Home Energy Saving Tips

With the price of everything rising, saving money on your home energy bill is always a nice thing.

Some little do it yourself projects, that don’t cost a lot, can save you a good hunk of change.

A look around your basement or crawl space could revel some areas where you could add some insulation or seal up some drafty holes that will help reduce your energy bill.

Adding weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows that leak air.

Where plumbing, electrical wiring and duct work comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets you will want to add some foam or caulk.

Install foam gaskets behind cover plates of your outlets and switches.

Add insulation to your water heater and the water piping going to your water heater.

These are all simple jobs you can accomplish in a few hours that will be well worth your time and a few dollars for material that will pay off for a long time to come.

Change to energy efficeint light bulbs is a great way to save money. Check out our article Change-a-light-bulb-save-some-money

On the Next Page we show you how to insulate your water heater and pipes to save on your energy bill.

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Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

Does your water heater or heating system have a pilot light that won’t stay lit?

When you have no hot water or heat in the house there are a few things to check. Many times it will be the pilot light that has has gone out.

There can be a few causes for this to happen. The utility company may have been working on the line and air got into the line which caused the pilot to go out. A strong gust of wind got down the flue and blew the pilot out. Or the thermo-coupler is bad and won’t allow the pilot to stay lit.

The first thing to do is relight the pilot. To relight the pilot, you need to turn the control knob on the gas valve to Pilot position, press and hold it in while lighting the pilot. You will need to hold the button down for about thirty seconds. When you release the button, if the pilot goes out, you more than likely have a bad thermocoupler.

All of these appliances have a safety feature to keep the gas valve from opening if the pilot is not lit.

Along with the pilot light is sensor called a thermocouple. This device is heated by the pilot light and sends a millivolt signal to the gas valve that it is safe to operate. If the pilot is not lit nothing will happen.

Over time the thermocouple can become covered with carbon which will prevent it from sensing the pilot. You can try cleaning the carbon off to see it that is the issue. If it still does not allow the pilot to stay lit, you will need to change the thermocouple. You can pick up a universal one for about $10 at any hardware or home repair store.

Each unit is slightly different as to where the pilot and thermocouple are located. But they are very similar in how they are installed.

Head over to the Next Page to see how to change this device.

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What About Solar Water Heaters

When it is time for replacing your water heater or if you are looking to go green and cut down on your electric use, you may want to consider installing a solar water heater.

Using the sun to heat water is much more effective than using it to produce electric, so the cost of a solar hot water system will pay for itself rather quickly. One of the draw backs is it only supplies hot water during the day, so it has to be supplemented with  a backup heat source.

HOW THEY WORK

Solar water heating systems include storage tanks and solar collectors. There are two types of solar water heating systems: active, which have circulating pumps and controls, and passive, which don’t.

ACTIVE SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEMS

There are two types of active solar water heating systems:

  • Direct circulation systems
    Pumps circulate household water through the collectors and into the home. They work well in climates where it rarely freezes.
  • Indirect circulation systems
    Pumps circulate a non-freezing, heat-transfer fluid through the collectors and a heat exchanger. This heats the water that then flows into the home. They are popular in climates prone to freezing temperatures.

Illustration of an active, closed loop solar water heater. A large, flat panel called a flat plate collector is connected to a tank called a solar storage/backup water heater by two pipes. One of these pipes is runs through a cylindrical pump into the bottom of the tank, where it becomes a coil called a double-wall heat exchanger. This coil runs up through the tank and out again to the flat plate collector. Antifreeze fluid runs only through this collector loop. Two pipes run out the top of the water heater tank; one is a cold water supply into the tank, and the other sends hot water to the house.

PASSIVE SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEMS

Passive solar water heating systems are typically less expensive than active systems, but they’re usually not as efficient. However, passive systems can be more reliable and may last longer. There are two basic types of passive systems:

  • Integral collector-storage passive systems
    These work best in areas where temperatures rarely fall below freezing. They also work well in households with significant daytime and evening hot-water needs.
  • Thermosyphon systems
    Water flows through the system when warm water rises as cooler water sinks. The collector must be installed below the storage tank so that warm water will rise into the tank. These systems are reliable, but contractors must pay careful attention to the roof design because of the heavy storage tank. They are usually more expensive than integral collector-storage passive systems.

Illustration of a passive, batch solar water heater. Cold water enters a pipe and can either enter a solar storage/backup water heater tank or the batch collector, depending on which bypass valve is opened. If the valve to the batch collector is open, a vertical pipe (which also has a spigot drain valve for cold climates) carries the water up into the batch collector. The batch collector is a large box holding a tank and covered with a glaze that faces the sun. Water is heated in this tank, and another pipe takes the heated water from the batch collector into the solar storage/backup water heater, where it is then carried to the house.

