The Ultimate Guide to Water Heaters at Home

The Ultimate Guide to Water Heaters at Home

Everything you need to know about water heaters from our friends at Home Depot

Water heaters are one of those appliances that usually sit forgotten in a basement or utility room until something goes wrong. When it does, it can put a serious crimp in your lifestyle.

If you’re faced with a broken unit, the goal is to get a new heater in place as quickly as possible. Because water heaters are big-ticket items, it’s smart to think about the kind of water heater you want before it’s time for a replacement.

Water heaters, on average, use 17 percent of a household energy budget. That’s more than any other home appliance, so it’s important to know how they operate. This guide will show how the most common types of water heaters work and what to consider when it comes time to replace the unit.

Homeowners are increasingly shopping around for water heaters with energy saving and “smart” features.

Water Heater Basics

Water heaters come in three broad categories: conventional tank, tankless and hybrids.

Storage Tank Water Heaters. These are the most conventional water heaters. An insulated tank keeps water at a preset temperature—usually around 120 degrees—until you open a hot water tap. As you use the water, cold water flows into the tank to be heated. Tank water heaters vary in capacity from 20 to 80 gallons. They are powered by electricity, propane gas, natural gas or oil. In electric units, heating elements located inside the tank heat the water. Gas and oil water heaters contain a combustion chamber located under the holding tank. A flue goes up through the center of the tank so that combustion gases can be vented to the outside.

Most gas water heaters rely on the natural draft of a chimney to vent the unit, but some models have a direct vent system where a fan expels the combustion gases. These types do not need a chimney and can be vented through a pipe that runs horizontally through a sidewall.

A conventional gas storage tank water heater

Tankless Water Heaters. Unlike tank models that keep hot water on hand, tankless heaters heat up the water when you call for it, eliminating the wasted energy it takes to keep water at a set temperature. The Department of Energy estimates that for a family that uses about 40 gallons of water a day, a tankless heater is 24 to 34 percent more efficient than a conventional tank model. But the efficiency does drop off considerably if you use a lot of hot water.

“These heaters are perfect for some lifestyles, but not all,” -Merle Henkenius, a licensed master plumber.

Compared with a full-size tank, tankless heaters are small. They can be hung on a wall, freeing up floor space. They are powered by electricity or gas. Tankless heaters are available in both indoor and outdoor models.

A whole-house tankless water heater.

Hybrid Water Heaters. This is a catch-all term that includes heat pump water heaters, condensing units and indirect water heaters. Most hybrid technologies were developed to make water heating more energy efficient.

*Heat Pump Water Heaters. These use electricity to extract heat from the surrounding air to help heat the water in the tank. A heat pump works like an air-conditioner in reverse. An air conditioner pulls warm room air into the unit, removes the heat from the air, and then dumps heat that it extracted from the room air outside. Rather than dump the heat, a heat pump water heater uses the extracted heat to warm the water. When the heat pump cannot handle the demand, backup electric elements take over. These units are extremely energy efficient.

*Condensing Water Heaters. These are available in both tank and tankless models and are powered by gas. These units use some of the hot gases created during the combustion process to heat the water, rather than venting all of the gas to the outside.

*Indirect Water Heaters. In these systems, the water heater storage tank is connected to a boiler or furnace. The unit heats fluid that is circulated to the storage tank, where a heat exchanger warms the water.

*Solar Water Heaters. These circulate fluid through rooftop solar collectors. The fluid heats the water in the storage tank.

Smart Water Heaters. A few manufacturers have developed water heaters with WiFi capability, meaning you can control them through a smartphone or tablet. These products are more sophisticated than standard water heaters. They have electronic controls and thermostats, making them more precise and easier to use. They can also run diagnostics on themselves to spot potential problems.

Home appliances, including water heaters, are increasingly outfitted with WiFi capability to enable money and energy-saving control from your devices.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Water Heater

When it is time for a new water heater, a good place to start is to consider what you have now. If the old unit provided plenty of hot water and you were satisfied with it, consider simply replacing the unit. Even if you install a standard tank water heater, the new model will probably be more energy efficient than the old one, thanks to updated energy standards that went into effect in 2015. However, there are many more energy saving options available to choose from. If you are unsatisfied with your water heater’s performance, you may want to consider one of the alternatives mentioned above.

The following are other important considerations for this major purchase:

Warranties

Water heaters come with warranties. In general, the longer the warranty, the more the unit will cost. Expect to see warranties from 6 to 12 years, but lifetime warranties are available. Choose a model with a warranty you are comfortable with.

