NJ Snow Storm Prep: A Survival Guide for 2016

A few days before a “major winter storm” was expected to dump up to a foot snow on NJ (that is, if the storm system doesn’t veer eastward at the last minute), the state released its annual guide to surviving the weather.
“We’ve had bitterly cold weather this week and snow is in the forecast, so we want people to make sure they’re fully prepared for all that winter may bring,”
Make a Plan

  • Make sure your Household Disaster Plan is ready and all members of your household are familiar with how to contact one another in an emergency.
  • Winterize your Go Bag by adding a blanket, warm socks and gloves.
  • Your Emergency Supply Kit should be fully-stocked to allow you to sustain yourself for up to three days without power, or in the event you are unable to travel far from home. You may wish to include additional items such as extra blankets, additional warm clothing, and a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio to monitor weather conditions during a storm.

Winterize Your Home

  • Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clean out gutters; repair any roof leaks; and have a contractor check the stability of your roof in the event of a large accumulation of snow.
  • Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available. For residences with functioning fireplaces, keep an ample supply of wood. Utilize portable electric space heaters. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Install and check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; you may have difficulty obtaining fuel in the immediate aftermath of a bad storm.
  • Service snow removal equipment, and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction.

Winterize Your Car

  • Make sure to have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
  1. Battery
  2. Antifreeze
  3. Windshield wipers and washer fluid
  4. Ignition system
  5. Thermostat
  6. Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
  7. Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30 variety)
  • Install good winter tires that have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to prepare for an in-car emergency. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:
  1. Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation
  2. Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  3. Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, raingear and extra clothes
  4. Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel
  5. Set of tire chains or traction mats
  6. Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire
  7. Windshield scraper, broom
  8. Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  9. Booster cables
  10. Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares or reflective triangles

Tips for Staying Warm
Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.

  • When outdoors, wear warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Use multiple layers to maintain warmth.
  • Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
  • Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
  • Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
  • Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.

What to Do Before a Storm Strikes

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean.
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance preparing for a storm.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Let faucets drip a little to help prevent freezing.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Know the Terms

  • Freezing Rain: rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: issued when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing over a large area for an extended period of time.
  • Sleet: rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Ice Storm: when ice accumulations are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant ice accumulations are usually 1/4 of an inch or greater.
  • Wind Chill: the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside.
  • Heavy Snow: snowfall accumulating to 4 inches or more in depth in 12 hours or less; or snowfall accumulating to 6 inches or more in depth in 24 hours or less.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: issued by the National Weather Service when a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) may present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch: issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
  • Winter Storm Warning: issued by the National Weather Service when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
  • Blizzard Warning: issued by the National Weather Service for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to last for a minimum of 3 hours.

 
What to Do if You Lose Heat or Hot Water at Home
Call GREEN APPLE MECHANICAL right away at (888) 611-7191
Take measures to trap existing warm air and safely stay warm until we come to you, including:

  • Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while the heat is out.
  • Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and layered clothing.
  • If you have a well-maintained working fireplace and use it for heat and light, be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation. Never use a fireplace without a screen.
  • If the cold persists and your heat is not restored call family, neighbors, or friends to see if you can stay with them.
  • Do not use your oven or fuel-burning space heaters to heat your home. These can release carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell.
  • Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
Fire safety tips:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in every room. Test them at least once a month and change the batteries twice a year.
  • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use. Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day.
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. Never drape clothes over a space heater to dry them.
  • Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip. Do not plug anything else into the same outlet when the space heater is in use. Do not use space heaters with frayed or damaged cords.
  • If you are going to use an electric blanket, only use one that is less than 10 years old from the date of purchase. Also avoid tucking the electric blanket in at the sides of the bed. Only purchase blankets with an automatic safety shut-off.

