Here are the most expensive plumbing repairs and how to avoid them

As a homeowner, you already watch a significant portion of your take-home pay go toward maintaining your home and property. That’s just part of the cost of owning a home. However, what really keeps homeowners up at night is the thought of a major, urgent repair that costs thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to address. While such scenarios are rare and may only be encountered by a homeowner once a decade, they do exist. In this article, we’ll review the most expensive plumbing repairs a homeowner can face and what steps you can take to avoid such problems in the first place.

For fast and reliable plumbing repair here in Hayward, Fremont, Union City, San Leandro, and beyond, call us at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing. Our experienced and friendly plumbers are ready to help you address your home’s plumbing repair needs.

Hidden leaks

In a home, water damage is insidious. It destroys floors, weakens the home’s structure, and leads to the growth of mold and mildew, which can make everyone in the home sick. The most common cause of water damage in U.S. homes is from water leaks, which—in turn—are often the result of:

  • Leaking pipes
  • Leaking roofs
  • Frozen pipes

While we don’t often face the threat of frozen pipes here in the Bay Area, a leaking pipe or a leaking roof can be a major headache for a local homeowner. This is especially true when the leak is hidden behind a wall or underneath the floor. This can make finding—and dealing with—the leak difficult.

Addressing leaks and water damage

If you have reason to believe that you have a leak in your home—such as obvious water damage or falling water pressure—turn off the main water supply and call our team for plumbing repair. We’ll send out one of our experienced plumbers to inspect your home, identify the problem, and make the repair. Our plumbing team carries advanced leak detection equipment that helps us find leaks hidden in ceilings, under floors, or behind walls.

Preventing leaks

While not all leaks are preventable, you can take steps to reduce the risk of water damage to your home:

  • Protect your roof: Have your home’s roof inspected at least once per year, and address any of the roofer’s recommendations immediately.
  • Upgrade your pipes: If you own an older property with copper or galvanized steel water pipes, talk to our team about when you need to upgrade to new pipes.
  • Maintain your home: If you have a basement and a sump pump, periodically check to ensure that the pump is working properly.
An ABC plumber cleans out a home's sewer line as a means of preventing a sewer line clog and backup—one of the most expensive plumbing repairs a homeowner can face.

An ABC plumber cleans out a home’s sewer line as a means of preventing a sewer line clog and backup—one of the most expensive plumbing repairs a homeowner can face.

Sewer line issues

Your home relies on its sewer line to carry water and waste away from the home to the municipal sewer. Unfortunately, issues with this line are some of the most expensive for a homeowner to address. Here are two of the most common problems:

  • Sewer Line Clogs: A clogged sewer line will need to be cleared out, or the home runs the risk of a sewer backup where wastewater comes up through the drains and into the home. This can lead to serious water damage and the need for mold remediation.
  • Sewer Line Leaks: These leaks in the line can be caused by an aging and deteriorating line, shifting earth, or thirsty tree roots that have grown around the line. In many cases, a cracked sewer line requires the line to be dug up, which can escalate repair costs.

Addressing sewer line issues

Any issue with the sewer line—whether it’s a partial clog, a complete clog, or a leak—warrants turning off the water supply and calling us for plumbing service. Our plumber will start by running an endoscopic camera snake tool down your drain and into the line. This allows you and the plumber to visually identify the issue. If a clog is found, our plumber will diagnose what it is made of and select the best way to clear it.

To that end, our team uses high-powered water jets, advanced snake tools, and other professional equipment to clear most sewer line clogs without the need for digging up the line.

Preventing sewer line issues

Most sewer line clogs or leaks are preventable. Here are just a few ways you can protect your home:

  • Watch what you put down the sink: Avoid putting grease, oils, fats, eggshells, uncooked rice, and flour down your kitchen sink drain. Instead, dispose of these items in the trash. For grease and oil, we recommend pouring it out of the pan and into a glass jar while still hot and then disposing of that jar in the trash once the grease has cooled and solidified.
  • Move trees away from the line: Form a 10-15 foot perimeter around the sewer line as it runs under your yard to the municipal sewer. Inside this zone, have trees and bushes relocated and replanted in other parts of your yard. Talk to a tree specialist here in the Bay Area to assess which local species pose the greatest risk to your sewer line. Trees with fast-growing roots should be removed.
  • Schedule a sewer camera inspection: If you suspect a clog is forming deep in the line, a precautionary sewer camera inspection from our team is probably a good idea.

Water heater tank burst

Your water heater tank stores heated water under pressure. Most events of catastrophic water heater failure start when a combination of the following occurs:

  • The tank’s walls are weakened due to internal corrosion, and the tank is no longer capable of storing water under high pressure.
  • A malfunctioning pressure-relief valve can’t release excess pressure or heat building up inside of the tank.

What often follows is commonly known as a “water heater tank burst.” Essentially, the water heater reaches a breaking point and “pops” open, spilling out gallons of water into your home or garage. Most modern water heaters come equipped with an emergency valve that stops the flow of water to the heater in this event, but homeowners are still faced with thousands in expensive plumbing repairs.

Addressing water heater problems

Immediately turn off the water heater’s water supply valve to prevent more water from flooding your home or garage. Next, give us a call. Our plumber can ensure that the leak has been dealt with and provide you with the next steps for cleaning up any resulting water damage. We’ll also give you a quote for the removal of the burst water heater and the installation of a new unit.

