Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
Tips On Energy Efficient Windows
Windows bring light, warmth, and beauty into buildings and give a feeling of openness and space to living areas. They can also be major sources of heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. However, when properly selected and installed, windows can help minimize a home's heating, cooling, and lighting costs. This information describes one option-- energy-efficient windows--available for reducing a home's heating and cooling energy requirements.
Controlling Air Leaks
When air leaks around windows, energy is wasted. Energy is also transferred through the centers, edges, and frames of windows.
Eliminating or reducing these paths of heat flow can greatly improve the energy efficiency of windows and, ultimately, of homes. Several options are available to reduce air leaks around windows; the least expensive options are caulking and weather stripping, followed by replacing window frames.
Caulking and Weather Stripping
Caulks are airtight compounds (usually latex or silicone) that fill cracks and holes. Before applying new caulk, old caulk or paint residue remaining around a window should be removed using a putty knife, stiff brush, or special solvent. After old caulk is removed, new caulk can then be applied to all joints in the window frame and the joint between the frame and the wall. The best time to apply caulk is during dry weather when the outdoor temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius). Low humidity is important during application to prevent cracks from swelling with moisture. Warm temperatures are also necessary so the caulk will set properly and adhere to the surface.
Weather stripping is a narrow piece of metal, vinyl, rubber, felt, or foam that seals the contact area between the fixed and movable sections of a window joint. It should be applied between the sash and the frame, but should not interfere with the operation of the window.
Replacing Window Frames
The type and quality of the window frame usually affect a window's air infiltration and heat loss characteristics. Many window frames are available--all with varying degrees of energy efficiency. Some of the more common window frames are fixed-pane, casement, double and single-hung, horizontal sliding, hopper, and awning.
When properly installed, fixed-pane windows are airtight and inexpensive and can be custom designed for a wide variety of applications. However, because they cannot be opened, fixed-pane windows are unsuitable in places where ventilation is required.
Casement, awning, and hopper windows with compression seals are moderately airtight and provide good ventilation when opened. Casement windows open sideways with hand cranks. Awning windows are similar to casement windows except that their hinges are located at the tops of the windows instead of at the sides. Hopper windows are inverted versions of awning windows with their hinges located at the bottom. Windows with compression seals allow about half as much air leakage as double-hung and horizontal sliding windows with sliding seals.
Double-hung windows have top and bottom sashes (the sliding sections of the window) and can be opened by pulling up the lower sashes or pulling down the upper sash. Although they are among the most popular type of window, double-hung windows can be inefficient because they are often leaky. Single-hung windows are somewhat better because only one sash moves. Horizontal sliding windows are like double-hung windows except that the sashes are located on the left and right edges rather than on the tops and bottoms. Horizontal sliding windows open on the side and are especially suitable for spaces that require a long, narrow view. These windows, however, usually provide minimal ventilation and, like double-hung windows, can be quite leaky.
Reducing Heat Loss and Condensation
Manufacturers usually represent the energy efficiency of windows in terms of their u-values (conductance of heat) or their r-values (resistance to heat flow). If a window's r- value is high, it will lose less heat than one with a lower r-value. Conversely, if a window's u-value is low, it will lose less heat than one with a higher u-value. In other words, u-values are the reciprocals of r-values (u-values = 1/r-value). Most window manufacturers use r-values in rating their windows.
The following five factors affect the R-Value of a window:
Types of Glazing Materials
Traditionally, clear glass has been the primary material available for window panes in homes. However, in recent years, the market for glazing--or cutting and fitting window panes into frames--has changed significantly. Now several types of special glazing are available that can help control heat loss and condensation.
Low emissivity (low-e) glass has a special surface coating to reduce heat transfer back through the window. These coatings reflect from 40% to 70% of the heat that is normally transmitted through clear glass, while allowing the full amount of light to pass through.
Heat absorbing glass contains special tints that allow it to absorb as much as 45% of the incoming solar energy, reducing heat gain. Some of the absorbed heat, however, passes through the window by conduction and re-radiation.
