HVAC Carbon Monoxide: The Ultimate Home Safety Guide

November 26th, 2019

Winter is coming and with it an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in residential homes. Fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are often associated with dangers during the winter months, and most people forget about these hazards during the summer. However, fires or CO leaks are just as life-threatening. Disaster can strike at any time, regardless of the season outside. If you use gas, for example, in appliances such as dryers, stoves, ovens or water heaters, you have CO-leak potential.

Carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, is colorless, odorless and tasteless, which makes it hard to detect without the help of a functional carbon monoxide detector.  Protecting your loved ones from this silent killer is one of the most important things you can do, and it is relatively simple.

A detector isn’t your only means of preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. There are signs to watch for if you suspect carbon monoxide is leaking into your home and tips to help you lower your risk of poisoning. Keep your family safe when you know what to look for and how to protect them.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

When carbon-based fuels such as gas, oil, kerosene or wood burn, produce gases. When fuel combustion or burning isn’t complete, carbon monoxide enters the air. When household appliances, such as cookers, heaters, central heating boilers, or furnaces are installed incorrectly, poorly maintained, or poorly ventilated, it can put you and your family at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hazards in the Home

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if you use gas appliances with poor maintenance or a bad component. In the winter, cracked heat exchangers in gas furnaces are a potential carbon monoxide hazard, as the cracks allow combustion byproducts to seep out of the formerly closed system. In good condition, these byproducts safely vent out of your home.

Even gas barbecues create a summertime carbon monoxide poisoning hazard without you realizing it. Some opt to use a gas grill in the garage during inclement weather not realizing the potential for CO seeping into the home. In the event of a power outage, backup generators can leak carbon monoxide.

The best way to keep your family safe is to check your carbon monoxide detectors and ensure your gas appliances are in good condition. 

Signs of a Carbon Monoxide HVAC Leak

Many times, CO leaks are present in a home due to a faulty heating system, such as a furnace or boiler, or other gas-fueled appliance. If there are compromised areas in your heating system, CO gas will leak into your home before completing the combustion process.

Carbon monoxide can leak from other areas in your home, besides the heating system. If you notice any of the below symptoms with your furnace or in other areas of the home, leave your home and call Douglas Cooling & Heating to see if the leak is due to a faulty heating system:

  • Cracks in the combustion chamber
  • Older furnaces with signs of wear and tear
  • Leaky seams on furnaces and boilers
  • Cracks in the exhaust piping
  • A pilot light that frequently blows out
  • Yellow burner flame instead of the clear blue flame
  • Heavy condensation on windows where appliances are installed
  • Fallen soot in fireplaces
  • Stale, smelly, or stuffy air
  • Brownish-yellow or sooty stains around leaking appliances
  • No upward draft in a chimney flue

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

The other red flag CO is leaking in your home is noticeable symptoms in your body or your pets. Get out of the house immediately if you notice any of the carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms below:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Extreme nausea
  • Continuously fatigued
  • Prolonged headaches
  • Feeling weak
  • Enhanced state of confusion

If anyone in your household experiences these symptoms, evacuate the home immediately and call 911.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips to Prevent Poisoning

Schedule regular heating maintenance in Birmingham on your equipment to prevent CO poisoning in your house. Douglas Cooling & Heating offers preventive maintenance plans affordable for any budget so you can experience peace of mind day and night.

Routine maintenance calls detect any damage and locate potential problems which lead to CO leaks. Keep your home healthy and carbon monoxide free with our help at Douglas Cooling & Heating.

Another way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to install CO detectors and check them periodically to verify they are working properly. Carbon monoxide detectors emit a signal alerting you when CO is present in your home.

Different detectors vary on how they sound and what sounds alert you to the amount of CO in an area. Check the batteries on your CO detector every month and perform a safety test to make sure the alarm is working correctly.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide HVAC Leaks with Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating

Douglas Cooling & Heating wants to keep your family safe whenever you use your gas heating system. Turn to our NATE-certified technicians for annual maintenance to ensure heating system components are in good working order and not a safety risk when in use. If you suspect furnace malfunctions, contact us for quick and reliable heating repair.

