What to Know About Water Shutoff Valves

What to Know About Water Shutoff ValvesEvery home has them, but most people don’t pay attention to them except in an emergency. The simple water shutoff valve is a vital component of any plumbing system. This guide will explain the pros and cons common water shutoff valve types.

Washer Valve

A washer valve has a rubber gasket inside that gets pressed down when the handle is turned, blocking water.

Pros: Washer valves are inexpensive and easy to replace.
Cons: The rubber wears out quicker than materials used in other valves.

Ball Valve

A ball valve has a quarter-turn handle attached to a steel ball inside the valve. A hole has been drilled through the middle of the valve. When the handle is turned off, the ball is rotated so that the solid part of the ball blocks water flow. When the handle is turned on, the ball rotates so that water flows through the hole.

Pros: The steel construction of the ball makes it very sturdy. The design makes it the most trustworthy for completely blocking water flow.
Cons: Ball valves are somewhat expensive. Because the handle only turns a quarter turn from off to on, ball valves don’t work in extremely tight spaces.

Gate Valve

A gate valve has a piece of metal inside that is lowered like a gate when the handle is turned to the “off” position. When lowered, the gate sits in a groove at the bottom. When the gate fits firmly in the groove, water flow is stopped effectively. However, if the gate is only partially lowered, the bottom of the metal piece is subjected to the flow of water. This will wear away some of the metal to the point where eventually it won’t fit perfectly in the groove.

Pros: As long as the gate valve is in good condition, it works very well.
Cons: The valve will leak if the bottom of the gate has worn away.

To get more information about water shutoff valves or for any plumbing questions in Grand Traverse County, contact Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about water shutoff valves and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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Water Filtration Systems: Here is What You Need to Know

Water Filtration Systems: Here is What You Need to KnowPoor water quality can cause a host of problems, including an unpleasant odor and taste, mineral scale buildup, excessive sediment accumulations, or bacterial or viral contamination. Whole-home water filtration systems can address these types of issues using three methods: a filter medium, UV light or a chemical process.

Advantages of Installing a Whole-Home Water Filtration System

With a whole-home filtration system, you’ll benefit from an improvement in water quality at every fixture, faucet and water-using appliance. That’s because the system is installed right where the water supply enters your home, so it’s treated before it’s distributed. There are systems available to solve specific water quality issues, so you’ll want to have your water tested as a first step. Then, talk about the available options with a licensed plumber, who may advise installing:

  • A water softener that uses ion exchange to reduce hardness.
  • A system that uses reverse osmosis to clear out sediment.
  • A UV-light to zap bacteria, viruses and other biological contaminants.
  • An oxidizing or activated-carbon filter system to improve taste and eliminate odors.

If your water test results reveal multiple issues, your plumber may recommend a multi-stage system that uses a combination of the above methods. With the correct system in place, you’ll enjoy other benefits too, such as:

  • Better tasting, healthier water. If your filtration system removes chlorine and other chemicals, you’ll have better tasting water that doesn’t smell bad. A UV-light system that kills harmful biological contaminants can give you safer water for drinking and showering.
  • Less wear on your plumbing system and appliances. A system that gets rid of minerals that form scale in appliances like your washing machine, water heater and dishwasher can help they last longer, and protect your plumbing system against premature deterioration too.
  • Safe, clean water when municipal supply problems occur. When you have a whole-home water filtration system, you won’t have to worry in the event of a broken water main or contamination in the municipal supply.

To learn more about having a water filtration system installed in your Grand Traverse County home, contact us at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about water filtration systems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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How to Deal With Common A/C Condensate Drain Issues

How to Deal With Common A/C Condensate Drain IssuesThe condensate drain system is a vital component of your central air conditioner, but you may not give it a second thought until it malfunctions and you see tangible signs that a problem is brewing, such as noxious odors, air quality issues or costly water damage. Here’s how you can deal with some of the most common causes of a malfunctioning A/C drain so you can avoid all these headaches and any unnecessary expense.

Drain Trap Gone Dry

Condensate drains that run into the main sewer line have a trap just like your kitchen sink. With regular use of the A/C, enough water stays in the trap to form a seal that blocks smelly sewer gas backups. If a foul odor is circulated whenever the blower cycles on, have the condensate drain system checked by an HVAC technician to see whether the line is improperly installed.

Dirt Buildup on the Evaporator Coil

If dirt and dust particles enter the air handler, they can collect on the evaporator and get carried along into the drain system as liquid condensate drips off the coil. If the situation isn’t addressed, the debris particles can eventually clog the line and cause a condensate overflow that results in water damage to your home. To prevent this, make sure that the coil gets cleaned during your annual system tuneup, and replace your air filter on a monthly basis during cooling season.

Algae or Mold Growth

The air conditioner’s drain system offers mold and algae all the warmth, moisture and food sources they need to thrive. Either one can quickly become severe enough to block the drain line and cause a condensate backup that floods your home. Mold can also invade the ducting and degrade your air quality, or form a blockage in the evaporator coil that restricts airflow and eventually causes a premature component failure. To keep mold and algae in check, clean the collector pan and flush the drain line periodically.

