How to Improve Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

According to a 2002 report published by the Ontario Lung Association, a survey showed the public believed “indoor air pollution was a relatively minor problem compared to outdoor air pollution.” However, with many people now spending more than 90% of their time indoors, and “concentrations of indoor pollutants can sometimes greatly exceed outdoor concentrations”. This makes indoor air quality a major concern.

 

According to the US EPA’s “The Inside Story: A Guide To Indoor Air Quality”, there are three basic strategies to ensure your home’s air is clean and healthy: source removal, ventilation, and using air cleaners.

 

 

1. Source removal

 

-Dust regularly. Keep sheets and draperies clean.

 

-Clean your carpets regularly with a central vacuum or HEPA-equipped vacuum. Carpets collect dust, and also commonly contain bacteria, mites, and fungi. Many new carpets are a significant source of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde, benzene, and more. When installing new carpets, select low chemical emission carpeting and padding. See the Canadian Lung Association’s Carpet Fact Sheet for details. Better yet, replace carpets with hardwood flooring or tiles. Better yet, replace carpets with hardwood flooring or tiles.

 

-Do not smoke indoors. Do not use candles, incence, or air fresheners.

 

-Maintain gas heating systems regularly, and make sure all gas appliances (such as ovens) are properly vented.

 

-Do not store paint, pesticides, or solvents in your home.

 

-Use chemical emissions-free cleaning & personal hygiene products. See the Air Friendly Household Products Fact Sheet to see non-toxic cleaning alternatives.

 

-Run an exhaust vent when cooking or showering, in order to prevent moisture build up. Make sure there is no condensation, standing water, or excess humidity anywhere in your home. If there is, take a action to correct it.

 

-Test your home for radon. For non-smokers, radon is the most common cause of lung cancer. Unsafe levels are found in many BC homes, especially in the interior. See the BC Center for Disease Control’s radon page to learn more.

 

You can see the Canadian Lung Association’s 19 page Healthy Home Audit to see more ways to improve your home’s air quality.

 

 

2. Ventilation

 

To reduce heating costs, new houses are built tighter and better insulated than ever before. Unfortunately this also leads to stuffy, uncomfortable air. Filtration and source removal can remove some pollutants, but some chemicals (such as carbon dioxide produced by breathing) will inevitably be produced and can only be removed by ventilation. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) can provide a large amount of ventilation without increasing heating costs substantially. These use countercurrent heat exchangers to transfer heat from warm air exiting the home into the cool air entering the home. Up to 90% of the heat can be transferred. Sealing leaks and installing an HRV is also the ideal solution to keep home humidity levels at the right level. See the CMHC’s article on home ventilation for details.

 

 

3. Filtration

 

The EPA states that “Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so.”

FortisBC $200 Energy Star Hot Water Tank Rebate

When you install an Energy Star hot water tank before, FortisBC will give you a $200 rebate.

 

Energy Star hot water tanks have Energy Factors of 0.67 or above. This means that at least 67% of the heat generated ends up in hot water that is used, while the rest is wasted.

 

Standard new hot water tanks have Energy Factors of 0.62 or 0.63 (for 40 gallon models).

 

Rheem Energy Star Hot Water Tank
Rheem Energy Star Hot Water Tank

 

We install Rheem Energy Star tanks that are 69% efficient, meaning they use about 10% less energy than standard new tanks, and up to 25% less energy than older tanks.

 

Energy Star models are more efficient because the have a motorized damper (a type of valve) that closes when the tank is not in use, which prevents heat from being lost up the chimney.

 

 

hwtonlinespecials10

 

Learn more about your water heating options on our hot water page.

 

To schedule a new water heater installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

2020 Fortis BC Furnace Rebate: Get up to $1150 back when you install a new high efficiency furnace

 

You can receive a FortisBC rebate of up to $1150 when you install a new high efficiency furnace.

 

The rebate is $800 on a 95-96.9% efficient furnace or $1000 on a 97-99% efficient furnace. You can receive an extra $150 if you install a connected thermostat along with your furnace.

