Fall Maintenance

Exterior Fixes
• Regularly clean gutters and downspouts. Make sure all drainage areas are unblocked by leaves and debris. Consider installing gutter guards to make the job a lot easier.

• Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Use caulk to fill the holes or completely replace the wood.

• Inspect your roof, or hire a licensed professional to examine your roof for wear and tear. If the shingles are curling, buckling or crackling, replace them. If you have a lot of damage, it’s time to replace the entire roof. Also, check the flashing around skylights, pipes and chimneys. If you have any leaks or gaps, heavy snow and ice will find its way in.

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The change in temperature and humidity and normal wear and tear can cause window seals to crack and shrink. Check your windows and doors inside and out for leaks and drafts. Caulk cracks or install weather stripping around windows and doors, including the garage door. Replace screens with storm windows and clean them if needed

• To prevent exterior water pipes from bursting when the weather gets below freezing, turn off the valves to the exterior hose bibs. Run the water until the pipes are empty. Make sure all the water is drained from the pipes, if not; the water can freeze up and damage the pipes.

• Wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with heating tape. It will save energy and prevent them from freezing.

 

 

System Maintenance
• Clean and replace filters in your furnace or heating system. Contact a licensed heating contractor to inspect and service your gas heater or furnace to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

• Check the attic to make sure the insulation is installed properly. The vapor barrier on insulation should face down toward the living space. If it is installed incorrectly (with the vapor barrier facing up) then the insulation will trap moisture causing possible water problems. Cut slits in the vapor barrier to allow moisture to escape.

• Clean Out Your Dryer Lint Vent – Corral those lint bunnies. Those deceptively harmless looking little fluffs love to snuggle down in your dryer vents and lint traps. Before you know it, they multiply like, well, rabbits. Dryer lint is extremely flammable if you let it build up in the vents. You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can do it yourself and buy a vacuum attachment made specifically for cleaning out dryer vents.

• Clean Your Refrigerator Coils! You can eliminate more than 70 percent of service calls with this simple cleaning step. Skip this chore and you’ll be contributing to your appliance repair technician’s retirement fund. Not to mention handing over $5 to $10 a month extra to your utility company because the fridge isn’t running efficiently.
Do it twice a year or more often if you have shedding pets. Their fur clogs up the coils fast. Condenser coils are located on the back of the fridge or across the bottom. These coils cool and condense the refrigerant. When the coils are clogged with dirt and dust, they can’t efficiently release heat. The result is your compressor works harder and longer than it was designed to, using more energy and shortening the life of your fridge.

• “Childproof” Your Outlets Even If You Don’t Have Kids -Sticking a simple child proof plug into your electrical outlets could save you 5% on your energy bill this year. Who knew that doing something to protect your kids could also protect your bank account! Electrical outlet boxes typically don’t have any insulation behind them, creating what is basically a hole in your wall. On a windy day take some incense or a match and put it in front of an outlet (one without a plug in it of course) and see if you can see air movement.

 

Fall Garden Maintenance
• Fall is the perfect time to divide or move perennials. Remove dead annuals and mulch hardy perennials. Annuals typically die when temperatures drop below freezing. But perennials often appear as though they too have bitten the bullet. That’s because their top growth dies back, although in most cases the root ball is hardy enough to survive even extreme temperatures, especially if it’s covered with a layer of mulch.

• Trim dead branches out the trees to prevent them from coming down and causing damage in a winter storm.

• Rake up the thick layers of leaves that settle on lawn surfaces. Large leaves in particular, especially when they get wet, can compact to the point where they suffocate the grass below and lead to all kinds of insect and disease problems. So it’s a good idea to routinely rake or blow them off the lawn or, better yet, use a mulching mower to shred them into fine pieces.

• Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn; it will allow moisture and nutrients to get into the roots. When you’re done, spread fertilizer then grass seed.

• This will be the ideal time to sow cool-season grasses such as fescue and rye – it will give them the opportunity to germinate and develop a good root system before freezing temperatures arrive. It’s also the right time to fertilize turf grasses, preferably with slow-release, all-natural fertilizer. When given adequate nutrients, turf grasses have the ability to store food in the form of carbohydrates during the winter months. That will mean a better-looking lawn come spring.

 

Check For Pests
• Pests love attics because they are full of nice warm insulation for nesting, and they offer easy access to the rest of the house. With gable vents that lead into the attic it is a good idea to install a screen behind them to keep those critters out.

• Even after closing off those entryways, pests can still find a way in. The first place to check for any unwanted guests is under the kitchen cupboards and appliances.

 

Safety Checks
• Each fall, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms and put in fresh batteries. These are very important detectors to have in a home. A smoke alarm can save lives in a house fire. A carbon monoxide detector can also save lives if a home has oil or gas-burning appliances, like a furnace or water heater. 

• Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless byproduct of burning oil or natural gas, and it can be deadly. For just a few dollars, a carbon monoxide detector will sound an alarm if the levels get too high.

• Always install carbon monoxide detectors according to manufacturer’s instructions. Generally they should be installed near each potential source of carbon monoxide, and within ear shot of the living and sleeping areas.

