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Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Building Services Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter Energy saving tips.

The strategies below will help you save energy, save money, and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

Take Advantage of Heat from the Sun

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Cover Drafty Windows

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

Adjust the Temperature

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

Find and Seal Leaks

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Maintain Your Heating Systems

  • Furnaces and heat pumps: Replace your filter once a month or as needed.
  • Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.

Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly--approximately 1 inch--and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
  • Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower Your Water Heating Costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.

Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter Save money on your wateer bill.

What is wastewater averaging?

Wastewater averaging is the practice of estimating the amount of wastewater discharged from your home into the city’s sanitary sewer system. It is essentially a cap on the volume of wastewater you will be billed for each month for the next year. This practice goes by a variety of names including average winter consumption, wastewater winter averaging, winter averaging, winter quarterly average, or winter period average.

Check with your local utility company to see how they handle your wastewater charges. Some utilities don’t want to mess with all these calculations, so they charge a flat, monthly wastewater fee.

Your water utility uses a wastewater average because they can’t measure the actual amount of wastewater discharged from your home. The best way to measure the wastewater discharge is to use your water meter to measure your monthly water use and then estimate the amount of wastewater that could be returning to the city sewers.

Shouldn’t water flow IN be equal to water flow OUT?

Well, in the winter time, it generally does, but during the rest of the year, it doesn’t since you could be using water outdoors. The water you sprinkle on your lawn doesn’t go to the city sewers. Therefore, the wastewater averaging period typically happens during the winter months when there should be little to no outdoor water use.

Typically, a multiple month average during the late fall and winter months is used rather than picking one month during the year. This averaging is more fair just in case you have a higher water use during a single month. If you use more water than your wastewater average, then it is assumed that this additional water has been used outdoors and will not be returned back to the city’s sewers for processing and treatment. Therefore, you are not charged for this water usage on your wastewater bill. Conversely, if you use less water during a month than your wastewater average, then your wastewater charge should equal only the actual amount of water used that month.

Why is this so important?

Generally, the cost of wastewater is higher than the cost of potable water. Due to the nature of wastewater, you can imagine it would be more expensive to treat before being released back into environment. In order to achieve these savings throughout the year though, you have to reduce your water use during your wastewater averaging period.

Conserving water in the winter = Saving money all year long

Using less water during the wastewater averaging period will result in a corresponding lower wastewater bill throughout the entire year.  Here are ways to reduce your winter time water use and consequently your monthly wastewater bill:

  • Fix all leaky fixtures – This one is a mundane tip but leaks are a major culprit of unintentional water use in our homes.
  • Shower at your gym – Not only will this conserve water at your home but it could also get your New Year’s resolution to lose weight started early.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – This one is easy.
  • Turn off your irrigation system – Your landscaping probably won’t need water during the winter months since the plants will be dormant.
  • Insulate hot water pipes – Since the cold weather is coming, this is a perfect time to insulate any exposed hot water pipes for more immediate hot water at the faucet. You’ll save some energy as well.

Safety Tips for Property Managers

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Safety Tips for Property Managers Commercial property for rent.

Almost every day there is a report involving landlord-tenant violence or crime. Despite this, I’ve seen very little discussion of safety for property managers and landlords, who not only host open houses, but also deal with tenant complaints, collect rents, and process evictions–all of which can involve irate and emotional renters.

Here are four tips from various landlord and property manager resources to get the conversation started:

Don’t give out your home address. Instead have rent checks sent to a P.O. box, placed in an on-site drop box, or deposited electronically. Although it can be easy to get someone’s home address these days, if an irate tenant who has just received an eviction notice has to spend a couple of hours looking, it might give him or her a chance to cool off.

Consistently follow a screening process. When selecting tenants review applications for consistency and consider checking criminal records. Require references and call present and previous landlords. Use a reverse look-up service as an applicant may give you a phone number for someone who is pretending to be an ex-landlord. Also, check identification carefully, as some applicants may pretend to be someone they’re not.

Program emergency numbers on your phone. If you need emergency assistance, the ability to press a single button on your list of “favorites” will save you time and prevent you from making dialing errors, which can happen if you’re in a panic.

