Why Does My House Smell?

StinkyFace

Yes, that’s your illustrious author making the “stink face”

People often ask: “why does my house smell?” Often, this is during the winter because your house is sealed up for months, with little fresh air. In fact, with tight, energy efficient homes, this has become even more of an issue. It’s one of the reasons that there’s been a backlash against tight houses.

#1 – your house might not be adequately ventilated

First, let me address the energy efficient house issue. The problem is, many builders and architects don’t understand that a house is a complex system. You can’t just air-seal the house and have a healthy house. That’s why building best-practices call for a certain amount of fresh air circulation. So if you live in a tight house, you want to ensure you have adequate fresh air or your house will get stale and smell. If you don’t know about HRV’s and ERV’s (heat recovery ventilators and energy recovery ventilators) read this short post. Every modern home should have one of these. Once you’ve lived with one, you’ll wonder how you managed without it.

#2 – there might be a dead mouse/animal somewhere Continue reading

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Heating Systems 101 – Learning the Lingo

She Blinded Me With Science!

One of the toughest things about researching a new heating system is learning the tech talk. Your HVAC company will throw out all sorts of terminology assuming that you understand what they’re talking about. Some might even be happy that you *don’t* understand so they can confuse you and sound like experts. Well, no more!

This post covers the most common terms that you’re likely to run across. I’m sure I’ll miss some or confuse you, so please post questions if there’s anything you’d like clarified.

Continue reading

GE GeoSpring Heat Pump Water Heater

GEH50DEEDSR _ GeoSpring™ hybrid electric water heater _ GE Appliances

Intro

In July 2014, I purchased this GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater to replace my existing all-electric water that had sprung a leak. Admittdely, it was an impulse buy because Lowes was having a sale on them – probably to get rid of unwanted inventory because these have horrible reviews!

So why did I buy it? Because it was only a few hundred dollars more than a conventional electric water heater and I’d been wanting to get an integrated HPWH after my previous add-on HPWH died after just a year. Plus, based on the negative reviews, I felt that the people having problems were using earlier versions of the heater. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it has a long, happy life.

Almost everything written in this article applies to all heat-pump water heaters. I’ll put the GE specific notes at the end.

What is a heat-pump water heater?

You may not know it but your refrigerator and air conditioner are examples of heat pumps. Through a process of compression, condensation and evaporation, they move heat from one place to another. In your refrigerator, that humming you hear when it runs is the compressor. The inside of the fridge is cold because the “heat” in the fridge is moved to the outside of the insulated box and blown into your kitchen. An air conditioner works exactly the same way – it cools the air inside the house and expels the heat outside.

The HPWH does the same thing except it uses the heat to warm the water in the tank. And the cold? If you feel the output behind the heater, you’ll see that the cold gets blown into the room. Heat the water, chill the room. Keep this in mind, we’ll come back to that later.

Why does a heat-pump water heater save energy?

Continue reading

Insulating Basement Crawl Spaces

Spray foam on crawlspace walls

Crawlspaces – those nasty, damp, moldy spaces under your home that you dread entering. They’re one of the least understood parts of a home and the source of countless problems. In this post, I’ll review some of the worst problems and how to avoid them.

Crawlspaces often have two big issues:

  1. Water / moisture – leading to mold and wood rot
  2. Cold / drafty – leading to uncomfortable conditions and wasted energy

Continue reading

Swimming Pools: Save Energy While Enjoying the Summer Heat

Is there an Energy Hog in your pool?

 

If you have a swimming pool, you probably hate to see your utility bills during the summer. Chances are, you’ve attributed the high bills to your air conditioner. But pools and their associated pumping equipment might be responsible for at least as much energy use as that big central air conditioner!

Why does the pool use so much electricity and is there anything you can do about it?

Pumping water takes a lot of energy. Just think about the last time you took a swim. It takes all your energy to swim the length of the pool, while you could walk this distance without difficulty. In the same way, moving water, because of its weight and resistance to flow, requires a lot of energy.

So if moving water naturally takes energy, how can you reduce the consumption?

Without getting too technical, moving a gallon of water through pipes takes much less energy if it is moved slowly than quickly because of water turbulence. Just knowing this allows you to dramatically reduce your pool pump’s energy use.

Unfortunately, most pools are designed with vastly oversized pool pumps. For example, my pool had a 1.5 horsepower (HP) pump. This is useful for backwashing the filter, but for general filtering, using such a huge pump results in less efficient filtering and much more energy consumption. Worse, that 1.5 HP pump might pump less than twice as much water as a .5 HP pump due to the high turbulence caused by the larger pump.

