Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Archive for February, 2012

Ways You Can Help Maintain the Sewer Lines for Your Ham Lake Home

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Pipe and sewer maintenance is an important part of being a Ham Lake homeowner. Even the simplest preventative plumbing maintenance tasks could save you a lot of money and hassle. It’s also important to schedule routine check-ups with Air Mechanical for complete preventative maintenance.

Clogged Toilets

A consistently clogged toilet could indicate a larger plumbing issue, such as a blockage in the main line, but you can usually prevent these clogs with a little extra effort. Never flush anything that could get trapped in your sewer lines, such as feminine products, paper towels, or cat litter. This is especially important for TOWN NAME homes with older plumbing systems. You can usually take care of most clogs with a plunger, but you should call a professional plumber if you continue to experience problems.

Kitchen and Bathroom Drains

Kitchen sinks without garbage disposals are much more susceptible to clogs since food waste can easily get washed down the drain. Mesh drain covers are the most effective at making sure food particles do not get trapped in the pipes. Coffee grounds are another common cause for clogged drains, so try to compost them instead of washing them down the drain.

If you have a disposal, make sure you don’t put pieces of food too large for the grinder or anything with a tough skin, such as carrots or potatoes. When food isn’t processed completely through the disposer, they get trapped in the pipes and can cause slower drains. Eggshells can help clean out any food waste that gets stuck on the interior walls, so don’t be afraid to put them in your garbage disposer.

Avoid washing grease down any kitchen drain, and try to use more natural cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals. The same applies to bathroom drains, since some cleaners can actually cause corrosion on soft metal pipes. For that same reason, avoid using drain cleaning products, such as Drain-O, for clogged drains. Use a plunger instead, and clean out your sink drains regularly to prevent further clogs.

Place hair catchers in your bathroom drains, especially in the shower. Loose hair is one of the most common causes of slow or clogged bathroom drains. Baking soda and vinegar will also help break down blockages and reduce bad odors. Make sure you let it sit for at least an hour and then pour boiling water down the drain to help clean it out.

Professional Sewer Maintenance

No matter how well you maintain your toilets and drains, you should have a professional plumber check your pipes at least once a year. Plumbers have equipment specially designed to inspect and clean your sewer lines, as well as assess any damage to your sewer lines and recommend a course of action. If you experience frequent clogs, or notice your water draining more slowly than usual, call a licensed plumbing contractor as soon as possible.

No matter what kind of plumbing issue you may have with your Ham Lake home, call Air Mechanical  for any plumbing repairs and yearly inspections.

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Sump Pump Maintenance for Eden Prairie Homes

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

A good sump pump is the only thing standing between you and a basement full of water, so it makes sense to implement a good maintenance plan for your Eden Prairie Home. A lot of homeowners don’t even think about their sump pumps, however, probably because they are buried out of sight, but the only way to know for sure that it will work when you need it most is to keep it in good operating condition. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • Check the GFCI – Your sump pump should be plugged into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). This is a special outlet that keeps the system from getting waterlogged. If it gets damp, it shuts down, turning off your sump pump. Unfortunately, GFCIs can be faulty or break, so check it regularly to make sure it is always on.
  • Upright Operation – If you have a standing sump pump, make sure it stays upright and doesn’t fall over when operating. These things can move a lot and if they do fall over, they may not pump properly.
  • Test it Regularly – Pour water into the sump pit when empty to make sure it will work when needed. Most people who need emergency service could have pinpointed the problem weeks or months earlier if they had known the system was broken.
  • Check the Outlet Pipes – Check the outlet pipes regularly for leaks or damage. If they start leaking back into the foundation, they can cause damage or leakage into the basement.
  • Clean the Grate – Submersible pumps are often left to sit in their pits for months or even years without cleaning. At least once a year, remove the sump pump from its pit and clean away any gunk that’s built up. Stones or debris in the pump can break the motor if left unchecked.

A good sump pump is all that stands between your home and a boat load of water whenever it rains. To keep your home clean and dry, check your pump often and if necessary, call someone for routine plumbing maintenance.

Most of the problems that pop up with sump pumps can be avoided entirely if they are maintained on an annual basis. Sometimes you may need to call Air Mechanical for advanced cleaning or part replacement. If so, try and do so before the raining season starts.

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How to Shut Off Your Water Supply in Scott County

Friday, February 17th, 2012

In the case of a plumbing emergency, the last thing you want to do is watch as more water continues to pour into your home through a burst pipe, broken appliance or busted water line. So, the first step should always be to turn off your main water supply valve. Here are some tips for finding that valve and getting the water supply off as soon as possible.

