How-To Tuesday: Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Do you dread receiving your utility bill in the mail each month? Are you constantly struggling with family members over practicing green habits? With summer and hot, humid weather fast approaching, now is a good time to check your home for energy wasters. Here's a checklist of things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient in the coming summer months.

Cool your home efficiently. This is the number one expense you will see in warmer months, and if your cooling system is not up to par, you'll definitely see an increase in your utility bill. According to the EPA, "20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfy, no matter how the thermostat is set." To ensure that your cooling system is working efficiently and to keep from overworking it: 

  • Clean your filter regularly.
  • Schedule annual maintenance to make sure your system is clean and won't have to work overtime to cool your home.
  • Consider replacing old systems with new energy-efficient models labeled ENERGY STAR. 
  • Use fresh air flow whenever you can. Ceiling fans and window fans are a good choice, but be aware of pollen and humidity levels before you decide to use them.
  • Heat and cool only the portions of the home you use regularly by closing vents in seldom-used rooms.

Use natural lighting/daylighting.

Another way to keep energy usage down is to reduce the amount of lighting you use. Turn lights off during the day, open the blinds and windows, and use the natural light that streams in through windows and skylights. Bonus: Natural lighting also makes a home more inviting. Painting walls a lighter color will help with light reflection as opposed to darker colors, which absorb light.

Check your hot water system.

Hot water heating is one of the largest energy expenses in your home after heating and cooling. Have your hot water heater checked for efficiency. To reduce the amount of energy here, think about going with a tankless water heater, a heat pump, or solar energy.

Seal and insulate.

Make sure the shell of your home is free of hidden gaps and cracks, which force heating and air systems to work harder. Check out this DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating from ENERGY STAR for tips and information.

Look for ENERGY STAR products.

The EPA recommends products from ENERGY STAR to help with energy efficiency in your home. Available products include lightbulbs, light fixtures, appliances, home electronics, office equipment, and water heaters.

Using these tips will not only give you a lower utility bill, but they will also reduce impact on the environment from energy use. What other tips do you have for an energy-efficient home?



Friday Five // April 25, 2014

Happy Friday! We've got a great mix of Charleston events for you this week, including the return of some spring and summer fun, 

Party at the Point at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina returns this evening! If you've been looking for a way to unwind on Friday afternoons, this is it. Grab the family, recruit your friends, and enjoy some food, drinks, and live music, provided this week by The Dave Matthews Tribute Band. Opens each Friday at 5:30pm.

On Sunday, April 27, the Town of Mt. Pleasant will host the 27th Annual Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival. Make a day of it by watching the blessing, seeing the decorated shrimping boats, and enjoying delicious seafood.

The 11th Annual Charleston Dog Show takes place at 9am Saturday in Marion Square. In keeping with the above event, this one includes the oh-so-sweet "Blessing of the Dogs." Admission is free and benefits participants like Pet Helpers, Middleton Place Hounds, and the Rescue Village.

From April 24-26, you can enjoy the Charleston Food Film Festival, a competitive festival in which the creators "serve up the food that guests are watching on the screen for a multi-sensory, full-bodied experience." The festival benefits local non-profit organizations like GrowFood Carolina.

Saturday also brings Jail Break: an opportunity for you to appreciate Charleston's local art scene. The event gets its unique name from its local, the Old City Jail. From their offical website: "Be prepared to lose yourself in a maze of visual and performance installations presented by Artist and Craftsman, The Art Institute of Charleston, and the Machiavellian geniuses of the local arts community."

That's it for this week! Get out and enjoy Charleston in the springtime. As always, we at Johnson & Wilson Real Estate Company wish you a safe and happy weekend.





Comparing Home Builders: Production or Custom?

Many buyers these days are turning to building new homes as opposed to existing ones. There are numerous advantages to doing so, including the fact that negotiations tend to go more smoothly since the builder doesn't have an emotional attachment, and the fact that you can upgrade and personalize to your heart's content. If you decide to build a new home, you've got a lot a decisions ahead of you, the first of which is this: Will you go with a production builder or custom builder? For some, the answer to this question is clear. But if you're on the fence or don't know the difference between the two, allow us to help. Take a look at our list of differences, pros, and cons below.

