Archive for the ‘Go Green…Save Money’ Category

Homeowners Take Advantage of the Power and Go Solar

solar power panels

A few years ago, Jim Camasto thought about investing $20,000 in the stock market. But instead, Camasto, of Naperville, Ill., spent that money on a ‘greener’ investment—solar power.

Camasto has installed a solar thermal and solar electricity system on his roof, which helps heat and power his home.

His gas use has dropped more than 50%, and his electricity use has dropped about 70%. He sells extra power back to the electricity grid and sells renewable energy credits, which investors buy and trade to support renewable energy projects. His return on his investment is about 3-4% a year.

“Some people say that’s a slow return,” he said. “But I’m willing to bet utility costs are not going down in the next 10-15 years. There’s very little risk. I’m glad I made the investment.”

Although the price of solar panels is falling, the upfront costs of installing a solar power system can still be daunting. But many states have incentives designed to help finance renewable-energy projects in addition to federal tax credits for up to 30% of the cost which are available to homeowners and businesses that buy solar or wind energy systems.

Illinois offers 30% rebates on the total cost of installing solar or wind systems to homeowners and businesses, and 50% rebates for governmental and nonprofits, with a maximum of $50,000, said Marcelyn Love, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. And there are grants available to state and local governments and nonprofits through the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Love said.

Legislation introduced in Illinois would have allowed local governments to give loans to homeowners or business owners for solar installations and allowed them to repay the loans as assessments on their property tax bill. But the bill did not pass.

Mark Burger, president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, said installing solar power is like making a major home improvement, with the cost being roughly equal to adding a new bathroom or remodeling a kitchen.

It’s a buyer’s market, Burger said, and a solar-powered house that promises reduced utility bills for years can be a major selling point. “Developers are realizing that putting solar power on homes to make them more ‘green’ is one of the best ways to help the real estate market,” Burger said.

Source: Gerry Smith (Chicago Tribune) RISMedia


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Remodel your Bathroom the Green Way

bathroom remodeling

If you want to make sure your bathroom remodeling project is as green as possible, here’s how to save energy, conserve resources, and protect your budget.

It’s all about the water

Thinking about greening your bathroom means considering how you use water in terms of consumption and energy. According to the American Water Works Association, your humble toilets are the thirstiest water users in the house, accounting for 27% of consumption. This fact inspired conservation schemes like placing something hefty in the toilet tank to reduce flushing capacity, and those low-flow toilets that too often didn’t flush what needed flushing.

A more successful approach is the dual-flush toilet. It has two flush buttons, one for light work, one for heavy. Long a mainstay in Europe, dual-flush toilets are available in the U.S. for $250–$400, a price in line with top-quality conventional toilets. A dual flush toilet can save 17,000 gallons of water a year—about $50 off your water bill. If you wish to keep your old toilet (a very green decision), you can retrofit it with a dual flush mechanism costing only $70.

The shower is another squanderer of water. Showers use 16% to 20% of a home’s water, most of it heated. The flow rate of a typical showerhead is 2.5 gallons per minute. Switching it out with a low-flow head of 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute still offers adequate cleansing power with a substantial savings in water usage. (If you cherish a really forceful blast of hot water, consider a full-flow showerhead with a lever that lets you shut it off while you lather.)

In addition to conserving water, you’ll want to take a close look at the way your water is heated. Second only to the kitchen, the bathroom is your home’s most intensive energy user, with most of that energy going towards those nice hot showers and baths. Curbing wasted energy can be as simple as adding an insulating blanket to your tank-type heater (reducing energy use by 4% to 9%) and insulating all accessible hot water pipes. In addition, most water heaters are set to 140 degrees; you can turn down the water heater temperature setting to a still-toasty 120 degrees and save up to $60 per year on energy costs.

