Removing Dark Stains from Your Roof

Removing Dark Stains from Your RoofConsumers living in areas with lots of moisture and the little sun will sometimes find black algae growing on the shingles of their roofs. It can turn a beautiful roof into an ugly stained roof that just does not look great even in the hot sun. Once it starts it just continues to spread leaving an unsightly mess on your roof. Fortunately, there is a way for Removing Dark Stains from Your Roof.

Removing Dark Stains from Your Roof

The first step is to remove any debris that may have collected on your roof. This includes moss that may have built up in areas where there is a great deal of shade. The best way to remove this debris is to use your garden hose and spray water on the area at an angle from about three feet away. Consumers must be careful to not dislodge granules from the shingles. Once all of the moss is removed, apply an oxygen bleach mixture to the areas needing treatment.

The best time to apply the oxygen bleach mixture is on a cloudy day. You need to keep the area wet for at least 45 minutes which can be difficult in full sunlight. Mix the oxygen bleach with water following the instructions provided.

Consumers should start in a small area. Make sure it is inconspicuous to make sure that this solution will work on the algae on your roof. Once you have confirmed that it does the job of getting rid of the algae and it has not harmed your roof. Apply the solution to the rest of the roof where the algae can be seen. You will notice a remarkable improvement in most cases.

Consumers may have to hire a professional roofer to go up on the roof to apply the solution. Avoid ladders of all kinds if you are afraid of heights or unstable on a ladder or being on a roof.

Treated Deck Lumber Rotting

treated deck lumber rottingLets be realistic, most treated deck lumber rotting issues will occur to just about everyone sometime. Treated lumber contrary to the advertisements will not last forever even under the best conditions. However, the life of your deck or your fence can be extended if you follow some guidelines. Basically you need to keep the water from collecting and standing on the wood. If you can arrange to make sure that there is good drainage and avoid damp earth collecting on the wood, it will last a long time. let’s review a few examples to give you some idea. If you follow the basic rule, your deck etc will last many years.

Treated Deck Lumber Rotting – Guidelines

Since this post is about decks, we will discuss decks first. Always follow basic construction and design guidelines to ensure that you have a deck that is well supported. You want it to be strong enough to hold all possible weight conditions. Next ensure that the deck slopes slightly away from the house. All water and moisture will run off allowing the wood to dry properly after each rainfall.

Ensure that the bottom of all posts are above grade and that there is adequate drainage from around the bottom of the post. Any dampness that remains, will over time, cause the wood to soften and begin rotting.

If your deck receives lots of shade, it may not last as long as on that is in full sun. It just will not dry out. Moisture will not evaporate and will slowly cause the wood to rot. Either relocate the deck or remove some of the trees to provide more sunlight.

Fence posts should follow the same rule. Either encase the fence post in concrete and cap above grade or encase in porous gravel to bleed away moisture. If the moisture sits there, it will cause the wood to rot after even a short amount of time. It will not matter if it is cedar or treated lumber.

For more posts about repairs around your home and general maintenance, click here.


Handyman Hiring Guide

Whether you are hiring a contractor or a handyman to complete some type of work around your home, a handyman hiring guide is a useful tool to prevent frustration and increased expenses. We have called this post a handyman hiring guide, but you can apply this to any situation where you hire someone to do some work for you. It is short and just makes common sense. It could save you a lot of time, frustration and money if you hire someone following these common sense rules.

Handyman Hiring Guide

Write down on paper exactly what you want to have completed.

Select all materials or at lease as many as you can in advance to reduce or eliminate assumptions and overhead costs that might be added later.

Verify that the contractor knows what he is doing and has the experience. Ask for references and talk to those references as well.

Do not pay in advance for any work or materials unless it is special order. Materials should always be in your name and delivered to your address rather than the contractors.

All agreements should be in writing, clearly specified and initialed by both parties. Changes should be discussed in advance, costed and agreed to in advance. No surprises.

For more repair information and posts about maintaining your home, click here.

