Incandescents vs LEDs and CFLs Congress Debates

How Many Idiots Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb.  Or, how many members of Congress does it take to screw up a light bulb?  It occurred to me recently that I haven’t changed a single light bulb in three years or more.  And in that three years lighting technology has leapt forward dramatically.  So why then would some members of Congress want to torpedo legislation that many of them actually voted for to phase out the incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient lighting?  Why would anyone in these tough economic times NOT want to save money on energy costs? Seems like a no brainer to me.  But never fear in this age of absolute idiocy in Congress—yes—a move is afoot to save the incandescent light bulb—EVEN THOUGH the major incandescent light bulb manufacturers have said that demand for these energy suckers has dropped dramatically.  David Schuellerman, a manager for General Electric Lighting, said demand for standard bulbs has dropped by half over the last five years, according to the Miami Herald.

In December of 2007 the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law by then President Bush.  One of the provisions of the bill was to phase out energy hogging incandescent light bulbs and encourage the use of more energy efficient lighting like CFLs and the more expensive, but even more energy efficient LEDs.  Now remember, this legislation passed by both houses of Congress.  Fast forward to July, 2011.  And wouldn’t you know it.  A group of GOP representatives tried to repeal efficiency standards that would go into effect next year—because, according to Florida Congressman Bill Posey, “My constituents overwhelmingly don’t want the government to decide what kind of light bulb they want.’’  Translate, “my constituents don’t mind paying more for energy as long as they have the right to waste it.”  (My translation, of course.)  Fortunately for all of us the effort to repeal the legislation was blocked. But when you have people like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachman calling the ban an assault on personal choice, as if people wouldn’t choose to save money, well now you see the reason for the title of this post.

When I first switched over to CFLs only a few retailers even sold them.  So I knew things had really changed when I saw more CFLs than incandescent bulbs in CVS.  I’ve gotten used to one of the annoying things about CFLs.  When I turn on the lights in my bathroom the four vanity bulbs over my sink do take a minute or two to completely light up.  So, I turn on the light go put on my coffee and come back.  One of the concerns of using CFLs is that they contain mercury and need to be disposed of using special procedures.  But since I haven’t had one go out I haven’t yet had to dispose of one. LEDs are more expensive than CFLs but can last years and years longer and have no mercury issues.  In fact, if you sell a house and have LEDs in any lighting fixtures you can use that as a selling feature since they last up to twenty-five years!  Or you say, “bulbs don’t convey”.

Congressman Bill Posey voted to repeal the repeal the energy efficiency standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act even though a lighting manufacturer in his own district, Lighting Science Group’s Chief Executive, Jim Haworth says that the company has grown from 100 to 350 employees in the last year.  So here’s a question posed by the NRDC’s Bob Keefe.  Does anyone want to go back to iceboxes or the refrigerators of the 1960’s.

I haven’t switched over to LEDs yet only because my CFLs are still lighting my home for a fraction of the cost of an incandescent bulb.  So, as my mother used to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  And thankfully even though Congress totally blew it on the debt ceiling, so far they haven’t been able to screw up the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Here’s a great post from one of my favorite blogs, re-nest with questions and answers on lighting.

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The End is Near and In With the Old and Out With the New

TAX CREDITS END THIS YEAR

On December 31, 2010 it’s lights out for the federal tax credits for energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation,roofs, hot water heaters and HVAC systems. So if you’ve been putting off making some energy efficient improvements to your home it’s time to stop procrastinating and as the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!”  Until December 31st you can get a tax credit of 30% of your costs up to a maximum of $1500.

Now if you want to really trick out your house with solar panels, residential wind turbines or geothermal heating there is no upper limit to what you can spend to get a 30% tax credit. And this credit is in effect until December 31, 2016.  This link will tell you what you need to know to get the tax credit.

BUT before you rush to do any of these things, have an energy audit.  Getting a tax credit for spending money you don’t need to spend is like buying something on sale that you already have and don’t need just because you’ll save money. When you have an energy audit which will cost you around $300-400, you may find out that you don’t need to spend that $20,000 on new windows–you just need to do some serious air sealing with caulking and insulation.

