energy efficiency Category


What Types of Weatherstripping are Best?

types of weatherstrippingWeatherstripping 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.


5 Energy Saving Tips for the Winter Season

ceiling fan to save energyPatterns 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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


Is Your Breaker Box Out of Date?

breaker box out of dateThe electronics you’ve added to your household in recent years may be high technology, but is your home’s aging breaker box out of date? It may belong to a low tech era. If your house is more than 25 years old, chances are it’s still equipped with a main electrical service panel and circuit breakers that aren’t adequate for the electrical demands of today.

Breaker Box Out of Date? The Signs…

Upgrading the breaker box doesn’t mean you have to rewire the entire house. Breaker boxes are a separate component installed and readily replaced without the expense of changing existing wiring. But, how do you know if the breaker box in your home may be out of date? Here are some scenarios that can help you decide:

  • Circuit breakers trip often without any known cause. This could be a safety issue in addition to an inconvenience and should be brought to the attention of a qualified electrician immediately.
  • After circuit breakers trip, they will not remain reset for long. If a reset breaker simply trips again in a few moments and there’s no short or other malfunction on the circuit, this is another sign that the panel itself may be defective and requires upgrade.
  • You need to unplug or turn off certain appliances in order to turn on others or you may trip a circuit breaker. A properly sized breaker box should be able to accommodate all electrical demands in the house at all times, plus offer some reserve capacity for future demands.
  • Burning odors or smell of hot wiring around the breaker box. If you smell an acrid, burning odor from the panel and/or notice that circuit breakers are hot to the touch, call an electrician immediately. Faulty outdated service panels are implicated in more than 2,000 house fires a year.
  • You have plans to remodel or add extra rooms in the future. Adding additional load to an already outdated breaker panel is a guarantee of future electrical problems. Make upgrading the panel part of your renovation project.

For a professional evaluation of your home’s breaker box and current electrical demands, contact the electricians at Apollo Home Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


What is AFUE (And How Can it Cut Your Energy Bills)

AFUE is an acronym that expresses the energy-efficiency of natural gas and oil-fired furnaces. Short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, it’s the primary metric used to help consumers compare the efficiency of new furnaces in order to determine which provide the most savings in combination with the best heating performance. When shopping for a new furnace, you’ll find its AFUE rating prominently displayed on the Department Of Energy’s yellow EnergyGuide sticker affixed to every new unit.

AFUEWhat AFUE Means to You

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is simply a percentage that tells you how much of the fuel consumed by a furnace produces usable heat vs. the amount of heat lost in the combustion process. All gas and oil furnaces lose some heat — mainly in the form of hot gasses exhausted up the furnace vent pipe.

Standard vs. High Efficiency

The federal minimum Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency for a standard-efficiency gas furnace is 80. That means 80% of the heat generated actually warms your house while the balance — 20% — is lost in the combustion process. High-efficiency units known as “condensing furnaces” incorporate additional technology like a secondary heat exchanger to recover lost heat and offer ratings as high as 95 percent.

Is High Efficiency Always Better?

High-efficiency furnaces come with an initial purchase price substantially higher than a standard AFUE-80 model. While these units produce more heat with less fuel consumption, savings from lower operating costs may still take some years to compensate for the higher upfront price. Whether the extended payback period makes good financial sense or not depends largely on the length of your local heating season and how long you plan to live in the home.

What About Electric Furnaces?

Since electric furnaces have no combustion losses, all are rated with an AFUE of 99%. However, this nearly perfect efficiency doesn’t mean electric heating is more economical. Because of the substantially higher cost of electricity vs. natural gas in most regions of the country, electric heating is always more expensive.

For more about using AFUE to shop for your next heating system, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.


4 Home Energy Myths Debunked

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:

home energy mythsMyth: 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.

 


3 Energy-Saving Upgrades to Consider This Winter

Winter’s a good time to think about energy-saving upgrades. It’s a fact that any measures that increase energy efficiency of a home also tend to enhance household comfort and even help the environment. This is especially true in winter, as higher operating costs due to increased energy consumption—as well as the frequent discomforts of a chilly house—sometimes seem to be an annual tradition. It doesn’t have to be that way. Identifying a few opportunities to make energy-saving upgrades to your home can pay off in lower expenses and help keep the house cozier, too. Here are three potential upgrade targets:

energy-saving upgradesIncrease Attic Insulation

Heat rises. In winter, that’s bad news if you don’t have sufficient attic insulation. Rising furnace heat conducts through the ceiling and is lost into the attic. However, you’ll still get the bill for it. Most homes are under-insulated by today’s higher standards. Attic insulation is easy to upgrade by simply adding to the existing level. Different layers of insulation—such as fiberglass batts and cellulose loose-fill—may be mixed to arrive at the recommended depth.

