A home that operates efficiently isn’t just better for the environment. Ensuring your home systems are as efficient as possible can also help reduce the financial burden of maintaining your home throughout the year. These tips can serve as areas of focus for lowering your energy bills and lessening your appliances’ negative impact on the environment.
Energy Savers that Make ‘Cents’
(Family Features) A home that operates efficiently isn’t just better for the environment. Ensuring your home systems are as efficient as possible can also help reduce the financial burden of maintaining your home throughout the year.
These tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services can serve as areas of focus for lowering your energy bills and lessening your appliances’ negative impact on the environment.
The cost of heating water for bathing, laundry and kitchen use is a common home energy drain, so it’s an area that deserves attention when you’re looking to upgrade for efficiency. To reduce energy use from your hot water heater, try taking shorter showers and switching to cold water for some washing machine wash and rinse cycles. Other options include turning down the thermostat on your heater, adding insulation or purchasing a newer, more efficient model.
Heating and Cooling
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as much as 40 percent of a home’s energy expenses come from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, also known as the heating and cooling system. Like appliances and other mechanical features of your home, over time, the heating and cooling system becomes less efficient. Regular seasonal service like appropriately changing out the air filter can help ensure your system performs at its best, but once its life expectancy has passed, a new unit is usually the more cost-effective solution in the long run.
Understanding your options is important because these systems represent a meaningful investment. There are a lot of potentially overwhelming options and you want to be sure you get the right system for your home. A consultation with an expert, such as those you can find at JCPenney Home Services, can help you determine the proper size and functions necessary to effectively manage your home’s climate, as well as assist in exploring the latest technologies and products. For example, heat pumps, which were once reserved for more moderate climates, are now a cost-efficient solution for homes where temperatures dip lower.
Another option that is relatively new but growing in popularity is known as a mini-split system. These systems let you customize the temperature settings in various spaces, enhancing personal comfort and allowing you to focus your energy use on the parts of your home that need it most. Learn more about these and other energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions at jcpenneyhomeservices.com.
While servicing or replacing an HVAC system may be the obvious change when it comes to conserving energy, you can also see reductions by using an upgraded thermostat, such as a “smart” or connected model. These devices can help you monitor the temperature setting in your home while maximizing efficiency. For example, a connected thermostat that’s synced to your smartphone may allow you to adjust temperature settings when away from home. This way, if you forget to bump the air conditioner up a few degrees while you’re gone more than a few hours, you can log-in remotely and set an appropriate temperature.
A great deal of energy is lost through cracks, holes and faulty seals. Take time to assess all windows, doors and openings for air leaks, adding caulking or weather stripping where needed. Don’t overlook culprits like openings around lighting and plumbing fixtures, switch plates and other electrical elements. Also assess potential losses from the fireplace, attic, garage and crawl spaces, where it’s common that less attention is given to thorough sealing, and determine whether additional insulation can help contain energy.
Take Control of Your Climate
Managing your home’s climate control is typically no small task or small expense. These options offer flexibility and efficiency.
Heat pumps pull from the ground or outside air temperature to both heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Since heat pumps move heat instead of generating it, they’re energy-efficient year-round.
Hybrid systems or combination systems combine elements of both a furnace and heat pump. The more efficient heat pump runs until the outside air temperature falls below a certain level, at which point the system automatically switches the heat source to the furnace. This option is more expensive up front, but can generate significant savings in terms of monthly utility bills long-term.
Ductless systems are a flexible, efficient choice for homeowners looking for simple solutions. These systems can be easily mounted on the wall or ceiling, and don’t require ductwork, making them ideal for a converted attic space or room addition.
Understanding HVAC Efficiency Ratings
An HVAC system can be rated in a number of different ways. While some of these ratings may be confusing, it is helpful to understand what they mean.
AFUE: An Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is important if you are purchasing an oil or gas furnace. The AFUE rating measures the amount of fuel used to heat your home against the amount of fuel wasted. A higher rating indicates a more efficient system. The more efficient your system, the less fuel it takes to heat your home, which translates into lower heating bills during the winter.
SEER: The higher the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), the more efficient your system and the less it will cost to heat and cool your home. Federal regulations require all new HVAC systems to have a SEER rating of 13 or higher.