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AC Compressor Failure (How to Avoid It)

November 26th, 2019

During hurricane season, Birmingham residents experience severe weather, which includes heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. Winter storms are also sometimes an issue here, even in the South. Strong winds, intense rain, and heavy snow and ice leave you, your home and your air conditioner vulnerable to extensive damage, as do some everyday issues. Your AC compressor is the most expensive component in your air conditioner. If it’s damaged, AC compressor failure costs a great deal to correct.

Keep safe by taking precautions when big storms roll through, and year-round. Call Douglas Cooling & Heating if you are concerned your AC compressor or air conditioner is damaged due to storms and other issues.

Our NATE-certified professionals are trained to spot inconsistencies with your AC compressor and ensure it’s operating smoothly after sustaining damage. If the AC compressor is too far gone, we will suggest replacement options to fit your budget. We also provide you with financing options.

Prevent AC Compressor Failure Before the Storm Hits

Take preventive steps before a hurricane or other storm hits your home. Early prevention will help keep your home and AC compressor safe against damage from winds and excessive rainfall.

  • Begin by turning the power off to your air conditioner. In the event of a storm, power outages and surges are common, which can fry the AC compressor or start an electrical fire.
  • Air conditioners running when a storm occurs are at risk to experience blown circuits and fuses when the power returns. This can lead to AC compressor failure.
  • When the power is off, you reduce the risk of damage to your AC compressor and other vital components inside the exterior unit.
  • Many homeowners think covering their outdoor unit is enough to protect it. If the storm isn’t a hurricane, however, a tarp can do more harm than good. Using a tarp during regular storm activity causes moisture to build up inside your equipment, which leads to mold and rust.
  • Hurricane weather is the ideal time to cover your exterior unit with a tarp. This protects the AC compressor against the intense winds and rain. Just make sure you uncover your equipment soon after the storm passes to prevent moisture accumulating inside on wiring, circuits and the AC compressor.

Proper Lawn Care Protects Against AC Compressor Failure

Intense winds blow debris, such as tree limbs, branches, and yard waste, across your property and hit your outdoor equipment. Damage can occur on the components inside your unit, including the AC compressor and condenser.

Taking care of your lawn properly promotes a healthy outdoor unit and reduces the need for an emergency HVAC cleaning from a professional. Easy ways you can properly perform yard work while increasing your HVAC unit’s performance efficiency and lifespan include:

  • When mowing the yard, keep the discharge pointed away from the outdoor unit, preventing grass from blowing into the unit and clogging the coil. You can also install a bag attachment to your mower to reduce the amount of leftover grass clippings.
  • After mowing, gently hose the condenser unit off to remove any excess debris clinging to the coil which might restrict airflow.
  • Trim back any shrubs or vegetation around the unit, so there’s at least 2-3 feet of clearance on all sides. Gather up the clippings and dispose of them so they don’t accumulate on the coil.
  • When using yard equipment, like a weed eater, be cautious around the outdoor unit. You can accidentally bend the coil fins, damage tubing and cause a refrigerant leak or cut important wires. The best option is to hand pull weeds or spray them with herbicides.
  • Lastly, remove any loose objects from your yard. Lawn furniture, toys, bikes or other objects can be destructive when the wind picks them up and blows against your AC compressor.

Effects of Poor Lawn Care Maintenance

Poor lawn care maintenance can produce disastrous results with your heating and cooling system and lead to higher energy costs and malfunctions from your outdoor unit. Examples of improper lawn care include:

  • Allowing tall, uncut grass to grow around your outdoor unit which interferes with the airflow and reduces your unit’s ability to cool your home efficiently.
  • Leaving grass clippings and stray leaves around your unit, which can form a clog at the bottom, restricting airflow in your outdoor unit.
  • Out of control vegetation growing around your outdoor unit will restrict airflow and damage the concrete pad the unit is on.
  • Twigs and branches falling on the condenser fan can damage the fins or get wedged within the fan blades, preventing them from working properly.

Build Protection for Your AC Compressor

In addition to storm preparation and proper yard work practices, there are a few additional measures that help protect your system against AC compressor failure. These measures reduce damage to the unit and enhance overall protection:

#1 Create Shade

The most important landscaping tip is adequate shading for your outdoor unit. The outdoor unit houses the AC compressor, which can easily overheat during the hottest part of the day or if placed in direct sun. Creating shade for your outdoor unit allows heat to dissipate faster from the AC compressor and condenser, preventing your unit from overheating.

