Caring for the Environment

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Caring for the Environment

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I dispose of old paint?Green Content

    • Follow the disposal instructions on the original container.
    • For latex paint, expose the paint to air in a place that is out of reach of children. If it doesn’t dry completely, use kitty litter to absorb the rest of the paint. Then dispose of it in the garbage. DO NOT THROW OIL-/ALKAYD-BASED PAINTS IN THE GARBAGE.
    • Do not burn paint or chemicals.
    • Do not pour paint or chemicals down your sink.
    • Do not pour paint or chemicals down sewer or runoff grates along the street.
    • Do not bury paint or chemicals in any container.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • What are the most common places where air may be leaking out of or in to my home?

    You may already know the obvious places where air leakage occurs in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but if you take a little time you may discover a lot of smaller leaks that really add up to a big hit to your wallet.

    On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:

    • All exterior corners
    • Outdoor water faucets
    • Where siding and chimneys meet
    • Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.

    Inside your home, inspect around the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:

    • Electrical outlets
    • Switch plates
    • Door and window frames
    • Electrical and gas service entrances
    • Baseboards
    • Weather stripping around doors
    • Fireplace dampers
    • Attic hatches
    • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
    • Cable TV and phone lines
    • Where dryer vents pass through walls
    • Vents and fans

    Also look for gaps around pipes and wires that enter your home, as well as foundation seals, and mail slots. Make sure exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly. Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks.  If you can see daylight around a door or window frame, then the door or window leaks. Shut a door or window on a dollar bill. If you can pull the dollar bill out without it dragging, you're losing energy. You can usually seal these leaks by caulking or weather stripping them. Check any storm windows to see if they fit and are not broken. Inspect any existing caulking and weather stripping to make sure it is applied properly and in good condition -- leaving no gaps or cracks. 

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • How can I easily detect air leaks that might affect my energy use?Green Content

    Test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick or a smoke pen next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weather stripping.

    • Caulk and weather strip doors and windows that leak air.
    • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
    • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
    • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation and check the surrounding area for air leaks. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose.
    • Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists, and caulk them.
    • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows or replace them with more efficient double-pane windows. 
    • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak out.
    • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
    • Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire.
    • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
    • Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
    • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or cement board and furnace cement caulk.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • What is the best product to weatherproof my door?Green Content

    Many people prefer the doorjamb weatherstrip. It works on metal with screws or wood with nails. Unlike the v-strips, foam strips or felt, these can't fall off.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • Could I just throw away my old recyclable batteries?Green Content

    No, laws require that they be recycled. This includes Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and small sealed Lead (Pb) batteries. You can look for a battery recycling seal on the rechargeable batteries found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless telephones, laptop computers and camcorders. Check with your local Westlake to see if they have a recycling program.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • Simple Tips for Staying Cool & Saving EnergyGreen Content

    Summer is here! Follow these tips to keep cool while keeping your home energy costs to a minimum:

    Basic Strategies to Keep Cool

    • Close blinds and drapes or cover windows during daylight hours to keep the sun off the glass.
    • Keep your house closed during the day to keep heat out and ventilate it well at night to let cool air in.
    • Close doors leading to uncooled parts of your home. If you have central air conditioning, close off vents to unused rooms.
    • Turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms. Turn off or unplug unnecessary electronics.
    • Dress for the weather. Wear lightweight, loos fitting clothing on hot days to help keep cool.
    • Drink plenty of cold liquids.

    Habits that Save Energy

    • Skip the dishwasher's drying cycle. Air dry items instead.
    • Dry laundry on a clothesline.
    • Set your A/C thermostat to 78. You can save up to 5 percent on your air conditioning costs for each degree you raise the thermostat.
    • Place heat-producing appliances such as lamps and televisions away from the air conditioning thermostat to prevent inaccurate temperature readings.
    • Cook more meals in your microwave or grill outdoors. This will cook your food instead of heating your home.
    • Save jobs that produce moisture -- like mopping, dishwashing and washing clothes -- for early morning or night-time hours. The humidity from these activities can make homes uncomfortable.
    • Use ceiling and other fans to provide additional cooling and better circulation.

    Investments That are Worth It

    • Shade your air conditioner; make sure it has good airflow on all sides.
    • Add insulation if needed to stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
    • Good attic ventilation keeps your house cooler. Keep attic vents clear and attic fans functioning properly.
    • Install awnings or plant deciduous trees to shade windows on the south and and east sides of your home.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • 10 Ways to Save EnergyGreen Content

    The Energy Information Administration projects heating bill hikes ranging from 31 percent in the Northeast to 71 percent in the Midwest. Electricity prices could rise as well, as almost one-fifth of electricity is generated using natural gas.

