The Symptoms of Leaky Ductwork

Leaky ductwork
A sealed-up system works better and saves you money.

Leaks in your ductwork cost money, stress your air conditioner and can even lead to allergy flares. The network of air passageways that runs through your home isn’t exactly an aesthetic feature, either. It’s hidden inside walls, crawlspaces, and attics. So unlike a plumbing leak that leaves a trail of water, a duct leak might go unnoticed for years.

But there are clues if you know where to look, and there’s a solution that’s simpler than you might think. If you live with one or more of these problems, it’s probably time for an inspection.

#1: You’re Paying Higher Energy Bills

Temperatures are brutal this summer, both in Massachusetts and nationwide. But it’s always difficult to know if it’s the weather or a problem with your HVAC system that’s responsible for higher energy bills. Either one (or both) might be to blame.

Leaks in the ductwork allow part of your conditioned air to escape into places you’d never intentionally cool, such as the attic and between walls. The U.S. Department of Energy says that in many homes, the loss is about 30 percent. Leaks can also allow heat from those spaces to infiltrate the ducts and warm up the air that your AC system worked so hard to cool. Warm air naturally transfers to cooler spots when there’s nothing in place to stop it.

#2: You’ve Got Hot and Cold Spots

Most homes have spots that are harder to cool than others. Rooms on upper floors and those with large windows or inadequate insulation can all take on excess heat. And you might also have spots that are too cold. But when those problems can’t be traced to an obvious culprit, leaky ducts might be behind it.

With leaks, some of your cool air never makes it to its destination. That creates hot spots. Then if you lower the thermostat to compensate, other parts of your home might be too cold. If hot spots happen near your registers, you’ve probably got a leak.

#3: Your Air Filter Gets Dirty Faster

Most homeowners change the HVAC air filter every 1-3 months. It depends on factors such as whether or not you have pets and whether it’s pollen season. More particles in the air clog up the filter faster. However, leaks in the ductwork can dirty the filter more quickly.

Ducts run through unfinished parts of your home, and those areas are highly dust-prone. All that it takes is a small leak to allow dust inside, where it’s then sent out through the registers. From there, the system’s air intake draws in the particles and the filter traps them. If your home looks a bit dustier and your filter needs frequent changing, a duct leak might be behind it.

Leaky ductwork
If you have to do this, there’s a problem.

#4: The Airflow is Noticeably Lower

Air should flow out through every register in your home at about the same rate. You might notice some differences, as registers closer to the system often have a bit more airflow than those at the end of the run. But it shouldn’t be dramatic.

Comparably low airflow through one or more registers is one of the simplest ways to suss out leaky ducts. Unfortunately, some homeowners live with the problem for years, believing that it’s a normal hazard of a forced-air system. That’s usually not the case.

Duct leaks are like little thieves that abscond with your family’s money and comfort. And for years, sealing up those leaks was a challenging, invasive and costly job. But there’s a newer technology called Aeroseal that’s effective, efficient and affordable.

Instead of fixing leaks from the outside using messy mastic and tape, Aeroseal works from the inside. The best part is that it finds and seals leaks in hard-to-reach areas and those that are so small that the human eye wouldn’t spot them. It’s a simple solution to a complicated problem.

Rodenhiser specializes in duct inspection and sealing. For over 85 years, we’ve provided excellent service to homeowners in Framingham, Concord and throughout the route 495 / 128 area. Call Rodenhiser today, and we’ll seal your leaky system for good.

When Should I Replace My Air Conditioner?

Air conditioner
Fans are great, but they shouldn’t be a requirement for a comfortable home.

The sweltering summer heat has apparently settled in for a while. That means air conditioners throughout Massachusetts are really getting a workout. And for people whose systems aren’t exactly up to snuff, it can mean miserable temperatures indoors as well as out. Maybe it’s time for a new system to make you, your home and your energy bills happier.

It’s a big decision and an important one. And if you’re like most people, it’s not something to enter into lightly. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s time to replace your air conditioner, here are a few clues that can help:

You’re Approaching Retirement or Already There

If you are approaching retirement or you’re already there, replacing your air conditioner now could help you avoid the hassle and expense of installing a new system later on. And that can equal peace of mind while living on a fixed income.

The usual lifespan is related to regular maintenance and routine filter changes. There are a number of situations that might affect the life of your air conditioner.

If the one that you have now is nearing the 10-year mark, a good history of maintenance means that you can probably wait a little while longer to make the investment. But if you’ve skipped maintenance or let filters get too dirty before replacing, yours might soon enter the never-ending cycle of repairs.

Forbes agrees that the last thing retirees want to do is become saddled with a new, unexpected expense. So if your system is older, the sooner you replace the more soundly you’ll sleep.

