Outdoor LED Flood Light

Understanding Circular Fluorescent Bulbs

This post has been updated from its original 2013 version.

These round bulbs pack a few more features than their fun design suggests, and if you are not savvy to the ways of circline lamps you may have a hard time incorporating them into your home’s lighting. To fully understand and get the best out of circular fluorescent bulbs, keep the following four facts in mind.

Pay Attention to Wattage

Just as with (the soon to be gone) standard incandescent light bulbs, circline lamps use wattages to measure how much power is used to light a bulb. By comparison, the circular fluorescent lights emit the same amount of light (lumens) while using less power than incandescents. A circline light bulb of only 13 watts can replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb and has an output of 650-900 lumens. The wattage of the bulb also determines the diameter of the bulb which in turn determines if it will fit the fixture. So unlike standard spiral CFLs you may not be able to go up or down in wattage range because it will affect the size of the bulb possibly rendering it unusable with your fixture.

Color Temperatures Are the Same as Standard CFLs

Color temperatures represent how bright a bulb is. Circular fluorescent bulbs can range in color from warm white to the brightest daylight just like standard compact fluorescent lights. Color specifics are all varying shades of white:

  • 2700K: Warm, equivalent to what is typical in a bedroom or living room
  • 3000-3500K: Soft, suitable for bathrooms
  • 4100K: Cool, florescent-like in color
  • 5000K: Daylight, the brightest color, like sunlight at noon

Circular Bulbs Cannot be Used in Just Any Fixture

This is where using a circular fluorescent can get tricky. Depending on the manufacturer, some light fixtures only use bulbs from their own line. Yeah, I know it can be tempting sometimes to go with an off/generic brand, but in this case your generic circline lamp may not work in the fixture. When replacing a Circular Lamp, first make sure that there are no manufacturer specifics determining what bulb can be used. Next, determine what the lamp type (e.g. T6 , T9) and pin type is (e.g. 2 pin, 4 pin). When finding the right lamp for your fixture, you have to choose the same lamp type and pin types as these are not interchangeable.

Diameter Matters

For light fixtures that use circular bulbs that are too big or too small will not work, even if it is from the right manufacturer. Make sure to replace these bulbs by measuring the diameter of an existing bulb then purchase the right size. If you would rather leave measuring alone, you can also use the manufacturer model number to find a replacement bulb.

While there is more to be taught and learned about circular fluorescent bulbs, these four facts alone will allow you to make informed purchases and hassle-free replacements. See, it doesn’t take much to become savvy to the ways of circline lamps.

Shop for Circular Bulbs>>>

TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 32020 20W T9 4-Pin Circular Lamp 27K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
TCP 58W T-6 4 Pin Circular Lamp CFL Bulb 3205841K
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1
Philips 22w T5 4 Pin Circular CFL Bulb TL5C-22W830-1CT/1

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Understanding the Difference Between a PAR 30 and BR 30 Bulb

This post has been updated from it’s 2012 version

Being namesakes of their halogen and incandescent counterparts, PAR 30 and BR (or R) 30 LEDs are the green solution to outdoor and indoor lighting. Though they bear some similarities, understanding their differences will help you make better decisions about which one of these bulbs works best for your needs.

Angles
BR (for bulged reflector) bulbs are lamps with “wide flood” beam angles, which means that they provide more than a 45 degree angle when lighting an area.

PAR (short for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) bulbs are available in these angles:

  • Narrow spot, 5-15 degrees
  • Spot, 16-22 degrees
  • Narrow flood, 23-32 degrees
  • Flood, 33-45 degrees
  • Wide flood beam, over 45 degrees

Similarities
Though PAR 30 bulbs offer more options for lighting, both PAR and BR LED lamps are made to easily replace the energy-stealing halogen and incandescent lights. Because of this, both bulbs have the same medium (E26) base for North American sockets.

The numbers after PAR and BR, like 30, stand for 1/8th of an inch. To find the diameter of the lamp, just divide the number after it by 8: e.g., the diameter of a BR 30 bulb is 30/8ths of an inch, or 3.75 inches in diameter.

