Energy Solutions Category
The breaker box in your home divides up the electrical current entering the house into individual circuits protected by circuit breakers. Breaker boxes are rated for a certain maximum amperage. Many boxes in older homes are rated for the electrical demand that was common at the time the house was built. However, as time has passed, everyone knows that household electrical devices have multiplied exponentially. If your breaker box hasn’t been updated, it may be out of date by one or more current code standards, as well as insufficient for today’s demand.
- The National Electrical Code recommends that all residential breaker boxes be rated for a minimum of 100 amps. Old boxes in existing homes, however, may be designed to handle only as little as 60 amps. Upgrading to a box with a higher rating that meets the National Electrical Code recommendation—as well as accommodating today’s increased electrical demand—can be done by a qualified electrician. Upgrading the breaker box does not mean you have to rewire the entire house.
- To protect home occupants from the risk of electrocution, the National Electrical Code stipulates that rooms where water is present—kitchen, bathrooms, spa, etc.—or appliances are in use must be served by circuits with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection. This safety measure can be added to circuits by upgrading the box to incorporate GFCI-rated breakers.
- The National Electrical Code also includes requirements for location of breaker boxes. In older homes, it may be situated in almost any indoor room. The NEC states that breaker boxes installed today must be in a safe location—no bathrooms—that is easily accessible. The box must have a minimum of three feet of open space clearance in front of it—no cramped closets and no large furniture obstructing the panel. If plumbing pipes are routed nearby, the box must be waterproof.
For more information on upgrading your breaker box to meet code as well as the electrical demands of the future, contact the professionals at Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Ceiling fans help your air conditioner do what it’s designed to do: make the house more comfortable in summer. However, they do it at less cost than an A/C. Air in motion is one of the secrets to indoor comfort. The slowly rotating blades of a ceiling fan move a large volume of air with very low electrical consumption. Compared to a typical 2.5 ton residential central air conditioner that consumes about 3,500 watts, a 48-inch ceiling fan running on “High” uses less than 75 watts. Here’s how a ceiling fan helps your A/C do its job better and saves money on monthly bills.
The sensation of moving air makes people feel cooler, even when the actual room temperature stays the same. It’s a small-scale version of the familiar wind chill effect that makes a blustery winter day feel colder than a calm day. The gentle flow of air from a ceiling fan allows you to raise the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees without sacrificing cool comfort. For every degree you can bump the A/C thermostat up in summer, you can save about 3% on cooling costs. In most cases, used in conjunction with the air conditioner the cooling effect created by a ceiling fan adequately compensates for a four-degree increase in thermostat setting. Here’s how to make sure you get the comfort and savings of a ceiling fan.
- For summer operation, the ceiling fan’s directional switch should be set in the counter-clockwise direction. When standing directly beneath the fan, you should be able to feel a gentle downward breeze.
- A ceiling fan only helps enhance the perception of coolness for people and pets in a room. Therefore, leaving a ceiling fan running in a room that isn’t occupied is a waste of energy and money. Turn ceiling fans off when everyone leaves the room.
For more about the comfort and economy of utilizing ceiling fans in your home this summer, contact Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
A whole house generator is rapidly becoming a standard accessory in homes. Weather-related power outages have increased 100 percent since 2003. On an average day, about a half-million people across the country are affected by loss of utility power. Not only are power outages increasing, the typical duration until power is restored is also getting longer. The reason is clear: most of the U.S. power grid was constructed in the 1950s and upgrades have not kept pace with rapidly increasing demand or changes in patterns of severe weather.
Portable generators utilized for recreational activities are not designed to provide safe, reliable household power during an outage; amperage output is insufficient. Units must be deployed outdoors then manually started, and utilization present hazards from carbon monoxide exhaust and the necessity to string long extension cords in wet weather.
Installed by a professional electrician, a whole-house generator safely protects your household from electrical interruptions and the potential expense and stress of having to leave home until utility power is restored. Here are some key facts to consider:
- Whole-house generators are permanently installed behind or next to your home, and are about the size of a typical central A/C.
