Archive for January, 2013

Rain Barrels Conserve Energy

Did you know that using rain barrels actually help to conserve energy? They help the environment at the same time? They also help to reduce consumer’s water bills as well for those of us that have to pay for our water. Some consumers still do not have to pay for water. However in many major cities there is a water meter that measures the water that we use and we are billed accordingly. This is a great way to save money. It is also a great way to help the environment. Any water you collect and use on your lawn saves you money and helps the environment as well.

The rain barrel shown in the picture sits under the down spout from your home. It has an overflow pipe along with a spigot with a tap that can have a garden water hose attached to it to drain water away or to spread on the lawn. This particular one is green in color. However rain barrels can be purchased in a variety of colors to mesh with the décor of your home and the surrounding gardens.

How Does Having a Rain Barrel Conserve Energy

The most direct saving is the reduction in the cost of the water that you use. Part of the cost of this water is the piping to deliver the water and the sewers to take away the waste water. Along with those things is the energy used to pump the water out of the ground and into reservoirs were it is treated. It is then pumped into water tanks for delivery to your home. Any time you reduce you water consumption; you will be reducing energy use and reducing your water bill at the same time.

Reducing Your Water Bill by Using  Rain Barrels

The primary benefit and the most direct benefit to using a water barrel is the reduction in cost for the water that you use. If you are billed for water they way the writer is, there are additional savings as well. There is the actual water charge which is the water that you used and recorded by your meter. In our case they then add a sewer surcharge of 117% of the water charge.

This is an unbelievable amount, but that is what it is for the city that we live in. In addition they add another charge of ninety cents a day for fire supply, whatever that is. We think that it is an additional tax on our properties for the fire service. But they place it on our water bill instead of our property tax bill. Water you use on your lawn will also generate a sewer charge even though the water does not go down the sewer.

If you bill for water is $100, then the sewer bills is going to be $117 for a total of $217 plus the cost of the fire service. If by using a rain barrel, you can reduce your water usage by 20% by using the water in the rain barrel to water the lawn instead of the water system. That’s $42 savings which goes a long way to paying for the cost of the rain barrel.

Do Your Own Evaluation

Every reader will have to do their own evaluation to assess how much water they can save and what impact that will have on their water bill. At some point the water savings will pay for the rain barrel and you will be making a contribution to reducing energy. This is a something we can all do and make a contribution to our pocket books at the same time. We can save a lot of money over a year and over several years. Frankly I would rather have it in my pocket and not that of the city water supply company.

This is another great way to save money and make a contribution to developing green energy savings solutions. Don’t forget to remove the down pipe in the fall from the barrel to avoid ice forming in the barrel and cracking it! Many people forget to do this and their water conservation project is finished until they replace the water barrel! This is just one more task to add to your list of things to do in the fall when you are getting your home ready for the winter.


Building Management Training

Building Management TrainingBuilding management training covers a lot of subjects that superintendents and rental managers need to know while on the job. Property managers must learn all of the theory as well as the practical side of doing the job. These courses cover everything from looking after garbage disposal to dealing with tenants who do not look after their units and skip town without paying the rent. There are processes to use in these situations and laws that apply. Often these laws are local in nature by state or province. In addition property management will vary greatly depending on whether the building is a residential building or whether it is a commercial building. Security, heating, parking etc to name a few will be significantly different for these types of buildings. Property management also involves the management of contracts for work that is completed by outside contractors. Grounds maintenance, snow removal, heating plant annual checks and so on will need to be monitored and checked for quality work.

Building Management Training – Rental Management

Rental management is part of a building management. Advertising for tenants, qualifying tenants based on income and records from other locations, with or without pets and children and a host of other criteria that come into play without breaking any prejudicial laws is complex. Bad decisions cost money for the tenants as well as the owners and must be carefully considered. Most jurisdictions will not allow for discrimination in any manner at all, so property rental managers must be well aware of the laws in this regard.

Building Maintenance

Buildings must also be maintained. Systems need to be monitored and budgets prepared to help ensure that repairs are completed on time and that there is money in the budget to handle both known maintenance items as well as emergency repairs. All of these things and much more is covered as part of building management training. Routine maintenance plans should be drawn up and prepared. Each plan will depend very much on the type of building, whether it has elevators or not, underground parking, exercise rooms, pools, etc. Every building is unique and while many activities will be the same, many will also be different. A good property manager will be on the ball and make sure that they have captured everything that needs to be done to maintain the building properly.

