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Super Service Award 2016

Every year, Angie’s List gives the Super Service Award to the top A-rated companies in their category, within their market. Angie’s List may give the award, but customers determine the winners based on reviews. This year, we the people decided that G&C Plumbing and Heating was deserving of their second consecutive Super Service Award.

Congrats guys! We know you work really hard to provide superior service to your customers. Way to go, you really deserve this! What do you have to say?

“We’re pretty proud,” said Grand Master Plumber Greg Sheck as he installed a new bathtub for a client. That was all we could get out of him.

Greg is humble. Greg makes writing exciting articles about awesome service hard.

Here is what it takes to be awarded the Super Service Award

  • The award honors excellence among service and health providers who maintain a superior service record. Each year, fewer than 5% of thousands of businesses earn this award.
  • To be eligible for the Super Service Award, businesses must be in good standing with Angie’s List and maintain an “A” rating in each of the following areas:
    • Overall Grade, which averages all reviews received
    • Recent Grade, which averages reviews from the last three years
    • Review Period Grade, which averages reviews received since the previous November 1st to October 31st

Basically, winning the Super Service Award is a great badge of honor that companies can display to show clients they are honest, respectful and really, really good at their job. Look for Super Service award stickers and graphics when you are hiring people to do work in and around your home. The seal lets you know these professionals are safe and reliable, care deeply about what you think, and are the best in the business.

“We’re proud of our award because we set high standards for our business when it comes to customer service and satisfaction. Angie’s List Super Service Award confirms that we’re making our customers happy and that’s our goal,” said Brandon Sheck who is not much better than his father is when it comes to soaking up a little praise.

Well, congratulations guys! We can make a big stink about your awesomeness even if you’re too busy or modest to join in the fun. To help us celebrate, please drop a note on the G&C Facebook page and share your stories about how Greg and Brandon have helped you.

Here is an example:

I had this really strange space to add a bathroom on the second floor of my old farm house. It was basically a closet. Greg and Brandon turned it into the most amazing space. The design they came up with and the outcome surpassed my wildest dreams. Thanks guys! – Sarah Solomon Uxbridge, MA.

 

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Heating Hold-Out Hacks

A few months ago, the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating announced a spirited little game to see who amongst us could hold out the longest before turning on the heat this winter. Well, today in New England it’s in the 30s – Raise your hand if you’re still holding out??

COOL!!

Brandon and Greg are behind you all the way. Remember, Grand Master Plumber Greg once held out until Christmas Eve to turn the magical warmth maker on.

The guys have been helping folks repair and replace heaters for years and they’ve gathered a few cheap and easy tricks to get customers through the coldest moments – Moments like these when you want to be the winner of the G&C Heating Hold-Out!

Bragging Rights Rule!

These hacks are handy even if you’ve thrown in the towel and turned on the heat

Crack the Oven Door

After you make holiday cookies, a nice turkey dinner, or heck, a frozen pizza – crack the oven door to let the heat from the oven mingle with the dropping temperate in your house.

Run the Ceiling Fan Clockwise

So, heat rises, right – This is something we can all agree on? Running your fan clockwise will push warmer air back down into a room. Do this a few times a day.

Use Pipe Insulation Under Doors

Our hope is you already have this stuff all over your pipes. Why not use the extra to stick under the bottom of your interior doors to keep warm air from escaping the parts of your house you’ve manage to keep manageable?

Let the Sun In

Whenever the sun is out, open as many drapes and blinds as possible. This seems like a no brainer, but sometimes the best and the brightest heating hold-outs think they need to keep insulated drapes closed, at all times, to keep the heat in. The sun is a heater – use it!

Close the Doors

Not currently using the grandma’s spare bedroom? Close the door. This is particularly handy if you are utilizing a fire place or wood burning stove – close off the rooms you are not using to keep heat in the rooms you are.

Let the Tub Water Sit

After you’ve bathed yourself or the kids, let the warm water sit in the tub until it cools to room temperature. Not only will it help heat up the bathroom, but it can also provide some humidity for the rest of the house.

Seal Up Cracks

We saved the best for last – Blocking wind is the first step to staying warm. Winter drafts can drop the temperature by up to 100% or more, so make sure your doors and windows are sealed to prevent air leaks. Use curtains to add another layer of protection from the wind. A two-curtain setup is best, with a liner to block the draft while allowing sunlight to warm the house, and a blackout-solar curtain to block out your loud and unsightly neighbors.

