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14 Sneaky Ways to Save Money on Your Water Bill

February 27, 2017

Owning a home is expensive: There are property taxes and mortgages, tiny repairs and big maintenance projects, energy costs and water bills. After all’s said and done, your house racks up a big bill each year. But when it comes to your water bill, there’s quite a lot you can do to cut costs. Take a look at these surprisingly easy and surreptitiously sneaky ways that you can start saving water today—and take a load off your checkbook.

Boiler Oil To Gas Conversion - Natick, MA

  • Replace Those Guzzlers

    A lower water bill starts with newer, more efficient appliances. When shopping for new washers, pay close attention to the labels that indicate the efficiency of the machine. Look specifically for the WaterSense and Energy Star seals, which indicate that the machine runs on 35% to 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. Consider purchasing a front-loading washer, which uses substantially less water than a top-loading model.

  • Invest in New Faucets

    We’ve all heard that turning off the faucet while brushing our teeth saves water, but did you know you can also conserve while the tap is running? To do this, install an aerator or a WaterSense-certified faucet. These models reduce the flow without compromising performance and are 30% more efficient than standard faucets. Here’s a little food for thought: If one in every 10 American homes installed WaterSense faucets, it could save 6 billion gallons of water and more than $50 million in energy costs.

  • Load It Up

    No matter what kind of fixtures and appliances you own, you can employ tips and tricks to make the most of them. For example, only run a dishwasher once it is fully loaded, and don’t bother pre-rinsing dishes. Believe it or not, running a full load is more water-efficient than washing by hand. If you do wash dishes by hand, though, plug up the sink and use a wash basin to conserve water.

  • Skip the Rinse

    In the laundry room, always wait until you have a full load to run the washer. Skip the permanent press cycle, which uses an extra 5 gallons of water for the additional rinse cycle—if you need an extra rinse, you may need to cut back on laundry detergent. These minor changes can save hundreds of gallons a month.

  • Investigate Leaks

    Small leaks, like running toilets, could be dumping gallons of water down the drain every day. You’ll want to fix this any other leaks as soon as you spot them. To determine whether or not your toilet has a leak, ad 5 drops of food coloring to the tank. If the bowl changes color after 10 minutes, there’s a leak.

  • Turn it Off

    Save water in the shower by turning off the flow while you lather up or condition your hair. When you’re ready to rinse, switch it back on. Adding this step to your morning routine will wipe out a lot water wastage.

  • Save Soda Bottles

    Another way to reduce water waste in the bathroom is to add plastic bottles in your toilet tank. These bottles take up space in the toilet tank that would otherwise be refilled with water after every flush. The result is that you can reduce the amount of water you send swirling down the drain. To do this, take two plastic soda bottles and put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in the toilet tank, making sure that they are away from any moving parts or operating mechanisms. Alternatively, you could purchase an inexpensive tank bank or float booster.

  • Compost More, Dispose Less

    Garbage disposal units require a large volume of running water to operate properly, and in homes with septic tanks, can substantially increase the volume of solids, leading to maintenance problems down the road. Instead of sending food scraps down the sink, start a compost pile. Not only will it save gallons of water every day but it’s a useful (and free) garden enhancer.

  • Sweep More

    When working outdoors, use the hose sparingly. Instead of spraying down dirty driveways, sidewalks, and steps (which takes an average of 50 gallons per use), sweep away dirt and debris with a push broom. When washing the car, turn the hose off between rinses to save about 150 gallons of water.

  • Collect the Rain

    There’s perhaps no better way to save water in the garden than by collecting what nature provides. Consider attaching a rain barrel to your home’s downspout to capture roof runoff. Save on costs by constructing your own rain barrel made from plastic garbage cans. Before embarking on this project, get familiar with local laws and ordinances, as rain collection is off limits in certain localities.

  • Go Native

    You can further cut costs in the yard by landscaping with drought-resistant grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees. One of the most water-smart choices is to opt for native plants. These varieties have survived in the region for ages and are specially suited to thrive in local conditions, meaning they’ll require less care and fewer resources to maintain. When you do need to water, position sprinklers so that the water is going where it’s needed—on the plants—rather than on the sidewalk or driveway.

