Energy saving lamp with green seedling on white

1)  To uncover insulation-poor spots in your home that leak heat in the chilly winter months, a spot infrared thermometer will be your new best friend.  Aim this $30 gadget at a bit of wall or ceiling to locate cold patches that could use extra insulation or caulking.  Before these were around, you would have to call a professional to perform an energy audit on your home (which could cost hundreds of dollars), but now you can take matters into your own hands.

2)  Your electricity bill probably jumps in the summer months due to air conditioning. What you may not have considered is how effective ceiling fans are as an alternative to the AC. Unlike regular fans, their raised and central position allows them to circulate air and cool an entire room, and a typical ceiling fan uses about the same amount of power as a 100-watt incandescent light bulb. Even if you already have an AC for unbearably hot days, you can also purchase an Energy Star-rated ceiling fan, for energy savings all year round.

3)   Low-e (low-emissivity) windows are windows where the glass has been treated with a special metallic coating that allows them to be more insulating, therefore, much more energy-efficient, reducing the amount of mechanical heating and cooling that you need. In order to improve the thermal efficiency of the window, a thin layer of coating is applied to the glass’ surface, resulting in glass that cuts back the amount of UV and infrared radiation that is able to shine into your home in the hot summer months, and also allowing less radiant heat to escape through your windows during the winter months. Many low-e windows are Energy Star qualified and can lower your monthly electricity bill up to 15%. Almost every window size and shape today comes in a low-e version and these products can also make your home more comfortable in the winter by keep drafts at bay and keep your furniture from fading due to sunlight since they reflect the long-wave light rays that carry UV.

4)  Large windows are considered a plus for their ability to help light your home, but they do have a downside – they allow heat to escape in the winter, while excess heat builds up in the summer from solar radiation. Excess solar radiation in the summer drastically increases your need for AC, and by default, cranks up the numbers on your monthly electricity bill. Installing Low-e windows is one viable option to prevent excess solar heat gain, but if you’re looking for a less resource-intensive fix, cellular shades are relatively inexpensive and you can install them yourself. Also called honeycomb blinds, cellular shades are made up of two layers of fabric that are joined together at the seams so that when the shade is pulled down, excess solar radiation is shut out, and pockets of air are created to insulate your room. The soft, double-layered fabric keeps too much heat from coming in while still allowing daylight. They also help keep your space warm by preventing heat from escaping through your windows on chilly winter nights.

5)   Energy-saving products don’t have to be high-tech or costly. Case in point: draft guards are as elementary as they are effective. Draft protectors slip right under your doors and (as their name implies) prevent air from passing under them, ensuring that you’re only paying to heat or cool the rooms that you intend to.

elk-logo

Conscious Group is proud to partner with Environmental Learning for Kids.  ELK is an inclusive non-profit organization that develops inspired and responsible leaders through science education and outdoor experiences for underserved, urban youth ages 5-25.

Underserved, culturally diverse youth in Arapahoe, Adams and Denver Counties do not have the same opportunities to succeed and thrive as other youth. There are far more opportunities in urban neighborhoods to skip school and join gangs than there are to become a contributing part of the community.  Eighty percent of the students that ELK works with in school programs, mostly in Denver, Commerce City and Aurora, qualify for free or reduced lunches.

Through Learning Environmental Activities for Families (LEAF), ELK’s family-based program, ELK encourages parents to experience the outdoors with their children. Parents are invited to attend all ELK activities.  As an additional source of support for students, ELK’s Youth in Natural Resources (YNR) program offers leadership development, mentoring and one-to-one assistance as students prepare for college. To date, ELK has helped secure $70,000 in scholarships for students to attend college.

elk-photo

Priscilla Alcocer, a 12 year old ELK student said, “I’m only 12, and I know what college I want to go to. I know what I want to do with my life. ELK taught me you’re never too young or old to try something new or think about your future.”

I am inspired by organizations such as this that provide education and better options for our next generation.  You may donate to Environmental Learning for Kids, volunteer, or enroll your child.  Follow ELK on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates about the great work they are doing in our community!

For just $250, one student can participate in ELK activities for a year. A gift of $100 will provide 25 students with the opportunity to experience the outdoors on an ELK field trip.

As always, Conscious Real Estate contributes 10% of all commissions to the nonprofit of your choice, and ELK is a great choice!  Let’s make positive changes together in the community when you buy or sell your next home with Conscious Real Estate.  Call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

colorado-alliance-for-environmental-education

Conscious Real Estate is proud to announce a partnership with the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. CAEE is a professional organization for environmental educators, which facilitates communication, cooperation, collaboration, and coordination among the varied environmental education programs in the state.

Environmental education is a life-long learning process that increases awareness about the environment and its systems while developing critical-thinking skills that enable responsible decision-making.  Environmental education builds knowledge and skills in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and allows opportunities to apply those skills.

Environmental education also fosters a connection to the community and civic responsibility by developing environmental literacy, which is the capacity to understand the implications of our actions, to critically think about daily choices, and to make informed and responsible decisions.  Reaching this level of understanding and developing these skills on a large scale is only possible through quality education.

