Friday, September 14, 2012
How to conserve energy around the house
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Rising fuel costs and a suspect economy has forced many homeowners to look for ways to cut costs around the house. Conserving energy is one way to do just that. And in addition to saving money, conserving energy also helps save the planet. Though preserving energy around the house might sound difficult, it’s actually quite easy, and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to conserve. The following are a few ways to conserve energy around the house and help your bottom line and the planet at the same time. • Cool it with the hot water. Heating water for the home accounts for a significant percentage of your monthly utility bill. But many homeowners might not know just how simple it can be to reduce the costs of heating the water.You can trim between 3 to 5 percent off your utility bill for every 10 degrees you dial down the thermostat on your water heater. A water heater set in the range of 130 F won’t require as much energy to heat and hold water as one set around 140 F or above, and a setting of 130 F is enough to prevent bacteria from growing within the tank and still provide water that’s hot enough for a shower or bath. A water heater set around 130 F might also extend the life of the tank. That’s because chemical reactions speed up in tanks that are hotter, accelerating the buildup of rust within the tank. • Install a digital thermostat. A digital thermostat makes it easy for homeowners to automatically turn down their thermostats during times of the day when no one is home. The thermostats can be programmed to turn up the heat shortly before you typically arrive home, so you won’t be forced to sit in a cold house when you get home, nor will you be forced to pay to heat a home while no one is there. The thermostat can also be set in the summer to allow the temperature in the home to rise without automatically triggering the
air conditioning. When shopping for a digital thermostat, be sure to purchase one that is compatible with your HVAC system. Otherwise, the thermostat might not work properly. • Turn off the lights (and change the bulbs!). Perhaps the simplest way to conserve energy around the house is to turn off the lights in empty rooms. It’s easy for all residents of a home to turn on a light when entering a room, only to leave that room but keep the lights on. But electricity used for lighting can constitute as much as 10 percent of a monthly utility bill. How much of that electricity is being used to illuminate empty rooms? Get in the habit of turning lights off whenever you leave a room. Though the savings here might not be substantial, turning off the lights will help conserve energy.
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In addition to turning off the lights, be sure to use compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, instead of traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs consume less energy, don’t give off nearly as much heat as incandescent bulbs and can last as long as 10,000 hours, which is roughly 10 times as long as the best incandescent bulb. • Make use of nature. Homeowners can also employ their landscape to help conserve energy around the house. A strategically planted tree, for example, can shade a room that is exposed to the sun throughout the day. That shade can make it cooler inside the home, allowing residents to stay cool inside without having to rely too heavily on their air conditioning unit. During the winter months, open the curtains during the day to allow sunshine in, naturally adding a few degrees to the home so you won’t have to crank the temperature on the thermostat. Homeowners hoping to conserve energy around the house can do so in a number of ways without having to sacrifice comfort or luxury.
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Friday, September 14, 2012
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Choosing g a patio o material Curb appeal can have a dramatic impact on prospective home buyers. Landscaping improvements and renovations to the outside of the home create a strong first impression on buyers, who often feel a home with an appealing exterior has an equally impressive interior. A patio is one area of a home that can boost a home’s appeal while also providing a great place for current homeowners to relax outside. Many homeowners waver when choosing a material for their patio because each material has its own advantages and disadvantages. A backyard patio is a place where friends and family members can convene in the nice weather to enjoy dining al fresco. In the cooler months, a patio is a great place to gather around a fire pit and warm chilly toes while sipping mugs of hot cocoa. When designing a patio, homeowners must make a host of decisions, not the least of which is choosing a patio material. Wood, stone, concrete, paving blocks, and tile all can be used to create appealing and functional patios. Because of the widespread availability of concrete, pavers and wood, many patios are constructed of these materials.
Concrete Concrete is one of the more affordable patio materials. With stamped concrete, homeowners can enjoy more colors and designs than ever before, and new technology in tinting and styling enables concrete to look like other expensive stone materials at a fraction of the cost of stone. For the experienced mason, laying concrete is a relatively easy job. It may be more difficult for the novice do-it-yourselfer because laying concrete requires knowledge of grading and also installing spacers correctly to deter cracking. Because concrete is not as labor-intensive as some other materials, homeowners may save some money if they choose concrete. Concrete is durable, but over time cracking is inevitable. Some concrete requires the application of a sealant every few years to protect coloring and durability. Around pools, concrete can become slippery when wet if an anti-skid agent was not applied with.
