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7 Clever Tricks To Conserve Water (And Save Money)

You already know how important it is that we all try to reduce our use of water. Our planet’s future depends on it! And, there are so many practical and surprisingly easy ways for us to do that. 

So, here are seven really practical ways for you to conserve water in your home…

1. Monitor your water bills

Check your water bill each month and if it goes up try to figure out if there’s a good reason (filling the swimming pool). If it spikes and you don’t know why, you probably have a leak somewhere.

Seriously, the average home wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water a year from easily fixable plumbing leaks. It’s worth it to bring in a plumber if you suspect you have a leak but cannot find it.

2. Use the water meter to check for hidden water leaks

Go read your water meter and write down the number. Stop using water for two hours. Then go back to the meter. If it’s not at the exact same number, there’s a water leak in your house. If you can’t find it, call your home services company to send out a plumber.

3. Use every drop

Find ways to repurpose water so it doesn’t just go down the drain. For example, when you boil potatoes or pasta, pour that water through a colander and into another pot to capture the hot water. After it’s cooled, this water can be used for your household plants. You can do something similar whenever you run the tap and wait for hot water.

4. Use your dishwasher more

You might be surprised, but as it turns out washing dishes by hand uses a lot more water than running the dishwasher, and even more so if you have a newer more water-efficient model. Newer dishwashers will also adjust to use less water for smaller loads. (If you don’t have a newer dishwasher, see #7.)

5. Run full loads in your washing machine

You can adjust water levels to match the size of your load, but it’s even more water-efficient to run larger loads in your washing machine.

6. Cover your swimming pool

It takes a lot of water to fill your swimming pool and to keep it filled. In the summer sun, pools can lose an inch or more of water each week to evaporation. Getting a cover for your pool can save thousands of gallons of water each season. Make it a solar blanket and you can also reduce your heating cost. But this only works if you’re diligent about covering the pool when it’s not in use.

7. Install a new dishwasher

Newer dishwashers use as little as four to seven gallons per load—again that’s a lot less than washing by hand and much less than older dishwashers.

Summary

If we all work on conserving water, we can make a big difference. While taking these practical steps, be sure to contact a home services company if you need help finding a water leak or installing a new dishwasher.

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What To Do When Everyone Fights Over The Thermostat

Do people in your home fight over the thermostat setting? In many homes, especially split-level homes, someone is too hot, someone is too cold and no one is happy.

Even in a home with adequate central air conditioning, mom or dad may find the temperature to be fine in the kitchen or living room, but their daughter is in the basement game room with her friends passing out sweaters for them. But then upstairs, their son is home from college wanting to study at his desk, but he can’t because the desk surface is hot enough to fry an egg! This is a house that might benefit from a zoned HVAC system.

What is a zoned HVAC system?
A zoned HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system allows the homeowner to set different temperatures in different parts or “zones” of the house. Rather than one thermostat for the entire house, each zone can be regulated with its own thermostat. A zone can be as small as one room or as large as an entire level of the house or an addition to the house.

How does zoning work?
In a home with an existing forced air heating and cooling system (and one thermostat), it may be possible to install an automatic damper system into the HVAC ductwork that would divide the home into zones.

The better way to set up a zoned HVAC system is with ductless mini-split units. These units come in a variety of styles and models, but basically it’s a rectangular heating and cooling unit that is mounted high on the wall (or into the ceiling). That’s actually the first part, the indoor air-handling unit (evaporator). It’s hooked up to the second part, an outdoor compressor/condenser. Several of the indoor units can be hooked up to one outdoor unit. Each indoor unit is controlled with its own thermostat.

Reasons why you might want a zoned HVAC system
Ductless mini-splits are a great solution for a newly constructed house, but also a good retrofit for houses with non-ducted heating systems (like hot water heat or electric heating). They also work well for new additions to a house that lack ductwork or separate buildings like a garage or shed converted into offices or hobby rooms. Why might you want to looking into installing some ductless mini-splits?

