Category Archives: Energy Savings

How to Winterize Your Massachusetts Home

Winterize homeThe weather outside is beautiful, not frightful. But before you know it, the cool Massachusetts mornings and crisp afternoons of autumn will give way to a long and unforgiving season of winter’s chill. Do you winterize your home to prepare it for the snow and ice to come? You should.

This time of year, you probably think about home maintenance chores such as cleaning out gutters, raking the yard and closing up storm windows to keep cold air outside where it belongs. But it’s better to tackle all of your home’s winterization needs now than to wait until you need a snowsuit.

Here’s are some of our recommendations for keeping you and your home warm, safe and dry until spring comes around again.

Check the Plumbing and Insulate Vulnerable Pipes

If there’s anything worse than waking up to frozen water pipes, we’re not really sure what it is. When temperatures dip into the teens, any homeowner who has ever dealt with frozen pipes before might get a little nervous. Maybe you leave faucets dripping, too. But pipes can freeze in temperatures above 20 degrees if they’re exposed to those temperatures long enough.

Pipe insulation and heated pipe wrap can help prevent the problem. So can sealing up air leaks that let cold air circulate around plumbing in crawlspaces and basements. If you’re not sure where your pipes are the most vulnerable, your plumber can help you find the spots that need protection.

Head off Ice Dams Before They Can Start

Ice dams can sure look pretty with all of the glistening icicles hanging off the roof’s edge. Too bad they have the power to ruin shingles, tear down gutters and send water leaks into your home. The problem isn’t the weather, it’s the way that your home reacts to it. And it usually boils down to insulation and ventilation. When the roof is warmer than the eaves, you have a recipe for an ice dam.

Ventilation and insulation are This Old House’s recipe for stopping ice dams before they can happen. You need ample ventilation throughout the attic from eaves to ridge because that regulates the whole roof’s temperature. And with more insulation on the attic floor, your attic will have less heat to build up in the first place.

Seal All of the Air Leaks You Can Find

Get your caulk gun, weatherstripping, silicone, and cans of spray foam insulation ready. It’s time to seal air leaks wherever you can find them. There are countless places in every home where a gap might happen that lets cold air get inside. And where cold comes in, you can also lose heat. Sealants are the answer, and they’re one of the easiest DIY projects around the house.

Here are some of the most likely places where the U.S. Department of Energy says you could find air leaks:

  • Around door and window trim
  • Around door and window seals (for weatherstripping)
  • Along baseboards and crown molding
  • Plumbing pipe and electrical wiring penetrations/holes cut through walls, ceiling and floors
  • Around bathtubs and showers
  • Along the chimney edge
  • Behind electrical switch plates and outlets (Don’t caulk these; install an insulating foam backer sheet behind the plates instead)
  • Around the dryer vent opening
  • Around exhaust fans and vents
  • Throughout the basement or crawl space, especially along vertical edges in corners, seams between the basement ceiling and first floor, around basement doors and daylight windows, and along the walls.

When you head outdoors, check every vertical seam along the siding and trim. Caulk those, as well. But you should never caulk horizontal siding seams.

Winterize home Window repairs and storm windows are sometimes a better choice than replacements when the home is very old and the windows are original.

Think About Replacement Windows

Replacement windows can be a great investment or an expensive mistake. A return on the investment only happens under the right conditions. If your existing windows are very poor, replacements could make a huge difference in comfort and energy savings. But if they’re in fairly good condition, they might require replacement again before you see any ROI. And if your home is quite old. If you can’t invest in high-quality replacements, storm windows are a better option.

If you decide to take the plunge, focus on quality first. Budget windows are still not exactly cheap and they have a shorter lifespan. Look for multi-pane windows with gas between the panes, high-quality seals and low-emissivity glass that helps keep heated air inside your home and damaging UV rays out. While you’re at it, think about energy efficient replacement exterior doors.

Get a Fireplace and Chimney Inspection

If you use a fireplace or any other wood-burning appliance, now is the time to give it a checkup. You can hire a chimney sweep, or you can do it yourself with a chimney-sweeping broom. (Caveat: This is an extremely messy job, and you’ll need two people: one on the roof and one inside at the hearth). Chimney-sweeping logs are better for periodic cleanings after all of the soot buildup has been removed.

