Show Notes: Time To Do a DIY Energy Audit
Start your fall home tune-up with your own energy audit. We have a checklist to find the energy wasters and help to shut them down. How about spicing up your fall garden with the best annual and perennial plants for fall blooms?
Thank you to our guest:
California State Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont)
You Might Want To Check Your Washing Machine
It Could Explode
First it was your cell phone battery, now your washing machine could be in danger of exploding.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning this week to owners of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines, saying the appliances may pose safety issues.
The warning comes on the heels of a class-action lawsuit customers have filed against the company claiming that their washing machines exploded during use, according to CNN.
Samsung said in response to the CPSC warning on its website that it was in active discussions with the agency about safety issues affecting some top-loading washing machines made from March 2011 to April 2016. The website also includes a way for customers to check if their machine is one of the affected products.
“In rare cases, affected units may experience abnormal vibrations that could pose a risk of personal injury or property damage when washing bedding, bulky or water-resistant items,” the company wrote.
The company recommends consumers with affected models use the lower speed delicate cycle while washing bulky materials, saying that no “abnormal vibrations” slash explosions have been reported when customers use this cycle.
On Wednesday, Consumer Reports suspended its recommended status for any Samsung top-loading washing machine that earned that designation. The publication did note that none of the Samsung top-loaders experienced this issue during its washing machine tests, though researchers did not wash bedding or bulky items.
Carolyn Forte, director of Home Appliances and Cleaning Products Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, pointed out that today’s washers have super-fast spin cycles compared to machines in decades past. While she couldn’t speak about the Samsung cases in particular, she did note that high-spin speeds might cause a machine to go “off balance or become unevenly distributed possibly causing the machine to vibrate even more than normal.”
Head over to Samsung’s website to check if your machine is affected
Getting Ready For Winter
Time To Do A DIY Energy Audit
If you think your bills are off, a DIY home energy audit is a solid first step to root out common inefficiencies. Professional audits are more thorough, of course—the pros have advanced tools at their disposal, like blower door tests and infrared cameras—but they’ll also run you around $400. These tips will give you a good place to start, especially if you’re trying to save money. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an audit could potentially reduce your energy costs by as much as 30 percent, so that’s a pretty good return for an afternoon spent with a ladder and a flashlight.
Furthermore, performing these kinds of tests yourself helps you understand how your home uses energy—and where to look for problems in the future. Here are some areas to assess, and how to tell if there’s an issue.\
Windows and Doors
In homes with old or leaky windows and doors, a potential 10 to 20 percent
of your home heating could be going right out the window. Your home’s
windows and doors should be the first place you check for leaks, since
they’re both easy to spot and repair.
Test for Drafts
Drafts are a key sign that there’s poor air sealing, so finding the gaps and
cracks where air enters is of the utmost importance in a home energy audit.
There’s one homegrown test that can help you out here: take an incense
stick or candle and carry it from room to room around your home, holding
it near each window and exterior door. If the flame or smoke flickers, you
may have just found a leak. For even more accurate results, wait until the
weather is windy or breezy, so the effect is all the more visible.
Inspect Window Sealing
To further assess your home’s air sealing, visually inspect the window
frames—particularly on your home’s exterior—where the frame attaches
to the siding. If the sealant is cracked, scrape out the existing caulk and
apply in its place a layer of silicone in a smooth bead. And if you haven’t
already installed weather stripping to your home’s windows, now’s as good
a time as ever! Attach foam stripping to the moving parts of the window,
and place a rubber flap across the bottom of the lower sash.
Check Your Doors
Have a look around each exterior door and verify that no cracks have
formed, and that the weather stripping is still intact. If you don’t already
have one, attach a vinyl sweep seal to the bottom of the door to prevent
air from seeping there.
Have a Look at Recessed Lights
Recessed lights are commonly vented directly to attics, and may be
installed without insulation, so they’re a frequent source of heat loss.
Check that your lights have an “Air Loc” rating—this means they’re
designed to reduce air flow.
