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7 Things to Buy If You Want to Spend Less on Plumbing & Heating

August 7, 2017

Let’s face it: Owning a home isn’t cheap. You’re on the hook for mortgage payments and property taxes, of course, as well as maintenance and repair expenses. Under typical circumstances, cost-cutting options are frustratingly few, but there’s one crucial exception—utilities. You don’t pay a fixed price for things like electricity, water, and natural gas. Rather, from one month to the next, the size of your bill depends on the extent of your usage. That means it’s at least possible to reduce ongoing operating costs. For many families, however, it’s just not practical to cut back significantly on these key essentials of daily living. With smart upgrades to hardworking household fixtures and appliances, boosting efficiency and reducing waste can be easier than you think.

  1. Low-Flow Shower Head

    Aerating water saving shower heads

    There’s more than one way to save on your water bill. For instance, you can always bathe less often or take shorter showers. But in practice, many homeowners who try to conserve water ultimately fail to do so. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that installing a low-flow shower head saves the average family up to 2,900 gallons per year. Plus, because the water heater won’t have to work as hard, you’ll save not only water, but energy as well. For maximum savings, O’Brian specifies, “be sure to choose a shower head with a flow rate of no more than two gallons per minute.”

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  2. Wi-Fi Thermostat

    Wifi thermostats

    Your father was right to guard the thermostat like a watchdog. In the average home, more than half of all energy dollars go toward cooling and heating, so it pays to moderate indoor temperatures whenever possible. That said, it’s a real pain to adjust the thermostat over and over, day after day. True, a programmable thermostat helps solve the problem by automatically adjusting the temperature settings on a preset schedule. Enter the Wi-Fi thermostat. By enabling you to adjust the temperature setting of your thermostat from anywhere—via your computer, tablet, or smartphone—a Wi-Fi thermostat gives you the power to capitalize on every opportunity for trimming HVAC costs, no matter where you happen to be.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  3. Tankless Water Heater

    Tankless water heater types

    It takes no small amount of energy (and more than a few energy dollars) for standard, storage-tank water heaters to keep a large volume of water always at the ready. That’s right: Even in the middle of the night, when there’s little chance that anyone wants to take a long, hot shower, traditional units chug along at full tilt. Fortunately, homeowners today enjoy an alternative—tankless water heaters. Because they operate on demand, only when a point-of-use fixture or appliance calls for hot water, tankless units slash energy consumption by a quarter or more, saving the average family approximately $1,700 over the lifetime of the water heater.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  4. HVAC Filter

    Hvac filter types

    The air filter in your HVAC system performs two pivotal roles simultaneously. For one, it defends the air you breathe from the harmful effects of dust, pollen, and other impurities. As well, it protects the HVAC system itself, helping to ensure its continued performance and longevity. Here’s the catch: As the filter removes more particles from the air, it gradually becomes clogged. At that point, if you don’t replace the filter (or at the very least clean it), you can say goodbye to energy efficiency.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  5. Hot Water Recirculation System

    Hot water recirculation system

    When you turn on the shower or sink faucet, does it take a while for the hot water to arrive? If so, you’re definitely not alone. The Department of Energy estimates that simply in waiting for the water to get hot, the average household wastes as much as 12,000 gallons per year. The issue is that as hot water flows through plumbing, it gradually cools down, and that cool water must come out first. To speed things up—for convenience as much as for savings—many homeowners opt to install a hot-water recirculation system. Recirculation sends cooled water back to the water heater to be reheated and reused, while the system pump compresses the travel time from the water heater to the fixture. No, it’s not a glamorous home upgrade, but it’s certainly an effective one.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  6. Outdoor Reset Boiler Control

    Outdoor boiler reset types

    If your home heating system depends on a boiler—if it’s a radiator, radiant floor, or hydronic baseboard system—listen up: You can increase energy efficiency by 15 percent with a simple accessory called an outdoor reset control. Affordable and easy to install, this add-on works by monitoring the outdoor temperature, calculating the indoor heating demand, and modulating boiler performance accordingly. That way, the boiler never runs longer or harder than necessary. There are a number of outdoor reset controls on the market, with varying features, but no matter which model you choose, the installation benefits are clear and compelling.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

  7. Faucet Aerator

    Faucet aerator types

    Nowadays, faucets usually come with built-in aerators—disc-like doodads that limit the flow rate and inject air into the water as it leaves the pipe. That said, if you live in an older home with correspondingly old kitchen and bath fixtures, retrofitting each faucet with an aerator may be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to put a dent in your water bill. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes with faucet aerators save an average of 700 gallons of water per year, for a savings of about $50 each month. Bear in mind that actual savings depend on a range of factors, including the gallons-per-minute flow rate of your chosen aerator. It’s worth taking the time to choose wisely.