You’ve Purchased a Home With an Older HVAC System

A new air conditioner can make a new home purchase feel a lot more comfortable. Homes come with air conditioning in most cases, but sometimes it’s difficult to know just how old the existing system is. In a brand new house, the age of the system probably isn’t a concern. But if the house is older, you might have just purchased HVAC issues.

Your home inspector probably switched on the system and reported on whether it operated the way that it was designed to. Problem is, a home inspection is not a prediction. It’s just an indicator of the condition of a home while the inspector is on site. It’s like a snapshot.

If the home is older and either has no ductwork or not enough, there’s a different type of air conditioner that’s with looking into. Ductless systems are small but powerful heat pumps that give you cool air in summer and warm air in winter. They can be installed anywhere because they don’t use ducts at all.

If the system is a heat pump, the home repair and improvement experts at This Old House say you can expect about a 16-year lifespan. If it’s a standalone air conditioner, the high end of its lifespan is probably about 15 years.

Air conditioner
If you feel like this glass looks, you have a humidity problem.

Humidity is a Problem No Matter What You Try

If the air inside your home feels clammy and damp, your air conditioner isn’t performing the way that it should. It might need a refrigerant recharge, but low refrigerant usually indicates that there’s a leak. And if there’s a leak, there’s a real problem.

One of the key functions of air conditioning is removing humidity. That helps your home feel cooler and more comfortable, even at a slightly higher temperature. When the AC doesn’t remove enough, the rooms can feel sticky and clammy, even when the thermostat says that the temperature is ideal.

A new air conditioner will remove more humidity, and that translates to increased energy savings. That’s because a 72-degree room with 45 percent humidity feels much cooler than a 72-degree room with 60 percent humidity. Drier air feels cooler in summer, so your AC won’t have to work as hard.

If the system uses Freon as a refrigerant, the best course of action is a replacement. Freon leaks are very expensive to repair and recharge. And they indicate a system that’s on its last legs. It would be a shame to spend a couple of thousand on a repair only to replace the system next year.

Your Energy Bills are Creeping Higher and Higher

Have you noticed that your energy bills are creeping up and up? That might due in part to the recent heat wave. But it might also mean that your air conditioner isn’t performing as efficiently as it once did.

When air conditioning systems get older, they work harder to cool your home. When they work harder, it takes more energy and more money to operate them. And even a perfectly maintained older system is rarely as efficient as any of the newer ones on the market.

Newer air conditioners must meet a higher standard of energy efficiency than those manufactured just a few years ago. Investing in a new system now means that you’ll pay less in energy bills to have a more comfortable home. Bonus: the U.S. Department of Energy has renewed its 2016 federal tax credits for efficient appliances. Get a new AC system, and you could qualify for a generous credit.

Your HVAC technician will examine your system to find the problem before making a recommendation. You never know. The source of higher bills might be as simple as leaks in the ductwork. Those can be repaired.

Air Conditioning Repairs Happen More Often

If your HVAC technician’s name and telephone number are in your phone’s contacts, you probably see him more often than you’d like to. Frequent repairs mean that the system is beginning to break down. Nothing lasts forever.

Sometimes frequent repairs happen because of long-term neglect. It eventually catches up. But that’s not always the case. Over time, moving parts simply wear out no matter how often they’re inspected and cleaned.

If you need air conditioning repairs more than once a season, consider that your early warning alarm. It will probably worsen because all good things really must come to an end. You’ll probably be amazed by how effective a new system is at cooling your home.

At Angie’s List, some of the pros recommend the “5,000 rule” for deciding when you’ve had enough with repairs. Multiply the age of the system by the repair cost. If it meets or exceeds 5,000, it might be time to seriously consider a new system before the old one slowly makes your bank account become anemic.

The System Cycles Frequently

One potentially fatal indicator that a system is about to fail is short cycling. If your air conditioner is running through its paces more often than it used to, a new system is probably in your near future. You might get by temporarily with repairs, but repairs can’t help every possible cause.

Just like it sounds, short cycling means that the system switches on, then off, then on, then off again in short order. This usually happens several times an hour, but sometimes it’s as often as every few minutes. It can wear out the system components quickly, and it usually impairs the system’s ability to extract humidity and cool your home.

Short cycling might be caused by low refrigerant, ice on the coil, damage to the compressor, or sometimes the problem is just a bad thermostat. And Inspectapedia says sometimes the real culprit is a system that’s too large for the home.

HVAC professionals evaluate numerous factors about your home to help find the right size AC system. Factors such as insulation, drafts and even the type of windows installed make a difference. You don’t want a too-small or too-large system. Like Goldilocks, you want one that’s just right.

