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How did we keep cool before modern air conditioning?

Ancient Romans, the wealthy ones, filtered the water from the aqueduct through the walls of their homes. One Roman emperor imported snow down from the mountains in the summer and build his own mountain of snow to try to stay cool. President James Garfield had air blown through cotton sheets that had been doused in ice water.

Then a man named Willis Carrier came along, but he was just looking for something to take the humidity out of his printing plant, not to cool humans. In the U.S. today, over 87% of homes have air conditioning.

Stay cool (but call us if you’re not)!

The new world of thermostats

With all the things that smart phones, tablets, etc. can control these days, your thermostat is another one to add to the list. Besides the cool factor, it’s a money-saving energy efficient way to run your home as well. Currently there are some rebates available from our local utility companies which will help offset the initial purchase price.

The Honeywell Prestige thermostat, the Nest and the Ecobee thermostats all have a full-color display and a self-monitoring system that tells you when action is needed. You can receive email alerts for problems or reminders for filter replacement. Some of the models even have “dry contacts” that allow us to get advanced warning of sump pump failure or water leaks.

These smart thermostats can also calculate how long it takes to heat or cool your home. Remote access allows you to change, monitor or override those pre-set temperatures or times. As our world become more tech-savvy, don’t let your thermostat fall behind!

Spring Storm Preparedness, Part 2

This time our subject is electric generators. What happens when there is a power outage because of a storm? You lose power, sometimes that can be for a few hours and sometimes it can be for a few days. The food in your refrigerator and freezer will be fine for about 7-10 hours, but after that it’s a total loss. You also do not have power for your sump pump or other equipment your home needs to function properly.

Generators come in different sizes, which are based on what your needs are during a power outage. There are small sizes which will power only a few small circuits or larger sizes that can power your whole house. The most common things to power are your furnace, air conditioner, refrigerator and sump pump. It is very important to determine what your needs are before any systems are installed.

Spring Storm Preparedness

It is now officially spring – are you ready for the rain? In preparation for potential storms, please make sure your sump pump is ready by considering the following things:

The main sump pump

  1. Make sure that any sump pump is pumping the water at least 6’ away from the house so it won’t run back into the drain tile system.
  2. A typical check valve will make a thump when it shuts off – this is normal. But there are also check valves available with a quiet flapper, if that’s your preference.
  3. Check the pit for debris or anything that could damage the pump or deter it from working properly. Make sure the float is free of obstruction.
  4. The typical lifespan of a sump pump is 5 – 10 years, so preventative replacement is something to consider.

The backup sump pump

  1. There are several types of battery backup sump pumps. The ones from the “big box” retailers typically don’t pump as much water per hour as the heavier duty type that we install.
  2. A good battery backup sump pump system can typically keep your basement dry for at least 6 hours.
  3. There are several types of batteries. If you don’t have maintenance free or gel battery already, you will need to check the battery condition.
  4. We sell systems that will alert you via email if the water level in the pit gets too high. These systems give you advanced warning that there is an issue.

We hope this information will be helpful to you, as you brush off your umbrellas and rain boots.

LED 101

We are often asked about all the different types of lighting currently available. As you know, incandescent light bulbs will not be around forever. 90% of their energy use is wasted by emitting heat instead of light. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. LED bulbs use only a fraction of the energy of an incandescent light bulb, so there is a dramatic decrease in energy costs. LEDs have a higher initial cost but they are far less expensive than they were a year ago and can provide huge long-term savings. Good quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more – meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. An LED bulb would last more than 3 years if run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because LEDs are not made of glass and are hollow inside, they are far less fragile than both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs. LED lights are resistant to shock, vibration and external impact, making them great for outdoor lighting systems exposed to wind, rain and extreme temperatures.