Archive for August, 2012

Energy Use of Household Appliances

Energy Use of Household AppliancesWe have shown a number of graphs on previous posts as well as this post about electrical use by household appliances. They all vary to some degree simply because the assumptions are different in every case due to personal requirements, living styles, climate and rates that people pay for electricity.

What does not seem to change very much are the energy hogs or the culprits in terms  of which ones use more electricity than others. If you own a pool or spa, run your air conditioning a lot, chances are that these appliances will be the big spenders of electricity unless you do something to control them.

The major appliances are the next group were energy use by household appliances are high. Your fridge, washing machine, clothes dryer, freezer, electric ovens, and dishwasher are as a group the big set of offenders. They all have motors of some kind and they all run a lot. The amount of electricity they actually draw depends on many factors peculiar to your personal taste as well as the type of appliance and how energy efficient it is in the first place.

Ways to Reduce Energy Use of Household Appliances

For example we have a freezer which is a big energy hog, but we only run it for a month around Christmas time when there is lots of family coming over and we need to have food available. After the festivities we store some of the left overs in the freezer.  This step alone probably saves us $170 a year in electricity cost. While this may not seem like a lot of money to some people, when you add this savings along with other savings you get from upgrading your fridge for example to a more efficient model ($125), changing all of your lights to fluorescent ( $12 / light) and on and on. Pretty soon you have saved yourself over $500 a year in electrical charges which is significant.

There are also special items that not everyone has. We all have for the most part 4 major appliances and some have a 5th i.e. a dishwasher. But what about aquarium pumps, dehumidifiers and microwaves. These devices also use electricity and they can bring much enjoyment to the owners ( aquariums ) , however they come at a cost. An aquarium is estimated to cost around $40 per year to run the lights and the pump. There are many other devices which contribute to power use, however each person must make their own judgement regarding how far they want to go to save money and to save electricity or energy.

Lights – How do they Stack up Against Energy Use of Household Appliances

None of these graphs really focus on lights, yet our parents always told us to shut the lights off when we left a room. Each individual light does not use that much energy by itself, however there are two principles at work year. One is all about habits and that is forming the habit to turn things off when they are not being used. If you turn the lights off as part of a habit that you have formed chances are this will apply to other appliances as well such as TV’s and computers for example.

The other principle here is that every little device, including lights, while they do not use much electricity by themselves, they do use a lot as a group when you add them all together. By focusing on this group and turning off all devices when they are not ins use will have the same effect as controlling or managing the use of a large appliance. If you are really motivated because you need to save money or just because you want to do your part to reduce your energy foot print this is another area to focus and reduce electrical use.

Adding lights, TV’s, home computers for example together can save you a hundred dollars or more, which makes it definitely worth while to reduce your costs. Every little bit counts and it is one of the big reasons we urge consumers to focus on the big items first, then take a look at the smaller items such as light bulbs and conserving energy. Over a year even these small items can make a big contribution to reducing our energy consumption.

 


Finishing Hardwood Floors

No one really wants to contemplate finishing hardwood floors, however there comes a time when your floor will have lost that shiny look and begins to exhibit the wear and tear from many scratches and other damage from long use. While an old hardwood floor that has lost it’s luster may seem charming to some, most consumers like to have a floor that is shiny and new looking. It may be time to refinish your floor.

A floor that has just been refinished also adds to the resale value of your home. If you are planning on selling your home in the near future, you might want to get an opinion from your real estate agent regarding the state of your floor and what your plans should be regarding finishing the hardwood floor. They will give you advice on whether it is worth making the investment in time and money to refinish the floor or leave it for the next owners to decide.

Finishing Hardwood Floors

Many people avoid doing their floors simply because they shudder at the vision of all the dust that is generated and the cleanup that is required afterword.  The wood dust is very fine and without taking any precautions, there is going to be dust in every room, every nook and cranny of your home. It will go everywhere and if you happen to a forced air furnace or air conditioning and it is running, the dust will absolutely coat everything. The clean up job is immense unless you move everything out of your home.

Fortunately there are steps you can take to reduce the dust and control were it goes inside your home. It is very important that you follow these steps if you are doing your own hardwood floor or having professionals do it for you. Always discuss with the professionals exactly what steps they will take to prevent dust from entering the rest of your home before you sign the contract.

In this post we are assuming that you are sanding the hardwood floor when it comes to finishing your hardwood floors. If your floor has been sanded previously, take a look at the thickness of your floor to make sure that there is sufficient wood left for another sanding. Each sanding removes wood from the floor and leaves it a little bit thinner every time. There are other approaches, however they are not being discussed in this post.