Finding Your Main Water Supply Valve

The valve is almost always located in one of two places. It will either be outside at the entry point for the water supply to your house or it will be located in your basement or garage between the inlet and the main water line. In some cases, it may be even be under an access panel in basement. However, this is less common than the first two options.

Once you find the main water supply valve, turn it off to immediately stop more water from entering your home. If you notice that water is continuing to enter your home, you have a problem before the entry valve and should call the city immediately because one of their pipes might have burst.

Shutting Off Individual Appliances

In many cases, the problem is related to a single appliance. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to turn off the entire water supply – just the supply valve for the specific appliance or fixture. Every major water fixture and appliance in your home should have its own shutoff valve in an easy to reach place. This goes for every sink, toilet, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine in your home – not having those valves can be dangerous.

Once you have turned off your water supply, it’s time for plumbing maintenance. Make sure to keep track of everything you do (take notes if you can) and supply that information to the plumber both on the phone and when they arrive. It will help them diagnose and solve the problem much faster.  Call Air Mechanical with any questions.

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Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, From Your Washington County HVAC Contractors!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Everyone at Air Mechanical wishes you a very happy Valentine’s Day! We hope you have a day filled with lots of candy, flowers, and Valentines! Today is all about showing your appreciation for those you love, including your friends, your family, or your significant other. Take a moment today to think about everyone who makes a difference in your life and how you can let them know how special they are to you.

While traditional gifts like candy and flowers are wonderful idea, why not think a little out of the box this year? Upgrading your Air Conditioning system can make your whole house more comfortable, which is something that your entire family will appreciate! A new air filtration system can help you breathe easier, and a new heating and cooling system can significantly lower your energy bills. While not the most romantic of gifts, it certainly will let your family know that you care.

For more information about how a few HVAC upgrades can make your house more comfortable, give Air Mechanical a call. In addition to making your home cozier, you can also make your friends and family happy by making this delicious recipe for Chocolate Bar Fondue

Ingredients

  • 32 ounces milk chocolate, grated
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/3 cup hot water

Directions

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream. Mix in the instant coffee, vanilla extract, sugar, and hot water. Continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth.

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

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Heating Contractor Guide: Which Fuel is Right for Your Home?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Homeowners in Linwood all want to save money on household expenses and utility bills. We turn off lights when we leave the room, take shorter showers and make sure the kids don’t keep the refrigerator door open. These small habits help, but still we all want to save a little wherever we can, right?

One area where people are constantly looking for ways to save money is home heating. Everyone wants to be comfortable and warm in their homes, but that costs money, so homeowners are always on the lookout for the most effective and cost efficient way to keep the house warm.

What is the most cost effective fuel for home heating?

Is it gas furnaces, electric, fuel oil or propane? How about less conventional heat sources like wood or geothermal pumps?

We all wish there was one easy, all-encompassing answer to this question, like a heating magic bullet that would keep every family warm and happy for pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, there isn’t. It depends on too many factors for any one solution to work for everyone.

Probably the biggest factor that plays a role in the cost of a particular fuel is its local availability. Resources are available differentially, so that while one option might be cheapest for a family of five in Andover, Massachusetts, the analysis is entirely different for a single person in Kearney, Nebraska.

What is the most cost effective option for you?

That is a better question, but still not one that is necessarily easy to answer.

To figure it out, you need to carefully analyze several factors:

  • Local availability (see above)
  • Local climate
  • Size of your home
  • Your family’s needs
  • Existing heating equipment
  • Your budget

Armed with this information, you can do a careful comparison of the options available to you. For assistance you can use an online calculator to compare fuel costs, such as this one from the Energy Information Administration or this one from Hearth.com. Or, if all else fails, call a contractor for a professional assessment.

Comparing fuel costs and choosing the right solution for you may take some time, but the savings can be well worth it, so call Air Mechanical with any questions.

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Common Heat Pump Problems in Burnsville

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Heat pumps are great pieces of machinery, but they don’t always work perfectly in Burnsville. They come with their own problems and issues. Usually these can be fixed with a little heating maintenance, but it’s good to know what you are looking for.

Below are some common problems encountered by heat pump owners, along with some brief troubleshooting and repair advice. However, for any serious repair job, it is recommended that you call in a professional to fix the problem. This is to ensure the best performance of your heat pump, as well as for your own safety.

