Archive for the ‘Consumer Protection’ Category

Summer is here. Be safe!

June 17, 2014

Summer SafetySafety is a top priority for us in the work we do in your home. We stress it every day.  In fact an energy audit is only partially about saving you money.  It is also about keeping you and your family safe.  As part of our audit, we check for gas leaks on the combustion equipment in your home like your furnace or gas stove.

While we keep you safe inside, here are a few tips to keep you safe outside as summer closes in:

  • Watch out for Bugs!  Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common.  Repellants are helpful for both.  If ticks are an issue in your area there are some simple landscaping efforts you can do to help deter them.
  • Enjoy the sunshine, but cover up! Hats, sunscreen and shade are encouraged.
  • If it gets too hot inside your home and even hotter oustide, maybe energy efficiency improvements are what you need for safety’s sake!

 

Thanks,

Jason

 

Photo by Steffen Flor  from wikimedia commons

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Did you Resolve to Resolve a Reasonable Resolution?

January 13, 2014

Does the gym membership only last as long as the trial period? Do snacks grow in size and frequency? Ah, if self control was so easy!  Good health is a great thing to strive for, and if self control is not one of your better assets, maybe a little help is in order.

P1060126Consider some small steps.  An energy assessment of your home is a small step which can lead to great things.  It’s about protecting one of your important investments your home, and you.  We spend a lot of time indoors (for better or worse) and the cooking and heating equipment we use can create health issues if we are not careful.  A home ought to be comfortable and safe.

I won’t lie, an assessment of your home is a great step, but its not the only one.  First make sure it’s the right one and find a BPI certified contractor.  The next step is acting on an energy audit’s recommendations. That will bring in the New Year with energy savings, better indoor air quality and greater comfort.  Here’s to a no sweat resolution it might not help you lose weight but it will help you lose some of your excess energy bills!  Maybe next year, i’ll get around to reading the book.

Thanks,

Jason

Better Resale value from “Green” Homes

September 28, 2012

A recent study this summer from UC Berkeley and UCLA looked at homes that were certified as green from a few different organizations.  Although the certification standards varied, the homes needed to have details such as well-insulated ceilings and walls and energy-efficient lighting.  These are just some of the basics of making a home “green”, as well as efficient appliances, proper HVAC equipment and good indoor air quality.  These things unfortunately don’t always happen in new homes, even those with the green label.  However, they can and should happen in every home, and that’s why we do what we do.

This study comes from a state with a very nice incentive system in place for energy efficiency retrofits.  Energy upgrade California is a good place to start if you are a resident of CA.  For residents of other states, you can find some incentive programs from DSIREThe full study can be found here.

You can also contact one of our locations to learn more about how you can make your home safer, energy efficient, more valuable, and of course, green!

 

Thanks,

Jason

“The Second Affair” A trashy love story (sort of)

September 24, 2012

Lic. creative commons. photo by Mario A. Leitón

At GHA, we use the best material to get the job done right.  While there are many types of insulation out there, one that many locations use quite frequently is cellulose.  One of the great things about this stuff is that it is a recycled product.  Ever wonder what happens to all those newspapers that are carted off in a recycling bin instead of heading to the trash?   Cardboard is one product, but insulation is the one near to our heart. 

Fortunately cellulose manufacturers have not been greatly affected by the recent decline in newspaper circulation as there are plenty of other materials available.  According to the American Forest and Paper Association, there’s over 1 million pounds of paper waste generated every ten minutes in the U.S. That means there’s lots of material to use in making cellulose.  In fact, one manufacturer was using romance novels for a while!  Sounds like a good way to insulate and it really gives a new meaning to the term “trashy novels”.  

Cellulose is just one of many options for insulating your home.  This is why it’s important to have an expert assess your home and decide what is best not only in action, but also for materials.  When cellulose insulation is a good match, we pick the cleanest and safest available to install.  Now that’s a love story with a happy ending!

Thanks,

Jason

This July, Wildfires Brings to Mind Staying Safe When the Heat is Hazardous

July 5, 2012

I can only hope and pray for everyone’s safety and quick progress in ending the wildfires that continue to burn in the west.

