Air Mechanical, Inc Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Bloomington’

Plumber’s Tip: Common Types of Building Supply & Drain Piping Materials

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what the various pipes in your home and other buildings are made of? How come some Bloomington plumbing systems use different materials than others? What are the differences between common types of pipe materials? This brief guide covers all those questions.

Plastic

The newest piping material is plastic. Usually made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plastic piping has been in use in some form or another for about 50 years. Although many purists tend to shy away from plastic piping, it is popular as a material for both water supply and drain piping because it is cheaper and easier to cut than copper, and doesn’t present the corrosion problems of other metal piping materials.

Sometimes, plastic piping can crack or break because it was installed improperly, especially when done by an installer who is not used to working with ABS or PVC materials. These pipes have to be installed differently than copper would be, so it is important to use a contractor with expertise.

Copper

Despite the relatively recent popularity of PVC and ABS, copper has been and remains the industry standard for most piping jobs, especially building water supply lines. Copper has advantages over other metals in that it is softer and easier to manipulate, doesn’t corrode easily and isn’t toxic to humans and animals.

There are three kinds of copper piping used in plumbing, which are assigned letter types depending on the thickness of the pipe walls. Type M is the thinnest and is used for above ground plumbing, while Type L and Type K copper piping have thicker walls. Occasionally, flexible copper tubing is used for plumbing, but because of the high cost, use is usually limited to spaces where the extra flexibility is essential.

 Steel

Galvanized steel piping is not commonly used for drain piping or building water supplies any more, with both copper and plastics being far more common choices for new construction. The zinc coating on galvanized pipes stalls rust, but doesn’t prevent it completely, which can shorten the life of the pipe and cause flaking on the interior pipe walls.

Cast Iron

Although not often used in new construction, cast iron can still be found in a lot of buildings because it has been used as a plumbing material for more than a hundred years.

For more information about installing new pipes in your Bloomington home, give Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call!

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Plumbing Basics from Anoka: Learning the Parts of a Toilet

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The majority of Anoka homeowners are not aware that they can repair most minor toilet problems and other bathroom plumbing jobs on their own. Whether it’s overflowing or running more than it should, toilets can be repaired often without calling a plumber; however, it is important to know the basic parts of a toilet before trying to troubleshoot toilet issues.

Here’s a guide to learning the parts of a toilet:

Tank: Pictured above (inspectapedia.com) is the tank on the back of the toilet, which holds the water supply for the bowl and the components that you need to know to fix most problems.

Bowl: Holds wastewater and uses the water from the tank to flush the waste.

Flush Handle:  The flush handle is the part that everyone knows, but it’s important to know what happens when you flush: the flush handle is connected to the trip lever, which lifts the flapper and allows the water for the tank to enter the bowl.

Trip Lever: The trip lever is the part that you need to know for a running toilet. It attaches the flush handle to the flapper, and when you flush the toilet, this lever lifts the flapper (sometimes called a flapper valve) and releases the water from the tank into the bowl to force the wastewater in the bowl down the sewer drain. When a toilet is running, you can simply lift the trip lever to lower the water level in the tank.

Float Ball: The float ball basically measures the water in the tank. After you flush, the ball will fall as the water level lowers, and the ball will rise again as the tank fills from the toilet main water supply. When the tank has enough water, the toilet will stop running.

Overflow Tube: This is the tube that will stop the tank from overflowing if the toilet is running. It leads into the drain and pushes out all the excess water. Sometimes you can remove the rubber water supply tube from the overflow tube to keep a toilet from overflowing if you are not able to shut off the main water valve behind the toilet.

Flapper Valve: This is the part to know whenever you have an overflowing toilet or a backup. The flapper is attached to the flush handle by a chain and the trip lever. Whenever the flapper is pushed down, the water cannot leave the tank, so when you flush, it creates a suction to pressurize the water entering the bowl so that it has enough force to flush the waste. If your toilet is overflowing, push the flapper down with your hand so that it stops the water from entering the bowl. Most people are afraid to put their hands in the tank because they associate the tank water with the water in the bowl. The water in the toilet tank is clean because it comes from the main water supply line, which is attached to the stop valve.  If your flapper valve becomes damaged over the years and looses suction in the tank, this is a quick plumbing replacement that any homeowner can perform.

Stop Valve: This is also called the toilet supply valve because it controls the fresh water supply going into the tank. It is usually located behind the toilet near the floor, and turning it off is another way to stop an overflowing toilet because the tank cannot fill once it is turned off.  It is attached to the supply tube, which attaches to the refill tube.

