Why That Faucet Costs More Through A Plumbing Company…And Is Worth Every Penny

Maybe this situation has happened to you, or will one day occur: you are planning some plumbing renovations in your home and get a quote on the scope of work from a plumbing company. When you see the part versus labour breakdown, you decide to shop around and see if you can find the fixture for cheaper. You hop online and do a quick Google search and find the part around 30% cheaper at one of the big box home hardware stores. Great! You’ve just saved some money by doing a quick price comparison online, right?

Actually the truth is, it’s smarter to buy fixtures through your plumbing company. You may spend a little more upfront, but not as much as you think. Plus the protection you will get from damage will make it worth it. Let’s break down why…

The Big Box Catch-22Pull-down delta faucet

Big box stores almost always sell a cheaper line of products than you would get from a plumbing supply company or even directly from the manufacturer.  This is because these large retail chains want to keep their prices low, and sell in quantities high enough that manufacturers will actually make custom products exclusively for their stores.

Here’s the part that misleads customers – these models sometimes look identical to those from plumbing supply stores (where your plumber shops), and yet have lower quality internal parts. Generally this means plastic instead of metal. The outcome? The products from big box stores wear out much sooner, and you’ll be looking at replacement plus more labour costs. Plus the big box stores often don’t sell internal parts separately.

Now is when you might be thinking, “Ok, but can those higher quality versions myself at a plumbing supply store?”

The Deal With Plumbing Supply Stores

Yes, you can shop at some plumbing supply stores and showrooms (some are not open to the public), but you will pay more than a plumbing company or contractor would. This is because these businesses have accounts that get them discounts. The same goes with purchasing direct from manufacturers’ websites.

And here’s an additional important point to remember: if a product were to be defective and needed to be replaced under warranty, standard practice is that a plumber/contractor would not handle this for purchases he/she had not made for you.

Breaking Down Warranties

This might seem odd, since we are talking about a manufacturer’s warranty coverage. However the reason is if a company did not supply or recommend the part, they cannot be reasonably held responsible for its performance and the cost of seeking out a warranty exchange, particularly as it could be with a company this company has no relationship with and that is difficult to contact.

So, how long will you have warranty coverage if you buy everything through your plumber? While we can’t speak for all companies, Hy-Mark offers the first year after installation of labour coverage, and the first 2 years of parts coverage on our retrofit jobs. The nice thing is if you purchase your parts through your plumber, not only will you have replacement coverage for those 2 years, you will also have coverage of any damage that could result from a part failure. If you purchase your own fixtures, this may not apply if it’s determined the item was defective.

In the End

In the end, we recommend investing wisely in your plumbing fixtures in order to save yourself money and hassle. You may save a bit up front buying from big box retailers, but you get what you pay for. If you allow the same plumbing company you are entrusting to do work in your home to purchase your parts for you, you will likely get higher quality and performance from those products, plus warranties that offer you peace of mind.

Want a quote on your plumbing job? Give us a call at 1-800-727-0750.

 

7 Bathroom Decor Ideas To Try

mouthwash in glass bottles

1. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on the perfect bathroom – why ruin the aesthetic with ugly plastic bottles?

Instead, try putting mouthwash in an elegant glass bottle from the kitchenware section of any home goods store. Attach a rubber lined spout on top for easy, one handed pouring. Some small, nicely detailed disposable cups are a nice touch, especially for guests.

towels in wine rack2. A display of clean bath towels can add a sense of luxury and comfort.

A wine rack display can stow towels tightly in small areas, with the added benefit of making them easy to find for guests. (Do you really want your guests going through cabinets of old shampoo bottles and prescriptions?) You can also find them in a variety of colours, and in free standing and wall hanging designs.

 

3. Stick to a “cool” colour scheme.

Which of these bathrooms looks better? To most people, the white and blue colouration (cool colours) in the second photo make it appear cleaner and brighter. Though warm tones like yellow or light browns are cozy in kitchens and living rooms, they are also similar to the colour of dirt and water stains…yuck. cool coloured bathroom paintUsing these colours in your bathroom could give the appearance of age and tarnish. Off whites, yellows, reds and browns can also give a retro look. High contrast white and dark wood settings are a much more modern look, and are the popular contemporary design choice.