Lighting and Application
BR30 light bulbs deliver soft-edged, directional light and can typically be found in general household light fixtures, recessed can lighting, and/or track lighting. Their lighting is less precise and produces less shadow than PAR bulbs, but they are great for fixtures that use dimmer switches.

PAR lamps deliver strong, narrow to wide, directional light. They are traditionally used outdoors as aircraft landing lights, security lighting, or indoors for concerts, movie production, and theater.

Similarities
PAR and BR bulbs share the same voltage of 120VAC and have the same Kelvin degree color code as all light bulbs:

  • 2700K (warm white)
  • 4100K-5000K (cool white)
  • +5000K (daylight color)

One of the most popular is models is the BR30 LED 2700k

Energy Savings and Average Bulb Lifetime
Some LED PAR 30  bulbs offer nearly 90% in savings in comparison to halogen bulbs. They emit low heat, and can last for up to 70,000 hours.

BR-shaped LED lamps are much cheaper than PAR LED lamps, but they have a lower average lifetime of 25,000 hours.

Similarities
Up to 25% of your energy bill is being burned with traditional light bulbs, and though the specifics may differ, switching to energy efficient lighting throughout the home can save you tons off your energy bill.

Further, with longer bulb life than their halogen and incandescent friends, both the PAR and BR LED light bulbs last longer and therefore require less changing.

These differences and similarities are also applied to other Par/R combinations as well, such as the Par20 and R20 LED bulbs. When searching for the perfect PAR or BR light bulb for your fixture, be sure to keep in mind the different angles, lighting, cost, and average bulb lifetime.

Shop for LED PAR30 and BR30 Bulbs>>>

BR30 8W LED 2700K
Maxlite BR30 8W LED 2700K 8BR30DLED27
Dimmable LED PAR30 10W 3000K Long Neck
Maxlite Dimmable LED PAR30 10W 3000K Long Neck
11W Dimmable Par30 Short Neck 2700K
Greenwatt 11W Dimmable Par30 Short Neck

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Outdoor LED Flood Light

4 Energy Conservation Kit Tools That Also Keep You Warm

Save Energy and Stay Warm

The holiday season is taking a break for the next 300-some-odd days, but the cold weather isn’t following. Keep the chill on the outside with an energy conservation kit. These kits – like a swiss army knife for combating drafts – are packed with supplies that properly insulate doors, windows, and other unintentional air entryways.

Foam Switch Gaskets, Outlet Gaskets, and Child Safety Caps

Unless every outlet is in use all the time (and I hope not, cause phantom energy loss can account for 5% of your home’s energy usage), those tiny slits in the wall are letting outside air slowly creep into your home. Along with outlets, the surrounding area behind the outlet and light switch plates also offer a way in for air. These leaks make the house colder than it should be and can cause energy loss of up to 20%.

Plastic Window Kit

Windows can let air in even when closed, but cold weather also makes them vulnerable to frost build-up and condensation. Plastic window kits, also known as shrink and seal window kits or window insulation kits, are installed over the entire window to provide airtight insulation from outside air. Kits are installed from the inside, and require a hair dryer (or some form of blowing heat) to “shrink and seal” film over the window. This method of insulation works on any type of window, is easy on the budget, and can increase R-Value (insulation level) by up to 90%.

Rope Caulk

Nearly every energy conservation kit features rope caulk, a substance is so easy to install a 5-year old could do it (we’re not kidding, just watch). Rope caulk is primarily used to combat cracks, gaps, and openings of every kind. Simply clean the area being sealed (remove dust, dirt, etc.), peel of the amount needed, and stick it into the open area. I think of it as 2-minute insulation.

The benefits of rope caulk don’t stop at insulation:

  • It’s cheap!
  • It’s durable through most weather conditions, so you don’t have to worry about it cracking during cold months
  • Just as easy as it is to install is how easy it is to remove (and clean up after), making this an easy insulation answer for renters

Door and Window Foam Tape

Foam tape is best used with sliding or swinging doors and windows. The tape blocks outside air by sealing the open space between the edges/side of doors and windows. Foam tape installs easily and is very cost effective.

