Energy:

Purchasing a Heat Pump: What You Should Know About New Heating Technology

The rise of fuel prices over the last decade and the movement toward more sustainable energy sources has consumers on the lookout for the most cost effective appliances and devices. Temperature regulation in houses and apartments is no different—homeowners everywhere are hoping to lower their energy costs and keep their homes at a comfortable temperature. Two of the products on the market, the heat pump and the traditional air conditioning unit, are products that consumers might be interested in comparing. Choosing one depends on the specific needs of each individual and the climate they call home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps, despite what their name might suggest, are devices that can be used not just for heating, but also for cooling a house. There are a variety of different types of heat pumps systems available, including geothermal, ductless, absorption, and, perhaps the most common, air-source heat pumps. Just like a refrigerator, the heat pump runs on electricity, moving heat from cooler areas to warmer ones and thereby further cooling the cool space and warming the warmer space. In a heating season, for example, heat pumps will move heat from cooler outdoor units into the warm house, thus generating heat. The opposite process occurs during a cooling season, when heat from the house is pumped to the outdoors, leaving the house cooler.

Since heat pumps move heat rather than generating the heat itself, they are far more effective operationally than conventional heating or cooling appliances. In fact, frequently heat pumps are able to regulate the temperature of a space for as little as a quarter of the cost of other types of heating and cooling units.

Heat pumps, especially geothermal ones, can be rather expensive to install, but in moderate climates where the heating and cooling needs are relatively low, they eventually pay for themselves through the reduced heating and cooling costs. According to Tim Smigelski, one happy homeowner who installed a geothermal system, he gets four dollars back for every dollar he put into the system. One of the biggest advantages of such a system is that it can be used anywhere in the world, since the geothermal power source—the Earth—will never vary, unlike solar energy and energy generated by the wind.

Air Conditioning Units

Air conditioning units have been a standard of American homes for several years. In 2011, nearly 87% of homes were equipped with AC units, though efficiency and type of individual units depended greatly on household income. AC units function similarly to heat pumps, pulling hot air from the house, squeezing it through the refrigerant until it’s cold, and finally pushing the chilled air back into the house for the cooling effect. Well-maintained AC units can last for fifteen to twenty years, but since newer models are significantly more energy efficient, most owners would save money replacing units that are approaching the decade mark.

Heat Pump vs. Air Conditioner Breakdown

This infographic from Washington Energy offers a quick and easy breakdown of the differences between the overall cost and efficiency of heat pumps versus the air conditioner. Overall, air conditioning units tend to outlive heat pumps by an average of five years because the they only run part of the year, whereas a heat pump regulates the temperature year round. Installation for heat pumps is more expensive than air conditioning units, but for those living in climates where both heating and cooling are necessary, a heat pump can save the consumer a significant amount of money by replacing alternative heating systems, including gas, propane or oil furnaces, while also meeting the cooling needs an AC unit covers.

 

Health:

4 Signs Your Lifestyle is Hurting You

Today’s average American lifestyle isn’t always the healthiest, but because it’s so normal it can be tough to spot red flags. Luckily, a little information and intention can go a long way. Once you’re aware of lifestyle risks and commonly missed symptoms, you can consciously re-adjust your views. However, this can’t be done passively, and it all starts with paying attention to yourself and your surroundings.

For example, it’s easier than ever to be made aware of product recalls, some of which can be life threatening. The recall of caramel apples at the end of the year, for example, spread like wildfire on social media and news outlets. Is your lifestyle doing more harm than good? Here are a few signs to watch out for:

1. You have chronic or recurring pain

Sometimes this is unavoidable (blame genetics), but many times it’s due to a subpar lifestyle. Constantly being hunched over a computer or poor posture in general can cause chronic back pain. Chronic knee pain can be from excess weight or improper form at the gym. Check out ValpoLife’s chiropractic tips on good posture, but also seek out your own medical help if there’s a pang constantly bothering you.

