Archive for the Energy Efficiency Category

Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with Technology

Posted in Around Your Home, Electrical, Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on March 5, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Today’s home owners and buyers are looking for ways to incorporate home technologies that increase the long-term value of their house but also provide convenience, safety and comfort. Energy management is a highly-desired feature in both newly-built and existing homes, along with multi-zone heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and lighting controls. Not only are these features easy-to-use, but they also provide energy-efficiency.

By incorporating the following technologies, home owners can save money on their utility bills:

  • Automated HVAC systems can maintain a more energy-efficient temperature while the home owners are away at work, but switch to a more comfortable temperature prior to their arrival home.  Zones can also be created to heat or cool only the areas most used by the occupants, keeping other areas, such as guest bedrooms, shut down until they are needed. They also can combat the problem of heat rising, keeping upper floors cooler in the summer without freezing the lower floors in a home. According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, programmable thermostats can save consumers about $180 per year in energy costs.Programmable Thermostat
  • Water heaters with a timer can be turned off when the occupants are traveling, then can turn on and begin heating the water in preparation for their return home. Tankless gas water heaters — which only activate when residents start to use hot water and immediately de-activate when they are done — are also a great option and can reduce water heating costs up to 35 percent annually.
  • Lighting can make up 10 to 20 percent of the total electrical usage of the home. Installing an automatic dimmer, which adjusts to the home owner’s needs based on time of day or occupancy, will lower electricity bills and increase the life expectancy of light bulbs.
  • Blinds and drapes can be programmed to close during the hottest part of the day to block out the sun; keeping the house cooler. In the colder winter months, they can open up to allow the sun in to warm the house, which helps regulate the room temperature.

By incorporating technologies that help make your home operate more efficiently, Energy Star estimates that home owners can save $200 to $400 annually on their energy bills.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Big Design Ideas for Small Homes

Posted in Around Your Home, Construction, Energy Efficiency, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by Pat Hansen

There are any number of reasons families might want to make better use of the space they have in their current or new home. As a family grows, their lifestyle changes, and space for storing toys or doing homework is at a premium. Multigenerational living, where elderly parents, grown children or other relatives all live under the same roof has become common. Or it may just be cosmetic, and the best way to keep clutter at a minimum.

Home builders and remodelers are responding to the demand by maximizing the utility of living spaces without sacrificing visual appeal. With creative storage and built-in features, dining rooms can become a home office or game room in minutes, living rooms can be used for family meals, and foyers can store much more than coats and umbrellas.

In new home construction, smaller-scale, walkable communities have become popular. To accommodate the size constraints of a skinny lot, homes are being designed with features like stacked garages where two cars can be housed trunk to hood instead of side by side. Using flexible walls, attractive flooring material and a roofless interior garage space, the area can easily be converted to a patio for entertaining.

Improved energy efficiency of windows and doors means homes now feature more indoor-outdoor connectivity. Moveable walls and outdoor spaces tucked within the home’s floor plan provide for better flexible use of the space, as well as improved privacy in densely populated areas.

The often-unused space under a stairwell can be engineered to accommodate filing cabinets or drawers, or even to create a sanctuary for the family pet complete with a bed and gates to close it off. Drawers built into stair risers are a great place to store small items such as gloves and hats or art supplies.

The trend extends to home furnishings as well. Murphy beds, where a piece of furniture conceals a bed that can be set up for sleeping in few minutes, have been around for many years. Modern murphy beds are hidden not only in armoires or bookcases, but new designs feature beds that lower from the ceiling electronically at the touch of a button, or fold out from inside a desk or counter.

Other creative, multi-purpose furniture designs include dining tables that convert to a billiard table, bookcases that contain fold-down chairs for when you’re entertaining more than the usual number of friends and family, and cocktail tables with trays that pull out for eating in front of the television.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Use Your Fireplace Safely and Effectively This Winter

Posted in Around Your Home, Energy Efficiency, Home Safety, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Pat Hansen

During the winter months, many families gather around their home’s fireplace. A fire in the fireplace creates a warm and cozy atmosphere, but don’t expect it to add heat to your home. As little as 10 percent of the heat from a fire in an open masonry fireplace radiates into the house.

The National Association of Home Builders’ MyHome Press has published a handbook for home owners, “Home Maintenance Made Easy,” and the excerpt below contains helpful advice on how to safely build fires and maintain your fireplace.

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Your fireplace will add elegance and warmth if you use it safely and have it cleaned by a chimney cleaning professional at least once every five years (two years if you use it frequently). A wood-burning fireplace should be equipped with andirons (or a grate) and a well-fitting screen. It may have glass doors as well.