A fireplace and chimney inspection will find creosote buildup, weak spots in the chimney, issues with the damper and many other potential issues that could affect fireplace performance and the health and safety of your family.

Upgrade Your Insulation

Insulation is one of the most important ways to give your home a nice, warm hug. Unless you know for sure that the attic is highly insulated, chances are it could benefit from more. Blown-in insulation is very easy for your installer to add, and it can fill every nook and cranny where roll or batt insulation can’t reach. There’s even a DIY option, but equipment rental costs can be steep.

If you decide to add more roll or batt insulation on your own, remember that insulation isn’t just a blanket to keep a house warm. Insulation is also a science. There are very important rules to follow:

  • Only use unfaced batts, which is the type that does not have a backing of paper or any other material, or loose/blown-in insulation if you are adding more insulation over existing.
  • Don’t squash insulation into corners and other tight areas. This disrupts ventilation.
  • Never add insulation to an attic ceiling unless you get the opinion of an insulation expert first.

The paper backing is a vapor barrier, and the attic floor should only have one of those. It should be on the bottom, touching the attic subfloor between the joists, and it must always face toward the living space. On an attic floor, that means the paper side must always face down toward the rest of the house. If you are adding new insulation over existing insulation, an additional paper backing/vapor barrier will cause condensation problems that can soak the attic floor.


Cleaning the furnace can help extend its life.

Schedule an HVAC Inspection

We’re moving headlong into home-heating season, so it’s time for an HVAC maintenance call. And this time, think about getting a ductwork inspection, too. Air leaks throughout the ductwork can send your expensive heated air into the attic, basement, between the walls and anywhere that the ductwork might run.

Your technician will clean the HVAC equipment, look for problems and make repairs on the spot or schedule them for later. Sometimes, parts aren’t available and must be ordered. And if you want a ductwork checkup, there’s a test that can reveal how much air is lost through leaks in the system. Air duct sealing can close most or all of the leaks from the inside out, which results in a major improvement in home comfort and energy savings.

If you’re thinking about a new system, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is your home never really warm in winter?
  • Are your heating bills worse every year?
  • Do you turn up the thermostat with no real measurable improvement in comfort?
  • Does the system cycle on and off repeatedly and frequently?
  • Do you hear strange noises when the system is running?
  • Are repair bills mounting?
  • Do you have stubborn cold spots? (A new mini-split system can eliminate those).

Any of these could be a sign that your existing system is on its way out.

Your home is a highly sophisticated system with numerous smaller systems working throughout. And when everything is performing like it should, the house becomes a well-oiled machine of peak energy efficiency and comfort performance. But when any of the systems is weak or broken, it can affect everything else.

Fall is the classic time for home maintenance and repairs. So now is the perfect time to give your home a thorough checkup and take measures to improve all of the small and not-so-small issues that you can find. Your friends at Rodenhiser are here to help. We have served Massachusetts homeowners throughout the Route 495 / 128 area since 1928, and we’re on the job for you, as well.

Call Rodenhiser today and we’ll get your home ready for the winter season before it has time to settle in.

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Expert Interview Series: Gary Wollenhaupt of Proud Green Home

Green home

Gary Wollenhaupt is the editorial director of ProudGreenHome.com, a website devoted to inspiring and education home builders and owners on their own green home journey.

Here, shares ideas about the easiest ways homeowners can introduce green practices to their homes. Read on:

Tell us about ProudGreenHome.com. What is your mission?

We are an online resource for homeowners, builders and the residential construction industry to accelerate the adoption of high-performance strategies, systems and products for all types of single-family and multifamily, new and remodeled homes.

Why are you so passionate about green homes?

My passion comes from improving efficiency and eliminating waste – wasteful use of energy and water, waste in the production and transportation of goods for production and shipment of building products. The process to build a standard wood-frame home is mind boggling; it’s a wonder they get built at all, let alone built with any degree of quality. Of course, reducing energy use, being wiser in our use of natural resources and reducing pollution all add up to positives for the environment as well.

What are the most interesting trends or innovations you’re following in green homes today?

The growth of home certification programs such as Energy Star, LEED, National Green Building Standard, Passive House, and so on, finally give homeowners some measure of quality control in their homes. Previously, if a new home owner didn’t see a problem during the punch list walk through, it was really hard to get it fixed. Now third-party raters verify the performance of the home.

