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Posts Tagged: home value

Which Energy Upgrades Qualify for Utility Rebates?

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Cooling, How to, Tips to save money, Home improvement, Rebates No Comments on Which Energy Upgrades Qualify for Utility Rebates?

There are significant incentives provided by our local utilities to help us make saving energy a priority. Many product categories have utility rebates available, and each utility has slightly different offers. The primary emphasis is on saving electricity. Additional goals include efficient use of natural gas or water through high efficiency equipment.

While the majority of Washington’s electricity is from clean hydroelectric sources, our state wants to conserve its use so that we can grow without burning more coal or adding more power plants, (plus let’s be real, they sell some to other states). Electricity savings come from, for example, installation of solar panels or efficient heat pumps, conversion from electric heating to natural gas, and LED light bulbs.

Alongside direct energy savings from appliances is a goal of improved home performance, meaning roughly that our homes are sealed and insulated to retain the heating and cooling we put into them. That’s where windows and insulation earn their rebates.

For more information or to schedule your rebate qualified upgrade, contact Washington Energy Services.

 

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Gas Fireplaces and Winter: A Match Made in Heating Heaven

Posted On: Filed Under: Gas fireplace, Insulation, Tips to save money, Fireplace 1 Comment on Gas Fireplaces and Winter: A Match Made in Heating Heaven

What says fall and winter better than a cozy fire? How about a cozy fire that is also energy efficient, safe, stylish, convenient, and provides warmth? Gas fireplaces from Washington Energy Services fit the bill. Take a look and sign-up for a Free Estimate.

Energy Efficiency

Today’s gas fireplace inserts from Archgard allow you to zone-heat your home, providing warmth to the room your family frequents the most. This helps you save on your energy bills because you don’t have to continuously run your furnace or heat pump throughout your whole home.

The inserts themselves also boast impressive energy efficient stats. In fact, all Archgard models offer at least an 80 AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). AFUE represents the percentage of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. This percentage is especially impressive when you consider that these models offer both radiant and blown heat.

Safety

Wood burning fireplaces can pose serious health risks to your family. Smoke contains microscopic particles that get into your eyes, and worse, your respiratory system and bloodstream. At best, it might cause you to cough or have watery eyes. At worst, it can permanently damage your lungs.

Gas fireplace inserts remove this concern by providing the same look and feel like a real fire, without the safety hazards. No floating particles, no smoky rooms. Just you, a clean fire, and a safe home.

Style and Convenience

Gone are the days of limited gas fireplace options. For a traditional look, opt for decorative grates and surrounds. Or go sleek and simple for a contemporary decor. Whatever your preference, there are dozens of options for surround style, backgrounds, logs, and stones.

In terms of convenience, gas fireplace inserts really couldn’t be simpler. With the push of a remote control button, you have an energy efficient heat with no logs, matches, or ash.

Cozy Warmth

Finally, gas fireplaces provide a cozy warmth that you just don’t get with other heating systems. Models from Washington Energy Services feature a blower to efficiently heat a room, and radiant heat for a cozy, sipping-hot-chocolate-on-Christmas-Eve feeling.

There’s no better time than winter to install a gas fireplace to upgrade the style, efficiency, and warmth of your home. Contact Washington Energy Services for a free in-home estimate from one of our skilled technicians.

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3 ROI-friendly home upgrades for Puget Sound home sellers

Posted On: Filed Under: Doors, Windows, Plumbing No Comments on 3 ROI-friendly home upgrades for Puget Sound home sellers

Invest in new fixtures and hardware.

Perhaps one of the least expensive upgrades you can make, new fixtures add shine and newness to any room. An older bathroom sink can instantly be brought into the 21st century with a new faucet, which can quickly and inexpensively be replaced by Washington Energy Services. The same goes for a leaky or outdated bath faucet.

Updated hardware is also a quick and inexpensive way to upgrade your home. For example, doors with scratched brass doorknobs are given new life with modern brushed metal options. Changing or adding modern or classic cabinet hardware is also a way to upgrade the kitchen—an important and lucrative area when selling a home.

Open the door to higher offers.

The National Association of Realtors develops a report each year that compares remodeling cost versus value. This report rates home projects with the highest and lowest return on investment. Door replacement consistently ranks very high in terms of ROI. That’s because a front door—good or bad—makes a first impression. An old or damaged door screams cheap, while a new or well-maintained door says sophistication.

