Monday, October 25, 2010

Winterization Procedures for Inside and Outside Your Home

In case you haven’t heard – or maybe you’ve just been too busy racing back and forth to notice – fall is here and winter will be following hot (or rather, cold) on its heels pretty soon. Depending on where you live, that can mean quite a bit of work for you, especially if you’re set to expect plunging temperatures in the coming weeks.
Here are a few tips to get ready for the not-so-distant chill by winterizing your plumbing so that you limit the nightmare that frozen or burst pipes can cause. 

Identify the Cold Spots
The first thing you’ll want to do is to identify all of the areas in and around your home that are likely to freeze during the winter months. Keep in mind that this includes any exterior walls that have little or no insulation as well as unheated crawl spaces.

Once you’ve zeroed in on these areas, check them for their proximity to your home’s plumbing. If they’re clear of pipes, you can exclude these areas, but if there are any pipes within easy reach, taking preventative measures can save you precious time and money on emergency repairs.

Bundle ‘em Up
Once you’ve identified the sections of your home plumbing system that are directly in harm’s way from the ravages of the impending cold season, it’s time to bundle them up. You can accomplish this by physically wrapping your pipes in foam insulation tubes easily found at most hardware stores. If you’re convinced the Mother of All Winters is on her way (or if you’ve had an experience where your pipes have still frozen even through the foam), you can reinforce your efforts by putting heat tape underneath the tubing.
Not exactly what it sounds like, heat tape is a cable that you fix in place directly onto your piping that physically heats up to prevent the pipes from freezing. It operates by being plugged into an electricity outlet. 

One of the drawbacks is that it can be substantially more time-consuming to install than standard foam insulation. However, for areas that see extreme cold, it may be strongly recommended.

Outdoor Piping and Irrigation
If you have an underground sprinkler system, there are some steps you should take to ensure that, come spring, you’ll be able to water your lawn without having to first perform lawn surgery to fix burst pipes. The simplest procedure is to turn off the exterior water supply that feeds your sprinkler system.

If you have access to an air compressor, you can use it to literally blow air through your pipes to clear the lines of water, but if not done right this procedure can get tricky and could result in you sending sprinkler heads popping off or, worse yet, launching like bottle rockets. Once you’ve finished, leave all exterior faucets open and remove any attached hoses that could still hold water.

Winterization for Pools and Spas
You’ve probably seen it on TV before or at least heard about the exploits of bold and wacky North Pole adventurers who take dips in icy waters for recreational purposes. But not all of us are cut from the same cloth and, when winter comes, the last thing we want to do is to pay our backyard pool a visit.

If you count yourself among this number, get in touch with a local swimming pool professional to make sure you care for all necessary winterization procedures. If you’ve got an outdoor spa and aren’t adventurous enough to plan on taking advantage of it in the icy cold, refer to your equipment manual or contact a professional for information on how to securely winterize it.

Go with a Pro
Plumbing winterization can entail a lot more than the average homeowner is willing or able to take on by themselves. In order to ensure that you don’t make a mistake that could result in a ruptured pipe, you can contact a professional plumbing service to winterize your plumbing for you.

Think of anything we didn’t mention? Feel free to leave your feedback here or share your best practices on winterizing your home plumbing with our online community.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time’s Running Out – But You Can Still Get Your $1,500 Tankless Water Heater Rebate

There’s an old saying that reminds us “there’s no time like the present,” and those of you who have been mulling over the installation of a tankless water heater for your homes are about to learn a lesson in how true that adage is. 

Why? Because, as of December 31, 2010, the federal tax rebate offering 30% cash back up to $1500 is set to expire.
The good news is that there’s still time left to take advantage of the savings. Here’s how it works.

