How to Prepare Your Riverside Home’s Plumbing for Vacation

Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing Your Plumbing for Vacation

Check for Leaks

How to Inspect Your Home for Any Existing Leaks:

  • Visual Inspection:Start with a visual inspection of all exposed pipes, including those under sinks, around the water heater, and near appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. Look for any signs of moisture, rust, or water damage on the walls or ceilings that could indicate a leak.
  • Meter Test:For a more thorough check, use your water meter. First, ensure no water is being used inside or outside of your house. Record the meter reading, wait for about an hour (without using any water), and check the meter again. If the reading has changed, there might be a leak.
  • Food Coloring Test for Toilets:A common area for unseen leaks is the toilet. To check for leaks in the toilet tank, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait about 30 minutes. If the color shows up in the bowl, you have a leak that needs fixing.

Importance of Addressing These Leaks Before Leaving:

  • Preventing Water Damage:Even a small leak can escalate into a significant problem, leading to extensive water damage that can be costly to repair. By fixing leaks before you leave, you minimize the risk of coming home to a flooded house or damaged property.
  • Saving on Water Bills:Leaks contribute to higher water bills. Repairing any issues before you head out on vacation ensures you are not wasting water and money while you are away.
  • Environmental Responsibility:Conserving water is crucial, especially in areas like Riverside, CA, where water conservation is often necessary due to climate conditions. By addressing leaks, you’re not only saving water for your community but also acting responsibly towards the environment.

Turn Off Main Water Supply

Instructions on How to Locate and Shut Off the Main Water Valve:

  • Finding the Main Water Valve:In most Riverside homes, the main water valve is located near the perimeter of the house. It can often be found in the basement, garage, or outdoors near the street. Look for a valve with a wheel or lever attached to a large pipe that runs into your home.
  • Shutting Off the Valve:Once located, turn the valve clockwise to shut it off. If it’s a lever-type handle, turn it so that it’s perpendicular to the pipe. This should stop the flow of water into your home.
  • Double-Check:After you’ve shut off the valve, open a faucet on the upper floor of your home to ensure no water comes out. If water is still flowing, check that the valve is completely turned off.

Benefits of Turning off the Water to Prevent Potential Flooding:

  • Protection against Leaks and Bursts:By turning off the main water supply, you eliminate the risk of water damage from leaks or burst pipes that could occur while you’re away. This is particularly important in Riverside, where shifts in weather can stress plumbing systems.
  • Peace of Mind:Knowing that the water is off and your home is protected from major plumbing disasters allows you to enjoy your vacation without worrying about coming home to a potential flood.
  • Conservation of Water:Shutting off your water helps prevent wastage. This is essential in a drought-prone area like Riverside, helping to conserve water that might otherwise be lost to unnoticed leaks.

Drain the Pipes

Steps to Drain Water from Pipes to Avoid Pressure Build-Up or Leaks:

  • Open All Faucets:Start by opening all faucets in your home, both hot and cold water, including those in the kitchen, bathrooms, and any utility sinks or bars. This includes the lowest point in your home, often a faucet on the first floor or basement.
  • Flush Toilets:Flush each toilet in your home to remove water from the tanks and bowls. This step helps ensure that no water remains in the internal piping.
  • Drain Appliances:Don’t forget appliances that use water, such as dishwashers and washing machines. Run a brief rinse cycle to clear out any remaining water in the pipes.
  • Use Low Points:If your home plumbing includes drain valves at the lowest points, open these to clear out any water that has settled at the bottom of your pipes.
  • Final Check:After you think all water has been drained, go through and turn off each faucet starting from the top floor of your home to the lowest. This method helps ensure no water is left in the pipes.

Special Considerations for Riverside’s Temperature Fluctuations:

  • Risk of Water Expansion:Riverside can experience both warm days and very cold nights, particularly outside of the summer months. Remaining water in the pipes can freeze and expand, leading to potential pipe bursts. Draining the pipes reduces this risk significantly.
  • Potential for Heat Expansion:Conversely, on very hot days, any residual water in your pipes can heat and expand. While less likely to cause immediate damage compared to freezing, it can still stress your plumbing system.
  • Use of Non-Toxic Antifreeze:In cases where draining every last drop can be challenging, such as in homes with complex plumbing systems, consider adding non-toxic antifreeze to drains, toilets, and other areas where water might remain. This is particularly advisable for homes in areas of Riverside where temperatures might dip unexpectedly.

