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Category Archives: Home Maintenance and Renovation

Information on home maintenance and renovation that will inform Frederick Home owners

Is A Home Energy Audit A Good Idea?

Is A Home Energy Audit A Good Idea?

Home Energy Audit

The average household will spend more than $4000 on energy consumptionA Home Energy Audit can save you money this year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. While home size, age and efficiency vary greatly across the country, many homeowners can find ways of shaving some of the cost of energy by making some improvements here and there to their home’s systems and appliances. 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 $200 and $400. You can get a reference from the Alliance to Save Energy, or you can contact your electric company. If you can save that amount eaca year in energy costs, it’s well worth the money to have the audit. More than likely, you’ll find that you can even save more.

You can also do your own DIY Home Energy Audit. For about $200 you can purchase a home power monitor and connect it to your circuit breaker. The monitor records and calculates the cost of electricity. The Energy Detective” is one such device.

Another alternative is a kilowatt meter, about $30,  which measures the energy use of any device plugged into it. You can get a kilowatt meter at any home improvement store.

Publicize Your Energy Savings

If you are planning to put your home on the market, doing a home energy audit can help you make improvements that today’s buyers are looking for. According to several studies, like this from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the “most wanted” items on the home buyer’s wish list are in two themes: energy efficiency and organization/storage in their homes. If you have energy efficient features in your home, be sure to use those features in your marketing.

Whether or not you want to pay for an energy audit, there are several things you can do to save on your energy consumption. Smart home and green home technologies are catching on. With each innovation, the cost of these products keeps coming down, making many of these technologies affordable. This will only increase the ROI of energy efficient home products.

If you’re considering home improvement, homework on green home building trends will be worth your time, as green home building techniques are on the rise. And don’t forget, many energy-efficient upgrades and renovations to are good for tax credits.

For Additional Reading:

 

Best Home Improvement Trends for Homeowners

Best Home Improvement Trends for Homeowners

Home Improvement for Better ROI

When considering where to invest your hard-earned dollars when it comes to home improvement projects, some projects are better for resale considerations than others.  Knowing what trends are popular with today’s buyers will help you determine how to make your home more attractive to them.

The attitudes and demands of buyers have changed somewhat since the “great recession” of the late 2000’s.  The “McMansions” of the last decade are less in demand and buyers are looking for smaller square footage. However, the square footage must work hard. There are three basic trends in home design that are moving to the top of many buyers’ wish list:  a) low-maintenance features, b) better use of space and technology and c) energy efficiency.

Best Home Improvement Trends for Frederick Homeowners

1.  According to Remodeling Magazine, fiber-cement siding is one of the products that is growing in demand.  It’s a combination of cement, sand, and cellulose fibers that look like wood. It won’t rot, combust, or fall prey to termites and other damaging insects.

This fiber-cement siding is more expensive than wood, vinyl or aluminum siding, at $5 – $9 per square foot, installed.  It returns 80% of the investment, the highest ROI of the upscale projects on Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report.Home Improvement ROI

  • Tim Johnson, on KayuConnection, has written an analysis to show that it is actually possible to beat the Cost vs Value Report and get a positive ROI on your home improvements (contrary to what the Cost vs Value report states). Read it here: Cost Vs. Value Report.

2.  A Laundry Room that lives where the laundry lives. Sometime in the last few years, the laundry room was elevated in stature from the lowly basement to the second floor where dirty clothes actually are.  If you’ve got the space, a dedicated laundry room is a great addition that will make your home so much more livable.

3. Smart Storage Solutions are more important in smaller homes.  Supposedly, people today are accumulating less stuff, but we still want smart storage.  Built-in storage remedies are popular, taking advantage of previously unused space like under the stairs and overhead. Smart storage in kitchen cabinets is a good investment towards a harder working kitchen.

4. Invest in the kitchen. According to American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey, while homes are getting smaller, kitchens are getting larger and more central to family living. The best kitchen remodels have open 10337 Church Hill Rd Myersvillespace, often incorporating the little-used formal dining room. Today’s kitchens feature recycling centers, large pantries and recharging stations. People are opting for mid-range appliances instead of the pricey commercial models that were seldom used. Prep space is important as well as storage solutions like cabinet organizers.

