Energy Saving Home Improvement Tips

In this week’s post I want to step a little away from the landscaping and talk about some home improvement tips that I have embarked on in the last few years. All these projects were started with the main intention being to save energy and become a more environmentally friendly household. Some of these will cost quite a bit of money, but there are many that can be quite inexpensive and will prove a huge benefit. On this page I want to give you some ideas and resources that you will be able to use to make your own home more energy efficient.

Attic Insulation

Ensuring that your attic is properly insulated is one of the best ways to increase your energy efficiency. In the colder climates of the northern states such insulation upgrades have been popular for a long time. But what people in the hotter climates don’t realize is that attic insulation will also benefit energy efficiency as there is less thermal exchange of cold air in the house and hot air outside.

One of the simplest ways to do this as a DIY job is to use blow in insulation and pump it directly into the attic. The pumping machinery can be rented at many hardware stores that will also be able to provide you with the insulation material. In most cases you will be using a fiberglass material which provides a great thermal barrier and the job only needs to be done once.

Solar Panels

If you live in a state which is blessed with lots of sunshine and dry weather then solar panels will make a huge amount of sense. Some of the installation costs can be offset against tax so don’t be put off by advertised prices. When it comes to solar panels there are two main types that you can have installed.

The first one is a solar water heating panel, and its objective is to absorb solar rays and pass the resulting heat onto water that circulates the system. Such panels are a great way to provide your household with pretty much all the hot water you could need. But for very sunny areas electricity producing solar panels will probably be the best option. The reason is that you get to use solar produced energy wherever it is needed. And in the summer months it can great help with the cooling of your home as well.

One thing to keep in mind though is that solar panels can still be quite an expensive project and are probably not a DIY job for most households.

Upgrade Heating and Cooling Systems

Many people install central heating systems and air-conditioning units and then just go and forget about them. The first important task for you to consider is to get the equipment regularly serviced, just like you would have your car serviced. This first of all will ensure that it operates efficiently, but will also ensure safety and longevity. When I moved house about 10 years ago we go the boiler serviced and everything seemed fine. Only after a couple of years I decided to find out more about our boiler and it turned out that it was over 20 years old, which kind of explained the amount of oil it was using.

The same was the case with aircon which was so old that the service guy couldn’t get adequate parts. I bit the bullet and had them replaced and the energy usage plummeted. So, if you have older boilers or aircon units then it may be sensible to check out how efficient they really are and get an estimate how much energy you may be saving. You may be surprised how quickly an upgrade will pay for itself, not to mention the benefit it will have on the environment and climate.

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Make Your Pool Environmentally Friendly

With rising energy posts people have become more aware of how much their pools are costing them. Everything from regular cleaning and servicing to the operation of pumps and filters costs money, and eco-friendly solutions can greatly help reduce those costs. In this post I want to show some solutions you can consider when planning a new pool or making changes to your existing one.

PhotoShare / Pixabay

PhotoShare / Pixabay

First of all the majority of pools are chlorine based where you would regularly check the chemical balance of the water and then add more chlorine as needed. This is hugely important to provide for safe and healthy water and to avoid the spread of disease and infections. But there are some alternatives that may suit you.

Consider a salt water pool instead of chlorine. Most of you will have been for a swim in the Ocean and noticed that you do not encounter a green swamp of algae. This is due to the salinity of the ocean. For backyard pools there are two options. One is to create pool water using a machine that controls salinity. It is just like swimming in the ocean. The other option is to use a machine that naturally chlorinates the water using salt in a chlorine generator cell. Both solutions will provide a clean and safe environment for people to swim in and you can contact Orange County Pool Service for some information on setting up such a system.

Cover your pool when it is not in use or have vegetation provide shade from the sun. This will reduce the amount of water that vaporizes and reduce the amount of water you need to refill the pool. Water shortages are becoming ever more common and predictions are that this will only get worse in the coming decades. With some pretty simple planning you can reduce this problem quite considerably.

Solar powered pumps are a fantastic solution for most people in California. The systems are set up in a way so that the pumps and filters do most of their work when there is abundant solar power, i.e. during the day. Then at night time they go into an eco-mode that only uses very little energy. The great thing is that you can have solar panel installed on the roof of your home and potentially get a tax rebate on the costs. This makes it a lot cheaper and once it is installed you will effectively get free energy.

For some of the best priced environmentally friendly pool solutions I have worked with the guys over at OraangeCountyPoolService.net. They are extremely reliable and in my option have the best and most high tech systems in place to make your life easier.

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Is It Time To Upgrade To A Green Wardrobe?