The heat emitted from the AC compressor and other components in the outdoor unit can lead to complete system failure if the unit isn’t able to cool off. Typically, the outdoor unit is built to handle the outdoor elements and providing extra shade will boost your HVAC’s ability to keep you cool indoors.

#2 Create a Barrier

Heat penetrates your home through the roof of your home, which raises the temperature indoors quickly. Your roof is the first place direct sunlight hits and with the aid of tall trees, you can provide shade against the sun. By planting tall trees around your house, especially on the side where the sun hits your house most often, you can drastically reduce your energy bills. Trees on the east and west sides of your home are prime locations to block direct sunlight during the early hours of the day and late afternoon hours.

Evergreen trees are popular for shading and for boosted energy savings, consider planting deciduous trees with broad leaves. Deciduous trees will provide shade during the summer, and in the winter when the leaves fall, the trees will allow direct sunlight to hit your home, providing warmth when you need it.

If you want another alternative to planting trees for shade, consider building a trellis along the exterior walls where vines can grow. The vines will coat your exterior walls, creating a barrier between the direct sunlight and your home.  

Pro Tip: Remember to preserve space of approximately 1-3 feet around your outdoor AC units. Allowing shrubbery or other plantings to grow too close may hamper the airflow, negatively affecting your unit’s efficiency. Also, remember to clear away any leaves and debris from the unit following storm activity.

#3 Create Breezes

Trees providing shade for your AC compressor, condenser, and other outdoor unit components provide an additional benefit. During the summer, cool breezes float in at night, and the trees will catch the cool breezes, pushing them toward your windows.

Even shrubs play a role in capturing and controlling the breeze. By planting shrubs under windows, the wind is pulled up and works with nearby trees to push the breeze down. Make sure shrubs aren’t planted too close to your exterior walls, which can create moisture problems when the humidity is high.

Cooling your house off at night, when the sun is down, let your air conditioner have a break from operating all day to maintain ideal temperatures in your home. The AC compressor and condenser will be able to cool off, and heat will fully dissipate before cooling your home the next day.

Time for an AC Compressor Inspection, Cleaning, or Possible Repair

If you notice damage to your outdoor unit or debris caught inside. Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating to have your outdoor unit cleaned properly. A thorough air conditioning maintenance inspection detects AC compressor failure and other damage, and allows our NATE-certified technicians to repair the damaged component immediately. The cost to have your HVAC unit cleaned is nothing compared to the expense of a breakdown of your unit when temperatures are running hot outside. 

HVAC cleaning by a Douglas Cooling & Heating technician keeps your system healthy and prolongs its lifespan. A clean outdoor unit also experiences boosted performance and efficiency, saving you monthly on your energy bill.

Ensure your air conditioning unit is safe from the storms by calling Douglas Cooling & Heating before you start your cooling system back up. Turning on your unit after a storm hits without scheduling an inspection can be disastrous, especially if it’s sustained electrical damage.

We train our NATE-certified technicians to inspect and diagnose potential problems after a storm. We will ensure your system is safe to operate, so you can rest easy and stay cool inside your home.

Hurricane-generated intense wind and heavy rain are here through November, so your HVAC equipment needs extra protection. Concerned about your AC compressor? Call Douglas Cooling & Heating. We’re here for you before and after the season’s storms.

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How to Winterize Your Southern Home

November 26th, 2019

Cold weather is right around the corner! As a homeowner in the south, you need to know how to winterize your southern home to stay warm and safe this season. Douglas Cooling & Heating shares winterization tips and how to maximize indoor comfort this winter!

How to Winterize Your Southern Home’s Air Conditioning Equipment

Before cold weather hits, take the time to address your outdoor air conditioning equipment now that it’s not in use. Some simple winterization steps work to protect this important equipment and prevent damage that could affect your comfort come spring.

