5 Ways to Keep Your Old Home Green

October 25th, 2013

Image of a happy green home.If you’re one of the many who has adopted an old or historic home, you undoubtedly know all the good and bad that comes with it. While your house may be historic and full of character, it may also be full of holes and gaps for the wind to blow through, making efficient heating impossible. It’s certainly more difficult to transform an older building into a “green house,” but it can be done affordably and without destroying the integrity of your home. Here are some tips for looking closely at your home, understanding where the energy is going, and improving your savings and your impact on the environment.

Hot Water Heater

Check the temperature of your water heater. You may want to consider turning it down a few degrees; every 10° difference will equal up to about 3-5% of your energy. If your home has room for change, you may want to consider a different type of heater. Today there are solar water heating systems and tankless systems for a less wasteful, “water-on-demand” approach. If your home has an existing duct system, you could also opt for a geothermal heat pump to be installed underground. Check with your State historic preservation office before you go ripping up the ground, and be careful not to disturb your home’s foundation.

Air Sealing

Nothing is more inefficient than heating a house where the air blows straight out. Your home may have more air leaks than you realize. These leaks could be anywhere there is a seam, a chute, or a door. You can perform an energy audit on your home to better discern where the air is flowing, but for the most part it’s easy to tell. Cover your windows when there is a draft and close your chutes when not in use. You can fix any air sealing that is damaged or worn out with the many DIY guides that are out there. Just remember that while your air is flowing so chaotically, every cubic foot of conditioned air that leaves the house invites in a replacing cubic foot of outside air. So close the door!

Windows

Windows are usually a major culprit in energy loss; on average they are responsible for 10-15% of the energy lost in a home. While most consider it essential to replace the windows when there is significant energy loss, usually all they need is a good repair to become more efficient. Fix any wooden framing that has become termite-ridden or water damaged, and caulk both the interior and exterior pane sealing. You could look into installing storm windows for added efficiency (low-E is best, but more expensive).

Insulation

Depending on what time your house was built, you could have any type of insulation in the walls (some people find newspapers padding their interior walls). As a bare minimum, the best places to install new insulation is around attic spaces, basements, cooling ducts, and around water pipes. You can do this yourself, but you may need a professional opinion to help avoid cold pockets and thermal bulging. There are also plenty of potential fire hazards in old walls, including tube wiring. You’ll also need proper ventilation to avoid mold and water damage. But with the proper precautions, new insulation in your home will help keep the heat in significantly.

Natural Heating/Cooling

The nice thing about old homes is that most of them were built before the days of instant heat or air conditioning. They had to adapt to the environment that they were built in and naturally have great features to combat the elements. Warm climates normally have fireplaces built on the outside of the walls, while cold climates have interior chimneys. Homes in high-wind environments generally take up an L- or U-shape to provide a working area protected from the cold. And despite the shameful insulation, most old houses have extremely thick walls that allow for great heat absorption from the sun that warms the home at night. Trust your home’s natural ability to keep you comfortable, and you could become more energy efficient than you ever thought possible!

Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. He loves his work, and enjoys collaborating with great local companies that offer a great commercial real estate loan. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics.

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10 Common Types of Home Improvement Customer

October 7th, 2013

As anyone who’s worked in retail knows, certain customer types are apt to pop up over and over again. These people may seem to have nothing in common at all until you interact with them. It is at this time that you realize this customer behaves exactly like one you had yesterday, last week, and the week before that. Here are 10 common home improvement store customer types.

Back in my day Home Improvement were a dollar.#10: The Good Old Days Customer. This customer may be very old or only slightly older than you. He will reminisce about “the good old days” when a faucet cost only a dollar or a light bulb could be had for a dime. He conveniently forgets that the average income was also much lower at that time.

#9: The Buy American Customer. This customer will only buy products made in America. No drill, light, or carpet is good enough for him unless it bears a “Made in the USA” sticker. This would be fine, except he fails to understand that American workers are typically paid higher wages for making the products than overseas workers are, so the finished product will cost more. He will complain bitterly about the price discrepancy in foreign and American made items.

