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Disposable Bathroom Wipes Not So Disposable

Flushable Bathroom Wipes

Last year just after Thanksgiving day, a condominium complex in Chester, NY experienced a not-so-welcome problem – raw sewage erupting from a manhole near the pump station serving the 600-plus unit.  What happened?  After consultants came in to evaluate the situation, they found that globs of wipe products (which claim to be disposable) had ultimately triggered the pumps by becoming wrapped around the station’s flotation devices.  Ultimately, the situation cost $1,500 to repair, according Village of Chester Mayor Phil Valastro.

At Haley Mechanical, we understand that many companies advertise their products as “disposable,” but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay to flush cleaning and baby wipes, paper towels, and other paper or wipe products other than toilet paper.  The mayor advised a crowd that gathered at a Village Board meeting that they shouldn’t put anything in a toilet other than what’s supposed to be there – good advice.

As a home or business owner, you probably aren’t aware that this is a huge and growing problem.  According to sewer operators and municipal leaders, the problem of flushing disposable cleaning wipes and other non-flush-able items has been reaching what they call “epic proportions” across the country.  Ultimately, the costs for repair end up with the consumer, in the form of higher sewer bills.

Toilet paper is really the only paper product that breaks down properly in the sewer.  Paper towels, baby wipes, and cleaning wipes essentially remain solid instead of breaking up, leading to wear and tear on machines, and backed up sewer systems.  As these products “glob up” and clump, the sewer system eventually becomes sluggish, and finally backs up.  So, why do companies market products using terms like “biodegradable,” “flush-able,” and “disposable?”  That’s easy – it makes them easier to sell.  What’s better than a disinfecting wipe used to clean the bathroom that you can just flush right down the toilet when you’re done?

Cynthia Finley, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies‘ director of regulatory affairs, says that policy efforts to increase scrutiny of firms that market products using these terms have essentially gone nowhere.  Finley also stated that currently, there are no federal efforts to curb the use of these products, and that sewer districts across the nation are plagued by these problems.

So, what is the lesson here?  Regardless of whether a product claims to be flush-able or biodegradable, don’t flush it unless it’s toilet paper!  This will help prevent sewage back up, and allow you to save on sewer costs.

Haley Mechanical wants homeowners to be aware of the damage that flushing products that are not meant to be flushed can do to sewer systems – and the damage it can do to your wallet when repair costs are passed down to the consumer. Contact us today!

Temperature Affects Comfort, What Other Factors Play a Role?

Beautiful Healthy Home

Whether you live in Dexter, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, or other cities in southeast Michigan, you know the temperature you set your thermostat on is a big factor in how comfortable your home feels. Still, enjoying a comfortable home is much more than whether it is 72 degrees. Humidity and the quality of the air inside your home can also determine just how comfortable you feel. At Haley Mechanical, we want to help you enjoy the most comfortable home possible this summer season!

Temperature. Most people talk about the temperature when engaging in a conversation about the weather. You may hear, “It is freezing,” or “It is hot and humid” or any other phrase, depending on what the temperature is outdoors. What most homeowners do not realize is that temperature is not inherently stable. There are many factors that can affect how comfortable a room feels and its temperature. You know how it gets hot in a room when it is filled with people? This is because most humans generate an amount of heat equivalent to a 100-watt light bulb. Add in a draft around a window or door, whether sunlight may be coming directly through a window in the room, and you can see why keeping a room at the temperature set on the thermostat is nearly impossible.

Humidity. Ever have that heavy, sticky feeling in the rooms of your home? Humidity can make you feel warm and uncomfortable, even when the temperature on the thermostat is set at a temperature that usually feels comfortable. Humidity is tiny water droplets, which makes it difficult for people to sweat “effectively.” Sweating is how the body cools itself, and because humidity is moisture, it makes your body’s natural cooling function difficult because the moisture from your skin can’t evaporate due to the humidity in the air (and on your skin).