    While it's no secret that you'll be spending more to heat your home this winter, if you take measures to conserve energy, you can significantly minimize the impact. Here are my top 10 energy savings tips:

    Service your heating system

    This is my number one rule. By paying a service technician $75 to $100, depending on where you live, he or she will clean the unit and replace filters in the furnace and humidifier, thus insuring that the equipment is running at its most cost-efficient and optimum capacity. This should be done annually.

    Install a programmable thermostat

    A recent study revealed that only 24 percent of Americans have installed this handy device - for shame! Well-insulated homes can save up to 30 percent on heating costs with one. You can program these thermostats to automatically lower temperatures when at work or while sleeping, thereby saving energy hours at a time. Prices for programmable thermostats range from $40 to $100, and will quickly pay for themselves.

    Add weather stripping around windows and doors

    Use of door thresholds, window caulking and plastic window film can go far in saving your money this winter. If you live in a drafty home, you could save up to 20 percent with an investment of as little as $25. One product to consider is a product called Windjammer (Ace no. 1200989), a clear, weatherproof gel that dispenses from a can and seals drafts. What's more, it can be easily removed at the end of the season.

    Install ceiling fans in your home

    Running the fans slowly and in reverse will keep warm air circulating throughout the house, thereby reducing running time for the furnace. Ceiling fans add a nice decorative touch as well.

    Check furniture arrangement in your rooms

    Are you unknowingly blocking vents and radiators with a big sofa or armchair? If so, you're restricting the airflow in your home, resulting in higher output from your furnace or boiler. Rearranging the furniture can save your units from having to work overtime.

    Install a tankless water heater

    I always remind people that this amazing technology has been around for 70 years, yet U.S. homeowners have been slow to adopt it. These days, units are less expensive, and by creating hot water on demand as opposed to continuously heating stored water, homeowners can save hundreds of dollars over time.

    Be smart about setting the temperature

    Homeowners can save up to 3 percent on energy bills simply by turning down the thermostat just one degree. You won't even notice the change in temperature, but your heating bill will.

    Install thermo-pane windows in your home

    These multi-pane windows can have R-values of as high as 9.1. The higher the R-value, the more resistant the glass is to losing heat. Conversely, your typical single pane glass has an R-value of 1. The difference is an increase in energy efficiency of up to 70 percent.

    Properly insulate your ceilings and attic

    Heat rises, and if there isn't enough insulation in the space above, your money literally is going out the roof. Most ceilings and attic spaces should have at least an R-30 rating, although some areas of the country recommend an R-40-50 rating.

    Let the sun be your guide

    It's free energy! During the day, open up drapes and blinds and let the sun heat your home. At night, draw the curtains to keep the heat inside.

    Credit:  Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • How often should I change the filter in my air conditioner?

    One of the easiest and least expensive things you can do to keep your A/C system running at its best is to change the filter every one to two months. Not only will this keep your A/C system working efficiently, but it will also improve your home’s indoor air quality.

    A general rule of thumb is the more traffic your have in a home the more frequently you should change your A/C filter. If you have more than two people in your household and/or you have pets, you may want to change out your filter monthly. In particular, pet dander and pet hair can quickly block your A/C filter. 

    The quality of the filter you select will determine how frequently you need to change it. Most homeowners use a 1” to 3” filter and can change it every 2 months. But if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from allergies, you may want to consider a higher quality filter, this will cost a little more upfront but you will breathe easier and it will be well worth the cost.

    If you live in a warm, dusty climate you are more likely to pick up extra debris and pollutants in the air thus causing your filter to become dirtier faster. In addition, smoking, mold or moist climates will decrease the quality of air in your home and require more frequent change outs of your filter. To keep the air in your home at its best it's best to check the filter monthly.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • How much energy do compact fluorescent light bulbs save?Green Content

    Most estimates are 70 percent, which means that over the life of the bulb you can save as much as $100.

    There are many benefits to switching to CFLs.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • Five Steps to a Healthier HomeGreen Content

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the air inside our homes may be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. What's surprising is that this statistic does not exclude newer homes, which can actually test higher than older residences in terms of poor indoor air quality.

    In a rush to conserve energy in the 1970s, builders, architects and designers began building tighter homes with energy efficient windows and doors and thicker insulation in an effort to seal out potential drafts. While we succeeded in lowering the cost of energy bills, we ended up adding to the problem of trapping volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - harmful fumes caused by leftover building products, furniture, animal dander, and indoor mildew and mold - inside our homes.

