Monday, November 17, 2014

Recycling Heat



If you own or work at an office with computers or servers, it’s likely you’ve realized how much heat they give off.  In fact, most computers are equipped with a small fan which helps to dissipate the intense heat so as not to burn the house or office down. Thinking back to your ninth grade physical science class, you may recall that heat is just another form of energy….energy we waste a lot of when it comes to computers. 

Someone in the Seattle area recently must’ve wondered what would happen if they actually harnessed all that wasted energy from computers and computer servers because there is a new energy plan being developed for Amazon’s skyscraper campus in Seattle, Washington.  Amazon’s Data Center is pushing for a design wherein the excess heat from the Data Center (servers) will be used to heat the neighboring Amazon office buildings. It is estimated that this will save about 80 million kWh over the next 25 years. Based on today’s energy costs, that works out to roughly $7.7 million in savings. Now THAT'S thinking outside the box!
I am using wishful thinking and am hoping Amazon passes those savings on to its customers!

You can read a bit more detail about this project here .

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Keeping it Real....I mean, WARM

As we jump into our first real cold snap of the season, it is a great time to review the list of things to be done to get your heating system ready to perform at its best. Some of the article below was posted on our blog back in 2010, but it is still VERY useful. Hope you all keep toasty tonight!

Here are a few tips to stay safe and get the most out of your heating system:

Gas Heat:
The best thing you can do for your HVAC system (winter and summer) is to regularly change the filter. Even if your filter has a 60 or 90-day life, go ahead and look it over once a month. Some houses are dustier than others. Some systems also have built-in “lifetime” filters which still need to be inspected and occasionally cleaned. The next best thing you can do is to have the system inspected and serviced by a licensed technician. Winter is also a great season to spend some time in the attic checking for duct leakage (see particulars below, in the Heat Pump section.)
In general the more gas appliances you use, the more necessary it is to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home. Even though a gas furnace is (usually) located in the attic, any return duct or plenum leakage could draw combustion by-products like CO directly into the house. This is even more of a risk where furnaces or water heaters are located inside mechanical closets in conditioned spaces.
If you ever suspect a gas leak or CO problem, get out of the house immediately. Leave exterior doors open so that the house can air out and call your gas provider (go ahead and program them into your cell phone…) Until the problem is resolved, do not use any appliances or devices that could generate a spark (including cell phones) inside the house.
Every once in a while, check the exterior gas line/meter connection to make sure it is completely level. (Strange things do happen – a lady in our office had her house shored and it twisted the meter almost 45 degrees).

Heat Pump:
If your heat pump doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the cold, check all of the duct connections and the air handler unit to make sure it is air sealed. Air leakage takes much more of a toll on the winter/heating function than summer/cooling operation. Use the smoke from a stick of incense (no cigarettes!) – return leaks will draw the smoke in, supply leaks will blow the smoke away. Check both ends of ducts, around the air handler and the full length of the plenums. All of these areas should be sealed with mastic, which is readily available at any home improvement store.

Fireplaces:
Both gas and masonry fireplaces should be inspected annually to ensure that the chimney or flue is in good shape with no obstructions, soot buildup or weak spots. Read older blogs (here and here) to get the scoop on chimney safety.
If the area in the attic around the chimney is “open” (you can see down along the chimney to the top of the firebox), it provides a direct route for frigid attic air to enter your house. The floor of the attic should extend all the way to the chimney (metal flues should have a metal collar and fire-rated foam connection) and be covered in insulation.
Double-check the damper to make sure it’s closed when the fireplace is not in use. If you have an older fireplace that leaks a lot, install an inflatable draft stopper.

General Safety:
NEVER use candles, the stove, grill, etc. to heat your home! If you are worried about heating costs or paying your bills, contact your electric or gas provider to discuss your options. Some companies can actually help out with costs in emergency or difficult situations.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Conquer Chiari - Walk Across America - Coming to a City Near You!



What if you woke up each day not knowing if your body would function normally that day or if you’d be hit with dizziness, debilitating headaches, muscle weakness or severe exhaustion? Chiari patients face these challenges daily.  Chiari Malformation is a serious neurological disorder where part of the brain descends out of the skull putting painful and damaging pressure on the brain and spine.  Symptoms include severe headaches, neck pain, balance problems, weakness in the arms and legs, and respiratory problems. 300,000 people in the US are affected by this condition. 

The Conquer Chiari Walk Across America is a series of local awareness and fundraising walks held across the country on the same day (September 20th, 2014). Join us in Covington, LA on this special day and help the thousands of families struggling with this terrible disease!

All proceeds will be used to fund Chiari research, education and awareness programs.
Participation is free. The deadline to guarantee a t-shirt has passed. However, additional shirts will be available on the day of the walk on a first come...first serve basis. (with a minimum donation of $25.00) Registration is still open.  We ask that if you plan on attending a walk and have not registered, please pre-register at www.conquerchiari.org, so that our organizers can plan accordingly. You can also call or email our local contact below.

If you would like to be a corporate sponsor, donate an item to this local walk, or volunteer your time, please email or call Lisa Haley at (985) 264-9197 or larhaley@att.net.    

Hope to see you there!

Walk Details:
WHERE: Covington Trailhead  419 N. New Hampshire Street
WHEN: September 20th 2014
REGISTRATION: 7:30 AM
WALK STARTS: 8:30 AM
CONTACT: Lisa Haley (985) 264-9197 larhaley@att.net  or pre-register at www.conquerchiari.org