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Window sill of a house in rural

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready

Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long-run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents

Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed

Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect—sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work over-time, which in turn will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates

Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there. To see if you live in a deregulated area, just enter your address here.

5. Time Your Thermostat

If you want to be cost conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs

While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern

If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan

In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips

Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule

Irrigation schedules or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips, we promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Rob Caiello is the Vice President of Marketing over at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and setup of home utilities and services (like internet, TV, and electricity) for millions of movers relocating across the United States.

http://blog.rismedia.com/2017/10-ways-save-utility-bills-summer/#.WSMTRZcpIU8.facebook

These are some of the best “Smart Home” devices that may help to sell your home or increase the selling price of your home. Some may even help to lower the cost of your homeowner’s insurance. Worth checking out. Let me know what you think or which ones you’ve utilized.

 

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Energy-efficient upgrades not only shrink your utility bill, they can increase the value of your home.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents  Nov 2016

Homebuyers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of energy-efficient homes. In fact, they’re often willing to pay more for homes with “green” upgrades, says Sandra Adomatis, a specialist in green valuation with Adomatis Appraisal Service in Punta Gorda, Florida.

Just how much your home will increase in value depends on a number of factors, Adomatis says, like where you live, which upgrades you’ve made and how your home is marketed at sale time. The length of time to recoup the costs of green upgrades also depends on the energy costs in your area.

In 2014, upgraded homes in Los Angeles County saw a 6 percent increase in value, according to a study from Build It Green, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that works with home professionals. Upgraded homes in Washington, D.C., saw a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in 2015, according to a study Adomatis authored.

Consumer Reports suggests that upgrades like a gleaming new kitchen or a finished basement may give you more bang for your buck than energy-saving features. But if going green appeals more than adding quartz countertops, here’s where you can begin.

Find out how much energy your home uses

Getting a quick energy assessment or a more thorough energy audit can determine how much energy your home uses, as well as which upgrades would make the most sense for your home and finances. An audit may include an energy rating, a number that indicates how energy-efficient your home is and how much it will increase if you make recommended upgrades.

The Department of Energy (DOE) website lists ways to find assessors in your area. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program offers assessor and advisory services to help you determine what to upgrade. Your utility provider may also offer energy audits.

The cost varies depending on location and who’s providing the service. Your utility company may offer an assessment for free or at a discount. A full audit may run $300 to $500 depending on the complexity, according to Don Knapp, senior marketing manager with Build It Green. You may not want to foot the bill for a full audit unless you’re planning to take advantage of it with major upgrades.

Once you know where you can improve your energy use, begin by making the changes that are most affordable and have a quicker payoff, Adomatis advises. Then consider whether the costlier ones are worth the investment. Keep in mind that a variety of tax credits and financing options are available for energy-efficient improvements.

Common energy upgrades, from least expensive to most

1. Insulation. A 2016 Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine found that the average attic air-seal and fiberglass insulation job costs $1,268, with an added value to the home at resale within a year of completion of $1,482. That amounts to a 116 percent return on investment. And according to Energy Star, homeowners can save $200 a year in heating and cooling costs by making air sealing and insulation improvements.

2. Appliances. Your appliances account for about 15 percent of your home’s energy consumption, the DOE says. Certified clothes dryers can save you $245 over the life of the machine, according to Energy Star. A certified dryer from General Electric can run from $649 to $1,399.

When upgrading, look at the kilowatt-hour usage of a new appliance and compare it to your current one — a good Energy Star rating doesn’t necessarily mean it will use less energy than your existing appliance, Adomatis says.

3. Heating and cooling systems. These systems account for about 43 percent of your energy bill, according to the DOE. Replacement costs for an entire HVAC system — heating, ventilation and air conditioning — vary widely depending on equipment brands and sizing, but may run several thousand dollars. Energy Star estimates that you can save 30 percent on cooling costs by replacing your central air conditioning unit if it’s more than 12 years old.

