Charleston SC Real Estate Blog: Is Solar Power a Viable Option For You?

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Charleston SC Real Estate Blog:  Is Solar Power a Viable Option For You?

The ideal candidates for solar power technically known as, residential solar photovoltaic project, are homes that are already energy efficient in that they have an airtight building envelope, energy efficient appliances, CFL light bulbs, etc.  A typical home will need 23 panels each panel is 3’ by 5’ to produce enough electricity for a typical residence, however you can install fewer panel is conditions dictate that.   The panels can be installed on most any type of roof in a variety of configurations with the ideal site being a roof that faces 15 to 30 degrees west or east of magnetic south with at least 5 hours of direct sunlight and minimal shading from trees or other structures.  The system basically requires no maintenance and has a life expectancy of 20-25 years. 

The system works by having the panels wired in a series and passing through a DC inverter and wired into both your homes electrical panel and a power meter to measure the kilowatts you are feeding back to the power grid.  When the system produces more power than your home consumes the excess if fed to your power company’s power grid and you get credit for the power you produce. 

There are significant state and federal tax credits available.  I recommend consulting with your tax advisor to determine what you qualify for.  You can check out www.dsireusa.org for applicable rebates and incentives in your area.

In the charleston South Carolina area feel free to contact Ecobilt Energy Sytems for additional information. 

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Green Kitchen Remodeling

 
Green Kitchen Remodeling
Article From HouseLogic.com


By: John Riha
Published: September 25, 2009

If you're ready to remodel your kitchen and want to go green, here's how to create the healthy, energy-efficient, eco-friendly kitchen of your dreams.

Going green with your kitchen remodeling project means making choices based on your lifestyle and your budget. The decisions aren't always simple. For example, a certain green product may outlast and use less energy but cost more than a similar product that performs equally well. Fortunately, an expanding marketplace for smart, stylish green products is helping to lower costs-making it easier to have a green kitchen and love it, too.

If products you'd like to add to your project aren't readily available, schedule visits to showrooms or green home improvement expos to examine materials first-hand before making decisions. To help you plan, here are key products, ideas, and tips to put the green in your kitchen.
Major components
 * Sustainable kitchen cabinets are made from wood and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (http://www.fscus.org) to be produced using sustainable forest management practices. They feature formaldehyde-free glues and finishes with low volatile organic compounds that give off little or no toxic fumes. Check product literature closely to ensure the cabinets you choose meet these criteria.

When shopping for cabinets, ask if the cabinet boxes are built with wheat board or straw board. These products are made from agricultural waste, such as the chaff left over from farmers' wheat crops. As a rule, they feature formaldehyde-free binders. They're strong and rated to exceed the standards set by the American National Standards Institute (http://www.ansi.org) for medium density particleboard-the material commonly used to make cabinet boxes.

* Green countertops offer variety but all share similar characteristics: recycled or sustainable content, low-toxicity binders, and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. In addition, they're highly durable. Examples: Squak Mountain Stone (http://www.squakmountainstone.com) is made from recycled paper, recycled glass, reclaimed fly ash, and cement. The finished countertop slabs resemble limestone and soapstone. Eco-top (http://www.kliptech.com/ecotop.html) counters consist of renewable bamboo fiber, post-consumer recycled paper, and water-based resin glue. Vetrazzo (http://www.vetrazzo.com) makes countertops that are 85% recycled glass-almost all the glass comes from curbside recycling programs. Craft-Art (http://www.craft-art.com) includes a line of wood countertops made of reclaimed wood from older barns, warehouses, and commercial buildings.

* Eco-friendly flooring includes linoleum and cork. Both are made with renewable resources that make them sustainable choices. They're good-looking and durable, but require periodic maintenance.

Linoleum is made from renewable, biodegradable materials including linseed oil and cork. It produces no harmful vapors and comes in many patterns and colors. Linoleum stands up well to traffic and offers some cushioning underfoot. It's resistant to moisture but susceptible to staining, so some manufacturers add a coating to protect against spills and scratches. Without this protection, linoleum must be cleaned and polished every two years. Cost: $2 to $4 per sq.ft.; installation adds $5 to $7 per sq.ft.

Cork is a sustainable flooring product made from tree bark; the bark grows back and can be harvested repeatedly. Harvesting practices are carefully regulated to ensure future supplies, reducing environmental impact. Cork is waterproof and slightly soft underfoot, which makes it both moisture-resistant and comfortable. It's made in 12×12-inch tiles and 1×3-foot planks, each with a distinctive grain pattern. The surface is slightly textured and slip-resistant.

Treat cork flooring with a sealant every 3 to 4 years to prevent scratches and stop moisture from penetrating seams between tiles. Natural wax and water-based polyurethane work well. Cost: $2-$6 per sq.ft.; installation, $5-$10 per sq.ft.

Appliances
 * Choosing Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov) products reduces energy consumption and saves utility costs (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/10-tips-for-saving-energy-kitchen/). Energy Star appliances are tested and rated to be the most energy-efficient models in any product category. In addition, some states and regional utility companies offer rebates (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=rebate.rebate_locator) for buying Energy Star appliances.

* Dishwashers go green when they feature an energy-saving or quick-wash cycle. These cycles operate for shorter periods of time, saving water and energy. Also, look for dishwashers (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-buying-guide-dishwashers/) that include an air-dry option, which dries dishes with circulation fans rather than energy-draining heating elements. Or, simply open up the dishwasher door when the wash cycle is complete and let dishes air dry.

Energy Star models are 25% more energy efficient than the federal standards for energy consumption. If you replace your pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model, you'll save as much as $40 a year on energy costs.

* Buy a new refrigerator (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-buying-guide-refrigerators/) and you'll save on energy costs. That's because manufacturers are constantly improving technology and insulating techniques. In fact, today's new models are 75% more energy efficient than those manufactured just 20 years ago, saving about $100 per year on energy costs. An Energy Star-rated model will save an additional $20-$30 per year.

Choose models featuring the freezer on top and use 10% to 25% less energy than a same-sized model with a side-by-side configuration.

Green essentials
 * An under-the-counter water purifier cleans water of contaminants before it reaches the kitchen tap; it has about 10 times the filtering capacity of a faucet-mounted purifier. A model with a top-quality activated carbon filter will remove heavy metals, bacteria, and pesticides. In addition, it removes odors and bad tastes. Expect to pay $150-$200 for an activated charcoal purifier with a replaceable cartridge.

* Energy-efficient lighting includes fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps that use 50% to 90% less energy than comparable incandescent lamps. In fact, according to EnergyStar.gov, a single compact fluorescent bulb will save $30-$40 during its expected lifespan of 10,000 hours over conventional incandescent bulbs of similar luminosity. However, consider the correct quality of light, such as an efficient halogen and LED lighting sources, for task areas.

 * Being an active recycler is one way to ensure your kitchen is green. Most cabinet manufacturers offer options for lower cabinets that include pull-out recycling bins that keep contents organized and out of sight. In some instances, these bins are designed to be positioned conveniently beneath holes in countertops so that you can sweep food scraps into them. You can also retrofit existing cabinets with recycling bins-rotating lazy Susan-type recycling centers feature multiple bins and are designed to fit in lower corner cabinets.
John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He's been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.
As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

10 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

Spending less money on utility bills doesn't mean you need to rush out and purchase a whole new suite of Energy Star appliances. With occasional light maintenance and good habits, you can greatly improve the energy efficiency of your large kitchen appliances-up to about $120 annually-without sacrificing convenience.

Refrigerator/freezer

Energy-efficiency experts tell us to focus our efforts on the biggest energy hogs in the house, and that definitely includes the fridge. Because it cycles on and off all day, every day, the refrigerator consumes more electricity than nearly every appliance in the home save for the HVAC systems. The average refrigerator costs about $90 per year to operate, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (http://www.energy.gov). The good news is that a few simple adjustments can trim roughly $38 to $45 off those utility bills.

1. Adjust the thermostat. By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you might increase your fridge's energy consumption by as much as 25% on average. Adjust the refrigerator so that it stays in the 37-40 degrees F range. For the freezer, shoot for between 0-5 degrees F. You could save up to $22 per year. If your model doesn't display the current temps, invest in two appliance thermometers (one for the fridge, one for the freezer). They cost roughly $3-$20 apiece at online retailers.

2. Clean the coils. As dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of the fridge, it restricts cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Every six months, vacuum away the dust that accumulates on the mechanism. Also, check to see that there is at least a 3-inch clearance at the rear of the fridge for proper ventilation. This routine maintenance can trim up to 5% off the unit's operating cost, says energy savings expert Michael Bluejay (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/refrigerators.html), saving you about $4.50 a year.

3. Use an ice tray. Automatic ice makers are a nice convenience, to be sure, but it turns out the mechanisms are energy hogs. An automatic ice maker can increase a refrigerator's energy consumption by 14% to 20%, according to Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov). By switching off the ice maker and using trays, you can save about $12 to $18 off your annual electricity bill. Most units require little more than a lift of the sensor arm to switch them off. To reclaim the space remove the entire unit, a simple DIY job on many models.

 4. Unplug the "beer fridge." Many homes have an extra fridge that runs year round even though it's used sparingly. Worse, these fridges tend to be older, more inefficient models. By consolidating the contents to the main fridge and unplugging the additional unit, you eliminate the entire operating cost of a fridge. The second-best solution is to make sure the extra fridge remains three-quarters full at all times. The mass helps maintain steady internal temps and lets the fridge recover more quickly after the door is opened and closed, according to the California Energy Commission (http://www.energy.ca.gov).
 Ovens and ranges
"Green" cooking all comes down to proper time and space management. By using gas and electric stoves more effectively, you can painlessly save a few dollars a year.

5. Cut the power early. As anybody who's ever bumped a burner on an electric stove can attest, those heating elements stay hot long after they've been switched off. Put that residual heat to work by shutting off the burner several minutes before the end of the cook time. The same technique can be applied to the oven. The savings can add up to a couple bucks every month.

6. Match the burner to pan. When a small pan is placed on a big burner you can practically see the money disappearing into thin air. By matching the burner to the pan, electricity won't be squandered heating the kitchen rather than the food. The reverse is true, too. A small burner will take considerably longer to heat a large pan than would an appropriately sized burner. For gas stoves, don't let the flames lick the sides of the pot. Follow these tips and watch the utility bills shrink by a few dollars a month.

7. Do away with preheating. You can save about $2 a month by not preheating your oven (20 cents per hour to operate electric oven; eliminate 20 30-minute preheats a month). Many cooks agree that the practice is wholly unnecessary for all but a few recipes, namely baking breads and cakes. This approach may add a few minutes to the overall cooking time, but it eliminates all that wait time on the front end.
Dishwasher
 As with washing machines (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-buying-guide-washing-machines/), most of a dishwasher's energy needs go to heating the water. Still, says Lane Burt, an energy policy analyst with The Natural Resources Defense Council (http://www.nrdc.org), a 10-year-old dishwasher can be made nearly as efficient as a newer model simply by knowing when and how to run it. Follow a few simple tips, and you can reduce your annual utility costs by roughly $35-$54.

8. Manage the load. Most dishwashers use the same amount of water and energy whether they're run full or half-full. You can cut your operating costs by one-third or one-half by running the machine only when it's full. It costs about $54 to run a pre-2000 model dishwasher per year, based on government data. Proper load management can save up to $27 each year.