A new air conditioner transforms your summertime life for many years to come. Lower humidity means you can save energy and feel more comfortable at the same time. And because your new system will have a great warranty, you can feel confident that unexpected problems won’t ruin your budget.

If your air conditioner has seen better days, there’s no better time than now to contact the professionals at Rodenhiser. For 85 years and counting, we have provided expert residential and commercial service to communities throughout the Route 495 / 128 area. Don’t suffer through the heat. Call Rodenhiser today and enjoy cooler, more comfortable air tomorrow.

Expert Interview Series: Karlyn Knafo of Fibertec Window and Door Technologies on the Benefits of Fiberglass Windows and Doors

Window and door

Karlyn Knafo is the Marketing Coordinator at Fibertec Window and Door Technologies, the link between informed consumers and high performance windows and doors. We recently asked her about the benefits of fiberglass windows and doors. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about Fibertec Windows and Doors. What makes your product unique? What sets it apart from the competition?

Fibertec Window and Door Technologies is North America’s leading fiberglass window and door manufacturer. For more than 25 years, Fibertec has set a high standard in the industry for high performance and we continue to reach out to homeowners looking to build green homes.

Our fiberglass windows and doors are extremely energy efficient, providing not only exceeding energy ratings, but also an aesthetically pleasing product that provides year-round comfort. We are one of the only companies in the industry that provides a solid, closed back fiberglass frame for our windows. We can also proudly say that we manufacture our glass in house, allowing us to provide maximum quality control.

What are the benefits of fiberglass doors and windows versus products made from other materials?

Fiberglass windows and doors will outlast all other window components such as vinyl and aluminum. Fiberglass is also a very low-maintenance product, offering stability in its structure and flexibility in its design properties. Fiberglass windows can be painted to any custom color desired, without the homeowner experiencing any fading over the years.

Fiberglass frames are the optimal choice because they can withstand heavier units such as triple pane units. As energy efficiency becomes more popular over the years, the demand for a more solid and reliable frame without additional support grows as well. Fiberglass frames will not warp or crack, no matter the weight of the sealed unit.

How do fiberglass doors and windows help the environment?

Fiberglass windows and doors are considered to be energy efficient and a much better choice for the environment. It helps reduce the use of heating and air conditioning, which leads to less use of electricity and gas and ultimately helps reduce emissions into the environment. Fiberglass does not emit any toxic odors. Fiberglass is also recyclable and in case of a fire, will decompose slower than vinyl would in such a case.

What are the qualities of a high-performance and energy efficient window or door?

Several important qualities of a high-performance fiberglass window or door begins with the build of the frame. A closed back frame rather than an open back frame will provide durability around the entire perimeter. The sealed unit is also a crucial component of manufacturing a high-performing product. From the type of glass used, along with the type of glass coating and sealant used, a sealed unit must be handled with care during fabrication in order to eliminate the possibility of seal failure. An energy efficient window will have high energy ratings to go with it. U values as low as 0.12 can be expected from our fiberglass windows and doors.

Why should homeowners care about installing more energy efficient doors and windows? What are the benefits?

Homeowners can greatly benefit from the cut in energy costs when installing energy efficient windows and doors. Having a combination of an air tight seal, gas fills between the panes of glass, triple glazing and appropriate glass coatings will all provide the homeowner with an energy efficient window that allows natural light to be used to its advantage, and block out the heat or the cold when necessary.

There are many different properties of the building envelope that contribute to a home’s level of energy efficiency. However, windows are the biggest cause of energy loss. Fiberglass windows are most capable to keep an air tight seal, without ever warping (which leads to loss of energy) over time.

How often should homeowners look at replacing doors and windows?

The beauty of fiberglass windows is that they never have to be replaced. Vinyl windows usually need to be replaced about every 10-15 years, thus costing at least double the price of fiberglass windows over time.

What should homeowners be doing seasonally to further weatherproof their doors and windows?

For the most part, the windows are kept shut for the longest time during the winter. To prevent from any issues with the window’s operating mechanism, it is best to lubricate every now and them to keep the windows in the best condition. Otherwise, fiberglass windows are very low maintenance and don’t need any further work to be done on them for weatherproofing.

Think it might be time to make your home more energy efficient? Set up an appointment online to get your energy efficient HVAC set up.

How Strong is Your Ceiling Fan Satisfaction?

Ceiling fan
Maybe it’s time for a replacement instead of a repair.

If your ceiling fan isn’t doing its job, it might be time to upgrade to something that looks and performs much better. This summer’s incredible heat is certainly putting household ceiling fans through their paces. They might not extract humidity like air conditioning does, but they keep air flowing. And that helps make the people in the room feel more comfortable.

