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Articles Tagged "energy efficiency"

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February
12

 

When people put together a home energy checklist, they are usually looking to save a few bucks. Just a simple switch here and a turn of the knob there can add up to literally hundreds of dollars in saved money over the course of a year. For individuals or families who live in places where the climate shifts year-round, it is extremely helpful to keep a checklist handy and go over it every month or so to be sure things are where they should be. 

 

Heating and Cooling

Heat accounts for 38% of energy use for houses on average;  more in some places, and less in others. Small changes to eating habits can bring down astronomical bills and make it more palatable:

  • Check filters: most people forget this regular maintenance check but it is really simple. Set a calendar reminder every month on the same day and time to check the furnace, air conditioner, and heat pump if needed. Note the size of the filters and replacement parts. Keep a spare one handy to make it an easy swap
  • Check thermostats: depending on the system, hundreds of dollars may be saved by setting it properly. A smart thermostat is being used in many homes that can be accessed remotely by phone app to increase or decrease temps when the person is away
  • Heating blanket: lower the thermostat by a few degrees and invest in heating blankets and heavy comforters to stay warm

 

Cooling

If the heating and cooling system are one, many of the same steps apply as above. If not, here are a few simple checks to keep in mind:

  • Close blinds during the summer days to keep cool air in and open again at night
  • Turn off A/C in spring and fall to save money but also air out the home
  • Use small fans or ceiling fans to cool the home rather than A/C
  • Plants can help: go green and be eco-friendly with evergreen shrubs around the home to protect it from cold wind. Plant trees on the south and west sides of the yard for shade and to cool the house in summer

 

Appliance Checks

Appliances can use lots of electricity and heat. Whether it is air or water, heating elements use energy inefficiently. A home checklist helps fix issues with appliances to save money down the road:

  • Check dishwashers to be sure they clean the dishes with a shorter wash cycle
  • Use cold water for laundry to save money
  • Use a toaster oven for quick-heating food rather than fire up the big oven for small-batch cooking
  • Check efficiencies on all heating and cooling appliances in the house to be sure they're functioning at maximum capacity
  • Turn off devices completely when not in use, including televisions, laptops, and other things which often get left 'powered on' and use up precious energy resources

 

A few other quick fixes can include checking light bulbs and switching them out for energy-efficient ones. Also, replace burnt-out bulbs and don't leave house lights on when not at home unless necessary. Keeping everything in working order and efficiently saves hundreds, if not thousands, over the life of a home (and the pocketbook). 

 

Families are going with Choice Properties for their realtor because they can help them find the right home for their needs. Whatever it is you are looking for, we will sit down to do a checklist of what your needs are and what you desire. If you are ready to take the next step in finding that perfect property, call Choice Properties today.

 

May
22

Make Your New Home Energy Efficient

As technology continues to advance we are learning more ways to live efficiently, including within our homes! Families across the nation are making small transitions to practice a more sustainable lifestyle. Making your new home energy efficient comes with a list of personal and environmental benefits, allowing you to save money on utility costs and feel good about your way of living. Follow these tips on making your new home energy efficient to live more green.

Hire a Professional Energy Auditor

Hiring a professional energy auditor is an easy way to examine where wasted energy is coming from your home. A trained auditor will inspect the interior and exterior of your home to identify areas of improvement. This allows you to see small changes needed and the opportunity to save money in the long run.

Update Home Appliances

On average, home appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators make up 20% of your home's electric bill. Replacing outdated appliances with energy efficient components can use anywhere from 10-50% less energy than before, while helping reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Seal All Windows

Winter is the prime season for cold drafts, meaning your heating system has to work harder to keep your home cozy. If your windows allow drafts to sneak in, consider sealing the windows to cover air leaks. This is a simple, easy way to lower energy costs in your home and can be done by most homeowners.

Add Insulation to Attic Space

Having insulation professionally installed in your attic can greatly influence your home's heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks. Of course, the amount of insulation needed depends on the size of your attic, but is a great option to managing the temperature of your home.

Other Ways to Live Efficiently

Swapping outdated appliances for new and sealing windows are useful ways to save money and go green. However, there are still a number of transitions your family can practice. If you're interested in living a more sustainable life consider:

  • Lowering your thermostat
  • Composting organic waste
  • Limit space heater use
  • Unplug cell phone charger and accessories when not using them
  • Limit time in shower





Choice Properties offers you a chance to find the home of your dreams. We work with your budget and ideas in mind to support your ultimate vision. Call us if you are ready to check out the available inventory or to speak with a reputable agent who can assist you with your home buying needs.

