Thursday, 24 December 2015

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.

Friday, 18 December 2015

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.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Humidity and Humidifier Tips

An important part of keeping your home comfortable in the winter is humidity. Either too much or too little humidity comes with a set of problems that can have minor and even major implications.

Relative humidity is a measure of how much moisture is in the air. It is expressed as a percentage. The ideal range for home comfort is normally anywhere from 40% to 50% relative humidity.

During the winter we heat air which then expands. Imagine that it is 0°C outside and the relative humidity outside is 40%. Your furnace heats the air to 20°C. The air expands when heated, but the amount of moisture in the air is unchanged. Your heated indoor air will now have a relative humidity quite a bit lower than 40%.

Air that is too dry can lead to drier skin. When you sleep you’ll likely wake up with a dry throat and nose. Dry air also leads to more static electricity. Wooden floors can crack or spread open at the gaps. Furniture can also crack or loosen at the joints.

Recommended humidity levels can also save you money on your heating bill. If your home is 20°C with 40% relative humidity, you’ll likely be quite comfortable. If the air is drier, you’ll feel cooler and will be reaching for the thermostat to increase the temperature.

A properly operating humidifier installed on your furnace will correct these problems. In the fall when you have shut down your air conditioner, you turn your humidifier on. Set the humidistat at 40%. The humidifier will automatically work to add moisture to the air in your home as required. Be sure the water to the humidifier is turned on and the bypass damper is open. Depending on the type of humidifier you should install a new pad or panel. For the old drum style humidifier clean the water tray.

Household activities also can add moisture to the air. Taking a shower or cooking can add quite a bit of humidity. Even plants and fish tanks will add humidity to your home.

Newer homes that are quite air tight may require dehumidification in parts of the heating season. This is accomplished with an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator). During the coldest winter days almost every home in London, Ontario will require humidification.

Older homes tend to be leakier. More outside air infiltrates into the house and the furnace tends to run more. A properly operating humidifier is very important for your comfort in an older home.

Salmon Plumbing & Heating checks your humidifier when we do your annual furnace maintenance. There are pads on your humidifier that may have to be changed. If your humidifier is not working, we can normally repair it. Like any piece of equipment, it may have to be eventually replaced. There are several types of new replacement humidifiers and you’ll want an HVAC professional to help you select the one that’s right for your home and lifestyle. You’ll also want a professional to install your new humidifier.

Our licensed professionals are happy to show you how to properly operate your humidifier or any of your home comfort equipment when performing a maintenance service or even when completing a service repair.

Finally, in the spring when you are getting your air conditioner ready for the warm weather, don’t forget to turn your humidifier off. There is normally an air flow damper that you close or switch over to the summer setting. In London’s climate, your air conditioner will dehumidify the air in the summer months.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tips for Shutting Down Outside Taps

With freezing temperatures arriving it is important to shut down the outside taps. Failure to do so can cause serious water damage to your home.

Once you are done using water outside the house, it is time to shut down the water to the outside taps and drain the lines. This is a simple job that most homeowners can do themselves.

For each outside tap, you will find a shutoff tap in your basement, **unless it's the frost free type explained below. Turn the basement tap to the right to shut it down. You will find a small bleed valve at the base of the tap. It's a little cap that you unscrew. You may need pliers to loosen it. Have a pail and rag ready, the water between the bleed valve and the outside tap will drain out.

Leave the bleed valve cap off and go outside and open the faucet. If you have a newer outside faucet it will have a vacuum breaker. You'll find a little button inside the outlet of the faucet. Push it in a few times with your finger to allow air into the line. More water may run out through the bleed valve in your basement.

Vacuum breakers were mandated over 15 years ago. They prevent stale water that is in the hose or chemical sprays applied with your hose from backing up into your home’s water supply.

Once you are satisfied that all the water is out of the line, you can close the outside valve and put the bleed valve cover back on in the basement. In the spring, all you will have to do is open the tap in the basement.

If you have a second outdoor faucet, repeat the process. Some houses will have a faucet in the garage. You need to repeat the process for this one as well. These often freeze and split if you leave the garage door open for an extended period of time when shoveling the driveway.

**If you have frost free taps, we would recommend the same process. In London, Ontario, winter temperatures can get low enough that you may even freeze the line on a frost free tap.

If you are leaving your home for a winter vacation, shut off your main water supply. You can't do this if you have a hot water heating system. If you can, open up the cupboards below any sink (kitchen or bathroom), so warm air can still reach the piping hidden behind the wall. This is especially important if the sink is on an outside wall or over an unheated space (crawl space or garage). You can lower your thermostat setting slightly but if temperature is expected to be below -10° Celsius the risk of a pipe freezing and splitting increases significantly.

The cost of a frozen pipe goes well beyond the cost of replacing the pipe. Water damage in finished basements can be extensive if a line starts leaking when you are not at home.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Floor Drain Back-ups

There are signs that your sewer is beginning to block up. Here are things to watch for and actions to take to prevent a messy situation.
If you notice water backing up from your floor drain while doing laundry or after a heavy rain, you need to be concerned. The water will often drain away slowly and people will think the problem is solved. The reality is that the problem did not go away. It's an indication that the line is getting partially blocked and under a heavy load it cannot handle a large amount of water.
When the water has nowhere to go it will back up into your basement. When there is a heavy rain, newer homes in London, Ontario have sump pumps that the weeping tiles are connected to. If there is a backup in a newer home, it would probably show during laundry. 
In London, Ontario's older homes that do not have a sump pump, the weeping tile is more likely to be tied into the drain. In a heavy rain the water is trying to go down the sewer which is partially blocked, so then it backs up into the basement.
At Salmon Plumbing, we suggest if you notice issues, get us out to your home. We will get the sewer line cleaned out. With cameras we can tell what is going on and advise you if there is anything further that should be done. In most cases a sewer clean-out is all that is required. It is just a matter of getting it done. Some people need to get drains cleaned regularly if they live in an older part of London. 
Salmon Plumbing & Heating Drain Camera
Drain Camera

Ignoring the warning signs can lead to major problems. The damage that is caused by a backed up sewer can be very expensive, with flooring, drywall and family treasures being destroyed. Simple sewer maintenance is all it takes to prevent such an episode.

We have recorded answers to several common plumbing questions and put them on our website. To listen to plumbing questions and answers, click here

Salmon Plumbing & Heating, London, Ontario, Canada