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12 Energy Saving Tips For Your Home And Wallet

The ease and convenience of energy in our homes can make it difficult to remember that it’s not an unlimited resource. Each day, we make decisions to use power and energy for most of our needs. Often, we don’t think twice about the resources we’re using.

There are many ways to lower our environmental impact from the comfort of our own homes; adjusting some lifestyle habits can save energy and money. In fact, with diligence and some strategic planning, your green lifestyle choices can offset the costs associated with buying and owning your own home, all while helping reduce waste and protecting the environment.

Awareness is key to creating an energy-efficient home. Making small changes can make a huge difference. Here are nine easy ways to save energy in your home.

1. Change Your Daily Habits

You don’t always need to make sweeping changes to reduce your energy consumption. Sometimes small, 1% changes to your daily routines can make a noticeable difference. Look for quick energy-savings wins such as:

  • Turning off lights when you leave a room
  • Hanging your clothes to dry
  • Washing dishes by hand
  • Leaving the oven door closed when in use

Many of our daily routines are formed over the years, but it’s not impossible to change through repetition. As you become more conscious of actions that promote energy saving, you’ll discover even more ways to conserve.

2. Take Advantage Of The Weather

Depending on where you live, you can take advantage of the weather to heat or cool your home. Opening your curtains and blinds to let the sunlight in will help take some of the burden off your furnace. If you want to cool your house, open your windows and let the breeze fill your home. You’ll cut down on air conditioner usage and let in much-needed fresh air.

3. Turn Off Electronics

Just because you have many electronic devices doesn’t mean they always need to be plugged in all the time. If you have only occasionally used electronics, such as a Blu Ray player or toaster, only plug them in when they’re in use. What about your cell phone or tablet? Unplug them when they are done charging instead of leaving them plugged in overnight.

Electronics continue to use energy even when they aren’t in use. This is referred to as phantom energy loss. As long as appliances are plugged into an outlet, they’re using energy. Unplug devices when not in use. Another option is to purchase smart power strips, which automatically cut power to devices that aren’t being used. Or opt for standard power strips and turn off all of the plugged-in devices with one switch.

Did you know the average American household has 40 electronic devices plugged in at any given time? Look around your house to find all of your electronics that are energy vampires and start unplugging. Not only will you save energy, but you’ll also declutter your home.

4. Replace Your Light Bulbs

The average household spends 5% of its budget on lighting. One way to lower your electricity bill and save energy is by investing in new energy-efficient light bulbs. New lighting standards were put in place in 2012. Since that time, better bulbs have become more common, including LED, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen incandescent bulbs.

About 90% of the energy from traditional bulbs is wasted as heat. It’s best to replace your existing bulbs with more efficient versions.

5. Install A Smart Thermostat

If you have an older thermostat, it may not be working as well as needed to heat and cool your house. One way to fix this is to invest in an Energy Star-rated smart thermostat. A smart thermostat takes programming to a whole new level. You can program several different heating and cooling schedules that automatically adjust when you leave the house or are sleeping.

Smart thermostats also give you access via Wi-Fi, meaning you can control your thermostat from almost anywhere in the world. They also feature a low-power standby mode when they aren’t active.

If you don’t want to spend money on a new thermostat, do yourself a favor and drop the temperature 7 – 10 degrees in your house for 8 hours each day. This one adjustment will save you as much as 10% on heating and cooling annually.

6. Reduce Water Heating Costs

Water heaters use the second-highest amount of energy in your house. Upgrading to an energy-efficient water heater can lead to significant savings in the long run. They also perform better and are eco-friendly.

If you don’t want to spend money on a new water heater, you can take other steps to reduce your water heating bill. You can do this easily by dropping your water heater temperature a few degrees. Another way to reduce energy spent on heating water is through the use of low-flow showerheads. Using less hot water daily will also save considerable energy in your home.

7. Dress Appropriately For The Weather

The way we dress also affects whether our house feels too cold or hot. Dressing for the season instead of adjusting your thermostat, you’ll save money. Wear layers in the fall and winter and short sleeves and shorts in the summer.

8. Have Your HVAC Checked Annually

Properly maintaining your furnace is just as important as the temperature in your home. Check your air filter monthly, especially during heavy usage. A dirty air filter slows down the airflow and makes your HVAC system work even harder. Plus, having a clean filter means less dirt and dust buildup in your system, minimizing expensive repairs and extending its life.

