Wednesday, 19 October 2016

How Do I Know if I Need a New Heater?

With Winter fast approaching, now is the time to make sure your home is ready for the inevitable onslaught of snow, ice, and cold weather. This means battening down the hatches of your windows to help improve energy efficiency as well as ensuring that your roof is in adequate condition to handle snow loads. Most of all however, you want to make sure that your furnace is prepped and ready for another possibly long heating season. 

blogreplaceheaderAutumn is the time to determine if you need a new heater or not. Obviously, it’s better than the alternative of when the mercury drops to single digits and you find yourself in an emergency situation. A question that homeowners must ask themselves this time of year is whether it’s time for a heater replacement. Here is how you determine that answer:

Remember that a Heater Replacement is Inevitable 

Nobody wants to take on the added overhead of a furnace replacement right as most work is heading into a slow season and with the holidays on the horizon. That being said, your heater has a definitive lifespan usually of 12-15 years. You can put a ‘band-aid’ on the unit with repairs, but that’s only prolonging the inevitable. On the plus side, replacing your furnace with a new energy efficient model will lower your utility bills and make your home comfortable – paying for itself in more ways than one.

Were Your Heating Bills Higher Last Year / Was Your Home Less Comfortable 

One thing you’ll inevitably notice as your HVAC system starts to age is that it’s going to start having to work harder to maintain performance – we all do as we get older. The burners don’t fire as easy, the fan and blower motor don’t send air with the force they once did, and old duct systems start to leak air. When this happens the rooms in your house are going to start to feel drafty and you’ll also have higher Winter heating bills. Can you get by without a full replacement right away? Sure, but it’s time to start budgeting for a new heater down the line.

Most of the Time a Heater Crash Doesn’t Happen Out of the Blue 

Whether or not you need a new heater in your house shouldn’t be guesswork. Mainly because you should be having your furnace inspected and maintained before every heating season. This is not only smart homeowner practice, it’s often a requirement to stay in good standing with your manufacturer warranty. By having your heater inspected/cleaned annually, the service techs will identify problems early and thus hopefully avoid catastrophic damages in the middle of Winter. Plus, a good cleansing and lubrication of the heater components will allow them to work easier and thus last longer.

The best way to know if it’s time for a heater replacement is to have it professionally inspected and maintained. There are ways you can combat a failing heater such as installing plastic and sealing up gaps around windows and/or doors. You can also use supplemental warmth such as a space heater to help ease the load on your main furnace. If your heater is starting to near the end of it’s life however (10-15 years), it may be better to replace now and have sound peace of mind rather than having to worry about if you’re going to make it through the brutal Winter.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

How to Protect Your AC System During the Hurricane Season Months

There are a number of precautions that are taken during a construction build for homes that are located in potential hurricane areas. For example, garage doors are reinforced with extra bracing, roof trusses are tied to the house with hurricane straps, and impact resistant glass is used on windows and patio doors. These are all crucial steps to protect your home from the strong winds and rain of a hurricane – but they are hardly the only preventative measure.

bloghurricaneacinspection2In many hurricane zones, the AC system is an often overlooked vulnerable feature. The areas that are most vulnerable to hurricanes are also ones that so happen to use their AC the most often; those in the Southern and Coastal states. Since the unpredictability of hurricane season can mean gale force winds one day and 90° temperatures the next, it’s important to make sure your AC system is protected in hurricane season months – and here’s how:

Before the Storm

Luckily there’s generally some pretty fair warning when a big tropical storm is going to make it’s way towards shore. In these instances the M.O is to protect the exterior AC unit as much as possible. At the very least, cover your outdoor AC unit with a tarp to prevent water damage. Going the extra step can include creating a barrier for the unit with plywood or something else heavy and secure to prevent damage from airborne objects. Something you can do even when a storm isn’t on the horizon is make sure your outdoor unit is installed on a concrete pad and bolted down with hurricane straps.

During the Hurricane

Personal safety is of your utmost concern during hurricane season so if you have to leave your home make sure the AC is turned off. You’ll want to prevent surges through the AC electrical system from lightning so unplug the air-conditioner or at the very least have outlet protection installed. Even if you are hunkering down in your home, avoid running the air-conditioner to prevent any issues either internally or externally.

After the Storm Has Passed 

As we said, it can get pretty steamy after a tropical storm has passed in many of the familiar hurricane regions. That being said, you’ll want to abstain from the temptation to turn on your AC to cool down right after the front has left the area. Turning on a damaged AC can be dangerous but can also cause significant issues to the unit itself. After you have removed all the protective covering, clear any debris that may have made its way around vents or inside the AC unit. Next, inspect lines and wiring to make sure they haven’t become frayed or torn. You might even want to wait up to 24-48 hours to turn the system on so it has a chance to dry out. Finally, tentatively turn on your air-conditioner and look for any smoke or weird sounds coming from outside or inside the home.

Hopefully a preventative and safe approach before and during the storm will make it so that no troubleshooting or repairs are needed to your AC after the hurricane. If so however, make sure to consult a professional service tech to pinpoint the exact problem areas and to find the most efficient fix.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Benefits of Getting Your Furnace and Boiler Inspected Before Winter

When ‘winter is coming’, we have a tendency to mimic the squirrels in our yard that busily gather nuts in preparation for the long cold months ahead. Humans kind of go in panic mode this time of year as well, digging out coats and long underwear, putting snow tires on the car, and swapping in storm windows in the home for an extra barrier against the cold temperatures.

blogboilerinspectionIn the Winter bustle, it’s imperative not to overlook recommended furnace and boiler maintenance. Some homeowners may wait until the cold weather arrives and simply start up their furnace like it’s a normal day in January. Failure to have your furnace and boiler inspected before the first cycle of the season however is not recommended due to the following reasons:

To Make Sure The Furnace / Boiler are Working

The last thing you want to do is wait until a chilly night to find out that your furnace or boiler need repairs. When HVAC professionals do an inspection before the Winter they start up the system and do a number of safety and function checks. If repairs or tune-ups are needed, the time to perform them is when the temperatures are 65-70°, not 6° or 7°.  You want to make sure that the system not only operates, but that it does so safely without any risks to your family.

For a Good Cleaning 

The annual inspection (or bi-annual for an air-conditioner/furnace combo) is not only performed to make sure the HVAC system is fully-functional, it also includes a thorough cleaning and lubrication of moving parts. In fact the inspection is more like a fall maintenance service that will identify failing parts (before they become problematic) but also lead to a more efficient furnace that blows a cleaner air throughout the home.

It Really Will Save You Money 

Far too many people are under the impression that servicing a fall maintenance inspection is tedious and unnecessary overhead added to their household budget. Forget the fact that your boiler or furnace manufacturer may actually require a documented annual inspection from a certified tech for you to maintain your warranty. More importantly, annual maintenance and inspection can legitimately save you money in a number of areas.

First off, clean HVAC components operate easier which reduces furnace cycle time. When your boiler or furnace is running less frequently yet still maintaining comfortable interior temperatures you save on utility bills. An inspection before Winter will also help to identify problem areas when they are a simple fix and not an expensive overhaul. Finally, running a well-cleaned and lubricated furnace or boiler with inspected parts and components will help to increase the unit’s life span – perhaps prolonging entire system replacement costs for 5 to 10 years or more.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Importance of Changing Your Air Filters

It’s recommended that homeowners have a professional furnace inspection before the mercury drops into long underwear season for good. In fact, many manufacturers require this as a prerequisite to stay complacent in your warranty agreement. A furnace that isn’t cleaned of debris on a regular basis, doesn’t have its moving parts lubricated annually, or isn’t inspected for wiring or component damage before it becomes a major issue is obviously going to have a lower-than-expected life span.

