Different Strategies in Composting

Composting can be categorized into different categories depending on the nature of decomposition process. The three major segments of composting are anaerobic composting, aerobic composting, and vermicomposting. In anaerobic composting, the organic matter is decomposed in the absence of air. Organic matter may be collected in pits and covered with a thick layer of soil and left undisturbed six to eight months. Anaerobic microorganisms dominate and develop intermediate compounds including methane, organic acids, hydrogen sulphide and other substances. The process is low-temperature, slow and the compost formed may not be completely converted and may include aggregated masses and phytotoxic compounds.

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Aerobic Composting

Aerobic composting is the process by which organic wastes are converted into compost or manure in presence of air. In this process, aerobic microorganisms break down organic matter and produce carbon dioxide, ammonia, water, heat and humus, the relatively stable organic end-product. Although aerobic composting may produce intermediate compounds such as organic acids, aerobic microorganisms decompose them further. The resultant compost, with its relatively unstable form of organic matter, has little risk of phytotoxicity. The heat generated accelerates the breakdown of proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemicellulose. Hence, the processing time is shorter. Moreover, this process destroys many micro-organisms that are human or plant pathogens, as well as weed seeds, provided it undergoes sufficiently high temperature. Although more nutrients are lost from the materials by aerobic composting, it is considered more efficient and useful than anaerobic composting for agricultural production.

There are a variety of methods for aerobic composting, the most common being the Heap Method, where organic matter needs to be divided into three different types and to be placed in a heap one over the other, covered by a thin layer of soil or dry leaves. This heap needs to be mixed every week, and it takes about three weeks for conversion to take place. The process is same in the Pit Method, but carried out in specially constructed pits. Mixing has to be done every 15 days, and there is no fixed time in which the compost may be ready. Berkley Method uses a labor-intensive technique and has precise requirements of the material to be composted. Easily biodegradable materials, such as grass, vegetable matter, etc., are mixed with animal matter in the ratio of 2:1. Compost is usually ready in 15 days.

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a type of composting in which certain species of earthworms are used to enhance the process of organic waste conversion and produce a better end-product. It is a mesophilic process utilizing microorganisms and earthworms. Earthworms feeds the organic waste materials and passes it through their digestive system and gives out in a granular form (cocoons) which is known as vermicompost. Earthworms consume organic wastes and reduce the volume by 40–60 percent. Each earthworm weighs about 0.5 to 0.6 gram, eats waste equivalent to its body weight and produces cast equivalent to about 50 percent of the waste it consumes in a day. The moisture content of castings ranges between 32 and 66 percent and the pH is around 7.

The level of nutrients in compost depends upon the source of the raw material and the species of earthworm. Apart from other nutrients, a fine worm cast is rich in NPK which are in readily available form and are released within a month of application. Vermicompost enhances plant growth, suppresses disease in plants, increases porosity and microbial activity in soil, and improves water retention and aeration.

Biomethane Industry in Europe

Biomethane is a well-known and well-proven source of clean energy, and is witnessing increasing demand worldwide, especially in European countries. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 500 biomethane production plants were built across Europe which indicates a steep rise of 165 percent. The main reasons behind the growth of biomethane industry in Europe is increasing interest in industrial waste-derived biogas sector and public interest in biogas.  Another important reason has been the guaranteed access to gas grid for all biomethane suppliers.

Biomethane production in Europe has swiftly increased from 752 GWh in 2011 to 17,264 GWh in 2016 with Germany being the market leader with 195 biomethane production plants, followed by United Kingdom with 92 facilities. Biogas generation across Europe also witnessed a rapid growth of 59% during the year 2011 and 2016. In terms of plant capacities, the regional trend is to establish large-scale biomethane plants.

Sources of Biomethane in Europe

Landfill gas and AD plants (based on energy crops, agricultural residues, food waste, industrial waste and sewage sludge) are the major resources for biomethane production in Europe, with the predominant source being agricultural crops (such as maize) and dedicated energy crops (like miscanthus). In countries, like Germany, Austria and Denmark, energy crops, agricultural by-products, sewage sludge and animal manure are the major feedstock for biomethane production. On the other hand, France, UK, Spain and Italy rely more on landfill gas to generate biomethane.