Putting an energy conservation kit to good use – the gaskets, child safety caps, plastic window kits, rope caulk, and foam tape – will go a long way towards stabilizing the temperature in your home, saving energy and preventing energy loss, and allow you to subtract a few dollars from that energy bill.

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Understanding the Types of DIY Foam Insulation

DIY Foam Insulation
DIY Foam Insulation

You don’t need to be a conservation specialist to understand foam insulation; more importantly you don’t need expert knowledge to install it. Whether sealing large areas, small areas, or openings in-between, understanding the types of DIY spray on insulation will go a long way towards raising the comfort level in your home.

R-Value and What it Means for Foam Insulation

Insulation material needs to resist heat to be effective: this is R-value. R value is measured based on the density, thickness, and type of material (spray foam) and it tells us if the material holds a high or low amount of thermal resistance. Both types of foam, closed and open cell, offer different R-values and benefits for insulation.

Closed cell foam

The cells in closed cell foam are packed tightly together, so it insulates better. Because the cells are packed so tightly, the foam is also has a high resistance to heat and water – meaning that is boasts a high R-value. Though the R-value is high, over time that number can decrease.

Closed cell, or high expansion foam, better insulates large areas like attics, basements, and garages. FYI: A little goes a long way with high expansion DIY foam insulation – spray only 1″ of this to see it expand 30x.

Open cell foam

The cells in open cell, or low expansion spray foam are loosely packed and the R-value is lower, but – installed in the right place – this is not a disadvantage for insulation. Open cell foam works as a air barrier, and unlike closed cell foam the R-value of open cell foam will not change over time.

Low expansion DIY spray on insulation expands by only 10% of the initial spray size, so it’s best used in small areas, like cracks and gaps in floors, walls, windows, etc.

It only takes a little information, the right type of foam, and the right amount to properly insulate your home.

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Finding the Right Door Sweep for Your Home

Exterior Door SweepWith or without a security system, intruders can enter your home through a closed door – but not the kind you have in mind. Dust, cold air, bugs, and more use the open spaces between door bottoms to become a mainstay in your house. Protect your energy bill from bloat by installing a standard, foam, self-stick, or automatic exterior door sweep.

Standard Door Sweeps

Install a standard sweep on doors that cross wooden, tiled, or smooth floors of any kind. Standard sweeps need to be screwed into the bottom of a wooden or steel door, but a little labor is worth the benefit. They seal saps as large as 3/4ths of an inch and have a long lifespan, lasting for years at a time. The most common size is a 36 inch door sweep but you may need a 42 inch door sweep.

Foam Door Sweeps

Renters rejoice! Foam door sweeps install without any screws whatsoever and work on doors that cross nearly any type flooring: carpet, tile, wood, and more. This exterior door sweep comes with two tubes and a connected pocket, or sleeve, for each tube. Simply slide one tube into each sleeve and slip it under the door.

Self-Stick Door Sweeps

If you can peel a sticker you can install a self-stick door sweep. Peel the adhesive from the backing and stick it to the bottom of the door. This type of door sweep works best on metal and wood doors, but regardless of the door you’ll have weatherproof, dust-proof, bug-proof and hassle-free insulation with self-stick sweeps.

Automatic Door Sweeps

Carpeted areas or doors that cross over rugs will get the most benefit out of automatic door sweeps. This exterior door sweep was designed to rise just enough to cross the carpeted area but still seal firmly when the door is closed. A little more install work is required here, with screws and a “roller” (plug), but these sweeps seal up to 1/2″ of space between the door and threshold.

Get proactive in your home’s energy security (along with your finances) by investing in door sweeps.

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5 Cost Effective Ways to Weatherproof Windows

Weatherproof Windows

Cold weather can be fun when skiing, having snowball fights, and using your garbage can lid as a makeshift sled, but none of those activities occur inside the home. Air leaks, gaps, cracks (or however you want to see them) in your window sneak outside weather into your home and lead to higher fees onto your energy bill. Keep drafts at bay and your monthly energy costs low by using one or more of these inexpensive tools to weatherproof windows.

