1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

April 30, 2008

:121 Tally Your Accomplishments

Filed under: :121 Tally Your Accomplishments — Tags: , , — John Banta @ 12:23 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:121 Tip: Here it is the end of four months of tips. Time to tally our progress spending one minute a day reviewing a tip, five minutes learning more, and ten minutes implementing that tip or following up with some other action.

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Additional Information

For more information about keeping the tally see tips :001, :031 and :060

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April 29, 2008

:120 Safe Med Disposal

Filed under: :120 Safe Med Disposal — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:120 Tip: Today’s 1:5:10:365 EcoTip deals with the safe disposal of old or unneeded medications and comes from The Green Theme Blog in Canada:

Bottle of pills

One of the major chemical pollution factors besides pesticides and herbicides are medication. In 2000, the problem was deemed so serious that the American Environmental Protection Agency decided to take a closer look at pharmaceuticals and active ingredients in personal care products known as PPCPs. What they found was that while agri chemicals have undergone tests for their environmental effects on aquatic and marine life, PPCPs have not. Exposure to PPCPs in the environment can be more lethal for fish and marine animals because they often affect their immune systems. Unfortunately, nobody has figured out a way to get this out of drinking water. What’s a person to do?

If you have any old lozenges, expired prescription drugs or vitamins, check out www.medicationsreturn.ca and there is a list of places such as Pharmasave that will take all your old stuff and destroy it safely.

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 Additional Information

Michelle’s Tip is an important one, but at this time I have been unable to find a source for safe disposal of medications in the United States. I called around some of my local pharmacies and was told to flush the meds down the toilet. This is what most people are probably doing, but these drugs are hazardous waste pollutants that don’t break down at the waste water treatment plant. One major concern is that antibiotics in the environment will promote the development of more resistant strains of bacteria.

Seems to me like this would be a good topic for writting a letter of concern our legal representatives. What do you think – Should pharmacies be required by law to take back old meds for proper disposal? 

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April 28, 2008

:119 Fire Screens

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:119 EcoTip: The fire screen on your fire place chimney does more that arresting sparks going up the chimney as well as keeping out pests. Many homes that catch on fire and burn in wild fires would have been okay if they had an intact fire screen. When wild fires burn they can create a back pressure that sucks hot air and sparks down the chimney into the home – igniting it from the inside. A properly installed chimney fire screen or spark arrester can help prevent this from happening.

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 Additional Information

 The information in this post is from my new book Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting your Buildings from Climate Change

• Use quarter-inch fire screen over the opening of every chimney or wood stove pipe. The hot air from a fire can cause the typical air flow to reverse so outside air rushes down the chimney and ignites the interior of the home. Fire screening not only helps prevent sparks from your fireplace from causing a wildfire, but also helps prevent wild fire embers from back drafting into your home.

 
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April 27, 2008

:118 Clear Brush

Filed under: :118 Clearing Brush — Tags: , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:18 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:118 EcoTip: Proper planting and grounds maintenance can go a long way towards protecting buildings from fire.

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 Additional Information

 The following is reprinted from my new book Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting your Buildings from Climate Change:

• Trim or prune trees so they are at least ten feet away from the roof. Ideally the area 30 feet around your home will be clear to allow fire equipment access. Forested areas should be at least 100 feet away.

• Keep the grounds 30 feet around your home well irrigated.

• Keep plants spaced away from your home, outbuildings and each other to create a fuel break that will help prevent the flames from traveling to your home.

• Trim mature tree branches so they are over 15 feet above the ground. For younger and shorter trees the minimum above-ground height should be six feet. Bushes should be no more than 18 inches high.

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April 26, 2008

:117 Preparing for Fire Season

Filed under: :117 Preparing for Fire Season — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:117 EcoTip: The fire season is quickly approaching. It is time to start preparing.

Credit: FEMA

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 Additional Information

The following is taken from my new book Extreme Weather Hits Home: Protecting Your Buildings from Climate Change: 

At its third annual fire congress in November 2006, the Association for Fire Ecology focused directly on the issue of climate change, stating that global warming is changing fire behavior, creating longer fire seasons, and causing more frequent, large-scale, high-severity wildfires that threaten homes and communities. This means the costs for fire suppression and property loss are also increasing due to climate change. It’s not that the warmer temperatures from climate change are increasing the fires directly. The temperature increases of a degree or two are melting snow earlier and faster each year. Drier soil conditions lead to a greater amount of dehydrated brush resulting in a longer, more intense fire season each year (Westerling).

Addtional fire safety information is available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071101202302.htm

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April 25, 2008

:116 Programmable Thermostats

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

1:5:10:116 EcoTip: Get a programable thermostat If you don’t already have one. If you already have one it settings should be reviewed for maximum energy savings.

According to EPA’s EnergyStar program programmable thermostats are:

  • are more convenient and accurate than manual thermostats and improve your home’s comfort
  • contain no mercury
  • save energy and save money on utility bills — when used properly, about $150/year
  • are better for the environment, since using less energy helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy production
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     Additional Information

    EPA’s EnergyStar Rules of Thumb for Proper Use:

    1. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours), for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and through the night, after bedtime.
    2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. You use more energy (and end up paying more on energy bills) if you consistently “hold” or over-ride the pre-programmed settings.
    3. Units typically have 2 types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e. several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
    4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, for example, will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats, including ENERGY STAR qualified units, begin to heat or cool at a programmed time, to reach set-point temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive, “smart,” or “intelligent” recovery features are an exception to this rule — they reach desired temperatures by the set time, since they use formulas that are based on your historical use.
    5. Install your unit on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts (doorways, windows, skylights, direct sunlight or bright lamps).
    6. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.
    7. Don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units indicate when batteries must be changed.

