Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Carbon Monoxide Detectors are Now Mandatory

As of October, 2014 CO Detectors (Carbon Monoxide Detectors) are mandatory in all residential homes. Carbon Monoxide can kill you. It is created when fuels are not properly burned. Common fuels around the home that can produce carbon monoxide include:

  • Natural Gas
  • Propane
  • Heating Oil, Wood, Coal, Kerosene, Charcoal, Gasoline

Anything that burns fuel can produce carbon monoxide if it is not running properly or not vented properly. Common household appliances that can produce carbon monoxide are:

  • Natural Gas Furnaces
  • Natural Gas Boilers
  • Natural Gas Hot Water Heaters
  • Fireplaces, Wood Stoves, Barbecues, Kerosene Heaters, Gasoline Engines

The CO Detector should be placed inside or near primary sleeping areas. You should have a detector installed on each level of your home. CO Detectors are available from your local hardware store. They are easily installed by homeowners. Normally a CO Detector needs to be replaced every 10 years. Batteries in CO Detectors should be replaced annually.

The following is a list of physical and environmental indications of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Headache, nausea, burning eyes, fainting, confusion, drowsiness that will improve when you have left the house for a period of time.
  • People with heart or respiratory conditions, the elderly and children are particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide.
  • The air in the home feels stale or stuffy.
  • Strong smell of gas when furnace or other fuel burning appliance turns on.
  • Pilot light and burning flames are yellow/orange, not blue.
  • Pilot lights go out.
  • Chalky white powder or soot around exhaust vent or chimney.

For more information on Carbon Monoxide, we'd recommend visiting the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs page.

Annual furnace maintenance by a licensed contractor is important to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. Improper furnace venting or a failed heat exchanger can cause elevated CO levels in a home. Salmon Plumbing & Heating technicians check CO levels when we service your furnace. If our technicians find elevated CO levels, they are trained to identify the source and will take immediate steps to protect your family.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Reasons for an AC Service Call

If your air conditioner is no longer cooling, you are probably going to need a service call. When we visit your home, we'll look at a number of factors that could contribute to poor performance.

A common problem is small leaks in the system that result in the loss of refrigerant. Refrigerant levels only need to be off by a little bit to reduce the efficiency and capacity of the air conditioner. When the system charge is low the AC will run longer in an effort to maintain the demands on it and on warm days it may not be able to maintain the set temperature.

In the past it was common practice to simply "top up" the refrigerant charge but present environmental regulations require us to find the leak and repair it before adding refrigerant to the system.

Damaged or loose wiring can also be an issue. Often over the winter months, mice and other small rodents will build nests within the AC unit that's outside. Some older AC models have little heaters in the compressors that run during the winter. The warm environment inside the unit is very attractive to small rodents. They can disturb the wiring, or chew on the wires, causing a short.

As the unit gets older there is a greater probability that there will be a failure of the contactor, capacitor, condensing fan motor or even the compressor.

A dirty condenser coil (the outside unit) can negatively affect your air conditioner's performance. Dirt, dust, weed and tree pollen, and leaves can all build up on the coil reducing the transfer of heat from the refrigerant to the outside air. Since the unit is outside in the elements it is necessary to clean it periodically. Don't allow nearby bushes to grow around your air conditioner. The unit needs space for good air flow to operate correctly.

Don't forget to change your furnace filter before the cooling season and check it regularly. The blower in your furnace is required to circulate the cool air produced by your air conditioner throughout your home and maintain a sufficient flow of air over the coil installed in the ductwork (evaporator coil). A plugged furnace filter can result in reduced performance of your AC and lead to coil icing.

There are other causes and remedies for icing that you can read about on our blog about icing.

If your unit is older than 15 years, depending on its' condition and the cost of repair, purchasing a new unit may make more sense, although our first priority is to repair your equipment, if this is your best option. Like any piece of equipment, it's not going to last forever.

Today's air conditioners are quite a bit more efficient than an older unit, so the savings in energy costs will help take the sting out of the cost of a new unit. The government also has attractive rebates on air conditioners. Rebates on new units currently vary from $250 to $400, depending on how efficient the new equipment is.

Warranties on new equipment are also very attractive. Daikin offers a limited full replacement warranty for up to six years and a limited parts warranty up to twelve years. You can learn more about new equipment on our website.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What Causes Air Conditioner Icing?

Icing is a condition where the evaporator coil for the air conditioner ices over and your unit no longer can cool the home properly. The evaporator coil is located in the ductwork, usually just above your furnace. Your furnace fan moves air over the coil and distributes the cool air throughout your home.

Often if an air conditioner is icing, it can be traced to improper use. This is a common problem for new home owners and it is easy to fix.

