What’s the Difference Between Propane and Natural Gas?

What's the difference between natural gas and propane?We talk about propane and natural gas almost as if they’re interchangeable.  While both fuels are very similar, they are not identical and are most certainly not interchangeable.  Both are used for cooking, heating, and powering vehicles for transport, but their sources, physical makeup, and associated costs make all the difference (literally).

The Physical Difference

Natural gas is mostly methane that’s been pressurized into a liquid.  But natural gas also consists of multiple other gases including propane.  This is because natural gas is a naturally occurring fuel that is collected and has a very simple refining process.  Natural gas is simply cleaned before use to make it more efficient.

On the other hand, propane is a refined fuel.  Propane is a hydrocarbon, like butane and ethane, that is part of other materials.  These hydrocarbons are found in natural gas and petroleum, making propane the result of refining processes for both materials.

Similarities

  • Can be stored as a liquid
  • Produce carbon monoxide
  • A low emission fuels

The two fuels are spoken of interchangeably because of how similar they are.  Both are stored in large above ground tanks or in refillable, portable bottles.  And while both fuels burn relatively cleanly for the environment, propane requires more oxygen in its mixture than natural gas.  To meet this, pressurized propane tanks contain less overall propane and more oxygen by volume than a natural gas tank does.  This is fine as Propane requires less fuel to achieve the same amount of energy release.

An unfortunate similarity is that both fuels released deadly carbon monoxide.  When any hydrocarbon is burned, the liberated carbon atoms bond with oxygen used in the fire to create carbon monoxide.  This is why you should never burn anything in an enclosed space.  Always make sure that you can vent harmful fumes away from the area.

Differences

  • Propane is heavier
  • Propane is more energy-efficient
  • Natural gas is slightly cleaner
  • Natural gas is cheaper

When it comes to safety, it’s important to remember that propane is heavier than air while natural gas is lighter than air.  While both will easily dissipate into the air, they can concentrate into dangerous levels in enclosed spaces.  This makes propane more dangerous, as it collects along the floor of the room rather than seeking higher exits.  This collection of gases leaves it at greater risk of explosion or an increased likelihood for suffocation if the leak is undetected.

As we mentioned before, less propane is required to generate the same BTU output as natural gas, but each canister is contains less propane to begin with since a larger amount of oxygen is needed for propane to burn properly.  Both fuels burn cleanly, but natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel.  Many outdoor grill enthusiasts prefer natural gas grills over propane because of the difference in clean burning.  Some believe that the extra exhaust from propane affects the food itself, but many agree that’s part of the charm of outdoor grilling.

Which should you choose?  Natural gas is often connected via city lines, but can be shipped and stored in tanks much like propane.  Overall, the price of natural gas is less than that of propane.  The efficiency of propane often balances out the difference in costs so the choice of which is better remains for you to decide.


If you still have any questions or want to upgrade to a more efficient system, give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs —plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Why You Should Leave Vents and Registers Open

Why You Should Never Close Your Air VentsWhen it comes to saving money on heating every year, we hear the same things.  But, while “put on a sweater and lower the thermostat” is good, “close vents in unused rooms” is more damaging than it’s worth.  Sadly, it seems like common sense so we find people closing vents and registers in the hope of saving a few dollars every month.  With heating and cooling taking up roughly half of our energy bill every month, you’d think that every bit helps.  But what it the dollars you save just get put towards future repairs caused by the attempted savings?

Basic Ventilation Principles

First, how does ventilation actually work in your home?  Houses are mostly closed systems, with controlled filtration that keeps the air clean and clear.  As a closed system, this means that nothing is moving the air internally.  A blower fan works to circulate the air throughout your home.  The moving air redistributes heat by either dumping it into condenser coils or picking it up from the furnace.

There are two basic types of motors used in these fans.  One is a variable motor that can adjust itself based on the amount of pressure it’s seeing, while the other runs at the same rate regardless of external conditions.  Because the second one is less complicated and slightly cheaper, it’s more common in homes.  Unfortunately, this means that your home, more than likely, is going to be working harder to move air through a smaller space.

