Saturday, June 8, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
As you shop for new windows, you'll hear and read a lot of jargon about glazing, spacers and cladding. Here is a glossary of terms that might help you understand what is being discussed.
Cladding: This is the vinyl or metal material that covers the outside of the wood frame.
They're designed to be easy to maintain and never require painting, although some manufacturers make paintable versions. Rosie recommends that Arizona residents avoid vinyl because they can deteriorate faster than metal under the hot desert sun.
Clad windows have wood frames on the interior side and either vinyl or aluminum cladding over the wood on the exterior. You can paint the inside any color you like, but you never have to paint the outside. Rosie's ideal window: aluminum-clad wood.
Glazing: This isn't the glaze or paint that you put on the window; it's the number of panes of glass the window has.
You have three choices:
Single-glazed: This is one pane of glass, and it's the most energy-inefficient choice. Especially in a severe hot or cold climate, a single pane of glass will do little to keep the weather outside and the air-conditioned or heated air inside.
Double-glazed: The smartest buy for Arizona homeowners, double-glazed windows have two panes of glass with a small air space in between. The air acts as an insulator to keep hot outdoor air from getting indoors and cool air-conditioned air from escaping to the outdoors. Some window manufacturers fill that air space with Argon gas, which serves as an even more efficient insulator.
Triple-glazed: These super-efficient windows have three panes of glass (or two glass panes and a plastic one inside) with two air spaces in between. They're great at keeping the noise out, but they're expensive. In fact, the payback in energy savings can take more than 10 years.
Double-hung, single-hung: These windows have top and bottom sections or "sashes."
Double-hung windows allow you to slide both the bottom sash and the top sash up and down.
Single-hung windows have only one movable sash, so just the bottom part slides up and down, and you can't move the top sash.
Casement window/awning window: These are window styles.
A casement window's hinges are on the side, so the window swings outward instead of up-and-down. A casement window usually has a crank that the user rotates to open and close it.
An awning window is hinged at the top, so it swings out at the bottom to open. It's typically operated by a crank as well.
Thickness of air space: The energy efficiency of double-glazed windows -- two glass panes with an air space in between -- depends, in part, on how thick that air space is.
A very thin air space doesn't insulate as well as a thick one. Rosie recommends that you buy windows with an air space of at least 5/8 of an inch for maximum energy efficiency. But bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to air space. Beyond an inch, the air space does not make the window more efficient.
Argon gas: Most window manufacturers will be able to substitute inert Argon gas for the air in the space between the panes in double-glazed windows.
The gas acts as another layer of insulation and can reduce heat loss through the window.
Low-e coatings: Low-emissivity coatings are thin, transparent coatings of silver or tin oxide that allow visible light to pass through a window as they reflect radiant heat.
New "southern low-e" coatings are a good fit for Arizona homes because they reflect the heat away from the house.
Tinted glass: Tinted glass and tinted window films can help prevent heat from wafting through your windows when it's hot outside.
But unless you'd like to have colored windows, there's no need to pay extra for tinting. Today's low-e window coatings do a better job of preventing heat gain.
Edge spacers: The edge spacer holds the panes of window glass apart and adds an airtight seal to an insulated glass window.
Aluminum is the traditional material for edge spacers, but cutting-edge spacers are made from thin-walled steel and have a thermal break. Others are made of silicone or butyl rubber.
For more information, contact the Pella Showroom nearest you!
Saturday, May 18, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
Summer is almost here, and you're probably already dreading your hot-weather electric bills.
So you have resolved to live at 80 degrees 24 hours a day to keep A/C use down. You're planning to grill dinner outside every night so the range doesn't heat up the house. And you're switching as many light bulbs as you can to energy-saving CFLs and LEDs.
But one more important change can take some pain out of your utility prices, an alternative that people often do not consider when they move to Arizona and sign up for electric service.
What's the secret? Choose what is called a "usage" or "time-of-day" or "time-of-use" pricing plan.
How many homes have these plans?
According to Salt River Project, which has about 882,000 residential electric customers, of which almost 242,000, or about 27 percent of households, have enrolled in these plans. Arizona Public Service, on the other hand, has about 1.02 million residential customers, of which about 528,000, or more than 51 percent, are in these plans. So plenty of residents out there could make the change and probably save money.
Why doesn't everyone enroll?
We don't want to speculate too much, but many may be unaware of the plans or confused about them even though utilities try to educate customers about their options. Some may be just too busy to think about doing the research.
