Author Archives: Jeff Boone

Homeowner’s Guide to Upkeep and Improvements

 

home_improvements_and_spring_cleaning_checklist

Whether you are a homeowner, looking to buy a home, or an investment property owner doing your own (DIY) maintenance and repairs — this guide is for you. Repairs to a house can be costly if regular inspections and maintenance are not performed. Not only will this guide assist you with knowing what to look for when doing your own repairs on a house, it will also help you identify any issues that may need the help of a professional.

We tried to cover many of the common items that need regular maintenance checks in your home — many you can do yourself. You can save a LOT of money avoiding costly repairs through regular seasonal maintenance and home efficiency checks. At the end of our article will be a downloadable seasonal maintenance guide with a checklist that covers most of the common areas of concern after we post the outdoor checklist next week. However, every house has its own story and, if there’s an issue on your house that is not touched on, let us know and we’ll look at adding it.

Before you get started, here are some tools and supplies you may need:

Batteries – 9V

Ladder

Light Bulbs (size depends on fixtures)

Vacuum

Cleaning Supplies

Bucket

Screw Driver Set

Hammer

Filters (size depends on HVAC unit)

Work Gloves

Safety Glasses

Caulk gun

Caulk (color and type depend on what is being repaired)

Scraper

Putty Knife

Broom & Dustpan

Garden hose

SPRING HOME MAINTENANCE

Spring is that time of year when plants grow and flowers bloom, 80–degree weather is upon us and everything outside starts to come to life after a winter nap. Mother nature takes care of the new growth by sending rain and wind and, unfortunately, severe weather often comes right along with it. Stay a step ahead of the weather by protecting your home, inside and out, with regular seasonal maintenance.

INDOOR

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Having smoke detectors is one of the least expensive things you can do to protect your home and family. More importantly, correct installation and maintenance is key to the detector functioning properly during an emergency. While some smoke alarms do not have replaceable batteries, many do. It is important to replace the batteries twice a year and test the alarm monthly. For the latest information on Fire Safety & Prevention, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.

Furnace & Portable Space Heaters

A major factor in home comfort is the ability to properly heat and maintain the temperature in your home. We are experts on home efficiency and we know from experience that heating your home efficiently requires proper insulation but it only helps if the units used to heat your home are functioning properly. For comparison — for all the visual learners out there — it is the same as putting your coffee in an insulated mug versus a regular coffee cup. Which will stay warmer longer?

coffee_comparison_for_insulation

Whole house heating systems require the filter to be changed frequently. Each unit does vary depending on the frequency of use and type of filter used. Heating systems should be inspected and tuned-up by an HVAC professional once a year. Portable Space Heaters also need connections checked (electrical and gas), and filters cleaned or replaced. Follow manufacturers directions for storing the appliance for the spring.

Air Conditioners

Much like the heating system, air conditioners only work well if your home is properly insulated and air-sealed. The only thing standing between you and the outside is your home. Gaps in the doors and windows, improperly vented attics, and insufficient or inadequate insulation are all factors in maintaining a comfortable temperature and saving money on utility bills. See the Outdoor Spring Checklist for more information on your A/C unit.

Sump Pump

In Kansas, having a basement has become standard building practice for most newer homes due to the prevalence of tornadoes. A sump pump is one of the MOST important items in your household during the rainy season (besides proper drainage from gutters to keep the water away from your foundation). Sump pumps take the excess water out and away from your house and without it, the basement would flood.

Testing the sump pump should be done at least annually. Remove debris, check to see if it turns on when it fills up to the float and then check to be sure the discharge pipe is clear are some of the basics. Many people, especially those with a finished basement, opt for a second sump pump or adding a battery backup to their only one in case of a power outage. Here is a helpful link to Lowe’s website regarding how a sump pump works and the different types.

Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers

Dry sinuses, bloody noses, and cracked lips are all signs of dry indoor air. Humidity levels in the home should be kept between 30–50%. Generally, humidity levels are lower in the winter and higher in the summer. In Kansas, humidity levels can often exceed 80% outdoors.  It is recommended to have a humidistat (hygrometer) to measure the indoor levels for optimum comfort. Always follow all manufacturer instructions when storing a portable unit for the season. There are filters, hoses, reservoirs and electrical components to inspect. If your home has a whole house humidifier, an HVAC professional can service it when they come to do the annual inspection for your other heating and cooling units.

Dryer

Are your clothes taking more than one cycle to dry? There might be an issue with the dryer exhaust vent pipe or vent pipe connection hose. Regular inspection behind the dryer to check and see if the hose is still connected to the vent pipe and cleaning out lint buildup is key to maintaining a dryer and preventing fires. Use your vacuum to clean out behind, underneath, and inside the connection hose leading up to the vent pipe. This article from the American Society of Home Inspectors is a great resource for an in-depth look at dryer maintenance.

Refrigerator

From cleaning the condenser coils in the back to simply wiping down the door seals, refrigerator maintenance is a MUST. Unless you live alone, chances are someone is spilling liquids or food and not cleaning it up, shoving food to the back accidentally blocking air flow, and adjusting the temperature while you are not looking — because it’s a button after all, and fun to play with — or maybe it was the cat?

cat_looking_in_fridge

All of those will contribute to your refrigerator working harder and you losing money on costly repair or replacement when it goes out. Check out “How to Avoid Refrigerator Repairs” by The Family Handyman on the how-tos.

Hot Water Heater

Maintaining a water heater is something many homeowners can do. There will be gas or electricity involved depending on your type of heater so it is best to only maintenance it if you feel 100% comfortable working on it. You can always call a licensed plumber to perform the required maintenance for a fee.

Be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves before starting the checklist on this portion. Gas or electricity MUST be turned off before starting this inspection and maintenance. From checking the pressure relief valve to draining the hot water heater, Lowe’s has a great step-by-step guide for you to follow called “Maintain a Water Heater.” Regular maintenance will reduce the buildup and sediment and help you catch many issues before they become an emergency or expensive replacement.

Ceiling Fans

Warmer weather is on the way with springs’ arrival! Ceiling fans help circulate the air in your home, helping to create a comfortable living area for you and your family. Just a reminder — turn off your fan before attempting to clean or repair. Believe it or not, a dirty fan can not only put dust and allergens into the air you breathe, but dirty blades can cause a fan to shake and make noise. After dusting your fan and blades the next thing you will check is the screws holding on the fan, tighten any loose ones. Next, check the pull chains for any damage and replace the chains as needed — your local hardware store sells these if yours broke or if you just want to add a fancy pull to the end of your chain so you can tell which one is the light and which one is the fan.

If your fan also has a light receptacle, replace any bulbs that are blown out. Be sure to replace with only the type and wattage recommended for your unit (it should be labeled). Some fans also have a place to oil the motor. See this great wikihow guide on how to “Oil a Ceiling Fan.” Last, you will want to check the direction your fan blades spin. There will be a switch to change it from counterclockwise (for spring and summer, to bring the cool air up from the floor and circulate around the room) versus clockwise (for fall and winter, to redistribute the warm air at the ceiling level down and round the room).

Chimney

This one will be quick since regular maintenance should be performed by a professional chimney sweep to prevent fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, “the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.” From creosote buildup to improperly vented systems there is a lot that can go wrong. For the average homeowner in the spring, you will want to check for any dirt and debris and close the damper when not in use.

Attic

This is probably one of my favorite areas to talk about since we create home comfort by making sure your home is energy efficient. We don’t just sell you some insulation if your home is “drafty,” we actually assess the whole picture to be sure that any insulation installed will perform at its highest. It’s part of the complete picture of home energy efficiency.

