heater safety - fire hazard

3 Heater Safety Tips That Can Protect Your Home From Fire

Virginia and D.C. residents are no strangers to cold winter weather and the home heating procedures that come along with it. However, many are ill-prepared when it comes to one thing: practicing heater safety in order to prevent fires.

But before assuming you already know how to protect your home, consider this: improper use of heating equipment contributed to 56,000 fires that resulted in 470 deaths, 1,490 injuries and $1 billion in direct property damage -- just between 2009 and 2013. Those are some scary numbers.

 

heater safety tips

3 Heater Safety Tips That Will Prevent a House Fire

Fires occur more in winter months than in any other time of the year. Before starting up your home furnace this season, make sure you're following these three heater safety tips.

1. Don't use an extension cord with space heaters.

Electric space heaters are great -- they provide an affordable way to heat just one room or supplement an inadequate heating system. If you do choose to heat your house with electric space heaters, make sure to plug them directly into the wall rather than use an extension cord, as they can overheat and start a fire.

2. Keep your heater clear of clutter.

Keep the space around any vents or radiators clear, particularly of items that are combustible. Hanging clothes to dry on your heater is always a bad idea, and placing furniture in front of your heater can cause the heat to become trapped and build up to dangerous levels.

3. Change your detector batteries regularly.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors only work when they're properly installed and checked regularly. Make sure the batteries in your detectors are fresh and that the devices themselves are still working. If your smoke alarm is over 10 years old or it does not sound when tested, change it immediately. It's also a good idea to make sure you have an alarm installed in every room on every level of the home, including the basement.

To ensure maximum protection against house fires, it's best to have your heater inspected by a DC heating repair specialist. To have your furnace, boiler or heater system checked, schedule an appoint with the experts at John C. Floor today.

Stay Warm Without Breaking the Bank with a Programmable Thermostat

The term energy saving has different meanings for different people. For some, this is more closely aligned with energy conservation while others think of it in a monetary sense. The fact remains the same that both are correct.

The less energy we use as consumers means there is more that can be drawn upon when it is necessary. From a home owner’s point of view, saving energy will both reduce their carbon footprint and save on the monthly energy bills.

Energy efficient home - happy couple - John C. Flood

This saving of energy can be accomplished in multiple ways. The use of energy efficient appliances like Energy star or with the installation and use of a heat pump, instead of the traditional furnace and air conditioner. These units use less energy to do the same job as their traditional counterparts. This leads to a reduction in the amount of energy consumed and lower energy bills.

Before the development of the heat pump, most homeowners used to manually adjust their thermostat. By reducing the temperature variance between the outside temp and the inside climate, a degree of savings can be accomplished. Unfortunately since it was manual, it was sometimes forgotten and the savings did not materialize.

john-c-flood-programmable-thermostatTo help in this situation today, there are programmable thermostats. Once the program has been laid into the system, it will work automatically. This way, the temperature variance at night will be reduced automatically every night. This same reduction in the consumption of energy can be accomplished for any period of the day when the home is not occupied. This can be when everyone is away for school or work.

The best thing about the programmable thermostat is that the home’s environment will return to the preferred settings automatically so the home owner’s comfort level will never be sacrificed in their quest of energy savings for the reason that is important to them.

how to efficiently heat your home

How To Efficiently Heat Your Home This Winter

There are a lot of good things about the snowy season in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Skiing at Whitetail or Liberty. Holiday gifts. Hot chocolate at 701. Caps games at Verizon Center.

But while this is a time of year that many people enjoy, it can also be incredibly stressful for homeowners -- especially if you don't understand how to efficiently heat your home.

An increase in energy bills is inevitable (we need it to stay warm and cozy, not to mention to help prevent pipes from freezing over or bursting). To help you keep your costs affordable, we've compiled four home heating tips for you to follow this winter.

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bathroom safety tips - ducks in a row

7 Bathroom Safety Tips That Will Help Protect Your Kids

Whether they’re bathing in the sink or splashing around in the tub, kids love to be in the water. Unfortunately, though, the bathroom can be a very dangerous place for children -- which means it's critical to take a few essential safety measures. To keep your kids protected, follow these seven bathroom safety tips. 

1. Never Leave Your Little One Alone in the Bath

bathroom safety tips: never leave your kid alone

Did you know that younger children can drown in only a few inches of water? That’s right — even when the bathtub is less than one-fourth full, your kid is still in danger of drowning. Never leave her alone in the bath, even if it's only for a few seconds. If you can’t ignore the doorbell or the phone, wrap her in a towel and take her along with you. And remember: never leave water in the bathtub when it's not in use.

2. Keep the Floor Fully Dry

bathroom safety tips: dry bathroom floor

A slippery bathroom floor can be extremely dangerous for your child, so it’s important to never leave the floor wet or damp as it poses a high risk of injury. If there is any leak in the bathroom, call in a specialist like John C. Flood to investigate and fix it. Another great recommendation is to install non-slip strips around the bathtub, since this is an area prone to extra wetness.

3. Put Cushioned Covers Over Water Faucets

bathroom safety tips: cover faucet

Steel water faucets are also quite dangerous. They can cause severe injury to your kid if he bumps into them, either while in the bathtub or when playing in the bathroom. Consider installing cushioned covers over them to help minimize injury and make the bathroom a safer place for your child.

