Types of Air Conditioners [INFOGRAPHIC]

The year-round heat in Southern California finds most Orange County homeowners running their AC units on a constant basis. Still, many don’t know how their air conditioners work. Contrary to what most people assume, air conditioners actually pull hot air out of the home instead of just blowing cool air in.

 

The Origins of Earth Day

Every year on April 22, we celebrate our planet. Earth Day is known around the world as the day to recycle, to learn about sustainability, and to do our part as individuals to save the earth. Environmental companies spread the “green” word, and there is no shortage of festivals and earth-savvy events. But unknown to many, Earth Day is a fairly new concept. This worldwide celebration derived from a Harvard Graduate student back in 1970, when the air was ripe with peace and love: the perfect recipe for planetary appreciation.

Earth Day began in the mind of Denis Hayes, a graduate student attending Harvard in 1970. That year, Senator Gaylord Nelson also had green on the mind, as he proposed an environmental teach-in on college campuses that April. Hayes, a devoted environmentalist himself, decided to fly to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Nelson for a 15 minute interview about organizing a similar environmental teach-in at Harvard. Turns out the interview lasted a couple of hours, the result being the creation of Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The first Earth Day had over 20 million participants. Even President Nixon could not ignore the giant impact of the first Earth Day, and in response he created the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Congress followed with the Clean Air act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Environmental Education Act, just to name a few. Today, 192 countries celebrate Earth Day every year. These two minds, one a Senator concerned with conservation and the other a devoted environmentalist, created a global phenomenon.

Hayes did not stop his pursuit of environmentalism with the creation of Earth Day. He continued to be a frontrunner in many environmental companies, finally being hired as the president of the Bullitt Foundation in 1992. The Bullitt foundation promotes responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. True to the company morals, even the building in which the company resides is environmentally conscious. Built in Seattle in 2011, the Bullitt Center is the first office building in the world to achieve the Living Building Certification from the Living Building Challenge. Below are a few ways that showcases the building’s sustainability:

  • Triple-paned, argon-filled, heat-mirrored, and floor-to-ceiling windows eliminate the need for any artificial lights
  • Toilets use ½ cup of water mixed with biodegradable soap per flush
  • Waste is therefore clean and safe, and created into compost then sold through a local government program
  • Rain water is captured, purified, and stored
  • Solar panels on the roof create a self-contained energy source
  • Automated blinds are computer controlled, keeping heat from entering the building and therefore eliminates the need for air conditioning
  • There is no parking garage, so employees are encouraged to walk, ride a bike, or ride the bus.

 

With all these sustaining programs in place, the building uses 1/9 as much energy per square foot as the average building in Seattle, and 1/20 the amount of water per square foot as the average building in Seattle. The design life of the building is 250 years, the same average as many European buildings. However in the United States, modern buildings are not made to last as long, especially over 100 years.

And if an office building can rely solely on “net zero” energy and water, why can’t a home do the same? So for this Earth Day, get inspired by the accomplishments of Hayes and the Bullitt Center and take a step towards a greener life. It is easier than it looks, and in the long run, a green life can save renters and homeowners money as well as time.

BEST-Techs’ mission is to provide healthy homes that are sustainable for both you and the environment. They provide room additions, remodels for over 20 years but most importantly they provide Energy Efficient upgrades. BEST-Techs Contracting is a participating Energy Upgrade California Contractor.  We can test your home to help you lower energy, spend less money and have a big impact on the environment. Get rebates and incentives with the Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrade.

BEST-Techs encourages you to take simple steps towards a healthier home. Recycling is the easiest path to become less wasteful. To find out which items are recyclable, local utilities have information and free charts that can be posted in your home for an easy way to remember. Switching to LED light bulbs is also easy, and if you have extra money to spare buying Energy Star appliances will reduce energy usage and save you money in the long run.

Preserving National Parks

glacier

original image by NationalParks.org

Preserving National Parks

As the snow starts to melt, and the flowers begin to bloom, springtime becomes the best time to enjoy the outdoors. And what better way to enjoy the outdoors then to plan a trip to a national park? The natural wonders of America are available to anyone who wants to visit, and nature is usually abundant and untouched. Or so you thought.

 

With all the visitors, about 270 million each year, comes their combined 100 million pounds of trash*. And this is only for our national parks. Imagine the amount of trash we produce in our hometowns and cities!

