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Around the Home Blog

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How Low Humidity Can Cause Problems In the Home

As the temperature outside begins to drop, the air inside our homes will become drier. When the heat is turned on the humidity level can drop to desert-like levels, leading to a host of potential problems.

Health Problems From Low Humidity

Dry skin, itchy eyes and respiratory irritation are some of the most common conditions caused by low humidity in the home. With dry mucous membranes your body becomes more susceptible to infections and you're more likely to catch a cold or the flu.

Damage From Low Humidity

Wood furniture, floors and other woodworks are most susceptible to low humidity levels. If humidity levels fluctuate widely wood can swell and shrink as moisture is absorbed and lost. Musical instruments, paintings and electronic equipment can also be harmed be overly dry conditions.

Use a Whole-Home Humidifier to Increase Humidity

The solution to low humidity levels in the home is a whole-home humidifier. By working in conjunction with your home's HVAC system a humidifier will provide consistent, healthy humidity levels throughout your home. A humidity level of 40-60 percent during the winter months is best for most homes.

Have questions about maintaining healthy humidity levels in your home? Call Maitz Home Services, we can help.
Thursday, 28 December 2017 01:05

Oil and Gas Boiler Maintenance

Oil and Gas Boiler Maintenance

Whether you have a gas or oil boiler, it's important that it be kept clean and properly tuned to keep it running safely and efficiently all winter long. Annual boiler maintenance will pay for itself in prolonged heating system lifespan and fewer service calls.

A Maitz Home Services Boiler Tune-Up is designed to find the small problems that could lead unsafe carbon monoxide levels or breakdowns. We do the following:

Clean the Combustion Chamber

The combustion chamber is where fuel mixes with air and is ignited, generating heat. The byproducts of combustion are soot, water vapor and carbon dioxide. If soot is allowed to buildup it can cause the chamber walls to corrode. The chamber is also inspected for holes or corrosion.

Inspect the Flue Pipe

Holes in the flue pipe can leak carbon monoxide so small holes are patched with foil tape, while corroded flues are replaced.

Replace the Oil Filter

A clean oil filter is important for keeping oil-burner nozzle free of contaminants, which could result in a combustion problems that can shut down the system.

Adjust the Burner and Test Efficiency

A combustion analyzer is used to calculate furnace efficiency by measuring gasses in the exhaust flue. The burner's air gates are adjusted as needed for the proper fuel to air mixture. The oil nozzle, which atomizes the fuel just before it ignites, is inspected and replaced if needed.

Solving the Most Common Oil Boiler Problems

1. The Burner Is Not Operating

There are several reasons the burner may not operate, they include a lack of fuel, a thermostat that is set too low or no electrical power to the unit. If there is sufficient fuel, check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit. Next, turn the thermostat up higher by a few degrees. Check that the filter and ductwork are not blocked or restricted and that the blower motor is operating.

2. The Burner Will Not Fire

If the burner is working, but will not fire, it could be a fuel supply problem. This can be caused by a failed oil pump or a clogged nozzle filter or oil line.

3. Smoking Burner

Smoking burners are often caused by an out of adjustment burner, a dirty or wrong type of nozzle or end cone. Other causes include a defective heat exchanger, incorrect oil pressure or an obstructed chimney.

4. High Fuel Consumption

When an oil boiler is consuming too much fuel it if often because off lack of maintenance or a system that is out of adjustment. An improperly sized or adjusted boiler can also cause inefficient operation and high fuel consumption.

5. Heating System Odors

Many of the same problems that can lead to a smoking boiler can cause odors, including a clogged nozzle, broken heat exchanger or a burner that is out of adjustment. The chimney may also need to be cleaned.

Have boiler problems? Call Maitz Home Services. We can help.
Tuesday, 07 November 2017 08:25

Should You Repair Or Replace Your Furnace?

Should You Repair Or Replace Your Gas Furnace?

