Increase Energy with These 10 Habits

In a Slump? Missing That Get-up-and Go? Turn It around with These Behavior Changes

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Sponge Bob rarin' to go
Sponge Bob rarin’ to go
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We all have times when we feel that our batteries are less than fully-charged. In the dumps. Only firing on four pistons. The mayor of blahville. Whatever you call it, it can be an occasional or chronic disorder. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of people reporting both an elevated feeling of loneliness1 and the lack of energy.

The INDEPENDENT says, “The way in which our lives have transformed in such a short space of time has heavily impacted our daily routines, as many individuals no longer have to wake up at a certain time in order to be punctual for school or work. This has seemingly resulted in an increasing number of people experiencing “grogginess” amid the coronavirus pandemic2.

In a large part, your habits define your energy levels. If you have good habits, you’ll feel energized and be more resistant to burn out, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, if your habits are not lined up properly, you easily fall into a repetitive cycle where you feel worse and worse, until it’s a struggle just to keep up. Let’s look at 10 habits designed to increase your floundering energy levels.

  • Go to Bed Early. Ben Franklin famously said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” It was true then and it’s true now. Regardless of what some night-owls might tell you, seven to eight hours of snooze-time are the gold standard if you’re going to stay cognitively sharp in the long-run. Sleep deprivation is cumulative. WebMD says, “The amount of sleep a person needs goes up if they’ve missed sleep in previous days. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have a “sleep debt,” which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand that you start to repay the debt.”3 All sleep is not created equal though. You should aim to get as “deep” sleep as possible. How do you know? I use my Garmin 235 GPS sports watch. See the screenshot from the Garmin Connect site below.
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
Garmin 235 GPS sports watch sleep analysis screenshot
  • Work Out at Least Six Days a Week. Working out, like weight loss/maintenance, is is a long-term investment in your energy levels. There is no finish line. It’s easy to slack off in the short-term, but over the long haul you’ll not only be less productive daily but you’ll reduce your overall fitness level, making it harder to think straight and stay alert throughout the day. Furthermore, recent research shows that aerobic exercise improves memory and grows brain cells.4 The reason for six days of activity rather than seven is to give your body a time for rest.
  • Nap Daily. Afternoon naps are not just for kids. Why do we forget that when we turn into “big people?” A twenty-minute nap in the afternoon after lunch is just the thing to top off your energy fuel tank for the afternoon to come. A siesta, if you will. As a special treat, come back with a good cup of strong coffee.
  • Plan Tomorrow’s Schedule of Accomplishments. Don’t make your first morning’s activity planning. It’s counter-productive. If you write down a schedule on the prior afternoon, in the morning you can hit the road running. Start with energy, work on your checklist, and keep up the momentum. Will you get it all done? No; not if you’ve given yourself enough work. Prioritize and do what you can. When it’s time to pull down the shutters and you’ve made the next day’s schedule, put it behind you and relax.
  • Set Long-Term Goals. Why long-term goals? Because they are made up of the sum of a line-up of short-term goals. If you focus on the the energy needed for the short-term goals, the long term ones will take care of themselves.
  • Pay Close Attention to Your Diet. Our primary source of physical energy is the food we eat. So, if you are aiming to keep your energy levels up, you should eat healthfully and organically and try to integrate the most nutritious foods into your diet. The energy that you derive from food is measured in calories. MedicalNewsToday says, “If we don’t consume enough calories our bodies may feel tired, as they don’t have enough ‘fuel’ to run on. At the same time, however, if we get too many calories, there’s a system overload, and we may end up feeling sluggish.”5
  • Indulge Yourself in Some Put Yoga, Meditation. Practicing yoga and meditation will also boost your energy levels. Why? Because these practices focus on techniques like mindful breathing that promote a state of calm which in itself is regenerative. It follows that if if your fatigue is due, at least partially, to elevated stress levels, making time for yoga or meditation as a routine self-care approach will make you more resistant to stressors.