5. Invest in the Bathrooms. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most costly rooms to renovate…minimalist bathroom

but they are on the top of a buyer’s list of must-have’s. Having an outdated bathroom or kitchen, or worse, both, could cause a buyer to scratch your house off their list. There are many ways to update your bathrooms without spending a fortune. Any combination of new fixtures, new flooring, new countertops and sinks, and new lighting can make your tired bathroom look new again.

6. Home Offices are high in demand as more and more people are working at least part time from home. Telecommuting is accepted in more and more businesses as a viable perk for employees. We are seeing a surge in entrepreneurial ventures with a demand for work spaces in the home. Spare bedrooms and basement rooms can become a home office and a family room niche can make a great working space.

7. Energy savings is on everyone’s minds. We are thinking greener for the earth as well as our pockets.  Energy monitors are appreciated by today’s buyers who want to know the dollars and cents of the home they might buy. An energy monitor will also help you, the homeowner know where you need to invest in more energy saving technology and products.

Beefing up your home’s insulation will help bring down energy costs, which make your home more attractive to buyers. Adding attic insulation has one of the highest returns on investment, according to Remodeling Magazine. If you are in need of new appliances, investing in energy star appliances is a wise move. If the age of your home warrants new windows, splurging for insulated windows will add to the energy savings.

Smart Home Technology

8. Smart home technologies are catching on...gradually. While it’s important to stay on top of today’s tech trends, just know that as of 2016, the expense of green and smart home technologies in new homes is a little bit more than traditional homes and the return on investment is still unknown for a lot of the improvements you can choose. However, as the marketplace gradually adopts green technologies, costs for today’s new innovations will drop just like we see in any new product or market. I remember paying $2000 for a “cell phone” in 1985! It was the newest-greatest-thing and we had to have it.

Make no mistake, home technology is a trend that will only grow. The top trends showing at the latest CES 2017 (Consumer Technology Association) show in Las Vegas are home technology trends, according to Architectural Digest. Some of the highlights:

  • The Smart Shower Head, it changes color when you’ve used too much water.
  • It Bed, by Sleep Number, it’s equipped with a network of sensors that track your biometrics (heart rate, breathing, movement) and offers recommendations to improve your sleep
  • There are an entire new generation of smart thermostats available this year. Connectivity is the buzzword, along with the internet of things.voice controlled home products
  • Look for a plethora of voice controlled home products to come on the market in 2016. We already control our phones with Google Now and Siri; our homes won’t be far behind.
  • Family Hub Refrigerator, by Samsung, it can track and order groceries thanks to its sleek 21-inch touch screen, which also syncs to your home’s other Samsung televisions. The built-in interior camera is accessible remotely so you can look inside when you’re at the grocery store.

Show Off Your Investments

When it comes time to sell, make sure your marketing shows the energy improvements you’ve made to your home; show off your smart renovations by publishing your monthly energy savings. Today’s buyers are increasingly interested in their future costs of owning a home.

Related Reading: Best Home Improvement ROI

Green Home Building is Gaining Momentum

Green Home Building is Gaining Momentum

Green homes are becoming increasingly popular among new home buyers. Homes with green features made up 20% of all new home construction in 2013, according to the industry research firm McGraw-Hill Construction. As the housing market continues to recover, they predict this share will grow to between 29% and 38% of new U.S. homes by 2016. Certainly, green home building is gaining momentum.

Today’s homebuyers are interested in buying green homes because of the benefits they offer – from healthier indoor air to energy savings.

Benefits of a Green Home

A modern efficient home is constructed with a lot of thought given to the materials used in construction. Building materials are expected to be toxin-free, sustainable and energy-efficient. The use of toxin-free building materials helps combat indoor air pollution.  Since we are exposed to the air in our homes as much or more often than outside air, indoor pollution can pose serious health risks to residents.  A healthier home means fewer visits to the doctor and hopefully fewer respiratory problems.

 

Besides potential health savings, the net cost of owning a green home is typically comparable to, if not cheaper than a standard home. People who live in green homes save money by consuming less energy and fewer resources than standard homes. The savings add up over the years in decreased energy and water bills.

For Further Reading: Benefits of Green Home Building The typical household spends about $2,150 a year on a residential energy bill. Multiply that by 30 years, and the lifelong savings can easily be greater than the initial outlay.

