Archive for the 'Energy Savers' Category

Repair or Replace?

Aug. 1st 2012

Should you service your existing plumbing fixtures or replace them?

The world of a do-it-yourselfer is full of surprises, and full of decisions. The typical homeowner decides which plumber to hire, which heating and air conditioning contractor to hire, and other, similar decisions. The do-it-yourselfer has more complex decisions to make. Can I gain control of this situation in a time of crisis? Am I able to solve the problem and return things to normal using only my own ingenuity and resources? Can I save some of my hard-earned money by eliminating the labor costs of a professional?

A properly functioning plumbing system is a sensitive balance, containing many various and individual parts, all playing their roles to provide modern convenience to your home. But each component, as it performs its task, is wearing out, or being deposited with sediment, or otherwise approaching the point at which it will fail. Some components show warning signs that failure is imminent, but some simply fail, without any indication of trouble.

Many components have a “life expectancy”, which aids the homeowner in deciding whether repairs will be worth their cost, or if they will amount to throwing money and energy at a losing proposal. This article will help you to ask the questions that are part of the decision whether to replace a failed appliance or fixture, or whether to replace a component of it in order to make a repair and put it back into operation.

An important factor in determining your course of action is the cost of repair as compared with the cost of replacement. For instance, if a part for your thermostatic shower control is half the cost of replacing the entire valve, and you’ve used the valve for ten years already, perhaps it would be wise to replace the entire valve while you have it opened up. If you do, you can reasonably expect to have about ten more years of trouble-free operation. If you spend only the amount necessary to change the part, you may not be confident that no other part will need replacement before long. It could be that repairing part after part will lead to a higher cost than total replacement.

A water heater is an expensive plumbing fixture that can be found in nearly every home – every occupied building of all types, in fact. When problems with the water heater arise, they can be caused by many different things. If your pilot light stays on, but no fire ignites, it may need a new thermocouple, a part that costs between $5 and $10 and takes about ten minutes to change. In this case, it is probably worth the expense, even if you have owned the water heater for 12 years, the typical life expectancy of a gas heater.

But suppose there is no gas supplying the pilot light, and a faulty gas valve is the culprit. If you’ve had the heater for ten years or more, it may not be wise to spend nearly $200 just to keep it working for an expected 2 more years. Average out the total cost of ownership over ten years of use, without the added expense of a gas valve, and you will find you have gotten your money’s worth. Spending the extra money on a new appliance will add years of trouble-free operation – and it comes with the expensive part included in the price!

Of course, the decision about whether to patch up an ailing appliance rather than replace it will depend largely on the available budget of the homeowner. Sometimes a homeowner will have little choice but to spend as little as possible to get things working again, but from another perspective, spending as little as possible to restore the plumbing system is a recipe for overwhelming future problems.

Cost, however, is not always the dominant factor in such a decision. The market value of your home is affected by maintenance decisions you make. Aesthetic value is another factor. A cracked lid on your toilet tank is an eyesore, but you will likely need to replace the entire toilet to resolve the issue. While replacing your toilet in such an instance is perhaps wasted money to some, from another perspective it provides a satisfaction that cannot be measured in dollars.

It may not always be the best course of action to defer your judgment to a professional plumber at times when such a decision is needed. Plumbers, while in business to serve the needs of their customers, are also in the business of making sales. If a fixture is serviceable after repairing it, it may be substandard in the eyes of a professional who is in constant contact with new, and sometimes innovative plumbing fixtures and appliances.

But it is not necessary for a functioning system that it be new. The test for the homeowner is whether the system is functioning as it was designed to do, and whether costs and efforts are contained within reasonable limits, allowing for the homeowner’s time and money to be devoted to other needs.

The decision, then, to replace or repair any durable plumbing fixture – toilets, garbage disposals, water heaters, etc. – will depend on how much repair you’ve had to perform on the item previously, and how much repair cost can be eliminated by the installation of a new one. It is rarely an easy decision, but with due diligence and thoughtful consideration of all the factors, your decision can be easier to make.