Reflective glass has been coated with a reflective film and is useful in controlling solar heat gain during the summer. It also reduces the passage of light all year long, and, like heat absorbing glass, it reduces solar transmittance. Plastic glazing materials--acrylic, polycarbonate, polyester, polyvinyl fluoride, and polyethylene--are also widely available. Plastics can be stronger, lighter, cheaper and easier to cut than glass. Some plastics also have higher solar transmittance than glass. However, plastics tend to be less durable and more susceptible to the effects of weather than glass.
Storm windows can increase the efficiency of single-pane windows, the least energy-efficient type of glazing. The simplest type of storm window is a plastic film taped to the inside of the window frame. These films are usually available in prepackaged kits. Although plastic films are easily installed and removed, they are easily damaged and may reduce visibility. Rigid or semi-rigid plastic sheets such as plexiglass, acrylic, polycarbonate, or fiber-reinforced polyester can be fastened directly to the window frame or mounted in channels around the frame--usually on the outside of the building. These more durable materials are also available in kits.
Layers Of Glass and Air Spaces
Standard single-pane glass has very little insulating value (approximately r-1). It provides only a thin barrier to the outside and can account for considerable heat loss and gain. Traditionally, the approach to improve a window's energy efficiency has been to increase the number of glass panes in the unit, because multiple layers of glass increase the window's ability to resist heat flow.
Double-pane windows are usually more efficient than single- pane or storm windows. Double or triple-pane windows have insulating air or gas filled spaces between each pane. Each layer of glass and the air spaces resist heat flow. The width of the air spaces between the panes is important, because air spaces that are too wide (more than 5/8 inch or 1.6 centimeters) have lower r-values (i.e., they allow too much heat transfer). Advanced, multipane windows are now manufactured with inert gases (argon or krypton) in the spaces between the panes because these gases transfer less heat than does air. Multipane windows are considerably more expensive than single-pane windows and limit framing options because of their increased weight.
Frame and Spacer Materials
Window frames are available in a variety of materials including aluminum, wood, vinyl, and fiberglass. Frames may be primarily composed of one material, or they may be a combination of different materials such as wood and vinyl. Each frame material has its advantages and disadvantages. Though ideal for customized window design, aluminum frames cause conductive heat loss (i.e., they have low r-values) and condensation. However, thermal breaks made of insulating plastic strips placed between the inside and outside of the frame and sash greatly improve the thermal resistance of aluminum frames.
Wood frames have higher r-values, are unaffected by temperature extremes, and are less prone to condensation, but they require considerable maintenance in the form of periodic painting. If wood frames are not properly protected from moisture, they can warp, crack, and stick.
Vinyl window frames, which are made primarily from polyvinyl chloride (pvc), offer many advantages. They are available in a wide range of styles and shapes, have moderate to high r-values, are easily customized, are competitively priced, require low maintenance, and mold easily into almost any shape. But vinyl frames are not strong or rigid, which limits the weight of glass that can be used. In addition, vinyl frames can soften, warp, twist, and bow.
Fiberglass frames are relatively new and are not yet widely available. They have the highest r-values of all frames; thus, they are excellent for insulating and will not warp, shrink, swell, rot, or corrode. Fiberglass frames can be made in a variety of colors and can hold large expanses of glass. Some fiberglass frames are hollow; others are filled with fiberglass insulation.
Spacers are used to separate multiple panes of glass within the windows. Although metal (usually aluminum) spacers are commonly installed to separate glass in multipane windows, they conduct heat. During cold weather, the thermal resistance around the edge of a window is lower than that in the center; thus, heat can escape, and condensation can occur along the edges.
Many types of windows and window films are available that serve different purposes. To alleviate these problems, one manufacturer has developed a mulitipane window using a 1/8-inch-wide (0.32 centimeters- wide) PVC foam separator place along the edges of the frame. Like other multipane windows, these use metal spacers for support, but because the foam separator is secured on top of the spacer between the panes, heat loss and condensation are reduced. Several window manufacturers now sandwich foam separators, nylon spacers, and insulation materials such as polystyrene and rock wool between the glass inside their windows.