INSULATION

Speaking of insulation–the best and the most cost-effective insulation aren’t necessarily the same.  In a recent blog on the Green Building Advisor website, Carl Seville, an advisor who certifies green homes, discusses the downside of fiberglass insulation.  This is the insulation that most of us are familiar with and the least expensive choice for insulation. The biggest problem seems to be that it’s hard to install properly. If you’re thinking about doing some insulation before it gets really cold, you might want to check out his post.   Foam and blown in cellulose insulation are considered better choices but do cost more.

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

This is a motto we would all do well to live by to reduce the burden on our fragile planet.  But this philosophy can do more than save green trees–it can save green backs too.  So maybe you have some home improvements you want to make.  Most people would head for Home Depot or Lowes, right?  Well how about heading for ReBuild Warehouse or ReStore where you can buy new and gently used home improvement products and save more than 50%!  These are both Northern Virginia locations so if you’re reading this blog from another area, check the web to see what’s available in your area.  ReBuild Warehouse is affiliated with a company call Deconstruction, LLC, an environmental company that disassembles homes for builders or home owners doing major rebuilds or remodeling. ReStore is affiliated with and run by Habitat for Humanity

“BABY IT’S (GETTING) COLD OUTSIDE”

I have a great Energy Saver booklet to share with you.  If you email or call me with your address (if I don’t have it) I would be happy to mail it to you.  It has wonderful cost effective advise on energy savings for homes, appliances, cars, electronics, etc.

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Gale10

Gayle Fleming

http://www.goinggreenhomesva.com

gaylefleming48@aol.com

703-625-1358

My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.

If I Want a Green(er) Home Where Do I Start?

There are no national standards for what a “green” home really is.  The USGBC (United States Green Building Council) has the most recognized green building and retrofitting/remodeling  standards in the country.   But there are others—all with different standards.  There’s the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), Build It Green and Built Green (yes, different organizations).  Then there are local standards such as Arlington, Virginia’s Green Home Choice Program.  Well you get the picture–whose standards do you use.  But here’s the thing—right now, in the Washington Metro area where I do business, there just aren’t a lot of new homes being built to any particular “green” standards.  Many builders are at least building all new homes to EnergyStar standards.  But as I said last week, energy efficiency alone does not a “green” home make.  And with the exception of USGBC, most of these ratings are for new construction.

So most of my clients are just trying to figure out what things they should do to upgrade and retrofit their older existing homes—either the one they’re buying or the one they’re selling—to make them more eco-friendly.  What is the first thing you should do?  Well I believe reducing your energy consumption is one of the most important and cost effective things to do first.  This isn’t necessarily sexy like putting in cork or bamboo floors or ice stone countertops. But it will have a measurable effect on reducing your impact on dwindling and non-renewable resources as well as significantly reducing utility bills.  Even if your home is only ten years old, it probably pretty energy inefficient.

First, insulate. I know—BOOOORING.  Oh well—so use the money you save on utility bills to buy an Ipad or something.  The cost of heating and cooling a home is 50-60 % of the total energy bill.  A few hundred dollars spent on insulation alone can cut a home’s energy bill by up to 20% per year.  There are many types of insulation and I’m not going to discuss them here.  But there are environmental concerns  to some degree for most of them.  So check out this link that discusses the pros and cons.  Some of the cons do have indoor air quality issues.  I will tell you that my favorite insulation is made from blue jeans. It’s the ultimate in reduce (get rid of some of your 10 pairs of jeans), reuse, and recycle thinking.

Second, air seal–also not exciting.  But like insulation, air sealing stops you from paying to heat and cool the outside of  your home. You can find many leaks simply by feeling the air coming in around doors and windows.  However, many leaks that come from spaces holes in attics, basements and crawl spaces.  These can be harder to find and a much bigger energy waster.  You might consider having a professional energy audit.  Energy auditors use equipment, such as infrared cameras and blower doors,  designed to suss out all the leaks in your house.  Some state energy departments have programs that are free or for a nominal fee, will do an energy rating on your home.

Oh, and by the way– there’s a 30% federal tax credit (up to $1500) on energy efficiency purchases until December 31, 2010. So this is the year to give that home you’re buying or selling, an energy makeover.

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Gale10

Gayle Fleming

http://www.goinggreenhomesva.com

gaylefleming48@aol.com

703-625-1358

My purpose is to serve my clients and advocate for their highest and best good, so they attain their real estate goals.