Paving stones Many homeowners gravitate toward
paving stones because their varied texture and shapes can create quite an appealing look in a yard. If installed correctly, pavers will not crack and it is possible to easily add on to an original design because of the portability of these stones. And because they can be moved, pavers can be repaired from underground and stones can be replaced without any demolition. Homeowners like that pavers can quickly make a yard look high-end. Although pavers can be installed as a do-it-yourself project, such installation can be labor-intensive. The ground needs to be accurately leveled and prepped before the stones can be placed to help ensure there is no shifting or movement. Polymeric sand should be applied and pushed into the joints between blocks to alleviate shifting. The sand contains a polymer that hardens and locks the blocks in place. Such detailed work is beyond the abilities of many homeowners, who typically pay a substantial amount to have the stones professionally installed. Though the sand may inhibit weed growth, weeds can still pop up between the blocks, so maintenance is necessary. Also, paving blocks are slightly uneven and they can loosen, which can prove a safety hazard to the elderly or young children who aren’t surefooted.
Wood Wood is often thought of in a raised deck scenario, but it can also be laid at ground level to create a low-lying patio. A wood patio can be unique and stained or painted in a variety of colors. It also may be less expensive to install than concrete or pavers. If the shape is relatively simple, a do-it-yourselfer also may be able to do the job without hiring a professional. Though wood is a good choice for many homeowners, it is one of the more maintenance-heavy materials. Wood must be routinely cleaned, stained and sealed. Even with the best care, wood can warp, splinter and chip. When surrounding a pool, wood may deteriorate after coming in contact with chemicals from the pool water. Though most wood is treated, it may be susceptible to boring insects and other pests. Creating a patio can add value to a home. The hard decision is selecting a patio material that fits your budget and gives your patio the look you desire.
Friday, September 14, 2012
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Purchasing a new heating and cooling system could be in your future. Selecting the right furnace for your home requires understanding the various products available. A two-stage heating system is preferred by many HVAC contractors and could be the right fit in your renovation. Choosing a new furnace and heating components can be difficult. The business has its own terminology, and there are scores of different equipment manufacturers all claiming that their brand is the best. Buying a new heating system is also expensive, making the process more stressful. Not everyone has an unlimited budget or the ability to simply select the top-of-the-line model. Therefore, understanding which features make one furnace stand out from another can help consumers make the best possible decision. One factor that will come up as you browse for furnaces is whether to choose a single-stage furnace or a two- or dualstaged furnace. There are many advantages to the latter, which makes them a favorite of HVAC contractors. Two-stage furnaces are designed to change the way British Thermal Units (BTUs) of heat are delivered to the home. In a single-stage system, when the thermostat registers a drop in home temperature that requires the heat to turn on, the furnace will produce one level of heat output until the desired temperature is reached. This furnace is designed to heat your home on the coldest days for your climate. In a two-stage system, the furnace
provides gradual heat production. In the first stage, which usually operates at around 70 percent of the system’s heating capacity, the system will try to warm the space. On mild winter days or chilly autumn days, the first stage may be all that’s needed. If the home requires additional heating, the furnace will kick into the second stage, increasing the heating power. Some two-stage furnaces not only offer two BTU offerings, but two blower speeds as well. One of the advantages to these furnaces are that the two-stage system eliminates drastic temperature swings, which are common among single-stage furnaces. This can mean the home is more comfortable over a longer period of time. Another benefit is that because the system starts in the lower stage and may operate at that stage more so than in the second stage, the furnace is generally quieter than traditional furnaces. This greatly reduces the initial noise of turning on the furnace at full power. Two-stage furnaces will burn fuel more efficiently and may actually burn less fuel if they spend the majority of the time in the first stage of operation. If they have a variable speed blower, they may even save you money in electricity costs. Two-stage furnaces may cost more money initially because they tend to be more expensive than traditional furnaces. But over time two-stage systems might pay for themselves in efficiency, noise reduction and comfort in a home.
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