Sizing for Tank Water Heaters

Residential tank water heaters, including heat pump water heaters, vary in capacity from 20 to 80 gallons. Of course, meeting the local building code is one aspect of sizing a unit. Another rule of thumb is to base the size on the number of people who regularly use hot water in the house.

Here’s a guide:

NUMBER OF PEOPLE IDEAL GALLON CAPACITY
1-2 23-36
2-4 36-46
3-5 46-56
5 or more 56 or higher

How many people live in the house (or could live there in the future) is a factor in determining the size water heater that you need.

In addition to tank capacity, you should consider the First Hour Rating of the unit. This tells you how much hot water the unit will provide during a set period. Think of your household first thing in the morning. The water in the heater is at its set temperature. Then people start using the hot water. As they do, cold water rushes into the tank, mixing with the remaining hot water. The water heater senses a drop in water temperature and clicks on. All at once, hot water leaves, cold water enters and the unit works to keep up with the changes.

The First Hour Rating takes into account the size of the tank, the efficiency of the heater and even the temperature of the cold water entering the tank. It can help determine the size of the heater you need based on peak demand periods. You will find it listed on the yellow energy label attached to the water heater and in the manufacturer’s literature.

Sizing for Tankless Water Heaters

Because there is no storage tank, tankless models are sized by the gallons per minute (GPM) of water they can deliver. Find the right size for you by estimating your peak water demand. You may have to consult with a plumber to estimate your demand, but here are some averages for various plumbing fixtures.

Shower and Bathtub 2.5 GPM
Clothes Washer 3.3 GPM
Kitchen and Bathroom Sinks 2.2 GPM
Dishwasher 1.3 GPM

Source: Energy Star  http://www.energystar.gov/products/water_heaters/water_heater_whole_home_gas_tankless

Homes in colder climates may require more powerful hot water heaters.

You will also need to consider the temperature of the incoming water to determine how much the heater needs to raise the temperature of the water. Cold water temperatures range from an average of 35–40 degrees in the extreme North to 65–70 degrees in the South. The difference between the incoming cold water and the hot water leaving the unit is called the temperature rise. The maximum GPM for a unit may be 8 or 9 GPM, but if the unit must raise the temperature 70 degrees, the effective GPM could be cut in half. The manufacturer’s literature will provide GPM at different incoming water temperatures.

Energy Efficiency

There are two ways to pick a water heater based on energy efficiency. One is the EnergyGuide Label that comes with each unit. It displays the estimated cost for running the unit when compared with similar models. If the label shows the Energy Star logo, it means the appliance exceeds basic requirements and meets more stringent criteria for energy efficiency.

The other is to consider the water heater’s energy factor (EF), which you can find in the manufacturer’s literature. This number reflects the efficiency of the heater in converting fuel—natural gas, propane and the like—into hot water. The EF is expressed as a decimal. An EF of 1 means that 100 percent of the energy is converted to hot water. For example, an efficient gas storage water heater might have an EF of .75. Some tankless water heaters can have an EF of .90-plus. A heat pump water heater might have an EF of 2.5 or higher, which means the heat pump produces more energy than it consumes.

Here’s how products that meet minimum energy standards that went into effect in April of 2015 compare with products that meet minimum Energy Star requirements.

Type of Water Heater New Minimum EF Requirements Energy Star EF Requirements
50-Gallon Gas Water Heater 0.60 > 0.67
50- Gallon Electric Water Heater 0.95 > 2.0
Tankless Water Heater 0.82

0.90

Sources: DOE National Appliance Energy Conservation Act; Energy Star Product Criteria: http://www.energystar.gov/products/water_heaters/residential_water_heaters_key_product_criteria

In general, highly efficient water heaters cost more than conventional models. A heat-pump water heater can cost three times that of a conventional heater of the same size. But energy efficient products are designed to reduce energy use and save money in the long run.

Tax Credits

Federal tax credits for energy efficient appliances, including non-solar water heaters, apply to items purchased in 2015 and 2016, but the credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2016. You can claim 10 percent of the cost of the unit up to $300.

The items that qualify include heat-pump water heaters with an energy factor that is equal to or greater than 2, and gas and oil water heaters with an energy factor that is greater than or equal to .82, or a thermal efficiency of at least 90 percent.

Those who install solar water heaters can earn a 30 percent credit. The solar credit expires at the end of 2021.

If you install energy efficient equipment in your home, check the local utility for other rebate programs.

Installations

While water heaters are not particularly complicated devices (especially conventional models with a storage tank), they should still be installed by a licensed plumber. A plumber will be familiar with the local building code requirements, and he will be able to handle any problems that may crop up.