According to Energy Star, a certified heat pump water heater has a payback time of two years and can save a four-person home $3,400 over its lifetime. A 50-gallon Geospring hybrid electric water heater from General Electric costs $1,399, plus installation.

While addressing your home’s heating and cooling systems, bear in the mind that leaky duct systems can be the biggest wasters of energy in your home, according to Charley Cormany, executive director of Efficiency First California, a nonprofit trade organization that represents energy-efficient contractors. The cost of a professional duct test typically runs $325 to $350 in California, he says.

4. Windows. Replacing the windows in your home may cost $8,000 to $24,000, and it could take decades to pay off, according to Consumer Reports. You can recoup some of that in resale value and energy savings. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report found that installing 10 vinyl replacement windows, at a cost of $14,725, can add $10,794 in resale value. Energy Star estimates that certified windows, doors and skylights can reduce your energy bill by up to 15 percent. If you’ve already tightened the shell of your home, installing a set of new windows may not be worth the cost. But the upgrade may be worth considering if you live in a colder climate.

5. Solar panels. EnergySage, a company offering an online marketplace for purchasing and installing solar panels, says the average cost of a solar panel system is $12,500. The payoff time and the amount you’ll save will vary depending on where you live. Estimated savings over a 20-year period in Philadelphia, for example, amount to $17,985, while it’s more than twice that amount in Seattle: $39,452, according to EnergySage.

Last: Let buyers know

When it comes time to sell, your real estate agent can help you market your home as energy efficient. Provide your agent with utility bills or your energy rating, if you received one with your audit, to include when describing the house on a multiple listing service, or MLS. There’s a growing trend in the real estate industry to make energy upgrades visible, Knapp says; energy disclosures are now a common practice in cities like Berkeley, California, and Chicago.

“If it’s reflected on the MLS, “it’s more likely to be reflected in the resale value,” Knapp said.

Bottom line: If you weigh the costs and savings carefully, going green can be worth the investment.

http://www.floridarealtors.org/NewsAndEvents  Nov 2016

 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 2016 – The runaway winner in the primary election was at the end of the ballot, as voters in Florida overwhelmingly approved a tax break to encourage businesses to go solar.

The amendment, which will become part of the Florida Constitution, exempts solar and other renewable energy devices on business and industrial property from property taxes for 20 years. The same tax break already exists for residential property owners.

The amendment also exempts renewable energy devices from Florida’s tangible personal property tax.

Amendment 4, the only ballot question in Tuesday’s primary, won more than 70 percent of the vote, according to early returns by the Florida Division of Elections.

Backers of Amendment 4 were all along the political spectrum, including the pro-environment Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Nature Conservancy and Florida Conservation Voters, and the business-backed Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Retail Federation and Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Business groups like tax relief, and environmental groups hope it will now encourage more talk in the conservative state Capitol about climate change and the need to cut dependency on fossil fuels.

“With all of this sunshine, why are we importing so much fossil fuel to power our state?” asked Pete Wilking of A1A Solar in Jacksonville.

“Stop sea levels from rising! Vote Yes on 4!” tweeted an advocacy group, Women4Solar.

The opposition was led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the TV and radio talk show host and president of the National Action Network (NAN), and Bishop Victor Curry of Miami, NAN’s southeast regional director, who said they opposed “unnecessary and unjust tax breaks for corporations.”

It was one of the most cost-effective referendum campaigns in Florida history, as supporters raised less than $150,000.

Lacking the money for a TV ad campaign, supporters built support networks on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #Yeson4) to mobilize voters.

Voters said yes to solar, even if they did not always fully understand it.

The vote of the people was just one step, however. The Legislature, which put Amendment 4 on the ballot, must pass a bill in the next session in 2017 carrying out the will of the voters.

At the same time, a much more potent political battle over solar will play out on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Known as Amendment 1, the ballot question is an effort by utility companies that would prohibit the sale of solar energy to individual customers and, critics say, would add new regulatory barriers to solar expansion in Florida.

