Monday, April 27, 2009

Summer time blues with your frost-free hydrants.

So often in the spring, I get many calls about frost-free hydrants that have frozen and burst. The reason is because they had left either their hose on or an quick couple adaptor causing ice to back up into the hydrant and cause it to burst in the wall. Many of my clients call me year after year having the same thing happen. Fortunately, Woodford Hydrants has now made available a hydrant with a spring in it to absorb the ice expansion. It is guaranteed not to freeze and burst. The bad news is that it costs about $15.00 more than a regular one. For those of you who cannot seem to remember to remove your hose in the fall, now we have your solution. One other problem that crops up is that we sometimes has a false start to spring and people get their hoses out and then we have a freeze. You know what comes next. Don't forget to remove your hoses in the early spring or the fall.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Those who own the classic new two story house built on a concrete slab.

I have been asked many times about how a client can improve the comfort of the heating and cooling system found in so many of these new homes that are built on a concrete slab and are two story. In most cases these duct systems are very poorly designed and cannot easily be changed, however, this does not mean that we are powerless to help you be more comfortable.
Most of the problems are with the great deal of temperature found between upstairs and downstairs. The easiest way to correct this problem is to install vacuum/pressure actuated computer controlled dampers and separate the upstairs from the downstairs. We could then add an upstairs thermostat to control it separately. We can generally get the temperature closer to 2-3 degrees instead of 10 degrees difference. Each house is different but we would be glad to assess your specific house and give you a free estimate. Let us know what we can do to serve you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What about these no salt water conditioners?

I know many people have asked me about the ads that they have heard about a no salt water conditioner. They are wonderful in certain conditions. First, you must understand that they remover nothing from your water. They are not to be confused with a water softener which removes through ion exchange particles and minerals of certain types. A water softener uses the salt to rechage the resin bed while then attracting those minerals to the resin and flushing them out during regeneration. The "Easy Water" system on the other hand does nothing to remove anything but it does a very good job of changing the mineral structure so that if you are only dealing with hardness, they do a great job of making those minerals not stick to pipes or fixtures.

If your only concern is hardness, then an "Easy Water" is a great choice. However, if you have iron or other issues, those would need to be addressed by a different type of system. I think an "Easy Water" system is a great way to protect a water heater and your fixtures. The other obvious benefit is that they use no salt and require no maintenance. The cost of an "Easy Water" is about the same as a water softener.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why Should I Buy a Service Agreement?

Service agreements (at least my service agreements) don't just provide our customers with two cleanings, one in the spring for the air conditioner and one in the fall for your furnace, but they also provide our customers with priority service status and a 15% discount on any service performed on your equipment. But let's set aside the priority status and the 15% discount for a minute and examine the other benefits. First, a service agreement is priced at a very discounted rate for the services performed. That means that if you were to call me for a furnace cleaning and not have a service agreement, it could cost as much as the price of the entire one year service agreement but would only get a furnace cleaning. On top of that you get the other benefits. Why would we offer this discount? Because we can schedule the cleanings on our time and keep our schedule full when we have off times. Plus the service agreement ties us to our customers and gives us the opportunity to serve our customers better. I would invite you to visit my website and click on the Preferred Client Club tab. That explains our service agreements in detail. As always feel free to contact me through my website.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What happened to the days when your word meant something?

I often get mistified by the fact that some clients of mine are so appreciative of the fact that I simply return a phone call. I just have to think, that that is what you are supposed to do, isn't it?
Well obviously these days that is a rarity. I have always treated people the way I wanted to be treated. And I don't want to have a call not returned. But what about doing what you say you will do?
Well, this too seems to be something that is harder to find. When I tell someone that we will do something, we will do it. I don't make false promises. Now this seems to be simple common sense and of course, something that everyone should do but, I find this too to be not so common.
If you struggle to find someone that you can trust with your mechanical systems, there should be no question who to call. We will treat you like we would want to be treated. Our word is as good as gold and you can take it to the bank.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I fixed that furnace myself!!

One of the most common problems I see is that the flame sensor needs cleaning. What is a flame sensor, you ask? The flame sensor is a stainless steel rod that has a ceramic base and on one side is the rod and the other is a wire that runs to the ignition board. This wire tells the board if there is a flame or not. Often the only thing needed is to take some sandpaper and clean the SS rod until it is shiny again. You can't hurt it by cleaning it because it is just a piece of stainless rod.