Door options from Washington Energy Services can replace your outdated or worn-out door with a classic, traditional, or modern option. If a new door isn’t in the budget, invest in a high-gloss paint and give your door a pop of color.

Make the move to vinyl windows.

Many older homes still have single pane or aluminum-framed windows. If you have a few (or more) of these in your home, consider replacing them with vinyl windows. The presence of single pane or aluminum-framed windows are a deterrent that are noticed by potential buyers, because they are less energy efficient, collect condensation, and can be drafty.

If a full window replacement isn’t an option for your home because of budget, pick a few of the more prominent or drafty windows to replace.

Just because it’s a seller’s market doesn’t mean your home shouldn’t stand out. Most homes can benefit from a few quick upgrades, and your bottom line can as well.

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3 reasons to spend your tax refund on your home

Posted On: Filed Under: Windows, Air conditioning No Comments on 3 reasons to spend your tax refund on your home

Here are three reasons why you should use that tax refund to invest in the comfort of your home—where life happens.

We’re in for a hot summer.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know that our summers have grown increasingly toasty over the past few years. According to the Farmer’s Almanac and the Washington State Climatologist, we’re in for another hot summer in 2016—perhaps even warmer than years past.

It might be time to finally invest in an air conditioner or heat pump that will allow you to have a cool, comfortable summer. No more heading out on errands just to feel the cool blast of a store’s A/C. No more sticking your head in the freezer. With air conditioning, summer becomes a time to simply pour a cold drink, grab a good book, and enjoy your cool home.

Increase the value of your home.

Whether or not you’re thinking about selling your home, a solid tax refund can help you greatly increase the value of your home. Here are a few ideas:

Vinyl windows: According to Realtor.com, switching to vinyl windows has an estimated return on investment (ROI) of 78.7%. That’s in addition to the substantial energy savings that vinyl windows provide!

Entry door: A sleek new door doesn’t just enhance your home’s curb appeal. It can improve your insulation to drive down energy costs. Bonus points if you add a beautiful coat of paint in a classic or bright hue.

Energy efficient heating/cooling system: Replacing your old furnace with a newer energy efficient model will save on energy costs now and provide greater equity into the future. Consider upgrading to a heat pump, which can provide both heating and cooling for optimum comfort, ease, and ROI.

Water heater: Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you want cold showers. If your water heater just isn’t operating like it used to, or is over ten years old, consider replacing it. New tank water heaters and tankless water heaters are incredibly energy efficient and made to last.

Sales abound.

Spring is a time to refresh and renew. That’s why Washington Energy Services is making it easy to make home energy improvements with stellar products and unmatched expertise. For example, take advantage of our Pre-Season A/C sale with 15% off during April and 10% off during May. All of our sales can be found here!

If that tax refund is burning a hole in your pocket, give us a call or fill out a free estimate form. Using those extra funds on your house this spring can make it feel more like home.

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Windows in pane? When to repair, and when to replace.

Posted On: Filed Under: Windows 9 Comments on Windows in pane? When to repair, and when to replace.

 

Do your windows have ongoing problems?

An occasional window repair makes sense from a time and cost perspective. Frequent window work, such as continuously removing condensation between panes, painting wood frames, or fixing drafty windows is another story. If you regularly find yourself opening your wallet simply to open your windows, it might be time to consider replacing them.

How do they affect day-to-day comfort?

For homes with single-pane windows, winters can be especially frigid, and summers frequently unbearable. Double-pane vinyl windows are budget friendly and energy efficient, as they help block the heat in summer and contain it in winter. Plus, they’re more resistant to condensation. Whether you’re shivering due to icy drafts and cold-to-the-touch glass, or melting in the beaming rays and stagnant heat, vinyl windows are an attractive option to make your home more comfortable and efficient year-round.

How feasible is window repair?

If you have the time, patience, and experience, your windows might be repairable. Minor (and quickly attended) rot can be patched with epoxy and small drafts can sometimes be eliminated with fresh caulk and new weather stripping. If you live in a historic home, with original or era-specific glass or window frames, repair is probably the best option, as replacing them can affect the home’s overall appeal and resale value.

However, there are some instances, when replacement is simply the better option:

  • Repair would result in exposure to lead-based paint
  • Pervasive rot
  • Fog between glass panes
  • Window hardware is no longer manufactured
Fog between glass panes

Preserving your windows

Ultimately, the best way to fix problem windows is to prevent issues before they start. Each year before the winter season, check your windows for seal breaks, rot (if wood framed), condensation, drafts, and broken hardware. Preserving your windows might be as simple as purchasing a tube of caulking or weather stripping. You may also find that professional repair or replacement is necessary. In any case, complete the work before the issue results in heat and energy loss.

