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Article:: Is Your House the Money Pit?

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Is Your House the Money Pit?

(ARA) - Someone once said, "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or beautiful." The old adage rings true today as value-conscious Americans scrutinize where they're spending their money and question whether they are getting the best return on investment -- the largest of which is typically a home. With fluctuating gas prices, escalating energy rates and the uncertainty of an election year looming, getting the most for your money is more important than ever. Start the fiscal analysis by taking a critical look at typically your biggest investment -- your home. Is it saving you money or is it a money pit that continues to drain you of your hard-earned dollars?

Are you throwing money out the window?

Start your home assessment with the easiest and most obvious energy-busters: windows and doors. An old, single pane window is like having a four-foot square hole in the side of your house in terms of potential energy loss. It leaks air and offers little defense against the energy-robbing ravages of Mother Nature. Replacing old, drafty, ineffective windows and doors is a fundamental first step for saving money down the road.

"The financial benefits from home improvements, like window or door replacement, are quickly realized, said Elaine Sagers, vice president of marketing for Pella Corporation. "Day in and day out, the aesthetics of the home are more appealing, the utility bill is typically lower, the home is more comfortable and the outside noise level is reduced."

According to a recent Associated Press article, replacement windows are "the new stars among energy-savers." Compare the energy-efficiency of replacement windows several ways before buying.

Get the facts about factors that relate to energy efficiency, like U-values, Low-E (low emissivity) coatings, argon gas-filled windows and weatherstripping. U-values measure the insulating value of windows and other fenestration products. The lower the U-value, the better job a window does in keeping out heat and cold (which is the opposite of R-value -- the higher the R-value, the better insulation in the walls and ceilings). A low U-value can help save money in all climates.

Most quality windows today feature glass with a Low-E microscopic coating that helps reduce heat, as well as ultraviolet (UV) rays that can fade carpet, walls and furniture, helping to protect your investment in home furnishings and family heirlooms. The addition of argon gas in between panes of glass enhances energy performance. In warm climates where air conditioning is essential, choose a window with a lower solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) to block more of the sun's heat rays to keep your home cooler.

An easy way to choose energy-efficient windows is to look for products that meet ENERGY STAR requirements. The ENERGY STAR program was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers identify windows and other products that save energy. ENERGY STAR qualified windows help assure homeowners the windows they choose are the most appropriate for their area in terms of energy efficiency.

When replacing windows, have installers fully insulate crevices around the window before it is fitted in place, to maximize energy performance. Air leakage around doors can add up as well. Look for doors that carry the ENERGY STAR label, offer tight weatherstripping and high-performance glass to get the most from your investment. Consider adding a quality storm door to your home to provide greater protection from the elements and added energy efficiency, in addition to a quality entry door system.

Money saving tips for windows

The U. S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers these climate-specific window tips and ways to conserve more money:

  • During warm weather months as the sun shines through windows and heats up the room, install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Close curtains on the south-facing and west-facing windows during the day.
  • Install awnings on south- and west-facing windows.
  • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.
  • During cold weather months, double-pane windows with Low-E coating on the glass will reflect heat back into the room during winter.
  • For older windows, install exterior or interior storm windows; they can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25 to 50 percent. Storm windows should have weatherstripping at all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-E storm windows save even more energy.
  • Repair and weatherize current storm windows, if necessary.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows if they feel drafty after weatherizing.
  • Close curtains and shades at night; open during the day.
  • Keep windows on the south side of the house clean to maximize solar gain.

House hunt

Look around your home for other money leaks; many might surprise you. Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Tim Carter gives homeowners good advice: heating and cooling the home consumes large amounts of energy; be sure you're being efficient in this area. The best time of day to save substantially on your utility bill without sacrificing comfort is when you are not at home or asleep. During the winter, every degree below 72 degrees Fahrenheit on your thermostat saves 3 percent during a 24-hour period. Program your thermostat and you will automatically achieve the goal; the same is true during warm weather.

Replace energy hogs

According to Carter, older refrigerators, freezers and washing machines are energy hogs. By replacing models that are 10 or more years old with ENERGY STAR models, you can often recoup the replacement cost quickly through lower utility bills. Keep refrigerators full of food or fill voids with bottles of water to take up space. Once bottled water gets cold, it helps keep the refrigerator cold each time it's opened allowing in warm air. Do full loads of laundry or dishes, and consider replacing incandescent light bulbs with the new extra efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

New ways to save

If you decide it is time to invest in new windows and doors, look for ways to help finance the costs. Before starting the project, get information from your utility company about energy rebates before making the upgrades to your home so you're sure to select the right products that will qualify for savings. Many window and door companies offer great deals during off-season sales and provide convenient in-home consultations. Financing plans are also often available through reputable window and door manufacturers, or consider a home equity loan to make major improvements to enhance your home.

Think long-term about your investment in new windows and doors: you want a quality product that will last and provide years of enjoyment and performance, so the lowest price may not be the best choice. To realize a valuable return on investment, look for a product that will perform up to your expectations and add value to your home, and ultimately your quality of life.

To learn more about windows and doors, visit the Window and Door Manufacturers Association at www.wdma.com; or Pella Corporation at www.pella.com, or call 888-84-PELLA. To learn more about energy efficiency visit www.energystar.gov.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Authors Website: http://www.aracontent.com/

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