Autumn Home Maintenance

Autumn Home Maintenance Tips

Get ready for winter with these autumn home maintenance tips designed to maximize the energy efficiency and comfort of your home. They will also provide monetary savings by driving high heating costs down. Here are four autumn home maintenance projects for you to complete before winter’s arrival.

Upgrade Your Insulation

Adding to or upgrading insulation is one of the fastest ways to reduce energy loss. When insulation is properly installed to a building’s envelope it helps prevent the transfer of heat. A professional insulation contractor can help you choose the best insulation material and correct R-value for your area. The highest benefits are achieved when you combine insulation with air sealing.

Clean the Gutters

With a ladder or telescoping tool, regularly remove leaves and debris from the gutters, making sure to thoroughly rinse with a hose. Experts recommend completing this project once in the fall and again in the spring to prevent costly foundation and/or roofing damage. Consider installing gutter guards as well.

Eliminate Drafts

Caulking and weatherstripping can help reduce drafts and high heating or cooling bills. Remove old caulk and weatherstripping and replace with new materials purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store. Follow all manufacturer directions. Complete this project when humidity is low for best results. You may also want to consider air sealing electrical outlets using adhesive socket sealers.

Replace Windows

Autumn is a great time to consider replacing single-pane windows. Low-E windows provide countless benefits, including soundproofing, energy efficiency, and UV protection. They also have a 74.3% return on investment, according to this year’s Cost vs. Value report, which compares the average cost for 21 popular remolding projects in 149 markets with the value they retain at resale.

Carrig & Dancer has been providing insulation service to Washington State residents and businesses since 1982. Our insulation services include new construction, retrofits, and upgrades. We also provide sound control and window replacement services. Contact us today at (253) 584-7704 with your commercial or residential insulation requirements.

insulation

Soundproofing with Insulation

Insulating your home can do much more than lower your energy costs. It can also provide you with a peaceful home! Maybe you live in a busy area where there is constant racket surrounding your home or maybe there are a few people living under one roof. Whatever the case may be, wouldn’t it be nice to have a comfortable, tranquil and energy-efficient home? The answer is insulation. Insulation absorbs sounds within your home as well as noise coming from the outside environment.

How Soundproofing Minimizes Distractions

There are different types of sound that you hear inside your home. The first type of sound comes from impact noises. Impact noises are produced from movements like a person’s footsteps or a washing machine vibrating against the floor. The other type of sound you often hear in homes comes from airborne noises. Airborne noises are heard from things like traffic outside your house, voices, or even music playing.

When insulation is installed within the walls, floors and ceilings of your home, it acts as a sound barrier. The insulation absorbs the noise vibrations from the source thus reducing the amount of sound released into the adjacent area. Insulating is an effective and affordable way to improve the soundproofing performance of your walls, ceiling, and floors.

There are specific types of insulation that are meant to soundproof a building. It is important to know which types of insulation work best to reduce noise. Cellulose, fiberglass and foam insulation are all good options if you are looking to make your home a quieter place. Choose batt or blanket insulation for cellulose or fiberglass. An insulation professional can advise you as to which options are best for your specific home.

You deserve to live in a home without all the extra noise!

Carrig & Dancer has been providing insulation services to Washington State residents and businesses since 1982. Our insulation services include new construction, retrofits, and upgrades. We also provide sound control and window installation. Contact us today at (253) 584-7704 for more information on how to achieve a quieter home.

Summer Energy Efficiency

Summer Energy Efficiency Tips

The air conditioner may be cranked down low, and the kids may be spending their time on electronics, but those actions don’t necessarily have to translate to high summer energy bills. There are a lot of things you can do to ensure summer energy efficiency. Here are just five:

Program Your Thermostat & Forget About It

Installing a smart or programmable thermostat eliminates having to go through the trouble of manually changing the temperature each time you leave. When used properly, this can result in reduced cooling costs. In fact, according to ENERGY STAR, a programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 per year.

Add Attic Insulation

Attic insulation offers some of the greatest benefits. Installing the recommended R-value – a measure of how well insulation resists the flow of heat between your living space and attic – can extend the service life of air conditioners and help save you money by lowering your monthly energy bills.