Know who you’re showing rental property to. Before you show your rental home have a formal meeting in a public place or your business office with the potential renter. Have him or her show at least two forms of ID and fill out a contact information form or rental agreement. Criminals tend to look for easy victims, and if you make the process more formal and require them to work a little, they may look elsewhere for trouble.

Prevent Mold in the Winter

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation Prevent Mold in the Winter Mold growth on a wall.

The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.

Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. When large amounts of spores grow, one’s health may be compromised. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.

Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong. We’ve put together a few tips on how you can help thwart mold from infesting your home that are efficient and realistic:

General Home and Building Maintenance:

  • Keep all areas clean.
  • Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
  • Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
  • Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
  • Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
  • One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
  • If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
  • Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
  • Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.

Be Prepared if You're in a Flood Zone

1/10/2018 (Permalink)

When a Flood is Imminent

  • Be prepared! Pack a bag with important items in case you need to evacuate. Don't forget to include needed medications.
  • If advised to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
  • If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
  • If possible, bring in outdoor furniture and move essential items to an upper floor.
  • Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances.

During a Flood

  • Do not walk through moving water. As little as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of moving water can make you fall.
  • If you have to walk in water, wherever possible, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

After a Flood

  • Listen for news reports to learn whether the community's water supply is safe to drink.
  • Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
  • Avoid moving water.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
  • Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.

Fall Fire Safety Tips

1/10/2018 (Permalink)

Winterizing a home is an important step in the fall. Clearing water from sprinkler systems, getting the furnace fixed, repairing damaged windows, and other things like this help to keep a home running through the winter months. But many people don't realize that homes are at a greater risk of fire in the winter months. Fall fire safety tips can help home owners prepare their home and protect their families.

These types of tips are usually based around common sense. One tip is to change the battery in smoke detectors when they change their clocks during Daylight Savings. Changing the batteries every six months prevents detectors from going dead. Another suggestion is to clean the chimney. Creosote is a deposit from smoke that can build up in a chimney. If it gets too thick, it can start on fire and destroy the house. It is recommended to clean the chimney each year before using the fireplace. Space heaters can also be a fire hazard, and it is recommended to create a safe area around the heater. Any furniture should be at least three feet away.

Another tip involves creating a defensible space around the house, to protect from nearby fires. Trees should be a minimum of 30 feet away from the house and branches and leaves should be cleaned up to limit fuel for a fire. These safety points even help homeowners prepare for holidays. Homeowners are encouraged to use battery powered lights in Halloween Jack o'Lanterns to prevent accidents. Christmas tree lights should also be inspected before use and monitored carefully, especially on real trees.

Fall Maintenance for Commercial Property

1/10/2018 (Permalink)

Gather round the hearth. Even if you use your fireplace only occasionally, you should check it annually for damage and hazards.

Inspect your flue for creosote. Creosote is a flammable by-product of burning wood. If it accumulates in a flue or chimney, the result can be a devastating fire. Have your chimney inspected annually for creosote buildup. If you use a fireplace or wood stove frequently, have the flue inspected after each cord of wood burned.

For most people, the best option is to have your entire chimney system inspected by a chimney sweep. Once you know what to look for, you can perform the inspection by shining a bright flashlight up the flue, looking for any deposits approaching 1/8 inch thick. These deposits should be cleaned by an experienced chimney sweep.

Look for flue blockages. Birds love to nest at the top of an unprotected flue. A chimney cap can prevent this from happening. If you don't have a cap, look up the flu to ensure that there are no obstructions.

Exercise the damper. The damper is the metal plate that opens and closes the flu just above the firebox. Move it to the open and closed positions to ensure that it is working properly.

Check your chimney for damage. Make certain that the flue cap (the screen or baffle covering the top of the chimney) is in place. Inspect brick chimneys for loose or broken joints. If access is a problem, use binoculars.

Keep the humidifier humming. You may know that bone dry winter air is bad for your health, but did you also know it can make fine wood more prone to cracking? You and your home will feel more comfortable if you keep your central humidifier in tip-top shape during the months it is running.

