Why Is Changing Your Air Conditioning Filter So Important?

a/c air filterRoutine maintenance is critical to keeping your home cooling system running at its reliable best—a big reason why we strongly recommend getting regular professional maintenance for your A/C each year.

But one of the most important preventative measures you can take for your central air conditioner is also one of the simplest. Make sure to check and replace your air filter regularly!

Replacing your air filter is a key part of that maintenance process. Here are three of the most important benefits of timely filter replacement for your HVAC system.

  • Better Performance: A built up of dirt and debris in your filter can obstruct air flow, increasing the workload of your cooling system and reducing the efficiency of your equipment by as much as 15 percent.
  • Fewer Breakdowns: In addition to the wear and tear caused by reduced air flow, older air filters will deteriorate, releasing fibers into the mechanical workings of your A/C system and leading to costly repairs.
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality: An air filter’s job is to screen out pollutants, particulates, and other allergens, protecting the quality of your indoor air. When an air filter is clogged, it can’t do that essential job. By replacing your filters regularly, your family will enjoy healthy air whenever the A/C is running.

Four Signs You Need To Change Your Air Filter

If you haven’t checked your air filter yet this summer, now is a good time to do it. If you’re looking for signs about when you should do it, here are four of the most common ones:

  1. There’s warm air coming from your vents: If your air conditioner isn’t cooling as it normally does or is blowing warm air, the first thing you should check is the AC filter. If you replace your air filter and the problem persists, you could have a bigger problem on your hands—contact us for service.
  2. Your electric bill is rising: If your electric bill is higher than normal, the culprit could be in part to a dirty air filter. Replace your air filter and see if your bills respond.
  3. You’re having more health issues: When the filter becomes saturated with dust, pollen, pet dander, and other pollutants, your air conditioner can circulate them throughout your home. If you’re noticing more respiratory symptoms than usual, try replacing the air filter on your A/C.
  4. You see more dust on or near the vents: Finding more dust on surfaces and furniture near the vents? You could have a dirty air filter. Here’s a test. Try hanging a white towel five or six inches away from a vent for an hour or two; if the sheet turns gray, your filter is dirty and needs to be replaced.

Haven’t had your air conditioner serviced in 2021? It’s not too late—especially with a scorching second half of summer predicted for the Northeast! Contact Bolkema today to schedule your routine A/C maintenance in Northern New Jersey!

Five Energy-Saving Tips For Summer

home energy tips new jerseyIf you hesitate to turn on your air conditioning because you’re afraid of higher energy bills, it’s time to get real about energy efficiency. The good news is we have five simple tips that will help you save energy without sacrificing comfort this summer. Look at the five of the best ways to lower your energy bills this cooling season:

1. Use window treatments: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than three-quarters of the sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows will become heat in your home. That’s great news in winter, but not so great in the summer.

Window treatments can go a long way to reducing this solar gain! Reflective window film, light-colored curtains or blinds, or even white towels can reduce the amount of direct sunlight that falls in your home. For tips on window treatments for all seasons, see the U.S. Department of Energy website.

2. Seal air leaks: Home energy efficiency is mostly about keeping hot air and cold air separated. In the summer season, you want to retain as much cool air as possible while keeping the hot air out.

The only way to do that is to keep your home as airtight as possible. Unfortunately, most homes leak about the equivalent of an open window’s worth of conditioned air through cracks around windows, doors, and other openings. An afternoon with some caulk—for surfaces that don’t move, such as window frames—and weather stripping—for areas where two surfaces interact, such as jambs around doors—will be a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself in the form of lower bills.

3. Avoid using heat-making appliances: Find alternatives to using your oven and clothes dryer, especially on hot days. Both appliances will add to your home’s cooling load, making your air conditioner work harder to keep your home cool. Use your slow cooker, toaster oven and microwave—or better yet, break out your outdoor grill! Clothes lines and drying racks work great, too.

Another heat making appliance in the home that most people don’t think about is their incandescent lighting. About 90 percent of the energy that incandescent light bulbs produce is emitted as heat, not light. This makes having lamps that use incandescent bulbs like having mini-space heaters placed all throughout your home. Replace all the light bulbs in your home with LEDs and you’ll save money on your energy bill twice—once because the bulbs need less energy to run, the second time because you’ll be reducing your cooling load!

4. Change your A/C filter: Your central air conditioner can use as much as 10 percent more energy if the filter is clogged or dirty. Running your A/C with a clogged filter will also cause unnecessary wear and tear on your equipment and make repairs more likely, costing you even more! Change your air filter at the start of the cooling season and check it about once every six weeks during it—doing so more frequently if you have shedding pets in your household.

