Green-Up Your Home with Energy-Saving Home Improvements

Spring is Here! ~ Don’t forget to “Green-Up” your home!

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed a stimulus bill (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) that made some significant changes to the energy efficiency tax credits.

If you want to make your home more energy efficient:
The 10 percent tax credit for energy-saving home improvements climbs to 30 percent and is extended through 2010. Many improvements may qualify for the credit, including energy-efficient windows, outer doors, water heaters and central air conditioners. (SummitCreditUnion.com)

Head to: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits for further information.

Energy Assessment

So you woke up today with another -17 degree morning. Are you cringing at your upcoming utility bill?  Our bill nearly doubled during our last billing cycle.

I recently had an energy assessment done in my own home. Brian Paull from Premier Inspection used a thermal imaging camera to find the cold spots in my house.  We followed him around the house looking over his shoulder at the camera. We saw that some of the insulation had blown back in a corner of the bedroom, the outlets on the outer wall and one light fixture need insulation, the uninsulated garage door needs to be replaced, and obviously the upstairs windows need to be replaced. As a bonus, he offered some ideas on sources for remedies. Even making some of the smaller changes will make a difference.

MG&E is a great resource for other energy conserving ideas. Visit their website and review Saving Energy.

Once we have made the changes, I will post the improvement in the utility bill during our next chilly billing cycle.  In the meantime, it’s off to Home Depot!

Fall Chores

Now that the leaves have begun their decent, we must be sure that the vital pathways of the roof are clear to allow for thawing and proper diversion of water – away from the foundation. Think of your the gutters on your house as the veins of the house. If they are clogged, things start to back up.  Ice Damning is a perfect example of a potential result of backlogged gutters.

Use the buddy-system if you are going up on the roof.  Make sure the ladder is tall enough to safely reach the top (so you can get back down!) some other roof cleaning options are mentioned on This Old House.

As you sweat from raking all the leaves – breathing in the crisp autumn air – remember, you’ll be done with “yard” work for the winter. City of Madison leaf collection.  To make it less of a chore, do sections of the yard throughout the week.  Less aches and more Vitamin D.

Hostas and most perennials can be cut back: Perennial Fall Maintenance.  This helps with raking and will reduce the soggy spring plant bed preparation. A great way to stay green is to use decomposing yard waste bags as you clean the green away.

If you plan to use your wood fireplace, now is the time to get it inspected. Contact your local Fireplace installer to find a knowledgeable chimney sweep that can service your area. Remember to keep stacked wood away from the foundation of your home (especially if your home is made of wood!) A tarp will keep the moisture off of the wood. Bring in only what you need to use.

Before the snow flies, make sure that all the hoses are disconnected, emptied and stored for winter to prevent cracking. Double check the exterior faucet to see if there is an interior shut-off valve for the water. Better safe than flodded from a cracked pipe.

Speaking of winter, now is a great time to get first pick on a snow blower-before the first snow rush.  I just bought a Toro CCR 2450 after much online research. I’ll keep you posted on how it throws snow.

Going Green: The Madison Homeowner’s Guide (Part 2 of 2)

In the last post we discussed some tips on how to be a greener Madison homeowner. A good resource to help you out with the greening of your home is www.energystar.gov. Energy Star is a government-backed joint effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that helps Americans save money and protect the environment by practicing energy efficiency. The results have been impressive: In 2007 alone, with the help of Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from 27 million cars. At the same time, we were able to save a collective $16 billion on our utility bills!

…Remember: being environmentally conscious doesn’t mean that you have to turn your lifestyle around. You don’t have to sacrifice features, style, or comfort. Making a few small changes can make a huge difference to the environment. As a homeowner, do your part to keep up Madison’s reputation as a green destination!

Going Green: The Madison Homeowner’s Guide (Part1 of 2)

With all the alarming publicity regarding the climate crisis and global warming, we should all be proud to live in and around the “green” city of Madison. Over the years, Madison has gained a reputation as a green destination, much of which is due to its population’s dedication to the maintenance and protection of the green space throughout the area. Within the City of Madison alone, you can find over 6,000 acres of parkland in almost 300 different parks! The 150+ miles of bike trails also add to the “greenness” of the city, as you can find easy ways to travel without leaving a carbon footprint.

However, are you personally doing enough for the environment? Here are some tips on how to be a greener homeowner:

  1. Madison offered the nation’s first curbside recycling program in 1968. USE IT! Recycle paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, glass, and more.
  2. Consider using solar energy. Madison is one of 13 U.S. cities that will share $2.5 million in new federal money to advance solar power projects. The city’s goal is to double solar use by 2009… and you can help!
  3. Replace your old, energy-guzzling incandescent light bulbs with new, energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs. This will even help to decrease your electric bill!
  4. Reduce your energy intake! Turn off lights when you’re not in the room, unplug appliances after use, bundle up instead of turning up the heat in the winter, and dress for the summer warmth as opposed to using wasteful air conditioning.