Carbon monoxide safety tips:

  • Carbon monoxide comes from the burning of fuel. Therefore, make sure all fuel-burning devices such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors and operating properly. If you are not sure, contact a professional to inspect and make necessary repairs.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Most homes and residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors installed near all sleeping areas. Owners are responsible for installing approved carbon monoxide detectors. Occupants are responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide detectors in good repair.
  • If you have a working fireplace keep chimneys clean and clear of debris.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven, charcoal barbecue grill, or kerosene, propane, or oil-burning heaters.
  • The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are non-specific and include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness. Severe poisonings may result in permanent injury or death.
  • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
  • If a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, call 911, quickly open a nearby window, and go outside for fresh air immediately.

Is your Heater Up for the Holidays?

A properly working heater is the key to a comfortable home this holiday season. Peak functionality also keeps your heating bills down, an important consideration when other costs climb around the holidays. To ensure you and your guests stay comfy and cozy while the wind whistles outside, perform the items on this checklist prior to the holidays.

Change the Air Filter

This is the first and one of the most important tasks to prepare your heater for winter. A dirty air filter blocks airflow, reduces efficiency and overworks the equipment. On the other hand, replacing the filter regularly promotes cleaner indoor air, lower your energy bills and helps your equipment last longer.
Plan to change the filter at the start of the heating season. Then, check it once a month during the winter and change it when it begins to appear dirty, waiting no more than three months between changes. Make sure you choose replacement filters of the proper size and efficiency for the best results.
If you run an electronic air cleaner in the winter, be sure to clean the unit’s air filter according to manufacturer directions.

Check for Gas Leaks

If your heater runs on natural gas, a leak could develop and create risk for you and your family. Before relying too much on your heater this season, inspect the furnace for worn or damaged connections. Be aware of natural gas odors. If you discover a problem – either with your eyes or your nose – call a professional for further investigation before you turn on the heater.

Check the Air Vents

Supply registers deliver heated air while return registers send cooled air back to the furnace for reheating. If these vents are blocked, heating efficiency declines and you tend to experience hot and cold pockets throughout your home. This can create great discomfort during a holiday get-together.
To promote better airflow and a more even temperature, walk around your home and check that all air vents are unobstructed. Move area rugs, reposition furniture and tie curtains back if necessary to allow for ample airflow.

Test for Proper Operation

Switch the dial on your thermostat to “Heat” and turn the temperature up a degree or two to trigger the furnace. Listen for any strange sounds coming from the heater or the ductwork. If you hear anything odd, it may be wise to contact a heating technician for a repair.
Place your hand over various registers in your home, including those located close to the furnace and those farther away. Make sure the air is plenty hot and exiting the registers with ample force.

Schedule an Annual Tune-Up

A complete furnace inspection includes other tasks that only a qualified technician should perform. That’s why the final item on your checklist should be to schedule preventative maintenance from Green Apple Mechanical NJ. We have the knowledge and experience needed to check fuel connections, test the gas pressure, clean the burners, inspect the heat changer, test system controls and more.
If you experience trouble with any of the items on this checklist, please contact Green Apple Mechanical to speak with a knowledgeable technician. Call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ at 888-611-7191

Don’t Let Furnace Water Leaks Ruin Your Holiday

Isn’t it just the last thing you need during the crazy rush right before the holidays? Your maintenance guy tells you there’s a puddle of water under your furnace. Oh, great… there goes your dream of a profitable December and starting off the New Year with a trip to the tropics. Will you have to shell out thousands for a new furnace instead?
Don’t cancel your plans just yet! There are a number of reasons that can lead to your furnace leaking water, and most of them don’t mean an untimely death for your heating system.
Start by identifying what type of heating equipment you have, and check out these possible causes for water leaks.

1. High-efficiency furnace

If you have a newer high efficiency furnace (with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating of 90 percent or more), these systems extract heat from the exhaust which produces condensation. Normally, the condensation is drained through a tube to a pan or floor drain. If there is a clog or a break in the drain line, or if the floor drain is clogged with debris, you could end up with a puddle under your furnace.
Check the drain first and clear it if necessary. If the drain line appears compromised, this is an easy fix for an HVAC service technician.

