Category Archives: Maintenance Save Money

Five Solutions to Low Water Pressure

Are you bothered by a low water pressure problem? This issue can be frustrating and make minor tasks like washing dishes and clothes, showering, or watering plants take longer than necessary. It can also increase the amount of water you are using, which in turn increases your water bill.

A good way to tell if you may have a problem is your toilet cistern, which generally holds about 7.5 liters of water and should take no more than 1 minute and 40 seconds to refill. If you hear your toilet filling for longer, it could be a signal of a pressure issue. You can test water pressure on your own with a kit; normal pressure is around 50 PSI (pounds per square inch), so if your results show it’s below 30, you’ve confirmed a problem.

A few measures you can take to identify the origin of your problem and possibly increase water pressure include:

  • Defective valves – Locate your main water valve and make sure it is all the way open. It can unexpectedly slip without any sign or indication, and if the valve is turned off or even closed slightly, your water pressure can be dramatically impacted. If your pressure is low, this is a good place to check first!
  • Check elevation – If your house is located higher than the water storage tank, pressure will be difficult to maintain. If possible, have your tank elevated higher than your house to ensure the best water pressure possible.
  • Check for water leaks – Damaged pipes allow water to seep out, much like a straw with a hole in it; visually inspect water pipes for cracks, leaks, or debris buildup. If you are unable to find any leaks, turn off your main water valve to your home or structure and immediately check the water meter reading. After waiting a couple of hours, check the meter again and if the number increases, that’s a sign you have a leak.

 

  • Check pressure regulator – Locate the pressure regulator below the hose connection attached to your home. When a pressure regulator isn’t working properly, you will notice low water pressure at every faucet in your home. This kind of plumbing repair is best left to a professional.
  • Mineral deposit buildup – Over time, mineral deposits can gather and clog water pipes, blocking faucets and showerheads and restricting the flow of water. To remove mineral deposit buildup, try scrubbing the affected areas with a toothbrush using a commercial cleaner or a simple solution of white vinegar or lemon and baking soda. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to hire an expert.

Sometimes your city’s pressure may just not be what you hoped. The best solution here is opting for a pressure tank and pump. The pressure tank, incorporated into your plumbing after the main shutoff valve, will keep the volume of water in your system high and maintain pressure at a more stable level. To boost the pressure beyond that, you would need a pump to go with the tank, which takes the low-pressure water coming into your home and increases the PSI before sending it through the pressure tank. The right pump depends on a number of factors, and if you would like to discuss your options we would be happy to help.

More than likely, to fix your water pressure a professional plumber will be needed. However, identifying and sourcing low water pressure causes yourself may help isolate the problem so you can more easily describe symptoms to an expert. If you have low water pressure in your home, we can help you diagnose the problem and give you all of your available options to solve the issue. Contact us today to enjoy better water pressure in no time.

The How and Why of Summer Gutter Maintenance

Warm weather is here, and so are the summer projects! From falling leaves to spring rains, the gutter’s hard work is done — making summer the perfect time for proper maintenance. Gutters are an important component of a home; they help maintain the integrity of your foundation and should be cleaned twice a year to keep debris and other material from clogging the system, as well as preventing water from leaking into your home or building, which could cause extensive damage. Additionally, gutter maintenance eliminates standing water that creates an ideal breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes. This can help to reduce the spread of harmful diseases, such as West Nile, heartworm in your pets, and the recent increase in cases of Zika virus you have been seeing on the news. Health officials are expecting mosquitoes in the U.S. to have Zika virus within the next month, so gutter maintenance is more important now than ever!

In addition to these benefits to your family’s health and home, with regular maintenance a gutter system can last 20 to 30 years. This month’s edition of ‘The Advantage’ brings you a great checklist of summer maintenance on your gutters to keep them holding strong and doing their job year after year.

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  1. Give your gutter system a thorough cleaning. Use gloves to remove debris like sticks, needles, leaves, and any other remnants. Remove any empty nests. Don’t forget to check for wasp nests as well; if found, call a pest control company for safe removal.
  2. Scoop out mud with a trowel if necessary.
  3. Clean with a brush and gentle abrasive or soap. As you scrub, watch for areas that seem especially troubled and go back to them when you’re looking at roofing drainage. Keep in mind that areas with a lot of mold, algae, or moss could signal a drainage problem.
  4. Once they’re cleaned, flush the entire system with a garden hose. This will help locate leaks, which we will discuss later.
  5. Use the hose to wash out your downspouts to make sure they’re not clogged. Note, downspouts aren’t meant to withstand the same water pressure as a house drain, so just run some water down; it’s not necessary to shoot water at it.
  6. While you’re up on the ladder cleaning, it’s a good idea to also check out your roof. Your gutter system and your roofing work together. Make sure that you fix any areas of poor repair, and watch for gutter problems that could be causing issues on your roof.

