Plumbing Safety Tips When Returning to Your OBX Home

When your vacation home or rental on the Outer Banks has been vacant for a number of months, it’s important to return to your little piece of paradise with caution and preparedness.  If your home’s plumbing system has been idle for an extended period of time, it is possible it could be susceptible to harmful bacteria. 

Once the water is turned back on, it is important to flush out the plumbing in your home. Moving fresh water through your plumbing system will flush bacteria and metals from your plumbing.

The following tips can help ensure that the water in your plumbing system is safe and sanitary but be advised that there are several factors that may determine whether or not the system requires special treatment by a professional. Situations may include the length of time the system has been left idle, or the temperature of the stagnated water, the condition of the internal surfaces of the system, and other unique situations.

If your home or rental has simply been closed for the season (6 months or less), then the following tips are likely all you need.

Before you begin, be sure to turn off the supply valve to your hot water system, if possible.  Locate all the faucets in your house that are to be flushed and make sure the drains are open.  Remove any fixture filters, if you have them. 

  1. Open all cold-water taps.  Leave all of your faucets running during this time.
  2. First open faucets in the lowest floor in the house.
  3. Open faucets on the next highest floor of the house.
  4. Continue until all faucets are open on all floors, including tubs and showers (remove shower head if possible).
  5. Leave ALL faucets running for at least 5-10 minutes.

Running the water this way also helps to “exercise” the tub and shower valves, as well as the toilet fill valves. It may take a day or so for dry plumbing fixtures to repeat the newly wetted rubber. Once those steps are complete, turn off the first faucet you turned on (lowest floor), then turn off all other faucets in the same order you turned them on. Once that is complete, return to your kitchen and bathroom and turn those on, one at a time, for about 5-10 minutes.  Make sure only one tap is running at a time.

You’ll probably also need to clean the aerators and screens on each faucet, and you can find an easy way to clean your shower head here.  You may need to replace the aerators and/or screens if they are old and worn.

After you’ve had an opportunity to flush out your plumbing system and clean out the kitchen and bathroom fixtures, return to the water heater and open the supply valve.  It is also a good idea to flush out your water heater on occasion.  You can find more information on flushing your tankless water heater here. For tank-style water heaters, we are able to drain and refill as well if needed.