9. Activate energy-saving features. A dishwasher's heated dry cycle can add 15% to 50% to the appliance's operating cost. Most machines allow the feature to be switched off (or not turned on), which can save $8-$27 per year, assuming an operating cost of $54 annually. If your dishwasher doesn't have that flexibility, simply turn the appliance off after the final rinse and open the door.

 10. Use the machine. Many homeowners believe they can save water and energy by hand washing dishes. The truth is that a dishwasher requires less than one-third the water it would take to do those same dishes in the sink. By running the machine (when full), you can cut down the operating time of the hot water heater, your home's largest energy hog. Not only will you save a buck per month, you won't have to do the dishes.

Here are additional green feature blog articles.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

All Electric Low Speed Vehicles

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

All Electric Low Speed Vehicles

While at Music on the Green at Freshfields Village I saw my first street worthy electric vehicles.  They were pretty neat so I thought I pass the information on to you.  There were two companies there one promoting rental and the other promoting sales.

Lightning Bugz is the rental company.  These vehicles are street worth on the barrier islands; they specifically mention Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palms in their literature.  These vehicles are street legal, can be driven at night, go up to 25 MPH, seat belts, and easy and quick to charge.  For more information call 843-609-8776 or visit Lightning Bugz online.

    Low Speed Electric Car at Freshfields on Kiawah Island                              Electic Car at Freshfields near Seabrook Island                      

Current Electric Vehicles located on Daniel Island is the sales company and features CT&T electric vehicles.  There are two lines of vehicles manufactured by
CT&T.

The first is the eZone line which features City Electric Vehicles.  They use no gas, no emissions, long range, fast charging and zippy acceleration; all at an affordable price.  The eZone is the only vehicle in its class to pass international crash tests standards for both front and side impacts along with being the only that offers an air bag option.

Kiawah Island Real Estate for Sale

The second is the cZone line which is offered in  a large range of models for personal (street worthy) and commercial uses including, maintenance,  shuttle vehicles, neighborhood deliveries, and other service users.  They have unparalleled safety features.

For additional information contact Current Electric Vehicles at 843-377-8540, or visit Current Electric Vehicles here,

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Green Kitchen Remodeling

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home. The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country. It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique. I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties.

Today’s article is titled:

Green Kitchen Remodeling

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: John Riha
Published: September 25, 2009

 

If you're ready to remodel your kitchen and want to go green, here's how to create the healthy, energy-efficient, eco-friendly kitchen of your dreams.



Going green with your kitchen remodeling project means making choices based on your lifestyle and your budget. The decisions aren't always simple. For example, a certain green product may outlast and use less energy but cost more than a similar product that performs equally well. Fortunately, an expanding marketplace for smart, stylish green products is helping to lower costs-making it easier to have a green kitchen and love it, too.
If products you'd like to add to your project aren't readily available, schedule visits to showrooms or green home improvement expos to examine materials first-hand before making decisions. To help you plan, here are key products, ideas, and tips to put the green in your kitchen.
Major components
 * Sustainable kitchen cabinets are made from wood and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (http://www.fscus.org) to be produced using sustainable forest management practices. They feature formaldehyde-free glues and finishes with low volatile organic compounds that give off little or no toxic fumes. Check product literature closely to ensure the cabinets you choose meet these criteria.

When shopping for cabinets, ask if the cabinet boxes are built with wheat board or straw board. These products are made from agricultural waste, such as the chaff left over from farmers' wheat crops. As a rule, they feature formaldehyde-free binders. They're strong and rated to exceed the standards set by the American National Standards Institute (http://www.ansi.org) for medium density particleboard-the material commonly used to make cabinet boxes.

* Green countertops offer variety but all share similar characteristics: recycled or sustainable content, low-toxicity binders, and eco-friendly manufacturing processes. In addition, they're highly durable. Examples: Squak Mountain Stone (http://www.squakmountainstone.com) is made from recycled paper, recycled glass, reclaimed fly ash, and cement. The finished countertop slabs resemble limestone and soapstone. Eco-top (http://www.kliptech.com/ecotop.html) counters consist of renewable bamboo fiber, post-consumer recycled paper, and water-based resin glue. Vetrazzo (http://www.vetrazzo.com) makes countertops that are 85% recycled glass-almost all the glass comes from curbside recycling programs. Craft-Art (http://www.craft-art.com) includes a line of wood countertops made of reclaimed wood from older barns, warehouses, and commercial buildings.

* Eco-friendly flooring includes linoleum and cork. Both are made with renewable resources that make them sustainable choices. They're good-looking and durable, but require periodic maintenance.

Linoleum is made from renewable, biodegradable materials including linseed oil and cork. It produces no harmful vapors and comes in many patterns and colors. Linoleum stands up well to traffic and offers some cushioning underfoot. It's resistant to moisture but susceptible to staining, so some manufacturers add a coating to protect against spills and scratches. Without this protection, linoleum must be cleaned and polished every two years. Cost: $2 to $4 per sq.ft.; installation adds $5 to $7 per sq.ft.

Cork is a sustainable flooring product made from tree bark; the bark grows back and can be harvested repeatedly. Harvesting practices are carefully regulated to ensure future supplies, reducing environmental impact. Cork is waterproof and slightly soft underfoot, which makes it both moisture-resistant and comfortable. It's made in 12×12-inch tiles and 1×3-foot planks, each with a distinctive grain pattern. The surface is slightly textured and slip-resistant.

Treat cork flooring with a sealant every 3 to 4 years to prevent scratches and stop moisture from penetrating seams between tiles. Natural wax and water-based polyurethane work well. Cost: $2-$6 per sq.ft.; installation, $5-$10 per sq.ft.

Appliances
 * Choosing Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov) products reduces energy consumption and saves utility costs (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/10-tips-for-saving-energy-kitchen/). Energy Star appliances are tested and rated to be the most energy-efficient models in any product category. In addition, some states and regional utility companies offer rebates (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=rebate.rebate_locator) for buying Energy Star appliances.

* Dishwashers go green when they feature an energy-saving or quick-wash cycle. These cycles operate for shorter periods of time, saving water and energy. Also, look for dishwashers (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-buying-guide-dishwashers/) that include an air-dry option, which dries dishes with circulation fans rather than energy-draining heating elements. Or, simply open up the dishwasher door when the wash cycle is complete and let dishes air dry.

Energy Star models are 25% more energy efficient than the federal standards for energy consumption. If you replace your pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model, you'll save as much as $40 a year on energy costs.

* Buy a new refrigerator (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/appliance-buying-guide-refrigerators/) and you'll save on energy costs. That's because manufacturers are constantly improving technology and insulating techniques. In fact, today's new models are 75% more energy efficient than those manufactured just 20 years ago, saving about $100 per year on energy costs. An Energy Star-rated model will save an additional $20-$30 per year.

Choose models featuring the freezer on top and use 10% to 25% less energy than a same-sized model with a side-by-side configuration.

Green essentials
 * An under-the-counter water purifier cleans water of contaminants before it reaches the kitchen tap; it has about 10 times the filtering capacity of a faucet-mounted purifier. A model with a top-quality activated carbon filter will remove heavy metals, bacteria, and pesticides. In addition, it removes odors and bad tastes. Expect to pay $150-$200 for an activated charcoal purifier with a replaceable cartridge.

* Energy-efficient lighting includes fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps that use 50% to 90% less energy than comparable incandescent lamps. In fact, according to EnergyStar.gov, a single compact fluorescent bulb will save $30-$40 during its expected lifespan of 10,000 hours over conventional incandescent bulbs of similar luminosity. However, consider the correct quality of light, such as an efficient halogen and LED lighting sources, for task areas.

 * Being an active recycler is one way to ensure your kitchen is green. Most cabinet manufacturers offer options for lower cabinets that include pull-out recycling bins that keep contents organized and out of sight. In some instances, these bins are designed to be positioned conveniently beneath holes in countertops so that you can sweep food scraps into them. You can also retrofit existing cabinets with recycling bins-rotating lazy Susan-type recycling centers feature multiple bins and are designed to fit in lower corner cabinets.
John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He's been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.
 As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.
 
Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.
 
See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.
 
Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 
 
Sincerely,
"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Bathroom Design Trends: Clean and Green

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Bathroom Design Trends: Clean and Green

Tiles that clean themselves, faucets with no levers, residential urinals and automatic humidity sensing fans – these are some of the design innovations that have started showing up in the bathrooms of upper-end homes during the last few years. Combined with a trend to minimal Asian design, bathroom designs these days can best be designed as clean and green.

Active Clean Air and Antibacterial Ceramic Tiles were introduced to Canada last year by Savoia Canada, a subsidiary of the Italian GranitiFiandre Group. The company says the tiles use titanium dioxide to "clean the air of polluting organic substances when either sunlight or artificial UVA rays shine on the tiles. This process transforms harmful organic and inorganic substances into compounds that are harmless to humans." They are available in about 40 different colors and various sizes.

A set of faucets and showers from American Standard has no levers or faucets, just four electronic control icons on the top surface of the tub filler or the bottom of the shower column. They are operated by regular C type batteries.
Kohler Canada offers waterless residential urinals and toilets with built-in bidet functions including a control for water temperature and flow, a deodorizer function, a heated seat and warm air drying at three speeds.

If you can never remember to turn on the bathroom fan during or after a shower, Broan-Nutone Humidity Sensing Fans, which automatically turn on when a rapid rise in humidity is detected in the room.

Waterfall faucets and shower towers that include everything from steam options to waterproof built-in speakers are other popular bathroom features. From an esthetic point of view, Japanese influences are being seen in the clean lines and open spaces in new bathrooms. Hotel-like "floating" vanities and wall-mounted toilets make small rooms look larger.

An American Standard survey in 2008 showed that 88 per cent of people were "doing a lot of things inside their bathrooms besides the obvious." More than one-third read their mail there, while 43 per cent used it to get dressed, 19 per cent listened to music on their radio or I-Pod, 15 per cent talked on the phone and three per cent watched TV.

Most people spent about 30 minutes in the bathroom a day, but 25 per cent of people reported spending at least an hour. Women spent more time there than men, and women with children spent more time in the shower than women without kids.

The biggest bathroom trends are in the "green" categories – conserving water and energy. In Ontario, the provincial government recently announced plans to mandate water-saving toilets. It says Ontarians currently use about 260 liters of water a day, nearly twice as much as people in Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands. American Standard says Canadians use the second highest amount of water in the world, with 35 per cent of the water used for the shower and the tub, and 30 per cent used by flushing the toilet.

Many municipalities offer incentives to residents to switch from 13-litre toilets to energy efficient six-litre models. For example, Toronto residents can get $60 or $75 for making the move. Kohler Canada offers an interactive map that shows where you can get rebates in municipalities across the country.

In addition to dual-flush and low-flow toilets, water is being conserved in the bathroom with low-flow faucets and showerheads. Changing all three in a bathroom costs as little as $600, but provides long-term financial benefits.

Some other "green" trends include using cleaning materials that are ammonia-free (such as water and vinegar), and installing energy-efficient lighting. Kohler is using recycled and reclaimed materials in some of its cast-iron products.
What’s coming up in future bathroom trends? While white still rules as the dominant fixture color, other more vibrant colors may be making a comeback. In terms of bathroom design, an aging population is prompting more consideration of accessible features, such as grab bars and curbless and level-access showers.

