Saturday, December 8, 2012

Low Hanging Fruit

There are a number of ways to help reduce the amount of water, electricity and energy useage in our homes,some of these techniques require us purchasing new hot water tanks,heating systems, solar panels or renovation our homes. However,there are some easy and cheap techniques that can be cost effective. WE can always set the heat in out hot water tanks to 120 degrees and drain about a gallon of water from the bottom of this tank once a month. This will help extend the life of the tank and help reduce fuel costs. Tuning the heating system once a year and cleaning the filters on a monthly basis will help it run more efficiently,cleanly, help increase its life span and lower fuel costs. Installing and using a programable thermostat will also help lower fuel costs. Placing insulation in the walls and attic while placing weather stripping on the outside doors are also a help. The nice thing is the thermostat,weather stripping and insulation in Massachussetts, can be free or obtained through Mass Save.Using CFLs and low flow shower heads are also good ways to go. These techniques are not a cure all for you heating bills but its a start.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Recycling is usually seen as a limited task where we taking our used bottles,paper,cans and other used items and place them out on the curb with the trash.In not so recent past,these items were usually thrown out with the rest of the trash and placed in the town dump never to be seen again.This was a real waste(begging the pun) because many of these items could be shredded,melted down and refored into new things that can be used at home or in the office.This noy only saves space in the landfill,but saves the expence of having to cut down trees to make new paper products,having to process ore from mines or create pastic out of petro chemicals.Newspaper can be reused as insulation that helps keep drafts out of our homes and keep us warm. Most people realize that it uses less energy and other resources to recyle rather than start using virgin material. Recycled materials go beyond trash placed in office or home bins. Wood chips and saw dust can be combeined resin and formed into beams used in construction or wood pellets used to heat our homes and office.Used vegatable oil can be recycled,cleaned and be mixed together with heating oil to heat our homes. There are any number of other examples where products can be reused for our benefit while helping to save money and resources

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Phantom Load

Electrical devises continue to play an increasingly large role in our lives at home and at work.These desvise help us keep our food cold,charge our cell phones operate our televisions keep the house/office light when its dark outside and a wide range of other roles that come with the lifestyle that has become common place.Most of these devises are taken for granted and most of us do not think about the cost of electricity and how much of it is wasted money and costs can be controlled. Many of use will leave lights on when a room is not in use,keep the computers,chargers on when we are not in use.This wasted energy use adds to our electric bill and is known as phantom load. Entertainment devices and other electrical devises left on standby mode can also contribute to phantom load. There are any number of ways that this load can be reduced.Use of smart power strips,timers and sensors can help to reduce phantom load.Learning to keep logs of electric use and learning to turn off electric equipment when not in use can also reduce our electric bills. Purchasing energy efficient appliances that are Energy Star Rated for older devises can also help bring down our energy use. While we will always be using electricial devises,we need to use more efficient devises and lights while using them wisely.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Getting Ready For the Winter

Many of us in the Norteast received a wake up call with the wind storm,Sandy. Communitues in the Norteast and further south suffered power outages, downed trees and power lines and other issues related to the storm. If we can believe the weather forecasters, we can expect more of the same problems that will be compounded by large amouts of snow and ice rather than by water.While we can not prevent the inconviences created by the weather,we can take some actions to limit storm related issues. While the weather is still realatively mild,we can trim trees and bushs. This can help avoid tree limbs causing damage to our or neighbors homes. Cleaning out gutters can help avoid ice dams and other water realated issues.Cleaning and tuning up our heating systems and help to avoid costly mid winter breakdowns and possible freezing of water pipes in the basement. Cleaning air ducts in forced hot air systems,cleaning filters in these systems can be helpful. If you have a hot water tank,try draining part of the water on a monthly basis. These actions can help avoid mid winter issues,help your systems run more economically and help pro long the life of the hot water tanks and heating system.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Green Homes

