INDOOR AIR       QUALITY

 

Indoor Air Quality

Unless you live in a big city or heavy industrial area, or, unless you're an asthma or allergy sufferer, you probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about the air you breathe. Especially the air inside your home! But maybe you should.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tells us that your risk of exposure to pollutants can be over 100 times greater indoors than outside. What's more, some experts estimate that as much as 50% of all illnesses are either created or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.

And here are some of the consequences: Athsma sufferers make over 200,000 trips to the Emergency Room each year from incidents that directly result from exposure to dust mites, animal dander, cat saliva, mold and other airborne catalysts. Worse, radon, a known cancer-causing gas emitted from the soil, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Additional problems like headaches, nausea, lethargy, and other serious illnesses can be traced to indoor pollution in America's homes and public places.

The fact is, if you're experiencing common discomforts like headaches, itchy eyes, a runny nose or a persistent cough, sure, you might just have a cold. But you might also be a victim of indoor air pollution.

 
 

 

EFFICIENCY EQUIPMENT

 

High Efficiency Equipment

Among the high efficiency equipment that is available to you is a Digital Setback Thermostat. This thermostat is designed for people that have fixed schedules that take them in and out of the home. This thermostat allows you to program the temperature to ‘Set-Back’ when you are not at home. Not only does this feature keep you comfortable when you’re home, but it also saves you money when you’re not home by reducing the energy needed to heat and/or cool your home.

Another piece of efficiency equipment is an Attic Ventilator. This assists your air conditioner in cooling your home and in lowering your utility bills. An attic ventilator depletes the hot air from your attic and brings in cooler air form outside. This air circulation greatly reduces the heat load on your home and allows your air conditioner to work more efficiently to cool your home faster. Adding an attic ventilator to your home will make you more comfortable and save you money.

 
         
 

 

    SAFETY      INSPECTIONS

 

Home Safety Inspection

Carbon monoxide poisoning kills hundreds of people each year. Many that do not die are sickened by it. In fact, sometimes, carbon monoxide poisoning has been misdiagnosed as the flu. Since the tremendous hail storm that hit West Texas in May of 2001 there have been hundreds of houses that have had new roofs installed. Please make sure that you check the vents from your furnace and water heater to insure that are connected and exit the roof properly. If you are not careful, your heating system could be making you sick and have the potential to silently kill those in your house. To help with this often-undetected danger, our technicians will come to your home and conduct a full inspection on your system for safety. We will report to you any problems and make recommendations. If you do not use Armstrong Mechanical, please use another qualified contractor to make sure that your home and family are safe.
 
         
 

 

        MONEY SAVING         TIPS

 

Save Energy & Money With These Tips

There are several things you can do, specifically related to plumbing and hot water usage in particular, to reduce your utility bills and help the environment safeguard against energy strains. At R.A. Biel Plumbing & Heating, Inc. we are committed to helping protect the environment as well as helping you save money and live safely. We have put together the following report, which provides several ways in which you can safely and efficiently cut back on the amount of money you spend on utility bills each month.

Here are a few things you discover in this section of our site:

 

  • How to reset your water heater to a safe and more efficient temperature (link to water heater thermostat)
  • How to remove hard water deposits from your water heater (link to Drain Your Water Heater)
  • How to save water heating costs while you sleep (link to water heater timer)
  • Insulation suggestions for your water heater and pipes (link to Insulate water heater)
  • A simple way to cut your total energy expenditure for hot water by about 44 % (Link to flow restrictors)
  • The advantages of soft water (link to Soft Water)
  • Specific ways to become more energy efficient in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen

    Water Heaters
    Water heating is the second biggest energy consumer in the average home, second only to space heating. Any measures that can be taken to improve the efficiency of your water heater, or force you to use less hot water are definitely worth your time and money. In general, water heating energy savers are inexpensive and unlike many space heating conservation measures, those used in relation to plumbing are effective all year round. Today’s best water heaters are far more energy efficient that those even a few short years ago. But there are other measures you can take to conserve.

    If it’s time to replace your water heater, see Water Heaters in our online catalog for pricing and specifications, or call us at (phone number) for more information.

