Preparing Your Heating System for the Summer

We still have cool-to-cold weather here in NJ, and can expect a few more weeks of it before the temperature begins to warm up. Your home’s heating system will keep working for a while longer, but you should also know how to prepare your heating system for the time when it will shut off for a few months during the summer. You don’t want it to have trouble starting up again when the fall and winter weather return.
Here are some ways to prepare your heating system for its summer siesta. For professional assistance with your heating—from maintenance to repairs to new installation—trust to the skilled workers at Green Apple Mechanical.

Preparing for summer—with your heater

  • Have lingering repairs taken care of now: It is very tempting to put off fixing a malfunction in a heater with the warmer weather approaching. However, you should make sure that your heating system shuts off for the season working as well as possible, since you do not want to encounter trouble when you really need it later. This time of year is less busy for HVAC repair technicians, making it easy to schedule the work—the winter rush will present a much more difficult time for scheduling. Also, any repair needs your furnace has can deteriorate during the long period of inactivity and become worse.
  • Have a maintenance visit if you haven’t already: Spring is when most homeowners have a maintenance visit for their air conditioner. If you’ve delayed maintenance for your heater for more than a year, you should also have maintenance done for it now so that it will be in good shape for when you need it again. You want your heating system in the best shape possible when you need it once more. Maintenance will also make sure there are no safety issues in the system—such as gas leaks—that can become problems.
  • Check and replace air filters: This is part of regular maintenance that you can do on your own. If the air filter for your heater is clogged, or if you haven’t changed it in over a month, you should switch it out now. Your air conditioner will probably use the same filter, so this will help you during the summer as well.

Schedule service today

Get a head start on the summer, and next winter, with the service your heater requires. Call Green Apple Mechanical and set up an appointment for maintenance or repairs for your heating in NJ.

How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes

    • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
    • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
    • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
    • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.

    • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
    • Close garage doors.
    • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
    • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
    • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
    • Set icemaker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
    • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
    • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
    • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
    • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

    • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.

    • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
    • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
    • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
    • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
    • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers.
    • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
    • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
    • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
    • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
    • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

    • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
    • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
    • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
    • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
    • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
    • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
    • Drain birdbaths and fountains
    • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
    • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
    • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.

 

How to Stay Safe in an Ice or Snow Storm

    • Stockpile nonperishable food and water.
    • Refill prescription medications in advance of storm.
    • Fill car with gas.
    • Charge cell phones.
    • Have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.
    • A portable generator can come in handy when the lights go out, but take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using.
    • Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the batteries powering them are fresh.
    • Have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies.
  • A chain saw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.

 

Cold weather survival tips: From saving frozen pipes to warming Valentine’s hearts

With a blast of Arctic air set to sweep into New Jersey this weekend, now is the time to make sure furnaces are in working order and your home’s pipes are protected.
Low temperatures on Saturday night into early Sunday morning will approach zero and could slip below zero in our area, according to the National Weather Service.
“The combination of wind and cold will make for dangerous conditions for the homeless and those not properly dressed this weekend,” according to AccuWeather.
Dressing for cold weather is both an art and a science. Think layers and choose the right fabrics.
Recognizing the warning signs of cold exposure — hypothermia — could save your life.
Here are some tips on what to do to keep pipes from freezing — and what to do if it happens anyway.
How to prepare:

  • Know what areas of your home, such as basements, crawl spaces, unheated rooms and outside walls, are most vulnerable to freezing.
  • Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.
  • Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.
  • Protect your pipes and water meter. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire; newspaper or fabric might also work. For outside meters, keep the lid to the meter pit closed tightly and let any snow that falls cover it. Snow acts as insulation, so don’t disturb it.

When temperatures are consistently at or below freezing:

  • If you have pipes that are vulnerable to freezing, allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the cost to repair a broken pipe.
  • Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.

If your pipes freeze:

  • Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it, or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
  • Once the pipes have thawed, turn the water back on slowly and check for cracks and leaks.