  • Clean your exterior unit. Take the time to remove all debris from your air conditioner’s exterior components. Turn off power before performing this maintenance. Brush away debris such as leaves and grass clippings from the fins and grill. Carefully remove any branches or twigs stuck between them. Use a hose to gently wash away dirt and debris.
  • Clear the area. As you’re packing away patio and outdoor furniture for the winter season, make sure the area near your air conditioner does not become a storage spot. Never store outdoor items around your air conditioning unit. Additionally, if there is vegetation growing up around the unit or shrubbery encroaching, take time to trim and clear it back. You want to leave a 2-foot area clear around the outdoor equipment. If heavy items could be knocked its way during a winter storm, it’s best to secure these items in a shed or garage for the season.
  • Trim nearby trees and remove dead branches. The weight of ice on limbs or a strong winter wind has the power to knock branches down onto your outdoor unit, resulting in damage. Cut back limbs that hang over your equipment and remove dead limbs from nearby trees to prevent this possibility.
  • Check your gutters. Clogged or improperly routed or pitched gutters send water from rain and snow melt dripping down onto your exterior air conditioner. This water freezes within your unit, causing damage to components.
  • Cover your unit. While not a must-do step, some homeowners feel safer with a cover for their outdoor air conditioner. This is fine, just make sure to do it the right way. Cover the top of your exterior air conditioner for the winter to keep out debris and discourage rodents from nesting. Check with your air conditioner manufacturer to see if a cover is recommended. In most cases, a piece of plywood held by a brick or two provides protection from debris and rodents entry points. Be sure to monitor it for excess moisture throughout the winter – don’t accidentally create an opportunity for mold to grow in the system.  

Get Your Heating System Ready

A few simple steps help your heating system perform at its best throughout the winter. Do what you can now before cold weather arrives to limit the risk of comfort disruptions throughout the season.

  • Schedule a preventive heating maintenance tune up. Have your heating system professionally serviced by our NATE-certified technicians to ensure superior performance over the winter season. Our technicians thoroughly examine your system, identify performance or repair issues for correction, and provide the care the system needs. This counteracts wear and tear to improve energy efficiency and performance over the winter.
  • Change your air filter. Your furnace’s filter should be changed on a regular basis. How often depends on the frequency recommended by your manufacturer and household factors. Before winter, visually examine your filter – if it’s gray and caked with debris, change it now. Throughout the winter months, do a monthly inspection to determine if a new filter is warranted – filters sometimes need to be changed more frequently during the winter when the HVAC system experience periods of heavy use.
  • Clear the area. Never store items in the area surrounding your furnace, as this is a fire hazard. Keep the 6-foot area around your furnace clear if it’s installed in an open area, like your garage or basement. If you have a smaller utility closet, never store items near the furnace. Keep all combustible materials in another location.
  • Schedule repairs right away. If there are issues you know of that were not corrected last heating season, don’t put off repairs. Problems with different HVAC system components place the system under stress and force it to draw excess energy. This not only burdens the equipment, it raises your energy bills. Call Douglas Cooling & Heating to schedule an inspection and heating repair service in Birmingham.

Why Heating Maintenance Is Important

The minute you turn on your heating and air unit, you expect it to work flawlessly and keep even temperatures throughout your home. However, ignored HVAC equipment increases the risk of unexpected breakdowns, poor health and higher energy bills.

Save yourself time and money and schedule maintenance for the fall. Waiting until your furnace or heat pump is broken leaves you vulnerable to the cold weather outside. Plus, it will cost more to get your unit up and running quickly. This makes your job more difficult as you work through how to winterize your southern home.

Our heating and air professionals know what to look for during routine maintenance calls and how to winterize your southern home when it comes to HVAC equipment. We will catch early signs of wear and tear, and repair or replace worn or broken components.

Preventing malfunctions and breakdowns keeps your heating and air system healthy and lengthens its lifespan. You won’t have to deal with replacing your equipment around the holidays, which means less stress financially when you are planning family gatherings and buying gifts.

Besides saving money, maintenance promotes healthy indoor air. Your furnace or Birmingham heat pump experiences a buildup of dirt, dust and other debris. When you fire up your heating system for the first time, anything accumulated inside will be transferred to the indoor air you breathe.

Scheduling maintenance with Douglas Cooling & Heating clears away the dirt and debris. Our experts also remove excess moisture before mold or mildew grows inside your unit or the ductwork.

Mold spores spread throughout your home via the air ducts when a heating and air unit isn’t routinely inspected and cleaned.

How to Winterize Your Southern Home for Better Comfort

As you learn how to winterize your southern home, don’t forget about comfort! These tips help your home stay warmer throughout the season and make your HVAC system more energy efficient.

