3 Ways to Lower Your Air Conditioning Costs

With summer almost here, air conditioners start to run all day and night. In most homes, this accounts for the biggest share of energy consumption in summer. 

While your AC may keep you comfortable in the hot and humid months, costs can add up if you don’t have an efficient system. 

Keep reading to learn three tips to reduce air conditioning costs this summer. 

Upgrade Your Air Conditioning Unit

Old air conditioning units are inefficient, which means they consume more energy and cost more to run. By replacing window units with an efficient mini-split system, you can gain up to 70% energy savings.

Upgrading your HVAC system does come with a cost, so make sure you budget the project, and speak with a professional about the options available for your home. 

Smart Controls

Leaving the air conditioning on full blast is a waste. Just like you program heat in the winter, you can program your air conditioning to ensure your home is comfortable while saving you money. Program the air conditioning to your comfort level for the times of the day when you are home. When working or away, increase the temperature by 7-10 degrees to reduce costs. 

Mini-split systems also enable you to cool down the rooms you use the most. You can set the temperature for the main living areas to one level, and another level for rooms more seldomly used. 

Reduce Air Leakage

A home with poor insulation or air leaks enables cool air to get out and hot outside air to get into the home. The opposite is true during cold winter months, so this tip can help you save all year long!

Some easy ways to improve insulation are by caulking and weatherproofing all windows and doors, replacing any worn-out or drafty window treatments with new ones made of insulating materials (such as cotton drapes), and closing off unused parts of an attic when possible. You can also go an additional step to improve your home’s insulation by adding spray foam insulation throughout your home.

Your air conditioning unit is a major factor in your energy bills, and these tips can help reduce those costs. Do you have other tips? Let us know!

Buyers’ Search for Energy Efficiency

Over the past year, buyers have been searching for properties with more indoor and outdoor living space, private home offices, and plenty of storage. 

In addition to more space, a recent report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that buyers are also looking for energy efficiency when looking at new homes.

Top Energy Efficient Features for Buyers

The report surveyed 3,000 homebuyers and was presented during NAHB’s 2021 International Builders’ Show. As buyers search for homes, they are keeping an eye out for eco-friendly design and green features. 

The top three energy-efficient features buyers look for are:

  1. Energy Star rated windows and appliances.
  2. Efficient lighting that uses less energy than traditional light bulbs.
  3. Energy Star rating for the whole house.

Willing to Pay

Since energy-efficient features often result in lower utility costs, buyers consider this when buying a new home. If green features will save homeowners money toward utility bills every month, buyers surveyed said they are willing to spend more money upfront.

On average, buyers said they would pay over $9,000 more upfront for a home if it would lower annual utility costs by $1,000. Buyers are also willing to spend more than $2,000 upfront for a home certified above-code for health and wellness, which includes features such as zone heating and indoor air quality. 

Homeowner Education

It’s not enough to just start installing green features into new homes. Homeowners must also know and understand how the features work. Part of regular home maintenance is ensuring that the green features are serviced and properly working. In addition, homeowners need to know how to use green features to their full potential to gain all the benefits. 

Brandon Bryan, the founder of Red Tree Builders, stated,

“We’ve got to teach people how to live in green homes, how these homes operate, and even before we build to let them know what we could do because a lot of times we could do so much more for their life.” 

What green features are important to have in your home? 

8 Simple Tips for a Greener Home

When you incorporate green practices at home, you use less electricity and water. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you’ll reduce your monthly bills, saving you money every month. 

Not all sustainable choices are difficult to implement or impossible to keep up with. In fact, there are many simple ways to go green in your own home, starting today. 

Keep reading for 8 simple ways to make your home more sustainable. 

Unplug

One of the easiest ways to save energy is to unplug devices when they are not being used. When you keep appliances plugged in, they continue to suck up electricity even when they are not powered on. Get in the habit of unplugging toasters, heaters, coffee makers, and fans when not in use. You can also use a smart power strip in your home office or entertainment center. These power strips cut power off and save energy when devices are in standby mode. 

Program Your Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows you to monitor your heating and cooling systems. This allows you to easily use less energy when you are at work or traveling, and keeps your preferred temperature while you are home.