Supporters, calling themselves Consumers for Smart Solar, have raised $19.1 million so far.

Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, TECO Energy and Duke Energy are among Amendment 1’s biggest backers and environmental groups are working to defeat it.

Utilities prevailed on state lawmakers to put Amendment 4 on the primary ballot to avoid confusing voters about their higher priority, Amendment 1.

Susan Glickman of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said moving Amendment 4 to a low-turnout primary was a blessing in disguise, as it turned out.

“It’s a little bit easier because it’s a more informed electorate,” Glickman said.

Copyright © 2016 Miami Herald, Steve Bousquet. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. Miami Herald writer Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.

 

lego plastic homes in Bogota-eltiempo-dot-com

A group of Colombians are transforming the serious problem of pollution by using plastic waste—and the Lego building model—as a solution for the thousands of people without houses.

http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/colombians-building-houses-made-wasted-plastic-shaped-huge-lego-bricks  by Joao Freitas

Joao FreitasThe Bogota-based company, Conceptos Plasticos, seeks to reverse the damage that plastic causes to the planet and use it to benefit those most in need. The initiative was born out of Colombian musician Fernando Llanos’s need to build his own house in a difficult-to-access area in the center of the country.

Subsequently, this idea became architect Oscar Mendez’s graduation thesis. After several years of investigation, Mendez materialized a modular brick made of all types of processed, discarded plastic. The system works like Lego and is adaptable to all types of terrain and any climate.

“It has a social impact because in Latin America the housing shortage is terrible,” says Mendez, the owner of the company. “Forty percent of people living in Africa, Asia and Latin America do not have a house.” He also detailed the environmental and economic importance of using this type of waste to build modular homes.

Photo by Conceptos Plasticos
Photo by Conceptos Plasticos

“In Bogota alone, approximately 750 tons of plastic waste is thrown into the landfill site, of which only 100 are being recycled. We are making 100 homes out of the plastic in Dona Juana (the city’s landfill site), giving value to something that has no market.”

Conceptos Plasticos’s model home is 40 square meters divided into two bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, dining room and kitchen, and can be put together in only five days by four people who need no previous building experience. The houses are assembled without using any type of adhesive. This makes them portable houses that can be disassembled easily in order to transport and reassemble them.

Oscar Mendez, photo by Conceptos Plasticos
Oscar Mendez, photo by Conceptos Plasticos

And, anyone who’s played with Legos knows how no adhesive is required to build a sturdy structure.

When discussing the cost of making the houses, Mendez said they are a lot more economical than a house built from traditional materials. “We don’t charge per square meter built, but by kilogram (of plastic) processed,” said Mendez.

One 40-square meter home costs approximately $130 per square meter built. That’s $5200

Learn more at the company’s website (in Spanish only)

 

Florida Realtors has announced its support for Amendment 4, a measure on the Aug. 30 primary ballot that would extend a tax break for solar devices on homes to businesses and industrial facilities.

by Lloyd Dunkelberger  July 2016 http://saintpetersblog.com/florida-realtors-announce-support-amendment-extend-tax-break-solar-devices/

The amendment, sponsored by Sen Jeff Brandes and Rep. Ray Rodrigues in the 2016 session, would exempt solar units from both property taxes and tangible personal property taxes on commercial properties.

“It will encourage Florida’s business community to invest in solar, which will expand the use of clean energy and help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Matey Veissi, the Realtors president and  co-owner of Veissi & Associates in Miami.

“In turn, increased solar energy will help preserve our natural environment for future generations. As the Sunshine State, Florida should be in the forefront of solar choice for businesses and consumers,” Veissi said.

Dean Asher, a former Realtors president and candidate for Senate District 13, said passage of the amendment could expand employment opportunities in a solar industry that already employs 6,000 workers.

“If Amendment 4 passes, it could increase the number of jobs across the state as more business owners install solar panels at their properties,” he said. “Removing tax penalties and making solar and other renewable energy options more affordable in Florida will spark more interest in using solar energy – and that benefits both residents and business owners across Florida.”

