Kathi Galasso Posts

Saving Energy the Easy Way

total-home-supply-1While winter is not quite here, and worrying about energy efficiency is not nearly as exciting as planning a holiday party or family vacation, maybe it’s time to think about it…just a little. Many of us across the country have already experienced a blustery morning where the temperature has dropped significantly overnight, and it won’t be long before you’ll be turning up the thermostat. While there’s only so much you can do about the cost of your heat, there are a lot of things you can do to cut down on using energy.

Not all of us are DIY people, so for this post we will avoid the obvious ways like caulking, weatherstripping, having your furnace tuned up, etc, to make your home more efficient.  Instead, today we will focus on some simple ways for even the least handy or most unmotivated person to save a few bucks on your energy costs.

  1. 15611939_sSince we’re so close to Halloween, let’s start this list with Vampires, as in energy sucking vampire appliances and electronics. According to the Department of Energy, up to 40% of the energy for electronics is used when they are turned off. The greatest sucker of them all is that giant flat screen TV sitting there with the instant on button. Video games, the DVD player, your laptop, printer, coffeemaker, and the one thing we are all guilty of… the cell phone charger.  The easy fix is to use a power strip and shut it off in the evening, or when you will be out of the house for extended periods of time.
  2. Time your energy usage. Use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer during off-peak energy usage times. If you have a delay start feature on your appliances, use it. Run only a full load with your dishwasher, use the coldest water you can in your clothes washer, and keep your lint trap clean in your dryer. Also, if you’re drying multiple loads, take the clothes out as soon as they are dry, and throw in the next load immediately to keep the dryer from cooling down between loads.
  3. If you have rooms that are not used, keep the door to those rooms closed. Open curtains during the day to let in the warmth of the sunshine, and close curtains at night to retain the heat and keep out the cold.
  4. Change up your lighting. We’ve all been told how much more efficient CFL bulbs are and while it’s true, most everyone hates them… am I right? If you don’t want to go green with your bulbs, there are a few things you can do. Placing floor lamps in the corners of a room will help reflect more light into the room. If you need more light, one larger watt bulb is more efficient than two smaller ones. If an area needs some light but not task lighting, like a hallway for example, use a lower wattage bulb. For areas which are used for different functions, use a dimmer so you only use the wattage you need.
  5. 14350018_sClose the refrigerator door. You know what’s in there. The fridge fairy hasn’t magically loaded it up with all your faves. It’s all the same stuff that was in there the last time you looked. Grab something and close the door. Keeping it open isn’t good for the fridge, your food, or your energy bill.

So there you have it, the Total Home Supply Not-Using-Much-Energy-To-Save-Energy list. Now you might want to think about caulking, weatherstripping, and tuning up your furnace.

Winterizing Your Gas Grill

For everyone in a cold winter weather climate, let’s have a show of hands. How many of you have opened up  the lid of your outdoor grill after not using it for three months or so, and found evidence of chipmunks, squirrels, mice or spiders having called squatter’s rights? Yeah, I think it’s fairly unanimous.

There’s a way to prevent the unwelcome residence of vermin in your grill. Winterize it.  Taking a little time to clean your gas grill thoroughly and seal it, will not only keep out the critters, it will keep it rust-free and ready to go in the spring.

WEBER-S420-2THere’s how to do it:

For a propane gas grill, it’s a good idea to burn off any food that is dried on the grates, so heat the grill to high and let it cook off the grease and dried on food for about twenty minutes. While the grill is still hot, use a wire brush to scrape off any remaining residue. Then let the grill cool down completely.

Unhook the propane tank, but never store the tank indoors. Even small gas leaks into a closed area can create an explosive situation.

Now it’s time to take the cooled grates and wash them with soapy water. You can use oven cleaner on hard to clean areas, but be sure all soap and oven cleaner are completely rinsed off. Allow the grates to dry completely. At this point, check your Owner’s Manual. Some manufacturers will recommend spraying the grates with some cooking oil to prevent rusting, others will not. If you can’t find your Owner’s Manual, check the Total Home Supply website’s Outdoor Living Grills section to see if we carry your model. If we do, then click on the Manuals & Guides tab for a downloadable file.

29603973_sTake out the lava rocks, if they are really grease covered, you might want to think about replacing them. Remove the burner, the tubing, the drip pan and the hoses. Clean all the pieces, and check for wear and tear. If anything looks worn or cracked, start making a list of parts to be replaced.

If you wrap your burner, tubes and hose in a large plastic bag, you can be certain that you won’t have an issue with spiders and other bugs clogging up the lines when you ignite the grill in the spring. Now you can clean the inside of the lid, the outside of the grill, the side burner and the stand with hot soapy water. You may also need a degreaser to make the cleaning a little easier. Rinse well and let dry.