The Nest Thermostat takes programming to the next level. This ENERGY STAR thermostat learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule for you. It also provides maintenance reminders and HVAC system alerts to keep your system in the best condition. 

Stock Your Freezer

A full freezer works more efficiently than one that is nearly empty. The freezer works harder, and uses more energy, when cooling down air that comes in every time you open the door. If fully stocked, less air is able to enter, which helps to keep the temperature down while saving energy. 

Seal Your Home

Gaps around windows and doors let hot outside air into the house in the summer, and heat escape in the winter. This makes your HVAC system work harder, wasting energy on heating and cooling. Every year, check for gaps throughout your home. When needed, seal the gaps, and use weather stripping around windows and doors to keep inside air in and outside air out. 

Switch to LED Lighting

LED lightbulbs consume about 80% less energy and last up to 20 times longer than incandescent light bulbs. As light bulbs burn out, make sure you replace them with LED lightbulbs for both interior and exterior lights. 

Fix Leaks

Small toilet or faucet leaks often end up on the to-do list, only to be tended to months later. Even small leaks (like a constant dripping) can waste up to 90 gallons of water per day, according to epa.gov. If you notice a leak, call a plumber to assess how it started, and make sure to fix the issue right away. 

Upgrade Your Insulation

Older homes often lack sufficient insulation. A properly installed home and attic help to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. This means your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard. 

Purchase Efficient Appliances

When you are replacing appliances, purchase energy-efficient models. You can find ENERGY STAR dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, ovens, and refrigerators. This label verifies that the appliance is energy efficient. In the bathroom, opt for low-flow showerheads and toilets to save water. 

Which of these green tips have you already implemented? Let us know in the comments!

Benefits of Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating is a popular trend in new construction. Stepping onto a heated floor in winter months adds a feeling of luxury – not to mention warmth. 

Types of Underfloor Heating

There are two main types of underfloor radiant heating: electric (or dry) and water-based (or wet) systems. 

Electric-based systems are comprised of heating cables that are spread on the ground and connected to the thermostat before the flooring is laid on top. These are generally easier and cheaper to install, but are more expensive to run than wet systems. 

Water-based systems are typically connected to the boiler. Continuous plastic pipes are laid out on a subfloor, and the final surface is laid on top. Hot water is pumped through plastic pipes to create heat. Although more difficult to install, wet systems are more cost-effective over time. 

Regardless if you choose electric or water-based underfloor heating, they both provide benefits over traditional heating systems. Keep reading to learn what they are!

Energy Efficient

Underfloor heating saves energy compared to forced-air or radiator heat. When air is delivered from above, fan power is required to push the hot air down. In addition, more heat is needed to compensate for uneven heating throughout the room. These factors lead to more energy being used and a higher energy bill. 

Underfloor heating starts at ground level, distributing warm air using natural convection. This means less energy is used. Water-based systems use even less energy than electric underfloor systems, because heating water with a boiler uses less energy than heating with electric radiant cables. 

Improved Comfort

One of the main benefits of underfloor heating is it eliminates cold spots. Traditional heating systems can make a room feel too warm, followed by a period of being too cold. There might also be cold spots or drafts, depending on where the heat is coming from.

With underfloor systems, heat is evenly distributed, rising up from the floor. These systems are both silent and efficient, creating the perfect temperature and added comfort for all. 

Improved Air Quality

Forced airflow can have a negative impact on air quality, as it spreads dust, particles, and pathogens. In addition, forced air systems require a higher heat output due to uneven heat distribution. This dries the air, causing dust and pollutant particles to stay airborne longer, plus added irritation to eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Underfloor heating reduces air movement and even distributes heat, which helps to improve air quality. 

In new construction, underfloor heating is often a requested feature, for both comfort and efficiency. What room in your home would you most love to have underfloor heating?

What is a HERS Index?

There are plenty of ways to make your home more energy-efficient. As homeowners, you know that with every scheduled maintenance and every home purchase, there are ways to save energy, money, and have a more sustainable household. 

With all of the options available, it can be overwhelming to sort through what will help your home run more efficiently, and what isn’t necessary. That is where the HERS Index can help.