If you’re experiencing condensate drain issues in your Grand Traverse County home and need expert help, contact us at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about condensate drains and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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Your Attic: Does it Waste Money and Energy?

Your Attic: Does it Waste Money and Energy?A home’s attic space is more prone to heat loss in winter and heat gain in warmer months than any other area of the home. The good news is that much of this can be prevented by ensuring this space is insulated and air-sealed. Here is more about preventing energy loss through the attic.

Air Leaks

Inadequate insulation increases home energy bills, but so do air leaks in the attic. It is most practical to seal air leaks before adding new insulation. Insulation alone is not sufficient for preventing energy loss from air infiltration. Waiting to check for air leaks until after adding insulation means backtracking and extra work.

Common places you’ll discover these leaks are around flues, exhaust fans, electric boxes, recessed lights and plumbing pipes. Sealing materials include flashing, expandable foam and special fire-safe caulk for flues or other hot fixtures.

Poor Insulation

One of the most important insulation terms you should know is R-value. This rating indicates the efficiency of insulation at resisting heat transfer per inch.

In our area of Michigan, the attic recommendation is a minimum of R-49 up to R-60. That means if you use a type of insulation with an R-value of three, insulation should be around 20 inches deep.

Chances are high your insulation is inadequate due to at least one of the following reasons:

  • Low R-value – The original builders or homeowners might have insulated the attic with the minimum amount or even less.
  • Uneven Thickness – Insulation needs to be installed at the right uniform depth. Poor installation or architectural features can sometimes lead to uneven areas of insulation.
  • Damage – Rodents trample it, nest in it and displace it, and high humidity or roof leaks can cause insulation to become soggy.

Solving an attic’s energy loss issues is easiest if you leave it to a professional contractor. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure to wear protective gear and watch your footing to avoid stepping through the ceiling.

For more about saving energy, please contact our experts at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about attics and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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Benefits of Two-Stage Cooling

Benefits of Two-Stage CoolingWhen you’re selecting a new cooling system for your home, you may run across a system that offers two-stage cooling. This feature is one of the best options for this climate because it will cut your energy bills, increase indoor comfort and last longer.

The difference between a system that has two- or dual-stage cooling lies in its compressor, the part that alters the refrigerant pressure to make cooling possible. Instead of running on one speed only, which is high, the compressor runs at a lower speed when conditions don’t require extreme cooling.

Most of the time, your home needs air that’s a few degrees cooler. By running at a slower speed, the system delivers comfortable air that doesn’t have that cold blast coming from the registers. It will run for a longer period that offers additional benefits like:

  • Better humidity removal. Air conditioning systems condense water vapor from the air that helps you feel cooler and creates a healthier environment for both you and your home. When the equipment runs longer, it has a chance to remove more humidity. Excessive humidity makes you feel warmer and creates an environment where mold grows faster and dust mites proliferate, both of which make allergies and asthma worse.
  • More thorough air distribution. A two-stage cooling system that runs longer will have more time to circulate the air through the ducts more evenly. Rooms that are further from the blower compartment will be cooler.
  • Better air quality. A longer running time ensures that more air goes through the air filter that traps dust, pet dander, pollen, and other offending airborne particles.
  • Increased durability. Two-stage compressors don’t work as hard as single-stage units. The system will have fewer starts and stops that reduces stress on this expensive part. Fewer starts also lower energy consumption.

A two-stage cooling system offers solid benefits for climates where humidity can be as much an issue in the summer as warm temperatures. To learn more, contact Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing, providing outstanding HVAC services for homeowners in Grand Traverse County and the surrounding areas.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about two-stage cooling and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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Tips for Plumbing Emergencies

Tips for Plumbing EmergenciesFew problems around the house can get your attention faster than a plumbing emergency. Water spewing from pipes or stopped-up drains can cause serious damage to your home. While some plumbing problems are avoidable by keeping drains clear and fixing leaks, sometimes the worst happens.

Prepare ahead of time by:

  • Putting together a tool kit for plumbing emergencies. It should include an assortment of adjustable pliers and a pipe wrench, Teflon tape, spray-on pipe sealant, a flashlight and Allen wrenches. Keep them in plain view in a 5-gallon plastic bucket.
  • Keeping a plunger under the kitchen sink to clear slow-draining sinks, and a clearly-marked separate one in the bathroom for a clogged toilet.
  • Teaching everyone how and where to shut the incoming water supply to your home off. Water can cause untold damage to your home’s walls, ceilings and floors if it’s not turned off quickly.
  • Having a supply of old towels or absorbent blankets to wipe up big spills quickly. A wet and dry vacuum is an indispensable tool to have in a plumbing emergency.
  • Learning where the isolation valves are for each of your sinks and plumbing fixtures. They’re located on the water hoses that go to the toilets, sinks, tubs and showers, as well as the dishwasher and washing machine. They should open and close easily, but it’s not uncommon for them to be somewhat stiff since their faucets or shut-off levers are seldom used.
  • Identifying the circuit breaker or gas shut-off valve for a water heater.

