Electrical Upgrades To Consider When Remodeling Your HomeIf you're giving your home a complete makeover, or just simply planning to upgrade your decor or appliances within your living quarters, it's a great time to consider upgrading your electrical system as well.
Home repair and remodeling projects often require some sort of electrical upgrade. Do you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips? Are your lamps and fixtures connected to extension cords? Does every three-prong plug need a two-prong adapter? These and other warning signs indicate a real need for electrical improvements. Here are a few points to consider:
- Is your service adequate? Many older homes still operate with outdated 60-amp electrical service, and sometimes with just a few fuses or circuit breakers to protect the entire system. Newer homes often have 100-amp service panels, but even this minimum requirement set by many current codes may fall short of your present or future needs. Consider upgrading service to 200 amps.
- Size for extra demand. If you're installing a major electrical appliance, like an electric wall oven, a microwave oven, a double-wide refrigerator or central air-conditioning, think about the additional power it may need. While a salesman or installer might tell you that your system can handle the load, be smart and ask your electrician for a second opinion.
- Electricians often install 14-AWG wiring during renovations, which is adequate for most home uses. But heavier 12-AWG copper wire is a better choice because it's more energy-efficient and you won't have to upgrade all over again if you install appliances or fixtures with greater electrical loads. The cost difference for upgrading to 12-AWG copper wire is minimal. If you're adding a room extension or building a new home, it's a good idea to install 12-AWG wire (or larger, depending on the needs of each circuit).
- Consider special needs. Different rooms in a home serve different purposes—an important consideration when you're planning improvements, especially where electrical work is involved. Family rooms, home offices and home theaters generally need more circuits, more outlets, and built-in or plug-in power-surge protection. Outlets in kitchens, baths, garages and outdoor areas require ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. And you don't have to wait for a major renovation to add protection—you can install many safety devices yourself, such as outlet caps, switch guards and wire shields in nurseries and children's playrooms.
- And finally, don't forget your communications wiring needs—make sure telephone wiring is rated Category 5 or better to assure speedy data mission, high-quality voice service and convenient installation as you add telephone-based services in the future.
Identifying Plumbing Issues Before They Become Major Problems
Identifying Plumbing Issues Before They Become Major Problems
Many plumbing issues around the home will have symptoms that show up before major problems occur. By addressing these symptoms before they become larger, you can often prevent damage and expensive repairs.
Here are some of the more common plumbing problems that can cause significant damage if left uncorrected.
Water Leaks - An undetected water leak or drip can cause hidden mold and rot problems. Enclosed spaces like crawl spaces should be inspected for water spots or mold, which can indicate a leak. Check the area under sinks and vanities for water stains.
Screeching Faucets - This could indicate that the air "bleed-off" system is not working right.
Low Water Pressure - This can be caused by a clog, leak, or a pipe that is too narrow for a particular application.
Rattling Pipes - This can indicate air is trapped in the pipes.
Backed Up Toilet - This may indicate a damaged or clogged sewer line.
Water Heater Rust - If you see brown water coming out of your faucets, your water heater may be corroded.
If you experience any of these symptoms, call Ostrom. Our expert plumbers can help identify the small problems before they cause expensive damage. From fixing leaking pipes to sewer line inspections, no job is too big or too small.
Spring Plumbing Maintenance Tips
Spring is the time to check your home's plumbing systems and perform preventative maintenance to protect your home against plumbing problems.
Ostrom Plumbing & Electrical offers these tips:
- Check faucets for drips or leaks and repair parts as needed to save water.
- Clean mineral deposits from faucets and shower heads. Unscrew them and soak them in vinegar overnight.
- Cycle water supply valves under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking.
Drains Ensure that all drains have strainers to prevent debris from clogging your drain lines.
Pour about a gallon of water into infrequently used drains (including floor drains) to fill the trap and prevent odors from entering the house. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they will carry away water quickly in the event of a flood.
Sump Pump Test your sump pump for proper operation. Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly until the sump pump turns on and begins to pump out the water. Do not pour in more water than the basin will hold. Expect the sump pump to begin pumping out water when the water level reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches below the surface of the basement floor.
