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Our Best Tips for Avoiding Frozen Pipes This Winter – Or Tonight

By Joseph Braswell, Owner

During the winter, freezing pipes can become a serious problem, especially if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Whether you’re ready to take action now before winter arrives, or your scouring the internet the night before a freeze, we have all the information you need.

Before we jump into some tips, you’re probably wondering if you should really be worried about your pipes freezing.

While, theoretically, a pipe can freeze if it’s 32 degrees outside, more often than not, your pipes are going to be a little bit warmer than that since they’re either underground or inside the home. Most of the time, you have to be approaching the teens for 48 to 72 hours before it becomes a real big fear. The main exception here is if you have an outside hose that’s attached to your house; that’s going to freeze a little bit easier. At the same time, keep in mind that even if your pipes do freeze, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to burst.

That being said, most would agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t take the appropriate precautions, and your pipes burst, you’re going to have water damage.

This could mean severe damage to your flooring, walls, and ceiling, and cleaning up water damage isn’t cheap. Whether you’re being proactive prepping for the cold weather ahead, or you’ve procrastinated and just found out it’s going to freeze tonight, just follow these tips to avoid having to deal with frozen pipes this winter.

If winter is on the way, and you’re being proactive:

  • Insulate your pipes. Make sure you don’t have any bare pipes showing in your attic, basement, or crawlspace. Vulnerable pipes in these spaces should be fitted with foam or fiberglass insulation sleeves.
  • Wrap heat tape around pipes that are exposed to the elements. Heat tape is just like an extension cord that’s essentially going to let off heat so the pipes won’t freeze. This is especially important for pipes that are in an attic, unfinished basement, or garage.
  • Apply covers to outside faucets. An outside hose connected to the house has the potential to hold water in the faucet that could expand and burst. You can prevent this by using covers from your local hardware store that are only a couple dollars. There’s no installation; you just pop them on there.

If you procrastinated, and it’s going to freeze tonight:

  • Leave the water running a little bit. This isn’t a fix all because even if it’s running a little bit, there’s still the possibility of your pipes freezing, especially if it’s going to be cold for a longer period of time. But if you’re just going to have one night of real low temperatures, you can let a faucet drip for a little while, and that moving water will help prevent them from freezing.
  • Unhook your hoses from the faucets outside. If you don’t have time to go out and buy the covers mentioned above, your best bet to avoid frozen faucets outside is to simply unhook the hose.

If you procrastinated, and you’re going out of town:

  • Keep your heat on. A lot of times, people that are going out of town or have a rental property don’t leave the heat on when they’re not there. But in the winter, you need to have your heat on at a minimum of 50 or 60 degrees. Some of that heat will seep into the basement or crawlspace and keep your pipes a little bit warmer.
  • Turn the water off at the street. This is a good precaution to take, especially if you’ll be gone for an extended period. This way, if the pipes did freeze and burst, you would know that the water wouldn’t just be running.

If you’ve really procrastinated and now have frozen pipes on your hands, the best thing you can do is just wait until they thaw. Other than putting the heat tape on your pipes or getting a hair dryer to thaw them out, there’s really nothing you can do. If the situation takes a turn for the worse, and a pipe bursts, turn the water off at the street or call a plumber to do it for you. If the plumber can’t get there quickly, a lot of your local fire departments will turn the water off at the street for you. Then the next time winter comes around, just be sure to take the appropriate precautions before the cold weather hits.

Contact Guin Service, LLC in Birmingham, AL for AC Repair or Replacement. We’ve been in business for 60 years because we do what’s right for our customers. You can always trust us to be honest and have your best interest in mind. We’re happy to come out and give you a free second opinion if you’ve been told you have to replace your AC. While we may come out and say that’s not a bad idea, we’ll also give you your options, or repair your unit until you’re ready to make the decision. Just give us a call today at 205.595.4846.

Professional and DIY Ways to Prep Your Heating System for the Cold Weather Ahead

HVAC Contractor

By: Joseph Braswell, Owner

The cold weather will be here before you know it, and the last thing you want is to be stuck without heat when it does. If you have a very old furnace, or you’ve had a technician tell you that it’s close to its life expectancy, it’s probably a good idea to have your system checked out beforehand. While you may want to know how to check it out yourself before the winter hits, I strongly advise against anyone other than a licensed technician do this since you’re having to deal with natural gas.

