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Electric Radiant Floor Warming: the Affordable Luxury

December 31, 2006

By ARA Content

(ARA) – Mountain climbers have an old saying: “Don’t cheat your feet.” A homeowner might consider this advice when building or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen floor.

For floors, homeowners know that ceramic, slate or marble tiles are attractive and durable alternatives to wood, carpet or vinyl. They want the beauty of tile floors, but their feet tell them they’re cold.

While most people are comfortable with air temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees, they tend to feel uncomfortable if there’s more than a 5-degree difference between the surface temperature (80 to 85 degrees) of the head and that of the feet. A bare foot gives an immediate indication as to the comfort level of any floor. For this reason alone, tile is often not the flooring of choice.

With a tiny amount of heat supplied by a human foot, carpet fibers warm almost instantaneously to “foot” temperature, about 83 degrees. A ceramic tile can’t compete in this race: its mass needs a lot more heat for a longer amount of time. It would take approximately 30 minutes for a human foot to increase a 68-degree marble floor to foot temperature!

Radiant floor warming systems solve this problem — fast!

The most common radiant floor warming systems are either hydronic (circulating hot water in tubes in the floor) or electric (heating cables in the floor). Hydronic systems are more complicated, requiring pumps and valves and modulators and so on, and, as a result, are a lot more expensive to install than electric. Still, for whole house heating solutions, hydronics are a good choice. By contrast, electric systems are inexpensive enough for single room applications and simple enough for do-it-yourselfers.

Suitable for new construction or remodeling applications, electric floor warming systems include a network of cables installed in the mortar just below the tiles. These cables gently warm the tiles, operating on ordinary house current. While using a professional electrician is advised for those not comfortable working on electrical installations, these systems are generally easy to install and will not compromise the integrity of the tile installation.

Designing a floor warming installation first requires a determination of the area to be warmed. Calculating the total square footage will require collecting information from the blueprints of the room or actually measuring the area itself. It should be noted that areas that are inaccessible or under vanities, cabinets, or plumbing fixtures should not be included — there’s no need to heat floor area that won’t be walked on! When making the calculations it is advisable to design a layout that considers actual use and traffic patterns in the area to be warmed. Using care in measuring and calculating the area will help ensure that the proper cable is selected for the installation. Preformed mats can also be selected to simplify the installation, but these are usually only suitable for rectangular areas; odd shaped areas, such as “T’s” or “L’s” will often have cold spots if heated by mats.

Easy Heat’s Warm Tiles cables are available as an off-the-shelf product in a growing number of distribution channels, including retail. Easy Heat also provides mats in stock and custom sizes. Thermostats are also available with setback features to ensure that the cables are only heating the floor when the floor is being used. Floor heating thermostats differ from room heating thermostats in that they have a sensor that extends down into the floor to sense the actual floor temperature, and to control the cables accordingly, usually at about 85 degrees. Today, floor warming thermostats are available with sophisticated programming features as well.

A complete system often can be installed using an electric drill and other ordinary hand tools. The installation process can be completed in three phases that will likely correspond with the construction or remodeling phases of your home or building.

Phase one — Electrical Rough-in

During the electrical rough-in, the electrical box for the thermostat is installed, and the power supply cable pulled into it. Conduit holes are drilled into the wall plate (a two-by-four on the floor at the bottom of the wall) to enable the heating cable leads and thermostat sensor to be pulled into the electrical box.

Phase two — Install Cables

For new construction, the cables are installed only after the drywall is finished and immediately prior to the tile installation. The cables are provided with plastic strapping that is stapled to the floor, and the heating cable is simply woven over the floor on the strapping. The leads of the cable and the thermostat sensor are routed through the conduit holes and up to the electrical box. A “scratch coat” of mortar (just enough to cover the cables) is then applied and allowed to dry, usually just a day. Then, the flooring can be completed in the usual manner.

Phase three — Thermostat and Power Connection

The last phase calls for the installation of the thermostat and connection to the power source.

For more information on electric radiant floor warming call (877) EASYHEAT, or go to www.warmtiles.com. Warm Tiles is a registered trademark of Easy Heat Inc.

About The Author
Courtesy of ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com; e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: Using a thermostat, a typical floor warming system can be inexpensive to operate. A homeowner may visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration’s web page at www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epmt55p1.html to determine typical electrical usage. Using Easy Heat’s Warm Tiles square foot operating cost, for 40 square feet, one finds: 8.08 cents USA 2002 estimated residential national average kilowatt-hour rate (as of Aug. 28, 2002 per the EIA Web site above) X 8 hours typical daily operating time, using Easy Heat’s FTTK thermostat X 0.012 kilowatts used per square foot serviced by Easy Heat’s Warm Tiles FT1039 (120 Volts AC) = 0.77568 cents or less than 1 cent per square foot per day, or about $10 per month of operation.

Electrical Safety in the home

December 30, 2006

By Michael Del Greco

Electricity is a wonderful part of our lives, clearly enabling us to do so many of the things we take for granted. Food preparation, entertainment, communication, and so much more are all dependent upon the delivery of electricity. And yet, coming into direct contact with electrical current can severely injure you. In some cases, it can even kill you. Here are some things you can do to keep safe. Some of what we suggest may seem obvious, but we include it here because we believe it’s impossible to over emphasize the importance of safety.