August
17

Companies are working hard to bring in extra money for business all the time. Airlines are charging for extras which used to be free (baggage, extra leg room, snacks) and food companies are putting less in packaging for the same or even a higher cost. The bottom line has become more important than meeting consumer needs, in some cases. Consumers may forget this fact when signing a lease for a home. Renters may feel reasonable fees are charged to lease space but forget about itemized charges for utilities and other amenities which add to the total cost. A competitive rental market has driven prices higher than ever before in many urban markets. Learn more about the hidden costs and fees associated with leases and what to look for before signing a lease on the dotted line.

 

Utilities

Tenants tend to overlook amenities and utilities in a lease in a desire to either renew a lease or move into a new apartment. The overall cost of a property can become more than was bargained for if a consumer is not careful. Landlord/tenant laws in each state govern how utilities are billed and what recourse is available when payments are missed or shutoffs occur. Utilities may be included in the overall charge yet other times tenants must pay electric or gas bills. Third-party billing happens when an entire building is metered and the landlord splits charges among all tenants in the building, then bills individually. The charges are usually an add-on the rental charge.

 

City Ordinances

Third-party billing is seen by some states as a deceptive practice. Ordinances such as one in Seattle,  cover all residents living in buildings with three or more units to protect tenants from fraudulent overcharging practices. Some questions can be asked of a landlord prior to signing a lease. The following are just a few a tenant may ask about add-on fees:

  • Ask about utility service before signing a lease

  • Set up utility accounts quickly

  • Pay utility bills promptly and document payments

  • Take steps to protect self from landlord

  • Act immediately for better dispute resolution

 

Hidden Charges

Landlords in a competitive rental market may increase fees based on supply and demand which is cause for even more awareness around hidden fees. Additional fees may include:

  • Pets

  • Separate parking fee

  • Application fee (with approval or not)

  • Condos or HOAs may charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units

  • Cable TV, internet may be billed through HOA or the landlord

  • Security deposit payments

  • Pre-paid fees (first and last month's rent due on move-in)


The best way to protect oneself in the rental market is to be a savvy consumer, know rights afforded tenants and don't sign anything without asking questions and reading the paperwork. Advocacy organizations and state agencies provide information to consumers. Lawyers are also available who specialize in landlord/tenant law to provide support and dispute resolution.

 

Get more advice on spotting those hidden costs in your lease.

Contact one of our agents today.

August
10

Purchasing a second home can be a big step. Whether seeking a cabin in the woods, a getaway beach home or modern condo in the city, buying another property is a big decision. Here's how to know if now is the time to buy.

 

Affordability

Assessment of personal finances is critical in determining whether to purchase a second home. Beyond the cost of a second mortgage are other financial issues such as what interest is charged on a second mortgage. It may also depend if the home will be rented out as lenders consider rental properties a higher risk than those listed as primary residences. Other factors may include:

  • Insurance

  • Property taxes

  • Ongoing costs such as utilities (water, electric, gas, trash removal, etc)

  • Unexpected maintenance charges such as landscaping

  • Cost to hire a property manage to check on the property while away

 

Location

Having a property by the beach may sound great but it may not be a great investment. Some things to consider include:

  • Ability to visit the second home as often as desired

  • If not used as a rental, will home get used enough to make it worth the investment

  • Decide where is the ideal location before buying and whether it is affordable versus the time that will be spent using the property before purchase

 

Investigate

Chat with the insurance company to see what is next after finding the general area in which to buy a second home. Begin by speaking with the current insurer with whom a relationship is already established. A better rate may be available for multiple lines (existing home, cars, etc). Better rates may not necessarily be more inexpensive. If potential new property is prone to flooding, insurance rates may be higher. Homes with swimming pools also have higher rates as do pools with no fence or gate which may not have coverage available at all.

 

Find the Home

After all possible expenses are accounted for and a neighborhood is identified, contact a real estate agent to get started. Once settled, soak in the benefits of the new home. A vacation in the comfort of one's own home is a true luxury. When time is spent with family and friends in the new home, the cost savings will become apparent compared to vacation rentals. Privacy and no crowds (like in hotels) are another added bonus of having one's own property. Financial benefits may exist in the long term even if the property is not rented out. Tax benefits may help lessen the financial burden. A vacation home is a space to unwind, relax and enjoy time with loved ones. Soak it in and enjoy the new home.

 

Get more advice on the steps that you need to take to owning a second home.

Contact one of our agents today.

June
23

A home which provides eco-friendly features can sell well in today's market. Geothermal systems, solar panels, Energy Star-rated appliances and LEED certification go far when selling a home. Home builders and sellers of upgraded homes that provide 'green' features spend a fair amount but whether a prospective buyer cares about it depends on many factors. Learn what the factors are and how to position a home with 'green' features for the marketplace.

