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Category Archives: Green Home

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

Are Solar Panels Worth the Investment in My Maryland Home?

Are Solar Panels Worth the Investment in My Maryland Home?

Residential Solar Panels in Maryland

What You Need to Know

Many studies have shown that solar panels can generate half the energy needed in a typical home. Even though their efficiency is not in question, there are many issues surrounding residential solar panels that should cause Maryland homeowners to pause and ask, are solar panels worth the investment?

Eight Points to Understand About Solar Panels

1. Buyers are willing to pay more

Buyers are willing to pay more for a home with solar generated energy. Several surveys and studies over the last decade have shown the increasing interest in green home technologies, including solar panels, or photovoltaic (PV) systems. One of the largest studies was done by Berkeley Labs, an electricity markets and policy group, sponsored by the Department of Energy. The 9th edition of the Tracking the Sun report concludes, among many things, that buyers are willing to pay on average 4% panels

Keep in mind that buyer sentiments differ in various parts of the country. In areas where energy costs are significantly high, buyers are eager to purchase a home with energy efficient systems and features. Also, in areas of the country where the climate is ideal, like the West and Mid-west, and the Southeastern states, solar panels are much more efficient and more in demand.

2. Among other things, the Cost of Installation Effects Demand

The cost of installation has decreased since 2008, according to the above-mentioned Tracking the Sun report. This is partly due to the decrease in costs which happens over time, and also due to the increase in incentives like tax credits and rebates, as well as the rise of third-party owned systems that lease panels to homeowners. Leasing has brought the cost of installation down significantly over the last decade.

Over the last 20 years, solar panels have become more efficient as new technologies have come to the industry. Understandably, the cost of solar panel installation is lower on new home construction than it is in a retrofit for an older home. In the last few years, PV systems for new construction have become smaller and more efficient. At this point in the solar industry, purchasing solar technology on a new home makes good sense.

solar panelsGovernment initiatives have brought the cost of PV systems down. The Maryland Energy Administration backs the state government’s “EmPOWER Maryland” initiative, working to reduce energy consumption by 15%. As part of the initiative, Maryland’s five utilities offer many programs to help homeowners save on energy costs, including Renewable Energy Credits (REC) and a Residential Clean Energy Grant Program. Check to see if your state has incentives.

There may also be Federal incentives for solar energy systems. One of the most well-known incentives is the the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a federal 30 percent renewable energy tax credit, which has been extended by Congress through 2019.

3. Appraisers and Lenders Enter the Picture

Buying and selling real estate complicates what seems like a simple issue…buyers want them, homeowners want them, people who love the planet want them, and we all like the effect solar panels have on our energy costs. But the tricky part comes when the appraiser needs to determine if they add value or not, and the lender needs to agree with the value-add.

Appraisers and lenders have been trying to catch up with solar technology, along with other energy-saving features, in terms of calculating the effect, or lack of, on home values in any given market. Any time new items or features enter the picture, appraisers need time to see their effect on the market. Lenders need even more time to make sure the value is really there.

Fannie Mae Weighs In on Solar Panels

As of mid-2014, according to the Berkeley Labs report, more than a half-million homes had solar systems. Fannie Mae has used the findings of the report to begin to work on guidelines for appraisers, and by extension lenders, to consider solar systems. If a house has an owned solar system the appraiser should analyze the system and the market to see if it adds value. So, at least the ball is rolling on the process of determining value.

In the end, the only thing that matters is if the lender sees value….

“Remember the Golden Rule – He who has the gold makes the rules.”

4. Do Solar Panels Add Value?

The answer depends. If PV systems are purchased by the homeowner, they certainly may add value, depending on several things: the area of the country and their efficiency, depending on demand, depending on lenders and loan products, and depending on whether they save significantly on energy.

Green home improvements are on the rise, and in general, do get a higher sales price, according to many studies, as this Realtor Magazine article points out: Do Green Homes Fetch Higher Sales Prices? Green features include many things, like dual-paned windows, energy-efficient appliances, geo-thermal heated floors, low-flow faucets and toilets, and certifications from programs such as Energy Star or LEED. But among the many green items, most are more affordable and not as extensive as solar panels.

