All posts by Washington Energy

5 Home Projects To Only Do During Warm Summer Weather

It’s still summer and a great time for tips on home improvements that are best to do in warm weather.

paint siding in summer

1. Paint the outside of your house. 

House painters tell us that painting is optimally done during a prolonged period of dry weather and in temps between 40 and 85 degrees. Dry wood absorbs paint better. But it’s a balancing act, if it’s too hot the paint can dry too fast and leave brush marks or the consistency of the paint can change. Same goes for the inside of your house. If you have an older home without wall insulation, you may find that in the winter, exterior walls conduct the cold and damp from the outside. This can impact your paint drying and color. So open the windows and roll now.











2. Caulking windows and doors.

Caulking is a great way to prevent drafts and save energy. Most people don’t think of caulking until fall comes, but summer is the best time to caulk. On the package of regular caulk is the manufacturer’s recommended temperature for use. This is typically between 40 – 80 degrees, plus dry weather for at least 2-3 days afterwards. This combination will encourage the caulk to harden properly and stick where you put it. Doing it in the rain can cause it to crack or even wash away if it doesn’t set first. There are high and low temperature specialty caulks and silicones available, but we’re referring to the most common kind.  It’s also a good time to replace windows, but that can be done at any time of year in the Northwest, rain or shine.

caulking windows in seattle

tacoma home and garden

3. Summer pruning of shrubs.

Not all plants are alike and pruning recommendations depend on several factors including the plant’s blooming season. According to SavvyGardener.com, “pruning at different seasons triggers different responses.” Better Homes & Gardens says to prune spring bloomers such as lilac, forsythia and rhododendron in late spring after they finish blooming.” By now they are busy building up buds for next time, so pruning them will reduce their output next year. Summer bloomers should be “pruned in early spring prior to bud set, or in summer immediately following flowering.”

Foliage shrubs like Japanese maples and evergreens can be pruned in both summer and spring. Importantly for summer bloomers and shrubs, pruning in the fall causes a rush of new growth and the tender new shoots may get hit by frost, causing damage to the plant.

4. Roof repair or installation.

Summer is the peak season for roofing and there are important reasons why. Many roofing materials require an outdoor temp of at least 40 degrees, especially the adhesives and underlayment.

roof repair in Edmonds

tankless water heater

5. Off season home upgrades.

This is the off season for several home product categories and contractors may be having better discounts and better availability to do the work. According to Home Advisor, “it’s a good idea when you can have your project take place a month or two before or after everyone else”. (Siding in January? You bet you can get a good deal and contractor attention.)  Right now, a great off season opportunity is replacing your water heater, particularly if you are considering a tankless water heater which has a longer installation. Water heater failures are at their highest when it is at or near freezing in the winter, so that’s when contractors are their busiest. Another similar opportunity is maintaining heating equipment, for example, getting furnace or heat pump maintenance before fall. Once heating season starts, contractor availability is tighter and furnace breakdowns start. These early bird options ensure a smooth transition to winter.




Washington Energy Services provides tailored home comfort and energy saving solutions for all seasons. Call us today at 800-398-4663 for your furnace maintenance, new water heater or other home products.

 

 

 

 

Home Upgrades: Before & After Door Transformations

We absolutely love the look and feel of new doors in a home. This home in Edmonds, Washington received a complete door makeover, along with many other upgrades, from a first impression-making front door to the functionality benefits of french doors.

The benefits of upgrading to new doors is not only for looks. Today, doors are made of premium materials that are energy efficient and won’t warp like old wood doors.

French Doors

french doors
french doors

The old aluminum single pane sliding doors were replaced with 2 sets of new french patio doors. The wall to the left was knocked down where there was a second slider door on the other side. (as shown below) These beautiful doors were manufactured from start to finish in the Northwest for Northwest homes.

Fun fact: French doors are technically a window meaning this “door” was made from our vinyl windows selection.

