It doesn’t work don’t buy it

radiant barrier ceiling

radiant barrier ceiling (Photo credit: van wagner-skrzat residence)

Radiant barriers are an amazing product, if you don’t get ripped off. There are a lot of “radiant barrier” products out there, all claiming to be the best. Which radiant barrier do you choose? Maybe I can help shed a little light on what to look for. One way to tell a good product from a bad product, Good radiant barriers go on your roof decking (right under your plywood that the shingles are nailed to). Bad radiant barriers lay over your insulation on your attic floor. Now this product typically looks like bubble wrap made with aluminium foil. This product doesn’t work, and typically is sold to you buy a guy offering a free steak dinner if you will come watch a demo of the product. That’s a sure sign of a bad product. These bubble wrap type products DON”T reflect the radiant heat like a smooth shiny product would. Even if they did attach it to your roof decking its not going to reflect much if any heat. According to the government for a reflective barrier to work it needs to be “draped” under the rafters with no less than 2 inch gap between the barrier and the roof decking.  The product works just like aluminum foil that you cook with.  It needs to be smooth and shiny.  Its not going to have the reflective quality if not.  The barriers with air pockets like bubble wrap look like they would work great, air is a good insulator. The problem is it doesn’t reflect, and the air pockets aren’t big enough to actually insulate anything.  So remember if it doesn’t go on your roof decking like in the picture, its not going to work.  You have to stop the heat before it fills the whole attic space.  If you have any question comments or blog ideas email me at lowerutilities1@gmail.com

The hard facts about wind energy

I usually only write about things you can do to lower your utility bill ,  but there’s a few things everybody should know about our green energy.  Last post was about solar power and how expensive it is, and how its just not a good choice yet.  The next big topic when discussing green energy is Wind energy and wind turbines.

English: The , also known as the Green Mountai...

English: The , also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wind energy and turbines are a hot topic right now.  The governments talking about them, private companies are talking about them, and some home owners are talking about them.  Especially if you have one in your town.  Wind turbines are usually seen in the prairies and flat lands, but they are slowly making their way to the east coast.  It really looks like a good idea.  Wind is free, its green (obviously), and its renewable.  Turbines look like everything you would want in producing clean energy.  There’s just one problem.  Actually there’s a few problems.  Problems you wont hear many people talk about.

  1. Turbines are expensive.  They can cost between 1.5 -2 million dollars to build and install.
  2. Turbines are HUGE.  The typical commercial turbine is 400 feet tall. That’s the height of a 40 story building.  So if you live in the mid west and you enjoy the view, if there’s a wind farm close by its obvious.   Its not that they are ugly, its just that they are not natural.  Its the same as looking at rows of cel towers.  I’m not sure anybody would want to see that on a daily basis.  Not to mention some companies are using the space on the side to advertise business.
  3. Turbines don’t last forever.  They have to be replaced every 20 years.  Now without showing you a bunch of math figures and charts, the payoff for these turbines are between 15-20 years.  Now this depends on how much electricity it produces, but most provide enough energy to pay for themselves in 15-20 years.  That’s just about enough time for some body to spend another 1.5 million dollars to replace it.

So why are we using wind energy?  That’s a good question.  We have to do something.  We cant just sit around and keep burning up the same electricity.  I’m glad that we have companies attempting to harness wind energy, and solar energy, technology just hasn’t caught up yet.