  • Learn to Delegate Tasks. You probably feel stifled by your day-to-day responsibilities — from the small daily chores like as doing the dishes, to the less mundane like an important work project that comes with many ramifications. But if you fail to find a comprehensive strategy to redistribute some of your overwhelming responsibilities, at least from time to time, it will likely result in creeping burnout and a constant sense of fatigue in your day-to-day life. This is not at all conducive to your productivity, happiness, and energy level.
  • Do Your Hardest, Most taxing Work in the Morning. The benefits to your energy here are primarily psychological. Your energy level tends to depend a lot on your mood. If you’ve got some important work to do, your mood is likely to be good which fosters productivity. If your are forced to tolerate wasted time on playing email tag, drawn-out meetings, calls, or fail to produce something of substance, you will be frustrated and exhausted as you enter the second half of your work day.
  • Read Better Books! One of the greatest benefits of reading books isn’t just to impart to you new ideas and information. Consider that it’s to reinforce a state of mind that often occurs at your subconscious level. The best books to indulge in aren’t necessarily those that teach you facts, but those that subtly change your entire thinking patterns.

Adopting these 10 habits will increase your energy level right away and raise it to its full potential as time goes on. It will take constant reinforcement, but what worthwhile endeavour doesn’t?

References

  1. Kelly R. Smith, Loneliness as an Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/12/loneliness-as-an-effect-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  2. Sabrina Barr, THE INDEPENDENT, Coronavirus: Why do people seem to feel groggy and tired during lockdown?, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/coronavirus-lockdown-tired-sleepy-fatigue-daylight-routine-a9450196.html
  3. WebMD, How Much Sleep Do I Need?, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-requirements
  4. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Running Improves Memory, Grows Brain Cells, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/11/14/running-improves-memory-grows-brain-cells/
  5. Medical News Today, How can you boost your energy levels?, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321938

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Geothermal Energy as the Next Alternative to Oil and Gas

by Kelly R. Smith

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How geothermal energy is produced
How geothermal energy is produced

Geothermal energy is nothing new; it’s been around for decades. During the 1890s, the city of Boise, Idaho accessed a naturally occurring reservoir of geothermal heat close to the earth’s surface and created the US’s first district heating system. This is where one central source of heat feeds into multiple commercial and residential buildings. It’s still in use.

This type of energy production is far more intensive than ground-source heat pumps, which take advantage of steady shallow-earth temperatures to heat buildings or groups of buildings. This type is most likely to be found in single-residence or multi-residence abodes.

Why Geothermal Now?

So why is this alternative energy coming into the limelight just now? I makes sense for a society that wants sustainable energy but is frustrated by other technologies that have been tried.

  • Solar energy. It only works when the sun shines. Solar panel farms take up a lot of real estate. When they get dirty/dusty (as out in the wide, open spaces), water must be trucked out in hydrocarbon-fueled trucks to spray them down. Forms of storage media like batteries save captured energy for when it’s needed, but this is expensive. They require rare earth minerals such as Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS)1.
  • Wind power. It’s noisy. It threatens wildlife; gold eagles and tailed hawks notably have a propensity to fly into the blades. Studies show that approximately 45,000 birds have fallen victim over the last 20 years due to these wind turbines. They are inefficient; the functional part of the turbines are only able to extract about 59% of the wind’s power. Not much ROI. Installation is expensive; just one can be as much as $2 million or more, and that is before maintenance begins2.

Geothermal carries none of these burdens but it is just as plentiful as sun and wind. Vox.com says, “The heat is continuously replenished by the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements, at a flow rate of roughly 30 terawatts, almost double all human energy consumption. That process is expected to continue for billions of years.3” What’s not to love?