If your old water heater is nearing the end of its 15-year life cycle and you’re considering investing in a new water heater, you can achieve some handsome energy savings. One smart option is a condensing storage water heater. Using technology similar to that of high-efficiency furnaces, the condensing heater puts nearly every possible BTU into the water instead of sending it up the flue. Currently, a 50-gallon gas unit costs $1,700 (versus $380 for a standard tank-type heater), a price that is expected to drop as demand takes hold. Installation costs are around $400, slightly higher than that of standard units. Those higher costs are offset by a $300 tax credit and an EPA estimated annual fuel savings of more than $100.

A tankless water heater heats water only as it is needed, avoiding the heat loss that occurs with a conventional tank. A unit costs about $2,000 installed, and your annual energy savings will be $70 a year. Be aware that these units take some getting used to; expect a shot of cold water before the hot kicks in.

Move that air

A bathroom remodel is an excellent time to consider installing a new exhaust ventilator fan to remove odors, moisture, and mold spores. Many bathroom fans only vent to the space between ceiling joists, creating an environment for mold and dampness that can damage walls and ceilings. Make sure your new fan vents completely to the outside of your house.
Unfortunately, even properly installed fans that push the moist outdoors can carry away a lot of heated air as well. A clever solution to this problem is a heat-exchange ventilator that uses outgoing air to warm the cold incoming air. Such units cost about $250 uninstalled, twice the price of a standard fan. Whatever fan you have, avoid an on-off switch; it’s too easy to forget to turn it off. Replace it with a timer switch or, better yet, buy a new fan unit with a motion- or humidity-sensing switch.

Selecting green materials

A green bathroom remodel need not stint on style. Classic ceramic tile comes in limitless colors and patterns, and is a green choice due to its low maintenance, durability, and low toxicological impact. Some tiles have high recycled content; recycled glass tiles are a lovely way to do the right ecological thing. Not buying something new can be good green idea too. Consider refinishing your old tub or sink. Use the pros for the best results. Expect to pay $500 for a tub, $300 for a sink. You’ll save as much on installation costs.

LED illumination now produces pleasing light quality in fixtures that sip only 2 to 15 watts, emit little heat, and have a life span of 15–20 years. They cost about three times as much as conventional fixtures but use so little electricity that the payback can be as short as a year.
Paint and vinyl coverings often come loaded with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that threaten indoor air quality. Look for building materials with Green Seal certification. Green Seal is a non-profit, independent organization that certifies products claiming to be environmentally friendly. Low-VOC options in paints and adhesives can be found at your local home center.

Waste not

Much of our landfill (estimates range from 22% to 40%) comes from construction debris. Any steps that reduce landfill potentially reduce the chance of ground water pollution, the odor and unsightliness of a local landfill, and in some cases the high cost of shipping waste elsewhere. Much of the debris that comes from a remodeling tear-out is not salvageable, but old toilets, sinks, light fixtures, medicine cabinets, and vanities can be donated to an organization like Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. In fact, it may be just what someone is seeking for their own green remodeling.

Source: Dave Toht (HomeLogic.com)Dave has written or edited more than 60 books on home repair and remodeling, including titles for The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunset, and Reader’s Digest. A former contractor with decades of hands-on experience. Dave was editor of Remodeling Ideas Magazine and continues to contribute to numerous how-to publications. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a green addition to his Olympia, Wash., home.

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Top 10 Projects that Add Value to your Home

home-remodeling-projects

Learn which home projects add the most value to your home.



#1:  Clean and Conquer Clutter

If you’re on a tight budget, cleaning and decluttering is by far the most cost-effective way to add value to your home. A clean and clutter-free home looks larger and more livable and makes a great first impression on homebuyers. So scrub, dust, mop and vacuum each room until it shines, and while you’re at it, seriously scrutinize your possessions and toss or donate anything you haven’t used in a year. If you’re selling your home, put away your favorite knickknacks and family heirlooms. Buyers want to see a clean, neutral space where they can envision their own belongings.

