Save energy and Money by weather stripping your house

I originally wrote this for Tashman Home Center

Weather stripping your home can save you money for several different reasons. While Southern California may not have harsh winters, it does have heat and our famous Santa Ana Winds and with climate change increasing the frequency and severity of both, weather stripping your home might be worth considering. Whether your cooling or heating a home or want to cut down on the amount of dust that slips in around your windows and doors, doing an energy audit will let you know if makes sense to spend the money weatherizing your home. Here is a list of professionals that provide Energy Audits,

If you’d prefer to check things our yourself, here are several things you can do:


Use a stick of incense or a candle during a windy day to go around the windows and see where air is leaking in. During this wind test also check the windows themselves for cracks or other problems that can easily be addressed.

When dealing with sliding windows, there are a few simple things that will make a big difference with respect to unwanted air flow. Attach vinyl weather strips to the sides of the windows and foam strips on the bottom. Also put a V-Channel weatherstrip where the window goes into the frame to create a complete seal. Another option if you don’t plan on opening the windows for a while is to fill the cracks with caulking. The best product to use for this purpose is called seal and peel caulk. It is made to be easy to remove so you can quickly open up your house when spring comes.


When you close your front door, ideally it will make a strong seal. Use open cell foam weatherstripping for the sides of the door and a sweep for the bottom to keep out drafts.

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Visit our website’s Hardware Page to see some of the 20,000 items we carry in stock that can help you with your project, or stop by our showroom at 7769 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood 90046 and get assistance from our terrific and knowledgable staff.  See Map

Energy Efficient Windows

This post was written by me but originally appeared at

The first window was made about 3.3 million years ago and was a hole in the wall of whatever was being used for shelter at the time. The purpose was to better see enemies and wild animals approaching as well as to enjoy a cool breeze on a hot summer night.

The Romans were the first known to use glass for windows, a technology likely first produced in Roman Egypt—In Alexandria ca. 100 AD. The technology has advanced significantly over the years although some people still use Jalousie windows which are only slightly better than a hole in the wall.

Untitled-e1430525842626Before deciding on new windows it is important to know a little bit about how the sun’s radiation works. The sun emits a lot of radiation but for the purposes of window efficiency, we can focus of visible light and radiant energy (heat). The goal, in both hot and cold climes, is to allow as much visible light through while minimizing the transference of radiant energy. There are three main ways to treat glass to make it energy efficient. These are insulated glass, low e glass, and reflective coated glass.

Insulated glass windows usually consist of two or three panes of glass separated by an inert nonconductive gas like Argon. The spacers often have a desiccant, which reduces the possibility of moisture entry.

Low emissivity glass has been coated with a microscopic metallic oxide that reflects infrared light (radiant energy) and allows visible light through. Low E coatings come in different varieties which can be customized to fit a specific location, cold and dark vs hot and light.

Public Toilet with reflecting glass

Reflective coatings are usually used in hot areas with windows getting direct sunlight. For example the front of our hardware store has very large south facing windows so we put a reflective coating on them so we wouldn’t have to use exorbitant amounts of air conditioning. Some of the more severe reflecting coatings will turn glass into a one way mirror.

The type of frame for a window is also important for durability and energy efficiency. Aluminum windows are durable and cheap but have a high heat conductivity which is bad for energy efficiency. Wood window frames look nice and have good insulating properties but require more maintenance because wood tends to warp with heat and moisture. Fiberglass frames provide good insulation and generally look better than aluminum. Fiberglass is also very strong and can accommodate a larger piece of glass. Vinyl frames are the most energy efficient, require no maintenance and can be custom treated for any environment.

Our atmosphere and magnetic field protects us from most of the Sun’s harmful radiation and we as technologically advanced animals can further protect ourselves from other inconveniences like heat and high electric bills.

The probability of earthquakes has changed following new study

earthquake 2

A new report by the U.S. Geological survey has introduced a new earthquake forecast model that changes the forecasts for magnitude, location, and likelihood as compared to the 2007 forecast model. The most significant change is the likelihood of medium (6.7-8) quakes has decreased while the likelihood of large (8+) quakes has increased. Looking at the entirety of California, the chance of a medium earthquake has gone from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years while the chance of large earthquakes has gone from one every 617 years to one every 494 years. 