If you set the thermostat too low, it can cause the unit to ice. Many people think that by setting a lower temperature it will help to cool down the home faster. That is not how your air conditioner works. If you set the temperature too low, your air conditioner will run continuously trying to get your house to the temperature you set.

The volume and temperature of the air flowing through the coil affects the surface temperature of the coil. As the temperature in the home drops the lower temperature of the air flowing over the coil is not sufficient to keep the surface temperature of the coil, which is being cooled by the refrigerant, above freezing. As a result, the water on the coil (condensate) freezes and air can no longer flow through the coil. Evaporator coil freezing can also occur if the outside temperature drops quickly and the air conditioner is left running to cool down the home. We often see this if the thermostat is set too low or the AC was left off all day and turned on in the evening to cool the house down. If there is a change in the weather and the outside temperature drops quickly the refrigerant temperature at the evaporator coil is so low, it can cause the moisture on the coil to freeze.

Your air conditioner coil will ice if there is not proper air flow over the coil. Some people close too many vents in an effort to drive cool air to the second floor of their home. Closing vents restricts air flow, which can cause your unit to ice.

A dirty furnace filter can also cause your unit to ice. Dirty filters are another cause of restricted air flow.

What To Do When Your AC Ices:

  1. Turn off the air conditioner. It has to thaw out and cannot do this while it is running.
  2. Make sure all your vents are open.
  3. Make sure you have a clean furnace filter installed.
  4. Change your furnace fan setting from ‘auto’ to ‘on’. This will thaw the coil faster.
  5. Wait a few hours for the ice to thaw from the coil. Set the temperature at a reasonable level (72-75° F) (22-24°C) and start up your air conditioner again.

If these steps don't solve the problem, it's time for a service call.

A low refrigerant charge can also cause icing or frosting but it will require a mechanic to check the system pressures to confirm this.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Air Conditioner Sizing

When we recommend the size of air conditioner your home will need, we run through a series of calculations. Factors that we consider are the size of your home, number of windows and the direction that windows are facing.

Code requires a unit that will provide anywhere from 80% to 125% of the calculated load on a design day. In London, we design with an outside temperature of 86°F (30°C), and an indoor temperature of 75°F (24°C).

If It is determined that your home requires a 2½ ton unit to meet design, you can choose anything between 2 ton and 3 ton and still meet code.

The 2 ton unit will work fine on mild days, but will not keep up on design or over design days. If we have a stretch of weather over 86°F (30°C), or if you want to maintain an indoor temperature of 72°F (22°C), you should consider a 3 ton unit.

There is a price difference when you move up to a higher capacity unit. The price differences are not that great when you consider that you will likely own your unit for 15 years plus.

If you find your current equipment does not keep your home cool enough on very hot days, we have some recommendations. Keep your windows closed with your blinds drawn on sunny windows. Keep your unit running all the time. Do not shut it down and do not open windows on milder days. Your air conditioner is drying the air, which helps make you feel cooler. Opening windows allows humid air back into your home, which will make you feel warmer quicker when the temperature starts to rise again. It also makes more work for your air conditioner when you turn it on again, to have to remove the humidity from the air.

Regular maintenance is required to ensure that your unit operates at maximum efficiency. A poorly maintained unit will not operate at its’ designed capacity, or run as efficiently.

We have had customers that report their air conditioning worked better after they replaced their furnace.Your furnace fan also impacts your system performance. New furnaces have more efficient fans that move more air.

Have us out to maintain your furnace and air conditioner annually. Our technicians can tell you if it looks like you should consider replacing your equipment. If it’s time to look at new equipment, we will visit your house for a no-cost, no-obligation assessment of your home comfort needs.

A new furnace and air conditioner will keep you more comfortable and are more energy efficient than older equipment. New equipment also carries worry-free warranties of up to 12 years. In addition, there are energy rebates to help cover the cost of new equipment.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Shutting Off Heating Vents in Summer

In a 2 storey home with an older furnace a common issue is the difference in temperate between the main and upper levels during the summer. A common but incorrect solution is closing vents. People think that if they close vents on the main floor, the system will push more cool air to the upper floor.

This strategy will often give you poorer cooling performance. When you are getting your furnace maintenance done our technician can assess your equipment. The repairman will take into account the age and size of motor, how it cycles, the duct-work, number of air returns and vents.

If you have a minimal number of vents you should not close any. If you have more vents than you need then perhaps you can shut some. In general, it is normally OK to close vents in a basement. It is on the main floor that you probably do not want to close any vents.

Your furnace fan is moving cool air in the summer months. If you reduce the number of exit points for the cool air, your furnace fan can no longer move as much air.