1.     No Heat – Obviously, this is a problem. A heat pump should do two things—heat and cool. If it’s not heating at all, something is wrong. Sometimes, this is just a matter of the power supply being interrupted. Press the “Reset” button on the power supply. If that does not fix it, it could be that the power supply has failed or the motor is overloaded.
2.     Incorrect Temperature – For example, you set the thermostat at 72 degrees, but even after several hours, the temperature won’t get over 70 degrees. This can be a problem with the sensor in the thermostat or with the heat pump itself. However, it could also just be the result of very cold temperatures outside. Heat pumps have trouble keeping up when the weather is consistently below 30 degrees Fahrenheit or so, so it may just need help in the form of a supplemental heat supply.
3.     It’s Noisy – Heat pumps are generally designed to run very quietly, so if you notice a lot of noise, there is probably something going on. Common culprits for this type of issue include loose connections, like screws, nuts and bolts. Check for any loose fittings on the heat pump. Also, make sure the contractor who does your annual heat pump inspection tightens these fittings as part of his maintenance routine.
4.     Frozen – This can be indicative of a few underlying problems, but the most common is dirt in the air filter. When filters get clogged, the heat pump can get frosted, ultimately leading to freezing. Check the air filter and make sure to change all air filters regularly.

Heat pumps can experience other issues, but these are some of the more common ones. Generally, though, heat pumps are pretty headache-free machines. Be sure to call Air Mechanical if you experience any issues with your heat pump.

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How to Clean Your Outdoor HVAC Unit in Carver County

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

That big metal box in your Carver County backyard or on the side next to your home plays a vital role in cooling your home and keeping you comfortable. That box is called the outdoor condensing unit, the key component in your home’s central air conditioning system. The condensing unit houses the compressor, which converts gas into fluid before sending it to the condenser coil, where it is cooled and sent to an indoor evaporator coil.

What you need to know is that the entire heat pump runs smoothly when the area inside and around the condensing unit is clean and free of debris. In some cases, the outdoor unit will fail to work if there is too much debris or dirt build-up. That can cost you a lot of money in repairs or a total replacement. Keeping the condensing unit clean is not a difficult chore – and here are some steps you can take.

First of all, try and avoid blowing leaves or grass clippings near the unit. And regularly cut down or remove any weeds or grass that may grow up around the base of the unit.

To clean the inside of the unit, first turn off the electrical power to it. Check for an on-off switch on the unit or on a separate box nearby. Remove the grille from the unit and carefully remove the fan in order to gain access to the coil and other moving parts. At this point, you should be able to clean out any debris from inside the unit using your hands. You can also use a vacuum hose to remove debris. A soft brush or cloth rag can be used to other areas of the unit.

The fins on the coil require a gentler approach as they can be easily bent or damaged. If you notice a bent fin you can straighten it out by using a simple dull knife or a special fin “comb” which you can buy at your local hardware store. While you are in the unit, check the fan belt on the motor to ensure it is not damaged or cracked. You can also add extra oil to lubrication ports on the condensing unit, if any are available.

Use a garden hose to clean the coil and the grilles on the condensing unit. Do not use highly-pressurized water as it may cause some damage to the fins. Once this last task has been completed, reinstall the grille, switch on the condensing unit, and start up your air conditioning. You should notice if your house is cooling down quicker. If not, you may want to do some more cleaning.

If you have any doubts about cleaning your outdoor condensing unit or if you find any damaged parts that may need repair or replacement, call your local qualified heating and cooling (HVAC) contractor, Air Mechanical, and schedule a service call.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Clogged Drains for a Bloomington Home

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Clogged and slow drains can be a real bummer in Bloomington. Water standing in the kitchen sink is gross, and no one likes to shower with the tub gradually filling around their feet. Calling an Air Mechanical plumber when the clog gets out of hand is easy enough, but it’s even easier to prevent them from forming in the first place. With proper use, some brief regular plumbing maintenance and a few tricks, most clogs can be stopped dead in their tracks before becoming a problem. Follow these guidelines and you may never need to make that emergency plumber call again.

Don’ts

• First of all, there are some things you just shouldn’t do to your drains and pipes. These things can quickly lead to clog buildup, so avoid them:

• Don’t pour liquid grease, such as bacon grease, down drains. It can solidify in the pipes and cause a clog.

• Don’t flush anything down the toilet that is not designed to be flushed.

• Avoid using bleach or other chemicals to clean tubs, sinks and drains. Particles from these cleansers can build up to cause clogs, or even erode pipes.

Do’s

Even with best practices, no drain will remain completely clean. However, a little proactivity can stop everyday residue from accumulating and forming a nasty clog.

Try some of these maintenance tips to keep things running smoothly:

• Use a screen, guard or trap. These can catch food, hair and other debris which would otherwise wind up sitting in your pipes.