The syptom to tell you that that is the problem is: The furnace will cycle on and off several times and eventually will go into lockout (a state where the furnace will no longer try to light until it is reset). If you are experiencing this problem, try those steps. You just might save yourself a service call and be able to say: I fixed that furnace myself!

Old school fixtures in a throw away era.

Many of us hate to throw anything useful away. If you are like me (and you may not be) you hate to see something that seems to have a lot of life left in it be just thrown away. Unfortunately, we live in an era when the labor involed to fix something old and outdated is so expensive that you are better off just buying a new ---fill in the blank. Now before you give me a well duh, about this post, let me give you an example. I frequently run across old faucets that a customer wants repaired. Now depending on where the faucet is installed and how difficult it is to replace, it could be cheaper to put in new ones than to repair the old. This, of course, depends on how old they are. Often I am asked to repair an old toilet. The thing about toilets that many people do not realize is that they get minerals built up inside the china and around the trapway and just because you replace every component on the toilet, it may not flush well. This is especially true if you have hard water and no softener. There are many other examples of throw away products these days. I hate to see it be like that but for the sake of you the client, I have to keep in mind that often it is better to suggest replacement rather than repair. Now, if you are one of the kinds of clients that just wants it fixed. We can and will do that even if it costs more. You are our boss.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tough economic times call for better solutions.

Those of you who are in need of a water heater but can't afford it. This is a win win solution made just for you.

I know that there are times in all of our lives when we just don't have the upfront cash to buy what we really need. If that is you, and you need a new water heater, this is the deal for you.

I can install a new water heater for as little as $15.00 a month with only a two year contract. After that you can give it back or continue to rent, it is up to you. There are no upfront costs and no maintenance fees. All you need is good credit and the monthly fee. That should take care of your water heater blues. This is a simple program and it can save you a lot of out of pocket cash.

Give me a shout and I can give you a mechanical solution.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Problems with well water?

Many people who live with well water encounter varying types of mineral contents. Many deal with not just one type of mineral but, at least two. We will start with iron since that seems to be the most annoying and the most common. Iron can be dealt with by using a standard softener if it is in very low concentrations. However, rarely do I see in small enough concentrations to be dealt with by using a water softener. Most of the time it must be aerated and filtered. By using air you oxygenate the water and the iron drops into a filterable state. We then have a special type media in a filter container that separates the iron back out of the water. From there the water is usually run through a standard water softener to remove the hardness from it.

Let's talk about some of the other things that are commonly found in well water. Magnesium, the black mineral that usually comes out in small pieces and makes the water smell. Magnesium takes a special filter to remove it and a water softener will do some good with it but it also is best dealt with by designing a system specifically for magnesium removal.

One more contaminating mineral or should I say gas: Sulfur. Sulfur is a nasty gas and makes the water smell like rotten eggs. Often when you have magnesium, you also have sulfur. Sulfur must be also aerated to remove the gas and then run through a special filter to remove the sulfur gas. As you can see, having well water can cause differing types of problems but properly addressed and having your water thoroughly tested, we can design a system that will have you using well water as if it were softened city water. The bad news is that the first cost of such a system can be somewhat pricy. We can handle any challenging well water problems. Just give us a call.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Just exactly what is a hybrid heating system?

Just what is a hybrid heating system? Well for this article, it is a heat pump coupled with a standard high efficiency gas furnace. In the midwest we have enough days that the heat pump will provide a fairly good amount of the heat needed during the spring and fall months. By using the heat pump during these times one can save a lot of energy cost, since the heat pump at mid-temperatures is producing most, if not all the heat needed for the conditioned space. For an example, in this area you could save as much as $800.00 annually by using a hybrid system.
If you do the math that is: $4,000.00 in 5 years. This will more than pay for the upgrade to a hybrid system. It is

Where the gas furnace comes in is when those temperatures fall below the point that the heat pump can produce the space heating. The gas furnace is then turned on and the heat pump switched off. This type of system is very efficent and does not double the cost of the total package. We are seeing very good results from this type of system. If you have a need to lower your heating bills, this might be the solution you are looking for. We are available to arrange a free estimate.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Help with no strings attached.