2. You have recurring headaches or dry eyes

Headaches are the number one complaint for a plethora of things, but today’s culture of too much screen time might be to blame. This is the biggest suspect if you also have dry or red eyes. Your eyes need a break from that screen, so schedule a pop up or alarm every 20 minutes as a reminder to close your eyes and let them rest. Resist “extra” time, like television or perusing Facebook on your phone, since you’re likely required to stare down a screen for work anyway.

3. You’re overweight or undertoned

Just because the average American woman is now a size 14 (and considering vanity sizing), that doesn’t make it healthy. “Average” does not equate to ideally healthy. However, it’s going to seem more and more normal, especially with the New York Daily News reporting NYC is welcoming size 14 mannequins to non-plus-sized stores. Know your body fat percentage (it’s a better gauge than BMI), and prioritize your health.

4. You can’t get by without coffee

Caffeine addiction is real, yet accepted by society. It can make your sleep hygiene out of what, cause you to be dependent, and can ultimately be a really expensive habit. No vices are “safe” ones.

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last update: March 1, 2015

Life:

3 Hidden Dangers of Fire Damage

firedamage

The dangers don’t end when the flames are put out. Fire damage can linger for years, and if you try to DIY with a clean-up, you probably won’t get all of the soot and flourishing mold from the water that tamed the fire. “Soot” is the residue left over from the smoke, and what exactly makes up the smoke can depend on a lot of things—like what burned and whether or not it was toxic.

Both soot and mold are dangerous leftovers from a house fire and why homeowners deserve professional fire damage clean-up. Not all soot is necessarily dangerous, but do you want to take that risk? Likewise, not all water damage will lead to mold, black mold or mildew. But again, are you ready to take that gamble?

Not only are homeowners lacking the appropriate tools, knowledge and experience to (safely!) clean up after a fire, they might unintentionally expose themselves to dangerous particles in the process. Plus, remember that if guests are staying in the home and you don’t properly clean post-fire, you could be held liable in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Here are just a few of the things that can go wrong if you try to save a little cash by cleaning up yourself:

1. Soot gets into your bloodstream

The particulate matter in soot is so tiny that it can get into your bloodstream and lungs without you noticing. According to the American Lung Association, breathing soot pollution can cause “cancer and developmental and reproductive harm.” The Environmental Protection Agency has described soot as “Microscopic particles (which) can penetrate deep into the lungs and have been linked to a wide range of serious health effects including premature death, heart attacks and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.”

2. Black mold can kill

From in-home sprinkler systems to firefighter’s hoses, there was likely a lot of water involved to save your humble abode. Water damage can destroy your home’s structure, and it can also lead to mildew, mold and deadly black mold. Mold has a penchant for thriving in dark areas, so it’s possible only a professional will spot it. Even when mold isn’t deadly, it can cause respiratory issues and exacerbate allergies.

3. It may have stirred up asbestos

Asbestos fibers are the primary cause of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs and abdomen linings which is almost always deadly. However, rarely ingesting or breathing in asbestos in small quantities is usually fine. It was widely used in home construction from the 1950s through the 1980s and is still legally used today. However, a fire might “stir up” those fibers, so cleaning up yourself without the proper safety gear is a huge risk.

Simply put, you don’t know what exactly burned, what particles may have been put into the air or what toxic materials you might be breathing in. This is no time to pinch pennies or cut corners. Rely on a professional crew to clean up after a fire so you can rest easy knowing not a nook or cranny was missed. Otherwise, the residual effects of the fire might be more heartbreaking and lethal than you ever imagined.

Energy:

Improving HVAC Efficiency

Homeowners often fail to realize how their heating and cooling is affected by the cool air or increased heat entering or leaving through windows and doors. Efficient windows help put the HVAC system through less strain, so it is able to last much longer. As a result, energy bills are reduced.