Green Plumbing Ideas

Jun. 20th 2012

There is great interest these days in environmental conservation, and applying ‘green’ concepts to household plumbing designs is a smart idea which can lead to substantial savings of water and of money. Even if water consumption is not regulated in your local area, many steps can be taken which not only reduce your dependency on public water supplies, but also reduce your negative impact on the environment.

 

One step which will have a huge impact will be the use of rainwater to supply toilets and washing machines, even sinks and showers. This can be done by means of a cistern. Many older homes in the rural United States were equipped with cisterns – usually concrete tanks buried near the house into which rainfall was harvested by means of the gutter system. Homes can be retrofitted for a cistern, using an underground tank or one that sits on the surface, but during new construction or renovation are the most cost-effective opportunities for the installation of such tanks, as retrofitting costs may be prohibitive.

 

Another important water-saving feature that can be added to a home is a treatment system for gray water. Waste water from sinks, showers and washing machines, while not clean, is known as gray water, as opposed to black water, which is the waste from toilets and food disposals. Gray water may be collected into a septic tank, to be treated and sent to a collection tank. From there it can be used for watering lawns and plants, a supply that costs nothing, and that has been redeemed from what may have been freely gathered rainwater to begin with.

 

Fixtures may be added to the plumbing system which serve to reduce water flow. Low-flow toilets, water-efficient shower heads and pressure reducers can add up to mean a great reduction in water usage. Even timely repair of leaky faucets and shower valves are very important water-saving measures.

 

In addition to the many undertakings that lead to a reduction in water usage, there is an increasing interest in more economical means of heating water for the home. Heating water for sinks and showers is a costly expense of a plumbing system. The costs of electricity and fuel – whether natural gas or Liquid Petroleum ‘gas’ – are unpredictable, except that they are sure to rise. The typical, traditional water heater is a tank in the home that takes in cold water and heats it to a predetermined temperature, letting it out into the pipes when the hot water faucet is opened. This is a rather inefficient system, since a tankful of hot water, when not being used, will cool down, and require continual reheating.

 

Recent innovations have allowed homeowners to move away from the water heater tank system though, and can provide significant savings because water will only be heated when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed.

 

There is a still more efficient method than either of these, and it is to use the energy from the Sun to heat your water. Solar energy collection is a mature industry, and one of the best developed implementations of renewable energy technologies on the market. A solar collector sits atop the roof and the fluid within transfers heat to the water supply, which is stored in a tank, ready for delivery to the plumbing fixtures.

 

While this system depends at its foundation upon sunshine, it is well known that there is no place where the Sun always shines. There may be several days – or, in some locations – even weeks, when sunshine is scarce. There is also Winter, when the energy from the Sun is decreased. For this reason, a solar heating system includes a booster, which keeps the temperature of the water at the desired level. If your home is in an area which receives a great deal of sunshine during most of the year, however, it is likely that the booster will not have to be engaged for weeks at a time, or longer.

 

Consumers are always looking for cheaper ways to supply their needs. While some of the ideas spoken of can be expensive to implement, the overall costs of operating with these environmentally friendly methods are far less over the course of time, and including these aspects of environmental stewardship at construction time will give you a far more efficient and more affordable option.

 

Solar Water Heaters

Jun. 12th 2012

Energy conservation and alternate sources of energy have become burning issues at the forefront of the world’s attention. With the Middle Eastern energy crisis dragging on for decades in an interminable stalemate which seems to be broken only by periodic eruptions of war, the rest of the world is searching more determinedly than ever for new sources of energy which could break the stranglehold that the oil barons of the world have established for themselves.

Especially in Israel and other hot nations with hot climates, such as Indonesia, India, and others, a new form of water heating is increasingly gaining ground. Solar water heaters are exactly what their name implies. A solar water heating system is a unit which comprises a storage tank for water, as well a solar device which collects solar energy to heat the water in the accompanying storage tank. There are currently two basic types of solar water heaters. Active solar water heaters utilize specially designed pumps and controls to keep the water circulating once it has been heated. Passive solar water heaters do not incorporate any active controls in their mechanism, but instead allow the water, once heated, to remain stationary.

