Top 10 tips to prevent holiday plumbing bills

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"Double time and a half" are five words you don't ever want to hear when it comes to hiring a pro to solve a home emergency. But stress out your plumbing system on a holiday and that might be what you are up against when it comes to hiring a plumber to get your system back in working order.

Tis' the season for holiday parties, out-of-town visitors, and, often, household holiday plumbing emergencies. Busy kitchens mean more grease and food waste to drag down the kitchen drain and disposer, and house guests equal extra showers, baths and toilet flushes that can strain systems that are already partially clogged.

This makes for a busy season for plumbing pros. Roto-Rooter reports that on the day after Christmas alone, their business can jump up to anywhere between 20% and 40% over a normal day. But by taking a few precautions, homeowners can avoid stop-ups and visits from their local plumber:

In the kitchen:

  • Avoid pouring fats or cooking oils down the drain, as they solidify in pipes and cause clogs. Instead, wipe grease from pots and pans with paper towels, and deposit in the trash.
  • Never place stringy, fibrous waste into your garbage disposer (pumpkin pulp, poultry skins, celery, fruit and potato peels), as it can't sufficiently grind these items and they'll end up clogging your drain.
  • Run cold water for 15 seconds before and after using the disposer to flush waste down the main waste line.
  • Make sure the disposer is running when you put food debris into it─don't wait until it's full before turning it on.
  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine at night or at off times during the day to conserve water temperature and pressure for your guests.

In the bathroom:

  • Plan ahead, spreading showers throughout the day and waiting 10 minutes between showers so that slow drains have time to do their job and your water heater has a chance to recover.
  • Turn up your water heater to increase its capacity to meet holiday houseguest demand; to avoid scalding, don't exceed 125 degrees.
  • Provide a trash bin so that the toilet isn't used as a garbage can.
  • Never flush cotton balls or swabs, hair, facial scrub pads or similar items down the toilet, as they don't dissolve and are responsible for most clogs.
  • Finally, if you notice your drains are running slowly, treat them with retail drain cleaning products long before company arrives. If that doesn't do the trick and you find you need a plumber, be sure to call well before visits and parties are in full swing...you'll get faster attention and avoid holiday service charges.

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. Tom helps listeners prevent plumbing problems each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

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