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Around the Home Blog

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Wednesday, 09 August 2017 17:35

Could Your Home's Wiring Be a Fire Hazard?

Many home in the Allentown area are over 50 years old, and older homes are statistically at higher risk of electrical fires. The main reason older electrical systems are more dangerous is that many have not been updated to meet newer, more stringent code requirements. Deteriorating wires, improper installation and modification, a lack of modern safety devices, along with an increase in the number of electrical devices in homes all combine to increase the risk of electrical fires.

By understanding what outdated wiring looks like, you can learn if your home is at greater risk. Depending on the age of the home, you will find one of three kinds of wiring.

Grounded Electrical Systems

Homes built in the 1940s through the present will have grounded electrical systems. Grounding is a critical safety feature that is designed to reduce the chance of shock or electrocution in the event of a short circuit. Grounding wires are connected directly to the earth through a metal grounding rod or a cold water pipe. Should a short circuit or an overload occur, any extra electricity will find its way along the grounding wire to the earth.

Aluminum Wiring

As the price of copper soared, aluminum wiring became more common in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the receptacles and switched of the time we not designed to work with aluminum wire, resulting in bad fitting connections and a greater risk of fire. If your home has aluminum wiring that was installed in the 1960s or 70s have Hucker Electric perform a safety inspection to ensure it is safe and up to code.

Knob & Tube Wiring

The earliest type of wiring found in homes built in the 1800s through the 1930s, knob and tube wiring is an open air system that uses ceramic knobs to keep wires away from combustible framing. These suspended wires were directed through ceramic tubes to prevent contact with the wood framing and starting a fire. Knob and tube wiring is a fire hazard because it's not grounded and is more exposed to damage from old and faulty modification.

Have questions about your home's wiring? Call Maitz Home Services, we're here to help.
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 18:14

How To Fix Noisy Pipes

Are your pipes, rattling, banging, squeaking or otherwise driving you crazy? Noisy pipes are not just annoying, they can be a sign of a plumbing problem. If severe enough, loose pipes can disconnect from mounting brackets stressing the pipe and causing a leak.

If a banging noise is heard when turning the water on and off, water hammer is the likely cause. Water hammer occurs when the water chamber that normally cushions the water pressure becomes filled with water. The condition can usually be fixed by draining the pipes in the home to restore the chambers with air.

Rattling Sounds

If you hear rattling noises from your plumbing system, check that the pipes are securely anchored to wood joists. Loose anchoring brackets should be tightened.

Vibration Noises

As pipes pass through holes in joists they can come in contact with the wood framing. Teh pipes can be cushioned with pieces of foam insulation to dampen the movement.

Squeaking Pipes

As metal hot water pipes expand and contract they can rub against the metal mounting straps as the water runs through. Adding foam of rubber cushioning to the mounting anchors will quiet the noise.

Need plumbing help? Call Maitz Home Services, we can help with all your plumbing repair and installation needs.
For years professionals have used advanced thermal imaging cameras to identify problems with pipes, ductwork, insulation and other systems in the home. Thermal imaging works by converting infrared light into an visible image on a video screen called a thermogram. Temperature differences are easily seen as a range of warm and cool colors. Aim a thermal imager at a window and cold air leaks become easily visible. By performing a thermal inspection of your entire home you can locate leaking air ducts, drafty doors and attics with insufficient insulation.

The advantages of thermal imaging are not limited to home heating and cooling. Problems with plumbing and electrical systems can also be identified. Water leaks inside walls and ceilings, and clogs inside pipes can be detected through thermal imaging. Overheating electrical systems can also be quickly located and diagnosed.

Inexpensive Thermal Imaging for Homeowners

Until recently the high cost of thermal imaging systems meant they were used almost exclusively by professional contractors. Today, inexpensive thermal imaging cameras are in reach of the average homeowner. One example is the Seek CompactXR®, a portable thermal imaging camera that plugs directly into your smartphone. It works by translating thermal energy (infrared light) into a visible image right on your phone. So the next time you're weather sealing your your home tracking down water leaks, or checking for overheating electrical systems, you can take the guesswork out of the equation by using a thermal imaging device to pinpoint the source of the problem.
Tuesday, 18 July 2017 08:51

3 Signs It's Time For a New Water Heater

A tank-style water heaters has a lifespan of around 10 years. Depending on the amount of use, the level of minerals in your water, and whether or not it has been regularly maintained, it could last significantly longer, or need replacement much sooner. So how do you know when it's time to replace the water heater instead of repairing it?

