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Just because it’s January and the middle of winter doesn’t mean it’s too late to be thinking about ways to save energy and money during the colder months of the year. If you prefer, think of if as getting a great head start on getting the same benefit during the warmer summer months!

There are many different things to keep in mind when it comes to maximizing the efficiency of your home. One of the most important things on this list is the weatherization of the home. Weatherizing a home can cut energy usage and, therefore, energy bills significantly for homeowners. In this blog post series, we’ve outlined a few weatherization practices that can have a huge impact on your energy bottom line.

  • Seal all doors and windows in your home. A great deal of energy can escape through cracks or gaps surrounding your doors and windows. During colder months, warm air from your HVAC system or other heat source can escape and cold air can get in through these cracks, causing your heating system to work much harder than it should to keep your house comfortable. The same can occur if you run a cooling system in the summer. Simple sealing with caulk or weatherstripping around doors and windows can fight this energy loss greatly.
  • Seal all ducts properly. If you have a heating system with ducts, as many do, it’s imperative that these ducts are properly sealed. It is estimated that inefficient and improperly sealed ductwork can account for up to 20% of the energy loss in the home. Sealed air ducts will fight against this energy loss and keep your home comfortable. If you are sealing ducts yourself, be sure to use fiber-reinforced mastic, not just standard duct tape, as it is not suitable for this job. At Bel Red, we use cutting edge duct sealing technology called Aeroseal, which seals ducts from the inside, creating an unmatched seal.
  • Install or replace dampers on exhaust ducts. When an oven exhaust fan or clothes dryer is not in use, a common culprit of outside air entering the home is through the ducts leading from these appliances to the exterior of the home. By ensuring the damper on the end of these ducts are new or performing properly, you can be sure this outside air is not entering the home when they are not in use.
  • Protect pipes from corrosion and freezing. Properly taking care of your home’s plumbing can play a big role in the “whole-house” weatherization of your home. While not too common in the Northwest, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared against freezing pipes by using pipe insulation where necessary, especially on pipes in areas in external walls on your house. Running water for a short period of time through rarely used pipes can also help prevent corrosion in pipes and keep your plumbing working efficiently and effectively.

In both the short and long term, weatherization can be one of the most cost-effective methods available to improve the comfort, health and energy efficiency of your home, and we offer a range of smarter solutions to help. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we’d be happy to perform a home energy assessment to get you started on the road to energy savings. Stay tuned for part two of our weatherization tips series coming your way shortly.

While the best approach for homeowners to learn the best first steps to take to weatherize their homes is through a comprehensive home energy audit, we’ve provided you with some thought starters above. We’ll also follow up with another post with a few more weatherization tips shortly. Thanks for reading!

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Posted by on in Heating

As we discussed in our most recent blog post, hydronic, or radiant, heating is an environmentally friendly, energy efficient option for heating the home. It can bring you and your loved ones great comfort and energy cost savings over time as well. Many of you reading this may already be experiencing the benefits of hydronics in your heating system at home.

Like any other home heating system, hydronic systems require regular maintenance to ensure they are working properly and at low risk of failing over time. At Bel Red, we specialize in all types of home heating maintenance, including maintenance on hydronic heating systems.

A Bel Red maintenance visit for hydronic systems includes a number of different checkpoints to assure ongoing performance, safety, energy savings and an extended life of the system. We provide not only a maintenance check, but also a tune-up and safety inspection to key areas of the system.

The Bel Red Difference maintenance visit includes a comprehensive check of the following areas of your hydronic heat system:

  • Combustion – We heck and clean the burner, look for blockage of combustion air openings, check for free flow of air, and examine safety controls.
  • Circulator and zone valve operation – We check for leaks in flanges and stems and proper valve opening/closing for zoned heat delivery.
  • Expansion tank – We check for proper air charge and recharge if needed. We also check the bladder and tank, air vents and air eliminators.
  • Hydronic glycol – We examine fluid pH and if it has become degraded, recharge it.
  • Pressure Relief Valve – We purge the system of stagnant water, clear any debris, check and replace the pressure relief valve if necessary.
  • Shut-off/drain faucets – We fix or replace if the faucet dripping.
  • Wiring – We examine zone control wiring and assure proper performance.
  • Valves – We check the water inlet, shut-off to expansion tank, ISO valves, return line bypass valves, and all zone and loop shut-off valves.
  • Baseboard radiation – We make sure radiators are open, clean, and unobstructed by furniture or debris.

If you have a hyrdonic heat system in your home and it has been a while since a maintenance and safety check and tune-up has been performed, don’t hesitate to give us a call today at Bel Red. These systems should be checked on an annual basis in order to keep things running smoothly, safely and efficiently into the future!

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Posted by on in Heating

As you know if you follow along with the Bel Red Energy blog, you know we discuss many different types of heating options for the home. One form of heating we haven’t touched on much on the blog is an efficient and green option for heating the home called hydronic heating.

Hydronic heating is an energy efficient home heating system that uses tubing to run a hot liquid beneath the floor, along baseboard heaters, or through radiators to heat your home. This type of system has become increasingly popular among families that want added comfort and control in the rooms where they need heat, savings through lower heating bills, and a decrease in their environmental impact by making smart green building choices when installing a new heating system.

