Helpful Information and Safety Hints for Homeowners.
At Stashluk, we are not just about plumbing, heating and air conditioning. We’re about safety. We’re about providing information that will help run your home more safely. More efficiently. More cost-effectively. We highly recommend that every homeowner pay close attention to the following:
A. Have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances at least once each year.
Fuel burning appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves require yearly maintenance. Over time, components can become damaged or deteriorate. A qualified technician can identify and repair problems with your fuel burning appliances.
B. Recognize the danger signs of a CO problem.
Signs include: Streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel burning appliances; absence of a draft in your chimney; moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms; fallen soot from the fireplace; small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe; damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney; and rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from outside your home.
C. Look for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning such as, flu-like symptoms, headaches, trouble breathing, dizziness, and fatigue.
Stashluk highly recommends installation of a carbon monoxide detector outside sleeping areas. A CO detector will sound an alarm before dangerous levels of CO accumulate. Night-time is usually when most CO poisoning occurs. Do not place the detector within five feet of household chemicals.
If your detector is wired into your homes electrical system, you should test it monthly. If your unit is battery operated, test the unit weekly and replace the battery once a year. If your CO alarm sounds, it is best to open windows and doors for ventilation. A CO detector alarm indicates elevated levels of CO in the home, so never ignore the alarm.
Many problems arise for homeowners when the conditions in the home are TOO DRY (less than 30%). Such mishaps may include: Damage to wood floors, furniture; Static electricity; electronic equipment damage; Increased dust; Respiratory, throat, and skin irritations. On the other hand, if conditions are TOO WET (greater than 50%), the following may occur; termites, ants and other insects; Condensation and stains on walls and ceilings; Flaking paint, warped and peeling wallpaper; Growth of mold, mildew and allergic reactions.
Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air and promotes mold growth and dust mite population growth. These can set off allergic sensitivity and can trigger asthma. While you can’t see or feel these things, they live where people are: table surfaces, carpet, pillows and mattresses. They are dependent on warm temperatures and high humidity to grow.
High humidity and your environment.
High humidity can wreak havoc in your home. In warmer climates, it draws pests. Condensation provides pests with the water they need. High humidity levels can be especially bad for your home (such as causing dry rot of the structure) if it was not built with adequate vapor barriers.
It’s not good to allow the air inside your house get too dry. Skin irritation and difficulty breathing are among common problems that develop when indoor humidity is too low. Too dry inside is typically an issue when living in an older house (perhaps heated with wood) that is not as tightly sealed as new houses. Stashluk recommends adding some humidity whenever you can. Running a humidifier always helps.
Sizing Issues: Tips for saving money and energy.
When it comes to deciding on your furnace and air conditioning units, it’s true that newer models are more efficient. Therefore, you must install the correct size in order to enjoy all of the savings from improved energy efficiency. In addition, correctly sizing a heating system is important because too small a system will not adequately heat the home during the cold winter season, or supply enough air conditioning in mid-August. Over-sizing the heating system is wasteful, not only because a larger system normally costs more to install, but also because it does not operate efficiently and, in the end, costs more to operate. Over-sized air conditioners cost more to buy and do not run long enough to dehumidify the air. The result we may be familiar with is the “clammy” feeling of some air-conditioned houses.
Another way to verify the size of your heating or cooling unit.
The starting point for determining a properly sized unit is to check the “nameplate rating” of the existing system. The “nameplate” is a metal tag attached to the unit, usually near the control valves or wiring box on a furnace. On air conditioners there will be nameplates on both the outdoor (compressor) units and the indoor (air handler) units. The nameplate will tell you the maximum Btu per hour output as well as other useful information about the unit. DO NOT ASSUME the existing unit is the right size. In the past, few if any new homes had adequate levels of insulation or air infiltration sealing. It was not uncommon to install furnaces and air conditioners with twice the needed capacity to make up for the large losses found in most production-built houses. A full load (heat loss and heat gain) calculation should always be done on your home, especially if you believe that the insulation or windows of your home have been upgraded since the original heating or cooling systems were installed.
As temperatures reach freezing, close all air vents and other openings in the crawl space under your house. (Note: Monitor temperature and open one or two vents in warmer weather for ventilation.)
In freezing weather, never set your home's thermostat below 55 degrees.
Insulate pipes prone to freezing, such as those near an outside wall; those in unheated areas of your home; or any exposed plumbing such as outside faucets. In an emergency, several layers of newspapers or rags can be used for temporary insulation.
Keep your water meter box covered with its lid to prevent the meter from freezing during cold periods.
