Posted on

Survival Bunkers

Recently I saw a show called Extreme Survival Bunkers on TV that got me tothinking. The show detailed several different people and their plans for building bunkers to ride out any mass casualty or TEOTWAWKI events.  If you’re looking for an hour of fairly entertaining television then I would highly recommend it.  If you’re looking for advice on how to Prudently and Reasonable Prepare then I would probably not recommend bothering to take notes…

The concept behind large underground bunkers like the ones detailed in the show is to securely house and provide for multiple people or even multiple families for a period of months or years.  The bunkers highlighted cost between a couple hundred thousand dollars up into the millions.  Two of the manufacturers are Vivos and Rising S Company.  Check out their websites, the bunkers they build are definitely cool.

But what exactly are you preparing for with this type of shelter?  I’m perfectly fine with building a storm shelter if you live in an area of the country that is prone to hurricanes or tornadoes.  I believe that to be a Prudent and Reasonable way to Prepare for a likely event.  But a long term survival bunker is something you would build if you were preparing for mass extinction events like nuclear war, EMP, global pandemic, catastrophic meteor strikes, or super-volcanic eruption.  And, while I did just list five events right off the top of my head that would leave anyone wishing for access to a bunker, they are still five very very unlikely events.

I prefer to prepare for more likely events that may affect a region of the country and could require a person to be self sufficient for a period of time, but which will pass.  Disasters like this happen every year multiple times in this country alone.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, power outages, tornadoes, etc…  We see these disasters strike every year and they are what I choose to spend my money and time preparing for and defending against.  Not an end of the world scenario that is a) extremely unlikely and b) even if it were to happen unlikely to leave me able to reach my bunker anyhow.

Some of the bunkers featured looked to be on their owners immediate property.  A small underground shelter like this that could be accessed quickly in the event of emergency would actually be pretty cool.  Especially if you live in an area often hit with tornadoes or hurricanes.

Some of the other bunkers appeared to be in remote locations (one of them in an old missile silo) and was set up more like a giant apartment complex.  How would one even expect to get to this bunker in an emergency?  And who are your new neighbors if you do all make it?  I don’t even like sharing a table at Beni Hana’s, I can’t imagine living underground with a few hundred strangers for a year or two.

I guess you could build your own large underground bunker and live there full-time, they certainly make them big enough.  But seriously, that’s the life you want?  I’m not too interested in living underground when I could be up enjoying the sunshine.  I’m even less interested in finding out what life looks like a year or two after a mass extinction event.  Every scenario I can think of looks pretty grim.

So, while I would probably have a small shelter set up if I had unlimited cash I doubt I would go for the bigtime “stay underground for years” type bunker.  I’m just too claustrophobic.  I’ll take my chances with the zombies, thank you very much…

Posted on

Could Leaving The U.S Be The Ultimate Prep — And Do You Have What It Takes?

ultimate-prep

I have to admit, this is a difficult topic to bring up because, to many people, it veers way too close to betraying the country of our birth. However, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. If I truly believe that utter chaos is coming to America in the form of an economic collapse, EMP, or some other horrific event, then why stay here? Why not find a small, obscure country and hole up for a while, thus protecting my family and myself?

I began researching this subject a few years ago when a reader contacted me and told me about her move to Chile. She and her husband had decided to make the move after much research. They were loving the clean air, pure food, friendly people, and a change in their lifestyle.

I was intrigued. Hmmm…could leaving the U.S. entirely trump food storage, a bug out location, and all the other traditional preps? I began to research residency requirements of various countries.

My first discovery was a shocker. Very few countries want me! They don’t want me, my husband, my family, my parents. Rules for residency can be quite strict, sometimes even requiring the deposit of a large sum of money into one of the nation’s banks. Some countries are quite frank about preventing people like me from coming into their country. To do so, I need to provide:

  1. Proof of health insurance
  2. Proof of regular income
  3. Background check
  4. Health report from a doctor for each family member
  5. Financial information
  6. Birth and marriage certificates
  7. Possibly proof you can speak the language of this country

Additionally, there are strict rules regarding time in country and visa requirements.

