Category : solutions

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Hiring a Commercial Plumbing Company

Commercial HVAC Repairs

Choose a plumbing company can be tough – and it can be even tougher when you’re choosing one for your business. Before you call the first company you come across online, consider comparing several local companies before you make your decision. And don’t make these common mistakes:

Rely only on the service cost

People say you get what you pay for, right? It’s no different in the commercial plumbing service world. If you’re looking for a plumbing company that’s simply the cheapest cost, you’ll likely get the cheapest work. Do your research and get a few different quotes from different (reputable) companies before you decide which one to hire.

Choose a company that’s new

New isn’t always better – especially when it comes to contractors. If you want a commercial plumbing company that knows what they’re doing and will get the job done right, turn to a company that’s been in business several years. Their technicians will have more experience and you’ll likely have your problem fixed better and faster than a company with less experience.

Assume all plumbers are the same

Before you choose a company, make sure they have the proper licenses, certifications, and insurance to practice commercial plumbing. Not every company does, and if you choose one without the proper credibility, you risk getting sub-par work, future problems, and extra costs.

Hire someone that doesn’t guarantee their work

If a plumbing service contractor isn’t willing to guarantee the work that they do, you probably want to shy away from them. This means they’re not confident in the abilities of their technicians to give you the right kind of service.

Get roped in by bells and whistles

Some commercial plumbing companies boast about having the latest tools or a certain kind of technology that sounds interesting, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best choice. If you talk to a company that tries to rope you in with bells and whistles, be wary. Some of the best plumbing companies use tried and true methods.


10 PVC Pipe Gift Ideas for Mother’s Day

Every year, stores, television commercials, and internet ads are filled with Mother’s Day gift ideas like chocolates, flowers, and candles (not to mention the push to make your brunch reservations). But this Mother’s Day, our heating and cooling service company suggests taking a break from the norm and treating mom to something homemade. We’ve found some great PVC pipe crafts that are not only affordable, but easy to make!

Kitchen Organizer

Every mom loves an organized kitchen, right? With this tutorial by Ashbee Design, you can create a wall- or cabinet-mountable organizer for mom’s pots, pans, spoons, measuring tools, and more. All you need is PVC piping in several diameters and foam-backed mounting tape. You can even get creative and paint the pipes different colors!

Double Laundry Bin

Double laundry bins come in handy for separating large loads of lights and darks, but many times, they’re pretty pricey. Make mom her very own double laundry bin that’s customized to her favorite color or pattern. Better Homes and Gardens shows you how to do it using PVC piping, spray paint, and fabric.

Custom Lamp

Lamps can add a nice warm ambiance to any room, and PVC lamps are super-easy to make. Simply choose your desired PVC size and use a drill bit or small saw to carve a design into it. You can make it as classic or modern as you’d like. Then, fit a lightbulb into a cut (and empty) paper towel tube and slide the pipe over top. If your “lampshade” is larger than a paper towel tube, glue pieces of another tube on either side to make it fit snugly inside.

Bubble Wreath

Wreaths are great to hang on your front door year round, and what’s better than a wreath that’s great looking and durable? To make a wreath for mom, grab some PVC pipes in various sizes and cut them into 3-inch pieces. Then, use a hot glue gun to glue together into a “bubble” wreath. The best part is you can paint the pipes any color you want and even fill them with decorative bulbs for extra flair.

Wine Rack

PVC pipes come in a wide variety of diameters, which means you can easily find one that will fit a wine bottle. Follow these simple instructions by Daily Savings and you can make mom her very own stylish wine rack that can hold as many bottles as you’d like. Bonus: Use this same technique (but bigger pipes) to make her an organizing shoe rack.

Hair Styling Tool Holder

This awesome Mother’s Day gift is perhaps the easiest craft on our list. All you need is a Y-shaped (or double Y-shaped) PVC pipe piece that’s big enough to hold mom’s hair dryer, curling iron, straightener, or any other hair styling tools she has. To make it even more unique, coat the piece with some pretty paint before giving it to her.

