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RPB uses state-of-the-art repair and installation methods, and top-grade equipment to meet your heating service needs quickly and efficiently.

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AIR CONDITIONING SERVICES

Our skilled, licensed professionals know all the ins and outs of air conditioning repair, maintenance and installation.

The Importance of Tune Ups

When was the last time you changed the oil in your car? Probably when the manufacturer recommended, based on the mileage and time since the previous oil change.

Your heating and cooling equipment should be no different. It might be stationary equipment, but it’s certainly not something you can set and forget.

Maintenance is a must for your furnace and air conditioner, not an option. Here’s what you can expect from a tune up:

  1. A thorough inspection of the fan, burners, pulleys, belts, motors, heat exchanger and controls.
  2. Burner cleaning.
  3. Filter replacement if needed.
  4. Lubrication of bearings.
  5. Tightening of connections.

Reduce risk of shutdowns at the wrong time
The first reason to keep on top of your HVAC equipment is to prevent a major catastrophe. Having no furnace in the middle of winter is like shutting down at the side of the highway. You never want to be in that situation. Preventative maintenance on your furnace reduces the likelihood of being left out in the cold.

Keep your equipment working longer
The harder your equipment has to work, the shorter its lifespan. As with any machine, wear and tear will take a toll. The inevitable shutdown happens much sooner if you keep pushing your equipment without proper maintenance. Regular tune-ups will lengthen your HVAC equipment life, saving you money.

Lower your energy bill
No matter what shape your equipment is in, it has to provide the same amount of heating or cooling on a given day. A unit in top shape will do so with less effort, using less electricity and gas to keep your home at the right temperature. Proper tune up will allow your furnace or AC to work without emptying your pockets to pay outrageous energy bills.

Keep your family safe and improve air quality
Furnaces can introduce deadly carbon monoxide into your home if not maintained. A cracked heat exchanger can allow combustion gases to enter the supply air. A dirty burner can result in incomplete combustion, which in turn increases the amount of carbon monoxide produced. A professional inspection and tune-up will prevent these situations from happening, keeping you and your family safe.

Getting it done
To keep your home’s air system working well, give us a call and we’ll tune up your HVAC equipment so you’ll be cool this summer and toasty in the winter.

Celebrate World Plumbing Day

t’s so easy to take indoor plumbing for granted. While that’s a sign of how fortunate we are to have this luxury, we have to be careful that we don’t waste a precious resource like water just because it seems so easy to come by.
 
What is World Plumbing Day?
The World Plumbing Council started World Plumbing Day to raise awareness of the importance of plumbing and water conservation internationally.
 
Though you might not have heard of them, the World Plumbing Council has been around since 2000 when they were registered as an organization in Switzerland. Their aim is to “develop and promote the image and standards of the plumbing industry worldwide.” In other words, they work towards developing the plumbing industry and remind us of how important it is to our daily lives.
 
Why should you care?
To find out how important plumbing is, we only have to take a look at those who are forced to live without it. After all, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, right?
 
Imagine living in a place where you wash clothes, gather drinking water and water to cook all in the same river that you use for the bathroom.
 
Imagine having to walk miles every day to bring back buckets of water to keep your family alive. Then you have to figure out how much you can drink without getting sick from parasites, bacteria and dangerous chemicals.
 
Imagine not having enough water and dying from dehydration, especially in a climate with temperatures that soar past 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
Imagine actually having plumbing, but instead of clean water and efficient sanitary removal, your plumbing system doesn’t work.
 
That might difficult to consider,but that is the reality one third of the world’s population faces.
 
What can you do about it?
 
Limit water use. Install low-flow showerheads and faucets, take shorter showers and turn off the taps when you’re soaping dishes, your hands, etc. Make sure you repair all leaks, even the small ones.
 
Raise awareness among your friends and family about the importance of plumbing to health and society in general. Post info about World Plumbing Day on social media and encourage your friends to ask their plumbers about this special day.
 
Have a plumber inspect your home’s plumbing system. Make sure it’s up to the latest standard and, if not, consider planning for upgrades and improvements within this year. Give us a call if you need help identifying ways of improving your home’s plumbing and we’ll raise the plumbing standard for you and your family.