Insurance

Building managers must also carry liability insurance to cover them in case there are situations that develop leaving them liable for claims by tenants or the owners if they are under contract to the owners. Many owners will hire a property management company to manage a building on their behalf hence the reason to make sure that the property manager has adequate liability insurance. Building construction is also different depending on whether you are dealing with a high-rise condo, townhouses or single family homes. The technology is also different as well, all of which must be managed by the building management team.

Building Management Training – Security

Another aspect of building management which training should cover is security of the building. Malls are property management situations which need to have a security team in place to deal with everything from stealing to pick pocketing to loitering. Apartment buildings have much different requirements and the really expensive places will have a concierge who provides services to tenants such as calling taxis as well as providing soft security for the building. These requirements must be managed by the property management company based on the requirements of the owner as well as the type of building that is managed. Experienced property managers will be prepared to recommend the appropriate level of security based on the area the building is in, the history of the building and the needs of the tenants.


Tires for Cheap

Tires for CheapLooking for tires for cheap prices can actually be a dangerous thing to do. Some of these cheap tires are actually old tires that the store is trying to get rid of. They have been sitting in a warehouse somewhere and although protected from the environment and brand new, they have been deteriorating. The rubber deteriorates from heat and the compounds in the rubber begin losing their strength over time. Every tire has a date stamp on it that will tell you when the tire was manufactured and how old the tire is. Ask your dealer to show you and to tell you the age of the tire. They may be reluctant to give you this information. If they are this should be a red flag to any consumer and you probably want to move on to another dealer. Even large companies that are well know will routinely engage in this practice.

Older Tires are Dangerous

A tire that is older than 6 years should really not be put on a car. The rubber in the tire has deteriorated to such an extent that they may not be safe at high speeds or when the tires over heat due to poor inflation, high speed or high temperatures. Tires for cheap prices may sound great, however we are urging consumers to be careful and only purchase tires that are relatively new.

Some consumers will purchase used tires. These are tires that have been pulled off of old cars, perhaps cars that have ended up in the junk heap due to accidents and so on. They may look relatively new and can save a customer a lot of money. Check these tires over very carefully to make sure that there is still sufficient tread on the tire and the age of the tire as previously mentioned. You will also want to carefully check them for any damage from accidents, especially to the side walls.

Tires for Cheap – Buying Used Tires

Consumers can also buy used tires from friends and family or from strangers selling tires on some of the free advertising sites. They can save literally hundreds of dollars, however once again we urge consumers to check these tires over very carefully. You may also want to make sure that they have not been stolen, however this is difficult to tell in many cases. Give the tires the once over and verify that there is no damage and the age of the tires are within spec.

The opportunity to save money is difficult to resist, however your safety is at stake. Tires can over heat if under inflated and they can over heat if they are not wearing properly and this can cause those old tires or tires that are not in the best shape to disintegrate suddenly. If you are traveling at high speed, very potentially dangerous situations can develop and major accidents can occur.  If a tire goes flat suddenly especially the front tire, drivers will lose control and the car could end up in the ditch end over end. Your life is at stake so make sure those tires are in good shape and not too old.


Text Messaging Services for Business

Text Message SystemText messaging services for business has come a long way. This is older technology, but now businesses use this technology to advertise their business products and services, they use it to invite customers to openings and special store events and they provide text messaging to their employees to communicate with each other. With all of the methods that are available for communicating with each other, this one is probably the simplest and easiest to use, while being less intruding at the same time during meetings and other group activities.

 

Personal Text Messages

When was the last time you were in a meeting, were people were receiving and sending messages to their colleagues? Some will be asking their people to send them bits of information about the presentation they are viewing. Others will be suggesting that their employees need to look into some detail.  Others will be setting up their social calendars for the evening or the weekend.

Hard to tell if it is work related or personal but at least they did not need to step out of the room to take a call even if they did miss a point or too in the presentation or discussion. Text messaging is great for business people attending conferences as well. If you are in a large area, reception or listening to a speaker, it is easy to stay in touch with the job at home or hook up with a colleague for drinks at the bar later.

But can you really pay full attention to what is going on in the meeting when you are sending and receiving text messages? We do not think so and it can be very frustrating for presenters who are giving a presentation when someone is sitting there sending or receiving text messages.

