1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

May 31, 2008

:152 Time to Tally up

Filed under: :152 Time to Tally Up — Tags: , , — John Banta @ 12:05 am

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

1:5:10:152 Tip: The end of May means it is 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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May 30, 2008

:151 Reduce Formaldehyde

Filed under: :151 Reduce Formaldehyde — 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.

1:5:10:151 EcoTip: When purchasing home maintenance products, carpet and furnishings, look for brands with low levels of formaldehyde. The GreenGuard program is a voluntary program for manufacturers that decide to submit their products for independent evaluation. The program evaluations have a number of criterion. Low formaldehyde levels are one. Products are evaluated by testing for the level of formaldehyde emissions present after being allowed to out-gas for 7 days.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review: :150

My co-authors and I have updated our lists for many sources of “better” home related products in the 3rd edition of our new book Prescriptions for a Healthy House: A Practical Guide for Architects, Builders and Homeowners. 

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May 29, 2008

:150 Formaldehyde

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

1:5:10:150 EcoTip: Formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical that has been shown to cause reactions at very low levels. It has a strong pungent odor and is frequently associated with “new smell”. One example of continuing problems is the recent FEMA fiasco where formaldehyde laced trailer homes were supplied to hurricane Katrina victims.

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Additional Information:

The following quote about formaldehyde was written by my co-author Dr. Erica Elliott for our book Prescriptions for a Healthy House: A Practical Guide for Architects, Builders and Homeowners The 3rd edition was released earlier this month.

Indoor formaldehyde is gaining recognition as a severe health hazard for occupants of homes and office buildings where chronic exposure occurs. Several organizations, such as the American Lung Association, have recommended that formaldehyde levels not exceed 0.1 part per million. People who have already become sensitized to formaldehyde will have reactions at levels as low as 0.02 part per million. Approximately 50 percent of the population is exposed on a daily basis in the workplace to levels that exceed the 0.1 part per million limit. Mobile homes are notorious for causing health problems because of the extremely high levels of formaldehyde emitted from the plywood and particleboard used in their construction.

Individuals who develop permanent health problems associated with formaldehyde exposure often relate the onset of their symptoms to a flu-like illness, which is diagnosed as a viral infection. However, the affected individual usually does not totally recover from this so-called flu and is left with general malaise, fatigue, and depression. Other symptoms can include rashes, eye irritation, frequent sore throats, hoarse voice, repeated sinus infections, nasal congestion, chronic cough, chest pains, palpitations, muscle spasms, joint pains, numbness and tingling of the extremities, colitis and other digestive disorders, severe headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, inability to recall words and names, and disorientation. Formaldehyde is an immune system sensitizer, which means that chronic exposure can lead to multiple allergies and sensitivities to substances that are entirely unrelated to formaldehyde.

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May 28, 2008

:149 Smelly Air

Filed under: :149 Smelly Air — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 2:55 am

1:5:10:149 Tip: Room air fresheners can cover-up or mask odors. This may be a bad idea. If your house smells bad, it may be an early warning signal of something being wrong. It is best to search-out and correct the odor problem not cover it up. This is especially true of musty odors, which may be an early indicator of a moisture, decay, rot or mold problem. 

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 Additional Information:

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May 27, 2008

:148 Chimney Sweep

Filed under: :148 Chimney Sweep — Tags: , , , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:54 am

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

1:5:10:148 EcoTip: If you have a fireplace, it should be cleaned and inspected. Even if you don’t use it, animals may cause damage, build nests or die. Damaged flashing or caps can provide a pathway for water intrusion. A damaged firescreen not only permits sparks to exit the chimney, but in case of wild fire, may permit embers to enter – igniting the home from the inside.

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 Additional Information:

Suggested Review – :119

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May 26, 2008

:147 Water Heater Flue

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

1:5:10:147 EcoTip: Make sure your gas water heater is properly vented. Over time the flue vent pipes can rust out or get knocked loose. Its important that your water heater be vented according to code and the manufacturers instructions.

waterheaterflue.jpg 

This water heaters flue pipe got knocked loose so that it was venting carbon monoxide into the living space.

