May 07 2015

Why LED Lights are Now a No-Brainer for Everyone

LED, or light-emitting diode, lights have become standard in homes and workplaces for good reasons: they save money by lasting longer and being more energy efficient. Additionally, they can output an array of different colors of light, making them very adaptable for different settings. If you need further convincing, read below for more details about the benefits of LED lights over old fashioned fluorescent and incandescent halogen lights.

LED Lights Shine Brighter Using Less Energy

Since LED lights are better at turning electricity into light than standard bulbs, they can emit more light while consuming less energy. Whereas a standard fluorescent bulb outputs about 60 lumen per watt of energy consumed, LED bulbs can produce over 90 lumen per watt of energy consumed. This difference translates into lower energy bills and helps the environment by reducing landfill waste.

LED Lights Can Produce Many Colors

Unlike incandescent lamps, LED lights can produce different colors depending on the semiconductor material used, which offers a lot of versatility. For example, warm white is similar to the glow of classic incandescent bulbs and is ideal for intimate settings like restaurants. Cool white, on the other hand, provides high contrast and is ideal for showcase rooms at museums and art galleries.

LED Lights are Reliable Yet Cheaper Long Term

LED lamps rarely need maintenance and can run for about 40,000 hours before they need to be replaced. Business that have to keep the lights on throughout the night can expect to make their money from the initial investment back through lower maintenance and energy bills within 18 months.

They Are Easy to Replace

Due to the simple design of their bulbs, switching out old bulbs for LED lights is simple. While slight alterations must be made in some cases, such as when replacing fluorescent T8 lamps with LED T8 tubes, any experienced electrician will appreciate the ease of the job.

If you’re still using florescent or incandescent lighting, it’s time to finally get with the 21st century. Some countries like the U.S. are considering legislation to phase out the sell old incandescent bulbs for good, so now is the perfect time to jump on the LED bandwagon.

April 27 2015

Tips for Starting a Rooftop Garden at Work

Many urban dwellers who are stuck inside all day at their jobs don’t even bother to leave their office during breaks because the outdoors looks just as industrial as the inside of a building. What better way to make your employees really feel like they’re on break than providing them with a garden to relax in? You don’t need a yard and picket fence; rooftop gardens are all the rage now and are perfect for adding some actual foliage to urban jungles.

The first step is taking measurements and developing a plan. Consider how much money you want to spend, and try to envision what you want the space to look like. Make sure to pick out seating that compliments any ornaments and the colors of your plants. Read below for some ideas to help get your garden off the ground.

  • Start out with perennial plants that stay green all year. You can incorporate seasonal flowers, but making perennials the standard bearer ensures that your garden continues to look alive throughout the seasons.
  • Sculptures can provide a good centerpiece to balance the area, and creative lighting can enhance the mood; for example, placing an up-light underneath a sculpture or wall draws attention it and can provide a good focal point.
  • Add sand or white rocks to the soil for heightened contrast against your plants to better accentuate their colors.
  • Check with your building manager to see if you can install a small fountain. The sight and sound of running water is a proven stress reducer.
  • If you’re up for the challenge, try growing some simple herbs and vegetables. Giving employees something to take home every now and then will boost morale, and you can create your own salads for group lunches.
  • Make gardening a group project! Cooperating on a creative project builds teamwork and gives employees a sense of ownership over the space.
  • If you don’t have the time, energy or the green thumb necessary to take care of plants, you can always settle on a rock garden. They require no watering yet still add a touch of nature to modern workplace environments.
April 07 2015

Why February is Chimney Inspection Month

Fireplaces and chimneys are great to have during the cold winter months, but they require a little bit of upkeep every year to keep you warm. Aside from the obvious wear and tear from all the smoke, snow and ice buildup can also damage your chimney rendering it ineffective and potentially dangerous. As water seeps into the mortar and goes through a freezing and thawing cycle, the mortar expands and can leave cracks. These problems get worse if not addressed right away, which is why February is an ideal time have your chimney inspected. If any repairs need to be made, you’ll soon have warm weather to work in and you’ll be prepared for anything the next winter brings.

