9 Simple Ways to Save on Your Heating Bills This Winter

You’ve no doubt noticed that winter has come in full force in Philadelphia. And that always means those high heating costs. So how can you reduce those heating bills without breaking the bank? Here are some tips from your Philadelphia HVAC experts at Affordable Fixes LLC.

Lower the Thermostat Setting

This may be a “duh” answer, but most people don’t appreciate how much they can save with just a small thermostat adjustment. In fact, for each degree you lower your setting over a 24-hour period, you can save up to 3 percent during that time period. Consider especially lowering your setting while you are asleep.

Use Your Ceiling Fan

You heard right, use those fans on a low setting in order to circulate the air that gets trapped at the ceiling. Hot air rises. Getting it to circulate brings it down where it is needed and allows it to feel warmer.

Keep Vents Clear

Make sure your vents or radiators are free from obstructions and not blocked by furniture of floor coverings. You want warm air to be able to circulate freely around the room. You will also want to keep your vents and radiators clean and dust free. Not only does dust and dirt clog circulation but it can be a big allergen in the home.

Seal Your Windows

Your home can lose 10 to 25 percent of its heat due to windows. Make sure to seal around windows and doors and any leaks around your home. Open shades on the south side of the home facing any sun during the daylight hours to allow the natural warmth into your home. Make sure windows are covered especially at night when the temperatures dip. Other common places for air leaks are where wires and cables come into the home and around electrical outlets.

Add Insulation

Having adequate insulation is important to keep warmed air inside and cold air outside and can also be a tax-deductible home improvement. Don’t forget to insulate the basement as well.

Close the Flue

Make sure to close your chimney flue when your fireplace isn’t in use, otherwise, you are allowing warm air to escape.

Change Your Air Filters

In order for your furnace to work efficiently, it needs good circulation. A clogged filter is a sure-fire way to reduce the efficiency of your system. This should be done periodically for both furnace and air conditioning systems.

Invest in a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

Thermostats that can adjust your temperature at certain times, even when you aren’t home, can offer substantial savings on your energy bills.

Make Sure to Get Your System Maintained

Making sure your HVAC system is working properly should be something you do each year. Call the Philadelphia HVAC repair pros at Affordable Fixes LLC to see how having an annual maintenance program can ensure that your heating and cooling system is working properly when you need it most.

Can a Smart Thermostat Really Save You Money This Winter?

Heating and cooling your home accounts for approximately half of your energy costs. This means that the more efficiently you do this, the lower your energy costs will be. Enter the new generation of temperature control devices: the smart thermostat. But besides its gadget-worthiness, is a smart thermostat really worth it?

What They Do

A smart thermostat will allow you to change the thermostat settings in your home from an app on your smartphone, computer, or other voice-controlled device. This is a major convenience, especially if your schedule changes frequently and you would like to adjust temperature settings in your home when no one is there. If you’re feeling super lazy, you can even turn on the heat without leaving the sofa.

Another benefit of having a smart thermostat is that not only can you view your usage, but depending on your system, it may even eventually learn your habits and adjust your temperatures accordingly.

But Will it Save You Money?

Ask a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician and the answer you will get is YES. Smart thermostats can save from $131 to $145 a year, according to the Nest Thermostat. In fact, the Nest is so smart, it will encourage a homeowner to make smart choices with handy leaf badges and monthly reports.

Other Nifty Features

Most smart thermostats have features that help make your life easier. Some useful features include HVAC maintenance reminders and dirty filter detection capabilities. The ability to monitor usage can make you more aware of your family’s energy consumption and make you think twice about your family’s energy usage.

Some Important Considerations

When considering the pros and cons of a smart thermostat, there are a few things you need to weigh. Sometimes, a home with air conditioning and a furnace can require a more sophisticated thermostat and professional setup. If you are only planning on living where you are for a short period of time, the investment of a smart thermostat may not be worth it. As is the case with all thermostats, you will want to consider the placement of the unit since it will register the air temperature in that area and not necessarily in other parts of the home. So, placing it near a warm fire burning device or near the kitchen oven can affect its overall performance.

What is the Biggest Downside?

For most people, a smart thermostat has one important downside and that is the cost. While a regular manual thermostat will cost anywhere between $20 and $60, a smart thermostat can cost anywhere between $200 and $300. Some homeowners think that the cost savings would immediately justify the purchase whereas others may not. It is up to the individual.