What are the benefits to homeowners of integrating green products or systems in their homes?

A high-performance home or green home can be more comfortable in terms of even heat and humidity levels, better air quality with less pollutants in the home, and lower cost to live in over the years.

In what areas of the home is it easiest for homeowners to introduce green products, technologies or practices?

Smart thermostats like the Nest are an easy place to start. HVAC systems are getting crazy efficient, like the mini split heat pump systems. Steps like additional insulation, better air sealing and new windows can also be done one at a time.

What green investments would you recommend all homeowners look into?

The biggest bang for the buck is air sealing and insulation. Depending on how your home is built, for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars you can seal up air loss and start saving money immediately, literally while the insulation is being added to the attic you can start telling a difference.

What green options should homeowners look into when they’re shopping for HVAC systems?

Smart and learning thermostats are proving to be effective in reducing costs, so that can be a good place to start. If you’re looking at a new HVAC system for a home, look at the efficiency ratings. There are mini split heat pump systems that have a SEER rating in the high 20s, compared to 14 SEER for a standard unitary furnace. Geothermal or ground source heat pumps are highly efficient as well.

What should home owners be looking for in HVAC systems if they want to be more green and energy efficient?

Do your homework and compare the numbers such as the SEER rating. Energy Star certified products are also a good place to start. There’s always a trade off in cost vs. performance, but spending a little more upfront can save money for years to come.

What green options are there in plumbing?

First, look for Water Sense certified fixtures, it’s similar to Energy Star but for water conservation. Manufacturers work hard to provide the right level of water flow for sinks, showers and toilets while using less water.

Also talk to your plumber about a water recirculation pump. When you’re waiting on hot water to reach the shower or the sink, that cold water goes down the drain and all the energy in it is wasted. A recirculation pump keeps hot water flowing through the plumbing system so it’s instantly available, you don’t have to wait for the water to get hot. The pump can be activated by a timer, a motion sensor or a wall switch. Homes save lots of money on water and energy.

Do you have any anecdotes or examples of homeowners who have gone above or beyond in introducing green practices/products/systems into their homes? What can we learn from them?

Maura and Kurt Jung built the first Passive House certified in Michigan, which is the top-of-the-line in green home, using 80 percent to 90 percent less energy than a typical home.

Their architect-designed home is a modern interpretation of a Michigan farm house. The Jungs settled on the Passive House path because it met their desire for environmental responsibility while allowing them to choose their favorite architectural style. A Passive House is like the Porsche of houses, well engineered and high performance, compared with a Ford Taurus standard home. You can have a vision and make it come true, the lesson is to find partners such as architects and builders that will listen to you and not steer you to what they know how to build.

Contact Rodenhiser about your HVAC new system install.

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How to Save Energy with Ceiling Fans

Save energyWhen utilities use spikes during weather extremes, ceiling fans help take the edge off. Right now, the heat of summer is bearing down across most of the nation. That means higher electricity consumption and some pretty scary bills. Although fans also use electricity, the combination of benefits that they bring to the table equals savings without losing comfort. Here’s how to get it.

Fans Use Electricity but Air Conditioning Uses More

The right combination in the summertime is a bit of air conditioning and a bit of ceiling fan use. It might seem like you’re trading dependency on one device for dependency on another, but fans use a lot less.

When you add a ceiling fan to your home’s cooling plan, you get immediate relief plus lower energy consumption for a result that’s sometimes even more comfortable than air conditioning alone. That’s because fans help the body’s natural cooling system work better. A breeze on the skin makes you feel better right away.

Fans won’t lower the indoor temperature in summer, they only make the people in it feel cooler. So you don’t need to run them when you’re not at home. But according to Brent Glasgow for HuffPo, they might help improve ventilation for a lower risk of mold. So it’s really your choice.

Save energy Cool sleep is more restful, which is why ceiling fans are perfect for bedrooms.

Rotation Direction is Important

Most ceiling fans rotate in either of two directions. One direction works best for warm weather, and the other works best when it’s cold. The concept is confusing for some people, but the principle is very simple.

In summer, you want to feel the breeze. In winter, you don’t. It’s really as simple as that. So this time of year, set your fan’s rotation to blow straight down. That will improve its cooling effect on your skin, which lets you raise the thermostat just a touch without feeling stuffy.