Production Builders

These are the home builders that are prevalent in new-home/master-planned communities. Examples of these builders in Charleston are Lennar, Beazer, Ryland, and David Weekley, among others. A main advantage of using a production builder is their purchasing power. Because they buy a large volume of materials and land, they get better deals, which they then pass on their buyers. According to the National Association of Home Builders, most production builders:

  • offer homes and land as a package
  • offer a range of plans to choose from
  • allow buyers to select their favorite style and design from a menu of details like elevation and upgrades
  • can usually deliver the same size of a home for less money
  • provide options for first-time buyers, those who are moving up, or even luxury buyers

In addition, when you go with a production builder, you have the option of buying a spec home (pre-built) or building from the ground up, giving you more control over what goes into the home.

Custom Builders 

When you choose to go with a custom builder, you choose to build completely from scratch. Most custom builders:

  • build on the land the buyer already owns, usually purchased separately
  • can build from a floorplan supplied by the buyer or can work with the buyer to create a customized plan
  • work closely with the buyer and allow them to make more decisions during construction
  • will include nearly any upgrades, additions, and details rather than presenting a set menu of choice

If your budget allows for it, going with a custom builder can be a great experience, especially if you're looking to build your dream home. You should expect to pay more for a custom-built home, but you also have a lot more control.

What are your experiences with homebuilding? Do you prefer custom builders or production builders? 


How-To Tuesday: Celebrate Earth Day!

This week, we're going to switch gears a bit for our how-to Tuesday post. Since today is Earth Day, we've rounded up a few ways that we can all celebrate our beautiful planet today and every day!

We'll start with the most obvious way to celebrate Earth. Plant a tree or start a garden. This is a great day to make a commitment to get your hands dirty, especially since Charleston weather outlook is so great this week. As more and more people join the movement toward buying and growing local, organic foods, there's never been a better time to start learning to provide for yourself. There's so much information out there on getting started. This doesn't have to be anything grand. Start with an herb garden. Grow a few tomatoes or cucumbers. Once you get the hang of it, you can move on and start a whole vegetable garden!

If gardening isn't your thing, think about switching to locally produced foods. There are plenty of opportunities to visit farmers markets throughout the week in the tri-county area and sample or buy produce and other products from local farms. Think about setting a day aside to visit a farm and learn all about where your food comes from. This is an excellent way to educated your family about nutrition and food origins.

Make a special Earth Day meal using those locally grown foods that have minimal impact on the environment. 

Commit to conserving energy. Think about this: do you really need to turn lights on during the day? If you have plenty of windows that let in natural light, try not to use overhead or lamp lighting during daylight hours. As always, be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Also consider switching to energy-conserving lightbulbs. Fix any leaky faucets and make sure the kiddos know that it's important to turn off faucets when not in active use.

Go on a nature walk or go camping. Stroll around the neighborhood or take advantage of the many parks, Lowcountry plantations, and beaches. Leave the iPod at home and just appreciate your surroundings. Think about bringing a bag to collect any trash you might see lying around. If you have kids, encourage them to bring a bucket or bag to collect interesting seashells, leaves, or rocks they can study later.

Have a clean-up day. This is the perfect opportunity to clean out those closets and cabinets you've been meaning to organize. Create a giveaway box for unwanted clothes and toys, and take it to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift store at the end of the day. Also think about taking a few moments to learn about natural cleaning solutions.

Recycle. Reduce. Reuse! Commit to recycling those cans, plastic bottles and jugs, paper, cardboard, clothing, and other reusable materials. Reuse them yourself, or check to see if when your local recycling pickup day is. You'll be amazed at how many trips out to the garbage can you'll save!

At the end of the day,  to help drive home the importance of conservation. For family story time, check out books like Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. For adults, try an inspiring classic like Thoreau's Walden.

These are just a few ways you can celebrate the Earth and learn about conservation today, but above all, let's make every day Earth Day!



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