5. Have your equipment professionally serviced: On average, your cooling equipment will lose about five percent efficiency each year you skip routine maintenance which means that annual maintenance will virtually pay for itself in energy savings alone.

Add to that the fact that your warranty probably requires you to have maintenance—plus all the headaches you’ll avoid by keeping your equipment running at its reliable best—and annual tune-ups become a no-brainer investment for your equipment!

Stay cool for less this summer! Keep your equipment running at peak efficiency with expert A/C maintenance in northern New Jersey and lower NY State from the pros at Bolkema. Contact us today to learn more about air conditioning service and repair in New Jersey!

Five Common A/C Mistakes That Homeowners Make

home cooling mistake new jerseyA central air conditioning system is one of the most significant investments a homeowner will make in their own comfort—but not every homeowner gives their cooling system the care it needs to keep it running at its reliable best year after year.

Here are some of the most common mistakes homeowners make when it comes to caring for their central A/C system. These are mistakes you’ll want to steer clear of if you want to avoid costly cooling system repairs down the road!

Don’t Make These Home Cooling Mistakes

  1. Not fixing air leaks. Gaps and cracks in your building envelope, especially in and around your windows, will cause your air conditioner to work harder than necessary to keep you cool. Spend some time during the spring caulking your window frames to prevent cool air from escaping. Your ductwork is a notorious leaker, too. In fact, as much as 15 percent of the air you paid to cool might never make it to your living space. Consider having your ducts checked and professionally sealed if you want to avoid this problem, especially if your cooling system is more than 10 years old.
  2. Skipping routine annual maintenance. Today’s home cooling systems are high-efficiency wonders, but that efficiency comes at a price—namely complexity. In a modern, high-tech cooling system, annual maintenance is essential to keep intricate parts working correctly. Routine maintenance will reduce your energy usage and catch small issues before they turn into big problems and expensive cooling repairs.
  3. Attempting to make their own repairs. There are plenty of ways to save money on cooling bills, but maintaining your own equipment isn’t one we’d recommend. As we said above, today’s central air conditioning systems are complex and require the skilled hands and eyes of an HVAC expert to fix—if you attempt to repair your own A/C, you risk damaging your equipment and could even void your warranty.
  4. Forgetting to check and replace their air filters. A clogged air filter will inhibit air flow, forcing your air conditioner to overwork to keep you cool. Over time, that overwork will prematurely wear out parts and could even shorten the life of your equipment entirely. Changing air filters regularly will also greatly improve air quality in your northern New Jersey home.
  5. Not going with a pro when shopping for an A/C installation. Buying a home cooling system from a big box store may seem like a great deal, but it really isn’t. For one thing, you won’t always get the best service. Perhaps more importantly, you’re more likely to get a mis-sized system based on an overly simplified formula.

An experienced HVAC pro will come to your house and give you a no-obligation estimate on a central A/C system installation based on the unique layout and features in your house, taking into account not just the size of your home but also the configuration of your space, how much installation you have installed, and more.

A seasoned pro will also know about current incentives that could save you hundreds on a new cooling system installation. Remember, you get what you pay for!

Looking to upgrade your home cooling system? Trust the pros at Bolkema Fuel. Contact us today to get a FREE, no obligation estimates on central air conditioning installations in Northern New Jersey!

Is Spring A Good Time To Replace Your Heating Oil Tank?

oil tank installation new jerseyIf you have a steel heating oil tank in your basement, it has a lifespan of somewhere between 15 and 20 years (see table below) which means that if your northern New Jersey home was built in or before 2000, you’re probably due, or even overdue, for a possible replacement.

You might say to yourself, “my heating oil tank looks fine,” but don’t be fooled: older, single-wall steel heating oil tanks usually corrode from the inside out due to trapped moisture and sediment.

That means you usually won’t see a potential tank failure coming until it’s too late (a BIG reason to carry oil tank insurance).

How Long Do Oil Tanks Last?

Here’s a look at how long you can expect your heating oil tank to last, according to the experts at Inspectapedia.com:

Steel tank, 14-gauge, single wall, connected at tank end wall: 15 years
Steel tank, 14-gauge, single wall, connected at tank bottom: 20 years
Steel tank, 12-gauge, single wall, connected at tank end wall: 20 years
Steel tank, 12-gauge, single wall, connected at tank bottom: 25 years
Steel tank, 14-gauge, single wall upper, double wall bottom: 50 years
Fiberglass or Plastic tank, single wall: 50 years
Fiberglass or Plastic tank, double wall: 50+ years

The takeaway here is if you already know your tank needs to be replaced, don’t wait—it’s simply not worth the risk, especially considering the affordable tank options that Bolkema Fuel offers (heating oil tanks have come a LONG way in the last 20 years – today’s models are virtually leak-proof and available in a variety of configurations!)

