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The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heating

One of the main features of a well-designed home is the heating system. Over the last couple of decades, radiant heating installations have become more frequent in North America. It is a method of home comfort that is not as common in Canada as the rest of the world. With that being said there can be some misconceptions about capabilities and efficiency. We will touch on some key points that should be considered when deciding if radiant heating is the right method for your custom home or renovation project.

radiant slab

How Much Does Radiant Heating Cost?

Installation cost is one of the drawbacks of a radiant heating system. The cost of installation of a quality system is sometimes double that of a forced air heating system. Keep in mind that the operating cost will be much lower. If you plan on your home being generational or efficiency is the goal, then radiant heating is the way to go. The cost of repairs on either system is about equal as well. Pumps and zone valves do break down, but so do fans and pressure switches. In both systems, maintenance is key to avoiding costly and inconvenient breakdowns.

Will My Floor Always Be Hot?

One misconception about radiant heating is the customer expects the floor to always be hot. The floor delivers the heat so when the room is at the temperature set on the thermostat, the floor will not be heated. In a well insulated home, the system may be so efficient that the floor is warm for short periods of the day. This can be corrected by adding slab sensors such as the ones made by Tekmar. In a room like a bathroom where it is desirable to have a constantly heated floor, a NuHeat mat will also help keep the floor constantly hot.

Anything Else?

Another advantage of a radiant heating system is zoning. A forced air system has only one thermostat, the homeowner can have as many as they please with a radiant heating system. If they want two different temperatures on either side of the house, it’s not a problem. When the system is in the designe stages it is as simple as choosing which is best for your household.

Just My Opinion

One final thing on radiant heating. In my biased opinion, it just looks good. A well done mechanical room or a Watts stainless steel manifold is a thing of beauty. When building a luxury home in White Rock these are the details that set the home apart from the others. If you are someone who appreciates the shining engine of a sports car then the mechanical room of a radiant heating system is right up your alley. For a home that is a step above the rest, a well piped mechanical room is so much nicer to look at then a furnace and some ducting.

mechanical room

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, for efficiency and luxury, radiant heating is the clear leader. With its growth in popularity and with the increasing amount of qualified installers, it will be here to stay. Hopefully, this article helped you with your decision on if a radiant heating is a right fit for your home. If not that, you at least learned a couple things about an exciting part of our trade. If you live in the White Rock, Ladner, Tsawwassen or South Surrey area and would like a free consultation on installing a radiant heating system in your home, contact us today.

Why You Should Schedule Furnace or Boiler Maintenance

Most people take their homes heating system for granted. If the house stays warm in the winter the heating equipment barely gets a second thought. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common questions about furnace and boiler maintenance.

boiler maintenance

How Often and What Time of Year Should I Have My Boiler Maintenance Done?

Heating equipment should be serviced annually before each heating season. September is the best time of year to have maintenance done. Heating equipment maintenance should be a part of the homes pre-winter plumbing and heating routine. Any month after that, most companies will be busy doing repairs. Keep in mind our service area is Ladner and White Rock. If your home is further north such as the interior of British Columbia you may want to schedule a month earlier. You may be able to skip a year or two if you have a condensing boiler and a well-insulated house but older boilers and furnaces should be serviced annually.

What Are Some Benefits Of Furnace and Boiler Maintenance?

When it comes to furnaces, we replace the filter so this will increase the quality of the air which is vital in those cold winter months indoors. A preventative service is a good opportunity to get the burners, heat exchanger and pilot assembly cleaned to increase the efficiency of the equipment. Modern condensing boilers have a lot of delicate components such as flow switches and pressure switches. Poor water quality could lead to premature failure. When the technician is doing their maintenance work it also provides an opportunity to look around. That way any leaks, burns or any other problems can be addressed before they become a bigger problem down the road.

How Do I Know What The Technician Is Doing?