If passed by 60 percent of the votes and then implemented by the Legislature, the tax incentives of the amendment will begin in 2018 and extend for 20 years.

A recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll showed 64 percent of voters in favor of the measure, with 19 percent opposed and 17 percent undecided.

The Realtors, who have 155,000 members in Florida, join a large contingent of Amendment 4 supporters, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Solar Energy Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

 

by Lloyd Dunkelberger  July 2016 http://saintpetersblog.com/florida-realtors-announce-support-amendment-extend-tax-break-solar-devices/

 

 

Built-in shelves and a gas fireplace Image: Dream Book Design

Enjoy your home more today — and sell it for the best price tomorrow.

When it comes to home improvement, some dollars stretch more than others. And if you’re on a limited budget, it becomes even more important to spend those dollars wisely.

Here are eight affordable (under $5,000) home improvement projects that’ll help you enjoy your home more today and provide excellent financial return in the future.

1. Add the Finishing Touch of Molding

Decorative molding is a classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans first installed it to add grandeur to their buildings.  Centuries later, molding is still one of the most dramatic ways to dress up a room. It’s a budget-friendly improvement that trims a room for a finished and expensive look.

Today’s wood moldings come in hundreds of options — from simple to ornate — that you can stain, paint, or leave natural. You can also find moldings in flexible materials, such as foam, that make installation a whole lot easier. Some moldings even include lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow.

Buyers consistently rank both crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively), according to the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”

And at $1.50 per foot if you DIY it, or $8 per foot if you hire, it’s a no-brainer in terms of personalizing your home while adding value. (Although we don’t recommend DIY unless you’ve got above-par mitering skills.)

A few tips about molding:

Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. But be careful about proportions. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or less, go with simpler styles to avoid overwhelming the room.

Place a chair railing at one-third the distance of the ceiling height. Chair railing placed incorrectly can make a room seem out of proportion.

Don’t forget entryways, doors, and windows: Bump up the trim around these areas to give rooms a completed and expensive feel.

2. Install Quality Ceiling Fans

If crown molding and chair railing were #3 and #7 on buyers’ decorative wish lists, what was #1?

Ceiling fans.

Over the years, ceiling fans have become quite the crowd pleaser. Once they were just a cheap solution to rising energy costs — ugly, wobbly, noisy eyesores endured because they were cheaper than air conditioning.

Today, ceiling fans have evolved into an essential component of American homes as energy prices continue to rise. And since designs have caught up with the times, they come in a variety of styles and colors to complement any room.  If your ceiling fans are old and outdated, new ones (coupled with a fresh paint job and crown molding) could give your rooms a refreshing update while saving money.

Some tips about ceiling fans:

  • Ceiling fans should hang 7 to 8 feet above the floor. If you’ve got a low ceiling, buy a hugger ceiling fan that’s flush-mounted.
  • Size matters more than the number of fan blades. Go for the biggest Energy Star-rated fan that will fit the space.
  • Choose quality. You’ll get better cooling results, less noise, and good looks at a digestible price point of $200 to $600.

3. Plant Some Trees

Apple tree outside of a house next to a patio Image: M. Williams

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000 to $10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100 to $250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:

Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest.

Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property.

Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage.

Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees.

Related: Good Landscaping Adds HOW MUCH Value to My Home?

4. Install a Patio

Back yard patio in the dusk Image: Suzanne Davis at bebehblog

Patios are a great cost-effective way to increase your home’s living space without actually adding on. Plus you’ll recover 30% to 60% of your investment. A $2,000 patio would return around $900 at resale.

But don’t go crazy and trick out your patio with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional. (And, really, how often would you use an outdoor kitchen?)

Some wise advice when planning a patio:

  • Check property for slope, sun, and shade patterns.
  • Remember ‘dig alerts’ that utilities provide free of charge.
  • Don’t skimp on patio lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

Related: How to Make Your Hobbit-Sized Patio Feel Like Versailles

5. Pump Up Your Home Security

The peace of mind that comes with installing a home security system is priceless.