Vikram (Vik) Rao is the former Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Halliburton and is now the Executive Director of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium. He says, “Deep very hot geothermal development looks approachable. Suddenly we are talking about building on a new technology base to exploit heat reservoirs rather than fluid. What this all means is that geothermal is no longer a niche play. It’s scalable, potentially in a highly material way. Scalability gets the attention of the industry. Scalability is required for industry to pursue the opportunity profitably.”4

The Four Fundamental Types of Geothermal Energy Tech

One of the great things about geothermal is that any level of heat can be used directly; there need not be any waste. For example, it can operate pond fisheries or all-season greenhouses, to dry cement, or to make hydrogen. Taking it a step further, we can convert this hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

  • Conventional Hydrothermal Resources. In some areas on earth, water or steam heated by the earth’s core rises up through somewhat permeable rock formations that are full of fissures and fractures, only to become trapped under a solid caprock. These mammoth reservoirs of pressurized hot water usually betray themselves on the surface through fumaroles (holes in or near a volcano, from which vapor rises) or hot springs. Here, a well is drilled. The hot water rises and can be just over ambient temperature up to 370°C. The heat is extracted from it, the fluids are cooled, and then returned to the field by way of an injection well. This maintains pressure.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The limitation of conventional geothermal systems is that they are limited to specific locales where heat, water, and porosity join together just so. Those areas are limited. The way to broaden that scope is to drill down into solid rock, inject water at very high pressure through one well, fracture the rock to give the water a passageway, and then collect the heated water through another well.
  • Super-Hot-Rock Geothermal. The goal here is to tap into extremely deep, extremely hot, rock. The water here exceeds 373°C and 220 bars of pressure, it is called “supercritical,” a new phase that is neither liquid nor gas. It holds anywhere from 4 to 10 times more energy per unit mass than water or steam. It is possible to get more power out of three wells on a 400°C project than out of 42 EGS wells at 200°C. All this efficiency using less fluid and a fraction of the physical footprint. Win-win. Economics shows that that the hotter a geothermal gets, the more competitive its power price becomes, so that super-hot EGS could be the cheapest baseload energy available.
  • Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS). This is an exciting new generation of “closed loop” systems. No fluids are introduced to or removed from the earth; no fracking is involved. Fluids circulate underground in sealed pipes and boreholes where they absorb heat by conduction and direct it it to the surface, where it can be used for a custom mix of heat and electricity.


It seems logical that geothermal energy could well be the next alternative to oil and gas, at least from a technical point of view. The political realm is another story altogether. Environmentalists and radical democratic socialists like AOC and her squad will surely find something to protest against.

References

  1. The Earth Project, Solar Farms Pros and Cons: 7 Facts We Can’t Deny, https://theearthproject.com/solar-farms-pros-and-cons/
  2. Udemy, 10 Disadvantages of Wind Energy: Not as Clean as You Thought, https://blog.udemy.com/disadvantages-of-wind-energy/
  3. Vox, David Roberts, Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/10/21/21515461/renewable-energy-geothermal-egs-ags-supercritical
  4. The Heat Beat, ‘I Hated Geothermal. Then I Realized it is Now Scalable’ – An Interview with Vik Rao, https://www.heatbeat.energy/post/i-hated-geothermal-then-i-realized-it-is-now-scalable-an-interview-with-vik-rao

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Cooling Paint Could Cut Emissions From Buildings

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Via Scheduled Building Maintenance

by Kelly R. Smith

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Commercial building with a painted exterior
Commercial building with a painted exterior

The World Green Building Council tells us that combined, buildings and construction account for, “39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.”1 In a previous post, I discussed how HVAC units2 (heating and cooling) systems are responsible for the lion’s share of this and a proposal to capture that carbon dioxide to generate hydrocarbons. This article discusses using paint to minimize CO2 in the first place.

The Quest: Finding an Effective Paint

Researchers have been attempting to come up with products to raise the efficiency of cooling and heating for years. Many types of reflective paint have been developed for the exteriors of both homes and office buildings that would reflect away sunlight resulting in a reduction the temperatures on the interior.

Up to this point, none of these reflective paint products have been successful in deflecting enough of the Sun’s rays that would result in the building’s temperature lower than the ambient conditions. That may be changing.

Researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana says, “In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature. This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings.”

