We help you keep your plumbing running smooth

plumbing service long island, nyFor decades, Burt’s Reliable has been providing top-quality plumbing services to homes here in the North Fork.

We help with everything from vacation home maintenance to kitchen and bath renovations to everyday repairs. Over the years, we’ve developed close relationships with our customers and give them the neighborly and respectful treatment they deserve.

One way we help our customers is by teaching them about their home’s plumbing. That’s why we’re offering these tips.

How to shut off your water supply

This is especially important to protecting your home and its contents. You should do this when you go away on vacation. This prevents water from coming into your home while you are away, meaning that you won’t come home to a flood if leaks develop in your plumbing. You also need to do this if you need to evacuate your home ahead of a hurricane or other dangerous weather.

Another common reason you need to know how to turn off your home’s main water supply is in the event of a leaking or burst pipe or other plumbing problem. This prevents damage in that area and makes it possible for our plumbers to fix whatever is wrong.

How to deal with valves

Whether it’s the main supply valve for your house or a valve under your bathroom sink, older valves wear out or get stuck over time. That makes them hard, or even impossible, for you to use. Before you’re faced with this problem in an emergency situation, have us come out to replace those old valves with new ball valves.

How to protect outdoor plumbing

Having outdoor valves for hoses, sprinklers, and watering plants is super convenient in the summer. But they are at a risk of freezing in winter if left unprotected. First, shut off the water supply to all your outdoor valves, then drain the water. Outdoor valve covers, available at most home improvement stores or online, are a cost-effective way to shield your outdoor valves from the cold. You can also disconnect outdoor valves for maximum security. Installing frost-free spigots is another way to protect your outdoor valves.

How to turn down, or off, your water heater

First of all, be safe when it comes to your water heater. If it fails and starts flooding, the first impulse is likely to go turn it off yourself. That can be dangerous. Get away from that area and call us right away for emergency service.

Turning your water heater temperature setting to vacation mode before you leave on vacation is a great way to save money on energy costs. However, don’t turn your water heater off before vacation. Trying to turn it back on when you get home, especially if it’s an older system, may cause it to fail.

How to deal with boiler issues

Your home’s boiler comes with a pressure relief valve to keep the pressure inside of it at a safe level. But if your boiler’s pressure relief valve keeps tripping, that can be a sign of trouble. Don’t try to DIY this one. Contact us to come out and inspect it. The solution may be as simple as a new pressure relief valve or expansion device.

When you need quality plumbing service, Burt’s Reliable can’t be beat! Contact us for service.

Heating Oil Tanks Are Built to Last—But Not Forever

oil tank installation long islandYou probably don’t think about your heating oil tank very often, except when you need fuel. And that’s fine: heating oil tanks are built to last a long time. But eventually, they need to be replaced.

So how long should your oil storage last? The honest answer is “it depends.” A variety of factors influence the lifespan of your heating oil tank: age, maintenance, construction. The good news is that modern heating oil storage tanks have come a long way from designs of the past, offering virtually leak-proof performance for decades.

Here’s what you need to consider if you think it’s time to replace your heating oil tank:

  1. How old is your heating oil storage tank? If your tank is less than 15 years old, you’re probably ok for a few more years. If you don’t know when it was installed, and your home was built before 2000, it’s probably time.
  2. How is it made? Older tanks are made of steel and can be of single- or double-walled construction. In addition, the steel can be different gauges or thicknesses. Thicker, double walls are better. Also, where the connector valve is located can make a difference. Connectors at the bottom of the tank (instead of the side) last longer. Newer tanks are made from plastic and fiberglass and are designed to last 50 years or more.
  3. How has it been maintained? Tanks left empty over the summer can have condensation build up inside. That can lead to rust. Likewise, sediments at the bottom of the tank can result in corrosion. All that damage happens from the inside out: if you are seeing rust or seepage on the outside of your tank, you need to act fast to avoid a costly leak and spill.

Steel tanks are still available today, but they are built to a much higher standard than in the past. Using alternative construction materials such as fiberglass and polyethylene for the inner lining of double-walled tanks make them virtually leak-proof. 

The bottom line is that a new heating oil tank costs far less than the expense of an oil spill or cleanup. If you think it’s time to replace your tank, contact Burt’s Reliable today to learn more about oil tank replacement, installation and removal on the North Fork.

What’s It Good For?

kerosene supplier new yorkHave any of the recent storms left you in the cold or dark thanks to power outages? Kerosene could have kept the lights on for you. From Calverton to Cutchogue and from Manorville to Mattituck, residents of Long Island’s North Fork count on Burt’s Reliable to keep them comfortable in their homes—even when there’s a natural disaster.