"If people are worried about whether these plans will work for them, we do give them 90 days to try them out," said Kathleen Mascarenas of SRP. "If they end up spending more on the new plan, they can change back and we will refund the difference."
Of course, some households may have very low electric use to start with. For example, if your home or apartment is 1,100-square-feet or less and only one or two people live in the house. In cases like that, these plans may not be beneficial.
But if you have a larger home with several residents, these plans can save a household $400 to $500 a year, according to SRP. The theory behind the plans is that you can save money on your bill overall if you avoid using electricity during the peak demand times, when utilities pay more for power themselves.
We can't list all the details, but here is how some plans work:
SRP, for example, has EZ-3 where customers can save an average of 6 percent annually over the basic plan by limiting on-peak energy use for three consecutive hours that cost more. The customer can choose between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 4p.m. to 7 p.m. for the peak charges. During the off-peak hours in July and August, the customer pays 8.23 cents per kilowatt hour. During on-peak hours, the customer pays 34.86 cents per kilowatt hour. Weekends and major holidays, they're billed at the off-peak hours all day. Prices vary at other times of the year.
According to Jenna Shaver of APS media relations, the most popular APS plan is Time Advantage noon to 7 p.m., in which customers try to limit energy use in on-peak hours of noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Just as with SRP, weekends and major holidays are off-peak. From May to October, the customer pays 6.118 cents per off-peak kilowatt hour and 24.477 cents per on-peak kilowatt hour. From November through April prices are slightly lower.
It gets fairly tricky trying comparing basic or standard plans with the time-of-day price plans we've been discussing. For example, on the SRP Basic Plan, residential customers pay from 11.04 to 12.70 cents per kilowatt hour in July and August when they use from 701 to 2,000 kilowatt hours each month. They pay an even higher rate if they go over 2,000.
APS uses a similar but slightly different method for computing the price of power used during the summer for its Standard Plan. You really have to study your bill and check online using your utility's comparison charts to see what works best.
If you sign up for a time-of-use plan, you can generally have it "installed" on your meter from the utility's office almost immediately. You don't have to have someone come out to the house to program the change.
Here are more ideas on how to live with less electricity during the on-peak hours when your energy costs more:
If you expect to be at home during the expensive on-peak hours, you can pre-cool your house in advance. Let's say your on-peak costly hours are from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. At about noon, set your thermostat four to six degrees below your usual temperature setting. Then for the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. hours, set the thermostat four to five degrees above your usual temperature so the air conditioner runs very little, if at all. By running the A/C at a lower temperature earlier in the day, before peak price time arrives, you can cool down everything in your house. Those cooler walls and pieces of furniture maintain the lower temperature in your rooms for a while so you may not notice the lack of A/C.
If you need to keep resetting your air conditioning a lot during the day to avoid peak price times, then you might want to use a programmable thermostat, which many homes already have. But there is a downside to programming thermostats, too: If there are too many residents in the house who keep changing temperatures when they're uncomfortable.
Some homeowners go further and have computers installed on their electrical panels. That device can monitor levels of electrical use in a home and automatically shut down the air conditioning or other appliances temporarily when the residents may be about to go over the level they want to pay in their plan, according to Steve Koepp of Advanced Home Systems of Phoenix. Most people hardly notice those temporary shutdowns, he said.
One more question that homeowners often ask us about air conditioning: "Can't I save a lot if I turn up the thermostat to 80 degrees whenever I leave the house?"
The answer: If you're only gone a short time, probably not. If you'll be away less than six hours, leave your thermostat as is. And remember, if you come home and the house seems really, really hot, you may run the air conditioner so long and hard to get comfortable again that you end up using more energy, not less. Your best bet is to set a thermostat on reasonable temperatures, programmed to go on and off at the right times.
Saturday, May 11, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
We have many recommendations, including some very interesting suggestions from listeners.
Gopher Poisoned Pellets
Ultra Sonic Vibrating Stakes
NoGopher.com (Gopher Gitters)
Gopher Spurge: Euphorbia lathyris
The Pickle Jar Solution: Fill up a one gallon pickle jar with water (click here to purchase gallon pickle jars), then put a filled pickle jar in the middle of the garden. Then place filled pickle jar in your garden, about every 12 feet. When gophers burrow, the jars vibrate and make the gophers think they are coming to a river bed and they will go somewhere else!
