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New Regulations Affecting New Water Heaters

Most people don’t think about their water heaters until there’s a problem or they run out of hot water. If that happens to you today, you should be aware of new federal regulations that require water heaters to be more energy efficient. While this may be good for your wallet, it could make choosing new water heaters a bit confusing.

New water heaters must meet new energy regulations effective this past April 16th

New Water Heaters Must Be More Energy Efficient Now

As of this past April 16th, water heaters must comply with new Department of Energy efficiency standards. The water heaters used in most homes won’t seem that different and will get a modest boost in efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. But larger units — those 55 gallons or more — will need to shift to new technologies to achieve the efficiency gains. Doing so can cut utility bills by 25 to 50 percent depending on the technology used.

While this may seem like a bit of governmental gobbledygook, it’s good news for homeowners because water heating amounts to nearly 20 percent of a home’s energy costs. The new standards apply to gas (50 percent of U.S. households), electric (41 percent), and oil residential tank water heaters. Most tankless water heaters already meet efficiency standards.

The typical home has a water heater that holds 55 gallons of water or less. For such units, the new standards will increase efficiency by an average of 4 percent. According to the ACEEE, water heaters that comply with the new standards are already on the market.

Water heaters that hold 55 gallons or more will see bigger efficiency gains. But this is where it may get a little confusing since to attain those gains the larger water heaters will need to use technologies that are less familiar to consumers including electric heat pump and gas condensing technology. Also known as hybrid waters, heat pump water heaters transfer heat from the surrounding air to the water. The ACEEE says that condensing water heaters are designed to reclaim escaping heat by cooling exhaust gases below 140 degrees F, where water vapor in the exhaust condenses into water.

So what does this mean for homeowners? Simply put, if you’re replacing a water heater that holds less than 55 gallons, the new one may be an inch or two larger and can likely be placed where the old one was unless it was in a very tight spot such as a closet. But if you’re replacing a larger water heater, you’ll have to do your homework as the new units may need more space. Before making a purchase, consult a plumber or contractor.

Brown & Reaves Services, Inc. no longer installs or services water heaters, as we concentrate 100% of our resources and work staff to keeping your home cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. If you find your Myrtle Beach area home running low on cool air this summer, give us a call. 843-497-9867. And make sure you check out our Facebook page for more energy saving tips.

Hot Water Heater Energy Saving Tips

Did you know, when it comes to green living, your hot water heater is a loser? That tank of metal hiding in your garage, attic, or under your stairwell, has one purpose in mind – making sure you’re as comfortable as you want to be.

The challenge starts when the liquid sits and then cools down. The unit is designed to click on to warm it up which produces a constant cycle. This process, however, gets expensive.

In some situations, a hot water heater can be responsible for up to 50 percent of your total electric bill.

Your hot water heater may be using 50 percent or more of the total energy consumption in your home.

Five tips for running your hot water heater more efficiently:

1) Wrap It Up. Your hot water heater can be kept cozy and warm by wrapping it with a fiberglass insulated blanket. This is especially vital if it’s stored in an unheated area, such as a garage or attic. This can cut your losses up to 40%. They’re inexpensive to purchase and to install. When wrapping, be sure not to block the thermostat or air inlets.

2) Invest in Low-flow Fixtures. Every hot water heater will run more efficiently if used less often. The average family uses about 700 gallons of high temperature water each week. Investing in low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators can reduce consumption by as much as 60%.

Use the economy drying setting on your dishwasher and don’t use the pre-wash feature. Dishwashers today are designed to tackle dirty dishes with a vengeance. Rinse dishes before stacking.

3) Check the Temperature. The factory default on a hot water heater is usually set high. To avoid bacteria build up, set the temperature at 120 degrees.

Some units don’t have a numbered temperature gauge so simply put it between the low and medium settings. To check, after a few days, put a cooking thermometer into your tap flow and keep adjusting the setting until the thermometer reaches 120 degrees.

4) Drain Sediment. Your water contains minerals such as iron and other things, which naturally build up in your hot water heater over time. It’s crucial to keep the pipes and drains free of this debris for efficiency.

Check your manufacturer’s manual to find the quickest and most effective method to clean your tank. This should be done one or two times a year.

