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Category Archives: Home Maintenance and Renovation

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

Home Improvement ROI

Home Improvement ROI

Home improvement ROI is an important subject for homeowners to research. Frederick homeowners are renovating their homes for several reasons in today’s real estate market. Many owners who purchased since the early to mid- 2000’s have been resigned to stay in their homes because they owe more than the house is presently worth. They realize that since they will be staying in their home for a while, they might as well make improvements that they will enjoy.

Others are improving their homes to make them more market ready when they decide to sell. Either way, it’s always a good idea to maintain and repair your home at all times during the years that you own it. When upgrading a home, it is always wise to keep with the standard of the neighborhood, or of comparable homes in your market, if you are concerned about return on investment.

Whatever the reason, making careful and thoughtful decisions about home improvement ROI is very important if you want to get the highest return. Generally, home improvements do not bring the full return of the cost at the sale of the home, but some improvements bring a better return than others. Some improvements are simply necessary to make the home more attractive to today’s buyers.appraisal changes

Cost Vs. Value in Remodeling Projects

Remodeling Website has published the 2017 Cost Vs. Value Study results, comparing the average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets. The cost-value ratio was 64.3%. This ratio shows the resale value as a percentage of construction cost. The average remodel regained 64.3% of the cost in the sale of the home.  (The highest ratio was 86.7% in 2005.)

See the Remodeling Website for the full list of projects and the ROI of each. You’ll also find how-to articles, products and  lots of other resources. There are good articles about aging in place and renovations that might be necessary, as well as simple solutions that might not require a full renovation. Universal Design is a newer topic in the Cost Vs. Value Study, as more boomers are choosing to age in place.

Minor renovations usually net a higher ROI than major renovations. The improvements that got close to 100% return on investment were:

  • Attic Insulation (fiberglass) 85% – 123%
  • Garage Door Replacement 89% – 102%
  • Minor Kitchen Remodel 80%
  • Manufactured Stone Veneer 81 – 92%
  • Steel Entry Door Replacement 84%
  • Siding Replacement 82%

The improvements that got the lowest ROI:

  • Bathroom Addition: 42% – 44%
  • Master Bedroom Addition: 52% – 54%
  • Backyard Patio: 53%
  • Backup Power Generator: 46.5%
  • Major Kitchen Remodel: 54%

Remodeling Projects For the Home – Return on Investment

As you can easily see by this report not all home improvement ROI is equal. In most, but not all cases higher end improvements got a lower return on investment than improvements in the mid-range cost.

Some remodeling projects get a better ROI than others, and some projects help sell a home more than others, regardless of the ROI. Some home improvements are absolutely necessary to get the highest sale price for a home. How does a homeowner navigate the home improvement waters?

Considerations When Renovating

While the cost vs. payback factor is important in planning renovation projects, it shouldn’t be the only consideration. For homeowners who are renovating to be able to age in place or who need to care for an elderly family member, or remodel for a home office so they don’t have to commute, other issues may be more important than return on investment. For some projects, the satisfaction and quality of life while living in a house that you love is the main priority.

Homeowners should always consider the trends in their market, in their neighborhood and in their comparative price range. Renovating far above the standard of homes in your area may produce features in your that you absolutely love, but you should understand that you won’t likely get the return on investment that would make the renovations the best financial decision. In that case, make sure that you are doing renovations only for your own enjoyment.

Avoid Over Improvement

After 25 years of working with home sellers in the central Maryland area, it is always a challenge to interact with homeowners  who have spent too much money on the wrong renovations and home improvements, expecting to get their money back on those expenditures when they sell their home.

If you are planning a renovation, do yourself a favor and consult your local real estate professional before you take the plunge. Find out what today’s buyers are looking for, as well as what home improvements are trending in your market. You’ll save yourself some money and you’ll be confident that you are investing wisely. Getting the highest home improvement ROI is a wise move.


Find Out What Your Maryland Home is Worth


 

Taking Care of Basement Moisture Problems – Leaky Pipes

Taking Care of Basement Moisture Problems – Leaky Pipes

Basement Moisture Problems

When is it a leaking pipe and when is it condensation? Generally speaking, if a pipe leaks constantly, there is probably a small fissure or defect in the pipe itself, causing moisture to escape.

If a pipe leaks intermittently or stops leaking during dry weather, it is probably a condensation problem. Ground moisture can force its way through almost any basement floor or wall, and into the air. Once the moisture is circulating in the air, it will eventually reform as water droplets, clinging to exposed pipes.

One of the easiest ways to prevent condensation on pipes is to prevent moist air from reaching them in the first place. This can be done by wrapping pipes in plastic foam pipe wrap. This foam can come in sheets or as ready-to-use aerosol spray that dries to a hard, white coating that can be painted or primed. Insulating hot water pipes is also a good idea to help prevent heat loss and save on energy.

Once the plastic foam has been installed, seams need to be wrapped with duct tape. It is usually best to wrap all exposed pipes to eliminate this source of moisture collection. If wrapping all pipes is too extensive a project, the best advice is to wrap as much surface area as possible. The less piping that is exposed to the ari,he less condensation that will occur.

In the past, homeowners used fiberglass pipe wrap to deal with dampness. Unfortunately, fiberglass material is not waterproof, and actually absorbs water. Over time it can harbor mold and mildew. Adding a plastic vapor barrier to fiberglass wrap is a cumbersome and time-consuming process, it is most effective to use the plastic foam products.

While moisture may be greatly reduced, it is almost impossible to eliminate it entirely from the basement. To lessen humidity, and decrease damage to furniture, stored items and air quality, a dehumidifier can help. Basement moisture problems don’t have to be significant to require action, so staying on top of issues will keep a homeowner from facing larger problems down the road.

Thanks for the guest post from:

David Goldberg –  Home Inspector


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

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

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

 

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

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

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, 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 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.  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
  • 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 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

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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.

 

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