6 Features That Cut Energy Use

The move toward passive heating and cooling is growing. It saves money and reduces greenhouse gases. Here are some ways to cut down on heat gains and losses from your home.

Insulation
Insulation slows down heat flow. In winter this means less heat escapes and in summer, it keeps your air conditioner from working overtime. In both cases, you have smaller equipment to worry about when building or replacing. Upgrading insulation is a sure-fire way to cut your energy use.

Proper sealing
If air leaks in around windows and doors, you undo everything your insulation does. Known as infiltration, this air carries moisture in summer and low temperatures in winter, taxing your equipment and wasting energy. Sealing off these locations is a fairly cheap way to cut back on your energy bills.

Window locations
In the northern hemisphere, the sun in winter sun shines from the south. The opposite is true for the southern hemisphere. Having large windows face the winter sun allows for sunlight to heat up those rooms, reducing your heating load. The downside is that more heat is lost through these windows at night and on cloudy days.

Window treatments
Curtains and blinds can reduce heat gain and loss depending on their insulating value. Blocking out the sun in summer keeps the space cool even if you have no shading from outside. Trees and foliage outside your window also reduce heat gain in the summer. If you pick the right trees that lose their leaves in winter, you still gain the advantage of winter sunlight heating your home.

Heavy curtains keep the heat in on cold winter nights, reducing losses from large windows.

Overhangs
Strategically placed overhangs can prevent your large windows from creating large problems in the summer. During this season, the sun is high in the sky. Overhangs that block windows from direct sunlight reduce the heating effect of the sun and keep your cooling bill down. The winter sun’s low path across the sky allows sunlight to enter the room without being blocked by the overhang.

Type of glass
Glass performance has two main characteristics: heat transfer coefficient and shading coefficient. The heat transfer coefficient indicates how well the glass prevent heat from flowing through. The shading coefficient affects the sunlight entering the space. A higher shading coefficient keeps more sun out. Glass thickness, the number of panes and coating type all impact these numbers and vary between manufacturers.

You still need well-maintained equipment.
Even with minimal heat gains and losses, your HVAC equipment needs to run efficiently. Give us a call to assess ways you can reduce your energy usage and keep your equipment in top shape.

5 Inventions to Be Thankful For

We’ve come a long way from burning fires in caves and going to theturkey bathroom in a hole in the ground.

Here are five inventions that would make medieval royalty envious of our luxurious living:

The flushing toilet was first proposed by Sir John Harrington in the sixteenth century but didn’t become mainstream due to a lack of sewage disposal piping in England. Thomas Crapper came up with the modern version of the flushing toilet when he invented the valve and siphon design in 1891. Since then, innovations have made the “crapper” more efficient in terms of water consumption.

Water heaters became a fixture in the household thanks to Edmund Ruud who, in 1889, improved on the previous design by Benjamin Maughan. Ruud’s design added safety features like flue gas venting to Maughan’s water heater which burned natural gas to heat water entering a tub. Prior to that, people would boil water in a pot and pour it into a basin for bathing and washing. Water heaters are fundamental for washing machines, dishwashers, and warm showers.

The air conditioner was invented by Willis Carrier who worked at a printing plant that needed a way to control humidity and temperature to protect the paper. His initial design consisted of a fan blowing air over coils filled with cold water. In 1933, his company created the basis for the modern version of the air conditioner with a condensing unit, evaporator coil and proper controls.

Central furnaces became a mainstream appliance in the 1800s, but due to a lack of proper oversight and standards for building and rating furnaces, they fell out of favor in the early 20th century. The National Warm Air Heating and Ventilation Association was created in 1914 to address this and now the majority of homes in North America are heated with furnaces.

Thermostats are vital for keeping the temperature in your home at the set point you desire. Imagine having to go down to your basement six times a night to adjust valves, dampers, and fan flow so you can stay comfortable. Believe it or not, this was what people did before several thermostats were invented, starting with Andrew Ure’s bimetallic thermostat in 1830. Modern electronic thermostats allow us to program temperatures to save energy and still keep cozy warm in winter and cool in summer.

