Category Archives: home improvement

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.

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.

6 Energy Efficient Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

beat the heat

Air conditioning may ensure your comfort during the summer but running it non-stop during a heat wave will have you cringing when your utility bill arrives in the mail. The good news is that there are several ways you can beat the heat this summer without increasing your energy bills.

Here are some energy efficient ways to beat the heat that’ll pay off immediately.

Use your ceiling fans wisely. During the summer, ceiling fans should rotate counterclockwise to push cool air down, creating a wind chill effect. This allows you to set the thermostat at a higher temperature without sacrificing comfort. Portable fans produce the same effect. Turn them off when you leave the room.

Draw the curtains. During the day, room temperatures can rise by as much as 20 degrees, especially in areas with windows that get direct sunlight. Keep your curtains closed during the summer. Blackout curtains are often the most effective at reducing heat gain.

Switch out your light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs produce a lot more heat than you might think. They are also considered the least energy efficient. LEDs (light emitting diodes) use only 20-25% of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional light bulbs they replace. Choose bulbs that are ENERGY STAR certified.

Clean or change you’re A/C filters once a month. Your air conditioner consumes 5-10% more energy if the filter is clogged or dirty. You should change or clean the filter out on your A/C unit once a month.

Avoid using your stove or oven during the day. One of the last things you want to do on a hot day is generate more heat. Wait until sundown to use your stove or oven. Use smaller appliances, such as hot plates, crockpots, pressure cookers, and microwaves during the day. Small appliances have the added benefit of being energy efficient.

Install new insulation. Properly installed, insulation can help keep your home an average of 20 degrees cooler or warmer year-round. It will also reduce your energy bills. Look for insulation with a high R-value (the insulation’s ability to reduce heat transfer). You can choose between fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam insulation for this project.

Keeping Warm with Attic Insulation

attic insulation

Would you like to save on home energy costs?

By adding attic insulation, you are provided with some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home, as well as maintain a comfortable temperature throughout much more efficiently. Whether it is summer or winter, adding attic insulation makes your house a lot more livable, while saving you some much needed dough.

Best of all, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value report, adding attic insulation is the #1 home improvement project with the best return on investment (ROI). In fact, attic insulation was the only home improvement project to provide over a 100% return on investment, recouping you 116.9%.

There are also several tax credits you should be aware of. According to ENERGY STAR, typical bulk insulation products like those mentioned below, qualify for a federal tax credit amount of 10% of the cost; up to $500. This tax credit is available for purchases made in 2016, as well as retroactive to purchases made in 2015.

  • Blown-in Insulation: Loose cellulose or fiberglass insulation that is professionally blown into a wall cavity or attic using a commercial-grade insulation blower.
  • Roll and Batt Insulation: Composed of mineral materials or fiberglass, this type of insulation provides some of the best R-values per inch.
  • Expanding Spray Foam Insulation: Expandable spray foam is best suited for insulating wall cavities, ceiling, and roof-deck applications.
  • Rigid Foam Insulation: Consists of high density foam, mineral or fiberglass boards that are commonly used in cathedral ceilings and exterior walls as well as attics.

Products that reduce air leaks such as weather stripping, canned spray foam, caulk designed specifically for air sealing, and house wrap may also qualify for these tax credits as long as they come with a Manufacturers Certification Statement. Professional installation costs are NOT included.

Should I Invest in Attic Insulation?

If your home experiences any of the following symptoms, you may want to consider adding adequate levels of insulation to your home’s attic space, along with its interior walls, floors, and crawl spaces. Note that the EPA recommends air sealing the attic using any one of the aforementioned products before adding insulation.

  • Drafty rooms.
  • Hot or cold ceilings or walls.
  • High heating or cooling costs.
  • Uneven temperatures between rooms.
  • Ice dams in the winter (where applicable).

Determining Proper Insulation R-Values

Understanding an insulation material’s R-value – a measure of how well it resists the flow of heat – is very important. The higher the number, the better the insulating power, and the more energy you will save. If your home is not properly insulated, you are likely paying more than you should be for home energy.