Additional Options For Reducing Heat Loss
Movable insulation, such as insulating shades, shutters, and drapes, can be applied on the inside of windows to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Shading devices, such as awnings, exterior shutters, or screens, can be used to reduce unwanted heat gain in the summer. In most cases, these window treatments are more cost effective than energy efficient window replacements and should be considered first.
Reducing heat loss or gain in homes often includes either improving existing windows or replacing them. Low cost options available for improvement are caulking, weather stripping, retrofit window films, and window treatments. Replacing windows will involve the purchase of new materials, which should adhere to certain energy efficiency standards. Different combinations of frame style, frame material, and glazing can yield very different results when weighing energy efficiency and cost. For example, a fixed-pane window is the most airtight and the least expensive; a window with a wood frame is likely to have less conductive heat loss than one with an aluminum frame; double-pane, low-e window units are just as efficient as triple-pane untreated window's, but cost and weigh less.
No one window is suitable for every application. Many types of windows and window films are available that serve different purposes. Moreover, you may discover that you need two types of windows for your home because of the directions that your windows face and your local climate. To make wise purchases, first examine your heating and cooling needs and prioritize desired features such as day lighting, solar heating, shading, ventilation, and aesthetic value.
27 Tips You Should Know To Get Your Home Sold Fast and For Top Dollar
".....you have to sell your present home at exactly the right time in order to avoid either the financial burden of owning two homes or, just as bad, the dilemma of having no place to live during the gap between closings."
Because your home may well be your largest asset, selling it is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. To better understand the homeselling process, a guide has been prepared from current industry insider reports. Through these 27 tips you will discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment, reduce stress, be in control of your situation, and make the most profit possible.
1. Understand Why You Are Selling Your Home
Your motivation to sell is the determining factor as to how you will approach the process. It affects everything from what you set your asking price at to how much time, money and effort you're willing to invest in order to prepare your home for sale. For example, if your goal is for a quick sale, this would determine one approach. If you want to maximize your profit, the sales process might take longer thus determining a different approach.
2. Keep the Reason(s) You are Selling to Yourself
The reason(s) you are selling your home will affect the way you negotiate its sale. By keeping this to yourself you don't provide ammunition to your prospective buyers. For example, should they learn that you must move quickly, you could be placed at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Remember, the reason( s) you are selling is only for you to know .
3. Before Setting a Price - Do Your Homework
When you set your price, you make buyers aware of the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. As a seller, you will want to get a selling price as close to the list price as possible. If you start out by pricing too high you run the risk of not being taken seriously by buyers and their agents and pricing too low can result in selling for much less than you were hoping for.
Setting Your Home's Sale Price
If You Live in a Subdivision - If your home is comprised of similar or identical floor plans, built in the same period, simply look at recent sales in your neighborhood subdivision to give you a good idea of what your home is worth.
If You Live in An Older Neighborhood - As neighborhoods change over time each home may be different in minor or substantial ways. Because of this you will probably find that there aren't many homes truly comparable to your own. In this case you may want to consider seeking a Realtor ® to help you with the pricing process.
If You Decide to Sell On Your Own - A good way to establish a value is to look at homes that have sold in your neighborhood within the past 6 months, including those now on the market. This is how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. Also a trip to City Hall can provide you with home sale information in its public records, for most communities.
4. Do Some "Home Shopping" Yourself
The best way to learn about your competition and discover what turns buyers off is to check out other open houses. Note floor plans, condition, appearance, size of lot, location and other features. Particularly note, not only the asking prices but what they are actually selling for. Remember, if you're serious about getting your home sold fast, don't price it higher than your neighbor's.
5. When Getting an Appraisal is a Benefit
Sometimes a good appraisal can be a benefit in marketing your home. Getting an appraisal is a good way to let prospective buyers know that your home can be financed. However, an appraisal does cost money, has a limited life, and there's no guarantee you'll like the figure you hear.
