It’s time to face the cruel fact that summer is behind us. The nights are getting cooler and your home needs to be ready to take on the changing season, both inside and out. So many seasonal lists focus on what to do outside a home before the seasons change, but here is a list of 3 sure-fire ways to keep the inside warm and cozy, even without a fireplace!
1) Do the Candle Test to find phantom air leaks. It’s simple. Light a candle and watch the flame as you do a quick perimeter check. Be sure to hit the obvious places like windows and doors. But also be sure you check out the area around any recessed lighting, a commonly overlooked spot for air leaks. If the flame is dancing (or worse, goes out!), you have an air leak on your hands. Relax! It’s nothing a bit of sealing can’t fix. For a list of best practices, click here.
2) Change Your HVAC Filter! Simply put, your home will feel more comfortable when you rid it of excess dust and dirt in the air. If you leave a dirty air filter in your HVAC, each time the heat kicks on it’s recirculating those particles through your vents and into your home. Make sure to replace it about every 3 months for the best results. Plus, check out the high-efficiency pleated filters that can help grab more from your air.
3) Save $75 by swapping out your light bulbs! If you’ve been hesitant to change out your bulbs for the more efficient counterparts, it’s time to take another look. LEDs can provide the same comfortable glow as the classic incandescents, but allow you to keep more money in your pocket. While the cost up front is still higher than the old incandescents, you’re getting more bang for your buck. Replacing just 5 of your most used light bulbs can yield $75 in annual savings. If you’re still in need of a crash course in new light bulb language, take a look at this article.
We are so lucky in the City of Seattle to be owners of wonderful older homes. We have such wonderful Craftsman, Mid Century Classic, and NW Contemporary styles of architecture. Along with the solidly built homes full of historic charm so carefully decorated and loved lies the evil money pit (cue the daunting music in minor chords). It actually resembles more of a sieve. Small and sometimes larger cracks, holes and circuitous routes so small the eye doesn’t even see the stealthy thieves. When the pressure from our forced air furnaces or the heat stack effect takes over during our cold winter nights, physics charms all the heat that good money and fossil fuels create as a by-product of combustion. It coaxes heat to find a way to escape our carefully locked-down fenestrations and into the wilds of the the outdoors.
In plainer language, the heat we pay so much to create leaves our homes too quickly around unintentional gaps in the inner walls of our homes and businesses. I recently was lucky to have Steve Hoffman, a contractor with Community Power Works, to my Phinney Ridge home to perform what is the state of the art energy audit.
This involves a large red piece of nylon fabric, some Velcro, an aluminum stretcher frame, a large box fan and a couple fancy electronics. In some ways the test is deceptively simple. My part of the work ended at cleaning the ashes out of my fireplace. I also locked up my indoor dog and cat for a couple of hours just so they wouldn’t escape during the test as there are times the front door is open.
As I suspected, indeed my chimney flue leaked, but I also learned the double pane windows I installed to save energy were a large source of heat loss around the factory assembled mullions and transoms. No surprise of course the 10 year old can lights in the kitchen were also a source of money escaping through the ceiling and into the attic. I learned of some cold spots in the walls I need to investigate more thoroughly and a few other surprises.
To top off the deal of the decade, the auditor went through the house and provided me with replacement low wattage compact fluorescent lights to replace the soon to be outlawed incandescent bulbs. I plan to see how far I can go with this program, so far I have $95 out of pocket expenses for a $400-600 assessment, and about $50 or more value in light bulbs.
Community Power Works is funded by a federal stimulus bill and won’t be around for much longer. I highly recommend seizing the moment. This deal is too good to be true! My plan is to install a mini-split heat pump with two heads, one for each floor of my home. Not only will it provide me an inexpensive source of electric heat, but will also provide me with something I haven’t experienced in the 25 years that I have lived in this home. . . . air conditioning! Of course Community Power Works will be there to help me with the rebates and incentives I can collect while saving myself money in the long run and increasing the value and comfort of my home. Sometimes it’s not too good to be true. Seattle, like Oz, really is the Emerald City and there is no man behind the curtain unless it’s the red door.
The PNA or the Phinney Neighborhood Association is holding it’s annual event again this coming Saturday. It’s a veritable mega-mall of kid gear, furniture, household items, recreational gear, gardening equipment, tools and things you may not even know what the heck they are. If you are the kind of person who enjoys the “hunt” this annual event might be right up your street. Many people pack comfy shoes, a hat and sunglasses, lots of one dollar bills and quarters and of course the garage sale map and descriptions. This year it’s on-line on a Google map and can be easily downloaded or stored on your smart-phone.