Archives About Gopher Prevention and Elimination:
Here's a link to our archive where Nicole asks how to prevent gophers in her garden and Romey talks about the Pickle Jar Solution, June 9, 2012
The Propane Gopher, May 15, 2010
Praise for Gopher Gitters, Feb. 28, 2009
Follow up on Gopher Purge: Euphorbia, Feb. 28, 2009
The County Boy Pickle Jar Trick, Feb. 21, 2009
Saturday, April 20, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
1. Maintain it. Have an air conditioning technician come to your home every spring before it gets too hot and check your system out. The earlier you catch a problem and repair it, the smaller than problem will remain.
2. Add insulation to your attic or crawlspace so hot air doesn't get in the house. The warmer the home's air, the harder the air conditioner has to work. The harder it works, the quicker it will wear out.
3. Make sure your unit is the right size. Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to a/c. A room air conditioner that's too big for the room it's supposed to cool won't operate as efficiently as a smaller one that's the right size.
4. Install a whole-house fan. It will keep your home cool without using the air conditioner on days when the sun's not too hot or overnight when the outside air is cooler than the inside air.
5. Install ceiling fans, or if you have them already, turn them on. Ceiling fans move the air so you'll feel cooler, which will let you raise your thermostat a few degrees without noticing any difference in your comfort.
6. Keep lamps and TV sets away from your air conditioning thermostat. The thermostat can "feel" the heat from appliances and will respond by running longer than necessary.
7. Install a programmable thermostat and set it to automatically raise the thermostat a few degrees when you leave for work in the morning and again when you go to bed at night. You can also set it to cool the house before you get home from work or wake up in the morning.
8. Plant shrubs near your outdoor air conditioning unit to shade it. If you do, it will use up to 10 percent less electricity. A tip: Don't plant so close to the unit that the shrubs block its air flow.
9. Block the sun from shining through windows and making your room hot. Install sun screens or apply sun-blocking film on east- and west-facing windows, and close drapes or blinds on hot, sunny days.
10. Replace your air conditioner filter every month. Switch to a one-inch pleated filter, which costs around $5 and will keep more dust and dirt away from your air conditioning unit than a cheaper, flat filter.
11. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. Incandescents give off more heat than light, and that can make your room feel warmer. CFLs are cool to the touch, use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Saturday, March 30, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
Pavers may be the easiest patio surface to install yourself.
Pavers are set on sand or crushed concrete rather than bound with mortar. You can even lay pavers on top of your existing patio if it's level and in good condition, so there's no need to break up the old patio or excavate the ground.
Here's an overview of the job:
Settle on a style. Pavers come in dozens of shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Concrete is the most popular kind of paver, but they also come in marble, clay and travertine. Decide if you want a natural stone patio, a faux-stone look, an old-style cobblestone floor or a classic brick appearance. The most versatile size is four-by-eight inches because they're easiest for forming a variety of patterns.
Get the proper permits, if required, from your city before starting the work.
Design your patio. Decide where you will place the pavers, the size of the floor and how many pavers you'll need.
Unless you're laying pavers over an existing patio, you'll probably have to excavate the area.
Lay a base, which is usually sand. You can rent the equipment you need to lay the base layer from a hardware store.
Prepare to spend some time on this project. Laying the pavers one by one is time-consuming.
You may need to cut and grind some of the stones to fit them into your pattern. Place the pavers as close together as possible.
After the pavers are on the floor, build an edge restraint from more pavers, by installing the perimeter pavers on a bed of concrete.
Brush masonry sand, builder's sand or polymeric sand over top of the pavers and sweep it into the crevices between each one. Polymeric sand does the best job of interlocking the pavers and keeping weeds away.
Some installers apply a concrete sealer to the pavers after sweeping the sand in between. The sealer helps keeps the sand in place.
Saturday, March 23, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
Like many problems in life, plumbing disasters usually happen because of neglect.
Most homeowners don't think about their pipes until they've got a clogged drain or a chronic leak. Here are five easy, inexpensive ways to prevent your home's plumbing from causing a predicament.
1. Treat your drains once a month to prevent clogs
Whether they seem to need it or not, but stay away from harsh, chemical drain cleaners. I like a natural, non-poisonous product called Bio-Clean, which uses a blend of bacteria and enzymes to attack organic wastes like grease, hair, food particles and sewage. You can use it on drains, grease traps, sump pumps and garbage disposals. Regular use will prevent clogging throughout your plumbing and septic system. Dilute the product with warm water according to package directions.