Floating Planter

If your mom loves plants, why not make her a beautiful windowsill floating planter? This craft takes a little more time, but it’s something we know she’ll love. Grab a large PVC pipe, some rocks and soil, and a few of mom’s favorites plants or herbs and follow these instructions from A Beautiful Mess.

Jewelry Holder

Does mom wear a lot of bracelets and necklaces? Give her a great place to store it all with a DIY jewelry holder. We found a great video tutorial for making one (though the girl in the video uses paper towel tubes – we think PVC pipes would be better).

Sewing Organizer

Sewing accessories are small, and between bobbins, needles, spools of thread, and buttons, they can get easily lost or misplaced. Use several different sizes of PVC pipe and cut them into 2-inch or 3-inch pieces. Glue the pieces together and coat them with a crafty shade of paint and mom will have the perfect place to store her accessories.

Birdhouse

Birdhouses always make great gifts – especially ones that are resistant to outdoor elements. With some PVC piping, a saw, and a piece of wood you can make this adorable birdhouse that mom can put anywhere in her yard. Like many of our other crafts, you can make it unique by painting it to match her garden or make it her favorite color.

*Photo courtesy of dailysavings.allyou.com


The Future of Water Heaters Looks Pretty Interesting…

hot water heater

At Oliver, we’re always interested in new plumbing developments – especially if they’re beneficial to homeowners. Recently, we came across an article in the Washington Post about the future of water heaters. Chris Mooney explains the potential future relationship between water heaters and the power grid:

Grid Interaction

“New research suggests that in the future, one of the most lowly, boring, and ubiquitous of home appliances — the electric water heater — could come to perform a surprising array of new functions that help out the power grid, and potentially even save money on home electricity bills to boot.

The idea is that these water heaters in the future will increasingly ‘grid interactive,’ communicating with local utilities or other coordinating entities, and thereby providing services to the larger grid by modulating their energy use, or heating water at different times of the day. And these services may be valuable enough that their owners could even be compensated for them by their utility companies or other third-party entities.

“Electric water heaters are essentially pre-installed thermal batteries that are sitting idle in more than 50 million homes across the U.S.,” says a new report on the subject by the electricity consulting firm the Brattle Group, which was composed for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Peak Load Management Alliance.

The report finds that net savings to the electricity system as a whole could be $ 200 per year per heater – some of which may be passed on to its owner – from enabling these tanks to interact with the grid and engage in a number of unusual but hardly unprecedented feats. One example would be “thermal storage,” which involves heating water at night when electricity costs less, and thus decreasing demand on the grid during peak hours of the day.”

Deciding Factors

“Of course, precisely what a water heater can do in interaction with the grid depends on factors like its size or water capacity, the state or electricity market you live in, the technologies with which the heater is equipped, and much more.

“Customers that have electric water heaters, those existing water heaters that are already installed can be used to supply this service,” says the Brattle Group’s Ryan Hledik, the report’s lead author. “You would need some additional technology to connect it to grid, but you wouldn’t need to install a new water heater.”

Granted, Hledik says that in most cases, people probably won’t be adding technology to existing heaters, but rather swapping in so-called “grid enabled” or “smart” water heaters when they replace their old ones. In the future, their power companies might encourage or even help them to do so.”

How It Would Work

“Typically, a standard electric water heater — set to, say, 120 degrees — will heat water willy-nilly throughout the day, depending on when it is being used. When some water is used (say, for a shower), it comes out of the tank and more cold water flows in, which is then heated and maintained at the desired temperature.

In contrast, timing the heating of the water — by, say, doing all of the heating at night — could involve either having a larger tank to make sure that the hot water doesn’t run out, or heating water to considerably higher temperatures and then mixing it with cooler water when it comes out to modulate that extra heat.

Through such changes, water heaters will be able to act like a ‘battery’ in the sense that they will be storing thermal energy for longer periods of time. It isn’t possible to then send that energy back to the grid as electrical energy, or to use it to power other household devices — so the battery analogy has to be acknowledged as a limited one (though the Brattle report, entitled “The Hidden Battery,” heavily emphasizes it).