While the annual inspection is required to be done by a professional, this doesn’t mean the homeowner is devoid of responsibilities during the Winter. Specifically, it’s critical that you change your air filters up to at least once every 30 days. It’s not known if some homeowners forget about this, aren’t aware of it to begin with, or are just afraid to go into their dungeon of a basement but here is why changing your air filters is a MUST.

blogairfilterBetter Air Quality 

During the cold weather our homes are basically a sealed fortress. The only air escaping or entering the house comes from the split second we dash out the front door to start cars, shovel snow, drive to the airport to fly to Jamaica for 3 months, etc. This means the indoor air quality of your home is very much at risk during the Winter.

A dirty furnace air filter blocks the circulation of air within the house. This means that dirt, dander, and debris have more of an opportunity to settle on furniture, shelves, cabinets, and in duct work. More of this debris settles and settles until eventually when (if) you do change the filter, it gets kicked around at every furnace cycle. Even the buildup of debris on the filter promotes more moisture to gather which eventually kicks mold and mildew throughout the home.

Lower Utility Bills 

When air doesn’t flow as easily through a dirty, old filter it means that the blower motor has to work extra hard to meet the demands of the thermostat. This results in longer furnace cycling which drives up already high heating costs. Additionally, when HVAC components have to work harder, they don’t last as long. Failure to replace a $12 air filter could be costing you hundreds in furnace repairs or thousands in an early HVAC replacement.

More Comfortable Home 

Besides the ability to breathe better, changing your filter creates a more comfortable (warm) home. With an efficient air flow the ducts have enough intake air to properly reach every room in the home. When that flow is low thanks to a wall of debris preventing air from entering, some rooms can be downright cold during the Winter.

Knowing When to Change Your Filter 

You can take the safe route and change your filter every 30 days in the Winter. Beyond that, if you hold the filter up to the light and can barely see illumination shining through it’s time to replace. If you have pets or consider yourself an allergy sufferer there’s no such thing as replacing your air filter too often.


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Signs You Need to Re-insulate Your Home

There are three things that make any renovation project great – 1) the improvement of your quality of living, 2) an increase to the market value of your home and 3) lower energy bills. Some projects fulfill all of these three benefits while others might do one thing solely great. Believe it or not, one of the under-the-radar projects with a multitude of investments is re-insulating your home. 

BLOGinsulateyourhomeThink about it, insulation creates a barrier for you home which keeps heated and cool inside which thus increases the comfort of each room and by proxy your quality of living. A home that has overgone an insulation overhaul recently is going to be more appealing to buyers which hereby increases your market value. Finally, re-insulating is one of the best ways to lower utility bills while also lowering the strain on your HVAC system.

So the question becomes, does your home need to be re-insulated?

Is There Insulation Installed at All? 

You’ll likely know if your walls are not insulated, mostly because your home was a hot stove all Summer. That being said, there are areas of your house that could be missing crucial insulation. Some contractors forget to insulate around windows after installation for example. The small area between the top plate of your wall framing and the floor joists of the room above is another area often overlooked. Then again, although rare, there are homes that don’t have insulation on some exterior walls. Before you become aware of signs that you need to insulate your home, you better make sure there’s some installed at all.

Have You Caulked Windows and Doors But Still Feel Drafts? 

It doesn’t make sense to jump to an insulation project if you haven’t first solved the problems that are causing your room to be uncomfortable and your utility bills to rise. That would be like putting on an extra pair of pants because your arms are cold. Some of the biggest sources of heat (and cold) loss are gaps around windows and doors or missing siding and other openings to the outside. Your energy efficiency might also be lacking because you have old single-paned windows installed too. Check out these areas to make sure they’re sound before you investigating insulation.

Are You Going to Change Insulation Type? 

Honestly, it generally doesn’t provide that huge of an energy savings to insulate just to insulate – basically removing the batting just to put in new batting. Now if the insulation has gotten wet or is too thin then the new install becomes very valuable. You need to:

  1. Know what you have currently for insulation (to do this: cut off power, remove outlets, pull out pieces)
  2. Know what you want for the new insulation project. 

What Is the Collateral Damage Involved in the Project? 

Something else to consider when retrofitting new insulation into a home is just how much demolition is going to be involved in the project. Unfinished walls are no problem but if you want to upgrade to a thicker R-factor fiberglass batting in a finished living room, it’s going to involve removing sheetrock. You might actual save money on upgrading to blown in insulation (small hole in wall) when you consider drywall and painting costs.


Monday, 29 August 2016

Why You Need an AC Tune Up After a Long Hot Summer

As the Summer winds down and the Autumn colors make their arrival, many homeowners are dancing a jig and thanking their air-conditioner for making it through another busy season. Let’s face it, your AC is under a lot of stress as the temperatures have climbed the past 3+ months and as she gets up there in age, a trouble-free Summer is no given. Before your air-conditioner retires for the Winter however, it’s important to make sure it’s ready for next year with an end-of-season tune up. 

BLOGcleaningACMany people believe that a Fall air-conditioner tune up is overkill, especially since it’s going to get one again in the Spring before firing up for next Summer’s cooling season. For the price though, end of the year reconditioning is still very valuable.

Be Clean Going Into Storage 

Your AC will likely collect some dust and dirt if it is used sparingly or even stored throughout the Winter. Why add to that pile of gunk however? A fall tuneup includes a rigorous cleaning of system components and lubricating moving parts. If these items are put away dirty, that’s just more risk of corrosion and buildup for next Spring. Plus, you want to make sure condensation lines and other hoses are cleaned out or they can get pretty funky over the offseason.

See If Any Problems Have Arisen 

With our climate it’s very possible that your air-conditioner will be shut down only briefly. We run our air-conditioners late and start them back up very early into the new year. An end of season inspection is the best window to see if any problems have come up so you can have them repaired when AC technicians aren’t dealing with emergency 24/7 service calls of the Summer.

Budget For Any Big Repairs or Replacements Next Year 

Another thing an end of the season inspection does is give you a good evaluation of your system’s condition. If you have costly repairs or replacements coming up, it’s much better to know early and be able to budget for them instead of getting them sprung upon you when the mercury is soaring.

Get Your Warranty Requirements Out of the Way

Most manufacturers require an annual inspection in order to maintain in good standing with your warranty. The Spring will always fulfill that, but you can also get it out of the way for next year by having it performed in the Fall. If you’ve somehow forgotten to have your system serviced back in the Spring, a Fall tuneup will help you keep your warranty (but be prepared for some finger shaming for forgetting).

The Spring tune-up will always be the most important maintenance for your air-conditioner but a fall inspection helps the two seasons work together and transition between each other.


Friday, 26 August 2016

Home Maintenance Tips When Moving from Renting to Owning

It’s the dream of many to someday be a homeowner. Nobody is saying the house shopping, financing, and moving is easy, but there is a certain, “I’ve made it” factor to owning your own place. Looking back however, renting was a pretty cake gig, especially when you consider all the home maintenance responsibilities that now fall on your lap instead of a landlord or property management group. 

Home maintenance isn’t just fiddling around in the yard on the weekends. In fact, without proper maintenance you’ll decrease the lifespan of many of your home components and promote increased damage to the others. Nobody is saying you have to know how to frame a house or rewire your electrical system, but these home maintenance tips should be mandatory as you move from being a renter to an owner.

Changing HVAC Filter Get yourself acquainted with your furnace and air-conditioner filter really quick because you’re going to becoming close friends. In fact, depending on the filter type and the HVAC system manufacturer recommendations could be for swapping in a new piece as little as every 30 days. It may seem tedious, but you’ll want to change the filters often not only for improved breathing conditions in your home, but also to help lower heating and cooling bills and to expand the life span of your AC and furnace.

BLOGrentingtoowningCleaning Out Gutters 

Gutters might seem like they’re simply there for your convenience to effortlessly whisk water away from your path. The truth is, gutters that are clogged or malfunctioning can be a deathtrap. Consider the layout of your roof with eaves to collect water and send it to the gutters for safe dispersal. When that water can’t evacuate it piles up over the gutters and into the fascia. This rots the fascia boards and creates a hole that leads all the way down through the back of your siding. Not only that, the overflowing water settles around your foundation, eventually making it’s way into your basement causing flood damage.