HSPF: The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency of a heat pump when it is used to heat a home. A higher rating indicates greater efficiency and greater monthly savings on energy bills. New HVAC units are required to have a rating of 7.7 or higher.
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JCPenney Home Services
As the major outdoor living trend sweeps the nation, decks are getting bigger. But with television shows featuring 3,000-square-foot monster decks, the average homeowner is left to wonder, “Just how big of a deck do I need?”
(BPT) - As the major outdoor living trend sweeps the nation, decks are getting bigger. But with television shows featuring 3,000-square-foot monster decks, the average homeowner is left to wonder, “Just how big of a deck do I need?”
Atlanta, Georgia-based deck builder Frank Pologruto says it all comes down to how homeowners intend to use their space as each “zone” of the deck will require a general square footage.
“People want somewhere to cook, and then eat, and then have a conversation, and you start adding up these areas and you realize you can’t do all this in a 16-foot by 12-foot deck,” said Pologruto, the owner of Decks & More.
Dining — 320+ square feet
Outdoor kitchens and dining areas are growing in popularity, but do require significant space. A grill with some counter space for cooking and a large table and chairs for dining will take up around 320 square feet of deck.
Seating — 250+ square feet
Adding an additional seating area, whether a quiet morning coffee spot or an after-dinner conversation pit, will require more space. A conversation area for about six people will add another 256 square feet to the deck. Adding a fire element to the seating area, will require not only the space for the actual fireplace or fire pit, but also appropriate distance between the fire and any seating.
Pool or hot tub — 150+ square feet
Homeowners looking to include a water feature like an in-ground pool or hot tub can expect it to require additional deck space. A four-person hot tub could take up as many as 100 square feet of deck, but Pologruto cautions homeowners to build in plenty of room to walk around, and enter and exit the hot tub, bringing the total to between 150 and 200 square feet.
Parties — 15 square feet per person
As a general rule, Pologruto said homeowners should determine how many people they expect to host on their deck and estimate about 15 square feet of deck per person. To comfortably fit around 20 people, the deck will need at least 300 square feet of open space.
“Remember though, if you plan to have 50 people over, they won’t all be out on the deck at the same time, so plan for your deck to hold about 30 people,” he said.
With the added square footage comes a bigger price tag — $25,000 to $250,000 depending on the size.
The deck material will also affect the final cost. Pologruto uses traditional wood boards and high-end ENVISION composite decking by TAMKO Building Products, and says if homeowners are already preparing to spend the money to build a large deck, they should go the extra step and upgrade to a composite board.
“If you’re smart and have the money, do the composite — it just makes more sense,” he said.
Overall, from his experience, Pologruto said most homeowners don’t need a 3,000-square-foot deck, and should be able to fit a small dining area, arbor, hot tub and separate seating area in about 750 square feet, although some of the decks he builds are more than twice that size.
Planning to include the right amount of space will leave you with the most comfortable outdoor living area to suit your needs.
Warmer weather and more daylight hours bring renewed energy to truly enjoy your home with family and friends. Spring is a great time to get rid of the lingering grime and grit of winter to keep your clean home happening all season long. With a thorough home clean, you can create a vibrant living space for your day-to-day life, whether it’s playing with the kids, tackling your to-do list or simply relaxing. Here are three tips to help tackle some of the dirtiest places in and around your home.
(BPT) - Warmer weather and more daylight hours bring renewed energy to truly enjoy your home with family and friends. Spring is a great time to get rid of the lingering grime and grit of winter to keep your clean home happening all season long. With a thorough home clean, you can create a vibrant living space for your day-to-day life, whether it’s playing with the kids, tackling your to-do list or simply relaxing. Here are three tips to help tackle some of the dirtiest places in and around your home.
Wash your windows
You’ll be surprised how dirty your windows have gotten and how much brighter your home, and outlook, will feel once they are clean. First, remove the screens and use a vacuum’s extendable attachment to remove the loose gunk and dust. Then, wash with soapy water and a firm brush, rinse with a hose and let air dry. For especially dirty windows, first clean with soapy water, then move on to an even mix of water and white vinegar. While using a lint-free towel or cloth will help avoid streaks, a car windshield squeegee is the expert choice.