Call an Expert

If you have questions about smart thermostat technology or are considering having a smart thermostat installed, call our Philadelphia HVAC experts at Affordable Fixes LLC.

Important Steps to Winterizing Your Plumbing

Tis the season to be jolly. But we doubt that jolly will be one of those adjectives that will describe you if you experience a flood or leak due to frozen pipes! Don’t wait until it happens to you. Be proactive and winterize your plumbing so you can continue being jolly for the rest of the season.

Why is Winterizing Important?

Proactively winterizing your plumbing is a critical way to avoid frozen pipes in the winter. When pipes freeze, they can burst and cause incredible damage to your home. Winterizing ensures that pipes, drain lines, fixtures, and faucets are protected against winter freezing.

The High Cost of Water Damage

One of the costliest damages that can happen to your home is the cost to repair a burst pipe and the damage it causes. According to State Farm Insurance, the average homeowner’s insurance claim for frozen pipes averages around $15,000 but can run far more in cleanup costs. If a pipe burst is easily accessible, a small emergency repair to a pipe can still cost several hundreds of dollars for a Philadelphia plumber. Conversely, the cost of averting a frozen pipe emergency is relatively negligible.

Keep Your Heating System Maintained

In the dead of winter, the last thing you want is for your furnace to break down. Call a professional Philadelphia HVAC repair company to ensure that your system is ready for winter.

Inside Winterizing

You should first know where your emergency shutoff valve is and know how to operate it. In the event of any burst, shutting off the main water source is your first line of defense and crucial to avoid costly water damage.

Pipes and faucets that are located in your unheated garage, in the basement or crawlspace of your home or any other unheated area should be insulated. This can be done with special insulation sleeves or special heat tape. All exposed pipes should be insulated, even those in hard to reach places. Don’t leave any gaps in the insulation. If you are not comfortable with doing this yourself, you should schedule the services of a Philadelphia plumber.

Another way to ensure that pipes don’t freeze in particularly harsh winter weather is to open kitchen and bathroom cabinet and pantry doors to allow warmer air access to areas that may be less insulated and harbor plumbing pipes. If you are leaving your home vacant for any period of time, make sure to leave the interior heat on and set it to about 60 degrees.

Outside Winterizing

Inspect the exterior of your home and seal any visible cracks with caulk or spray foam insulation. Make sure to disconnect any hoses and turn off water to outside outlets. Close any foundation or exterior vents.

Call an Expert

If you need help winterizing your home, call a professional. The Philadelphia plumbers at Affordable Fixes LLC will help ensure that your home will be safe from bursting pipes this winter and avoid costly water and flood damages in your home. Call us today for peace of mind.

Some Simple Fixes When Your Toilet Runneth Over

The holidays are drawing near and for many families, that means lots of visiting family — and clogged toilets. Yes, they can be embarrassing, which is why you may not find out about a clog until your toilet runneth over. Not fun.

The causes can be many. From a simple flushing of too much paper to larger clogs down inside the plumbing lines, here are some of the most common causes of a toilet clog and what you may be able to do to troubleshoot them.

Water Saving Toilets

If you have an earlier incarnation of a low-flow toilet, it may not have the power of today’s versions. These earlier toilets did save water but they often didn’t have enough flushing power to push contents through. In these cases, it is a case of upgrading to a more powerful unit alleviating a constant problem with clogs.

Flushing Anything But Toilet Paper

You heard us right. Toilet paper is made to break down in the toilet. But other things as simple as tissues, cotton balls, facial cleansing wipes or even dental floss are simply not made to be flushed. When these items get caught in the drain of a toilet, they will not break down and can create a clog. Most often, plunging will push a simple clog down but there are times when you may need the professional help of a Philadelphia plumber.

Flapper Isn’t Flapping

Inside the tank of your toilet, there is a rubber gasket at the bottom called a flapper. Its function is to open when you flush, letting water in the tank move down into the bowl. If the flapper is malfunctioning or old, it may not be opening completely. For most homeowners, this is a simple DIY fix with a chain adjustment or a new flapper from your local home improvement store.

A Problem in the Trap

Your drain pipes have a trap which is a bend at the pipe that prevents odors from coming up into the home. This bend can also result in clogs. If a plunge doesn’t move the clog through, you will want to consult a plumber in Philadelphia for an expert repair.

Your Vent

You will have a plumbing vent on your roof allowing fresh air into your system. If this vent becomes clogged with outside debris such as leaves or dirt, it can result in stopped up drainage and even malfunctioning toilets. Cleaning the drainage vent is best left to a professional.