Stop Air Loss 

You’ll want to constantly keep an eye out for air leaks as another way to lower your utility bills. Heated and cooled air most often seaps out via cracks near your windows and doors but can also escape through spots like an uninsulated attic or via inferior windows. Missing siding has kind of the same effect so always feel around for drafts in the house and make the corresponding repairs.

Tape Your Foundation Cracks 

Some maintenance doesn’t do anything but monitoring. Taping any cracks in your foundation is one such task. You tape these cracks to know whether they are ‘natural’ or are growing. Since you’ve just moved in, you don’t really know how the house has settled. If these cracks grow, you can fix the problem on your own terms instead of on that of gushing water into the basement.

Monitor and Document Bills 

There could be a multitude of areas driving up unnecessarily high utility costs such as low-efficiency lighting, running toilets or faucets, a bad HVAC thermostat, etc. Keep an eye on these bills and see if you can lower them – or perform maintenance if these costs suddenly start to rise.

Congratulations on becoming a homeowner…and good luck!


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Mid Summer A/C Maintenance Tips

Hopefully you’ve made it this far into the Summer with little to no fuss from your air-conditioner. Temps have been manageable as far as June and July go but we’re not quite out of the woods yet. As we all know late July, August, and sometimes even September can be the dog days of Summer that really wear us down – especially when we’re so close to a cool Autumn breeze. Now is the perfect time to make sure your A/C is buckled down for the home stretch with these mid-summer maintenance tasks.

BLOGacmaintenanceChange the A/C Filter

You can technically get by with changing the air-conditioner filters at the beginning of the Summer and they should be good for the whole season. If you live in a particularly dusty area (country back roads), are being irritated by allergens, or are noticing a lack of performance, changing the filter definitely doesn’t hurt.

Clean the A/C Fins

Your outdoor A/C unit has been exposed to 2-3 months of grass cutting and weed whipping and there’s a good chance the clippings (along with other debris) has found its way lodged into the fins thus impeding air flow. A quick squirt from the garden hose can free up a lot of this blockage. If you forgot about this step as part of your preseason maintenance, a special foaming fin cleaner can be used to remove grease and oil as well.

Clean the Interior of the Condenser/Compressor

When you spray the fins down with water, most of that debris will work its way inside the unit and may have the tendency to build up on the internal condenser and compressor components. Turn off the power to the unit (which you should do for all maintenance), remove the fan cage and suck out the debris with a wet-dry vac.

Fix any Crooked Fins

If your home serves as the neighborhood ball field during the Summer, chances are a foul ball or two has found its way towards the fins of your A/C unit. Bent fins can happen with reckless lawn tractor driving or even in heavy wind and rainstorms. These crooked fins block air flow and reduce efficiency but can be straightened in seconds with a butter knife or flat head screwdriver.

Tidy Up the Indoor Evaporator Components

While the majority of Summer debris will build up on the outdoor compressor unit, while you’re doing midterm maintenance it never hurts to give the evaporator components a quick work over. There is an evaporator coil door on the inside of the blower unit. Once again with the power off, wipe the debris off these coils with a soft brush and then gently spray the area with a safe evaporator cleaner. The cleaner works as a sealant to deflect debris but also has the added bonus of eliminating that wet, musty smell from all the moisture created thus far during the year.

Speaking of moisture, it has to drain somewhere which is why a free-flowing evaporator drain is so important. Algae and mold can build up in the drain line (especially if this preseason maintenance tip was glossed over as well) forcing water to back up onto the floor. You can clear the drain line by pushing (hot water and diluted bleach) or pulling (wet-dry vac).

Once again on the surface these all seem like pretty capable DIY jobs. If you’re at all uncomfortable with any component of your air-conditioner however it’s always best to bring in the pros. The money you spend for a service call can easily be recouped with lower utility bills the rest of the Summer and a fully-functioning A/C that will be primed and ready for next season before you know it.


Friday, 15 July 2016

Have You Considered a Mini-Split A/C System?

The middle of the Summer is hardly the time to be considering alternative air-conditioner solutions. After all, we’re on the home stretch of the hot weather (save for some traditional dog days in mid to late August). To be honest we could have another 2-3 months of air-conditioning left on the year and now is always a perfect time to explore any and all options of lowering your utility bills.

BLOGsplitacOf course adding a new system into the mix would seem counter intuitive to saving money but that’s exactly what a mini-split air-conditioner can do. They really are basically mini versions of a central air-conditioner which can be used to cool all or part of the home. Here are some reasons why the middle of the Summer might be the right time to consider a mini-split A/C:

What is a Mini Split System?

First things first, it’s best to know exactly what a mini split air-conditioner is before you contract an installation. The system works very much like a central air-conditioner in that there is a compressor and condenser unit installed on the exterior of your home. Instead of ducted ventilation however, copper tubing and electrical wiring are connected to an indoor air handler that looks like a small wall fan. Refrigerant is carried to this indoor air handling unit which pumps cool air across the fan and out into the room.

Why Install a Mini-Split System Now?

If you already have a central air conditioner that is properly sized for your home installing a mini-split system will probably be nothing more than overkill. However if you have added on to your home, or want to cool a garage or finished basement a mini-split could be the ultimate solution. They are easier to install and less evasive to run through the house than a central air system.

Mini split air conditioner systems can also be used to provide zone cooling. Each outdoor compressor can control four separate indoor air-handling units offering various levels of comfort in many areas of the home. If you’ve gone this far without A/C, a mini-split system and its ductless installation saves 30% on lost energy compared to a forced air central A/C. Mini-split systems can also be equipped with a heat pump so you’ll not only save now, but through the Winter as well.

Many people also install a small mini-split system to take some of the strain off their overworked central A/C system. If the initial calculations were wrong, more people moved into the house, windows or insulation are starting to fail, etc. your central air may not be working as efficiently as it once did. Giving it a ‘buddy’ so to speak in the form of a mini-split system will allow you to lower the workload for your central air and thus get maybe another 5-10 years out of it.

Installing a mini-split air conditioner is by no means mandatory or in some instances even recommended. It is something to consider however if your Summer utility bills aren’t where you need them to be.


Thursday, 7 July 2016

Size Does Matter. Is Your A/C Unit Properly Sized?

When it comes to air-conditioner size, the common notion would be that ‘bigger is better.’ We all know the risks of installing an A/C that is too small such as the unit cycling more frequently to try and meet temperature demands all the while driving up utility bills and shortening the life span of the blower, compressor, fan and other components. What some residential and commercial consumers alike might not be aware of is that an air-conditioner that is too large is harmful as well.

BLOGjulyACYou very much need to take a Goldilocks approach to finding an air-conditioner that is ‘just right.’ An oversized unit will cool the home or business quickly, thus turn off before it can truly ‘condition’ the air. Remember that an A/C is used not only to cool a room, but also to remove moisture and to dehumidify a space. When your air-conditioner is too large, moisture will remain in the room causing it to be very uncomfortable and prone to mold growth.

Finding the Right Size A/C 

So the threats of an improperly sized air-conditioner range from paying exorbitantly high utility bills or sitting in a moisture-rich space with mold all over the walls. Now that you understand the importance of finding the perfectly sized A/C, how do you go about measuring for it and shopping for it?

Luckily, there aren’t hundreds of options when it comes to air-conditioner size. The units are sold based on their tonnage, ranging from 1 ton to 5 ton for residential uses and up to 16 tons for commercial buildings. It should be noted that the tonnage isn’t the weight of the A/C, but rather a measurement of the amount of heat that can be removed from the home or business in an hour.

Air-Conditioners and BTU 

Really only the three things you need to understand when it comes to finding the right air-conditioner size is tons, BTU and square footage of your home or business. One British Thermal Unit (BTU) is equivalent to the amount of heat that would be produced if you burned a single match all the way through. 12,000 of these BTUs can be removed by one ton of air-conditioner capacity in an hour (1 ton = 12,000 BTUs) so a 3 ton unit could remove 36,000 BTUs and so on.

