Monday, 5 March 2018

Mild Weather and Melting Snow

The cold snap is over and now we are in for a mild spell. That's going to create some problems as well. All the snow we have will be melting quickly. Here are a few tips of what to watch for:

  • Make sure the discharge line from your sump pump is clear (not frozen) and the water is running away from the house.
  • Make sure that water is not sitting next to your foundation, blocked from draining away by piles of ice and snow.
  • Make sure your sump pump is operating. A battery backup sump pump is a great idea to protect your basement. If you have one, this is a good time to let it run and allow the battery to run down and recharge. If you don't have one, click here to read why they are a good idea.

If you don’t know what we are talking about, not sure whether or not you have a sump pump, or just not handy, call us to come out and show you what you need to check. The cost of a service call is good insurance. It’s far cheaper than dealing with a flooded basement.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Frozen Pipes

While winters in London, Ontario are generally mild, we do endure nasty cold snaps. When temperatures get down to -15°C frozen pipes become a problem in many homes.

Based on decades of winter experience, Salmon Plumbing & Heating have a list of suggestions for home owners to prevent frozen pipes, which can split causing considerable damage to your home.

When the temperature dips below -10°C:

  1. Do not turn the heat down. Now is not the time to conserve energy.
  2. Expose your pipes to air. Often pipes that run through crawl spaces or are tucked inside of basement vanities. These areas tend to be much cooler than the rest of your home. Open these areas up to the warmth so that the water does not freeze in the lines. Also, be aware of any holes in the wall that allow frigid winter air to enter. We've seen frozen lines 10 feet inside of a house because of a small hole in a basement wall.
  3. Know how to shut off your water. If there is water showing up in the wrong place you need to know where the shutoff valve is and how to shut the water off quickly to limit the damage. Learn about shutoffs at by clicking here.
  4. Do Not ignore water that is not running properly. If a tap goes from running like a charm to trickling or nothing it probably means the line is frozen somewhere. If you react quickly you may be able to prevent the line from bursting. Get warm air on the pipes as soon as you can.
  5. Pipes that run along exterior walls are extremely vulnerable. Good plumbing practice is to run lines near the centre of the house. Unfortunately, re-modelled homes often have lines running through exterior walls, which creates a potential problem.
  6. Shut off and drain your supply lines for your outdoor taps in the fall. These are a common source of problems when the temperature drops.
  7. Plastic Plumbing. Many newer and renovated homes have plastic rather than copper lines. When plastic freezes it is much less likely to burst. Unfortunately, if the plastic line does freeze you cannot apply electricity to thaw the line (as you can with copper) and you may have to pry off wall panels or ceiling tiles to get to the source of the problem.
  8. Shut off your water when you are on vacation and have somebody check your home every few days.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

DIY Plumbing, Mistakes Can Be Costly

The big box stores are offering a wide range of plumbing products. The home handyman will find plumbing products being marketed directly to the DIY customer. Plumbers are highly skilled professionals and not everything we do is as easy as it may look. We often get called out to fix do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that have gone wrong.

Plumbing can be divided into two broad categories. Supply side deals with pipes that are under pressure, delivering water to your faucets and appliances. Drainage side deals with getting rid of waste water.

Supply side plumbing is very critical to get right. The City of London has excellent water pressure and a small leak in a supply side pipe can cause a lot of expensive damage. Drainage problems can be costly as well. Common DIY problems include improper venting and incorrect grade. This can lead to slow running or blocked drains.

The plumbing in your home is often hidden behind drywall or other finished surfaces. Quite often, a big part of the repair cost is restoring the finished surface.

DIY Plumbing Products

The DIY plumbing products being offered are designed for the homeowner that probably will not own the torches, cutting tools, etc. that a professional will carry. Manufacturers have created compression fittings and push-on fittings. If you don’t strictly adhere to the instructions, connections can pop apart days or weeks down the road. You can end up with a slow leak, some spray or a full blown gusher. Plumbing is often hidden in walls or cabinets. You usually don’t find out about leaks until it is too late. It’s critical to do it right the first time.

Home owners working with products like copper or pex pipes, really need to know what they are doing. Soldering copper pipe is a skill that professionals are trained to do properly. Improper soldering may look like it’s working, but can start leaking days later. Plastic pipes look similar but are not all the same, there are a wide variety of glues and fittings that vary from one manufacturer to the other.

At Salmon Plumbing, we use copper pipe almost exclusively for supply side plumbing. When we install a toilet or faucet, we’ll also install shut-off valves. If there ever is a problem with the toilet or faucet, you can simply use the shut-off valve to isolate the problem. Otherwise, you would have to shut down the water for the entire house.

Plumbing is an area where mistakes can be very costly. A leaking water pipe can damage walls, floors and furniture very quickly. For the majority of homeowners, plumbing is a job best left to a professional.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Belt-Drive Furnace Fans

If you have a forced air furnace that is more than 30 years old, chances are that it has a belt driven fan. There is a large fan that is joined to an electric motor with a fan belt, much like you would see in a car.

Many modern high efficiency gas furnaces use a direct drive fan with an ECM (Electronically Commutated Motor). These motors use a fraction of the electricity needed to power an older belt drive system. Many new furnaces also have variable speeds for the furnace fan. This also saves energy because your fan runs slower when it's not as cold outside and you do not require as much heat.

Modern homes also rely on the furnace fan to move cool air produced by your air conditioner, in the summer months. Modern ECM's will move more air, more efficiently, which leads to improved air conditioner performance.

Older belt drive, chimney vented furnaces are only about 60% efficient. Many new high efficiency furnaces will be 95% efficient or greater. There's a big saving on your gas bill. The ECM also creates a big saving on your hydro bill.