In a perfect world, your ceiling fan complements the room and offers several different setting options to control air flow. Some are programmable, and some even connect with your smart home system. If you’re not sure about whether it’s a good idea to upgrade, here are a few clues.

Ceiling fan Some of the new ceiling fan designs are as ingenious as they are beautiful.

It’s Lost its Beauty and Charm

For a lot of homeowners, the time to replace a ceiling fan might have nothing to do with performance and everything to do with how it looks. It’s technically a home appliance. But a glance in any high-end stainless kitchen will tell you that appliances should be as attractive as anything else in the home. Ceiling fans are no different.

Long gone are the days when your only choices were lights or no lights and 4 or 5 blades. Modern ceiling fans can be industrial, whimsical, utilitarian, casual, elegant and practically anything in-between. Believe it or not, even brass fixtures are coming back in style.

There’s a Wiggle Here and a Wobble There

Ceiling fans should do a lot of things, but they should never wobble. That’s a sign that the fan is loose, improperly installed, broken, unbalanced or perhaps there’s a combination of problems. Stacking pennies on one blade in an effort to balance it out isn’t the best course of action. Replacement could be.

Many newer fans have more durable hardware than those manufactured a decade or two ago. They hold up better, stay in balance easier, and aren’t prone to going off kilter from ordinary use. Whether you use yours year-round or only in the heat of summer, a new ceiling fan won’t come with the worry of it crashing down every time you turn it on or switch speeds.

That Humming Sound Isn’t Your Favorite Tune

Hums in a ceiling fan might mean a couple of different issues are afoot. Sometimes, the hum is mechanical parts rubbing together. And sometimes, humming is a signal that you’ve got electrical problems.

The motor might be on its last legs, especially if the fan has been in operation for many years. The problem might also be a bad capacitor or maybe the wiring is loose. Considering the potential for electrical fire, humming or buzzing sounds should merit a maintenance call as soon as possible.

Ceiling fans are incredibly sophisticated now. Some are practically works of art. Many are on the smart home track, too. You can program and operate the fan and lighting package wirelessly using a smartphone or another “smart” device.

They might not be required home systems, but they certainly make life a lot more comfortable. Ceiling fans can also help save energy by reducing reliance on your HVAC unit. In summer, they provide a breeze that enhances the body’s natural cooling system. When winter rolls around, a change in the rotation direction helps circulate your costly heated air back down into the room instead of letting it escape upward. That’s a win-win situation year-round.

If your ceiling fan is ugly and performs as good at is looks, Rodenhiser can help bring you into the 21st century. For over 85 years, we have provided top-notch service to homeowners throughout the Massachusetts Metro West area. Call us for electrical service today, and reap the rewards of a new ceiling fan for years to come.

Should You Rewire Your Home? Here’s How to Tell

Rewiring your homeWhat a marvel electricity is, but what a disaster when your wiring is unsafe or doesn’t suit your needs. Most homes go through at least one rewiring eventually. The National Electric Code and local code update periodically to keep up with the times and address newly discovered safety issues. And although homes are grandfathered in, which means you aren’t required to rewire except under certain situations, it’s a smart idea both for safety and performance.

Should you rewire your home? It depends on a few different factors. Here are some of the most relevant.

Do Breakers (or Fuses) Often Pop?

Modern homes demand electricity at a level that probably no one could have predicted back in the 1800s. That’s when the first homes were wired up for power. If your wiring is older, it might not handle the load. And the result is breakers that trip or fuses that blow.

It’s important to recognize that a tripped breaker or blown fuse indicates a problem. Those issues happen when the demand is higher than the wiring and panel can handle. When a breaker or fuse pop, it’s a preventive measure that guards against an electrical fire. If your home is plagued by frequently blown circuits, don’t reset or replace and forget about it until the next time. An electrician can find the problem and protect your home and family.

Rewiring your home The existence of K&T doesn’t mean that the home has never been rewired.

Do You Have Knob-and-Tube Wiring?

Some very old homes have a type of wiring called knob-and-tube or K&T. In its original form and for what it was designed to do, it was pretty safe. But electricity demand is higher now, and the materials have probably degraded a lot over the years. If even a small section of your home is still wired with knob-and-tube, it should probably be rewired.

One of the biggest problems with K&T wiring is that the insulation that protects the wire breaks down over time. That leaves the bare metal exposed, which means there’s nothing to stand between the electricity that runs through it and the combustible materials inside your walls and ceilings. Then, of course, there’s the high demand on wiring that was never intended to support it. Do yourself a favor and let a pro check it out.

