alex-holyoake-lightbulb-expensive mistakes

Avoid These Expensive Mistakes on Home Furnishings and Maintenance

Owning a home can be costly in the best of times, so there’s no reason to waste money on expensive mistakes. Here are a few to avoid.

Using Incandescent Light Bulbs – Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs especially may be more expensive to purchase, but they’ll save you money in the long run. Incandescent bulbs cost about a dollar per bulb and their average lifespan is about 1,200 hours. CFLs cost about $2 per bulb and go for about 8,000 hours. LEDs cost about $8 per bulb, which seems expensive until you realize their lifespan is about 25,000 hours. Let’s do the math: to get 25,000 hours of light, you’ll spend about $20 on incandescents, but only $6-8 on CFLs or LEDs. When you add in the cost of electricity used, it’s still a no-brainer. For every $100 you spend on light with incandescents, you’ll only spend $24 on CFLs or $19 on LEDs. You also save the hassle of changing bulbs.

In using CFLs and LEDs, you’ll need to figure out how much light you want. These bulbs aren’t sold by wattage (how much energy is used), but rather lumens (how much light is emitted). More lumens equals more brightness. To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, choose a bulb with about 1600 lumens. To replace a 75W bulb, choose a bulb with about 1100 lumens. To replace a 60W bulb, choose a bulb with about 800 lumens. To replace a 40W bulb, choose a bulb with about 450 lumens.

Ignoring Leaky Faucets – A leaky faucet that drips one drop per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, which is enough water to take more than 180 showers. I recently had a leaky toilet valve that cost an additional $50 in just a couple months. I figured it out when the excess water caused a pretty green patch on the hillside next to my house where the leach lines for my septic tank drain.

Using the Wrong Air Filters or Forgetting to Replace Filters Regularly – If an air filter doesn’t fit properly or it gets too dirty, it can’t function well. This can not only increase your power bill, it can shorten the life of your furnace.

Not Adjusting Vents – In many offices, some areas are burning up while others are ice cold. Rather than having employees bring space heaters and fans, adjust vents to balance the temperature throughout the office.

Water Heater Temp Set Too High – Most of us have traditional water heaters that keep water hot 24/7. If you set the water temp too high, you’re wasting money (and putting family members at risk of getting scalded). In our rentals, we set the temperature to 120 degrees. You can turn this down in the summer.

Overwatering Your Lawn – Automatic sprinklers that come on early in the morning are great, unless you have a broken sprinkler head that is gushing water or misdirected so you’re watering the fence instead of your lawn. Periodically run your sprinklers during the day so you can see how they are performing when you’re not around.

Hiring a Handyman for Simple Repairs – If you have YouTube, you can probably figure out how to do most of the minor repairs in your house and save a lot of money. However, if you’re like me—not handy with tools—by all means, leave repairs to the experts. If you need a referral to a fix-it professional, from plumbers to electricians, ask your Realtor.

Ignoring Roof Repairs – If you see curled shingles or damaged flashing and mastic around roof penetrations (like chimneys, stove vents, or bathroom vents), do not ignore them. Water is really good at finding small flaws and making them bigger.

Houses are expensive enough without allowing these mistakes to bite into your pocketbook.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Would You Like To Be Paid To Save Money? Consider Energy Rebates

I’ll start by saying I’m not generally in favor of government rebates or subsidies. If investing in something does not make sense without a rebate, then the rebate will result in an inefficient allocation of resources at the expense of either the taxpayer or other rate payers.

However, right now the City of Ukiah is offering a rebate that makes sense. The City is encouraging businesses to save hundreds (or thousands) of dollars by replacing existing fluorescent (or other inefficient) light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

I own an office building on South Orchard Avenue and I just paid $6500 to replace interior and exterior lights with LEDs. The City provided a rebate of $3395 and I expect to save about $3800 in utility expenses the first year, which more than pays for the cost of the upgrade.

The savings from utility expenses is not simply that LEDs use less than half of the required electricity to power fluorescent lights, these LED lights also run a little cooler, so the air conditioner does not have to work as hard to cool the building during the summer. While your heater will have to work a little harder in winter, the cost to heat a building (probably with gas) is far less than the cost to cool it.

And the savings don’t stop there. LED bulbs typically only need replacing about every 15 years. Not only does this save me money on the cost of purchasing new bulbs, it also saves me the labor cost of installing bulbs and because the bulbs run cooler they put less strain on the ballasts, making them last longer as well. In my case, this includes replacing bulbs and ballasts that light the parking lot and require a lift bucket to get 40 feet in the air–not an insignificant expense.

As you can see, even without the rebate this project is economically viable. The rebate is available to businesses within the city limits that have not already taken advantage of a city energy rebate. And by the way, rebates are available for a number of different commercial upgrades, as well as residential upgrades. Be aware—some rebates require prior-approval and funding is limited. Call 855.516.2105 for details. If you don’t live within the city limits, PG&E also offers rebate programs. There’s a vast array of rebates that the city and/or PG&E will pay for to reduce expenses and make you and your family a little greener (environmentally and economically). Look for rebates when upgrading light bulbs, appliances, air conditioning units and attic insulation. This is a win-win if you like paying less and getting more, and helping the planet while you’re at it.

Remember, some upgrades may be cost effective even without a rebate. If you’d like to know how your home or business could reduce its energy usage, there are numerous businesses that will survey your residence or commercial building and let you know what they recommend, not only which improvements or retrofits to make but also whether financial assistance is available in the form of rebates, tax credits or low-interest loans. A word to the wise, don’t get your hopes up too much; most retrofits aren’t eligible for much if any assistance. It doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or visit If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.



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, 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 or visit our website at 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 Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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