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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 efficiency

Energy Efficiency Home Upgrades That Add Value While Saving Money

Chelsea O'Donnell

In case helping the planet isn’t enough motivation for you, creating an energy-efficient home not only reduces your utility bills, but it can increase its value too. Real estate buyers are showing increased interest in homes that carry  Energy Star certifications and paying less for heat and electricity is a huge bonus too.

With so many options to improve your home’s energy consumption, how do you choose what to focus on? Here are some of my favorite upgrades which are easy to implement and will give you the best bang for your buck.

Insulation

Adding or upgrading your attic and wall insulation is a fantastic and cost-efficient way to lower heating and cooling costs. For an average 1,000 square foot ranch, the project costs around $2,000 and the benefit can be upwards of $600 per year on energy bills. In our area, more than 75% of homes are underinsulated which allows heat to escape in the winter and cool air to be lost in the summer. If you’re considering central air for the coming season, don’t even think about putting a system in without having your insulation inspected first.

Solar Panels

While not cheap or easy, solar panels do offer excellent energy savings and are worth mentioning here. The cost can be anywhere from $15,000-$30,000 and once installed, you can expect savings of $500-$1,000 per year on energy costs. Solar panels require very little maintenance but many people consider them unsightly. Suppliers are working on better aesthetic solutions and I think we’ll see a lot of improvements in this area in the next few years. Pound for pound, insulation is a less expensive solution with comparable benefits.

Windows and Doors

Homes lose a ton of energy through windows and doors, especially older ones with loose fitting frames and single pane glass. Energy efficient windows and doors are a smart investment as they will not only save you money in the long run, they are also easy to clean and operate with virtually no required upkeep.

Weatherstripping

Weatherstripping is usually the first recommendation I make for homeowners looking to lower their utility bills cheaply. Energy audits reveal that up to 40 percent of heating and cooling losses occur through air leaks, particularly in older homes. Sealing off these leaks is an easy project that any homeowner can do, it’s very low cost, and the materials can be found at any home improvement store.

Programmable Thermostats

I love programmable thermostats which can help you reduce your energy consumption when you don’t need it. A smart system will allow you to turn down heating and cooling when you’re at work or away for a period of time and the savings will often be recouped in a year. While systems differ, you can expect to spend $200 or less depending on the bells and whistles included.

Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces have an energy-efficient rating of more than 70% where wood-burning fireplaces rank around 15%. The cost to convert wood to gas is roughly $2,000, which will pay for itself in just a few years time. While many homeowners love both the smell and the look of a traditional wood burner, new technology has helped gas fireplaces look much more appealing and less artificial than when they were first introduced to the market.

Low-Flow Faucets

While heating and cooling are the biggest energy eaters, it’s definitely worth thinking about your water intake too. Low-flow hardware for toilets and showers is cheap to buy, easy to install, and can cut water usage by up to 50%. This is both great for the environment and can save you upwards of $200 per year on the bill. If you have an old dishwasher and washing machine, now is the time to replace those too as energy efficiency has been the biggest upgrade focus for appliances in recent years.

Making smart energy efficiency investments is a good idea for any homeowner, but it’s important to learn more about your individual home and where improvements can be made. Scheduling a no or low-cost energy audit is a great place to start.

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.

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.