 

tiered tray on bathroom counter4. Save counter top space with a beautiful tiered tray.

Inspiration comes again from the kitchen, this time from dessert trays. One design element often forgotten is use of depth and height. Whether glass, wood or another material these trays add dynamism to your vanity top. It’s also a way to save valuable space. So get those bottles off your counter top!

 


rustic ladder5. Add a rustic display element.

A weathered wooden accent piece is perfect for adding some country charm and comfort. You can find antique ladders like this at many flea markets and antique stores. Or why not make on yourself from new or reclaimed wood?

 

 

mirrored tray with candles6. Add glitz with mirrored surfaces.

Mirrors are fantastic for brightening up spaces and making rooms appear larger. This shabby chic white trimmed mirror lays a perfect setting for a display of white candlesticks and pillar candles. Dim the lights and add bubble bath for a super relaxing bath experience.

 

DIY light switch frames7. Add statement light switch frames.

True design magic is in the small details, and here’s one that will quickly add a touch of style. Use a subtle ribbed frame fitted tightly to the size of the light switch cover. Ensure there is no gap of space between the frame and the plastic cover. With the right size, the cover should hold the frame by the inner lip with no additional supports.

Planning a bathroom renovation? We can help! Call us at 1-800-727-0750 to speak to a Comfort Advisor.

All image sources here.

 

How To Choose A Water Heater

Most people will only pick out a replacement water heater roughly every 10 years. Even if you’ve done it before, with technology changing and more options becoming available, you will have new things to consider if you are entering the market today.

Let’s take a look at the determining factors and break down your options:

Hot Water Delivery

No one wants to run out of hot water in the middle of a shower. But with a traditional storage tank water heater, that’s a possibility. These heaters can only heat what they can hold, so if you run through your image of water heater product linewhole tank’s capacity, you’ll be waiting while it refills and heats up more water.

If you’re not willing to risk running out of hot water for bathing, dishes and laundry, you might consider tankless water heaters. These models heat your water as needed, so you won’t risk gaps of lukewarm water while a reservoir is being heated.

The good news is that despite a lot of misinformation out there, a tankless water heater can provide a similar flow rate to a traditional tank. This is because no matter what kind of water heater you have, the pipes carrying heated water from it are now different.

Energy Efficiency

Did you know your water heater is the second most energy consuming appliance in your home? Water heating currently accounts for almost 20% of the average household’s energy usage, second only to the cost of space heating.

As Hydro costs balloon in Ontario, electric options are becoming less and less attractive next to natural gas. Gas fueled models have a much higher initial cost (roughly 2-3X as much), but even so you will save money in the long run on operation costs, not to mention saving the environment some wear and tear. Of course energy costs can always fluctuate – things may look very different in 5 or 10 years. The best things you can do are stay informed of energy trends, and buy the most efficient equipment you can. (Our John Wood Envirosense® is one of the most energy efficient water heaters on the market.)

One way to keep operation costs as low as possible water heater sizing chartis by making sure you have the correct sized heater (if you go with a tank model). You don’t want a tank that is too small or too big. This chart has approximate sizing for gas fueled and electric tanks.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether your lifestyle creates low, average, or high water consumption, and is it concentrated within short time frames or spread throughout the day? For most people, hot water is used in the morning and evening. Remember that a tank is being heated all day and all night, even when you will not be running any water. A tankless only heats water on demand, when you need it.

 

Longevity

Tank water heaters generally are expected to last 8-12 years, whereas tankless water heater lifespans are closer to 20+ years. However, how long a water heater lasts depends greatly on its use, care and environment.

The most common environmental factor to affect water heaters is water with a high mineral content, such as that in much of Southwestern Ontario (you’ll notice Kitchener has the highest hardness on this whole list). Though not an issue for tankless models, hard water can leave scale build up in a tank, reducing efficiency and leading to break down over time.

