Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC Blog: Archive for February, 2014

Steam Versus Hot Water Boilers: What’s the Difference?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

One interesting fact about boilers: most of them don’t “boil.” At least, not any more. If you’ve ever watched old gangster movies where a gunfight in a boiler room caused steam to start blasting all over the place, then you know that steam power was once important for boiler operation. Boilers raised the temperature of the water above the boiling point to convert the water to steam, and this high pressure steam moved through the pipes to radiators to provide heat.

Steam is a highly efficient heat transfer fluid, but most boilers today use hot water instead of steam, and a pump on the water tank circulates the heat through the pipes to the radiators. But steam boilers are still available and are sometimes the better option for certain homes. We’ll look at the main differences between them to help you decide which one your home needs. You can count on Basnett Plumbing & Heating to assist you so that you get the best possible heating in Groton, MA possible.

Steam vs. Hot Water

The main difference between a steam boiler and a hot water boiler is the amount of energy each uses. A steam boiler must burn more fuel (gas or oil) to raise the temperature of its water to boiling level, and this makes hot water boilers more energy efficient, using approximately 25% less energy than steam boilers. For many homes, this is significant enough to prefer hot water over steam.

However, as mentioned above, steam is more efficient at the transfer of heat than hot water. Once steam is created from water, the steam is able to provide a larger output of heat than hot water, up to 300+ MBH. (1 MBH = 1,000 BTUs per hour.) This makes steam heaters capable of dealing with extreme levels of cold and helping homes that have poor insulation. Few heating systems available can produce as much heat as a steam boiler.

However, most homes will not need this level of heat power from their boiler. Steam boilers also require special safety precautions because of the temperature of the steam (the water must be heated to 212°F) and require rigid regular maintenance.

The right choice for you (and the right maintenance)

If you live in a house that suffers heavy drafts during harsh winter days, a steam boiler may do the best job keeping you warm. Have an HVAC technician perform a heat load calculation for your home to determine if the power of a steam boiler will help you keep warm. If you decide to have a steam boiler installed, make sure that you schedule regular maintenance for it to keep it safe. Basnett Plumbing & Heating can take care of both the installation and maintenance for your steam boiler. Of course, we handle hot water boilers as well! Trust us with all your heating in Groton, MA.

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Can a Furnace Rust?

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Rust is a major threat to homes, and has been since humans first started using iron. The effect of rust on metal is a reduction in strength that eventually leads to metal flaking away to nothing. If you notice rust on major appliances, it usually means you need to call for repairs… and you may need to replace the appliance entirely.

How does this apply to a furnace? Furnaces, whether gas or electric, do not use water and shouldn’t come in contact with it—unless through flooding—so it seems logical that rust would rarely threaten them. However, furnaces can rust… and often do. When this happens, you need to call for furnace repair from Littleton, MA professionals. Basnett Plumbing & Heating does extensive work with all types of furnaces, and we can help you when corrosion strikes your furnace.

How Rust can Affect a Gas Furnace

Many homeowners are unaware of this, but moisture actually is part of a gas furnace’s heating cycle. When the combustion gas from the burner gathers inside the heat exchanger, it changes into a liquid vapor as it cools down. The vapor then vents out the exhaust flue. However, prolonged exposure between combustion vapor and the metal of the exchangers will lead to corrosion—especially if the furnace isn’t venting correctly.

Corrosion on a heat exchanger is a potentially dangerous situation, since it can lead to carbon monoxide leaks. This is the main reason rust on a furnace must be remedied as soon as possible. Annual maintenance will check to see if rust is developing along the exchanger, and replace the exchanger when necessary and look for the problem with venting.

Rust will often start to occur on a very old gas furnace simply because of the long years of reaction between the combustion gas and the metal. Usually, this is a sign that the old furnace needs replacement.

What about Electric Furnaces?