A large number of biogas plants in Europe are located in agricultural areas having abundant availability of organic wastes, such as grass silage and green waste, which are cheaper than crops. Maize is the most cost-effective raw material for biomethane production. In many parts of Europe, the practice of co-digestion is practised whereby energy crops are used in combination with animal manure as a substrate. After agricultural biogas plants, sewage sludge is one of the most popular substrates for biomethane production in Europe.

Biomethane Utilization Trends in Europe

Biomethane has a wide range of applications in the clean energy sector. In Europe, the main uses of biomethane include the following:

  1. Production of heat and/or steam
  2. Power generation and combined heat and power production(CHP)
  3. Replacement for natural gas (gas grid injection)
  4. Replacement for compressed natural gas & diesel – (bio-CNG for use as transport fuel)
  5. Replacement for liquid natural gas – (bio-LNG for use as transport fuel)

Prior to practically all utilization options, the biogas has to be dried (usually through application of a cooling/condensation step). Furthermore, elements such as hydrogen sulphide and other harmful trace elements must be removed (usually trough application of an activated carbon filter) to prevent adverse effects on downstream processing equipment (such as compressors, piping, boilers and CHP systems).

biomethane-transport

Biomethane is getting popularity as a clean vehicle fuel in Europe. For example, Germany has more than 900 CNG filling stations, with a fleet of around 100,000 gas-powered vehicles including cars, buses and trucks. Around 170 CNG filling stations in Germany sell a blend mixture of natural gas and biomethane while about 125 filling stations sell 100% biomethane from AD plants.

Barriers to Overcome

The fact that energy crops can put extra pressure on land availability for cultivation of food crops has led many European countries to initiate measures to reduce or restrict biogas production from energy crops. As far as waste-derived biomethane is concerned, most of the EU nations are phasing out landfill-based waste management systems which may lead to rapid decline in landfill gas production thus putting the onus of biomethane production largely on anaerobic digestion of food waste, sewage sludge, industrial waste and agricultural residues.

The high costs of biogas upgradation and natural gas grid connection is a major hurdle in the development of biomethane sector in Eastern European nations. The injection of biomethane is also limited by location of suitable biomethane production facilities, which should ideally be located close to the natural gas grid.  Several European nations have introduced industry standards for injecting biogas into the natural gas grid but these standards differ considerably with each other.

Another important issue is the insufficient number of biomethane filling stations and biomethane-powered vehicles in Europe. A large section of the population is still not aware about the benefits of biomethane as a vehicle fuel. Strong political backing and infrastructural support will provide greater thrust to biomethane industry in Europe.

Why Eco Friendly Vehicles Are the Future of Transportation?

There have been many revolutions in the engineering of passenger vehicles. First, in the late 1800’s came the automobile. Less than twenty years later, the first consumer car, the Model T was put into production. Over time, engineers kept improving cars and made them faster, safer, and better for the environment. Just a decade ago, cars that operate just as well as traditional fuel burning models began hitting markets around the globe. Every year these cars keep getting better, and it looks like they are the future of transportation. ElectricVehiclesHub.com is your best guide to electric vehicles.

1. Green On the Streets and in Your Wallet

The appeal of an eco friendly vehicle is pretty obvious, when you take a look at how much money owners save on fuel costs. According to a report from Business Insider Americans in some states spend an average of over $1,300 per year on fuel alone. If you are the victim of a car accident, contact Philadelphia Injury Lawyers P.C. for a free consultation!

Internationally, many countries such as Canada have introduced extra taxes on fuel inefficient vehicles. Some countries, including Norway, Germany, and France have all proposed banning the sale of new gas powered vehicles. It seems that many countries see the harm that burning fuel causes to the environment, and are willing to push consumers to more efficient and clean transportation options, such as gas or electric powered cars. The use of these as power sources has garnered criticism as to whether or not natural gas is a reliable renewable resource, but natural gas been proven to be just as renewable and green as electric hybrids of today.

Studies have proven that “greener” vehicles do not just save consumers in taxes and fuel though. Electric cars can save owners quite a bit of money over time in maintenance. Since electric vehicles tend to need less engine maintenance, the cost of repairs and upkeep drop drastically.