You can combat this problem by caring for your equipment by installing a water softener. Softened water is much gentler on your water heater, as well as your fixtures and pipes. You should also have a water heater maintenance where the tank is fully drained semi-regularly.

Installation

A decision between tankless and tank models will sometimes be made for you based on the amount of available space. Tankless models are significantly smaller than tanks, so can be placed in much tighter areas.

Installation and placement code requirements will affect venting type. The breakdown of most common vent types is: direct, conventional, and power vented. These distinctions have to do with the tank’s proximity to chimneys or outside vents and the best method to move and clear exhaust outside the home. Power vents have an electric fan that can push exhaust a farther distance than a conventional vent can. Direct vented heaters draw air from outside the home whereas conventional draws from inside. Your home will require an inspection by a trained technician to determine which vent type is appropriate.

Cost to Repair

One reason that tankless water heaters last so long is they don’t deal with the burden of standing water. No matter how pure your water, over time it has corrosive properties on metal and electronics. Gas valve and sacrificial anodes are typical parts that need to be replaced within the lifespan of a tank water heater. And concerning manufacturer warranty periods, tanks usually have 5 year warranty on the gas valves, and 8 years’ coverage on the tank body. For a tankless, the heat exchanger (the main component of the unit) usually has warranty coverage of 15 years.

These are all factors to keep in mind when choosing a new water heater. For more information our Comfort Advisors are happy to assist. We offer free in-home consultations and quotes.

Hy-Mark also offers affordable rental options as well as financing for buyouts in all models and sizes of water heater. To learn more call us at 1 800 727 0750 today.

How To Care For Your Gas Fireplace

A gas fireplace is certainly the low maintenance fireplace option for homeowners.image of installed Napoleon gas fireplace

While it’s easier and less messy to care for than a wood or pellet burning model, there are still upkeep tasks necessary to keep it burning efficiently and safely. You’ll need a professional to take care of some things, but there is still a lot you can do to look after your fireplace.  Here are general practice and cleaning tips.

Before Each Burning Season:

Before touching the unit whatsoever, make sure it is cool and the power is off.

The exterior of the unit can get extremely hot. Clear the area around the fireplace of items, particularly anything combustible like chemicals, papers, or plastics.

Look closely at the exterior of the fireplace. Make sure the glass is not cracking or chipped, and the framework is solid. Check for soot forming on interior surface areas.

To clean the front glass plate, wipe with a clean damp cloth. Do not use an ammonia based or abrasive cleaner, or paper towel.

If you do not have one, install a carbon monoxide detector near your fireplace to monitor against gas leaks.

Check the outside vents to make sure they are clear of debris such as snow, plastic bags, leaves, or anything else.

Check flames to make sure output is correctly gauged. Flames should be blue with yellow tips. If the flames are only burning blue they might be adjusted too low, but if the whole flame is orange it might be too high.

Leave the Rest to the Pros

To do a complete maintenance and inspection, enlist a professional gas technician to come annually. On this visit she’ll check the burners, the ignition system, and ventilation, as we as clean the interior of the glass plate.

If you’d like Hy-Mark to perform a fireplace maintenance for you, email us or call 1 800 727 0750.

How to Proof Your Home Against Seasonal Allergies

The sneezing.Boy blowing nose

The itchy eyes and throat.

The inflamed sinuses.

They’re all familiar if you or someone you know has seasonal allergies, and it’s likely they are currently in full swing.

If you are stuck avoiding the outdoors, you want your home to be a safe haven from respiratory trouble. Here’s what you can do to seal your home against outdoor irritants, as well as eliminate the indoor factors that aggravate allergy and other respiratory issues.

     1. Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. This is the time to rely on your air conditioning system.