Foam Tape

Foam tape is usually used to seal windows that slide or swing. It works just as the name would suggest, sticking to the edges or bottoms of windows to prevent air leakage when windows are closed.

Installation: At less than $3, not only is foam tape a fairly cheap weatherization solution, it’s easy to install.

  • First, clean and dry the area (must be more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit) where the tape will be applied. If the area is dirty, wet, and/or cold, the tape won’t stick properly or it will easily loose its stickiness factor.
  • Cut the amount of foam tape needed based on the length of window sides/bottom.
  • Remove the adhesive backing then press the tape into place to cover the area in need of sealing.

Shrink and Seal Window Kit

If you have scissors, a blow dryer, and $4 you can easily weatherproof windows with a Shrink and Seal Window kit. This kit will seal the whole window from the inside and increase the R-value, or insulating power, of the window by as much as 90%.

Installation:

  • As always, clean and dry the area before applying any sealing. You should also clean the insides of windows because you won’t be able to clean that area again until you remove the shrink film.
  • Cut the amount of shrink film needed. Cut enough film to cover the entire window (including some of the frame area).
  • Remove the backing from one side of the two-sided tape and stick it to the top, bottom, and sides of the window. After installing the tape, remove the adhesive backing from the other side.
  • Apply the shrink film around the window, gently stretching it as you work your way from one corner of the window to the other.
  • With the blow dryer on the highest setting, slowly move the dryer across the film to tighten it over the window. Don’t stand too close to the window while doing this, otherwise you’ll melt the shrink film.
  • Trim any film that’s left over.

V Seal Weatherstrip

The V Seal Weatherstrip, which is much like tape, is another $4 tool that allows a hassle-free installation and removal.

Installation:

  • Clean, measure, then cut as always. Clean the area. Measure how much V Seal strip is needed then cut away.
  • Bend the strip down the marked center line to create a “V” shape.
  • To seal, remove the backing and press the V strip into the corner of the window.

Rope Caulk

Caulking is a method of weatherstripping that targets the crack, gap, hole, or opening that allows air to seep through. Basically it’s like sticking silly putty in the exposed area to seal it off. However, unlike silly putty rope caulk provides a better stick, can weatherproof windows in an weather condition, and is a lot more pleasing aesthetically (unlike your lime green putty).

Installation:

  • Clean, clean, clean the area where caulk will be used.
  • Peel of a lay of the rope caulk “beads” and divide it based on how much you need.
  • Press to seal.

Window AC Cover

Though it’s easily overlooked, your window AC unit could be a major player in the game of air leakage. Window AC covers are often placed on the outside of inside units, but those covers only protect the unit from wind and rain. Installing window AC covers indoors will give your unit added protection by stopping air leaks.

Installation:
Tape the insulation liners to the face of the air conditioner and place the fabric cover over the windblock liner and air conditioner. Before you purchase an AC cover, measure the air conditioning unit because covers come in three different sizes.

With weatherproofed windows you can still enjoy skiing, snowball fights, and garbage lid sleds without the threat of winter weather becoming household guests.

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How Water Heater Timers Save Money

Water heater timers
Water heater timers

Turning on the hot water is not the same as heating it up. Seems a little trippy, right? Even if the hot water is not in use, your water heater is doing its best to keep that water hot for you – a process that uses up energy and adds unnecessarily to your heating bill. One simple solution for this problem is to install water heater timers. These devices allow you to control when the heater operates and help erase a bit of the bloat on your energy bill (translation: they will save you money).

Cost of Heating Water

Unlike heating for the home, which is only needed during cold months, water heaters run all year. Rain or shine, snow or sun, we all take hot showers year-round. In the average home, this amounts to about 18% of energy usage devoted to heating water – the second largest energy use in the home. The percentage can get higher/lower based on factors such as:

  • Whether or not your state has peak electric pricing hours
  • Number of hot water users in the home
  • Showers or baths
  • How long a shower lasts, etc.

Heaters work daily to keep water at a high temperature and ready for use whether someone needs hot water or not. Putting this in terms of money, if your heater is a 5500 watts tank, heating costs around $50-60 or more a month.