Just like purchasing an eco-friendly vehicle and changing your light bulbs to something more energy efficient, buying clothing shouldn’t be overlooked.  There are some easy guidelines to follow and after this article you will be able to spot green clothing from a mile away.  As technology increases, many more companies are making the switch which is refreshing to see.  Let’s look at some of the factors that make eco-friendly clothing help the environment.

Natural Fibers vs. Synthetic Fibers

Checking the tag on the clothing or getting the material list off of the website you are purchasing your clothing from is the first step to understanding the clothing your about to purchase.  There will be two types of fibers that will see predominantly on the market.  The first being natural fibers like organic cotton, bamboo, or hemp.  These take less energy to produce and natural fibers that are organic will not have deadly pesticides used on them.  Some of the newer movements include using plastic bottles and recycled rubber to make shoes while others are using corn husks to make clothing.

The second type of fiber we will talk about is synthetic fibers.  Not all synthetic fibers are good for the environment and most are made from petroleum products.  This of course leads to more pollution during production, releasing chemicals into the air.  Most men’s active wear is made from synthetic materials which should be investigated before buying.  Another key thing to remember is to check if the fabric has been dyed with a chemical or an organic dye like coffee or tea.  Many more companies are using a “low impact die” to keep pollutants down and their customers healthy.

Caring For The Clothing You Already Have

Your clothing is still using energy on a regular basis and you may not even recognize it.  Ask yourself how many times a week you run your washer machine to clean your clothes?  In bigger households it could be ran on a regular basis.  If you are unable to cut down on how many loads of laundry you need to do a week then getting Energy Star appliances are the best solution to reducing your footprint.  If you can, be conscious about wearing your clothing.  If you only had a pair of pants on for a couple of hours while lounging around the house, put the pants back in the closet instead of the hamper.

If you have a back yard and are able to install a clothes line you will be able to save energy and money on your electric bill.  Letting mother nature air dry your clothing is one of the best ways to save the environment and your clothing will last longer.  If you have clothing that no longer fits, a great way to make sure your clothing is still used is to have a yard sale or donate it to someone else in need.  One man’s junk is usually another man’s treasure.

If you have clothing that is too worn out to even give away then a good use is to turn some of your clothing into rags or dust clothes.  Also there are tutorials on the internet on how to convert your old clothing into everything from backpacks to women’s or men’s clothing if you have some time on your hands and some sewing skills.  If you are on a budget and you can’t get green clothing, get quality clothing that will last longer.  The first step to improving our earths condition comes down to you and your decisions.  Doing one small thing at a time can make a huge impact on our environment.

 

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Grab Your Tools and Workboots: A Career in Carpentry

Have you ever considered a careers as a carpenter? I sure have. Carpenters are usually the builders on a work-site, and they seem to have a very fulfilling career.

If you are good with your hands, a practical person who enjoys working with tools and building things, then a career as a carpenter could be a good fit for you. Carpentry is a particularly skilled profession and an apprenticeship is generally the best way to enter this industry.

There are two main types of carpentry that you might get involved in – structural, which is generally involved in the construction industry; or detail carpentry which is generally involved in the creation or maintenance of furniture. As you get more experience in the field, you can eventually become a builder, and coordinate projects from start to finish.

Like many trades that involve working with tools or on construction sites, one of the key consideration for a carpenter are the health and safety requirements for the job. In this article we take a look at a few of the key areas where health and safety precautions are of paramount concern.

Goggles

Statistics show that approximately nine per cent of injuries sustained by carpenters involve their eyes. Wearing a pair of goggles when working with tools of any kind will help to protect your eyes against flying debris or other hazards that could damage your eyesight.

Gloves

Gloves are one of the most important safety measures that you can take when working as a carpenter – this is because industry statistics show that approximately thirty one per cent of injuries sustained by carpenters relate to hands, fingers, or wrists. As well as wearing gloves, the other way to help protect your hands is to ensure that you are correctly using the safety guards that most machinery comes with.

Be careful when lifting

Sixteen per cent of workplace injuries sustained by carpenters relate to their lower backs – this is generally the result of using incorrect lifting techniques. Whenever you are lifting there is always some risk that your body will not be able to take the strain that you are putting it under. However if you follow the training provided on how to lift you will minimize the potential of any damage to your lower back.

Hearing protection

Hearing protection is essential when working with loud machinery or tools. Make sure that you take precautions to protect your hearing when exposed to loud working conditions.

Work-boots

Industry statistics show that approximately eight per cent of injuries sustained by carpenters involve their toes, feet, or ankles. It is fairly obvious that having a high quality pair of boots that you can work in is important in order to try and provide as much protection to your feet as possible. Make sure you choose a great quality pair of steel toed work boots while one the work-site. Websites such as “The Work Boot Critic” compare the best work boots, which will aid you in finding the right pair for you.


