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Heating Season Tune-ups Save Money, And Maybe Your Life

If it’s sweltering outside, the last thing you have in mind is cranking up the furnace. But cooler temperatures are not far away. It’s time to schedule a heating season combustion adjustment, professional cleaning and safety check.

An annual heating system “tune-up” is one of the best home maintenance investments you can make. Homeowners who neglect it tend to pay the following penalties:

  • Fuel bills rise as much as 10-15% as a result of inefficient equipment operation. It’s like having a fireplace that burns money. Our service technicians will perform a variety of tests to measure the combustion efficiency of your system both before and after tuning it up.
  • Accelerated equipment wear. Annual maintenance extends equipment life as much as 5-10 years for your furnace.
  • Our long experience tells us that about 75% of all HVAC system repairs we do could have been avoided with regular maintenance. Repairs cost a lot more than maintenance, and breakdowns never happen at a convenient time.
  • Most important, annual heating inspections can save your life and those of your loved ones. Small cracks in a heat exchanger or problems with the flue system could allow deadly carbon monoxide gas to seep into your home. Dozens of people in the U.S. lose their lives each year to these tragedies. Our trained service technicians know how to spot danger signs in the system.

Modern HVAC systems are very sophisticated. Our well-equipped service technicians have an array of electronic measuring devices and tools to properly service these units. You can trust their professionalism and experience to do the job right.

While heating inspections can be done at any time, early fall is the most popular time for most home owners to schedule these visits. Many of our clients have their fall heating inspection done as part of an annual service agreement. They receive priority in scheduling and discount pricing for any repairs not covered by the agreement. A service agreement also is a good way to ensure you don’t forget about scheduling heating system maintenance. We’ll remind you. If you are not on our list, give us a call to ask how you can be included.

Beyond a certain point even the best maintenance cannot save an antiquated system. Efficiency improvements over the last few decades have been so dramatic that if your furnace is more than 20 years old, it’s quite possible that it would make economic sense to replace your present system even if it is still operating okay. Ask our service technician to perform an energy audit of your home to see how many years of energy savings it would take to pay back the initial cost of a new installation.

Also ask about low-cost energy efficiency improvements that can be obtained from devices such as automatic flue dampers and programmable setback thermostats or internet compatible thermostats.

Tankless Water Heater Basics

Early water heaters all had tanks. Nowadays we can heat water without storing it, by using tankless water heaters.
You can install multiple tankless heaters at the fixtures (called point of use) or centrally to serve your entire house.
Three reasons to go tankless:

1.    Tanked heaters use energy to maintain water storage temperature, even when not in use. This is essentially wasted heat. Having a tankless heater when your use is intermittent will save you energy, lowering your bills.
2.    In order to decrease the amount of energy used and increase efficiency, new tanks require more insulation, making them bigger. With a tankless system, you get that space back.
3.    If you’ve ever been the last person to take a shower, you know the frustration of having the water get colder as you use the last trickle of hot water. Depending on the size and type of tanked heater, it could take an hour or more to get the water hot enough for your bath. Tankless systems don’t have this problem. Water is heated as it flows through it so there’s no waiting.

Sizing your tankless heater
The benefits of a tankless water heater evaporate quickly if it’s sized incorrectly. Tankless heaters are sized according to maximum flow rates and temperature rise.
To get flow rate, add the flows of fixtures likely to run at the same time. Showers flow at approximately 3 gallons per minute (gpm), faucets at 1-2 gpm, washing machines at 2-3 gpm, dishwashers at 1-2 gpm. Check manufacturer information for accurate values.
The temperature rise is the difference between the temperature of incoming water and the desired hot water supply temperature. For safety, the supply temperature should not exceed 120oF (49oC) at the fixtures. The incoming water can be as low as 40oF (4oC). In that case, the heater would have to increase the temperature by 80oF (45°C).
Service requirements for installation
Since tankless heaters are instantaneous and must provide heat in a short time frame, they require larger electrical or gas services than tanked heaters, which heat the water more slowly.
If you’re replacing an electrical tanked water heater with a tankless device, you would need to upgrade the electrical service to the heater and possibly to your house. Replacing a gas-fired tank heater with tankless may require a gas supply upgrade as well as changes to the venting system.
For both gas and electric, the water pipe measurements are the same since they are both sized to provide hot water to the same home’s fixtures.
Even with its numerous advantages, making the decision to install a tankless heater requires thought and professional analysis.
Call us today to talk about your options for a tankless heater in your home.


