A net zero energy home in the simplest of terms is one that creates the same amount of energy that it uses. This is...READ MORE
With many of us spending more time at home than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic it is a good time to make sure...READ MORE
A net zero energy home in the simplest of terms is one that creates the same amount of energy that it uses. This is possible through both passive and active efforts to conserve, as well as produce the energy needed to run your house. The easiest way to create a zero-energy home is to start from scratch as it can be difficult (even impossible at times) to retrofit an existing home. New builds are essentially a clean slate – so all elements can be planned prior to spending any money.
The design process is key because it gets the entire team on the same page when it comes to materials, timelines and potential issues - we focus on this phase of all of our projects to ensure we’re always in agreement on where things stand. Designing for maximum functionality and determining all the details at the start will keep costs lower throughout the build process.
Energy Needed – Energy Created = Net Energy.
We have to focus on both reducing and creating the energy needed to run your home. To do this, it helps to know how the energy is used. According to a residential focused survey conducted by the US Energy Information Administration, 51% of the energy used in a typical home is for heating and cooling the space in your home, 23% is used to heat water and the remainder goes toward lighting, refrigeration and “other.”
Here are five things that most directly affect temperature control
1. Orientation - There’s a reason we sit under a tree if it’s hot outside or sit in the sun if it’s cold. Shade keeps us cool; sun warms us up and the same principal applies for structures. Talk to your builder about positioning your home to take advantage of the natural light patterns. It’s best to minimize exposure to rising and setting sunlight living spaces should face cooler facades and patios or decks should be on the north side of the house if possible.
2. The Presence (better yet, LACK) of Leaks - Have you ever yelled at your kids (or roommates) to “shut the dang door so we don’t cool the whole neighborhood?” Then you already understand how this next factor works. Keeping the house as tightly sealed as possible will ensure consistency and reduce the energy needed to cool or heat your space. Doors, windows, walls and the roof are the main weak points for leaks. Using double or triple paned windows, making sure doors and windows are sealed well and having the proper insulation are all ways to keep the house tight.
3. Materials - You don’t wear a sweatshirt in the summer because it’s too thick and fuzzy, right? What you use to build your house will also determine how well it maintains temperatures, thereby reducing the energy needed to heat or cool. Concrete, brick, tile and thick plaster are able to absorb large quantities of heat and slowly release it. Reflective roofing will protect your home from heat as well as maximize the use of solar panels as an energy source. Windows should be energy efficient and shaded by landscaping or built-in overhangs. Carpet will keep floors warm and tile will keep them cooler. Insulation is also something to pay close attention to. It is important to insulate the walls, floors, and ceilings with the type and thickness of insulating material that fits the specific needs of each surface, and to design walls, floors and ceilings to accommodate those materials.
4. Ducts and Pipes - Anything that will lead to or from a central heating or cooling feature should be inside the conditioned space and as close to the source as possible. This includes ducts, your water heater and HVAC system. An ideal heating/cooling system for a net zero home is a geothermal one. This system uses the temperature of the ground to regulate the temperature in the house through a series of thermal tubes and refrigerant levels.
5. Solar Electric Panels - Once you’ve designed and modeled everything else in your home – you can determine the best solar panel system to produce just the right amount of electricity needed for your home. These panels convert sunlight to electricity, so you want to maximize their exposure to the sun. Your builder will discuss the best placement of your roof and the panels to accomplish this. Most people have their solar panels connected to the grid so they can be monitored, and power can be supplied if needed. This also works in the reverse providing a homeowner with credits if more electricity is produced than required.
Living the Net Zero Life
How you live will also greatly impact the energy required to power your house. Here are ways you can reduce energy whether your home is net-zero or not:
If your property has been damaged due to a man-made or natural disaster good chances are one of your first calls will be to your insurance agent.
From 2014-2018, 5.6 percent of insured homes had a claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Wind and hail accounted for the largest share of claims (2.3 percent), followed closely by water damage and freezing (2.1 percent). Fire and lighting and theft account for the other 1.2%.
When navigating an insurance claim, it’s important to fully understand all insurance terms. Here are three terms that many homeowners are unfamiliar with but are important to know.1. Actual Cash Value (ACV) – An estimate of the fair market value of your property (i.e. home, roof, furniture in your home) prior to damage. ACV is what it would cost to replace your property minus depreciation, which is how much value the property has lost due to age and wear and tear since you bought it.
In the event you are faced with property damage knowing the terminology will go a long way in helping you maximize your insurance claim.
Many commercial property owners equate new building codes with lost time and money. When in truth, most code changes save owners money in the long run - not to mention better protection for the people and property inside from fire, earthquakes and other extreme events.
Modern codes date back to 1897 when fires destroyed many cities overnight. Sanitation issues were also the driving force behind some early codes. Today, natural disasters and concerns about energy security and conservation of natural resources are the impetus behind most code changes.
Extreme weather and fires over the past five years have caused approximately $500 billion in damages in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A study done for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) found that losses from Hurricane Andrew, which caused $25 billion in insured damage, would have been reduced by 40 percent for commercial properties if they were built in accordance with Florida’s 2004 statewide building code. Another IBHS study following Hurricane Charley found that conformance to current building codes reduced the severity of losses by 42 percent and loss frequency by 60 percent.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) ongoing Building Codes Save (BCS) initiative shows that for California and Florida alone their adoption and enforcement of modern hazard-resistant building codes over the past 20 years indicates a long-term average future savings of $1 billion per year.
