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Planting Trees and Shrubs Sparks NV

Planting a tree or shrub is a highly unnatural act in Sparks: "There is no comparable process in nature - no growing plant is heaved up, transported some distance, and then replanted in a totally new environment," assert Kim Tripp and Allen Coombes in their Complete Book of Shrubs.

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Planting Trees and Shrubs

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Planting a tree or shrub is a highly unnatural act: "There is no comparable process in nature - no growing plant is heaved up, transported some distance, and then replanted in a totally new environment," assert Kim Tripp and Allen Coombes in their Complete Book of Shrubs. No wonder many transplants suffer!

In the previous installment, Selecting Trees and Shrubs, in the Jan./Feb. 2003 issue of Smart HomeOwner, we provided essentials for selecting trees and shrubs based on aesthetic and other criteria. We also stressed the importance of choosing plants that are suitable for your property's growing conditions. In this installment, we'll introduce relatively new planting techniques based on scientific findings. Even though older planting techniques can work pretty well, newer ones give trees and shrubs better chances of thriving.

The newer techniques include:

1) planting in appropriate seasons,

2) shopping wisely,

3) digging wider planting holes,

4) positioning plants at critical depth,

5) backfilling with unamended soil,

6) staking less tightly, if at all,

7) mulching more as nature does, and

8) follow-up testing of soil moisture. Best Seasons for Planting With proper care, most trees and shrubs can be transplanted in any season. But experts recommend planting either in fall or spring, when the plants are dormant and have lower moisture needs. A plant simply needs a chance to regenerate roots in time to meet the moisture demands of its aboveground portion. Late spring and summer can be difficult because leaves, flowers and fruits demand greater amounts of moisture throughout this period. Better mail-order nurseries decide planting times for you by shipping plants during favorable planting times, but double check to see when it arrived at the nursery.

A container plant or a balled-and-burlapped (B Sat, 01 Mar 2003 00:00:00 Neil Soderstrom Space Heaters: Down to Earth Today, space heaters are far more convenient, safe and unobtrusive than their predecessors. Better yet, they are so competitively priced, they have become an option for much larger rooms, additions and even whole buildings. But there are limitations, as we found with our additions. Venting and Capacity When we added a small sunroom to our house, we weren't sure if the heat from the rest of the house would circulate adequately into the 10-by-12-foot space or not. During the first winter after installation, the available heat was adequate until the temperature outside fell below 10° F - a fairly common occurrence. So at first we opted for temporary additional heat and occasionally used an unvented propane space heater. The heater warmed things up enough, but we soon learned the downside of unvented space heaters, whether propane or kerosene. "I wouldn't want the products of combustion in the air of my house," says Peter Rafle, senior vice president of Monitor Products Inc. of Princeton, N.J., which is one of the biggest space-heater companies on the U.S. East Coast. Safety experts and organizations echo Rafle's sentiment.

The problematic products of combustion include unburned hydrocarbons like carbon monoxide and nitrous dioxide, neither of which is very good for your health. Indeed, carbon monoxide in high doses can kill you - though most unvented heaters on the market today burn efficiently enough to prevent this scenario, provided they are operated according to the manufacturer's instructions. Still, burning carbon-based fuels like propane and kerosene also throws off a big slug of water vapor.

By some industry estimates, burning a gallon of propane can put more than half a gallon of water vapor in the air, resulting in condensation on cold surfaces like windows and sashes. That condensation can lead to mold, mildew and eventually rotten wood. Also, the combustion process for an unvented heater requires a lot of oxygen. As the heater removes oxygen from the air, there's less for humans to breathe, which can result in headaches, drowsiness and can even be fatal. Unvented heating with an electrical space heater will obviously eliminate the combustion-products problem. But in many areas of the country, electricity is easily the most expensive way to heat a house, room or anything else. Additionally, many older houses have wiring that will not support the demands of an electrical space heater safely. An expensive electrical upgrade can eliminate those safety problems. But space heaters are supposed to be cost effective, not cost prohibitive.

Today, most vented space heaters use a closed-system approach to the combustion-products and oxygen-depletion problems. Mounted on an exterior wall, the space heater draws in air from outside the house through a pipe-within-a-pipe arrangement. This intake/exhaust pipe forces the cold, incoming air to pass over the surface of the pipe containing the hot, outgoing products of combustion. The pre-warmed incoming air allows the burner to fire more efficiently, helping to save on fuel costs. Also increasing the efficiency of most modern space heaters is a surprisingly quiet fan. It usually blows indoor air across a grill of outgoing pipes, extracting heat from the initial combustion in the space heater - heat that in the old days would have gone up the chimney or out the pipe, as the case may be.

Thermostats with multiple setting possibilities (setbacks for when no one is home or everyone is asleep, high-demand settings, etc.) round out the basic advantages of the modern space heater. With all this efficiency in space heaters, it's important to get a properly sized heater for the space you intend to heat. The old rule of thumb is to allow 25 BTUs (British thermal units) per hour per square foot of floor space. This is a good formula to start with, but homes today vary so much in energy performance that it's important to make your sales representative go through a few more calculations based on your individual situation. For instance: A two-bay garage measuring 26 by 30 feet would, by the old standard, require a heater output of 19,500 BTUs per hour. But if it's poorly insulated, the doors don't seal properly, the windows are single-pane, and so on, it could require 30,000 BTUs/hour. On the other hand, using modern construction techniques and insulating procedures, it could get by very nicely with a 15,000-BTU/hour heater. Using an improperly sized heater can cost you money farther down the road, too. With too much capacity (30,000 BTUs/hour where only 15,000 are needed), you'll end up running the heater on the cool side, which reduces the number of BTUs/hour you get out of the fuel.

