913-523-5148 Call Us or click below to have me call you!

Have me call you.

Twitter Feed
Navigation
Sunday
Jun262011

Is Going Green Worth It?

You’ve stopped buying bottled water, opting instead for a reusable bottle you carry everywhere you go. When you go shopping, your list leans toward the organic and recycled. But when you get home, going “green” seems a lot more daunting.

You hear stories about your ultra-conscientious neighbors trading their old energy-devouring water heaters and HVAC units for the new energy-efficient models, putting up solar panels and installing the dual flush toilets. Suddenly your effort to cycle out incandescent light bulbs starts to feel trivial.

And you start to wonder, if you are more confined by budget than your earth-friendly neighbors and pals, is going green worth it?

The trick is figuring out what works for you and your lifestyle, according to Mark Lewison, academic director of the Interior Design Department at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood. “Find an improvement that makes sense for your bottom line and then look for green options in that area of improvement.”

Reducing energy costs and decreasing wear on the planet over the long term is as easy as turning the lights down low. “That’s where you get the most bang for your buck,” says Joan Jackson, associate professor of interior design at The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. “Dimmers are cheap and extend the life of the bulb five to 10 times.”

Interior design associate professor Eve Fineman adds that a simple and inexpensive switch in the type of bulb you use makes an impact. “An LED light has a really long lamp life and draws much less energy.”

Jackson also suggests insulating your windows as a simple way to keep down costs and keep your home comfortable in both the cold and heat. And what’s the easiest way to conserve energy? According to Jackson it’s as simple as unplugging items when you’re not using them. “Most people don’t realize that your appliances are using energy when they’re plugged in, even when they’re off,” she says.

Going green is not just about saving energy and the outside environment. Your indoor air quality counts too. Fineman says the paint most of us used in the past was actually filled with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for you to breathe in. That new paint smell was actually toxic. Luckily, most paint sold today has low or no VOCs.

If you do decide on more costly upgrades like energy-efficient appliances or sustainable and rapidly renewable materials like bamboo flooring, you can still see long-term savings, says Fineman. “Now there are ways to assess and compare your cost up-front versus how much the cost savings over a 10-year period will be,” she says. “Most of the time consumers see that it’s definitely worth the investment, because they’ll save a lot over the long term.”

”Any green or sustainable improvements that can be made to a home should increase a home’s value as a whole in addition to helping the owners save money,” Lewison adds.

All three experts agree, whether you’re trying to help your bottom line or the environment, the way to go is green.

Monday
Jun202011

Remodeling in a Recession

It’s true that right now may not be the best time to sell your home. With real estate values dropping, many homeowners who want to sell won’t be able to sell their home for what they thought they may have been able to a few years ago.

However, if you aren’t trying to sell your home right now, and have been putting off a remodeling job this might just be the best time to tackle the project. Why you ask?

Just as the cost of homes is dropping, the cost of remodeling is dropping- including building materials and contractor’s fees. And while it may be difficult to think about spending money on your home when the values are falling- taking advantage of lower remodeling costs could be a great investment if you are not planning on selling your home anytime soon.

As disclosed in a study by HousingEconomics.com, the number of building permits in the United States has decreased in 2008 by 41% from 2007. This means less people are building, which can be good for a consumer trying to get competitive pricing from a contractor.

Not only can your contractor charge less for materials (because they are paying less) but they are also willing to charge less for labor in order to secure more work.

Even DIYers can save money on renovations right now just by saving on materials. For example, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), framing lumber prices are the lowest they have been in 4 years.

The trick, of course, if you do have a home sale anywhere in your future, is to assess the current value of your home and the value that your remodel will add to your home. When you sell, you will only recoup some of the value in your resale so you want to make sure you are not investing too much more than what you may get in return. For a good idea of national remodeling costs and recouped costs, visit Remodeling magazine’s cost vs. recoup report. Note: If you do hire a contractor, make sure they have insurance to cover them in case they are injured on your property.

Monday
Jun202011

Start Turning Your Home Green

In recent years we can see more and more people switching to buying green homes. This is either because they are getting concern about the environment or that the standards and techniques for building green houses have improved tremendously over the past years. In addition, sellers can also get a higher price for these green homes as they tend to save more on maintenance costs and utility bills. As such, if you are keen in purchasing a green home in Texas, how do you know that it is worth the price that you are paying for the house? This article will give you some tips on how you can get yourself a good deal. Check to see if the following things are found in the house:

1. A passive solar design

This is useful for natural heating and cooling of the house. Make sure there are not any skylights or greenhouse rooms in the house because that would mean too much heat gain in the building and will be very hot.

