The U-Shaped Pipe Under Your Sink: What It’s Really For

April 18th, 2014

How often have you thought about the shape of the plumbing under your sink, such as that unusual U-shaped bend in the drainpipe before it enters the wall? Perhaps only a few times, such as when you open the cabinets under a bathroom or kitchen sink to retrieve cleaners or a roll of paper towels. That U-shaped pipe is one of those parts of a house’s plumbing that performs an important task, but which you don’t need to pay attention to…until something goes wrong with it.

Whatever your woes with your plumbing, you can count on the skill and expertise of Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to solve it. We’ll send a plumber in Gaithersburg, MD to your home and have your plumbing restored quickly. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

That U-shape is called the P-trap

You may think of the bend in the pipe under the sink as a “U,” put plumbers call it a P-trap. (Tilt your head and look at it from the side, and then you’ll see the “P” shape.) This simple construction placed into a drainpipe is a clever way to prevent sewage gas from the decomposing wastewater farther down the pipe from escaping up through your drains and into your home. Gravity traps an amount of water inside the bend after it goes down the drain, and this liquid plug serves as a block against sewer gas.

A common reason that people begin to detect sewer odors in their homes is because of dried P-traps. If a sink doesn’t receive frequent use—such as one in a guest bathroom—the water in the P-trap will evaporate, allowing sewer gas to escape up the drain. To fix this, run water down the sink for a few minutes to restore the plug.

P-traps can become problems for your drains as well: they will start to accumulate hair, soap scum, and grease, fat, and oil, over time, and this may eventually cause a sink clog. Sometimes a plunger will clear this, but thicker organic clogs will require the help of a plumber with a mechanical drain snake or hydro-jetting equipment. In some cases, a plumber must detach the P-trap from the drainpipe to clean it.

Take good care of the P-trap: avoid pouring liquid grease, oil, or fat down your drains, and place drain caps over bathroom and shower sinks to prevent too much hair and soap scum from getting through. If clogs do occur, never hesitate to contact a professional plumber in Gaithersburg, MD to clear up the trouble. (But don’t reach for the liquid drain cleaners! They are toxic and acidic.) Call up Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to have a professional plumbing service provide you with all the help your home plumbing needs.

Why Your AC Might Cost More to Run This Summer

April 11th, 2014

Summer is coming and that means your air conditioning unit will soon be called into service once again. We’re all accustomed to paying more for air conditioning in the summer, when our need is highest and we use the A/C the most often. It doesn’t have to be that way. Air conditioning maintenance conducted in the spring, before the temperatures get too high, can make a big difference in your monthly cooling bills. Otherwise your A/C might cost more to run this summer than necessary.

Among other benefits (like spotting big problems when they’re still small), a maintenance session helps improve the efficiency of your air conditioner. The technician will clean off dust and dust on the interior components, which might otherwise increase friction among moving parts and clog important filters. He’ll also check the refrigerant levels, which need to match the specifications of your air conditioner. Otherwise frost will form on the coils, reducing the A/C’s ability to cool the surrounding air. Other steps include tightening loose fittings and sealing minor leaks, as well as looking for more serious issues in need of repair.

All of that helps improve the efficiency of your air conditioner. Without a maintenance visit, your unit won’t necessarily break down. But it will work harder to do the same job, as moving parts endure more friction, loose components rattle in their housings and a many tiny imperfections pull energy away from the unit’s primary job of cooling your house. You’ll see the cost of that every month when your bills comes: higher than it should be and often disguised by the fact that it’s summer, and you expect to pay more for using your air conditioning system.

For more on why your A/C might cost more to run this summer, or to schedule a maintenance tune-up, the experts at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing are here to help. We operate in Germantown, MD, air conditioning maintenance is one of our core services, and we’re dedicated to your complete satisfaction every step of the way. Pick up the phone and give us a call today!

Why Poor Boiler Installation Leads to Problems

April 4th, 2014

A new boiler represents a significant investment in your home, and if properly installed, it can be a great boon to your household. That’s a big if, however, especially if you choose an installation service that isn’t up to snuff. Here in Bethesda, boilers are a staple of many homes, but bad installation services are distressingly common despite the common use of such systems. Here’s a brief list of why poor boiler installation leads to problems.

