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Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Building Services Energy Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter Energy saving tips.

The strategies below will help you save energy, save money, and stay comfortable during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

Take Advantage of Heat from the Sun

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Cover Drafty Windows

  • Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.

Adjust the Temperature

  • When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.
  • If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

Find and Seal Leaks

  • Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Add caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

Maintain Your Heating Systems

  • Furnaces and heat pumps: Replace your filter once a month or as needed.
  • Wood- and Pellet-Burning Heaters: Clean the flue vent regularly and clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush periodically to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.

Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly--approximately 1 inch--and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • If you do use the fireplace, install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
  • Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower Your Water Heating Costs

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.

Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

Water Damage Save Money on your Water Bill this Winter Save money on your water bill.

What is wastewater averaging?

Wastewater averaging is the practice of estimating the amount of wastewater discharged from your home into the city’s sanitary sewer system. It is essentially a cap on the volume of wastewater you will be billed for each month for the next year. This practice goes by a variety of names including average winter consumption, wastewater winter averaging, winter averaging, winter quarterly average, or winter period average.

Check with your local utility company to see how they handle your wastewater charges. Some utilities don’t want to mess with all these calculations, so they charge a flat, monthly wastewater fee.

Your water utility uses a wastewater average because they can’t measure the actual amount of wastewater discharged from your home. The best way to measure the wastewater discharge is to use your water meter to measure your monthly water use and then estimate the amount of wastewater that could be returning to the city sewers.

Shouldn’t water flow IN be equal to water flow OUT?

Well, in the winter time, it generally does, but during the rest of the year, it doesn’t since you could be using water outdoors. The water you sprinkle on your lawn doesn’t go to the city sewers. Therefore, the wastewater averaging period typically happens during the winter months when there should be little to no outdoor water use.

Typically, a multiple month average during the late fall and winter months is used rather than picking one month during the year. This averaging is more fair just in case you have a higher water use during a single month. If you use more water than your wastewater average, then it is assumed that this additional water has been used outdoors and will not be returned back to the city’s sewers for processing and treatment. Therefore, you are not charged for this water usage on your wastewater bill. Conversely, if you use less water during a month than your wastewater average, then your wastewater charge should equal only the actual amount of water used that month.

Why is this so important?

Generally, the cost of wastewater is higher than the cost of potable water. Due to the nature of wastewater, you can imagine it would be more expensive to treat before being released back into environment. In order to achieve these savings throughout the year though, you have to reduce your water use during your wastewater averaging period.

Conserving water in the winter = Saving money all year long

Using less water during the wastewater averaging period will result in a corresponding lower wastewater bill throughout the entire year.  Here are ways to reduce your winter time water use and consequently your monthly wastewater bill:

  • Fix all leaky fixtures – This one is a mundane tip but leaks are a major culprit of unintentional water use in our homes.
  • Shower at your gym – Not only will this conserve water at your home but it could also get your New Year’s resolution to lose weight started early.
  • Don’t wash your car at home – This one is easy.
  • Turn off your irrigation system – Your landscaping probably won’t need water during the winter months since the plants will be dormant.
  • Insulate hot water pipes – Since the cold weather is coming, this is a perfect time to insulate any exposed hot water pipes for more immediate hot water at the faucet. You’ll save some energy as well.

Safety Tips for Property Managers

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Safety Tips for Property Managers Commercial property for rent.

Almost every day there is a report involving landlord-tenant violence or crime. Despite this, I’ve seen very little discussion of safety for property managers and landlords, who not only host open houses, but also deal with tenant complaints, collect rents, and process evictions–all of which can involve irate and emotional renters.

Here are four tips from various landlord and property manager resources to get the conversation started:

Don’t give out your home address. Instead have rent checks sent to a P.O. box, placed in an on-site drop box, or deposited electronically. Although it can be easy to get someone’s home address these days, if an irate tenant who has just received an eviction notice has to spend a couple of hours looking, it might give him or her a chance to cool off.