Spalling Concrete Repair

Spalling Concrete RepairSpalling concrete appears to become a huge problem, for homeowners as well as cities and building owners. As a result, many consumers find that the concrete sidewalks leading to their homes look like the ones in this picture. Others like myself are finding that their cement garage floors are spalling and look terrible. The good news is that they can be fixed. You just have to find the right solution to make the repair. The following steps are a brief summary of what to do to repair your side-walk or your garage floor. Note that local conditions may dictate when you do this repair work. For example outside work should be completed in dry conditions, with less wind, and on a cloudy day to achieve the best results. Temperatures should be well above freezing.

Spalling Concrete Repair

  • Thoroughly Clean the concrete floor with a blower to remove all loose dust and any other material that may be present.
  • Use a pressure washer to dislodge loose particles that are about to lift up from the floor as well as remove other stains that could prevent the new concrete from binding
  • If there are oil stains, these need to be removed by removing the concrete or by using an acid to provide clean unsoiled concrete.
  • Use a blower again to clear off all loose particles that might remain
  • Mix one part Portland cement and two parts sand to a thick consistency like thick applesauce. Course sand can be used to provide a rougher surface if needed.
  • Apply cement paint to the surface to act as a glue to help the cement – sand mixture adheres to the existing concrete
  • Apply cement to the surface immediately before cement paint dries from 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick to fully hide all spalling areas. If you are doing a sidewalk, you will want to install a form on either side. This will help ensure the proper thickness is applied.
  • Allow it to thoroughly dry before using

For more ideas and repairs you can do yourself around the home, click here.



Spalling Concrete Causes

Spalling Concrete RepairMost consumers have seen spalling concrete and wonder what are the spalling concrete causes. We find our sidewalks in front of our homes look like the picture. Or perhaps our garage floors look like the one in the picture as well. One section of the sidewalk might be fine. The fundamental cause is usually contractors who do not finish the concrete properly. They add water to the surface to keep it moist until they have a chance to finish it. Or they start finishing the surface before the bleed water has a chance to be absorbed. Both of these actions weaken the surface of the concrete making it susceptible to environmental conditions.

Spalling Concrete Causes

Consumers who live in areas that are exposed to constant freeze-thaw conditions may experience more severe spalling conditions. They will see this in their concrete sidewalks and garage floors or driveways. Water can get between the cracks.

In most cases, it is only the surface that lifts up. It will remain strong. The surface does not look great. As a result, spalling can even devalue your home when it comes time to sell it.

In our next post “Spalling Concrete Repair”, we will quickly explain how consumers can do their own repairs. How they can make their garage floor, sidewalk or driveway look new again? For more repair information around the home, click here.


Buy or Rent Air Conditioner

Buy or Rent Air ConditionerWould you buy or rent air conditioner equipment? The answer might surprise you and it really depends on the assumptions you make regarding the costs involved. The first step is to obtain several quotes for replacing your air conditioner through a purchase plan and also renting it if this program is available. Most people can do a straight line comparison of the total cost of the unit installed vs. paying monthly rental fees. There will be a break even amount at some point in the future, which could be around 10 years depending on the assumptions and the actual costs.

Don’t forget to factor in the cost of insurance for service and maintenance if you purchase your own AC unit.  If you plan to be in the home longer than this breakeven number of years, you may want to consider a further refinement of the numbers to do a proper comparison.

Buy or Rent Air Conditioner

For example, if your cost will be $5000 and you have the $5000 available, how much interest are you collecting on that $5000 today. If it is just sitting in a bank account collecting very little interest, then this next step will not be of much interest to you.

On the other hand if it is invested in something such as a stock paying 3 or 4% dividends, then you really have to factor in the lost income associated with cashing in the stock to pay for the new AC unit. Four percent will pay $200 a year for as long as you own the stock and possibly more from gains in the value of the stock as well as dividend increases.

This income will help to offset the rental cost of the air conditioning a considerable amount and move the breakeven number further out to where it might be interesting to rent instead of purchasing your air conditioning unit. Take a look at the previous post about rent vs. buying a furnace and air conditioning for a more direct example.

For more information about general repairs around your home, click here.


Repairing Mold Damage from Leaking Water Pipes

Mold Damage from Leaking Water PipesMost consumers will never have to deal with mold damage from leaking water pipes. We hear of major floods and homes being totally destroyed by flood water or the subsequent mold that covers everything. These situations require professional intervention and major repairs. There are millions of other leaks such as the one shown in this picture that occur everyday and can develop into significant mold sources as well as causing significant damage to the home. If there are enough mold spores in the air, even your family can become sick and require medical attention. Any time you suspect mold developing, deal with it immediately and do not allow it to become a major expensive problem.

