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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Show Your Home Pride: 7 Home Improvement Projects for $1,000 (or Less)

Show Your Home Pride: 7 Home Improvement Projects for $1,000 (or Less)
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Americans still think buying a home is one of the best decisions they've ever made. Here are some ways to increase your home's value and comfort for less than $1,000.
We knew reports of the death of American home ownership were greatly exaggerated (nod to Mark Twain), and now we've got the numbers to prove it.

A just-released survey by the Meredith Corp., which publishes Better Homes and Gardens magazine, says the vast majority of people polled believe owning a home is a smart financial move and a source of pride.

Here are some results of the 2,500 people surveyed online:
86% of home owners still feel owning a home is a good investment.

85% feel "owning a home is one of their proudest accomplishments."

69% of Americans who don't currently own a home agree with the statement, "No matter what happens in the U.S. housing market, owning a home is still an important goal in my life."

68% of Americans plan to spend money on their homes in the next six months, with roughly half (49%) expecting to pay up to $1,000.

A thousand bucks may not seem like a lot, but it goes long way toward improving the value and comfort of your home. Here are some projects we recommend:

1. Add a new entry door. Spruce up your curb appeal and save energy by upgrading your exterior door. Steel doors, which can mimic many types of wood, typically run for $400 at big-box stores and offer the strongest barrier against intruders.
2. Get organized. Decluttering and maximizing storage space are inexpensive ways to transform a home. Add space to kids' rooms by installing platform or bunk beds ($400-$600); neaten piles of shoes with shoe organizers ($20), which can do double duty as catch-all organizers in family room closets and kitchen pantries; extend bookshelves to the ceiling, creating storage in otherwise dead space.
3. Save with a programmable thermostat. Switching from a manual to a programmable thermostat (less than $500) can save you up to $180 a year in energy costs. The latest models offer remote programming via the Internet.
4. Replace cabinet hardware. If you've got traditional knobs and pulls, try contemporary; change from staid to whimsical. Big-box retailers often have huge selections for budget prices. (10-pack for $20).
5. Update bathroom flooring . Give bathrooms a quick face-lift by replacing old tile with vinyl flooring or ceramic tile, which can cost as little as $3 per square foot for material and installation.
6. Create luxury with a shower panel. Turn you bathroom into a spa with a programmable shower panel with adjustable spray jets, fog-free mirror, and multi-functional shower head. Most systems easily attach to existing plumbing. Panels typically sell for $360.
7. Turn a mudroom into a garden room. Bring nature inside by recasting your drab mudroom into a flower-filled garden room. (If you already have a utility sink, you're halfway there. If not, it will cost you $200 to $350 to tap into existing, nearby plumbing, and $80 for a plastic tub.) Re-purpose an old wood table into a potting bench. And hang your basket collection from J-hooks attached to a forged iron curtain rod ($100).

What improvements have you made recently under $1,000? What are you planning to do in the next six months?

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chimney Inspection Cost and Types

Chimney Inspection Cost and Types
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Wendy Paris
Photo: Flickr CC License: homespot hq
With an annual fireplace chimney inspection--and possible sweeping--you can improve fireplace performance, and snuff out chimney fire and carbon monoxide concerns. Here are the types and cost of each.
The byproduct of enjoying a crackling flame is creosote buildup (the major cause of chimney fires) and soot, which can restrict air flow and damage the fireplace chimney. Even a gas fireplace chimney can become blocked by a bird's nest or other debris. Prevent problems with an annual chimney inspection.

What does a chimney inspection cover?
An annual chimney inspection looks for buildup and blockages, followed by sweeping to remove problems inhibiting performance.

Most chimney inspectors/sweeps offer three levels of service:

A level-one chimney inspection includes a visual check of the fireplace and chimney without any special equipment or climbing up on the roof.

The inspector/sweeper comes to your house with a flashlight; looks for damage, obstructions, creosote buildup, and soot; and tells you if the chimney requires sweeping. If so, the chimney sweep will use brushes, extension poles, and a vacuum, and do it on the spot.

Cost: $79 to $200.

