See How Energy Audits Can Boost Your Homes Listing Price

Thanks to Trulia for sharing this great article.

A home energy audit might not be at the top of your to-do list, but if you’re getting your home market-ready, here’s why you should make it a priority.
If you’ve ever been in the market to buy or sell a house, you’re probably familiar with a few key questions when it comes to utilities. Septic or sewer? Oil or gas? And how much will it cost to heat and cool this place?
The answer to those questions can affect the final offer, because what buyers want to know is, how much will this place really cost me? The monthly mortgage payment is one consideration, but ongoing maintenance and utility bills are also part of a smart consumer’s equation.
In other words, an energy-efficient house is an attractive house. So while a home energy audit might not be at the top of your to-do list when getting your home market-ready, it should be. In fact, in some states, an energy audit is required before selling a home.
Energy labels for homes exist — LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and Energy Star, for example — but you don’t need an official (and sometimes expensive) title to reap the benefits of efficiency. What you do need is an energy audit from a reputable provider who can measure your home’s performance. Is it drafty? How’s the HVAC? Is the insulation effective? Think of this as the equivalent of a miles-per-gallon rating for your home.
With that in mind, here’s how an energy audit before selling a home can boost your property’s value when it’s time to sell.
1. Show you where to put the money
A home energy analysis, such as the Home Energy Rating System Index, provides a detailed report regarding energy problems and fixes. Results in hand, you’ll know where to put your home improvement dollars, making your home more attractive to prospective buyers.
2. Lower utility bills
Once you know where to make cost-effective fixes, you can pinpoint the ROI on those upgrades, large or small. Repairing caulking, say, or sealing a fireplace may be key to reduce your monthly energy bills. Alternatively, a bigger investment, such as replacing old windows, could cost more upfront but make a bigger impact on the value of your home overall.
3. Competitive advantage
A theoretical buyer looks at two similarly priced houses in the same neighborhood. House #1 has an energy bill of $1,000 per year; House #2 clocks in at $3,000. The math is simple: Over the course of 10 years, House #2 would cost $20,000 more. For a 30-year mortgage, that’s a difference of $60,000. Which is more appealing to buyers? Memo to sellers: Be House #1.
4. Increase purchasing power of potential buyers
It may sound wild, but energy-efficient homes can actually leverage a homebuyer’s purchasing power if they apply for an energy mortgage. These mortgages work in two ways: A homebuyer adds a sum — say $4,000 — to a mortgage loan to finance energy-efficient upgrades. Though the monthly payments are higher, they’re offset by the new energy savings. Or buyers may qualify for a bigger loan if they can show that lower energy costs offset what they’d spend on a higher monthly mortgage payment.
5. Boost your market value
According to the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), the market value of a home increases by $20 for every $1 decrease in annual energy costs. The result, says RESNET, for homes that are highly energy-efficient, could equate to an increased value of up to $10,625 compared with other comparable properties. Another study showed that in California, the value of a home increased by 9% ($34,800 for the average home) if it had energy labeling.
6. Improve indoor environments
Increasingly, homebuyers are seeking out homes that tout indoor air quality and home emissions as amenities. Energy-efficient homes tend to get checks in these new must-have boxes. With a cleaner HVAC system, fewer allergens and pollutants enter the home; and an efficient house is less polluting. Plus, ultimately (whether you care about being green or not), homes that cool and heat rooms effectively are simply more comfortable.

Growing a Greener Grass

The sorry state of my front and back lawn and the warmer temperatures have me researching the best ways to organically fertilize and grow grass so our house can look nice and tidy come spring and summertime. What kind of grass did you think I was talking about? I choose organic and to avoid pesticides for my health and the health of our environment. I found some tips here that I plan to implement.
Photo source: www.twomotivate.com

What do you do around your garden to protect your health and air quality, save water, and save energy? We are all in this together and even the smallest of efforts add up!  

Valley businesses and UC Merced are inducted into the Green Hall of Fame

Five businesses and organizations and four individuals were inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Fresno State University.

SunRun, UC Merced, Green Apple Horse Network, Electronic Recyclers International and Grid Alternatives were the inducted businesses and organizations. The individuals were Ed Begley Jr., Christina Schwerdtfeger, John Shegerian (CEO of Electronic Recyclers) and Alan Tratner, who received Lifetime Achievement awards.