 

STORAGE TANKS AND SOLAR COLLECTORS

Most solar water heaters require a well-insulated storage tank. Solar storage tanks have an additional outlet and inlet connected to and from the collector. In two-tank systems, the solar water heater preheats water before it enters the conventional water heater. In one-tank systems, the back-up heater is combined with the solar storage in one tank.

Three types of solar collectors are used for residential applications:

  • Flat-plate collector
    Glazed flat-plate collectors are insulated, weatherproofed boxes that contain a dark absorber plate under one or more glass or plastic (polymer) covers. Unglazed flat-plate collectors — typically used for solar pool heating — have a dark absorber plate, made of metal or polymer, without a cover or enclosure.
  • Integral collector-storage systems
    Also known as ICS or batch systems, they feature one or more black tanks or tubes in an insulated, glazed box. Cold water first passes through the solar collector, which preheats the water. The water then continues on to the conventional backup water heater, providing a reliable source of hot water. They should be installed only in mild-freeze climates because the outdoor pipes could freeze in severe, cold weather.
  • Evacuated-tube solar collectors
    They feature parallel rows of transparent glass tubes. Each tube contains a glass outer tube and metal absorber tube attached to a fin. The fin’s coating absorbs solar energy but inhibits radiative heat loss. These collectors are used more frequently for U.S. commercial applications.

Solar water heating systems almost always require a backup system for cloudy days and times of increased demand. Conventional storage water heaters usually provide backup and may already be part of the solar system package. A backup system may also be part of the solar collector, such as rooftop tanks with thermosyphon systems. Since an integral-collector storage system already stores hot water in addition to collecting solar heat, it may be packaged with a tankless or demand-type water heater for backup.

Source: US Dept. of Energy

If you live in an area where there is a great amount of sunshine, or you can use most of your hot water during the day, a solar water heater may be a great investment.

Repairing Your Electric Water Heater!

You don’t have hot water or your electric water heater seem to be running out of hot water faster than it used to or taking longer to make hot water? It could be the heating element has gone bad or is corroded with minerals from the water. This can be a simple DIY fix.

The first thing to check is the circuit breaker that supplies the heater. If that has not tripped, next sheck the reset button inside the water heater cover. If it still is not working you will need to test the elements.

Visit Family Handyman for a great tutorial on replacing the heating elements in you water heater.


Inside a water heater

What’s Inside and How It Works!

Most residential electric water heaters have two heating elements: one near the top of the tank and one near the bottom. Power enters the top and runs to the high-temperature cutoff switch, and then to the thermostats and elements. The top and bottom elements are controlled by separate thermostats. When the water on the top of the tank is hot, the top element turns off and the lower one heats. The upper and lower heating elements never come on at the same time.

 

 

 

Getting to Know Your Home.

Your House

CONGRATULATIONS! You are a Home Owner!

Being a home owner is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But even if you live in an apartment it is good to know this information. As a Home Owner or tenant, there are some things that you may overlook but really need to know about your home.

We have put together a list of 10 critical things that will help keep you safe in an emergency or prevent major damage to your home that can be very costly.

Electric Panel – Knowing the whereabouts and having some knowledge of what you are looking at when you open it will be very helpful if a circuit goes out or there are sparks coming from a light fixture or outlet and you need to kill the power. Some older homes still have fuses protecting the electric supply, but most homes today have circuit breakers. Both are designed to stop the power in case of an overload. While a fuse will need to be replaced if it blows, generally a circuit breaker just needs to be reset by turning it off and then back on. If the issue that caused the problem trips it out again, turn it off and call a professional to repair the problem. For more information on locating and understanding your Electric Panel, Click Here!

Main Water Shut Off – The water main will shut the water off to your entire home. Knowing where the shut off is and how to operate it – before disaster strikes – can save a lot of money and headaches by minimizing damage to your home in case a water pipe breaks or an appliance malfunctions. Turning off your water main when you leave your home for an extended period of time could keep your home from becoming flooded while you are gone. For guidance on locating and operating your Water Main Shut Off, Click Here!

Gas Shut Off – Over 57% of the homes in the US use gas for heating and cooking. If you use Natural Gas or Propane (LP) for any appliance in your home, knowing how to shut it off in an emergency could save your life and your home. People take for granted that their appliances work just fine, until one day something goes wrong. Everyone needs to know how to cut off the gas supply. For help finding and understanding your Gas Main Shut Off, Click Here!

Filters – There can be many kinds of filters in your home. Water and Air are the most common and these need to be changed regularly to keep things working properly and to make your living environment more pleasant. Whether your water comes from a well or from the city it is a good plan to filter it as it comes into your home. A main filter will help take out sediment and minerals that are in the water. Here is a guide to helping you locate and change these filters when needed, Click Here!

