Browse Month: December 2017

An odorless gas

I will admit, I had no idea what radon was. I always pictured radon as red laser beams. I thought radon was the red lights that twirl around a home as a security system. I also kind of put radon with ray guns. Yeah, radon is not that cool. Radon is actually a gas, a bad one too. Radon is similar to carbon monoxide in that it is everywhere. You can breathe both gases in, but too much is bad. Carbon monoxide is released by your gas furnace. A little bit is okay, but if the heater breaks down, a ton of gas comes out. If you don’t notice it, you can get sick, be hospitalized and even die. Radon comes in through the ground and if breathed in excessively, can be bad. You can get really sick, develop lung cancer and die. So these gases are not to be messed with. I have to say though, even knowing this I am not afraid. I just don’t find glasses to be that scary. Perhaps this is due to me thinking it was a neat gadget for a long time. After learning about it, I never have taken radon seriously. I know certain people who have radon detectors and use radon kits to test their home. I have never done this and I am super healthy. No lung cancer in sight. My opinion is that this gas is not as powerful as it wants to be. Most people are overreacting when they get too close to this gas. Just open and window or two.

new radon equipment 

A radon test kit

My brother and I love to get each other really horrible gifts for holidays. We get a kick out of stupid gifts and making the other one use them. We get so much enjoyment out of the other person’s misery. My brother has really upped his game this year. For my birthday he got me a radon test kit. I knew radon was a gas and it was bad, that was about it. Apparently radon can cause cancer and seriously mess with if it is in your home. So there are radon kits to test if you have radon. I am not a very motivated person. I have never thought about radon and even if I was told about it, I would unlikely take immediate action. But, the spirit of the weird gifts is that you have to use them. So I was forced to use my brother’s radon detector. It was such a good gift because it forced me to do three things I hate. I had to research, read directions and take action. I had to research what radon is exactly and why I should test for it. Next I had to read directions on how to use the detector kit and where to set it up. Of course I qualified in multiple areas of my home. So I had to set up the detector everywhere, that was me taking action. I then got me score and had a low enough radon level. It was annoying and time consuming. It was a perfect gift from him. How am I going to top that?

radon testing services 


I had some air duct issues

Last winter, I noticed some problems with temperature and air quality in my house.  There were cold spots in various rooms, and the furnace seemed to run constantly.  The heated air smelled unpleasant, and there was an excessive amount of dust floating around.  My monthly energy bills were much higher than normal, and my house wasn’t perfectly comfortable.  Since I have my furnace professionally serviced every fall, I couldn’t figure out the problem.  When my kids started complaining of headaches every time the furnace started up, I called my HVAC contractor for assistance.  The technician carefully inspected the furnace and said that everything looked fine.  He suggested that the ductwork was possibly the problem, and asked when was the last time it was cleaned.  At that point, I had never had the ductwork cleaned.  I’d never even given it a thought.  Since the indoor air passes through the duct system multiple times a day, it greatly impacts the health, cleanliness and comfort of the home.  When the HVAC technician accessed the duct system, he found all sorts of unpleasant stuff hidden inside.  There was a sizable accumulation of dust, bugs, webs, dander, pollen, mold and even a dead mouse.  This buildup of debris was blocking airflow through the system, making the furnace run longer and work harder to satisfy demand.  This required greater energy usage and resulted in higher monthly bills. The duct cleaning process was fairly quick, inexpensive and noninvasive.  The HVAC technician brought in equipment that resembled a large vacuum cleaner, which safely removed the debris within the duct system.   I now will keep up with the maintenance of both the furnace and the ductwork.

