You may be wondering how to save money on your energy bills this year. Conducting a do-it-yourself home energy audit is a fast, relatively simple way to assess how much energy your home consumes and determine what you can do to make your home more energy efficient.
A home energy audit will show you where your home is losing energy, how efficient your heating and cooling systems are, and ways to conserve electricity. All it takes is a thorough inspection of the areas listed here and keeping a checklist of the problems you found.
Air leaks. Stopping or minimizing drafts can save on annual energy costs. Some places to inspect where air commonly seeps from homes include gaps around baseboards, wall and ceiling junctures, electrical outlets, switch plates, window frames, weather stripping, fireplace dampers, attic doors, window-mounted air conditioners and foundation seals.
On your home’s exterior, look at the areas where two different building materials meet, such as corners and areas where siding or brick come together with chimneys or the foundation. If you can rattle windows or see daylight around door or window frames, you likely are losing air.
Once you’ve identified the leaks, seal them with caulk, weather stripping or the same material as the original seal. You can also attach plastic sheets around your windows.
Insulation. In older homes especially, you may have insufficient insulation in the ceiling and walls. Your attic door should be insulated and close tightly. Openings around pipes, ductwork and chimneys should be sealed. Look for a vapor barrier — tarpaper or a plastic sheet — under the attic insulation. To check your walls, make a small hole in a closet or other out-of-the-way place and probe into the wall with a long stick or screwdriver. If it's an outside wall, the area should be completely filled with an insulating material.
Fill the gaps in any openings with expanding foam. Flexible caulk should be used to seal any electrical boxes in the ceiling. If your home lacks a vapor barrier, consider painting interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint. This reduces the amount of water vapor that can pass through the ceiling, which reduces your insulation’s effectiveness.
Heating and Cooling Equipment. Inspect your heating and cooling equipment. See if ducts and pipes located in unheated spaces and your water heater and hot water pipes are insulated. Dirt streaks around your ductwork, especially near the seams, are evidence of leaks.
Have your equipment checked and cleaned by a professional annually. If you have a forced-air furnace, replace your filters as soon as they are dirty. Even if they aren’t, replace them every 30 to 60 days.
Lighting. Look at the bulbs in your home and determine if a lower-watt bulb would work just as well for your needs. For lights that will be used more than two hours each day, replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs and you can save up to 75% of the energy used for lighting.
A home audit is a great way to find out your home’s energy deficiencies and make simple improvements that will save you time and money in the long run.
Your 80-year-old aunt is coming to stay for a few days. You're looking forward to the visit, but realize your home may not be entirely "older-generation" friendly. To help enhance the safety and comfort of your visitor, especially one who may have some of the physical challenges that come with aging, here are a few quick and inexpensive things you can do to make the time less stressful for you and more comfortable for your guest:
Consider pathways in the house. Clear obstacles, and maybe even move furniture that a person usually has to maneuver around. Move any electrical cords that are where a person might walk – perhaps taping them to a wall or using a hook. Clear stairs of any objects—shoes, books, and other personal items that tend to collect on the lower treads. Also check that railings on stairs inside and out are secure, and make repairs where needed.
Lighting is crucial. Put night lights in bathrooms, the guest bedroom, any hallways near the guest bedroom, and perhaps in the kitchen. Make sure there is a lamp or light switch within easy reach of the guest bed so that your visitor can keep a light on until safely tucked in. Well-lit outdoor walkways and entrances are also key for coming or going when it is dark.
Be sure the shower your guest will use has a non-slip floor. To enhance the traction, apply non-slip strips or a suction-attached non-slip mat, both readily available at home improvement stores.
Secure or, preferably, remove any throw rugs, including bathroom mats. Edges of rugs can be a tripping hazard, and even a slight scoot can affect a person’s balance. If there are rugs you want to secure rather than remove, non-slip pads can help, but safer still would be to apply double-sided carpet tape or even caulk to attach the rug to the floor. If you choose one of these methods, be mindful that you don't mar the floor underneath.
Identify seating in your gathering rooms that is appropriately firm, high in the seat, and preferably that has arms to help a person easily sit down and get up. A chair that is too soft or too low to the ground can strand a person awkwardly. If in doubt about the available seating in the room, bring a dining chair with arms into the room as an alternative.