Also, humidity can add to the air temperature – by as much as 8 degrees! On a day when the actual temperature is 90 degrees, high humidity can make it feel like 98 degrees. Ultimately, humid air feels hotter, while dryer air feels cooler. If your home doesn’t have a system in place to remove humidity or “dehumidify,” it will affect your comfort level. You won’t be as comfortable as you would in a room that is a few degrees warmer, but with drier air. Controlling humidity inside your home in summer months can result in a more comfortable home, and lower energy bills.

Indoor air quality. Pet dander, pollen, dust, tobacco smoke – all of these things can make the air inside your home more polluted, and less comfortable. Humidity is damp, which can result in the growth of mold and mildew. Paint, cleaning products, and even chemicals in carpeting and other textiles can pollute your indoor air, and even be dangerous to your health. Those who suffer from allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions may notice aggravated symptoms simply because the air inside your home is not as clean as it could be. The Lennox PureAir Air Purification System is the only system on the market that provides homeowners with air that is truly clean and fresh.

Control. The solution to enjoying the ultimate in comfort in your home? Controlling the temperature, air quality, and humidity levels. This can be accomplished by having a cooling/heating system that allows you to create your perfect indoor environment while preserving it. Most thermostats make it possible to control the temperature, but to control humidity, consider the iComfort® Wi-Fi and the ComfortSense 7000; both make it possible to independently control the humidity or moisture levels in the air.

Ready to create your perfect space? Resolve all of the issues affecting the comfort of your SE Michigan home by calling Haley Mechanical today.

Older Ann Arbor Home? Choosing Between a Window AC & Ductless Mini-Split

Mini-Split installation in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Many older Southeast Michigan homes do not have air ducts, so your choices for air conditioning are limited. Is a window unit the right way to go, or would a ductless mini-split system be better?

It depends on whether you own your home or are renting. For those renting a home or who are financially strapped, a window A/C unit may be best. Otherwise, the benefits of a ductless mini-split for homeowners are many.

As mentioned above, there are many advantages of a ductless mini-split system. These include:

  • No window required
  • Safer, as theft is less likely
  • Can be placed nearly anywhere due to its compact size
  • Increased property value
  • Quiet operation when compared to window units
  • Zoning – cooling different areas in your home

Drawbacks?

  • Ductless mini-splits cost more to install
  • Installation requires a qualified technician

What about window A/C? The advantages of this type of cooling system include:

  • Lower initial equipment cost
  • Simple to install

Drawbacks?

  • Windows are blocked, thereby reducing light that comes into your home
  • Security concerns as a window unit can be removed, making for an easy entrance
  • Intrusive regarding decor
  • At 47-63 decibels, the noise level can be irritating and is comparable to a dishwasher

So, which cooling system is best in your situation? It is easy to see by the comparisons above which is best. However, other factors to consider include:

Budget. Mini-split systems cost about twice the cost of a similar capacity window unit regarding tonnage, usually in the range of $1,500 to $2,000 per ton of cooling capacity. A window unit may be the solution if your budget is tight.

Size and space of your SE Michigan home. If you have several rooms you want to cool or window space is limited, a ductless mini-split system is an ideal solution as you can locate them in the areas you need cooling most, and they can be mounted on walls or the floor depending on the model. Additionally, with multiple indoor units, you can program which rooms you want to cool.

Do you own your home or rent? A ductless mini-split system is quite an investment for someone who’s renting, so you may want to consider window AC. However, if you own your home, it is worth the initial investment considering you can “zone” cooling and your property value are increased.

Still wondering which is right for your budget and situation? At Haley Mechanical, our qualified technicians can help you determine which is the best cooling solution for your needs. We invite those in Ann Arbor and surrounding areas in Southeast Michigan to give us a call today!

Are You Prepared for Winter Power Outages?