5) Insulate Exposed Pipes. Wrapping insulation around pipes reduces what is known as standby losses. This happens when a tank constantly increases water temperature and energy is wasted. Wrapping will keep the liquid 2 to 4 degrees warmer. That way it will be warmer quicker when you turn on the tap and that saves energy.

When you turn on the tap or the shower, it’s a great feeling to know you’ll have just what you need and want without much thought as to how your hot water heater delivers it to you. By investing your time and a little effort and money into your hot water heater, you can ensure you and your family will have all the comfort you’ll need or want for a long, long time.

If you’ve tried all these tips and still feel that you need to replace your hot water heater, Myrtle Beach and Conway area residents should make sure to choose a modern, energy-efficient model. Brown & Reaves Services, Inc., can install a new hot water heater for you. Give us a call for a free estimate — 843-497-9867 — or fill out our short inquiry form and we’ll get back to you with a quote, usually within 24 hours.

Switching to Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Have you been using incandescent bulbs in your home? If you haven’t made the switch to energy-efficient light bulbs yet, don’t worry. Most everyone seems overwhelmed just looking at the light bulb aisle these days. Good news: Picking the brightest, most efficient bulb is actually pretty easy. Follow these tips to get started.

Should you switch to energy-efficient light bulbs now, or wait until your old incandescent bulbs burn out?Does Switching to Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Make a Difference?

Just swapping out 15 incandescent bulbs in your home could save you up to $50 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s because a standard incandescent is only 10 percent efficient, the agency says; the other 90 percent of the electricity it uses is lost as heat.

CFLs, LEDs and Halogens (also called “energy-efficient incandescents”) are the three major categories of energy-efficient light bulbs, and they are commonly found in home improvement stores.

Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, are 75 percent more energy efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs and they last 10 times longer. CFLs are just like the fluorescent “shop lights” you may already have in your garage – they’re just a different shape. Not all CFLs are dimmable, so if that’s a feature you’re looking for, be sure to check the package. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be recycled properly to prevent the release of mercury into the environment.

LEDs are 75 percent more energy efficient than conventional incandescent bulbs and they last up to 25 times longer. Unlike CFL bulbs, which take time to “warm up” when they switch on, LEDs turn on instantly. But, as with CFLs, you’ll need to check the package if you’re looking for a dimmable option. LEDs are expensive relative to incandescents, but the Department of Energy says “they still save money because they last a long time and have very low energy use.”

Halogens are 25 percent more energy efficient than conventional incandescents, and can last up to three times longer. These bulbs come in multiple shapes and sizes and many can be used with dimmers. Halogens don’t have a “warm up” time; they’re at full brightness the instant you turn them on.

Comparing Brightness of Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

With incandescents, we are all used to shopping by “watts,” which is a measure of energy consumption. But wattage only tells us how much energy the bulb uses, not how much light it gives off. Now, the Department of Energy says, you’ll have to shift your focus from watts to lumens, which is a measure of light output.

More lumens indicate more light. For example, your bedside lamp at home may currently use 60-watt incandescent bulbs. This means that the fixture provides a light output of about 800 lumens with an incandescent. You can enjoy this same light output (800 lumens) with a CFL that uses less than 15 watts. (Note: Bulb labels will still note the wattage, but you should compare them based on the lumens to get your desired brightness.)

When Should You Replace Old Bulbs With Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs?

No need to wait. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it makes sense to replace your incandescent light bulbs now because you can begin enjoying the energy savings right away. You might save your old incandescent bulbs for use in a closet, the Energy Department says, where they would only be used for minutes at a time.

There are some incandescent bulbs that are exempt from the new restrictions (they include appliance lights, black lights, bug lamps, and 3-way incandescents).

The Department of Energy has more information on Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs at their website.

If you have any questions about making your home more energy-efficient give Brown and Reaves Services, Inc. a call at 843-497-9867. Remember to grab our 20% off coupon on your next service call by Liking us on Facebook.

Cut Your Myrtle Beach Summer Electric Bill Now

You don’t have to replace your air-conditioning system to lower your summer electric bill. Maybe a higher-efficiency system is in your future. But until then, consider these eight steps right now to reduce your summer electric bill right away:

Cut your Myrtle Beach summer electric bill now with a programmable thermostat

1. Install a programmable thermostat. Raising the temperature a few degrees in your home is a no-brainer when it comes to saving on your summer electric bill. The warmer you let your home get, the less work your air conditioner needs to put in.

