Tips & Articles

Fall is the Time to Check Your Heating System

A woman adjusts her thermostat to check her heating systemAs the weather begins to cool down, you can open the windows to save on your electric bill. A good way to invest the money you save in the fall is to get a heating system tune-up. The small amount you pay for the tune-up can mean big savings on the repair bills you won’t have in the winter. Just like a vehicle, your heating system needs to be inspected and maintained to prevent larger repairs down the road.

Each type of heating system has a different set of elements that need to be checked and maintained throughout the year. You can find our complete 15 Point Service Checklist on our Ranck Maintenance page, but we have included some of the key issues that should be inspected for each system.

Gas Heating Systems
Gas furnaces and boilers are the most common heating system in the older homes of Berks, Lancaster and York Counties. Natural gas systems are very efficient and can be an economic way to heat your house. Still, like every other system there are components that need to be maintained and cleaned every year to keep your system working correctly and efficiently.

Cleaning
Build-up, after a winter of burning, can clog and decrease the efficiency of your system. It is important to clean the flue pipes and base at the chimney to make sure the airway does not have dangerous blockage. The exhaust and burner assembly also need to be cleaned.

System Checks
Like any fine tuned machine, different elements need to be checked and adjusted to ensure they do not compromise the rest of the system. These parts range from the gas line, ignition and combustion systems, to specific components like the pilot burner, heat exchanger, relief valve, and belt tension. This ensures that the complete system is running at maximum efficiency from the thermostat to the heat in your home.

Oil Heating Systems
Oil heating systems have become much more efficient than they were in the last century and gallon-for-gallon oil produces more heat than gas. However, oil prices have been much higher than natural gas in recent years. There are many similarities in maintaining oil heating systems, as well as a few key differences.

Cleaning
Like the gas systems, it is very important to clean the flue pipes and base of the chimney to make sure the airway is not blocked. The internal thermostat also has to be cleaned. Unlike gas systems, there is an oil filter that needs to be changed and the old one needs to be disposed of, according to hazardous waste rules. The oil nozzle atomizes the fuel before it ignites. These tend to get clogged with build-up from impurities in the fuel. There are many nozzle types, so it is important that the company servicing your system replaces it with one that will maintain or improve your heating efficiency.

System Checks
Oil systems have different stages that turn the oil into heat. Each stage needs to be tested to make sure it is functioning correctly. These stages include the transformer, oil blowers and motors, oil pump pressure, combustion chamber, relief valve, expansion tank, and heat exchanger

Heat Pump Systems
Like oil, electrical heat pump systems have become much more efficient in recent decades. The efficiency of a heat pump depends on the ease of airflow and the effectiveness of the machine pumping the air through the house. Since the same system is often used to cool the house, it is being used in both summer and winter, and should be checked twice a year.

Cleaning
The most important part of cleaning for the heat pump is the air filters, since a dirty air filter can restrict airflow and efficiency. The ducts should also be cleaned as a separate service at least every three years.

System Checks
Heat pump systems have many moving parts and smaller systems within the unit. System checks require lubricating all moving parts and examining the multiple components of the electrical, evaporator, pressure, blower, and condenser systems.

Many people wonder if it really is necessary to service your system every year. The answer is yes. For older systems, it is vital to replace older parts that can fail or reduce efficiency. Likewise, it’s important to have regular inspections of newer systems to prevent issues and catch problems before they become an expensive repair.

