(BPT) - It's time to replace your old, energy-guzzling water heater, boiler, dehumidifier or furnace and you've done your homework. You're going to save energy and money in the long run by switching to a high-efficiency condensing heater or boiler. Good for you! But as with any home improvement project, it's important to know the nuances of proper installation - even if you're relying on a professional to do the job.
A growing number of homeowners are turning to boilers, HVAC systems and water heaters that rely on condensing to maximize the unit's efficiency. Instead of venting hot exhaust gases out through a flue, these units capture additional heat from the exhaust and use it to enhance the unit's heating capability - water gets heated faster, using less energy. Although condensing units often cost more than conventional options, the energy savings can quickly offset the higher initial price tag.
However, condensing units present a new problem - condensate waste. Water is the byproduct of the efficiency-boosting condensing process, but waste water produced from a combustion process ends up being acidic. When natural gas burns inside a furnace or boiler, the flame draws in atmospheric nitrogen. The heat causes a chemical reaction that creates nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide - both of which get dissolved into the waste water.
"If the condensate waste is vented into a home's plumbing system, over time the acidic water can corrode the metal pipes," explains Chris Peterson of Saniflo, a manufacturer of drain-pump systems. "Ultimately, the thing homeowners did to save them money, ends up costing them hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they have to replace pipes deteriorated by acidic condensate."
Pumping the waste outside the home or into sanitary sewers usually isn't a good solution. Those tactics either put the acidic waste into ground water, or channel it through municipal and county owned pipes that can also be corroded by the condensate waste.
"The smart, long-term solution is to neutralize the acidic content in the condensate waste before it ever goes into any piping," he says. "Condensate waste neutralization is also required by the International Plumbing Codes, which are in force in many parts of the country. Some areas, like New England, are already strictly enforcing this code for installation of condensing units. Other states will soon follow."
One solution that many contractors and homeowners have turned to is adding a neutralizing unit, like the Sanicondens Best. The condensate pump has a built-in neutralizer, and can be outfitted on any condensing boiler, HVAC system or water heater. Condensate waste gets filtered through limestone granules in a tray before the pump moves the water into the sewer or septic system. The pump ensures condensate waste doesn't linger in or around the unit, and the neutralizing function removes the acidity that could damage water and sewer pipes.
"High-efficiency condensing boilers, HVAC systems and water heaters can help homeowners reduce their fuel costs over the life of the systems," Peterson says. "But to really get the maximum value - and ensure your money-saving investment doesn't cause problems down the road - it's important to also neutralize the condensate waste such units emit."
To learn more about condensate waste neutralization and the Sanicondens Best, visit www.saniflo.com.
(BPT) - After months of winter, warmer weather is finally here. It's time to head to the lake, spend time on the deck or take your kids to the park. Yes, you're ready for the season - but is your lawn mower?
One of the season's most important tools has been hibernating through the winter, and it will need a helping hand to get ready. So before you fire it up for the first cuts of the season, make sure you follow these important mower maintenance tips.
1. Replace any existing gas. Did you run your mower out of gas or add fuel stabilizer last fall? If you didn't, stored fuel is likely to break down over the winter months and can go bad in as little as 30 days - making your mower hard or impossible to start in the spring. To protect your mower, make sure you fill it with fresh fuel from the gas station. And make sure it doesn't have too much ethanol, as most mowers can only accept up to a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10).
2. Monitor the oil levels. It's a new season and your mower deserves new oil. Check the engine's existing oil level, you'll likely find it's low. If it is, add oil as appropriate. Operating a mower with too little oil can burn out your engine. At the same time however, you want to avoid overfilling the oil level. Consult your owner's manual for the right oil type and amount for your engine. And as your changing the oil, this is also a great time to inspect and possibly replace your oil filter.
3. Focus on the spark plug. Inspect the area around your mower's spark plug to make sure no dirt or other debris will enter the cylinder once the plug is removed. Once you're satisfied the area is clean, use a socket wrench to remove the plug and inspect it for any damage or carbon deposits. These deposits will appear as a black coating. If the plug appears to be worn, or has been used for several mowing seasons, replace it.