One thing to keep in mind if you plan on swapping out an old unit with a new one of the same size: If the water heater was manufactured after the new energy requirements went into effect in April 2015, it may be an inch or two larger in height and circumference. Manufacturers beefed up the insulation on units to help meet the new requirements. It is something to keep in mind if space is tight around an old water heater, and another reason to hire a pro to install the unit.

To protect your home and family, hire a professional when installing a new water heater or conducting significant repairs.

Here are some items that may be required with your new water heater.

  • Building Permit. If you or your contractor applies for a permit, the finished installation will be inspected by a building inspector. This is one way to help ensure you have a safe installation.
  • Dedicated Shutoff Valve. If there isn’t a valve attached to the cold water line just before it enters the water heater, the plumber will install one. The valve lets you shut off water to the water heater for maintenance and repairs without disturbing the rest of the home’s water system.
  • Expansion Tank. When water inside the tank is heated, it expands, creating more volume. That extra volume has to go somewhere. In a “closed” plumbing system, the expanded volume that would normally backflow into the main water supply is blocked by a valve. The pressure builds up within your home’s plumbing system, and that’s where the expansion tank comes in. It contains a bladder with pressurized air on one side. It gives the extra volume of water someplace to go. When you turn on a hot water tap or the water in the tank cools, the pressure is relieved.
  • Earthquake Straps. Some building codes, particularly in the West, require that water heaters be anchored to wall studs or approved blocking with metal straps.
  • Drip Pans. Even if they are not required by code, drip pans are a good idea, especially if a leaky tank will cause damage. Most contain a drain fitting so that you can attach a hose to the pan. You can also get a battery operated leak detector that can be placed near the water heater or in the pan for under $20. This will alert you if there are problems.

The life expectancy of a typical unit is 10 to 20 years, depending on the type and model. Ensure you get the best performance possible: Carry out simple maintenance tasks, and know when to call a plumber. Read the manual carefully and perform any routine upkeep required to make the most of your unit’s lifespan.

How to Reduce Water Heating Costs

Here are tips for reducing water heating bills.

  • Replace old equipment with energy efficient models.
  • Install low-flow shower and faucet heads.
  • Reduce the water temperature in your water heater by adjusting the unit’s thermostat.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Choose water saver cycles when using the dishwasher.
  • Fix dripping hot water faucets.

How to Clean Rain Gutters

How to Clean Rain Gutters

Clean gutters to protect your siding and landscape plantings, and prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your foundation.

Clean gutters of leaves and debris to help prevent damage to your landscaping and siding, and to head off expensive water damage repairs to your foundation that may cost $10,000 or more.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

How Often Should You Clean Gutters?

Clean gutters at least once a year — twice a year if you have overhanging trees. Also, clean clogged gutters after big storms. Clogs often occur where downspouts join the gutter system — check these areas closely.

How to Clean Gutters

  • Wear a shirt with long sleeves. Wear rubber gloves.
  • Have a good extendable ladder available. Standoff stabilizers (ladder “horns”) are ideal to keep the ladder from damaging the gutter.
  • Use a small plastic scoop to remove gunk. Buy a gutter scoop from the hardware store ($25) or try a child’s sand shovel.
  • Spare your lawn by dumping the stuff onto a plastic tarp.
  • After you’ve cleared the muck, flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose — also a great way to spot any leaks.

How Much Does it Cost to Pay Someone to Clean Gutters?

If climbing ladders is not your cup of tea, you can hire someone to do the job for you for $50-$250, depending on the size and height of your house.

Should You Try Gutter Covers?

Interested in an ounce of prevention? You can slow clogging by installing gutter covers in the form of mesh screens, clip-on grates, or porous foam. However, the cost can be more than the gutters themselves, and covers need regular maintenance to keep them clear. Expect to pay $6-$8/running foot for gutter covers, installed.

4 Tips for Designing a Bathroom that Will Grow with Your Child

4 Tips for Designing a Bathroom that Will Grow with Your Child

Our friends at Home Depot share decor tips for your little one’s bathroom.

Kids love change when it comes to decor. The bathroom is one of those rooms in our homes where kids spend a lot of time doing things they’re often not particularly interested in doing. If you can create a look for the bathroom that will make your kids feel energized about their hygiene routine, it’s a win-win for both you and your kids. The real trick is realizing that your child’s taste is likely to change frequently. It’s important for you to utilize some elements in the bathroom that are easy to change up and others that can stand the test of time. Follow these tips to help you create a space that both you and your child will love.

Neutral Paint

A neutral paint palette can adapt with your child over the years. Pick tones that will coordinate with many different accent colors so that your bathroom accessories are never limited to matching with the color on your walls.