Text Message Effectiveness

Some companies claim that 95% of text messages sent are in fact read, while 26% of those people who saw a message actually responded to the message at least once. This is a very high rate and why businesses like to use text messaging. Confirming that orders are ready, voice mails left and much more are several of the ways that text messaging services are used for business. Even calendar updates when someone commits to come to a meeting you have invited them too.

There are so many uses of text messaging that you pretty much cannot do without this service. Carriers offer the service  now to their customers as bundles that are part of larger packages of services. Bundles of 100 incoming and outgoing messages are typical. There are also unlimited plans which can be purchased if you really plan to send or receive a lot of text messages.

For more information about text messaging, click here.


Gas Fireplace Inspection

Gas Fireplace EfficiencyWe have a gas fireplace much like the one shown in this picture and we have it inspected once per year to make sure that it is operating well. When it is being inspected we also vacuum out any dust that has accumulated and we clean the front glass.  It becomes dirty and covered with a little bit of soot over the year. This is a good time to clean it which enhances the look of the fireplace. We needed the fan replaced one year since it was beginning to get noisy. It was just a matter of time before it needed replacement.

Our fireplace also has a thermostat that can be set to whatever temperature we want to keep our family room at the correct temperature. In addition there is a fan that circulates air around the fireplace and out through several vents to heat up the room. With the fan running it is supposed to be 77% efficient which is actually pretty good. It really does a good job of heating our family room.

This brings up the question of whether we should use the fireplace to help heat the house or not. We turn down our thermostat to 18C so the rest of the house is kept cool saving us energy and use the gas fireplace to heat the room that we use the most, our family room. I have always wondered if this is a smart thing to do relative to saving energy and reducing our overall energy bill? Our gas fireplace inspection technician seemed to think so, but I decided to do a little research and found the following results.

Gas Fireplace Heating Study

The study tested gas fireplace use and its impact on both furnace use and total gas energy consumption in an R2000 home. If you do not have one of these home you may need to make some adjustments to the results to account for the differences. An R2000 homes has added insulation, a high efficiency furnace and an air exchanger for fresh air. Researches wanted to find out if operating a gas fireplace would reduce the total energy use including electricity to run the fan and the gas usage to produce heat. They also wanted to test the advantage of running the fan constantly vs. only when the furnace was on.

They found that although the furnace ran less often, the total gas usage actually increased because the gas fireplace was not as efficient as the furnace. The furnace has an efficiency of 95% while the fireplace was only 76%. Even the pilot light of the fireplace consumes energy and if the fireplace was not running there was still some energy being consumed, while a high efficiency furnace does not have a pilot light.

Running the fan on the furnace all of the time did not make a noticeable difference in heat distribution in other rooms. It did use more electricity which was considered a negative result.

They concluded that running a gas fireplace did not actually save energy use and actually cost more to heat the home mainly because of the difference in efficiency. They did not mention if they turned down the temperature to keep the rest of the home cool and they did not take into account the efficiency of other homes other than an R2000 home.

Adjustment to the Gas Fireplace Study

For example our furnace is only 85% efficient and therefore there would not be that much difference between the furnace and the gas fireplace. We are now confident that with our situation of a 76% efficient fireplace, a 85% furnace and turning down the heat in the rest of the house, with the furnace fan turned off that we are probably saving money when it comes to heating our home.

Everyone must evaluate their own situation to make the best decision for what makes sense for them. Outside today it is -22C which is pretty cold and we have the fireplace on. Our family room is warm and cozy and the gas fireplace inspection was just done so we think we will stick with our present plan.

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Refinish Hardwood Floor

Refinish Hardwood FloorThis hardwood floor needed to be refinished in a really bad way. There was nothing wrong with the wood, however the surface was scuffed up, the finish was coming off or has worn off and there are marks on the floor from either furniture or possibly rugs that were placed on the floor to cover the not so good looking floor. This floor was refinished and made to look almost like new, so it is well worth taking the time to refinish it rather than cover it will a wall to wall rug which some consumers will do just to avoid the work. They may also prefer rugs to hardwood floors as well which is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own personal taste.

Refinish Hardwood Floor

We happen to like hardwood flooring for a number of reasons. First of all they look great, but they also keep the dust down and they do not hide the dust the way a carpet does. Anyone with allergies will always do better with a hardwood floor vs. a wall to wall carpet.