Over the last few years creating a green or sustainable home envirement has been gaining traction. The major reasons for this trend has been to help create a healther,more comfortable home envirement that also lowers its energy footprint. There are a number od different organizations such as National Association of Home Builders(NAHB)United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and Energy Star that have rating systems that helps the public determine how the level of greeness of each home. Each of the system has a somewhat different matrix that determines the which green elements have been used to rate the home. The Home Energy Rating System,HERS is one of the more efefctive rating system.In short, it sets a specific benchmark for a homes performance and compares the individual home to this standard. The major factors that are compared include the homes energy use(electric gas and oil useage) and takes into account the homes size. While its a goal to have your home certified green by one of the rating agencies,its still possible to have a green house without being certified green.Making a significant reduction of energy, water useage,using less building materials and healthier materials(usually less VOCs and toxic resins) and reducing mold and unhealthy gases in the indoor air is key to having a green home. One of the key steps in creating a green house is determining a baseline for your home.One method is to use a carbon calculator for your house(can be found by Googling Carbon Calculator) This information usually requires inputting your monthly gas,electric and oil costs.Rather than using dollar values,you will need to know the yearly therms of gas used,kwh useage of electricity and/or gallons of heating oil.Most calculators will also factor in miles driven in your vehicle. The other way to help determine your homes baseline is to have a door blower test and thermal imaging done on your house. These tests require specialized equipment and usually cost money,but they help assess how leaky is your home and where the leaks occur. Once this is determined,you can establish a plan that can help make your house a greener home envirement. Assuming you have a limited budget,one of the most cost effective step is to insulated the walls of the house and attic. Air sealing the various cracks in the walls,attic and basement are usually part of the process. In Massachussetts,there is a program that provides a free home energy audit(determines the house performance) and will provide free CFLs,low flow shower heads and programable thermostats. In many cases,they will provide insulation and airsealing(up to $2000 per year with the home owner paying 20% of the cost.For more information.More expensive methods of helping to reduce energy load is to purchase more efficient heating systems and water heaters. Replacing older appliances with newer ones that are Energy Star Rated will also help bring down electric and heating costs. Using solar panels to help pay for electric bills but are not always cost effective. Each of these sugguestions can be done in stages with a final goal to be completed in a number of years.Using web sites such as can show which tax incentives and rebates are available for each project or purchasing appliances. Carefully checking which chemicals(if any) are being used in buidling materials and paint can help avoiding chemicial issues in your home. While purchasing a new heating system,placing insulation inside the house or replacing windows,can be an expence,this cost can be reduced by rebate and tax breaks. The key factors are also reduced purchases of gas,water and oil.If done correctly your homes will be nore comfortable. If your systems are properly maintained they may also reduce the maintaince on the systems and their life span.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting Your Garden For the Winter

As the nites become longer and days get cooler,many of us notice that leaves on our trees and plants are starting to change color. This is part of the natural process where the plants are starting to rest for the winter.The sap for most plants will go into the roots so they are ready for their rebirth in the spring.While it may be anoying to rake up the leaves,many people will put the leaves and dead branchs into the compost heap rather than into the trash heap.This not only saves the expense of transporting away this plant material,but the resulting compost will recycle the nutrients for next years growth and help conserve water. While its a good idea to compost plant cuttings for the compost heap,please consider saving the flowers for such plants as Tick Seed,Cone Flower and Fruit from various other plants,The seed and fruits can serve for food for the birds and small animals such as squirrels that over winter in your area. Fall is also a great time to transplant many plants into their new location.Its also a good time to put bulbs into the groud for added beauty.Many bushes such as holly and yew bushes need to be wrapped in burlap and protected from heavy snow fall and ice. Its helpful to mulch the plants as well.This process helps keep water in the ground for plants use during the winter time. Each plant and gardens needs are different so its helpful to contact a local nursery center or garden expert

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winterizing Your Home

Now that Labor Day is behind us,its a good time to start getting our homes for the winter time.A few easy steps can be taken to have a more comfortable home for the winter time and save some money at the same time. Gas or oil heating systems just like our car motor are mechanicial systems They both get dirty when used.Its best to clean and tune up our heating system.Its best to tune up the heating system prior to the heating season and clean the filters atleast once a month. If you have not already done so,consider putting in insulation and air sealing the house. These two factors help keep in the heat during the winter and help reduce drafts.Consider instaling a programable thermostate. This devise will help save on heating costs. If you live in Massachussetts,try contacting sure that the edges around your doors and windows are sealed as well.This will also help to block drafts and help keep in the warm air. This program funded by the local utility companies can help pay for the insulation and air sealing work. Planting evergreen trees such as yews and holly trees around the house can serve to block the cold wind that blows against the house and will make the house look more attractive. Following this advise is not a cure all,but it will save money by using less energy. While these activities require some time and money,if done correctly,they will pay for themselves over time and make the systems last longer and make the house more comfortable.