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Best Energy Savings Techniques for Families

Best Energy Savings Techniques for Families

Many Sarasota, Florida, residents cringe at the mention of the need to save energy when having to confront the thought of miserable days spent in hot, stuffy houses. Thankfully, current advances in technology allow us to conserve energy while improving the comfort of our own homes and creating a healthier living environment. For youngsters with health concerns, the quality of the air indoors and the absence of drafts are important factors to take into consideration. Modern energy-efficient appliances and upgrades give you more control over your environment and also often come with fun perks such as user-friendly technology.

Outline an Energy-Conservation Plan

To have your energy-saving efforts work for your family in the long-run, you need to first develop and incorporate a good plan consisting of daily actions combined with practical upgrades around the house. Identify energy-conservation habits that you can start implementing into your daily routines as a family and choose ones that work for your family’s lifestyle to make it more enjoyable. If certain practices – such as keeping the temperature in your house a little higher during hot summers – make you miserable, then focus on energy efficient upgrades that will result in less energy usage.

Upgrade Your Lighting

The easiest and fastest way to start saving energy is to upgrade your outdated home lighting with compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) lights. Although CFL and LED lights do indeed cost more than standard light bulbs, they use 25 percent to 75 percent less energy. They also last up to 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, which means that you’ll be saving more in the long-term. To improve efficiency, convenience, and safety of your home, consider dimmer switches or motion detection lighting. Even though these upgrades may be small, you’ll see a drastic change.

Improve Your Window Treatments

Be sure to inspect your windows and consider their size and orientation to the sun. Typically, windows do not insulate very well and, in turn, can cause your house to lose heat when it’s cold outside or to accumulate heat when it’s warmer. Various window treatment options can help you save energy and can also help make your home’s interior more appealing with items such as layered draperies, awnings, and shutters. During hotter periods, it’s a good idea to close drapes or blinds on sun-facing windows and to open windows during cooler nights to enable air ventilation.

Fine-Tune Your Water Heater

Your water heater could take up to 25 percent of your household’s energy total without you even realizing it. To bring your energy bill down, try switching to low-flow shower heads and aerators, take shorter showers, or reduce the temperature of your water. If your water heater is over 10 years old, it’s good to consider replacing it. Those who cannot fathom how to conserve water with little people in the house can save their time and energy by using a dishwasher. Washing your clothes in cold water on the shortest cycle can also help you save energy.

Utilize Your Appliances and Electronics Properly

With the number of electronics in our lives, the energy usage for powering them is enormous. What makes things worse is the energy they consume in standby mode. The best efficiency upgrade that will help you save energy easily is to set up power-strips around your house. When no devices are charging, turn off the power-strips to conserve energy and prevent excess utility costs. Help your kids develop life-long energy saving habits by scheduling ‘electronic-free’ periods. This will both help you cut down on costs and also gives you more quality family-bonding time.

With the technology that we now have, saving energy really doesn’t need to be a hassle – in fact, it can be very easy and enjoyable. Getting your family members interacting with each other instead of a mobile phone screen can even strengthen your family and develop a healthier, happier household. To get your Sarasota or Manatee home evaluated for energy efficiency, contact specialists at Aqua Plumbing & Air at 941-306-3715.

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5 Indoor Pollutants You Might Be Bringing Into Your Home

5 Indoor Pollutants You Might Be Bringing Into Your Home

When you think of air pollution, your mind probably jumps to the smog and pollution found outside in big cities. However, it may come as a surprise that the air in your Lakewood Ranch, Florida, home may be more polluted than any air you will breathe outdoors. What’s even more surprising to many is where the pollution is coming from — it could be from things you are bringing into the home without realizing it. These common causes of indoor pollution should be banished from your house for good!

Candles

If you smell odors in your home, your first instinct might be to light a candle to replace the scent with a better one. Although candles can create a pleasant atmosphere and ambiance, they can also release harmful gases and sediments that lower the quality of the air. Paraffin is especially concerning since it’s typically whitened in bleach that brings a number of dioxins to your air. Acrolein is another chemical commonly added to candle wax to solidify it, but it’s been linked to the same risks of lung cancer as cigarette smoke.

