6 Easy Ways to Avoid Plumbing Emergencies


When you get right down to it, having a backed-up sink is a good problem to have: It means you’re enjoying the luxury of indoor plumbing. But that might be a small consolation when disaster strikes and you’re faced with calling a plumber for expensive (and urgent) attention.

While there’s no guarantee against drain problems, some of the plumbers we’ve spoken with have some tips for avoiding costly repairs. Here’s how to keep everything but your wallet going down the drain.


Professionals say that kitchen sinks are typically where most clogs are found in the home. People tend to pour the fat run-off from cooking down the drain without realizing that the lard will almost certainly stick around, hardening and narrowing pipes. Dispose of your grease in the garbage.


No one likes a ripe bottom, and so the market for pre-moistened wipes has grown over the past decade. But recently, news outlets like The Guardian have highlighted concern from municipalities that have experienced sewage back-ups and residential contamination from what they allege are wipes that don’t break down in the septic system. While manufacturers for the wipes contend that other items (baby wipes and paper towels) and poorly-labeled brands are at fault, it’s probably best to stick to toilet paper unless you’re certain a flushable wipe is meeting industry standards for breaking down in water.


This is a problem most often found in basements, where plumbers are surprised to see homeowners hanging wet or pressed clothes from the exposed plumbing. These pipes are not meant to support weight, and you’d be surprised at how heavy a few pants or shirts can get, especially when wet. The strain can cause the pipes to burst. Don’t use them as clothing racks.


While cleaning your toilet bowl the old-fashioned way is no one’s idea of a party, using the drop-in style cleaners in the tank or bowl can be problematic. The corrosive chemicals constantly leaching into the water can damage pipes and even prompted some toilet manufacturers to void the warranty for using them.


Some washing machines are installed with black rubber hoses that have been known to burst. To avoid a tsunami of water—up to five gallons a minute—from flooding your laundry area, use stainless braided hoses.


While certainly dangerous and ravenous for food debris, garbage disposals are not designed to eat everything. Bigger chunks of food should go into the garbage; never try to choke it with a ton of waste, either. Try slowly scraping plates to avoid a clog.


Before you call a professional, try plunging the drain using a conventional (and hopefully clean) manual plunger. The suction might loosen a clog and allow it to drain. For shower drains, you can try a plastic stick with “teeth”—usually just a few dollars at hardware stores—that you can snake into the pipe to try and remove hair. And if water is gushing from anywhere, hopefully you’ve made sure everyone in your home knows where the main water shut-off valve is. Usually, it’s next to the water line. Find it before you need it.

All images courtesy of iStock.

Love Hygge? Meet Lagom, Your New Favorite Scandinavian Philosophy

The Danish concept of hygge is all about indulging in simple pleasures during the cold, dark winter months. In Sweden, people take a different approach to living their best lives: They focus on lagom, an idea that roughly translates to “not too much, not too little, just the right amount.”

As Condé Nast Traveler reports, lagom can be found everywhere in Swedish culture. Swedes might use it to describe the strength of their coffee or slip it into conversation with sayings like lagom är bäst (“lagom is best”). But you don't need to speak Swedish to embrace the concept. Condé Nast Traveler has a few tips for how to incorporate lagom into your own life no matter how far from Scandinavia you live.

One obvious place to practice lagom is in the home. Get rid of the clutter you haven’t used in years and hold onto items with practical value. But because lagom is all about balance, you should leave room in your house for objects with special aesthetic or sentimental value as well.

Lagom also has a place at work. If you’re someone who works non-stop from 9 to 5, remember to schedule time for breaks and really disconnect from your job during those times. It may feel like slacking off, but your work performance will actually benefit.

Finally, one of the most important ways Swedes express lagom is through day-to-day personal interactions. If you live according to the lagom philosophy, dominating the conversation isn’t a priority. Giving others room to speak, and even allowing comfortable silences to form, is more important.

Looking for another untranslatable European life philosophy to adopt this winter? In Scotland, Còsagach is how people stay cozy.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

California Startup Pays Users to Consume Less Energy

You may know that turning off the lights when leaving a room or lowering the thermostat before bed are smart habits, but with no way to see their immediate impact, they can be hard to keep. OhmConnect is built around the premise that more people would follow through with these actions if they had a little motivation. As Fast Company reports, the San Francisco-based startup rewards California residents for their green choices with real cash.

The mission of the company is to prevent energy grids from using costly and dirty emergency power plants by encouraging customers to conserve power when demand outweighs supply. During “OhmHours,” users receive a text suggesting energy-saving practices. They can choose to opt out or agree to make an effort to lower their consumption. If their usage in the next hour is lower than the average for their home on that type of day (weekdays are compared to the weekday average; weekends to the weekend average) they receive points which can be redeemed for money. The more people participate on a regular basis, the more points they’re able to earn.

Participants in homes equipped with smart devices like a Nest thermostat or Belkin smart switches can program them to automatically consume less during those times. Nearly a fifth of the user base chooses some type of automatic response.

Someone living in a small apartment participating once a week has the potential to make $40 to $50 a year, while a family living in a larger home can earn up to $200. The California energy grid has also reaped the benefits: Since launching in 2014, OhmConnect has saved the state a total of 100 megawatts (the equivalent of not running two emergency power plants at high-demand times). California residents who get their energy through Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, or San Diego Gas & Electric can sign up to participate online. If you don’t live in the state but are interested in the service, you may get a chance to try it out soon: OhmConnect plans to expand to Texas, Toronto, and potentially the East Coast.

[h/t Fast Company]


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