Archive for Green Home Tips
From cement and water, a niche industry is born
Constructing a home is a journey that is regarded as an old American Tradition. It will bring about many happy moments for you and your family. It is an investment of a lifetime but one that brings additional responsibilities. Many older homes may require structural repairs or renovations, especially for those who live near areas where natural disasters may occur. If your home was constructed before 1980, there is a chance it may still feature obsolete construction applications such as asbestos.
A fibrous mineral utilized for a greater part of the 20th century, it is still regarded as one of the more toxic building materials. If you are purchasing, remodeling or foreclosing an older home, you should be aware that many green Eco-friendly green options exist that replace the need for asbestos. By taking simple precautions, you can ensure that asbestos exposure will not occur in your home.
If any asbestos or hazardous materials are located, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Disturbing it can potentially damage and release its fibers airborne. Asbestos was used as prominent form of insulation for piping, flooring and roofing. It can appear in dry wall, attic insulation, popcorn ceilings, electrical wires and roof shingles. A Professional home inspector can identify the materials and provide an expert consultation for you. If the materials are deemed dangerous, removal may be necessary.
Consistent exposure to asbestos can potentially lead to the development of asbestos lung cancers such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Due to the fact many mesothelioma symptoms are similar to less serious ailments, Diagnosis of mesothelioma is one of the more difficult tasks physicians encounter. The asbestos scandal was perpetuated by the asbestos industry and various corporate sectors in the country who buried any evidence that suggested the health concerns associated with asbestos. The high amount of asbestos-related incidents has lead to Mesothelioma lawyer firms advocating for victim rights.
Licensed abatement contractors who remove asbestos, will be familiar with the regulations in protecting you and themselves from exposure to asbestos. They must wear protective equipment such as masks and gloves to avoid any exposure. Once the removal is completed, it will be time to replace asbestos with healthy, green alternatives.
Recycled building materials that are viable options to asbestos include: cellulose, cotton fiber and lcynene foam. Cotton fiber is quickly becoming a favorite for home builders and renovators. Made from recycled batted material, it is also treated to be fireproof.
On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. Included in this act were extensions of the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives first enacted in 2005 as well as some new tax credits for people building or remodeling their homes using Eco-friendly or “green” materials.
The United Nations Environmental Program states that usage of recycled materials such as green insulation methods and lighting can reduce energy use by 25 percent. With a lackluster economy, these kinds of figures have attracted those who were unaware of Eco-friendly construction. The move to a greener lifestyle will build on the change to healthier methods of building products, home remodeling and renovation.
Follow me while I describe how to build a green home! Over the next few months I will be documenting construction of the Coon residence. This home should be among the highest scoring homes ever certified by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) when completed. It will also be certified by Energy Star, FPL Build Smart, Water Star, and Florida Yards and Neighborhoods.
I will document each phase with photos as well as explanations including corresponding point eligibility on the FGBC checklist. This home will feature a lot of common sense features that many builders neglect as well as some really exciting new concepts for sustainable living.
The basics: this home is 1896 sqft of air conditioned space made up of 3 bedrooms with 3 full baths. The home is a great room design that also includes a study. There is an attached 2 car garage as well as a screened pool. The home is on a large lot that is already occupied by the client’s existing home. No water or sewer service is available so the home will be serviced by a new well and septic system.
Both are part of the latest economic-stimulus package signed by President Obama on Feb. 17. But while lawmakers saw fit to boost the buyer tax credit by a mere $500, they tripled the benefit available for the remodeling tax credit.
Under the old remodeling credit, which was part of the economic-rescue package enacted last fall, homeowners could claim a credit equal to 10 percent of the cost of energy-efficient windows, doors, roofing, insulation, furnaces, air-conditioning systems and heat pumps.
You could claim 10 percent of the cost of each product, up to a lifetime cap of $500.
But like builders, who argued that the original $7,500 credit for first-time buyers wasn’t enough to bring people back into the housing market, especially because it had to be paid back, remodelers maintained that the energy credit wasn’t sufficient to persuade owners to pull the trigger, either.
So Congress upped the ante, raising the per-item credit to 30 percent of the cost and boosting the lifetime ceiling to $1,500. It also extended the deadline for making the improvements through the end of 2010.
What’s more, the act is retroactive to Jan. 1, so if a product that met the previous criteria — the rules in effect between Jan. 1 and Feb. 17 — was purchased and installed during that period, it still qualifies for the larger bonus.
(A tax credit differs from a tax deduction in that it reduces the amount of tax you have to pay. For example, if you owe $800 in taxes and earn a $300 credit, you will owe only $500. Or if you owe nothing, you will get a $300 refund. A deduction, on the other hand, reduces the amount of income subject to tax. So if your taxable income is $35,000 and you have a $500 deduction, your taxable income is reduced to $34,500. If you owe no federal income taxes, however, you cannot claim the credit. Because the home-improvement credit is nonrefundable, as is now the home-buyer tax credit, you can’t get back more than you paid in taxes throughout the year.)
The stimulus package also expanded the list of permissible improvements by including solar-energy panels and water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, small wind-energy systems and fuel cells. Moreover, while the 30 percent credit applies to the added products, there is no cap on their cost, and the credit is available through 2016.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the new provisions should generate an estimated $6 billion in remodeling work by the end of next year. And remodelers are waiting for their phones to ring.