How to Refinish a Hardwood Floor

If you plan to refinish the floor yourself, it is important that you do it properly. Renting a power sander is probably the easiest way, provided that you rent the correct one and when you are sanding, you make sure that you sand with the grain and NOT across the grain. Sanding across the grain will leave scratches in the wood which will really spoil the look and the finish of the floor.

Sand the wood with the grain until you have removed all of the existing finish leaving clean non stained wood. If there are gauges in the floor, you may have to hand sand these to avoid removing too much of the actual wood. There are techniques for repair gauges, however we will not be covering this technique in this post.

Once the floor is sanded to your satisfaction, it is clean up time. Basically you need to sweep up all of the dust and then use a tack cloth to get the remaining particles on the floor as well as the walls, windows and ceilings. Your sander may have had an exhaust blower to blow the dust out the window or into a bag to capture it. This is a great feature, however there will still be fine particles of dust everywhere so get out the tack cloth and get every single particle of dust. This will avoid dust leaving marks on the floor when you apply the stain or the finish.

Staining your Hardwood Floor and Finishing Your Floor

If you are applying a stain to the floor to change the natural color of the wood, now is the time to do this. Make sure you have lots of ventilation so that you can breathe and do not harm your lungs. Start in a corner and work your way to the door to avoid locking yourself into a corner with no escape.

Allow the stain to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions and then apply the finish coat that will protect the floor for many years. This is usually a verathane of some kind which will have a high luster to it and bring out the grain in your floor.

Many consumers will hire a company to refinish their floors and the major advantage is that the work is completed quickly and efficiently. In a matter of days your floor is as good as new and you can move your furniture into the room. When you do the work yourself, you definitely save a lot of money, however with work and family commitments, refinishing your hardwood floor can take several weeks.

This is a really basic decision of cost vs. time vs. work and each consumer will need to make their own decision regarding just how much work they want to do vs. putting up with disruption in your home for several weeks.


Building Management Training Courses

Building management training courses are well worth the effort it takes to study and pass the courses. After all if you are going to be looking after a building that is worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, and this is a huge responsibility. Many investors, tenants as well as guests and people working at the building depend on you doing your job properly, being able to deal with routine issues as well as any emergencies that may occur. This is an important job and requires a person who takes responsibility seriously and will keep their building looking it’s best.

Training courses will cover everything from real estate services, to professional ethics to professional liability. There actually are so many items to cover that the course we reviewed was over 16 pages in length just for the table of contents. It is important for property managers to understand the different laws that apply to commercial buildings, to condominiums, to co-operatives and residential buildings. Owners have rights as do the tenants of the building. The local bylaws may also vary by town and city even in the same site.

Building Management Training as a Diplomat

Often the property manager is caught between the owners and the tenants in many issues. They must be able to keep both parties satisfied while staying within the local laws that protect tenants as well as owners. They have to strike the right balance, know the laws and know when to push back to keep both sides working in a fair manner. They also must be able to manage the expenses and stay within the budget set by the owners of the building. If there are emergencies, they must have the expertise to know how to deal with these emergencies and manage the cost of repairs.

There are also laws that deal with renters and how you need to manage situations involving rent increases, vacancies, renting units, expelling units and collections. As a property manager, particularly if you are managing a large building, there may be multiple people in your organization each managing an element of the overall job. There could be a rental manager for example, while another person looks after maintenance etc. Each will be an expert in their particular field, however someone must be able to cover for them while they are on vacation or away on training.

Ultimately there is one person responsible for everything and this person must also ensure that all of the people in the organization receives the appropriate building management training to allow them to do their jobs properly and legally.Time management, people management, relationship management, are just some of the soft skills that property management teams must take into account in order to be successful. Leadership skills, communications skills and writing skills are also important to ensure that these managers not only know their subjects, but they can also communicate what they need to when reviewing a dispute for example.

Training Updates

Property managers who have been on the job for some time can also benefit from training. These people have a great deal of experience and can be relied on to do a good job. However they need training updates from time to time on changing laws, technology changes and perhaps computer courses to adapt to new software programs.  Most people will appreciate the value of keeping up to date.

This training is well worth the effort and money it takes. On the job experience is also very important. You can learn from the experts and from managers who have been in the business for some time. Set up a weekly review meeting to go over issues, concerns you may have and to discuss general guidelines for your property. In creasing communication can only help you when you are responsible for large buildings.