4. Always Close the Toilet Lid
bathroom safety tips: close toilet seat

For many toddlers, the toilet may appear fun and interesting, but there’s a high chance that they might accidentally fall in while playing. It’s best to keep the lid of the toilet closed at all times of the day and night so this risk is reduced to a minimum. You might also want to get a toilet lid lock to keep it closed while you're not around.

5. Keep Hazardous Objects Out of Reach

bathroom safety tips: Keep Hazardous Objects Out of Reach

A curious three-year-old who plays in the bathroom will probably find your razor blade quite interesting. The beautiful design of the shampoo bottle might also be very attractive — and if it happens to be a fruity one, he might even try to taste it. Keep all hazardous objects out of your kid’s reach. If needed, consider installing top shelves that your little one cannot access. Or, invest in locks that prevent him from touching and playing with any of the dangerous objects in the bathroom.

6. Don’t Leave Hot Tools Unattended

bathroom safety tips: hide hair tools
Image via Flickr

If you actively use hot tools such as the blow dryer, curling iron or flat iron, then you’ll want to be extra careful when your child is around. Don’t leave any of these unattended for a second (even just to answer the phone), as they pose a high risk for burns. The best thing to do is to keep all electronic items unplugged when your child is around, and especially when he’s in the bathroom.

7. Use an Anti-Scald Valve

bathroom safety tips: Use Anti-Scald Valve

Using faucets is child’s play — literally. Sadly, faucets can cause injuries to your kid, especially if he accidentally runs the water too hot. To prevent burns and scalding, keep the temperature on the water heater set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. As an additional safety measure, install anti-scald valves that prevent the water from going above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Is your bathroom in need of remodeling beyond these seven bathroom safety tips? The experts at John C. Flood would love to help! Check out our website to learn more about our services.

Yellow garden hose with light blue extension nozzle

How to disconnect garden hose for winter

Forgot how to disconnect your garden hose for winter? Don't worry, you wouldn't be the first! People take a lot of precautions when it comes to winter weather, but it's hard to remember a long home maintenance to-do list when the holidays are approaching.

Of course, staying warm and comfortable indoors is important, so it's easy to make small behavioral changes like letting a faucet drip slightly and keeping the heat on, key actions to prevent a frozen pipe or a broken water heater. However, many people fail to consider issues outside of the home that may plague your plumbing when the temperatures drop.

frozen ground work boots to disconnect outdoor hose

Disconnect garden hose before the ground freezes

Winters in the Mid-Atlantic can be unpredictable, and it is not uncommon for residents to wake up with several inches of snow covering their back lawns. When the ground enters a state of being frozen, you can essentially pack up your gardening and lawn care equipment for the season. This includes disconnecting and putting away your garden hose.

If you forget to disconnect garden hose during the winter, the water that remains within will freeze and almost definitely cause the lining to crack. It gets worse if you have a control nozzle on your hose and freezing occurs, as this ice will put pressure on the pipes connected to your house and, as a result, the home's entire plumbing system. The added pressure will then increase the potential for your pipes to either crack or burst, which are some of the costliest repairs a homeowner can deal with.

drain the outdoor faucet immediately. forgot to disconnect garden hose for winter

Drain outdoor faucets immediately

Once you put away your garden hose for the winter, take extra steps to ensure that plumbing that is exposed to the elements will be safe in freezing temperatures. Start by completely draining the outdoor faucet immediately after the hose is disconnected.

Shut-off valves

Most homes have shut-off valves that you can use to block a pipe that leads outdoors. Should your home have these, you will usually find them located in basements or closets in an area of the house close to where the outdoor faucet is located.

Insulated faucet jacket

After you've ensured these outdoor pipes are as bone dry as possible, invest in an insulated faucet jacket. These devices can be found at most hardware stores and work to make sure that even if the faucet has no moisture, the freezing temperatures won't penetrate indoor plumbing as well.

 

disconnect outdoor hose to prevent indoor plumbing damage during winter

About John C. Flood

At John C. Flood, we are committed to a standard of excellence and quality that no other Gaithersburg, MD plumbing service can offer. With more than 100 years experience providing plumbing, air conditioning and electrical contracting, we have unmatched skill and expertise satisfying our many area customers.

We also offer energy saving Management Plans that will save customers on utility expenses in the long run. We are open seven days a week and offer customers regular rates no matter when they need us to stop by their home or business.

Why You Should Prep Your Sump Pump for Winter

If you live in one of the many communities along the Atlantic Coast that is prone to regular flooding, there is a good chance that your basement is equipped with a sump pump. These devices help prevent moist areas of the home stay dry by pumping any water that builds up on the floor out of your home. Unfortunately, sump pumps aren't without their own problems.
 
Despite all of the great technological advancements of the past century, an efficient way to keep basements dry without regular maintenance has not been one of them. To begin with, these devices are hooked up to drainage systems that are placed in the concrete floor of your home's basement. This means that when winter comes about and the ground freezes, you're sump pump will be privy to a host of potential damage. First off, if the sump pump was clogged to begin with at the start of the cold season, that means that water may be trapped within the device. Once temperatures go below freezing and that water turns to ice, it may put pressure on the mechanism that could cause it to fracture. When the ground thaws out come spring and groundwater builds up in your basement, your sump pump will be essentially useless and your basement will surely flood. Take the initiative before winter hits the region with full force. Inspect your sump pump for any damage immediately to make sure that its functionality hasn't already been compromised. This mean you may have to uncover the pump and look in to make sure there isn't already a pool of dirty water in the unit.
 
