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.

Small House on Stacks of Hundred Dollar Bills Isolated on a White Background.

Whether you want to sell your home now, or well… never, it is always a good idea to increase the value of your home.  Here are 10 smart ways to maintain and improve your home value.

1)  Let There Be Light – Lighting can enhance a home’s appeal in many ways.  Soft lighting brings warmth to empty spaces, while high wattage bulbs can make small spaces feel larger.  If your home doesn’t get enough light, solar tubes are an attractive and energy-efficient way to bring in natural light (and are much cheaper than skylights!)

2)  Don’t Procrastinate on Care and Maintenance – Before you undergo the costly vanity upgrades, like your new custom kitchen, do the necessary stuff first… like fixing leaks, insulating the attic, fixing problematic gutters, replacing old windows, and such.  I know it’s not fun, but these items will quickly increase the value of your home, as well as make it much easier to sell.

3)  Do Your Pruning and Landscaping – Unruly trees and bushes can block the front view of your home and if they can’t see it, they won’t buy it.  Landscaping does make a difference as well.  Often, spending a few hundred dollars can bring you much larger returns.  Not to mention, if you don’t maintain your large trees, fallen branches could cost a great deal in damages.

4)  Create Space – Open-floor plans and large spaces are quite popular these days and buyers want homes to “flow.”  So, check with a structural engineer and knock down that non-structural wall!

5)  Upgrade Your Front Entry – If your home does not have an overhang or awning over the front door, many buyers notice immediately.  No one wants to be in the rain while shuffling for their keys.

6)  Replace or Repair Your Flooring – Replacing the flooring will often pay returns during your home sale.  If replacement is not necessary, like in my home where Pottery Barn wishes they had my original hardwood floors, a few well-placed nails can help to eliminate squeaks.  It is also very worth it to replace broken tiles.

7)  Do Some Cheap and Easy Bath Upgrades – If you are ready to sell your home, but don’t want to do a costly bathroom overhaul, spend $500 on a bathroom facelift.  Remove rust stains, apply fresh caulk, update doorknobs and cabinet pulls, clean the grout… probably wouldn’t hurt to get a new toilet seat!

8)  Neutral Wall Colors – Most brokers recommend neutral wall colors.  I do if you already need to update your paint.  If your more colorful paint is fresh and you genuinely think there are many people who would appreciate it, go ahead and try to sell.  Before I was a realtor, I sold my home and my realtor recommended I repaint my walls neutral colors.  I did, and when I stopped by my former house several months later to see if the new owners had a piece of my mail, they had painted my living room almost the exact color that it was before I changed the paint to neutral!  On the flip side, most realtors have had buyers who didn’t want to purchase a home because of the paint color and they couldn’t visualize the home repainted.

9)  Eliminate “Potential Issues” – Have a friend come over and let you know everything that pops out about your home that could potentially be wrong, such as a broken step or way outdated wallpaper.  If buyers see too many issues that raise their eyebrows, they will be more hesitant to make an offer.

10)  Green, Green, Green – Green homes sell faster and for more money.  Make sure you have proper insulation.  If your heating, air conditioning, or water heater need to be replaced, new ones are often 30-40% more efficient, and even more so when you purchase ENERGY STAR appliances.  I always point it out to my clients when homes have new heaters and water heaters, because it is something they won’t have to worry about for a few years.

Conceptual green grass house isolated on white

There many ways to green your home, but maybe you don’t have the time and money to implement all of them.  If you are short on time and/or money, here are some ways you can improve your energy bills quickly.

Choose Energy Star Appliances

If any of your appliances are more than ten years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with Energy Star appliances.  Appliance use comprises about 18% of your homes total energy bill, with the refrigerator using 6% just by itself.  (If you still have the old fridge running in the garage, the EPA states that getting rid of it could save you 150 dollars a year!)  Energy Star appliances use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models.  Energy Star’s website reports that if just one in ten homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.

Control the Temperature

Almost half a home’s energy consumption is due to heating and cooling.  Each degree below 68 degrees Fahrenheit during colder weather saves 3 to 5% more heating energy.  78 degrees is recommended for warmer weather.  A programmable thermostat will make these changes for you automatically.  Also, consider a new furnace.  Today’s furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s.  (Also, look for Energy Star furnaces.)  Clean your furnaces air filter monthly during the winter.  During hot summer months, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities such as using the dryer until evening.

Save Water

Placing an aerator on your faucets will cut your water consumption by 50%.  Install low-flow toilets, which use only 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 3.5 gallons per flush for pre-1994 models.  If your toilet is an older model, adjust your float valve to admit less water into the toilet’s tank. Behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time.

Clean Green

This may cost more, unless you choose to make your own household cleaners.  However, it’s worth it.  I personally have always gotten headaches from using conventional household cleaners. Choosing environmentally friendly cleaning products — and removing toxic ones — goes a long way towards ensuring a home with fresh, clean air. Clean air renews and rejuvenates; it doesn’t pollute our lives or the environment. Living in a less toxic home, removed from neurotoxic chemicals, improves sleep and concentration, makes babies less fussy, and gives a sense of well-being. Your household’s toxic burden on the environment will be significantly reduced by following these steps, and this too can bring peace of mind.

Utilize Energy-Efficient Lighting

According to the Department of Energy, if every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with one Energy Star CFL bulb, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for year, save 6 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.

LED light bulbs are even more energy-efficient and long-lasting than CFL bulbs, though have been slower to catch on due to cost.  But if you think of this way, if you place an LED bulb in your child’s room when your child is an infant, you probably won’t have to change the bulb until your child goes to college.

Use Less Paper

Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year, which adds up nationally to 4.5 million ton. About 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread, and ends up in a landfill. To stem the flow into your own home, contact the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512, or download the online form.  Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.  Also, carry reusable bags to the store to avoid using paper or plastic store bags.

Choose Green Options for Hardwood Floors

Bamboo is considered an environmentally friendly flooring material due to its high yield and the relatively fast rate at which it replenishes itself. It takes just four to six years for bamboo to mature, compared to 50-100 years for typical hardwoods. Just be sure to look for sources that use formaldehyde-free glues.

If you live in Colorado, an even greener option is beetle-kill pine.  If you have been to the mountains in the past few years, you will have noticed an immense amount of trees killed by beetles.  This wood is completely usable for flooring and has beautiful grays and blues running through the grain of the wood.  Also, you don’t have to worry about the energy costs to ship it from another country; it’s right here.

Reduce plastics

Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags — from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum — the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming, according to the EPA. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming.

Use Healthier Paint

Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today.

Garden Green

First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers.  Healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.

Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants have adapted over time to the local environment and support native animals. They also use less water and require less of your attention.

Stop using chemical pesticides. American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the EPA. These toxic chemicals escape gardens and concentrate in the environment, posing threats to animals and people, especially children.

If you are in Colorado, opt for xeriscaping.  A xeriscape promotes creative approaches to water conserving landscapes by helping people improve their landscapes and to reduce the need for water, maintenance and other resources.  For most of the western United States, over fifty percent of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscaping can reduce landscape water use by 60% or more.