Increase in Energy Bills with Poor HVAC Systems

A poorly-functioning HVAC system can cause an increase in energy bills. This is often due to lost cool or warm air from windows and doors. The cracks can let air from the system escape causing it to work harder to maintain ideal temperatures. Windows that are not designed to keep the system in its best condition also contribute to temperature fluctuations. In the summer, excess heat from the sunlight can enter the home through these windows. The extra heat makes the home harder to keep cool. In the winter, these windows may let out heat, taking away from the total insulation effects present in the building.

Windows Designed to Complement Your HVAC System

Efficient windows work to protect the radiant heat of the home in the winter and prevent the entrance of heat in the summer. These windows allow the HVAC system to work only as much as it needs to, and this saves homeowners on their energy bills. The peak load for heating or cooling is the maximum amount needed at one time. Reducing the peak load may even allow some homeowners to install new HVAC systems that are smaller and easier to maintain.

Making High-Performance Windows Appealing

High-performance windows may make a significant difference in the energy efficiency of a home, but they may not always be appealing to the interior esthetic quality. Many homeowners prefer technological components that do not compromise their décor, especially in rooms where visitors gather. There are various ways to make high-efficiency windows fit into the décor of a room. Curtains can conceal the window when light is not needed, and blinds offer increased control over the amount of light. Shutters can be added for a more durable alternative, and they also offer versatility.

For rooms with strong color coordination, curtains can make high-performance windows blend in with the remainder of the room’s furniture and fixtures, and they also add a more formal look to a room. Blinds offer quick and easy control over the amount of light entering the room, and they can easily cover windows that do not fit well with the room’s look. Shutters add to the décor and concealment of high-efficiency windows while also contributing to the temperature control. According to Bill and Sarah Burke, owners of Midwest Shutters, they have a high R-value, and this “provides protection from extreme temperature fluctuations” caused by the entrance or escape of heat.

Simple changes in the design of a home can have major impacts on how its HVAC unit functions. Controlling the natural flow of heat throughout the year is essential for getting the most value out of the heating and cooling system.

 

Energy:

Gas Engine Improvements You Should Implement Now

The demands placed on automotive manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon footprints led to the development of alternative fueled vehicles. Nevertheless, gas powered engines remain dominant in the automotive market. Gas engines are not likely to disappear in the near future. However, engineers are continually adopting new methods of function that enable increased performance while becoming more eco-friendly. Whether buying a new vehicle or merely overhauling an existing vehicle with a different engine, consumers benefit from the technology.

Variable Valve Timing and Lift

Conventional engines are equipped with valves that open and close at regulated increments, which provides an air/gas mixture as fuel. In the past, regardless of the work load that engines undergo, the rate at which valves perform their function remained unchanged. This means that engines receive the same amount of fuel regardless of work load. In effect, engines proved inefficient and permitted unnecessary fuel consumption and loss. By developing technology that times valve function to more closely accommodate the needs of an engine, the vehicle becomes more fuel efficient. Studies indicate that this newer design saves up to five percent in fuel consumption.

Deactivating Cylinders

Vehicles have four or more cylinders, which are all engaged as long as the vehicle remains running. Fuel saving ideology led engine engineers to reconsider the necessity of having all of the cylinders functional when not needed, which wastes fuel. Sports cars and heavy duty trucks, for example, feature V-8 engines. While a vehicle may require increased fuel consumption during times of extreme speeds or when hauling loads, at other times, decreased demands only waste fuel. By deactivating cylinders when they are not necessary, vehicles become more than seven percent fuel efficient. Though this technology is currently available on V-8 engines, manufacturers are considering adopting the change for V-6 model cars and trucks.

Alterations in Fuel Injection

In conventional gas engines, a spark ignites fuel and air in the combustion chamber. However, studies suggest that heating and pressurizing the fuel before it enters the chamber makes gas burn cleaner and more efficiently. The alteration also reduces the amount of fuel needed to power the engine. Under normal circumstances, gas engines might have a compression ratio of around 10 to 1. Newer technology increases this ratio to 14 to 1. The engine in a Mazda Demio, for example, has this innovative design and gets a reported 70 miles per gallon.