Install a programmable thermostat. Pick up a basic model at your local hardware store for 30 bucks. Or splurge on a self-regulating model, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, which learns your home-and-away patterns over time.

2. Only use ceiling fans when you’re under them. Ceiling fans are more efficient than air conditioners, but leaving them on all the time won’t do you much good. A ceiling fan merely circulates air. It won’t actually lower the temperature.

Ceiling fans work by making you feel cooler by circulating air against your skin. So only use a ceiling fan when there’s someone in the room to feel it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting electricity by keeping them running all the time.

3. Install air conditioners in the warmest rooms. Many houses — especially older ones — have that one room that just doesn’t cool off as well as the other rooms. That one room can cost you a lot of money, especially if it’s a bedroom or an often-occupied room. To keep it cool, you may be tempted to turn your thermostat down into the arctic range. The rest of the house will be freezing, but that room will finally be comfortable.

But this just wastes money by making your central air-conditioning system work overtime. Instead, spend $75 to $100 on a window or floor unit for that one room. Turn the unit on when you’re in the room and need it to be a bit cooler, and then turn it off when you leave again. Over time, you’ll save money on your summer electric bill by going this route.

4. Keep it clean. Cleaning the air-conditioner filters — whether you have window units or a central unit — is just as important as replacing your furnace filter regularly in the winter. When the filter gets dirty, the unit has to work extra hard to pull air into the system, which just costs more energy.

So figure out how to clean your unit’s filter, and check it every few weeks in the summer. Many outdoor units can be hosed off regularly, and window units often come with removable filters that you can wash in the sink.

5. Close the drapes or blinds. It’s nice to let a little sunshine in. But that sunny corner the cat likes so much is costing you big bucks on your summer electric bill. When you let the sun in, it radiates heat.

So especially on the south and west sides of your home, keep the blinds or drapes closed unless there’s someone in the room actually enjoying the sun.

6. Hang out the laundry. Your dryer is probably one of your home’s biggest energy suckers. It takes a lot of electricity (or gas) to generate heat that dries your clothes. Plus, some of that heat escapes the dryer and winds up heating your home unnecessarily.

Let the hot sun work for you instead of against you by hanging your clothes to dry outside on a clothesline. The sun is great for bleaching stains out of white clothes and towels, too!

7. Caulk all cracks. We often talk about using caulk to seal cracks (especially around doors and windows) in the winter. And it’s true that in the winter, it’s especially easy to feel the cold air leaking in through even the tiniest of cracks and gaps.

But caulk is just as important a tool in the summertime, too. If you notice one area or doorway in your home is particularly warm, check for leaks and cracks. Then, use caulk or an expanding foam to fill up the gaps. That keeps the cold air in so you use less energy to cool your home.

8. Keep the kitchen cool. One way to quickly heat up your home is to use your kitchen appliances to fix meals. Sure, you still need to eat in the summer, but you don’t always have to heat up the whole kitchen to do it.

Instead, plan no-cook meals like salads. Or use smaller appliances, like a toaster oven, for moderate amounts of warm food. Another option is to use a slow cooker. For even better results with your slow cooker, move it outside to a shady back porch. Then it won’t heat your house at all!

Even if your air conditioner is 10 years old and on its last leg, you can make it last a little longer and spend less money on your summer electric bill with these eight simple steps. Find other energy savings ideas by checking out our other articles on energy savings.

Brown and Reaves Services, Inc. 843-497-9867. Don’t forget to Like us on Facebook and grab your 20% off coupon on our next service call.

Solar Energy – Disadvantages of Going Green

Using solar energy has it’s advantages, and disadvantages. Just as we pointed out the advantages of solar energy in our article last week, if you are really serious about solar energy to provide your home with electricity, you will need a deep understanding of its disadvantages as well. Today we are going to look at the many disadvantages of using solar energy.

Despite the fact that solar energy has been used for over 50 years, the technology is still considered relatively new for home use.

Solar Energy – Upfront Costs

There are many disadvantages of solar energy panels for home installations.One of the biggest disadvantages of solar energy panels is their cost. Of course, cost largely depends on the size of the home, and the type of solar energy you plan to install.

The cost of an actual system probably won’t vary much from place to place, but there are a lot of options, and there are different incentives from place to place.

A PV System producing 1 kWh can go somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000, and this size system won’t power most homes, at least not the entire home.