What is the HERS Index?

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized system to assess a home’s energy performance. 

HERS scores are designed to calculate the energy efficiency of new or remodeled homes. If you are in the market to buy a brand new home, the HERS score will give you an idea of the energy costs for the house.

How do you find out the HERS Index Score?

A certified HERS Rater can determine the HERS Index Score of your home. They will complete an onsite energy rating of the home, and then compare the data to a reference home. The reference home is an analysis tool designed to resemble the actual house in size, shape, style, environment, and climate. 

What does the score mean?

The HERS Index ranges from 0 to 150, with 0 being a home that produces or conserves as much energy as it uses. While a score of 0 is unlikely, the lower the score, the more energy-efficient the home.

The standard new home typically has a rating of 100, while the typical resale home has a score of 130. Using these scores as reference points, you can get an idea of how efficient your home is. 

How can I improve my home’s HERS Index Score?

The greatest energy expenses in a house are for heating and cooling. Whether you are remodeling your entire home or just looking for a way to save on energy costs, you can get a programmable thermostat, upgrade your HVAC system, or simply get an annual tune-up to make sure it is working properly. 

Other energy-saving tips include: sealing all air leaks, add insulation, upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances, and consider installing solar panels

A HERS index rating can help you determine what type of fixes will be most beneficial for your home. 

 

Upgrades that Pay Off

You love the size and location of your home, but some work needs to be completed for you to remain happy while living there. 

If you are going to spend money on renovations, it’s important to factor in how much value the projects will add to your home. 

Whether you plan to sell in the near future, a few years down the road, or haven’t thought of selling at all, continue reading to learn what interior projects are most likely to add value to the home for resale. 

INTERIOR RENOVATION PROJECTS

REALTOR rank of projects’ appeal to buyers (highest to lowest)

REALTOR rank of projects’ likely value to the home for resale (highest to lowest)

Complete Kitchen Renovation

Complete Kitchen Renovation

Kitchen Upgrade

Kitchen Upgrade

HVAC Replacement

HVAC Replacement

New Wood Flooring

New Master Suite / Owners’ Suite

Bathroom Renovation

Bathroom Renovation

Hardwood Flooring Refinish

Basement Conversion to Living Area

New Master Suite / Owners’ Suite

Add New Bathroom

Add New Bathroom

New Wood Flooring

Basement Conversion to Living Area

Hardwood Flooring Refinish

Attic Conversion to Living Area

Attic Conversion to Living Area

Insulation Upgrade

Insulation Upgrade

Closet Renovation

Closet Renovation

* From the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report

 

Kitchens and Bathrooms 

Kitchens top the list of remodeling projects, according to the 2019 Remodeling Impact Report by the National Association of Realtors. “Complete Kitchen Renovation” is the top remodeling project to complete if you want to appeal to buyers and add value to the resale, according to Realtors surveyed. 

We know that while a complete renovation in the kitchen is what homeowners dream about, it is also a costly project. With a kitchen upgrade ranking number two on both lists, you can choose to stay within budget by keeping some aspects of the kitchen and upgrading others. 

“Bathroom Renovation” and “Add a New Bathroom” are also remodeling projects that add value. If you have just one bathroom, consider where you can add another. For an outdated bathroom, determine what upgrades are needed to make it feel more luxurious or relaxing. 

 

Comfort and Sustainability

Aesthetics aren’t everything. Buyers are also interested in comfort and sustainability, which has a lot to do with the mechanics of the home. An HVAC Replacement or Insulation Upgrade can make a significant difference for buyers. These changes can help to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, which adds value to the property.

 

Which home renovation project would you like to tackle in 2020?

 

What are energy efficient windows?

Energy efficiency is overwhelmingly important to homeowners, which was made clear in a 2019 study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. 

For homeowners, installing energy efficient windows is one of the easiest ways to reduce energy consumption.  Consequently, lower energy consumption means lower monthly heating and cooling bills. 

What are energy efficient windows?

Energy efficient windows work with the seasons. In the winter, they keep heat inside the home, while in the summer, they keep the cool air in. The climate zone where you live determines the type of window that is qualified for your location. 