Even though lots of Eastern Long Island homes and businesses use kerosene to keep warm, it can be difficult to get delivered, but Burt’s Reliable makes it easy. If you’re looking for a kerosene provider or want to know if kerosene might be right for your home or business, keep reading.

Kerosene Facts

Here are some things to know about kerosene:

  • Kerosene is a good option for heating mobile homes and houses that don’t have a basement. If a home doesn’t have a basement, the heating fuel tank has to be placed outside. In a place like Eastern Long Island that sees cold winters, that can be problematic. Cold weather causes heating oil to thicken (a process called gelling). The thicker oil can reduce the flow of fuel into your heating system or block it entirely. That can lead to a shutdown and costly repairs. But colder weather doesn’t pose a problem for kerosene because it doesn’t gel.
  • Kerosene is considerably versatile. In addition to keeping your home warm, kerosene can also be used for cooking and lighting. Having that option is extremely useful when extreme weather (which is becoming increasingly common) causes power outages. You won’t get left in the cold or dark with kerosene.
  • Kerosene doesn’t require a special storage tank, so if you already have a tank for heating oil, you can use it for kerosene. If you need a new oil tank, Burt’s Reliable specializes in oil tank removal, replacement, and installation.

There are a lot of advantages to kerosene. And your best choice for kerosene delivery is Burt’s Reliable. We know the North Fork better than any other provider, and at Burt’s Reliable, we live up to our name.

Burt’s Reliable has been keeping residents of Eastern Long Island comfortable in their homes and businesses since 1917. Let us put our years of expertise to work for you. Contact us today to become a customer or learn more.

long island vacation homesSummer’s passing quickly here in the East End, and soon it will be time to close down your seasonal Long Island getaway for the year. Just be sure to take care of all the little things you need to do to avoid bigger headaches later!

Here’s a quick checklist of things to do to prevent unwanted surprises when you return to your second home next year.

Winterizing Your Seasonal Home

Check and replace pest traps. Pests can do some real damage in the offseason; prevention is key.

Take care of your landscape. Inspect the grounds for damage. Mow the grass and prune/trim overgrown trees and bushes. Store exterior furniture.

Go dark. Turn off all lights, fans, and other non-essential appliances. If you want to give the appearance that someone is in the house, put some indoor and outdoor lights on a timer.

Unplug appliances. Power outages happen in winter – and restoring power after an outage can sometimes lead to a surge that can fry appliance and even create a fire risk. Unplug your appliances and you’ll avoid this problem – plus, you’ll save money by avoiding power usage by your home’s “energy vampires” (appliances that draw current simply by being plugged in). If you plan to unplug your refrigerator (a good idea), empty and defrost it before departing so you don’t leave a puddle of standing water behind.

Turn the thermostat down, but not off. Turn down your thermostat to 55 degrees, but don’t turn it completely off; this, along with shutting your water main, will help you prevent frozen pipes and avoid a build-up of moisture in your home. Also, make sure your thermostat is set for “auto” rather than “on” to prevent your blower fan from running 24/7. A great option for a second home is to install a Wi-Fi thermostat, which enables you to control your HVAC equipment from your cell phone.

Turn off your water heater. If you have an electric water heater, shut it down at the breaker so it’s not keeping your reserve hot water warm when you don’t need it.

Turn off the water main. Your pipes won’t freeze if there’s no water in them. Open up all your faucets to prevent pressure buildup from the little bit of water that remains in your pipes.

Batten down the hatches. Close shutters and install storm windows if you have them.

Take care of plumbing problems. If you have any issues with your plumbing, take care of them before you leave for the season; they almost always get worse when you’re away.

Contact year-round neighbors. If you have neighbors that stay beyond the summer, let them know how to reach you in case of emergency. If you want us to manage your property while you’re away, we can do that, too. Leave your keys with us and we’ll make sure you have enough fuel and even winterize your home by shutting down the water, tuning up the equipment and keeping your home ready to go when you return in the spring.

Call us – If you are an automatic heating oil delivery customer, let us know if you’re leaving. Your delivery date is based on an estimate of your past heating oil use – if you aren’t around using heating oil, that estimate will be off, and you’ll get an unnecessary delivery. We can also take care of any plumbing issues and even get your annual maintenance out of the way before you go.

