How a Heat Pump Both Cools and Heats a Home

April 11th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

The name “heat pump” is technically accurate, but often a little misleading. Heat pumps actually both heat and cool the home, and indeed they do so using the same basic technology as a traditional air conditioning system. Heat pumps are a convenient way to deal with both our muggy summer and our cold winters here in Frederick, MD with the same basic unit, but it helps if you the homeowner understand a little bit about how a heat pump both cools and heats a home. It starts with the basic technology.

Heat pumps (and most common types of air conditioner, for that matter) used a closed loop system cycling refrigerant gas through a series of valves and coils. The process starts with the compressor, which subjects the gas to a great deal pressure. The pressurized gas then moves to a set of condenser coils, which bleeds the heat out of them and into the surrounding air. (That air can then be blown into the home via a fan.) The process reverts the gas to a liquid state, and the liquid then moves to a second set of valves and coils. The expansion valve releases a set amount of the liquid into a set of evaporator coils, which pulls heat from the surrounding air as the gas reverts to a gaseous state. It then moves back to the start of the loop to begin the process again.

With air conditioners, the loop move in a single direction. The compressor and condenser coils are located on the outside of the home (allowing it to release heated air outside), while the evaporator coils are located inside (allowing it to provide cool air that can be blown into your home with a fan). For heat pumps, the cycle is reversible; the indoor coil system can serve as a condenser in the winter (to provide heat) and an evaporator in the summer (to provide cool air) while the outside coil does the same in the reverse.

It’s an effective system, though like any such system, it takes training and expertise to properly install and maintain. That’s where the experts at Larry & Sons, Inc. come in. We work in Frederick, MD and heat pump installation and repairs are part of our standard services. Give us a call today and let us show you how a heat pump both cools and heats a home.

Indications of Trouble with Your Water Main

April 4th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

Plumbing issues can sometimes sneak up on you, especially when they take place out of sight. It’s one thing to call in the cavalry when water is leaking across your kitchen floor, but it’s something else entirely when the problem can’t even be seen. This is especially the case with your water main, which is usually buried underground and which won’t let you know there is a problem until it’s too late. When you spot the issue, you can call in a professional, but first you need to know the indications of trouble with your water main. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the more obvious symptoms.

  • Back-ups and clogs. A clogged water main means that water can’t drain properly out of your house, which usually evinces itself with clogs and back-ups throughout the home. Local clogs tend to affect only the sink or toilet in question. If the back-up occurs throughout the house, however, it’s usually a clog in the water main itself. You can also spot it by flushing the toilet and watching for back-up arising from a nearby sink or shower.
  • Greener yards. If a water line breaches, it’s apt to feed some of the plant life in your yard. This means patches of green grass or unusually healthy shrubs growing in the spot near the leak. If such patches stand out – that is, if they look healthier and more robust than other parts of the yard – you ought to look into it.
  • Loss of water pressure. The biggest sign of a breach in your water main comes with an overall loss of pressure in your fixtures at home. This is probably most obvious in the shower, but you can also notice a lower flow of water in tour sinks and toilets as well.

If you spot indications of trouble in your water main, contact the professionals at Larry & Sons, Inc. immediately. Our Frederick, MD plumbing experts are on-hand to assist you, and we won’t rest until the issue is properly dealt with. Contact us today and let us show you what we can do!

How Often Should I Have My Septic Tank Pumped?

March 28th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

The septic tank acts as a waste treatment system for your home. Whenever wasted water is removed (by flushing the toilet, through the shower drain or the like), it enters the septic tank. Lighter materials float to the top while heavier ones sink to the bottom: leaving a large pool of relatively clean water called effluent in the middle. The effluent can then be released into a drain field: a series of pipes designed to spread the water into a field of soil, fertilizing it in the process. As you may imagine, that leaves a fair amount of sludge and scum behind, and unless the septic tank is pumped out, it can create serious problems in the septic tank’s ability to function. Here in Waynesboro, PA, septic tanks can be pumped out by the qualified plumbers at Larry & Sons, Inc. But how often should you have your septic tank pumped? Some general answers can be found below.