Mold Damage from Leaking Water Pipes

Sources of water and subsequently mold:

  • Slow leaking water pipes
  • A small leak in the roof
  • Windows are another source
  • Damp, dark and warm are the best places

Your health can be compromised if you do not deal with this problem, not to mention the damage and the cost of the repairs. The first step is to always repair the leak and eliminate the source of the water causing the mold. In other words – Fix the leak

Routine checks are good to do as well. Under sinks and around toilets are good places to check. If you smell dampness, follow your nose and check for mold.

Next you need to begin repairs and renovations. Start by removing all damaged wood and removing all drywall. If the mold is extensive, you will need to take special precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and breathing apparatus. You may want to hire professionals if it is a large job. Also ensure that the mold spores cannot spread to the rest of the home where they can cause health issues and the further spread of the mold.

If anyone has asthma in the home or is subject to allergies, you may want them to stay outside the home while this work is being competed.

Hire professionals if you are not comfortable!


Asphalt Shingles Losing Granules

Asphalt Shingles Losing GranulesThis roof is in serious need of replacement. Not only are the asphalt shingles losing granules it is also beginning to curl creating potential for leaks. Curling shingles are caused by a combination of age, hot temperatures and poor attic ventilation. If you want your shingles to last, make sure that you have lots of air ventilation. This allows the hot air that builds up in your attic to escape through roof vents. You can never have enough ventilation. If you are having your shingle roof replaced, arrange to have the old vents replaced with new high capacity vents. You may also want to add several vents as well if you have a large roof and a limited number of vents. Hot attics contribute to premature aging of the shingles and granular loss that greatly shortens the life span of the shingles.

Asphalt Shingles Losing Granules – Trees

Another situation that sometimes can contribute to premature aging is the effect of overhanging trees on your roof. The trees will prevent sunlight from drying the roof on damp days and they drop leaves and other material on the roof. All of this extra moisture can contributed to increased granual loss especially during extreme temperature fluctuations.

Try to keep your roof free of debris and also clean out any eaves troughs that you may have. Moisture can seep up under the shingles if the eaves troughs are plugged and full of water. Also avoid walking on the roof. Anytime you walk on a shingle roof, it will damage the shingles, causing more granual loss and in the case of the roof shown in the picture actually break off portions or at the minimum cause cracking of the shingles. Cracked shingle, loose shingles and broken shingles are perfect opportunities for water to seep in throght the roof causing more damage to the supporting structure underneath, the insulation and even into the living porting of the home.

Again, if your roof looks like the one in the picture above, have it replaced immediately before water causes even more damage inside your home.


Stain Removal from Fences & Decks

Stain Removal from FencesIt has been a few years since the stain on your deck was applied and now it is beginning to crack and chip away. In addition the sun as begun to change the color causing fading. You also may want to change the color as well to fit with your new lawn furniture and other decor. It is time to remove the old stain and apply new stain to improve the overall look of your home. This is an easy do it yourself project and does not require many tools. In fact many people will already have what is needed and if not the money you are saving by doing this work yourself will more than pay for the tools you need. For example a garden hose with a high pressure nozzle will do the trick, but you may want to use a pressure sprayer instead. A pressure sprayer can be used for all kinds of little jobs so why not purchase one with the money you are saving on this job! They also help with stain removal from fences as well.

Steps for Stain Removal from Fences & Decks

Here are the steps to follow and we will add a few comments at the end to emphasize some of the steps in more detail.

  • Move furniture away from the work area
  • Remove debris such as leaves and dirt
  • Remove all loose paint or stain
  • Protect any areas such as walls and shrubbery
  • Apply stain remover
  • Allow to soak for 5 to 45 minutes
  • Remove old stain by washing with a garden hose or pressure washer
  • Scrape any remaining loose stain
  • Re-apply stain remover and wash again if needed
  • Allow to dry for at least 24 hours
  • Sand exposed wood to remove any roughness, splinters etc
  • Apply new stain as needed.