 

Good thing sustainability has become better understood and more easily practiced. Transferring sustainability habits from our homes to the national parks is as easy as being more conscious of the environment. There are no extra steps involved to go green, contrary to belief. Being green ma actually be easier than not, and in the long run not only do you help save our country’s national parks, you also save yourself a little extra money in the process.

 

Below are a few tips* to take with you when traveling to any national park. Keep these in mind when you come home, as they can easily become sustainable practices in your daily life.

 

  • Bring reusable water bottles and coffee cups: Wash them out when needed; you eliminate unnecessary waste at the parks when you only need one cup for your entire trip.
  • Bring reusable bags for storage, carrying items, and for buying items at the parks: You will only throw away the plastic one once you are done with it, so why bother? Bring or buy a bag while at the park, which are usually more sturdy than plastic and can double as your souvenir.
  • Recycle waste in cities before or after visiting the parks: Dead batteries? Have a ripped tent? Did you drink plenty of soda or iced tea? Don’t drop them off at the nearest parks trashcan. Take them home with you, and recycle them.
  • Do not burn waste in campfires: this one is obvious, but once you burn food or trash in a fire, doesn’t mean it disappears. The toxins released by the waste float in the air and into your lungs. They are dangerous, and should not be inhaled by anyone, including the wildlife.
  • Use the air dryers in the restrooms: they are much more efficient at drying off your hands than a paper towel. And if the added few seconds are too much for you to handle, just remember that the monuments you came to the parks for will not go anywhere. Take your time and save waste by using air dryers. If none are available, go eau natural and wave your hands about until dry.
  • Support park composting: when done with your daily meals, throw the trash away (or better yet recycle) but separate the food for compost before throwing it in with the rest of the trash. Composting transforms organic waste into usable fertilizer. Giving back to nature just got easier.

 

The next time you visit a national park, respect the nature preserved for over a hundred years and do your part. These steps are not the only ways to help out, but are the basics to providing a more healthy and green-conscious environment.

*Statistics taken from National Geographic: Sustainable Steps for Parks Preservation

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160329-subaru-sponsor-content-sustainable-steps-for-parks-preservation/

 

 

Article written by: Nicole Scheurer

PRESS RELEASE DECEMBER 16, 2015

stock-photo-73200621-woman-in-front-of-a-houseBEST-Techs at it again!

Wanted for eliminating discomfort issues with another satisfied customer

Garden Grove, CA, December 16, 2015– BEST-Techs helps solve home comfort issues

Home performance contracting is essential, especially when it comes to the comfort and safety of your family

In this announcement you will hear the story of a customer that is not unlike most home owners about their household complaints.

Linda has a very beautiful home but was always either freezing in the winter or roasting in the summer.  She also experienced cold-like symptoms while her furnace was running in the winter and while the air conditioner was running during the summer months.  She had finally had enough and read an informative flyer from BEST-Techs that intrigued her.  She was not quite sure if they could help her with these issues, other contractors had told her that there was nothing wrong with her heating and cooling systems.  So she couldn’t understand how she would solve this problem that seemed to nonexistent however, she called BEST-Techs and the rest is history!

Linda is not only completely comfortable and breathing freely now in her home, she is also enjoying lower utility bills.  Linda is a champion for Home Performance and how it can help homeowners everywhere.

To learn more about Linda and other stories like hers, please visit our website www.BEST-Techs.org or give us a call 714-330-4500.  We would love to send our Home Performance Expert to your home so we can take a look at how we might be able to help you.  And after that long day of work, you will finally have the perfect home environment to come back to.

I’ve always loved my home, but now I feel that it is the best place to come home to!

 

Press-release-home-performance.dotx2.docx (97 downloads)

Keep Warm with a Vented Fireplace

Autumn is almost over; the orange leaves are falling and the crisp air of winter is settling in. It is the season of cuddling with blankets and sipping hot cocoa by the fire to keep out the cold. But turning on the fireplace may cause more harm than good this holiday season. Making sure your home is equipped with, at the least, a vented fireplace will keep your family safe and warm this winter.

