Category archive - Heating

Be Aware of Asbestos

Be Aware of Asbestos

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Around the late 19th century, the use of the minerals known as asbestos was hitting its peak, at least in the United States and Canada. It started as a healthy mining business that begat uses in Westchester home construction and insulation, flame-and-acid-retardant materials, endless building materials (brick, concrete, drywall, flooring etc.) and even lawn furniture. In Japan, a few decades later, it was even used to help rice production, but even at that point, the alarming dangers of asbestos had been largely accepted and were commonly known in the UK and U.S., though the later was tragically late to the party in terms of regulation and education of the dangers.

So, it’s been a little over 70 years since the U.S. caught up to the UK, but the danger the material can cause to your loved ones is hardly a past matter: Cases of cancer in people who work with asbestos or live in close proximity to it are astonishingly higher than the norm. Asbestos is made of long thin fibers and looks similar to fiberglass in consistency. Because of the strengthening, heat resistance and soundproofing qualities, asbestos was used to mold a myriad of materials used in homes in Westchester and elsewhere, including tiling and pipe insulation; it is even commonly found in the production of brake pads. Today, a little less than 850,000 homes, offices and schools can be found to include asbestos and over 20,000 people will die each year for the next 30 years from asbestos exposure. These are not good numbers.

It’s not easy: Asbestos is a notoriously tricky substance. If pained over, asbestos is not easy to locate in a regular home. Scraping and home construction can send asbestos particles into the air, where it can be breathed in by anyone. Even a second layer of wallboard shakes fibers loose, allowing the fibers to drift into the air you breathe. And sadly, this is one of those precautions that depend on professionally trained individuals being paid to do their job.

New coatings techniques enhance the encapsulation of asbestos in walls and ceilings, and have proven highly effective in diminishing the toxic elements of the material. Home asbestos test kits are available at most major home improvement stores, typically include 2 sample collectors, and are dependent on lab analysis, which will run you less than $20. Popcorn and textured ceilings, ceiling tiles, floor tiles and pipe insulation are major culprits and should be collected and tested as soon as possible. The laboratory test identifies asbestos fibers to as little as 1 percent content by weight and is more sensitive than the current EPA standards. So, take an afternoon, collect the samples while following the directions on the test kit closely, and send them into the lab. You’ll have your answer within two weeks and by that time, know if its time to give your Westchester home an overhaul or call the real estate agent.


How’s the Heat with the Hot Water?

How’s the Heat with the Hot Water?

Let us now say a prayer for forced air heating systems. They were good for awhile and kept many Westchester homes warm through the years, but let’s now leave these noisy relics in the dust and embrace the wonders of hot water heating systems. To say nothing about the ease of control, hot water heating offers a more evenly held heat and a more palpable heat, seeing as it is based on moisture rather than dry air. Hot water heating makes any home more comforting and welcoming during winter.

The furnaces used in hot water heating can be powered by gas, oil, coal, wood, or electric coil. Typically gravity fed or pumped, the heated water in the boiler travels up to the radiators, and as they disperse the heat, the cooler water travels down to the boiler to be reheated. More expensive systems even have hot water tubing under the floorboards, which provides uniform heat.

The radiators, however, are the key component and there are three basic types. First, there’re cast iron radiators, which are actually still very efficient despite their basicness. Radiators fitted with metal covering are similar but often include tubing covered with fins that provide additional convection heat. These fins increase the surface area of the heated parts, and boost energy efficiency. Lastly, there are baseboard heaters, which are more prominent in modern homes and actually provide the most efficient heating on the market. Along with the fins, the placement ensures whole room is heated from the bottom up, which is far more economical.

The issue is that hot water heating systems eventually get air in them and most don’t offer vents. As such, Westchester homeowners must “bleed” their hot water heating systems occasionally to ensure efficient use of heat. System valves are easily opened with a key wrench and all you have to do is put a cup, can or bucket under the valve, and open it up. Eventually, water will start running out of the valve, hence the bucket. In multi-story buildings or houses, it’s best to start on the top floor and make your way down, continuing until all floors have been taken care of.

There’s really only one more thing you have to do, and that is to drain out all the water in the system yearly. Begin by turning off the water supply valve, allowing the water cool completely down before moving ahead. Next, find the release valve on the boiler and attach a hose to it. Run the hose outside and completely drain the system, unless you can’t run a hose outside, in which case use drain the system via filling and emptying buckets. This process gets rid of the built-up minerals and rust in the system. Afterwards, open a bleeder valve on the highest radiator and refill the system. This way, your Westchester home will remain cozy and you won’t be nervous about the energy you’re using unduly jacking your energy bill up.


