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Common Fall Plumbing Problems to Watch for in Cincinnati, OH

As the temperature drops and leaves fall across Cincinnati, common fall plumbing problems begin to become more likely in homes. Because these plumbing issues can wreak havoc on homes and families if they go without repair or service, it’s wise to take preventative measures over the fall months to reduce the risk of dealing with fall plumbing disasters and help protect your plumbing system once cold winter weather arrives.

Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing shares why certain plumbing issues are common fall occurrences. A professional plumber sees more water heater issues, clogged drains, frozen pipes, and burst pipes on fall plumbing calls this time of year. These common plumbing problems are often due to the seasonal temperature drop as well as fallen leaves.

Your trusted plumber shares how to best prevent these fall plumbing problems as well as a plumbing emergency, explaining what to do now to protect your pipes, water heater, and drains. Learn when to contact a plumber for professional help if you notice water heater problems, a frozen pipe, or blocked drainage to minimize damage to your home and hassle for your loved ones. Thomas & Galbraith offers same-day service when you need help combatting plumbing emergencies, or schedule a service appointment at your convenience for non-urgent plumbing problems, such as a jammed garbage disposal.

1. Fall Plumbing Problems Impacting the Drainage System

When the leaves fall, some of the most common fall plumbing problems start to happen on properties throughout the Cincinnati area – drain issues. While your children may welcome piles of fallen leaves in the yard just as much as hayrides and trips to pumpkin patches this time of year, these piles can be the source of serious plumbing problems in the fall and once we progress into the new season of winter.

As leaves reach the ground, whether you pile them up with a rake or rain and wind cause piles to form naturally, common fall plumbing issues affecting the drainage system start.

  • If leaves are not removed from your property, piles deteriorate into smaller bits of debris that easily enter drains and cause a blockage. A leaf clog in the main drain line can cause clogged drains throughout the house, including in the sink, shower, and toilet.

  • Wind and rain can blow leaves about, forcing them into or causing them to settle against vent pipe openings, creating a clog in this vital part of your drainage system. Such a blockage prevents proper airflow and pressure in your sewer lines, which helps waste exit the home as well as potentially harmful sewage gases so your family isn’t exposed.

  • Leaves left in gutters cause blocked drainage of water from fall storms and winter snow melt, preventing water from draining properly into the sewer pipes. Instead, these leaves can cause water to infiltrate home foundations, flooding basements and crawlspaces while burdening sump pumps. If leaves on the ground block drainage lines to sump pumps, flooding may worsen, resulting in serious damage to homes.

You can reduce the risk of dealing with common plumbing issues in your drainage system by cleaning up fallen leaves and more throughout the fall months.

  • Rake up piles and bag them up for disposal.

  • Inspect the vent pipe that comes up through the roof, check to see that the vent cap or screen is not damaged (replace it if needed), and make sure there isn’t a leaf clog in its opening. If you find leaves covering the drain vent pipe opening, safely access your roof and remove the debris.

  • Inspect the drain cover for every outside drain on your property. If you find covers that are missing or damaged, call your plumber to fit a new drain cover and install it.

How can you tell if fall plumbing issues caused by leaves are affecting your drainage system? Sluggish sink, toilet, and shower drainage is one early sign. If the plumbing problems persist, you could be dealing with sewage backup later in the fall or winter. Call your plumber for professional help with drain cleaning to eliminate clogged drains.

2. Common Fall Water Heater Troubles

As the temperature drop occurs in fall, Cincinnati area residents are more likely to notice the common fall plumbing water heater issues of lukewarm water and a water heater that isn’t heating water to a comfortable temperature as quickly. Lower outdoor temperatures cause a struggle amongst water heaters, whether you use a tank or tankless hot water heater at home.

To warm water with a water heater, first cold water enters the unit, then water is heated by a heating element. In the fall, incoming water temperature can be many degrees lower versus over the summer. Fall temperature drops cause the ground temperature to fall, affecting the temperature at which cold water enters the water heater.

Even though ground temperature stays steady between 50 to 60 degrees no matter the outdoor conditions, this is still many degrees cooler than it is during summer months. Therefore, groundwater from your well or underground water supply lines can be 10, 20, or even 25 degrees cooler than the cold water coming into your water heater in summer.

With a much colder incoming water temperature in the fall, your water heater is forced to do more work than it does in the summer, heating water to a comfortable temperature.

  • More energy is consumed by the unit, which drives up energy bills.
  • The system sustains more wear and tear from increased use, which damages components and may cause the entire unit to fail.
  • The water heater can easily overheat from excessive use and maintenance issues, which can cause parts to break or create the need to replace the whole unit.

There are measures you can take to reduce the difference in temperatures between the cold water coming into your water heater and the warmth the appliance must achieve for satisfactory hot water.

  • Perform water heater maintenance on a regular schedule. Tank and tankless water heater units should be flushed every year to clean out sediment and mineral deposits that block heating elements and reduce energy efficiency. Water and air filters on tankless models should also be cleaned during maintenance.

