Energy

11 Summer Maintenance Tips for Your Home

Summertime is the perfect time to relax and stop worrying about muddy footprints, snow removal, and other problems. Unfortunately, it's also a great time to catch up on, or keep up on, maintenance of your home. Winters in Vermont can be brutal, and it seems like we haven't seen the sunshine since summer began. Making sure your gutters are clean, your roof is leakproof, and taking some time to deep clean your carpets, can do wonders for a house that's been put through the ringer. Jaymi Naciri, from Realty Times, brings us 11 things you should at least consider looking at this summer.

  1. Clean out your Gutters - This is a given, you want rain water to be able to drain efficiently off your roof, specifically into an area that it's supposed to.
  2. Deep Fridge Cleanout - We're all guilty of forgetting something that has been in the fridge for a little too long. Maybe something spilled and left a sticky mess, the point is, it get's gross, really fast. The easiest way to stay on top of cleaning your fridge is to schedule a time each month or so to keep up with it.
  3. Change batteries in your Smoke Detector - Another very important thing to keep up on, your smoke detector is there to keep you safe. Make sure it's functioning properly so you know you can depend on it in an emergency.
  4. Change your Filters - This is especially important if you have allergies. An overused filter will allow more dirt, pollen, dust, and other allergens to enter your home.
  5. Deep Clean your Carpets - As a pet owner, I know how dirty carpets can get in just a short amount of time and a simple vacuum isn't always going to cut it. Stains and smells can set into your carpet and you may not even notice because you become desensitized to it. Do yourself, and anyone who visits your home a favor and do a deep clean. You can usually rent one at a local supermarket.
  6. Have your Air Conditioning Unit Serviced - Air conditioners work better and last longer if they are regularly serviced and cleaned. If it's not working at it's best, it could be racking up your electricity bill.
  7. Check your Deck - Your deck stands strong through all the seasons but that doesn't mean it shouldn't get a little TLC. Harsh rain and snow can do a number on it so you should keep an eye out for loose planks, nails, and possible rotting. Putting a fresh coat of sealant may be required.
  8. Shower Heads - This can be a place many of us don't think to look but you don't want to miss it. Bacteria and soap scum can build up and eventually affect the flow of your shower. Check out Wikihow's two methods of cleaning a removable and non-removable shower head.
  9. Dryer Vent - This is a must for keeping your house safe. Dryer lint is a highly flammable substance that accumulates after each use. It's best to empty this after every load to be safe. 
  10. Check the Roof - A long winter or rainy season can leave your roof needing a little touch-up. Check for any loose tiles or shingles to help prevent leaks
  11. Do a Leak Check - To save water, make sure to check hoses and faucets for leaks. Even a small drop adds up to a lot of water over time.

 

 

Homes with High Standards

Green building practices and Energy Star ratings are growing in importance among home buyers and home builders, alike. Paul Arnot, of Arnot Development Group in Waterbury, is a respected builder who understands the importance of green design and technology. Arnot is well known for his Waterbury Commons village community, which meets the Energy Star criteria. It is a close-knit neighborhood that embodies the term "community."

"The Blue Energy Star on a new home means it was designed and built to standards well above most other homes on the market today. When Energy Star's rigorous requirements are applied to new home construction the result is a home built better from the ground up, delivering better durability, better comfort, and reduced utility and maintenance costs," according to Energy Star.

Not only do Waterbury Common homes earn the Energy Star rating, but other aspects of the community fit nicely in the sustainability category of being in close proximity to public transit, and walkable to many village amenities like shopping, restaurants, library, schools and recreational venues.

For more information on Waterbury Commons, visit waterburycommonsvt.com

Super Easy DIY Tips for Saving on Winter Heating

Vermont winters are a force to be reckoned with. With mornings in the negative double digits, your home heating bill can shoot through the roof. This article, by Jaymi Naciri, points out some steps you can take to combat raising your heating costs. 

Have you taken steps to winterize your home this year? It's not too late to take a look at all the nooks and crannies (Seriously, you should start with the nooks and crannies since they're probably letting all that cold air in and the hot air out!) and make some easy, DIY changes.