Air moves in cycle, as it leaves a space, more air replaces it.  This is why your home uses a system of vents and registers to move air through the building.  When you close an air vent, you reduce the number of avenues available to moving air, restricting flow.

Pressure Problems

This moves us to the major problem with closing air vents: pressure.  From the ducts to the climate control unit, whether it’s heating or air conditioning, your system has been sized to suit the needs of your home.  The amount of air that your blower fan can move is suited to the flow rate of your ventilation system and the size of your home.

The reduction in air flow is a problem for effective heating.  On the standard motor used in most household blower fans, that increased pressure means that air flows at a lower rate, leading to problems with heat transfer.  Additionally, the increased pressure means a higher chance for hot air to escape through existing leaks or to cause new leaks in your ducting.

Of course, if you have a variable motor, the reduced airflow is not a problem.  The fan motor will ramp up, increasing air flow against the additional pressure.  But this comes at the cost of the energy you might have saved otherwise.  Variable motors work themselves harder to make up for the decrease in air flow, decreasing lifespan and costing you more in energy to operate the fan.

Heat Backup

We mentioned that one drawback to closing vents is a problem with heat exchange.  When air flow is reduced, air is not refreshed quickly enough for proper heat exchanging to take place.  Hot air moves into the room at a lower rate, leading to colder rooms or longer furnace on-cycles.  In a heating system, the reduced flow rate means that temperature of the heat exchanger will increase as the air around it stays hotter for longer.  That increase in heat can lead to a cracked heating coil or exchanger, as it isn’t able to give off heat quickly enough to prevent damaging itself.

During the summer, you’ll find a similar issue with air conditioners.  Less heat will be deposited into the condenser coil.  It will cool down, leading to a formation of ice.  Since ice is an insulator, it makes it more difficult for the condenser to release heat.  It will freeze over, eventually leading to compressor damage and a home with high heat and humidity.

Alternatives for Saving Money

While it’s not guaranteed that closing vents will lead to permanent damage, it will cause your system to work harder than it needs to.  Often, the rooms you try to keep climate controlled will stay at the temperature you want, but you won’t save more than one or two dollars, and that’s only if your climate control system is improperly sized to begin with.

So what can you do to reduce costs during the winter (or any season really)?

  • Adjust the thermostat so your system operates less
  • Leave doors to extreme temperature rooms open to help distribute heat evenly
  • Use a ceiling fan to circulate existing air
  • Use a thermally reflective film on your windows to reduce heat transfer
  • Test your system to see if upgrading to a more energy efficient unit will help

If you still have any questions or want to upgrade to a more efficient system, give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

What is Trenchless Sewer Repair?

How to repair a pipe without destroying your yardSewer line repair is costly in more than just price.  After hundreds of dollars spent on piping, digging, and labor replacement hours, you can be left with thousands more in landscaping to restore your yard to normal. Unfortunately, a broken sewer line can affect your entire house, leaving you with backed up sinks, and overflowing appliances. The traditional method of repair requires costly excavation and installation of new pipe. Removing the old pipe from the ground damages your yard and can take days to finish repairing.  Fortunately, newer technologies and advancements in epoxy materials have given us not one, but two methods for replacing underground sewer and drain pipe without major excavations.

Pipe Pulling

The first technique is known as pipe-pulling or pipe-bursting.  It gets this name because the new pipe is pulled through the old pipe’s location, while breaking up the old and damaged pipe.  By digging a hole at the start and end points of the damage pipe, a new pipe can be lowered into place and pulled through the space occupied by the older pipe.  As the new pipe is pulled forward, the installation head (a large, cone-shaped bit) breaks up and pushes aside the older pipe.

Once the installation head is pulled free through the end, the new pipe has completely replaced the damaged section and can be connected the main plumbing system.  While some yard restoration work is required, it’s far less expensive to restore your yard to its original state.  Trenchless pipe restorations are usually a 30-50% more expensive than a standard repiping of your sewer line, but the savings from landscaping fees more than make up for the difference.

