Ask Eco Ed: Still Cold at Home After Upgrading Windows?

Dear Eco-Ed:

In the past few weeks, my house has been very cold.  We replaced the windows last year to cut down on drafts, but that has not helped much.  It cost over $25,000, and we are at wits end on how to get comfortable.

- Hating the Cold in Glen Rock

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I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Dear Eco-Ed:

For the Holidays, I wanted to set the right example for my children on how to view the holidays, appreciate what they have and also respect the planet.  Last year, they got a huge pile of gifts from friends and family, and I don’t want them to view the holidays as so materialistic.  Any suggestions?

-Remembering the Spirit of Christmas in Ridgewood

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Dear Eco Ed, I am fed up with these power outages!

Dear Eco-Ed:

I am fed up with these power outages!  This is our third one in two years, and we were out for 8 days this time (14 days after Hurricane Irene).  I’ve heard about generators, and the whole concept seems complicated.  I do not feel comfortable with one of those portable units with power cords running everywhere.  I went to Home Depot and they gave me pricing for a whole-house generator.  It was $14,000, and I’m not really sure what I’m getting, or if it is overkill.  They did not take any time to explain it to me.  They just gave me this price, and asked me if I wanted it, Yes or No.  Is this a good option?  Will it protect me in future storms?  Am I being unreasonable in my expectations?

- Confused in Glen Rock

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Top 10 Home Energy Saving Tips

Want to improve your home’s energy efficiency but you are unsure where to begin? A professional energy audit may be the first step for your home. Also, learn small projects you can do by yourself.
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Ask Eco Ed: Is there a better way to dispose all those leaves?

Dear Eco-Ed:

I’ve been piling up all my leaves in the road.  Isn’t there a better way to dispose of them?  I’ve heard that the leaves can provide nutrients to my yard, and minimize the amount of chemical fertilizers that I’ll need to put in next year.

- Reducing Yard Waste

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Beat the Summer Heat and Keep Utility Costs Down!

Dear Eco-Ed:

My central air has been straining to keep our home bearable over the past few weeks.  We just got our PSE&G bill, which is ridiculous.  Is there anything we can do that will address both of these issues?

- Too Hot to Handle in Ridgewood


Dear Too Hot to Handle:

Beat the Summer Heat

Is your central air draining your wallet? Feel hopeless? Eco Ed addresses how to reduce the summer energy bill

We have had 4 official “heat waves” this summer so far.  And is doesn’t look like it will be getting cooler any time soon.  First of all, be glad that we are starting to get some rain.  Adding drought conditions and high water costs to the mix doesn’t make things any easier.  There are many areas to target to beat the heat and control your costs.

-        Be sure that your cooling equipment is properly maintained, refrigerant levels are good, filters are changed, etc.  Older and less efficient systems can also be using a lot of energy without delivering cool air properly.  An efficient system keeps you cooler, at a lower cost.

-        Improve insulation levels in your home, to keep the heat out.  Before you do this though, see the next tip:

-        Get a home energy audit.  This will identify where heat is getting in, cold air is escaping, assess the condition of your air conditioning/heating systems, along with many of the other items.  Proper insulation and air sealing is important in summer months as well as winter also.  It keeps the heat out in the summer, along with the cold in winter.  The good news here is that the State has a program called Home Performance with Energy Star, which will offset some of the costs of energy improvements for homeowners.  Currently, rebates are up to $5,000 per house, plus interest-free loans of up to another $10,000 for qualified homeowners!

-        Use a programmable thermostat.  If you have a formal schedule, lower your air conditioning (and heat in winter) in the hours while you are away.  Set them to bring it back to comfortable levels by the time you come home.  If your thermostat is manual, then raise it when you leave.  Keep in mind that if you have a heat pump, they work more efficiently at relatively steady temperatures.  Why pay to keep you home cool all day if no one is home?