Let’s delve into the specifics of a vented fireplace. Vented fireplaces draw air from the outdoors for combustion into a sealed firebox. This sealed firebox assures high air quality for burning in a gas fireplace. Then, the exhaust expels the combustion products through a separate vent into the outdoors. The result is a heated room that keeps warm air in and cold air out.

from mendotahearth.com

from mendotahearth.com

Ventless fireplaces, however, obviously do not have a venting system. To tell the difference, put your head into your fireplace when it is turned off and look up. If there is a hole, you have a vented fireplace. If there is no hole, but instead a covering of some kind, you happen to have a ventless fireplace. Despite being covered, and seemingly able to contain the warm air a fireplace produces, ventless fireplaces produce and trap large quantities of water vapor in your home. Ventless fireplaces also trap the dangerous fumes produced by burning gas or wood, and although ventless fireplaces may be “sealed” in order to contain the fumes, keeping the fumes in one area inside the house may pose risks. There have been several reports by homeowners who have ventless fireplaces that complain of headaches and other health-related issues.

Now that we’ve decided that a vented fireplace is better for your home than a ventless, it is time to discuss the types of fuel to burn in your fireplace. Although most BPI consultants agree that fireplaces in general create drafty, energy-deficient homes, if you happen to have a fireplace in your home the next best option is to burn gas over wood. Gas fireplaces, for the most part, burn cleanly and are safer to use than wood fireplaces. They also keep a room warm, while wood burning fireplaces emit harmful smoke into your home, even with a vented system. Go ahead and enjoy your fireplace this holiday season. Hopefully now you will enjoy it even more with the understanding of which fireplace is best for your home and health.

 

Resources:

“A Ventless Gas Fireplace Doesn’t Belong in Your Home” from greenbuildingadvisor.com

“Venting Options” from mendotahearth.com

The Silent Killer

There is a killer hiding in the crevices of your home. You cannot see this killer, you cannot touch it, nor smell it. This killer can strike anybody at any time, and you would not know it until it is too late. The killer is carbon monoxide, and it may be lurking in your home.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of fuels like propane, wood, and natural gas. In a home, consumer products like furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters that run on fuel may malfunction, producing deadly amounts of CO. Engine-powered equipment like portable generators, fireplaces, and charcoal burned in enclosed spaces can also produce CO.

Most homeowners do not know when CO slowly poisons them; they may believe their appliances work fine without proper maintenance and home auditing, or they rely on their CO alarms to warn them of leaks. A homeowner can also assume they have the flu, but which may in fact be the initial symptoms of CO poisoning. However, if exposed to high levels of CO, a person can experience mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness, and ultimately death. The mistake of believing CO poisoning symptoms for the flu are easy to make, even by physicians. And because common household appliances can malfunction and produce CO, it is important to make sure houses are installed with quality CO alarms, and to have a BPI certified consultant to home audit. To prevent CO poisoning, the following is recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals. Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owners manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
  • Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
  • Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the alarm cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.
  • Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.
  • During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.

Although appliances may emit CO, there is a certain threshold of exposure before a person’s health becomes jeopardized. And not all people will experience the same symptoms at the same CO levels; the effects of the poison depend on CO concentration, exposure length, and the individual’s health condition. CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm), and most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure in approximately 1 to 70 ppm. Any CO concentration above 70 ppm, however, sympotoms are more noticeable, and above 150 to 200 ppm, severe symptoms and death are possible. A reliable CO alarm will prevent any high concentrations of CO going unnoticed. Testing CO alarms are smart, especially when these alarms have a replacement age in order to operate correctly. Refer to the alarm’s manufacturer instructions for questions and testing guides.

Besides a CO alarm, BPI certified consultants are an important resource to keep a home safe. They home audit, or inspect a home for any malfunctioning aspects that can place a homeowner’s health and safety in harm’s way. While an alarm can tell if CO is already in a home, a BPI consultant can find the source of the CO and find a way to replace or mend the malfunctioning appliance. These are the best ways to keep a home free from CO, and your health free from a deadly poison.

