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10 Ways to Be More Energy Efficient at Home

We all want to save money while helping the environment, and one simple way to do that is to scrutinize your energy usage at home. Here are 10 easy, low-cost tips for making your house operate more efficiently.

1. Insulate the water heater.

Older natural gas storage water heaters can lose a lot of heat through their walls. Wrapping a heater in an insulating jacket can prevent excess heat loss and energy waste, but should be left to a professional installer so as not to accidentally cover the top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment.

2. Seal leaks with weatherstripping.

Air sealing, specifically weatherstripping, eliminates drafts to save energy while improving air quality and comfort. Weatherstripping reduces air leakage by creating a tight seal between movable components such as doors and windows. Before application, detect air leaks and assess the ventilation. Find air leaks through a blower door test from a qualified technician, or by inspecting inside and outside the home.

3. Insulate water pipes. 

Insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and keep the water from cooling off before it reaches the tap. Adding insulation also will prevent cold water pipes from freezing.

4. Replace or clean the furnace filter. 

Change the heating system’s furnace air filter on a regular basis to keep air flowing without overworking equipment. This also keeps out dust and dirt that can lead to expensive repairs or early system failure. A clean furnace filter can lower natural gas consumption by up to 2 percent.

5. Use less hot water.

Reducing hot water use is an easy, affordable way to see significant savings on energy and water bills. Run the automatic dishwasher only when full, and wash and rinse full loads of laundry in cold water. Install low-flow showerheads, and don’t forget to check for and repair plumbing leaks.

6. Use ceiling fans. 

Save on heating costs by using an ENERGY STAR® certified ceiling fan, which helps warm air circulate better and allows for setting the furnace temperature lower.

7. Install a programmable or smart thermostat. 

Programmable and smart thermostats can lower heating expenses and fit any lifestyle. Set the thermostat at 68 F, and then program it to decrease the temperature 8 degrees when no one is home and overnight. Smart thermostats are similar to programmable thermostats, but they also perform more advanced functions. A smart thermostat allows you to monitor and control the temperature in your home remotely from your smartphone or other web-enabled device.

8. Look for ENERGY STAR. 

If purchasing a new appliance, make it an ENERGY STAR rated appliance. For instance, an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses less energy than a regular 75-watt light bulb.

9. Lower the water heater thermostat. 

Set your water heater thermostat to 120 F to save energy and money. For most homeowners, storage water heaters set above 120 F are simply using more energy without providing any additional benefits. One set to even 140 F can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat loss, and more than $400 in demand loss. Be sure to turn down the water heater when going on vacation to avoid energy waste.

10. Be smart with the fireplace.

Open-hearth fireplaces draw heated air from inside the home, sending it up the chimney. When using the fireplace, install a snug-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a nearby window. Doing so reduces the amount of heated interior air drawn into the fireplace and improves efficiency by up to 20 percent.

 

Source: Peoples Gas

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2017. All rights reserved.

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Creative Ways to Streamline Your Home with Hidden Power Outlets

By Rebecca Bradshaw

From kitchen appliances that can cook a gourmet meal with the click of a button, to computers that control everything from recording your favorite TV show to automatically adjusting the thermostat, our homes are more tech savvy than ever before.

Along with all of those gadgets and systems, however, comes a multitude of cords and plugs necessary to keep them all operating. Rather than crowding walls with unsightly sockets, here are some creative ways to streamline your home with hidden power outlets.

Kitchen:

With all the interest in cooking these days, most kitchens are filled with an abundance of small appliances just waiting to be used.  The plethora of necessary power outlets, however, can make even the sleekest kitchen look cluttered. Hiding sockets behind false drawer fronts on kitchen islands, or mounted between the lip of the countertop and lower cabinets are just two design options to streamline the space, as is tucking multiple sockets behind a pull-down backsplash. If a hinged backsplash isn’t possible, keep outlets out of sight by having them installed in molds mounted beneath upper kitchen cupboards.