**NOTE – WHEN REPLACING OLDER MERCURY (TYPICALLY CIRCULAR) THERMOSTATS, DISPOSE OF THEM AT HAZARDOUS WASTE PICK UP SITES BY BERGEN COUNTY UTILITY AUTHORITY, AS THEY CONTAIN HIGH AMOUNTS OF MERCURY WHICH IS SEALED INSIDE A GLASS BULB.

-        Follow the sun – draw blinds or curtains to minimize direct sunshine.  This heats up floors and furniture very quickly.  Eastern (early morning sun) windows should be drawn early, and western exposures later in the day.  For a more long term solution, plant shade trees and shrubs in proper areas to provide this benefit for you.

-        Keep lights and other electric appliances off, and switch to compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.  They use 75% less energy, but have another benefit.  Have you ever touched a light bulb? 90% of its energy is used to create heat.  This heat is being dissipated into your living space constantly.  All those bulbs add up in a hurry, and increase the burden on your cooling system.

-        Use solar lights in your yard to minimize electricity used at night.  The selection is becoming greater and quality is improving constantly.  Start small and add lighting features as desired.

-        Take a nice cold shower.  It’s refreshing and lowers your body temperature, without using much hot water.  By doing this, you can keep your home a couple of degrees warmer and still remain comfortable.

-        Do your laundry in cold water.  Newer, front loading machines with proper detergents get the same results with cold water.  Always do full loads of laundry to keep water and energy use down.

-        Dishwashers, dryers, and other heat producing appliances could be used at night, when it is cooler.  Just as with your laundry, wash dishes only when you have a full load.

In addition to all of the above, see if your home is a good solar energy candidate.  If so, this can offset some of your electric costs.  Aside from being good for the environment, solar panels can be a good investment and improve the value of your home.

Ask Eco Ed your own question <<>> Read the Ask Eco Ed Column

Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Guidelines for Historical Homes

Ask Eco Ed transformed his 245 year-old Victorian home into “The Most Energy Efficient Historic Home in NJ.” His home generates money through its energy bill (+$2000), maintains a comfortable temperature, and is safe against dangerous molds and toxins that are common in old homes.

There are always inexpensive and easy renovations that can be made to improve a home. These small projects can help you avoid expensive projects that are burdensome financially and emotionally. Ed provides other renovation tips that he has learned through his years of experience. Ed’s knowledge is here to help you, so you can do it right the first time.

Read the Energy efficiency and sustainability guidelines for Historical Homes.

Remember, feel free to contact Ed and ask him a question about your home. He will provide a professional response that will help save you time and money.

Can I compost the leaves and branches on my yard? Yes, and Ed will help.

Dear Eco-Ed:

It’s that time of the year again, and although I love the color of the changing leaves, my yard is starting to get covered in them.  I’ve always raked them out to the curb, but I’ve heard a lot about composting.  Is there a better way to deal with all these leaves

- Curious About Composting

Dear Curious About Composting:

Every year, I think it’s a shame when I drive through the streets of Bergen County and see all those precious leaves in the road, blocking traffic, causing water runoff hazards, and costing the towns money to pick them up, when a simpler, more productive option is so much more practical.  Those leaves create vital nutrients for the soil.  By removing them, most people create the need to replace them with chemical fertilizers the next season.  An easier solution is to create an area in your yard for composting the leaves.  This area can be as simple as piling them in a corner, or by using a composting bin, which can be purchased in any garden or home center (or at the Bergen County Utility Authority at ½ price!)

MYTH DEBUNKED:  Contrary to popular belief, composting piles do not carry an offensive smell.  This only happens if you add a large volume of grass at one time, or kitchen scraps such as meat, bones or fish.