Here's how: First, inspect the plates or pads, and if necessary, clean them in a strong laundry detergent solution. Rinse and scrape off mineral deposits with a wire brush or steel wool.

Head-off gas problems. Keeping a gas heater in good shape is both a safety and a cost issue. An improperly maintained heater may simply be costing you more to operate. Have a professional check these devices annually. There are also some maintenance items you should address.

Here's how: First, shut off the heater. Then check the air-shutter openings and exhaust vents for dirt and dust. If they are dirty, vacuum the air passages to the burner and clean the burner of lint and dirt. Follow the manufacturer's advice for any other needed maintenance.

Click here for more information: http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/maintenance/weatherizing/your-homes-fall-checklist/

Christmas Tree Fires: 5 Simple Tips to Avoid Danger

1/10/2018 (Permalink)

Most house fires happen during the holidays and Christmas trees are one of the most common reasons. Christmas trees looks so elegant with the strings of lights and an electric tree topper of some kind. When Christmas trees burn, many go up in flames in seconds. Here are 5 safety tips to avoid tree fires:

  1. Water your tree every day or at least every other day.
  2. Keep your tree away from any heating elements like a portable space heater or a radiator.
  3. Check your tree lights to make sure they are not frayed or damaged.
  4. Make sure all electrical items are plugged into a surge protector as an extra precaution.
  5. Make an escape plan for your family so you are prepared in case of emergencies.

5 Ways to Engage with the American Red Cross

1/9/2018 (Permalink)

1.   EDUCATE yourself and your community

The American Red Cross serves our partners best when we successfully encourage them to embrace preparedness and resiliency education with their local Red Cross chapters. Opportunities such as making use of and promoting the Ready Rating program, hosting educational Lunch & Learns to focus on regional and local preparedness topics, and taking preparedness courses such as CPR, First Aid, and AED education for professionals are some of the best ways to use the American Red Cross to stay educated.

2.   Donate your valuable TIME &TALENT

The American Red Cross responds to hundreds of humanitarian and disaster response needs each and every day, but we can’t do it alone. Volunteering your time and talents with the American Red Cross not only means helping others within your community, it means helping others across the world by joining the millions of volunteers worldwide that make up the global Red Cross network. We are always looking for people with various backgrounds, talents, and skill levels including opportunities for Board or Committee membership. 

3.   Play a key role as our ADVOCATE

Support your local Red Cross chapter network in making introductions to community leaders and businesses to begin conversations about new partnerships, promoting volunteer opportunities and helping us build a network of supporters.  We encourage our partners to make a connection at their local Red Cross chapter to meet with chapter leaders and to get localized promotional materials and tools to share with leaders and businesses. 

4.   Give the gift of LIFE 

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, and there’s only one source—generous blood donors. When you host an on-site blood drive or encourage your employees to donate at a nearby drive*, you’re able to deliver a one of a kind message to employees and the community—you literally save lives each and every day. *The American Red Cross provides 44% of the nation’s blood supply, but unfortunately, Red Cross blood donation is not available in every community nationwide. 

5.   Help SUPPORT our heroes

Show your support for military heroes by learning more about the American Red Cross’ Services to the Armed Forces and especially during the holiday season. Today, the Red Cross is meeting the needs of a changing military and expanding services to veterans through connection resources, resiliency training, military hospital support services and our own Holiday Mail for Heroes program.  Your employees can do their part by learning more about the American Red Cross mission, volunteering, and by signing greeting cards with messages of appreciation and support during the holidays. The Red Cross will hand deliver each of these heartfelt expressions to enlisted men and women, veterans and their families around the world.

Please visit: http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/support-military-families to learn more about how you can become involved with our military support programs.

Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Community Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
  • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
  • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.
  • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
  • Set ice maker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

  • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.
  • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
  • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
  • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
  • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers. 
  • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
  • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
  • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
  • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
  • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

  • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
  • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
  • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
  • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
  • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
  • Drain birdbaths and fountains
  • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
  • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
  • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.