Pipe Relining (Cured-in-Place Pipe)

The second method often only requires a single access point for entering the damaged or old pipe.  Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) uses a strong epoxy to line the interior of the old pipe with a brand new one.  The new lining is held in place by an air-filled bladder until the epoxy sets.  The epoxy takes only a few minutes to line the walls of the pipe and will cure within 3-4 hours.

After the epoxy has cured, the bladder is removed and a robot is sent into the pipe to open branches and visually inspect the pipe to ensure quality.  When all is said and done, a single piece of epoxy pipe has fully replaced your old sewer line.  The new pipe can last for at least 50 years, and will last longer with proper maintenance.  The lack of joints, seams, and connections in the pipe prevent roots and plants from intruding and damaging the pipe as well, preventing future problems.

Benefits to Pipe Relining:

  • Single Access Point Required
  • 200ft of Pipe in Seconds
  • Prevents Future Root Intrusions
  • Stops Leaks
  • Strengthens Old Pipes

You always have a choice, no matter the repair.  If you’re looking at major landscaping to fix a pipeline, give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

How to Find a Gas Leak

How do I find a propane or natural gas leak?When using a gas fuel source, it’s important that you know how to check gas leaks.  Every leak is dangerous, no matter how small.  Every leak will also increase your fuel cost since you are steadily losing fuel over time.  It’s a good idea to have your entire fuel system inspected regularly for leaks anyway, but if you’re noticing a consistent fuel loss then it’s best to perform a quick check for leaks.

Homemade Detector

Gas leaks and air leaks from a tire are similar in principle (air isn’t dangerous but leaks out just the same).  You can check for leaks from your gas lines the same way you would from a tire.  Fill a spray bottle with dish soap and spray it over the area you think has the leak.  The most likely place will be where the gas line meets your appliance.  If you see air bubbles begin to form, you’ve found the source of your leak.  Once you know where the leak is, you can replace the faulty component and restore your appliance to service.

Carbon Monoxide

A major component of propane is carbon monoxide.  Carbon monoxide is hazardous to humans, but it is also odorless and colorless.  The only way to detect it if an odorant is not present is with a carbon monoxide detector.  CO detectors are inexpensive safety devices which should be placed near any gas-based appliances.  Since CO is heavier than air, it sinks to the bottom of the room.  CO detectors should be placed low, along the floor if possible for the earliest detection of CO leaks.  If there is a CO leak, shut down your feed lines and open exterior windows to air out the room and the building.

Gas Detector

Then again, you can always use an electronic detection device to identify leaks in a system.  These work similarly to CO detectors, but they search for abnormal pockets of gas in the air.  They aren’t able to identify exactly where on the pipeline that a leak exists, but they will alert you to the presence of a leak so you can find it or call a repair technician.

Deduction & Repair

Of course, you can always identify a leak using your senses as well.  Keep an eye out for these signs that you’re system is leaking gas:

  • Higher fuel costs each month
  • Steady loss of fuel even when not using your appliances
  • Hissing noise from pipes not in use
  • The smell of rotten eggs

The last point is especially important.  The scent of rotten eggs is added to propane to give it an easily detectable smell.  If you can smell gas, you should immediately clear the room and cut off your gas at the source to prevent more from filling in.  Call a service technician to help find and repair the leak quickly.


Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Why Isn’t My Furnace Working?

How to identify problems with your furnaceIt’s Winter, and even with this year’s mild winter we’ve already had a few cold snaps and freezing temperatures.  If your furnace stops in the middle of winter, you don’t want it to stay down for very long.  Especially if it’s something that you can take care of yourself.  There are two very basic types of problems with a furnace.  The first is that it won’t turn on at all, and the second is that it won’t function properly when it is on.  Whether you want to call them signs or problems, today we have the 3 most common ways for you to tell that something has gone wrong.