#8: The Condescending Customer. This customer is most often encountered by female home improvement employees. He will not allow a female associate to wait on him, even if available male associates tell him they know nothing at all about Product X but the female does. He sometimes operates under the false assumption that female associates work in home improvement retail to snag a man, and will often hit on every female he encounters in the store.

#7: The Yard Sale Customer. This customer firmly believes the price on the shelf is just a suggestion. He will offer less than the retail price for no particular reason. He often gets angry when his offer is declined.

#6: The I’ll Go Elsewhere Customer. This customer will try to extort anything he can out of management by threatening to shop at the competitor. He will actually follow through on his threat most of the time, even if it means spending $20 or more in gas to get to the competitor’s store.

#5: The Name Dropper. This customer is your Store Manager or District Manager’s next door neighbor, best friend from high school, or 2nd cousin 3 times removed. He will drop your manager’s name at any opportunity, to try to get special treatment. In most cases, your manager has really never heard of this person before.

Leonardo Dicaprio as the rich guy.#4: The Millionaire. This customer would have you believe the company was built solely on his purchases. He frequently uses phrases such as, “I pay your salary” or “I spend thousands of dollars here every year.” The store often has few records of actual purchases made by this customer.

#3: The Damaged Customer. This customer himself is not damaged. But in his opinion, everything in the store is, and he should therefore get a discount on whatever he buys. Rarely is the item he wants truly damaged-more often the “damage” is that the box is dented, open, or just dusty, but the product inside is perfectly fine. Sometimes this customer causes the “damage” himself.

#2: The Renter. This customer shows up in times of natural disaster. For example, if there’s a flood in the area, he will purchase a wet/dry vacuum or sump pump. After the flood has passed and his home is dry, he will attempt to return the used item for a full refund, often claiming it was defective. By doing this, he obtains what amounts to a free equipment rental by defrauding the store.

Finally, the #1 type of home improvement customer is The Combo. This customer is a combination of 2 or more of the other 10 common home improvement customer types. He is especially crafty, as he can change tactics and arguments at any time, depending on how the conversation goes. It’s best to hide in the break room when he shows up.

If you’ve recognized yourself or anyone you know in any of these customer types, please take it easy on the employees. They are just doing the best job they can by the policies they are given. Happy shopping!

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Improve Your Home Without Spending A Lot

September 9th, 2013

Cheap home improvement in 2013.With the struggling economy, many people are struggling as well. Much needed improvements to your home may be put off as the price to complete them may be too high. Items on the list, such as renovating the whole kitchen or bathroom, may have to be delayed. However, there are many ways to improve your home without spending a lot of money.

One of the cheapest ways to improve your home is with paint. Go to your local home improvement store and spend some time in the paint section. Many have computers set up where you can input what room you’d like to do, the dimensions of the room and what colors you would like to try. After inputting the information, it will give you a basic view of the room with the colors you have chosen. By using the user-friendly software, you will prevent spending time and money on a color you really don’t enjoy. Painting a room in your home will not only give it a nice fresh look, it will help to add value to your investment.

If your kitchen looks a little tired, consider refinishing your cabinets. Although time-consuming, this is relatively easy to do. An electric hand sander will be needed and these can usually be purchased for under $50. To refinish your cabinets, remove the doors for easier access and use the electric sander to remove the old finish. Once this is done, you will be able to stain them or paint them in your color choice. For added updates, consider adding new hardware to your cabinets. You will be surprised at how quickly this can change the look of your kitchen.

Another way to improve your home is by giving the outside of your home a fresh look. Stand by your driveway and try to look at your home through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before. Does the house look drab? Perhaps a fresh coat of paint will bring it back to life. Is there clutter in the yard? Simply putting stuff away in a garage or shed will clean up the area and offer more appeal. If landscaping is not your cup of tea, many high schools offer horticulture classes to their students. It never hurts to call and ask if they need a site volunteered for a class project.

Many small home improvements can not only improve how you see your home, they can improve the value of your home, as well. In 2013, with the economy in such a stressed state, the value of your home could mean your survival.

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Simple Ways to Save Energy At Home

June 13th, 2013

Saving energy can be simple and save money as well. Here are a few hints that can be done inexpensively and by everyone. If you educate yourself and everyone in your household about saving energy, not only will you help the world, but you will help yourself by lowering energy bills. It will be a win/win situation for everyone.