Running heaters too cool also tends to clog or wear out sensitive parts, resulting in more maintenance calls and bills. Like cars, these heaters are made to be operated regularly at or near their capacity. So proper sizing is critical. What Fuel? Since most people install space heaters to save money, it's important to do some homework before you start talking to space-heater sales representatives. Fuels like kerosene, oil, natural and propane gas, plus wood, coal and even dried field corn, have their benefits and drawbacks. A smart homeowner knows both before he or she starts talking to a sales rep. If you already have a central heating system installed in your house, it's always worthwhile to find out if it is feasible simply to expand it. This saves on new fuel-storage-tank costs, among other things. Many furnaces have greater heating capacity than they are currently providing. Even a minor furnace upgrade may be cost competitive with installing a vented space heater that costs between $500 and $1,500. Your furnace maintenance provider should be able to give you a free estimate on an expansion and/or upgrade. If expanding on the central-heating furnace is not an option, do some cost comparisons on local fuels before you decide which type of space heaters to begin considering. Heating-fuel costs vary from one part of the country to another. But regardless of where you live, be sure to compare the BTU output of local heating fuels rather than just cost per gallon of each fuel.

For instance, heating oil has an energy content of about 138,000 BTUs per gallon. Propane contains about 92,000 BTUs per gallon. So even if oil and gas were priced the same per gallon, oil would be a more economical choice. And where I live, oil usually costs about 25 percent less per gallon than propane or natural gas. Burner efficiency also enters into the equation. New propane burners usually burn at about 95 percent efficiency, while newly installed oil burners will be in the 85 percent range. But over time, burning efficiencies drop, with propane burners being more likely to drop further because of their sensitivity to carbon buildups and other problems that develop over time.

So, whether you burn oil, propane, natural gas or kerosene, regular maintenance of the system is very important for anyone looking to save a few dollars. Of course, electric heaters are 100 percent efficient. The cost per BTU, however, is often two or three times that of oil, propane or natural gas - again, depending on your location. Generally, long-term space heating with electricity is cost effective only if you have your own hydroelectric dam. In certain parts of the country, a wood, coal or even corn-fired burner or cast-iron stove may be worth considering as a space heater. But the space to be heated will probably have to be something like a garage, barn or other type of outbuilding, since wood, coal and corn are pretty messy to deal with. Moreover, local restrictions on wood-fired and coal-fired heating devices can drive up the cost of this heating option. Flue and chimney requirements may also make it an expensive option. And finally, the burners themselves have gotten pretty pricey in an attempt to meet air-pollution regulations from the government and aesthetic demands from customers. Safety & Limitations Between the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters in homes regularly get a bad rap. Of course, there is plenty of data supporting this view, not the least of which is the NFPA's assertion that "two out of every three home fires associated with heating equipment involve devices other than central furnaces or water heaters" - i.e., space heaters of some sort.

The CPSC is slightly more charitable, choosing instead to focus on the carbon-monoxide problems associated with unvented heaters. (Go to and for more information from these organizations.)� Whether vented or unvented, space heaters should be treated with great respect and in most cases a professional hand for permanent installations. "We don't encourage do-it-yourself installations," says Ken Belding, national sales manager for Empire Comfort Systems of Belleville, Ill., which focuses largely on permanently installed, gas-fired space heaters. "You need some technical expertise to do it right." Many homeowners' insurance companies and several states may also insist on a professional installation.

In addition to the safety concerns of a permanent space-heater installation, there are other issues, not the least of which is the circulating fan. Although most are quiet, all fans will blow dust, pet hair and other airborne particles around, making cleaning chores around the house a more frequent necessity. They can also exacerbate respiratory problems. Also, that fan makes the unit dependent on electricity for maximum efficiency. During power outages, many propane units will continue to fire but provide little heat because the fan can't run. Most kerosene units won't fire at all without electricity. Permanent space heaters also take up wall and floor space, often right in the middle of a wall in a main room of the house. Such a location provides maximum heating efficiency but seldom looks continuously attractive as the years go by. It also limits furniture arrangements in the room. Moreover, some people mistake permanent units for old-fashioned radiators and tend to sit or lean on them, which can be dangerous.

Some youngsters like to put damp clothing on them, again with potentially serious consequences. And young, curious minds may find the readily accessible controls and thermostatic adjustments irresistible playthings - although some units today have been child-proofed for safety. Portable space heaters generate safety concerns beyond the carbon-monoxide and nitrogen-dioxide concerns discussed above. Some are small enough to be knocked over, dramatically increasing the likelihood of starting a fire.

Many only have a fine mesh grill between curious little hands and the heat source. Many have a protective grill through which paper or light clothing might easily fall. And although some are equipped with automatic shutoffs that are activated by the act of being tipped over or a low oxygen content of the surrounding air, it's never safe to assume mechanical devices are better than good judgment and common sense. If you use an unvented portable space heater fired with propane or kerosene, it's best to install a carbon-monoxide detector in the same room in which you intend to use it. Ultimately, as we discovered, choosing the right space heater is a bit more complicated than it at first appears. And only the individual homeowner is informed and smart enough to make the right decision for his or her structure. Ken Textor is a freelance writer based in Arrowsic, Maine.

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