Turbocharging

This invention involves fans that are powered by the gases that are en route to the exhaust system. This action creates a higher compression ratio by allowing more compressed air into the combustion chamber, which means more efficient combustion and better fuel economy. When smaller engines feature turbochargers, engine performance also improves while saving fuel.

Driver Retraining

How someone drives a vehicle additionally has an effect on gas consumption. The faster a vehicle goes, the more fuel the engine consumes. Newer technology provides drivers with visualization by adding dashboard mechanisms that display when vehicles are operating efficiently and when more conservative measures are necessary. Other innovations include eco-modes that regulate transmission shifting and encourages running at lower speeds.

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Energy:

Keep Your Home Cosy with Strategic Heating and Cooling

Every homeowner struggles to find the best ways to heat and cool a home without a incurring a high price tag. Running a standard central furnace and air conditioning system on a constant basis costs significant money while contributing to noise levels and pollution.

Alternative heating and cooling strategies are possible for any home, based on your resources and willingness to put in the effort.

Plant some trees

If you have the yard space, add deciduous trees on the south side of your home. When they lose their leaves in the fall and winter, low-lying sunlight can pour into the structure and warm it naturally.

Come spring and summer, dense foliage develops to block the sunlight and create a cool space across the property. You may even want to consider trees along the east or west side to control the sunrise and sunset sunlight that hits your home.

Ceiling fan science

Ceiling fans used to be absolutely necessary features in homes well before air conditioning became commonplace. But this simple cooling mechanism still works in homes today and will save you money.

Fans create a wind chill within the room, encouraging your skin to wick any moisture from the surface and cooling you. Activate the blades to spin counterclockwise, which pushes air directly down onto you.

Employ the clockwise rotation in the winter to pull warm air down from the ceiling as you heat the room slightly with natural air movement.

Outdoor sunshades

Simple removable sunshades and awnings can make a big temperature difference in your home. Install these shades on the west, east, or south side of the home.

Evaluate the hottest part of the day for your home and place the shading item there. You may want several shades for extremely hot days.

Whenever you reduce the amount of sunlight that strikes your home, less heat accumulates indoors. Cooling costs may drop substantially after you install an inexpensive sunshade.

Ductless system option

A home without a duct system cannot use a traditional central air system without significant cost and extra remodeling work. According to Washington Energy Services, ductless systems that use a heat pump are perfectly adapted to work in homes as long as outdoor and indoor components have the appropriate space.

These systems work much like a traditional split system: They use refrigerant to convert hot air into cool air and vice versa. Ductless systems take up little space, which makes them perfect for smaller homes that lack existing ductwork.

Attic care

The attic is often overlooked when it comes to heating and cooling, but this space traps hot and cold air throughout the year. Think about insulating your attic and adding ventilation ducts to control the attic temperature.

Any hot or cold air trapped above the residence contributes to an uncomfortable living space. Insulation regulates the attic temperature, making the rest of the home more comfortable without extra air conditioning or heating costs.

Beautify your home while intelligently increasing its heating and cooling abilities. If you use strategic sunshade locations and shady trees, your home doesn’t have to be expensive to maintain comfortably.

Think logically about the sun’s angle across your home to heat the space in the winter and cool it in summer.

Clean:

Gadget Galaxy: The Average Household

It may be shocking to realize how many gadgets the average household uses. From computers to cell phones, consumers continue to incorporate more and more gadgets into their lifestyles, resulting in considerable waste from one perspective or another. According to online averages found in the link above, households typically have at least one computer, two televisions, three rechargeable electronic devices, and spend around $100 annually on them during times when they’re not being directly used. This leaves consumers scratching their heads at ways to save on energy at home and contemplating whether or not unplugging can noticeably improve electricity bills.