The exact timing depends on how many people are in your household and how often they use the plumbing. A vacation home, for instance, won’t see as much activity as a normal home, and houses with large families will require pumping more than those with smaller families. Add to that a thousand other vagaries, and the timing becomes very dependent on your individual circumstances. The best solution is to schedule a yearly inspection of your septic tank from a trusted service. They will measure the levels in your tank, check the pipes and other components of the system and make sure that the drain field is working as it should. From there, you can establish a reasonable schedule based on the amount of use involved and the particular needs of your home. According to the EPA, most septic tanks need to be pumped every 1 to 3 years. An inspection will establish that number for you.

For more advice on how often you should have your septic tank pumped, contact Larry & Sons Inc. In towns like Waynesboro, PA, septic tanks are quite common and you need a trusted service to do the job right. Call us today and let us show you what a difference we can make!

Warnings That You May Need Septic Tank Replacement

March 19th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

The septic tank is the part of your home’s plumbing that you probably think about the least, but it’s one you want to think about the most when something goes amiss and it needs repairs, or in extreme cases, replacement. For this extensive work, you need plumbers with special training and expertise.

Larry & Sons, Inc. does many types of services for Frederick, MD septic tanks, from installation to maintenance, and you should make us your first call when you think you have major issues with your septic tank.

Let’s look at the most extreme scenario: your aging septic tank requires a complete replacement. There are some signs to watch for that might indicate replacement is a possibility. Regardless of the eventual outcome, any of the signs require that you call in septic tank repair professionals.

  • Vibrant, green grass: Although this sounds like an attractive side-effect, it’s one of the major warnings that you have extensive septic tank leakage. If an area of grass or turf looks like it’s growing faster than adjacent vegetation and taking on a brighter hue, it means the fertilizing properties of leakage from the tank is promoting the growth.
  • Strong odors from the lawn: The sewage material released from a septic tank is called effluent, and the decomposition of its gases will rise rapidly up through the soil over the tank, emerging as unpleasant sewage odors. If the smells are coming from a large region, it often means catastrophic damage to the tank.
  • Pooling of effluent: If lawn odors lead you to soggy pools with powerful sewage smells, then you need professional assistance immediately. This leakage can pose potential health threats to you and your family, and the weight of saturated soil could cause the roof of the septic tank to collapse.
  • Indoor plumbing issues: As septic tanks fail, they trigger problems within your indoor drainage system. Slow drains in sinks and toilets, frequent drain clogs, gurgling sounds from drains after water goes down them, sewer odors entering the house: if you notice any of these, check the lawn for the three signs above, and then call for a plumber. Even if you see nothing wrong on your lawn, you still need to call in professional plumbers, because you may have a septic line break.

The U.S. EPA warns that you should never enter a septic tank on your own; call Frederick, MD septic repair and replacement specialists who can safely perform the necessary work. Contact Larry & Sons, Inc., and we will also take care of the disposal of your old septic system during the replacement.

Boiler vs. Furnace: Which Heating System Is Best?

March 12th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

One of the timeless debates of home heating is whether a boiler or a furnace provides the better choice for heating. Although perhaps not as burning a match-up on people’s minds as King Kong vs. Godzilla or Ford vs. Chevrolet, it’s an important one to consider when it comes to your home comfort.

Let’s take a look at the two sides of this conflict to see what we can discover about the option for heating in Frederick, MD that will work best for you. Because ultimately, the winner in this contest depends on your specific circumstances: your home, your energy supply, and your short-term and long-term budget plans. Call Larry & Sons, Inc. for the important professional advice you’ll need to make the right choice.

Boiler vs. Furnace: How the Boiler Wins

Where can the boiler deliver the haymaker punch that KOs the furnace? Longevity is one spot. Boilers use few mechanical parts to operate since they use the circulation of hot water to provide heat. This means that boilers need fewer repairs than furnaces on average, and this also leads to a long lifespan.

Boilers usually cost less to install than furnaces, and they also offer savings with their efficient performance (hydronic power loses less heat energy than forced-air systems). Using the radiant heat from a boiler also makes for much cleaner heat emanating into your home, with no dust contamination transferred from ductwork.

