HVAC unit outside brick home

5 Signs You Need a New HVAC System

Increased Running Time


When your system gets old and requires a replacement, you’ll notice that it starts up more often. It might also stay on longer in order to reach the desired temperature.

It can be caused by bad coils as well as a failing blower motor. So check these parts before ordering a new installation.

If your coils and blower motor are fine, then these are signs that your HVAC system can no longer produce and circulate the air in your home efficiently. As a result, it requires more time to reach the desired temperature.

If, even after repairs, your system runs for a significantly longer period of time more often than it used to, it’s time to replace the unit.

Loud Noises


It’s normal for older HVAC systems to get louder with age. But when you notice that the following noises, it might be a sign that you need a replacement:

  • the blower is humming louder
  • the outdoor unit is making more noise
  • the furnace is groaning and banging
  • noise before the air conditioner starts up

Some of these noises can be explained by a loose part or a part that needs to be replaced. Others may be related to problems with fans, motors, blowers, and other moving parts. But if the odd noises increase or remain after repair, it’s likely that it’s time to replace your system.

Lots of Repairs


A lot of the individual parts in an HVAC system are repairable and replaceable. But all HVAC systems will eventually wear out and require complete replacement.

And when a compressor, motor, or coil fails, replacement is far more worth it than repairing. The cost of parts, as well as labor for repairing these essential components of your system, are high.

While the upfront cost of an entirely new system seems like a lot, the cost of constant repairs when one of these parts fails isn’t worth it in the long term. That money is better invested in an entirely new system. And when you get that system, be sure to have a professional help you maintain it to extend the life of your investment.

You Don’t Perform Regular Maintenance


Most people don’t realize the importance of performing regular maintenance and checks on their HVAC system. Checking your HVAC system at least once per year ensures they’re working safely and efficiently.

Maintenance helps you catch problems before they lead to bigger issues. It keeps your system in the best working order to increase its lifespan. If you don’t perform regularly scheduled maintenance, it’s more likely that the problem has reached a point of no return.

If you notice a dangerous pilot light situation, frayed or exposed wires and conduits, or other visible damage, your HVAC system may actually be posing a safety risk in your home.

Your HVAC System Is 10+ Years Old


If you maintain your HVAC system properly, it might last you a little longer than a decade. Without maintenance, a 10-year-old HVAC system is considered outdated, inefficient, and a good candidate for replacement.

Beyond the 10 year mark, you can expect an HVAC system to start costing you in repairs. They’ll also cost you more in energy bills as they lose efficiency.

Even the most state-of-the-art technology from 10+ years ago doesn’t come close to matching the energy efficiency of today’s systems. Newer units also have digitized and programmable thermostats that are easy to use and help make your home smarter.

Why You Should Replace Your HVAC


The initial cost of an HVAC system is high, but there are many ways you benefit from a new system. In case you need some convincing on the initial investment, we’ve listed all the reasons you should replace your HVAC when the time comes.

Green Box Hints for Homeowners

How To Make Your Furnace Last

Homeowners can make their furnace last longer by following some simple tips. One of the most important tips is to buy several filters for your home for the year. Label your filters by month. This way your furnace will last longer and perform at an all time high.

Portland Drain Cleaning Services

Portland Drain Cleaning Services

Do you have clogged drains in your home? Call Green Box Mechanical when your home’s drains are clogged. We’re experts in all areas of drain cleaning services including:

  • Bathroom sink drains
  • Toilet drain clogs
  • Shower drain cleaning
  • Sewer drain cleaning
  • Kitchen sink drains
  • Drain pipe cleaning
  • All other drain clogs
  • Other needed drain repair
  • And more plumbing issues

Contact us today at (503) 222-0555

home furnace

Is It Time to Replace My Furnace? What all Portland-area homeowners should know

As a Pacific Northwestern homeowner, your furnace is one of your most important appliances. Whether your furnace is electric, forced air, natural gas, or another style altogether, its role in the home is a simple but vital one: to provide heat and comfort throughout your home. 

Despite a furnace’s relative size and importance, it’s not an appliance the typical layperson spends too much time thinking about. It’s not something that requires daily attention, and when it’s working, you and your loved ones are comfortable and there’s no need to focus on it. 

But when your furnace is not working, when your energy bills are inexplicably skyrocketing, your home is cold and your family is feeling physical and financial discomfort, well, that means it’s time to evaluate your furnace’s viability. 

Did you know that the average gas furnace operates at only 80% efficiency, whereas modern high-efficiency furnaces operate at an average of 98%! That could have a profound effect on your family’s energy bills, comfort, and environmental impact. So what should you do?