Chimney inspection is serious and hard business, so unless you thoroughly understand how they are constructed and what problems to watch out for, it’s a job best left to professionals. Below is a checklist of things people look for when inspecting a chimney.

  • Check for cracks, which can leak dangerous gasses, by performing a smoke test
  • Probe the outside mortar joints to make sure water isn’t seeping into the flue
  • Evaluate the inside mortar joints. If the inside is eroded, the chimney may need to be relined by a professional.
  • Check where the chimney meets the roof for open caulking or deteriorating flashing
  • Check the attic for stains or leaks in the rafters and ceiling
  • Check to make sure the cricket is in proper condition
  • Close up any open joint with a strong sealant
  • Examine the cap for weathering and heat cracking
  • Evaluate the flue liner’s condition and replace it if necessary
  • Replace any missing or worn cotter pins
  • Ensure the damper is working properly
  • Check the anchoring mortar and base plate for any cracks
  • Empty the ash pit
  • Clear creosote and soot buildup from the flue
  • Examine the stovepipe thimbles
  • Remove soot and debris from the smoke shelf
March 27 2015

Top 5 Tips for Offices Going Green in 2015

The time for spring cleaning is here, so it’s out with the old and in with the new. More businesses are going green every day, and March is the perfect month for making your office more environmentally friendly. Here are five ideas to help your company save the environment and cut costs in the process.

1. Invest in LED Lamps

LED bulbs shine brighter than florescent and incandescent bulbs while consuming a fraction of the energy. They also last longer and are easy to maintain, which cuts down on landfill waste and reduces your power bill. Installing LED lamps can be pricey at first, but most businesses make their money back and begin saving within 18 months.

2. Exorcise Your Phantom Power

Even if you’re careful about shutting off electronics at the end of the workday, anything plugged into an outlet can still be drawing a small amount of electricity called phantom power. No need to hire a priest; you can lower your energy bill and your environmental footprint by connecting items to power strips that you unplug at night.

3. Allow Workers to Telecommute

This is one all of your workers will appreciate. Telecommunication saves everyone time and money, reduces carbon emissions and can even improve productivity. Even letting people work from home one or two days a month can greatly boost morale, and you’ll save money on your utility bills by not having to operate on those days.

4. Switch to Reusable Pens

Millions of disposable ink pens end up in the trash every day. Assigning everyone a reusable pen and keeping ink refills around is cheaper, better for the environment and gives employees an incentive to keep up with office supplies.

5. Green Web Hosting

You may not think that your company website is doing anything to harm the environment, but web hosting consumes a massive amount of energy while releasing harmful gasses into the air. Green web hosting companies power their servers with sustainable energy such as solar power, so making the switch greatly reduces your indirect your carbon footprint. You can also incorporate your company’s environmental consciousness into your marketing. Many customers will gladly pay a little extra to buy from a company that cares about the greater good.

March 07 2015

Cater Your Next Company Lunch With Veggies From Your Own Garden

Urban jungles are starting to look a lot greener lately as more individuals and businesses are embracing rooftop gardens. The benefits of green roofing are manifold: They help reduce carbon emissions in the environment, they lessen the burden of water run-off from flash flooding and the can increase property values. For businesses, rooftop gardens can boost employee morale by providing a tranquil place to relax during their breaks. Most novice gardeners gravitate toward flowers and decorative plants, but if you really want to make your employees happy, you should invest in an edible garden.

Growing vegetables in a company garden does more than provide healthy snacks for your employees; it can increase your bottom line by reducing the amount of money you spend on food. Hiring caterers for company events can get expensive fast, and even if you purchase produce from a local grocery store, the prices are highly marked up because of the cost of transportation and the need for stores to make a profit. Why spend hundreds of dollars and hours of time coordinating catering for every event when you can make a one-time investment in green roofing and become your own caterer?

