Water Conservation in Your Garden

Even if the winter was a wet one and there are prospects for a wet spring; it only takes a few years for drought to set in and cause problems in your landscape. Understanding how and where to alter your garden or landscape to include water saving plants can be very rewarding.

First, having your irrigation or sprinklers placed to cover the most area while excluding sprinkler 1places that don’t need watering (i.e. sidewalks or driveways) is easily achievable. You can put your sprinklers on “test” while you observe the direction of the sprays. Then you can correct any over spray or problem directions. Don’t forget to water in the early morning or evening so the sun isn’t stealing any water.

Succulent plants can add a lot of texture and dimension to your yard. Compared to annual plants & flowers, they are slower growing, but when they are filled out, create just as much drama as those big blooms.

vertical wall succulentsA popular trend is vertical gardening with succulents. In fact, vertical planting for succulents plays right into their strong suit, as it is difficult to over water them! There are lots of DIY videos and articles tutoring you on how to create vertical gardens.

Remember when planting, to have “like” flowers or plants (needing the same water and sun amounts) grouped near each other to take advantage of the watering. Research plants that are native to the area & are adept at the water provided to flourish. Sadly, some plants found in big-box stores are not suitable for the climate, but are attractive due to the blooms or leaves. Check with a reputable garden center,

Introduce water retaining compost, soil, etc. into your garden. They include polymer “beads” that hold more moisture for later release. This aids in keeping moisture in the soil for a long time.

Water Conserving Water Features!

If you desire the calming sound of water tricking over rocks or bubbling up, a small self-contained water garden is just the ticket for you.

Placement of your water feature is very important. Having it partially or completely out of the sun will help slow the evaporation. Placing wide leaf plants in the feature also water feature urnhelps retard evaporation. Installing the proper recycling pump for the feature helps to keep the water moving, prohibiting insect larvae growth.

For a very small water feature, say in an urn or some kind of ceramic planter, having the top of the planter with a smaller mouth will help reduce evaporation.

Whatever you choose, make sure you maintain your yard and landscape, keeping weeds, thatch or overgrowth to a minimum, which will reduce those things that suck up the water.  Mulch is your friend. It helps the roots retain water and keeps out bad stuff.

If your budget allows, contact your local landscape business for information and ideas to improve the health of your landscape with drought-resistant ideas.

 

Flooring and Radiant Heat

The first thing to know is: if you have carpet or want carpet, radiant heating is not such a gooUNDER FLOOR HEATINGd idea. The carpet will insulate the heat rather than radiating it through the room.

Radiant heating eliminates the use of ductwork needed for forced air heating. Also, there will be no baseboard heating fixtures or floor vents needing clearance to be effective. They are usually self-contained and do not require constant maintenance.

Tile or wood flooring is the best choice if you wish to heat your home with radiant heat. But with wood, the type of radiant flooring is important due to the constant heat exposure.

You have three types of radiant heat installations: radiant air floors (hot air delivers the warmth), electric radiant floors and hot water floors.

Air-heated: This is the least cost effective because air does not hold the heat well. Some air heated radiant floors have a supplemental solar energy component, but that means it will only draw heat during the daytime, when the demands for heat are usually lower. This is rarely installed.

Electric radiant floors: These usually have cables built into the floor. They perform best when used with a huge thermal mass such as concrete. Signing up with your power company’s “Time-of-Use” rates program allows you to charge a concrete floor during off peak hours.

Hydronic radiant floors: These are liquid systems that are the most popular and cost-effective, especially in cooler climates. These heating systems use boiler heated water through tubing laid under the floor. You can have a whole house heating system, or a zone system, where you can direct the heating into areas or rooms that are often used; and reserving heat from areas that are not commonly used. The downside of this system is: you will need to purchase and install a boiler if you don’t already have one.

Flooring:

Ceramic tile is the best choice for heat conduction, as it breathes. It also best for storing heat. Vinyl and wood are also good, but do not breathe as well as tile. As noted above, if you decide on wood flooring, it’s best to get a laminated wood instead of solid wood to decrease the chances of shrinking and cracking from the effects of heat.

Carpet: while the warmest covering outright; if you want radiant in-floor heating, carpet will stifle the heat being generated from underneath. And that’s what carpet is designed to do: insulate the elements above and below the carpet pile from each other.

Cement flooring: This style of flooring is becoming quite popular, due to itscement flooring designs design versatility. You can literally design and finish your cement floor to look any way you wish. Adding underfloor radiant heating is simple, with just a few additional steps needed when installing concrete. Concrete does conduct the heat nicely; but on “shoulder” days in between seasons, your feet might have a cold awakening some mornings. Throw or areas rugs will help.