- The unit is hard-wired directly into the main electrical panel of the house and continuously monitors incoming power from the grid. When an outage is detected, the system automatically starts and shifts household circuits over to generator power in seconds. After utility power is restored, the generator automatically switches back to the grid and shuts off.
- Whole-house generators typically run off clean natural gas fuel already supplied to your home. It’s a self-feeding energy source that flows without pumps and is very rarely affected by weather or other factors that cause power outages.
- A whole-house generator can be sized to your expected needs. Capacity ranges from sufficient power for critical circuits only to units that totally replace utility power throughout the entire home.
- Apps available for many whole-house units permit remote monitoring and control via smartphone.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Home Electrical, Heating, Cooling, Plumbing for more information about the benefits of a whole house generator.
Whether this winter is severe or something less, efforts to control energy costs will always pay off. Taking proactive control of those factors you can do something about will produce both immediate and long-term benefits. Lower monthly costs, greater indoor comfort and less wear and tear on your heating system are among them. Here are some effective ways to control energy costs this winter:
- Program the thermostat. Make sure your programmable thermostat is set to reflect the different comfort requirements and household occupancy patterns of winter. Nights are longer, allowing you to set a longer sustained overnight temperature for sleeping. Mornings are colder and require pre-warming the house. Kids back in school and parents working often permit programming lower temps during daytime spans when the house is empty.
- Change the filter. This is a year-round task but particularly important in winter. A dirty filter restricts system airflow. Adequate furnace airflow is necessary to continuously circulate the proper volume of heat to maintain a comfortable temperature. When airflow drops below specs, the furnace runs longer to compensate and heating costs spiral up. Another reason to maintain proper airflow: it protects the furnace heat exchanger—a critical and very expensive safety component—from overheating and cracking.
- Open all vents. Closing heating vents in under-utilized rooms doesn’t save money. Your furnace doesn’t know that vents are closed and still runs just as long to maintain the household thermostat setting. In addition, closing vents unbalances the distribution of heat through the entire ductwork. Rooms further from the furnace may become chronically chilly—causing occupants to crank up the thermostat—while rooms closer to the furnace may be uncomfortably warm.
- Stop air leakage. Heat energy naturally moves from a warmer zone into a cooler zone. That means that air leaks around doors and windows are costing you money as indoor heat escapes to the outdoors. Check for cold drafts around doors and windows that indicate worn weatherstripping. Replace with new foam or vinyl weatherstripping.
For more advice on how to control energy costs this winter, contact the heating professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Weatherstripping is one of the household materials that keeps warm air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. Usually foam, vinyl or rubber, it’s typically installed to close the gap between two moveable surfaces. Weatherstripping is usually found along the edges of a door and the door jamb to form an effective seal against air leakage when the door is closed. It’s also usually present on the bottom of the door to close the gap between the door and the threshold. Weatherstripping is also found on double-hung windows to seal between the sash and the window frame and between the central V-channel and the sash.
Because weatherstripping is placed between two moveable surfaces, as the door or window is opened and closed friction and wear occurs over time and replacement is normally required. Here are several common types of weatherstripping.
- Peel-and-stick foam. This is the least expensive option and also the easiest to apply. Typically made of non-porous closed cell foam it can be used around door frames, on the top and bottom window sashes and to seal attic hatches and small openings. Foam typically wears away fastest due to friction and will need to be replaced more often.
- Self-adhesive rolled vinyl. This is pliable material that can be stuck to most door frames and window sashes, but may not adhere well to metal surfaces. Its cost is low to moderate and durability exceeds foam but is not as good as other options.
- Tubular vinyl or rubber. Compresses as the door or window closes against it to form a very effective air seal and is very durable. Usually it must be manually stapled or tacked in place—not self-adhesive—and the cost is moderate to high.
- Door sweep. Installed to close the opening beneath the bottom of a door and the threshold, it consists of an aluminum or stainless steel plate with a brush made of vinyl or rubber to seal the gap. Door must be removed for installation. Cost is moderate to high.
For qualified handyman services to replace worn weatherstripping in your home, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Patterns of household energy consumption vary according to season, so it’s not surprising that winter has it’s own distinctive energy saving tips. Many useful energy saving tips cost you nothing, others require a small investment that will likely pay for itself after a few Ohio winters—both in added comfort and lower energy costs.