The easiest way to determine if a window is energy efficient is to select ENERGY STAR rated products. ENERGY STAR rated windows are manufactured by an ENERGY STAR partner, tested and certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council, and meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Features of an Energy Efficient Window

For windows to be considered energy efficient, they must meet specific criteria. These include:

 

  • Low-E Glass. A special coating on the windows helps to reflect infrared light and ultraviolet light. This not only increases the insulation, but helps to protect carpet and furniture against fading from the sun.
  • Panes of Glass. Energy efficient windows contain at least two panes of glass, but can have three or more panes for more insulation. 
  • Warm Edge Spacers. Edge spacers keep the panes of glass secure at an equal distance apart. Warm edge spacers are non-metallic, helping to reduce the loss of heat around the edges of the window.
  • Gas Fill. In between the panes of glass, non-toxic, odorless, and colorless gases can be added. These gases help increase insulation. 

 

 

Framing Options

In addition to creating the aesthetic style of the window, window frames are as important as glass when it comes to energy efficiency. There are numerous options for ENERGY STAR rated window frames. All of these framing options are designed to provide optimal insulation:

 

  • Wood 
  • Fiberglass
  • Vinyl
  • Aluminum 
  • Combination: Made of different materials, used separately throughout the frame (such as a wood interior and fiberglass exterior). 
  • Composite: Manufactured with blended materials. 

 

 

We know how important it is to both reduce energy usage and keep the home comfortable. Selecting windows that are energy efficient is an easy way to accomplish both.

Energy Efficient Offices

Offices are energy-consuming buildings; between heating and cooling, lighting, and technology and equipment required to run a business, the amount of energy used continues to rise. 

With more builders and contractors committing to sustainable building, commercial offices are becoming more green, or environmentally friendly. Green buildings are designed and constructed with sustainable materials that make the building more energy-efficient and reduces energy costs.

Business owners don’t often have control over how the building was built, unless moving into a brand new development. But there are things every office can do to maximize energy conservation and reduce costs. 

HVAC 

Space heating accounts for 25% of energy use in commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Ideally, a building will have proper insulation to help maintain a comfortable temperature. In older buildings, this cannot always be achieved. Whether you are leasing office space or own the building, maintaining your HVAC system can help decrease energy use and save money. Here are some ways to make the most of your HVAC:

  • Clean filters. Dirty filters slow down airflow. Check any filters regularly and change as necessary.
  • Program heating and cooling. Program the temperature of the office. After employees leave for the day, the heat (or AC) does not need to be turned up as high. 
  • Equipment tune-up. To make sure all systems are working efficiently, get a tune-up from an HVAC professional. 

Lighting

Lighting is one of the easiest ways to make energy-saving changes to your office space. Because lighting makes up 10% of the total energy use in buildings, it is worth the effort.

  • Motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights are ideal for areas that are occupied during certain times of the day, including parking lots, stairways, and meeting rooms. 
  • Make the most of natural light. Builders are taking more advantage of natural light. Through a process called daylighting, sunlight illuminates buildings, cutting energy use and costs. This provides an added bonus – sunlight increases positive moods of everyone in the workspace. 
  • LED lights. LED bulbs last longer than fluorescent and incandescent lighting, and reduce the amount of energy used. 

Office Technology and Appliances

Offices are filled with technology and appliances – from computers and copiers to refrigerators and microwaves. Being mindful in your selection of these items can significantly reduce energy usage. 

  • Laptops. Laptops use up to 90% less energy than desktops. Depending on how many people work on computers in your office, this can make a significant difference.
  • ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR appliances, computers, copiers, televisions, and even fans and thermostats, are the most efficient equipment for the office. 

Minimizing energy consumption in the workplace is beneficial for both the environment and your business savings. As we take on new developments, we are mindful of sustainable practices and work to make each building as environmentally friendly as possible. 

 

4 Benefits of One-Level Living

One-level living does not mean cramped living quarters. In fact, a one-level floor plan lends to an open flow, high ceilings, and can easily provide space for all of your needs – without the need to go up and down the stairs. 