When adding insulation to an attic, there are several materials you can choose from, including loose-fill, batt or spray polyurethane foam (SPF). Loose-fill and SPF require specialized equipment and experience that only a professional insulation contractor has. For optimal energy efficiency, this project should be combined with air sealing.

Keep the Sun Out

You have a lot to gain from soaking up the sun: tans, vitamin D, and better sleep. Letting too much natural light into the home, however, may result in higher air conditioning costs. Try closing the blinds during the hottest parts of the day. This is usually around 3 p.m., according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Another cost-effective way to reduce heat gain and cooling costs is to create shade around the home. Installing shade trees, screens, and porch overhangs or awnings are three great ways to increase energy efficiency. These tips are especially helpful for south- and west-facing homes.

Seal Air Leaks

There’s no getting around it: Leaky houses are more expensive to cool. Gaps, cracks, and crevices can result in a loss of conditioned air. Air sealing provides a great opportunity to improve efficiency. The recommended strategy is to invest in an energy audit. This service will test the home for air tightness. Caulking and weatherstripping can then be purchased at your local hardware or big-box retailer.

Cook Outside

On warm summer days, you don’t want to bake or roast in the oven, or boil on the stove. These appliances generate a lot of heat; causing your home to feel warmer. Instead, take your meals outdoor to cook on a BBQ, pizza oven or rotisserie. The options for outdoor kitchens are truly amazing.

Carrig & Dancer has been providing insulation services to Washington State residents and businesses since 1982. Our insulation services include new construction, retrofits, and upgrades. We also provide sound control and window installation. Contact us today at (253) 584-7704 for more ways to increase summer energy efficiency.

Emerging Technologies for Energy Savings

emerging technologies

In 2016, as told by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the energy produced in the United States was about equal to the amount consumed by residential and commercial sectors. Per person, total U.S. energy consumption was approximately 301 million Btus., although energy consumption varies depending on the climate where we live and the types and numbers of energy consuming devices we use (EIA, 2016). For example, residents of the Southwest states such as Arizona, California and New Mexico, often use the most energy to cool their homes during the summer.

In recent years, however, using energy more efficiently has become an important priority for residents, businesses, and governmental agencies alike. In fact, many states have adopted policies to encourage energy efficiency; Washington included. Homeowners are making energy efficient improvements by installing ENERGY STAR certified equipment and insulation with high R-values. New technologies designed for energy savings are also beginning to emerge. Here are just two of the emerging technologies we can look forward to soon, but in the meantime, there are many things you can do save energy.

Smart Windows

First there were smartphones, then came smart speakers, and now smart windows. Researchers at Princeton University have developed a futuristic smart window that has the potential to reduce energy costs by up to 40 percent. According to Science Daily, “the self-powered smart window controls the amount of visible light and infrared heat into the building, while the new type of solar cell uses near-UV light to power the window.” The technology promises to be inexpensive and easy to apply to existing windows. Researchers hope that once installed, users will be able to control the amount of sunlight entering their homes, and thereby improving energy efficiency, comfort and privacy via an app.

R25 Insulating Materials

Insulation can greatly reduce your heating and cooling costs. Other advantages include absorbing emitted sounds and controlling humidity. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Building Technologies Office (BTO) is developing two-inch thick polyisocyanurate board insulation with modified atmosphere insulation (MAI) cores that have an R-value of 25 (R12/inch). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “these panels have the potential to pay for themselves from energy savings within 10 years, while saving more than one percent of all of the energy used in the U.S. today.” This insulation would be beneficial for both residential and commercial applications.

Five Benefits to Replacement Windows

replacement windows

If you still have single-pane windows, you may be putting up with a lot of discomforts such as drafts, moisture, and rising energy costs. They may also let outdoor noise in. Energy-efficient replacement windows are a great home improvement project. Investing in insulation, sealing air leaks, and repairing your windows are great ideas as well.

Here are five benefits to replacement windows.

Soundproofing

Reduce outside noise by installing high-quality replacement windows. Windows featuring triple-pane, sound control, or laminated glass are three options to consider. To reduce sound even further, hang room darkening, sound-absorbing curtains. You can find these curtains at most any big box retailer or online.