2. Furnace with a humidifier

Do you have a furnace with a humidifier attached? If so, the humidifier could have a leak, or it could be clogged and overflowing into your furnace. If you catch this early, it may not be a major expense to clean out or even replace the humidifier. But if the leak goes on for a while, it can cause major damage to your furnace. Call an HVAC expert as soon as possible to inspect your system.

3. Combined heat and air conditioning heat pump system

If you have a combined heating and air conditioning system with a heat pump, the water leak could actually be coming from the air conditioning. These systems have a combined drain line which could be clogged. If you are still using the air conditioning occasionally, the coils could be frozen or the condensate pump may have failed. Even if you suspect the water is coming from the air conditioner, don’t neglect this issue because water leaks can ultimately cause damage to your building’s walls, ceilings and floors.
This may turn out to be a minor repair, but you need to call an HVAC service company with expertise in combined heating and air conditioning systems.

4. Newly-installed gas furnace

If you’ve just bought a new gas furnace and it’s already leaking, you’re probably pretty steamed. Chances are, you went with the lowest bid and got installers who are not the most experienced (or just trying to cut corners so they make money on the job).
There are several installation mistakes that can cause water leaks from a gas furnace. The flue pipe that exhausts the toxic gases from your building could be the wrong size, or there could be a leak in the joint between the furnace and the outside vent pipe. Also, the exhaust pipe may have been incorrectly installed; it needs to slope slightly downward toward the exterior so that water drains out of the building rather than back into the furnace.

5. Hot water boiler

If your heating system is a hot water boiler with baseboards or radiators, anytime you have a leak you should immediately close off the valve that feeds water to the system. If your slow drip is the precursor to a major leak, you’ll save yourself from a big mess by limiting the amount of water in the system until you can get an HVAC repair guy in there.
The problem is likely to be just a faulty valve. Especially if you’ve recently had a repair done, it’s possible that air was introduced into the system which increases the pressure on the valves. You’ll have to get the repair technician to come take another look. In the worst case, you may have a leak in your boiler, and there’s a chance it will need to be replaced. Call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” toll free at

  • (888) 611-7191

10 Things to Consider When Buying a Furnace

Plan ahead when making a new furnace purchase.
When winter rolls around there is nothing more important than your home heating system. That is why when you go to buy a furnace it is important that you take the time to learn about the different options available to you. Characteristics of your new furnace, like efficiency, size, and type, all have implications on the amount of money you are going to spend running your unit during the peak heating system, as well as how long your system is going to perform at peak levels.
For example, you should always go with the most efficient furnace that you can afford. Furnace efficiency is a measurement of how much of the energy put into a furnace is converted into heating power for your home – measured in AFUE (the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). Minimum-efficiency furnaces must reach 80% AFUE in order to comply with regulations. At the other end of the spectrum, the iQ Drive® modulating gas furnace reaches 97% AFUE! With the iQ Drive gas furnace only 3% of the energy you put into the unit escapes up the flue. Essentially, you are using less natural gas to heat your home, which can lower your monthly utility costs.
Here are a few more things you should keep in mind when purchasing your new home furnace:

System Features

System Type

Central heating and cooling systems can be laid out two different ways. You can have either a split system or a packaged system. Split systems are what people commonly associate with heating and air conditioning – comprised of a condensing unit, furnace and coil that sits on top of your furnace. However, many people who don’t have basements, crawlspaces and attics have to choose a system that can provide the same heating and cooling capabilities of a split system without having to find the room for a cumbersome indoor component. If this is the case in your home, you may want to explore your packaged system options. These systems contain your heating and cooling components in one, convenient outdoor unit. If you currently have a split system, but want to free up some extra space in your home, you can always switch to a packaged unit. The same works for people who currently have packaged systems, but would like to switch to a split system. Your local contractor will be able to recommend the heating system that is right for your home.

