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Plumbing and Heating Tips for Thanksgiving and Large Gatherings

Plumbing and Heating Tips for Thanksgiving and Large Gatherings

So, you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year? You’ll have plenty to worry about without your plumbing or heating systems acting up. In order to minimize stress levels and enjoy the holiday season, follow these plumbing and heating tips to avoid a holiday disaster.

Plumbing Tips for Holidays and Large Gatherings


One of the major dangers during Thanksgiving and Christmas especially is the risk of a clogged and overflowing toilet. This is especially concerning for home’s that have septic tanks or weak plumbing systems.

Toilet Tips (for Hosts):

If you are hosting a large group, use these tips to avoid spending the evening dealing with a clogged toilet:

  • Only toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. Remove wet wipes, tissues, paper towels, Q-tips, and any other items from plain view to discourage these items from being flushed.
  • If you have a running toilet, remove the lid of the tank and check to see if the flapper is creating a tight seal. If you cannot create a watertight seal, you probably have to replace your flapper assembly. If you don’t know the specific make and model suitable for your toilet, buy a “universal” model.
  • Leave a fresh plumber out for your guests to use if necessary. Make sure there are no cracks in the plunger, as any air leaks will create an ineffective seal.
  • Consider placing a discrete sign above the toilet reminding your guests to only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Everything else should go in the trash.
  • To encourage proper disposal of items such as tissues and wet wipes, leave an empty wastepaper basket right next to the toilet.
  • Not everyone knows how much toilet paper to use. Whenever you are having guests over, we recommend stocking up on thin or single-ply toilet paper to avoid clogs.

Toilet Tips (for Guests):

If you are a guest in someone else’s home, you want to avoid clogging the toilet at all costs. Follow these tips to avoid an embarrassing situation for both you and the host:

  • Flush as you go to reduce odors and the risk of a clogged toilet. This is called a “courtesy flush” for good reason. While courtesy flushes are normally unnecessary and contribute to higher water waste, we recommend it whenever you are a guest in someone else’s home.
  • Don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet.
  • Watch how much toilet paper you are using. Each home is different and someone else’s toilet may not be able to handle large loads. Use the minimum amount of toilet paper necessary. And be mindful of the fact that thicker toilet paper clogs toilets more easily, so you don’t need as much of it.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to clog the toilet, don’t panic, and whatever you do, do not try flushing the toilet again. This will only make the water rise. If the water won’t stop running, open the lid to the tank as fast as you can to make sure the flapper is creating a seal.
  • Once the water has stopped running, find a plunger and run some hot water over the rubber end to make it more pliant.
  • Then, you know what to do. Create a seal around the hole at the bottom of the toilet bowl and gently, but firmly, push up and down without breaking the seal.
  • If the toilet is still clogged, swallow your pride and speak with the host before any more damage is done.

Garbage Disposal

The garbage disposal is one of the main victims of Thanksgiving. Be extra careful with all of your drains, but especially the garbage disposal.

Garbage disposal tips:

  • A quick way to deodorize your garbage disposal is by grinding up some ice cubes and citrus wedges (lemon or lime work best).
  • Avoid putting large amounts of anything down the garbage disposal.
  • Never put any of the following items down the disposal:
    • string vegetables
    • glass, metal, plastic, and any other inorganic materials.
    • starchy food such as rice and pasta.
    • large bones, pits, or seeds
    • coffee grounds
    • egg shells
    • grease, oils, fats, and cheeses
  • We recommend playing it safe and not using your garbage disposal during the holidays. Make sure your guests know not to use the garbage disposal, even if they are only trying to help.
  • Designate one or two people to clean up all of the dishes. Scrape leftover into Tupperware containers or straight into the trash. Some families use paper plates to avoid this problem entirely and make clean-up easier.

Click here for a list of garbage disposal do’s and don’ts.

Furnace Troubleshooting Tips

Most furnace problems should be left to the professionals, but some things you can do on your own. Go over this simple furnace troubleshooting checklist to make sure the problem cannot be solved with a simple fix. If you’re furnace is starts to act up just as the guests are arriving, don’t try to fix anything until the party is over. Luckily, you can detect and fix these common furnace problems before the big day comes.

1. Check power at the circuit breaker and the power switch on the furnace.

Your HVAC system is probably on its own dedicated circuit. Look for the furnace/HVAC label. If you don't have all of your circuits labeled, spend some time to find out which circuit each breaker is connected to and use tape and a pen to label the breakers.

If the breaker is switched off, switch it all the way off and then flip it back on. Make sure the main switch on the furnace is on.

2. Change the air filter.

With newer heating systems especially, it's important to periodically change the air filter because some units have an automatic shutoff mechanism when the filter gets too clogged. This is a safety feature that helps prevent further damage to the system.

It's important that you change your air filter every 30-60 days. Write the date of replacement on the air filter itself so you know exactly how long it's been since the last filter change-out.

3. Check the thermostat to make sure it is set to "heat."

Make sure the thermostat setting is higher than the indoor temperature. If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or if you smell gas, leave the house immediately (don't turn on any lights or operate an open flame) and call 911 from a safe distance.

Although many homeowners know the seriousness of a gas leak, don't attempt to turn off the gas or fix the problem yourself. Get outside ASAP and call 911.

Even after checking the breaker box, air filter, and thermostat, if your furnace still won't work properly or turn on, call a trained HVAC technician to come take a look. They will be able to diagnose the situation and provide expert recommendations with upfront, straightforward pricing.

We highly recommend scheduling furnace maintenance every year in the fall before the heating season begins. This will ensure a smoothly running machine all winter long and maintain any warranties you may have on your unit.

Cooking and Electrical Fire Safety

More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year, including Christmas and Christmas Eve. It is extremely important that you remain on your toes throughout the day and night to make sure that no fires break out in your home.

Avoid a Griswold-family Thanksgiving with these Thanksgiving Fire Safety Tips, courtesy of the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don't trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children - up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

In addition to cooking and candle safety tips, we also recommend testing all of your AFCI and GFCI outlets to make sure they are working properly. Click here for instructions on testing these electrical safety devices.

Gold Medal Service can help homeowners install all of the electrical safety devices necessary to keep your house safe and up-to-code:

  • Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
  • Tamper resistant receptacle (TRR) technology
  • Surge protectors
  • More

Gold Medal Service, rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, solves plumbing, heating, cooling, electric, drain, waterproofing, and sewer issues for homeowners across the state of New Jersey.

Call the expert electricians at Gold Medal Service if you experience any plumbing, electrical, or HVAC problems over the holidays. We’ll have all hands on deck this time of the year.

To help keep you safe and save you money, Gold Medal's Total Care Club ensures that your home’s plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are safe and up-to-code.

We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (holidays included) to assist you with any problem you may have (electrical, plumbing, waterproofing, HVAC, and more).

Give us a call today at (732) 365-3199 or schedule an appointment online!

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