Safety Outdoors

Undoubtedly, first and foremost, stay clear of all power lines, especially those on the ground. Consider a downed wire to be “live” with electrical current going through it.

Take these easy steps to keep yourself from coming into contact with overhead lines:

When you’re using equipment outside, look up to make sure that the equipment isn’t going to collide with the lines.

Do not try to remove anything caught in power lines, not even an animal. Instead, call your power company.

Be especially careful when you’re doing any jobs that require you to use tools which might extend up over your head.

Keep electrical equipment on your property clear of all obstacles such as trees and bushes.

Downed Power Lines

Your power company wants to know about any outages or power lines that are down. Please call it immediately if you experience or see a problem. You can call them 24 hours a day and they’ll send emergency crews out to make repairs.

Inside a Car Touched by a Power Line

Fallen power lines can be extremely dangerous. Never touch a downed power line or anyone who’s in contact with it, and stay away from a vehicle if a power line is touching it.

If a power line touches your vehicle, stay inside and warn others to stay away and have them call the power company.

If you MUST get out of the vehicle for safety reasons, jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.

Electric Lines and Trees

Trees are certainly beautiful and enhance our neighborhoods. However, trees planted in the utility right of way must be tended to so that electric service can be maintained on behalf of all of our citizens.

If your tree encroaches into the utility right of way, it becomes your responsibility to keep it trimmed; otherwise, the City will clear those trees that have not been maintained and threaten the electric service.

Trees that grow into or near the power lines which go to your house are also your responsibility and are only trimmed by the City when they threaten continuity of electric service.

To trim near power lines safely:

Call you power company if there is any question as to whether or not a tree is contacting the electric wires before trimming it. They can move power lines away from trees so that they may be trimmed safely. Call them a couple of days in advance of trimming so that they can coordinate with you.

Never hire unqualified tree trimmers or do the work yourself when trees are contacting high voltage electric wires.

Never cut tree limbs that are touching power lines or that could fall into them.

Electrical Lines and Flying Objects

Don’t let metallic balloons or kites get away. Balloons and kites with shiny, metallic surfaces or strings can be very dangerous if they come into contact with electrical lines. As Benjamin Franklin discovered, they’re excellent conductors of electricity, and, if they get tangled in the line, they can cause a short circuit. This can melt an electrical wire and cause it to fall, resulting in a power outage and possibly severe injury or even death.

Fly kites safely. Kites and electrical lines can be a potentially deadly match. Use common sense when flying a kite; always use dry string, wood, and paper and never use wire or any metallic material. Don’t fly your kite in the rain and never try to retrieve your kite if it gets caught in a power line. Call the power company.

Going Underground

Call before you dig. You need to find out if there are lines in the ground before you dig for any reason, such as planting trees and bushes or installing fences and posts. If you fail to call you could end up in JAIL or worse.

Safety Indoors

Be just as careful with electricity indoors as out. In fact, odds are you and your family are more likely to come into contact with electricity inside your home, so take precautions.

Cover all your electrical outlets and wall switches with cover plates.

Put plastic safety caps in all unused wall outlets to prevent children from pushing objects into the outlet openings.

Know when your wiring needs attention. Power company employees will check equipment when an electrical problem such as flickering lights is reported. If they are unable to find a problem on their end, then the wiring in your house may need to be repaired. Find a licensed professional to check your home’s electric panel, circuit breakers, fuses, and internal wiring.

Do not use damaged or brittle electrical cords. They can cause shorts, shocks, or fires and should be replaced.

To avoid damage, remove cords from outlets by pulling the plug, not the cord itself. Never attach a cord to any surface with nails or staples, which can break the insulation. Also, kinking, twisting, binding, or walking on cords can harm them.

Never remove the third prong from a three-pronged plug. The third prong has been included to safely ground your electrical appliance. Most power tools and major appliances have three-prong plugs for safety. If you don’t have three-hole outlets, adapters are available at your local hardware store.

Protect yourself from shock with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s). These special outlets can help prevent serious injury by detecting electrical faults and shutting off electricity to the outlet when necessary.

About The Author
Michael Del Greco is a New Jersey Home Inspector, owner of Accurate Inspections, Inc. who is a Certified, Licensed ASHI Member performing home inspections in Bergen, Essex, Passaic and Morris Counties

LICENSES
New Jersey Home Inspector #GI121 (2003, first year licensing was offered).
Credentialed Wood Destroying Insect Inspector (2001).
Radon Measurement Technician (1993 – present).
Commercial Pesticide Applicator (1993 – present).
Department of Housing and Urban Development Plan Reviewer/Consultant and 203(k) Loan Consultant (inactive).

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS
American Society of Home Inspectors #102273 (1996 – present).
Independent Home Inspectors of North America (2002 – present).

EXPERIENCE

COMMITTEE MEMBER: Appointed to the State of New Jersey Home Inspection Advisory Committee (Licensing Board), (2004- present).