This is a stark and startling contrast to the mass human migration we’ve seen in the past couple of years. If citizens of Central America, Mexico, and nearly every other country can walk past our southern border without any of the above, including personal identification, then why do other countries make it so difficult, and, more importantly, where can a law-abiding, hard working American citizen go when they decide to relocate?

(To be fair, the U.S. does have a lengthy process for legal immigration, and it’s quite a difficult path, thus the popularity of illegal immigration.)

Plenty of questions, no easy answers

At one time I thought my family could just pick a country and move there. The entire world was our oyster! Where should we go? Australia? New Zealand? England? Somewhere in Europe? Obviously, we would want to go where English was spoken and where we could quickly blend in.

Well, it didn’t take long to find out that if I’m over 35, Australia doesn’t want me. Other countries may let us visit for a time, but do not allow long-term or permanent residency. The countries that are left are an odd mix:

  1. Chile
  2. Panama
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Hungary
  5. Ireland (ancestry)
  6. Israel (If you’re Jewish or have Jewish heritage.)
  7. Belgium

There are a few more, but the pickin’s are slim when it comes to finding a country that has less restrictive residency requirements.

It boils down to having money, ancestry, time, and/or flexibility. $100,000 will buy a passport and citizenship in Dominica. Ancestors from Hungary, going back 4 generations, can smooth the way for residency in Hungary and Hungarian citizenship. Convert to Judaism and you may become an Israeli citizen, complete with mandatory military service.

If you’re about to have a baby, or are planning one, Brazil is one of only a handful of countries that provides citizenship to every baby born within its borders. Permanent residency can be obtained in Chile, after living there continuously for five years.

As you can see, there is no simple path to residency or, if you choose, citizenship. And then there’s the nightmare of dealing with bureaucrats, long distance phone calls, websites and applications in a foreign language, and, in many cases, visits to a consulate or embassy that could be hundreds of miles away.

Gaining residency in another country is possible. Just not as easy as one would think.

More complications and considerations

If you are able to find a country that will allow temporary residence, and possible permanent residency, then there are tax considerations. The United States is one of only two countries that taxes its citizens no matter where they live and regardless of how long the have been out of the country. I’ve read horror stories of people whose families left the United States when they were very young children, grew up elsewhere, and the were taxed by the U.S. on the income they had earned in that country. Yep, the U.S. and Eritrea share this same tax policy. The only 2 countries in the world.

Something to consider, when researching an expat destination and residency, is what the taxation policy is of your country of choice. Some countries, such as Hungary, has a double taxation policy, which allows them to collect taxes from non-resident citizens — but then there are loopholes and exceptions!

The U.S. is dead serious about collecting taxes from expats. Not sure if it’s out of greed, entertainment for the I.R.S., or stems from a desire to punish anyone leaving the country, but stories like this one are far more common than you might think:

I just found out that despite my income earned and taxed abroad being a) below the foreign income exclusion limit, and b) covered by a bilateral tax treaty between the country where I have lived for the past 49 years, the IRS wants to tax it fully, leaving me with an effective tax rate of 61% from now on.

One of the reasons is that many of the required subforms, e.g. W-2, do not exist in this country (Finland). I sent them my Finnish tax decision along with a translation. They accepted the amount of my earnings, but gave me no credit for the local national tax paid. They have given me three weeks to refile, but the information that they want, such as Social Security and Obamacare payments, doesn’t exist here or is irrelevant to my situation. I am a pensioner whose sole source of income is a Finnish state pension, and I am fully covered by the Finnish health care system. Having worked only in Finland, I never paid into and am ineligible for Social Security and cannot, of course, sign up for Obamacare. They are threatening with draconian fines and seizure of assets so as to leave me destitute for the rest of my life.