Even candles made from beeswax, soy, and vegetable oil can release harmful gases into the air, so it’s best to avoid them at all costs. Some of these include toluene and benzene, which are known carcinogens. Synthetic fragrances and artificial dyes are used to create candles that look and smell better, but these contain dangerous chemicals, as well.

Cleaning Products

Keeping your home clean is important in maintaining the indoor air quality and a pleasant environment for guests, but certain products used to clean can do more harm than good. Even cleaners marketed as organic or eco-friendly can cause health symptoms like congestion, sore throats, and headaches. Products containing any petroleum-based solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or chlorine are especially dangerous, often leading to throat and eye irritation.

Your cleaning products could also give off volatile organic compounds, which may worsen existing respiratory health problems like asthma and allergies. Some of the most commonly used products that contain VOCs include floor and furniture polish, chlorine-based bleach, oven cleaning products, upholstery and rug cleaners, and just about anything in an aerosol can.

Smoke

Smoke is hard on your lungs, so it’s not surprising that it lowers the indoor air quality. Whether it’s cigarette smoke or the smoke from a nearby fire, it’s important to keep it out of your house as much as possible. Never smoke inside your home or within a few feet of doors, windows, and exterior air intakes.

Air Fresheners

Instead of lighting a candle to combat unpleasant odors in your home, you might be tempted to pull out a can of air freshener and start spraying. However, this is just as dangerous, if not more so, as using candles. Air fresheners often contain toxic pollutants that can make your family sick. In fact, the toxicity has been compared to that of secondhand smoke.

Some products contain glycol ethers, which can lead to anemic symptoms, fatigue, and nausea, while others have phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften plastic. Natural air fresheners, such as essential oils and baking soda, are better alternatives to chemical-laced commercial products.

Pollen

When your kids play outside or Fido rolls around in the grass, they may be tracking in another substance that is lowering your indoor air quality. Pollen is especially common during the spring and summer months. Many people suffer from pollen allergies, so when it’s tracked in and gets into the HVAC system, you may notice symptoms like eye irritation, sore throats, and congestion.

It’s tough to get the pollen out once it has settled in the ducts, so try to keep pollen outdoors as much as possible. Before your kids come back inside, have them change their clothes or at least leave their shoes outside. Bathe your pets often, especially if they go outside. Regular duct cleaning can also help remove pollen and other contaminants from the system.

Indoor air quality plays a major role in the overall health, comfort, and wellness of your family, so contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air at 941-306-3715 to learn more about our IAQ solutions.

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4 Ways to Preserve Your Commercial Plumbing System

4 Ways to Preserve Your Commercial Plumbing System

The plumbing system that carries water into and out of your University Park, Florida, business is essential to the health and well-being of your employees and customers. Proper maintenance and prompt repairs of damaged pipes and leaky faucets make life more comfortable and reduce future expenses. Discover how plumbing maintenance, water treatment devices, and water conservation practices help preserve your commercial plumbing system over the long term.

How Commercial Plumbing Works

A network of pipes delivers fresh water to your business. The water itself generally comes from a municipality’s supplier. Once the water enters your business, it’s distributed to different areas via a network of pipes. These pipes direct water to a heater, which then sends the flow to sinks, showers, or other appliances.

Used water exits your business via a different network of pipes, the drain-waste-vent (DWV) system. The water flows into the sewer system, aided by gravity. Venting pipes are linked to the drain and waste pipes. They also release hazardous gases and maintain proper drainpipe pressure.

Master Basic Plumbing Maintenance Tasks

The following monthly plumbing maintenance tasks help keep your business’s system running smoothly.

  • Clean drains with a mixture of boiling water, baking soda, and vinegar. This solution can help keep drains from clogging, and it’s gentler on pipes than the harsh commercial drain cleaners often used.
  • If you have sinks, toilets, or other appliances in your business that are rarely used, flush or run water through them regularly to keep the components in good working order.
  • Once a month, visually inspect the network of water pipes in your business for signs of leaks. A small inspection mirror mounted on a handle allows you to see around corners when you’re working in tight spaces. If you do discover a leak, contact one of our Aqua Plumbing & Air specialists immediately so that we can correct the problem and prevent it from becoming a larger and more expensive repair.

