Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How the Stimulus Benefits “Green”

(And How You Can Position Yourself to Benefit as Well)By Ryan Moehring

You may think there is too much “pork” in the recently signed stimulus bill. Or perhaps too much spending or too many tax cuts. Its passage may offend your Keynesian or Monetarist economic views, and may, you believe, lead to the very demise of capitalism itself. (OK, that may be going too far.) You may not think we need a stimulus at all—that we should let the free market recover on its own. Whatever your political and economic viewpoint, if you believe our country's energy policy needs a fundamental change, and that energy efficiency and renewable energy can simultaneously stimulate the economy and help the planet, chances are you are excited about the green provisions of the bill.To say the stimulus is big is an understatement. It is huge, colossal, gargantuan even. It is the largest spending bill the world has ever seen, which is a frightening proposition to say the least. However, if you can get past the staggering debt created by the bill, you'll find unprecedented subsidies for the energy sector. Here is an abbreviated summary of some of the energy-related provisions that can impact your real estate business:$6.3 billion for energy efficiency in multifamily housing getting federal assistance, such as HUD-sponsored low-income housing$5 billion to weatherize more than 1 million homes owned by "modest-income" families.$4.5 billion to increase the energy efficiency of federal buildings$4 billion to repair and modernize public housing units$2 billion to increase the tax credit for hybrid cars to $7,500$1.4 billion for bonds to carry out state and local renewable energy and conservation projects$510 million to repair and modernize more than 4,000 Native American housing units$500 million to train workers for careers in energy efficiency and renewable energy$300 million for consumer rebates for energy-efficient appliances$268 million to remove caps on a 30 percent residential credit for solar, wind, and geothermal$250 million to HUD to improve the efficiency of government-subsidized apartmentsThe New York Times released a detailed breakdown of the energy provisions here.Interesting Facts About the $5 Billion Dedicated to Weatherization AssistanceThis amount could weatherize 1 million homes and, directly and indirectly, create 375,000 jobs.Low-income families will save an average of $350 annually from weatherization.Every investment of $1 billion in clean energy programs creates nearly 5,000 more jobs than traditional infrastructure spending.As a real estate professional, you may be wondering how you can benefit from all of this spending. Here are a few suggestions:You can always contact your state energy office and obtain information about their weatherization program. Once you have this information, how can you apply it?Do you know someone on your lead list, or perhaps a past client, who could use some free insulation or some caulking around their windows? Why wouldn't you take the time to connect a potential client with free weatherization money for home improvements that will actually improve their comfort and quality of life? When the time comes to sell their home, who do you think they are going to call? Mr. Big Shot REALTOR® with the huge advertising budget? Or the considerate agent who thoughtfully took the time to help make their winter a little more comfortable?Maybe you've already helped a family move into a green home, or have helped them retrofit it. You already know that green topics are important to them, so why wouldn't you tell them about the $7,500 tax credit for purchasing a plug-in hybrid vehicle?Do they already have a hybrid? Tell them about the rebates for energy-efficient appliances.Even better, how about informing them about the removal of the 30 percent cap on residential solar systems? Combine this credit with local incentives currently offered by a number of states and your clients can start producing their own energy for around one-fourth of the sticker price. Now that's exciting!Whatever the scenario, you should know that your competition will be putting the stimulus to good use. How will your business benefit? Start planning today.*********************Discover more about the growing interest in all things "green" in this issue of the EcoBroker Green Outlook.Want to know more about green issues in real estate? If you would like to receive information from us more often, just send us an email with your name, company name, address, and phone number, and we will keep you up to date on timely green industry news and opportunities. Join EcoBroker today to gain the tools to stay on top and address the needs of this changing market. With EcoBroker® designation training, you can help clients save money, live comfortably, and reduce their carbon footprint!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Conduct Your Own Energy Audit by Jane Hodges

Self-starters don’t necessarily need a pro to assess their home’s energy deficiencies. With a little elbow grease and one of several free do-it-yourself guides to home energy auditing, you can get a good sense of where your home is leaking hot and cool air, and how your choice of appliances and your energy use contributes to energy loss.