A career as a carpenter can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. If carpentry is a profession that may be of interest to you, remember that you need to be good with your hands, be good at maths (so that you can make any necessary calculations), and willing and able to undertake physical work. But above all, you need to know how to keep yourself and your colleagues safe from any workplace or occupational hazards.

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Great Success At Las Vegas Landscaping Expo

Sometime around this time last year I decided it was time to take part in some of the bigger Landscaping shows in Nevada to try and reach more people in the public and industry with some of the ideas I have had and have implemented successfully with clients. One of the biggest events in calendar is the Las Vegas Landscaping Expo so I started planning and working out the logistics over a 12 month period.

Close up of photographer Sarah LeeThe first thing I had to figure out was how large a booth I would be able to afford and how much I would need to realistically have to make a good presentation of my ideas and work. Once that was done I started working on getting an invite to make a presentation on one of the main stages, and that actually turned out to be easy enough. A couple of phone calls to the event organizers and I had secured a 30 minute time slot to make a presentation on ecofriendly landscaping, some of which I had done in the Las Vegas area.

Before we went to the expo we decided it would be a great idea to get our presence and our presentations documented professionally to use in some marketing material that we have planned. We hired a fantastic Las Vegas event photographer who spent two whole afternoons with us and took tons of photos and video as well. The guys over at Vegas Photo Artist were extremely helpful and very interested in our work. This made it so much easier to work together in a very limited time slot.

What really worked out well was that we have a great collection of very different images of the team, our products and our visitors. There was a huge amount of interest and most people didn’t even realize that we had a photographer present who was also recording video. Of course, we did tell people, but none of them minded or had noticed.

Within half an hour of our presentation we were overrun with people making inquiries and we have already landed a couple of contracts. One contract is actually going to be a joint venture with a large wholesaler who is trying to branch out into the ecofriendly landscaping area.

The great thing is that we will be using the same photographers in order to set up some professional marketing materials about the joint project. This is going to be a great way for both parties to achieve success at the same time while sharing some of the significant costs. And because Vegas Photo Artists already know us and our products it should be a much easier project from that point of view.

While the upfront investment was quite significant we have already recouped over 80% of our costs within just a week. We also have plenty more potential clients lined up where we are trying to find the time to finalize some quotes. If this continues we could well need to hire some more people which I am absolutely delighted about.

One decision to go to the expo has now resulted in numerous new contracts, a huge set of very professional photos and videos, and a joint venture project with a significantly large business that operates state wide. There are some exciting times ahead.

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Garden Planning And Design Tips

I have already talked about the benefits of eco-friendly landscaping, so I what I want to do today is go into more detail about what you need to take into consideration during the planning phase. Planning really is the one aspect that you should factor in enough time for, as this is where essentially it can all go wrong. If it is a DIY project then you should make yourself familiar with the topics discussed on this page. There are many great books and online resources that you can use, and I would certainly suggest that you check out some of the online communities and forums for additional advice.

angelac72 / Pixabay

angelac72 / Pixabay

Wherever you live you should always check out what are the actual native plants to your locality. This changes dependent on whether you are in south California or north, or Florida or New Hampshire. Of all the planning this is probably the most time consuming, as you will have to do quite a bit of research into what is actually native and what was introduced. You don’t have to shy away from non-native plants, but just make sure that they do not require a lot of irrigation. Local garden centers and horticulture clubs will be the best way to find out more.

You should also try and include edible plants into your garden, which doesn’t really mean creating a vegetable patch. There are many herbs that have beautiful flowers and that can be easily integrated into the general layout.

Similar to your plants, you should choose trees that will be suitable to the weather and general climate conditions. You will need to weigh up between slow and fast growing trees. If you have a bear backyard, then you may want to plant some fast growers, but be aware that in years to come this may require more maintenance. Also take into careful consideration where you position your trees relative to how big they grow. Planting an oak tree close to your house may seem fine now, but in 30 or 40 years’ time the branches could pose a hazard to your home.

Lawn care is what will take up most of your time, which is why you should chose a grass type that will grow slowly and require as little as possible irrigation. This will reduce the amount of energy you use to mow the lawn, and reduce your water usage. You should also consider installing rain water storage tanks, which in the long run will save you a ton of money.

Composting is a great way to dispose of any organic waste from your garden and household. The great thing is that you will get fantastic compost that will fertilize your plants as well. It really is a very simple solution that costs practically nothing and will prove huge benefits to your landscaping.