Stay Warm and Toasty

We hope some of these hacks help. Be sure to speak up on the G&C Plumbing and Heating Facebook page if you’re still holding out and haven’t turned on your heater. If you’re feeling extra generous, maybe share some of your heating hold-out hacks with the rest of us!

 

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How to Determine If Your Plumbing Team Is… Good

There are ton of talented plumbers out there! Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service, sometimes even the most talented shoot themselves in the foot. The guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating believe that customers deserved both – talented plumbers with amazing customer service skills.

Calling a plumber usually means you already have a headache to deal with. Don’t let the person who is supposed to be helping you add to that headache!

“I’ve been in the plumbing business for a while now,” said Grand Master Plumber, Greg Sheck. (25+ years) “Plumbers are in high demand, and are sometimes let off the hook for some pretty dismal business practices because of sheer demand. Brandon and I are very busy helping people with their plumbing, bathroom remodeling, and heating issues, and could probably cut some service corners if we wanted to. But, the one thing I decided to do, long ago when I started this business, was always uphold the highest standards of customer service.”

That is why Greg and Brandon put together a little list of sneaky tricks to watch out for when you’re looking for someone to help you with a plumbing or heating project. We are not suggesting many plumbers try them – plumbers are good guys; we know lots of them and many are our best friends. But, it’s always best to do your due diligence when selecting a crew that’s going to be coming into your home.

The following are practices that Greg and Brandon consider to be UNACCEPTABLE, and so should you!

1. Hiring the unlicensed and uninsured

“Don’t do it,” says Brandon Sheck. You might be blown away by the price tag on the estimate, but it’s simply not worth the risk.

There are some projects you might be able to handle yourself on the weekend, but most cities require homeowners to use licensed and insured contractors, even when you don’t need a permit. “Keep in mind, you must use licensed professionals for structural, electrical and plumbing work,” said Brandon. If you use unlicensed tradespeople, a building inspector can require you to tear out the job and do it again if it is not done to code. And you are left on the hook for the cost.

When hiring a plumber…

Ask to see identification, a state license and proof of current insurance. If you get that weird feeling in your gut that you always get when something is not right, you can check licensing and insurance credentials by calling your state’s licensing department and/or state insurance commissioner.

2. Lowballing a bid

You know it, we know it – the cheapest route is not always the best. But, it’s always tempting.

“A wicked cheap bid should spark that gut feeling again. Something’s probably wrong,” said Brandon. There is just no way around it, plumbing is expensive and fees can vary widely, so this is something that’s sometimes hard to judge. The best way to get a sense of what a project should cost is to get one or two bids for a project.

Angie’s List, which charges a fee to access reviews of local businesses and professionals, says: “A common plumbing scam is to give a low estimate that doesn’t account for all of the labor needed. You will then need to pay for the additional labor before the plumber finishes the job, putting you in a tough situation.”

Funny thing – G&C Plumbing and Heating has an A+ rating on Angie’s List! Just a little extra proof that they play by the rules, and then some.

3. Showing up uninvited

We don’t even like it when our neighbors show up uninvited these days. “If a plumber shows up, out of the blue, to tell you to hire them, this is a bad sign,” said Greg.

Don’t invite anyone into your home whom you have not first checked out. Find trustworthy plumbers by collecting recommendations from:

  • Friends and colleagues. – This is how Greg and Brandon get most their work.
  • Review sites like Angie’s List (paid) and Yelp (free).
  • The Better Business Bureau. – This is great for verifying complaints or suspicions you have about a company.
  • A Web search. A reputable company should have a helpful and accurate website. Everything should be spelled right, contact information should be up to date, and the best companies will have free, helpful advice for customers right on their website.

4. The bait-and-switch

“If you have a conversation with your plumber about using a certain brand for your project, but a different product is used without consulting you on it- that is not nice,” said Brandon.

Bait-and-switch is a deceptive marketing practice. “When you obtain bids, get the make and model of parts or equipment that will be included. This will help you compare with the final product,” said Greg.

Like Mr. Rogers said…

Look for the helpers!

We don’t mean to sound scary. There are more great, amazing, talented and good plumbers out there ready and willing to help you with your headache of a plumbing project than there are bad. You just need to do a bit of homework to make sure you’re picking from the good pile, so to speak.