Saving energy and money at home.

Saving Energy ay Home

You can save energy by changing your light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs. This may take a small investment at first as they are more expensive than regular bulbs, but the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that they use 67% less energy than incandescent bulbs. You may be able to save $50- $60 in energy costs over the life of one bulb.

Use less hot water to save energy. Install low flow shower heads. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Less hot water used means less hot water heated and less energy used.

Insulate windows by putting up plastic can save you money and energy. Of course, in the best of all worlds, everyone would have double paned windows, but that is a fairly large investment. Rolls of plastic are much less expensive.

Change your manner of dress to suit the temperature in your house rather than change the thermostat to suit the way your are dressed. Wear sweaters and warm slippers in the winter and in the summer wear shorts or thin clothing.

Set your thermostat to no more than 68 degrees in the winter (55 at bedtime) and to no less than 78 degrees in the summer. Use fans or ceiling fans whenever possible, as these do not use as much energy as air conditioners.

Keep the use of other small appliances to a minimum. These use great amounts of electricity. When you replace appliances, buy Energy Star appliances to replace the old ones. These use 10- 50% less energy. Also unplug appliances when not in use. People do not realize it, but even when turned off these appliances continue to use small amounts of electricity when not unplugged.

Efficient use of blinds and curtains can help. Open the blinds and curtains during the day during the winter to let the sunshine help heat the house. Close them at night to keep the heat in. Do the opposite in the summer to combat heat.

Close the doors and vents to vacant rooms. There is no sense heating or cooling unused areas. Not heating or cooling unoccupied areas can save energy quickly, and you will notice it on your utility bill.

These steps may take a little adjustment to get used to, but you will see the benefit on your energy savings.

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Choosing Energy-Efficient Windows

May 20th, 2013
Double Pane, Double Tilt, Vertical Replacement Window

Double Pane, Double Tilt, Vertical Replacement Window

There are hundreds of ways to conserve energy without having to time your showers or stop using your air conditioner. Anyone worried about energy usage should consider installing energy-efficient replacement windows, as the right windows prevent heat transfer and keep cold air outdoors. This reduces energy usage, decreases heating and cooling costs, and makes homes more comfortable. When searching for windows, choose products made with energy-efficient materials to reduce energy usage.

Framing Materials

Energy-efficient replacement windows come in a wide selection of framing materials. One of the most important considerations when choosing a framing material is how well the material insulates against heat and cold. Some of the best framing materials for reducing energy usage include vinyl, fiberglass, wood, aluminum, and composite. Vinyl frames provide excellent insulation against heat. Fiberglass is durable and requires very little maintenance. It is also a good insulating material for windows.

Wood and aluminum are both very durable, but wood requires more frequent maintenance to protect against rotting. Aluminum is recyclable, so it is a good choice for homeowners who are concerned about how their buying decisions affect the environment. Composite materials are made from materials that have been blended together. These materials provide good insulation and require very little maintenance.

Glass and Glazing

If your home has single-paned windows, consider replacing them with double-paned windows or glazed windows. A single pane of glass does not do much to insulate a home, so switching to a more energy-efficient window can reduce energy usage and slash home energy costs. Double-paned windows do a better job of insulating because there are air spaces between the two panes of glass. These spaces reduce the amount of heat lost, which makes it possible to keep a home warm without using as much heat.

Double pane glass cataway view.

Double Pane Glass

Special coatings also increase energy efficiency and reduce the amount of energy used to heat or cool a home. Low-emittance glass, also called low-e glass, is a treatment used to increase the energy efficiency of double-paned windows. Double-paned windows made with low-emittance glass are 35 percent more efficient than double-paned windows that have not been treated with the coating, according to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Another way to reduce energy usage is to purchase windows that have been filled with argon. Argon is a safe, inexpensive gas that does not transfer heat very well, so it provides insulation against heat loss.

Energy-efficient replacement windows cost a little more than some windows, but they are well worth the expense when you consider how much energy they save. After you select your replacement windows, have an experienced contractor install them. If the windows are not installed properly, they will not insulate your home and reduce your energy usage as much as expected.

 

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