HVAC filters and COVID-19 – what you need to know

As more information becomes available about COVID-19 and how to prevent or slow its spread, we continue to seek ways to stay safe. First, the recommendation was hand washing and sanitizing. Then, we learned about social distancing. Now, we know that COVID-19 can be spread in the air we breathe. Masks are a helpful defense, but what about HVAC filters and COVID-19? Can our home HVAC systems filter the particles that contain COVID-19?

HVAC Filters and COVID-19

According to the Environmental Protection Association (EPA), we can’t rely on HVAC filters alone to eradicate the risk of COVID-19 contaminating our homes. But, when combined with other measures, like sanitizing surfaces and social distancing, using a high-quality filter can be part of the plan to reduce your overall risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. When maintained regularly, high-quality filters do help to trap the particles that contain contaminants, like viruses.

So, we know that filters can help in conjunction with other safety precautions. What else can we do to make our air safer to breathe? The EPA offers four specific recommendations to improve the air quality in your home:

Increase Ventilation with Outside Air

  • Open screened windows and doors to let in fresh air, when the outdoor air quality is safe (and if children and pets aren’t at risk)
  • Use bathroom fans (particularly when someone is using the small space)

Improve Natural Ventilation

  • Create cross-ventilation by opening screened doors and windows that are on opposite sides of a space, but not directly in front of each other (again, only if it’s safe for children, pets, and those impacted by poor air quality)
  • Consider using fans to push air out of a window and draw it in through another
  • Opening the highest and lowest windows (especially when they’re on different floors), can increase ventilation

Use your HVAC SystemImage shows air return vent where air is filtered

  • Keep the fan running often – continuously, when possible
  • Filters only process the air when the fan is running
  • Purchase the highest quality filter your system can accommodate

Use a portable air cleaner or air purifier

  • Place in a space where you spend the most time or where a vulnerable person spends time
  • Direct the airflow so that it does not blow directly from one person to another

It’s important to make sure your HVAC system is properly maintained so that it can be part of your COVID-19 safety plan. For information about preventive maintenance, filters, etc. please contact the professionals at Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Summer Energy Efficiency Tips

As the temperatures climb higher and higher, so do our electric bills! If you’re worried about how you can stay comfortable and save energy, check out our summer energy efficiency tips.

The Department of Energy offers some great advice for saving energy in the spring and summer months. We’ve compiled several of our favorites tip to help you – and your wallet – survive summer!

Use Window Coverings

Blinds, curtains, and shades offer more than just decorative appeal and privacy – they can provide insulation and prevent your windows from letting in the sun’s heat. Cellular shades typically have the highest R-value (measure of insulation) of any window coverings and can reduce unwanted heat from the sun through windows by up to 80%! Curtains can be a good choice too, but their insulating power varies widely depending on the fabric type and color.Image of window covering

Blinds are another popular choice. Unlike shades and curtains, blinds allow much more control over the amount of sunlight you let in. Horizontal blinds can even be adjusted to reflect rays onto a light-colored ceiling, which lets you enjoy the light without all the heat. If you don’t want to sacrifice your view, then window films (especially those with UV blockers) are a good option. They may require a little extra care when cleaning, but the benefits may be worth it.

 Keep Hot Air Out

Doors, windows, recessed windows, and fireplace walls are common hot spots (literally) where hot air can enter and your cool air can escape. Weatherstripping and caulk can seal these areas and improve the efficiency of your home, but first you’ll need to identify the trouble spots.

If your windows are in poor condition, you’re likely losing a lot of energy through them. Caulk, weatherstripping, window coverings, and storm panels can all help make your windows more efficient. If you’re in the market for new windows, be sure and look at the ENERGY STAR and NFRC ratings before buying.

Adjust Your Thermostat

If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, check into upgrading! This type of thermostat lets you automatically set your home’s HVAC system to a warmer temperature when you’re away and cooler when you are home. The closer you can keep the indoor temperature to the outdoor temperature, the lower your electric bill will be. That can be pretty tough when it’s over ninety degrees outside, so try and find a temperature that reduces humidity and provides comfort.

