Top Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Plumbing

With budding plants and warmer temperatures, we’re starting to see the signs of spring here in North Carolina. This is a great time to take care of some annual home cleaning and maintenance tasks.

When you’re making your spring cleaning plan, don’t forget about your plumbing! We’ve compiled a list of the most important tasks that can help you keep your home’s pipes and appliances in top shape for the year to come.

1. Inspect Pipes and Water Lines

Small cracks and leaks in your plumbing can quickly turn into serious issues if they’re not addressed immediately. Take some time this spring to check your home’s pipes for any cracks, leaks, or weak spots. The sooner you can find and fix them, the better.

It’s also important to check water supply lines. Along with the water main, most homes have other supply lines:

  • Faucets
  • Toilets
  • Washing machine
  • Refrigerator ice maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Water heater

Look for leaks, tears, bulges, or sharp curves in the water supply lines for fixtures and appliances. If you aren’t comfortable inspecting or making water line repairs yourself, a Johns Plumbing expert can help.

Finally, don’t forget about your home’s rain gutters and downspouts. These places tend to become clogged with leaves, twigs, and other debris. Clearing them out will help prevent backups that can lead to leaks in your roof or water damage to your home’s foundation.

2. Check Your Appliances

It’s important to check your home’s large appliances at least once a year, and spring is a great time to look for problems and make proactive changes to improve performance:

  • Water heater: Verify the temperature (should be less than 120 degrees F), and drain several gallons from the tank to remove sediment and check for rust.
  • Washing machine: Clean the lint trap.
  • Refrigerator: Check for leaks in the automatic ice maker.
  • Sump pump: Test to make sure it’s working properly. You can do this by pouring some water into the container and making sure the pump turns on to remove the water and then turns off.
  • Dishwasher: Check for and remove built-up debris and food waste.
  • Garbage disposal: Test for proper operation, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

A little bit of proactive maintenance can go a long way toward preventing expensive repairs or emergency replacements.

3. Look for Leaks

You’ve already checked for leaks in your home’s pipes and water supply lines, but don’t forget to check your faucets, toilets, and traps. Make sure there are no slow leaks or drips from any of the faucets in your sinks or tubs.

Look in your under-sink cabinets to check for drips from the traps. It’s also a good idea to clean out those traps to prevent clogged drains.

Finally, check your toilets for leaks. It’s easy to do this with some food coloring. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and wait about 20 minutes. If the dye colors the water in the toilet bowl, it means there’s a leak.

4. Clean Your Faucets and Shower Heads

Minerals can build up inside your faucets and shower heads, especially if you live in an area with hard water. You can use vinegar or a descaling product to remove the minerals. You might also want to check for mineral build-up in your coffeemaker.

5. Clear Slow Drains

Check on all the drains in your home, especially those that don’t get used often. Run some water to see how fast each sink’s main drain works, and don’t forget to check the overflow drain as well.

If you notice any slow drains, fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent a serious clog and backup. It’s also a good idea to pour a gallon of water into those infrequently used drains to prevent unpleasant odors.

6. Consider Upgrading to Energy-Efficient Appliances

It’s never fun to have to replace a big appliance because it breaks down. Proactively upgrading outdated equipment can prevent costly emergency replacement services. Plus, you get the chance to research available models to decide exactly what you want for your home.

If your water heater is over 15 years old, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it. Newer models are far more energy efficient. Replacing an old air conditioner with a newer model is another way to lower your utility bills.

Contact the Experts at Johns Plumbing

Taking some time every spring to inspect your plumbing makes it easy to find and repair minor issues before they become big problems. Spring is also a great time to consider upgrading an outdated water heater or air conditioning system to reduce energy consumption.

Whether you need an expert eye to check your drains or want to learn more about the latest energy-efficient appliances, Johns Plumbing can help. We’ll help you get your home’s water lines, drains, pipes, and appliances in top shape. You can also call us 24/7 for emergency service.

We serve clients in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and throughout the Triad area. You can use our convenient online form to schedule a service appointment. For after-hours emergency service, call us directly at 336-294-2301.