  • Identify and seal air leaks throughout your home. Seal cracks and gaps which let indoor air out and outdoor air in. This prevents heat loss and keep more of your heating energy in the home where you can use it.
  • Add weather stripping around door frames to prevent drafts of cool air into your home. This also requires your heating system to work harder.
  • Keep fireplace dampers closed unless you are burning a fire in the fireplace. An open damper allows warm air from your living areas to escape out the chimney.
  • Prevent heat loss when using the fireplace by opening dampers in the firebox’s bottom. If not provided, open the nearest window approximately one inch and shut all doors to the fireplace room. This helps you stay warm even with lower thermostat temperatures.
  • Use plastic sheeting or film to cover window interiors to prevent cold air infiltration.
  • Use heavy, insulating drapes or curtains to prevent cold air infiltration in your rooms whenever you do not have sunlight exposure. In south-facing rooms, open curtains during the daytime to take advantage of natural solar energy.

Thermostat Settings for Winter

How to winterize your southern home doesn’t just involve tasks before the season starts. When you know the right thermostat settings to maximize energy efficiency, you help your HVAC system work at its best all winter long.

  • When you are home and awake, choose temperature settings as low as you can comfortably tolerate.
  • For periods where everyone is asleep or out of the home, set back your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees. Doing so for eight or more hours can lead to a savings of up 10 percent annually. A programmable or smart thermostat makes this adjustment easy!

Get HVAC Winterization Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating!

Don’t neglect your HVAC system as you work through these steps for how to winterize your southern home. Schedule HVAC service in Birmingham today from Douglas Cooling & Heating! We’re here to assist with the HVAC services your air conditioner needs to stay protected and your heating system needs to maintain warmth.

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Which is Better: A Furnace or a Heat Pump?

November 25th, 2019

We understand just how overwhelming choosing a new heater for your home can be—there are just so many great options out there! Of course, two of the most popular systems on the market today are the furnace and the heat pump, and for good reason!

If you are having trouble deciding between these two systems, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we have outlined the benefits of each—that way, you can decide for yourself which one sounds like a winner. All you’ve got to do is keep reading to find out more (and as always, remember to contact our team when you need heating services in Birmingham, AL.)

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How Can I Prevent Frozen Pipes?

November 19th, 2019

While many Alabama homeowners think freezing weather issues don’t affect us in the South, homes in the Birmingham area are at risk for frozen pipes in the winter. Don’t leave your home vulnerable to this easy to avoid issue – learn how to prevent frozen pipes and take action in the fall. If you do experience frozen pipes this winter, our licensed plumbers share what to do to help you avoid disaster.

How to Prevent Frozen Pipes

Top strategies for how to keep your home’s pipes from freezing are:

  1. Insulate pipes
  2. Take action when temperatures drop
  3. Keep your home warm

Insulate Your Pipes

Water pipes often run through areas of our homes that are exposed to colder temperatures – basements, crawl spaces, attics, etc. Pipes in these areas are at a greater risk of freezing, but insulation helps limit exposure to colder temperatures. 

How to prevent frozen pipes with insulation is a one- or two-part strategy – insulate the pipes or insulate the pipes and increase insulation in the area. Pipe sleeves, which look sort of like a foam pool noodle, are designed to fit around the pipe’s exterior and help it retain heat. Heat tape which is UL listed is another product that may be applied to pipes to help insulate. These products are available at your local home improvement store and for the most part are easy to install on pipes that are exposed. Your plumber is able to assist you with solutions to insulate pipes in harder to access areas of the home.

Help the area exposed pipes run through retain more warmth when you increase insulation levels. Adding extra insulation to your crawl space, basement, or attic helps the area retain heat in the winter so temperatures do not drop as low.

Steps to Take When Temperatures Drop

When outdoor temperatures are expected to reach freezing, there are steps to take in the home that work with how to prevent frozen pipes. 

  • If you have water lines that run through the home’s garage, keep your overhead garage door and other access doors closed to help the area keep its heat inside and prevent exposure to cold outdoor temperatures.
  • Open lower kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors below your sink. This allows warm air from inside your home to keep the pipes warmer – it’s an especially important strategy if your sinks are on exterior walls. Be sure to remove any harmful chemicals or items before you open the doors if you have small children or pets in the home.
  • Allow a small stream of cold water to run through faucets served by pipes exposed to cold temperatures. Even a trickle of water moving through the pipes helps to prevent freezing.

