How to Replace a Bathroom Fan

A bathroom fan is a crucial component of your restroom, especially if you’ve got a shower or bath. Your fan gets rid of the excess moisture produced when the hot water is running. That moisture can cause some serious damage to your paint and enable the growth of mold and mildew. It’s also pretty tough to put on makeup or use a hair dryer when you’re sweaty from the humidity!

International building code requires some kind of ventilation in a bathroom. While you can technically get away with just a window, a bathroom fan is a much more convenient and effective option. If you’re wondering how to replace a bathroom fan, you’re in luck. Replacing a fan is much easier than installing one, because you don’t have to worry about ductwork and venting. Here’s how it’s done.

How to Replace a Bathroom Fan

Safety is always a concern, especially when you’re working with electricity in the bathroom. Before you replace a bathroom fan, turn off the power to that part of the house. There are several types of exhaust fans for bathrooms. The kind you choose will depend on the placement of the fan. If you are installing a fan with a light, you may have to take a few additional steps. Always follow manufacturer’s directions when installing a bathroom fan.


Safety Goggles


Oscillating Saw

Drywall Saw

Drywall Screws


  1. Put on your safety goggles; lots of debris can fall from the ceiling!
  2. Remove the current bathroom fan by taking off the grill cover and disconnecting the motor from the housing. You may need to use a screwdriver to remove it.
  3. Take out the housing. You may be able to gain access through your attic. If not, use an oscillating saw to cut through any brackets. Watch out for wiring!
  4. Disconnect any wiring and ductwork connections so you can fully remove the old bathroom fan.
  5. Measure the dimensions of your new fan. Ideally, you can replace your bathroom fan with a new one that’s the same size, so you don’t have to enlarge the opening. If the new fan is larger, carefully cut away the drywall with a drywall saw to accommodate the larger size.
  6. Use drywall screws to mount the housing to your ceiling joists. This is easiest to do if you have attic access.
  7. Wire the fan according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Attach the duct to the exhaust port on the fan. Depending on the manufacturer and local code regulations, you may need to allow for a gap between the fan and insulation.
  9. Attach the face plate to the fan in the bathroom. Turn power back on to make sure you’ve followed the steps properly

Call for Help

If you aren’t sure about taking on a project that involves cutting into your ceiling and working with electricity, don’t just forge ahead. The cost to repair a botched DIY project is significantly higher than it would have been to hire a professional, who already knows how to replace a bathroom fan. Electricity is no joke, and little mistakes can have deadly consequences.

At Newcomb and Company, we know how to replace a bathroom fan. We’ve got all of your HVAC and plumbing needs covered, from the biggest overhauls to the smallest projects. If you’re replacing a bathroom fan, give us a call and put our knowledge and experience to work for you.

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How to Replace a Garbage Disposal

If your garbage disposal breaks down or you’re updating your kitchen, you might want to know how to replace a garbage disposal. This project is easy enough that an amateur DIYer should be able to handle it – but Newcomb and Company is just a phone call away if you need us!

Should I Replace My Garbage Disposal?

Garbage disposals have a hard time with hard, stringy foods like celery, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Trash can also wreak havoc on your garbage disposal. If your garbage disposal jams, first reach in there and see if you can get out whatever is blocking the unit. If that doesn’t work, unplug the disposal and use an Allen wrench to crank the motor back and forth. You can do this by inserting the wrench into the shaft in the bottom of the unit. If the motor begins to spin freely, run lots of water through the unit and test it to make sure it’s fixed.

How to Remove a Garbage Disposal

If you’ve tried using the Allen wrench, or if you’ve pressed the reset button and your unit is still malfunctioning, it’s time to learn how to replace a garbage disposal. Here, we’ll show you how to remove the current unit and replace it with a new one.




  1. Turn off the power to the unit. If it drains into your dishwasher, loosen the hose clamp that attaches it to the dishwasher discharge hose, and pull the adapter.
  2. Loosen the slip nut at the T-fitting (the white pipe connected to the disposal) and undo the nut securing the tube to the disposal unit. Remove the tube.
  3. Insert a screwdriver into the edge of the retaining ring and rotate it counterclockwise. The unit should break free.
  4. Turn over the disposal unit and remove the electrical box cover. Pull out the wires and remove the twist connectors. You should also remove the fastening nut, found just inside the unit’s electrical box. Pull the connector and wires from the unit.
  5. If necessary, remove the drain fitting by loosening the three bolts in the retaining ring. Slide it up and use a screwdriver to pry the ring up. Lift the drain, and scrape away any old putty still stuck to the basin.