The Tech Behind the Paint

The researchers found that the key is adding calcium carbonate. By utilizing a high concentration of this chalky substance, differing the particle sizes, they developed a paint that reflected an astounding 95.5% of sunlight.

Prof Xiulin Ruan said, “Sunlight is a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. We know that each particle size can only scatter one wavelength effectively so we decided to use different particle sizes to scatter all the wavelengths. This is an important contributor eventually resulting in this very high reflectance.”

The paint may have a broad range of applications, in particular data centers, which require large amounts of cooling power. Because this particular paint doesn’t contain metal, it is not likely to interfere with various electromagnetic signals. This makes it ideal for cooling telecommunications equipment.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be a number of steps to go complete before this product can be put on the market, because like any other product, it needs to be tested for its reliability and efficiency in the long term. The researchers remain optimistic; they have already filed patents and there is already a strong interest from major manufacturers. Cooling paint that can cut emissions from buildings of all types will lower costs across the board.

References

  1. World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/29/can-climate-change-be-minimized-using-air-conditioners/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Your Stove: Gas for Efficiency or Electric for Better Air Quality?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Cooking dinner on a gas stove range
Cooking dinner on a gas stove range

Does your home have a gas stove for energy-efficiency or an electric one for better air quality? If you have a gas line to your home you’ve got a choice but if you don’t, you are locked into the electrical stove version — unless you want to pay to have a natural gas line installed. Each type of appliance has its pros and cons.

The Pros of Natural Gas vs. Electricity

The primary benefit of natural gas appliances, and stoves/ranges in particular is that they are more energy-efficient (on an operating cost basis). Why? Simply put, it takes gas, or some other fuel source, to generate electricity. That is an extra production step. On the other hand, electrical power is much better for your health, especially if you are prone to asthma issues.

Natural Gas Contributes to Indoor Air Pollution

Burning gas to cook food on any stove produces particulate pollutants, the worst of which is nitrogen dioxide, or NO2,, and sometimes also carbon monoxide. You know what they say about closed garages with the car engine running.

This is why the air around your stove or any other gas-fueled appliance such as a water heater or downflow gas furnace should be vented to the outdoors. Even brief exposure to air containing elevated concentrations of NO can result in coughing and wheezing for people with asthma or other respiratory issues. Prolonged exposure to this gas can result in the development of those conditions, according to the EPA1 who says, “NO2 along with other NOx reacts with other chemicals in the air to form both particulate matter and ozone. Both of these are also harmful when inhaled due to effects on the respiratory system.”


How to Protect Yourself and Your Family from Gas Appliances


References

  1. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Pollution, https://www.epa.gov/no2-pollution/basic-information-about-no2

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

ACI 80W LED Garage Light, 3 Adjustable Wings: A Product Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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ACI 80W LED garage light with 3 adjustable wings
ACI 80W LED garage light with 3 adjustable wings

This article was updated on 10/08/20.

Effective lighting in the garage has always been an issue for me. The garage is not only home to the washer and dryer, but it is also my woodshop. I saw one of these 3-wing LED lights advertised on the news one morning and thought I’d check on Amazon Prime (if you’ve got the Prime, use it). Sure enough, I got a better deal.

I should mention in passing that that soffit vent I installed that you see on the left hand side of the image above is something that most homeowners don’t think of doing. The garage can get very hot (and in my case, humid). So these vents, in conjunction with the ones I installed on the outside of my garage doors, help to circulate the air when the roof ridge vents draw. This is especially important when you are running a clothes dryer. Just a tip for you.

Features of this Garage Light

  • Screws into a regular light socket: Easy install in minutes, just have the switch off when you screw it in because this light is bright.
  • Adjustable design: The 3 aluminum adjustable LED panels incorporating LED garage ceiling lights can be folded up to a 90 degree angle Point them where they are most effective.
  • Very bright: The 80W, 8000 lumen 6000K white light bulbs really perform wherever they are directed.