Supply Tube: Although the supply tube and refill tube are connected, they are two different parts. People often use their names interchangeable, but what’s most important to know is that the supply tube supplies the water from the main line and into the refill tube, which refills the bowl.

Refill Tube: When the float ball is down, the refill tube fills the bowl with the water from the supply tube. After a flush, the ball rises, and when it reaches a certain level, the refill tube stops the flow of water into the bowl.

Trap: The trap is a seal that prevents backflow and strong odors from the main sewage line. If you smell sewage in your bathroom, particularly near the toilet, you could have a bad seal or faulty trap. Troubleshooting a trap usually requires a plumber, unless you are familiar with toilet installation.

Wax Ring: Another cause for bad odors is the wax ring, which is a seal between the toilet and the sewage line. A faulty wax ring could also cause leaking at the bottom of the toilet. Call a plumber whenever you aren’t sure about leaking toilets or strong sewer odors; there could be a problem in the main sewer line.

Call Air Mechanical if you have any questions about these components, or if you want to trouble shoot with one of our qualified plumbers.

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Andover Plumbing Q and A – Why is the Sewer Line Blocked?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

If you have dealt with a blocked sewer line in Andover, you know all too well that it can be a nightmare. Sewer lines are made out of especially sturdy materials for a reason: because we collectively want to keep their contents inside. So, when a sewer line gets blocked and starts backing up or seeping — or even cracks under the stress — it can be a real mess.

If you have never had encountered a sewer line block, count yourself lucky.

Whichever category you fall into, it is important to know about causes of sewer blocks lie, so that you have an idea what you are up against should you ever encounter (another) one, as well as being able to take some reasonable prevention measures. Read on to learn about some of the common culprits that block up sewer lines.

Flushed Objects

The most preventable common cause of a blocked sewer line is the flushing of objects that should not be flushed. Sewer lines in your bathroom plumbing are not meant to handle solid objects like diapers, sanitary napkins or other garbage, so if these get flushed down the toilet — either intentionally or by accident — it can cause an ugly block.

Even smaller objects or bits of debris that seem to move fine through the sewer line can build up over time to cause a block. Paper towels, hair, grease or dirt can collect on the walls of the line and cause a block as well.

Tree Roots

It may seem like nothing happens beneath the ground of our lawns, where the sewer line runs. In fact, there is quite a bit of life going about its business under there, including the root systems of the trees in your yard. These roots can grow right into your sewer line, infiltrating it and causing a blockage.

Defect

The last main cause of a sewer link blockage is shoddy materials. Although sewer lines are meant to be made of high quality material because of the stress they perform under, it is still possible for one to collapse or bulge with use.

To repair a blocked sewer line call Air Mechanical for a professional’s assistance. To avoid having to make that call, the best thing you can do as a homeowner is keep solid objects from being flushed down into the sewer line. It can save you a huge headache later on.

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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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Plumbing Guide: How to Prevent Bathroom Water Damage

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Water damage. Even the mere mention of potential damage from excess water in your Fridley house is enough to send a chill down your spine. However, there are a number of things you can do to avoid such damage, especially in the bathroom.

The Bathtub

The biggest single contributors to water damage are the shower and bathtub, where gallons upon gallons of water are distributed every day. You can minimize damage by doing the following:

  • Tiles – Check for missing or cracked tiles and replace them immediately. Supplement the tiles with grout that is properly sealed and check for any potential leaks.
  • Keep it Dry – There is a lot of water in your bathroom. Keep it off the floor by drying it up after a shower, hair washing or any other moisture producing activity in the bathroom. Make sure you minimize the risk of excess water by placing bathmats on the floor outside your shower.
  • Exhaust Fan – Water builds up in a bathroom because there is no moving air. Humidity can be just as damaging as actual wetness, especially if it settles in cooler temperatures. To avoid this happening, install an exhaust fan attached to the light switch to draw out any moisture after a shower.

Sinks and Fixtures

  • Check Under the Sink – Look under the sink and make sure there are no drips from the faucet and no leaks from the trap. You may simply need to check and clean the trap once every month or so.
  • Seals – Check sink seals on a regular basis for cracks or leaks and replace them when necessary.
  • Speed of Drainage – If the sink drains slowly, the drain may be clogged. Check the trap and if that doesn’t help, pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down weekly.
  • Upgrades – Upgrade your fixtures to save water. Toilets eat water to the tune of 40% of your annual consumption and your shower head can be made almost twice as efficient without cutting into your comfort level. If you notice a drip, crack or leak from any of these devices, simply upgrade them and you’ll save a lot of water (and reduce how much of it could leak if a problem occurs in the future).