But the potentially large time-lag between the use of electricity to warm the water and use of the water itself nonetheless creates key battery-like opportunities, especially for the grid (where utility companies are very interested right now in adding more energy storage capacity).

It means, for instance, a cost saving if water is warmed late at night, when electricity tends to be the cheapest. It also means that the precise amount of electricity that the water heater draws to do its work at a given time can fluctuate, even as the heater will still get its job done.

These services are valuable, especially if many water heaters can be aggregated together to perform them. That’s because the larger electricity grid sees huge demand swings based on the time of day, along with smaller, constant fluctuations. So if heaters are using the majority of their electricity at night when most of us are asleep, or if they’re aiding in grid ‘frequency regulation’ through instantaneous fluctuations in electricity use that help the overall grid keep supply and demand in balance, then they are playing a role that can merit compensation…”

Great River Energy

“…using electric water heaters to provide some of these services has long been happening in the world of rural electric cooperatives — member-owned utilities that in many cases control the operation of members’ individual water heaters, heating water at night and then using the dollar savings to lower all members’ electricity bills.

Take, as an example, Great River Energy, a Minnesota umbrella cooperative serving some 1.7 million people through 28 smaller cooperatives. The cooperative has been using water heaters as, in effect, batteries for years, says Gary Connett, its director of demand-side management and member services.

“The way we operate these large volume water heaters, we have 70,000 of them that only charge in the nighttime hours, they are 85 to 120 gallon water heaters, they come on at 11 at night, and they are allowed to charge til 7 the next morning,” Connett explains. “And the rest of the day, the next 16 hours, they don’t come on.”

Thus, the electricity used to power the heaters is cheaper than it would be if they were charging during the day, and everybody saves money as a result, Connett says.

But that’s just the first step. Right now, Great River Energy is piloting a program in which water heaters charging at night also help provide grid frequency regulation services by slightly altering how much electricity they use. As the grid adds more and more variable resources like wind power, Connett says, using water heaters to provide a ‘ballast’ against that variability becomes more and more useful.

“These water heaters, I joke about, they’re the battery in the basement,” says Connett. “They’re kind of an unsung hero, but we’ve studied smart appliances, and I have to say, maybe the smartest appliance is this water heater.”…

A Smaller Footprint

“…in the future, it may be that our power companies try to sign us up for programs that would turn our water heaters into grid resources (and compensate us in some way for that, maybe through a rebate for buying a grid-interactive heater, or maybe by lowering our bills). Or, alternatively, in the future some people may be able to sign up with so-called demand response ‘aggregators’ that pool together many residential customers and their devices to provide services to the grid.

And as if that’s not enough, the Brattle Group report also finds that, since water heating is such a big consumer of electricity overall — 9 percent of all household use — these strategies could someday lessen overall greenhouse gas emissions. That would be especially the case if the heaters are being used to warm water during specific hours of the day when a given grid is more reliant on renewables or natural gas, rather than coal. Controlling when heaters are used could have this potential benefit, too…”


Stop That Leaky Faucet

fix leaky faucet

We know a leaky faucet can be annoying, but it can also be wasteful. In fact, if you have a faucet that drips one drip per second, you’ll waste about five gallons of water every day. You can usually fix a leaky faucet on your own (though if you don’t feel like being a handyman, you can gladly call our plumbing repair service). Just follow these steps and your faucet should be as good as new:

First of all, determine what kind of sink you have. The four most common are: compression, ball, ceramic, and cartridge. After you figure it out, turn off the water underneath your sink. Then, close the sink drain by pulling the sink stopper rod up and use a rag or towel to cover the sink so that no parts accidentally fall down the drain.

Here’s how to fix your sink based on its type:

Compression Faucet

Compression faucets come with rubber washers called “seat washers,” and if your faucet is leaking, it’s most likely because of a worn or damaged washer. To begin, remove the faucet handle and unscrew the packing nut underneath it. Then, unscrew the stem (the piece that’s attached to the packing nut) and lift off the seat washer underneath. You can find a replacement seat washer at any local home improvement store. (We also recommend replacing the O-ring that sits around the washer.) After attaching a new washer and O-ring, you can put the faucet back together.