Recommended R-values are 30 to 60 for most attic spaces, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, with R-38 (or about 12 to 15 inches, depending on material type) being considered the “sweet spot.” In colder climates, go for R-49. For insulation recommendations tailored to your home, visit the DOE’s Home Energy Saver Tool.

Professional Installation by Carrig & Dancer

As a locally owned and operated insulation contractor, servicing Washington State, we take great pride in all aspects of what we do. We specialize in both residential and commercial insulation installs. No job is ever too big or small for us to handle. Call us today at (253) 584-7704 for a free in-home estimate.

Choosing Low-E Windows

low-e windows

Understanding how to limit solar heat gain from entering our homes affords us the opportunity to save money on large heating and cooling bills. Bills that according to the U.S. Department of Energy account for more than 48% of a homeowner’s energy consumption. A very cost-effective way to control this heat, and keep your energy bills down, is to install Low-E windows.

Understanding Heat Gain

Heat gain is the term used to describe the accumulation of excess heat within your home. While it can come from any source that produces heat, it is most commonly the result of sunlight, which contains various levels of ultraviolet rays. UV streams through your windows, and generates heat in your home, thus causing indoor temperatures to go up.

There are several factors involved in your home’s rising temperatures including the number of daylight hours, outside weather conditions, the angle of the sun in the sky, and the direction in which the windows face. Too much heat gain, as often evidenced by large energy bills, can reduce indoor comfort and make it increasingly difficult for your air conditioner to cool the home.

Every homeowner, no matter the climate in which they reside, should take heat gain into consideration when looking to reduce their energy costs. If sunlight is entering your home, via your windows, it has some effect on indoor temperatures. Luckily, there are many ways you can reduce the negative effects of heat gain, including installing quality Low-E windows.

How Do Low-E Windows Work?

Low-emissive, also commonly referred to as simply Low-E, windows have been treated with an invisible metal or metallic oxide coating creating a surface that reflects heat while still permitting light to pass through. Windows treated with Low-E coatings have been proven to help reduce winter heat loss by as much as 55% and summer heat gain by as much as 70%. They are also proven to:

  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Decrease fading of fabrics
  • Increase overall indoor comfort

Even better is the fact that these windows are ENERGY STAR eligible, which means that upon purchasing your new Low-E windows, you’ll be eligible to receive 10% of the cost up to $200 for all years since 2005 back. Installation costs are not included.

Insulation Tips To Save You Money

insulation tips

Unless you live in Paradise, where the weather is almost always perfect, your home will require some kind of heating, venting, and air conditioning system to cool you down in the summer and warm you up in the winter. This, however, accounts for more than half of your energy use – which can really put a damper on your monthly electricity bills.

Increasing the level of insulation within your home could save you hundreds of dollars. This home improvement project is essential for maintaining an energy-efficient and comfortable home. Energy efficiency is the act of ensuring the energy you consume is used efficiently by properly maintaining your HVAC equipment and increasing your home’s thermal resistance.

Maximize Your Savings with These Insulation Tips

Insulation Tip #1: Locate Problem Areas

Many homes throughout Washington have been found to be lacking adequate amounts of insulation in areas such as attic spaces. These areas allow warm air in the winter and cool air in the summer to escape all too easily. This can really put a strain on your HVAC system. An in-depth energy audit can provide you with this information.

Insulation Tip #2: Check the New Insulation’s R-Value

Knowing what your recommended insulation’s r-value – a measure of thermal resistance – is a necessity. Each person’s recommended values will differ from one another depending on their area’s climate and the type of HVAC system they use. The higher the R-value; the greater the effectiveness of your insulating materials.

Insulation Tip #3: Select the Appropriate Type of Insulation

For insulation to perform properly, and provide you with ample benefits, the appropriate type of insulation materials must be chosen. This decision should be based on performance desired as well as your budget. Many insulation materials exist including fiberglass, mineral (rock or slag) wool, plastic fibers, natural fibers, cellulose, and spray foam.