Warming Up to HVAC

Warming Up to HVAC

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and there isn’t a residential or commercial building in the nation that doesn’t have some version of HVAC. Without it, all Westchester homeowners would be at the whims of Mother Nature all year. At the end of the day, however, the comforts of heating and air conditioning are lesser to the hygienic needs of air circulation HVAC provides. Trust me, if any part of your HVAC system falters, it’s not hard to notice.

Like your Westchester neighbors, you should always get to know your HVAC systems. Homeowners know where the thermostat is and can see the vents, but, for most, that’s where their knowledge of HVAC ends. Following the vents will lead you to your heating and cooling systems and knowing how they should be operating will help you prevent malfunctions and identify them. And like most things, some light reading is needed. Central heating/AC systems come with a guidebook and, yeah, I’d rather be reading Elmore Leonard too, but reading it will help you figure out where to find vent entry points and other useful information. In fact, any manufacturer will surely have it available to download via their website. If your unit is outside, you should clear it of any debris as regularly as once a week.

Back inside! In many cases, vent filters need regular upkeep; once a month is totally respectable. Pop open the vent at the entry point and check to see that the filter isn’t caked with dust. You should also replace your filters twice a year, once in summer and once in winter. Any home improvement store worth its salt will have filters in stock.

Vent areas where moisture is prevalent can also lead to mold. Scrubbing off the mold with a solution made with equal parts bleach and water will solve that issue and evaporator coils wipe down at 10-15 times a year. After rain or snow, be sure to check for any standing water and tend to it immediately. It’s also important to keep an eye on the fans, as they tend to accumulate dust and grime. Fans should be wiped down bi-weekly, or monthly at the very least. If at all possible, it should become as normal as mowing the lawn.

These are easy ways to avoid problems, but there are some things that just require training and that professional touch. Every two years or so, get a certified HVAC technician to give your entire system the once over and they will give it the real buff and shine, to ensure circulation efficiency in your Westchester home. In these bitter days of winter, heating is crucial and a little cleaning beats icicles on the ceiling.


Keeping the Cold Out

Keeping the Cold Out

So, you already cleaned the gutters and got the backyard ready for the impending coolness and frost. Your focus has switched from keeping the cold in to keeping it out, and you now want a warm home to host holiday parties and take comfort in the middle of snowstorms. And as in summer, there are a few things you can do to make this transition easier on yourself, your family and your bills.

You know how it’s harder to get hot water in the winter? There are a plethora of possible reasons but exposed pipes in colder parts of the home are often the true culprit. Wrap insulation around your exposed hot water pipes to give this a quick fix. Bonus: This small investment will show off many dividends when your energy bills start lessening. There are also special blankets that can be purchased to insulate your hot water tank from the cold air.

Many people think roofing and exterior siding work is the most expensive home improvement costs, but actually, it’s the replacement and repair of your HVAC system. So, it’s important not only to check it but do minor upgrades, such as switching out air filters and calling an HVAC professional to do a check-up once a year. And even if you do have to replace the system, many gas and electrical companies offer discounts to homeowners who switch over to a more eco-friendly system. You can also have a humidifier installed in your HVAC system to ensure the air in your home isn’t too dry.

For those with a bit extra money going into fall, installation of a programmable thermostat helps energy bills plummet and allows you to keep your home comfortable while you’re there and use minimal energy when you’re not. An energy audit is also a way to help you find the ways in which you are losing energy and heat. Specialists who perform energy audits can locate leaky air drafts in a myriad of spaces you might not. Most drafts can be sealed up with caulk, weather-stripping, duct tape, foam gaskets, or spray sealant. No matter what you choose to do, however, doing even just a little will help you combat the cold seasons and keep your bills down, saving money to help with Xmas shopping.


Oil or gas boiler?

Oil or gas boiler?

If you’re a homeowner in Westchester, oil or gas boiler installation may have occurred to you as a way to improve your home’s heating system and reduce energy costs. If you’re contemplating a switch from one system to another, there are some important things to keep in mind. Maintenance, initial installation costs and energy efficiency are a few of the things you should consider.

If you own a house in Westchester, oil or gas boiler installation can be a confusing subject. Should you install a new gas boiler to save on fuel costs, or keep your oil boiler and avoid having to pay for the installation of a new system? Which kind of boiler requires more maintenance? Which is greener? For residents of Westchester, gas boilers can be an attractive option because of the lower cost of gas relative to heating oil. Because heating oil has become increasingly expensive in recent years, many homeowners believe a switch to natural gas could save them money and improve their home’s efficiency. If you already have gas service to your home, installing a gas boiler could make good economic sense. However, if you don’t already have gas service, running a new gas line in from the street can be prohibitively expensive.