But how many BTUs exist in your space? There is an all-purpose equation to figure this out:

**(square footage of your home or business times 25, divided by 12,000) – 0.5 = recommended A/C tonnage**

So a 2,000 square foot home multiplied by 25 would give you 50,000. Divide 50,000 by 12,000 to get 4.16. Subtract the 0.5 and the recommendations would be 3.5 to 4 ton of air-conditioning capacity. You could get to that with a single 4 ton unit or a dual 2 ton unit. This is something commercial A/C prospects have to evaluate – how they get to the 10+ tons of air-conditioning capacity that is needed for larger spaces. Do they use single units, zoned systems, split-duct air-conditioners, etc.?

Finding Specific Air-Conditioner Size 

The equation for finding the correct A/C size is very generic however. Does a home in Maine need the same air-conditioning capacity as a home in Arizona? You still need to figure out the square footage that needs cooled but the accepted climate zones are as follows:


ac-usa-heat-map Unit-Size-Matters_CDDHDDSqFt

These will give you a better rough estimate for the air-conditioning capacity needed based on your climate. With the help of an air-conditioner contractor however you can go even more in-depth. Using calculations such as number of windows in your home, ceiling height, typical number of occupants, your ideal temperature and humidity settings, etc. we can find the air-conditioner that is truly your exact Goldilocks.

Contact us today for more information about calculating the exact specs for your new A/C unit. We can also inspect your existing unit to see if it is properly sized or if it is the root cause of high utility bills or a humid and uncomfortable space.


Monday, 27 June 2016

4 Reasons Why Installing Home Insulation Is Not a DIY Job

On paper installing insulation in your home doesn’t sound like that hard of a job. By now you’ve heard how important it is to have an adequate barrier against the elements in your walls and attic so you might think that throwing in some insulation would be a good weekend project. Just know that many have come before you on this thought – and most of them regretted doing it themselves by the end.

BLOGjuneinsulationInstalling insulation is not only an inconvenience, if done incorrectly it can present a huge waste of investment. Some people have done more damage to their home during insulating, others have made no change in their utility bills, and even more people have become physically ill during the process. Here’s why insulating is another job you want to leave to the pros:

Opens Up Your Options 

For most DIY insulation jobs the homeowner would be installing the fiberglass batts. These come in a roll and are usually 15” wide to fit perfectly between wall studs. A select few homeowners who are a bit more mechanically inclined might choose to also rent an insulation blower for a blown-in barrier. A professional installer can do these as well as spray foam and some other specialty materials all with an expertise of their own equipment.

The Job is Done Correctly 

There’s more to just installing the insulation correctly, making sure it’s the right thickness and ensuring that all open gaps are covered. There’s also the aspect of choosing the correct R-Value, providing ventilation, installing any necessary moisture barriers, and sealing exterior gaps. They can also help acquire any permits that are needed and make sure the job fits your local building codes.

More Affordable 

It might sound like a no-brainer that doing work yourself is always going to be more affordable than hiring somebody. With insulation though you have to look at both the short-term and long-term cost savings. Since a professional insulation contractor can provide you more options, you have the ability to install spray foam or blown-in insulation that will last much longer and provide a more intense barrier than fiberglass batts. If you are retrofitting an insulation job, a professional can generally do so with less damage to drywall, trim, etc. that may otherwise require costly replacement. Professionals get the job done quicker because even if it’s your free time – your time is still money.


Perhaps the best reason to hire a professional for insulating your home is simply so you don’t have to. Fiberglass batts are some of the itchiest, most miserable pieces of material in the home renovation industry. DIYers will cough, itch, and lose sometimes multiple nights of sleep as the fibers are encrusted in your body, eyes, nose, and lungs. The pros have safety equipment that helps us do the job with minimal irritation.

Give us a call for more information on how an insulation upgrade can be of a huge benefit to the comfort of your home as well as your utility bills.


Monday, 20 June 2016

Can You Get Legitimate Savings By Implementing Green Plumbing Solutions?

“Going green” in your home isn’t just a fad anymore. It’s a mindset, a mentality, and a requirement. What homeowner wouldn’t want to lower their utility bills while also lessening their carbon footprint on the environment? There are obvious areas where eco-friendly renovations can have big savings such as with an energy-efficient HVAC system and with Energy Star appliances and lighting. Despite the fact that water bills are 25% or more of your utility bills, some people are still on the fence about the effectiveness of green plumbing.

BLOGjuneplumbingThe savings are real however.

Energy Efficient Water Heater (10-50% less energy)

When you think of being eco-friendly with your plumbing, the first assumption is cutting water use. Don’t forget the energy involved to heat and deliver that water however, specifically the water heater. Water heaters perform a unique job in that they’re waiting in the bullpen, so to speak, to deliver hot water. They are using energy to heat and store water even when you’re not at home and the faucets are off. An upgrade here can have huge savings.

Insulate Pipes ($12-$24 savings a year)

Insulating your pipes may only save you $1 or $2 per month but it’s an easy project with a minimal cost. If you string 6-7 of these types of projects together the savings only rise and the strain on your plumbing system is lowered.

Low Flow Showers and Faucets (reduce water usage by up to 60%)

It’s hard to call using water in the home a waste because we need it – but do we need that much of it? Installing low flow showers still gives you enough water to get clean. Low flow faucets still provide a source large enough to do dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands, etc. all while spending less.

Low Flow Toilets (2X – 5X less water used)

Each person in your household uses about 28 gallons of water on the toilet alone. Since an outhouse isn’t a pleasant option in the city, low flow toilets are nearly a necessity.

Energy Efficient Dishwashers and Washing Machines (reduce water consumption by 50%)

It’s not just sinks, showers, and toilets that use water in your home. Upgrading to Energy Star dishwashers and washing machines can provide incredible savings since they are also used so frequently.

The reason that going green is a mindset and not just a process is because each person in the home can increase the savings by using water responsibly. Turning off the water when you brush your teeth can save 8 gallons a day, doing only full loads of laundry can save up to 50 gallons a load, shortening your shower by a minute or two can save 2 gallons, etc.

Give us a call for more information on the installation of these energy and money saving appliances.


Monday, 13 June 2016

How to Operate Your Air-Conditioner During Intense Heat

As the warm weather approaches it’s important to decipher the differences between “warm” and “blazing hot.” Obviously the reason we have an air-conditioner installed in the first place is to stay cool as the temps rise. In a kind of ironic turn however, when the mercury starts rising to the mid 90° level it’s time to run your air-conditioner as responsibly as possible.

BLOGjuneACCool Down Your Outdoor Unit 

When heat waves are present your outdoor unit is busting it’s compressor trying to keep up with the demand. Like an overheated marathon runner, it doesn’t hurt to spray down your outdoor unit with the hose every so often just to give it some cool relief.

Keep Your Air-Conditioner In the Shade

One way to permanently keep your A/C at least somewhat cooler is to provide it with shade. This can come in the form of an awning overtop or some well placed bushes and trees but you’d be surprised the difference that’s made when the sun isn’t constantly beating down on the hard-working exterior unit. Just remember to leave enough room for the A/C to breathe.

Take a Load Off Your Thermostat When Not at Home 

Granted you want to come home to a chilly area at night but leaving your A/C running on high all day long is a very unnecessary drain on the system that will result in extremely high utility bills. Not only that, you’re drawing resources from the power company to your vacant property whereas others in the community may be running a daycare or sleeping during the day because of their night job.

Utilize Alternative and Secondary Cooling Methods 

Give your A/C some backup in the form of a ceiling fan that can assist in circulating air. Even putting a fan out on your deck may help you enjoy the warm outdoors thus negating the need for the A/C to run on high indoors.

