Always Get a Written Estimate

Surprises can be a great source of joy - except when they come in the form of unexpectedly high repair bills. As with any other repair service, a plumbing job should never be performed without a written estimate.

Before your chosen plumber gets to work on those groaning pipes and leaky faucets, make sure he or she gives you a complete written estimate of costs. There are two reasons for this precaution. First of all, receiving this all-important piece of paper will go a long way to easing any worries you might have about the job. Secondly, it will provide assurance that you and the plumber are on the same wavelength.

The estimate should include the full cost of plumbing services, and a scheduled completion date. All repairs should be completed according to the promised timeline. No matter what, don't pay your plumber until the job is finished. Not even if he's your brother-in-law. Let's face it. Good plumbers are in high demand and can find themselves up to their eyeballs in work. The last thing you need is for that leaky pipe to continue leaking a river while you plumber scurries around taking care of a million and one other jobs in the neighborhood.

Recommendations for replacement parts are another important component of the estimate process. Any plumber worthy of the name will be able to identify all needed parts and offer you a full range of options for parts, fixtures, appliances, and repairs. This information is especially important if very large and costly items are to be replaced.

Make Sure Your HVAC System is a Smooth Operator

For most of us, lounging around our homes in pure comfort is a #1 priority. And nothing helps maintain domestic comfort better than a smoothly-operating Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System. Of course, like anything else, the better you treat this sophisticated bit of technology, the better it will treat you. Follow these handy tips, and your HVAC system will remain in tip-top shape to keep you comfortable all year round.

Change filters regularly. Once a month is a good rate, especially if your system is a real workhorse.

Keep it clean. Make sure condensers aren't clogged with leaves and other debris, vents are open, the condensate drain is inspected regularly, and ducts are vacuumed often.

Make sure condenser and evaporator coils are pristine. Dirty coils are a great way to increase energy usage, and the risk of system failure.

Lubricate moving parts such as the fan and motor bearings.

Make sure there are no cracks in the heat exchanger. Cracks can allow carbon monoxide to leak into your house.

If you have a forced hot water system with a radiator, bleed the system of air once a year. Trapped air can seriously reduce heating efficiency. Getting the air out will also make things a whole lot quieter.

Another good thing to do once a year is get professional maintenance. The optimum time is the beginning of the heating or cooling season.

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