Space Heaters for Your home vs Infrared

Space HeatersIt is winter time and many people will resort to some kind of space heater to keep a room warm without the need to heat the rest of the home. For example you  can be very comfortable in your family room with a space heater running in that room while the remainder of the home is kept cooler and saving you money on the heating cost.

There are various types of space heaters. We talked about two types in the title, the infrared and the regular space heater. We will explain the difference in a moment. There is at least one more type of space heater and really that is the fireplace that can be used to keep one room warmer than another. We will first talk about the different types and them discuss the efficiency of each type.

Space Heater Types

Fireplaces typically are built into a room and cannot be moved around. They may be either wood burning or they may have gas fired fireplaces inserted to avoid having the trouble of carting in wood and lighting fires etc.

Space heatersgenerate heat by converting electricity to heat. They heat the elements of the space heater which in turn transmit heat to the air around the space heater. Some come with fans which will circulate this heated air around the room and speed up the process of warming the room. These space heaters can become quite hot and both adults and children need to be careful around them to avoid touching them and burning their hands.

Infrared Space Heaters generate heat in the infrared spectrum. They do not heat the air around them at all. The infrared spectrum will heat a surface with the light waves encounter a surface such as a person. Aimed properly a person can sit in a cold room and be quite comfortable as long as the infrared rays are hitting the person. There is no danger from anything hot, although some people may find the light a bit bright especially for sleeping.

Efficiency of these Space Heaters

Efficiency is difficult to measure for many devices, so we will indicate averages that may be available from various space heaters.

The wood fireplace is probably the most inefficient, since most of the hot air goes up the chimney and in fact it draws warm air from your home into the fireplace which then goes up the chimney. All wood burning chimneys must have a source of fresh air, otherwise they will not burn properly and may even cause smoke to come into your home instead of go up the chimney. Modern wood burning fireplaces will have a fresh air intake installed around the fireplace to reduce the amount of air extracted from the home and provide a source of fresh air.

The gas fireplace has it owns source of fresh air and in fact is a self contained unit. They are much more efficient than wood burning fireplaces. Older models were approximately 70% efficient without a fan and close to 80% efficient with a fan to blow the warm air around the fireplace into the rest of the home. Never the less these gas fireplaces perform well and will keep a small room like a family room very comfortable. You can allow the rest of the home to be quite cool while you remain comfortable in the room were the gas fireplace is located.

Infrared and regular Space Heaters claim to be 100% efficient. While they are very close to being 100%, they are actually a bit less than 100% since some electrical energy is lost in the transmission of the electricity and if there is a fan, some energy will be lost in the operation of the fan. They are so close that many people just consider them to be 100% efficient for marketing purposes.

Summary

Never the less these small space heaters are an inexpensive alternative to keeping your entire home warm, when all you need is the room where you spend most of your time to be kept warm. Some space heaters will also have timers on them allowing the owner to set them to coincide with rates that are lower during the day usually in the evening.


Tires Sale

Tires SaleConsumers can really save a lot of money with tires sales. There are times during the year when all of the tire companies will have sales on for tires that coincide with the seasons. In the fall for example, winter tires will go on sale in the October period to try to drive up sales before the real rush that begins with the first snow fall. They can increase sales during the lull before the storm. Most drivers tend to wait until that first snow fall and then head off to get new tires or have their snow tires installed.

Many people will buy an extra set of steel rims for their snow tires so they can change their own tires if they want to. With an extra set of rims you also avoid potential damage to the rims when you remove and install tires on aluminum rims.

Take Advantage of Tires Sale

Most of us procrastinate and wait until it gets really cold and that first snow comes down. Then there is trouble for everyone. Cars are sliding everywhere, people are trying to get their snow tires installed, and other consumers are trying to buy snow tires and rims even if it is at full price.

Tire shops are working overtime to keep up with all of the rush to purchase snow tires. Couldn’t consumers just do this in advance and have their tires installed when there is not such a rush. In addition you avoid all of these potential accidents.

The other time that tires go on sale is the transition from winter to spring. They go on sale because consumers need new tires and have to remove their snow tires. This is a great time to take advantage of tires for sale.

Sometimes tires go on sale because there is an oversupply. Consumers need to be careful in these situations. Tires on sale like this can be a really good price, however sometimes these tires have been sitting around for many years.

Check Your Tires Age

Before you buy always check the age of the tires and confirm they are no older than 6 years. Rubber looses it’s properties slowly, however you do not want them on your car during a high speed blowout due to age.