Focus on Proper Water Treatment and Quality

Approximately 85 percent of Americans access tap water from municipal water systems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the municipalities that provide water service. The agency also determines safe levels of contaminants and requires water authorities to provide detailed annual reports to consumers to keep them informed.

All tap water contains some dissolved contaminants, such as material picked up from surfaces it travels over on the journey to your business. While tap water potentially contains millions of contaminants, only a few pose health risks, and most are present in such low levels that they’re not dangerous. But a few, such as lead, can pose serious health concerns if they’re present in high levels so it’s important that those levels are monitored.

You can employ various water treatment methods at your business.

  • Activated carbon (charcoal) filter: The carbon (or charcoal) in the filter absorbs and attracts impurities. These filters are generally installed as under-the-sink filters. While this option is relatively inexpensive, you’ll need to replace the filters periodically.
  • Ion exchange: This system, also referred to as a water softener, exchanges ions in the unit with ions in the water. An ion exchanger removes minerals like calcium and magnesium that make water hard. Although these are not unhealthy to consume, they leave hard-to-clean mineral deposits on appliances and sinks. A whole-business system requires professional installation. Keep in mind that these units need to be periodically replenished with a special kind of salt.
  • Reverse osmosis: This type of water purifying system uses a semipermeable membrane to block contaminants but still allows water to pass through. Reverse osmosis removes the widest level of contaminants from the water, including organic compounds and inorganic chemicals as well as arsenic and other waterborne pathogens. A plumbing professional can install this type of system in your business. When considering a reverse osmosis system, keep in mind that these systems use a substantial amount of electricity, and they can waste two to four times as much water as they filter.

Before buying any kind of water filter, read the fine print carefully. Each type removes specific contaminants, and not every model removes lead. For best results, be sure any filter you select meets the standards issued by the American National Standards Institute and National Sanitation Foundation (ANSI/NSF).

The method of water treatment you choose for your business ultimately depends on how you want to change your water. Do you want to improve its taste, eliminate contaminants, or both? Give some thoughts to your goals before you choose a treatment option.

Put Best Water Conservation Practices into Place at Your Business

Conserving water is not just good for your business, the utility bills you pay, and your commercial plumbing system. It’s also good for the environment. Discover some daily and long-term ways to conserve water at your business.

  • Don’t allow faucets in bathrooms or break rooms to run unnecessarily.
  • If your break room has a dishwasher, run it only when you have a full load, and use the Economy setting if your appliance has one.
  • Install low-flow toilets, which use 1.6 gallons of water per flush. By comparison, toilets installed in businesses before 1994 consume between 3.5 and 5 gallons of water per flush.
  • For businesses such as gyms or other workplaces that offer shower facilities, installing low-flow shower heads can cut water usage to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Shower heads installed before 1994 use up to 4.5 gallons of water per minute, so the savings can be substantial.
  • If you decide to use a water softener, choose wisely to get the maximum benefit. As noted above, reverse-osmosis water softeners use substantially larger quantities of water to produce a gallon of purified water.
  • Think about the landscaping outside your University Park, Florida, business. Xeriscaping is a landscaping method that relies on rocks and drought-tolerant plants instead of grass to create an attractive outdoor setting. Xeriscaping helps with water conservation because it requires less watering, and that helps you keep your business’s water usage in check.

Don’t Ignore the Water Heater

Generally located in a maintenance or special service area of your business, water heaters use electricity or gas to warm the liquid. Both types operate similarly, except that a gas water heater has a burner with a flame and an electric water heater has electrical heating elements.

To keep your water heater functioning properly, schedule a regular maintenance inspection with one of our Aqua Plumbing & Air plumbing specialists. During this visit, your service technician will:

  • Check the thermostat’s operation.
  • Inspect the flow of combustion and ventilation air.
  • Verify that the pilot light is operating properly and clean the burner parts in gas water heaters.
  • Drain off the water.
  • Inspect the anode rod.
  • Check the pressure-relief valve.

