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Plumbing Gadgets

Updated on March 29, 2017

Plumbing problems can sometimes be a big headache and may even drain a paycheck instead of water. However, many new products and gadgets have been introduced to reduce or even prevent the damage from both major disasters and minor nuisances. With many of these easily installed by homeowners themselves, sometimes within minutes and costing no more than a few dollars, they are easily worth the investment.

Hair Catchers & Sink Strainers

On average, we shed fifty to a hundred strands of hair each day. Any animals that require bathing can loose quite a bit more. It isn't surprising then that hair can become a big problem for the plumbing, especially with longer strands. While some may make it through the pipes, it is more likely that broken hair will become tangled in just inside the drain or in the pipes. This can cause poor drainage in bathtubs and sinks and cause standing water, sometimes for hours, while the water moves past the blockage.

Fortunately, there is a simple and inexpensive solution for this. Hair catchers, which come in a wide variety of styles, colors and shapes, can cost as little as a dollar. The three most common varieties are flat strainers, chain catchers and plug stoppers. The flat strainers are the easiest to install, with either suction cups that hold it over a flat drain or an area that sits over a pull out drain. The collected hair sits on the strainer and can be removed as often as every shower. Chain catchers generally have a large, sometimes decorative, piece on the outside of the drain and a chain that goes into the pipe to catch the hair along the way. After some time, the piece is used to pull out the chain and, with it, the hair, much like a snake. The plug stoppers look like a small, cylindrical cage that is placed into the opening of the drain. The cage catches the hair and is cleaned out as needed or desired.

There are also strainers for sinks that can help keep food and other harmful particles out of pipes and drains that are not equipped to handle them. Most kitchen sinks come with a standard version, but there are a variety of colors and types for these as well. A mesh option can help to ensure smaller objects do not make it down the drain and build up over time.

Thermal Tape & Insulation

During the winter months, extremely cold weather can be a serious threat to pipes in the home. Frozen water can expand and cause the pipes to break then, once thawed in warmer weather, leak. There are "home remedy" style solutions for the issue, like allowing sinks to drip during the low temperatures, but another option is heat or thermal tape.

There are two types of thermal tape: self-regulating and non-regulating. Both are cords that wrap around or along the pipe but the non-regulating tape also includes a thermostat to control the temperature while self-regulating tape requires a connection kit in order to plug into an outlet. Self-regulating versions vary their heat output based on the surrounding temperatures. Despite their name, the cord itself may not be adhesive though tape may be provided to hold it in place. Both are sold by the roll, and in some locations by the foot, and can be cut down or connected at the ends to fit the length of the pipe.

Prices for thermal tape vary widely, but can start at a few dollars a foot. Insulation is also recommended with some types of heat tape and can start at just a few dollars to purchase as well. They may even be used individually, though pairing the two can add more protection against the cold.

Flood or Leak Detectors

Anyone who has experienced serious leaks and indoor flooding knows that early detection can potentially save hundreds of dollars in damages. It makes sense then to spend around fifty on a flood or leak detector, especially in problem areas or around major appliances.

Also found in a variety of designs, every flood detector works with two exposed metal probes. Some of these are found on corded attachments while others are in the main body itself. These metal probes rest on the floor and when water comes in contact with these parts, the increased conductivity between them sets off an alarm. Some of these are standard, audio alarms while others sync with hub or smart home systems with notifications. This ensures that leaks and flooding are caught before causing significant damage.

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