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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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.

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

Ask Eco Ed: How do I Prepare My Home for Hurricane Season?

Dear Eco-Ed:

Storms like this past one make me wonder why I own an older home.  The basement is always damp, but only takes on water when we get huge amounts of rain, like this past weekend.  My kids like to play downstairs, but I’m concerned with them getting sick from any mold.  What should I do?

– Damp in Ridgewood

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Ask Eco Ed: My heating bills are out of controI, is there anything I can do?

Dear Eco-Ed:

My heating bills are out of control, and my house is still not a comfortable temperature. Is there anything I can do?

– Broke in Glen Rock

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Keep Bugs Out of Your House or Building For Good

NJ is home to some beautiful backyards, but with this privileged comes ants, bees, wasps, and all those unwanted creatures. These insects can cause extensive damage to the wood around your home, crawl inside your home, and even ruin electrical appliances. Learn how to keep the beauty of your home and keeps bugs out and away from your home. [Read more…]

Should I be afraid of tap water? Not at all.

Ask Eco-Ed…

Dear Eco-Ed:

I’ve recently read about the elevated Arsenic levels in our water.  I’m now confused about what to do.  Isn’t Arsenic poisonous?  Should I be scared to drink my water?  To shower in it?  How can Ridgewood Water be providing us water with all of these chemicals in them.  I’m using only bottled water these days for drinking, but know that the plastic containers are not the right thing to do either.

– Seeking Clean Water in Glen Rock

Dear Seeking Clean Water:

I have heard this concern raised recently, since Ridgewood Water notified local customers of the issue, so let me state a few facts to put this in perspective.  Ridgewood Water gets its water from predominantly aquifers, while United Water sources mostly above ground reservoirs.  While it is true that in a single well in Glen Rock (out of the over 50 wells that Ridgewood Water operates) tested at arsenic levels of 5.75 Parts Per Billion.  This well was then closed down, while the issue is being addressed.  This level exceeds the New Jersey standard of 5 ppb, although it is well within the national standard of 10 ppb.

In our water source, there are over 100 chemicals/minerals that Ridgewood Water routinely tests for.  Contaminants are from many sources.  Arsenic, along with radium, uranium and others occur naturally in rock formations, and are present in our water in miniscule amounts.  Other chemicals find their way in from manmade sources, pollution, runoff, fertilizers, discharge by industries, etc.  These are typically the ones that the water companies have to be more cognizant of.  There is a great debate going on now, because of a natural gas harvesting technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “Fracking” as it is more commonly known.  This process, in its current form, is known to contaminate entire watersheds with harsh and carcinogenic chemicals.  It is allowed because oil and gas exploration companies have been given exemption from Clean Air/Clean Water laws, and they hold much lobbying power in Washington.

So what is an acceptable risk for our arsenic issue? What makes 5 ppb okay and 6 ppb punishable by law? Why is 10 ppb OK for the rest of the United States?  These numbers are essentially guidelines set forth, based on many factors, which may or may not be relevant.  This is not an emergency situation.  Our water companies must adhere to these standards, and we are provided with the cleanest and safest drinking water on the planet.   Surprisingly, many bottled waters are derived from municipal water sources much like ours.  However bottled water is not subject to the same standards as drinking water.  They may or may not go through additional treatment or filtering.  Bottled water also has huge pollution issues, as the water is pumped from far away, shipped using fossil fuels for transportation, and then there is the obvious,  the creation and disposal of trillions of plastic bottles.  If you walk along the street, or in a park, you can see firsthand how many of these never make it to the garbage can, never mind being properly recycled!

If you want additional security, beyond trusting our municipal water source, there are many positive options.  You can have a filtration system installed in your home, simply install a Point-of-use filter onto your tap, use a Brita-type filter, and use refillable, re-useable containers.  I would advise everyone to become more aware of the importance of clean water, and to become active in protecting it.  Let your elected officials know, because many large corporations are spending a fortune to “persuade” Congress to allow them to contaminate our water sources.  If the Clean Water Act had not been passed, we would have much more dire issues than .75 ppb of Arsenic!

What is an Energy Audit?

Learn how an energy audit can help save you money, improve comfort in your home, make sure your family is safe, and more. Eco Ed’s energy bills actually generate cash. The first step is getting an energy audit if you would like the same for your home or building.
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