2. Be kind to your kitchen sink
Its drain is the busiest one in the house, so it can cause the most problems. If you don't have a garbage disposal, be fastidious about keeping out food scraps and grease, which can emulsify once you turn on the cold water, and build up in layers in your pipes until they're blocked. If you have a garbage disposal, run plenty of cold water every time you turn it on. If it chops up waste without water, particles will not flush through and you can wind up with a clogged drain.
3. Don't flush anything down the toilet except for toilet paper
That includes facial tissue, Q-tips and even products labeled "flushable." A tip: Switch from two-ply to single-ply toilet paper. The less you flush, the fewer visits you'll need from the plumber. Your old toilet, which flushed five to seven gallons of water every time you used it, could handle more debris. Newer, low-flush models use only 1.6 gallons per flush, and are more easily clogged with paper and "flushable" cleaning products.
4. Know how to shut off the water supply
If a pipe bursts and an unending flow of water pours out, your home could flood and require expensive repairs. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the main shut-off valve is located, and which direction to turn the valve to stop the water. Look for yours on the same side of the house as the water meter. Can't find it? Call a plumber to help you locate it and test its operation. Then fix a bright tag to it so family members know it when they need it.
5. Invest in a water softener
Arizona's "hard" water can cause limescale to build up inside your plumbing pipes, faucets, drains, appliances and even your water heater. That buildup can clog pipes, prevent soap from dissolving and create an ugly white mess on kitchen and bathroom faucets. A whole-house water softener will replace the harmful minerals in hard water with sodium, which does not create those problems.
For more information and for answers to all your plumbing questions, contact Benjamin Franklin Plumbing at (602) 903-1762.
Friday, March 8, 2013 @ 11:24am
By: Rosie on the House
If water is getting into your wall from rain, a sprinkler that's too close to your house, or even from a plumbing leak you're likely to see patches of damage on your walls near the spot of the intrusion. That's because drywall has a paper backing, so when it gets wet, it can bubble and wrinkle, sort of like a sheet of paper does.
To diagnose the problem, place a four-foot level across the damaged area and learn how much the sheetrock has sagged. If it's more than about 3/8 of an inch, the structural integrity of the drywall is probably ruined and the section should be replaced.
If no sagging has occurred, use an awl to randomly push into the sheetrock. You should feel substantial resistance, and the awl shouldn't be able to penetrate the sheetrock any more than 1/8 of an inch without excessive force. However, if the awl goes through the sheet rock much deeper than 3/16 of an inch, consider replacing the section.
To replace the section: Use a utility knife to cut out the damaged area, leaving a square or rectangle so it's easy to match up with a new patch of drywall. Look in the hole to see if the damage goes deeper than the drywall (to the studs, for example) and find the source of the leak so you can stop it before you fix the wall. Set up a fan near the hole you created and thoroughly dry the area before continuing. Cut a new piece of drywall to fit tightly into the hole you have created. You may have to back it with a piece of plywood. Then attach the drywall and use a good-quality drywall tape to cover the seams.
Prime, paint and keep a close eye on it in case the damage returns. That could signal a more serious water problem than you suspected.
To repair the damage: If the damage is superficial, you may not have to replace the drywall. Dry the area thoroughly, sand the blisters from the wall and prime the spot with a pigmented lacquer product called KILZ. This product will keep the stain from bleeding through a new coat of paint.
Thursday, February 14, 2013 @ 1:39pm
By: Rosie on the House
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are poised to replace those familiar incandescent bulbs we've been using since electricity became a household necessity.
Among their benefits:
CFLs use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.
They emit very little heat. Unlike CFLs, incandescents waste energy because they spend 90 percent of their energy on heat and only 10 percent on light. That also adds heat to your home's air and makes your air conditioner work harder.
CFLs last about 10 times longer than incandescents, so you don't have to change your light bulbs nearly as often.
The quality of CFLs continues to improve. Early versions of fluorescent light bulbs were an odd white color, took a long time to light up when you flicked the light switch and gave a buzzing sound. Today's CFLs are smaller, come on almost instantly, appear close in color to the traditional incandescent bulb and are silent.
A few drawbacks:
Some CFLs are not dimmable. You can buy dimmable fixtures and even dimmable bulbs, but they cost more.
CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury, so if you break one, you have to handle it carefully so you don't contaminate your environment or yourself.