We need environmental education if we continue to expect the people of Colorado to make tough choices about environmental issues (i.e., water use, air pollution, development, transportation, etc.)  We are lucky to live in such a beautiful state, and it’s important to bring environmental awareness and education to our current and future generations.

If you need additional motivation to support CAEE, watch this controversial commercial from Toys R Us which all but denounces not just environmental education, but education in general.  Parents have to compete with such enticing ads to keep their children engaged in healthy activities, as obesity rises in our country and the educational system declines.  Even Stephen Colbert had to take a stab at this one!

Become a member, donate, or volunteer with the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and follow CAEE on Facebook or Twitter to receive updates on the great work they are doing in our community.

Remember:  Conscious Real Estate always contributes 10% of commissions to the nonprofit of your choice when you buy or sell a home with our realtors, so you can make a generous donation to great organizations in our community like CAEE.

If you can donate any technology items or office supplies, The Wish List for CAEE currently includes:  projector, computer speakers, recent computers and laptops, Adobe InDesign software, Laptop cases/bags, Wireless mouse, laminator, colored paper, copy paper, paper shredder, flip chart paper, easels, Avery labels, Avery name tag holder, Avery name tag inserts, Spray Mount, Post It Notes, Tools (hammer, nails, etc.), Standing lamps, light bulbs, Vacuum, Room Air Conditioner, Fans, Plastic Bins, Tupperware, Set of knives, Folding Tables, Folding Chairs, Cutting Boards, Meeting Space, Small Moving Dollies, and Wheeled Storage for Events.

Please email info@caee.org to donate these items.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Many of us who live in central Denver live in a little slice of history – our Victorians, Denver squares, Tudors, Craftsman bungalows, the occasional 1920’s Spanish-style – (sigh…) I adore these homes, mine was built in 1899, but they tend to not be so energy-efficient.

Here are 6 tips to make your older home more energy efficient:

1.    Owner of older home should make sure attic spaces are properly insulated. This can have a tremendous impact on a home’s energy-efficiency, and significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. There are many blow-in spray foam options:  insulating an attic can be a fairly easy project, and many home improvement stores rent the necessary equipment, including insulation blowers.  It is also easy to simply use roll-out insulation.

2.    Replace old windows and doors and choose new, energy efficient options.  Since this is expensive, adding storm shutters and clear plastic coating to windows can help an old home be more efficient.  For homeowners who can’t afford to replace doors and windows, adding window stripping and caulk is a good idea.

3.    Insulate the hot water heater and associated pipes, and keep the thermostat set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, consider a tankless water-heating unit. This is an upfront investment, which saves money in the long-term, because they only heat water when it’s needed.

4.    Enact home heating zones. This means strategizing to heat a home based on usage. For example, heat the downstairs of an old home during the day, and the upstairs at night.

5.    If an old home has old appliances, it may be worthwhile to invest in newer energy saving models. While there are some things owners of older homes can’t control without big remodeling investments, this is a less expensive alternative.

6.    Just because a home is old doesn’t mean it can’t take advantage of new technology, like home automation systems. A home automation system can allow owners of older homes to control the systems located within, even remotely, including the thermostat.

If you are interested in purchasing or selling a historic Denver home, Conscious Real Estate adores working with all types of old houses. Call Allison Parks at 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

illustration of green house on half earth with colorful butterflies

If you would like to implement energy-efficient upgrades on your home, but don’t know where to start, a home energy audit is a great place to begin.  Many of these upgrades not only make your home more efficient, but will make your home more comfortable and healthy.  If you find your home is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, or if you know your bills are too high for the size of your home, you should definitely consider an energy audit.  Also, homes with green features are quickly rising in popularity and sell faster and closer to asking price.

Certified Energy Auditors use various tests and tools to produce a detailed diagnosis and specific solutions to make your home more efficient and healthy.  Auditors will do a visual inspection of your home to find leaks in doors and windows and to check your insulation levels.  Blower door and infrared camera diagnostic tools can measure the air leaks from inside your home.

Energy auditors seek to find improvements that are specific to your home, as every home and region are different.  For instance, a home in a more humid region should take caution before sealing leaks, as this could cause a potential humidity build up.

Colorado residents are eligible for rebates from Xcel energy for energy-effiicient upgrades.  Also, customers using Xcel energy are provided with a list of Certified Energy Auditors.  Please note:  auditors on this list are registered with Xcel, but are not necessarily recommended, so consumers are encouraged to conduct their own research before choosing an auditor.

Groundwork Denver, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring about the sustained improvement of the physical environment and promote health and well-being also have BPI-certified energy specialists to investigate your appliances, furnace and insulation to identify and prioritize energy-saving improvements. They then provide education and resources on how to implement those improvements, connections to other resources (weatherization funding, home rehabilitation programs, rebates and local contractors), and a summary report of findings and recommendations.

Just by identifying simple changes, audits can save you $5 to $300 a year on energy bills.  This energy audit will cost $150, and for another $50, they can implement minor upgrades during the audit.