So, you may find the ideal country that welcomes you with open arms. You can learn the language and start a new life, but no matter how far you go, the I.R.S. will track you down and demand their pound of flesh.

Oh, and there’s a sweet little federal law, FATCA (Federal Account Tax Compliance Act) that requires foreign banks to reveal the identity of Americans with accounts over $50,000. They have to hand over names, addresses, account balance, account numbers and Social Security or other U.S. identification numbers. Banks who do not comply are punished, by the United States, with a withholding tax of 30% on payments from U.S. banks. Naturally, this has caused many foreign banks to refuse Americans wishing to open accounts, and who can blame them?

The Treasury Department has been unable to cite any constitutional, statutory, or regulatory authority which allows it to compel foreign institutions to collect and share the financial information of U.S. citizens.

Americans living abroad must file an annual report, the FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report), by June 30, of each year, if they have a foreign account holding more than $10,000. Failure to file that report, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, can result in fines up to $500,000 and up to 10 years in prison!! Spreading that money between multiple banks may help you disguise the sum total for a while, but not forever. And, $10,000 is a pathetically small amount of money, considering the fact that the I.R.S. collected over $1 trillion in the most recent fiscal quarter — October, 2014 through January, 2015.

It looks like FATCA, FBAR, and these draconian policies are here to stay, forever, so it’s just one more consideration if you’re planning on leaving the U.S.

By the way, a little civics lesson here. FATCA was included in a quietly passed jobs bill. If a Senator or Representative would have voted against this bill, they would have been excoriated by the opposing party for voting against a “jobs bill”. The next time a politician you favor is accused for voting against a bill that seems altruistic, dig a little deeper to find out what else, exactly, was in that bill.

Loopholes & confusion

Countries that have lenient ancestry requirements still don’t make it easy for applicants. Take Ireland, for example. You may be granted permanent residency and citizenship:

ultimate-prep2

A couple of years ago I was on New Zealand’s website, looking for information about residency and came away with a massive headache. A few forms on the Switzerland website were in German only.

To complicate matters (is that even possible?), these laws can change quickly and without notice. A country friendly to American expats could become hostile with just the election of a new president.

Lessons learned?

  1. Research, research, research!
  2. Simplify your lifestyle now and prepare to live on less money and with fewer belongings.
  3. Have your vital documents at the ready.
  4. Read the fine print.
  5. Take your time.
  6. Be patient.

Oh, be wary of professional expat advisers. I’ve come across a few that paint an alluring picture of the country and people but after more research, I discovered they were more interested in selling their services than in providing accurate info.

Why leave?

I answer that question and provide several historical examples of relocating — in fact, it’s highly likely your own ancestors relocated and that’s how you ended up an American citizen!

Are you ready to relocate?

After researching, studying, praying, and discussing a relocation, you’ve decided to take the plunge. But! Have you considered whether or not you are a good candidate for this major step?

One of the most critical factors in transitioning to a new location, whether foreign or domestic, is your ability to adapt to new situations. Is your basic temperament and personality one that is flexible? Do you enjoy new experiences and meeting  new people? When faced with an abrupt change in your life, do you adapt easily or do you resist the change? I know one woman who, after several years following a divorce, insists that she’s still married in spite of the fact that her husband is remarried to someone else!

A move to another country is going to plunge you and your family into a world in which most everything is different and new:

  • Language
  • Customs
  • Food
  • Holidays
  • Housing
  • Attitudes
  • Entertainment
  • Technology accessibility
  • Laws
  • Climate

Some personality types adjust to these changes more easily. Others will require more time.

Along with adaptability are expectations. How realistic are your expectations for this move? Are you expecting a smooth and seamless transition? Thorough research, talking with other expats, and then actually visiting and spending time in the country or area of your choice will help keep your expectations well grounded.