Consistently follow a screening process. When selecting tenants review applications for consistency and consider checking criminal records. Require references and call present and previous landlords. Use a reverse look-up service as an applicant may give you a phone number for someone who is pretending to be an ex-landlord. Also, check identification carefully, as some applicants may pretend to be someone they’re not.

Program emergency numbers on your phone. If you need emergency assistance, the ability to press a single button on your list of “favorites” will save you time and prevent you from making dialing errors, which can happen if you’re in a panic.

Know who you’re showing rental property to. Before you show your rental home have a formal meeting in a public place or your business office with the potential renter. Have him or her show at least two forms of ID and fill out a contact information form or rental agreement. Criminals tend to look for easy victims, and if you make the process more formal and require them to work a little, they may look elsewhere for trouble.

Prevent Mold in the Winter

1/11/2018 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation Prevent Mold in the Winter Mold growth on a wall.

The wet season in the winter months is one of the best times of year for molds to grow and expand. Often mold is contained near sources of water where it can easily grow and reproduce. As it grows, mold can breakdown and compromise the integrity and strength of the source in which it lives.

Mold spores are microscopic and are naturally found in the air we breathe indoors and outdoors. When large amounts of spores grow, one’s health may be compromised. Mold can be killed, but if it is not removed properly, it can remain in the area just cleaned and the dry spores can be released into the air. Mold remediation services can help eliminate the mold in your home and personal items affected by water damage.

Prevention, however, is what will help keep your lungs healthy and homes and buildings strong. We’ve put together a few tips on how you can help thwart mold from infesting your home that are efficient and realistic:

General Home and Building Maintenance:

  • Keep all areas clean.
  • Make sure there is good air circulation. Use an exhaust fan or open a window when showering, cooking, and washing the dishes.
  • Prevent mold and water damage by turning off the water flow to broken appliances and pipes.
  • Replace cracked or defective mortar in basements. If you find your basement is wet or has water leaking into it, inspect the outside drainage systems.
  • Spread moisture-barrier materials in crawl spaces over the soil. Heavy roofing paper or plastic film made of polyethylene can be used for this. Make sure there is good ventilation in the crawl space and, if possible, do not enclose it. One may need to use a fan to blow out humid air from under the building.
  • One can get rid of humidity or dampness within a building by heating it for a short time. After heating, open up the doors and windows, or use an exhaust fan, to let out the air that is moist.
  • If there are freezing temperatures, take measures to insulate pipes inside and out to ensure they will not crack and/or burst.
  • Make sure all the seals on the windows and doors are not compromised and in good-working condition.
  • Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure the ground around your building slopes away from the foundation so water does not collect around or enter in to it.
  • Act quickly if you see condensation on windows, pipes, or walls inside a building. Dry out the area and determine if the source of the condensation is from a leak or the result of high humidity.

Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Community Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes
  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
  • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
  • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.
  • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
  • Set ice maker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

  • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.
  • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
  • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
  • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
  • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers. 
  • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
  • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
  • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
  • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
  • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

  • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
  • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
  • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
  • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
  • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
  • Drain birdbaths and fountains
  • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
  • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
  • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.

Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Storm Damage Snowstorms and Extreme Cold Snowstorm

During Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • Stay indoors during the storm.
  • Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule and your route; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
  • Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. Use caution, take breaks, push the snow instead of lifting it when possible, and lift lighter loads.
  • Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
  • If you must go outside, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
  • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
  • Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to reduce heat loss.so, which route will be safest for you to get home. Drive with extra caution.

After Snowstorms and Extreme Cold

  • If your home loses power or heat for more than a few hours or if you do not have adequate supplies to stay warm in your home overnight, you may want to go to a designated public shelter if you can get there safely. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (e.g., SHELTER20472)

  • Bring any personal items that you would need to spend the night (such as toiletries, medicines). Take precautions when traveling to the shelter. Dress warmly in layers, wear boots, mittens, and a hat.

