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

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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Maynard Heat Pump Tip: Heat Pumps and Energy Efficiency

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Heat pumps offer a number of great benefits. For one, they are inclusive heating and cooling solutions, so they can maintain your Maynard home at a comfortable temperature year round without the need for an additional system.

They run on electricity, so you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of additional bills and keeping a fuel supply around. They are also quiet and relatively easy to maintain—the list goes on and on. The point is, provided you live in a climate where heat pumps can operate properly, they make for great heating and cooling options.

One other huge advantage of heat pumps is that they are very energy efficient, often much more so than other heating and cooling options. For one, the heating efficiency of heat pumps can range from 150-300%, meaning that the amount of heat energy they are able to produce is 1.5 to 3 times greater than the amount of electricity they draw to do it. That is an incredibly efficient exchange.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency awards the EnergyStar to devices and appliances that surpass energy efficiency guidelines. Heat pumps that have earned the EnergyStar are even more efficient than their brethren, sometimes by as much as 9%, according to the EPA. If you have an older heat pump in your home already, a newer EnergyStar rated model may be as much as 20% more efficient.

While these numbers by themselves may not seem Earth shattering, consider two things. First, in an age of constantly escalating energy costs, any savings are welcome. Second, rewarding energy efficient homes has been a focus of the federal government for a few years. To that end, homes with EnergyStar rated heat pumps installed may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 30%. So, not only do these devices help you save on your bills, but on your taxes as well.

The benefits of heat pumps are numerous, but perhaps none is a bigger plus than their extremely efficient use of energy. You can save electricity and save money, all while keeping your home comfortable year round.

If you are considering a heat pump for your Maynard home, these benefits are important to keep in mind while making your decision. Call Basnett Plumbing & Heating today to learn more!

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Littleton Plumbing Queston: What Size Water Heater Do I Need for My Home?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

When installing a new water heater in your Littleton home, it is important to get one that is the appropriate size. Of course, one that is too small will not handle the capacity you need, so you will be stuck with water that is not quite hot enough.

You may think to just buy one that you are sure can more than handle the capacity you need, but there are drawbacks to this strategy. A water heater that is “too big” will also draw more power, resulting in waste and unnecessarily high bills. Plus, it will cost more up front than you really need to spend.

The trick is to get a water heater that is the correct size for your needs. For a conventional water heater with a tank, the metric you will need to refer to is the unit’s first hour rating, or FHR. To determine the necessary FHR, you first need to determine during which hour of the day your home uses the most water. Typically, this is either first thing in the morning or later in the evening, when most people are bathing. Once you know this, determine what the water usage is during that hour based on average usage for each task. For example, let’s say a typical morning in your home consists of:

  • 3 showers (average of 12 gallons each)
  • 1 food preparation (5 gallons)
  • 1 hand dishwashing (4 gallons)

That’s about 45 gallons of hot water needed during that hour, so you need a unit with an FHR somewhere in that ballpark. The U.S. Department of Energy has a good worksheet to use for these measurements, which includes average usage rates for common household hot water tasks.

If you are looking at getting a tankless water heater system, the process is a little more complicated. The important figure to know in that situation is the maximum temperature increase possible for a particular flow rate. That means adding up the flow rates for all the various appliances you may use at once, then figuring out how much you need to increase the temperature.

If you find any of this confusing, consider a professional consultation with Basnett Plumbing & Heating during the selection process. That will ensure you get the water heater that is right for you.

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MetroWest Plumbing Guide: Stop Sink Clogs Before They Start

Monday, July 9th, 2012

A clogged bathroom sink can disrupt your morning routine. A clogged kitchen sink can make preparing dinner a frustrating task. Stop those annoying plumbing problems before they happen in your MetroWest home by understanding how clogs occur. The main culprits are grease, hair, and food.

Hydrophobic and Hydrophyllic

In the world of chemistry, substances that dissolve in water are hydrophyllic. Salt and sugar are the most obvious examples. Substances that don’t dissolve in water, such as grease, oil, and organic solvents, are hydrophobic. They will quickly cling to any available surface that allows them to separate from water. Grease and oil from different sources will clump together rather mix with water.