Remember that your thermostat senses the temperature of the room right around it. Avoid putting lamps or electronics next to your thermostat, as they put off heat. The additional heat may confuse your thermostat’s sensors and make your air conditioner run unnecessarily.

These summer energy efficiency tips are a great start. If you need professional help with your home’s energy efficiency, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Best Ice for Cold Drinks

Entertaining family and friends is a fun way to spend the season, and creative and cold drinks make any party festive. Is your ice maker in working order? Is it serving what you want in your glass? Just as there are dozens of decisions to make when buying a refrigerator, now there are decisions for cold beverage lovers to make when it comes to the shape of ice they prefer! What’s the best ice for cold drinks?

Here’s a look at some of the most popular options out there.

Pellet ice (crushed ice)

This ice is popular for an icy soda. It melts quickly, so it’s best for those who don’t mind a little water dilution in their drinks. Many refrigerator-installed ice makers produce these cubes which are round on one side and flat on the other. Did you know the shape is also designed to prevent splashing when liquid is poured on top of it? Pretty smart!

Two cold beverages in glasses with cubed ice

 

Large clear cubes

Due to their larger size, these slow melting cubes are perfect for straight liquid drinks like whiskey. They create a bubble-free ice cube that is tricky to produce and requires a specific mold.

Ice rods

Special ice trays are made to create these cylindrical shaped pieces, and are a very popular way to keep water bottle water cold.

Crescent cubes

These cubes are found mostly in portable ice makers or under-the-counter machines. It’s called “gourmet ice,” and is round and hollow in the middle.


Types of Ice Makers

For people who like to entertain or that have several people in the house who are into fitness or spend time outdoors with multiple ice-filled water bottles each day, under-the-counter ice machines might be the best choice. Because of all the gadgets that come in modern refrigerators, built-in ice makers tend to take a back seat. They just can’t keep up with high demand. But, if you do go with an under the counter machine, you will need a professional plumber to hook up your machine.

If you decide the shape of ice and type of machine is one you don’t have, make your purchase and make the water connection you need to make it happen. Connecting your water line should be a task completed by an expert to make sure your appliance doesn’t leak. It’s really a matter of opinion when it comes to the best ice for cold drinks.

Whether you are upgrading to a refrigerator with an ice maker that fits your needs, need help with the malfunctioning one you have or want to install an under counter model, contact a professional to get the job done right. Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010 for assistance from a professional plumber.

7 Most Common Plumbing Problems

Plumbing problems often come with home ownership. Some problems come with aging fixtures or normal wear and tear, but other problems may be caused by how the systems are used or maintained. Let’s take a look at the seven most common plumbing problems.

1.       Weak water pressure

Weak water pressure can challenge any plumbing system. It’s usually a sign of a bigger problem like hidden water leaks, drain or sewer clogs, cracked or backed up sewer lines, or pipe corrosion.

2.       Dripping faucets

Dripping faucets are wasteful, annoying and costly. Sometimes, these drips can be the result of a worn-out washer, which is easy to replace. Other times; however, corrosion or poorly installed faucets can be the problem.

3.       Leaking pipesWoman looks frustrated by leaking pipe under her kitchen sink

Leaking pipes are the result of one of many sorts of problems, including: corrosion, clogs,  damage to pipe joints, excessive water pressure or cracked seals or pipes.

No matter what’s the cause, this common plumbing problem needs attention fast! Leaving leaking pipes ignored only creates more damage, therefore, causing trouble for your plumbing system and to your home itself.

4.       Clogged or slow drains

Drainage problems can cause health hazards and major plumbing disasters if left undone. In general, one slow or clogged drain in the home means the problem is localized to that area. Typically, these clogs are the result of soap or hair, for instance, and other build-up over time. Routine drain cleaning can solve this problem. Multiple slow or clogged drains typically mean you are dealing with sewer line problems.

5.       Water heater problems

Hot water is necessary in every home, so when water heaters can’t work properly, then homeowners can be dealing with a crisis. Usually, when water heaters have problems they are caused by issues like loose or broken electrical connections, improper water heater installation, heating element issues, or corrosion buildup in systems.