The Sewer Line

Unfortunately, there are times when the issue can be a clog, a break, or tree roots infringing on the main sewer line. Because it involves digging at the sewer lines often on private property, this requires the skill of a professional plumber. You will want to request a professional who uses a camera in order to inspect the lines prior to digging.

When you need the skill of a professional plumber in Philadelphia, call the experts at Affordable Fixes LLC. For over 30 years, we have been the professionals more residents have trusted for their plumbing and HVAC needs.

Why You Should Consider a Central Humidifier this Winter

You are glad for the cooler air after a long, hot, humid summer. With the cold temperatures comes dryer air. So why would you consider bringing more humidity into your home in the winter?

Next to the reading on the thermometer, humidity is the next biggest factor in the comfort level of your home. Philadelphia HVAC contractors suggest that central humidifiers are a perfect way of controlling important humidity levels inside your home. These can help increase comfort levels but also have other important benefits.

Although ultra humid days can sap your energy in the summer, what you are going for is a balanced environment. During the winter, the cold freezes moisture out of the air and lowers the humidity of a living space substantially. Your furnace further contributes to lowering the humidity level inside your home. Having a central humidifier installed by a Philadelphia HVAC contractor has many benefits for homeowners during the winter months.

Comfort

A central humidifier can increase the moisture level inside the home for a more balanced comfort level. Although high humidity in the summer makes the air feel much hotter than it is, the opposite is true for cold, dry air. Dryer air makes the air feel colder and has the effect of soaking moisture from the body. Having the benefit of higher moisture levels inside your home makes your home more comfortable as well as alleviating cold weather conditions such as chapped and dry lips and skin, dry eyes, and chronic nosebleeds.

Reduced Deterioration of Wood Items or Furnishings

Dry air can deteriorate wood interior finishes, furnishings, or any possessions you may own such as musical instruments. Having a central humidifier can help protect these items from splitting and warping.

Energy Savings

Having a more humid environment has the effect of making you feel warmer. Consequently, you may not feel compelled to turn the thermostat up as often. Your humidified air will help save you money on your electric bills. According to the EPA, a central humidifier has the ability of saving you up to 4 percent on your energy bills. And controlling humidity may help your home qualify for the National Association of Home Builders’ Green-Built Certification Program.

A Healthier Environment

Dry air can not only cause skin irritations and dry up sinuses, but it also can make it easier to pass viruses and germs between people. Respiratory illnesses, colds, and flus spread more quickly in drier environments.

Central humidifiers are installed directly into your current heating and cooling system and work by bringing water vapor through the duct system with your heated air. There are even systems that are designed for homes that have radiant or baseboard heating. You can adjust your humidity levels the same way you control your thermostat in order to get a balanced amount of humidity in your home.

A central humidifier is a simple addition to most HVAC systems. Call the Philadelphia HVAC contractors at Affordable Fixes LLC to discuss the benefits of having a central humidifier installed in your home.

What to Do When Your Furnace Trips a Breaker

It’s already November and we are anticipating the upcoming holidays. Cooler air is moving in and you turn your furnace on for the first time. Oops! Your breaker trips. What does that mean and what can you do about it?

Unfortunately, when your HVAC system is tripping breakers, it may be more than just a minor inconvenience. The circuit breakers in your home are built with a safety precaution system. Circuit breakers are designed to trip when they detect a fault in the system. These have the potential to create hazards and cause fires as well as damage equipment. If your furnace is tripping a breaker, there may be a serious safety risk that needs to be addressed.

Reset the breaker. If this works and you have no further issues, the problem may have been something like a temporary power surge or spike in the grid. Keep an eye on it. But if your furnace continues to trip the breaker, the source needs to be located and repaired.

The most common problems with a furnace that continues to trip the breaker are:

  • An overloaded furnace
  • An overloaded shared circuit
  • A short circuit or ground fault inside the furnace
  • A problem with the circuit breaker itself

An Overloaded Furnace

An overloaded furnace can be caused by numerous things. These can be

  • Dirty air filters
  • Blocked air vents
  • Restricted ductwork
  • Malfunctioning parts inside the furnace

Some of these things can be fixed by the homeowner but some require the skill of a Philadelphia furnace repair professional.