  1. To solve the multi-level home heating/cooling problem (described above).
  2. To balance the temperature in homes where one side of the house gets more solar heat than the other side.
  3. To heat/cool only the parts of the home in use. (Why heat/cool a huge house if you’re mostly only using a few rooms?)
  4. To get heating/cooling in new house additions / separate buildings without installing ductwork.

Summary
To find out how a zoned HVAC system could work in your home, call a heating and cooling expert at your preferred home services company. With this surprisingly simple solution, you’ll never fight over the thermostat in your home again!

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Cool Down Your Home With These Tips

Is your central air conditioning failing to battle the heat and keep you cool inside? If you turn down the thermostat to 75 degrees, is the air conditioner able to cool down to that temperature or does it work all day slowly getting there? We have three tips to cooler central air conditioning in your home, and two of them are do-it-yourself.

1. Call in an HVAC service tech once a year

If you want your air conditioner to keep your house cool for many summers to come, the best thing you can do is have an HVAC service tech test the unit every spring, clean and adjust it. They are best equipped to go over everything that could be preventing your conditioning from blowing the coolest air possible. To save money, sign up for an annual HVAC maintenance contract to service both your air conditioner and your furnace. This is the gold standard, but if you want to do it yourself there are two things you can do.

2. Clean return air vents and replace filters

HVAC techs constantly recommend changing your air filters regularly and they’re not just making this up to sell more filters. Replace an air filter and you can see for yourself how dirty it is from trapping dust and debris. The more clogged the filter, the less air flow and the less cool your air conditioning will be. During months of high usage, replace filters monthly. Be sure you know where your return air filters are located—sometimes there’s only one alongside the furnace, but there can also be a filter at each return air vent. While you’re checking those return air vents, be sure to vacuum them thoroughly to remove all dust.

3. Clean the condenser coils on the outdoor air conditioner

Go outside to your air conditioning unit and make sure it is free of obstructions such as grass, weeds, vines and globs of leaves and debris. Though a professional HVAC service tech can do this better, you can clean the condenser coils. First turn off the power to the unit. Next, get yourself a bottle of dish detergent, ideally one that is about 80 to 90% empty. Fill it with water to make a soapy solution. Then squirt this soapy solution on the outside front of the air conditioner. You should be squirting through some kind of vents or caging to the condenser coils. On most units these are visible on three sides. Get them soapy and after a few minutes of soaking time, use a garden hose to spray the soap away. You’ll see dirty water and debris flow away from the unit. Give it an hour to dry up before restoring the power.

Important!

Whenever you are working around any part of your HVAC system, always use caution and turn off the device first.

Summary

If your air conditioner still can’t keep up and cool your house after you’ve replaced the filters and cleaned the condenser coils, call an Ameriserve HVAC service tech to do an a/c inspection to determine the problem. On the other hand, an annual HVAC service contract will keep your air conditioning running well and you’ll just need to replace air filters regularly.

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How to Fix a Faucet Aerator

Is your kitchen or bathroom faucet running slower than normal? Does it seem like the water pressure is low? The first thing to check is the aerator. It could be clogged. Low pressure is the most common sign of a clogged aerator, but sometimes the faucet can also misdirect water, spraying it on the side of the sink or even onto the vanity.

People often think the low water pressure must be a big problem so they call in a plumber for a simple repair they could do themselves with a pair of pliers and a bowl of vinegar. Read on and we’ll tell you how to fix your faucet aerator just by cleaning it.

What is an aerator?

The spouts of most bathroom faucets and many kitchen faucets are equipped with aerators to provide a focused, even flow of water from the spout. The aerator conserves water by limiting the flow. It’s called an aerator because a screen inside it separates the water into hundreds of tiny streams that are thus more exposed to the air and oxygenated.