How to Replace a Garbage Disposal


New garbage disposal

Plumber’s putty


  1. Remove the waste lines from the sink. Take the cover plate off of the disposal, and wire it according to the manual.
  2. Attach the sink’s discharge tube to the body of the new garbage disposal.
  3. Underneath the sink, you’ll find the drain flange, backup ring, and fiber gasket. Run plumber’s putty along the underside of the flange into the drain, as well as around the backup ring and fiber gasket. Mount the ring with screws.
  4. Attach the disposal to the sink via the mounting ring. Tighten the ring until the disposal is firmly in place.
  5. Align the discharge tube with the drain trap and attach it.
  6. Tighten the mounting lug on the dishwasher tube.
  7. Plug in your newly replaced garbage disposal!

There are several additional required steps if you’re installing a new garbage disposal. In many cases, this is best done by a professional. If you’re having trouble replacing your garbage disposal or if you’d like to add the convenience of waste disposal to your kitchen sink, contact Newcomb and Company. We’re happy to help with all of your plumbing needs in the Raleigh and Wilmington areas.

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Guide to Low Maintenance HVAC Systems

Wouldn’t it be nice if your HVAC system was just a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of thing? Unfortunately, there aren’t any HVAC systems on the market that run perfectly on their own all the time. But when purchasing a low maintenance HVAC system, there are some factors that make it easier on you. This guide will help you buy a system that’s as close to self-operating as you can get.

Components of a Low Maintenance HVAC

Certain parts of your HVAC system require a bit more maintenance than others. Do your research beforehand, and you can choose a model that won’t need quite as much help from you. These components are part of a low maintenance HVAC system that you won’t have to worry about.

Programmable Thermostat

We’ve talked about the benefits of a programmable thermostat before. A ‘smart’ thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature of your home according to a preset schedule. No more getting out of bed because you forgot to change the temperature! Many households have programmable thermostats these days, but for minimum maintenance, buy a smart thermostat that connects to your phone via an app. That way, if you want to veer off the program, you can do it from your bed, your car, or anywhere else.

Thick, Efficient Filters

One of the primary HVAC maintenance tasks a homeowner is responsible for is changing the air filter. There are many air filter types on the market. Some need to be changed more frequently than others. The thicker an air filter is, the longer it lasts. A 1″ air filter needs to be changed every one to three months, while a 5″ or 6″ air filter can last up to nine months. High-efficiency filters also need less frequent replacement. Your HVAC system can only use filters of a certain size, so check the manual before you buy an HVAC system to see if it can handle thicker, high-efficiency filters.

Do you want washable or disposable filters? A washable filter can be reused, but, as the name implies, you’re responsible for washing it. That’s not exactly low maintenance. Disposable filters are pricier in the long run, but you can just toss the old one and put in the new at the scheduled time.

Zoned Heating

Without zoned heating, you’re forced to close dampers and vents manually. If you want to be efficient and save on your bills, you’re going to walk from room to room every night, closing all of the ducts throughout the downstairs. A zone heating system makes it easy by automatically turning off the heat or air to rooms that aren’t in use. Paired with a programmable thermostat, you’ll never have to touch the ducts or the thermostat again. That’s the definition of a low maintenance HVAC system!

Other Techniques

After you’ve purchased the appropriate type of low maintenance HVAC and thermostat, there are two additional things you can do to lessen the amount of time you spend taking care of your system.

Add Fencing

The condenser coil on your outdoor unit collects dirt and debris over time. This is especially true if it’s surrounded by foliage. If you build a fence around your outdoor HVAC unit, leaves and dust are less likely to clog up the coils. You’ll need to clean it less frequently. Just make sure you leave plenty of room between the fence and the outdoor unit, so you can access it when necessary and there’s space for it to vent.

If you can’t add a fence, at least trim back the foliage so there aren’t any plants within a five foot radius of the outdoor unit. Pollen and other detritus will be less likely to blow into the coils. Clean up any lawn mower clippings right away. This will give you more time between washings.

