Archive for April 2016

The problem with service agreements

The “service” part of service agreements is actually fine. Regular maintenance on your unit is a great idea. The part that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though, is the “agreement” part, because of the way others in my industry typically carry those out.

Most clients that we’ve spoken to are wary of those agreements, too. The approach that I see all too often in my industry is one that nags and tries to take advantage of customers.

We have a client who had a one-time service done on his home by one company. Five years later, he still had people from that company calling him a few times a month. Technicians for this company were even showing up at his door for maintenance he didn’t schedule! He turned them away because they were trying to sell him something he didn’t need.

Doesn’t that make you cringe? All he wanted was to get off their list! Because of that, his take on HVAC maintenance has been one of distrust. We’ve heard this from many of our customers.

I’ll let you in on something: the industry has taught that the way to keep in touch with your clients is to keep them in service contracts.

I take issue with that approach, though, because it doesn’t benefit the customer outside of the maintenance itself, and it puts unnecessary pressure on them. Sure, if you don’t maintain your unit, it will break sooner. But it’s completely up to you. We’re not going to force that on you.

We’re actually not doing maintenance contracts any more. Instead, we use email and social media to stay in touch with our customers and remind them about the need to do maintenance. We still want to be in contact with our customers, but we don’t want to pressure them into anything.

If you’d like to keep in touch with us in a no-pressure way, you can connect with us on social media or sign up for our free, informational email newsletter:

Getting to know geothermal

Geothermal energy is one of the oldest energy sources. It draws energy right from the ground. Since the temperature of the ground deep down doesn’t fluctuate with the weather, it’s very efficient. A geothermal heat pump can heat and cool your home using the heat of the earth, and can be used instead of an air conditioning system.

There’s not a lot of heat loss, which is why they’re so efficient. They save people about 50% on their heating and cooling bills. Geothermal energy is a renewable resource, as well, and for our clients who are looking to incorporate that into their home, this is often a more viable solution than solar panels.

The best time to install a geothermal unit

It’s easier to put a geothermal heat pump into new construction than an established home, because of the groundwork that’s involved. We are seeing more of them in our area, but we don’t often see people installing a geothermal heat pump when their air conditioner breaks. It costs more to install a geothermal unit than to replace an air conditioner.

For a new house, though, you’re building the ductwork and there’s easier access to the ground. It’s still a larger investment to install a geothermal heat pump than an air conditioning unit, but what you save in energy efficiency will cover the difference within about five years.

Geothermal advantages

Here are a few advantages to geothermal heat and air:

  • A significant decrease in heating and cooling costs.
  • Qualifies you for certain tax credits.
  • Geothermal energy is a renewable resource.
  • Lasts longer than a traditional unit.

A traditional unit typically lasts around ten to fifteen years before you need to replace it. The lifespan of a geothermal heat pump is 25 years for the inside components and 50 years for the ground system.

Where we typically see geothermal units right now is in commercial buildings. It makes their operating costs much cheaper, helps them be an energy-efficient property, and qualifies them for special tax credits as well.

Regardless of whether it’s commercial or residential, there are two different way to install geothermal heat pumps: drilling deep vertical lines into the ground, or drilling lengthwise in the ground like corkscrews.

If this sounds like something you’d like to consider, we’d be happy to have a conversation with you about what’s possible for your home.

Is your breaker box safe?

Chances are good that yes, it is. But better safe than sorry.

There are two kinds of breaker boxes we find that are potentially dangerous. Those brands are Zinsco and Federal Pacific, and you can find more information about them here:

We’re not trying to scare anyone, but the danger is serious enough that it’s important to bring it up. For these breaker boxes, the circuit breaker has a history of malfunctioning. The job of a circuit breaker is to disconnect the circuit when it gets overloaded or hot. These don’t, and when they don’t, they can create a house fire.

About 1 in 4 of these breaker boxes will malfunction. That doesn’t automatically mean that there will be a fire, but that’s not something that can be predicted.

There was almost a total recall of these breaker boxes in the 80s for that reason. But the companies decided that the cost of having a class action lawsuit wouldn’t be enough to be worth stopping production. That’s even though the malfunctioning breaker boxes were burning peoples’ houses down. So they continued to be installed in houses for seven more years.

There are thousands of these types of breaker boxes in the Oklahoma City area. If you think you have one of these, please feel free to call us to talk about a replacement.

You don’t need to replace it immediately, but we (and other reputable electricians) will not work on one of those panels except to replace them because we know the danger to your home and your family is so great.

Because this is a potential fire hazard, having this kind of breaker box is an issue in a lot of home inspections. Even if an inspector isn’t familiar with the controversy, when he looks the brand up online and sees that there is a significant fire hazard associated with that breaker box, his next step will be to recommend an electrician to you. Having this come up in an inspection can halt the sale or purchase on a home.

If you’re worried about your breaker box, give us a call and we would be happy to talk with you about your options.

Spring cleaning hacks

We all know that spring cleaning is important, but it can be so time consuming! I’ve found thirteen spring cleaning hacks that are time-savers and make use of common household items, so you can start enjoying your clean home sooner!

Clean hard water stains:

From your shower head

Lots of Oklahoma residents have to battle hard water in their homes. Try filling a sandwich bag with vinegar and baking soda, and attach it to your shower head. Your shower head will be clean when you remove the bag.

From your plumbing fixtures

Cut some lemons in half and scrub those surfaces and fixtures with the lemons. The acid will break down the hard water stains and help you easily clean them up.

From your shower door

Dryer sheets can remove hard water buildup from your shower door. You can even reuse them for this purpose after drying your clothes! Just wet them, add a little vinegar, and wipe to your heart’s content.

DIY air fresheners:

Vanilla extract air freshener

A few tablespoons of vanilla extract, baked in a mug at a low temperature, will eliminate funky odors and have your house smelling delicious in no time.

Bathroom air freshener

Instead of buying air fresheners for your bathroom, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the inside of the toilet paper roll.

Everything else:

Clean your toilet with Coca-Cola

No scrubbing required—just pour, flush, and admire.

Clean window and door tracks with vinegar

These tracks can quickly accumulate dirt and grime. This easy trick will wash it away quickly!

Remove lint with a razor and tape

Can’t find the lint roller? No problem. Gently run a shaving razor along the article of clothing to loosen and clump up the lint. Use tape to remove the accumulated lint.

Stinky trash bin solution

If your trash bin stinks even after you’ve taken the trash out, try this. Sprinkle some baking soda and vinegar in the bottom of the bin and place some newspaper or paper towels in the bottom to soak up any remaining moisture.

Clean crown molding with a broom and a towel

A damp towel wrapped around the business end of a broom can make a wonderful cleaning utensil, capable of reaching the highest crown molding in your house—no ladder required.

Deep clean your iron skillet

While warm, pour a cup of coarse kosher salt into your skillet and use a wet towel held in tongs to scour the pan. Discard the towel, rinse the pan, and dry it immediately to prevent rust.

Microwave your sponges

If you need to quickly disinfect your sponges between cleanings, just pop it in the microwave. Make sure there isn’t any metal in your sponge, though, or you may end up needing a new microwave!

Get crumbs out of the toaster

If you’re looking for clean house bonus points, use a pastry brush to help you get those pesky breadcrumbs out of the bottom of your toaster. Martha Stewart would be proud!