#2:   Add Insulation

Energy-efficient upgrades have two advantages: they add value to your home, and they save you money in the long run. The most inexpensive way to increase your home’s energy efficiency is to add insulation. Proper insulation can reduce heating and cooling costs as much as 30 percent and make a home feel more comfortable. No matter what your home’s price range, this upgrade will add value and marketability to your home. Call your local utility company to have an energy audit conducted on your home. This can help you determine what areas of your home could use an insulation update.

#3:   Build a Fence

Adding a fence to your property can enhance its appearance, give you extra privacy and add value to your home overall. If you’re trying to sell your home, buyers with children or pets will appreciate this addition. Wood and vinyl are two popular options, but before you start buying supplies, check your local zoning codes and homeowners association rules, if applicable. Some materials may be off limits, and there may be rules on how tall your fence can be.

#4:   Finish the Basement (if you have one)

If you’re willing to take on a major remodeling project, finishing your basement can add value and more usable space to your home. It’s a far more cost-effective way to add living space than adding on a whole new room. First, check for moisture problems in your basement. If your basement is dry enough for finishing, transform the space by adding insulation, flooring, drywall and recessed lighting.

#5:   Repair Gutters

While they’re certainly not a home’s most exciting feature, gutters should be at the top of your list of exterior updates. Gutters keep the rest of your home’s exterior — siding, windows, foundation and doors — free from water damage, so maintaining them is crucial to maintaining your home overall. Start by cleaning gutters of debris, patching holes and securing them in places where they’ve pulled away from the house. If they’re still in bad shape, replace them. Aluminum gutters are a popular option because they’re durable and resistant to rust, while vinyl gutters are inexpensive and fairly easy to install yourself.

#6:   Add Outdoor Lighting

Adding outdoor living space to your home is almost like adding square footage, and more square footage equals more home value. If you have a patio or deck that doesn’t get much use, start making it more welcoming by installing outdoor lighting. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make your home’s outdoor spaces safer and more appealing.

#7:   Tidy Your Lawn & Landscaping

When it comes to adding value to your home, curb appeal is key. A patchy lawn looks sloppy and detracts from your home’s overall appearance. Before you take on any major landscaping projects, start small by getting your lawn in shape. Reseed any bad areas and have the soil tested for any chemicals needed for healthy grass.

#8:   Maximize Storage Space

Real estate professionals agree that ample storage space tops most homebuyers’ wish lists. If your home has a large garage and walk-in closets, you’re in great shape. If not, you can make the most of the storage space you do have with organizers. Closet organization systems employ strategically-placed shelves, drawers and bars to use space efficiently. These systems can be customized to fit most closets, and you can often install them yourself.

#9:   Refresh Fixtures in your Bathroom

Like the kitchen, little changes go a long way when it comes to bathroom updates. Simply replacing old fixtures and hardware can give an outdated bathroom a stylish, contemporary look. If you want to go one step further, consider updating your sink. Vessel sinks that sit directly on top of the vanity are a trendy, modern option.

#10:   Upgrade Appliances in your Kitchen

The kitchen is one room where upgrades almost always bring a large return on investment. However, you don’t have to gut your kitchen and tackle a major remodel to add value. One way to improve your kitchen is to simply replace your old appliances. Stainless steel is the current standard, but you don’t have to buy the $9,000 commercial-quality Viking range or the most expensive Sub-Zero refrigerator. Any updated appliances will look better, run better, and give your kitchen more appeal.

Source: Shannon Petrie from FrontDoor.com



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Going Green: 4 Main Benefits in Any Real Estate Market

Go green in real estate

Going green is the single greatest advantage for any real estate investor in any real estate market.

According to Jim Simcoe, Green Business Strategist of Simcoe Consulting, there are 4 Main Reasons:

Bigger Pockets- Put simply, green properties sell (or rent) faster and for more money. Green properties cost less to operate (usually 30-60% less) and are more valuable. In fact, they appraise average of 10-15% higher than a comparable home according to a study done by SmartMoney in 2008.