If you decide to use a pressure washer, hold the end of the nozzle at least one foot away and adjust the sprayer to its widest setting to avoid gauging the wood and causing more damage. A pressure washer can do a lot of damage quickly so experiment on a test piece first if this is the first time you are using one.

Allow the deck to dry at least 24 hours after cleaning. You want the wood nice and dry prior to sanding. Sand all of the rough edges and the flooring to ensure that it is smooth and there is no chance of slivers for anyone walking across it on bare feet. Once you have competed this stop you are ready to apply the new stain. Ensure that you have dry weather for another 24 hours to allow the new stain to dry properly.


Rainguard Automatic Downspout Extension

Rainguard Automatic Downspout ExtensionThe Rainguard Automatic Downspout Extension is great for people who need a down pipe that is hidden but still takes the water away from the house. We have shown both the old down pipe and the new one. the old one is the beige pipe with the black extension laying on the brick driveway. While it is effective it really does not look very nice and the family often trips over it as they go around the corner of the house.

The new Rainguard Automatic Downspout Extension is the green coiled device that is coiled up by the vines on the brick driveway. When it rains, this device rolls out and water is carried away from the house. For light rains, there are six small holes which allow the water to leave the coil. In heavy rains, it uncoils the entire distance and there is an opening at the end to allow a heavy flow of water to dissipate well away from the house foundation.

One of the major advantages of this device is that it coils up out of sight when there is no rain. No more stepping over the old downspout! It is also important to mention that water should never be allowed to collect near the foundation. There should always be good drainage to take the water away from the house. Most new homes have weeping tile around the basement of the home. They sometimes get plugged and water then seeps into the basement. Plugged tiles can cause water damage, mold issues and damage to the interior contents of the home.

Rainguard Automatic Downspout Extension – Installation

Installation is very easy. They provide a flexible plastic clamp to use to wrap around the raingurad over the down pipe. You cannot see it in this picture due to the leaves from the vine, However it is very easy to install and no tools are needed for the installation. You might need a screw driver to remove the old down pipe depending on how it is attached. It is extremely easy and does not require any do it yourself difficulty.

Rainguard Automatic Downspout Extension – Remove for the Winter

The instructions do not indicate that you should remove it for the winter. However, we happen to think that it should be removed. If you have freezing weather with lots of snow etc, this device could be damaged by the ice and snow. Our plan is to re-install the old one for the winter and then exchange it again next spring. This is just our opinion and does not reflect the opinions of the manufacturer. There are many small jobs like this one that can easily be accomplished by the homeowner. In this case the rain guard can be used year after year.


Repair Window Frames

Repair Window FramesAlways repair window frames before you repaint. In this situation, as you can see from the picture, this window frame needs major repair. For some reason, the wood of the window frame has begun to rot. We are not sure if this is dry rot or wet rot. But never the less the window frame is becoming compromised. It is only a matter of time before the window will need to be replaced. It is not even at a spot where water can collect and cause the wood to soften and begin to rot. Never the less it has started.

Many people, upon seeing this would just have the window replaced before it causes water leakage, however, in our case we decided to repair window frames and get at least another year or two out of this particular window. We are doing it yourself home repairmen and so it does not cost much to make the repair and we can do this work ourselves. If you pay someone to paint and repair your windows,  the cost can quickly get out of hand, you may be further ahead to just replace the window with vinyl frame windows which require no maintenance! It is all about cash flow and overall cost. Decide what is best for your own specific situation.

Repair Window Frames – Then Paint

We removed all of the paint and as much of the rotting wood as possible. Fortunately, it was only half an inch deep and the frame of the window is not compromised at all. Once this step was completed, we filled the hole with caulking. This is exterior caulking, white in color, and suitable for this sort of thing. Most important it can be painted. It may take a little longer to dry since the caulking is quite thick, so you have to wait at least 24 hours before painting.

Repair Window Frames – Steps to Follow

The standard steps to repair window frames and painting are as follows:

  • Scrape all loose and chipping paint from the window frame
  • Use a wire brush to remove any hard to get at places
  • Use steel wool to smooth the wood and introduce a rough surface to any remaining paint. This is important for the adhesion of the new paint, especially if you are using semi-gloss paint
  • Apply caulking to all joints and repairs that may be needed
  • Once the caulking is dry apply at least two coats of paint to all areas of the window frame that has been exposed down to the bare wood.
  • Recheck yearly to repair window frames as needed.

