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Category Archives: Home Maintenance and Renovation

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

Lawn Care Tips for Home Owners

Lawn Care Tips for Home Owners

Frederick MD Home Owners – Keeping A Healthy Lawn

It’s that time of year again. With lots of rain in the last few weeks, the lawn needs some attention. Our guest blogger David Goldberg from Reliable Home Inspections shares some timely tips for lawn care:

Your lawn mover is one of the most expensive investments in terms of yard maintenance equipment. Storing and operating it correctly will prolong its life as well as ensure a well-manicured lawn.

For the machine: Washing the underside of the deck is an important habit to maintain. Depending on the types of lawn treatment used, including fertilizers or pesticides, the various substances can have an effect on the underside of the lawn mower. When these elements build-up and aren’t removed they can quickly corrode the deck, shorten the life of the bearings in the spindles and also contribute to lawn disease. Regular cleaning can add life to your lawn mower, saving you money over the years.

Removing the clippings that stick to the deck is also a good reason to clean that area regularly. This will reduce metal corrosion. It is easiest to do before the clippings dry and harden.

Organic-based lubricants are now available to spray on the deck of the machine to keep clippings from sticking to the deck.  (Fluid Film is an example of a lubricant that can be used to protect lawn equipment in use, in storage and in transit).

Keeping blades sharp is also another important maintenance activity. This action will ensure a healthier lawn and better gas mileage and longer life for the mower and its parts. lawn care tips Lawn care experts are often asked what insect or weather conditions cause brown-tipped grass. Simply put, this condition is solely caused by operator error. In other words, the homeowner is using dull blades to cut grass. Lawn mower blades can be sharpened manually with a whetstone or sharpening tool or removed and taken to a hardware or garden supply store.

As with other vehicles, checking the oil and tires are also crucial to increase a mower’s life span and operating condition. Checking the oil each time (and adding oil when the level drops below the halfway point) will keep the mower in optimal operating condition.   Overfilling the oil is not recommended, because this practice will actually shorten engine life. Tire pressure is also important because lower tires can make the machine harder to steer and can affect traction.

For Healthy Grass:  To keep grass healthy, the rule of thumb is mow high (three inches or more) when weather is warm. When lawns are allowed to grow higher, they develop deeper roots and are able to endure dryer conditions.

For Operator Safety: Remember that even when a mower is turned off, the blades are still turning and there is still a risk for injury. The blades must have stopped rotating before it is safe to begin maintenance activities. Pulling out a mower’s spark plug is the best way to ensure the lawn mower will not turn on accidently.

Watering and Feeding the Grass. Grass needs to be fed and watered to stay healthy, but in many areas of the country, homeowners are growing concerned about water conservation. A smart water conservation plan for any lawn starts with feeding. Feeding not only improves a lawn’s appearance, it also strengthens and thickens the grass to help the lawn protect itself. A well-fed lawn grows deeper roots to better absorb water and nutrients. Compared to an unfed lawn, a lawn that is fed uses water more efficiently. Feeding your lawn two to 4 times a year will keep it healthy.

lawn care tipsThere are many tips for homeowners to use less water on their yard and garden.  Make sure to rely on the rain whenever you can to save on water consumption. Also, if you mow often, you can leave the grass clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings break down quickly and return beneficial nutrients to the soil, especially if you mow often enough so too much of the grass blade isn’t removed at once. Removing too much of the grass blade shocks the grass and leaves clipping piles on the lawn that also can smother grass.

A big thanks to David Goldberg, our preferred home inspector, for these great lawn care for homeowners to have a healthier and happier lawn. Beautiful green grass makes your outdoor living spaces much more enjoyable. Additionally, it makes for great curb appeal when you are ready to put your home on the market!

David Goldberg   –   Home Inspector                                                                         

phone: 301-913-9213 fax: 301-774-4554

Reliable Home Services, Inc.