Enjoy a worry-free winter with services from Burt’s reliable! Contact us today to learn more about, or to get reliable plumbing service, heating service, and more for your North Fork or East End, LI getaway home.

choosing thermostat new yorkEver wonder if a thermostat can go bad (as in “no longer working”-bad, not “turning to a life of crime”-bad)?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

A typical thermostat should last about a decade; after that point, it can start to work less reliably than it should – and as is the case with any heating equipment, you’ll be faced with a choice to repair or replace it.

How do you make that choice? Here are some rules of thumb:

Repair your thermostat if:

  • Your furnace/boiler or A/C won’t start – Problem wiring can disconnect your thermostat from your heating and cooling system; a heating and air conditioning professional should be able to fix this problem without replacing the unit.
  • Your air conditioner runs constantly – If your A/C won’t shut off, you either have a different type of wiring problem, or you have trouble with your compressor (the outdoor component of your central air conditioner / HVAC system). Again, a pro should be able to fix the problem without replacing the thermostat.

Replace your thermostat if:

  • A battery switch had no effect – If problems and funky display issues persist after you replace your thermostat batteries, you may need a new thermostat.
  • You’re experiencing uneven cooling in your home – While indoor temperatures will vary somewhat from room to room, the change shouldn’t be too drastic. If it is, you could be experiencing a cycling problem (that is, your system turns on and off too frequently). One common cause of cycling? A broken thermostat.
  • Your thermostat won’t respond to your settings – If your thermostat just won’t do what you’re telling it to do – even if you ask nicely – it may be time for a thermostat upgrade.

Ready To Replace Your Thermostat? Think “Smart”

If you’re ready to replace your thermostat, strongly consider upgrading to a Wi-Fi or smart thermostat like the Ecobee models we feature at Burt’s Reliable. Read about some of the great features of these incredibly sophisticated marvels here, or contact us to talk about them with an expert.

Ready to upgrade your current thermostat to a Wi-Fi or smart thermostat model? We can help. Contact the heating experts at Burt’s Reliable today to get a FREE, no-obligation estimate on a smart thermostat for your North Fork or East End, LI home!

kerosene facts new yorkA kerosene space heater can be a useful tool to warm your home or trailer, but like any appliance you have to know how to use it properly and safely.

Here are some basic facts about kerosene heaters. If you have any other questions, contact us today – we’re happy to help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kerosene Heaters

  1. What kind of kerosene can I use in a heater?
    The only fuel approved for indoor kerosene heaters is K-1 kerosene. Lesser quality fuels will cause problems (see below).
  2. How should kerosene be stored?
    Store K-1 kerosene only in a new, clean, sealed container clearly marked for kerosene. Used drums, milk containers, plastic jugs, and gasoline cans will contaminate kerosene, causing harm to the wick and other problems. Always store kerosene in a cool, dark, dry place away from the living areas.
  3. How long will K-1 kerosene be usable?
    The longest we recommend storing K-1 Kerosene is six months. If allowed to sit for longer than that, the fuel can break down and absorb water, or become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold that can cause wick-clogging sludge (and other problems).
  4. How can I tell if my K-1 Kerosene is good?
    Siphon off a small amount of kerosene from the bottom of your storage container into a small clear jar. Allow the sample to sit for at least an hour, then see if there is anything floating in the fuel. Clear kerosene should have no separation – anything cloudy or yellowed is contaminated and should not be used. Red-dyed kerosene should be translucent, not cloudy or opaque. If you have any doubt about the quality of your kerosene, dispose of It properly and order more.
  5. What causes bad odor in kerosene?
    Bad odor is most often caused by low quality fuel. If there is too much sulfur in your kerosene, it can’t be burned completely in your portable heater. These un-burnt hydrocarbons collect on the wick and harden, causing low burn and odor problems.
  6. Why won’t my kerosene heater light?
    • If you’re using your heater for the first time, make sure it’s filled with high quality kerosene, and that the wick has been soaked for at least an hour.
    • When you push the “ignite” button, the igniter should move into position to light the kerosene vapor above the wick surface. The igniter should glow bright orange. The igniter should not touch the wick. You may have adjust the wick to ensure proper contact.
    • If the igniter isn’t glowing check the batteries. Use only regular duty non-alkaline replacement batteries. Alkaline batteries deliver too strong of an initial charge and may destroy the igniter.
  7. Why won’t my heater shut-off?
    When you hit the shut-off knob and the wick won’t drop, it is most likely because there is tar and carbon build-up on the wick.

    Burning poor quality kerosene can leave a sticky tar on the wick; as the wick hardens and thickens, it becomes more difficult to raise and lower. Water contamination in the kerosene can also be the culprit, since water causes cotton fibers in the wick to swell. In both cases, the wick should be replaced.

