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Heat Waves: A Hot Reason To Fix Your Air Conditioning Unit

If you live in an area that does not see a lot of squelching temperatures, you might not place a priority on fixing or replacing your damaged air conditioning unit. Unfortunately, when an unexpected heat wave strikes, people without air conditioning units face a higher risk of dying a heat-related death. Here are the basics of heat stress, heat waves, and modern-day examples proving the importance of a working air conditioning unit.

What is Heat Stress?

Heat stress” comes in many forms, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, cramping, rashes, and dizziness. Certain people are more susceptible to heat stress, like those over 65, people with heart conditions, and people who are overweight or obese. About 400 people die each and every year from heat stress.

What is a Heat Wave?

When a heat wave strikes, the average number of heat-related deaths increases. A “heat wave” occurs when temperatures in a certain region experience unusual and excessive heat, coupled with high humidity. Some experts believe that heat waves are occurring more and more frequently.

Heat Waves in the Modern Time

When you think of a heat wave, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s is probably the first thing that comes to mind. It is perhaps the most famous American heat wave, but hardly the only one. Two of the most devastating heat waves of the modern time occurred in 1988 and 1995. In both of these heat waves, people who were both more susceptible to heat stress and without air conditioning faced a higher mortality rate.

The Northeast Heat Wave of 1988

One of the most horrendous heat waves of the 20th century occurred in 1988. Drought conditions affected 40 states and heat levels were higher than normal throughout the country, but for those in the northeastern states, the heat was particularly dangerous.

In Massachusetts, temperatures averaged in the high 90s and broke 100 degrees on several occasions. In Pennsylvania, 694 people in Allegheny County alone died from heat-related causes. In Ohio, the elderly residents suffered the most, especially those without air conditioning.

Incredibly large number of heat-related fatalities occurred in these northern states, especially in urban areas. Those without air conditioning units–mostly elderly low-income residents–suffered the most.

The Chicago Heat Wave of 1995

In July, 1995, one of the worst heat waves to hit North America hit the Windy City. Temperatures reached 106 degrees, but because of the humidity, it felt closer to 120 degrees. Thousands of people suffered from heat-related illnesses, and nearly 740 of Chicago’s residents died.

In 1995, about one in four Chicago residents did not have air conditioning units. Chicago’s economically diverse population is one contributor to this statistic; even though some of the wealthiest Americans call Chicago home, a large number of impoverished people do as well. Chicago seldom sees such high temperatures; the city’s average high temperature for the month of July is only 84 degrees. Thus, many residents do not feel the need for air conditioning.

What Next?

Heat waves kill more people each year than any other weather phenomenon. They are hard for scientists to predict, so when heat waves strike, people have little time to prepare. Heat waves are also occurring more frequently than ever before.

If your air conditioning unit is not working, you should have it fixed as soon as possible. If an unexpected heat wave hits your area, you will probably not have time to schedule a repair, and replacements will be scarce. By preemptively fixing your air conditioner, you will be safe when extreme temperatures hit.

To learn more, contact a company like One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating (West Pasco) with any questions you have/

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Extending The Life Of Your Water Heater

Your water heater is an expensive appliance that you’ll miss if it’s not working well. Houselogic says you can expect to get from 10 to 13 years out of it, but that depends on the water conditions in your area. You can extend the life of your water heater with some simple maintenance every year. Learn how to flush out your water heater and  get a few more years of hot showers before you have to replace it.

The Sediment Problem

Water contains dissolved minerals that settle out into layers in the water holding tank. The sediment can look like sand or hard concrete, depending on the mineral composition. It may take several years to feel the effects of sediment deposits in your water heater. If you live in an area with hard water, it can happen much sooner.

The sediment reduces the efficiency of your water heater. Your water won’t feel as hot or it may take a long time for the water to get hot again once it’s been depleted. The worst damage is that the sediment can cause the steel water heater tank to rust, develop leaks or even rupture.