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After the gutters are cleaned, take the time for a good visual inspection to see if and where there are any obvious areas that need attention right away. Walk around your entire gutter system looking for loose or hanging fixtures, clogs or leaks. Move sagging areas upward with pliers. Make a note of rusty areas or holes, and ensure that you replace extremely damaged areas and fix gaps or leaks. If you question your inspection or see any major problem areas, call our service professionals to conduct an inspection. If the damage is extensive, replacement of the gutter system may be needed.

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The gutter should be sloped towards the downspout, about 1/8″ per foot to keep water flowing. If not sloped properly, water can collect in the gutter and eventually overflow into the structure. Overflowing water is generally the cause of basement leaks.

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Follow the flow of water out of the gutter to see where it goes. If you made any exterior improvements to your home or changes in landscaping, it may have shifted the drainage patterns that water from the gutter follows. You can mimic rainfall with a garden hose and check to ensure that the water is flowing completely away from the home’s foundation and is not creating puddles in areas around the yard that may create mulch washout or breed insects, especially mosquitoes.

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Run a bit of water through the gutter to find smaller leaks. If you find a leak, you can either call in a gutter professional or fix it yourself with a patch of metal flashing adhered with roofing cement, or by applying gutter or silicone caulking around a clean, dry piece of gutter. If your gutter is sagging, it could be on the threshold of collapsing. The gutter sags from the weight of debris or from not being installed properly. A broken spike or hanger may also be the cause; installing new hardware can repair these components.

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Gutter guards close off the ends of the gutter and have a screen over the top, making it difficult for animals, insects, leaves, and other unwanted pests to get in. They can be installed by a professional and will prevent clogging and other related issues. Depending on your surroundings, gutter guards can also make routine cleaning easier by eliminating excess leaves, sticks, and animal nests that often find their way into your uncovered gutter.

Summer generally sees less precipitation than other parts of the year, making it the ideal time to work on long-term gutter maintenance. If you’re thinking of installing new guttering or downspouts, now is the perfect time to do so. Give us a call and we will be happy to come out and give both our professional assessment and an estimate for seamless gutter.

Air Conditioner: Repair vs. Replace

Are you wondering if it is time to replace your air conditioner, or if it is worth your investment to repair? Then this month’s installment of ‘The Advantage’ is a must-read for you! We are here to help weigh the options so you can make the best choice for you, your home, and your wallet.

There can be a lot to mull over with this decision. To help simplify the process, we have a great list of some of the first things you should take into consideration when deciding between repairing or replacing.

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  • Age of your unit – Energy Star recommends air conditioning units older than 10 years be replaced. So if yours is under 10, lean toward repairing. They may very well last longer than 10 years, but will lose efficiency over time, costing you more in the long run with repair costs and increased utility bills due to decreased efficiency.
  • Maintenance history – If you know the maintenance history of your unit and it has been inspected regularly over its life, it will likely last longer than one that has not, so repair is definitely a viable option.
  • Moving – Determine how long you plan to live in your current home. If you intend on moving soon, a repair will likely be a more cost-effective choice.
  • Noise – Is your unit excessively noisy or does it turn off randomly? It may be over-exerting itself and in need of a check-up. Annual or semiannual routine maintenance plans can help prevent these problems before they occur and keep your entire HVAC system running more efficiently.
  • 5000 Rule – Multiply the age of the equipment by the repair cost, and if that exceeds $5,000, then you want to replace. If less, repair.

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  • Breakdown occurrence/energy bill – Has your air conditioner broken down multiple times while running over the last few years? Have you seen an increase in your monthly bill? Then it probably can’t handle your needs, and replacing may be in your best interests. Repairs can often add up and cost more than a new system altogether.
  • Changing temps – If your system is not keeping your home at a constant temp or within a few degrees of your setting, it can be caused by a number of issues. Having one of our HVAC specialists come out and inspect your system and possibly hire a qualified technician to run an energy assessment of your home is a great starting point. Ultimately, your unit may be going out and it might be time for an upgrade.
  • R-22 (refrigerant) – If your system requires additional refrigerant, you likely have a coolant leak. Topping off a system with R-22 refrigerant, also known as Freon, can cost over $100 per pound, and fixing the leak along with putting in several pounds of refrigerant can wind up costing anywhere from $550 to $1,000. If your unit takes R-22 and it develops a leak, replacement is likely your best option as repairing a leak, adding refrigerant, and replacing your compressor can cost you about the same as buying a new unit. Not to mention R-22 prices have soared in recent years due to the EPA’s eventual phase-out of the chemical. HVAC manufacturers quit producing units “charged” with R-22 in 2010, and production of R-22 will end in 2020. It will be replaced with a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, R-410A.