    Today, Americans spend millions of dollars each year on indoor air filtration systems. We purchase everything from small, tabletop models to whole-house units for our homes. And yet, even with all the information available on the market, there is major debate on which ones truly work the best.

    Below are five steps that you can take to improve your home's indoor air quality. By following these steps and coupling them with the right indoor air purifying unit, you'll breathe a lot easier in your own home.

    Step One -- Test your home for possible contaminants.

    Today, there are a number of in-home test kits available to assess everything from lead on walls and in your drinking water, to asbestos and radon gas. And utilizing these inexpensive kits can give you the peace of mind of knowing that you and your family are safe.

    Step Two -- If you have a forced air heating system, have the air ducts cleaned regularly and upgrade to better furnace air filters.

    Homeowners often ask, "Is cleaning my air ducts worth it?" The answer is yes. Even if your home is new, you may have more internal construction debris and dust than a home that is 10 to 15 years old. When getting your air ducts cleaned, make sure the contractor is a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (www.nadca.com), and uses not only high velocity air, but a whip that is fed through the ductwork to loosen any debris stuck to the walls of the sheet-metal. The average cost to clean ductwork in your home is about $300 to $500, but the results are well worth the expense.

    In conjunction, for many of us, the furnace filter is a spun glass filter that costs less than a dollar. While this filter will protect the blower motor, it will do next to nothing when it comes to improving your indoor air quality. Upgrade to a pleated filter that captures smaller particles so small that even the naked eye cannot see. The key is to change them regularly - every couple of months should do - to prevent to the restriction of airflow through your heating system.

    Step Three -- Keep your home as clean as possible.

    According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), an estimated 57 million Americans suffer from severe allergies and asthma and keeping your home as clean as possible can dramatically improve the air you breathe. Dusting window treatments, around window and door trim and those out-of-reach areas can make a huge impact. Use a bagless vacuum cleaner that utilizes a HEPA filter to maximize your cleaning power and avoid the plume of dust that occurs when you'd otherwise change the bag.

    Step Four -- Consider purchasing an indoor air purifier.

    Because they can vary in performance, size and cost, it's important that you find the right purifier to fit your needs. There are a number of Web sites you can turn to for help. One of the industry standards is put forth by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers' (AHAM) Air Cleaner Council (www.aham.org). There, testing helps set certain parameters so that all purification units are measured against the same criteria. If you're thinking of a particular model and in search of its product rating guide, visit www.cadr.org for the unit's "clean air delivery rate." In turn, take advantage of the 30-day free trial offer many manufacturers offer. By the end of 30 days, you'll know if you are breathing easier and if the unit is worth the investment.

    HEPA filtration (High Efficiency Particulate Air) is one of the most common approaches to cleaning the air. A good quality HEPA filtering system can be up to 99.97 percent efficient at filtering particulates that are 0.3 microns from the air. This filtering system has been widely used and accepted by organizations promoting indoor air quality standards to clean the indoor air of smoke, dust, pollen, mold spores and pet dander.

    Portable units, when sized correctly, can do a good job of cleaning the air in a particular room. But the key is to make sure that unit is sized for the square footage of that room. In addition, the faster the fan runs, the more air is exchanged through the unit. While this does increase the noise, the units will work much better.

    HEPA room purifiers can range in price from $30 to $300. These units use a modular filter system which makes finding and installing the filters much easier.

    Step Five -- Protect your family by installing a carbon monoxide detector.

    It used to be that smoke detectors were enough to protect your family. However, in recent years, homeowners across America have been taking safety a step further by installing carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

    When installing a carbon monoxide detector, remember that the placement of that detector is key. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends it be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep; however, additional detectors on every level and in every bedroom of a home provides extra protection.

    Credit:  Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • What is the easiest way to shut out cold air coming in around my aluminum door?Green Content

    A stick-on foam tape works well on aluminum, but it must be applied when the surface is warm and dry.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • 15 Easy Ways to Go GreenGreen Content

    Going "green" in our everyday lives is all the rage these days. From CFL bulbs to organic cotton T-shirts, it seems everyone has some skin in the eco-game. Your family - and in particular your home - should be no different. Below are 15 easy do-it-yourself projects that will save you money, reduce your environmental footprint and have you playing your eco-part in no time.