Who to call for help:

  • If pipes inside the home are frozen, call us at (973) 943-0927.
  • If there is no water or low pressure, and neighbors are experiencing the same situation, it could be a water main break, and customers should call the 24-hour customer service line at 1-800-652-6987.

When you are away:

  • Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.
  • A freeze alarm can be purchased for less than $100 and will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.
  • Residents are also reminded to clear snow from hydrants. Substantial snow accumulations combined with the after-effects of plowing roads and parking lots can leave fire hydrants partially or completely buried in snow.In these conditions, extra precautions should be taken to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of carbon monoxide-related deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
 
In these conditions, extra precautions should be taken to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. NJ has one of the highest rates of carbon monoxide-related deaths in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
 
Though the worst of the cold weather is expected to concentrate on the weekend, winter weather at any time can force schools to delay opening or decide to cancel classes altogether. 
 
Sunday is Valentine’s Day, of course, so bars, restaurant and entertainment venues will be bustling, especially Saturday night.
 
If you decide to cuddle up at home with your sweetie, though, how about making some chocolate-covered strawberries to enjoy while watching a romantic movie?

7 Things That Can EXPLODE in Your Home!

If your attitude towards home maintenance is “I don’t want to know about it, unless it will keep my house from blowing up!”, then you will love this article . In it, we will be discussing seven things can can explode in your home.
The seven things are:

  • gas leaks
  • water heater
  • furnace boiler
  • gas grill
  • combustible products
  • glass containers
  • cooking flour

. . . and we will be discussing what you can do to prevent explosions from each one of these.
Gas Leaks
While explosions from gas leaks are fortunately not very common, their impacts can nonetheless be devastating. To prevent an explosion from leaks of natural gas or propane, everyone in your home should be familiar with the smell of gas. Your gas company should be able to give you a “scratch & sniff” card to help you learn this distinctive odor. You should also have all of your gas appliances serviced and inspected each year by a trained professional. And you should consider installing a gas leak detector, especially if anyone in your home has trouble identifying smells.
It is important to note that if you ever suspect that you have a gas leak, that you should immediately leave your house, and do NOT touch any electrical switches and do NOT use your home phone or cellphone until you are a safe distance from your house. The reason is that even the slightest electrical connection can touch off the gas, and trigger an explosion.
Water Heater
A water heater tank that is over-pressured can generate tremendous force when it explodes. To prevent this from happening in your home, you should have your water heater serviced once a year by a trained professional. And you will want to check with them to be sure that you have a relief device installed on your unit that protects both against excessive pressure AND excessive temperature. Also, to be safe, you should have your pressure and temperature relief valve replaced every 3 years. And if you ever adjust the temperature limit on your water heater, be sure to never allow it to exceed more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Furnace Boiler
Similar to a water heater, if your home has a furnace boiler for creating hot water for your heating system, then you will want to take similar precautions to what we just described for water heaters.
Gas Grill
6,000 gas grill explosions occur every year, causing severe injuries and sometimes deaths. To prevent you or your family from being part of this statistic, you should read all safety instructions before using your grill. You should do routine maintenance inspections, and replace any damaged parts immediately. Also, do not use a propane tank if it is dented or damaged in any way. And do not store your propane tanks near any heat sources, nor carry a propane tank in your car trunk on a hot day.
Combustible Products
The next cause of too many explosions in the home is from combustible household products. You should be aware of which products that you use in your home are flammable, and be sure to store these combustible liquids, sprays and powders in cool locations. And you will want to be sure that these storage areas are very well ventilated, so that you don’t have a chance of fumes building up. Although it may be convenient, you should never store any cooking spray, flammable insect repellants, or any other combustible products near your stove. And get rid of any dented cans or damaged containers for any flammable products.
Glass Containers
A frequent cause of eye damage in the home is from explosions of glass containers. To prevent glass container explosions, never shake carbonated liquids that are in glass bottles or containers. And especially keep carbonated beverages that are in glass containers away from children, who may shake or run with them. Also, before you use any glassware in your microwave or oven, you will want to be sure that they are a type of glass which is made for this use. Do not leave glass containers on stove burners, and never put glass containers of liquid in a freezer (unless they have very high alcohol content, which lowers the freezing point).
Cooking Flour
And lastly, cooking flour dust is highly flammable, and so you should avoid creating flour dust clouds around any heat sources in your kitchen, and you will want to especially keep open flames (such as candles, gas stove burners, cigarettes, etc.) away from your flour when preparing your baking.