If you have not scheduled your annual check-up with Ranck, give us a call at 888-997-2625 or schedule an appointment. You can also sign up for Preventive Maintenance Service and have peace-of-mind throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fix a Kitchen Drain Clog

Banner: Helpful Plumbing tips

Drain clogs can happen in every home for a variety of reasons. Today we will look at kitchen drain clogs and different methods for removing and for preventing them in the first place. The kitchen sink is one of the most common places to get a clogged drain. This is due in a large part to the amount of grease and organic matter that can potentially go down the drain and into the water trap and pipes. And, if you are using a garbage disposal, there is even more potentially disruptive organic matter going down your drain. Here are some steps we recommend to keep your kitchen drains flowing:

Kitchen Sink Clog Prevention
Prevention is the largest factor in dealing with clogs. When cleaning dishes, make sure you scrape most of the food into the trash first and do not put coffee grounds down the drain. Pour any grease from pans into a metal can, which can be thrown away after the grease has cooled. Minimize the amount of food you put through the disposal. Avoid large amounts of potato peels, orange rinds, leafy vegetables, etc. Also use a constant flow of water during and for 30-60 seconds after the disposal is shut off. This will assist in the process and keep the drain from clogging. After you do the dishes, make sure you run hot water to prevent greasy buildup near the drain. If you really want to get serious pour a half-cup of baking soda and a half-cup of vinegar down the drain, followed by very hot water. 

Use Natural Bacteria/Enzyme Cleaners
Unlike toxic chemical drain openers, enzyme cleaners will create slime eating colonies that literally eat all sorts of organic matter. However these cleaners work best as a preventative, removing the grime before it can build up. The best time to use enzyme cleaners is right before bedtime, so they have all night to settle in before the next day’s water can wash them away.

Unclogging a Kitchen Sink
The best way to unclog a sink is to actually take out what is clogging the pipes. Toxic chemicals have acid and will “burn” a small hole trough the clog which may get rid of the backed up water, but will not open the drain. Once the drain is clogged, 90% of the time it is in the drain itself. If using a plunger on the clog doesn’t work, it will need to be “snaked” (opened with a flexible cable with a cutting attachment on the end that will open the drain as it rotates). While there are electric and mechanical versions the mechanical snakes are the better option and can be rented at a local tool rental center.  When using a snake, make sure you are wearing clothes that can get dirty because this can be tricky and messy task. If you have snaked the drain and still have the clog, you will have to go lower into the P-Trap. Empty or dip as much water out of the sink itself with a bucket before attempting anything under the sink.  If you don’t, you will get more water than even a large bucket can hold.

Once you have removed most of the water from the sink, put a large bucket under the P-Trap (the curved part of the drain). Then slowly loosen the top nut. If the clog is in the P-Trap, then water will start to run out into your bucket. Once the water has drained, remove the P-Trap. Take the P-Trap and shake it into the bucket to remove the clog. You can also push a paper towel through to clean out the grease and muck. If the water does not run out of the sink it means the clog is in the pipe above the P-Trap. Put the bucket back and see if you can work the clog free from the back end of the pipe. Remember, the water is still in the sink above the clog so things may get messy when it comes loose.

We realize removing the clog isn’t for everyone. So, if you need help we are only a phone call away. Call us at 888-997-2625 or contact us for help.

How to Keep Your Home Cool Without the AC

A family using fans in the top 10 ways to cool home without acAs the temperature climbs, you will find no better investment than your home’s air conditioning system to keep you cool. Making smart choices inside your home can prevent your AC from working too hard to maintain a cool temperature and could even help you have a cool home without AC if you want to give your system a rest.

Here are some tried-and-true and a few new ways to cool your house without the AC.