Climate Change, Energy Costs, Tax Credits & Good Real Estate News

 

Climate Change

As you can see from the title of this blog, there’s a lot to talk about in this last week of 2009.  I must admit that I am both surprised and disappointed by some of the research statistics that have been have been touted in the last few months of 2009 regarding the environment.  For example, even though 93 percent of all climate scientists conclude that the rapid rate of climate change the world is experiencing is a result of human activity, only 43 percent of Americans believe them.  I have to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan here and say,  “everyone is entitled to their own opinions—but not their own facts.”

Only forty percent of Americans say that heating and cooling costs are very important.  Given the fact that the state of the economy is a real concern for most people, it seems incongruous to me that the majority of Americans don’t see a correlation between  energy costs and their personal finances.  Wouldn’t any sure fire way to reduce expenses be a positive for a person or family’s bottom line?

Energy Improvment Tax Credits

The federal government thinks energy costs and climate change are important enough to offer some pretty good incentives to consumers/taxpayers.  You can get a tax credit of up to $1,500 for energy efficient home improvements that you make during 2009 and 2010.  So if you buy Energy Star appliances, water heaters, HVAC systems, windows, doors or roofs you are probably eligible for this tax credit.  This is a onetime credit and can be used in 2009 or 2010.  Be sure to go to the Energy Star tax credit page to get details for receiving the credit. 

But  In spite of this great incentive to consume less energy and save money, a new survey finds that when asked “if someone gave you $10,000 for home improvements, how would you spend it?” A majority said they would pick ways to make their homes look better, rather than burn less energy.  Most of the 508 people surveyed said their energy costs would have to rise by $1,500 per year for them to see these costs as “very important”.  Hmmmmm?

Winterize Your Home

But if you are concerned about saving energy and money and even if major purchases aren’t in your budget, there are many small things you can do to save money and energy this winter. According to the US Dept. of Energy drafts cause 5-30 % of the wasted energy in a home. You can simply roll a towel and use it to stop the draft. If you want to be a little fancier you can buy or make a draft snake.   Buy a window insulation kit at the hardware store.  Make sure to have your furnace serviced twice a year and change your furnace filters once a month during the heating season.  Here are seventeen more tips  for winterizing your home. 

 Good Real Estate News

The economy is showing signs of improvement, jobless claims are way down and the sales of existing homes has risen by 44% year over year from this time last November.  In the Northeast sales have risen 57%!  This is good news. Banks are lending and the first time and move up buyer tax credits have been extended until April 30, 2010. Settlement doesn’t have to take place until June 30, 2010.  A single person can earn up to $125,000 and as long as he/she hasn’t owned a home in the last 3 years, they’re eligible for the first time home buyer tax credit of $8,000. A couple can earn $225,000. Move up buyers who have lived in their home for five out of the last eight years are eligible for a $6,500 tax credit with the same income limits.

Happy New Year!

Gayle

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Gale10

www.goinggreenhomesva.com

www.facebook.com/gayle.fleming

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          703-625-1358

Fed Tax Credits Stimulate Your Bank Account Save Money and Energy

So you are feeling compelled to do something about the fact that your home heats and air conditions the outside almost as well as it heats and air conditions the inside–maybe better.  Too much money being wasted and too many CO2 emissions being created.  Rather than trying to guess where the leaks in your home are, you’ve had a professional energy auditor rate your home and advise you on what you need to do. 

Now it’s time to act.  Some fixes may be as simple and inexpensive as caulking or weatherstripping.  However if the fix requires the purchase of windows, a furnace or a/c unit, for example, there are some great federal and in some cases, state tax incentives that will help offset the cost.  President Obama’s stimulus package isn’t just for the fat cats.  There is something in it for you and me.   There is a 30% tax credit that can be used to make energy efficient home improvements for things such as insulation, roofs, doors, furnaces, hot water heaters, etc.  Now this is a one time tax credit with a maximum of $1,500. 

 The credit can only be claimed once in either 2009 or 2010.   So if,  for instance, you buy a $3,000 A/C unit in 2009, your tax credit would be $900.  Then you spend $2,000 on insulation which will give you a tax credit of $600.  These two improvements will max out your tax credit of $1,500.  So even if you also have new windows installed you can only claim the credit up to the $1500. And at least for now it’s a one time credit.  That could change of course as the Obama administration pushes for more ways for the country to conserve energy.  The EnergyStarwebsite explains in more detail which improvements qualify for the tax credit.  Be sure to bookmark the EnergyStar link because it has all the guidelines and some efficiency factors have changed.