If you have any questions or concerns about your  furnace boiler feel free to call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ. Call toll free at 888-611-7191

Keep Snow Build Up Away from Venting Systems

Keep Obstructions Away from Venting Systems

Here’s a super easy tip that can save lives and your heat from failing.  Keep Snow Build Up Away from Venting Systems.  Snowdrifts or a large snowfall can block your furnace or hot water heater exhaust pipe and cause it to stop working.
High efficiency furnaces, water heaters and other energy-saving appliances may have exhaust vents that exit your building through an exterior wall rather than through a chimney.  These vents can become blocked in the winter months by snow and ice, which can affect the safe operation of the appliance.  Make sure that all snow, ice and other obstructions are removed from your venting systems.  Drifting snow and caused a buildup of carbon monoxide inside of the house.  It’ important to think plan for and take steps to keep snow build up away from venting systems. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call Green Apple Mechanical toll free at 888-611-7191

NJ Snow Storm Prep: A Survival Guide for 2016

A few days before a “major winter storm” was expected to dump up to a foot snow on NJ (that is, if the storm system doesn’t veer eastward at the last minute), the state released its annual guide to surviving the weather.
“We’ve had bitterly cold weather this week and snow is in the forecast, so we want people to make sure they’re fully prepared for all that winter may bring,”
Make a Plan

  • Make sure your Household Disaster Plan is ready and all members of your household are familiar with how to contact one another in an emergency.
  • Winterize your Go Bag by adding a blanket, warm socks and gloves.
  • Your Emergency Supply Kit should be fully-stocked to allow you to sustain yourself for up to three days without power, or in the event you are unable to travel far from home. You may wish to include additional items such as extra blankets, additional warm clothing, and a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio to monitor weather conditions during a storm.

Winterize Your Home

  • Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clean out gutters; repair any roof leaks; and have a contractor check the stability of your roof in the event of a large accumulation of snow.
  • Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available. For residences with functioning fireplaces, keep an ample supply of wood. Utilize portable electric space heaters. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Install and check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; you may have difficulty obtaining fuel in the immediate aftermath of a bad storm.
  • Service snow removal equipment, and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction.

Winterize Your Car

  • Make sure to have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
  1. Battery
  2. Antifreeze
  3. Windshield wipers and washer fluid
  4. Ignition system
  5. Thermostat
  6. Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
  7. Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30 variety)
  • Install good winter tires that have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to prepare for an in-car emergency. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:
  1. Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation
  2. Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  3. Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, raingear and extra clothes
  4. Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel
  5. Set of tire chains or traction mats
  6. Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire
  7. Windshield scraper, broom
  8. Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  9. Booster cables
  10. Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares or reflective triangles

Tips for Staying Warm
Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.

  • When outdoors, wear warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Use multiple layers to maintain warmth.
  • Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
  • Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
  • Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
  • Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.

What to Do Before a Storm Strikes

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean.
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance preparing for a storm.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Let faucets drip a little to help prevent freezing.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Know the Terms

  • Freezing Rain: rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: issued when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing over a large area for an extended period of time.
  • Sleet: rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Ice Storm: when ice accumulations are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant ice accumulations are usually 1/4 of an inch or greater.
  • Wind Chill: the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside.
  • Heavy Snow: snowfall accumulating to 4 inches or more in depth in 12 hours or less; or snowfall accumulating to 6 inches or more in depth in 24 hours or less.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: issued by the National Weather Service when a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) may present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch: issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
  • Winter Storm Warning: issued by the National Weather Service when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
  • Blizzard Warning: issued by the National Weather Service for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to last for a minimum of 3 hours.