Do You Need A New Oil Storage Tank?

If it’s time to replace your tank, let us know! We can remove your old tank and find a new heating oil tank solution that works for your space and budget.

Today’s double-bottomed, reinforced, corrosion-resistant, eco-friendly heating oil tanks are a far cry from yesterday’s iron giants. And if you want that last measure of peace of mind, we also offer ProGuard insurance that will cover you in the unlikely event of a leak.

Avoid costly cleanups from an old heating oil tank! Contact Bolkema today for a FREE estimate on heating oil tank installations in New Jersey!

Simplify Your Heating Oil Bill With No-Fee EZ Pay

heating budget plans new jerseyIf you’re a Bolkema heating oil customer (or ready to become one), there’s a great way to simplify your life and bring you greater peace of mind in the heating season ahead: sign up for our EZ Pay budget plan!

Some amount of unpredictability is inevitable when it comes to managing the cost of your heating fuel, since heating oil prices in New Jersey (and everywhere else) are subject to market and weather conditions that are always changing. But EZ Pay gives you a way to soften the impact of spikes in the cost of heating oil by spreading your heating oil bills out over the course of a year.

How The EZ Pay Budget Plan Works

With EZ Pay, we’ll look at your past bills to determine your average annual fuel usage, then multiply that number by the forecast price for fuel. From there, we just take that number and divide it into 12 easy monthly payments, with no service charge. It’s that easy!

A few key things to remember about EZ Pay:

  • You won’t use more heating fuel
  • You won’t pay more per gallon for your heating oil
  • You’ll only pay for the heating oil you receive
  • If your actual fuel costs are a little higher or lower than we estimated, we will make adjustments and spread them across your annual payments

Price Protection Puts A Ceiling On Your Fuel Costs

Want to get even more predictability from your fuel bill? Combine EZ Pay with Price Protection, which fixes the price of your fuel during the offseason, when prices tend to be lower.

An EZ Way To Simpler Billing

At times like these, a little predictability goes a long way, and a few cents per gallon on heating oil can make a big difference. In a time where every day brings new surprises, it’s nice to have something you can rely on…

Enrollment in the Bolkema Fuel Company EZ Pay plan is underway for 2021-22 –contact us today if you want to get FREE peace of mind in the year ahead!

Home Energy Saving Tips For The Winter Season

home efficiency new jerseyCold winter nights—the real deal, extra blanket and a cup of something hot required ones—have officially arrived here in northern New Jersey, with the polar vortex making an appearance for the first time since 2019.

With plummeting temperatures, the job of your furnace or boiler just got a whole lot harder and there’s a great chance your fuel and energy bills will show it.

The question is, how can you keep those bills as low as possible? While upgrading to new, high-efficiency heating equipment might be the ideal way to go, you may not be ready to take that kind of step. That’s OK: much of your heating system performance comes down to just plain being smarter.

Home Efficiency Checklist

Here are eight smart, cost-effective ways to help you save energy—and save in energy costs—this winter.

  1. Give your equipment regular breaks—Install an economical programmable thermostat to lower temperatures when no one is home, or when people are asleep. It will lower your bills, reduce wear and tear on your equipment, and add years to the life of your furnace.
  2. Air seal your home—Air leaks can cost you hundreds of dollars in energy bills every year. For a minimal investment, you can seal your windows, doors, electrical outlets, and more with caulk, weatherstripping, doorsweeps, and plastic sheeting. Consider adding insulation as well, as it’s one of the best bang-for-the-buck investments you can make in your home comfort.
  3. Check and replace filters regularly—If you have a forced air system, keeping your furnace filter clean is critical to maintaining efficiency and preventing long-term problems with your equipment—including preventable breakdowns.
  4. Insulate your hot water tank and pipes—Minimize “standing loss” in your home water heating system by insulating your water heater storage tank with a jacket, and by insulating hot water pipes in untreated areas of your home (attics, basements, and crawl spaces).
  5. Drop your water heater thermostat temperature—Many water heaters have a factory-set temperature of 140 degrees which is more than you need for hot showers and clean clothes and dishes. Drop the temperature to 120 degrees and you’ll save about 15 percent on your water heating bill without sacrificing any comfort.
  6. Take advantage of the greenhouse effect—Keep windows open to absorb “free” heat from the sun during the day, and then keep that heat from escaping by closing (thick, insulated) curtains at night. 
  7. Close your fireplace damper when not in use—An open fireplace damper loses as much heat as an open window; close it when you’re not using your fireplace.
  8. Keep vents and radiators free—Keep your baseboard heaters, radiators, and heat registers clear from furniture, drapery or rugs so hot air can flow more easily into the room.

