Replacing Your Toilet

March 31st, 2012 admin Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

Whether you have an older home or just purchased a new home, chances are that you will have just a basic one flush toilet installed in your bathroom or bathrooms. If it is a brand new home you may have a slightly smaller watter tank which will conserve water usage compared to the older models, but that is about it. There are many new sleek and modern toilets available on the market and many people are spending a little more money to upgrade their toilets in an effort to modernize their bathrooms and save money at the same time.

The combination of a smaller water tank on your toilet and a dual flush toilet is attractive to many people who are interested in reducing their water bill as well as helping the environment. With dual flush toilets you have the option of a large flush or a small flush depending on the need at the moment.  While all of this is great, we wondered about the relative costs of installing a new toilet vs. the cost of water that we would be saving. Does it make sense from a purely economic perspective to change your old water guzzling toilet for a new water conservation device?

Toilet Up Grades in New Homes

Friends of ours moved to a new home were the builder installed the standard one flush toilet. It was a basic model, probably costing under $100 and although it did not look bad, they decided to upgrade their brand new toilets. The old toilets were discarded in the garbage, which seemed to us as not being very thoughtful,  however someone picked them up prior to the garbage collection the next morning. At least they were going to be reused somewhere! They also had to hire a plumber to complete the installation.

They had to hire a plumber to complete the installation although our friend is perfectly capable of completing the installation himself. he was forced to hire a plumber since the warranty on the home would be in jeopardy if any leaks were detected. Does it make sense to upgrade your toilet(s) based on the water savings  from an economic perspective or is it purely increased esthetic value?

A conversation we had with him  about his upgrades prompted us to write this post and look at whether it makes sense or not.

Costs to Upgrade

We are going to make a number of assumptions here to help us compare the economics of upgrading your water guzzling toilet. These assumptions are based on the location were the writer lives and the relative cost for water consumption in our area.

Make your own adjustments depending on the model you choose and local costs. You can plug these numbers into a spread sheet to compare your own costs based on your situation. Here we go:

  • Mid Range dual flush toilet – $200
  • Parts and fittings – $30
  • One hour labor for installation – $ $70
  • Clean up – $0.00
  • Sell your old toilet – $ $10.00
  • Total cost to Upgrade – $290
  • Water tank size :  2 gallons
  • Water rate:   $0.565 / cubic meter
  • Gallons/meter:  264
  • $/gallon (varies by location):  $0.002140152
  • Sewer rate surcharge:  1.66 times the water charge
  • Cost per flush:  $0.011385606
  • Flush per day:  10
  • Cost per day:  $0.1138
  • Days in year: 365
  • Cost per year:  $41.56
  • Number of years:  10
  • Tot cost:  $415.57
  • Saving per flush:  0.5 ( saves 1 gallon of water per flush)

Water Savings over 10 Years

  • Savings:  $207.79 over 10 years

The original cost of upgrading in our scenario was $290 which we can compare to the cost of water saved in our scenario. This leaves us in the red for approximately $82 based on the assumptions we made above.

Based on this simple analysis it appears that there is no financial advantage to upgrading your toilet. However there are still a couple of assumptions that we have not considered which could make a major difference in the results. These major assumptions include the following:

  • Local assumptions may vary a great deal
  • Water rates will increase over the next 10 years(In our case rates are estimated to increase by 75% over the next 10 years)
  • Upgrading from an old toilet may actually save more water than what was assumed(older tanks can have as much as 3 gallons of water in the water tank)
  • Esthetic value of a modern toilet adds value to your homes resale value(or at least helps you sell your house more quickly by making it more attractive)
  • Number of toilets in your home eligible to be upgraded

At best you may break even with any upgrade that you plan, however the good thing is that if you do upgrade you have a modern toilet that is pleasing to the eye and fits in with your bathrooms decor.

As far as my friend goes, remember the guy who replaced a brand new toilet with a dual action toilet, if he lives in his home for 10 years he will get close to breaking even on that single toilet.

He has three toilets that he replaced and must spread the water savings across them all, so it is unlikely that he will ever recover his money that he has invested in the new toilets. Our analysis was based on a single toilet situation.

Bottom line message from this analysis is that you should only upgrade your toilets based on improving the esthetic value of your bathroom. This is an excellent reason to begin with since it does improve your homes resale value. It also helps to know that you will recover some of the cost of installing your toilets from savings in the amount of water that you use.

