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Basement Renovations

Can I Really Power My Home With Wind Energy?

The Federal Tax Credits currently available in the US for upgrades for residential energy efficiency are significant enough to have many people thinking about energy efficiency remodeling. There is much discussion around the cost benefits of installing solar energy systems and even geothermal heat pump systems. But many homeowners are still asking, “Can I really power my home with wind energy?” The answer is “Yes!”
When most of us think about wind energy, we flash on images of huge turbines lined up in mid-western or off-shore wind farms. We see pictures of turbines 150 yards in diameter that sit 3000 feet above sea level. But wind technology is advancing daily. In fact, turbine design is advancing so fast that some of the wind-energy web sites are having difficulty keeping up! 
 
Many farms and other residential and industrial facilities in rural areas have been using wind turbines for years to provide all power for their needs. But as interest in powering homes with wind energy grows, new technologies are producing quieter, more attractive, turbines that can be effective at lower elevations. In fact, there are new turbine designs that can be incorporated into landscaping design around homes. 
 
The economics of wind power depend on where you live, how much wind is available on a continuous basis at what elevation, and whether you plan to invest in batteries to store excess energy. The economics of wind power also depend on whether you plan to install a stand-alone system to provide all of your energy needs or you plan to connect to the electric grid serving your area and use a wind energy system to generate power that you supply to the electric company in exchange for free energy. Either way, a small wind system could provide all of the power your home needs with wind energy. 
 
You can now purchase a wind generator from and from several other online retailers. You can also purchase complete wind systems from the manufacturer. At the very least, you can do your homework online before you start talking with a local contractor. Most states currently require that wind power systems be professionally installed by certified contractors. Before you purchase any equipment from any source, you should discuss your options and what kind of systems are working for other homeowners in your area with your contractor.
 
Choices of turbines are generally based on the amount of wind power generated by the system. This is measured in kilowatts. For example, a 1.2kW turbine produces 1200 watts. A turbine of this size installed where there is an average wind speed of 12 mph will produce about 2000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The cost of a wind system usually ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 per kilowatt connected to the grid. The cost could be lower for an independent system not connected to the grid. Turbines are expected to last about 20 years. 
 
In most cases, the installation cost for a 10 kilowatt residential system will be about $35,000 to $40,000. In an energy efficient home, this system could meet all energy needs, eliminating the electric bill. The amount of time needed to recover the cost would depend on current average monthly electric bill (e.g., a home using $200 of electricity per month, would recover $2,400 of the cost each year) and the available purchase incentives. The incentives would begin with the current Federal Income Tax Credit of 30% of the cost of equipment and installation or $10,500 – $12,000. Many states also offer such incentives as investment tax credits, sales tax reductions, property tax reductions, and financing assistance. Many utility companies also offer a variety of incentives, including net metering, to wind system installation.
 
In short, it is entirely possible to completely meet the energy needs of an energy efficient home with a wind power system that could be expected to pay for itself in as little as 10 to 15 years.
Copyright 2009 by ABCD Publishing

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Basement Renovations

Good Remodeling Always Starts With Good Planning

Setting priorities and thinking ahead are crucial steps to ensuring a home remodel project goes smoothly and stays within budget.
Major renovations to your living space can be stressful to say the least. Before picking up a sledgehammer or hiring a contractor, it’s important to “pre-plan” your project, holding the ideal finished product in your mind. Decide upon the look and feel of the renovated room, as well as its function and place in your life.
Even someone inexperienced in construction basics can quickly educate themselves about available products, pricing options, and even design examples. The Internet provides an unlimited source of information regarding where to start, pros and cons to materials and products, color scheme options, material comparisons, quality and pricing, referrals and references (just be sure to choose a credible source).
Perusing local home repair and supply stores can also provide you with visible examples of cabinets, flooring, appliances and more. Remember, there are many design styles, from contemporary to traditional. Take the time to look at all of the different styles available, and determine what seems the most pleasing and can fit best in your home space.
Remember, remodeling is a process that begins with an exploration of solutions, followed by the design and selections phase, and ordering all the items so they are readily available when construction begins. Understanding how the process works helps you build a realistic timeline of completion, which helps ensure all expectations are met.
Even what appears to be a simple remodel can involve many steps, from designs, drawings, selection of appliances and fixtures, city permits, construction, inspections and more. Giving yourself and your contractor enough lead-time helps running through this gauntlet easier – and keeps expenses down. Plan on at least two weeks to gather your ideas and talk with designers and contractors about the project, as well as their costs and availability.
From there, choosing a contractor and pulling off a combined vision can take anywhere from three to six weeks to nine months or more, depending on the complexity of your project. For example, if you’d like to have a new deck or patio ready for the summer, construction needs to begin by spring – but planning should start in December or January. And if you’re expecting to have a whole house renovation ready for the holiday season, or a major kitchen remodel or home addition ready by the late spring, now is the time to start the planning and selection process.
For most people considering a remodeling project, hiring a contractor who also offers a complete design/build component is often the best solution. A design/build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind.
The biggest advantage in hiring a design/build contractor is the cost. In most cases, design/build remodelers cost less than hiring two professionals. It also minimizes the project risk for an owner and helps ensure the project will be completed within a set budget.
Another advantage of the design-build approach is the overlap of the design and production staff. With one cohesive team focusing on a project, there is less chance for miscommunication. Potential problems can be corrected earlier in the process, changes can be executed more quickly and the overall time between the design phase and the completion of your project is greatly reduced. Remember, saving time also means saving money.
Design-Build projects, while increasing in popularity nationwide over the last few years and despite the obvious consumer benefits are still outnumbered by their cumbersome cousins, the separate bid contracts. This could be partially due to the lack of qualified companies offering this service and somewhat due to a lack of consumer awareness regarding the design-build process itself. However, recent research has shown rapid growth and development in this often overlooked approach to construction and there’s little doubt in the industry that the design-build template is certain to become standard operating procedure for the majority of projects in the very near future.
Do you envy those organized people who look ahead and get their holidays planned… in summer? They seem to spend less and enjoy the holiday more! Well, homeowners who look ahead and get their 2013 projects into “preplanning” now can feel just as smart as those “Christmas in July” folks. By starting now with a good design/build contractor, you have plenty of time to map out an effective action plan!