Even if you purchase tires on sale from a reputable tire company, do not take it for granted that they are not old tires. Many people just do not realize that sometimes tires sit around for a long time and then are sold at steep discount to get rid of them. When we purchase them at a store, we have no idea how old they are unless we check first. Even reputable stores may sell them when they are old and past their prime. Always have the mechanic check the age of the tires before they are installed. The information is easily found from the tire by looking at the appropriate code on the side of the tire.

Save money but do so with your eyes open and always compare prices with other tire companies as well as tires from different manufacturers before you make a decision.


Text Messaging Marketing

Text Messaging MarketingText messaging marketing is just another form of advertising that consumers just cannot get away from. Companies and advertising organizations send out millions of text messages every day to unsuspecting cell phone users in an attempt to garner some business from them. These messages are sent by the millions and are often ignored by consumers receiving them. They just do not hit the mark for many people and irritate a lot of others. At the very least you have to go in and delete them to reduce memory consumption on your phone.

If you have a text messaging plan on your phone then at least you do not have to pay for the incoming message, although it is still annoying. You have to read each one and then delete it. Still every once and awhile there are some good deals available and you can save money by taking advantage of them.

Text messaging is actually old technology now with messaging becoming available over the internet and sent to your smart phone for free. With a free app on your phone you can send and receive messages to your friends etc without any cost what so ever. We expect that text messaging traffic is going to decline over the coming years as more and more people purchase smart phones.

Text Messaging Marketing – APPs

As these apps become popular there will be text messaging marketing on these new apps as well especially if they make it into a majority of user’s phones. Text messaging is an old technology owned and operated on the mobile phones that are sold by the various carriers. Smart phones are growing by leaps and bounds, so it will not be long before we begin to see a decline.

Most people today will always get a text plan with their phones since sending text messages is actually cheaper than talking over the phone and who wants to talk anyway these days. Most teens just send text messages. A few people we know only have a text plan and a data plan on their phones. They block all phone calls over their phones from the traditional cellular networks to limit voice charges. They can do all of their calling using the data network with Voip on their smart phone and also send text messages. This appears to be the way of the future.

Yet many of our older friends only have cell phones, mobile phones or smart phones only for emergencies and some just take a pay per use plan. They are definitely not into sending or receiving text messages. Still more and more people are gradually getting used to using smart phones and sending text messages. It is an inexpensive and unobtrusive way to communicate.

For more information about text messaging, click here.


Hardwood Floor Restoration

The really neat thing about hardwood floors is that you can restore them. The really bad thing is that it takes some work to restore them to their original beauty. Hardwood floors are usually finished with a clear verethane or urethane coating. This finish brings out the grain in the wood and protects it as well. Foot traffic brings in grit from outside brought on shoes. It is ground into the floor, furniture scratches, marks from children’s toys and general use all contribute to the gradual decline in the beauty of your floor.  Fortunately, as long as there is still sufficient wood left, the floor can easily be refinished. The original luster can be restored.

Hardwood Floor Restoration Using a Belt Sander

If you have sufficient wood thickness left a belt sander is probably the best tool to use to remove any remaining coating on the wood. Minor gouges and scratches will also be removed since the belt sander will remove some of the wood as well. Each time you sand the floor the thickness of the wood decreases and once the nails are exposed, no more wood can be removed. Removal of minor scratches can be handled this way quite easily by using a belt sander. Once you are finished sanding, the floor and room needs to be thoroughly vacuumed and then a tack cloth needs to be used to remove all traces of dust prior to apply a new sealing coat.

Hardwood Floor Restoration When You Cannot Use a belt Sander

Hardwood floor restoration sometimes must be done using a lot of elbow grease. In situations where the wood is too thin, uneven or nails are beginning to show through, consumers will be faced with the job of sanding the floor by hand. While it is hard work and expensive if you hire someone to do the work for you, it is often less expensive compared to ripping out the existing floor and installing a new floor.

Sanding by hand is just plain hard work and even a small room is going to take several days to complete. Your arms and hands are going to get very tired and sore, so it is best to spread the work out over a few days. A couple of hours every day will make short work of it without taxing your body too much. Having personally sanded a floor in this manner took me three days to sand, another day to clean and then two days to apply two finishing coats with a light sanding in between.

