Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Anchorage?
- 2 How Does the Water in Anchorage Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Anchorage?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Anchorage?
- 5 When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Anchorage vs Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Anchorage?
What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Anchorage?
Plumbing in Anchorage faces unique challenges due to its cold climate and extremely short days during winter. Winter temperatures can regularly reach sub-zero temperatures during the night, and days can be as short as five and a half hours near the end of December. This presents serious risks to under-insulated pipes, but a number of other typical plumbing issues are also common in Anchorage. The most common plumbing problems residents of Anchorage normally face are:
- Frozen or burst pipes
- Leaking pipes and fixtures
- Clogged drains
Due to the short days near the arctic circle during winter, scheduling our plumbers for service during the winter months could prove its own challenge. Insulation of exterior pipes is essential, and many experts recommend applying the heat tape to pipes to prevent freezing.
How Does the Water in Anchorage Affect Your Plumbing?
Anchorage has pristine drinking water due to the extremely cold temperatures from nearby water supplies. It is sourced from the snowfield and glacial runoff that feeds Eklutna Lake. Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility take extreme pride in their water quality and diligently tests to ensure contaminant-free and safe water. However, water from glacial and lake sources inevitably hardens the water (increasing mineral content), which could cause plumbing problems over time.
Anchorage has moderately hard water, according to the city’s water reports. Though the water is well within drinkable levels, the hardness can interact poorly with foods or chemicals going down the drain to lead to buildup and clogs over time. Though Anchorage water usually maintains these moderate levels, incidents such as tectonic and volcanic activity have contributed to increased mineral content before, like during the eruption of Mt. Spur in 1992.
Though Mt. Spur’s eruption occurred over 25 years ago, it’s still a reminder of how the environment can affect water and plumbing in the Anchorage area. During the Spring following the eruption, snowmelt forced minerals and ash into the city’s water system, causing blockage and flooding as well as contaminating the water supply. The city has since put protections in place to prevent this in the future, however.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Anchorage?
The cost of plumbing in Anchorage can depend on a number of variables in the materials, urgency, and complexity of the job required. Repair work in Anchorage is much more affordable than in the rural areas but can still be high cost once materials are factored in. Labor rates for our plumbers are very competitive in Anchorage, so simple repairs estimates may range anywhere from $100-$500, but large projects like remodels and full rebuilds can have a wide range of costs that would have to be given as an estimate. While labor is often affordable in the city, materials can frequently vastly increase the price of plumbing jobs in Anchorage.
Cost Factor: Materials
Alaska is remote and a large state with a very dispersed population. Anchorage is a major population center with better access to materials than rural Alaska and the more remote North, but materials can still be quite expensive as most supplies must be brought in by air. Plumbing jobs using common materials are easier, but those requiring specialized and custom parts may have higher costs due to the transportation challenges and limited manufacturing infrastructure in Alaska.
This transportation cost for materials affects costs on most goods in Alaska, as fuel must also frequently be transported in and adds its cost onto goods transported using it. This can create massive increases in costs for large-scale jobs in Anchorage, which involves excavating equipment or multiple locations and trips.
Cost Factor: Urgency and Season
As many plumbing problems in Anchorage arise from seasonally cold temperatures, our plumbers may get busy all at once and decrease availability. This means that urgent plumber needs during peak season for frozen pipes may cost more. This can be further complicated by the extremely short days during the Alaskan winter. While the height of summer can offer nearly constant daylight to tackle urgent repairs, winter repairs can prove to be difficult with limited light freezing temperatures.
Cost Factor: Complexity of Repair and Plumbing Problems
Due to Anchorage’s history of evolving from a railway trading hub into a booming metropolis, older buildings, in particular, may pose serious challenges to plumbing work and increase the cost. Many buildings in Anchorage still operate with older plumbing systems and pipes that don’t meet the current Alaska plumbing code. These are not equipped to handle modern water flows or are made from older materials such as toxic lead and will need to be replaced.
With repairs involving exterior underground pipes, which are buried deeper in Anchorage than warmer climates for insulation, frozen ground in cold temperatures can cause increased labor for excavation, increasing the cost.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Anchorage?
Winter can cause extremely expensive damage to unprepared plumbing. Frozen pipes can stop water flow throughout your plumbing, leading to leaky and burst pipes that can then cause flooding. Replacement components are more expensive than other places in Anchorage due to transportation costs, and urgent service in the winter can further multiply the money you may have to spend on a plumbing disaster. Preventing floods and frozen pipes can be one of the best ways to save you money long-term in Anchorage.
- Winterize pipes. Increasing insulation on pipes will better protect them from the cold. Our plumbers commonly apply thermostatic heat tape on the exterior and crawl space plumbing in Anchorage. This tape only draws what power it needs to heat pipes based on the ambient temperature. In addition to saving on potential repairs by preventing freezing, it also potentially saves on power cost.
- Water heater maintenance and inspection. Flowing hot water through your pipes prevents freezing in most circumstances, even in the coldest of the Anchorage winter. If your water heater unexpectedly fails, though, that water will not stay hot very long, and your plumbing will potentially be at risk. Having your water heater maintained and inspected regularly by our experts can help it continue to function reliably.
If water flow has stopped in Anchorage, call our plumbers immediately if you think it’s frozen pipes. Quick action to thaw frozen pipes could prevent ruptures and the flooding damage and repair costs that come with them. While urgent calls to our plumbers may sometimes cost more, proactive and quick action is far more affordable than repairs from burst pipes.
When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Anchorage vs Hire a Plumber?
Calling our plumbers as soon as a problem is discovered can prevent the issue from getting worse and causing further damage. However, there are some issues that you may want to check with the water utility company about before calling us.
If you have a water leak clearly on your property, immediately call our professionals. If you have no flow or reduced flow, it may be worth calling Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility to see if they have any known issues in their infrastructure. If they do not, then it’s likely time to call us to get to the bottom of the issue. Remember, if temperatures are very low and you have no water flow, call our experts as soon as possible to thaw pipes.
When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Anchorage?
Greater Anchorage has two major zones that differentiate what types of permits are required. The Building Safety Service Area covers the coast and the core population centers of Anchorage. Outside this zone, much less stringent permit requirements exist for plumbing service.
- Building Safety Service Area (BSSA). Permits will be required for most residential plumbing services. Any major changes or repairs to regulated plumbing systems like pumps, water heaters, or wastewater systems will require permitting first through the Municipality of Anchorage.
- Outside Building Safety Service Area. Outside the major population center in Anchorage, much less permitting is required for plumbing service. Land use permits will be required for new construction and additions, but most plumbing work can be handled without a permit.
It is always best practice to consult with our professional plumbers about what permits are required before planning service. Complying with regulations protects the integrity of your plumbing systems and saves you money by preventing potentially costly fines. Our plumber will easily be able to guide you through permit requirements that apply to your specific situation.
All of our professional plumbers will follow code guidelines for permits and plumbing standards. They have studied local, and state regulatory requirements for their certifications and are more than equipped to guide you through what needs to be permitted and what doesn’t and to ensure you get quality plumbing work you can rely on.