Water Heater Considerations

Options for Setting the Water Heater to “Vacation Mode” or Turning It Off:

  • Vacation Mode:Many modern water heaters include a ‘Vacation Mode’ setting, which maintains the water’s temperature at a lower degree without turning off the heater completely. This setting is ideal for saving energy while preventing the system from freezing in cooler weather, a concern during Riverside’s cooler nights and winter months.
  • Turning Off the Water Heater:For extended vacations, you might consider turning off your water heater entirely. If you have an electric water heater, you can shut it off at the circuit breaker. For a gas water heater, you can turn off the gas supply to achieve this. Remember, if you turn off the water heater completely, you’ll need to refill and possibly reignite the pilot light on gas models upon your return.

Energy Conservation Tips While Away:

  • Insulate Your Water Heater:If you’re away during the cooler months, insulating your water heater can help retain heat and reduce energy usage. This is particularly effective if you choose to leave the heater on at a lower setting.
  • Lower the Temperature:If you do not have a vacation mode, manually lowering the temperature to the lowest setting can also conserve energy. This prevents the water heater from working to maintain high temperatures that aren’t needed while you’re away.
  • Consider a Timer:For longer absences, consider installing a timer that can turn your water heater on just before you return home. This way, you’ll have hot water when you need it without wasting energy while you’re away.
  • Shut Off the Water Supply:If you decide to turn off your water heater, it’s a good idea to shut off the main water supply to prevent any leakage or flooding that could occur while the system is inactive.

Prepare Outdoor Plumbing

Advice on Securing Outdoor Faucets and Irrigation Systems:

  • Disconnect Hoses:Remove hoses from outdoor faucets to prevent any water buildup within the hose, which can lead to pressure issues or freezing in colder temperatures. This also reduces the risk of the hose damaging the faucet due to heat expansion.
  • Use Faucet Covers:Invest in insulated covers for your outdoor faucets. These covers can protect faucets from extreme temperatures and prevent potential freezing. They are especially useful if a cold snap hits Riverside unexpectedly.
  • Check Irrigation System Settings:Adjust the schedule of your irrigation system to reflect the reduced need for watering while you are away. Consider a smart irrigation controller that adjusts watering based on weather conditions, which can be particularly useful in managing water use during Riverside’s varied climate.
  • Drain Irrigation Lines:If possible, drain your irrigation lines to prevent water from sitting in the system, which can lead to corrosion or freezing during cold snaps. This step is particularly important if you expect cooler weather or if you’ll be away for an extended period.

Protecting Outdoor Plumbing from Riverside’s Summer Heat or Unexpected Cold Snaps:

  • Mulching and Covering:Apply mulch around exposed pipes and irrigation lines. Mulch acts as an insulator, protecting from heat and maintaining cooler soil temperatures, which is beneficial during hot days.
  • Increase Insulation:For any exposed plumbing, consider adding more insulation. Foam insulation sleeves are easy to install and can be very effective at protecting pipes from temperature extremes.
  • Regular Maintenance Checks:Before leaving, perform a thorough check of your outdoor plumbing for any leaks or damage that could be exacerbated by temperature changes. Addressing these issues beforehand can prevent major repairs later.
  • Consider Shutting Off Water Supply to Outdoor Lines:If you anticipate not needing your outdoor plumbing while away, completely shutting off the water supply to these areas can prevent any leaks or damage from occurring in your absence.

Clear Drains and Garbage Disposal

How to Ensure All Drains are clear to Prevent Odors and Clogs:

  • Use Baking Soda and Vinegar:Start by pouring a half cup of baking soda down each drain, followed by a half cup of white vinegar. The combination causes a reaction that helps break down gunk and clear minor clogs. After letting it sit for an hour, flush the drains with hot water.
  • Boiling Water Flush:For kitchen sinks and showers, pour boiling water down the drains. This can help melt away any grease or soap buildup that could cause blockages.
  • Check for Slow Drains:Before you leave, check all drains for signs of slow draining. If a problem persists, it may be wise to call a professional plumber to ensure there is no deeper blockage.

Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Garbage Disposal Before a Long Absence:

  • Clean with Ice and Salt:Run ice cubes and coarse salt through your garbage disposal. This abrasive mixture helps to scrub the grinding elements clean and sharpens the blades, clearing away residual food particles without the need for harsh chemicals.
  • Deodorize Naturally:After cleaning, deodorize your garbage disposal by grinding lemon or orange peels, which leave a fresh scent and help eliminate lingering odors.
  • Disconnect or Turn Off Power:If you’ll be away for an extended period, consider disconnecting the garbage disposal or turning off its power at the circuit breaker to prevent accidental activation and to conserve energy.
  • Run it One Last Time with Dish Soap:Before you leave, squirt a bit of dish soap into the disposal and run it with water for a minute. This will help ensure any remaining debris is flushed out and the disposal is clean.