Fuel Source

Whether you want gas, electric or oil heating, there are options available. However, there are several important things you should know about each type. Gas furnaces run off of natural gas and are the most economical way to heat your home when temperatures drop below freezing. An oil or propane furnace is a powerful source of heat as well, but it requires more room for storage, is dirtier than a natural gas furnace, and can be significantly more expensive to operate (depending on oil prices). However, it is an alternative to a gas furnace in areas that don’t have gas lines – particularly older homes. The third choice, the electric furnace, is also an alternative to natural gas furnaces, but they can be a drain on the bank account. Electric furnaces must create original heat from electricity, which can significantly run up your meter. A most economical solution is the electric-powered heat pump. These systems transfer heat from one air stream to another – using less electricity. They also act as an air conditioner during the summer. So, for some homeowners, a heat pump can meet all heating and cooling demands.

Zoning Systems

Different parts of your home may get hotter or colder faster depending on a number of construction and location factors. If your thermostat is located near one of these areas, you could experience hot and cold spots throughout your home, or you could be using more energy than necessary to keep your home at a set temperature. A zoning system helps solve both of these problems. These systems divide your home into groups called “zones.” Each zone is controlled by a separate thermostat. Additionally, dampers within your ducts can open or shut off access to different zones in order to even out temperatures throughout your home and make sure you are using just the right amount of energy to keep your home comfortable.

Indoor Air Quality

If you have a furnace in your home you most likely have a furnace blower that distributes heated and conditioned air through your home. Inside your ducts, you could have additional indoor air quality systems that help generate clean air for your home. Make sure that when you are having your furnace serviced or a new furnace installed, you have your contractor take a look at the filters in your home. Your furnace filter should be changed approximately twice a year (right before the heating season and then again right before the cooling season). You will breathe easier knowing you have a clean filter.

Variable Speed Blowers

There are two types of furnace blowers – the variable-speed blower and the fixed-speed blower. Variable-speed blowers can be beneficial to choose if you want premium home comfort. Variable-speed blowers are able to do just what the name implies – vary the speed of your blower as it distributes air through your home. This means the air being distributed through your home can be a more consistent temperature and the unit will operate quietly.

Additional Considerations

Installation Quality

It is dangerous to compromise quality installation for savings when it comes to furnace installation. An improperly installed furnace can face performance issues, which can be taxing on your wallet in the long run. Heating systems are complicated – meaning not just anyone is going to be able to install a heating system in your home. If you are investing in an efficient system, you should be able to expect the rated efficiency and a poorly installed unit may not be performing at its efficiency potential.

Furnace Pricing

Although the actual furnace will comprise the main chunk of your installation costs, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration when budgeting for a new furnace. Some other costs associated with furnace installation include: the size of the unit, additional fixes that may need to be made to the air distribution system, the costs of labor, indoor air quality features, and more. Think of furnace costs as an investment in your home comfort. If you just throw a new system in your home without exploring your system options, you may be losing expected efficiency or could be compromising the quality of your indoor air.

Correct Sizing Matters

Having a correctly sized system is important for overall home comfort. Although a bigger furnace is going to be more expensive, you don’t really have a choice in the matter. When your contractor comes to your home to give you a quote, they should perform a Manual J load calculation to find out the system size you need (measured in BTUs or tons). This calculation takes your entire home into account – from square footage to window efficiency. If your contractor gives you a quote over the phone, without looking closely at your home, that is a big red flag. Systems that are too small or too large will never heat your home properly, could always be running, or burn out sooner than expected.

Warranty

Each Frigidaire furnace, air conditioner and heat pump comes with a 10-Year Limited Long Parts Warranty when the unit is registered. This warranty covers the costs of parts if the unit were to require a repair within that 10-year period. However, the costs of labor and refrigerant are not included. Make sure to talk to your contractor and ask if they offer a labor warranty, like the Contractors’ Preferred Protection Plan, to round out your system warranty coverage.

Rebated and Incentives

Investing in high-efficiency equipment can have other perks in addition to utility bill savings. High-efficiency heating equipment can qualify for local utility incentives and rebates that can result in money back in your pocket. Check out our current promotions and talk to your local contractor to find out if the new furnace you want qualifies for any incentives.