• Have your wood-burning fireplace inspected, cleaned and repaired to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

How to Conserve Water at Home

Ways To Save Electricity During The Summer

10 Ways to Save on Utility Bills During the Summer Months

The summer heat is often the culprit behind jumps in electricity costs during the summer months, so do what you can now to conserve energy and avoid additional costs as the weather heats up. If you’re looking to cut back on your spending throughout the summer, your utility bills are great places to start when making changes to your everyday life. 

Here are 10 ways to save on utility bills during the summer months, adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle and avoid overspending on household expenses this year.

  1. Switch Off the Lights When You Leave a Room – Turning off the lights when walking out of a room is a great way to curb your energy consumption in the summer.
  2. Use Rain as a Free Water Source – Collecting rainwater in buckets during a storm is an active way to cut down on your water usage while taking care of your yard this season.
  3. Close Your Blinds and Curtains During the Day – Keeping the heat out on bright, sunny days is an effective way to control your energy expenses this summer.
  4. Keep Doors and Vents Shut – Closing off parts of your house where you don’t spend much time is a convenient way to limit cooling costs while at home during the summer.
  5. Spend Your Free Time Outside – Going out every day to embrace the warm weather and enjoy the great outdoors is a smart way to use less energy in the summertime.
  6. Find Creative Ways to Cool Down – Drinking ice-cold beverages and taking cool showers are small ways to save money on utilities while making the most of the summer.
  7. Put Wet Clothes Out on a Clothesline – Using the hot summer sun to dry your clothes after washing them is an effortless way to reduce utility bills and spend time outside.
  8. Monitor the Temperature on Your Thermostat – Setting a default number for your air conditioning is a simple way to keep your energy bills from rising when it’s hot outside.
  9. Opt for Fans Instead of Air Conditioning – Circulating air throughout your home with fans is an economical way to cool down your living space while using less energy.
  10. Unplug Electronics That Aren’t Being Used – Pulling out their cords when you’re not using your electronics and chargers is an easy way to limit your energy usage this summer.

These 10 ways to save on utility bills during the summer months will keep you from breaking the bank when the weather gets warmer this year. Whether you’re focused on using less water, running your air conditioning on a lower setting or another method, it’s possible to cut back on power usage and save money in the process.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Pesticides and chemical fertilizers may give your garden a boost at first, but in the long run they’re doing a lot of damage to the environment as well as to your little plot of land. Here are some alternative ways to green your gardening.

 

 

Fertilizer

Also called “soil conditioners,” natural fertilizers don’t only help your current garden grow, they also promote healthy soil for your future plant growth by making the earth more inclined to hold water and nutrients. Manure is one of the best natural fertilizers you can use.

 

 

Compost

If you’ve already got a compost pile going, you’re one step ahead! Compost can give your fertilizer a boost by holding the nutrients until the plants are ready to use them. Not a composter yet? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has some tips.

 

 

Insects

It may sound odd, but there are a variety of little critters that you can purchase to benefit your garden. Ladybugs will eat those awful aphids and many other plant-eating pests. Earthworms will help aerate the soil, allowing nutrients to soak down and roots to expand. Other multi-legged fauna you should encourage in your garden include spiders, praying mantises, bumblebees, lacewings, and braconid wasps. Best of all, most of them can be ordered online and shipped directly to your home!

 

Rainwater

Setting up a rain barrel will help you save on your water bill while providing untreated water to your flowers and food. Water from your utility has chemicals and additives that your plants can do just as well without, and some of the treatments may even inhibit the soil from holding the nutrients you’ve added and your plants from absorbing them properly.

 


Lay the foundation.

The organic matter, that is. Mix your compost and manure well and spread it generously on your garden — about a half inch to one inch deep.

 

Loosen the earth.

Using an aerator, a tiller, or just a trowel, stir up the earth to mix in the organic matter and allow plenty of oxygen to infuse the dirt. This is a good time to “plant” some earthworms as well.

 

Mulch much.

Adding mulch to your garden is especially critical in dry climates, as it helps retain moisture. Mulch can also reduce the amount of weeds that poke through your carefully cultivated land. Gardens generally need 1 to 4 inches of mulch, depending on the type you’re using and the plants you’re protecting, with most recommendations coming in at 2 to 3 inches. More than 4 inches could suffocate your garden.

 

Scientifically Speaking …

If you’re so inclined, testing your soil before planting season will let you know exactly which nutrients are lacking so you can make up for them with additives.

When you switch to green gardening, you’re not only cultivating your own bit of earth — you’re also helping to strengthen and enrich the soil for future generations. Who knows what will be growing in your garden in 50 years?

 

Celebrate Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day, and while every day is technically a day to be kind to the planet, this is a day to show appreciation and get into new habits if needed. There are so many little things you can do to celebrate and help save the Earth, and I have some super easy ideas below!


Plant something

Trees not only cool things down (collectively, they can help decrease a city’s temperature by up to 10 degrees) but they also clean the air and give off more oxygen, among a ton of other benefits. Plant one in your yard (it’s been proven that trees can increase your property value by 15%). Another option is to plant your own fruits and veggies which will benefit your health and reduce the amount of fossil fuel emissions by not having to transport the food to stores.