Net-Zero Homes in Frederick

Right here in Frederick, net-zero homes are being built in downtown. Originally built by Nexus Homes, the project was recently purchased by Lancaster Craftsmen, a Middletown builder. They home to complete the project towards the end of 2017.

green home building on the riseNet-zero homes are just a small portion of the green homes that are being constructed today. Federal tax incentives are helping to fuel the number of green features like insulation that reduces a home’s energy loss or geothermal heat pumps. Depending on where they live, homeowners can also claim rebates from their state, town or utility.

More and more insurance companies are offering discounts on policies covering green homes. Similarly, there are even a few mortgage companies offering discounted loan rates for home buyers buying green.

Costs of Green Homes are Coming Down

The cost of building a home with green features and energy saving materials used to be 10% or more above the cost of traditional construction, but that cost is coming down. Some builders are building green homes for as little as 2% to 3% more.  As green features become more in demand and more commonplace, builders and designers are also starting to incorporate them even into moderately priced homes.

A green home is often more durable than standard homes because of its high-quality building materials and construction processes, requiring fewer repairs.

The value of a green home is often higher than that of a comparable standard home, and the market demand for green homes is expected to rise. Study after study shows that home buyers are willing to pay a bit more for a green home, knowing that the return on their investment will be significantly lower energy bills for years to come.

Local, state and federal governments are increasingly offering tax breaks and incentives for building a green home or adding green features to an existing home.

Features of a Green Home

Efficient plumbing and bathing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and water-conserving irrigation systems help green homes use less water than standard homes. This feature will become increasingly important as the prospect of water shortages loom in some parts of the country.

Because many green building materials incorporate significant recycled content, they require the use of fewer natural resources. The amount of excess building materials dumped in landfills is significantly less than the amount generated by traditional building practices.

Some green homes incorporate carpets and floor tiles from recycled materials, like tires and bottles. Other homes use salvaged materials or renewable and sustainable products, such as bamboo, hemp, and soybean.   Homeowners can choose countertops made from recycled street lights and other recycled glass.

Low-volatile organic compound paints and finishes inside the home reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.  Hardwood floor finishes have changed over the recent years to those with lower off-gassing and less toxic formulas. Formaldehyde-free insulation also insures fewer dangerous chemicals are released into the atmosphere.

Energy-efficient appliances, insulation, roofing materials, doors and low-e windows are all effective in lowering heating and cooling bills.

In many cases, builders are also including universal design elements into green homes. These designs, which include wider doorways, no stairs, flat entries and accessible bathrooms, sinks, and showers, assure that people with varying abilities can live in and age in their homes and their neighborhoods.

Updating Your Existing Home With Green Features

There are many green renovations a homeowner can do to retrofit their existing home, making it more energy efficient and healthy. And many of these improvements have tax breaks to go with them.

  • Solar Energy Systems – Installing a solar water heater or photovoltaic system allows you to take a credit of 30% of the cost of both the purchase and installation, with no upper limit. The credit is good throughout 2016.
  • Windows, Doors, and Skylights – If you replace doors, windows, or skylights with energy-efficient models, you may be eligible to get a tax credit of 10%.
  • Water Heaters – get an energy-efficient model and get a tax credit for up to $300 of its cost.
  • Energy Efficient Appliances – Check with your energy company, and state for tax credits and rebates as you purchase more energy efficient appliances.

Further Resources: Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency via Energy Star.

Thanks for an informative guest post on energy efficient green homes from our favorite home inspector:

David Goldberg   

                                                     
phone:   301-913-9213

fax:   301-774-4554
   

Reliable Home Services, Inc.

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

Contact The Highland Group for our list of green home builders in Central Maryland and buyer representation.

Going Green and Saving Green in the Home

Going Green and Saving Green in the Home

Saving Green and Going Green in the Home

Environmentally friendly living is very much in the news these days. I thought I’d do several blogs about green practices that not only help the environment, but keep $ in homeowners’ pockets.   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.

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, www.listedgreen.com.   When the  ratio of sellers to buyers is 14 to 1, 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. Kitchens and Baths.    (In our area of the country, kitchens and baths sell homes.)Tankless Water Heaters

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”.  (I’m a Navy Brat:) 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 (later blog), but the lowest efficiency, only 55% of the energy used goes directly toward cooking the food.   Electric ranges are 80% efficient.

