Miami Green Homes


6 Sustainable Home Renovation Tips to Improve Your Fixer-Upper, guest post by Ray Flynn
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Photo via Pexels

When planned correctly, buying a fixer-upper can help you save money while creating the house of your dreams. You’re sure to have a few expectations and ideas about how you want your house to turn out, but where do you start? Try taking a sustainable approach to your home improvements so you can reduce your energy usage and feel good about your environmental footprint. If you’re looking for ways to keep your home renovations green, this article is for you!

Use Steel to Create Additional Space

If you’ve found the perfect house but it’s lacking storage space or that workshop you’ve always dreamed of, consider adding an external garage. A separate storage area can help you cut down on clutter inside the house, give you a place to store yard equipment, and protect your car from the elements. Whatever you need the space for, consider using steel as your building material — it’s cheap, versatile, easy to work with, and durable. Plus, steel is a highly sustainable material because it can be recycled almost endlessly. Consider insulating the building to protect your car from extreme temperatures and adding a few windows to light your garage naturally.

Choose Renewable Flooring Materials

Most fixer-uppers could benefit from new flooring. If you’re hoping to replace that dated carpet with sleek, bare floors, choose sustainable materials. Cork, for example, can be harvested without cutting down the cork tree, making it the perfect green choice for your floors. As an added bonus, cork is naturally insect-repellant and fire resistant. Bamboo is another great eco-friendly option if you’re looking to mimic the look of real hardwood floors. Alternatively, you can find reclaimed wooden boards from old houses to recycle into your own beautiful floors.

Avoid Harmful Paints

Conventional paints can leach harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air for up to five years. These compounds are bad for both the environment and your family’s health. When it’s time to upgrade your walls, opt for eco-friendly paint. The Spruce recommends looking for paints labeled as low VOC or zero VOC. Even better, choose paints made from natural ingredients like water, plant dyes, chalk, and resins.

Upgrade Your Kitchen with Recycled Counters

Making minor upgrades to your kitchen is a great way to increase your property value and help your house appear modern on a small budget. Paint your cabinets, replace the floor, and upgrade the hardware. If your countertops are in bad shape, consider replacing them with recycled work surfaces. You can get fun, accent countertops made from recycled glass in concrete or resin. On the other hand, butcher-block style countertops made from old boards are a rustic and homey option to consider.

Optimize Natural Light

Taking advantage of natural light in your home can cut down on your electricity bills and even help your home feel more spacious. Consider installing larger windows in your living room or an entire glass sliding door to open up your home to your backyard and let in more light. Painting your walls in light colors and adding decorative mirrors will also help brighten up your rooms. Real Homes recommends installing skylights since these can easily be incorporated into a variety of roof types. Skylight windows let in significantly more light than side windows and can completely eliminate your need to use electrical lights during the day.

Install Green Appliances

Most old appliances burn through electricity at a surprising rate. Replacing outdated appliances with new, eco-friendly options can help your fixer-upper look more attractive to today’s environmentally minded homebuyers. Plus, energy-efficient appliances will save you a lot of money while you’re living in the home. However, ensure you choose matching appliances for your kitchen to give it a polished look.

When you buy a house that needs some work, you have the power to turn it into your perfect sanctuary. Whether that means creating a separate workshop in the backyard for your hobbies or letting sunshine flood into your living room, these custom improvements can really make your house feel like home. Maintain a sustainable approach while making your renovations to save money on energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

Ray Flynn | DiyGuys.net

ray.flynn@diyguys.net

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DIY HVAC Maintenance: What’s Safe and What to Avoid! Guest post by Ray Flynn
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Photo courtesy of Pexels

Being a homeowner is a wonderful investment that brings many fulfilling rewards. Of course, it also brings many (often unexpected) costs. From plumbing to electrical issues, there are hundreds of home repairs that could break the bank. Unfortunately, HVAC repairs could be one of them. HVAC repair technicians charge up to $80 per hour, and the repairs themselves can cost hundreds of dollars. Some Miami homeowners spend thousands, depending upon the types of repairs.