If you are considering other more long-term home modifications for aging in place, be sure to consult a remodeler or contractor who is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. Find one in your area using the CAPS directory.
Baby boomers, who were the largest American generation until the Millennials took over, are either retired or quickly nearing retirement age. Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 and who count more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they are definitely not ready to head to the retirement home!
The boomer generation is more active than generations past, has a more sophisticated style and wants options and choices in their homes. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier pastures, or staying put and redesigning to accommodate their retired lifestyle, boomers are making an impact on housing trends.
Some features that home builders and remodelers are seeing as they begin to cater to the boomers include:
Home Offices: Some boomers are choosing to work past the age of 65. As they transition from a traditional 9-to-5 job, however, they want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminates the hassle of commuting while keeping them active and bringing in supplementary income.
Tech/Media Centers: The tech-savvy boomer generation wants top-of-the-line amenities for their homes such as a media room with surround sound and central control systems, which manage all media sources in one location. The house may include a wireless home network, remote control lighting and security features.
Wider Doors and Hallways: As a person ages, there is a likelihood that use of a wheelchair might become a necessity. Designing a home that is livable now but can transition and be functional as the occupant ages is important in ensuring that the home will be a good long-term investment. Wider doors and hallways are useful for moving larger furniture today, and will also be wheelchair accessible tomorrow.
Better Lighting/Bigger Windows: The need for more lighting usually increases as we grow older. To accommodate this, builders are adding more windows and making them larger to let in more natural light. They are also adding more light fixtures in areas including under cabinets and in stairwells. Multiple switches to reduce the number of trips and dimmer controls to eliminate glare are other options.
First-Floor Bedrooms and Bathrooms: More than 40% of new homes have master suites downstairs, a 15% increase over a decade ago. Boomers not wishing to go up and down stairs with bad knees and aching backs have helped fuel this trend. The bedrooms also are also larger, with more spacious walk-in closets and bathrooms that have a separate tub and shower and dual sinks.
Easy to Maintain Exteriors/Landscaping: Yard work, painting, and other landscaping chores may no longer be enjoyable to aging home owners. People who move to a new home when they retire may opt for a maintenance-free community. Those that choose to stay in their homes might make improvements to exterior surfaces such as installing stucco, brick or low-maintenance siding. Lawns are being replaced with living patios, decorative landscaping, or flower beds which can be a hobby for gardening enthusiasts.
Flex Space: Flex space has become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling. Flex spaces are rooms that take on the purpose of the present home owner's needs but can adjust with changes as they occur. What may have once started out as a guest bedroom can be redecorated to serve as a hobby room or library. This allows home owners to stay in their homes longer as it continues to serve their needs throughout life’s stages.
A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) has been trained in the unique needs of the older adult population, aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. Access our directories to find a designated CAPS builder or remodeler in your area.
Buying your first house is very exciting. But financing your home purchase can be a daunting experience. In both cases, do your research and shop carefully to ensure you find exactly what you want and need.
Deciding how much to spend on your home and which type of mortgage will work best for you — as well as understanding the settlement process — can be confusing. However, there are many sources that can help you get prepared well before you step foot into a sales office, model home or open house.
If you are thinking of buying a new home, you must pay close attention to many details to ensure that you find one that will suit your needs and preferences. Before you start shopping, you should sit down with the members of your household to discuss your preferences and the many options available to you.
Here are some things you should consider:
The first step in the home buying process is determining how much you can afford. Check out our “Advice for Financing Your First Home” to learn more about how you can prepare for the financing process. To ensure that the financing process goes smoothly, buyers should consider pre-qualifying for a mortgage and having a financing commitment in place before shopping for a new home.
Before you start shopping, you should sit down with the members of your household to discuss your preferences and the many options available to you.
An easy way to organize your thoughts is to write each separate feature that you want on a 3X5 card, and arrange the cards in order of their importance to you. For instance, if you like to cook, you may want a home with a large, well-equipped kitchen. Or you may settle for a small kitchen, so that you can have extra space for a library, office or playroom. Some home buyers seek large, open interior spaces, while others prefer traditional rooms that afford more privacy. While looking for a home, consider whether your needs are likely to change over time. If you plan to add rooms, find out if there is enough space on your site for such expansion and whether such additions are permitted by your local jurisdiction.