Many home installations of solar energy are used to supplement the power received from the electric company and are not intended to completely replace that. Many homes would require a more sizable investment, perhaps upward of $30,000 or more for a whole house system that would generate enough power not to ever have an electric bill.

If you’re seriously considering solar energy, check with your electric utility to see if they offer any rebates or energy credits. It could save you thousands on the installation. You’ll need to figure in federal tax write offs to determine what your net cost will end up being.

Solar Energy – Get a Site Survey Done

If you’re thinking of going with solar energy, you’ll need to have a site survey done to make sure you home can handle it. Both from a location standpoint, and from a structural standpoint. Solar panels are heavy and your roof must be able to handle the weight. Solar energy panels, on average, will add about 5 to 6 pounds per square foot of roof load.

If you’re going to be relying on funding assistance in the form of any kind of rebate, the electric company is going to require that your roof is pointing in the right direction. This means it must be facing south within about a 20 degree window. If you can’t point the panels in that direction, you might as well forget it because your solar generation drops dramatically. Same goes for shade. If you’ve got a building beside you, or trees that tower over the house, your solar energy plans are done.

Solar Energy Panel Inverters

Solar energy panels emit DC current. This is like the current that comes out of a battery. But houses use AC current. So an inverter takes care of the conversion. There are two types, micro-inverters, and solar panel inverters. While micro-inverters are more efficient, they are also more costly. Solar panel inverters will run you around $3,000 to $4,000, and micro-inverters will add another $1,000 to $2,000 on top of that.

Summary

As you can see, there are many advantages AND disadvantages for installing solar energy panels on your home. Cost being the major disadvantage, experts believe that in a few years, solar energy will become gradually much cheaper, more accessible and more effective. Here’s where to go if you want to read more in our article from last week about the Advantages of Going Green with Solar Energy.

Check out our other articles on Home Energy Efficiency and Savings here.

Be sure to Find Brown and Reaves Services on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for even more daily tips for saving money around your home.

Solar Energy – Advantages of Going Green

Using solar energy has it’s advantages, and disadvantages. Today we are going to look at the many advantages of using solar energy, and next week, we’ll look at some of the disadvantages.

Solar Energy in the form of solar panels has advantages and disadvantagesThe biggest advantage for using solar energy is the environmental advantage. The exploitation of non-renewable resources will eventually lead to shortages, increased costs and extreme pollution. It would be foolish to think we can rely on fossil fuels for energy forever. To continue to burn fossil fuels will lead to more pollution, and this will affect our climate and our health. Finding safe, clean, renewable energy becomes imperative.

The sun will always shine. Its power will not decrease, as with the case of fossil fuels. When the Earth can not depend on fossil fuels for energy, the sun will always provide enough energy for everyone.

Solar Energy is Clean and Free, Sort of

Solar energy from the sun does not pollute our environment and add to climate change, global warming and air pollution. And once a solar system is installed, you can enjoy practically free energy as long as the sun stays in the sky. Fossil fuel will continue to cost as we use it, and most likely get more expensive as we move forward into the future.

If you opt to go with solar energy to produce all the energy your house needs to use from the power of the sun, you will save a lot of money on electric bills. And check this out! If your system produces more energy than you need, you can sell to the electric company. You can not only save money but also make money with the help of solar panels.

Solar Energy Is Not Really a DIY Project

You can reduce the initial investment with a “do it yourself” kit, but we don’t recommend it. We’ll touch on more of the reasons why next week when we look at the disadvantages of a solar system.

Solar Energy is Available Most Everywhere

No matter how remote the place is where you live, if the sun is shining, your home can benefit from solar energy. A solar energy system can be installed anywhere. Therefore, for people who want to build houses in the mountains or other remote areas, solar energy may be a viable solution, especially if you’re building in an area where there is no electric lines nearby.

Other economic benefits of solar energy is provided by the government. You can save money by using various financial incentives. There are tax incentives and various credits and rebates to encourage people to go green. The incentives available with the installation of solar panels may significantly lower your overall costs.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we only told you about the positives associated with solar energy. So next week, we’ll highlight some of the negatives for you in part two of our series on solar energy. Check our other articles on Home Energy Efficiency and Savings here.

Be sure to Find Brown and Reaves Services on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter for even more daily tips for saving money around your home.

 

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