There are a lot of ways to avoid water leaks in your bathroom. Keep a close eye on things and it will be much easier than if you waited for a full blown problem to develop.

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What Size Furnace is Right for My Stillwater Home?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

When it comes to your Stillwater home’s heating equipment, the right size is very important. If your furnace is sized correctly, you will enjoy a high level of indoor comfort, which you should. However, an incorrectly sized furnace may result in many cold spots in your home, an overworked furnace, or higher utility bills.

An undersized furnace will turn off and on frequently, which is called short cycling. Short cycling can lead to moisture in the system, causing less efficiency and damage to equipment from accumulating moisture in the heating system. The constant cycling adds to wear and tear on equipment, too. An oversized furnace may not be able to keep up with the demand for heat during the coldest days. The furnace may be constantly running and unable to keep up – adding to higher utility costs. So size really does matter when it comes to selecting the right heating equipment for your home.

But a big furnace does not mean it is right-sized. Have you ever seen a “five-way” gravity furnace? It was manufactured in the mid-1900’s and took up a lot of room – as much as half of a basement – while being extremely inefficient. The key here is efficiency. A furnace that works right is sized to the space it is heating, which does not include attics, crawlspaces, or uninsulated rooms (porches, mud rooms, etc.).

A furnace must make efficient use of its Btu’s, which is abbreviated for British thermal unit. Btu is used to measure a furnace size. Furnaces are often rated by input Btu, which is the amount of energy consumed when running. The output Btu may be different based on the system. And output Btu is the best way to select a furnace, since this is the actual heating capacity.

When sizing a furnace, the first thing to do is to determine the inside space that will be heated. If you are looking to heat your home, you can measure the square footage of each room (multiply width by length). The rooms should include bathrooms and hallways but exclude attics and crawlspaces. Add up the totals and match up the Btu output to the total square footage. If you aren’t sure of your calculations, call a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

There are many factors that go into heating a home and today’s energy efficient furnaces give homeowners many more choices. Whatever furnace you choose to purchase, make sure you do your homework and hire a qualified professional HVAC contractor to determine the best size furnace for your home.

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What Is a Downflow vs. an Upflow Furnace? A Question from Hopkins

Monday, November 14th, 2011

When you go looking to buy a furnace for your Hopkins home, you may well be surprised by how many different elements go into making a good purchasing decision. There are simply so many different kinds of furnaces available now and they each are more appropriate for certain situations. That means that finding the one that’s right for you is less about finding the one best unit than it is about finding the one that is the best match for your particular circumstances.

This applies to the type of fuel the furnace uses, its energy efficiency, and whether it’s an upflow furnace or a downflow furnace. Energy efficiency and fuel types are probably things that you’re more or less familiar with. But what are we talking about when we classify a furnace as an upflow or downflow model?

Well, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. These terms refer to the direction the air flows as it is taken in and heated by the furnace. So in an upflow furnace, the cool air is taken in at the bottom, warmed, and then expelled at the top. A downflow furnace, on the other hand, takes in cool air at the top and expels heated air at the bottom.

While this is all very exciting, it may still not be obvious what impact this will have on your decision about what type of furnace to buy. The main thing you’ll have to think about when you’re deciding between an upflow and a downflow furnace is where the furnace will be placed in your house.

An upflow furnace is generally installed in the basement so that the heated air is directed towards the parts of the house you want cooled and so that the furnace can be appropriately vented outside of the house. On the other hand, a downflow furnace would be installed in your attic for the same reasons.

So where you want to have the furnace installed is probably the biggest thing to take into account as you’re comparing these two types of equipment. Of course, whether you pick an upflow or a downflow furnace, you’ll still have to select the appropriate AFUE, size and fuel source to best meet your needs. But making the choice between upflow and downflow can at least make it easier to narrow down your options. If you have any questions, talk to your local heating contractor.

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Hydronic vs. Forced Air System: A Guide from Bloomington

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Both hydronic and forced air heating systems can serve you well depending on the specifics of your Bloomington home and your household heating needs. Certainly each of these types of home heating systems has advantages and drawbacks, but there is really no clear cut answer about which is better. All you’ll be able to determine is which one is best for you.