ASHI Member #101584  MD License #29322

Facts Homeowners Should Know About Radon

Facts Homeowners Should Know About Radon

Living Healthy and Green Starts by Kicking Radon Out

Do you want to help your community step out on the green side of living and building healthier? EPA has developed a new media campaign, Living Healthy & Green, to educate Americans about the ease of testing for radon and building new homes radon-resistant. These unique public service announcements (PSAs) help remind Americans that a big part of “living green” starts in their home with breathing cleaner, healthier indoor air.  Learn More about Radon Public Service Media Campaigns

Every Living Healthy & Green campaign element can be viewed, heard and ordered free on line at www.epapsa.com

Radon:   The Health Hazard with a Simple Solution

Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family’s health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually.

Test Your Home for Radon – It’s Easy and Inexpensive   Fix your home if you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more.

The U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend that all homes be tested. You can test your home yourself or hire a professional. Fix your home if you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more. Radon test kits are available from the National Safety Council (or call 1-800-SOS-RADON). Some home improvement stores sell test kits. (Lowes and Home Depot both do) To find a qualified testing or mitigation contractor, contact your state radon office (see our list of state contacts) or either of the national private radon programs.

Exposure to Radon Causes Lung Cancer In Non-smokers and Smokers Alike

Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year. The increase in deaths due to lung cancer has raised public awareness about lung cancer, especially among people who have never smoked. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, between 11 and 15 percent of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented; this is especially true for radon.

Sources of Radon

Radon escapes from the soil, into the air and into buildings and homes. The majority (69%) of radon that effects humans comes from the soil.18.5% comes from well water, 2.5% comes from building supplies, and 9.2% comes from outdoor air.

Normal levels found in outside air are 0.4 pCi per liter, which is considered safe by the EPA. The average indoor radon level in the U.S. is 1.3 pCi/L, also considered safe. When levels rise to 2.7 pCi/L, a person’s risk of lunch cancer rises 16%, according to the World Health Organization. The EPA recommends corrective action when the indoor level of radon reaches 4Ci/L.

Radon in Maryland

There are three zones in Maryland, each showing a level of average radon density. in Zone 1, the Red Zone, the following counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L: Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Calvert.

In Zone 2, Orange Zone, counties have levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L: Garrett, Allegheny, Cecil, Ann Arundel, Prince Georges, Charles and St. Marys Counties.

In Zone 3, Yellow Zone, there is low potential of high radon levels, less than 2 pCi/L: Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties.

Legal Requirements in Maryland

Montgomery County recently passed a law requiring home sellers to conduct a radon test. The wording of the law is such that sellers can conduct the test themselves, or hire a professional. The test must be from a list of approved radon tests. (which you can find on the NRPP Website) Many on the list are low-priced kits you can get at Home Depot or Lowes. The Pro-Lab test is $20.

As of today, other counties do not require testing, but we expect that it won’t be long before the counties in the red zone follow Montgomery County in this requirement. Even though it isn’t mandatory, we encourage buyers to have a radon test with their home inspection, using a qualified radon tester. Even if the homeowner has carried out a radon test within 12 months of listing the home, it’s still a good idea to have your own test. With radon tests, you can’t know if there was human error involved. Better safe with your own test.

What if the Radon tests high?

If you find that the Radon levels are 4 pCi/L or higher, Radon mitigation will be required. There are three common radon remediation systems used in residential construction:

Active Subslab Depressurization (ASD) is a system designed to lower sub-slab air pressure relative to indoor air pressure by using a fan-powered vent. By drawing the air from beneath the basement slab through a pipe and out of the roof, radon is prevented from entering your home. Often only a single suction is needed. The cost is between $800 to $1500.

Passive Subslab Depressurization (PSD) uses natural pressure differentials and convection to draw air up a vent pipe. New construction homes in Montgomery, Howard, Frederick, Calvert, Washington, Carroll, and Baltimore Counties have PSD systems installed. These systems are ready to install a fan, if needed, to convert to an Active System, ASD.