If you’re not getting enough hot water, your business’s heater may be too small for the usage. Another problem may be that your water heater’s dip tube, a plastic pipe that fits inside the tank and runs vertically to deliver cold water to the bottom of the tank, may be broken. A cracked dip tube can allow cold water to mix with heated water in the upper portion of the tank. Contact an Aqua Plumbing & Air plumbing specialist for repairs or water heater replacements.

If you’re not getting any hot water, the thermostat may be defective or you may have a malfunctioning fuse or pilot light. Contact Aqua Plumbing & Air for assistance with any of these problems.

If you have a gas water heater and you notice a strong smell of gas near the heater, evacuate your business and call your local utility company. A gas leak may be the cause. 

Since 1974, Aqua Plumbing & Air has provided professional commercial plumbing services to businesses throughout Bradenton, Sarasota, and University Park. Our team of licensed, knowledgeable commercial plumbers can recommend the best products and solutions to help you deal with a host of commercial plumbing problems, including drain backups, leaky faucets and toilets, and installation of more energy-efficient plumbing fixtures. Whether you need emergency repairs or preventive maintenance, you can turn to Aqua Plumbing & Air for prompt attention. Call us at 941-306-3715.

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Choosing a Toilet: 8 Tips to Ensure You Get the Right Fit and Flush

Choosing a Toilet: 8 Tips to Ensure You Get the Right Fit and Flush

This article was originally published May 24, 2013

Choosing a toilet used to be a simple matter of finding a design that suited you. Today, though, you’ll need to choose among different mounting types, flushing methods, bowl shapes and other options. Each option has its pros and cons, and what’s right for you depends on your individual needs. Before you start browsing for a new toilet for your Southwest Florida home, get clear on your choices so you can select the model that’s best for you.

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4 Signs You Need a New Air Conditioner

4 Signs You Need a New Air Conditioner

During the summer months in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, most residents rely heavily on their air conditioning systems to maintain a comfortable temperature. Between the high humidity levels and warm temperatures, it’s tough to stay cool without a functional AC system. An air conditioner might give off some warning signs that it’s on its last legs, so it’s important to keep an eye out for these signs so you’re not caught without a working system.

Frequent Repairs

Before an air conditioner gives out completely, it will typically start to have more problems. It may begin blowing warm air or lose airflow completely. You could also notice that the interior temperature never seems to reach what you’ve set on the thermostat. These issues may seem minor at first, but as you continue to spend money for repairs, you might start to notice a pattern.

When an air conditioner is nearing the end of its functional life, smaller components tend to break down first. Needing multiple repairs in a short period of time is cause for concern, so it’s worth evaluating whether or not to replace the system and stop investing money into an air conditioner that may not be around for much longer. Large, expensive repairs should also be reconsidered, especially if your unit is more than a decade old. In most cases, it’s more cost-effective to replace the unit rather than invest a lot into an older model.

High Energy Bills

A sharp and dramatic increase in energy bills is always a concern. Some fluctuation between seasons is certainly normal, but you shouldn’t see bills that are hundreds of dollars higher from one month to the next. Older air conditioning systems aren’t as efficient as newer models, so the age of your system could impact your monthly bills. Additionally, a damaged system can cause a dramatic spike between months, as the conditioned air could be leaking out through cracked ductwork.

No matter what is causing the bills to jump up every month, it’s worth looking into the issue and figuring out how to improve efficiency. If a new system is the best option, you can shop for more efficient units that will help you save on cooling bills. Some cooling systems also come with tax credits, rebates, or incentives, which can further offset the cost of installation.

Poor Circulation

When air isn’t flowing sufficiently in your home, you could notice a few signs, such as stale or unpleasant odors, excessive dust, or an uncomfortable atmosphere. Poor circulation is typically caused by an issue when the system was first installed. The original technician might have installed a unit that is too large or too small for the space, or the ducts might not be installed properly, leading to poor flow throughout the space.

