How to Improve the Energy Efficiency in Your Home for the Winter

The outdoors’ biting cold can seep into a heated home, stressing homeowners who have to turn up the heat, and, subsequently, see a spike in their heating costs. Energy efficiency can be improved. Most tactics are cost efficient. Others may require a small investment in time and money. Once enhancements are made, homeowners will be relieved to see a significant reduction in their home energy bills. Energy.gov says that combining the following strategies reduces a home’s energy bill by 30 percent.

Energy Audit

A professional energy assessment from an energy survey professional is a good place to start on your quest to improve your home’s energy efficiency. An energy audit points a homeowner to how energy is lost in the home, where energy losses occur and what systems are working efficiently or inefficiently.

The most thorough energy audit is the general energy audit. Diagnostic testing with high-tech gear is performed. Tests are done with equipment, like duct leakage testers, infrared cameras and a combustion analyzer. The advanced technology allows the home energy auditor to reveal air leaks in the home, the efficiency of insulation in the walls and ceilings and the extent of air leakages from HVAC ducts.

An energy survey is a basic assessment that is performed without diagnostic equipment. A visual inspection takes into account the ages of doors, windows and heating systems. The auditor looks for condensation buildup.

Homeowners can also perform a do-it-yourself energy audit. While not as thorough as an audit performed by a professional, the DIY route can lead you to drafty doors, less-than-recommended insulation levels and inefficient lightbulbs.

Lights

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When you are at home, set the thermostat to the lowest yet most comfortable temperature to reduce energy consumption.

Lighting makes up 10 percent of a home’s energy costs, according to Energy.gov. Replace inefficient bulbs with energy efficient ones, such as LED lights, incandescent lighting or compact fluorescent lamps. A homeowner’s electrical utility company may offer rebates when energy efficient lighting is used. Plus, you can save on lighting bills by utilizing dimmers, timers and sensors.

Drafts

Drafty windows and doors leak cold air into the home. Identify leaks by simply feeling for cold air around the door and window frames. Alternately, light a candle, hover it around the door and window frames and watch for flickering—an indication of an air leak.

Two ways of sealing the air leaks are with caulk or weather stripping. When caulking, it is important to remove the old caulk first. When using weather stripping, apply either V strips, foam tape or felt.

Plus, installing a clear, plastic film over the windows during the winter acts as a barrier against the infiltration of cold air.

Thick drapes also block cold drafts. Keep the shades or drapes closed at night, and they will provide added insulation.

Thermostat

When you are at home, set the thermostat to the lowest yet most comfortable temperature to reduce energy consumption. The recommended setting is 68 degrees Fahrenheit for times when the home is occupied. When asleep or no one is at home, anywhere from 62 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.

One tactic that may help homeowners become acclimated to cooler indoor temperatures is to set the thermostat to a desired temperature. Once members of the household become used to the set temperature, reduce the thermostat by one degree every week. Gradually, people at home will become accustomed to the lower temps. The US Department of Energy says homeowners save one percent on energy bills for every degree of reduction.

Insulation

Older homes are likely to feature inadequate insulation. In the attic, perform a check to determine whether or not the insulation is blocking the attic vents. The entire attic floor should feature a layer of insulation. The crawl space should also be insulated with the recommended level of insulation, which is an R-value of 25. Insulation is also necessary around the water heater, furnace ducts and hot water plumbing pipes.

Water Heater

Lowering the temperature setting on the water heater reduces the winter water bill. Set the dial to the warm setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve significant energy savings. Scalding water is rarely a daily necessity.

Fireplace

Unless you’re burning a fire, the fireplace damper should be kept shut. Heated indoor air can escape through an open damper, which is the equivalent of leaving a window open in the dead of winter. Burning a fire is a great reason to turn down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your fireplace is left unused, seal the chimney flue. A tight seal prevents indoor heat from gushing out. The fireplace hearth also should be sealed with caulk to reduce heat loss.

Furnace

As any homeowner will attest, heating the home consumes more energy than any other system—42 percent of the energy bill, according to Energy.gov.

Schedule furnace maintenance and cleanings annually, ideally before winter. The furnace filters should be replaced monthly, or as necessary.

Experts recommend replacing a furnace over 15 years old with a more energy efficient unit. A poorly working furnace pulls more energy. A newer furnace model consumes far less energy when in operation.

When you are in the market for energy efficient heating systems, consider active solar heating, radiant heating to heat floors, heat distribution systems and portable heaters.