If you are considering a renovation, remodel or building from the ground up, make sure you are following the latest codes and standards available. While implementing them now may be a costly endeavor, it will most likely save you money in the long run – and, more importantly, protect the health and safety of your property’s occupants.
With many of us spending more time at home than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic it is a good time to make sure your home is free of environmental hazards that can cause health issues. Radon, asbestos and lead are three highly toxic materials that could be present in your home, potentially putting your family’s health at risk.
Radon – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon – an odorless, invisible gas – causes thousands of cancer deaths each year in the U.S. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and permeates the air we breathe. Radon moves up through the ground to the air above and into homes through cracks and other holes in the foundation. The EPA recommends checking radon levels in your home at least every two years as radon levels fluctuate. DIY radon testing kits are widely available, or you can hire a professional to conduct the test. If you do your own test and it shows high levels of radon – anything above 4 pCi/L – schedule a walk-through with an EPA-licensed radon remediation specialist. The EPA has put together a comprehensive library of radon resources. To view, click here.
Asbestos – If your home was built before the 1980s there could be asbestos hiding in cement, floor tiles, insulation, pipes and walls. Asbestos is a natural mineral composed of thin fibers. When residential construction products made with asbestos are damaged those fibers become airborne, posing a potential danger to anyone who inhales the toxic dust. While exposure to small amounts of asbestos is unlikely to cause health problems prolonged exposure increases risks of lung disease and cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that most asbestos-related diseases are diagnosed at least 15 years after exposure. If you own an older home, you should take every precaution to avoid damaging materials that may contain asbestos. To learn more about asbestos and steps to take if found in your home review the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s resource guide.
Lead – If your home was built before 1978 it’s likely it contains lead-based paint. Lead is a poisonous, highly toxic metal that can cause serious medical issues, and in some instances can be fatal. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-containing paint but lead paint is still present in millions of homes, oftentimes under layers of newer paint. Before buying, selling or renting a home built before 1978 or doing any remodeling have it checked out by a EPA or state-approved Lead-Safe certified firm if you are unsure whether lead-based paint is present. For more information on protecting your family from lead poisoning read the EPA’s Protect Your Family Form Lead in Your Home guide.
By proactively identifying and addressing environmental toxins like radon, asbestos and lead in your home you can help safeguard your family’s health, protecting them from potentially life-threatening illnesses.
$1.790 trillion. That’s what the damage the 273 weather and climate disasters the United States has experienced since 1980 have cost property owners and insurance carriers. Already this year there have been 10 weather/climate disaster events resulting in over $1 billion in losses. If your association does not routinely review insurance coverage or have disaster preparedness and response plans in place, or it’s been awhile since they’ve been updated, now is the time to make sure your association is ready in the event of a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or other major natural disaster. Here are three tips to help you prepare.
3. Create a post-disaster plan – Recovery can be a stressful, costly and time-consuming endeavor. Having a post-disaster contact list including board members, management, insurance agents, insurance adjusters, attorney, engineers and contractors will go a long way in getting your association and its members on the road to recovery. It’s also important to start a regular cadence of communications with owners to keep them updated on recovery efforts. Too little communication or incomplete communications can lead to disputes with owners.
No one can predict if and when a natural disaster will occur and what kind of damage it will result in but associations who take the time to prepare by regularly reviewing insurance coverage and creating and keeping updated pre- and post-disaster plans will be able to better safeguard their association and its members from financial devastation.
Being a homeowner come with a long to-do list. Paying property taxes. Checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Fixing leaks and broken doors. The list goes on and on but one thing many people forget to not only add to the list but follow through with it is an annual homeowner insurance review. Forgetting or failing to do this yearly could cost you in the long run.
More than half of homeowners (52%) don’t have a clear understanding of their coverage according a recent J.D. Power survey. There is also the common misconception among policyholders that the amount of dwelling coverage is correlated to their home’s real estate market value when in reality it’s tied to the cost to rebuild the home. And a recent Marshall & Swift/Boeckh survey found that 60% of homes are undervalued when it comes to insurance with an average undervaluation of 17%.
Here are three reasons why you should review your policy every year with your insurance broker or attorney.
1. Prices Rise and Fall – Just like most goods and services, construction costs rise and fall. Let’s say you had your home insured for $250,000 when you bought it 10 years ago. And then let’s say a fire destroyed it this year (no casualties of course). You receive a check from your insurance company for $250,000. You’re eager to start the rebuild process but after getting multiple construction bids you find out it’s going to be $350,000 to rebuild. That $100,000 gap in coverage could force you to have to scale back on the rebuild.
2. Change Happens – You installed hand scrapped hardwoods. You swapped out the linoleum in the kitchen with granite. You gutted the master bathroom. You overhauled the guest room. Any major home renovation or upgrade will most likely affect the value of your family’s home. Home improvements can also qualify you for additional discounts on your insurance policy. For example, installing a home security system could reduce your insurance premium by 2 – 10 percent.
3. Valuables Are Often Overlooked. Your spouse bought a new set of golf clubs or new skis for the whole family. You inherited a family heirloom. Your parents surprised you with an expensive work of art for your birthday. You bought a piano so your son can be the next Mozart. Your existing policy provides standard coverage for your home and belongings but oftentimes doesn’t provide sufficient coverage for all your valuables. It’s important to contact your insurance agent each time you bring in something valuable to your home to make sure your current coverage is sufficient or an increase in your premium is necessary to protect you in case of loss or damage.
For the majority of people their home is their biggest investment. Conducting an annual insurance review is critical to protecting your most valuable asset.