2. Attic spaces ventilation

Attic spaces can also accumulate heat, especially in hot climates, thereby causing the house to become very hot. On the other hand, moisture will remain in these attic spaces which are not ventilated, causing the wood to rot and smell.

3. Use of recycled or renewable materials

Since you are getting a green home, you should ensure that the materials used to build the house are not damaging to the environment. Some examples are using waste wood to build decks, use materials that are locally produced and can be renewed easily or recycled wood for the flooring of the house.

4. Use of safe materials

Products that are water based, non-toxic and biodegradable are more environmentally friendly so these should be used to build the house. Ensure that there are no materials that contain ozone depleting chemicals which are detrimental to the environment.

5. Site protection

The surroundings of the house is equally important, thus, ensure that the natural vegetation and animal habitats are protected from any unnecessary harm, especially if you need to do any additional constructions to the estate.

Monday
Jun202011

Maintenance Tips For Brick Homes

Brick is durable, beautiful, and often increases the resale value of homes. Under normal weather conditions and with the proper maintenance, bricks can last for a century or more. With the proper attention, brick is not difficult to maintain. However, they are vulnerable to moisture, and can degrade, or “spall,” over time, especially when subject to freezing/thawing cycles.

Inspection

Periodically check over your brick home. Check the interior walls for any sign of moisture or damage. When inspecting the exterior walls, it is important to look for:

Plant Growth – Cut plants, such as ivy, as close to the surface as possible. Do not pull.

Weep Holes – These small holes at the bottom of the brickwork allow moisture to drain out of the wall. Clean them out if they are plugged.

Efflorescence – A white, salty deposit on the brick surface is a sign of water penetration. You can clean this with a stiff brush, or a brush with water. If hard deposits have formed, a chemical cleaner is needed. Do not power wash.

Mortar – Mortar is less durable than brick, and can be maintained by “repointing.” To repoint, chip the old mortar out to a depth of ½-inch to ¾-inch. Then dampen the joints with water, and repack with new mortar. Wipe off the excess with a damp cloth. Repointing is normally recommended every 25 years, but every 50 years isn’t usually too long in mild climates.

Damaged Bricks – To replace a brick, remove the mortar around it to a depth of 4 inches. Dislodge the brick, and clean the cavity. Next, dampen the cavity with a touch of water, spread mortar onto the bottom of the cavity, and replace the brick. You can also temporarily repair the brick by carefully spreading a sandy cement mixture, “render,” over its surface.

Selecting Bricks and Mortar

When repairing a wall, choose bricks and mortar that are similar to the existing products. The age and location of the building can be used to determine the appropriate products. When selecting bricks and mortar, climate and function are also important. It is important to check the ASTM Standards, in particular ASTM C216, “Standard Specification for Selecting Brick,” and ASTM C270-04, “Standard Specification for Mortar for Unit Masonry,” for appropriate recommendations.

Use a Sealant?

Although there is a great deal of debate on the subject, some experts recommend using a chemical coating or sealant to prevent water from penetrating the brick. There are two main types of sealants:

Films – Films cover the surface of the brick, repelling water and usually preventing markings like graffiti from sticking. They tend to leave a glossy or darkened appearance. While they keep water out, they also keep water in, not allowing the brick to breathe. Only use when brickwork is dry. If moisture is trapped in the brick and a freeze/thaw cycle occurs, spalling will result.

Penetrants – Penetrants penetrate the surface and coat the brick pores, making them water repellent. Penetrants are translucent, and allow the brick to breathe. As a result, they would be beneficial in cold, moist climates, or on chimneys and parapets where they are exposed to harsh conditions.

Films and penetrants cost about 10 cents per square foot. Depending on the product, films need to be reapplied at least every five years, while sealants can last up to 15 years.

New Types of Masonry

Autoclaved Aerated Concrete A precast, non-organic, non-toxic and airtight lightweight building stone. It has good acoustic and thermal insulative properties.

Mortarless Brick Veneer Concrete bricks cast in special shapes that can be installed by anyone, and without the use of mortar.

Split-Face Concrete Block Architectural concrete masonry units that have a rough, stone-like texture that do not require a decorative finish.

Additional Sources of Information:

The Brick Industry Association provides a great deal of technical information and can provide you with technical assistance.

The Masonry Society is a professional, technical, and educational association dedicated to the advancement of knowledge on masonry.

Monday
Jun202011

Programmable Thermostats Keeps Things Cool

A programmable thermostat can be an energy-saver, because family members can adjust the heating and cooling system to operate according to a pre-set schedule, As a result, the HVAC equipment can run at more energy-efficient rates during times when residents are away at work or school, asleep or when a house is not occupied during vacation periods.