An Overloaded Shared Circuit

Electricity hogs such as your HVAC system should be on their own circuits. But many older homes were not constructed this way and your furnace may share a circuit with other appliances, lights or outlets. This can overload these circuits. Have a Philadelphia HVAC contractor either move the other shared items off that circuit or move the furnace to its own circuit.

A Short Circuit or Ground Fault Inside the Furnace

Short circuits can happen when a hot wire comes into contact with a neutral one. A ground fault can occur when a hot wire touches a ground wire or another grounded part in the furnace. Both of these create a surge of electric current that the furnace is pulling. This type of issue should be left to a Philadelphia HVAC repair professional.

Circuit Breaker Issues

Sometimes the problem isn’t with the furnace but with the breaker or panel itself. This requires the expertise of an electrician.

Breakers that continue to trip create a fire risk and potential damage to your electrical system. When you are experiencing tripped breakers when you turn on your furnace, you want an experienced professional.

The repair experts at Affordable Fixes LLC are here to help. For over 30 years, we have been the Philadelphia HVAC professionals more residents have trusted for their plumbing and HVAC needs. Call us today when your furnace needs the skill of a professional.

Make Sure Your Furnace is Ready for Winter

We are just winding down from summer but now is the perfect time to start considering your furnace. There are some common issues that affect furnaces, so now is a good time to troubleshoot where necessary and get a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician in for repairs as needed.

If you find that your furnace isn’t producing heat at all, you may have issues with the thermostat, your power, or the pilot light. If the furnace isn’t heating adequately, you may have issues with a clogged filter or your furnace may be too small for the size of space you are trying to heat. Now is the time to figure these things out before the coldest winter weather moves in.

Dirty Filters

Dirty filters are the most common reason your furnace may malfunction. Dirty filters can become clogged and reduce the airflow through the system. This will make your furnace work harder than it needs to. If airflow is diminished substantially, it can do damage to the system itself. You may notice poorer air flow or higher heating bills when this happens. Filters should be changed monthly in order to keep air flowing freely through the system.

Wear and Tear

Normal, everyday wear and tear can also reduce airflow and heat control related issues. These can cause overheating of the unit.

Electric Ignition or Pilot Control Issues

Faulty ignitions or pilots can make it impossible to keep a home or business heated reliably. Drafts, clogs, or thermocouple issues can cause a pilot not to light. It may be necessary to close windows and doors in the room in order to reduce drafts.

A Malfunctioning Thermostat

A faulty thermostat, as well as a poorly calibrated thermostat, can create comfort issues in your home. If your furnace is not producing adequate warm air, check the battery level or replace the batteries in the thermostat. You can also call your Philadelphia furnace repair technician out to calibrate your thermostat for better temperature control.

Cycling

Frequent cycling, or turning on and off, may indicate any number of things. The easiest thing to troubleshoot would be to make sure your filters are not clogged. It also may be an issue with improper airflow or a faulty thermostat.

Blower Continues to Run

When a blower fan won’t turn off or your furnace cycles, the first place to check is the thermostat. Make sure that the thermostat is set properly and the fan setting is on “Auto”. If the blower continues to run, it may indicate that there is a problem with the limit switch. In this case, you will want the skill of a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician.

The best course of action is to make sure to get annual HVAC maintenance. This will ensure that your system is clean and inspected and will run properly when necessary. The perfect time to get your system maintained is before you need it so issues can be repaired before the busy winter season.

An annual maintenance tune-up will examine all the parts of your heating system and get any issues corrected before they lead to a breakdown. Call the Philadelphia furnace repair professionals at Affordable Fixes LLC for your annual furnace maintenance so you can remain warm and toasty this coming winter season.

6 Hints for Staying Warm This Winter While Cutting Costs

With Halloween around the corner, here in Philadelphia, we are getting ready for that brisk fall air. And before we know it, winter will be here. Even though you may be getting the last few days use of your barbecue grill, winter is inevitable and so are those high heating costs. So how can you stay warm and still keep your heating bills reasonable? Try these 6 hints!

Fall Cleaning

We’ve all heard about Spring cleaning but Fall cleaning can be equally important when it comes to heating efficiency. Make sure that all vents and returns around your home are free of obstructions and dust. Move any furniture that may be inhibiting airflow. Change your air filters to make sure air has easy access and circulation and is not clogged with dirt.