For more information, visit: http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers-/

Cool Roofs, Cool Home

Cover_Story_-_Monier_Coverland_Cool_Roof_summer_and_winter

Asphalt composition and tile roofs are common on houses. What else is common about these types of roofs? They insulate due to their thermal mass, and the unventilated air space between the roof and building keeps in all the heat. So when, as a southern Californian, the days become increasingly hotter, your roof is doing you no favors by keeping in the heat.
A cool roof system, on the other hand, ventilates the air space through a ridge and therefore keeps the roof, and your house, cool. Let’s break it down: with a cool roof system, the air enters through a vented eave riser between the roof and the building and pushes the hot air upward. At the top of your roof, the hot air is released through a ridge, keeping your building cooler.
The benefits of a cool roof system, you ask? Well first off, you will have a massive reduction in energy usage. With normal tile roofs, the heat is trapped due to the insulation, and homeowners who are suffering from the heat of the weather plus their insulated roof choose to switch on the AC unit. A big plus with the cool roof system is that you do not need to use the AC as often; the cool roof system itself is non-electrical and has no mechanical parts, which means no hidden electricity usage. Not only do they require no electricity to keep your home cooler, they also last longer than traditional roofs. The ventilation design keeps moisture and rot out of the airspace, while traditional roofing deteriorates because there is no ventilation in the insulated system to keep moisture at bay.
Another thing you save when you install a cool roof system: money. A test conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory stated that a single family home could save up to 22% per year on heating and cooling costs when they switch to a cool roof system compared to traditional shingle roofs. That 22% can equal to an average of $15-$20 per month, and approximately $20,000 in 30 years. It saves in the long run to switch to a cool roof system; your wallet will definitely thank you.
These savings may vary based on location; if you happen to live in Southern California during this heat wave, you would end up saving more money than say if you installed a cool roof system in Alaska. But no matter where you live, the end result is the same: a longer lasting roof that saves you more money than a tile or shingle roof. Not only are they energy efficient, they are downright smarter.
Want more info on cool roof systems? Visit www.BoralRoof.com

References: “Boral Cool Roof System”, Boral Roofing Magazine 2014

EPA versus Honey Bees

Although the ultimate destruction of our planet looms in the distance, it is not a recently discovered occurrence. Humans have been destroying Earth since we evolved into agriculturalists, and with the future’s newest technologies you would think we could invent ways to save our planet. We recognize the need for more eco-friendly laws and products on the market, and through all our efforts there is still, in my opinion, one important ecological contributor that goes unnoticed by the human population: honey bees. They pollinate more than one third of America’s crops, including many super foods like berries, nuts, and the avocado. In California especially, the amount we pay for avocados is not something we joke about; now try to imagine having to pay double or even triple for the green fruit once people have to start hand-pollinating them. Yeah, I do not want to imagine it either.

Despite the loss of avocados and other crops essential for the average human diet, honey bees themselves will be gone. Americans are constantly reminded about the effects if bees become extinct, yet we keep ignoring the signs. Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fails to recognize the detrimental consequences that new technology has on earth’s ecological system. They recently approved use of the new pesticide sulfoxaflor, which in case studies shows harmful effects on honey bees. In order to maintain “environmental protection” one would think the EPA would go out of their way to save the environment and not take part in destroying it. I mean, it is in their name for Pete’s sake.

Since multiple backlashes from the community have protested about the EPA’s actions, they have conducted two studies on the impacts of sulfoxaflor on honey bee colonies and brood development. The EPA concluded there was no outstanding data , although the pesticide itself is considered highly toxic to bees; their conclusion was that although this fact may be true, there was no substantial residual toxicity to exposed bees. Keyword “substantial”. They also skirted around the issue of exposed bees exhibiting behavioral and navigational abnormalities by stating these effects as “short-lived”. The chemicals in pesticides, known as neonicotinoids (neonics), are what causes bees to die; these are the chemicals that damage a bee’s ability to navigate back to their hive, and if the hive does not receive the nectar, their food source, the whole colony suffers. It just so happens that sulfoxaflor is a neonic. And still the EPA claims that all their data comes from over 400 studies, however these are not made available in any public scientific literature. What is available in scientific literature is the cold hard facts: since 1947 there has been 3.5 million less bees, and they seem to have just disappeared. Another scary fact: Dow AgroSciences, who makes the pesticide sulfoxaflor, asked the EPA to expand the pesticide’s use to corn, alfalfa, and clovers, the latter two which are food staples for honey bees. The alarming evidences keeps adding up, and when it comes down to it the EPA doesn’t care for the livelihood of our planet. They make money by taking the easy way out.

When it comes down to it, saving any part of our planet is really not difficult. Homeowners, like you, can save the honeys bees by completing simple and everyday tasks. The first: when you find a beehive in or outside of your home, do not call an exterminator, who will destroy the bees. Instead, call up a local beekeeper who will move the queen out and without killing the hive. Also, try planting lavender which is a food source for the bees. Another step you can take is to place a shallow dish, like a Frisbee, full of water outside. Stick rocks in the water, and you have created a resting area for working bees where they can drink water without drowning.