4. Clean the air filter. A mower's air filter collects a significant amount of dirt, dust and other debris over a typical cutting season, so it's good to start the year with a clean one. Consult your owner's manual to determine which filter is right for your mower and to learn how to make this simple replacement properly.
5. Adjust the blade. When performing your spring maintenance, this is also a good opportunity to inspect your mower's blade. Look for cracks, nicks, bends or any other signs of damage. If you find these, replace the blade. Also, if the edge is dull, the blade should be sharpened. If you feel uncomfortable sharpening the blade yourself, take it to your local hardware store or small engine shop. For safety, always unplug the spark plug when inspecting the blade.
Considering a replacement?
If you've applied the seasonal maintenance tips above and it's obvious your old mower just isn't cutting it anymore, you'll need to shop for a new one. Start your search by focusing on the mower's most essential component, the engine. Look for an engine that offers minimal maintenance, like the Kohler XTX Series, which never requires an oil change over its lifetime. Simply check the oil level before each use and you're good to go. The engine is built to last, with a rugged cast iron cylinder bore for extended life. It also features Smart-Choke and Easy-Pull technology to make starting a breeze. And with its Consistent-Cut power, it will make short work of tall grass. The Kohler XTX Series is the perfect choice to make this mowing season everything you hoped it would be without any of the hassle.
To learn more about how the right engine can improve the performance of your mower, visit www.KohlerEngines.com.
While the stress-relieving capabilities and health benefits of gardening are well known, a twist on this timeless hobby offers a way to add charm and a whimsical feel to your home and garden. Creating an enchanted fairy garden, such as the Fairy Garden Broken Pot or Naturalist Fairy Garden projects, can boost imagination and offer a family-friendly way to hone your green thumb.
Gardening with an Enchanted Twist
(Family Features) While the stress-relieving capabilities and health benefits of gardening are well known, a twist on this timeless hobby offers a way to add charm and a whimsical feel to your home and garden. Creating an enchanted fairy garden can boost imagination and offer a family-friendly way to hone your green thumb.
These miniature landscapes, often hidden in a secluded area of your garden or planted in decorative containers, are an easy way to refresh your interior or exterior decor and can be revamped seasonally to align with any design theme. The possibilities and styles are endless, so to help you get started, the crafting experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores created these fairy garden projects featuring a host of tiny details to bring your scene to life. Pottery, moss and tiny figurines will make your garden complete.
Fairy Garden Broken Pot
Crafting time: 3-5 hours
Supplies and Tools:
Tightly fill bottom of planter with smaller pots and packing peanuts or bubble wrap. Cover packing peanuts/bubble wrap with moss, gluing in place with hot glue.
Place fairy items as you desire, securing with hot glue. Trim bottom of plant to a 1-inch stem and secure it in place with hot glue.
Naturalist Fairy GardenCrafting time: Weekend project
Skill level: Some experience necessary
Supplies and Tools:
Flip wooden tray over so bottom is facing up. Spray paint bottom and sides gold. Allow to dry. Using old rag or paper towel, rub on wood stain sparingly, allowing gold to show through stain in areas. Allow to dry.
Measure width of opening between sides of tray. Transfer measurement to green floral foam and cut with serrated knife.
To create hillside for house, cut green foam to resemble a hill with highest point in back corner of long side of foam. Slope downward to create impression of hill toward a river, and contour other side to go slightly uphill, forming river bed. Hot glue foam to bottom of tray. Add foam at top of the hill for more height, if desired.
Place sheet of adhesive moss on top of foam, cutting out areas for river and hut. In river area, apply path of hot glue and dump pebbles on top. Use bigger stones on sides to create river bank. Pour bottle of nail polish onto riverbed, brushing stones to look like water.
Place hut at highest point, gluing it down with liberal amount of hot glue. Nestle bushes and trees around hut, varying sizes of round mosses and trees, and hot glue in place.