In general, gas boilers require less maintenance than do oil boilers. Because they have fewer auxiliary parts and generate fewer by-products (such as soot) during combustion, gas boilers can be less demanding to maintain. They also generate fewer carbon emissions, making them greener. If you’re concerned with the environmental impact of your boiler, gas boilers can be a better choice.

Although the price of natural gas is currently lower than that of heating oil, the price could go up in the future, negating cost savings when installation is factored in. While a gas boiler can be an attractive option, it’s important to remember that conversion can be a very expensive process; it could prove more cost effective to simply keep your oil boiler well maintained. Whichever option you choose for your home in Westchester, oil or gas boiler installation should always be done by a licensed professional.


Time for a new Boiler?

Time for a new Boiler?

Cost, safety and efficiency are the three golden words that every responsible Westchester homeowner should live by. Your boiler needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up, so why not replace it with a newer and more efficient boiler?

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to keep an existing boiler or install a new one, but the main factor is the condition of the metal the boiler is made of. If it is rusting then that should be taken as a cue to change your boiler. Also, if the boiler piping is installed incorrectly and causes wet steam or difficulty delivering heat, there should be an incentive to change your Westchester boiler.

Typically, the efficiency of a Westchester boiler that is over 15 years old would have been less than 80%. However, due to wear and tear, its efficiency today is more likely to be around a meager 70%. If you have a boiler that is more than 15 years old, it is inevitable that over the course of the next few years you will have to replace it anyways due to its failed reliability. The danger that arises when a boiler is functioning improperly is the release of hazardous carbon monoxide fumes. Therefore, why not jump the gun and join the other Westchester homeowners who are installing new boilers and discarding their old and potentially hazardous boilers? Changing it now can help you start saving money immediately (and we all know that in today’s economy it is never too early to start saving), and will avoid the situation in which you’re left with a cold shower because your old boiler broke down.

By replacing your older, low efficiency boiler, with an upgrade Westchester boiler, it has been proven that you can cut your fuel bills by a quarter. Think that saving a quarter of the cost on your bills every month isn’t enough to convince you to make the switch? Consider this: arranging a Westchester boiler installation today will amount to significant fuel cost savings, which can only increase as energy prices escalate over the years. Additionally, by planning the change, rather than it being forced upon you in the depth of winter when it breaks down, you are allotted more time to obtain competitive quotations and thus reduce the cost of your Westchester boiler installation.

So, go check on the condition of the metal on your boiler and make the decision that will insure yours and your family’s warmth and have your Westchester boiler replaced today.


Westchester HVAC Contractor

Westchester HVAC Contractor

Heating and cooling your Westchester home is an important detail that too many couples take lightly. Choosing, installing and servicing heating or cooling systems is not a task for do-it-yourselfers — it is a job for a qualified contractor only. The performance of your heating and cooling system directly correlates to the adequacy of the HVAC contractor.

When choosing the right heating and cooling contractor for you and your family, you should depend on, and take seriously, the following list:

1. Although this may seem like an obvious consideration, it is still a very weighty one —Does your contractor have a license? Ask for his license number to make sure that he actually has one. This way, you are also able to check up on any past work that he’s done.

2. Does the heating or cooling contractor have proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance? If he does not, you could be liable for any mishaps on your property, including injury to the technician himself. The contractor should be able to fax you a one-page Certificate of Insurance that you can then proceed to verify.

3. Ask the contractor how long they’ve been in business. The knowledge that you are hiring an experienced contractor, and not a mere neophyte to the job, should allay any fears you have about the work not being completed to utmost perfection.

4. Ask for a list of customer references. You should then follow up on this list by calling these homeowners and questioning them regarding their experience with the contractor in question. A satisfied customer always indicates a job well done.

5. Research the contractor’s company online. Make sure to scope out their reviews and be aware that if they don’t have a sufficient amount of reviews, it might not be a good sign.

6. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no complaints against the contractor you are looking to hire.

7. Is the contractor in question a member of PHCC? PHCC members devote more of their time to staying up to date with technical education so that they can serve you more efficiently. You can do this by simply looking for the PHCC logo.

8. Be sure to double check with the contractor that he complies with all safety and health laws. Again, this may seem like a tedious question but it is worth it, as you don’t want to get any unwelcome surprises while your heating and cooling system is being installed.

9. A trustworthy HVAC contractor makes thorough calculations of your home upfront, before even recommending your system solution, so make sure that the contractor you select does this as well.

10. Lastly, and although this is probably something you don’t want to hear, avoid being overly frugal when selecting the contractor. The wrong HVAC contractor is usually the cheapest—and costs you more over time with higher energy bills and lower air quality.


Whistling Radiator in Westchester

Whistling Radiator in Westchester

Up all night because of your whistling Westchester radiator? Whistling coming from your radiator is a common occurrence and can be easily fixed by calling a certified professional plumber.

