How do you estimate utility costs in a new home? Whether you’re moving into your first home or upgrading to a better one, there’s a lot of change to be prepared for. You’ll have a new neighborhood to negotiate, a new household routine, and new spaces to fill with family and furnishings. One change you may be unpleasantly surprised by, however, is a shift in your monthly utility costs. A budget-busting difference puts strain on both your resources and enjoyment of the home you’ve spent so much time to find.
So before you buy, take the following steps to estimate utility costs for your new home and plan ways to shrink them by improving energy efficiency. That way, you’ll be able to live a truly happy future in that new-to-you house.Ask for the utility bills
If you’re getting serious about purchasing a particular home, ask for a record of utility costs spanning the past 12 months. Your realtor can arrange this through the seller’s realtor, or, in the case of a house for sale by owner, ask the seller directly for the tally. Use this information as a guide, remembering that year-to-year changes in climate conditions and energy use patterns by a new combination of residents will lead to variations. You might also like to supplement the seller’s utility information by doing your own estimate using online tools like Consumers Power Inc.’s Utility Usage Calculator.Get a HERS evaluation
“If you’re about to buy a home and you want to know how much your utility bills will be and how quickly energy efficiency improvements can pay for themselves, a HERS rating performed by a home energy auditor is a great place to start,” says John Milligan, owner and president of Goals2Green, an Indiana-based energy auditing firm. “You can also use it as a tool to compare with other homes you’re considering.”
This thorough pre-purchase evaluation by a certified home energy auditor uses the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index, a scoring system established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). The critical point on this scale is an Index of 100 earned by a new home matching specifications of the HERS Reference Home built to guidelines of 2006’s International Energy Conservation Code. Meanwhile, a net-zero energy home earns a HERS index of zero, so the lower a rated home’s HERS index is, the more energy efficient its regarded to be.
Hiring a qualified auditor to perform a HERS rating on the home you hope to buy can help clarify trouble spots and opportunities for improved efficiencies. Some sellers may also have their homes rated before putting them on the market, advertising a positive HERS rating as a feature of the property. To find a qualified HERS rater in your area, visit www.resnet.us. RESNET also offers information on tax incentives and Energy Efficiency Mortgages that can help buyers pay for the costs of home improvements.
Look for clues to energy waste
Knowledge of the pros and cons of home features, systems and design can help you spot energy inefficiencies well before you schedule an energy audit or ask for past utility costs. Watch out for cathedral ceilings that can draw conditioned air away from comfort zones, older water-chugging plumbing fixtures, high-maintenance spas and landscaping that requires a lot of water and care. Also be alert to drafty, single-pane windows, and sun exposures that could make it hard to control resulting indoor temperatures without heavy-duty use of cooling equipment.Plan for after you buy
If you’ve fallen hopelessly in love with a home that requires a bit of an efficiency tune-up, budget for immediate improvements that will trim your new utility bills. Switch in Water Sense certified fixtures, and take the opportunity to set up zoned hot water service with tankless water heaters. Install ceiling fans to help direct and circulate heated or cooled air, and select light fixtures that make the most of LED and CFL technologies. Bulk up insulation, and choose efficient replacement windows for a better outlook when you open those utility statements. Also spend time outside your home, revising landscaping plans and installing smart drip irrigation systems. And finally, stay tuned in to local power rates and track you power usage, allowing flexibility for small home and lifestyle adjustments that can help you save money on your electric bill.
Before you buy a house, take the time to estimate the home’s utility bills. You’ll avoid surprises and identify inefficiencies ahead of time.
Instead of buying organic produce at your local supermarket, why not grow your own? Organic gardening is easier than you may think. You don’t even need much space for your new organic garden – a raised bed or even a container garden can provide a surprising amount of delicious, healthy produce. Of course, you can also grow a traditional long row garden organically.Photo Creditdbreen / Pixabay What Makes an Organic Garden?
It’s a garden “growing in harmony with nature” rather than in conflict with the world around it. Applying chemical agents like herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers create chaos in your tiny section of the ecosystem.
By improving your soil naturally, and relying on non-chemical means of removing weeds and preventing pests in your garden, you’re doing your part in keeping the ecosystem healthy and well balanced. According to Horticulture Agent Charlotte Glen, the goal of an organic gardener is “cultivating an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes, and beneficial insects rather than simply making plants grow.”Choose Your Garden Spot
Whether it’s a few pots on your balcony or a more traditional garden space, your organic garden needs plenty of sunshine (at least 6 hours a day), access to water, and good drainage. Good soil helps, too.
You’ll enjoy it more (and notice any potential problems sooner) if it’s close by rather than somewhere ‘outback’. This is especially important for an organic garden, where you’re not depending on chemicals to repel invaders.Photo CreditCounselling / Pixabay Decide on a Garden Type
A traditional garden consists of long rows of vegetables. It requires a lot of hard work and compost to get this kind of garden in shape for growing things organically. This type of garden also requires the most work throughout the growing season – thinning, weeding, and watering. It’s also probably best suited to large families or those dedicated to ‘putting food by’ through canning, freezing, or dehydrating.