Buy a Maintenance Agreement

The most low maintenance HVAC system is the one you don’t have to touch at all. If you never want to think about your HVAC system again, an annual maintenance agreement is the way to go. Every HVAC company offers something a little bit different, so look into the plan to make sure it’s fully comprehensive. You don’t want to pay someone just to change your air filters!

At Newcomb and Company, our maintenance agreements provide you with complete peace of mind. We service your HVAC system from top to bottom twice a year. And maintenance members get additional benefits like discounts and priority service. For the most low maintenance HVAC available, call us today!





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What to Do About Furnace Rust

Got furnace rust? What does it mean? Do you need to do anything about it? We’ve got all the answers.

Why Does a Furnace Rust?

Your furnace isn’t like a water heater. It doesn’t use water to heat the home – it uses air. So if you see rust on the outside of your furnace, you’re probably wondering where it’s coming from.

Like all types of heat exchangers, your furnace uses processes like evaporation, condensation, combustion, and convection to heat, cool, and move the air. One of the most popular types of furnace is a condensing furnace. A condensing furnace uses two heat exchangers. The second heat exchanger condenses the water vapor from the hot flue gases. This extracts more heat, making it one of the most efficient furnaces on the market.

Unfortunately, when there’s water, there’s a potential for rust.

What Happens to the Water?

When your furnace is working properly, a tube called the condensation drain line removes any water from your furnace. There are several reasons why your condensate line may be ineffective. If you’ve had a cold winter, you might have a frozen condensate line. The drain or the line can become clogged with algae, dirt, or other residue. A leaky drain pipe can lead to furnace rust over a period of time.

Where Is the Rust?

The furnace rust might not be externally visible. Older heat exchangers can rust over time, but only an HVAC technician would see this. That’s (another!) reason why regular expert maintenance is so important. Too much rust can lead to holes or cracks in the heat exchanger, causing a deadly carbon monoxide leak. If your inspector says there is rust in your heat exchanger, get it taken care of right away!

Rust can be found in unexpected places. If your pilot light won’t stay lit, it could be because the gas jet that lights it has been clogged with rust. In a gas furnace, the burners needed to fuel the heat exchanger can also become encrusted with rust and need cleaning.

What Should You Do?

If you see rust anywhere in or around your furnace, you need to call an experienced HVAC technician. Rust means that water is leaking from somewhere, and your technician has the tools and knowledge to diagnose the problem. Don’t wait on this.

Furnace rust can be a symptom of a larger problem. Rust doesn’t automatically mean an expensive repair bill; you might just have a clogged drain line. Air conditioners are often located above furnaces. An issue with your air conditioner could cause water to drip down onto your furnace. If you notice rust on your furnace, call a technician and so he or she can take a look at the heat exchanger and make sure there aren’t any larger problems.

Rust eats away at metal, so the longer you let the problem go on, the worse it’s going to get. That means more money for repairs or even a total replacement. Even a small amount of rust can be a big problem. If you see rust on your furnace, contact Newcomb and Company today.

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Furnace Maintenance: DIY or Professional?

You know that regular furnace maintenance is important to keep your HVAC system running efficiently. It can increase the life expectancy of your system and prevent future problems. But what activities can you do for yourself, and what requires a professional? You can perform some basic furnace maintenance on your own. The more complex tasks require the specialized tools and knowledge of a professional technician.

DIY Furnace Maintenance

Air Filters

No matter what type of furnace you have, you’ll need to change the filters regularly. A furnace filter should be replaced every 30 to 90 days. Your furnace is like the lungs of your HVAC system. If it becomes dirty or clogged, it affects everything else. Do some research into air filter types to ensure you’re choosing the correct one. You can’t just vacuum or hose off a disposable air filter. If you aren’t sure which type of air filter you have, bring it to your local hardware store. They should be able to help you find a similar model.

Make Space

While not technically furnace maintenance, you will want to make sure you keep the area around the furnace clear of debris, storage, and boxes. Furnaces are typically tucked away in an attic, crawlspace, basement, or closet. Throughout the year, seasonal decorations, toys, and other items may accumulate around the furnace. A furnace needs good ventilation to work optimally. Clear at least a foot or two of space around your furnace.

Check the Outside

The gases created by your furnace are carried up and out of your home via the exhaust pipe. During the year, the exhaust pipe can become clogged by dirt and debris. During spring cleaning (or your annual maintenance), check on the exhaust pipe. Soggy leaves, bird nests, and even critters can make their way into your exhaust pipe. If it snows frequently, you may want to take a look at the pipe to ensure it isn’t clogged with snow or ice. Your furnace needs to be able to vent freely to avoid harmful gases entering your home. To be on the safe side, install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector near your furnace.

