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6 Signs You Need a New Furnace

September 26, 2017

Amana Hybrid Furnace

During heating season, there’s never a convenient time for the furnace to give out, especially considering the discomfort—and the genuine hazards—of a home without heat. Making matters worse, according to David Kenyon, ailing heating equipment exhibits a curious tendency to die “on one of the coldest days of the year,” Rather than court disaster by depending on a troubled appliance, Kenyon recommends taking a proactive approach. “Make life easier for yourself and plan for any furnace project well in advance, before the temperature plummets and the issue becomes critical.” The first step? Determine whether your furnace absolutely requires replacement or whether “a relatively inexpensive repair would keep it in service for at least another season,” Kenyon says. Of course, for the average homeowner—for someone who looks at the furnace as a source of not only heat, but mystery—it can be quite challenging to distinguish between a doomed-to-fail furnace and a temporarily handicapped one. That being the case, Kenyon recommends discussing your concerns with a qualified HVAC technician “sooner rather than later.” Until then, closely monitor the appliance, and keep an eye out for indications of poor performance.


  • 1. Your furnace is more than 15 years old.

    There’s no such thing as a furnace that never dies. According to David Kenyon, “the typical unit lasts about 15 or 20 years.” Unfortunately, in evaluating any given unit, “there’s no way to know its expiration date in advance.” All you can do is exercise caution as the furnace enters the final quarter of its life. If a previous owner installed the furnace, be advised that it may not be easy to determine exactly how long it’s been there. Check the manual if you have it. Otherwise, “look for a serial number,” Kenyon suggests, or present a photo of the unit to the company that manufactured it. Make no mistake: “It would be unwise to replace a fully functional furnace only because it’s old,” Kenyon says. Still, knowing its age may help put any performance problems in context.


  • 2. Your energy bills have gone up.

    As the furnace is one of the biggest energy consumers in modern homes, its efficiency level directly affects your bottom line. So, as winter gets underway, be sure to scrutinize your monthly energy bills. If you’re paying much more than last year—and the rates haven’t risen—the explanation may be that “your furnace needs attention,” Kenyon says. Newer, well-maintained appliances tend to perform at peak efficiency level; older ones usually don’t. Depending on circumstances, Kenyon says, “repair may be able to deliver an efficiency boost.” But if not, he says, “the increase in operating costs may be reason enough to install a new unit.”


  • 3. Your house isn’t warm enough.

    Feeling cold indoors even though the heat is on provides perhaps the most obvious motivation for taking a close look at your furnace. Kenyon advises, however, that “you can’t rule out the possibility of another cause.” It may feel chillier as a result of newly formed air leaks or a broken or malfunctioning thermostat. But in the absence of any alternative explanations, Kenyon advises homeowners not to push the heating system into overdrive. Instead, “bring in a professional”—especially if you notice significantly different temperatures in different rooms. “The hallmark of old, single-speed blower furnaces,” uneven heating may be the inevitable result of an increasingly outmoded technology.


  • 4. It’s abnormally dusty in your home.

    You can succeed in containing dust, but no matter how much you clean, you can never get rid of it. That said, if you notice an increase in the amount of dust in your home despite your best efforts to eradicate it, don’t worry—you’re probably not going crazy. It could be, instead, that your furnace isn’t doing its job to remove airborne particles from the warmed air. First things first: Check the furnace filter and, if necessary, clean or replace it. Kenyon recommends making it a habit to replace the filter every few months. If you don’t have a furnace service contract and it’s been years since you changed the filter—or if it’s never been changed—“permanent damage may have been done to internal furnace components,” Kenyon says.


  • 5. Something looks, sounds, or smells off.

    “A surprising number of homeowners rarely even go near the furnace,” Kenyon says. But sometimes simply standing next to your furnace can tell you a lot about its condition. Check for cracks and corrosion, and in the process listen for any unfamiliar sounds. While squealing and screeching are a clue that the blower may need adjustment, other types of noises—grinding or banging—indicate the need for either repair or full replacement. Finally, Kenyon says, “pay attention to how the furnace room smells.” When you start up the appliance for its first use of the season, you can expect a musty aroma, but if the smell lingers for more than a few days, schedule a service appointment right away.


  • 6. Your furnace isn’t cycling properly.

    A furnace cycles on and off during the course of its normal operation. When the home dips below the temperature set on the thermostat, the furnace kicks on to bring the temperature back up. Once the thermostat reaches the target temperature, the furnace turns off, and the cycle continues from there. If the performance of your furnace gives you any reason to think it may be on its way out, track its pattern of operation. Or, as Kenyon puts it, ask yourself two questions: “Does the furnace cycle on and off very frequently? Or does it seem to run all the time?” If the answer is yes to either question, Kenyon continues, it’s a “clear sign the furnace isn’t working as designed.” Call in a qualified pro to look into the behavior.


  • Bad news? Seize the opportunity!

    The bottom line: Numerous issues can cause a furnace to fail, temporarily or for good. If the cost of repair would be prohibitively high—or if replacement offers the only way forward—bear in mind that, although heating equipment doesn’t come cheap, there’s a silver lining. Newer furnaces offer unprecedented efficiency, so you should end up saving money each month on energy bills and gradually recoup the cost of the new unit. Of course, to reap the greatest benefits from a new furnace, it must be installed correctly.