The evolution of the California earthquake forecast model has happened as we learn more and more about the complex fault system under our feet. 

As we can see the number of faults has increased twenty fold in the last 17 years. In the 1988 forecast, only 16 faults were considered while in 2015 350 faults were considered to create the model. Much of these recent fault finding efforts (pun certainly intended) were driven by the fact that the 1994 Northridge earthquake occurred on a previously unknown fault. There are two other important things that contributed to this revised forecast, the use of space based geology and the observation that earthquakes jump from fault to fault instead of being constrained to the fault that spawned them. Instead of several major fault-lines, the picture that emerges is of a vast interconnected fault system. 

While the implications for building codes depends largely on where exactly structures are located, there are some important general conclusions we can draw. Tall buildings and bridges are more at risk than previously thought whereas small single family houses are less likely to experience catastrophic damage. Also the popular assumption that small quakes release pressure and make large ones less likely has been revisited to take into account the connected multi-fault system. 

How to Prepare

  • Identify safe and dangerous spots in each room. Get under sturdy desks and tables, stay away from windows, fireplaces, and hanging objects.
  • Conduct Practice drills.
  • Decide where and how to reunite with loved ones if separated during an earthquake.
  • Learn how to shut off the water, gas, and electricity.
  • Get a first aid kit and learn CPR and basic first aid.

During the Earthquake

  • If outdoors, find an open area away from walls, buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop, avoid areas around power lines and stay in the car until the shaking has stopped.
  • If in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doors. Remain calm and cover your head and neck with arms.

After the Earthquake

  • Do not attempt to use the phone unless there is an urgent life threatening emergency.
  • Check for gas and water leaks as well as damaged electrical wiring. Call utility companies if necessary. Do not attempt to re-light the gas pilot without a thorough inspection.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless absolutely necessary.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Help others in need.

Melting Ice Caps


Urban Heat Islands and Paint

White reflects and black absorbs.

It’s a simple statement with massive ramifications if our society decides to use the science of color to fight global warming. For centuries cities in places like North Africa and the Mediterranean have been painting everything bright white to keep cool. White reflects the heat radiation back into space while darker colors absorb heat radiation and would therefore increase the temperature in and around the house.



Why did we abandon this simple technique that seems like a no brainer in places like Los Angeles? The answer is that it is much cheaper to use dark building materials. Asphalt and tar are two of the most ubiquitous building materials we use to construct cities and roads. The detrimental effect of building like that is referred to as the “Urban Heat Island” effect. This is why cities are generally much hotter than the surrounding countryside.

In cities with ample precipitation, the best solution involves plants on places like rooftops and vacant lots. The city of Boston buried it’s largest highway and built a giant park in it’s place. The “Big Dig” was a disaster as far as construction projects go but the original concept was great. (When I was ten years old, the Major of Boston told me the Big Dig would be done in five years…I am now thirty and they just finished.)


The problem with this approach in Los Angeles is the complete lack of rain. No one should be watering large lawns because it’s just downright irresponsible. Replacing lawns with fake grass actually contributes to the Urban Heat Island and also destroys whatever ecosystem existed there before. Residents of Los Angeles can enroll in a rebate turf removal program whereby you replace the grass with drought resistant plants and get money back from the city.



Of course if you can’t get people to vaccinate their children, the concept of deadly irresponsibility may not be salient for the residents of greater Los Angeles.

If you want to be a responsable member of society, however, paint white and tear up all that thirsty grass.

Miscellaneous Electrical Load (MEL)

Miscellaneous Electrical Load (MEL)  in buildings are electric loads resulting from electronic devices not responsible for space heating, cooling, water heating, or lighting. MELs are produced by hard-wired and “plug-in” electrical devices, including home entertainment centers, kitchen electronics such as microwaves and toaster ovens, bath items such as hair dryers and electric hot tubs, and others such as security systems and ceiling fans.

