November 2017

15-Point Homeowner’s Winter Checklist

Is your hose unhooked from the outside of your house? Is your ceiling fan blowing upward? Are your gutters cleaned? If you want to make sure your home is ready for winter and avoid annoying, dangerous and costly problems due to cold weather, check this list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important.

Winter Maintenance Inside the House

Protect Your Pipes

Insulate any pipes on outside walls and in uninsulated spaces, such as  crawlspaces and attics. Insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally, you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them. Pipe insulation is cheap and easily available at home improvement stores. Fixing frozen pipes and the leaks they cause is not cheap.

Fix Leaky Windows and Doors

Caulk around windows and doors and use weatherstripping. Install foam outlet insulators to prevent cold air from entering your home through electrical outlets.

Check Attic Insulation

check your insulation

Because heat rises, the biggest heat loss typically occurs through the attic. If your home feels cold and drafty or heating bills are high, check to make sure that you have enough insulation.

Reverse Your Ceiling Fan Direction

To help circulate warm air away from the ceiling and down to the living spaces flip the switch on your ceiling fan to reverse the direction the fan blades spin. When looking up at your fan, the blades should spin in a clockwise direction. In the summer, you want the fan to blow air straight down, so the blades need to turn in a counterclockwise direction. The warmer it is, the higher the speed should be.

Check your Fireplace

Small animals build nests and creosote builds up in your fireplace over time. Have an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season. Also check to make sure the damper is closed when not in use so precious hot air is not lost up the chimney.

Change Your Thermostat

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, add it to your to-do list. Programmable thermostats let you customize your schedule to save money on heating and cooling bills. It will pay for itself in energy savings in the first year of use.

Activate Your Humidifier

If you have a humidifier attached to your furnace, make sure it is turned on for winter. Check the drain line to make sure it is clear and the filter to make sure it is clean. Check to make sure that the humidistat is calling for humidity when the furnace is running. Open the water supply to the humidifier and turn the power on to the furnace. When the furnace begins running, the humidistat should call for humidity, the solenoid valve should open, and water should come out of the water inlet tube and drain into the humidifier drain. If it doesn’t, you may need service.

Change Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

This is a good time of year to change the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector to ensure they work properly when needed.

Test Your Sump Pump

Look for signs of moisture. Open the lid and pour a five-gallon bucket of water into the sump pit. I should activate. If nothing happens and the pump doesn’t turn on, you may need service.

If your sump pump runs often, you may want to consider purchasing a  battery backup sump pump to avoid disaster.

Outside Home Maintenance

Outdoor Faucets

Turn off the water supply to exterior faucets, drain the water from the hose and disconnect it from the outdoor faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the outdoor faucet for extra protection.

Clean the Gutters

Leaves and debris that accumulates in your gutter can cause clogs and ice dams which can damage your roof and shingles, cause leaks in your ceiling and can also be dangerous for people passing under your eaves.

Drain Your Sprinkler System

Make sure you do this before the first hard freeze. Be sure all of the water is out so underground pipes won’t freeze and break.

Bring in Outdoor Furniture/Planters

Freezing temperatures, snow, and ice can damage outdoor furniture, clay pots, grills, etc. If you have room, store them in the garage, basement, or garden shed. Otherwise, cover them to reduce damage from the elements. If you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank first. It must be stored outside.

Stock up on Snow & Ice Gear

Ice melt, shovels, gloves, etc. all sell out with the first big snow. Make sure you have yours BEFORE the first snowstorm or you may be left high and dry with slippery sidewalks and deep snow. If you have a snow blower, inspect it before the first snowfall to ensure it’s working properly.

Don’t Forget Your Vehicle

If you change your tires to winter tread, change them now. Carry sand or kitty litter for traction in case you get stuck on ice or snow-packed roads. Create an emergency kit in your car in case you get stuck or stranded in cold weather. Include gloves, boots, blanket or sleeping bag, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight and extra batteries, sand or kitty litter for traction, a tow chain or rope, jumper cables, cell phone adapter to plug into car, snacks like granola bars or energy bars and bottled water.

Be safe and comfortable this winter with a little help from your friends at Herrmann Services. Should you need any heating, plumbing or electrical help, give us a call at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

New Call-to-action

Garbage Disposal Repair Tips – It Doesn’t Have to Be a Grind

You flip the switch and something isn’t right. Either it doesn’t turn on at all, or it hums, but doesn’t grind. Now what? The team at Herrmann Services has put together these troubleshooting tips to try before you call us for repairs. Try these common fixes first:

Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On

Reminder: Never put your hand down into the garbage disposal (grinding chamber). Your garbage disposal is smarter than you think. It is designed to turn off when there is trouble, for instance, when the disposal gets clogged, if it overheats, or if there is something wrong with the motor, it will shut down automatically. The good news is it can easily be reset.

