Which is Better: A Gas or Electric Water Heater?

Like most appliances, water heaters have improved greatly in recent years. Today’s models are much more energy efficient. That’s why you probably couldn’t replace your existing water heater with the same exact model…and yet, you probably wouldn’t want to. Instead, you may be able to purchase a more efficient water heater that will reduce your monthly utility costs and operate more reliably than your previous system.

Look at it this way: some cars get 15 miles to a gallon, while other, more efficient vehicles can go 30 miles or more on a gallon of gas. In the same way, some water heaters use energy more efficiently. Buy one of those and you’ll spend less money each month to get the same amount of hot water.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters

Gas water heaters use natural gas to heat water.  A chamber filled with water is heated by burning the gas. The main benefit of a gas water heater is energy conservation; since the heating process is gradual, less energy is consumed. With a gas water heater, you also are able to control the rate and extent of heating.

By contrast, electric water heaters use a copper coil is to change electric energy into heat energy. Electric units can heat water very quickly and can reach very hot temperatures.

Advantages of Natural Gas Water Heaters

  1. Quick recovery.  Gas water heaters recover twice as fast as electric units. 
  2. Lower operating costs. Typically cost less to operate than electric storage tank models.
  3. Safety. Natural gas water heaters have an excellent safety record, especially when properly maintained.
  4. Minimal environmental impact. Of all the fossil fuels, gas burns the most efficiently.

Advantages of Electric Water Heaters

  1. Lower purchase cost. Electric water heaters cost up to $700 than gas models.
  2. Lower installation cost.
  3. Longer lifespan.  Natural gas water heaters have built-in corrosive elements that typically shorten their lifespan when compared to electric water heaters.
  4. No greenhouse emissions. Electric water heaters are more environmentally friendly than gas.

Which type is right for you?  It’s not an easy choice, especially when you factor in another popular option:  tankless water heaters.  We’ll cover these in a future article.

For now, count on the professionals at Eagle Service Company to help you decide what’s best for you among all available options.  Contact us today for a free in-home estimate, including answers to all your questions.

Why You Should Drink Filtered Water vs. Bottled Water

If bottled water is a fixture at your house as a way to improve the quality of what you drink, it’s time to re-examine that position.

Did you know, for example, that about 40% of all bottled water is nothing purer or healthier than tap water? And then there are the plastic bottles themselves with are made with a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic hormone disruptor that has been linked to numerous health problems, including:

  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • Prostate and breast cancer
  • Heightened risk of obesity
  • Altered immune system function

An occasional bottle of store-bought water won’t harm you, but a steady diet of it can. Is it really worth taking that chance?

Health Benefits of Filtered Water

On the other hand, a steady diet of filtered water can help promote these health benefits:

  • Nutrient absorption
  • Weight loss
  • Improved skin hydration
  • Detoxification
  • Overall improved health

Filtered Water Options

Here at Eagle Service Company, we offer two primary home water filtration options:

  • Under-sink (point-of-use) water filter. This is the right choice for people who to be sure they’re drinking and cooking with the healthiest possible water. The water filter is installed under your kitchen sink and connects to its own dedicated faucet. That way, you can continue to use tap water for cleaning chores, watering your plants, and so on.
  • Whole-house water filter. This is the way to go if you want the cleanest and healthiest water possible throughout your home, not just at your kitchen sink.

To learn more about the benefits of filtered water and the options available to you, contact Eagle Service Company today for a free consultation and new system proposal.

Toilet Tank Problems & How to Fix Them

When it comes to toilet troubles, the dreaded clogged and overflowing toilet bowl is one that can send most homeowners into a temporary state of panic. And yet things can go wrong with your tank, too, but usually they’re a lot easier and less stressful to resolve.

Let’s have a look.

Toilet won’t stop running.

A continuously running toilet is more than annoying – it can be quite wasteful and costly as it constantly sends clean water down the drain.

  • First, check the handle to see if it’s loose or broken.
  • If the handle seems intact, remove the tank lid and check to see if the chain that connects the flushing handle to the ball valve is loose, tangled, or broken, as it could be preventing the ball valve from closing completely.
  • Also check the ball valve for damage. Does it close on its own, or is it stuck?

Toilet doesn’t fill with enough water.

When this happens, too little water is being sent into the bowl following a flush, and that could result in your toilet clogging.

