All posts by Johns Team

Blower Door Home Energy Audit

Blower door testing is the most practical way to predict energy savings from air-sealing methods.how to do a blower door audit

Compare blower-door operation to inflating a leaky beach ball. When you inflate a beach ball, it doesn’t take much effort to fill it if there are no holes present. If the ball has a few pin holes, you have to apply a little more effort because eventually the air will leak out and the ball will become deflated. If there are holes that are bigger (such as raisin-sized holes), you will have to put forth an incredible amount of effort to keep the ball inflated. The total size of the all the holes and the pressure difference between the ball and the outside determines the rate at which you need to blow air to keep the ball inflated.

Like the blowing pressure of your lungs to keep a beach ball inflated, a blower door pressurizes your home by blowing air in or depressurizes the home by sucking air out. Depressurization, which creates a vacuum indoors, is the most common procedure because air comes in through air leaks, allowing you to feel and locate the air leaks in your home. The combined area of the building leaks and the pressure difference between indoors and outdoors determines how much air the blower door moves. The air flow is measured by CFM (cubic feet per minute). The standard for measuring a home’s air leakage is the air flow through the blower door at 50 pascals of house pressure (CFM50)

Blower door testing involves preparing the home for testing, setting up the blower door in a doorway, connecting the gauges, turning on the blower door, and reading the pressure reading on the gauges.

Prepare for testing by following these steps:

  • Close windows and storm doors.
  • Open all interior doors.
  • Disable heaters and water heaters by turning their thermostats down.
  • Cover ashes in wood stoves and fireplaces with damp newspaper to prevent them from being sucked into the home.
  • Shut fireplace dampers, fireplace glass doors, wood stove dampers, and wood stove air intakes.

The blower door operator should slowly bring the house pressure to 50 pascals. This is usually preset with the blower door gauges before he begins. With the house pressure at 50 pascals, the operator notes the CFM50 number from the digital air flow gauge. Then he begins to look around the home with a smoke generator to help find the air leaks in your home. I promise that you will be amazed to discover where the leaks are and the amount of leakage that occurs.

There are several common factors to help to determine the amount of air leakage you may have in your home. This is a little technical, but it will help you to understand the importance of a test of this nature.

  1. The 50 Pascal Airflow Rate: a blower door reading expressed in cubic feet per minute (CFM50) is the actual flow measured at 50 pascals of house pressure.
  2. The 50-Pascal Air Change Rate (ACH50): a blower door reading expressed in air changes per hour at 50 pascals. This is calculated by multiplying the CFM50 by 60min/hour and then dividing by the house volume in cubic feet.
  3. Natural Air Change rate (ACH natural): natural air change is expressed in air changes per hour.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, the home energy auditor in your area will know just what to do with all these numbers and formulas. If you are wondering where to find an energy auditor, check with your local courthouse or utility company. Hiring a home energy auditor will be money well spent!

8 Gas Appliance Safety Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Gas appliances are not inherently dangerous. In fact, they’re exceedingly safe, as long as they’re well-maintained and treated with care and respect.

YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE

If you have a gas-fueled furnace, room heater, stove, or water heater in your home, here are eight safety tips you would be wise to follow:

  1. Install carbon monoxide detectors in the immediate vicinity of each appliance.

If you have gas-burning appliances in your home, carbon monoxide poisoning is the biggest risk you face. Every year, thousands of people are sickened by exposure to carbon monoxide, and a few people pay the ultimate price.

Carbon monoxide detectors are highly sensitive, and they’ve saved many lives. They do need to be installed fairly near gas appliances to work correctly, and you should change the batteries twice a year even if the low-battery warning beeper doesn’t sound.

  1. Learn to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide detectors are great, but carbon monoxide is so dangerous that you shouldn’t count on them exclusively. Even if they do go off during a leak and you manage to flee, someone may be exposed to hazardous levels of carbon monoxide before you can get out of the house.