Broken Power Lines

With all of the winter storms the nation has experienced so far this winter season – Winter Storms Maximus and Nika, Polar Vortex – it can make you feel like you are living somewhere other than the good old U.S., perhaps Antarctica or deep in the Siberian wilderness! All we wish is that it was over, but there are still a few weeks to go before we can enjoy the warmer weather. In the meantime, it is important to be prepared for a power outage which could be brought on by heavy snowfall, ice, or even wind.

No one wants to be out of power, but having an outage presents far more danger than having a power outage in warmer months. Extremely cold temperatures can be deadly, so it is important you be well prepared for safety’s sake. How can you be ready the next time one of these dangerous storms hits the southeast Michigan area? Here are a few pointers.

Consider an automatic generator. An automatic generator makes it possible to run your entire home during an outage, or just the necessities such as your refrigerator and heat, depending on the size you choose. Automatic generators work much like portable models but are more convenient because of their ability to shut on and off automatically when the power goes out and comes back on. This is possible because of the fact the generator is installed at the back or side of your home and hooked up to a natural gas line – no constant fuelling up!

Automatic generators can be costly, but the investment is well worth it if you can afford it. Not only can your home remain safe and warm for your family, but you also enjoy peace of mind. If an automatic generation simply isn’t within your budget, here are some other suggestions to keep you safe and warm during the next winter storm.

Have emergency supplies on hand. These supplies should include:

  • Flashlights, generators, battery-powered lanterns and other emergency equipment, tested and ready for use
  • Non-perishable food items
  • If you have a woodstove or fireplace, have plenty of firewood on hand
  • Collect water in bottles for drinking, cooking, and other needs should your pipes freeze
  • Also, make sure all of the batteries on your mobile devices are charged such as your laptop or mobile phone.

Make sure your home is prepared for the next winter storm by:

  • Applying caulk or weather stripping to exterior doors and windows
  • To prevent busted water pipes, drip faucets when temperatures are extremely cold
  • Ensure your walls and attic are sufficiently insulated
  • Set up equipment for emergency heat, such as a camp stove and fuel, fireplace and wood/coal
  • Know how to shut off the water valves to your home should a pipe break
  • Consider purchasing space heaters, but know how to use them in a safe manner. Space heaters should never be operated in a room or home when no one is present, and should not be placed in close proximity to furniture, drapes, blankets, throws, or any item/material which is potentially flammable. They’re also not to be used for drying wet gloves, hats, or other items of clothing.

At Haley Mechanical our mission is to help southeast Michigan homeowners in Ann Arbor, Dexter, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas stay warm and safe this winter season, regardless of what storms may roll our way. Have questions about automatic generators? Give us a call today.

Turning Off the Lights – All Light Bulbs are Not Created Equal

Picture of a Lightbulb

Most people assume that in order to save on energy costs, you should turn off the light whenever you leave a room, regardless of what type of light it is.  Of course, there are those that drive you crazy, always leaving every light in the house on!  It all boils down to the type of bulb you are using, whether incandescent, halogen, CFL, or LED. Who knew you would need a lesson as to when to turn off your lights?

Here’s a quick tutorial.

Incandescent Lights

The least efficient type of lighting, incandescent lights should be turned off when not in use.  Surprisingly, only about 10% of the energy used to result in light; the other 90% results as heat.  During summer months, turning incandescent lights off will help keep those rooms cooler.

Halogen Lights

Halogen lighting uses basically the same technology as incandescent lighting, although they are more efficient.  CFL and LED lighting are still far more energy efficient lighting options, so turn off halogen lights when not in use.

CFL Lighting

CFL lighting is highly efficient, and because their operating life depends in part on how many times they are turned off and on, it may not be necessary to turn the light off every time you leave the room.  How do you know when to turn a CFL light off?

If you will not return to the room for longer than 15 minutes, turn the light off.

If you will return to the room in 15 minutes or less, leave the light on.

Switching a CFL bulb on and off less often is more important in extending the life of the bulb than turning the light off every time you leave the room, or basically using it less.