At Guin Service, when we come out for a pre-winter service call, we’ll check a few things in order to ensure your system is not only functioning efficiently, but also not putting you and your family in any danger. 

 

Our top priority is to ensure there are no leaks in the heat exchanger that could cause carbon monoxide issues.  

The heat exchanger is essentially the inner workings of the furnace where the flames are, and it’s designed to where those flames burn in a certain way. If those heat exchangers have any cracks in them, the flames don’t act properly, meaning gas and fumes can start to leak out. That’s where you get carbon monoxide issues. From a safety standpoint, we want to make sure the burners are working properly, and there’s no chance of carbon monoxide leaking out into the home.

 

We’ll also check the vent to make sure the exhaust is not coming into your home.

We’re not talking about the vent the air comes out into your home, but the vent the exhaust goes out. Think about your car. What if the exhaust pipe from your car was blowing all that inside the vehicle? Now that wouldn’t be good. We’ll make sure the vent is leading outside without any cracks or leaks.

 

What can you do to have a more efficient system – and lower power bills this winter?

A dirty system due to lack of maintenance is the number one cause of failure, on both the heating and cooling side. Of course, before it goes out, this will also cause your power bill to be much higher than it needs to be. Sitting there dirty for years and years causes the system to work harder than it was intended to, and that’s why it’s so important to change the filter.

Think about if you had to run up a hill; you need all the air you can get. What if you had to run up a hill with a mask that only gave you half the air you needed? Your heart would have to work harder, your lungs would have to work harder, and you’d eventually break down. It’s the same concept here – when the unit can’t breathe, it breaks down.

And remember, you can’t change the filter too much. Whatever filter you buy, you should follow the recommendation on the package, though, as a rule of thumb, if you’re using the inexpensive filters from a big box store, you’ll want to change it out monthly. I will say though, if you’re interested in indoor air quality, we do sell filters at Guin Service that you can change out every six months to a year, depending on the home. These are really popular because you know they’re working well, and you don’t have to change it until we’re there to do your regular maintenance. We just bring that filter with us so it’s one less thing you have to worry about.

 

Let Guin Service Ensure Your System is Ready for Winter

If you have an older heating system, the team at Guin Service gladly serves customers around Hoover, Mountain Brook and surrounding areas. Plus, if you sign up for GuinGuard, we’ll give you a call every six months to remind you that it’s time for maintenance. And no, this service doesn’t cost you a penny – does your dentist charge you when you don’t come get your teeth cleaned? Contact us today to make sure your heating system gets the attention it needs to run efficiently while lowering your bills this winter.

Avoid Calling the Plumber with These 6 Tips and Tricks

While the team at Guin Services in Birmingham, AL, will happily come out to your residence for any plumbing issue, we know there are many people out there who’d rather take care of the problem themselves, if at all possible. From clogged drains to not having any hot water, there are a variety of issues we come across that not always, but sometimes, have an incredibly simple solution.

If you want to reduce your chances of having to call the plumber, check out these six tips and tricks that just might help you solve your plumbing problem all by yourself.