Hey, we happen to know two of the best in the industry, and suggest you call Greg and Brandon at G&C Plumbing and Heating for yourself to find out why they are just so…Good.

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Heating System Fuel Sources

First Question: How is your Friendly G&C Heating Hold Out going – Have you turned on the heat, yet? Let us know on Facebook. If you are in the market for a new system, you might want to consider upgrading your fuel source – that stuff that feeds your heater. Here is some info to help.heating-sources

Data source:  U.S. DOE/EIA; Mass. Utility Filings, DOER SHOPP surveys

Making a Fuel Source Switch

It’s interesting that although New England is the oldest part of the country, there are still many areas that do not have access to natural gas. Heating oil continues to be one of the most popular forms of fuel even though it’s, how shall we say, WICKED EXPENSIVE. For some it’s simply a matter of using what is already there, but if you find yourself in a position to upgrade your home heating fuel source, and maybe even consider some renewable technologies, G&C can help.

“It’s a complex decision,” said Greg Sheck the Master Plumber at G&C Plumbing and Heating. “It’s something you have to consider long term because a heating option that seems less expensive in the short run can sometimes turn out to be very costly over time due to a fuel source hike. On the flip side, a heating system with a higher up-front cost can produce lower and more stable heating costs long term.”

Sheck suggests having an energy audit and then he can sit down with you to go over the results to help determine the best upgrade for your home.

Here is what Sheck will consider…

Factors Affecting Projected Heating Costs

The following is directly from the Mass.gov Energy and Environmental Affairs website’s 2015/2016 Projected Household Heating Costs

Natural Gas: Based on the utilities’ natural gas filings at the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).  DOER estimates that the projected natural gas price this winter will average $11.90/MMBtu compared with $14.80/MMBtu last winter.  However, ongoing natural gas pipeline constraints for delivering natural gas to New England customers could contribute to price volatility during periods of very cold temperatures.

Heating Oil: Lower heating oil prices reflect lower crude oil prices.  The U.S. DOE estimates that the cost of Brent crude oil spot prices will average $52 per barrel this winter, a drop of about $13 per barrel (32 cents/gallon) lower than last winter.

Propane: Propane is also benefiting from lower crude oil and natural gas prices, as these are the fuels used to make propane.  Additionally, supply issues that have occurred in past years such as the prolonged cold weather throughout the U.S. during the winter, or late season crop drying in the Midwest resulting in high usage of propane stores are not expected to reoccur, thus leading to lower price estimates for propane customers this winter.

Electricity:  Based on filings by the Electric Distribution Companies with the DPU, basic service electricity prices for Massachusetts utilities will decrease for this winter.  This is largely due to lower natural gas prices as natural gas is the primary fuel used for electric generation.  The utilities expect the supply cost to drop by 28% for Eversource customers and 20% for NGRID Customers.  Unitil is expecting a 13.6% drop.  Municipal electric heat customers should check with their individual utility for prices.

Renewable thermal technologies, including cold climate heat pumps, solar water heating, and biomass pellet heating, are attractive new technologies now entering the market that can offer homeowners significant energy costs savings. DOER is supporting these emerging technologies, as outlined on DOER’s website under Renewable Energy.

It’s Starting to Get Cold Out There

Next time, we’ll take another look at how the Heating Hold Out is going for Greg and check in with the guys about specific issues you should make sure are addressed during your home energy audit.

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Common Heating Systems

In Alaska, the indigenous Eskimos (or Inuit) basically heat their igloos with only body heat and a little light that burns seal fat.  In Australia, they don’t really even have systems, just gas outlets for people to plug little heaters into the wall here and there. In New England, we have a variety of systems; furnaces, boilers, and pumps to name a few. When sitting in our living room, enjoying the big game, we’re not too concerned about how that heat gets to us, just that it does and that it follows us everywhere in the house.

That is why we call it…

Central Heating

While we stubbornly hold out turning our heat on in New England (but run a test to make sure it works) let’s take a look at a few of the common heating systems used in the area. (Because, if you do the test and discover your system is busted, it’s good to be in the know when shopping around)

Furnaces

Furnaces are how the majority of North American households’ heat. “This type of heating system is called a ducted warm-air or forced warm-air distribution system,” said Grand Master Plumber Greg Sheck. There are a few ways to fuel a furnace. Lucky for you, seal fat is not one of them, but we’ll cover fuel next time.