Some great indicators you may need more insulation and better ventilation besides visually checking your attic for bare spots of insulation are:

  • If your air conditioning or heating system runs often (or doesn’t shut off)
  • Different temperatures in different rooms throughout the home (having that “one cold or hot room” is not normal)
  • Wet spots on your ceiling indicating moisture is building up and better ventilation is needed (before you have to re-do your ceiling $$$)

That’s it for the INDOOR section – I will post the OUTDOOR Spring checklist in the next few weeks, then follow it up with an easy to read, downloadable checklist to make it simple to check off your accomplishments as you go. This is all part of the Homeowner’s handbook coming out with the new website. 

Home Maintenance Checklist

SPRING INDOOR

 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Use test button on detectors throughout house to check operation. Change batteries two times per year (every 6 months). If unit is “chirping” the battery is already low. Units need replaced every 7–10 years or if after replacing the battery the unit does not work.

Ceiling Fans

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check pull cords, lights and light sockets and test all functionality for operation.   Change the direction of your fan to counter-clockwise so the air will blow down. Dust the blades regularly. If the unit is making a lot of noise or certain functions no longer work, then it is time to upgrade.

Refrigerator

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check refrigerator door to make sure it is airtight. Make sure food is clear of internal fan. Check water hoses and cords for damage. Clean all dust and debris from under and behind the unit and vacuum coils. Change water filter every 6 months (or sooner if fridge sensor indicates it is time). Most refrigerators last 10–20 years. New units can save you money on your energy costs.

Furnace/Heating System

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Heating systems should be inspected and tuned-up by an HVAC professional once a year (typically done in the fall before use for cold weather). Change filters frequently (approx. every 2–3 months). Vacuum baseboard heaters and air vents. Your furnace and baseboard heater is not designed to last forever. A well maintained unit can last 15–20 years. New technology can save you big $ on your energy costs.

Portable Space Heater

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check cords, supply lines, moving parts, and operation per manufacturer instructions before storing. Address any service concerns, empty fuel (gas/pellet units) then clean and store in a safe place. Portable units vary in longevity based on how much use and how the unit was stored. Replace the unit if there is any questions about safe operation next season.

Air Conditioner – INSIDE

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Central air conditioning systems should be inspected and tuned-up by an HVAC professional once a year (typically done in the spring before use for warm weather). Window A/C units should be checked for secure install & safe operation. Clear the outside of the A/C unit from leaves, debris or winterizing materials. Change or clean (depending on type used) any filters used on A/C units. The A/C unit is housed outside and subject to extreme heat and weather. A well maintained unit can last approx. 10–15 years. Newer units are more efficient and can save you big $ on your energy costs.

Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Call an HVAC professional out for help maintaining a whole house humidifier. Smaller, portable units need checked for safe operation such as looking at the power cord and correct operation. Change or clean (depending on type used) any filters used on humidifiers/dehumidifiers. If the unit is no longer working properly or if there is any damage to a portable units’ cord or functionality, then it is time to get a new one. Portable units are readily available at most hardware and big box stores.

Dryer

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check vent hose for lint buildup and a secure connection to both the unit and the wall. Vacuum out any lint in hose and under dryer to prevent fires. Holes in the dryer hose will allow the lint to disburse into the air during operation. Buy a new hose if there are holes.

Hot Water Heater

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Test the temperature and pressure safety relief valve according to manufacturer instructions. This should be done yearly. Drain your hot water heater per manufacturer’s guide once a year to remove sediment from bottom. Replace anode rod before it stops working — about every 5 years.

Sump Pump

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Test the pump according to the manufacturer’s’ instructions. Clean out the pump and surrounding space annually. Basements are common in Kansas and they typically run on electricity. During storms, electricity can go out. Consider investing in a backup sump pump or generator so you don’t get surprised with a flooded basement.

Fireplace/Chimney – INSIDE

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check fireplace and chimney for any dirt and debris. Clean out fireplace of any ashes (should be done about every 40–50 fires). Close the damper when not in use. If you see a blockage or anything is not working 100%, call a professional to clean and inspect right away.