2. Safer Roads and Better Fuel Efficiency

Today the roads are full of electric cars. While they certainly are the future, every driver is surely interested in what comes next. With driverless cars increasingly entering highways around the world, it would seem that the future of efficiency is with automated driving.

According to an article in Forbes, driverless vehicles could reduce fuel consumption in passenger vehicles by as much as 44 percent and 18 percent for trucks. That is an enormous impact for the environment. This reduction is due in part to the amount of time the cars are in use. With driverless cars, commuters could share vehicles and each passenger vehicle would spend less time idle, depreciating in value and wasting resources.

Self driving cars are already incredibly safe, and that is in part because they are programmed to strictly follow all traffic laws. According to a CNN report 90% of traffic accidents are caused by human error. These accidents could be reduced by fuel efficient driverless vehicles.

3. Making Your Current Ride More Efficient

Not all of us can afford to pony up the cash for a new electric vehicle, but that does not mean you can’t be more environmentally friendly with your current car or truck. There are plenty of ways to help make your vehicle and commute efficient. One simple way to reduce your use of fossil fuels is to minimize trips and idle time. If you sit in a drive through or traffic regularly, turn off your vehicle. The Environmental Defense Fund suggests turning off your vehicle if you idle for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Performing maintenance at scheduled intervals also keeps your vehicle in great condition, which helps it stay at its peak efficiency. Replacing spark plugs, keeping clean air filters in your car, and airing up tires to the manufacturer’s specified pressure can all improve your vehicles overall performance.

Please keep in mind that it is recommended to contact a car accident lawyer if you are hurt in a car accident. Your lawyer will gather the evidence and deal with your insurance company to ensure that you get the maximum compensation you are entitled to.

Lastly, driving fast consumes more fuel. Following the speed limit and posted directions, avoiding fast braking and acceleration, and using cruise control on the highway can help save on gas.

How Renewable Energy Manufacturing Has Become More Efficient

The world knows renewable energy offers extensive, far-reaching benefits that can help mitigate climate change. If we want to make progress, we need to move away from fossil fuels permanently. That’s an issue where most people agree. It is now evident there is another argument for renewable energy besides sustainability. This option has become much more efficient, both production- and cost-wise. Let us explore how renewable energy manufacturing has become more efficient in recent years:

renewable-energy-harvesting

Production Innovations Boost Effectiveness

Consider how renewable energy was received publicly 10 or 15 years ago. It wasn’t exactly an avenue that most individuals or businesses knew existed. There have been various challenges regarding implementation across America. Hurdles like government support and wide-spread education are examples.

That’s changed as more information has been released about how fossil fuels negatively affect our planet. It’s now evident that renewable energy prospects continue to grow annually — even during COVID-19. That’s largely due to how production methods have transformed over the past several years.

The renewable energy industry can now manufacture sources through smarter means. For example, we used to harness wind power from land-based turbines. Those opportunities have expanded as offshore capabilities are now more mainstream. This innovative progress has become applicable to other sources, too.

These new ideas are significantly responsible for how renewable energy has become more efficient. If we never changed our manufacturing processes, we couldn’t produce renewable energy on a large enough scale. There’s no denying that continuous innovations will make choices like solar, hydro and geothermal increasingly accessible.

As a result, we can enjoy more options as consumers. There’s also cost to consider — which unquestionably determines how efficiently people view renewable energy. They need to be even cheaper than fossil fuels.

ecofriendly-manufacturing

Costs Are Lower Than Ever Before

It is important to highlight how renewable energy has turned into an affordable alternative. This cost-efficiency will be necessary to help people choose renewable energy sources over fossil fuels. There are many reasons why prices for eco-friendly power have fallen.

1. Subsidies

The most significant components are subsidies. These government-backed incentives help manufacturers switch to alternative energy sources for less money. It’s also evident that options exist for individuals and businesses. People can access tax incentives to support their sustainable power pursuits financially.

2. Non-Profit Organizations

There’s also help from green non-profit organizations. Take GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic as an example. They provide free solar panel installation to households that can’t otherwise afford renewable energy. That’s a useful resource to help drive accessibility to these alternatives.