You should also get your HVAC equipment tuned up annually. A professional can check for underlying issues or upcoming maintenance issues. A thorough inspection and cleaning will keep your system working more efficiently, saving you money.

While you’re inspecting your equipment, see if you need to seal or insulate any air ducts. Shoring up any duct issues could save you money on your electricity bill each month.

9. Seal Up Air Leaks In Your Home

You may not realize it, but your house probably has several air leaks right now. Unwanted openings in your home let out your hot or cold air along with your money too. Buy some inexpensive caulk and patch any holes or cracks near your baseboards, windows, outlets, or doors.

Making the changes above will save on energy costs now and help your home run more efficiently to maximize savings long term. Here are three more ways to reduce energy usage that may require a more significant financial investment upfront.

10. Insulate Your Home

If you haven’t adequately insulated your home yet, now is the time to get started. Insulation keeps the heat out of your house in the summer and keeps it in during the winter.

To determine if your house is adequately insulated, have a professional check your current insulation’s R-value. R-value is the rating system for insulation’s resistance to conductive heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more effective your insulation is at doing its job. The amount in insulation you need depends on where you reside and the climate. Check out the Department of Energy’s insulation guide for an R-value map of the U.S.

11. Install Energy-Efficient Windows

Another considerable but useful expense is purchasing energy-efficient windows. Your home may lose significant amounts of heat through older single-pane windows. Americans who replace old windows with Energy Star-rated windows lower their energy bills an average of 12%.

Energy-efficient windows do more than save money. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions from your house. Windows with low-emissivity coatings cut down UV sun damage to your home’s floors, carpets, and furniture. Plus, they help keep your home’s temperature consistent by cutting down on cold drafts and overheating.

12. Replace Old Appliances

You may not realize it, but your appliances cost you more than the initial purchase price. There’s also the cost to run your appliances during its life cycle. Older appliances take more energy to operate than newer energy-efficient models. Here are some appliances you consider replacing if they are older:

  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Clothes Washers
  • Clothes Dryers

Energy Star-certified appliances use less energy, but perform as well if not better than what you’re using now. Many newer appliances are equipped with “smart” features that save time and energy. Take inventory of your appliances and replace them with energy-efficient versions when it makes sense.

Why Conserving Energy Is The Smart Move

Making small and big changes to your routine and your home can lead to big savings, both in energy use and in your bank account. You’ll also increase your property value and shrink your carbon footprint. Do your part to make the world a better and safer place by creating an energy-efficient home. The environment will thank you, and you’ll save money.

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Sustainable Commuting – Green Commuter Tips

Smaller communities, even individual neighborhoods, coming together to take on environmental issues can create a big change. Lowering the carbon footprint not only of your own home, but encouraging others around you to do the same, can be impactful. One approachable way to lower your carbon footprint is by improving your daily commute.

There are many ways to green your commute and get to the places you need to be in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. Read on to learn whether your commute has room for improvement, the benefits of changing how you get around, and how you can green your commute and engage others in your neighborhood or community to get involved.

What Makes a Sustainable Commute?

Walking, biking, carpooling/ridesharing, and taking public transportation to commute to work are all viable, sustainable transportation options.

A sustainable commute should be easy for you and others to maintain throughout the year. Simply taking advantage of incentives that are offered during “bike to work week” or other short-lived programs won’t have the long-term effects that benefit both your personal and environmental health.

If you live a considerable distance from your place of employment or school, walking as a means of commuting is likely unsustainable — although your intentions may be good. Likewise, if you live somewhere with distinct seasons, not all alternative commute options will be available all year-round — although greening your commute for part of the year is better than not at all.

Conduct some research about the public transit available in your area. Many forms of public transportation (such as buses and subways) are evolving to utilize electric or hydrogen engines and lower their emissions. Public transit is also less likely to be weather-dependent or seasonal, giving you a year-round alternative to driving yourself.

Why Green Your Commute?