  1. Turn off your heat recovery ventilator or energy recovery ventilator unit during the mornings, when pollen is at peak levels in the outdoor air.
  1. Change your furnace filter regularly according to its size and type. See our FAQ “How often should I replace the air filter in my furnace?” for more information.
  1. Turn off your humidifier for the summer months.  Not only does this reduce the temperature in your home (because air moisture and temperature are directly tied), it reduces growth of mold. Mold spores can irritate allergies and asthma, and some strands can pose even more serious health risks.
  1. If you do spot any mold growth near showers, sinks, toilets, and in the basement, clean it with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water.
  1. Have your HRV/ERV unit cleaned regularly. Most units contain two small, reusable foam filters that need to be vacuumed and washed every three months. The core filter should be cleaned once per year. If you are comfortable you can do this yourself by following these directions, or Hy-Mark can do it for you.
  1. Sweep, dust, and vacuum regularly to keep dust mites at bay. Wipe down surfaces with cleaning solutions. Here are some DIY options for natural cleaners, which may be gentler on allergies and other respiratory problems.
  1. Brush cats and dogs regularly to prevent excessive shedding. Not only is hair itself an allergen for some people, it harbours dust mites when it collects on surfaces in the home. Indoor animals shed year round, but if your pet goes outdoors it will shed the most in spring and fall. If you’re in the market for a new pet, consider a hypoallergenic breed. These types of dogs –  and cats– may shed less or carry less dander in their coats.

 If you need further help allergy proofing your home, Hy-Mark is happy to help. Just give us a call! 1 800 727 0750.

Program Your Thermostat and Save $180/year

iComfort ThermostatMost homes these days have programmable thermostats. Yet amazingly, one study found that 53% of programmable thermostats in homes were not even set up.  If this includes yours, it’s time to get programming, and start

saving!

In theory, manually adjusting your thermostat as needed will work.  The problem is, none of us are perfect, and that means we don’t remember to turn down the heat or cooling every time we leave the house.  We often also don’t realize just how long our systems have been running once we are comfortable.  Manually handling the temperature also means you will always come home to a temperature you’re not comfortable with, and have to wait while your system kicks in for your house to cool or warm up.

Instead, take advantage of your thermostat’s functions.  Set a program to run that follows your daily schedule. When you are getting ready in the morning, have it set to your comfort level, and when you and your family leave the house for the day have the heat/cooling running at a low speed.  Set the system to kick back in to your desired temperature about 45 minutes before you normally arrive home.  Program the system to dip down again at bedtime and stay working at a low speed throughout the night. A tip: you can be comfortable with less heat in the winter and less cooling in the summer than you might think.

Be sure you set up a different program for your weekend schedule, and also adjust the program before you go on any vacations.

According to energy efficiency experts, programming your thermostat could save you $180/year.  So why not take advantage of your thermostat’s functions?

Hy-Mark offers several options in our product catalog for programmable thermostats.  Want even more control and capabilities?  A WiFi-enabled thermostat allows you to control your home comfort settings from your mobile device, with automatic changeover from heating to cooling and humidity settings, all from an intuitive and modern touch screen display.

Check out our product catalog of thermostats here.

 

 

How To Beat The Heat

Lower Humidity, Increase Comfort

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fan-image15439020

In Southern Ontario we are all too familiar with humidity at this time of year.  Did you know that humidity is the second contributing factor to your home comfort? Indoor humidity levels should stay between 30-50% for ideal comfort.  Having a high level of humidity can affect the ‘felt temperature’ by as much as 8 degrees(1).

Why is humidity bad for indoor environments?

Having high levels of indoor humidity can cause the following to happen:

  • Encourages the growth of mold, mildew and other bacteria
  • Contributes to sleep problems
  • Wood swells and doors stick
  • Stains the ceiling and can cause paint and wallpaper to peel
  • Speeds up the rust and oxidization process
  • Causes your hair to frizz – while this is not a major concern for most, for some this is a disaster!

