At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air Blog: Archive for December, 2014

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from At Your Service!

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5 Facts about Santa Claus

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Many holiday traditions involve the story of Santa Claus, the lovable old man who spends most of his time at the North Pole taking a single evening to deliver presents and candy to children everywhere. But since Santa Claus is so elusive (unless he happens to be visiting your local shopping mall), how do we know so much about him? Where exactly does his journey begin? Our holiday guide details 5 of the most common traditions associated with Jolly Old Saint Nick.

  1. The Origins of Santa: The name “Santa Claus” comes from St. Nicholas (a name which became Sinter Klaas for short in Dutch), a Christian Bishop from 4 A.D. who was known for giving his fortune away to those in need in Turkey. Santa Claus’ first associations with gift-giving comes from Holland’s St. Nicholas’ feast day, during which children would leave out their shoes overnight and find presents waiting inside the shoes on the next morning.
  1. The Stocking by the Chimney: While many people associate Holland’s shoe tradition with the origins of hanging a stocking, this isn’t entirely accurate. Hanging stockings instead comes from the legend of a time St. Nick helped a man afford to marry off his daughter by throwing a bag of gold down the chimney, which landed in a stocking that was hanging up to dry.
  1. St. Nick’s Outfit: Santa got his fashion sense from a wooden cutout handed out during a meeting of the New York Historical Society in 1804. But it wasn’t until a 1930s Coca Cola advertisement that his traditionally blue, white, and green outfit was transformed into a big red suit.
  1. Leaving Cookies out for Santa: Food was traditionally used as ornamentation during the holidays in medieval Germany as apples and cookies commonly adorned the home at wintertime. When the Christmas tree became a common symbol of the season, edible treats began to vanish, a phenomenon which became attributed to Santa Claus’ snacking habits.
  1. Why Santa Drives a Sleigh: Santa gets his sleigh from a tale spun by Washington Irving, the same author who brought us the Headless Horseman. He wrote down an account of a dream in which Santa Claus drives a weightless wagon through the sky, and the stories became so popular, they stuck around.

Here at At Your Service, we hope that you have a joyful and safe celebration, no matter what holiday traditions you engage in this year. Happy holidays!

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Reasons Why Your Heater Keeps Shutting Down

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Nothing can be more frustrating than having your heating system start and stop. Not only does this compromise your indoor comfort, it can cause more problems to develop with your system as it continually turns on and off. There can be a few reasons why your heating system won’t stay on, but determining the cause should always be left to an expert. If you are having problems with your heating system, call the people you can count on for repair: At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air.

Why Is My Heater Shutting Down?

Here are some of the reasons why your heating system is starting but not staying on:

Thermostat Problems

Your thermostat is the control center for your heating system, so if something is wrong with it, you will most likely have problems with your heating system. Older thermostats needs to be calibrated correctly in order to read the air temperature correctly; if the calibration is off, the thermostat my read the air temperature incorrectly and turn your heating off prematurely. Another common problem that can develop with your thermostat is problems with the wiring. The wires in the thermostat can corrode and fray, which can interfere with the correct operation of the thermostat.

Dirty Air Filter

The air filter in furnaces and heat pump systems should be changed every 3 months; otherwise, the air filter can become clogged and restrict air flow. If the air flow is restricted enough, the system may not be able to run as it should.

Problems with Safety Mechanisms

Your heating system has a number of safety controls on it to help ensure the safe operation of the system. Sometimes these safety mechanisms can malfunction, and when they do, they can turn off your system. For example, furnaces have a component called a limit switch. This switch activates the blower when the warmed air from the heat exchanger has reached the correct temperature; however, this switch also acts as a safety device and kills the burner when the heat exchanger becomes too hot. If the limit switch is malfunctioning, it may turn the burner off even when nothing is wrong.

There are a number of reasons why your heating system may not stay on, which is why it’s important to call for a professional. If you need to schedule service for your heater in Salt Lake City, call us! At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air is available 24/7, so if you are experiencing problems with your heating system, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Problems That Can Develop with Your Furnace’s Burner

Friday, December 12th, 2014

The burner is arguably the most important part of a furnace, responsible for actually providing all of the heat used to warm the air in your home. The number of burners may vary from system to system, but they all fill the same role. Though the construction of a burner is fairly simple, it is still susceptible to a number of issues that can affect its ability to heat your home. Let’s take a look at some of those problems.

Carbon Buildup

Most home furnaces use natural gas as a fuel source. As the burners combust the natural gas, they produce a number of combustion byproducts as waste material. These byproducts, which include carbon and several kinds of toxic gas, are vented through the exhaust flue and out of the house. Some of the carbon produced, however, often sticks to the burner itself. This isn’t a problem at first, but the more carbon builds up, the more it will impede the burner’s operation. Eventually, the carbon buildup can cause the burner to fire more slowly, produce a weaker flame, or even fail altogether. It is important to have your burners checked if you think that your furnace might be having trouble producing enough heat.

Other Issues

Carbon buildup is the biggest contributor of burner issues, but it isn’t the only one. Dust often coats all parts of the furnace after a while, including the burners. Corrosion from moisture can begin to degrade the burner assembly. It is even possible for a blockage to develop in the gas line, preventing the burners from receiving adequate fuel. The best that you can do, as a homeowner, is to make sure that the external sections of the burner assembly are clean and free of debris. Be sure to shut off the gas valve before cleaning the burners. If you aren’t comfortable cleaning your burner assembly, call a professional to do it for you.

If your furnace is giving you trouble, call At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air. We offer professional heating repairs throughout the entire Salt Lake City area.

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Boiler vs. Furnace – Which Is Better?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Boilers and furnaces are two of the oldest home heating methods in existence. They also happen to be the most popular options across the country. So, which one is the best choice for a new system? Well, that isn’t really a simple question to answer. Neither system is objectively “better” than the other one. A better question would be: “which system will fit my needs best?” It is this question that we will attempt to answer. We’ll start with the boiler.


The first thing you need to know about boilers is that they rely on water to transport heat throughout the house. This necessitates a completely different delivery system from the ducts that most forced air systems use. Installing a boiler system begins with installing water pipes in the walls or subfloor of every room that needs heating. These pipes are then connected to the boiler, which heats and pumps water throughout the house.

As the water travels through these pipes, heat radiates through the pipes and out into the room. This is called “radiant heating.” Radiant heating has a few advantages over forced air heating. It tends to heat a room more evenly and, keep it warm long after the system has turned off. This is because the heat is transferred between solid objects, rather than through warm air that tends to collect on the ceiling of a room.

The disadvantages of boiler systems include the cost of installation, as most homes don’t already have the required pipe network installed. Repairs can also be a bit of an issue, since the pipes are located in the floor and are more difficult to get too.


Furnaces are forced air systems. That means that they distribute heat by blowing warm air through the ductwork of a house and into each room. Most houses are already equipped with ductwork, so installing a furnace is often as simple as hooking up the gas lines (though you should still have a professional do it.)

Furnaces have the advantage of having most of their infrastructure already in place, making them cheaper to install than boiler systems. They also tend to be cheaper to repair than boiler systems. The disadvantages of furnace systems include less efficient heating, due to air being a less efficient delivery system for heat.

If you are thinking about installing a new heater in Salt Lake City, call At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air.

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