It inevitably happens with every old furnace, you wake up on a freezing winter morning and your bedroom is ice cold. You turn the thermostat up, but there's nothing but silence. Your furnace has stopped working. If you're lucky, it's a simple, inexpensive fix. But if the furnace is getting up in years and needs extensive repairs, how do you decide if the advantages of installing a new furnace is a better solution than repairing the old unit and hoping it lasts through another long winter?
How long does a gas furnace last?

A 2007 study by the National Association of Home Builders found that gas furnaces last an average of 15 to 20 years. So consider the age of the unit when deciding whether to repair or replace. When a furnace is installed most technicians will write the year the equipment was installed right on the unit. You can also look for a metal identification plate, usually on the inside of chamber door (be sure the unit is off and cool before checking inside). Record the model and serial number, then call the manufacturer’s customer service number to obtain the date of manufacture
Furnace Repair Costs

If the furnace is beyond three-quarters of its life expectancy and repairing it would cost a 1/3 or more of the amount of a new furnace, it may be more economical to replace the unit.

Comparing Energy Savings

In these days of high fuel costs, it's important to consider is the efficiency of the old furnace versus a newer unit. A standard measure of fuel efficiency is the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency number (AFUE). AFUE measures the percentage of the fuel that’s converted to heat rather than being lost through inefficiency.

If the furnace is 20 or more years old, its AFUE is probably about 70. New furnaces will have an AFUE of at least 80%, which means you’ll burn 10% less fuel, that's 10% savings of your heating bill. High efficiency furnaces go as high a 95% AFUE , which could save you 25% on your heating bill.
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.
Heating water is one of most energy intensive tasks in the home, second only to heating and cooling. By changing some habits and performing a few simple tasks, you can reduce energy consumption from your hot water heater significantly.

1. Reduce Hot Water Usage At the Source. One of easiest ways to cut hot water usage is to install water saving shower heads. The minimum flow rate on a shower head should be no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm). Many water conserving shower heads can reduce flow to as little as 1.6 gpm while maintaining acceptable water pressure. The water savings for a household of four could be as much as 14,000 gallons a year along with greatly reduced energy required to heat the water.

2. Insulate -  Even in a smaller home, as much as 10 percent of the energy used to heat water can be lost in the pipes that supply the hot water. Insulating hot water pipes is an inexpensive way to significantly reduce heat loss.

3. Use a Water Heater Blanket - While many new water heaters have sufficient insulation built into the tank wall, many older tanks will allow heat to escape. The larger the water heater, the more surface area that will allow heat to escape. Prevent heat loss by wrapping your water heater tank in an insulation blanket available from most home supply stores. Some manufacturers recommend against installing insulating blankets on their energy-efficient models, so be sure to read your owner's manual before adding a blanket.

4. Perform Regular Maintenance - Over time, storage tank water heaters can accumulate sediment that reducing heating efficiency. Flushing the tank annually will remove the sediment and make it easer for the burner or heating element to heat the water.

Have questions about your water heater? Call Maitz Home Services. We're here to help.
If you're planning on remodeling your bathroom and plan on updating your shower, tub, vanity and other features, it's important to ensure that your home's plumbing is up to the job and can handle the upgraded fixtures. Here are a few things to consider:

1. Do your supply and drain pipes need to be updated?

When old fixtures are taken out and the floor and walls are ripped open to expose the pipes, take a moment to assess the condition and size of the pipes. It's a good idea to ensure that supply pipes are ¾” in order to have good water flow to several fixtures, such as multiple shower heads or sprayers in the shower.

2. Will there be enough hot water?

Large soaking tubs and showers with multiple spraying heads are a nice luxury, but can also put greater demand on your water heater. Will you need a larger water heater tank to meet additional demand?

3. Conserving water

Spa-like bathroom can use a lot of hot water. Thankfully, many new plumbing fixtures are designed with efficiency in mind. Dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads can save many hundreds of gallons of water over the course of a year. Tankless water heaters, while initially more expensive than conventional water heaters, heat water only when it's needed, conserving energy while providing a virtually endless supply of hot water.

Need help with your bathroom plumbing? Call Maitz Home Services. We can help with all your home plumbing needs.
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.
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