 
What to Do if You Lose Heat or Hot Water at Home
Call GREEN APPLE MECHANICAL right away at (888) 611-7191
Take measures to trap existing warm air and safely stay warm until we come to you, including:

  • Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while the heat is out.
  • Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and layered clothing.
  • If you have a well-maintained working fireplace and use it for heat and light, be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation. Never use a fireplace without a screen.
  • If the cold persists and your heat is not restored call family, neighbors, or friends to see if you can stay with them.
  • Do not use your oven or fuel-burning space heaters to heat your home. These can release carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell.
  • Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
Fire safety tips:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in every room. Test them at least once a month and change the batteries twice a year.
  • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use. Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day.
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. Never drape clothes over a space heater to dry them.
  • Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip. Do not plug anything else into the same outlet when the space heater is in use. Do not use space heaters with frayed or damaged cords.
  • If you are going to use an electric blanket, only use one that is less than 10 years old from the date of purchase. Also avoid tucking the electric blanket in at the sides of the bed. Only purchase blankets with an automatic safety shut-off.

Carbon monoxide safety tips:

  • Carbon monoxide comes from the burning of fuel. Therefore, make sure all fuel-burning devices such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors and operating properly. If you are not sure, contact a professional to inspect and make necessary repairs.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Most homes and residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors installed near all sleeping areas. Owners are responsible for installing approved carbon monoxide detectors. Occupants are responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide detectors in good repair.
  • If you have a working fireplace keep chimneys clean and clear of debris.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven, charcoal barbecue grill, or kerosene, propane, or oil-burning heaters.
  • The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are non-specific and include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness. Severe poisonings may result in permanent injury or death.
  • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
  • If a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, call 911, quickly open a nearby window, and go outside for fresh air immediately.

Winter Furnace Troubles

As winter sets in and the rain brings a chill, many throughout New Jersey will be reaching for their thermostat. However, if you haven’t had your heater on in a while, here are a few tips to make sure you and your family aren’t left in the cold as the temperatures fall throughout the season…
Most furnace problems will present themselves almost instantaneously the first time the furnace is fired up for the winter. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to start the furnace at least a month before you anticipate it will be needed. This will allow you to inspect for problems and plan repairs in advance so you’re not left cold in a house with no heat.
As you turn on your furnace for the first time this season, you may notice a funny smell. This is the small of dust being burned off the heating element. It should last for only a few minutes and is no cause for alarm. Similarly, you shouldn’t be worried about the odd noises or sounds that you may hear during the beginning of the season. These might be the sound of parts heating up or the sound of hot air being forced through air ducts that haven’t been used recently.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it may take a furnace a little while to heat up the first time it is turned on for the season. The cold air has to be pushed through the ducts and the unit itself has sat dormant for some time. This is not a reason for concern, however, should your unit take longer than usual on a regular basis, it could be a sign that the system is in need of repair.
If you find that you need furnace repair, call a professional for consultations and if needed, repairs.
Symptoms to watch out for may include:

  • A funny smell that doesn’t disappear within a few minutes of starting the unit.
  • Noises that persist or sound abnormal to past experience.

Remember that your heating system is most likely using the same air ducts as the air conditioner. Any duct problems that you had when running your air conditioner will be there when you run the heating system as well.
Also, be sure to change your filters regularly. An old filter makes the HVAC system work too hard to move air, and it might burn up early as a result.
If you want to make sure your home is winter ready, contact Your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ. We look at both commercial and residential systems, perform routine maintenance and alleviate the concerns of our clients. We’ll look forward to hearing from you. Call us at 888-611-7191

How to Cut Your Heating Bill Without Freezing Your Tail Off

Baby, it’s cold outside.
And once the temperature drops, those utility bills start to rise—which can leave you and your bank account caught off guard.
The energy-savvy among us may already have a leg up on some power-saving moves, such as sealing the cracks around our doors or lowering our thermostats. But there’s a lot more you can do to offset that painful spike in utility costs—and it won’t involve expensive appliance upgrades or using TaskRabbit to find someone to make retrofits around the house.
We tapped experts to provide seven easy-on-the-wallet tips that will help lower your home’s energy use this winter with minimal effort from you—and you may even be able to use a few of them to save green all year-round.

