galvanized pipes

Does Your Home Have Galvanized Plumbing?

Do you own or live in a house that was built before the 1960’s? If your answer is yes, then there is an excellent chance that your home’s plumbing has galvanized plumbing unless there has been an upgrade within the last forty-five to fifty years.

Replacement : When and Why

The lifespan of galvanized pipes are no longer more than fifty years, and since they have not been utilized since the 1960’s, they have already passed their expected lifetime. If you have any galvanized pipes within or outside of your residency, then you need to have them checked and replaced as soon as possible by qualified professionals.

Galvanized steel pipes were covered with Zinc to help keep the product from deteriorating, but with time they start crumbling from within, due to the rust and calcium build-up that begins to form, making the inside width of the pipe smaller. The more the rust and particles collect within the piping, the less room there is for water movement. With the decrease in water flow, it helps to increase the chances of having the piping leak or break from the pressure that can build up behind the water outlets. When you have pressure built up, you can then end up with water damage that can be very costly for the clean-up. If it is anywhere near the foundation it can compromise the foundation.

Other signs that you have problems with galvanized pipes are rust or brown colored running water after the outlets have not been in use for a while, decreased water pressure, rusting on the outside of the pipes or at the joints.

What do galvanized pipes look like?

When first installed, galvanized pipes looks similar to a nickel in color. But as it ages, galvanized pipe may appear much duller, lighter, or darker, depending on its environment. We’ve also seen homes where the water pipes have been painted, so it can be difficult to tell at first glance.

Health Concerns 

Recent studies have shown that galvanized pipe can leach lead into a plumbing system. It comes from the zinc coating on the inside  of the pipes. There is no safe level lead exposure.

Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning and can be affected even with low levels of exposure. Studies have found that some children are vulnerable to impaired vision, poor hearing, and headaches. Adults can also be affected by long term exposure. Studies showed that some adults may exhibit high blood pressure, painful muscles and joints, and disruption of the digestive system.

Risk of property damage

Leaks can occur without warning. Small undetected leaks, or large fissures, which can flood a room in minutes. 

Sediments from the rusting pipes, can clog faucets, shower valves, dishwashers, and other plumbing fixtures and appliances. This may result in either costly repairs, or even replacements.

Water can be restricted in areas where the pipes are reduced in size due to rust accumulation .

“Spot fixing” or partial replacement, though it may be necessary for a quick fix, is not recommended as a long term strategy. It is far more costly to replace pipes as needed, than to replace them all at once.If you do find that your home has galvanized pipes, your insurance may not cover any problems that could appear, due to the age of the pipelines. So it is advisable to have your plumbing evaluated before it is too late.

Green Box Mechanical is here to keep you safe and protected in your home

Contributing to this blog is Jackson Vargas: Please contact him at Jackson@greenboxmechanical.com for any questions or concerns you may have about the piping in your home.

clean bathroom with white toilet and decor

The Toilet Lid Is There For a Reason!

Leaving the Seat Up Can Create a Cloud of Particles

Leaving the toilet seat up or down has played a part in the battle of the sexes for ages, but with the Covid-19 pandemic the debate has become more serious. A new computer modeling study shows how a flushing toilet can send a cloud of little particles containing fecal matter into the air — fecal matter that could carry coronavirus.

Doctors have shown that coronavirus can live and replicate in the digestive system, and evidence of the virus has been found in human waste.”

Toilet Lids Help Keep Your Bathroom Clean

Toilets sold for use in your home feature a lid on the seat. Most people would concede that the toilet simply looks better when the seat and lid are closed, (which is why manufacturers photograph them this way!) Ease of use, habit and gender tend to guide your lid preferences. But those lids are actually an important part of reducing the spread of bacteria and were designed to help keep your bathroom clean.

While low flow toilets have greatly reduced this issue, every time you flush a toilet, germs can spread through the bathroom through micro-particles escaping into the air. This is not good news for your otherwise clean and shiny bathroom. You want the bathroom to be an environment of relaxation and respite and to accomplish this, cleanliness really counts. Calming showers and luxurious baths are high points in our day but thoughts of germs can be somewhat deflating.

