Should YOU Be Concerned About Lead?

The crisis in Flint, MI has certainly brought the issue of lead poisoning to the forefront of our awareness. But the scary truth is –  there are 18 cities in Pennsylvania with higher lead level exposure than Flint. Here in PA the majority of lead poisoning risk comes from older homes with deteriorating lead based paint. Public drinking water systems typically are not sources of lead poisoning, but especially older homes may still have lead contaminated water. There were some interesting insights in a recent PennLive article. If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and older home plumbing systems. None of the region’s water mains are made of lead, but some service lines are. While the authorities do replace lead lines, the homeowner is responsible for the service line from the curb to the home. Water agencies also add a corrosion control inhibitor that reacts with the water pipe’s wall to prevent heavy metals like lead from leeching off the piping and out of the spigot. Also most of our regional water is ‘hard’, which reduces the possibility of lead leaching from pipes. The hard water builds up a film on the pipe, creating a physical barrier. This is a doubled edged sword because hard water is the cause of many other plumbing issues for which many people use a water softener. While the CDC has established the reference level at 5 [micrograms], they’re not saying that 5 is safe. Even at 5 there is evidence that nerves...

How is the air quality in YOUR home?

Winter is a time that we tend to be cooped up inside and is a good time to evaluate the quality of our air. Some air quality problems are just annoying, like dry nasal passages, but some are more serious. According to the EPA indoor air is often five times more polluted than outdoor air.  Problems include odors, toxic chemical vapors, as well as mold, bacteria, viruses, and allergens. Humans breathe in and out about 20,000 times a day, and most people spend 90% of their time indoors. Many people notice that they feel better when they are outside and that when they are stuck indoors, they frequently have headaches or feel nauseous. Possible indoor air quality problems can be detected by the presence of unusual odors or “stale” air. If there is a noticeable lack of air movement in your home, the air you breathe has not been circulating and is not fresh and you probably notice a big change in the way you feel when you open a window or even spend some time outdoors. You should also look for physical signs such as mold or mildew in rooms that may have excess humidity. If your heating and/or air conditioning equipment is dirty, your home most likely suffers from poor indoor air quality. Even living in a new or remodeled home is no guarantee of good air quality. In fact, many building materials contain known carcinogens and hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde and organic solvents. Adding to the problem is the fact that homes and offices insulated very tightly these days, and the lack of airflow is a...

Visit with Friends & Family this Holiday Season, Not Us!

Here at BHCP we love seeing our customers but we know that it is your family and friends you want  visiting your home this holiday season, not us! Here are some tips to help you prevent the need for costly and inconvenient service calls and keep a little holiday cash in your pocket!     PLUMBING (In the Kitchen) Make sure that you have a plunger handy should any sudden issues arise with your drains Fats, oils, and grease are some of the biggest threats your drains face. Don’t strain the drain. Even if you use a detergent that claims to dissolve grease, it can still build up in the system and cause problems later. Wipe greasy pots, pans, dishes and utensils with a paper towel before putting them in the dishwasher or rinsing them in the sink. Garbage disposals are convenient but not for high volume – If you must put food into the drains, break large pieces into smaller chunks first, and try to avoid fibrous foods (like celery and onion skins) that can wrap around the disposal and jam the motor. Do not put expandable foods (such as pasta or rice) down the drain – Even SMALL amounts of these foods can swell with water and clog the trap. Always run the water for at least 30-60 seconds after disposal use or washing dishes. NEVER use hot water! While it may seem to help dissolve grease and flush it better, it is worse when it coagulates further down the pipes. To remove stuck debris and odor, run cold water while emptying a tray of ice cubes into your disposal. You...

HVAC – Why are Tune Ups So Important

Our home heating system is just one of those things we tend to just not think about. We set the thermostat to our preferred temperature and that’s that, out of sight, out of mind. Preventative maintenance is an easy thing to forget about. Who wants to spend money on that anyway? Until of course we wake up to a freezing house or are forced to take a cold shower. Then it becomes an emergency and we can think of little else until it is taken care of. Why Preventative Maintenance is so important It keeps your family comfortable and safe A heating tune up ensures that your system is running smoothly, efficiently and most importantly…safely. What your technician does depends largely on the type of system you have and the type of fuel it uses. In our area there are three common types of systems – furnaces (forced air), boilers (radiators) and heat pumps. Your technician is trained to service them all to run optimally and to help avoid unexpected breakdowns. Any heating unit that burns fuel is particularly important to have inspected. Furnaces with a crack heat exchanger have the potential to release carbon monoxide into the air. Furnaces or boilers with clogged flue pipes or chimneys pose the same risk. You may be surprised how common it is for birds or other critters to build nests and cause problems. No matter how well maintained your system is, it is always best to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home. It saves money Believe it or not, preventative maintenance, or tune ups as we call them, saves...

SEERS, EERS and Tons, Oh My!

Shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump can seem like a daunting task with all the technical lingo and acronyms. Many variables go into choosing a new air conditioner or heat pump. Three of the most important terms to understand are SEER, EERS and Tons. So let’s start with some basic definitions. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio which indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13. In general terms, the higher the SEER the higher the efficiency. EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER is the ratio of the cooling capacity (in British thermal units [Btu] per hour) to the power input (in watts). The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. So what exactly is the difference between SEER and EER? EER is a measurement of the efficiency of a cooling system when the outdoor temperature is at specific levels. SEER is used to measure the efficiency of a cooling system over an entire season. Almost all residential units are measured in SEER. EER can be measured directly, whereas, SEER is determined only by predictions, because of unpredictable weather conditions. SEER is always tested at the manufacturer’s establishment, and therefore, it is better to focus more on SEER. At the end of the day, both SEER and EER can be very useful for comparing different air conditioning units to one another, but are not the end of the road to increasing efficiency and decreasing energy costs. More importantly...