Procedures to Take to Reduce Dust Distribution Inside Your Home

The following procedures should be followed regardless of whether you are doing the work or hiring a professional to do the work:

  • Remove all furniture and accessories from the room
  • Seal off every doorway and vents that enter the room to be sanded
  • Use a high powered vacuum system attached to the sander
  • Locate the vacuum outside of your home
  • Turn off the central air system in your home
  • Make sure that the fan is shut off
  • Wipe down all walls and floor once sanding is finished
  • Always sand with the grain , never across the grain of the wood
  • Never use an orbital sander on hardwood floors
  • Hand sand all areas you cannot reach with a powered machine

Once all of the sanding and cleaning of the floors is completed you are now ready to apply the finish to the floor. Make sure you use a tack cloth to get all of the finer particles off the floor before you apply your finish to avoid thee particles marring your finish.  Follow the manufacturers instructions to obtain the look that you desire. Your floor will look fresh and new and add tremendous pleasure and value to your home.

If you decide to hire professionals to do this work for you, always interview them and get them to explain in detail exactly how they will complete the job for you. Pay particular attention to the dust  exhaust and cleaning part of the job as well as the final finish of the floor. Otherwise you may end up being disappointed with the work as well as the cleanup that you may have to do after everything is done.

 


LED Lights For Homes

LED Lights For HomesLED lights for homes have become very popular over the past few years, especially for Christmas lights, however recently they are finding their way into homes for lighting rooms and offices. We began with the traditional incandescent lights which consume electricity at a significant rate, to fluorescent lights which were a huge improvement and now we are moving to LED lights which save even more electricity.

So how much electricity do you save when install a set of LED lights for your home?

LED Christmas Lights

An example using Christmas lights will serve to demonstrate just how much less these lights cost to operate. LED light consumption of electricity  is surprisingly low. For example, a string of 100 of the mid-size LED Christmas lights  uses only 8 watts of electricity, which is less than even a very dim compact fluorescent bulb uses.

The old outdoor incandescent Christmas bulbs are 5 or 7 watts per bulb and a  string of 50 incandescent Christmas lights  would use around 250 to 350 watts. A string of  200 incandescent bulbs would use about 1,000 to 1,400 watts  compared to 16 watts for two strings of 100 LED Christmas lights.

If you are planning to purchase lights for the Christmas season, now is the time to make your purchase of LED lights. They can reduce your consumption of electricity while at the same time adding lots of color to your home.

If you use your incandescent  lights for 6 hours a day, for 1 month  a year over the Christmas season (180 hours in total), you are using 180 kilowatt hours (kWh) for these bulbs. The LED Christmas light consumption for the same number of bulbs for this time period, is a mere 8 watts (per 100 lights) x 2 strings of lights x 180 hours, or 2.8 kilowatt hours.

Electrical costs varies a great deal across the US and Canada. A figure of 10-12 cents per kWh is not unusual , however in the evening with time of day charging it can go as low as 7 cents per kilowatt hour. That set of 200 incandescent bulbs will cost you $18 to $30 a year to operate for one month of the year. For the LED Christmas light consumption you’d be looking at only $0.28 to $.35 for the same number of bulbs.

Use LED Lights For Homes

Christmas lights are not the only lights that are taking advantage of the LED savings. New products are being introduced all of the time for inside your home for everyday use. We recently just purchased a desk LED lamp for a mere $10 that will not only save us money in terms of electricity usage, the LED’s will last for many years. The only negative with this particular lamp is that once the LED fails, we have to throw the entire lamp away. There is no replacement bulb in this example.

Help The Environment – LED Lights For Homes

Consumers are sometimes put off by the purchase cost of fluorescent bulbs or LED bulbs. Typically they will cost much more than incandescent bulbs, however the money you save in terms of operating cost will quickly pay for the original investment in the LED bulbs. An in addition you are helping the environment by reducing our carbon foot print as well. When we consume less electricity, we are burning less coal and oil that is needed to generate the electricity we use.

We used an example of Christmas lights to illustrate how much you can save when you convert from incandescent lights to LED lights. Using the same math, you can calculate the savings for home indoor lights as well. Most packaging on these lights also indicates how much electricity you are going to save when you use these lights. However one suggesting when you read the literature is that you will need to make adjustments to the assumptions based on your own usage, the electrical rates in your area and the cost to purchase the bulb as well.

Once you do this you will quickly see just how much you can save on your electrical bill every year compared to using the old style incandescent bulbs. If you have already converted to fluorescent bulbs, you are already saving on electricity, so the payback will not be as quick when you convert from fluorescent to LED, however there still is a significant savings.