Glue white birch rounds behind hut for backdrop to glue trees and shrubs around; giving off appearance of a hut nestled in the hillside. Attach bushes to outside of sidewalls. Glue stepping stones in place to create path to river.
Add additional fairy items to fill out the scene.
Find more inspiration to create magical little villages from start-to-finish at joann.com.
(BPT) - The arrival of spring means new beginnings and a fresh chance to tackle those home improvement projects you've been putting off for the last several months. Get your home ready for summer and make it more beautiful, efficient and functional than ever with these five seasonal projects.
Keep, donate or trash.
Your first step is to declutter the home. Separate items into three categories: keep, donate or trash. Here's a tip: if you haven't used something in the last year, chances are you can get rid of it. Items such as unwanted electronics, housewares and gently used clothing can be donated to charity. For everything else, check with your local recycling program before putting anything in the garbage.
Get serious about spring cleaning.
Give your home a fresh start by wiping down windows, countertops, electronics, appliances, doorknobs, furniture, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Also, be sure to mop floors and vacuum carpet. Never cleaned windows before? Find out how with our free guide.
Bring your deck back to life.
We think winter is hard on us, but just imagine how hard it is on our decks, which weather the bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice all season long. Take a close look at your deck and check for warped, loose or splintered boards. Sweep away anything that may have fallen between the cracks, make any needed repairs, scrub or power wash, and restain if necessary.
Do a color refresh.
Whether you're adding a fresh coat of paint to your interior or exterior walls, or completely changing the colors of your home, spring is the perfect time to renew your home's look. One 2016 color trend: bold entry doors like those from Pella. and pick out your new, colorful front door.
Bloom where you are planted.
Whether you are a homeowner, renter or sublessee, celebrate the end of winter by creating spaces for bright flowers and making the most of your garden. Apartment dwellers, bring the outdoors in with hanging baskets, potted plants or herbs.
(BPT) - A stuffy nose. Scratchy throat. Difficulty breathing. It's bad enough when spring allergy season reaps its ugly head, but when the things in your home trigger your asthma and allergies too, you feel like you're in an endless battle to feel healthy.
"Many household goods are hidden sources of asthma and allergy triggers," says Dr. Cary Sennett, President and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. "Fortunately, you can breathe easier by shopping smarter. By keeping a few tips in mind, you'll be able to select products that reduce the likelihood of flares or attacks."
Dr. Sennett and the experts at AAFA offer these shopping tips to limit asthma and allergy triggers in your home.
1. Look for the asthma & allergy friendly mark.
By being selective in what you purchase, you can dramatically impact asthma and allergy triggers in your home. The first step when shopping is to look for AAFA's asthma & allergy friendly Certification Mark. This strict scientifically-based program was created 10 years ago to test products from cleaning supplies to toys and more to ensure they're suitable for families with asthma or allergies. Feel confident when you look for the mark in stores or online. For a full list of products and where to find them, visit www.aafa.org/certified.
2. Avoid trouble cleaning product ingredients.
Removing allergens in the home requires regular cleaning, but oftentimes the cleaning products themselves can trigger asthma and allergy attacks. It's best to avoid products with strong odors. If you must use strong cleaning products, try wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
3. Buy breathable bedding to sleep well.
You spend one-third of your time in the bedroom, so it's important to purchase products that won't trigger your allergies or asthma. Look for bedding where the outer fabric is an effective allergen barrier, plus it can easily be cleaned to remove allergen accumulation. Additionally, bedding must be breathable to ensure comfort and contain no chemicals known to trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.
4. Research air cleaners and humidifiers that boost air quality.
Good indoor air quality is vital for families living with allergies and asthma. First, look for the asthma & allergy friendly Certification Mark. For humidifiers, look for options that maintain appropriate moisture levels while sanitizing the water. For air cleaners, look for independent testing that proves the device reduces allergens from the air by removal and not just redistribution.