  8. How often should I change my wick?
    The American Lung Association, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety recommend you check and replace the wick before each heating season.

Having trouble finding kerosene for your North Fork or East End home or business? Call the pros at Burt’s. We offer kerosene and other fuel delivery and equipment service in Suffolk County, including Riverhead, Wading River, and Aqueboge. Contact us today to learn more.

flood cleanup service long islandThe average basement flood causes about $4,000 in property damage here in Long Island – and that number could rise substantially without knowing how to deal with a flood before, during, and after it happens.

The good news is that with quick thinking and action and a proactive approach, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of a flood and mitigate its impact.

Common Causes of Basement Floods

Most basement floods result from leaks caused by pressure in the soil surrounding the foundation of your home. This happens because:

  • Persistent rain saturates the soil, creating pressure that forces moisture through your basement walls and floor.
  • Clogged, overflowing gutters and downspouts pool water at the foundation, where It expands loose soil to cause leaks and foundation damage.
  • Seals around windows and basement doors fail, allowing water to enter the basement.

While heavy rains can bring challenges that push the limits of any home structure, there are things you can do to give your home its best chance to survive them. More on that below.

Responding to Home Flooding

It is imperative that you respond quickly and correctly if you experience a flood in your basement. Here are six things to do immediately in the event of a flood in your North Fork home.

  • Contact your local water department – Local municipalities will be able to inform you on the mainline sewer condition of your home.
  • Protect yourself for clean-up – Always wear eye protection, gloves, and boots. Take care not to track water throughout your home, which can spread dangerous sewage contamination. Cover all exposed areas of skin and keep children and pets clear of flooding areas.
  • Mop and dry everything – Thoroughly clean and dry all surfaces and areas of your basement to slow the damage and prevent mold problems. Add a half-cup of liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water to disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with floodwater.
  • Discard questionable items – Err on the side of removing anything that could be contaminated or toxic. Photograph damaged items for insurance claims purposes.
  • Have any damaged home comfort equipment inspected – Water can damage important safety features of your furnace, boiler, or water heater. Always have it inspected by a professional before you use it if it has been inundated by a flood!
  • Remove damaged drywall – Halt mold growth in its tracks by removing wet drywall within 24 hours of the flood.
  • Contact a licensed plumber – A licensed, experience plumbing professional will help advise you on flood damage while helping you prevent future problems with your basement.

Preventing Basement Floods

Be proactive!

  • Consult a plumbing professional to identify and fix problem areas (cracks, weak spots, broken seals, etc.) before a flood occurs.
  • Have your home professionally Inspected for root intrusion and blockages in your main lines.
  • Snake plumbing pipes annually.
  • Grade the landscape away from your home to prevent pooling at your foundation.
  • Keep downspouts at least five feet from your home’s foundation.
  • Keep baby wipes, facial tissues, paper towels, and sanitary products out of your plumbing. Do not flush them!
  • Review your homeowners policy in advance of severe weather; know what’s covered and what’s not.

Avoid these hazards:

  • Never enter rooms with sagging ceilings
  • Never touch or use plugged in electrical items in a flooded basement; keep electrical appliances away from flood-propane areas of your basement.
  • Never allow children or pets near a flooded area.

Take steps now to prevent floods in your Eastern LI home later. Contact Burt’s Reliable today to learn more about professional plumbing services in Long Island’s East End and North Fork!

heating oil service new yorkMost people buy heating oil a few times a year, then store in an oil tank until they need to use it. The question is, how long can you store heating oil before it becomes harmful to use in your furnace or boiler?

The good news is that common No. 2 heating oil has a shelf life of somewhere between 18 and 24 months. That means you’re fine if you want to use fuel that’s left over from last season, or if you want to order heating oil now and use it next heating season.

Oil on the older side of that scale can still be used – it just burns less efficiently as it ages. There will come a time, however, when burning older oil will not generate enough heat to meet your furnace or boiler’s minimum requirement: when that happens, your heating system will shut off automatically, and you’ll need to call for service to get it up and running again.

Of course, 18 to 24 months is simply an average shelf life for No. 2 heating oil; problems with water and bacteria (which break down fuel), a corroding storage tank, or the presence or absence of life-lengthening chemical additives in the fuel can push the scale up or down.

Having quality oil is always a good place to start – a big reason to buy your heating oil from Burt’s Reliable.

The bottom line: if you get your heating oil from a reputable supplier (like us), maintain your heating oil tank, and aren’t waiting two years between heating oil deliveries, you should be fine.