You may have heard the term or even experience radiant heating. Radiant heating is a form of hydronic heating. Radiant heating is in-floor hydronic heating – circulating hot water through piping in or under a floor. The energy disperses evenly to comfortably warm your home. The comfort of the home gets an added bonus if radiant heating floors are wood or tile, since you can feel the warmth on these surfaces when you walk on them with bare feet.

Hydronic heating can have many different benefits in terms of energy efficiency, cost and low environmental impact.

Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Very energy efficient, plus these systems use no fossil fuels so pollution is reduced
  • More energy efficient than most forced-air systems to reduce energy costs
  • Uses small tubing which loses less heat than heat sent through air ducts
  • Utilizes a circulating pump with lower power demands than a forced air blower
  • Can be zoned room to room to improve comfort
  • Creates virtually no detectable noise in living areas
  • Versatile enough to be used in new construction and existing homes
  • Compatible with nearly any type of floors or floor covering (tile, concrete, hardwood, carpet, linoleum, marble, etc.)
  • Is not visible – no air ducts to hide, takes up no wall space
  • Great for allergies – no air circulation so dust particles and allergens are not stirred up, and dust mites are greatly reduced
  • No duct cleaning needed

If you’re interested in exploring the installation potential of hydronic heating in your home or are in need of a reliable, efficient heating system for a new build, give us a call today and we’ll put you in touch with one of our qualified staff members to discuss your options. Stay tuned to the blog as well, as we’ll be following up this post with a post about maintenance of a hydronic heating system.

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Posted by on in Efficiency

If you own a newer home built within the last decade or two, it is probably equipped with many up-to-date home performance and energy efficient features. It’s likely that it has new, high efficiency heating and cooling systems and insulation with high R value. Leaks and cracks around windows and doors are less likely to be present. Water heaters, appliances and electronics probably require much less energy than their older counterparts, and so much more.

But, what about older homes? What about homes that your family stays in for many years and decades, even?

Well, it’s obvious that if a family stays in their home for a very extended period of time, their home is going to age with them. Just like we have to continue to take care of ourselves as we get older, we have to pay attention to and take care of our homes to keep it performing well over time.

Many homeowners stay in their homes for an extended period—at times many, many decades. Over this large span of time, an aging home can come with some tricky challenges when it comes to rising costs associated with operating that particular home. Without significant changes or certain upgrades, a home requires the same amount of fuel and energy to keep it warm or properly functioning. It’s obvious that the costs of fuel rise dramatically over a long period of time.

This could make it difficult to keep up with rising costs. Many older homeowners, especially those on fixed retirement incomes, often struggle with these rising prices. Energy efficiency upgrades can help make that home much more efficient, therefore lowering the overall energy usage and costs associated with keeping the home comfortable. By increasing the home’s performance, the added efficiency can help offset the rising costs discussed above.

Speaking of down the line, homeownership is an investment that can provide a great return for future generations. If you plan on eventually passing your home along to a loved one, it’s important to make all the necessary upgrades and enhancements that are financially feasible so that the investment will continue to grow value over time and not deteriorate with an uncared for home. There are many great resources, including this link that lists some finance programs, tax credits and incentives in place to make these improvements easier on the wallet in our Pacific Northwest area.

If you’re in an older home that has definitely aged over time and you’d like to explore upgrading its performance and making it feel (and act) like new again, contact Bel Red today for help.

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Your home’s water can be one of the biggest energy users in the home. Many factors come into play when taking into consideration how much energy you’re using to heat water for both everyday and sporadic activities around the house. The type of water heater you have, usage habits, and many other considerations should be made when thinking about ways to save energy while still keeping your home and selves comfortable.

In this blog post series, we’ll touch on a list of items that you should keep top of mind when it comes to your home’s water heater.

  • Use cold water during washing machine cycles. While many think using warm or hot water for all of their clothing wash cycles will get your clothes and linens cleanest, that’s often not the case. In most cases, using cold water during the wash portion of the cycle is just as effective. Cold water can always be used during the rinse portion of the cycle. Switching these habits can lift a lot of weight off your water heater, saving you energy.
  • Consider a washing machine and/or dishwasher upgrade. Speaking of washing machines, if you have an older machine, especially one that is more than 10 years old, you could be saving a lot of energy, and water for the matter, by upgrading to a new Energy Star rated machine. In fact, water savings alone from a newer high efficiency model could save an average of $135 per year according the Energy.gov. The same can be said for your dishwasher. Older, less efficient dishwashers tend to use a large amount of hot water. Energy Star qualified washers can save over 30% on both energy and water.
  • Call in the experts. As with any energy savings efforts, if you’re not very sure what could be saving you money, or if you just don’t have the time to dedicate to checking on these items or making installations yourself, it’s a good idea to call in experts such as our knowledgeable service staff at Bel Red. Qualified (and certified) professionals will be able to give you dedicated, caring support and individual problem solving tips to help you make sure you’re using less energy to heat the water you need at home.

For a more detailed and personalized list of improvements for you and your home, please contact Bel Red today. We’ll help guide you through not only the items on this checklist, but also individual recommendations built just for you and your budget.

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