Tips for Your Home 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 If your breaker box hasn’t been updated, it may be out of date by one or more current code standards, as well as insufficient for today’s demand.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.
Exterior lighting makes your home a lot less attractive target to burglars, vandals and trespassers. Most criminals are very risk-averse. There’s simply no reason to take great chances of being detected and caught when there’s almost always an easier, less risky opportunity nearby to exploit, instead. Illuminating the outdoor area surrounding your home raises that risk potential and deters crime. It also enhances home safety for you and your family and contributes to a more appealing, aesthetic appearance, too. Here are some of the basics of utilizing exterior lighting to increase home security.
- Dual floodlights operated by motion sensors should be installed to cover all four sides of the home . Then, add additional single spotlights to illuminate any remaining dark corners or other areas of the property where someone might conceal their presence. If there’s no wiring at that particular area, use a battery operated security light with motion-sensing function.
- To greatly reduce electricity consumption and operating costs, instead of standard incandescent bulbs choose LEDs or compact fluorescents for all security applications. The long life of these units also minimizes the chore of changing bulbs, particularly those mounted high up that require a ladder to access.
- Low-voltage landscape lighting should be timer-operated (or connected to a photocell) to remain on from dusk until dawn.
- If you use a timer to turn certain outdoor lights on and off, select a unit with “Random” setting to vary on/off times.
- Important lights that are mounted within reach such as front porch lights or patio door lights should have an enclosure to prevent the bulb from being easily removed or broken.
- Wifi-operated security lights that you can operate from your phone, tablet or computer from any location give you additional control, even when you’re away from home. Combined with web-enabled surveillance cameras, the system provides effective outdoor monitoring and security from anywhere in the world.
Ask the experts at Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about enhancing home security with exterior lighting.
When planning your bathroom upgrade, new bathroom fixtures can not only give your bathroom a totally different ambiance, but they can also lower your water bills. Because there are so many options to choose from, it helps to plan ahead.
Beautiful, Functional Faucets
If you’ll be keeping your current sink cabinet, choose a faucet type that matches the hole openings in the counter. Make sure the faucet’s size suits your sink size. If you have kids or elderly family members, choose a faucet that’s easy to use, such as a single-handle or hands-free model.
Then consider style and finish. Ideally, your choice should coordinate with your other bathroom fixtures and surfaces. For a modern look, try polished nickel, matte black or the standard polished chrome. To create a vintage or rustic feel, copper, brass, and hammered nickel are good choices.
Look for faucet that’s earned the WaterSense labeled. These faucets use at least 30 percent less water than standard models, yet perform just was reliably.
Toilets with Style
If you’re planning to replace your toilet, first measure your existing toilet’s rough-in size, the distance from the wall behind the toilet to the center of the bolts on the base. You’ll need a toilet with the same rough-in size to avoid major plumbing modifications.
Decide whether you want a standard, space-saving round bowl or an elongated bowl for extra comfort. Rim height also affects comfort and ease of use. The standard is 14 to 15 inches, but 16 1/2 inches often more comfortable for the elderly and those with disabilities.
A toilets in white and other neutral might go with everything, but one in a bolder color or with an artistic motif will give your bathroom a dash of personality.
By choosing a WaterSense-labeled toilet, you’ll use 20 percent less water per flush with no reduction in performance compared to standard toilets.
Renovations aren’t the only reason for a bathroom upgrade with new fixtures. If you have a cracked toilet or a faucet with a persistent leak or water pressure problem, contact an Apollo Home plumber for guidance on your repair and replacement options.
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.
The end of the cooling season doesn’t mean the end of AC maintenance. Before you put your air conditioner to bed for winter, a few simple maintenance tips will help ensure that it’s ready to keep you comfortable when you wake it up again next spring. Seasonal start-up is often the time when system problems occur, often because basic end of season AC maintenance was neglected months ago when the system was shut down. Here are some things to take care of now:
- Power down the central air conditioner unit. This ensures that nobody turns the system on at the thermostat accidentally during the winter by selecting “Cool” instead of “Heat.”
- Remove the system air filter and replace it with a fresh one. Central A/C and heating systems share the same filter. Don’t start the winter heating season with a dirty air conditioning filter left over from the summer.
- Inspect the condensate drain pan. Situated under the indoor air handler, this wide flat pan collects condensation dripping off the evaporator coil while the air conditioner’s running. Make sure there is no standing water in the pan. Residual water left in the pan will spawn algae and mold growth over the winter. If you notice standing water, that usually means a clog somewhere in the condensate drain system. Contact a qualified HVAC service provider to restore drain function.
- Clear the outdoor unit. Make sure there are no fallen leaves or branches in the fan opening on top. Also, clear away weeds or other vegetation to leave two feet of open space on sides. Consider a commercially-available vented A/C cover that slips over the unit to protect it during the winter, available in sizes to fit your air conditioner.