Then there are the practical issues of age, health, time, and money. There’s no perfect age for moving out of the country. Younger people are likely in better health but with fewer career skills and less saved money. Young couples have each other to depend on but having younger children will make this quite difficult.

Imagine, or remember, taking all the kids to Target or the grocery store. That’s no easy task! Now, imagine taking them to a foreign country where English isn’t spoken and trying to find a place to live, decipher even the most basic written information, stand in line in various bureaucratic offices to get one license or document or another, and adapt to a completely different lifestyle. No matter how young and fit you are, this just might push you over the edge into insanity!

The process will be easier if your kids are older but then, at the high school age, they often don’t want to leave their friends, sports, and other activities. How easy will it be for them to develop new friendships in this new location and how will they go to college, in particular, if they aren’t fluent in the language?

Growing up in this new country, the kids will probably meet their future spouse, who may very well be a local. Now, with grandkids in a country that is not the U.S., will you ever want to leave them? Those with grown kids and grandkids now, face the challenge of moving away and, possibly, never again being a part of their lives. As we age, health issues ultimately become a fact of life.

The health of each family member may impact whether or not a country allows residency. For example, Australia has been known to prevent families with autistic kids from coming into their country, even when the parents have viable, well-paying jobs waiting for them. And, if there are health issues of any kind, will you be able to find the doctors and care necessary in this new location and how will you pay for those services? Some countries, upon granting residency, require a fee for their national health insurance. Fair enough.

Now, the issue of money. Bottom line: the more you have, the easier it will be to find a country willing to grant residency quickly and the easier it will be to settle into a comfortable lifestyle. No surprises there.

But expenses add up even for the non-millionaires among us. It’s highly recommended that you visit the country, or area of the U.S., first before taking the plunge. That’s going to require travel expenses and time off from work. One family I know had their hearts settled on Belize. They did the research, had contacts in the country, visited once, and on the second visit, realized the country was not for them at all, but by then, they had sunk a few thousand dollars into the venture.

The moving process can be quite expensive. What do you take with you? If it’s just the clothes on your back and whatever a suitcase or two can hold, that’s no problem. Most of us, though, will want to take other possessions. Yes, you can sell it all, but how expensive will it be to replace those items once you relocate and will the quality be what you want? A shipping container costs money and may take several weeks to arrive at the dock of your new country. In the meantime, you may have to live in a hotel or a furnished apartment.

In addition to the expenses of checking out different locations and the moving process is the financial requirements of just about every country I know of. Examples:

  • Costa Rica requires a deposit of $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank for those in the “rentista” category. You are paid $2500 per month out of that balance for 24 months and this becomes your monthly income, at least in part.
  • Antigua has an “economic citizenship” program that requires a government donation of $250,000, plus another $50,000 per family member.
  • Belgium requires that you have a salary of at least € 50,000 per year.
  • Hungary has a residency bond program. Deposit a little over $300,000 in one of their banks and you’ll have to pay another $60,000 as a processing and administration fee.

All countries will have fees for visas and whatever other bureaucratic fees they choose to apply. If the paperwork is not in English, that’s a hurdle to overcome and many countries require a face-to-face interview. In their language.

So what if you have little to no money? Is becoming an ex-pat out of the question? Not at all. In fact, if you’re adventurous, you may even prefer the much simpler lifestyle it brings. Rather than being barricaded in a luxurious neighborhood behind guarded gates, you can live among the locals, shop where they shop, hang out where they hang out, and learn the language and customs very quickly. This is pretty much how I lived when I traveled for months at a time and ended up living in both Germany and Israel.

In this video, I explain a few more considerations before you jump into the decision to leave the U.S.

Emotional ties

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the issue of deep, emotional ties to your home country and the loved ones you’ll leave behind. It’s interesting to see who can do this easily, without looking back, and who can’t. It’s not a matter of being callous and without emotional attachments, as these people wholeheartedly love the family members they leave behind. In some cases, they plan to help move them to their new location as soon as possible.