6. Tax Assessments - What They Really Mean
Some people think that tax assessments are a way of evaluating a home. The difficulty here is that assessments are based on a number of criteria that may not be related to property values, so they may not necessarily reflect your home's true value.
7. Deciding Upon a Realtor ®
According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed who sell their own homes say they wouldn't do it again themselves. Primary reasons included setting a price, marketing handicaps, liability concerns, and time constraints. When deciding upon a Realtor ® , consider two or three. Be as wary of quotes that are too low as those that are too high.
All Realtors ® are not the same! A professional Realtor ® knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate each candidate carefully on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm and personality. Be sure you choose someone that you trust and feel confident that they will do a good job on your behalf.
If you choose to sell on your own, you can still talk to a Realtor ® . Many are more than willing to help do-it-your-selfers with paperwork, contracts, etc. and should problems arise, you now have someone you can readily call upon.
8. Ensure You Have Room to Negotiate
Before settling on your asking price make sure you leave yourself enough room in which to bargain. For example, set your lowest and highest selling price. Then check your priorities to know if you'll price high to maximize your profit or price closer to market value if you want sell quickly.
9. Appearances Do Matter - Make them Count!
Appearance is so critical that it would be unwise to ignore this when selling your home. The look and "feel" of your home will generate a greater emotional response than any other factor. Prospective buyers react to what they see, hear, feel, and smell even though you may have priced your home to sell.
10. Invite the Honest Opinions of Others
The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgment. Don't be shy about seeking the honest opinions of others. You need to be objective about your home's good points as well as bad. Fortunately, your Realtor ® will be unabashed about discussing what should be done to make your home more marketable.
11. Get it Spic n' Span Clean and Fix Everything, Even If It Seems Insignificant
Scrub, scour, tidy up, straighten, get rid of the clutter, declare war on dust, repair squeaks, the light switch that doesn't work, and the tiny crack in the bathroom mirror because these can be deal-killers and you'll never know what turns buyers off. Remember, you're not just competing with other resale homes, but brand-new ones as well.
12. Allow Prospective Buyers to Visualize Themselves in Your Home
The last thing you want prospective buyers to feel when viewing your home is that they may be intruding into someone's life. Avoid clutter such as too many knick-knacks, etc. Decorate in neutral colors, like white or beige and place a few carefully chosen items to add warmth and character. You can enhance the attractiveness of your home with a well-placed vase of flowers or potpourri in the bathroom. Home-decor magazines are great for tips.
13. Deal Killer Odors - Must Go!
You may not realize but odd smells like traces of food, pets and smoking odors can kill deals quickly. If prospective buyers know you have a dog, or that you smoke, they'll start being aware of odors and seeing stains that may not even exist. Don't leave any clues.
14. Be a Smart Seller - Disclose Everything
Smart sellers are proactive in disclosing all known defects to their buyers in writing. This can reduce liability and prevent law suits later on.
15. It's Better With More Prospects
When you maximize your home's marketability, you will most likely attract more than one prospective buyer. It is much better to have several buyers because they will compete with each other; a single buyer will end up competing with you.
16. Keep Emotions in Check During Negotiations
Let go of the emotion you've invested in your home. Be detached, using a business-like manner in your negotiations. You'll definitely have an advantage over those who get caught up emotionally in the situation.
17. Learn Why Your Buyer is Motivated
The better you know your buyers the better you can use the negotiation process to your advantage. This allows you to control the pace and duration of the process.
As a rule, buyers are looking to purchase the best affordable property for the least amount of money. Knowing what motivates them enables you to negotiate more effectively. For example, does your buyer need to move quickly. Armed with this information you are in a better position to bargain.
18. What the Buyer Can Really Pay
As soon as possible, try to learn the amount of mortgage the buyer is qualified to carry and how much his/her down payment is. If their offer is low, ask their Realtor ® about the buyer's ability to pay what your home is worth.