Of course, it’s inevitable that every HVAC will eventually be in need of repairs. Adding further complication, some HVAC-related costs can be tax deductible while others are not. So, what is a homeowner to do? One option that many homeowners are considering more frequently is just doing it themselves. It’s no secret that do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair projects are gaining popularity, especially among women.

Before You Begin

Before embarking upon a DIY HVAC maintenance project, however, there are a few things you should know. First, actual HVAC repairs should still be left to the professionals. Otherwise, you might damage your HVAC even further and end up having to pay a professional for costly repairs anyway — or worse, an entirely new HVAC system.

Instead, the best HVAC projects to attempt on your own are fairly simple maintenance projects. When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, there are certainly a few things you can do on your own without needing to call a professional.

Change Your Filter

Proper maintenance of your HVAC system requires that you periodically change (between 30 and 90 days) the air filter. The air filters prevent airborne particles from getting into the HVAC machinery, where they could potentially cause damage. Failure to change HVAC filters could lead to permanent damage and expensive repairs.

Here’s one bit of advice: Although changing your HVAC air filter every so often is fairly simple, choosing the right size filter when making a replacement is essential. That cannot be stressed enough. Turn off the unit before replacing the filter, and always follow the instructions for your particular HVAC unit. If you run into any difficulties, call a professional to help you.

Clean Your Unit

Another thing you might have to occasionally do is clean your HVAC system. From time to time, dirt, debris, leaves, and other natural contaminants can get inside the machinery. If these items aren’t removed in a timely manner, they can clog things up.

Additionally, while you are inspecting your HVAC system for dirt and debris or changing the air filter, you might want to give it a good cleaning. This involves checking for any holes, leaks, or blockages, inspecting the fans for wear, and wiping down and cleaning the outside of the unit.

A few more simple maintenance tips and DIY repairs to consider might include changing the blower filter at least twice a year (or more, if you live in a dusty climate), adding a programmable thermostat to help make your home more energy efficient, and cutting back any vines or other vegetation that might be growing near your HVAC system.

It’s important to care for your HVAC system. By taking proper care of it, changing the filters, and performing regular maintenance as needed, you can keep your HVAC system running reliably for years to come. Best of all, these are DIY tasks that you can do yourself, which saves you some money by not having to call a professional. But if you’re new to home improvement and/or if any repairs are actually needed, those jobs are best left to the professionals. It’s never worth harming your HVAC system just for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.



Why Prepare a Local Pre-Disaster Recovery Plan? (Guest post by Natalie French)

Recovery is the most complicated, lengthier, expensive and least appreciated phase of emergency management. Some recoveries can take years, and communities will never be able to go back to normal levels.  In fact, it is not realistic to create a false image that things will go back to “normal”.   Long-term recovery also has a toll on the people in charge of the process.   Experiences across the country include cities with administrators and staff who have a difficult time handling the external pressures.  After the floods of 2015, some cities in North and South Carolina saw half of their department heads resign in a three-year span, and a turnover of three to four City Managers in the same time period.

As recommended by FEMA’s “Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for Local Governments (February, 2017)”, a Recovery Plan helps avoid confusion and improvisation.  Having a plan in place improves capabilities prior to a disaster by helping city governments to:

  • Establish clear leadership roles, including the Mayor’s office, City Council, and City Manager’s office, for more decisive and early leadership.
  • Improve public confidence in leadership through early, ongoing, and consistent communication of short- and long-term priorities.
  • Avoid the often difficult, ad hoc process of post-disaster discovery of new roles, resources, and roadblocks.
  • Gain support from whole-community partnerships necessary to support individuals, businesses, and organizations.
  • Improve stakeholder and disaster survivor involvement after the disaster through a definition of outreach resources and two-way communication methods the city and key organizations will employ.
  • Maximize Federal, State, private-sector, and nongovernmental dollars through early and more defined local priorities and post-disaster planning activity.
  • Provide for more rapid and effective access to Federal and State resources through better understanding of funding resources and requirements ahead of time.
  • Enable local leadership to bring to bear all capability and more easily identify gaps through a coordination structure and defined roles.
  • Better leverage and apply limited State and nongovernment resources when there is no Federal disaster declaration.
  • Maximize opportunities to build resilience and risk reduction into all aspects of rebuilding.
  • Speed identification of local recovery needs and resources and ultimately reduce costs and disruption that result from chaotic, ad hoc, or inefficient allocation of resources.
  • Improve capability and continuity through pre identification of when, where, and how the local government will employ and seek support for post-disaster planning, city operations, recovery management, and technical assistance.
  • Proactively confront recovery and redevelopment policy choices in the deliberative and less contentious pre­disaster environment.
  • Improve the ability to interface with State and Federal Recovery Support Function structure.