  • Gas leaks: Perhaps the most overtly dangerous is an increased risk of gas leaks. Gas is often used to heat the water in boilers, and it requires proper connections in order to enter the boiler safety. A poor installation may create a leak or a fissure in the lines. A gas leak is obviously a dangerous situation that should be avoided at all costs.
  • Water leaks: Water leaks aren’t as devastating as gas leaks can be, but they can still create significant problems in the performance of your boiler. Small leaks will eat into your boiler’s performance, creating inefficiency and leading to larger monthly bills. They can also grow larger as time goes on, resulting in insufficient pressure to help the boiler function the way it needs to. Not to mention the potential water damage to your home.
  • Poor circulation: Boilers depend on being able to circulate heated water through the pipes in the system in order to function. If poor installation affects the layout of the pipes or the functioning of the pump, that circulation simply won’t happen the way it should. The boiler will have to work harder to warm your home and in the worst cases may fail to function at all.

You can see why poor boiler installation leads to problems you don’t need. The good news is that here in Bethesda, boiler installation can be performed safely and efficiently by the experts at Tucker’s Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. We’re fully accredited by NATE, the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List, and we fully screen all of our employees so that they meet the very highest standards of professionalism. Call us today and let us show you what a difference a real professional can make!

The Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

March 28th, 2014

Tankless water heaters, as their name implies, are systems that heat up your water without using a standing tank like most people are accustomed to. The water passes through heated coils that instantly warms it and continues to provide hot water as long as the water is turned on. But is that the right choice for your Germantown, MD home? Here is a brief rundown of the pros and cons of tankless water heaters.

The biggest benefit lies in its efficiency. Because the tankless model doesn’t have to maintain the heat for an entire tank, they use much less energy than their tanked cousins. That can save you a great deal of money in monthly heating costs, as well as making your home more environmentally friendly. You also don’t need to wait for tankless water heaters to warm up, which means you get hot water much faster than you usually do with tanked models. In addition, tankless heaters tend to last longer than the alternative, and their small size means they take up a lot less space to boot.

On the downside, tankless models tend to cost more up-front than a more traditional water heater, which means you need to be prepared to “invest” in future savings. They can’t always handle high loads the way more traditional models can, which means you may need to install multiple units (especially if you have a large family or use a lot of water as a general rule).

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that the specifics vary based on your individual circumstances. The pros and cons of tankless water heaters should not be lightly dismissed, and the more you know going in, the more easily you can make an informed decision. In Germantown, MD, plumbing companies like Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing can discuss the matter with you, then perform an installation with professionalism and pride. Call us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you make the best decision for your household!

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Copper Piping

March 20th, 2014

In the long history of plumbing, many different materials have been used, starting with hollowed-out wood. In the era of modern indoor plumbing, the most popular material for many decades was galvanized steel, which proved more durable than any metal used before. Steel allowed indoor plumbing to become common, and many homes and businesses still have steel pipes today.

But because of steel’s tendency to corrode over time, copper pipes have superseded galvanized steel as the metal of choice during the last 70 years. Copper faces competition today from plastics such as PEX, PVC, and CPVC, but it still remains a popular choice. We’ll look at what makes copper an attractive choice for plumbing—and why sometimes plastic is the better option.

When you need a plumber in Gaithersburg, MD to take care of your plumbing, no matter what it’s made from, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing.

Copper Pipes: Advantages

Copper is a naturally corrosion-resistant metal, while galvanized steel will eventual leak and break because of corrosion damage. Although it is a durable metal (capable of withstanding 1,000 psi of pressure), copper is also lightweight, which makes it easier to work with (saving on labor costs) and also easier to extend over long stretches without supports. It’s also less expensive than steel and lead-free.

Copper is more environmentally friendly than plastic pipes because it consists of naturally occurring metal, whereas synthetic plastic creates a large amount of emissions during its manufacture.

Copper Pipes: Disadvantages

Although copper pipes are superior in almost all ways to galvanized steel pipes, there are places were PEX and CPVC pipes surpasses copper. Although copper costs less the steel, it costs more than plastic. Copper pipes also encounter problems from water acidity, so they are not good to install for plumbing systems that draw water from a well.