Living in Orange County means that pools are very common and I fully understand that people want these factored into their designs. For many years the general belief was that pools are very ecologically unfriendly, but there are ways to make better use of modern and energy efficient technology. I certainly love going for a swim on a hot day after may hours of hard labor.

Layout is something where there is no right or wrong answer. If you can afford to get a professional to make a design for you, then you should go for it. Just give them a list of things you have as priorities and they will be able to come up with an efficient way to locate your plants. This should take into account the seasonality of different plants. You don’t want all your flowers blooming at the same time in spring, and then be left with a pretty barren looking garden later in the summer.

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Eco Friendly Weed Control And Fertilization

There are not many places in the state that have soil conditions that are good enough to require little to no fertilization for average backyard. And weeds are practically impossible to keep out and control without some form weed killers. But you do not have to resort to chemicals that can be harmful to people, vegetation and animals. In this post I want to highlight some alternative solutions that do not have the same characteristics as the common stuff you find in DIY stores.

Nemo / Pixabay

Nemo / Pixabay

You do have to be careful about buying just anything that claims to be organic, and you certainly have to look into what it actually contains. I have seen many organic fertilizers that sourced from phosphate rock which is mined in a very unsustainable way. That is something you definitely want to avoid.

Some of the stuff I recommend is crushed corn or alfalfa meal, dependent on what is easiest and cheapest to source. It is 100% natural and extremely effective at fertilizing lawns, while at the same time reducing growth of weeds. If you live in a rural setting and you have some chicken farms near you, then you should check if the farmer is willing to part with some of the droppings. These are great to mix in with compost when you are doing your planting.

If you have a wood stove then you should definitely be storing the wood ash, as this is a great source of nutrients. You can simply sprinkle it on a lawn or mix it in with compost. You should also not collect the cut grass. This is very difficult to put through a composter and will break down a lot quicker when spread out over large areas.

As for getting rid of weeds, things get a lot more difficult. For your lawn you should first try and make the grass as healthy and thick as possible, as this will shade out weeds and stop them from thriving. If you have a small yard, then the best thing you can do is pick out weeds as you see them pop up. Boiling water is also a good solution but be careful to avoid other plants. Salt and vinegar are also very effective against weeds, but again need to be carefully applied. I use salt several times a year on my driveway as it really takes care of weeds that grow in awkward gaps and crevices.

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Benefits of Ecological Landscaping

For many years I had friends and clients ask me why I was so focused on ecological landscaping. Most people dismissed it as some hippy idea and imagined that I simply had a weed overgrown wilderness in my backyard. That all changes though when I show them some of the projects I have worked on and they see how many benefits there are to their homes, health and wellbeing.

revitalas / Pixabay

revitalas / Pixabay

The first thing I always try to plan for is to achieve an environment that requires as little maintenance as possible. The reason for this is that the more you have to work on a garden, the more energy you will consume for some of the machinery you will need. And let’s face it, none of us are too keen on doing all the work by hand, especially not the lawn care. Whether you use gas or electrically powered machinery, you will be increasing your CO2 output and that is something at the top of our agenda to avoid.

As most of my clients are based in the Orange County, CA area it is not surprise that water usage is a big issue. Hot and dry summers are very common here and this generally means that we use an awful lot of water to irrigate or lawns and plants. There are two solutions to this that I would generally recommend. First of all you can choose a lawn type and trees and plants that require very little water. No, I don’t plant tumble weed and cacti; there are so many very beautiful and very native plants.

The other option that I recommend to clients that have their minds set on certain plants is to install a rain water harvesting system. Generally this involves burying a large water tank near the house and then having the rainwater runoff from the roof funnel into it. As this water is only used for irrigation it can be stored for quite a long time, so you can build up reserves in the wetter months in preparation for the summer.

I also like to create a mini habitat for birds and other animals. By choosing certain types of trees you can make sure that there is a higher chance of certain types of birds nesting there. You can also install bird nest boxes that will attract and protect birds from household pets and other predators. A small pond can also attract birds and animals and it is one of the highlights of my own yard. I love spending summer evenings watching birds and squirrels around my pond for a refreshment.

Bluesnap / Pixabay

Bluesnap / Pixabay

Low maintenance lawn is also a top item on my list as slow growth means you will mow it a lot less. So many people do not realize this is an option and they are amazed by how much less time is involved in the maintenance. I also have great advice for pools and how you can make their upkeep a lot easier and much more efficient. I will probably post about this very soon, as it is something I can write quite a bit about.

As you can see, there is no reason at all why your yard cannot be ecologically friendly in design and not be beautiful and functional at the same time. Just a little bit of planning will go a long way towards creating a beautiful environment for your family to enjoy.

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