Sanding by hand must be always done with the grain. Never go across the grain since this will leave tiny scratch marks which will show up when you apply verethane to the wood to bring out the grain. Sanding by hand also removes a minimal amount of wood which is a good thing if your floor is getting a bit thin.

Cleaning

Cleaning is done the same way. Make sure you vacuum well and then clean every square inch with a tack cloth to clear any dust away and avoid it marking the floor when you apply the finish.

Many hardwood floors take a lot of abuse, but they will stand up to this abuse for years and years. Hardwood floors will last longer than a carpet or linoleum. A floor that was installed in the 1920’s was refinished and looks as good as new. Hardwood planks were much thicker then than they are today and this floor has been restored multiple times. There are some small gaps between the planks and a few deeper gouges which can be still seen.

They add character to the floor that goes along with the building. Some boards are cracked or broken and need to be repaired. These can be carefully be lifted out and a new piece inserted. Most people will stain the new wood prior to actually installing the new piece into the floor. Care needs to be taken to make sure there is a good match in terms of color, grain and texture of the new piece with the existing floor. The new section also needs to be at exactly the same height as the existing floor to avoid scuffing marks and causing people to trip over it as they walk over it.

Hardwood floor restoration can be hard work, however the result is a beautiful floor you can appreciate for many years.


Reducing Energy Usage

Reducing Energy UsageOur last post discussed the appliances that consume the most electricity. From this post we can see which appliances use the most electricity and where we can plan on reducing our energy usage by focusing on the larger highest consuming appliances.

Turning the lights off and converting to fluorescent lights is an excellent way of reducing our energy usage. So running any appliance that has a motor, such as the air conditioner, the dryer and water pump less are also great ways of reducing energy usage.

We use energy in other ways as well that may not involve electricity. If you have a water heater that runs on natural gas, you are using energy. Heating your home with natural gas as well consumes a lot of energy as do pool heaters that are gas consumers.

Our cars and transportation are another area that most consumers use a lot of energy and the higher the price goes for gasoline, the more motivation there is to control how much energy we use.

Here are a few ways of reducing energy usage:

  • Unplug devices if they are not in use. All electronics consume energy even if they are turned off.
  • Set computers to sleep so they are not running and put lap tops on hibernation mode, however it is even better to unplug them
  • Turn down your temperature in the winter and up in the summer to reduce heating and air conditioning costs.
  • Use your appliances in off peak hours such as cooking, drying your clothes, setting your fridge temperature a little higher, wash full loads in the washing machine and the dishwasher, and keep them all in optimal operating condition.
  • Turn out the lights if no  one is in the room
  • Convert all lights to fluorescent or LED lights
  • Walk to work or take mass transit
  • Plan your trips in the car and avoid many short trips for single errands
  • Keep your vehicle well tuned and tires at the proper pressure
  • Turn down the thermostat when you go away on vacation in the winter
  • Turn up the thermostat in the summer when you are away
  • Use a programmable thermostat
  • Use flashlights that do not need batteries and avoid having to throw out used batteries
  • Winterize your home by sealing windows

While this may not be a complete list of reducing energy usage, these will cover the majority for many consumers. Depending on your lifestyle, there may be additional methods and approaches to reducing energy usage. Let us know by leaving comments and we will add them to our list. Our readers will appreciate it.

Additional Energy Usage Reduction Techniques

There are additional steps that can be considered to reduce energy usage which may require additional investment with various pay time frames. These approaches include:

  • Upgrade your furnace to a maximum efficiency furnace.
  • Upgrade your water heater to maximum efficiency
  • Ensure your windows are well sealed or replace them with better insulated windows
  • Upgrade your insulation in your attic
  • Arrange for a pressure test to identify all potential air leaks in your home
  • Install ceiling fans to move the air inside your home
  • Consider gas fireplace inserts to heat the most used room in your home

There are many more things that will cost increasing amounts of money to put into place. If you are building a new home there are an entire series of things to consider in terms of upgrades that can improve the efficiency of the home in terms if energy use.

There is a law of diminishing returns. The point at which the investment in energy reducing activity is going to cost more than the potential savings over some number of years. The number of years will be different for every home owner and the amount they are willing to spend. For the writer this number is around seven or eight years. In other words if I cannot recover my investment in that time, then I am not prepared to spend the money to upgrade.

This should be constantly reassessed since prices are constantly changing including the cost of energy as well as the cost of the solutions you may be considering. Reducing energy usage is an ongoing activity and should be constantly monitored.


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