The PNA, as usual, does a great job organizing this Seattle neighborhood event and it draws people from all parts. To learn about the type of shoppers one might experience click on this link. If you live in Greenwood, Phinney, or West Green Lake, you are bound to run into your neighbors. Especially in nice weather, this sale brings out all kinds of people walking with wagons and carts in tow. There are people driving in trucks and cars filled to the headliners with baskets, stools, plants and what-nots. People drive down the street with one arm out the window holding especially large items on the roofs of the slow moving vehicles. If it sounds a little chaotic. . . . . it is.
Especially nice weather brings out the crowds, and the forecast is great. Want some cheap entertainment? Want to promote the lemonade stands of the next generation of entrepreneurs? Want to furnish your new studio apartment? Want to meet the neighbors? It’s all here in the Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods this Saturday May 19th .
Reed painting had an overwhelming response and has informed me that they reached their capacity on Saturday. You still can contact them if you can put the recycled paint to a good use. They plan on having another drive in the future or to look up another location where you can safely dispose of your unwanted paint you can find your answers on line.
This Saturday Oct 15th is the first day Reed Painting will be taking latex paint from homeowners for recycling and reusing. This local company is providing a valuable service as it allows us to recycle the paint that is in our basements, garages and sheds and know it to will be put to good use one again.
The organizers have asked me to pass on the following information:
“ Due to the overwhelming response so far it is estimated that the paint drive will not run the full week – people with donations are encouraged to come this Saturday. When we have reached capacity we will have to close the drive.”
“We do need to put the recycled paint to good use so we need people that are interested in taking some for community service projects or even individual projects. It will take some time to go through the paint but it will be available soon for use. We have donated to churches, schools, the Sheriff’s Dept for graffiti removal and artists for mural painting – to name a few.”
“ We are a painting company that specializes in residential interior and exterior painting, as well as cleaning services such as gutter cleaning, window washing, power washing and even holiday lighting.”
“Lastly, we are active in community service and strive to promote environmental conservation. We use NO and LOW VOC Paint and can use recycled paint at a customer’s request. The paint is high quality.”
The drop off site in located off Stone Way and Aurora roughly in the Wallingford and Fremont neighborhoods not too far from Green Lake. What a great public service these independent contractor is offering. To learn more about them and this paint drive you can contact them here.
Have an Old John spending too much time in your bathroom? Toss out that expensive no-good lout and find a more charming, less demanding and one that’s better with budgeting!
Dual Flush for even more efficiency
Most people don’t put much thought into the porcelain bowl in the bathroom, but something we take for granted can take up a large portion of our utility bills. The Saving Water Partnership is offering homeowners in a certain income bracket rebates to throw out the outdated 5 gallon guzzler for a more efficient one. In the City of Seattle we know that our home Combined Utilities bills keep going up, and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. For every dollar we spend on water, we will spend about two dollars more for the sewer charges. It’s as if we use one gallon of water and pay for three. This is a great opportunity to make the switch and perhaps even upgrade to a nicer toilet. Many functional commodes are well under $80.00, and of course there are plenty well beyond the price range that will add beauty to any bathroom.
Are you resistant change because of an experience with a so-called low-flow toilet a decade or two ago? Well, they have figured out the physics since then, and quite often one might find the new toilets work much better than the old ones. They operate just fine with gravity now and don’t need to sound like a Lear Jet fly-by.
While you are at it, you might want to consider replacing your showerhead at the same time for a real improvement with your utility bill. Once again, the showerheads work very well. Some even have a valve so you can shut off the water and not have to readjust the temperature if you are into the “Navy” style of showering. As an added bonus, some heads have a feature that allow you to easily clean out the accumulated scale to make sure every shower has the perfect pressure and water flow.
Typically most homeowners can replace the showerhead or add an aerator. The weekend warrior can usually handle the toilet replacement (even if it takes 2 trips to the hardware store). If you think you would need a professional plumber, why not get the neighbors involved? Most toilet replacements take more time for the plumbers travel time then for the actual job of replacement. So why not line up several neighbors on the block for the same time on the same day and make it worth everyone’s while? Remember to keep checking the City of Seattle website and your utility bills for recycling of the old toilets.
Old John doesn’t have to be completely out of your life. You might see him recycled into the next roadway or highway project.