Archive for April 2017

Frustrated by an air conditioner that won’t start?

There’s not much that’s worse than when you need to use your air conditioner and it won’t start.

Whether it’s the first time you’ve used it all year, or you just know you’ll need it more and more as the temperatures rise, it’s frustrating to find that your air conditioning system isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do.

There are four main things you can check yourself (if you’re comfortable doing so!) before calling anyone out and paying a service fee.

These are relatively common reasons for air conditioning issues, and you can save yourself time and money if you’re able to identify and resolve the issue in your home.

1. Is your thermostat set to cool?

I know it sounds silly, but if you have anyone at all living with you, it’s worth checking. Particularly when the weather is very temperate, it’s common for people to simply turn their AC off entirely to enjoy the nice weather. This is one of the first things we look into when we receive calls for air conditioning issues.

2. Do you have a tripped circuit breaker?

Now of course, it’s possible this was simply turned off for some reason (maybe you had someone out to do work on your home or your property). But if you notice that your circuit breaker is tripping repeatedly, there may be an underlying problem.

You should definitely check the main circuit breaker for your home, but there should also be a breaker box by your condenser (the outside part of your air conditioning system) according to building code. That’s usually helpful when you’re getting your HVAC system serviced, but as the home owner, you’re certainly free to check and see if it’s tripped.

3. Is your indoor unit draining properly?

The indoor part of your HVAC system is often in a closet or in your attic. There’s an evaporator coil that collects condensation, and a drain pan underneath it that should have a safety precaution to shut off the unit when the system isn’t draining properly.

If your air conditioner isn’t working, it may be shut off for safety purposes for something like this (to prevent water damage from leaks). Notice a clog? If you can get it safely unclogged, your system should begin draining properly, the safety feature will turn off, and your air conditioner will get back to work!

4. What’s the blower doing?

If the outside part of your unit appears to be working properly, but the inside isn’t getting any airflow, it’s possible that there’s an issue with your blower. Typically, your blower is near your furnace.

You can check for a tripped circuit, and if that’s the issue, flipping the switch back to “on” should help. It’s also possible that the blower motor isn’t functioning properly. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to call in a professional.

One cause I didn’t include: a broken thermostat. It’s entirely possible that your thermostat is broken if you aren’t getting any cool air, but our technicians have found that to be the issue on very few of their site visits.

If you aren’t comfortable checking for one of these four reasons—or the issue is something other than these four—or you’re just tired of sweating and want someone to fix it, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

Composting basics (no acreage required!)

Over the past several years, we’ve noticed many of our colleagues in Edmond and Oklahoma City have started composting some of their food waste.

Originally, we all assumed this was because they just happened to be avid gardeners! But from asking about and listening to their reasons, I’ve learned there are many other reasons composting is seeing a surge in popularity.

In addition to the benefit to your soil, composting can reduce landfill waste and greenhouse emissions and deter pests in your garden. It can also help you build up and replace lost topsoil, which we typically lose every year due to erosion and agriculture.

Composting is fairly simple, too—but it does require more than just throwing all your food waste into a box in your backyard. Here are some things you should compost (and some things you should definitely just leave in the trash).

Compostable garbage

  • Dead plants and flowers, including grass clippings, dead leaves, and even wood ashes
  • Paper products, like shredded bills and used paper towels and napkins
  • Feathers or hair from your pets
  • Most nuts and their shells (but not walnuts—they have a chemical that is toxic to certain plants)
  • Coffee grounds and paper coffee filters
  • Stale or moldy bread
  • White glue (like Elmer’s) and masking tape—yes, really!
  • Natural wine corks
  • 100% cotton balls and swabs

Just leave it in the trash

  • Soaps or shampoos
  • Meat, animal bones, or eggs (you’ll attract unwanted critters)
  • Dairy products
  • Oils, grease, or salad dressings
  • Diapers or feminine products
  • Pet waste or cat litter (there may be parasites)
  • Dryer lint
  • Glossy magazines or wrapping paper
  • Charcoal ashes (contain toxins)
  • Cooked rice and pasta
  • Cigarrette butts
  • Peanut butter

A lot of people find that it’s helpful to have one trash can for compostable material and another for things that aren’t. Even if you have a small garden, composting can be a simple way to reduce your food waste and provide the kind of soil that your plants will love.