If you have a furnace or Air Conditioner they will have air filters that collect dust, pollen and other stuff floating in the air to keep it out of the equipment and the air that you breathe. Here is a guide to helping you locate and change these filters when needed, Click Here!

Attic Access – Knowing where there is access to your attic is important, even if you decide you do not want to use it for storage. Being able to access the attic if you see water stains on your ceiling or hear noises coming from up above is essential. Even if you call someone else to investigate, you will need to show them the way.

Escape Routes – Knowing the best way to get out of your home in an emergency before it happens could save your life. This is something that is very easy to overlook when you are excited about moving into your new home but is a very critical area to plan out. As they say on the airplane, “the nearest exit may be behind you!” A good exercise is to blindfold yourself and crawl out of your home as being blinded is disorienting but often common in a power outage or a fire.

Water Heater – You turn on the faucet and you get hot water, but do you know where it comes from? Knowing where your water heater is, and some basic knowledge of how it works, can prevent disaster before it happens. A water heater can break and flood your home and even explode if not properly maintained. For great tips on the operation and maintenance of your water heater, Click Here!

Garage Door Opener – If your garage door has an overhead garage door opener, as most do these days, it will not operate when there is a power failure. To prevent someone from being locked inside, all modern openers are required to have a manual release to open the door in this situation. Normally it is a cable that hangs down from the mechanism that attaches the door arm to the track. Pull on this cable handle to release the arm, allowing the door to be lifted open.

Fire Extinguisher – Having a fire extinguisher in a few places in your home could save you from a complete disaster. Check to see if there are any in your home!  If not, go and purchase a few, depending on the size of your home. Unfortunately, there are more homes without them than there should be. After finding or acquiring them, you need to understand where to store them and how to operate them.  For are a great guide on using your Fire Extinguisher! Click Here!

Water Drainage – Understanding how water drains around your home when it rains is really something you need to know. Water can seep into your home and cause extensive damage if it does not drain away properly. Even if you don’t see water in your home, poor drainage can be causing issues of rotting wood, cracking foundations and creating an environment for mold to grow. There are 2 major things to look for as far as drainage around your home is concerned. The first is that the soil around your home is pitched away from the foundation at least 1 inch per foot and at a minimum of 6 feet away from the house. The second item is that the downspouts from your gutters also end up at least 6 feet from the foundation.

We hope you enjoyed this article and that we have helped you make your home a better and safer place. Click on the subscribe button on the top of the page to be kept informed of more great tips.

 

 

Getting to Know Your Water Heater

Every home owner should have a monthly home maintenance schedule to help keep your home in great shape and your appliances working at their best for as long as possible. Your water heater should be part of that schedule.

Hot water is one of life’s luxuries that we all take for granted until it is not there. Knowing a little about your water heater can save you a lot down the road.

Water heaters can be in your garage, basement or a closet, once you locate it, it is a good idea to add it to your monthly maintenance plan. Maintaining your water heater only takes a short amount of time. You can extend the life of the water heater and prevent a disaster from happening.

There are basically two types of water heaters. The most common type has a storage tank and the other is tankless, which is also known as an “on-demand” hot water system. Both types of heaters have models that will operate using gas and models that use electricity.

All types of water heaters should receive regular maintenance which will include:

  • Checking for water seepage around the unit and piping.
  • Checking and testing the pressure relief valve.
  • Flushing the heater.

There are other maintenance items to be done depending on if you have a Gas Water Heater Click Here! or you have an Electric Water Heater Click Here!

 

 

Maintaining Your Electric Water Heater

Maintaining your electric water heater is a simple process that can prevent a disaster from occurring. Whether your model has a tank or is tankless, here are some things you need to do on a regular basis.

  • Check the unit for any water seepage around the tank and piping.
  • Operate the pressure relief valve to check that it is working properly.
  • Flush the unit to remove any sediment that may have accumulated.
  • Check the Anode Rod for corrosion and cracks.
  • Check wiring for any signs of corrosion or breaks in the casing.

In the video below, you will find some guidance to keep things working well.

Maintaining Your Gas Water Heater.

 

Maintaining your gas water heater is a simple process that can prevent a disaster from occurring. Whether you have a tank or tankless model here are some things you need to do on a regular basis.

  • Check the unit for any water seepage around the tank and piping.
  • Operate the pressure relief valve to check that it is working properly.
  • Flush the unit to remove any sediment that may have accumulated.
  • Check the flame on the burn to see if it is burning properly. You should see a blue flame, if the flame is orange it is not burning properly and needs attention.
  • Check that the vent piping is properly attached so the fumes exit the building.

In the video below, you will find some guidance to keep things working well.