A level-two chimney inspection is vital if you've experienced an earthquake or a dramatic weather event, like a tornado or hurricane; if you've made a major change to your fireplace; or bought a house.

This includes a level-one chimney inspection, plus the inspector's time to visit the roof, attic, and crawl space in search of disrepair as well as the use of video scanning and other special tools. It concludes with a sweep, if necessary, and information on what repair is needed.

Cost: $100 to $500.

A level-three chimney inspection is considered "destructive and intrusive" and can resemble a demolition job. It may involve tearing down and rebuilding walls and your chimney, and is usually done after a chimney fire.

Cost: $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size and location of the chimney.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Sunday, October 2, 2011

6 Horror Stories of Bad Neighbor Behavior

6 Horror Stories of Bad Neighbor Behavior
Article From HouseLogic.com

Photo: Flickr CC License ohmil 
HouseLogic lists some of the craziest, creepiest, and grossest neighbor behavior, and provides some valuable advice for managing neighbor-on-neighbor disputes.
Next week, children all across America will be knocking on neighbors' doors chirping "Trick or treat!" and skipping back home with hoards of candy. But we don't all have neighbors like Mr. Rogers. Every home comes with a community; people you live with all year round. For Halloween, HouseLogic presents a few horror stories of bad neighbor behavior-and offers some practicaladvice.

The chicken coup
It started Sept. 21, when a chicken-owner from Tyler, Texas, saw his neighbor's dog carrying off one of his chickens-and it ended with gun shots, reported the local NBC affiliate KETK. According to investigators, the first bullet came from the chicken owner's gun when he attempted to rescue his hen. But the dog's owner returned fire, sparking a brief but scary shootout that brought the cops onto the scene. Thankfully, no one was hurt-though there's no report on the fate of the stolen chicken.

Neighborly Tip: While the chicken owner was technically operating within his rights, we wouldn't advise using a gun to solve the problem. If you feel you, your pets, or your children are in danger from a loose neighborhood dog, try using dog pepper spray or ultrasonic dog repellent--a much more humane and much less dangerous defense.

The neighbor who 'borrowed' the car
Last November, a Jacksonville, Fla., woman found her neighbor dead in his home-and then found a way to profit from the situation, local news reported. The 33-year-old woman didn't report the death to the authorities. Instead she chose to "borrow" a few things from her deceased neighbor: his checkbook, his credit cards, and his car. But the authorities caught up with her before long, and she was arrested and charged with fraud and burglary.

Neighborly Tip: Most identity thieves don't wait for such an "opportunity." These steps, provided by the Federal Trade Commission, can help you protect yourself against identity theft.

The dog-napper
Neighbors in an Ohio suburb had been feuding for two years when one of them kidnapped the other's dog-and took it to a local shelter, says a local report. The culprit told kennel staff he had found the dog running around some railroad tracks. When the dog's owners asked, the neighbor denied any involvement. But after finding their pup in a shelter, they contacted the police with their suspicions.
It wasn't long before the vengeful dog-napping plan was uncovered. The dog-napper was arrested, sentenced to a month in jail, and ordered not to have contact with his neighbors.

Neighborly Tip: His frustration isn't entirely unreasonable--a loose dog could be dangerous, or end up hurt if it runs in the path of a car. But a call to Animal Control would have been a better solution. Ohio (like most states) has a leash law, which states that a dog must be leashed and controlled by its owner or keeper at all times, except during recreational hunting.

The 'unauthorized' neighbor
For the former Alaskan Governor, Republican Sarah Palin, being in the spotlight is nothing new. But when writer Joe McGinniss, who happened to be researching his unauthorized biography about her, moved into her neighbor's house in May--it was a little too close for comfort.
Palin posted an acerbic message on Facebook condemning the move, and erected an 8-foot fence around her property to thwart any "peeping." In early September, McGinniss moved back home to finish the book, but maintains that Palin herself was the inappropriate party, saying her reaction to his presence was out of line, bordering on harassment.

Neighborly Tip: Whether you're in Palin's shoes or McGinniss', neighborhood harassment laws do exist. They vary from state to state, and it's important to make sure you know what constitutes harassment in yours.