Once established, maintaining a rooftop garden can be very easy. Many businesses with green roofs organize employee gardening clubs to manage all of the upkeep. Since many businesses have specialized staff that rarely communicate with each other, having a community project that benefits everyone provides an excellent avenue for employees to mingle and feel invested in the company as a whole.

Some businesses around the world are taking things to the next level and introducing bee colonies to their gardens. In London, the local government gives incentives to businesses in certain areas that keep bees. Bees can make your garden flourish as they transport pollen to their hives. Of course, they also provide something everyone loves: honey! Olswang, a law firm based in London, gives all of its employees homemade honey for Christmas at very little cost to the company.

Join the green roofing movement to help save money and the environment. You and your employees will be reaping the benefits of the seeds you sow for years to come.

February 27 2015

Basement Flood Cleanup is Best Left to Professionals

Anyone who has dealt with a flooded basement knows that cleanup is complicated, costly and potentially dangerous. You will likely feel in over your head if trying to tackle the job alone. Below are some general guidelines and things to look for when doing flood cleanup, but consider consulting City Vibe as our professional technicians can identify safety hazards and handle ongoing concerns such as mold growth.

Basement Flood Cleanup Checklist

  • Inform your insurance company.
  • Do not enter the basement until the water level has fallen to reduce risk of electrocution or contamination from sewage.
  • Shut off all electricity.
  • Wear rubber gloves, boots that are waterproof and a face mask. Avoid touching your face during clean up.
  • Seek medical help for injuries right away as the risk of infection in flood waters is very high.
  • Do not turn on faucets below flood waters.
  • Call your gas company right away if you smell gas and do not turn on any electronics or light any open flames.
  • Remove everything from the flood area and let everything air dry.
  • Replace your air filters and get your HVAC system and all other appliances inspected after cleanup.
  • Once it’s safe, run the air conditioning, furnace, fans or a dehumidifier to hasten the drying process.
  • Remove any chemicals stored in the area such as cleaning supplies.
  • Wash all affected floors, walls and faucets with clean, warm water.
  • You can disinfect cleaning equipment with a mixture of eight tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water, but never mix bleach with ammonia because the fumes produced would be highly toxic.
  • You can wash rugs and cushions with hot water and bleach, but don’t hesitate to dispose of anything you think could be hazardous.
  • Install new dry wall to prevent mold from growing after cleanup.

As you can see, cleaning up a flood site is sensitive and time consuming work. You may be tempted to do it all yourself, but calling on City Vibe for help can save you from maintenance costs and a health issues down the road.

February 07 2015

Why You Should Start Preparing for the Snow Melt in February

Before winter wraps up, you need to get prepared for the changing of seasons. All of the snow on your property will soon turn into water, and if that happens rapidly, you could have a flood on your hands. February is the perfect time to start getting ready for the impending snow melt, so grab a shovel and start defending your fort. Here is a checklist of measurements you can take to reduce your risk of flood damage this year.

  • Shovel snow away from the foundation of your home giving special attention the vicinity of window wells
  • If your lot drains along the outside edges of your property, make sure to remove snow from those spaces
  • Do not shovel snow onto the streets as it can block drains and cause accidents
  • Regularly check and clear catch basins of ice, snow and other debris that accumulates
  • Make sure downspouts are free of ice and extend them by two metres or more to ensure water drains away from your home’s foundation
  • If you have low lying spots around your foundation, consider filing them with sandbags to prevent water from pooling there
  • Use a pump to draw water into the gutter if it starts getting too close to your foundation. Check your local city plumbing guidelines before pumping.
  • Use a roof rake to clear snow from your roof and eaves. Snow removal from high rooftops can be dangerous, so carefully consider hiring a professional to do the job for you.