The telltale indicators of carbon monoxide exposure include these:

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Steadily increasing drowsiness
  • Tension headaches
  • Muscle and joint stiffness
  • Blurred vision
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or anyone else in your home experiences any of these symptoms, leave the house, open all windows and doors on the way out, turn the gas off at its source, and call the gas company (after you exit the house) to alert them to the danger. If anyone’s illness persists, or if anyone loses consciousness, call 911 and ask them to dispatch an ambulance immediately.

  1. Keep the floor and wall space around your gas appliances free and clear.

Don’t install gas appliances near cabinets or shelves or in a spot with a low ceiling. Don’t push the appliance right up against the wall, and keep the floor space around it clear of all obstacles for a distance of 4-6 feet.

  1. Don’t store combustibles anywhere close to a gas-burning appliance.

If it burns, you should keep it far, far away from your gas furnace, heater, or stove. In fact the best idea is to store your chemical products, oil or kerosene cans, paint, newspapers, magazines, and any other flammable items in an entirely separate location.

  1. Make your gas appliances off-limits to children and pets.

No matter how responsible and careful your kids (or cats and dogs) might be, why take any chances?

  1. Check your gas appliance vents often to make sure they remain clean and open.

Vent maintenance is fairly simple and straightforward. Fortunately, modern gas appliances are often manufactured to shut down if venting is inadequate, but if you inspect the vents yourself and clean them out as needed, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

  1. Look for soot accumulation, a yellow pilot light flame, or any other sign of damage or diminished performance.

Older gas appliances need extra-special attention. It might be a good idea to get rid of your furnace, heater, or stove before it ages too much, but at the very least, you have to watch it carefully for any signs of breakdown or malfunction.

  1. Arrange for regular maintenance visits from an HVAC contractor (and other professionals if needed).

If you have a gas furnace, this is where Johns Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning can really help you out. Call us to make an appointment before heating season begins, and we’ll send a trained technician to your home to inspect your furnace for any sign of damage. Quick tune-ups are free, and if more extensive repairs are needed, you’ll be happy to know we’re one of the most affordable contractors in the area, and our technicians are highly experienced in all types of repair procedures. We can also give you the chance to enroll in our maintenance program, which will ensure regular inspections as well as saving you money on parts and labor.

Keeping your gas appliances in tip-top working order at all times is one of the best ways to ensure their continued safe operation, and no matter what type of gas appliance you own, it’s always good to have the assistance of a professional.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Signs it’s Time to Buy a New Furnace

Furnaces are rugged and durable appliances that are built to perform like champions on even the frostiest January nights.

But over time, your furnace will wear down and gradually wear out. And even if it doesn’t, your needs and expectations may evolve, and a furnace that seemed like a solid, quality performer a few years ago might be less than adequate now.

Of course, getting a new furnace requires a significant financial investment, including installation costs as well as the price of the equipment. Before you lay out that kind of coin, you’ll want to be 100 percent sure the time is right to make a change.

Top 5 Signs it’s Time to Buy a New Furnace

So how will you know when your furnace is on its last legs and just about ready for the scrap heap? Here are five good indicators …

      1. Advanced age

With few exceptions, furnaces in general tend to wear out after 10-15 years of steady functioning, although early and obvious signs of damage or decay may not be detectable. Another factor to consider is that each new generation of furnace is more energy-efficient, and therefore more cost-effective, than the last, and the opportunity to cut your monthly fuel costs by 40-50 percent may be too good to pass up. Despite the upfront costs, a brand new energy-efficient furnace could pay for itself in less than 10 years’ time, depending on the quality and efficiency of the unit it is replacing.

      2. Escalating fuel bills

Have your home heating bills been creeping upward beyond the rising cost of fuel? Progressive changes like this are the mark of a furnace in crisis, and if you don’t take action, the problem will only get worse. By all means, you should consult with your HVAC contractor before making a final judgment, but if they can’t find a single mechanical problem that explains the excessive fuel usage, a general systemic decline is the likeliest explanation.

       3. More frequent services calls for repairs

Repeatedly patching up a failing appliance makes no economic sense. When things reach the point where you’ve got your HVAC contractor’s emergency repair line on speed dial, it might be time to start working on the epitaph for your furnace’s tombstone.