- Adjust the thermostat. If you’re using a programmable thermostat, while the house is occupied winter temperatures should range between 68 and 70 degrees. Most people feel comfortable at that temperature in winter and it’s also the most energy-efficient setting to warm the house to after lower overnight temperatures.
- Take advantage of the sun. Keep drapes and blinds on the sunny side of the house open during daylight hours to admit solar energy through window glass. Heat energy escapes back out through windows just as easily at night, however, so as the sun goes down close drapes and blinds to keep heat in the house.
- Utilize ceiling fans. If you have one, switch the directional setting to the “Clockwise” or “Reverse” mode. In this setting, the fan pulls air up from the floor and across the ceiling. This pushes the layer of rising hot air that naturally accumulates at the ceiling back down into the room to warm occupants.
- Seal air leaks. If the feel cold drafts around doors, replace worn weatherstripping in the door jamb and/or the rubber threshold that seals under the door. Also replace worn weatherstripping between moveable surfaces of windows. Look for air gaps anywhere plumbing pipes or electrical conduits enter the house and where vents pass through the ceiling. Straight gaps or cracks 1/4 inch or less wide can be filled with silicone caulk; for larger, irregular openings you can use spray foam insulation in a can.
- Light wisely. If you’re still using any conventional incandescent bulbs, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. Thinking of stringing lights for holiday decorations? Buy LED strings that last longer and use less electricity.
Contact the professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more winter energy saving tips
Extending the life of an HVAC system is doable. So, unfortunately, is shortening its expected service life. The combined average life expectancy of an air conditioner and furnace averages about 15 years. Typically, the furnace lasts longer than the A/C. However, that 15-year estimate is based on the assumption that both systems are professionally installed, receive regular maintenance and are operated according to manufacturer’s recommendations. If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.
To increases the odds of extending the life of an HVAC system, avoid these mistakes:
- Unqualified installation. Every new furnace or air conditioner should be properly sized to the BTU requirements of the home before installation. This means an accurate load calculation must be performed by a professional HVAC contractor. Over-sized and under-sized units not only under-perform in heating and cooling and cost more to operate, they tend to wear out much sooner.
- Skipping annual check-ups. Your furnace or air conditioner manufacturer’s warranty probably requires yearly professional maintenance. That’s because it’s vital to maximize expected service life. Each unit should get seasonal preventive maintenance from a qualified HVAC technician at the outset of the heating and cooling seasons, respectively.
- Ignoring important upkeep. As the homeowner, you can contribute to longer service life by changing the system air filter monthly—an easy DIY procedure that’s also inexpensive when you buy replacement filters in multi-packs. A dirty, clogged filter reduces system airflow. Low airflow not only raises operating costs, it also over-stresses vital system components like the air conditioner compressor and furnace heat exchanger. Early failure of these very expensive parts may mean early replacement of the entire unit.
- Inefficient operation. Use of an outmoded manual thermostat often means the the furnace or air conditioner is cycled on and off much more frequently. This adds to system wear and tear, shortens expected service life and consumes more energy. A digital programmable thermostat automates temperature changes with fewer on/off cycles to maintain a more comfortable indoor environment at lower cost.
Ask the experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about extending the life of an HVAC system.
Seasonal plumbing maintenance takes on greater importance when the season is winter. Frigid weather can be particularly hard on pipes and the consequences of neglecting plumbing maintenance at this time of year can be particularly costly. Frozen pipes not only deprive the household of water supply until they thaw, a pipe that ruptures due to freezing can discharge hundreds of gallons into your home in a very short time, inflicting catastrophic water damage.
- Insulate pipes. Buy foam pipe insulation sleeves that can be slipped over pipes without disconnecting the pipe. Place them on all spans of water supply lines that are accessible: inside the house, down in the crawl space or up in the attic, or out in the garage.
- Seal air leaks. Exterior openings in the home’s envelope should be closed to prevent frigid outside air from contacting indoor pipes. This means sealing up crawl space vents and/or access doors and plugging or covering other openings such as gaps around access points where plumbing pipes and electrical conduits enter the house. Check along the intersection between exterior walls for cracks and use caulking to fill them—also along the long joint between the exterior wall and the foundation sill. To close openings too large for caulking, use expanding spray foam insulation in a can.