A raised garden bed provides perfect growing conditions for your organic vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Like a container garden, it allows you to control the quality of the soil. It also lets you grow quite a variety of produce for such a small space. If you’re sure you need more space, just add another raised bed.Create The Perfect Soil
Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which are better able to fend off pests and diseases. Many native soils are low in organic matter (humus or compost) and lack the perfect drainage most garden plants crave. So, what can you do to help? Add compost! Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost not only improves drainage and water retention, but it provides plenty of the macro and micro-nutrients healthy plants need to thrive, as well as beneficial nematodes and microbes. It’s also easy to make using kitchen scraps and yard waste.
If you need to purchase compost while your homemade pile is ‘cooking’, choose as wide a variety as you can find. The more different composted materials you add to your garden, the wider the variety of nutrients they’ll provide. A turkey’s diet is much different from a cow’s or earthworm’s and so is the output. Then there are things like composted corn cobs, cocoa shells, cottonseed meal… Kelp and seaweed are great because they provide additional nutrients not found in land-based sources.Photo Creditmayurankushe / Pixabay Plant a ‘Patchwork’ Garden
Planting a patchwork of different plants close together has several benefits in an organic garden. It’ll crowd out weeds and confuse pests. It’s hard for a bean beetle to find a few bean plants when they’re surrounded by carrots, onions, parsley, and even marigolds. What’s a poor pest to do? He’ll go bother someone else’s garden!
This patchwork technique works especially well in raised beds. It lets you harvest a smaller amount of a larger variety of crops and it looks pretty, too! Planting in raised beds also lets you save water. All the water goes directly to your plants instead of to muddy pathways or (shudder!) weeds.
A thick layer of grass clippings or wood shavings around your plants also saves water and keeps your garden looking neat. This organic mulch will also deter those pesky weeds and keep the soil cooler and moister in the heat of summer.Don’t Go Overboard
It’s easy to overplant your new organic garden, especially if it’s your very first garden. If you plant that entire packet of carrot seeds, you could end up with a truckload of carrots! Even Bugs Bunny might be a little intimidated by that harvest! Instead, plant what you think your family will enjoy fresh this year and save the rest of the seeds for next year. Properly stored seeds will last through several growing seasons.
And remember, you don’t have to plant every kind of vegetable or herb the first year. Let everyone in the family pick one or two favorites (as long as they’ll grow in your area) and enjoy your first organic harvest. You can always try a few more varieties next year.Photo CreditThorstenF / Pixabay Avoid Over-Watering Your Organic Garden
Now that you have your garden in full-bloom, the last thing you want to do is over-water it. You want to make sure that your garden is getting enough sun throughout the day, but there are certain times where your garden should be getting water – typically early in the morning or in the evening. Adding a drip irrigation system is a great way to ensure that your organic garden is getting exactly what it needs. If you use a hose sprinkler, pick up a timer that will hook up between your hose and your water spout. With some smart irrigation systems are controlled by your phone and will automatically disperse water at your request.Use Only Organic Pesticides
One of the greatest advantages of growing your own vegetables organically is that they won’t have any of the nasty pesticide residues that plague the ‘dirty dozen’. Not only is this better for your health, but it’s also better for beneficial insects, essential pollinators, and the environment in general. Plus your vegetables and herbs will just naturally taste better without the tinge of chemicals!
For more interesting garden tips, read this article and then get outside and start your very own organic garden! You’ll reap a harvest of fresh air, healthy exercise, and delicious vegetables.
From Source Article: moneypit.com
If you’ve got a teen heading for college this fall, dorm room décor is just one of the many categories on your planning, shopping and packing lists. Returning students know how blank, bland and cramped a standard dorm room can be, but even freshmen can be prepared to create a personality-filled home away from home with the following strategies.
Bring in color: Since you can’t paint the walls or otherwise alter dorm room finishes, add swaths of color in other creative ways. Brightly colored, patterned bedding is a start, and a great area rug adds comfort underfoot while hiding humdrum flooring. You can also adorn built-in bulletin boards with colorful fabric or art paper, or create your own gallery-style backdrops by covering cork board or thick foam core cut to fit custom-painted frames.
Add smart storage: Go beyond the standard-issue bookshelf and bring along a tall, skinny shelving unit that makes use of wall height without hogging floor space; it’ll give you plenty of extra storage along with a display area for collections and favorite things. Also look for over-door shelves and racks, underbed boxes, and closet organizers to make the most of limited space. A collapsible laundry bin is also a handy closet addition.
Get a few friendly furnishings: Make room for visitors and extra gear with double-duty dorm accessories like small storage benches and ottomans. Oversize floor pillows are colorful, cushy seating options, and easily stow away in a corner or under a bed. You can also add ambience and utility with a slim, trim floor lamp that casts a glow to supplement standard dorm room light fixtures.
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From Source Article: moneypit.com