Make sure the disposal is turned off. Look for a red button underneath the disposal. If it has popped out about a quarter of an inch, simply press it back in and try running the disposal. Sometimes this is all it takes. If the garbage disposal reset button still will not stay in, or if you have to repeatedly reset the overload protector, the disposal may require service or replacement.

Bottom of garbage disposal and reset button

Motor Hums But Won’t Grind

If the motor hums, but there is no grinding sound, that means the flywheel is stuck. Either the reset button will trip or the fuse or circuit breaker in your electrical service panel will trip and turn off the disposal. The flywheel is stuck because something is lodged between it or the impeller(s) and the shredder ring. Learn about the anatomy of a garbage disposal below:

inside view of garbage disposal

Dislodging the Jam

Take the offset wrench that came with the disposal and insert it into the flywheel turning hole in the bottom of the unit. If you don’t see a wrench, it’s just a simple allen wrench and you can pick one up from the hardware store. Turn the wrench clockwise to dislodge the stuck impeller or flywheel. When it dislodges, you’ll feel the flywheel turn freely.

Once freed, turn the power back on at the panel and press the reset button before trying the disposal. But don’t turn on the disposal yet. Run water and quickly flip the switch on and off to spin the flywheel, dislodge any obstruction, and rinse it down the drain.

10 Things You Should Never Put Down Garbage Disposal

  • Grease – it will coat your pipes
  • Bones – they’ll just keep spinning around and around with the blades
  • Celery – the fibrous strings get tangled around the disposal’s blades
  • Coffee grounds – the oil in coffee grounds becomes a sticky sludge
  • Egg shells – ground egg shells become sand-like particles that stick to grease
  • Corn husks – the fibers get caught in the blades
  • Artichokes – again, too fibrous
  • Fruit pits – pits are very hard and can jam the disposal blades
  • Potato peels – starchy vegetables and even pasta can cause a sticky mess
  • Your hand – nuff said

If these tips don’t work, call the plumbers in Cincinnati at Herrmann Services and we’ll be there in a jiffy to fix that garbage disposal or replace it if necessary.

Call us at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

drain cleaning guide for diy

Should You Repair or Replace Your Furnace – 6 Definitive Questions

should I repair or replace my furnace?

We all know that furnaces don’t last forever. But how do you know when it’s finally time to invest in a new furnace? Luckily, we have some industry insight that will help you make an informed decision. The team at Herrmann Services in Cincinnati has put together these six simple questions that you can ask to determine if it makes more sense to limp along or replace your furnace this year:

Do You Need to Repair or Replace Your Furnace? The Strategic Six Questions to Ask:

  • Is your home more than 12 years old?

Most furnaces only operate efficiently for 12-15 years before they need to be replaced. If your home is more than 12 years old and you have not replaced your furnace yet, your system is nearing the end of its lifespan.

  • Are your heating bills getting higher every year?

Your furnace and AC are the biggest consumers of energy in your home – they account for almost half of your energy costs. As your system ages and becomes less efficient, it also can hike up your energy bills.

  • Have you paid for repairs more than once in the last 5 years?

If you’ve had more than one major repair to your furnace system in the past 5 years, that could be a sign of trouble. Annual maintenance doesn’t count, but if you’ve been faithful about annual maintenance, it should extend the life of your furnace a couple of years, so you can take that into account.

  • Does your furnace seem to run nonstop?

Older systems become less efficient over time, which means they must work harder and longer to maintain the temperature that the thermostat demands. This results in higher utility bills.

  • Does your home have hot and cold spots?

Older systems weren’t necessarily designed to keep every room comfortable. Two-story homes are especially difficult to keep warm and cool. The upstairs stays warm in the summer and the downstairs is always chilly in the winter. Newer systems have technology available to even out the temperature in your home.

  • Is your furnace warranty expired?

Most furnace warranties only cover your system for 5-10 years. Once the warranty expires, repairs can become extremely expensive. At that point, it might make more sense to be putting that money toward a new, high efficiency furnace that will save you money on energy bills rather than spending it on repairs.

If you answered yes to more than three questions, your furnace is probably nickel and diming you to death. Take a look at your heating bills, think about your comfort and consider if it’s worth what it’s costing you. If you decide you may need a new furnace, give us a call and we’ll give you a quote on a new, energy-efficient furnace.

Learn more about your furnace replacement options by calling us at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

New Call-to-action