Although it’s hard to second-guess what’s happening inside the pipes, pay attention to the early signs of sewer problems like bubbling or gurgling sounds coming from plumbing fixtures. Rusty water coming from hot water faucets could be the first sign of impending water heater failure.

Being prepared for a plumbing emergency might help you avoid the serious consequences that unchecked water problems can do to your home. For more information, contact Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing, providing top-notch services for homeowners in Grand Traverse County and the surrounding areas.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about plumbing emergencies and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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What Do Air Conditioner Ratings Mean?

What Do Air Conditioner Ratings Mean?Knowing something about air conditioner ratings helps remove the element of surprise from a new A/C purchase. Obviously, there are two costs involved in any new air conditioner: the upfront sticker price and the long-term cost of operating the unit. A buying decision should be based on more than just the immediate purchase price and should also take into account non-financial factors that affect the unit’s performance including noise levels. Here’s how air conditioner ratings can help you make an informed buying decision and avoid the unexpected.

SEER Basics

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and it’s the primary air conditioner rating utilized to express the energy efficiency of a central A/C. You’ll find the unit’s SEER rating printed conspicuously on the Department of Energy’s bright yellow EnergyGuide sticker that accompanies every new air conditioner. It’s also included in the manufacturer’s printed product information.

SEER is a numeral that expresses the ratio between the amount of heat removed from your house in BTUs versus the amount of electricity consumed in kilowatt hours. Today, SEER ratings begin at the federal minimum of 13 here in northern regions and rise as high as the mid-20s. The higher the SEER numeral is, the more efficient the air conditioner and the lower your long-term operating costs will be.

Beyond SEER

Generally speaking, a higher SEER rating also comes with a steeper sticker price, too, so it’s important to strike the best balance between a favorable SEER rating and an upfront purchase cost that is affordable now. Also remember that long-term cooling costs depend on other factors beyond SEER, such as the amount of insulation in the house and how well the structure is sealed to prevent heat gain.

Noise Ratings

You (and your neighbors) will be more happy with a central A/C that’s quiet and polite. Air conditioner sound ratings include decibels (db) and SRN. An A/C with a db rating between 70 and 88 or an SRN averaging between 75 and 80 is considered appropriate for residential installations.

For more advice on air conditioner ratings, contact Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air conditioner ratings and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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HVAC Tips for Back-to-School

HVAC Tips for Back-to-SchoolWhether you’re getting the kids ready for back to school or just glad they’re finally getting off your lawn, the beginning of fall signals a time of change. In the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to forget some of the maintenance jobs that can get your HVAC system ready for the new season.

Here’s a checklist to get you started on your fall HVAC maintenance:

  1. Clean around your outside HVAC unit. Over the summer, grass and other plants can grow up around your unit. Grass clippings can build up around it when you mow, and falling leaves add to the pile. None of these blockages are good for your unit. They block the flow of air, reducing energy efficiency and increasing wear and tear. Cut back plants and rake away any debris that has built up to leave a clear space around your unit. Remember to check back regularly to remove additional leaves that have fallen.
  2. Change or clean your air filters. Most air filters only last one to three months before needing to be replaced or cleaned if they’re reusable. Clean filters do a better job of catching particles in the air that can cause wear and tear on your HVAC system. They also improve your home’s indoor air quality, allowing your family to breathe easier.
  3. Schedule an HVAC fall maintenance appointment. As you’re shifting from air conditioning to heating, it’s important to make sure your system is ready for the job ahead. An HVAC technician will start your system to make sure functions right and check the thermostat readings to be sure they’re accurate. Electrical connections will be inspected and tightened. If you have gas or oil heating, the appropriate connections will be inspected. The heat exchanger will be checked over for cracks or signs of other problems. Any issues that come up can be dealt with before cold weather makes the situation urgent.

If you’d like to know more about preparing your HVAC system for fall, or you have any other HVAC concerns in the Grand Traverse County area, contact Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about HVAC tips and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

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Here’s How You Can Troubleshoot Your Air Conditioner

Here's How You Can Troubleshoot Your Air ConditionerYour air conditioner sure works up a sweat to keep your Traverse City home cool. Scheduled preventive maintenance helps ensure it does its job efficiently without any problems. Though, there are so many parts and functions your A/C system performs that, sooner or later, issues are bound to occur. Use these troubleshooting tips if your A/C system is acting up.

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Do You Know the Different Types of Plumbing Pipes?

Do You Know the Different Types of Plumbing Pipes?If you plan on attempting a do-it-yourself plumbing project, it’s helpful to know the different types of pipes you’re going to encounter. This will help you perform the right repair technique and tools to use. If you are a new homeowner, these tips and information may also be helpful through the years.

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