Archive for January, 2014

Heat & Cool Efficiently

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. So making smart decisions about your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills — and your comfort. Take these steps to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. For more information, see the Guide to Energy Efficient Heating & Cooling PDF (708KB).

Change your air filter regularly

Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly

Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. Learn more:

Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs.

Seal your heating and cooling ducts

Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.

Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, look to seal any other ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.  See the Duct Sealing brochure PDF (1.13MB) for more information. 

Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment

If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, have it evaluated by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. Depending on where you live, replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by nearly $200. But before you invest in a new HVAC system, make sure that you have addressed the big air leaks in your house and the duct system. Sometimes, these are the real sources of problems rather than your HVAC equipment.

Ask about Proper Installation of your new equipment

Replacing your old heating and cooling equipment with new, energy-efficient models is a great start. But to make sure that you get the best performance, the new equipment must be properly installed. In fact, improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent  costing you more on your utility bills and possibly shortening the equipment’s life. Learn more.

For help doing your heating/cooling system assessment or any questions please call us at (609) 654-2329 or email at

Wood Deck Safety

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Tips for Safe Outdoor Living

Summer, the season of outdoor living, is the time we often gather with friends and family outside to enjoy activities on our decks, patios and yards. We tend to entertain more often and with more people when the weather is warm. Moving our lives outside usually means frequent trips inside and out with food, beverages and other needed items. How safe is your path? With an estimated 40 million wooden decks and porches on our homes exposed to the deleterious effects of the elements 365 days a year, older structures should be checked for possible safety hazards that may cause slips, trips and falls.

● Have the stair treads become loose, cracked or split?
● Are the handrails sturdy and located on both sides of the stairs?
● Are safety rails and balustrades secure and spaced properly?
● Do you have “landing areas” near your doors to set down the items you’re carrying while you open the door?

According to the National Association of Home Builders, outdoor wooden structures such as decks and porches have a usual life span of 10-15 years. If your deck or porch is that old, have it checked by a qualified inspector or contractor to make sure the entire structure is safe for you and your guests.

Visiting friends may not be familiar with the “lay of the land” at your house. Take a walk around your yard and check for other possible problem areas. Driveways, walkways and patio surfaces should be level and even. Cracked or lifted concrete can cause someone to trip or fall. Although we enjoy longer daylight hours, walkways and steps should be well illuminated for evening use. Are there any level changes in your yard where you may have one or two steps down? These should be easy to notice by using contrasting materials or gates. Adding a short handrail can help visitors notice a level change.

Summer is a favorite time on our decks. Let’s make it as safe as we can for our family and visiting friends. For help doing your home safety assessment or any questions please call us at (609) 654-2329 or email at