Ball Faucet

Because of the way ball faucets are designed, they’re more complicated than other faucets and it may be tough to pinpoint where the leak is coming from. Instead of attempting the job yourself, we advise having a professional do it so that you know it’s done right. Schedule an appointment with us today and we’ll get your faucet fixed as soon as possible.

Ceramic Disc Faucet

As with compression faucets, ceramic disk faucets often leak because of a worn or damaged seal. To fix it, push back the handle to reveal the screw. Unscrew the screw and lift the handle off. After that, you can remove the escutcheon cap and unscrew the mounting screws. Pull the cylinder out of its sleeve and you should see the faucet’s seals. Replace them with new seals and then reassemble the faucet.

Cartridge Faucet

The cause of a cartridge faucet leak is usually its O-rings, so the first thing to do is remove the cap on the handle and then remove the handle screw. Pull the handle off and use pliers (if you need them) to remove the retaining clip that is attached to the cartridge. After that, pull the cartridge up and remove the spout. You should see the O-rings, which you can then cut off. Replace the O-rings and put the faucet back together.


The Growth of Renewable Energy in the U.S.

 

solar energyAs society continues to embrace renewable energy sources like solar, nuclear, wind, and hydro, the U.S. is taking advantage of these natural supplies more and more every year. Of the electricity our country currently produces, around one-third of it is created by renewable energy sources (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration).

Wind Power

While coal and natural gas are two of the largest sources of energy for the U.S., around 4% of our electricity in 2013 came from wind turbines. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the U.S. has almost 66,000 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power capacity, and many other countries have quickly followed suit: The top three being China (with over 100,000 MW of capacity) Spain, and India (each of which has over 22,000 MW).

As a country, we’ve been exceeding our own expectations of wind power production. The Department of Energy set a goal for 2018: to have 15 U.S. states with over 1,000 MW of wind power. We’ve already achieved this; by the end of 2013, there were 16 states with over 1,000 MW of wind power. Some, like Colorado, Iowa, and Texas, even have over 5,000 MW.

Solar Power

In addition to wind power, the U.S. has also taken advantage of the sun’s energy and has been increasing its use of solar power. The U.S. currently has the largest solar power plants in the world. These include the 550-MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm and the 550-MW Topaz Solar Farm (both in southern California) and the 377-MW Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Facility in the Mojave Desert.

In addition, many individual homeowners are installing solar panels on their homes to produce their own electricity and reduce their dependence on local utilities.

Nuclear and Hydro Power

In the U.S., our most popular uses of renewable energy come in the form of nuclear power and hydro power. These two sources make up 19% and 7% (respectively) of our total electricity generation.

Nuclear power has grown in popularity because it’s the only emission-free electricity source that can be widely expanded to meet the growing demand for electricity (which is predicted to rise 28% by 2040). Right now, the U.S. is home to more than 60 commercially operating nuclear power plants and has at least five more under construction with many others proposed.

Meanwhile, the use of hydro power has increased nearly 20% since 1980. Because of the impacts that dams have on wildlife and the surrounding areas, as well as their high construction costs, the EIA predicts that hydro power use will stay relatively steady. Wind power and solar power, however, will continue to grow.


5 Signs Your Commercial Heating Needs Repairs

 

HVAC service When you run a business or organization, your heating system is probably the last thing you worry about. However, there’s always the possibility that something can go wrong and that your system will be in need of a repair. Take a minute and observe. If you see or hear any of the following things, your system is probably due for a repair.

Leaking

If your business uses a boiler, it means that your heating system uses water to heat the area. You may find small spots of water every once in awhile, but if you experience leaking (which could include a wet ceiling, dripping noises, or water around your radiator or baseboard), call our heating experts right away.

Odd Noises

Commercial heating systems tend to make a lot of noise, but there are some noises that simply aren’t normal. If you hear things like grinding or “boom”ing, you could have a problem with your air handler motor bearings or a burner may be misfiring. Other noises include hissing and gurgling. If you hear any of these noises, it’s a good idea to contact us.

