Early Recognition: Helping to Avoid Big Home Repairs

Repairman Repairing OvenSometimes costly, large-scale home repairs can be avoided by recognizing early warning signs. Especially when it comes to HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems in our home. Here are five common signs of potential home repair problems and what they mean:

 

Sewer line and drainage problems

When more than one drain in your home has started to work improperly, this is likely a sign there is a problem with the external line that connects to the street. There are many possible causes for a backup or blockage. Tree roots may have found their way into the sewer line or a foreign object has blocked the flow or, worst-case scenario, your sewer line has broken completely. No matter which of these issues is occurring, you should contact a plumber immediately. If it is something as simple as a root intrusion or a foreign object, the plumber may be able to remove them or complete a small spot repair before the problem gets worse. This could potentially save you the thousands of dollars it will cost to have the line replaced completely.

Water line leaks

Most people use about the same amount of water every month. If you notice a sizable increase in your bill and you haven’t modified your usage – filling a pool or increasing your outdoor watering – this could signal you have a problem. One of the first things to do is examine all of your fixtures. Dripping faucets and leaking toilets can waste a lot of water over the period of a month. Though you can visibly see a faucet dripping, the leaking toilet may be a little harder to detect. Dye testing your toilet is an effective way of checking for leaks. Once you locate the source of your problem, you can address it directly and avoid any further increased water bills.

If all of your fixtures seem to be in good working order after the visual and dye testing, and there are no other visible signs of water leakage in your house, i.e., mold spots, water dripping down walls or between floors, or warped drywall/ceilings, then it is time to contact your water company. You may be experiencing a leak on your external water line. The water company will typically send someone out to test your line and verify if there is a water line leak.

Service line troubles

Do you have patches of lawn that have suddenly become greener than the fairways at the local golf course? This can often be a sign that you have a leak in one of your external lines. When either a water or sewer line leaks into the surrounding soil, the grass is provided extra water or nutrients, resulting in a more green and luxurious appearance. If you are experiencing this, it is a good idea to have your buried service lines checked. The water company will typically check for a leak on their line. If no leak is found on the water line, contact a local licensed plumber to inspect the sewer line.

Maintaining and monitoring your plumbing is a must. A majority of Americans cannot afford a major plumbing expense if the problems become too severe, and Millennials are even less prepared. By keeping tabs on your plumbing, and having a home repair or home warranty plan, you can possibly prevent the financial burden of catastrophic plumbing failures.  Fixing a service line is a costly home repair.

Heating and air conditioning trouble

Every HVAC system makes noise, but if you notice a change in these noises, including bangs, squeaks, and creaks, it may be time to have your unit looked at. These sounds could indicate that you have a bearing or belt going out, or worse.

If your home is heating or cooling unevenly, and you have checked to make sure the vents are open and there are no structural issues with the home, it may be a sign that there are heater or air conditioner problems. This could also be a sign that there is a problem or leak with your ductwork. Another common cause of this is the location of your thermostat. A thermostat may be located in a position that does not allow it to gauge the temperature of the entire space, such as near a vent or in a smaller space of the home, causing your HVAC unit to shut off before the entire space has been adequately heated or cooled.

Shockingly simple electrical repairs

Lights that flicker in the home may be a symptom of a bad or loose light bulb, but if replacing the bulb does not solve the problem it may be due to an issue within the light fixture itself, or the wiring to the fixture. If this problem is occurring across multiple fixtures in the home, it is time to contact an electrician as the likely cause is faulty wiring within the home and this is a home repair you probably don’t want to try to do yourself.

Circuit breakers may occasionally trip if you have overloaded a circuit, but in the event the breaker is constantly tripping, even with just single lamp or fixture plugged into it, the breakers may have worn out and are no longer usable. Use caution while doing anything with the breaker panel, as power still flows to the unit, even with the main break.

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of a home repair emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Water Damage

home water damage

Did you know, water damage is more likely to occur in your home than fire damage? We protect our homes from catastrophes, but water damage could be just as dangerous.