You’ll find that running that 1.5 HP pump for 10 hours a day (fairly common for pool pumps) will add about 15 kilo-Watt-hours to your electric usage. For many households, that’s an increase of 30%-50% of the home’s total daily electric consumption! Over the course of a summer, that adds up to hundreds of dollars in increased electric bills.

For my pool, I installed a two speed pool pump that allows me to run at 3/8 HP for general filtering. The water flow is ample for filtering yet it uses about 1/8th the electricity as when it runs at 1.5 HP. The only time I turn it on ‘high’ is when I’m backwashing the filter. Other than that, it runs 12 hours per day at a few hundred Watts (a total of about 3.6 kWh/day). When I convert kWh/day savings (over 10 per day) to dollars, I’m saving more than $1.60/day which is about $150 per summer in saved electric bills.

If you’re building a new pool or replacing an old pump, installing a multi-speed or variable speed pump is a no brainer. At a cost of about $500 for a high end two-speed pump or $1000 for a variable speed, the savings will pay for the pump in a 3-6 years. About half that if you’re replacing an existing pump and would have to buy a new pump anyway. Pu another way, that’s like having an investment that pays 15%-30% dividends – in these economic times, you’re not going to find a better investment!

Your specific numbers will vary depending upon your electric rates. I pay a lot in eastern Pennsylvania, so any electric savings pays back quickly. If you’re in an area with cheap electricity, the payback won’t be as quick.

Even an Energy Auditor can get Bitten by an Energy Hog

I am embarrassed! I was recently bitten by an “energy hog” – an unwanted waster of energy hiding in the deepest recesses of my home.

He snuck in last week while I was using a lot of energy for opening/cleaning my pool. You see, at that time, I was running a big pool pump 24 hours a day, so naturally, my daily electrical usage increased. But I didn’t expect it to increase so much!

As part of the pool cleaning, you have to flush out a lot of water to clean the filter. Then, you have to add hundreds of gallons of water back into the pool. Since I’m on well water, that means running the well pump a lot! And if you’ve read my other articles, you know that pumps are notorious for using lots of energy. So the combination of the pool pump plus two well pumps adds up to big energy use. Continue reading

The Energy Geek Video: American Standard FloWise Shower Head

American Standard FloWise Shower Head

Generic low-flow shower head

I admit it, I don’t often get excited about water saving. In the past, you may have used those crappy little low-flow shower heads that seemed to spray a mist of water rather than a nice shower. Those things set back the entire industry for years.

Shower heads today are a different story. I recently read some great reviews on Amazon.com about the American Standard FloWise shower head. This convinced me to give it a shot.

I bought the FloWise for about $40 on Amazon. I’ve added it to my store now that I’ve played with it and know it’s a “Geek-worthy” product.

Rather than just re-type everything I spent time producing in video, I’ll just give you a summary:

FloWise shower head

  • Cost about $40
  • Works great. Low-flow at 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute). Full-flow at 2.0 GPM
  • Saves about 40% on your shower water usage
  • Depending on your water heating costs, it will pay for itself in two years or less. In my case, it’s under a year. If you have kids who take long showers, it will pay for itself in less than 6-months.
  • Caveat: if you have really long, thick hair, this might not be for you. But for most people, it will work great.

Follow-up: Usage Recomendations

Having now had the opportunity to use this more, I wanted to give some usage recommendations so that you get the most out of your hot-water saving shower head.

First, be aware that when you first turn on the shower, it’s going to take longer for the shower water to get warm because there’s less water moving through the pipes. If you’re moving from an old, non-water saver head to this one, you may think something is wrong because it takes so long.

Whenever you take a shower, the water has to get all the way from your water tank to your shower, so if your old shower had moved 4 GPM and this one move 1.5 GPM, it’s going to take almost three times as long for that water to arrive. This can be a bit frustrating and it will make you feel like it’s wasting water when in fact both will use exactly the same amount.

In order to minimize the wait, I suggest turning the water on full hot initially and setting the shower head to one of the turbo modes. This will do several things. First, the hot water will heat up the pipe faster because more hot water will be flowing through the pipe. Second, it will get to the shower faster because just the hot water is running and because the shower head is letting more water through. Just remember to turn it to a comfortable temperature before you get in!

Next, and this is probably obvious, for most efficient water usage, use the shower on the default, low flow setting when you’re just rinsing your body and doing general cleaning. But when you wash your hair, you’ll probably want to turn it to one of the turbo modes to make it easier to rinse the soap out. I’ve got pretty long hair for a guy and for me it works pretty well. But like I suggested in the video, if there’s someone in the household with long hair, they might not find the amount of water to be satisfactory. Fortunately, my wife and I have separate showers, so she can have her own shower head and I can have mine!