    Lower the Water Heater Thermostat
    Your water heater is one of the biggest energy wasters in your house or business. That is why one of the often-repeated ways to save on energy costs has to deal directly with your water heater. Since the water from your water heater is used primarily for keeping yourself and your belongings clean, there is no need for you to use water that is heated to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or above. However, most elements on electric water heaters are pre-set to at least 150 degrees. Not only is this dangerous, but it is also a waste of energy and money. We recommend you reset your electric water heater to 120 degrees.

    To do this, first turn off the power to the water heater (most power sources are located at a master fuse box). Next, remove the cover plate that conceals the lower thermostat. This will reveal a covering of insulation. Behind the insulation is the thermostat. Locate a seam in the insulation and pull it back. This will reveal a protective covering over the thermostat. Remove the protective covering and adjust the temperature on the thermostat to120 degrees by turning the screw with a screwdriver. Repeat the procedure for the upper element on the water heater. Replace the cover plates and turn the electricity back on.

    The setting of a gas fired water heater is a little more complex. This kind of water heater only has one element and the temperature control is in plain sight on the outside of the unit. However, the temperature dial is not calibrated for degree settings. Usually it is labeled with something like “Low, Normal, Extra Hot.” In order to get the proper setting, use a cooking thermometer and determine the present temperature of the water. From here, it is simply a game if hit and miss until you find either the 120 or 140 degrees mark. This could take a lot of patience and even a couple of days to get right, but will be worth your trouble. The Department of Energy says that lowering the setting just 10 degrees will save 6% of the energy used in heating your hot water, and if the setting is reduced to 120 or 140 degrees, you could save 18% more!

    Should you happen to run into a “hitch” in resetting your system, or would prefer to have a professional technician do it for you, call us at (phone number) to set up an appointment.

    Drain Your Water Heater
    Another way to save with your water heater is by draining it on a regular basis. Unless you have soft water, it is important to drain a couple of gallons of water from the bottom of your water heater at least two times a year. This is because hard water deposits can collect on the bottom of your water-heating unit, surround the heating element and reduce efficiency. This amounts to a layer of insulation around the element, which forces it to work harder to heat the water. However, by simply draining a couple of gallons, you will wash out any deposits and allow your water heater to operate more efficiently.

    Water Heater Timer
    Have you ever considered the idea that you are paying to keep the water in the tank at a high temperature all night long? You will be able to save a great deal by investing in a timer for your water heater. Since most of today’s water heaters are of the fast recovery type, and since the water in the tank will retain most of its heat through the night anyway, set the timer to turn the electric water heater off, somewhere around the time you normally go to bed. Then set it to come on again between a half hour and an hour before you get up. This should give the water heater enough time to bring the water temperature back the few degrees it will need to reach its normal temperature. Installation of the timer is straightforward, and it will pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

    Insulate the Whole Heater
    An additional way to save with the water heater is by insulating the entire heater. There are two ways to accomplish this energy saving performance. You can purchase the fiberglass blanket insulation and some duct tape and insulate the unit on your own, or you can buy a retrofit kit. Both will work about the same, although, in the end, the kit will probably look more pleasing to the eye.

    If you have an electric unit, insulating your water heater will pay for itself in about one year. If it is a gas unit, it will take two or three years. It is a one-time investment and studies have shown that the insulation will outlive the water heater and can be used again if you need to replace your present unit later on.

    If your water heater is gas fired, the Department of Energy recommends that you use the kit. This is only a recommendation and you can insulate your unit without the kit if you don’t insulate the top or bottom of the heater. In insulating a gas fired water heater, it is crucial to keep the air intake ports at the bottom of the unit clear of insulation, and keep the exhaust flue at the top clear as well. The extra insulation added to a gas fired or electrical water heater will serve to help keep water warm as well as for longer periods of time.

    Insulate Your Pipes
    While mentioning insulation, it is also wise to insulate your pipes. By insulating any exposed pipes, you’ll save a lot of energy and a lot of money. This will prove to be the most useful during the late spring, summer, and early fall when the interest is in cooling the house, instead of heating it. The heat from exposed pipes will escape and produce a double energy problem. Not only does it make it more difficult to keep the water hot, but it also makes it more difficult to keep the house cool. By insulating the pipes, both inefficiencies will be overcome. This measure is inexpensive and the payback period is usually less than a year.

