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Information for Renters

76 Expert Q&A


A. Lighting facades and landscapes adds beauty and attracts attention. Since these types of lighting fixtures are typically hidden from view, it makes sense to choose less expensive—yet sturdy—fixtures. For maintenance purposes, mount the fixtures so they can be accessed easily. And angling the light upward will reduce glare and bring out the textures of your home and landscape elements. Where possible, invest in energy-efficient outdoor lighting and fixtures.


A. Yes. Ceiling fans move air across the surface of the skin, thereby making people feel up to six degrees cooler. Increase your thermostat’s setting by two degrees and use your fan to lower energy costs by up to 8% over the course of the air conditioning season. While operating, losses from the motor actually heat the space in which they run; therefore, they should only be on when someone is there to appreciate their cooling effect. When no one is in the room, keep ceiling fans off. Ceiling fans are usually mounted at the center of the room where the light fixture would normally go. For this reason, they often contain their own lighting fixture just below the fan blades. It is important to keep lighting below the blades because lights above them will appear to flicker psychedelically when the fan operates. If you own or purchase a fan with a lighting fixture, optimize its efficiency by using ENERGY STAR®-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They consume three-quarters less electricity, generate 75%* less heat and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent lighting.


* Source: ENERGY STAR®


A. While surge protectors won’t prevent lightning from striking your house, they will protect your appliances and home electronics from being damaged by momentary electrical spikes and surges.

Q.How does an electric furnace work?

Posted on August 2012

A. First, a thermostat calls for heat which signals the heating system to activate. In an electric furnace, this starts the flow of electricity to the heating elements. Unlike gas, oil and other fuel-based systems, electric furnaces have no combustion by-products and therefore require no chimneys or vents. The same air that passes over the heating elements moves directly into the home.

When the temperature of the air that has just passed through the heat exchanger reaches a pre-set temperature, usually between 90 and 120°F, a thermostat in what is called the plenum activates the blower fan. The blower fan draws air across the heat exchanger warming it and distributing the warmed air to the home.

When the room thermostat is satisfied, it deactivates the heat source shutting off the electricity to the heating elements. The furnace blower will continue to operate until the air temperature in the plenum drops to the fan switch-off setting. The furnace will remain off until the room thermostat once again calls for heat.

Ductwork carries the air heated in the plenum to the room vents. Cold air return vents are usually near the bottom of interior walls to provide more uniform temperatures. They should be as far from the supply vents as possible.

Q.What is “Indoor Air Quality”?

Posted on August 2012

A. Amid growing concern about the quality of the outdoor air we breathe, many homeowners have become concerned about the quality of the air in their homes. The 1970′s alarm about formaldehyde escaping into homes insulated with urea formaldehyde, combined with the 1980′s radon gas scare, have made people wonder what they are breathing in their homes. The contaminants of greatest concern are formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in building materials and consumer products, combustion products from fuel-burning appliances, microscopic organisms and radon. Indoor air pollution can come from building materials, consumer products, pets, pollen, indoor plants, smoking, and, in the case of radon, from the ground.

Experts advise three steps in improving indoor air quality:
1. Reduce the source of potentially harmful chemicals by careful selection of building materials, furnishings and cautious use of household products. Keep in mind that everything you spray or use in the home eventually becomes part of the indoor atmosphere.
2. Seal the source to prevent the release of chemicals into the air. For instance, seal foundation cracks and block off passages through which by-products of combustion could enter the home.
3. Ventilate using an effective mechanical ventilator like an air-to-air heat exchanger. Electronic filters that attach to the furnace are also available. They remove particles from the air before it is circulated to the home.

Q.What is infiltration?

Posted on August 2012

A. Infiltration is uncontrolled air leakage. It is one of the largest and most preventable energy wastes in the home. Infiltration results from a pressure difference forcing air through cracks, holes, and crevices in the home. The pressure difference results from temperature differences between the indoor and outdoor environment, and wind blowing against the side of the home producing a higher pressure than that within the home. Since warm air rises to the top of the home by convection and then leaks out of cracks in the upper walls and roof, it creates a lower pressure in the bottom of the home than outside (causing air to leak in). Another pressure difference is created in the home’s (HVAC) heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.

Infiltration typically occurs around doors and windows, points where dissimilar materials are joined and penetrations through walls, ceilings, and floors for electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures. Another significant source of air leakage is through the home’s ductwork.

The best way to begin reducing air infiltration is by knowing where it may be occurring. Studies show that leakage in a typical house mostly occurs through the sills, walls and ceilings. The second largest offender is the windows, closely followed by the home’s (HVAC) heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Openings for pipes, doors, vents and wall outlets complete the air leakage pie. Homes with fireplaces look a little different because 14% of their air leakage is related to the fireplace, which slightly reduces the percentage lost from the other areas.


76 Expert Q&A