Insulation Tip #4: Seal Off Any, And ALL, Air Leaks

This is the easiest way to begin insulating your home. Many homes, according to Energy Star, lose over 20 to 30 percent of the air that moves through its duct system due to leaks and poor connections. Finding, and subsequently sealing, those leaks will prevent heated and cooled air from being lost – thus saving you money.

Contact a Insulation Contractor Today

A expert insulation contractor can provide you with an objective assessment of your home’s current insulation levels and materials. They can also guide you on the best methods to correct areas where improvements are needed. This assessment will help you to save money and energy. We invite you to contact Carrig & Dancer today at (253) 584-7704.

Mushroom Insulation???

mushroom insulation

{Image Source: Stephen P Nock|Wiki}

Since civilization began, men and women have recognized the need for materials that would insulate them from the chill of a cold winter’s night, and the scorching heat of a hot summer’s day.

In the history books, you’ll see many humans wearing wool and skins made from animals, as these materials provided them with ample insulation. In medieval times, buildings were made with straw and mud plaster, but these materials failed at protecting its occupants from the elements.

Over the years, as civilization evolved, a process to make fiberglass insulation was finally found in 1932. Over the next decade this material, which is still in use today, was found to be most efficient in making buildings comfortable.

Insulation manufactures today use materials ranging from fiberglass, mineral wool, calcium silicate, foamed plastic, glass, and get this…mushrooms. Yes, you read that right, I definitely said mushrooms.

Mushroom Insulation’s Evolution

Within the past couple of years, two engineering students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute came up with the idea of using mycelium – a fungal network of threadlike cells that makes it possible to bind agricultural byproducts together – to make an insulating material that was cost-effective and eco-friendly.

The company, Ecovative Design, explains how it works on their blog:

“Ecovative uses mycelium (mushroom “roots”) to bond together agricultural byproducts like corn stalks into a material that can replace plastic foam. Mushroom Insulation grows into wood forms over the course of a few days, forming an airtight seal. It dries over the next month (kind of like how concrete cures) and you are left with an airtight wall that is extremely strong.”

Being that the company is using mycelium, and not mushroom spores, in their efforts to grow a sustainable insulation material there is no risk of mushrooms sprouting from the walls. Once the insulation has stopped growing, which normally takes only a few days, they hit it with steam to stop the growth.

The main drawback to this insulation material, especially when you compare it to other types of insulation is the fact that it currently has a very low R-value, in this case an R-value of 2.9. Yikes!

Mushroom Insulation on the Move

To show off their innovation, in a bit outlandish way, they built a tiny house using mainly mushroom insulation and took it on the road. Currently the only stop they’ve made was in New York. The entire build and trip is documented in their blog…Mushroom Tiny House.

If you’d like an alternative to this material – one that is eco-friendly and readily available – that provides high R-values please contact Carrig and Dancer at (253) 584-7704 for more information on our green insulation materials.

Benefits to Improving Your Home Insulation

improving your home insulationHow did you fare this summer? If you’re one of the 45 million homes within the U.S. that lacks the proper levels of insulation, then chances are high that you probably didn’t fare all that well.

Improving your home’s insulation, now rather than later, will make a huge difference in your comfort as well as in your pocketbook during the fast approaching winter season.

If you found yourself constantly complaining about the humidity within your home, or you broke out into a sweat each time you went face to face with yet another energy bill, then you should consider improving your home insulation.

Thinking of Improving Your Home Insulation?

Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll reap when you do:

#1 – Environmental Benefits

If you would like to create an energy-efficient or environmentally friendly home, it will require a long list of things that need to be done, and while some are quite simple, others take a varied skill set to properly accomplish.

One of the simpler ways to make your dreams of going green a reality is simply to increase the level of insulation within your home. A well-insulated home provides many benefits that help the environment and you including:

  • Reduced pollution levels
  • Energy cost savings
  • Increased comfort
  • Increased sound control
  • Reduced heat loss

#2 – Think “Found” Money

The average U.S. family spends approximately $1,900 a year on home utility bills. That amounts to roughly $158 per month! The largest portion, 54 percent in fact, of this expense is caused by your heating and cooling system alone.