At Boundary Bay Mechanical we have a checklist we complete which we give the client when we are finished. We do this so we are totally transparent. Some items on our checklist are:

  • Checking for gas leaks and checking for carbon monoxide levels
  • Checking the water quality on a radiant heating system. Poor water quality can lead to premature breakdowns of boilers, pumps and zone valves.
  • A walk through to make sure all thermostats and zone valves are working.

These are some items on our checklist to make sure your homes heating system is working safely and efficiently and as a bonus, we will also service your domestic hot water heating as well. If you have a hot water tank we will do a sediment flush and if you have a tankless hot water heater we will do a descaling process. At Boundary Bay Mechanical we believe a little proactive maintenance can save a lot of headaches down the road. If you need a preventative servicing of your homes heating system contact us today for a consultation.

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How To Find Your Homes Main Water Shut Off Valve

Do you know where your homes main water shut-off valve is? In case of an emergency do you know how to shut off your water? If you answered no, you are not alone. In this article, I will teach you how to identify the location of your main water shut-off valve and save yourself from a costly flood.

What Does It Look Like?

When you are trying to identify your homes main water shut-off valve in White Rock or Ladner, there are two things that will help you quickly identify it. First, it will be located on the bottom floor. The pipe leading to the valve will come out of the ground. In a basement or crawlspace, it may come through the foundation. Above the valve will be the pressure reducing valve or PRV. The PRV looks like a brass cone with a bolt running through it. This is what reduces the city water pressure down to the recommended residential pressure. See the picture below:

main water shut-off valve


Where Can You Find Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve?

In most newer homes in the White Rock, South Surrey, Tsawwassen and Ladner area, the main water shut-off valve will be located in the same room as the hot water tank and the furnace. In some older homes especially those in the Tsawwassen area they will be located in the wall on the front exterior wall of the home. These can be a little tricky to find. Hopefully, there is an access panel and it has not been drywalled over. If the home is on a crawlspace, it is probably down there. Unfortunately, that means having to crawl under your home if there is ever a plumbing emergency.

Be Prepared

At some point or another, you will need to shut off your water and you will need to do it quickly. It is a good idea to shut off your water when taking a vacation or the home will be unoccupied. Make sure the whole family is familiar with where it is and how to use it. If the main water shut-off valve does not work, you will need to call a plumber. That is not a DIY job, even for the handiest of homeowners. If you need help locating or replacing your main water shut-off valve in your Ladner or White Rock home, contact us today for a free consultation.

4 Things To Do When Your Hot Water Tank Is Leaking

Imagine this scenario, you go down to your mechanical room or wherever your hot water tank is located. You turn on the light to discover your hot water tank is leaking. Don’t panic, I’ll teach you how to calmly assess the situation, prevent further damage and find the best possible solution.

Shut Off The Power Source

This part is especially important if it is an electric hot water tank. You will want to shut off the power source. If it is an electric tank, go to the breaker panel and shut-off the breaker labelled “hot water tank”. This will prevent you from being electrocuted. Most hot water tanks run off 240 volts which can be deadly. If it is a gas hot water tank, shut off the gas valve. At the bottom of the hot water tank, there will either be a black steel pipe or a yellow flexible hose. This is your gas supply line. Trace that pipe back until you find a shut-off valve and close it. The flame will extinguish itself without gas to feed it.

Turn Off The Water Supply

Next, you will want turn off the water supply. The shut-off valve for the hot water tanks water supply is usually on top of the tank. Look for 2 vertical pipes coming off the top of the tank. This is your cold water supply in and hot water coming out. There will be a shut-off valve on the cold water pipe. If there is not or the valve is defective, find your homes main water shut-off valve and turn it off there.

Make Sure That In Fact, The Hot Water Tank Is Leaking

A lot of times when there is water near the hot water tank it may not be the source of the leak. Before assuming the tank has sprung a leak there may be a couple other culprits you may want to rule out first. If you have a high-efficiency furnace it drips out condensate. If there is a defect in the condensate trap or a pump has failed, it will leak. Make sure the water is coming from the tank and not the furnace. One other thing you will want to check is whether the water is coming from the temperature and pressure relief valve or T&P as we in the industry like to call if for short. The T&P is the brass elbow on the side of the tank, close to the top. It has a pipe running down from it. If the pipe is dripping water either you have faulty T&P or there is excessive temperature or pressure.