Furnace Start Failure

The single most obvious problem with a furnace is that won’t even turn on.  Whether you fail to hear the fan kick in, the sound of energy running to the blower motor, the noise of gas to the furnace, or the roar of flames from the furnace itself, a dead furnace is just that: dead.  Unfortunately, a non-functional furnace can be caused by any of a large number of failure points.  Common problems come from the thermostat, feeds lines, circuit breaker, and pilot light.

The first thing you should check is power.  Examine your circuit breaker box and make sure the circuit labeled for heating hasn’t been tripped.  If it has, reset it and wait to see if it re-trips or the furnace engages.  You should also check to see if your furnace has an emergency cut-off switch at the furnace.  Make sure that isn’t turned off.

Check your thermostat first if the heater isn't workingSecond: check the thermostat.  Is it set properly?  Is it correctly reading the room temperature?  If the answer is yes to both questions the thermostat may be broken.  It could be a switch issue or it could simply be failing to send a control signal to your furnace.  Either way it should be replaced.  If the thermostat is working and you’re simply receiving cold air, then you likely have a furnace heat problem.

Finally, check the pilot light and fuel source.  If you have an electric furnace there could be a problem with the heating element.  If you’re getting cold air, it’s because there’s nothing to heat it.

Breaker Trips

Your furnace should be the only item on its breaker circuit.  This means any problems with the breaker are with the heating system or the breaker itself.  More than likely the furnace blower fan motor is overdrawing because it’s overworked.  When this happens, the power draw increases, heating up the breaker and causing a trip.

There are three possible causes for an overworked fan motor.  The furnace filter is dirty and causing an air blockage, the ventilation ducts need to be cleaned, or the motor itself needs to be maintained.  If you had a proper maintenance done on the furnace it’s likely that the ventilation ducts are simply too dirty to push air out into the house effectively.  Otherwise, we’d advise having an electrician check the wiring and breaker panel for faults.

Furnace Fan Activates with Cold Air

Sometimes you’ll find that the fan kicks in but the vent only seems to deliver cold air.  This first thing you should do is make sure that your thermostat is set to “Auto” rather than “Fan.”  This is a common mistake and it’s easily fixed.  The Fan setting leaves the blower fan running to circulate the air, but it does not activate the furnace heating.

Other reasons involve furnace fuel.  If you can, check the pilot light to make sure it’s on.  If you hear the sound of fuel but don’t see a pilot light, shut down your furnace and call a technician immediately.  If the pilot light is active but you still aren’t getting heat, check your fuel level.

Problems with the pilot light and fuel systems should be worked on by a professional.  If you use an electric furnace that isn’t heating, you’ll need to consult a furnace electrician.  Electric furnaces require a great deal of power for heating, creating dangerous conditions for the untrained.

Of course, there are other signs you should be on the lookout for.  Strange smells or sounds when the furnace is running can hint at further problems.  If your furnace itself is beeping or making noise, then it definitely needs your attention.  While we always hope that nothing will go wrong, it’s nice to know the causes for these common problems and when we can fix them.


Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Improve Indoor Air by Fighting Dust

Improve your air by fighting dustWe put so much effort into turning our homes into closed environments.  We seal windows and doors, create positive pressure environments, and use central heating and cooling to control the climate behind our doors.  Unfortunately, this closed circulation loop promotes a build-up of dust and particulate chemicals that stay in the home.  These particles and dust-mites are brought in by shoes, clothing, and everyday items such as paint or cleaning products.

Fortunately, your home has a filtration system that helps to keep your air clean, but it isn’t perfect and can, without proper maintenance, compound the problems in your home.  Natural ventilation, open windows or vents, is a better method in many respects (cheaper too) but not entirely enjoyable during the winter.  Still, you can prevent a majority of breathing and filtration issues by dealing with one of the more common pollutants: dust.

Problems with Dust

Dust is composed of more than just dirt.  Dirt, sand, skin, hair, and flecks of paint are all contributors to dust.  Anything small enough to be carried around by the air can become part of the dust in your home.  Every single particle adds to the problems compounding respiratory issues such as allergies, but they also decrease the quality of living in your home.