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 enery consumption of your cooktop.

for more tips, visit www.aceee.org

Related Articles:

Green Homes are in Demand

Going Green in the Home

Going Greener in the Home

Caulk is A Homeowner’s Best Friend

A drafty home can not only be a nusance, it can result in higher energy bills. Historic homes can be drafty, but modern homes can be as well. Caulk can be a simple and easy solution. Just like I’m fond of the saying: “Paint covers a multitude of sins”, I also believe “Caulk is a homeowner’s best friend.”

Applying caulk around windows lowers home energy costs by stopping air leaks, which otherwise allow heat to escape in the winter. According to the Energy Star program, most people could save about 20 percent on their heating and cooling costs by sealing up air leaks.

A homeowner can easily do many small caulking jobs on their own, saving themselves the cost of a handyman, as well as saving on their monthly energy bill.

Note to sellers: if your home is upgraded and you have energy efficient features and appliances, highlight them in your marketing. Today’s home buyers are looking for energy efficiency, and will often choose the energy efficient home over the not-so-efficient home.

Here’s a very useful guest post from our favorite Frederick home inspector, David Goldberg, with tips for getting the best results with caulk.

Caulk: The Wonder Sealant

Caulk creates a flexible seal in cracks, gaps or joints no bigger than 1/4″ to 3/8″ in width. Caulking will seal air leaks, especially around windows and door frames. It also prevents water damage when applied around faucets, water pipes, bathtubs and other plumbing fixtures. For larger openings, you can use insulating foam sprays to seal up gaps between siding and masonry or vents. Here are some tips for using caulk:

1. Clean all areas to be caulked. Use a putty knife or large screwdriver to remove old caulk and paint and make sure the area is dry.

2. Hold the caulking gun at a consistent angle–45 degrees to get deep into the crack. You’re at the correct angle when the caulk goes in immediately as it comes out of the tube.

3. Apply the caulk in one straight continuous stream, without stops and starts.

4. Avoid bubbles by sending caulk to the bottom of the opening.

5. Make sure the caulk is sticking to both sides of the crack.

6. If caulk oozes out of the crack, push it back in with a putty knife.

7. If the caulk shrinks, reapply it, forming a smooth bead that seals the crack completely.

8. For windows, apply caulk to all joints in the frame and to the joint between frame and wall.

9. If the crack is deep, use a “backer rod” — a round foam rod sold by the roll in various diameters. Pick one slightly bigger than the gap. Cut the rod and press into the gap so it’s just below the surface. Then caulk on top of it.

10. For bigger gaps, use an insulating foam spray you can buy in a hardware or home supply store. It dries like styrofoam and can be painted if necessary.

Good Tools Make a Difference

A good quality caulking gun is a necessity, and at around $10, certainly worth it over the 99cent low-end tools. The smooth action will make a difference in the continuous bead of caulk that is produced.

You’ll need a putty knife, gloves, rags and a bucket of water. The big box stores will carry all the items that you need. Caulk typically costs between $2 and $5, depending on the type.

Remember that latex caulk can be painted, and is typically easier to apply and remove than silicone. Some silicone caulks can be painted, but most cannot.

Silicone caulk is better for gaps that expand and contract and it holds up well under direct sunlight and extreme temperature changes. Consult the box store websites for a complete comparison and guide to choosing caulk.

Thanks for a great guest post David!

David Goldberg –   Reliable Home Inspection

*  *  *

Additional Reading:

Energy Saving Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Insulation Tips for Homeowners

Going Green in the Home

For more great homeowner tips, check out our Pinterest Board:

Follow The Highland Group’s board Homeowner Tips on Pinterest.

Green Homes Are In Demand

Green Homes Are In Demand

Green Homes Are in Demand

Earlier in the last decade, the real estate industry started on the path to understanding the importance many of today’s consumers are putting on ‘green’ building. With the collapse of the market later in the decade, the industry became more concerned with survival. But recently, home builders are seeing an increase in movement to environmentally motivated buying decisions. Once again, Green homes are in demand.

Home Builders are seeing an increase in movement to environmentally motivated buying decisions. Once again, Green homes are in demand. Is it worth it to a homeowner to make green upgrades to their home?According to McGraw Hill Construction research dating back to 2006, the green home building market most rapidly accelerated during the housing downturn when builders experienced in green remained in business at higher proportions than those not knowledgeable about energy-efficient and green home building.