If you are not able to do this work yourself, you may need to hire someone who can do the work. Make sure they properly scrape the old paint, sand, etc before repainting the windows. If you are down to the bare wood, you will need to repaint twice to provide two coats of paint for protection. For more information about repair, you can do around your home, click here.


Scrape and Paint Your Window Frames

Scrape and Paint Your Window FramesHomeowners should scrape and paint your window frames at least once per year or at least check them every year as a minimum. Consumers must remove all loose paint and caulking before repainting their windows. This one looks pretty bad and there has been some water damage that has darkened the wood underneath. Fortunately, it has been caught in time. We scraped the cracking paint off. Removed any existing caulking and now will let it dry for a few days before re-caulking and then painting.  If you fail to do these relatively inexpensive repairs, the wood will rot. It will allow even more moisture in causing damage to the wall inside. This will increase your overall cost of repairs dramatically.

We will discuss the details later in this post, however, we wanted to mention that if you are paying someone to repaint your windows for you, you must always make sure that they scrape and remove any loose paint, then caulk all joints before repainting. Most will just place a coat of paint over existing paint which is a total waste of money and time.

Scrape and Paint Your Window Frames – check for soft wood

Step one is to first inspect your windows, especially the window sills checking for any soft or rotted wood. If there is you must either repair the sill which is usually the location of rotting wood or replace the windows completely. If the wood is ok, and you can get another year out of it at least. Your next step is to scrape the windows. You will want to remove all loose paint, bubbling and flaking paint.  Sand with steel wool to roughen up the wood and the existing paint surface that is still adhering to the surface. Once this is completed allow the wood to become fully dry. Some dampness will indicate that moisture was getting though and it is time to repaint your windows.

Scrape and Paint Your Window Frames – Allow Wood to Dry

Once the wood is completely dry, it is time to re-caulk all joints that could allow moisture to enter between the joints of the windows. Allow this to dry and also make sure that you are using a caulk that is paintable.  Once the caulk is dry, usually about two hours,  you can then begin painting your windows. If there is exposed wood, give this area at least two coats of paint. Either use primer and the main paint or give it two coats of paint using the final color. This will help to ensure that you leave no areas that are uncovered by paint.

For more information about repairs around your home and saving money, click here.



Caulk Before You Paint Window Frames

Caulk Before You Paint Window FramesIf you do not remove loose paint and caulking before you paint all the work you do in painting your windows is a complete waste of time and money. Paint will bubble up on window sills and frames for a variety of reasons. There will be nothing holding it in place other than the connection to the paint. You also need to caulk before you paint window frames.  There is no connection with the wood underneath. Also there will likely be cracks where moisture can find its way inside causing wood rot over time.

There are a variety of things that will cause the paint to chip off or bubble up. In some cases it is age. The sun that will cause the paint to deteriorate and chip away. For many people in northern climates it is the repeated freezing and thawing. Snow and water on the window sill will also cause the paint to crack. Water gets underneath not only pushing the paint up, it will also cause the wood to rot underneath if something is not done in a reasonable amount of time.

We recommend that the windows be checked every year and if there any signs of cracking or paint peeling, the offending area should be scraped and painted. Remember to caulk before you paint window frames. We have out lined the steps to follow below.

Caulk Before You Paint Window Frames – Steps

The first step is to scrape away all loose paint chips. In some cases this will be confined to the window sill, while in others like the picture shown it will be on the vertical surfaces as well. Next, use steel wool to remove all loose particles and roughen up the wood so that new paint will adhere to the wood. You can also use sandpaper, however we find that the steel wool is more flexible and easier to get at corners and round edges. The final step before painting is to apply caulking to all joints so that there is no chance of moisture getting into areas that could cause other problems such as cracking and wood rot. Once it is dry you can then begin applying an outdoor paint.

Use Paintable Exterior Caulking

Always use exterior caulking that is flexible, will withstand extremes of temperature, and can be painted. After all, you do not want to have caulking that cannot be painted marring your window frames! Where ever there is bare wood, you probably should apply a primer paint first. Then apply whatever color you chose. We have always just applied two coats of the regular paint. This provides good results since the wood is already sealed from the initial coat of primer paint.