Accessibility

Accessibility is the most significant benefit to one-level living. With everything on one floor, the struggle of ascending and descending the stairs is eliminated. Whether you have a toddler in the house, elderly in-laws staying with you, or plan to retire in the home, one level is easier and safer to navigate. 

At The Residences at 66 High Street, The Whitfield and The Leete feature one-level units, with elevators that go from the parking garage or lobby up to each floor. 

Open Floor Plan Options

Open floor plans continue to be the most sought after design in homes. An open flow between the most used areas of the home – the kitchen, dining area, and living room – creates a feeling of connection. This holds true whether you are hosting a party or preparing a meal for your family.

With everything on one level, designing an open floor plan comes naturally. There is no family room in the basement or loft on the second level that becomes the gathering space. 

Increased Energy Efficiency

Single story homes usually have a floor plan that air naturally flows through. The HVAC system required for a one-level residence is more sustainable and generally less expensive than what is needed to heat and cool multiple levels properly. 

Easy to Maintain

Both the interior and exterior of single-level houses are easier to keep clean and maintain. Inside, your cleaning supplies and laundry room are on the same floor, which means you do not have to carry items up and down the stairs while cleaning. The exterior is also easier to maintain, whether you are power washing the siding, cleaning the windows, or clearing out gutters. 

With more people aging in place and staying in their homes throughout retirement, one-level living is becoming more sought after. Are you considering moving to a one-story residence? Contact us to discuss floor plan options. 

10 Questions to Ask if Buying New Construction

Brand new everything. No surprise issues behind the walls. Custom designed for your wants and needs. 

New construction is an opportunity for you to build your dream home. While the thought of moving into a never-lived-in-before house is blissful, there can be stressful moments throughout the process. A new build runs much smoother with patience and communication. This means you need to ask your questions upfront and stay in communication throughout the build. 

Below are ten questions to ask your builder or contractor when constructing a new home:

Who is my point of contact during the build?

There will be a lot of people on the construction site, and they may not always be the people you need to speak with. Find out who your point of contact is from the start, and stay consistent in communicating with that person. This will help to eliminate the run-around when you need an answer to a specific question. 

Is the lot included?

Before signing on, the budget will be one of the first things you discuss with your builder. Give your total budget upfront so the builder can keep that in mind as the project moves through each stage. Some builders will have the cost of the lot included in the sale price of the home, while others keep this as a separate transaction for the buyers. Find out whether you need to close on the lot before construction begins. 

What are standard fixtures and what is extra?

Generally speaking, builders have a model that comes with standard features. A builder specifications sheet will go through all standard features in the home. If you want extras and your budget allows for you, determine what is of most importance to you and let your builder know as early on in the build as possible. 

How much input can I have on design?

If starting from the beginning of the build, there can be a lot of flexibility in how much input you have in the design. As the home nears completion, there is less of a chance for you to build-to-suit

If you have a vision that is different than the standard features of extras the builder provides, speak with them to determine if what you want can be incorporated while sticking to your budget. 

When is the scheduled completion?

Once you have determined your budget and design plans, the builder can give you a scheduled completion date. This allows you to plan for how much time you need alternate housing. 

Is a builder’s warranty included?

Find out if the builder’s warranty comes with the completion of the house. Knowing the builder will fix issues that may arise after the sale of the home can eliminate a lot of stress. 

Is landscaping included?

An empty lot means there is a significant amount of work to do with landscaping. If landscaping is not included with the build, you will want to put some of your budget aside so that you can attend to your property. 

Are there homeowner rules?

Is the new home in a development or condominium complex? Find out what the homeowner association rules and regulations, along with the monthly fees, are. It’s best to know this first so that your dream home is also in your dream community. 

Do I need a home inspection?

You may think that because the construction is brand new that you don’t need a home inspection. But it’s important to know that everything has been built up to code. Inspectors know what to look for in newly constructed homes. 

Are there energy-saving features in the home?

Energy-saving features help you live sustainably and can also help save you money on monthly payments. Every year, there are new and advanced technologies to make your home more sustainable and more comfortable. Find out what the builder is doing to keep the build eco-friendly. 

Do you have more questions about new construction process? Contact us.

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