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To help make home, sweet home truly a relaxing retreat this fall and winter, Lennox Industries, a leading provider of customized home comfort systems, provides answers to some common questions about how to increase home comfort and save a little money during this time of year.
I’m concerned about the age of my heating system. How do I know it will keep my family warm and make it through the season?
Start by scheduling an appointment with a home heating professional to have your furnace, boiler or heat pump inspected and serviced to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible. September or October is the ideal time for a heating system check-up, because heating and cooling contractors are typically in between their busy summer and winter seasons.
If your heating system is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider replacing it with an Energy Star-qualified system, which will be more energy efficient and can help lower utility bills – something that’s becoming increasingly important as the cost of natural gas and home heating oil continues to rise.
By replacing an older heating system that is 60 percent efficient with one that is 95 percent efficient, homeowners can save approximately 37 percent on energy bills and up to $3,651 over a five-year period. Energy calculators, such as the one available on lennox.com, can help consumers compare the savings of different high-efficiency systems and determine whether to repair or replace an older unit.
In addition, you may want to ask your local technician about a dual fuel heating system, which automatically switches between an electric powered heat pump and a gas furnace to heat your home – much like popular hybrid vehicles that use both gas and electricity. These systems can be more cost effective, depending on the area of the country you live in, and are becoming increasingly popular as energy costs continue to rise.
The air in my house feels stale and stuffy. What can I do about it?
There are three primary issues that can cause stale, stuffy air – high humidity, lack of ventilation and poor air distribution. When air doesn’t circulate properly, it can become stale and retain humidity from common household activities, such as cooking or showering. While it might be easiest to just open a window, that’s not always practical during the colder months of the year.
Instead, ask your local heating and cooling professional about a whole-home dehumidification system that can help control moisture levels in the home to maximize your comfort. A heat- or energy-recovery ventilator also can exchange stale, re-circulated air with fresh, filtered outside air, so that you can enjoy the fresh-air feel of an open window with virtually little or no heat or energy loss.
Finally, be sure to have a heating and cooling professional check your duct system for any potential leaks, which can contribute to poor air distribution and cause stale or stuffy air.
I suffer from seasonal allergies and am thinking about purchasing a room air cleaner. Any advice?
Millions of portable ionic air purifiers (single-room units that use electrically charged plates to attract airborne particles) and electronic air cleaners (air filters that trap airborne particles using an electrical field) are sold each year. However, consumers may not realize that many of these types of indoor air quality products actually could be adding to the pollution in their homes. According to a study funded by the National Science Foundation, some ionic air purifiers can produce detectable levels of ozone, which is a known lung irritant and may lead to shortness of breath and chest pain when inhaling deeply. Other studies have shown that electronic air cleaners also produce harmful ground-level ozone.
Instead of buying a stand-alone air cleaner, consider a whole-home system that will improve the air you breathe in all rooms of the house. For example, the Lennox Healthy Climate 16 Media Air Cleaner removes at least 95 percent of circulated particles and biological pollutants, such as dust, pet dander and mold spores, and it doesn’t produce ozone.
In addition, purchasing a single, whole-home system instead of multiple room units is usually more effective and cost-efficient for homeowners.
To learn more about maximizing your comfort, improving the air you breathe and lowering utility bills this season, visit www.lennox.com or www.ItPaysToLiveSmart.com.
Get the kitchen ready for Thanksgiving
What could be more satisfying than remodeling your kitchen? Using it! And Thanksgiving is one of the best times of year to be in the kitchen, especially with the expectation of a visit with hoards of friends and family.
So keep it clean and safe:
According to the folks at Sunset Magazine's test kitchen, bacteria is easier to remove from a wood cutting board than from a plastic one.
Wash wood cutting boards after every use with a mixture of bleach and detergent. Keep in mind that you should never ever mix bleach and ammonia as the combination can be lethal.
Raw poultry and eggs are especially dangerous to work with and should be handled carefully with frequent hand washing.
By the way, Sunset also recommends the use of mineral oil to preserve your cutting board. Conventional vegetable oil could become rancid and should not be used.
