Blanco County News
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Efficient homes save money, improve value, help environment
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 • Posted August 18, 2009 10:00 PM

No matter your motivation, improving the efficiency of your home is a smart move. For people who strongly identify with environmental issues, the positives of energy-efficient homes are obvious, but you don’t necessarily need that perspective to see the benefits. Besides reducing the impact on the environment, an efficient house is a more comfortable and affordable place to live.

What does green mean?

Reducing consumption is the key. Using modern appliances, employing green-building techniques and materials, upgrading a structure’s efficiency, or adding of energy-saving technologies, like solar panels, are all ways to reduce consumption, thereby reducing utility bills or minimizing your footprint.

Start small

If you're dipping your toe into energy-efficient upgrades, you can start small. Replace old-style light bulbs with CFL bulbs. These use 75% less energy and last about 10 times as long as incandescent bulbs. According to the EPA, these bulbs pay for themselves in about six months.

Gradually upgrading appliances like washers, driers, dishwashers and refrigerators improves efficiency and is an important part of green remodeling. Look for the Energy Star certification when the time comes.

Keep that air inside!

Limiting encroachment of outside air is one of the most effective ways to improve a home’s efficiency – you’re paying to make that air cooler or warmer, so keep as much as possible inside the house.

Most thermal transfer happens around doors and windows. Weather-stripping is an inexpensive way to reduce the loss of climate-controlled air and is fairly easy to install and maintain. You may also consider simply adding solar screens over the windows, which limit the summer sun’s effect on your home.

If your home has single-pane windows, replacing them with modern double- or triple-pane ones is an aesthetically pleasing, albeit costly way to prevent thermal transfer.

Older homes were not insulated up to today’s standards, so adding insulation to the walls and attic also makes a big difference.

Holes and gaps in your existing duct work heat and cool your attic and not your house. Have a professional check your duct system. Several small gaps can substantially reduce your home’s efficiency, as can an older air conditioner or furnace.

Outside the house

Consider rain barrels to catch precipitation and use it to water your flowers, garden, trees and lawn. Many parts of our state are in the midst of a severe drought, so every gallon counts.

Plant a tree – sure, the effects may not show up for a few years, but a well-placed tree provides shade in the summer and acts as a wind break in the winter. Consider using native plants to limit the amount of water needed to maintain your landscaping.

Need a new roof? Some roofing materials are made from recycled plastics or tires and are extremely durable. There are even photovoltaic roof tiles that use solar technology to produce electricity for your home.

Everyone benefits

As a homeowner, you can enjoy significantly lower monthly bills and a more comfortable home. Also, you may not be planning a move just yet, but if you ever do put the house on the market, high efficiency is an excellent selling point.

Buyers can enjoy slightly more buying power with an energy-efficient mortgage (EEM). This type of loan is usually reserved for new-construction homes and rewards borrowers with a higher loan because of expected savings on monthly utility bills.

What if you’re buying an older home? No problem. A certain kind of EEM, called an energy-improvement mortgage (EIM), is designed for use with existing homes. This product anticipates savings on utility bills and rolls the cost of efficiency improvements into the loan without increasing the down payment.

Get started

To encourage the adoption of green building, remodeling and upgrading, there are federal, state and local incentive programs for everything from efficient light bulbs to solar energy systems. For available programs in Texas, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) Web site at www.dsireusa.org/ and click Texas on the map.

Need advice?

Want to know more about how green affects real estate? Ask a Texas Realtor – we’re here to answer your housing questions.

Some Texas Realtors even specialize in green real estate and have attained the National Association of Realtors Green Designation. Others have earned the Texas Affordable Housing Specialist Certification, in which ways green housing affects affordability are examined.

For more information about real estate in the Lone Star State, or to find a Texas Realtor, please visit TexasReal Estate.com. For your real estate needs, please call RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000.

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