The truth about solar energy

solar panels

solar panels (Photo credit: spanginator)

I hope for a day that I can live “off the grid.” The sad truth about it is, the technology just isn’t there yet. You can live “off the grid”, but not with all your modern conveniences. Conveniences like, a dryer, curling iron, and microwave. Now as usual I will explain myself.
How does solar power work? You have to run power to your house using batteries. Batteries like golf cart batteries or 18 wheeler batteries. You take a converter that converts battery (AC) power to (DC) power. Now that you have power and its converted to DC the batteries will run down, unless you use solar panels to charge them. So you take solar panels and run them to a battery charger, that slowly charges the batteries throughout the day. Sounds simple enough right?
The average house uses about 31kw per day. It takes roughly 30 golf cart batteries to run the average house. At a cost of $250 per battery that’s $7500.00 initial cost just for batteries. Ok that’s a little crazy, but hey its green energy. Now you need solar panels. 120 sqft of solar panels will charge 1kw. So for 31 kw you will need about 3,720 sqft of solar panels. Solar panels for a system this size will cost around $16,000.00. The upside is, the solar panels should last you 20-25 years. The down side is, the batteries have to be replaced about every 3 years. There is constant maintenance on the batteries also.  Like replacing the electrolytes in the batteries.
Now I’m sure I have made some mistakes with this, solar energy isn’t this cut and dry. I’ve done research and this is the easiest way I can explain it. I’ve read about solar panels that are better and more efficient.  Just not enough to live the way we live on a daily basis.  The technology just isn’t there yet. I wish it was but it’s not. For example, with the system I explained you can run most of your house. The items you can’t run off these batteries are, your air or heating unit, cloths dryer, oven, curling iron, microwave, power tools, stove, and vacuum. Any item that pulls 1500 watts will ruin your batteries, which is a lot of items. I would love to live off the grid, but with solar energy it’s just too costly. I hope you find this informative and useful.

Which way do you face?

English: Green window

English: Green window (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would be ridiculous for me to say that all houses face East or West, but a lot do.  Just look around, which way does your house face?  Now I have researched this and I cant find any reason why it is this way.  I am not an engineer or an architect, so I don’t know if this is done for a reason or if this is just the way it happens.  Today I’m going to explain why, what way your house faces, has to do with your electric bill. If your house faces West (and mine does) this is the worst position for your house.  Why is this bad? Because your house has the most sun exposure to the hottest part of the day.  So the second worse position is facing East.  Although not as bad as West there is still a lot of sun exposure.  So what can I do about this, you ask?  You can rotate your house 90 degrees or you can cover your windows.  Now let me elaborate a little.  The sun pumps UV rays into your windows heating your house.  If you don’t believe me just stand in your window facing the sun and see if you get hot.  You have a couple options when it comes to covering your windows .

  1. Some really good blinds or shades.  This helps but only a little.  The UV rays are still getting into the “envelope” of your house.  This is a decent option just not a good one.
  2. 3M Window film.  This is your answer. According to 3M using the window film to block the UV rays can help reduce cooling cost of your house by up to 30%.  Even if they are wrong (I doubt they are) and its half that 15% is still a substantial savings monthly. Other good qualities of this product is it reduces fading of carpet and furniture by up to 99%.  It also reduces glaring in the windows.  They also have a crime prevention sun control line.  I wont get into that today but trust me you wont get through that glass.
  3. You can replace your windows with better newer windows with UV protection.  There are some amazing new widows on the market now and I will get into those on a different post.  The average cost to replace 1 window in your house is close to $300.00.  I try to give you low cost ways to reduce your bill and this doesn’t quite fit.

This 3M window tint or window film isn’t like what you put on your car window.  You can get the smoke tint or mirror tint from 3M but most people like the window to look natural so the film is clear and isn’t noticeable.  3M website has tons of technical information on how this works on their website feel free to check it out.  I wont bore you with that.  http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Window_Film/Solutions/Markets-Products/Residential/Sun_Control_Window_Films/Prestige_Series/

3M company has a reputation that stands for itself so you know their product is good.  I am a DIY kind of Guy so I rarely pay someone to do some thing I can do my self, and I know how to tint windows. I say that to say this, You can buy the film from 3M and do it yourself. However for this product to work properly it needs to be done right and to have a warranty it needs to be done by a trained professional.  So you can do this yourself I just wouldn’t recommend it.  If your like me and your unfortunate enough for your house to face west then call or look up 3M window film.  If your building a house face it a different direction.  So how many windows do you have in your house? and what direction is your house facing?