Dust doesn’t just make breathing uncomfortable, it covers undisturbed areas and can become an eyesore if not cleaned regularly.  Increasing levels of dust in the home can also decrease the life expectancy of electronics.  Dust particles can settle inside computers, entertainment systems, and your HVAC system or furnace.  A small amount of dust is no issue, but as the quantity increases your device will develop heating or efficiency issues (as is the case with heating and air systems) that shorten the lifespan of the system.

How to Prevent Dust

You could try living in a perfect clean room, but that would require near constant cleaning and a lengthy preparation process just to get in through the front door.  Since that’s obviously not feasible, limiting the introduction of dust into your home is ideal.

Reduce or store dust collecting items.  Fabrics and linens collect and produce a great deal of the dust in your home.  While much of it is tracked in, the airborne particles collect in the folds of clothes and bed sheets.  Regular cleaning and washing will help limit the amount of dust in your air.  To deal with the dust you bring into your home, leave your shoes at the door.  Vacuum carpets and sweep floors regularly to keep dust levels down.

Of course, much of your dust is eventually pulled into the ventilation system.  Your air filter should remove this dust but if you haven’t cleaned or replaced your filter, it can’t do this properly.  Changing out your air filter will ensure that you have cleaner air at all times.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to freshen the air in your home is to open windows and doors.  So once the weather improves, take a day to air out your home and clean all of the fabrics inside.  Your sinuses will definitely thank you for it.


Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Why Propane is Safer than Lighting Your Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! It’s a great time of year, a little cold outside, but warmth and lights all throughout the home. Family celebrations of food, fellowship, and presents run throughout the day with different circles of friends and family. The decorations on your Christmas tree are especially beautiful, and they become the centerpiece for the event today.

Fairly recently, one method of lighting the tree (before the electric light but still a relatively common occurrence) was to place candles on or around the tree. As you may imagine, an open flame near dry wood is decidedly dangerous. A single upset and all that kindling becomes a blaze quicker than you imagine. Which leads me to the point: When you’re heating your home for the rest of this winter, a propane furnace is far better for you, health- and energy-wise, than a fireplace furnace.

Fireplaces

Beautiful, energy efficient, and carrying the nostalgia of nearly every warm-feeling Christmas song you can bring to mind, fireplaces are great for warming up and cheering up any room. The trouble is, a fireplace can really only heat a single room. A house that’s planned properly can heat multiple rooms, but the temperature drops the further away from the fire you are. Even with great insulation, burning wood can only heat so much of your home.

To make a long story short, a fireplace is excellent for warming one room of your home. If you plan on being in only that room for an extended period of time, then lower the central heat and light up the fireplace. But larger homes mean that option is increasingly unlikely.

There’s also the increased fire risk. Fireplaces are usually a centerpiece for the room. Long ago, the fireplace mantelpiece housed decorations, family photos, and memorabilia. While some still do, the spot above the fireplace now houses a well-mounted flat screen (typically). Since it’s the center of the room, more people than we’d like tend to place their Christmas tree uncomfortably close to the fireplace. Anything flammable that close to a fireplace is a hazard.

Propane Furnaces

A propane furnace is only slightly less efficient than wood burning. Much of the heat from a flame escapes upward, through the chimney. Yes, you could redirect that heat back into the home, but it would carry all the ash, soot, and carbon borne aloft. Propane burns cleanly, generating heat that stays almost exclusively in the home, while its own carbon emissions are reduced and moved away from the home.

A fireplace generates a good deal of heat, but it also lowers the quality of air in the home. Smoke that isn’t caught in the draft, heavier-than-air ash, and other particulates settle in the air. A forced-air furnace filters the air, keeping it clean and pure. The forced air system also pushes air throughout the home, warming every room.

Finally, propane furnaces, when used properly, are nowhere near as heavy a risk for a house fire. Simply keep flammable items away from vents, registers, and the furnace itself and there is nothing left to worry about. There are no stray sparks or embers that can catch in a carpet or living tree.


Happy holidays!  We hope you all stay warm this winter.  If you happen to find yourself without heating, don’t hesitate to call Boulden Brothers.  We work on all kinds of heating systems, from boilers to forced air furnaces!