When grease and oil are poured down a sink, they coat the inside of the drain pipe. Water will not remove them. Soaps and detergents are effective cleaners because they have both hydrophobic and hydrophyllic properties. They can pull some of the grease and oil away from the walls of the drain and into the  water, but the base layer of grease stuck to the pipe will not move. Over time, the grease stuck inside the drain accumulates. Hair and food debris gets caught in the grease. Eventually, the clot becomes large enough to stop the water from moving. No matter how much water you flush down the drain, the grease clot stays put.

Hair and Food

We all know we’re not supposed to flush things down the drain, but when we use a bathroom sink for routine grooming, it’s almost impossible to prevent an occasional hair from falling into the drain. When cleaning the dishes after meals, a small amount of food waste inevitably makes its way into the kitchen sink drain.

Over time, the strands of hair and bits of food accumulate in the U-shaped portion of the drain called the trap. Once an object becomes snagged inside the trap, it becomes an anchor for other objects to grab hold of. A clot of hair,  food particles, and other debris slowly accumulates.

Preventing Clogs

Most MetroWest homeowners know that cooking grease should never be poured down a sink. But they may not realize that many foods, even lean foods like chicken or fish, give off small amounts of grease or fat when they cook. Scraps of food ground up in the garbage disposal can release grease that clings to the walls of the drain. For any busy kitchen, it’s nearly impossible to prevent some grease or oil from making its way into the drain. To help prevent a grease build up in the kitchen sink, add some dish detergent whenever you put cooking liquid, food scraps, or plate scrapings into the sink. Follow up with lots of hot water. For bathroom sinks, when you see a hair fall into the sink, try to wipe it away with tissue before it slides down the drain.

If you do get a clog in your MetroWest  plumbing, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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Andover Air Conditioning Q/A: Is it Cost Effective to Use a Ceiling Fan and AC at the Same Time?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

There are a lot of ways to keep your house cool in the summer, and chances are you’ve incorporated more than one of them into your home already. For instance, ceiling fans are great and can really keep you comfortable in moderately hot weather. But when the heat and humidity really start to pick up, you really need your Andover air conditioning system to keep your home cool.

One or the Other?

If you’re like most people, you switch off your ceiling fan when the AC comes on. After all, the air conditioner is powerful enough to cool the house on its own. So is it really worth it to expend energy running another, secondary cooling device?

In fact, it is. Ceiling fans in particular use very little energy. Yet they’re quite effective at making your home feel cool and comfortable. So there’s really no reason not to take advantage of their benefits while running your AC.

Cutting Costs

You might be surprised to learn that far from being a waste of energy, using your ceiling fan and AC at the same time can actually save you money. That’s because the cooling power of the fan allows you to turn up the thermostat on your AC unit a couple of degrees without compromising your comfort levels.

And turning up the thermostat on the AC just that small amount will translate into pretty substantial savings on your monthly energy bills. That savings will more than pay for the cost of running the ceiling fan, and you save money.

Better Air Circulation

Running the ceiling fan with the AC on or off is always helpful in terms of promoting good air circulation throughout your house. And the more air circulates, the more comfortable your indoor environment will be. Good air circulation is also important because it helps to minimize the number of air contaminants that build up inside.

More Efficient Heating

The benefits of ceiling fans don’t stop with cooling either. In fact, you can run them in reverse to help maintain even heating in the winter. Essentially, there are few investments you can make that will serve you better throughout the year than a ceiling fan regardless of the other home heating and cooling systems you have in place.

For more ideas about how to effectively use your Andover air conditioning system, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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Lancaster AC Guide: Quick Tips to Save Money on Air Conditioning

Monday, June 18th, 2012

You’ve probably heard once or twice that the cost of running your Lancaster air conditioner is more than that of any other single electrical device in your house. With careful attention to how your AC operates and when you use, there are some things you can do to slash cooling costs. Here are a few of the easiest:

  • SEER Matters – What is this magical acronym you hear so much? SEER refers to how many BTUs your Lancaster air conditioner can produce with a single watt of electricity. A low SEER device therefore uses a LOT more electricity to produce the same volume of cooling as a high SEER device. Since current devices offer SEER of 13 or higher (some are up to 20+), just about any upgrade will save you money relatively quickly if your current air conditioner has a rating of 8 or lower.
  • Program Your AC – If you have a single point analog thermostat, you’re wasting a LOT of electricity. You’re either paying to cool your house while it’s empty or you’re coming home to a roasting hot living space. Purchase a programmable unit and set the system to 85 degrees when you’re not home. With timers in most digital units, you can tell it when you’ll be home so that you walk into a cool, comfortable space without having to keep it cool all day long.
  • Use the Landscape to Your Advantage – Instead of relying solely on your air conditioner to keep the house cool in the summer, plant some trees and shrubs around the house to block the sunlight. Simply adding some shade to your property can directly reduce how much heat your home absorbs throughout the day and reduce how much your AC unit needs to work to keep you cool.
  • Ventilate Your Roof – A good third of the heat in your home is absorbed directly through the roof. To keep this heat from affecting the rest of your home, install a roof fan that ventilates the excess energy and keeps the attic at a steady temperature. Less heat up top means less cooling needed down low.