Does your ceiling fan really help?

Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan (Photo credit: Catie Rhodes)

Most houses have one but most people don’t use them.  One of your biggest energy draws is your AC/heat unit.  How do you keep that from running so much in the hot summer?  One way is to run your ceiling fan.  There are a few factors in this statement, one is the size of the room, the size of the fan, the height of the ceilings and lastly the type bulbs in the ceiling fans.

How does a ceiling fan work? Well here’s  the short easy version.  Blow on the back of your hand. Blow on it hard, how does the air feel? Now breath on the back of your hand with a deep breath, How does that air feel? The first should be cool and the second warm. Both came from the same place at about 98 degrees. So what’s the difference? The speed of the air. If you stand under your ceiling fan you feel cooler. It may still be 72 degrees in your house but you feel cooler. Running your ceiling fan will allow you to run your air conditioner 4 degrees higher or more. That means your AC unit is working less and in turn lowers your electric bill. So should you run your ceiling fans 24/7? NO. They don’t lower your air temp in your room so if you’re not in the room turn it off. When you’re in the room turn it on. It’s that easy. What ceiling fan should you use? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. They are all close enough alike so if you have one just run it. If you don’t, get one.

Now that sound easy and it is, but there are some things that come into play with a ceiling fan.  I’m going to go over a few.

  1. The size of the room.  If it’s a huge room and a small ceiling fan, then your probably not going to get enough benefit out of using it.
  2. The size of the fan.  If it’s a small room then a small fan will work just fine, but if it’s a big room then you are going to need a bigger fan.
  3. The height of the ceiling.  If the you have tall ceilings you may need a drop down rod on your fan or a fan with bigger blades and or a bigger motor.  A drop down rod (most fans come with one) is a good thing to use to put the fan closer to your living space.
  4. Type of bulbs in the fan.  If you are still into incandescent bulbs or high wattage bulbs then you may not be doing any good.  One 100 watt bulb can put out up to 350 degree’s of heat.  If your fan has 3 bulbs then you may be running hot air down to your living space.

Even if you run into some of the issues from above you can always run the fan and see if it helps.  If it doesn’t turn it off, if it does then bump your thermostat up some and use the fan to help keep you cool.

So what if you don’t have a ceiling fan?  Ceiling fans are relatively easy to install by yourself, BUT you are dealing with live electricity it’s always good to call a professional to install it for you.  Most contractors can do it for you pretty cheap.

Can a ceiling fan help in the winter?  Absolutely .  Every ceiling fan comes with a small switch on the side of the motor that will spin the blades in the opposite direction.  When the temp drops outside and its cold, flip the switch (while the fan is off) and run the ceiling fan backwards.  Turn the ceiling fan on but turn it on the slowest setting.  You don’t want the air coming down fast.  You just want it to pull the warm air down from the ceiling.  This works better if you have vaulted ceilings but it will work ok with a normal ceiling.

Now that we have the easy stuff out of the way lets talk numbers.  The typical ceiling fan runs at about 50-100 watts.  Your AC unit runs at about 2000-5000 watts now that’s a HUGE difference.  So when the electric company is charging you per kwh letting your AC unit rest and not run is great thing.  At my house, we are all comfortable with the thermostat set on 70-72 degrees.  When the ceiling fans are running we can comfortably run our thermostat at about 76 degrees.  We have noticed our AC unit doesn’t run as much as it did.  I hope this helps keep your bill down.  Just remember it will help more if you cut the fan off when your not in the room .