Don’t Use Stoves or Microwaves

It probably goes without saying but you shouldn’t make a warm area warmer by running the oven/stovetop/microwave or other heat generating appliances. Nobody really wants a hot meal when it’s hot outside so a heat wave presents a great opportunity for eating out and soaking up somebody else’s A/C – it may even be cheaper than running your own at peak hours.

Use Fans and Open Windows at Night

The nightfall should provide you a little break from the high temps so use it as an opportunity to give your A/C a pause as well. Open up your windows at night and use a fan for some of the best sleeping conditions.

Make Sure the Unit Has Proper Maintenance

Your air-conditioner is going to be busting it’s hump all Summer long so make sure it’s prepped and ready to go with proper maintenance. With new filters and a clean compressor your unit will be ready to take on the triple digits – and it can help you avoid costly repairs and downtime in the middle of a heat wave.


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

6 Types of Additional Services That a Full Service Plumber Provides

BLOGmayplumbingWhen you have a clog in your piping system or need a new toilet fixture installed the obvious move is to call your trusty local plumber. It’s hard to imagine this type of work keeping a mulit-employee plumbing company busy throughout the year though isn’t it? This is because fixing drains and toilets are only a portion of a plumber’s job. Here are some jobs that full-service plumbing companies offer for you to take advantage of in the future.

Sewer / Water Line Replacement

It’s easy to think that when water goes down your drain it’s out of your life forever. While that is partially true, that water also has to go somewhere. If you have issues with your sewer or water line, you’ll find that the ‘somewhere’ is usually back into your house or bubbling out of your ground. Sewer and water line repairs and replacement are needed when pipes going from your house to the main line break from old age or because of a  conspicuously placed tree root.

Tests to Detect Odors

Funky odors in your house can be a nuisance, but they can also pose a safety risk as well. We can pinpoint the source of the odors either via electronic means or with the use of a smoke test. In a smoke test we inject smoke into your plumbing system to find the exact location where water and gases exit your pipes or where unwanted rainwater enters. These tests can increase your utility efficiency in addition to providing a sound peace of mind.

Dishwasher, Washer & Dryer Installations

Sure plumbers specialize in toilet, bathtub/shower, and sink fixture installations. We’re also the ones to call for other appliance installations in your home including the dishwasher and washing machine / dryer combos. These units require a safe connection to your home’s water line which only a plumber can provide.

Backflow Preventers Repairs and Installations

Most people don’t think about backflow preventers until it’s too late – which in this case means you’re drinking and bathing in contaminated water. Backflow preventer testing isn’t just recommended, in most jurisdiction it’s demanded by local and state authorities. Backflow systems are important so that waste water doesn’t siphon back into your ‘good water’ supply.

Installation of Flood Protection Systems

Another consideration that usually isn’t taken until after the fact is flood protection systems. These types of implementations go beyond sump pumps however. Systems that offer an intricate use of sensors and switches utilize shut off valves in areas such as sinks, refrigerators, water heaters, washing machines, and toilets to detect an unusual amount of water and to trigger steps to prevent a large amount of damage from that water.

System Inspections

What we really want to reiterate is that you don’t need to call us only on an emergency basis. Annual system inspections for example can help avoid those 24/7 calls where water is curdling out of your walls and you’ve got weird gases emanating from your back yard.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A Homeowner’s (Very) Basic Guide To Handling Electrical Emergencies

For the most part the rules of the electrical system in your home are very simple to follow. Don’t stick a fork in power outlets, don’t play with a plugged-in toaster in the bathtub, and don’t jiggle frayed wires to try and regain a connection. BLOGmayelectricalSometimes it’s not about what not to do with your electrical system however, it’s what to do – especially in the event of an emergency. If you understand these basics, you can help avoid risk and serious damage until the electrician can get on site to do a repair.

Be Comfortable With Your Breaker

Many times your home’s breaker will flip in a fluke. You might be running a space heater and the microwave while also doing some vacuuming or the current may just have an unusual boost, tripping the circuit. You should be comfortable flipping every breaker in your circuit box including the main power. You should also listen to your circuit board however. If a breaker continues to flip it’s a sign of a problem that should be professionally inspected.

Know How to Use Your Fire Extinguisher

We’ve seen wall fire extinguishers used as a Winter jacket hanger and others buried under tools in a tote box on a back porch. Let alone knowing how to use the thing, many homeowners would have a hard enough time trying to find the extinguisher in case of an emergency. Your fire extinguisher should be within easy access and you should understand the PASS method of operation:

  • P- Pull the pin
  • A- Aim at the base of the fire
  • S – Squeeze the handle
  • S – Sweep side to side until the flames have extinguished

Know that Water is Dangerous to an Electrical Fire

The reason you need to know how to use your fire extinguisher is because it is your only hope (save for a fire retardant blanket) of corralling the flames in time. Water is a conductor (the reason you have GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens) so throwing it on an electrical fire will likely cause the flames to spread.

Flickering Lights are Not Normal

We’ve all seen them in horror movies – lights that flicker identifying the presence of evil spirits. The truth is, instead of the Ghostbusters, the first call the teenagers should have made was to an electrician. Flickering lights can be caused by loose wires, worn-out fixtures, or a faulty switch in addition to the undead. The flickering is your warning sign that some major fire risks are prevalent in hidden areas (ceilings, behind walls).

Use Common Sense

Sure electrical issues can arise out of the blue, but a lot of times they have been failing for some time. Light plates that are hot, electrical cords that are held together by tape, wobbly ceiling fans, and appliances that consistently buzz you are all signs of issues (and ones that usually don’t fix themselves).

We’re glad to offer 24/7 electrical service, but we’re even happier to see you avoid emergency issues altogether.


Thursday, 28 April 2016

Don’t Be a Victim

Let Elite Comfort Home & Commercial help you restore your home or business.

One thing to remember when contracting out services to restore the A/C, heat, plumbing, or electrical to your home or business is that not every company has your best interest in mind. It would be nice to think that the ‘friendly neighborhood repair technician’ image from the past is largely still prevalent today, but if you don’t do your homework you may find yourself in an unsavory situation. 

BLOGHouston FloodAs a property owner, you’re probably thinking that scam repair companies are just hyperbole because after all, ‘work is work.’ Don’t let yourself learn the hard way that these fly by night operations truly do exist and for the common goal of, instead of fixing your drains they just drain you of your money.

One of the first problems with controversial home renovation companies is that they work in volume. You’ll notice a lower bid but also the work is sloppily slapped together to move on to the next job as quickly as possible. They’ll undercut bids up front but then try and include as many add-on fixes as possible to squeeze some more cash out of you. They may or may not be licensed, bonded, and insured. Also, their promptness to return to the house for any fixes to their work is anybody’s guess.

So, how do you avoid becoming a victim when the repairs are obviously needed? There are a few reasons how Elite Comfort Home & Commercial proves worrying about craftsmanship, quality, and costs doesn’t have to be inevitable when hiring home services:

Qualified, Local Company

We are a local residential and commercial restoration company that has been working in the Houston area since 2011. Our license numbers are predominantly displayed on the top of our website proving our qualifications and expertise.

A Strong Reputation

Our online reviews prove our dedication to prompt, proper repairs with courteous customer service. We are 5 Star rated on Yelp and have an A+ grade from the Better Business Bureau.

We Have the Customer’s Best Interest in Mind

Part of the reason we have repeatedly earned these high marks is because we operate in a transparent manner. There are no hidden fees with our services and every issue outside of what’s included on the work order is presented in a clear and concise manner. We can make our recommendations, but the customer always has the final say in the work done.

NEVER Charge for Estimates

Part of being a responsible property owner is obtaining multiple bids from service companies so that you can compare costs, scope of work, etc. We never charge for our estimates and try to provide you as honest an assessment of the project as possible.