 

All of the furnaces that qualify also have electronically commutated motors. These motors (which are also known as variable speed or constant torque motors) use less electricity than PSC motors (the ones used in older furnaces and more basic new models) and can also provide more even and consistent airflow.

 

There are some requirements, including that your current furnace must not require repairs in excess of $1000. Your current furnace must also be over 10 years old and a non-condensing (non-high efficiency) model. 

 

You can tell if your furnace is condensing by looking at the venting. If there is a tin pipe about 5” in diameter coming out of your furnace, it is not condensing and qualifies for a rebate (assuming the other conditions are met).

 

See all the terms and conditions on the application form as well as the additional terms and conditions sheet.

 

At Good Guys, we will insure your installation meets all the requirements for the rebate and submit all of the required forms for you (unless you do not qualify or choose a system that does not qualify).

 

 

What does the efficiency rating mean?

 

The efficiency rating is an estimate of the percentage of the heat produced by the furnace that will actually enter your home’s ductwork (the rest is wasted up the chimney).

 

 

What is a connected thermostat?

 

A connected thermostat is one that enables some of the more advanced features of new high efficiency furnaces to be more effectively utilized. FortisBC has provided a list of qualified thermostats, and we can show you your options during a free in-home quotation.

 

 

Two Upgrade Bonus: Get another $300 when you perform another energy upgrade

 

When you make another qualified upgrade in addition to your new furnace, you can receive another $300. One common choice is an Energy Star hot water tank, which when installed along with a new furnace can get you a $300 two upgrade bonus in addition to the $200 rebate for the water heater and your furnace rebate. Other possible items include a tankless water heater, a heat pump, insulation, new doors and/or windows, or a fireplace. A connected thermostat does not count as a second upgrade for the purposes of this bonus.

 

 

Larger rebates for low income households

 

Low income households may qualify for larger rebates: $2000 for a 95-96.9% efficient furnace or $3000 for a 95-97% efficient furnace. The connected thermostat rebate remains at $150.

 

Low income is defined as having an income of less than $33,700 for a 1 person household, $42,000 for a 2 person household, $51,600 for a 3 person household, $62,600 for a 4 person household, $71,000 for a 5 person household, $80,100 for a 6 person household, and $89,200 for a 7+ person household.

 

See the FortisBC furnace and boiler income qualified rebate form for details.

 

 

To schedule a free in-home consultation and quotation on a new furnace, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466-3489) or use our online form.

 

How to unclog a bathtub drain

Use a plunger

 

A plunger can only create strong suction when it is filled with water, not air. Add a couple inches of water to the bathtub so that the drain is filled with water and also make sure the plunger is filled as well.

 

Cover the overflow with a wet rag. This is necessary to prevent pressure from escaping. In some cases, it will be necessary to remove the cover to the overflow (this is the opening above the drain that normally drains excess water before the tub can fill over). There are usually one or two screws holding it in place. After the cover has been removed, you should be able to block the pipe with a wet rag.

 

It’s best to use a sink or cup type plunger as opposed to a toilet plunger. If you are using a toilet plunger, you must push the flange back in, and also be advised that this can be unsanitary.

 

 

Remove the stopper & debris below

 

Next you can try to remove the stopper. In some cases, you will only need a screwdriver, but in others you will also need some water pump pliers (also known as Channel Locks). Remember to be careful not to drop the screw into the drain.

 

If the blockage is just beyond your reach, you can try unwinding a coat hanger and bending the end in to a hook in order to remove the blockage.

 

 

 

Chemicals

 

We don’t recommend you use strong corrosive drain cleaning chemicals. In some cases they can damage your tub or drain pipes. They are bad for the environment and also potentially dangerous to your health, so be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations before using them. If you use drain cleaning chemicals, extra charges might apply if you do have to call a plumber. This is because extra care will have to be taken not to damage your bathroom and the drain cleaning equipment will have to be cleaned especially thoroughly.