Deeply felt ties to America aren’t quite as easily cut as many think. “America” isn’t just a land mass but a way of thinking and how you view the rest of the world. And, it works the other way, too. Locals in other countries will have a different worldview and cultural norms. One article asks, ” Does everyone in Chile lie?” You’ll miss living in a country where everyone pretty much has the same social norms.

You’re going to miss favorite foods and restaurants and ease of living. You’ll miss your favorite brands of clothing, your church, holidays spent with friends and family, and Amazon Prime! Depending on where you move, you will probably have to leave pets behind.

On their own, these may not seem like much, but together, combined with the foreign-ness of a different country may make assimilation far more difficult than you’d ever imagined, which circles back to my original question: How adaptable are you?

Is it even worth the bother?

Based on the huge number of hurdles and hassles, is it even worth considering leaving the U.S.? Well, that depends on your reasons for leaving. One family who chose to relocate to Chile did so because they believe a nuclear war is coming, it will mostly affect the northern hemisphere and they don’t care to suffer the long-term consequences. (Both have backgrounds as scientists in the nuclear energy field.) Based on their last email, they are still very happy with their choice.

If you’re convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that war is coming to the U.S., or an EMP, then why would you stay here and subject your family to the aftermath? Some believe that God’s judgment is coming on America — why not escape that, if possible?

My point is that the hassles and hard work of leaving will be worth the effort, or not, depending on your motivation. Once you make the move, remember that it’s not necessarily forever — if that thought helps get you through the rough patches.

A reader on Facebook wrote, “We tried it out in Panama for 2 years. I did not like it at all. I wanted to kiss the ground when we arrived back in the US a year ago. We made a ton of expat friends (and some local friends). But it wasn’t for me. You have to adjust to a very different way of life. I was unable to adjust. For those who are interested in learning more about Panama, there is a group, ExPats in Panama, that my friend admins. There are tons of people who’d love to talk to you about it.

We saved a ton of money by living there. We work remotely for a company (get a paycheck, even though the company was our own company), and so we were able to claim the foreign earned income tax credit for 2 years. It is fairly easy to become a resident of Panama, but I don’t know why you’d want to become a citizen.  If you lived like the locals live, you could easily live on $1,000/mo. If you want to live the same lifestyle in the US, then it would be more toward $3,000/mo as reasonable.”

Could you ever leave the U.S. for good? What is your motivation to leave, or stay?

Posted on

What Is Geothermal Cooling & Heating?

More and more individuals have become aware of the environmental impacts and the extreme amounts of energy they use to heat and cool their homes. As a result, many families are actively working to shrink their carbon footprints. They are moving away from coal, oil, and gas heaters and many have converted to alternative sources of green energy. One great and relatively inexpensive way to do this is to convert a home’s heating a cooling system to geothermal energy.

How It Works

Traditional HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems take the air from the home, subject it to refrigerants, and pump the now cooled or heated air back into the home. All of this takes an incredible amount of energy. Geothermal cooling and heating systems save energy by directly harnessing the energy and temperature that naturally occurs in the earth. At certain levels beneath the surface, the temperature of the earth is kept constant. When the weather grows colder, a closed loop system of pipes takes the existing heat from deep inside the earth and draws it up into the home. Then, when the weather is warmer, the heat exchanger draws the heat from the air in the home and pushes it back down deep into the earth where it is dispersed.

Closed System

What’s more is that the geothermal systems works in tandem with the hot water heater to create a closed system of water pumps, heat exchangers, and fans. The very heat that is pulled from the home in the summer can be pumped into the water heater to provide almost unlimited hot water. It essentially turns unwanted heat into desired heat. This closed system helps produce some of the most energy efficient temperature control available, making sure nothing goes to waste, and everything has a use.