1. Keep Your Hot Water Heater Cozy
Snuggling up with a good, warm blanket once the cold streak hits is likely a part of your winter ritual—and it’s also a good idea for your hot water heater, too.
Kerry Urbaniak, lead electronics instructor at the Ecotech Institute in Aurora, Colo., suggests wrapping a special insulating blanket around your water heater to minimize the amount of heat that escapes from it. “Depending on your [energy-usage] habits, you can get a 20% increase in savings by putting a wrap on it,” he says.
Luckily, water heater insulating blankets run in the $20 to $30 range, and you may be able to get discounts or rebates from your utility that help lower the cost further. Some utilities may even offer to install them for you at little to no extra cost (although you can find DIY instructions here).
Urbaniak also suggests keeping the appliance’s temperature setting at 120 degrees, which should be high enough to meet a typical household’s hot-water needs while also minimizing heat loss. “For every degree you set it above 120, you’re losing efficiency,” he adds.
And don’t shut your hot water heater off if you’re leaving town for the holidays. Rather, just turn the temperature down: “It’s costlier to let it cool down completely and then have to heat it back up again,” Urbaniak says.
2. Pay Attention to Your Pan Size
How many times have you stuck a tiny pot on a giant stove burner because it happened to be the only one without a dirty dish lying on top of it?
You may be inclined to stop that bad habit once you realize how much energy you’ve been wasting: According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a six-inch pan placed on an eight-inch burner wastes more than 40% of the heat produced—so try to match your pot or pan size as closely as possible to the size of the heating element.
Cleanliness is also an energy-efficiency virtue when it comes to your stove: Wipe up splashes and spills on your reflector pans because they’ll better reflect heat when they shine, according to Kurt Blumenau, a spokesperson for PPL Electric Utilities, based in Allentown, Pa.
One other quick kitchen tip? Whenever possible, use a crock pot, pressure cooker or microwave to make your meal—all three use less wattage than an oven or stove. “Slow cookers and microwaves can cut as much as 50% of energy consumption, compared to other appliances like ranges or ovens,” says Lise Dirlam, a faculty instructor also with the Ecotech Institute.
3. Go Dark—With Your Curtains
You already know that window drafts are bad news for your energy bill—but did you know that the color of your curtains could also make a difference?
“Dark curtains help absorb sunlight and can take a passive solar approach,” says Urbaniak. He adds that in the winter, more light is also likely to enter your house because all the leaves that may normally block the sun’s rays have fallen to the ground.
Urbaniak uses this tip for his own home. He has louvered blinds installed on his sliding glass doors for privacy, but because they don’t provide much insulation, he covers them with dark drapes for the winter months.
4. Avoid a Deep Freeze in Your Fridge
We know, you like your water pitcher icy cold. But by keeping your refrigerator at icicle-forming temps, you’re paying for more chill than you need: According to the Department of Energy, the optimal temperature to keep your fridge is between 36 and 38 degrees, while your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees.
Urbaniak adds that it’s worthwhile to take a vacuum to the refrigerator’s coils to get rid of the dust and grime that can build on this oft-forgotten spot. “When the coils are clogged, heat doesn’t transfer as fast, so the motor has to work harder—which wastes energy and depletes the life of the fridge,” he says.
5. Give Your Radiators Room to Breathe
Forget feng shui. There’s another type of energy flow to keep in mind when it comes to your furnishings: “Make sure none of your furniture is blocking the radiator or the vents in the floor,” Urbaniak says. “If you interfere with the heat source, it will have to work harder.”
Also, if you’re thinking of painting a radiator to make it more aesthetically pleasing, you might want to think twice. “If there’s paint on it, it acts as an insulator—leaving it bare metal makes it more efficient,” Dirlam says.
If your heat comes through registers, you can also conserve energy by closing the ones in the rooms you’re not actively using. For example, if no one is in the bedrooms during the day, you can keep them closed until it’s time to sleep, suggests Urbaniak.
6. Create Better Light Bulb Moments
Even if you haven’t swapped out those old incandescents, you can still get more bang from your lighting buck with some careful placement: Positioning your lamps in corners will better illuminate your space because both walls will reflect the light back into the room, says Jorge Mastropietro, AIA, founder of JMA, a New York-based architecture firm with experience in low-energy passive design.
And don’t forget to dust off those bulbs—dirt can absorb as much as 50% of the light, according to Blumenau.
Ultimately, though, when your old bulbs burn out, you’ll want to upgrade to more energy-efficient versions for long-term cost savings. According to the Department of Energy, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use only a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer; Light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs use about 20% to 25% of incandescents and last up to 25 times longer.
7. Be Aggressive About Passive Energy
You’re likely already familiar with the notion that electricity-sucking “vampire” appliances are adding unnecessarily to your utility bill. But realistically, you can’t unplug all the tech in your house every day—so where should you be focusing your energy (pun intended)?
Here’s a hint: “Anything that can use a remote control is always drawing power,” Dirlam says. So while you may be loathe to unplug your big-screen TV or DVR every day (lest you lose the latest episode of your favorite hit show), you could probably stand to turn off your stereo equipment, speakers or DVD player, for instance.
An easy way to stop their passive energy use is to plug those energy suckers into the same power strip and then shut the power strip off each night, suggests Dirlam. Otherwise, she says, “they’re always on, even in standby mode.”