Energy Efficiency

ENERGY STAR qualified windows can lower household energy use by an average of 12 percent nationwide. This amounts to $126 to $465 a year for a typical home with single-pane windows or $27 to $111 if your home has double-pane windows. Lower energy consumption is also environmentally friendly.

Improved Comfort

Quality replacement windows can improve occupant comfort by reducing the flow of heat into and out of your home. This helps to keep your home warm during the winter and cool during the summer. Additionally, this can reduce energy demand, thus saving you money when those dreaded energy bills come each month.

Return on Investment

Replacing existing windows with insulated, low-E, simulated-divided-lite vinyl windows has, according to the Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling Magazine, a national average return on investment (ROI) of 74.3 percent. Another material to consider is wood with a ROI of 69.5 percent. Project costs are generally recouped at resale.

UV Protection

Although, natural light provides sufficient amounts of Vitamin D and can help improve mood, too much of a good thing can be bad. After repeated exposure to direct sunlight, your furniture, drapes and floors can fade or discolor. Protect your belongings with ENERGY STAR certified windows that have ultraviolet-ray protecting coatings.

Best Energy Efficient Improvements

energy efficient improvements

The average household spends $2,000 to power a 1,971-square foot home per year. Decrease your monthly expenditures by investing in energy efficient improvements that will pay off over time in reduced energy bills. Making energy efficient improvements is a great way to improve occupant comfort and reduce your carbon footprint, as well.

Because each home is different, how much you save depends on many variables, including the age and design of your home and the project’s total cost. Some of the best energy efficient improvements you can make are also the easiest (e.g., sealing air leaks, installing attic insulation, setting a programmable thermostat, etc.).

Here’s a closer look at some of the best energy efficient improvements.

Caulk and seal air leaks. Sealing uncontrolled air leaks is a cost-effective way to save up to 20% off your annual heating and cooling bills. Buy some caulk (don’t forget the caulk gun) and weatherstripping from your local home improvement or hardware store to seal around:

  • Recessed lighting
  • Plumbing lines
  • Electric wires
  • Crawlspaces
  • Windows
  • Doors

Hire a professional to install attic insulation. Adding attic insulation reduces energy demand, improves the comfort of your home, and saves you money. Consult a professional insulation company to determine whether you need insulation and, if you do, how much. There are several types of insulating materials available, including loose-fill, rolls and batts, rigid foam, and spray foam.

Install a programmable thermostat. Nearly half of the average home’s utility bill goes towards heating and cooling. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature to different, desirable levels during set times/days throughout the week. This, along with turning back your thermostat 7-10 degrees for eight hours a day, can save you up to $83 per year.

Lower water heating temperature; insulate the tank. Set your water heater temperature to a comfortable 120 degrees – not the 140 degrees most are set out of the box. Additionally, if the hot water heater is warm to the touch, wrap it in insulating material to save on heat loss. Combined, these improvements can save you up to $38 per year in water heating costs.

Install exterior low-e storm windows. Installing low-e storm windows will lower your annual energy bill as much as 33% while keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Investing in new windows provides other advantages, as well, such as looking good and increasing the value of your home. In fact, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs Value Report for 2018, upscale window replacement has a 74.3% return on investment.

Switch to LEDs. Replace your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified models to save up to $75 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. LEDs are available in a variety of shapes and sizes for any application, last 15 times longer, and are environmentally-friendly. They can also be purchased as a smart bulb, which are designed to make any light fixture, smart.

Use a surge protector for consumer electronics. The average household plugs in more and more electronics each year. The energy consumed by all these gadgets can add up to nearly 10% of your home’s monthly electricity bill. The problem is that many electronics continue to draw power even when they’re turned “off.” Plugging your electronics into a surge protector that you power off at night can save you up to $100 annually.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Last Minute Holiday Gifts: Energy-Efficient Edition

 

‘Tis the season for friends, family, and giving. If you still need last minute gift ideas, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular energy-efficient products. Watch out – you may even find yourself adding them to your own holiday wish list.

Instant Pot

$100

These pots – great for preparing any number of sides and entrees – use up to 70% less energy than conventional cooking methods. With pressure cooking, heat is very evenly and quickly distributed, so dinner is ready in a fraction of the time it takes other cooking methods (i.e., boiling, steaming, baking, and slow cooking). This makes cooking convenient.