Cool neutrals in green, blue and purple hues are a great option for bathrooms because they are soothing and allow you to use warmer or brighter colors in your accent pieces. If you stick to cool neutrals, you also have a lot of flexibility if your child is interested in adding an accent wall to the bathroom. A little color theory research can help you make the right choice when it comes to paint colors and accent pieces.

Unique Art

Art pieces and bathroom accessories are a great way for your child to insert his or her own personality into the room. Whether your child prefers to feature his or her own artwork or follow a theme, you can find many affordable pieces to add to the room that can bring a unique, fun feel to the bathroom.

Wall decals are another element you can add to the bathroom that will dress up the walls and easily come off when your child is ready for a change.

Timeless Bath Fixtures

 

It can be tempting to select bath fixtures that match the current trend of your child’s bathroom, but timeless faucets and bathtub fixtures are a guaranteed way to ensure that a bathroom update doesn’t become costly time and time again.

Faucets like American Standard’s Kempton line provide a classic, vintage-inspired design with clean lines and oval shapes giving it that timelessness that will grow with your child’s changing taste in decor. Styles that are classic rather than overly trendy will help your fixtures meld with any bathroom theme.

Fun Linens

From shower curtains to bath towels, the linens in your child’s bathroom can and should be replaced fairly regularly, so why not make them an essential part of the decor too?

You can often find shower curtains that match exactly with your towels, but it’s also easy to mix and match based on the color scheme your child is most interested in at the moment. If your child isn’t set on a specific bathroom theme you can use linens and rugs to add pops of your child’s favorite color to the bathroom.

Growing children have growing tastes and opinions about how their own space should look – even their bathroom. You can keep up if you determine what elements of their rooms should be more permanent fixtures and what items can be affordably updated and changed out over time to accommodate their many interests.

What ideas for renovating spaces for kids have you tried?

How to Tell if Your DIY Project Is a Disaster

When you first envisioned your renovation project, it was the stuff of rainbow-colored daydreams. A few weekends of manual labor, a forcibly fun painting party, and your house would be totally transformed. A new you!

Indeed, it was fun for a while. The first weekend you blasted out the walls, ripped up the floors and channeled your inner Bob Vila.

That was 11 weekends ago.

Since then you’ve taped some stuff off, laid down some plywood and covered everything with plastic tarp so the settling dust wouldn’t get into your morning coffee. Is it time to accept you are in over your head? Maybe. Or maybe not. You might need a good contractor, but you also might be able to rally and get this done yourself. Here’s how to tell:

1. Are you on the highway to the danger zone?

Even small DIY home projects are risky (safety first, kids!), but have you tackled something that really could land you in an ER waiting room? Some projects are better left to the pros.

“Anything that involves permitted trades like electric, plumbing, or HVAC repair,” says Sabine H. Schoenberg, founder of PrimeSitesCT and host of ThisNewHouse. “Trade licenses mean something, and you really do not want to learn on your own house.”

Look at your project from a safety perspective. If you could do serious damage to yourself—or your house—you might be better off quitting while you’re ahead.

2. Going through ch-ch-changes?

Sometimes, life throws you a curveball. Sometimes, even a knuckleball! Maybe work has gotten busier. Maybe that one-day-a-week volunteer project has taken way more effort than you thought. Maybe your kid joined the varsity Serbo-Croatian debate team. Sometimes, you find that you just don’t have the time or energy to finish a DIY project. And when that happens, you may decide that it’s easier to let it languish than deal with it.

“It’s OK to admit it to yourself,” Schoenberg says.

If you’ve been too busy lately to devote any time to your project, ask yourself how long your preoccupation might last. If you can give yourself a solid deadline to get back to the project, stick with it. If you can’t, call for backup.

3. Missing a piece of the puzzle?

Money is often a big factor in why DIY projects go dormant. If you’ve been waiting weeks (or months) to save up for an expensive piece of your project, change your approach.

Check secondhand construction stores such as Habitat for Humanity’sReStore. You can also hunt for missing pieces in antique stores, flea markets, and on sites like Craigslist. Secondhand materials can save you a bundle.

4. More gusto than knowledge?

At some point we’ve all gotten excited about a DIY project and dived right in, only to realize later that we can’t do everything we thought we could.

If you’re stuck on a part of a project (how do you get those tiles to lie evenly,anyway?), you might be able to teach yourself. Search for how-to videos online—including realtor.com’s library of free video guides.

———

Know when to call for help—and how to get it

Of course, learn-at-home videos aren’t foolproof. If you’re still at a loss simply watching the pros, it might be better to bring them in, in person—even if it’s only for part of your project.