How neonics harm honey bees

Below are some resources you can look through for further information about sulfoxaflor and how to save the honey bees:

Take action at Earthjustice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1591&_ga=1.174370657.2100345355.1412029054

 

Read more about the EPA’s decision: http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/csb_page/updates/2013/sulfoxaflor-decision.html

 

The government regulation on sulfoxaflor:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2010-0889-0402

 

An informative article about the EPA and sulfoxaflor from EcoWatch: http://ecowatch.com/2013/05/08/epa-approves-new-pesticide-highly-toxic-to-bees/

 

Understand the work beekeepers do, and how you can help the bees:

http://capitalbeekeepers.org

What Lies Beneath: Gas Pipe Inspections

Earthquakes are not the only things that lie waiting beneath the ground. In light of the Northern California earthquake on Sunday August 24, homeowners and business-run establishments need information on the condition of the gas pipes under their buildings, less something like a 6.0-magnitude quake should render them as hazardous.
Though the devastation of the earthquake may have caused damage to gas pipes, any time is a good time to have gas pipes inspected. That is why Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified building analyst conduct gas pipe inspections on your home or place of business. All homes with natural gas, propane, and oil service must be inspected thoroughly for leaks. Any leakage could lead to potential gas poisoning, and as a result death.
According to the Building Analyst Professional Standards from BPI, the following tests and inspections for gas leak and carbon monoxide detection should be conducted on your home. Combustion appliances that fail any safety test must be adjusted, repaired, or replaced before receiving any additional installations. Forced warm air furnaces are also inspected for flame interference, and additional heat exchanger integrity-tests must be performed as indicated by the flame interference inspection. If there are any cracked heat exchangers, they too need replacement. The last requirement is that all water heaters must have a pressure and temperature relief valve, a safety discharge pipe, and an approved earthquake strap installed according to minimum code standards.
With the completion of these inspections, and resulting repairs or replacements, your home will be up to code and an even safer environment, whether or not an earthquake may strike.

California’s Historic Drought of 2014: How Can We Help?

If you are reading this blog, then you care enough to learn more about how we conserve our most precious resource: water.
So here are *5 things you should know about this historic drought:
1. It is one of the worst in California’s history
2. Storage levels of water are dropping
3. Conservation is key during summer and autumn
4. Limiting outdoor water use equals big savings
5. Find water-saving tips and valuable rebates at www.bewaterwise.com

Water is our most important natural resource, and gives Earth its uniqueness; it covers about 71% of our planet! It is our lifeline, and being a part of this water-based planet obligates us to understand the current conditions of the California drought. We need to know how the drought affects us and how in turn we affect it.

California has been in a drought for more than three years. This year of 2014 has seen the worst of the drought conditions since the 1800’s; the water reservoirs have dropped rapidly while rain continues to be scarce (Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, “What You Need to Know”). These conditions leave us Californians to conserve as much water as we can, and to start now.

Like most Americans, a typical daily routine consists of a shower, flushing toilets, washing dishes, and maybe the occasional watering plants, cars, and dogs. Until now, we have not given using water for these tasks a second thought; however, we do start to notice as our lawns become less green. Every drop we use starts to add up, and in retrospect, we should consider changing some of our menial tasks to include less to no water. After all, most of California is considered a desert. Water used to be plentiful, but with the continued rapid immigration to California and less rainfall, water resources have nearly run dry.

Below are some tips to help you in your effort to conserve:
• Take shorter showers
• Flush less often, OR
• Install low-flow or water-smart toilets
• Turn off the facet in between dishes while washing
• Don’t water your grass or plants; instead, invest in California native plants which require less water
• Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances (website with rebates below)
• Take your car to an eco-friendly car wash that recycles the water (website below)

Here are a few resources if you would like to know more about conserving:

BeWaterWise rebates available at: http://socalwatersmart.com/index.php/home-ci

SoCalWaterSmart website on turf removal: http://socalwatersmart.com/index.php/qualifyingproducts/turfremoval?p=res

Governor’s Office website:
http://www.caloes.ca.gov/NewsandMedia/Pages/Current%20News%20and%20Events/Drought.aspx

*http://www.bewaterwise.com/Drought.html