Smart Speakers

Price Varies

There are a lot of options for smart speakers out there, but two devices reign supreme: Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. They both let users control their music, podcasts, and a wide assortment of smart home products. They are also both available in full and mini sizes. Which one is best? Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference.

Indoor Air Quality Monitors

$150

Know someone with allergies? Give them the gift of an air quality monitor, which allows them to accurately measure up to six main air quality indicators, including TVOC, CO2, PM2.5, PM10, temperature, and humidity. Users can visualize their indoor air quality with a compatible app. Smart home integration means that it works with select smart speakers. Its portable design allows users to set it anywhere they’d like.

Smart Thermostats

$250

Heating and cooling accounts for half the energy bill in most homes – more than appliances or electronics. Smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, work with smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo to provide demonstrated energy savings and environmental benefits. Nest learns your schedule and preferred temperatures, programming itself for automatic comfort in about a week.

LED Smart Bulbs

Price Varies

With smart light bulbs, you no longer need to remember to turn off the lights or come home to a dark house. Smart light bulbs are available in different shades of white, from warm to cool white, and color changing LEDs. Most are compatible with select smart speakers to allow you to control your lights with your voice. Pair with other smart devices for total home automation and energy efficiency.

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Find easy, cost-effective ways to use less energy without sacrificing comfort with the following six winter energy-saving tips.

Change Your Filter Regularly

Now is the perfect time to change the filter in your HVAC unit. This easy, affordable home maintenance task allows your heating system to operate more efficiently, ensuring better distribution of heat. You should check and change your filter once a month; HEPA filters every few months.

Reverse Those Ceiling Fans

During winter, switch the direction that your ceiling fan blades turn, so that cooler air is drawn upwards and warmer air pushed down. This allows you to turn the temperature down and still stay warm. There is usually a small switch on the fan that allows you to reverse the blade’s direction. Remember, clockwise in winter, and counterclockwise in summer.

Turn Down the Thermostat

When you’re home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable, dressing for warmth. When you’re asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day, and save up-to 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs. Smart or programmable thermostats can adjust the temperature for you.

Insulate Your Attic

To maintain comfort, heat loss must be minimized in the winter by ensuring an effective resistance to the flow of heat, which is something insulating materials do quite well. Plug your zip code into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver tool to find insulation recommendations tailored to your Washington State home.

Replace Worn Weatherstripping

Worn weatherstripping around doors and windows creates drafts, letting cold air in, and heated air out. Caulking and weatherstripping – found at most local home improvement stores – are two cost-effective ways to cut heating and cooling costs and increase occupant comfort. Before air sealing, you should schedule a professional energy audit.

Schedule a Home Energy Audit

An energy audit can help you determine where your house is losing energy and money.  An energy auditor will check for leaks, examine insulation, inspect your heating system, and perform a blower door test using an infrared camera. The auditor will then recommend low-cost improvements that you can make to save energy.

Use LED Holiday Lights

Incandescent holiday lights are terribly inefficient, and despite careful storage, often emerge damaged. LEDs are a much better option. They use up to 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. Because they also produce very little heat, they are much safer to use for indoor and outdoor holiday lighting displays, as well.

How to Make Scary Tombstones

scary tombstones

Craft four nice size, eerily realistic looking tombstones from insulation foam board / Styrofoam in under four hours using the following step-by-step instructions; just in time for Halloween (13 days away). Add fresh dirt, a shovel, and plastic skull at the base of your tombstones for that extra chill factor.

Materials Needed to Make Scary Tombstones

  • insulation foam board / Styrofoam
  • permanent marker
  • serrated knife
  • monster mud
  • carbon paper
  • latex gloves

Step 1: Outline Tombstones

With one large sheet of insulation foam board / Styrofoam – measuring 2” x 2” x 8’ – you should be able to make four nice size tombstones. The sheets can be found at most any local home improvement store. Use a permanent marker to sketch an outline for your tombstones. Tip: Keep shapes simple so they’re easier to cut out.

Step 2: Cut Styrofoam to Size

Cut foam along sketched outline with a serrated knife. We recommend doing this outdoors since this step can get quite messy. Keep blade perpendicular to foam and use caution while cutting.