Installation Issues

If a family chooses to convert to a geothermal cooling system, they must bring in an expert company to do the installation. The company will determine the most efficient and economical installation possible. Because most system’s pipes must reach a significant depth in order to access the trapped heat of the earth, the installers must drill deeply, avoiding any major water, sewer, or electrical lines buried in the area. Newer technologies, however, allow geothermal installation companies to install the heat exchange loops in horizontal trenches, beneath local water sources, or in specially dug pits depending on the homes unique topographical and environmental surroundings.

Costs Associated

The average cost of such installations can vary greatly depending on the home’s location, the amount of land available, the type of geothermal system, and the existing heating system in the home. The most expensive components of the system are the integrated water and air heat exchanger and the pipe installation. This can run several thousand dollars at the cheapest. However, some of those costs can be offset with various green energy tax credits offered by the government. Homeowners can actually offset up to 50% of their installation costs in the first year thanks to state and federal tax credits. That amount can increase over the lifetime of the home, as additional yearly credits are offered.

Making the switch from traditional forced air or baseboard heat to geothermal cooling and heating systems can end up saving homeowners thousands of dollars over the life of the home. Add to that the significant environmental benefits and it’s no wonder that more homeowners are converting to geothermal energy for their home’s comfort.

Geothermal Cooling & Heating: Advantages and Disadvantages

While geothermal energy has a number of advantages, there are also several disadvantages to the system. Here is a deeper look at some of the bigger advantages to converting to geothermal cooling and heating, balanced by some of the more notable disadvantages.

Reduced Use of Fossil Fuels

A great advantage to geothermal energy is the reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Traditional energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas are finite resources. Their continued use causes a decrease in their availability, driving prices upwards and increasing the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of these fuels. By deriving heat directly from the earth, geothermal energy relies on a continually replenished resource. This decreases our reliance on fossil fuels and reduces the amount of impact we inflict on the environment. Plus, over time, the costs are much lower as the earth’s temperature does not fluctuate in response to demand.

Tax Write Offs

Homeowners who make the switch to geothermal energy can also enjoy a number of tax benefits. In addition to the initial cost matching benefits offered by the federal government in the installation process, state and local governments offer a number of write offs over the life of the home. Homes that use geothermal energy draw significantly less electricity from public grids, freeing up energy for others in the community and decreasing the maintenance costs to the local government. To encourage this, state tax departments are willing to pass some of these savings on to the homeowners.

Installation Costs

One of the worst disadvantages of geothermal energy is the overall cost of the installation. Not only is there the often expensive geothermal unit that is installed near the water heater in the house, but there is also the copper pipe loop. These pipes must be drilled deep into the earth where the temperature is held constant regardless of the air temperature. That can mean up to a depth of 10-20 feet, though some systems require much deeper. The drilling alone can cost thousands of dollars, with an overall installation cost of tens of thousands of dollars. It helps if the home has existing ductwork that the system can use to distribute the cooled air, but if it doesn’t, that also must be installed.

Lack of Availability

The unfortunate thing is that geothermal energy is not available for all homeowners. Those who live in areas of very high infrastructure including sewer lines, gas mains, or underground installations do not have the option of converting to geothermal energy. Only those with sufficient land have enough space to contain the intricate pipe systems, but if the home is too remote, they may not have access to the specialized crews and equipment needed to install the unit in the first place. This combination of conditions can severely limit the numbers of types of people who can actually convert their homes to geothermal energy.

Geothermal cooling & heating is a great option if families can get it. Between the high costs and the lack of availability, however, it may be a while before everyone can enjoy this revolution in home climate control.

Top Benefits of a Geothermal Cooling & Heating System

Geothermal heating and cooling systems offer a wide range of benefits for home and business owners. From reducing a building’s carbon footprint to accumulated savings, switching to geothermal energy is a smart move for anyone looking for alternatives to traditional forced air heating and cooling systems.