Flushing the sediment out of the water tank will extend its life. This is something you can do at home but it’s also a good idea to have a plumbing service come out periodically to drain and inspect the tank for damage. Don’t wait until you feel a difference in your hot water. Make this maintenance activity an annual event to get the most from your water heater.

Water Heater Flushing Procedure

The only tools you’ll need for this job are a garden hose, a bucket and a pile of rags to mop up any water.

1. If you have an electric water heater, turn the power off to it in the breaker box. For a gas unit, set the thermostat to “Pilot.”

2. Connect a garden hose to the drain located on the side of the unit, near the bottom. Run the hose outside or to a 5-gallon bucket. Don’t drain the tank into a household drain. The sediment could create a clog.

3. Turn off the cold-water supply to the water heater located on the top of the unit.

4. In a bathtub or sink, turn on the hot-water faucet and let it run. Return to the water heater and open the drain valve to drain the water out of the tank. Check that the hose is draining where hot water won’t cause a problem, such as a driveway or into a storm drain. If using a bucket, watch that it doesn’t overflow.

5. Once the water stops coming out of the hose, turn the cold-water supply to the water heater back on. This will flush any remaining sediment out of the tank.

6. When the water coming out of the hose is clear, close the drain valve on the water heater. Then turn off the hot-water faucet you turned on earlier in the tub or sink. Leave the cold-water supply to the tank on.

7. Allow the tank to fill back up with cold water for a few minutes then turn the electricity back on or the gas thermostat to “On.”

This simple procedure reduces the chance that the steel holding tank will rust through. If you have any reservations about doing this yourself, have a plumbing services company (such as Lenny’s Plumbing) flush the water heater every year for you. They will also check the thermostat, heating elements and pressure relief valve to make sure they are working properly.

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What Is The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Prevent A Brick Chimney Repair?

If you have a brick chimney and use wood in it, even occasionally, you are at risk of a Creosote buildup. Creosote is the natural result of burning wood and can appear in a number of different forms. Unfortunately, if it is left untouched in the chimney, there is a very real possibility of expensive brick repairs or even an uncontrolled chimney fire.

What Is Creosote?

When wood burns, it releases different substances. Some are obvious to the naked eye, such as smoke or wood particles that did not burn.

Other, less obvious substances, include:

  • Smoke
  • Tar fog
  • Hydrocarbon
  • Water vapor 
  • Gases  

After burning, those substances will fly into the chimney, causing condensation,. The build-up that attaches to the inside of the chimney is called Creosote, which can be a dangerous substance. If it is not removed and the entire area is not cleaned of its traces, an accidental fire could easily result.

A licensed chimney sweep will be able to determine the presence of Creosote and remove it, before it causes a fire. If you are unsure whether or not it is there, look for an unknown substance that is dark in color. It may be crusty, thick, drippy or shiny or a combination and It is not unusual to see different examples of Creosote within the same chimney.   

What Will Creosote Do If Left Untended?

It is first important to understand that Creosote is very flammable. If the temperature within the chimney flue is hot enough at the same time that Creosote is present, a chimney fire will often occur. In addition, if there is not enough air movement within the chimney, there is a larger chance of Creosote developing.

When you are trying to delay the development of Creosote, the use of unseasoned wood will be helpful. It is important to note that a brick chimney repair of any type should have at least a basic examination of the chimney walls and that  cleaning should include checking for the presence of Creosote. 

In conclusion, chimney fires are responsible for injuries to both people and homes every year. Much of that damage could be prevented, through an annual chimney cleaning prior to the first use of the fireplace. Therefore, it is essential to not only plan ahead, but to regularly examine your wood-burning fireplace and make sure that it continues to be safe to use throughout the winter, particularly if you use it frequently. Talk to places like AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing for more information.

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Tips To Get Your Air Conditioner Ready For Summer

Spring is fast approaching, and so is the warmer weather! Now is the time to get a jump start on your air conditioner maintenance so that your unit will be ready to run when the first hot days of the year arrive. Heading off problems now will help to ensure that your air conditioner will be in good working condition by the time summer is here.

