Preparing for Christmas Lights

As Christmas draws near, many decorate their homes and churches with lights, Nativity scenes, little villages, reindeer, inflatable Santa’s and all kinds decorations that plug into an electrical outlet.  Most of us see our electrical bills go up during December and have decided it’s worth it in order to enjoy the holiday decorations.  Why not have goals this Christmas season to save a little bit on your electrical bill and safely enjoy the holiday decorations?  I’ll share some ways you can do both.

When you’re dealing with electricity, we encourage you to enlist the services of a licensed electrician to accomplish anything that requires you to contact source power.  Connecting your lights and electrical decorations to the closest outlet is the typical way most of us do this.  You do not want overload a breaker by simply installing all your plugs into one or two receptacles.  Most receptacles are connected to one another and are already supplying electricity to something else.  Make sure you are aware of the amperage load on the circuit breaker you will use by knowing what your decorations will draw.  Check in advance to see if a breaker has room for an additional load will help prevent tripping breakers or moving decorations.

It’s a good idea to use power strips to the greatest extent possible (but do not overload a particular receptacle with numerous plugs in this instance either).  Power strips provide additional protection to prevent an overload on a circuit, something that extension cords cannot do.

Have an electrician come in and tighten the terminals on the breakers in your panel box.  This will not only ensure the breaker is well connected to the source power but improves performance (efficiency) of breaker as well.  This process provides some energy savings not just at Christmas, but also throughout the year.

If you are going to use timers to schedule when your lights turn on and off, plan how and where you will connect to the timer.  Some timers provide an outlet for more than one plug, so use these where appropriate.  The use of a task appropriate timer on a single line is the best scenario for decorating.  However, an extension cord with numerous items plugged into it, which in turn is plugged into a timer on the supply-end, is not a safe scenario for your decorations.

Be sure to use outdoor rated cords, timers, lights, etc. for outdoor applications.  Only use outdoor rated items outside. Enjoy your decorations and have a Merry Christmas!

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Preparing Your Facility for the Heating Season

Have you done anything to prepare your building for cooler temperatures by doing anything other than just switching the thermostat from “COOL” to “HEAT”?

Ideally, facility managers and owners should plan a “no heat – no cool” time between the seasons to save energy and costs.  Typically, October is temperate enough to operate comfortably without cooling or heating.  A warm sweater or an open window as appropriate can satisfy your comfort needs most of the time, and the savings are significant.

There are some specific things you should do prior to the start of each cold-weather season to prepare your building for heating, and some of these will require a licensed technician to accomplish.  Taking these recommended actions will keep your heating system running efficiently and to decrease the call for heating as much as possible.

The most important thing a facility manager or owner should do is a heating system inspection by a licensed technician with the experience to review of the entire system to ensure prolonged operation and extended life.  During the inspection, the technician will pay attention to details such as these:

  • Inspect the pilot flame on a gas furnace or boiler for proper operation and flame.  The pilot flame should burn a royal blue color.  Any orange or yellow in the flame indicates inefficiency and leaves soot in the burning process.
  • For a direct ignition or spark furnace, the technician can inspect this system for proper operation as well and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Change system filters.
  • Inspect heating elements or heat exchangers.
  • Drain expansion tanks on boilers and ensure appropriate adjustments on controls.

Here are other actions you can take to reduce the heat load of your facility:

  • Keep your thermostat set point between 70 – 72-degrees Fahrenheit and maintain that temperature as much as possible during the season.  Consider adjusting the set point down to between 65 – 68-degrees Fahrenheit when the building is unoccupied.  You can automate this through the use of a programmable thermostat.
  • Check windows and doors for air leaks into the conditioned space.  Keeping cold air drafts to a minimum will require fewer heating cycles within the conditioned space.  Keeping the warm air contained in the space as long as possible will save money.
  • Adjust any ceiling fans to circulate the warm air collecting at ceiling downward into the living space.

Some other cold-weather preparation tips:

  • Cover outdoor faucets with insulated covers purchased from a Do-It-Yourself store.  If your faucets are freeze resistant, you needn’t worry about this, but make sure you know which type of faucet you have to protect your plumbing during the winter.
  • Flush your water heater.  Connect a hose to the lower faucet on the heater and drain out sediment that collects in the bottom of the tank.  This improves the operational efficiency of your heater.  Doing this once or twice a year is a very practical and efficient means of extending its life.

Performing these small but intentional tasks at the beginning of the cold-weather season can make a significant difference on your energy bill while extending the life of your building systems.