Home Energy Efficiency Checklist

As the new year rolls in, most of us are thinking about changes and improvements we can make in 2021. Perhaps home energy efficiency isn’t as interesting as learning a new language or training for a marathon, but it can surely help you save money!

Here are some of our favorite home energy efficiency tips from energy.gov. We suggest resolving to save money in 2021 with these quick and simple ideas.

Install a programmable thermostat

Programmable thermostats are readily available at home improvement stores and easy to install on your own. You can program your home’s temperature around your schedule, so it will run less when you are away. Experts say a programmable thermostat can save as much as ten percent on your annual heating and cooling costs!

Replace your light bulbsImage of woman replacing incandescent bulb with a LED bulb

Swapping out old bulbs for Energy Star bulbs can add up to big savings. If you want to really invest in your home’s energy efficiency, consider Energy Star LED bulbs. These bulbs last 25 times longer and use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. Energy.gov reports that use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in our nation.

Put electric equipment on a power strip

You can save as much as $100 annually just by turning off so-called “energy vampires” in your home. These are devices that continue to use energy behind-the-scenes even when you aren’t actively using them. A simple way to do this is to install devices like this together on the same power strip. Then, you can just turn it off when not in use.

Unplug your chargers

We know, it’s so convenient to keep your phone charger plugged in all the time. But chargers consume energy even when your phone isn’t attached. For savings, unplug your charger when it isn’t in use.

Put your HVAC system on a maintenance plan

Regular preventive maintenance of your HVAC system will save you in the long run. A well-maintained system runs more efficiently and lasts longer. In addition, it’s best to have a professional spot potential problem before they become emergencies.

For information about preventive maintenance plans, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010. You can also use our online form.

Space Heater Safety

Space heaters can be great for adding extra heat to small areas or making drafty spots cozier. But along with their benefits, space heaters add real fire risk to your home. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters account for about 43 percent of home heating-related fires and 4 out of 5 home heating fire deaths. It’s important to follow space heater fire safety guidelines, if you’re going to use this type of equipment in your home.

Space Heater Safety Tips

Space heater plugged safely into the center of the room.

  • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from your space heater. This includes the wall. Space heaters typically come with longer cords so that they can be positioned in open areas away from the wall and outlet.
  • Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around space heaters. Keep kids and pets a safe distance away.
  • Never leave space heaters on while sleeping. You should also turn them off when leaving the room.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Make sure your space heater has been tested and approved by an independent laboratory like Intertek (ETL seal) or Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).
  • Only place space heaters on the floor. Never place them on a table or other elevated surface.
  • Don’t use space heaters in rooms with water – like bathrooms and kitchens. Water and electricity don’t mix.
  • Only plug your space heater directly into the wall outlet – not into surge protectors, drop cords, etc. – otherwise you risk overloading the circuit.

Modern Safety Features

Many modern space heaters come with safety features like adjustable thermostats, timers and a tip-over safety switch. Be sure and research options before making a purchase, so you can use a space heater as safely as possible. If you follow these space heater safety tips, you can enjoy the benefits off a little added coziness this winter!

Expert Assistance

These tips apply to portable space heaters. If you are looking to add a stationary space heater to your home, be sure and consult an expert for professional installation. And, as with all electrical items in your home, if you have safety concerns, it’s best to have an electrician do an inspection. Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010 for professional assistance.

Prevent Frozen Pipes This Winter

We’re approaching the time of year where frozen pipes are all too common. When water freezes, it expands, and when this happens inside your plumbing pipes, it puts the entire system at risk. And then when increased pressure builds inside the pipes it makes them prone to cracking. Let’s discuss how to prevent frozen pipes this winter.

You certainly don’t want to deal with a burst pipe during a freezing winter spell! There’s so much damage a frozen pipe can cause. For instance, an 1/8-inch crack can release 250 gallons of water per day. Flooding can lead to mold and to very costly structural damage. You should take every precaution possible to prevent this disaster from happening. Do you know how to avoid frozen pipes? We’ve got a few tips to keep you ahead of a winter disaster.

A few preventive measures will keep your pipes moving and above freezing, even when temperatures fall.

Open your faucets

If you are expecting freezing temperatures, open the water faucets in your home, just a little, to allow a slow, constant drip. This will keep your pipes warm and reduce the pressure.

Open cabinet doors

Expose the pipes under your bathroom and kitchen sinks. They are prone to freezing and by opening the doors warm air will reach them.

Open the air vents

Avoid cold zones as much as possible. If all the air vents are open warm air can blow into every room.

Protect outdoor faucets

Drain and close off all outdoor faucets. Disconnect any water hoses that are still attached outdoors. Use faucet covers. They provide insulation and protection from falling ice.