Follow these steps every year and your windows should last many years. If someone is painting the windows for you, always discuss the details in terms of scraping and removing loose paint, caulking, and painting as discussed above. For more information about repairs around your home and saving money doing it, click here.


Easy Home Repair Jobs

Easy Home Repair JobsSome of the easiest upkeep projects require less time than it takes to grill a steak. Most people don’t think to do these things. Yet anyone can knock them out in minutes for virtually no cost. Even if you don’t have a basement workshop. Compare to hiring a handyman at $20 or more an hour and $50 just to show up. These jobs can be completed by most consumers with a little thought and a few tools.  The way the writer looks at this is that the money I save by doing some of these jobs myself can easily pay for any tools I might need. These tools can be used over and over.

Easy Home Repair Jobs

Clean your air conditioner’s condenser. That move alone could knock 10% to 15% off your cooling costs.

Slide your clothes dryer forward, pull off the vent hose. Vacuum out the built-up lint and around the base of the dryer. That can cut the laundry-related portion of your electric or gas bill by as much as 25% to 30%.

Windowsills are extremely prone to rot. For instance, check each window for any cracks in the sill paint. Use a few dollar’s worth of exterior caulk to seal any fissures that you find to keep rain and moisture out. If the paint damage is extensive, the problem has unfortunately moved beyond a quick fix. Hire a pro to scrape and repaint them or do the job yourself.

Similarly, pruning back shrubs to leave a foot of air space around your building.

Checking your lawn irrigation system to ensure that the spray isn’t hitting the house or garage. This will help delay your next $6,000 to $10,000 paint job.

Keep your garage door tracks, casement window gearboxes, and balky doorknobs working smoothly, without annoying creaks and groans. Spray them with WD-40.

Use it or lose it.

Like muscles and gray matter, your home’s mechanical equipment will age a lot more gracefully if you put it through its paces now and then.
Your garbage disposal will benefit from running it occasionally. It will help prevent it from freezing up when a guest or caterer, or home buyer tries to turn it on someday

Do the same with forgotten Jacuzzi pumps. Exercise the plumbing fixtures in a rarely used attic bathroom. Also the emergency shutoffs for your water and electrical supply lines. Find the valves under your sinks, behind your showers, and on the mains in your basement. Gently turn them closed and then open them again. This helps ensure they will work when you really need them someday.

One caveat. If your plumbing is more than 50 years old, don’t touch the valves. Hire a plumber to check and replace them if needed. the likely cost is about $100 to $200 apiece.




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. In addition there is a fan that circulates air around the fireplace. The air comes 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 homes 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. It 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. 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. 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.


Furnace Upgrade for Your Home

Furnace Upgrade for Your HomeOne of the questions that many people have these days is whether they should upgrade their furnace to a new more efficient model. There are lots of incentives that are being offered by the various companies that sell furnaces. There also might be incentives offered by local or state governments as well. One is trying to increase sales while the other is trying to reduce energy consumption.  In this post we are not going to recommend one furnace over an other. Instead we are looking at whether you should upgrade or not and what the financial impact might be. What should you consider re a Furnace Upgrade for Your Home

Furnace Efficiency

Our old furnace was approximately 60% efficient. Which means that 40% of the cost of gas that we used went up the chimney in terms of heat. This was heat that did not get transferred into the home or in terms of poorly burnt fuel. In 2002, we replaced this furnace with a new mid efficient furnace which at the time cost us approximately $3500. It  had a 83% efficiency rating. High efficient furnaces can get into the mid 90″s  which is a significant improvement. At the time we made our purchase a high efficiency furnace was running about $5000 installed.

Last year we paid $727 for the entire year to heat our home. did we save money and how long did it take?

Doing the math re Furnace Upgrade for Your Home

You can use our calculations as a model for your own, because everyone’s numbers are going to be different.  The $727 we quoted above was for 2011/2012 winter and using our mid efficient furnace. If we were still using our low efficient furnace the cost would have been 727 *.83 / .60 using the numbers that have quoted above, $1005 or a savings of $278 for that year.