Now is a great time to order heating oil, with heating oil prices at offseason lows. Contact Burt’s Reliable today to schedule a heating oil delivery, and remember: for quality heating oil delivery in Long Island’s North Fork and East End, nobody beats Burt’s!

humidifier installation new yorkYou probably don’t think much about the humidity of your Long Island home (unless you have a damp basement), but it plays a big role in the comfort and health of your family – not to mention the wellbeing of your home itself.

Over-dry air can do everything from worsening asthma symptoms to damaging valuable furniture, artwork, and electronics; over-humid air can cause mold, help spread bacteria and viruses, and cause other problems.

For all these reasons and more, it’s important to maintain proper humidity levels in your home. The question is how do you do that? Let’s take a look.

Taking Current Humidity Measurements

A good place to start when addressing a moisture problem is to measure humidity levels in your home. Keep in mind that humidity can vary widely from season to season and even from room to room depending on the weather, the size and design of your home, and other factors.

To measure indoor humidity, you need a hygrometer, which is like a thermometer for humidity (you can get one online for about $10-15). Humidity levels in the 40 to 45 range are considered optimal for indoor air; keep this in mind as you move from room to room taking notes.

If Your Humidity Is Too High

If your home humidity levels are on the high side –  which can happen, especially if you live near water – consider these tips:

  • Fix any roof or plumbing leaks promptly.
  • Keep fewer house plants (moist soil can worsen a humidity problem).
  • Make sure your clothes dryer is properly vented – or better yet, hang-dry your clothes outside
  • Install kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans and use them whenever you shower or cook.
  • Maintain your heating and cooling equipment every year – proper HVAC operation is a key to keeping humidity levels healthy.

If Your Humidity Is Too Low

Low humidity levels can dry out your skin, cause your furniture and wood floors to crack, or create the perfect conditions for electronics-damaging static electricity. Most of the time, over-dry home air is a problem during the winter, when outdoor air is dryer.

If humidity levels in your home are too low, try these tips:

  • Boil water on the stove – encourage circulation of the moistened steam from your tea pot by turning on fans in the room.
  • Hang your clothes indoors to dry.
  • Add house plants to over-dry rooms.
  • Strategically place buckets of warm water in dry spaces (just don’t forget they’re there!).

By far the best way to add moisture to your home air is to install a whole-house humidifier, which gives you precision control of the amount of water vapor your air contains (some can even be controlled by a smart thermostat from your phone!).

Keeping the right amount of moisture in your home air can really improve your quality of life at home – with a little investment of time and money, you’ll breathe easier all year round.

For expert installation of whole house humidifiers in the North Fork and East End of Long Island, trust the pros at Burt’s Reliable – we’ll get your equipment up and running quickly so you can enjoy heathier air for years to come.

Contact Burt’s today for a FREE, no obligation estimate on a whole house humidifier or dehumidifier for your LI home!

home efficiency rating new yorkIf you’re considering a new central air conditioning system and haven’t shopped for one in a while, you’re going to encounter a number of acronyms in your research.

One of the most important of these acronyms is SEER, which is an abbreviation for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Here is some basic information about SEER to help you be a more informed buyer when the time comes to invest in a new A/C.

Home SEER Rating Q&A

  1. What does SEER measure? SEER measures the efficiency of your home cooling system; the higher the SEER rating of a unit, the more efficiently it turns energy into cool air (think of it as you would MPG in a car).
  2. How is SEER calculated? SEER is a season-long measure of ratio of total cool air produced (measured in BTUs) compared to the energy consumed to produce that cold air (in watt hours) during the cooling season.
  3. What is a “good” SEER rating? Air conditioners produced today are required by law to produce a minimum SEER rating of 13 (in our area of the country; in some hotter regions, the minimum SEER is 14). Older A/C units could have SEER ratings as low as 7 or 8 – which means you’ll pay twice as much for the same amount of cool air!
  4. What does “payback period” mean? You pay more for a higher SEER unit – about 8-10 percent more, on average, for every 1-point increase in SEER rating. The payback period is the time it takes to recover – through reduced bills – the extra cost of buying an AC unit with a higher SEER rating. An 18 SEER central air conditioner might have a three-year payback period compared to a 14 SEER model, depending on how often it’s used (the more often, the faster the payback period).

While SEER rating isn’t the only factor affecting the efficiency of an air conditioning unit in your home (proper installation, maintenance and sizing of your equipment are also critical), it is nonetheless an important measure to keep in mind when shopping for a new air conditioner for your eastern LI home.

Ready for an A/C upgrade this summer? Contact Burt’s Reliable today for a FREE, no obligation estimate on a new central air conditioner installation in the North Fork and East End of Long Island!