Most importantly, stay safe! Since you’re putting all of this effort into your home, you want to make sure you can fully enjoy it during the rest of the year. Whether you’re preparing for the snow melt on your own or calling in a professional, labour and costs can quickly add up; however, the costs of repairs from flood damage are much more expensive. Don’t sit back and just let Mother Nature take her course; consider shoveling snow as a long term investment in the value of your home.

January 27 2015

Winning Energy Efficient Home Ideas

One of the places we can get ideas for what’s ‘coming down the pike’ in energy-efficient home ideas is from what the government says it likes. One such venue is US Dept. of Energy (DOE) and their annual Solar Decathlon, a contest open to college teams in which they have an opportunity to show what they can do in designing, building and operating homes solar-powered homes that highlight the latest and best technologies and practices for energy-efficiency, attractiveness and cost-effectiveness. Winners are selected based on the best blend of consumer appeal, affordability, design excellence and (of course) optimal energy production, consumption and overall efficiency.

This recent year’s contest (2013) was held in Irvine, CA. and the winner was (who would have guessed?) the Vienna University of Technology in Vienna, Austria with their design called “Living by Sustainable Innovation” (AKA: LISI) which was indeed a beautiful home.

Of course most if not all of these homes were outstanding but this particular home included the following features:

  • A modular, wooden frame which made it quick and easy to erect, saving time minimizing labor costs.
  • An innovative automatically controlled and activated screen and awning system, both outside and within the home, which prevents heat from entering the home and keeps living spaces much cooler, more comfortable and save energy.
  • An herb-garden (to keep the humans healthier) watered from the homes’own rain-water reservoir.
  • Not one, but two air/water heat pumps which provide energy efficient heating and cooling of indoor spaces to keep the humans comfortable and make living there enjoyable.
  • A special recovery system to not only purify the air but also recover excess energy, usually lost in warm or hot air, that escapes.
  • A special heat-energy recovery unit tray that captures and recycles heat energy lost through hot or warm shower.

As one would expect, the home was very beautifully furnished with lots of wood floors and plenty of glass to give it an airy, natural, ‘open’ feeling. The event was very well attended and many of these ideas either are or will soon be available to homeowners throughout the US, Canada and elsewhere.

January 07 2015

How to go green in your home renovation project

Lots of people are putting remodelling time and money into their homes today because of the increasing cost of heating and cooling and also because they’re spending more time at home. One of the key values in home remodelling projects is the concept of ‘green’ remodelling.
Green remodelling simply means that as much recycled material as possible are used and that the functioning of the home is made as energy efficient as possible especially as related to energy efficiency. Construction waste is one of the most common materials found in landfills and every pound of construction material that is eliminated by ‘going green’ is one less pound that damages the environment through the slow process of landfill degradation and decomposition.

Here are some simple ideas that people are using when they decide to ‘go green in their home renovation projects:

Idea Number One: Rather than buying completely new countertops and have the burden of disposing of the old countertops, smart home remodelers have learned how to resurface those old countertops and cabinets with a whole host of environmentally friendly coatings that come in a variety of colors, can be applied very quickly and are very durable.

This type of resurfacing/refacing product is a water based material that sprays on, has no VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) or harmful fumes and negates the necessity of old materials being dumped in a landfill.

Idea Number Two: Give it away rather than throw it away. Remodelers have discovered that most discarded home furnishings and equipment can be reconditioned and used by somebody else.

Idea Number Three: Reconfigure your laundry room to do more pre-soaking thus reducing the water necessary to wash your clothes. Also you can do more drying of your clothes in the sun. Also you can use less hot water (thereby saving electricity).

Idea Number Four: Install skylights to let in more natural sunlight, heat and thereby reduce lighting and heating bills proportionately.

Idea Number Five: Many of the newest appliances are even more energy-efficient than the latest Federal standards. For example, one new refrigerator by Whirlpool uses only about as much energy as a 60 watt light bulb. That’s not very much!