Check Outlet Plates
They may seem small, but uninsulated outlet plates and light switches
can siphon off a lot of your home’s energy. Remove each plate one by
one and verify that they all have a foam gasket installed beneath.
Switch to LEDs
If you haven’t already, replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs,
which last longer and throw off significantly less heat than traditional
Measure Insulation Thickness
Although the majority of your home’s insulation lies inside the wall
cavities, you may have exposed insulation in your attic, basement, or
around your home’s ducts. In these places, measure its thickness with
a ruler. Then use an insulation calculator to see how it stacks up against
recommendations for your area.
Look for Discoloration
While you’re at it, visually inspect the insulation in these spots to see if
there are stains or discoloration, as that might indicate that a crack or
duct leak is hiding below the surface. If you spot an issue here, your
next step should be to contact a contractor to offer their professional
Inspect Insulation in the Attic
Many attics aren’t heated, so air loss can occur here through cracks in
the ceiling, or if the insulation in the attic floor is poor. First, look for gaps
or openings in the attic floor—if the gap is very large, you’ll be able to see
the light shining through from the floor below. As you inspect, you should
also be on the lookout for discoloration on the insulation, a sure sign of
hairline cracks below.
Ductwork and HVAC
Probe your home’s ductwork with a flashlight, looking for damaged, tangled,
or kinked pieces. Additionally, view the seals at the registers and grills—
they should be tight enough to keep your HVAC from leaking. Seal any
problem areas with metal tape or mastic sealant.
Cut Back Brush Around the Exterior Unit
If the outside AC unit in your home is overgrown with brush, it can hinder
its performance. Cut back any overgrowth and visually inspect the unit to
make sure there are no leaves or twigs clogging it.
Dust and buildup commonly form around HVAC registers over time, which
can make it harder for your system to circulate heated or cooled air. To
clean them, remove the cover and take a vacuum to the interior. Push
the hose deep into the entrance to clear out as much buildup as possible.
A home inspection may take a little bit of work, but it’s nothing the average
homeowner can’t handle with a little elbow grease. And with hundreds of
dollars on the line, it’s definitely worth the trouble!
California State Senator Bob Wieckowski: (D-Fremont)
Representative Of the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.
For Immediate Release
September 27, 2016
Governor Brown signs Senator Wieckowski’s bill
reducing barriers to building accessory dwelling units
upported by affordable housing advocates, business and environmentalists,
SB 1069 will expand supply of low-cost housing in California
Sacramento – State Senator Bob Wieckowski’s (D-Fremont) bill to reduce the barriers California homeowners face when seeking to build an accessory dwelling unit (granny flat) on their property will take effect this January after Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill today. Senate Bill 1069 is the most extensive bill on accessory dwelling units to be signed in almost 15 years. The Governor signaled his support for the bill in principle during his revise of the state budget in May.
Removing the most egregious obstacles to building these units will help to increase the supply of affordable housing in California and allow more people to remain in the communities they call home,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee. “SB 1069 returns more power to homeowners and reins in some of the enormous fees and requirements levied by local agencies. Governor Brown’s action will lead to more housing, more jobs and shorter commutes.”
SB 1069 eases regulatory burdens by eliminating excessive sprinkler requirements, providing several exceptions to parking restrictions, such as if the home is located within a half mile from public transit, requiring ministerial approval for the remodeling of existing homes and garages when they are compliant with building and safety codes, and making utility connection fees for brand new construction proportionate to the burden the accessory dwelling will place on the water or sewer systems.
“Governor Brown’s signing of Senator Bob Wieckowski’s SB 1069 creates a powerful tool for addressing California’s housing crisis by removing barriers that have discouraged homeowners from adding affordable second units,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The Bay Area Council sponsored this bill because it has the potential to create thousands of affordable, accessory dwelling units statewide without any taxpayer subsidies. It’s a critical part of the solution to our state housing crisis. We thank Senator Wieckowski for his leadership on this important issue, as well as all of our many coalition partners who advocated for its passage through the Legislature.”
