take a shower or wash dishes or clothes or even my hands. It turned out to be due to a clogged sewer line in my front yard. Thanks to you, I had the warranty and did not have to pay for the $2000 plus repair! Thank you! The warranty company (SLWA) had good customer service and the local plumbing company that they sent to do the work, Atlanta Plumbing Plus, WAS AMAZING! They did a wonderful job and were very respectful of my property (and my anxiety about the situation). Thank you so much Felicia for always looking out for us!

Homeowner, Atlanta, GA

Check availability in your area here.

Grease + Pipes = Disaster


We already know that grease, lard and fat aren’t good for our bodies, but they’re also very dangerous to your sewer system.

As you’re preparing holiday meals over the next few weeks, keep in mind what you pour down the drain. Hot grease may be liquid as you pour it down the drain, but it solidifies as it cools and will clog the drain, resulting in headaches and hefty repair bills.

If you suspect you might have a clog, look for:

  • Slow water drainage
  • Gurgling sound
  • Foul odor

Pouring grease down the drain (along with other substances that shouldn’t be put in a drain) on multiple occasions will eventually result in a clog. We all know accidents happen; so, if grease does accumulate in your pipes, there are a few things you can do to “push it through”:

  • Pour boiling water down the drain to liquefy the grease and help push it further down the pipes.
  • Add a bit of baking soda and vinegar to help break down fat and give the drain a fresh smell.

The best method to protect your pipes is prevention – don’t pour grease down the drain. Let the grease stand in the pan until it cools off and solidifies, then wipe it out with a paper towel into your trash can. For large amounts of grease, consider pouring it into a leak-proof container to dispose of or take to a recycling center in/near your community.

In-Home Plumbing Tips

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Plumbing systems are pretty simple – they use pressure and valves and you just have to keep them dry and warm so problems don’t arise. Here are a few tips that can alert you to small problems in order to avoid bigger problems in the future.

Warning signs of a potential in-home plumbing problem:

  • damp cabinets
  • leaking or dripping faucets
  • wobbly toilets
  • leaking refrigerator, dishwasher or washing machine

What you can do to help preserve the integrity of your in-home plumbing:

  • To save yourself money and the plumber time, know where your home’s main water shut-off valve and sewer stack are located. (This also includes the valves for washing machines, icemakers, sinks and toilets. A stud sensor can also detect pipes and wiring to help you locate valves.)
  • Insulate exposed pipes in a crawl space or in the garage with plastic or foam insulation.
  • Apply insulating caps to outdoor fixtures.
  • If you plan on being away from home for a few days, open taps to a small trickle to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • For leaky shower heads, replace the washer.
  • Fit tub and shower drains with strainers to catch hair and clean them regularly.
  • Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket.
  • If you have hard water, you probably have a build-up of mineral deposit on your shower head. Remove the build-up by putting one cup of distilled vinegar in a plastic bag, immerse the shower head in the vinegar, secure the bag to the shower head with a twist tie and let it soak overnight.
  • Check washer hoses for bulges and leaks as well as sediment build-up where the hose connects to the piping.
  • Ensure the water heater temperature is not set above 120°F, or “medium” for older water heater models.
  • Reduce water pressure and install water softener to expand the life expectancy of your in-home plumbing pipes. Normal pressure will register between 40 and 85 psi.

Climate Impacts on Water: Going to Extremes

by Carolyn Berndt

Extreme weather events, extreme drought and extreme flooding are among the impacts that climate change is and will have on water quality and availability in cities.

water1According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Report, 30 percent of the contiguous United States is experiencing “moderate” to “exceptional” drought, with 82 percent of California experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. At the same time, cities up and down the east coast recently experienced higher tides than normal, known as “king tides,” due the alignment of the Earth, moon and sun.

While king tides are predictable events that are unrelated to climate change, the Washington Post described last week’s high water levels as a “preview [of the] the increasing threat of sea level rise” and called sea level rise an “X-Factor” that could exasperate the impacts of tidal flooding.

Earlier this year, the National Climate Assessment found that very heavy precipitation events have increased nationally, droughts have intensified, and flooding has increased in many parts of the U.S. The upcoming NLC Congress of Cities will dive into these topics through a two-part workshop for communities facing “too much water” and those facing “too little water.”

Too Much Water

Sea Level Rise
Approximately one third of the U.S. population—more than 100 million people—live in coastal communities that are threatened by rising sea levels and higher storm surges.

water2Perhaps no group has been more vocal about drawing attention to the impacts of sea level rise on their community than local leaders in southeast Florida. In 2009, the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach formed the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to jointly reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change, particularly sea level rise.

Cindy Lerner, Mayor of Pinecrest, Florida will speak about the impacts of sea level rise on southeastern Florida and how local officials in the area are taking action to protect infrastructure, property and lives and raise awareness among citizens and the state government.

Heavy Downpours and Increased Flooding
With climate change and higher temperatures, extreme weather storms are arriving with greater frequency and intensity. Cities like Dubuque, Iowa face chronic and severe flooding as a result and are adopting solutions to managing an increasing amount of stormwater runoff. The Dubuque Bee Branch Watershed, where over 50 percent of residents live and work, is one of the areas hardest hit by flash flooding.

Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque will highlight the city’s efforts reduce stormwater and flooding, including the Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project, which will reduce and slow the volume of stormwater through the watershed, provide a safe place for overflows, protect the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and expand upon and connect national and regional trail systems. Green infrastructure techniques, such as Dubuque’s green alley program, are becoming increasingly popular for communities as a means of managing and capturing stormwater and can also have added community and economic benefits.

fireToo Little Water

Hotter and drier are the themes for regions such as the Southwest and Great Plains, fostering increased wildfires and water scarcity. Extreme droughts are likely, as warmer temperatures result in melting and decreased snowpacks and depletion of groundwater and aquifers. Add in western water laws, and there is a recipe for real conflict over water resources. You’ll hear from Willits, California City Manager Adrienne Moore and Wichita Falls City Manager Darren Leiker on their cities’ efforts to conserve and reuse water and to adapt for the long-term reality in which water is a scarce commodity.

Colorado is a state of extremes. Karen Weitkunat, Mayor of Fort Collins will share the impact that the devastating 2012 High Park Fire had on water quality and how it served as a precursor for the extreme flooding that occurred the following year. She’ll share lessons learned from the two events and how communities are building back stronger, safer and more resilient.

Preparing Our Communities
Whether they are facing too little or too much water, communities cannot rely on past data to predict future needs. Climate change is introducing new challenges and risks for water quality and availability, and exasperating existing ones. Join NLC in Austin to dive deeper into these topics. Learn from experts about the impacts of climate change and how you can prepare and adapt to build a resilient community.