  • Continue to protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

Winter Weather Watches and Warnings

  • Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme winter weather alerts:
  • Freezing Rain - Rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.

  • Sleet - Rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.

  • Wind Chill- Windchill is the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside. The NWS provides a Windchill Chart to show the difference between air temperature and the perceived temperature and the amount of time until frostbite occurs. For more information, visit: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/winter/windchill.shtml.

  • Winter Weather Advisory - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening. The NWS issues a winter weather advisory when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences that may be hazardous. If caution is used, these situations should not be life-threatening.

  • Winter Storm Watch - A winter storm is possible in your area. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for more information. The NWS issues a winter storm watch when severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, may affect your area but the location and timing are still uncertain. A winter storm watch is issued 12 to 36 hours in advance of a potential severe storm. Tune in to NOAA Weather Radio, local radio, TV, or other news sources for more information. Monitor alerts, check your emergency supplies, and gather any items you may need if you lose power.

  • Winter Storm Warning - A winter storm is occurring or will soon occur in your area.

  • Blizzard Warning - Sustained winds or frequent gusts to 35 miles per hour or greater and considerable amounts of falling or blowing snow (reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile) are expected to prevail for a period of three hours or longer.

  • Frost/Freeze Warning - Below freezing temperatures are expected.

Commercial Buildings in Freezing Weather

1/4/2018 (Permalink)

Commercial Commercial Buildings in Freezing Weather Commercial Buildings

Freezing or Bursting Pipes

One of the most common causes of damage to commercial buildings during the colder months is freezing and bursting pipes. As a building owner, there are measures you can take to prevent pipes from freezing; however, sometimes the worst happens anyway. If it does, the result can be thousands of dollars of damage to your building, furniture, electronics, and other business property.

Following are a few tips on protecting the pipes in your building from winter’s worst.

  • Locate the turnoff valve and drain the lines.
  • Protect spigots with Styrofoam attachments. These can be purchased at most home improvements stores and offer much better insulation than wrapping the spigot with a towel.
  • Search for pipes that are not insulated. These pipes may pass through unheated areas, such as crawlspaces, basements or garages. Pre-molded foam rubber sleeves can be fitted to the pipe and offer essential insulation to keep them from freezing. Fiberglass insulation is also an option. You may also consider wrapping the pipe with heating tape.

Winter Runoff

As winter begins to recede, the risk of damage from freezing pipes fades with it. However, melting snow and ice bring a new concern for building owners—flood damage to property resulting from the runoff of the melt. In many areas of the country, snowmelt is a greater threat for flooding than any other source. The bad news is that flood resulting from melting snow and ice is still considered a flood and, therefore, is not covered by standard commercial property insurance.

Damage from Ice, Sleet or Snow

Ice, sleet and snow can be incredibly destructive to your property. They can be the source of damage or amplify existing damage—for example, ice getting into a crack in a wall. Unfortunately, damage caused by ice, snow and sleet are not covered by most standard commercial property insurance policies. While some policies will cover damage resulting from the abrupt collapse of a building’s roof under the weight of ice, snow or sleet, others will not.

Protecting your building from harsh winter conditions takes a great deal of care.

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm

12/27/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage How to Prepare for a Winter Storm Prepare for the next winter storm.

Winter is here and now is the time to prepare so that you are ready when the first snow storm hits. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make sure your home heating sources are installed according to local codes and permit requirements and are clean and in working order.
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
  • Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside to provide an extra layer of insulation to keep cold air out.
  • Consider buying emergency heating equipment, such as a wood- or coal-burning stove or an electric or kerosene heater.

- Stoves must be properly vented and in good working order. Dispose of ashes safely. Keep a supply of wood or coal on hand.

- Electric space heaters, either portable or fixed, must be certified by an independent testing laboratory. Plug a heater directly into the wall socket rather than using an extension cord and unplug it when it is not in use.

