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Questions & Answers About Saving Energy

By – Comprehensive home ownership information and home inspections.

Q. I know it is recommended that incandescent lights be turned off whenever they are not needed. But what about fluorescent lights?

The light produced by fluorescent lamps involves a process that relies upon a small quantity of metal being sputtered away from components at the end of the tube or bulb called electrodes. This produces a gas discharge inside the lamp that results in light, as particles of electric energy (electrons) strike a phosphor coating on the inside surface. Although this process is ongoing while the lamp is burning, it is most severe during start-up. While fluorescents typically have a significantly longer service life than incandescents, regularly cycling the lamps on and off more often than once every ten minutes will affect the service life of the electrodes, increasing the potential cost and frequency of replacement. So if you’ll be away more than ten minutes, it may make sense to turn the lights off; but over the life of the lamp, leaving them on if you’ll be back in less than a couple of minutes may be beneficial.

By the way, a belief exists that fluorescent lamps consume an enormous amount of energy when starting up. Not true!

Q. My neighbor insists that using a fireplace is counterproductive to heating a house. Is he right?

Yes, from a strict energy conservation standpoint. Building a fire in an open hearth fireplace may actually increase your heating bills. The warmth from a fire in a fireplace generally doesn’t radiate through the house; the heat gain is confined to the room with the fireplace. A considerable amount of heated air from other parts of the house, which is provided by your furnace or other conventional heater, is drawn into the fireplace and flows wastefully up the chimney. This in turn helps to draw in fresh, unheated air from outdoors, which now must be heated by the heating system. So use your open fireplace for the ambiance, but if you want to control energy costs, consider a more energy-efficient insert or stove, and if you feel your traditional heating system is damaged or not as energy efficient, you could have a look into services like this Kansas City water heater repair for example, or local companies to you to have these issues looked at and rectified. Some people don’t want to have a fireplace though, instead people prefer to have something like an underfloor heating system set up throughout their house, as this has a more modern feeling. If this is something that you are interested in then why don’t you check out something like this Heatmiser neoStat?

Q. Does setting back the thermostat of a heat pump when the house is unoccupied during the day or at night save energy?

Unlike other heating systems, when a heat pump is in its heating mode, setting back a conventional heat pump thermostat more than a few degrees can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, thereby canceling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost-effective practice. Some companies sell setback thermostats specially designed for heat pumps. These thermostats can be set back to save energy. In the cooling mode however, a heat pump operates like an air conditioner; manually turning up the temperature setting on both conventional and setback heat pump thermostats will save you energy and money.

Q. What is the best way to clean finished hardwood floors? I get a lot of conflicting advice.

How you clean depends on the type of floor finish. Excessive water can be harmful to any wood floor. Even if the floor has a tough surface finish, water can seep into cracks between boards and possibly lead to warping and other problems. If the floor is relatively new, try to track down the manufacturer to get their recommendations.

Here are some general guidelines, based on recommendations of the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association: If you have a surface finish such as polyurethane that has not been waxed, you can use water very sparingly. For general cleaning, mix ¼-cup white vinegar to four cups of warm water. Dip a sponge mop or clean cloth in the mixture and wring it nearly dry. Clean a small section and wipe dry then go to another section. You can also use a special wood floor cleaner, but avoid cleaners that contain or are mixed with water. Oil soap is not recommended for general cleaning. You should also keep grit off the floor by using a dust mop or vacuum regularly. Vacuuming regularly will help you keep on top of any bad smells as well as the grit and grime, if you feel that your vacuum isn’t giving you enough power getting yourself a new vacuum will ensure you’ll be cleaning properly, you can get cheap vacuum cleaners with afterpay if you don’t have the money to get one straight out, it’s a win-win! On the other hand though, if you are looking for a new one and not sure what to go for, looking through reviews of appliances is usually a safe bet to give you an idea on what’s best based on other people’s experiences with them.

Damp mopping should not be used on floors that have been waxed. You can usually identify a waxed floor by rubbing a thumb across the finish – if it smudges slightly, it is waxed. These floors should be cleaned with solvent-based cleaner-waxes, sold at most home centers and flooring dealers, and then rewaxed.

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