    1. As the cost of energy continues to rise, there is a way to lower your electric bills. Compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs, use up to 66 percent less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs and can last up to five years. Replacing the five most-used bulbs in your home can save you up to $60 a year on your electric bill.
    2. Your water heater can do a better job keeping the water in the tank hot if you buy it a jacket. Insulating jackets can be installed on most conventional water heaters and reduce the number of times a water heater "fires" during standby. In fact, 20 percent of your energy cost to heat water is used up during standby!
    3. Fix that leak! Did you know that a dripping faucet or leaking toilet can waste up to 20 gallons of water a day? Repairing these leaks takes just a little time, and a small investment for the parts needed. The payback - both in dollars and for the environment - is huge!
    4. Adding a rain barrel to your drainage system can help you capture some of the water Mother Nature sends us during rain showers. A 1,000 square foot roof can shed up to 650 gallons of water during a 1-inch rainfall. By placing a rain barrel under a down spout, you can use this water for your lawn, garden or even a car wash.
    5. Plant a tree and reduce the carbon footprint of your home. To counteract the footprint from the use of electricity and natural gas or oil in the average American home, you would need to plant 42 trees... while that's a lot of green, start slowly to help shade your home and absorb carbon dioxide from the air.
    6. Using a ceiling fan can not only help you feel more comfortable in your home, both in the winter and the summer, it can also help to lower your energy bills. By circulating the air in your home, your furnace and air conditioner will run less, which means savings for you.
    7. Cutting your lawn just got a lot greener with Earth-friendly mowers. Gas-powered mowers are terrific for larger lawns, but if you have a smaller space to take care of, an electric or new cordless mower can do the trick, and with no fuel or harmful emissions. Mother Nature will thank you!
    8. Composting is a great way to reduce your waste and your impact on landfills. By collecting and placing compostable materials in a collection bin, you can create a super-charged natural fertilizer for your garden.
    9. Natural cleaning products have come a long way. You now have a choice to use products that lessen their impact on the environment. Many of these new cleaning items have natural ingredients and use less water during shipping to reduce fuel use.
    10. Tankless water heaters are here to stay, and are a viable choice when it comes to installing a new water heater in your home. Standby energy use is completely eliminated, and you will never run out of hot water from a properly-sized unit!
    11. Reduce your usage. How many cups of water do you boil for a cup of tea? Do you leave the TV or lights on when you leave the room? Does the water run from the faucet when you brush your teeth? These small changes in your lifestyle can make a difference for all of us!
    12. Did you know that almost 25 percent of water used in the home is for showers, and each member of a family of four taking a 5-minute shower can use up to 700 gallons a day? By installing low-flow shower heads, you can reduce that use by almost half, and with new technology, still feel a brisk force from the water.
    13. Stop all the leaks in your home! Drafty windows and doors can greatly raise your energy consumption. According to the EPA, if you caulk or seal those air leaks with weatherstripping, you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,000 pounds a year.
    14. Let the sun shine! Not only will it brighten your mood, it will keep you from flipping the switch. In the colder months, the rays from the sun can help to heat your home, and the best part of this tip: it's absolutely free!
    15. Your indoor air is three times more polluted than the outdoor air. While painting is a great way to liven up your living environment, make sure you are not harming it during the process. Low VOC or zero VOC paints work just as well and are a great choice for those with allergies, asthma or homes with young children.

    Credit:  Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • Weather Stripping a WindowGreen Content

    Choosing Your Weather Stripping

    Spring-type, tension or folded strips made from bronze, aluminum, stainless steel or vinyl are sometimes nailed in place to the sides and top of the window frame and to the sash on the bottom. The angled or V-shaped strips work best for double-hung windows and are also suitable for doors. This type is durable and cannot be seen when door or window is closed but may make opening and closing difficult and installation is somewhat tricky.

    Rigid strip gaskets are made from vinyl, felt or foam attached to wood or metal strips. Attached at the bottom or top of window sash or bottom of doors with fasteners the strip is visible but can be painted to reduce visibility. It is easily installed and the durability varies with material used. Pliable gasket is made of a springy material like vinyl, foam, felt or sponge with an adhesive backing and is effective for wood casement, hinged or sliding windows. Installs easily in the channels and bottom or top of sash. This type is low cost but the durability is generally low and self-adhesive strips may not work on metal and should be considered temporary.

    Compressible felt strips are another option but are not very durable and are best used only on warped windows that won't accept rigid stripping, or for windows that aren't often opened.

    Double-Hung Windows

    Tools:

    • Utility Knife
    • Tape Measure
    • Hammer

    Clean the bottom of the sash with soap and water and let dry.

    Measure the sash and cut the foam weather stripping to length.

    Peel the back from the foam. Press the adhesive side of the foam against the bottom of the sash to form a tight bond.

    Clean the jamb with soap and water and let dry.

    Cut two pieces of V-channel 1" longer than each sash height.