Attic

INSPECT MAINTAIN REPLACE
Check attic and stairs for heat loss. Inspect pull down type attic stairs for any loose, missing or broken parts. Add insulation where needed. Contact us for a home energy audit or if an extensive amount of insulation is missing and you can see the tops of the joists. Replace worn out insulating materials. If insulation is missing in areas you could be paying 10–20% more EACH MONTH on your energy bill!
WABA_Home_Show

Home Showiness: Our experience at the 2018 WABA Home Show

Every year, for as long as I can recall, we have had a booth at the Wichita Home Show. Sometimes, we’ve had large, stand-alone booths. Other times, we’ve just had a 10×10 or 10×20 space in a row with other vendors. We’ve done giveaways of promotional items of all sorts; from balloons to bags, pens to stress balls. There’s also been a raffle or three and discounts off of services for finding us at the show.

There are times I wonder why we do it.

I say this because there’s a lot of work involved with being a part of a Home Show. There’s planning each year’s booth and literature, preparation of the booth, set up time (which is two or more hours for at least two people), the time spent working it (which we spread among six people) for four days and then takedown. That’s at least six days of time, plus the monetary expenses for space, booth, literature, and more.

Again, why do we go to the Home Show?WABA_Home_Show_Comfort_Wall

I’m sure the first response is “to increase sales,” and yes, that’s nominally the reason. But if we account for the costs AND hours to make it happen…let’s just say our industry doesn’t have the price tags to make that answer as clear-cut as I would like it to be.

Then there’s the fact that our services are of a “one and done” nature — to steal a phrase from college basketball. In other words, two of our three primary services (insulation and air sealing) is needed once per house and then not again at that location.

Factor in that the average homeowner lives in a home for 11 to 15 years and we’re pushing the logic in doing the show for economic purposes.

So, with all these negatives, why do we still do it?

There are a couple of pros to these cons. The first is creating or maintaining some amount of “Top of Mind Awareness” — a.k.a long-term branding reasons. When people do need our services, they’ll hopefully remember our name or logo because they saw or spoke to us at the Home Show. These needs are all fine and good, but it’s not the real reason we keep doing it.

No, we keep doing it because we like helping solve people’s home comfort, health, safety, and energy efficiency issues. Even if the solution is something we don’t install or work with, we like being able to point people in the right direction.

If you peel all the rest of it away, we just like being a resource or a guide to people having better structures around themselves. It’s why we picked the name NorthStar years ago. It wasn’t just because we could use a cute bear — that was just a bonus later on!

So, with all that in mind, we hope to see you at the Wichita Home Show next year!

Homeowner’s Handbook: The Instruction Manual

There are many steps when it comes to buying, selling, or owning a home. Should I get a professional inspection done? Will I be able to manage this all on my own? What kind of issues does this place have that I can’t even see? Even with all the tips and tricks out there about finding a home, you still need a central handbook for all these ideas. New_homeowner_handbook_guide

All these questions (plus hundreds more) are the reason we want to provide you with some tips for your home. First-time homeowners might find many things they’re unsure about. This could be from issues you didn’t even know to check on when you first bought your home. To maintain your new home, this Homeowner’s Handbook is here to help!

Maybe you have owned your home for many years and are looking for a change. These tips can help you prepare your home to be top-notch when you’re ready to sell. Or, maybe you’re in the market for a new home. If so, you probably want the best value for your dollar. In that case, follow these tips when searching for your dream home to make sure you find the perfect place.

This manual is packed full of ideas for keeping your home happy and healthy. From DIY ways to keep your home warm without a full insulation replacement to blocking harmful UV sun rays from entering your home, the Homeowner’s Handbook will be your guide. 

Whether you have a surplus knowledge of homes or absolutely none at all, we hope to provide you with further understanding and clarification throughout this manual. Here at Northstar, our expertise is what proves our knowledge of homes. Through our Building Science Principles Certificate from BPI, and more, we are here to give you the best help possible with our expert knowledge.

Re-insulating Your Attic

Sometimes, the usually unseen elements in your home can be the most important when it comes to saving money on your energy bills. When it comes to insulation, for instance, re-insulating your attic with new insulation, or by adding more, can save you between 10 to 20 percent on your energy bill every month.

