Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC Blog: Archive for February, 2012

Harvard Boiler Installation Question: What Exactly Are High Efficiency Boilers?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

You have already read plenty about how energy costs are rising. You know plenty well that heating your Harvard home is a substantial expense, and that the cost of running a boiler is constantly on the rise.

But as technology has gotten better, so have boilers become more efficient at providing heat. It stands to reason that a more efficient boiler is one that costs less to run…but what does “efficient” really mean in the context of boilers? What makes a boiler “high efficiency”?

 What Is a High Efficiency Boiler?

All boilers are rated according to a standardized system of rating efficiency, called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Essentially, this rating tells you how much heat energy is produced by a boiler compared to how much energy it draws. The higher a boiler’s AFUE rating, the more efficient it is.

For a boiler to be called high efficiency, it must carry an AFUE of at least 90%. For basis of comparison, older systems carry an AFUE of about 70%, while mid-efficiency systems run at about 82%.

In addition, a high efficiency system has a second heat exchanger for capturing and condensing flue gases, as well as a closed combustion system.

These three things — an AFUE of 90% or above, condensing flue gases and closed combustion – define a high efficiency boiler.

The initial investment in a high efficiency boiler can be costly, but the savings over time in heating bills make it well worth the expense.

If you would like a high efficiency boiler installed in your Harvard home, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call today!

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Carlisle Boiler Installation: Another Happy Customer!

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Having a new heating system installed in your house is a big deal. You don’t need to replace your furnace or boiler very often, and it is a big investment. You also have a lot of different factors to consider before having a new system installed in your home. You need to pick the right size, the right efficiency rating, and the right model for your home. An expert installer should be able to walk you through the process, answer any of your questions, and make sure you are completely satisfied with your purchase.

At Basnett Plumbing & Heating, our highly trained technicians are able to handle any installation. We make sure that our customers are completely satisfied by answering any questions they might have and walking them through any service we perform. Here is what a customer in Carlisle wrote to us about his recent boiler installation:

Thank you so much for completing this installation on time. I am impressed with the quality of installation and the neatness of the layout. I also appreciate the fact that the crew was able to get in and out in one day, avoiding any of the inconveniences typically associated with major work like this. Also, I appreciate Rob coming back to walk me through the setup and to answer post installation questions. It’s too soon to judge the reliability of the equipment (Buderus boiler + SuperStor indirect), but I hope it will provide many years of trouble free service.

– Customer from Carlisle, MA

Thanks! Please let us know if you encounter any problems with your boiler. And remember that annual maintenance will help your system work at peak efficiency and last longer!

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Sudbury Heating Repair Question: What Does a Furnace Thermocouple Do?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Modern appliances are equipped with an array of safety measures to make sure that they operate safely in your Sudbury home. This includes gas furnaces, which are harmless when working correctly but can be unsafe if something goes wrong. Perhaps the most crucial safety feature of a gas furnace is the thermocouple, also called a flame sensor.

Essentially, a furnace thermocouple works as a kill switch to shut off the furnace in case the gas is not igniting, like if the pilot light is out. Here is how it works.

The thermocouple is made up of two pieces of metal which are welded together at one end, called the “hot end” because it actually sits directly in the path of the furnace flame. On the cold end, it is wired to a circuit. Under normal circumstances, when the furnace is switched on, gas flows through the line and is ignited by a pilot light, ignition spark or glow coil. The flame heats up the thermocouple, and the furnace stays on.

However, sometimes the gas may not ignite, for example if the pilot light is out or the glow coil is faulty. In these cases, if there were no thermocouple, gas would continue to flow out without being lit, creating a very dangerous, poisonous and potentially lethal situation.

What the thermocouple does is detect heat, so if the furnace is on, but the hot end of the thermocouple has not heated up, that circuit up at the cold end kills the power to the furnace so that gas cannot continue to flow out unchecked. That way, you do not have to worry about a gas leak building to dangerous levels without being aware of it.

