Archive for the ‘GREEN HOMES’ Category

Here are a few surprising and simple ways to cut your energy bill this winter season.

Put lamps in the corners: Did you know you can switch to a lower wattage bulb in a lamp or lower its dimmer switch and not lose a noticeable amount of light? It’s all about placement. When a lamp is placed in a corner, the light reflects off the adjoining walls, which makes the room lighter and brighter.

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To read Part I

It’s not just which energy efficiency projects you implement at home that will make a dent in your bills — it’s how many.

This is the second part of our Q&A with Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in sustainability and energy efficiency. Shelton Group’s annual Energy Pulse research report tracks consumer attitudes toward energy-related topics. 

HouseLogic: (In Part I) you told us why we’re so disconnected from our home’s energy use. Tell us what we should be doing differently to make our homes more energy efficient.  (more…)

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REPRINTED from HOUSE LOGIC – I hope you’ll find many useful ideas. 

Do you see your energy bills rising even if you’ve implemented up to three projects to save energy? In the first of our two-part Q&A with an expert on consumer attitudes toward energy efficiency, we look at the energy-saving truths many of us ignore. Hint: Replacing windows isn’t your best bet.

Suzanne Shelton is president and CEO of Shelton Group, a marketing agency specializing in sustainability and energy efficiency. Shelton Group’s annual Energy Pulse research report — released last fall — tracks consumer attitudes toward energy-related topics. 

HouseLogic: So our energy bills are going up? 

Suzanne Shelton: Yes, for many of us, even though we may think our energy use is going down.

HL: How come?


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Here’s homeownership course: Home Owner 101

1. Fix a leaky toilet. (more…)

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Repair wood floors and scratches can make rooms look worn out. It is easy to put the luster back into the floors.

Camouflage scratches (more…)

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Automated HVAC Systems

Programmable thermostats can save consumers about $180 per year in energy costs, according to Energy Star.   Automated systems can be set to reduce consumption when residents are out and to create heating and cooling zones in a home—a guest bedroom, for instance, might not always need the same level of heat as the living room.


Water Heaters

Tankless gas water heaters turn on when residents start using hot water and turn off when they’re done, which can reduce water heating costs up to 35 percent annually. Water heaters that have a timer can be programmed to turn off when the home owner is away.



Automatic dimmers will adjust lighting based on the time of day, which is extremely beneficial for exterior lighting.


Blinds & drapes Automated blinds are an eco-savvy development in window treatments. Program shades to close during the hottest part of the day in summer and to let sun in during winter.



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The process of lighting a room used to be simple. You bought a lightbulb for a few cents and screwed it into a socket. If a room needed more light, you brought in a couple of lamps and plugged them wherever there was an available electrical outlet and furniture to put them on.


But these days, with so much buzz about conserving energy and saving dollars with light choices, home owners need to shop wisely when they pick lightbulbs — “lamps” in industry lingo. But they can also make their houses brighter, fresher looking, larger, and more attractive to themselves and potential buyers with their choice of lamps, the right wattage or lumens, and the best possible fixtures. (more…)

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A healthy weed-free lawn is possible without the pesticides or harmful chemicals.

Here are a few reasons to cut out the chemicals: (more…)

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Every year when the daffodils start blooming, it is time to think about the spring home cleaning. I’m certain you keep a Green Home as much as possible and here is your another chance to protect the environment this spring with GREEN Spring Home Cleaning. ENJOY this annual rite of home ownership!

Let’s start with the windows :-)


Mix a green window cleaning solution

Commercials cleaners leave behind a waxy residue on windows that can result in streaks. A homemade window cleaning solution made with vinegar and water helps cut through grime, minimizes streaking and water spots, and prevents windows from fogging.

The first time you clean your windows with a homemade vinegar solution, include a few drops of dish detergent to eliminate the waxy buildup. Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle for streak-free windows:

  • ¼-cup white vinegar
  • ¼ eco-friendly dish detergent
  • 2 cups water

After an inaugural washing, keep your windows spotless with a window cleaning solution made from

  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar mixed in
  • 1 quart warm water. (Too much vinegar can etch window glass, which results in clouding.)

Polish to a sustainable shine

Use microfiber cloths, rather than paper towels or newspapers, for window cleaning. Paper towels are manufactured from trees and end up in the landfill. Newspapers can blacken your hands and fall apart. Microfiber cloths are affordable, lint-free, and can be washed and reused again and again.