See additional home maintenance, home renovation, and green features here.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

By Jim Adair of Realty Times

H. R. Bill 5019, aka “Cash For Caulkers”

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:


H. R. Bill 5019, aka “Cash For Caulkers”


In May the House of Representatives passed H. R. 5019 officially titled as the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 aka “Cash For Caulkers”.  The goal of  “Cash For Caulkers” is to create jobs, save energy, and lower families' energy bills. Home Star will restart the assembly lines at factories that manufacture energy efficiency technologies and will put construction workers back on the job installing these improvements in the homes of millions of American families.

This bill has not passed in the Senate but supporters believe it will do so this summer.  You can read the entire bill here.

This is great news for homeowners and contractors alike. The bill provisions $6 billion for energy-efficient or “green” retrofits. It is expected to fund renovations for 3 million families, create 168,000 new jobs and save consumers $9.2 billion on energy bills over the next 10 years.

In order to cash in on upcoming rebates, homeowners and contractors will need to do their homework. There are 13 types of retrofits eligible for funding. Each retrofit has unique eligibility requirements and set rebate amounts. You can read the full text here.

What is Home Star?

Home Star is designed to spur home energy retrofits by providing rebates to homeowners who install energy-saving products, such as insulation, windows, doors, and heating systems. Home Star includes two tracks to provide long and short-term benefits.

The Silver Star program will provide up-front rebates for the installation of specific energy-saving technologies, including insulation, duct sealing, windows and doors, air sealing, and water heaters. Homeowners will be able to receive up to $3,000 in rebates under Silver Star.

The Gold Star program rewards homeowners who conduct a comprehensive energy audit and implement a full complement of measures to reduce energy use throughout the home. Consumers will receive $3,000, or half the cost, for measures that reduce energy use by 20 percent, and can receive up to $8,000 when additional energy savings are achieved.

Why Home Star?

Home Star is expected to allow 3 million families to retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient. Consumers are predicted to save $9.2 billion on their energy bills over the next 10 years as a result of Home Star's energy efficiency investments. And, Home Star will create 168,000 new jobs here in the United States. Construction jobs cannot be outsourced and more than 90 percent of energy efficiency technologies are manufactured here in America.

Here are additional green features articles that may interest you.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated.

Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC Real Estate needs or questions.

See Charleston SC Real Estate Blog for local attractions and current Charleston events.

Look at Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area.

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com 
 

How Green is Your Attic?

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

 

How Green is Your Attic?


According to the Department of energy 44% of an average household’s energy dollars is for heating and air conditioning.  For a relatively modest investment in insulation materials and labor, a consumer can lower those costs on an ongoing basis and generate a rapid payback.

Though insulating a home is green in itself, some alternatives are greener than others.  Some use recycled materials while others use new technology, while others use older products made in a more earth friendly way.  

5 Green Insulation Options

1.  Cotton insulation is made from recycled scrap generated during denim manufacturing.  It is flame resistant and is about twice as costly as fiberglass with about the same R-factor.

2.  Mineral wool insulation is made from steel slag or natural rock that is manufactured into a flame resistant fiber.  It contains over 75% recycled materials.  It is moisture resistant and holds its R-value when wet.  It can be used in below grade applications.

3.  Fiberglass made from abundant silica and has been made greener through the inclusion of post consumer and post industrial recycled materials. 

4.  Cellulose is today’s green loose fill insulation of choice.  It is composed of roughly 75% recycled shredded newsprint treated to be flame resistant.  Cellulose is not advisable to use in areas prone to moisture. 

5.  Polyiso is considered the most environmentally friendly spray foam and rigid foam board.   It has a higher R-value than batt, and loose fill insulation and can be used anywhere in a home except below grade. 

With all the above insulation alternatives above , proper installation is the key to tightening a home.  Poorly installed insulation that leaves gaps or is not well sited to the moisture levels can compromise the R-value of the insulation.  Some installations may qualify for a tax credit.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

The Facts about Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:


The Facts about Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010


The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5019) passed the House of Representatives Thursday with bi-partisan support, on a vote of 246 – 161.

Home Star is a two year program ($6 Billion funded total) from the federal government designed to encourage homeowners to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency, to create good American jobs in the construction and manufacturing industry, and to reduce our country’s dependency on foreign energy sources.

Homeowners are incentivized to conduct whole-home energy retrofits (Home Star Gold) or install individual American-made, energy-saving products (Home Star Silver).

Home Star Gold: If a homeowner makes their home 20% more energy efficiency, they receive $3,000.  For each additional 5% of energy reduction reached, the homeowner is eligible for an additional $1,000 up to a total of $8,000 or 50% of the cost of the retrofit – whichever is lower.

Home Star Silver: Provides upfront rebates for specific energy-saving investments such as attic or wall insulation, duct sealing, whole-home air sealing, or heating system replacement. Homeowners receive up to $1,500 per improvement – capped at a total of $3,000 or 50 percent of the total project cost.

More Detailed Information about Home Star: http://www.homestarretrofit.com/2010/04/what-does-homestar-mean-for-you/

What’s a Homeowner to Do?

Home energy efficiency, while it may be a great investment, is complicated stuff! EnergySavvy (www.energysavvy.com) is a website for homeowners that makes it easy.  The online energy assessment on the site helps you understand how efficient your home already is, which energy efficiency contractors are the best ones to work with to upgrade it, and which tax credits and rebates (including Home Star, when it passes) are available to pay for upgrades.

Press Quotes

"We applaud the U.S. House on the [bipartisan] passage of the HOME STAR legislation. HOME STAR will create good American jobs in construction, manufacturing and related industries. It will help American homeowners improve the efficiency of their homes and save money. And it will provide a solid foundation for our country's energy policy and energy security. We encourage the Senate to act quickly to get the HOME STAR bill to the President's desk and get our workers back on the job." – Efficiency First Chairman, Mike Rogers

“Making your home more energy-efficient is one of the fastest payback upgrades you can do to your home.  You pay less to the utility every month, your house is warmer and more comfortable, and with all the energy rebates and tax credits available right now, there’s never been a smarter time to do it. The problem is that it’s been complicated to figure it out.  What projects are the best for my house? Who can help me? And how do I get the most money from the government to pay for this stuff?” – EnergySavvy.com CEO, Aaron Goldfeder

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Start a Community Garden: Get the Community Involved

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Start a Community Garden: Get the Community Involved

 
Sow a community garden to save money on produce, eat better, and build relationships with neighbors.
 
A community garden can provide a fulfilling and useful way to bond with your neighbors, promote healthier lifestyles, add urban green space, and save money on food. A 4 x 16-foot raised bed within a larger community garden can provide $200 to $600 in produce annually, depending on climate, says Bobby Wilson, president of the American Community Gardening Association. But gardening is also hard work, not to mention the hassle of finding and coordinating hundreds of volunteer hours over the course of a growing season. Before you dig in, step back and look at what's involved.

Your time commitment

As an organizer, you can expect to spend about 20 to 30 hours a month for six to eight months to get a garden going, says Bill Maynard, vice president of ACGA. And you'll probably need at least two other people working almost as much time as you to look for grants and donations.

Once established, the work will ease up, especially if you have committees helping out, says Charlie Nardozzi, a horticulturist and spokesperson for the NGA (http://www.garden.org/home). "It's not the total time that's important, but the consistency."

Develop a vision for your garden

A good way to involve the community and get buy in is to hold an open meeting to discuss your garden goals, says Laura Berman, author of How Does Our Garden Grow: A Guide to Starting a Community Garden (http://www.foodshare.ca/publications_03.htm). Do you want to produce food-to eat better, feed the needy-teach children about food, or just make an ugly space more attractive?

Take special care to involve neighbors near the garden site, who can turn out to be your best friends or your biggest headaches. Many cities require community meetings before issuing permits to garden in public spaces.

Find volunteers

Before you break ground, identify a committee of at least 10 volunteers and two leaders, says Kirsten Saylor, executive director of Gardening Matters (http://www.gardeningmatters.org ) in Minneapolis/St.Paul. Look for a range of talent. A community garden needs bookkeepers, marketers, and fundraisers, as well as farmers. You'll also need to decide who can participate. Must volunteers live in a specific area near the garden? Can children volunteer? If so, are there age limits?

Deciding how many volunteers you'll need depends on the size of the garden and how much time each gardener wants to volunteer. About 20 volunteers is a workable number for a garden of 15,000 square feet. More volunteers than that are also hard to manage, says Saylor.

Post flyers near the garden; ask a local newspaper, radio, or TV station to run an announcement; and send brochures or e-mails to local clubs. Many cities that have community gardening programs also have a sign-up area on their Web sites.

Extra volunteers can come in handy for one-time jobs, such as soil preparation and planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. Try tapping into existing organizations-corporations and civic groups, Scout troops, or school classes-to help with these projects.

Keep volunteers motivated

Keep interest high by making every day in the garden a party-even cheap snacks will do, says Sally McCabe, community education project coordinator for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (http://www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/home/index.html). Celebrate spring planting or the first harvest and invite the neighborhood.

Regular weekly communication, such as e-mailed gardening tips and tasks, are also good motivators. Berman suggests designating one day a week for volunteers to meet to discuss concerns.
Rules, legal issues, and insurance.

Once you have a core of volunteers, discuss the rules-working hours, care of tools, and the use of pesticides. Rules can also spell out how much produce each participant gets and how much work is required of each volunteer.

Consider whether to buy liability insurance to cover injuries to non-volunteers on the site. The owner of the property where you'll be gardening may require insurance. Other owners may agree to add a rider onto their liability insurance to cover you. Liability insurance can cost anywhere from $750 to $2,000 a year, depending on your location and the size of your property, says Bill Maynard, vice president of the American Community Gardening Association (http://www.communitygarden.org).

In many cases, gardeners and visitors will be covered under an umbrella liability policy held by the church, office park, or residential property where the garden is located, says Dick Luedke, a spokesperson for State Farm Insurance (http://www.statefarm.com/). A landowner may also ask that you provide a "hold harmless" clause, which states that the owner isn't responsible for injuries on the property. Get waivers of liability from volunteers and parental consent forms if you allow children to volunteer.

If you're planning to garden on public land like a city park, you'll likely need a permit. This process can be lengthy and require public hearings and a site plan, so start early.

Fund your garden

Initial costs could run about $3,750 to $7,500 if you have a nearby source of water, says Maynard, higher, if not. A large garden in a public park with city fees and prevailing wages for contractors could run as high as $30,000. (Gardeners can expect to spend about $50-$100 per year to maintain their individual plot.)

Seed money can come from volunteer donations or local business sponsors. Contact nurseries and home improvement centers to see if they'll donate tools, fertilizers, or seeds. Areas with active community gardens or neighborhood associations may be willing to share equipment or plants. Ask your local park district what it can loan or give.

Maynard charges volunteers at his Sacramento, Calif., community garden $25 to $50 a year, depending on the size of their plot. Some gardeners also sell their extra produce on site or at farmers' markets or share it with local charities.

Grants are sometimes available from local government through Community Development Block Grants, a federal program that gives local governments money to improve struggling urban areas, or from businesses, such as national gardening and home improvement retailers. Gardenburger (http://www.gardenburger.com/Grants.aspx), which makes vegetarian food, is another source.

You may need nonprofit tax status to qualify for some grants, but it may be possible to partner with a house of worship or neighborhood association that already has nonprofit status.

Your grant request doesn't have to just be about gardens, says McCabe. "You can focus it on community improvement, nutrition, or keeping kids off the streets."

