While I would love to be the source for all things Tax and Green I find it much simpler to let the National Association of Realtors handle it from a Federal level… Please click below to find details regarding Green Tax Credits and Incentives for ‘going green’. However, should you require assistance with going green on a local level please don’t hesitate to call.
Archive for the 'Go Green' Category
Keep the same footprint, add storage, and design adequate lighting so you preserve value and keep costs on track.
If you’re contemplating a kitchen remodel, you’re also weighing a considerable investment. But a significant portion of the upfront costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. Kitchen remodels in the $50,000 range recouped 76% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to recent data from Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. To make sure you maximize your return, consider these seven smart kitchen remodeling strategies. Continue reading ‘7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling’
Qualifying for the $1,500 federal tax credit on new windows and doors depends on two measurements, U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.
Just because windows or doors are Energy Star-labeled doesn’t mean they’re eligible for the maximum $1,500 federal tax credit. And with costs running about $500-$1,000 per window including labor, it’s wise to know something about the scientific lingo and numbers on the product labels you’re likely to encounter. Here’s your pro-level label-decoding guide so you can be sure you’re buying qualified products.
Which labels matter?
The two labels you should look for: The U.S. Department of Energy’s blue-and-yellow Energy Star label, which specifies the climate zones the product is certified for, and the white National Fenestration Rating Council label. Nonprofit NFRC is the industry-recognized certifying body for windows and doors. It reports raw numbers only; Energy Star tells you whether those numbers constitute superior performance, putting its seal of approval on those products that meet its standards.
To confuse matters, DOE has issued a blue label that manufacturers can use to signify that a product qualifies for the tax credit. But DOE doesn’t require that manufacturers include it.
What you need to get the tax credit
For windows or doors purchased after June 1, 2009, to qualify for the credit, two NFRC-supplied measurements must each be equal to or less than 0.3, regardless of climate: U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC). You must also have the manufacturer’s signed statement that the product complies with IRS requirements. This either comes with purchase or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Don’t be swayed by ratings the manufacturer may post on its own label. A window or door’s frame and other components (weather stripping, sidelights, transoms) can significantly affect its energy efficiency, so NFRC measures based on the entire unit, not just the window glass or door slab alone. Manufacturers, on the other hand, sometimes report values that don’t take the entire unit into account, according to Energy Star.
A guide to measurements
The NFRC label typically lists five measurements, including the tax credit-critical U-factor and SHGC. The other three are somewhat less important to energy performance, according to Energy Star, but can help you judge how well a window or door will perform in a particular application—for example, whether it’ll let in enough light.
Where you live affects which measurements are most important, but the tax credit requirements are uniform across the country. There are four Energy Star climate zones, differentiated by whether heating, cooling, or a mix of the two is most critical to energy performance.
Range: 0.20 to 1.20
The lower the number, the better an insulator the window or door is.
Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less
Efficient Windows Collaborative climate recommendations:
Northern: 0.35 or less
North Central or South Central: 0.4 or less
Southern: 0.60 or less
A low U-factor means that less heat escapes in the winter, which makes it particularly important in cold northern climates, according to the Collaborative, a coalition of government agencies, research organizations, and manufacturers that promote efficient window technology.
2. Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC)
Range: 0 to 1
The lower the number, the less solar radiation—and heat—the window or door allows inside.
Tax credit qualification requirement: 0.3 or less
EWC climate recommendations:
Northern: The highest you can find (paired with a low U-factor) if cooling isn’t a significant concern; up to 0.55 if cooling is a significant concern.
North Central: 0.4 or less for climates with significant air conditioning; up to 0.55 for climates with moderate air conditioning.
South Central or Southern: 0.4 or less.
SHGC refers to the solar radiation a window or door allows inside. Seek the lowest possible SHGC rating in warm climates to minimize the use of air conditioning. Look for a slightly higher number in cooler climates so that the sun can help heat your home in winter, but be sure to balance SHGC with an efficient U-factor for your area.
3. Visible transmittance
Range: 0 to 1
Lower number means the room will be dimmer
a higher number means the room will be brighter.
