Energy Saving Home Improvements

Summer is on its way and most of us have lists full of home improvement ideas.  While the cool spring temperatures start rising and giving way to the warmer summertime, we should consider adding home improvement tasks that also save energy.  Here is a list of energy saving home improvements that, if you can make time, you’ll be glad you tackled.

 

  1. Cooling appliances – Your air conditioner and refrigerator are your two most crucial summer appliances.  Be sure to clean their coils to maintain their effectiveness during Summer.  Your refrigerator’s coils can be cleaned with a vacuum or rag.  Clean your air conditioner’s coils (after removing the casing) with a power sprayer or brush.
  2. Thermostats – If you don’t already have one, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat.  It is estimated by Energy Star that this handy device could save you as much as $150 a year in energy costs.  And who couldn’t use another $150?
  3. Fiberglass insulation – Insulation does a great job keeping your house cool in summer but it also keeps your house warm in winter by not allowing warm air to escape.  Having proper fiberglass insulation could reduce your heating and cooling costs by 20 percent.  And the good news is that an entire roll of insulation costs only $15!
  4. Re-caulking doors and windows – Even if you have insulation, there still may be some tiny cracks in your window sashes and/or door frames, allowing warm air in and cold air out.  It is always a good idea to inspect your windows and doors every summer and re-caulk as necessary.
  5. Weather stripping – Kitchens and bedrooms can be especially drafty, resulting to energy wastage of 30-40 percent of total loss in cooling and heating, according to Energy Star.  Fortunately, weather stripping materials can be purchased for less than $10 at most home improvement stores, making this an easy and cheap fix!
  6. “Energy intensive” air conditioning alternatives – If you feel like turning off your energy guzzling air conditioner, you may consider opting for a ceiling fan as a greener alternative.  Other options include geothermal heat pumps, passive architecture or even drenching your curtains and/or drapes.
  7. LED lighting – Although LEDs initially cost more, they can save you around $164 a year per lamp in energy costs.  LEDs also have lower carbon emission, greater lifetime, focus-oriented illumination and shock resistance.  So make the switch to LEDs now!                  
  8. Planting trees – Always a good idea for the environment of your entire home, trees can also significantly reduce the temperature of your home with their shade in the summer and allow warm sun in your home in the winter.

Summer is coming!  Let’s get motivated and save energy, all at the same time!

Bearish View of Illinois Crops?

Although only its first assessment of crops for 2015-16, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) painted a generally bearish picture for the top three Illinois crops.  Another big harvest this year, coupled with large beginning stocks, is being projected by the USDA to boost total U.S. supplies of beans, wheat and corn, all three of Illinois principal crops.

 

Bean supplies are projected to rise 3.4 percent and wheat to rise 6 percent.  Corn supplies, meanwhile, are estimated to reach a record 15.5 billion bushels.  U.S. ending supplies of wheat could grow to a five-year high of 793 million bushels, or 84 million bushels over the previous year.  Estimated ending stocks of beans could increase from 350 million bushels to 500 million bushels.  These large ending stock projections are driven mostly by a bullish crop production forecast.  For example, it is estimated that U.S. farmers will produce 13.63 billion bushels of corn and 3.85 billion bushels of beans in 2015-16.  While both of these numbers are down from last season, they are still very healthy crop sizes.  If these large harvest actually comes to pass, it is likely that crop prices will tail off. 

As of early this month, USDA estimated 2015-16 season average prices per bushel as follows:  corn ($3.20 – $3.80), wheat ($4.50 – $5.50) and beans ($8.25-9.75).  Almost all of the growing season is still in front of us, so a lot of variables are still in play and most farmers’ attentions are turning toward the weather and its impact on this year’s crops.  Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed!

“Building You the Best” Series: Building Versatility

At Gateway FS Construction Services, we take pride in understanding our customers’ needs.  And to ensure we meet our customers’ needs, we have been a long-term partner with Walters Buildings, allowing our customers to benefit from their more than 50 years of building experience.  One of the many advantages of partnering with Walters is the large selection of versatile buildings that Walters offers.  No matter what your need, our team at Gateway FS Construction Services, together with Walters Buildings professionals, can meet it. 

Pole Barn

 

Gateway FS Construction Services will work with you and Walters Buildings to plan and construct your building to your exclusive requirements and desires.  Variety and versatility are key to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations.  Examples of agricultural buildings offered by Walters and FS Construction include:

  • Storage: Basic Machine, Complex Machine, Grain
  • Horses: Barns, Equestrian Complexes, Arenas
  • Dairy/Livestock: Free Stall Barns and Heifer Barns

A wide variety of commercial and residential building options are also available, including church, club house, garage, office, retail shop, storage and more. 