Garden size

Community gardens vary in size greatly because of local land availability. Some are as large as 25,000 square feet. Others fall in the 2,000 to 4,000-square-foot range, says Maynard.

If you're not sure you want to the responsibility of managing a community garden, get a preview by volunteering. ACGA maintains a searchable database of community gardens (right on its home page) that would be happy to have you.

Mariwyn Evans has spent 25 years writing about commercial and residential real estate, but if she had her way, she would've spent all that time in the garden. She's the author of several books, including Opportunities in Real Estate Careers, as well as too many magazine articles to count. These days, she spends part of her week trying to grow tomatoes and volunteering as a weed puller at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Her next goal: become a Master Gardener.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

8 Ways to Help Your Watershed

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

8 Ways to Help Your Watershed

 
A clean and well-managed watershed doesn't just mean clean drinking water. Do your part to keep land and water clean and you could reap financial benefits too.
 
For most of us, the water at home comes from a municipal tap, so it's easy to forget how much the quality of a community's watershed affects water quality and the people, wildlife, and plants that depend on that water. Well-managed watersheds serve as recreational magnets for humans and critical habitat for wildlife, but they also reduce flooding, making your home safer and reducing insurance costs.

What's a watershed?

Here's the funny thing about watersheds: They are more about land than water. A watershed is all the terrain in a given area that drains to a single point-a lake, stream, wetland, or even the ocean.

Your yard is part of a watershed. "Nature doesn't see the world in terms of municipal or site boundaries," says Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) (http://www.cwp.org/) Program Manager Greg Hoffman. "Anything you do affects everyone else who lives in your watershed. That includes the people, but also the animals and plants."
Some watershed challenges, such as irresponsible construction practices, are beyond your immediate control. However, many proven solutions lie just inside your front gate.

Community benefits

Healthy, restored, and well-managed waterways offer multiple community-wide benefits, including improved property values, according to research from the Clean Water Partnership (http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/cwp.html) in Minnesota.

For example, a rainwater management system, which keeps rainwater in a neighborhood by allowing it to sink slowly into the ground, can raise property values when it creates great views.

A Clean Water Partnership study found prices for Minnesota homes with constructed wetland views were nearly a third higher than those without views and sold at prices on par with those fronting a high-quality urban lake.

What you can do to protect the watershed

You have much more control over what happens to the water on your own property. Here are nine ways you can preserve and protect local watersheds:

1. Plant a rain garden. Excess runoff can cause flooding and stream-bank erosion during rainstorms. Creating a rain garden with native grasses, trees, and shrubs gives runoff from your home's downspouts a chance to soak naturally into the ground. Add a rain barrel to save water for later use.

2. Limit fertilizer. If you must fertilize your lawn, choose a product without phosphorous, which along with nitrogen, upsets the balance of nutrients in local waterways.

3. Service your septic system every three years. Failing septics send "plumes" of nitrogen, phosphorous, and bacteria to nearby streams and shores.

4. Avoid pesticides. Though most pesticides break down in soil, a storm can wash them into nearby streams. Instead, explore biological pest control methods such as species-specific bacteria, predator stocking (think ladybugs), and pheromone lures, which attract and trap pests.

5. Pick up pet waste. In a 20-square-mile watershed draining to a small coastal bay, two to three days of droppings from a 100 dogs would contribute enough E.coli bacteria to temporarily close the bay to swimming.

6. Buffer streams. If you have a stream on your property, provide a natural buffer of native trees, shrubs, and plants around its banks to filter dirty storm water runoff.

7. Use commercial car washes. The best place to wash your car is at a commercial car wash, many of which filter their water before directing it to treatment plants. If you must wash your vehicle at home, park it on the grass first, so your lawn absorbs some of the detergent runoff and contaminants.

8. Avoid paving. If you must pave, consider stone pavers for a patio, rather than concrete, and gravel for a driveway, rather than asphalt.

In short, it can be easy and tempting to think of watershed stewardship as someone else's problem. But the responsibility for our most precious resource begins right at home.

James Glave, author of "Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet," is a writer, consultant, and community activist fighting climate change at the regional and local level.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

Plant a Tree, Save Energy, and Grow Value

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Plant a Tree, Save Energy, and Grow Value

 
Plant a tree to add value to your home and have a positive impact on the environment.
 
Trees don't ask for much-dirt, water, sunlight. Yet they provide a wealth of benefits: They improve the air you breathe, cut your energy bills with their shade, provide a home to wildlife, and add beauty and value to your home.
But every year, 3.2 million acres of forest are cut down, according to the Nature Conservancy (http://www.nature.org/initiatives/forests/misc/art22113.html). Several million more acres are lost to fire, storm, and disease. That's why planting new trees and protecting the ones we have is so important.

You can do your part by:

Caring for the trees in your yard

Supporting tree-planting activities in your community

Donating to organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, which works to preserve the world's trees and forests, and American Forests (http://www.americanforests.org), which offers a unique way to take action. First, use its online Climate Change Calculator (http://www.americanforests.org/resources/ccc/) to determine your carbon footprint. Then, make up for your emissions by donating to a forest restoration project.

Why should you care about trees? Bankable benefits

The most tangible bang from your bark comes from energy savings. Three properly placed trees could save you between $100 and $250 a year in energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (http://www.energy.gov). Trees save energy two main ways. Their shade cuts cooling costs in the summer. In winter, they serve as windbreak and help hold down heating costs.

The National Tree Calculator (http://www.treebenefits.com) estimates that a 12-inch elm in an Omaha yard can save $32.43 a year on your energy bills; the same tree in Atlanta would save you $11.89 annually. The calculator also breaks down other dollars and cents benefits of your tree, like decreasing storm water runoff, removing carbon dioxide from the air, and increasing property values.

In our elm example, the 12-inch tree adds $40.23 to the Omaha home's value and a $57.33 to the one in Atlanta. And as trees grow larger, they can add even more value.

A 2002 study by the USDA Forest Service pegs the value a single tree adds to a property of about $630. Of course, tree value depends on size, species, location, and condition.

Adds Frank Lucco, a real estate appraiser with IRR-Residential in Houston, "On a $100,000 home [in my market], as much as $10,000 of its value could be associated with mature trees."

That's peanuts compared with the role trees play as the lungs of the planet. A report by the Trust for Public Land (http://www.coloradotrees.org/benefits.htm) estimated that one mature tree takes 48 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere each year and returns enough oxygen for two human beings.

Plant your tree in the right spot

To get the full benefits from your trees, choose the right one and put it in the right location. Planting a deciduous tree on the west side of a house provides cooling shade in the summer. In winter, after it loses its leaves, the same tree lets in sunlight that cuts heating and lighting bills. On the other hand, an evergreen on the west side blocks sun all year long, making a home colder and darker in winter. Rather plant evergreens, a great choice for blocking icy winter winds, on the north side of your home.

If you're planting a new tree, think about its fully grown size and shape before you dig. Branches from a tree located below power lines can cause outages as it grows. Roots from a tree located too close to a home can damage the foundation or block sewer lines. The wrong tree in the wrong place could actually lower your home's appraised value if it's deemed hazardous, says Frank Lucco, a real estate appraiser with IRR-Residential in Houston.

Tree costs

Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a 6- to 7-foot decidious tree, such as a katsura or evergreen. The same tree at 15 feet will cost $100 to $200, according to Brad Swank of Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville, Wash. The Arbor Day Foundation sells saplings for as little as $8-$15, or less if you're a member.

Since trees cost money, be cautious about any home construction work. "Tree failure can happen seven to 10 years after construction, primarily because the root system fails when the soil is compacted," says Thomas Hanson, a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists (http://www.asca-consultants.org) from Kirkland, Wash. Also watch for diseases or pests (http://forestry.about.com/od/diseases/tp/An-Index-of-Common-Tree-Diseas.htm) that can threaten trees in your yard and community.

Become a tree advocate

Ensuring that your community has lots of healthy trees doesn't have to be more complicated than a trip to the nursery and a hole in your backyard. Dig it twice as wide as deep. Let kids push in the dirt and help water weekly until the tree is two years old. The Arbor Day Foundation (http://www.arborday.org) will tell you how to select the right tree for your needs and climate, where to plant it, and how to maintain it.

The foundation also is a great place to look for community and educational programs.
Its Tree City USA (http://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/) initiative provides expert advice and national recognition to cities and towns that want to establish tree-management plans.

Its Arbor Day Poster Contest (http://www.arborday.org/kids/postercontest/index.cfm) for fifth-graders gives teachers a fun way to help students learn the importance of trees.

Its nationwide list of volunteer organizations (http://www.arborday.org/programs/volunteers/index.cfm) lets you search for tree care opportunities in your state.

Considering everything trees do for you, it's the least you can do for them.

Brad Broberg is a freelance writer from Federal Way, Wash. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he writes about business, health care, and real estate for REALTOR Magazine, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Seattle Children's Hospital, among others. He's lived in the same home for 22 years-a home he shares with seven towering Douglas Firs.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.
 
To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

From HouseLogic.com

Small Steps Let You Live More Sustainably

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Small Steps Let You Live More Sustainably

 
Making little lifestyle changes will do a lot to enhance sustainability for the planet–and make every day Earth Day.
 
It's a great feeling every Earth Day to bike to work and show your love of the planet. But sustainable practices-managing how you use resources to ensure that there will enough for future generations-doesn't have to be limited to once a year. With a few adjustments, sustainable practices can easily become a part of daily life and save you money while you help improve the planet.

What is sustainability?

Sustainable living is an umbrella term that covers many different ideas and programs. It can be as simple as recycling and using less water or as complex as changing state and federal policies to promote wind and solar power and high-speed rail transportation. Local planning commissions can promote sustainability by allowing higher density housing that uses less land.

If you want to support some of these public sustainability programs, you can contact your government representative (http://www.congress.org) to express support. You could also support a non-profit group like the Edible Schoolyard (http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/) program, which teaches kids how to grow and eat locally.

Opposition to sustainable practices

Not everyone is a fan of sustainable practices. Some people worry that conservation efforts produce more government regulation, increase living costs, and reduce corporate profits. Not sure where you stand on these major policies. Why not start small and see?

Eat locally. One of the biggest impacts a family has on the environment is what it eats. It takes around 10 calories of fossil fuel-in the form of fertilizers, processing, and transportation-to produce a single calorie of supermarket food, according to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php). Cut down on your food's energy impact by eating food grown near your home.

A 2001 study conducted by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture (http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/staff/ppp/food_mil.pdf), Iowa State University, found that the cost of transporting food from the region or the local area was four and 17 times less, respectively, than buying from national distributors.

Finding local food isn't difficult

Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org) will help you find farmers markets as well as farms in your region that offer subscription programs. Signing up for a subscription means you pay up front, so there's a risk if the harvest fails. Costs vary depending on the size of the share and your part of the country. A good estimate from Local Harvest is that you'll spend about $600 to cover produce for a family of four during a four or five month growing season.

Keep food even closer to home by growing your own, either in your backyard or in a shared community space (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/start-a-community-garden-get-the-community-involved/). Expect to spend several hours a week seeding, weeding, and harvesting. Gardening is also a great way to teach kids about healthy eating.
The downside of eating locally is that food from a farmer's market often costs more than the same from the supermarket. And in winter, you may eat a lot of cabbage and potatoes if you stick to local eating.

Buy gently used

Everyone likes something new once in a while-and fast-growing kids require it. Consumer spending is also a big contributor to a healthy economy. But producing and transporting new products from the factory to you also uses lots of resources. One way to get new stuff and still promote sustainability is to trade something you no longer want for what you need.