CFLs cost more than incandescent light bulbs, although you'll save money on your electric bill and on replacement bulbs over their long life.
They don't come on immediately when you flip the light switch, although the hesitation is barely noticeable.
The color of CFLs doesn't exactly match that of the incandescents we're used to, but it's awfully close, and an off-white lampshade can mask the difference.
Rosie's recommendation: Replace at least one incandescent bulb in your home with a CFL today. Once you get used to it, you'll probably appreciate the cool-to-the-touch bulbs, which are more energy efficient so they allow you to be kinder to the earth.
Thursday, February 7, 2013 @ 1:40pm
By: Rosie on the House
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (most current edition is 10). Has nearly 100 pages dedicated to poultry and resources for where to buy, how to, expert and hobby rancher input on not only chickens but everything needed in homesteading. This should be in every home next to the bible. Find on Amazon
Choosing and Keeping Chickens by Chris Graham. This book does a good job of covering the basics, but what we really like is the 100 pages of great color photos of over 50 different breeds with all the basic ‘pedigree' information pertaining to each breed. And after seeing it in this book, we will never own a Malay Chicken. Find on Amazon
Hobby Farms' Chickens by Sue Weaver If you want to breed and sell your flock, this book covers breeding and hatching very well…which is what you can expect from all Hobby Farm resources on all species of livestock. Find on Amazon
NOTE: Chickens are seasonal. Call ahead to ask about current stock and breeds.
The Stock Shop
6615 West Thunderbird Road
Pratt's Pets and Feed
5237 W Glendale Ave
Gordon's Feed & Seed
600 W Broadway Rd
Dale's Town & Country Store
14344 W Waddell Rd
What Chicken Breeds does Romey have?
Observational commentary and opinions on specific chicken breeds from "Rancho La Romero"
Buff Orpington - As long as we have chickens, we will never -not- have Buff Orpingtons. I don't know if it's because:
The ones we have now are the last remaining breed of our original flock.
The way their feathers flow as they waddle side to side when they run, adding to their already curious nature the whole family finds entertaining.
The wit they have to be next to the horse bucket at feeding time to peck dropped oats.
The fact that they are relatively easy to catch and handle.
Their ability to flee and hide from predators.
Their ability lay eggs as they free range (not return to the nesting boxes; there is a notable difference in egg production for other breeds if they can't get back to their box.)
The consistency of their egg production
Or the nick name their breed has been given at our homestead. We call them "Big Mama's"
Saturday, February 2, 2013 @ 5:00am
By: Rosie on the House
First, let's look at the kinds of roof vents.
Louvers are covered openings that allow air to escape the attic. They are located on the gable (non load-bearing) ends of the house and allow limited airflow. This system relies on wind direction to create airflow through the attic. When the wind blows perpendicular to the ridge, it circulates air around the louver, which acts as it own intake and exhaust vent. If the wind blows parallel to the ridge, the airflow pattern acts as a draft that moves in one louver and out the other.
Fans draw air through the attic by creating an air flow. They are effective, but they don't allow natural forces to ventilate the attic. Plus, it's somewhat expensive to buy, install and operate power fans, a cost that is greater than the fans' benefit. Fans do not create airflow over the roof sheathing. Even fans that automatically turn on and off at selected temperatures are not worth the investment because the summer heat in the attic will cause the fan to run almost continually.
Mounted along the top of the ridge, ridge vents provide even, consistent exhaust ventilation. Run a ridge vent the entire length of your attic. Some roofers cut costs by running only the length required by code. Rosie recommends running the vent from roof end to roof end for best results. A ridge vent won't work well alone; adequate intake ventilation must accompany the ridge vents in order to maintain airflow.
A common method of ventilation, soffit vents are located under the eaves, where they will have minimum exposure to rain and weather. Soffit vents on each side of the structure create equal ventilation on both sides. Soffit vents should not be your home's only vents, though. If they are, the air movement is restricted to the attic floor, and air flow does not pass over the roof sheathing.
Also called whirly birds, turbine vents are wheels mounted near the ridge of the roof. You generally install two or three per roof. Most of the time, they act as exhaust vents, but air also can enter the attic through a turbine. Turbine vents are not effective, as they only exhaust small portions of the roof, and they allow rain to enter the attic.
Rosie's recommendation: Ridge vents accompanied with soffit vents will create the most effective attic ventilation for your home. The combined system will draw air from the soffits along the sheathing and exhaust it through the ridge vent.