Archive for August, 2013

5 Overlooked Areas to Check for Energy Loss In Your Home

Posted on: August 23rd, 2013 | No Comments

EnergyAre you sick of receiving inflated energy bills? Have you already tried fiddling with your thermostat?  Replacing your light bulbs? Unplugging your appliances and electronics? Are you looking for an alternative to paying a professional several hundred dollars to figure out what’s wrong with your home? You’re in luck. Here’s a list of 5 often overlooked culprits and ways to find out if these issues are sucking the energy from your home and money from your wallet:

  1. Fireplace damper – Warm air from your home is often drawn into the chimney flue, and it can sneak out if you have an ineffective damper.  You can test the damper by closing it and holding a lit candle inside the firebox.  If the flame gets blown out, or close to it, you know air is flowing up the chimney.A chimney sweep can clean your fireplace and replace your damper.

  2. Drafts – Close doors, windows, and fireplace flues and turn off combustion appliances (gas-burning furnace, water heater).  Turn on exhaust fans (usually located in the kitchen and bathrooms), or use a window fan to blow air out of the home.  Light sticks of incense and stand near areas you suspect have drafts.  The smoke from the incense stick will waver or flow in the direction of the air leak.  If you have air leaks around your windows, consider replacing them or winterize them.
  3. Switches and outlets – Behind those light switches and outlets is a gaping hole that, if not properly insulate, allows air to escape.  To check the problem, remove the plate covering the outlet and place a tissue over the opening.  Tape the top edge of the tissue to the wall.  If the bottom half of the tissue blows, you have a sizable leak that needs to be addressed.  You can combat the problem by buying pre-cut foam gasket or an outlet cover at a hardware store.
  4. Ducts – In an average home with forced-air heating and cooling systems, 20-percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks or holes.  To check for leaks, turn on your heating or cooling system fan and feel for any air seeping out from the duct work.  Also, shine a flashlight through the vents to spot disconnected or kinked ducts.  Seal the leaks or holes with mastic or foil tape.  Do NOT use duct tape.  Use foam to seal areas where ducts connect to vents and registers or where they pass through walls and floors.
  5. Attic hatch – You can check to see how much air is escaping through the attic hatch by applying the same incense test you used to look for drafts.  Seal the hatch by installing foam weather stripping on the edges of the opening and then put foam board insulation on the back of the hatch door.  You can also buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit.

Five Home Improvement Projects You Should Never DIY

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 | No Comments

Move over BRB, LOL and BLT, make room for DIY. The popularity of the acronym and the projects that it describes has exploded in recent years. Flip through the television channels or peruse the magazine rack and you will likely stumble upon some type of story focusing on the do-it-yourself phenomenon.

 

Successfully completing a DIY project can save you money, boost your pride and score some bonus points with your better half. However, success is hard to come by. With that in mind, here is a list of 5 don’t do-it-yourself (DDIY) projects:

 

1. Electrical Work – You may be capable of updating electrical fixtures (light switches, ceiling fans), but don’t mess with electrical circuits or electrical wiring. That can be a deadly decision, literally. Faulty electrical work can result in electrical shock or an electrical fire. Plus, electrical work is governed by very strict codes that must be followed and many insurance policies require that you get a permit and hire a licensed electrician to do electrical work.

 

2. Roof Repairs – Another project where the risk outweighs the reward. Once again, the biggest risk is your health. Climbing up and down ladders and standing on an angled surface is not exactly safe, especially when you are not used to doing it. In addition, a professional roofer is trained to identify structural weaknesses and other potential problems that may pop up in the future.

 

3. Plumbing – Go ahead and change a showerhead or the handle on your toilet, but don’t attempt to fix your water heating system or re-route the supply lines. Mistakes can lead to leaks, damaged pipes and water damage within the foundation of your home. As a rule, don’t try any repairs that will be hidden by walls, floors or ceilings.

 

4. HVAC Installation/Repair – The HVAC system is much more complicated than it appears. There are many facets to consider; electrical components, air flow, duct work, adding vents, potential for mold. If you make a mistake, it will likely cost you money in the form of utility bills, and/or cost you your health (mold, poor ventilation).

 

5. Tree Removal – Way too many potential problems. One, the chain saw can slice off one of your body parts easier than it can slice off a tree branch. Two, the tree may fall on your house, you neighbors house, the dog. Three, you can fall off the ladder or a tree branch can knock you off the ladder.

 

Before starting any DIY project, do some research and make sure you understand how much money, effort and skill it will require. If you underestimate the project or overestimate your skill, your idea that started as a money-saver will quickly turn into a money pit.

Saving Green While Going Green: Green Habits for your Home

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 | No Comments

houseIf saving money is on the top of your to-do list, you may want to consider adding some green options to your home.   While going green doesn’t necessarily mean living like a caveman to save money, there are a few subtractions to your lifestyle that not only make sense for the planet but also for your bottom line.


Watch your sprinklers:
  If you live in an area of the country where you water your grass often through the usage of a sprinkler system, double check that your settings are appropriate for the weather.  For instance, your sprinklers shouldn’t turn on when it’s raining.  Shop for a sensor (or some cities provide them for free) to cut this useless usage.


Cool it down:
  No – not your thermostat. Your laundry!  Washing your clothes in cold water can get it just as clean as hot water, thanks to new detergents specifically designed for cold loads.


Turn it up: 
Raising your personal tolerance for heat can help to save money in the summer months.  Consider opening your windows at night to let cooler air in and keeping your shades or drapes closed during the afternoon to block out the sun.  Not possible in your climate?  Make a habit of running errands or going to the park a few nights a week instead of lounging at home in the AC.


Turn it off:  
If you’re still transitioning to compact fluorescent lights, watch your lighting habits.  Turn off the lights before you leave the room.  Can’t remember?  Install sensors to detect when the room’s empty or suddenly occupied.


Go au natural:  
Lots of blogs and articles are popping up about all-natural cleaning products you can make at home.   White vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda can do a variety of home chores – instead of those toxic – and pricey – home cleaning products.  Google around to find your favorite new cleaning recipe.

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