In addition, Gateway FS Construction Services and Walters Buildings work together to make sure that all building decisions are made in an environmentally conscious manner.  Many construction supplies are made from recycled materials and post-frame buildings are built to maximize overall energy efficiency.  

Whatever your building needs, you can count on Gateway FS Construction Services and Walters Buildings to have the variety and versatility of buildings you want.  Give us a call at 866-551-3454 and let our specialists help design a building to meet your specific needs.  We look forward to providing you the best building experience.

Easing the Transition Through Spring to Summer

With April showers, brings May flowers.  The sun is up and out as temperatures continue to gradually rise.  We are in the midst of Spring and are hurdling rapidly toward Summer.  It is time to prepare your house for the warmer weather, be it restoring functionality or renewing aesthetics.  Let’s get motivated!  But where should we start?

 

In order to properly assess the impact of the colder weather on your home and prepare it for the warmer summertime, here is a list to help you get going and ease that seasonal transition.  It is by no means a comprehensive list, but should provide a great starting point. 

  • Examine your roof for water damage and any loose and/or broken shingles or tiles
  • Inspect your gutters and downspouts for any damage and clear of any debris
  • Replace or repair any damaged doors, fascia, window frames, shutters, etc.
  • Clean and repair driveway and walkways
  • Trim and/or remove trees and bushes as necessary
  • Clean outdoor furniture and inspect to ensure it is functional
  • Inspect HVAC system and replace air filters
  • Touch up peeling and/or faded exterior paint
  • Repair loose nails and/or split or cracked wood on porches, decks and sheds
  • Remove accumulated debris from fireplace

It’s time to get busy!  Have fun!

Building You the Best Series: NFBA’s Revised Building Design Manual

Need help with post-frame building system concepts?  You have updated information available now!  The National Frame Building Association (NFBA) has just released one of eight newly revised chapters in its Post-Frame Building Design Manual.  Building regulations, load and deflection criteria, structural design are just a few of the topics covered in the Manual.  The revisions to the fifteen year old manual include answers to many frequently asked questions from building engineers and architects, in addition to providing more design options.

PoleBarn

 

Specifically, the recently released chapter, Chapter 1, entitled “Introduction to Post-Frame Buildings” include updates on the following: standard post-frame terminology and general building terminology, explanations of how post-frame differs from other building types, a history of post-frame buildings, many color images, post-frame applications and building diagrams.  And designers, architects, and sales & marketing people will especially be interested in two new sections in Chapter 1 about the advantages of post-frame building and ideal structural applications. 

For more information, including how to order the Post-Frame Building Design Manual, go to www.nfba.org

As always, don’t forget to give us a call at 866-551-3454 and let our specialists help design a storage structure to meet your needs.  And stay tuned for more blog posts on buildings in our “Building You the Best” series.

Making Nonfarm Connections at the U of I

Obviously, seeing college students around the Champaign-Urbana area is not unusual.  What IS unusual, however, is seeing them one of the local farms surrounding the University of Illinois (U of I) campus.  It is hoped though, by the U of I’s College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, that this sight will become more and more common.  This is thanks to a new pilot program at the U of I, First Link!

u-of-i

 

Through First Link, the U of I is anticipating that more students studying farm and food policy will be able to take intensive day-and-a-half tours of local farms so as to experience first-hand what actually goes into owning and/or operating a farm.  Thanks to their farmer hosts, the students will understand the practical realities and applications of what they study in the classroom.  It is hoped that this experience will help fill a knowledge gap of nonfarm students studying farm and food policy and then later, setting farm and food policy. 

Called “First Link” because of its focus on the first link in the supply chain, the first pilot program students visited a grain farm and a beef operation, in addition to a grain elevator, an agriculture supply company, and an implement dealership.  While students expressed an appreciation for what they learned, farmers around Champaign-Urbana understand that it is also good for them as well – the more farmers get their stories out to consumers, including future policy makers, the better.

“Building You the Best” Series: Storage Buildings

With Spring here and warm weather just around the corner, many will be considering new storage options for the upcoming season.  With our partner, Walter Buildings, we are here to help provide you the superior quality storage buildings that you need and expect.  This article, part of our “Building You the Best” series, is an overview of storage building considerations and how, with Walter Buildings, you are investing in “more than steel and wood.”

With Walters Buildings’ more than 50 years of experience, you can count on their unparalleled reputation of quality craftsmanship.  Based on years of research and investment in current technologies, FS Construction Services is proud to offer our customers the following Walters Buildings’ services and options for your storage needs:

  • Computer design programs incorporate your thoughts and ideas, resulting in your personalized storage facility with no surprises
  • Outstanding warranties on all engineering, manufacturing and construction standards, processes and products
  • Highly trained, full service representatives will guide you through the entire building process to ensure the best storage option for your needs
  • High quality, well trained craftsmen will construct your building with the same goal as you: on time, on budget, and exceeding your expectations
  • Wide variety of design options make almost endless combinations, including trim, insulation, doors, fascia siding and cupolas, just to name a few

Whatever your storage needs, you can count on FS Construction services to deliver a storage structure that will be visually appealing, within budget, and built with the highest quality engineering specifications. 