Now What?

By now you have stopped your tank from doing any more damage to your property or yourself. You have also determined if, in fact, the hot water tank is leaking or not. Unless you are a brave do-it-yourselfer, it is time to call a plumber. When selecting a plumber make sure to pick one who has a good reputation and the right qualifications. At Boundary Bay Mechanical we can help you with your hot water needs in White Rock, Ladner, Tsawwassen and South Surrey. Contact us today for a free estimate. Remember the best way to avoid getting into this situation is proper maintenance.

Garbage Disposal Is Not Working? 3 Things to Fix It

Nothing can be more frustrating than flicking the switch to grind up food scraps and discover that your garbage disposal is not working. We want to help you eliminate costly service calls with a couple troubleshooting tips.

Power Supply

The first thing you will want to check is whether the unit has power. Newer models have plugs and plug into the outlets under the sink. If this is the case with yours make sure that the cord is plugged in. So was it? Great, the next step is to make sure the switch on the breaker panel is in the “on” position. In most cases, your breaker panel will be clearly labelled. Find the corresponding switch and make sure it is flipped to the same side as the others.

garbage disposal is not working
                   Breaker panel

Free Up The Blades

Sometimes thin, hard food waste such as egg shells can get trapped underneath the blades. This is one of the most common causes why a garbage disposal is not working. A symptom of this is a loud hum like the unit is trying to work but can not. In order to move the seized blades, the drive shaft must be worked free. If you look at the bottom of the unit you will see an Allen wrench slot in the middle of the unit like the one pictured below:

garbage disposal not working
           Bottom of the garbage disposal

Insert the appropriately sized Allen wrench. All garbage disposals come with a custom Allen wrench. Hopefully, you kept it. Move the Allen wrench in a circular motion until it moves freely. At this point, the debris has been dislodged. Make sure to rinse the culprit down the sink before trying to use the garbage disposal again.

Hit The Switch

Most new garbage disposals have a reset switch. It is a little red square button located beside the Allen wrench slot on the bottom of the unit. This is a common problem when the blades get seized. So if it still does not work after freeing the blades this would be the next step. Simply push in the little red button and the unit should work after that.

Still, The Garbage Disposal Is Not Working. Now What?

If you have tried the above solutions and the garbage disposal is not working, then it is beyond repair. There are some appliance repair technicians who can repair garbage disposals but most of the time it is best to buy a new one. If you need a quote on having your garbage disposal replaced or any other plumbing needs, Contact us today for a consultation.

Hot Water Re-circulation – The Quickest and Easiest Way To Instant Hot Water

Have you ever wondered why some homes seem to have instant hot water but others take much longer? The problem lies in one of three areas and here are the remedies.

Long Piping Runs? Pump It Up For Instant Hot Water

The most common cause of long waits for hot water are long piping runs. The best solution to this problem is to install a hot water re-circulation  line and pump. After the last fixture on the hot water line has been fed it runs to the water heater which is drawn by a pump.

hot water re-circulation piping for instant hot water

It is British Columbia plumbing code to have a re-circulation line on any hot water piping run longer than 30 meters. This also applies to any building 4 stories or higher. This is by far the best way to get instant hot water. We install a hot water re-circulation system on all our new home plumbing systems for on-the-spot hot water.

There’s No Re-circulation Line, Can I Still Have Instant Hot Water?

The answer is yes. Even if the home has no re-circulation line there are retro-fit options. Taco and Grundfos both have pumps that can be installed inside the cabinet of a sink. This is a great option for when demolition is not an option. Another solution for instant hot water inside a cabinet is to install an instant hot water dispenser. A trusted manufacturer of these products is Insinkerator.  They are effective but they will only provide instant hot water at the one fixture.