Most currently existing models of solar water heaters will require a well maintained and fully insulated storage tank. These solar storage tanks will typically incorporate an additional outlet and inlet, which are, in turn, connected to and from the water collection unit. In a typical double tank solar water heater, water is preheated before it enters the actual heating unit itself. This is accomplished by direct absorption of sunlight reflected onto it by the cells of the solar energy collection unit. In a single tank system, the function of the secondary water heater is combined with that of the solar energy collection unit into one multi-tasking tank unit.

The benefits which accrue from solar water heaters ought to be obvious to even the most jaded and casual reader of this article. For one thing, the energy savings alone is enormous, Since solar energy is the single source of energy which is presumably limitless, at least for the next few billion years until the sun goes nova, it follows that it is also the cheapest. It’s all but impossible to “waste” solar energy, since it is simply renewed with the sun rising the very next morning. So one can hardly experience a chronic shortage of solar power. Neither can the sun’s energy be bottled and sold – or rationed for political gain. Solar energy, once properly harnessed and made available to the masses, would short circuit the fondest dreams of many a dictator, politician, and oil baron.

There are currently two basic specimens of solar water heaters which use the active principle, as discussed above. The first, and best known, of these two is the direct circulation system. This type of solar water heater uses a pump which works to circulate water, as filtered through the solar collectors, and directly into your home. This type of solar water heater, because it relies directly on a circulation system which is typically exposed to the elements, will function best in southern or equatorial climates where temperatures rarely, if ever, reach the freezing point.

The second type of solar water heater which uses this active principle is the indirect circulation system. This type of solar water heater incorporates a basic design in which pumps work to circulate a specially formulated, freeze resistant, heat-transfer fluid through its collectors. This special heat-transfer fluid is then filtered through a heat exchanging mechanism, which superheats the collected water and pumps it into the home. This type of solar water heater is chiefly found in climates where winter temperatures routinely fall below the freezing point.

Likewise, there are two main types of passive solar water heaters which are currently available on the modern international market place. These passive systems are markedly less expensive than the typical start up and running cost of a comparable, directly active, solar water heating system. However, the trade off is that the passive systems are normally less efficient in gathering solar energy and heating one’s home than their direct action counterparts. In their favor, however, is the frequent discovery, by those who have owned both types of systems, that passive solar water heating systems tend to be longer lasting and more reliable overall. As with direct systems, there are two basic types.

Integral collector systems will work best in regions where temperatures rarely reach the point of falling below freezing. Integral collectors will work best in households which have a significant need for hot water in the day time and evening. Mornings are more or less ruled out for hot water, as the solar collection time of an integral collector system is quite long.

Thermosyphon systems are passive solar water heaters in which water flows through the system, rising to the surface as a layer of cooler water sinks to the bottom of the storage tank. In order to function correctly, the collection unit will need to be installed below the water storage tank. This will insure that warmer water will rise to the surface, and overflow into the tank. Thermosyphon systems are generally reliable and long serving. However, they are normally much more expensive than integral collector units, because of their more complex design. Thermosyphon systems tend to work best in regions where winter temperatures are prone to reach the point of freezing.

Regardless of which type of solar water heater one chooses to utilize in one’s home, the essential point is that such devices are viable, rapidly evolving, alternatives to the outdated, ridiculously expensive, and wasteful, sources of energy which the Western world is currently glutting itself to death with. It is, indeed, very significant that solar water heaters are receiving their most significant exposure and development in countries such as India and Vietnam, which are well outside the sphere of traditional Western culture. It remains to be seen whether solar energy is truly to be the ultimate solution. However, solar water heaters are an excellent indicator of the many innovations which may yet promise mankind a safer, more ecologically friendly, existence. Energy conservation and alternate sources of energy have become burning issues at the forefront of the world’s attention. With the Middle Eastern energy crisis dragging on for decades in an interminable stalemate which seems to be broken only by periodic eruptions of war, the rest of the world is searching more determinedly than ever for new sources of energy which could break the stranglehold that the oil barons of the world have established for themselves.

Especially in Israel and other hot nations with hot climates, such as Indonesia, India, and others, a new form of water heating is increasingly gaining ground. Solar water heaters are exactly what their name implies. A solar water heating system is a unit which comprises a storage tank for water, as well a solar device which collects solar energy to heat the water in the accompanying storage tank. There are currently two basic types of solar water heaters. Active solar water heaters utilize specially designed pumps and controls to keep the water circulating once it has been heated. Passive solar water heaters do not incorporate any active controls in their mechanism, but instead allow the water, once heated, to remain stationary.