Don’t be a victim the next time your home or business needs electrical, HVAC, or plumbing work. Give us a call at 832-309-3771 to eliminate your risks.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Operating Your Electrical System Safely this Summer

BLOGelectricalIt’s not like you went the Winter without electricity, in fact you probably had a very heavy reliance on your power operating lights during the shorter days and making sure your furnace was operating. That being said, your air-conditioner is the biggest drain on your electrical system and it’s almost time to fire up the unit. Nesting rodents, corrosive cold weather, and other signs of Winter may have harmed your electrical system over the past few months so follow these tips on getting the components ready for the Spring and Summer season and using them safely.

Create Storage for Your Electrical Cords

The warm weather is the time for swimming, washing cars, and cutting the lawn, all of which can be detrimental to outdoor electrical cords. Get in the practice of unplugging your cords when not in use and storing them securely in down time.

Be Careful With Digging

Whether you’re planting a garden, digging footings for a deck, or boring out a whole for a basketball hoop know where your underground power utilities are running.

Inspect Electrical Wiring

Wire housing on your electrical components are like filet mignon to rodents who chew off the rubber and use it for their nests. If they haven’t already gotten zapped, make sure you don’t by performing a careful inspection of your A/C wiring and power tools which have been on the bench for the Winter. Better yet, schedule a professional inspection and testing to make sure your system is up to par.

Trim Your Foliage

Trees can sprout up in the Spring, creating a meeting point with power lines that have also drooped during the Winter. Keep your trees trimmed before they reach that point. Also, make sure shrubs and bushes aren’t blocking the air flow of your outdoor air-conditioner compressor housing.

Have Your Swimming Pool Inspected

The Winter is very unpredictable and so is its effects on your dormant components such as a swimming pool. All sorts of issues can arise from exposure to the frigid elements no matter how winterized your pool may have been. Schedule an electrical inspection just to be 100% certain that pool lights are in good working orders and components such as pumps are properly grounded.

Finally just use caution when doing work outside whether it’s using a ladder to clean out gutters (power lines) or using an electrical trimmer to maintain weeds (risk of shock). Call us if you’re not comfortable inspecting your electrical system or have questions about specific issues. Together we can make this another fun-filled Summer like we’ve all become accustomed to.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Air Conditioner Maintenance May Seem Unnecessary But Look at the Repair Costs

We constantly stress the importance of having your annual HVAC inspection before the Summer season kicks into full gear. Not only is it often required by a manufacturer in order to fulfill the responsibilities of your warranty, it’s by far the easiest way to detect predicaments before they turn into catastrophes. Even still, many homeowners feel that our annual visits are simply a waste of money. Here are some repairs however (and their costs) that can result if you don’t give us a call:BLOGac

  • Refrigerant leak repair – refrigerant leaks can only be handled by professionals trained to deal with the toxic substance. When leaks are caught early they can be repaired and tested which not only saves you money in utility bills, but also repair costs which can reach $1,600.
  • Circuit board replacement – a circuit board will start to display issues even before it eventually becomes fried altogether. By detecting weak solder joints and other failing components early you can save up to $600 in replacement costs (and avoid spark and fire dangers).
  • Thermostat replacement – a malfunctioning thermostat may not be immediately detectable. You may go months of paying exorbitantly high utility prices because your thermostat is operating lower than its settings. A replacement will save a chunk of money monthly (especially when replaced with a programmable model) and avoid costs of up to $250 when the whole system fails.
  • Compressor replacement – part of our AC maintenance involves the ever-important cleaning of the compressor from the dust and debris that has built up over the Winter. This gunk restricts air flow which lowers the efficiency, but also drives the compressor to work harder; ultimately failing. Having the compressor maintained can save you up to $1,800 in replacement unit costs.
  • Evaporator coil – not only do exterior A/C components need a Spring cleaning, so do interior parts such as the evaporator coil. Cleaning the evaporator coil helps to avoid the acid buildup which causes tiny pinhole leaks within the system. The cost of replacing these units can reach $1,200 or more.
  • Fan motor replacement – as expected your A/C fan is a moving part. When dirt and grime are lodged into the bearings, that moving part becomes stationary – only it doesn’t know this and thus burns out trying to follow its system commands. There’s a $300 replacement cost tha could have been avoided with professional maintenance.
  • Condensate pump replacement – part of the healthy operation of your A/C system is adequate disposal of condensation into the drains in the floor. When the pump becomes plugged this water backs up and disperses all over your utility room floor. Not only will you need up to $250 to replace the pump, but also a good mold remediation service to clean the mildew that has formed in the cool, damp area.

As you see, annual HVAC inspection is not a ruse to jostle extra money from our customers, it’s a steadfast plan to save you costs on unnecessarily high utility bills and replacing components that could have been avoided. The sound peace of mind from knowing your A/C is running at peak levels is something our clients consider priceless.


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Spring is in the Air, Is Your Plumbing System Ready?

BLOGplumbingFor the most part we worry about our plumbing system more during the Winter than we do the Summer. Nothing quite says ‘welcome home‘ like walking indoors out of the cold to see water seeping out of your walls from frozen or burst pipes. All that considered, your plumbing may be more in demand during the warm months when outdoor hoses are in use and washing machines struggle to keep up with dirty clothes from the outside. Here are some tips on making sure your pipes are ready to stand up to the heat.

Have a Leak Check Performed

Small drips can seem nothing more than a nuisance during the Summer when we’re dumping gallons of water on our cars, plants, and bodies. That being said why not pay as low of utility bills as possible, even during the warm months. Plus, capturing small leaks early is the best way to prevent them from becoming large holes later in the year. Also, leaks lead to damage to walls and floors and will inhibit the growth of mold, especially in the humid Summer months.

Clean Your Gutters

While not a part of your plumbing system, per sé, your home’s gutters are an important aspect to controlling water flow. When the gutters become clogged with leaves and debris they can no longer drain as designed to. Since the water has to go somewhere, it overflows the gutters and seeps down the side of the house. This water then absorbs into the foundation instead of being displaced out into the yard or into the street. Water then starts soaking through cracks into the foundation and into the basement, opening up a whole new can of issues.

Inspect Spigots and Hoses

Make sure your spigots and hoses run water when they are turned on. If not, it could be a sign of a broken loop somewhere in the system caused by the shifting from freezing and thawing the ground.

Check Drains

Finally make sure water drains where it is supposed to. This includes gutter downspouts, utility rooms, garages, and more – areas which weren’t doused with water as much in the Winter and could have accumulated blockage. Dirt, damage, and bird or rodent nests may have to be assessed in order to restore function. If not, the water will build up and then back up leading to a cesspool that attracts bacteria and insects during the warm weather.

Give us a call for an all-in-one plumbing inspection and to make sure your home is fully prepared to have some fun in the sun.


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Real Benefits of Home Insulation

Our clients are more aware than ever about how much an insulation upgrade can save them on heating and cooling bills essentially year-round. We’ve worked on homes that had no insulation on an exterior wall whatsoever, let alone an inferior insulation strategy. Benefits of Home InsulationThe result was the homeowner wasting money for sometimes 15-20 years on higher utility costs as well as increased wear and tear on their HVAC system – not to mention having to sit in a room that is incredibly uncomfortable.

Implementing an improved insulation approach can offer considerable return on investment. Depending on the current situation, payback for the upgrade can be achieved in less than a season along with the priceless benefit of having a home that is much more pleasant to live in temperature-wise. That being said, lower utility bills are only a fraction of the reason why a home insulation upgrade is one of the best renovation projects you can undertake.

Dilutes Outside Sound

Something that often goes overlooked is the fact that insulation creates a barrier not only to retain warm or cooled air, it is also very effective at controlling sound. To many homeowners, having a quiet home largely isolated from outside disturbances is almost priceless. This is especially helpful in crowded housing developments where barking dogs, playing kids, and heavy vehicle traffic is very disturbing. It should also be noted that insulation keeps sound in as well as out so feel free to yell at the TV during a bad referee call or when a reality show contestant picks the wrong soul mate.