However, as the housing market is beginning to stabilize, we are seeing an increase in movement to environmentally motivated buying decisions. Once again, Green homes are in demand.

In conjuction with NAHB, National Association of Home Builders, McGraw Hill Construction has conducted four studies since 2006 on the demand for green homes.

The following Infographic shows the results of the study in 2012, According to Mainstream Green.

 

In a recent Wall Street Journal article they reported on the future opportunity in green new construction:

“Green sales are increasing. In 2011, these homes made up 17% of residential starts by value, up from 9% in 2010, according to the latest McGraw-Hill survey of members of the National Association of Home Builders trade group. That figure is expected to hit between 22% and 25% in 2013.”

Recent Green Home Study

The results of the latest study by McGraw Hill Construction were released in 2014, revealing the business benefits of green building:

Competitive marketing advantage: 51% of builders and remodelers find that it is easier to market green homes, up from 46% in 2012 and 40% in 2008.

  • 68% of builders (up from 61% in 2011) report their customers will pay more for green, with 23% reporting that their customer will pay more than 5%
  • 84% of remodelers report the same (up from 66% in 2011), with 55% reporting their customers will pay more than 5% for green features.

Customer willingness to pay for green features:

  • 94% would recommend a green home to a friend.
  • 92% would purchase another green home.
  • 71% of respondents believe that green homes are, overall, of higher quality.
  • 55% knew their home may have cost more than a non-green home, but believed the benefits outweighed the cost.

What does this mean to Frederick homeowners? If you are considering updating your home, look towards green appliances, amenities and improvements. Green homes are in demand, and the demand will increase. Plan to give your home the greatest appeal when you do consider selling.

You will need to do your research to see if the more expensive upgrades are worth the investment. Over-improving for your market is never a good idea, and that goes for environmental upgrades as well, that is, if you are expecting to get a return on your investment.

If you are selling your Frederick Home, give special attention to green updates and highlight them in your marketing. If your green updates have lead to low energy bills, for instance, highlight the fact in your marketing. Publish your bill and place it conspicuously in a brochure. Help your home stand out from the rest and appeal to the largest number of buyers.

For Your Inspiration

And what kind of green updates should you consider? Here is a list I’ve curated from all over the web, in no particular order:

  • More and better Insulation, preferably with natural content. Attics, walls, air ducts. Foam pipe insulation.
  • Energy Efficient Windows
  • New doors.
  • Solar Panels – this is more affordable with government grants or tax write-offs. Check with your state government and your energy company.
  • Wind power in rural areas, like above, check for incentives.
  • Newer, high efficiency furnace.
  • Energy-Star appliances.
  • Heated Floors. (we have them in our floors…wonderful!)
  • Geothermal heating system if you’re building a new home.
  • Tankless Water Heater.

Improvements everyone can afford:

  • Caulk. A homeowners best friend. Seal up a leaky house to save on energy costs.
  • Programmable Thermostat.
  • Low flush toilets.
  • Efficient shower heads.
  • Efficient light bulbs. Timer for lights.
  • Energy efficient power strip.
  • Smart house technologies for remote access. Control the thermostat or close the drapes from your smartphone.
  • A clothesline. If your HOA allows.

Related Reading:

For more ideas on how to make your home more energy efficient, read more from Mother Earth News.

Insulation Tips for Homeowners From Our Favorite Home Inspector

Insulation Tips for  Homeowners From Our Favorite Home Inspector

Insulation Tips for Frederick Homeowners

Our favorite home inspector has put together this helpful article about the best insulation in your home:

Insulation for a Comfortable Home

insulation tips for Frederick homeowners

Half of the energy used to heat or cool a home can simply leak outside without proper insulation. A properly insulated home makes life more comfortable, saves money on heating and cooling, and decreases the impact of fossil fuel use on the environment. Some types of insulation can even make a home more soundproof.

To have an adequately insulated house you need enough insulation, you need the right type of insulation, and it has to be installed correctly.

Determining Adequate Insulation

The resistance, or R-Value of insulation, is a measure of the insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it — the higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation.