  1. Window Treatments
    Sunlight coming in through your windows can result in up to 30% of the excess heat in your house. Using blinds and light colored curtains can reduce the afternoon temperature in your house by almost 20 degrees. If you don’t want to reduce the light in your house just close the blinds on the south and west facing windows. You can also use sheer curtains to diffuse the light and reflect much of the heat back outside.
  2. Run Your Appliances at Night
    Laundry appliances generate heat whether through the hot water of the washer or the heat of the dryer. The heat generated by the dishwasher also contributes to the inside temperature. It’s best to run them at night when the air is cooler outside.
  3. Plant Deciduous Trees
    Planting trees that lose their leaves in the winter (deciduous) on the south and west sides of the house will generate cooling shade in the summer and allow sunlight to warm your house in the winter. Choose fast growing Poplar, Sycamore or Maple trees. You can also plant Birch trees that have smaller leaves, so the raking is a little easier.
  4. Grill More
    Your oven and stovetop are cooking more than your food. They are also raising the temperatures in your kitchen. Start grilling outside as the day starts to cool. With a little dedication you can grill most of the foods you make in the oven from pizza to oysters and french fries.
  5. Keep the Fans On
    Air circulation is important, especially if you are not using your AC. Many systems allow you to set the fan to run for a set number of minutes per hour. In the evening, running a fan to push the hot air out of the attic and pull in the cooler air will also help lower temperatures. Ceiling fans also do a great job of moving cool air downward within the room.
  6. Dehumidify
    In Central PA; humidity can make all the difference. If you have a dehumidifier keep it running. Also, be aware of the humidity generating activities in your home. Bathing or running the laundry and dish washer can add moisture to your home, so run the bathroom fan or a ceiling vent to pump out that moist air whenever possible.
  7. The Beauty of a Box Fan
    Box fans placed in or near windows can help draw in cool air from outside or pull warm air out of a room depending on how they are placed. If the blades face the window screen, the fan helps pull hot air out of the room. Flipped the other way, it draws in air from outdoors.
  8. Use LED Bulbs
    LED bulbs not only save on electricity, they also generate less heat. In Pennsylvania, electric companies often subsidize the cost of LED bulbs to lower the price, which in turn allows you to save on your electric bill and reduce the heat added to your home at night.
  9. Change Your Sheets
    Cotton sheets are the coolest option of the traditional fabrics. In the summer you will want to use sheets with a LOWER thread count since they breathe more. For those who need to sleep under a comforter or a blanket, try using a crochet blanket with wide openings to keep the air moving. There are also sheets and pillows engineered to absorb moisture and keep you cool. Some people even fill a hot water bottles with cold water and put sheets in the freezer before bed to stay extra cool.
  10. Old School AC
    It’s an oldie but a goodie. Put a pan full of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow cool moist air from the pan into the room. This trick works best in smaller rooms.

We’re sure if you ask your elders they will have additional ideas you have never heard of and may want to try. In the meantime, sit back and appreciate the blessings of the modern system in your home today.

Simple Ways to Save Water This Summer

Sprinkler on grass in summertimeSummer is peak season for water usage in America. Whether you’re cooling off, watering your plants, or washing your car, the
gallons quickly add up. In fact, the average American family of four uses around four hundred gallons of water a day, but could actually live off about three gallons!

We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you and your family conserve water this season. By putting these tips to use you’ll be able to reduce your water bill, reduce pollution, and contribute to preventing drought in your community.

1. Water your lawn and plants in either the early morning or evening. When the sun is high, water quickly evaporates. Put your water to better use by watering at times when moisture is more likely to stay in the soil.
2. If you own a pool, make sure to cover it even in the summertime. Leaving your pool open leads to water evaporation, which results in filling up your pool more often.
3. Apply a thick layer of bark mulch to your trees, shrubs, and gardens to help retain moisture and limit the need to water your plants as often.
4. When using a sprinkler for your lawn, make sure it isn’t spraying your house, driveway, or walkway and is truly watering your lawn. And, when cleaning your driveway and walkways, you can conserve water by using a push broom instead of the hose.
5. Purchase a rain barrel to collect water from your gutter’s downspout. You can reuse the water for your lawn and garden.
6. Don’t wash your car at home. You’ll use almost twice as much water than if you took your vehicle to the car wash.
7. After bringing your fresh produce home from the store, rinse them in a bowl of water instead of running water. This way you can repurpose the water for your plants and garden when you are done.
8. Avoid washing your dishes by hand. You could save up to 20 gallons of water by using your dishwasher, just remember to only run the appliance when it is full.
9. Thaw your frozen foods on the counter or in the fridge to avoid using running water.
10. Begin composting instead of relying on your garbage disposal. You’ll use less water and turn discarded fruit and veggies into useful gardening soil.
11. Shorten your showers, there’s no need to take a long hot shower in the summer. You can save 150 gallons a month by shortening you showers by just 2 minutes.
12. We’ve all heard this one before; turn your faucet off when brushing your teeth. It’s one of the simplest ways to conserve water.
13. Fix leaky faucets and running toilets. You could silently be wasting up to 100 gallons of water a day with a leaky toilet and dripping faucets waste about 2700 gallons of water per year.
14. Upgrade to a low-flow showerhead and a low-flush toilet to reduce your water usage by 75%. Contact Ranck and we’ll help you fix your leaks and install efficient bathroom fixtures.
15. When doing the laundry make sure to only wash a full load and avoid using the permanent-press setting, which uses additional water.
16. When eating out, let the waiter know if you are unlikely to drink the complimentary glass of water so it won’t end up down the drain after you leave.
17. Purchase recycled products when you can, they use less water and energy to make. Look for the 100% Recycled label when shopping for disposables.
18. And lastly, work to educate your family on how to conserve water and why it’s important. If each of us does our part we can make a larger impact when it comes to water conservation.