 

 

Simple Care for Your Dishwasher

Most of the time you throw your dishes into the dishwasher, add detergent, press a dishwasher button and go. Sometimes, after several years, you suddenly realize your dishes aren’t getting sparkly clean as when you first began using the dishwasher. Maybe it isn’t draining well and there may even be a bad smell coming from it.

There are a few simple things you can do to prevent the dishwasher from developing some bad habits and cause you problems.

Check out the door seal. Over time & repeated usage (along with the drying heat) the seal will become weathered, just like the weather stripping on your front door and needs to be replaced. A weakened seal can cause leaks that can damage your floor or cabinetry, which could develop into an expensive problem. You can contact the manufacturer to get a replacement seal, or schedule a plumber to come out, inspect the appliance and replace the seal.

Just like the lint catcher in your dryer, the dishwasher has a screen in the bottom to collect large chunks of debris from your dishes. This screen should be cleaned often to prevent odors and allow for proper drainage.

Most dishwashers have moveable spray arms that can be taken off and washed in warm soapy water to remove any buildup. Be sure to clean each nozzle opening; you can use a soft brush or toothbrush.

Mold is a common problem for dishwashers. It’s a steamy, damp environment, ripe for mold and mildew growth. There is an easy fix and prevention: simply pour about 2 cups of white or apple cider vinegar into the dishwasher & run it on the heaviest setting. If you do this on a regular basis, it will help prevent mold.

Is your dishwasher level? Believe it or not, if the dishwasher is not level you will not get the optimum performance out of the appliance. Plus, an off-kilter dishwasher could cause drainage problems.

Was your dishwasher plumbed properly with a drain trap? That is a section of pipe that looks like a “U” close to the drain opening. It should be installed on the proper side of the drain to prevent odors and catch accidentally dropped items in the dishwasher (i.e. wedding ring)

A healthy dishwasher should give you many years of service with proper maintenance.

Getting Your “Ducts” In A Row

duct and duckThe ducts in your home are like to the “lungs” of the house. They conduct warm or cool air throughout your home. Most people ignore the health of their ducts until something goes haywire; you suddenly see debris in the air or it seems to take forever for the heated/cooled air to reach you.

Maybe it’s time for a duct inspection. Your ductwork may have developed a leak that needs to be sealed. Duct sealing is used when there is a small tear in the ductwork. Even if the leak is small, it can effect up to 30% of your heat or cool output!

You should hire a licensed HVAC technician to inspect your ductwork properly. They have the necessary equipment that can test and locate any issue without causing any problems.

If they discover a leak, and depending on its size, they will plug the leak with a substance called mastic. Mastic is a malleable putty that can be molded over the leak on the outside, to create a tight seal over it. The mastic will dry and harden. It is able to “move” somewhat and flex with the ductwork to a certain point. The technician may choose to cover it with a regulation metallic duct tape. This duct tape is not the same as the store bought type most people have on hand.

Duct sealant can last a very long time, sometimes up to 10 years; but it is prudent to have your ductwork inspected about once a year, especially if there are patches on the ducts.

 

Taking the “Mystery” Out of Misting Systems

 

misting system2If you’re contemplating installing a misting system in your back or front yard, here are some things to consider.

If you live in a humid climate, misting systems may not be a cost effective way to cool down, since you are using water to do the job in an environment that is already heavy with water. Dry climates get the most benefit from a mister, but you need to consider the water usage vs cooling effects. If you have a mister in a greenhouse, that’s a completely different issue.

A mister can provide up to a 30° cool down the immediate area, depending on the system, temperature and relative humidity. Even in water restricted communities, a mister may be better than running your air conditioner and here’s why:

To generate 1 kilowatt of electricity, it takes about 25 gallons of water. An air conditioner must use about 3-5 kw each hour (that’s 75-125 gallons of water). A small pump for the mister only uses about 250 watts (¼ of a kilowatt) per hour. Most misters have 1 nozzle for every 3 feet, so an average 10’ x 10’ deck or patio would only use a little over 26 gallons of water per hour.

High pressure misting systems are more expensive, may cost more to operate, (not as misting system low pressuremuch as an air conditioner) but have superior cooling effects (nozzle clogs are rare). Low pressure misting systems are cheaper, easier to install and operate; but will not cool as efficiently as a high pressure mister and the nozzles can clog if not properly maintained.

It is important that you plan the layout of your misters, taking into consideration the natural shading on your backyard, patio or deck. You might also want to consider placing your mister in an area so it can double as a watering system for some plants.