Still not sure what to do? Feel free to give us a call to discuss your options. Our residential window experts will work closely with you to find the right solution for your unique home, style, and budget. After all, windows should provide light and a view of the world—not become a source of headaches.

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Avoiding the home buyer’s blues

Posted On: Filed Under: Siding, Home energy audit, Plumbing No Comments on Avoiding the home buyer’s blues

 

The major problems tended to be in the exterior (roof, siding, paint, windows), and plumbing. Many experienced mold or insect issues, heating and cooling systems that didn’t perform, and appliances that would not run. They discovered rooms with no heat, wiring problems, basements that flooded with the first rain and bad smells. There were also complaints about poor new home construction including squeaky floors and low quality materials.

In this day and age, the majority of home buyers are obtaining home inspections prior to purchase and making the sale contingent upon the outcome. So how could these home problems have been missed?

What’s in a home purchase inspection?

Whether a professional performs it, or you do it yourself with a checklist, a home inspection typically includes:

  • Check appliances, heating and cooling system, plumbing fixtures and electrical outlets to see if they work.
  • Visual inspection of the home exterior, structure, pipes and electrical, noting the condition and type of materials and obvious signs of damage or water intrusion.

The inspector runs all the faucets and flushes the toilets. He or she tests the plugs in the bathroom to see if they are GFI plugs. They go up on the roof and down in the crawlspace. They determine if the dishwasher functions, but not how well it cleans. An inspector will identify damage and note it in a report.

This is a visual inspection so it does not usually include testing of equipment beyond establishing that it turns on. It does not include insect, mold or radon inspection, air quality measurement, alarm systems, fireplace masonry, energy cost evaluation, code compliance or identification of sewer or plumbing issues beyond visible leaks or clogged drains.

Home Inspector

Home inspector qualifications and background matter

Many people say that if you use an inspector suggested by the realtor, they will be in cahoots to promote the sale. That conflict of interest is hard to determine, but checking the background and experience of an inspector is easy, and a good idea. In Washington State, inspectors are licensed, and unless they were in business before 2009, they have to pass a licensing exam with both a written and field test. Washington is one of only a few states to require this higher level of licensing.

Other helpful inspections

If you are buying an older home and want to increase your knowledge before you buy, you might want to add some of the following additional inspections to your buying process. These are each less than $300 and could save you much more in surprise repairs.

A plumbing inspection done by a licensed plumber can augment your home inspector’s report, especially if you request toilet leak testing and a camera inspection of your sewer line. Toilets are often a source of water loss and expensive water bills for the home, and an easy test can pinpoint if they need repair. The sewer line is the most expensive part of the plumbing to fix. It may clog and backup into your house, or unseen from above, be crushed by tree roots in the yard. A camera inspection allows you and the plumber to see just what is going on, and gives you an opportunity to ask the seller to take action.

Heating and cooling systems, water heaters and gas fireplaces can be inspected by a licensed HVAC professional in a diagnostic service. If the owner has had a recent maintenance service, you can request a record of that service and see if any issues were found.

Another type of inspection to enhance your knowledge as a home buyer would be a home energy audit. A home energy audit is a comprehensive series of tests which look at the house as a whole system including heating, cooling, ventilation, indoor air quality, insulation, gas combustion safety, damage from water intrusion, and energy use. While the audit is most often used by people preparing to make energy efficient upgrades, it could be a great benefit, especially to home owners buying an older home.

Washington Energy provides plumbing inspections, HVAC diagnostic services and home energy audits with their licensed and highly skilled technicians. Contact us for more information or to find out more about the NW Energy survey.

* 2015 NW Energy Survey, conducted among 1065 Western Washington adult homeowners.

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Why utility companies provide rebates

Posted On: Filed Under: Windows, Heating, Insulation No Comments on Why utility companies provide rebates

Why are there utility rebates?

Seattle City Light recently had a mail in offer for a free LED light bulb. It arrived in an attractive recyclable package with information about why this one bulb makes a difference. As they put it “conserving electricity is the most cost-effective way to meet our future energy needs”. In fact, utilities routinely offer their customers substantial rebates to encourage installation of a variety of energy saving equipment and measures for just that reason.

Why incent conservation?