We included the cost of a plumber in our assessment and we assumed a cost of $70 for installation of the new toilet. Many do it your self handy man are quite capable of installing their own toilets. Plumbers at local hardware stores will even provide you with instructions on how to complete the installation. there are also instructions available online as well as with the toilet you purchase. Removing the cost of the plumbers installation labor cost pushes the toilet upgrade into the positive area of cash flow and makes it all worthwhile!

 

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Furnace Humidifiers

December 20th, 2011 admin Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

Ensuring that the humidity is kept at satisfactory levels during the winter time in colder climates is actually a huge issue for many people. There are many people who do not worry about it at all and suffer as a result from the dry air in their homes.  There is a physical impact on humans when exposed to dry air as well as  furniture and the home in general tends to dry out, causing cracks in drywall and even in wood floors.

The following topics are covered in our post in more detail.

  • Why You Should Have a Humidifier
  • Types of Humidifiers
  • How they Work
  • Cleaning
  • What Happens in the Summer Time
  • Installation
  • Maintenance

Why You Should Have a Humidifier

There are multiple reasons why the humidity in a home should be managed.  If the humidity is too high, you may risk the generation of mold and condensation on windows and window sills. The mold can be very harmful to anyone who is allergic to mold and the moisture generated by condensation on the windows can damage window sills, the drywall and even the window covering if they are in contact with the condensation.

On the other hand if the humidity level is too low in a home, especially during the winter, static electricity can bother humans as well as disturb electronic equipment to the point of damaging them. Wood based furniture will dry out and sometimes crack, hardwood floors will contact leaving gaps between strips, Humans may have dry throats and lips and your skin may feel dry.

Experts suggest that the humidity in a home be kept in the range of 30% to 50% depending on outside temperature and your own personal comfort level.

Types of Humidifiers

There are many types of humidifiers. A common type of humidifier found in many homes with forced air systems is a drum type (sometimes a wick) that is attached to the furnace and will add humidity to the entire home while the furnace is running.

Apartment dwellers often have electric or hot water heating and therefore cannot rely on a forced air type of humidifier. Stand alone drum type humidifiers are common in this environment, however they typically will only provide humidity in the room they are in. There are various types of stand alone humidifiers – drum, steam, impeller and ultrasonic to name a few.

How they Work

The drum type of humidifier, whether on a furnace or a stand alone unit operates by causing a sponge to run through a water reservoir and then air is forced through the sponge picking up water droplets and spreading the vapor throughout the room or the home. Most will have a sensor that measures the relative humidity level and when the desired level is reach will shut the humidifier off until the humidity drops below  the setting desired.

Impellers and steam humidifiers tend to run continuously until they are out of water and then they shut off. However there are many different varieties of humidifiers on the market so it is important to read the instructions prior to using them.

Cleaning

Cleaning a humidifier is very important for many reasons. First all water unless you are using distilled water, water contains various minerals, including calcium. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind these dissolved minerals causing a scale to build up on the wick or sponge and on the reservoir as well. Cleaning once a month is mandatory to maintain the efficiency of your humidifier.

Also during early fall and late in the spring, your humidifier may not operate as often due to increasing natural humidity in the air. The water tends to stagnate in the reservoir and mold can develop. When the humidifier does operate, not only are you adding water vapor to the air, you are also adding mold spores to the air in your home . Anyone with allergies will find this very unpleasant. Clean your humidifier regularly and remember to shut it off during the spring and summer.

What Happens in the Summer Time

Humidifiers with water left standing in them over the summer, may dry up and they may not depending on local conditions. Most will develop mold which is spread though your home as mentioned previously.

In addition if you leave the humidifier in operation and run the air conditioner at the same time this additional humidifier may even make your air conditioner less effective, especially on forced air systems. Turn off the humidifier, shut the water flow off and clean the unit every spring to avoid these issues.

Installation

These units are relatively easy to install. Stand alone units only need to be unpacked, filled with water and turned on usually. Humidifiers on forced air systems with connections to the return air and water intake require a few more tools and handy man skills.

Most come with sufficient instructions. You will need plumbing tools to connect the water supply, tin snips to cut the required holes in the return and hot air pipes and an electrical outlet to connect to. After reading the instructions that come with the unit, if you are uncomfortable doing this work you may be further ahead to hire a plumber to complete the installation for you.

Many new homes come with systems already installed, however be sure to review this requirement in your list of specifications.

