Spend Less This Summer: 4 Cheap Ways to Keep Cool

With temperatures rising, homeowners begin rethinking their budget to accommodate rising electric bills, as well. However, there are better things to do with your summer cash rather than worrying about sky-high rates. Although it might seem impossible at first, cutting your electric bill during the summer months cheaply is easier than you think.

Drapes

Adding drapes to your home is a great way to decrease the amount of heat entering the house and are fairly inexpensive if you know where to look. However, even if you can’t afford to put drapes on all the windows of your home, don’t worry! Adding drapes to the areas of your home that receive the most sunlight will still keep your home cooler than it would be without them.

When buying drapes or curtains, the heavier they are, the better they are for cooling down your home. Thicker fabric absorbs more heat from the outside while keeping the inside temperature from escaping outside.

·      Thrift Shops and Flea Markets

A lot of thrift stores and flea markets sell heavy drapes really cheaply. Although they might not match, particularly if you’re planning on having drapes throughout your home, the drapes available are usually serviceable and cheap.

·      Sales

If you have a particular store in mind for procuring your curtains from, keep an eye on their sale fliers. Most businesses will put drapes and curtains on sale before summer.

Also, dollar stores typically have sales on leftover curtains from last year’s stock for much cheaper than you can buy them at most furniture stores. Be sure to ask if they have discounted curtains somewhere in the store. This isn’t just a great way to get curtains, but rods, as well.

Closed Doors, Natural Lights

If you want to use your air conditioner during summer, keep in mind that a small area is easier to cool than a large one. By closing the adjoining doors to the main room, you can keep your house cooler while spending less electricity!

Another great tip for decreasing the amount of electricity is to use natural light during the daytime instead of artificial lighting. Electric light bulbs automatically create heat in the room they’re in and by keeping the lights off during the day; you’ll not only save energy but keep your home cooler during the summer.

Be a Fan of Fans

Ceiling and window fans are a great way to keep your home cool throughout the day. Window and box fans can be positioned for maximum effectiveness anywhere in the room while ceiling fans deliver a cool burst of air circulating around the entire room constantly. In addition to being effective, using fans costs less than using an air conditioner will be a good idea.

Grilling

Heat from cooking can be downright miserable during the summer and is one of the main reasons that people are using their air conditioner. However, there’s a great solution that is cost-effective; namely, grilling. Grilling outside is fun and cheap solution for keeping homes cool during the summer time.

 

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Daylight Savings And Saving Energy

Sunday, March 9 at 2:00 a.m. was the official time to spring forward for daylight savings time (DST). While not all countries or U.S. states observe DST, most North American and European residents set their clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night before going to bed, including their wall clocks, appliance clocks, alarm clocks, auto clocks, sprinkler and lighting timers, some ac thermostats, and many wristwatches.

 

The History of Daylight Savings Time

The idea of daylight savings time originated in the 1700s with Ben Franklin. He believed rising with the sun would enable people to be productive during the daylight hours and thus save resources. The idea didn’t become popular in the U.S. until World War I and later World War II, when saving fuel oil was critical to the war effort. During the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the U.S. again pushed daylight savings time. During that period, electricity consumption decreased by 1% but it may have been more to higher prices than anything else. In 2005, the federal government extended daylight savings time by a month under the Energy Policy Act. But does daylight savings time really decrease energy use? Surprisingly, the answer may be “no.”

 

Does DST Really Decrease Energy Use?

Daylight savings time was invented before the use of air conditioning became widespread. A Kansas study found thats daylight savings time can actually increase consumer energy use because people arrive home when it is hot and turn on their ACs. In so far as many consumers use energy-hogging AC units, this means energy consumption is higher than if the same people had stayed at the office. However, the opposite the opposite is also true. A California study found that electricity decreased because people remained outdoors longer. The bottom line seems to be that, while energy consumption nationwide decreases by 0.03%, actual savings depend on where you live. The South tends to use more, the North is a slight winner. Lighting has almost nothing to do with it; savings relate to cooling costs.