Environmentally Sound

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal cooling systems may be one of the most environmentally sound ways to control the temperature of the home. No fossil fuels are burned, and it uses only a small bit of electricity to power the fan, water pumps, and heat exchanger. The system is incredibly efficient with very little wasted energy. While typical forced air systems waste a great deal of energy with heat loss, geothermal systems reduce the total energy used by up to 50% over electric systems. The systems are often used to heat water as well, making even more efficient use of the home’s energy.

Significant Savings

All of this saved energy translates to equally beneficial cost savings. Half of a family’s electricity use goes towards the home’s heating and cooling. To save money in the hottest and coolest months, most families will forgo the comfortable temperatures they truly want. With geothermal energy, families can set the thermostat to their true desired temperatures without worrying about wasting money. On average, families who replace propane or natural gas heating with geothermal energy will cut costs by two thirds, while those with high efficiency air conditioning units will see their cooling costs cut by a full half. That can mean thousands off electricity bills in the first year.

Efficient Comfort

Forced air heating relies on a single heat exchanger to pump out heat in the coldest weather. In the summer months, it uses toxic refrigerant chemicals to cool that same air and fan it out to the various rooms in the house. These methods require a great deal of energy to work against the natural temperatures outside. Because geothermal energy uses the consistent natural heat trapped inside the ground, it is much easier to cool and heat the home. Emergency heat is never needed to fight against freezing temperatures, and the heat of the home in the summer is easily trapped and used in the home’s hot water system or dispersed in the ground.

Noise and Appearance

The unsightly air conditioning units and noisy outdoor fans are also a thing of the past. Geothermal units do not need bulky and unsightly fans to take in air from outside to pump back indoors; they work with the already climate controlled air indoors. Plus, the majority of the work is done underground in the copper pipes of the unit’s heat exchangers. That means that homeowners can enjoy comfortable temperatures without having to tolerate noisy blowers and fans.

Geothermal energy is quiet, convenient, efficient, and becoming more affordable every day. Families who are interested in converting to geothermal energy should contact a local technician for an evaluation and price estimate on installation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Geothermal Cooling & Heating

Geothermal cooling and heating systems are relatively new alternatives to traditional home temperature control. There are many applications that have yet to be tested, but the technology is safe, secure, and incredibly efficient. Still, most people have questions regarding the use of geothermal energy in the home. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about geothermal cooling.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Geothermal Energy?

Unlike propane and natural gas tanks, geothermal heat exchangers do not use any fossil fuels for energy generation. They tap into the existing electrical grid and use the heat stored naturally in the earth’s crust. There are some risks, however, associated with the installation of geothermal pipes. Installers must drill deep into the earth’s surface, and often must create various trenches under the ground’s surface. If the topography of the land is uneven or there are a number of gas or sewer lines, or high pressure ground water in the area, it can be dangerous to drill. Drilling companies must take a number of precautions to properly install the geothermal unit and avoid damages to surrounding properties.

How Much Maintenance do Geothermal Cooling Systems Require?

Like all heating and cooling systems, geothermal systems require regular maintenance. Because the system uses existing ductwork and vents to transfer the heat through the house, most of the maintenance involves this complex network. Air filters must be replaced at least twice a year, and preferably every month, especially before the heating unit is switched on. Homeowners should do their best to keep vents clear of debris, and they should have the ductwork professionally cleaned at least once every three years. This keeps the air clean and free of dust, pet dander, mold, or other allergens. The heat exchange unit should run without maintenance for an average of 25-30 years.

What is the Environmental Impact?

One of the main reasons homeowners switch to geothermal is to lessen their environmental impact and shrink their carbon footprint. They choose geothermal energy because the system is far more efficient and uses much less energy than traditional heating and cooling methods. For every hour of use, geothermal produces one fewer pound of carbon emissions than forced air does. That can add up to thousands of pounds of CO2 kept out of the air each year, or the equivalent of planting 6000 acres of trees.

