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What do You Mean There is No Hot Water?

Believe it or not, tankless water heaters have been around for a long time. In 1868, a painter from England named Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented the first tankless water heater called the geyser. It used hot gases to heat water flowing through a pipe and into a tub. Today tankless heaters work in a similar way but with added features like flue gas exhaust.

Typical installation

Tankless heaters can be installed centrally to provide hot water for the entire home or they can be installed at the point of use for a fixture or group of fixtures. They are sized based on the fixture flow rate and have a higher energy input than tanked equivalents because of how quickly the water is heated.

Why go tankless?

Tankless water heaters are ideal for a number of reasons. Whether you want one central heater or multiple point-of-use heaters, here are the reasons to go tankless:

You save energy by not having to keep 60 gallons of water hot all day while the house is empty. Tanked heaters also have losses through the tank walls, further adding to the energy consumed.

There’s no wait time for water to reach the right temperature in a tank. Water has a high heat capacity, which means that it needs a lot of heat to raise the temperature by one degree. In a tank situation, this means time waiting for the water to heat up if you happen to be the unfortunate one who gets in the shower last. Tankless heaters eliminate this problem by heating the water to the right temperature while it flows to you.

In addition to eliminating the wait times for heating a tankful of water, there’s no limit on how long you can run a tankless before the water gets cold. So even if you just finished a full load of laundry and need to wash the dishes, you’ll always have the hot water you need.

Tankless heaters are smaller and take up less room than tanked heaters. So if space is tight, you can reclaim an average of ten square feet of your home’s floor space for other important items.

They last longer than tanked heaters. Typical tankless heaters have a life expectancy of 20 years as opposed to the 10-15 years of tanked heaters.

If you want to find out whether tankless is ideal for you and to assess how to make it work for your family, give us a call and we can help you get these benefits.

 

Mmm…this Air is Insanely Delicious!

There was a time when the air outside was more polluted than indoor air. Nowadays, pollutants can be two to five times more concentrated indoors than outdoors. To compound this problem, most people spend up to 90% of their time inside.

Why indoor air quality (IAQ) matters
The air you breath has a huge impact on your wellbeing. Health issues caused by poor IAQ can be immediate or long term depending on the type and concentration of pollutants. Short term symptoms include sore throat, fatigue or headaches. Long term effects include the development of respiratory illnesses and even cancer.

Here are four ways to improve your home’s IAQ:

Air cleaners and purifiers

You can clean the air throughout your house or you can deal with it room by room. Whole house air cleaners are placed in the return duct to your furnace. The air first passes through the purifier’s filters to remove allergens and pollutants before entering the furnace. Then it gets distributed throughout your home via ductwork.

Alternatively, you can opt for a purifier that takes care of only one room. These units clean more air in that space but the obvious disadvantage is that the rest of the house won’t benefit.

UV light

UV light is used in air purifiers to kill bacteria and mold spores so it helps reduce allergens in the home. Depending on the technology used, it can sometimes produce high levels of ozone, which is a pollutant. If you choose to use UV light, consult the manufacturer about the potential for ozone creation.

Natural ventilation

Depending on the weather, you can use natural ventilation to introduce clean air into your home. Open the windows and doors on opposite sides of your home to allow outdoor air to flow through. Be careful if you have allergies to pollen and dust as this can introduce more allergens into your home.

Mechanical ventilation

To increase the amount of outdoor air in your home, exhaust fans and ventilators can give you measured flow rates so you know you’re getting the right amount of air. Whether or not you decide to go with an air purifier, you will still need proper ventilation to replace stale air with fresh air so this is fundamental to all homes.

If you need help cleaning out your home’s air, give us a call and we can talk about the best options and how to implement them.

 

How To Deal With Lead Pipe In Your Home

Lead has been used in plumbing since the ancient Romans built their extensive water systems millenia ago. In more recent times, the US used lead pipes without concern until the late 1800s when scientists realised that it contributed to lead poisoning. Unfortunately, lobbyists worked for decades to ensure that lead was used for plumbing until 1986 when the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments banned the use of lead in potable water plumbing.

Where we find lead

Many distribution systems in major cities still have lead pipes since replacing these will take time. Lead was also used in fittings, valves and solder for welding so it can still be found in plumbing in older homes. The amount of lead leaching into your water supply depends on the amount of lead in the pipes and fittings. Water properties such as acidity, softness and temperature also affect lead content.

