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Tag Archives: heatwave

School’s Out: Here Come the Kids of Summer

Parents, get ready, for they are coming.

Best summer tip: throw cranky children in water. Photo: Royal Pools, 2015

Best summer tip: throw cranky children in water. Photo: Royal Pools, 2015

Remember last September? Just after Labor Day, you sent them off with new lunchboxes, pointy pencils and extra-long pants. The classrooms unto which they were delivered smelled of fresh paint. They cried a little, and so did you. You went home to an empty house and drank a well-deserved, oddly uninterrupted cup of coffee.

Well, parents…eight PTA meetings, seven slumber parties, four music recitals and one soccer tournament later, your precious bundles of joy are coming back. Continue reading “School’s Out: Here Come the Kids of Summer” »

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Diamond Certified Experts: Heating and Cooling System Tips

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Considering the complex nature of heating and cooling systems, it’s beneficial to know some maintenance basics. Photo: Innovative Mechanical, Inc. (2015)

Temperature regulation and air quality are key concerns in any indoor environment, which is why, in addition to keeping your home’s heating and cooling systems functional, you’ll want them working as efficiently as possible. We’ve asked five Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to share their tips on basic HVAC maintenance and troubleshooting.

1. Know the location of your furnace filter: Kim Haddon of Haddon Heating & Cooling
While routine furnace filter replacement is often neglected, for some, the problem starts with locating the filter in the first place. If you don’t know where your furnace filter is, there are a few common places to check, including the furnace blower compartment, an external compartment of the furnace, or a return air grill in either the ceiling or a nearby wall. Continue reading “Diamond Certified Experts: Heating and Cooling System Tips” »

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Maximizing Energy Efficiency with Attic Improvements

If you’re looking for an effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency, the best place to look is up. While steps like upgrading interior lighting or installing a “smart” thermostat can lower energy usage, an even more beneficial measure is to make improvements to your attic space. By augmenting attic insulation, air sealing and other related aspects, you can make a substantial impact on comfort and energy savings in your home.

One of the most effective ways to boost your home’s energy efficiency is to improve attic sealing and insulation. Photo: McHale’s Environmental Insulation, Inc. (2014)

One of the most effective ways to boost your home’s energy efficiency is to improve attic sealing and insulation. Photo: McHale’s Environmental Insulation, Inc. (2014)

1. Maximize attic insulation. One of the most basic yet effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to bring your attic insulation up to current standards. Over the years, building code changes have called for higher grades of insulation, which means if yours hasn’t been upgraded for a few decades, it’s probably under-performing. Continue reading “Maximizing Energy Efficiency with Attic Improvements” »

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Diamond Certified Experts: Maintenance to Increase Home Safety

An often-overlooked aspect of home safety is proactive maintenance of systems, appliances and other integral components. Photo: Carmen Miranda – Alain Pinel Realtors (2014)

An often-overlooked aspect of home safety is proactive maintenance of systems, appliances and other integral components. Photo: Carmen Miranda – Alain Pinel Realtors (2014)

Above all else, your home should be a safe place, which is why it’s important to stay up-to-date with changing safety code standards. However, while devices like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) provide protection from potential hazards, other aspects of home safety often go ignored or unnoticed. Continue reading “Diamond Certified Experts: Maintenance to Increase Home Safety” »

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5 Overlooked Aspects of Home Energy Efficiency

While making upgrades can enhance your home’s energy efficiency, it can be counterproductive if your existing appliances and systems aren’t operating at peak performance. To help consumers identify key problem areas, we asked five Diamond Certified Experts to weigh in on some of the most basic yet overlooked aspects of home energy efficiency.

Photo: D. Cook Construction (2014)

To maximize your home’s energy efficiency, it’s important to address commonly overlooked details. Photo: D. Cook Construction (2014)

1. Air sealing – Dustin Cook of D. Cook Construction
Air transmission is a major cause of home energy loss—it’s typically conducted through cracks, joints, and other gaps between the interior and exterior of a home. A simple way to address this is to fill in breaches with supplemental sealing agents like caulk and expansive foams. Continue reading “5 Overlooked Aspects of Home Energy Efficiency” »

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Improve the Efficiency of Your HVAC System

As much as half of the energy used in the average home goes to heating and cooling, so making smart decisions about your HVAC systems can have a measureable effect on both your comfort and utility bills. To increase the efficiency of your heating or air conditioning system, consider the following tips:

Annual tune-up
Just like a car, your HVAC system needs to be professionally maintained at least once a year in order to operate as efficiently as possible. Have an HVAC contractor conduct a maintenance test before the peak heating and cooling seasons begin. If you don’t know which elements to address, Energy Star’s website has a “HVAC Maintenance Checklist” that offers many useful suggestions. Continue reading “Improve the Efficiency of Your HVAC System” »

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Air Conditioning is So Expensive!

 Guest Expert Michael McCutcheon, owner of McCutcheon Construction, tells us about less costly ways to cool your house on hot days.
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Air conditioning is still the best way to cool a building during hot weather, although in very dry climates, one can use evaporative coolers (“swamp coolers”) instead, which use the cooling effect of evaporating water. While they consume some water, they use less energy. They also don’t reduce humidity, and don’t work in humid climate zones since the evaporative effect is so much less in a humid atmosphere.

Presuming you’re in the mixed climate of the Bay Area and need Air Conditioning (as opposed to evaporative cooling), as with any energy device, the first thing to do to lower the cost is to reduce the load. In this case, just as with heat loss in winter, insulation and weather-stripping are key. Adding insulation to your attic will be a big help. Another suggestion is to use a light colored, reflective roof (a “cool” roof). This will reduce the amount of heat rays that penetrate into your home. Alternatively, you can install a radiant barrier, which is a reflective layer under your roof. This reflective layer bounces back the infrared rays to keep your attic and home cooler.

Another good idea is to install double pane windows with Low-E glass. This Low-E glass has a coating (a “low emissivity” coating), which reduces the passage of heat rays (infra-red) while allowing most of the visible light to pass through. If replacing the windows is too expensive, try having window coatings installed. Low-E films applied to the inside of your glass reflect a certain amount of the heat away. However, our experience is that double pane windows (combined with a well-sealed, insulating wood frame) with the Low-E glass are considerably more effective than applied films on single pane glass.

Again, just as with heating loss for winter, make sure your house is well sealed against air leakage. You can have your house tested for leaks by a Home Performance Contractor who will use a Blower Door to measure the amount of air leaking from your home. The less air leakage the better, and you can use sealants, caulking, weather-stripping, etc. to plug any leaks you may have.

Once you’ve done all the load reduction you can, it’s time to take a look at your AC unit. Ideally, it’s Energy Star labeled and is at least 14 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which means you’ll use less electricity to run the unit. Make sure it’s been serviced recently, and ask the service provider what the efficiency rating is. If your unit isn’t up to snuff, consider upgrading to a more efficient one.

Finally, I suggest you try to locate the condensing unit to a shady spot around your home if possible. Often I see the condensers sitting on the roof or baking on the West or South side of homes, which means they have to work that much harder to cool the home. Best to put them in the shade—North or East.

These ideas can help you stay cool, save money, and help the planet, all in one stroke.

 

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