      4. Strange noises, odors, leaks, or soot accumulation

These are symptoms of a furnace that’s gradually crumbling into dust, the forces of entropy and heavy use stressing it to the breaking point. In a sense, these are like the small tremors that often precede a giant earthquake, and they should motivate you to take action before disaster strikes.

     5. Uneven heat distribution

Hot spots, cold spots, and temperature differentials throughout the house could mean one of two things: either your furnace is improperly-sized (too big or too small for your home), or it can no longer kick out and distribute heat at a consistent rate. If temperature anomalies are a new phenomenon, it means the latter is the problem, and that’s a clue your furnace is losing its battle with Father Time.

Energy-Efficient Furnaces are a Johns Plumbing, Heating,  and Air Conditioning Specialty

Johns Plumbing & HVAC is a certified dealer of Trane heating and cooling products, including state-of-the-art gas and oil furnaces that can maximize your fuel-cost savings.

If you’re in the market for a new furnace, or would like to have your old one checked and evaluated, please give us a call today. With our outstanding heating products and superb installation services, we can help you make a smooth transition to a happy new era in affordable home comfort.

 

Are You Thinking About Buying a Smart Thermostat?

Why You Should Buy a Smart Thermostat

Thermostats are an irreplaceable part of any HVAC system. These handy control mechanisms take the guesswork out of your heating and cooling systems, allowing you to customize their activity based on your personal comfort preferences.

The ABCs of smart thermometers

But if you think thermostats are still simple devices with a low range of capabilities, we have a surprise for you. Smart thermostats have changed the HVAC industry forever—these universally programmable and interactive devices let users streamline and personalize the performance of their HVAC equipment right down to the minute.

Smart thermostats furnish precise and convenient digital control over physical heating and cooling equipment, saving time and money in the process. All across the land, homeowners are singing their praises, and if you don’t know anything about smart thermostats, you truly don’t know what you’ve been missing.

The A-B-Cs of Smart Thermostats

So what is it, exactly, that makes a smart thermostat so smart?

That’s a great question, and the list of differences between smart and conventional thermostats is more extensive than you might think.

Here’s what you’ll get with a good-quality smart thermostat:

  • User-friendly digital features. If you know how to operate your smart phone, you’ll have no problem understanding and managing your smart thermostat. In fact, a smart thermostat is less complex and easier to use.
  • Full Wi-Fi capability. Yes, that’s right. State-of-the-art smart thermostats are remotely accessible over the Internet—meaning you can program them from your mobile devices or laptop even when you’re not at home. All you have to do is download the proper smart thermostat app, and you’ll be ready to roll.
  • Connectivity with all home comfort appliances. Furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilators … you name it, and if it helps regulate your home’s interior environment, a smart thermostat can control it. Install a smart thermostat, and it will operate as the “brain” of your entire indoor climate management system.
  • Long-term programming capabilities. With a smart thermostat, you can program your home’s temperature and relative humidity settings for tomorrow, for next week, or for every day next month. Or if you’re going on vacation, you can program your system to switch on shortly before you return, so you’ll return to a home that’s as cool or as toasty as you desire.
  • Detailed information about energy-use patterns. You can receive as many digital updates as you like, detailing your energy consumption by the hour, day, week, or month. This will allow you to track your energy-use patterns and make adjustments that can save you money without compromising on performance. Your device will even offer customized tips to help you improve your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Automatic adaptability. Believe it or not, your smart thermostat will eventually learn to adapt to your habits and make automatic adjustments in your heating and cooling settings, based on time of day, who’s home, etc. Over time, your new thermostat may come to know more about your climate preferences than you do—which is why they call them smart

In addition to their outstanding performance features, smart thermostats are easy to install and sleekly designed to blend naturally into their surroundings. They can be integrated with all makes and models of furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps and will begin saving you money on energy consumption right from the get-go.

How much money, you ask? If you learn to use all the features of your smart thermostat, you may be able to reduce your fuel and electricity consumption by as much as 20-30 percent.

While smart thermostats are more expensive than older analog models, with these types of savings, they should pay for themselves in one or two years, tops.

Smart Thermostats for Smarter Living

Only you can decide if a smart thermostat is the right choice for you and your family.