If the issue relates to the size of the system, the best thing to do is have a new air conditioner installed. Before putting in a new system, an HVAC technician should calculate the load to determine what size will work best while maximizing efficiency. If the issue relates to the ducts, you might need to have some repair work done to prevent air from slipping through the cracks.

Noisy Operation

Another issue that can indicate the impending need for a new air conditioner is a lot of noise. When your system first kicks on to start cooling down the space, some noise is certainly normal, especially if you’re standing close to the cooling unit. However, continuous noises, such as banging, grinding, squealing, or whining can all indicate a problem. Your ducts might be too small, causing the air to have trouble moving through efficiently, or you might have an issue with a moving part of the system. An HVAC technician can take a closer look at your unit and figure out what’s causing the excess noise.

Don’t let summer sneak up on you, leaving you in a hot and uncomfortable situation without a working air conditioner. Learn more about new cooling system options and installation services by calling Aqua (HVAC) at 941-306-3715.

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Prepping Your Cooling System for the Summer

Prepping Your Cooling System for the Summer

The weather in the Lakewood Ranch, Florida, area tends to stay fairly moderate throughout the changing seasons, but the summer certainly brings the heat and the humidity. Before this season hits, take some steps to prepare your cooling system for the upcoming temperature increases. By starting early, you can avoid turning on your air conditioner only to find that the system isn’t working properly and won’t pump out any cool air.

Safety First

Before you start any type of DIY cleaning and prep work on your air conditioner, consider whether it’s safe for you to take on the task before you. It may be better to have a professional handle the job. If you do decide to DIY, make sure to do it safely. Shut off the power to the air conditioning condenser and turn off your thermostat before you get started.

You should also have a basic understanding of how the system works, which will help you know what needs to be done to prepare it for the upcoming summer months. A standard central air conditioner uses an outdoor unit with a compressor and a condenser coil working in conjunction with an indoor evaporator coil. As air blows across the evaporator coil, heat transfer occurs within that coil to cool down the air with the refrigerant housed in the outdoor unit. The heat is absorbed in the outdoor unit while the air blowing through your home feels cool and comfortable. 

Change the Filter

Air conditioning maintenance should always be handled by a skilled professional, especially anything that involves opening any part of the system or changing out parts. However, there are a few DIY tasks that a homeowner can do safely. Your heating and cooling system contains a filter that stops dirt, pollen, dust, pet hair, dander, and other debris from moving through the ducts.

When the filter gets overloaded with contaminants, it can no longer perform properly, resulting in a buildup of debris in your ducts that reduces the quality of the indoor air and impacts efficiency. One of the first tasks you should do in preparation for your home’s summer cooling needs is to replace the filter in your cooling system. This task should be done at least every two to three months, although you can do it more often if anyone in your home suffers from allergies or the filter is getting dirty faster than expected.  

Light Cleaning

Another task you can do to prepare your cooling system is to perform some light cleaning around the unit. You shouldn’t go too deeply into the components as poking around could dislodge something, resulting in expensive repairs. However, some basic cleaning tasks help clear out debris and allow the system to run more efficiently. This is especially important for the outdoor unit, which can get clogged with leaves and dirt. 

Use a vacuum to clear out any debris from the outdoor unit housing. You can gently spray off the outdoor fins with a hose. For a more thorough cleaning of the condenser coils or other components, it’s best to bring in a professional. 

Schedule a Tuneup

One of the most important aspects of HVAC maintenance and summer preparation is calling an HVAC technician to schedule a tuneup. These companies often get busy at the start of the summer, so schedule your maintenance service in the late spring to beat the rush. A tuneup typically involves a full inspection of the cooling system, along with a coil cleaning service and some light maintenance.

Your technician will also look for warning signs that may indicate your air conditioning system has a problem. By finding out about an issue early, you can get your system up and running well before the heat of summer hits. Routine air conditioning maintenance can help extend the life of your system and reduce the need for costly repairs while helping to improve efficiency and save you money every month.

Take advantage of the benefits and prepare for the summer months by scheduling your air conditioning maintenance service with our experienced technicians at Aqua Plumbing & Air by calling 941-306-3715.

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