Block-wall Suction can be used in basement homes with hollow block foundation walls. This method removes radon and depressurizes the block wall, similar to sub-slab suction.

As always, use a licensed, qualified inspector.

 

Thanks for an informative guest post:

David Goldberg   –   Home Inspector                                                                         phone: 301-913-9213 fax: 301-774-4554

Reliable Home Services, Inc.

ASHI Member #101584  MD License #29322

Reliable Home Services is a qualified Radon Tester

Are Stainless Steel Appliances Still Popular in 2017?

Are Stainless Steel Appliances Still Popular in 2017?

Is Stainless Steel Still Popular?

Stainless Steel appliances have been a long-lasting trend in home appliance choices. For more than 2 decades homeowners have loved appliances and fixtures in stainless. But will the trend continue? Are stainless steel appliances still popular, and more importantly, will they be popular in the future? We’re seeing a wave of new finishes that rival stainless in their appeal. Here are a few that are trending in 2017. But first, there are two housing design trends that are setting the stage, Integrated kitchens in open floor plans, and Personalization

A. Integrated Kitchens

House plans have increasingly opened up over the recent years, allowing the kitchen to be integrated into the other living spaces. Modern cooks prefer to be part of the party, rather than be shut away behind the walls of a separated kitchen.

What this has done for the decor of the kitchen is integrate it with the rest of the home. Now we see many different choices in appliances, from colored refrigerators and stoves, to a variety of metals and finishes.

According to a recent study from Houzz, nearly two-thirds of homeowners in the survey spent more than three hours in their kitchens. Kitchens are now places to watch TV, entertain and read, as well as cook and bake. Today’s kitchens are styled and furnished with the rest of the living spaces of the house in mind.

B. Personalization

As kitchens keep shifting to look more like the living rooms, they are more posh, less utilitarian. Homeowners are personalizing kitchens with bold appliances, cozy seating, stone surfaces and cool fixtures — from sculptural faucets to interesting pendant lights.

As kitchens become more and more our living spaces, homeowners are making them more comfortable. Personalizing the kitchen adds to the comfort of the room. Comfortable upholstered chairs, cozy reading nooks and even a small couch are right at home in today’s kitchen.

Are stainless steel appliances still popular? Yes.

Are stainless steel appliances still popular

The Houzz study reported that 3/4 of the respondents still planned to have stainless steel appliances. Their popularity continues, even though more homeowners are opening up to other styles and finishes. People like stainless steel. It matches every wood tone and finish. Dark wood, light wood and white cabinets all look good with stainless steel.

Other Metals

Most major manufacturers have been trying out many different metals over the last 5 years, trying to be the first to find that “next big thing”. Think of Jen-air “oiled bronze”, Whirlpool’s “sunset bronze”, Miele’s “truffle brown”, or Viking’s “graphite”. In the right kitchen, all of these finishes will look great. But none have really taken off like stainless steel…not yet.

Mixed Metals

As the kitchen becomes more integrated, many homeowners are personalizing with greater boldness. As brass and gold have made a comeback, as well as bronze and other metals, there is less reason to stick with just one finish. Mixing metals, although it must be done carefully, is a growing option in design. In high-end homes, look for designers to play with metals more than in the past. “It’s all good” is the motto.

Satin and Matte Finishes

Appliances that have a satin or matte finish, whether in steel or other metals, are appearing in showrooms. Matte is used to describe something that lacks shine, so it looks more dull and flat. The appeal is two-fold, they are easier to keep clean, and they easily blend in with other finishes.

Black Stainless Steel

Black is an exciting new color and finish that we’re seeing more often. After using the KitchenAid black stainless appliances in the 2015 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year, their popularity has increased. Now other manufacturers are making them, including LG and Samsung.