Appliances Washing Machine
Washing machine hoses should be inspected for leaks or bulges. If the hoses are older than 10 years, they should be replaced. Consider using braided stainless steel hoses rather than rubber hoses.
Check your toilets for cracks or leaks. Add several drops of food coloring to the tank. If color appears in the bowl after 30 minutes, it has a leak that should be repaired.
If the toilet handle has to be held down in order to flush properly, or jiggled to stop from running, you may need to replace the tank parts.
Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 120°F to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
If you have a tank water heater, drain several gallons from the water heater tank to flush out sediment that can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency.
Tankless water heaters should be flushed to remove mineral deposits. Always check with your water heater manufacturer for specific instructions regarding maintenance of your specific make and model.
Ensure there are no flammable materials stored near the water heater or furnace.
Protect Your Home With Whole House Surge Protection
What Is Whole Home Surge Protection?Preventing electrical damage has traditionally meant buying multiple surge protection strips to protect your home's electrical appliances. Or worse, running around the house unplugging appliances during an electrical storm, putting yourself at risk for electric shock.
A whole house surge protector is hard-wired to the incoming electrical, cable/satellite, and telephone utility services to keep externally generated electrical surges from entering your home. When excessive voltage passes through the device it instantly diverts the damaging voltage to a ground wire. As soon as voltage levels return to normal, the flow of electricity is restored to your home.
The Advantages Of Whole House Surge Protection Insurance for Your Home's Electronic Devices – Whole home surge protectors provide inexpensive insurance compared to the cost of replacing all your television, computer and other expensive appliances.
A Valuable Addition To Your Home - A whole house surge protector can increase the resale value of your home.
Peace of Mind – The next time a lightning storm occurs or a power surge strikes you can rest assured that the electrical devices in your whole house are safe and protected.
For more information on how a whole house surge protection can protect your home, call Ostrom Electric & Plumbing. We will explain what options are available to safeguard your home.
Tips To Save Energy Around The Home Year Round
With the start of a new year it's a great time to begin planning on how to save energy throughout your home. Here are a few tips and suggestions to save energy dollars year round.
Heating & CoolingIf you're planning on replacing your older air conditioner or furnace, consider purchasing a high efficiency model with an EnergyStar rating. ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program designed to help consumers save money and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. The EnergyStar label will tell you how much energy you can expect the model to use annually.
- Insulate ceilings to R-38 levels if your attic has less than R-19
- Caulk around windows, doors and anywhere air is leaking in or out
- Apply weather striping around windows and doors
- Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap
- Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, if your comfortable. 3 percent to 5 percent more energy is used for each degree the furnace is set above 68 degrees and for each degree the air conditioner is set below 78 degrees
- Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer's instructions
- Replace old windows with new high performance multi-pane windows
- Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. In winter, open shades on sunny days to help warm rooms
- Close the damper when the fireplace is not being used. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time
- Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or "normal." If you have a dishwasher. Otherwise, set it at 120 degrees or "low."
- Use a water heater blanket.
- Install energy-saver showerheads.
- Wash your laundry using a cold water detergent.
- Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
- Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.
How Installing Ceiling Fans Can Help In Heating & Cooling Your Home
How Installing Ceiling Fans Can Help Reduce the Cost of Heating & Cooling Your HomeCeiling fans are often advertised as a means of saving you energy, but it depends on the efficiency of the fan itself and how it is used.
A ceiling fan doesn't actually cool the air in your home - it can only circulate it. It makes you feel cooler during warmer months because the air blowing across your skin evaporates moisture, making you feel cooler. During the colder months a ceiling fan will help circulate the warm air closer to the living space in larger rooms.
Ceiling fans have the potential to save energy in a few ways:
- If you use ceiling fans instead of your air conditioning on spring/fall days when the weather is just warming up, it will use less energy than running your air conditioner.
- At the same time, if you're using the fans while also setting the thermostat a few degrees warmer, you're possibly saving money, depending on things like how many degrees, how many fans are operating, and how efficient the fans are.
- Remember to turn off the fans when there is nobody in the room. Because fans don’t cool the air, but actually add some heat with the energy they’re using, it will defeat the purpose of using the fan if it's running in empty rooms.
