Tag Archives: heating

bask in snow

Heater’s Still Standing

We’ve spent the better part of this spring talking about your heating system miraculously making it through the wicked winter of 2017. Some of you realize this past winter was certainly your heater’s last stand, making now the best time to hook yourself up with a new unit. But, what about the rest of you with heating systems that still have a few good winters left in em? What about the heaters that are still standing strong? Is there anything you can do to make a decent system more efficient? The guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating have just the news for you!

Boiler Add-Ons

If you heat your home using a hot water boiler, there is an easy way to improve the efficiency of your system and save money without having to replace the boiler itself. All you need is a boiler outdoor reset control.

A what?

A boiler outdoor reset control can be installed on an existing boiler to automatically adjust the temperature of the water heated by the boiler based on the outdoor temperature. “With boiler water temperatures adjustable, you can improve the comfort of your home, the lifespan of your heating equipment, reduce standby energy loss, and lower your heating bills by an average of 10 percent,” said Grand Master Plumber Greg Sheck from G&C. All you have to do is call the guys at G&C to install it.

Boilers are traditionally designed to heat water to peak temperatures, anywhere from 160-200 ºF. This temperature range typically keeps your home comfortable even the coldest days of the year in New England. “In the spring and fall, and during some of the wacky winter days when we get in the 50’s, you don’t need peak temperatures from your boiler even though you still need heat to keep your house comfortable,” said Sheck. “Without a boiler outdoor reset control, your boiler doesn’t adjust according to the mild or wild temperatures, it heats water to peak whether you need it or not.” At peak temps, your using energy you don’t need, which is like throwing money out the window.

More Mass Save Benefits

To help more people realize the benefits of outdoor reset controls, the Sponsors of Mass Save® are offering rebates of up to $225 on controls for natural gas boilers and up to $100 on controls for oil and propane boilers. That’s free money from Mass Save that you just can’t pass up, especially if you know your boiler is good for a few more winters! For more information about Mass Save rebates, click here or call the guys at G&C and they will happily walk you through it.

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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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Energy Efficiency 101

Since we all just had a cord of wood delivered to avoid turning on our heating systems here in New England, (How is everyone doing? Anyone turn on the heat, yet? Let us know on Facebook!) let’s focus some attention on energy efficiency. The guys at G&C are big on going green and encourage all customers to take advantage of an energy audit to make sure you’re utilizing your home to the fullest.

Over the years, Greg and Brandon have gathered some tips to get the most of an audit. Today, they share them with you because they’re such nice guys!

The Energy Audit Low Down from a Master Plumber

“Professional energy assessments go into great detail about your home’s energy use,” said Greg Sheck. “You can contact your utility company or hire an outside energy auditor and they will typically go room-by-room, examining your house and taking a look at past utility bills.” Mass Save can also be a big help.

Greg said that most professionals will do what is called a blower door test which includes a machine that measures the airtightness of buildings. It can also be used to measure airflow between building zones, to test ductwork airtightness and to help locate air leakage sites in your home.

Do You Have to Clean Your Closets?

Greg says, No!

“But, you should make a list of existing problems such as condensation on windows or rooms that have drafts,” said the Master Plumber.

He also suggests having copies or a summary of your home’s yearly energy bills. “You can get these from the utility company if you burned them to keep warm this month,” laughed Greg.

Why Is He Looking There?

“An auditor usually examines the outside of the home first to get a sense of the size and the number of windows it has and then he or she will focus on you,” said Greg. So, be prepared to answer the following:

  • Is anyone home during working hours?
  • What is the average thermostat setting for summer and winter?
  • How many people live here?
  • Is every room in use?

This is Not an Interrogation; You Are Not in Trouble!

Unless you’re hiding something in the basement, your answers should help uncover some simple ways to reduce your household’s energy consumption. Walk through your home with the auditors as they work, and ask questions about weatherization and getting those new light bulbs. Be sure to strike up a conversation about heating systems, financing and rebates. Then call the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating!

warm

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.

heating-systems-warm

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)

cold

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.

gandcplumbing-truck

Plumbers Without Cracks

Welcome to the blog from New England’s premiere father and son plumbing and heating team. Greg and Brandon Sheck have over twenty years of experience in the industry and pride themselves in being professionals that return your call, show up on time, and keep their glutes completely covered.

Over the years at G&C Plumbing & Heating, Greg and Brandon have witnessed it all; from unintended swimming pools in a basement to heating units that spontaneously fell over. This biweekly blog is a gift from Greg and Brandon to their many loyal customers. Enjoy the valuable, and free, information along with a few laughs over stories only a plumber can tell.