Conclusion

I have been using this light fixture for a month now and have no complaints. My work in the shop is much easier than when I was using the fluorescent tube fixtures. And added benefit with this ACI 80W LED garage light fixture is that I was able to eliminate the multi-plug adapter. I recommend this product.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?

by Kelly R. Smith

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Air conditioner farm on a rooftop
Air conditioner farm on a rooftop

This article was edited on 10/21/20.

What a question; it’s the proverbial killing of two birds with one stone. On the one hand, we could enjoy all the interior comfort we want and on the other hand, we could save the planet. Of course that would mean Al Gore would experience a loss of income as the Reigning King of climate change.

The Concept Of Generating Liquid Hydrocarbon Fuel From Air

Roland Dittmeyer, a chemical engineer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany posited this theory, recognizing that HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) move a huge quantity of air. Consider this — they can recycle the entire air volume in an office building 5 or 10 times each hour (when the system is properly configured and maintained). Besides obviously cooling the air, the system also removes carbon dioxide and humidity from the air. It’s the carbon dioxide, the reputed villain of climate change, that we are concerned with from the global warming point of view.

The moisture is important as well. When both of these things are captured, the idea is to convert them first into hydrogen, and then perform a multi-step chemical process to convert the hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Dittmeter’s team calls this, “Personalized, localized and distributed, synthetic oil wells” in buildings or neighborhoods.

Although the science is promising, the team’s tone strikes me as somewhat utopian and Marxist as they go on to say this will enable people, “to take control and collectively manage global warming and climate change, rather than depending on the fossil power industrial behemoths.” That sounds like Bolshevik Bernie or AOC.

Problems With A/C to Hydrocarbon Models

  • The cost. A chemical engineer at Worcester Institute of Technology, Jennifer Wilcox, says, “The dominant capital cost is the solid adsorbent materials.” These are substances which carbon dioxide adheres to. In addition to the capital cost (equipment purchases), the primary energy cost is the heat necessary to recover the carbon dioxide from these materials post-capture.
  • The process is dangerous. Carbon monoxide and hydrogen are toxic and explosive. It could potentially be like docking the Hindenburg on the roof. Producing and holding quantities of the resulting petrochemicals in business and/or residential areas poses its own problems. There is a reason why petroleum and natural gas is stored in tank farms behind fences.

Is this promising technology? Certainly. But presently, it’s in the pie-in-the-sky development phase. The problems listed above will have to be solved before the process of using air conditioners to minimize climate change is feasible. In the meantime, we should keep forging away with new technology.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

10 Popular Home Renovation Trends in 2020

by Kelly R. Smith

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Home floor and walls renovations.
Home floor and walls renovations

Remodeling, whether done for contemporary style, preparation for sale, or just general repairs continues as usual. The most popular home renovation trends vary from year to year depending on a number of factors. Renovation budgets are always high on the list. Going green not only lowers your bills but helps the environment. Other factors can influence decisions but let’s look at how 2020 is shaping up thus far.