Most currently existing models of solar water heaters will require a well maintained and fully insulated storage tank. These solar storage tanks will typically incorporate an additional outlet and inlet, which are, in turn, connected to and from the water collection unit. In a typical double tank solar water heater, water is preheated before it enters the actual heating unit itself. This is accomplished by direct absorption of sunlight reflected onto it by the cells of the solar energy collection unit. In a single tank system, the function of the secondary water heater is combined with that of the solar energy collection unit into one multi-tasking tank unit.

The benefits which accrue from solar water heaters ought to be obvious to even the most jaded and casual reader of this article. For one thing, the energy savings alone is enormous, Since solar energy is the single source of energy which is presumably limitless, at least for the next few billion years until the sun goes nova, it follows that it is also the cheapest. It’s all but impossible to “waste” solar energy, since it is simply renewed with the sun rising the very next morning. So one can hardly experience a chronic shortage of solar power. Neither can the sun’s energy be bottled and sold – or rationed for political gain. Solar energy, once properly harnessed and made available to the masses, would short circuit the fondest dreams of many a dictator, politician, and oil baron.

There are currently two basic specimens of solar water heaters which use the active principle, as discussed above. The first, and best known, of these two is the direct circulation system. This type of solar water heater uses a pump which works to circulate water, as filtered through the solar collectors, and directly into your home. This type of solar water heater, because it relies directly on a circulation system which is typically exposed to the elements, will function best in southern or equatorial climates where temperatures rarely, if ever, reach the freezing point.

The second type of solar water heater which uses this active principle is the indirect circulation system. This type of solar water heater incorporates a basic design in which pumps work to circulate a specially formulated, freeze resistant, heat-transfer fluid through its collectors. This special heat-transfer fluid is then filtered through a heat exchanging mechanism, which superheats the collected water and pumps it into the home. This type of solar water heater is chiefly found in climates where winter temperatures routinely fall below the freezing point.

Likewise, there are two main types of passive solar water heaters which are currently available on the modern international market place. These passive systems are markedly less expensive than the typical start up and running cost of a comparable, directly active, solar water heating system. However, the trade off is that the passive systems are normally less efficient in gathering solar energy and heating one’s home than their direct action counterparts. In their favor, however, is the frequent discovery, by those who have owned both types of systems, that passive solar water heating systems tend to be longer lasting and more reliable overall. As with direct systems, there are two basic types.

Integral collector systems will work best in regions where temperatures rarely reach the point of falling below freezing. Integral collectors will work best in households which have a significant need for hot water in the day time and evening. Mornings are more or less ruled out for hot water, as the solar collection time of an integral collector system is quite long.

Thermosyphon systems are passive solar water heaters in which water flows through the system, rising to the surface as a layer of cooler water sinks to the bottom of the storage tank. In order to function correctly, the collection unit will need to be installed below the water storage tank. This will insure that warmer water will rise to the surface, and overflow into the tank. Thermosyphon systems are generally reliable and long serving. However, they are normally much more expensive than integral collector units, because of their more complex design. Thermosyphon systems tend to work best in regions where winter temperatures are prone to reach the point of freezing.

Regardless of which type of solar water heater one chooses to utilize in one’s home, the essential point is that such devices are viable, rapidly evolving, alternatives to the outdated, ridiculously expensive, and wasteful, sources of energy which the Western world is currently glutting itself to death with. It is, indeed, very significant that solar water heaters are receiving their most significant exposure and development in countries such as India and Vietnam, which are well outside the sphere of traditional Western culture. It remains to be seen whether solar energy is truly to be the ultimate solution. However, solar water heaters are an excellent indicator of the many innovations which may yet promise mankind a safer, more ecologically friendly, existence.

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Tankless Water Heater Savings

May. 22nd 2012

When you’re looking to lower your energy bills during a blazing hot summer or a long, frigid, winter, there are always a few tricks of the trade that you can adopt in order to spare yourself an imminent slide into bankruptcy and homelessness. You can keep the air conditioner or heater off as long as possible, by using portable fans or space heaters. You can make sure all the windows in the home are properly sealed to ward off the biting winter cold. You can make sure the drapes in all your rooms are down, in order to reflect back that murderous, searing heat.