    Flow Restrictors
    One of the hot water saving devices that will pay big returns is a flow restrictor for the showerhead. These are so effective, some are often known as an “energy-saving showerhead.” Flow restrictors can cut the water flow from around seven gallons a minute in the heaviest volume showers, to as little as a gallon and a half a minute. On average, they will cut your total energy expenditure for hot water by about 44 %. That can translate to as much as 10 % of your total energy bill! Flow restrictors can be as simple as a four-bit washer installed just behind the showerhead, to as elaborate as the new massaging showers on a hose. An alternative that falls between these two, is a metal valve that is installed just behind your present showerhead and may have a knob you can twist to regulate the flow of water. This allows you to shut it off altogether while you lather up or shave your legs or what not, and then turn the flow back on at the same temperature and pressure when you are ready to rinse. All flow restrictors cut the amount of water you use, without cutting back on pressure.

    Aerators
    Other devices that can help to conserve energy in the plumbing aspect of your house include aerators. The aerator simply reduces the amount of water in the flow, which saves the energy that should have been necessary to heat it. There will be a slight reduction in flow pressure, but it will barely be noticeable. To install aerators on your faucets, simply screw the aerator onto the end of your tap. Some of the faucets found in older homes might not be able to accept an aerator. If you find yourself in this situation, wait until you have to replace the tap or until you are ready to remodel.

    Soft Water
    Using soft water can save you energy and money in a number of ways. You can either purchase a soft water unit, or lease one from a water softener company in your area. If you contemplate getting a water softener, it is important that you do not just look at the energy savings that it will produce. Not only will it save around 20 to 30% of the energy and money it takes to heat your hot water, but it will also save on plumbing repairs, the money you spend on laundry and other cleaning products, and it will extend the life of your water heater.

    The reason soft water saves energy is because soft water won’t leave any deposits on the element at the bottom of your water heater. It actually accomplishes the same purpose as draining a gallon or two of water out of the unit a couple times a year. However, soft water is more efficient at getting rid of those deposits, because those minerals won’t even reach the tank in the first place. Due to the dollar savings only amounting to about two or three dollars a month on your energy bill, it may appear as if the water softener is costing you money rather than saving you money. However, the soft water will also make the water heater last up to 50% longer. With other savings possible in water using equipment and supplies, you should be able to save more in a month than the cost involved in buying or leasing a water softening system.

    Anti-leak Freak
    One of the most obvious ways to conserve energy and money in regards to your plumbing is to be aware of leaks. Check your plumbing and fix any leaks or leaky faucets you have on a regular basis. The cold ones will help to conserve water for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and other uses, but he hot ones are the money wasters. One drippy faucet may waste as much as 50 gallons of hot water a day. That is enough water for almost 600 baths throughout a year. This is literally money down the drain. The majority of leaky faucets only require a rubber washer, which probably costs no more than a quarter, to make repairs. Repairing leaky faucets is a do-it-yourself job that only requires a screwdriver and a wrench and the help of a good book on home plumbing or maybe even some personal coaching for the first time through.

    Many energy saving strategies apply to specific areas of the home. The following will focus on three specific areas of the home where new habits can have a lasting effect on the amount of energy and money that are spent each day. These areas are: the bathroom, the laundry room and the kitchen.

    The Bathroom

    Shower Power
    Many of the daily activities performed in the bathroom can be very energy expensive if no thought is given to conservation. For example, consider the fact that it takes 30 gallons of water to fill the average bathtub. If you shower, instead and have an average flow of about four gallons a minute, a five-minute shower only uses 20 gallons of water. In addition, if the water is a half and half mix of hot/cold water, you will save five gallons of hot water every time you substitute a shower for a bath. If you substitute one shower for one bath a day, you would save about 2000 gallons of hot water a year. That would completely fill your hot water heater about 40 times.

    Let Bath Water Cool
    If you decide to take an occasional bath, also take advantage of the warm water. Allow the warm water to cool before you drain it. A hot tub of water could give off enough heat to warm your whole house for an hour or so.