    Peel the back from the V-channel and work it between the sash stiles and the jamb. Press the channel firmly into the jamb.

    Drive finish nails through the weather stripping into the jamb to hold it securely. Test the sash to ensure it doesn't catch on the nails.

    Clean the back of the bottom sash with soapy water and allow it to dry completely.

    Cut a piece of V-channel to match the width of the sash.

    With the sash raised 3" to 4", peel the back from the channel and press it firmly into the back of the sash even with the top. The V should open facing up so the weather stripping compresses when the window is closed.

    Casement Windows

    Tools:

    • Utility Knife
    • Tape Measure
    • Hammer

    Materials:

    • Self-adhesive foam insulation

    Open the window and clean the outside of the stops with soapy water. Allow the stops to dry completely.

    Cut self-adhesive foam to fit the top, bottom and sides of the stops.

    Remove the back from each piece of foam and press it into the outside of the stops.

    Credit:  Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • How do I start composting?Green Content

    Composting turns organic wastes into a valuable resource by creating an earthy, dark, crumbly substance that is excellent for adding to houseplants or enriching your garden soil and flower beds. Plus by recycling your yard and kitchen wastes you are reducing the volume of garbage sent to the landfills.

    • A bin keeps the compost contained and looks neater.

      The two basic elements of compost are green garden debris (grass clippings or old plants) and brown garden derbis (dry leaves).

    • Green ingredients are high in nitrogen and brown materials are high in carbon. Adding too many greens can make the pile smell bad.
    • Compost piles with a balance of one part green to two part brown materials break down fastest.

      Compost also needs the correct amount of moisture to breakdown. Check your compost pile's moisture level once a week and adjust it if necessary by adding water to increase moisture or more browns to help dry the pile out. The correct moisture level should feel like a damp, wrung-out sponge. Too much moisture can cause temperatures to fall within the pile and make it smell. Too little moisture slows down the decomposition rate and keeps the pile from heating up.

      Turn the pile once a week to move material from the outside of the pile in. Turning also keeps the pile from compacting, which reduces airflow and slows down decomposition.

      You should have finished compost in about two months. You'll know your compost is finished when it no longer heats up and you can't identify any of the original materials. The compost should be dark brown, moist and earthy smelling.

    • Never add animal waste, meats, oils, dairy, diseased plants, weeds that have gone to seed, or plants treated with pesticides or herbicides to your compost.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • Five Easy Projects to Cut Energy ExpendituresGreen Content

    Chances are, when you open your monthly utility statements, you're witnessing energy costs doubling and even tripling at the height of the season. Many homes, particularly those built more than 10 years ago, do not feature the latest energy-saving techniques and products. By spending just a few dollars and doing some simple projects, you can save energy - and significant amounts of money. Here are five fast fixes to help you start saving:

    Lower Your Lighting Costs

    Start with this easy task: Replace current light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. They screw in just like standard bulbs, but use a fourth of the energy and last up to 10 times longer. An 18-watt CFL bulb provides as much light as a 75-watt standard light bulb. Average savings: $10 - $50 per year

    Taming the Toilet

    A constantly-running toilet can use up to 8,000 gallons of water each year. Fix the problem by installing a toilet repair kit that features a new valve, flapper and other devices that will conserve water. Average Savings: $25 - $100 per year

    Fix Leaky Fixtures

    Aside from causing that annoying "drip," leaky faucets can also cause a spike in your water bill. Replacing the aerator and rubber washer will cost you pennies yet save you dollars in the long run. As for the showerhead, consider installing a flow-restricting model - a family of four can conserve 10,000 gallons of water per year going this route. Average Savings: $100 - $300 per year

    Hot Water Help

    Your water heater may be working harder than it needs to, costing you precious dollars. Reduce the temperature on the unit to about 120 degrees - the water doesn't need to be any hotter. If the unit is older than 12 years, you may want to look into replacing it with a new, more energy-efficient model. Average Savings: $20 - $50 per year

    Install a Programmable Thermostat

    Installing a programmable thermostat can significantly reduce energy costs, especially in the winter and summer months. Programmable models allow you to automatically adjust the temperature throughout the day, creating a specific energy-saving 'program' for weekdays and weekends. Some models even allow you to set preferences on the hour for each day of the week. Average Savings: $125 - $350 per year and up

    Credit: Lou Manfredini's Tips From the Tool Box, Ace Hardware

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

  • I notice there is quite a price range in hoses. What do I get for my money?

    The less expensive hose is not reinforced. Medium-priced hoses are usually 5/8" and have some reinforcement in the walls. Higher-priced hoses have more reinforcement and are usually made with rubber.

    Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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