French doors are a great solution for an entrance onto a deck. The wide opening allows you to open up the space between your home and the outdoors to accommodate more people for summer BBQ’s and become a master host.

french doors onto deck


 

Front Doors

edmonds front door

fujitsu seattle

This Codel front door adds curb appeal with it’s exquisite glass design and side panel. Plus the fiberglass door won’t crack, rot or warp like the old wood door. (Installed by Washington Energy Services)


 

Interior Doors

seattle interior door
interior doors

The new interior doors are a Lynden product made by using the Trimtek system to ensure a superior installation with no sloppy nail holes. (Installed by Washington Energy Services)

Washington Energy Services provides tailored home comfort and energy saving solutions for all seasons. Call us today at 800-398-4663 for your doors, windows or other home products.

Top Home Trends of 2014

The sun is out and it’s home project season in the Northwest. If you’re looking for inspiration, we have researched the 2014 top trends in home improvement.

colorful comfortable home

1. Big color, lots of it.

According to Realtor.com, in 2014, bright colors “will be more of a focal point”, and “designers will start featuring vibrant accent walls, main paint colors and flooring” bringing color throughout the house.
We liked this trend and put a green wall in our offices which brightens things up for our employees.

Washington Energy Services offices displaying their values. Location: Lynnwood, Washington
colorful washington energy services office

2. Retrofit your home for comfort.

install a heat pump

In Seattle, our customers start with an expectation that the heating, cooling, windows or siding products we present them with will be energy efficient, but will they also improve personal comfort? A good example of accomplishing both goals is upgrading to a heat pump (ducted or ductless). Popular elsewhere in the US for many years, heat pumps are a recent energy saving trend in the Northwest. They provide efficient heating plus a comfort bonus of air conditioning, which we do seem to need lately.

home energy audits

Another trend we see is people requesting air sealing, which reduces unwanted drafts in the home, saving energy and keeping temps even. A great way to learn how to cost effectively improve your comfort is with a home energy audit. Audits are not just for energy saving!

3. Redesign outdoor living spaces and incorporate sustainable garden practices.

Okay, one benefit of the climate getting warmer is the potential for more barbeque days outside. It has also led to an increase in water conservation measures across the western US. While we don’t have water shortages here, we at Washington Energy believe in sustainability every day, not just when asked. Taking a thoughtful approach to what you plant and where, can save water, reduce your bills and still give you a beautiful look. Easy ways to start are incorporating native plants and using water conserving mulch, and any garden center can provide great information for your particular application. If you would like to learn more about sustainable gardening visit Built Green (www.builtgreen.net) or check out WSU for some interesting information on this topic. One great idea they discuss is creating hydrozones, where plants with similar water needs are grouped together. Extension.org – Planning and Design of Water Conservation

sustainable garden practices

4. Enjoy your garden longer by canning or pickling it.

This “#1 Food trend of 2011”, according to the Food Channel, is still hot, and we mean ‘hot’ as in spicier than ever. Pickles are the ‘artisanal’ treat you can easily make at home. It makes the time, effort and water spent growing veggies in a small plot more rewarding as you’ll enjoy them year round. Beyond the simple cucumber, pickled delights include asparagus, kohlrabi, fennel, beets, mushrooms, and peppers, many made in hot and spicy varieties. A favorite of ours is pickled hatch chili peppers from New Mexico. For the more adventurous, this could become a small business. You’ll need pickling spice, salt, jars, a large pot to boil water and put the jars in (a lobster pot is a good size), and you’ll definitely benefit from buying a simple kit that has rubber coated tongs and a basket for getting the jars into and out of the hot water, plus instructions for safe canning. Canning equipment and jars are sold in year round in stores like Fred Meyer, and during the fall season you’ll find them in most supermarkets too.

sustainable business practices

5. Kitchen remodels are back.

According to Angies list, “2014 homeowners are most interested in making strategic improvements to boost functionality, increase efficiency and take advantage of existing space.”  They cite some of the most popular changes in kitchens including opening up the kitchen by removing a wall or partial wall to give a greater feeling of space and to create an island area for comfortable entertaining. Other popular kitchen upgrades include hardwood floors, bamboo floors, and hidden cabinets that recess into the walls. Adding sliding patio doors to provide new ways to connect the kitchen to your outdoor living space can transform the usability of your space.

kitchen remodel

Homeowners are also expecting their kitchens to be wired for today’s electronics, such as charging stations or outlets inside cabinets for a clean look. Kitchen color trends are opposite the rest of the house. White, grey and neutrals are popular including white appliances. For more on kitchen design trends check out this article by. HGTV Top 17 Kitchen Ideas

We hope you found some inspiration for your summer home project in this list. For improved home comfort and energy upgrades, call Washington Energy at 800-398-4663.