Creates an Extra Barrier Against Allergens

Dust, pollen, and dander can work its way inside your house by even permeating through the walls and the smallest gaps in siding, near windows & doors, etc. Beefed up insulation is virtually impenetrable by these allergens, creating a much better breathing environment inside the house. For heavy allergy sufferers who spend money annually on HVAC duct cleaning, it’s almost a worthless expense if adequate insulation isn’t installed as well.

Control Humidity Better

Insulation forms an important middle man between the outside environment and interior controlled air. As you’ve sometimes noticed with condensation on windows, moisture can also form on your insulation in the walls interior if it is not of adequate R-value. Thicker, stronger, and more durable insulation can resist this moisture which helps to avoid an uncomfortable interior environment while reducing the risk of mold growth and spreading.

Gives Home a Higher Market Value

Upgrading home insulation will not only provide you more comfort and lower utility bills now, it serves as a great selling point for your home down the line. Future buyers like the allure of an intense insulation strategy that will help keep their costs to a minimum and will expand the life span of the existing HVAC system.

Lowers Emissions and Carbon Footprint

Finally one of the best reasons for upgrading the insulation in your home’s walls and attic is to use less energy on a daily basis which in turn helps lower gas emissions and overall carbon footprint. NAIMA studies claim that proper insulation of buildings in the United States could cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 780 tons annually.

Even though it’s for the most part hidden, your home’s insulation should be of some concern. It could be argued the fact that your current insulation is hidden is even more reason to have an inspection/audit so you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Why deal with higher-than-required utility bills for even one more season when an insulation upgrade offers so many considerable advantages?


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Making Sure Your Home’s Electrical System is Safe

When a storm hits and brings with it thunder and lightning, homeowners tend to be a little more vigilant with their electrical system. Whether you unplug your computer and big screen TV to avoid the risk of them being zapped or you just become more aware and look for sights and smells that would indicate a strike, at least safety is on the forefront of your mind. What really becomes dangerous then is when electrical systems default in otherwise normal weather conditions.

ElectricalThe truth is, we rarely think about our home’s electrical systems until something goes wrong. A simple issue like a light switch not turning on is a nuisance, but one that comes with an easy fix. Wires shorting out and starting fires behind the drywall however is dangerous, costly to repair and potentially fatal. The correct approach then is to be more circumspect about your home’s electrical system on a routine basis:

Get an Inspection

We recommend an annual inspection of your electrical system if anything for a sound peace of mind. We check wires, outlets, circuit breakers and more to make sure everything is in working order and to lower risks of accidents. Also, having an annual inspection ensures your energy consumption is where it should be – possibly saving you on utility bills over the course of the year.  In many instances an electrical inspection is even required as part of your homeowners insurance policy.

Get Issues Fixed Quickly

Sometimes we have a tendency to let home issues slide if they aren’t deemed an immediate threat/concern. This happens a lot with your electrical system whether it be an outlet that doesn’t work, a light that shorts out, etc. Instead of ‘dealing with’ these issues in the same manner of putting a piece of electrical tape over your check engine light, get your electrical system checked out right away. Areas of your home that aren’t getting adequate power are a sign that something is wrong and should be fixed immediately.

Make Sure Proper Safety Precautions are in Place Where Needed

There is a rhyme and reason to certain safety precautions regarding your home’s electrical system. GFCI outlets for example are placed near water sources so that power is disconnected when in contact with water. Other precautions such as strategic placement of smoke detectors are issues that can be identified with a home electrical safety audit.

Examine Electrical Cords

Even if the internal workings of your home’s electrical system are in perfect working order, using an appliance with a frayed cord can present a safety danger. It can be tempting to salvage an appliance with some neatly applied tape on an exposed cord but the risks simply aren’t worth the reward.

Get More Outlets Installed if Needed

If your home resembles the Griswold Family Christmas energy use with 17 light plugs on a single outlet, it’s time to upgrade your electrical capacity. Many of our clients are finding that the outlet placement (especially in older homes) simply aren’t set up for today’s phone charger, laptop, tablet, and other electronic requirements so adding outlets is one of our most popular renovations.

If You Aren’t Comfortable Working With Electricity, Call a Professional

We like to recommend homeowners flex their DIY muscles whenever possible when it comes to weekend projects that expand their home improvement knowledge. That being said, electrical issues should almost 100% of the time be left to the professionals. Simply put, there are just too many dangers to both body and home when working on outlets, switches, and wires when unqualified.

Contact us for more information about electrical inspections, safety, and upgrades.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Need a New Air-Conditioner? Make Sure to Find the Right One

As the Spring and impending warmer weather quickly approach it’s not a bad time to inspect on whether your current air-conditioner is up for another rigorous cooling season. We generally recommend running your current HVAC system until it dies completely but costly, consistent repairs or an old unit that is a huge energy drain are ripe circumstances for a replacement. When it does come time to search for a new air-conditioner, follow these tips to make sure you find the correct replacement.

Man Fixing AC UnitWhat Type of A/C?

Most of our clients who are looking for a replacement for their malfunctioning air-conditioner will opt for a new system of the same type since the infrastructure for that type is already in place. What this basically means is that if you already have a central A/C, split-duct system, geothermal, etc. it’s most convenient to buy a replacement of that type. Of course in new home builds, additions, or when customers are simply looking for an upgrade it may be worthwhile to investigate all your options. Contact us for more information depending on your home’s size, your budget, your cooling needs, etc.

Air Conditioner Size

Finding the correct size air-conditioner is crucial and arguably the most important aspect of selecting a new unit. Air-conditioners simply can’t be purchased with the ‘bigger is better’ mantra because A/Cs not only cool the room, but condition it as well. An air-conditioner will cycle out existing air, remove the moisture from it, and send it back in chilled and dry. An A/C that is too big will cool the room too fast and thus won’t have time to remove the moisture from the air. In comparison, a unit that is too small will cycle too frequently and drive up utility bill costs.

Energy Efficiency

If you find yourself needing a new air-conditioner – consider yourself lucky. Granted, the upfront costs can sometimes be difficult to procure but you’ll soon find yourself with money left over every month thanks to lower energy consumption. That is, of course, as long as you find a new A/C that is as energy efficient as possible. Make sure to purchase an air-conditioner that has a high seasonal energy efficiency (SEER) rating and high energy efficiency ratio (EER). The better these ratings, the lower the electrical input needed to operate the systems which results in more manageable utility bills.


A few other features are nowadays considered “must-haves” instead of extras. One example is a dual-speed cooling fan which increases the energy efficiency by using one fan to cool the room and other to help maintain that temperature. These are used with adjustable and programmable thermostats to control temperatures at peak times as well as down periods. Another feature that sets apart different A/C units from each other is the length and type of warranty offered. You can really recoup your investment knowing it will last 12-15+ years based on the manufacturer warranty.

Regardless of what type of air-conditioner you end up getting installed in your building, it is up to the homeowner to help get the most from its lifespan. This means having adequate insulation installed in the walls and attic while having regular maintenance performed on the unit.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Waking Up Your Air-Conditioning From Winter Hibernation

Most of North America is nearing that lull in the seasons when they can achieve a relief from heating the house and instead enjoy the crisp cool air of Spring coming through the windows to whisk away the remnants of Winter. Changing Air FiltersMany people view this as the best time of year, especially after being mostly domesticated and battling cold, snow, and ice for the past 4-5 months. Be aware though, the Spring can fly by fast and before you know it the humming of the air-conditioner will be a welcome reprieve from the hot and humid temperatures.

The Spring season raises a good question – is it more about digging out from a brutal Winter or preparing for a pleasant Summer? For the answer you really need to look no further than your home’s air-conditioner. The outside unit likely endured a brutal pounding from constant exposure to cold temperatures over the Winter so it needs to be both maintained from the past and prepped for the future to enjoy efficient operation in the months to come.

Cleaning the Outdoor Central A/C Unit

Whether you have a central air or a split-duct system the outside unit needs to be cleaned before jumping in to the main Summer cooling season. The compressor and condenser sit in this outside unit and will freeze up and have restricted air flow if not cleared of debris and buildup. First turn off the power to the A/C then remove the outer case to allow access into the heart of the unit. Use a vacuum to suck up the debris from the fins and then spray them off with water from the garden hose.