How Much Room do I Need for Installation?

Previous generations of geothermal HVAC units took up a great deal of space. Homeowners needed to set aside almost an entire room and drill almost as deep as most freshwater wells. Today, though, a geothermal unit can fit right alongside the home’s water heater, while pipes can run in a much shallower trench alongside the home. Depending on the needs of the home and the space available, geothermal units can be designed to fit any home.

Installers and technicians with geothermal energy systems have spent years finding new ways to install and operate efficient and environmentally sound cooling solutions. They can work with almost any existing home or help builders construct an entirely new unit with the most effective temperature control systems available. In time, they should be able to reduce emissions even further and bring down the price tag, so that all homes can enjoy.

Posted on

Keep your home safe from bugs after a hurricane

Floods and high winds are normally associated with hurricanes. People board up their homes and seal their basements in order to stay safe from these threats. They emerge after the storm hoping the worst is over. But there is another threat most people don’t consider. This threat comes after the hurricane has come and gone. The standing bodies of water left by the hurricane are prime breeding grounds for pests.

Some of the most common bugs that become a problem after a hurricane include mosquitos, cockroaches, and carpenter ants. Each of these bugs presents their own set of problems. They also require separate strategies to prevent and reduce the amount of damage they cause.

Mosquitos

There are a lot of mosquitos after a hurricane. There is plenty of water for them to lay their eggs and multiply. Mosquitos can be annoying. They cause small, itchy bumps on our skin. But they can also be dangerous. Mosquitos can carry a broad range of diseases. This is why is important to know how to keep them away from your home after a hurricane. If you don’t take proper measures to keep mosquitos away, you could be putting yourself and your family at risk. There are several simple methods you can use to keep these pests away.

The first one is kind of cool, and most people don’t know about it. You can use coffee grounds to keep mosquitos away. This is your first line of defense. Sprinkle coffee grounds in any standing water around your house. The coffee grounds will force the eggs to the surface of the water, and they will not be able to survive.

You can also make traps. Cut a water bottle in half. Fill the bottom half with water and brown sugar. Turn the top half upside down and use it as a funnel. Place these around your house. They will attract and trap the mosquitoes inside.

Cockroaches

The risk of a cockroach infestation is worse after a hurricane. It’s important to protect yourself from them because they can carry diseases. There are some things you can do to prevent these bugs from invading your home. Keep all food in sealed containers. Keeping your windows and doors sealed and well-maintained will go a long way in preventing cockroaches from gaining access to your house. But these seals could be damaged during the hurricane. Keeping your home as clean as possible will greatly reduce the odds of your home being infested.

But what do you do if you already have cockroaches? You can start by fixing all water leaks in your house. Cockroaches can only live up to seven days without water. Cockroaches lay eggs all over your house, including your carpet so make sure to use carpet cleaners often. Make sure to ask if they have experience dealing with cockroaches. This is important because you if you don’t remove all the eggs, your home will be infested again.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are a serious concern after a hurricane. They infest your home, and they are hard to get rid of. They burrow their way into your walls and destroy your wood furniture. Poisonous bait is a great way to get rid of carpenter ants. They will pick up the bait and share it with their nest.

But what if the damage has already been done? You will need to find and remove any damaged wood. Your walls might need to be repaired. Cabinets are also a prime target. Make sure to use cabinet refinishers to avoid any infestation problems. They will be able to repair the damage caused by the carpenter ants and leave your cabinets looking good as new.

Final Thoughts

The best way to protect yourself from bugs after a hurricane is to take preventive measures ahead of time. Unfortunately, all the planning in the world cannot prevent infestations 100% of the time. When you notice mosquitos, ants, or cockroaches, you need to act before they spread.

If you know a hurricane is coming, stock up on supplies. Be ready with coffee grounds and containers to seal your food. These steps will help you stay safe from bugs after a hurricane.