    Photo: supplyhouse.com

    Serving all your plumbing & heating needs. Contact us today!
    Jim Lavallee Plumbing
    Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
    Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

What to Do When Your Pilot Light Goes Out

April 26, 2017

Is your hot water suddenly running ice cold? Don’t panic! Head down to the water heater to check the pilot and relight it. But first, learn the basics here.

By Glenda Taylor

Q: I jumped in my shower this morning and, holy cow, was it cold! After a quick inspection, I discovered my water heater’s pilot light out. Should I try to relight it?

A: That depends on why the light blew out. The issue may have been something as simple as a draft, a dirty pilot orifice, or a worn-out part—or the extinguished pilot light could be a sign of something more troublesome. First, sniff out the potentially larger problem: Do you smell gas? If you do, leave your house and call the gas company! Otherwise, keep reading to determine how you can fix the problem by yourself. (Note: Unfortunately, if your water heater has an enclosed burner chamber, you’re probably out of luck as far as a DIY fix; only a professional plumber should access an enclosed burner chamber.)

When you see your pilot light out, you can usually relight it. A downdraft in a vent pipe on a windy day or even the breeze through an open window can be enough to snuff out a pilot light. Relighting instructions are similar for most water heaters, and you can find them permanently affixed to the side of your unit.

In order to relight the pilot, remove the access cover at the bottom of the water heater. Both the control knob and the water temperature knob should be in the “Pilot” position. While depressing the control knob, light the pilot light with a long match or wand lighter. Once the pilot ignites, continue holding the knob down for a full minute to bleed air out of the line. (For a water heater with an automatic igniter, the relighting process is virtually the same. Instead of using a lighter or match, though, you’ll push the striker knob repeatedly while depressing the control knob until the pilot ignites.)

Relighting the pilot light may or may not be all you need to do to start up your water heater once more. Depending on what happens after the pilot ignites, proceed with one of the following:

• If the flame remains lit, you’re good to go! Simply replace the cover plate, turn the control knob to “On,” and select the desired temperature on the water temperature knob so that you can return to a refreshing hot shower.

• If the pilot light flickers and goes out soon after relighting, clean the pilot orifice. A dirty pilot light orifice hinders gas flow, but the fix is simple. First, shut off the gas to the water heater (look for a valve on the gas line that supplies the unit). Remove the pilot orifice fitting, which is located under the access cover, by twisting it to the left. Then, unscrew the orifice itself from the fitting. Once the fitting has been disassembled, clean all surfaces with a cotton swab dampened with rubbing alcohol. After reassembling and reattaching the fitting, relight the pilot light as described above.

• If you’re able to light the pilot light, but it goes out when you release the control knob, the thermocouple probably needs replacing. The thermocouple is a safety device that shuts off gas flow if it senses the pilot light is out, but when damaged it loses its regulatory ability. This fix is a bit more complicated than the first two, but a replacement is inexpensive—often less than $20.

This piece, which resembles a copper tube, connects the control panel to the burner assembly, which is located behind the access panel. Before attempting to disassemble anything, shut off the gas to the water heater. Next, release the burner assembly by using an adjustable wrench to detach the thermocouple tube, the pilot light tube, and the gas supply tube from the control panel—the burner assembly should slide right out. (Hint: Because there are various sizes and types of thermocouples, the best way to get an exact match is to take the damaged thermocouple with you when buying a replacement.) After replacing the damaged thermocouple with the new one, slide the burner assembly back into place, reattach the tubes, and then relight the pilot light as described above.

We are here for you –  Contact us today!

Jim Lavallee Plumbing
Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Is It Time To Service Or Replace Your Boiler?

October 19, 2016

Triangle Tube boiler in Lexington

A furnace will usually last between 15 and 20 years. If yours is getting up there in age, it may be wise to replace it now rather than risk a breakdown in the depths of winter. Look for an Energy Star-rated model that will run more efficiently, saving you money on utility bills in the process. Another bonus: You may qualify for up to $500 in tax credits if you upgrade to an energy-efficient unit, which could be a real boon come tax season.

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. So making smart decisions about your home’s heating system can have a big effect on your utility bills — and your comfort.

Although older boiler systems had efficiencies in the range of 56%–70%, modern conventional heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 97%, converting nearly all the fuel to useful heat for your home. Energy efficiency upgrades and a new high-efficiency heating system can often cut your fuel bills and your furnace’s pollution output in half. Upgrading your furnace or boiler from 56% to 90% efficiency in an average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year if you heat with gas, or 2.5 tons if you heat with oil. If your boiler is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model. Old coal burners that were switched over to oil or gas are prime candidates for replacement, as well as gas furnaces with pilot lights rather than electronic ignitions.

Click here for your high efficiency heating rebate form.

Department of Energy energy saving tips

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