3. Investments

What about renewable energy investments? These endeavors are more prevalent than ever. If our country’s most influential figures put their money in renewable energy, we can expect to pay less for green power. Texas has the lowest energy costs in America — and they also use the most wind power. That’s not a coincidence.

These three points ensure that renewable energy becomes more affordable yearly. Various entities need to work together to ensure that sustainable options are accessible. They need to be more available than fossil fuels to ensure they catch on as alternatives.

Future of Renewable Energy Manufacturing

There’s a bright future for renewable energy. As a result of innovative and cost-effective manufacturing progress, Americans now have access to various eco-friendly power sources. If we can keep making strides regarding production, we should be able to create renewable energy on a far-reaching scale.

This process won’t happen overnight. It’s taken decades for renewable energy to be seen as even a viable alternative to harmful fossil fuels. But we’re in an ideal place right now. It shouldn’t be long before renewable energy becomes even more efficient. There’ll then be no excuse for people to keep using fossil fuels.

7 Energy Efficiency Innovations That Can Help Homeowners

Domestic energy efficiency has advanced a long way over the last few decades. Despite our overall energy consumption increasing by just over a third since 1980, on average our homes consume around 10% less overall. How can this be the case when we have so many more electrical appliances? Back in 1980, not many homes had more than a single TV, and computers and mobile phones were essentially non-existent. Yet somehow they used more electricity!

The answer to this question comes down to one simple principle. Energy efficiency. Government regulations and technical advances led by the private sector have resulted in appliances that are simply more sustainable. Throw in a better public understanding of the importance of reducing carbon emissions, and also the use of money expert comparison sites to track the expense of powering a home, and it the picture becomes a little clearer.

Expect to see this trend become ever more prevalent in the near future, as sustainability has become a huge industry that continues to rapidly expand.

Here’s a selection of the most recent energy efficiency innovations that are already helping homeowners save money that we can expect to become common place over the coming years.

1. Smart Homes

At first glance, you may wonder what the point is in buying a new domestic appliance that is advertised as ‘internet connected/ready’. After all, who is going to need a web compatible refrigerator or air conditioning unit? It is increasingly common for newly released appliances to boast this feature because in the coming years, our homes are going to be much more connected than at present. Being able to monitor and control energy expenditure remotely via smartphone is a tech that is already with us – but these are still the early days.

The next big step forward is going to be the implementation of wireless sensors throughout the home. These will connect all the appliances in the home to a centralized control panel which will automatically instruct how they interact with the energy supply.

For instance, appliances not in use, but on ‘standby’ mode will be entirely disconnected from the power supply when nobody is at home. Heating and air conditioning use will be precisely measured according to the ambient temperature. Just these two examples – and there are many more in the pipeline – are set to shave a considerable amount of household energy consumption in the very near future.

2. Next Generation Home Insulation

The US Industrial Science & Technology Network takes the approach that heating and cooling costs can best be reduced by simply developing superior insulation. While still at the development stage, these are promised to be far more efficient at preventing heat from escaping.

As may be expected, they are also going to be environmentally sound and most likely comprised of recycled foam materials. Should these be proven to work, there is a very good chance they will become the industry norm for new build and redeveloped housing in the years to come.

home-insulation

3. Reflective Roofing Materials

While insulation is ideal for maintaining an ambient temperature what about those who live in warmer climes? Everyone knows how expensive it is to run air conditioning 24 hours a day, but there have been considerable recent advances in reflective rooftop materials. Currently, these work by using special pigments that are coated onto the roof in order to reflect sunlight and heat.

The next generation in development will use fluorescent pigments that look likely to be up to four times more efficient. So for those who reside in areas where effective air conditioning is essential around the year, these new materials may well be an absolute godsend.

4. Magnetocaloric Refrigerators

A fridge powered by magnets? Close, but not quite. Refrigeration technology has barely changed or advanced since they were first introduced. Modern fridges still rely on vapor compression, which unfortunately requires chemical coolants that are notoriously bad for the environment.

Next generation models are going to be able to make use of water-based coolants that make use of the magnetocaloric effect. In layperson’s terms, this is the use of magnets to alter the magnetic field which can provide an extremely energy efficient cooling effect. Expect this to become commonplace in the coming years, thanks to their potential in enormously reducing energy expenditure and carbon emissions.

