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How can I figure out which type of furnace or A/C is best?
What size air conditioner or furnace do I need?
How often should I have a furnace or air conditioner tune-up?
Is there anything I can do before I call for furnace or A/C service?
Could attic ventilation reduce cooling costs in the summer?
How can I save money with a programmable thermostat?
What should I do if I smell gas in my house?
Air Conditioning Maintenance Tips
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Furnace Maintenance Tips
How can I tell when I need to replace my heat pump?
What is the average lifespan of a heat pump?
Can I repair my own heat pump?
How often should I change my heat pump’s air filter?
I’ve heard people say heat pumps don’t keep you as comfortable as furnaces. Is this true?
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
What’s the big deal about indoor air quality? Why should I care?
Are some people more susceptible to indoor air pollution?
My house is clean. Could I have poor indoor air quality?
How does indoor air pollution affect your health?
How much humidity should I have in my home?
Indoor Air Quality Tips
Do I have proper water flow from my faucets?
Where can I find my home’s main water valve shutoff?
What can I do about unpleasant odors coming from my drains?
How can I check my sump pump?
How can I check for slow leaks?
What can I do about noisy pipes?
How often should I have my septic tank inspected?
General Plumbing Tips
Q: How long will my HVAC system last?
A: With proper annual maintenance, you can expect your air conditioner to last anywhere from 10 to 15 years and your furnace to last about 15 to 20 years. These are just estimates, however, as a system that has not been properly maintained will need to be replaced sooner than a system that has annual maintenance. (Back To Top)
Q: How can I figure out which type of furnace or A/C is best?
A: There are many factors that influence the type of furnace or air conditioner that’s best for your home. These include the size and age of your home and the number of rooms as well as current utility costs and local rebate programs. At Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, we utilize the latest technology to help you determine which type of A/C or furnace will keep you the most comfortable while saving you the most money. (Back To Top)
Q: What size air conditioner or furnace do I need?
A: Again, there’s no simple answer for this. It all depends on conditions in your home. Factors that determine the size of your HVAC system include humidity levels in your area, the number of windows in your home, total square footage, the direction your home faces, the number of heat producing appliances in your home, the type of insulation in your home, and the number of people living in the home and their activities. Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling take all of these factors into account so we can recommend the air conditioner or furnace that will maximize your comfort while reducing your energy costs. (Back To Top)
Q: How often should I have a furnace or air conditioner tune-up?
A: You should have your HVAC system tuned up annually. Many people think that this service needs to be done prior to the start of its season, however, as long as it is done annually the timing is not that important. Annual maintenance helps keep your system running at peak performance by saving you money on your energy costs, reducing breakdowns by spotting little problems before they become big ones, and promoting longer equipment life. Plus, with our maintenance agreements we make annual maintenance cost effective and convenient. (Back To Top)
Q: Is there anything I can do before I call for furnace or A/C service?
A: If you’re having problems with your furnace or A/C, there are a few things you can try before calling the HVAC service professionals at Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling:
Disconnect and reconnect your indoor and outdoor switches.
Make sure your circuit breakers are in the ON position.
Make sure your filters are clean.
Keep your vents clear and unobstructed.
Make sure your system is in the proper mode – HEAT or COOL. (Back To Top)
Q: How can I save money with a programmable thermostat?
A: Programmable thermostats automatically adjust the temperature in your home to the most efficient level for different times of day depending on your settings. If there are set times every day when you and your family are not at home, you can set the temperature during these times higher or lower based on what is more efficient for the season. For example, in the summer you can set the temperature to 80° F or more during the times when your family is not home and have it come back down to 72° F in time to keep you cool when you come home. (Back To Top)
Q: Can attic ventilation reduce cooling costs in the summer?
A: Attic ventilation helps control moisture and keeps cooling costs down. When the summer heat beats down on your roof, the attic can reach up to 150° F. With the proper amount of insulation and attic ventilation, you can keep your cooling costs down and prevent the accumulation of mold and mildew that may cause even bigger problems. (Back To Top)
Q: What should I do if I smell gas in my house?
