Browse Month: September 2018

The difference a HEPA filter makes

I am my father’s daughter–I will find a way to do anything cheaper and on my own if there is a way to do it. Growing up with him, we would always work together to fix or mend things around the house in creative ways. The trick was always to think outside the box. For example: if you need to replace the tubing for an aquarium air pump, you don’t need to go to a pet store. Just measure the width and you can find the exact same thing at a hardware for half the cost. Sadly, there are places in life where such corners cannot be cut, and your health is one of them. When I started coughing and getting sick a lot due to mold, my dad was quick to advise me to get an air purifier. My apartment doesn’t have a central air conditioning system, so without an air purifier I have no way to clean the air in my place. Naturally, I started at looking at the most affordable options with filters that I could clean, instead of replace. However, I learned that these wouldn’t help me. The filters you can wash can only trap larger particles, like pet hair and dander. Only a HEPA filter can clean your air by up to 99.9%. They are the only filters which work to trap the things we can’t see, like mold spores. So I bought an air purification system that uses HEPA filters, as well as a charcoal pre filter. Just two weeks later, and already my cough is gone and I’m feeling better than I have in months.

Being a minimalist with hot water and HVAC use

Over the past two years, I have gradually begun to live minimally. I strive to make small changes everyday that progress me towards making a smaller impact on the environment. I pick a new aspect of my life each month, and every week I have a new goal for that aspect. Last month was one of the final remaining big changes yet. I wanted to work on using my utilities less and less, so I would be burning less fossil fuel and wasting less water. My first was a fairly easy one–keep my showers under 15 minutes. Since I don’t wash my hair every day, it’s very easy for me to shower in just 10 minutes a day. The next step to cutting back on the utility usage was simple–cutting back on my heating and AC use. I don’t own central air conditioning or use a window AC unit, so that part was already solved. The next step was just to try and monitor my central heater use. I have an oil furnace, so I almost find it harder to monitor because I don’t see a monthly bill for it. Instead, I just have to fill the tank once it gets below ¼. Purchasing a programmable thermostat was instrumental for me. I didn’t have to remember to turn the heat down before I went to bed or turn it down before I left the house. Ever since I’ve managed to cut down on my HVAC and water usage, my bills have shrunk exponentially. I’m proud of myself for being able to make changes that better impact the environment, as well as my life.

heating and air

Exhaust vent turned bathroom into ice box

One of the main selling points for the house I’m currently renting is the number of bathrooms. Apartments only have one or one and a half, so it’s really difficult to find a place the suits the needs of me and my three roommates. This is why we often gravitate towards renting houses–we get a lot more space and can avoid complex fees. The current home we have has three full bathrooms, which enables my brother to have one bathroom, my two roommates to have a second, and I’ve gotten the third. But once fall gave into winter, my brother was complaining that his bathroom was always cold. So one day while he was at work, I set about to solve the issue. My first thought was to check the window, but I didn’t find any drafts. I then put the back of my hand over the baseboard radiator for the oil furnace; there was plenty of warm air coming out. So where was it all going? I didn’t figure it out until one night when I was working on marketing content for an HVAC company. One of their energy saving tips listed was to turn off the exhaust vents in your bathroom or over your stove off after twenty minutes. Sure enough, my brother forgets to turn off his bathroom vent all the time, because he often showers and then runs out the door to work. Now that he knows to shut the vent off, his bathroom is just as warm as the rest of the house. Apparently a vent can remove a house full of heated air in under an hour!

Proper use of a space heater

I just had to give my brother a lecture about the proper use of a space heater, which ended with me threatening to take it away if he couldn’t get it right. My brother and I live with two friends in an older home together. Since his bedroom is above the garage where there is no heat, his room can get much colder at night than everyone else’s. So, my compromise was to give him the space heater I bought last year when I was renting a room that had no central heat access. I love my little space heater–I spent a good deal of money on a model that uses infrared. An infrared electric heater does not dry out the air, is far more economical than traditional electric heaters, and is far safer to use. However, space heaters are only as safe and effective as the responsible owners who use them allow them to be. For example: a space heater has to be plugged into a grounded line. Even economical models still pull enough energy that they should never be plugged into an extension cord. Furthermore, space heaters need room to work. Just like a stand-alone air purifier, the intake and outtake vents of a space heater need at least three feet of clearance from all objects. My brother had the space heater I’d lent him plugged into the powerstrip for his desktop, and had it just six inches from the wall. I explained that he’s not allowed to put the safety of our housemates at risk. If he can’t follow standard operating procedure for a heater, he’s going to get relegated to a heated blanket instead.