Turn Down the Thermostat

This may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, however, our first instinct when cold weather hits is to make our inside temperature warmer…and warmer. For a lot of us it is psychological. But even if it is a direct response to your need for warmth, consider this: the Department of Energy says that you can save approximately 10 percent of your energy costs each year by adjusting your thermostat down by 10 to 15 degrees for approximately 8 hours a day. While you are asleep is the perfect time to do this or while everyone is gone during the day at school or work. You won’t compromise your comfort and you will be able to reap some cost savings in the bargain.

How About a Smarter Approach?

Speaking of thermostats, many Philadelphia HVAC contractors are suggesting having a smart thermostat installed to adjust temperatures conveniently from any smartphone. Although programmable thermostats are also convenient, smart thermostats allow you to adjust your temperature from anywhere at any time with a convenient app. This way, you aren’t locked into a schedule that you have preprogrammed.

Don’t Forget the Fan

No, your fan is not just for summer. If you have ceiling fans, you can adjust the blades to turn the opposite direction. This will allow warm air that tends to rise to the ceiling to circulate around the room where it is needed in the colder weather.

Natural Heat

Take advantage of the sun’s natural heat on sunny days. Open up curtains and blinds on those windows facing the sun and take advantage of those natural heating rays. Always remember to close curtains and blinds afterward, however, as they provide added insulation from the cold.

Get a Tune Up

Your HVAC system should be tuned up periodically to make sure it is working at its optimum. During a tune-up, your Philadelphia HVAC repair technician will do a full inspection and cleaning of your system to ensure that it is working cleanly and efficiently for the upcoming season. Call Affordable Fixes today to ask how a thorough HVAC tune-up can help keep your system running smoothly while saving you money this winter.

How to Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing While You Are Away

With holidays upcoming, many of us travel to visit friends and family. But how do you keep your home safe while you are away?

Today, water damage is one of the most common insurance claims and frozen pipes can lead to an incredible amount of water damage in your home. When you are on vacation during the cold winter months, you can come back to some severe damage. Today, an average claim for water damage can exceed $6,000. That is a headache you don’t need. Before you go away for the holidays, here are some ways you can ensure that your pipes won’t freeze while you are gone.

Check for Leaks

Do a preliminary leak check before you go away. Small leaks can lead to large ones when you least expect it. Look for any small leaks and corroded areas that may need attention. Look for any areas that may appear wet or rusted and call a Philadelphia plumber to check out the area.

Check Appliance Hoses

Your household appliance hoses may not be areas that you consider on a daily basis but this is exactly why you need to make this an area of inspection. Any of these hoses are subject to freezing and could burst. Check for any leaky fittings or loose connections.

Shut Off Your Water Main

The best way to ensure that your home doesn’t experience a flood when you are gone is by completely shutting off the main valve to your home’s water. This may be outside near your water meter or in your basement. You should test this once a year just to make sure the valve is easily operable.

Drain Your Lines

If you have shut off your main valve, you will want to drain each interior line so water is not sitting inside the line. Open the taps inside the home as well as any outdoors and let any remaining water drain out.

Shut Off Individual Lines

If shutting off the main valve is inconvenient or impossible, you can shut off each individual line to each plumbing fixture. Sinks, faucets, and toilets have dedicated shutoff valves. Remember to shut off any water supplies to your washer and refrigerator.

Add Insulation to Your Plumbing Pipes

Insulation sleeves are easy to find at any hardware store or home improvement center. Insulating your plumbing pipes is further precaution against pipes freezing in your home while you are away. For those hard-to-reach areas, you may want to call a Philadelphia plumber for assistance.

Check Your Sump Pump

If there is a leak in your home, the water will flow to the lowest place which will be your basement or crawlspace. May sure that your sump pump is working properly in order to keep water damage to a minimum.

Keep the Heat On

It doesn’t have to be kept as high as you would normally set it, but keeping it set above 50 degrees Fahrenheit is a good way to ensure against pipes freezing while you are gone.

Keep Interior Doors Open

Keep all interior doors open including cabinet doors. This allows the warmer air to freely circulate throughout the home.

Install a Smart Thermostat

With a smart thermostat, if you see that the weather will be particularly frigid, you can set the thermostat accordingly with a touch of your app on your smartphone.

Need a professional plumber in Philadelphia? Call the experts at Affordable Fixes LLC for any of your plumbing needs.

Stay Ahead of Winter Plumbing Emergencies With These 9 Tips

At Affordable Fixes, LLC, we are dedicated to providing every customer with the type of service they deserve. Need an expert for your emergency? Call Us.