Gathering Room (Fairfield New Home), Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones Homes
If you are in a newer home
with a fresh air vent to supply the fireplace with combustion air, open it and the damper before you start a fire. Then remember to close both when you are not using the fireplace so warm air will not escape in the winter and cool air will not escape in the summer.

Build fires on the andirons or grate—not directly on the fireplace floor. Seasoned hardwood is the best fuel. Do not burn pine logs in your fireplace; they contain a tar that can start a fire in the chimney if it accumulates. Do not burn trash in the fireplace. Never use kerosene, gasoline, charcoal lighter fluid, or other highly flammable liquids to start a fire.

Begin with a small fire to allow the components of the fireplace to heat up slowly. Burn kindling and newspaper under the grate; stack two to three layers of logs with air space between them, placing the largest logs to the rear. You can burn one sheet of paper atop the stack to help the chimney start to draw.

If the fire is still burning but you are finished enjoying it, close the glass doors if you have them to prevent heated air from being drawn up the chimney (until you can close the damper). But don’t close glass doors over a roaring fire, especially if you are burning hardwoods like oak or hickory; the heat could break the glass. When you close the doors over a burning fire, open the mesh screens first. This prevents excessive heat buildup on the mesh, which might warp or discolor it. Be sure the fire is out each night before you go to bed.

Gas Fireplaces

A gas fireplace provides the comfort and style of a wood-burning unit, but requires far less maintenance. Many gas fireplaces are also far more efficient than wood-burning and as a result, produce less pollution.

Family Room (Galleria New Home), Clarkston, Michigan | Robert R. Jones HomesGas fireplaces may have a chimney or may vent exhaust gases (mainly water vapor and carbon dioxide) directly outside without a chimney. Others are ventless; there is no flue. If your gas fireplace is vented, the flue or vent should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. Use the same safety precautions with a gas fireplace that you would with any other gas appliance.

There will be a slight delay after turning the switch on before a flame ignites. Flames should ignite gently and silently. If you notice any deviation from this or any gas smell, immediately shut off the switch and report the problem to the gas company.

For more home maintenance advice, go to myhomepress.com for publications on current topics including social media, home design and more.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

New Roof: How To Tell If Your Home Needs One

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, Worth Repeating with tags , , on July 17, 2013 by Pat Hansen

A new roof is probably one of the largest home maintenance expenses homeowners will experience. How do you know if you really need a new roof? There are several signs you can look for in determining whether or not that time has come.

Ceiling Water Damage

Water Damage to Ceiling

The most obvious sign of roof failure is continuous and growing leaks. Less obvious, but just as incriminating, are changes in the texture or color or your roof shingles. If you have asphalt shingles, a sure sign of failure, are edges that are curling and becoming brittle. New shingles are pliable and bend to a degree. If you fold the edge of the shingle and it snaps off in your hand, the shingle is most likely starting to fail. Likewise, if your roof is faded or appears faded, this may warrant further investigation.

Depending on the climate in which you live, your roof will experience varying “stresses” that affect its longevity.

Shingles - Curling, BrittleAnother sign of deteriorating shingles becomes apparent when cleaning out your gutters. If you find large amounts of asphalt particles and debris in your gutters or around the perimeter of your roof, it may be starting to fail.

With the rise of heating costs, everyone is taking measures to keep the heating bill as low as possible. Many people are making sure to properly insulate their homes, caulk their windows and set the thermostat a little lower than normal. Did you know that a large amount of your home’s heat goes right through the roof? If your roof is failing, you can be sure your heating costs will increase. Replacing your roof will help to insulate your home, thereby reducing your heating expenses in the winter.

Most shingled roofs have a life expectancy of 15-25 years depending on climate, shingle color, weight of the shingle, pitch of the roof, and even how well your attic is ventilated. Most roofing companies will provide you with a free roof evaluation along with an estimate for replacement. If you feel it is time to make the investment in a new roof, make sure you get at least three quotes from reputable contractors. Compare all quotes side-by-side as shingle types and warranties vary. And remember, the cheapest bid is not always the best when replacing something as important as your home’s roof.New Roof Installation

Start now before you have no choice. Don’t wait until water is unexpectedly pouring into your home by way of a leaky roof. Start protecting your home by using some simple observation skills. If you find problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace your roof. Many repairs can be made before a major roof rebuild is necessary.

If you do need a new roof, be aware that this isn’t an average “do it yourself” type project. It’s tough work, especially if you’re taking off the old roof. It can be dangerous, too.