     Graph made of green grass and blue sky

As a homeowner, adding green features to your home can quickly increase your home’s comfort and levels of health, while saving you money.  However, for real estate investors, there are also many benefits for adding green features to your properties.  Green real estate investments are quickly becoming popular due to their high profit ratings and are attractive to future renters and buyers.

Tenants or potential buyers of homes and commercial properties will save on their energy bills, so owners can justify increases in rent or the listing price.  Tenants who prefer energy-efficient homes and commercial spaces are likely to be more conscientious, so these folks may be better tenants – paying rent on time and taking better care of your property!

Many green improvements also require less maintenance.  Repairs and replacements that can be done less often will quickly lead to savings for the property owner.  Also, green homes and commercial properties create healthier environments, which sets green properties apart from others in the market.  The ability to market your property as healthy can result in quicker sales and rentals, which is a goal of investors.

So, help yourself while doing some good for the environment – Green up your investment real estate!

illustration of board for rent

Denver rent averages have reached levels not seen since metro Denver’s apartment boom days in the dot-com era.  A report released in October 2013 from the Apartment Association of Metro Denver and the Colorado Division of Housing states that the area’s overall vacancy rate is 4.4 percent, which is a pretty tight market for renters.  Ryan McMaken, an economist with the Colorado Division of Housing, believes that many apartment units are sitting longer than normal only because they are being updated, repaired, or renovated.

Supply of rentals from new builds is finally beginning to push up the vacancy rates a bit.  However, even with 2900 new units, rents continue to rise.  Average rents are currently at $1,049, up 6.3 percent from Q3 2012.  2014 is expected to bring 10,000 new units, which may slow rent growth.  However, population growth hasn’t slowed much in Denver, so we will see how the numbers even out, if at all.

While interest rates remain low, it may be a great time for you to buy.  Through much of Denver, if you were to purchase the exact same property that you’re renting, your mortgage payment would likely be lower than your monthly rent.  Contact us at Conscious Group to see if buying in Colorado is a good move for you!

People walking on a street motion blur

Walkability is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking.  A high walk score mean that you will have neighborhood restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, schools, parks, and more nearby.  It also means you will have more public transportation options.  (Walk scores range from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best.)

The Walk Score website reports that people who live in walkable neighborhoods weigh 6-10 pounds less.  Walkable neighborhoods can save residents a considerable amount of money, as cars are the second largest household expense in the United States.  Walkable neighborhoods are also eco-friendly, as 82% of CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels.  Short commutes reduce stress and increase community involvement.

For help in finding some of Denver’s best walkable neighborhoods with homes for sale, let Conscious Real Estate guide you in your next home purchase! To contact one of our agents, call 303-908-9873 or email allison@theconsciousgroup.com.

solar-tube

Solar tubes, also called SolaTubes and light tubes, are an attractive and energy-efficient way to bring natural light into your home.  These are great for homes in historic Denver neighborhoods, as many of the homes were built very close together and don’t get much light.  Our older homes also usually have attics and solar tubes are literally a tube that goes through the attic.

A tube lined with highly reflective material leads the light rays through a building, starting from an entrance-point located on its roof or one of its outer walls.  The entrance point usually comprises a dome, which has the function of collecting and reflecting as much sunlight as possible into the tube.

Solar light pipes, compared to conventional skylights and other windows, offer better heat insulation properties and more flexibility for use in inner rooms, but less visual contact with the external environment.  Solar tubes are also considerably cheaper than skylights.  They can also be helpful for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder by bringing more natural daylight into the environment.  A home with good lighting also will have an increased value and sell more quickly.

If you are savvy enough to install your own solar tube, you can purchase one for under $200.  To have it installed might cost closer to $500, depending on which company you choose.

A boiler water heater, water droplet, and a flame.

Water-heater efficiency is a boring topic, but water heating is  actually the second largest energy expense in your home, accounting for around 18% of your energy bill.  If your water heater is older and less efficient, you can consider getting a newer model, using less hot water, turning down the thermostat on your water heater, OR you can insulate your water heater and hot water pipes.

Insulating your water heater will cost around $30 – you can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $20.  This will save you $20-45 annually on energy bills, so you should get your return on your insulation investment in about a year.

1.) Turn off the water heater.  For electric heaters, turn off the breaker at the electric panel. For gas water heaters, turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position.
2.) Measure the height of the water heater and cut the blanket to fit if necessary.  Leave the top of the water heater open—it is important not to block the vent on top of a gas unit.
3.) Wrap the blanket around the water heater and temporarily tape it in place.  For ease of installation, position the blanket so that the ends do not come together over the access panels in the side of the tank. Some tanks have only one access panel.
4.) Using a marker, mark the areas where controls are so that you can cut them out.  For electric water heater units, there will be two panels on the side of the tank. For gas, you’ll need to mark an arch-shaped hole around the gas valves and burner. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the valve and burner areas below. Make the opening at least 1 inch wider than the valve and burner area. Also, mark the area where the pressure relief valve and pipe are. This will be a pipe that sticks out of the side of the water heater.
5.) Install the blanket.  Be careful to line up the cut out areas and then tape it in permanently in place.
6.) Turn the water heater back on.  Don’t set the thermostat above 130ºF on electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket – the wiring may overheat.