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Let’s cool this place down

Because of the severity of our winter seasons, I worry about a malfunction with the furnace.  In the area where I live, we deal with cold weather for approximately seven months out of the year.  The temperature drops below freezing, and frequently dips below zero.  It’s not unusual for us to withstand temperatures of twenty below zero.  It snows every day for months at a time, and piles up in drifts several feet high.  With blizzard conditions, the roads are dangerous, and we end up trapped in the house.  It’s not always possible for repairmen to make it to the house, but we can’t survive without a working furnace.  Something as minor as an accumulation of dust inside the heating system can restrict airflow and diminish comfort.  It can even lead to overheating, and the furnace quitting completely.  I worry about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.  I have enrolled in a preventative maintenance program with a local HVAC contractor.  Every fall, a licensed technician comes to the house to thoroughly clean, adjust and inspect all the components of the furnace.  If there are any parts that are especially worn or broken, the technician replaces them.  He removes the buildup of dust and debris within the inner workings to promote maximum airflow and energy efficiency.  He lubricates the moving parts, tightens electrical connections and carefully inspects the integrity of the heat exchanger.  This annual service helps to prevent potential breakdowns and safety issues.  I can be sure that my furnace is running at its best.  My home is more comfortable, and I definitely save money on the cost of operation and ownership.  


I wanted A/C for my birthday

I remember the first time I experienced air conditioning in my home.  I was almost forty years old, and up until then, all we had were fans.  A friend of mine had taken pity on me when he showed up and I was having a terrible time with my asthma.  I couldn’t breathe and it was so hot in my apartment that I didn’t even want to move.  My daughter was out running with friends, and she had the car, which is all the air conditioning I had.  He took me for a ride so I could have some cooler air, and then he got a hotel room so my daughter and I could have air conditioning on the hottest and most humid night we had had in about ten years.  I called my daughter and I told her where to come when she got home.  We spent three days in that hotel, and we never moved away from the air conditioner.  When the heat wave broke, we ventured back to the apartment, almost dreading what we would find.  Instead of a hot and sticky mess, we walked into a cool home.  While we were gone, my best friend had bought an air conditioner and put it in the window.  It was blowing cool air throughout the entire downstairs.  When we went upstairs, there were smaller window air conditioners in both of our bedroom.  I started to get together as much money as I could to pay him back, but he said happy birthday, and went home.  We haven’t been without air conditioning, since.

air quality 

I need to move

My wife and I went away on vacation a couple of months ago.  We always go away in April, for our anniversary.  The day we left, it was in the fifties, and we turned the thermostat off, figured we could save on the heating because the weather was now getting a bit mild.  While we were gone, I was listening to the weather report, and I couldn’t believe what I saw.  A freak snowstorm had gone through our area.  The temperatures had dropped to zero over night, and there was blizzard like conditions occurring.  They said the temperatures were going to remain in the upper twenties and low thirties throughout the week.  I was already dreading what I was going to go home to.  I had turned the furnace off for the week, and now this was going on.  I could picture frozen pipes.  I knew it was going to be frigid, at the very least, and there was going to be a strain on the furnace when we brought the temperature back up, if the frozen pipes hadn’t burst and destroyed our boiler.  I was ready to pack and go home, when my wife, was just smiling.  She kissed my cheek, and told me that she had seen this possibility when she was watching the news waiting for me to get ready to leave.  She had reset the thermostat to fifty-five, and everything was going to be fine.  I often wonder what I would do without her.  I just wish she weren’t so smug, when she knows she is right.

heating and cooling 

We really should tighten up the security

I thought graduate school would be not that different from undergrad. I was wrong, it is a lot more time, effort and energy. I also have to do things I have never done before. I have this one professor that forces us to research and present topics that we are unfamiliar with. This month I got assigned building analytics. I had to learn what that was and pitch why it is so great to my fellow graduate peers. After researching it, I do see the benefit in using building analytics. So basically what happens is that in big businesses a lot of energy is wasted. Whether it is your lights, HVAC system or security system, something is not efficient. The building that is not running the way it should, overtime you lose quite a bit of money. Building analytics is a program that runs through a company’s building. The system finds hidden inefficiencies and then comes up with a plan to improve those areas of weakness. It could be that your security system alarm goes off at 3am every night. It could be a lone security guard is leaving your lights on overnight. Or it even could be the HVAC system is not able to reach all areas in your building. Whatever the problem, building analytics finds it. It gives you a prioritized to do list and lists services you could get like a lighting control system, integrated HVAC control or an energy management system. It really can be a helpful thing for larger businesses. I think my peers in graduate school agreed with it too.