Ride your bike or walk

If you live close enough to your work, ditch the car and ride a bike or walk to and from. It not only reduces your carbon footprint but it’s also great for your body. And if you aren’t nearby or don’t have a bike, carpool or take public transportation. The fewer cars on the road mean less gas such as carbon dioxide in the air that can contribute to global warming.


Clean up an area

Organize a cleanup, pick an area and remove as much litter as possible! Join Billerica’s Clean up, Green up Day on May 4th!


Buy reusable bags

It’s been estimated that Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, and just the production alone for those requires about 12 million earth day 2019barrels of oil. Not to mention, they take up lots of space in landfills and cause major problems for marine wildlife. Instead, buy some super cute reusable bags to use when you go to the grocery store. You’ll not only be stylish but eco-friendly as well! OR ask me about some free canvas bag giveaways!

 

Use a refillable water bottle

Just because you’re tossing your plastic water bottles into the recycling bin doesn’t mean they’re not hurting the environment. Besides the fact that it takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture all of those bottles each year, there are still over two million tons of water bottles that have ended up in U.S. landfills. Buy a reusable bottle!


Get produce from a local farmer’s market

Besides supporting area businesses, you’ll also be helping the Earth by buying your fruits and veggies local. That’s because food in the grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to you, and all that shipping can cause pollution plus an increase of fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. When you buy locally, it’s transported in shorter distances.

Warm for the Winter: How to Heat Your Home While Saving Energy and Money

Do you get chills just thinking about your utility bills during wintertime? If your answer to a drafty home is to simply crank up the furnace, you’ll not only pay for it, but you could also be wasting energy and depleting more natural resources in the process. Instead of making your heater work overtime, here are ways you can reduce your energy consumption and still keep your home warm and toasty this winter.

  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating accounts for 45% of energy use in homes and pumps out 292 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. The more CO2 we release into the atmosphere, the more we hinder the earth’s ability to maintain balance, which has a variety of negative implications. That’s why, the less energy you use to heat your home, the better it is for Mother Nature (and your wallet!).

 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

Seal Drafty Areas

Air leaks are the primary culprit for excess energy consumption. If air is able to escape out or in, your furnace will just keep pumping out heat relentlessly. Get to the root of the problem by sealing these areas.

  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, including your attic, basement, and garage access doors.

  • Caulk openings around plumbing, ductwork, and electrical wiring.

  • Apply foam sealant on larger gaps around windows and baseboards, and place foam gaskets behind outlet covers.

  • Add baffles around recessed lights if yours are not airtight.

  • Install double-pane windows or cover single-pane windows with storm windows. For a cheaper option, purchase a plastic film insulation kit.

  • Seal gaps around the fireplace with sheet metal/sheetrock and a high-temperature silicone caulk. Also, ensure your flue is closed when  not in use.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting a professional blower door test to detect the source of air leaks, but in the interest of saving money, they also provide tips on how to identify air leaks yourself.

  

 

Check Your Insulation

 

According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), 90% of U.S. homes are under-insulated. This is especially true for older homes, but it can even apply to newer ones. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. VisitEnergyStar.gov to learn how to perform a DIY insulation check for your walls and attic and to find out which insulation levels are recommended for your region and climate. If you’re not comfortable with the DIY route, hire a professional to assess your insulation needs.

  

 

Let the Light In

 

Using the sun’s natural light is an easy, environmentally conscious (and completely free!) way to heat up your house. As the sun beams down on your windows, it produces a greenhouse effect that traps heat inside. This works in your favor during the winter months, so be sure to open your curtains each morning to let the sun work its magic. On the flip side, remember to close your curtains at night (consider thermal drapes) to keep the warmth in.

 

 

Turn Down the Thermostat

 

As you begin implementing the energy-saving tips provided above, your home should start to warm up and retain heat more efficiently. That means you shouldn’t need to keep your thermostat set super high. During the cooler months, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home and awake, and setting it lower when you’re asleep or away. By turning your thermostat back by 7°-10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, you can save around 10% per year on heating and cooling costs.

 

 

Program Your Thermostat

 

In addition to choosing the right temperature, a smart or programmable thermostat can make a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency. You can program your thermostat for time-of-day usage, so you don’t have to remember to turn the temperature down when you’re gone or up when you get home from work. More advanced heating systems may even be configured to only heat rooms that you use, or to kick on or off when you enter or leave a room.

 

 

 

Decreasing your energy consumption is an important first step in minimizing the impact that heating has on the environment, and in reducing your energy costs. But we shouldn’t stop there. Rather than relying on fossil fuels (like natural gas) to heat our homes, adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass technologies can even further reduce your home’s environmental footprint. While they may not entirely replace your current heating methods, these technologies can easily integrate with your existing system and supplement its heat production.

 

 Learn more about renewable heating options and their costs at EPA.gov.

By taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use this winter and adopting renewable heating alternatives, you’ll save money, improve the comfort of your home, and make a positive impact on the planet. Those benefits alone are enough to make you feel warm on the inside, as well as the outside!