What Do I Have to Do?
The arrangement is simple, straightforward, and incredibly enticing. All you have to do is the following:
  • Purchase and install an energy efficient tankless water heater by December 31, 2010. Notice the word “install” – the rebate doesn’t count if you buy a unit and don’t put it into operation.
  • Ensure it’s put in service at your primary residence (second homes don’t count). Your primary residence also has to be within the United States. This makes sense since you’ll be receiving a tax rebate from the U.S. Government.
  • Save your proof of purchase and the paperwork that comes with your tankless water heater, certifying that it qualifies as energy efficient.
  • File your income tax return in 2011 (yes, this is a requirement – sorry to all of you who thought you’d simply get a check in the mail!).
What Will I Get?
As long as you’ve followed all of the requirements above, when you file your 2010 tax returns (due April 15, 2011) you’ll receive:
  • A tax credit giving you 30% of the cost of the tankless water heater up to $1500.
  • Home energy and heating savings. Depending on the size of your home, you could save anywhere from 15 to 45 percent in energy costs.
  • The peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re doing something positive for the environment.

Note These Exclusions
You knew there had to be a catch, didn’t you? Actually, this only affects people who installed tankless water heaters in their homes prior to 2009 and are just now trying to take advantage of the tax rebate. The installation has to have taken place between January 1, 2009 and no later than December 31, 2010. For those of you that haven’t yet made the purchase, you’re in the clear.

Not sure where to start? Contact an expert at Pete’s Plumbing today to ask questions and set up an appointment before time runs out.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here? Budgeting for an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

So, your home is up to date on the latest and greatest eco-friendly technologies. Your bathrooms are all equipped with ultra low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads. You’ve got automatic shut-off faucets in the bathroom and the kitchen, a solar powered water heater, and you’ve even got hydronic radiant heating installed below your floorboards. Your home’s been retrofitted for maximum energy efficiency and minimum carbon foot-printing.
If this reads more like a wish list than actual checklist of your home improvement accomplishments, don’t feel bad. The majority of us still have a long ways to go before we’re fully caught up with the green movement. But, for those of you who have taken all the necessary steps to making your home more green friendly, you might be wondering, “Is there any place left to go?” As it turns out, there certainly is so much more to be done. There are both low- and high-cost upgrades you can make to your home to make it even more eco-friendly.
Eco-Friendly Ideas on the Cheap
Not everyone’s got money to burn, especially those who’ve just sunk thousands into upgrading their home’s sustainability. But, that doesn’t mean you have to curtail your efforts to build a better environment. Here are a few extras you can do around the house to continue making a positive ecological impact without costing you too much:
  • Install fluorescent lighting in your kitchen, bathrooms, and throughout your home. These are known to cut energy usage by 50 percent.
  • Only buy green cleaning products. Traditional, big name cleaning products can have an adverse effect on both your health and that of the environment. If buying green products isn’t an option, you can use baking soda and vinegar as a cheap, effective, and safe alternative.
  • Stay away from vinyl shower curtains. Not only are they difficult to recycle, but you’ll also find yourself replacing them far more often than you will an organic, fabric shower curtain. Fabric shower curtains can be washed and re-used whereas nylon shower curtains typically have to be thrown away and replaced.
  • Set up convenient recycling bins in your kitchen to make it easier to separate your trash from your recyclables.
Earth-Saving Tips Where Money is No Object
Those fortunate enough to be able to keep on keeping on in their efforts to make their homes the epicenter of all things eco-friendly and green don’t have to stop at kitchen and bathroom improvements. 
There are many more areas where you can fight the good fight without so much as opening your front door--although a little fresh air never hurt anybody. Consider these “money is no object” earth-saving tips:
Want to replace your flooring? Go green with cork. This is a far more eco-friendly option than typical hardwood, tile, or linoleum flooring and is naturally thermally insulating. If you’re hooked on the look of tile, you can get your hands on beautiful recycled glass tiles that have a uniquely modern look.

Re-insulate your attic and your walls. One of the major causes of excessive energy use comes as a result of not being able to keep warm air inside your home where it belongs. The same goes for cool air. A well-insulated house will keep you from having to run your home’s heating or cooling system 24-hours a day.