Time Money reports that 45% of the average household's energy bill goes to heating. "According to the Department of Energy, heating is the largest expense in the average American home," they said. Have natural gas heating? The average cost of heating your home from October through March is $649. That number goes to $938 for those with electric heating, they said. A little time and effort can make a big difference in how efficiently your home runs - and how high (or not) your winter bills soar.

Change out your filters

You should be doing this on a regular basis, anyway, but, if it's been awhile, it's time to hit Home Depot. New filters help your HVAC system to run more efficiently, which can mean lower heating bills and a heater that lasts longer.

Close up leaks around doors and windows

"A one-eighth-inch" gap under a 36-inch-wide door... will let in as much cold air as a 2.4-inch-diameter hole punched in the wall," said Time: Money. That's a lot of air coming in and a lot of money going out.

Draft guards under doors can plug those holes for a minimal cost ($10–15). For doors and windows, weather stripping tape is cheap, easy, and effective at sealing holes. Still drafty? "Any remaining gaps in siding, windows, or doors can be filled with caulk," said Bob Vila. "For extra drafty windows and doors, caulk the inside too, pulling off moldings to fill all gaps in the insulation. Cost: $20 for a basic caulk gun and $5 to $10 for a tube of caulk."

Cover your windows

Taking care of the leaks around the windows is only half the battle. Heat loss through the windows themselves can also be costly. Insulated drapes can help, and so can insulation film applied directly to the windows. "It may not be the most fashionable tip, but window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of windows," said Bob Vila. "Cost: $20 to $35 per kit."

Switch your fans

Most fans come with a reverse switch, but many people don't know what it's for. Turns out, your fan can actually help you feel cozy in the winter and give your heater a bit of a break. "Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades," said Popular Mechanics. "Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes, while switching to clockwise makes it warmer. Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space—cutting your heating costs as much as 10 percent!"

Banish the exhaust fans

Do you usually flip on the exhaust when you're cooking dinner, taking a shower, or running your laundry? Eliminating this one action could save you money.

"An exhaust fan blows the warm air in your house outside, dropping the temperature of your home as that air is replaced with cooler air," said The Simple Dollar. "Even worse, exhaust fans are usually blowing out moist air, which does a better job of holding the temperature. Instead of flipping on the exhaust fan when you take a shower, just leave the bathroom door open. This allows the warm air to naturally flow into the rest of the house, bringing the warmth of your shower along with it."

Lower the temps

It's no secret that the higher your thermostat is in the winter, the higher your heating costs. But did you know just how much you can save by going lower? "Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees," said the Consumer Energy Center. "For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or off at night or when leaving home for an extended time, saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs."

That goes for hot water heaters, too. "Set your water heater to the "normal" setting or 120-degrees Fahrenheit, unless the owner's manual for your dishwasher requires a higher setting," they said. "Savings are 7-11 percent of water heating costs."

To read the original article click here.

10 Fall Home Improvement Tips

This article, written by Vicki Payne, gets you thinking of some important projects to consider. The cold months always seem to require some home alterations, especially when you're living in Vermont, known for its unpredictable weather. These tips can help you save money on your home heating bill as well as give a general face-lift to some things you might have ignored for too long. There's nothing worse than a disaster that could have been easily prevented with a little forethought.  

Now that summer gear has been stowed away, it's time to focus on fall home improvement projects. According to Vicki Payne, host of the For Your Home with Vicki Payne television show, autumn is the key time to evaluate your home exterior and prepare it for the harsh winter months ahead.

"With cooler fall weather comes the realization that your home will soon experience cold, snowy weather," says Payne, a nationally recognized home improvement expert on the country's longest running home and garden television show. "To get your house ready, start by giving your exterior a thorough review. Everything should be checked, cleaned up and made ready to handle Mother Nature when she comes blowing in within the next few months."

Payne recommends this checklist for exterior fall home improvement projects:

Tip #1 - Evaluate your roof. Look for missing or loose shingles, deterioration of asphalt shingles along with mold, algae or splitting of real wood shingles. If the roof is in poor shape, consider upgrading to a synthetic roof, like those from DaVinci Roofscapes®. The composite shake and slate products resist fire, impact, high winds, insects, and mold, making them an ideal long-term investment for a home.