The most common problem

Over time, the aerator collects sediments and mineral deposits (scale) that impair the flow of water. Eventually this build-up results in a reduced or misdirected flow of water.

How can you fix it?

Sometimes you can unscrew the aerator from the spout by hand, but usually you’ll need to use pliers.

To prevent the pliers from marking up the metal finish of the aerator, wrap it with a rag and then grip with the pliers to unscrew the aerator. Be careful not to lose the rubber washer that sits snug between the spout and the aerator.

Once you have removed the aerator, you’ll find that is separates into a few parts (some or all of these parts):

  • the outer casing – The metal housing with the threads that screw into the faucet spout.
  • the inner housing – This plastic “sleeve” holds the inner parts together.
  • the screen – The screen is the main working part of the aerator and prone to collecting scale.
  • the screen bushing – This plastic part keeps the screen in place.
  • the mixer – A disk with several holes that buffers the water flow, protecting the screen.
  • the flow restrictor – This disk with a single hole reduces the water flow.

Clean the screen, restrictor and mixer under flowing water. You can scrub them with a toothbrush. You can use a needle or pin to poke through any clogged holes in the screen. To get the screen even cleaner, soak it overnight in a bowl of vinegar. If there’s corrosion or you just can’t get it clean, head to your hardware store with the aerator and finding a matching replacement. They’re not too expensive so you really should do this if the old one cannot be fully cleaned.

When you reassemble the aerator and screw it back on, turn on the faucet the flow of water should be focused and back to full strength.  

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When summer days get hotter, air conditioning can be so awesome! It feels so good to escape the heat and cool down in the comfort of your home. At least it feels good and cool until the first skyrocketing energy bill comes in. Then things really heat up! How can you keep your house cool but also save money on the cost to cool it? We’ve checked with the energy experts and HVAC technicians, and found seven tips to help you stay cool and save money on air conditioning.

1. Set your thermostat to a reasonably good temperature. Before setting your thermostat to 72 degrees because that’s room temperature, keep in mind that we tend to dress in lighter clothes during the summer. Try slowly raising the temperature in the range of 73 to 79 degrees to see what’s comfortable for your house. The U.S. Department of Energy specifies 78 degrees as the ideal compromise—cool enough and saving you money. Every degree you go up from 72 saves you three to five percent on your air conditioning energy costs.

2. Raise the temperature whenever you leave home. Whenever nobody will be home for two or more hours, you can save energy by raising the temperature by seven to ten degrees. The Department of Energy says doing this consistently will save you as much as 10 percent on cooling costs.

3. Save money at night. When you sleep, your core body temperature lowers. So you may be able to raise the temperature a bit at night, especially if you use lighter sleepwear and lighter bed coverings.

4. Switch to a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to raise the temperature ten degrees during the day when everyone is at work and then lower it 30 minutes before the first person returns home. Some smart thermostats have even more advanced features to help you truly optimize the temperature setting to save you the most money.

5. Seal up the leaks. The older your home, the more likely cold air is seeping outside. Install new weatherstripping and caulk around doors and windows. We recommend getting a home energy audit from your utility provider to find all these leaks and to find the best things you can do to make your home more energy efficient.

6. Replace older air conditioning units with energy-efficient models. Just like newer furnaces, today’s air conditioners really do work much more efficiently than older ones. If you fear you’re paying too much to keep your house cool, it would be worth asking an HVAC salesperson about your options.

7. Call an Ameriserve HVAC technician to tune-up your air conditioning unit. Regular inspection and maintenance by Ameriserve is vital to keeping your air conditioner working at its best. If you suspect that it’s not cooling properly, a technician will be able to determine whether there’s a problem other than it’s a really hot summer.

Follow these tips and you’ll save money while keep your house reasonably cool this summer.

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Ask any plumber and they will tell you that people often flush things down the toilet that really should not be flushed. They’ve cleared enough clogs from toilet drain pipes to know the worst things that people flush. Save yourself the plumbing bill by never flushing any of the following things down your toilet.