Finding pros who want to step into a project started by a DIY person is not easy,” Schoenberg says.

But it can be done. Just make sure you’re clear with the contractor. Explain that you need help with this part, but ultimately want to finish the job yourself.

You’ll save some cash overall, but don’t expect the pro to work for cheap.

“They know they will likely have to rip out and redo a bunch of installations,” Schoenberg says. “To price that is difficult.”

But be careful when you’re looking for a contractor.

“The only way to gauge things a bit is by multiple bids,” Schoenberg says. “The right price is usually in the middle. Toss the highest and the lowest numbers.”

Winter Window Maintenance

Winter Window Maintenance: Is Condensation Cause for Concern?

Andersen Windows shares winter window maintenance tips and how to manage humidity and condensation in your home.

Brought to you by Andersen Windows

The weather outside may be frightful, but should you be alarmed about that condensation you see forming around the outside edges of your window glass?

That’s a question we hear quite often around this time of year at Andersen. The good news is the condensation doesn’t mean that your windows have somehow failed or are about to fail. In most cases, it is simply a sign that a lot of the things you’ve done to make your home energy efficient – windows and doors that reduce air leakage, weather-stripping, upgraded insulation, vapor barriers, and airtight construction techniques – are working the way they’re supposed to.

Condensation can form on interior glass surfaces when there is too much moisture in the air. Winter air is typically drier and colder outside, whereas interior home air is warmer and more humid. Much like a glass full of ice water on a warm summer day, condensation appears where the warm air meets the cooler surface.

The video below helps explain how condensation forms inside a home.

Regardless of their efficient features, windows typically represent the coolest areas of interior walls. So, when the warmer air of the interior comes in contact with the cool glass of the windows, the air is cooled and (if there is enough moisture in the air) the water in the air will condense. In cold-weather climates, moist air that comes into contact with the cooler glass surface may cool enough to form frost.

Most industry experts recommended your indoor humidity levels in winter months should not exceed 30-35%. If you don’t have one already, you can purchase a hygrometer to measure the humidity levels in your home. Some suggestions to helpreduce your indoor humidity level include:

  • Checking your ventilation
  • Using a dehumidifier
  • Turning the humidifier on your furnace down (or off)
  • Keep window blinds or curtains open during the day
  • Leave ceiling fans on to promote air movement
  • Use an exhaust fan in bathroom areas when showering

If window condensation continues to be a concern for you, you may want to consult with a heating and air conditioning specialist.

Winter is Coming: Prepare Your Home for Winter

The coming winter means preparing now for cold winds, snow and ice attacking the exterior of your home.

Somehow, the end of 2015 is almost here.  And although the U.S., especially the northeast, has been experiencing higher than average temperatures recently, you still need to prepare for winter.  That means replacing the T-shirts hanging in your closet with clothes to take on the fall and winter months. But have you also done all you can preparing your home for the upcoming cold season?  By taking some preventative steps now, you can lower your energy bills, increase the safety of your home and make sure all of your home’s equipment is running up smoothly once Old Man Winter really comes knocking.

Keep the Cold Out and the Heat In

– Check the weatherstripping around windows and doors for escaping air.  Replace weatherstripping or caulk where necessary.

– Replace window and door screens with storm windows and doors.  Heavier curtains can also minimize a draft.

– Have a fireplace?  Check its damper for any warping and rusting that could cause a draft.

Protect the Outside of Your Home from the Elements

– Clean the gutters.  Check that all gutters are secured properly as the weight of ice and snow can pull them off of your home.

– Close all vents and other openings are covered to prevent unwanted guests getting inside.

– Check your roof to look for damaged or loose shingles which may cause leaks from melting snow.

Front and Backyard

– Protect against pipe bursts by shutting off all exterior faucets and drain the remaining water from pipes, valves and sprinkler heads.

– Prevent slipping on icy walkways at night by ensuring proper lighting in outdoor areas.

– Put away any lingering outdoor furniture.

Heating and Ventilation

– Clean/replace the air filter in your furnace or heat pump to improve efficiency and air quality.  It could be a good idea to have a technician come inspect your system as well.

– Bleed valves on hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency.

Prepare for Snow

– Get the shovels and snow blowers out of hiding and put them in an easily accessible place.

– Stock up on ice melt, salt or sand for steps, walkways and driveways.

 

The winter is a time to cozy up in the family room in front of the fireplace in comfort; and nothing can ruin those times like damage to your home.  So always be sure to prepare your home before the snow falls!

8 Overlooked Places Your Heat is Escaping

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A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget — roughly $350 — on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It’s among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort, according to Energy Star.