 

DST And Biorhythms And What To Do About It

While the energy savings associated with daylight savings times are negligible, the health costs are not. Studies have shown daylight savings time can disruption the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the basic biological clock that regulates hormone production, among other things. Many people never adjust their circadian rhythm after clocks are set back, resulting in chronic over tiredness and lack of concentration. More specifically, the presence of daylight interferes the production of melatonin by the pineal gland. Low melatonin production is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer as well as insomnia. And melatonin is just one of more than a dozen hormones disrupted by daylight savings time.

While melatonin supplementation is useful, it can only accomplish so much. But you can fight light with light. Researchers have found that the blue light spectrum of daylight is responsible for an out-of-whack circadian clock. So, turn off blue light – televisions, computers and other electronic devices – at least one hour before bedtime if you want a good night’s sleep. And add red spectrum light to your life during the early evening. Incandescent light bulbs emit red light, but are no longer as readily available. However, energy saving red-light bulbs are commercially available, and we sell them of course. Using the “warm color” light bulbs will not only save energy, they can help save your health.

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Using Less Energy To Feather Your Nest

Nest Labs was bought recently by Google, which also purchased Texas Wind Farms. Both companies are in the energy business. Nest manufactures Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostats and smoke alarms, while Texas Wind Farms produces clean, sustainable power.

Nest results mixed.

Nest claims it saves consumers about $175 a year in heating and cooling costs. In reality, these savings can be much lower because Nest aims to keep you comfortable, not keep energy use in check. Many people actually spend more using Nest than not using it, and Nest does not work at all with some oil pump heaters. Independent studies have found that programmable thermostats often result in higher energy consumption simply because people do not know how to use them properly. Nest does better than traditional programmable thermostats, but is not the magical device people expect it to be.

EnTouch for small business.

Large commercial office buildings have used energy-smart thermostats by Siemens and Howell for years, but their cost is prohibitive for small businesses. EnTouch aims to bridge the gap by offering a $5000 system that automates energy consumption by smaller facilities, such as restaurants. In most states, the largest non-industrial energy users are grocery chains; commercial freezers are notorious energy hogs. Equipment such as dish machines, commercial laundry machines, and ice machines all use significant amounts of energy. Replacing these systems and upgrading water-heating systems can produce energy savings without altering the way you do business.

Getting an energy audit.

Power companies are state regulated and most are under mandate to invest in energy programs such as solar power. In many states, residential and small business customers can have an energy audit done by the local power utility at a reasonable cost. Often there are rebates for the replacement of outmoded HVAC equipment, along with federal tax credits. Replacing a low energy efficient HVAC system is the first step in lowering energy costs. After that, consider adding insulation, replacing old windows and doors that are not air tight, repairing torn ducts, and painting a dark roof with a light, reflective coating. A thermostat would be toward the bottom of the list! A great thermostat system will save you money, but it can’t offset a low SEER system and its inefficiency.

Using alternative power.

If you install a solar or wind system, you can be eligible for federal and state tax credits. Often the cost to finance a solar system is about the same or less as your utility bill, so it in effect pays for itself if it provides more than 75% of your power needs. The break-even point is usually around 8 years, at which point your energy is basically free. While installing the panels on the south side of your roof will provide the most energy gain, installing on the western side will provide power during peak periods.

 

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January 1 was lights outs for incandescent bulbs

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

It’s official: January 1, 2014 marked the end of the incandescent light bulb. While remaining inventory can still be sold, it is illegal for US companies to manufacture or import 40, 60, 75, or 100 watt incandescent bulbs. This is due to an energy conservation law signed by President Bush in 2007. Some estimate the switch will save more than $40 billion in energy costs by 2030.

You now have three alternatives to incandescent bulbs: more efficient halogen bulbs, LED, and CFL bulbs. Most of the problems noted by consumers in years past have been solved. You can now buy energy efficient CFL bulbs that light immediately and have a pleasant light color. LED bulbs, while more expensive than CFLs, last up to 22 years. The typical incandescent bulb lasts less than 18 months.

This means you can now install LED bulbs in hard to reach spots and not worry about it again for literally years. You can run outside lights for security at nominal cost and maintenance is almost nonexistent. Lighting is the top deterrent to residential crime like burglary so security lighting outside your home can save peace of mind as well as energy.

It may take some time to get used to the ways packaging describes light intensity and color on energy efficient bulbs. No problem. Just tell us where you need light and we will recommend the right bulbs for you.