The Most Common Heat Problems During Winter

The one thing that no homeowner wants to encounter during the winter months is a malfunctioning heat pump. In the wintertime, the heat pump transfers heat from the outside of your home into the inside. The lower the temperatures drop outside during the winter, the harder it becomes for your heat pump to continue normal operations. Here are seven common heat pump problems that you may experience during the winter.

Covered in Ice

It is normal for a light layer of ice or frost to appear on the coils of your heat pump during periods of normal operation. When this happens, the heat pump will de-ice itself with the defrost cycle. However, when the ice or frost extends beyond the outside of the coils and covers practically the entire unit and inside of the coils, it is time for you to be concerned. Leaving your heat pump covered in ice and frost for an extended period of time can result in damage to the unit.

Nonfunctioning

Sometimes a heat pump may not be functioning due to a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. Reset the fuses and circuits to the unit and then proceed to turn the unit on. If after checking and resetting the fuses and circuit breaker, the heat pump does not power on, you need to contact an HVAC professional to get to the root of the problem.

Blowing Cold Air

When your heat pump starts to blow cold air, there are a couple of things you can do to correct the situation. Check the thermostat to ensure that it is not set to the “cool” setting. Check the refrigerant levels in your pump and inspect the unit for refrigerant leaks. If the coolant levels are low or you notice a leak, you need to have your heat pump serviced as soon as possible. There may be a problem with the outdoor compressor or the coolant lines themselves.

Draining Problems

Improper drainage can cause a heat pump to freeze over and prevent it from working properly or even at all. Signs of draining problems include leaking and dripping. To enable your heat pump to drain properly to prevent freezing, make sure that the unit is placed on a sturdy surface. That surface should be high enough to prevent the unit from being submerged in snow, rain and other elements. Keep the coils dry and change the filters regularly.

