Archive for December 2015

Winter gardening tips from your granny

Usually when it comes to gardening, everyone thinks of early spring and summer. But winter is when you really need to put in the hours to make sure that your soil is ready for the growing season.

A lot of winter gardening tips come from older folks who’ve had a ton of experience gardening in all sorts of climate conditions. They’ve seen feast and famine, and they’re a good source of knowledge.

While you may already know about a couple of these tips, you may be surprised that they’re actually real.

Add bone meal for phosphorous

This one sounds kind of morbid to those who’ve never dealt with it. As the name suggests, bone meal is a fertilizer that comes from ground up bones animal bones. Typically bone meal comes from cow bones.

Bone meal helps plants by giving more phosphorous to the soil. Phosphorous is a must-have for plants so that they can flower, and added phosphorous will give your plants bigger, better flowers. Typically, your standard manure doesn’t have very much phosphorous, so bone meal gives the soil a well-rounded diet.

Add 10 pounds for every 100 square feet of your garden.

Add blood meal for nitrogen

The second garden additive is blood meal. Blood meal is dried animal blood that is ground into a powder for use as a fertilizer additive. Bone meal gave your garden phosphorous. Blood meal will give it more nitrogen.

Nitrogen will help you get full, green plants. Or if you want to grow plants that prefer a more acidic soil, blood meal can raise the soil’s acidity. Some believe that blood meal also helps keep some animals away, such as deer and squirrels.

Be sure that you follow instructions and don’t add too much nitrogen, as this could damage your plants.

Throw ashes in the soil

If you’re burning wood in your outdoor chimney, spread some of the wood ash in your garden soil. Wood ash contains small amounts of several different nutrients that are good for your garden.

As with the blood meal, don’t overdo it with wood ash. Wood ash is acidic and can make your soil too acidic with overuse.

Don’t forget your standard winter garden maintenance

These tips aside, don’t forget the basics. Soak your plants with water before a hard freeze to prevent them from dying, rake the leaves for composting and turn your soil over to churn up all of those helpful nutrients.

Conserve energy and money during winter

Nationally, December through February are the months during which people consume the most energy. Many winters in Oklahoma tend to be tame compared to winters up north. Nonetheless, there are some brutally cold weeks, and occasionally some brutally cold months.

Here are some ways that you can make sure that those three months aren’t memorable for the wrong reasons.

Get a programmable thermostat

This is extremely important. One of the easiest ways for you to save money on energy usage is to make sure that the furnace isn’t working when it doesn’t need to be. When you’re asleep or when you’re at work, the temperature can come down.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a decent programmable thermostat. It typically costs less than $200. You can program the thermostat to make the home comfortable when you’re there and conservative when you aren’t. Some thermostats can be operated from your phone! Invest in a programmable thermostat and get quality long-term savings.

Use your fireplace

You may be guilty of cranking up the heat while not thinking about the fireplace. For only the cost of a bundle of wood, your fireplace can provide a ton of heat. On many fireplaces there’s a vent and fan to send heat from the fire box into the living area.

Isn’t sitting in front of a fire a great way to spend any winter evening? Just make sure that you close the damper when you aren’t using your fireplace, or you’ll be sending all of that heat out of the chimney.

Seal up the leaks

This is especially important if you have an old house. Find leaks around windows, doors, pipes and vents. Find any place that heat may be escaping your home and caulk to seal those leaks up. With less hot air escaping through the cracks, you’ll spend less money because the furnace won’t run quite as much.

These are just a few ways to make sure that you aren’t left searching for blankets on a cold winter’s day or weeping over a heating bill that’s way more expensive than you’re used to.

If it’s the furnace that needs some work, give us a call at (405) 796-0320 for furnace repair or replacement.

Don’t void your HVAC warranty

If something’s wrong with your heater, you’re probably already paying for it to be fixed. That’s why it’s a very bad idea to go DIY on the unit and void your warranty.