Install A Programmable Thermostat

Manual control of your heating system is inefficient and results in temperature swings between too-hot and too-chilly. A programmable thermostat automates temperature adjustments to match your daily household patterns, saving energy as well as keeping indoor comfort consistent. Many of today’s programmable models are also internet-connected, so you can monitor home temperatures and change programmed settings remotely with a phone app or browser format. Energy savings from utilizing a programmable thermostat will usually pay for it after one year of use.

Upgrade Your Blower

Conventional furnace blowers incorporate single-speed motors that squander electricity and don’t produce optimum indoor comfort. New variable-speed ECM (electronically commutated motor) blowers run consistently across a wide range of speeds programmed to match household heating requirements. Consistent variable output eliminates the temperature swings of on/off blowers, while the ECM technology consumes only about 25 percent as much electricity as old-school conventional blowers.

For more about energy-saving upgrades to make this winter more efficient and comfortable, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


LED vs. CFL: Which Bulb is Better?

For homeowners aiming to control energy costs, reducing household lighting expenses is a worthwhile target. Lighting accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of total home energy consumption and the average household spends between $100 and $200 a year to pay for it. Today, incandescent bulbs are limited to halogen fixtures, but you have two better options to control energy costs of lighting your home. The best news is, making the change can be as simple as unscrewing a light bulb.

control energy costsCompact Fluorescent

Known as CFLs, these bulbs are basically mini versions of the long fluorescent tubes regularly seen in stores and in other commercial applications. However, today’s CFLs are available in a range of softer color temperatures so you don’t have to deal with the harsh light associated with fluorescent tubes. A CFL bulb that produces the same amount of illumination as a 60-watt incandescent bulb consumes about 13 watts of electricity. The expected lifespan is 8,000 hours.

Pros Of CFLs

  • Energy consumption is lower than incandescent bulbs.
  • Lower upfront cost than LED lamps.
  • Generates bright light that diffuses evenly in a room.

Cons Of CFLs

  • Requires a few minutes to warm up to full brightness.
  • Unless specifically labeled, most CFLs are incompatible with dimmer switches.
  • Less effective in very cold temperatures.

LEDs

Light-emitting diodes are technically termed “lamps” instead of bulbs. An LED lamp incorporates a diode array that generates light when energized by electricity. The stand-out advantage of LEDs is extremely long life. Most consumer-grade models claim life spans of 25,000+ hours—three times the CFL lifespan. A 10-watt LED bulb produces as much light as a 13-watt CFL.

Pros Of LED Lamps

  • Lowest energy consumption of all options.
  • Longest expected life and reliability.
  • Instant on—zero warm-up to reach full brightness.
  • Many are dimmer-compatible.
  • Not sensitive to cold temperatures.

Cons Of LEDs

  • Present retail cost is two to three times CFL price, though prices are dropping.
  • Light is more directional than CFLs and doesn’t spread as efficiently.

Looking for more ways to control energy costs? In greater Cincinnati, contact the efficiency pros at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


Benefits of Blown-in Insulation

When adding attic insulation, homeowners commonly have two choices: fiberglass batts or blown-in cellulose. It’s an important decision because the attic is an important target area for effective insulation. In winter, rising heat in rooms conducts through the ceiling into the attic, causing your furnace to run longer to compensate, raising heating costs. In summer, concentrated heat in the attic radiates down into living spaces and overworks your A/C. Adding attic insulation of the right type and quantity makes a difference in indoor comfort and efficiency year-round. Here’s why blown-in is often the best choice.

adding attic insulationSuperior Coverage

Fiberglass batts roll out between ceiling joists and must be cut and patched in an attempt to fill the many odd-shaped nooks and crannies in a typical attic. Cellulose is a loose-fill product composed of millions of bits of pulverized paper treated with fire retardant. Blown into your attic under air pressure, cellulose effectively fills every void of any shape, large or small, for comprehensive coverage to fully inhibit heat transfer. Once installed, cellulose has the coverage density and appearance of a layer of new-fallen snow.