How to deal with humidity

There are multiple ways to combat humidity and stay comfortable this summer.  The conventional route is exploring the two products that focus on maintaining optimum humidity levels:

  • Humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs)

Most people are familiar with humidifiers and dehumidifiers.  They have been around for quite a while and focus on adding or removing moisture in the air to maintain a healthy and comfortable environment.  The newest product lines are the HRVs and ERVs.  They are becoming the new industry standard and a requirement in new home construction.  Homes are built to be more energy efficient, but that also lends to humidity problems.  The more air-tight your home is, the less air that is exchanged and increases humidity levels.  To learn more about the differences between HRVs and ERVs check out our FAQ page here.

There are also natural ways to deal with humidity levels.  A full list of options can be found here.

Having the correct indoor humidity levels in the summer will allow you to set your thermostat a few degrees higher without compromising comfort.  This will help save energy and keep your energy bill more cost effective.

1. http://comfortmatters.lennox.com/getting-comfortable/the-four-biggest-factors-affecting-the-comfort-of-your-home/

Tips for Changing your Filter

The much debated question about your home heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is: how often should the filter be changed?

There is no one answer to this question, as there are many factors to consider.  These include:Types of Filters

  • Type of filter being used – there is a clear distinction between a 1” filter compared to a pleated MERV 16 filter that is 5” thick.
  • Type of furnace and AC – if you have a new high efficiency furnace and/or air conditioner it will help increase the lifespan of your filter in comparison to a 15+ year old system that is tired and needs all the help it can get.
  • House specific – the size of your home, where you live, how many people and pets are living in your home all factor into how long your filter will function at an optimal level.
  • Season – the filter efficiency is also dependent on the time of year and how often you run your equipment.

There are many different sources you can reference for guidelines to this question.  According to energystar.gov and Consumer Reports the average filter should be checked every month and replaced at least every three months.

Regardless of what type of filter you have, and how often you choose to change your filter, all homeowners should understand why a filter needs to be replaced.  Heating and cooling systems have a filter to remove airborne particles before they reach the blower motor and cause damage.  The filter also ensures that the air being pushed through your vents is clean and dust free.  When the filter is replaced often, it allows your furnace and air conditioner to run at optimal efficiency, and that is reflected in your monthly energy bill.

For all instructions as to how to replace the filter in your HVAC system please reference your owner’s manual, or see our FAQ post How do I change my furnace air filter?

The Dangers of DIY Plumbing

DIY PlumbingThe DIY mentality is here to stay.  With information at our finger tips we can proclaim ourselves to be experts at anything with a few clicks.  Almost any kind of home repair solution can be found online, and when budgets are tight you are careful with every dollar spent.  The question we’re asking: is the risk really worth it when it comes to plumbing?

What Could Go Wrong? 

Plumbing is a precise trade that requires practitioners to go through a long apprenticeship in order to obtain a license.  When you don’t fully understand all facets of the job, a minor misstep can turn into thousands of dollars in damage.  In fact, did you know that most insurance coverage will not apply if you do the work yourself, as opposed to hire a professional?

Hy-Mark is here to help.  We have outlined steps homeowners can take for the most common plumbing mishaps.

Drain Clogs

First and most importantly, do not use any chemicals.  The most effective approach is to fill your sink (if you have a dual or double sink, fill both sides) with hot water and pull the plug(s) to let the hot water run through all your pipes and release the blockage.

Wet Spots on your Ceiling

When you notice a wet spot on your ceiling, the first thing you need to ask yourself is ‘what was I just doing?’. Was I using the toilet, taking a shower, having a bath? These answers will help identify if this is a water related issue.  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, immediately stop using that fixture. The next question to ask is ‘can this wait until tomorrow?’.  The reason to consider this is because you are likely noticing this spot in the evening.  Having a plumbing technician come for an after-hours inspection will likely come with an after-hours emergency fee.  We recommend watching the wet spot over the next 30 minutes to see if it grows.  If yes, call Hy-Mark immediately to reach one of our emergency plumbing technicians.  Otherwise make a service appointment for the next day.  This will ensure a solution is found, but at the most affordable price.

To learn more about all plumbing services Hy-Mark offers click here.  Call our office to learn more about our annual plumbing maintenance packages available.