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

How to Save Money on Heating

Stay Warm for Cheaper this WinterWe cover so many of the standard ideas for improving energy efficiency and saving money on heating costs.  From common ideas like lowering the thermostat and cleaning your air filter, to using a humidifier to raise the ambient temperature, there’s a wealth of methods for reducing heating costs.  But what other methods are there?  Today we want to show you a few other things you may not have considered when it comes to reducing energy costs.

Go Out and Visit People

The first suggestion?  Leave the house.  Spend a weekend taking the kids to visit their grandparents.  Spend evenings after work with friends, go out to eat or for a movie as part of a group.  Not only will you have fun, but every hour you aren’t at home running the heat is another hour you save on your electric or fuel bill this winter!

Hot-Water Bottles and Rice-Filled Socks

The hot-water bottle has been a trusted way of staying warm for generations.  Rice-filled fabrics are a great way to stay warm.  A few minutes in a microwave and you have a perfect jacket or blanket warmer.

Open Inside Doors

Of course, we aren’t talking about opening your home’s outer doors.  Just as closing air vents affects how your home is heated, so do open or closed doors.  By opening the doors to rooms which are warmer, you’ll allow for a greater exchange of heat between that room and the rest of the house.  It isn’t a vast increase in relative warmth, but a few small changes here and there can lead to overall changes in your monthly bill.

Fix Drafts

This is an obvious problem.  If any room or hallway is drafty, and you feel a chill blowing through, it’s not a haunting.  Drafts are a huge source of energy loss in homes.  You can have stellar insulation and the best in energy-efficient heating systems and still be spending more on your utilities because of a drafty home.  Locate cracks and crevices between doors and their frames.  The same goes for windows and any other kind exterior building openings.  Once you’ve found the culprits, seal them up to keep warm air inside and cold air out.

Move Furniture

This tactic is one that only applies to certain kinds of homes.  Specifically, homes using radiators or floor vents.  If some of the rooms in your home seem to have trouble staying warm while the rest of the house is cozy, check for the location of your vents.  If any vent (or pipe radiators) are being blocked by heavy furniture, it’s time to move it.  Heat radiates out from these sources and will be stopped by the presence of large objects.  Many pieces of furniture will act as insulators against the rest of the room, trapping heat internally.  Even if the room isn’t quite so cold, it’s best to check and move furniture if it’s blocking a vent.  Keeping flammable fabrics (or boxes) near a heat source is dangerous!

Shut Curtains

Unless the sun is currently shining through the window, your windows are a prime source for heat loss.  Glass is an excellent insulator, but a single pane of glass is not a good method of insulating against heat exchange from outside.  Drawing the curtains closed across your windows will prevent substantial heat loss when the sun isn’t on that side of the house.

Seal Chimneys

This one is easy to forget, especially since a fireplace is supposed to be a source of warmth.  Your chimney is an open path to the outside.  Closing the flue and any fireplace doors you may have can help to prevent heat loss, but they aren’t perfect.  There’s been a recent uptick in the number of chimney balloons being sold.  This is because they make up for issues not protected by a fireplace flue.  Chimney balloons float up and out of sight to insulate and block warm air from rising out of the house.  Just don’t forget to remove them before you use the fireplace.


Happy holidays!  We hope you all stay warm this winter.  If you happen to find yourself without heating, don’t hesitate to call Boulden Brothers.  We work on all kinds of heating systems, from boilers to forced air furnaces!

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

 

How to Hang Christmas Lights

Christmas Light and Electrical SafetyChristmas day is just two weeks away now! If you haven’t put up your lights for this year, then now is the time.  There’s much to do and many things to plan for.  Sometimes the excitement is so great that we forget to keep an eye out on mundane dangers (slips, falls, and electric shocks).  So to promote a healthy and safe winter season, we wanted to give you some help with hanging your Christmas Lights this year!

