Category Archives: Green Home Improvements

Roof Insulation Basics: Upgrading Roof Insulation – DIY Tips

There are two reasons homeowners want to make their homes greener; some people want to go green to protect the environment.  Others will go green because it results in more green dollar bills in their wallet.

Fortunately, the two don’t have to be exclusive; you can protect the environment and save money at the same time.  A big way to do so is to make sure that you have adequate insulation and ventilation for your roof and the attic space.

Heat rises, and that means the majority of the heat loss from your home goes out the top of the house.  This is especially true if you don’t have adequate insulation.  To make sure your home is as comfortable as possible, to ensure minimal heat loss, to save money on your heating bills, and to help protect the environment, an upgrade in your insulation is in order.

A Wide Variety of Insulation Options

Making the decision to improve your roofing insulation is the easy part.  The hard part, however, is determining what type of insulation to use, and where to put it.

Attic Insulation

The easiest (unless you’re having a new roof put on the house), and most effective, way to boost the insulation in your home is to insulate the attic.  Many homes have at least some access to this space, and because of the size attics can hold quite a bit of insulation.  But where you put the insulation, and what type, can vary even inside the space.

Between the Joists – If you have an unfinished attic space, the most common area to insulate is between the ceiling joists, but leaving the area between rafters uninsulated.  This provides for maximum air flow through the attic while keeping the living space insulated.

Most commonly the spaces between the joists are filled with blow-in fiberglass insulation.  However, the do-it-yourselfer may want to lay down fiberglass batting as it’s easier to work with and there is no special equipment needed.  How much should you have?  It’s recommended that the R value be at least R-38; or 10-14 inches of insulation.

Between the Rafters – Many homes have increased their living space by finishing the attic.  But without insulating the ceiling, the space would be largely uninhabitable most of the year.  If this is the case, then you want to insulate between the rafters.

Before you slap up insulation, however, you have to remember that the house needs room to “breathe.”  If your insulation is pressed tightly against the bottom of the roof decking, there’s nowhere for the air to go, and you can end up with major problems.  To counter these problems, baffles are installed to keep a small space between the insulation and the roof deck.  As the air in the baffles heats up, it can flow to the peak and out the roof vent.

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Top 10 Green Home Improvement Upgrades, Plus Costs & ROI in 2017

This year, homeowners are more focused on renovating their houses rather than buying new. 2017 is continuing to see a hot seller’s real estate market, especially in places with booming economy like Seattle. Hot real estate markets mean that it’s often too expensive to buy a new place for many people, but it’s a great time to fix up your current home! 😉

If you can’t afford to move, but you are getting bored or frustrated with your house, a properly planned remodel can help make it feel like a brand new place! 🙂 And if you ever decide to sell your home in the future, strategically-done home improvements will help make it more desirable and attractive in the eyes of potential buyers.

solar-thermal-panels-on-a-metal-roof

No matter whether you’re remodeling to make yourself more comfortable or to entice potential buyers, it’s a no-brainer to lean towards environmentally-friendly design. Most green home remodeling projects result in huge savings on your energy bills, in addition to simply being the right thing to do for the future. And green is really in right now: a recent study found that homebuyers are willing to pay 3.46% more for a home with green features than a home without.

A lot of people are under the impression that green remodeling will cost them a fortune, but that’s not necessarily true. We’ve rounded up a set of 10 awesome (and cost-effective) green remodeling projects for your consideration. Read on to get the scoop on what goes into each project, how much each one might cost you, the kind of return on investment you can expect, and more.

1. Energy-efficient exterior doors

energy-efficient-door

Replacing an old exterior door is a great way to improve your home’s energy efficiency. If your current door is worn, cracked, or isn’t energy efficient, replacing it with an Energy Star-certified exterior door can result in a savings of as much as 10% on your costs to heat and cool your home.

To replace your door, you’ll need to first choose what kind of new door you want. While there are a variety of options, the most energy-efficient and durable kinds are fiberglass and steel.

door-energy-efficiency

Fiberglass doors are often better looking, since they more closely mimic the look of authentic wood doors. They are also ideal for harsh climates (very cold or very humid), since unlike steel, they don’t sweat when exposed to cold or moisture. However, they are more expensive than steel, and easier for intruders to break into.

Steel doors, on the other hand, are cheaper, stronger, and usually more energy efficient in temperate or hot, dry climates. However, they may not be as attractive, and they can rust if not treated properly and exposed to the elements.

Many doors come in pre-hung in a frame and pre-drilled and can be installed yourself, but if you are choosing a door that is not the exact same size as your old door, you’ll need to hire a contractor (usually a carpenter) to install the door.

In 2017, a new exterior door offers some of the very best returns on your investment. This year, the average cost of a new exterior fiberglass door, including installation, is $3,276, and tends to add an average value of $2,550 to your home, for a 77.8% ROI. The average cost of a new exterior steel door, including installation, is only $1,413, and tends to add value of $1,282, giving a whopping 90.7% ROI.