A: If you smell gas in your home, get outside as quickly as possible. Once you’re safely outside, call these in this order:
1. The Fire Department (911)
2. Your gas company
3. Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling
While inside, do not touch any electrical switches as these could create a spark that can ignite the gas. This includes light switches, TVs, phones (even cell phones), fire alarms, and anything else with an ON/OFF switch, no matter how small it seems. If you react quickly and get to safety, gas leaks will not become a major worry.
If you or your family experiences unexplained headaches and are potentially experiencing signs of the flu, you may have a CO leak. Ensure your safety by taking the following measures:
- Open as many windows as possible to ventilate your home.
- Open the door of an attached garage.
- Shut off your furnace and any other fuel-burning appliances.
- If you begin to feel better, get everyone, including pets, out of the house.
- Call 911; the gas company; and Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling.
Q: How can I tell when I need to replace my heat pump?
A: One of the hardest things to do with your heat pump is figure out whether you need to have it replaced or repaired if it begins to present problems. Many times, people hear strange noises or see an unusual spike in their energy bills and assume the worst. Fortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the problem is caused by a worn out part that can be easily replaced.
To decide whether you need a full heat pump replacement, pay attention to your heat pump over the course of a few weeks, checking for common issues like uneven heating or cooling or reduced overall heating and cooling capacity. If your heat pump can no longer move conditioned air through your home, this is definitely a problem you need to address.
If your heat pump is approaching 10 years old and giving you problems, it might be time to call the experts at Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling to help you navigate through your options. They can help you compare the cost of repair, maintenance and energy use of your current system versus the cost of replacement. (Back To Top)
Q: What is the average lifespan of a heat pump?
A: This really depends on how often it is serviced and how well it is maintained, but for the most part a heat pump should last about 14 years. However, maintenance is the key to a longer lifespan. Note that many factors affect the life expectancy of your heat pump and should be considered when making a decision to replace. These include the quality of the components; the quality of their installation; how well you keep up with maintenance, weather and climatic conditions; and intensity of use. Some components remain functional but become obsolete due to product improvements or changing environmental or efficiency standards. (Back To Top)
Q: Can I repair my own heat pump?
A: While you can do some cleaning and maintenance of your heat pump yourself, it’s generally not a good idea to try and repair anything major without proper training. Additionally, there are many parts that need to be lubricated and cleaned where you may not have the proper tools or knowledge to access. Heat pumps are on a 240 volt circuit, meaning that severe electrocution is possible if you don’t have a strong working knowledge of electricity. Most modern heat pumps contain complex circuit boards and sensors and have to comply with strict regulations. In general, it’s best to leave the major repairs to the Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling service experts. (Back To Top)
Q: How often should I change my heat pump’s air filter?
A: As with your air conditioner and furnace, you should change the filter on your heat pump once a month during peak use (summer and winter months) and once every three months outside of that. (Back To Top)
Q: I’ve heard people say heat pumps don’t keep you as comfortable as furnaces. Is this true?
A: While heat pumps do take some getting used to, they will still keep your home every bit as comfortable as a furnace. Heat pumps are better at keeping the temperature in your home consistent, meaning you won’t have those blasts of warm air that are common with gas furnaces. Instead, the air coming out of your registers will feel cool, even though it’s at the temperature you’ve set. (Back To Top)
Q: What’s the big deal about indoor air quality? Why should I care?
A: Scientific evidence has shown that indoor air can be as much as 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, or more. These days, people spend about 90% of their time indoors. As a result, the “dosage” of air pollution – that is, the amount of pollutants multiplied by the time spent in that environment – is much higher indoors than outdoors. This poses a greater health risk due to air pollution exposure indoors. (Back To Top)
Q: Are some people more susceptible to indoor air pollution?