Wet wipes

Baby wipes, wet wipes, and cleaning wipes are often marketed as “flushable” wipes, but many of them are only flushable in the same way that a t-shirt or towel is flushable. Yeah, maybe you can flush them, but they are going to cause clogs, if not in your drain pipe, then in the sewer line or at your municipal wastewater treatment plant. Many wipes simply do not disintegrate quickly enough to prevent clogs and backed-up sewer lines.

7 other things you should never flush

In addition to “flushable” wipes, here’s other things you should never flush down the toilet.

1. Paper Towels

After wiping up a mess in the bathroom, tossing a paper towel in the toilet might seem like an easy way to get rid of it. But consider those paper towel commercials that boast about how strong and absorbent their paper towels are. There’s your top two reasons not to flush them!

2. Feminine hygiene products

Would you believe there’s a good reason why public bathrooms often have signs telling you not to flush feminine hygiene products down the toilet? Tampons and pads are designed to be ultra-absorbent and they expand as they get wet. You don’t want them expanding in your drain pipe.

3. Condoms

Condoms are what plumbers least like to pull out of the toilet drain. Latex prophylactics take years to degrade and even if they get through your drain pipe, they will cause issues in your city’s wastewater treatment system.

4. Floss

Long strands of floss can wrap around other things, creating string balls that can create clogs by collecting more “solids.”

5. Cotton Swabs

Throw used cotton swabs in the garbage because if flushed they will get jammed in the drain pipe and then act like a little dam, blocking other things from continuing down the drain.

6. Hair

When you pull those clumps of hair out of your brush, toss them in the trash not in the toilet. Hair does not dissolve and will worsen any little blockage in the drain pipe.

7. Too much toilet paper

The problem with thicker, multi-ply, plush toilet paper is that it does take a bit longer to dissolve. If you have to use a lot of it, flush a couple of times rather than sending it all down at once.

Summary

If it’s too late now and you know you have flushed some of these things down your toilet, call a Ameriserve plumbing at 610-258-2591 if the toilet is not draining properly. If it’s still good, count yourself lucky and stop flushing these things down the drain.

Find us on-line at AmeriserveNow.com

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Help! My Kitchen Sink Is Gurgling—What Do I Do?

It’s frustrating enough doing all the dishes that the family seems to leave in and all around the kitchen sink, but when you finish the dishes and drain the sink and it gurgles back at you, that’s maddening! Why is the kitchen drain gurgling like that? Let’s figure out what you can do to get your kitchen sink to stop gurgling.

Could it be a clogged drain pipe?

The kitchen sink drain probably gets used more than all the other sinks in your house combined. Even without a garbage disposal, there’s a lot of food that ends up being rinsed off of plates and going down the drain. Certainly food debris (and hardened grease for those who think rinsing frying pans in the sink is a good idea) can clog the drain over time. If the drain pipe gets to be partially obstructed, the water will still drain but air will get trapped at the obstruction and make that gurgling sound. If bubbles come up when the dishwater is draining, this is the likely cause.

Don’t run out and buy a liquid drain cleaner. These products are harsh chemicals that can be dangerous. And in many cases they do more damage than good, especially to older drain pipes. Unless you want to invest in a proper plumbing snake and other equipment, it’s best to call a plumbing professional to clear the drain pipe for you. Even if it’s just a little gurgling and not slowing the drain down much, it’s best to get it dealt with before it becomes a bigger obstruction.

How about a blocked vent pipe?

This is the classic cause of the gurgling sound you hear after the sink has drained, maybe even a few seconds after the water has drained. A vent pipe is attached to the drain pipe under your sink to allow sewer gas to escape. These vent pipes run to the roof of your house and vent outside, but they can become blocked by leaves, dirt or nesting material from birds. The vent pipe can sometimes be roughed in behind the cabinetry or in the wall so it can be hard to find. The best solution to this gurgling problem is to call a plumber who can quickly verify the problem and then clear that vent pipe properly.