If you’re wondering if this might apply to you, read on!

Check Your Attic’s Condition

If your floor joints are visible or the insulation looks compacted or well-trod upon (shown below), then yours needs improving. Pretty easy, no? Over time, some insulation settles, namely cellulose, but years and years of dust can compress fiberglass as well. If you can see the tops of the joists, for instance, you probably have R-19 in your attic, and even that may be generous. For comparison’s sake, the recommendations for homes in our area (Climate Zone 4) start at R-38.

re-insulating_attic

If your attic looks like this, the heated air in your living area is escaping upwards through thermal flow. That means the money you are spending on trying to keep your house warm is going right out the door (or ceiling), literally, as the heat continues to escape your home and cost you more money.

Wet Insulation

If your roof is leaky, has been leaky or your insulation has encountered any other kind of wetting, it’s probably time to replace it. Moldy, wet insulation not only causes energy-efficiency issues but can create health problems as well.

Replacement Options

There are two options available when it comes to re-insulating your attic. First, you can add more loose-fill insulation to what is already there. In this scenario, we would recommend fiberglass on top of whatever is currently in place, as it’s not heavy enough to compress the existing material. Second, you can remove the current insulation, air seal the attic floor and then re-install loose fill. We recommend fiberglass for this as well, primarily for safety reasons. Both of these options are guaranteed to do their job of re-insulating your attic. 

There’s a third option, but it falls on the “less recommended” side. This option would be installing spray foam on the underside of the roof deck. We don’t recommend it around here for several reasons.

First, spray foam is more expensive without being clearly better. It can negatively affect the roof deck and/or shingles; it moves the thermal boundary of your attic area which creates a much more substantial volume of air that will be heated and cooled and can be detrimental to the health of the home occupants, depending upon how the ventilation is set up for combustion appliances. That said, sometimes, particularly in much older homes, spray foam may be the only way of getting any insulation in an attic area. Also, if your attic has your HVAC equipment in it, enclosing the attic area can help your equipment’s performance.

So, if your attic insulation looks compressed and you have decided you qualify for an insulation upgrade, contact us today!

 
 
 

Questions to Think about When New Home Shopping

 

With the Fall Parade of Homes underway, I thought it might be worth some time to address some things you might not consider when shopping — or even just window-shopping — for a new home.home_shopping

What’s behind the sheetrock? 

I know it’s thoroughly predictable that an insulation contractor would start with wondering ‘what’s in the walls’ but this is more of a ‘how is the wall designed’ thing. Does the builder use 2×6 walls, for thicker walls that can hold more insulation (more common further north)? Did they stick with traditional 2×4 walls? Is there continuous insulation on the outside of the wall, which eliminates thermal bridging? What kind of insulation is there, or more importantly, what’s the R-value they’re putting in?

House orientation & Drainage plan

It’s no secret that most new home subdivisions don’t have large trees. A lack of trees is perfect for those of us that hate cleaning the gutters or raking the lawn, but the trade-off is a lack of natural shade from the sun. While we naturally think of east and west exposures as being important, don’t forget to account for the south side either. The sun may not be as intense when it’s further to the south, but those exposures do get it all day long. The north side should be Low-E windows, period.

How does or will rainwater flow off and away from the house? Most new home areas have a master drainage plan for the development, and there’s probably an easily discernable slope to each lot. However, it’s important to consider how your new home will fit in, as far as how the water will flow in and around your new home, plus how any adjacent homes are set up to deal with heavy rains.

Acoustics in the home

Have a kid who plays the drums? Will you be near a busy street? How about trying to sleep when you’re visiting relatives are arguing in the next room? Whatever the case, be sure to consider how the sound will travel in your home. You can account for it through design and materials if it’s an issue for you.

Fresh air machine?