A pre-disaster recovery plan provides a local-level framework for leading, operating, organizing, and managing resources for post-disaster recovery activities. The plan can then be used to implement the post-disaster recovery process and carry out post-disaster planning and management of recovery activities, such as restoring housing, rebuilding government facilities, schools, child care services, recovering businesses, identifying resources for rebuilding projects, returning social stability, and coordinating other community planning processes.  By working in advance to develop an understanding of needs and vulnerabilities, identify leaders, form partnerships, establish resources, and reach consensus on goals and policies, the community will be prepared to begin recovery immediately rather than struggle through a planning process in the wake of a disaster.

*****

Natalie French

Media & Emergency Management Specialist



Architects versus developers (an architects perspective):

Ideas versus money. That is about the simplest way to distinguish the two and also the easiest way to understand why these two groups need each other. While overlap is of course possible, it is not likely. Developers frequently look at a potential project and create a general concept based on location and possible use of the land. Architects then provide a design concept to realize that opportunity and eventually the detailed plans to actually build the initial vision of the developer. Most projects, residential, commercial or otherwise, were created by the synergy of these two groups.

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An Architect as developer has solved the financial puzzle and can move forward not just with the idea and concept, but the execution of the project as well; a developer as architect first must obtain required licenses and typically look beyond function of the project to integration of concept into a larger scope and environment.

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DIY HVAC Maintenance: What’s Safe and What to Avoid! – by Ray Flynn

Thank you to Ray Flynn (ray.flynn@diyguys.net) for this guest contribution:

guest post

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Being a homeowner is a wonderful investment that brings many fulfilling rewards. Of course, it also brings many (often unexpected) costs. From plumbing to electrical issues, there are hundreds of home repairs that could break the bank. Unfortunately, HVAC repairs could be one of them. HVAC repair technicians charge up to $80 per hour, and the repairs themselves can cost hundreds of dollars. Some Miami homeowners spend thousands, depending upon the types of repairs.

Of course, it’s inevitable that every HVAC will eventually be in need of repairs. Adding further complication, some HVAC-related costs can be tax deductible while others are not. So, what is a homeowner to do? One option that many homeowners are considering more frequently is just doing it themselves. It’s no secret that do-it-yourself (DIY) home repair projects are gaining popularity, especially among women.

Before You Begin

Before embarking upon a DIY HVAC maintenance project, however, there are a few things you should know. First, actual HVAC repairs should still be left to the professionals. Otherwise, you might damage your HVAC even further and end up having to pay a professional for costly repairs anyway — or worse, an entirely new HVAC system.

Instead, the best HVAC projects to attempt on your own are fairly simple maintenance projects. When it comes to maintaining your HVAC system, there are certainly a few things you can do on your own without needing to call a professional.

Change Your Filter

Proper maintenance of your HVAC system requires that you periodically change (between 30 and 90 days) the air filter. The air filters prevent airborne particles from getting into the HVAC machinery, where they could potentially cause damage. Failure to change HVAC filters could lead to permanent damage and expensive repairs.

Here’s one bit of advice: Although changing your HVAC air filter every so often is fairly simple, choosing the right size filter when making a replacement is essential. That cannot be stressed enough. Turn off the unit before replacing the filter, and always follow the instructions for your particular HVAC unit. If you run into any difficulties, call a professional to help you.

Clean Your Unit

Another thing you might have to occasionally do is clean your HVAC system. From time to time, dirt, debris, leaves, and other natural contaminants can get inside the machinery. If these items aren’t removed in a timely manner, they can clog things up.