SHARPEN KNIVES NOW
A carpenter's tools include a hammer and saw. A cook uses fork, knife and spoon. Make that a sharp knife.
Professional cooks insist on razor sharp knives, which do not require the use of force to cut effectively.
A kitchen shop can sharpen knives, and sometimes, so can a place that sells saws. If that doesn't work, call a local restaurant for advice.
FANCY FOR FREE
A trivet purchased from a cooking store can cost dozens of dollars. But wouldn't you love to have a set of magnificent trivets that don't cost an arm and a leg?
Take a trip to your local tile center. A good one will display hundreds if magnificently beautiful tiles in every color, pattern and texture imaginable. Ask for a look at discontinued items often you can get these for a song.
Make them your own by adding a layer of stick-on felt to the back.
Candles are a big part of holiday events. And with candles comes waxy waste. Drips and drops on the floor and furniture.
Get wax out with a shopping bag and a clothes iron. Lay the brown paper bag over the wax. Run the hot iron over the bag, and the warmed wax will be drawn into the brown paper.
Repeat the process with a clean area of the paper bag until all the wax has been absorbed.
Fix-it gifts for the holidays
Do-it-yourselfers give their time and talents all year long. When it comes to giving back, there's no better time in home improvement history than the present.
Advances in technology continue to deliver state-of-the-art tools and gadgets at prices more affordable than ever. Innovations range from something as simple as a knuckle-saving socket set to a waterproof micro inspection camera, for under $200.
This year's On The House DIY Gift Guide could easily have rivaled "War and Peace." With space limitations we offer our Cliff Notes version. Happy Christmas shopping!
Grip-Tite Super Sockets
Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? The socket wrench has been around for years—and busting knuckles just as long. Many sockets are known as knuckle busters because they can round off the nut or bolt, which causes the wrench to slip. What's worse, the rounded off nut or bolt is virtually impossible to remove.
Still, it's a must for everything from assembling a bicycle to building a deck. And thanks to Grip-Tite Super Socket sets, there can be no more busted knuckles. Grip-Tite Sockets use Advanced Camming Technology, which consists of six cams that expand over and onto the bolt or nut and gently grab it—enough to hold it in place but light enough to easily remove the bolt or nut by hand. They're guaranteed never to round out a nut or bolt.
Suggested retail: $24.99 for a 7-piece set and $64.99 for a 17-piece set. For more information visit MyGripTite.com.
SquareOne Tape Measure & Level with Writing Surface
No respectable do-it-yourselfer would be caught dead without a retractable tape measure, a square, a level, a pencil and something to write on.
Now, the investment, clutter and organization associated with these tools have been simplified thanks to the folks at Generation Tools. Their new SquareONE is an all-in-one measuring system that features a tape measure, a square, a level, a pencil (including an on-board holder and sharpener) and an erasable surface onto which one can jot down measurements.
SquareONE comes in five full-size models (10', 12', 16', 18', and 25') and, though slightly larger than conventional retractable metal tape measures, appears to be lighter. In addition to the standard issue belt clip, SquareONE has a tough rubber coating for easy gripping and durability.
Suggested retail: $7.99 for the 10' model to $19.99 for the 25' model. For more information, visit GenerationTools.com.
Black & Decker 3.6 Volt Cordless Power Scissors
Our mom loved to sew. We can remember how thrilled she was when we presented her with a pair of electric scissors for Christmas many years ago. Those scissors must have cut literally miles of fabric.
Now, the same idea is available for the do-it-yourselfer who wants to make cutting through building materials a breeze. Black and Decker's Cordless Power Scissors make cutting through a variety of materials fast and easy. You can use them to cut through cardboard, plastic, tarps, canvas, vinyl flooring, paper, window screening and, oh yes, fabric. The Power Scissors are light and have a soft, ergonomically designed grip.
Suggested retail: Just under $20.00. For more information visit BlackandDecker.com.