  • Floors, ceilings, and walls. Traditionally, these surfaces get a lot of attention and 2020 is no exception. The Joint Center for Housing For Housing Studies says homeowners average $3,282 per year on these surfaces.
  • Prioritizing on saving money. This trend is not specifically tied to aesthetics. Rather, it is focused on frugality. Migrating to lower operating-cost lighting like LED bulbs, for one. Beefing up attic insulation and adding radiant barrier foil may not boost curb appeal, but oh, what a difference when the power bills come due each and every month.
  • Slapping on another coat of paint. This is always one of the most popular weekend DIY projects. The cost of paint is reasonable and the outlay of cash for tools is minimal. You can even employ paint illusions to make a room look larger.
  • Be a DIY weekend warrior. This is the best way to stretch your budget. Plus, who doesn’t love that sense of pride? DIY varies in the level of difficulty but with the help of sites like this one, I Can Fix Up My Home, you might be surprised at what you can accomplish. The Senior Director of Customer Insights at Lowe’s, Amy Anthony, says, “Seventy-four percent [of consumers] do research to get as much information as possible before making a purchase.”
  • Preparing for climate change. Whether you are an ardent believer in global warming (now called climate change) or believe Al Gore is just out to make a buck preaching about it, there’s no doubt that the preparation steps saves money. So, weatherstrip, caulk, upgrade your windows; all changes are cumulative.
  • Home sanitation and wellness is moving up. This is understandable and goes hand in hand with many other home improvements because the topic of off-gassing is more well-known that ever. Forbes.com puts it this way, “Wellness-focused changes can include paint, flooring or cabinetry with non-toxic materials, touchless faucets that reduce germ spread, circadian lighting that improves sleep, water and air purification systems, bidet style toilets for enhanced hygiene, and many others.”
  • Focus on lower budgets, bigger consequences. Smaller projects encompassing a big wow factor are becoming more popular and are expected to continue. For example, instead of gutting the bathroom and re-doing it, why not have your tub re-finished, update all faucets, put in a new recessed medicine cabinet, and re-paint?
  • Smaller brand names are becoming more competitive by adding luxury features. Kitchen cabinets are a good example of this. After Hurricane Harvey, when our home flooded, one of the things we needed to replace were our cabinets and countertops. Home Depot gave us a lot of modular options with freebies like self-closing doors and stainless steel sinks thrown in.
  • Home automation is going mainline. Once the purview of science fiction novels, it’s coming at us fast and furious now. I recently installed a Ring Doorbell. It not only responds when someone rings it, but also when someone just approaches it.
  • More services are becoming negotiable. When emergency repairs are called for instead of long thought out projects, it would seem that the repair person has you over the barrel. Not always the case. Since our economy has shifted to being service-based (some hands-on crafts still can’t be outsourced to China), the competition for your business has become fiercer. Good news for the homeowner.

These 10 popular home renovation trends for 2020 are likely to continue as the COVID-19 lock-down continues. It’s just the new-new. Many employers are not only accepting work-from-home staff, but embracing it. It saves on the overhead. And I might say, as a writer I am used to working from home but it has been really nice having my wife working from home rather than in her downtown high-rise office.

References:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Beat the Heat this Summer and Cold this Winter with Radiant Barrier

by Kelly R. Smith

Radiant barrier staple-up foil and loose fill insulation
Radiant barrier staple-up foil and loose fill insulation
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This article was updated on 12/14/20.

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The cost to air-condition you home in the summer and heat your home in the winter is absolutely insane, even if you have your HVAC sized perfectly. But what can you do? For one thing, you can install a spray-on and/or aluminum foil radiant barrier.

These are the two major distinct heat-reduction methods on the market today. And they really work. NASA uses it, as do other commercial and residential properties. And, although it is touted for summer savings, it works in the winter as well. Think of a thermos bottle. It doesn’t care if the contents are hot or cold; it just does a splendid job of insulating.

Which is Best: Spray or Foil?

This is really up to you; it really depends on your situation. But, and this is a huge but, spray-on is more versatile. It’s simply a powder mixed with paint so you can use any color latex paint you want and roll it or spray it on your walls, interior or exterior but white is recommended.

When I sprayed my attic, I used the bottom inch or two in the bucket that my Graco airless paint sprayer didn’t pick up to roll on my garage walls. And what a difference that has made! The garage is my woodworking shop and it is now much more comfortable.

How Much does Radiant Barrier Cost?

Uhmm, that’s a good question. There is no denying it; it can be expensive. When I did my home (about 12 years ago) it was $0.50 USD per square foot for foil and about $40.00 USD per gallon for the pre-mixed spray-on product. I did the labor myself. You think that’s bad? Check out your last electricity bill. Multiply it by 12. It’s all relative in the grand scheme of things.

How Does this Insulation Technology Work?

The spray-on method generally combines microscopic porcelain beads with aluminum flakes which are mixed into a latex paint base to reflect the heat. The foil is typically an aluminum product with tiny perforations to allow the material to breathe. The 2-ply versions are recommended because that provides a “dead” area that insulates much like fiberglass batt insulation does.