Only 3 in 10 consumers plan to stockpile incandescent bulbs. Most people will make the transition and barely notice the difference, except that you no longer need to remind the kids to turn out the lights when they leave the room. In terms of cost, you can leave these new bulbs on without burning through money. In fact, your ceiling fans or electric coffee pot use more electricity.

So if your New Year’s Resolution this year was to save energy, you’re in luck. Saving energy is automatic. We’re always happen to enlighten our customers. Give us a call if you want to know more, especially about new LED and halogen incandescent bulbs.

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Getting Ready For 2014: Understanding Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

 

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

Federal legislation such as the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) requiring the phase-out of incandescent bulbs by 2014 has made lighting a confusing topic for consumers. Now, consumers are faced with understanding lingo like wattage, lumens, and voltage in order to buy light bulbs. The issue becomes even more complex when talking about specialized light bulbs for healthcare equipment, aquariums, electronics and appliances, and cars and trucks.

Consumer Household Bulbs

Projectors and televisions, electronics with displays, cameras, laptops, cell phones, toys, and vintage electronic devices… they all use light bulbs in one form or another. Trying to find an energy-efficient light bulb for your refrigerator or your microwave may not be as easy as walking into your neighborhood hardware store. Further, as manufacturers have rushed to supply appropriate lighting, there have been recalls, such as one in May 2013 affecting LED light bulbs produced by Lighting Science Group. We can supply your household light bulb needs, including full-spectrum CFL, LED, and halogen bulbs. We can also supply specialized bulbs for your home appliances, including your refrigerator!

Commercial Bulbs

The legislative mandate will have a huge impact upon businesses and industrial facilities, which face swapping out their incandescent bulbs. We assist businesses of all sizes with this. Just give us a call and we’ll tell you the most economical way to comply with legislation while reducing upfront lighting costs.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs produce more light and have a longer life than incandescent bulbs. They use very small amounts of mercury, so they should not be thrown out in your regular trash. Earth 911 is a clearinghouse of information for where to dispose of CFL bulbs if your local government does not have a special disposal or recycling option. CFL bulbs come in many shapes besides the familiar spiral, including plug-in bases, circles and tubes, and chandelier and globe screw-in light bulbs. Use a “dark sky” CFL to keep light from spreading into areas such as a neighbor’s yard.  Reflectors have a built-in reflective surface that helps CFL bulbs to throw off more light, which can assist In providing security. CFL bulbs are less likely than incandescent to break and you can also buy special CFL for exterior use that are shatter-resistant.

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are relatively inexpensive, but generate a lot of heat. Care needs to be used when replacing them and they can react to other substances. They emit a bright white life and have  a long lifespan. Halogen bulbs use a halogen gas, a poisonous chemical, with a tungsten filament. Because they are fragile, they are not recommended for homes with small children except in difficult-to-reach fixtures.

LED Bulbs

LED bulbs are light emitting diodes – a small electronic device that lights when electricity is passed through it. These can be designed as very small bulbs for use in electronics displays. They can be expensive, which is offset by their long life. They generate more heat than halogen and xenon bulbs, but less than CFL bulbs. They have an intense, focused light that is ideal for task lighting, not ambient lighting. They are also used, like halogen and xenon bulbs, is specialty auto lighting.

Xenon Bulbs

Xenon light bulbs are often used in specialty auto headlights and in exterior path lighting. They are usually low voltage and can be touched with your bare hand, unlike halogen lights. Xenon bulbs emit a clean white light and may be used in high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting. Festoon xenon light bulbs can be used in either task lighting or for indirect lighting under cabinets and shelves.  When using them in a store with glass or jewelry, choose a clear festoon bulb. Otherwise, frosted bulbs have a wide range of applications.  Xenon is more efficient than halogen, uses less energy, and has a longer life.

Any questions? Call us and we’ll shed more light on the different alternative to incandescent light bulbs as we enter 2014.

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Hot Tips For Reducing Winter Heating Bills

Projections are for a colder winter throughout the northern U.S. and we’re already seeing record lows. So how are Americans keeping their homes warm?