Fortunately for us, technology keeps growing by leaps and bounds. To upgrade your home with the latest of these inventions, give us a call today!

Your Heater is Haunted!

It’s the coldest night of the year. You’re cozy in your warm living room watching “Avengers”. Slowly you begin to notice a temperature drop as your furnace kicks the bucket. You shake your fist at the heavens and curse Murphy’s Law.

Knowing the signs and how to prevent sudden furnace failure will help you avoid such a disaster.

Signs of an aging furnace

Higher utility bills – As furnaces age, they use more energy to provide the same heat. Increased consumption over time is a good indicator that your furnace is reaching its end of life.

Noises – A furnace on its way out will bang, rattle, squeal and otherwise protest its demise. As soon as you notice it, call a professional.

A cold house – Air blowing through the vents feel cool if the burner or heat exchanger are malfunctioning. If the airflow is warm but too low, the fan is the problem.

Burner flame color should be blue in natural gas furnaces. If it’s yellow, that indicates incomplete combustion, which creates more carbon monoxide. Your burner will need to be checked and cleaned or replaced immediately.

Health issues – If your furnace is producing more carbon monoxide, your family’s health will be worse than usual. Similarly, if there’s an increase in respiratory illnesses, your furnace could be circulating dust, mold and other allergens.

So how do you prevent the breakdown? Regular maintenance is key, especially as winter approaches.

  • Check the burner to make sure the flame is the right color and is burning steadily.
  • Check fan operation to ensure the air is being blown and distributed. The fan blades must be cleaned and the motor inspected by a professional.
  • Clean or replace the filter. If your filter becomes too caked with dust, there’s a domino effect in your furnace as the airflow drops, wreaking havoc with other components.
  • Make sure your combustion air intake is clear. If the furnace doesn’t get enough air, incomplete combustion will take place, generating carbon monoxide.
  • Have a professional look at the heat exchanger for cracks that can leak gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide into your home.
  • Also have a professional look at the control system to make sure it keeps the furnace running.

 

Analyze whether to replace or repair

A typical furnace life cycle is 15-20 years. With proper care, you can prolong its life but the higher fuel and maintenance could potentially pay for a new furnace.

 

If you’re concerned about your furnace, give us a call today and we’ll make sure you stay toasty warm for the season!

8 Ways to Protect Your Family From Bathroom Injuries

Your bathroom may not be as safe as you think. Studies by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 285,000 people every year make a visit to an emergency room due to bathroom injuries.

Everyone is vulnerable to bathroom injuries, but the injuries are more frequent with the young and the old. Though senior citizens stand the greatest chance of severe injury, you should take precautionary measures to make your bathrooms safe for everyone. The good news is that there are very easy ways to protect yourself, and your family. Here are a few of the simplest and least expensive preventive measures:

  • Place non-slip rubber mats in front of lavatories, toilets, and showers/baths.
  • Install grab bars inside and outside of the shower/bath and on either side of toilets. Without grab bars many people try steadying themselves on towel racks, which aren’t meant to support weight.
  • Make sure the bathroom has easily accessible, bright lights. Motion-sensor night lights are also a great for acclimating yourself to the bathroom and preventing missteps in the dark.
  •  Hand-held shower heads attached to a flexible hose are easy to use and discourage contorting bodies for hard-to-reach areas while showering. Most are no more expensive than fixed shower heads. Plus, they are handy for cleaning the tub or shower.
  • Check the temperature of your water heater. Approximately 21,000 children every year are treated for scald burns. Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120°F (49°C) to prevent scalding in the shower. Or, have us install a mixing valve for you.
  • Sit-down showers are available with a built-in chair; flexible hose shower head, grab bars, curbless step-in, and other senior-friendly features. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of installing a new shower, some existing shower stalls are big enough to accommodate a folding waterproof shower seat that attaches to the wall.
  • Toilet seat risers are a great investment. This places your toilet height a couple of inches higher than the standard 14-15 inches. This accessory allows you to gain full balance and composure without slipping or sliding. Toilet seat risers are also removable, and will not hinder small children from having easy toilet access.
  • Keep water off the floor. The best way to attack a problem is from the source, water splashes from the sink or shower are the primary suspects in bathroom falls. Rubber and sponged mops are a great option for getting water off of tiled surfaces. Also, weighted curtains can help ensure that there are no water leaks while bathing.