Now if you really get adventurous and are thinking about geothermal or solar heat, the incentives really heat up, pun intended.  Either one or a combination of both of these options could reduce your energy costs by up to 70 percent.  They are relatively expensive to install but over years they more than pay for themselves.  The tax credit for these is 30% tax credit  with NO  limit on what you spend. The credit can be claimed until 2016.  So if you spend $10,000 on a solar system, for example, your credit is $3,000. 

Some state governments have incentives as well, so check with your state’s  Department of Taxation.  In Virginia , of instance, from October 9th through October 12th their will be no sales tax on certain energy efficient home improvements. Sales tax in Virginia is 5%.  This is modest but many states offer even more incentives.  Maryland as an array of state AND local (county) incentives for residents.  Do your homework before you purchase much needed energy saving products and services and take advantage of everything that’s available to save you money.

Be sure to watch the cute, short video on geothermal heating and cooling.

Use the FHA 203K Loan to Rehab Your New Older Home

So you want to buy a home but the only homes you can afford are older and/or need  repairs.  Maybe it’s a foreclosure or short sale that would be a good deal if only you had the extra money to make repairs; put in new appliances, a new furnace or new windows, for example.   The FHA 203K Streamline loan allows a borrower to tack on up to $35,000 (provided they qualify) in order to make improvements to the home.

Currently  the Federal Housing Authority (FHA)  is writing fully 35% of all new mortgage loans. But the 230K Streamline is very under utilized. If a home needs some kitchen or bath updating, a new furnace, A/C, etc, the money  for these improvements can become a part of the mortgage and the improvements can be made  without a buyer going into credit card debt or using personal savings.  The rate for the 203K Streamline is slightly higher than the conventional FHA but much lower than a credit card interest rate and is spread out over the 30 year life of the loan. Here are some of the improvements the loan can be used for:

  • Roofs, gutters and downspouts
  • HVAC systems (heating, venting and air conditioning)*
  • Plumbing and electrical
  • Minor kitchen and bath remodels
  • Flooring: carpet, tile, wood, etc.
  • Interior and exterior painting
  • New windows and doors*
  • Weather stripping & insulation
  • Improvements for persons with disabilities
  • Energy efficient improvements*
  • Stabilizing or removing lead-based paint
  • Decks, patios, porches
  • Basement completion and waterproofing
  • Septic or well systems
  • Purchase of new kitchen appliances or washer / dryer*

Certain improvements can get you a federal tax break. If you make improvements to increase the energy efficiency in your home that meets Dept. of Energy’s Energy Star standards, you can deduct 30% of the cost up to $1500.  The astericked items are some that qualify. 

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty

 www.goinggreenhomesva.com              gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com        703-625-1358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle

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What To Do With That $8,000 Tax Credit

In order to claim the Home Buyer tax credit you have to be a first time homebuyer.  This can also mean you haven’t owned a primary residence in the last 3 years. You also can’t earn more than $75K as a single person or $150K as a married couple although partial credits can be claimed with higher incomes.  Don’t miss the low interest rate-tax credit boat.  You must purchase by December, 1, 2009.  Here are more details and  FAQs provided by the National Association of Home Builders.  And here’s some REALLY GOOD news.  You can amend your 2009 taxes to claim the credi this year!

So here are some ways you can use your tax credit to reduce your carbon footprint and make some earth-friendly improvements to your new home. 

New energy efficient Energy Star rated appliances

New energy efficient Energy Star rated Furnace and/or A/C unit

Insulate the attic and walls of your home with either cellulose blown in foam insulation

A tankless hot water heater

A solar hot water heater

Sustainable landscaping with native plants and strategically oriented trees

These are just a few ideas of how you can use the homebuyer tax credit.  But if you purchase certain of these items you can also claim an energy efficient tax deduction on your 2009 taxes. And if you live in Virginia and you wait until October 9-12, 2009 to purchase, you can take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

When you’re ready to take advantage of the Stimulous Package and buy a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, EcoBroker Certified

www.goinggreenhomesva.com              gayle@goinggreenhomesva.com        703-6251-358   

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