  • 54% of homes use natural gas; most are in Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest
  • 38% use electricity; most are in Southeast, Southwest, and California
  • 6% use oil; most are in New York and New England
  • Few use propane, wood or other energy sources

Heat rises and so does the price of heating

The cost of heating has risen since a year ago, making winter energy savings a hot topic. Expect rates to be higher by 2% (electricity) up to 13% (natural gas), while the cost of oil can spike depending upon demand.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 90% of the 116 million homes in the U.S. will pay more for heating this winter (October 1, 2013-March 31, 2014) than last year:

  • Natural gas: $679 ($80 more than last year)
  • Electricity: $909 ($18 more than last year)
  • Propane: $1,666  ($120 more than last year)
  • Oil: $2,046 ($46 less than last year)

How can you save on heating costs in 2013?

Before we talk about specific ways to save on heating costs, remember that there are a lot of ways you can save on your overall energy costs. One of the easiest is to use ENERGY STAR certified appliances and fixtures, and to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs.

In addition, make sure your heating equipment is in good condition so that it can operate efficiently. If you central air conditioning, a SEER 16 unit is a good choice for year-round savings on both heating and cooling. Otherwise, many of the tips that save money on heating will also save money on cooling your home.

Step 1: seal your home. 

Leaky homes let cold air in and warm air out. Make sure your home is tightly sealed. This is relatively inexpensive and can mean significant savings, especially in an older home. Some electric companies offer inexpensive energy audits, or you can hire a professional to conduct an energy loss assessment. In any event, do the following:

  • Caulk all windows
  • Weather strip all doors, including any doors to an attached garage or enclosed porch
  • Weather strip attic hatch or door
  • Seal small gaps around plumbing stacks or electric power supply lines in the attic and in the basement
  • Seal holes or gaps around chimney or furnace flues; keep damper closed or consider sealing the top of the chimney (the fireplace will become nonworking)
  • Make sure your AC ducts are properly sealed and repaired; about 20% of air is lost due to leaking or improperly connected ducts
  • Repair any cracks in mortar or exterior stucco
  • Repair settlement cracks especially if there are small gaps along the baseboard and the rim joist where the cement meets your home’s wood framing
  • Use winter storm windows and doors in northern climates
  • Remove AC window units and close windows during winter
  • Unroll area rugs on top of wooden floors, especially in older homes
  • Use inexpensive gaskets to seat electrical outlets when not in use

Step 2: insulate everything

Properly insulating the attic and walls can save up to 10% annually. Don’t forget the wall between an attached garage and your living space; attached garages and enclosed porches can be significant sources of energy loss. Also remember to use an insulated attic hatch or door. Insulating pipes and your water heater can save on hot water costs.

  • Insulation should be above the attic floor joists
  • Recommended insulation is R-38 at about 12-15 inches
  • In colder climates, R-49 insulation is preferred
  • Use insulation wraps and sheets around pipes, water heaters, and on attic hatch

Step 3: reset your thermostat and ceiling fans

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimate you can save about 3% on your natural gas bill for every degree that your turn your thermostat down during the winter. This means that in Michigan, you could save about $30 a month for a three-degree change.

  • Use a programmable thermostat and set “away” and “bedtime” temperatures to 62 degrees and “at-home” temperature to 68-70 degrees.
  • Heating your home with electricity costs two to three times more than cooling it (about $1.15 per hour in a 1700-square foot house based on 12 cents per kilowatt hour)
  • Do not close registers or air returns in unused rooms; it can damage your ducts and will make your system less efficient
  • Set reversible fans to blow air up; this will push hot at the top of room and distribute it throughout the room
  • Do not leave fans running in unused rooms; this can waste about $7 per month per fan
  • Space heaters are a major cause of fires and so we do not recommend them; instead use heated blankets or Snuggies to stay warm in a colder room

Step 4: control humidity

Controlling humidity is an important way to feel more comfortable year round. Humidity inside your home is related to exterior humidity. In warm climates, high interior humidity means that you will feel too cold. In cold climates, the opposite is true and humidity is usually too dry for comfort. In both cases, the real problem is that exterior air is finding its way into your home. In general, during the winter your interior humidity should be around 40-50% in most homes. In Florida, Louisiana, and other humid areas, it will be a little higher.