In extremely cold weather, leave cabinet doors under sinks open to keep warm air circulating.
If temperatures are expected to fall below 20 degrees, leave water dripping slowly from faucets.
Be sure you know where your master valve is located so you can turn your home's water off temporarily if a line does break. In most homes, this valve will be located near the water heater, near the clothes washer, or where the water service line enters your home.
If Your Pipes Freeze:
Open the cold water faucet nearest the freeze to relieve pressure and reduce the likelihood of breakage
Use a hair dryer (set on low), heat lamp, or light bulb to gradually warm and thaw the frozen pipe. Too much heat in one spot, however, can burst the pipe so be sure heat is evenly distributed over a large area of the pipe. Be extremely cautious when using any electrical appliance to thaw a pipe - the appliance could become wet, increasing your danger of electrocution.
DO NOT use a blow torch or any type of flame to thaw a frozen line. Not only is there a danger of fire, extreme heat could thaw the pipe too rapidly, causing it to burst and resulting in potential injury.
If you cannot locate the freeze and there is no water coming from any tap, there is a chance that your service line or your meter is frozen. If your meter is not frozen, it is likely that the service line to your home is frozen. In this case, since all lines on your side of the meter box are the property owner's responsibility, you may need the assistance of a plumber.
Your pipes are bursting. Your fixtures are leaking. Your appliances are flooding. Now what? Cut the water off at its source as soon as you can. Take a little time and prepare for emergencies like this by locating all the shutoff valves in your home.
Full house shutoff.
If your home has metered water, the meter is most commonly mounted on an exterior wall or in the basement or in a streetside “meter pit”. Locate the shutoff on either side of the water meter.
If you have a well, the shutoff is on the house side of the pressure tank. In addition to the shutoff, cut the power to the tank.
Full house hot-water shutoff.
Find the valve on the hot-water heater that controls all of the hot water to the house and close it. (If you don’t have one, ask us to install one for you).
Plumbing and appliance shut-offs:
Sink: These are inline shutoffs usually located under the sink or inside sink cabinets. The right valve shits the cold water, the left valve shuts the hot water.
Dishwasher: Usually under the kitchen sink – look for a reducer coupling and shutoff valve leading to the dishwasher on the 1/2-in. hot-water sink-supply line. If you don’t find it there, look between the ceiling joists in the basement directly under the appliance.
Washing machine: There are usually valves where the house-supply lines meet the washer hoses.
Toilet: Close the inline shutoff usually in the form of a ribbed oval handle found beneath the toilet tank.
Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 44% of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling.
You can save money and increase comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading the systems and equipment throughout your home. (Note that an energy-efficient furnace alone will not lighten your bills as well as using a “whole-house” approach. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, weatherization, and thermostat settings, you can probably reduce your energy bills by 50%!
Household Heating Systems:
Although there are several different types of fuels available to heat our homes, about 80% of us use natural gas.
If you use electricity to heat your home, install an energy-efficient heat pump system. In moderate climates, heat pumps are the most efficient form of electric heating, providing three times more heating than the equivalent amount of energy they consume in electricity.
Heat pumps collect heat from the air, water, or ground outside your home and concentrate it for use inside – they also do double duty as central air conditioners. A heat pump can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating as much as 30% to 40%.
Gas and Oil Heating Systems:
Before purchasing a new heating system, ask your local utility or state energy office for information about the latest technologies available to consumers. Or, call Stashluk, and we can advise you about more efficient systems on the market today. Many newer models have burners and heat exchangers that are more efficient when operating, and reduce heat loss when quiet.
Turn your thermostat down by 10-15% for 8 hours out of every 24, and save up to 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills. This can be accomplished easily, with no discomfort, by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat (do not use with heat pumps). The end result? Amazing savings for very little effort.
8. What to Look For in a New Heating or Cooling System
You want an indoor environment that's healthy. That’s comfortable. That suits your family’s needs. Since we spend so much time indoors, it’s important to ensure comfort and health with a well balanced system incorporating heating, air conditioning, air cleaning and humidification in one complete system. This critical home system plays a huge role in your life – and in the size of your monthly utility bill.
Comfort blows hot and cold.
Regardless of season, the key element in a comfortable home is maintaining a comfortable temperature, year ‘round. The heating and cooling system you choose and the company you select to maintain it is critical to your comfort and affordability. Since heating is most often your major energy expense, it’s important to choose wisely.