The proper R-Value for home insulation is generally based on the geographical location of the home. In colder temperatures, the R-Value of insulation needs to be higher to block heat loss under very cold conditions.

insulation tips for homeownersOne way to determine whether adequate insulation is present, is to measure your energy bill, compared to similar homes. Excessively high energy bills will give you a clue.

Another method is to have a visual inspection in the attic or the area above the ceiling joists. If it appears that insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, the area probably needs more insulation. If joists are covered by insulation, adding more is probably unnecessary. In addition, insulation should be uniformly distributed.

A clearance of 3″ around recessed lighting fixtures is needed and about 2″ for flues. Attics and other areas require ventilation airflow at certain points and you never want to block this off with retrofitted insulation.

Eco-Friendly Insulation

In recent years, attention has focused on composition of some types of insulation, with some insulation containing asbestos and ureaformaldehyde. As a result, some homeowners are investigating more eco-friendly products including cotton, wool, straw, cellulose (paper) and even a soy bean spray.

  • Cotton insulation is made of 85% recycled cotton and 15% plastic fibers that have been treated with the fire-retardant Borate. One company uses recycled blue jean manufacturing trim waste to produce their blue jean batts. Cotton insulation is nontoxic, and can be handled without gloves.
  • When used as insulation, sheep’s wool naturally resists pests, fire, and mold. The thermal resistance or R-Value of wool batts is higher than some cellulose, glass wool, and mineral wool insulation types.
  • Straw bale insulation is making a comeback from its popularity a century ago. The R-Value may be lower than is necessary in very cold climates but the straw boards are effective at sound-absorption.
  • The benefits of soy have been long touted in the food chain. Now soy has made the jump and is being adapted for use in a spray-foam insulation. The spray expands up to 100 times to fill in small spaces. The foam is light-weight and easy to direct, and is very resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Air-krete is another environmentally responsible, non-toxic insulation made from air, water and cement. It too can be foamed into open or closed cavities in walls, roofs and ceilings. When it is placed, it has a consistency similar to shaving cream, but hardens within days to form a barrier with a high R-Value.

Thanks to David Goldberg for an informational and useful article for Frederick Homeowners.

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

If You have a remodeling project in mind, contact us for a list of professionals we’re proud to recommend.  

The Highland Group
Chris & Karen Highland
301-401-5119

Homeowner Tips – Use Less Water on Your Yard and Garden

Homeowner Tips – Use Less Water on Your Yard and Garden

Use Less Water More Effectively

It’s that time of year again, when homeowners work to create the lawn and garden that make outdoor living so enjoyable. Homeowners will be happy to know that having a lush green lawn, beautiful landscaping and colorful flowers doesn’t have to cost a fortune in water. Sprinkler and drip irrigation systems can be be used to make the process much easier, and much more dependable.

Irrigation systems can regularly send water to various spots in landscapes and gardens. Today’s systems can be designed to be convenient for homeowners and water-efficient, too. For instance, the drip irrigation system uses above-ground tubing and can easily be installed as a DIY project.
NaturaLawn of America Lawn Care Frederick MD
photo: NaturaLawn of America

To get the most out of any irrigation system, it’s better to plan a landscape design before installation. Knowing where lawn areas, shrubs, trees, flower beds and gardens will be planted can assure the best design for the sprinkler system. But if you don’t have the ability to plan ahead, there are plenty of ways to retrofit today’s systems into your existing landscaping.

If you’re planning a landscape upgrade or putting in new features, it may be the perfect time to add an irrigation system.

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead allows for “hydrozoning,” the process of grouping plants with similar watering needs together. For example, planting shrubs (which need less water) near perennials (which typically need more water) can hamper the shrub’s growth. Mismatched platings can also result in water waste. Any local garden shop will have information on the needs of various plants when it comes to water and sun. Many have gardening experts on hand to help you plan your landscaping.

Sprinler systemsThe same sprinkler heads must be grouped together on the same valve to operate sprinklers most efficiently.

Different sprinkler head types put out vastly different amounts of water in the same time period. Mixed heads in the same zone will again result in over-watering of some plants and under-watering of others.

While there are many varieties of sprinkler heads, the three general categories are: spray, rotor, and drip heads.