Black & Decker VPX Inflator
Black & Decker gets a second mention this year with their nifty new portable mini inflator, slightly larger than a small portable radio. Powered by one 7V lithium-ion battery (sold separately), the VPX Inflator is perfect for pumping up wheelbarrow tires, bicycle tires, sports and exercise balls and pool toys.
It includes on-board storage for a hose, gauge, needle, raft nozzle and presta valve adapter.
Suggested retail: About $30.00. For more information visit BlackandDecker.com.
Ridgid SeaSnake Micro Inspection Camera
While this one might first appear to be a tool designed more for a pro than a DIYer, you might just be surprised how useful it can be when you discover some of its common uses. Small cameras have been used for many years by pros inspecting hard-to-access spaces like sewers and chimneys.
Ridgid Tool Company brings that same technology to mainstream use with its SeaSnake Micro Inspection Camera—a waterproof camera, light, cable and LCD monitor. Some of the reported uses include finding electrical wires, plumbing pipes and gas lines in closed walls and attics; exploring the inside of a VCR; checking air ducts for debris; checking sink connections in a crowded sink space, and checking the grinding lugs on a garbage disposer.
Suggested retail: Under $200.00 For more information visit Ridgid.com.
10 Tips for Creating Life in Balance
Westcoat’s unique metallic epoxy coating installed in brentwood salon
At the 2008 Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco, Liquid Dazzle was recognized with a &ldquoCool Product&rdquo award, for its unique contribution to the building industry. Upon interviewing a Westcoat representative about this achievement, James Carey, co-host of the popular nationally syndicated &ldquoOn The House&rdquo radio program, knew instantly that this product would be the perfect flooring solution for his wife’s new top-of-the-line salon and spa in Brentwood. &ldquoLiquid Dazzle had the design look that we were seeking. Plus, because it consists of an epoxy base with a urethane finish, I knew that it would have the durability needed to stand up to the wear and tear of a salon,&rdquo stated James Carey.
Based on his extensive experience with Westcoat epoxies, applicator James Sisco from Armor Coatings was selected to perform the installation at the Carol Carey Salon. During construction of the project, the concrete floor in the 1800 square foot space had to be saw cut and patched to accommodate new pipes under the slab. The patched concrete presented a particularly challenging floor finish solution. As a result, large cracks in the concrete had to be filled with EC-72 Epoxy Patch Gel and reinforced with seam tape to renew the durability of the concrete. Next, the concrete was leveled with Westcoat’s TC-5 cement and buffed with a floor machine. Two coats of EC-12 Epoxy Primer were applied to prevent any vapor emissions from under the concrete. For the Dazzle Coat, the color Marine – a rich green -- was chosen to go along with the salon décor. Finally the system was sealed with two coats of EC-95 gloss, for a high-end, durable and maintenance free finish. &ldquoThe Liquid Dazzle floor in our salon is stunning&rdquo, says Carey. &ldquoThe salon is awash with interesting, high-end finishes, but the finish that gets the greatest attention and elicits the most compliments is the Liquid Dazzle floor finish.&rdquo
Liquid Dazzle is not only decorative; it is a professional, high build, seamless epoxy. Like many Westcoat epoxies, it is chemical resistant and easy to clean; making it perfect for many locations such as restaurants, casinos, show rooms and custom interior floors. It is receiving notable recognition for its incomparable look and reliable performance and was recognized as one of Concrete Contractor Magazine’s &ldquoTop Products of the Year&rdquo.
A leading innovator and manufacturer of specialty coating products, Westcoat offers an easy-to-understand, four-category line of step-by-step coating products. Engineered by on-site chemist Gary De Boer, Westcoat Specialty Coating Systems include Waterproof (WP), Epoxy Coat (EC), Surface Coat (SC) and Texture Coat (TC) systems that provide revolutionary concrete surface solutions for professionals in the design and construction industry. Westcoat products are available through specialty coating distributors throughout the western region of the U.S. More information may be obtained by calling 800-250-4519 or at www.westcoat.com.
Keep the top of your house in top condition. Dr. Roof’s advice can keep you from needing costly housecalls.