Don’t Forget Appearance

solar shingles
Solar Roof Tiles

One point that often gets overlooked is the simple aspect of aesthetics. Some solar panels, particularly the blue panels, which happen to be the least expensive, well…they’re just plain ugly. Depending on where your home is located concerning direct sunlight, solar panels can be an eyesore. There goes your curb appeal.

If the solar panels are leased, as is increasingly popular due to cost, they do not add value to the home. The PV system belongs to the third-party company in this case, not to the homeowner.

They may even end up decreasing your net return. Let me explain.

5. Lease Vs. Purchase of Solar Panels in Real Estate

The cost of installing a PV system can run between $15,000 and $20,000 in most places in the country. That is a lot of money upfront. Sometimes it can be financed, but that is often cost prohibitive. Many companies offer a lease contract which usually lasts 15 years or more.

Leasing solar panels has made them much more affordable for the average homeowner, which has contributed to the recent growth in the industry.

6. Buyers May Balk

The problem comes when a homeowner tries to sell their home with a leased solar panel system. Many home buyers are wary of buying a home with a solar panel lease. They either aren’t keen on having to take over the lease payments, or they aren’t keen on going through the credit requirements of the solar company.

As solar technology gets better all the time, sometimes the solar panels a homeowner leased 5 or 10 years ago have been eclipsed by the latest technology in the industry. Some buyers don’t want to be saddled with outdated PV systems.

7. Sellers May Pay More

We’re hearing more and more lately about sellers not being able to get their home sold because of problems with leased PV systems. Transactions fall apart over disputes about a leased system. Some sellers end up buying out the remainder of the lease just to get their home sold.

8. If You’re Considering Solar Panels – Do Your Research

  • Do the math. If you might end up moving before you finish out the lease, or before you recoup the expense of the purchase, it doesn’t make financial sense. Here’s a solar savings calculator.
  • How old is your roof? If you get a solar system and need to replace your roof in five or ten years, the cost will be much greater to remove the panels and then replace them on the new roof.
  • Get a complete financial analysis from several solar companies. Make sure to research municipal, state and Federal incentives.
  • Read the paperwork. Make sure you understand the lease or purchase contract with the solar company. If you need to transfer the lease, make sure it can be accomplished without a lot of hassle.

Solar companies will gladly tell you in their sales presentation that solar panels certainly add value to your home. And they will usually come up with an option to make them affordable. But when it comes to buying and selling the home, there are many more complications. So do your homework!

Additional Reading:

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Need A Real Estate Agent in Your City? We Can Refer a Great Agent!

Chris Highland, Broker eXp Realty Maryland
Cell:  301-401-5119  Broker:  888-860-7369

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:


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:



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.


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

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.





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,   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 Dryer – Low water washers are common today and save a lot of money on the water bill, while still cleaning clothes. Today’s dryers often have a moisture sensor that shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.

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

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

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

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

TIP:  The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old appliances is to donate them.  In our area, you can donate to Frederick Building Supply, or to Peace and Plenty,

on South Street.  Or, you can join Freecycle at  Reliable Junk, now on 8005 Reichs Ford Road is also a great resource to recycle.

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

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


Life Expectancy of Appliances

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

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.


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. 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 homes are in demand

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.

🌿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 by Lancaster Craftsmen, a Middletown builder. Net-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 even though green homes are in demand these days, the market demand for green homes is expected to rise even more. 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.

🌿Smart Home Technology

Many of today’s smart home technologies are designed to add energy efficiency as well as green homes are in demandtechnological convenience to the home. Technology in the home is also helping homeowners have a better living environment by quantifying air quality and keeping indoor temperatures steady.

The Nest Learning thermostat and the Alexa Echobee are just two examples of the ability homeowners have to make the thermostat do several automations, such as control smart devices, shop, play music, and hear the latest news and weather, all using Alexa voice commands. Smart home devices include security, lighting control, appliance control, cleaning and a lot more to make living convenient.

🌿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. As green homes are in demand, 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.

🌿Green Home Updates

Since green homes are in demand, making occasional green updates to your home will add value and keep you home current with newer homes. Just 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, where evidence is mounting that green homes are in demand.

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  2088
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322

Contact Chris Highland for our list of home builders in Central Maryland and learn about the benefits of buyer representation in your new home build.

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
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

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.

Related Articles:

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

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.

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