  • In general, indoor humidity around 50% is most comfortable; this will vary depending on where you live, how your home is built, and how you heat it
  • In cold climates, if interior humidity is too high ice  will form on the inside of windows and walls, causing damage and possible illness; this usually happens when people add humidifiers because the interior air is too dry for comfort
  • In cold climates, too little interior humidity can cause coughs and nosebleeds; low humidity is usually a problem in cold climates because cold air cannot contain much water and it occurs when too much exterior air is coming into the home
  • Sealing your home is usually the solution, no matter where you live

Step 5: layer like an Antarctic explorer

You don’t have to heat your whole home when you take the chill off by putting on a few layers. Many thin, warm layers will insulate you better against the cold than a few thick layers.

  • Science has debunked that we lose most of our body heat through our heads, but your head and face are more sensitive to cold, so wearing a knit cap will make you feel warmer.
  • Socks will make you feel more comfortable, especially if you have poor circulation. Both cotton and wool absorb and retain a lot more moisture than acrylic, so a good-quality acrylic or synthetic-blend sock will keep your feet drier. U.S.-made socks are usually of better quality than those made in China. Cotton especially retains moisture and will draw heat away from your body.
  • If you choose to wear long underwear, a “wicking” synthetic brand is lightweight and feels soft, but synthetic fibers can stain easily and odors may build up. Silk is luxurious and thin, but difficult to care for and expensive. Merino wool is non-itchy and stain resistant, but costly and can shrink in the dryer.
  • When you layer for warmth, wear a wicking layer (non-cotton) garment first as your base layer. This should be formfitting and long underwear is ideal. The next layer should be looser but not baggy to hold warmth in the air spaces. Consider a hoodie or bulky knit sweater. Common fabrics are synthetic fleece, polyester, and wool. Cotton is not very warm compared to other fabrics. Wear wicking socks and knit slippers, plus a cap and you are good to go. If you’ll be watching TV or reading, snuggle up with a heated throw.
  • Dress your bed, especially in cold climates. Begin with an electric mattress pad. Then add flannel, fleece, or knit polyester jersey sheets that wick moisture (cotton is out). If you don’t want to buy different sheets for summer and winter, buy good quality cotton-synthetic blend sheets. The next layer might be an acrylic blanket or lightweight cotton quilt. Then add a wool blanket. If it is really cold, top it all off with a comforter and duvet. While down comforters are warm, they are difficult to clean and many people are allergic to them. Down alternatives are pretty good performers, are usually machine washable, and are fine for allergy sufferers. The more layers you use on a bed, the warmer you’ll be – and sleeping partners who like it colder can flip back a few layers onto your side. Many people swear by electric blankets, but you can stay warm with the right layers without paying the utility company.
  • Take a tip from your great-grandmother and use a hot water bottle wrapped up in a towel (can leak, though) to warm the foot of your bed. Microwavable bags of rice stay warm, don’t slip around, don’t leak and you can make them easily. We recommend against sleeping with an electric heating pad due to the risk of burns.

What are your tips for keeping warm this winter?

 

 

 

 

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Safety Tips For The Holidays

The holidays mean celebration, togetherness, and good cheer – but they also mean increased risk of crime and accidents. Here are some of our tips for ensuring you have a safe and happy holiday season:

Crime Prevention

If Santa can get down your chimney, thieves can be equally resourceful.

·Security lighting is the number one theft deterrent, so make sure your home has photo-sensitive lighting and that  entries and garages are well lit.

·Leave a television or radio on when you are not home so it seems the home is occupied.

·Do not throw the boxes for electronics such as home theater systems or computers on the trash because that is  a heads-up that you have something to steal. Instead break down the boxes and bring them to your local  recycling center or trash dump.

·Mark expensive gifts with a drivers license number or identification number and take photos of any fits that  cannot be marked with an engraving pen, such as jewelry. Do not use your Social Security Number.

·Leave lights on indoors and set them on timers so they turn on at night. Use CSA certified timers for exterior  lights.

·Do not leave displays of holiday gifts in view through the windows of your home.

