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Is your home ready for the 2019 New York winter?

If you have the number for A Good Plumber, you’re off to a good start. Should your pipes wind up freezing this winter, our team is here for you. We’ll treat the plumbing in your home or business just like we do those in our own homes. But rather than coming out to solve problems that could have been avoided, we’d prefer to help you prevent them. We consider helping you prepare your New York home for winter to be part of our commitment to treat our customers like family.  

By taking a few steps in the Fall, you can make cold-weather plumbing and heating emergencies far less likely to befall your property. Use these tips we’ve gathered over our more than 30 years in the business to keep your home or business running safely and reliably all winter long. 

Schedule a professional boiler service.

If you haven’t had a professional boiler service performed yet this year and don’t have one on the books, call A Good Plumber today at (718) 648-6838 or visit our website to schedule one. It’s essential to have your heating equipment cleaned and working properly before the cold weather arrives. Boilers don’t require much maintenance, but they do demand consistency. With the boilers common to older New York homes, a bit of preventive maintenance goes a long way. 

Brush up on DIY boiler maintenance.

When you greet the master plumber who comes to perform your boiler inspection, make the most of your time with him or her. Ask for advice on what you can do to keep your boiler in tip-top shape. At the very least, you should know how to drain water from your boiler safely, how to remove the boiler cover and check your pilot and burner flames, and how to recognize the signs that something may be malfunctioning. If you’re working with A Good Plumber, you can request a copy of our Boiler Maintenance Checklist. 

Prevent frozen pipes.  

You likely know that, on very cold nights, you should keep the cabinets beneath the sink open and set your faucets to a slow drip. Definitely keep doing that, but also be sure to drain the water from your outdoor faucets and sprinkler system to keep those pipes from freezing. You can also protect outdoor faucets with affordable foam insulators. To protect water pipes that run through unheated areas (think the basement, the attic, and the garage), insulate them with plastic foam, wood felt, or fiberglass. 

Clean your gutters. 

This task is easy to outsource and worth every penny, but many homeowners don’t know the importance of heading into winter with clean gutters. It’s all about ice dams. Since heat rises, in the winter it escapes through your roof and melts the snow that’s accumulated there. When leaves and debris prevent your gutters from draining the snowmelt from your roof, that water refreezes at the eaves. When things warm up and everything starts to melt, water can’t drain properly, so it follows the path of least resistance – often creating a leak in your roof. By cleaning your gutters after Autumn has done its dirty work, you can prevent this whole series of events. So, protect your home; get your gutters cleaned. 

Update your Thermostat’s schedule. 

A programmable thermostat is a must to ensure both comfort and efficiency. If you have a programmable or Smart thermostat, make the most of it by reviewing its program. You’ll likely use different settings for heating than you do for cooling. Consider what days and hours you usually spend at home and those when everyone is out. By keeping things cooler when no one is home to feel the chill, you can conserve energy and lower your monthly bills. 

Stock up for a storm. 

Here in New York City, when it snows, sometimes it pours! You don’t want to be that poor soul wandering the streets in search of the last in-stock snow shovel in a 30-block radius. Squirrel away these basics and you’ll have a far less miserable time when the next Nor’easter rolls in. First, check off the essential hardware: Snow shovel, roof rake, sand, and (pet-friendly) ice melt. 

Then stock up on these supplies to be perfectly prepared in the case of a power outage.

  • A portable charger/power bank for your phone
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Candles (with lighter or matches)
  • Extra blankets and sleeping bags
  • Drinking water
  • Canned food/Food that requires no cooking
  • Non-electric can opener
  • First-aid kit
  • One-week supply of essential medicines
  • A working, fully charged fire extinguisher
  • The phone number of your gas/energy company
    • Con Ed: 1-800-75-CONED
    • National Grid: 1-718-643-4050

Adjust your expectations. 

If you are a landlord or you pay rent to one, you should be aware of local heating requirements. In New York City, when the mercury falls below 55 (outside), indoor temperatures are required to be at least 68 during the day and 62 at night.   

