Thursday, January 29, 2015

Affairs of the Heart

We LOVE February because it brings chocolates, roses, sentimental Valentine's cards and candlelit dinners. In this flurry of romance, let’s not forget that it is also American Heart Month. The Energy Experts might not be able to make any romantic suggestions for Valentine’s Day, but they do have some important information about Indoor Air Quality and keeping your heart healthy. 

Heart Health and Air Pollution

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Most of us are aware of the exercise and dietary guidelines for heart health, but a less publicized danger is air pollution. Surprisingly, air pollution is often far worse indoors than outdoors. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the average American spends nearly 90% of their time indoors. Obviously, none of us can single-handedly stop air pollution, but each of us can take steps to improve the Indoor Air Quality in our homes.

Take Heart by Improving Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

  • Ventilation: Is it a surprise that the air inside our homes can be up to five times as polluted as the air outdoors? Lack of ventilation keeps polluted air trapped inside your home if there isn’t adequate ventilation. Circulate air by opening a window; using window or attic fans; and running the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Control Humidity: Moist conditions are ideal for mildew, mold growth and dust mites. Keep humidity levels between 30% and 50%. Monitor levels with a humidity gauge. Humidity can be increased when cooking and showering. Lower the humidity by simply opening a window, as long as it is drier outside. Otherwise, use exhaust fans, dehumidifiers or air conditioners in the summer.
  • Weatherization: Most homeowners are energy aware due to the costs of energy. Yet in their efforts to conserve energy, some homeowners end up with homes that are too tightly sealed. Again, this lack of ventilation keeps polluted air trapped inside. Have an energy professional test your home’s air exchange rates and compare it to recommended levels.
  • Radon Testing: According to the E.P.A. radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is a naturally occurring, odor-less radioactive gas that enters homes via cracks in the foundation floor, walls and drains. Nearly 1 in every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have highly elevated radon levels. Testing and remediation are not necessarily expensive. Play it safe and have your home tested for radon today.
  • Minimize Household Pollutants: Unfortunately, a lot of consumer goods generate pollution. This includes cleaning products, pesticides, house paint plus off-gassing from furniture, carpets, cabinetry and flooring. When making purchases for your home, look for non-toxic and low-VOC products. And don’t even think about smoking indoors. Secondhand tobacco smoke is a major indoor air pollutant.
  • Combustion Pollutants: Furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters and fuel burning stoves that use gas, oil, wood, coal or other fuels can emit odorless carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide gases. Have combustion appliances installed and maintained by professionals. Also, be sure to install a CO monitor in your home.
  • Green It Up: NASA has one word for us – houseplants! NASA spent years testing air filtration in space facilities and discovered that houseplants actually purify the air by filtering out common VOCs. Add some plants to you home and improve your Indoor Air Quality with a splash of color. NASA particularly recommends the air filtering abilities of the following houseplants: Aloe Vera; Spider Plant; Gerber Daisy; Snake plant; Chrysanthemum; Dracaena; and Chinese Evergreen amongst others.

For further information on Indoor Air Quality, see these articles from Pro Energy Consultants:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Here’s a Great New Year’s Resolution: Save Energy! Save the Environment! Save Money!

The beginning of the year is the ideal time to create a list of goals, plans and resolutions. These lists often include life-improving strategies such as establishing a new fitness regime; committing to a post-holiday diet; de-cluttering your home; knuckling down with a new financial plan; volunteering in the community; and spending more time with the family.

In addition to all of these worthwhile resolutions, have you considered adding energy efficiency to the list? You can’t go wrong by making a resolution based on The Energy Experts’ personal and professional motto: Save Energy. Save the Environment. Save Money

If you take even small energy saving steps throughout the year, you can reap the rewards of cost savings, a more comfortable home and a positive environmental commitment. In fact, saving energy is probably easier than your new exercise regime!

Here are some relatively easy steps that will get you on the path to your energy saving goal:

  • Install a programmable thermostat that will efficiently manage your home’s heating and cooling systems while saving up to 10% on energy costs per year. Remember to keep doors and windows closed when heating or cooling your home.
  • Schedule regular maintenance for your furnace and air conditioner. Don’t waste money on heating and cooling if your systems haven't been properly cleaned and serviced.
  • Even with air conditioning, fans can be an effective way to circulate cool air during the hot summer months.
  • Properly insulate and seal air leaks to ensure that you aren’t compromising your efficiency. Reduce energy waste and save up to 20% on your utility bills while increasing home’s comfort level.
  • Use your windows shades to save energy. This is another incredibly simple action that can really help conserve energy. Close the blinds on the sunny side of your house during the summer and open the blinds in the winter to allow more sunlight.
  • Buy Energy Star certified products such as home appliances, electronics and light bulbs. These products are easily identified by the Energy Star label that indicates the product adheres to efficiency guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Refrigerators use can use a lot energy. If you have an aging frig in the basement that stores extra beer and soft drinks, it’s an energy hog that is wasting a lot of money and energy. Recycle that old frig and replace it with an Energy Star model that can save you up to $300 per year.
  • Switch to energy efficient lighting and save nearly $100 per year. Energy Star certified bulbs use about 80% less energy than traditional bulbs. LEDs are the highest rated energy saving bulbs plus they last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
  • Use power strips for your home electronics such as TVs, DVD players and computers. Turn off the power strip and this prevents “vampire” energy drains from equipment that isn’t in use.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and use the energy saving setting. Also, only run the washing machine when the load is full and use the cold water setting.
  • Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to conserve water and save on your water bills. Lower the thermostat on your water heat to 130 degrees F to save on energy costs.

The Energy Experts recommend the following Blog posts for additional energy saving suggestions.