Keep the furnace on low

Leaving town? Be sure you program your furnace to continue running. If your house gets too cold, a burst pipe may greet you upon your return home.

Protect Outdoor Faucets from Freezing

You’ll want to implement these low-cost, temporary fixes when temperatures begin to drop. If you notice ice crystals on your indoor pipes, use a hair dryer on a low setting to melt the ice. If you lose power and the weather is sub-zero,  insulate and cover your most vulnerable pipes immediately.

Longer-term solutions, although certainly more expensive, can give you even more security and protect your pipes from freezing for many years.

Try these permanent solutions to prevent frozen pipes:

  • Insulate your crawl space
  • Replace standard outdoor faucets
  • Insulate the walls
  • Repair exterior wall cracks
  • Reroute the pipes

While you cannot prevent icy weather, you can protect your pipes with these temporary or long lasting methods. If you have questions about which measures will work best for your pipes, contact a professional plumber.

Unclog a Toilet Without a Plunger

When you notice your toilet is not flushing well or not filling up with water, you usually reach for a plunger. In most homes, this is a standard tool with very little difficulty to use. But what happens if you don’t have one handy? It may sound impossible, but there are ways you can try to unclog a toilet without a plunger. Read on for some doable tricks and tips to try before you run to the store to snag a toilet tool.

STEP 1: Cut the water to the toiletIllustration of a cartoon stick figure looking perplexed at an overflowing toilet

Always start with stopping the water flow to the clogged toilet. Remove the lid and pull up the float to stop water, then shut off the water at the valve on the wall.

STEP 2: Pour in hot (NOT BOILING) water a little bit at a time

Before you start, remove some water with a bucket or cup if the toilet is very very close to overflowing. If not, start pouring in very hot water a few cups at a time from the sink or tub. The hot water can loosen the clog in the toilet.

STEP 3: Try adding dish soap or shampoo to the hot water

If plain hot water doesn’t do the trick, add a little surfactant like dish soap, shampoo or even bar soap. To do this, remove as much water as you can from the toilet bowl and add in a generous amount of soap in the toilet. If you are using bar soap, break it into smaller pieces and repeat pouring in hot water. This works by lubricating the clog and pipes so the blockage can move, allowing you to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

STEP 4: Use a wire hanger as a plunger replacement

If both of these options still leave you clogged, you may need to try to physically move the clog. Grab a wire hanger and try to “plunge” the toilet with the toilet cleaning brush. If the clog is almost cleared, a few forceful pumps of the brush and hanger could generate enough pressure to move it through the pipes.

STEP 5: Reverse course – buy the plunger

Is the water you’re pouring into the toilet is draining freely? Can you turn the water back on at the valve and flush the toilet again? If you used a surfactant, can you flush several times to remove residue? If yes, great, but if not, head to the store to purchase a plunger.

For plumbing problems that you can’t solve on your own, call the professionals at Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Electric Blanket Safety

Cooler weather is here! You can enjoy warm sweaters, fuzzy socks and  . . . your electric blanket. But, is it safe to use?  Follow these simple electric blanket safety “dos and don’ts” to ensure you don’t create an unsafe situation in your home.

Electric Blanket Safety: DO!

  • Select an electric blanket that follows the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards. They have been testing products and establishing standards for more than 100 years.
  • Place the blanket over you, not under you, so you do not damage the blanket’s internal coils. Keep items away from the blanket that confine heat to escape such as books, technology and stuffed animals.
  • Lay the heated area of the electric blanket flat instead of folding or balling it up so the heat doesn’t become too hot.
  • Keep pets off electric blankets, especially while on. A sharp claw or animal’s tooth could puncture the cord insulation or damage the wires.
  • Only loosely wrap the control cords around the blanket when preparing for storage.
  • Immediately turn off and unplug the blanket if you see smoke or smell something burning. Notice any blanket discoloration which could indicate melting or burning inside elements.
  • Keep the electric blanket turned off when no one is using it. Most models have no temperature control, so they will not automatically turn off if they overheat.
  • Call the manufacturer with any questions – especially if your blanket starts operating improperly. Examples include: one area of the blanket becomes overheated, or you see a burn mark on the blanket. If you can’t resolve the problem, discontinue using the blanket.

Image of a folded electric blanket

Electric Blanket Safety: DON’T!