This is very much NOT the technical term, but we’re using it anyway. The actual term is ERV or HRV, and in either case, they’re devices that make sure a home has enough fresh air when a home is built very tightly. In ‘ye olden days,’ houses leaked enough air to make sure occupants weren’t breathing stale or possibly harmful old air. As we’ve tightened up homes in the name of energy efficiency, sound control, and better building practices, we’ve sacrificed the primary source of incoming fresh air. Adding a ‘Fresh Air Machine’ solves this problem and should be installed if you’re significantly upgrading your home. In other words, don’t tighten the home shell without a plan!

Why not check the (HERS) score?

I know a few houses in this area have been getting a HERS score but, hey, why not ask about it anyway? https://www.resnet.us/hers-index gives you the scoop on what it is and why it exists.

Attic Ventilation and Sizing

attic ventilation

Fair warning: I am not an engineer. I’m not a scientist, either. I do make informal hypotheses and then use observational results to determine their merits, but using the scientific method does not make an expert. The truth is most contractors, builders, and even architects aren’t either of these things either. In fact, the whole idea of “building science” is a relatively new one, which is interesting, considering that humankind has been creating non-cave places to live for thousands of years.

I use this as a preface because the home building industry makes an awful lot of its decisions based on what we’ve done before. Whether it’s a green behind the ears tradesman learning their craft from a veteran or one contractor picking up tips from another, this industry is based on handed down learning of what works and what doesn’t, with official code books issued periodically to provide continuous guidance on how homes should be built. While I’m not about to get into how codes are changed here, just know this: neither the codes themselves nor the jurisdictions who decide how and what codes get used (adopted, in the parlance) are done from a purely scientific standpoint.

With all of this in mind, it should be little surprise that attic ventilation is a thing we do because we’ve always done it. And, even more maddening, is that the seemingly scientific way of determining how much attic ventilation a building needs was just made up back in the 1940s. So, as much as I’d love to post that using a ratio of 1:300, with 1 square foot of ventilation needed for every 300 square feet of attic area, with the ventilation balanced between the top (ridge) and the bottom (soffits or eaves) is the best solution to attic ventilation, I can’t say that it’s a 100% data driven fact.

Yet, it works. Because of course it does. Funny, no?

Really, it works because;

  1. attic ventilation, while important to do correctly, doesn’t cause catastrophic failure if

       done incorrectly

2. the original ratio, whatever its origins, was most likely based on observational data

     that correlated with homes that worked right.

I will note that one of the most well-known and trustworthy building science professionals, Joe Lstiburek, does recommend using a 60/40 split for the bottom and top attic ventilation areas, with slightly more air coming in from the bottom of the space to slightly pressurize the space. This makes good sense, as it ensures that the attic won’t be “sucking” conditioned air from the living space.

For practical purposes, we put this together 12 years ago. Note that the 1:300 ratio isn’t on here but, instead, there’s a multiplier.attic ventilation

The .24 multiplier follows the 1:300 guideline but we’ve found that a simple multiplication factor is the easiest way to do the math. And, after 12 years, it’s probably time to update this with the 60/40 information as well. Otherwise, it all still works!

Hopefully, this helps explain attic ventilation sizing some. As always, there’s more to the story, especially in how the practical aspects work, but we get to that another time.

—Jeff

Source:

How Insulation May Help Sell Your Home to Millennials

Unless you’re already in your ‘forever home’, you’ll probably be looking at putting your current home on the market. And if you’re reading this, you probably know insulation is important for energy efficiency, lower bills, and improved comfort.  insulation may also be important to selling your home to the largest group of home buyers out there — millennials.

Insulation and Selling Home

Millennials: A New Kind of Buyer

While each home buyer is going to have their own mental checklist when it comes to choosing a house, millennials tend to all have one thing in common — they want a house with proper energy efficiency. In fact, according to a recent article by Bankrate, “energy efficiency” is one of the 11 Must-Haves to Sell to Millennial Buyers.

These Buyers Want to Protect the Environment

Their belief that they need to be more “green” is one of the main reasons why energy efficiency is important to millennials. They tend to have strong, specific values and preservation of the environment is more important than material things, power, or money.

 

Morley Winograd, an author and researcher of millennials, believes millennials are the most environmentally conscious generation in the U.S., stating, “They will be interested in anything that reduces a home’s footprint on the environment, especially if it is measurable and works automatically.”