Tackle indoor surfaces
It’s important to make sure guests at your next get-together experience a clean and healthy home — but a full vacuum bag or clogged filter can reduce suction, leaving the dirt, dust and allergens that build up on many surfaces behind. For an ideal clean, make sure your vacuum is at its peak performance by replacing bags and filters. Arm & Hammer Premium Allergen bags and HEPA filters are designed to capture allergens, and need to be replaced every one to two months for bags and every three to six months for filters. If you have pets, use Arm & Hammer Pet Fresh Dry Carpet and Carpet and Upholstery Extractor Cleaners to neutralize pet odors and break down lingering stains.
Spruce up outdoors
Winter weather and activities can take a toll on the finishes and surfaces outside your home. Cleaning a few key areas will refresh your home’s look and feel as you spend more time enjoying your outdoor spaces for birthday parties, barbecues and more:
* Siding: No need to get complicated — first, rinse with a garden hose, then scrub the dirty areas with a brush and soapy water and rinse again. Make sure to avoid chlorine-based bleaches to keep surrounding plants healthy.
* Driveway and garage: First, soak up oil, stains and other nasty winter reminders by spreading a drying material, such as sawdust, on the stain. Leave it for one day before scrubbing with soap and water. A power washer can be used for particularly tough stains.
* Grill/barbecue: For gas grills, make sure the propane is disconnected. Then, soak the grates in hot soapy water and rinse. Scrub thoroughly under the hood and on the inside walls with a hard brush, first covering the heating elements, to get rid of grease and particles from last year. Wipe down with a damp towel.
With these tips, you are ready for a clean, healthy (and fun) season. For more tips, visit www.armhammervac.com.
(BPT) - The key to reducing your home's energy bills could literally be at your fingertips, hanging on the wall of your home. Multiple studies have shown the connection between lower energy bills and thermostat settings. In fact, reducing thermostat settings just seven to 10 degrees for eight hours per day can reduce heating and cooling use by 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Smarter thermostats, greater efficiency
With smart home automation, homeowners can use a home comfort system to actively manage their comfort and energy usage. This greater ability to match the system performance to individual lifestyles puts the homeowner in a position of power when it comes to managing their energy usage. And in terms of home comfort, that control typically starts with the thermostat.
Thermostats often serve as the touchpoint that integrates with the larger system to provide the simplest, most user-friendly interface for the homeowner. So, it's important for homeowners to understand the different types of thermostats available to them and how they can improve comfort and efficiency:
* A conventional thermostat lets the homeowner adjust the temperature using a traditional dial or control panel.
* Smart thermostats monitor user behavior and dynamically adjust system performance for consistent comfort and maximized efficiency.
* Connected thermostats bridge the gap between the two, offering remote operation, but still rely on the user for direction.
Smart thermostats, like Champion's Momentum Hx Touch-screen Thermostat, manage automation by communicating wirelessly with home heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to maximize efficiency. Smart thermostats learn better than humans, and can automatically adjust temperature programming to match your lifestyle while maximizing efficiency and savings. As part of a complete system, the Wi-Fi-enabled Momentum thermostat allows users to monitor and control systems remotely with an app from any internet-enabled mobile device, and can even notify homeowners of developing problems.
Looking beyond the thermostat
The number of connected households that have smart thermostats more than doubled in the past two years, according to market research firm Parks Associates. With 36 percent of broadband-using households interested in a system that manages and monitors their home energy use, Parks Associates predict that half of all American homes will be smart homes by 2020.
Energy consumption starts with the overall heating and cooling equipment; thermostat watts are just a small portion of energy consumption. Purchasing home automation products designed and manufactured to work with the homeowner's specific comfort system is the best way to maximize performance and energy savings. And, homeowners should start with buying energy-efficient equipment.
"It's important to remember that "smart" isn't just the thermostat - it's an overall connected system," said Jedidiah Bentz, director, Advanced Systems, Controls & Technology, Johnson Controls. "A complete home comfort system goes beyond the thermostat to offer energy saving benefits.".To learn more about Champion home comfort systems, visit www.championhomecomfort.com/smarthome or follow @Champion_HVAC on Twitter.
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