Design

Lights and decorations are a creative endeavor but, unlike many would believe, creative efforts require a good deal of planning before the first stroke is made or light is hung.  Planning your Christmas light layout is as important as actually having the lights in the first place.

Start by picking a central focus for your lights.  Do you want to accent that bay window where you can see the tree from outside?  Or maybe there’s a set of trees that would look amazing with the right lighting?  At the very least, accent the path leading up to your door as a focus for your lights.  Once you have a central focus, you can build outward for a lighting plan that shows care went into the setup.

Look for places to hang lights.  Trees, railings, pillars, and along paths are some of the most common locations for lights.  The molding around doors and windows can also make a great spot for anchoring lights.

Take careful measurements before you begin.  Obviously this means you should consider the lengths of each light string and cord before hanging your lights.  But it also means that you should take into account just how many light string you’re placing on a single electrical circuit.  You should never place more than three incandescent strings on the same circuit.  LED Christmas lights will usually list how many feet of lights can be placed on the same strand, so be aware.

Design Steps:

  1. Pick a focus
  2. Identify anchors and runs for lights
  3. Measure the length of runs and number of light strands

Preparation

Gather all of your materials in advance.  Make sure you have someone else around to help if at all possible, especially when climbing a ladder.

  • Decide on the type of light source you want to use. Are you going to break out those energy-hungry incandescent strings from last year, or do you want to spend the extra money this year for efficient LEDs?
  • Test your lights in advance, replace any broken bulbs and discard light strings with frayed wires or damaged insulation.
  • Compare the colors on your light strands. For incandescent lights, not all of them will be quite the same color.  The same is true of LEDs because of the binning process (when the LED chips are separated based on colors).  Compare the lights in advance and try to keep similar colors grouped together.
  • Keep your mounting supplies handy. Light clips, staples, and even nails should be kept close at hand.  Never allow yourself to overreach or overextend yourself while hanging Christmas lights.
  • Gather any extension cords in advance. Make sure any extra cords and cables (and the lights you use) are all rated for the outdoors before you plug them in.

Installation

Now that you’re ready, it’s a simple step to set up the lights. It will take time and effort, but you should know exactly where all of your lights are going to end up.  If you want to be doubly sure, try laying out the lengths of Christmas lights along where they’ll be hung (on the ground first) to make sure that you have the right lengths.

Take your time.  Yes, Christmas is almost upon us but that’s no cause to hurry the process and risk injury.  Be sure to move the ladder rather than reaching across a large gap.  It’s better to stay safe so you can enjoy the lights when they’re finished at the end of the day.


Stay safe this holiday, both in hanging up lights and in how’re they’re hooked up to your electrical system.  If you have any issues with power, circuits, or your breaker box, just call Boulden Brothers for help!

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

 

Improve Indoor Air Quality with These 5 House Plants

The 5 Best Plants for Indoor Air PollutionWe spend the majority of our lives behind closed doors.  From the homes that shelter us from the elements, to the offices and building where we work, a climate controlled environment makes up all but our commutes.  Every room is temperate, with carefully filtered air that’s clean and easy to breathe.  Or at least, that’s the goal of it.  The truth is, some buildings have more trouble with air pollution inside than out.  These contaminants can come from all sorts of places too.

Old paint, dust and mold from carpets or clothing, pet dander, and traces (sometimes in high quantities) of formaldehyde are just a few of the dangerous things floating around in the air.  These contaminants exacerbate allergies, inflame your sinuses to the point of discomfort, and can lead to ongoing respiratory problems.

Ventilation air filters are great for removing larger contaminants like pollen and dust as they pass through the air conditioner, and a UV filter will kill the majority of any germs unlucky enough to get caught in the ventilation system, but there’s one more layer of protection you can put into your home, one that’s just a bit more natural:  Houseplants.  The benefits of houseplants as an anti-pollution filter are well documented by the National Library of Medicine, based on trials done by NASA.  These trials were performed in attempts to deal with air pollution aboard the space station over long-term residence.