Start in the attic, since that’s where you’ll find some of the biggest energy drains. Then tackle the basement to prevent cold air that enters there from being sucked into upstairs rooms. Finally, seal air leaks in the rest of the house. Here are eight places to start.

1.  Insulate Around Recessed Lights

Most recessed lights have vents that open into the attic, a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. When you consider that many homes have 30 or 40 of these fixtures, it’s easy to see why researchers at the Pennsylvania Housing Research/Resource Center pinpointed them as a leading cause of household air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT, for “insulation contact and air tight,” are already sealed; look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle ($8 to $30) is a quick fix. Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

2.  Plug Open Stud Cavities

Most of your house probably has an inner skin of drywall or plaster between living space and unheated areas. But builders in the past often skipped this cover behind knee walls (partial-height walls where the roof angles down into the top floor), above dropped ceilings or soffits, and above angled ceilings over stairs.

Up in the attic, you may need to push insulation away to see if the stud cavities are open. If they are, seal them with unfaced fiberglass insulation (less than $1 a square foot) stuffed into plastic garbage bags; the bag is key to blocking airflow. Close large gaps with scraps of drywall or pieces of reflective foil insulation (less than $2 a square foot). Once you’ve covered the openings, smooth the insulation back into place. To see these repairs in action, consult Energy Star’s DIY guide to air sealing.

3.  Close Gaps Around Flues and Chimneys

Building codes require that wood framing be kept at least 1 inch from metal flues and 2 inches from brick chimneys. But that creates gaps where air can flow through. Cover the gaps with aluminum flashing ($12) cut to fit and sealed into place with high-temperature silicone caulk ($14). To keep insulation away from the hot flue pipe, form a barrier by wrapping a cylinder of flashing around the flue, leaving a 1-inch space in between. To maintain the spacing, cut and bend a series of inch-deep tabs in the cylinder’s top and bottom edges.

4.  Weatherstrip the Attic Access Door

A 1/4-inch gap around pull-down attic stairs or an attic hatch lets through the same amount of air as a bedroom’s heating duct. Seal it by caulking between the stair frame and the rough opening, or by installing foam weatherstripping around the perimeter of the hatch opening. Or you can buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit for stairs ($150) or doors ($350 and up).

5.  Squirt Foam in Medium-Size Gaps

Once the biggest attic gaps are plugged, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5) is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses.

6.  Caulk Skinny Gaps

Caulk makes the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide, such as those cut around electrical boxes. Silicone costs the most ($8 a tube) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk ($2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

7.  Plug Gaps in the Basement

Gaps low on a foundation wall matter if you’re trying to fix a wet basement, but only those above the outside soil level let air in. Seal those with the same materials you’d use in an attic: caulk for gaps up to 1/4-inch wide and spray foam for wider ones. Use high-temperature caulk around vent pipes that get hot, such as those for the furnace or water heater. Shoot foam around wider holes for wires, pipes, and ducts that pass through basement walls to the outside.

In most older houses with basements, air seeps in where the house framing sits on the foundation. Spread a bead of caulk between the foundation and the sill plate (the wood immediately above the foundation), and along the top and bottom edges of the rim joist (the piece that sits atop the sill plate).

8.  Tighten Up Around Windows and Doors

In the main living areas of your home, the most significant drafts tend to occur around windows and doors. If you have old windows, caulking and adding new weatherstripping goes a long way toward tightening them up. Bronze weatherstripping ($15 to $35 for 17 feet) lasts for decades but is time-consuming to install, while some self-stick plastic types are easy to put on but don’t last very long. Adhesive-backed EPDM rubber ($8 for 10 feet) is a good compromise, rated to last at least 10 years. Nifty gadgets called pulley seals ($9 a pair) block air from streaming though the holes where cords disappear into the frames.

Weatherstripping also works wonders on doors. If a draft comes in at the bottom, install a new door sweep ($9).

Before Working in the Attic, Take Some Precautions

Try to do attic work on a cool day. Wear protective gear: disposable clothes, gloves, and a double-elastic mask or half-face respirator. Bring along a droplight, plus at least two pieces of plywood big enough to span two or three joists to support you as you work. To save trips up and down a ladder, try to move up all of the materials you need before you get started.

One warning: If you find vermiculite insulation, hold off until you’ve had it checked for asbestos; your health department or air-quality agency can recommend a lab.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/insulation/home-air-leak-seal-tips/#ixzz3npzWQ5R6
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How to REALLY Clean Your Home

How To Really Clean Your Home Before Your Open House

Cleaning tips to help you sell your home from The Maids.

