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Category Archives: Green Home

Information for Frederick home owners and home buyers about green innovations for the home.

Small Home Improvements That Make A Big Impact

Small Home Improvements That Make A Big Impact

Keeping up with home improvements is the best way to maintain and improve your home’s value. When homeowners defer the maintenance, when they decide to sell their home, they often find that the list of repairs and updates is overwhelming.

If you are a getting ready to sell your home, and you’re a homeowner who keeps up with the maintenance, you can have the luxury of attending to the small home improvements that can make a big impact. Or, if you’re not in the place to do any major renovations right now, and your appliances are newer and working just fine, here are a few small things that you can all do that will add up to meaningful improvements in your home:

Energy Saving Improvements

1. Seal off drafts, which can reduce your energy bills 5 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  The cost is a tube of caulk.  Just doing that can drop your annual heating bill by $100, according to Department of Energy figures.

According to NAHB Surveys (National Association of Home Builders) Today’s home buyers are looking for an energy efficient home. 84% of Millennial buyers said they would pay 2% to 3% more for an energy efficient home, believing they would save more in energy costs for the life of the home. Be sure to publish your low energy bills and let those buyers know.

2. Buy a programmable thermostat, for about $100. By maintaining more constant heating and cooling levels, and always ‘remembering’ to turn down the heat at night, the average family will save $150 a year, according to the EPA.

3. Install dimmer switches.  Increase the life of your bulbs, and reduce the amount of light when you don’t need it.

Related Articles: 

Exterior Improvements

Small improvements on the exterior of the home can make a big impact on curb appeal.

1. Clean and clear a path to the front door. This is the most welcoming thing you can do. Powerwashing and cutting back the overgrown plants will do wonders for the appearance of the home. And all it takes is elbow grease!

2. A fresh coat of paint will go a long way. Painting the door and the shutters, staining wood and cleaning or replacing the hardware will make the entrance shine. House numbers can add a great sense of style, and believe it or not, even your mailbox can make a statement.

3. Lighting makes a big difference, whether it’s bright enough so that people can walk safely, whether it’s up-to-date, and whether it fits the style of your home.

4. Plants and flowers make the home welcoming and can add color, life and softness to the architecture. Using annuals can add instant life, and using plantings that are zone specific and natural to your part of the country make for easy care and turn out to be the best investment. Consult this plant hardiness chart by the US Department of Agriculture: [For a National Map]

Maryland Planting Zone Guide

Related Articles:


Interior Improvements

Go through your home, room by room, and look through fresh eyes. Take stock of the overall appearance and then take stock of the details. Make a list of what you see in your first impression. Don’t edit the list, just write everything down. Later you can edit by cost and effort.

1. De-Clutter and Clean you home. It’s the very first step to getting your home ready for the real estate market. You will be amazed at the difference, and you’ll be able to really see the issues that need to be addressed, whether large or small. Sometimes having a fresh set of eyes will help you notice the things that you may have gotten used to after years of living with.

2. Replace or Facelift? It’s a good idea to do some reconnaissance, and find out what is the trend for your neighborhood or for comparable houses. If every home on the market comparable to yours has granite and stainless steel, you will want to make the right changes to be able to compete. If you’re in a market where laminate is the norm, then you’ll be wasting your money and overdoing your improvements to purchase high-end improvements.

Sometimes, a simple facelift is the best answer to updating. Painting old tired cabinets will save a lot. Replacing fixtures is inexpensive and can be just the right thing to bring your tired decor up-to-date. You will do well to consult a Realtor and Stager before you do any major updating.

Related: Refacing Cabinets: Options and Costs, by RIS Media

3. Buyers are concerned about storage, smart home technology and energy efficiency. The trend is for smaller, but smarter homes, according to NAHB studies. Small, but convenient features can make a difference. Consider some of these:

Great Storage
Add Thoughtful Storage
Technology Solutions
Easy Tech Solutions


Smart Storage

closet organization

Related Articles: 

Need Ideas to have an energy efficient home? Check out this Pinterest Board from Mike Chamberlain, MC2 Home Inspections in Plainfield, Indiana:

Follow MC2 Home Inspections LLC’s board Home Energy And Sustainabilty on Pinterest.