How Timers Work

Water heater timers are programmable devices that control when a water heater is turned off and on. With this device, your water heater will provide hot water only when its scheduled to do so instead of maintaining hot water throughout the day.

To get the best use out of water heaters and timers, employ one or more of these tips:

  • Program the timer to only heat water during peak off-times
  • Use less hot water during peak hours
  • Insulate water heater (make sure to follow instructions for your type of heater: gas or electric)
  • Flush heater every 6 months to prevent buildup of mineral deposits (dirt that sinks to the bottom of the tank, like sand and stones)

Water heater timers are easy to install, will operate with any existing heating system, and provide better control over your hot water energy usage and heating expenses.

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Savings and Staying Warm with Window Air Conditioner Covers

Window Air Conditioner Cover
Window Air Conditioner Cover

Air conditioners can be a gift from the heavens during sticky summer months, but as the seasons roll into cooler weather, those same air conditioners are a silent source of energy and monetary waste. Prevent energy loss, lower your heating/cooling costs, and protect the quality of your AC unit with window air conditioner covers.

Prevent Energy Loss

AC units get a much deserved break during cold months, but even when turned off they can still use up much energy. Uncovered air conditioners allow the cold outside air, dirt, dust, and other undesirables to enter the home and mix in with the warm air the heater provides. This creates an uncomfortable, inconsistent temperature throughout the house – some rooms are too hot, others too cold, and if you’re lucky at least one room will be just right. Air conditioner covers prevent energy loss by blocking the flow of air into and out of your home.

Energy loss does not only affect the house – it can be a drain on the energy bill as well.

Stop Money From Pouring Down the Drain (or flying through the air conditioner)

How much of your energy bill do you think is due to heating and cooling alone – under or over 20%? Believe it or not, 43% of your energy bill is devoted to keeping the house warm or cool. Along with other insulation solutions, you can erase 20% or more off energy costs with window air conditioner covers. When installed properly, AC covers keep the unit from acting as a source for air leaks.

Though less energy waste is the ultimate reason to use AC covers, it is not the only one. AC units also need protection from damages.

Protect The AC Unit From Damages

Overly heated rooms mixed in with the cold air coming through the AC can cause dampness, which leads to mold and mildew. Removing the mold and mildew will require one of three options:

  • Go through a lengthy process to remove the mold and mildew yourself
  • Hire a professional for the removal
  • Get a new unit (not recommended)

While it’s less pricey to do it yourself, the process takes a while and calls for removal of some parts in order to reach moldy areas. Window air conditioner covers are waterproof, making it easy to protect the air conditioner (and your health) from damages. Plus, the only manual labor involved will be installing the cover.

How to Install Window AC Covers

Even the less crafty of us can install an AC cover. All you need to provide is measuring tape because cover packages come with rest: fabric cover, plastic waterproof sheets, adhesive tape to secure the cover, and instructions.

Measure your AC unit to ensure that you purchase the right size for your air conditioner then follow the instructions for the cover.

No longer do cold weather months have to wreak havoc on your AC unit. Stop the energy waste, the sapping of your money, and the discomfort in your home by installing air conditioner covers.

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Smoke Pencil: What it is and How it Helps Save Energy

Smoke Pencil
Image courtesy of Suwit Ritjaroon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
While it may sound like the latest craze in runway makeup, the smoke pencil has benefits far beyond the superficial.

What does it do?

Resembling a gadget straight out of a 1980’s sci-fi flick, this battery-operated machine uses smoke to help homeowners and HVAC contractors find air leaks and drafts in the home. To use this device, turn on the smoke stick in the area you suspect of leaks and watch the movement of the smoke to determine if there are any cracks, gaps, and the like.

How does this help me save energy and money?

Putting a smoke pencil to use will help you locate one of the biggest, silent problems on your energy bill: air leaks. Drafts, air leaks, gaps and little cracks:

  • Serve as a “vacant” sign for critters
  • Allow air to flow in and out of your home – leading to an inconsistency of comfort during extreme weather seasons
  • Cause you to lower/raise the thermostat to create a feeling of balance in the home – as your energy bill rises creating a feeling of hostility towards your energy provider

Once the smoke puffer has located the problem areas, you can get to work insulating your home and lowering your energy needs. A properly sealed house can slice 20% or more from your energy bill.