Freecycle (http://www.freecycle.org) is a 7 million-strong global network of people who share their possessions-for free. Once you join online, you'll receive regular email about used items that you can request and pick up. Eva Schmoock, a student nurse and mother of two in Carrboro, N.C., is an avid user. She's found new homes for everything, including paint and kids' bathing suits.

A low-tech option: Organize swap meets with neighbors to lessen your environmental footprint without opening your wallet. Get your kids to put flyers in mailboxes to promote the swap. Or try a consignment shop.

Reduce trash by composting

It isn't just what you buy that has an impact on the world's resources, it's what you throw away. The average American is responsible for almost 5 pounds of garbage a day, 12.5% of which is food scraps, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw07-rpt.pdf). That trash clogs landfills and pollutes ground water.

Want to reduce waste? Consider composting. Just put those peels and pods (but no meat or dairy products) in a separate container instead of the garbage can. When the container is full, carry it to your compost pile.
A $10 plastic bucket with a lid will work; fancier models have charcoal filters that cut down on smells but cost two or three times as much. Let your kids scrape plates into the compost pail or empty the full container.

You'll find a compost bin for every budget. You can fence off a small (out-of-sight) section of your yard with less than $50 worth of mesh wire and poles. Plastic bins and barrels are neater, but can cost several times more. The best part of composting: In six months, nature will convert your waste into terrific fertilizer to sustain your vegetable or flower garden.

Amanda Abrams is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who spent many years planning to be an organic farmer. Now she writes about how to make the world a better place for papers like The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for Charleston SC Real Estate homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours of Charleston SC Real Estate homes at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

From HouseLogic.com
 

Conduct Your Own Energy Audit

The Charleston, South Carolina area is a great place to live or have a vacation home.  The weather is great, the beaches are fantastic, golf courses are abundant, there are many historical sites, the architecture is unbelievable, the dining is unbeatable, and the people are the friendliest in the country.  It is because of these reasons that I believe Charleston SC Real Estate is truly unique.  I look forward to helping you with any of your real estate needs in Charleston, Berkeley, or Dorchester counties. Today’s article is titled:

Conduct Your Own Energy Audit

 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.

What you'll save on fixes

By following up on problems, you can lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (http://www.eere.energy.gov). With annual energy bills averaging $2,200, according to Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov), investing in fixes or energy-efficient replacement products could save you up to $660 within a year.

And self-audits can cost virtually nothing if you already own a flashlight, ladder, measuring stick, candles, eye protection, work clothes, dust mask, and a screwdriver-or roughly $150 if you're starting from scratch. As for time commitment, expect to spend two to four hours to investigate home systems, refer to utility bills, and conduct research about local norms for products, such as insulation, say experts.

Types of DIY audits

Since there are a variety of ways to conduct a do-it-yourself audit, you'll need to know your tolerance for the tasks involved.

Some require you play home inspector, climbing into attics and crawlspaces on fact-finding missions and delving into unfinished portions of your home to look at duct work. Questionnaire-based audits rely the assumption that you can answer such questions as how many gallons of water your toilet tank holds to the R-value (thickness) of insulation in your home.

If you don't have time to familiarize yourself with your home's systems or confidence about diagnosing problems, are disabled, are squeamish on ladders and in crawlspaces, or are already planning to invest in a major remodel, you may benefit from hiring a pro (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/paid-energy-audits-the-costs-and-benefits/).
Even homeowners who complete a self-audit often hire a professional to double-check their diagnoses. A self-audit may reveal drafts but not their exact source, such as ducts or insulation, for instance. Because the costs to address a draft can range from minor to major, investing in a paid audit may be justifiable.

What should you check?

All the home systems and appliances that contribute to energy costs. Here's the breakdown of a typical home's energy usage that Energy Star references:
 1. Heating (29%)
 2. Cooling (17%)
 3. Water heating (14%)
 4. Appliances (13%)
 5. Lighting (12%)
 6. Computers and electronics (4%)
 7. Other (11%)

Self-audits hone in on details pros may not.  While the pros use special equipment to focus on hard-to-research aspects of a home's building envelope and indoor air circulation, DIY audits can teach you-based on the questions they ask-to identify and address the numerous small ways in which your home wastes energy.

Since lighting, electronics, and appliances collectively account for nearly 30% of the average home's energy costs, you can make an impact on your bills by replacing old appliances with energy-efficient replacements and simple fixes-plugging appliances into power strips versus wall outlets, making sure refrigerator doors are properly sealed and don't leak air, and opting for a programmable thermostat.

How to spot common energy leaks

1. Check your home's exterior envelope-the windows, doors, walls, and roof exposed to outdoor air. Hold a candle or stick of incense near windows, doors, electrical outlets, range hoods, plumbing and ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and ceiling fans in bathrooms. When smoke blows, you've got a draft from a source that may need caulking, sealant, weather stripping, or insulation.

2. Check insulation R-value or thickness. Where insulation is exposed (in an attic, unfinished basement, or around ducts, water heaters, and appliances), use a ruler to measure, recommends the DOE. Compare your results against those suggested for your region via an insulation calculator (http://www.ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html).
Although examining in-wall insulation is difficult, you can remove electrical outlet covers, turn off electricity, and probe inside the wall, the DOE notes in its DIY audit guide. However, only a professional's thermographic scan can reveal if insulation coverage is consistent within a wall. Insulation can settle or may not be uniformly installed.

3. Look for stains on insulation. These often indicate air leaks from a hole behind the insulation, such as a duct hole or crack in an exterior wall.

4. Inspect exposed ducts. They may not work efficiently if they're dirty, have small holes, or if they pass through unfinished portions of the home and aren't insulated. Look for obvious holes and whether intersections of duct pipe are joined correctly. Since ducts are typically made out of thin metal that easily conducts heat, uninsulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose 10% to 30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home, says DOE.

When should a professional make repairs?

The DOE recommends calling a contractor before insulating ducts in basements or crawlspaces, as doing so will make these spaces cooler and could impact other home systems, such as water pipes. Plus, these ducts might release noxious air. DOE also recommends you hire professionals to clean ducts periodically. If you've noticed that some rooms get disproportionately hot or cold, bring that to a pro's attention. It could be duct related.

In addition, some DIY audits-like the City of Seattle's free online audit guide (http://www.seattle.gov/light/printdocs/DoItYourselfHome.pdf), suggest hiring a pro if you suspect asbestos materials have been used in insulation or around pipes, ducts, or heating equipment. Airborne or crumbling asbestos particles are a health hazard. And a pro might be the right choice when dealing with insulation around or near electrical or examining electrical systems with bare wires.

A self-audit, like a paid audit, serves as a jumping-off point to help you set priorities (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/prioritize-tasks-after-an-energy-audit/) for making your home more efficient. Whether or not you choose to make repairs yourself, one thing's for sure: You'll come away knowing more about your home's strengths and weaknesses than you did before.

Jane Hodges has written about real estate for more than half of her 16-year journalism career, for publications including MSNBC.com, Seattle Magazine, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007 she won a Bivins Fellowship from the National Association of Real Estate Editors to pursue a book on women and real estate. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, CBS's BNET, and Fortune. She lives in Seattle in a 1966 raised rancher with an excellent retro granite fireplace. Latest home project: remodeling a basement bathroom.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

Residential Real Estate Sales Increase Again in December

Rounding out a year of stabilization, 618 residential real estate sales in December shows an increase of 30% when compared to sales one year ago today.

The $195,534 median home price reflects the peak of prices in 2009 and a slight 2% increase over December 2008.   December 2008 posted 476 total closings, with a median sale price of $191,600.

Several months of strong sales, prices that are growing at a sustainable rate and decreasing inventory are excellent indicators that a Charleston market recovery is underway.

“Last December, we were looking at a 33% drop in sales and a 9% decrease in median prices from December 2007.  We’re in a much more positive place at the end of 2009, actually seeing market increases.  While we don’t anticipate tremendous growth in 2010, we do expect to see continued steady growth over the next year”, said CTAR President, Jeremy Willits.

                      3 Year Review: December

     #Sales        %Change              Median Price      %Change

2009     618      +30%                      $195,534               +2%
2008     476      -33%                       $191,600               -9%
2007     713        –                             $210,000                  –

*this data reflects the market activity as of the 10th of January for each year.

At the close of the month, there were 8,940 homes listed for sale with the Charleston Trident Multiple Listing Service.

BERKELEY COUNTY
The Berkeley County market remains stable when compared with December of 2008.  Last year, 145 properties were sold at a median price of $173,000.  In December 2009, 141 properties changed hands at a median price of $170,112.

CHARLESTON COUNTY
Once again, Charleston County leads the region in sales and price increases.  Last December, 239 properties changed hands at a median price of $235,000.  This year, 313 properties were sold at a median price of $250,000, equating to a 31% increase in sales and a 6% increase in sale price.

DORCHESTER COUNTY
Dorchester County showed a slight 3% increase in sales over December 2008—142 homes sold in 2008 and 146 sold in December 2009.  Prices show a 14% decline from last December’s uncharacteristic peak of $195,808 to a more typical price of $167,830.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 

Low-Flow Showerheads: How to Choose

Thanks to innovative new technology, today's super-efficient low-flow showerheads save water, reduce your energy bills, and still feel good to use.
 
You've heard it for years: Save water by replacing your old showerhead with a low-flow model. But if you're like a lot of people, you may have ignored the message. That's because you're likely thinking of the early low-flow versions, which worked by simply restricting output or pumping the stream full of air. While that saved water, it didn't make for a very satisfying shower experience. These days, thank goodness, it's different. With one of the new generation of ultra-efficient showerheads, you can reduce shower water use-and energy consumption, since we're talking about water you pay to heat-by up to 50% while still enjoying a luxurious, powerful spray.

New technologies, bigger savings

Before 1992, showerheads pumped out five or more gallons per minute (gpm), accounting for nearly 20% of indoor water use. Federal law cut that to 2.5 gallons, but the latest water-saving models do better still. Borrowing windshield-sprayer technology from the automotive industry, Delta's H2Okinetic Technology (http://www.deltafaucet.com/smarttechnology/h2okinetic-technology.html) manipulates droplet size and direction to make only 1.6 gpm feel drenching. That's a 36% reduction over a standard low-flow showerhead. Bricor (http://www.bricor.com) uses a patented vacuum chamber that aerates and compacts water under pressure to deliver an intense blast with 1.25 gpm or less. Other manufacturers use laminar flow, which puts out dozens of parallel streams instead of an aerated spray, creating the sensation of more water. The type you choose depends on personal preference, but at $50 to $200, any of these can quickly pay for themselves in reduced water-heating costs. You may even be able to score one for free with a rebate through your local utility.

To measure your shower's flow, put a bucket marked in gallon increments under the spray. If the water reaches the one-gallon mark in less than 20 seconds, you could benefit from a low-flow showerhead.

First, check your plumbing

While replacing your existing showerhead with one of these super-high-efficiency models can be as easy as screwing in a light bulb, it's a good idea to first assess your plumbing. The big concern is the potential for scalding or getting hit with an icy blast. Because less water is flowing through the showerhead, sudden fluctuations in temperature can be more extreme.

