Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2014 is Earth Day. To celebrate, you may want to go green and save a little green in the process. You can help the planet while you save a little cash with energy efficient upgrades.

Improving energy efficiency can be done on any budget. Of course, larger improvements often yield larger savings. For example, high efficiency heating and cooling systems can save you a bundle, and appliances with good ENERGY STAR ratings use less electricity than older, less efficient models. According to energystar.gov, heating and cooling accounts for as much as half of the average home’s utility costs. A programmable heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control can reduce energy consumption by up to 15 percent compared to traditional nonprogrammable thermostats. According to local business owner Mark Devereux of DevCo Heating & Air, today’s HVAC control systems use new technology to monitor a home’s HVAC patterns, including when the system is in use and for how long. The technology then creates an algorhythm (plan) to keep the house at a comfortable temperature based on that specific household’s usage; the system is only on when it has to be. “You can even hire a local contractor to link these systems to your smart phone so you can control your HVAC system remotely,” he said.

If you’re not in a position to spend a lot of money but would like to improve your home’s energy efficiency, consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent light bulbs. About 12 percent of your energy bill goes to lighting costs, and by replacing only five of your home’s most frequently used lights with energy efficient bulbs, you could save $75 – $100 a year (e.g., if you change five 75w bulbs to five 15w bulbs; five hours a day at $0.17 per kwh would yield $93 in savings per year). Compared with incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can yield as much as 75 percent energy savings and last six times longer. So, unless the CFLs cost more than six times as much as incandescent ones, the CFLs actually costs less per hour of use. Light-emitting diodes (or LEDs) can save you even more energy and wasted heat.

Another inexpensive way to be more energy efficient is to change your HVAC filter regularly. Mark Devereux recommends checking the filter monthly and replacing it at least every three months. A dirty filter slows down air flow and makes the system work harder (wasting energy) to keep you warm during the winter or cool during summer. A clean filter also prevents dust and dirt from building up in the system, which can lead to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

A big energy waster that many people don’t consider is the ducting that moves air through your HVAC system. According to Mark, sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent, especially in homes that are more than ten years old. “Building codes changed about ten years ago, so older homes typically don’t have ducting that’s as efficient as newer homes,” he said. Mark recommends first sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.

Locally, the City of Ukiah/C&S Waste Solutions is offering a great new green program. If you live inside the city limits, you can sign up for a Pilot Residential Food Waste Recycling Program. It is provided at no cost to you for six months during the pilot period.

Simply call 707-234-6400 to sign up. I’ve been told it only takes about two minutes to do so. You are provided with the waste bin and a small kitchen waste bin for collection prior to transferring into the curbside bin. Better to recycle than to fill our landfills! They even provide a handy reference so you know what is food waste, and what isn’t.

Next time I’ll write about choosing a neighborhood. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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Energy Improvements – How to Save Money and Be More Comfortable

It’s a seller’s market, and if you’re thinking of selling, one way to be successful is to make your home more energy efficient. Even if you’re not thinking of selling, it’s nice to have your home remain comfortable without high utility bills.

In real estate lingo, the first “improvement” to a piece of property is adding a structure (your home). Once that’s done, improvements that make your home more energy efficient can reduce your costs and increase your comfort. From minor repairs to major retrofits, when you’re looking to lower your utility bills it’s important to evaluate whether the changes you make are worth the time and money.

Sometimes it’s easy to figure out. One of the cheapest and best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to keep cool air in during summer and warm air in during the winter. So, if your home is poorly insulated, add insulation! Weather stripping doors and installing dual pane windows can also prevent you from air conditioning (or heating) the outdoors.

How do you know if your home is well insulated? If your home is more than 20 years old, consider hiring a licensed professional to check it out. If you’re not sure whom to call, get in touch with your realtor and they can recommend a reputable company. As for weather stripping, in winter if you feel a draft or have cold spots in your home, you probably need to caulk your windows and add weather stripping around your doors.

Improvements come in all shapes and sizes. On the interior, consider replacing old appliances that guzzle gas or electricity. New appliances are now marked with Energy Star ratings (www.energystar.gov), so you know if you’re getting a good one. High efficiency heating and cooling systems can also save you a bundle. Other indoor improvements include installing fluorescent lighting, low flow toilets, and on-demand water heaters. As with anything, there are pros and cons for each option.

Some people don’t like fluorescent lighting. Lighting can help set a mood, and fluorescents may not be your thing. Low-flow toilets and on-demand water heaters are pricey to install, but they pay for themselves over time. That is, unless you have a son like mine. After installing an on-demand water heater, I learned that my son used our old water heater as a timer for his shower. When the hot water ran out, he ended the shower. With the on-demand system, that kid can be in the shower all day. So, choose your energy upgrades wisely.

Whole-house fans, solar chimneys, and skylights are other excellent options. A whole-house the fan uses powerful suction to pull air from inside your home, creating cooling circulation and replacing hot, inside air with cooler outside air. A solar chimney (also called a thermal chimney) uses passive solar energy to similarly pull hot air out of the house and replace it will cooler outside air. Basically, you add a black vertical shaft with thermal mass (something that absorbs and retains heat – a chimney) to the outside of your home. During the hot part of the day, the sun heats the air inside the chimney. When the outside air is cooler, you can open the chimney vent, release the hot air, and pull cool air into the house. Skylights are wonderful for a couple reasons. In addition to using the sun rather than electricity to light your home, if you happen to have a three-story house, the tube-like skylights can double as mini-solar chimneys, sucking hot air out of the house at night. The downside of skylights is that a tube that lets in light can also allow hot/cold air to escape. So, be clear that the reduced electricity may be offset by the loss of insulation. As long as you are not putting in skylights for solely economic reasons, they’re great.

Next time I’ll write about exterior energy improvements. If there’s something you’d like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who’s been in the business for more than 35 years.


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