Low/No Heat

If the rooms in your building simply aren’t warming up like they should, your heating system could be experiencing a variety of problems, including burner issues, piping system issues, air duct issues, and more. Our experts will take a look at your system and determine what’s causing the under-par performance.

Higher Heating Bills

If the weather is colder than usual, then you can definitely expect a higher heating bill, but if the bill gives you sticker shock or it’s at a high price even when the weather is warmer, something may be wrong. It’s most likely an issue of wear and tear – as the years go by, the parts that make up a heating system slowly start to wear down and can decrease the efficiency of the system. Let us figure out what the problem is and fix it for you.

Short Cycles

While it’s normal for commercial heating systems to run more when the temperature drops, short cycles could indicate there’s an underlying issue. If you notice your system turns itself on and off over and over throughout the day, it could be overheating. When a system overheats, it activates a “shut-off” switch, and if it overheats every time it turns on, you’ll hear it turn off fairly quickly.

No matter what the problem, our commercial heating experts can fix it. Give us a call at 1-877-757-1141 and set up an appointment.


Why Your HVAC Company Should Install Your Programmable Thermostat

 

Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat - Saves energy by automatically setting temperatures back when you are away or at night.

Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat – Saves energy by automatically setting temperatures back when you are away or at night.

At Oliver, we love seeing our customers save money on their energy bills. That’s why we recommend investing in a programmable thermostat. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature of your home to be lower or higher (depending on the weather) when you’re not around so that you don’t waste energy.

Professional Recommendations

While there are several brands of programmable thermostats, our HVAC service experts usually recommend the one that complements your HVAC system. This is because many of the new thermostats available have the ability to communicate with an HVAC system of the same brand. This means that they can run auto diagnostics for our experts as well as detect which system is connected to them and set optimum controls for fan speed and temperature limits.

The DIY Approach

Many of today’s programmable thermostats are geared toward the DIY homeowner, and claim to make it easy for you to install yourself. However, if you try to install your own thermostat and end up causing damage to your HVAC system, you’ll likely void your warranty and be fully responsible for your damage. Trying to wire a thermostat without the proper knowledge can lead to hundreds (even thousands) of dollars worth of damage, and we don’t want to see that happen.

Peace of Mind

At Oliver, your peace of mind is our first priority, so why not let us handle your new thermostat installation? We’re HVAC service experts, so we’ll take the responsibility and guarantee the quality of our work and your thermostat. You won’t have to worry about defects or about voiding your warranty.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to programmable thermostats, we’re here to help. Give us a call and we’ll recommend a product that’s best for you.


The Effects of Summertime AC Demand

Every year, the scorching temperatures of summer have driven up the demand for air conditioning (and as a result, our air conditioning service). In fact, nearly half of the energy used by a U.S. household during the summer is used for cooling. This short video created by NBC News helps shed some light on the efforts made by parts of the country to help control our air conditioning usage.

Below, we transcribed it for you:

“Every summer, utility companies deal with demands so large that they can cause brown-outs and price spikes. The culprit? The air conditioner. The U.S. uses more AC than the rest of the world combined. On the hottest days, household energy consumption can be 40% above average.

Enter: the smart grid. For years, economists and utility managers have been looking for a way to control the demand for energy. Today, there are experimental programs popping up across the country. For example, in Oklahoma, customers are offered “smart” thermostats, which come with significant energy cost discounts if they use their AC’s during off hours. But, if they turn on their AC during peak demand, electricity costs can sore up to eight times higher.

The city of Baltimore recently began a program that uses behavioral science in combination with mobile apps to help people manage their energy use. But so far, even the most successful programs have barely scratched the surface. We’re a long way from signing up the 79 million potential customers across the country. But with potential savings of 5%-45%, it’s a worthwhile effort and it’s a lot cheaper than building new power plants.”

What are you doing to help use less energy?


A Plug That Can Help You Save Energy?

At Oliver, our home electrical service experts love hearing about new ways to save energy and we just found out that a team out of Munich, Germany, may soon be able to reduce your energy bill with a simple plug.