When homeowners spend more time indoors during the height of the cold season, they should consider a professional air duct cleaning. ServiceMaster Professional Services provides exceptional air duct cleaning services that improve the air quality within your home.

Indoor air pollution results from pets, smoking indoors, recent home remodeling or construction and when a home’s ducts have not been cleaned in 10 years. Dust trails that emerge out of the air duct registers are a clear signal of poor indoor air quality. Anyone who suffers from respiratory conditions or allergies will benefit from the clean air that results from a professional air duct cleaning.

ServiceMaster Professional Services reliably serves the residential communities of Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Tips to Help You Winterize your Home Before the Winter Season

When winter approaches, people always prepare themselves for the snow and cold weather by getting out their bulky coats, sweaters, and shoes that will keep them warm and protect them from the cold. But you and your family aren’t the only ones who need to be prepped for winter. You need to prepare your home, too. The cold weather and the snow and ice that come with it can put great stress on your home. If you don’t properly prepare your home to handle the winter weather, you could experience property damage or pay extra to heat your home if it is not being heated efficiently.

Every homeowner should make sure that their home is winterized so that it is ready to handle the cold, snowy weather of the season. From making sure your home is properly and effectively heated to preventing burst pipes, you can refer to the following tips when winterizing your home this season.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned and Furnace Inspected

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Inspect your furnace before the cold weather hits.

Ideally, you want to have your home’s air ducts cleaned and furnace inspected before the cold weather hits. This allows time for any repairs or replacements to be made before you begin to frequently heat your home. Plus, cleaning and inspections ensure that the air ducts and furnace are effective and run efficiently when needed which helps prevent breakdowns save you money on your heating costs.

It’s additionally important to replace your furnace’s air filters on a regular basis so that it can capture dirt and other debris, giving your home clean air. The cold weather already makes it easier to get sick, so you want to limit the potential for illness as much as possible.

Weatherstrip Your Home

Check for cracks near your home’s windows, doors, corners, and chimney. Even if there isn’t any damage, cold air may seep in from outside in the spaces in doorways and windows. If you have this problem, seal the openings with caulk to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. You don’t want to be spending money heating your home only for that warmth to be escaping outdoors.

Reverse Your Ceiling Fan Rotation

If you have ceiling fans, then you can help heat your home further by reversing the blades’ rotation. When you reverse the rotation of a ceiling fan to run clockwise, the fan pushes the heated air downward and circulates it throughout room.

Prepare Your Landscape and Yard

Check the trees in your yard and see if the branches are too long and come into contact with your home or electrical wires. If they do, trim them so they don’t pose a threat to your home or the electrical wires. Winter storms with ice, snow, and strong winds can break them off and knock them into whatever is near them.

In addition, take your more sensitive plants inside to protect them from the cold.

Insulate Your Home and Its Pipes

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When it’s cold enough, water inside the pipes will freeze and expand, applying pressure on the frozen pipes from within which causes them to burst.

If your home doesn’t have the ideal 12 inches of insulation, consider adding more to keep your home warm and efficiently heated. It’s also essential to insulate the water pipes in your home to prevent them from freezing up, bursting, and then causing water damage.

When it’s cold enough, water inside the pipes will freeze and expand, applying pressure on the frozen pipes from within which causes them to burst. The water that spills out will spread and cause damage to your home and personal belongings. The repairs for water damage can be costly, so it’s smart to spend money on pipe insulation now to prevent them from bursting, saving you money in the long run. You can get pipe-wrap insulation and tubular sleeve insulation made from different materials and they are very easy to install.

As the winter approaches, winterizing your home is an important task to take. You can help improve and maintain the efficiency of your heating system and prevent damage from winter storms and frozen pipes. If you do have a burst pipe in your home due to cold temperatures, you should act immediately to prevent the water damage from becoming worse. With time, water damage can lead to mold growth and structural issues, so it’s important to get help right away.

At ServiceMaster Professional Services, we can help homes and businesses that have experienced a burst pipe with our water damage restoration services. Through these services, we will inspect your property and the extent of the damage, extract the water to prevent further harm, and thoroughly clean and dry your home. We can also help homes and buildings that have been damaged by a winter storm with our storm damage restoration services. Our professionals will handle everything from the initial stabilization to the reconstruction of your property to get it back to its normal condition after a storm.