- Drain and disconnect exterior components. Freezing that occurs in outside sources can damage interior plumbing. Disconnect garden hoses from exterior faucets, drain the water out and store them. Turn off the water valve to underground sprinklers and drain residual water from the pipes or blow it out with compressed air. If your outdoor faucets are frost-proof with dedicated indoor shut-off valves, now’s the time to shut the valves and open the faucet to drain out remaining water.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing for more winterizing tips to prepare for cold weather.
A ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati can help boost household comfort while lowering heating and cooling bills. Ceiling fans were actually the first electrical indoor comfort device, becoming common in residences during the 1920s. Efficient fans today sip energy and can cost as little as one cent per hour to operate. By supplementing air circulation in the proper direction for the season, a ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati can make your home more comfortable while lowering monthly utility costs.
Ceiling fans move a large volume of air at low velocity. Their slowly rotating paddle-like blades induce gentle air circulation without blowing papers around or making noise. Here’s how a ceiling fan supports your indoor comfort and energy-efficiency in winter and summer.
Ceiling Fans in Winter
As warmth from your furnace enters the livings spaces, the laws of physics quickly take effect. Heat energy naturally rises and accumulates in a layer at the ceiling, radiating into the attic. In winter, running a ceiling fan disrupts the accumulation of heat at the ceiling and continuously pushes it out toward the walls and down into the room, keeping occupants more comfortable. Since you don’t have to bump up the furnace thermostat to compensate for heat loss into the attic, a ceiling fan can reduce heating expenses by up to 15 percent.
During winter, the directional switch on a ceiling fan should be set to the clockwise or “Reverse” setting in order to circulate air properly and augment heating.
Ceiling Fans in Summer
Known as the wind-chill effect, moving air makes any environment feel cooler than it actually is. In summer a ceiling fan makes rooms more comfortable without actually changing the thermometer reading. This allows you to move the air conditioner thermostat up a few degrees. As a rule of thumb, for every degree you increase the thermostat setting, you decrease monthly A/C costs by 1%.
Change the fan directional switch to the counter-clockwise or “Forward” setting in summer. You should be able to feel the breeze when standing directly beneath the fan.
For professional advice about ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati, contact Apollo Home Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Like other fables, home energy myths tend to be accepted and passed along without ever being subjected to scientific proof. Relying on untested methods for energy savings often results in the opposite: increased energy use and higher operating costs. Science doesn’t yet know everything about how to make a home as energy efficient as possible. However, we can be certain about a number of things that don’t work. Here are four home energy myths that don’t stand up to a closer look:
Myth: Upgrading attic insulation only causes more heat loss through the walls and floor.
Fact: Heat energy inside a house isn’t like air pressure. Fixing heat loss in one spot doesn’t increase heat loss elsewhere. Heat passes through solid surfaces by conduction and radiation. Wherever it’s installed, proper insulation inhibits heat loss and doesn’t cause it to increase elsewhere.
Myth: Closing supply vents in some rooms saves energy.
Fact: Your furnace or air conditioner doesn’t “know” if vents are open or not. It just keeps on generating the same amount of heating or cooling and the same amount of energy is consumed whether or not all vents are open. Closing supply vents may actually cause the system to run longer “on” cycles and use more energy.
Myth: When you turn off an electronic device, it stops consuming electricity.
Fact: Many devices such as battery chargers, printers and home entertainment equipment actually go into “standby” mode when turned off and continue to use some electricity, although at a reduced amount. Plugging these devices into a switched outlet strip then turning off the strip is the only way to completely stop electrical consumption.
Myth: Replacing standard windows with high-efficiency windows pays for itself in energy savings.
Fact: Not for a very, very long time. The high cost of window replacement rarely pays for itself in a reasonable time frame. For a low investment and fast payback, caulking and weatherstripping to seal air leaks and upgrading attic insulation are a better bet.
Want to bust more home energy myths? Contact the experts at Apollo Home.