5. Much More Efficient Heat Pumps

Considerable progress has been made by the US Building Technologies Office in developing heat pumps that essentially move heat throughout the home. There are three models in design that promise to considerably reduce expenditure on heating while also significantly reduce carbon emissions. Standard gas boilers/furnaces are notoriously expensive and inefficient.

  • A low-cost gas-based heating pump could massively increase efficiency and result in lowering heating costs by a staggering 45%.
  • Multiple function fuel based pumps designed for domestic use can still save an estimated 30% with the added bonus of also providing more efficient water heating.
  • Natural gas based heating pumps connected with air conditioners aim to use a very low emission boiler to cater for all domestic needs regardless of the season. Of all three options, this is the most complete package and the one most likely to become widespread in the coming years.

These styles of heat pumps are also going to be used to significantly reduce the energy used by clothes drying machines. General Electric has been already near completing their first gas pump compatible dryer. This is intended to reduce the energy consumption of perhaps the least efficient appliance in the home by up to 60%.

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6. Even Better LED Lighting

Energy saving lighting may have become the accepted norm in many households, and the good news is that it is set to become even better. At present these are up to 85% more efficient than old fashioned incandescent bulbs, but the next generation – scheduled for a few years time – promise to double their efficiency. An improvement up to 230 lumens (from the current 115) is forecast.

8% of all electricity consumption in the USA are due to lighting homes and businesses. Having that figure will make for a huge national saving and reduction of energy costs across the board.

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7. Advanced Window Insulation

While still in development this may not sound like a huge advance, but could well result in enormous net energy savings down the line. Using microprocessors and sensors to measure sunlight and radiant heat, these are going to automatically provide shading to assist with providing ideal natural lighting and also assist with heating. Expect these to be integrated with the general smart home system outlined above in due course.

Final Thoughts

So there we have seven of the most exciting and interesting energy efficiency innovations that we can expect to see in the home over the coming years. While some are already in production while others are just passing the prototype phase, the future is looking positive in terms of reducing emissions and better managing energy consumption.

Energy efficiency is here to stay and these developments will likely only be the tip of the iceberg compared to what we can look forward to over coming decades.

5 Ways to Shop For Food Responsibly

Nowadays, we can get food from the four corners of the Earth. If you want tropical fruit during the winter, you can get it. You’ll never run out of oranges, mangoes, or bananas. While these fruits and other imported foods are delicious, it’s important to eat the foods local to your area.

Shopping for and eating locally grown food is stellar for the environment and your health. However, it’s a bit difficult to navigate these days when most common items are imported. Let’s go through some tips to become a responsible food consumer:

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1. Research Food Local to Your Area

First things first, get to know what crops grow best in your area. Do some googling and go to the library to find resources. Talk to people at your local grocery store.

Figure out which foods grow during the specific seasons and tailor your diet to suit the standards. Buy some cookbooks that have recipes specific to your area if they’re available.

2. Go Into the Store With a Game Plan

Going into a grocery store can either be a terrible burden or a fun experience. Most of the time, we enter huge establishments that push certain products towards consumers due to profits. Those who consider grocery shopping burdensome should craft a plan of action.

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You’ve already looked into local foods in your area. Now, you can craft recipes based on the ingredients. Plan what you’re going to cook for the week before you go shopping. Then, you can shop efficiently without succumbing to sales prices or food from far away.

3. Use Online Marketplaces Run by Farmers

While being responsible for your food choices involves eating mostly locally, some imported delicacies are hard to resist. Go easy on yourself. While you should avoid going into huge grocery chains and buying exclusively imported foods, you can splurge every once in a while.

If you want to buy certain foods that need to be imported, consider using online marketplaces like Pinduoduo. These stores are partnered directly with farmers. That way, you can enjoy imported foods while supporting farmers directly.

4. Go to Your Local Farmers Market

While grocery chains are great for certain products, there’s nothing like a farmers’ market. At a farmers market, you are directly exposed to the foods grown in your area. While farmers maintain a huge presence in these markets, you’ll also see other vendors as well.

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Organic food is a modern, healthy part of a sustainable lifestyle.

You’ll be able to buy locally made dips, chips, and other snacks. Plus, you can also buy crops or plants from certain individuals if you have a green thumb.