The Plumber Told Me My Tank-less Water Heater Would Provide Instant Hot Water

I hate to say it but he was wrong. Lot’s of plumbing companies make the mistake of referring to a tank-less water heater as an “instant hot water heater”. They provide endless hot water but not instant hot water. The wait for hot water is longer from a tank-less unit because there is no tank of hot water sitting there. Tank-less manufacturers have made steps to correct this. Both Navien and Noritz have built-in re-circulation pumps on some of their models that can be used with or without a re-circulation pipe. Installing one of these with a re-circulation line is the best way for an endless supply of instantaneous hot water.

If you have any questions in regards to application or pricing of a hot water re-circulation system in your Ladner, Tsawwassen, White Rock or South Surrey home, contact us today.

How To Select Fixtures for a Bathroom or Kitchen Renovation

When selecting plumbing fixtures for a bathroom or kitchen renovation there are a couple things to keep in mind.  The most important thing is the look. You definitely want to pick the fixtures such as faucets, toilets and shower trim first. The next step is to match the accessories such as toilet racks, shower rods and toilet paper rolls with the style and finish of the fixtures. All major plumbing wholesalers have a knowledgeable sales staff which will help you pick the best collection for renovations or a new home build.


kitchen renovation

A Brand You Can Trust

When picking brands I always recommend our clients stick to the well-known brands that have been in business for a while. Some of the brands sold at big box stores may look nice but the inner workings are low quality. They will break down much quicker than their more established counterparts. When one of these lesser-known brands breaks down the replacement parts can be difficult to find. Special order parts from lesser known manufacturers will take weeks to arrive. Even worse yet the company could be out of business forcing you to replace the entire fixture! Now the money you saved on the original purchase doesn’t seem so great. A lot of the well-known brands such as Delta, Kohler or Moen offer quality products. They have models that fit the economic budget as well as high-end products. Replacement parts for these products are stocked at any plumbing wholesaler or hardware store.

If you have any other questions in regards to fixture brands for your bathroom or kitchen renovation we would love to have a chat with you, contact us today to help you with your bathroom or kitchen renovation needs.

Project Profile – New Home Plumbing System at West 11th Ave, Vancouver

One of our biggest projects on the go right now is a 4 unit new home plumbing system. The project is located on West 11th Ave in Vancouver a couple blocks from City Hall. We are working with Square Foot Construction on this project. The scope of work includes new drainage, water pipe and gas-fitting work.

new home plumbing west 11th

A Piece Of History

This 1700 square foot building is classified as a heritage home. Since that is the case it will have a similar look to the one it is replacing. Many of the other homes on the street have also been preserved to have their original character. This quiet street lined with cherry blossom trees is only a couple blocks away from busy Broadway Street and one street over from Grandview Highway but you would never know. As mentioned earlier the main dwelling and the coach house will be divided into a total of 4 rental units, great for a small family, empty nesters or professionals.

New Home Plumbing Features

First of all the building’s drainage is piped entirely in commercial grade System 15 PVC. Not only is it less flammable (fire rated) than the standard ABS pipe used in wood frame houses, but it is also less noisy than ABS. The domestic hot water will be heated by Navien tankless hot water heaters for endless and efficient hot water. In addition, the water heaters will be vented through the roof to comply with Vancouver’s “no side-wall venting” rule.

Keeping Up With The Project

We are really excited about this job and it is one of our biggest to date. There will be a couple more blogs posts about this project in its various stages. If you want to keep up more frequently, follow us on Instagram to see more posts and other great content. If you or anyone else you know is in need of a quote or have any other questions in regards to a new home plumbing and heating project, contact us today for more information.


3 Questions About Hot Water Heaters

Homeowners have a lot of questions about hot water heaters. The 3 main ones we get all the time are: When should I replace mine? How can I prolong the life of mine? And finally, tank or tankless?


hot water heaters

When Should You Replace Your Hot Water Heater?

Hot water tanks whether they are gas or electric should be replaced every 10 years. The date the tank was manufactured can be found in the serial number. This may vary in different brands so consult the manufacturer`s website. I always tell our clients to start saving at the eight-year mark because that is when most tanks warranties run out. I have seen them fail as early as eight years but I have seen them last as long as twenty. Basically, when they get past ten years they are on borrowed time. I have been asked which hot water tank lasts the longest, In my experiences I rarely see a Rheem fail early and those relics that make it to the 20-year mark are always Rheem.