Basically, a furnace works by mixing fuel with air to create a fire. The flames heat an exchanger which produces hot air. The air is pushed by a furnace fan and forced through ductwork downstream of the heat exchanger. “These types of systems used to be big energy guzzlers, but as the demand for conservation has increased, the standards on furnaces have gone up dramatically,” said Sheck.

Boilers

Instead of carrying heat in warm air like a furnace, boiler systems distribute heat in hot water which then gives up heat as it passes through radiators or other devices in rooms throughout the house. The cooler water then returns to the boiler to be reheated.

Long ago they used steam boilers which boiled water and then steam carried heat through the house, condensing to water in the radiators as it cools. This technology, although effective, was very inefficient. Today, boilers are considered top of the line in energy conservation, especially in on-demand systems and radiant heat components.

Heat Pumps

“Heat pumps are basically two-way air conditioners and are very popular,” said Sheck.

There are a few common types of heat pumps:

Air-source heat pumps use the outside air as the heat source in winter and heat sink in summer. Ground-source, or geothermal, heat pumps get their heat from the constant temperature underground. Ductless heat pumps distribute energy through refrigerant lines instead of water or air. Heat Pump are considered the wave of the future for energy conservation.

Now You Know

Those are a few of the common central heating systems you run into in today’s heating system market. If you were one of the unlucky few who discovered they had a bum system while running your early fall “Is this thing on” test, call Greg and Brandon today, they can go over more specifics about which system would be best for your home.

Next up – What do we feed this thing? Typical fuel sources for the typical heating system and which one works best for which. (Say that five times fast)

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The Annual Turning on the Heat Holdout

Ah – Fall is finally here! Lovely crisp weather, FOOTBALL, and the New England time honored tradition of seeing how long you can holdout before turning on the heat.

Folks in these parts pride themselves in waiting until the end of October or the beginning of November to turn on the heat. (It’s just a thing) The die-hard heat waiters (wearing thermos to bed and beanies at the dinner table) sometimes wait it out until the first weeks of December – they are my heroes.

Whether it’s October or December when you decide to throw in the towel and turn on the heat, Greg and Brandon Sheck of G&C Plumbing and Heating want you to do them a favor: Go down to your heating system, right now, and make sure it’s in proper working order. Or, give the guys a call and they can check it out for you. Either way, we don’t want this years’ heater holdout winner to flip that switch in mid-December, with slightly blue fingers, only to be terribly disappointed.

So…

Run a Test

“Running a test on your heater doesn’t count as turning it on,” said Grand Master Plumber, Greg who once held out until Christmas eve to turn on the heat. “That was a proud moment.”

Follow these quick steps to make sure your heating unit is working properly:

  • Check that the thermostat switch is in the “heat/on” position and turn up the thermostat at least 10 degrees higher than the actual room temperature.
  • Listen carefully. Within a few minutes you should hear your heating equipment jump into action.
  • If the equipment doesn’t start up, press the reset button on your burner’s relay. Press it just once.

If your system still doesn’t start, take a deep breath, maybe start dialing G&C, while you consider these possibilities:

  • Are the emergency switches on? (There may be two: one at the stairs and one at the unit)
  • Did the fuse or circuit breaker for your equipment trip?
  • Is the thermostat set properly?

If the above don’t work, Greg and Brandon should be able to get you an appointment within the next 24 hours. The guys will check out your heater to ensure you’re ready for whenever you decide to dedicate as the big turn-on day.

Now the fun part…

G&C Friendly Heat Holdout Challenge

Since we all play this game anyway, why not add some friendly competition?

Let Greg and Brandon know on the G&C Plumbing and Heating Facebook Page when you turn on your heating system this year.

The household that holds out the longest will win a free tub of Bio Clean – Greg and Brandon’s all-time favorite drain cleaning solution. Using your fireplace to stay warm is allowed so long as it’s just supplemental. But, if you have kids or older people living with you, be smart – it’s just a tub of drain cleaner, after all.

Let the games begin!

Next Time…

The guys will discuss common heating systems used in New England just in case you are thinking of upgrading your system, or our simple test above failed miserably and you need a new system to play our Holdout game.

Until then, stay toasty my friends.