The White House’s Housing Development Toolkit cited California’s actions to reduce barriers and called for allowing more accessory dwelling units to help meet the affordable housing challenge.
“Accessory dwelling units offer one solution to this challenge by facilitating intergenerational living arrangements and allowing more seniors to age in place, something that nearly 90 percent of older Americans desire for themselves and their families,” the report said.
A 2015 University of California, Berkeley Center for Community Innovation study found a substantial market of Bay Area homeowners interested in building an accessory unit, but a significant number were deterred by unnecessary regulatory barriers. Attesting to the economic benefits the bill will provide, the California Chamber of Commerce placed SB 1069 on its “job creator” list of state legislation.
AB 1069 is supported by a huge coalition, including the Bay Area Council, AARP, the California Housing Consortium, the California Teachers Association, the East Bay Leadership Council, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and a number of environmental and affordable housing organizations.
Quick Fix For A Bent Metal Mini Blind
Straighten a Bent Blind
Unmangle mangled mini-blinds with a mini-blind slat straightener. Just slide it over the damaged slat and squeeze. The product, called the MiniBlindRx, works on 1-in. metal slats and is available for about $10.
Estimating Annual Home Maintenance Costs
If you’re thinking about trading up to a bigger home, or moving from renter to homeowner, you’ve probably done a lot of math.
One key figure is devilishly hard to project, and is often overlooked: If you buy a home, how much will you shell out every year for maintenance and repairs? A careful look at these potential costs might discourage you from buying a more expensive property.
Obviously, there’s no way to forecast these costs for sure. But mortgage-data firm HSH Associates suggests homeowners assume they will come to about 1% of the property’s value — every year.
That’s $3,000 on a $300,000 home. To be on the safe side, you should probably use that as a minimum. So let’s say $4,000, and assume you’d also need a healthy cash reserve for any big expense that’s not covered by homeowner’s insurance, like a new furnace or roof.
A $4,000 annual maintenance and repair budget is $333 per month. If you bought a $300,000 home with 20% down and a 30-year fixed-rate loan at 4.75%, your $240,000 mortgage would cost $1,252 a month, according to the Mortgage Loan Calculator.
A $333 monthly maintenance and repair budget would equal nearly 27% of your principal and interest payment. That stings!
Spice Up Your Fall Garden
Best Annual and Perennial Plants for Fall-Blooms
It’s that time of year. Even though it may not look or feel like it, autumn approaches — time for a great yearly tradition — fall chrysanthemums and perennial gardening.
Chrysanthemums offer one of the widest varieties of shape and color found in any ornamental plant. The color spectrum includes everything but blue. The traditional fall colors are numerous shades of yellow, orange, maroon, rust, and red. When buying mums, try and select tightly closed buds that are showing only a small bit of color.
Chrysanthemums were first cultivated in China centuries ago. Members of the daisy family, mums are easy to grow. Plant them in full sun, and keep the soil moist but well-drained.
Mix mums with other fall annuals and perennials, like autumn sage, aster, ornamental kale or cabbage, pansies, and moss verbena. Keep the fundamentals of color and design in mind when planting your fall garden.
Sage, Aster, Ornamental Kale and Cabbage
Autumn sage is a great choice for warmer climates, producing blooms through summer and fall. The vibrant red, pink, and white flowers attract hummingbirds and stand out against their backdrop of dark green leaves. Harsh winters freeze the plant, but with proper care, autumn sage will resurface come spring.
Pansies and Verbena
Like mums, pansies are another popular fall flower choice. These fall annuals are perfect for plant beds, borders, containers, and large groupings of fall flowers. Pansies come in an array of color combinations, including yellows, purples, blues, and oranges. Pansies last from early autumn all the way through early spring.
Moss verbena is a great container plant as it tolerates a wide variety of soils and is drought-resistant. The brightly colored flowers of this fall showstopper are known to attract butterflies and come in a wide range of colors.
The possibilities are endless when planning your fall landscape. Incorporate as many or as few of these and other great fall annuals and perennials into your garden, patio, and gift baskets this fall. Be creative and have fun.