Higher Demand- The demand for green properties (SFR, rentals, commercial, multi-family, etc) continues to skyrocket. As consumers become more educated about green living they are more frequently demanding green elements. ‘Green’ used to be only for the tree-huggers. Now it’s for anyone who wants lower utility bills and a healthier, more comfortable place to live or work. The fact that ‘green’ is en vogue right now is a bonus.

Limited Supply- Green homes continue to account for a very small piece of the residential marketplace. Even with builders and rehabbers hopping on the green bandwagon, supply is far less than current demand. It will be several years before this ratio starts to even out.

Free Cash!- Right now there are literally billions of dollars available to real estate investors to either build or rehab green. Money is available through a variety of rebates, incentives, tax credits, etc for all levels of green property upgrades. From $2 lightbulb rebates to $250,000 subsidies for green building, the incentives are there. A great place to find them is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

During any remodel, rehab or new construction, ask yourself:

1. What can I do to make this property operate more efficiently?
2. What can I do to make the building envelop more tighter with less gaps and leaks?
3. What can I do to improve the indoor air quality of this property?
4. What materials would make this property less toxic/healthier?
5. What rebates/incentives/credits are available to subsidize #1-4?

The answers to those questions will create the basis of your strategy for your property. Creating high-performance (re: Green) is as simple as that.


Source: www.JimSimcoe.com


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Put Your Home on a Diet and Earn up to $1,500

energy tax credit $1,500

As part of the New Year’s resolution-making ritual, the Alliance to Save Energy encourages consumers to check out their home’s physical fitness and, depending on its overall state of health, put it on an ‘energy diet.’

How is your Home’s ‘Physical Fitness?’

The “physical fitness” of your home can make the difference between soaring energy bills or comfortable savings this winter. By cutting wasteful energy use, an energy-efficient home is a strong defense against winter winds, rain, sleet, snow, and chill, while also reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and increasing national security.


And Uncle Sam is offering another incentive for putting your home on an energy diet:

A 30% tax credit—a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your income taxes owed—of up to $1,500 during the remainder of 2009 and throughout 2010 for specific energy efficiency home improvements. Details on qualifying products, including insulation and sealing products, highly efficient furnaces, heat pumps, and windows, are available at www.ase.org/taxcredits.


The Alliance offers the following physical fitness tips to help cut your home’s energy bills and increase comfort.

Is Your Home Leaking Energy Dollars?

First plug air leaks. Your heating and cooling dollars could be going out your windows, doors, and electrical outlets. Seal all those air leaks with sealant or caulking and weather stripping.

Then, “insulate” yourself from price shocks. Install appropriate insulation for your climate based on R-values. Start with attic insulation, followed by exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces. Insulate and seal attic air ducts. These first two steps will increase your comfort, make your home quieter, and reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 20%.

Go “window shopping” at www.efficientwindows.org to discover how high-performance ENERGY STAR-labeled windows can cut heating costs by as much as 30% compared to single-pane windows, while increasing indoor comfort and lessening fading of home furnishings.

Improve How You Care for and Heat Your Home
Heating accounts for 31% of the typical home’s energy costs. Sealing and insulating your home, as well as the other energy efficiency measures below, will lower your heating bills, increase your comfort, and decrease your carbon footprint.

Properly maintain your HVAC system. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a semi-annual or yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.

Keep furnace filters clean. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer), and change it if it looks dirty. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm–wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system, which could require expensive maintenance and/or cause early system failure.

Seal your heating and cooling ducts. In a typical house with a forced air system, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers home energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings. Insulate ducts in unheated areas such as attics, crawlspaces, and garages with duct insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher. Also, a well-designed and sealed duct system may make it possible to downsize to a smaller, less costly heating and cooling system that will provide better dehumidification.

