Monday, August 30, 2010

The Benefits of Solar Water Heaters

It’s one thing to talk the talk about making eco-friendly household modifications and an entirely different thing to walk down that environmental-sensitivity path. Those interested in the latter now have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (figuratively speaking, of course!): lowering their power consumption and saving water. How is this possible you might ask? Well, it’s just gotten a whole lot easier now that you can install a solar water heater.

The Costs: Big Investment, Larger Return
Solar water heaters are not cheap. However, when you add in the fact that their life expectancy – which is about 20 years – is twice that of a standard water heater, their price tag of $4,000-$8,000 begins to sound all the more reasonable. 

But, longevity is not the only reason to invest in a solar water heater. In addition to lowering your annual water heating bill by half, there are also federal tax credits that you can take advantage of that will allow you to write off a substantial percentage of your environmental upgrade.

Devoted Environmentalists Unite!
Putting aside monetary incentives, the ecological benefits of installing a solar water heater are enough to give even the most frugal penny pincher a reason to think twice and devoted environmentalists cause to celebrate. 

A solar water heater works together with your existing gas or electric tank, bearing the majority of the workload. It can reduce your carbon emissions to a level equivalent with not driving your car for four months.

Improving Your Home’s Resale Value
There are plenty of people concerned with the environment, yet not enough willing to invest the money needed to create the kind of dramatic impact that a solar water heater can deliver. However, if this type of device is already in place, such improvements can have a powerful appeal on other people’s sensibilities.

If you are concerned that you may not stay in your home long enough to reap the financial rewards of installing a solar water heater, consider how it will improve your home’s appeal and resale value. To a prospective buyer, seeing such a money-saving, eco-friendly device already built-in might just be the clincher that seals the deal.

Questions about Solar Water Heaters
In upcoming blog entries, the technology and benefits of solar water heaters will be further explored. Please submit any questions you may have about these devices to the comment section of our blog. This will help us direct the content of future entries on this topic or on any other type of plumbing topic that may be of interest to you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lightening the Carbon Load One Kitchen at a Time

If your home were a power plant, your kitchen would be the nuclear reactor. Maybe that’s not an altogether appropriate comparison, but it does give you an idea of how much unseen energy flows through there at all times. Your kitchen is where most of your home’s power usage occurs. It’s also the one place in your house where you can make the most significant number of contributions to eco-friendly practices.

Fridge Functions and Replacement
Next to your home heating and cooling system, your refrigerator is the one household appliance that uses up the most electricity. 

If you’re interested in doing your best to decrease the size of your carbon footprint--and save a few bucks in the process--consider replacing your old refrigerator with an Energy Star compliant model. If you’ve already got an Energy Star fridge, pat yourself on the shoulder. 

Then, check that its temperature controls are set between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Any colder and you’re just needlessly burning electricity. Don’t forget your freezer, which should be set at 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, get rid of that old refrigerator in the garage. You know the one I’m talking about that serves as an overflow for drinks and some extra special deals at the grocery store that you couldn’t pass up and had to store in the freezer. Just make do with less because that extra refrigerator is an energy sucker not to mention a dollar waster.

The Dishwasher Double Whammy
What sounds like a mixture between wishful thinking and science fiction is a reality. Energy Star dishwashers use a lot less water and energy, and they do a far better job of cleaning your dishes than your old clunker of a model. 

Buying a new energy and water-efficient dishwasher is the double-whammy that will bring your emissions and your household costs down dramatically.

Eco-Style Organization
Your kitchen is the perfect place to promote the proper recycling of materials. If you want to get on the bandwagon for separating your waste and don’t know how to go about it, you can get an inexpensive compartmentalized kitchen recycling bin that will make the separation of trash and recyclables from a minor hassle into a simple task. 

Also, consider a composter or other means of making less trash, such as taking some leftover coffee grounds and using them for fertilizer in your garden.

There are many things you can do to turn your kitchen from a center of consumption to a place of conservation. All it takes is willingness and commitment. These are the two things that positive change can never do without.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tips for Finding a Good Plumber

Good plumbers are like good boxing refs. In both cases, you know you’ve got a good one if you don’t realize they’re there until they’re needed. Having to see too much of your plumber could mean you’ve either drawn a real unlucky card or you need to shop around for a new one. Here are a few considerations for helping you choose the right one.