5. Buy Less

When transitioning to the life of a responsible food consumer, you’ll have to adjust to buying less every week. A responsible consumer does not overbuy. The individual buys what they need, whether that can be accomplished in one trip to the store or several.

The more you minimize food waste, the better you’ll feel. However, take baby steps and don’t feel too down if you have waste.

Become a Responsible Food Consumer

The task of being a responsible food consumer seems impossible, but it isn’t. The journey will take a while since you’re changing your habits and mindset, but it’s worth it. When you follow the steps to be more responsible, your body, mind, and the earth will thank you.

Take your time, make small changes every day, and have fun in the process. Maybe a love for cooking or baking will pop up while you are in the process.

Everything You Should Know About Biomass Storage Methods

Sufficient biomass storage is necessary to accommodate seasonality of production and ensure regular supply to the biomass utilization plant. The type of storage will depend on the properties of the biomass, especially moisture content.

For high moisture biomass intended to be used wet, such as in fermentation and anaerobic digestion systems, wet storage systems can be used, with storage times closely controlled to avoid excessive degradation of feedstock. Storage systems typically used with dry agricultural residues should be protected against spontaneous combustion and excess decomposition, and the maximum storage moisture depends on the type of storage employed.

Consistent and reliable supply of biomass is crucial for any biomass project

Moisture limits must be observed to avoid spontaneous combustion and the emission of regulated compounds. Cost of storage is important to the overall feasibility of the biomass enterprise. In some cases, the storage can be on the same site as the source of the feedstock. In others, necessary volumes can only be achieved by combining the feedstock from a number of relatively close sources. Typically, delivery within about 50 miles is economic, but longer range transport is sometimes acceptable, especially when disposal fees can be reduced.

Storage of biomass fuels is expensive and increases with capacity.

Agricultural residues such as wheat straw, rice husk, rice straw and corn stover are usually spread or windrowed behind the grain harvesters for later baling. Typically these residues are left in the field to air dry to moisture levels below about 14% preferred for bales in stacks or large piles of loose material.

After collection, biomass may be stored in the open or protected from the elements by tarps or various structures. Biomass pelletization may be employed to increase bulk density and reduce storage and transport volume and cost.

Biomass Storage Options

  • Feedstock is hauled directly to the plant with no storage at the production site.
  • Feedstock is stored at the production site and then transported to the plant as needed.
  • Feedstock is stored at a collective storage facility and then transported to the plant from the intermediate storage location.

Biomass Storage Systems

The type of biomass storage system used at the production site, intermediate site, or plant can greatly affect the cost and the quality of the fuel. The most expensive storage systems, no doubt, are the most efficient in terms of maintaining the high fuel quality. Typical storage systems, ranked from highest cost to lowest cost, include:

  • Enclosed structure with crushed rock floor
  • Open structure with crushed rock floor
  • Reusable tarp on crushed rock
  • Outside unprotected on crushed rock
  • Outside unprotected on ground
  • Subterranean

The storage of biomass is often necessary due to its seasonal production versus the need to produce energy all year round. Therefore to provide a constant and regular supply of fuel for the plant requires either storage or multi-feedstock to be used, both of which tend to add cost to the system.

Reducing the cost of handling and stable storage of biomass feedstock are both critical to developing a sustainable infrastructure capable of supplying large quantities of biomass to biomass processing plants. Storage and handling of biomass fuels is expensive and increases with capacity. The most suitable type of fuel store for solid biomass fuel depends on space available and the physical characteristics of the biomass fuel.

5 Energy-Saving Measures for Homeowners

There are many easy ways to save money and electricity every month around your home. And as you will see from the following examples, they don’t all require you to downgrade your lifestyle or make major sacrifices in your everyday life. Some of these energy-saving measures will apply more during hot times of the year or cold times, but most will serve you well all year long.

save energy concept

And keep in mind that many of these energy-saving tips can apply just as well to businesses trying to save money as they do to homeowners.

1. Use Energy-Efficient Appliances

Your major household appliances use up a lot of electricity year-round, so when it comes time to repair or replace one of them, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. Many manufacturers make refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges, washing machines and dryers that meet or exceed EnergyStar guidelines and can save you hundreds of dollars per year in lower energy bills.