What you’ll save on fixes
By following up on problems, you can lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With annual energy bills averaging $2,200, according to Energy Star, investing in fixes or energy-efficient replacement products could save you up to $660 within a year.

And self-audits can cost virtually nothing if you already own a flashlight, ladder, measuring stick, candles, eye protection, work clothes, dust mask, and a screwdriver—or roughly $150 if you’re starting from scratch. As for time commitment, expect to spend two to four hours to investigate home systems, refer to utility bills, and conduct research about local norms for products, such as insulation, say experts.

Types of DIY audits
Since there are a variety of ways to conduct a do-it-yourself audit, you’ll need to know your tolerance for the tasks involved.

Some require you play home inspector, climbing into attics and crawlspaces on fact-finding missions and delving into unfinished portions of your home to look at duct work. Questionnaire-based audits rely the assumption that you can answer such questions as how many gallons of water your toilet tank holds to the R-value (thickness) of insulation in your home.

If you don’t have time to familiarize yourself with your home’s systems or confidence about diagnosing problems, are disabled, are squeamish on ladders and in crawlspaces, or are already planning to invest in a major remodel, you may benefit from hiring a pro.

Even homeowners who complete a self-audit often hire a professional to double-check their diagnoses. A self-audit may reveal drafts but not their exact source, such as ducts or insulation, for instance. Because the costs to address a draft can range from minor to major, investing in a paid audit may be justifiable.

What should you check?
All the home systems and appliances that contribute to energy costs. Here’s the breakdown of a typical home’s energy usage that Energy Star references:

Heating (29%)
Cooling (17%)
Water heating (14%)
Appliances (13%)
Lighting (12%)
Computers and electronics (4%)
Other (11%)
Self-audits hone in on details pros may not
While the pros use special equipment to focus on hard-to-research aspects of a home’s building envelope and indoor air circulation, DIY audits can teach you—based on the questions they ask—to identify and address the numerous small ways in which your home wastes energy.

Since lighting, electronics, and appliances collectively account for nearly 30% of the average home’s energy costs, you can make an impact on your bills by replacing old appliances with energy-efficient replacements and simple fixes—plugging appliances into power strips versus wall outlets, making sure refrigerator doors are properly sealed and don’t leak air, and opting for a programmable thermostat.

How to spot common energy leaks
1. Check your home’s exterior envelope—the windows, doors, walls, and roof exposed to outdoor air. Hold a candle or stick of incense near windows, doors, electrical outlets, range hoods, plumbing and ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and ceiling fans in bathrooms. When smoke blows, you’ve got a draft from a source that may need caulking, sealant, weather stripping, or insulation.

2. Check insulation R-value or thickness. Where insulation is exposed (in an attic, unfinished basement, or around ducts, water heaters, and appliances), use a ruler to measure, recommends the DOE. Compare your results against those suggested for your region via an insulation calculator.

Although examining in-wall insulation is difficult, you can remove electrical outlet covers, turn off electricity, and probe inside the wall, the DOE notes in its DIY audit guide. However, only a professional’s thermographic scan can reveal if insulation coverage is consistent within a wall. Insulation can settle or may not be uniformly installed.

3. Look for stains on insulation. These often indicate air leaks from a hole behind the insulation, such as a duct hole or crack in an exterior wall.

4. Inspect exposed ducts. They may not work efficiently if they’re dirty, have small holes, or if they pass through unfinished portions of the home and aren’t insulated. Look for obvious holes and whether intersections of duct pipe are joined correctly. Since ducts are typically made out of thin metal that easily conducts heat, uninsulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose 10% to 30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home, says DOE.

When should a professional make repairs?
The DOE recommends calling a contractor before insulating ducts in basements or crawlspaces, as doing so will make these spaces cooler and could impact other home systems, such as water pipes. Plus, these ducts might release noxious air. DOE also recommends you hire professionals to clean ducts periodically. If you’ve noticed that some rooms get disproportionately hot or cold, bring that to a pro’s attention. It could be duct related.