Green commuters are an important counterforce to driving trends around the world. According to a 2016 U.S. News & World Report, 76.3 percent of Americans still commute to work alone in their cars. This is catching on elsewhere: as more developing countries and cities around the world buy and drive cars, the total number of vehicles in use on the planet is projected to nearly double by 2035. Rather than utilizing a car share service, taxis, buses, or active travel (biking, walking, etc) commuters often prefer to travel by themselves in their personal automobiles.

Since green commuting is an alternative to driving, the benefits of making the switch start with diminishing the hazards of traffic, but can be as far reaching as impacting property values and improving quality of life.

Driving Is Unhealthy

Whether it is to school, work, or even your weekly grocery store run, every time you get into your car you are burning fossil fuels. This way of commuting to work has caused (and is continuing to cause) a steep increase in air pollution and traffic congestion. Traffic congestion in certain areas can be more prevalent and obvious to the public eye.

Additionally, slower moving traffic emits more pollutants to our air than traffic that is moving at freeway speeds. According to the Transportation Research Board, while you are stuck in these traffic jams, you are breathing in elevated levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hydrocarbons (HCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter that is being exhausted into our atmosphere by you and your neighbor’s tailpipes.

Health Benefits of Green Commuting

A sustainable commute is not only beneficial to lowering your environmental impact — it can also have incredible health benefits. By introducing active green commuting to your work days, you can reduce your risk of medical conditions associated with sedentary lifestyles. Biking or walking to work can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other associated diseases.

Similarly, any driver that has a long commute can attest to what a source of discomfort sitting in traffic can be. It can cause people to be become irate (or in extreme cases, experience road rage), which can contribute to stress. Chronic stress will eventually take its toll on your body. Adding passengers to form a carpool or avoiding the roads entirely through alternative transportation can insulate you from this emotionally and physically toxic environment.

Raising Home and Neighborhood Property Values

Best of all, changing your own habits can help other people change theirs. The more visible green commuters become, the more normal their choices appear to be. Instigating a green commuting initiative in your community will help to establish a baseline for a healthy neighborhood and lifestyle.

When working with your neighbors to create a sustainable commuting option, make sure to mention that proximity to walking and biking trails or public transportation increases the value of homes throughout the entire neighborhood. A George Washington University School of Business study found that a growing share of both residents and businesses prefer locations near walkable and/or bikeable trails, and that access to alternative transportation is becoming a priority for future development.

This should be of interest to both buyers and sellers that may benefit from being near greener commuting options. Increasing the value of your home might be what sells your neighbor on volunteering to do local trail maintenance, or what encourages them to vote for the establishment of new bike lanes and public transit routes near your community. What’s more, low-cost transportation options can help balance household budgets by saving on auto maintenance and fuel costs.

How to Organize a Green Commuting Group

Take the initiative to start organizing a green commuting group and promoting a healthy neighborhood. You can get started by posting signs on local message boards to gain interest in learning more about sustainable commuting options. Starting a group on a social media platform, such as Facebook, can help to attract those of the millennial generation to your cause.

Once you have established some interest in your neighbors and community members, evaluate your neighborhood by investigating the following:

  • Are there established bike lanes?
  • Do you have access to public transit within walking distance?
  • Are there maintained trails and sidewalks?
  • Is there a car or bike share available in your area?
  • Who is interested in doing a rideshare?

When you’ve determined what your neighborhood is missing, start building task forces to create changes in your area. By identifying some of the strengths of your neighbors, you can further understand how to best utilize them.

Perhaps someone that lives down the street works for the city and would be interested in developing a group that petitions for wider and better bike lanes. If multiple employees of a large local company are located within close proximity to one another, that company may be persuaded to donate funding to establish new public transportation routes near their employees homes.

Once bike lanes and walking trails are established, they will provide you with means of travel for years to come, as well as increase the value of your home.

Start Making Sustainable Commuting Choices Today

Sustainability is becoming a priority for individuals, businesses, and governments around the world. Development and financial investment is increasingly tethered to accessible green spaces, and healthier modes of transportation. Fortunately, changing up your commute and getting involved in making your community more walkable, bikeable, and healthier isn’t impossible, even for the individual. By investing in the health of your neighborhood through establishing sustainable commuting methods, you are making an investment in your home and your future.  

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Conservation Tips for a Sustainable Backyard

Backyards are often a source of pride and joy for many homeowners. Depending on your personal preference, your backyard may be a luscious field of grass for kids to play in; perhaps it is decorated with patio furniture and twinkly lights—or maybe you’ve filled it with garden beds for some homegrown tomatoes and herbs.