·Criminals sometimes pose as deliverymen for gifts and as door-to-door solicitors for charitable causes. Always  ask for identification before allowing a stranger into your home. Do not make charitable donations at your door;  ask for the name of the charity and say you will make a donation on your own time. Then check with your local  Better Business Bureau to be sure the charity is not a scam. Only donate to recognizable charities because there  are online scams too.

·When shopping, always have your keys ready as your approach your car. It is preferable to go shopping with  someone else.

Fire Safety

·Check the wiring for holiday decorations to be sure they are not damaged or frayed.

·Always be sure to have a bulb in every outlet.

·Never connect more than one extension cord together.

·Keep electrical connectors off the ground and away from metal rain gutters.

·Use insulated tape or plastic connectors not nails to hang electrical decorations.

·Place your Christmas tree in water or wet sand to keep it green.

·Be sure artificial trees are rated as fire retardant.

Drinking

·Never drive or allow others to drive when intoxicated, even a little. Only time will eliminate alcohol from the body,  not coffee or food.

·Eat before drinking, especially high protein food that will stay in your stomach longer and slow the absorption of  alcohol.

·Have non-alcoholic beverages available.

·Arrange to have a designated driver for your party who will take home inebriated guests.

Poisoning Control

·When having guests over, be sure to lock medicines away and put purses and coats in a separate room, away  from children, to keep them from “exploring” and accidentally ingesting medication.

·Take careful food precautions. Food may sit out on buffets longer than you expect, so avoid serving perishable  foods with mayonnaise sauces, fish, etcetera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The causes of high relative humidity in air-conditioned buildings

It can be very difficult, even for a pro, to track down the cause(s) of high relative humidity inside a home. A frequent cause is an improperly sized HVAC system. Your AC system needs to run long enough to pull moisture out of the air, not just cool it. So if your system is too big for your home, it will not run long enough and high relative humidity will result. Generally you need one ton of AC for every 600 square feet. Sizing a little small is actually better than sizing too big, and it will not be less energy efficient. It will have an easier time cooling and you will feel comfortable at higher temperatures, so you do not save money by increasing the AC tonnage.

Sometimes, after installing new hurricane impact windows, homeowners notice an increase in relative humidity. This occurs because the home is “too tight” and the AC is not running long enough. Your AC unit works by running so that the air passing by the cold coil condenses, thus dehumidifying the house. The AC needs to run at least 10 minutes to control humidity on a cold coil. If the house is very tightly built and insulated, and particularly if it has a lot of non-porous glass windows, it will not “breathe” and it will cool or heat faster than the AC system can pull moisture out of the air. This is compounded by moisture released from cooking and showering, as well as moisture trapped in carpet and wood paneling. In a very tight house, if it is 82 degrees outside, your AC won’t run very long to maintain a temperature of 76 degrees and you may have an issue with high relative humidity.

A leak in your ducts can also throw off your AC system.  In fact, a dirty AC filter can throw off your relative humidity, so that is one more reason to routinely change your AC filter on the first of every month. An improperly working thermostat can also be a culprit. There are also more serious situations, such as humid crawlspaces that release moisture up through a wood floor. This does not occur in the typical crawlspace, but can be an issue if there is a plumbing leak or other problem that causes ponding water.

A whole house dehumidifier system is a last resort in severe cases where the humidity hovers around 65% or more. However, such a system will be necessary to prevent the growth of mold and wood rot.  The cost to install a single whole house dehumidifier is around $1,700 in 2013, but will vary depending on the size of your home, the difficulty in removing debris, and the existing wiring in your home.

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The Top 10 Things To Know About Your AC

Your AC is an important part of your home’s comfort. There are a few simple things you can do to help your AC keep its cool in summer and its warm appeal in winter.

1. Change Your Filter: Yeah, you’ve heard it before. A dirty filter will reduce your AC system’s efficiency because trapped dirt reduces airflow. A dirty filter can also affect indoor air quality. The job of an AC filter is to rap dirt before it builds up on your evaporator coil and cause it to fail. Be sure your filter is the right size (not too small) and that is MERV 6 value or higher efficiency rating.

2. Service Your System Annually:  Every year, have a service tech clean the coil and drains, and check your system out. Many companies offer low rates for this service in the hopes of gaining you as a customer. Once a year, turn off the unit and spay the outside coils with a hose to remove dirt and leaves.