INSTRUCTOR, “Home Inspector Licensing,” Morris County School of Technology, Denville, New Jersey (2002 – present). Instruct students in preparation for National Home Inspector Licensing Examination. Teach 10 hours per week (300 hour course) in all areas of home inspection, including roofing, air conditioning, heating, plumbing, structure, electric, interior, exterior, reporting, professional ethics, standards of practice, New Jersey state regulations.

INSTRUCTOR, “For Home Inspector Continuing Professional Competency Courses” by the State of New Jersey (2004- present).

OWNER/INSPECTOR, Accurate Inspections, West Paterson, New Jersey (1993 – present). Own and operate home inspection business. Provide home inspections throughout Bergen and Passaic counties, as well as parts of Morris and Essex counties. Inspected over 5,500 homes since 1993. Promote, publicize, and market business to clients and lawyers.

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGER, Crest Management and Development, Clifton, New Jersey, (1986 – 1993). Coordinate construction of single and multi-family dwellings as well as construction and renovation of commercial and industrial buildings in northern New Jersey.

Photovoltaic Systems – Clean Electricity From the Sun

December 29, 2006

by Hans Dekker

As people search for alternatives to fossil fuel energy, solar energy emerges as one of the cleanest and most practical sources of electricity. Solar panels can be installed on rooftops or any area that receives a lot of sunshine. The solar panels consist of a photovoltaic system that converts the energy of the sun into electricity. The word Photovoltaic is a conjuction of the old Greek word “Photon” meaning light and Volt, the force that makes electrons move

Photovoltaic systems have existed since the 1950s but only in recent years has the technology matured to the point of making it a viable alternative to power utilities. Indeed, most solar systems do not replace the utility company instead they work in conjunction with it to produce extra electricity that can be fed back into the grid.

One of the main problems with solar power is storing it for use during non-daylight hours. Batteries can be used but they are expensive and have a limited life span. As an alternative, excess solar electricity can be fed back to the power utility company for a credit, and then power can be drawn when needed. In a sense, the utility company becomes the storage device.

Most municipalities have legislation requiring power utility companies to accept electricity produced by solar panels or wind turbines. This system benefits everyone “there is less dependency on fossil fuel power plants” and electricity costs are reduced for owners of photovoltaic systems.

This is called net-metering, the specifics depend on your location and utility company. A disadvantage of these grid connected systems is that there invertors disconnect in case of a power faillure. This is a quite logical demand from the utility companies point of view. Their engineers have to know for sure that the grid they are working on is really dead. But from our point of view it can be a nuicance. The solution is a grid connected system with battery backup.

Photovoltaic cells produce electricity by using specially treated materials such as silicon that convert light into power. They can be of almost any size and are suitable for providing electricity for small items such as calculators or watches right up to complete industrial complexes. Because they can be wired together, an array of solar cells can produce enough electricity for residential or commercial needs.

The main requirement, of course, is sunlight. This makes solar power most practical for southern areas such as California and Arizona. But it can also be used in more northerly areas as a backup power system. As the technology advances, photovoltaic cells are able to produce usable amounts of electricity even in low light conditions.

About The Author
Hans Dekker is author of http://www.alternative-energy-guide.com/ come and profit from our energy saving knowledge.

Acquisition Of Solar Installer Warms SunPower’s Future

December 28, 2006

Acquisition Of Solar Installer Warms SunPower’s Future

By Brian Womack

The math isn’t complicated for the solar energy sector.

The industry wants to cut solar prices by roughly half to compete against traditional power utilities without government incentives.

SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), a major solar panel maker, has been a leader in this effort and recently announced one of the biggest acquisitions in the industry’s history to help the San Jose, Calif., company reach that goal.

The company plans to buy PowerLight, a firm that installs solar panels, for about $330 million. The cash-and-stock deal should close early next year, pending approvals.

Together the companies will hold a stake in the key parts of the industry, from design through manufacturing to installation. With that breadth, the company hopes to find new ways to cut costs more quickly. Entire story

Cities Launch Program to Encourage Solar Power

December 27, 2006

Cities launch program to encourage solar power

Aim is to clean up Tri-Valley area, aid propery homeowners

By Meera Pal

Pleasanton and Livermore, already neighbors, have something else in common: a plan to encourage property owners to step up their use of solar power — and help clean up the region at the same time.

The two cities recently signed a joint agreement with Spectrum Energy, an Elk Grove-based energy services company that specializes in designing and installing energy-efficiency measures.

For $40,000, Spectrum Energy will develop and propose a design for a customer-friendly, communitywide system for residents and businesses interested in installing solar energy systems. Each city is contributing $20,000 toward the program.

“Basically, those who are interested in solar energy would be able to come to City Hall and get a kit to convert their home,” said Jacqui Diaz, assistant to the Pleasanton city manager.

The program aims to make installing solar equipment easier for property owners. It would help them find out whether their roof is suitable, what rebates are available and which equipment vendors to contact, Livermore Public Works Manager Jacque Delgadillo said. It is unclear how much the service would cost, if anything. Entire story

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