 

You can also try filling the tub with hot water, as the heat will break up some types of softer blockages.

 

 

If none of these tips work, you probably need a professional plumber. To schedule your drain cleaning appointment, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Clogged toilet? How to use a plunger and other things to try

Use a plunger

 

Most clogs can be removed with a plunger. Just make sure you’re using a toilet plunger, not a sink plunger, so that you can get a tight seal.

Sink vs Toilet Plungers
You’ll need a toilet plunger to unclog a toilet. A sink plunger usually won’t form a tight enough seal with the bowl. Image by Caitlin McCormick- Dribbble.

 

The below video shows how to plunger a toilet. Also make sure to keep an appropriate water level in the toilet. A plunger can only create a strong vacuum when it’s filled with water. If necessary, use a bucket to add water until the plunger is submerged. Of course, before you try flushing the toilet, remove water with the bucket if there is not enough space in the bowl.

 

 

 

 

Soap and water

 

If you don’t have a plunger, or if it didn’t work, you might try adding warm water and dish soap. First add a fair amount of dish soap, then fill the bowl with hot water (be careful not to burn yourself!). If the water level doesn’t fall after waiting a while, then use a bucket to remove some of the water before you try flushing again (so that it doesn’t overflow).

 

 

 

 

Coat hanger

 

If the above methods don’t work, one last ditch effort is to unwind a coat hanger and fish it down the toilet. This should be able to break up any soft blockages within the toilet.

 

Chemicals

 

Drain cleaning chemicals are dangerous and can even damage your toilet in some cases. That is why we usually don’t recommend them. If you do use them, make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If it is ultimately necessary to call a plumber, additional charges might apply if you have tried using drain cleaning chemicals, as extra care will have to be taken when cleaning the drains and washing the equipment afterwards.  This is especially the case when there is a complete blockage, as opposed to a slow drain.

 

If none of these tips worked, you probably need a professional plumber. Call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule a service call, or use our online form.

InSinkErator Garburators: Vancouver area garbage disposal installations

InSinkErator, a division of General Electric, is the top selling brand of garburators. They are known for making the quietest garburators on the market (for their Evolution series).

 

 

Badger Series

 

The Badger Series is InSinkErator’s lower cost line of garburators. They have galvanized steel grinding components, which are not as durable as the stainless steel components in the higher-end Evolution Series models.

 

 

Badger models include shorter warranties (1-3 years) than Evolution Series models. Note that the manufacturer’s warranty only covers manufacturing defects- it does not include things such as normal wear. For this reason we suggest you don’t expect all repairs to be covered, and that you should mainly consider the guarantees offered by the installing company.

 

The Badger Series includes the 1/3 hp Badger 1, the 1/2 hp Badger 5, and the 3/4 hp Badger 5 XP. The models share similar features except for the horsepower level.

 

 

Evolution Series

 

The Evolution Series is InSinkErator’s higher-end line of garburators. These models feature stainless steel grinding components for enhanced durability, and they have longer warranties (4-7 years). They are also the quietest garburators you can buy.

 

Evolution Excel: This is the top InSinkErator garburator. It features a powerful 1 hp motor and is the quitest garburator you can buy, besides the Evolution Cover Control (which features a drain cover that reduces noise).

 

Evolution Essential: This is the second best InSinkErator garburator, with a 3/4 hp motor. It is slightly louder than the Evolution Excel but still one of the quietest garburators available.

 

 

 

 

Evolution Compact: Similar to the Evolution Essential but designed for situations when there is a lack of space under the sink. It has less sound insulation than the Essential, which makes it a bit louder.

 

Evolution Cover Control: This is also similar to the Evolution Essential, but it has a cap that must be put in place before the garburator can begin to grind. This is for when additional safety is desired, such as when children are present in the home.

 

How much power do you need?

 

This depends on what you want to grind.