 

As a home seller, it is now your job to show millennials that purchasing your home is going to align with their values. Newer insulation means the A/C and furnace don’t have to work as hard — saving energy in the long run.

These Buyers Are Conscious of What They Are Spending

While millennial home buyers consider their environmental footprint, they are also cautious of where their money is going. Energy costs are rising, and millennials want to do what they can to avoid having to pay increased costs.

 

Again, this is where insulation can help attract buyers. Rooms will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Who doesn’t want that?

 

Keep in mind, it’s better to already have upgrades such as new insulation already installed in the home when it comes time to sell. Otherwise, buyers will consider the amount that this is going to add to the price when they have to make these updates on their own.

Take the Next Step

Knowing your audience of potential home buyers is the first step in selling your home. Now, it’s time for the next step. Make those home improvements that are going to nudge buyers into believing your home is the one for them. Re-insulating your home is a step worth taking, and all it takes is a call to NorthStar. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Energy Efficiency Leads to Better Health

Here in Kansas, it always seems to be allergy season. Your home should be a place of respite from all of the pollutants and allergens, yet this is not always the case. The good news is that having an energy efficient home is one way to start your trek to better health, especially if done right.

Obviously, insulation is a key factor in whether your home is energy-efficient or not. Chances are, in a new home, you’re in pretty good shape, or at least out to be. But if you’re in an older home, your air sealing and insulation situation could probably use some improvement. 

How do I know?

The first and most obvious way to know it’s time to look into your insulation is when the bills start to climb. Other good indicators would be rooms that never seem to get to the right temperature or HVAC equipment that seems to be constantly running (leading back to that bill thing). However, an increase in allergic responses – you know, sneezing or itching – can also be an indicator that the air inside your home isn’t great. There are also devices, like a Foobot, that can tell you the quality of your inside air. If the air has a lot of pollutants and you’re reacting to them, they’re either coming from the inside (issues like mold or pet dander, for instance) or from the outside, where all the things you’re allergic to are supposed to stay.

You keep saying insulation and air sealing like they’re two separate things.

That’s because they are! Kind of. In a gist, insulation’s job is to create a thermal blanket around the living areas inside your home. This is why its effectiveness is measured in terms of R-value, where R means Resistance to heat flow. Air sealing lacks an easily recognizable measuring tool like R-value but air sealing is all about creating a barrier between the inside and outside air. Most insulation products provide some resistance to air and many air sealing products provide some resistance to heat flow and, yes, sometimes they’re the same thing. We use a conjunction of both types of products to protect your home.

 

Ok, so how will my health improve?

With 1 in 14 adults has asthma, experts estimate that at least 40% of those were diagnosed due to exposures in their own homes.  This exposure can come from dampness in your home, unregulated temperatures and lack of quality insulation to protect you from allergens.

NorthStar-Comfort-Services-Energy-Efficiency-Health

Source: E4TheFuture

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found that the average American spends about $3,259 on asthma every year. By improving your insulation to decrease your health risks, you will also be saving money on monthly energy bills and potentially even more lost on medical bills. At the very least, you’ll be reducing a couple of factors that can cause major headaches. 

 

7 Reasons Why You Should Tint Your Windows

Having been in the window tinting industry for more than half of our 70 yearswe are well-attuned to the benefits of tinting your windows. However, we still run into many homeowners that aren’t familiar with what window films can do for their spaces. Putting these two things together, we thought we should compile a list of our top seven favorite reasons for why you should tint your windows. And we’re pretty confident that you will find at least one reason that you could benefit from!

Reduce Glare

Ever been watching TV and a glare gets in the way? What about when you’re driving down the street and the sun causes you to squint the whole way home? These are problems that window film can easily reduce! Darker window films block the most, but all of our window films will help tone down the bright sun.

