Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Essex County’

Chelmsford Plumbing Tip: What You Can Do to Prevent Problems in Your Drains

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

When you look at your Chelmsford home’s drain, it seems fairly simple. You pour things down and they disappear into the ether, never to be seen again. Of course, that logic goes out the window the second the drain starts to backup or overflow. There are things you can do to avoid such problems though and most of the time, they cost nothing and take only a few minutes a week.

Simple Household Drain Maintenance

The first step to avoiding a problem is not putting anything down your drain that might cause said problem in the first place. Specifically, avoid grease, food, or other objects that might build up in your drains if not properly disposed.

Food can be broken down by a garbage disposal or, even better, placed in a compost pile. Grease, however, should never enter your sink at all. Pour all old kitchen grease into a coffee pot or bucket and dispose of it carefully. It can be thrown away in some places, or it can be recycled. Whatever you do, though, don’t pour it down the drain.

Another easy tip to keeping those drains clear is to pour a natural compound down every now and then like dishwashing liquid or baking soda and vinegar. Expensive drain cleaners are not only unnecessary – they are unsafe for the person using them and can cause damage to the pipes if you are not careful. To avoid such damage, stick with hot water based compounds and vinegar. The key is to do it preventatively.

If you wait until a full blown clog occurs, baking soda and vinegar may not get the job done and you’ll need to call a Chelmsford plumber who has a snake or other equipment to get the clog out.

Professional Maintenance

While regular flushing of your drain with hot water and vinegar allows you to clear out the vast majority of the stuff that builds up there every week, it’s also a good idea to call a professional for annual maintenance. Such annual maintenance involves visual inspection, professional grade clearing of food and waste products and a full flush. Done properly, this will minimize the cost of future repairs and replacements and keep your Chelmsford plumbing running smoothly for years to come.

For more information about how you can maintain your plumbing, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call today!

 

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Still River Heating Tips: Simple Steps to Prevent Heat Loss

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

There are two fundamental ways to make your Still River house warmer. One is to generate heat, which is the job of your furnace or boiler. The second is to keep the warm air in — and thereby keep cold air out — which is the job of your system of insulation.

The idea that the physical structure of a home can be a component of the HVAC system is one that is often overlooked, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The insulation, windows, doors and building materials that comprise your home are designed to keep the place warm against the cold and vice versa.

So, when bolstering your HVAC system to promote efficient heating, it is important to also consider heat loss and how to prevent it. This is a process that can get out of hand if you go overboard, so it is important to prioritize. Let’s look at the top 3 places to start when trying to prevent heat loss.

  1. Doors and Windows:  If you have older doors and windows, they could be a source of heat loss in your house, even if they are always closed. Replacing your windows and door with Energy Star rated ones will make sure that you are not losing heat to the outside AND still getting all the heat energy from the sun. Installing storm windows or putting up heavy curtains in winter can also help cut down on your heat loss.
  1. Seal off drafts. If any opening to your house, such as windows and doors, is improperly sealed, improperly installed or if the surrounding construction is deteriorating, you can lose a lot of heat. Check any drafts that you notice that might indicate a problem, and also if your vents and air ducts are leaky.
  1. Start at the top. If you want to go farther in sealing your house up against the cold, it is time to work on the insulation. When installing new insulation, remember that heat rises, so you get the most bang for your buck by starting at the top. If you only have the budget or time to insulate one space, make it the attic. You can work down from there.

These areas should be your top three priorities on your mission to prevent heat loss in your Still River home. If you start here, you will get the best gains with the least effort. If you have any questions about how to keep your home warm this winter, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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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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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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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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Carlisle Plumber’s Guide: History of Plumbing

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Everyone in Carlisle knows that water runs downhill, right? That’s because of gravity. And that simple theory was the key milestone in the history of plumbing. As far back as the days of the Roman Empire, people were using gravity to move water from its source to where it was used. There were no systems of piping back then and no way to pressurize a means of transporting water from one location to another.

The beauty of the gravity movement was how the Roman engineers achieved it – through the use of aqueducts. These aqueducts carried water from higher elevations in mountains to the cities below. Some of them were outdoor architectural marvels but most of the water was carried through underground tunnels. The gravity that carried the water was achieved by a slight pitch in the tunnel or aqueduct. It is estimated that as much as 300 million gallons of water found its way into Rome every day.

The fall of the Roman Empire brought the demise of this elaborate system but other plumbing marvels followed in the decades and centuries to come.

The means of transporting water changed from aqueducts and tunnels to something that was very abundant in the early stages of developing countries like the United States – namely wood. Hollowed out logs were the forefathers of modern iron pipes. These wooden pipe systems were found in the northeastern U.S. in the 1800s. Unfortunately, wood exposed to water soon deteriorated and rotted – and also left a bad taste to the water.

Iron and steel water pipes began to show up in the late 1800s in the U.S. These pipes were characterized by their heavy weight. The next generation of piping was made from copper. This material was introduced in the early 1900s and became commonly used by the middle of the century. Eventually, plastic was used to replace copper and steel. It is less expensive and just as durable.

Of course, any type of indoor plumbing was deemed a luxury for the “common” homeowner in the 1800’s and 1900’s. Indoor plumbing was not a standard and as late as the 1940s and 50s, many homes still utilized the good old fashioned outhouses as toilet facilities. That happened, in part, because towns did not have central water pumping and treatment facilities – and there were no city sewer lines to tap into. And the cost of indoor plumbing was out of some household budgets.