Matching Panels

Are stainless steel appliances still popular

Since the kitchen is more integrated into the rest of the home in modern floor plans, adding panels to the appliances that match the cabinets is becoming popular.

This uniform look creates a less fussy style, which blends into the living spaces well. In the right home, this is the perfect solution to a more “livable” kitchen.

Colored Appliances

Smeg is one of the manufacturers who have come out with a lot of colors, from pastels, to bright shades to black and white.

Are stainless steel appliances still popular

Colored appliances in an open kitchen add design and style that help it match the rest of the house. Viking has had a line of colored appliances for several years. They look great in a mid-century modern home, or an eclectic, ultra niche home. They are perfect for the homeowner who loves to have fun with their decor.

Slate Appliances

Like black stainless appliances in 2015, slate appliances are on trend this year.Are stainless steel appliances still popular  GE is the first to make them. Slate is easy to keep clean and resists the dreaded fingerprints that make stainless steel difficult. Like stainless, slate matches any cabinet or countertop finish, and is style-neutral. The brushed stainless handles add a pop of shine, complimenting other appliances. [Kitchen by Southington Appliances Kathy from Connecticut Appliance]

What Appliances Should I Choose?

If you’re asking are stainless steel appliances still popular…My opinion as a homeowner…choose what you like. You live with it. As with most things concerning the home, do your research and read all the pros and cons of each style and finish. Then choose what you will love to see and work with and clean every day.

Personal Story: We just bought a slate appliance package for our kitchen...I love them! We have an open floor plan (you can see from the front  door all the way to the back of the house where the kitchen is...they look beautiful.)

My opinion as a REALTOR®…it depends on your home. If you have a traditional home, choose something that goes with your traditional home’s style. If you have a modern, contemporary, or mid-century modern home, choose what compliments it.

Of course, all this depends on whether you’re considering selling soon, or if you plan to stay put for a while. The average life expectancy of appliances should be taken into consideration. If you’re going to sell before your appliances wear out, then you’ll want to keep resale in mind.

If your home has a broad appeal, and if you want to appeal to the broadest group of buyers, the studies are still showing that stainless steel has the most popularity. Stainless appliances will be a safe choice for at least another 5 or 10 years. If you want to play it safe, choose stainless.

If you like to live bold…choose whatever your heart desires!

Related Articles:

Stainless-Steel Still Shines

Kitchen Trends

Increase Your Home’s Value – Maintain and Repair


Search for homes in Frederick Md

Thinking about selling your home in Central Maryland? Use our free online valuation to instantly

Find out what your home is worth.

Contact the Highland Group for a personalized CMA – Comparative Market Analysis. 301-401-5119  chris@chrishighland.com

How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste in Frederick Md

How to Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste in Frederick Md

Q.   What items are considered household hazardous waste (HHW)?

A.   Leftover household  products that contain corrosive, ignitable, toxic or reactive ingredients are considered to be HHW. Items including paints, pesticides, batteries, cleaners and oils contain potentially hazardous ingredients and require special care in their disposal.

hazardous waste Frederick Md

Americans produce 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste a year.   This translates to as much as 100 pounds per household, stored in garages as well as in and  around homes.

The Water Environment Federation has published the Household Hazardous Waste Chart  to help you find the most effective method of disposal.

Q.   What are some improper methods of household waste disposal?

Pouring them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or in some cases putting them out with the trash can lead to environmental contamination and pose a threat to human health.

It may seem obvious, but hazardous products should be kept in their original containers with labels intact. Household hazardous waste should never  be mixed with any other products. In some situations, incompatible products can  react, ignite or even explode.

When in doubt, it is best to refer to local environmental, health, solid waste or other appropriate government agency for instructions on proper disposal of HHW. Many communities now offer HHW drop-off programs and collection days.


For information regarding Frederick County’s Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Events call: Solid Waste Management at 301-600-2890. Or visit the solid waste management webpage.