At John C. Flood, we are committed to a standard of excellence and quality that no other Fairfax, VA plumber can offer. With more than 100 years experience providing plumbing, air conditioning and electrical contracting, we have unmatched skill and expertise satisfying our many area customers. We also offer energy saving Management Plans that will save customers on utility expenses in the long run, which will be a big help going into the expensive holiday season. We are open seven days a week and offer customers regular rates no matter when they need us to stop by their home or business.

How to avoid common winter electrical problems

With holiday lights twinkling, heat pumping out of all the vents, and an electric blanket warming your bed at night, home electrical systems have a heavy load during winter. Here are the most common electrical problems during wintertime and what you can do to solve them.

Problem #1: Not Enough Power

After the temperature drops, your heating system works every day to keep your home warm and your pipes intact. Holiday decorations and portable heaters add more strain to the electrical system. Signs that your electrical circuit is overburdened include flickering lights and regularly tripping the breaker.

If you find your system is overloaded, you have a couple of options:

Evaluate power consumption and adjust

Washer, dryer, kitchen appliances — once these machines hit ten years old, you are well due for replacements. Old appliances can draw a lot of power, even if they aren’t on. Most of the year you might not notice this, but choosing energy efficient replacements will make the holidays go smoother and reduce your bills during the rest of the year.

Heavy Up

If your home needs more power to keep up with usage, consider upgrading your electrical system with a “heavy up.” Heavy up is industry jargon for having an electrician increase the amperage coming into your home through the service panel.

For homes more than 20 years old, you might have modern amenities powered by an out of date circuit. If you don’t know if your home has been rewired for modern usage, consider having an electrician inspect your home to find out. Circuit breakers are essential to preventing electrical fires, so if your circuits are mismatched to your needs, that puts you at risk.

winter electrical problems

Is it worth it? The case for buying home generators

Problem #2: Old Space Heaters & Electric Blankets

If you regularly use an electric space heater in your home, proper use and safety are essential. Many people use a small portable heater to keep a room cozy without spiking the gas bill. However, most space heaters are big electricity consumers!

When you haul out the space heater and electric blanket, inspect the cords and blanket edges for fraying, tears and signs of wear. As a rule of thumb, it is best to replace these items every five years due to wear and tear and also to match modern energy consumption.

Why is my house cold even with the heat turned on?

Practice good space heater safety

Extension cords pose a major fire risk when used with space heaters because it is harder to trip the circuit breaker when they overheat. Prevent electrical fires caused by space heaters by following these easy rules:

  • Always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet; never use with an extension cord or power strip.
  • Always unplug the space heater when it is not in use and when you leave the room.
  • Make sure your heater has an automatic shutoff feature for if it falls over.
  • Regularly inspect cord for fraying or wear. Replace your heater if you find damage.
  • Consider having a new outlet installed if your cord doesn’t reach where you need it.
  • Do not attempt to heat more than one room with a space heater.

winter electrical problems

Problem #3: Risks for electrical fires

Improving home safety is an ongoing battle for most homeowners. Here are a few red flag areas to monitor for electrical problems during winter.

The top 5 causes of electrical fires

Extension cords

Because they can’t reliably trip a circuit breaker, extension cords pose a fire risk and should never be part of a permanent installation in your home. Circuit breakers are your best protection against electrical fires, and if they don’t detect overheating of an appliance powered by extension cord, power cords can overheat, melt, arc and spark a fire. Your best protection to avoid this scenario is to have a licensed electrician install more power outlets where you need them.

Damaged holiday lights

Whenever you unpack holiday decor, take time to look for damage and signs of wear and age to your holiday lights. If you discover damage, it is best to replace these items and not risk a failed DIY repair job. Read the warning tags to know how many strings of light can be safely strung together.

winter electrical problems

Keep Christmas trees away from heat

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends keeping your Christmas tree (both artificial and fresh) at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces and space heaters. If you buy a real tree for Christmas, plan to discard it the day after Christmas or when it becomes dry. Dried out trees present a huge electrical fire risk in December and January.

Reduce static shocks with a humidifier

Running the heat dries out your already low humidity winter air. Very dry air is a good conductor of static electricity, increasing the likelihood of electrical fires caused by electrical shock. An easy, economical solution to reduce risk and improve air quality is to place a humidifier in the driest areas of your home or purchase a whole home humidifier for maximum comfort.

How home humidity can soothe a fussy baby

Work with a qualified electrician

Whether you are a new homeowner, prospective buyer or simply a person interested in improving the efficiency and safety of their home, turn to the professional electricians you can trust. If you have doubts about your electrical system, call the licensed electricians at John C. Flood for an assessment before the cold weather kicks into high gear.

frozen pipes

How to Avoid and Fix Frozen Pipes

Although frozen pipes aren't frequently an issue in our area, many pipes installed in local homes simply weren't designed to withstand freezing temperatures. Pipes in unheated parts of a home — in attics and crawl spaces, along exterior walls, etc. — could be susceptible to problems in the event that they freeze. If you aren't prepared to prevent or fix frozen pipes, they can cause serious damage. For the best ways to prevent frozen pipes in the wintertime, follow the steps below or consult a professional.

When to Worry

Unlike standing water, pipes aren't likely to freeze at exactly 32 degrees Fahrenheit: even if the temperature outside your home is freezing, uninsulated parts of your home will still be a few degrees warmer. Instead, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety suggests homeowners should start worrying about frozen pipes (including bursting pipes) when the temperature is 20 degrees or below.

frozen pipes

Avoiding Frozen Pipes

Before winter weather hits and temperatures drop, take these steps to ensure your pipes will continue to operate through the coldest months of the year without any problems.