Greater Resistance

The efficiency of an insulating material is rated by its R value. “R” stands for resistance and the numeral assigned indicates the material’s effectiveness at inhibiting heat transfer. Fiberglass insulation has an R value averaging 3.2 per inch of depth. Cellulose offers an R value of 3.8 per inch—a significant improvement indicating greater heat resistance than fiberglass.

Reduced Air Leakage

No form of insulation is an adequate replacement for proper air sealing to prevent air leakage. However, a layer of cellulose does slow air moving in and out of the attic, while fiberglass insulation has no effect at all.

Green Benefits

Fiberglass insulation is made from new raw materials. High-temperature gas-fired furnaces are required to melt and spin the mineral fibers into the finished product. Cellulose is 75 percent recycled paper and cloth and the manufacturing process is far less energy-intensive.

Thinking about adding attic insulation to increase energy efficiency and indoor comfort? Contact the professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


Just How Much is Your Old Water Heater Costing You?

With the new standards of energy efficiency in water heaters these days, you may actually not be saving money by waiting to replace your old water heater. Old water heaters are much less energy efficient, both because they are aging and because standards were lower back then, which could mean more money you’re paying each month in energy costs compared to a newer heater.

old water heaterIt’s generally accepted that most water heaters last an average of about 13 years. If yours is anywhere close to that, it probably uses a lot more energy than modern water heaters. Ten years ago, hot water accounted for about a quarter of the typical home’s energy use; today, with more efficient heaters, it’s only about 18 percent. Therefore, anyone with a water heater that is seven or more years old will probably save money in the long run by replacing the water heater with a newer, more efficient model.

If getting a new water heater isn’t an option for you, there are other ways to make your old one more efficient and save you a little money on heating costs. Here are a few more ways you can enjoy water heating savings.

  • Have heat traps installed. If it doesn’t already have them, heat traps on your tank could reduce your bill by as much as $15 to $30.
  • Invest in low-flow faucets and shower heads. Anything pre-1992 lets too much water through. By having new low-flow faucets installed, you could actually save up to 60% on your water bill, in addition to the energy savings associated with using less hot water.
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate. Having everything insulated, from the hot water tank itself to the pipes that carry the hot water out of the heater, can help cut costs by preserving the heat in both the tank and the pipes.

Do you want to save money and feel good about helping the environment at the same time? Contact Cincinnati-based Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more information about how replacing your water heater can help you cut energy costs.


Which Energy Saving Upgrades Give You the Most Bang For Your Buck?

Finding ways to save money isn’t usually an easy feat. There are some costs that are simply unavoidable, particularly when it comes to the operations of your home. That said, there are also a lot of ways that energy-efficiency upgrades can help you get a little more bang for your buck.

energy saving tipsHere are our top picks for energy-efficiency upgrades that are well worth their investments:

  • Air Sealing & Insulation. Removing the gaps and holes where air seep into and out of the house will help keep your home safe from humid Cincinnati summers and frigid Midwestern winters. Money‘s article “The Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money” explains how reinforcing the outside layers of your home can lead to even greater savings down the line when it’s time to purchase a new boiler unit or air conditioning system.
  • Programmable Thermostats. Many of the homes in our beautiful Queen City were built many years ago. If you have a house with a little bit of age on it, you might be missing out on easy savings by not cashing in on upgraded technology. You may be able to save up to 10% by installing a modern thermostat that can take care of temperatures whether you are at home or not.
  • Low-Flow Features. You might be surprised about how much water is potentially wasted in your home just by doing every day things like flushing the toilet. Installing low-flow faucets and toilets in your home can help you achieve significant annual savings on your water bill, and when tax time rolls around, you may find that these easy upgrades make you eligible for the government’s ENERGY STAR rebates.
  • New Heating & Cooling Systems. Sometimes, it is simply time for the big investment. If you need a new heating or cooling system, the right investment should keep your house happy and efficient for many years to come.

Would you like to know which energy-efficiency upgrades would be the best investments for your home? Call our team at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing today to schedule your home’s energy audit.