In addition to the energy savings, you'll experience a big improvement in home comfort. Many people are surprised when their new furnace actually keeps them more comfortable during the cooling season. This is especially true in two storey homes. The upper floor will always be warmer than the lower floor in the summer months. A new furnace will move more air, doing a better job of balancing the temperature of your home. In addition, with the ECM motor, if you decide to run your fan continuously to help minimize the temperate difference between the floors in your home the cost for the hydro to run the fan will be significantly less ( up to 80% less).

What are the Energy Savings?

This varies depending on the age and size of your home. We can tell you for sure that if you have an older chimney vented furnace with a belt drive fan, a new furnace will pay for itself.

It costs nothing to have Salmon Plumbing & Heating come out to your home and access your home comfort system. We have financing programs in place so you can purchase your new equipment with low monthly payments. Your energy savings will offset some or all of these payments, depending on the age of your current furnace.

A new furnace can pay for itself. Click here to see our website page.

Boilers Explained

Heating using a boiler system has been in use for a long time and while not well known it is becoming increasingly popular again, with in-floor heating, as people find out about its' benefits.

Traditional furnaces heat air that is pushed through ductwork with a fan. A boiler heats water and distributes the hot water through piping to radiators throughout the house. Modern radiators now look more like electric heaters. New homes with in-floor heating generally use a boiler, but for small areas the water heater may be the source of heat. This type of heating is known as hydronic heating. There is no duct work in this system, although a hot water coil can be installed in a duct system, which is used to distribute heat throughout the building.

A boiler system is a very efficient way to heat a building, so in the past larger buildings such as airports and schools used hot water heating. It is very comfortable, providing nice even heat throughout the building.

The temperate does not rise and fall quickly like it will with a forced air furnace. There are more gradual temperature changes with hot water heating. Once the boiler turns off, heat is still emanating from the radiators. People who have hydronic heating are quite pleased with it.

One downside is the complications involved in adding other options to this system. Cooling, humidification and air quality need to be provided by other equipment. Boilers are a little more expensive than furnaces, but historically they last longer than a furnace.

We sometimes get calls to do furnace repairs and arrive to discover that the customer has a boiler. When people buy a home with a boiler, they sometimes think that they'll need to replace it with a standard furnace.

We try to do our job educating people about what their options are. We suggest they run their boiler through the winter and experience its' performance. For cooling, we can easily install a ductless split system to cool the space.

We would prefer a boiler system in many cases, but most new homes do not come that way. The best time to install a boiler system is during the initial build. In general, a forced air system goes into new housing because it is less expensive to install. Custom homes on the other hand are installing in-floor heating systems. It is an extremely comfortable way to heat a home. The Salmon Plumbing shop on Clarke Road is heated by a boiler system with in-floor heat and we have a separate system for cooling the offices and adding fresh air to the building.

If you have a boiler system and need repairs done, Salmon Plumbing & Heating has a lot of expertise in this area. When we get a service call, it is important for us to know that it is a boiler. You need to work on boilers to know them and not everyone has that level of experience. At Salmon Plumbing & Heating, we employ specialized technicians that have extensive experience with boilers.

For more answers to common boiler questions, click here.

For information on new boilers sold by Salmon Plumbing & Heating in London, Ontario, click here.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Carbon Monoxide and Gas Smells

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is colourless and odorless in its pure chemical state.

Some people may think that if they smell something from a gas appliance, that there is no danger from carbon monoxide. The reality is far different. When CO is being produced by an improperly vented appliance there will be other smells.

People need to be aware that if they are smelling something coming from their, furnace, boiler, hot water heater, gas fireplace or whatever there is a very real danger.

To keep your family safe from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, take the following two important steps:

  1. Invest in CO detectors. You should have them installed in every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
  2. Don’t skip on annual maintenance for your gas furnace or gas boiler. When we visit your home, in addition to servicing your equipment, we check for CO levels. A furnace can produce unsafe levels of CO in your home if it is not properly vented or if a heat exchanger has cracked. This is not something most homeowners are going to find on their own.

If you notice unusual smells around any gas appliance, play it safe and call a professional.

Changing Furnace Filters

How Often Should You Change Your Furnace Filter?

The frequency at which you change your filter depends on two main factors.

The first consideration are factors that contribute to a dirty filter. The number of people in the house, pets, carpets, how often you vacuum and the age of the house all contribute to the amount of dust and particles in the air. If you have a couple of kids and a dog, you’ll probably need to change your filter more frequently than a retired couple with no pets.

The second consideration is the size and type of the filter. Generally, older furnaces will have a filter that’s 1" thick. These filters can be flat or pleated. Pleated filters have more surface area and tend to last longer than flat filters. A 1" thick filter should be checked every 6 weeks and the frequency adjusted according to what you find. If it is really dirty you will want to replace it more frequently. If it still appears clean then wait a couple more weeks. At a minimum, 1" filters should be changed twice in the cooling season and twice during the heating season.

Newer furnaces may have a 4" thick filter that has an accordion (pleated) design. This provide much more surface area for catching dust and does not have to be changed as frequently. The minimum replacement schedule would be annually. We recommend that you check it before the air conditioner goes on in the spring and again when the furnace is going to start up in the fall. As with the 1" filter you may have to increase the replacement frequency if you have a busier household.

It is important to note that your air conditioner requires a clean filter so that it does not freeze up. Air has to be moving freely to prevent that from happening. Clean filters allow your equipment to run more efficiently, and to maintain a healthy environment.

Checking and changing filters is an easy task that most homeowners can do themselves. If you are not sure how to change your furnace filter, just ask our serviceman when you are having your annual maintenance done.

Salmon Plumbing & Heating, serving London, Ontario since 1955.