This is the season when temperatures push past 100 degrees; and when factoring in the heat index, the “feels like” temperature is over 120 in some places. Evacuations and wildfires add insult to injury.

The heat can be deadly, and in areas where we aren’t used to it, very high temps can surprise us and leave folks unprepared.  We often provide cooling tips, and they’re worth revisiting.  Here are a couple of important reminders we’ve posted in the past to help you—and your home—get through this.

Keeping Your Person Cool

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic, and without caffeine), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink. (Warning:  if you are limiting fluids or reducing water intake for medical reasons, check with your doctor for a specific recommendation.)  Remember, if you’re sweating a lot you need to replace electrolytes, too.
  • If possible, stay indoors in an air-conditioned space.  If you don’t have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—or the time-honored tradition of going to a movie theater.   Some locales might have heat-relief shelters.  Check with your local health department.
  • Go swimming in a cool pool.  Take a cold shower or a cold bath.  Cooler water can be an excellent way to cool down your body temperature.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • If you’re going to be outside, try to do it early in the day or late in the evening when it’s generally cooler.  Try to avoid heavy exercise in the heat.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a helpful Extreme Heat guide the offers additional details and advice.

Keeping Your Home Cool

  • According to the CDC, air conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.  Room air conditioners can help.  And installing a central AC unit is usually done in a day.
  • Keep the heat out!  During the day, if it’s cooler inside than outside, keep windows shut.  And keep window shades down to block out direct sunlight.  Open the windows at night if it’s cooler outside.
  • Fans to the outside—blowing in either direction—can help if it’s cooler outside than inside.  But they’re counterproductive if it’s hotter outside.  Ceiling fans (and other fans) help you stay comfortable—but only while you’re in the room.  The fan motors actually generate heat, so turn them off when you’re not there.
  • Of course, contact us if you’d like more permanent, energy-efficient solutions.

Remember that children, the elderly, and the sick are especially susceptible to heat.  Keep a close eye on them.

My hat’s off to the first responders and dedicated folks helping those who have been displaced as the fires rage on.  Here’s to a quick end! Please be safe, and stay cool!

Thanks,

Jason

Home as microbiology experiment? Moisture, keep it reasonable and stay safe

June 29, 2012

Candida albicans PHIL 3192 lores
There are many sources of moisture in the home.  Cooking, showering, houseplants, and people are some expected sources.  Crawlspaces and basements can add to the humidity as well. And no matter where it comes from, too much humidity can promote the growth of unwanted microbes, mold, mildew and bacteria.  It should be a healthy home, not a lab experiment.

Consider some steps to avoid high humidity in the home:

  • Gutters and good grading can help divert water away from the foundation.
  • Cover dirt floors in crawl spaces and basements with heavy duty plastic, it reduces odors and moisture
  • Ensure that clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors.
  • Use ventilation fans to remove moisture generated by showering, bathing, and cooking.
  • Reduce the number of plants in humid areas.
  • If you burn wood, don’t store it in the basement.
  • Do not open basement windows and doors in the summer to dry out the basement. This can make the problem worse by allowing moist outdoor air into your cool basement, causing increased condensation. Crawlspaces (and basements) may not need venting, sometimes it makes it worse. I’ve talked about this here

Most of the time we know we have too much moisture only after it’s too late.  Wet stains on walls and ceilings, rotten wood, condensation on the windows, and musty smells let us know something is wrong.  Clearly indoor air quality suffers, so it’s best to keep your eye out for trouble.   Suffer from allergies?  You might be creating an ideal situation for the growth of the bacteria and mold that cause them.  Our homes are made of mold food: wood, sheetrock, paper.  It should be a palace not a Petri dish!

Thanks,

Jason

In home electric monitoring, Real Time Data and Age Old Adages

May 24, 2012

By U.S. Air Force photo by Edward Aspera Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

NYT reported last month that although there are some early adopters of monitors of electric use in our homes, it is predicted that more than half will have them in the next ten years.    Notable in the Times article is a quote from Dan Yates, CEO of Opower: “Simply making energy usage visible can have an impact”.   I can believe that; after all, “knowledge is power”, right?