  • SunRun is a San Francisco-based company that offers solar leasing and power purchase agreements.http://www.sunrunhome.com/;
  • University of California Merced has six buildings that are LEED certified, and students and faculty are leaders in solar-energy research http://www.ucmerced.edu/
  • Geen Apple Horse Network, based in Marin County, helps the horse industry go green, and manages a directory of green products and services http://greenapplehorse.com/;
  • Electronic Recyclers International, a Fresno-based firm that is the nation's largest electronic waste recyclers http://electronicrecyclers.com/;
  • GRID Alternatives, an Oakland nonprofit that installs solar panels on low-income households throughout California. The Fresno office has installed solar power systems on more than 300 homes in the Valley, all owned by low-income families http://www.gridalternatives.org/mission-history
  • Ed Begley Jr., an actor and environmental leader who is chair of the Environmental Media Association and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy http://www.edbegley.com/
  • Christina Schwerdtfeger founded Coto Consulting in 2009 as a woman-owned, small business enterprise to provide environmental consulting services to private and public sector clients throughout the United States. She specializes in multi-media compliance for air, water and hazardous waste, with particular emphasis on greenhouse gases and sustainability.http://www.coto-consulting.com/
  • John Shegerian, a serial entrepreneur, is chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers. Prior to his work at ERI, Shegerian co-founded www.financialaid.com, one of the most successful student loan companies in the country, and founded Addicted.com, a comprehensive, interactive website dedicated to helping those struggling with the disease of addiction, that has become the leading online space for the recovering community.
  • Alan Tratner, international director of FD3′s Green2Gold in Santa Barbara and president of the Inventors Workshop International and Entrepreneurs Workshop, director of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Center in California and former publisher of Lightbulb Journal and INVENT!. http://www.green2gold.org/
 Also honored were Climate Ride, a nonprofit in Missoula, Mont., that organizes charitable bike rides to support sustainable solutions, bike advocacy and environmental causes http://www.climateride.org/, and Aquacue, a San Jose firm whose customers set a baseline, reduce waste and engage the community to reduce water bills and advance sustainability. http://aquacue.com/

Fresno businessman Sam Geil founded the International Green Industry Hall of Fame to recognize  pioneers, leaders, and visionaries who have contributed to the Green movement.

'Gas is Your Choice' campaign launched in Fresno

Matt Falcon, the avowed Fresno ebike rider, is at it again.

This time, he's interested in expanding the ranks of those who minimize their dependence upon fossil fuels. He wants people to try something new, even if it means changing their lifestyles somewhat.

He sums it up in four words: "Gas is your choice."

"Yep... I like changing the conversation," Falcon tells Pete Moe, an organizer of Fresno Earth Day 2012. "Had a 'divine spark of inspiration' for a great and catchy one-liner and a design for a Facebook graphic, and found it was really a great flyer/poster as well, so I designed this."

Moe responds: "I love the sentiment! Has a campaign feel kind of like the 'Stop Kony' campaign of recent."

Falcon says: "Realized I had a black toner cartridge in my color laser printer that needed to be replaced (damaged, bad quality), so instead of wasting the toner, I figured I'd print a bunch of these to post on light poles around town."

He used misprinted and recycled paper from his office. So far so good. The posters are mostly in Fresno's north end, around the River Park shopping center and Blackstone/Nees avenues. There's no group affiliation, just a message.

So far the response has been a bit lackluster. But it's just getting started. Perhaps through social media? (Readers are encouraged to share blog posts, by the way.)

"I really have no idea how it's doing," Falcon says. "Nobody's mentioned seeing one yet. (But I don't have a very wide social circle, haha)."

Expect to see more Your Choice posters. And expect to see more of this sentiment. 350.org just had its Connect the Dots Climate Impacts Day on May 5 during which it encouraged everybody to do their own thing to promote a better environment. The photos of efforts were amazing. A group in the Sierra carried a huge banner and placed it in the snow, saying something Oz-like: "I'm melting."

Teachers, students eligible for environmental awards

Two green friendly competitions -- one with a cash award -- have been announced.

Those interested will have to act quickly. The deadline to apply is Dec. 31.

One is available to teachers, the other to students. Here are the details:

Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators: The White House Council on Environmental Quality has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for this award, which recognizes outstanding K-12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.

Two teachers from each of the EPA's 10 regions will be selected to receive the $2,000 award. Find out how to apply at http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/teacheraward/index.html.

President's Environmental Youth Award: Students are encouraged to enter projects that make a difference in their communities. There are few details on what officials are looking for, but past winners provide some clues.

The 2010 winners included Boston Latin School students, who founded their Youth Climate Action Network, or Youth CAN, in 2007 after watching the film "An Inconvenient Truth." Youth CAN established a network of after-school climate change clubs, launched a statewide education-for-sustainability campaign, staged annual climate change summits for teachers and students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and participated in a number of other activities.

Another 2010 winner was Delanco, N.J. student Miranda Pawline, who founded Delanco Recycles Our Plastic Bags, or DROP Bags, in 2008. She said she started the effort after seeing too many plastic bags in and alongside of the Delaware River near her home. She's since collected about 500,000 plastic bags using recycling buckets in schools, the library and municipal buildings.