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Additional Information

Suggested Reading – :114

 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.  – EPA

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May 25, 2008

:146 Reduce Temperatures

1:5:10:146 EcoTip: Today’s tip is to reduce hot water heater temperatures to save energy, but it has a caveat. Reduced temperatures in hot water heaters have proven to be a source of the infectious bacterium Legionella pneumophila. It is currently estimated that Legionnaire’s disease affects between 10,000 and 100,000 people each year. So how does one achieve energy savings and safety from this disease at the same time? In the additional reading below I have provided both the Department of Energy and OSHA’s perspectives. I then tell you how our family manages to balance the risks and the benefits.

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 Additional Information:

The Department of Energy says:

You can reduce your water heating costs by simply lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs.

Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, most households usually only require them set at 120ºF. Water heated at 140ºF also poses a safety hazard—scalding. However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, it may require a water temperature within a range of 130ºF to 140ºF for optimum cleaning.

Reducing your water temperature to 120ºF also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes. This helps your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.

Consult your water heater owner’s manual for instructions on how to operate the thermostat. You can find a thermostat dial for a gas storage water heater near the bottom of the tank on the gas valve. Electric water heaters, on the other hand, may have thermostats positioned behind screw-on plates or panels. As a safety precaution, shut off the electricity to the water heater before removing/opening the panels. Keep in mind that an electric water heater may have two thermostats—one each for the upper and lower heating elements.

Mark the beginning temperature and the adjusted temperature on the thermostat dial for future reference. After turning it down, check the water temperature with a thermometer at the tap farthest from the water heater. Thermostat dials are often inaccurate. Several adjustments may be necessary before you get the right temperature.

If you plan to be away from home for at least 3 days, turn the thermostat down to the lowest setting or completely turn off the water heater. To turn off an electric water heater, switch off the circuit breaker to it. For a gas water heater, make sure you know how to safely relight the pilot light before turning it off.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13090

OSHA says:

  • Maintain domestic water heaters at 60°C (140°F). The temperature of the water should be 50°C (122°F) or higher at the faucet.
  • Avoid conditions that allow water to stagnate. Large water-storage tanks exposed to sunlight can produce warm conditions favorable to high levels of LDB. Frequent flushing of unused water lines will help alleviate stagnation.
  • However, if you have people living with you who are at high risk of contracting the disease, then operating the water heater at a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°F) is probably a good idea…. [but not] If you have small children or infirm elderly persons who could be at serious risk of being scalded by the hot water. Consider installing a scald-prevention device. http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/legionnaires/faq.html
  • The way I deal with these conflicting issues is by:

    keeping our water heater at a lower temperature setting that delivers approximately 110 degree water at the faucets, so the water won’t scald and we save energy.

    Not allowing water to stagnate in the hot water heater or pipes. We do this by using every hot water fixture on a rotating basis (at least every third day). Also our hot water heater is small enough so that we run out of hot water after two ten minute showers. This is a good sign that the hot water heater has been flushed which will help prevent Legionella from building up.

    If were going to be away for more than three days, then the hot water heater is turned off. It is a gas unit with automatic ignition so lighting the pilot is not a problem. Below temperatures of 68 degrees, Legionella goes dormant and doesn’t grow.

    Keeping scale and sediment from building up in the hot water heater. The debris can act as a breeding ground for bacteria and provide temperatures that promote the growth.

    This is one of those issues where there can be no hard and fast rules, but hopefully the above information will help you design a strategy that will work for your family.

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    May 24, 2008

    :145 Water Heater Timer

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

    1:5:10:145 EcoTip: Using a timer to shut electric water heaters off after bedtime and during work and school hours in the day when they aren’t used much is another energy saver. A manual over-ride can be used for those days when the typical schedule changes, but the residual hot water left between heating sessions will generally be enough for the occasional uses that pop up.

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     Additional Information:

    Suggested Review: :141, :142, :143, :144

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

    If you have an electric water heater, you can save an additional 5%–12% of energy by installing a timer that turns it off at night when you don’t use hot water and/or during your utility’s peak demand times.