Here are just a few factors we at Greenbox Mechanical recommend you consider as you evaluate your current furnace’s performance and efficiency.

How old is your furnace?

The average lifespan of most furnaces is about 15 to 20 years, assuming that it has been serviced and maintained properly over the years.  (Regularly replacing or cleaning the filters, for instance, can have a positive impact on performance and lifespan.) 

Unless you’re the original owner of your home, or you’ve already replaced your home’s furnace in the past, you’ll likely need to look up its age. This can typically be found in association with the furnace’s serial number and in many models is located on the inside of the service panel door. (Note: We ALWAYS recommend turning your furnace off before doing this kind of work.) 

If your furnace has been professionally serviced in the past, there is also likely a decal describing the service date that should clarify the age of your appliance. We strongly recommend an annual furnace maintenance to keep your furnace’s components in great working order.

Is your furnace making strange noises or heating unevenly?

Another tell-tale sign that it’s time for either repair or investment in a new furnace is its ability to heat your home in the way that it should. This seems obvious, but most families tend to congregate in specific spaces of the home, making the detection of an inefficient furnace sometimes difficult to detect. If you suspect that your home is being heated unevenly, then repair or replacement might be necessary. Relatedly, if your furnace is suddenly making strange sounds — knocking, rattling, or droning — then professional review is warranted. If you find yourself contacting professionals frequently for furnace consultations and repair, then this just reinforces the need for an upgrade.

Is there a sudden spike in your energy bills?

As a homeowner, you certainly know that the extreme weather months of the year can also be extreme in terms of your heating or A/C-related energy bills, and most utility agencies provide you the opportunity — either via your account on their website or physical documentation of your billing history  — to review your home’s energy use month-by-month and year-by-year.

If you notice that your home’s heating use isn’t following the same energy use patterns or that what used to predictable billing is suddenly wildly different, then you are likely having an issue with your furnace. 

What are my service options for my under-performing furnace?

The team at Greenbox Mechanical has a rich history of serving the greater-Portland area for their home maintenance needs, and that includes the world of HVAC and furnace repair or replacement! 

Our goal is to improve your overall quality of life, and that includes recommending solutions for your home that are energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and worth the investment. 

We’ll never try to upsell you or identify problems, because you deserve home service repair, honesty, and expertise that you can trust with confidence. 

Contact us today about any questions to have about furnace performance, repair, or replacement — we’d be proud to serve you!

traditional-water-heater

Tankless vs. Traditional: What Portland-Area Homeowners Should Know About Water Heaters

When you’re a homeowner, there’s so much to know and be responsible for. You’ve got general upkeep, yard and lawn maintenance, and, of course, utility bills. One of the main utility investments you’re making on a daily basis is that of your hot water. We’re so accustomed to having accessible, on-demand hot water, that it’s sometimes a resource we take for granted. 

How much am I spending on hot water per year?

Well, of course, the specific answer depends on your personal household consumption, though there are standards we can look to. Experts from the Department of Energy estimate that the average American household uses as many as 64 gallons of water per day, and that it costs you an average of $400 to $600 per year to heat water, making it your second-most expensive utility investment — one that represents about 20% of your overall annual energy costs. That’s a big deal! 

In fact, it’s such a big deal that you really should know what kind of water heater your home has, if it’s performing at its best, who to contact if it’s not, or if it’s time to look into more energy efficient models that suit your lifestyle and budget.  

It’s also the sort of big deal that keeps industrial engineers busy in an attempt to create more efficient ways of making hot water accessible to homes while using less energy to do so. For the sake of this conversation, let’s focus on two specific types of water heaters: storage (or “traditional”) water heaters, and tankless water heaters.

What are “storage tank” water heaters? 

The traditional storage tank water heater is the most prevalent type of water heater found in American homes. It’s essentially a large tank that can vary from 20 to 80 gallons in size acting as a reserve of hot water for your household needs. 

The hot water is released from the top of the tank and routed to its ultimate destination (sink, shower, etc.) while unheated water enters the bottom of the in an effort to keep a full tank at all times. This also means that the tank is always working in order to keep the water at an optimally warm temperature. 

These types of tanks can be heated using a wide variety of energy sources, most commonly electricity, oil, natural gas, propane and solar. Though the tanks can be insulated (either at purchase or post-purchase), they still create a great deal of wasted energy, mostly through stand-by heat loss or, in the instance of gas- and oil-heated tanks, venting-related energy loss. 