None of these accommodations detract from accessibility or attractiveness. In fact, they are part of a bathroom trend known as “universal design,” which has come into prominence because of our aging population. The universal design is not only safer; it looks great and allows a lot of creativity.  If you have any questions or concerns about our bathroom safety suggestions, just give us a call.

The Importance of Keeping Your Filters Clean

Go poke around inside your furnace and you’ll likely find a folded sheet (like an accordion) or a fibrous mesh. That’s the filter and it’s typically located just before the cooling coil and heat exchanger.

Why does your air system need a filter?
The filter protects the furnace itself. Dust from your home gets drawn into the unit through the return ductwork. Without a filter, this dust would build up on the fan, heat exchanger and coil, reducing efficiency and eventually causing failure.

An overview of residential HVAC filters
Residential filters are either flat (made from fiberglass) or pleated (made from various materials). Filter efficiency is indicated by its Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). The larger the MERV, the more particles it can capture.

More efficient filters have larger pressure drops as the air flows through. This makes the fan work harder, lowering system efficiency. You need to balance your furnace fan capabilities and energy use with the level of protection you want from your filter.

There are many levels of residential filters – from the most basic with a MERV 4 to HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filters capable of capturing microscopic particles. For typical households, MERV 8 gives the right balance between efficiency and air cleanliness. If a family member has respiratory problems, you may have to go to a higher MERV value for your furnace.

Reasons to keep it clean
Freer airflow: Dirty filters prevent the air from flowing through them. This reduces the amount of heating and cooling your furnace can do. One major issue is that you can freeze your evaporator coil if the airflow across it is too low, eventually causing your AC unit to fail.

Efficiency: Because your fan has to work harder to pull the air through a dirty coil, the system efficiency drops off as the unit consumes more electricity. A clean filter that allows airflow will keep your consumption down.

Cleaner air overall: If the filter is choked up with dust and the air isn’t flowing freely, dust can settle in other parts of your ductwork and your home, providing breeding grounds for mold, dust mites, bacteria and allergens.

How to do it
Most furnace filters are disposable. The replacement frequency depends on multiple factors. Smokers, pet owners and people with allergies will need to replace it more often. The thickness and type also have an impact. Thicker filters need to be replaced more often, and fiberglass filters must be changed sooner than pleated filters.

If you’re concerned about the state of your filter, give us a call and we’ll make sure you (and your furnace) breathe easier.

Don’t Get Stuck Waiting Around

One of the trickiest aspects of running a residential service business is responding to service calls at a time that is convenient to our customers. We try our best to schedule calls at your convenience but it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, every time. Here are some of the things that determine our dispatching priorities.

1. Is it an emergency? Emergency calls obviously take priority over non-emergencies and elected service.

2. Do you have a maintenance agreement with us? Our service and maintenance agreement customers receive top priority when it comes to scheduling, as well as discount pricing.

3. Do you request a specific technician? Some of our technicians have serviced the same homes over and over and customers may request them by name. We encourage such friendships and will do our best to accommodate the request. Your favorite technician may be unavailable at a given time, but if you can be a little flexible with your time frame we’ll make sure you get visited by the person who has gained your confidence.

4. Sometimes the best laid plans get waylaid. We pride ourselves on our ability to service most customers within one hour, if so desired. Yet delays sometimes are unavoidable due to traffic, bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances. One thing you can be sure of is that if we do get delayed, we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll call you with an updated time of arrival or, if you prefer, to reschedule as early as possible.

 

Do You Know What AFUE, SEER and HSPF Mean?

Our business of providing heating, cooling and ventilating services entails a number of cumbersome acronyms. We try our best to explain things to our customers in plain language, but inevitably an alphabet soup will crop up in product literature. Here is an explanation of some of the common acronyms you will encounter pertaining to energy efficiency.