Options include single-family homes and condominiums. Some home buyers prefer homes with large yards. Others opt for condominiums where they can avoid yard maintenance entirely. With a single-family home in a development, you'll be responsible for your own yard and home, but may be restricted to certain design elements or other regulations if there is a home owners association. A condominium is a home in a multi-unit complex, such as an apartment building or a townhouse cluster. You own the home, and you and your neighbors jointly own the common elements, such as the land around the complex, the parking areas, building exteriors, hallways, utility pipes and recreational facilities. A condominium owners association is responsible for maintaining the jointly owned elements. The day-to-day business of the complex is generally handled by a managing agency. Learn more about the types of home construction
Now that you know the type of home and features you are looking for, and how much home you can afford, you're ready to begin searching for your perfect home. Whether you use a realtor to find an existing home or work with a builder to buy a new home, you'll be more focused with your search.
Your home may be the biggest investment you will ever make. Taking good care of it with regular maintenance is necessary to preserve its value and ensure it will provide a comfortable, safe shelter for you and your family for years to come.
Maintenance Inside the Home
Safety and Security
Roof, Gutters and Downspouts
Windows and Doors
Faucets, Sinks and Toilets
With winter finally leaving and warmer weather on the way, it’s time to tackle all that spring cleaning!
It can be a lengthy process but it’s important that you don’t miss these often overlooked steps.
Winter can be rough on the exterior of your home. So you should start on the exterior before the spring rains cause more problems.
1. Clean out the gutters of any debris leftover from the winter storms and check to make sure your gutters are still securely fastened.
2. Clear away all the debris from your exterior drains. This will allow the heavy spring rains to properly flow and prevent back ups.
3. Check your windows for any cracking or splitting from the caulk. If so, clean off the mildew and replace the caulk.
4. The warming weather will inevitably lead to outdoor entertaining, so don’t forget to clean off your patio furniture using a mild soap and warm water. Gently scrub away any dirt that has collected over the winter. If you have wrought iron and rust has started forming, gently sand it off.
Now, wipe off your shoes and head inside.
5. Unplug your refrigerator, slide it away from the wall and vacuum the dust that has accumulated on the condenser coils. This task may seem small, but can greatly extend the life of your refrigerator.
6. Vacuum out the dust that is sticking to your air vents. After the vents are clear of dust, apply a thin layer of car wax on all surfaces of the vent to prevent dust from sticking and to allow for easier airflow.
Call in the Pros
There are still a few things left that should be done by professionals.
7. If you built a lot of fires over the winter, have a CSIA-Certified chimney sweep inspect your chimney and fireplace. This should be done annually to prevent house fires. As a bonus tip, throw a handful of salt into a fire to prevent soot and add some color to the flame!
8. Have a contractor certified by National Roofing Contractors Association inspect your roof for any missing, warped or loose shingles and check for loose seals on your skylights.
9. Before the weather warms up too much, have your HVAC system inspected by a qualified technician and, if needed, replace your filters.
Now that you've checked these jobs off your list, you can start enjoying the spring!
Homeownership is the American dream, but it’s also a lot of work. Your home is a significant investment and requires a consistent level of upkeep to maintain its efficiency and to protect its value.
As you make new resolutions for 2016, set aside some time to build a schedule of your ongoing home maintenance duties. Creating a calendar of anticipated maintenance needs will help you remember key milestones and better prepare for any big expenses.
The following examples of typical home maintenance should be completed at least annually. Consider your home’s specific needs to determine the relevance and timing of each task, and mark your calendar appropriately.
In the spring:
In the fall:
Anytime throughout the year:
The joys of homeownership come with a long list or responsibilities. But staying on top of these duties will help keep your home healthy as the seasons change and the years pass.
Embarrassed by your outdated kitchen or tired of that ugly bathroom, but aren’t yet ready to move to a new home? Remodeling those rooms is your next best option. And there is no better time to consider a remodeling project than during National Remodeling Month in May!
But beware that even a seemingly simple modification to your home could become a dangerous task for even the most confident do-it-yourselfer. By first consulting with a professional remodeler, you could save yourself a lot of time, money and headache by getting the job done right the first time. Yet with so many remodelers to choose from, how do you find the right one for you and your home?