Copper is flexible as far as metals go, but plastic pipes can bend to fit into almost any space necessary. The color-coding of plastic pipes makes them much easier to use for plumbers, who can designate certain colors for hot and cold piping.

When it comes to providing plumbing for your home, you don’t need to make a decision of all copper pipes or all plastic pipes. A skilled plumber will mix the two, using copper for main lines and then PEX and CPVC for branching lines, identifying the best material for each job. This is why you should always trust your plumbing to a knowledgeable professional instead of an amateur.

Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing offers high quality service when you need a plumber in Gaithersburg, MD. Call us today for all your needs for pipe repair and replacements.

Safety Features in Gas Furnaces

March 12th, 2014

The modern gas furnace has improved in safety by immense leaps over the models of fifty years ago. Although natural gas-powered furnaces still have a reputation as potential safety hazards, this is largely a myth: with proper annual maintenance and attention to repair needs, a gas furnace is no more dangerous than any other heating system you can have installed in your home.

A number of features help keep your home’s furnace safe. We’ll look at a few of these safety devices. To keep them in good shape with repairs and maintenance, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. We can assist you with all your requirements for heating in Rockville, MD.

Some gas furnace safety features:

  • Furnace fan limit switch: This device prevents the furnace from overheating. It’s located just below the plenum and measures the heat on the metal. When the temperature of the plenum rises too high, the limit switch shuts off the burner. To further regulate the furnace, the switch turns off the blower once the temperature drops down to a set level. Finally, when the furnace drops to the lowest setting on the switch, the switch turns the blower back on. The manipulation of the blower is important to how the furnace regulates the temperature after turning off the gas.
  • Thermocouple: This is a simple component made of two strips of different metals coupled at one end. Because of the thermoelectric principle called the Seebeck effect, electric voltage runs through the two pieces of metal when in the presence of heat. The higher the heat, the higher the voltage. The thermocouple is placed where it can measure that the pilot light is burning. Should the pilot light go out, the thermocouple’s loss of voltage will shut off the gas valve, preventing unburned gas from flooding into the combustion chamber and creating an explosion hazard.
  • Mercury sensor: These devices are replacing thermocouples as the way of detecting if the pilot light is on. When the pilot light produces enough heat, the rise in mercury in the sensor keeps the gas valve open. It closes when the mercury drops far enough. Mercury sensors have longer service lives than thermocouples, one of the reasons they have gained popularity.

Keeping your furnace well-maintained with professional inspections once a year (usually before winter starts) is the best way to keep your system safe. Your technician will make sure all your safety devices are operating, and will check to see that no other dangers, like cracked heat exchangers, are developing.

Call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to sign up for maintenance for your heating in Rockville, MD. We have the trained staff to handle any problems you may have.

Heating Tip: Components of a Gas Furnace

March 3rd, 2014

Gas furnaces remain the go-to option for many household heating systems, providing cheap reliable heat to keep your home cozy and comfortable. Because it’s such a vital part of the home, and because it periodically requires repair just like any other mechanical system, it pays to know how it all works. Here’s a quick explanation of the components gas furnaces that will help you better understand how they work and when you need to call for repairs.

The heating process starts with an ignition system, which used to be the pilot light in older models, but now usually electronic ignition. The ignition is connected to a thermocouple which regulates the flow of gas into the furnace. When the thermocouple detects that the ignition is activated, it releases the gas. (This is an important safety feature that keeps your home from being flooded with unlit gas.)

The lit gas then moves to the burners, located beneath a heat exchanger which is essentially a long metal tube with openings on either end. The gas burns very hot, and it passes through the heat exchanger, which is warmed by the heat and subsequently passes that heat onto the surrounding air. The toxic byproduct passes safely through the heat exchanger and into a venting pipe, where it safely exists your home.  The heated air around the exchanger is now ready for distribution into your home. A fan or blower then movies it into a series of ducts, which safely distribute it.

Other heating tips on the components of a gas furnace can be provided by the experts at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. If you need heating service in Germantown, MD, call us today to schedule a consultation. You’ll be glad you did!

Why You Need Backflow Testing

February 25th, 2014

Backflow is a potentially hazardous problem that can affect your plumbing. It refers to when your home’s wastewater enters into your fresh water supply, a mixture that can lead to serious health problems. Your home’s plumbing is designed to avoid this backflow, but it can never be foolproof.