    They can cost $60 or more, but they can pay for themselves in about 1 year. Timers are most cost effective if you don’t want to install a heat trap and insulate your water heater tank and pipes. Timers aren’t as cost effective or useful on gas water heaters because of their pilot lights.

    Contact your utility to see if it offers a demand management program. Some utilities offer “time of use” electricity rates that vary according to the demand on their system. They charge higher rates during “on-peak” times and lower rates during “off-peak” times. Some even offer incentives to customers who allow them to install control devices that shut off electric water heaters during peak demand periods. These control devices may use radio signals that allow a utility to shut off a water heater remotely anytime demand is high. Shut-off periods are generally brief so customers experience no reduction in service.

    http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13110

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    May 23, 2008

    :144 Heat Recovery

    Filed under: :144 Heat Recovery — Tags: , , , , — John Banta @ 12:40 am

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

    1:5:10:144 EcoTip: As hot water goes down the drain it carries about 80–90% of the energy used to heat water in a home with it. A Drain-water (or grey-water) heat recovery systems can capture the energy and preheat cold water before it enters the water heater or goes to other hot water fixtures.

      

    Illustration of a drain-water heat recovery system. Water flows from a  faucet down the drain, which is wrapped with a copper coil called a heat exchanger. Cold water flows through the coil and is heated by the hot water going down the drain. The heated water then flows to the plumbing fixture and hot water heater where it then flows through the faucet, and down the drain where it then heats new clean cold water in the coil.

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    Additional Information:

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

     Drain-water heat recovery technology works well with all types of water heaters, especially with demand and solar water heaters. Also, drain-water heat exchangers can recover heat from the hot water used in showers, bathtubs, sinks, dishwashers, and clothes washers. They generally have the ability to store recovered heat for later use. You’ll need a unit with storage capacity for use with a dishwasher or clothes washer. Without storage capacity, you’ll only have useful energy during the simultaneous flow of cold water and heated drain water, like while showering.

    Some storage-type systems have tanks containing a reservoir of clean water. Drain water flows through a spiral tube at the bottom of the heat storage tank. This warms the tank water, which rises to the top. Water heater intake water is preheated by circulation through a coil at the top of the tank.

    Non-storage systems usually have a copper heat exchanger that replaces a vertical section of a main waste drain. As warm water flows down the waste drain, incoming cold water flows through a spiral copper tube wrapped tightly around the copper section of the waste drain. This preheats the incoming cold water that goes to the water heater or a fixture, such as a shower.

    By preheating cold water, drain-water heat recovery systems help increase water heating capacity. This increased capacity really helps if you have an undersized water heater. You can also lower your water heating temperature without affecting the capacity.

    Prices for drain-water heat recovery systems range from $300 to $500. You’ll need a qualified plumbing and heating contractor to install the system. Installation will usually be less expensive in new home construction. Paybacks range from 2.5 to 7 years, depending on how often the system is used. http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13040

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    May 22, 2008

    :143 Insulate Pipes

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

    1:5:10:143 EcoTip: Insulating the water pipes leading to and from your hot water heater helps save energy and water.

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     Additional Information: 

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

    Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water.

    Insulate all accessible hot water pipes, especially within 3 feet of the water heater. It’s also a good idea to insulate the cold water inlet pipes for the first 3 feet.

    Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or neatly tape strips of fiberglass insulation around the pipes. Pipe sleeves made with polyethylene or neoprene foam are the most commonly used insulation. Match the pipe sleeve’s inside diameter to the pipe’s outside diameter for a snug fit. Place the pipe sleeve so the seam will be face down on the pipe. Tape, wire, or clamp (with a cable tie ) it every foot or two to secure it to the pipe. If you use tape, some recommend using acrylic tape instead of duct tape.

    On gas water heaters, keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue. If pipes are within 8 inches of the flue, your safest choice is to use fiberglass pipe-wrap (at least 1-inch thick) without a facing. You can use either wire or aluminum foil tape to secure it to the pipe.

    Source: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13060

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