One thing to keep in mind is if you decide to wait until the tank fails then you run there are risks. Those risks are having it go on a weekend when labour is more expensive, possibly having to wait a day or two for the plumber to show up or even worse while you are on vacation. I have noticed that tanks tend to fail more in the winter time. My theory is that the city water is extra cold causing the tank to work harder and everyone is inside more. There is nothing worse than losing a hot water heater on or around the Christmas Holidays.

How Can You Make Your Hot Water Heaters Last Longer

There are a couple steps a homeowner can take to prolong the life of their hot water heaters. Run the thermostat at 140F is a simple one. Test the water with a thermometer to make sure it’s the right temperature. The next is to annually flush the tank,  turn off the heat source, attach a hose to the bottom boiler drain and run fresh water through until the water runs clear. If you don`t feel 100% comfortable doing this please contact your local plumber. Any maintenance performed on a tankless heater should also be done by a qualified professional as well. At Boundary Bay Mechanical we include this with our Annual Heating Equipment Service Package.

Tank or Tankless

There is a lot of debate as to whether tanks or tankless hot water heaters should be installed. There is no simple answer. It totally depends on the needs of the household. I will break it down very simply, I recommend a tank if The homeowner plans on moving in less than 8 years, The house is a rental property, There are 3 or fewer people living in the household, the mechanical room is in the center of the house making converting the venting difficult.

The cases in which I recommend a tankless heater are: New construction, lack of storage space, homeowner plans on living in the house for more than ten years, 5 or more occupants in house (definitely if there are one or more suites) and of course environmental concerns as a tank-less is 40% more efficient than a tank. Tankless is a more expensive installation but there are lots of rebates to be had and they will pay for themselves in the long run.

I hope this sheds some light on the world of water heaters. If you have any questions please contact the pro`s at Boundary Bay Mechanical

Poly B, The Failed Plastic Pipe

A common problem found in houses built in the late 80’s or early 90’s is Polybutylene or Poly B piping. Poly B can be identified by it’s grey colour and it is a plastic pipe. It was very popular in that era and is the early prototype of today’s cross linked polyethylene or “Pex” pipe. Due to a bad reputation and numerous class action lawsuits, it is no longer manufactured.

Domestic Water Uses For Poly B

Poly B was most commonly used in domestic water systems. The main problem with it in these systems is that it does not handle high temperatures or high pressures well. We see a lot of leaks at the piping near the hot water tank. As far as high pressure goes, if the home’s pressure reducing valve fails the risk of leaks spreads through out the whole house. It was also used for underground water mains which is always high pressure. There was two types of fittings used with Poly B: copper and plastic. The plastic fittings are even riskier since the grooves on the fittings deteriorate and they will just shoot off. We’ve been to floods were the fittings can easily be pulled out of the pipe by hand.

Hydronic Heating Uses For Poly B

Poly B was also used in radiant heating applications as well. This can be a problem because the piping does not have the barrier on the piping walls that Pex has. This allows air to enter the system. This causes wear and tear on the metallic parts of the system such as pumps, valves and boilers. The water will turn to a black sludge and the system will not work very well.

What To Do About It

There’s only one way to deal with Poly B in a domestic water system and that is to cut it out and re-pipe it in Pex. It’s always best to be proactive and most insurance companies now will not insure homeowners who have Poly B in their house. When it comes to Poly B in a radiant system its a little more tricky because the pipe is inside the concrete. The options are using a boiler, pumps and other components made of metals that are resistant to rust such as pumps with stainless steel impellers or boilers with brazed plate heat exchangers. The piping can also be separated from the boiler with a heat exchanger. There are also some less costly methods like adding air and dirt seperators and adding chemicals to inhibit the rust and sludge.

If you have Poly B in your house and you would like a free consultation contact us at Boundary Bay Mechanical.