Sometimes, the thermocouple can malfunction, causing the furnace to shut off even if the burners are working just fine. Usually that is just the result of build up on the hot end over time, which can be fixed pretty quickly. If you suspect a problem with your thermocouple, be sure to give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

 

 

 

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Happy President’s Day from Your Metrowest Area Plumbing and HVAC Contractors!

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Everyone at Basnett Plumbing & Heating wishes you a happy President’s Day! Today we appreciate all of the great leaders that helped shape our nation. Whether you have the day off today or not, it is a good time to think about how you can help make community a better place. From volunteering to recycling, helping improve your town can be pretty simple. Remember that upgrading your HVAC system can cut down on the amount of fuel you need to keep your home comfortable, and making your home more environmentally friendly is something that helps everyone.

Here is some great trivia about our presidents in honor of this day:

  • The only president who never married
    •  James Buchanan
  • Number of presidents who never attended college
    • Nine (Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Cleveland, and Truman)
  • Number of presidents who died in office
    •  Eight (Harrison, Taylor, Garfield, Lincoln, McKinley, F.D. Roosevelt, Kennedy)
  • Presidents Portrayed on US coins
    • Lincoln (penny)
    • F.D.  Roosevelt (dime)
    • Kennedy (half-dollar)
    • Eisenhower (dollar coin)
    • Jefferson (nickel)
    • Washington (quarter)
  • Presidents Portrayed on US Currency
    • Washington (one dollar bill)
    • Jefferson (two dollar bill)
    • Lincoln (five dollar bill)
    • Hamilton (ten dollar bill)
    • Jackson (twenty dollar bill)
    • Grant  (fifty dollar bill)
    • Franklin (one hundred dollar bill)

Have a great President’s Day!

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Wayland Plumbing Repair Question: Why Is My Toilet Dry and How Can I Fix It?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Under normal circumstances, after you flush your toilet in your Wayland home, the tank and bowl both fill back up with water, preparing it for the next use. The water from the tank is what flushes into the bowl when you push the handle, so if it is not filling properly, then the toilet will be dry.

This problem is troublesome, but not uncommon. It has a number of possible causes and fixes.

The first place to look is the water supply to the tank. If it has been inadvertently turned off, then obviously the tank will not fill. This is akin to the troubleshooting section of your old VCR manual, where it tells you to make sure the power cord is plugged in. It may sound silly, but it never hurts to check the most obvious and easily fixed of the possible causes first.

Another possibility that is very easy to fix is that the ballcock inside the tank has jammed at the top. Inside your toilet tank is a rubberized bulb connected to an arm. This bulb floats in water and controls the intake valve on the toilet tank. So, when the water level reaches a certain depth, the ballcock floats and closes the valve. However, if the ballcock is jammed in an upward position, it would keep the valve closed even if the tank is empty.

In this case, it may just be a matter of pushing the ballcock past the jam and then making sure it moves up and down freely. That alone may fix it.

A third common cause of the dry toilet problem is a clogged intake valve beneath the toilet. These valves can become clogged and then not allow water through, especially in systems with hard water or particularly old pipes.

If this is the problem – or if it is anything besides one of the two simple fixes described above – the best solution is to call Basnett Plumbing & Heating. We will correctly identify the source of the problem and perform the necessary repairs. It’s likely not going to be a huge repair, but it’s best to entrust the job to a pro.

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Your MetroWest Area Contractor!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Everyone at Basnett Plumbing & Heating wishes you a very Happy Valentine’s Day! We hope your day is full of love and laughter.  Valentine’s Day is a time to really appreciate all of the wonderful people in your life, including your significant other, your family, and your friends. Take a moment today to let each of them know how special they are to you. Even something simple, like a handmade card, can really make someone’s whole day!