Maintain Warmth in the Home

Lowering temperatures in the home while away or overnight are popular strategies for energy savings, but could put your pipes at risk of freezing. Keep a constant temperature in the home during periods of freezing weather. It’s better to lose the few dollars you’d save on your heating bill than risk major damage to your home and plumbing.

If you are out of town during periods of freezing temperatures, do not turn your heating system off! Keep heat actively moving through the house to help keep pipes from freezing. Keep your thermostat set at 55 degrees or higher whenever away from home.

What to Do if Your Pipes Freeze

Even when you know how to prevent frozen pipes, there is always a chance that a freeze could happen. Look for the location of the freeze – you want to verify that the pipes have not been damaged by freezing water before you take other action. Thawing frozen pipes that have busted causes serious water leaks. If you have a burst pipe, turn the water off at the main shutoff valve and call your plumber.

If a pipe has frozen but is still intact, these are the steps you need to take:

  1. Turn on the faucet. This allows the melted ice to flow through the pipe and allows moving water to help you thaw them.
  2. Apply heat to the frozen pipe. Use an electric heating pad and wrap it around the pipe, a hair dryer to target heat along the frozen section, or safely place a space heater nearby. Never use a blowtorch or gas heater!
  3. Once you receive full water pressure through the faucet, stop applying heat to the pipe.

Call Douglas Cooling & Heating to Repair Your Plumbing System

Make sure your pipes don’t freeze this winter with the help of Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company. We identify problem zones and take preventive measures to help you avoid frozen water lines at home. Should you experience a frozen pipe, act fast to prevent damage! Call us right away to schedule service. For prevention or plumbing service, contact Douglas Cooling & Heating today.

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How to Drain a Water Heater (& When You Shouldn’t!)

November 19th, 2019

Birmingham homeowners with traditional tank style water heaters need to know how to drain a water heater. This is an important step in water heater maintenance. Our plumbing professionals give you step by step instructions on how to complete this task yourself, as well as share some times you should call a professional and hold off on draining your tank.

How to Drain a Water Heater Tank

Tank water heaters need to be drained about every six months following these steps:

  1. Turn off electricity or gas to your unit.
  2. Close the unit’s cold water supply valve (this is the valve that sends cool water into the tank).
  3. Attach a garden hose to the water heater drain valve, located near the bottom of the tank.
  4. Run the garden hose outdoors or into a bathtub for water drainage.
  5. Once the hose is secured and routed outdoors or to a drain, open the drain valve.
  6. Open the pressure relief valve at the top of the unit.
  7. Give the water heater time to let all water drain.
  8. Once your water heater tank is empty, reopen the cold water valve and let it run a few minutes to flush out leftover sediment.
  9. Close the drain valve and pressure relief valve, then detach your garden hose and drain it.
  10. Restore power or relight your water heater’s pilot light to start the system.

Why Drain Your Water Heater Tank?

A tank style water heater sees a great volume of water moving through its tank over a years’ time. Even in homes with softened water, this water still carries some minerals and sediment into the water heater – if you have hard water, your water heater is affected by greater volumes of these contaminants.

As water is stored in the tank, sediment and minerals fall to the bottom where they collect. They build and build over the course of a year as water passes through, which causes problems for your tank. Sediment buildup causes several issues including:

  • Corrosion of the tank, leading to leaks big and small
  • Less hot water supply
  • Popping noises from air trapped in the sediment
  • Difficulty heating water
  • Higher utility bills

When Not to Drain Your Water Heater Tank

While how to drain a water heater typically isn’t a basic home maintenance task, there are some scenarios where you do not want to do this. The first scenario is simply if you are not comfortable performing this maintenance task. In this situation, it’s always a smart choice to leave water heater maintenance to a professional – you don’t want to risk damage to your water heater or water damage to your home.

Next, don’t drain your water heater if you’ve never done so before! If your water heater has been in operation for several years yet you have never drained the tank, this isn’t a home maintenance task you want to suddenly start doing. 

Sediment buildup in the water heater tank often causes hot spots along the metal at the bottom, which causes the metal to break down. If your tank is full of sediment, the sediment may have actually plugged these tiny leaks over the years. If you suddenly drain the water heater and remove this sediment, you are likely to end up with a leaking unit.