The Highland Group with eXp Realty
Chris & Karen Highland – Cell: 301-401-5119
eXp Realty – 410-777-5714

Going Greener in the Home

Going Greener in the Home

Part 2

3. All over the House: [Continued from Going Green in the Home]

aWasher and Dryer:  Energy-efficient washers have multiple options in water levels and temperatures.  Front loaders use the least water and electricity.  Energy Star washing machines can save over $550 in energy and water costs over the appliance’s lifetime.

The best energy-efficiency feature on a dryer is a moisture sensor that shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.

b. Windows:  Replacing windows is one of the most expensive home improvements, but with today’s many options, you can reduce your energy bill by up to 15%, and add to the value of your home.  Look for double or even triple panes of glass, sometimes filled with argon gas, which acts as insulation, or low-E glass (low emissivity), or warm edge spacers that reduce heat flow and prevent condensation.  (Federal tax credits for energy-efficient windows expired at the end of 2007, but many states offer rebates. Your local energy company may also offer rebates. )

c. Heating and Air conditioning:  When your furnace or air conditioner enters hvac servicing tipsthe 12 to 15 year age range, Energy Star guidelines recommend replacement with a new, more efficient unit.  If temperatures are moderate, a geothermal heat pump is a great choice.  see  Any system that is Energy star certified can save 20 to 30% on heating and cooling costs.  Sometimes a more efficient system will make a smaller-size unit possible, saving on initial cost as well as future bills.

Zoned Heating Systems: A zoned heating system allows you to only turn up the heat where you need it, resulting in significant savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, zoning the heating system can save homeowners up to 30 percent on a typical heating and cooling bill. Because heating and cooling accounts for more than 40 percent of an average household’s utility costs, the savings from a zoned system can really add up.

d.  Water Heater:  the third largest home energy expense.  A tankless heater Tankless Water Heaters(this blog post) costs about $800 – $1200 uninstalled, and will save you 50% in operating costs.  A solar water heating system will cost $2500 to $3500 installed and will save 50 – 80%. Think of how this can insulate you from any rise in energy prices. see for a comparison fact sheet.

TIP:  The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old appliances is to donate them.  In our area, you can donate to Frederick Building Supply, or to Peace and Plenty, on South Street.  Or, you can join Freecycle at  Reliable Junk, now on 8005 Reichs Ford Road is also a great resource to recycle.

With many stores, hauling off the old appliance is part of the service, so be sure to ask.

For more ideas on making your house more green, go to The Daily Green.


Life Expectancy of Appliances

  • Faucet – 20+ years
  • Toilet – Unlimited with 10-year maintenance on working parts
  • Showerhead – Unlimited
  • Refrigerator/Freezer — 13 years
  • Cooktop – Gas, 15 years; electric, 13 years; magnetic induction, 10 years (estimate-they are very new)
  • Dishwasher – 9 years
  • Washer – 10 years
  • Dryer – 13 years
  • Water Heater – Electric, 11 years; Gas, 10 years; Tankless, 20+ years
  • Windows – Aluminum, 15-20 years; Wood, 30+ years
  • Heating and Air Conditioning – Warm-air electric, 15 years; Warm-air gas, 18 years; Warm-air oil, 20 years; Heat pump, 16 years; Central air conditioning, 15 years
Thanks so much to David Goldberg, our favorite home inspector, for this super informative collaborative post about going greener in the home, for energy savings as well as savings on money.For all of David’s posts, read our Home Maintenance Category

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector

phone: 301-913-9213 
fax:  301-774-4554 
Reliable Home Services, Inc.

PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322

Going Green in the Home

Going Green in the Home

Environmentally friendly living is very much in the news these days. Ideas for a greener home can range from daily energy-saving steps, to major renovations.  As appliances and fixtures wear out, its a great time to replace them with modern designs that have conservation in mind.going green in the home

According to NAR studies, buyers will pay 4 to 11% more for a green friendly home. (National averages).  There is even a listing service dedicated to green homes,  When the ratio of sellers to buyers is uneven, buyers are either looking for extra low price, or extra value.  A seller needs to make their house stand out from the rest to get it sold.  If kitchens and baths need to be updated, or flooring, hot water heaters, or other appliances, why not make them more green while your at it!

Lets take a tour through the house and see what ideas we can come up with.