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) gauges the energy efficiency of furnaces, boilers and water heaters. AFUE measures season-long useful energy output to energy input, expressed as a percentage. The higher the AFUE rating is, the greater the efficiency.

AFUE and the other efficiency standards are mandated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulations in accordance with their testing protocols. Currently, the minimum AFUE standard for most types of heating equipment is 80%, meaning 80% of the fuel you burn goes to useful heat. The most efficient furnaces have ratings of more than 95%. Old furnaces may operate at 60% or less. Replacing an old furnace with an 80% or greater unit can rapidly pay for itself through lower heating bills.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) applies to the cooling efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. It is derived by measuring the total cooling output in BTU during normal annual usage and divided by its total energy input in watt-hours. SEER ratings are expressed in whole numbers and decimals rather than percentages.

Like AFUE, the higher the SEER the more efficient the product will be. The DOE requires a minimum SEER rating of 14.0 and goes all the way up to several points above 20. Older equipment may be as low as 8.0. In theory, you could cut your fuel bills by about 40% by replacing an 8.0 SEER unit with one rated at 14.0.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is used to measure the heating efficiency of heat pumps, which also have a SEER rating for their cooling performance. Heat pumps manufactured since the beginning of 2015 are required to have a minimum HSPF of 8.2, with the most efficient units reaching a HSPF of 13.

As with the DOE’s miles-per-gallon ratings for vehicles, actual performance of heating and cooling equipment may vary from their ratings depending on operational variables. One of the most important considerations is making sure that components of a system (furnace/condenser/ductwork/controls, etc.) match up well with one another. If not, the system will not reach its peak efficiency.

Proper installation and regular servicing are also of crucial importance. The National Comfort Institute estimates that most HVAC systems operate at only 57% of potential capacity due to installation mistakes. It pays to hire the most professional installation and service contractor you can find.

We’re confident you’ll find that’s us.

4 Common Ways to End Up Without Heat

It’s the middle of winter and our phone lines hum with calls from homeowners who don’t have enough heat or no heat at all. Our knowledgeable technicians will diagnose precisely what’s wrong with your furnace or heat pump and the first step in any diagnosis is to look for simple things first. Here are some of the most common problems we find when troubleshooting.

1. Dirty or clogged filters: The most important thing you can do to ensure adequate heat in cold weather is to change filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict air flow. This means your furnace has to work harder to circulate warm air throughout your home. This puts an unnecessary strain on your furnace and may result in a breakdowns, excessive utility bills and diminished equipment life.

Change filters at least every three months. Changing monthly is not excessive if you have a pet that sheds. Filters are cheap. You can buy a year’s supply for less than the cost of a single service call.

2. Ignition problems: Today’s heating systems typically have one of two types of ignition systems: hot surface ignition or intermittent pilot. Hot surface ignition uses a heating element, kind of like a filament in a light bulb, which is controlled electronically to ignite the gas burner. This element wears out over time. The intermittent pilot is also controlled electronically but uses a high voltage electric spark to ignite the gas pilot and then the main burners. A pilot may burn out due to drafts or clogs in the heating equipment or problems with the thermocouple.

3. Other mechanical issues: Modern heating systems are complicated machines with a variety of electro-mechanical moving parts, including belts, bearings, fans and motors. Over time all of these components are subject to normal wear and tear.

4. Thermostat malfunctions: Your thermostat regulates when heat is to be produced and how much. So-called “smart” thermostats can be programmed to set different temperatures at different times, depending on whether residents are at home and their comfort preferences. Whether you have an automated or manual thermostat, problems can develop that lead to no heat or inadequate heat.

Many thermostats are powered by batteries, and one of the first things our troubleshooting technician will check is whether those batteries need replacing! Modern thermostats give a readout warning when batteries get low. It’s surprising how many homeowners don’t notice or don’t heed the flashing reminders to change thermostat batteries.

The best way to assure that your heating system functions during the coldest winter days is to have your unit serviced regularly – at least once a year. Give us a call to ask about our economical service plans that include full system inspections and maintenance.

Regular maintenance is easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle of daily life. One of the great things about a service plan is that we will call to remind you when it’s time for your annual or twice-annual check-ups.

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