Rewiring your home A safe electrical panel is labeled well and shows no signs of corrosion.

Do You Have an Old Electrical Box?

As with K&T wiring, there’s nothing inherently dangerous about a fuse box. That is if it’s maintained in good condition. But the sheer age of some fuse boxes means that rust and other corrosion is a problem. Nothing lasts forever. Some breaker boxes aren’t as new as you might imagine either.

Then there’s the issue of certain brands that are known hazards in the industry. It’s no secret that Federal Pacific panels installed between 1950 and 1990 pose a significant threat of fire. In fact, Inspectapedia calls them “fires waiting to happen.” Peek inside to see if there’s corrosion, and look at the brand name. If you’re suspicious, Rodenhiser can tell you whether your home is at risk.

Do You Need More Outlets and Fixtures?

The more prevalent electrical devices become, the more demand is placed on the wiring. Some homeowners compensate by adding power strips to expand one outlet into several. And some resort to extension cords. Neither is a good, long-term solution. And then there’s the issue of a home addition or remodel. Where new wiring is added, it’s a good idea to update the whole system.

Older homes, even those built just a couple of decades ago, might not have enough outlets or fixtures to suit a modern lifestyle. Using stopgaps, such as outlet extenders, places too much burden on the wiring at the outlet. They’re technically safe, but they’re not recommended as a permanent solution. The best way to accommodate your needs is with a wiring update that you know is safe and up to code.

No home is wired to last forever. What’s code at the time the wiring is installed will likely change. And so will the level of electricity demand that’s placed on the system.

For safety’s sake, it’s always best to let an electrical contractor inspect your wiring when you think that there might be a problem. Luckily, that’s an area where Rodenhiser excels. We have served the Route 495 / 128 area of Massachusetts for 85 years and counting.

When you work with us, you can rest easy because you’ll know that your home and family are in good hands. Contact Rodenhiser when you need dependable electrical service.

How to Save Energy with Ceiling Fans

Save energyWhen utilities use spikes during weather extremes, ceiling fans help take the edge off. Right now, the heat of summer is bearing down across most of the nation. That means higher electricity consumption and some pretty scary bills. Although fans also use electricity, the combination of benefits that they bring to the table equals savings without losing comfort. Here’s how to get it.

Fans Use Electricity but Air Conditioning Uses More

The right combination in the summertime is a bit of air conditioning and a bit of ceiling fan use. It might seem like you’re trading dependency on one device for dependency on another, but fans use a lot less.

When you add a ceiling fan to your home’s cooling plan, you get immediate relief plus lower energy consumption for a result that’s sometimes even more comfortable than air conditioning alone. That’s because fans help the body’s natural cooling system work better. A breeze on the skin makes you feel better right away.

Fans won’t lower the indoor temperature in summer, they only make the people in it feel cooler. So you don’t need to run them when you’re not at home. But according to Brent Glasgow for HuffPo, they might help improve ventilation for a lower risk of mold. So it’s really your choice.

Save energy Cool sleep is more restful, which is why ceiling fans are perfect for bedrooms.

Rotation Direction is Important

Most ceiling fans rotate in either of two directions. One direction works best for warm weather, and the other works best when it’s cold. The concept is confusing for some people, but the principle is very simple.

In summer, you want to feel the breeze. In winter, you don’t. It’s really as simple as that. So this time of year, set your fan’s rotation to blow straight down. That will improve its cooling effect on your skin, which lets you raise the thermostat just a touch without feeling stuffy.

Here’s the part that causes some confusion. Once winter arrives, reverse the fan so that it blows up against the ceiling. Heated air rises, that’s true. But it’s also true that your fan will circulate the heat by bouncing it off the ceiling and sending it back down into the room. Bonus: you won’t get a chilly breeze.

Better Lights Ramp up Efficiency

Most ceiling fans have a rather ordinary light kit, but that’s another area where you can conserve energy. Instead of using fancy incandescents that are made mostly for looks, think about upgrading to a better fan, a new light kit or at least better bulbs, which the pros refer to as lamps.

Some fans are designed with a built-in fluorescent light ballast, which Home Energy magazine says is likely the most efficient choice. This style has fluorescent lamps that pop in instead of the screw-in style CFLs.

Another choice is a fluorescent replacement light kit. If upgraded fans and light kits are too pricey, consider using LED lamps in the standard ceiling fan fixture. They save more energy than the typical spiral-shaped CFLs and don’t contain any mercury. Earth Easy says they typically last 10 times longer than CFLs, too.

