Archive for October, 2013

5 Ways to Keep Your Old Home Green

Friday, 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.

10 Common Types of Home Improvement Customer

Monday, 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!