A: Yes. People who spend a significant amount of time indoors are, naturally, more susceptible to adverse effects of poor indoor air quality than those who spend more time outside. In addition, children and infants, the elderly, and anyone with severe asthma or allergies are at increased risk of health effects of indoor air pollution. (Back To Top)
Q: My house is clean. Could I have poor indoor air quality?
A: Unfortunately, yes. Most of the time, indoor air quality has little to do with how clean you keep your home. What’s more important is how well your home is ventilated and the sources of poor indoor air quality present.
A great way to improve the efficiency of a home is to seal it up as tightly as possible – at least this was the theory during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult for the home to breathe. If a home isn’t ventilated properly, polluted indoor air is never replaced with fresh, outside air. This creates stale, polluted air that stays in the house and becomes worse over time. This is especially true during the summer and winter when it’s too hot or cold to keep the windows open for extended periods of time.
Contrary to popular belief, indoor air pollutants do not include things like dirt and dust and therefore can still be present in clean homes. More often, pollution sources include:
- Chemicals from treated building materials and furnishings
- Household cleaning products
- Personal care products
- Oil, gas, kerosene or wood combustion products
Q: How does indoor air pollution affect your health?
A: Health effects from poor indoor air quality can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and allergy-like symptoms. These symptoms are usually short-term and go away once you leave the house. Occasionally more serious symptoms will crop up, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever.
Everyone has different sensitivities to indoor air pollutants and experiences different symptoms. Some people may never experience any symptoms while others may truly suffer. Because many symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from viruses or allergies, care must be taken to determine if symptoms are worse while in a particular building compared to outside, or whether they dissipate when a person is away for several days. (Back To Top)
Q: How much humidity should I have in my home?
A: The short answer is 35%; however, the ideal range by most research is between 40 and 60% if the home is properly constructed to handle humidity that high. (Back To Top)
Q: Do I have proper water flow from my faucets?
A: To help establish as to whether your home’s water is flowing properly, turn the water on in the bathtub and kitchen sink and look to see if there is a noticeable reduction in the water’s volume. If so, the piping in the home may be full of calcium and mineral deposits and may require attention. (Back To Top)
Q: Where can I find my home’s main water valve shutoff?
A: In case of an emergency, you should know where your home’s main water valve shutoff is located. The valve will be either one or two valves located near the main water line and should be able to be turned off by hand. There may be an outside box, often times called a “buffalo box,” where the main water to the house can be turned off. This usually can be found near the street at your property’s edge. You may need the help of a Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technician to turn the main water line off from the box. This task generally requires a special key in order to be shut off properly. (Back To Top)
Q: What can I do about unpleasant odors coming from my drains?
A: Pour a gallon of water into drains that are not often used to make certain the trap is filled. This will help to prevent unwanted odors and gas into your home. For those drains that drain slowly you should have your Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technician clear the drains to ensure that they carry water away quickly and efficiently. (Back To Top)
Q: How can I check my sump pump?
A: Should your house have a sump pump, be certain that it is functioning correctly by pouring several buckets of water into the pump. Your sump pump should turn on quickly and shut off without any problems. (Back To Top)
Q: How can I check for slow leaks?
A: Should you suspect a slow leak, one way to check is by taking a reading of your home’s water meter before you go to bed. When you wake up the next morning read the meter again before turning on any faucets. If the meter is different from the previous night’s reading you may have a slow leak. Your trained Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technician can help diagnose and correct leaks. (Back To Top)
Q: What can I do about noisy pipes?
A: There are several noises water pipes can make. The most common is water hammer noise. A good way to stop water hammer noise caused is by installing “pipe shock absorbers.” Be sure and ask your Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technician about this solution. (Back To Top)
Q: How often should I have my septic tank inspected?
A: If your home has a septic tank, you should have your septic tank inspected and pumped every three to five years to help prevent expensive replacement of the septic filter field. (Back To Top)
To prevent an air conditioning problem and to extend the life of your air conditioning unit, follow these simple air conditioning maintenance tips:
- Don’t put off air conditioning repairs when you have an HVAC problem.