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    April 24, 2008

    :115 Clean AC Coils

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:115 EcoTip: It is time have your air conditioners cooling coils and system cleaned to prepare for a hot summer. Have it done now and your system will be ready when the hot weather hits. Dirty coils waste energy by creating greater resistance to air flow and can also be a source of poor air quality from microbial growth. Studies have shown that if you have a unit with both inside and outside coils (as shown below)- they need to be kept clean too.

     image credit: EPA

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     Additional Information

    Suggested Review – :110

     Primary reasons for cooling coils become fouled are that inefficient filters are used, or are not preventing dirty by-pass air from going around the filter instead of through it.

    This article by Bob Baker discusses cleaning AC coils.

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    April 23, 2008

    :114 Carbon Monoxide Detectors

    Filed under: :114 Carbon Monoxide Detectors — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:29 am

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:114 EcoTip: Carbon Monoxide Detectors may look like a smoke detector, but they can help alert you to another deadly hazard that is a colorless odorless gas. Most people think of Carbon Monoxide poisoning as being a winter hazard, but can be a problem any time of year if combustion appliances are in use. If you don’t already have one – its a small investment. If you have one – test it to be sure the batteries are in good shape and it is working.

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     Additional Information

    Suggested Review – :112, :113

    Here’s what EPA says: Consider installing a Carbon Monoxide alarm.

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas which at high levels can cause serious illness and death. CO alarms are widely available and should be considered a back-up to BUT NOT A REPLACEMENT for proper installation, use, and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances. CO alarms are designed to warn you of any unusual build-up of CO in your home. These higher levels of CO may occur from improperly maintained, installed or used fuel-burning appliances, backdrafting appliances or fireplaces, or idling cars in garages. If a CO alarm is to be installed:

    1. Make sure the device is certified to the most current Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standard 2034 or the International Approval Services (IAS) 6-96 standard.
    2. Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area.

     Be aware of all instructions and warnings associated with the CO alarm.

    You can read more EPA information on Carbon Monoxide and detecors at http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html

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    April 22, 2008

    :113 Prevent Back-Drafting

    Filed under: :113 Prevent Back-Drafting — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:28 am

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:113 EcoTip: Back-drafting is a serious condition that can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. It occurs when the gases for any combustion appliance or a fireplace flow into the house instead of up the chimney. It can be caused by some very simple mistakes especially in today’s very tight energy efficient structures.

    http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-backdrafting.html 

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     Additional Information

    Suggested Review – :111, :112

     There are many forces that can work together to depressurize a home according to EPA these include: bathroom exhaust fans, kitchen range hoods, and clothes dryers and fireplaces. Other problems are “leaky return ducts near combustion equipment, leaky supply ducts outside the conditioned space, wind, and the stack effect (warm air rising in a building tends to depressurize lower areas). If these forces are great enough, they can work to suck air and combustion products back down the chimney or flue and into the house.”

    Yesterday I talked about the importance of having doors properly undercut or a Return Air Pathway. Back-drafting is one important reason why!

    Let’s say you have a balanced central heating system that has a single return air supply in a hallway and supply registers in each room. Furthermore you’ve just installed a carpet that fills the undercut under the door and substantially reduces the amount of air that can flow under the doorway. As long as the door is open, no problem, but when the door gets closed the air blowing into the bedroom can’t get back to the return. The bedroom becomes postively pressurized, but the rest of the home becomes negatively presurized. There isn’t enough air to satisfy the needs of the furnace system so air starts to flow from cracks and other available openings. In a leaky home, there is probably enough unintended air to satisfy the needs of the system, but when there isn’t enough air, the air has to come from somewhere like by back-drafting down the flue pipe for hot water heater or the furnace. If the furnace or hot water heater is in the house and doesn’t have an unblocked fresh air supply, the combustion gases can flow out into the living space. If the combustion gases have already been burned – the risk is carbon monoxide poisoning. If the gases haven’t been burned, they may ignite and cause a fire. this is just one of several dangerous back-drafting situations. EPA discusses more at: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-backdrafting.html 

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    April 21, 2008

    :112 Door Undercuts

    Filed under: :112 Door Undercuts — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:26 am

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:112 EcoTip: Doors are deliberately undercut to provide a path for airflow created by central heat and air systems. If the room has both a supply and return register – and is balanced as described in EcoTip:111 The undercut isn’t necessary. If you only have supplies registers in a room – but no returns – then the air must have a path to follow back to the central system to provide proper ventilation. This is provided by the space under the door. The door undercut may not be enough in which case you need to undercut it more or provide an RAP.

     

    Tamarak Technologies Return Air Pathway

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     Additional Information

    Suggested Review – :111

    The amount of gap under the door is important to allow good air exchange and prevent pressure differences from developing in the house. Many builders cut a standard half-inch to one inch gap without understanding that size does matter. If carpet is installed, it may close the gap as well.

    A 30 inch door with a half-inch gap can handle up to 25 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of air coming from the supply register in that room when the door is closed. To handle 75 cfm it would be necessary to have a 1.5 inch gap. If the gap isn’t big enough then back-drafting can occur (more on this in tomorrow’s tip).

    Tamarack Technologies has informtion about the necessary door way undercuts or as an alternative you can use their Return Air Pathways (RAPs) instead of needing to undercut a huge gap under the door.

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