Was your sink just recently installed (or reinstalled)?

If a new sink drain is gurgling, it’s probably because the drain pipe has not been properly installed. Non-professionals sometimes do not understand the importance of the P-trap, routing of pipes and the proper hook-up of a vent pipe. It would be best to get a professional plumber to correct the plumbing in this case.

Summary

If your kitchen sink is gurgling, it’s telling you there’s a problem with airflow in the drain pipe. There could be a clog or blockage or even an improper installation. A plumber can listen to the gurgle and quickly determine how best to get rid of it. Call AmeriServe Now for fast same day service at 610-258-2591

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When summer is coming on, it can be surprising how quickly we adjust the thermostat from giving us a little heat in the morning to take the chill off the house to switching on the air conditioning to combat the afternoon heat. Even if the furnace has been working well throughout the winter, if you start hearing one of these seven sounds, you may have a problem and need to contact an HVAC professional before it turns into an even larger repair bill.

Scraping Sound

A loud scraping noise, a grating metal-on-metal sound, coming from inside your furnace could be a serious problem with the blower wheel. Maybe the wheel is coming apart from the shaft and scraping the casing or in some other way the motor is causing the wheel to scrape the casing. Turn off the air conditioning and/or furnace immediately and call an HVAC service company.

Fast Clicking/Flicking Sound

Remember that sound when you were a kid and attached a playing card to the spokes of your bicycle wheel? If you hear that kind of fast thwapping sound from your furnace, something might be stuck on one of the blower wheel blades or one the housing around the wheel. While your air conditioning (or heat) may be working just fine, this stuck object is causing resistance and it will cause excessive wear on the motor. Get it cleaned up by a furnace technician.

Squealing Sound

A squealing noise from the blower motor could be caused by a belt wearing out. That’s normally not an expensive repair and best taken care of before the belt stretches further or breaks.

Grinding Or Metal Groaning Sound

A bearing problem in the blower motor will make a dull repetitive groan. Some blower motors have ports for adding lubricant, but some are sealed. Adding lubricant will often eliminate the groaning sound, but you have to use the correct oil, not WD-40. An HVAC company doing an annual maintenance inspection on your furnace would like do this kind of lubrication.

Rattling Sound

If you hear a rattling sound from your central air conditioning unit outside of the house when the air conditioning is coming on, the hardware around the compressor could be loose. An air conditioning service repair person should be contacted.

Popping Sound Or Banging Sound

If you turn on the furnace for heat and you hear popping sounds or a distinct banging sound (like from a cap gun), the furnace probably has dirty burners that need to be cleaned. The gas is not being ignited right away. Instead it’s building up and then igniting in a mini-explosion. You’ll want to get this serviced by a professional immediately.

Summary

When operating properly, your HVAC system should be fairly quiet, but if you’re hearing one of these seven sounds you really should contact an AmeriServe your HVAC professional to come in and repair the problem before it turns into an even bigger problem.

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Top Tips For Annoying Toilet Clogs

It’s a really good idea to have a plunger in the bathroom for the next time the toilet is clogged. It can easily be stored under the sink or in a storage closet. And it is the best and quickest way to clear most clogs from the toilet.

But what if you don’t have a plunger? Maybe you’re at the cottage without a plunger. Maybe your plunger broke and you haven’t hand a chance to get a new one. Is there any hope for clearing a clog?

Hot water

Put on the kettle and pour a full kettle of hot water into the toilet. This works surprisingly well most of the time. It works even better when used in conjunction with a plunger, but will often been effective even without it.