And when it comes to heating up water during those long, miserable, winter months, there is a brand new trick on the market that will do more than any other to put much needed coins back in your purse, whilst simultaneously saving you from turning into an icicle in your own bathtub. The tankless water heater is an invaluable component of every modern, fully furnished home, and you should strive to familiarize yourself with the benefits it can bring to you and your family. Even if your home has already been fitted with a traditional, old fashioned (and obsolete) tank using water heater, no worries! You can remove that wasteful, money guzzling, old Brontosaurus, and have your home fitted with a brand new, twice as efficient, penny pinching new tankless water heater!

One of the very first benefits you’ll notice when you switch to a tankless water heater is also one of the longest lasting ones. You sure can’t miss noticing when you’ve been in the shower for ten or fifteen minutes and the hot water is still going strong, with no sign of cooling off or petering out! The satisfaction you get from a good, relaxing, hot bath or shower, especially in the dead of winter, just can’t be measured in words. And with a tankless heater, that satisfaction can and will be yours!

Consider this: a tankless water heater heats up the water that you need, exactly when you need it. Not before, and not hours later! A tankless heater doesn’t limit you to the amount of water that can be safely and efficiently stored in an old fashioned storage tank heater. A tankless water heater will heat any available source of water at your command, and in a hurry. Whether you need a good supply of hot water for your bath or shower, or for doing the dishes, a tankless water heater simply draws on your home’s supply of water, and heats it up. It’s dependent on the water that can be drawn from your house’s well or neighborhood source of water – NOT from the amount of water that a storage tank can hold!

Simply put, the difference between a conventional old fashioned, storage tank water heater and the new tankless water heater is the difference between an old vinyl long playing record and a digital Ipod. Sure, they both play music, but with the vinyl record, you need a big, clunky, turntable to play it, and you can only get 35-45 minutes of music out of it. With the Ipod, you can have access to an inexhaustible supply of music straight from your computer, and it can store hours upon hours of music.

The same comparison applies to the tankless water heater. As noted above, it draws from your neighborhood’s water supply, not a severely limited storage tank. So, your days of budgeting your time in the shower because you know full well the hot water will soon run out are over, and none too soon! The tankless water heater will heat your bath for as long as you care to remain within it. It will give your dishwasher piping hot water to scrub those dirty dishes clean with. It will do both tasks, and plenty more, simultaneously. Since there is no lack of water to draw upon, there is no time limit during which it can perform its tasks!

Of course, there is another, very large, benefit of switching to a tankless water heater: major savings on your energy bill come winter time! The average tankless water heater has been clinically tested and proven to enable its user to save up to 40% on their average winter heating and energy bills. A large part of this savings is due to the fact that, unlike a traditional water storage heater which runs on a set schedule and sometimes requires hours to power up and off, a tankless water heater will only heat water when it is needed. You determine when it runs and when it doesn’t, simply by switching your hot water tap off and on. So, there’s no more annoying groaning and scraping of rusty old pipes, no more water damage from leaking or broken pipes, and no more huge energy bills!

And here is another huge issue which a tankless water heater neatly cuts down to size: storage space! We all know that the traditional, storage tank, water heaters are big behemoths which can monopolize up to 18 square feet of floor space which could be more profitably employed for other uses. Some of these old Brontosaurs can occupy a whole room by themselves! In contrast, your average tankless water heater measures roughly the same dimensions as a carry on suitcase! Think about it: endless hours of piping hot water, courtesy of a nifty little gadget no larger than the flight bag you took on the plane with you last summer when you flew down to Miami! A tankless water heater is portable as well. Install one on any wall inside your home, and forget about it!

In conclusion, the benefits of owning a tankless water heater far outweigh the uncertainty associated with taking a risk on a new, untested, bit of technology. There simply is no risk! Except, of course, the risk of missing out on an incredible new money saving device which could possibly even save your life one frigid winter night! So, check out a tankless water heater today. Your family, as well as your family’s bank account, will thank you!

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