This past weekend, “The Parce Idea,” a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, met its funding goal for a “smart plug” that helps you reduce your energy usage. (If you haven’t heard of crowd-funding, it’s a way for people to raise money online for what they really love and turn their ideas into realities.)

This plug, called Parce One, can be used in homes or office buildings and relies on wi-fi to measure and control the energy that your electronics use. All you have to do is plug Parce One into your electrical outlet and sync it with your wi-fi connection; you’ll be able to create on-off schedules for your electronics and access them at any time, anywhere, from your phone or computer.

Parce One can also detect when you leave the house or when you’re not using your electronics and automatically shut them off for you.

With its online cloud system, you’ll be able to access reports that show you how much energy you’ve saved and teach you other ways to improve your consumption. According to the campaign on Indiegogo, Parce One can save your home up to $200 per year on energy, which also helps reduce the amount of CO2 emissions affecting the environment.

The innovative Parce One will be available to those who donated to the campaign around November. As for its mass-marketing, the date for when it will be available to the public hasn’t been announced yet, but keep your ears open!

parce


Temperature Talk: 5 Common Gas Furnace Problems (and Solutions) – Guest Blog

Welcome back to our guest bloggers series! Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Thompson Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling. Thompson is located in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, and graciously allowed us to republish this list of five problems people commonly encounter with gas furnaces. We hope that these tips are helpful in keeping your home comfortable this winter!

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It’s that time of year — temperatures have dipped and you’re using your heating system on a regular basis. Unfortunately, many people find that their natural gas-powered furnace isn’t operating properly once they start using it again in the fall or winter. The problem may be fixed with something as simple as relighting the pilot light or replacing the filter, or you may need a more complex furnace repair. Here are five common gas furnace problems, along with possible causes and repairs.

1. Furnace is not producing heat.

Possible causes include a broken thermostat; the thermostat being set too low; an out pilot light; a blown fuse or circuit breaker; a closed gas valve; or electronic ignition problems.

Depending on the cause of the problem, you may need to make sure the thermostat is in “heat mode” and adjust it up a few degrees; relight the pilot light; replace a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker; troubleshoot the thermostat; or troubleshoot electronic ignition problems.

2. Furnace is not producing enough heat.

This may be caused by obstructed airflow or dirty or misaligned gas burners. In some cases, airflow is obstructed by a dirty furnace air filter, and if it is replaced, the problem is solved.

To troubleshoot the problem, try replacing the air filter, and if that doesn’t solve the problem, have a technician come out to clean/adjust the burners and make sure airflow to the combustion air chamber isn’t obstructed.


3. Blower always running

The thermostat may be set to the “fan continuous” setting, or, in cases where the thermostat has no fan setting, your furnace may have a faulty fan limit control switch.
To fix the problem, you might only need to adjust the thermostat fan setting, or it may be necessary to reset or replace the fan limit control switch on your furnace.

4. Furnace coming on and off too quickly

This behavior could be caused by a problem with the heat anticipator in the thermostat, a problem with the blower motor, or a dirty furnace air filter.
Start by replacing the air filter. If this doesn’t solve the issue, you may need to adjust the thermostat heat anticipator or troubleshoot the blower motor. The blower motor may need to be oiled at lubrication points, or have its belt adjusted (if it is too loose) or replaced (if it is frayed).

5. Noisy Operation

You may be able to determine the cause of a loud furnace by the pitch of the sound it is making: a high-pitched noise may indicate shaft bearings need oiling or that the blower belt is slipping; a low-pitched sound can mean that the pilot light is poorly adjusted or that the gas burners are dirty.

To troubleshoot, try oiling blower motor lubrication ports and checking for proper belt tension and that the belt is not frayed. You can also try adjusting the pilot light and having a furnace service technician clean or adjust your gas burners.

In many cases, troubleshooting and furnace repairs will require the services of an HVAC systems professional. Even if your gas furnace seems to be operating fine now, it’s important to schedule an annual heating tune-up to ensure that it will continue to function properly throughout the entire cold season.

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Thanks again to Thompson for contributing this article! To learn more about the Thompson company, please visit their website.