Change the Air Filter

Your HVAC system has an air filter that cleans the air for the furnace and the air conditioner unit. This air filter prevents the HVAC system from clogging with contaminants and dust, helping to ensure that the system runs efficiently. Changing the air filter on a regular basis can prevent the system from circulating dust through the home and may also help homeowners avoid the need for expensive air conditioning repair. The EPA’s Energy Star program recommends changing your air filter every 3 months at minimum. This means that if you changed your air filter at the beginning of the winter, it will be time to change it again when winter is over and spring begins. 

Get a Tune Up

Schedule a tuneup with your HVAC repair person in the late winter or early spring. By the time mid-spring arrives, many air conditioner repair people are busy installing new systems and repairing broken units. The best time to schedule your annual tuneup is at a time when the repair people are least busy.

When your air conditioner repair person comes to your home, he or she will inspect the condenser, mechanical parts and wiring, test the thermostat, inspect your ducts for leaks and lubricate any moving parts. He or she will be able to tell you if your air conditioner is unfit for use and what repairs need to be made before  summer.

Clean the Condenser

Clear the area around the condenser of weeds and leaves to ensure adequate air flow to the unit. Cut the power to the condenser, then spray it with a forceful stream of water from your hose. Use a fin comb, available for sale in home improvement centers and hardware stores, to remove leaves and other debris from the fins on the exterior of the condenser.

Homeowners who fail to perform these annual maintenance tasks may find themselves seeking air conditioning repair at the height of the summer, when HVAC repair people are busy and prices are high. Get started on your air conditioner maintenance today (with a company like Bob Bergen Heating & Air Conditioning) to ensure that you’re ready for the warmer weather later on this year.

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3 Plumbing Issues That Will Require Immediate Attention

If you are a homeowner, you will most likely encounter a fair share of plumbing problems over the years. While some issues are a quick fix you can do on your own, others will require the help of a professional plumber. If you ignore these 3 plumbing issues, they could become much larger problems down the road.

Leaky Pipes

One of the most common problems you will experience is a leaky pipe. While most leaky pipes are visible underneath sinks and near faucets, sometimes a pipe can leak behind a wall where you cannot easily get to it. If you suddenly notice a drop in water pressure at one of your faucets, your leak could be behind a wall, which will require the help of a plumber. Not only will a leak have an impact on your water pressure, but it could also cause mold growth behind the walls, leading to an even bigger problem if not fixed immediately.

Broken Fixtures

Not only is a broken handle on a sink frustrating to use, but it can cost you money if it is leaking water that goes directly down the drain. To prevent throwing money away with a higher water bill, fix those leaky faucets immediately. Sink faucets are easy enough for most homeowners to replace on their own. All it usually takes are some wrenches, as the new handle will come with all the parts you need. Faucets on fixtures outside your home for garden hoses might be harder to fix, as a new piece of pipe may need to be replaced and welded. Those situations might require the help of a professional plumber if it is outside your skill level

Clogged Drains

If the water in your bathtub is filling faster than it can drain, you most likely have a clog deep within your pipes. A common mistake that homeowners make is using liquid drain cleaning products that are more likely to cause damage to your pipes than fight the clog. Plungers can also cause clogs to go deeper into the pipe instead of clearing it completely. When that happens, it can be tough to remove it without professional equipment. A professional plumber will have access to a sewer snake, which can cut through hair clogs. The long cable will maneuver its way through the tube, and the sharp blade will cut through everything in its path, causing the water to drain quickly.

Now that you are aware of 3 plumbing issues, you will know to fix them quickly and correctly before they cause more damage to your home’s plumbing.

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Oh Dear! How To Keep Pesky Critters Out Of Your Garden

Gardening is becoming more popular.  In fact, over the last five years, the amount of U.S. households that garden has jumped 17 percent.  If you’re one of the 42 million Americans who have put on some gardening gloves this year, it’s likely you want your crops to thrive.  Keeping pesky animals out is one way to help your garden grow.  Here are a few tips to keep your garden critter-free.