Homes built after the mid-1990s usually have an automatic temperature compensating (ATC) valve installed as part of the shower plumbing inside the wall. These protect against rapid changes in temperature-say when the dishwasher cycles or a maniacal sibling keeps flushing the toilet. Quick check: If your shower has an old two-handle faucet, chances are it does not have an ATC valve. (Neither do most new two-handle systems.) In that case, simply sticking on a low-flow showerhead to save water is a bad idea. "The only appropriate way to retrofit a shower with a two-handle faucet is to eliminate the outdated faucet and install a new valve and showerhead," says Shawn Martin, technical director of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute.

Even then, you can't be absolutely certain that the valve will work properly with an ultra-low-flow showerhead. That's because most ATC valves are certified for the current standard flow rate of 2.5 gpm. While it's expected that soon all new valves will be certified to 2.0 gpm, your best bet, if you're installing a new valve and showerhead now, is to buy them from the same manufacturer so you'll know they're designed to work together.
By early 2010, the EPA plans to start putting WaterSense (http://www.epa.gov/watersense) labels on showerheads the way they have for toilets (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/low-flow-toilets-how-choose/). Then it will be easier to identify the models that offer the biggest water savings and the best performance.

Other ways to pump up shower efficiency

In addition to offering low-flow nozzles, manufacturers have come up with other ways to make showering more efficient. Neco (http://www.neco.com.au/default.asp), an Australian company that specializes in sustainable products, has a thumb-adjusted volume control on its Rainmaker (http://www.neco.com.au/product.asp?pID=99) head. A few high-end models feature "pause" buttons that let you to stop and restart the water at the same temperature-perfect for taking a Navy shower. That's when you wet yourself down, turn off the water while you lather up, and then turn it back on to rinse. Common practice on naval ships, where fresh water supplies are limited, this technique uses as little as 3 gallons, compared with the typical "Hollywood shower" that uses 60 gallons every 10 minutes. That amounts to a savings of 15,000 gallons a year per person.

Of course, the danger of all these new low-flow showerheads is that you'll be tempted to linger too long in your own private Niagara. Several companies have come out with shower timers to nudge habitual drenchers. The Shower Manager (http://www.showermanager.com) cuts the taps when time's up, and Eco Drop Shower, a stall unit by Italian designer Tommaso Colia, purports to save water not from the top down but from the bottom up. As you shower, a pattern of concentric circles embedded in the floor rises up to the point of discomfort, forcing you to exit. Just make sure to turn off the water first.

Laura Fisher Kaiser is a contributing editor to Interior Design magazine and a former editor at This Old House Magazine. A Navy brat, she feels guilty for not taking Navy showers.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

 

7 Ways to Save on Lighting Costs

Lighting eats up as much as 20% of your annual electric bill, but using energy-efficient bulbs and making other simple changes can cut lighting costs dramatically.
 
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

CFLs remain the go-to choice for energy efficiency. They last longer and consume less electricity than a standard incandescent. A 13-watt CFL, for example, gives off the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent and burns for 10,000 hours, compared with 1,000 hours for the conventional bulb. A typical CFL saves about $30 in operating costs over its lifetime.

Early CFLs didn't always deliver on light quality or convenience, but aesthetic performance has improved vastly in recent years. They now come in warm, neutral, and cool "colors," and major manufacturers like GE have started enclosing the telltale spiral in a conventional bulb shape so it's less obtrusive.

You get the biggest bang for your buck with CFLs in places where you would otherwise use incandescent bulbs: floor and table lamps and standard overhead fixtures. They last longer when they're not flipped on and off constantly, so they're especially good in rooms that see a lot of activity throughout the day, such as a kitchen or a playroom. A couple of caveats: CFLs can be glary, so they're not the best choice in downward-pointing fixtures like chandeliers, and most don't work with dimmers or timers. Because the bulbs contain mercury, they can't be thrown out in the regular trash. If you bought them at a home center, you should be able to return them there for recycling, or log on to recycleabulb.com (http://www.recycleabulb.com) to find a disposal center near you.

Cost and savings: Expect to pay $2 to $15 for a CFL, versus 50 cents to $1 for a comparable incandescent, but the CFL will last at least 10 times longer and cost up to 75% less to operate.

Make your existing incandescents less expensive to run

By simply lowering the wattage of an incandescent bulb by 15 watts-from 75 to 60, for example-you can knock 15% off the operating cost. And you may not even notice the difference in brightness. "A small reduction in wattage isn't discernible to the eye," says Brett Sawyer, a consultant who blogs about sustainable home design. If the light is on a dimmer, for every 10% you lower the brightness, you'll double the bulb's life. Try this next weekend, Sawyer says: Replace your most-used bulbs with ones at least 10 watts lower. If you don't notice the difference, then replace all the incandescents you can with lower-wattage bulbs. Combine that with CFLs in selected fixtures, and you'll achieve a "light layering" effect that saves money without compromising light quality, and without a hefty upfront investment.

Cost and savings: For every 15-watt reduction, you reduce energy use by 15%. And a $10 dimmer, once installed, costs nothing to use.

Keep an eye on new bulb technologies

Spurred on by new energy requirements set to go into effect in 2012, bulb manufacturers are working feverishly to come up with more efficient versions of the standard incandescent. Presently, companies including GE, Sylvania, and Philips offer high-efficiency incandescent and halogen bulbs that use less energy than standard incandescents while delivering the same light quality. And research is proceeding apace on how to bring the dramatic energy efficiency of LED technology to residential products. These lights, which require very little current and last even longer than CFLs, are prohibitively expensive for home use (except in certain applications like under-cabinet strip lighting), but that's likely to change in the coming years.

Think beyond the bulb to save on lighting costs

Changing bulbs is one way to reduce your lighting bill, but it's not the only way.
Motion sensors: Great in rooms where the occupants can't be counted on to turn off the light, such as a kids' playroom. Devices cost $15 to $50 and take about an hour to install.

Door-jamb switches: Best in a pantry or closet; opening the door activates the light. As much a convenience as it is an energy saver-as long as you remember to close the door. Devices start at about $15.
Windows: You'd be surprised at how much a simple window cleaning can instantly improve natural light.
Energy Star fixtures: Designed for CFL and LED lights, these can save up to $70 a year in energy costs. Go to energystar.gov (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=fixtures.pr_light_fixtures) to find links to manufacturers.

Lifestyle expert Charlotte Barnard specializes in home improvement and decorating topics and also consults on consumer and residential trends for magazines, web sites, and retail ventures.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Water Heaters: 5 Tips to Save Energy

Water heating accounts for up to 25% of household energy costs, but there are inexpensive things you can do to increase efficiency and reduce energy bills.
 
In the fight to save energy, your water heater is a born loser. That's because most houses in this country have a conventional storage-type water heater. That 50-gallon tank in the basement wants to keep water hot, so it will be ready whenever you turn on the tap. But as the water sits, it naturally begins to cool down, a process known as standby heat loss. When it does, the burner or heating element kicks on to warm it up again, in a constantly repeating cycle. According to the Department of Energy, water heating accounts for 14% to 25% of your household's total energy costs. But there are easy, low-cost steps you can take to reduce standby losses-and your hot-water bill, too. Try these five, and you'll start seeing a difference right away.

Wrap your heater in a blanket

Just as you wouldn't send little Susie out into the cold without a jacket, your water heater needs help to stay warm, especially if it's in an unheated space. A fiberglass insulating blanket can cut heat loss by 25% to 40% and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill of $308, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (http://www.aceee.org) (ACEEE).

Insulating blankets are cheap, usually less than $30 at the home center, and it's easy to install one yourself. Follow the included directions, and take care not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet, exhaust, or top of the tank on a gas unit.

If your water heater is fairly new, check the manufacturer's recommendations first. Many newer units already have insulating foam built in; on these models, an after-market jacket could block a critical component.

Install low-flow fixtures

One of the surest ways to cut hot water costs is to use less of it. According to the ACEEE, a family of four uses 700 gallons of hot water per week. By installing low-flow showerheads (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/low-flow-showerheads-how-to-choose/) and faucet aerators, which cost as little as $10 to $20 each, you can cut hot water consumption by 25% to 60%. These devices are easy to install and will save 14,000 gallons of hot water annually, plus the energy it takes to heat it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.epa.gov) estimates the average U.S. household water bill at $474 a year. By cutting water consumption in half, you'll save more than $200 annually.

Turn down the temperature

Many water heaters come from the factory with the temperature set needlessly high. For every 10 degrees you turn it down, you'll save another 3% to 5% on your bill, according to ACEEE. A setting between 120 and 140 degrees is plenty hot for most uses. Just don't go below 120 degrees, which could lead to the unsafe growth of bacteria inside the tank.

If the thermostat on your water heater doesn't have a numbered gauge, put it midway between the "low" and "medium" marks. Wait a day, then measure the temperature at the tap with a standard cooking thermometer. Keep adjusting this way until you hit your target temperature.

Drain the sediment

Tanks naturally build up sediment, which reduces the unit's efficiency and makes it more expensive to operate. "Imagine an inch of sand inside your water heater," explains David Chisholm of manufacturer State Water Heaters. "When you get a layer at the bottom of the tank, you have to heat up that sediment before you can heat up the water."

Draining the tank is relatively easy. Turn off the water and power to the unit (set the burner on a gas unit to "pilot"). Then connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the tank. With the other end of the hose at a lower spot outside the house where discharging hot water poses no danger, carefully lift the pressure-relief valve at the top of the tank and turn on the spigot; water should begin to flow. While most manufacturers recommend draining the tank once or twice a year, you don't have to drain it completely; in fact, the Department of Energy (http://www.energy.gov) recommends draining less water more often-just a quart every three months.

Insulate exposed hot-water pipes

Like blanketing the tank, wrapping hot-water pipes with insulation reduces standby losses. Water arrives at the tap 2 to 4 degrees warmer, which means you won't have to stand around as long waiting for it to heat up, thus saving water, energy, and money. While this isn't an expensive job to do yourself-six-foot-long, self-sealing sleeves easily slip over pipes and cost about $2.50 each-it could take some effort, depending on where your hot water pipes are. Exposed pipes in the basement are an easy target, but if pipes are in a hard-to-reach crawl space or inside walls, it might not be worth the trouble.

Joe Bousquin's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, and Men's Journal. The owner of a 79-year-old home in Sacramento, Calif., he has a new reverence for his water heater.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

This Article from HouseLogic.com
 

Save Money With an Insulation Upgrade

Beefing up inadequate insulation is one of the quickest energy-payback projects you can do, resulting in lower heating and cooling bills and increased comfort.
 
Even if you live in an older home, there's no reason you need to shiver through the winter or roast in the summer. If your house doesn't have enough insulation-common in homes built before 1980, when energy awareness began to take hold-bringing it up to current standards will make it more comfortable all year long. Plus, you'll save anywhere from 10% to 50% on heating and cooling bills. The amount of savings for upgrading insulation depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of heating system you have, and how much insulation you add.
How to compare different types of insulation

On each type of insulation, a label states the R-value per inch, a measure of resistance to heat transfer. The bigger the number, the more effective the insulation. Where space is tight, such as within wall cavities, you need a high R-value per inch. In an attic or under a floor, where there is more room, you can boost the insulation value of a lower-rated material simply by using a thicker layer. As a rule, the more insulation you add, the more money you'll save. But there is a point beyond which you can spend more on materials than you'll recoup in lower energy bills. The tipping point varies depending on where you live. Consult the Department of Energy's zip-code specific recommendations (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html) for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Adding insulation in the attic

 The attic is a great place to start, because adding insulation there is quick, easy, and cost-effective. (To make any insulation upgrade more cost-effective, it's a good idea to seal air leaks (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/8-easy-ways-seal-air-leaks-around-house/) first.) In the Northeast, for example, upgrading attic insulation from R-11 to R-49 would cost around $1,500 if you hire a pro-half as much if you do it yourself-and, depending on the type of heat you have, save about $600.