  • Drain your outdoor pipes. Before temperatures drop below freezing, drain your exterior pipes. If you don’t have shut-off valves for exterior faucets, contact a plumber to install them.
  • Seal leaks in your pipes. Even small holes in your pipes can cause them to freeze faster than they normally would. Look for leaks near electrical wiring and openings like dryer vents, and seal any openings with caulk.
  • Insulate your pipes. If your home has pipes in uninsulated areas like the attic, insulate them ahead of time. The more insulation you use, the less likely your pipes are to freeze.
  • Use pipe-specific insulation products. Your plumber can recommend the best products for pipe insulation. He or she might install, for example, a pipe sleeve, heat tape, or heat cables to better insulate your exposed pipes.

frozen pipes

On days when temperatures are below freezing, take the following precautions to ensure your pipes don’t freeze.

  • Keep the heat on at night. You might not think your house needs to be heated while you're asleep, but your pipes are more likely to freeze overnight if you turn down the heat when you get in bed. Night is also when temperatures are at their coldest, so even if it temperatures weren't below freezing during the day, they could drop overnight.
  • Run trickles of water through your pipes. Even running small amounts of water through your pipes can help stop them from freezing on cold days.
  • Open the rooms in which your pipes are housed. Don’t trap your home’s heat so that it cannot reach rooms where there are pipes. Instead, periodically open the doors and cabinets that close off your pipes so that warm air can more easily move through these spaces.

frozen pipes

Remedying Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes won't necessarily burst, but they can if you don't take action. If your pipes do freeze, take the following steps.

  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe. If you can identify where a pipe has frozen, try to thaw it yourself. Use a space heater, a hair dryer, or some towels soaked in hot water to thaw the frozen section of the pipe. This method may not work if too much of the pipe is frozen or if the frozen part of the pipe is inaccessible. And remember, never use anything flammable indoors.
  • Keep faucets on. If a pipe has frozen, your first impulse might be to turn off the faucet. Instead, you should leave the faucet on! Flowing water can help thaw the frozen part of the pipe.
  • Call a plumber. If you've tried all these methods and your pipes are still frozen, don’t despair. Instead, contact John C. Flood’s plumbers immediately. One of our plumbers can fix the problem anytime, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having a plumber on call can ensure that your frozen pipe doesn't burst.

Why is my house cold even with the heat turned on?

Coming home to a cold house isn’t very fun — especially when you’re paying for it to be warm! If your home is giving you cold shoulders, it’s time to figure out the source of your problem and some solutions that won’t break the bank.

Cause #1: Your Heat Doesn’t Deliver

If you have your heat running and can count one of the following issues true, your house is cold because you have a problem with heat delivery.

  • Your vents or radiators aren’t giving off much heat.
  • Your rooms are unevenly heated.
  • Your home has oddly cold rooms.

While insulating your home helps keep the heat inside, the heat needs to be delivered first. Ranging from free to pricier home upgrades, we hope one of these solutions works for you.

Seal up your leaky ductwork

Hold up a smoke pencil (available on Amazon.com) to the seams in your open ductwork, usually accessible through your attic, garage or basement. If the pencil gives off any smoke, seal up the leak with foil-faced duct tape. Go over the rest of the ductwork and remove any cloth-backed tape and replace it with foil-backed duct tape.

To prevent heat escaping just by virtue of traveling through a cold house, wrap all your ductwork with R-6 foil-faced fiberglass insulation, trim to fit and cover the seam with foil-faced duct tape.

Signs you need to replace your ductwork

Open vents and rearrange furniture

Perform a cursory check of all the vents in your home and make sure they are fully open in the rooms you want heated. Vents need to be unobstructed to heat your home properly. Blocking or covering vents with large furniture like couches or beds lets the heat you pay for be absorbed into upholstery, leaving the room cold. The same goes for radiator heat; if you mess up the airflow, your heating system works harder and less effectively to heat your home. By keeping long curtains and furniture clear of your heat delivery, airflow is uninterrupted and can flow in and around your rooms.

Conversely, if there are rooms you don’t use, don’t pay to heat them! Keep the vents closed and doors shut so that the space is excluded from your thermostat’s reading.

An open door policy

While closing doors is fine for hiding clutter and getting some privacy, it's not great for airflow. Leave your doors open to allow cool air to flow out into a main area to influence the temperature reading for the house. This is important because most homes are not zoned and only have one thermostat to regular climate for the entire home.

Every house is (or should be) designed with ductwork that facilitates good airflow. It is designed around the size and layout of your rooms and their proximity to your heat source, among other things. There are many factors that go into designing your ductwork for good airflow (for a forced-air system), but when it is done correctly, you’ll never notice it.

Furnace TLC

For a healthy, smoothly operating furnace, the HVAC service industry and manufacturers recommend an annual furnace inspection by a licensed technician. While this does benefit HVAC repair companies, it isn’t made up. The warranties for modern furnaces often require an annual inspection and are more likely to break unexpectedly if you skip this maintenance check.

What to expect with an HVAC inspection

Cause #2: Your Home Won’t Stay Warm (heat loss through poor insulation)

From freezing floors to warmth-sucking windows, there are many ways for heat to exit the home. While newly constructed homes are often airtight, historical homes and houses with aging materials often need more attentive care to make the most of their insulation during colder months.

