How Does a Sump Pump Work?

What is a Sump PumpHeavy rainstorms, mild flooding, or heavy plumbing damage all run the risk of flooding out your home.  However the water got into your home, it will try to collect at the lowest point first (usually your basement).  With a working sump pump, the damage from water seepage will be minimal.

A sump pump collects water in a basin and pushes it outside of your home.  The collected water can be returned to a dry well or the city’s storm drains.  What matters is that the water is being direct away from your home and not right back into the flow that’s entering your home.

Older homes used to tie the sump pump directly into a city’s sewer system.  If your sump pump is connected to your washing machine’s water return line, then this is the case for your home.  This kind of system can overburden the sewer system so it is no longer compliant with city codes.  If you see this in your home, we advise calling a licensed plumber to redirect the line.

How it Works

It’s all well and good to know what a sump pump does, but how does something that small keep such a large volume of water from flooding your basement?  The answer, as usual, is science!  Your sump pump consists of:

  • Gravel-Bottomed Basin or Pit
  • Pressure Sensor or Float Valve
  • Centrifugal Pump
  • Return Pipe
  • Check Valve

As water flows into the pit, it activates your sump pump by raising the pressure on the sensor, or simply raising the float valve (this is for automatic sump pumps, we’ll cover manual pumps in a moment).  The pump is actually an electric motor which turns an impeller (a type of fan or screw) to move water within the basin.  As the impeller pushes water away, more flows in to the fill the void near the impeller, which forces water to move out through the pipe in the basin.  As it leaves via the pipe, a check valve blocks the water from returning, leaving it only one avenue of escape.

Sump Pump Types

While sump pumps are made up of many different components and come in multiple styles, the key measurements to consider when purchasing or replacing your sump pump are:

  • Pedestal or Submersible
  • Manual or Automatic
  • Pressure Switch or Float Valve
  • Head Pressure
  • Power Source

Visually, the biggest difference in sump pumps is whether the motor is suspended above the pit, or placed inside.  Submerged sump pumps are nicer to look at because the pump isn’t hovering above the pit as a visible piece of machinery.  The drawback comes with maintenance and repair. A submersible sump pump is harder to work on because it’s difficult to reach.  Most repairs will require a complete removal which takes extra time.

For manual pumps, they simply wait for you to turn them on.  Obvious drawbacks are that you can’t turn on the pump if you aren’t there.  For an automatic pump, take notice of how the pump is triggered.  Both float valves and pressure switches are triggered by water depth.  As depth increases, the pressure on the switch increases until the switch is tripped (more water = heavier weight = higher pressure).  Float valves simply float on the surface of the water, once the valve reaches a certain height, the pump activates.  One important difference:  Pressure switches are usually enclosed and can’t be adjust but also are not affected by junk or small trash, unlike float valves.

Head pressure is another factor to consider.  This is simply a rating that tells you how high a pump is capable of pushing water.  Measure the height of the pipe from the base of the sump basin.  You want to make sure that height (which is exactly how high your pump is going to pushing water) isn’t more than 80% of your pump’s rated head pressure.  This is to help your pump operate efficiently and prevent it from burning itself out with heavy loads.

One last thing to consider before buying a new pump:  How is it powered?  Battery backups and main line power are the options you have, but you might want to consider springing a little extra for having both.

Pump Testing

You should test your sump pump regularly.  As emergency equipment, when it needs to operate you don’t have time to spend on fixing it.  Once water moves into your basement it’s there to stay unless you act fast, and even an inch of water can cause a lot of damage.

The simplest way to test your pump is to pour a couple gallons of water into the basin itself.  For automatic pumps, it should trigger immediately and begin pumping water out.  Have someone watching the outflow pipe to make sure water is flowing away from your home as intended.  Wait until the pump is finished to make sure that your sump pump actually disengages.  This is especially true for submersible pumps.  Submersible pumps are designed to be cooled by the water they’re moving, and have the potential to burn out when left to run in dry air.

If the pump engages, removes all the water from the basin, and disengages successfully then the test is complete and your pump is in good working order.  It’s a simple test, so it’s best to check on your pump every month, or at least every three if you don’t have the time normally.

Protect your home from water damage by having Boulden Brothers install, maintain, or repair your sump pump!

Boulder Brothers is available to answer any electrical and home generator questions you may have. Your safety and comfort are out highest priorities. Feel free to give us a call at (302) 368-3848; we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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How Your Electrical Panel Works

How an electrical panel worksConsidering the fact that most breaker boxes are hidden in back room, storage closet, or outside of the house, it’s no wonder we don’t think of them all that often.  But consider the fact that your circuit breaker is the first point of entry for power to your home.  Without it, everything would be connected to the same firehose of electrical power.  Your circuit breaker doesn’t just protect your devices; it regulates for them.

Circuit Breaker Function

Most people recognize that your breaker box is a safety device to shut off your power in an emergency.  But it also regulates power to multiple circuits throughout your home.  The outlets you plug into are all set at 110-120 volts, but other outlets aren’t.  Appliances, your HVAC system, and higher-voltage outlets in your garage are typically set on independent dedicated circuits to separate them from the rest of your home.

Large appliances, power tools, and your central heating and air conditioning unit all have heavy power requirements.  The wiring in your home is not able to support these heavy demands (the wires are too thin), so to meet the demand (and save you money on expensive, thicker cables) a dedicated circuit is installed that powers these devices.  The heaviest demands are given their own separate circuit entirely, which is why your HVAC unit is alone while your washer and dryer are listed on the same breaker.

