Are You Thinking About Buying a Smart Thermostat?

Why You Should Buy a Smart Thermostat

Thermostats are an irreplaceable part of any HVAC system. These handy control mechanisms take the guesswork out of your heating and cooling systems, allowing you to customize their activity based on your personal comfort preferences.

The ABCs of smart thermometers

But if you think thermostats are still simple devices with a low range of capabilities, we have a surprise for you. Smart thermostats have changed the HVAC industry forever—these universally programmable and interactive devices let users streamline and personalize the performance of their HVAC equipment right down to the minute.

Smart thermostats furnish precise and convenient digital control over physical heating and cooling equipment, saving time and money in the process. All across the land, homeowners are singing their praises, and if you don’t know anything about smart thermostats, you truly don’t know what you’ve been missing.

The A-B-Cs of Smart Thermostats

So what is it, exactly, that makes a smart thermostat so smart?

That’s a great question, and the list of differences between smart and conventional thermostats is more extensive than you might think.

Here’s what you’ll get with a good-quality smart thermostat:

  • User-friendly digital features. If you know how to operate your smart phone, you’ll have no problem understanding and managing your smart thermostat. In fact, a smart thermostat is less complex and easier to use.
  • Full Wi-Fi capability. Yes, that’s right. State-of-the-art smart thermostats are remotely accessible over the Internet—meaning you can program them from your mobile devices or laptop even when you’re not at home. All you have to do is download the proper smart thermostat app, and you’ll be ready to roll.
  • Connectivity with all home comfort appliances. Furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilators … you name it, and if it helps regulate your home’s interior environment, a smart thermostat can control it. Install a smart thermostat, and it will operate as the “brain” of your entire indoor climate management system.
  • Long-term programming capabilities. With a smart thermostat, you can program your home’s temperature and relative humidity settings for tomorrow, for next week, or for every day next month. Or if you’re going on vacation, you can program your system to switch on shortly before you return, so you’ll return to a home that’s as cool or as toasty as you desire.
  • Detailed information about energy-use patterns. You can receive as many digital updates as you like, detailing your energy consumption by the hour, day, week, or month. This will allow you to track your energy-use patterns and make adjustments that can save you money without compromising on performance. Your device will even offer customized tips to help you improve your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Automatic adaptability. Believe it or not, your smart thermostat will eventually learn to adapt to your habits and make automatic adjustments in your heating and cooling settings, based on time of day, who’s home, etc. Over time, your new thermostat may come to know more about your climate preferences than you do—which is why they call them smart

In addition to their outstanding performance features, smart thermostats are easy to install and sleekly designed to blend naturally into their surroundings. They can be integrated with all makes and models of furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps and will begin saving you money on energy consumption right from the get-go.

How much money, you ask? If you learn to use all the features of your smart thermostat, you may be able to reduce your fuel and electricity consumption by as much as 20-30 percent.

While smart thermostats are more expensive than older analog models, with these types of savings, they should pay for themselves in one or two years, tops.

Smart Thermostats for Smarter Living

Only you can decide if a smart thermostat is the right choice for you and your family.

Just know that if you do take the plunge, your control over the operation of your HVAC system will grow exponentially. On-demand fingertip programmability gives you complete autonomy over indoor temperatures in your home seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, from wherever you are in the world.

From a cost-benefit standpoint,  a smart thermostat is one of the smarter investments you could ever hope to make.

How to Protect and Preserve Your Garbage Disposal

And Prevent Plugged Pipes in the Process!

Garbage disposals are rugged, durable, can-do appliances. Most of us take them for granted—expecting them to grind on forever without malfunction or interruption. But they require care and careful use if they are to remain in prime working order.

How to protect and preserve your garbage disposal.

What NOT to Put in Your Garbage Disposal

Even the highest-quality garbage disposals are designed to handle a restricted range of food products. The list of items they should not be asked to grind up include the following:

  • Large animal bones
  • Grease or cooking oil
  • Fruit pits
  • High-fiber foods (lettuce, artichokes, onion skins, celery, etc.)
  • Potato or banana peels
  • Pasta, rice, beans and other foods that absorb water
  • Coffee grounds

These food items can clog drain pipes, jam or dull cutting blades, strain disposal motors, and create unpleasant but persistent odors. While you may not realize it, you’ll be shortening the lifespan of your disposal every time you ask it to process any of these substances.

Tips for Efficient Garbage Disposal Use

You should feed waste items into your disposal steadily and gradually with water running the whole time. A disposal can easily be overloaded and you should never stuff anything down into it before you turn on the machine.