 

Lettuce and carrot peels can be problematic for less powerful garburators (1/3 and 1/2 hp units). These should be slowly fed down the drain.

 

If you want to grind tougher, more fibrous items such as corn husks, potatos and potato peels, celery, artichokes, fruit pits, bones, and egg shells, then you should select a more powerful unit (3/4 hp or 1 hp). Even with more powerful units, these items should be ground with caution.

 

 

We currently install garburators starting from $289. See our online specials on garburator installatons.

 

To schedule a garburator installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Waste King Garburators: Vancouver garbage disposal installations

North America’s best regarded consumer publication has rated Waste King’s higher end garburators (the Gourmet SS3300 and Legend 8000) as the best systems available (the Gourmet SS3300 was recently replaced with the Legend 3300). They were found to grind food faster and more finely than other garburators, minimizing the chances of jams or clogs. Their noise levels were also quieter than average.

 

Compared to InSinkErator garburators, Waste King models generally have higher RPM motors. This is why they are generally better at grinding food, but also somewhat noisier.

 

Higher end Waste King models include a stainless steel grinding chamber and grinding components, which makes them more durable than models with plastic chambers and galvanized steel grinding components. These models include a lifetime corrosion warranty.

 

 

Waste King models also include the longest warranties in the business, with some models even including lifetime warranties. These are in-home service warranties, which means that Waste King will send someone out and replace it for free if necessary (so you don’t even pay labour). However, note that this warranty only covers manufacturer’s defects. It does not include drain blockages that the garburator fails to prevent, nor does it include normal wear and tear, jams, or other issues. The network of contractors who provide this service (who may not be the same as the installing company) might also change and service might not be available in your area.

 

For these reasons, we suggest you mainly look at the warranties and guarantees offered by the installing company rather than the manufacturer.

 

However, while we don’t recommend you assume the manufacturer’s warranty will cover required repairs, the length of the warranty is an indication of the units overall durability and reliability.

 

 

Features to consider

 

Power

 

More powerful units typically also have more durable grinding components and are suitable for grinding a larger variety of food waste.

 

Lettuce and carrot peels can be problematic for less powerful garburators (1/3 and 1/2 hp units). These should be slowly fed down the drain.

 

If you want to grind tougher, more fibrous items such as corn husks, potatos and potato peels, celery, artichokes, fruit pits, bones, and egg shells, then you should select a more powerful unit (3/4 hp or 1 hp). Even with more powerful units, these items should be ground with caution.

 

 

Stainless steel grinding chamber & components

 

Some units have stainless steel grinding components, while some have less expensive galvanized steel grinding compontents. The stainless steel components are more durable, and will not corrode over time. Stainless steel units typically last longer.

 

 

EZ Mount or 3-Bolt Mount

 

In the past, garburators were fasted to the sink adapter by 3 bolts. Now, garburators with a rubber attachment (called an “EZ mount” system by Waste King) are becoming more popular.

 

While resulting in a slightly less sturdy installation, the EZ mount system is also slightly easier to install and enables a quicker replacement when necessary. The splash guard can also be more easily removed to allow clearing of the grinding components (if necessary- but be careful the power supply has been disabled when doing so).

 

Since the slightly lesser support provided by the EZ mount system is rarely a problem, these systems have become more popular and are much more widely available. For this reason, we usually install EZ mount Waste King garburators.

 

 

Batch feed

 

Batch feed models require a cap to be inserted above the drain before the garburator can be operated. This is useful when additional safety is desired, such as in homes where children are present (it also prevents the accidental dropping of silverware, watches, etc. down the drain which may damage the garburator or the items dropped).

 

 

 

Waste King Garburator Model Guide

 

Waste King basically makes 6 different models of garburator. However, they each come in up to 3 different versions: an EZ mount version, a 3-bolt mount version, and a batch feed version.