The following are some tips for recycling specific materials:

Batteries

Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools. Then there are wet-cell batteries, used to power automobiles, boats and motorcycles.

Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, all of which are environmental contaminants.

One way to reduce the number of batteries in the waste stream is by purchasing rechargeable batteries. Each rechargeable battery may substitute for hundreds of single-use batteries. Rechargeable batteries are also easy to recycle.

Cleaning products

Most antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, dishwasher detergents, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners and toilet/sink/tub/tile cleaners contain toxic ingredients that can seep into groundwater. Not only are most cleaning products bad for the environment, they can be bad for your respiratory health, too. To minimize their negative effects, it is best to dispose of any unused products at a local HHW site.

A better solution may be to buy or make your own greener cleaners. Regular soap is negligibly less effective than antibiotic soap in killing germs and not nearly as bad for the environment. Scrubbing toilets, sinks and tubs with vinegar or lemon juice and baking soda works well. Baking soda and water is also a safe and effective way to clean your oven or carpet.

Check out our Pinterest Board on Green Cleaning:

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Prescription Drugs

Recent press reports have shown that trace amounts of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are showing up in our drinking water. The cause is the expired contents of our medicine cabinets being thrown away or flushed down the drain. An alternate disposal method is checking to see what local pharmacy will take back unused or expired drugs.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) have become popular because of their energy efficiency. While newer CFLs contain lower mercury levels than older lamps, the amount is still too high to simply place bulbs in the trash. Home Depot has a CFL recycling program that allows the return of any unbroken bulbs for free recycling. The recycling of old electronics, also known as e-waste, can be disposed of any many Target, RadioShack, Best Buy, the Home Depot and Lowe’s stores. eCycling is important because most components contain lead, which can contaminate groundwater and become a health hazard.

Paint

Because it is illegal to throw away paint or paint thinner in many states, this material should be taken to an HHW site. It may also be possible to donate useable paint to a local paint store to be remixed or sent to a Habitat for Humanity Restore location.

The Common Market on Rt. 85 has drop-off days during the year for chemical products. Call the store to find out when these events are held: 301-663-3416

Thanks to Dave Golberg, our favorite home inspector for this information packed post on how to dispose of household hazardous waste.

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

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 and improvements 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 federal government provides a solar tax credit, known as the investment tax credit (ITC), that allow homeowners and businesses to deduct a portion of their solar costs from their taxes. Both homeowners and businesses qualify for a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of their solar panel system minus any cash rebates. Learn more about the federal reneable energy tax credits, including the timeline for the eventual end of the ITC in 2022.
  • 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 Chris Highland 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. Bathrooms

(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 enegry consumption of your cooktop.

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.

3. All over the House: 

aWasher and Dryure 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.  www.dsireusa.org )

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 www.geoexchange.us  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 (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 www.epa.gov 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 www.freecycle.org.  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.

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Life Expectancy of Appliances

  • Faucet – 20+ years
  • Toilet – Unlimited with 10-year maintenance on working parts
  • Showerhead – Unlimited
  • Cooktop – Gas, 15 years; electric, 13 years; magnetic induction, 10 years (estimate-they Refrigerator/Freezer — 13 years
  • 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

for more tips, visit www.aceee.org

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

Related Articles:

 

Saving Some Green

Really, am I going on about this green stuff too much?   I don’t think so, because I’m still seeing energy bills and water bills come from my mailbox that make me want to cry.   So I need to take some of my own advice.

Well, Chris and I are not in the place to do any major renovations right now, and our appliances are newer and working just fine.   So here are a few small things that we can all do that will add up.

1. Change to the new  compact fluorescents (CFLs). Each bulb may cost a little more , but will pay for itself in three or four months.   (Just be careful not to break the bulb!)

2. 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.

3.  Buy a programmable thermostat, for $50 to $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.

4.  Install motion detectors.   Only using outside lights when they are neccessary is going to save.

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

 

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

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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.

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