Ceiling fans make your air conditioning work better so you feel cooler. And with the right lighting, either LED or fluorescent, you won’t add more heat. But perhaps the best thing about fans is that they don’t need to be ultra-sophisticated to work wonders. If they circulate the air, they’ll help. So if your home needs a cooling boost without making your energy bills worse, they’re definitely worth considering.

Fans make summer heat more bearable, but sometimes a stuffy home means the AC is in trouble. Call Rodenhiser today, and we’ll evaluate your air conditioner, perform necessary maintenance and get you back on the road to a cool, comfortable home.

Home Lighting Automation: What You Need to Know

Home lighting
Home lighting automation is probably more convenient than you expect.

It seems that everywhere you look, there’s something new in home automation. Lighting is a fun place to start because the systems can be simple but have dramatic results. Even better, most of it is DIY friendly.

Whether you want to automate all of your home’s lighting or just a few areas, there’s a system or a single component that’ll work for you.

Lighting Automation Saves Steps and Energy

The biggest benefits of any home automation, including lights, are energy savings and fewer steps. You can control the level of light plus set them to shut off automatically, and you don’t have to walk to a wall switch to accomplish it.

Most lighting automation systems work with a hub, touchscreen, smartphone or all of them. That gives you some flexibility. Some are so simple that they’re literally plug-and-play. And some are more sophisticated and require some initial programming and setup before they’re ready to use.

Whether you need to download an app to control the lights or speak commands to a hub such as Amazon’s Echo, the result is lighting that’s simpler to use and more effective. It’s different, but don’t let that intimidate you. If you can screw in a lightbulb, you can use home lighting automation.

Home lighting Smart lighting also makes homes safer.

Everyday Home Lighting Offers Lots of Choices

Probably the simplest form of home lighting automation is the smart light bulb. Phillips makes Hue for about $170, which PC Magazine says has been around long enough that it “works with just about every other system out there, from Amazon Echo to IFTTT (If This Then That) to Siri (using the Philips Hue Bridge 2.0).” Install the bulb – whichever brand you choose – and your hub or smartphone lets you turn lights on and off, dim them with precision and even change the light color.

BeOn bulbs cost about $200 for three LEDs that use home automation, plus they switch on when someone rings a doorbell and work when the power is out. Another option is the Belkin WeMo switch, which is a motion-sensor smart outlet where you can plug in any light, such as an ordinary lamp, and control it, including scheduling on and off times, using a smartphone or IFTTT.

A third option is built-in smart lighting, which usually requires professional installation. All of your fixtures, such as ceiling fans, recessed lighting, and chandeliers, can have practically any feature that you want. Imagine how handy it would be to have lights that switch on when you enter a room and switch off when you leave, hands-free.

Outdoor Lighting Can Also be Smart

Homeowners are getting a lot more creative with outdoor lighting. But instead of manually programmed timers and switches, you can control all of it using an app or voice-activated hub. The standard lights that you’d expect are available, such as floodlights for driveways and landscaping features plus mood lighting for your deck or patio. But there are other clever options that make outdoor entertaining more interesting.

Lumenplay offers expandable sets of string lights that start at around $50. Using a smartphone app, you can change the light color and choose a twinkling pattern and synch them to music. For about $31, you can add a PlayBulb light to your garden. It operates the same way as interior smart lightbulbs.

For a high-end experience, FX Luminaire systems cost between $200 and $700 for the power supply alone. But you can add an array of lights, including virtually everything imaginable for landscapes and home exteriors. Use a smartphone app to control each component separately.

Home automation keeps getting better all the time. Chances are if you can imagine it, it’s available. Precision control that’s simpler than operating an on/off wall switch is part of what makes lighting automation so nice. And energy savings is another bonus. You can even control lights away from home, in many cases.

When you’re ready to upgrade your home’s lighting to the 21st century’s cutting-edge, let Rodenhiser help. We’ve served the Route 495 / 128 area since 1928, and we can make your home a marvel of lighting automation. Call us for expert electrical service today.

Can You OD on AC? How Hard to Work Your Air Conditioning This Summer

AC air conditioning
At a reasonable setting, your air conditioning should work normally, all day every day.

We live in an age where worry about overuse of any appliance is a concern. Excess isn’t celebrated the way that it might have been before environmental issues were mainstream. But one area where excess shouldn’t be a concern is your air conditioning. You can certainly overload your AC system, especially in a humid Massachusetts summer. But as long as it’s appropriate for the home, in good repair and you set it at a reasonable temperature, it shouldn’t suffer ill effects.

If your air conditioning seems to be struggling with the summer’s heat, something else might be afoot.

Would You Turn Your Refrigerator Down or Off?

Imagine that the weather report for Framingham says the hottest day of the year is on its way. Would you prepare for it by raising the refrigerator thermostat or shutting it off? Of course not. Neither should you worry unnecessarily about your air conditioning as long as it’s used sensibly.