To determine how much to add, look up the recommended amount for your area (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs%2bwalls/insulation/ins_16.html), then subtract the value of your existing insulation. If you don't know, you can figure it out using the Home Energy Saver online energy audit tool (http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/makingithappen/no_regrets/insulationold.html).
There are two ways to improve attic insulation. In unfinished space, you can simply add layers to what is already on the floor. Or, if you're thinking about finishing the attic, you can put the insulation against the roof. Insulating the roof is the better method if heating and cooling ducts pass through the space, or if you live in a humid climate and want to cut down on musty smells coming from the attic.

If you're doing the job yourself (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/when-it-pays-to-do-it-yourself/), blanket-type material is easiest to work with. Just be careful not to compress it or it won't be as effective. If you're hiring a contractor, go with loose-fill cellulose or fiberglass, which fills crevices better. You'll pay a pro around $1 a square foot to blow in material; DIY batts cost about half that.

If you're insulating the roof, sprayed foam polyurethane (http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11600) works best because it molds to rafters, blocks water vapor, and has a high R-rating per inch. Expect to pay about double the cost of loose-fill insulation.

No matter which method you choose, federal tax credits (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/tax-credits-adding-or-replacing-insulation/) of up to $1,500 are available to defray the cost of materials.

Adding insulation to walls on main floors

It's fairly easy to add insulation in stud bays where none exists. (To check, cut the power to a few outlets on exterior walls, then unscrew and look behind the cover plates.) A contractor drills small holes through the inside or outside wall and blows in material. Costs range from around $1.25 per square foot for loose-fill fiberglass, cellulose, or rock wool to $4.40 for polyurethane foam, which insulates about twice as well.
If your walls already have some insulation, you probably can't add more without tearing into the drywall or plaster. That's not cost effective unless you're remodeling, so the best strategy may be to wait until you need to replace siding (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/your-guide-to-replacement-siding-options/). Then you can add insulating sheathing underneath it.

Basements and crawl spaces

Even though hot air rises, homes lose heat in all directions. So besides insulating the top and sides of your house, you also need to insulate the bottom, where as much as 30% of energy loss can occur. As with the attic, you have two choices: Insulate under the bottom floor and treat the crawl space or basement as outdoor space, or insulate the walls and treat the area as indoor space. In that case, you would close off all exterior vents except those needed for combustion air or exhaust.

Though floor insulation is more common, wall insulation has many advantages, including cost-it takes about a third less material to insulate the walls of a 36-by-48-foot basement as to insulate the subfloor above. A key detail, not understood by all builders, is to place a layer of rigid foam insulation against the foundation to keep moisture from condensing against the cold walls. If you want to finish the basement, you can cover the foam with a stud wall, fill it with unfaced fiberglass insulation, and cover with drywall.

Jeanne Huber is the author of 10 books about home improvement and writes a weekly column about home care for the Washington Post.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com
 

8 Easy Ways to Seal Air Leaks Around the House

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 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 (http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/DIY_Guide_May_2008.pdf).

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.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210  

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com
 
Article from HouseLogic.com

 

 

What You Need to Know about Ventless Fireplaces

Ventless fireplaces provide a convenient, low-cost alternative to traditional fireplace options, but they are not trouble free.  Ventless fireplaces, which don't include a flue or chimney, have been sold in the U.S. since 1980. They're powered by natural gas, propane, alcohol-based gels, and electricity. Although less expensive and easier to install than a traditional fireplace, ventless fireplaces suffer from a reputation of being unsafe, unhealthy, and cheap alternatives to "the real thing."  However, modern ventless fireplace models are strictly regulated by federal agencies and standards groups for safe operation in your home, making them a viable, low-cost, supplemental heating option compared to more expensive fireplaces. If you're considering the installation of a fireplace in your home, here's what you need to know about ventless options.

Types of ventless fireplaces

Ventless fireplaces are typically freestanding units that don't require or feature a flue or chimney to exhaust combustion air to the outdoors, making them relatively easy to install in any room.  Those fueled by natural gas or propane can be positioned anywhere that a supply line can be installed-usually against a wall or inside an existing masonry fireplace. The latest models also feature automatic ignition, a function that eliminates the need for an outside electrical circuit to spark the pilot light-a handy feature should the electricity ever go out.  Gel-fueled units are even more versatile, as they're completely self-contained (not tethered to a supply line) and light with a match. Electric units need only a 120-volt outlet nearby, and a dedicated circuit isn't necessary.

What does "ventless" mean?

Ventless fireplaces fueled by gas or propane rely on indoor air for combustion, and they exhaust a low level of their combustion gases into the room in which they're located. A chimney or flue isn't necessary.  The risk to your health is a long-standing and on-going debate. Proponents suggest that any emissions are negligible, and well within indoor air quality guidelines as set by various regulatory agencies.  Essentially, these products must meet the general requirements for all combustible heating appliances established in the 2002 version of the National Fire Protection Association's  (http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/ROP/211-F2002-rop.pdf) standards that require ventless fireplaces to have factory-installed carbon monoxide monitors and oxygen detection safety devices (ODS). These safety devices automatically shut off the fireplace if the carbon monoxide level in the room rises above 25 parts per million, and/or the oxygen level falls below 18%–levels for indoor air quality (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html) suggested (but not standardized or regulated) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Critics, however, claim that such monitors are unreliable and imprecise, allowing oxygen and carbon monoxide levels to fluctuate out of range before the units shut down, resulting in potential health hazards. The state of California completely bans these products, citing concern for occupant safety and health. 

Ventless fireplaces that use gel canisters or electricity, meanwhile, are above that fray, as they don't emit anything other than a low amount of heat.  Any ventless fireplace is generally suggested for supplemental space heating and perhaps aesthetics alone. Those with automatic ignition or that use gel fuel can supply a low level of room heat for short spans of time and during power outages, when electricity isn't available.

Installation and maintenance

Ventless fireplaces that are connected to a gas or propane line require professional installation by a gas or plumbing contractor, and shouldn't have a heating capacity that exceeds the appropriate room size recommended by the manufacturer.  Despite their relative ease of installation, and regardless of fuel source, ventless fireplaces aren't a turn-them-on-and-forget option. All units require at least annual cleaning of the log set and other exposed components, while gas and propane products should also have their oxygen and carbon monoxide monitors checked and adjusted annually for optimum performance.  Although suppliers may tout the integrity of factory-installed carbon monoxide monitors, installing a hard-wired, independent carbon monoxide monitor in the room in which the fireplace is located is a smart second tier of safety. Expect to pay $100-$200 for an hour of an electrician's time and the monitor.

Costs

Gas- or propane-connected ventless fireplaces usually include a factory-finished enclosure and/or mantle. With professional installation, they cost $2,000-$6,000. Installation may not require a building permit, but check with your local building department to confirm if there are any regulations or limits on the use of a ventless fireplace.  Gel-powered ventless fireplaces generally cost less, $300-$700, and don't require professional installation and associated costs. Some assembly by the purchaser may be required, including the placement of factory-supplied logs in front of the gel canisters. The fuel comes in 13-ounce canisters that cost about $3 and last about 2.5 hours each. They are sold in cases of 24 for about $80 or $110 for a dozen, 30-ounce refill bottles.  Electric fireplaces also are standalone, self-contained, and factory-finished, requiring no installation other than removing them from the box and plugging them into a wall socket. They cost about $1,000 and up, depending on the sophistication of the mantel and surround. Suppliers claim these products produce a realistic flame effect created by randomly filtered lighting, but judge for yourself at a retailer before you buy.

Choosing the correct size

It's important to size a ventless fireplace for the size of its room. A large, open space, such as a great room, should handle a ventless gas/propane fireplace with a 25,000 BTU or higher output, akin to the heat output from a sealed and vented gas fireplace. 

For smaller rooms, such as a bedroom or bathroom, ventless gas- or propane-fueled fireplaces can be sized down to 5,000 BTUs. For optimum control over heat output, these units can be regulated by a wall thermostat or remote control.  Gel-powered units can output up to 9,000 BTUs. Electric fireplaces, like space heaters, provide very localized output-at most, 4,500 BTUs-but will remain working as long as they are plugged in and switched on.  Regardless, ventless fireplaces of any kind and size are nearly 100% efficient, as very little of the heat they emit escapes the room. By contrast, an open-faced, wood-burning fireplace with a chimney may lose 85% or more of its heat output through the flue.

Rich Binsacca has been writing about housing and home improvement since 1987. He's the author of 12 books on various home-related topics, is currently a contributing editor for Builder and EcoHome magazines, and has written articles for such magazines as Remodeling, Home, and Architectural Record. He intermittently uses the wood-burning fireplace and the gas-fueled freestanding stove that came with his current home.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210
 
Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

Buying and Storing Fireplace Fuel

Knowing how to evaluate buy, and store firewood is the key is the key to efficient, safe operation of your fireplace, fireplace insert, or wood stove.  Whether you burn fires as a supplemental heat source for your home or strictly for ambiance and pleasure, it's important to know how to properly buy and store firewood. For homeowners looking to fuel a traditional masonry fireplace, fireplace insert, or wood stove, the goal should be the same: to get the best quality firewood for the best possible price.

Before picking up the phone, it's important to know exactly what you want to purchase so that you can clearly express that to the wood seller, says Matt Galambos, a Maine arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. This includes determining the quantity, species, and condition of the firewood, all of which affect its price.

How much to buy

Homeowners who intend to heat their homes through the use of a wood stove naturally will require more firewood than those who burn only the occasional fire for pleasure. A person living in the Northeastern U.S. who burns firewood as his or her primary heat source, for example, may require up to five cords of wood to get them through the season. In contrast, a weekend-only fire builder can likely get by on as little as a half-cord. Galambos estimates that for the casual but steady fire builder, one cord of wood should easily last through winter.

Measuring a cord of wood

A cord of wood is defined as a stack of cut firewood that measures 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 8 feet long, or any other arrangement that equals 128 cubic feet. The individual pieces must be stacked side by side rather than the looser crisscross style. Other measurement terms, such as ricks, racks, face cords and piles, have no legal meaning and are often banned by state weights and measurements agencies. Regardless what the load is called, says Galambos, it should always be converted to cords or fractions thereof so that homeowners can determine if they are getting a fair price.

Seasoning the wood

Freshly cut wood is composed largely of water. Not only is this "green" wood difficult to ignite, but burning it can lead to a dangerous build-up of creosote, the cause of chimney fires (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/chimney-maintenance-warmth-and-safety/). Properly "seasoned" firewood is wood that has been cut to length, split, and allowed to air dry for at least six months until the moisture content dips to around 20%. Dry wood will appear grayish in color and the pieces will begin to exhibit splits and cracks on the ends. Compared to freshly cut wood, seasoned wood feels light for its size.

Though seasoned firewood is the only choice for immediate use, green wood shouldn't be completely ignored, says Galambos. "If you have the room to store it and the time to dry it, buying green firewood can save you up to 25% compared with seasoned wood," he says.