  • Reuse and Recycle

    Get savvy about reusing water when you can. For example, don’t throw away the water left in drinking glasses or pet dishes—use it to water the plants instead. And those ice cubes that fall on the floor? Those can be placed directly into plant pots. The same goes for the water you use to wash vegetables. Additionally, water that’s been used to steam vegetables can be used as the foundation for a tasty soup or stock.

  • Cover the Pool

    It’s no secret that pools account for a huge amount of water, which can be ordered trucked in or come from the garden hose in your own backyard. Regardless of how you fill the pool, it’s important to use a cover when not in use. This reduces evaporation, meaning you’ll need to refill it less frequently.

  • Let the Lawn Grow

    During lawn mowing season, adjust the lawn mower to a height of two inches. Taller grass shades roots and holds soil moisture better than shorter grass, so you’ll need less water to keep the grass green. Additionally, it pays to use a mulching mower, and leave the lawn clippings behind to hold in moisture.

6 Reasons You’re Going Broke Heating Your Home

February 24, 2017

Heating tends to cost a small fortune in the winter, but it doesn’t have to—not anymore. Yet homeowners still dread the arrival of the utility bill at the end of the month. Why? For starters, you can’t discount factors like insufficient insulation or improperly sealed windows and doors. Every home comes with its own set of conditions that either hurt or enhance the heating system’s ability to run efficiently. The heating system itself, however, has a greater effect on operating costs than the circumstances surrounding it. If there were no such thing as inefficient HVAC, we’d all enjoy affordable winter comfort and think nothing of it. The reality is, unfortunately, that cost-effectiveness has never been a strong suit of the most dominant HVAC technology in America—forced air. First gaining popularity in the years after World War II, forced-air heating has managed to hang on in large part thanks to a lack of competition. But today, homeowners enjoy more options than ever before, and stand-out alternatives like Warmboard radiant heating offer not only lower costs, but better results as well. Given the facts, it may be time to put old assumptions to rest—chiefly, the notion that you can achieve comfort or savings, but you can’t achieve both at once. Click through now to learn more about the drawbacks of forced air, and how relative newcomers like radiant heat excel where traditional systems fall short.

  1. Upward Mobility

    Forced-air-stratifaction

    Forced-air heating works by sending furnace-heated air through ductwork and into the living spaces. The catch? Hot air doesn’t always go where you want it to go. In fact, as you remember from school, warm air rises. This means that soon after entering a room, warm air floats up to the ceiling, leaving the temperature as chilly as ever down below. What does the homeowner do in response? She turns up the heat, of course—and in doing so, drives up the energy bill. Fortunately, not every heating system relies on the movement of air. Radiant floor heating, for instance, operates via thermal radiation, which concentrates warmth not way up by the ceiling where you can’t feel it, but instead right where you need comfort the most.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  2. Location, Location, Location

    In a home with forced air, your comfort often depends on your location. It’s warmest—too warm—directly next to the vent. But as you travel farther and farther away, it gets cooler and cooler, until you find yourself reaching either for a sweater or the thermostat. At the same time, with conditioned warm air always rising, upper floors tend to feel overly warm and lower floors not warm enough. Simply put, by heating the home unevenly, forced air makes the homeowner choose between enduring discomfort (thriftily) or turning up the heat (at a cost). With radiant heating, it’s a whole different story, because the technology delivers from-the-ground-up warmth across every square of floor space, ensuring that from wall to wall, room to room, and bottom level to top story, the temperature doesn’t waver.

     

  3. On Again, Off Again

    Hvac-zoned-control

    Forced air only compounds the problem of uneven heating by operating cyclically—that is, by stopping and starting over and over. If you’ve ever set foot in a home heated by forced air, you know the routine. When the system kicks on, warm air roars into the space—for a while—then suddenly halts. Later, once the home has cooled to a threshold point, the heat starts up again. The result? Intermittent, dramatic temperature swings that send the homeowner back to the thermostat again and again. One of the great appeals of radiant heating is that it operates continuously—and silently—delivering comfort that doesn’t come and go, but remains cost-effectively consistent.

