According to plumbers, the key to a well-maintained, fully functional home plumbing system is to stay on top of a few simple duties and best practices. Consider yourself a plumber.

When it comes to managing pipes, drains, fixtures, and other plumbing systems, a professional plumber has a substantial advantage over the average homeowner. Professionals know exactly what they should do and when they should do it. They can also tell whether something is an emergency or something that can wait until the weekend.

But don’t be put off by this; to keep your plumbing system free of leaks, clogs, and sewage backups, you don’t need to memorize the Uniform Plumbing Code or pass your state’s license exam. It’s more a matter of developing habits and routines that will help you reduce, if not eliminate, the need to dial Plumbing 911 in a panic on a Saturday night.

Professional plumbers always do the following things in their own houses to keep things going properly.

Food Waste Disposal

Food waste is always disposed of in the trash or compost bin by plumbers.

It may appear like dumping bacon grease or the leftovers of your toddler’s lunch into the sink, and running the garbage disposal is the quickest and most efficient method to get through a stack of dirty dishes. According to Aaron Mulder, co-owner and Operations Manager of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in San Antonio, Texas, “it’s actually a nasty habit that can really wreak havoc on your plumbing system.”

Is there a better strategy? Scrape your plates into the trash bin, and pour grease into an empty can that will be thrown away as well. If you have a way to dispose of the compost, composting is also an alternative. Compost pickup is available in certain cities, and many individuals use compost in their gardens.

What is the significance of this? Grease adheres to the inside walls of your pipes, clogging your drain. And stuff like meat, eggshells, and coffee grounds aren’t designed to break down and process in the garbage disposal. Putting these materials down the drain and running the disposal will cause the equipment to overwork and eventually fail, according to Mulder.

Flushing Water Heaters

Water heaters are flushed on a regular basis by plumbers.

If you’re getting a cold shower every morning or hearing strange noises coming from your water heater, it’s time to see if the unit has been flushed recently. Or ever, for that matter.

“You should (flush your water heater) once a year,” says Jake Romano of Burlington, Ont.-based John the Plumber.

Why is this required? According to Romano, silt accumulates in the bottom of your water heater tank over time. This debris can harm the appliance, rendering it ineffective or even unusable. According to Mulder, flushing is especially crucial in places with hard water.

Fortunately, Romano explains, completing this annual task is not difficult. While you can pay a plumber to cleanse your water heater for you, many DIYers are more than capable of doing it themselves.
Plumbers check for leaks and drips with a smart device.

Pay Attention to Leaks

While telling Alexa to purchase cat food or play your favorite song is definitely convenient, the finest smart device features help decrease genuine home-related concerns, such as plumbing leaks.

Mulder, for example, monitors his home’s plumbing system using smart, WiFi-enabled leak detection equipment. If the device detects a leak or drip, it promptly turns off the water and sends a notification to his phone. This allows him to take care of the problem before it becomes a disaster.

“Basically, (the device) watches for water pressure variations and any form of leaks that may occur,” he explains. “It’s a very useful gadget.”

If you don’t want to invest in a smart home leak detector, keep an eye out for leaks and drips. According to Romano, this is usually accomplished by just listening for the sound of flowing water or the distinctive drop-drop sound. You can also go through your house and inspect each faucet individually.

“The earlier you detect problems with proper routine inspections, the less expensive it is to rectify,” he explains.

The No-Frills Plunger

A No-Frills Plunger is always used by plumbers.

Sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Take, for example, toilet plungers. According to Romano, you can buy all kinds of gimmicky, overly engineered plungers, but the finest ones are old-fashioned plungers that cost less than $8.

Why? Because they accomplish what they’re supposed to do – unclog a toilet — swiftly and effectively. They’re also simple to clean. Plungers with air holes, toughened handles and drip-free magnetic collars are more expensive and don’t help to make plunging more enjoyable. Stick with the original version to save time (and money), even if it doesn’t look as fantastic in the corner of your bathroom.

On a related note, Romano recommends adding a basic pair of safety goggles to your plunger shopping cart. Plunging may be a filthy job (need I say more?), and you’ll want to protect your eyes.
Plumbers replace their water filter cartridges on a regular basis.

Water Filtration

If you use a plumbing-integrated water filter of any kind — whether it’s a faucet filter, refrigerator filter, under-sink filter, or whole-house water treatment filter — Romano advises that you change the filter cartridges on a regular basis, just like a plumber would.

Replace the filter every six months in most cases, but this can vary depending on usage and manufacturer recommendations. Check your device’s owner’s handbook for further information.

But my water tastes OK; is it really necessary to change the filter so frequently? New filters aren’t cheap; depending on the type of replacement cartridges you require, they can cost more than $130.

Mulder adds that the filter gathers a variety of toxins that may be present in your city’s water supply. (If you’re not sure which contaminants your filter blocks, check out this helpful database.) In certain circumstances, it’s just about personal preference. In other situations, it’s a matter of health. In any event, you want your filter to work properly. If you don’t change the filter regularly, it will become dusty and clogged, leaving it ineffective.