Close the Lid- Every Time You Flush!

Luckily there is an easy fix for this issue; simply close the lid…every time! The lid was designed to keep germs where they belong, in the bowl and down the drain! If you leave the lid up when you flush, those germs can float around your bathroom, landing on any available surface, including towels, hairbrushes or even toothbrushes. Nobody wants that!

This easy fix not only works, but it also puts an end to the battle of up or down. You want it down…all the way, every time you flush.

tankless water heater

Are tankless water heaters for you?

Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand or instant water heaters, have many advantages over traditional tank-style water heaters and can be an excellent long-term investment. However, like any product, they have their downsides and they are not the right solution for every home.

Unlike traditional tank-style water heaters, which continuously use energy to maintain a hot water supply, tankless water heaters only expend energy when you turn on a hot water tap or when you’re using appliances.

This on-demand style of operation results in their most significant advantage; energy and cost savings.

Besides energy and cost savings, there are several other reasons to choose a tankless water heater over a traditional tank-style heater. Tankless water heaters produce an endless supply of hot water, take up less space, have a lower risk of leaking, are safer, and have a significantly longer lifespan on average.

Long-term Energy and Cost Savings


The main advantage of tankless water heaters is that they are energy efficient and save you money over the long term.

A tank-style water heater expends energy around the clock to maintain the temperature of a 40 to 50-gallon water supply so that hot water is ready when it’s needed. Tankless water heaters, as their name suggests, heat water on-demand and do not maintain a supply of water. By only heating water when it’s needed, tankless water heaters do not experience standby heat loss, which occurs when heat escapes the water tank and needs constant reheating.

When a tap, shower, or appliance is turned on, cold water passes through the tankless water heater where it’s heated by either a gas-fired burner or electric coils.

Once the water is heated (this happens in seconds), the hot water travels through the pipes and out the tap, showerhead, or any other outlet in your home.

How much energy will you save?

Your energy savings depends on the amount of water you use and the efficiency of your previous tank-style system.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankless water heaters can be between 8% and 50% more energy-efficient than tank-style water heaters, but the actual efficiency depends on the amount of hot water you use.

Switching from a tank-style water heater to a tankless water heater will save a family of four an average of $100 per year or over $1500 However, as long as your water usage at any given time is below the maximum allowable flow rate, tankless water heaters provide an endless supply of hot water. If space in your home is limited, tankless water heaters provide a huge benefit. They are usually mounted to the wall and take up significantly less physical space compared to tank-style water heaters.

What is the size comparison?

To give you an idea of how tankless and tank-style water heaters compare in terms of size, the average 40 to 50-gallon tank-style heater is 54 to 60 inches tall with a 20-inch diameter and is shaped like a cylinder.

The average tankless unit is around 27 inches tall, 18 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and rectangular.

Tank-style heaters take up floor space, usually in the basement, while tankless units are mounted to a wall like a circuit breaker and can fit in most closets.

Life Expectancy of Over 20 Years


If you’re already in your “forever home” or plan to stay where you are for a while, investing in a tankless water heater might be the right decision for you.

main water shut off valve

Portland Homeowners: About Your Main Water Valve

Where is your main water valve?

In most instances the main water valve is located within the footprint of the house, and on the same side as the water meter. However, it can also be located in a crawlspace or outside buried in a box.

Does your water valve work?

You can test to see if your water valve is working by closing the valve and checking a faucet. If the water comes out of the faucet with pressure, then your valve does not work and should be replaced.

The valve at your water meter DOES NOT COUNT. Code requires an accessible valve near or in the house. The valve at the meter is for servicing the meter only.

Water valve is essential!

Your main water valve is essential to keeping your home safe and from damage. You would not tolerate an electrical breaker that does not work. Making sure that you know where your main water valve is located, and checking to see if the valve is operating properly, is just as important for keeping your home safe.

Can’t find your valve? Not sure how it works? Does it leak when you turn it on?

Green Box Mechanical is here to help. Call us today and let us help you keep your home safe!

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!