Window cleaning tips

  • Window cleaning on a sunny day can dry the solution too quickly and create streaks, so select a cloudy day to work
  • Begin window cleaning by spritzing the glass with your homemade vinegar solution. Wipe away grime with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse this cloth often in clean water
  • Follow with a dry microfiber cloth to polish the glass to a shine
  • Be sure to pay attention to the corners and edges, so the entire window is clean




When it’s time to get down and dirty, many people start with the bathroom. Allen Rathey, founder of The Housekeeping Channel, says removing mineral deposits, rust, and such from toilets doesn’t have to mean chemical warfare.

Don rubber gloves and if you want more scouring power, Rathey recommends mixing baking soda with acidic vinegar. The concoction is just as effective as conventional cleaners, and there are no toxic fumes to inhale. This approach works equally well on tub and shower stains.



The kitchen can be a tough room to clean because there’s usually so much stuff in it, says Justin Klosky, founder and creative director of The OCD Experience, an organizational service. Before you break out the broom, go through your cabinets and drawers, and put together a box of items to donate and a box of items to store somewhere besides the kitchen. Clear your countertops of everything except items you use nearly every day.

After you’ve de-cluttered, you can get to work cleaning. Cloud Conrad, vice president of marketing for cleaning company Maid Brigade, says one tool you shouldn’t overlook is an all-purpose microfiber cloth (about $5). Microfiber is a densely woven synthetic fabric that picks up dirt and greasy deposits without chemicals thanks to its unique composition. You should be able to clean surfaces like countertops, sinks, and stoves with warm water, a microfiber cloth, and a bit of elbow grease.

Since you prepare your food in the kitchen, consider using green commercial products for surfaces, or make your own vinegar/water spray. Conventional cleaners may remove dirt, but they can also harbor some nasty substances you don’t want in your PB&J.

Microfiber, vinegar, and baking soda will clean and disinfect almost every kitchen surface at a fraction of the price. Don’t neglect once-a-year chores like vacuuming refrigerator coils (unplug your fridge first), and tossing out expired food from the back of the pantry.



Bedrooms are probably the most important rooms in the home. Most homeowners should at least rotate and flip innerspring mattresses, and store out-of-season sheets and clothing. Also go through your closets, and donate any items you haven’t worn in the last 12-24 months. For carpets and mattresses, consider using a professional cleaning service.

Before you have your carpet professionally cleaned, you need to use the vacuum hose attachment to get to the hidden particles along baseboards, under your bed, and in your curtains, favorite environments of dust mites. Also dry clean or wash in cold water and woolite all drapes and curtains.



Another surface you should consider getting professionally cleaned is living room upholstery. It can be tricky to know exactly how to deep-clean different types of fabrics, says Rathey, especially if there are stains you can’t quite identify. Costs vary widely depending on the size of the furniture piece and the quality and state of its covering, but a typical sofa might run $70 to $90.

Microfiber cloths are great to use in the living area as well. Make sure you have cloths for each area of the house, though, so you’re not cross-contaminating bathroom, kitchen, and living areas. Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down windows, wood, mirrors, the tops of bookshelves, ceiling fan blades, and even the plastic housing of electronics for a quick, chemical-free clean.


De-bug the light fixtures

See that bug burial ground within your overhead fixtures? Turn off the lights and carefully remove fixture covers, dump out flies and wash with hot soapy water. While you’re up there, dust bulbs. Dry everything thoroughly before replacing the cover.

Vacuum heat vents and registers

Dirt and dust build up in heat vents and along register blades. Vents also are great receptacles for coins and missing buttons. Unscrew vent covers from walls or pluck them from floors, remove foreign objects, and vacuum inside the vent. Clean grates with a damp cloth and screw back tightly.

Polish hardware

To deep clean brass door hinges, handles, and cabinet knobs, thoroughly wipe with a damp microfiber cloth, then polish with Wright’s or Weiman brass cleaner ($4). Dish soap shines up glass or stainless steel knobs. Use a Q-tip to detail the ornamental filigree on knobs and handles.




Pets can be great companions, but pet odors can also derail your home sale. Here are tips on house cleaning your home and making it buyer friendly.

Air your house out. While you’re cleaning, throw open all the windows in your home to allow fresh air to circulate and sweep out unpleasant scents.

Once your house is free of pet odors, do what you can to keep the smells from returning. Crate your dog when you’re out or keep it outdoors. Limit the cat to one floor or room, if possible. Remove or replace pet bedding.