Maintenance

As we have mentioned previously, regardless of which type you use in your home, regular maintenance and cleaning is mandatory to maintain a healthy household. Here is a short list that we have put together:

  • Clean the unit a minimum of once per month
  • Replace the wick or sponge if it is calcified
  • Completely clean the unit at the end of the winter season
  • Shut the water supply off at the end of the season
  • Place a new wick or sponge in the unit at the beginning of the season
  • Keep the humidity level between 30% and 50% depending on the outside temperature.

Comments are appreciated, especially those that have tips and suggestions for keeping the humidity at the right level in your home.

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Faucets

January 28th, 2011 admin Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

Whether you are selecting a new faucet for your new home or upgrading an existing faucet in an older home, this is one the most important decorating decisions you can make. There are lots of things to consider when choosing a faucet for your kitchen or bathroom, both technical as well as aesthetics. While most men will be concerned about some of the technical issues of installation, your spouse is going to be much more focused on how it will look once installed. Will it make a statement, will it compliment the kitchen or bathroom and will it match with other existing hardware that you may have in these rooms. Read the rest of this entry »

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Venmar Attic Ventilator

December 28th, 2010 Paul Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

One of the standard home design issues that many people do not realize has to do with the amount of attic ventilation that you have in the roof of your home.  Inadequate ventilation can impact the length of time your shingles will last and they can have an impact on your cooling requirements during summer months. Both of these issues can be very expensive compared to installing ventilation in your attic. In the winter, condensation can build up as well causing damage to your insulation as well as to drywall if it is particularly bad.

For Attic ventilation to work properly there must be sufficient ventilation soffits around the roof. This is the area were air enters your home and flows into the rest of the attic.  If the soffit is blocked for some reason air cannot enter into your attic then regardless of the number of ventilators you have in the roof they will not be able to do their job. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fenplast Windows

July 27th, 2010 Paul Posted in Home Improve 1 Comment »

Replacing windows can be very expensive, especially if you have to replace all of the windows in your home.  Most homes will have ten to twenty windows including the bathrooms. Some windows are much more expensive than others. For example half moon windows on top of a large bay window will empty your pocket book quickly.  Some consumers just want to get it over with at one time and will replace all of the windows at once, while others will replace them only as they are needed. We fall into the latter group since we like to limit our capital expenditures as much as possible.

If you are purchasing a new home, you need to pay attention to the type of window that is being installed. Avoid wood framed windows. Even though they are a little less expensive, there is no need to paint PVC windows and no need to replace them. Most new homes come with low maintenance windows, however you do need to check in your agreement specifications to confirm. Read the rest of this entry »

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Garage Door Openers

April 6th, 2010 Paul Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

Garage door openers are one of the best inventions for homes. With a garage door opener you no longer need to get out of your car in the rain or snow to open your garage door, just press a button and presto it opens or closes. We have had a garage door opener for some time and will have to replace ours pretty soon. The existing one is on its last legs and I can only repair it so many times. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fireplace Gas Inserts

January 21st, 2010 Paul Posted in Home Improve No Comments »

Many new homes are being built with gas fireplaces instead of the old stalwart wood fireplace. Many consumers who have owned their homes for several years are converting their wood fireplaces to gas as well. Why are they doing this?  They are making these conversions simply because of the ease of use and also the almost immediate comfort that a gas fireplace can provide. Instant on, instant heat and no mess along with not having to store wood for the fireplace are just a couple of the attractive benefits of a gas fireplace. Read the rest of this entry »

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List of Solar Water Heater Brands and Models

November 16th, 2009 admin Posted in Home Improve, Misc. No Comments »

solarwaterheatersEco-Friendly hot water heating systems have become “kind of a big deal” in the last few decades, as more and more families and corporations are finding ways to help the planet AND save money. Using eco-friendly energy systems is such a win-win-win endeavor once you get past the intial investment spent on the technology.

Today we’re focusing on solar powered hot water heaters, evacuation tubes, and of course tankless water heaters. Tankless water heaters usually still use some kind conventional energy source, but nonetheless, they are much “greener” than the conventional water heaters.

It was the purchase of our Toyota Prius that got me thinking about other ways I can really stick it to the oil and coal companies. The cost of some of these domestic solar water heaters can really get up there, but still I want to look at getting it installed in my house. I’m also not sure how well it would work in Calgary, Alberta. We don’t get as much hot sun as the warmer climates get. I see there are solar water heating systems that can be used for colder climates as well.