6.       Running Toilets

Running toilets may waste up to 200 gallons of water per day! In most cases, the issues that cause running toilets include: corroded toilet handles, refill tube problems, improperly sized flapper chains or worn out seals or valves.

7.       Sump Pump Failure

This plumbing issue can be related to a problem with the unit or an outside issue. In most cases, sump pump failures include aging (sump pumps around 10 years old or more), clogged discharge pipes, stuck switches, a large amount of water, like after a heavy rain storm, or improper installation.

Sometimes the most common plumbing problems can still be too big for a DIY homeowner to handle. For help from a professional plumber, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Add an electrical outlet to your island

The kitchen island in a home is more than a design feature, it’s functional, too! As the centerpiece of your room it becomes the main point and hub for flow, design and creativity. To add the most functionality, add an electrical outlet to your island. You’ll be able to make the most of your counter space and maximize the efficiency of your kitchen.

Running electricity to your kitchen island may feel like an overwhelming project, so be sure to get the job done right with an experienced electrician.

Image shows kitchen island with electrical outlet on side

Before you begin, decide the type of outlet that will meet your needs. There are multiple options available, including:

Pop-up outlets

This outlet style stays low profile until you need to use it. When it’s not in use, the outlet lays flat on the island countertop. When you are ready to use it, push on the outlet to “pop it up” and plug in.

Recessed outlets

A recessed outlet has a faceplate that is set deeper into the island than a regular outlet. This type of outlet will hide protruding connectors and plugs to create a streamlined look for the island.

USB outlets

You can create a universal and convenient charging station to your kitchen island with a USB outlet. There are a variety of finishes to fit with your décor. You can also use a pop-up outlet that includes USB charging to give you added functionality and still have a discrete finish.

Smart Outlets

With a smart outlet, you can use WiFi or Bluetooth technology to control your devices. For convenience and energy efficiency, smart outlets allow you to control them (and the devices plugged into them) remotely or on a timer.

Contact an electrician

Now that you’ve selected the right outlet for your space, it’s time to contact an electrician to add an electrical outlet to your island. An  electrician will drill a hole through your kitchen floor to run the wiring from your crawl space or basement. It’s important to choose an experienced professional who will, not only properly wire the outlet, but will also be careful not to damage your island or flooring.

Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010 for expert assistance with your electrical projects.

Outdoor lighting for style and safety

Outdoor lighting allows you to boost your outdoor space creatively and functionally. There are lots of great ways to update and improve your outdoor areas using different types of lights and features. From accent lighting to uplights and motion-sensored lights, you can create a more appealing and safe space with just a few well placed bulbs.

Sidewalk with outdoor lights illuminating for style and safety

What do you want to improve? There are two primary ways to look at how outdoor lighting can work for you. One is the most obvious, aesthetics. The other is safety. And you can do both, but make sure you know what you are trying to achieve before you get started on a lighting project. That way you’ll save money, time and frustration by trying to do too much at once.

Outdoor Lighting for Aesthetic Appeal

Want to use outdoor lighting to highlight and bring beauty to your

space? Lighting is excellent because it can work anywhere, in any kind of outdoor design. It can be the primary focus, or just highlight areas of your outdoors that you particularly love.

  • Accent lights can highlight the spaces you love most in your landscape. Choose from lamps, pendant lights, and uplights to feature the most attractive aspects of your landscape. These lights can create a striking look in the evening hours.
  • Driveway and path lighting creates a more welcoming feel. One of the most common mistakes homeowners make outdoors is they have beautiful, well-designed, and well lit home exterior lighting, but only darkness throughout the yard. One simple fix of using path/drive lighting can fix this.
  • Uplighting is a great way to highlight trees and hardscapes. Do you have a beautiful tree or fancy gazebo? Uplighting adds nighttime visibility and a stunning look.
  • Like to entertain? Give guests safety and an appealing view with carefully planned patio or pool lighting. You’ll host the best parties and allow people to spread out instead of huddling up around one outdoor lamp or fire pit.

Outdoor Lighting for Safety & Security

Adding lighting for security can also bring many benefits. Done correctly, security lighting can also add beautiful aesthetic value at the same time.