Check those phone numbers.

No matter how prepared you are, plumbing and heating surprises are bound to pop up. When they do, you’ll want to have the number for A Good Plumber handy. [It’s (718)-648-6838]. You can count on our trained and experienced plumbers to be your one-call resource for everything in your home or business that is plumbing related. If water or heat runs through it, we can fix it – and we’ll do so with honesty and integrity.Improve Your Home’s Winter Energy Efficiency

By now, you’ve likely checked your annual boiler inspection off that “Honey Do” list and stocked up on the winter basics. (If not, give us a call to take care of the former and read this article to get a jump on the latter.) Having weathered more than 30 winters here in the city, we know that lowering those energy bills is the next best thing to averting cold-weather heating and plumbing disasters. To help you do that, here are some easy and affordable to-dos that will save you money and headaches during the long wait for next Spring.  

Get with the program. Not sure what makes some thermostats so “smart”? Well, beyond the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and your phone, we think the wisest answer is “saving you money.” Energy is expensive and difficult to generate, so it’s a shame to waste it. That’s why, if you don’t already have one, a programmable thermostat is a smart investment. You don’t need the most sophisticated newfangled gadget to rack up savings – just a model that can follow a schedule. Set it to crank up the heat while you’re home and to cool down at night and when no one’s around to feel the chill. Even if you’ve been using a programmable thermostat for years, it’s wise to revisit your schedule when seasons change to adjust to lifestyle changes.  

Give your water heater some TLC. You’re not just heating the rooms in your house; all that warm water for laundry, showers, hand washing, and dish washing has to be heated inside your home. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to improve the energy efficiency of your water heater. 

First, make sure it’s insulated. Newer models should be protected by factory-installed insulation of R-16 or better. This isn’t an issue for homeowners with on-demand/tankless water heaters, either. But if you’re working with an older model that’s warm to the touch, insulating is a DIY project worth looking into. Your utility may even offer water-tank insulating blankets – and installation – at a low price.

Flush out the sediment. Over time, sediment collects at the bottom of your water tank, negatively impacting its efficiency and longevity. This accumulated debris creates a barrier between the heating element and the water, making it harder to heat. By flushing the sediment from your water heater once a year, you can turn back the clock and reduce energy consumption. 

Turn it down a notch. Do you have to blend cold water with the hot to make the temperature tolerable? If so, you could be wasting valuable energy! Try turning down the thermostat on your hot water heater. Most manufacturers recommend a setting at about 120 degrees F. The lower you can go, the more you’ll save! 

Weatherize your house. This one is a multi-step process that begins with a home energy assessment. Having this performed by a professional will give you the greatest insight into how your home is functioning as a system, but you can also do an energy audit yourself. Once you’ve identified any inefficiencies, you can air-seal your home, add insulation where it’s needed, and get your appliances running efficiently. Be sure to swap out screens for storm doors and windows. While you’re at it, watch for drafts and apply weather stripping or caulk to prevent cold air from seeping in. 

Reverse your ceiling fans. Lots of people balk at this, but the physics make sense. When you reverse the motor in your ceiling fans, the clockwise motion creates an updraft that pushes warm air that’s risen to the ceiling down into the occupied space. It’s a simple trick that can contribute to both comfort and cost control. 

This last tip is more about saving your life than about saving you money. The day you set the clocks back for the end of daylight saving time is the perfect occasion to change the batteries in all your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make it a tradition! As you change those batteries, check the date on each detector and replace any that are more than 10 years old. 

Enjoy the season!

Whatever you think of the weather, winter is a special time in New York. With your home perfectly prepared for a few months of bluster and blizzard, you can turn your attention to sharing the comfort of your home with loved ones. We hope this winter takes it easy on you and your home, but if you run into a problem, call A Good Plumber. We’ve been delivering excellent plumbing and heating service throughout Brooklyn and the five boroughs for over 30 years!