19. When the Buyer Would Like to Close
Quite often, when buyers would "like" to close is when they need to close. Knowledge of their deadlines for completing negotiations again creates a negotiating advantage for you.
20. Never Sign a Deal on Your Next Home Until You Sell Your Current Home
Beware of closing on your new home while you're still making mortgage payments on the old one or you might end up becoming a seller who is eager (even desperate) for the first deal that comes along.
21. Moving Out Before You Sell Can Put You at a Disadvantage
It has been proven that it's more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it becomes forlorn looking, forgotten, no longer an appealing sight. Buyers start getting the message that you have another home and are probably motivated to sell. This could cost you thousands of dollars.
22. Deadlines Create A Serious Disadvantage
Don't try to sell by a certain date. This adds unnecessary pressure and is a serious disadvantage in negotiations.
23. A Low Offer - Don't Take It Personally
Invariably the initial offer is below what both you and the buyer knows he'll pay for your property. Don't be upset, evaluate the offer objectively. Ensure it spells out the offering price, sufficient deposit, amount of down payment, mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. This can simply provide a starting point from which you can negotiate.
24. Turn That Low Offer Around
You can counter a low offer or even an offer that's just under your asking price. This lets the buyer know that the first offer isn't seen as being a serious one. Now you'll be negotiating only with buyers with serious offers.
25. Maybe the Buyer's Not Qualified
If you feel an offer is inadequate, now is the time to make sure the buyer is qualified to carry the size of mortgage the deal requires. Inquire how they arrived at their figure, and suggest they compare your price to the prices of homes for sale in your neighborhood.
26. Ensure the Contract is Complete
To avoid problems, ensure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. It should include such items as the date it was made, names of parties involved, address of property being sold, purchase price, where deposit monies will be held, date for loan approval, date and place of closing, type of deed, including any contingencies that remain to be settled and what personal property is included (or not) in the sale.
27. Resist Deviating From the Contract
For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no. That you've been advised against it. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.
Get An Extra Hour Out Of Every Day
How can you get an extra hour from each day? This is a basic challenge for all of us. We've come up with many practical ways to secure one more precious hour from each day. (Remember that each of these tips is probably adaptable to your particular situation.) Here they are...
1. Make up and follow a detailed, daily schedule.
2. Get up earlier.
3. Do less passive reading, TV watching and the like.
4. Avoid allowing others to waste your time.
5. If you commute to work, use the time to study or plan.
6. Organize your work; do it systematically.
7. Make creative use of lunchtime.
8. Delegate authority if possible.
9. Spend less time on unimportant phone calls.
10. Think first; then do the job.
11. Do instead of dream.
12. Work hardest when you're mentally most alert.
13. Eliminate activities which make little contribution to the best results for your life.
14. Always do the toughest jobs first.
15. Before each major act, ask: Is this REALLY necessary?
16. Choose interesting and constructive literature for spare-moment reading.
17. Learn how to sleep. Sleep soundly, then work refreshed.
18. Skip desserts.
19. Stop smoking.
20. Write notes or letters while waiting for others.
21. Always carry an envelope with paper in it, stamps and a few postcards.
22. Combine tasks which are done in the same area.
23. Be prompt for all appointments.
24. Lay out your clothes the night before.
25. Relax. Ready yourself for the important jobs in life.
26. Concentrate on the specific task you're doing.
27. Make constructive use of those five or ten-minute waiting periods. Carry with you magazine article clippings on helpful subjects.
28. Always carry a pencil and paper to capture important-to-you ideas.
29. Learn to do other "unnecessary things" while watching TV or listening to the radio.
30. Call on specialists to accomplish work you cannot do efficiently.
31. Learn to read more rapidly.
32. Nap an hour after dinner. Then take a shower. Begin the evening hours relaxed and refreshed.
33. Avoid making a "production" out of small tasks.
34. Avoid interruptions.
35. Tackle only one job at a time.
36. Search out job shortcuts.
37. Know your limitations.
38. Work to your top capacity.