  • Motion lighting is an excellent way to deter vandalism. Set near entryways and windows, these lights can surprise intruders and send them running!
  • Flood lighting also adds to your outdoor safety. Not only do flood lights near buildings or areas you tend to frequent in the evening reduce tripping hazards, they also help you navigate your yard safely. Adding path lighting can also give you additional safety and offer aesthetic beauty.

For expert assistance, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Best Energy Efficient Clothes Dryer

If you’re ready to upgrade your clothes dryer you may have questions about energy efficiency. It’s really a matter of your priorities –  like environmental concerns, cost, or a little of both. If you are energy-conscious, you’re probably looking for the best energy efficient clothes dryer.

Expert Picks

Good Housekeeping’s 2019 pick of the best energy efficient clothes dryer (large capacity) was the Samsung 7.4 cubic foot gas dryer. It features: Energy Star certified, motion sensor to prevent over-drying, Eco-dry cycle that uses 25% less energy per load, and steam technology to reduce wrinkles and sanitize. Whirlpool’s 7 cubic foot electric dryer, with moisture sense and wrinkle shield is another popular pick.

Gas or Electric?

Another question you may have is whether a gas or electric powered dryer is more efficient? Energy Star says compact, ventless electric dryers with a heat pump are the most energy efficient. If you need a larger model for a family they won’t be your best pick. Instead, opt for a large capacity gas dryer. They are a little more expensive to purchase than their electric counterparts, but they are more efficient because it takes a lot of electricity to heat an electric dryer.  You’ll need to have a gas line, so remember to weigh the initial costs of installing a gas dryer.

Here is an easy way to compare the potential savings of using a gas powered dryer:
The average cost of drying 10 loads of laundry in an electric dryer is $3.60.
The average cost of drying 10 loads of laundry in a comparable gas dryer is $2.40.
If you have a family of four, this equates to a savings of about $65.00 per year.

Features

There are additional features to consider when purchasing a clothes dryer, because rarely is there a one-size-fits-all solution. Consider these.

Woman uses energy efficient clothes dryer

Size
Do you live in a small apartment? A stackable washer/ dryer combo may be the best option. Do you have a large family in a larger home? If so, a large capacity dryer would be better.

Stainless Steel Drums
Plastic drums damage easily and their roughened interior surfaces can damage clothes. You won’t have to worry about this with a stainless steel drum. Stainless are the most durable, but also more costly.

Vented or Ventless
Be sure you can vent exhaust outdoors. If not, a ventless dryer might be your only option. If you can cut a vent opening then you have your choice.

Heat Pump
This feature decreases drying time, is easier on your clothes, saves between 20 to 60 percent in energy costs – and is found only in ventless units.

Wool Cycle
If you have heat-sensitive clothes you may want a dryer that is Woolmark Apparel Care certified.

Sanitize Cycle
This is a high-temperature feature that is great for drying babies’ clothing. It’s also a great feature for people with allergies, skin sensitivities or impaired immune systems.

Moisture Sensor
This feature is definitely better for your clothes! Sensors detect moisture and shut off when clothes are dry.

Other Specialty Features
Features you may see offered include child locks, eco-dry for small loads, wrinkle guard, fast dry, steam refresh, and rack drying.

Are energy efficient appliances worth the cost?

Bottom line – they usually are worth the cost. Energy efficient appliances may be expensive, but they are usually worth the cost. But, in the long run, you’ll save money and also help the environment. When buying a new dryer, look for the models that have a higher Energy Factor (EF) rating and features like sensor technology, varying temperature cycles, and if time always seems to be an issue, you’ll probably want a model that features fast drying cycles over other perks. If you want to hold onto your dryer (and your clothes) for as long as possible, look for features like low-heat, moisture sensors, and reverse tumble.

Don’t overlook the possibility you may need to upgrade your circuits and outlets, and possibly install an exhaust fan, when installing your new clothes dryer. Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010 for expert assistance.