Install energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights throughout your home. This can have a dramatic impact on the amount of energy you consume by cutting down on heating costs during winter, cooling costs during summer, and electricity costs during the day.  In fact, skylights are a great source of natural light that eliminate the need for electric light during daylight hours. Through December 31, 2010, you can take advantage of a $1,500 tax credit for upgrading to qualified replacements.

Landscaping? Consider this. If you fill the earth of your backyard with a bunch of plants that require a lot of water all the time, you’re going to end up ramping up your water use. But, you have alternatives. Look into plants and trees that have a higher tolerance for drought conditions. Choices will vary, depending on your location, but this is a good idea that can beautify your back yard and ensure low water usage and maintenance.

What are your thoughts? If you have any low-cost, eco-friendly solutions that haven’t been mentioned or advanced ideas for those wanting to make additional modifications to their homes, please share them. Your valuable input could make a significant impact to the well-being of our delicate ecosystem.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hydronic Radiant Heating for Your Bathroom

If you’re the kind of person who takes extra long showers simply because you don’t want to step into the frigid air and touch the ice cold tile floor of your bathroom with bare feet, you’re not alone. And, with winter fast approaching, you know this feeling will be creeping back with every shower you take.

The bathroom mat and towel warmer industries have both made a killing off legions of cold-adverse shower addicts like yourself who inadvertently wind up wasting far too much water and precious time.  

Pumped Up About Other Heating Options
But, what if there were a solution? What if you didn’t have to warm every single room of your house simply to pump hot air into your bathroom while you were showering? And, what if there was a method by which you could save water and lower heating costs while making your shower as pleasant an experience exiting as stepping in?  

The good news is that there is a solution that will answer all those questions. It’s called hydronic radiant heating, and if you haven’t already read about it or seen it on the home and garden channel on television, then you are really missing out.  For the uninitiated, hydronic heating is a method by which heat is radiated upwards from your floor. This is accomplished through the installation of plastic pipes underneath your flooring, which heat up when water that’s been heated by a boiler is run through them.

Hydronic Radiant Heating for Your Shower Floor
If you think stepping out of your shower onto a pre-warmed floor is the best thing since sliced bread and the invention of the trash can lid, consider what having a hydronic radiant heating system inside your shower could do. Why would you need this? Well, the fact is that shower tiles need warmth too. 

And, if you’re going to install a radiant heating system in your bathroom, you may as go the full nine and extend that to your shower. People who use seated showers will appreciate this benefit all the more and so might their neighbors by not having to listen to you shriek every time your bare back touches icy tile.

Timed Temperature Control
Hydronic radiant heating systems are controlled easily through thermostats. Since hydronic heating can sometimes take awhile to warm up – around 40 minutes to an hour is the average – you might find the installation of a programmable thermostat to be your second most valuable early morning auto-start device (that is, next to your coffee maker).

Pros and Cons of the Electric Option
Hydronic radiant heating isn’t your only option if you’re interested in investigating this type of technology for your home. Electric radiant heating works in essentially the same manner with the exception that there are no pipes to install underneath your flooring – just a mesh roll. Both have their benefits as well as their drawbacks:

·        Hydronic radiant heating requires the additional purchase of a boiler whereas the electric method doesn’t.
·        The potential energy consumption savings inherent in hydronic radiant heating is considerable. You can use gas, oil, electric, or solar power to operate it. If you have an electric radiant heating system, your only option is electricity.
·        A hydronic heating system is conducive to full household adaptation to solar power if you decide to do so later on, which could greatly increase your home’s resale value.

Installation of a hydronic radiant system can be done on a DIY basis. However, in order to ensure that everything’s installed correctly and prevent the risk of leakage due to incorrect installation, it’s always a good idea to have the work done by a professional. If you have any questions about hydronic radiant heating or want to share your experiences with it, leave your comments below.