Heat Pumps vs. AC Infographic

We’ve done it!

Washington Energy Services has answered the #1 HVAC question asked by our customers:

What are the differences between a heat pump and air conditioner?

Heat Pumps or AC Systems Infographic

Heat Pump vs AC’s – An infographic by the Green Team at Washington Energy

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Things to Know When Adding Air Conditioning to Your Home

Tips for Avoiding Uneven Cooling with AC

“Why is the upstairs not as cool as the downstairs and what can we do to even it out?“ This has become a popular question as Seattle is having more 80 degree days, and adding air conditioning is getting more common. We custom install AC systems throughout the Puget Sound and have tips to maximize your overall cooling comfort.

Your House was Built for Heating

Northwest houses, even ones built recently, are built with ductwork that supports efficient heating, not cooling. (Many older homes weren’t built with enough ducts even for the heating.) The majority of Northwest homes don’t have sufficient airflow in upper floors of the house for effective cooling. Our ducts aren’t large enough and they are in the wrong spots. It takes a lot of cool air to overcome the heat gain on higher floors. Case in point, your registers are most likely in the floor, because hot air rises through the room. But cold air sinks! So that cold air is fighting gravity to get to you. In southern US homes, where cooling is the major season, their registers are in the ceiling.

Say No to Vent Closing

Many people want to try to even out cooling between floors by shutting the registers downstairs in hope that more cool air goes upstairs. This is not a good idea and does not work. Your system was sized to fit your house based on having those registers open to provide air flow to and from the equipment. Shutting one or two in a whole house is okay, but more than that and you put undue static pressure on the equipment. Said another way, this could damage your coil and greatly shorten the life of your AC equipment. Think of it like driving your car with the parking brake on!
vent

Tips to Improve Upstairs Cooling

If you have a big remodel of your upstairs in mind, that would be the time to permanently solve this issue by adding or enlarging duct work through the walls and ceiling. Another option, especially good for larger homes, is to have two separate heating and cooling systems – one for each floor. These are expensive solutions, and if this type of remodel is not in the plan, we have more practical tips:

1. Start your AC Early in The Day

Heat rises so by the time you get
home the natural forces will make your upstairs hotter than the downstairs. Cranking the AC will start the process of cooling it down, but the upstairs will take longer because it had a chance to get hotter. Newer air conditioning systems are energy efficient, so the extra electricity used from running it on low during the day vs cranking it up when you get home, will be minimal. And you are giving it a better chance of overcoming the heat gain throughout the house.

2. Insulate your Attic and Upstairs Walls

Insulation will keep the cool air in, and proper sealing and caulking of bathroom fans, windows and balcony doors will keep heat outside. Insulation is a great year round energy saving investment and there are excellent utility rebates to help you do this affordably.

insulation seattle

3. Add a Solar Attic Fan

Adding a solar attic fan can affordably drop your upstairs a few degrees by pulling cool air upstairs and sending the hot air out of the roof. It will help to even out the temperature in a cost effective way.

attic-breeze-solar-fan

4. Add a Return Air Vent to Improve System Air Flow.

This is less expensive than new ductwork and may make a small improvement.

5. Get Good Blinds

Keep heat out. Get good blinds, particularly on the south and west sides of the house, and keep them shut during the day. Keep windows closed until evening. Remember that heat will rise, so leaving windows and blinds open downstairs will disproportionately heat the upstairs.

6. Consider a Ductless Heat Pump

For an old Craftsman house where the upstairs has little to no ducting and is too cold in the winter, and too hot in the summer, consider a ductless heat pump for the upstairs, as it will independently heat and cool that area without the need for ductwork.

pg5

Whatever you choose, Washington Energy Services is Puget Sound’s leading contractor providing tailored home comfort solutions including: energy efficient air conditioning, heat pumps, ductless split systems, insulation and solar attic fans. Are you planning to add air conditioning to your home? Contact us for a free estimate and stay cool this summer.

