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17 Divinity St
Bristol, CT, 06010
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8605895155

Since 1975, O'Donnell Bros has been providing greater Bristol and Central Connecticut with residential and commercial remodeling solutions. We specialize in roofing, siding, windows, doors, gutters, downspouts and so much more. We look forward to helping you with all your remodeling needs. 

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Articles

O'Donnell Bros President, Bob O'Donnell, is a regular contributor to The Bristol Press. Read his home improvement articles here.

 

Filtering by Tag: energy

Home Heating Stoves Make for a Cozy Winter

Chelsea O'Donnell

A beautiful fireplace adds both warmth and ambiance to any home, especially as the days get cooler and we begin spending more time indoors. Back in the day, the only option for a fireplace was one that burned wood, but now we have several options to keep us toasty - each with its benefits and drawbacks. If you’re thinking about upgrading your fireplace or trying something new, here are a few options to consider.

Wood

The classic choice. There are so many reasons to love wood from the traditional crackling sound that it makes to the hypnotic dancing of natural flames. I consider wood to be the fastest heater for the money in that you can quickly warm up a home without having to worry about your electricity bills. Another reason to love wood is if you have it. For rural or wooded area homes that need an annual clean-up, your fuel is free as long as you don’t mind the man hours. Think of it as a great workout.

Of course, with the pros come the cons. If you don’t have wood readily available, this kind of burner can get very expensive. If you do, you still have to cut and stack it yourself. It also needs to stay dry in order to light reliably. Wood is also pretty messy and while those piles can look great if they are well constructed, they also make perfect homes for rodents, termites, and mold. Finally, there is the efficiency factor. Wood burns hot and fast and regulating temperature is a lot tougher than other heating methods. Wood also emits particles into the air, which could affect people with breathing problems or asthma. And of course, there is also the need for a chimney which may make it prohibitive for some people.

Pellet

A pellet fireplace or stove uses small, compressed cylinders of sawdust to heat the home. What’s great about pellet stoves is that they are temperature regulated and don’t require a traditional chimney since many stoves use blowers to circulate heat. Another reason to love them is their efficiency. Because heat can be regulated and pellets are easier to maneuver, most homeowners can expect a cleaner, less labor-intensive burn.

Of course, pellet stoves have a few negative aspects to consider. While cleaner burning than wood, pellets are made from sawdust, which will bother people who are sensitive to dust, dander, and pollen. Similar to wood, there is also ash to consider, which needs to be dumped regularly to keep the fire burning efficiently. Pellet stoves are generally more intricate than a wood fireplace, which means there is more to clean and maintain. Finally, most stoves run on electricity which means you’re paying for both the pellets and the energy to burn them.

Natural Gas

Natural gas fireplaces have become one of the most popular options today, mainly because a unit can be fit into an existing fireplace or practically anywhere in the home. People love gas because it’s fast to heat, easy to control, and doesn’t require a chimney or electricity. Simply set the temperature you want and you’re ready to go. In comparison to wood or pellets, natural gas emits the least amount of particles, making it a popular choice for people who have breathing sensitivities. As long as your house already has natural gas, the set up is really easy and you don’t have to worry about buying anything to keep your home warm.

While natural gas does tick plenty of boxes, there are a few things to think about. Admittedly, natural gas flames are the most boring and predictable, making it the least ambiance-friendly option of the three. Of course, you’re also burning a fossil fuel, which is inexpensive right now but can always go up. Finally, if you don’t already have a gas line, you’ll need to get one installed, which might end up being more of a hassle than it’s worth. 

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit http://www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.


Upgrade the Lighting In Your Home with LED

Chelsea O'Donnell

Spending more time indoors always gets me thinking about what small projects I can tackle to make a big impact on my home. One of those is lighting - which is especially important during these colder, darker months of the year.

Lighting can make or break the functionality of a room. If it’s too dim, you’ll be stuck squinting and turning on extra power sources that you probably don’t need. If it’s too bright, you’ll feel like you’re in a grocery store or a shopping mall.

LED lighting has given homeowners some exciting new options, but it can be tough to know what to buy to ensure that your lightbulbs function the way you need them to. But once you get the hang of it, making the switch is a no-brainer as the energy efficiency and longevity of an LED bulb pays for itself over and over again. So without further ado, here is what you need to know to add this little improvement to your late winter project list.