Installing Solar Panels – Pros and Cons

If you are looking for ways to be environmentally conscious, installing solar panels in your home might be a good start. While upfront costs may be high, using solar energy can be a way to save on energy expenses in the long run. Using solar power will lower your electricity bills, earn tax incentives and add value to your home because the panels are exempt from property taxes.

Consider these advantages of using solar energy when deciding if installing solar panels makes sense for you.

Energy independenceinfographic about how solar panels work

The sun is an infinite source of energy, unlike coal and natural gas, and solar panels can be installed practically anywhere. Using solar panels allows you to reduce dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, leading to a more stable and predictable energy bill, especially during times when the demand for energy is high.

Reduced electricity bills

Over a 20-year period, you can save from $10,000 to $30,000, depending on where you live, electricity usage and the size of your home. Unlike paying traditional utility bills, paying off a solar panel system makes you money on the investment. You can also sell solar energy back to the grid, allowing you to earn while you save.

Federal and state tax benefits

The government will offer you benefits when you install solar panels in your home, potentially allowing you to claim 30 percent of the installation costs, with benefits that vary state to state.

Reduce your carbon footprint

Since solar energy generates power without giving off any dangerous emissions, the energy produced from solar panels is clean. It doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. For examples the average American home produces 14,920 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. A family who installs solar panels can reduce its carbon footprint by more than 3,000 pounds.

Longevity with little maintenance

With most systems lasting for more than years, solar panels and equipment require little maintenance. Additionally solar energy is always improving, so a panel you installed last year is even better today.

 

While there are many benefits to using solar power, there are also disadvantages to consider. Some disadvantages include:

Expensive initial costs

You will experience reduced electric bills when using solar panels, but there are initial costs for the equipment and installation. This could add up to more than $20,000. Also, any devices that you run on DC currents will be more expensive to power directly.

Inability to take it if you move

Once panels are installed it is nearly impossible to transport to another location. Even transferring PV solar panels is never advised. It would have to be  dismantled from your roof and retrofitted to your new property, most likely causing extensive damage.

Limitations based on your surroundings

The solar energy industry continues to grow, but most companies serve a particular geographic region or state. If you live in an area outside of a solar energy company’s coverage area, you’re out of luck. Additionally, if you live in a rural area and far away from your solar provider, you could have trouble reaching customer services when you need assistance.

Weather dependence

To power your solar panels you need the sun. If you live in a cloudy area or have days of storms, this will negatively impact how the system runs. If your region has a dark winter season, your system will likely be less productive at that time.

Inconvenience in areas with limited space

You will need a decent size space to install a solar system and have it run smoothly.  Solar panels might be inconvenient in inner cities and other areas with limited space. If your roof is small (less than about 100 square feet of roof for every 1 kW of panels) you might not have the space for all the solar panels that you need to power your house.

Advantages and disadvantages of installing solar panels seem to have a tradeoff. Solar panel technology isn’t perfect, but it is constantly improving. You’ll get a return on your investment, but it takes a while. Energy produced from solar panels is plentiful, clean and renewable, but the infrastructure that manufactures and delivers them leaves its own carbon footprint.

When you understand how solar panels work and what are the best panels for your home, you will need to talk to a solar energy company. Talk to them about what makes the most sense for your home and region.

If you’re looking for professional guidance about energy savings, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Dishwasher safe? Refer to this list

A dishwasher is one of the most-used and convenient appliances in any home. However, it may be too rough for some of your favorite kitchen items. So, if you’re wondering “Is it dishwasher safe?” then check out our list. Stay tuned to the end. We’ve also included many items most people wouldn’t think are dishwasher friendly! Did you know you can clean outlet covers, car mats, nail clippers and garden tools in there?

If you ever have doubts about washing a particular piece in the dishwasher, even if it’s generally considered dishwasher safe, check with the manufacturer.

In general, these items are dishwasher safe:

Crystal

You’ll still want to check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some types of leaded crystal can etch over time.

Sterling silver or silver plated

You should not mix sterling silver or silver-plated silverware with stainless steel flatware. This can cause a reaction causing permanent pitting of the sterling.

China/ stoneware

Generally, okay. But, antique or hand-painted patterns may fade. You may also see gold-leaf patterns to discolor or fade.