1. Bathrooms.  (In our area of the country, kitchens and baths sell homes.)

a.  Bath and Sink Faucets:  A faucet dripping once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year.  Replacing the washer is a solution, but if its older than 1994, replacing it is better.  Newer faucets are required by law to have a flow rate no greater than 2.2 gallons per minute; older onces can flow at a rate of 3 to 7 gallons per minute.

TIP: Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which signifies high-efficiency faucets that reduce flow by more than 30%.

b. Showerhead:  Current low-flow showerheads have improved a lot from the earlier models.  Newer ones send down larger droplets at a higher velocity.  Water use is cut in half.

TIP: Choose a showerhead that lets you adjust the flow, further increasing your savings.

Highland tip: Get a shower head cut off, a lever which shuts off the flow of water temporarily, for taking a “ship-board shower”.  Our water bill was cut by a third after installing these!

c. Toilets:  Before the federal mandate in 1994, toilets used as much as 7 gallons per flush.  Ther earlier low-flow toilets got many complaints, but recently, the redesigned versions function very well, using 1.6 gallons per flush.  Dual systems allow for the choice of a .9 gallon or a 1.6 gallon flush.

TIP: WaterSense Label = 20% less water used than the current national standard.

2. Kitchens:

a.  Refrigerator/Freezer:  The refrigerator is the largest energy user in the kitchen.  When replacing your refrigerator, look for a high-efficiency compressor, thick insulation, and precise temperature controls.  The Energy Star label insures these features, and on average, these refrigerators use less than half the energy used by pre-1993 models.

TIP: Top and bottom freezer units are generally more efficient than side-by-side models, and units with ice-despensers on the door use more energy than those without.  But it is still important to compare individual models.

b. Dishwasher:  Choose a water-conserving model; the less water used, the less it will cost to heat.  Energy savings can be up to $65 a year, so spreading the higher cost over the average 9-year lifespan of a dishwasher, buying a more expensive but efficient model can save you $ in the long run

TIP:  Choose a model with a quick-wash cycle to same time, energy and water.  Other energy-saving features include a no-heat drying option and a delay-start control.  Today’s models do a great job, so rinsing dishes before you load them is a waste of water, most of the time.

c. Cooktops:  Gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, but the lowest efficiency, only 55% of the energy used goes directly toward cooking the food.  Electric ranges are 80% efficient. But, given that gas cooking is usually faster, it’s a draw. Cooking doesn’t make a huge impact on your energy bill, so the choice between gas and electric is more about preference.

It makes no difference, in terms of energy, if you choose a separate cooktop, or an oven with a range. Be sure to purchase an energy-efficient range hood that vents cooking products up from the cooktop and directly outside (avoid down-draft vents).

d. Ovens: Convection ovens are usually more energy efficient than conventional ovens because the heated air is continuously circulated around the food being cooked, reducing required temperature and cooking times. On average, you’ll cut energy use by about 20%.

With conventional gas or electric ovens, self-cleaning models are more energy-efficient because they have more insulation. But if you use the self-cleaning feature more than about once a month, you’ll end up using more energy with the feature than you save from the extra insulation.

Ranges, ovens, cooktops and microwaves currently don’t have an “Enegy Star” designation, but the latest in cooking is the magnetic induction cooktop.  It creates an electromagnetic field of energy that heats only iron or steel and has no exposed coil, open flame, or heated surface.  It’s 90% efficient and produces almost instant heat only to the pan: convenient, and easy to control.  The only extra expense:  if you don’t have iron or steel cookware, you’ll have to purchase that too.

TIP: Gas burners with standing pilots, rather than electric ignition, can more than double the annual energy consumption of your cooktop.

e. Microwave: The microwave actually uses more energy than an oven, but because the cooking time is so much less, the cost is cut by two-thirds. It also saves during the summer by not heating up the surrounding area in the kitchen.

for more tips, visit

More Green Home Tips to Come! Part Two: Going Greener in the Home


The Highland Group
Chris & Karen Highland *    * * *
eXp Realty – 410-777-5714
email us:
Text Us: 301-401-5119