Do you compost? What has been helpful to you in the process? What mistakes do you wish you had avoided?

What is (and isn’t) okay to put in the garbage disposal

Most homes in Edmond and Oklahoma City have garbage disposals, but there’s a surprising amount of controversy about what you can and can’t put down your garbage disposal.

When we had a plumbing department, I would constantly hear horror stories from our plumbing technicians about what they encountered in the field!

Food that shouldn’t go down your garbage disposal can gunk up the disposal and dull the blades, making it less effective. And of course, over time that can cause them to break! I recall breaking one or two garbage disposals as a child, which my parents were not happy about…

Based on what our plumbers shared and some online research, I’ve compiled a list of what’s generally okay and what’s not okay to put down your garbage disposal. I was surprised to find so much controversy online over what you can and can’t put in the disposal, so I would just say to err on the side of caution if you’re concerned about damaging your disposal.

Okay:

  • Small citrus peels (admittedly one of the more controversial items)
  • Liquids
  • Soft foods
  • Small amounts of cooked vegetables or meat (like leftovers)

Not okay:

  • Grease, fats, and oils (These will coat the blades of your disposal, making it work harder.)
  • Eggshells (Ground-up eggshells mixed with grease can really gunk up your drain lines!)
  • Vegetable peels
  • Actual garbage (Paper, rubber bands, plastic, etc.)
  • Rice and pasta (They expand when exposed to water, even after being cooked. Yikes!)
  • Bones

Or, think of it this way: If you could feed it to an infant, then it will probably be okay to go down your drain.

You should also run your garbage disposal with cold water when you’re grinding up food particles—that way the natural oils and fats in some foods won’t get stuck in your disposal blades. After running the disposal, though, it’s perfectly okay to run hot water down the drain.

I know we like to think of our garbage disposal as something that simply gets rid of the things we don’t want to scrape into the trash can (and to an extent that’s true) but it might help to also think about it like an appliance, too. Being careful about what you put down the disposal can help you maintain that appliance over the years.

Home maintenance checklist for Oklahoma

You’re probably pretty busy, right? Most people are, and one of the things that tends to fall by the wayside when we’re busy is home maintenance.

Home maintenance, just like car maintenance, can help prolong the life and enjoyment of a substantial investment. But it can be intimidating to try to find time to do all the maintenance tasks you can possibly find online.

Here’s a brief list of some of the most important ones for Oklahomans. For me, I find it’s really helpful to schedule out when I’m going to do these tasks well in advance, so I’m not wondering when it’s time (and stressing if I’ve forgotten).

Fireplace

Real fireplaces should be cleaned at least once a year. Creosote forms over time, lining the flue, and as little as 1/8th of an inch can lead to a chimney fire.

Water heater

Drain your water heater once a year to remove sediment from the tank. Sediment forms from hard water, and if you aren’t draining the tank, those particles will build up over time and reduce the capacity to store water.

Gutters

Your gutters help prevent the ground immediately around your home for getting waterlogged and risking foundation damage. Removing leaves, twigs, and other debris when they build up helps your gutters do their job.

Air filters

Replacing air filters helps prolong the life of your HVAC unit and prevent premature compressor failure (which can cost you up to $10,000!). At minimum, these should be replaced every quarter, although most homes benefit from more frequent replacement.

Smoke detectors

Check the batteries at least once a quarter to make sure they’re working properly—do the same for carbon monoxide detectors if you have them. It’s a good idea to replace the batteries once a year.

Fire extinguishers

If you don’t have a couple of these in your home, what are you waiting for? Check the expiration dates and replace when necessary (they typically expire five to ten years after they were manufactured). Check for signs of any visible damage or corrosion every month.

Washing machine

Detergent residue, dirt, and even sand can build up in your washer, making it dirty and even sometimes smelly. Run your washer once a month with hot water and bleach (with no clothes) to disinfect and remove odors. Wipe off any dirt or sand with a wet rag.

To make sure these home maintenance items get finished when they need to, I recommend using a calendar app—Google, Outlook, whatever you’re most comfortable with—and setting reminders.

This is especially helpful for those tasks that have to be done periodically, like changing your air filters. You won’t have to spend energy trying to remember the last time you did a certain home maintenance task, and you’ll be able to rest assured that your home is in good condition.