Boiler vs. Furnace: How the Furnace Wins

Where the furnace can deliver a knock-out is with sheer heating power. A gas-powered furnace can achieve higher levels of heating than almost any other heating system, so if you live in a house with insulation problems or any need for greater heat, a furnace is the best investment.

Furnaces have immense flexibility: there’s almost always a furnace for every home, thanks to their many options for fuel and sizing. If your home already has ductwork installed, a furnace allow for easy installation that saves space without needing to put in radiators or baseboard heaters for a boiler.

Which one wins when it comes to your home?

This is the big question, of course, and it isn’t one you can answer without the assistance of Frederick, MD heating professionals. With the assistance of HVAC technicians to perform a heat load calculation in your home, you’ll discover which system provides sufficient heat without sacrificing too much efficiency. The technicians will take into account your budget plans as well. At the end of the installation, you’ll have the winner of the boiler vs. furnace battle working in your home, giving you the best heat possible.

Contact Larry & Sons, Inc.: since 1960, we’ve helped customers pick the right side in their own boiler vs. furnace debate.

Signs of Septic Tank Problems

March 3rd, 2014 by Mike Corbett

The septic tank serves as a sort of small-scale sewage treatment system for your home. Waste water arrives from your toilet, shower or sink and goes into the tank. Solid waste sinks to the bottom while grease and oil float to the top. Bacteria in the tank helps to break down the solid waste. Water then flows out of the tank and into a drainfield, leaving the solid waste and scum behind.  The water is further processed in the drainfield, where microbes remove contaminants as the water percolates through the soil. In the area of Western Virginia, septic tanks are fairly common, especially in rural areas that don’t have access to a sewer line. And septic tanks develop problems like any other system, usually requiring professional services to address. You can help out the process by watching for signs of septic problems.

Because septic tanks are underground, it’s tough to see issues in the tank itself. Instead, the drainfield provides the most obvious clues, and you should direct your attention there when looking for septic tank problems. The most obvious sign is a strange odor emanating from the field, or wet spots that appear in the ground. You might also notice one or more sections of the drain field appearing greener than others, a sign that flow below isn’t proceeding evenly.

You can also check your plumbing system for signs that the septic tank might be encountering difficulties. If your toilets flush more sluggishly than normal, for instance, it might indicate a problem, especially after a heavy rain or during periods when you’re using the toilet a lot. The toilets might overflow, or you may smell bad odors coming from your sink or shower. And of course, these concerns increase if these problems continue even after you’ve had the tank pumped.

If you spot signs of septic tank problems, don’t hesitate to call the professionals at Larry & Sons Inc. for help. We serve most communities around West Virgina, septic tanks are among our specialized service calls, and we’ll go the extra mile to make sure you’re happy with our work. Septic tank problems have a way of getting out of hand, and the sooner you can jump on them, the better. Give us a call today and let us show you what we can do!

How Your Furnace Could be Causing You High Utility Bills

February 24th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

Furnaces need to work overtime during the winter months, and in Frederick, MD, furnace technology has been sorely tested amid all of our heavy storms this winter. We’re accustomed to paying higher energy bills in cold weather. But higher demand for heating shouldn’t cover up for waste and inefficiency, which take money from your pocket in unnecessary monthly costs. The more aware you are of the problem, the better able you are to address it in an effective manner. Here’s how your furnace could be causing you high utility bills.

A lot of it comes down to basic upkeep. Dirt and grime build up over time, especially with furnaces kept in out-of-the-way locations like your basement. That dirt affects the ability of various components to function. For example, they can clog the burners, reducing your furnace’s heating power, or they can increase friction on moving parts such as your fan motor.

In addition, bolts and other fittings can loosen over time, causing components to rattle in their housings and further reducing overall efficiency. Then there the question of clogs and blockage, which can reduce air flow and impede the furnace’s ability to heat your home. Low air flow can also arise from a problem with the fan more or fan blade.