If you are so inclined, you may want to consult a plumber or contractor about installing a permanent misting system that connects to the water lines in your home and is permanent. Of course, this will add a substantial cost to the project.

Some misting systems are made of pliable tubing that is connected to an outside hose bibb and should be disconnected and stored away in the winter (unless it is attached to a pergola, wall or railing). With proper maintenance, your misting system should last a good, long time.

Plumbing: A Nobel Profession

thinking peopleDeath, taxes and…plumbing! These three things everyone will experience in their lifetime. It’s hard to realize that plumbing plays such an important part in your life, but think:  without proper plumbing, you could not have the convenience of fresh water at your fingertips; could not flush your toilet, could not have a warm bath or shower, could not water your garden or lawn; and so on.

Most people do not realize the value of plumbing until they have to live without it, even for a day! We take for granted the plastic (PEX), copper and iron pipes and don’t give them another thought when we are going through our daily routines.

One of today’s endangered species is the experienced, licensed plumber. While today’s youth seem to be attracted to technology, they don’t see the rewards the plumbing service industry offers.

Think about it: if you have ever had something go wrong where you live or work, you want the problem fixed quickly! Imagine your toilet is clogged; you can’t flush, or it overflows onto the floor with debris. Yuck! Your kitchen faucet continually drips or under the sink you discover a puddle – what a mess! Have you tried to take a warm shower when you were shocked with nothing but cold water? You don’t want to wait too long to get it fixed. When a plumber comes to the rescue, you quickly find out how much you appreciate them!

Plumbing 101

plumbing license guideAs in almost all trades, there is an apprenticeship program that requires plenty of classroom time (144-216 hours a year) as well as on-the-job training with a licensed professional plumber. This program can take several years to complete. Counselors with the program will be with each candidate every step of the way, from entry level through license testing. Plumbing has historically been looked at as a man’s profession, but there are much more women entering the trade every year!

While age-old plumbing practices are still used in many instances today, there is plenty of advancement in plumbing equipment and fixtures that require knowledge of computer programs and intricate platforms to install those new plumbing features and systems.

The State of Oregon has information regarding requirements to become a licensed plumber. Classes begin in the fall. You can find out more here: http://www.oregon.gov/boli/ATD/pages/a_ctrades_plumber.aspx

If you know someone who is looking for an exciting profession – plumbing may be the right fit! Feel free to contact us at 541-382-7710 with questions about becoming a plumber.

Who Thought Up the Concept of Toilet Paper?

toilet paper 1In researching this subject; we found a lot of very graphic descriptions of things and procedures used before what we now know as toilet paper was invented. We will try to be gentle in our description!

The earliest description of a paper used for cleaning your nether regions was in China in the 6th century. Those inventive Chinese pounded bamboo to a pulp & mixed it with rags soaked in water and then dried it to form paper sheets. In the 14th century, mass toilet paper production was documented in the Zhejiang province. The sheets were about 2’ x 3’ (yes, that’s right- feet). The thought of toilet paper being that large today puts a chill down any plumbers’ spine.

In other parts of the world, people used such items as hemp, rags, leaves, lace (if you were well-heeled), corn cobs, grass, stones, seashells, moss, hay, fruit or animal skins, etc.; the list goes on. Nothing seemed to be out of the running. One of the most widely used was: the hand, along with some water. It’s still used in some cultures today.

Many people believe it is the only way to do a meticulous job when needed; the hand is shake handsthoroughly washed with soap after use. Most designate the left hand for the job, and this is why shaking right hands is the way of greeting or sealing a deal in many cultures.

The bidet was invented in the late 17th century in France. Its purpose was to be used after toilet paper did the initial job. Europeans quickly gravitated to this new invention and it’s found in most bathrooms outside of the U.S. today.

Around 1850, Joseph Gayetty introduced “Medicated Paper” for your toilette; it came in a medicated tpbook form. When Sears began sending out its mammoth catalog, outhouses all over were kept in constant supply of wiping material.

In the U.S., toilet paper began as a standard 4 ½” x 4 ½” single ply. Demands for greater comfort changed how toilet paper is produced; currently the paper has multiple plies and is manufactured with lotions or aloes to provide greater comfort. Also, the length of wood threads that make the paper are shortened to provide more softness (the wood pulp is finer).

In the 1960’s American toilet paper manufacturers began producing colored toilet paper, to keep up with consumer demands for paper to compliment the color palette in their bathrooms. That trend fizzled out by about 2004.

Americans have a love affair with their toilet paper, so much so that it’s the cause of most toilet clogs. Too much of a good thing!