  • Is the toilet water supply valve in the open position? Turn it to the right, then to the left, and see if the tank starts filling up with water.
  • If the water supply valve is fully open, you could have a problem with the float level. In an older toilet, you can adjust the float level by bending the metal arm upward. Newer toilets either have a small clip that you can pinch and slide the float up along the rod, or a screw that you turn, one that’s located on top of the float.
  • The fill valve could be clogged. The fill valve is what moves water into the tank over time, it can become clogged with mineral deposits or debris. Shut off the water to the toilet, remove the fill valve cap, and let the water run for a few seconds to flush out the debris. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the fill valve.

Cracks in your toilet tank are pretty easy to locate and repair, especially those above the water line.  Whatever the specific problem might be, you can count on Eagle Service Company to repair or replace your toilet if you don’t have the time, tools, or inclination to go it alone. Think of us as your personal plumbers for every reason and every season, and always with a guaranteed upfront price quote and your satisfaction guaranteed.

How to Buy a New Water Heater

“I’d like the white one, please!”

If only it were that simple to buy a new or replacement water heater. If anything, the process has become more challenging ever since new federal energy conservation measures took effect in 2015.

On the flip side, you have more options than ever. And that means more ways to enjoy all the hot water your family needs while cutting your utility costs.

At Eagle Service Company, we’ll start by explaining water heater options that weren’t included even just a few years ago. Gas water heaters of 55 gallons or greater capacity, for example, have been replaced by gas condensing water heaters. Conventional electric water heaters in that same size category also have ceased to exist. But what took its place is much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly:  electric hybrid heat pump water heaters.

Conversely, let’s say you have a smallish home or live in a condo with a 40-gallon water heater and you’re looking for a replacement unit, gas or electric. Well, if your current water heater fits the space it’s in with no room to spare, we have a challenge on our hands. Newer water heaters are bigger to accommodate the added insulation required for them to meet stricter energy efficiency standards.

And then there are tankless water heaters. That’s right – no storage tank but, with the right size system, all the hot water you need. Plus, they can be installed almost anywhere, including inside a closet.

All of which suggests that you would do well to partner up with Eagle Service Company before venturing too far into “new water heater land”. We’ll help you determine just how much hot water your family relies on every day, and go from there. Ultimately, we’ll recommend what we consider best for you home, family, and budget. Because at Eagle, nothing else matters.

How to Detect Home Plumbing Problems

Plumbing problems usually happen without warning, and often at the worst possible time. Not that there’s ever a good time for a problem to occur, but some are definitely worse than others.

What can you do to cut back on plumbing problems and catch others at the earliest possible stages of development? Here are several useful home DIY tips:

Clean behind your fridge

What does cleaning behind your fridge have to do with your plumbing? Plenty, assuming you have one that makes ice by itself and produces cold water on demand. And that’s reason to at least look behind your refrigerator once a month or so to inspect for signs of water on the floor or baseboard. If you do spot water, chances are there’s a leak where the water line from your kitchen faucet connects with your water and ice maker. The sooner you get that fixed, the better. 

Don’t ignore low water pressure

If water pressure is low at just one faucet, chances are you have an isolated problem. But if you’re experiencing low water pressure at multiple water sources, you should investigate the cause. It could be something as simple as the water department doing routine repair or maintenance work…one phone call can solve that little mystery. Low water pressure also can be caused by internal pipe corrosion. If that’s the case, it’s better to incur a repair bill than wait until your pipes have to be replaced.    

Remove hair from sink and tub drains

If anyone in your family has long hair, you have clogged drain problems waiting to happen.  To prevent them, clear out the stoppers in your shower, tub, or wherever else hair is washed at least once a week. In addition, use an organic drain cleaning compound like Bio-Clean to help keep your drain lines open while and hair-free. Bio-Clean is not available in retail stores, but you can obtain a supply by calling Eagle Service Company.    

Keep an eye on your hot water

The older your water heater, the more important it is to keep a close watch on your hot water supply. If, for example, it appears to be brown or rust-colored, that’s a clear indication of internal storage tank corrosion and means your water heater most likely must be replaced.

Here’s another great way to prevent plumbing problems in the first place or, at the very least, spot them in the early stages of development: start scheduling annual whole-house plumbing inspections. That’s a signature service of ours here at Eagle Service Company precisely because our inspections lead to lower repair costs and longer-lasting plumbing. If it’s been a year or longer since your last whole-house plumbing inspection, why not contact us to schedule service today.

How to Protect Your Pet from Heat Stroke

For pets that are heat sensitive, the steamy summer months not only make their lives more uncomfortable, pets are risk of heatstroke – a potentially fatal condition.