Adding the proper amount of insulation – insulation that has been professionally installed – affords you the opportunity to save as much as 20 percent on those dreaded monthly energy bills. {Source: Enegy.gov}

In addition, it reduces the cost of heating and cooling by over 40 percent, thus making it among one of the more popular home improvement projects. And, with many available incentives out there, insulation can pay for itself in no time at all.

#3 – Increased Comfort Year Round

Improving your home’s insulation is a great way to increase your comfort in more ways than one. Adding insulation to those areas lacking will regulate your home’s temperature, and reduce noise pollution, thus allowing you and your family to remain comfortable year round.

Choose The Correct Insulation

Homeowners: Learn How to Choose the Correct Insulation

Choose the Correct InsulationHomeowners, the time has come to choose the correct insulation materials for your attic or basement walls to ensure your everlasting comfort. Like many choices in life, you may feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of insulation materials on the market today. If that’s the case, I’d like to suggest that you read this informative blog post, which contains expert tips.

Tip #1 – Pay Attention to R-Values

An R-value, or thermal efficiency, measures how well you home resists your states temperature fluctuations. In the winter insulation will keep you toasty warm, whereas in the summer it will keep you comfortable as it resists heat. In Washington, you should look for insulation with an R-value of R30 to R60 for uninsulated attics, and R25 to R38 when adding to your existing insulation.

Tip #2 – Determining Insulation Type

Loose Fill Insulation – Loose cellulose or fiberglass insulation that is blown into a wall cavity or attic by state-of-the-art equipment. This type of insulation is typically not well suited to concrete or stone walls, because of moisture. You can find loose fill insulation with R-values ranging between 20 and 40. This is one of the least inexpensive insulation options.

Batt Insulation – Composed of mineral materials or fiberglass, this type of insulation material is best for homeowners seeking affordability. R-values typically range from 14 to 22. Not the easiest material to work with and install. If not installed correctly, you will lose energy efficiency.

Spray Foam Insulation – Expandable spray foam that is applied directly to surfaces such as ceilings and roof-decks in order to efficiently resist heat and cold. You can find R-values ranging anywhere from 20 to 40. This type of material is one of the priciest options available today.

Rigid/Board-Stock Insulation – Foam, mineral, or fiberglass boards that was designed for exterior use only – best for roofing, siding, foundation and decking projects. You can choose between R20 to R28 when selecting R-values. This insulation works well in wet conditions.

Energy Proofing Your Home

energy proofing your home, save money on energy costs, sustainable livingOwning a home, whether it is a modest one or a mini-mansion, has long been a cornerstone of the American Dream. In fact, according to a poll which was recently conducted by several prominent research companies, 61 percent of residents still believe that this dream will provide them with both stability and security.

How that house functions, however, constantly changes and evolves in order to accommodate the needs of its residents. Today, prospective buyers and homeowners aren’t looking for housing with all the latest and greatest gadgets, but rather those homes that are energy proof.

This is in large part due to the fact that nobody, at least nobody I’ve ever met, likes getting hit with a $300.00 electric bill. In fact, based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s national averages, 44 percent of these costs are associated with heating and cooling while another 33 percent is associated with lighting and appliance use.

Energy proofing your home is economical, plain and simple. Even renters want homes and apartments that are energy efficient. In some areas, electricity companies are working with residents to combat the increasing cost of high electricity bills, by providing them with rebates, tax incentives and low-voltage fixtures.

Something as simple as ensuring a home is provided with the correct amount of insulation, along with a high R-Value, can make all of the difference in the world when you consider just how good a job a home does at keeping you toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.

Saving energy is both cost effective, and environmentally friendly, so what better way to reduce your monthly and annual energy costs than installing double paned windows, sealing air ducts and all leaks, install the proper size air conditioning, use energy star rated appliances and more?

Energy Proofing Your Home Tips

  • Consider unplugging, or using a power strip, when not in use. I personally make it a habit before I leave for work to walk around my home and unplug all chargers and small appliances including my microwave.
  • Don’t leave lights on – even if it means walking behind your husband and kids to ensure that they’re off. With today’s technology, you can even opt to install timers or automated home lighting.Thermostat