In the past, common wisdom suggested that maintaining a constant temperature was better than adjusting a thermostat up and down. In actuality, turning a thermostat down or up a degree or more will always save energy (and money). The closer the inside air temperature is to the outside air temperature, the less heat or air-conditioning will be lost via heat transference (the principle that heat moves from hot to cold). Thus, by heating or cooling the air less, less energy (and money) is required.

How much money can be saved? According to the government's Energy Star calculator, as much as a $200 savings per year can be realized in a single-family home. On average, a homeowner will save three percent on their energy bill for every degree a thermostat is set back.

Some of the features that are available in many programmable thermostats are: digital, backlit displays; touch pad screen programming; voice and/or phone programming; hold/vacation features; indicators that signal malfunctioning HVAC systems; and smart recovery features which sense the time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature and react accordingly.

There are models for a variety of schedules, including a 7-day, 5+2-day or a 5-1-1-day. Seven day models are best if daily schedules change often - for example, if family members are at home earlier on some days than others. This type of thermostat provides the most flexibility, and allows for different programs for different days -- usually with at least four possible temperature periods per day. Five plus two day models use the same schedule every weekday and another for weekends, while five plus one plus one models keep separate schedules Monday through Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday.

Most programmable thermostats use low voltage wiring and can be installed using wires connecting the old thermostat for operation. It’s a good idea to upgrade an old manual thermostat to a programmable unit when replacing a central air conditioning unit or heating system because they are more accurate and will improve the efficiency of any new system.

Finally, most homes use just one thermostat to control the entire house. If a home has multiple heating or cooling zones, a programmed setback thermostat for each zone can help improve comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house. While temperature should be set for individual comfort, here are suggested guidelines. In winter, a thermostat setting of 68°F while family members are awake and lower when they are asleep will keep energy costs down. In summer, setting the thermostat at 78°F when a home is unoccupied, and slightly cooler when family members are present will also result in energy savings. During vacation periods, the “hold” setting can be used to set the thermostat at a constant, energy efficient temperature. It can be set to a high temperature (85°F or slightly higher) rather than completely turning off the AC off in the warmer months. In colder weather, it can be set a lower temperature (55°F) so that water pipes don’t freeze. 

A programmable thermostat can be an energy-saver, because family members can adjust the heating and cooling system to operate according to a pre-set schedule, As a result, the HVAC equipment can run at more energy-efficient rates during times when residents are away at work or school, asleep or when a house is not occupied during vacation periods.

In the past, common wisdom suggested that maintaining a constant temperature was better than adjusting a thermostat up and down. In actuality, turning a thermostat down or up a degree or more will always save energy (and money). The closer the inside air temperature is to the outside air temperature, the less heat or air-conditioning will be lost via heat transference (the principle that heat moves from hot to cold). Thus, by heating or cooling the air less, less energy (and money) is required.

How much money can be saved? According to the government's Energy Star calculator, as much as a $200 savings per year can be realized in a single-family home. On average, a homeowner will save three percent on their energy bill for every degree a thermostat is set back.

Some of the features that are available in many programmable thermostats are: digital, backlit displays; touch pad screen programming; voice and/or phone programming; hold/vacation features; indicators that signal malfunctioning HVAC systems; and smart recovery features which sense the time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature and react accordingly.

There are models for a variety of schedules, including a 7-day, 5+2-day or a 5-1-1-day. Seven day models are best if daily schedules change often - for example, if family members are at home earlier on some days than others. This type of thermostat provides the most flexibility, and allows for different programs for different days -- usually with at least four possible temperature periods per day. Five plus two day models use the same schedule every weekday and another for weekends, while five plus one plus one models keep separate schedules Monday through Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday.

Most programmable thermostats use low voltage wiring and can be installed using wires connecting the old thermostat for operation. It’s a good idea to upgrade an old manual thermostat to a programmable unit when replacing a central air conditioning unit or heating system because they are more accurate and will improve the efficiency of any new system.

Finally, most homes use just one thermostat to control the entire house. If a home has multiple heating or cooling zones, a programmed setback thermostat for each zone can help improve comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house. While temperature should be set for individual comfort, here are suggested guidelines. In winter, a thermostat setting of 68°F while family members are awake and lower when they are asleep will keep energy costs down. In summer, setting the thermostat at 78°F when a home is unoccupied, and slightly cooler when family members are present will also result in energy savings. During vacation periods, the “hold” setting can be used to set the thermostat at a constant, energy efficient temperature. It can be set to a high temperature (85°F or slightly higher) rather than completely turning off the AC off in the warmer months. In colder weather, it can be set a lower temperature (55°F) so that water pipes don’t freeze.