In reality, price varies. You can buy and install it yourself for $50 to $300, or a security company can sell and install a system from $0 to $1,500. The “zero” is the hook companies use to lure you into signing a multi-year monitoring contract that ranges from $95 to $480 per year.

If a monitored system suits your needs, you’ll also get a break on your home insurance. Most companies will discount your annual rate 15% to 20% if you have a security service.

Home security systems also make your home more marketable: 50% of homebuyers (in the NAHB survey) say a home security system — particularly security cameras — tops their list of most-wanted technology features.

You can go over the top and install high-tech security gadgets, like smartphone-operated locks and a laser trip wire. Or you can keep it simple with a keypad that communicates with sensors and motion detectors throughout your house.

Tips:

  • If you do decide to go with a monitoring system, choose a company with a 10-year track record to ensure reliability.
  • Don’t rely on any system as your sole means of security. Locking doors and windows is still your best first-line of defense.

6. Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade

The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.

That finding is echoed in NAHB’s report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace.

In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.

Some tips for converting to gas:

  • direct-vent gas insert most closely replicates the wood-burning experience at a cost of about $3,000 to $4,000, installed.
  • If you don’t have an existing fireplace, you can install a direct-vent (vents directly outside so you don’t need a chimney) gas fireplace for about $5,000 (installed and finished).

Related: 5 Quick Energy Fixes to Save Up to $660 a Year

7. Add Some Creative Storage

We don’t have to sell you on the value of storage and built-in organization. Since when have you heard someone complain about too much storage? Never, we bet.

Adding storage is a no-brainer, but it does take a little brainpower to find your home’s hidden storage.

Here are a few ways to think outside of the toy box:

  • Open drywall to create storage cubbies between your wall’s studs.
  • Install platform storage that hangs from your garage ceiling.
  • Even stairs can give you more storage. One clever mom repurposed an old chest of drawers and created storage within a basement staircase.

Related: Storage Hacks from Space-Challenged New Yorkers

8. Light Up the Outdoors

Exterior lighting makes your home shine in the evening, accents features you like most about your house, and helps keep burglars away. A hard-wired lighting fixture can cost $150 to $250 to install. On the plus side, you could get a 50% return on your investment, says Judith Patriski, a Cleveland appraiser and REALTOR®. Installing motion-detecting lights can even lower some homeowners’ insurance premiums. (Check with your agent.)

And with technological advances in solar lighting, it’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to boost your home’s nighttime curb appeal.

Plus, 90% of buyers say outdoor lighting is on their list of desired home features.

Tips:

  • Place accent lights under your favorite trees to show off your landscaping’s top earners.
  • If your lights are hard-wired, put them on a timer so you don’t waste energy running them during the day.
  • Choose a warm white light. It’ll make your home look and feel welcoming.
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Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Welcome Center. (Photo taken May 3, 2016.)

Some Stetson students returning to college life in August will find themselves enjoying the cottage life.

Other students will be welcomed by larger, cooler and “greener” residences, flood-free parking on the west side of campus, and the new Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Welcome Center.

All are part of construction and renovation projects scheduled to be completed before students return to campus on Aug. 19.

Here’s a look:

* WELCOME: The new Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Welcome Center – a three-story, 28,000 square-foot complex in the middle of Stetson’s historic district – will welcome prospective students and alumni, and will centralize a number of services for current students. The facility will house the Office of Admissions, Career and Professional Services, Student Financial Planning and the Registrar and Bursar’s offices.

* THE COTTAGE LIFE: “This fall for the first time we have “cottages” available for student housing,” said Al Allen, associate vice president of Facilities Management. “We have been purchasing single-family homes adjacent to campus over a long period of time. We’ve mostly been leasing them to staff, but as our enrollment has increased, we need to use these properties for student housing.”