Here are some tried and true techniques to help keep your pets from harm:

  • First, make sure they have plenty of shade all day long. Just because they’re in a shady spot in the morning doesn’t mean the same spot will be shady later in the afternoon. Pets also need a cool surface to stand, sit and lay on.  Asphalt, for example, can quickly burn the pads of their feet.
  • Next, provide plenty of cool, fresh water several times a day. Make sure they can reach the water, and secure the water bowl so it can’t be overturned. Avoid ice water, though, as it causes problems for some pets.
  • NEVER leave your pet in a parked car. The temperature on dark, leather seats exposed to the sun can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit and hotter.

Still, how would you know if your pet is in the throes of heatstroke. In the early stages you’ll notice heavy panting, rapid breathing and a bright tongue and gums.  Try to cool your pet down to prevent the condition from growing worse.

Symptoms of more advanced and dangerous levels of heatstroke include unwillingness to move, noisy breathing, and uncontrollable body functions.

To help your pet recover, the AKC advises you to apply ice packs to the groin area, douse it with water and allow it to lick ice cubes. If it can’t be cooled down and begins to show signs of advanced heatstroke, take the dog to an animal hospital as quickly as possible.

How about inside your home?  Are conditions cool and comfortable for pets and humans alike? Eagle Service Company can help keep it that way with annual preventive maintenance, which features our multi-point cleaning and inspection service.  If it’s been a year or longer since your last such service, why not call today to avoid problems later on.

Common Water Heater Problems

Not that water heaters have a great deal to do with your daily mood – except, that is, when something goes wrong with it and you’re staring at two to three loads of dirty clothes that aren’t going to clean themselves.

Has something suddenly gone wrong with yours?  Here are the most likely causes in and around Birmingham:

Common Water Heater Problems

  • Leaking water. If you find water around the base of your water heater storage tank, check that the drain valve at the bottom of the tank is completely closed. If it’s even slightly open, it could be dripping water out of your tank. The leak also could be coming from the unit’s pressure relief valve if the temperature is set too high.  It’s best to keep that setting right around 120 degrees.
  • Water isn’t hot enough. If your water isn’t as hot as you would like it, there’s likely a build of sediment inside the tank. Try draining and refilling your tank. If the water still isn’t hot enough, there could be a crack in your water heater’s dip tube. This tube sends water to the bottom of the tank where it’s heated.  Even a small crack could be allowing cold and hot water to mix, thus reducing water temperature.
  • Water is too hot. A couple of possible causes, here. If it’s only a momentary spike in hot water temperature, chances are someone else at home is using a cold-water fixture while you’re in the shower.  But if the water stays too hot for an extended amount of time, the problem is likely with the temperature and pressure relief valve which will take a licensed plumber to correct.
  • Water heater is noisy. If your water heater is making popping or banging noises, the likely cause, once again, is sediment build-up at the bottom of the tank. Or perhaps you’re hearing a hissing sound, which indicates your system is overheating.

If the simple fixes mentioned above don’t solve the problem, Eagle Service Company can and will. Contact us today for water heater service or any other plumbing, heating, or cooling need you might have.

The Benefits of a Variable Speed AC System

Okay, so you’re thinking about replacing your AC system and are in the process of coming up with a wish list to discuss with your chosen HVAC company. The problem is, you’ve been at this for a while and you’re still staring at a blank sheet of paper of computer screen.

We get it.  An AC system is something you buy roughly once every 15 years, so how do you know what you want when you’re not even sure what’s available? All the more reason to hire the RIGHT heating and cooling company, but we’ll get back to that in a bit.

For now, we’d like to steer in you in one particular direction, and that’s to be sure to insist on a variable speed replacement system. Think about your current system for just a minute.  What’s one thing you hate about it?  Well, if you’re like most people, you hate that your house can be overly warm one minute when all of a sudden the AC system comes back to life and starts pumping out fresh amounts of cool air.  Even more annoying is that the process repeats itself numerous times during the day.

Well, that’s exactly what a variable speed system puts an end to.  That’s because once it’s on, it stays on until you manually shut it off.  But instead of running at one constant speed like your current system, the speed varies to deliver just the right amount of cool air to reach and maintain your thermostat temperature setting.

Here’s why that’s better for you:

  • More energy efficient. Even though the system air handler (the indoor component) is constantly running, most of the time it’s doing so at a low level. That conserves energy by preventing the system from having to constantly turn itself on and off.
  • Less noise. You can’t help but hear an AC system when it turns itself back on.  But without the frequent on and off again action, your variable speed replacement system will just go quietly about its business, all day and night long.
  • Improved air quality. With the fan running non-stop, air constantly running through your system’s air filter and dehumidifier to keep you comfortable and breathing cleaner, less humid air.
  • Improved comfort control. Constant fan operation allows your system to maintain ideal temperatures throughout the day minus the big fluctuations you’re probably now experiencing.