In addition, some DIY audits—like the City of Seattle’s free online audit guide, suggest hiring a pro if you suspect asbestos materials have been used in insulation or around pipes, ducts, or heating equipment. Airborne or crumbling asbestos particles are a health hazard. And a pro might be the right choice when dealing with insulation around or near electrical or examining electrical systems with bare wires.

A self-audit, like a paid audit, serves as a jumping-off point to help you set priorities for making your home more efficient. Whether or not you choose to make repairs yourself, one thing’s for sure: You’ll come away knowing more about your home’s strengths and weaknesses than you did before.

Jane Hodges has written about real estate for more than half of her 16-year journalism career, for publications including MSNBC.com, Seattle Magazine, The Seattle Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2007 she won a Bivins Fellowship from the National Association of Real Estate Editors to pursue a book on women and real estate. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, CBS’s BNET, and Fortune. She lives in Seattle in a 1966 raised rancher with an excellent retro granite fireplace. Latest home project: remodeling a basement bathroom.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010



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Virginia State Rebates:
VIRGINIA TAX REBATES! ACT NOW! Rebates will be distributed on a first-come, first served basis. Virginia now has rebates, the rebate program is providing up to $15 million in rebates for energy efficiency measures and equipment. There are several steps to apply for a rebate. Please see the VA State web site for all the details-Click link for VA Website- VA Tax Breaks

- Programmable thermostats. Amount of rebate is not to exceed $55. - Heating and cooling equipment: central air conditioners; air source heat pumps; natural gas or propane furnaces; oil furnaces; gas, propane, or oil hot water boiler; gas, oil, or propane tankless water heater; high efficiency gas storage (tank) water heater; electric heat pump water heater; geothermal heat pumps; The amount of the rebate for these items is 20% of the total cost of equipment and labor, not to exceed $2,000 for residential systems.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eco - Friendly Projects in DC

From Earth Conservation Corp.

To empower our endangered youth to reclaim the Anacostia River, their communities and their lives.


Earth Conservation Corps Environmental Career Center
The Earth Conservation Corps Environmental Career Center is the home to our premier workforce readiness and training program. Twenty-four, out-of-school young adults (17-25 years old) participate in professional skill development training, including those requiring certifications. Training programs will focus on green industry jobs (e.g., construction safety training, basic energy efficiency audits and weatherization, meter installation). Transitioning corps members into jobs, pre-apprenticeships, and/or advanced level training are the core outcomes of the Career center programs.

Youth Advocate Program
The Youth Advocate Program is a school-based, adult mentoring program. A youth advocate meets with 25 ninth grade students, 2-3 times per week after school for the duration of the school year and part of the summer. Youth advocates provide the support students need to stay in school, and to succeed both at home and in their communities. Students (referred to as “Jr. Corps Members) participate in academic, career exploration, and environmental education activities to increase their academic, environmental, social and life skills.

Marina Program at Diamond Teague Park
The new Marina has been built by the District of Columbia around one of the ECC’s environmental centers, the Pump House. In partnership with Coastal Properties, the Marina program provides employment for corps members as managers of the Marina, and as dock hands to assist travelers off vessels to attend Nationals baseball games as well as other local activities. In addition, the PumpHouse and the Matthew Henson Center offer attractive venues for the community to hold special exhibits, events and meetings with a donation.

Environmental Education & Leadership Development Program
The ECC uses hands on, outdoor activities and its Raptors to teach Corps members the knowledge and skills necessary to become leaders and ambassadors of their environment. They learn about the impact pollution has on people, wildlife and the environment. Corps members lead volunteers during community service projects that clean and restore the Anacostia River and watersheds. Schools can also schedule environmental education activities at one of our education centers or at their school. Media arts training provide Corps members the basic skills to record and produce the footage of their activities, and an understanding of how media can be used as part of their civic engagement and outreach strategy. Recorded activities are then uploaded on our website and social media networks in order to increase awareness, educate the general public about environmental issues, and ways they too can get involved.