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Boxborough Plumber’s Guide: How to Shut Off Your Water Supply

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

In the case of a plumbing emergency, the last thing you want to do is watch as more water continues to pour into your Boxborough home through a burst pipe, broken appliance or busted water valve. So, the first step should always be to turn off your main water supply valve. Here are some tips for finding that valve and getting the water supply off as soon as possible.

Finding Your Main Water Supply Valve

The valve is almost always located in one of two places. It will either be outside at the entry point for the water supply to your house or it will be located in your basement or garage between the inlet and the main water line. In some cases, it may be even be under an access panel in basement. However, this is less common than the first two options.

Once you find the main water supply valve, turn it off to immediately stop more water from entering your home. If you notice that water is continuing to enter your home, you have a problem before the entry valve and should call the city immediately because one of their pipes might have burst.

Shutting Off Individual Appliances

In many cases, the problem is related to a single appliance. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to turn off the entire water supply – just the supply valve for the specific appliance or fixture. Every major water fixture and appliance in your home should have its own shutoff valve in an easy to reach place. This goes for every sink, toilet, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine in your home – not having those valves can be dangerous.

Once you have turned off your water supply, it’s time to call a plumber. Make sure to keep track of everything you do (take notes if you can) and supply that information to the plumber both on the phone and when they arrive. It will help them diagnose and solve the problem much faster.

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Groton Furnace Pointers: Fuel Types

Monday, January 9th, 2012

In most cases, you’ll have a choice concerning what type of fuel you’d like your Groton home’s furnace to burn. For most people, this choice comes down to propane, oil or natural gas. The one you choose could significantly impact the cost of heating your home for many years to come, but it’s usually a pretty clear cut decision.

One thing to remember is that most furnaces that burn natural gas can also burn propane. If you don’t yet have a propane tank but are considering getting one, you might not have to make a final decision just yet. Although it’s generally better to set up your furnace for one type of fuel and then leave it that way, you will likely still have the option of converting later on if you should choose to.

If you do have access to natural gas, though, that’s probably going to be your best option. Furnaces that burn natural gas or propane are generally much more efficient than any other type of furnace on the market. You can get them with annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) ratings as low as 80% and as high as 97+%, so that ensures that you’ll be able to find the one to fit your specific situation.

If you’re facing particularly harsh and frigid winters, you’ll want to choose the most energy efficient option available to you and that’s pretty much always going to be a natural gas furnace. Of course, when you’re looking to decide between natural gas and propane as a fuel source, you’ll just want to compare the relative cost for each in your area. For some people natural gas is cheaper, while it’s propane for others. And since your furnace will operate at the same efficiency no matter which of these fuels you choose, you just need to choose the cheapest.

Oil is certainly an option as well, but if you’re looking for a very high efficiency furnace, you’re not going to find one that burns oil. That doesn’t mean that an oil burning furnace might not be a good investment for you. If you don’t have access to natural gas in your area and your heating load isn’t that high, oil might be a perfectly economical choice for you.

If you do opt for a super high efficiency furnace, but don’t have access to natural gas lines, propane is probably the way to go as opposed to oil.

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Berlin Plumbing Guide: How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink

Friday, January 6th, 2012

There are lots of reasons why your Berlin home’s kitchen sink can clog. And in order to unclog the sink, it is important to know why it clogged up in the first place. It is easy to suggest a simple solution but the “one size fits all” philosophy doesn’t always work.

As simple as it sounds, you don’t want to use a grease dissolving agent on a clog caused by a fork that is stuck sideways in a pipe. You also don’t want to mess around with the plumbing if the solution is as simple as using a snake or pouring some dissolver down the drain. If the clog is obvious you can save yourself a lot of time and effort.

If the drain is clogged, the easiest thing to do is to operate the garbage disposal, provided it is tied into the drain. But you don’t want to turn on the disposal until you have checked for obstructions in the drain, namely utensils. Remove any utensils before turning on the garbage disposal. Sometimes even the smallest amount of debris can stop up a drain and a simple flip of the disposal switch clears it away.

If that solution doesn’t work you may want to do the following procedures – in order – to unclog the drain.

  • Run extremely hot water in the sink. This can sometimes dissolve whatever is clogging the drain by breaking down the debris.
  • Use a plunger. A blast of forced air from a plunger can often do the trick. If the clogged drain is connected by pipe to another drain (a sink with two basins), you would need to plug the other drain when plunging. Forced air will find the least path of resistance and may bypass the clog and exit out another opening.
  • Use a liquid or granulated dissolver, poured directly into the clogged drain. There are many products on the market for this task. Make sure you read the instructions carefully before dumping chemicals into your drain.
  • Snake out the pipes. Stubborn clogs that are resistant to the above solutions may require that you use a hand-held or portable snake in the pipes leading to the drain. Again, read the instructions on how to operate the snake in order to avoid damage to the pipes, drain, or yourself!
  • If the clog persists, there may be a bigger problem going on. At this point you have to ask yourself if you feel comfortable taking the plumbing apart to find the cause of the clog. There could be other more serious problems going on further down the plumbing circuit, i.e. roots in the pipes.

The last may require the help of a Berlin plumbing professional. You have to ask yourself if you have the time and the knowledge to disassemble your drain and pipes. It may cost you more in the long run if you damage any parts during the procedure or create other “add-on” problems.

Remember to try the easiest solutions first and if you are still unable to unclog your drain, call a qualified plumber who will safe you time and peace of mind.

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