When you buy an older home, you go into the deal knowing that it will need to be upgraded, updated, and maybe even fully remodeled. It goes with the territory, particularly when we are talking about plumbing. Modern plumbing didn't even come into play until the early 1900s and as late as the 1960s for rural America. Since then plumbing has continued to evolve as we now steer clear of galvanized pipes and toilets that require multiple gallons to flush. When considering plumbing upgrades for your older home, there are several steps you can take.
1. Tankless Hot Water System: Most homes have a typical hot water heater with a 50- or even 100-gallon tank. This type of system works by heating all the water in the tank to a pre-set temperature and then holding it there until you need it, which may not be for hours or more. Installing a tankless system will help your home welcome the 21st century. Tankless systems, common in Europe and now gaining in popularity in the United States, have no tank to fill. Instead, the system heats the exact amount of water you need right when you need it without wasted energy.
2. Repiping: You may find that your older home needs a complete plumbing overhaul. While galvanized pipes last up to 50 years, they can become congested with mineral deposits, corrode, and start to leak over time. Repiping an entire home takes both time and money, but the end result -- new copper or PVC piping -- is worth the effort. Replacing all the pipes in your older home will ensure that it lasts several more generations.
3. Low-Flow Toilets and Showerheads: Replacing your home's showerheads and toilets with low-flow options is a quick and easy update that both upgrades your plumbing and saves on water expenses. A low-flow toilet can flush with as little as 1.5 gallons of water compared to up to 10 gallons on older models. Low-flow showerheads are just as remarkable. Older showerheads (pre-1992) ran at about 5.5 gallons per minute while newer, low-flow options run about 2.5 gallons a minute, saving up to 60 percent on your water costs.
4. Leaky Faucet: If you've ever stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep, while listening to the telltale drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet, you know how annoying it can be. What you may not have known, however, is that annoying drip could be wasting up to 90 gallons of water each and every day. In fact, nationwide we waste over one trillion gallons of water due to leaky faucets a year. Yes, a trillion! Replace your old, leaky faucets with new ones. It is good for your house, the environment, and your sleep schedule.
5. Radiant Floor Heating: Although the furnace usually falls under the domain of your local HVAC team, radiant floor heat is a plumbing specialty. Simply put, this type of system runs flexible tubing underneath your floor that is filled with hot water and is designed to gradually warm the floor and the room from below. This highly efficient system is typically installed in new construction but can be retrofitted to your older home for a warm, cozy upgrade. Replacing an aging furnace with an energy-efficient radiant floor heating one can also save on your annual energy costs.
While the above steps range from inexpensive to budget busting, planning and saving for each one over time will help bring your older home safely and economically into the 21st century. Upon completion, your overall cost savings on both water and energy will make the investment worthwhile.