    Shampoo in the Shower
    For those with long hair, shampooing should be done while in the shower instead of a separate time in the sink. This is a simple way to save energy and money, not to mention time.

    Electric Shave
    For those that shave, be sure to plug the drain while shaving and only draw enough hot water to get the job done. This will save a few dollars on fuel bills over a year. However, a better conservation idea is electric shaving. Of course it runs on electricity, but an electric shaver can run for a year on the energy it takes to heat water for a month of blade shaves. In addition, money will be saved from the regular purchasing of new razors and shaving cream.

    The Laundry Room

    Wash Less
    One of the best ways to save a sizable amount of energy and dollars is by using your washer and dryer less often and more efficiently. You can start doing this by not washing clothes at all unless they need it. Just wearing an item doesn’t necessarily make it dirty. You can probably wear most clothes two or three times before they need to be washed.

    Full Loads
    Perhaps the best thing you can do is save up your laundry until you can wash nothing but full loads. Doing this, you will use your laundry appliances less often, and you will use them at peak efficiency. Even though most washers have settings for different sized loads, the full load approach is the best way to go. This envelops the simple concept of using less energy with fewer uses. Except in this case, less is actually more.

    Cold Water
    Also, try to use cold water for most loads and always use cold water to rinse. Doing this will save a lot of hot water and the money it takes to heat it. Hot water is a better cleaner than cold water, but there are several things that can be done to help your cold wash do a better job of cleaning.

    First, pre-treat spots and stains before they go into the washer. If you use a powder detergent, dissolve it in a bottle of warm water before adding it to the wash water. Also, increase the length of the washing time to the maximum provided in the cycle you are using. The machine will use more energy if it works longer, but not as much as it would take to heat the hot water you are saving. When cold water simply will not work on certain soiled materials (such as a mechanic’s coveralls), be sure to at least rinse in cold water after the clothes are cleaned.

    Suds Saver
    Some washers have special suds saver features. If your unit has one, you should definitely use it. It will allow you to use one tubful of hot water for two or more loads of laundry. The suds savers leave about an inch of water in the storage tub in which the dirt and soil from the previous load has settled.

    The Kitchen

    Hand-Wash Your Dishes
    The average dishwasher uses 14 gallons of hot water per load. Given energy costs, which continue to go up, that in itself is a pretty good argument for using the old fashion sink and hands method. If you get in the habit of washing your dishes just once a day, you could cut hot water usage as much as 50 to 70% by hand washing alone.

    Full Load the Dishwasher
    However, for those who are used to the automatic dishwasher, going back to washing dishes by hand might be asking for a major lifestyle change, especially for families. So, if you decide to go ahead and use the dishwasher, at least make sure you only use it when it’s full. It is going to use 14 gallons whether you have one or 50 dishes in it, so you should get all that you can out of it.

    Scrape Before Loading
    Be sure to scrape the dishes before loading them. This will allow you to skip the hot rinse. And if you scrape right after you are finished eating, you can probably get away with scraping them in cold water. If you wait until the debris has dried, however, you will have to use hot water to get it off.

    Do Not Use the Rinse-hold
    You will be able to save three to seven more gallons of hot water if you don’t use the “rinse hold” setting on you dishwasher. This setting is not necessary in most cases, so there is really no loss or discomfort for not using it.

    Air-Dry the Dishes
    Also, let your dishes air-dry. If you don’t have an automatic “air dry” switch on your dishwasher, then turn it off after the final rinse. Then prop open the door. Your dishes will dry faster and the heat and moisture will flow out into the room, which will help warm and humidify the room, especially during the winter. Doing this will save both energy and money two ways.

    Conclusion: By employing these strategies and making the minor adjustments that have been suggested, you will be able to help conserve energy, protect the environment, and begin saving money immediately. These energy saving tips have been proven to successfully cut back on energy costs, resulting in lower monthly utility bills and a more efficient way of living. (R.A. Biel Plumbing hopes these strategies will help you find success in your energy conservation and money saving efforts. Furthermore, if there are questions prompted by this report or if there are matters in which you seek assistance outside of this report, please contact us in Farmington at 327-7755 or in Durango at 385-1588.

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