Rust can also affect an electric furnace. Moisture from humidity often enters the ventilation system attached to the furnace, coming through the intakes and into the cabinet. There is also the potential problem from a malfunctioning air conditioner evaporator coil, which is usually fixed above the furnace. If the AC develops an overflow in its condensate pan, water will drip down onto the furnace and cause it to rust. If you see moisture dripping from your furnace, call for repairs. (Both of these issues can affect gas furnaces as well, by the way.)

Repair—and Prevent—Furnace Rust

You may need to replace a heavily rusted older furnace. But if you catch the rusting soon enough on a younger furnace, professional repairs should be able to fix it. The best way to catch the trouble before it turns into a replacement is to schedule regular maintenance. Contact Basnett Plumbing & Heating to sign up for our Ultimate Maintenance Agreement and help avoid future repair in Littleton, MA for a rusty furnace.

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Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often seen as a modern institution, even if the roots of the holiday go back to Late Antiquity and the figures of St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni. It’s difficult to separate our view of February 14th from the more recent phenomenon of greeting cards, comical cupids, and specialty treats from candy companies.

However, not only are some of these traditions older than we might think (mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were an enormous success in early 19th-century England), but the earliest Valentine’s Day love poem comes from none other than the first great English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in the second half of the 14th-century.

Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia.

The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears (English modernized):

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,

When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.                                                                  

The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows:

Under a tree, beside a well, I saw

Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;                                                             

And at his feet his bow already lay.

When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14th? Late winter isn’t a time when birds in England would mate. However, the date for the start of spring—when some birds would have started nesting in England—was on February 23rd in the calendars of the time, certainly close enough for Chaucer to take poetic license and nudge it a bit to match with Valentine’s Day.

Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this we can thank Chaucer. In fact, he may very well have invented the link between love and Valentine’s Day, although we will probably never know for certain.

Whoever started these traditions, all of us here at Basnett Plumbing & Heating hope you have a wonderful February 14th!

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Radiant Heating FAQs

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Radiant heating describes heat received from an object whose temperature has been raised. For many years, the most common form of  heating in homes was the radiator, but furnaces (because you can use the ducts for heating and air conditioning) have become the most popular heating system. However, radiant heating has started to return to popularity in a different form: radiant floor heating.

People often have questions about radiant floor heating. We’ll answer some of the most common ones. If you want radiant floor heating installation or heating repair in Littleton, MA, call our staff at Basnett Plumbing & Heating today

How does radiant heating work?

Most radiant heating systems are hydronic, with a boiler circulating hot water through pipes. These pipes run underneath floorboards and send heat directly into them. The heat then radiates off the boards and into the room.

Does radiant heating really feel better than other kinds of heating?

How heat “feels” is subjective, but most homeowners who have radiant heating installed describe the sensation as similar to warmth from direct sunlight. There is also something wonderful about the feeling of toasty warmth under your feet on a cold morning.

Can I have radiant heating installed in an existing home?

Yes. Radiant heating is often installed in new homes as part of construction, but with the proper, trained installers on the job, a home can be retro-fit for radiant floor heating. It does require extensive construction work, however, so some homeowners opt to have heating put in for an individual room, such as a bathroom.

What advantages does radiant heating have over forced-air heating?

For one thing, radiant heating is “cleaner” than forced-air heating because it doesn’t pick up dust and dirt contamination from ductwork. Radiant heating is also more effective because it comes from underneath and rises upward, where forced-air heating often blows out air that gathers at the ceiling, taking longer to fill a room.

Is radiant floor heating difficult to repair?

Not as much as you might think. Repairs rarely require tearing out floorboards to reach broken pipes. Most fixes only need one or two small holes to access leaks and seal them. And, since hydronic systems have few moving parts, they generally do not need many repairs as long as they receive regular maintenance.

How can I get started with radiant heating?

This is the easiest question to answer: just contact Basnett Plumbing & Heating and talk to one of our experts in installation and heating repair in Littleton, MA. We can discuss your options and our range of services for radiant heating. Even if radiant heating doesn’t end up as your best choice for home comfort, our technicians will find a system that will work for you.

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