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Lubbock HVAC, Plumbing, and Energy Management Blog

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What's So "Hard" About Water?

Q: I hear a lot about how hard the water is in Lubbock. My parents had a water softener when I was growing up but all I remember is lugging bags of salt to the basement. Can you tell me what makes water "hard" and what a softener does?
A: Ah, yes. Those 40-pound bags. I was a salt hauler myself back in the day. My parents water softener couldn't have been in a more inconvenient location under the stairs. I had to twist like a gymnast to squeeze in there.
We use the phrase "hard" to describe water that is heavy with minerals like magnesium and calcium, to name a couple. When minerals in the soil dissolve, they work their way into the ground water. As to determining the "hardness" of water, it's measured in "grains per gallon". According to the Water Quality Association, if your GPG is between 7-10.5 grains of calcium carbonate per gallon, you have hard water.
We don't think about math when we turn on the faucet. Maybe algebra teachers do, but I never have. So how does GPG affect us normal every day homeowners?
The first, and maybe worst, thing it does is create a build up of scale in our water pipes. Perhaps you've boiled a tea kettle dry and seen the white stuff on the inside? That's scale. After it builds up long enough, it will reduce your water flow. Let it go long enough and your pipes will plug up completely.
Hard water also makes your soaps and detergents less effective. It won't lather as well and creates that soap scum that the TV commercials talk about. Again, if scale builds up long enough, it will take more than cartoon scrubbing bubbles to fix your problem.
Water softeners remove the minerals that cause scale build up. It's a chemical process that involves replacing calcium ions in the water with sodium ions, thus making the water "softer".
The experts at Sinclair are always available to help you with your water questions. Whether you're wondering what system is right for you in the future or you have a right now emergency water problem, we're here for you. Give us a call at 806-749-COOL (2665)
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My Water Heater Is Making Funny Sounds

Q: My water heater is making funny sounds.  Except I'm afraid the reason for the sounds won't be funny at all. Any ideas?
A: Maybe the funny noises are a cry for help? If water heaters went to therapists they would say, "Nobody appreciates me until I stop working." We take this appliance for granted. It doesn't often get our attention until it breaks.
Here's a couple simple tips to help prolong the life of your water heater.

* Check for scale build up. If you've noticed that your hot water flow is decreasing, the problem may be your water heater. The water in West Texas is hard. As in hard as a rock hard. The mineral and sediment in our water is brutal on appliances like water heaters.

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What's Split-Ductless Air Conditioning?

Q: I'm doing a remodel. I've been hearing about something called "split ductless" air conditioning? What is it and would it be a good option for cooling my home?
A: My in-laws are in Laguna Woods, California. They live in a two bedroom condominium with split ductless air conditioning. It works wonderfully and is
very efficient method of cooling, primarily because of the smaller size of their living quarters. Whether it's the best option for you depends on your particular home.
Split ductless air conditioning, hence the name, is a way to cool your home without adding ductwork, which typically requires walls, ceilings and attics to be opened up. More efficient than typical window AC units, split ductless is a an option if you only have several different rooms that need cooling.
Mounted high up on the wall, split ductless are modular units that contain an exterior condenser and an indoor evaporating component.  The blowers are connected by electric wires and tubes. The refrigerant flows through the tubes. Extremely energy efficient, they convert AC voltage to DC current and use very little electricity.
Split ductless units are remote controlled and tend to be quieter than traditional window coolers. Typically less expensive than central air systems, not having ducts means you eliminate the heat loss associated with ductwork. Approximately 30% of energy loss in central air systems comes from ductwork. However, if you are trying to cool an entire home, a central air conditioning system will likely be more cost effective. If your home is large it would be cost prohibitive to put ductless units in every area.
The pros at Sinclair are happy to answer all your questions about heating and cooling, including what equipment will be best for your particular home.
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Need New Pipes? Say Hello To "PEX"!