If you are still pondering, try visiting this website to check the efficiency and potential cost savings of your equipment. Still can’t decide whether to repair or replace? Give us a call or visit our website, and we would be happy to assess your system and give our professional opinion.

Springtime Maintenance Saves You Money

Have you ever wondered if a HVAC maintenance plan is worth it? This month’s edition of ‘The Advantage’ is here to tell you why having a plan in place is a good idea for both you and your budget.

Warmer weather is well on its way, and it’s time to dust off that air conditioner and be sure it is in working order. If it’s time to repair an old HVAC system or even have a new one installed, be sure to ask our service technician about our extended HVAC service contract or maintenance plan agreement. These plans have a set fee to guarantee you get our ongoing services and routine maintenance to your HVAC system.

There are many benefits to a regular HVAC maintenance plan, such as:

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Inspections and professional cleanings to your air conditioner before summer and your heating system at the beginning of winter ensure that your HVAC system is running properly, and can also help extend the life of your equipment. A heating or cooling tune-up will test your thermostat operation, motor, wiring connections, drainage system, and more. Having one of our qualified technicians inspect your system a couple of times per year can help identify issues while they are still minor and less complicated to fix, rather than waiting until they become major issues that cause damage to your system, resulting in expensive repairs or replacement.

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A clean filter traps dust, dirt, and other allergens to keep your air clean. Of all illnesses, 50% are either caused or aggravated by polluted air, according to the American College of Allergists, meaning that nasty cold going around your household could actually be caused or worsened by filter problems. At each maintenance visit, we will be sure you have a clean filter and can even supply specialty filters if needed.

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Tune-ups provided with your HVAC maintenance plan result in savings on your monthly electric bill over time. Your gas or electric furnace, heat pump, and air conditioner might be silently costing you more than necessary, but our technicians can spot potential issues that are affecting your system’s efficiency and help to optimize its performance for more affordable utility costs.

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Some manufacturers require routine maintenance as a term of the warranty. If regular maintenance is not performed the warranty could be voided, giving them the right to deny any claims for repair work due to poor or improper maintenance. An unfortunate event such as this could leave expensive repair costs up to you as the homeowner, so be sure to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of your warranty and schedule maintenance as needed.

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We offer our emergency services with or without a routine maintenance plan. If you discover a problem with your HVAC system, simply call us. We’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to make any repairs or replacements you may need. You can rest assured that your equipment is being well taken care of, running efficiently, and will last you a long time. Sit back and relax, knowing that your system is running at its best and that if anything goes wrong, we’ll be here to help.

We stand behind all of our work with our 100% satisfaction guarantee, ‘The Vilandre Advantage’. A routine maintenance plan is a low-cost, effective way to protect your HVAC system. Whether you are installing new equipment or have an existing system in place, it is always a good time to call us and set up a routine maintenance plan that works best for you and your family.

6 Tips to Save Money While You’re on Vacation

As winter arrives in North Dakota, warm, sunny beaches start to call our names! Are you heading out on a winter vacation? More than likely you have had the mail held and asked a neighbor to keep an eye on things while you are away, but did you remember to ready your electricity and HVAC system for your absence? It is important for not only cost savings, but also safety reasons.

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Below are six tips to remember when the packing is done and you are almost ready to set sail in paradise.

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Reset the thermostat on your HVAC system to 60 degrees. This will save you money without risking frozen pipes and flooding, while still preventing moisture from building up on your primary heat exchanger, which could cause a possible shortage as well as mildew problems. Temperatures below freezing make it unsafe to turn the thermostat entirely off, and in our area we have the humidity working against us. We also tend to turn the heat back up to 72 or higher upon our return, causing extra stress to the HVAC unit. A programmable thermostat makes it convenient to remotely check on the temperature in your house and slowly increase the heat back to a comfortable setting over a couple of days, helping to prevent overworking your HVAC unit.

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This lower temperature will prevent water in the lines and tank from freezing and causing damage, but won’t keep hot water on hand that you are not going to be using. If you are not quite sure how to change the water heater to its “vacation” setting, give us a call!

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Turn off the water supply to washing machines and toilets; this can help avoid an unexpected leak while you’re away. Double-check the insulation around water pipes that are close to unheated areas and add insulation if needed, as an added precaution to prevent a frozen pipe while you’re away.

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Be sure all interior doors are open. This will keep the heat circulating throughout the entire house and create less of a chance for cold spots where a pipe could freeze or a plant might die from inadequate warmth. If you have someone checking your home, it is a good idea to place a thermometer where it can easily be seen to notify the person of any dangerous temperature drops in your home.

