Mid-Winter Check-ups

01Mar11

Now that we are in the middle of winter, hopefully the heating system at your home or business has been running smoothly, economically and safely.  And hopefully, the annual maintenance was done at the beginning of the heating season, and if the System is not Hydronic, the filter is being checked and changed/cleaned regularly.  And even more importantly, hopefully your Carbon Monoxide Detectors  are in place and their batteries are in good shape.

So, when asked “What should I be watching out for?” at this time of year; I’ll usually answer “Three things; Water, Water and Water”…

 Water invading the structure from outside, Water getting where it shouldn’t be from a damaged or compromised system that is in the structure, and Water (humidity) that is in the wrong amount or in the wrong place in or under the structure. 

There are few things as damaging as water in the wrong place, and as a Plumber I can tell you that, although I love water & think Water is great in lots of ways… if we aren’t careful & don’t respect it; Water will get you.  And, Water doesn’t care how; a tiny, one drip a minute for 5 years causing major dry-rot damage, or a catastrophic flood. Water insists on being respected, and if we don’t, we’ll wish we did.  That old saying “Never turn your back on the Sea” actually applies to all forms of Water. 

 Water leaking from outside.

Besides the obvious problems that were covered in my Blog on Winterizing; it’s good to watch all winter long for these things…

  • Rain or snow-melt dripping where it shouldn’t due to clogged gutters.  Clean the gutter immediately & if necessary un-clog the down-spout and/or consider additional downspouts.

 

  •  Small drips appearing after windy-storms on the inside next to Sky-lights or on Window-sills.  Check & repair as needed the caulking and/or flashing on the outside.
  • Ground-water standing in the Crawlspace, (or new ‘high-water’ marks), or intrusion into the full or day-light basement.  Controlling ground-water intrusion is a huge issue that merits several articles all by itself; however the first step we normally try is make sure all downspout water can get away from the structure without going into the ground near it.  Winter is usually the worst time of year to excavate in any way, so we’ll often divert the downspout water on top of the ground temporarily.

 

  Water leaking from an inside System .

  • Often, tiny drips under a bathroom sink or from a cheap shut-off and riser pipe goes on for months & months before it’s even noticed; let alone repaired.  A leaking shower or tub/shower door or (Lord forbid in a rental unit) a cheap shower curtain are often handled by the Tenant with a towel on the floor during the shower and rarely mentioned.  Caught early, the fix is relatively cheap and easy; but ignored the damage can become catastrophic & the fix massive. 
  • A leak on, in or under an appliance (Dishwasher, Washing Machine, Water Heater) can also develop slowly before it becomes hugely noticeable.  A quick check can catch & solve it, preventing major damage.  Often, a ‘Water-Alert’ alarm (that works like a smoke alarm, only it sounds when water touches the sensor) has proven to be a great help to many of our Customers, and on several models the Unit itself can be up to 75ft from the sensor.

 Water in the air.

  •  Besides making the Structure harder & more expensive to heat, crawlspaces and/or attics that are too humid can do many damaging things; promote mold growth, ruin & rot wood structures and even promote pest infestation by creating an environment much more friendly to carpenter ants, termites & other critters.  Here in the Pacific NW, both crawlspaces and attics need plenty of ventilation, and if it’s not meeting and/or exceeding the Code it must be rectified.  And, sometimes, people who don’t know better close off crawl space vents thinking their heating bill will go down and/or they will be more comfortable; neither are true.
  • Over time, a failed bathroom fan can put very high humidity in many places we don’t want it.  Besides the obvious drips and streaks on the bathroom wall surface, it can also go into the walls & nurture it’s very own ‘mold farm’.

  • And, a favorite thing to do by some folks, is to close off some rooms entirely during the Winter, except when company comes over or during the Holidays.  What we don’t realize, is that if a room becomes closed off, everything in that room becomes very cold.  Then, when the door is opened to it –even for just 15 or 30 minutes, warm humid air rushes in and lands on every ice-cold surface; and then what happens?  Picture a nice, cold bottle of pop being pulled from the refrigerator and placed on the counter in a warm & cozy kitchen.  After just a few minutes, what do you see on the outside of that bottle?  That’s right; condensation – water.  That is exactly what happens on those cold surfaces in rooms that are allowed to be shut-off & isolated, and that’s exactly why mold & mildew always tries to grow in those areas; especially in the darker corners & niches.

 

So, even in the Winter when we want to stay all snug and warm by the fire (or heater vent ), it’s still a good idea to double-check a few things at least once during the Winter Season to ensure all is as well as possible.

May you have a great & profitable New Year, (with no surprises! )

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2 Responses to “Mid-Winter Check-ups”

  1. 1 Donna Hoefer

    Very helpful tips! Thank you!

    • Thanks for the note! If U have anything you’d like info about Plumbing/Heating/Cooling related, just let me know & I’ll try to help! Bruce Sr.


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