Professional Furnace Maintenance

According to the Department of Energy, most furnace maintenance truly does require an expert. Venting problems can be difficult for the layman to diagnose, and furnaces have complex components that rely on one another to work properly.

Cleaning and Repair

Dirt is the biggest enemy to your furnace. Cleaning seems like it should be an easy task, but furnace parts are surprisingly fragile. Attempting to clean the furnace yourself without the proper tools or training could cause damage.

Some parts of your furnace are easily disassembled with a screwdriver, but the furnace isn’t meant to come to pieces. A technician knows which panels to remove for cleaning, and which screws should remain tightened!

Does your furnace have oil ports? They may need a special type of lubrication. Got grease cups? You’ll need bearing lubricant. Belts that are worn or frayed might have to be replaced as well. Even if your furnace components don’t need to be replaced, they should be checked on annually to avoid any future problems.

Testing and Calibration

Your furnace maintenance technician will bring tools to test for leaks, airflow, and fuel pressure. If your furnace has a pilot or igniter, the technician will make sure it is working properly. The thermostat is another component of your furnace. A poorly calibrated thermostat can cause a lot of frustration. The tech checks the thermostat controls to ensure that when you’re changing the temperature settings, your furnace is getting the message!

You can (and should!) perform basic furnace maintenance like changing the air filter and keeping the outside of the furnace clean. But to truly keep your furnace running safely and efficiently, it needs regular professional maintenance. Newcomb and Company offers comprehensive maintenance agreements. Twice a year, our technicians will come to your home and thoroughly clean, test, and maintain your entire HVAC system. Contact us today to schedule your furnace maintenance.


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Heating Problems in Cold Weather

When the weather gets cold, the heat turns on. But heating problems in cold weather can definitely put a cramp in your style. What are the most common issues people have with their heaters? And what can you do to fix or prevent them?

Common Heating Problems in Cold Weather

Inefficient Heat Pump

Heat pumps are very popular in the South, because they work as a heater in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer. A heat pump runs on refrigerant and air. It transfers heat from the outside air and, with the help of refrigerant, moves it into your home. When it gets very cold outside, though, there isn’t enough heat to transfer. At that point, a hybrid heat pump switches to electricity backup, or strip heating. Strip heating is inefficient and costly, but it will keep your house toasty warm on cold days. Learn more about specific heating problems in cold weather if you have a heat pump.

Gelling Oil

If have an oil furnace, it runs on some kind of heating oil. The oil is typically kept in an outdoor storage tank. One of the potential heating problems in cold weather involves the clouding and gelling of your oil. Unlike water, oil doesn’t freeze. But it does have wax particles in it, and these particles harden as the temperature drops. As they harden, they sink to the bottom of your oil tank. A sludge forms, and it can turn into an oil line blockage if the weather remains below about 16° Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. You can add certain chemicals to your oil to prevent it from gelling in cold weather.

Frozen Condensate Line

When the temperature drops below freezing, you may end up with a frozen condensate line. The condensate line gets rid of the moisture created as your heating system operates. If it freezes and blocks the pipe, water will back up into your condensation drip pan. This could lead to some serious water damage. Make sure that you thaw a frozen condensate line right away, before it causes major problems.

Cold Spots

Is your home cozy and warm – except for one area? One of the most common heating problems in cold weather is inconsistent temperatures. Cold or hot spots become much more pronounced when the weather is extreme. There are several reasons why you may be experiencing uneven temperature in your home. First, check to make sure all of your vents and dampers are open. Cold spots can also be caused by duct leaks or poor insulation. Examine your windows to see if they are thoroughly sealed. If your air conditioner is improperly sized, it will not be able to heat your entire home. That can manifest as cold spots in certain areas.

Your HVAC Turns On and Off

If your heater is turning on and off repeatedly, don’t worry. In the winter, your HVAC system might turn on seven or eight times in an hour. The temperature dips a bit, and your heat kicks in. Once you’re back to temperature, it turns off. The only time this is a heating problem is if your HVAC is turning on for seconds rather than several minutes.