    Contact us today!

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


10 Dreamy Bathroom Amenities

September 11, 2017

Regardless of how large or small your bathroom is, you can still find ways to upgrade it to the bathroom you desire. After all, it’s a room that requires function to get a fresh start on the day ahead, but it needs features to help you relax at night.

If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than these luxury bathroom amenities. They will have you dreaming of all the changes you can make to create the relaxing bathroom you’ve always wanted.

Luxury Bathroom Sink

Bathroom Remodeling Costs

Besides being a space to rest and relax, if you’re selling your home, the bathroom could be a large factor in those looking to buy. The look and feel of a bathroom can impact a buyer’s decision. If you’re considering selling your home, now is the perfect time to consider a bathroom remodel. Much of the cost depends on what luxurious amenities you decide to add to your new bathroom.

Luxury Bathroom Double Vanity

1. Luxury Bathroom Vanities

If you’re looking for a bathroom amenity that can change how you function, look no further than a double bathroom vanity. Instead of fighting over a single sink in the morning, this gives you and your significant other the space you need to prepare for the day. Choose a countertop material like marble to really give the look of luxury to your bathroom vanity.

Vessel Sink Luxury Bathroom

2. Luxury Bathroom Faucets

Simply changing out your faucet with a newer model can sometimes give your bathroom the look you desire without the price tag of a complete remodel. Wall-mount sink faucets will give your bathroom a sleek look and not get in the way of your vanity display.

3. Luxury Bathroom Sinks

Once you update your faucet, you must update your bathroom sink to complete the look. Nothing quite says extravagance like a vessel sink. Not only is it a modern upgrade, but it’s also a décor focal point of the bathroom.

Luxury Bathroom Rainfall Shower

4. Luxury Bathroom Shower

Your shower experience can be instantly changed with an update to your shower head. Having dual shower heads or including a rainfall shower head can be just what you need to relax at the end of the day.

If you’re remodeling your bathroom, consider expanding the size of your shower for the look of luxury. Glass or frosted glass doors will make all the difference here. This is an expansion that will never go out of style.

Luxury Bathroom Bathtub

5. Luxury Bathroom Tub

If you’re remodeling your bathroom to the best, you must include a soaker tub. Not only do they look beautiful, they are the remedy to a long and busy day, providing a place to unwind and relax. Soaker tubs come in many varieties from freestanding to drop in, so it’s easy to match with the look you want. The good news is that if you’d love a soaker tub, but not sure you have the space available, there are small bathroom tub options to choose from.

Luxury Bathroom Lighting

6. Luxury Bathroom Lighting

The function of your bathroom can largely be enhanced by the lighting of your bathroom. One of the first ways you should upgrade your bathroom lighting is by adding a dimmer switch. This allows you to control how much light you’d like in the room. Keep it bright in the morning as you’re getting ready for the day and turn it down low at night to relax. Dimmer switches can be added to any bathroom, regardless of size.

If you’re looking to really make a statement of extravagance in the bathroom, a chandelier will give the look you desire. Bathroom chandeliers come in various options; some are ceiling-mounted and some can be mounted on the wall above your vanity. Whatever you choose, you’re bound to get the look of luxury.

Luxury Bathroom Rug

7. Luxury Bathroom Rugs

Don’t forget about your feet when you’re upgrading your bathroom. Regardless of size, you can add a few plush rugs to the room to warm it up. Consider memory foam options that make it feel like you’re walking on a cloud! Keep in mind, you’ll want something that’s mildew-resistant, as there tends to be a lot of moisture in the bathroom.

Luxury Bathroom Accessories

8. Luxury Bathroom Accessories

When you’re remodeling for luxury, don’t forget to include accessories that can improve the way you use the space. Adding a towel warmer to your bathroom can ensure you have a cozy way to dry off every time you step out of the shower.

Don’t forget the smaller items like wastebasket, toothbrush holder and soap dispenser. Look for trendy options that will last to give your bathroom the elegance it needs.

Luxury Bathroom Shower

9. Luxury Bathroom Technology

The latest advances in technology are now available to integrate into your bathroom. Consider upgrading your shower to include digital shower control. You can easily set your desired temperature every time, without worrying about an unexpected splash of cold water.

If your shower is where you sing your best, you may want to consider adding a way to stream your favorite music. Kohler’s Moxie Shower Head includes a speaker so you never have to worry about damaging your sound system.

Finally, consider technology upgrades in the bathroom that allow you to conserve water and energy. Eco-friendly sensor faucets allow family members to only use the water they need with motion-detecting technology.

Luxury Bathroom Fireplace

10. Luxury Bathroom Fireplace

One of the most relaxing bathroom amenities you could add is a fireplace. Not only does it exude elegance, it can enhance your bathroom experience with the ambiance it provides. For the bathroom, an electric fireplace is the way to go.


You can create the bathroom you’ve always wanted. While you may not be able to include all these dreamy amenities to your bathroom, you can still draw inspiration from these ideas to upgrade your bathroom. It’s time to fall in love with your bathroom again!

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

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

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