Windows: clearly a source of heat loss

While triple pane windows are probably on every homeowner’s wish list, upgrading to super insulated windows is a costly investment. Before you pull the trigger there, try these budget-friendly tricks to reduce heat loss from your windows.

  • Check for gaps or leaks along the edges of your windows and fill them in with caulk.
  • Upgrade your drapes to something heavier. Thicker materials will trap colder air between the fabric and the window, but even a set of blinds will provide mild insulation when drawn.
  • Install a cling window film on your chilliest windows. A good knife and a hair dryer will render this measure nearly invisible. You won’t be able to open and close the window with this installed.

Outside doors: the wind’s best friend

If you notice a draft when the outside doors are firmly shut, it’s time to replace the weather stripping. This is an easy and inexpensive project that can have a huge impact. If your draft is from under the door, you’ll need to install a brush to keep out cold air. Brushes sized for mail slots are also available.

Heat pump, furnace or boiler: which home heating option wins on warmth and efficiency

Chilly walls and high ceilings

A cold house with cold walls definitely isn’t fun to lounge in. Cold walls are due to an insulation problem, and are often solved by doing some work in your attic. Heat travels through drywall, and if the top of your wall opens into your attic, your heat goes straight up, never to return. Fitting a board to cover this gap and sealing it with foam is usually all you need.

Particularly if you have a vaulted ceiling, you are bound to lose a lot of heat from your lower level by the scientific fact that heat rises. The beauty of this problem is that the heat is not lost, it’s merely traveled. If you have a ceiling fan in this area, set it to fan air down and enjoy a warmer lower level from this unexpected solution.

Your home heating experts

Schedule your annual furnace inspection with John C. Flood this year and experience our top-notch service and professionalism. We handle all sorts of home heating, cooling and plumbing issues and would love to turn your cold house into a warm home for the coming winter. Schedule service today!

All About Water Purification Systems

Whether you’re hooked up to a municipal water supply or are pumping well water from your own land, there is going to be some variance in the quality of your tap water, even if it is safe to drink. Whether it has a sulfur or chlorine smell, a hazy appearance from sediment or perhaps chemical levels that are too high for your comfort, many people choose to install whole house water purification systems to alleviate their concerns.

Many homeowners turn to point-of-entry water purification systems looking for safer, cleaner water and the peace of mind that comes with it. Beyond improving the taste and appearance of your drinking water, whole house water purification will also benefit your plumbing and appliances by removing excess minerals that can build up and reduce water flow.

What Whole-House Water Purification Means

While more than 90% of tap water is deemed safe to drink, safety doesn’t always translate to tasty or even clear. Whether your skepticism about the quality of your home’s water is based on sight, smell, or the levels of contaminants deemed acceptable by the EPA, a water purification system might be the answer to your concerns. Water filtration falls into two camps for consumers:

  1. Point of Use (POU): Usually a carbon-based filter that removes sediment, some minerals and chemicals to improve the taste and quality of drinking water. Brand names like Brita and Pur are widely known for POU filters, which need to be regularly replaced for proper functioning.If your main concerns are limited to water used for drinking and cooking, a POU filter could be a good, economical choice for you.
  2. Point of Entry (POE): A POE system is positioned on your main water line to treat all water as it enters the home, ensuring that every fixture and appliance in your home uses pre-treated, clean, contamination-free water. Even the toilets! This type of system is highly beneficial if you have uncomfortably high contaminant levels (lead, arsenic or radon), mineral-heavy water that is hard on your pipes or bacteria levels that may affect a family member with a compromised immune system.

water purification system

 

Based on your specific home’s needs and water problems you want addressed, there are many types of filters and systems available to fix your specific problem. Arsenic, sulfur, high-iron, combination purifier, or a simple water softener, a wide array of options are available.

What do water filters take out of tap water?

Odor and Sediment

A stinky smell and hazy appearance are common complaints about well water in particular. Some tap water has a chlorine smell to it, but is still safe to drink. There are special whole home water filters designed to specifically combat each of these issues.

Hard water is tap water that has high levels of magnesium and calcium, minerals that can benefit your health in small amounts, but can cause a chalky buildup in pipes, appliances and basins called limescale. A whole home water purification system will reduce these minerals to levels that will not harm your plumbing and appliances, plus filter out a whole lot more.

3 extremely easy ways to use less water every day

Chemicals and Contaminants

While more than 90% of tap water is safe for consumption (with most of the remaining 10% being non-regulated private sources), the water still risks carrying low levels of the following chemicals.

  • Lead in drinking water usually comes from decay in old lead-based pipes, fixtures and leaded solder affixed to drinking water pipes. Tap water that is safe for drinking should not contain any lead.
  • Tasteless and odorless, very low amounts of this poisonous substance is safely present in tap water.
  • Most commonly found in well water, radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas present in some soils that sometimes seeps into well water.
  • Heavy metals. Heavy metals can enter a water supply via industrial and consumer waste. These harmful substances are known to induce multiple organ damage at low level exposures.
  • Organic and manmade compounds. Organic matter and sediment from lakes and rivers may be safely present in low levels in drinking water, as well as many man-made chemical compounds.

For a complete list of legal levels of chemicals and compounds in drinking water, reference the current EPA standards.

Well Water Considerations

If your home uses well water, make sure to test it at least once per year, both at the tap and at the source. Private wells source groundwater, which is not always treated before it enters your home. Owners of private wells and non-government water systems are responsible for regular water safety testing.