In our capitalist economy it might seem counterintuitive for a business to ask customers to use less. Doesn’t that mean less profit for the utilities? No, that won’t happen. As the population of Washington State grows, there will be more and more demand, especially for electricity. If they can keep up with that demand using their existing infrastructure, it keeps our rates low and they make more money in the process. Rebates cost a lot less than building new power plants and that’s a win/win.

A second reason that conservation is incented in our area is that our state has a law requiring utilities to conserve, (The Clean Energy Initiative). Without getting into the complexities, the law requires utilities to hit conservation targets and invest in renewable energy or face penalties.

Power Lines and Energy Conservation

How to take advantage of energy efficiency rebates

In Western Washington, all of our major utilities offer home energy efficiency rebates of some kind. This includes all of the local electric companies, plus Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas. You can see a list of current rebates across the region on our site. Rebates cover energy saving upgrades such as high efficiency heating and window replacement, insulation and air sealing, toilets, water heaters, home energy audits, plus geothermal and solar energy. The value of the rebates can be $10 to $1800 for appliances and much more for solar panels. Every year the rebates change as they continue to calculate the savings gained from each measure and reassess what they can afford to offer to incent those savings.

Here’s how most Washington state utility rebates work:

  1. The utility defines the qualifications under which they will offer rebates or grants. For example, the rebate for a ductless heat pump might be only on units placed in a main living area (Tacoma Power), or on a 95% efficient furnace (PSE).
  1. Each utility accepts qualified contractors into their program, who they verify are licensed for their trade. (In some cases they allow DIY projects to qualify).
  1. They train the contractors how to work with their specific program, including paperwork requirements, inspections, quality standards etc. Typically contractors who are qualified by the utility can take the rebate right off the invoice, so you are not paying and then getting a check later.
  1. Where required, the customer may be asked to fill out an application in advance of the project. For example: if you are a Seattle City Light customer and would like a ductless heat pump, there is an application to file first to determine that you qualify.

There may be a few hoops to jump through to get the larger incentives, including applications, pre-inspections, in-progress inspections, and post inspections, depending on the utility or the project. It is, however, free money, and your contractor can walk you through any requirements.

Washington Energy Services is a qualified contractor for all major Western Washington utility rebate programs and can help you save on energy efficient upgrades. For more information, contact us today.

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What should you expect from a home energy audit?

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit 2 Comments on What should you expect from a home energy audit?

Many companies currently provide different kinds of Home Energy Audits. Here’s some facts to consider:

  • Energy assessment – Many contractors provide an informal assessment where they come to your house and recommend some products that could make your house more efficient. This is not an audit. But it’s usually free, and if all you want to do is get a high efficiency furnace or water heater, it’s a good solution.
  • Home energy audits include an extensive data collection and testing process. The Building Performance Institute (BPI, www.bpi.org) has created a set of nationally recognized standards for these audits and certifies auditors. Individuals who are trained by BPI’s program use the “house as a system” approach to improving the performance of homes. This approach has been proven to reduce home utility bills. The benefit of this testing is that it ensures that recommendations are based on a particular home’s individual design and components. Click here for more info. Local utilities may have their own variation on the Home Energy Audit, for example, PSE calls it HomePrint™. Most use a custom variation on the sound BPI principles.

The process: The BPI audit process begins with surveying both the exterior and interior of the house and collecting basic data about the house. Then the trained technicians will perform several tests including combustion safety, examining airflow and energy leakage. They review heating and cooling equipment and overall building enclosure performance.  The process can also include air quality and particulate monitoring. This process takes about 2 ½ – 4 hours to complete. If your audit company claims one person can conduct a thorough audit in under an hour – be suspicious and ask questions.

Your results: Test results and infrared photos are then interpreted and incorporated into a finished audit report. Your Home Energy Audit report will provide prioritized “remedies” or ideas to improve energy consumption. It’s usually worthwhile to have the audit report presented to you, rather than just mailed. The test interpretation and suggestions may generate questions and you’ll likely have several different approaches you can take. Remember, this is not a home inspection. The energy professional will not inspect the home for defects, pests, mold or safety issues.

If you are like most people, you can always find something that you’d like to improve in your home. Having a thorough audit is a good way to create a wish list for your home improvement needs.

Washington Energy Services in Seattle and Tacoma now provides BPI certified home energy audits. For more information or to sign up for an audit please call 1-800-398-HOME (4663) or request a free estimate.

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