Stay warm and be smart this winter! Call Bolkema Fuel Company today heating service or a FREE estimate on heating equipment installations in northern NJ!

How Should I Maintain My Water Heater?

water heater service new jerseyLike any major appliance, your storage-type water heater needs periodic TLC to run at its best. But what are the most important ways to care for your water heater? Here are three things you should do regularly to keep your water heater working at the top of its game.

  1. Flush your storage tank regularly—Over time, sediment (mineral deposit) builds at the bottom of the tank. Left untreated, this sediment will decrease efficiency, affect how well stored water retains its heat, and eventually even cause water heater failure. The good news is that you can prevent excess sediment build up by flushing your water heater tank regularly (twice a year or more). Here’s how:
    • Locate the water heater drain valve—a brass or plastic valve at the bottom of the water heater
    • The tip of the valve is threaded to match a standard-sized garden hose; attach one end of the hose to the water heater drain valve and put the other end near your basement drain or directly outside your home into the gutter or driveway.
    • Open the water heater drain valve; the valve is often opened or closed with a flat head screwdriver. Water will flow through the hose, taking sediment with it. REMEMBER, THIS WATER WILL BE VERY HOT!
    • Drain for about five minutes, then shut the valve and detach the hose.
  2. Check and change the anode rod—An anode rod is a simple device—usually a steel core wire surrounded with either aluminum, magnesium or zinc that sits inside the storage tank. Its job is an important one: under normal circumstances, water sitting inside a steel tank would corrode the tank quickly, but an anode rod draws the corrosion process to itself rather than the tank lining. The anode rod is often referred to as the “sacrificial rod” for this reason.

    A typical anode rod will last about five years or so—less if you use a water softener. Once your anode rod is corroded, the tank lining will rot much faster! Since replacing an anode rod is a lot cheaper than replacing your tank, it’s best to keep an eye out. Checking your anode rod takes a few minutes—see your water heater owner’s manual for details or call us —we’ll be happy to do it for you!

  3. Get routine professional service—Like any other home comfort equipment, your water heater will run best when it’s professionally serviced regularly—usually once every two years, in the case of a water heater.

Of course, even if you take all these precautions, your propane water heater will eventually need replacement—typically about once every 10-12 years for a storage-type water heater. When that time comes, contact us. We’ll have a new high-efficiency propane water heater installed quickly and correctly, with no need for follow-up hassles!

For expert water heater installation in northern NJ, nobody beats the pros at Bolkema Fuel. Contact us today to learn more, or to get a FREE, no obligation estimate on an installation of a new high efficiency Bock water heater!

Why Won’t My Furnace Stop Running?

furnace trouble new jerseyYour furnace’s job is to heat your home until it reaches the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat—but sometimes it doesn’t stop there.

If your furnace keeps running even though it has already done its job—or if it keeps running without ever reaching your target thermostat temperature—it will cost you in both higher heating bills and equipment wear and tear.

Furnace Troubleshooting Checklists

If your furnace runs but never reaches the right temperature:

  • Check Your Settings – Make sure your thermostat is set to a temperature it can actually reach (the U.S. Department of Energy recommends 68°F in winter). Set a temperature that’s too high and your furnace may struggle to reach it, especially on a cold day.
  • Check Air Filters Regularly – A blocked furnace air filter will prevent warm air from ever reaching your living space. Check your filter once a month during winter, changing or cleaning it (depending on the model) as needed.
  • Check Your Ducts – Seals, joints, and even straight sections of your heating system’s ductwork will develop leaks over time, keeping the air you payed to warm from ever reaching your living space. Seal visible ductwork leaks and consider having your ducts evaluated and sealed by professionals every five years or so.
  • Weatherize – One reason why your furnace may be laboring is because your home is working against it: air leaks around windows, doors, and within walls and ceilings can rob your home of 15 percent efficiency or more. Measures like sealing windows with plastic, caulking cracks around window frames, add weatherstripping around door jambs, installing doorsweeps on exterior doors, and adding insulation will go a long way toward keeping cold air out and warm air in your home.