Risks of lead exposure

Lead poisoning occurs when the levels of lead in the body get too high, causing gastrointestinal problems like abdominal pain, vomiting, and constipation. Other symptoms include headaches, poor memory, sluggishness, developmental issues in children and premature birth and low birthweight in newborns. Lead also causes infertility in adult males as well as miscarriages and stillbirths. Even low levels can cause health problems since it accumulates, making it critical that we reduce our exposure to lead.

What to do

The first thing to do is establish whether you have lead in your water supply and how much. Your municipality can tell you if there are lead service pipes in your area but testing the water coming out your taps is the best way to find out for sure. Some water suppliers will test it for you but if not, you can purchase a testing kit to gather a sample and send to a laboratory.

Depending on the levels, you might still be able to use it. First, you would run cold water for several minutes to clear out the most contaminated water and then gather what you need for consumption.

In some cases, installing a water treatment system that filters lead would reduce its concentration from your municipal supply. If you live in a house with lead pipes and fittings, get a plumber to assess your system to see where your plumbing can be replaced with lead-free alternatives. Existing systems that were installed prior to the latest rules on lead free plumbing can still be in your home making you sick.

Your family’s health is important so if you need help analyzing your home’s plumbing and replacing old lead-containing fittings and fixtures, give us a call and we’ll help you reduce your exposure to this toxic metal.

 

Why is your house so dusty?

Ductwork is a vital part of your home’s heating and cooling. Unfortunately, because it’s mostly hidden, we tend to forget about it. But ductwork problems can cause high energy bills and issues with heating and cooling.

Here are some issues that ductwork might have and how to deal with them:

Leakage

If your ducts aren’t properly airtight, you’ll lose air to the surrounding spaces. That means energy loss, since you’ll have to turn up your furnace to get a comfortable temperature. You’ll also have uncomfortable rooms where there’s not enough air to heat (or cool) them.

Finding leaks can be tricky since most of the ductwork is hidden. You can take care of exposed ductwork in the mechanical room, for example. Use a duct sealant like mastic or Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) certified aluminum tape to seal the leak.

Dust, allergen and germ buildup

Ducts can circulate dust throughout your house. This results in poor indoor air quality and can get your family sick. Winter colds are bad enough without dust aggravating your symptoms.

Have professionals clean out your ductwork every few years. The frequency will depend on whether you have allergies, pets or live in a dusty area.

Poor sizing

Air flow distribution depends on ductwork sizing. Even with dampers, ducts must be correctly sized for the amount of air needed to condition a space. Get this wrong and you’ll have to deal with discomfort during both seasons.

If you notice some rooms consistently hot in summer and cold in winter, get a professional to assess your duct sizing. You might have to replace and rebalance portions of your ductwork system.

Poor layout

If you have duct runs that are too long, the pressure drops in the system will reduce the amount of air reaching the grilles. Similarly, if the ductwork has too many elbows and branch take-offs, the losses will interfere with your airflows.

As with sizing, get a professional to review your ductwork to see how it can be simplified.

No insulation (or not enough)

Some of your ductwork might be routed through unheated spaces, like the attic. Ideally, you want to avoid this situation but it’s not always possible. Losses through these spaces can cost you hundreds on your energy bill annually.

Make sure your ductwork is insulated and verify the condition of your existing insulation. You can add another layer of insulation to ductwork in unheated spaces to save more energy.

For the optimum ductwork that keeps your home’s temperature just right, give us a call and we can help you deal with any issues you may have.

 

Clear Up That Dirty-Looking Water

The water in your taps is so fundamental to daily life that when it comes out discolored, you literally have to stop everything. No cooking, cleaning, showers, and, unless you have bottles of water, no drinking.

Here are some tips for dealing with smelly, discolored water depending on the cause:

Mains cleaning and flushing

If you have city water supplied from the mains, they might be cleaning and flushing out the mains. If that’s the case then you should have received a notice leading up to the planned cleanout. Check with your neighbors to make sure you didn’t miss anything important before considering another option. If this is the case, you just have to wait it out. When the city completes the work, run your taps until the water clears up.

You might have corroded pipes

If there’s no planned maintenance, then shifts in flow through piping could loosen up corrosion debris and cause your water to change color. If you are the only one in your neighborhood with the issue, then your supply pipe or internal plumbing is likely the culprit. Call a professional to assess the location of the problem pipe and arrange to have it replaced before it bursts or leaks.

