Thursday, August 28, 2008

I don't care sun, it's getting warm in here!

I know, it's a corny title but appropriate for my energy tip today. This may sound somewhat simplistic but have you ever thought about how much money goes out of your house by CLOSED windows? Think about it, have you gone over to a window that is facing the current sunny side of the house and felt the warmth? I know if you live in a cold winter state, or country, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. You feel all warm and toasty and all that cold outside is just that-outside! Right? WRONG! There is an old adage that says 'HEAT TO COLD', which simply means that the hot area is going to migrate to the colder area in the quest of seeking neutrality of temperatures. Now the reality of this using your windows. Allowing the sun into your house is allowing the suns radiant heat into your house. In wintertime your helping your heater warm the house, of course when the sun moves away your house will try to heat the outdoors. In a hot climate it is cooler indoors but the heat radiating indoors is taxing your air conditioning to try to maintain coolness as the heat tries to achieve a parity indoors.
There are many steps you can take to reduce heat/cold loss in your house. The simplest is just watch your windows and adjust the shades to the sun depending on what you want from it. Hot climate? Shade the sunny side and open shades on the shady, non-sunny sides. Cold climate? Open those sunny side shades and close the colder sides till the sun gets there. The goal is to save as much money as you can without spending anything.
I hope this tip will be helpful, even to just one person.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Money Saving Tip

I got this tip from my electrical cooperative in Florida and I had mixed feelings about it when I read it. The article said that you can turn up your thermostat to between 76 and 78 degrees in the house while running your ceiling fans and still feel like it's cooler than the actual temperature. To say the least I was skeptical! Well, I was proven wrong, it did seem cooler! It really felt like it was 3-5 degrees cooler, without the addition of the air conditioner working as much. Considering the rising fuel adjustments to the electric bills, anything to save a few dollars is a good thing! I thought I'd pass that along to everyone with central air. If you have window units, like the colder northern states, I would still set the unit at a higher temp and use your fans to direct the air, especially if you only have oscillating fans. Do Not do this with window fans for obvious reasons! Got a tip of your own? Drop me a comment and I'll try to feature it and credit you for the idea!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Your Not The Only One Who Breathes In The House!

During the summer months when the mechanically sweet smell of manufactured cold air is wafting through the house we often forget one important thing - air filters! Just like all living creatures on this planet, your central air conditioner needs to breathe too. It is a wise idea to check all removable filters that pull air through your house to be cooled in your , in most cases, attic and delivered back into the house. When filters start to have dust build-up there is a major issue brewing. The a/c unit must pull enough air through the system to remain healthy. When excess build-up occurs the unit begins to over-work as it tries to get the temperature down resulting in longer run times, which equals higher electric costs and excess wear on the mechanical components that can lead to unit failure, which equals a very expensive repair or replacement. I know the latter part too well. When I bought my house the previous owner didn't bother to keep regular maintenance going and I had to buy a new central a/c when mine died during a hot spell, which if it's going to fail there is no time better than a hot spell when it's working the hardest.
Filters are cheap and new a/c's aren't! Keep enough on-hand or do like I did. I bought an Electrostatic house filter that can be cut to size and just gets a hose off to clean. These can be found at your local building mega-store that starts with the letter L.
Also, do your car a favor and do the same for it!

Unlimited Hot Water with Lower Cost.

The days of the water heater tank in the basement or in the garage could be heading for oblivion. The day of the tankless water heater is upon us! Or is it? I first started hearing about these devices about 12 years ago when I was in England. The flats are so compact over there that they needed to do something like this for space sake if not just for efficiency. I thought that this was a great idea since this seemed like it would be great for my house by freeing up space in the garage, thus allowing me to store more 'stuff' where the tank was. I never got around to it until just this past year. I spoke to several plumbers about tankless heaters and I got the same response from all of them, "how much hot water do you need for how many people at once" and "do you plan on running your dishwasher or washing machine while you shower?". Odd questions I thought but I pursued it further and was told that the concept was good, it's just that the pipes need to be larger in the house than it was built with to get the needed 'gallons per minute' from the unit. Oh well, maybe another time.

The tankless water heater works by electrically heating the water while it's still in the pipe and delivers it to where the demand is. No demand means the unit is off until hot water is needed again.

The Upside - hot water on-demand without having run down of stored hot water, since none is stored. Uses electricity ONLY when water is required, thus lowering electrical costs. Small unit mounts on wall thereby eliminating a bulky tank.
Units can run from $200-$500 USD, not including installation which is reasonable for long term cost savings.

The Downside - unless your home was/is designed for this system during construction the pipe size and flow rate will diminish with multiple calls for heated water. A home with 2 adults not washing clothes would be appropriate for this system, not for families.

Recommended with reservations noted above.

Disclaimer: The unit shown above is for example purposes only and does not reflect any judgement on this units abilities or performance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Protect Your Wiring!

This is appropriate for anyone who lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, or any other lightning rich area, in the summer months. Those of you who enjoy the snap, crackle and pop of a good lightning storm (like me)would enjoy the sky-ripping bolts of pure electricity steaking across the sky and also striking the land. Now for the sober side of lightning. When it hits buildings, at the very least, the power goes out and the very worst is the building is destroyed. Several things happen when lightning hits near your home or power sub-station. The electricity may fluctuate and stay on, it may go off for a short while or a long while, the current may surge and destroy non protected devices, it may follow a metallic pipe or line and bring the power into the house causing a fire, plumbing fixtures may be destroyed and worst of all it could cause human or pet casualties. There isn't too much you can do to stop a bolt of lightning and yes, I know what your going to say "but I have lightning rods on my roof to protect me". Okay, I see! You have metal rods on your roof to attract lightning to your house! Hmmm! I will continue to something you do have control over. Everyone has appliances (ie: washer, dryer, fridge, tv, pc), to some extent, that could be adversely effected by an electrical surge. Most plug-in surge suppressors cannot handle a direct hit from lightning. Once the current gets into the house it will fan out across any wiring it can find. What can you do? Simple. Contact your local electric company and ask if they can provide a surge suppressor for your outside meter. My provider is Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op. I pay a very small monthly fee (<$7) and this gets me the surge stopper installed on the meter AS WELL AS full insurance coverage for any major appliance in the house that is damaged by a surge that manages to get through. I don't know about you but I know I could never afford to replace more than 1 appliance at any one time. The Upside - very low cost whole house 'lightning through the wires' protection.

The Downside - not all electric companies offer this service. Ask Them To!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Upgrading Those Lightbulbs.

I found, after receiving a bigger than usual electric bill, that I had a hole in the air I was pouring electric light into. This is similar to swimming pools that are a hole in the ground you pour money into. In Florida houses are lit up most of the time and 99% are using incandescent light bulbs. This is one of the biggest invisible expenses on your bill. I selected this item to be my first cost cutter in the house. I now have 75% of my lighting with these tube bulbs. They use 30 watts of electricity to produce 60 watts of light and in two of my rooms I found the light to be brighter than the old lights and was able to eliminate secondary lights altogether.

The Upside - good lighting with lower operating cost. Try home stores like Lowes or Home Depot for larger multi packs (I got mine cheaper there than at that BIG retailer).

The Downside - do not use fluorescents with security lighting as the response time is inadequate for instant lighting. These bulbs get full brightness after 2-3 seconds.