Home office:

Hiding computer cables and wires has long been a key aspect of achieving a streamlined workspace; interior designers are now finding clever ways to hide electrical outlets. Regardless of your furniture style, desks, credenzas, and filing cabinets are being manufactured with built-in outlets that are either tucked away in drawers or behind false fronts. Sliding baseboards that cover outlets when not in use will keep your office looking sleek, or opt for an innovative, pop-up power strip. Built into desks or other furniture, the retractable towers neatly recede out of sight when not in use. Pop-up towers are a great option for busy kitchens as well.

Bathroom:

Much like kitchens, bathrooms require several power outlets to accommodate all of our electronic gadgets.  Streamline your bathroom’s look by hiding sockets for electric razors and the like behind levered tiles, or inserted into molds under medicine cabinets and mirrors.  For clever, at your fingertip ease, install outlets for your hair dryer or curling iron into the back of the same drawer where you store them. Tucking sockets inside a cupboard or storage closet also works well. For safety’s sake, be sure that power outlets in both bathrooms and kitchens are grounded, and are at least a yard away from faucets or anywhere that water might splash.

Other rooms:

One way to hide power outlets from plain view doesn’t involve secreting them away at all. Paint outlet faces the same color as the walls, or cover with matching wallpaper to make them less obvious to the eye. This can be especially effective on an accent wall, where colors or patterns are typically dark or bold. Some new home builds are installing electrical boxes in a way that allows outlets to sit flush to walls, all but disappearing when painted. Or, for truly clever camouflage, sockets can be incorporated into wall hangings or other pieces of art.

 

Sources: Houzz, This Old House, odee.com, Architectural Digest

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Everything You Need to Know About Finishing Your Basement

By Rachel Cronin

Finishing your basement is a great way to utilize space and add value to your home. No matter how much or little work your basement needs, there are multiple steps that should be taken in order to transform your basement. From formulating a floor plan to making final decoration touches, you will need to plan carefully before diving into this rewarding experience.

Make a Plan

The first step in finishing your basement is to decide what you would like for it to include. Whether creating multiple rooms in the basement or having a simple open area, you will want to have plenty of light. Having a well-lit basement makes the area feel less like a cave and more like a home. If your basement does not have enough natural light coming in, consider adding additional windows. Discuss all of your basement needs with architects in the area to formulate floor plan ideas. Once you have found an architect and floor plan that you would like to move forward with, your architect will reach out to the city to obtain a construction permit. Once you have received a construction permit, you may move forward with the construction process.

Hire Additional Specialists

After your floor plan has been created and approved, you will need to find a carpenter to begin constructing your basement. The carpenter will follow the architectural plan then leave walls open temporarily for any specialized additions, such as electricity, gas, or plumbing. If you are requiring any of these additions to your basement, then it’s time to find licensed specialists in these areas. Hiring licensed specialists is essential to not only ensure that the job is done correctly, but that it is also done legally. These specialists will review the floor plan that your architect has created and will build upon that plan. Once their plans have been created, they too will need to acquire a permit before moving forward. After the tasks have been completed, the specialists will need to have inspectors from the city come and examine the work to ensure that everything is up to code. If all of the inspections pass, the carpenter can then come back and cover the walls with drywall and complete any remaining carpentry work.

Choose Flooring

Implementing floor covering in your basement is a major transitioning factor in the finishing process. While carpeting your basement is a viable option, stretching the carpet over a cement floor is surprisingly difficult, and can frequently lead to the carpet loosening from the foundation. A more sturdy and simple solution to flooring is gluing tile or laminate to the unfinished floor. If you would like to have some carpeted areas but decide against wall-to-wall carpeting, a simple option is to pick area rugs to place strategically throughout the basement.

Paint and Decorate

Choose paint and decorations that are flattering to the plan that you’ve chosen. If you have difficulty making these decisions, you can also hire painters and interior decorators for expert advice. Fortunately, this step in the finishing process does not require licenses or permits to complete. After you have made your final touches, you and your basement are finished!

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