Here at Eagle Service Company, we want each customer to enjoy the very best in affordable indoor comfort, and you can count on exactly that. Contact us today for a free in-home comfort analysis and new system proposal.

5 Common Home Remodeling Mistakes

You’ve been dreaming about it, saving for it, and planning it in your head for months – maybe even years. Suddenly, it’s time to embark on your long-awaited remodeling project.

So, what’s the last think you want moving forward?  Costly mistakes and delays, that’s what!  That’s why you’ll want to avoid these 5 common home remodeling mistakes.

Not setting, and sticking to, a budget.

Remember that the quotes you often see for remodeling projects are simply estimates and averages. While you can remodel a bathroom for $5000, you’re going to pay quite a bit more for such luxuries as floor-to-ceiling marble, a cast iron claw-foot tub, or a multiple-head shower system.  So be sure to price out materials and labor when setting your budget. Then, prioritize your must-haves so you know where to splurge and where to save.

Questioning your decisions.

Between HGTV and Pinterest alone, you could literally spend every waking moment digesting new and old design ideas. Then, just when you think you’ve made up your mind, something shinier, newer, and more exciting pops up. That’s why you should consider your design ideas set in stone once the materials have been purchased and work has begun.  That’s not to say you can’t make small tweaks here and there, but changing your mind about the kitchen backsplash after it’s already been ordered – or worse, installed – can set you back by weeks, and cost you a pretty penny to boot.

Scheduling work without materials.

When ordering materials, appliances, and furniture, keep track of when everything is expected to arrive and don’t forget to factor in delivery time. Then, consult your contractor and schedule a start date for the renovation. Otherwise, you might find yourself without a usable kitchen or bathroom much longer than necessary.

Not staying organized.

Let’s face it, remodeling means temporarily living in a construction zone. But you can make that experience more tolerable by staying organized. Find a place to store items you know you won’t need for the duration of the project, and designate a place for everything else for quick and easy access.

Ignoring permits.

Whether you’re doing the work yourself or hiring a professional, make sure you know what does and doesn’t require a permit. Your father-in-law might swear that he didn’t pull a permit for his sunroom addition and everything worked out fine, but should a nosey neighbor report you or an inspector happen to drive by, skipping this step could cost you big time. Also, don’t assume that your contractor is pulling necessary permits, either. Ultimately, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility.

If your home remodeling project involves updating or placing any of your plumbing, heating, or cooling equipment, you’ll find Eagle Service Company a ready and able addition to your project team. Talk to us early on the process so we can help you stay true to your goals and budget, too.  For a free in-home consultation and proposal, contact Eagle Service Company today.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding

There’s nothing like a beautiful spring day. Bishop’s Caps, Harper’s Ginger, and Jacks-in-the-pulpit in full bloom, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the warmth of the sun on your face.

But besides all that visual and aromatic beauty, spring is prime time for something else:  an abundance of rain.  And where there’s rain, there are flooded basements.  As the song says, “you can’t have one without the other.”

Flooding

Not that you’re helpless to defend against the onslaught of rain trying to invade your living spaces, mind you.  Far from it, in fact.  Here are just a few steps you can take to help keep your basement nice and dry.

  • First and foremost, make sure your gutters are securely attached to your home and are not clogged with leaves or other debris. Position downspouts at least 3 feet away from the foundation of your home to direct rain water away from your property. Just make sure they don’t direct water toward your neighbor’s home!
  • If your lot slopes toward your home, it could be directing water toward the weeping tiles and putting pressure on your foundation drainage system. Consider having the system filled in and graded so it slopes at least 6 feet away from the perimeter of your foundation walls.
  • If your home or neighborhood is flood-prone, consider installing a sump pump drainage system. And if you already have one, make sure the well is free of debris. Test the pump each season by pouring water into the pit to trigger operation.
  • Cover below-grade basement windows with well covers. Clear acrylic covers can be fastened to the foundation to keep rainwater out while letting light in.
  • Check your foundation for cracks and gaps, and have them filled in or sealed properly to prevent water penetration.
  • If you have a septic system, have it inspected and cleaned annually. Long periods of heavy rainfall can clog sewers and septic systems and send sewage back into your home.

Even if you do have a sump pump, it’s important to keep in mind that it runs on electricity.  Hence, if you lose power, you lose sump pump operation until power is restored. To protect against that possibility, consider supporting your sump pump with either a battery- or water-powered back-up sump pump, one that will engage as soon as your main pump stops working.  For more information or a free quote on how to better protect your basement from flooding, contact Eagle Service Company today.