Beyond the bacteria, mold spores, and dust specks which your air filter removes, there are few elements (also known as volatile organic compounds or VOC) that your in-home air and the city smog have in common:

  • Ammonia
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Xylene and Toluene

While we could go into the negative effects of each of these, rest assured they are all decidedly harmful to your health.  If you’d like to read more about them (and other indoor air pollutants) we recommend the National Library of Medicine.

While our list of helpful houseplants is by no means exhaustive, we’re presenting the 5 plants which filter more different things out of the air than any other.  Of course, some plants are better at filtering higher quantities of individual VOCs.  And some plants, such as the miraculous aloe vera plant, have multiple other uses beyond just air filtration.  You can find a quick list of NASA’s findings here.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Plant

  1. What is your home climate like? Is the air dry and will the plant need repeated watering throughout the day to account for dry conditions?  Can the plant get plenty of sunlight?
  2. Do you have enough space for your houseplant? Some plants require very little room to grow while others spread out over time and will need constant trimming and care to keep from overrunning the room.
  3. Do you have any pets? Make sure that whatever plant you decide to keep isn’t harmful to any animals you have in the home.  Dogs and cats are especially prone to chewing on plants, so make sure you aren’t growing something poisonous.  What’s fine for you can be disastrous for them.
  4. Flowers generate a great deal of pollen. If you’re going to keep a houseplant, but have severe allergies, consider going with a leafy plant rather than something with flowers.  During the summer seasons, flowers will put pollen into the air which can aggravate allergies.  Your ventilation air filter is only partially successful at dealing with pollen counts when they’re originating from within your home.

The Best Plants for Improving Indoor Air

 

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Mauna Loa’)

image courtesy of Forest and Kim StarrStarting our list, the Peace Lily is a beautiful plant (as well-kept lilies are) which filters all of the VOCs we’ve mentioned today.  A flowering plant, the Peace Lily will add pollen to the air during the summer, but throughout the year it does an excellent job of trapping VOCs and mold spores.  These contaminants are gathered by the leaves where they’re pushed towards the roots and processed for nutrients.

Florist’s Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Image used courtesy of Forest and Kim StarrThe often-difficult-to-pronouce chrystanthemum (mum’s the word, if your prefer) is a beautiful flower that will make for a wonderful arrangement in your home.  It’s also excellent for removing ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, and benzene from the air.  Benzene is a common household chemical compound, found in detergents, glues, paints, and plastics.  Decorating your house with chrysanthemums will help to reduce the impact of benzene.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Image used courtesy of Forest and Kim StarrEnglish Ivy is almost as good as our two previous plants.  It trades ammonia filtration for lower pollen output, a much more hypoallergenic plant than either of the two flowering plants previously mentioned.  Since it is an ivy, this plant will require more trimming and care to keep it from sprawling out and taking over a room.

Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)

Image used courtesy of Forest and Kim StarrThe snake plant ties with English Ivy for cleaning your home’s air but it’s a very hardy plant.  Snake Plants are difficult to kill, require little watering, and prefer drier conditions.  They don’t take up nearly as much room as ivy either.  The Snake Plant is a great way to help with air in an apartment, where controlling the filtration or installing a UV filter is not an option.

Red-Edged Dracaena (Dracaena marginata)

image used courtesy of Forest and Kim StarrThis plant is also fairly difficult to kill, has a low amount of pollen added to the air, and removes VOCs such as benzene, xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde.  But this is not the plant to go for if you have pets, especially cats.  Pets enjoy chewing on plants (it aids with digestion for some, and is simply fun for others), but the Dracaena is toxic to some animals, most notably cats.  If you don’t have a pet, then this easy-to-care-for plant is a great choice.


Now don’t forget that proper ventilation and a good filter are just as effective (and in some cases more so) as natural house plants.  But plants are beautiful and an extra level of filtration for your home.  So if you already have plants, and need a new filter, central heating and cooling system, or even a UV filter, just contact Boulden Brothers.

Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!

Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.

For more expert tips on maintaining a safe and efficient home, visit us on our websiteFacebookTwitter, and Google+.

Floral images are used courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr under a CC license.