 

Storage Building

Give us a call at 866-551-3454 and let our specialists help design a storage structure to meet your needs.  And stay tuned for more blog posts on buildings in our “Building You the Best” series.

Getting Ready for Spring: Winter’s Toll

There has been a lot of recent news coverage about all of the snow in the East.  Although we haven’t had the tens of feet of snow that they have had, the winter weather can still take a toll here locally.  Take a look at your sheds, roofs, siding and windows.  Even though you may not see any outwardly visible signs of rust, rust can still be destroying your metal. 

Rust forms on buildings from oxygen, a mixture of air and water together. Rust can be misleading because you might not see the red, flaking and peeling indications of damage being done, but rest assured that rust is there, destroying your metal.  For example, if you take a white topcoat with no primer and apply it to the side or roof of your building, within 3 to 6 month you will see spots of rust appearing. This is why you always must apply primer before painting, regardless of what anyone else tells you.  It is not uncommon to have buildings, bins, house roofs and sides have rust peeling paint that were painted less than a year ago.

If you are thinking about having some painting done, here are some pointers of questions to ask your painter to avoid having rust on your buildings anytime soon: 

  1. Is the primer rust inhibitive?
  2. Does the primer cover in one coat or does it take multiple coats?
  3. Is your primer comparable to your topcoat?
  4. If I follow your primer steps, will you stand behind your product?
  5. Is the product flexible with the building?
  6. Will it take two coats?
  7. Is the topcoat a hard enamel?
  8. If the topcoat is hard, will it pop when the building moves?
  9. Does your topcoat have mildew protection?
  10. If I color the topcoat, how long will it work and hold the color?

Finally, be careful of any painter telling you that primer isn’t needed. If you have painting to be done, please call Brian Garleb at 618.972.9516 or email at bgarleb@gatewayfs.com .

Agriculture Education in Crisis

Although our local school districts enjoy strong Ag education programs, a critical shortage of college graduates with agriculture education degrees looms in the not-too-distant future, according to the Illinois Committee of Agricultural Education (ICAE).  Meeting with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) earlier this month, the ICAE discussed several ideas to hopefully address this pending crisis. 

Top on the agenda of this discussion was obtaining the IBSE’s support for state funding of agriculture education, which Governor Rauner’s proposed budget has eliminated.  Another issue is the increasing requirement for high school agriculture teachers to teach middle school agriculture classes, creating licensing issues.  The ICAE hopes that agriculture teaching licenses could be changed to teach more grade levels, such as licenses for teaching music, art and physical education.  Finally, the ICAE and ISBE talked about designating agriculture education as a high-need Illinois field, thus providing federal incentives for college students to obtain agriculture education degrees.

 

The Illinois agriculture education programs are currently strong, earning praise from state officials and some even earning national recognition.  We are fortunate to have strong Ag education programs in our own backyard.  Let’s hope it stays that way.

Indoor Winter Projects: Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

When it’s cold out, it’s a good time to try to take care of any indoor projects you may have.  A relatively small and not very time consuming task that can be done with very little cost is to paint your kitchen cabinets and replace its hardware.  This will give your kitchen an updated, “brand-new” look.  Here are the basic steps:

First of all, gather the necessary materials:  painter’s tape, surface cleaner, tack cloths, tools to remove the hardware, putty or filler, putty knife, fine or medium sandpaper, primer, paint, rollers and brushes, and drop cloths.  Next, you’re going to take everything out of your cabinets and cover your counters and floor with drop cloths, masking the areas where the walls and cabinets meet.  Then carefully remove the cabinet doors and drawers, labelling if necessary.  The next step is the most crucial:  clean the cabinets with soapy, surface cleaner water, taking extra care to remove all of the grime and grease.  Then fill and sand any nicks or scratches.  Once the fill is hardened, sand down any bumps or nicks on all surfaces.  After that, wipe everything down with tack cloth to get off all the dust and dirt.

Indoor Painting Services in Red Bud, IL

 

Priming is the next step.  Spraying will give your cabinets the best finish but a dense foam roller works nicely too.  Use long strokes so they aren’t so visible when done.  Let the primer dry, then for a final coat, use latex, it’s easy to use and dries quickly.  Apply at least two coats with ample drying time in between.  When you are finished and satisfied, reattach the cabinets and drawers and install your new hardware.  Voila, your kitchen now has a fresh new look.

For more details see “The Paint Corner” in the February/March 2015 Gateway News or contact Brian Garleb at 618-972-9516 or bgarleb@gatewayfs.com .