AC systems operate the same way as your kitchen fridge. They achieve their chilly temperatures by removing heat from your home. The system’s primary components include a condenser, compressor, evaporator and a chemical that changes from gas to liquid to gas as needed.

These work in concert to draw excess heat out of your home, then cool the air that’s returned through the ducts. Just like your refrigerator, it’s meant to work when you need it as long as it’s in good repair.

AC air conditioning Replacement of an outdated thermostat might correct some problems.

What Causes Overloading Problems

Although it’s meant to serve you and your family all summer, there is such as thing as system overload. If the unit is operated at a setting that’s unreasonably cold, the system won’t keep up. It will work harder than it was intended to, which causes a breakdown of the mechanical components over time. It can even put your home at risk of a fire.

At its heart, overload means that the demand is too great for the air conditioning capabilities. And it’s caused by a few things, including a too-cold setting, dirty air filter, wrong-sized unit, poor ventilation, restricted airflow, and many other possibilities. What’s considered a too-cold setting is relative and doesn’t necessarily mean that the thermostat is set at 60 degrees on a 90-degree day. If the AC isn’t healthy or it’s the wrong size for your home, overload can happen at a reasonable setting of about 72.

A unit that’s too small can’t keep with high demand. But a system that’s too large has trouble, too. That’s because the cycles run too short to effectively cool your entire home. The unit must run through its cooling cycle much more frequently than it should, and still won’t operate efficiently. It can also leave your home clammy and damp, even if it’s hitting the right temperature because it can’t extract enough humidity on a shorter cycle.

Humidity Control is Critical

One of the most important functions of an air conditioning system is humidity extraction. You probably know how a humid day in Concord feels much hotter than one where humidity is lower. That’s because low humidity lets your body’s normal cooling feature – perspiration – evaporate from your skin. When it’s humid, your skin stays damp and you feel hotter. When humidity is low, perspiration evaporates and the temperature feels truer to what it really is.

An air conditioning system that removes enough humidity can make your home feel more comfortable at a higher temperature, which puts less strain on the system. Instead of turning the thermostat down and down again, you can easily leave it set at 72 or even higher and feel even better than a clammy home that’s 65 degrees.

That’s why the health and size of your air conditioning system are so important. They’re designed to cool your home plus extract humidity. If the system is too large, too small, is dirty, can’t breathe, or has any other issues that prevent it from operating as it was intended to, system overload occurs.

If your AC bogs down, runs short cycles, uses too much electricity or has any other issues, there’s obviously something wrong. You might, indeed, be putting too much strain on the unit. But unless you’re trying to turn your home into a giant refrigerator, the real culprit is probably the system.

Regular maintenance, including filter changes, is imperative to air conditioning health. That can’t be overstated. Your technician will clean the system, look for leaks in the refrigerant lines and in the ductwork, and generally ensure that it’s operating as it should. Maintenance can also tell you whether the system you’ve got is sized appropriately for your home.

At Rodenheiser, we’re experts at HVAC repair and maintenance. We’ve served homeowners in the Massachusetts Route 495 / 128 area for years, and we’re happy to help you turn your home into a real comfort zone. Set up an appointment online today if your AC system seems overloaded. We’ll find the problem and put you on the road to comfort again.

The Trouble with Tree Roots and Your Home’s Sewer Line

Plumbing
Massachusetts trees are a thing of beauty; at least until they interrupt your plumbing.

The beautiful trees throughout Massachusetts serve many purposes. They provide natural wind breaks, offer cooling shade and add beauty to your landscape. But they have a not-so-secret system at work underground that can secretly wreak havoc on your plumbing.

Tree roots branch out incredibly far from the base of the trunk. For some larger, older trees, you might find roots halfway across your yard. They’re determined, too. They grow year after year. And they’re so strong, they can break clean through asphalt, concrete, and your home’s sewer line.

If you have slow-moving drains or notice an unpleasant-smelling area outside the home where the ground often feels damp, the roots from a tree might be the cause. The tree doesn’t have to be planted anywhere near the line. If there’s a tree (even a smaller one) in your yard or on neighboring property, it’s worth checking out.

Sorting Tree Root Myth from Reality

There’s a longstanding belief that the size of the tree branch canopy is a good indicator of the root structure. That’s not really true. Tree roots can and do extend much farther than that. What’s more, the majority of the root system is near the top 2 feet of soil.

According to the Morton Arboretum, tree roots often extend 2-3 times wider than the branch canopy above. And you’ll find more within upper 18 to 24 inches of soil than deeper down. Unfortunately, sewer lines sometimes share the same space.