Here’s the part that causes some confusion. Once winter arrives, reverse the fan so that it blows up against the ceiling. Heated air rises, that’s true. But it’s also true that your fan will circulate the heat by bouncing it off the ceiling and sending it back down into the room. Bonus: you won’t get a chilly breeze.

Better Lights Ramp up Efficiency

Most ceiling fans have a rather ordinary light kit, but that’s another area where you can conserve energy. Instead of using fancy incandescents that are made mostly for looks, think about upgrading to a better fan, a new light kit or at least better bulbs, which the pros refer to as lamps.

Some fans are designed with a built-in fluorescent light ballast, which Home Energy magazine says is likely the most efficient choice. This style has fluorescent lamps that pop in instead of the screw-in style CFLs.

Another choice is a fluorescent replacement light kit. If upgraded fans and light kits are too pricey, consider using LED lamps in the standard ceiling fan fixture. They save more energy than the typical spiral-shaped CFLs and don’t contain any mercury. Earth Easy says they typically last 10 times longer than CFLs, too.

Ceiling fans make your air conditioning work better so you feel cooler. And with the right lighting, either LED or fluorescent, you won’t add more heat. But perhaps the best thing about fans is that they don’t need to be ultra-sophisticated to work wonders. If they circulate the air, they’ll help. So if your home needs a cooling boost without making your energy bills worse, they’re definitely worth considering.

Fans make summer heat more bearable, but sometimes a stuffy home means the AC is in trouble. Call Rodenhiser today, and we’ll evaluate your air conditioner, perform necessary maintenance and get you back on the road to a cool, comfortable home.

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5 Energy Saving Tips for May in Massachusetts

Energy saving tips
Keep those Benjamins and Grants in your wallet instead of handing them over to the utility company.

During the month of May, you probably experience more than a few temperature swings, which means your heating and even cooling appliances are on again and off again, sometimes in the same week. Just last year, Accuweather says that Massachusetts statewide average temperatures fluctuated as much as 30 degrees for the daytime highs in a 7-day period.

The average Massachusetts resident uses about 109 million BTUs of energy every year. That’s 22 percent higher than the average American home, so finding ways to conserve can also help save a considerable amount of money. Here are 5 tips to help meet that goal.

#1: Use a Programmable or Smart Thermostat

Programmable thermostats automatically adjust indoor temperatures based on settings that you choose. Many homeowners prefer a warmer home during the day and a cooler home at night, which the National Sleep Foundation says falls between 60 and 67 degrees.

Smart thermostats take the idea of climate control one step further. You designate temperature settings initially. But over time, the thermostat learns your family’s habits and programs itself to increase and decrease the temperature at different key times of day, such as when you’re at work or just waking up in the morning, for optimum savings.

#2: Get Leaky Faucets Repaired

Believe it or not, plumbers can help you save energy. Not only can a reputable plumber install a high-efficiency water heater that reduces your energy consumption for household hot water, he can help the heater perform better by repairing water supply leaks.

A leaky faucet at the kitchen sink or in the bathroom can draw hot water from the tank continually. That causes the heater to cycle on more than it should. Get drips and trickles repaired, and your hot water will stay in the tank until you need it instead of going down the drain.

Energy saving tips
Get the right insulation depth for your home and warm air will stay put.

#3: Inspect Your Insulation

Living in Massachusetts means that you likely have insulation in the attic and maybe the walls, too. But inadequate insulation lets heat escape your home, which puts a heavier load on your furnace or boiler. It can also make your floors bone-chilling cold.

Almost every home could benefit from additional insulation. Unless you recently had new material installed, it’s a safe bet that beefing it up would help reduce thermal transfer even more. And if your crawlspace or basement has no insulation, correcting that situation would give you warmer floors and fewer cold drafts wicking up indoors.

#4: Repair or Replace Windows and Doors

Old windows and doors don’t necessarily require replacement, especially in a very old or historic home. But because they can be major points of drafts, heat loss in cold weather and heat gain in summer, older windows and doors do need attention.

Caulk is an inexpensive and effective way to seal drafts, says the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Add insulating storm windows and doors, and you’ll have another measure of protection against the temperature fluctuations outside.

