When Should I Schedule Commercial HVAC Repair for My System?

January 30th, 2015

Commercial HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) are large and complex, which means it may be difficult for you to detect when a small problem has occurred. Besides, if your own or manage a commercial property, you may be very busy on a day-to-day basis, so you might not always be attuned to details like the condition of the heater and AC. However, it’s important to keep an eye on your HVAC system in order to prevent a costly replacement, which could take quite a toll on your business. Learn the signs that you need commercial HVAC repair in Bethesda in our guide.

Schedule Service after the Very First Complaint!

One sure way to tell that your HVAC equipment is in trouble is when your employees, clients, customers, and/or tenants begin to complain. You may be tempted to wait until the problem becomes more serious if it sounds as though the HVAC system is still functioning on some level. However, you should keep in mind that when one component of a heating or air conditioning system is not working quite right, all of the other components may slowly become worn down until the repair need is suddenly far more costly. Call an expert whenever those on your property point out strange noises, reduced heating and cooling, or any other strange behavior.

High Energy Bills

If your system is running inefficiently, it means that at least one of the components is not in the best shape possible. A dirty coil, broken safety component, or slow fan can all cause your unit to run for longer periods of time, raising your utilities. Check your bills for any sign of unusual changes that could indicate a broken HVAC system.

After a Maintenance Visit

One of the easiest ways to find out whether there is anything wrong with your system is to schedule regular commercial HVAC maintenance. During a maintenance visit, your technician will inspect your entire system and can let you know if anything is in need of urgent repair, even if it hasn’t shown any obvious signs of failure yet. They’ll also clean and adjust some of the most important parts so that your unit has a better chance of running smoothly for the rest of the year.

Call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to schedule maintenance or commercial HVAC repair service in Bethesda today.

Do Gas Furnaces Pose Any Serious Safety Risks?

January 29th, 2015

Gas furnaces, well, any gas-burning system really, work with some pretty dangerous materials every time they start up. Byproducts of the combustion of natural gas include some extremely toxic gases, like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The reason this isn’t a big deal most of the time is that gas furnaces are designed to safely dispose of these materials before they can harm anyone. However, there are a few cases where a malfunctioning gas furnace can pose serious safety risk. Let’s take a look at these issues, and how you can identify them. That way, you’ll know when to call a professional as soon as possible.

Blocked Exhaust Flue

The exhaust flue is a part that extends from the heat exchanger up through the exterior wall or roof of the house and out into the open air. It serves only one purpose: to remove those combustion byproducts which are dangerous to the home’s occupants. Once the combustion gases reach the open air outside, they quickly disperse and become harmless. If the exhaust flue becomes blocked in any way, however, things can get unsafe pretty quickly.

Normally, blockages in the exhaust flue are caused by debris of some kind being blown into the flue. On occasion, a bird may even build its nest in the vent. If the flue becomes blocked, it forces all of those gases back down into the furnace and out into the home.

Cracked Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger connects the burner assembly to the exhaust flue. It is responsible for both warming the air being circulated through the home and directing the combustion gases into the exhaust flue. As the warm air containing the combustion gases rises up from the burners, the heat radiates through the walls of the heat exchanger and into the home’s air supply. The gases remain trapped in the heat exchanger, and travel to the exhaust flue.

The problem that often occurs here is when the heat exchanger cracks, often from the stress of the heat it is exposed to over years of use. When this happens, there is a small chance that the combustion gases will escape into the air being circulated through the home.

It is important to remember that these problems only rarely occur, and only without regular maintenance to make sure the system is working properly. If you haven’t had your furnace checked in a while, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing to schedule an appointment. We provide professional heating services in the North Potomac area.

Tankless vs. Storage Tank Water Heaters: Making the Best Choice

January 20th, 2015

For a long time, the only kind of water heater available was of the storage tank variety. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mean that water heaters were rather limited in their options for homeowners who may have wanted something different. With the advent of tankless heaters, a debate has been sparked over which type of water heater is the best choice. Truthfully, that depends more on your individual circumstances than any general, objective assessment. However, there are a few things that can indicate that you should choose one or the other. Let’s take a look at the inner workings of each of these systems, and the areas in which each of them excel.

Storage Tank Water Heaters

Storage tank water heaters are a much older technology, but they are still quite capable of doing their jobs well. A storage tank water heater consists of a large, water filled tank, as you might have guessed. The tank is full of water at all times, with more being pumped in each time water leaves the system.

Storage tank water heaters can store and distribute a lot of hot water, which is a good thing. However, they aren’t very efficient. The water heater basically has to be on 24 hours a day to ensure that hot water is always available, which wastes a lot of energy. They are also susceptible to leaks, which can cause the tank to rupture and deal water damage to the surrounding area.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters are an attempt to solve for the storage tank water heater’s energy efficiency problems. A tankless water heater is basically connected directly to the house water line. When the water heater is turned on, it heats the water directly as it flows through the line and into the house. A tankless water heater doesn’t store water, and only turns on when it is needed. This saves a lot of money on energy bills. However, a tankless water heater can be more easily overwhelmed if there is a lot of demand for hot water all at once. If you have a lot of people living in your house, you may want to consider staggering your hot water demand so that someone doesn’t end up taking an unwanted cold shower.