5. Use a high-quality vacuum regularly.
Vacuuming once a week is important for reducing allergens, but if you don't get a good vacuum you may simply be redistributing those irritants throughout your house. A certified vacuum will have a high quality air filtration system that captures even microscopic particles. Furthermore, the vacuum should not release irritants when you have to change the bag, either.
6. Gift toys that inspire smiles rather than cause sniffles.
For children, a favorite teddy should provide comfort, not sniffles and sneezes. Unfortunately, doctors often recommend removing stuffed toys from children with asthma and allergies. Because stuffed toys are similar to filled bedding products, they can house dust mites and other allergens as well as contain dyes that could irritate a child's sensitivities. Look for toys that earn the certification.
This means that the toy can easily be cleaned to remove allergen accumulation, contains no chemicals known to trigger allergies or allergens, plus the colors will not bleed from rubbing or saliva.
For more smart shopping tips, including what to look for in washers, dryers, paint and more, download the AAFA Certified Products Guide at www.aafa.org/certified.
(BPT) - If you're finding more stains on your clothes because the weather is warming up, you're not alone. You may find yourself doing more loads of laundry during the summer, when outdoor activities like hiking and sports are likely to cause extra stains.
To help you take on your growing laundry pile, Whirlpool Corporation's Institute of Home Science cleaning expert Mary Zeitler weighed in on the best ways to wash workout gear and remove your toughest stains:
Washing athletic clothes
Zeitler suggests turning running shorts, yoga pants, lycra and spandex garments inside out before washing. You should also wash these garments in warm - not hot - water, and stay away from liquid chlorine bleach which can break down the fabric.
Dirt and mud
Remove excess dirt and mud from the surface and rinse in cold water before adding to the washer. Wash in the warmest water safe for the garment with a gentle detergent and, if necessary, you can follow up with a wash in color-safe bleach for colors or liquid chlorine bleach for whites. For grass stains, Zeitler says to check the care label and soak the garment in a mixture of detergent and water before adding to the warmest wash that's appropriate for the material.
Sweat and odors
Apply liquid detergent or a pre-treater to help loosen deodorant, which can trap sweat and odors. If the odors persist, you can always send the garment through another cycle before transferring to the dryer.
No matter what kind of stain you're working with, don't put your stained clothes in the dryer until you are sure it was successfully removed.
Another way to wash workout gear is to take advantage of the PowerWash System within the Maytag Front Load Washer, which provides great cleaning power and the ability to handle your toughest loads.
For more expert tips on laundry, visit Whirlpool Corporation's Institute of Home Science.
In order to create a cleaner, healthier household environment, you need to be sure you’re using the right methods and tools to get the job done. These tips will help create and maintain a clean and healthy home without harsh chemicals or toxins by minimizing the presence of dust.
Get the Dirt on Deep Cleaning
(Family Features) A deep clean is a surefire way to freshen up your home. In order to create a cleaner, healthier household environment, you need to be sure you're using the right methods and tools to get the job done.
Fresh air and an allergen-reduced environment are important aspects of a healthy home. These tips will help create and maintain a clean and healthy home without harsh chemicals or toxins by minimizing the presence of dust - which is comprised of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile and paper fibers, soil minerals, human skin cells and other materials that can be found in the local environment.
Scrub with good sense. Not all cleaning agents are created equal. For example, those containing chlorine can not only damage your eyes, but also lead to a host of respiratory problems. Many experts also believe fragrant sprays and cleansers can pose a risk. Opt instead for natural cleansing agents or make your own at home using ingredients such as peroxide, baking soda or vinegar. Always be sure to test a small area to avoid discoloration or other damage.
Focus on flooring. If you enjoy the cushy feel of carpet under your feet, commit to extra cleaning to keep dust mites and other offenders at bay. Rely on a high-powered, filtration bag vacuum, such as the Oreck Elevate Collection of lightweight, easy-to-maneuver uprights, which not only trap dirt, dust and allergens at 99 percent, even non-visible particles, but also remove more of them upon disposal without reintroducing them back into the air in your home.