The Water Heater Is Leaking

Some water heater leaks may are the result of a faulty valve or leaking pipe. In this case, it could just need a simple repair to keep it operating. If the water heater is leaking because of corrosion, it may be time to replace the unit. Maitz can help determine the cause of the leak and recommend solutions to fix the leak.

The Water Heater Is Slow to Heat

First, check that the thermostat on the water heater is set high enough. If demand for hot water has increased, you may just need a larger capacity tank. If there are multiple sources that need water at the same time, considers a tankless water heater that heats water on demand. Slow heating can also be caused by a build-up up rust and sediment. Flushing the tank will remove the sediment. If the water heater is still not heating fast enough after flushing the unit, it may be time for a new water heater.

Malfunctioning Water Heater

In some cases the water heater may be have broken parts that need replacement. A plumber can check the heating element (electric water heaters) thermostat, gas burner and thermocoupler to make sure they are functioning. Consider the age of the unit against the cost of repairs when deciding whether to repair the unit.

Have water heater questions? Give Maitz a call. We are here to help.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 08:40

What Is Water Hammer?

If you have ever experienced a loud banging sound from your plumbing system, you likely have have what is known as "water hammer". When water suddenly changes momentum under pressure, such as when a faucet valve is closed suddenly, a hydraulic shockwave is sent through the pipe, resulting in bang as the energy is released. If the pressure change is severe enough it can lead to damaged fittings or even burst pipes.

Preventing Water Hammer

A properly installed plumbing system has air compartments that compress to absorb sudden changes in water pressure. In some cases these compartments can fail to work if the water has gradually absorbed air or the compartments have become filled with water.

If you are experiencing water hammer you can restore the plumbing system's air chambers by opening the faucet that caused the noise and allowing the water to completely drain out. Air will then replace the water and restore the shock absorbing capability inside the pipes. If the air compartment is below the fixture, you may have to drain the main supply lines to restore the air in the lines.

If the above steps do not cure the problem, the plumbing system may not have the necessary air chambers installed, or they may have become clogged over time. Your plumber can inspect the system to identify any problems and recommend solutions.

Have questions about water hammer or other plumbing problems? Call Maitz Home Services, we can help.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017 19:49

5 Tips to Conserve Water Around the Home

During the summer month's water use around the home increases with lawn watering, car washing and other water entensive activities. By using water more wisely and ensuring that your home's plumbing system is in good shape, you can help conserve water, while aslo saving on your water bill.

1. Fix leaking faucets and pipes

That small drip from a leaking faucet washer can waste as much as 20 gallons of water per day. Leaking outdoor faucets and pipes can waste hundreds of gallons.

2. Don't use the toilet as garbage disposal

Flushing paper waste like facial tissue and other items that could go into a wastebasket can save up to 7 gallons per flush.

3. Repair leaking toilets

To see if your toilets are leaking, put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes without flushing, have the toilet fixed.

4. Install low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators

These inexpensive devices are simple to install and will result in significant water savings with hardly any noticable difference in water pressure.

5. Check for hidden leaks

After you have repaired all detectible water leaks in faucets, toilets, show heads, etc., it's a good idea to check for hidden water leaks. Simply read your water meter then wait for a two-hour period during which no water is being used. If the water meter has changed, you have a leak.
Tuesday, 11 April 2017 02:07

Why Isn't My Water Heater Hot Enough?

If your water heater is not getting hot enough or not staying hot for long, there are a number of possible causes.

1. The Dip Tube Is Broken
Cold water enters the water heater through the dip tube where it is forced to the bottom of the tank for quick heating. When the tube is broken the water remains at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is, causing it to return cold water with the heated water.

2. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank
Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This causes a gradual reduction in heating efficiency that will make the water heater work harder and eventually resulting in less hot water. Flushing the tank annually will prevent sediment build up.

3. The Heating System Is Malfunctioning
Most water heater problems occur with these systems:
  • Thermal switch
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element
A licensed plumber should inspect the water heater and repair the pasts as needed.

4. Hot Water Heater Is Too Far From Where It's Needed

If the water eventually heats up, the problem is sometime a hot water tank that is too far from where it's needed. In the cold months in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the faucet where it's needed. Insulating the pipes can help reduce heat loss.

5. The Water Heater Tank Is Undersized

If you have recently noticed that your water heater suddenly seems to supply less hot water, or runs out suddenly, it could be that your water heater tank is too small to keep up with demand. Installing a larger tank or tankless water heater will ensure that you have all the water your household needs.
One of the best ways to reduce your cooling bill during the summer months is to reduce the sources of heat and humidity inside the home that can make your air conditioner work harder to cool your home. Here are some of the most common sources of heat and humidity inside the home.

1. Lighting - Older incandescent light bulbs lose as much as 90% of their energy as heat loss. By upgrading to more energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs, you won't just reduce the heat, you'll save electricity as well.

2. Kitchen - Kitchens are a major source of heat and humidity inside the home. When the weather is hot, consider cooking outside on a grill, or use a microwave instead of your oven or range. 

3. Laundry Room - Clothes dryers generate a lot of heat and humidity. Consider hanging clothes outside on a clothes line. An exhaust fan installed in the laundry room will help to vent the hot, humid air outside.

4. Dishwashers - During hot weather washing dishes in the sink will reduce heat and humidity. If you run the dishwasher turn off the heat dry and let the dishes air dry instead.

New air conditioners built within the past few years are designed to operate so quietly you will hardly know they are running. So when you hear unusual noises, it is usually the result of a lack of maintenance or a symptom of a part that is about to fail. By staying alert to the sounds of a malfunctioning air conditioner you can fix the small problems before they lead to a major failure.

When your air conditioner is working normally it will often make some noises. Subtle thumping and whining sounds are normal. By becoming familiar with the normal operating sounds that an air conditioner makes, you will be able to more easily recognize unusual sounds that could be cause for concern.

The Sounds of a Malfunctioning Air Conditioner

Air conditioners have many parts; there are fans, hoses, belts, compressor motors, coils and other components that work together to move cool air throughout your home. As air conditioners age belt often become loose, leading to thumping sounds. A clogged air filter reduces air flow and can cause the unit to whine as it cycles on or off. Loose hardware on compressor parts can lead to rattling sounds.

Preventative maintenance is the best way to minimize the likelihood of air conditioner repairs. An AC tune-up includes the following steps that keep your air conditioner operating quietly and reliably:
  • Inspection and lubrication of all moving parts
  • Inspection and replacement of worn belts and hoses
  • Replacement of dirty air filters
  • Ensuring that the unit cycles on and off properly
  • Inspection of electrical connections
  • Inspection of refrigerant levels
Have questions about your central air conditioner? Give Maitz Home Services, we can help with all your home cooling needs.
If your noticing ice around your air conditioner's condenser coil, or the unit has stopped operating because of freezing, there are a few possible causes. 

1. Lack of air flow. An air conditioner works by taking the heat from inside the home and blowing it over the evaporator coil located outside the home. This split-system enables the heat exchange performed by the refrigerant to take place. Without the exchange of warm air the temperature of the coil will continue dropping, increasing the likelihood of a freeze up.

2. Low refrigerant levels. As the level of refrigerant drops, so does the pressure inside the system. When a smaller amount of refrigerant is forced to expand the same amount, it lowers the temperature.

3. Low outside temperature. If an air conditioner is run when the outside air is too cool, the pressure inside the unit can drop, causing a freeze up. This can occur at temperatures of around 62 degrees.

4. Malfunctioning mechanical systems. A damaged refrigerant line, broken fan, even a clogged up air filter, can cause the evaporator coil to freeze up.

Have air conditioner problems? Call Maitz Home Services, we can help diagnose the cause and offer solutions to fix the problem.
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