The university is calling them “cottages” to reflect their ambience, Allen said.

The four cottages include residences at 205 E. University Ave. (which will house four students), 220 E. University Ave. (seven students), 245 E. Michigan Ave. (five students) and 208 E. Pennsylvania Ave. (seven students).

One of the cottages will be used by the Lambda Chi fraternity.

“We will go through the houses and renovate and spruce them up as needed, as well as furnish them,” Allen said. Residency at the cottages is based on student seniority.

* LIVING LARGE: “Three years ago we purchased Stetson Cove apartments and renovated them, and those have met with great success with students,” Allen said. “We know students like living in those apartments because they’re large – large enough for families. This year we purchased two more apartment complexes adjacent to campus on the north side.”

Colonial Oaks, at 275 Stetson Ave., will house 48 students. Stetson House Apartments, at 285 Stetson Ave., will house 36 students.

“We completely refurbish our apartments when we buy them,” Allen said. Renovations include new roofs, air conditioning, plumbing, flooring, bathrooms and more.

More student housing will be available at Plymouth Apartments, which the university is leasing. Those apartments, at the corner of Plymouth and Amelia avenues, were fully renovated before being leased, Allen said.

* GOING GREEN: The new metal roofs going atop Flagler Hall, Sampson Hall and Conrad Hall will be “green” – as in environmentally green.

“All those buildings are in our historic district and each one exceeds 100 years old,” Allen said. Because of their location in Stetson’s historic district, the university received a grant for 50 percent of the funding from the state of Florida.

Also, the project “is fully supported by the city of DeLand’s Historic Preservation Commission,” Allen said.

The new metal roofs will replace the current shingle roofs.

“Shingle roofs last only about 15 years in Florida, and when you take them off they sit in landfills forever,” Allen said. “Metal roofs reflect heat better and, equally important, they last 50 years and then you recycle them. It’s a very green approach.”

* THE BIG CHILL: The air conditioning system that serves the bedrooms in Emily Hall is being replaced. Emily Hall houses 220 second- and third-year students.

The air conditioning in University Hall is being “enhanced,” Allen said. Also, the building’s bathrooms are being renovated and carpet will be replaced with hard flooring. Carpet also is being removed from Conrad Hall and Chaudoin Hall. The change will help in the fight against allergies, Allen said.

“By the end of this summer we will no longer have any carpet in any of our resident hall rooms,” he said.

* RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: West side parking, which includes 100 spaces used by commuter students, faculty and staff, is going to lose its reputation as a flood zone. The parking area is behind what is now the HR Building as well as Allen Hall, Wesley House and Cummings Gym.

“Rain water just races across the parking lot and across Minnesota Avenue, floods Minnesota and then floods the other parking lot,” Allen said. “We’re going to create storm water retention ponds” to alleviate the problem.

The university will work on the project with Wesley House, a United Methodist campus ministry.

“They own some of that land – they gave us an easement essentially,” Allen said. “So we’re going to fund the improvements and provide long-term maintenance.”

The project will use concrete instead of pavement. “Concrete is much cooler,” Allen said. “Asphalt is essentially a petroleum by-product. Concrete is much more expensive but it also lasts 50 years.”

by Rick de Yampert  http://www.stetson.edu/today/2016/05/cottages-greener-campus-will-greet-returning-students-in-august/

Pinellas County Press Releases

Recycle Christmas trees

Architects, developers, and designers are moving past green homes and open floor plans. Here’s what trend-conscious buyers need to know.


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Much of the hype around healthy living these days centers on whether you’ve eliminated gluten from your diet or walked 10,000 steps today. But lasting health benefits may be better derived from fundamental changes in how we live. That’s the tack savvy building and design professionals are taking as they draw on technological advances and changing demographics to create a new vision for the home. It’s not enough to just be green anymore; tomorrow’s homes—both single-family and multifamily buildings—will be more sustainable and resilient to natural disasters. And we’re moving beyond open floor plans. Flexible spaces are giving way to homes that can accommodate multiple generations, communal gatherings, and universal design. These preferences will influence the size of homes and how they look—and function—outside and inside. In addition, they reflect where homes are built, as an increasing number of buyers—from millennials to boomers—want to shorten their commutes and walk more. You can become an expert resource for buyers and sellers by tuning into the forward-thinking trends that design and architectural pros are buzzing about.