Plumbing leaks are common anywhere there is running water, such as:

  • Toilets
  • Faucets/Sinks
  • Dishwashers
  • Ice makers
  • Water heaters
  • Tubs/showers
  • Washing machines
  • Internal pipes and hoses

Water damage isn’t only a problem financially; it can lead to serious health risks from chemicals, toxins and mold, such as rashes, asthma or other chronic health conditions. Additionally, recent studies have shown that children with prolonged exposure to water- damaged rooms in their home are at a higher risk of developing eczema.

Whether from a slow leak or flooded basement, there are things that a homeowner can do to mitigate or minimize the extent of water damage.

  • Check for leaks or cracks in hoses that run to the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator at least once a year and replace these hoses every five to seven years.
  • Be sure the caulking around tubs and showers is free of cracks.
  • Know where your water main is located and how to shut it off.
  • Install floor pans under appliances to prevent damage from slow, undetected leaks.
  • Use water leak alarms, which will alert you to a leak in basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and sump pumps.
  • Buy a water flow monitoring system, which attaches to your water main and, if flow that exceeds normal use is detected, will automatically shut off the flow of water into your home.

When the problem is from your water service line, that’s when repairs can really get costly. Service Line Warranties of America offers affordable warranties to help cover those repairs. Enter your zip code to learn more.

Time for Spring Cleaning!

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.

During this time of year, most people are looking to clean up and clean out, finding things they don’t have use for and throwing them away, or in some cases, finally figuring out a way to use what they have in a better way. Service Line Warranties of America is doing some spring cleaning of its own. We are working on revamping and improving our blogs and social media, and we will be debuting our new format next week!

While we put the finishing touches on our spring work, take some time to check out these spring plumbing tips and make sure you are ready for what spring has to offer! For more information on other ways to be prepared for spring, visit www.slwofa.com.

What to do when you have a clogged pipe

Handyman on the scene

Clogged pipes are one of the most common problems in sewer lines, but do you know what to do when it happens?

When sewer pipes clog, it is a plumbing emergency because your wastewater has nowhere to go and could inevitably cause other plumbing fixtures to back up as well.

There are warning signs that will alert you to a problem – like a slow drain or a foul odor emanating from the drain. This means that something is impeding the flow in the line. When multiple drains are slow, it may be a sign of a bigger problem in the main line. Toilets are particularly prone to this problem, but other pipes could be involved. Toilets generally have the most direct path to the sewer with the biggest drain line in the house, so if you’re having a problem with the toilet, it’s likely affecting the entire household plumbing system.

If you suspect you have a clogged sewer pipe, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber rather than attempt to unclog the line yourself. It’s possible the problem could be more extensive than a simple fix and attempts at repairing the line yourself could cause more damage.

If you’re enrolled in external sewer line repair or in-home plumbing coverage with Service Line Warranties of America, this consultation would be a covered expense through the warranty program.

Fall Weather Tips

iStock_000014942576XLargeFall has officially arrived, which means it’s time to prepare your home for winter while the weather is still cooperative.

Freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall and extensive rain or drought can wreak havoc on the condition of your home. Seasonal maintenance and weather proofing can help prevent expensive repairs and inconvenience.

  • Cover external pipes with an insulation kit, which will prevent freezing and ice buildup. For added protection, turn off external faucet shut-off valves. External pipes and faucets are extremely susceptible to cold weather since they are exposed to snow and ice.
  • Drain garden hoses and store them in a dry place. Water left in a hose can freeze and cause the hose to crack or split. This could be problematic next spring when you’re ready to water the plants.
  • Wrap exterior faucets with insulation tape to protect against freezing pipes. Even indoor pipes can freeze with extreme temperature changes, so make sure internal pipes remain warm throughout the winter.
  • Seal leaks around windows and doors to prevent cold air from entering your home and warm air from escaping. Cold air leaks may cause your furnace to work harder to keep the home’s interior warm and increase heating bill costs.
  • Flush water heaters to remove sediment buildup, which can damage the tank. By performing a flush twice a year in the fall and spring, you can increase the tank’s life expectancy.
  • Clear leaves and debris from outside gutters and downspouts to ensure proper drainage and prevent ice buildup. As the snow and ice begin to melt, it’s important to have free-flowing spouts to properly remove water from your roof.
  • Test smoke detector functionality and change batteries as needed. Test the functionality of the smoke detector by having someone go to the furthest point in the house away from the detector while you spray test smoke (available at most hardware stores) near the detector to ensure the alarm is activated and can be heard.
  • Examine your walkways and driveways for loose pavement that could become slippery or dangerous when ice or snow-covered.
  • Hire a chimney sweep to inspect and clean the chimney before the first use.