 

Feature, Fixture or Finish

Prospective homeowners look for features to touch, feel and show off to friends and family. Spa-like bath, media room or a chef's kitchen all have buying power. A buyer may not necessarily pay extra when it comes to home improvements that cannot be seen (such as the roof, boiler or new plumbing). Green features fall somewhere in the middle. A buyer may pay extra for 'cool features' such as an energy-saving thermostat which can be controlled from a mobile phone but will not necessarily pay extra for reclaimed hardwood and unique air filtration systems.

 

Savings

A consumer will not spend a huge chunk of money on a home but if a green home means savings, short term or down the road, buyers usually listen. Resale value such as a high-tech thermostat or remodeled kitchen can present a great scenario for buyers who receive value from the feature while also having built-in equity.

 

Green vs. No Green

Most buyers will make a cost-benefit analysis with new constructions. With extra cost must come extra value to the consumer in the form of an immediate tax credit or other benefit to make the purchase worthwhile. The cost of a new system which provides such benefits and requires zero out of pocket cost has great curb appeal. A buyer is able to realize savings in lower energy bills and savings over the long term but not everyone wants to pay for green features, regardless of savings. Overall, buyers who plan to be in the home a shorter time have less to benefit from the cost savings than those who plan to stay long term. A future buyer likely will not pay extra, especially in a down market.

 

Growing Market

Some new buyers are concerned for the environment and want to give back, financial features of a home notwithstanding. Whether or not the features are cool is not significant as an environmentally friendly focused buyer will pay extra anyways.


Green features are becoming a mainstay in the housing market. Today's consumer likes to see some of the features when shopping to consider environmental impact alongside cost savings. This, weighed against particular real estate decisions, can ultimately add up with personal considerations such as location, floor plan, number of bedrooms and, of course, green features. All of the above add up to choices worth prioritizing when searching the market for that perfect home.

 

Get more advice on ways you can get started on creating an Eco-Friendly home.

Contact one of our agents today.

November
20

According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), heat gained by solar energy can be reduced by as much as thirty-three percent when homeowners simply hang medium-colored drapes backed with white plastic. The next time you think about new window treatments, consider the fact that you could actually be paying for them with the money you'll save.

Here are some money saving window treatments for your consideration:

 

Shades

When properly installed, window shades are the most effective, and simplest, treatment to save energy. A tight seal, which minimizes both heat gain and loss, is created when shades are mounted as close to the glass as possible. Shades with dual-sided two-toned fabric (a light color on one side and a darker on the other) add seasonal functionality. Light color reflects heat in summer, while dark will absorb heat during winter.

Best place to install: Because window shades are so flexible, any window orientation is suitable.

 

Blinds

Blinds are a great option for reducing heat gain by up to forty-five percent (when using reflective blinds closed against direct sun). Both interior and exterior blinds are functional as well as able to maintain desired light, ventilation, and privacy. Because exterior blinds block heat before it can be transmitted through the window, they are potentially even more effective than interior blinds. However, they are not easy to install so are usually reserved for new builds.

Best place to install: Windows facing south or west.

 

Drapes

Depending on the fabric weight and color you choose, drapes help insulate your home from both solar heat gain and loss. A tight seal is recommended the best performance. When hanging drapes, you'll want to install them as close to the window as possible, preferably from a cornice or right up to the ceiling down to the floor.

Best place to install: Anywhere because of their flexibility.

 

Awnings

If your home is in an area with continual high temperatures, awnings may be perfect for you. Besides adding personality to your home, these treatments are an excellent defense against the sun. Exterior awnings have reduced solar heat gain by up to sixty-five percent for south-facing windows and seventy-seven percent for west-facing windows.

Ideal locations: Windows facing south or west.

Features to consider:

  • Opaque and tightly woven fabric blocks sun better than flimsy fabrics

  • Light-colored awnings reflect more sunlight than dark

  • Awnings can trap hot air next to windows, so the DOE recommends openings for ventilation

  • Retractable awnings will allow sunlight to reach inside the house during colder months

 

Roof Overhangs

Similar to an awning, a roof overhang will not only will block solar heat in summer, but will allow heat to warm your interior in winter—if designed properly. You'll want to consult an architect or a designer experienced in passive solar design who will consider several factors, like latitude, climate, and window size, to help you design your overhang(s).

Ideal locations: South-facing windows.

 

High Reflectivity Film

Areas with short winters often rely on high reflectivity film. The film reduces heat gain all year long, including in winter months, which might actually benefit from solar heat. It's typically installed in rooms where cooler temperatures are desired.

Best place to install: Windows facing east or west.

 

Mesh Window Screens

By diffusing solar radiation, mesh window screens are able to reduce heat gain. Energy saving experts suggest installing the screens to an exterior frame where they can cover the entire window.

Best place to install: Windows facing east or west.

 

For more tips on how to improve your windows

and window treatments contact one of our agents.