While suburbia isn’t dead or dying, it’s clear that a groundswell of home buyers is heading downtown. For some, that means a dense urban metropolis like New York or Chicago where work, home, and retail are at their doorstep. But for others, what’s appealing is a suburb with a downtown core that offers walkability such as Highland Park, Ill., or Clayton, Mo. Even a more rural outpost like bucolic Red Hook, N.Y., with its robust town center, fits the bill.

The common denominator: People of all ages are tired of their car-centric lives and care less about square footage than finding a home in a location that’s compatible with their interests and values, says Bruce D. Snider, a building designer and architectural writer based in Belfast, Maine.

Healthier, Smarter Materials

The construction of houses and multifamily buildings is evolving. Designers and architects are seeking to make buildings that are weather-resilient, sustainable, safer, and primed for the latest technology.

  • Well buildings: Green buildings that steer clear of harmful paints and adhesives and highlight water conservation are well-regarded, but the newer focus is on design that enhances the quality of life for occupants. “Biophilic” planning involves placing windows to showcase outdoor greenery and doors that strive for seamlessness between the great outdoors and a home’s interior. An emphasis on natural light, along with LEDs controlled by dimmers and in colors that can be changed for nighttime and gray days, simulates circadian rhythms in the body to improve sleep patterns, another boon for healthfulness. Upcoming software will harvest daylight to provide more natural light since some multifamily building codes dictate smaller glass expanses and restrict certain lightbulb types, says sustainability consultant Brian Lomel, cochair of the Urban Land Institute’s South Florida Building Healthy Places Committee. In areas with small yards, pocket gardens are popular, and more rooftops will be planted on multifamily buildings and townhouses. And look for more landscapes with trees featuring interesting branch structures, even without blooms or berries, says Betsy Williamson with Williamson Chong Architects in Toronto.
  • Less maintenance: Whether it’s due to the financial burden or the lengthy time commitment of tending to yards and repairs, consumers are eager for materials and systems that are more durable and require less maintenance than in the past. “Many boomers and their offspring are less inclined to mow lawns and perform other tasks,” says architect Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put (The Taunton Press, 2011). At Aventura ParkSquare, realistic-looking artificial turf will be installed, which will help conserve water. Other systems and materials there will need to be replaced less often. Individuals like mason and builder Clay Chapman of Atlanta’s Hope for Architecture also focus on materials with greater longevity, which is influencing the thinking of both design professionals and home owners. “Hand-built brick walls are labor-intensive but will last for centuries rather than for just one home owner,” he says. Architect Jon Handley of Pulltab in New York concurs. “The best way to be green is to build with quality that lasts,” he says.
  • Weather and energy: Communities on the forefront of energy and weather efficiency are setting guidelines for better waterproofing and strategically placed insulation. “The goal is to go beyond what’s required, not use energy at all and get off the grid,” says Philadelphia developer Nino Cutrufello. Going the energy-efficient route can be less costly than adding features such as solar panels and geothermal heating, he says. Structures are also being better designed to withstand severe weather. Aventura ParkSquare, outside Miami, is being designed to include well-insulated windows that block harmful ultraviolet rays, says principal Victor Ballestas. In parts of California where fires have raged, noncombustible concrete tiles, brick, and composites that imitate wood are favored, says New York architect Chris Garvin.
  • Healthfulness: Encouraging healthy living goes beyond including bicycle racks and gyms in multifamily buildings, Lomel says. To build Aventura ParkSquare, a community within a community, its developer Integra Investments heeded ideas from “Fit City Miami,” a collaborative effort with ULI to incorporate The American Institute of Architects’ “Active Design” guidelines. Results at the condominium development are retail options such as a boot camp and yoga studio, restaurants with rooftop gardens for growing produce, medical offices, an assisted-living facility, wider sidewalks, and a 131-unit condo building with glass-enclosed stairways to encourage walking rather than riding in enclosed elevators, says Ballestas. ULI’s South Florida group will showcase the project as a case study for healthy-living initiatives, Lomel says.
  • Smarter technology: Managing power needs will continue to be huge as more home owners seek to stay connected 24/7. Forward-thinking techies will develop more robust wireless hubs to provide power from a central source and make it easier and less costly to control everything from one app on a smart phone, says Garvin. Already, developers like Washington, D.C.’s EYA are bringing on board an automation consultant.