Unless we were engineering students, we likely didn't write a term paper titled "The History of Water Pipes". And it probably isn't a book title you'd grab off the store shelf. Water lines don't make the news unless they break.
From the aqua ducts, rolled lead pipes and canals of ancient Rome to wooden well casings from the Middle Ages to modern era light-gauge copper and plastic, water pipes continue to evolve.
PEX (aka "crosslinked polyethylene") piping has become a popular product in new home construction and remodels. It has many advantages over traditional copper, metal or rigid plastic pipes.
To appreciate the advantages of PEX, it helps to understand what other products require in the way of installation. Copper pipe, aside from being more expensive, is rigid. It comes in fixed lengths. Soldering is required to attach lengths together or when cutting smaller lengths to go around corners. It requires more precision fitting and is time consuming to install. It must be handled carefully as an improper bend could cause a crack in the pipe.
PVC pipes are easier to handle and more forgiving. Yet they require a two-stage gluing process. While less expensive than copper, it's similar in that it comes in fixed lengths and it's rigidity makes installation more challenging.
PEX eliminates or minimizes problems inherent with traditional piping. It's flexible, coming in large rolls instead of rigid fixed lengths. A typical 1/2" tube comes on a spool containing 1,200 feet.
Increased flexibility means fewer fittings. Instead of elbow joints and 90 degree couplers on copper and PVC, the PEX pipe simply bends around corners. It's easily run through walls. No glues or solder are necessary, eliminating chemicals from the installation process. It doesn't corrode, won't develop holes and doesn't allow scale build up.
In cold weather climates, PEX significantly reduces the dread of freezing pipes. In copper or PVC piping, when temperatures drop and water freezes, the water expands putting pressure on the pipe to the point of cracking or breaking. In cold temperatures, PEX piping expands with the freezing water instead of cracking.
PEX tubes are much easier to install, reducing labor costs. They also come color coded in white, black, blue and red, to help the homeowner and plumber distinguish between cold and hot water lines. If you can believe it, water through PEX tubing flows more quietly than through copper so there's no more "rattling pipes".
The professionals at Sinclair utilize PEX tubing in both new construction and remodel projects. If you're planning for a new home or updating your existing residence, they will be happy to talk with you about the best plumbing options for your needs. Call Sinclair at 806-749-COOL (2665)
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Evaporative Cooler? Or Air Conditioner?


Question: I was visiting family in Las Cruces, New Mexico. They had a swamp cooler in their adobe house. What's the difference between a swamp cooler and an air conditioner?

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Keep Those Drains Flowing!


When people are in process of buying a new home or remodeling a kitchen, you'll never see them gathered around the table with friends, talking excitedly about the kitchen drains they can't wait to install. Drains aren't up there with granite counters and custom blinds. But they are critical to a functioning home.

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Customer Service: A Little Goes A Long Way. A Lot Goes Even Farther.


When I lived in Phoenix my favorite place to eat was The Blue Fin. A small, downtown building that serves the best teriyaki chicken bowls in the world. The elderly Japanese couple who own the business are amazing. They serve delicious food with a smile and a kind word, thanking you as though you were the only customer they'd had that day. 

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Your Money Is Escaping!

When you and I change a dollar bill to 4 quarters, we don't take one quarter and throw it out the window. But that's exactly what happens when our doors and windows aren't properly weather proofed.
Did you know that anywhere from 10% to 25% of our cooling and heating energy escapes through our windows and doors? If our air conditioners are at peak efficiency but our windows and doors are leaking, we're wasting valuable energy and money.
Here's some tips from Sinclair on how to keep your energy dollars from going out the window:
* Make sure any weather stripping around your window frames is properly fitted and pliable. If you use caulking, be sure it's fresh. Old brittle caulking will crack, allowing cool air to escape in the summer and warm air to escape in the winter.
* Check the doors that open to the outside of your home. If there are gaps by the floor, install a flexible rubber weather strip to the bottom of the door. This will keep the cool air in. And the crawly bugs out!
* Remember air escapes from more places than doors and windows. Check for gaps around sky lights, wiring holes, plumbing and heating vents and attic vents. A small hole here and there can add up to the equivalent of one wide open window.
* Indoor curtains and shades add a flair to your home. They can also dramatically cut down on your energy costs. Closing your curtains and shades during the hot part of the day keeps the sun from coming in. Your air conditioner won't have to work as hard to keep the temperature cool.
* If and when you do a remodel on your home, consider adding interior hardwood custom shutters. They can reduce energy costs by as much as $300 per year.
* If you have single-pane windows, consider replacing them with energy efficient double-pane windows. Some of these windows are filled with an inert gas like argon and have anti-glare qualities, both of which increase the efficiency of the window.
Here at Sinclair, we are all about helping you save money. Call us at 806-749-COOL (2665) and we'll make sure your air conditioner is in peak condition.
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Saving Money On Your Air Conditioning Cost


Schools out and summer is here. As the temperature goes up, it's a challenge to keep energy costs down. Here's some tips from Sinclair on staying cool efficiently.

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Solving Common Air Conditioning Repair Problems Yourself


Trust me, I’m never insulted when people would rather ask me about an air conditioning repair problem rather than call me to service one. I understand home repair budgets are sometimes tight and you’d rather try to figure out the problem before calling me. So, I just want to take some time to explain potential problems with central air conditioning to help you better understand your HVAC and when you have a serious air conditioning repair problem. First, remember to always refer to the owner’s manual and follow the guidelines.

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