Separating these circuits has the added benefit of making many of your devices cheaper.  Without an electrical panel to separate, adjust voltage and current, and protect against high power loads, each individual device would require specialized and bulky equipment to handle those tasks.

How Breakers Work

Of course, the main function people recognize about their electrical panel is how a quick trip to replace a breaker or a fuse can turn the lights back on.  Your breaker circuit is able to do this because of the effects of current and power in a circuit.  As the power demands on a specific circuit increase, current increases as well.  This increase in current and power increases the temperature of all parts on the circuit.  In each circuit breaker there’s a small strip made from two different metals.  Metal expands as it heats, but it does so at different rates for each metal.  As heat increases, the strip bends until it forcible pushes the breaker into an open position.

Each circuit breaker is set to trip when a certain amount of current is being pulled through it.  For most homes, this value is 15 or 20 Amps.  If your circuit continues to trip, it’s a good idea to switch a few devices out

Signs of Aging or Damage

Some breaker issues are obvious.  If you cannot physically move the breaker arm to trip or turn on the breaker, then it needs to be replaced.  Melted plastic, a burning smell, or broken casings are all clear signs that something is or has gone wrong and should be dealt with immediately.

But you should also keep an eye out for other problems.  If the breaker is in the on position but you still are not receiving power, if the breaker continually trips as soon as it is reset, or if the breaker box feels extremely warm you should immediately consult an electrician to find the fault and repair it.

Reasons to Upgrade or Install New Circuits

Most problems with your electrical panel don’t warrant a complete replacement.  But sometimes an upgrade to a new panel, or a needed installation for a new circuit are necessary.  If you plan to add new high load devices, are upgrading to a more powerful central heating unit, or are building an addition to your home you might need to install a brand new electrical circuit.  Higher power demands sometimes require a new circuit to split the load, preventing an overload.

You may also need a brand new circuit breaker depending the type you currently have installed.  Federal Pacific circuit breakers were installed in many homes from the 50s through the 90s.  These panels are, unfortunately, prone to failure and dangerous electrical fires.  If your home is still using one of these outdated electrical panels, it’s time for a replacement.

Whether you need a new panel installed, want an upgrade to a more powerful circuit system, or simply need a repair on your existing panel, Boulden Brothers is your source for quality electrical work!

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 Home Water Filters Work

How whole-home water filtration worksWater cleanliness and contamination levels have been in the news quite a bit recently.  And, while the municipal water system is fairly clean across most of the US, it never hurts to make sure you’re getting the cleanest water available.

What Does a Filter Do?

Just like your home’s air filter, a water filter removes contaminants, particles, and other material from your water so you’re left with clean water that’s as pure as possible.  Just like with air filters, not every filter works as well as another.  They’re also affected by location within your home’s plumbing.

Water filtering system. Making clear potable water

Water filtering system. Making clear potable water

Removing contaminants from water is achieved by passing water through a filter and allowing those particles to collect on the filter itself.  This can be done by cation exchange (as is the case for water softeners), by increasing the surface area of the filter on a microscopic level (carbon filters), or through use a super-permeable membrane (reverse-osmosis).

All of these filters work, with varying degrees of success based on contaminant type, but if you put them in the wrong place you may find yourself not helping at all.  If your home uses older plumbing, mineral buildup, pipe degradation, and other problems can leave contaminants in your water.  Simply placing a whole-home filter at the point of entry won’t protect your water against the contaminants from your home’s pipes.  You could replace all the plumbing in your home, or you could install filters at the tap.  Faucet filters are effective for many, but not all, contaminants so they’re great for removing problems picked up in the “last mile” of water-flow.  That is, they’re good for clearing out minerals and particles left from your own home’s plumbing system.  For removing the smallest particles, or issues with your city’s water supply, a whole-home filter system is the way to go.

Types of Filters

Activated Carbon Filters – Positively charged, absorbent carbon.  Carbon filters remove the majority of pollutants from home water and can even be installed directly into the faucet.  Unfortunately, perchlorates are not removed by a standard carbon filter.  The important thing is that carbon filters will remove pollutants and heavy metals from your water.

Distiller – Rather than passing water through a substance to trap contaminants, a distiller boils the water and condenses the steam to be used as water in the home.  The heat from the boiler kills off most bacteria, and the steam itself leaves behind the majority of heavy metals and pollutants.  Unfortunately, a distiller takes a great deal of energy to heat water, so it’s not as energy-efficient as other methods.  The machinery used is also fairly large, so it requires a whole-home system or a countertop unit.

Ultraviolet Disinfection – A strong UV beam shines on the water as it passes through this contactless-filter.  The UV light sterilizes the water, removing harmful bacteria and living organisms.  It’s best to pair this filter with a carbon filter at the tap in order to filter out physical material as well, since the UV light will have no effect on heavy metals.

Reverse-Osmosis – Of course, RO filters are possibly the most commonly known type of filter.  They work well in combination with carbon or UV filters and fit beneath the sink or can be attached to your home’s overall water system.  A semipermeable membrane allows only water to pass through to the other side by taking advantage of the osmotic process of the membrane (where water will pass through to equal out dilution levels, leaving impurities behind).  The one drawback to this system is that it generates a great deal of unused water which is sent back through the water system.

Any of these filters will help to improve the quality of water in your home, but picking the right filter for your needs is key.  If you live an area with foul tasting water, a whole-home system will remove contaminants from all faucets in the home.  If it’s just a problem with your home’s plumbing, have a filter installed at the faucet. The best results will come with a full system at all points for the clearest, cleanest water you’ve ever tasted.

If you need any assistance with installation or repair of your water filter (or any plumbing fixture or appliance), don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Boulden Brothers plumbing!

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’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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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+.