We replaced the furnace in 2002 or 10 years ago and therefore we have saved 10 * $278 or $2780 over the ten years assuming that the price of natural gas has not stayed the same.  We will ignore this price change for the time being, so it looks like we have another 2.55 years before we break even.

If we had upgraded to a high efficient furnace, we would have saved $351 over the cost of our old furnace which was at 60% vs. 95% efficiency.  But our furnace was going to cost $5000, so we would have saved 10*351 over the ten years and we would still have another 4.2 years for the savings to pay for the high efficient furnace.

Payback Terms for Furnace Upgrades

These are pretty long payback time frames for replacing your furnace. If you can secure an incentive of some kind to decrease the cost of the furnace upgrade, or the cost of gas is higher in your area, you may get a faster payback. Aside from making a contribution to the environment, you are saving money as well on your monthly costs.

There are additional savings to be found. In our case we had an AC motor on our old furnace. The new one has a multi speed DC electrical motor which is supposed to be more efficient that the old AC motor. Unfortunately we could not quantify the savings from this change to our electrical bill. Rest assured that is significant and probably shaves at minimum a couple of years off the payback period.

Your vendor should be able to advise what the savings will be which you can then add to your overall gas savings and recalculate the payback term. We think it brings the payback down to less than 10 years time, which is not too bad at all.

All of these calculations apply if you are replacing your furnace because you want to decrease your monthly cost or take advantage of incentives offered by the furnace company or the government.

Your Furnace Breaks

On the other hand of your furnace stops working, then it is a question of how much do you put into repairs vs. buying a new one. Most of the time if you have to put more than $500 into repairs and it is an old furnace, it is time to replace it with a more efficient model.

You may also be faced with exhaust vent upgrades as well to reflect the change in the building code since the last one was installed.

Furnace Maintenance

We did not factor furnace maintenance into any of these equations.  They should all be checked once per year and cleaned as well. We assumed the cost is the same regardless of the furnace. However some people would argue that the parts for a high efficient furnace is more expensive than other furnaces.

Good luck with your furnace upgrade. We hope this has helped in your decision making process. Regarding to upgrade your furnace to either a mid efficient furnace or to a high efficiency furnace. For more information about furnace upgrades and renewal, click here.


Installing a Garage Door Opener

Garage Door OpenerI just finished installing a new garage door opener. Although it took a few hours and a second pair of hands, the actual installation was pretty straight forward. My old garage door opener had lasted for almost 22 years. Although still working it was beginning to be a little temperamental. I knew it was on its last legs so to speak. I asked for a new one for a Christmas gift and finally got around to installing the new garage door opener in July. This post is to talk about my experience and how I saved the installation fee.

Removing the Old Garage Door Opener

It is always easy to remove things and take them apart, in most cases. It certainly was in this case as well. However I did do a little bit of planning so that avoided removing pieces of the old installation that I was going to need with the new opener. This made the job a lot easier as well. Basically on the garage door itself there is a bracket that is used to attached the opener to the door. This was saved and reused. The motor portion hung from the ceiling with a series of metal braces. Although not perfectly adapted for the new opener, I was able to reuse all of the mounting brackets and hardware without having to remove it from the ceiling.

Follow the Instructions

This is really the best advice that we can give at this point. In my case they were step by step and easy to follow. We are not going to quote them here since every door opener will be different. One thing we can say is that you should read ahead and understand the big picture before starting. Have all of the tools you need to have close by and arrange for someone to give you a hand at a critical time when it comes to physically hanging the motor and track.

There is a lot of preparatory work you can do ahead of time. The biggest time consumer for me was running all of the new wiring. I removed the old wiring and installed the controls, but then you have to run the new wire in as well. This is recommended since you want to avoid any potential problems with old wires that might be corroded or damaged in some manner.

My old garage door opener did not have sensor to detect an object that was blocking the door from closing. Sensors must be installed a foot from the ground and wires run back to the motor. These sensors will stop the door from closing if there is any kind of object blocking the opening. These sensors also turn the lights on if you walk between them, which is a really nice security feature at night when your garage is dark and you want to avoid obstacles that could have been left behind in the way.