Is it safe for a homeowner to use, or only energy professionals?

There are different types of smoke sticks, and some use dangerous chemicals to produce smoke. The smoke pencil pro is actually very safe for anyone to use. The smoke is made of Glycol and Glycerin vapor that is not toxic and actually gives off a sweet smell. No protective gear is needed to operate this smoke machine, and you can produce as much or as little smoke as you need without the worry of toxins and pollutants entering your system (at least not from the smoke stick).

What accessories do I need in order to make the most use of it?

At the most basic level you need:

  • The smoke pencil
  • Batteries to operate it, and
  • The smoke liquid

You would also need a screwdriver or something to open the area where the batteries are placed in the machine. If you want more control over the smoke, like a smaller stream to come through the smoke puffer, you would need an adapter tip. All of these accessories (with an added carrying case) can be found in a field kit if you don’t want to purchase them separately.

Finding air leaks has never been more important for your home’s comfort level, energy usage, and the numbers after a dollar sign on your energy bill – benefits that go way beyond the superficial.

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4 Ways to Make Your Home Energy Efficient

Energy Efficient
Image courtesy of Ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jumping on the conservation bandwagon used to be seen as a fad, now people are realizing that energy efficiency has always been a necessity. Lighting, air leaks, and even your showerhead can be silently sapping energy while loudly making its presence known on your energy bill. To begin making, seeing, and feeling changes in your home’s energy usage, consider these 4 ways to make your home energy efficient.

Get rid of incandescent lighting

Incandescent lights bulbs, which have outlived their status as the standard bulb for lighting, are among the biggest energy leeches in the home. Among their many poor features, incandescent lights:

  • Only reflect 10% light — that other 90% is all heat
  • Have a short lifespan, lasting approximately 800 hours
  • Power your home using 60-75 watts of power

Energy resourceful lightbulbs, like CFLs (compact florescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diode) by comparison:

  • Reflect 100% light
  • Have a much longer lifespan from 10,000 hours (for CFLs) to 50,000 hours (for LEDs)
  • Need only 13 watts of power

Savings
This one change, switching out incandescent lightbulbs with environmentally friendly models, will reduce the energy wasted on lighting your home by up to 80%.

Seal electrical outlets

Air leaks are deceptively raising your energy bill. They are sometimes hard to locate, and at times air leaks come from sources that you may not expect — electrical outlets, for one, are a source that can be easily overlooked.

Outlets that are not in use (and even the hole under electrical outlet covers) can easily be sealed using items such as child-proofing caps and foam outlet gaskets.

Savings
Heating and cooling account for 43% of the energy used in a home (with the percentage going up or down based on factors like climate, etc.). A home that is properly insulated can shave off 20% or more from your energy bill.

Weatherstrip doors and windows

If the sun shines through your closed doors, you have an insulation problem. Doors and windows with cracks/gaps allow air, dust, and even bugs to infiltrate your home. To add insult to injury, these openings contribute to the rise in your energy bill. They cause the home to experience inconsistent temperatures, and as a result you go back and forth between lowering and raising the thermostat — while it raises your energy bill. To be more specific: poorly insulated doors account for 11% of the energy lost in your home, while poorly insulate windows account for 10-25%!

Weatherstripping doors and windows is an energy efficient, cost-effective, DIY solution to sealing. There are different types of material used for weatherstripping, mainly dependent on where the stripping will be used, like sliding window, door bottom, etc. The varieties include:

Install low-flow showerheads

Low-flow showerheads are easily one of the most energy conserving products that your home will benefit from immediately. Low-flow showerheads offer the same or better quality of shower while saving energy and money.

Modern showerheads can use 2.5 gallons of water per minute, (GPM) while earth showerheads only use 1.5 GPM.

Savings
Low-flow showerheads use less water and therefore less heat. Installing earth showerheads allow for as much as 30% in water savings along with lowering energy costs.

By sealing air leaks and making the switch to more energy efficient lighting and showerheads, you’ll quickly gain comfort in your home and bank account.

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