Whistling coming from your Westchester radiator can have been caused by a variety of scenarios. The most common of these scenarios is the case in which the radiator has not been used in a while, or is not used all the time, and in this situation it’s probably air in the system that is causing the whistling. This can be fixed by having someone come over to bleed the radiators.

Older valves, valves that have become partially clogged or valves which are defective will whistle. Whistling coming from your radiator is thus a sign that something has gone dangerously awry and it is imperative that it be fixed. In the case that you have a defective radiator, the culprit might be a valve plate or a piece of the valve inside that is vibrating against the radiator body from the water-flow. If that plate comes loose from the valve-stem, water will whistle through that hole and around the plate. The remedy for this can include replacing the valve and flushing out the radiator if that plate has gotten into the radiator itself.

Alternatively, there is the possibility that the whistling is being caused by the speed of water flowing through piping which is too small. Only a certified plumber would be able to detect this, and he alone will be able to decide whether or not to install a pressure-reducing valve to fix the system.

A plumber will also be able assure you that the venting is working properly, as improper venting can cause your Westchester radiator to whistle as well. Systems whose venting is inoperative, can use up to 50% more fuel than when in proper condition, so you may be wasting money without even realizing it!

These are only a few of the myriad of possibilities of what can be causing your Westchester radiator to whistle. Thus, it is crucial to hire a certified individual to come and scope out the situation and decide the best course of action. Repairs should be done by a certified individual only, as this is not a DIY job because of the specialized equipment it requires and due to the vigilance that is required during installation to avoid affecting your neighbors’ heating systems.


Things to know about your boiler

Things to know about your boiler

If you live in Westchester, chances are your home is heated with a boiler. Oil fired water boilers have the dual advantage of heating your home and providing hot water, all from the same device. For many homeowners in Westchester, boiler maintenance is an essential factor in making sure that their home is warm, safe and secure. Like any household device, boilers can have problems; for this reason, it’s important to stay on top of maintenance and to know the signs that something is wrong.

One common mistake made by homeowners is to assume that maintenance is only necessary when something goes wrong. It’s essential to check your boiler periodically to make sure that it’s functioning properly. Waiting until the last minute to fix a problem with your boiler can be expensive and dangerous. Carbon monoxide leaks, and in rare cases, even explosions, can be deadly for you and your family. There are several things you can do yourself to insure that your boiler is working. Check your boiler room often to make sure that it stays within a reasonable temperature range. If the room becomes too hot, it’s a sign that your boiler may be overheating. It’s also important to regularly check the pressure gauge, which will tell you if built-up pressure in the boiler is too high.

It’s important to have your boiler checked by a certified technician every year. They can make sure that the boiler is in good working order, with no structural defects, leaks or clogs. It’s also important to keep you boiler room clean. Dust and debris can get into the boiler, causing blockages that may lead to overheating. Dust and dirt can get in the pilot light area can cause fires, or cause the pilot light to go out, which can lead to dangerous gas leaks. It’s also essential that the boiler shut-off switch be clearly visible and easily accessible. If you suspect a problem, such as overheating or a gas leak, the safest course of action is to immediately shut off the boiler while you wait for a certified technician.


It’s time to change your hot water tank

It’s time to change your hot water tank

Knowing when it’s time to replace your hot water tank can save time, money and stress. A malfunctioning hot water heater can cause significant damage, and you may have to go a long time without hot water if you wait until something goes terribly wrong to look for a replacement. Fortunately, for residents of Westchester, hot water tank replacement can be accomplished with minimal hassle as long as you know the signs that it’s time to start looking.

If your hot water tank is more than eight years old, and you notice water leakage, it’s probably time to get a new one. In newer models, a small amount of leakage could indicate a malfunctioning pressure valve, a problem that’s easily fixed by a technician. However, major leaks, especially in older models, usually mean that your tank is corroded and needs to be changed. The first sign of a leak is often light moisture on the floor around the base of the heater, followed by progressively larger puddles as the problem gets worse. Check the floor around your hot water tank regularly so you can catch potential problems early, before they can cause damage.

Another good indicator that it’s time to change your hot water tank is reduced efficiency. If there’s an unexpected spike in your energy bill, even though you haven’t changed your usage patterns, a poorly functioning hot water heater could be the culprit. Additionally, running out of hot water more quickly than normal is a sign that your hot water tank may need replacement; as they age, hot water heaters become less efficient, and have to work harder to produce even a small amount of hot water.

Finally, if you turn on the tap and see brown or rust colored water, that’s another sign that it’s time to change your hot water tank. As they get older, the material in hot water tanks corrodes, leading to debris in your water.