If you have decided now is the time to sell your house, the first step is to prepare it for the market. Keep in mind, nothing adds to a buyer’s first impression like a clean home.

To help bring your home to pristine condition–one worthy of your selling price–cleaning experts at The Maids offer these tips to create a great incentive for buyers.

Set aside a weekend to get your home in top “for sale” condition. Put your emotions aside and be critical, thinking like a buyer. Have a keen eye on the true condition of your home and how best to eliminate clutter and unnecessary furniture. Consider getting a storage unit for unneeded belongings.

– Clean the entryway carefully; it’s the first area potential buyers see. Sweep sidewalks and steps leading into the house, and look for cobwebs in corners of the porch or overhangs. The condition of the outside is just as important as the inside.

– Give your home an inviting scent. Use aroma sprays, plug-in air fresheners or potpourri to create a fresh-smelling environment. Prior to open houses, consider baking cookies or bread. Going the pre-made route with refrigerated cookies or frozen bread loaves makes it much easier to get an inviting atmosphere fast.

– Dust artificial plants, flowers, and wicker furniture with a hair dryer and soft cloth. Likely these have gone unnoticed during weekly cleans.

– Polish light fixtures and ceiling fans in every room. Even the smallest of details matter. When washing light casings and globes, make sure to place a hand towel or dishcloth in the bottom of the sink to lessen the risk of breaking the glass.

– Look low and high to identify spots that might normally be overlooked in regular housecleaning, such as wiping baseboards and windowsills or dusting tops of wall hangings, shelves, or door ledges.

– Clear away all clutter–magazines, personal photos, and children’s toys, as well as pet food and water. They make a home feel lived-in, and potential buyers want the appearance of a new home.

– Consider removing any kitchen appliance that can be neatly stored versus left on countertops. Again, the less clutter, the more inviting and spacious the room will feel. If it is an appliance used daily, like a coffeepot or toaster, be sure to wipe it clean after each use.

– Straighten the inside of every cupboard, closet and drawer. Buyers look inside these areas to consider how their belongings might fit. This isn’t a time to “hide” clutter behind doors; it’s a time to overhaul every nook and cranny of your home.

– Add some extra shine to your kitchen and bathroom fixtures. Use baby oil on stainless steel sinks and faucets to make them sparkle. Arrange towels neatly in the bathroom and kitchen to convey a look of order.

– Take extra care in cleaning your bathrooms. Spend the time to remove hairspray and product buildup from walls and fixtures. Scour shower doors to remove soap scum.

– Make sure all light bulbs in fixtures and lamps are in working order. A burnt out light bulb may make the home appear dim and poorly maintained.

– For open houses, tie back curtains, pull up mini-blinds, and turn on lights. Make sure windows are freshly washed. The more well-lit your home is, the more open it seems to potential buyers.

If cleaning your home is too overwhelming during the selling process, call in professionals. Just like you hire a trusted real estate agent to ensure your home is marketed to the right potential buyers, you can do the same to get and keep your home in top cleanliness condition by paying for regular maid service.

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

Selling? Low-Cost Home Improvement Fixes that Make Your Home Shine

When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:

1. Address the Heart of the Home

In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:

  • New cabinet hardware
  • New faucets
  • Installing a new backsplash
  • Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
  • Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether

kitchen

2. Update Switch Plate Covers

Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.

3. Beautify the Bathroom

An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.

New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.

updated bathroom

Image Source: Flickr/Kyle Murphy

4. Address Storage

Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.

closet organizer

Image Source: Flickr/Rubbermaid Products

5. Deep Clean for a Good Return

If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.

6. Boost Curb Appeal

Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.

curb appeal

Image Source: Flickr/one2c900d

7. Improve the First Impression

As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.

8. Add a Coat of Paint

Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.

9. Update Lighting

While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.

updated lighting

Image Source: Flickr/Aleksey Gnilenkov

10. Add some Decor Pizzazz

Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.

living room decor

Image Source: Flickr/Emily May

Old vs New – Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

stevefaye.cbintouch.com
stevefaye.cbintouch.com

Pros and Cons of New Construction Homes and Older Homes

When searching for your home, keep in mind that you are in control of the transaction. You choose your real estate agent, home inspector, mortgage provider and of course, your home. All of these decisions can sometimes be overwhelming, and for some people, turn what should be an enjoyable experience into something they dread. However, with the guidance from a knowledgeable Coldwell Banker® agent, the purchase of your next home will be something you celebrate and enjoy for many years. Your lifestyle and how much you enjoy the ongoing maintenance and upkeep associated with homeownership are key considerations to finding the best home for you. Most people prefer new construction over existing homes. But older homes have some advantages that should not be overlooked, and may make an existing home the right choice for you. Let’s compare the pros and cons of each:

Buying a New Construction Home – The Pros

new-home-under-construction

The vast majority of new homes are built in subdivisions with a unified style and restrictions in place to maintain the property values. The developers chose the location of the subdivision for one very important reason: it is where home buyers want to live. Developers factor in what people in the area can afford, amenities that most people want, and home features that are desirable to their targeted market. Simply put, they make the process as easy and enticing as possible for you. There are other advantages to opting for a newly constructed house:

  • During construction you can add the extras you have always dreamed of having in your home. A garden tub is an expensive modification in existing homes; not possible in some older homes.
  • New homes feature the latest styles like an open floor plan and large family rooms for entertaining guests.
  • Most new homes have low-maintenance exteriors such as vinyl-wrapped windows, trim, and railings. That means less time spent on routine maintenance. You are free to spend your off hours golfing, traveling, or just enjoying your home with a backyard cookout.
  • Architects design new homes to maximize space. Engineers develop construction materials for optimal energy efficiency. Highly efficient HVAC systems, windows, and Energy Star appliances equate to lower utility bills.
  • New homes come with a one-year warranty; some builders include warranties for up to 10-years.

Buying a New Construction Home – The Cons

There are often incentives and free upgrades if you use the builder’s recommended lender. But that may not be the best deal for you. A builder can require that you get qualified by their preferred lender, but they cannot mandate that you to use that company for your mortgage. They also cannot charge buyers who choose their own lender a higher price. But they can reduce the listed price as incentive for using their lender. While allowing the developer/builder to streamline the process is convenient, new constructions come with some drawbacks:

  • There is very little room for negotiation. Builders may work with you on some upgrades, but most stay firm on price. Some home buyers in large multiphase developments, who have attempted to sell their home after a few years, sometimes find themselves competing against the builder for potential buyers. They also may end up selling for less than they originally paid for their home.
  • New constructions often lack mature landscaping and may have smaller lots than existing homes. The developer generally maximizes available land. The result is limited outdoor space and extremely close neighbors.
  • It could take many months or years for the development to build out and new construction to cease. That means heavy equipment stirring up dust, mounds of debris or large bins, and the noise of saws and nail guns year-round.
  • You will be limited on possible modifications to your home and what you can have in your yard by tight subdivision restrictions.

Buy an Older Home – The Pros

older home

Large trees remind many potential buyers of their childhood home. The value of a spacious yard for pets and children to play in is difficult to quantify. There are no rigid homeowners associations or the costly dues that come along with them in most older neighborhoods. Typically, existing homes cost about 20 percent less per square foot than new construction in the same area. Some other advantages:

  • You have more styles to choose from. In your price range and selected area, you will find brick homes, single story homes, and many different floor plans.
  • Individual sellers are often more negotiable on price. They may be motivated by other life factors to sell fast.
  • Neighborhoods are more established. The final determining factor for many home buyers is which place feels most like home. There is a sense of community in older neighborhoods that is missing in some new developments.
  • They tend to have more character. Part of the joy of owning them is you can upgrade them and fix them up to your own preferences.

Buy an Older Home – The Cons

If you are handy and want a home you can make your own, make sure you the home is a fixer-upper home worth investing in. If you are not particularly handy at home improvement projects or knowledgeable about the cost of home repairs, older homes can become large money pits. The seller’s disclosure may offer some protection. Any known issues must be revealed, and if there were major problems like foundation issues or leaky basements, it should surface in this documentation. Additionally, a home warranty can protect buyers from expensive appliance repairs. There are still some other cons to owning an older home that you should keep in mind:

  • Typically much less energy-efficient than new homes. If they do have things like thermal windows, they are less efficient than modern windows. Retrofitting new windows to older homes is quite a challenge.
  • May have small rooms that you are stuck with. Load bearing walls will prevent you from making significant changes to the existing floor plan. Some mirrors and bright colors may make the rooms look bigger, but they will always be the same size.
  • Generally require ongoing maintenance that will quickly turn into costly repairs if not done. Additionally, older homes have less useful life remaining for things like the furnace, roof, and appliances.

With a knowledgeable real estate professional on your side, you can make an informed decision about your purchase of any new or existing home. You should have any house you plan to buy inspected by a certified home inspector. Make your decision based on a logical assessment of your needs. Ideally, you should have a second and third choice in case you need to walk away from negotiations on your ideal home. People who make objective decisions about their home purchase based on lifestyle preference and aptitude for home improvements are more likely to feel good about it in the years ahead.

Begin your search right here!    And if you need any help along the way, please feel free to get in touch.