Monday, January 25, 2010

Efficient home heating

Efficiently heated homes save money and increase potential sales

Sealing your house up tight for both winter and summer is the cost-effective way to go.
The temperature is inching up toward the 40s and every once in a while the sun shows promise. The days of subfreezing temperatures and windy blasts are over, right? Not so fast there. We humans can have remarkably short memories, and here it is just the middle of January. Instead of reminding your family that layering clothes is perfectly normal inside, let’s revisit why you should get serious about home heating efficiency.

While these tips are primarily about the heating season, they are just as applicable for the summer months too. An air leak is an air leak, whether heat is leaking or the cold air conditioning is leaking.

Stop the leaks. Finding air leaks is the first task on the road to make your home more heat efficient. Anywhere there is an opening in your house, the potential for air leaks exists. Check window frames, doorframes, attic entrances, electrical outlets and ductwork. To check for leaks, use a lit incense stick and watch for horizontal smoke. Hardware stores have a multitude of weatherproofing kits and caulking. Addressing even the most minor air leaks can result in substantial utility savings.

Ductwork systems may be wasting your energy dollars. Often overlooked, typical duct work can lose 25-45 percent of your heating or cooling energy. Look for leaky joints or holes in the duct system, disconnected ducts that have separated from each other and un-insulated or poorly insulated ducts in attics and crawlspaces.

Sealing ductwork is really a job for the professional, who can assess your problems, especially in unconditioned spaces. Minor fixes are temporary at best. Going the professional route can reduce your annual utility bills by as much as $300 and better yet, improves the overall air quality.

Total house insulation is another job for the pros. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy loss and outside noise. Research the recommended standards for your region in R-values. The higher the R-value, the less transfer of heat through the material.

Thermostats can save big bucks. For every one degree you lower the temperature in your house over a 24-hour period, savings can go up three percent. Adjusting your thermostat down 10-15 percent for an eight-hour period each day gives you a 10 percent annual savings. Programmable thermostats will automatically turn the heat down while you are at work during the day and at night.

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer. While we think of ceiling fans as a way to stay cool in the summer, they are also heat savers in the winter. By reversing the blades, ceiling fans re-circulate the rising warm air back down into the living area.

Plugging leaks is the single most effective way to make your home energy efficient not only for you and your family, but also for potential buyers, who are even more cost-conscious than usual.
And it shows your home is well taken care of and maintained.

Written by Myra Vandersall

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti relief help

Housing crisis for Haitians looms large; St. Louis’ best musicians sing out to help

With more than one million Haitians in need of shelter, donations will help tremendously. And, the “St. Louis Musicians for Haiti” concert at the Sheldon sings for Doctors Without Borders.

The devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti is incomprehensible, but the goodness of the human spirit is alive with an outpouring of help and donations. As real estate agents, we know how vital housing is–a safe place to shelter a family. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 200,000 families (up to one million people) are in need of immediate shelter, but these figures are yet preliminary. While the organizations that do need donations are too numerous to list, we suggest considering Habitat for Humanity to help provide housing for Haitians in the short and long term. For information on how to help, call the Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County at 636.978.5724 or visit the St. Louis chapter of Habitat for Humanity website.

Another way to support the cause and enjoy some of the best music St. Louis has to offer, is to attend the “St. Louis Musicians for Haiti” concert. A diverse group of St. Louis musicians will take the stage of the Sheldon Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, February 9, to raise money for Doctors Without Borders’ Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

The concert features jazz, blues, soul, folk, classical and more, from a lineup that includes singer Brian Owens; folk group Mayor Taylor, featuring Lydia Ruffin and Charlie Pfeffer; the Bottoms Up Blues Gang; pianist Peter Martin; singer Mardra Thomas and her pianist/husband Reggie Thomas; singer Kim Massie; pianist Peter Henderson; opera singer Christine Brewer and more. Julius Hunter, author and former TV newscaster, will host the evening.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, and are on sale now. You can purchase tickets via or by calling 314-534-1111. For more information, call The Sheldon at 314-533-9900 during normal weekday business hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Written by Myra Vandersall