ServiceMaster Professional Services Donates Meals for Orphaned Children in Nairobi, Kenya

ServiceMaster Professional Services is dedicated to serving homeowners and business owners in need in the Minnesota with our disaster restoration services.  We also understand that our responsibility to help those in need does not end with our clients.  There are many in the world who are much less fortunate than we are here in the U.S. and they need our help as well.  That is why SVMPS recently donated 5,600 meals to orphaned children rescued from the Kibera slum.

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Helping to with food and education to orphaned children in Kiberia

The Kibera Slum is one of the largest slums in the world and it is located in Nairobi, the capital of the African nation of Kenya.  The Kibera Slum only covers one square mile, but there are anywhere between 170,000 and 1.5 million people living in this small area.  The living conditions in Kibera are desperate due to the poor economy of Kenya as well as the corrupt government.  Within Kibera, there are thousands of orphaned children that do not get the food, care, and education they need.

How SVMPS Gives Back

Jennifer, the daughter of our employee Fred McGuire, and her husband, Jeremiah, made their second trip to Kibera this past November.  The purpose of their trip was to learn more about the orphans and how they can help.  They worked with different groups, including Pastor George and his local church, to help provide the orphaned children with food and education.

When Jennifer and Jeremiah made their trip, we donated 5,600 meals to help feed the orphaned children in Kibera.  We were able to make this donation thanks to our clients who trust our professionals to handle their restoration needs after a disaster.  On behalf of ServiceMaster Professional Services, we would like to thank you for your business in 2018 which made it possible for us to contribute to this important cause.


The Importance of Insulating Your Water Pipes

When cold temperatures hit, it becomes especially important to make sure that your home’s water pipes have been properly insulated. This is because water supply pipes that are located in unheated areas like basements and crawl spaces or that are exposed to exterior walls have the potential to freeze.

With frozen pipes comes frozen water. When the water freezes, it expands in size inside the pipe. This then causes bursting pipes that flood your home and result in water damage. This damage can harm your home’s ceilings, walls, flooring, and belongings. Depending on the extent of the damage, this can end up costing you thousands of dollars to repair. The best way to save yourself this trouble is to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place.

There are more benefits to insulating your home’s water pipes than preventing pipe bursts. Water pipe insulation also makes for a more energy efficient home.

In the summer, you can reduce the humidity with insulation for cold water pipes, as the insulation prevents pipe condensation. With this, you will spend less money to cool your home, because the humidity levels will be lower. Less condensation will also mean that your pipes will not rust and deteriorate as quickly.

For hot water pipes, the insulation prevents pipes from losing heat. This causes the water to retain more heat, reducing the energy costs of heating the water.

SVMPS The Importance of Insulating Your Water Pipes

If you insulate your pipes before the winter and maintain their insulation, not only will you be able to protect your home from burst pipes, but you can also make your home is more energy efficient.

With all of this in mind, it is well worth it to take the time and spend the money to have your home’s water pipes insulated. This simple investment can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars by avoiding burst pipes in the winter that can cause major property damage.

Depending on what you want to achieve, there are different ways to approach the pipe insulation. To prevent frozen pipes, you will want to insulate the pipes that are located in unheated places, such as exterior walls and unheated attics, basements, and crawlspaces. This includes both hot-water and cold-water pipes. To prevent sweating pipes and reduce humidity levels, you only need to insulate cold water pipes.

Regardless of which pipes you want to insulate, there are different materials you can purchase. Refer to the following guide to learn about the different types of pipe insulation.

Types of Insulation

Pipe-Wrap Insulation

Pipe-wrap insulation is the traditional way to insulate piping. An advantage to pipe-wrap insulation is that it is simple to install, and it is best used for shorter pipes and piping that bends.

Assuming the insulation you got isn’t self-adhesive, you attach one end of the insulation to one end of the pipe using duct tape. Then wrap the rest of the pipe with the material. Every wrap of the insulation should overlap by at least 1/2 an inch. Once you’ve finished wrapping the pipe, be sure to tape it down, and make sure the pipe is thoroughly covered.

Among the types of pipe-wrap insulation available are bubble film, foam, foam-and-foil, fiberglass, flexible foam with rubber backing tape, foil-backed natural cotton, multi-purpose fiberglass, and rubber pipe insulation tape. Fiberglass tends be better suited for hot temperatures while foam works well for cold temperatures.

Tubular Sleeve Insulation

Tubular sleeve insulation is better for long, straight piping and can also be installed easily. The sleeves are essentially pipe covers that you simply place over the pipe and seal it at the seam using tape — which is recommended even if the sleeve is self-adhesive. However, you’ll need to alter it for a tight fit, so cut the sleeve’s corners to better fit the pipe’s shape.