Idea Number Six: Sound pollution is another factor of the ‘green’ concept and most of the newest appliances are amazingly quiet.

Idea Number Seven: Some of the new kitchen ranges use electromagnetic energy to disperse heat more evenly through pots and pans and throughout the food. Sort of like a stovetop microwave and it’s much more efficient that old-style heating coils or gas, both of which lose a lot of heat into the air.

Idea Number Eight: Install a tankless water heater. They not only take up less space but they use drastically less energy and have been documented to lower a home’s energy bill by as much as 50%.

These are just a few ideas. Every home presents a different set of circumstances within which one can work but there’s no doubt that modern technology has done wonders toward making our homes (and offices) increasingly ‘green’ thus making now a perfect time to go green in your home renovation project.

December 27 2014

First Time Home Buyers Tips

If you’ve ever owned a home, then you know the feeling of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes along with it. There are almost always some inevitable obstacles that you must overcome as a homeowner too, however and you have to take those into consideration when buying your first home. Setting yourself up for failure is the obvious thing to avoid here, so let’s talk about your goals. Not your short term goals about when you’re going to deal with the scratch marks on your car door, but about your long-term homeowners goals. Buying a home is a big responsibility and a whole lot of work and you have to be ready for the unexpected.

If you’ve been renting, you may feel like you’ve been throwing money away on a place that will never be your own and you may be correct, but you need to know your boundaries. Especially the financial ones. First, you have to consider how much of your income is going to your rent currently. We’ll say you are paying $1200 to rent your condo per month. Your other bills may push your total “home” expenses up around $1600 per month. You look at a nice little house just outside the city and find that your mortgage will only be $1000 per month, with utility bills around the same. So you could potentially be saving a few hundred dollars per month, while building equity in your very own home. Now here’s the thing that most first-time home buyers don’t think about. Do you remember all of those “problems” that you could just call your landlord about? Dish-washer died, AC Unit stopped working, leaking shower is draining into downstairs wall, etc… All of those repair problems, are now yours. You need to have a smart budget and have money set aside for said emergencies.

That leads us to knowing your limits. You need to set a price range for your dream home and stick to it, no matter the circumstance. You want to be completely independent and own your own home and you can do it, but you must be smart about it. When you go to talk to your bank about how much money they will loan you, you have to remember these important factors.

  • What kind and size of home do I really need?
  • How much can I truly afford? Other debt, property taxes, neighborhood fees, utilities
  • What features do I want / need in my home?
  • What is my cut-off price for the home I’m bidding on?
  • Who is going to help me with all of the ins and outs of my purchase? Your Realtor is going to be a huge part of your ultimate decision. Don’t forget them.

After you have worked out what you can afford, there are going to be some very important things that you have to consider and be prepared for. It is indeed a rare occasion that everything goes according to plan, so here are some pointers to help smooth out the bumps of your first home buying experience.

  • Search areas / neighborhoods that you like, check the listings, both online and on paper. Make sure your realtor has a vivid description of what you want and it’s always a good idea to let your connections know that you are looking as well (family, friends, co-workers, church, etc).
  • Make sure that you can afford the down-payment on any home you are interested in. It is always a good idea to try and get the closing costs taken care of in the initial bargaining too. That alone can save you a truckload of money and time.
  • Be ready for the ping-pong game of offer vs. counter-offer. We stated this earlier, but mak
  • e sure you know your limits. Have a price plateau and stick with it. You may be able to talk the

  • evious homeowners down, but stick with your plan and stay within your budget.
    4) If you reach an agreement on the price of the home, there will be an Escrow period, when you will have usually a month to get the house inspected and finalize the offer. If everything is good and both parties have reached a final agreement, then you can close.
  • The last few responsibilities that you will have will probably include checking the title to ensure that no other person(s) have a claim to the home and then having the house appraised.

There are a million other things to do after you move in, but that will be for another time! Congratulations on your new home and taking such a huge step in this amazing thing that we call life!