We hope these simple tasks will help you and your family on the path to conserving water, reducing pollution, and lowering your water bill. Should you have additional questions about how your family can conserve water or are in need of a service, give us a call.

Setting Your Thermostat for Summer

Summer Heat Thermometer

Every family has its debates. For some, it’s over what to eat for dinner, while others may bicker over who controls the remote or the best temperature setting for the AC. As an HVAC company we can’t help plan the perfect menu or regulate control of the remote, but we can help your family cool down when you lose your cool over comfort. Here are some of our top tips.

Savings and Comfort

When disputing over what temperature to keep your home, the debate is not always about comfort but rather saving money. Over 40% of the average home’s electricity bill in the US is a result of air conditioning or heating use. Each time someone lowers the temperature on the thermostat, your electric bill rises.

Find a Balance

The best way to approach this issue is to try and find a balance between comfort and expense. After all, what good is having an air conditioner if you don’t use it? You’ll find plenty of sources online claiming they have the golden number for your AC setting. For example, Energy Star recommends setting your thermostat at 78° F during the daytime when you’re home. While that temperature may be too warm for some, it could be just perfect for others. The key is to identify your family’s comfort zone.

Find Your Comfort Range

Instead of focusing on a magic number, try to find a temperature range that best suits your family. Most families are generally comfortable in the range of 70 to 79 degrees. Then try and narrow down the degree that can save you the most money on your electricity bill.

The best way to do this is to start at the low end of your family’s range and raise the temperature one degree each day. When your family starts to raise concerns about being uncomfortable, you know you’ve reached your limit. For every degree you raise the thermostat you could save up to 3% on your electricity bill.

While You’re Away or Sleeping

There are also many debates on what temperature you should set the thermostat to when you are away from home or preparing for nighttime. Again, this is all relative to your comfort, but many sources recommend setting your thermostat between 80 and 85 degrees when you are away from home. The night air is much cooler, so when preparing for bed, try to not always rely on your AC system by opening a window instead. Or if AC is a must, turn on a ceiling fan to help keep the thermostat temperature at a higher setting.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

Worried you’ll forget to turn your AC up or down depending on the time of day? Investing in a programmable thermostat is a great way to reduce stress, lower your electricity bill, and keep your family comfortable throughout the summer. Need help setting up your programmable thermostat? Give Ranck a call. 

Use Your Fans

Our final tip to help your family stay comfortable this summer is to use fans. Whether they are ceiling fans, box fans, or standing fans, a fan can help keep you cool while you are home and allow you to keep the thermostat on the higher end of your comfort range. Remember to turn your fans off when you are away, as they only work to cool people not homes.

We hope this article will help you and your family tackle the debate over the thermostat and keep cool this summer. Should you have additional questions about home cooling or are in need of a service, give us a call.