  • Spray heads either pop-up out of the ground or have a stationary head. They are most commonly used on small areas such as turf, shrubs or flower beds. Spray heads put out a lot of water in a short amount of time.
  • Rotor heads are useful in covering large areas, and typically apply water more uniformly than spray heads. The slower output of a rotor head allows them to be used on all soil types with less cycling.
  • Drip systems have become popular for irrigating flowers and gardens. A drip system usually consists of a special tube or hose with holes (emitters) along it. These emitters may cover uniformly, or be set up to randomly water only certain plants. Drip irrigation can save time and money when installed properly because it applies water directly to the soil, eliminating over-spray.

Seasonal Adjustments

To save the most water, sprinkler systems must be adjusted to the season. Landscapes need much less water during the spring and fall than during the summer. Watering should be done between 6 and 10 p.m. Not watering during the hot daytime hours will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.

A common problem with sprinkler systems is water pressure. Without correct pressure, sprinklers will not perform effectively. Pressures that are too high can damage nozzles and heads, sometimes even causing them to break off. If pressure is too high, pressure-reducing valves and heads can be installed or retrofitted. Manufacturer’s instructions and specifications will contain the information necessary to ensure proper water pressure.

Use Local Plants

use local plants and flowers
Black-Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia

Using plants and flowers that grow naturally in your local are will be the best way to insure that they stay healthy and beautiful, without a lot of extra care. You can find local plant suggestions from your state extension program, or from a master gardener in your area.

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Saving Time and Money

If you’ve invested in landscaping around your home, then you’ll want to take care of that investment. Using an irrigation and sprinkling system makes it easier to properly take care of your plants and grass, and it can be programmed to do so, saving you time and money.

Although it may seem like an expense upfront, an irrigation system can make life much easier. You may find that having time to enjoy your outdoor rooms, as well as saving on water, far outweigh the initial expense.

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Thanks to David Goldberg for an informational guest post!

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

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If You have a remodeling project in mind, contact us for a list of professionals we’re proud to recommend.

Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

Tips for Frederick Home Owners from the Home Inspector – About GFCI

Question:  Would it make sense to install GFCI’s in a nursery or children’s room?

Answer:  Any extra safety that can be provided in a home is always a good idea.  A GFCI can protect infants and children the same way it protects the rest of the family, by interrupting the flow of electricity.GFCI

“GFCI” is short-hand for ground fault circuit interrupter, an inexpensive electrical device that protects people from severe or fatal electric shocks.  GFCI’s can also prevent some electrical fires and reduce the severity of others, because they are designed to interrupt the flow of electric current.

How does a GFCI work?

When an unintended electric path is created between a source of current and a grounded surface (think plugged-in toaster and knife in your hand), an unpleasant and dangerous situation can occur.  A mild or severe shock, burn or electrocution can occur if a human body provides a path for electric current to flow to the ground.

This unintentional path is called a “ground-fault”.  Ground faults occur when current is leaking somewhere — in effect electricity is escaping to the ground.

Prevention is the Goal

No GFCIHow can a GFCI prevent damage to people and possessions?  The GFCI constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit, to sense any loss of current.  If the current flowing through the circuit differs by a small amount from the amount of the current returning (denoting a leak), the GFCI quickly switches off power to that circuit.  The GFCI interrupts power faster than a blink of an eye to prevent a lethal dose of electricity, in as little as 1/40th of a second.  It is possible someone might still receive a painful shock from the leak, but would probably not receive a serious shock injury.

Where to Install

Where is it most important to install a GFCI?  Rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms are important sites for the installation of GFCI.  Water containing ions and gases (the kind of water found in residential homes) provides good electrical conduction, putting families at higher risk for shock or electrocution in these rooms.  Other important locations for GFCI’s include the laundry room, garage and outside circuits.

Can I Install a GFCI Myself?

There are several types of GFCI’s to choose from, including circuit-breaker types and even portables that can be plugged into a receptacle, then, and electrical product is plugged into the GFCI.

Receptacle-type GFCIs may be installed by consumers with adequate knowledge and skills to conform to proper electrical wiring practices and the instructions accompanying the device. When in doubt about the proper procedure, contact a qualified electrician; don’t attempt to install it yourself.

Thanks to our favorite home inspector for the infomative guest post for Frederick Homeowners: Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector

David Goldberg  –  Home Inspector
Reliable Home Services, Inc
phone:   301-913-9213
PO Box 5159  Laytonsville, MD 20882
A
SHI Member #101584   MD License #29322