HVAC short cycling occurs when your system turns off before it completes a full cycle. There are several possible reasons why your HVAC might be short cycling. Make sure the filter is clean and unclogged. If the short cycling continues, call a technician. He or she can check that you have enough refrigerant and see if any parts might be starting to fail.

Get Help

Are you experiencing heating problems in cold weather? You don’t have to suffer through the winter months. Call Newcomb and Company and get the issue taken care of. We’ll send an experienced and knowledgeable technician to your home to analyze the problem and implement a solution.

Need help? Call now.

Hot Water Heater: Repair vs Replace

When your hot water heater breaks, you face a big question. Repair or replace? Is it going to be worth it to fix your hot water heater? Or are you better off buying and installing a new one? The answer depends on several factors.


How old is your hot water heater? The average lifespan for a hot water heater is around ten years. If you haven’t replaced your hot water heater in the past decade, ‘replace’ should win the hot water heater repair vs replace battle. If your hot water heater is on the newer side (and you’ve been happy it), you may opt to repair instead.

Some hot water heaters last longer than others. According to the Department of Energy, a tankless coil and indirect water heater has a life expectancy of ten or 11 years. A storage tank or heat pump will last ten to 15 years. A solar water heater lasts about 20 years, and a tankless water heater can last even longer.

The lifespan of a hot water heater its affected by many things, including its location, maintenance, and how frequently you’ve drained and flushed it. Ten years is a general guideline, not a law. If your tank is rusty or corroded, it’s time for a replacement – even if it isn’t ten years old yet.


Most hot water heaters have a sticker on the side with the estimated annual cost of operation. You should also check the R-value of your storage tank. The R-value measures how well your hot water heater resists heat. A higher R-value means your hot water tank is well insulated. If your hot water tank has an R-value that’s less than 24 (or it feels hot to touch), it may be time to replace it.

You can also look at a water heater’s energy factor. This number indicates the efficiency of the heater. A higher number means it’s more efficient, but remember that this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less expensive annually. For that, you need to factor in fuel type and cost. (See the Department of Energy for information on how to calculate annual operating costs of a water heater).


In the years since your hot water heater was first installed, you may have undergone some changes. Are you still using the same amount of hot water? If your family has grown, you may need a larger tank to accommodate extra loads of laundry, baths, and toilet usage. If people have moved out, you might be wasting money by heating water unnecessarily.

Before the current problem that caused you to consider the hot water heater repair vs replace dilemma, were you satisfied? Did you find that there was enough hot water to go around, and that your water heated up quickly enough? If you already had to stand around for several minutes as you waited for the water to get up to temperature, or plan showers around a schedule so everyone could get hot water, it’s probably time for a replacement.


The type of damage will also impact the hot water heater repair vs replace debate. It’s always worth it to call a technician who can inspect your hot water heater and give you a quote for repair or replacement. If you have a leak, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get away with repair. Other types of problems, like your water heating too slowly (or not at all) might have less expensive solutions.


How much it’s going to cost is often the deciding factor when you’re choosing to repair vs replace your hot water heater. The general rule of thumb is that if the repair is going to cost 50% or more of the replacement, it isn’t worth it. You have to look at more than just the cost of the repairs and the cost of the replacement, though. Here are the factors you should consider for repair costs:

  • How much is the repair itself going to cost?
  • How much longer can you expect your hot water heater to last if you do undertake the repairs? If you’re only adding a year or two onto the longevity of your water heater, it might not be worth the investment. The Association of Certified Home Inspectors suggests that if the repair cost per year is more than 10% of the cost of installing a new water heater, it’s not worth it.
  • Does the installer offer any kind of warranty for the replaced parts?

Thinking about replacing your hot water heater? Don’t forget about these costs:

  • How much will the new hot water cost to purchase? What is the cost to install?
  • What are operating and maintenance costs going to look like? This will help you decide if it’s worth investing in a more efficient water heating system.

Hot Water Heater Repair Vs Replace

Ultimately, there are several factors that will influence your decision to repair or replace your hot water heater. Before you make a decision, talk with a knowledgeable technician. He or she will be able to give you suggestions for your specific situation. The technician can explain the costs and drawbacks of your options, and may be aware of types of water heaters that you hadn’t considered.

It’s always worth talking to an expert before making what could be a very expensive choice. If your hot water heater seems like it’s on its way out, call Newcomb and Company. We’ll help you reach the decision that’s best for you.




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