3. Check Your Ducts: Leaks in your ducts can reduce efficiency by 40% or more, causing your electric bill to soar. Many electric companies, including FPL, have a duct inspection and rebate program to repair or replace ducts. Seal leaky ducts and you can gain an up to extra half-ton of cooling and heating power from your AC.

4. Give Your Condenser Space: The outside part of your AC (the condenser) needs air to circulate around it to operate properly. Make sure it is not overgrown by bushes and that leaves are not clogging the vents.

5. Use Window Coverings: Heat-blocking drapes, curtains and shades reduce the load on your AC. Draw the drapes when you leave for work, and set the thermostat at 78 degrees. Drawing the drapes will keep the heat out, but during the winter leave them open. If your windows are leaky, keep the drapes pulled to keep the heat in when you are there. Weatherproofing windows and doors in one of the best ways to reduce your electric bills.

6. Keep Interior Doors Open: Your AC system is designed to work throughout your home. Closing doors to rooms you don’t use will not save money. It will throw your system off balance and make it more difficult for you to feel comfortable. Leave them open a foot or two.

7. Keep Your Thermostat Realistic: Lights, electrical appliances, etc. should not be near the thermostat because it can throw the gauge off. If your thermostat is in a hallway that is a lot cooler or hotter than the rest of your house, it will affect the accuracy of its readings.

8. Keep Registers And Vents Clear: Keep furniture, drapes and other objects away from registers and vents. Also do not close the vents completely in a room, for the same reason you shouldn’t close interior doors.

9.  Don’t Be In A Hurry: Setting your thermostat really low will not help it cool more quickly, not will setting it high make it heat more quickly. It will use more energy. Just set the temperature you want and be patient. Generally, a 1600 sq. ft. home will reach the right temperature in less than an hour.

10.  Use A Fireplace Screen: A lot of heat (and AC) goes up your chimney. Use a fire screen or insert to block airflow and cut down on electric costs. Keep the damper closed whenever you don’t have a fire.

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Get That Spooky Glow Going

 

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

 

In the dark about how to have the spookiest house on the block this Halloween? Well, all it takes is a little imagination and illumination. And we’ll walk you through it

1.     Start with a Jack-O-Lantern, the time-honored grin of all things scary. Now you can buy illuminated pumpkins that last for years. But, we still believe in carving the real thing and adding a battery-operated LED flame; it won’t blow out and it won’t set your house afire.

2.     Replace the bulb in your porch light with a black light party bulb. A 75-watt bulb should be fine. Tonic water will glow blue-white under a black light. Fill a few old bottles and mark them with a scull and crossbones or drop plastic spiders inside. Antifreeze also glows but is poisonous. Mr. Clean and Irish Spring soap glow weird green, so use soap to write on your door.

3.     Give the kids light sticks to go trick or treating. Light sticks look eerie but they are also a good safety provision. A pack of 10 runs around $7 and is well worth the investment. Each stick lasts about 12 hours! Of course, you will also have flashlights and batteries…

4.     Because light sticks are so inexpensive and last so long, you can use them to illuminate the walkway to your door. Easy – just snap them and stick in the ground!

5.     Light stringers are colored LED lights that come in 25-foot strands. You can also buy mini-light spheres. Incandescent rope lights (50 feet long) run about $42. Why not have a scarecrow with lights glowing through his ragged clothes – LED lights make this possible.

6.     Take old milk jugs, draw scary faces on them and fill them with battery operate LED lights.

7.     You can decorate lampshades with cut outs of black cats and lamps and use orange party bulbs.

8.     Paint scary faces on white and orange balloons using magic markers and float them near the ceiling.

9.     Don’t forget the music! The Monster Mash (from 1973), Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982), Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (1973), and the Rock Horror Picture Show soundtrack are all good choices.

10. If you want a very adult Halloween theme, use Edison light bulbs. They are elegant but have an Old World air that is just right for Halloween.

Our Favorite Halloween Light Shows

If you want to be inspired by people who spend all year getting ready for October 31st, here are three of our favorite Halloween Light shows. Do you have a favorite… or send a photo of your own creepy décor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfcNoMnKjrY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcAss0Ytn6g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-9cq4DfDTE

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