- Running your central air conditioning unit when it isn’t working properly can turn a potentially small problem into a much larger one, costing you more in the long run.
- Check or change your air conditioning filter monthly (or per the manufacturer’s specifications).
- Dirty filters reduce efficiency and restrict airflow to your evaporator coil that can cause your air conditioning system to breakdown.
- Use your garden hose to clean off your outdoor air conditioning condensing unit. This allows proper airflow.
- Your outdoor air conditioning unit needs to draw air into the central system to cool inside, but if the unit is blocked by bushes, covered in leaves or clogged with dirt, the process is inhibited and becomes inefficient.
- If you have a digital thermostat, make sure the batteries are still good.
- An electronic, programmable thermostat saves energy and prevents wear and tear on your air conditioning system, but only when it’s running properly with full power.
Furnace Maintenance Tips
The Washington, DC, Maryland (MD), and Northern Virginia (VA) area has cold winters, which always results in high heating costs. With the ever increasing prices of oil and gas, you’re probably spending more today than you did a few years ago to heat your home or commercial building. Check out our tips and suggestions on this page to help save money on heating this winter:
1. Clean your furnace filters. Over time, furnace filters will become clogged with dust and other undesirable particles. Clogged filters lower your heater’s efficiency by restricting the airflow passing through your furnace. Most filters last for 30 days and can be purchased at your local hardware store. Having your furnace and HVAC system cleaned and tuned up annually will help increase efficiency and shave money off your monthly bill. Contact Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling today to receive a quote on HVAC tune-ups.
2. Keep cold air out; most of the heat that is pumped in does not stay. It is important to close all storm windows and doors as well as make sure your fireplace and stove vents are shut when not in use. Checking and replacing weather stripping on doors and windows can also keep heat from escaping. Air leaks around windows not only let warm air out but also let cold air in. The air drafts alone can lower the temperature in your home significantly. Before you turn on your heat this fall or winter, make sure all weather stripping on doors and windows is in place.
3. Set your thermostat as low as you are comfortable with in the winter. We recommend setting your thermostat from 68 to 70° F. Once you have the thermostat set and you are content with the comfort level, we also recommend that you leave it there. It takes less energy to heat air 3 to 4 degrees than it does to heat air 6 to 8 degrees. This will also help save on your heating bills. Washington, DC winters can be cold, so set that thermostat and leave it to save money.
4. Clean warm air registers, baseboard heaters, radiators, etc. as necessary and make sure they are not being blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
5. Consider placing heat resistant radiator reflectors between any exterior walls and the radiator.
6. Keep your fan use to a minimum. Although fans may help you save money on your air conditioning bill in the spring and summer, we recommend that you use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans sparingly in the winter. These fans can draw out a house full of heated air in no time, so be sure to turn them off as soon as they have done their job.
7. Keep your blinds, draperies or shades open during the winter to allow sunlight to enter your home, and close them at night to reduce the cold.
8. Go green whenever possible. Purchase energy efficient equipment if you are replacing any of the appliances or the furnaces in your home. Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technicians are trained on repair, maintenance and installation of all major energy efficient brands and are also an authorized reseller of most major well known brands.
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Indoor Air Quality Tips
Did you know that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? While you might not be able to see contaminants in the air in your home, you may be breathing in millions of microscopic particles that include pollen, radon, mold spores and dust mite debris. Over time, poor air quality can lead to mild discomfort with minimal exposure, and to more serious symptoms such as asthma and severe allergies with prolonged exposure. The best way to maintain a good indoor air quality is with your central heating and air conditioning system by following these simple rules:
1. Start with controlling the sources of pollution. A large amount of indoor air impurities stem from unclean duct systems. If you have a duct system in your home, you should invest in professional duct cleaning to remove as many allergens from your home as possible.
2. Changing Filters Regularly. Central HVAC systems have filters to catch dust and other contaminants in the air. Make it a priority to change or clean the filters on a regular basis, following the instructions from the manufacturer.