While your HVAC system might not seem like the most romantic place to start your gift giving, a few simple upgrades can make your house more comfortable, which is something your whole family will appreciate! A HEPA filter can keep dust and allergens out of your air, and a new furnace or heat pump can keep your house at more consistent temperatures and cut down on your energy use. An upgrade to your HVAC system is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

For more information about easy ways to improve your home, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call! And to help make your Valentine’s Day as happy as it can be, here is a recipe for Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

“This is the simplest version of chocolate covered strawberries I know. Paraffin was originally used instead of shortening. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert by the toothpicks into a piece of styrofoam for easy cooling, or simply place them on a sheet of wax paper. White chocolate may be drizzled over the milk chocolate for a fancier look. They are perfect for weddings when decorated with frosting bow ties, bells, butterflies, roses, etc.”

INGREDIENTS:

16 ounces milk chocolate chips

2 tablespoons shortening

1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
  3. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

 

 

 

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Southborough Plumber’s Guide: How to Prevent Bathroom Water Damage

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Water damage. Even the mere mention of potential damage from excess water in your Southborough house is enough to send a chill down your spine. However, there are a number of things you can do to avoid such damage, especially in the bathroom.

The Bathtub

The biggest single contributors to water damage are the shower and bathtub, where gallons upon gallons of water are distributed every day. You can minimize damage by doing the following:

  • Tiles – Check for missing or cracked tiles and replace them immediately. Supplement the tiles with grout that is properly sealed and check for any potential leaks.
  • Keep it Dry – There is a lot of water in your bathroom. Keep it off the floor by drying it up after a shower, hair washing or any other moisture producing activity in the bathroom. Make sure you minimize the risk of excess water by placing bathmats on the floor outside your shower.
  • Exhaust Fan – Water builds up in a bathroom because there is no moving air. Humidity can be just as damaging as actual wetness, especially if it settles in cooler temperatures. To avoid this happening, install an exhaust fan attached to the light switch to draw out any moisture after a shower.

Sinks and Fixtures

  • Check Under the Sink – Look under the sink and make sure there are no drips from the faucet and no leaks from the trap. You may simply need to check and clean the trap once every month or so.
  • Seals – Check sink seals on a regular basis for cracks or leaks and replace them when necessary.
  • Speed of Drainage – If the sink drains slowly, the drain may be clogged. Check the trap and if that doesn’t help, pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down weekly.
  • Upgrades – Upgrade your fixtures to save water. Toilets eat water to the tune of 40% of your annual consumption and your shower head can be made almost twice as efficient without cutting into your comfort level. If you notice a drip, crack or leak from any of these devices, simply upgrade them and you’ll save a lot of water (and reduce how much of it could leak if a problem occurs in the future).

There are a lot of ways to avoid water leaks in your bathroom. Keep a close eye on things and it will be much easier than if you waited for a full blown problem to develop. If you suspect that there is a problem with your plumbing, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call today!

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Bolton Plumbing Repair Tip: Common Plumbing Problems

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Plumbing may seem like a complex mystery, but some common plumbing problems you can investigate yourself before calling in a Bolton plumber.

 Drainage Difficulties

Whether it’s a slow drain, a backed up drain, strange gurgling sounds emanating from a drain or unexplained wet spots on the lawn along the path of a drainage pipe, no one wants to deal with a messy drainage debacle.

However, if you are experiencing one of those problems, here are some steps to try in order to get to the bottom of it:

  1. Explore the extent of the problem. If it is just your kitchen sink that runs slowly or backs up, then you know it is localized, but if all  your toilets are backing up, then that is probably a different kind of problem.
  2. If there is just one offending drain — as in the kitchen sink example — flush it with boiling water and/or white vinegar. If necessary, you can also try a commercial drain clearing product.
  3. With a more general plumbing problem, it helps to determine the route along which the water is draining. See if you can figure out where the drain pipes run through your home, which can help you determine if the problem is somewhere along the drainage line.

 Wasted Water

Has your water bill gone through the roof lately? This could be due to wasted water that you don’t even know about. Below are some  causes of wasted water and how to determine them.