Having a well-kept yard can provide you with a pleasant outdoor space that is an extension of your home, and it can improve your curb appeal, which is especially important if you’re considering selling your home. However, before you really get into creating urban agriculture magic, explore sustainable options for conserving water and organize your backyard garden in a way that accounts for long-term garden goals.

Reduce Your Water Needs

Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Outdoor water use accounts for more than 30 percent of total household water use, on average, but can be as much as 60 percent of total household water use in arid regions.” In these cases, much of the water is wasted due to inefficient irrigation systems that do not evenly disperse water and allow it to be picked up by the wind.

So, before you purchase rolls of grass to plant across your lawn, consider how you can maximize your use of space in a way that will not require an excess of water. Sustainability organizations have begun to suggest material landscaping and flower gardens as these require less water and also provide more territory for bees and other pollinators.

If you’d rather stick with natural grass while cutting back on how much water you pour into maintaining it, consider minimizing your lawn space with some aesthetically pleasing rocks, flower beds and mulch covered gardens that will help retain water. Lavender and succulents are curb appeal classics that can fill out yard space easily and require significantly less water than a standard lawn. You can also conserve water with the sod you use. UC Verde Buffalo Grass, Dune Wedge, and Native California Bentgrass are all alternatives to standard sod that require about 50 percent less water than your average grassy lawn.

When in Doubt, Choose Food

Growing your own food can be a rewarding experience. You get the satisfaction that comes from taking care of something that takes care of you, and neighborhoods with an urban agriculture presence tend to have a growing sustainability culture. For prospective home buyers who are checking out the neighborhood, this is an appealing and progressive scene that can help them connect with a home.

So if you’re not sure which direction to go with your lawn, consider going green with neatly planted garden boxes instead of grass. Adding green home features is one of the best improvements you can make to your home, especially when those features add curb appeal.

By investing in some raised garden beds you can beautify your outdoor space with some vibrant blooms when the time comes to sell your home. Planting colorful flowers in an already attractive garden space is a great spring staging tip that can leave a lasting impression on any potential home buyer.

Go Solar

If you want to delve further into sustainable practices, transitioning to solar power is another great option. Installing a small amount of solar power can help reduce your home’s electricity costs and is often high up on the list of desired amenities for future home buyers when you decide to sell your home.

In fact, a study by Berkeley Lab found that homeowner-owned solar arrays are often being viewed as upgrades like a renovated kitchen or finished basement, with home buyers paying a premium of about $15,000. Adding solar panels can also help you sell your quicker. Another study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that houses with solar panels sold 20 percent faster than those without.

The return on investment and benefits of green home features will vary by region, market and many other factors. But if you’re a homeowner preparing for the selling process, ensuring your yard is gorgeous and sustainable can do wonders for receiving your asking price on a home. Take the extra step to conserve resources and make a positive impact on your community and the planet with your gardening habits and your home and future home buyers will thank you for it.

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3 Ways to Fix Problem Areas and Make Your Home Sell

A recent ForSaleByOwner.com survey can help you read buyers’ minds and get a signature on that contract a lot faster.

Buyers aren’t as finicky as you might think. Yes, some prefer a colonial that evokes a refined horse-country sensibility, while others see themselves in a mid-century modern ranch with rakish lines that speak to a Space Age future. These are personal preferences, and for every style and design of home, there are buyers out there who will love it.

But there are some necessities that buyers demand in a home — and if a property lacks too many of these features, the pool of prospective buyers dries up.

According to ForSaleByOwner.com’s survey, those who planned to buy a home within the next year identified the following as important:

•    Garage or carport
•    Central air conditioning
•    Home being in move-in condition
•    Open floor plan
•    Renovated or new kitchen

Some of these features are part of popular trends industry groups are following. Home buyers — especially those in the Millennial generation — are increasingly mindful of how their choices affect the environment. In its 2013 Homeowner Mood & Mindset Survey, the Home Industry Leadership Board found that 58 percent of this group considered reuse of materials in home improvement projects to be important, 47 percent believe “going green” makes them a better person, 41 percent consider going green a part of their lifestyle and 24 percent would choose green alternatives regardless of cost.