Of course trying to fix a problem yourself isn’t the only way to void your warranty. Here are a couple of other ways you could make that happen.

Register the warranty

It’s the simplest way to screw up your warranty. Most of the time this simply requires submitting an online form to register the warranty for your A/C or furnace unit.

Don’t try to fix problems by yourself

Most of our units come with a 5 year warranty on the parts, 10 year warranty on the compressor and a year’s worth of labor warranty. When you bought the unit you paid for that. So what sense does it make to run the risk of voiding your warranty and also fail to fix the problem when you’ve paid for the HVAC company to do it?

Sign up for the maintenance plan

Some homeowners aren’t so eager to sign up for a maintenance plan. Unfortunately, in many cases the regular maintenance plan is what will keep the warranty valid. HVAC units need regular care, and it makes the most sense to sign up for that care the moment that you have the unit installed.

Get qualified service technicians and keep records

Many manufacturers will void a warranty if they discover that off-brand parts were used or that the service was conducted by somebody who wasn’t qualified to work on the unit. Your best bet is to always call the company that installed the HVAC unit to ensure that you’re getting help from a technician who’s qualified. It’s also important to keep records of what maintenance work was done.

The bottom line is to avoid messing with your HVAC unit on your own when you’ve already paid certified technicians to do it.

Could your furnace be staining your ceiling?

Have you ever notice a strange yellowing with grey and black particles on your ceilings?

It appears in odd shapes, seemingly out of nowhere. The appearance of these shapes is sometimes called “ghosting.” Often they’re mistaken for a water leak.

In reality, these spots can be caused by a faulty furnace, and they could be your signal that it’s time to get help.

The grey and black particles that you might see on your ceiling are the physical product of combustion in your furnace. There may also be other dirt and particulates mixed in as well.

Ghosting is something that occurs gradually. Particles are carried through the house and accumulate at a certain spot on your ceiling due to moisture, amongst other factors.

There are several things that could cause this kind of an accumulation problem. Soot from the fireplace, even your gas fireplace or cooktop can lead to ghosting. Burning a lot of candles could create this type of soot.

In some cases, your house might be suffering from negative pressure. This happens when a house is sealed too tight. Dirt, soot and other particles are actually sucked out of your vents and into the living area. This can be particularly bad if you suffer from allergies.

The worst case scenario is that ghosting is happening in your home because your furnace isn’t functioning properly. A poorly-working furnace doesn’t do a great job of combustion. Often, particulates like the black particles on your ceiling are the result.

If that’s the case, it’s time to get an expert to have a look. And since it’s winter-time, you’ll want to get that issue taken care of before your furnace finally quits.

To get expert furnace repair, give Baxter a call at (405) 796-0320.

Should you switch to LED Christmas lights?

You may or may not take Christmas lights to the level that Clark Griswold did in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. But most people enjoy Christmas lights, so we’ve got some information that could save you hassle and money. Let’s talk about replacing your incandescent Christmas lights with LED Christmas lights.

The first thing to know is that LED Christmas lights are a long-term money and hassle saver.

Incandescent lights seem to only last a year or two. They’re inexpensive, but after a couple of Christmas’s you get tired of some strands working and others not. Nobody likes running to the store to buy new lights only to discover that one bulb was the problem.

LED Christmas lights can last around 10 years. Not only do they last long, they’re also energy savers. LED lights in general use only a fraction of electricity compared to their incandescent counterparts, and making the switch can save you hundreds of dollars in electricity costs.

That sounds great, right? And you’re going to be gung-ho about going all-LED until you start adding up the cost. Odds are you’re really going to have trouble spending four figures at once on Christmas lights.

Here’s a solution that allows you to slowly phase out incandescent Christmas lights without going broke.

Every year, phase in some LED lights. Take a few strands of incandescents that don’t work or just need replacing, and replace them with LEDs. That way, you don’t spend more than you’re comfortable with spending.

Every year you get some energy savings out of adding LEDs and removing incandescent strands. And every year you spend a lot less time with burned-out lights!