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We recently posted about the first of two main types of leaks that can cause problems when it comes to your home’s comfort, energy efficiency and indoor air quality – general air leaks around the home.  The other most common home performance issues when it comes to leaks are duct leaks in your HVAC system. As is the case with general air leaks, the best approach to solving duct leak issues is to consult a qualified and knowledgeable home contractor.


Holes, rips or tears in your home’s HVAC duct system can cause major problems for your home’s overall performance and efficiency. They can also cause major headaches for homeowners, as not resolving these issues can result in large monthly energy bills. Whether using heat during the winter or air conditioning during the summer, conditioned air can escape these ducts to places it’s not intended to be, resulting in lost energy.


Duct systems are set up with precision and heavy planning for a reason – to ensure your energy is providing hot or cool air to appropriate places in your home. In order to run most efficiently, this ductwork has to be sealed properly from the starting point through to all destinations in the home. Even a collection of small leaks can add up to a collective loss of a great deal of air and energy.


There are many tests, both visual and more advanced, that can be performed to see where or how badly your ductwork is leaking.  In basic tests performed on ductwork within site and reach, leaks can often be felt by touch when the HVAC unit is on and running. In more severe or troublesome cases, such as leaks occurring in ductwork hidden behind walls or other hard to see and reach places, other tests are necessary to determine where and how bad leaks actually are. Again, a qualified professional should be brought in to address these types of issues for maximum results.


In order to fix duct leaks, a few different materials are used. For smaller leaks in ducts that are exposed, some smaller fixes using mastic or duct tape can be a simple solution. However, if you have duct leaks that are visible or able to be felt, chances are good that there may be some leaks in those hidden areas as well.

Posted by on in Plumbing

Spring is here and that means time to start checking items off your home improvement checklist. As a homeowner, you probably have a long list with many different categories to check and fix in the Spring. Hopefully, one of these categories is plumbing. It’s important to properly maintain plumbing fixtures and features to ensure you don’t have any water problems in the year ahead. To make things a bit easier, we’ve created this Spring Plumbing Checklist with helpful tips and reminders for your plumbing maintenance and inspection.


·      Check all faucets for dripping or leaks. Sealing or tightening fixtures can help save a lot of water.


·      Check the temperature on your water heater. It should be set to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding and burns.


·      Test your sump pump to ensure it’s working properly. Drop a few buckets full of water into the drain area. The pump should quickly turn on and get rid of the excess water.


·      Test all toilets for proper flushing. If they seem to be running excessively after flushing, you may need new tank parts. No need to worry – these are inexpensive parts that can greatly reduce your water usage.


·      Check toilets for hidden leaks. If you drop a few drops of food coloring to the water, you’ll quickly be able to identify problems areas if leaks exist. Seal these leaks or replace necessary parts.


·      Clean your gutters. Cleaning gutters can greatly reduce the chance for water problems such as basement or roof leaks. Gutters are there for a purpose - taking the time to do this now can save some potentially big headaches.

As a follow up to part 1 of our “Small Changes Can Make a Big Impact” blog post series, here are five more tips to help you make the quality of life within your home better. Simple changes can lead to a big collective impact. If you have your own simple tips to add, please feel free to share them with us via Twitter or Facebook.


1.     Use natural ventilation. It’s the perfect time of year to start taking advantage of the clean outdoor air by bringing it into your home. By opening windows or doors, you can replace all the old, stale air inside your home with fresh outdoor air. Not only will your house become more ventilated and improve indoor air quality, you can also cut down on the amount you have to use your air conditioner (depending on your environment, of course). An open window and a fan can go a long way toward improving your comfort level.


2.     Adjust you thermostat. Programmable thermostats can be incredible tools for managing your energy usage and consumption. Whether you are controlling heat during the colder months or cool air during warmer months, setting your thermostat in a smart way can save you big. Think about when you won’t be home for long periods of time and adjust accordingly. Map out your typical week’s activities and set your thermostat accordingly.


3.     Plant trees and shrubs. Sometimes, the best way to save energy use inside your home is to start outside. By planting trees and shrubs around your home, you can decrease the amount of energy needed by your air conditioning unit to cool your home during warmer Spring and Summer days. Using smart landscaping can create an “energy shield” around your home and provide a sort of insulation, which benefits your energy consumption all year round.

We’ve talked a lot on the blog about larger, more comprehensive home improvement and home performance projects that can have a big impact on your home’s overall efficiency and comfort. What’s also true, however, is that there are a lot of smaller changes that you can make to improve the quality of life within the home while also helping to save money and energy and a regular basis. In this two-part blog series, we’re going to overview ten of those small changes that can have a large collective impact.


1.     Have carpeting? Don’t forget to vacuum. If you have carpeting or other places that dirt, dust and allergens can get trapped, it’s a good idea to regularly vacuum those spaces. If this everyday task gets ignored or pushed off, the dirt, dust and allergens can get into the air inside your home, greatly reducing the overall indoor air quality. Furthermore, if you have an HVAC or other type of forced air system, these harmful particles can be pushed throughout the house. Making sure the source of this problem is cleaned as frequently as possible can help improve the indoor air quality of your home.


2.     Reduce your shower time. You may think that this is one of the simplest of changes--and you’d be right! Reducing the time spent in your shower not only reduces your monthly water bill, it also greatly reduces the amount of energy required to heat that water. Cutting the time by just a few short minutes per day can add up big time over a longer period of time. As a side note on water consumption—if you typically take baths, you may want to think about showering instead. The typical bath uses up to 70 gallons of water, while a normal shower only uses 10 to 15 gallons.


3.     Change your HVAC air filter regularly. This is a simple change that we’ve discussed at great lengths on our blog. However, its importance can’t be overstated. Taking the 30 seconds to change out your air filters at their recommended scheduled times (based on type). This will not only improve the indoor air quality of your home, but will also greatly increase the overall efficiency of your HVAC unit by allowing it to stop working too hard if it has a dirty filter in place.

Posted by on in Efficiency

As an everyday homeowner, it’s not always easy to know what upgrades or improvements to your home will provide the most value for your dollar. We’re constantly faced with potential repairs, replacements and installations that can increase the overall performance of our home. We see advertisements or talk to others about great ways to save money and energy, but it’s sometimes hard to pull the trigger on making these changes. Part of the reason being it’s hard to know what should come first and what can potentially wait until later.


As we’ve mentioned before on the blog, it’s always a good idea to seek the professional opinion of a qualified home contractor. A home energy assessment can help address the issue of homeowner confusion and lead you in the right direction when it comes to making these upgrades to your home. There are, however, a few ways you can get started on this research process yourself. Here are a few home energy tools and resources that can help you start the conversation:


Repair vs. Replace Calculator – Are you better off repairing an old, failing home energy system or is it a better choice to do a full replacement? This can be a tricky question to answer for a typical homeowner. It’s always hard to make the leap to a full replacement when you always have the hope that a quick repair of fix will do the trick. However, despite the dreaded initial investment, taking that leap can save you big over time. A replacement can help you avoid future repairs and will probably provide a more sophisticated, energy-efficient system. This calculator can help you start the conversation of whether a repair will do the trick or if a full replacement would be a better value.


Furnace Savings Calculator – Knowing how much energy your current furnace or other heating and cooling system uses is the best way to determine whether or not an upgrade would be you the ultimate value for your home. This furnace savings calculator can give you an idea of exactly how much energy and money you could be saving with a more efficient unit. It takes into account the age of your current furnace, your average fuel cost on a month-over-month basis and your desired indoor temperature.