 Your hot water tank might be corroded

If you notice that the discoloration happens when you turn on your hot water, the tank might be the cause of the problem. Your supply water from the city might be corrosive or your tank might be at the end of its useful life. A professional can assess the root cause and advise whether your heater should be replaced and whether you need to install your own water treatment system to prevent future problems with your hot water tank.

  It might just be the water from the city.

Although Detroit is known for its quality water supply, there are some chemicals that some people would prefer to not go into their bodies. Chlorine is a big one, trace amounts of lead, and fluoride just to name a few. If you have any concerns about these items then you may want to add your own filter. If your water scares you, than give us a call.

 

Tips For Lowering Your Heating Bill

Dealing with cold, yucky weather for months on end is hard enough. But paying more for heat just makes it worse. Here are some tips for saving cash on your heating so you can go therapy shopping to get you through the winter misery.

Get a thermostat that allows setback

Lowering your thermostat will undoubtedly lower your gas consumption. Setback allows you to vary the temperature setting according to your daily schedule. So for the days at work (when you’re using the boss’s heat), you can leave your home cooler. In the evening, you can enter a warm house without having to wait for it to heat up while sitting in your parka.

You have two main options for this: a programmable thermostat that lets you input the temperature settings you’d like throughout the week and a smart thermostat that learns your schedule and connects to your phone so you can remotely increase the temperature before entering the door. Discuss with a professional so you can choose the right one for you.

Tighten up leaks in your home’s construction

Having better control over your temperature settings won’t help much if cold air is leaking in or warm air is leaking out. Make sure your windows and doors are well sealed to keep the indoor air in so you use less heat to make up for losses.

In addition to sealing leaks, you can replace windows with high performance ones that have higher insulation values. You can choose from multiple panes of glass (double or triple glazed) or windows with special coatings as well as vacuum sealed air spaces for even better insulation.

Upgrade to a high efficiency furnace or boiler

Reduce energy consumption at the source by upgrading your furnace or boiler to one that has a high efficiency and watch your bill drop. Annual efficiencies on residential heating equipment can be as high as 98%, an improvement of 18% over older equipment in the 80% range.

Insulate ducts and pipes in unheated spaces

If you have a high efficiency furnace but lose heat through ducts in the attic, you’ll still end up consuming more gas and paying more. This is a simple fix that can save you up to 35% of unnecessary heat loss. Even if you already have insulation, you might want to consider re-insulating older ducts. Before you do, however, make sure to seal any leaks as these are responsible for even more losses.

 

 

 

Household Humidifers

When it comes to comfort, temperature is only one part of the picture. The amount of moisture in the air is just as important. Getting humidity right affects your real comfort levels but more importantly, it affects your health.

How much humidity should you aim for?

The ideal range is 40-50% in the summer and 30% in the winter. The slightly lower target in winter is to prevent condensate from forming on cold windows. Typically for the colder months, low humidity is the issue since cold air holds less moisture.

Effects of low humidity

Static build-up is one of the first things you’d notice when the humidity drops. Getting small shocks when you touch metal might seem like nothing more than discomfort. For your expensive equipment and devices, however, static electricity can lead to damage.

Dry skin and membranes: Low humidity causes the dreaded “winter skin” which can become painful as your skin cracks and opens you up to infection. Not only does your skin dry out, but so do your nasal membranes. This increases your susceptibility to colds and other respiratory illnesses.

Damage to furniture and your home’s structure occurs if the air is so dry that it removes moisture from wood. Your floors may begin to creak more and your doorways might warp slightly. This is something that happens over time so you may not notice it right away but to keep your home in good shape, you need the right humidity.

How to prevent a dry house

By far the best way to keep your humidity levels up in winter is to use a humidifier. You can use a vaporizer or install a humidifier in your HVAC system. Regardless of what you use, remember not to let the air get too humid because this comes with its own problems.

You need the right-sized humidifier

To get the right amount of humidity, the first step is to have a humidifier that’s the right size. A professional usually calculates the required pounds per hour (lb/hr) of moisture or steam to be added to the air. The amount of moisture needed is based on temperature of air entering the furnace (a mixture of outdoor air and return air from your home) as well as relative humidity. Moisture is added to get humidity levels up to where they should be. Having a humidity sensor ensures you never go too high or too low with humidity levels.

Don’t deal with winter dryness this year

Give us a call and we’ll help you fix your home’s low humidity problems.