 

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Appliance Energy Use

Appliance Energy UseWhen it comes to appliance energy use and trying to reduce your energy footprint, I like to apply the 80:20 rule. Focus on the things that are going to save me a lot of money vs. those that may save me very little. Once I have gained as much as I can, only if it makes sense from a ROI(return on investment) will I take a look at the smaller savings to be gained.  One light bulb may not save much when you convert from incandescent to florescent lights. Converting all of your lights can begin to add up. In a previous post we talked about how converting three lights would save $29 per year. When multiplied across all of our lights inside the home, would add up to much higher savings.

What Appliances Cost More to Operate?

So which appliances cost more to run? Well it depends on your personal use of these appliances, the rate you pay for power and of course their energy rating. For example, in our location air conditioning costs us approximately $150 per year. Running ceiling fans may cost us $20 / year for the same period instead of using AC. Cooking with an oven at 350 F 15 days a month for an hour on average  may cost us$43. Heating with a microwave will cost us about $32, although a microwave is much more efficient and does not need to be run as long as the oven.

That new plasma TV you leave on all day will cost as much as $88 a year. Reducing the number of hours that you actually watch it will reduce the cost by perhaps half to $44. The same LCD sized TV will cost $20 less or $68 a year to operate with the same assumptions. Even while not on these devices still consume energy, but it only represents a few dollars per year times the number of devices that you actually have.

How to Control Appliance Energy Use

None of these amounts are huge dollars, unless you run your AC for extended times. Many people do have to do in southern climates, it really means that you have to get into the habit of turning things off all of the time. Run your appliances in non peak hours, and convert to less expensive appliances in terms of energy use. This is the only way you are going to get control of your energy cost and minimize this cost as much as possible.

Convert all of your lights that are on a lot to florescent lights. When you purchase appliances, go for the energy efficient ones. When you walk out of a room, turn the lights off, turn the TV off etc. Run your AC less and if you are not at home, turn your AC temperature up so that it is not running unnecessarily. If possible delay electrical use into non peak times. In our case that means running the dishwasher and the dryer after 7pm at night or on the weekends. I also turn the pool pump off during the day so that the pump is not drawing electricity during the day when rates are at their peak.

Charging Electric Cars

Appliance energy use is just part of the equation. What is about to change is the use of electricity to charge our new cars. Hybrid cars do not require to be charged from the electrical grid, however purely electrical cars must be charged from the grid. The best time to charge these vehicles will be at night when the non peak rates are available. You will save money by driving an electric vehicle. However you can manage this cost as well by controlling when you actually charge the car. In reality it is just another appliance that just uses energy.

As usage goes up and more investment is required. The electrical companies will be increasing their rates even further than they already have. As time goes on it will become even more important to manage your appliances energy use. It will become more important to control your monthly electrical cost. We will be writing a lot more about this subject in coming posts so stay tuned!

 


Dustless Hardwood Floor Refinishing

There are several different methods of dustless  Hardwood floor refinishing available on the market.  There are pros and con’s to each and of course not all venders will offer both methods.  Regardless of which method you choose, there were always be some dust to deal with and you will want to take the appropriate precautions to both avoid this dust as well as prevent the dust from finding it’s way throughout your home into areas that are not being refinished. This is particularly bother some to people who like their place really clean and who do not want to deal with allergic reactions to the dust.

Traditional hardwood floor refinishing involves sanding the entire floor with a sanding machine which creates a lot of dust which can find it’s way into every nook and cranny of your home. This sanding of the floor and all of the dust is not attractive to many consumers who must clean afterwords and who also may have allergies to wood dust.

There are two methods of dustless  hardwood floor refinishing available on the market:

  • High powered vacuum systems
  • Chemical dustless  hardwood floor refinishing

High powered vacuum systems

Professionals will use a high powered vacuum systems to capture all of the dust from each sander and blow it outside into a machine with a bag to capture all of the dust. There always be a little dust left in the home, however the amount is usually less than 10% and the cleanup in the area that is being refinished is much less than traditional methods.

If you have a number of rooms to complete, venders will have a large hose attached to the vacuum machine with a splitter that allows more than one sander to operate at the same time. They should also place plastic covering over all doors and windows, including vents to prevent dust going to other areas of the home.

All refinishing of hardwood floors generate some dust that remains in the home. Professionals will wipe down all walls  once the sanding activity is completed.

Chemical dustless  Hardwood floor refinishing

The process of chemical dustless  hardwood floor refinishing involves a technician scuffing the floor lightly and then adding a chemical to etch the floor.  Cleaning of the floor and repair of minor damage should be completed before applying the new finishing coat. This can be accomplished much quicker than doing a complete sanding of the floor and creates much less dust than traditional sanding.