Reduce Fading

Whether you want to prolong the life of valuables in your home or want to reduce fading on items within your business or storefront, window tinting is a great solution! All of our window films block at least 99% (some even 99.9%) of the UV spectrum, which is the main cause of fading. As it so happens, the next two causes are heat and visible light, which are also reduced with window film!

Reduce Heat

Room heating up too much? Air conditioner overworking? Many window films can help! Our advice is to call us up before the summer heat arrives! Once you realize how much heat reduction window films can bring, you’ll question why you didn’t invest in them sooner!

Increase Privacy

Window films make it easier to enjoy the daylight view of the outdoors, without allowing your neighbors or passersby see inside. Home and car break-ins are more likely to happen when the thieves can see what’s inside.  Feel secure knowing that your belongings are better hidden. Traditional window films help to increase privacy during the day, whereas opaque films help all day and night!

Increase Safety

Along with increasing privacy, window tinting also increases safety as it is harder for windows to break when they are tinted. If they do break, the window film will hold the shards of glass together — keeping you from a mess of shattered glass. If safety is your main concern, we recommend safety-specific films that are thicker — ranging from 4mm to 11mm thick!

Improve Aesthetics

If you’re looking to increase the visual appeal of your home or business, window films are a great place to start! Use them to homogenize the look of your home’s windows from the street or to add a touch of richness and professionalism to the exterior of your business.

Balance Temperatures

Last, but certainly not least, use window tinting to help balance the temperatures in your home or office. Hot and cold spots can make a living space feel bipolar. Reducing the overly hot areas can help your HVAC system balance out the entire building.

 

We could go on forever about the reasons why you should tint your windows, but hopefully, now, we have you convinced! Contact us to schedule! 

 

northstar-window-tinting

Home Automation Experiments

 

Since finishing our new office up in Kechi and a highly educational jaunt to the International Builder’s Show back in January, we’ve started experimenting with some of the Home Automation devices (the skeptical might call them ‘toys’) that are available. The two devices we’re playing wi-, I mean, professionally using at the moment are a Foobot and a Nest. I thought our blog would be a great place to share some of our thoughts on them and what they have to do with an ‘insulation’ company.

Foobot  

Foobot is an air quality monitor. We’ve had one at the office since the end of last year and I’ve had one in my personal place since January. What it does is tell you (on the app, not on the device) the current temperature and humidity near it, as well as break down the air into 3 main components – particulate matter, volatile compounds (generally known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs) and carbon dioxide. Based on how much of those 3 components it detects, the lights on the device will range from bright blue, meaning great air quality, to bright orange, meaning lousy air quality. I’ll go into specifics about what we’ve found out later but it’s very interesting to notice some trends, all of which you can access on the app.

Source: Pinterest

Nest

Nest probably needs no introduction but, for those that don’t know, it is an internet-enabled thermostat. Unlike the Foobot, it requires a little work to install, as it replaces your existing thermostat. It can be a relatively easy swap, but that depends on how your system is set-up. Once installed, it works seamlessly with your heating and cooling equipment. Not only can you program it to run how and when you’d like, it also learns how you keep temperatures when you tend to be at home or away, can give you the forecast for the next few hours when you walk by AND makes you dinner. Ok, that last one isn’t true, but the rest is and is just a sampling of what it does.

The most used feature, in our experience, is the free app. With the app, alongside basic monitoring abilities, you can change the thermostat from anywhere. Cold and don’t feel like moving? Turn up the heat from your chair. Going to be home and want to crank up the heat early? Done. It’s one of those features you may think you’ll never use and then can’t live without.

Source: The New Economy

What’s insulation have to do with it?

Nothing and everything, of course! True, it’s not like you wire the devices into insulation or window film but everything we do is tied to how a building operates, for better or worse. Some insulations off-gas, which impacts air quality. Air sealing is a key component of what we do too. Window films reduce unwanted heat, so the thermostat needs less adjustment. In other words, since it’s all tied together, we’re trying out equipment that checks HOW everything is actually doing. The more we know, the better we can do our jobs, plus we can share our knowledge with our customers as well. Plus, as the cartoons of my youth told me, ‘knowing is half the battle’!