Plumbing In some cases, a bit of digging is required to find and treat the problem.

Sewer Lines Might Attract Roots

Tree roots can naturally grow through a sewer line, causing a break or completely obliterating it. The sewer line might be in the natural path that the root wants to grow. Or the root might grow toward a sewer line that’s already leaky because it’s looking for moisture. After all, providing moisture to the tree is a large part of the root’s job.

Either way, roots are a major problem when they come in contact with your plumbing. Roots will push straight through sewer lines made of clay and other materials, and what you’ll be left with is a mess that requires some excavation and repair.

Rodenhiser Repairs Tree Root Damage

It’s never a happy day when you find out that a tree root has broken through a sewer line. They’re not the cleanest part of your plumbing system. And if yours are clay, as many older homes have, they’re inherently leaky. To make a repair, the plumber must first access the line. That often requires digging.

Fortunately, it’s not as enormous a problem as it might seem. Plumbing is a relatively straightforward operation, even under the worst of circumstances. We’ll assess the situation, determine whether a root is the cause of your problem and then set about making it right. The old line may be repaired, although this is relatively rare. More likely, the section will be replaced. There’s also a chemical treatment that can kill nearby creeping roots before they make it into the line again. In some cases, an auger is used to grind out the offending root to keep the plumbing system flowing.

Massachusetts homeowners who have a recurring tree root problem might want to reconsider the vegetation on the property. Trees are lovely and they benefit the environment. But they can also be the source of a lot of headaches if the roots refuse to grow away from the sewer line.

Call Rodenhiser today if you live in the in the Route 495 / 128 area and have slow-running drains or suspect that a tree root has made its way through your sewer line. Problems such as these don’t correct themselves. They only worsen over time. But we can find the real cause, make the repair and get your plumbing in good working order again.

3 Reasons to Repair Plumbing Leaks Right Away

Plumbing
Don’t wait until you need a life raft.

You wouldn’t let a leaky plumbing supply line at the kitchen sink send water throughout the room unchecked. But leaks can be sneaky things that don’t show their true nature until a much greater damage is done.

Every leak should be stopped in its tracks ASAP. Even a minor one can cause major headaches. And the longer they go without repair, the more expensive and damaging they become. Here are 3 reasons why leaks in your home should always take top priority.

#1: What You See isn’t Always What You’ve Got

A dripping drain under the bathroom sink makes itself known pretty quickly. But what about a supply line inside the wall or under a toilet? By the time you know that there’s a problem, the damage can be widespread. That’s one of the biggest reasons why a known leak should never go without repair.

A damp spot on the ceiling might look like a tiny problem that can wait. But in reality, it takes a lot of water to leak through the upstairs bathroom floor and then on through the ceiling below.

The leak might be small but persistent. Or you might have a major leak under the toilet, shower or sink. Even the small indicators of water need attention. That’s especially true if the damp spot never really dries.

#2: Sometimes Bad is Very Bad

Some leaks really are minor. They can cause a quarter-size stain on the ceiling or along a baseboard but require only a small repair. But you won’t know until it’s checked out. A larger leak can lead to mind-boggling problems.

Mold is a major issue with a longstanding leak. There might be a few specks on the drywall, but a huge colony of spores behind it. Structural damage is another possibility. Interior wood isn’t treated to resist water. So where damp conditions persist, you might require significant structural repair. In some cases, whole floors require replacement because the entire subsystem is rotted. A spongy floor is a bad sign that water damage has gone too far.

Water and electricity don’t mix, at least not with a happy ending. But leaks can cause electrical problems and even electrocution. When a spot appears on a wall or ceiling, just remember its proximity to ceiling and wall electrical fixtures. Don’t wait to make that call.

Plumbing The sooner you call, the better off you and your home will be.

#3: Water Leaks Add Up

In addition to the physical damage to your home, leaky plumbing wastes precious natural resources and drains your bank account. They say that small leaks sink ships. That’s because it all adds up over time. And the longer a leak is allowed to exist, the more water and money you lose.

How much? You might be surprised. According to the EPA, a faucet that drips at a rate of one drop per second wastes 3,000 gallons per year. Now imagine a leak that drips at the same rate inside a wall that’s gone unchecked for a month. That’s 250 gallons of water that’s been added to an area where it was never meant to be.

Fortunately, you know a plumber who can find and fix leaks before they cause major headaches. Rodenhiser has helped Massachusetts families in and around the Route 495 / 128 area since 1928. We’ve got the skills and experience to correct every problem and keep your home safe and healthy.

Don’t let a plumbing leak continue to damage your home and put your health at risk. Call Rodenhiser today.