According to the CDC, about 15% of the nation’s population obtains water from private wells, making regular water tests imperative for health and safety. It is also recommended to have your well tested for radon every three to five years. If it is a newly constructed well or has undergone recent repair, more frequent radon testing is recommended as the well settles.

A hazy appearance, sulfuric scent and a low pH level that causes corrosion to plumbing are a few reasons people with well water install whole home water purification systems.

Plumbing problems and concrete slab foundation homes

Treating Hard Water With A Water Softener

The primary reason to have a water softener is to extend the lifespan of your plumbing and home appliances, because the salt will remove the calcium and magnesium from the water, to prevent limescale buildup in your pipes. The chalky mineral residue that causes soap scum, calcium stains and hazy sediment is something we’d all like to avoid.

However, even though water softeners change water’s taste and appearance, it does not make it any cleaner or safer.

How to learn about water quality locally

Are you interested in knowing exactly what contaminants your water contains? If your home is served by a public water source, the EPA encourages you to reach out to your local utility and request a copy of their Consumer Confidence Report. Every water provider is legally required to issue this report once annually and distribute to all recipients registered with the utility. The report will contain what levels of chemicals and minerals are found in your water supply and inform you of its general quality and health.

If you feel concerned for your health each time you raise a glass of water to your lips, test your water, request a Consumer Confidence Report and read up on point-of-entry water purification systems to see if one is a good fit for you.

Your HVAC system: Understanding the basics

Water Purification Installation, Maintenance and Repair

If you are considering installing a whole home water purification system, call your local plumbing experts at John C. Flood for assistance! Once you figure out what problems you need to address, you can choose the home water purification system that best suits your needs.

Our trusted team of courteous professionals will be happy to perform installation, maintenance or repairs so your home always has an endless supply of healthy, delicious tap water. Call today to schedule service!

home heating

Heat pump, furnace or boiler — Which home heating options win on warmth and efficiency

Whether you’re building a new home or renovating, you’re going to have a lot of choices for your new home heating element. Given the mild winter temperatures in the DMV area (with some notable exceptions!) many homeowners in this region have three main home heating choice: heat pump, furnace or boiler.

With rising home fuel costs, efficiency is the name of the game in the heating industry. Learn the basics of each home heating system and consult a professional to see which is best for you.

Understanding Energy Efficiency Ratings

While seeing a number next to acronyms like SEER and AFUE can feel confusing when browsing heating system, it’s really quite simple. These rating systems are required by the Federal Trade Commission for all new heating and air conditioning units. They are mean to aid consumers in their purchasing by providing straightforward criteria on energy efficiency.

SEER, HSPF and COP

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) is used to evaluating the cooling efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. Because a heat pump both heats and cools your home, it also gets a second rating to evaluate heating efficiency. Depending on the type of heat pump, it will receive a Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) or a Coefficient Of Performance (COP) rating. An HSPF will range from 6.8-10 and a COP will range 2-4, with the high ends of those ranges being most energy efficient.

AFUE

The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating represents how efficient a furnace or boiler is in converting fuel to heat over the course of one year. AFUE does not include the heat lost through ductwork and piping, which can be up to 35% loss if the boiler or furnace is located in an unconditioned space like an attic, basement or garage or has uninsulated, leaky ducts traveling through those areas. Heat can also escape up a chimney for a natural gas-powered systems that vent to it.

Gas-powered boilers and furnaces have three ranges of AFUE ratings:

  • Old and Low-Efficiency: AFUE of 56-70%
  • Mid-Efficiency: AFUE of 80-83%
  • High-Efficiency: AFUE of 90-98.5%

Ratings are based on a 100 point system, with the leftover percentage representing fuel that was burned but not used to generate heat. All-electric furnaces and boilers have an AFUE rating of 95-100%. However due to the higher electricity costs in most areas, all electric furnaces and boilers are often an uneconomic choice.

6 Winter Heat Pump Maintenance Tips

home heating

Furnace, Boiler and Heat Pump Basics

Tired of layering up blankets and sweaters instead of inching up your thermostat during cold weather? Which home heating system will keep you warmest? Which is most efficient? The answers to these questions depends a lot on your home and your family’s priorities when it comes to heat. For most homes, keeping your whole house toasty or consuming minimal energy is really up to a programmable thermostat and well-insulated ductwork (for furnaces and heat pumps).

Most homes use a furnace or boiler to heat their homes, the majority of which are powered by natural gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, natural gas is the most common home heating fuel in the country, used in 57% of homes. Most heat pumps rely on electricity as their power source.

Furnace

Furnaces heat your home using a forced air system and ductwork. Having a furnace that is correctly sized to your home’s square footage is important for energy efficiency and whole home comfort. Even if your AFUE rating is high, you’ll also need to ensure your ductwork is clean and well insulated to maximize the energy savings a high efficiency furnace can offer. Furnaces generally last about 15-20 years and are the most inexpensive home heating system. One of the inefficiencies of gas furnaces is how they cycle on and off, as compared to boilers and heat pumps, which can run continuously.

How much does a furnace inspection cost?

Boiler

A boiler will use water to heat to boiling or create steam heat can circulate it within a closed system throughout the home. Steam heat is piped up for distribution using steam radiators while a boiling water system will heat a space using baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems. The boiling water method can also heat the air using a coil technique.

Because a steam boiler operates at a higher temperature, it is always less efficient than a regular boiler. A boiler that is properly sizes to your home keeps water at a constant boil, which is one of its key points of efficiency; there is no cycling on and off to generate the heat. Boilers typically last about 15 years.