 

1/3 HP, 2 year warranty, galvanized steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 111   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9910   Batch Feed Model: NA

 

1/2 HP, 2 year warranty, galvanized steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 1001   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9920   Batch Feed Model: NA

 

1/2 HP, 5 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 2600   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9930   Batch Feed Model: Legend 2600TC

 

3/4 HP, 8 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 3200  3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9940   Batch Feed Model: NA

 

3/4 HP, 10 year warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 3300   3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9950   Batch Feed Model: Legend 5000TC

 

1 HP, lifetime warranty, stainless steel grinding system
EZ Mount Model: Legend 8000  3-Bolt Mount: Legend 9980   Batch Feed Model: 8000TC (batch feed model only includes 10 year warranty)

 

We currently install Waste King garburators starting from $199. See our online specials on garburator installatons.

 

To schedule a garburator installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

Rheem Water Heaters: Install an Energy Star hot water tank and get a $200 FortisBC rebate

We are now installing Rheem Energy Star hot water tanks. These tanks have an Energy Factor (EF) of 0.69 for the 40 gallon model, which puts them ahead of most other Energy Star models (which are usuly rated .67 or .68). They are about 10% more efficient than standard new hot water tanks (which are usually rated at 0.62) and up to 25% more efficient than older tanks (which can be rated at 0.53 or less).

 

 

Rheem also includes a 6 year parts warranty on functional components, in addition to their 8 year warranty against tank leakage. Most other water heaters only have a 1 year warranty on parts.

 

When you install a new Energy Star hot water tank, FortisBC will give you a $200 rebate. This program has just been extended until December 31st, 2013.

 

Right now, we also have an online special where you can save an additional $130 on a new Energy Star hot water tank (subject to end at any time).

 

hwtonlinespecials10 (1)

 

Also note that FortisBC rebates of $1000 on tankless water heaters and $1000 on condensing storage tanks are available. Learn more about these systems on our tankless water heaters post.

 

When is it time to replace your old hot water tank?

With some home insurance companies, if your hot water tank is over 8 years old, any water damage caused by leakage will not be covered. So this is when you should start to consider replacement. We estimate tanks last for 11 years on average (although this varies considerably).

 

To schedule your hot water tank installation, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.

 

How to unclog a kitchen or bathroom sink drain: Things to try before calling a plumber

If your sink is clogged, there are a number of things you can try before calling a plumber.

 

 

Use a plunger

 

Many sink blockages can be cleared with a sink plunger. You can also use a toilet plunger if you push in the flange- but it will be more difficult to use and potentially unsanitary as well.

 

 

Sink vs Toilet Plungers
It is easier to unclog a sink with a sink plunger than a toilet plunger. Image by Caitlin McCormick- Dribbble.

 

When using a plunger, be sure to get a tight seal between the plunger and the sink, as this is necessary to create suction. Also be sure that the plunger is filled with water, as it can only create strong suction when acting on water, not air. You might have to refill the sink multiple times before you’ve cleared the blockage. Cover the overflow (the hole at the top of the sink) with a damp towel, so that pressure cannot be released. If it’s a double sink (as in a kitchen) you must also cover the second drain. It always helps if the sink is filled with hot water (but not boiling water, as you could burn yourself) since this can help soften up blockages.

 

The below video shows how a plumber with 35 years experience unplugs a sink. Some prefer to use quick, repeated plunges rather than the slow single plunges demonstrated here.

 

 

 

 

If you’ve already tried drain cleaning chemicals, then don’t use a plunger. You could potentially splash corrosive chemicals on yourself or your bathroom.

 

 

Clean out the P-trap

 

Your sink will have a P-trap below it, which is where the drain pipe goes down and then comes up again (the purpose of this is to leave a layer of water in the drain that will prevent sewer gasses from entering your home). The bottom of the P-trap is a common location for clogs. If you’re a bit handy, you should be able to remove and clean out the P-trap yourself. For many types of traps, all you’ll need is a bucket to catch any water that comes out when the trap is removed. But for some types, you’ll need a pair of water pump pliers.

