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North Hills

Millvale workshop shows how to stay warm, save money, energy

| Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, 1:12 p.m.

Teaching Millvale residents about energy-efficient and cost-effective ways to heat their homes was the goal of a recent siminar in the borough.

Cecilia Oliveros, a senior University of Pittsburgh environmental studies and economics major, led “Warming Millvale: An Energy Saving Workshop!“ in conjunction with Millvale resident Katie Davis and Millvale sustainability coordinator Zaheen Hussain.

Water heating is the second largest home expense after heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Oliveros suggested lowering a water heater's temperature from the standard 140 degrees to 120 degrees, adding that using polyethylene pipe insulation could raise water temperatures two degrees. Insulating hot water tanks and installing low-flow water fixtures may improve efficiency and reduce spending.

Next, Oliveros recommended installing door sweeps — guards fitted to door bottoms designed to prevent cold air from entering the home.

“Make sure that the bottom of the door — the door sweep kind of hits the floor when you install it so that it fits as tightly as possible,” she told the 20-plus people at the Nov. 30 seminar at Millvale's Northern Area Boys & Girls Club.

Foam gaskets placed between outlets and wall switch plates prevent draft circulation.

Oliveros instructed attendees to use caulk cord and PVC self-adhesive foam tape to seal potential air leakage around window and door frames, plumbing and ceiling fixtures and electrical outlets. Window insulator kits seal plastic wrap around windows, trapping cold air outside.

“If we keep our homes sealed and warm, that means there are less opportunities for our kids or us to get sick. … Also, some of these tricks can also prevent, for example, moisture from entering our homes, which can prevent mold,” Hussain said.

Each family received a free energy-efficiency kit.

Dan Turchan upgraded his 128-year-old Millvale home with new windows, a high-efficiency furnace, programmable thermostat and insulation, but said his house still “leaks air like crazy.”

Similarly, Laura Zeleznak of Reserve Township said she spends more than she would like heating her brick house built in 1920.

While serving as a Browne Leadership Fellow at the Millvale Community Library last summer, Oliveros, of Oakland, applied for the Neighborhood Allies Love My Neighbor! grant supporting the workshop.

“I think a lot of people don't realize the little things that you could do that could make it so much warmer in your house,” Davis, who co-signed the grant, said. “It doesn't have to be on a huge level. All of the little things add up and it's environmentally good; it's just being environmentally aware.”

Hussain said Millvale has a “track record of education and energy-efficiency outreach” and that the event was part of the community's Ecodistrict Pivot Plan focusing on food, water, energy, air quality, mobility and equity.

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