Energy Saving Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Energy Saving Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Energy Saving Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Energy efficiency is more timely than ever during these challenging economic times, so here are some tips gleaned from several websites, most of which are easy to accomplish, and add up to savings that might just offset the rise in costs:
  • Heating the Home
    • The easiest to accomplish:  Turn down the thermostat by just 1 degree. In Maryland, that can save up to 5%, between $45 and $75, depending on the fuel used.
    • Only heat the areas where people and pets are, which can be as little as 20% of your space.  Keep the doors shut and close the vents in unoccupied rooms.
    • A programmable thermostat costs about $100, but can save up to $110 to $190 a year depending on fuel.
    • A dirty furnace is less efficient, an annual inspection and cleaning will not only save money on your energy bill, it will probably maximize the life of your furnace. Additionally, a dirty furnace can emit fumes that can cause watery eyes, headaches and runny nose, or could even be dangerous.
    • Changing your air filters regularly will help your furnace run more effectively, saving energy.
    • Open curtains and other window treatments on your west- and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night.
    • Wear a sweater, turn down the thermostat.
  • Hot Water
    • I know you’ve probably heard this one, but its worth repeating, set the hot water heater at 130 degrees.  Put some insulation around it too.
  • Stop Leaks 
    • Cheap and easy to do:  caulk any leaks around the house, windows, cracks, seals and weatherstripping.  Maryland homeowners can save up to $215 to $375 depending on fuel used.  Sealing and insulating heating and AC ducts increases efficiency and lowers home energy bills.  Up to 20% of air can escape through leaks in ducts.
    • Consider replacing old windows that aren’t efficient. The savings in energy costs may be worth it if you will remain in the house for a while. If you end up moving, the modern, energy efficient windows could very likely be a selling point for today’s buyers.
    • If you can’t replace windows, install or re-install storm windows, especially in the attic, to stop warmer air from escaping. You can also put insulation film over windows to reduce drafts.
    • Remember to close the fireplace flue when you’re not using it.
  • Lighting Do’s and Don’ts
    • Replace your four most used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs which use only three quarters of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
    • Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors.
    • Turn off the lights!  (like no one’s ever heard that before;-)
    • Open the curtains and let the sunshine do its lighting work.
  • In the Kitchen
    • When you’re cooking, keep the lids on.
    • Use the microwave more, it costs a fraction what gas and electric do, about $14 – $20 a year.
  • Miscellaneous
    • Consolidate your trips, it saves on gas and keeps you from opening and closing the front door so much.
    • Clean out gutters to prevent rainwater freezing and causing damage.
    • Put your computer and appliances to sleep at night.

If you are doing some renovating, or buying new appliances, look for Energy Star appliances, electronics and lighting. If you are updating your HVAC system,  Energy Star qualified heating and cooling equipment, when installed 

energy saving tipscorrectly, can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Certain highly efficient models may quality for a tax credit or rebate. Energy efficient windows can cut heating costs by as much as 30%.

Maryland Homeowners

Maryland homeowners will see a jump in energy costs this winter, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.  About 45% of the average Maryland homeowner’s energy bill goes to home heating.  The average cost to homeowners who heat with natural gas will increase this year over last year by about $90, and by about $140 for those who use electric heating.

There is good news for those who use heating oil and propane, their costs will decrease by an average of $130 and $90 respectively. If you can afford the bulk price, consider pre-purchase heating oil to take advantage of lower rates. Be sure to research heating companies with the Better Business Bureau.

More energy saving tips for Maryland Homeowners. 

Thanks to our favorite Home Inspector for these great energy saving tips!

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector

phone: 301-913-9213 
fax:  301-774-4554 
Reliable Home Services, Inc.

PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322

With a View Towards Selling Your Home

Home buyers today are looking for more energy efficient homes. According to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders, researchers found that Energy Efficiency tops the list of items most desired by today’s home buyers. Nine out of 10 buyers would rather buy a home with energy-efficient features than a similar house without those features that costs less.

Home buyers also want high-end amenities, even if the home is smaller. Of those surveyed, 62% favored high-quality products over space, which includes double sinks, both tub and shower in the bath, smart storage and technology, like wireless home security systems and whole-house electronic control systems. Read more: Today’s buyers want smaller but smarter homes.

Making gradual improvements to your home with today’s buyers in mind will prove to be a great strategy when it’s time to sell your home.

Read more tips for homeowners:

Increase Your Home Value: Maintain and Repair 

Preparing for a Home Inspection

What Can A Buyer Expect a Seller to Repair?

Should I Get A Home Energy Audit Before Selling My Home?

Should I Get A Home Energy Audit Before Selling My Home?