Get Water Heater Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating

For help with your Birmingham water heater’s maintenance needs, turn to Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company. Our licensed plumbers perform thorough maintenance to help your water heater’s performance and longevity improve. Schedule your service appointment today!

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Help! I Don’t Know What to Do With My Furnace!

November 11th, 2019

As much as we all like to think that we can do everything and anything we put our minds to, we can’t all be great at everything! So, of course, it’s no wonder that you don’t quite know what to do with your furnace at the start of the winter season—you’re not a heating expert (and that’s quite alright!)

Knowing what to do with your furnace can be a bit tricky, which is why we are here to help! Below, we have provided a sort-of quick-guide to the types of services your furnace made need and when. All you’ve got to do is keep reading to find out more (oh, and of course, remember to schedule your heating services in Birmingham, AL with our team!)

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Frozen Hose Bib: How to Thaw & Prevent Major Water Damage

November 8th, 2019

The hose bib is your outdoor water spigot, where you connect a hose or other equipment for outside chores and activities so in the winter, a frozen hose bib creates a major risk of water damage. Learn how to thaw your hose bib and what to do to prevent water damage inside your home. 

Problems Caused by a Frozen Hose Bib

A frozen hose bib poses a major threat of water damage to your home. When water freezes inside the hose bib piping, the pipe could burst, which causes a water leak inside or underneath your home. 

In many cases, homeowners don’t realize there’s a problem until the following spring. We’ve visited homes where the owners used the outdoor hose to fill a pool or powerwash, only to discover water was flowing indoors from the leaky pipe from over the winter. 

Water damage is often expensive to repair. It’s important to work with experts to avoid or remove mold growth. People lose time dealing with it as well as often irreplaceable sentimental items. Avoid a major flood in your crawlspace, basement, or living spaces with these tips. 

Despite our mild winters, Birmingham frequently sees below-freezing temperatures. For example, here is a chart from CurrentResults.com, with temperatures recorded at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

birmingham al lowest temperatures in recent years

Birmingham’s lowest temperatures in recent years

How to Thaw a Frozen Hose Bib

If your hose bib freezes, it is critical for you to take immediate action to thaw it. Follow these steps to thaw your frozen hose bib:

  1. Open the hose bib spigot (turn the handle in the direction that allows water to flow). When the hose bib is frozen, there is no water flow, but you want to leave the spigot open for thawing.
  2. Use old towels or rags and wrap them around the hose bib’s base, behind the spout.
  3. Pour boiling water slowly over the cloth to saturate.
  4. Continue to add boiling water to the cloth, and periodically check the spout to see if water trickles out.
  5. Keep the hose bib faucet open until water freely flows.

If you have a hair dryer or heat gun available, use these to apply heat to the piping and help thaw your frozen hose bib.

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How to Prevent a Frozen Hose Bib

An ounce of prevention helps Birmingham area homeowners avoid the problem of a frozen hose bib over the winter, and the major issues that come with it. Winterize your hose bib each fall or install a frost-free model to reduce the risk altogether.

Here’s How to Winterize a Hose Bib

Follow these steps to winterize your hose bib in the fall:

  1. Disconnect the garden hose – drain and store it until the spring.
  2. Turn off the water valve on the pipe that supplies the hose bib.
  3. Open the hose bib spout and allow any water within to drain out.
  4. Leave the hose bib faucet open throughout the winter to avoid pressure buildup caused by freezing water inside the pipes.
  5. Cut a piece of Styrofoam piping insulation and apply it to the exposed pipe between the exterior of your home and the spigot on the hose bib. Apply insulation tape to secure the piece.
  6. Caulk any openings on the exterior of the home where the piping penetrates the wall.

Do Frost-Free Hose Bibs Work?

Frost-free hose bibs are upgraded plumbing components and help homeowners avoid the frozen hose bib problems like water damage. These hose bib models angle downward outside to promote draining and extend farther into the home to prevent freezing. As the water valve is located farther into the home, it is exposed to warmer temperatures to stop freezing and keep the pipe warm.

Caring for a frost-free hose bib is much simpler than prevention needed to stop freezing in a regular hose bib. Simply disconnect the garden hose from your frost-free hose bib each fall!

Hose Bib Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company

If you experience a frozen hose bib or want to take action to get ahead of this common winter plumbing problem, call Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company, for help! Our licensed plumbers install frost-free hose bibs to replace your old model and enhance home protection. If your hose bib freezes, call us for help if you are unable to thaw it. 