3. Controlling Humidity and Moisture. Too much humidity in your home can lead to mold, mildew and dust mites. Too little humidity can lead to cracked walls and damaged wood furnishings. Use a humidity gauge to maintain an indoor humidity between 30 and 50%. You can increase humidity with a humidifier, or you can decrease humidity by running your air conditioner.
4. Improve Ventilation. In an effort to improve heating and air conditioning efficiency, most new homes fairly airtight. As a result, any contaminants that get into your home will stay there. Keep air circulating as much as possible with ceiling fans, ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and open windows (when it’s not too hot or cold outside).
5. Keep the House Clean. Have your family members and guests take their shoes off when they enter your house, and put walk mats down on all the entrances to prevent people from tracking things from the ground into the house. In addition, make sure you wash sheets and bedding regularly and, if possible, use a HEPA vacuum cleaner and microfiber cloths to trap as much bacteria and dust as possible while cleaning.
6. Use an Electronic Air Cleaner. Electronic air cleaners purify air as it moves through your ducts — before it goes into your home. This is a highly effective way to trap bacteria and dust before it gets into the main areas of your home. If you’re thinking about installing an electronic air cleaner, be sure to choose carefully. HEPA air cleaners will filter out small particles such as dust, smoke, pollen, etc., and ozone-ionizer air cleaners are great for eliminating odors, particular cigar and cigarette smoke.
7. Use Chemical Cleaners Sparingly. Most of the time, household chemical cleaners are as tough on spots and stains as they are on your health. When possible, substitute the use of chemicals for natural ingredients like baking soda and white vinegar. If that sounds like too much work, look for cleaner brands that are labeled non-toxic.
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Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly, odorless gas that is a byproduct of any gas-burning appliance. It is responsible for harming, even killing, unsuspecting people every year despite the continual education provided. Heating companies like Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling take the responsibility to help their community stay as safe as possible. The following tips are ways to help you stay safe:
1. Quality, low-level CO detectors should be located on every floor of your home. Be sure to check the batteries every six months. We suggest doing it every Daylight Savings as an easy why to never forget.
2. Have your gas-burning appliances maintained a minimum of once a year prior to use.
3. If you or your family experiences unexplained headaches and are potentially experiencing signs of the flu, you may have a CO leak. Ensure your safety by taking the following measures:
Open as many windows as possible to ventilate your home.
Open the door of an attached garage.
Shut off your furnace and any other fuel-burning appliances.
If you begin to feel better, get everyone, including pets, out of the house.
Call 911; the gas company; and Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling.
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General Plumbing Tips:
1. Be cautious of what you put down your garbage disposal. There are some very hard items you should avoid (such as potato peels). Contact our office, or ask your Magnolia Plumbing, Heating and Cooling technician for a complete list.
2. Don’t run a lot of water-using appliances at the same time. It creates too much of a need and increase pressure on your pipes which can cause damage.
3. Winterize your property before fall’s chilly air turns to freezing temperatures, and disconnect all water hoses from outside faucets.
4. Check your toilets for hidden leaks. This can easily be done by adding six drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If your toilet is leaking, the color will appear in your bowl within half an hour.
5. Flush your water heater at least once every six months to avoid sediment buildup, which can reduce hot water production capabilities, increasing your cost and reducing system life expectancy.
6. Check around the base of toilet tanks for signs of water damage or for soft floors. A simple way beyond visibly checking is to straddle the toilet and rock gently back and forth. If the floor feels soft or spongelike, there may be rotting or weak wood resulting from a slow leak.
7. Your pipes can clog because of the gradual buildup of grease, hair and soap debris. We recommend that all drains in sinks and tubs have strainers. This will help prevent bulky foods, hair and soap debris from clogging them.
8. A lot of kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms are built with tile. You should check for loose tiles where they come into contact with the tub or sinks. If the walls appear to be soft, there may be a leak behind the tiles that is causing damage to the structure.
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