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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 learn about our Priority YOU service on the 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.

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.

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.

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 Preventative Maintenance Service and have peace-of-mind throughout the year.






How to Fix a Kitchen Drain Clog

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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 your home without 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. Contact Ranck Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning to keep your home cool this summer!

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