It is often said that composting is nature’s way of recycling, but that’s not quite right, either. Decomposition is actually nature’s way of reusing organic (or “once-living”) materials, and when we understand and then control that process… that’s composting.  The leaves can be picked up with a shredder or lawn mower, so that the sheer volume is significantly reduced.  This also jump starts the composting process, as the shredded leaves decompose faster.  Compost is created when organic residues such as tree leaves, grass clippings, garden trimmings, etc. are combined and piled up into a heap. The organic material is then decomposed by microscopic creatures (microorganisms) and transformed into humus or mulch, highly valuable soil improvers. The microorganisms – healthy, invisible “bugs” – will then do most of the work for us.

Compost is not soil. Soil is not made from minerals: sand, silt, and clay. There are good soils and poor soils, and gardeners will tell you that we can greatly improve the quality of the soil in our yards and gardens by increasing the organic content.  For additional information, read the detailed guide to composting written by Master Composter Gray Russell.

Guide to Home Composting

Live Green by adopting these 12 simple tips.

Eco-Ed gave NorthJersey.com some advice on how to live a green lifestyle. These simple steps will help save you money, reduce waste, and help minimize your carbon footprint. Read the quick and easy tips.

Ask Eco Ed: Beating the Summer Heat and Keeping utility Costs Down!

Dear Eco-Ed:

Oh My God , can it get any hotter?  Please help!!!  Is there any way to beat this heat, without breaking the bank?   My air conditioner is running constantly, and my family is still uncomfortable.   Our PSE&G bill is through the roof.  What is a family to do?

- Sweating in Ridgewood

Dear Sweating:

This heat certainly has been oppressive.  Not to worry, though, as there are many things you can do to beat the heat and control your costs.

-        Start your day earlier, when it is cooler.  Errands and outdoor activities are much more bearable before it gets scorching out.

-        Use a programmable thermostat.  If you have a formal schedule, lower your air conditioning (and heat in winter) in the hours while you are away.  Set them to bring it back to comfortable levels by the time you come home.  If your thermostat is manual, then raise it when you leave.  Keep in mind that heat pumps work more efficiently at steady temperatures.  **NOTE – WHEN REPLACING OLDER MERCURY (TYPICALLY CIRCULAR) THERMOSTATS, DISPOSE OF THEM AT HAZARDOUS WASTE PICK UP SITES, AS THEY CONTAIN HIGH AMOUNTS OF MERCURY, ALTOUGH IS SEALED INSIDE A GLASS BULB.

-        Follow the sun – draw blinds or curtains to minimize direct sunshine.  This heats up floors and furniture very quickly.  Eastern (early morning sun) windows should be drawn early, and western exposures later in the day.  For a more long term solution, plant shade trees and shrubs in proper areas to provide this benefit for you.

-        Keep lights and other electric appliances off, and switch to compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.  Have you ever touched a light bulb? 90% of its energy creates heat.  This heat is being dissipated into your living space constantly.  All those bulbs add up in a hurry, and increase the burden on your cooling system.

-        Use solar lights in your yard to minimize electricity used at night.  The selection is becoming greater and quality is improving constantly.  Start small and add lighting features as desired.

-        Be sure that your cooling equipment is properly maintained, refrigerant levels are good, filters are changed, etc.  An efficient system keeps you cooler, at a lower cost.

-        Get an energy audit.  This will identify where heat is getting in, cold air is escaping, the condition of your heating/air conditioning systems, along with many of the other items.  Proper insulation and air sealing works well in summer also.  It keeps the cold out in winter, and the heat out in the summer.

-        Take a nice cold shower.  It’s refreshing and lowers your body temperature, without using much hot water.

-        Do your laundry in cold water.  Newer, front loading machines with proper detergents get the same results with cold water.  Always do full loads of laundry to keep water and energy use down.  Same goes for dishwashers.

-        Dishwashers, dryers, and other heat producing appliances could be used at night, when it is cooler.

And my most favorite solution is to get to water!  Go swimming, play in a pool or even just a touch of cool water on your wrists and neck goes a long way towards keeping your body temperature down.

Ask Eco Ed your own question <<>> Read the Ask Eco Ed Column