A Greater Sense of Belonging

The size and layout of single-family homes, condos, and rentals are being reconfigured with an eye toward fostering community and adapting to space challenges and changing demographics.

  • Seed to feed: Don’t call it a garden: Edible landscaping is appearing in single-family yards and multifamily building rooftops. Lomel predicts consumer and developer interest will lead to demand for organic gardening consultants. “They’ll satisfy people’s food-growing needs rather than [feature] nonedible plant materials,” he says. Communal space for cooking and dining are expected to be part of more development projects. “People want that sense of connection,” Garvin says. An even bigger trend is the “agrihood,” which makes a farm a key amenity in a residential development. Developer and architect Matthew “Quint” Redmond of AgriNetx in Golden, Colo., conceived the idea back in 2003, but the recession stalled construction. Ground will be broken this fall for his newest—Adams Crossing in Brighton, Colo., which will include 438 residential units on 101 acres with about half the land devoted to farms. Redmond says his two prime buyer targets are “boomers who would rather work in orchards than play golf and millennials who don’t want to live in a cubicle as their parents did.” Many sites are former golf courses, and he expects more little-used courses to be transformed.
  • Multigenerational togetherness: Multiple generations living together isn’t new; cultural traditions, economic pressures, and elderly and child care needs have long made such arrangements desirable for some. In the past, families had little choice but to offer up a spare bedroom when they needed to share their space. But architects are dreaming up new options for the 21st century family. Designer Marianne Cusato became an early proponent for planning ahead with her “New Economy” house; its first-floor suite with a private entry offers independence for older adults and boomerang children. EYA is designing townhouses with private quarters on one floor that can be converted to other uses as needs change.
  • Open plans on a smaller scale: Open floor plans still dominate, but to differentiate smaller spaces, designer Seth Grizzle of Graypants in Seattle likes to add whimsy, reflecting the desire for customized spaces. “People want a fun edge that makes them smile, and they’ll give up space to get some uniqueness,” he says. Examples can include a door that becomes a bookshelf, a phone charging station in a desk, or a softly glowing wall lit from behind. In multifamily buildings, developers are including larger shared and mixed-use spaces to make up for smaller-sized dwelling units. David Baker Architects’ 1178 Folsom Street building in San Francisco will include units that average just 290 square feet but have access to large common areas such as a rooftop deck and ground-level retail. Sarah Barnard, a designer in Santa Monica, Calif., sees the trend mushrooming as millennials shift from renting to buying. “They’re a generation that is less materialistic and more concerned about the environment and that has a debt burden, so they have less to spend,” she says.
  • Universal design: A recent AIA Home Design Trends Survey found respondents were interested in having greater accessibility inside their homes including wider hallways and more visible handrails. Yet, many still resist features, such as grab bars in showers and bathtubs, that signal that residents are aging. Future designs are expected to incorporate such adaptations in more subtle, creative ways. As the built environment evolves, how it looks will reflect a more contemporary sensibility.”We won’t look to the past. Modern design is the future,” Williamson says. “All this amazing technology and other changes go part and parcel with much more forward-looking designs.”

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

(727) 804-6566
AnnalisaWeller1@gmail.com

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