Scrub thoroughly. Scrub bare floors and walls soiled by pets with vinegar, wood floor cleaner, or an odor-neutralizing product, which you can purchase at a pet supply store for $10 to $25.

Try a 1:9 bleach-to-water solution on surfaces it won’t damage, like cement floors or walls.

Got a stubborn pet odors covering a large area? You may have to spend several hundred dollars to hire a service that specializes in hard-to-clean stains.

Wash your drapes and upholstery. Pet odors seep into fabrics. Launder, steam clean, or dry clean all your fabric window coverings. Steam clean upholstered furniture.

Either buy a steam cleaner designed to remove pet hair for around $200 and do the job yourself, or pay a pro. You’ll spend about $40 for an upholstered chair, $100 for a sofa, and $7 for each dining room chair if a pro does your cleaning.

Clean your carpets. Shampoo your carpets and rugs, or have professionals do the job for $25 to $50 per room, depending on their size and the level of filth embedded in them. The cleaner will try to sell you deodorizing treatments. You’ll know if you need to spend the extra money on those after the carpet dries and you have a friend perform a sniff test.

If deodorizing doesn’t remove the pet odor from your home, the carpets and padding will have to go. Once you tear them out, scrub the subfloor with vinegar or an odor-removing product, and install new padding and carpeting. Unless the smell is in the subfloor, in which case that goes next.

Paint, replace, or seal walls. When heavy-duty cleaners haven’t eradicated smells in drywall, plaster, or woodwork, add a fresh coat of paint or stain, or replace the drywall or wood altogether.

On brick and cement, apply a sealant appropriate for the surface for $25 to $100. That may smother and seal in the odor, keeping it from reemerging.

Control ongoing urine smells. If your dog uses indoor pee pads, put down a new pad each time the dog goes. Throw them away outside in a trash can with a tight lid. Remove even clean pads from view before each showing.

Replace kitty litter daily, rather than scooping used litter clumps, and sweep up around the litter box. Hide the litter box before each showing.

Relocate pets. If your dog or cat has a best friend it can stay with while you’re selling your home (and you can stand to be separated from your pet), consider sending your pet on a temporary vacation. If pets have to stay, remove them from the house for showings and put away their dishes, towels, and toys.


SOURCE: HouseLogic.com, Vivianne Rutkowski



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A new national survey, commissioned by Lowe’s, reveals that 90 percent of Americans would personally take action to prevent the over-consumption of energy, if they knew what they could do. Below you will find helpful advice on what homeowners can do to make their homes more energy efficient.

Light The Way

  • Turn off lights when they are not in use because lighting accounts for between five and 10 percent of the average homeowner’s electricity bill.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are roughly three to four times their wattage, saving up to 75 percent of the initial lighting energy.
  • CFLs last 10 to 15 times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

The Appliance Drain

  • Dispose of outdated appliances. Although 39 percent of homeowners rank energy efficiency as the most important purchasing factor when it comes to appliances, many hold on to outdated appliances costing them and the environment.
  • Appliances account for about 20 percent of household’s energy consumption, with the refrigerator and clothes washer being the biggest drain.
  • Invest in an ENERGY STAR qualified washer because it uses 18-25 gallons per load, saving 7,000 gallons of water per household. Sort and dry clothes of a comparable thickness in the same load so the drying time will not have to be extended for just a few clothes. Use warm or cold water for washing clothes whenever possible.
  • Purchase an ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator that uses less energy than a 75-watt bulb, saving more than $35 a year compared to a 10-year-old model. Store the most perishable items in the coldest part of the refrigerator so the temperature can be set slightly higher.

Sealing The Home

  • Prevent air leaks in the home, which is a concern that stands high on the list of ways to lower home energy bills.
  • Pay close attention to duct system leakage because it can account for up to 20 percent or more of wasted energy in heating and cooling a home.
  • Apply more insulation and caulking to air leakage trouble spots to create a barrier between the home and outdoor elements. More leakage problems are found in drafty areas, such as chimneys/fireplaces, windows, attics, and gaps along the top of basement walls.

Minimize Water Usage

  • Keep faucets turned off tightly because a leak of one drop of water a second wastes more than 250 gallons of water a month and the energy used to heat it.
  • Take shorter showers and install water-saving showerheads.

Penny-wise Windows

  • Install double and tripled-paned windows, which offer good insulation values known as U-factors. Some have an insulating gas between the panes, which insulates better than air.
  • Put in low-e windows, windows with special clear coatings that reflect heat.
  • Consider wood, vinyl and fiberglass frames since they insulate better than standard aluminum frames. In addition, new warm-edge spacers insulate better than normal wood, vinyl or fiberglass, which can conduct condensation around the edges of the windows.