While current discussions about hydronics have come to focus on the applications for in floor radiant heating, this category of heating systems is actually much broader than that. Really, all the term hydronics means is that the system uses water to carry the heat throughout the house instead of air. This is what traditional radiators always did, and these types of systems are certainly still perfectly appropriate for certain types of homes.

Particularly if your home doesn’t already have ductwork installed, hydronic heating might be the best option for you because it doesn’t require ducts to get the job done. All you’ll need to have installed are pipes to carry the water to different parts of the house. These pipes are much easier than ducts to install and take up much less space overall.

If you’d like to include radiant floor heating as part of this system you’re certainly able to. However, using only this type of heating to heat your entire house is not particularly efficient or practical. Radiant flooring is particularly useful in basements because no matter how warm the air in the room is, the floor in these areas will still be cold.

However, if you do already have ducts installed in your home, it may make perfect sense for you to have a forced air heating system installed. While there are sometimes problems with the evenness of the heating experience that you get with these types of heating systems, proper installation of a high quality system can usually mitigate those types of issues.

Forced air heating systems are also convenient because they are made to work in concert with many types of central air conditioning systems. If you have hydronic heating and think you’d like to have a central air conditioning system as well, you’ll either have to install multiple window or wall units or have ducts put in anyway.

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The Beauty of Zone Heating: Some Pointers From Bloomington

Monday, October 10th, 2011

While it might not technically be a necessity, there are a lot of reasons why you might want to look into having a zone heating system installed in your Bloomington home. Whether you’ve been using the same home heating system for a long time or are looking to have a new one installed, there’s never a bad time to have a zone heating system put in.

Most people think that the only thing that affects their home heating and cooling bills is the energy efficiency of their furnace or heat pump. However, that’s simply not always the case. Certainly, the more efficient your furnace or heat pump is, the lower your energy bills will be. But that doesn’t mean they’re as low as they could possibly be.

After all, if you don’t have a zone control system installed, you’re paying to heat your entire house every time you turn on the heat. Depending on the size of your house, that could mean you’re heating anywhere from two to 10 rooms or more that are unoccupied at the time. In fact, you could be paying to heat an entire empty wing of your home. And while you’ll pay less than you would if your heating system was less efficient, you’re still paying more than you need to.

With a zone control system, you can heat your home much more efficiently because you can control which areas of the house get the heat and which ones don’t. You can set multiple different temperatures for the different zones of your home, which allows you to keep the occupied areas warm while not forcing you to waste energy to heat unoccupied spaces.

Aside from the economic benefits of only heating the areas of your home that you need, zone control systems also can put an end to some of those contentious thermostat wars that go on in so many households. If the members of your household can never agree on what a comfortable temperature is, they can simply each set their own temperature for their own area of the house.

That way, everyone is happy and no one has to suffer uncomfortably. After all, you paid a lot for your state of the art home heating system. It’s only fitting that you should be able to get the most possible out of it.

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Home Energy Myths: Some Information From Bloomington

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Measuring and controlling your Bloomington home’s energy consumption is a little tricky. There are plenty of talking heads and information resources on the Internet that tell you how it’s supposed to work, but in most cases you’ll find that so called common knowledge about your home’s energy use isn’t always true. Here are some of the most common myths and how to differentiate from the truth.

  1. Conservation and Efficiency Are Different – Many people think that by getting an energy efficient appliance, they are conserving energy and helping the environment. To some degree this is true. However, in reality, you are merely reducing how much energy it takes to complete a task. Conservation is finding ways to actually stop using energy for common tasks. Taking baths instead of showers, not watering your lawn, and turning off lights completely are all examples of conservation.
  2. Turning Off an Appliance Saves a Lot of Energy – Regardless of whether an appliance is physically on or not, it still consumes power as long as it is plugged in. The only way to completely stop your energy consumption is to unplug an item completely or use a power strip that blocks access to electricity when the switch is turned to off.
  3. Turning on Items Creates a Power Surge – While turning a computer on and off uses a bit more electricity than simply leaving it on all the time, it isn’t a significant difference. In fact, the longer you leave an appliance on, the more it wears down and the faster it starts to use extra power to remain effective.
  4. One Energy Source is Cheaper than Another – This depends largely on the type of energy source you have for heating and cooling, the cost of that source and how much heating and cooling you need. A single portable electric heater is cheaper than running your entire oil heating system. But, electric heaters are rarely cheaper if you use them to heat your entire home.

Myths abound when it comes to energy use around your home. Make sure to get all the facts before making decisions that could end up costing you more money in the long run.

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