2. Non-toxic carpet

Non-toxic-Carpet via ServiceExpress.co

If you want to install or replace your carpet, you should be aware that not all new carpets are the same. A lot of new carpets and their adhesives contain chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are not only bad for the environment, but also dangerous to breathe in, causing a host of symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

Still, there is an ever-widening variety of Eco-friendly, non-toxic carpet available on the market today, and there are benefits of carpet over wood or laminate floors: carpet is cheaper and provides comfort, noise damping, and – most importantly – energy conservation. They are a great way of keeping the warmth in your house in the wintertime without turning up your heater.

When picking a green carpeting solution, look for carpets labelled “low VOC” and made from natural fibers like wool, jute, seagrass, or sisal. Choose lightweight carpets without petroleum-based padding – either no padding or padding made from felt is ideal. If the carpet requires adhesive, go for water-based, low-VOC glues, or ask your carpet installer to use these eco-friendly products.

This year, new wool carpet is running about $8-$10 per square foot. Installation is typically between $2.00-$4.00 per square foot. While return on investment data is somewhat hard to find on carpet alone (as opposed to a whole room remodel), there is widespread general agreement that potential buyers are turned off by old or dirty carpet, making replacing carpet a winning resale strategy.

3. Tankless water heater

tankless-vs-tank-water-heater Via AnyHeater.com

Realtors say there is a big trend this year towards energy-efficient appliances like tankless water heaters. These eco-friendly heaters have a big initial purchase and installation cost – averaging between $2,500 and $5,000 depending on the size of your home – but also have a big immediate return on your investment: a tankless water heater immediately cuts your energy bills by about 20%. By some government estimates, well-placed tankless water heaters can cut your bills by as much as 50%.

What is a tankless water heater? It’s a water heater that heats or cools water on demand, as you need it – rather than storing a bunch of water and keeping it hot all the time. They last much longer than a traditional water heater with a tank – upwards of 20 years – and take up much less space. However, the water temperature from a tankless water heater can momentarily fluctuate if you turn the hot water on, turn it off, and then turn it right back on again – you may get either hot or cold water depending on how fast the water heater takes to catch up with you. Also, they are much more effective when installed closest to the point they’ll be needed – in kitchens and bathrooms – since they don’t have reserves of hot water and have to heat it immediately.

4. Radiant bathroom floor heating

radiant-floor-heating via BathroomHeater.org

Imagine going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, only to find that your bathroom is warm and you previously cold bathroom tile is nice and cozy beneath your feet. Radiant floor heating delivers exactly that. Homeowners and homebuyers alike consider this a luxury item, and it’s likely to impress potential buyers, adding value to your home in addition to the energy savings.

What kind of energy savings are we talking? It really depends on how hot you keep your house at night. Radiant floor heating makes a room feel warmer than it is because heat rises, and it keeps the floor feeling toasty. Consequently, you will probably feel comfortable dropping your thermostat by several degrees at night. The more you drop the temperature, the better savings you are likely to see.

There are two types of radiant floor heating: electric systems and hydronic systems (which use water for heat). For a 100 sq. ft. bathroom, expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $1200 to have it installed, depending on what brand and what kind of system you use.

The real downside to radiant floor heating is that it requires pulling up the existing bathroom floor, and it might require doing so again if you need a repair down the line. But if you are willing to pull up your old tile or are already thinking about replacing your bathroom floor, it’s a great and popular heating option.

5. Skylights

velux-skylights via VeluxUSA.com

Did you know that 40% of your home’s energy usage comes directly from all that artificial lighting? If you have a room that has no windows – common in bathrooms, and utility rooms – consider installing a skylight. Not only will the natural light from the sun reduce your energy bill substantially, but many of the newest skylights open to fresh air, reducing humidity (and the resultant mold that tends to build up in closed, moisture-prone spaces). It’s no wonder that skylights are so attractive to buyers.

According to RoofingCalc.com, the average cost to have a skylight installed is between $1,500 and $2,500, with some homeowners spending as little as $700 and some spending up to $3,500. How much the job costs depends on what kind of skylight you choose – fixed skylights that don’t open are the cheapest; ventilating skylights with remote control access are the newest, trendiest, and most expensive.

Of course, if you opt for the ventilating kind, remember that you are also letting in outdoor noise; this may not be the best choice if you live on a noisy street. And be sure to get Energy Star-certified skylights which don’t leak. VELUX America makes a solar-powered skylight, which is particularly energy-efficient and popular this year.
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Top 11 Smart Home Improvements, Plus Costs & ROI 2017 Update!

Billions and billions and billions of dollars. That’s what Americans spent on home remodeling projects in 2016. More like hundreds of billions. And 2017 has certainly been following the suit so far! Major home improvements and significant additions to a home are key factors in why that figure is so astronomical! But, if we’re all honest, remodeling is the type of project we all consider doing or want to do.

major-remodel

According to the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI), around 50% of homeowners surveyed in suburban and urban areas say they are willing to remodel their living space, and over two thirds of rural home owners convey that willingness. While a third of all home owners consider it easier to just move to a new home than tackle a remodeling project.