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Set your refrigerator to 42 degrees and freezer to 5 degrees, to save money while also reducing the odds of returning home to spoiled food. If you are heading off on an extended vacation, donate or discard perishable food items and unplug your fridge to save even more. Also, unplug any “vampire appliances” that continue to use energy even when they are not in use, such as televisions, lamps, entertainment systems and coffee makers.

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If you don’t have motion detectors, it is a good idea to consider investing in them, especially when going on extended vacations. If you do, make sure all the lights are in working order and time them to come on in the evening as the sun sets. You could even set a radio on a timer to ward off possible burglars.

We hope these tips help you have a wonderful, stress-free vacation! If you would like additional information on the care and maintenance of your HVAC system, or help with prepping your system for an extended vacation, or to schedule services to make sure your system is running optimally, contact Vilandres and we would be happy to come give your unit a tune-up before your trip begins.

The Cost of Water Leaks

Did your water bill spike this month and you’re not sure why? A water leak may be to blame. The plumbing in your home or business is part of a simple but well-organized system that needs maintenance to perform efficiently, and it may require  a plumbing professional from time to time for emergency services such as this. Left unfixed, even the smallest of leaks can cause a higher utility bill, or worse, serious damage to your structure that can be expensive to repair.

What is the cost of a water leak? There are many varying factors that can affect the cost of leaks, such as the length of time it’s been occurring, the size of the leak, and the pressure of the water system. This chart gives you an idea of how a small amount of running or leaking water can cost you big.*

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*Chart based on estimates, not exact numbers. Calculations based on Grand Forks Public Works information and Grand Forks residential flow rates.

In addition to higher utility bills, leaks can also result in problems such as mold and water damage to flooring and fixtures. Monitoring your home or business and locating a leak as early as possible can prevent costly water and repair bills. The most common cause for a high water bill is toilet leaks, as these can be unseen and even silent. To check a toilet for leaks, put some food coloring dye into the tank and wait 15 to 20 minutes without flushing; if the food coloring appears in the bowl, there is a leak. As toilet leaks can be inconsistent, you may have to perform this test multiple times.

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In order to keep plumbing costs at a minimum, do your best to be proactive with your structure and keep an eye out for running water or leaks. The sooner an issue is identified, the less time it has to cause damage to your home or office and create expensive repairs. Call a plumber sooner rather than later if you suspect a leak of any kind, and remember — Vilandre is available with 24/7 emergency services, including weekends, nights, and holidays, for your convenience.

How to Save $ This Winter

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Here at Vilandre, we are available 24/7 in case of emergency and happy to help install your new HVAC and plumbing purchases, and on top of our great products and services, we are also here to help save you money! As a hometown, family-owned and -operated business, we take pride in the work we do and care about our customers. For over 80 years our company has been serving the Grand Forks community and all of our employees live and work here, too, so we know that when winter comes the utility bills go up. This month, we want to share some of our tips and tricks to help you save this season!

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  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent it from overworking; the water will still be plenty warm for use in your home.
  • Use cold water when washing your clothes to save an average of $30-$40 per year.
  • Turn your thermostat down 5 degrees at night and anytime you’re away from your house. A programmable thermostat makes this option a piece of cake!
  • Take advantage of the heat sunlight produces by opening curtains on your south-facing windows during the day, to allow the natural light to help heat your home.
  • Move furniture away from vents to allow the proper flow of heat throughout your home.

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  • Have water-efficient showerheads and faucets installed, which can reduce water consumption by up to 10%.
  • Insulate behind your outlets. The faceplates on both outlets and light switches are extremely thin, and can allow a significant amount of heat to escape.
  • Plug home electronics into power strips and turn them off when not in use. Many electronics use energy when they are shut off, especially computers and phone chargers.
  • During winter months, cover your drafty windows with heavy-duty, clear plastic sheets or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Double-check to be sure that the plastic is sealed tightly to prevent air leaks.
  • As your light bulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent light bulbs. The initial investment will be more, but they last on average 25 times longer and use less energy than traditional bulbs, saving you money in the long run.
  • Weatherize your home by locating and sealing off any air leaks, so the heat in your home has fewer places to escape from. Learn more about locating and repairing air leaks here.
  • Insulating your home can help you save as much as 20% on utility bills.The most cost-effective method would be to add insulation to your attic, unfinished basement walls, and crawlspaces.
  • Have your heater inspected annually to be sure it is functioning at maximum efficiency and operating safely.
  • The biggest money saver available is to replace your old, inefficient HVAC system with a high-efficiency unit. This can result in upwards of 60% savings on your energy bills, and you will be saving each month for the next 10 to 20 years!

To determine specifically where the most savings can be gained in your own home, have a specialist come out and conduct an energy assessment. For more advice on how to save, from programmable thermostats to upgrading your appliances, give us a call and we would be happy to visit with you and help you save this winter!