  • Be proactive about water heater issues. If your appliance isn’t working as well as it should, have your plumber inspect it when you first detect water heater troubles. Early repair to fix water heater performance problems can improve its heating abilities.

  • Insulate cold water supply pipes leading into the water heater, which helps the water hold warmth and prevents cold temperatures from reducing water temperatures further. Wrap the water line with a pipe sleeve, UL-listed heat tape, or heat cable.

If you have lukewarm water from your hot water heater or other water heater issues this fall, seek professional help from a plumber. A professional plumber is able to repair malfunctions impacting your existing water heater or replace the water heater with a new unit should the old one fail.

3. When Frozen Pipes Cause the Plumbing Issue of Burst Pipes 

The most potentially severe common fall plumbing problems concern frozen pipes. The fall season is often when the Cincinnati area has its first freeze, and we can experience extremely cold weather before winter officially arrives. When the outdoor temperature drops below freezing and stays that way, certain pipes may freeze at any time.

Continued periods at or below 20 degrees create a risk of a frozen pipe. Frozen pipes can form slowly or happen quickly – it only takes 6 hours of exposure to these cold conditions for a pipe to freeze anytime. Water expands in the pipe as ice forms, pushing against the pipe from inside. The material pipes are made from weakens when this happens, upping the chances of cracks and leaky pipes. When pipes are placed under too much pressure from freezing water, pipes burst.

Water pipes installed in certain parts of the home are at the greatest risk of these common fall plumbing issues. Vulnerable piping includes:

  • Outdoor Hose Bibbs and Their Supply Pipes
  • Pipes Installed in Unheated Spaces Like Attics, Garages, Crawlspaces, and Basements
  • Water Supply Pipes Installed Along Outside Walls of the House

Avoid the common fall plumbing issues of frozen pipes and burst pipe damage with the following preventative measures.

  • Install a heat cable, pipe sleeve, or UL-listed heat tape on any pipes sitting in at-risk and unheated areas.

  • Add more insulation to the unheated spaces where exposed pipes are installed to help the area retain heat and keep the area warmer.

  • Fix air leaks throughout the home that cause heat loss and cold air infiltration that can lower the temperatures in spaces where vulnerable plumbing sits.

  • Never turn the heat lower than 55 degrees in fall or winter, even for setback periods while away for several days.

  • Remove hoses from outside hose bibbs before a freeze and winterize outdoor spigots.

  • During freezing weather, keep the cabinet doors open underneath sinks that sit on exterior walls – this allows the home’s heat to warm the space around the pipes.

  • Open faucets during freezing temperatures so water continues moving in the line, lowering the likelihood of frozen pipes.

  • Increase heating in areas with exposed piping during times when outdoor conditions are below freezing by using a safe space heater.

If you experience frozen pipes, the common fall plumbing problems you’ll likely be dealing with are low water pressure or no water supply. When a pipe freezes, you need to work fast to thaw it in order to prevent leaks and damage. Do it yourself or contact your plumber to do so – this is considered an emergency plumbing situation.

  • Isolate the frozen piping. Open taps throughout the house to see if water is flowing. If one tap has low water pressure or no supply, the pipes leading to that fixture are likely frozen. If one area, like a bathroom, experiences issues in all sink, tub, shower, and toilet fixtures, freezing has likely occurred in the supply branch leading to this area. When all plumbing taps in the house have low water pressure or no supply, the main water supply line has frozen.

  • Take a look at the pipes to assess the condition. If there are no cracks or leaks, you can leave water on while you thaw the lines. A split or other damage to pipes means you should turn the water off before thawing them.

  • Open the faucet(s) before you start, which will let melting ice exit the piping and encourage water flow to melt the ice.

  • Warm the frozen section of piping by applying heat. Pipes can be wrapped in hot water-soaked towels or electric heating pads, or heat can be safely applied to the section using a hair dryer or electric heater. Do not use fuel-burning heaters, torches, or high-heat heat guns, as they could damage the pipe and cause other safety issues. If the pipe is in an interior space, raise the temperature on your thermostat to add heat to the home.

  • Keep heat on the pipe until full water pressure returns.

If pipes burst, you’re also likely to experience the common fall plumbing issues of low water pressure and lack of water from fixtures. If you can access the area, you’ll be able to see damage to the burst pipes. When pipes burst, major water damage can happen fast, so you need to move quickly.

  • Turn off the water. For a burst pipe affecting a single sink, close the fixture shutoff valve on the wall underneath or nearby. If pipes burst on a supply branch or the main water line, turn off all water to the home using the main shutoff valve.

  • Remove as much water as you can from the area to protect your homes and belongings from further damage.

  • Contact a professional plumber for emergency service to repair the issue by replacing the damaged pipes.

Find Help for Common Fall Plumbing Problems in Cincinnati

If you experience any of the common fall plumbing problems mentioned in this article or other household plumbing issues, you need the assistance of a professional plumber. Call Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to schedule service today.

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