  • Don’t use electric blankets on babies or young children, people with disabilities, or anyone who cannot operate the blanket’s heating controls independently.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket all night unless it is designed for safe overnight use.
  • Don’t run the power cord under the mattress when using the electric blanket in bed. It could damage or heat up the cord so hot that it causes a fire.
  • Don’t twist or bend the control cords since this could damage them. This also means you shouldn’t use electric blankets with adjustable hospital beds or sofa sleepers where the cords could become pinched in the bed-folding mechanisms.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket if you are sleeping on a waterbed.
  • Don’t combine an electric blanket and a heated mattress pad. Using them together could cause overheating and start a fire.
  • Don’t wash an electric blanket. The motions of the washing machine will most likely cause damage to the internal coils.
  • Don’t iron the blanket because it could melt the cord insulation.
  • Don’t send out your electric blanket for dry cleaning. Solvents used in the dry cleaning process could damage the cord insulation.

This may seem like using an electric blanket comes more rules than they are worth, but most of them are fairly common sense. If you use your electric blanket safely you’ll enjoy the added warmth and coziness they bring during a cold winter.

If you have concerns about electrical safety in your home, then call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Common Dishwasher Problems Solved

It’s a major headache when your dishwasher stops working. Dishwashers save time and are convenient for families, especially at the holidays! We have listed some of the common dishwasher problems and plumbing issues with ideas for how to fix them yourself.

How to Prevent Common Dishwasher Problems

Even when your dishwasher is problem-free, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the way it operates. Here are some dishwasher plumbing maintenance tips that could prevent a problem from occurring down the line.

  1. Make sure you are using the right kind of dish detergent, because the wrong type of detergent can clog the Image of upset man as dishwasher overflows with soap behind himdrain in your dishwasher. The manufacturer’s directions will tell you which kinds of detergent you can use before you try a new kind.
  2. Listen to the dishwasher while it’s on. If you know what your dishwasher sounds like when it’s working correctly, a problem arising will get your attention more quickly. Identifying one early is always best. Humming or clanking sounds might indicate a problem with the drainpipe or the motor.
  3. Pay attention when you are loading the dishwasher. Anyone can run into issues loading the dishwasher, especially if they’re in a hurry. Overloading and arranging dished haphazardly are common mistakes. Check the appliance manual for instructions about loading your dishwasher if you are ever unsure.

The Dishes Aren’t Clean

There are a few different situations that could cause your dishes to not get clean. Here are some factors to consider.

  • Is the float switch dirty? If so, the solution may be a bit tricky and you may need to call a professional. You will need to take the dishwasher apart and clean the float switch and the surrounding components. The switch might also just be stuck, which is something worth checking out.
  • Are you using the wrong detergent? Again, check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding what kind of dish soap you should be using. Sometimes, a fix as simple as changing the dish soap can cure the problem! It is really important you use the correct detergent because it can lead to other issues as well.

The Dishwasher Won’t Drain

Is the dishwasher draining? If not, try these steps to identify the problem.

  • Check to see if there are any blockages at the bottom of the machine. Sometimes food or utensils can fall in and block the drain.
  • Inspect the drain hose. Check for any kinks in the hose or if the garbage disposal is too full. If so, your dishwasher’s ability to drain might be impacted.

Still Having Dishwasher Plumbing Problems?

These tips can certainly go a long way toward helping you keep your dishwasher running well. If you need additional guidance, you might consider reaching out to a plumbing professional. Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010 for professional assistance.

DIY Plumbing Tools and Gadgets

Household plumbing repairs can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s important to contact a professional plumber to fix the big problems, but small clogs and leaks are often DIY fixes. Having a well-stocked toolkit with plumbing tools and gadgets can make even the toughest DIY plumbing projects hassle-free, cost-effective and straightforward.

Seven Must-Have DIY Plumbing Tools and Gadgets

When you’re ready to tackle common household plumbing issues, you’re going to need a set of quality plumbing tools to help you get the job done quickly and correctly, with the least amount of strain and mess possible.

Most plumbing tools and gadgets you need for basic fixes are affordable and easy to find at your local hardware store. Along with basic tools — like a hammer, tape measure, screwdriver kit, tape and a utility knife — you can these gadgets will help you tackle commons projects.

man plunges toilet and grimaces

Plunger

Every plumber knows to keep a plunger nearby for any type of plumbing mishap. It’s the first tool plumbers use to dislodge clogs from kitchen sinks, toilets, floor drains and tubs or showers. Use a plunger properly by forming a firm seal between the plunger and the drain, then pull upward in a controlled motion. This will release the clog and prevent it from moving farther down into your pipes.

Hand Auger

When a plunger doesn’t have the power needed to remove stubborn clogs, it’s ideal to have a hand auger. This tool is also known as a drain snake. Most augers are available in lengths reaching up to 25 feet long. They’re made of flexible steel for improved durability and strength to get rid of the toughest sink and shower clogs.