Hug a Water Heater

  • Install heat traps in the water heater. If the heater is older or noticeable warm to touch, wrap it with special insulation blankets and pipes with pre-formed wraps.
  • Adjust the temperature so that it does not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit and timer controls avoid waste during off peak usage hours.


Truly Green Landscaping

  • Plant deciduous trees, leafy in summer and bare in winter, to provide shade to cool the home during the summer and allow sunlight in to warm the home in the winter.
  • Place trees in the areas that receive the most sun. Evergreens can also provide an effective break from chilling winds in winter.

Personalize your Temperature 

  • Invest in an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat, which can save homeowners about $150 every year.
  • Programmable thermostats prevent homeowners from paying to fully heat or air condition their home while they’re away and makes the temperature comfortable before they get home. This can help cut heating and cooling bills by 20-30 percent.

Home Energy Audit

  • Pay close attention to monthly utility bills because they add up quickly. Conduct an energy audit to determine money and energy expenditures.

Adding A Cool Breeze 

  • Use fans instead of air conditioning for cooling whenever possible because fans use only about 10 percent of the energy that air conditioning does.
  • In the winter, set the ceiling fan on reverse to recirculate heat that would otherwise build up near the ceiling.

Solar Power

  • Invest in products that use clean, renewable sources such as solar power. For example, solar landscaping lights are both economical and environmentally responsible.

For more energy-saving ideas, visit www.Lowes.com/energy and select “ENERGY STAR @ Home” or the ENERGY STAR Web site at http://www.energystar.gov/

SOURCE: Lowe’s

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In this sweltering heat the air conditioners can only do so much. It can cost a bundle to run the air conditioning full blast all day, and you risk stressing the system. The last thing anyone wants is to have the A/C unit break down during the sizzling summer heat.

If you’re among those inching up the thermostat, there are easy ways to help keep you cool while inside. These tips from WTOP also will help you survive without air conditioning.

  • Put the wind chill factor to use. Fans can make you feel up to 8 degrees cooler. It can feel even cooler, if you put frozen jugs of water in front of the fans.
  • Make sure ceiling fans are pushing air down.
  • Keep a bowl of damp wash clothes in the refrigerator to use on the back of your neck.
  • In a spray bottle, combine a solution of half water and half rubbing alcohol to spray on yourself.
  • Make a slushy, comfortable ice pack in a plastic zip bag with 1 part rubbing alcohol and 3 parts water.
  • Take cool showers more often. Let your hair dry naturally.
  • Take off your shoes. Put your feet in cool water.
  • Eat something cool. Drink lots of water.
  • Don’t turn on the oven or use the clothes dryer during the hottest part of the day.
  • Eat salads, yogurts, and cold sandwiches to avoid cooking
  • Close the blinds and the curtains.


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Dulles Area Association of REALTORS (DAAR) of Leesburg helped to raise public awareness to oppose the ban on alternative septic systems imposed by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

See my blog, November 2008: Loudoun approved ban on new non-conventional septic systems for five years.

In 2008, DAAR worked to reverse the ban by helping to move forward legislation to clarify that the Code of Virginia allows local governments to regulate alternative septic systems but does not give them authority to ban outright these systems. The new law nullifies the recent ban on alternative septic systems imposed by Loudoun County once the state promulgates regulations on these systems by March 1st, 2010.


Local Realtor associations, including DAAR,  contacted Virginia Association of REALTORS, VAR, in 2008 aboutcounty governments trying to ban alternative septic systems. Both VAR and the Office of the Attorney General advised localities that while the Code of Virginia allows them to regulate alternative septic systems, it does not give them authority to ban outright these systems. HB 1788, introduced at the request of VAR, clarifies that local governments cannot ban alternative septic systems unless expressly authorized by the General Assembly.

Virginia’s alternative septic system bills were amended to clarify that once regulations directing the maintenance of these systems have been promulgated by the State Board of Health, localities can no longer prohibit new permits for qualified alternative septic systems.  The estimated effective date for this legislation is March 1, 2010, depending on the exact date when the new regs are promulgated.

 Virginia Senate Bill 1276,      Virginia House Bill 1788,

Loudoun County Approved Ban on Alternative Septic Systems – November, 2008


SOURCE:  Dulles Area Association of REALTORS; Virginia Association of REALTORS



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