Let a programmable thermostat “remember” to lower the heat while your home is empty and/or overnight to reduce heating costs by up to 10%–and allow you to come home and wake up to a toasty, comfortable house.

Have to replace your HVAC equipment? Consider installing ENERGY STAR-qualified heating and cooling equipment. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. And, certain highly-efficient models qualify for the current federal income tax credit.

Open curtains and other window treatments on your west- and south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night.


Replacing or purchasing energy-using and energy-related products?

energy star label Save up to 30% in related energy bills with products earning the ENERGY STAR label, the symbol of energy efficiency, on some 50 product categories, including appliances, electronics, windows, lighting, and home office equipment.

Source: RISMedia and Alliance to Save Energy.


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Going Green: How will it ease the Housing Market Crisis?

Energy Efficiency and Green Building Offer New Hope for Real Estate

going-green-building

There are many changes that are being proposed that are still not addressing the buyer’s mindset.

The question still remains: In this current buyer’s market with low interest rates, why aren’t more people buying homes?

The responses usually are: too much for a home, taxes are too high and job security is an issue. Buyers don’t want an investment that is going south in value. Would you? The state of the real estate market is what is on the line.

Ideas from real estate practitioners are what policy makers, both Democrats and Republicans, need to be seeking. (And don’t ask NAR, the National Association of Realtors — they are just more policy makers.) Ask the people in the trenches – the homeowners, the buyers and the real estate professionals that work with them.

We need to give the buyer reason to buy again. Create better local and federal tax incentives for homeowners to renovate green. A healthier home that comes with lower utility bills and reasonable taxes is an overall better investment. Would you buy a home with a $600 utility bill and taxes at $3,000 – $8,000 a year if your job is at risk or you feel insecure?

Sellers, builders, and renovators need to renovate and produce a product worth buying.

THINK WHAT TAX INCENTIVES TO RENOVATE AND BUILDING GREEN WOULD DO TO THE MARKET!

Then the buyer will come. Then the value of that investment will increase again. Prices and taxes need to be adjusted, big time! Who wants a mortgage at $1100 and another $1100 in taxes and utilities?

The upside is that these tactical moves by government will create a job base building a new energy sector. This will also increase small businesses aimed at these types of renovations, as well as jobs for administrative forces. The company Green Real Estate Education has established a “green leadership” certification program for under $100, offering the real estate agent a new reason to visit their clients, with good news.

This industry needs market transformation. We are educating on how a home can build real value. It is not and will never be business as usual again. We are doing this with education in the field of energy consumption.  Realtors learn how they can guide clients to mortgage professionals whose companies develop programs that can help fund a home to be energy efficient, using renewable energy. That creates better value.

We need to push the mortgage industry to offer “green funding” programs for consumers to have upgraded systems installed in their homes to save on energy costs. The real estate industry needs to know how to save money and create valid reasons to want home ownership again.

I can tell you the real estate market will not recover with just lowering interest rates, or with just a focus on the $700 billion bailout. Buyers want green homes. If a consumer looks at a home today, not only can it not lose value, but it better be energy efficient. It better offer a healthier interior space.

Original article by Kerry Mitchell.


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Green Mortgage – Found Money

money-house2

Green mortgages, or energy efficient mortgages, allow homeowners to use their commitment to the environment to leverage bigger loans. The green mortgage was born in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order directing federally sponsored secondary market institutions to offer consumers incentives for energy-efficient homes. The concept is based on the premise that a more energy efficient home will have lower utility bills. That savings can be considered income, allowing a homebuyer to qualify for a bigger loan.

To apply for one, you’ll need to provide a Home Energy Rating System report. HERS reports indicate that your house meets all energy efficiency guidelines. Homeowners looking to upgrade their home’s energy efficiency can commission a trained Energy Rater to issue a HERS report suggesting efficiency improvements, and estimate the cost of those improvements, as well as the savings. (The cost is usually a few hundred dollars.) A builder can provide proof for a new home.

Original article by The Daily Green Staff.


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