Closet Auger

Similar to a hand auger, a closet auger is specially designed to fit inside a toilet to clear difficult clogs.

Adjustable Wrench

An adjustable wrench helps you effortlessly remove and reattach hex-shaped compression nuts and supply line fittings. Consider buying an adjustable wrench in both 6″ and 10″ sizes for project flexibility. Find a quality product that holds firm and won’t slip under pressure.

Tongue and Groove Pliers

To quickly tighten, loosen, twist or remove parts, keep a pair of tongue and groove pliers available. These pliers have angled jaws, long handles and several adjustable positions for handling plumbing fixtures easily. Consider keeping two pliers available — one for stabilizing the fixture and the other to loosen or tighten it.

Hacksaw

For heavy-duty projects, use a hacksaw to smoothly cut through metal or plastic pipes and hardware. Keep extra blades around to easily switch out old, ineffective ones.

Basin Wrench

A basin wrench is best used for tightening and loosening the fasteners that secure sink faucets. This tool has a long handle and a swiveling jaw that can easily maneuver in narrow spaces behind sinks and hard-to-reach areas.

These plumbing tools and gadgets will help you tackle your home’s most common plumbing jobs. For projects that are bigger than small clogs and leads, call the professionals at Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

 

A Dusty Home: Causes & Solutions

No one likes a dusty home. Let’s look at how this happens and what type of filtration and prevention can be done to lessen the amount of dust.

If you have a problem with the amount of dust in your home, no matter how much you clean, this may be an indication that your HVAC system is not filtering dust properly. There are a few common problems that can lead to excess dust and ways to fix it.

Home Air Filters

Checking your air filters is the first thing you should do if you’re experiencing issues with dust. Filters trap dust and other material from getting into your home, so they need to be either replaced or cleaned regularly so they work properly. If they get too dirty, they will become ineffective and allow dust and particles to build up in your home.

Leaky Ducts

If your air filters are clean, check the air ducts. Leaky ducts not only cause your HVAC unit to work overtime, but also cause unfiltered, dusty air to get into your home. You’ll notice your utility bills going up and dust collecting in your house.

Signs of a leaky air ducts:

  • Lint or dust build up on vent registers,
  • High energy bills
  • Hot or cold spots in your house

If you suspect the air ducts are the issue, inspect the ductwork for leaky joints and seal them. You may want to hire a professional to come in and fix the ductwork.

Humidity

High humidity in your home can cause dust build-up. The simple solution is to run a humidifier to reduce dryness. Humidity is a common problem and since mold and dust thrive under high humidity, you can’t afford to ignore it. If you find this is your issue, call for a  professional to install a humidifier.

Cracks In the Windows

Dust can get into your home through any cracks in the windows. You will want to re-caulk your windows to seal them and create a tighter fit.

Tracking Incoming DirtImage of shoes placed by front door mat

Dust and dirt can easily be brought into your home on your shoes. So, have everyone remove their shoes as soon as they come into the house. It’s a simple fix, but it could go a long way to improving the dust levels.

If you have checked on all of the above items, and remedied them with these basic fixes, but you’re still having a problem with excess dust, it’s best to have your HVAC system checked by a professional. It may just need a tune up or repair.

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

What to do if a rodent dies in your ductwork

In the event a rodent dies in your home, you likely ask these questions – where the smell is coming from and how can you get rid of it? It’s common for homeowners to discover a small rodent like a rat, mouse or other creature has died in their ductwork. And it’s not pleasant.  It will most likely leave you with a horrible smell and some mess to clean up. If a rodent dies in your ductwork, the smell will most likely seep into your home, so you’ll need to plan on cleaning.

While it’s usually best to hire a professional, here are some DIY tips on what you can do in the event a rodent dies in your ductwork.

Track the Smellimage of a man inspecting an air vent

The smell of the dead animal will usually tip you off that there is a problem. But noticing a smell can mean the rodent died in one of various places in your home – the  basement, crawlspace, attic or ductwork. You’ll have to follow the scent.

If you suspect that it’s in your ductwork you should look into it using a flashlight. If you can see the animal, go ahead and remove it. However, if you don’t see it, you may need to hire a professional to search for and dispose of the animal.

Remove It

Once you have found it, you will need to remove it carefully. You’ll need supplies like a garbage bag, paper towels, gloves, and disinfectant spray. If you cannot reach the animal, you may need other tools to drag it closer to you. Once it has been located and the source of the smell has been removed disinfect the entire area. This will remove the smell and kill the germs left by the animal carcass.