Step 3: Write the Epitaph

Use carbon paper to draw out your design and write the epitaph. Lay the carbon paper over the cut-out tombstone and trace over the paper to transfer the patter / epitaph onto the foam. You may want to go back over the transfer marks with a permanent marker, if they are not dark enough.

Step 4: Create an Aged Look

Working in a well-ventilated area, use a soldering iron to go back over the transfer marks, melting them into the Styrofoam. To create an “aged” look, break off tiny pieces around the edges of the store, or carve out small cracks using an X-acto knife.

Step 5: Apply Monster Mud

Using homemade “monster mud,” apply a thin amount to the tombstone, spreading with your latex gloved hands or a paintbrush. You may find it helpful to use both, ensuring the mud gets into the smallest crevices. You can also spray paint using charcoal gray or black. Get the instructions for Monster Mud.

Step 6: Set the Scene

Secure your handcrafted tombstones to the ground using wire hangers, plant wire or wooden stakes. Simply cut out enough wire and stretch along the length of the stone to set the graveyard scene up in your yard.

Happy Halloween!

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist

fall home maintenance

With the arrival of chillier days, football watching and pumpkin everything, it’s time to think about getting your home ready for the winter months ahead. Check these easy to do tasks off your fall home maintenance checklist starting today.

Interior Fall Home Maintenance:

Conduct an energy audit. Through visual inspection and thermal imaging, a certified auditor can assess your home’s current energy efficiency. They will also provide you a list of recommended improvements you can make, such as upgrading to ENERGY STAR appliances, adding insulation to the attic or sealing air leaks.

Seal air leaks. While it’s well-known that homes require adequate levels of insulation to mitigate heat loss through your home’s walls, ceilings and floors, the concept of air sealing is often less understood. Air leaks can be found around windows, doors, attics, lighting fixtures, outlet, and vents. Some measures you can do include:

  • Caulking around windows and doors
  • Installing foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates
  • Installing weatherstripping around windows and doors (include the garage door)
  • Replacing door bottoms (thresholds) with those that feature pliable gaskets

Declutter closets and garage. Free your closets and/or garage of things you rarely use or items that have lost their novelty once and for all this fall. When it comes to decluttering these spaces, it’s important to have a game plan in mind, and to set up organizational systems that are sure to eliminate clutter.

Start by sorting all contents of these spaces into three piles; toss, donate/sell, and keep. It’s a great idea to increase shelving and use bins in the closets. In the garage, install wall and overhead storage. Items infrequently used, such as holiday decorations and camping gear, should be stored further away than those you use more often.

Install a programmable thermostat. Save on home heating and cooling expenses with a programmable thermostat. For as low as $40, programmable thermostats allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. You can do the same on the weekends. That way your air conditioner or furnace isn’t running all day, costing you money when the house is unoccupied.

Replace furnace filters. This easy task allows your HVAC system to operate more efficiently, ensuring better heat distribution. Use high-efficiency filters labeled with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of 11 or 12. This is a job you should do every two months anyway, but if you haven’t, now’s the time.

Schedule heating system maintenance. Making sure your furnace is cleaned, maintained, and in working order before you need to turn on the heat will save you money on energy and prolong system life. Annual servicing of your heating system is affordable – typically less than $100.

Exterior Fall Home Maintenance:

De-gunk your gutters. Once most of the leaves have fallen, clean out gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters during rainstorms can cause water to pool, causing damage to your roof, siding or foundation. You can hire a professional for this project or do it yourself. Either way, make sure the gutters are not sagging, and that all brackets are tightened.

Trim tree branches. Fall is a good time to trim tree branches, when dormancy has set in. It’s a good idea to trim branches back 8-10 feet away from your home, so they don’t damage your roofing or siding in windy conditions, cause moisture problems or make it easy for rodents to sneak into your house and raid your pantry. Always use clean landscaping trimmers to prevent the spread of disease.

Stock up on winter supplies. If you live in an area of the state that experiences blistering cold, snowy winters, it’s a good idea to stock up on some essentials in the fall. Some things you can include:

  • Pack emergency kits for both your home and car
  • If needed, pick up a bag, or two of pet and plant safe ice melt
  • Check the condition of snow shovels, ice scrapers, and sleds; replace as needed