    Photo: warmboard.com

  4. Leakage and Loss

    Ductwork plays an integral role in the operation of any forced-air system. That may not be a bad thing on paper, but in practice, air ducts very often prove leaky, particularly when they run through uninsulated space or when gaps form at the joints between two sections. Believe it or not, in the process of transmitting heat throughout the home, ducts can lose enough of it to reduce the system’s overall efficiency by 20 percent or more. No other heating system suffers the same fate. For instance, with radiant heat—the Warmboard system, for example—minimal heat loss translates into maximum savings. Meaning, you pay only for the heat you feel, and not for heat lost to a ductwork design flaw.

     

  5. Touch Test

    If you’ve ever stepped barefoot onto a cold tile floor, you know that comfort partly depends on the temperature of the surfaces, furnishings, and objects you come into contact with. That’s another reason why forced air underwhelms homeowners: If it warms anything else besides the air, it does so only to a modest degree. In pursuit of greater comfort, therefore, you turn the thermostat up higher and higher, risking unpleasant consequences for your household budget. That’s why, for all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth, industry experts increasingly recommend radiant heating. It’s a technology that doesn’t stop at warming the occupants of the home—it also warms everything else.

     

  6. All or Nothing

    In a conventional forced-air system, one thermostat controls the temperature of the entire home. If you want to heat ANY room, in other words, you must heat EVERY room. Next-generation options like radiant heating enable you to reject the all-or-nothing approach and all the energy that it wastes. Instead, the technology lends itself with surpassing ease to a zoned setup, in which you can target different temperatures to different parts of the house. That way, you can turn up the heat in the space you’re in, while turning it down everywhere else. Not only does zoning save you significant sums of money, but it also saves you from the stress of family infighting over the thermostat setting. At last, different household members with different temperature preferences can all be comfortable at the same time.

     

  7. The Radiant Solution

    Radiant-heat-panel-hardwood

    Given these considerations, it’s no surprise that studies have found radiant heat to perform at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced air. Whether or not a radiant system provides any further savings usually depends on its design. The traditional design hinges on gypsum concrete, which has a significant downside: it takes a long time to heat up and cool off. That’s why industry leader Warmboard swaps concrete for aluminum, a material that’s 232 times more conductive. In fact, aluminum transfers heat so effectively that it enables Warmboard to achieve the target temperature with less energy than would be required by any other system. In fact, with Warmboard, you save 10 to 20 percent on top of what you’d already be saving simply by having chosen hydronic radiant heating in the first place!

    Photo: warmboard.com

    Ready to update your heating system? Contact us today!

    Jim Lavallee Plumbing
    Serving Eastern Massachusetts and the Boston area
    Phone: Toll-free (888) 884-4122

Jim Lavallee on the 2017 EM NARI Board of Directors

February 22, 2017

The EM NARI Board of Directors represents the diverse businesses that make up our chapter with a heavy emphasis on remodeling contractors.  The EM NARI Board Members work throughout the year, some serving both on the Board and as committee chairs, to ensure that the programs and efforts of the chapter meet the needs of our members.

2017 -EM-NARI-Board-of-Directors

Dave Supple of NE Design Construction, Bill Farnsworth of Custom Contracting, Phil Cherkas of Cherkas Home Improvement, John Cognata of COGS Construction & Design, Kelly Pappas of Foster & Sullivan Insurance, Kathy DeMeyer of Encore Construction, Peter Feinmann of Feinmann, Inc. Stephen Ross of Commonwealth Financial Group, Jim Lavallee of Jim Lavallee Plumbing & Heating, Justin Zeller of Red House Custom Builders, Sean Reynolds of Woodmeister Master Builders, and Von Salmi of Von Salmi & Assoc. (Not Pictured: Cathy Follett of Renovisions)

 

To learn more about the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, visit the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter website http://www.emnari.org/

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New Construction

  • Custom
  • Plan & spec
  • Design build

Remodeling

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Basement

Heating

  • Forced hot water
  • Radiant heating
  • Hydro air