Many people are under the assumption that it takes a substantial amount of energy to get a CFL bulb started, therefore it’s best not to turn the light off for short periods of time.  The amount of energy it takes to start a CFL light varies between models and manufacturers. Bulbs that are ENERGY STAR rated hold up to frequent switching on and off, because they are required to hold up to rapid cycling for intervals of five minutes.

Regardless, the relatively higher “inrush” current lasts for 1/120th of one second or half a cycle.  Ultimately, with CFL bulbs the real issue is the value, whether in terms of energy saved by turning the light off or the cost of replacing the light bulb because it burns out quicker when turned on and off frequently.  With fluorescent lighting, more energy is saved when the light is turned off for as few as five seconds than is used when turning a fluorescent light back on.

Factors That Determine the Value of Energy Saved By Turning CFL Lights Off

Rates charged by electric utilities are often different depending on whether the customer is industrial, residential, or commercial.  Depending on the rate schedule, the price can affect the value of energy saved.

During “peak” periods when the consumption of power is highest, it costs utility companies more to generate electricity, which usually results in higher rates to the consumer.  Some utilities also charge different rates depending on what time of the day it is.

Average kWh (kilowatt-hour) consumed, base charges, and/or taxes per billing period and other miscellaneous charges may be added to your bill by your utility company if these charges are not factored into the rate.

Commercial and industrial customers may be charged more per kWh during peak periods by some utility companies.

Customers who consume a certain amount of power may be charged a base rate by some utilities; this base rate may increase as blocks of consumption increase.

LED Lighting

An LED or light emitting diode’s operating life is not affected by switching it on and off.  With fluorescent lamps, the more frequently they are turned on or off, the shorter the lifespan; this is not the case with LED lighting, which gives LED’s numerous advantages in terms of operating.  LED’s, unlike fluorescent lighting, come on almost instantly at full brightness without delay.  This type of lighting is also effective for use with daylight or occupancy sensors that rely on on-off operation, considering switching them on and off has no impact on their operating life.  LED lights also have no glass enclosures or filaments, so vibration doesn’t usually affect them.

How to Calculate Energy Savings

In order to determine the energy you save by switching a light bulb off, you must first know how much energy the bulb uses when in use or “on.”  Every type of bulb has a watt rating printed on it, such as 40 watts, 60 watts, etc.  If a bulb is rated 40 watts and is turned on for one hour, 0.04 kWh is consumed.  The same is true if the bulb is turned off for one hour – 0.04 kWh is saved.  It is important to keep in mind that fluorescent fixtures may have more than one bulb and that in some cases, one light switch controls several fixtures such as a lamp, lighting in a ceiling fan, etc. – an “array.”  To determine total energy savings, you will need to add the savings for each fixture.

Next, look over your electric bill to determine how much you pay for electricity per kWh, both in general and during peak periods.  Notice what your electric provider charges per kWh, and multiply that rate by the amount of electricity you determined you saved to learn the value of your savings.  Using the 40-watt example above, let’s say your utility charges 10 cents per kWh.  The energy saving value for a 40-watt bulb left off for one hour would then be $0.004, or 0.4 cents.  The higher the watt rating of the bulb the higher the value of the savings.  Savings also increases the more bulbs controlled by one switch, and with a higher rate per kWh.

Ultimately, the type and model of bulb and ballast used will determine how long a light or set of lights should be turned off to be the most cost-effective before the savings is more than the cost of bulb replacement due to a shorter operating life.  Of course, the cost of replacing a bulb or ballast can vary, depending on the type of bulb and any labor costs to replace it.

Generally speaking, a highly energy efficient light bulb can be left on for a longer period of time before it becomes more cost-effective to switch it off. Manufacturers should also be able to supply you with information regarding the duty cycle of their products.

Once you know when it is more cost effective to turn your lights off, you may want to consider timers, sensors, and other lighting controls that will turn your lights on and off automatically.