Washington Energy named #1 in HVAC; Puget Sound Energy Efficiency Leader Awards

Washington Energy Services is honored to win PSE’s new Energy Efficiency Leader Award and rank as the #1 HVAC contractor in the Puget Sound Area.

June 2014 PSE Award

PSE’s Leader Awards recognize companies based on how much energy and money they have saved PSE customers. Our HVAC and Windows installations in 2013 saved an equivalent of powering 52 electric homes plus 112 natural gas homes for a year, plus a good deal of savings in energy efficiency rebates. Check out what PSE had to say about this award.

 

 

 

A Mom’s View of Home Improvement

We asked several local moms “if money was no object, what would you like to have, or do to improve your home”.  We found their ideas and stories to be great for our Puget Sound community at large. While every answer was different, topics of comfort and convenience for the children, and ease of use for themselves in caring for the family, were common themes. Here are five of their stories (and yes, these are real people and their real stories):    

Christine from Lynnwood, WA I would love to have air conditioning for the warmer days. I have a window unit in my room that we rely on, because with my youngest (2 1/2) wanting to go outside, I have to keep the front of the house closed so she can’t escape! A more efficient heating and cooling system would take less money to run, and be a more even temp all year round instead of us constantly adjusting the heating.   We should probably have better insulation to help keep the cool air in instead of out the roof. And insulation in my garage so that it doesn’t cook us to do laundry in the summer, and you don’t need to wear a snow suit in the winter.   And doors with better handles and extra security for my little one that likes to try to get out of the house or go into rooms that she is not allowed in (she figured out how to pop the childproof handles off the doors!)    

MaryEllen from Mill Creek, WA Definitely a tankless water heater so that I can have more hot water to get everyone showered more timely in the morning, get my towels washed in hot water and actually have hot water to do my dishes after all this! Having a 50 gallon water heater I have to wait for it to recover before we can move to the next thing. I would also like all new EnergyStar kitchen appliances that use less energy and run quieter.   Even though I have nice, relatively new vinyl windows, I would like to change out a few of the picture windows to have more sliders with screens to allow fresh air in when it’s wanted. We don’t really need A/C in the summer (yet!), but more breeze would be helpful.

Tanya from Mountlake Terrace, WA My kids are grown now, but when they were younger I wished I had a bigger washing machine, quieter appliances all around, and having 3 kids a husband and a dog, I really wished I had a tankless water heater. Looking back I could have used better insulation as well, that would have also prevented the neighbors from hearing the yelling “stop putting that up your nose” “Homework isn’t an option!!”  “chocolate milk is NOT ok to take into your room!!” etc.    

Ilana from Mulkilteo, WA I would like to keep germs filtered out to help my kids stay healthy for a longer period of time. Maybe a UV system to take viruses out of the air and a better furnace filter might help. I am not very good about changing the filter on my heating system and probably should do that more often.   Where we live there are lots of big trees and we can get power outages during windstorms. I would like a generator that could power the whole house in the event of a power outage.    

Jessica from Snohomish, WA If I were going to make improvements to my home and money was not object, I would definitely put in an enclosed sunroom with an indoor steam room and dry sauna for my sons asthma and eczema.   We have been in our home for 15 years and air conditioning is one of our favorite upgrades. The first floor of our home remained cool during summer months but, the 2nd floor was stifling with no breeze. We put in our air conditioning 5 years ago and I would say that has been our best investment.  While all the neighbors are sitting out on their porches at 11pm at night with fans going and windows open or with portable air conditioners, we are in our house in bed sleeping with the cool air. It is refreshing to come in to the house after a hot day and being able to relax in our home. The kids are also not cranky because they are cool and all of their friends want to come to our house for some relief to the heat. We also installed hard wood floors and I think they are a must in the NW with kids, pets and our fabulous NW weather. Easy clean up and they look beautiful.   If you have a mom POV you’d like to share with us, find this article us on Facebook or reply to this post below. Happy Mothers day! Washington Energy wishes all mom’s a comfortable and happy holiday.

How Green is a Seattleite?