Make it Less Inviting

Critters love a good, comfortable hiding place.  For this reason, you should remove tall grasses and brush piles that are in or close to your garden.  Furthermore, if you have a compost pile, make sure to cover it to discourage raccoons from foraging.

Some scents are not appealing to certain animals.  For instance, deer dislike the smell of garlic and the taste of cayenne pepper.  Thus, to discourage deer from coming into your garden you can make the following recipe:  

  • Stir two tablespoons of garlic powder, two beaten eggs, and two tablespoons of cayenne pepper into hot water.
  • Next, allow it to rest for a few days.  
  • Finally, put it into a spray bottle and mist away.  It’s safe for your plants.

Make it Vibrate

Although moles aren’t a fan of veggies, the tunnels and burrows these furry critters make can certainly wreak havoc on your garden.  If you don’t want moles popping up between your carrots, you may want to purchase a mole vibration repellent.  For the best results, follow these tips:

  • Place a vibrating repellent stick in the ground next to every opening except one.  Then, turn the devices on.  It’s likely the mole will try to escape out of the unprotected tunnel opening.
  • Turn the devices on and off at irregular intervals so the moles won’t get used to the sound, and then become immune to it.  

Make it Impenetrable

A good fence is one of the best deterrents.  A residential fencing company like Town & Country Fence can come out and install a sturdy fence around the perimeter of your yard.  Enclosures can be made from a wide variety of materials including iron, chain link, vinyl, wood, and aluminium.  Since some animals climb, a regular fence might not be enough.  Some people invest money in an electric fence to keep animals out.  If an electric option isn’t for you, you can try one of these choices for various critters.

  • For deer: Erect a fence from 8 to 10 feet tall and slant it at a 45-degree angle in the direction deer will approach.  The angle will deter the animals from jumping.
  • For rabbits: Install a chicken wire fence that is two-feet high.  To discourage digging, you can curve the bottom, and then bury it a few inches deep.
  • For raccoons and opossums: To prevent these animals from climbing, leave the top 18 inches of your fence unattached.  When the creatures try to climb up, the fence won’t support them, and they will fall back down.  

Critters are great to see at the zoo, but not in your garden.  Try these techniques for keeping your garden critter-free and flourishing.

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How To Replace Your Windows With Windows That Are Better For The Environment

Windows are a major source for energy to enter and leave your house, so replacing your current windows with something more energy efficient is one of the best ways to help save the environment and reduce your energy bill at the same time.  Windows are also going to be a major source of pollution on the production side of things. With that in mind, here are a few windows you can use as a replacement for the standard type that will be more efficient and better for the environment in every way.

Vinyl Windows

Vinyl Windows are better for the environment for a variety of reasons. For example, according to Energy Star, the production of vinyl window frames requires three times less energy than what it costs to create windows made of other materials like aluminum.

In addition, vinyl windows can last for a long time, up to several decades, whereas other materials made of cheaper metals could break down in just a handful of years.  Vinyl windows also have the advantage of not producing toxins that pollute the environment the way many windows that use metal frames do.

In addition, vinyl windows come mostly from the benign material salt. Production from vinyl only contributes 0.3 percent of the annual use of oil and gas.

It’s also easy to recycle vinyl, unlike with many other types of windows where the effort to recycle them is much more difficult. Many vinyl window companies even offer long warranties, including some lifetime warranties.

The fact that vinyl is a low conductor of heat also means that you’ll need to spend less heating your home since more heat will be retained.

Double Glazing

Double glazing technology helps to cut back on the amount of energy that passes between your home and the outside world. By having two panes of double-sided material made of glass, you can trap a pocket of a gas like argon in between that makes it difficult for heat to escape.

This is because argon is an inert gas that doesn’t interact as well with heat like other gasses. The trick is to make sure that the window is sealed enough so that none of the gas escapes. This technology can help reduce the amount of ultraviolet radiation that enters from the outside by up to 98% when paired with other technology like low energy coatings.

Windows can contribute up to 50% of the cooling or heating of a house, so using greener windows will reduce your indirect contribution to pollution through energy use by a considerable amount. 

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