To schedule an appointment or if you’d like to know more, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating, & Plumbing today. We provide water heater installation service throughout Rockville.

Do Boilers Really Boil Water?

January 13th, 2015

It may seem like an obvious thing, but you would probably be surprised at the answer to this question. Most boilers do not, in fact, boil water. Ironically, if your boiler is boiling water then you have a very big problem. There are some boilers, called “steam boilers,” that are specially designed to boil water and use the steam to provide heat. We’re going to focus on the much more common hydronic boiler, though. Let’s take a look at how a hydronic boiler works, and why you really don’t ever want it to actually boil water.

Boiler Construction

A hydronic boiler is constructed in a similar way to a gas furnace, with a couple of exceptions. There is a burner assembly, a heat exchanger, and often a pilot light. The difference is that in a boiler, the heat exchanger is a tube over the burner flames, through which water flows. As the water flows over the flames, it is heated to the proper temperature before moving on to heat the house. Because of the way the heat exchanger is constructed, and the method hydronic boilers use to heat homes, the water is not supposed to stay over the flame long enough to boil.

Kettling

Though hydronic boiler systems are not designed to actually boil water, there is a condition where it happens. That condition is called “kettling” and is called such because of the deep rumbling noise that emanates from boilers that have it. Kettling is caused by hard water moving through the boiler over many years. Hard water is called that when it has high mineral content.

Over years of flowing through the boiler, the hard water deposits small amounts of minerals on the walls of the heat exchanger. Eventually, these deposits can become large enough to restrict or completely block the flow of water through the heat exchanger. When that happens, the trapped water begins to boil inside the heat exchanger. The evaporation of water into steam puts an enormous amount of pressure on the heat exchanger, causing it to rumble like an enormous kettle. This can be quite dangerous, both to the boiler and any nearby people. It is highly recommended that you call a professional if you notice your boiler kettling.

If you’d like to know more, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing. We professionally install boilers throughout Bethesda.

Why You Need Leak Detection for Your Pipes

January 7th, 2015

When you think of leaks in a home, you often think of something visible: a leaking faucet or a drip under the sink. The truth is that many leaks are not visible and are therefore hard to pinpoint and diagnose. Unfortunately, leaks tend to become worse with time, and if you have an unseen leak, it may become visible only when some serious damage has been done. With professional leak detection, your plumber will be able to detect unseen leaks and make a plan for plumbing repair in your Gaithersburg, MD, home.

What Is Leak Detection?

Leak detection is the active inspection of your plumbing system to detect any existing or developing leaks. Professional plumbers may use any of the following tools while inspecting for leaks:

  • Visual inspection equipment, including fiber optic
  • Listening discs
  • Soil probe
  • High-quality audio equipment

These specialized tools allow a trained professional to pinpoint the exact location of leaks rather than making an approximation about the location of a leak. No one wants to see drywall taken down or their yard dug up for no reason at all, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to hire a professional for leak detection. It’s also important that a professional handle these kinds of tools. While most of these tools are not available in the average hardware store, understanding how they work and how to use them correctly takes time and training. Additionally, if you don’t have the expertise to fix a leak, there’s really no point in searching for one. The bottom line: hire an expert for leak detection services.

Benefits of Leak Detection

Here are some of the benefits you can gain from scheduling leak detection for your home:

  • Improved efficiency of your water
  • Decrease in water bill
  • Reduction in possibility of outside contamination
  • Reduction in the potential of water damage from leaks
  • Improved water pressure
  • Reduction of stress on your plumbing system
  • Detection tools are precise and non-damaging

If you suspect you may have a leak and are in need of plumbing repair in Gaithersburg, MD, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing hope you have a great start to the year and a, uhm, fruitful 2015.

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.”

This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing, we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

How Does a Reversing Valve Work in a Heat Pump?

December 17th, 2014

Many times, customers will ask why a heat pump can provide both heating and cooling while an air conditioner can’t. There’s a simple answer to this: a component called a reversing valve; heat pumps have them and air conditioners don’t. It may seem a little crazy that this one component can make such a big difference, but understanding what the reversing valve does can help make it clear. First, let’s take a quick look at how a heat pump works.

How a Heat Pump Works

Heat pumps do not generate either heating or cooling; instead, they transfer heat from one location to another, with the help of refrigerant. During the winter months, heat pumps absorb the heat in the surrounding air, concentrate it, and distribute it to your home’s living spaces. In the summer months, heat pumps absorb the heat in your home and transfer it outside. However, it is the reversing valve that allows the heat pump to change from cooling to heating and back.