Despite these inefficiencies, storage tank water heaters are still the most common type of water heaters due to their relative low cost compared to other types. (Though the initial investment might be cheaper, these tank storage models may be more expensive to operate over time.) So, if that’s the case, then what’s another option homeowners in the greater-Portland area should consider?

Tankless water heaters? How do they work?

Tankless water heaters (sometimes referred to as instantaneous or on-demand water heaters) are just as described: water heaters that use no tank. When a user selects hot water from a faucet, unheated water is directed through the plumbing and into the tankless water heater unit, where a gas- or electric-powered element takes care of the heating. Sounds incredible, right? In many respects, it is! 

Depending on how much water your household uses, tankless units can be at least 25% to 34% more energy efficient than storage units and, according to the Department of Energy. But it doesn’t mean that these tankless units don’t have their drawbacks.

Unlike storage tank water heaters, there is very little wasted energy with tankless water heaters. However, because it doesn’t have the large reserve of hot water that a tank unit possesses, the water flow is very limited in an on-demand unit vs. a storage unit. Additionally, these tankless units can be more of an up-front investment, but will typically save you dollars over time. They do typically require more annual maintenance but maye  longer life than the average storage tank water heater. 

If you are considering a tankless water heater you will need to have either natural gas available or sufficient electrical capacity in your panel to power an electrical tankless unit.

Still want to learn more? Then give us a call!

Still not sure what water heating solution is right for you? If you have the sort of household that needs and uses a lot of hot water or you just have questions about what water heating system is best for your Portland-area home, then the team at Greenbox Mechanical would be honored to serve you! We use our expertise in combination with your needs, budget, and lifestyle to create customized solutions for all your plumbing, HVAC, and electrical needs!

Old knob and tube electrical wiring in a Portland Oregon home

Knob And Tube Wiring: What You Need To Know

If you’re a Portland homeowner whose house was built before the 1950s, there’s a good chance your home’s electrical wiring was done in the knob and tube style. We’re here to tell you what it is, what you should know about it, and, if necessary, what you should do about it.

The people of Portland love vintage homes. There are many well established neighborhoods that are full of American Foursquares, charming bungalows, and historic victorians. Vibrant paint colors, roomy covered porches, interesting architecture, and the historical significance of these older homes make them a treasure worth preserving. 

While beautiful characteristics like hardwood floors and stained glass windows are safe and beautiful to restore, there are less visible aspects of these older homes that must be addressed in order to maintain safety and efficiency. The homes electrical wiring is often a big concern, as many older homes have knob-and-tube-wiring.

What is knob and tube wiring?

Knob and tube wiring (also known and K&T in some circles) is a method of electrical wiring that was standard practice in the United States (not excluding the Portland area) during the period of the 1880s thru the 1940s. This method of electrical wiring gets its name from two of its most identifiable components, the knob and tube. 

The knob refers to the ceramic cylinders that you’ll often see nailed directly into floor joists or wall studs to act as anchors for the wiring. Typically, a small groove is found in the circumference of the knob, acting as means to more securely fasten the wire to the cylinder. 

The tube refers to the hollowed out porcelain tubes that were used as insulation for wires passing through floor joists and other potentially flammable materials. Sometimes these cylinders were also stacked on top of one another in order to keep wires from touching one another. 

Knob and tube wiring practices became obsolete as electrical practices advances and efficiency and safety standards grew. There are still instances where knob and tube wiring is used, but are extremely limited in scope, pertaining not to residential but certain agriculture or industrial situations. 

Much of the wiring itself was wrapped in a rubber insulation, differing from modern-day materials like certain plastics that are currently used.

Is knob and tube wiring dangerous?

The overly simplistic answer is, “It depends.” Are all of the components — the knobs, the tubes, the wires and their insulation — still intact? If that’s the case, then there are not necessarily critical threats posed by your knob and tube wiring. However, there are important details to consider. Knob and tube wiring is a technique that has not been employed as a standard by electricians for seventy years. 

The ceramic and porcelain knobs and tubes can degrade and become cracked, diminishing their ability to properly and safely support and route the wires. More commonly, however, is the degradation of the wiring’s rubber insulated coating. Over time, rubber can dry out, crack, and disintegrate, exposing bare wires and increasing your risk of an electrical shortage or even fire! Exposure to air and moisture increases this risk, and with Portland’s high-precipitation climate, it’s something we should all be particularly aware of. 

Additionally, there are hazards associated with having knob and tube electrical work near fiberglass insulation, and there are risks in attaching new electrical work to old knob and tube systems. 