Common Questions About Radiant Barriers

Is it too expensive? No! This is one of the cheapest things you can do to lower the burden on your central air conditioner over the long term. Of course the initial cost may seem steep, but after it pays for itself you keep saving. Smart investment. I installed mine over ten years ago and our electric bill has been about 35% lower since then. You can’t control the rates but you can control consumption.

Is it hard to install? No! If you go with the foil, you basically need a tape measure, a utility knife, and a stapler. If you use the spray you will need to buy or rent a paint sprayer with the proper size spray tip. The only hard part is getting in tight spots. So, as I found out, patience is required, especially if you don’t have a helper available.

Are there any precautions? Yes. If you use spray-on, you must use a high quality respirator (not a COVID-19 type dust mask) when spraying or boxing the paint and powder, as well as when you spray. You don’t want to inhale any of that.

When is the best time to install it? Generally speaking, I recommend spring or fall. Attics get too hot in the summer months, at least here in South Texas. For example, I installed ours in March and it was already hot. Winter is good but I prefer not to do this kind of work with work gloves.

Concerns about Cell Phone Reception

Radiant barrier foil and spray for double-effectiveness
Radiant barrier foil and spray for double-effectiveness

Well, this is everybody’s favorite question in our hooked-up and connected world. This question is still way out there as far as the responses go. From my spray radiant barrier experience, I can say that there was little or no change.

But, as far as the foil staple-up barrier is concerned (which I did not do in my home), I’ve found that the yes/no response from others is about equal. Logic dictates that it would make a difference from cell interception arriving vertically, but horizontally? Who knows? In any event, I know people that use cell phone signal boosters with great results.

When I added the foil to the attic floor over the rafters and the fiberglass batt insulation I did notice some cell reception degradation. But then I upgraded my cable modem/WiFi and the signal was perhaps better than it ever was.

So is radiant barrier insulation right for your home? From my experience I would say yes, absolutely. It lowers utility bills in the fiercest summer heat and the most shivering of winter weather. It will pay for itself over time if you are there for the long term and if you put your home on the market it’s a great selling point. Win-win.



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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

2020 National Electrical Code Changes

National Electrical Code
National Electrical Code
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The National Electrical Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, is a regionally adoptable standard for the safest installation of electrical wiring and equipment, only in the United States, although of course other countries can follow it if they wish. The NEC is a part of the National Fire Code series published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which is a private trade association. Despite the use of the term “national”, it is not a federal law. It can be adopted as is by any state or municipality or adapted.

The 2020 version of the National Electric Code includes requirement updates in the following four significant areas: firemen’s disconnect, solar power, surge protection, and GFCI protection . To ensure providing the best, safest work possible, become familiar with the official NEC codes mandated by your state. Whether you are a professional or a DIY project person, a knowledge of electrical safety requirements is important.

Emergency Disconnects

  • Must function from outside dwellings
  • Applies to generators and energy storage systems (ESS)
  • Required for all single- and two-family dwellings
  • Must be readily accessible
  • Generators must be marked with one of the following: EMERGENCY DISCONNECT, METER DISCONNECT, NOT SERVICE EQUIPMENT, EMERGENCY DISCONNECT, SERVICE DISCONNECT, or EMERGENCY DISCONNECT, NOT SERVICE EQUIPMENT

Surge Protection

  • Must be part of service equipment or adjacent to it
  • New article (242) includes service lines to dwelling units
  • May be located at each level of downstream distribution as needed
  • As of 2020 applies to: replacements and service upgrades and line side and load side services 

Solar (Applies to California)

  • Solar panels on new construction (California requires solar photovoltaic systems for newly constructed healthcare facilities starting January 1, 2020)
  • Outdoor disconnect required for all energy storage units

Articles Removed from NEC 2017

  • Article 553 Floating Building
  • Article 285 SPDs 1,000V or less
  • Article 280 SPDs over 1,000V
  • Article 328 MV Cable Type MV

New Articles Added

  • Article 800 General Requirements for Communication Systems: consolidates the previous contents of 2017 NEC chapter 8 into one articles and addresses requirements for communication circuits, to include television and radio distribution antennae as well as network powered broadband systems.
  • Article 242 Overvoltage Protection: combines the two articles 280 and 285 and addresses surge protective requirements, devices and arresters.
  • Article 337 Type P Cable: covers 600V Type P cables that are used in industrial and hazardous areas and specifications.
  • Article 311 MV Connectors and Cable: Expands on the deleted article 328 and goes on to address medium voltage conductors and cables, their use, and their specifications.