- The important point to keep in mind is that in order to realize the benefits of cieling fans, you must be turning down the thermostat in winter and turning it up in the summer by at least several degrees. And, as noted above, only use fans in rooms that are occupied.
- As with choosing an air conditioner or furnace, ceiling fans are also Energy Star Rated. By choosing a more energy efficient model you can save as much as 50% over non-qualifying models.
Besides ceiling fans, here are some other tips for saving money on heating and cooling your home:
- Use a programmable thermostat - The ability to change the temperature in your home when you're away or while sleeping can make a big difference in your energy usage. The government estimates as much as $180 in energy costs (enough to buy some ceiling fans!). Newer thermostats are simple to program and many come pre-programmed to energy star guidelines!
- Have your air conditioner and furnace cleaned and maintained - Regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system will ensure the burners are working efficiently, the A/C coils are clean and the refrigerant charge is correct. Improper refrigerant charge can make your equipment work harder (using more energy) and shorten its life.
- Change your furnace air filter - a clogged furnace filter will make your heating system's blower work much harder than it needs to and might even cause your coil to freeze up when your A/C is running. Standard 1" filters should be changed every month when your equipment is running continuously.
Ostrom Around The Home Blog
How Dead Dead Switches and Outlets Could Be A Symptom of Larger Electrical Problems
Do you have light switches or electrical outlets that don't function correctly? There can be a variety of causes for electrical problems. The affected circuit controlled by a switch or outlet may not be completed because of another component. A switch may control an outlet which is unoccupied by a lamp or any other electrical device. Also, an outlet may be connected to a switch which is in the off position. Another cause may be related to a defective breaker, or a breaker which was tripped or turned off, but never switched back on.
Switches or outlets can also fail when they are damaged by arcing. If the arcing was caused by aluminum wiring, a hazordous condition may exist. If your home or building was constructed before 1972, or during the late sixties, it could have aluminum wiring. Aluminum wiring was used legally during those years, but outlawed for installation in new homes, commercial buildings, remodels and renovations after it was discoved it could lead to electrical fires.
Although aluminum wiring itself is generally no more hazardous than copper, its splices and connections with other metals present a real hazard because they can become corroded and cause arcing. Because arcing in these connections can lead to fire within surrounding materials, aluminum wiring has been discontinued.
However, many homes still contain aluminum wiring, and research conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that buildings with aluminum wiring pose a fire risk which is 55 times greater than the risks with similar structures wired with copper. So, if you discover an electrical outlet or switch which doesn’t appear to be working correctly, it’s possible this outlet or switch has been damaged by a connection with aluminum wiring. If you have safety questions about this type of problem, or any electrical concerns regarding your residence or commercial building, please contact us immediately. Our licensed electricians are trained and to perform professional electrical safety inspections, and can repair any type of electrical problem.
Identifying and Fixing Water Leaks Around the HomeWater leaks around your home can cost you money not only on your water bill, but in unseen damage to your home.
The most common types of leaks found around the typical home are worn out toilet flappers, dripping faucets, leaking valves and pipes. Fixing these leaks can pay for itself in water savings.
Checking for Leaks Around The HomeWhen checking for leaks around your home, you first need to determine whether you're wasting any water, and then identify the source of the leak.
Check your water usage during the winter months. A family of four should not be using 12,000 gallons per month. The water is escaping somewhere.
Have a look at your water meter before and after a couple hour period when water is not being used. If the meter shows any increase at all, you probably have a leak.
Leaking ToiletsYou can identify toilet leaks by placing a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If any color shows up in the bowl after 15 minutes, you have a leak.
The most common reason toilets leak is an old or worn out toilet flapper, also called a valve seal. Flappers are inexpensive rubber parts that can build up minerals or decay over time. Replacing them can be a quick and easy fix for your water loss.
Also examine the toilet gaskets and fittings for any water leaks on the outside of the toilet.
Leaking Faucets & Shower HeadsThe most common cause of leaking faucets are old, worn faucet washers and gaskets.
Many times a leaky shower head can be fixed by ensuring there is a tight connection between the showerhead and the pipe and by using pipe tape (Teflon tape) to secure the connection. For valve leaks in a shower that drips when not in use, contact Ostrom for professional repair.