2. Eliminate Electricity “Leaks”

Most homeowners are aware of water leaks in their homes such as leaky faucets, cracked garden hoses and poorly sealed pipe fittings in the walls. But your home could also be leaking electricity every day.

A lot of electricity gets wasted needlessly due to so-called “energy leaks”. These could include appliances that draw power 24/7, even when not in use. Other energy leaks could be simple things like leaving the lights turned on in empty rooms or falling asleep with the television on.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to reduce energy leaks without putting a drain on your lifestyle, such as using power strips, timers and motion sensors to cut off these devices when nobody is using them.

3. Improve Your Home’s Insulation

Another factor that drives up your monthly electric bill is the hot or cold air outside making its way into your home. There are two main ways to address this:

  1. Seal your doors and windows
  2. Put in better insulation

If your doors or windows are old and have cracks or holes, then go ahead and get those replaced. Double-paned glass windows and sliding doors can add an extra layer of protection to regulate your internal temperature.

home-insulation

If there are any gaps around the perimeter or frame of your doors and windows, then replacing the weatherstripping should seal those off easily. This is actually good DIY project for beginners that will only cost you a few bucks and a few minutes per door/window.

Replacing your insulation can be a big job and will likely require some professional help, not only to get the job done right, but also to ensure compliance with all building codes and regulations. The main question for you to discuss with your chosen contractor will be to decide what type of insulation will work best for your needs and your budget. Common materials include natural fibers, plastics, foam, minerals and fiberglass insulation.

When hiring a contractor, be sure they include air-sealing services in the estimate, since leaks, gaps and cracks in the walls, ceilings and floors should be done prior to putting in the insulation. Some insulation types, such as fiberglass insulation, are installed using techniques that literally blow the materials into place and do an excellent job of sealing off leaks.

4. Properly Use and Maintain Your HVAC System

Your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system can also make or break your power bill every month, especially during the winter or summer seasons. These heating and cooling systems are comprised of many motors and moving parts which are subject to wear and tear and will require ongoing maintenance.

While your HVAC system is designed to last for several years, some individual components can become worn out and create inefficiencies which overload the entire system, wasting energy and causing additional damage. So you do need to be diligent in maintaining or repairing these systems as needed. Many HVAC repair companies in your area offer free inspections of heaters, air conditioners and centralized ventilation systems, so take advantage of those when they are available.

hvac-maintenance

5. Use Green Building Materials

When constructing a new home or adding on to your existing property, using green building materials can also help you save money on construction costs. Here are some examples of commonly-used green building materials:

  • Recycled steel and wood
  • Reclaimed doors, windows and lumber
  • Plant-based polyurethane foam
  • Bamboo
  • Wool

While you might not see much difference on your own personal utility bill, using building supplies made from recycled or reclaimed materials can save money on construction costs. And you can also save a lot of energy and resources on a larger scale – at the community level and eventually global level. Plus, many reclaimed material just a nice aesthetic to your home.

Saving energy at home can be easy, and with a little creativity and investment you don’t necessarily have to make any radical changes to your lifestyle either. Pick one or two of these energy-saving tips for homeowners and put them to use today.

These Telltale Signs Will Show Buyers Just How Old Your House Is!

Although we absolutely love our homes, there will be a day where we have to pack our belongings and find a new place to hang our hats. Homeowners who have older homes may experience a bit more of a challenge getting that “sold” sign because buyers aren’t too keen on buying a house that looks like it’s from the 70s and can become a money pit sooner than later.

Below is the list of common signs that will show prospective home buyers just how old your house is so if you have an older home, here are a few updated design tips for getting your home ready to sell:

1. Old appliances

One of the biggest tips from top agents we’ve come across is to update your appliances! Buyers do not want outdated appliances and that includes any appliances that aren’t stainless steel. Buyers love the look of the sleek metal and it just gives the kitchen a modern appeal.

stainless-steel-kitchen

2. Loud paint and/or wallpaper

Paint colors and wallpaper is a personal choice, but if you’re going to sell, you will appeal to a much broader base if you’re giving them a neutral base. Neutral colors will allow the buyers to envision their belongings in the home, rather than being put off because their traditional dining set would look odd in a deep purple dining room.