Baking soda and vinegar

You might have heard AmeriServes recommendation to use baking soda and vinegar to unclog a sink. This fizzing/dissolving solution can sometimes work for a clogged toilet too. You don’t want to recreate your volcano project from elementary school so be careful with the amount of baking soda and vinegar you combine in the toilet bowl. Start by scooping out a quarter-cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl as close to the drain as possible and then add an equal amount (quarter-cup) of vinegar. The bubbles and fizzing action should drop down to the clog. Depending on the result you see you may want to repeat or try a half-cup. Follow it up by pouring a kettle full of hot water into the bowl.

Even if this doesn’t full clear the clog, if you see improvement repeat the baking soda and vinegar. When it fully works you should hear a quick suction sound and then see the water drain naturally. Follow up with hot water and a couple of flushes to be sure it’s cleared.

What not to do

Many homeowners will run to the grocery store and purchase a bottle of chemicals that are supposedly “guaranteed” to clear the drain. AmeriServe Plumbing does not recommend these products as they are harsh chemicals. They are unsafe and may be corrosive to your plumbing or cause damage to older pipes. They may even cause serious injury if they splash on you or on a technician who comes in to clear the clog. Consumers often report that these drain-cleaning chemicals fail to clear stubborn clogs. In many cases you’re just pouring your money down the drain with these chemicals.

Don’t ever use baking soda and vinegar before or after using these drain-cleaning chemicals. Remember it’s impossible to completely clear out all these different components before trying something different because after all the drain is clogged.

The best solutions…

If the hot water and baking soda, vinegar and hot water methods fails to unclog your toilet, you could always go out and buy yourself a plunger. There are definitely times when a clog is so stubborn that only a professional plumber will be able to clear it completely and quickly. So don’t hesitate calling a AmeriServe Plumbing at 610-258-2591 if these methods fail to clear the clog.

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Do you find yourself wearing a sweater in some rooms of your house but just a t-shirt in other rooms of your house?

Or maybe you walk from one room, through a central room, to another part of your Phillipsburg Hj. house and find that one spot is just a bit chillier.

These “cold spots” in your home are especially noticeable when the temperatures are cool — during fall, winter, and spring — but it’s possible in some areas that they may exist all year ’round.

So, what are “cold spots” in your home, anyway?

Your home’s HVAC system works on a simple premise: Air is drawn through vents (internal vents and/or external vents) and pushed into your furnace. From there, the air is warmed and then forced out through the ductwork in your walls, through vents, and into the rooms of your house.

But here’s the thing: air is invisible but it acts a lot like water: It flows in easy, meandering ways around a room, invisibly bouncing off of walls and furniture. In fact, if you could see the air flow from a vent, you’d notice that it moved and flowed from vents outward throughout the room but it stops and redirects when it hits an obstruction.

Therefore, some areas of your home may not get air flow. The air just sits there. And, depending on the air flow and air pressure in the house, the ambient temperature (and temperature fluctuations) inside your home and outside, as well as other factors, cold spots can be created. Simply put, warm air isn’t flowing there; it flows around or is stopped.

You may especially notice cold spots by windows or exterior doors (no surprise there) but you may also notice cold spots near exterior walls, which could indicate that the insulation has degraded slightly. Or, you may notice cold spots in unusually shaped rooms, or rooms where the HVAC ducts aren’t venting into the center of the room.

These are just a few of the reasons, and it really depends on a number of factors.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do about it. If you want a simple, temporary solution, add a small fan nearby to circulate the air more effectively in the room. Another option, in rooms that are larger but not too unusually shaped, consider a ceiling-mounted fan.

However, some homeowners want more effective fixes for challenging cold spots, especially in hard-to-reach places. For these scenarios, you may consider installing extra vents to get the air flowing into that area. 

There are other options of course but this is a great starting point.

Your home should be comfortable — you shouldn’t have to avoid one area of your home just because it’s colder than other areas!

If you notice cold spots in your home, there’s lots you can do about it so take a walk around your home and make note of all the cold spots… and see if you can’t transform them into comfortable warm areas!

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