Tubular sleeves can either be insulated with foam or rubber, are usually available in 6-foot lengths, and come in different size diameters to fit various pipe sizes from 1/2-inch to 1-inch.

Tubular sleeves are typically made of rubber or polyethylene foam.

If you insulate your pipes before the winter and maintain their insulation, not only will you be able to protect your home from burst pipes, but you can also make your home is more energy efficient. With such protection and efficiency, you’ll save yourself some money in the long run.

Now that colder weather is here, it is imperative that you take the necessary actions to prevent burst pipes. Make sure the pipes in the uninsulated areas of your home are insulated before the winter season truly sets in.

In the event that you do experience burst pipes in your home that cause water damage, contact ServiceMaster Professional Services for water damage restoration services from our experts. We can be reached on a 24/7 basis and will arrive to your residence to professionally clean and dry your property and belongings.


Choosing the Air Filter that is Best for your Furnace

Choosing the correct air filter for your home’s furnace is an important task. The right filter will ensure that your furnace works correctly and that the air you breathe within your home will be sufficiently clean. However, you need to consider various factors when choosing the best filter for your home’s furnace.

The fall season is a great time to change your air filter before you put your furnace to heavy use. Use the following information as a guide to help you determine what filter is best suited for the furnace in your home.

Filter Size

Choosing the Right Air Filter that is Best for Your Furnace Minneapolis MN

You need to consider various factors when choosing the best filter for your home’s furnace.

The typical furnace filter sizes are 16×20, 20×25, and 16×25. To find your furnace’s filter size, check the side of the door on the filter cabinet. Filters need to have a snug fit, so it is necessary that your new filter is an exact fit. A loose filter will allow air to slip out.

Filter thicknesses range from 1 inch to 5 inches. The thicker the filter, the longer it lasts, and the more efficiently it works.

Efficiency Rating

Air filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating which tells you how effective the air filter is. The ratings range from 1-16; a higher MERV rating means the filters can capture smaller contaminants.

If the air quality in your home is good and you have no pets or smokers at home, then a lower-rated filter can be sufficient. Filters with higher MERV ratings can restrict airflow and may even lead to system malfunction. As such, a rating between 9 and 12 is recommended for good airflow and proper filtration.

Filter Types and Prices

There are several different types of filters: bag, box, cartridge, disposable, electrostatic, pleated, and washable. Disposable filters are the most common and are typically made of fiberglass, cotton, paper, or polyester. Washable filters can be reused, but they need more maintenance and don’t work as well as disposable ones.

There’s also a wide price range for furnace filters, and the price depends on the type of filter. The more expensive filters are a good investment, because you won’t need to change them as often. They will even capture smaller particles better than cheaper air filters. If you need a filter to catch smaller debris, then it’s worth it to spend the money on more expensive filters.

Cheap woven fiberglass filters capture debris that can damage the furnace’s blower motor. This kind of filter will be sufficient if air quality or allergies are not a problem in your home and if you remember to change it monthly. If you don’t remember to change it, though, the filter clogs up and becomes useless. It is also important to consider your own memory and behavior when purchasing filters.

Cheaper pleated filters only need to be changed on a three-month basis, which makes it a good choice for those who are more forgetful. Pleated filters are good at reducing allergens, because their increased surface area allows them to capture more contaminants.

Expensive, high-efficiency electrostatic filters are a good fit if you have household members who smoke, have asthma or allergies, or have pets. These filters magnetically attract contaminants (bacteria, dander, odors, smoke particles, and more) in addition to filtering them. They can be good for up to a year and should be washed or vacuumed on a monthly basis.

However, electrostatic filters are high maintenance and can be a waste. You need to use them in conjunction with a high-efficiency vacuum and air purifier to make the most of them.

It is not only important to get the proper filter for your furnace but to remember to replace or clean them on a regular basis. If you neglect to perform furnace maintenance by tending to its filtration needs, then the filter will become clogged. The furnace will then need to work harder for air to work through it, causing overheating. When there’s overheating, there’s a chance for fires and a need for fire damage restoration. To avoid this, take care of your furnace and its air filters.

Furthermore, dirty filters jeopardize the air quality of your home and cause an indoor air pollution problem. To solve this, call ServiceMaster Professional Services for professional air duct cleaning services. Our technicians will work to improve the air quality in your home so that you have healthy air to breathe.


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