People remodel for many reasons, and 75% of us report feeling a major sense of accomplishment as a result of a completed project. Better functionality and livability, or what we will refer to as the ‘enjoyment factor’, is generally cited as the top reason for why remodel at all. Other factors like knowing better materials are in place, appreciating the beauty of an upgrade and making changes to fit the owner’s feeling of their living space are considerable factors. But it is the joy factor that we wish to emphasize.

Above that however is the overall cost value. Also known as ROI, or return on investment, this factor is our primary consideration. Money spent for home improvement is usually seen as an investment that is recouped at the time of sale. For our purposes, it works out best to understand that as if the home is being sold within a year of a remodeling project. Yet, certain improvements have lasting value, of more than 1 year. So longevity is certainly a consideration for all home remodeling considerations.

Our top list is intended to be easy to read, simple to understand and intending to provide advice should you be considering any of these projects going forward. Or perhaps you are wondering which one(s) may be better to tackle than others. As this isn’t the only list of its kind, we chose to go about things a bit differently than others. Here is the basic scale of what into which items made our list and the order in which they appear:

Cost value (or ROI) is the most weighted factor. A few items on the list will actually return more in terms of recouped value than what you, the owner, put into it. Pretty sweet, huh? Unlike some other lists, we’d rather not overwhelm you with a long list of percentage points and so instead we go with a scale of:

  • 100% or higher ROI = Supreme (cost value)
  • 90% to 99% = Great
  • 75% to 89% = Very Good
  • 67% to 74% = Good

Anything lower than a return of two thirds the cost you put into it, was not good enough for our list.

Enjoyment Factor is second highest consideration. This is the element that makes homeowners want to be in their home environment more as a result of the completed project. NARI and other organizations will survey homeowners periodically to check on such data and ours comes from December 2015, or later. This scale is:

  • 100% = Top Notch (rare, but it happens)
  • 95% or higher = Great
  • 90% to 94% = Very Good
  • 80% to 89% = Good

Curb Appeal is what prospective buyers are going to notice about a home from the street. If the home upgrade is an item that fits into this category, we decided it deserves to be considered third highest factor in terms of overall value. This is essentially a yay or nay type notation.

Energy Efficiency is a trending item in recent years and 2017 is certainly continuing on that trajectory. Some items on our list have very little to no impact on energy savings, but most do. This is the 4th most important factor we make note of.

Cost – inexpensive (lowest) to very expensive (highest) is something we chose to make note of as a factor that at least some owners would wish to consider. As cost value is already being considered, and most weighted, we decided to keep this as the lowest factor, while still realizing for some homeowners, it may be what is most doable for them.

We’ll also make notes regarding what each project entails, the longevity you can expect from completion of the upgrade, alternatives to the entry on our list, and some advice from us in how to implement the project or weighing of pros and cons among the entry item and its alternative(s).

An added note regarding cost. The ROI is our primary focus, as this means whatever the cost you actually spend on materials and labor, is what you can hope to get back at time of sale, but this does assume the sale is done relatively soon after the job is completed (generally within a year). We also indicate a cost range and median pricing point, or national average for the remodeling project. There are many factors that go into pricing any job and so the averages are likely best taken with a grain of salt, which is why the range is meant to provide a decent estimate of what is low and high end for the costs. This assumes a professional contractor is in charge of the project, and in general it assumes the house is around 2000 square feet. Where applicable, we all add in a price per sq. ft., which ought to help with realizing the price you can expect to pay for materials/installation of the work.

For the fun of it, we’ll go in reverse order. Our highest value item will be at the end and we’ll start with an item that is actually highly coveted by many home buyers. Cue up the gong sound, the top 11 list starts…. now.

#11 = Major Kitchen Renovation

rustic-kitchen

Originally, our list was going to be 10 items, but in paraphrasing the wise words of Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap), “this list is better than the ones by those other blokes, because this one goes to eleven.” Actually, it goes to eleven for another reason, as a complete kitchen renovation is the third highest item on our list in terms of enjoyment factor. Usually, when any homeowner considers a first project for improving their living space, the kitchen is most desired. It is also the type of remodeling that prospective owners report as top consideration for what they look for inside a home; a well designed kitchen with all the modern conveniences.

The alternative to this project is a minor kitchen upgrade. The difference between the two is the renovation will physically change the design of the room, whereas minor upgrade will not. Both will address and refinish any surface in the room that needs a makeover. And both projects will likely replace older fixtures and appliances with up to date, energy efficient products. With a room redesign comes additional energy efficiency concerns that any professional home designer is fully taking into account. The complete renovation though is overall more costly, and is tied with most expensive item on our list (see #9). A minor upgrade, if truly an upgrade and not just a superficial upgrade is going to cost about half the total price of a major renovation, or at a median price point of around $30,000 (for upgrade).

ROI = Good

Enjoyment Factor = Great

Curb Appeal = Not Applicable (N/A)

Energy Efficiency = Yes, but minor

Cost factor = Very Expensive

Cost range / median price = $50,000 to $80,000 / $60,000

Cost per sq.ft. = Not available

Longevity = 20 years or more before minor upgrade would be considered

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