I have people call me frequently and ask questions. I often end up coaching them through fixing the problem if they are mechanical at all. Having this type of open door policy adds value to using my company. I hope that when they have something that they cannot handle they will remember that I was the one who helped them and call me for service.
I have been in this business about 20 years and 20 years in this type of service business gives me a vast array of experiences. I am often reminded that I haven't seen it all. And I am continually humbled by the continual learning that I must do to keep on top of my game. We have new products all the time and we are expected to learn them and be able to fix them. Now I will not tell you that I know everything, but I can find out from somewhere the info needed to fix your problem. You have to be like a hound dog on a scent when it comes to fixing peoples problems. That is why they call you. They don't want to think about it. That is exactly what we do. Fix problems!!

Why should anyone use First Class Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment?

This is an important question. Using first class equipment may cost a little more up front, but in the long run, you receive longer service and greater comfort due to the design. American Standard has made cutting edge developments in the heating and air conditioning equipment markets. They continue to be on the edge with new products that will shape the industry. We have chosen to carry their product because it has served our customers extremely well. We are very proud of history of service that American Standard Products have given us.

One of the many reasons we prefer their products is: They use standardized parts and not something that is special and hard to find. We also have found that their extended warranties are extremely inexpensive proving that they have a very impressive track record of low warranty claims. American Standard has a very full product line which gives us flexibility to offer many various types of equipment from one great manufacturer. American Standard is the same equipment as Trane they have had a great track record for manufacturing for many years.
American Standard uses their own patented and tested compressor which has been around and been proven since Trane bought the General Electric Equipment line. Other manufacturers use third party venders to supply their compressors but American Standard has their own.

Grinder Pumps: Love-Hate relationship

Those of you who own a grinder pump and I know you know who you are. This is a very necessary item for you but one that has with it, many frustrations. First of all, any mechanical device that runs in sewage is going to have some difficulty. That being said, I open this subject not to be a place for you to whine, but to be a point for questions to be answered. I have worked on all different types of grinder pumps and the one for residential use that I recommend is Environment One. This company has been around for more years than most of the other companies put together.
Now for the tech stuff. Most of these systems are installed on what is called a force main. That simply means the main sewer line is pressurized by the pumps that are pumping into them. These force mains are sized by the target load expected. The problem is that once a system is installed more people want to tie into the system than originally planned. This happens all the time in my town. That becomes a problem because the system was designed for "x" amount of gallons per minute and when that amount is exceeded, the pumps (if they are cetrifugal in design) begin to stop working. This is where an Environment One Pump comes in. An E-one pump does not use centrifugal force to pump. It uses a stator and rotor which creates a positive pressure pumping system. What that means is that it will pump up to a mile straight up into the air or a very long way horizontal or against a somewhat high force main pressure. The other advantage is that they only produce 10-12 gallons a minute when pumping. This means that you can install many more of these systems on a smaller force main without overloading it. With standard grinder pumps (the ones that use centrifugal force to pump) you have any where from 30 to 50 gpm or more with a pretty small amount of head pressure. (Head pressure is the pressure exerted against a pump totaled from all friction losses and inches of water column pressure on the outlet side of the pump.) After you reach the limit with standard grinder pumps they will no longer pump. This is what leads to pump stations not pumping during peak times and then when the peak time passes they will then begin pumping again. There is another problem with these pumps that many do not see as a problem. That is that they pump so much so fast that they load the system quickly. The more of these pumps that you put on the system the quicker it is fully loaded. Now you may be able to see why I prefer and use E-one pumps.
There is another reason that I prefer E-one pumps. I will explain, but first I will talk about the other systems. Other grinder pump stations use what are called float switches. (if you have them you know what a pain they are) These types of switches are very prone to getting junk, grease whatever balled up on them and cause them to not operater properly. They also often get tangled up on things inside the pit like piping and the pump. In short they create nuisance failures. This is where an environment one pump outshines them all. They have a very reliable pressure switch that uses a natural air column built into the pump to switch on and off the pump and the alarm. This proves to be a very reliable system. I have had pumps that have gone 15 years without ever being touched. Now tell me that isn't impressive. A mechanical device that functions in sewage for 15 years and never needs service.
Now I am not saying that every one will do that but I have had several that have.
There are some precautions that many owners do not know about. If you own an E-one pump, never run egg shells through it. Do not wash paint or drywall mud down the drain. Do not put fish tank gravel, sand, kitty litter or anything that creates a sandy gritty slurry. The pumping action is made from rubber and will quickly deteriorate. All other types of normal sewer things can be put through them. They do quite well at the grinding and making slurry of it for disposal.
If there are comments or questions, feel free to post them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Losing Grid Power.