4 quick money saving tips

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There are a lot of things you can do to save money on your electric bill. Some tips are easy to accomplish, some are more difficult, and some require a professional. My tips today will be some you can do on your own. They don’t require a lot of money or time.
1. Fix, replace or install weather striping around your doors. Your doors and windows are the biggest problem for sealing up your house. You can get all different types at your local hardware store. If you have metal doors they make a magnetic type that works great. If wood there’s a foam type. All types basically peel and stick. It’s very easy to install.
2. Don’t turn your thermostat up while your away. Turning it up some is ok, but turning it off or way up will require your unit to work twice as hard later.
3. Don’t shut off some of your vents. The vents or registers should stay open all the way, or at least cracked open a little. You’d think if your not using a room, if you shut off the register and shut the door it will make it cooler in the rest of your house. Well that’s not true. Your a/c unit and your ductwork is specifically designed for your house. If you shut off registers it’s basically like holding your hand over the end of a hair dryer. It’s forcing air back on the fan making it work harder, therefore running up your electric bill. Also if you close the door to a room there needs to be a gap between the carpet/floor and the door. If the carpet is snug against the bottom of the door when the door is closed, it’s the same principal as shutting the vent.
4. Get unplugged. We’ve all heard this before. Unplug unused items in your house. Items like a coffee maker and computers draw power even when they are off. Other items are just as important to unplug, like phone chargers, TV’s, lamps. Basically anything plugged in should be unplugged. Now I understand its almost impossible to do this everyday, but getting in the habit of unplugging will help lower your bill. These are 4 quick easy tips to make a difference. Now I need something from you. How much was your last electric bill?

So many light bulbs so little time

reddy

If you’ve been shopping for light bulbs lately, you know that you cant just go pick up a light bulb and go home. There’s incandescent bulbs, Compact fluorescent, and LED’s.  That’s just they types what about sizes? In my house I have 3 different size bulbs.  1 size definitely does not fit all.  Leaving sizes aside we will look at types today. 

  • Incandescent bulbs- You might have noticed walking through the light bulb section at the store. These are hard to come by.  Why is that? Well our government decided they would mandated that we make smarter choices.  Its called the incandescent phase out.  In 2012 they stopped selling 100w bulbs. 2013 75w bulbs will be phased out. 2014 all other incandescent will be phased out.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the old 100-150 watt bulbs were terribly energy inefficient.  They could produce upwards of 350 degrees of heat.  How do you think your easy bake oven worked?  It was a light bulb. 
  • Compact fluorescent- aka CFL- Compact fluorescent bulbs are basically miniature fluorescent light bulbs like you see in commercial businesses. These bulbs have come a long way.  The technology is getting better with these bulbs.  They use to be notorious for making a humming noise and flickering.  MOST of the time these don’t do that any more.  The great thing about these bulbs are the fact that they are over 75% more energy efficient than their incandescent counter part.  That right there should be enough to make you want to change out your incandescent’s today.  These bulbs now come with the capabilities of 3 way lighting for lamps or dimming features.  The price is coming down also.  With the pricing getting better and the studies that show CFL’s are lasting up to 25 times longer, this decision is a no brainer, or is it?
  • LED’s- or light emitting diode- LED’s are my personal favorite.  LED lights use only 6-8 watts as compared to a 100 watt or 75 watt incandescent (if you can find one).  The incandescent typically last a respectable 1,200 hours, where the LED last a whopping 50,000 hours. The LED cost about $32 a year to operate, the incandescent cost $328. These are all wonderful features of the LED bulb, so what’s the down side?  Right now the down side is the price of the LED.  As technology gets better the price will continue to drop as it has been doing.  LED’s are new to the market for homeowner lighting. 

So what does all this mean?   Your going to have to swap to CFL or LED soon due to a lack of incandescent bulbs. Which bulb you choose is up to you.  Each one has its down falls, CFL’s aren’t made to flip off and on regularly.  They will last longer if they are on for 15 min. or more.  Flipping off and on will shorten the lifespan of the CFL.  LED’s are expensive, but will save you enough money to pay for itself eventually.  Try the different bulbs to see how you like them.  Your probably not going to replace them all at the same time so try them out.

 

Have you tried either of these and if so what’s your opinion?