Green technology is among the most popular features found in new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders. According to the association, energy efficiency is a key theme, with Energy Star-rated appliances, programmable thermostats and Energy Star-windows at the top of the list.

Other popular features cited by the association include a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a laundry room and first-floor ceilings at least 9 feet high.

Obviously, it’s not possible to meet every buyer’s expectation. The good news, though, is that FSBO sellers can address many of these issues when preparing and staging their homes. By investing some time — and often just a little more money — you can enhance your home’s appeal to buyers. Here are specific recommendations for dealing with some potential problem areas.

Killer Kitchens
“No matter if your space is large or small, if there is a budget for a kitchen renovation, make sure that you plan for ample cabinet and counter space,” advises Darlene Parris of GetUpStaged.com, which offers interior redesign, organization services and home staging in the Los Angeles area. “Space is an in-demand feature that people are willing to pay for.”

Parris also warns that sellers avoid skimping on the finishes. “Choose the best cabinetry and countertop that you can get for your budget,” she says. “Granite is still quite popular, but Silestone (a quartz surface) is gaining popularity.”

If your kitchen remodeling budget is limited, Parris suggests replacing the countertops and flooring, refacing the cabinets and replacing the sink and hardware.

If you have little or no budget, Parris offers these tips:

•    Paint the walls.
•    Sand and paint the kitchen cabinets.
•    Change the pulls and hinges on all cabinets and drawers.
•    Remove everything from the countertops and the front, side and top of the refrigerator.
•    Organize your kitchen cabinets, drawers and pantry so that they aren’t bursting at the seams.

“And clean everything from the sink and appliances to the counters and floors,” Parris says. “In all scenarios, prospective buyers are wanting to see a kitchen that’s free from clutter, is clean and has enough space. So make sure that it sparkles.”

If you can afford to, add new appliances. “This will instantly give your kitchen a new look at the fraction of the cost of a full renovation,” Parris says. But a FSBO seller doesn’t always need to buy new appliances. If the appliances are all the same color and style — for example, all white or all chrome — then sellers can clean them up and include them in the sale. The appliances must, however, be in good condition and exceptionally clean. If they’re not cleanable or of mismatched colors and styles, Parris says new appliances may be in order. “Usually you can get the best price on installation if it is arranged with the same retailer you are purchasing from,” she adds.

No Parking, No Deal
Whether it’s attached or separate, make sure your parking space is free of clutter and absolutely clean — and that means getting rid of oil stains, too.

And if you don’t have a garage or carport, play up whatever dedicated parking space you do have. “If the property features a driveway, then the seller is in luck,” Parris says. “Most buyers will at least want a place to park their vehicle that’s not three blocks away.”

Sellers should ensure that the driveway presents well and repair any damage before the property is photographed for that all-important online listing. “Additionally, the seller might perhaps make an inquiry with their town as to whether a carport can be added,” Parris says. “This is valuable information for a prospective buyer, as the question will undoubtedly arise during showings.”

If a property only offers on-street parking, that still might not be a deal breaker, Parris says — especially if municipal permits guarantee residents have parking spaces.

No Room to Grow
If your home doesn’t already qualify as being an “open space” design, you probably won’t be able to knock down walls and do extensive remodeling. Still, knowing how buyers’ minds work can go a long way toward presenting your home at its best.

“There are many things that can stop prospective buyers in their tracks,” Parris warns. And a perceived lack of space is one of them. “Space is a premium feature that all buyers are looking for, so things like too much clutter can make a buyer feel claustrophobic,” she says. Buyers need to envision themselves in a space without the added mental gymnastics of figuring out how or where to put their things.

“Declutter every room, closet and cupboard, as prospective buyers will be looking into all of these spaces,” Parris says.

She also emphasizes that too much personalization will prevent buyers from seeing themselves in your home. “Remember, they are wanting — and needing — to see the home you are selling, so put away items like family portraits, religious artifacts and even your toothbrush. This helps to neutralize the space and allow buyers to see how they will live in the home.”

The key is to transition your perspective from “how I like it” to “how others need to see it,” Parris says.

If for sale by owner home sellers follow these strategies, they’re more likely to give buyers exactly what they want.

Tell us in the comments: What home improvement projects have you completed before showing your home?