- Check it during the winter. Don’t allow heavy amounts of snow or ice to accumulate on the unit. If it’s located in an spot where icicles falling from the eaves above may strike it, place a piece of plywood or other protection atop the unit.
Need professional advice or help for end of season AC maintenance? Contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling , Electrical and Plumbing.
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.
Can you maintain proper indoor humidity levels without the use of a dehumidifier? The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping household humidity levels below 60% for a healthy, comfortable indoor environment. It’s often a challenge to stay in that recommended range, however, particularly in climates like ours here in southern Ohio, where outdoor humidity often exceeds that limit. In these cases, you’ll probably want to consider a home dehumidifier.
Here are three things to think about when comparing dehumidifiers to keep your home humidity in the optimal range:
Individual room dehumidifiers are sized according to the amount of water vapor, expressed in pints, that the unit extracts from the air in a 24-hour period. For typical households with humidity in the range of 60% to 70%, a 30-pint unit is sufficient for a 300 square foot room while large spaces of 1,000-square feet need a 60-pint unit. In very damp houses with 80% humidity, the above size figures increase to 40 pints and 70 pints, respectively.
To reduce the number of times you’ll have to empty the dehumidifier’s water tank daily, the general rule is: the bigger, the better. For example, a 30-pint unit with a 10-pint water tank will require emptying three times a day. However, a 60-pint unit with a 15-pint tank will need to be emptied four times per 24 hours.
Whole-House Vs. Room Unit
Portable room dehumidifiers reduce humidity in a limited space only, plus require manual emptying of the tank. A whole-house dehumidifier, on the other hand, removes humidity from the entire air volume of your home as it passes through your heating and cooling ductwork. The unit condenses water vapor out of the air and conveys it down a drain line connected to your household plumbing. The humidistat that controls operation can be set like a thermostat, then automatically maintains the desired indoor humidity according to your setting.
For more advice on comparing dehumidifiers in order to choose the right dehumidifier for your needs, contact the indoor air quality professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling Electrical and Plumbing.
Simple steps you can take with drain pipes to avoid frozen pipes can also help prevent the repeated annoyance of a frozen drain. When freezing temperatures persist for a length of time—particularly when they are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit day and night—both water supply lines and drain pipes may freeze. Just as with any other type of drain blockage, a drain pipe that is obstructed by ice will not drain water freely.
Here are three things you can do to avoid frozen pipes.
- Insulate exposed segments. Anywhere you can access spans of drain pipe—such as in the crawl space or basement—cover these segments with foam pipe insulation. Supplied with a slit down the length of the segment, this slip-on insulation can be placed on the pipe without disconnecting the plumbing. Where the drain pipe goes underground in the crawl space, it’s a good idea to insulate the pipe at least twelve inches below the soil to reach the frost line—the point where the pipe is unlikely to freeze.
- Keep cold air away. Look for any gaps in the exterior wall of the house that allows frigid outdoor air to reach drain pipes and other plumbing routed inside the wall spaces or the crawl space. Small cracks can be sealed with exterior caulking. Larger gaps, such as those where plumbing pipes penetrate the exterior wall, can be filled with expanding spray foam insulation that comes in a can. Still bigger openings in the wall need to be permanently patched with wood or siding.
- Fix dripping faucets in the house. Drain pipes that don’t contain any water can’t freeze. Though drain pipes are typically installed in a way to empty all water into the main sewer line, one or more dripping faucets creates an ongoing presence of water throughout the span of the drain pipe. If temperatures drop low enough, the drain may freeze.
For more advice about what you can do to drain pipes to prevent freezing this winter, contact the plumbing pros at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Because this is not the season to be stuck without hot water, take time to properly prepare your water heater for winter. The water heater’s typically the most frequently replaced major appliance in the house. Many last less than 10 years. One of the things that can help extend water heater service life is seasonal maintenance. Here are some suggestions to prepare a water heater for winter and ensure you have plenty of hot water for the cold weather to come.
- Set the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees. Temperatures higher than that pose a danger of scalding and don’t get hot water to you any faster when the pipes in the house are cold, anyhow. Also, the higher the temperature of water inside the water heater tank, the quicker it loses heat while on stand-by—particularly during winter if the water heater is located in a cooler location like a garage or utility area. Rapid tank heat loss means the water heater cycles on and off more frequently to compensate, consuming more gas and increasing operating costs.
- Insulate exposed sections of cold and hot water pipes. Buy slip-on foam pipe insulation at a home center and place it anywhere you can reach the cold water supply line leading to the water heater and the hot water line leading away from the heater. Also, any other accessible segments of hot water pipe elsewhere in the house should be insulated, as well. This prevents freezing in winter and aids water heater performance by reducing heat loss.
- Drain and flush. Mineral sediment present in the water supply accumulates inside water heaters. It’s a major cause of higher water heating costs and shorter water heater life expectancy. A qualified professional plumber can drain the heater tank, flush out sediment accumulation, as well as verify proper function of the temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valve, an important water heater safety check.
For qualified service to prepare a water heater for winter, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.