Gas- and oil- furnaces heat your home by circulating heated air through a network of ducts. Boilers circulate steam or heated water through a system of pipes and baseboard or radiator-type heat exchangers. Today's furnaces and boilers are extremely efficient. Electric heat pumps are another alternative for those with electric heat. Pumps are energy-efficient, and much more reliable than they once were.
Air conditioning cools your home by moving heat outside and removing humidity from the air. Today's air conditioners are quieter, more reliable and more energy efficient than ever before.
Your house needs to breathe so you can breathe better.
Most contemporary homes are sealed tightly, leading to higher levels of energy-efficiency and weather-proofing. However, a tight seal can lead to stale air…or increased dust and pollutants circulate in the home. Combat this with a high-efficiency electronic air cleaner – it will give you easy, low-maintenance cleaning, and will remove up to 95% of all airborne particles. Or, consider a ventilating system that can offer up to eight air changes a day!
Chase “The Dries” away.
Warm, dry wintertime air from your furnace or heat pump rob your skin of its moisture, and can damage wood furniture and finishes. The solution? A great humidifier. Install a humidifier and replenish the moisture in your skin - bring back a healthy atmosphere for your family - and set your thermostat a few degrees lower. You’ll feel warm, comfortable, and at the same time lower utility bills.
Zoned for comfort.
Install zones, and you can turn heating and cooling on and off in separate parts of your house at will. Less energy will be used – your bills will be up to 30% lower! - and overall comfort is gained.
A. Fix a running toilet or dripping faucet as soon as you notice the problem.
It’s frustrating—and unnecessary—to pay for water you don't even use. Did you know that a constantly running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day? Even the water lost from a faucet because of a slow drip can add up. According to the USGS, just three drips a minute can waste over 100 gallons of water each year! Fixing a constantly running toilet or a slow leaking faucet can significantly reduce your water bill, so don't put it off.
B. Make the most of your laundry loads.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average washing machine uses over 40 gallons of water per load. You can make the most of this water by washing only full loads. If you need to wash a smaller load, remember to use change the load-size setting on your machine.
C. When replacing a toilet, washing machine, or dishwasher, look for models designed to conserve water.
Toilets and appliances made in the past few years are designed to use far less water than their predecessors. Newer toilets reduce water per flush by at least 60 percent. Washing machines save more than 30 percent of water when compared to older models, while new dishwashers reduce water consumption by 10 gallons per cycle. For more information about selecting a high-efficiency appliance, visit the Energy Star website.
D. Take short showers instead of full baths.
Replacing baths with showers greatly reduces water consumption. An average bathtub holds 50 gallons or more of water, but taking a 10-minute shower cuts that water usage in half. Install a low-flow shower head and the savings could be up to three times greater!
E. Practice smart irrigation.
Irrigation is often the biggest source of water usage for a family—as well as the most wasteful. Evaporation, runoff, and over-watering all result in unnecessary water loss. You can minimize this waste by installing a drip irrigation system instead of conventional sprinklers, and landscaping with plants and bushes that require little water. For more information about efficient irrigation, visit the EPA website.
A. Use your appliances efficiently.
You can reduce energy consumption by running the dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full. You can also save money on your monthly energy bill by using newer appliances. New dishwashers and washing machines are designed to use less energy and water than their predecessors. Newer dishwashers are 10 percent more energy efficient than older models, while new washing machines require 37 percent less energy than previous machines. To learn more about selecting a high-efficiency appliance, visit the Energy Star website or call our team today.
B. Get the most out of your furnace and air conditioner.
Furnaces and air conditioners can be extremely expensive to run, especially when they are not operating efficiently. The less air flow you get from your unit, the harder it has to work. To ensure maximum air flow throughout your house, replace the filter at least quarterly (more often during heavy usage months)—and check all air ducts for leaks.
C. Find and seal air leaks in your home.
Air leaks in your home result in your furnace and air conditioner working longer and harder. To eliminate leaks, check for gaps all around the house, focusing especially on baseboards, electrical outlets, windows, doors, and pipes. When you identify a leak, seal it with caulk or weather stripping. Adding extra layers of insulation can also help to reduce air loss in your home.
D. Turn the thermostat down in winter and up in summer.
Sacrificing a little comfort or putting on more layers will result in significant energy and cost savings. You can limit the length of time the furnace and air conditioner run by turning the thermostat down in winter and up in summer. In the summer, you can expect to save between one and three percent on your energy bill for each degree the thermostat is set above 72 degrees. For more conservation information, visit the Consumer Energy Center.
E. Turn the water heater down.
Like the thermostat, turning the water heater down can reduce your energy consumption. Set your water heater to no more than 120 degrees F to maximize efficiency and avoid scalding.