  1. Grab the plunger. People seem to think that it’s just for a commode, but when the kitchen sink is stopped up, there’s nothing better to use than a plunger. To unclog a sink with a plunger, just use it the same way you would on a toilet. Hit the plunger three or four times, and it’ll wash on through. Then get you a Clorox wipe to wipe down the sink, and you’re good to go.
  2. Use a coat hanger. On the other hand, if it’s hair that’s clogging up your sink, a coat hanger works great. Just remove the plug or drain cover and grab a wire coat hanger. Use needle-nose pliers to straighten the hanger out while leaving the hook. Be sure to make yourself a small loop or handle at the other end. Stick the hook into the drain and rotate the hanger as you push it down. Then pull it out, and just like that, you’ll have a hair-free drain.
  3. Try a vinegar solution. Many people also aren’t aware that you can use a vinegar solution to remove calcium deposits from shower heads and faucets. By removing these deposits, you can restore water pressure while also reducing the chances of them getting clogged in the future. While this tip works great, if you’re having to do it more than once a year, you should talk to your plumber about getting a whole house water purifier.
  4. Check your pilot light. Before you call a plumber to come out and see why you don’t have any hot water, check your pilot light. Or if your water heater is electric, make sure the gas is on, and all your breakers are working properly. You wouldn’t believe how many times we come out, flip a breaker panel, and the water heater is back on. We also recommend you check to see when you last paid your gas bill, as you wouldn’t be the first to accidentally miss a payment.
  5. Be careful with drain cleaners. Liquid drain cleaners can undoubtedly work wonders when it comes to unclogging drains, but if you find yourself using it more than once a year, it’s probably time to call a plumber. While it may be a convenient solution at the time, if it’s used too much or too often, it can actually eat through your pipes, especially if you live in an older home. This obviously creates a much bigger problem than a clogged sink.  
  6. Think twice before flushing. Just because something says its flushable, doesn’t mean it is. Whether wipes, hygiene products, or cotton swabs, just be aware that unless it’s toilet paper or coming from your body, it may not be the best thing for your plumbing. Simply being weary about what you flush down the toilet can greatly reduce your chances of having to call a plumber.

If you’re a do-it-yourself kind of person and want to at least try to fix your plumbing issue yourself before calling the plumber, use the tips and tricks above. These can not only help you fix a problem you’re having right now but can also help you avoid calls in the future. Of course, sometimes calling the plumber is unavoidable, and in that case, Guin Services is here for all your plumbing needs.

Why your AC may not need replacing–even if you’re told you HAVE to

Air conditioning repair

Air conditioning repair

By Joseph Braswell, Owner of Guin Services, LLC

Your AC isn’t performing up to par, so you get a technician to come out and see what the problem is. Instead of the simple repair you expected, they tell you that you have no other choice but to replace the unit.

While this may be a good option, the truth is, nothing is beyond fixing. Though sometimes it’s not the best choice economically, leaving you spending more on repairs than replacement, there’s always an alternative solution. That’s why it’s so important to work with a company like Guin Services that’s going to give you options. For various issues, we may be able to find at least a temporary solution until you decide if and when you’re ready to replace.

Should you replace your air conditioner if it has a refrigerant leak?

Refrigerant leaks are the most common reason we replace units nowadays. While the unit doesn’t need to be replaced due to the leak itself, the problem lies in the refrigerant used by the system. Freon, also known as R-22, has been used as a refrigerant for decades, but since it’s not environmentally friendly, it’s being phased out and replaced with a new refrigerant called Puron, or 410A. All new units made since the early 2000’s use this new refrigerant, and in 2020, R22 will be completely banned, which has skyrocketed its price.

If you have a refrigerant leak that you can’t find and repair, you’re going to have to keep putting money into expensive, outdated refrigerant in order for your AC to work properly. In this case, it makes more sense to get a new unit, with new refrigerant, along with a good warranty and maintenance plan.

When should Birmingham residents repair vs. replace their AC unit?

Whenever we run into the question of repairing versus replacing, I always tell the customer to look at cost versus benefit. If you can spend $1,000 and get five more years out of the unit, that makes sense. If it’s going to be $5,000 to fix, and there’s no guarantee the problem won’t continue, then it might be time to consider replacing.

When looking at cost versus benefit, age should also be taken into consideration. If you have a 15-20-year-old AC, and you’re having to spend a great deal of money on repairs, it might be worth spending the extra money a new one.

It’s actually no different when it comes to buying a new car. Let’s say you have a 1995 Honda Civic. You need a new engine and a new transmission, but the car probably isn’t worth $5,000. You may not be able to buy a new car for that much, but if you do – well, you’ll have a new car.

This is a discussion we regularly have with our customers, and it’s not often, if ever, we tell someone that they have no other choice than to replace their AC. You can always fix something; it’s just not always a smart idea.

Contact Guin Service, LLC in Birmingham, AL for AC Repair or Replacement.  We’ve been in business for 60 years because we do what’s right for our customers. You can always trust us to be honest and have your best interest in mind. We’re happy to come out and give you a free second opinion if you’ve been told you have to replace your AC. While we may come out and say that’s not a bad idea, we’ll also give you your options, or repair your unit until you’re ready to make the decision. Just give us a call today at 205.595.4846.