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

Reading MA Heating Question: What Does a Furnace Thermocouple Do?

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Modern appliances are equipped with an array of safety measures to make sure that they operate safely in your Reading MA 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 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.

If you need furnace repair in Reading MA or the surrounding MetroWest area, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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MetroWest Boston Heating Tip: How to Get My Furnace Ready for Winter

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Being cold in the winter is normal – as long as you are outside. But you shouldn’t be cold inside your MetroWest home. If that happens, the first place to look to is your furnace, which may not be working correctly. Furnaces are like any other piece of mechanical equipment. They need to be maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they are working at peak efficiency and warming your entire home at your desired comfort level.

First of all, check and see when you last had your furnace serviced. If it has been over one year ago, you should schedule a maintenance inspection from your local MetroWest heating and cooling professional. And when you make that appointment, ask about service agreements and getting on a regular maintenance schedule. Most heating and cooling contractors offer service agreement plans which include furnace and air conditioning check-ups on an annual basis.

Okay, so you know who to call for maintenance but what can you do yourself? First of all, give your furnace a little “help” by checking the vents and returns throughout the house. Ensure that there are no obstructions or blockages such as rugs, clothing, furniture, etc. You need to have unobstructed paths for your heated and return air to flow. The more congested the path, the harder your furnace will have to work. And while you’re at it, make sure your vents are open or closed, depending on how much you use your rooms. For example, if you have an extra bedroom that doesn’t need to be heated, closed off the vent or close the damper in the ductwork. The heated air will be diverted to other parts of your home where it is needed.

You can also help the airflow by vacuuming the vent cover or removing it and vacuuming any of the ductwork that you can easily get to. For a more thorough job consider calling a qualified and professional duct cleaning contractor. Many heating and cooling contractors also offer duct cleaning service, too.

Another maintenance function that you can perform is cleaning or replacing the furnace filter. Depending on the size of your home and its air quality (occupants, pets, etc.), you may want to clean or replace your air filter every one to three months. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and can put contaminants like dirt and dust right back into your air system. If you don’t know how to replace your air filter, consult the furnace owner’s manual or go online to learn more. If your furnace uses an electrostatic air filter, it will need to be removed and cleaned, either by using a hose or with soapy water and a hose. Make sure you let it dry before re-installing it.

You may also want to inspect any electrical wires around your furnace to ensure none are broken or frayed. A visual inspection should be good enough.

Once you have done what you can, let your MetroWest heating and cooling professional take over from there. Call Basnett Plumbing & Heating today!

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Littleton Plumber’s Guide: Water-Saving Tips and Tricks

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Here are some of our favorite water-saving tips. They are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle – and can save you hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water a year. For more tips about how to improve your Littleton plumbing, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

Whole House

  • Check for leaks – you may save thousands of gallons a month! You can find leaks by looking, listening, and monitoring your water bill for unusually high usage. To check for toilet leaks, put food coloring in your tank. If it gets into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Don’t forget to look for leaks in your outdoor plumbing too.
  • Know where your master water shut-off valve is located. In the event of a major problem, you’ll save thousands of gallons of water – and maybe your possessions as well.

Outdoors

  • Adjust your sprinklers so that you water only your lawn – not your sidewalk or driveway.
  • Consider adding a patio or “outdoor room” to your home. You’ll have less lawn to water and will add thousands of dollars to your home’s value.
  • Do two chores at once – water the grass by washing your car or your pet on the lawn. Be sure to use natural, biodegradable soaps.
  • Have your Littleton plumber re-route your laundry waste water to your lawn (check with local authorities first to be sure this is legal in your town).

In the Bathroom

  • Turn off faucets when you’re not actively using water – such as when you’re lathering your hands, shaving, or brushing your teeth. You’ll save hundreds of gallons each month. New touchless water faucets (or very affordable converters for your existing faucet) make this easy and fun to do, especially for kids.
  • Shorten your shower by only a minute or two, and save 150 gallons of water a month. (You can do this by turning off the shower while you lather your hair.)
  • Replace your old showerhead with a new WaterSense water-saving showerhead. They’re inexpensive and easy to install. You’ll save up to 750 gallons a month (and it’s a great opportunity to get a nice style upgrade too!).
  • Install WaterSense-certified aerators on all your faucets – another inexpensive upgrade that can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  • Insulate hot water pipes so don’t have to run the water as long while you wait for it to heat up.
  • Plug the tub before turning the water on for your bath, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it heats up. Use this water to flush toilets or water plants.

In the Kitchen and Laundry Room

  • Install a tankless water heater near your kitchen sink so you don’t have to run the water while it warms up.
  • If your dishwasher is new, scrape off excess food, but don’t pre-rinse. Modern dishwashers are built to handle un-rinsed items.
  • Upgrade your old water-cooled refrigerator, air conditioner, or ice-maker to a new air-cooled model for a significant reduction in water use
  • When buying new appliances, look for the EnergyStar label, which guarantees high efficiency. Also, look for models that offer cycle and load size adjustments.
  • Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full – you can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

If you need plumbing service in the Littleton area, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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Lancaster MA Plumber’s Tip: Green Your Plumbing

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

These days, “green plumbing” is getting increasing attention, especially in areas like Lancaster MA.

“Green plumbing” helps the environment by doing one or more of the following:

  • Saving water
  • Saving energy
  • Using environmentally-friendly materials

There are a wide range of green plumbing products that can make a big difference in how much water and energy your Lancaster home uses. They range from simple accessories that cost less than $20 to major home remodels. Here are a few of them, ranging from the simple and immediate to larger investments with a longer-term payback.

  • Low-flow showerheads and faucet accessories (often called “aerators”). Check the side of your current faucet and showerhead to see if they use more than 1.5 GPM and 2.0 GPM, respectively. If they do, you can benefit from an upgrade. Look for the EPA WaterSense label to be sure that your new showerheads and faucet accessories are water-efficient.
  • Hot water heater blankets and pipe insulation.You don’t need to insulate your hot water heater and  pipes to prevent freezing, but doing it will save money, water, and energy, and (as a bonus) you’ll enjoy hotter showers in the winter. This is a simple DIY job and the materials are extremely affordable.
  • Touch-free faucets. When you’re not actively using them, touch-free faucets shut off. According to industry estimates, the result can be a water savings of up to 70%. Touch-free faucet technology has improved greatly in recent years, and sensors are now very reliable. If you like your current faucet and want to keep it, there are also touch-free faucet conversion kits.
  • Dual-flush toilets. As the name suggests, these toilets have two different flushes: a “half-flush” for liquid waste, and a “full flush” for solids. Dual-flush toilets are standard in many European countries and are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. because of their water-saving potential (up to 68% over conventional toilets) and sleek styling.
  • Tankless water heaters. Unlike conventional tank heaters, which use energy constantly to maintain a reserve supply of hot water, tankless heaters only use energy when hot water is needed.  Tankless water heaters are not quite “instantaneous”, as some manufacturers claim, but they provide hot water within a few seconds. Good quality heaters can provide hot water to multiple fixtures simultaneously.
  • Sprinkler system upgrades. Much of the water from spray sprinkler systems evaporates. Trickle and drip irrigation systems can improve water efficiency by delivering smaller amounts of water directly to the base of the plant. Other products, such as pressure regulating spray heads and rotors and automatic rain sensors, can also save thousands of gallons a year.

For more tips on how to improve your Lancaster MA plumbing, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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