Snow, ice and freezing temperatures will be in the forecast soon, so prepare your home today.

Are you prepared?

Home emergencies could happen at any time. Are you prepared?iStock_000022456000Large

September is National Preparedness Month and Service Line Warranties of America would like to encourage you to be prepared for an emergency by keeping an emergency kit at home and in the car.

Last winter we saw a record amount of snowfall and weather-related events throughout the world. As a result, people were stranded without power or in their vehicles for days. Every home should be equipped with a proper emergency kit for each family member to sustain life for at least two to three days. Emergency kits should include items such as:

  • Water – one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
  • Non-perishable food
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Battery-powered radio and flashlights with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Plastic cups, plates, bowls and silverware
  • Paper towels
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Disinfectant
  • Matches and candles

Of course, home emergencies aren’t the only type of emergency you should be prepared for – what if you’re stranded in your car? Keep an emergency kit with the following in your car:

  • Extra warm blanket (especially if you live in a snow-prone area) or sleeping bag
  • Jacket or coat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes
  • Hats and gloves
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Cash
  • Paper Towels
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Compass
  • Matches in water proof container
  • Signal flare or whistle to signal for help
  • Paper and pencil
  • Disinfectant
  • Emergency contact information and identification

While we can’t predict emergencies, being prepared will ease the situation. For more information on National Preparedness Month, visit http://www.ready.gov/.

Why are water costs rising?

iStock_000003907033MediumUS water sewer service provider

Recently, USA Today conducted a study of residential water rates over the past 12 years and found crumbling infrastructure is forcing repairs nationwide, with costs more than doubling in one out of every four localities of the 100 municipalities polled.

As water rates continue to rise, protecting private infrastructure becomes more important each day. Repairing a break or leak may seem simple, but if left unattended it could cost you thousands of dollars in not only repair costs, but also lost water. According to the USA Today study, a typical residential consumption level is approximately 1,000 cubic feet of water, which costs residents in Atlanta, Seattle and San Diego more than $50 per month. With any kind of water leak, your money is just dripping away and contributing to the rise in overall rates.

Water rates are driven by a variety of factors such as:

  • Upgrades to aging water systems to ensure you are receiving safe drinking water
  • Increased operation costs, including staff, electric, chemical treatment, infrastructure upgrades and fuel
  • Federal government rules and regulations, including water protection systems implemented after 9/11
  • Unique geographic conditions and circumstances that could limit availability, such as drought, areas prone to natural disasters, etc.

With many areas experiencing record-breaking drought conditions, water conservation has become extremely important, dictating extensive infrastructure improvements to fix failing pipelines to protect this precious resource.

Ultimately, when repairs need to be made to infrastructure, the cost is passed down to the consumer by raising rates in an effort to ensure adequate infrastructure repairs and upgrades are not left undone, costing consumers more in the long run.

As far as protection from the high cost of rising water bills, homeowners who conserve water can decrease their water bill. (Check out our previous blog articles about water conservation in the home and yard.) However, water conservation provides only some protection. While consumption may drop, increases in the cost of production, supply and operations may still result in an increased cost for the consumer. Additionally, some water companies in drought-stricken areas have imposed additional fees on customers who use more than an identified amount of water per month. In California, fines have even been imposed on those wasting water.

As a homeowner, your infrastructure is subject to the same failure potential as that of municipal infrastructure. When private water and sewer lines fail, the repair cost could be thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the line, the location of the line and the problem – costs the homeowner would be responsible for. For many homeowners, it’s not “if these private lines fail” – it’s “when these private lines fail, how will I handle the repair?” Homeowners who want to be prepared have options. They can add funds for service line repairs to their rainy day fund, or they can choose to enroll in warranty programs such as those offered by Service Line Warranties of America. For more information about Service Line Warranties of America, visit www.slwofa.com.