- Use a kerosene heater only if permitted by law in your area; check with your local fire department. Use only the correct fuel for your unit. Properly ventilate the area. Refuel the unit outdoors only, and only when the unit is cool. Follow all of the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Consider storing sufficient heating fuel. Regular fuel sources may be cut off. Be cautious of fire hazards when storing any type of fuel.
  • If you have a fireplace, consider keeping a supply of firewood or coal. Be sure the fireplace is properly vented and in good working order and that you dispose of ashes safely.
  • Consider installing a portable generator
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance, if you live in a flood-prone area, to cover possible flood damage that may occur during the spring thaw. Homeowners' policies do not cover damage from floods. Ask your insurance agent about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if you are at risk.

What to do after a Winter Storm

12/27/2017 (Permalink)

Storm Damage What to do after a Winter Storm After a winter storm.

You might be ready for the next winter storm, but after it hits, what is next? Here are some tips for after a winter storm hits.

  • Continue listening to local news for updated information and instructions. Access to some parts of the community may be limited or roads may be blocked.
  • Help infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families who may need additional help in an emergency situation, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.
  • Avoid driving and other travel until conditions have improved.
  • Avoid overexertion. Heart attacks from shoveling heavy snow are a leading cause of death during the winter.
  • Check on your animals and ensure that their access to food and water is unimpeded by drifted snow, ice, or other obstacles.
  • If you are using a portable generator, take precautions against carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution and fire.
Identifying & Treating Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb threatening.

Take these steps to avoid frostbite and hypothermia:

  • Be aware of the wind chill. Dress appropriately and avoid staying in the cold too long. Wear a hat and gloves when appropriate with layers of clothing. Avoid unnecessary exposure of any part of the body to the cold.
  • Drink plenty of warm fluids or warm water but avoid caffeine and alcohol. Stay active to maintain body heat.
  • Take frequent breaks from the cold.
  • Get out of the cold immediately if the signals of hypothermia or frostbite appear.

How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter

12/27/2017 (Permalink)

Mold Remediation How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Winter Mold growth in the winter.

Mold spores are all around us, but the growth of mold can be prevented. Mold needs moisture, warmth and food in order to grow in your home. When you deprive mold of moisture, warmth and food, you will stop it from growing, but you won’t kill the mold that is already there. The mold spores will stay dormant and start growing again if they get moisture, warmth and food. So, it’s important to keep mold from growing in the first place.

If you live in a climate where you need to heat your home frequently, mold can start growing in the winter on your home’s inside walls, especially on the surfaces closest to the outside of your home. Moisture that travels through the air from your basement, bathrooms, or kitchen may condense when it comes in contact with a cold wall. One thing you can do to prevent mold growth is make sure your walls are well-insulated. Well-insulated walls can prevent condensation and mold, as well as cut down on your heating and cooling bills.

Here are some other steps you can take to prevent mold growth during the winter:

  • During the cold season, make sure that your indoor humidity level is below 40 percent. If you use a humidifier, as many of us do in the winter, make sure it does not produce an excessive amount of humidity.
  • Remove possible sources of mold growth by regularly vacuuming and cleaning. Pay close attention to bathrooms and other areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.
  • Use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting in areas or rooms that have a moisture issue. It’s not usually a great idea to have carpeting in your entryway, for instance, if you live in a cooler, wet climate.
  • Paper, books and clothing are sources of food for mold, so don’t store them in humid parts of your home, such as your basement, especially close to the floor or walls.
  • Leaks in your roof or windows need to be repaired as soon as possible.
  • Make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean and that the area under your downspouts is graded so that water from the roof flows away from your foundation. If necessary, extend your downspouts.
  • In the bathroom and kitchen, use exhaust fans or open windows when producing moisture, such as taking a hot shower. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.
  • Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.
  • Consider getting a dehumidifier for your basement. The cool basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up, and a dehumidifier will control the humidity level and make it harder for mold to start growing.
  • Make sure your attic is well insulated and ventilated.
  • If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic. If your crawl space has vents, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.
  • If you have water problems in your basement or crawl space, clean up affected areas as quickly as possible and call an expert.