energy efficiency Category
Fireplace installation isn’t as common in new home construction as they once were. However, the aesthetic appeal of a fireplace as well as as source of winter warmth holds an attraction for many. As a result, adding a fireplace is still a popular option with homeowners. To decide whether adding a fireplace is a good choice for your home, it’s necessary to consider a few important factors before you commit to the project. Here are some issues you’ll need to clarify first.
- Is the project feasible? Building codes may impose restrictions that make the addition problematic or prohibitively expensive. The height of the chimney may be strictly regulated and other details such as the firebox and flue may not fit your home’s existing construction. Further, local regulations may curtail the amount of smoke you’re allowed to emit.
- What about costs? Whether you choose a wood-burning or natural gas fireplace, the initial price will include the wood-burning firebox or factory-built gas/propane unit. The cost of adapting the existing structure for addition of a chimney, then framing and installing the chimney, as well as adding an interior mantle pushes the total much higher. You can cut that cost by opting for a fireplace that vents horizontally through the wall—known as direct venting—eliminating the expense of chimney installation.
- Does it add value? Some of your fireplace installation investment may be recouped via a higher property value. Although fireplaces are less often included in new construction, surveys show that a substantial majority of prospective home buyers still consider a fireplace to be a market value enhancement. However, other priorities today typically inspire higher market value than a fireplace.
- Will it reduce energy efficiency? To feed combustion, a roaring fire actually pulls warm indoor air out of the home, then sends the heat up the chimney, often increasing heating energy use. Costly thermal loss can be nearly eliminated, however, by installing a sealed unit that utilizes outdoor air for combustion as well as direct venting instead of a chimney.
For more about the pros and cons of adding a fireplace, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Back-to-school energy savings can be a good opportunity to recoup some of those higher summer costs. There’s no doubt that this time of year is a more moderate energy season here in Ohio. As the daily hours of air conditioning use—a major electrical consumer in most households—began to drop, you’ll get a break in monthly utility bills. Later in the fall, as cooler weather arrives, heating expenses begin to come into the picture. But for right now, back-to-school energy savings can provide welcome relief from the summer’s higher bills. Here are some ways to take maximum advantage of the season.
Change The Filter
Don’t go into the new season with an HVAC air filter that’s clogged from long days of summer air conditioner operation. In most central systems, the air conditioner and furnace utilize the same filter. Low airflow due to an obstructed filter can cause both cooling and heating costs to climb drastically, as well as decreasing system performance. Change the filter now and check it monthly as the heating season arrives, changing it at least every other month.
Adjust Thermostat Schedule
If your thermostat is still operating on summer schedules, it may be running the system more hours per day than necessary. Usually, back-to-school means the house is less occupied during daylight hours and so doesn’t require the extended summer schedule for air conditioning. Also, as cooler outdoor weather begins to arrive, you’ll be able to bump up temperature settings a few degrees without affecting indoor comfort. For every degree you increase the thermostat setting, you can reduce A/C expenses by up to 4%.
Get Annual Preventive Maintenance
This transitional period is the time to schedule an annual system check-up by a qualified HVAC technician. The process includes a complete inspection as well as a list of manufacturer-recommended maintenance procedures that sustain optimum energy efficiency and lower operating costs during the coming months, as well as ensuring reliable operation.
Ask the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing about more ways to maximize back-to-school energy savings.
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Increase 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.