building analytics 

I think we should let the water flow right out

I will never go back to having one bathroom. I have been living with my girlfriend Fiona for three years. We have gone through a series of different apartments. Fiona and I used to share a bathroom, but we recently upgraded to a bigger place. There are two bathrooms, a bigger kitchen and a huge living room. Fiona is all about the kitchen, I personally love having my own bathroom. Have you ever shared a bathroom with a woman? It is totally horrible. My girlfriend’s hair gets everywhere, especially the drains. I used to need to snake the shower drain with a plumber’s snake once a week. I also would clean the drain by hand and remove the hair daily. All of this hair removal in the shower was to promote better drainage. I also would have to clean the sink drain after a few weeks. Her hair would somehow get down those drains too. If I let the hair be, the drains would not work. The water would remain stationary in all the plumbing fixtures. Then that water would stain the fixtures and I would need to scrub later. Also Fiona would sometimes throw items down the toilet that could not be flushed. The toilet would overflow and I would have to take off the bowl. Then I would have to snake down that drain periodically. I like having my own bathroom where none of that happens. I let her fend for herself now. My drains are clean and my toilet is always flushing great. Her bathroom always has struggles.

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This is not a time to complain

About six months ago, the water tank installed in my basement corroded and ruptured, causing quite a bit of water damage.  Since this was the second time we’ve faced this same type of disaster, my husband and I were looking to do something different.  We researched the various manufacturers and styles of water heaters and decided to give tankless water heating a try.  Although the initial investment into the purchase and installation of a tankless water heater is significantly higher than a conventional option, we felt it was worth it.  Tankless water heating provides a tremendous amount of benefits, and usually pays for itself within five years.  This type of water heating completely eliminates the standard tank, and requires very little installation space.  The unit is about the size of a briefcase and can be mounted on an exterior wall or even outside.  When a faucet is activated, the water passes through a heat exchanger and is heated as needed.  Because of this, the water is not sitting in a tank being continually reheated.  This eliminates standby energy losses, and the water does not absorb harmful contaminants or minerals.  The water is far cleaner and healthier, and there is a plentiful supply of it.  There is no waiting for water to heat up and not running short of hot water.  This type of water heating not only costs far less in energy costs and reduces water waste, but also last more than twice as long as a conventional alternative.  We have access to superior safety features and more personalized control over temperature setting.  We don’t need to worry about ruptured tanks or flooding, and we are totally happy with performance of the tankless water heater.  One of the only drawbacks of tankless water heating is that the system struggles if we draw from multiple sources at once.  Since it is only my husband and I at home, this has not been a problem for us.

efficient plumbing 

Adjusting my plumbing quickly

My family has dealt with their fair shares of water issues. To start with we use well water. The water is pumped from underground and then delivered to our hot water tank. The water then goes through the pipes and is running through our fixtures. I like to say that the water is toxic since all of our fixtures end up stained with rust and other issues. Also the hot water tank frequently rusts. The worst is that the water heater has a piece called an anode rod. This piece catches sediment and harmful particles from going in the water you bathe, drink and cook with. However, the water is so toxic that the rod can’t handle it. We always know when the rod is done because of the smell. The water smells like rotten eggs and nobody wants to deal with this. Then my husband has to go downstairs and rip out the rod with the water heater. We then pour bleach in the hot water tank and let it work through our pipes. Then we have clean water again after the bleach cycles through. We also have dealt with the temperature of the hot water being off. Our dial thermostat with the hot water tank has been damaged before. All of the water that came out of our fixtures was scalding hot. That was a horrible plumbing repair to do myself. Our water additionally has been only icy cold before we no hope of warming up. Running out of hot water is more common for us though. It is not the water tank or the heater, it is simply our water that causes all of our problems.

water tank