Wm. Henderson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Inc. Blog : Archive for December, 2014

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.”

This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at WM Henderson Inc., we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

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Common Problems with Ductless Mini Splits in the Heating Season

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Ductless mini-splits are becoming quite the popular home heating option for homeowners who are dissatisfied with other systems. They’re energy efficient, cost-effective, and flexible. However, ductless mini-splits have some problems, just like any machine. Let’s take a look at some specific issues that affect ductless mini-splits during the heating season.

Dearth of Thermal Energy

Ductless mini-splits may look very different from other heating systems, but they actually have a lot in common with heat pumps. They use the same method of evaporating and condensing refrigerant to move heat from one place to another, rather than relying on combustion to create heat. Just like heat pumps, though, ductless mini-splits rely on the air around them to provide heat.

When the temperature outside drops, the air holds less thermal energy. Therefore, when the ductless mini-split tries to siphon heat from the air, it has less to draw on. This isn’t a problem unless the temperature drops quite low, but when that does happen the ductless system struggles to provide enough heat.

Icing Over

As previously mentioned, the outside unit of the ductless mini-split collects heat by siphoning heat out of the air. It does this by evaporating the refrigerant flowing through a coil inside it. When the refrigerant evaporates, it draws heat out of the surrounding air and into the coil. There are two other results of this process. The first is that the surrounding air gets colder. The second is that condensation forms on the coil and casing as it heats up. The condensation then freezes in the cold air and forms ice on the unit.

This isn’t normally a problem, as ductless mini-split systems are designed with a defrost cycle to melt any ice on the outside unit. If the defrost cycle is malfunctioning for any reason, however, the unit can become covered with ice and stop drawing heat from the air. To avoid this, pay attention to the outside of your system when it’s cold out. If there is ice on it, and it seems to be increasing instead of going away, you should call a professional.

If you’re having problems with your ductless mini-split, call Wm. Henderson Plumbing & Heating Inc. We provide heating repair throughout Broomall, PA.

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Why Is There Soot on My Furnace?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

If you have a furnace, especially a gas-burning furnace, you may one day find soot visible on the outside of the unit. Though this may alarm you at first, don’t panic. Soot isn’t necessarily a bad sign, depending on where you find it. Let’s take a look at some of the places you’re likely to find furnace soot, and what it means.

Incomplete Combustion

First, you must understand where the soot is actually coming from. No matter where you find soot on or around your furnace, it always comes from the same place: the burners. As a furnace burns fuel to create heat, especially natural gas, there are remnants left over after the process is completed. This is called “incomplete combustion.” One of the combustion byproducts is carbon, the primary ingredient in soot, which is sent up the heat exchanger and out of the house. However, if there is a problem with your furnace’s venting, you may start to find soot in other places. This is where it can become a problem.


Soot that collects on your furnace’s burners can build up to the point where it starts to impede their ignition. A dirty burner may not burn as intensely as it should, lowering your furnace’s heat output. If it’s dirty enough, the burner may not light at all.

Pilot Light

Just like the burners, the pilot light can become caked with soot over years of use, or if the combustion byproducts are being improperly vented. If you’re using a standing pilot light, this can be particularly troublesome, as it can prevent the light from igniting or staying lit. If your pilot light seems to be having trouble burning, especially if it is a primarily yellow flame instead of blue, you may want to check the pilot assembly.


This is the biggest issue. If soot is found near where the furnace connects to the ducts, the heat exchanger may be leaking. This can cause combustion byproducts like soot to mix with the air in the house. Carbon monoxide can also be released in this fashion, which is highly toxic. If you see soot in this area, turn the heat off and call a professional right away.

If you’d like to know more, contact Wm. Henderson Plumbing & Heating Inc. We provide heating repair throughout Broomall, PA.

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Be Sure to Schedule Prompt Commercial Plumbing Repair

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Your commercial plumbing system is vital to the operation of your business. Whether you need a complex plumbing system to accommodate the amount of water usage and wastewater at your large commercial kitchen, or if the plumbing is primarily used for the office break room, your ability to conduct business is still severely limited whenever there is a plumbing problem. When you notice an issue like a leak or clog, you may decide to wait to call for services so that your property can continue running for a while longer. But this is problematic as you may develop far larger issues on your property if you wait too long for commercial plumbing repair in Wynnewood.

This is true of both leaks and clogs, as either can develop into quite a complication. Even a small leak originating from a pipe beneath the sink can cost you a lot of money in water bills (and it’s generally hazardous for your employees nearby). A small drip from a faucet can still waste water—up to 20 gallons every day! Leaks from water and drain pipes or from appliances like water heaters must be taken care of right away, not only to save money, but also to prevent structural damage or sewage leaks that lead to dangerous contaminants on your property.

A clog can be just as big of an issue, even if it seems like only a minor inconvenience. Slow or stopped drains can indicate an impending sewage backup, as wastewater moves back up through the drains of your business since it cannot move into the sewer. The change in pressure can even lead to a burst pipe, allowing sewage to leak beneath your property or on public property. And if the city finds your business responsible for a public health hazard, you can be fined.

Commercial plumbers are trained in the best practices to conduct work quickly and stay out of the way so that business as usual can return as soon as possible. Whether it’s an overflowing toilet, a leaky sink, a burst pipe, or a busted water heater, call Wm. Henderson Plumbing & Heating Inc. We have experienced plumbers trained specifically on larger properties who specialize in commercial plumbing repair in Wynnewood.

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Choose a Contractor that Uses Video Camera Pipe Inspection for Drain Cleaning

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

When you have a major drain clog, it can be frustrating to go without one or more of the sinks or showers in your home. Generally, you’ll have to avoid the fixtures you use every day to keep wastewater from filling up in the tub or the bowl of the sink. Sometimes, a simple home plunger can get rid of the blockage fast, but other times, people resort to buying liquid drain cleaners and trying their luck with those. Here at Wm. Henderson Plumbing & Heating Inc., we’d like to warn you that drain cleaning is not a job for most homeowners. Chemical drain cleaners can be damaging, and we recommend choosing a professional who uses video pipe camera inspection before and after drain cleaning.

Drain Cleaning: A Job for Professionals

Store bought drain cleaners are simply not a solution for clogged drains. Experts consider drain cleaning chemicals to be some of the most hazardous substances available for the average consumer to purchase. They can cause injury to the skin or eyes and can even damage the lining of the pipes. Besides, these chemicals are fairly ineffective dissolving a large number of potential blockages.

Professionals instead use professional grade drain snakes (also known as drain augers) to latch onto sources of clogs and completely remove any debris stuck in the pipe. Some plumbers instead use a hose to blast clogs into the sewer. But the best plumbers supplement drain cleaning with video pipe inspection technology.

Why Video Camera pipe Inspection Is Important

Video camera pipe inspection involves the use of a very long cable with a small camera attached to the end. As the camera is fed through the drain pipes, the professional can view a live feed to determine the exact location of a clog. This is vital in helping a professional to choose the right tool to use for the safest, most efficient removal. Using a video camera also helps a plumber to find any leaks in your pipes you may not have known about, which could help save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Call Wm. Henderson Plumbing & Heating Inc. for friendly, professional service and drain cleaning with video camera pipe inspection in Ardmore.

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