 

 

 

 

The below video shows how a P-trap can be removed.

 

 

Remove stopper

 

It is not uncommon for hair and other items to become stuck to the stopper and slow down the drain. Fortunately this can usually be removed and cleaned without any tools. The video below shows how.

 

 

Use a coat hanger

 

After you remove the stopper, you may be able to remove any nearby blockages with an untwisted coat hanger. If you’ve already tried cleaning the P-trap and plunging the sink, this probably won’t solve your problem, but it’s worth a try in some cases.

 

 

Drain cleaning chemicals

 

We usually don’t recommend drain cleaning chemicals. Not only are they bad for the environment, they’re also dangerous.  Using corrosive chemicals might also lead to additional charges if you have to call a plumber, as extra care will have to be taken and the equipment will have to be washed extra thoroughly after cleaning the drain. This is especially the case when dealing with a complete blockage (as opposed to a slow drain).

 

One less hazardous (but still requiring caution) method is adding baking soda and vinegar, followed by warm water. This can clear some blockages.

 

 

What about grease?

 

Grease is the worst substance when it comes to clogging drains, so it should never be poured down a drain. If you think your drain might be clogged with grease, one thing you can try is pouring dish soap down the drain. Dish soap is specially made to break up grease. See how in the video below.

 

If these tips don’t work, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) to schedule a service call, or use our online form.

Electronic Air Cleaners: How effective are they?

When electronic air cleaners (EACs) started to become popular about 15 years ago, they were hailed as a highly effective and economical way to clean indoor air. However, more recently, they have been criticized for their production of ozone (a lung irritant) and because they require regular cleaning (which many homeowners do improperly or not at all). For these reasons, most major heating & air conditioning manufacturers have stopped promoting them, and switched back to high efficiency media filters. But some still believe EACs are a good solution due to their overall effectiveness and relatively low maintenance costs.

 

 

Tabletop vs Whole-House EACs

 

A well known vacuum cleaner company has been promoting a tabletop EAC using TV infomercials. However, for homes with ductwork, we recommend EACs that hook up to your furnace, as they can provide whole-house air cleaning with only a single system.

 

 

An electronic air cleaner usually works in 4 stages:

 

1) A pre-filter removes large particles. These are usually made of a steel mesh, and can easily be cleaned under running water.

 

2) An ionizer gives the remaining smaller particles a negative charge.

 

3) The particles are collected on positively charged plates.

 

4) An activated charcoal filter removes odours and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Many odour-causing molecules and other harmful compounds are too small to be removed by any filtration system, except for activated charcoal filters, which capture many of these compounds. This is the only part of the system that requires regular (usually annual) replacement, although it is optional.

 

 

Effectiveness

 

An EAC can capture most particles as small as 0.1 microns (1/250,000 inch, smaller than most bacteria). A 1999 CMHC comparison of 10 different filter types found them to be highly effective,  removing about 90% of particles. They were found to be the most effective, and were ranked #1 for value, because they can be used for many years without requiring replacement of any filters or other components (except for the odour-removing activated charcoal filters, as odours were not included in the study).

 

 

Ozone production

 

A study showed EACs to increase indoor ozone levels by 7-10 parts per billion (ppb) on average. This compares to the EPA’s 80 ppb standard for declaring a “bad air day”, so it may be the case that the overall cost effectiveness of EAC’s still makes them a good option. Indoor ozone levels with the EAC running were still usually lower than outdoor ozone levels. However, ozone considerations may lead homeowners who are especially concerned with air quality to opt for other filtration systems.

 

 

Cleaning

 

A more recent CMHC study showed that these filters must be cleaned regularly (as often as once a week) to keep them operating at top efficiency. You can see an EAC cleaning video here. Homeowners who are unable to regularly maintain the system should consider other filtration options.

 

 

To see other options for whole-house air purification, visit our whole-house air cleaners post. For information about installing an EAC or other air cleaner type, call 604 GOOD GUY (604 466 3489) or use our online form.