Ask for Help to Mount the Motor and Track

Once I was ready, I asked one of my neighbors for a hand to hold the ladder and lift the track up to me until I could permanently attach it to the mounting brackets. This took about 5 minutes of work and about 25 minutes of chatting about the news and people on the street. Although interesting, this can be a time waster, especially if you are in a hurry to get the job done.

That’s about it. As we mentioned earlier read the instructions from cover to cover before starting, plan your work and reuse as much of the mounting brackets as you can to make the job easier if you are replacing an old garage door opener. This is definitely a do it yourself kind of job for the average person with the right tools.  Take your time and be safe – unplug the old opener before you start working and get someone to hold your ladder when you are on it.

Comments about your experience of installing a garage door opener are welcome.


Fixing Garage Door Openers

Maintenance of garage door openers and fixing Garage Door Openers are not a big issue for most people. These units are installed by a professional usually and once installed, there is not much that needs to be done with Fixing Garage Door Openersthem. Most will last from 5 to 20 years, some even longer without ever being touched, while others will need some sort of repair or adjustment from time to time.

Maintenance of Automatic Garage Door Openers

As we said there is not much to do, however when you are doing your quarterly check of your garage door ( see previous post) , it is a good idea to check a few things with respect to the automatic garage door opener as well. A simple check can add years to the system if bolts that are loose are tightened and the chain is working properly.

  • check the batteries in the remotes that you use and replace them if required.
  • check the safety stop of the garage door and adjust if needed. The safety stop  makes sure that your door will stop and re-open if it finds that there is something blocking the closing of the door. It is very important to make sure this is working, especially if there are small children around.
  • check that the door fully closes and  fully opens, adjust if required.
  • check the chain, and lubricate if needed. There are other types of mechanisms that are used besides chains. Check in your manual to confirm what kind of lubrication should be used and how often.

Check Your Garage Door Opener First

Automatic garage door openers have become quite inexpensive and as a result you probably will not be able to find anyone who will be wiling to take them apart to repair them.  Even if you can, by the time you pay to have it repaired, you will be pretty close to the cost of a new one.

There are a few basic things you should do to confirm your door opener is really not working before you decide to replace it.

  • check that the batteries for your controllers are working
  • try opening the door with other door openers, including the manual button that most people will have in their homes.
  • check that the power is on and that a circuit breaker has not tripped for some reason, preventing power getting to the garage door opener.
  • disengage the chain from the garage door and try operating the garage door opener. If it works there may be a problem with your door.

Once you have tried all of these steps, you may want to call a repairmen, however there is a big trade off here in terms of what the cost will be to replace the door opener vs repairing it. Most people will opt for replacement since they have become so inexpensive.

Repair or Replace

Of course there are always fancy multi featured door openers that can cost a great deal of money, however the inexpensive ones will cost somewhere between $100 to $200. You can barely get repairmen to show up for $100 these days and before you know it the cost of checking and repairing the system costs more than a new one.  In addition there is no guarantee that he will be able to fix it.

Our conclusion is that if you cannot fix it yourself, then you might as well put a new one in.

There is really not much to a garage door opener. Essentially there are 4 parts. The electric motor, the gear box which connects to the chain. There is a printed circuit board which controls the motor. There is another printed circuit board which receives the transmissions from the remotes. Most units will have these functions combined on one printed circuit board.

Can You Do the Repairs Yourself

If you are not handy at all then you probably will not want to attempt these suggestions in this next section. First of all disconnect the power to prevent any possibility of electrical shock. Secondly, remove the cover on the housing of the door opener. You should be able to observe the 4 components we discussed earlier.

At this point most people will only be able to observe whether there are any loose or frayed wires. They should check that the printed circuit board is properly seated in place. If you cannot see anything obvious, then you are looking at buying a new system. Repair any wires that are frayed or disconnected and then retry opening your door.

Anyone with PCB expertise will probably enjoy the challenge of testing the board. However this is way beyond what most consumers are willing to consider and are able to do.

Replacing a Garage Door Opener

There are many styles and types available. We suggest that you replace like for like if possible to make the entire job easier. There will be less adjustment of existing supports etc. You might even be able to use the same chain if it is still in good shape.

Hire a handyman if you are not comfortable with doing the installation of the automatic garage door opener yourself. This will cost you an additional fee.

Good luck with maintaining your door and saving money. Comments are welcome.

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