Protect Your Home With This One Trick

If you own a home with an attic, temperatures can get as high as 150°F up there in the summer. That intense heat leaks into the home below to raise your cost of cooling. While your air conditioning thermostat may be set in the 70’s for your comfort down below, the temperature at your ceiling may measure in the 90’s. You’ll be paying for the air conditioner to cool down the ceiling as well as your living space.

An attic fan can reduce attic temperatures by as much 50°-60°F. Studies have shown that this can reduce your air conditioning bill by as much as 30%. It also helps prevent your floors from warping and the rafters and shingles on your home from deterioration.

Air circulation keeps moisture from condensing, which can ruin rafters and floors and soak insulation. In winter, heat and humidity from inside the house can rise up into a cold attic. This not only loses heat, the humidity wafting up into the attic will dampen and create frost on the wood framing of your house, eventually leading to mold and rot.

Compared with your air conditioning system, fans are simple devices that don’t require a condenser and evaporator. A fan simply draws in cooler outside air to replace the stifling air that gets trapped in your sweltering attic. The fans have sensors that enable you to set the temperature at which they automatically shut on and off. In summertime a fan will typically start operating when attic temperature reaches 100 degrees or so.

Most attic fans run on conventional household electricity. Yet some homes can be fitted with a solar-powered attic fan that costs virtually nothing to operate. Solar attic fans have few moving parts, no tricky wiring and battery storage that enables them to continue operating for several days even when the sun doesn’t shine. Solar attic fans are so quiet you will not notice them running and they are built to tough weatherproofing standards.

A solar attic fan is an ideal way to experience the savings and comfort made possible by solar energy. An existing electrical attic fan can be changed out to a solar-powered unit without much trouble, and with considerable energy savings. Whether you prefer a conventional electrical fan or a solar-powered unit, if you want to protect your home while lowering your energy bill, give us a call at your convenience. We’ll evaluate your circumstances and offer the options that best suit your needs and your budget.

Repair vs. Replace


Boilers and furnaces are like cars: at some point you have to ask yourself if it’ll go another 10,000 miles or if you should park it for good.

Here are some important considerations when making this decision:

Safety First
Most people don’t consider this when deciding on a new heating system, but you could be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning from an old furnace with a cracked heat exchanger. Another safety aspect is whether you run the risk of having a boiler break down during the coldest time of the season (which is when it tends to happen). It’s more than just comfort. Exposure to low temperatures for too long has health impacts, especially for the elderly and young babies.

Why Repair?
When things are tight and you’re trying to save cash, sometimes a simple repair may be more than sufficient, depending on the age of the boiler or furnace. Just remember to consider labor costs, as well as the cost of parts. The first thing to make a note of is the age of the equipment compared to its life expectancy. Furnaces typically last in the 15-20 year range while boilers can go for 20-30 years. Some boilers even last up to 40 or 50 years!

When to Replace
There are times when repairing your old furnace or boiler just won’t work. If you have to wait several weeks to get parts because your heating equipment is obsolete, it’s definitely time to consider replacement. Even if you can still get parts, you have to face the reduction in efficiency as your equipment ages. This translates into more of your money in the utility’s pocket. As long as you can afford it, there are some real benefits of replacing your system:

You have the opportunity to upgrade to a more efficient system. It’s more than just getting the 80% efficiency a new furnace would give. Nowadays, condensing type equipment can give upwards of 95% efficiency.

Even if you stick with the standard efficiency heater, your bills will come down simply because you regain your initial efficiency.

Once you have that new furnace or boiler, it’s smooth sailing for the first five years. Not only is the heater new, but you get warranty coverage for anything that does go wrong in that time.

The Right Support
Regardless of what you decide, you need the right technical support. Give us a call and we’ll make sure your home stays warm for the winter!

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 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.

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.

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