There are a number of things to consider when you lose power. Most of the obvious I will skip. I want this to be about more technical aspects.
1:Your sump pump (if you have one)
Most of the time when a power outage happens it is also raining, which leads to a greater need to have your sump pump. Many people have finished basements that need to be protected so they opt to install a battery back up sump pump. Here is where the technical comes in. Most (or should I say many) of the battery back up sump pumps out there have very poor gallons per minute pumping ablility. But this is very important since the standard (115v) plug in sump pumps pump about 22-60 gallons per minute. On the other hand, the battery back up systems rarely come close to that.
The backup systems range from about 7 gpm (gallons per minute) at 10' of head to 36 gpm at 10' of head. This, as you can see, is a large disparity between pumps. When you also factor in that this comes at a time when the rain is falling and the power is out, this is a big problem. There is yet another problem in that most all of the battery back up systems only run for about a maximum of 8 hours on a battery charge.
This brings me to the next solution: Buy a standby generator.
I have brought on the Generac Guardian line of generators to resolve this problem and it is often a solution to many other situations at the same time. Not to mention the fact that it is extremely convienent. Guardian Generators come in many different sizes and can be easily fitted to each ones needs. The best part about using these systems is that they are completely automatic and switch from grid power to backup power without you having to do a thing. And then when the power returns they switch back. This is to me is the best of all solutions because with a guardian generator you get not just a sump pump that works but also most of the rest of the house or at least the vital systems.
I have had customers that have been on vacation and didn't know the power went out and returned to find their basement flooded. This is when you can see the benefit of an automatic system to protect your basement.

Tired of running out of hot water?

The top 3 reasons to own a Navien Tankless Water Heater

1: Save Money Every Year!

Did you know that the average savings for a tankless water heater is $160 annually. A Navien tankless water heater is an “Energy Star” approved device and qualifies for a federal tax credit of 30% or up to $1500 on your taxes. Even better, if you have Vectren Energy as your natural gas provider they offer $150 rebate for installing this device.

2: Never Run Out of Hot Water!

No matter how much hot water you need a tankless water heater is up to the challenge. Large family or small, you will have all the hot water you ever want. You will never need to take a cold shower again…ever!

3: Tankless Water Heaters are Better For the Environment!

Because the Navien tankless water heater is 98% efficient, that means only 2% of the gas used is vented as exhaust. This requires less use of our natural resources to do a better job of heating the water for your home. The reason Navien is more efficient than other tankless water heaters is because it uses dual stainless steel heat exchangers instead of copper. Stainless steel is much more efficient and last longer which means less maintenance and expense for you.

These are the reasons I only carry the Navien brand.

A couple of other pieces of information about installing a tankless water heater.

Most of the time when changing from a tank type water heater to a tankless water heater a new vent will have to be run and the gas line will have to be checked and often upsized. A 115v. power supply will have to be run to the tankless as most tank type water heaters do not need power. These are the factors that add to the cost of switching to a tankless water heater and cause the "first cost" to be so high. After installation, however, the benefits start kicking in and you will never want to go back.

One more thing that is very important to add here. If you live with hard water and lime build up is a problem, you will want some type of protection for your new water heater, otherwise it will lime up very quickly. Because a tankless water heater heats the water quickly in one pass the lime precipitates out of the water in a much greater way. In fact anytime you heat water, the faster you heat it the more lime becomes a problem. This is why I recommend adding at the very least a softner, or a Freije water conditioner to keep your new water heater clean and operational.

Don't forget to have fun living with endless hot water.

For more information about this and other products see my website

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Introduction of this blogsite.

This being the first installment of my brand new blog site, I thought I would start by introducing myself. First, My name is Chuck McConnell. I am the owner of McConnell Plumbing, Heating, & Air Conditioning. I have been in the mechanical skills area for about 21 years. Of those years I have had my own company for 17 years. This purpose of this is to post mechanical solutions that I have encountered. I will attempt to be as informative as possible. I am not the best teacher so I will give it my best to make answers as simple but informative. If there are questions, I intend to answer them quickly and completely. Thanks for visiting and I hope this will prove to be a place for answers to your questions.