Gadget Efficiency

One recognizable logo is the Energy Star product label. Gadgets earn the Energy Star credential when they are deemed to successfully deliver necessary features to consumers, in addition to providing increased energy efficiency. Energy Star products include audio or video electronics, cordless phones, cable boxes, televisions, computers, displays and everything from appliances to building products. Computers are a good example, these machines use a lot of energy so investing in models that utilize less electricity overall may be a smart move however, consumers are then left with a decision to either spend more up-front to replace existing technology, or work with what they have to improve their current gadget efficiency as it stands.

Improving Electricity Bills

The good news is, that improving upon electricity bills is easily doable and can be achieved either through replacing old devices or improving the way that devices are managed when not in use. Literally unplugging devices minimizes energy waste considerably and diminishes “phantom load” that households routinely pay for without even noticing. Taking control of this situation not only saves consumers dollars every month, it helps gadgets last longer too. The best way to improve electricity bills is by:

Grouping similar electronics together on power strips that can be “turned-off” when not in use;

Physically “unplugging” anything not in use, such as lights;

Manually turning off monitors or assigning sleep-mode at the 20-minute mark, in lieu of screen-savers;

Unplugging any chargers when not connected to a device; and

Purchasing Energy Star products whenever possible.

Taking the average household from an infinite gadget galaxy to a resourceful, conscientious one, can become automatic with the right resources and routine in place. Recognizing that total household energy consumption is allocated routinely to inactive video games means considering that equipment like docking stations, DVD players and even digital photo-frames can also make energy expenses higher than they truly need to be. Approaching the topics of energy consumption, electricity costs and being thoughtful about which gadgets are actually worthwhile can help households pare down and save money, if only to buy the next latest-greatest gadgets. Since technology will continue to provide us with more features, greater gadget-capacity and intriguing ways to manage life day-in and day-out, it is unimaginable to surpass the temptation of acquiring better instead of more products. The upside to gadgets and paying for them, is that they allow humans to be efficient, be connected and be smart when it comes to running their households.

Clean:

How to Use Today’s Technology to Search for a Home

You’ve built up your nest egg, secured a great credit score (or at least a decent one), and now you’re ready to purchase a new home. But dont make the mistake of calling the real estate agents just yet. There are a few things you need to know first that could save you a lot of time and money and get you the exact house you desire. gmap

There always seems to be at least one deal-breaker with every open house you visit. It’s either not in the right neighborhood, or it lacks sufficient charm. Don’t be discouraged. Now that you are actually ready to look for a home, you can use technology to find the house of your dreams. Here’s how.

Google Maps

According to the Kleer Team website, Google Maps is a great way to locate prospects for your new home. You can zoom in or out on an area to get an idea of the surrounding streets.

The map even shows you geographical features that are close by. Switching to the street view shows real images of what could be your new street. This gives you a great idea of what the neighborhood is like before you waste any time with an agent.

Mobile apps

In an article titled Real Estate’s Love/Hate Relationship with Technology, the author explains that mobile apps can help you make better, informed decisions when it comes to buying real estate. It’s easier to identify comparable houses in the area using mobile apps than by any other means.

With a click of the button, you can see if the three bedroom/two bathroom house you’re interested in is worth the same as another one down the street. If it’s way more, then pass it up.

Google Earth

This can also make the real estate market more friendly. According to this Slide Share, real estate agents can leverage Google Earth to showcase properties to the entire globe.

When you live far from where you want to buy, you can still survey a neighborhood to see if it’s the right place for you. Much like using the street view of Google Maps, you can scout what the neighbors’ houses look like and make sure your candidate isn’t too close to the main road.

Jott.com

When you are ready to begin looking at homes in person, there are technologies available to help you search. According to one blogger’s top ten list of technology tools, Jott.com is a service that enables you to send email notes to yourself, and texts to contacts, or add calendar events … all through voice activation.

That means you can stay organized while getting whipped around from property to property. Instead of trying keep all the ideas in your head or frantically writing them down on sheets of paper they give you, you can just say them into your phone and have all the information stored in one place.

So when you’re in the market for a new home, don’t forget to put your fingers to work on that keyboard of yours. You’ll have a better chance finding the right home.

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