• Clean sink and drain stoppers regularly. Debris can get trapped on and under the stoppers, just waiting to break loose and cruise into the drain to cause a clog.

• A few times a year, stop up your sinks and tub, fill them up all the way, then let them drain. The pressure and volume of the water will help shake loose deposits in the pipes.

• Once a month or so, carefully pour boiling water down the drain to dislodge stubborn deposits. You can also do this any time you notice a drain is starting to run slow. Vinegar is also effective.

If you have any questions about these tips contact Air Mechanic anytime.

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Sizing a Tankless Water Heater in Medota Heights

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Tankless water heaters are gaining popularity among Medota Heights homeowners because of their on demand hot water supply and space-saving design. Although they are more expensive than traditional tank water heaters, on demand water heaters are more efficient, reliable, and easier to install and maintain. Before choosing to install a tankless water heater, however, you will have to decide which size will meet your hot water needs.

Rather than storing hot water in a tank, the tankless models heat the water with individual units located near the application where hot water is needed, such as a shower or washing machine. For larger homes, some of these smaller units cannot heat enough water for several applications running at the same time. You can also install a single tankless water heater for the entire house, or separate ones for appliances that use more hot water.

Finding the proper size and type will depend on the flow rate—measured  by a GPM (gallons per minute) number—that each fixture needs. Every application has a standard flow rate that must be added up in order to calculate the hot water demands for your entire home. For instance, if someone is using a sink with a 1.5 GPM at the same time another person is running a shower with a 2.0 GPM, the flow rate for the tankless unit would need to be at least 3.5 gallons per minute. You will have to add up the flow rate for all the applications in the house to get the minimum GPM figure for your tankless water heater.

In addition to flow rates, tankless hot water heaters are also measured by how much the water temperature needs to rise as it moves through the heating unit. You can determine the temperature rise for each application by subtracting the temperature of water coming in from the desired temperature going out. Once you add those together with the overall flow rates, you will know which tankless water heater can handle your overall hot water needs.

Before you buy an on demand hot water heater, it is best to talk to a professional plumber. While the flow rates and temperature rise for most household appliances are fairly standard, these numbers can vary because of several factors that plumbers are trained to calculate. Size is not the only factor to consider when shopping for a tankless water heater. Fuel type and efficiency should also be factored in to your purchase, which is another reason to talk to a licensed plumber.

If you aren’t sure what type or size of tankless water heater is right for your Medota Heights home, call Air Mechanical Heating and Plumbing to speak with one of our professional plumbers. We are always glad to offer our expert advice so that you can meet all of your hot water needs in the most efficient way possible.

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Do Low-Flow Toilets Work for Apple Valley Homes?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Low flush toilets have been available in Apple Valley since 1994 and are highly recommended both by the government and multiple green organizations to help reduce the water used by your bathroom plumbing. But, the big question you probably have is whether these highly popular alternatives to regular toilets in fact work.

The Numbers

To start with, low flush toilets use less than half as much water to flush as a normal toilet. The average standard toilet uses 3.5 gallons per flush, while a low flush toilet uses only 1.6 gallons per flush. Some new toilets even use less – with the new High Efficiency Toilet (HET) standards setting the maximum flush capacity at 1.3 gpf.

While those toilets did not always perform to optimal standards when they were first released 17 years ago, they have come a long way and now operate almost identically to standard toilets. In fact, most public and restaurant restrooms built in the last 15 years now use these types of toilets instead to save money.

Choosing a Model that Will Work

There are a number of ways to measure different toilets. Just like almost any fixture, the manufacturer, design, and construction of a low flush toilet will determine how well it works. So, while for the most part low flush toilets work like normal toilets, you should take some things into consideration.

To start with, you must choose between either a siphonic or wash-down style toilet. The siphonic toilet uses much more water in the bowl, but as a result has a lot higher chance of clogging. The wash down method uses far less water in the bowl and does not clog as much, but the result is a somewhat tougher to clean interior of the toilet.

Pricing

The lowest prices may not represent the best low flush toilets on the market, but neither do the highest prices. Look for mid-range prices from competitive manufacturers. For less than $300, you can often buy a solid low flush toilet that will not clog any more often than a standard toilet and will save a tremendous amount of water and energy each year by reducing the amount of water flushed.

Low flush toilets are effective, inexpensive and largely popular for a good reason – they work. So, if you are remodelling a bathroom or simply want to make a change to the toilet you currently have, consider this plumbing installation to take advantage of green energy technology that is freely available for your bathroom.  Contact Air Mechanical for any questions about low-flow toilets, and installation rates.

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