Note that if you have a lot of damage to your floors or many coats of stain or protective covering, you may not be able to use this method. Check with your hardwood floor professional prior to making any decisions regarding this approach.

Always experiment with the chemical etching on a small section of the floor to ensure that you will be satisfied with the result. Choose an area that is out of the way and will not be noticed if it does not turn out the way you anticipated.

Advantages of Dustless Hardwood Floor Refinishing

There are many advantages associated with either system. We have listed a few of them as follows:

  • Chemical refinishing can be accomplished more quickly
  • Chemical refinishing is less expensive than traditional methods
  • Both approaches generate much less dust
  • Vacuum systems take 90% of the dust outside
  • People with allergies will be impacted less with these approaches
  • Cleaning afterwords is reduced significantly

Disadvantages of Dustless Hardwood Floor Refinishing

There are many disadvantages associated with both system. We have listed a few of them as follows:

  • Not all floors can use the chemical dustless refinishing method
  • Floors with major damage may require traditional sanding methods
  • Some people may be bothered by the chemical used to etch the floors
  • All refinishing reduces the overall life of your floors
  • All refinishing approaches will generate some dust
  • Consumers will need to tolerate the sound of the vacuum and sanders while this work is being completed

While no really wants to have to refinish their hardwood floors, there will come a time when refinishing will be required. You can delay this requirement by protecting your floor with the following easily followed steps:

  • Always remove your shoes at the entrance to your home
  • Vacuum your floors at least once per week, more often in high traffic areas
  • Damp mop your floors once a month

The methods and steps are designed to minimize the amount of grit that is tracked into the home and then ground into the hardwood floors by people walking on it. this grit will mar the floor or perhaps even scratch it. Grit will also leave the floor dirty as well which is why you need to damp mop often. You can get away without damp mopping as often as once per month if you do not track a lot of dirt and grit  into your home.

 

 


Best Window Cleaning Solutions

Best Window Cleaning SolutionsEvery year we clean our windows, usually in the spring and fall. It is a good time to remove the dirt and grime from the windows so that they are glistening and clean. We have wondered what the best window cleaning solutions are and what the best methods are to clean windows? Tomorrow is the big day for me, since I am one of those do it your self guys and do not like to pay for things that I can do myself. It is time to prepare and so I did a little research to find out what the best methods and solutions are.

Safety When Cleaning Your Windows

We have a two story house so I need to use an extension ladder and whenever you are on a ladder it is important to practice safe methods while using a ladder. Always make sure that the ladder is well position and have someone hold it for you while you are on the ladder. Secondly never reach while on the ladder. It is better to get down and move the ladder vs. reaching and throwing yourself off balance causing a fall.

Use a squeegee on a long pole for those hard to reach locations is also a safer way to approach these situations. For some people who are afraid of being on a ladder, you are far better off to just hire someone to clean your windows instead. The cost to clean windows is relatively inexpensive. I just received a quote for $34 / hour and 3 minutes per window which works out to a $1.70 per window which is pretty inexpensive.

Best Window Cleaning Equipment

Assuming you are going to clean you own windows, you will need a pail to hold the cleaning solution, sponge to wipe the glass with and remove much of the dirt and grime and a squeegee to remove the water solution that is left on the windows.

Avoid using something like paper towels. Not only do you have the cost of the towels, it is difficult to carry them on a ladder and you should not rub a window since the dirt on the window is being rubbed around with the towel and if there is grit on the window you can scratch the window. Using a sponge will allow you to rub the window with water and cleaning solution, the sponge will pick up much of the dirt. rinse the sponge at regular intervals and then dry the window using a squeegee just like the professionals do.

Best Window Cleaning Solutions

Everyone has an opinion on what the Best Window Cleaning solutions are. My favorite is water and vinegar, about 2/3 water and a 1/3 vinegar. the vinegar eats into the dirt and grease on the window and once you was and rinse with the sponge you will have a squeaky clean window after you run the squeegee over it. I find this works really well, however there are other opinions.

Other folks prefer to use a mild soap that is good at removing grease. Follow the same steps using the sponge to clean your window and then squeegee it as well. The soap will lubricate the window somewhat and allow the squeegee to glide over the window leaving it streak free and crystal clear.

How Often Should We Clean the Windows

It obviously depends on were you live and how dirty your windows get through the seasons. I prefer to clean them in the spring and the fall so that they are nice and clean most of the year. Note that you must also clean both sides and not just the outside. It helps to have someone cleaning the windows on the inside at the same time. This way you can be sure that you actually have removed all of the dirt from both sides of the windows.

Remember if you are nervous about getting up on the ladder, hire someone to clean the windows for you. It is not that expensive and who knows you might save yourself from having a serious accident. For more information about home maintenance, click here.

 

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