The first thing you’ll want to think about is whether you want a cool or warm hue in various rooms of your home. Light is measured in degrees Kelvin and the brightness of light bulbs mimic the brightness of the sun. To give you an idea of what this means, the sun is at its brightest at around midday when it measures a very bright, white-blue light that tops out at about 6000K. A morning sunrise or afternoon sunset will be a warmer or more orange hue and will measure in at about 3000K. Generally, 4000k is considered neutral.

So how do we convert that sunlight to inside light? If you’re used to incandescent bulbs, you’re probably thinking about wattage. But contrary to popular belief, wattage is actually the measure of energy a bulb uses as opposed to its brightness. To measure brightness you need to consider lumens, which will help make the conversion easier. As an example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb creates 800 lumens of light, but an LED bulb that produces the same amount of brightness only requires 15 watts. Here is a chart to illustrate the conversions.

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So after figuring out the math, how do you choose the right bulb for your home? If you’re a 9-to-5er, chances are that you’re home a lot more often when the sun is coming up or going down, and you’d probably be more comfortable with LED lighting that replicates a warm glow. This is especially true in relaxing rooms like bedrooms and living rooms. In these cases, I would suggest no more than 4,000 lumens. If you work from a home office or do a lot of cooking, these rooms require brighter light, so 6,000 lumens of light or greater might be more appropriate. 

It’s also worth noting that many LED light bulbs come with dimmer settings which can be very helpful in controlling light so long as your current fixtures are set up for it. I’d also keep an eye out for the ENERGY STAR logo when shopping for LED lights. While many manufacturers offer serious energy efficiency claims, ENERGY STAR actually tests and certifies the ones that offer the best products in the market.

Bob O’Donnell is the owner of O’Donnell Bros. Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro.” All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O’Donnell Bros. Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.

Don't Be the Coldest House on the Block This Winter

Chelsea O'Donnell

I love winter. You’ll often find me skiing, playing ice hockey on one of our local ponds, and hiking in the snow over the next several months. But for all the fun that winter has to offer, one thing I can’t stand is coming home to a cold house.

During this week’s delayed winter weather, I got tons of calls from people all over town asking what can be done about their drafty, cold homes. They are also concerned why their houses are so hard to heat and their energy bills are through the roof. The answer to their question is easy because the problem can be found in three-quarters of the homes I work on in our area. The culprit of cold is a major lack of insulation.

Insulation is a cotton-looking fiberglass material bundled in pink or yellow colored rolls that you may have seen in your attic or behind the wall of new construction. It also comes in what we call “loose fill” which can be blown into harder to reach areas. Contractors use insulation between walls, in attics and in basements to retain heat in the house in the winter and keep the heat from getting into the house in the summer. The amount of insulation needed for a home is measured by its R-Value, which equates to its resistance to heat moving through it. Simply put, the higher the R-Value, the better the insulating properties.

Back 50 years ago when many of the homes in Central Connecticut areas were built, R-Value wasn’t a popular unit of measurement. Instead, the industry kept it simple and measured insulation by its thickness in inches. When a home was constructed, the contractor would put about three inches of insulation into the attic, if any was used at all. Three inches of insulation would give that homeowner an R-Value of about R-10. According to EnergyStar, homes in our area should be fitted with insulation that measures between R-49 and R-60. So if you have a home from the 1950s or early and have never upgraded your insulation, your home is definitely not equipped to handle our harsh Connecticut winters.

Do yourself a favor and take a trip up into your attic. Chances are your insulation isn’t up to scratch and it’s probably time for an upgrade. As a general guideline, insulation with an R-Value of between R-49 and R-60 will sit at between 19 and 22 inches thick when settled. How does your insulation stack up to that? If it doesn’t, you don’t have to worry - a contractor can install it in less than one day and insulation has one of the highest resale values of any home improvement job.

With any proper insulation job also comes ventilation, which allows air to move through the attic, preventing over and under heating and reducing the risk of mold buildup. We will talk about that in detail next week.

Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to info@odonnellbros.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.