Just know that if you do take the plunge, your control over the operation of your HVAC system will grow exponentially. On-demand fingertip programmability gives you complete autonomy over indoor temperatures in your home seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, from wherever you are in the world.

From a cost-benefit standpoint,  a smart thermostat is one of the smarter investments you could ever hope to make.

How to Protect and Preserve Your Garbage Disposal

And Prevent Plugged Pipes in the Process!

Garbage disposals are rugged, durable, can-do appliances. Most of us take them for granted—expecting them to grind on forever without malfunction or interruption. But they require care and careful use if they are to remain in prime working order.

How to protect and preserve your garbage disposal.

What NOT to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Even the highest-quality garbage disposals are designed to handle a restricted range of food products. The list of items they should not be asked to grind up include the following:

  • Large animal bones
  • Grease or cooking oil
  • Fruit pits
  • High-fiber foods (lettuce, artichokes, onion skins, celery, etc.)
  • Potato or banana peels
  • Pasta, rice, beans and other foods that absorb water
  • Coffee grounds

These food items can clog drain pipes, jam or dull cutting blades, strain disposal motors, and create unpleasant but persistent odors. While you may not realize it, you’ll be shortening the lifespan of your disposal every time you ask it to process any of these substances.

Tips for Efficient Garbage Disposal Use

You should feed waste items into your disposal steadily and gradually with water running the whole time. A disposal can easily be overloaded and you should never stuff anything down into it before you turn on the machine.

A steady stream of cold water should always complement a garbage disposal in operation. Grind everything you put down the drain thoroughly and completely before turning your disposal off, and leave the cold water running for at least 15 seconds after the machine is finished with its work.

DIY Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Repairs

With a proactive approach to garbage disposal maintenance, you should be able to prevent clogged pipes, jammed blades, and the emanation of perpetually disgusting odors.

Here are six quick tips on how to keep your disposal clean and in tip-top condition:

  1. Never use hot water when grinding food items in your disposal. Hot water causes the grease in foods to dissolve, liquefy, stick to blades and coagulate inside pipes.
  2. Be sure to use your garbage disposal regularly, preferably on a daily basis. This will stave off rust and corrosion.
  3. Don’t use bleach or chemical drain cleaners in your sink and disposal under any circumstances. These harsh substances will damage cutting blades and slowly eat away at the inside of your pipes.
  4. Once or twice a month, throw a handful of ice cubes down the drain, turn on the cold water, and let your disposal loose. The sound of grinding ice cubes is not pleasant, but the shards of the frozen water will sharpen your disposal’s blades and chop right through any greasy accumulation.
  5. Grind up half of a citrus fruit (orange, lime, lemon) once a month to help remove bad odors and leave your sink and disposal smelling fresh and clean.
  6. Every two weeks, use a vinegar and baking soda paste (two parts vinegar to one part soda is a good mixture) to scour and clean your disposal. Pour the paste down the drain, and let it sit for 30-60 minutes before scrubbing vigorously with a long wire brush. When you wash the remaining paste down the drain, it will clean your pipes and the interior of your disposal as well.

How to Fix a Jammed or Non-functioning Disposal

If your garbage disposal refuses to start, nine times out of ten the problem can be fixed by hitting the reset button. This button will be either red or black and will be located somewhere on the outside of the unit.

Should your disposal somehow become jammed, before you do anything be sure to unplug the appliance so electricity is not an issue (forget to do this and you may be in for the shock of your life, figuratively and literally). On the disposal’s underside, you should find a small hole large enough for a ¼″ hex wrench. Insert one of these wrenches, and turn it forward and backward several times, and if the jam is not too serious, this should loosen it.

Next, use a pair of pliers to remove the object responsible for the jam—assuming you’re able to get it out. If this two-step approach doesn’t work and your disposal is still jammed, that would be the time to call a plumber.

Don’t Treat Your Garbage Disposal like Garbage

Good garbage disposal care is straightforward and simple. All you need is a little time and a conscious commitment to treat your disposal with respect. Do this and it should keep rolling along without breakdown for years to come.