Being green has never been easier or more popular.  In fact, the trend is often times used as a tool for people to shape their identity and now so more proudly than ever.  Some are sporting recyclable grocery totes like a Louis Vuitton. With green awareness so high, certain cities are owning it more than others with Seattle among the top. But at what level are the people of Seattle truly practicing the way of life versus using it to look “cool”?

 

How green is a seattleite infographic?

How Green Is A Seattleite? – An infographic by the Green Team at How Green Is A Seattleite?

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Top 10 Ideas for Investing your Tax Refund in Home Upgrades – No Matter What Size your Refund Is

Home Improvement

Recently CNN Money reported* that the average tax refund this year is $3034, up 3% vs year ago. The last year we could find for Washington State specific data was 2011, at $2788**. Those are nice big refunds. So what can you do with it?

On most top 5 lists of “what to do with your tax refund”, you will find things like paying off debt, and fixing up your home. Updating your home is a great way to spend a tax refund. You get the enjoyment of living in an updated space and the investment benefit of increasing the value of your home.

Here are some ideas that can work for small, medium and large tax refunds, combining more comfortable living with greater home value:

 

Small refund- up to $500.

 

  1. Update your bathroom with new plumbing fixtures. A new modern faucet can transform the look of the sink or tub and create an up-to-date feel throughout the whole room. Add a water saving 1.6 gallon toilet and this mini-remodel will provide savings on your water bill (average is $200 / year vs older toilets). You’ll have more of that tax refund to spend on new towels and cushy bath mats.
  2. Freshen your inside air by having the heating system cleaned and serviced. Breathe easier with a duct cleaning, filter change and furnace maintenance. You improve the lifespan and productivity of your equipment and take all the dust and allergens out of your system.
  3. Up your safety with a water leak protection system. This affordable monitoring device will detect leaks and shut off your main water supply, potentially preserving your house and valuables. Tank water heaters of over 8 years old are prone to failing and leaking without notice. Dishwashers, washing machines and even water lines under the kitchen sink can fail as well. These leak protection systems are not just water alarms, and you’ll want to use a licensed plumbing or water heater contractor to install it.

 

Medium refund- $500 up to around $3000

 

  1. Tankless water heaters start at about $3000. Truly a case of affordable luxury meets improved resale value! Tankless water heaters fit natural gas or propane heated homes and provide 15% energy savings when water use remains constant. But more importantly you’ll get to fully fill that tub, or take a shower after the kids are done, without waiting for a tank to refill.
  2. Get cozier with insulation. Insulation will keep the house cool in summer and the heat in during winter. Not a sexy way to spend your refund but you’ll feel the difference in comfort.
  3. Give your house a facelift – with a new front door. From traditional to modern there are entry door looks to fit every style. Or maybe it’s a new patio door you’ve been thinking of. Doors have the #1 return on investment (along with siding) so you’ll be adding to the resale value of the home.
  4. Update your landscaping. Curb appeal works on more than just new buyers, it can lighten your mood when you come home to beautiful natural surroundings. Local landscape and yard service providers can ensure the job gets done right without you lifting a shovel. To make dollars stretch, buy new plants and materials yourself at the local nursery, and just hire the service providers for the literal, dirty work.

 

Large refund- $3000 and more

 

  1. Window replacement. . The technology that is used to manufacture windows continues to improve and 50 year old windows are not as quiet, insulating and energy saving as today’s models. You won’t be able to replace a whole house full of windows for $3000, but it will contribute significantly. Or if you have a mix of old and new windows, this is a great time to finish the project.
  2. Ensure your comfort year round with a whole house standby generator. You’ll only need it when the power goes out, but when it does, you’ll still be watching TV and your lights and appliances will still be on.
  3. Make your fun space a comfortable space. Heat and cool your garage, basement or addition with a ductless heat pump. It’s your bonus room but why not be comfortable year round, without the safety risk of plug in space heaters. Ductless heat pumps don’t require adding expensive duct runs in the walls and provide energy efficient heating and cooling. They can be a main heating source for a home, or supplemental for just those areas that aren’t in your heated space. Don’t worry if you don’t have gas to your garage, these run on electricity.

 

 

 

* CNNMoney.com 3/6/14

** Governing.com/gov-data, source IRS