Along with all of these interesting questions comes the another one – which brands of solar hot water heating systems actually work as advertised, and which ones DON’T??!! Below is just a small list of solar water heater brands. Keep in mind there are other brands we talk about here, on our Ec0-Friendly Water Heater Mini Site

List of Solar Water Heater Brands

  • Dux
  • Bosch
  • Lowes (whatever brands they carry)
  • Home Depot (whatever brands they carry)
  • Ronas (whatever brands they carry in Canada)
  • Helio-Pak
  • Quality Smith
  • Siddons
  • Solex
  • Sun Volts

Do Want An Active OR; Passive Solar Water Heater?

From what I have read on the Internet, there are two main types of solar water heating systems – the Active system, or the Passive system. What each system does I don’t know, but you can read allot more on the site we’re promoting today. A quick definition that explains the difference between an active system and a passive system, would be this;

Passive solar energy systems use the architectural design, natural materials, or absorptive structures of a building as an energy-saving system. The building itself serves as a solar collector and storage device. An example would be thick-walled stone and adobe dwellings that slowly collect heat during the day and gradually release it at night. Another example of a passive solar energy system is a greenhouse. Passive systems require little or no investment of external equipment.

Active solar energy systems require a solar collector (a device used to store energy) and controls linked to pumps or fans that draw heat from storage as necessary. Active solar systems generally pump a heat-absorbing fluid (air, water, or an antifreeze solution) through a collector.

That quote was found on the Enotes site (thanks!)

Now What About DIY Solar Water Heating Systemsdiybottlesolarwaterheater

So what about it? Lots! That’s what!!! You can find oodles of information on DIY (Do-It-Yourself) solar water heating systems. Just use the magic of Google, Yahoo!, or Bing to find out more. You can even have a VERY basic system made from bottles if you want, which you can see in the inset picture here, or read about it here. Needless to say, it can be done yourself, if you have the time, basic resources, and a little bit of money to seed the project.

For plans, instructions, and diagrams on how to build your own solar water heating system, I would go to this page at builditsolar.com

It looks like a whole bunch of fun making solar systems to heat up your water supply. Kind of feel like Swiss Family Robinson book (or movie). Always thought it would be fun to make a home by myself in the woods. Creating tools, and creating little inventions to make your life better, easier, and more comfortable. Anyway…..I digress.

Some of the kits that I found to be easy to setup would be like the $1000 dollar DIY solar water heating system. This is of course on the same web site. See this $5 dollar solar water heating system too!!

Then there is the commercial brands that you can install yourself, or have a company install for you. A perfect example would be the Helio-Pak Active Solar Water Heater System, which you see even more details on at the Solardirect.com site. We have a seperate page just for the Solar Direct Company as well if you are at all interested in their solar water heating product lists.

No matter how you slice it, “going solar” is very exciting, and worthwhile in so many ways. You can see from the DIY rescources online that the people of our world, with the use of the Internet, are taking it in their own hands and creating solar water heating systems for themselves and not waiting for companies like Lowes, Home Hardware, Home Depot, Ronas, Sears, Wal-mart, or Canadian Tire to produce and sell.

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Installing Allure Traffic Master Update/Review

May 5th, 2008 admin Posted in Home Improve 2 Comments »

Ok. This a follow-up to my post Trafficmaster Resilient Slate Flooring by Allure.

My wife Betty and I started on a Friday morning removing our furniture, home theatre system, carpet and underlay from our living room. By Friday evening our floor was down.

Here are some pics of the finished floor. Click to enlarge! 

allure_traffic_master1

allure_trafficmaster2

On the Saturday morning we did the baseboards, cocked them, and painted them. Little tip here just in case you are  replacing carpet and underlay with Trafficmaster planks.

When you remove your carpet and underlay you will notice your baseboards are way too high on the wall. After you have layed your Trafficmaster floor you still see the baseboards are too high. Don’t go through the hassle of removing the baseboards and replacing them, and don’t worry about buying new baseboards. Just leave the old one where they are.

Then go down to the hardware store (Home Depot….whatever) and buy some molding to nail on the bottom of the original baseboards. Mask – cock – and paint all one color. No-one will ever know that it’s not one baseboard. High reaching baseboards seem to be “in” these days too, so it’s all good.

We moved our furniture back in and by Saturday night we were finished. I did allot of Internet research first and made a phone call or two using the 1-800 # provided on the back of the Trafficmaster boxes.

I thought we have to use underlay……we did not.

I thought we would have to remove the the baseboards……we did not.

I thought it would take all weekend to install the floor……it did not.

This was easy to install from beginning to end, and I highly recommend Allure for your new flooring project. We bought the Allure flooring at Home Depot.

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