The easiest way to begin your remodeler reconnaissance is by going online.
Proceed with Caution
The Internet makes it easy to find a wealth of information with just a few quick clicks of the mouse. Much of what you find will provide some useful background, but you can’t believe everything you see or read. When looking through customer rating sites, use good judgment to weigh the value of certain online reviews (positive or negative).
Keep in mind:
Remember, the most accurate customer review will always come directly from the mouth of a previous client. If you don’t happen to know any former clients of the remodelers you are considering, simply ask those remodelers for references of recent projects.
To find a reliable Remodeling Council contractor that is a member of The Wichita Area Builders Association, click on “Find a Member” and then “Remodelers Council.” You will find a list of current members of the Council. Another good resource is our “Remodelers Council Directory and Resource Guide” which you can also access through our website at www.wabahome.com.
The judging for the 2016 Spring Parade of Homes winners is completed and you can click below to see a complete list of the winners.
In addition to these winners, there are many great homes to look at during the Parade of Homes that you won't want to miss.
Pick up a Parade of Homes magazine from area grocery stores, Parade homes or download it from this website for more detailed information and a map of locations.
The Parade of Homes hours continue from Noon to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 16 & 17 and 23rd & 24th!
Come and see the home of your dreams!
The home building industry celebrates New Homes Month in April by sharing the top features that will be seen in typical new homes built in 2016. Once again, builders are responding to what home buyers want by offering greater efficiency in the design and function of the home.
"Today's new homes include features that will help homeowners reduce energy consumption and enhance the conveniences of modern living," said Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. "Our builders are telling us that energy efficiency continues to be a top demand from consumers."
NAHB recently surveyed builders about the features they are most likely to include in new homes they build this year. Four of the top 10 features focused on energy efficiency: low-E windows, Energy Star-rated appliances and windows, and programmable thermostats.
These features correspond to the list of features that consumers say are most important to them, as well. According to NAHB's latest survey of home buyer preferences, Energy Star appliances and windows, as well as an Energy Star rating for the entire house, are among the top five most-wanted features.
In fact, home buyers are willing to pay more for a home if they can get lower utility costs in return. On average, they will pay an additional $10,732 up front to save $1,000 a year in utilities.
Other popular features that builders said they are most likely to add to their homes include a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, laundry room, great room (kitchen-family room-living room) and a central island and granite countertop in the kitchen.
While lenders are looking more closely at borrowers today than in recent years, there are options for purchasing your first home without a 20% downpayment. For example, the FEderal Housing Administration (FHA) offers loans to first-ime home buyers with downpayments as low as 3.5%. However, these loans require mortgage insurance.To ensure that the financing process goes smoothly, buyers should consider pre-qualifying for a mortgage and having a financing commitment in place before shopping for a new home. Buyers also may find that some home builders have arranged favorable financing for their customers or offer financial incentives.
Designed to accommodate today's busy lifestyles, new homes - including urban condos and single-famiy homes - feature open floor plans, flexible spaces, low-maintenance materials and other amenities that appeal to younger buyers.With energy costs newar the top of consumer concerns, it's good to know that new homes can be more energy efficient than ever. Innovative materials and construction techniques mean that today's new homes are built to be much more energy efficient than homes constructed a generation ago. Not only can they be more affordable to operate, new homes also are significantly more resource efficient and environmentally friendly.
Today's tech-savvy home buyers use mobile apps to quickly gather all of the key information on a property and to see extensive photos from their cell phones or tablets. For example, Homesnap allows you to snap a picture of any home and get all the relevant property details, including any interior photos for homes on the market.If you're just beginning your search, Realtor.com is a popular app becuase it generally contains the most accurate information gathered from more than 800 local MLS's (multiple listing services).There are also several free mortgage apps to help you determine how much you can afford and to compare real-time rates from multiple lenders. Popular mortgage calculator apps include Zillow and Trulia.
For most Americans, homeownership is a primary source of new worth and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term. Although property values have declined in many markets, Americans have more than $10.8 trillion of equity in their homes, and for most families, home equity represents the largest share of net worth. At the same time, rent prices continue to climb - 2.8 percent in 2013 - as rental vacancies dropped to their lowest po int since 2000, according to a recent report from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. That makes now a great time to start investing in your future - insead of your landlord's.