6 Winter Plumbing Tips to Help Protect Your Home in Cold Weather

Cold winter weather can be rough on pipes and other parts of your plumbing system. There’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with blocked drains, a broken hot water heater, or leaky pipes in the dead of winter.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to get your plumbing system ready for the cold weather. These preventative measures can significantly lower the risk of plumbing problems. If you do end up with frozen pipes or other plumbing issues, you can always get prompt emergency service from the Johns Plumbing team.

1. Locate the Water Main Valve

It’s vital to know exactly where your home’s water main valve is and how to turn it off. Quickly turning off the water flow can prevent a burst pipe from causing flooding and water damage.

It’s also a good idea to shut off the water line before leaving your home for a trip. Once you turn the valve to the “off” position, drain the remaining water out of the pipes by turning on all the faucets and letting the water run until the pipes are empty.

2. Protect Your Indoor Pipes

When the pipes in your home get too told, the water can freeze, expand, and break the pipes. Sometimes you may not notice small cracks in your pipes until the water thaws and starts running through the pipes and leaking everywhere. A big crack in a pipe can release a lot of water very quickly, flooding parts of your home.

There are several ways to prevent your indoor plumbing from freezing:

  • Find any cabinets with water pipes in them and leave the doors open during cold weather to keep the space warmer
  • Regularly check all your pipes for cracks or weak points. Fix any damaged areas right away.
  • Keep your garage doors closed to trap head inside
  • Open your faucets slightly (look for a trickle of water) on extremely cold nights to keep the water running so it doesn’t freeze. You can catch the water in a bucket so it doesn’t go to waste.
  • Remove the bottom panel of your dishwasher to allow more heat to reach its water line.

These steps can prevent frozen pipes and keep your home safe from water leaks.

3. Prepare Your Outdoor Pipes for Cold Weather

It’s also essential to make sure your outdoor pipes and spigots are winterized. Insulate any exposed outdoor pipes leading from the water main to your house, including at the entry points.

Before the weather turns cold, make sure to turn off your outdoor spigots and remove any hoses that are connected to them. Drain the remaining water out of the hoses, coil them, and store them indoors during the winter. Wrap some towels or heating tape around the spigots to keep them warmer on very cold days or nights. You can also find frost-proof spigot covers.

4. Add Some Insulation

In many homes, water pipes run through uninsulated crawlspaces, unfinished basements, or attics. These spaces can get extremely cold during the winter, which leads to frozen, cracked pipes.

Adding insulation can help prevent this issue. Insulating the crawlspace or attic can be a good DIY project, and it can help lower the strain on your furnace during winter. If you don’t want to commit to such a big renovation, you can also insulate the pipes themselves with specially designed foam sheaths. If you aren’t sure of the best way to insulate your pipes, ask an experienced plumber.  

5. Get Your Water Heater Checked

Fall is a great time to check on your water heater and make sure it’s in good shape for the upcoming winter. Draining the water heater can help flush out any built-up sediment, and it’s a great way to check whether there’s rust in the tank.

If the water draining from your tank is discolored, chances are there’s some rust. It might be time for a replacement. This is a good chance to consider switching to a tankless water heater or upgrading to a more energy-efficient tank model.

6. Program Your Thermostat

Setting your thermostat a little lower in the winter can reduce your utility bills and save energy. This is a great step for your wallet and the environment, but it’s not ideal for your pipes. Keeping your home’s temperature too cool can increase the risk of your pipes freezing.

It’s best to keep the temperature no lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Resist the temptation to lower your thermostat below this temperature even when you go out of town. The last thing you want is to return to a home with broken pipes and water damage.

Trust Johns Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning for All Your Plumbing Needs

Even the best preventative maintenance can’t always stop a plumbing emergency from happening. If you have leaky pipes or a broken water heater, call the team of experts at Johns. We service homes and businesses throughout the entire Piedmont Triad, including Greensboro, Summerfield, Kernersville, Burlington, and the surrounding area.

We offer quick repairs, top-notch installation services, and expert advice. Schedule an appointment online or call us directly at 336-294-2301 for after-hours emergency services.

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.