A good air conditioning system is effective no matter what the temperature does, so it’s easy to forget how big your bill will soon be. To avoid an overblown bill, keep an eye on your cooling and follow these simple tips to cut back on use. To schedule your annual maintenance visit, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call today!

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Acton Plumber’s Tip: How a Storage Water Heater Works

Monday, May 21st, 2012

For decades, millions of Americans have used storage water heaters to heat and store hot water for future use. These tanks are very simple and in many cases have become much more energy efficient, but you probably are wondering how they actually work. Here is a quick overview of a storage water heater tank and how it works.

 The Basics

A storage water heater is exactly as it sounds. A large volume of water is funneled into a storage tank of between 20 and 80 gallons and heated for future use. When you turn on a hot water tap, water from the top of the tank is removed through the hot water outlet and cold water enters the tank through the cold water inlet – replacing the displaced volume and heated by the gas burner beneath the tank.

Your Acton water heater can be electric, gas, propane or oil. When the water temperature falls (as hot water is pulled from the tank), the thermostat opens and the gas burner ignites, heating the water until it reaches the preset temperature of the thermostat and it closes.

 The Tank

When a tank is turned on, it is constantly heating the water supply. As a result, standby heat loss occurs. However, modern tanks are being built with exceptionally high insulation ratings (up to R-25) to minimize the loss of such heat. Additional heat loss occurs in gas and oil water heaters that must vent fumes and gasses through an internal flue. Fan assisted gas tanks and sealed combustion tanks reduce this type of energy loss in gas water heaters.

Determining the Best Water Heater for You

If you want a new water heater for your home, make sure you do your research and learn what types of water heaters will minimize heat and energy loss without reducing your comfort level. Modern tank water heaters are surprisingly efficient, but only certain ones. An Acton plumber can help you determine which option is best for you. For any service on your water heater, give Basnett Plumbing & Heating a call!

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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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Dunstable Heating Guide: Heat Recovery Ventilators

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

While the design of modern homes is to retain as much energy as possible while minimizing the cost of heating and cooling, that very design can have a negative impact on your Dunstable home’s indoor air quality. Because air cannot pass freely between indoor and outdoor environments, you are stuck breathing the same air day after day.

Luckily, there are t options that will exchange the heat in your indoor air to the outdoor air as it enters your home. In effect, you can retain all of the heat your home produces each day before it leaves the house. It works equally well in the summer to retain the cooled air your air conditioning units produce.

How Heat Recovery Works

Heat recovery ventilators come in many forms, including simple ventilation, heat exchange, or air exchanging. There are even some indoor heat pumps that will carefully draw heat from the air as it’s removed from your home and recirculate it through your air ducts.

The idea is the same no matter how the system is installed. As air leaves your home through a ventilator, a counter-flow heat exchanger transfers energy between the air leaving and entering your home. So, instead of warm air leaving and cold air entering, the air coming into your home takes the heat from the air leaving your home. Air comes and goes, but heat stays inside.

In the summer, the same system works in reverse to remove heat from the air coming into your home and keep it outside. The one thing to keep in mind with a heat recovery ventilator is that it doesn’t retain the humidity in your home as an energy recovery ventilator would. If you live in an area with very high or very low humidity during summer or winter, an ERV may be a better solution for your needs.

Air Quality Benefits

The goal of a good heat recovery ventilator is not just to retain the heated or cooled air in your home. It is also to ensure you have clean, fresh air to breathe each day. Most people don’t realize, but when you don’t circulate your air and your home is sealed up with enhanced weather-stripping and high quality insulation, unwanted contaminants begin to build up. A heat recovery ventilator makes sure you not only get fresh air, but that it’s properly filtered and the heat or cooling your comfort system produces is retained. No money is lost, energy is saved, and your family stays comfortable and healthy – everyone wins.

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