Energy Conserving Tips for “Fall Back” Savings

Photo from Secure Lite Window Company

In the United States, we change our clocks in the spring for Daylight Savings Time and in the fall for Standard Time. As Sunday November 6 approaches, we welcome the moment to set our clocks back by one hour, since our days are shorter and the nights get longer. As a constant reminder, do not forget to change the batteries in your fire alarms and change the air furnace filters in your home.

Many of these things are recommendations you have heard before, but with the cost of fuel and electricity going up, we all could use that extra money to spend on something else more utilitarian. Here are some practical energy and money-saving tips to help you prepare to winterize your home:

  • Change your air furnace filter

Based on the type of filter you have, we suggest that you change your air filters every 3 to 6 months, based on usage and indoor air quality. Filters help to capture airborne allergens and pollutants that could trigger health ailments and such things as carpet soiling. Proper maintenance of your air furnace will help to optimize the performance of your system, especially during the cold days of the winter season.

  • Unplug appliances and electronics

Many appliances like washing machines, dryers, electronics, cell phone chargers and other electrical appliances tend to draw a lot of power when they are still turned off and plugged into the socket. To prevent constant draining of your power, unplug those electrical-related items.

  • Check for air leakage

During the winter months especially, warm indoor air can seep through any size space and escape out of your home. Be sure to secure around your windows and doors to prevent this loss of energy and rising heating costs.

  • Turn off the lights

Unknowingly, we tend to leave lights on in unoccupied rooms. Try using Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL) in place of your standard incandescent light bulb. These light bulbs remind you of a neon light, but use 75% less energy and lasts up to 10 times longer than your standard bulb.

  • Allow natural light during the day

Instead of keeping your blinds or curtains closed during the day (which keeps your house cooler by the way), allow the sunlight to shine in and warm the inside of your home. This will help to reduce the use of your air furnace and saves energy! Cha-ching$

  • Unblock vents

If you have anything like furniture, boxes or other storage items in the front of your vents, this will block the flow of air into your living area and put undue strain on your air furnace. If air is not flowing freely from your registers into air returns, this could pose to be a safety hazard and increase your energy costs.

  • Wash with cold water when possible

We know that washing with hot water will dry your skin out from its natural moisture. The same concept applies to your clothes. If you have to use hot water for certain items, that is ok, but where you can transition to using cold water will save the wear on your clothes and save energy. Try to accumulate enough clothes to wash once a week. Frequent washing with your washing machine, as well as your dishwasher, will increase the wattage of energy that you use.

  • Reduce your water heater settings

The ideal setting for the water heater in many homes is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. By maintaining a set temperature level, corrosion and mineral build-up is decelerated. Be sure to apply according to the temperature levels in your area and your appliance manuals for suggested temperature settings to help them operated to their maximum potential.

These are just a few practical tips to apply to your home. Preparing your home now to use less energy will show significant savings in your monthly energy bills.

Is The MERV Rating for An Air Filter Important for Allergies?

Filters Fast MERV 11 Air and Furnace Filter

Air filters remove airborne allergens and pollutants such as dust, mold, pollen, pet dander and bacteria from your indoor air. There is a vast array of air filters with different levels of measurement for determining the concentration of different particle sizes, usually by weight or count. This measurement of performance for air filters is called Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (or a MERV rating). MERV ratings come from ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 52.2: Method of Testing General Ventilation Air Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particle Size.

ANSI, the American National Standards Institute, accredits and ensures that the characteristics and performance of products are consistent with terms, definitions and testing of products. ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, develops standards for its members and other professionals involved with refrigeration processes and the maintenance and design of indoor environments.

 A MERV rating is based on three composite, average removal efficiency points for particles. Categories range from 1 (very low) to 16 (very high). The higher the rating, the more efficient your air filter will help to reduce indoor airborne allergens, pollutants and contaminants.

 MERV 1 to 4 filters provides minimal filtration. These filters have to be replaced quite frequently and are typically disposable fiberglass or synthetic panel filters within a cardboard frame. These filters capture up to 80% of airborne particles as small as 10 microns. MERV 5 to 8 filters are good for capturing dust and mold spores. These filters have to be replaced, depending on usage, every 3 months. MERV 8 replacement air filters  will reduce pollen, pet dander, dust and other contaminants as small as 3.0 microns.

 MERV 9 to 12 furnace air filters capture up to 95% of airborne particles and contaminants like pollen, dust mites and mold spores, as small as 1.0 microns. These filters come in a deep pleated, boxed media or bag filters, which are some of the most efficient filters used in homes and commercial buildings.

 MERV 13 to 16 air filters will trap up to 98% of airborne allergens and pollutants such as bacteria, tobacco smoke, cooking oil and droplet nuclei, as small as 0.3 microns. Filtration should be applied to process both return and outside air that is delivered as supply air.  Finding the best-rated air filter for your particular need or application will help to keep your air clean and fresh. Don’t forget to change your air filter as recommended and especially when you change your clocks to Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time.

Is Your Building Sick?

Sick building syndrome or SBS refers to situations where “building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified,” according to the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality website. This can occur either in a specific room or area, or throughout the building.

Symptoms can include:

  • headache
  • eye, nose, or throat  irritation
  • dry cough
  • dry or itchy skin
  • dizziness and nausea
  • difficulty in concentrating
  • fatigue
  • sensitivity to odors

Although the cause of the symptoms is usually not known, sufferers usually report feeling better soon after they leave the building. Poor ventilation, as well as heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) not effectively distributing air throughout the building, seems to be a major contributing factor in SBS.

Indoor and outdoor pollution sources can also contribute to SBS. Indoor air pollution sources include:

  • adhesives
  • carpeting
  • upholstery
  • manufactured wood products
  • copy machines
  • pesticides
  • cleaning agents

These sources can emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde.  Tobacco smoke emits high levels of VOCs, as well as other toxic compounds, and breathable particulate matter. The products of combustion, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and breathable particles come from burning sources like unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, woodstoves, fireplaces and gas stoves.

Outdoor pollution sources such as motor vehicle exhausts, plumbing vents, and bathroom and kitchen exhausts can contribute to indoor air pollution. Also, biological contaminants including bacteria, molds, pollens, and viruses may breed in standing or stagnant water in various locations throughout a building.

Removing or modifying the pollutant source when it is known and controllable is perhaps the best way to resolve an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) problem. Also increasing ventilation and air distribution can help the problem.  Another method is to use air cleaners. Finally, using furnace or air filters, especially high performance filters that capture smaller, breathable particles is a great way to alleviate SBS.