After all the pieces have dried, cover the grill. The best option is to then store the grill indoors, or at the least, a place where it is out of the elements. If it’s not possible, be sure to seal the vent holes and gas line hole with plastic, to keep your furry friends from nesting.

A little TLC goes a long way in keeping your propane grill in top condition. A little elbow grease in the fall ensures the first spring BBQ will be a success.

 

Photo Credit:

Frozen Pipes, Prevention Instead of Repair

DSCN3289It’s been a long, cold winter so far, and for most of the country there is a lot more of it to go. The temperatures for the month of February will still be low, and the continuous cold takes a toll on your home. Ice dams can form around your gutters causing your roof to leak, and frozen pipes can burst.

Since preventing frozen pipes is definitely a better option than coming home to water flowing through your home, it might be a good idea to talk about a few ways to prevent a home disaster. Some tips can be done by the homeowner, while others may require a professional’s hand.

Wien_Frozen_Pipes_(2311358162)Frozen pipes occur when cold air surrounds the pipe, and water within the pipe freezes and increases pressure somewhere between the frozen blockage and the closed faucet.  Holes in the outside wall of your house where cable or internet lines come through the walls can let in a lot of cold air. This can be a problem if these holes are too close to water pipes. Sealing the holes with caulk will not only protect your pipes, but will create a more energy efficient home.

Wrapping pipes with insulation is another easy fix. Most home improvement centers or plumbing supply stores sell pipe sleeves manufactured for this purpose. The thicker the insulation, the better; just be sure that no gaps exist where the pipe is exposed to the cold air.

One easy tip is to just open the cabinet doors under your kitchen sink, bathroom vanities, etc., anywhere a pipe is housed and no warm air can circulate. Allowing a faucet to drip, while not the optimum way to prevent frozen pipes, does help in some cases. I know of one case where a homeowner never had a frozen pipe until he had a plumber fix a leaky faucet. Letting a small drip may work in some instances, but it wastes water and does not take care of the underlying problem.

If your pipes are in an unheated crawl space or an outside wall, electric heating tapes and cables can be used to run along the pipes, providing enough warmth to prevent freezing. However, because of the need for this wiring to be up to code, and because a thermostat needs to be installed so the heated wires will turn on when needed, it’s best to call in a professional to do the installation. It’s a more expensive option, but definitely cheaper than the repairs needed when pipes burst inside your walls.

So how cold does it need to be before pipes freeze? Well, 20 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the general rule, but the actual freezing point could be higher depending on weather conditions, as well as where your pipes are located. It’s always better to prevent than it is to repair. Take a look around your home and see what options fit your needs, and keep those pipes warm.

Photo Source: By Cha già José from Vienna, Austria (Frozen Pipes  Uploaded by darkweasel94) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Heating Ventilation: Types and Uses

While technically it is still summer, most of us are past thinking about going to the pool and are now thinking of ways to stay warm through the winter. If you are thinking of adding a supplementary heating system, there are several ways to go. Wood stoves, gas stoves, electric stoves, gas fireplaces, electric fireplaces, as well as gas heaters (including vented gas heaters and direct vent gas heaters) and electric heaters, are all viable options for adding additional warmth to your home.

In future blogs, we will discuss the merits of each type of heating method, but today we will try to explain the venting methods used for these heaters.

Vent-Free:  Most vent-free systems are 99.9% fuel efficient because, with no required venting, the energy and warmth remain in the room, and is not lost up the chimney. Most of these systems have an automatic shut-off, which shuts down the system if the oxygen level in the room reaches an unacceptable level. They can only be re-started once the oxygen level is raised to a safe level. These systems, because of no flues or chimneys, have greater placement flexibility.

Directvent-diagramDirect Vent or Horizontal Vent:  This type of venting allows the carbon monoxide and other toxic materials to be vented from the fireplace directly through the stove pipe and out the wall to the outside. This is an economical method by way of using outside air to support combustion. The inside air is warmed as ir recirculates around the sealed combustion chamber. This heated air warms the room and eliminates drafts.

Up-Vent or Vertical Venting:  With this type of venting, the vent pipes connect to the firebox and an existing flue or chimney, to carry the fumes, etc, outside, or to new flues where venting upwards is a better approach, such as the top floor of a home. Instead of the fumes going out the side of the house, with vertical venting, they go out through the roof. This conventional type of venting uses the inside air to support combustion.

Usually, placement of the fireplace or stove will dictate the type of venting needed, but it’s always a good idea to check with your local fire codes for specific information. And remember to check your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.

Diagram courtesy of Empire Comfort Systems.