A third 2010 winner was Kyle Kittelberger of Raleigh, N.C., who built an 80-foot wetland boardwalk at Falls Lake Recreation Area in 2008 to earn his Eagle Scout badge. Kittelberger continued his work by building new access points throughout the recreation center and improving the surrounding habitat. He also built an observation deck, new staircases to prevent erosion and eight recycling centers throughout the recreation center.

The youth awards don't offer any cash but they do come with special recognition and a presidential plaque. For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/education/peya/index.html.

Photo: EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg and 2010 youth award recipient Kyle Kittelberger.

Washington embraces clean energy; vows to break its coal addiction

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has inked a deal to get her state off coal.

The connection has long roots and the dependency remains strong, so breaking the hold and getting the Evergreen state off the stuff will take years. About 14 when all is said and done, officials said.

That's a long time to break an addiction. But sometimes treatment programs -- to be effective -- must be lengthy to avoid backsliding. I can just see the state sneaking off for a smoke in the boy's room, listening to some Motley Crue.

The idea is to phase out coal generated energy at the TransAlta power plant in Centralia, near Kurt Cobain's early pre-Seattle grunge stomping grounds. The plant has two boilers. Under the agreement, Senate Bill 5769, one would close in 2020, the other in 2025.

"The result is a cleaner energy future," said Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, in a statement.

Rockefeller and others pointed out the reason for the long recovery period: jobs. Big deal in a down economy. TransAlta will work to shift the load to cleaner options, or not.

But the writing's on the wall. Washington follows a lead set by California. On April 11, 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that would require utilities to supply 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick McGreevy quoted Brown at the signing as saying, "Its about California leading the country. It's America potentially leading the world."

Yeah, that's it. Now Washington. Can Oregon be far behind?

Actually, the Beaver State is already there. Portland, Ore.-based research firm Clean Edge did list the state No. 2 behind California on its most recent U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index and then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 838 into law in June 2007. It requires the state’s largest utilities to generate 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

"Today ... we are protecting our quality of life," Kulongowski said at the signing, according to a post by causetinnitus.net.

Other states are doing the same. The coal lobby likely isn't too pleased. The nation still gets about 47 percent of its energy from coal, but the amount of energy produced dropped by about 1.3 percent in January 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

However, coal is cheap and it drives jobs. And as americaspower.org points out: "New coal plants built today using state-of-the-art technology offer improved environmental performance."

The site, operated by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, says coal-fueled power plants are capable of reducing up to 98 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 90 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions and 90 percent of mercury emissions.

So don't count it out. Growing up, we used sub-bituminous coal for heat up in Fairbanks. The Usibellis gave us cheap fuel to battle the chill when nights dropped to 50 degrees below zero (and sometimes colder). Likely, a lot of other families feel the same way about coal, which this country has more of than the Middle East has oil.

I was just talking to my in-laws, who are dedicated Fox News watchers, about how the future will likely be a mix of multiple forms of energy. I lean in the renewable direction. They made their fortune in Alaska's oil industry, so they said "obviously" oil.

But ocean acidification, higher mean temperatures, receding glaciers and snow pack and a whole host of other issues are making the argument for doing a better job with our energy use.

The legacy of Rachel Carson lives on

One of the coolest things about my grandparents' house in Port Lions, Alaska was the Rachel Carson book on the coffee table.

My grandmother had moved the Lindal Cedar Home from Raspberry Island after the 1964 quake so it overlooked the tree-studded bay and her ratan chair rotated a full 360 degrees so she could take in the view from the wall of south-facing windows. I sat beside her in another chair, constantly ready to spin myself sick or I paged through "The Sea Around Us."

That was the 1960s. I barely learned to read, but the pictures combined with my grandmother's stories illustrated a world of wonder and an undersea image filled with pods of king crab, water thick with herring and a sea floor fat with octopus. It made sense. Our family was big into fisheries, and Wakefield Seafoods was the biggest and baddest in the world when it came to king or snow crab.

Now comes the reason I write this post: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants the public to weigh in on its fourth annual Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest.

The EPA says in a press release that a panel of judges selected finalists in photography, essay, poetry, dance and mixed media (photography and a poem or essay). Finalists were selected on originality, creativity, use of an intergenerational team and ability to capture a sense of wonder.

Carson is considered the founder of the environmental movement through her landmark book, “Silent Spring.” The EPA says using the title of another of Carson’s books, “The Sense of Wonder,” the contest sought submissions “that best express the ‘Sense of Wonder’ that you feel when observing the sea, the night sky, forests, birds, wildlife, and all that is beautiful to your eyes.”

The deadline for voting is Nov. 1. The winners will be announced later that month. To vote: http://yosemite.epa.gov/oa/agingepa/rcvote.nsf/fmVote?OpenForm

Photos: Courtesy portlions.net and amazon.com.