“We are more than ready to help our clients make their homes more energy efficient,” says Greg Miedema, a Tucson, Ariz., contractor who chairs the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodelers Council.
Better yet, industry research suggests that remodeling and retrofitting the nation’s older homes will have a more significant impact in reducing residential energy consumption than meeting even the most aggressive efficiency goals for new homes.
A study last year in California found that homes built before 1983 were responsible for 70 percent of the greenhouse emissions related to single-family envelope energy consumption. The same study also said that retrofitting existing homes with energy-efficient features is four to eight times more carbon- and cost-efficient than adding further energy-efficient requirements on new construction.
Here are some other things you should know about the federal tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements:
Labor. Installation costs are covered for some — but not all — improvements. For windows, doors, insulation and new roofs, only the cost of materials is eligible for the credit.
Installation costs are covered for HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) systems, as well as solar water heaters, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, wind-energy systems and fuel cells.
The credit for HVAC systems and non-solar water heaters is 30 percent of the cost of the product plus installation costs, up to $1,500. It is the same for solar water heaters, solar panels, wind-energy systems and fuel cells, except that there is no maximum.
Not covered. A number of the simplest steps homeowners can take to improve efficiency are not eligible for the rebate. They include changing or adding refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, room air conditioners, insulated siding, ceiling fans, programmable thermostats, electric storage-tank water heaters and electric tankless water heaters.
Windows and doors. Window components, such as sashes, do not qualify. You must purchase an entire window unit.
Sliding-glass patio doors and French doors are eligible as long as they meet certain criteria. Insulated garage doors are eligible, too, as long as they meet the same criteria. In all cases, receipts and the manufacturer’s certification statement for your taxes should be saved.
Ratings. Under Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, more than 50 product categories of appliances are labeled as to their efficiency. Generally, a household that spends $2,000 annually on energy can save more than $700 by choosing Energy Star-labeled products over those that don’t carry the familiar yellow label.
However, not all products — doors and windows, for example — that earn an Energy Star rating qualify for a credit. So be sure to check carefully before you choose one over another. See energystar.gov/index. cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits for a complete breakdown of product-eligibility requirements.
In some instances, moreover, the credit is available only for most efficient models, which typically cost more than standard products. But this is a good thing, according to Miedema of the Remodelers Council, who believes the credit tends to make the efficient choice the most cost-effective choice in the long run.
“When you have a choice between an HVAC unit that is super-efficient but costs a lot more than a standard unit, most homeowners are going to choose the standard unit unless they can see themselves saving money within a few years,” he says.
Financing. Energy Star does not provide financing, but many of its partners do. These include state energy offices, manufacturers themselves and local utility companies, which may also offer rebates.
Homeowners can claim the credits on IRS Form 5695. Contractors need not provide you with product sales receipts to verify your claim, but you should retain the following for your records as backup:
Name and address of the manufacturer.
Identification of the component.
Make, model and other appropriate identifiers.
Statement that the product meets the tax-credit standards.
Climate zone for which the criteria are satisfied.
A declaration that the certification statement is true.
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 30 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance-industry publications. Copyright 2009, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
This story appeared in print on page I5
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
Green Certified homes are designed to be healthier than a standard code built home. This is achieved largely through responsible and educated specifications provided by your designer/builder. Features such as HEPA style filtration on HVAC equipment, no volatile organic compounds in paints, sealants, and adhesives, and formaldehyde free building products all contribute to a healthier living environment.
Green certified homes go through intense design critique regarding the mechanical systems used in heating and cooling the home. Great care is taken to ensure that there are no “hot spots” or “chilly rooms” in your home. The HVAC systems are designed by professionals including duct design and layout, system sizing requirements, supply locations, and return air requirements. This results in a very comfortable indoor air environment.
Green certified homes are required to be built beyond the code standard in terms of structural design and product performance. The certification process awards designers for achieving a “Fortified Home” standard. In Florida, the goal is of course to build homes capable of weathering a hurricane with little or even no damage. Builders are rewarded for the use of non-combustible building materials on the roof and at the eaves to help prevent a fire from flying embers. The result is a home that should outlast a standard code built home.
Green Certified Homes are more energy efficient than a standard code built home. Care taken to design a proper HVAC system contributes largely to this. An Energy Rating Specialist is employed to determine the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) index of the home. Compared to a baseline score of 100, builders are awarded points for lower HERS indexes. There are many ways to lower your energy use. Features like sprayed foam insulation, compact fluorescent lights, LED lights, tank-less water heaters, solar PV systems, solar hot water heaters, High SEER HVAC systems, High pressure injected foam wall insulation, and Energy Star appliances all lower energy consumption.
Certified Green Homes use less resources, and create less waste. Builders are encouraged to use building materials that contain high quantities of recycled materials for their production. Waste management plans are used to ensure items like steel, concrete, clean wood and cardboard are recycled rather than sent to the landfill.
Green Certified Homes use less water than standard code built homes. There are many fantastic new products that help to achieve this. Products such as dual-flush or low flow toilets, low flow faucets and showers, Energy Star dishwashers and wash machines all help to reduce the water use inside the home. Systems such as HVAC condensate water collection cisterns, rain water collection cisterns, Florida Yard and Neighborhood Landscapes, and drip irrigation systems can virtually eliminate the need for a municipal water supply for irrigation purposes. For homes designed to be independent of a municipal water supply, whole house cisterns with UV purifiers, and gray water recycling systems are used.