The Reversing Valve

The reversing valve is a medium-sized, cylindrical metal component with 3 smaller tube-like valves on one side and a single tube-like valve on the other; there is also a small electrical component called a solenoid on top of it. Inside the reversing valve is a sliding mechanism that moves back and forth, according to the mode the valve is in (heating or cooling). As the homeowner, all you have to do to change modes is press a button on your dual-mode thermostat. When the thermostat cues the heat pump to change modes, the solenoid gives the sliding mechanism a little push and the refrigerant inside the valve does the rest. This action, in which the directional flow of the refrigerant is changed, is what physically changes the mode of a heat pump and for your system.

“Stuck” Reversing Valve

One of the more common problems with the reversing valve is that it can get stuck in a mode or even between modes. When the valve is stuck, your heat pump can’t work properly and repair is required. If the reversing valve is stuck due to a faulty solenoid, the solenoid can be replaced; however, if there is a refrigerant leak or other issue, the reversing valve will need to be replaced.

Bi-annual maintenance helps keep your heat pump in North Potomac in great shape. If it’s been more than 6 months since your last heat pump maintenance appointment, or you are experiencing problems with your heat pump, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing today.

Why You Should Schedule Regular Drain Cleaning

December 10th, 2014

The drains in your home don’t seem to emit any foul odors, nor do you have to deal with the wastewater that moves down the pipes and into the sewer. So why should you bother with regular drain cleaning? Drains tend to accrue a lot of buildup over the years, but you may assume they’re built tough enough to handle it. However, an unexpected drain clog can leave you without any use of your sinks and fixtures, and possibly with some troublesome sewage backup in your home.

Many people don’t call a professional for drain services until nothing will move down the drains or when they notice backup in the home. But drain clogs can be detrimental to your home if sewage begins to accumulate and enter through the drains, causing a health hazard and some potential damage to your property.

Besides, drain cleaning is simply not a job that should be left to someone without any experience or without the right equipment. Home drain cleaning liquids that are available for purchase at hardware stores and grocery stores are toxic to humans and can cause eye or skin irritation and injury. They are also fairly ineffective at removing or preventing many types of blockage and may actually damage the pipes.  Professionals have the tools and equipment to take care of nearly any type of obstruction, including fats, oils, and grease that may solidify in the pipes and trap any debris that travels past.

Drain clogs rarely occur at a convenient time for you to schedule services, and you’ll be without vital water-using appliances while you wait for your repair technician to show up. That’s why it’s best to schedule drain cleaning annually, to remove any existing blockage and clear out the lining of the pipes so that drain clogs do not reoccur in the future.

When you schedule drain cleaning with Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing, you’ll get the added benefit of video pipe inspection with your service. A plumber will use a thin fiber optic cable with a video camera at one end so that they can view a live feed and feel confident that the drains are clean, and can even inform you of any leaks in your plumbing. Give us a call today to learn more about the benefits of professional drain cleaning in Bethesda.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Store Bought Drain Cleaners on Your Drains

December 3rd, 2014

Drain clogs are a nuisance, and the sooner you can remedy the situation, the better for you and your plumbing. But don’t let the need to remove the clog guide you toward an action that may cause more harm than good. What are we referring to? Using store-bought drain cleaners. Yes, drain cleaners can work in certain situations, but the damage the cleaner can cause can be more extensive than its ability to clear your drain. When you call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing for plumbing repair, you can rest assured that your plumbing issue will be resolved quickly, efficiently and correctly. Experiencing a plumbing problem? Call us today!

Just Say No to Store-Bought Drain Cleaners

So how can store-bought drain cleaners be a problem? Let’s take a look:

  • Clogs need to be near the drain opening – a store-bought drain cleaner is a liquid that dissipates as it makes its way down your drain; as such, its ability to have any effect on your clog will diminish the further is has to travel. Unfortunately, few clogs are located at the drain’s opening.
  • Effective on “soft” clogs – drain cleaner is mostly effective for clogs that are “soft”, which are items like food and paper. Tough hair clogs and mineral build-up will not be as affected by drain cleaner, and as such, won’t do very much.
  • Highly corrosive – just because drain cleaner is sold over-the-counter in stores doesn’t mean it doesn’t have harsh chemicals – it does. The combination of chemicals is highly corrosive, meaning they can eat away at your piping, particularly if it’s plastic.
  • Toxicity – the chemicals in drain cleaner can burn your skin, irritate your eyes and nose, and damage surrounding flooring and carpet should a spill occur.

Call for an Expert

The lure of a store-bought drain cleaner is simplicity, but the truth is, using these harsh chemicals can make things very complicated. If you have a clogged drain, don’t risk your existing plumbing work by using a drain cleaner; instead, call Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing and schedule an appointment for professional drain cleaning services with one of our plumbing experts.