Blending physics, and metaphor, with this age old adage (I can’t resist throwing in some physics), power implies transformation.  It is a function of using energy to do work.  My point is that energy monitors aren’t worth squat unless we change our behavior based on what they tell us.  In fact, since you plug them in, they use electricity, they don’t save it.

Local utilities are offering energy data with things like the green button which we’ve written about in the past. Changing light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs can make a big impact with electric loads.  When you use electricity—for A/C or to heat water for example—more efficient systems can make a difference; and so can improving the home in other ways.   The gains in insulating and air sealing, proper shading, and good windows can really make an impact on your energy usage as well as your comfort.

I wonder if the adage “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is relevant?  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to keep an eye on your electrical usage, but don’t get caught watching and not acting. Or maybe, “a fool and his money will soon part” fits too.

Thanks,

Jason

Fixes for Hidden Costs Reveal Hidden Benefits!

April 12, 2012

The offender in many folks’ minds when it comes to pollution is the automobile, not our homes.  It seems to be ingrained in our heads that automobiles are the worst offenders; I won’t discourage alternatives.   But, in fact, we generate twice as much carbon dioxide emissions as we consume coal, oil, and natural gas—directly or indirectly—in our homes.

Hidden CostImagine what happens if we cut the energy use in our homes by half?  The scale might balance out for sure, but there are definitely more benefits, saving money for one.  We do this on a daily basis.  Improving their home’s insulation and air tightness, heating and cooling systems, and more, will typically save our customers at least 25%, but often much more.

It all starts with a comprehensive home assessment which helps drive pollution and energy cost reduction in the home.  But the biggest impact we hear about from our customers is how comfortable that drive can be!  The end result we sometimes forget about is the level of comfort revealed after the job is done.

Thanks,

Jason

Image from the DOE’s home energy saver website

Miracle material, modern curse: Pipe Wrapping Worries?

March 27, 2012

Boy that’s just ugly.

Older homes, especially ones that had steam systems, often had pipe insulation like this;  it looks a bit like white corrugated cardboard.  I suspect it was as much to protect people’s foreheads from being scalded as they walked through their basement as it was to deliver the heat where it needed to go!

Fairly effective as an insulator—with the pockets of air and resistance to high heat—Aircell type pipe insulation starts to be a concern in the home as it deteriorates.

Materials containing asbestos are troublesome if they can become “friable”.  This means something that was once considered solid can disintegrate quite easily.  Asbestos found in vermiculite is a problem because it may already be dust.  Pipe insulation made with asbestos breaks down over time and turns powdery when it is bumped.

Keep in mind that not all white pipe insulation contains asbestos, other materials are now used.  Asbestos was banned in the late ‘70s and should have been out of circulation by the early ‘80s.  The best course of action is to leave it alone if you’re not sure.  Leave it to the experts if it needs to be removed, they know what to do.  A healthy, energy efficient home is in reach; knowledge is half the battle.

Thanks,

Jason

Image used with permission by Asbestorama on Flickr.

Undercover Heating Investigation: Some companies make it hard for those trying to do the right thing

March 12, 2012

Recently a news station in Atlanta did an undercover investigation of a few local heating service companies.  Their investigation revealed that unfortunately some contractors tried to sell unnecessary parts and services to customers.  In fact, three out of four companies were guilty of this!

When asked to inspect a properly operating heater, many of the technicians found “problems” and recommended expensive, unnecessary repairs.  One actually said that the heater was leaking gas and it will “keep coming, and if the gas builds up, you know what’s going to happen.”  No, I don’t want my house to blow up, but I also want to trust that a technician will not try to scam me with fear tactics.  What is a customer to do?

Furnace Install

One way to find a reputable company is to look for things that differentiate them from the competition such as certifications and affiliations.  There are plenty of organizations which recognize a contractor’s good work.  As a customer, you want a company that goes above and beyond to exceed your expectations.  At GreenHomes America, we go beyond heating and cooling and look at a home’s overall performance.

Our franchises are Building Performance Institute certified which requires extensive training and successful testing.  Ask your neighbors.  A great company works to gain the trust of a customer for the long haul, not for just today.  You can’t do that if you don’t want to do the right thing.

Thanks,
Jason


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