Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Snow and Furnace Vents

If you have a newer high efficiency furnace, you will likely have 2 pipes coming out at the side or back of your home. One of these pipes is for exhaust. On a cold winter day, you'll see white vapour blowing out of this pipe.

The second pipe is for air intake. The furnace requires a supply of fresh air for combustion.

In London, Ontario we can see snow drifting and piling up quickly in a snow storm.

One common problem we see in the winter months, is that furnace vents get covered with snow. This can happen from drifting, or driveway shoveling. If the intake vent gets blocked by snow, the furnace will automatically shut down.

If your furnace shuts down unexpectedly during a snow storm, check to see that your furnace vents are clear of snow. Once the snow is cleared from the vents, your furnace may start up or you may need to turn the power off and on to reset the control.

If you are shoveling your driveway, or using a snow blower, make sure that you are not piling snow near the furnace vents.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What to Think About When Buying a New Furnace

There are several reasons you may be in the market for a new furnace:

  • A large estimate to repair your current furnace.
  • Your existing furnace is not energy efficient and a new furnace will actually save you money.
  • Your existing furnace has had a critical failure, like a cracked heat exchanger.
  • To improve your home’s comfort.

Whatever the reason, a new furnace is a large investment in a piece of equipment that you will have for 15 to 20 years.

Home owners are likely to look at the price, manufacturer and warranty when making their decision. An equally important consideration is the contractor that will be installing your equipment. Here are a few considerations:

  • Will they stand behind the product after it is installed?
  • Do they service the product themselves, or do they contract service to somebody else?
  • Is there somebody local you can talk to if you have a problem?
  • Do they employ licensed tradesmen? A proper installation requires electrical work, a gas fitter and custom sheet metal work.

Modern furnaces are complex pieces of equipment. A furnace needs to sized, for your home. Once it is installed, it needs to be set up properly to ensure your safety and comfort. Finally, a good contractor will show you how to operate your new furnace to give you the best performance.

Home owners can do many things themselves to keep their system running smoothly including:

  • Changing furnace filters
  • Adjusting your humidifier for summer and winter
  • Keeping fresh batteries in your thermostat
  • Making sure that heating vents and cold air returns are not obstructed
  • Keeping air intakes and exhaust vents clear of snow and debris

A good contractor will show you how to do all of this after installation. All new furnaces require an annual maintenance check-up. Annual maintenance is important to:

  • Keep your manufacturer’s warranty in place.
  • Extend the life of your equipment
  • Keep your equipment operating safely and efficiently

It only makes sense to have an installation contractor that’s familiar with your equipment and can help you resolve any warranty issues. A good contractor will call to remind you to get your equipment maintained every year.

There are many ways to make sure you are dealing with a reputable contractor, including:

If you are thinking of a new furnace, Salmon Plumbing & Heating provides a free no-obligation visit to your home. We’ll take a look at your old furnace and recommend a brand and model that will best meet your needs. If you would like to finance your furnace, we can also help you set up an affordable payment plan.

Just call (519) 451-8910.

Rebates from the government on new energy efficient equipment are designed to help homeowners move into new equipment. We’ll explain all the programs that are currently available and help you with the paperwork.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

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 shut down your air conditioner, 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.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Change Your Thermostat Batteries

You should change the batteries on your programmable thermostat once a year. Most smart thermostats take alkaline batteries (AA or AAA) or 3 volt lithium batteries, all of which are commonly available.

Your thermostat has batteries to keep your programming saved when the power goes out. Even though your thermostat is wired directly to the furnace, a thermostat with a dead battery can lead to no heat.

Some thermostats have a low battery indicator, that will give you a warning a few weeks ahead. It’s good practice to change the batteries once a year, just like you would with your smoke detectors.

You don’t want to pay for an emergency no heat service call, just to find out your thermostat battery is dead.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Air Conditioner Covers

We recommend that you do not cover your outside air conditioner unit in the winter. Moisture can build up underneath the cover, which can be harmful to the electrical components inside.

Clear the area and unit of twigs, leaves and debris. If you are concerned about leaves and debris falling in the unit, we recommend that you put a board on top of the unit, weighed down with a brick. We would also recommend that you turn off the power to the air conditioner at the panel. This will ensure that the unit is not inadvertently turned on in cold weather. Be sure to remember to take the cover back off in the spring.

If you buy a cover, select one that does not go all the way to the ground. This allows air circulation and prevents moisture damage.

Simply use a board weighed down by some bricks
At the Salmon Plumbing shop we have 3 air conditioning units. We do not cover any of them during the winter.

Air conditioners should be serviced annually to extend their life, maintain warranties and improve performance and energy efficiency.

Call (519)451-8910 to schedule your air conditioner service call.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

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.

Friday, 25 August 2017

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.

Monday, 21 August 2017

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.

Monday, 14 August 2017

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.