It’s a good idea to know how to cope with the most common plumbing emergencies you might be faced with. Some of these emergencies present immediate dangers to you and your family so knowing what to do could be a matter of life or death.
I see these problems all the time, so I can guide you through the right steps to take to deal with the immediate emergency.
1. The pilot light goes out on your hot water heater. You’ll notice this one because there’s no hot water. First, try to relight the pilot light as described below.
Near the bottom of the water heater, there’s a metal box with knobs. Turn the temperature control knob to the “Pilot” position.
Look at the bottom of the water heater for an access panel and remove any cover so you can see into the bottom of the water heater where the flame will light.
There should be a red button that feeds gas into the pilot light. If there is, hold it down and use a long lighter to reach into the access panel and light the pilot light. Hold the button down continuously for 35 to 40 seconds after lighting it and then let go. Look into the access panel and make sure the pilot light stays lit. If it does, turn the temperature control knob to “On” and you’re good.
If the pilot light goes out, 99% of the time, the problem is with the thermocouple, a safety device. That’s when you need a plumber.
2. Water leak. Water could be boiling up in your yard or pouring out under a sink or wherever. You need to know where the main water shutoff valve is for your home. It might be under a sink, next to the hot water heater or by the washer. If it’s not in any of these places, you may have to turn the water off by the meter, out by the street. You need a special key to turn off this valve and cities don’t usually like homeowners to do it themselves. But if you have this key, you can turn the valve a quarter or half turn and get that water turned off. When you do, you’ll see the water meter stop spinning.
If the leak is only hot water, look for a shutoff valve on the top of your water heater. You’ll still have a cold water supply to your home.
3. Gas leak. A gas leak is a serious situation that needs instant attention. If you smell gas in the kitchen, it’s likely the only appliance with a gas supply will be your gas stove. Pull the stove away from the wall and look for a gas shutoff valve. It usually has a red handle. Turn that handle a quarter turn and the gas should shut off.
Same thing with the water heater or furnace. You might find a handle you can turn off with your hand or you might need a crescent wrench. Turn the little knob a quarter turn and the gas should stop flowing.
If you still smell gas after this, you might need to shut off the gas to the whole home. Gas companies don’t like you to do this but in an emergency, you should know how to do it. This valve would be outside where the gas lines come into the home. You’ll need a crescent wrench to turn the valve a quarter turn. There will be a hole on the shutoff valve that will line up with another hole nearby. It’s essential that you get this valve turned off or call a plumber to come shut it off or call the gas company for immediate service.
4. Sewer backup. If your sewer line gets jammed up, you might see sewage coming up in your shower. Water might flood out from under the toilet or the toilets won’t flush. To alleviate this problem until you can get professional help, look for the cleanout outside your home. In some cases, you can prevent the pressure on the line from forcing waste into your home by removing the cap on the cleanout. You might have a mess as the pressure forces sewage into your yard but this is much better than having it in your home!
5. Carbon monoxide leak. Like the gas leak, this is an urgent matter that requires immediate attention. Carbon monoxide can kill everyone in the home.
Ideally, you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home that will alert you just like a smoke detector does. The best ones plug into an outlet. If the alarm goes off, shut off all gas appliances in the home, including the furnace, hot water heater, everything. Get out of the house and call a plumber.
If everyone in the home feels nauseous and headachy, that’s a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. Turn off the gas and call a plumber. If you don’t, those in the home could simply go to sleep and not wake up.
In the Albuquerque area, we’re always available to help you with any problems like these. We respond fast; that’s why we’re called Rocketman! Give us a call at (505) 243-1227 when you need help.