The pros and cons of baseboard heat

Heat Pump

A heat pump is part of a central heating and cooling system, constantly using outside air to heater the home in the winter and cool it in the summer. It doesn’t generate heat, it transports it, making it the most energy efficient home heating option. Heat pumps generally only require a modest amount of power and usually run on electricity, meaning you can save slash your natural gas bill tremendously, and your electricity bill because this system removes your need for a central air conditioner. Heat pumps are best suited to mild climates and may need a supplemental heating source in lower temperatures.

Having a heat pump sized to match your home can increase its efficiency by allowing it to run continuously. A heat pump uses the same size and arrangement of ductwork that a conventional gas-powered forced air furnace requires. Heat pumps last about 15 years. For keeping energy costs low, heat pumps are often the best choice because they utilize geothermal energy and are powered by electricity.

Thermostat not working? How to tell if your home thermostat is broken

A Professional Assessment Can Help

No matter how much research you do while shopping for a new home heating system, it is always best to consult a professional before making a purchase and hiring a professional technician install it for you. Call the courteous experts at John C. Flood today to schedule your consultation, repairs or home heating system installation!

water main breaks

How to Protect Your Home From Water Main Breaks

Noting puts a damper on a home renovation project like water main breaks.

Adding a deck, remodeling a garage or adding a home addition are hot projects for 2016. Poor planning, however, can lead to a serious problem: a water main break. Do you want to be the neighbor who floods the entire block because of a poorly-placed shovel? Probably not. Avoid big problems by preventing water main breaks before they happen.

How to prevent water main breaks

Water main breaks can cause flooding

1. Be careful digging!

Sometimes, you have to dig. But remember: there’s more to the ground than just dirt! There are pipes buried all over your property – including your water main.

Before you starting any digging project, verify pipe placement for all of your utilities. That way, you and your contractor can avoid creating a big, expensive and maybe even illegal mess.

2. Investigate water pressure issues.

If your water isn't flowing from your faucet, it's probably flowing somewhere else. If you can’t pinpoint a water pressure issue inside your home, you may need to explore underground.

Wet soil, water bubbling out of hydrants or water visibly running on streets and sidewalks are key indicators of water main breaks.

3. Report any nearby soil erosion.

Keep an eye on your yard. Soil erosion could inadvertently expose a water main to the elements.

Avoid risk by reporting sites of soil erosion or exposed pipes. Your neighbors will be glad you did!

What to do when a water main breaks

Water main is already broken? You can handle it! If disaster strikes, take these steps to reduce the overall damage to your home:

Report to Water Authority ASAP

Safety first! Call your local water authority and report the main break immediately.

Pipe damage on your property may indicate deeper issues on a main line hidden under the street or sidewalk.

Touch base with your local plumber for property issues.

The water authority in your city or town is great for handling public pipe issues. Generally, when a water main breaks under the street, your local government is responsible for maintenance. When it breaks on your property, it's on you. Call your local plumbing professional to help you discern the difference and tackle those problems directly affecting your property.

Get help!

Predicting when a water main will go is challenging. However, following the above-mentioned steps can help reduce your risk. If you're in the midst of a main break situation, John C. Flood can help you quickly repair the problem.

Using the latest "trenchless" technology, we can quickly identify and repair water main breaks  putting your home and yard at risk. Call us for any help across the DC, Virginia and Maryland area.

Signs you need to replace your ductwork

Ductwork. Yes, most homes have it, but as long as your HVAC system has a high energy efficiency rating, it doesn’t really matter, right? Wrong! Ductwork is a vital component of your home’s comfort, air quality and energy consumption. Every time you flip on the heat or AC, you’re putting your ductwork to work as well. If your system has a bunch of leaks or is just poorly designed in general, you can easily end up with bills that seem much too high for the size of your home.

Ductwork is the maker and breaker of energy savings and whole-home comfort, and like every other aspect of homeownership, you need to know a few things about it before you can access whether it's working properly.

What is ductwork?

Ductwork is like a highway for air throughout your home, taking in air at specific locations, heating or cooling it and sending it back through your vents. It sounds simple enough, but ensuring good airflow, even pressure distribution and efficient air delivery with a forced-air system is quite a challenge. The average home loses 20-40% of conditioned air to leaks before it reaches the vent.

Ductwork comes in a variety of materials including metals, fiberglass and flexible plastics, and in a wide array of shapes that can service any type of home.

How ductwork relates to your HVAC system

Simply put, you won’t have much of an HVAC system if you don’t have any ductwork! Every conventional forced-air heating, ventilation and air conditioning system relies on ductwork to bring the air in and to push it back out.

Good ductwork ensures an equilibrium of air in and air out (referred to as air pressure), through the whole house. If the balance is off, your HVAC system has to work harder to compensate and maintain your preferred temperature.

Ductwork Lifespan and Troubleshooting

Ductwork should last a solid 10-15 years before any signs of deterioration emerge. Because modern homebuilders tend to choose materials for lower cost instead of longevity, it’s good to keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • A consistently dusty home. This may mean your ductwork has some leaks in it, letting air out and dust and debris in.
  • Inconsistent room temperatures. If some rooms are consistently too hot or too cold compared to the rest of the house, your ductwork may be installed improperly, have tears or kinks, or have issues with air flow.
  • Bad install job. If you just have a ton of leaks, your ductwork might have been installed wrong and poorly aligned from day one. A professional HVAC company can help diagnose this issue and make recommendations for how to fix it.