Hardwood vs. softwood

It's a common misconception that burning soft woods, such as pine and cedar, leads to dangerous creosote build-up. As long as the firewood is properly seasoned, it can safely be burned in a fireplace or stove regardless of species, says Dr. John Ball, Professor of Forestry at South Dakota State University. But that doesn't mean that all wood is created equal.

"Tree species differ widely in the amount of heat they produce when burned," says Ball. Hardwoods like oak, and maple, produce almost twice the heat compared with softer woods, such as spruce, pine, and basswood. Fires built with hardwood not only burn hotter, they last longer, meaning the wood pile won't get depleted as fast. Homeowners can expect to pay a premium for 100% hardwood, but Ball cautions against purchasing cheaper "mixed-wood" loads that may contain little actual hardwood.

Storing firewood

Homeowners should consider storage long before the firewood delivery truck appears in the driveway, cautions Galambos. A cord of wood takes up a significant amount of space, and if not properly stored your investment will quickly begin to rot. Firewood that is not stowed in a protected space like a garage or shed needs to be six inches off the ground. Firewood racks or simple pallets work well. If exposed to the elements, the wood pile should be at least partially covered with a waterproof tarp. Experts caution against storing the wood too close to the house for fear of inviting pests.

Average prices

Homeowners can expect to pay $150 for a half-cord and between $250 and $350 for a cord of hardwood delivered and stacked. To save some money, a person with a large truck may elect to pick up his or her own load at the wood lot.

To verify the quantity, species, and condition of the firewood, it's wise to arrange the delivery for a time when you're home. Experts say, inspect the wood for type and condition before it's unloaded, though quantity can only be accurately measured after it's stacked.

Maximize your fireplace efficiency

It's true that a traditional wood fireplace (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/5-questions-and-answers-about-adding-fireplace/) can never rival the energy efficiency of a wood stove (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/add-wood-stove-energy-efficiency/) or even a fireplace insert (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/add-a-fireplace-insert-for-warmth-and-savings/), but there are ways a homeowner can trim heat loss. Fire-resistant glass doors not only reduce the volume of heated home air that escapes up the chimney, they help radiate heat back into the room. Similarly, a thick cast-iron fireback is an old-fashioned device that absorbs and emits energy in the form of radiant heat. Check the fireplace damper for leaks and always tightly seal it when the fireplace is idle.

Note about invasive pests

Forestry experts like Dr. John Ball strongly encourage homeowners to buy only local wood (wood from within a one- or two-county range) to prevent the spread of pests like the Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer.

Douglas Trattner has written extensively about home improvement topics for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he estimates that he burned through 15 cords of wood. Most, he promises, was properly seasoned hardwood.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/
 
View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman

http://www.carolinajoe.com
Article from HouseLogic.com

Remodeling a Bathroom the Green Way

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. 

It's all about the water

Thinking about greening your bathroom means considering how you use water in terms of consumption and energy. According to the American Water Works Association (http://www.awwa.org), your humble toilets are the thirstiest water users in the house, accounting for 27% of consumption. This fact inspired conservation schemes like placing something hefty in the toilet tank to reduce flushing capacity, and those low-flow toilets that too often didn't flush what needed flushing.

A more successful approach is the dual-flush toilet. It has two flush buttons, one for light work, one for heavy. Long a mainstay in Europe, dual-flush toilets are available in the U.S. for $250-$400, a price in line with top-quality conventional toilets. A dual flush toilet can save 17,000 gallons of water a year-about $50 off your water bill. If you wish to keep your old toilet (a very green decision), you can retrofit it with a dual flush mechanism costing only $70.

The shower is another squanderer of water. Showers use 16% to 20% of a home's water, most of it heated. The flow rate of a typical shower head is 2.5 gallons per minute. Switching it out with a low-flow head of 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute still offers adequate cleansing power with a substantial savings in water usage. (If you cherish a really forceful blast of hot water, consider a full-flow shower head with a lever that lets you shut it off while you lather.)

In addition to conserving water, you'll want to take a close look at the way your water is heated. Second only to the kitchen, the bathroom is your home's most intensive energy user, with most of that energy going towards those nice hot showers and baths. Curbing wasted energy can be as simple as adding an insulating blanket to your tank-type heater (reducing energy use by 4% to 9%) and insulating all accessible hot water pipes. In addition, most water heaters are set to 140 degrees; you can turn down the water heater temperature setting to a still-toasty 120 degrees and save up to $60 per year on energy costs.

If your old water heater is nearing the end of its 15-year life cycle and you're considering investing in a new water heater, you can achieve some handsome energy savings. One smart option is a condensing storage water heater. Using technology similar to that of high-efficiency furnaces, the condensing heater puts nearly every possible BTU into the water instead of sending it up the flue. Currently, a 50-gallon gas unit costs $1,700 (versus $380 for a standard tank-type heater), a price that is expected to drop as demand takes hold. Installation costs are around $400, slightly higher than that of standard units. Those higher costs are offset by a $300 tax credit and an EPA estimated annual fuel savings of more than $100.

A tankless water heater heats water only as it is needed, avoiding the heat loss that occurs with a conventional tank. A unit costs about $2,000 installed, and your annual energy savings will be $70 a year. Be aware that these units take some getting used to; expect a shot of cold water before the hot kicks in.

Move that air

A bathroom remodel is an excellent time to consider installing a new exhaust ventilator fan to remove odors, moisture, and mold spores. Many bathroom fans only vent to the space between ceiling joists, creating an environment for mold and dampness that can damage walls and ceilings. Make sure your new fan vents completely to the outside of your house.

Unfortunately, even properly installed fans that push the moist outdoors can carry away a lot of heated air as well. A clever solution to this problem is a heat-exchange ventilator that uses outgoing air to warm the cold incoming air. Such units cost about $250 uninstalled, twice the price of a standard fan. Whatever fan you have, avoid an on-off switch; it's too easy to forget to turn it off. Replace it with a timer switch or, better yet, buy a new fan unit with a motion- or humidity-sensing switch.

Selecting green materials

A green bathroom remodel need not stint on style. Classic ceramic tile comes in limitless colors and patterns, and is a green choice due to its low maintenance, durability, and low toxicological impact. Some tiles have high recycled content; recycled glass tiles are a lovely way to do the right ecological thing. Not buying something new can be good green idea too. Consider refinishing your old tub or sink. Use the pros for the best results. Expect to pay $500 for a tub, $300 for a sink. You'll save as much on installation costs.

LED illumination now produces pleasing light quality in fixtures that sip only 2 to 15 watts, emit little heat, and have a life span of 15-20 years. They cost about three times as much as conventional fixtures but use so little electricity that the payback can be as short as a year.

Paint and vinyl coverings often come loaded with VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that threaten indoor air quality. Look for building materials with Green Seal (http://www.greenseal.org) certification. Green Seal is a non-profit, independent organization that certifies products claiming to be environmentally friendly. Low-VOC options in paints and adhesives can be found at your local home center.

Waste not

Much of our landfill (estimates range from 22% to 40%) comes from construction debris. Any steps that reduce landfill potentially reduce the chance of ground water pollution, the odor and unsightliness of a local landfill, and in some cases the high cost of shipping waste elsewhere. Much of the debris that comes from a remodeling tear-out is not salvageable, but old toilets, sinks, light fixtures, medicine cabinets, and vanities can be donated to an organization like Habitat for Humanity's ReStore (http://www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx). In fact, it may be just what someone is seeking for their own green remodeling.

Dave Toht has written or edited more than 60 books on home repair and remodeling, including titles for The Home Depot, Lowe's, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunset, and Reader's Digest. A former contractor with decades of hands-on experience, Dave was editor of Remodeling Ideas magazine and continues to contribute to numerous how-to publications. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a green addition to his Olympia, Wash., home.

As always, your thoughts, questions, or comments are greatly appreciated. Let me know if I can help with any of your Charleston SC real estate needs or questions.

To look for homes anywhere in the tri-county area go to my website at http://www.carolinajoe.com/mls/ 

View my entire inventory of VisualTours at http://www.visualtour.com/inventory.asp?U=182210 

Sincerely,

"Carolina Joe" Idleman
http://www.carolinajoe.com

Article from HouseLogic.com

Start a Christmas Tree Recycling Program

More than 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year. This holiday season don't toss yours in the dumpster. Instead, consider organizing a recycling program in your community.  Although some community groups raise money by asking for a donation when they pick up trees for recycling, the big payoff of "treecycling" is keeping discarded trees from taking up landfill space.

There are more than 4,000 treecycling programs throughout the United States, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (http://www.christmastree.org). If your community doesn't have one, starting one isn't as difficult as you might think, especially if you partner with local and state recycling programs and organizations such as Earth911 (http://earth911.com/).

The community volunteers who run the treecycling program at The New Hope Borough Recycling Committee (http://www.newhopeborough.org/waste.htm) in Pennsylvania spent about 20 hours each helping to organize and promote the activity. A landscape contractor donates time and equipment to pick up about 100 trees curbside and turn them into chips for mulch.

How to start a treecycle program

If you want to start a treecycling program in your area, begin by finding neighbors, small businesses, and members of local environmental groups who'd like to join your cause.

Starting a program without any community support or resources would be costly and time-consuming, and far more effort than most people would be willing to undertake, so secure support and partners first before embarking on this project.

Once you've located partners, get everyone together for a meeting to decide how you want to recycle your trees.

Evaluate recycling options

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, trees can be reused and recycled (http://www.christmastree.org/recycle.cfm) in many different ways, from being turned into mulch to being left whole and used as nesting habitats for herons and egrets.  The most common recycling method is chipping, which requires special equipment as well as a qualified operator with liability insurance. Renting the equipment and getting licensed can be time consuming and expensive, so partnering with a local department of parks and recreation, private landscaping business, or tree service company is your best bet if you want to mulch the trees.  An alternative to chipping is to donate whole Christmas trees to a variety of conservation efforts such as wildlife restoration and dune and wetland rebuilding.  Once you have a tree recycling partner, your biggest investment will be the time spent organizing volunteers and partners, which will take about 40 hours over the course of a few weeks.

Assign a volunteer to outline and execute a plan to promote your program starting at least a month in advance. Have the volunteer come up with marketing materials such as a press release and fliers explaining the program.  The volunteers doing major tasks such as promotion or working with a landscape company should expect to spend roughly 20 hours on the program. Volunteers who staff the drop off location could spend 10 to 15 hours doing shifts over the course of a week. The person in charge of the event could spend up to 40 hours overseeing the volunteers and troubleshooting.

Schedule tree collection

After you've decided how the trees will be recycled, you'll need to determine how and when to collect them. According to Earth911 (http://earth911.com/christmas-trees/how-to-start-a-christmas-tree-recycling-program-part-one/), options include short-term drop off, long-term drop off, and curbside pick up.  If you elect to do drop off, you'll need to find a location to store the trees until they're recycled. If you do a pick-up program, you'll need trucks and crews to collect the trees.  The best collection times range from the day after Christmas to the middle of January. If you are doing a short-term drop-off, the week after New Year's is best. Be sure to put tree requirements on promotional materials so that trees are free of ornaments, lights, tinsel, and tree stands before they're dropped off or collected.

Starting a Christmas tree recycling program in your community is a great way to begin the New Year a little greener. Just make sure that you have community support and recycling resources to help make your program a success.
Sacha Cohen is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and founder of DCGoingGreen.net and grassfed media (http://www.grassfedmediadc.com). She has written about sustainable travel, green buildings, and green communities for such outlets as The Washington Post and Planet Green.

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