Tax credit qualification requirement: none
This number applies to windows or doors with windows only. Visible transmittance is the amount of light a window allows to pass through. With older window glazing techniques, VT and solar heat gain were basically the same; the brighter a room, the hotter it got. But new technologies allow windows to let in lots of light while the room stays cool.
Consult VT numbers if you’re looking to reduce glare in a room or fill it with natural light, but be warned that a very low VT may mean you have to use artificial lighting even during the day.
4. Air leakage
Range: N/A, but .0.3 is standard building code
The lower the number, the more airtight the window or door.
Tax qualification requirement: none
This number, expressed in cubic feet per minute per square foot of window/door area, represents the amount of air that the window or door’s frame allows to pass through. Energy Star standards don’t consider air leakage because it’s difficult to measure accurately and can change over time as frame materials expand, contract, or warp in place, according to the EWC. Still, this measurement can help you compare similar products, especially if they’ll be buffeted by the elements.
5. Condensation resistance
Range: 1 to 100
The lower the number, the more condensation the window or door allows to build up.
Tax credit qualification requirement: none
Condensation resistance is a measure of how much moisture a window or door allows to build up on the surface (which can drip onto wood and cause mold or discoloration) or between glazing layers (which can’t be clean and blocks your view). Energy Star-rated windows tend to resist condensation well, so this number won’t likely affect your purchase decision.
Learning the lingo can be worth it. A window replacement is one of the best home remodeling projects in terms of investment return. You can recoup about 78% of the project cost ($10,500-$13,600), according to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report.
Karin Beuerlein has covered home improvement and green living topics extensively for FineLiving.com, FrontDoor.com, and HGTV.com. She has also written for dozens of national and regional publications in more than a decade of freelancing, including Better Homes & Gardens, the Chicago Tribune, Eating Well, and The History Channel Magazine. She and her husband started married life by remodeling the house they were living in. They still have both the marriage and the house, no small feat.
If you want to make sure your bathroom remodeling project is as green as possible, here’s how to save energy, conserve resources, and protect your budget.
You care about the environment. You also happen to have a bathroom badly in need of remodeling. How do you get the job done with minimal impact on both our fragile planet and your precious budget? Thankfully, the growth of the green building movement has given rise to many eco-responsible products and resources that allow you to create the water-conserving, healthy, energy-wise bath you’ve always wanted—all without busting your bottom line. Here’s what you need to know. Continue reading ‘Green Bathroom Remodel’
A do-it-yourself energy audit can teach you how to be more energy efficient and make you a more-educated consumer should you decide to hire an expert.
Self-starters don’t necessarily need a pro to assess their home’s energy deficiencies. With a little elbow grease and one of several free do-it-yourself guides to home energy auditing, you can get a good sense of where your home is leaking hot and cool air, and how your choice of appliances and your energy use contributes to energy loss. Continue reading ‘Conduct Your Own Energy Audit’
For what the typical family wastes every year on air leaks—about $350—you can plug energy-robbing gaps, start saving money, and enjoy a more comfortable home.
A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget—roughly $350—on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It’s among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort, according to Energy Star. Start in the attic, since that’s where you’ll find some of the biggest energy drains. Then tackle the basement, to prevent cold air that enters there from being sucked into upstairs rooms. Finally, seal air leaks in the rest of the house. Here are eight places to start.
1. Insulate around recessed lights
Most recessed lights have vents that open into the attic, a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it’s easy to see why researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed them as a leading cause of household air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle ($8-$30 at the home center) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.
2. Plug open stud cavities
Most of your house probably has an inner skin of drywall or plaster between living space and unheated areas. But builders in the past often skipped this cover behind knee walls (partial-height walls where the roof angles down into the top floor), above dropped ceilings or soffits, and above angled ceilings over stairs.
Up in the attic, you may need to push insulation away to see if the stud cavities are open. If they are, seal them with unfaced fiberglass insulation ($1.30 a square foot) stuffed into plastic garbage bags; the bag is key to blocking air flow. Close large gaps with scraps of drywall or pieces of reflective foil insulation ($2 a square foot). Once you’ve covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place. To see these repairs in action, consult Energy Star’s DIY guide to air sealing.