Learn More: What to know when you need a new HVAC system

ductwork

Preserving older ductwork: 3 easy ways

The secret to postponing ductwork replacement is pretty simple: put a little work into your ducts. Depending on your system and any red flags you may notice, you may want to increase the frequency of inspections and services.

Clean.

Every 2-7 years it is worth getting your air ducts cleaned by professionals. If you notice pet hair, dust and debris collecting regularly on your air intake register, you should definitely consider having your ductwork cleaned out. You’ll likely get a noticeable improvement in air quality, and possibly help your HVAC system run more efficiently.

Buyer beware: don’t skimp on this job. Poorly cleaned ductwork is worse than one gone uncleaned. An unqualified duct cleaner can disrupt more particles than they clean out and even damage parts of your HVAC system.

Seal.

Heading up to the attic and crawl space to inspect your ductwork on a regular basis can help you spot leaks before they get out of hand. You’re looking for gaps in the aluminum tape that seals the seams on the air ducts, and tears, twists or crushed sections of flexible ductwork. If you see any pest damage or moisture present, seal it off the best you can with aluminum tape and get the pros in there to take care of it before any more damage is done.

Insulate.

When you run cool air to a warm room, the risk of condensation forming in your ductwork is real! Insulating ductwork right up to the point of delivery is your best defense against moisture in your ductwork, and the resulting mold problems! Using foil-lined fiberglass insulation and aluminum tape, insulating your ductwork is a pretty simple weekend project.

Schedule an HVAC blower test today to identify leaks!

3 legitimate reasons to scrap your current ductwork today

  1. You have a mold issue. Mold is a pervasive problem and should be dealt with by a mold specialist. The air handler on your HVAC system needs to be kept dry, so if you are having issues there, call an HVAC professional for repair.
  2. Your home was built before 1977 and has asbestos insulation. Asbestos is a cancer-causing fiber present in many homes built before 1977. It is highly dangerous and should only be handled and disposed of by experts with proper equipment.
  3. Your HVAC system is too big or too small for your ductwork. Too big, you’ll likely notice that it is noisy and loud when it runs. Too small and you’ll notice your home is never really at the temperature you want, no matter how long it runs.

What to expect with an HVAC inspection

Call the experts for your ductwork

Whether you need some help sealing up and insulating your ductwork or you’re seeking an estimate for a replacing your air ducts entirely, the professionals at John C. Flood can help. Call us 24/7, 365-days a year to schedule service or learn more for your upcoming home improvements.

hvac air filter

Choosing the right HVAC air filter

If your home is unusually dusty or the air quality isn’t as good as it used to be, consider this possible culprit: an ineffective air filter on your HVAC system. Low-quality air filters may fail to trap pollutants, diminishing the quality of the air in your home and coating your furniture with excessive dust.  

If you (or someone else) inadvertently choose a low-quality air filter, that filter won't last very long or be very useful. Not only that, but you'll also likely pay higher energy bills than you would otherwise, since your HVAC will have to work harder to clean the air in your home.

As a result, it makes sense to buy a high-quality air filter for your HVAC. But how can you tell the difference between air filters? If your HVAC filter could be the reason for the low air quality in your home, take a look at these tips to buy a better one.

Look for the highest MERV rating you can find

The best air filters have higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings based on their effectiveness in trapping particles. Air filters with higher MERV ratings not only trap more pollutants, but they'll also need to be changed less often — which translates to less work and lower costs for you. 

Forget about fiberglass filters

The thin, flat panels in air filters made of fiberglass aren't very good at trapping air particles. In fact, fiberglass air filters are so ineffective at trapping particles that they'll only get rid of about 10 percent of the air pollutants in your home. In fact, they aren’t even designed to improve air quality; they're really just meant to protect HVAC systems.

Pleated filters are somewhat effective... at a cost

Pleated air filters are better than fiberglass filters at trapping particles, but they still only trap about 45 percent of air pollutants in your home. That's not bad, but the real downside is the maintenance schedules of pleated air filters: if they get clogged, they can break the limit switch on your HVAC, preventing it from turning on. As a result, pleated air filters need to be replaced more frequently than others. 

hvac air filter

High-efficiency air filters are becoming the new standard

With some of the highest MERV ratings available, high-efficiency air filters remove up to 85 percent of pollutants (including dust and pollen) from your home. Most high-efficiency air filters are made of synthetic polyester fibers that can trap small particles better than those in other air filters. Look for high-efficiency air filters coated with special chemicals that can also kill airborne mold and bacteria. On top of keeping the air in your home cleaner and fresher, high-efficiency air filters can also help your HVAC system work more efficiently for longer.

Don’t forget to change your HVAC filter

Even if you use a high-quality air filter, the air quality in your home will still be poorer than it could be if you don’t change that filter regularly — and most people don't change their HVAC air filters as often as they should. If your house is pet-free, carpet-free, and free from other factors that could decrease air quality, experts recommend that homeowners change their HVAC filters every three months. If your home is full of additional pollutants, change filters every two months. Pleated HVAC filters need to be changed at least once a year.

Choosing a high-quality air filter and replacing that filter regularly can improve the air quality in your home and increase the longevity of your HVAC system, saving you money over time. Of course, even if you buy the highest-quality air filters and change them regularly, your HVAC system still needs to be cleaned, serviced, and inspected annually. The experts at John C. Flood are knowledgeable about the needs of your HVAC system and can answer any questions about air filters. Schedule a service with one of our HVAC technicians today.