Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

What really happened? And is that cabin insulated? The energy audit of 1623.

November 22, 2013


This image is a classic one, and even though it’s titled the First Thanksgiving, it wasn’t called that then or immediately afterwards. The Pilgrims likely didn’t dress like that nor did the Wampanoag wear feather headdresses as shown.  Those Europeans were likely in rough shape happy with a first harvest, but they were by all accounts outnumbered almost two to one by their guests.  The holiday as we know it came to be under the Lincoln Presidency in the 1800’s not 1623 as portrayed in this painting from 1914.

This holiday is one of my favorites because of the food and family, and I encourage all to enjoy it to its fullest  The painting is lovely but doesn’t really tell the story, its much like other ways we sell ourselves short.

A clip board energy audit done in 15 minutes or a form can be filled out online.  This is sort of like this painting,  it might look nice, but it might be wrong or misleading.  To really know what is going on you need to be there, which is exactly why we like to spend time in your home inspecting the attic, the heating and cooling system and other areas up close and personal.

I’m sure there wasn’t an energy audit done while they were celebrating for three days.  It’s likely they ate well, largely thanks to their guests.  But I bet they wished there was someone that could really help with comfort issues.

Stay warm,



Photo in the public domain from the Library of Congress

Worse than Burning the Bird

November 20, 2013

There are plenty of things to consider for Thanksgiving, like making sure you  thaw out the bird properly, and cook it at the right temperatures.  And some guests may have food allergies as well so it’s always good to ask.


Food aside, there are other concerns, and ventilation is an important one. People need it and so do homes.  Over the holidays it can get stuffy with so many people visiting, but if your home is that way without guests, you suffer from high humidity or poor air quality, maybe it’s time to do something about it.   An assessment is a good place to start.  It’s nice to have ventilation systems in place all the time not just for the holidays.

One specific kind of ventilation, exhaust fans in kitchens, help us by removing smoke and odors, and especially if you’re cooking with gas, carbon monoxide.  While it’s not smart to use a grill inside, most people forget that their gas stove is a source for Carbon Monoxide; cooking a turkey in a hot stove for hours without exhausting the kitchen could put your family at risk for CO poisoning, and that is worse than burning the bird!





Safely Finding Your Way Through the Hazards of Thanksgiving!

November 19, 2012

It’s that time of year again and I look forward to the family gathering so we can stuff ourselves like birds.  With the colder weather we close up our homes, so it is time to ensure that our heating equipment is in good shape, like I mentioned last week in talking about fall clean ups.

Here are a few safety tips for the kitchen:

  • Keep the cooking area clear of clutter:  Don’t overload a cook top with too many pots and pans. More heat and more confusion can increase the chance for burns and grease fires.  
  • Dress for the occasion!  Cooking means being near the stove and range.  Make sure you won’t get snagged or burned in the process.  Wear tighter fitting clothes or short sleeves in the kitchen. 
  • Turn handles in.  We can forget some of these simpler things, but there may be more going on that you are used to in the kitchen and more kids too!
  • Do not pour water on a grease fire.  Turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding a lid onto the pan. Leave the lid in place until the pot or pan is cooled, water will only make it worse!
  • Turn off the stove when you are done:  Easy to forget in a busy kitchen trying to get everything to the table.  Hot surfaces are part of it but, how well is your oven vented? Or is it?

This last tip reminds me of a few posts from last year.

I still subscribe to our Director of QA and Safety, Dave Abrey’s theory of sleepy guests.  It might not be the Turkey!

Be thankful, stay safe, and stay warm!

Enjoy the holiday!


Image courtesy of Grant Snider from

Frozen Turkeys and Frozen Pipes

November 23, 2011

With Thanksgiving on the horizon and football on TV, many of us stand ready to pack it on like a linebacker for the colder months ahead, well at least in some parts of the country.  I think it’s going to be a cold one this year, I’ve witnessed doublewide squirrels around the yard big enough to take on the neighborhood cats.  By cold I’m not talking 50 degrees at night, I mean freezing, like broken pipes cold. 

Many of you across the nation know what I’m talking about, and unfortunately I’m sure many know about frozen pipes too!

Pipes freeze because we leave them exposed to the cold. Pretty simple, but why do they freeze when they run in our basement or crawlspace?  Are they really inside or outside?

The real problem is usually not the pipes, it’s often the home.  Ductwork and plumbing that runs through spaces that can freeze leads to inefficiencies, discomfort and headache.  When hot water heaters, boilers and furnaces exist in these same spaces, they work double time trying to deliver something warm to the rest of the home.  This is definitely a home performance issue.  

We could leave it to a plumber to fix it by moving the pipes, but since they were put where they are for a reason, this often won’t work.  And that heat tape you had wrapped on the pipes and forget to plug in now, is either expensive (when you turn it on), unreliable (when you forget to turn it on), or both!  The better option:  apply a little home performance and fix your home.  As with every other part of the home a trained eye will help define how to make it work best.   Insulation air sealing and you can enjoy the game instead of spending the night in the basement with a hairdryer feeling like a frozen turkey or worse with a mop after the pipes burst. 

Stay warm…and dry! 


Image from

Turkey, tryptophan and the real reason we all might get sleepy

November 22, 2011
Long established mythology is that the high levels of the amino acid tryptophan contained in turkey causes sleepiness after thanksgiving dinner.    While this may have some merit, turkey doesn’t really have much more of this than other meats, and soybeans have much more so it should be all those vegetarians eating their Tofurkies (yes there really are such things) that are zonking out.  It might have more to do with the one two punch of largeamounts of carbohydrates we eat.  You know, breads, stuffing, potatoes, sweets, eat much of that for thanksgiving dinner? 

One of my esteemed colleagues here at GreenHomes America has another theory, and it’s a deadly one.  Carbon Monoxide (CO).  Our ovens can produce a great deal of the stuff which is why we test them on every assessment.     We’ve covered some of the issues here.

 This is the only unvented gas appliance allowed by BPI in our homes, partially because we usually don’t have it on for long periods of time.   Your average service man does not check for CO regularly, and when you’ve got that 20 lb turkey to cook that oven will be on for half the day!    Some homes may have CO monitors but most of these monitor do not alert at low levels—even levels which can cause illness (and no CO is good CO).  Get a good CO meter if you don’t have one already.  Vent the kitchen when you are cooking and consider having a professional test your oven as well as the rest of your home.

Thanks and be safe!


Photo from

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