Finally, it might simply be that your furnace is quite old and its overall efficiency is lower than it needs to be. Furnaces measure their efficiency with a percentage, called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating (or AFUE), that measures the overall amount of energy used against the energy that actually goes into the heating of your home. The lower the AFUE rating, the less efficient the heater is and the more money you’re wasting on lost energy. If your furnace is more than ten years old and isn’t performing very well you may want to consider replacing it.

Even if you don’t need to replace your furnace, a qualified expert like the ones at Larry & Sons can help. We know how your furnace could be causing your high utility bills, and our maintenance program is designed to address the issue.  In Frederick MD, furnace repairs and maintenance don’t get any more reliable than us. Call us today to make an appointment!

3 Common Repairs for Geothermal Systems

February 18th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

Geothermal heating systems consist of a heat pump and pipes below the ground on your property, which draw upon the ambient temperatures of the earth itself to warm your home. Below the ground, the earth’s temperature doesn’t change, and that constant allows tubes full of liquid to facilitate a heat exchange and warm your home with it. Geothermal systems require a certain amount of land space, but they’re inexpensive to run and can save you a great deal of money on monthly heating costs. However, even though they are very reliable systems, you might occasionally need to schedule repairs with a reliable Frederick, MD heating contractor. Below are some common geothermal repairs:

  • Leaks: Leaks rarely happen within the tubing itself, since it’s underground and thus protected from most forms of damage. Refrigerant leaks in the heat pump inside your home are more common, however, and can severely restrict the efficiency of your unit. Sometimes, you will be able to see signs of the refrigerant leak, but more often, the signs will be more subtle: usually with higher energy bills signaling the system’s lost effectiveness.
  • Air Flow Problems: Just like with an air source heat pump, proper air flow speed is essential to effective heating. Air flow that is too fast will lead to inadequate heating, and air flow that is too slow will lead to hot and cold spots throughout your home. Your technician can check the air flow during your annual maintenance visit.
  • Thermostat Issues: As with any heating system, an inaccurate or malfunctioning thermostat can cause issues with your geothermal system. Make sure that your thermostat is set to “heat” and that it is turned up high enough to trigger your system. If those two things are not the issue, call a professional to take a look at your thermostat.

Larry & Sons Inc. can handle any geothermal issues you may have, as well as any other Frederick, MD heating service you need. Pick up the phone and call us today to make an appointment!

Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

February 14th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

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 Larry & Sons, Inc. hope you have a wonderful February 14th!

Why You Need Leaks Repaired, No Matter How Small

February 6th, 2014 by Mike Corbett

No one likes dealing with plumbing leaks, and it may be tempting to simply ignore them: especially if they’re small. This is invariably a huge mistake. Our Frederick, MD plumbing repair services can fix most leaks fairly quickly and in the process save you a lot of money.

Here’s why you need leaks repaired, no matter how small:

Leaky water is damaging, not only to the plumbing, but also to surrounding wood and other components in your home. If the water is just allowed to leak out, it can soften the wood in the walls and beneath the sink, necessitating their repair. Over time, this can become extremely expensive, and even if left for just a short while, the damage it can cause to your home is staggering. And that’s only the immediate effects. Leaks into wood can facilitate the growth of mold, spores and fungus, which can in turn create a substantial health risk for you and your family.

In addition, the plumbing itself becomes less useful when leaks spring up. The water pressure drops and your faucet won’t run as quickly or as smoothly. In some case, it might not run at all, and until the leak is repaired that part of the plumbing might very well become useless.

Lost water also means higher bills as well, since the water leaking out of the pipe still has to be paid for. Finally and perhaps most obviously, leaks create puddles which can in turn create a safety hazard. You can choose to mop up the water every day (or even every few hours depending on the severity of the leak), or you can summon a qualified plumber and get the problem addressed.

Luckily, our Frederick, MD plumbing repair services take care of any leak you may have. We know why you need leaks repaired, no matter how small, and we know how to do the job right the first time every time. If you’re having trouble with leaky plumbing, shut off the water in your house, and give Larry & Sons, Inc a call right away. You’ll be glad that you did!