Tip #2 - Clean your gutters. Get leaves and gunk out now so that gutters won't get backed up, clogged and frozen in the winter, causing ice formations. Gutters should be securely attached to the home and sloped for proper drainage. Also, check to make sure all downspouts are clean and connected.

Tip #3 - Check your siding and trim. Make sure there are no rotting boards or insect infestations in any wood exterior products. Determine if a new paint job is needed before the winter weather hits. Should these items need replacement, research man-made low-maintenance products, like James Hardie® fiber cement siding or Ply Gem® PVC trim as reliable replacement options for key exterior parts of the home.

Tip #4 - Evaluate the deck. If your deck has seen its last summer party, look at replacing it before the winter with either a Western Red Cedar deck or composite decking from TAMKO®. Both products stand up extremely well to all types of weather and will make you happy to step out onto the deck every time.

Tip #5 - Check the functionality of your garage door. You're in and out of your garage door many times each day. Make sure it's functioning properly and has strong air infiltration seals to help keep energy bills down. If you're ready for a new look or a harder-working garage door, consider the steel and aluminum options from Haas Door.

Tip #6 - Seal up the windows. Make sure your windows have strong weather-stripping in place with energy-efficient glass that is still working. If it's time to upgrade your windows, investigate those with ENERGY STAR® ratings to help keep your home warmer during the winter months.

Tip #7 - Consider a privacy window upgrade. Tired of closing blinds or shades to gain privacy in your bathroom or bedroom? Think about replacing key windows with decorative glass or acrylic block privacy windows. Available from Hy-Lite in both operable and fixed styles, these windows add a beautiful accent to a room while protecting your privacy.

Tip #8 - Check out your doors. As with windows, your entry doors should have weather stripping that's not worn out around the entire opening. This helps keep drafty cold air out of your house during winter months.

Tip #9 - Secure or replace railings. Loose or unstable railing systems can be dangerous. Check all balusters, handrails and elements of front and back rail systems to assure they're functioning properly. If it's time for a replacement, consider a new look by adding cable rails or glass balustrades from Fortress Railing Products.

Tip #10 - Spend time with your landscaping. Once the leaves have fallen, get out the rakes. Remove dead leaves and underbrush around the house and garden area before the snow falls. Re-mulch key landscaping areas. Trim back trees and bushes away from the house to get your home ready for winter snows.

"Home ownership means continually maintaining the exterior elements of a house," says Payne. "With its cooler weather, autumn is the ideal time to evaluate, upgrade and improve those key exterior elements to assure your home is ready for the winter months ahead."

To read the original article click here.

5 Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades

5 Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades

Now, more than ever, people are looking for energy efficient homes and buildings when making a new real estate decision. Living in Vermont, we all know the high cost of heating during our volatile winters. While solar panels are an excellent way to help the environment and save on your heating and energy bills it can be a big, and costly commitment. We found an article by Gold Metal Service that highlights some different ways to upgrade your home or building that won't break the bank. 

Did you know that the energy used by homes in the U.S. accounts for almost one-quarter of the country's overall energy consumption? Or that the average household spends upwards of $2,200 a month on utilities?

Improving your home's energy efficiency can be accomplished in several ways, ranging from inexpensive upgrades to out-of-bounds costly overhauls.

"From whole-home energy audits to simply swapping out a water-guzzling toilet, there are dozens of ways homeowners can make their homes more energy-efficient," says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service. "Even a few small changes can have a big impact on energy consumption, helping the Earth and helping to lower energy bills at the same time."

Agugliaro recommends homeowners start with these five upgrades:

1. Ceiling Fans

Installing ceiling fans in your home is a low-cost way to reduce energy consumption. On hot days, ceiling fans can cut cooling costs by up to 40 percent, and on colder days, they help circulate air, saving you up to 10 percent on heating costs.

2. LED Lights

Swap out incandescent light bulbs for ENERGY STAR®-qualified LED lights--you'll consume a whopping 75 percent less energy! LED lights also last up to 50 times longer than incandescent ones, and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones, saving you the expense of replacement.