The risks associated with knob and tube wiring aren’t limited to safety hazards. There are also financial and insurance-based implications to consider, as well. Some insurers will massively increase premiums for homeowners looking for coverage for their knob and tube-equipped homes, whereas others will refuse to provide coverage altogether until their homes have been rewired to present-day codes! 

My home has knob and tube wiring — what do I do?

First, we recommend having a local professional inspect your knob and tube wiring. At Green Box Mechanical, we employ a team of Portland-based electrical specialists who are licensed, bonded, members of the National Electrical Contractors Association, and have the experience in assessing and making the appropriate recommendations for houses such as yours. 

Electrical work, if improperly installed or poorly maintained can pose serious risks to your home and to your family’s well-being. Having the right professionals by your side can not only give you the services you need, but the peace of mind you deserve. 

We at Green Box Mechanical would be proud to have the opportunity to inspect your home’s knob and tube wiring, and provide you the best recommendations for your unique situation. In our experience in serving home’s with knob and tube wiring, these recommendations can range from minor adjustments and upgrades to a complete wiring and panel replacement. 

The first step in knowing what’s right for your home and family begins with a call. Contact Green Box Mechanical today to learn how your home’s electrical, HVAC, and plumbing can be as safe, efficient, and affordable as possible! 

Switching from a traditional light bulb to led lighting

LED Lighting: Facts All Portland Homeowners Should Know

LED lights get talked about all of the time these days, but what do you really know about them? As a homeowner in Portland, are LEDs the right type of lighting for your lifestyle, budget, and environmental considerations? We’re here to help you better understand the ABCs of LEDs so that you can make better, more informed decisions about your Portland home’s energy efficiency.

What does LED stand for?

LED stands for light-emitting diode. Essentially, what this means is that LEDs are semiconductor light sources. Semiconductors are materials that, more or less, exist in between insulators (think glass, rubber, or plastic) and conductors (such as metals like copper, steel, and even sea water).

This means that LED lights use these semiconductors to convert electricity into light. LED is considered to be an extremely energy-efficient source of light for Portland homeowners, but LED lamps are also used in automobile and aviation lighting, street lamps, flashlights, electronic devices, and other applications where energy efficiency is key.

Because the technology and its manufacturing has improved considerably over the years, so has its cost, making energy efficient LED bulbs and lighting options not only more desirable for residential homes, but also considerably more affordable. We need more and more of our clients’ homes in the Portland area choosing LED lighting options due to their energy efficiency and overall lower environmental impact.

How are LEDs energy efficient?

According to the US Department of Energy, LEDs are incredibly energy efficient and could pave the way for a new era of lighting the United States in a more efficient and eco-friendly manner.

It is noted that LEDs — especially those with an Energy Star rating — can last as much as 25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs at a rate that uses at least 75% less energy!

For instance, incandescent bulbs use a filament that is heated until it glows, emitting light but only converting about 5% of the energy used into light that we can see while releasing almost 90% of their energy as heat. On the contrary, LEDs release very little energy as heat, and though the results may vary, LEDs reportedly turn upwards of 80% of their energy into visible light in some instances.

LEDs also do not burn out in the manner standard incandescent bulbs do. Intead, LED bulbs will fade slowly over time. Energy Star describes this dimming as “lumen depreciation.” Lumens is a reference to the unit measurement of the brightness of LEDs lights. This is different than how incandescent bulbs are measured in “watts,” which is the measurement of the amount of energy in a light.

How are LEDs environmentally friendly?

Quality LED bulbs can have a lifetime that is 25 times longer than standard incandescent bulb — that’s over 25,000 hours of light! That alone makes LEDs more environmentally friendly than an incandescent bulb. Fewer bulbs purchased means less waste over time. Not only that, but LEDs also use less energy to produce light. According to the US Department of Energy, LEDs superior energy efficiency not only pertains to incandescent bulbs, but to compact fluorescent lights, as well.

A US Department of Energy study stated that, “Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.” That’s incredible, and it’s a perfect reason to consider transitioning your home’s lighting to LEDs. 

Time to switch? Learn why Green Box isn’t “business as usual!”

Are you interested in how you can make your home more energy efficient? Who doesn’t like saving money on their energy bills?!? At Green Box Mechanical, we pride ourselves in bending over backwards to make our customers feel great about working with us. It’s in our DNA.

No matter if you’re looking to switch your home’s lighting over to LED, are in need of an electrical contractor, or are in need of top-tier plumbing or HVAC solutions Green Box has you covered! Our trusted and experienced technicians are proud to provide you the services you need and the level of customer support you’ve always wanted. Call Green Box Mechanical today to learn more!