'Singing' pipes are not music to homeowner's ears
Q: Last year we noticed our water pipes "groaning" at the same time every day - it sounds a bit like "do re mi." We are on City of Prescott water. We finally identified that the "do re mi" sounds happen at the same time our neighbor's irrigation system started. The "groaning" stopped over the winter, but has recently returned when our neighbor started his irrigation system. Can you explain why something our neighbor is doing would affect the pressure in our pipes? Will this damage our pipes? Is there something we can do to stop this from happening?-Laura from Prescott
A: This can be a complex problem, as so many things that shouldn't happen could be causing the problem. My first question would be: Do the pipes make the noise consistently or for a short period of time while the neighbor's irrigation is running?
If your home is in an older neighborhood and there are no check valves in the meters, it could cause a pressure change that would make the pipes sing. There would have to be low water pressure in the neighborhood, or at least in the surrounding homes, for this to happen. On the flip side, if there is too much water pressure, this too could cause noisy pipes when the water is being used by your neighbor, and is most likely the culprit.
There are a few things that could be tried to remedy this and it could take any combination of the following. Make sure you have a pressure regulator installed on your service line coming into the home between your meter and home. This way, if your pressure is high, it will keep it consistent in your home, even when the neighbor's irrigation comes on, thus keeping your pipes from singing. This may remedy the problem, especially if there is a lot of pressure being delivered from the city.
One commonly overlooked piece of equipment is an expansion tank on your water heater. An expansion tank can in many situations remedy the problem. It acts as a shock absorber for your water system. If you do not have one, you should have one installed by a licensed plumber immediately. It is possible you have one and the size is not correct. You should also check your valves to all toilets, sinks, the water heater, and shut-off valve to make sure they are open all of the way. Any restriction in the supply to your home could also cause the noise. But if this was the case, the noise would most likely occur more often in your home and not only when your neighbor's irrigation system is on.
They do make hammer arrestors that are virtually a shock absorber for your water system. They work very well for pipes that make a banging noise when water is quickly turned off. This may not help the situation since it sounds like the pipes are making more of a moaning or humming sounds than a quick banging noise.
If your home is older and piped with galvanized piping, it may be time to remove and replace. The sound could be scale and rust buildup in the pipes over the years. However, if this were the cause, you would hear the noise when you are using the water.
Regarding your question about the vibration possibly causing damage, the answer is that it could over a period of time. If the home is plumbed with a type A aquapex, you are pretty safe, as this material is a lot tougher and will last a lot longer than copper or galvanized pipe.
There are so many possibilities of what could be causing this problem it is hard to diagnose from the office. The age of the plumbing system, type of material used, water pressure, and size of service to both homes can all play a roll in this problem. You should contact a licensed plumber to assess the situation from the site.-Keith Riggs, owner, RED Plumbing
Q: With all of this hype about going green with appliances, should I buy a front-loading washer?-Beverly, Prescott
A: Believe it or not, you may not have a choice for much longer. As we know, top-loading machines are becoming dinosaurs, much like manual-defrost freezers. Front-loading machines are generally considered to be more efficient than top-loading machines. Consumer Reports determined they could not give a "best buy" rating to any top-load machine. As we know, our federal government is implementing new energy standards on everything from appliances to cars to lawnmowers to computers, and they have required appliance manufacturers to manufacture washing machines that use less energy. Front-loading machines are more costly; however, they do perform better under the new energy standards. If you are considering a purchase of a front-load washing machine, buy one that has an Energy Star label. This indicates the machine is more energy-efficient than federal standards. Look for a washer that has a high spin speed of at least 1,000 to 1,200 rpm. A higher speed spin removes more moisture from the laundry, so items will need less time in the dryer. Purchase a model that has an option for a slower spin for the delicate items. Make sure that you read and compare the energy guide label on all models you are looking. Last but not least, buy a model that has the options you like for your washing needs. Do not settle. Families have different types of fabrics, water levels, load sizes, temperature settings, etc. Happy washing.-Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, YCCA
Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. YCCA, your local trusted referral source, can be reached at 778-0040 or at www.ycca.org.
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