Clean the Indoor Unit

The outside part of the air-conditioner essentially creates the cold air while the inside unit delivers it. It’s equally important to clean the inside unit so that dirt and debris which settled in the Winter aren’t distributed throughout the house every time the A/C runs. The filter should be changed at the beginning of the cooling season (as well as frequently throughout the Summer) and the blower housing should be vacuumed of any dirt and debris.

Do Some Test Runs 

Kids and rodents as well as the environment and just old age could leave the air-conditioner at a very unpredictable status over the offseason. You should check any electrical connections as well as duct registers, circuit breakers, and more before starting up the A/C. Even if it powers on without a hitch, run the air-conditioner a few times before it is really needed so that you can inspect if any airflow is lost through damaged ducts, if condensation is forming in the drip pan (as it should), and just if the unit is operating at it should in general.

Get a Professional Annual Inspection 

It’s easy to spot debris when cleaning but harder for a DIYer to know if the internal components of the air-conditioner are in good working order. It’s recommended to get an annual inspection before the hot Summer months first of all for peace of mind in knowing that the system will function but also for tasks such as:

  • Cleaning the 3 C’s – compressor, condenser, and coils.
  • Checking refrigerant levels – recommended by only a certified tech.
  • Inspection of all wiring – testing and evaluation of both hidden and exposed connections.
  • Checking the cycle on and cycle off processes – for safety and running efficiency.
  • Calibrating the thermostat – to avoid unnecessary cycling and accurate temperature readings.
  • Lubricate moving parts – fans and blowers build up with debris.
  • Clean drains and tubes – avoid backup and potential mold growth in the utility room.

In some cases an annual inspection of your HVAC system by a certified technician is required in order to keep in good standing with the manufacturer’s warranty. In this instance an inspection becomes a great investment.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Is It Time for an Insulation Upgrade?

For many homeowners the topic of insulation is an out of site, out of mind discussion. If a room is cold we generally just turn up the heat, put plastic over the windows, or throw on an extra sweater.Insulation Poor insulation almost never catches a bad rap because it is hidden behind a wall and most people don’t know what, if any, kind of thermal resistance is in their walls.

The truth is millions of dollars have been spent installing Energy Star windows, upgrading a furnace, or powering a space heater when in fact those projects are useless because of underlying insulation issues. When you left the door open as a kid you heard, “are you trying to heat the whole neighborhood” when in essence poor insulation is in itself an open door.

The real tricky question comes in knowing whether or not your current insulation is adequate. It’s one thing to rip into wallpaper and drywall to come to this conclusion but it creates a whole new problem in itself. Instead, follow these tips on determining what you have for insulation and then what your options moving forward are:

Where Should Insulation Be? 

It’s important to remember that insulation is not only for keeping cold air outside during the Winter, it’s also crucial for blocking out hot air in the Summer. The obvious spots for insulation are in every exterior wall from floor to ceiling. One of the areas where many homes have inadequate insulation however is in an attic. Temps can approach 150° in an uninsulated attic as heat from the roof is absorbed into the home, making air-conditioners work harder and driving up energy bills.

Is My Insulation Adequate?

Many homeowners are faced with the conundrum of having insulation but not knowing whether it is sufficient or not. Energy Star has laid out a map of eight different insulation zones and the recommended R-Value of the attics, walls, and floor (R-value is the amount of thermal resistance). The best places to start searching are the attic, which should have 12” of insulation and putting batting between floor joists in a crawl space or unfinished basement.

Checking Wall Insulation 

The reason attics and basements are recommended to upgrade insulation first is because they are easy to access. Attics can have insulation blown into them and basement joists are usually exposed. Walls however are covered up by drywall or plaster and what lies behind them is mostly a mystery. Upgrading wall insulation is expensive because it involves demolition of the finished walls (or drilling multiple holes) and rehanging sheets after improving the thermal resistance – that being said in an old house that is a sieve for heat and A/C loss it could be a worthwhile investment.

Insulation Upgrade Options

If you’ve determined that your existing insulation is doing nothing but draining money on utility bills and making your home uncomfortable, the next step is to determine what type of upgrade you want to have performed. Popular insulation types include:

  • Fiberglass batts – come in 16” or 24” wide rolls that fit nicely into the space between wall studs. Requires open access to that area however (removed drywall, unfinished rooms).
  • Polystyrene foam board – can be installed from the exterior to provide high insulation value compared to the thickness, especially when combined with improved interior insulation.
  • Loose fill cellulose – blown in material which can be sent into an enclosed wall needing more insulation and attic floors as well.
  • Polyurethane spray  – can be sprayed into enclosed areas or exposed attic floors but works when pressure-sprayed into an exposed wall.

Please contact us to schedule an inspection of your existing insulation setup as well as for more information on which insulating options work best regarding your home’s layout.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How Much Should Homeowners Know About Their Own Plumbing?

There are some definite things a DIYer could do around their house if they ‘had to’ and other projects that are a fun way to spend a weekend learning something new. Things that come to mind in these regards include painting a room, changing doors from Spring to Winter, power-washing the siding, and other tasks that don’t require calling ‘the guy’. Two areas which most DIYers opt to bring in the professionals are anything having to do with either 1) electrical work or 2) plumbing.

PlumbingA majority of time when the power goes out it doesn’t really necessitate an emergency. Granted not having a furnace power on for an extended period of time could get worrisome but usually utility crews are on the case and there’s not a lot a homeowner could do to fix the power anyway. Plumbing problems are a different animal however. A toilet not flushing or a sink not draining becomes a serious issue where a plumber needs to be called sooner rather than later. Then there’s pipes that burst which could essentially damage the entire home if not handled immediately.

This begs the question of how much a homeowner should know about their own plumbing system. Even the fastest contractors with 24/7 emergency service take a few minutes to get on-site which in the case of an overflowing toilet or a wall that is leaking could mean thousands of dollars in damage. The average homeowner isn’t expected to know how to reroute pipes throughout their home, but knowledge of these basics can only help.

Water Shut Off

Rule number one when it comes to unwanted water suddenly appearing in your home is “Stop the Flow”. Before you can even assess the situation and brainstorm repairs it’s important to minimize the damage by turning off the water valve. The easiest solution is to simply turn off the main valve that enters the home (basement, utility room, etc.) from the outside and is usually located near an exterior wall. If a fixture such as a sink knob or a toilet handle sticks then individual valves can be used so that the rest of the house maintains water access.

Location of Water Meter

One of the biggest utility drains on a house is hidden lost water usually from undetectable leaks. These not only  cost basically money for nothing, but the constant presence of moisture is eventually going to either rot the surface it is in contact with or lead to the formation of mold. Find the water meter (near a garden, footpath, on the exterior of the home or under the sink) and turn off all fixtures inside the house. Check the numbers and then recheck a while later and since the fixtures are off there should be no change. If there is, a leak is present…somewhere.

Winter Care

The cold weather is bad enough, nobody wants to deal with an indoor ice rink from broken pipes on top of that. As the temperatures start to dip make sure to disconnect all the outside hoses and put insulation on any pipes that are exposed or located in cold patches (window in a basement utility room).

Routine Maintenance and Proper Operation

If water is taking a lot longer than normal to drain it’s best to attack the blockage early instead of letting it build up into a more serious issue. Salt (or baking soda and vinegar) and boiling hot water are a great concoction for breaking up clogs as is a hardware store $15 drain snake. An even better approach is preventing the blockage in the first place by using the garbage disposal responsibly (or not at all) and installing hair stoppers on bathroom drains.

These basics should help most homeowners either avoid or know how to tackle an emergency situation promptly. For most plumbing issues it’s best to hire a contractor but these tips and a little familiarity with your home’s plumbing will limit the damage until we can get there.