A steady stream of cold water should always complement a garbage disposal in operation. Grind everything you put down the drain thoroughly and completely before turning your disposal off, and leave the cold water running for at least 15 seconds after the machine is finished with its work.

DIY Garbage Disposal Maintenance and Repairs

With a proactive approach to garbage disposal maintenance, you should be able to prevent clogged pipes, jammed blades, and the emanation of perpetually disgusting odors.

Here are six quick tips on how to keep your disposal clean and in tip-top condition:

  1. Never use hot water when grinding food items in your disposal. Hot water causes the grease in foods to dissolve, liquefy, stick to blades and coagulate inside pipes.
  2. Be sure to use your garbage disposal regularly, preferably on a daily basis. This will stave off rust and corrosion.
  3. Don’t use bleach or chemical drain cleaners in your sink and disposal under any circumstances. These harsh substances will damage cutting blades and slowly eat away at the inside of your pipes.
  4. Once or twice a month, throw a handful of ice cubes down the drain, turn on the cold water, and let your disposal loose. The sound of grinding ice cubes is not pleasant, but the shards of the frozen water will sharpen your disposal’s blades and chop right through any greasy accumulation.
  5. Grind up half of a citrus fruit (orange, lime, lemon) once a month to help remove bad odors and leave your sink and disposal smelling fresh and clean.
  6. Every two weeks, use a vinegar and baking soda paste (two parts vinegar to one part soda is a good mixture) to scour and clean your disposal. Pour the paste down the drain, and let it sit for 30-60 minutes before scrubbing vigorously with a long wire brush. When you wash the remaining paste down the drain, it will clean your pipes and the interior of your disposal as well.

How to Fix a Jammed or Non-functioning Disposal

If your garbage disposal refuses to start, nine times out of ten the problem can be fixed by hitting the reset button. This button will be either red or black and will be located somewhere on the outside of the unit.

Should your disposal somehow become jammed, before you do anything be sure to unplug the appliance so electricity is not an issue (forget to do this and you may be in for the shock of your life, figuratively and literally). On the disposal’s underside, you should find a small hole large enough for a ¼″ hex wrench. Insert one of these wrenches, and turn it forward and backward several times, and if the jam is not too serious, this should loosen it.

Next, use a pair of pliers to remove the object responsible for the jam—assuming you’re able to get it out. If this two-step approach doesn’t work and your disposal is still jammed, that would be the time to call a plumber.

Don’t Treat Your Garbage Disposal like Garbage

Good garbage disposal care is straightforward and simple. All you need is a little time and a conscious commitment to treat your disposal with respect. Do this and it should keep rolling along without breakdown for years to come.

 

 

 

 

10 Tips to Prepare You for the Winter Heating Season

Autumn is a time of transition. When the temperatures drop, the winds rise, and the leaves change color, it means air conditioning season is over, and the winter heating season is fast approaching.

10 Steps to Prepare Your Home for the Winter Season

In the coming months, your furnace and/or heat pump will be charged with the task of keeping your family warm and comfortable on even the coldest winter days. But there is more to home heating than just setting your thermostat at 70 degrees and letting it run night and day.

To get the most out of your heating system, you need to pamper it, customize it, and support it with smart home maintenance actions. You should get to work on all of this at least a month or two before heating season arrives to make sure your equipment is ready to function as efficiently as possible right from the first moment you need it.

Here are some pre-winter preparation tips that will put your HVAC system in prime working order and get your home ready for the long, cold months to come:

  • Plug or fill all potential sources of air leakage. Use caulk and weatherstripping to fill in and around windows, doors, pipes, electrical outlets, and other areas where small air leaks can lead to big energy loss.
  • Clean everything. When your home is shut up tight for the winter, your indoor air quality can deteriorate, putting your family at risk for respiratory disorders and other types of allergic reactions. To remove potential sources of contamination, clean your house thoroughly from top to bottom a few weeks before the heating season begins.
  • Inspect your insulation and add more if you find gaps. Attics and basements are areas of special interest. Spray-foam insulation is probably your best bet if you decide to add more insulation, since spray-foam will penetrate and fill cracks, crevices, and small openings wherever they might exist.
  • Check and clean all air vents. Over the course of the summer, your intake and output vents may become clogged with dust, dirt, and other forms of particulate matter. This can restrict air flow and reduce your HVAC system’s efficiency.
  • Add a humidifier to your home comfort arsenal. Humidifiers will help improve air quality, and moist air also feels warmer than dry air, which means you’ll be able to set your thermostat a few degrees lower than normal and still feel comfortable.
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. They should run clockwise (at low speeds) during the winter, drawing cool air upward and forcing warm air downward. The use of ceiling fans in winter can cut heating costs down by 5-10 percent.
  • Change your HVAC air filter. This should be done on a monthly or bimonthly basis during the winter months, depending on the quality of the air filter you purchase. You should avoid the cheap fiberglass models and look for something of better quality—like a pleated or electrostatic filter.
  • Install double-glazed or low e-glass windows. By adding an extra pane of glass or low-emissivity glass coatings, you can cut heat loss through your windows by as much as 40 percent.
  • Have your ductwork inspected and cleaned or repaired if necessary. Find a reliable duct cleaning company with good online reviews (there are scammers out there, so beware!), and make an appointment to have your ducts checked for leakage and/or excessive contamination.
  • Call your HVAC contractor to arrange a full maintenance inspection of your furnace and/or heat pump. A full inspection and tune-up for your furnace and/or heat pump should be a fixture on your autumn “to do” list.  A trained technician can find and repair small problems before they turn into gigantic mechanical failures, while performing basic maintenance procedures that can restore your equipment to tip-top working order.

 

 

Carbon Monoxide Detectors: A Simple Step That Can Save Lives

Each year, 20,000 people in the U.S. are poisoned by carbon monoxide, and approximately 400 people die, many in their own homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carbon monoxide detetectors - a simple step that save your life

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas, but it can be very dangerous to your health and sometimes fatal. You have no way of knowing if carbon monoxide is leaking in your home unless you have a carbon monoxide detector.

Not all states require homes to have carbon monoxide alarms, but installing one can be the difference between life and death.

Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a material burns. Homes with fuel-burning appliances or attached garages are more likely to have carbon monoxide problems. Sources of carbon monoxide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), include these:

  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Leaking chimneys and furnaces
  • Back-drafting from furnaces
  • Gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline-powered equipment
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages
  • Tobacco

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when the gas is trapped in poorly ventilated, contained spaces where people are. If you breathe in too much carbon monoxide, your ability to absorb oxygen can be compromised, resulting in serious tissue damage.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea as initial symptoms. High-level poisoning can result in vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness.

When carbon monoxide problems slowly develop in a home, victims often mistake their symptoms for the flu. When carbon monoxide levels are higher and develop more quickly, for example, from generators in homes, mental confusion can set in rapidly. Victims may lose muscle control without being aware of the flu-like symptoms and will probably succumb to poisoning if they are not rescued.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home is as simple as installing a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near every area of your home where people sleep. Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to alarm before potentially life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide are reached.

Here are other things you can do to reduce the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Have your heating system (as well as chimneys and flues) professionally inspected and serviced every year.
  • Do not use charcoal inside your house or your garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • In an attached garage, even if the door is open, never leave a car running.
  • Do not operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not use a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool in or near any house, garage, or other enclosed space.

 

Tips for Reducing Humidity Indoors

North Carolina summers are notoriously hot and humid, but when this humidity gets too high indoors, problems can occur. Recommended humidity levels indoors are between 30 and 50 percent, but can often exceed that during the hot summer months, especially during a particularly rainy season.

Tips for reducing humidity indoors

High humidity can cause many problems in your home such as mold, mildew, dust mites, rust, wood swelling and doors sticking, in addition to creating a generally uncomfortable environment. A humid home can also cause health problems, such as allergies with itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing and difficulty breathing, and may worsen asthma.

You can’t do anything to control the hot, humid North Carolina climate, but you can take several steps to reduce an overly humid indoor environment.

Here are some simple tips for reducing humidity in your home:

  • Make sure your home is airtight. Caulk any structural cracks or gaps and use weather stripping around doors and windows.
  • Cut down on those household tasks that produce water vapor. Take shorter showers and use cooler water. Cook using the microwave rather than the stove as much as possible. When boiling water, do not remove the lid.
  • Use energy-efficient ceiling fans to keep indoor air moving and keep the air drier.
  • Install exhaust vents in bathrooms and over the kitchen range.
  • Schedule an annual air conditioner tune-up with your HVAC contractor to perform maintenance that is crucial for the dehumidifying function of your AC.
  • Vent your clothes dryer outside.
  • Get rid of carpet, which holds in moisture.
  • Install a dehumidifier. A whole-house dehumidifier installed in the HVAC system can reduce humidity to a safe and comfortable level. Portable dehumidifiers are also quite effective, but have to be emptied daily.