#5: Get a Home Energy Assessment

Perhaps the best way to help lower heating and cooling bills is to get a home energy assessment. Mass Save says that in about 2 hours, an energy specialist will evaluate your home for areas that make it less efficient. That information shows where you need to focus repair and improvement attention.

To make energy efficient improvements more affordable, the Commonwealth offers several rebates and incentives. Get up to $2,000 back on insulation, targets air sealing for free, heating, cooling and water heating appliance rebates, and there’s also a 0 percent financing program for some residents.

You don’t need set the thermostat too high or too low and compensate with clothing to save a little money. Work at improving your home’s heat loss and gain issues, and your heating and cooling equipment will work less to keep your home comfortable.

The professionals at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electric can work with you to improve energy efficiency. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more.

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How You can Save Money on Electricity This Summer

Electric bills tend to soar in the summer as the air conditioner starts to work overtime. No one wants to deal with a big electric bill, but no one wants to deal with the heat of summer inside the house. Learning how to save money on electricity in the summer can keep your energy usage down without sacrificing comfort.

ceiling fan
Source: iStock.com/Doc_Ever

Easy Ways to Bring Your Energy Use Down

Use these handy tips for how you can save money on electricity this summer:

  • Use insulated window treatments. If you have windows that bring direct sunlight into your home, you are heating your home with those sun rays. Heavy drapes or insulated blinds will help keep that heat outside instead of inside, cutting down your electricity use.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. You aren’t home. Why is your A/C running at full blast? A programmable thermostat, set to your schedule, will keep your home comfortable when you are at home and save you money when you are not.
  • Shut the doors on rooms you are not using. If no one is using the extra bedroom or rec room in your home, closing off that space will save you the energy it takes to cool it. The A/C will do its job quickly and then shut off. That will cut down on your energy use and electric bill.
  • Use ceiling fans. Fans do not actually cool the air. The movement of the air across the skin makes it feel cooler. By making the occupants of the room feel cooler, it is possible to keep the A/C at a higher temp. Just remember to turn the fans off when you leave the room.
  • Use natural light when possible. Turn the lights off during the day and use natural light as much as possible. You should open the window treatments on all the windows not receiving direct sunlight. This will illuminate your home without letting in the heat of the sun.

If you want to learn more about how to save money on electricity in the summer, contact us here at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

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Time to Look at Back-to-School Energy Savings for Holliston Homeowners

back to schoolThe school break is a time of high energy consumption for most families. Now that fall has arrived and the kids are in class again, you can make up for those big summer energy bills by taking these effective steps that promote back-to-school energy savings:
Read More Time to Look at Back-to-School Energy Savings for Holliston Homeowners >>

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How Window Treatments Can Contribute to the Energy Efficiency of Your Massachusetts Home

window treatmentsWindow treatments can add to the beauty and value of your home. Not only that, but they can make your home more energy-efficient as well. Installing energy-efficient window treatments is a great way to make your home more comfortable and save money at the same time. Combined with efficient heating and air conditioning, you can greatly reduce the costs of heating and cooling your home. Read More How Window Treatments Can Contribute to the Energy Efficiency of Your Massachusetts Home >>

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5 Myths That Can Negatively Impact Home Energy Savings This Summer

energy savings mythsIt’s no surprise that A/Cs see the most use in the summer, but this has the downside of increasing energy bills. When you’re seeking summer energy savings, it’s important to have accurate knowledge. To go along with these tips for efficient A/C operation, here are five common myths which risk increasing your energy costs. Read More 5 Myths That Can Negatively Impact Home Energy Savings This Summer >>

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How Massachusetts Homeowners Can Save Energy Dollars This Summer

Save Energy Dollars This SummerElectric and other utility bills seem to keep going up every year. Lately it’s started seeming like keeping your home a comfortable temperature and running useful appliances is an unaffordable proposition. If your utility payments make you sweat more than the summer heat, here are some great ways to lower your bills and save energy dollars. Read More How Massachusetts Homeowners Can Save Energy Dollars This Summer >>

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Looking for Summer Energy Savings? Don’t Fall for These Myths

summer energy savingsCooling a home in summer can get expensive quickly. Finding summer energy savings is important to keep costs down while maintaining your desired level of comfort. Some tips don’t actually save money though, so make sure you don’t fall for these myths. Here are the real facts on summer energy savings. Read More Looking for Summer Energy Savings? Don’t Fall for These Myths >>

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