Years In
Bad plumbers don’t stick around for decades. In fact, they are usually here today and gone tomorrow because their reputation will quickly catch up with them. However, you can count on a plumber with a number of years under their belt to have earned good on-the-job education. As much as it may take away from perfectly capable plumbing businesses trying to get off the ground, you should never gamble on anything but a sure bet when it comes to your home or business plumbing.

The Question of Cost
If you place cost as your primary concern when looking for a plumber, the likelihood is high that you’re going to wind up sacrificing quality to save dollars. The old adage about you get what you pay for is true in every industry, including plumbing. But, few people are ever as truly concerned about price as they are with the quality of workmanship. 

When looking for a new plumber, keep this in mind and don’t immediately reject someone if their prices are higher than everyone else’s. There could be good reason why and it just might be the level of service offering and commitment to fixing it the first time. In the long run, you may actually pay less than if you had hired the cheapest plumber out of the phone book.

Versatile Services Beyond Basic Repair
A good plumber is a versatile plumber. This means that they offer more than just basic repair or maintenance. When you’re shopping around for a good plumber, ask what types of services they offer. Finding a plumbing service that offers free consultations for making your home more eco-friendly, for example, will ensure that you’re not just hiring the services of a fix-it repair person; you are working with a company that is looking out for your best interests and wants to save you money.

References and Research
Don’t be afraid to ask for references, especially if the job you’re hiring a plumber for is going to be extensive and requires a lot of time and money to complete. If you’ve got a plumbing emergency, you won’t have time to do this. This is another reason why you should conduct your research well in advance instead of waiting for dire circumstances, which will force you to accept the first plumber that says they can come out.

Word-of-Mouth Connections
The best endorsement is to have customers pass your name out as the plumber of choice. Ask your friends, neighbors, and work associates who they use for their plumbing needs. Go with the recommendation made by those who are able to tell you who they use without having to reference a business card or past invoice. Any good plumber will make an impression that will manifest itself in instant name recognition.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Settling the Great "Water Waster" Debate: Showers vs. Baths

To most eco-minded people, the conventional thinking about showers versus baths is that taking a bath uses less water. After all, bathwater is contained within your tub. A shower, on the other hand, pours out a steady stream that you watch go right down the drain. Therefore, if you want to obtain maximum conservation for your efforts, it makes sense to bathe more often – right? Wrong. Believe it or not, a bath can waste a lot more water than a shower.

The average household bathtub holds around 80 gallons of water. Now, imagine a stack of 80 milk jugs. When put into perspective, you begin to get an idea of just how much water you waste in a single bath. 

But, taking a shower isn’t a guarantee that you’re saving the word one drop at a time, either. The average shower uses less water--around four gallons per minute--but if you’re not conscious about how much time you spend in there, you could be wasting more than you’re trying to save.

Cut Back on the Length of Your Showers
As long as you can keep your showers to within an acceptable length – and by acceptable length, we’re talking shutting off the flow and drying off at the ten minute mark – your conservation efforts will not be in vain.

Get an Eco-Friendly Shower Head
Eco-friendly shower heads, also known as low-flow shower heads, significantly cut back on your water output. While older showers put out around four gallons of water per minute, the new standard of federally mandated shower heads brings that number down to 2.5 gallons. An eco-friendly shower head, designed specifically to conserve the maximum amount of water, uses up just under two gallons per minute.

Take the Shower Test
Want to find out how much water a bath wastes for yourself? It’s simple to do if you have a bathtub/shower unit. The next time you put yourself under the suds, place the stopper in your tub and turn on the shower head. The odds are likely that, even if you’re a “shower hog,” you’ll be long done before the bathtub has had a chance to fill up.

No Sacrifices Necessary
The great news is that you don’t have to sacrifice appearance to make a difference. Many companies like Kohler are now manufacturing eco-friendly shower heads that look sleek and can actually add to your bathroom’s d├ęcor. 

Some new eco-shower devices even feature a mist cycle that offers a chance to rinse, mist while soaping yourself or shampooing your hair, and then a rinse cycle, which cuts water consumption even further.

And, for you bath lovers, don’t feel that you have to give up on what can be a very relaxing occasion after a long, stressful day. Take a guilt-free bath by filling the tub with the drain already plugged and adjusting the water temperature as the water continues to fill up. Switch to showers for most of your bathing needs and turn the bathtub into a once-a-week “me” event.