Additionally, while you are inspecting your HVAC system for dirt and debris or changing the air filter, you might want to give it a good cleaning. This involves checking for any holes, leaks, or blockages, inspecting the fans for wear, and wiping down and cleaning the outside of the unit.

A few more simple maintenance tips and DIY repairs to consider might include changing the blower filter at least twice a year (or more, if you live in a dusty climate), adding a programmable thermostat to help make your home more energy efficient, and cutting back any vines or other vegetation that might be growing near your HVAC system.

It’s important to care for your HVAC system. By taking proper care of it, changing the filters, and performing regular maintenance as needed, you can keep your HVAC system running reliably for years to come. Best of all, these are DIY tasks that you can do yourself, which saves you some money by not having to call a professional. But if you’re new to home improvement and/or if any repairs are actually needed, those jobs are best left to the professionals. It’s never worth harming your HVAC system just for the sake of saving a few hundred dollars.



Residential Energy Savings pyramid

Not sure where to start with energy updated for the home? Ready to install PV panels to get off-grid? …or anywhere in-between. This is a great tool to help make sense of where to start and how to prioritize energy related updates to the house. Look also for other posts on this site for solar panels, insulation and design considerations.

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The Benefits Of Going Solar At Home – Guest post by Ryan McNeill

It’s official: Renewable energy is now the average American’s preferred energy solution, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they are on — and few renewable energy options are more accessible to the homeowner than installing solar panels.

The popularity of solar is skyrocketing, accounting for nearly four in 10 new electricity generation capacity additions in the U.S. last year. While utility solar accounts for a large portion of this new infrastructure, residential solar is also showing strong growth as more homeowners are realizing the many benefits of solar energy.

Why are so many homeowners going solar? Let’s take a look.

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Economic Benefits of Installing Solar Panels

Once cost-prohibitive, solar energy is now more affordable than ever. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Economy of scale. Due to increased demand, the cost of solar panels is now half what it was in 2008, and experts believe it still has room to drop.
  • Low maintenance. A high-quality residential solar installation can be expected to last 30 years or more. Very little maintenance is required, which keeps costs low throughout the life of the system.
  • Energy savings. Solar pays back big over time. The average solar customer saves $67,000 over the lifetime of the system — and that’s at today’s energy rates. Who knows what the savings will be as aging conventional energy infrastructure drives energy rates up in years to come?
  • Financing. Solar is an investment, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. In addition to the energy-saving ROI of the panels themselves, there are many options available these days that make solar panels affordable to the average homeowner. Some of these include rebates, leases and low-interest financing options. Don’t forget that homeowners can still take advantage of the full 30 percent federal solar tax credit through the end of 2019.

Solar Performance Means Peace of Mind

Besides the obvious financial benefits, solar will set your mind at ease. Solar panels are remarkably reliable, cranking out electricity as regularly as the rising and setting sun. They are safe, too, producing no noise pollution or harmful emissions. And, many solar homeowners rave about the sense of liberation they feel when realizing they are no longer subject to the whim of “Big Power.” Those who own battery systems are even secure from interruptions to the power grid.

Global Benefits of Residential Solar

Choosing solar is simply the responsible thing to do, both for the planet and for the communities in which we live.

First, consider the environmental benefits. We all know the impact global warming is having on the planet, and that solar panels are a huge step in the right direction when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint. However, you might not be aware that solar panels are also water-friendly. Per kWh of electricity, solar panels consume 16-20 times less of this increasingly precious natural resource than the most common conventional forms of electricity generation.

Solar is good for people, too. Dollar for dollar, an investment in solar results in twice the job creation as conventional energy sources. And, solar is an important factor in homeland security. Solar panels reduce dependence on foreign energy, reduce the electrical grid’s vulnerability to attack or failure, and provide an excellent source of power in emergency situations.

Is Solar Right for Your Home?

While not every home is suitable for solar, the benefits are clear for those that are. It’s no wonder so many more people than ever are choosing to install solar panels on their homes.

Author bio: Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the largest residential solar energy companies in the mid-Atlantic region. It is committed to providing homeowners with high-quality, American-made solar panels and solar energy products.