One way to help prevent this problem is with the installation of a component onto your plumbing called a backflow preventer. You should also consider having professional backflow testing to make sure that the preventer is working correctly and that your drinking water is not in danger of contamination from other sources.

Call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing when you want to schedule backflow preventer installation or backflow testing for your plumbing in Rockville, MD. We are also available for free second opinions should you need them.

Backflow Testing

How important is it to keep your potable water and wastewater separate? The consequences of wastewater contamination can be severe, leading to numerous diseases and public health hazards. It’s important for the health of your family that you keep your plumbing in good condition and safe from the dangers of backflow.

The drinking water in your plumbing is pressurized, but the wastewater is not; it instead moves through gravity and ventilation. The design of plumbing, with different pressure areas, is what prevents cross-contamination between wastewater and potable water. A drop in water pressure can cause wastewater to flow into the potable water pipes through back-pressure. A plumber can install a backflow preventer at a strategic point to prevent this from occurring. There are other sources for backflow trouble: any faulty cross-connections—such as bypasses, jumper connections, or change-over devices—can lead to backflow.

Backflow testing is an important procedure to discover out how best to prevent contamination in your water supply. A proper test can identify the type and location of backflow preventer to help keep your fresh water clean. After a backflow preventer is installed, you should still schedule yearly testing to see that the device is working correctly.

Testing is a basic procedure for professionals: they connect a testing kit to the backflow preventer, shut off the water downstream from the device, and check that the preventer is working correctly. Because the backflow preventer is installed outside your house, you do not need to be home for the test.

Contact Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to start with backflow prevention: we can perform the testing to see where your plumbing can use help to keep your fresh water safe, and we’ll install backflow preventers to help. For safe and healthy plumbing in Rockville, MD, trust to us!

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

February 17th, 2014

A sump pump is a device placed in your basement designed to protect your home from flooding. Most of the time, it works during heavy rainstorms, which we get our share of here in Maryland. In the unfortunate event of burst pipes, the sump pump can do the job as well: removing the excess water and giving you a clear basement for the plumber to fix the pipes. But how does a sump pump work?

The sump pump is placed in a sump pit, which is dug at the lowest point in your basement and usually runs about two feet deep. Because it’s at the lowest point in your house, floodwaters will gather there as they leak into the basement. That’s when the sump pump goes to work. A float activator detects the presence of the water and turns on an impeller, which spins around and pushes the water to the sides of the pump. That creates a low-pressure spot at the center of the impeller, which pulls in the water and forces it up through a pipe. The pipe leads outside the basement where it can then safely discharge the water and leave your basement dry and safe.

Sump pumps are designed for use in emergencies, which means that ideally you’ll never need to use it. When the rains fall and the waters rise, it can be worth its weight in gold. It also helps to have in installed by the right plumber, and Gaithersburg MD residents have one with Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. We have the expertise to install a sump pump at the ideal spot in your basement, and ensure that it functions exactly as intended when the time comes. If you need specifics on how a sump pump works or want to schedule an installation, give us a call today. You’ll be glad you did!

Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

February 14th, 2014

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often seen as a modern institution, even if the roots of the holiday go back to Late Antiquity and the figures of St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni. It’s difficult to separate our view of February 14th from the more recent phenomenon of greeting cards, comical cupids, and specialty treats from candy companies.

However, not only are some of these traditions older than we might think (mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were an enormous success in early 19th-century England), but the earliest Valentine’s Day love poem comes from none other than the first great English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in the second half of the 14th-century.

Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia.

The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears (English modernized):

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,                                                                         

When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.                                                                  

The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows:

Under a tree, beside a well, I saw

Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;                                                             

And at his feet his bow already lay.

When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14th? Late winter isn’t a time when birds in England would mate. However, the date for the start of spring—when some birds would have started nesting in England—was on February 23rd in the calendars of the time, certainly close enough for Chaucer to take poetic license and nudge it a bit to match with Valentine’s Day.

Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this we can thank Chaucer. In fact, he may very well have invented the link between love and Valentine’s Day, although we will probably never know for certain.

Whoever started these traditions, all of us here at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing  hope you have a wonderful February 14th!