If you are considering selling your home, you’ll want to consider all the possible ways to make sure your home stands out from the rest. Repairing damage or items that need maintenance is important, as well as staging and paying attention to curb appeal. Appealing to today’s home buyers should be a part of your plan. As home products as well as homes themselves are becoming increasingly more energy efficient, home buyers have increased their expectations. Have you considered a Home Energy Audit?

Should I Get A Home Energy Audit Before Selling My Home?

Get a home energy Audit before you market your homeIn a day where home buyers are concerned about the impact of energy consumption on the environment as well as on their wallets, getting a home energy audit is a great first step in finding ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency. 

The average household will spend approximately $3,756 on energy consumption in 2015, according to WalletHub. A home energy audit will show you how you can save money on your energy bill by pointing out the areas in your home that are lacking efficiency and wasting energy.

The cost of a professional energy audit is somewhere between $300 and $500. You can get a reference from the Alliance to Save Energy, or you can contact your electric company. If you can save $200 to $400 a year in energy costs, it’s well worth the money to have an audit. If you make the changes to your home to save energy, you’ll also find it worth the effort and money when your home stands out among the other homes on the market.

You can also do your own DIY Home Energy Audit. For about $100 to $200 you can purchase a home power monitor and connect it to your circuit breaker. The monitor records and calculates the cost of electricity. Another alternative is a kilowatt meter, ranging from $30 to $200, which measures the energy use of any device plugged into it.

Small Changes in Energy Efficiency Add Up

Whether or not you want to pay for an energy audit, there are several things you can do to save on your energy consumption.

Don’t forget, many energy-efficient upgrades and renovations are good for tax credits. Federal and state programs have specific guidelines as to what is acceptable for a tax credit. Be sure to check with their websites, as well as your electric company website.

Whether you decide to have a home energy audit or not, there are many things you can do to curb your home’s energy consumption.

  • A smart strip eliminates “vampire” energy your devices use when they are switched off. About $30, a smart strip plugs into the wall and works as a surge protector, but also cuts the power to devices when they are shut off.
  • Insulation around doors and windows can become worn and have gaps. Check them periodically and repair with caulk or replace.
  • Wrap pipes and water heaters with foam wrapping. Water heaters and exposed are usually in basements, where the air is cooler, so they have to work harder to maintain their high temperatures. Insulation around them will help them work less.
  • A programmable thermostat will regulate your use of air conditioning in summer and heating in winter.
  • You can save about 10% a year on energy bills by lowering your thermostat by 10% for a minimum of 8 hours a day.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs.
  • Install low-flow faucets with an aerator. Install low-flow toilets.
  • Dust off the coils under your refrigerator regularly to keep it from working so hard to stay cool.
  • Put thicker curtains around windows in summer to keep out the sun. 
  • For more tips, visit

Market Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

If you are considering putting you home on the market for sale, having a home energy audit with a good score is good news. It’s certainly something to add to your marketing efforts.

When marketing your home to buyers, be sure to publish your energy audit findings and any improvements you’ve made to your home. Also, you can proudly display your electric, gas, or water bills to prospective buyers. Don’t be surprised when a savvy buyer chooses your home over comparable homes because they like the savings in energy they’ll have in your home.

Where to Get An Energy Audit in Central Maryland

There are several companies that will do an energy audit for homeowners in central Maryland:

  • Comfortable Home Energy Audits, 4984 Tall Oaks Dr. Monrovia, MD  21770, 202-715-9333
  • Home Energy Savings Solutions, 5018 Canvasback Ct. Frederick, MD  21703, 240-422-8640
  • Home Energy Savings Solutions, 5208 Ernie Lane, Frederick, MD  21703, 240-422-8640
  • Atlas Home Energy Solutions, 5711 Industry Lane, Ste. 23, Frederick, MD  21704, 240-575-9104
  • Home Energy Savings Solutions, 5268 Nicholson Lane, Ste. 167, Rockville, MD  20852, 301-842-8818
  • Home Energy Rescue, 20506 Bordly Ct. Brookeville, MD  20833, 301-570-3626
  • Energy Homes Nexus, 620 N. Bentz St. Frederick, MD  21701
  • Exterior Concepts Tri-State Energy Inc. 11701 Winterset Ter., Potomac, MD  20854, 3010424-1122
  • Mesco Metropolitan Energy Savers Co. BBB Rating A+, 7905 Brethren Dr. Gaithersburg, MD  20879, 301-921-0708
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