3. Close gaps around flues and chimneys
Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least one inch from metal flues and two inches from brick chimneys. But that creates gaps where air can flow through. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing ($12) cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk ($20). To keep insulation away from the hot flue pipe, form a barrier by wrapping a cylinder of flashing around the flue, leaving a one-inch space in between. To maintain the spacing, cut and bend a series of inch-deep tabs in the cylinder’s top and bottom edges.
4. Weatherstrip the attic access door
A quarter-inch gap around pull-down attic stairs or an attic hatch lets through the same amount of air as a bedroom heating duct. Seal it by caulking between the stair frame and the rough opening, or by installing foam weatherstripping around the perimeter of the hatch opening. Or you can buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit, such as the Energy Guardian from ESS Energy Products ($150).
5. Squirt foam in the medium-size gaps
Once the biggest attic gaps are plugged, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to three inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about half an inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses.
6. Caulk the skinny gaps
Caulk makes the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.
7. Plug gaps in the basement
Gaps low on a foundation wall matter if you’re trying to fix a wet basement, but only those above the outside soil level let air in. Seal those with the same materials you’d use in an attic: caulk for gaps up to 1/4-inch wide and spray foam for wider ones. Use high-temperature caulk around vent pipes that get hot, such as those for the furnace or water heater. Shoot foam around wider holes for wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement walls to the outside.
In most older houses with basements, air seeps in where the house framing sits on the foundation. Spread a bead of caulk between the foundation and the sill plate (the wood immediately above the foundation), and along the top and bottom edges of the rim joist (the piece that sits atop the sill plate).
8. Tighten up around windows and doors
In the main living areas of your home, the most significant drafts tend to occur around windows and doors. If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weatherstripping goes a long way toward tightening them up. Bronze weatherstripping ($12 for 17 feet) lasts for decades but is time-consuming to install, while some self-stick plastic types are easy to put on but don’t last very long. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years. Nifty gadgets called pulley seals ($9 a pair) block air from streaming though the holes where cords disappear into the frames.
Weatherstripping also works wonders on doors. If a draft comes in at the bottom, install a new door sweep ($9).
Before working in the attic, take some precautions
Try to do attic work on a cool day. Wear protective gear: disposable clothes, gloves, and a double-elastic mask or half-face respirator. Bring along a droplight with a fluorescent bulb, plus at least two pieces of plywood big enough to span two or three joists to support you as you work. To save trips up and down a ladder, try to move up all of the materials you need before you get started. One warning: If you find vermiculite insulation, hold off until you’ve had it checked for asbestos; your health department or air-quality agency can recommend a lab.
Jeanne Huber writes a home-repair column for the Washington Post and has commissioned three new roofs on various houses over the years.
Video provided by Today’s Homeowner host, Danny Lipford.
You’re already paying a bundle every month to your cable and Internet providers. Why fork over even more money to the power company for the standby power consumption that TVs, computers, and cell phones eat when they’re plugged in but not in use?
Standby or “vampire” consumption accounts for about $100 of your electricity bill annually, says Energy Star. But you can save at least some of that money by using a few simple tactics, if you’re willing to form new habits and do a little investigative work. Continue reading ‘Saving Electricity, Reduce Standby Power Consumption’
Lighting is one of the biggest energy gobblers in your house, eating up between 10% and 20% of your total electric bill. But it’s also one area of the home where a minimal effort can yield major returns. Simply replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents can lower operating costs by as much as 75% per bulb. And in places where you can’t—or don’t want to—switch to CFLs, you can use higher-efficiency incandescents and even make your existing conventional lighting cheaper to operate. When new federal legislation takes effect in 2012, all light bulbs will have to meet tougher energy-efficiency standards. But with a few small changes, you can start saving money right now.
For the greatest savings, switch to compact fluorescents Continue reading ‘7 Tips for Saving Energy’