3. Brass hardware

When you walk into a home, you can tell it’s age by the color of the fixtures. Shiny brass or silver hardware and door knobs are fine and well, but polished nickel, matte black, and oil rubbed bronze are best.

4. Old windows

Older windows not only date the home, but they are also a drain on energy! Buyers want windows that are energy efficienttriple-pane glass windows are preferable as they are the most energy efficient, but they can be costly, ranging between $500 to $1,085 per window.

5. Popcorn ceilings

Whoever thought popcorn ceilings were a cool feature to have in a house must have been really into texture. Smooth ceilings are much more preferable simply because they look cleaner. If you have popcorn ceilings, you can remove it fairly easily, except it will be a big mess. Fortunately, you can hire a contractor to do the work and cleanup!

popcorn-ceiling-old-house

6. Tile or laminate countertops

When you bought your home, you probably didn’t mind tile or laminate countertops, but buyers aren’t going to be so charmed. Instead, buyers prefer granite, marble, concrete or custom epoxy countertops.

7. Wood paneling

Wood paneling was popular in the 70s and it makes your home look dark, old, and severely dated. You can remove the paneling, install drywall, and slap on a fresh coat of paint and you’d be amazed by how much more welcoming your home will feel!

8. Carpet in the bathroom

Water and carpeting are mortal enemies and carpeting has absolutely no place in the bathroom. Buyers know this and will avoid houses with this feature, unless they were already planning on renovating the bathroom. If you don’t want to keep your fingers crossed you’ll have a buyer who’s going to renovate, you can roll up your sleeves (or hire a contractor) to rip up the carpet and lay down new flooring, such as tile, vinyl flooring, or wood.

bathroom-carpet

It can be hard to go through your house and see the areas where buyers may not appreciate. You may have loved the countertops you installed 10 years ago, or your ivory washer and dryer have never let you down… But buyers want homes that are updated, modern, and have as little fixing up to do as possible. If you do even a few of these changes and you may see the start to offers roll in.

Eco-friendly Upgrades to Make Your Home Attractive to Buyers

If you are looking to sell your home or are just thinking about doing some upgrades to make it more attractive when you do finally sell it, studies show that making your property more eco-friendly will make it more attractive to potential buyers. If you want to get specific, there are some eco-friendly upgrades that not only help the environment by reducing the home’s energy consumption, but at the same time provide a return on the investment of more than 100%. This is not just an empty promise as every year sees an increase in home construction that includes the latest in environmentally friendly technology.

green-middle-east

It is no secret that technology is helping every industry develop at supersonic speeds. With the continued threat that rapid urban development brings to the environment. it only makes sense to use new technology to create better construction methods that are less harmful to the environment and more affordable to the homeowner. Jump on the go green opportunities available today and commit to making a better tomorrow.

Be Both Ambitious and Realistic

As you might expect, some eco-friendly upgrades are going to cost more than others. Want to add solar panels on top of the roof? First you have to check with your HOA, if you have one. Then you need to check the financials of the project. The upfront cost will vary from one installer to the next, and the rebates and incentives that encourage you to change in the first place will also vary depending on your home state.

If installing solar panels on your roof is not in your budget, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Everything from changing your insulation to never buying bottled water can have an impact. Changing the number of days you water your lawn or the amount of time for each sprinkler. Try reducing the amount of time you spend in the shower by just a few minutes each day.

All of these savings can add up and help reduce your carbon footprint over time and not only do you not spend money, but you can save money when it comes to your utility bills.

Don’t Forget Tax Season

Using your home as a tax write-off is so obvious it’s a huge reason many people buy homes in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you aren’t the only one who has a vested interest in making your home eco-friendly. The IRS has entered the discussion and extends tax credits based on different upgrades made to the home for environmentally friendly purposes. And since employing a special tax attorney may not be in your budget, there are other feasible ways to examine your financial situation as it impacts your taxes, and whether or not there are any discrepancies that need to be taken care of.

Once you have your overall financial situation looking a little clearer, don’t just be content with the usual write-offs consisting of interest payments and the like; consider all of your options and make a home upgrade that pays for itself. The point is, being proactive and taking the initiative to make your home more eco-friendly is not only affordable, it is also rewarding.