Early generation phone chargers used a lot of electricity and were also a danger if left plugged into the phone. In recent years chargers for phones and other new electronics like laptops have more energy efficient features like an automatic shutoff and sleep mode.

MEL is estimated to contribute 4-12% of the total household energy usage and while many newer electronic devices will come with energy efficient features, things like refrigerators and microwaves are not replaced often so the likelihood of these devices being energy hogs is high.

The other major contributor to MEL are devices that are always connected to the internet. The increasing use of electronics connected to WiFi for example is only going to increase as we move inexorably towards a wireless world. Internet business experts estimate that by 2020 there will be 50 billion devices constantly connected to the internet. Some of the more futuristic things that will be connected to your phone or the computer chip in your brain are coffee makers, pacemakers, cars, and of course cows.

There are a few proposed solutions, some more feasible and long term than others. TheWhole House Switch is somewhat like a circuit breaker for everything in your house. The idea is that when you go out all the electronics can be switched off all at once. This solution requires some pretty serious rewiring that may not even offset the energy saved.

The best solution is a combination of advances in the technology combined with government incentives to upgrades appliances to the latest energy efficient models. For example, new advances in semi-conductor materials means faster and cheaper energy transmission with little environmental loss. When exactly these scientific progressions will be available for the homeowner is still a matter of some debate.

One short term solution is to put timers on the devices that don’t need to be on all night. I have a timer attached to my TV, modem, and cable box that shuts off automatically at night. Timers can be purchased from Tashman Home Center.

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Solar Powered Air Conditioners are Becoming More Elaborate


Air conditioners can consume an incredible amount of power. Between the electricity the compressor utilizes and the torque of the motor in order to spin the fan, your electric bill can skyrocket over the summer. In order to reduce the cost of this unit, some have installed solar panels onto the roof specific to the sole use of the AC device. However, innovative designs have made development of these units far more elaborate than in previous years.

Mobile Cooling – Many people like the idea of being able to maneuver a cooling device set on wheels in order to maximize the effect in any given room. Developers have created a small unit that can be rolled across the floor while being connected to a solar panel. With some of these smaller units, you can essentially place the panel in the window as long as the sun’s light can reach. These can be incredibly useful if you need a solution that can travel with you from one room to the next.

Ductless Heat Pump Units – Operating at 18,000 BTU, some of these ductless heat pump units can reduce power consumption by nearly 97-percent. Solar panels as well as the mini-split design allows for installation nearly anywhere. Once the sun light is minimal, the heat pump automatically switches to an energy efficient device taking its power from the grid. Although some of these are not 100-percent dependent on solar power or battery backups, the units can still reduce your day-time spending per kilowatt hour.

Hybrid Heating and AC – Some units have been developed to act as both air conditioning and as heaters in order to keep rooms comfortable year round. Although this isn’t necessarily a new idea, the addition of solar power to operate these units decreases your spending regardless of season changes. Some of these miniature HVAC systems can range from small 5,000 BTU devices to more powerful machines producing more than 40,000 BTUs. Depending on your own room requirements, hybrid systems can keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter while using less power from the grid.

Central Air – Central air is an efficient method of keeping the home cool in the summer. Solar power adaptations have been created that can operate in a hybrid unit offering cool air as well as heat. Using energy efficient technology and including its own dedicated solar panel, these units are far less costly to maintain than the gird-dedicated counterparts of the past.

Do it Yourself Projects – If you can’t find something that fits your budget or your specific needs, you can always build one yourself. There are many different ways that these units can be assembled – most of them using upcycled parts from various machines. Your own imagination and skills with a soldering iron will play a role in how elaborate you make your own solar AC unit. You may even design something that is marketable to make a few extra dollars.

With each passing year, an innovative method is developed to include solar energy. Air conditioners, outdoor camping showers, ovens, toys, boat engines and more have been adapted to utilize one of the most abundant sources of power humankind has discovered. What was once an expensive addition for the upper class has decreased in cost to the point where nearly everyone can benefit in one form or another from solar energy. Imagine what will be developed tomorrow.

Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in Houston, Texas, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.

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