If your furnace runs even after reaching the target temperature:

  • Check the Blower Motor – To get air from the furnace to the vents, your heating system uses a blower, which pushes heated air through your ductwork (if you have a boiler and radiators or baseboards, this does not apply). That blower can operate whether or not the furnace is actually producing hot air, which is exactly happens when you set your thermostat’s heat mode to “on” rather than “auto.” If your furnace is constantly running, check the settings on your thermostat; if it is set to “on,” switch to “auto” and see if the problem goes away.
  • Check Your Thermostat – If switching from on to auto didn’t fix the problem, check your thermostat for things like frayed wires or worn batteries. If you change the batteries doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll probably have to install a new thermostat.

If none of these solutions fixes your problem heating system, contact a heating professional at Bolkema for service. Our expert heating oil technicians and propane technicians will diagnose the problem and fix it quickly so you can enjoy the cozy warmth of your central northern New Jersey home.

For expert heating oil and propane furnace repairs in northern NJ and surrounding areas, trust the pros at the Bolkema Fuel Company. Contact us today to learn more.

7 Ways To Lower Your Heating Costs This Winter

cut energy bill new jerseyIt’s been a mild fall so far in northern New Jersey – but we all know that won’t last. Soon, cold days and nights will arrive – along with higher heating bills.

The good news is that with a little planning and some simple changes in your lifestyle, you can keep those bills as low as possible in the months ahead. Here are seven cost-effective ways to help you save energy this winter.

Ways To Save Energy At Home

  1. Take advantage of the sun – Keep windows open to absorb solar heat during the day, then keep that heat from escaping by closing curtains at night. Window treatments can help manage solar energy throughout the year.
  2. Seal air leaks – Keeping cold air out and warm air in will save you plenty over the course of a long winter. For a minimal investment in caulk, weatherstripping, and door sweeps, you can keep air leaks at bay. Consider adding insulation to your home, too – it’s one of the best bang-for-the-buck ways to save money on your energy bills.
  3. Close your fireplace damper – An open fireplace damper is like an open window; close it when you’re not using your fireplace.
  4. Keep vents and baseboards clear – Move any furniture, drapery or rugs that keep heated air from reaching your living space.
  5. Use your programmable thermostat – Proper use of a programmable thermostat will help you save as much as 10 percent on your heating bill, says the U.S. Department of Energy.
  6. Keep your filters clean – If you have a forced air system (one with vents rather than radiators or baseboards), clean filters will protect your furnace from overwork; that means lower bills and less maintenance for your equipment. Check your filters once a month, cleaning or replacing them as needed.
  7. Service your heating equipment – Skip annual heating maintenance and your equipment will lose about five percent efficiency per year while also leaving your boiler or furnace more vulnerable to breakdowns. An investment in routine professional heating service is a must-have that will pay for itself.

Be smart, stay warm, and save money this heating season with these energy saving tips. Want another smart tip? Choose Bolkema Fuel for expert heating oil service and heating oil deliveries in northern NJ. Contact us today to learn more!

A Heating Service Plan Can Save You Money

service plans new jerseyA heating system is a significant investment for your northern New Jersey home – one that should keep your family warm and comfortable for many, many years to come.

But it only will last that long if you give it the care it needs year after year.

The good news is that routine heating maintenance by a licensed professional – especially when it’s part of a Heating Service Plan – will actually pay for itself in the long run, helping you save money in numerous ways.

7 Ways Service Plans Cut Heating Costs

  1. Maintaining efficiency – An unmaintained heating system could lose five percent efficiency or more every year – which means that professional heating system maintenance could pay for itself in energy efficiency savings alone.
  2. Fewer repairs –With regular annual service visits, our expert heating technicians can spot small issues before they become big problems, often helping you to avoid more costly heating repairs later.
  3. Discounted or covered repairs – Service plans typically include coverage or discounts on many of the heating system parts that most commonly break down.
  4. Continued warranty coverage – If you install a new propane- or oil-fired heating system, its warranty will probably require you to get regular professional maintenance; without it, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for repairs that might otherwise be covered.
  5. Longer equipment life – Maintaining your home heating system regularly can extend the life of your heating system, so you get more for your money.
  6. Timely upgrade advice – With regular service, a technician can give you a heads up when it’s smart time to invest in a heating system upgrade rather than pouring more money into fixing older equipment.
  7. Emergency service – Heating service plans include priority service coverage for your equipment – a service that you would otherwise pay a premium for.

As you can see, enrolling in a heating service plan pays both now and down the road. Contact us today to enroll in a Bolkema Fuel service plan and experience the benefits for yourself this winter – and beyond!