Keep appliances sparkling. Not only can dust and dirt hide underneath refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, but food splatter and unpleasant odors can often be lingering as well. Microwaving a wet washcloth or bowl of water for a few minutes can help loosen any stuck-on food and make it easier to wipe down the interior with warm, soapy water. And pouring a capful of vinegar where you would place detergent in your dishwasher or washing machine before running an empty cycle can help eliminate odors and remove hard water deposits.
Improve air quality. Don't just clean surfaces; clean the air to catch dust before it settles. Experts, including those at the Environmental Protection Agency, have found that indoor air can actually be up to five times dirtier than the air outdoors. Keep your indoor air clean with an air purifier such as the Oreck Air Refresh two-in-one air purifier and humidifier, which gives you more control over the quality of air you breathe by removing 99 percent of unwanted dust, allergens and odors while simultaneously adding moisture to the air and managing humidity in dry home environments. And, the humidifier lets you avoid the dry skin, static electricity and itchy eyes and throat that are often attributed to rooms that lack moisture.
Launder your linens. When you're working to rid your home of potential dirt, dust and allergens, it can be easy to overlook linens and upholstery. However, curtains, bedding, throw pillows and even your furniture cushions can accumulate a layer of film you don't even realize is there. Make it a regular practice to wash linens in hot water and steam clean cushions to part with unwanted particles.
With the correct products and practices, you can give your home the true refresh it needs. Find more products to help create a fresher, cleaner, and healthier home at oreck.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(BPT) - With memories of winter fading fast, you might not be thinking about your home's insulation, but the warm months are the ideal time for some simple DIY insulation projects with huge paybacks. Proper insulation - from roof to foundation - helps keep your home cool in the summer (and warm and cozy in winter).
In fact, 90 percent of U.S. homes are under-insulated, according to analysis by the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA). Adding insulation to your home is an easy way to save yourself hundreds of dollars per year in both heating and cooling costs, while helping to make your home more comfortable year around.
A trip to your local home improvement store to choose insulation can be overwhelming, though, given the dozens of options. Many homeowners will gravitate toward fiberglass insulation, as it is likely what they have in their homes and is familiar.
Advantages of fiberglass batts and rolls include they are relatively inexpensive and fit the stud and joist spacing in most homes. While fiberglass insulation installs quickly, it can be challenging for the average homeowner to get it done right. "It's very difficult to complete a fiberglass insulating job without leaving a few gaps in coverage, and even a small void can diminish a wall's overall [insulating value] by 50 percent," notes the Dr. Energy Saver company's website. Homeowners should consider that fiberglass batt insulation does not continuously cover spaces, but fits between studs. The insulation may also slump and lose its insulating value over time, creating more energy-wasting gaps.
Rigid foam insulation
Another DIY insulation option available at home improvement stores throughout the U.S. is rigid foam insulation. Of the several rigid foams available, expanded polystyrene (EPS) can be used throughout the home, including walls, floors, ceilings and foundation walls. "EPS panels are lightweight and easy to cut and handle," says Tom Savoy, technical director for Insulfoam. "EPS also installs easily over the home's framing, providing continuous, high-performance insulation in a way that's not possible with batts or rolls."
Location, location, location
When planning where to add insulation, Savoy explains that one area to pay attention to is "knee walls," which are short walls with attic space directly behind them. Such walls commonly lack insulation, but are a prime source for heat loss. "Although it can be difficult to access attic spaces behind knee walls, readily available "fanfold" EPS insulation fits through many attic access doors and hatches, and easily unfolds to cover up to 100 square feet," says Savoy.
Garage doors also many times are un-insulated. To fix this common area of heat loss and heat gain, some EPS manufacturers offer garage door insulation kits designed to fit easily into the door's segments, allowing the job to be completed in less than one hour.
For additional tips on where and how much to insulate, the U.S. Department of Energy provides information on adding insulation to an existing home.
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