  1. Dripping faucet or running toilet. This can be pretty obvious because they make noise, so listen up! Especially pay attention if the toilet runs sporadically at unexpected times.
  2. A leaky pipe. This culprit is trickier, so look for signs of water along your base boards, on the floor near plumbing fixtures and underneath sinks.
  3. If you still can’t find the culprit, check your water meter and note the reading. Then check it again in an hour to see how much was used. This piece of information can at lease clue you in to the extent of the problem.

These techniques aren’t foolproof and won’t help you determine 100% of problems, so don’t be afraid to call Basnett Plumbing & Heating to fix any problems you might be having with your plumbing!

 

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Concord Heating Repair Tip: Things to Try Before Calling a Professional

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Your Concord home’s HVAC system can seem like very daunting and complex equipment, so you might not want to work on by yourself. While it’s true that HVAC equipment can be complicated and needs the attention of a skilled professional more often than most homeowners would like, there are still ways for the DIY-ers out there to work on their HVAC systems before resorting to calling in the pros.

There are some common culprits when it comes to most HVAC problems and malfunctions, so if something goes awry in the operation of your equipment, there are some basic measures you can try to get things back on track.

If any of these work, you have saved the cost of the repair and get the satisfaction of a job well done:

  • Turn all switches – indoors and outdoors – off, then back on again. Do the same thing with the pertinent circuit breakers. Sometimes the system just needs a hard reset to jolt it back to life.
  • Check your thermostat. Is the temperature set where it is supposed to be? If it is too high or too low, the HVAC system will stay on too long or shut itself off too quickly.
  • Make sure your system is in the right mode for the season. It may sound obvious, but for whatever reason, sometimes things wind up in heating mode during cooling season.
  • Check your filters. Clean and/or replace them as necessary. (You do this once a month anyway, right?)
  • Inspect the vents around your home to see if any are blocked, clogged or excessively dirty. Vents that don’t properly circulate the air can cause all kinds of problems within an HVAC system.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the things that can go wrong with an HVAC system, but it is at least the usual suspects for the most simple and common problems that many Concord homeowners encounter. After trying these out, if you are still experiencing difficulties, call Basnett Plumbing & Heating today to have one of our expert technicians diagnosis the problem.

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Carlisle Plumber’s Guide: Troubleshooting Drain Problems

Monday, February 6th, 2012

It’s Saturday afternoon and you are preparing dinner for a number of guests in your Carlisle home. The kitchen is packed with groceries and you start to clean a lot of veggies for dipping. But there is a problem. The drain in your kitchen sink is “acting funny.” It drains slowly and is making a gurgling sound. In fact, it’s beginning to smelly funny, too.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Before you hit the panic button, let’s take a moment to troubleshoot the problem. Maybe it isn’t much of a problem after all.

First of all, is the problem confined to just the kitchen sink? There may be similar problems in other sinks, which would indicate a larger problem with the plumbing in your home. Hopefully, the kitchen sink is the only area you need to be concerned with.

Next, if you have a two-basin sink who should check to see if both sides are clogged or just one. Remove all dishes and utensils and run water on both sides. If water drains from one and not the other, there is a clog somewhere in the pipe leading to the union of both pipes. You have now centralized the drain problem. If both sides back up, the clog is further down the pipe. But it is still not a big problem.

One way to troubleshoot for drain problems is to simply run very hot water down the drain. This tends to break up clogs of grease by melting it away. The fix can also be as simple as running the garbage disposal long enough to dislodge any debris. You may even want to grind up some food you were planning to dispose of or take some lettuce greens and use the disposal on them. If this food takes a long time to grind or doesn’t at all, the disposal may be the culprit, leading to blocked drains.

And if you are preparing for your party by taking a shower and the shower drain is acting funny, don’t hit the panic button just yet. You may just have a build-up of hair or skin on the drain cover or screen. Use you foot to swish around the water and if water drains more quickly when you do this, the fix can be as simple as reaching down and picking up the debris. Having a plunger nearby helps, too.

If the problem persists, call a Basnett Plumbing & Heating to have one of our qualified Carlisle plumbers come out to take a look!

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