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Controlling Heat in Sun Room to Store Food at Family Gathering

My aunt and uncle host most of our family gatherings at their new house. It’s easily the biggest home available, and they love to cook, so it works out really well for everyone. Although the home is beautiful, there are several oddities in terms of design, as well as temperature and air circulation. For example, the house was supposed to have central heating and air conditioning. Although it technically does, the contractors didn’t build in the ductwork to circulate air to the second story where the bedrooms are. At our summer gatherings, it’s always freezing downstairs, because the cool air has to somehow get to the sleeping area. Another challenge in terms of temperature control is that they have a small sunroom. Often, they use that room to store food that needs to stay cold during the winter, or stay warm during the summer. Heat radiates out through the glass like crazy, but the greenhouse effect makes that room a full 20 degrees warmer than the rest of the house during the summer. I guess they like that, though, because they won’t get an A/C unit or space heater for the room, for use when not storing food. The central HVAC issue is something I think my uncle is going to have addressed by a professional heating and cooling service, so that the whole home can be comfortable for everyone. There simply has to be a way to install ducts and vents in the upper rooms; otherwise, no matter what, air quality is going to be a huge issue throughout the house.

HVAC program

Heater tech upgrade

Several years ago, I accepted a new job in a city about an hour from where I live. Since all of my friends and family still lived near me, I was reluctant to move, and decided to commute instead. However, winter weather can make travel somewhat dicey, so when it would get bad, my boss let me use the spare room in his house rather than driving back and forth. Although I appreciated the kindness and hospitality, I did have one consistent complaint: the room was always freezing! The areas of the house that were used more regularly had their own thermostats, and tended to stay quite warm. Although the house was equipped with a central HVAC system, once the guest room door was closed, it would lose heat through the thin panes of glass in the large windows very rapidly; since the rest of the home was warm, the heat just never kicked in to warm that room! When I’m ready to take the plunge and purchase my own home, I will definitely make sure that the heating and air conditioning systems are designed to keep the whole house comfortable. There’s honestly no excuse for a modern home to have temperature control issues. When the wind is whipping and the snow is blowing outside, I want nothing more than to be cozy and get a good night’s sleep! What adds insult to injury is that one of our clients is a manufacturer of tubing used in radiant flooring, so we’ve had to become experts on modern home heating technologies – something I wish my boss had known more about when he was building his home!

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Heated floors are an efficient system

We have recently decided to have our master bathroom redone. It has been something that we have been wanting to do for almost three years now. When it comes to renovating, I want the whole nine yards. If I’m going to be spending money to make our bathroom better, I want it to be absolutely perfect. When we were meeting with our contractors, they asked if we are going to have heated floors. At first I laughed out loud, thinking how silly that would be. I had always thought that was just for the super wealthy. After discussing the costs, the contractor’s explained to us that we would actually be saving a ton of money in the long run! Apparently, by adding heated floors we will be increasing our energy efficiency (which is something we are all for). They explained that with a typical forced air HVAC system, air has to circulate throughout the home. This causes a lot of the heat (that we are paying for) to be lost in the process. I had always thought that heated floors were just for the comfort of your feet. The contractor’s explained to me that since heat rises, it actually helps to heat the room as well! I had absolutely no idea. Another way that heated floors are energy efficient is because our system will be running a whole lot less. With typical forced air HVAC systems, they turn on and off much more frequently which runs your energy bills up. Having heated floors is more than a luxury, it’s a smart decision! I can’t wait to have them installed in our new renovated bathroom.

radiant floor

Heating and air on a program

When I lived with my grandparents I typically complained how frigid my grandpa would have the beach house in the Wintertime; he would have the temperature way too low for my liking. Though in his defense, my grandparents beach house is rather big so I bet it costs a ton to heat… My parents have to run their central heating and air conditioning plan almost all day long… Now that I have my own beach house, I can sympathize a bit more with him. I even have my temperature control lower than he keeps his! I’m a rather thrifty person, so I have done a ton of research trying to figure out ways to save money on heating. Once I learned everything I could, I talked to my grandparents about helping them lower their costs. I first tried to convince them about putting in a smart thermostat. With a smart programmable thermostat, you can use the different features to set a schedule that works for your unique needs. You can even control the smart thermostat you’re not home, so that the HVAC system is working to save you my money. My grandpa wasn’t honestly interested in that method, so I explained the several other energy saving tips to save them money. My grandparents eventually got a propane fireplace installed in their lounge. I was entirely amazed with how much it heated up the whole home! When I asked my grandpa how the electric bill has been since they got the propane fireplace, he joked that the bill has been much lower since I moved out.

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