Most people list “having a roof over my head” as one of life’s essentials, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not just a matter of practicality or aesthetics – though both of those play a part. Your roof is what keeps you and your family safe from the sun and snow, lightning and rain. Be comfortable with the knowledge that once your roof is in tip-top shape, it will stay that way for years to come.
Lot 400, Manors of Deerwood, Clarkston, MI

How Can You Tell If Your Home Needs A New Roof?

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Home Maintenance with tags , on February 27, 2013 by Pat Hansen

For homeowners, a new roof is probably one of the largest home maintenance expenses the homeowner will experience. So, how do you know if you really need a new roof? There are several signs you can look for in determining whether or not that time has come.

Shingles - Curling, brittleThe most obvious sign of roof failure is continuous and growing leaks. Less   obvious, but just as incriminating, are changes in the texture or color of your shingles. If you have asphalt shingles, a sure sign of failure, are edges that are curling and becoming brittle.  New shingles are pliable and bend to a degree. If you fold the edge of a shingle and it snaps off in your hand, the shingle is most likely starting to fail. Likewise, if your roof is faded or appears faded, this may warrant further investigation. Depending on the climate in which you live, your roof will experience varying stresses that affect its longevity.

Another sign of deteriorating shingles becomes apparent when cleaning out your gutters. If you find large amounts of asphalt particles and debris in your gutters or around the perimeter of your house, your roof may be starting to fail.

With the rise of heating costs, everyone is taking measures to keep the heating bill as low as possible. Many people are making sure to properly insulate their homes, caulk their windows and set the thermostat a little lower than normal. Did you know that a large amount of your home’s heat goes right through the roof? If your roof is failing, you can be sure your heating costs will increase. Replacing your roof will help to insulate your home, thereby reducing your heating expenses in the winter.

Roofing (new house)Most shingled roofs have a life expectancy of 15-25 years, depending on climate, shingle color, weight of the shingle, pitch of the roof and even how well your attic is ventilated. Most roofing companies will provide you with a free roof evaluation, along with an estimate for replacement.

If you feel it is time to make the investment in a new roof, make sure you get at least three quotes from reputable contractors. Compare all quotes side by side as shingle types and warranties vary. Remember, the cheapest bid is not always the best when replacing something as important as your home’s roof.

Reduce Winter Fuel Costs

Posted in Around Your Home, Energy Efficiency with tags , on December 12, 2012 by Pat Hansen

As temperatures drop during the winter, home fueling costs often increase for home owners. Fuel options for home owners largely depend on the region — in the Northeast, fuel oil or electricity are most prominent while in rural areas, propane and wood are often the main choices. But whatever your heating fuel options are, you have options to reduce your costs.

Reducing fuel costs can involve both short-term and long-term solutions and range from simple, inexpensive changes to major home modifications. Here are some ways that you can keep the cold out and the costs down this winter:

Reduce Air Leaks:

By caulking and sealing air leaks in a home, an average household can cut 10 percent of their monthly energy bill. Use caulk to seal any cracks or small openings on non-moving surfaces such as where window frames meet the house structure. Make sure your weather stripping in exterior door frames hasn’t deteriorated and cracked, if it has, replace it.

Exterior weather strippingSealing windows and doors will help, but the worst culprits are usually utility cut-throughs for pipes (plumping penetrations), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. You can buy material that expands to fill the gaps and keep air from flowing through.

Use Energy Wisely:

Set the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120º F). If your water heater is older, get an insulating blanket to wrap around it and reduce heat loss. Newer heaters are much more energy efficient and a blanket won’t make a noticeable impact.

Lower the thermostat setting to 50 or 55 degrees when you are using your fireplace and the furnace is on. Some warmed air will still be lost, but the furnace won’t have to use as much fuel to keep the rest of the house at its usual temperature.

Programmable thermostatInstall a programmable smart thermostat that allows you to lower the heat during the workday or at night when you’re asleep, and automatically increase the setting before you get home or awake in the morning.

Install Energy-Efficient Products:

Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances and products such as new HVAC systems, high-performance windows and ENERGY-STAR rated appliances will also help lower your electricity bills. Windows with low-E glass may cost 10 to 30 percent more than conventional glass double-pane windows, but their effectiveness in keeping your wintertime heat indoors will make up for it with lower heat costs over time.

Compact fluorescent bulbReplacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescents can save home owners up to three-quarters of the electricity previously used by incandescents. The best targets are 60-100 watt bulbs used for several hours a day. Check the fixtures to ensure they will accommodate the slightly larger compact fluorescents.

The best way to reduce your home’s overall energy consumption is to hire a professional energy auditor to evaluate your home and identify all the inefficiencies. It may cost a couple hundred dollars, but will save you much more over the long run.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

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