Look for Updates Every 3 Years

The National Fire Protection Agency continues to publish official updates to the NEC every three years. These updates have run like clockwork since 1897, when the code was first introduced. 2020 NEC is the end result of more than 5,000 public inputs and comments, 18 panels, the annual NFPA meeting, and more than 2,000 revisions. Get ahead of the curve by learning about the 2020 National Electrical Code changes.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Tankless Water Heater Maintenance Tips

Routine Appliance Care Saves Money and Extends Service Life

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Typical tankless water heater anatomy
Typical tankless water heater anatomy
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This article was updated on 04/15/21.

Ads we feature have been independently selected and reviewed. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission, which helps support the site. Thank you for your support.

Tankless water heaters have long been a staple in Europe and Asia and are becoming more common in the US. There are many good reasons for this; the primary one is economic. Unlike a typical tank water heater, it only delivers hot water upon demand. Why store it in a bulky tank when you don’t have to? It’s one more way to increase your home’s energy efficiency.

It’s not a complete panacea though. Like any other appliance it requires periodic maintenance to operate effectively. Here are the top tankless water heater maintenance tips that the homeowner can do; make it a periodic DIY project. These generic instructions will work for most units but be sure to check your manual for any proprietary details.

Clean the Air Filter

  • Turn off and unplug the heater or isolate power by flipping the circuit breaker.
  • Find the air filter; remove it.
  • Inspect it carefully; a dirty filter will reduce performance.
  • Clean it with a soft-bristled brush using a mild solution of dish soap and warm water.
  • Rinse it well with clean water and dry it using a lint-free towel, and reinstall.

Clean the In-Line Water Filter

  • Find the in-line water filter at the cold-water inlet.
  • Close the cold-water supply valve to turn off the water supply to the unit.
  • Remove the filter.
  • Clean the filter by tapping it to dislodge sediment, run it under clean, clear water, and wipe it with a cotton swab.
  • Reinstall the filter.
  • Reopen the cold-water supply valve.
  • Check for leaks; tighten as needed.

Flush the Heater

  • Close the shutoff valves on both the hot and cold water lines.
  • Connect a hose from the outlet of a circulation pump to the cold-water service valve. Connect a drain hose to the hot-water service valve.
  • Pour 4 gallons of undiluted food-grade white vinegar into a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place both the drain hose from the hot water service valve and the pump supply hose (connected to the pump’s inlet) into the vinegar bucket.
  • Open the service valves on the hot and cold-water lines.
  • Turn on your pump allowing the vinegar to circulate throughout the heater at a rate of 4 gallons per minute.
  • Let it run an hour and then flush the system with clean, cold water to remove the vinegar and any loose minerals. To do this step, first remove the free end of your drain hose from your bucket, and then run it either to a convenient drain or to the outside. Next, close the cold-water service valve, open the cold-water supply valve, and then let the water flow through your heater for a minimum of five minutes. Next, close the cold-water supply valve, and clean the in-line water filter at the cold-water inlet on the heater to remove any loose deposits the filter picked up during the above process. Again, clean the filter by tapping it, running it under clean water and wiping it with a cotton swab. Finally, replace the filter.
  • Close your hot-water service valve, and then open both the cold and hot-water supply valves.
  • Disconnect all of the hoses, restore power to the heater, and turn it on.

These steps for tankless water heater maintenance should help you to keep your unit running efficiently and save you money by not having to hire a contractor. If you agree, please share with your friends and social media.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.