3. Smart Thermostat

Programmable thermostats can instantly make your heating and cooling system more efficient. The latest models allow you to set temperatures for different times of day, so you aren't paying to heat or cool your home when no one is there.

4. Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters--sometimes called "on-demand"--heat water as needed. ENERGY STAR® tankless water heaters can reduce your annual water costs by up to 30 percent. They last nearly 20 years--double the lifespan of a traditional hot water heater.

5. Whole-Home Energy System

The average home is hit with over 20 energy spikes each day. These can wreak havoc on your energy bills. Prevent them from occurring with a home energy management system with surge protection.

For those who want a hand improving the energy efficiency of their homes, an HVAC, plumbing and electrical professional can assess current energy usage and recommend ways to make the home more efficient.

To read the original article click here

 

Citizen Lead Development

You can be involved in the design and building of your next home, neighborhood, town or city. Alastair Parvin begs us to reconsider the way that our homes and communities are built and offers solutions for ways that the average citizen can get involved in the process. Check out this WikiHouse project and imagine your next home. Click here to see available land in Vermont that matches your new vision.

 

Dream Green Kitchen

Create Your Dream Green Kitchen

Family Features--Today's newly remodeled kitchens boast more than just rich hues and shiny appliances - they have an eco-conscious ambiance that marries great style with respect for the environment.

Dreaming of a fresh, modern kitchen that is also eco-friendly and strikingly beautiful? Achieving this transformation is more attainable than you may think. Environmental lifestyle expert, Danny Seo, provides these helpful tips on how to add earth-friendly updates to your kitchen:

Refrigerator

When searching for a new refrigerator, be sure to look for more than just the Energy Star label to ensure maximum energy efficiency. It is also important the new appliance fits your needs and the size of your kitchen. A larger refrigerator uses more energy. If the one you select is too big for your needs, you will be wasting energy and money.

Blocked wood countertops

With their rugged durability and timeless style, butcher block countertops are making a huge comeback. Though typically made from cherry, walnut and oak, greener options, such as high pressure laminate designs made by Wilsonart, can contribute to US Green Building Council LEED accreditation as an eco-friendly material to use in your home. For more information on their new Blocked Wood designs - Old Mill Oak and Truss Maple -visit www.wilsonart.com.

Flooring

For a more sustainable approach to kitchen flooring, there are several options available. If you love the hard, classic appeal of wood, look for reclaimed, recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Bamboo is also a beloved choice among eco-conscious remodelers for its biodegradable nature and high renewability.

"Going green at home can be overwhelming, so I always advise people to not sweat the small stuff and focus on the one room of the house where it matters the most: the kitchen," says Seo. "Being kind to the planet in the kitchen can also be kind on your wallet over time, so it's worth it to invest in sustainable upgrades."

Backsplash

Recycled materials are the star of the show when looking to add green touches to your backsplash. There are three main types of recycled materials: ceramic, metal and glass. Old bottles and windows make up the materials in glass tile; old plates and clay vases are recycled to become ceramic tile; and those old soda cans become aluminum metal tile. All of these materials come in a variety of shades and styles to fit the look of your dream kitchen.

Dishwasher

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, using an Energy Star labeled dishwasher is the most efficient use of energy and water, even more so than hand washing. When looking to update your dishwasher, pay close attention to the EnergyGuide labels, which include the annual estimated costs to run them. This valuable information can help you compare models to find the best fit for your family's needs.

A dream kitchen that is both eco-friendly and chic is easier to attain than you think. With a few changes not only will you be smiling, but so too will Mother Earth.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

For further information about creating your green home in Vermont: http://www.vermontgreenhomealliance.org/

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Benefits Of Owning A Green Home You May Not Have Considered

As a local real estate company in Vermont, we value the monetary concerns of our clients alongside the need to transform the homeowners status quo to reflect a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Therefore, we would like to offer some incentives that might motivate you to either buy a green home or transform your current dwelling into a more environmentally friendly structure. This article outlines environmental, financial, and personal health benefits to owning a green home. Feel free to contact one of our agents about green homes that are on the market today or visit http://www.vermontgreenhomealliance.org/ for more information and resources.

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