Glass and stonewear are safe in the dishwasher

Glass

Glass is dishwasher-safe.

Aluminum

Aluminum is safe, but repeated exposure to high heat and detergents can affect the finish of anodized aluminum.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is safe.

Plastics

Plastics are safe. Place plastics in the top rack.

These items are generally considered not to be dishwasher safe:

  • Gold
  • Pewter, brass and bronze
  • “Good” knives
  • Crystal
  • Disposable aluminum
  • Disposable plastics
  • Bottles and cans
  • Cast iron
  • Hollow-handle knives
  • Tin
  • Wooden ware
  • Nonstick pans
  • Insulated mugs
  • Anything containing adhesives

Household Items

Surprisingly, some household items, as long as they don’t break the rules above, can also be cleaned in the dishwasher. These include fixtures, bathroom accessories, personal care items, sports items, car accessories, kids’ toys and garden tools.

  • Exhaust fan filters and covers
  • Kitchen sponges and brushes
  • Silicone oven mitts and trivets
  • Microwave turntables
  • Refrigerator shelves and bins
  • Light fixtures
  • Switch plates and outlet covers
  • HVAC vent grates
  • Desk accessories
  • Soap dishes and toothbrush holders
  • Rubber tub mats
  • Shower poofs, sponges and brushes
  • Hairbrushes and combs
  • Manicure and pedicure tools
  • Plastic toys and building blocks
  • Pacifiers and teething rings
  • Pet toys and food bowls
  • Collars and leashes – excluding leather
  • Shin guards
  • Mouth guards
  • Golf balls
  • Baseball caps – Purchase a form to help the cap hold its shape.
  • Garden tools
  • Flower pots
  • Grill grates
  • Rubber boots
  • Flip flops – Not for shoes with fabric cording or leather.
  • Keys – Remove electronic keys or openers.
  • Hubcaps
  • Rubber floor mats
  • Cup holders

Need professional help with your plumbing or electrical needs? Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

How to dispose of coffee grounds

You may have heard that putting coffee grounds down the sink (or garbage disposal) can clean and freshen the scent in the drain. While they won’t harm the garbage disposal, and they will help eliminate odors, grounds will accumulate in drains and pipes. This will lead to clogs, so it’s best to avoid. Your garbage disposal is not a trash can, and shouldn’t be treated that way. There are better ways to dispose of coffee grounds.

Why can’t coffee grounds go down the drain if food can?

Unlike most foods, coffee grounds clump together in water while many foods break down. Over time the grounds will build up and create clogs that don’t allow the drains to properly move water.

While we’re on the subject, other items that should go in the garbage and not in the sink include:

  • Starchy foods like potatoes, rice and pasta
  • Eggshells, fish skins, celery and banana peels
  • Grease, oil and fats
  • Anything that is not food! Never dispose of metal, wood, glass, and cigarette butts in the sink.

The rule of thumb is – when it doubt throw it out (in the trash).

When to call a professional

There are signs you need help with a clogged drain or glitchy garbage disposal; they include:

  • Food particles in the sink after the dishwasher has run
  • Slow draining water
  • A gurgling noise coming from the drain
  • Water backing up
  • Odor of rotting food coming up from the sink

Better ways to dispose of coffee grounds

So, if you can’t flush your grounds, are there things you can do to make the most of this waste? Yes!

Other ways to dispose of coffee grounds include:coffee grounds being scooped into a potted plant

  • Garden – They are a nice fertilizer for your garden if you have a green thumb. Plants benefit from coffee grounds. And even if you do not have a full compost, grounds will work by themselves. In addition to providing nutrients, grounds spread in your garden repel insects such as slugs and ants.
  • Indoor house plants – The same goes for indoor plants!
  • Exfoliate skin – You can scrub away dead cells from your skin when you mix used coffee grounds with coconut oil.
  • Cleaner hair – Take a handful of grounds and massage them through your head and rinse. This will clean out built-up remains from styling products.
  • Absorb food odor – An opened container of coffee grounds may also help to absorb stinky smell from a refrigerator, in the same way baking soda works.

Need help from a professional? Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.