Blocked Coils

Blocked coils can cause the heat pump to work harder, decrease airflow and cause condensation and moisture to collect around the coils. If you factor in the cold temperatures, the chances of your heat pump freezing significantly increases. Remember, your heat pump needs to have a sufficient amount of airflow to allow it to gather heat from the environment to heat the inside of your home. When the coils are blocked and airflow is compromised, the efficiency of the unit diminishes. Keep the area surrounding the outside of the coils clear to prevent problems with airflow and efficiency.

Weather Elements

Snow, freezing rain and ice can all interfere with your heat pump’s ability to function properly. These elements can prevent the fan in your heat pump from working, thereby rendering your unit useless. To get rid of any ice that has accumulated and blocked the fan, you can either wait for the ice to melt on its own or pour some warm water over the unit. If those methods do not work, contact your HVAC service to fix the problem. Never attempt to remove any ice from your heat pump with force, such as with an ice pick, hammer or shovel. Check to ensure that the unit is located where it won’t be affected by any runoff from your roof or gutters.

Time for Replacement

Sometimes even with regular maintenance and care, a heat pump can still malfunction. If you notice that your heat pump is needing service more often, it may be time for you to replace it. It is recommended for homeowners to replace their heat pump every 10 years to ensure maximum comfort throughout the year. Replacing your old unit with a new and more energy efficient heat pump can save you more money on your energy bills.
Although some issues regarding the heat pump can be resolved without professional help, it is highly recommended for you to have an HVAC professional come out to inspect your heat pump to prevent further problems. Failure to get any issues resolved within a timely manner can result in high utility bills, a reduction in comfort and higher repair bills. Call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical at 888-611-7191

Is your Heater Up for the Holidays?

A properly working heater is the key to a comfortable home this holiday season. Peak functionality also keeps your heating bills down, an important consideration when other costs climb around the holidays. To ensure you and your guests stay comfy and cozy while the wind whistles outside, perform the items on this checklist prior to the holidays.

Change the Air Filter

This is the first and one of the most important tasks to prepare your heater for winter. A dirty air filter blocks airflow, reduces efficiency and overworks the equipment. On the other hand, replacing the filter regularly promotes cleaner indoor air, lower your energy bills and helps your equipment last longer.
Plan to change the filter at the start of the heating season. Then, check it once a month during the winter and change it when it begins to appear dirty, waiting no more than three months between changes. Make sure you choose replacement filters of the proper size and efficiency for the best results.
If you run an electronic air cleaner in the winter, be sure to clean the unit’s air filter according to manufacturer directions.

Check for Gas Leaks

If your heater runs on natural gas, a leak could develop and create risk for you and your family. Before relying too much on your heater this season, inspect the furnace for worn or damaged connections. Be aware of natural gas odors. If you discover a problem – either with your eyes or your nose – call a professional for further investigation before you turn on the heater.

Check the Air Vents

Supply registers deliver heated air while return registers send cooled air back to the furnace for reheating. If these vents are blocked, heating efficiency declines and you tend to experience hot and cold pockets throughout your home. This can create great discomfort during a holiday get-together.
To promote better airflow and a more even temperature, walk around your home and check that all air vents are unobstructed. Move area rugs, reposition furniture and tie curtains back if necessary to allow for ample airflow.

Test for Proper Operation

Switch the dial on your thermostat to “Heat” and turn the temperature up a degree or two to trigger the furnace. Listen for any strange sounds coming from the heater or the ductwork. If you hear anything odd, it may be wise to contact a heating technician for a repair.
Place your hand over various registers in your home, including those located close to the furnace and those farther away. Make sure the air is plenty hot and exiting the registers with ample force.

Schedule an Annual Tune-Up

A complete furnace inspection includes other tasks that only a qualified technician should perform. That’s why the final item on your checklist should be to schedule preventative maintenance from Green Apple Mechanical NJ. We have the knowledge and experience needed to check fuel connections, test the gas pressure, clean the burners, inspect the heat changer, test system controls and more.
If you experience trouble with any of the items on this checklist, please contact Green Apple Mechanical to speak with a knowledgeable technician. Call your friends at Green Apple Mechanical NJ at 888-611-7191