Take Follow-up Steps

One thing you should do is thoroughly inspect your system and ductwork. It’s important to find any leaks to prevent another animal from getting into the ductwork. This will also increase the energy efficiency of your system.

You may also want to hire a professional to clean your ductwork. This will help get rid of any lingering odors and give you the peace of mind for your health that any bacteria or viruses have been cleaned away.

You may be able to rectify the issue of removing a dead rodent from your ductwork, but hiring a professional, like a pest control specialist is never a bad idea. To schedule a HVAC system inspection and make sure unwanted guests aren’t climbing through your ductwork, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.

Garbage Disposal Leaks 101

There are common causes for garbage disposal leaks – usually it’s a minor component being too loose or worn out. By finding from where your garbage disposal is leaking, you’ll be able to figure out why it’s leaking! And then you can fix it.

If your garbage disposal is leaking, it will likely leak from one of these places: the top, the pipe connections and the bottom. To find out if your disposal is leaking, check each common place where leaks start. Start with a flashlight to check for puddling, condensation, and other signs of water accumulation around or under your disposal.

So let’s find out what’s going on with your disposal.

Garbage disposals usually leak from four different places:

  1. The reset button (on the bottom of the disposal) – deactivates the disposal if it jams or the motor overloads.
  2. The dishwasher hose connection on the side of the disposal – where the flexible plastic dishwasher hose connects to the disposal.
  3. The sink flange – located at the top of the garbage disposal; connects the disposal to the top of the sink.
  4. The drain line connection – where the main drain pipe connects to the disposal via curving metal or PVC plastic pipes.

First, look for the obvious signs of garbage disposal leaks.

  • If you see any signs of leaking, check that it isn’t the sink itself or the sink’s p-trap. If not, check under your kitchen sink for puddling water, dampness, dripping or a musty smell. Grab a flashlight and bucket to look for each type of leak.
  • Turn off the garbage disposal and unplug it.
  • Then, fill up the kitchen sink with water about halfway. Add food coloring to the water so you can spot the leak.

You can locate the leak in the following ways:Woman holding a wrench checks for leaks under her kitchen sink

  • The reset button: The reset button is located in the bottom of the disposal unit. Check for a slow, constant drip or water accumulation under the unit.
  • The dishwasher hose connection: Start the dishwasher without turning back on the disposal. Watch the hose as the water runs from the dishwasher drain through it. Pay attention to the connections between the hose and disposal.
  • The sink flange: Check for dripping or accumulating water around the top and bottom of the ring of the flange. Use the flashlight to look for water coloring and feel for wetness.
  • The drain line connection: Check the drain line and disposal connection. Pay attention to the screws that fasten the line to the disposal and to the gap between the disposal and drain line.

If you find a leak at any of these points, find out why.

Each of the four common leaks have different causes and fixes. Here’s how to locate what caused it:

  1. The reset button: If your garbage disposal is leaking from either the reset button or at the bottom of the disposal it probably means a seal inside the unit has worn out. This can happen when a garbage disposal gets old.
  2. The dishwasher hose connection: If the dishwasher hose is leaking, it’s usually because the screws have loosened. This can happen because of rust or age. It’s also possible the drain hose or clamp are leaking.
  3. The sink flange: This part is held in place by plumber’s putty and bolts. The putty can deteriorate or the bolts rust or loosen, and the watertight seal between the flange and sink may break.
  4. The drain line connection: If the drain line is leaking, then either the screws have worn out, or the rubber gasket inside the assembly is leaking. Take down the drain line and check the gasket for wear and tear.

Now that you’ve identified the where and why, you’re ready to fix the problem.

The good news is fixing a leaking garbage disposal is usually straightforward, even when you might need a professional:

  1. The reset button: Unfortunately, if your garbage disposal leaks from the bottom it’s probably time to replace it.
  2. The dishwasher hose connection: First, try to tighten the screws on the metal clamp connecting the hose to the disposal. If the screws don’t tighten properly, replace them. If the hose is also leaking, you’ll have to replace it, too.
  3. The drain line connection: Try to fix this leak by tightening the connection between the pipe and disposal. Detach and reattach the pipe if tightening doesn’t work. If there are still issues, replace the screws or gasket.
  4. The sink flange: Unscrew and check the bolts for rust or other deterioration and replace them if needed. Then, remove the flange, scrap off the putty, and reapply new putty. Turn back on the water to test the seal.

Using these instructions, you should be able to identify and fix nearly any garbage disposal leak! Of course, sometimes unusual leaks happen. They can be tough to figure out, much less fix, so contact a professional in those situations. If you need the assistance of a licensed plumber, then call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 800.461.3010.