Leaking Water HeatersOld water heater tanks can rust and develop leaks over time. Inspect the area around the water heater tank for signs of water leaks or stains.
If you are still experiencing water loss after checking the plumbing fixtures around your home, call Ostrom. can help you solve the more difficult water leak problems.
Choosing the Right Hot Water Heater for Your Home
Choosing the Right Hot Water Heater for Your Home Conventional storage tank water heaters are just one of the options available to today's homeowner. With newer, advanced technology, water heaters are more energy efficient than ever, helping the environment and lowering your utility bill.
A typical family of four can use as much as 2,500 gallons of hot water each month. Choosing the right kind of water heater for your home will make a big difference in providing a reliable, economical hot water to all areas of your home. Ostrom can help you select the right size and type of water heater to meet your family's needs and your budget.
Options For Heating Water In Your Home
Conventional Natural Gas and Electric Tank Water HeatersConventional storage water heaters are the most popular type of water heating system for the home. The primary benefits of a tank water heater are the low purchase cost, simple installation and large selection of sizes and configurations to choose from.
The main downside to a storage tank water heater is , because the water in the tank is constantly being heated, energy is wasted even when a hot water tap isn't running. However, there are storage water heater models with heavily insulated tanks, which significantly reduce standby heat losses, lowering annual operating costs. These models have tanks that have a thermal resistance (R-Value) of R-12 to R-25.
A gas hot water heater can be expected to last 8-12 years, while an electric model will last a little longer at 10-15 years.
Tankless Water HeatersTankless water heaters have been around about 8 years.
The benefits of tankless water heaters include:
The disadvantages of tankless water heaters include:
- Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly - Tankless water heaters are environmentally friendly because they are on average 22 percent more energy efficient than conventional water heaters. Conventional hot water heaters heat water all the time while tankless water heaters heat the water only when it’s needed. Since heating water accounts for 30% of the average home’s energy budget the higher efficiency of a tankless gas water heater can save you money on your utility bill.
- Endless Flow Of Hot Water - Tankless water heaters heat water directly with out the use of a storage tank. Therefore hot water is supplied on demand.
- Long life - In the short run, a tankless system will use less energy, immediately lowering your utility bill. Over the long run, a tankless water heater will last about twice as long as a tank water heater, with most systems having a life expectancy of more than 20 years. They also have easily replaceable parts that can extend their life by many more years. In contrast, conventional tank water heaters typically last 10 to 15 years.
- Limited Flow Rate - A tankless water heater’s output limits the flow rate of hot water. Therefore problems can arise when hot water is need for more than one use simultaneously. For example a shower is being taken at the same time the dishwasher is being run. In this case the hot water flow will be restricted. To overcome this problem, you can change your lifestyle to limit how much hot water is called for at one time or you can install more than one tankless water heater.
- Up-front Costs Are Higher - A tankless heating unit costs more than a tank heater and gas load requirements may require upgrading gas service. Venting restrictions may also limit where the unit can be installed.
- Additional Maintenance Requirements - Calcium build up can decrease efficiency, restrict water flow and damage the unit. While not complicated, performing regular maintenance is essential to the achieve the best performance full lifespan of the tankless water heater.
Hybrid Water Heaters A new alternative way of heating water is a hybrid water heater, such as the Eternal Hybrid water heater and the GE GeoSpring water heater.
The Eternal has a unique way of heating water. Instead of having a 40 gallon tank like a regular water, or going without a tank like a tankless water heater, the eternal has a 2 gallon tank. Hot water is drawn from the small tank and the unit keeps replenishing the small tank.
The primary benefit of a hybrid water heater is higher flow capacity. When sized right, this means multiple people can take showers at the same time and not have to worry about running out of water.
Another advantage of a hybrid water heater versus a tank water heater is cleaner hot water. That is important if you use hot water for cooking or other uses besides showering. Water in a conventional tank water heater is prone to bacteria growth, rust and sediment.
The main disadvantages of a hybrid water heater are higher installation cost compared to storage tank water heaters and slightly less efficient operation compared to a tankless water heater.
Have water heating questions? The hot water experts at Ostrom Mart can help you select the best hot water solution to fit your family's needs and budget.
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