Preventing a water heater tank burst

Not every water heater tank failure is inevitable. Here are some steps you can take to avoid this outcome:

  • Be proactive: If you notice exterior cracks in the tank shell, water pooling under the unit, or other obvious signs of trouble, turn off the water heater and call our team for service. Most water heater tank bursts are accompanied by early warnings such as these that give homeowners a narrow window in which they can avert disaster.
  • Care for your water heater: Every year, you should flush your water heater to remove built-up sediment. During this maintenance, check the anode rod and take note of the amount of corrosion: a completely corroded anode rod means that corrosion is likely being attracted to the tank walls. Also, check that the system’s emergency pressure-relief valve is working. This helps prevent the catastrophic build-up of excess pressure inside of the tank.
  • Replace your water heater: Most water heaters last about 10-15 years. If yours is nearing the end of that lifespan, talk to our plumber about when might be a good time to replace it. The upfront cost of replacing your water heater before a tank burst is very small compared to potential expensive plumbing repairs and cleaning up water damage later.

Avoid expensive plumbing repairs by calling our team

At ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing, we’re proud to be your friendly and experienced plumbing team here in Hayward and the Bay Area. If you need fast and reliable plumbing services, contact us today. We specialize in all types of plumbing repair work, and we back everything we do with our 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Here’s what you need to know about both gas and electric furnaces

At ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing, we get a lot of great questions from our customers. Here’s a common one that homeowners want to know more about: when it comes to gas and electric furnaces, is there a difference?

The answer, simply put, is yes. Gas and electric furnaces have different installation needs, operate in very distinct ways, and often result in very different energy costs for the homeowner. In this article, we’ll break down the differences between these two types of systems and provide you with a starting point for deciding which one might be right for your home.

If you’re looking for a new heating system here in Hayward and the Bay Area, your next step is to contact our team. We offer free in-home estimates on new gas and electric furnaces, as well as other types of heating systems such as heat pumps. We can help match your home to the perfect new system.

Get to know: Gas Furnaces

How do gas furnaces heat your home?

Gas furnaces heat your home by combusting fuel—in this case, natural gas—in a sealed chamber within the furnace, and then transferring the heat energy released to air on the other side of the heat exchanger. This heated air is then blown out of the furnace and into the air ducts of your home, where it gets distributed to individual rooms. The furnace continues to burn fuel until the home is heated to the desired temperature.

As a Carrier dealer, we install both gas and electric furnaces here in Hayward and the Bay Area.

A Carrier gas furnace is an energy-efficient option for your home.

The efficiency of a gas furnace can be measured by its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. Essentially, an AFUE score indicates how much heat energy the furnace is able to extract from its fuel, with the remaining going to waste. The higher the AFUE, the less natural gas the system uses to produce more heat. AFUE is a great way to compare one gas furnace against another gas furnace. However, there are limitations to using AFUE to evaluate all types of furnaces, which will be discussed in the electric furnace section below.

Evaluating gas furnace efficiency

Since the early 1990s, the U.S. federal government has mandated that all new furnaces have a minimum AFUE of 78%. This score indicates that the furnace is able to convert 78% of the gas to heat, with 22% waste. Most modern furnaces, however, do a lot better than that federally mandated floor. In fact, many top-tier gas furnaces are able to convert 95-98% of their fuel, partially due to advances in design that better capture heat energy and conserve gas.

Buying a gas furnace

If you’re interested in installing a gas furnace in your home, compare the AFUE of different models when making your decision. A gas furnace with 85% AFUE may cost less initially, but paying more for a furnace with 95% AFUE will eventually pay off through lower winter heating bills. To further balance the scales, there may be local utility rebates in your area to reimburse you for the installation of a high-efficiency gas furnace.

Get to know: Electric Furnaces

How do electric furnaces work?

Unlike gas furnaces, electric furnace operation does not involve any form of combustion or flame. Instead, they generate heat energy by running electricity through resistor coils inside of the furnace. These coils become superheated. The furnace’s internal blower then moves air through these coils, heating the air so that it can be distributed to the rooms of your home. In many ways, the hairdryer on your bathroom sink is a miniaturized, handheld electric furnace! Both systems operate using the same principles.

Evaluating electric furnace efficiency

As we hinted at above, AFUE is not a great means for evaluating electric furnace efficiency in the real world. Why? Well, all electric furnaces are somewhere between 95% and 100% AFUE, with many being able to transform all the electricity they use into heat energy. Great, you might think. Sounds like an electric furnace is a more efficient option than a gas furnace.

Well, not exactly. Despite often being more efficient, electric furnaces are costlier to operate than gas furnaces in a vast majority of cases because those two energy sources are priced differently. In most parts of the country—including here in California—natural gas is far cheaper than electricity. This is one of the main pitfalls of exclusively looking at AFUE as a means of interpreting just how much you’ll pay on your monthly heating bills.

Buying an electric furnace

So, if electricity is that much more expensive than gas, why install an electric furnace? There are several factors that may make an electric system right for you:

  • If your home does not have natural gas, electricity is the next best choice compared to oil or propane furnaces.
  • Electric furnaces do not need an exhaust setup to dispose of byproduct gases.
  • It is possible that renewable energy makes electricity somewhat less expensive in the future. If you have rooftop solar, the cost of running an electric furnace is greatly reduced.

Deciding between a gas and electric furnace

If you’re not sure what type of furnace is right for your home, our recommendation is that you give our team a call. There are several factors to consider when choosing between a gas and electric furnace, not to mention the potential option of installing a heat pump or ductless heating system. During your free in-home estimate, one of our technicians can talk you through your options and help you find the heating system and solution that’s right for your home.

Also, during your estimate, be sure to ask us about our financing on new furnaces and heating systems, available with approved credit.