Even if you are able to thaw the hose bib yourself, you want a plumber to take a look for damage and remedy any issues caused. 

As always, if you need assistance with heating and cooling issues, our parent company, Douglas Cooling & Heating is ready to assist you. Our HVAC technicians are NATE-certified, we’re a Bryant Factory Authorized Dealer and have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. When you need help with plumbing or HVAC, Call Douglas!

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Sump Pump Smells? What to Do About Bad Odors

November 8th, 2019

Sump pump smells are a plumbing issue many Birmingham, AL residents experience from time to time. There are several issues that cause sump pump smells. Learn what causes them and what do to when a foul odor from the sump pump invades your space.

Dryness Causes Sump Pump Smells

Sometimes during dry periods of the year, water in your home’s sump pump pit evaporates. As the water evaporates from the pit, it releases odorous gases, which you smell in the home. 

The solution to this problem is an easy DIY task. Mix one cup of bleach into a gallon of water and pour it down into the sump pit. You want the drains and pipes within the pit to be covered with water. Add a little more if necessary to bring water back up to the proper level.

Stagnant Water Leads to Sump Pump Smells

Dry seasons sometimes cause sump pump smells in other ways, even when the pit has not run dry. During a dry period, it’s common for the water within the sump pit to stagnate. When this happens, your sump pit often breeds smelly bacteria, mold, mildew, and more.

Thankfully, you can also solve this odor issue with the addition of a diluted bleach solution. The addition of bleach to the sump pit helps homeowners control odors through the dry season until there is enough moisture to keep water flowing through the pit. 

Dirty Sump Pits Form Odors

A lack of sump pump maintenance leads to a dirty sump pit, which produces foul odors you smell inside your home. Your sump pit needs maintenance once or twice per year to prevent the buildup of dirt and grime as well as the growth of bacteria.

If your sump pit is dirty and smelly, it’s time to clean it. Wear gloves and long sleeves before you start this project for your protection. Follow these steps:

  • Cut power to the sump pump.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove all standing water down in the sump pit.
  • Use a hose to rinse the edges and bottom of the pit as well as the equipment within it. 
  • If buildup is not thoroughly rinsed away by the hose, use a scrub brush or scraper to remove it from the sides of the pit.
  • Once clean, refill the sump pit with the appropriate amount of water and restore power to the sump pump.

Which Sump Pump Smells are Red Flags

Occasionally, sump pump smells indicate a much more serious problem, such as sewage infiltration. Broken sewer lines allow the groundwater surrounding homes to saturate with sewage. As this contaminated ground water seeps into the sump pit, the odors start. 

Sump pump smells due to sewer line breaks aren’t always constant in the beginning. You may notice a whiff of the foul odor from your sump pit every now and then. Eventually, it becomes a steady odor.

Sewage smells from your sump pit are also one of the early warning signs of a sewer line break, a serious plumbing issue. If you notice this funky smell, call your plumber immediately for a sewer line inspection. He or she diagnoses the problem and the repairs needed for safety and functionality.

Stop Sump Pump Smells with Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating – a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company!

When the cause of sump pump smells is not easy to diagnose or the smells do not resolve with bleach solution, it’s time to call a skilled and licensed plumber for help. Douglas Cooling & Heating, a Douglas Cooling & Heating Company, helps Birmingham area homeowners care for their sump pumps and pits. 

We perform the maintenance and repair services you need to stop the smells and keep your pump and pit in good condition throughout the year. 

Our licensed plumbers also service, repair, and install water heaters, including tankless water heaters. They also repair leaky pipes, faucets, and toilets. Call us today to schedule plumbing services!

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Are You Ready for a New Furnace?

October 28th, 2019

If there’s one thing that we have in common with our neighbors up North, it’s that we all need working heaters! Sure, our winters aren’t nearly as brutal, but still, we like to be warm—isn’t that why we are in the South?

Of course, furnaces are by far the most popular method of home heating, and if you’ve got one in your home, then you know how great they really are! But still, even the best furnaces will require a replacement at some point. Below, we have listed some of the tell-tale signs that your furnace needs to be replaced. All you’ve got to do is keep reading to find out more, and of course, remember to schedule your heating services in Birmingham, AL with our team!

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