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Archive for January, 2015|Monthly archive page

Winterizing Plumbing

In Hot Water Tanks, Plumbing, Uncategorized on January 21, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Q:

I have many questions and concerns regarding winterizing my home while I am away for the winter months. I hope you can help shed some light on this for me.

I was reading your blog and you said that even if I keep the heat on (which I definitely planned on keeping it at 60 degrees) you recommend shutting the water off at the meter and add antifreeze to all the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains and sink traps. What if I turn the water off at the meter and after flushing all the toilets (but without draining the other lines) and just add anti-freeze to the toilet bowls, tanks and all the drains/traps, will this be okay? In other words, is draining the complete system necessary? Is leaving all the faucets open crucial? Pipes could freeze and burst, right? You state in your blog that damage would be minimal.

I was also going to turn my hot water tank to the “vacation” setting. My concern is, will I be accidentally turning off the pilot light too? Another thing, when I turn the water off at the meter, will my water-powered back up sump pump still be working?

When I get back in town all I would have to do is just turn the water back on at the meter, right?

What if I don’t shut the water off at the meter, but instead just shut off the supply lines under the sinks, toilets and the spigots for the washing machine? What bad things could this lead to if something were to happen?

I bought Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol, alcohol based winterizer. It’s a non-toxic anti-freeze protection. It was $2.50 gallon at Home Depot. It says it is ideal for winterizing boats, pools, water systems and plumbing systems. But then I noticed the alcohol is ethyl alcohol. Did I buy the right stuff? Will the alcohol mean evaporation or will it affect the seals? I will also use cellophane to cover the toilet bowls as you suggested. Is it all right to use this in the kitchen sink as well as the garbage disposal?

If all of this isn’t freaking me out enough, I spoke to a friend of mine, and told him I was shutting off the water at the meter and doing the antifreeze thing and he was telling me that there is a possibility of evaporation occurring so that rats and other creepy things can crawl up into the toilets and sinks. He said it happened to him, although he lives in Florida. So I’m now wondering and worrying.

 

A:

The Uni-Guard Propylene Glycol is the correct antifreeze and I highly recommend doing this.

When you turn the water off at the meter, I would open all the faucets, including any in the basement. That will prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting since there shouldn’t be any water in them. If the faucets are closed it’s like blocking one end of a straw with your finger and the drink stays in the straw until you lift your finger. Opening all the faucets allows the pipes to drain.

I recommend shutting the water off at the meter, and not just shutting off the supply lines and spigot. You be a lot more prone for burst pipes doing it that way.

What I meant by “Damage would be minimal” is if you don’t drain the pipes completely they could still freeze and burst, but it wouldn’t flood the house until you turned the water back on at the meter and then you might find leaks.

As for your sump pump, if the water stays on to the sump pump when your water is shut off at the meter, that’s great. If not, I don’t suspect it would be a problem since the ground is usually frozen at that time of year and your sump pump shouldn’t be coming on (unless you are in a very high water table area). You should know that answer to that one. Does your pump come on during the winter months? If so, and you plan on leaving town for an extended period of time every winter, install a battery operated back up pump. Another alternative have a plumber install by-pass plumbing directly to the back up pump so you can turn all the water off in the house but leave water on to the back up sump pump.

The hot water tank dial should be turned counterclockwise. The opposite of where the dial says “Very Hot” or “High”. Doing so will NOT turn off the pilot light. That is a different valve, which is usually on the top of the control. The dial you will be turning is on the front of the control.

Stop worrying and enjoy your vacation.

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Firewood or Fake Logs? / Static Electricity

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2015 at 10:59 am

Q:

I love my fireplace but would like to know which is better to burn in it, real wood or fake logs?

A:

According to the “Old House Journal”, there was a time when the only answer would have been wood, but they tell us that there’s been a flood of new fireplace fuels for sale in stores and lumberyards. Pre-packaged are among the most common. Made of compressed sawdust soaked in paraffin, these so-called logs are easy to start and generally burn for about three hours. Surprisingly, they give off a tremendous amount of heat. The trouble is that they produce little or no embers and nearly all the heat rises straight up the chimney. As a result of this significant drawback, they recommend package logs, for apartment dwellers or homeowners that only use their fireplaces occasionally or in situations where gathering and storing wood is too burdensome.

According to the “Old House Journal” the price of fake logs compares favorably with the cost of real wood. But because so little of the heat produced actually ends up in the room, fake logs should not be considered as an alternative heat source of energy for heat.

Q:

I have a lot of static electricity in my house and it’s driving me crazy. Is there something I can do to get rid of it?

A:

A shocking problem for you could be the static electricity in your house. Static electricity in the house is usually more of a problem in the winter, when the relative humidity is very low than in the summer when the humidity is high.

You know the expression, “It’s not the heat it’s the humidity”? Well, static electricity is the buildup of an electrical charge brought about by rubbing two dissimilar non-conducting materials together. Moist air is a better conductor than dry air and, as such, helps dissipate the charge before it becomes noticeable.

So it’s a good idea to add a humidifier to your forced air heating system if you have none. Also if you do have a humidifier it may need cleaning and maintaining. Another problem I find with many units is that they are just too small for the square footage that they are trying to humidify. You may need to add a second unit or replace the one you have with a better one or larger model.

Studies have shown that in order to prevent static shock in rooms with carpets of wool, nylon and some other synthetic fibers, the relative humidity should be higher than 30 or 35 percent. Some manufacturers have introduced conducting fibers in the carpet to minimize the problem. One such example is Monsanto’s Ultron line. In the meantime there are products available from grocery stores such as Static Guard that can be sprayed on clothing and furniture that eliminates static cling.

Q:

I have a very old furnace. It still works but I want to know how to keep it maintained properly. Do you have any suggestions?

A:

If you have a very old furnace, it’s important to have it cleaned and inspected annually, because when the heat exchanger cracks or corrodes through, it will leak carbon monoxide into the house. Some people frown on that. In the meantime, you can get more efficiency and save some money if you follow these simple tips:

  1. Check and replace the filters monthly. A dirty filter restricts airflow.
  2. Check the fan belt. If it’s too loose the motor will still turn but it will pull less air through the system.
  3. If the motor requires oiling, keep it oiled.
  4. Add air for combustion from the outside. An excellent product is Equaliz-Air, available by calling them directly 734-462-1033 or visit their website www.equaliz-air.com.
  5. Install a humidifier or make sure the one you have is clean and operating properly. Adding humidity to dry air makes you feel warmer and more comfortable.
  6. Close dampers in ductwork to unused rooms.
  7. Close registers in those unused rooms.
  8. Remove obstructions from in front of registers.
  9. Clean out floor registers or better yet have the entire duct system cleaned.
  10. Finally, turn back or dial-down the thermostat when leaving the house or at night.

 

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