We think that by closing vents, we are able to force the air to go where we want, which is up. When we close vents we are actually restricting air flow. That means less cool air circulating through your home.

A better solution to keeping your second floor cooler is to run your furnace fan continuously. Without a fan running, the air in your home stratifies, with warm air moving to the highest levels of the house. With the fan running, the air is constantly mixing.

Many people are surprised to find out that when they replace their furnace, the air conditioning works better. That’s because new furnaces have more efficient fans that move more air.

A ductless split is another solution for cooling higher floors. With a ductless split, cool air can be delivered from high on a wall on your upper floor. Cool air naturally drops, so this makes more sense than your furnace trying to deliver cool air from the basement.

Your annual maintenance call is a great time to ask your technician the best way to operate your home comfort equipment. If you have questions, you can call us anytime at (519)451-8910.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Renting Furnaces and Air Conditioners

Several companies are now offering consumers rental furnaces and air conditioners. Many people in London rent their hot water heater, so they may think renting a furnace or air conditioner also makes sense.

There has been a recent article in the Toronto Star (click here to read the article) that explains some of the pitfalls involved in renting equipment for your home.

Some companies are now operating questionable door to door selling techniques in London. They will come to your door and give you the impression that they are with the government or gas company and that they want to inspect your furnace or water heater.

They will then tell you that there is something wrong with your venting or the way the equipment is installed. The solution they offer often will be to rent you new equipment.

It’s a very aggressive sales pitch and they are determined not to leave your house until they get a signed agreement.

How Can Salmon Plumbing and Heating Help?

  • The cost of a service call can quickly put your mind at ease.
  • We offer financing for all equipment we sell. It’s easy to apply for and the loans are fully open, which means you can pay them off anytime with no penalty.
  • You’ll be surprised that the monthly payments are usually very similar to rental payments. The difference is they will end, and you will own your equipment.
  • We offer service plans, extended warranty and 24hour emergency service. We take care of our customers promptly.
  • We answer all of our own phone calls, you do not get directed to a call centre.
  • We’ll visit your house for free, evaluate your needs and provide you with a simple no-obligation quote.
  • We only sell quality equipment, because we have to stand behind it.

What’s Wrong with Renting Equipment?

  • The low monthly payment looks attractive, but it never ends, and the payments are often more than if you purchased the equipment using a monthly payment plan. In the long run, rental equipment costs a lot more than buying.
  • Rental contracts are difficult and costly to get out of, even if you change your mind.
  • If you need to sell your home, rental agreements can ruin a sale. Often the buyer is not willing to take over contracts to rent the equipment and the cost for cancelling the contract can be significant.
  • Some companies renting you equipment will put a lien on your home, which can complicate the sale of your home or may prevent you from re-financing or securing a line of credit.

What are Your Alternatives?

  • If you suspect something is wrong with your equipment, have a reputable contractor with licensed technicians check it out.
  • Never sign paperwork from a stranger that shows up at your door, even if they appear to be reputable.
  • If there is something wrong with your equipment, it may make more sense to fix it, than to replace it.
  • If your equipment needs to be replaced and you don’t have the money, find out what it will cost to finance it before you enter a rental agreement.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Back-Up Sump Pumps

Many Londoner’s rely on a sump pump to keep their basement dry, particularly in the Spring. Rainy weather and quickly melting snow can result in your sump pump running regularly.

A sump pump failure can lead to a flooded basement and lots of costly damage. Sump pumps are mechanical devices and eventually will fail. Your sump pump will also not work through a power failure, which often happens in stormy weather.

We recommend that you have a battery back-up sump pump that will kick in should your pump fail or during power outages. Battery back-up pumps are plugged in like your main sump pump. They use a trickle charger to keep the battery fully charged.

Battery back-up sumps pumps are also equipped with an alarm. It’s important for you to know that your back-up pump is running, so you have time to attend to your main pump.

Care of Battery Back-up Pumps

It’s important that your test run your back-up pump 3 or 4 times every year, cycling the pump 8 to 10 times. Batteries last longer if they are fully discharged and then charged up again. If you don’t do this, the battery will only last for a couple of years and may not be functional when you need it.

Batteries normally last 5 to 7 years. We would recommend that you change the battery every 5 years.

Cost of Installation

A battery back-up pump is often less than the deductible on your home insurance policy. If it is only needed once, it will pay for itself.

New Homeowners

We often talk with new homeowners that may not be sure if they even have a sump pump or how it works. Give us a call, we will service your pump and give you instructions on using and caring for your sump pump. For the cost of a service call you’ll get piece of mind and information that every homeowner needs.