Reign of terror
It sounds like the plot of a horror movie-but it's true. In 2006, the residents of Bottomley, West Yorkshire, England, were the victims of a 16-month rampage by an angry neighbor, the BBC reported. The perpetrator played loud choral music about rape and pillage, damaged vehicles, set booby traps, and littered the road with dead animals, dog feces and nails.
Eventually the judge slapped the accused with an anti-social behavior order (basically a restraining order here in the States). The woman filed for an appeal in 2008, but was denied and fined £200,000 for breaching the order on two occasions.

Neighborly Tip: It's unclear exactly what initially set her off, but before you go off the deep end and do something you'll regret, take more reasonable, legal steps. You don't have to take abuse, either. Get your HOA or the city involved if you feel you're being threatened.

The fence offense
Even celebrities get a little nasty when it comes to their properties. But none took things quite as far as the infamous 2004 fence feud between actor Jim Belushi and former Catwoman Julie Newmar.

It started simply enough: Belushi wanted to make the fence around his property higher for more privacy. But Newmar, who had spent decades caring for her prized rose garden, wasn't having it. She argued the higher fence robbed her plants of sunlight. Years of both public and private griping followed. Belushi accused Newmar of tearing down his fence and egging his house. Newmar accused Belushi of being such a noisy neighbor she had to use air traffic controllers' earmuffs.
Belushi sued Newmar for $4 million for harassment, defamation, and vandalism. The two eventually reached a compromise through mediation, settling the lawsuit.

Later Belushi had Newmar on his sitcom According to Jim, in which she played--you guessed it--his grumpy neighbor "Julie".

Neighborly Tip: Before letting things get so bad that you find yourself getting slapped with a lawsuit, try mediation first. HouseLogic's guide to mediation gives you a step-by-step process of how to handle an issue with a neighbor before it gets out of hand.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Buy Energy-Saving Appliances

How to Buy Energy-Saving Appliances
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Karin Beuerlein
Photo: Flickr CC License: Tracy O
Is energy performance key for your next appliance or home system? Use Energy Star, the Consortium on Energy Efficiency, and Energy Guide to untangle the options.
While you're shopping for products from appliances to plumbing systems with optimal energy performance - and you are, right? - three rating programs (the Consortium on Energy Efficiency [CEE], Energy Star, and Energy Guide) can help.

Energy Star is the name you likely know, but if truly stellar energy performance revs your motor, go straight to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE).

What it means: CEE rates appliances, electronics, lighting, HVAC systems, and gas heating systems. At the website, you can download lists of products that meet CEE's criteria. Do it before you shop because - bummer - CEE doesn't put a label on compliant products.
CEE ratings are so stringent that the highest-rated Energy Star products are considered the low end of CEE's roster (and Energy Star isn't shabby!):

Appliances and HVAC systems are grouped into three tiers, taking both energy performance and water usage (if applicable) into account.

Tier 1 products meet Energy Star requirements at a minimum.

Tier 3 products are super-efficient-the cream of the crop.

CEE updates its ratings every month.

Pricing: Often high-efficiency products rated by CEE (and Energy Star) are more expensive than their less-efficient peers, but may cost less to operate annually.

Speaking of Energy Star...
Energy Star

What it means: Energy Star, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's flagship label, identifies roughly the top 25% of each product category it rates in terms of energy performance. It's the best-known and most widely applied green stamp of approval, covering more than 50 product categories, including appliances, lighting, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

Bad press leads to more reliable Energy Star ratings
Energy Star beefed up its standards after getting bad press in 2010, when the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported it was able to get fake products approved. All products must now be individually reviewed by Energy Star staff and tested by approved third-party labs.

But Energy Star is still trustworthy, says BuildingGreen, an independent company that educates building professionals on green product certifications:
Its standards get more stringent every two years to coincide with manufacturing cycles for new products.

It responded quickly after being called on the carpet by changing its product approval process.

It's easy to find Energy Star labels in the store, but if you want to research your purchase in advance, download compliant product lists.

Pricing: Often high-efficiency products rated by Energy Star are more expensive than their less-efficient counterparts, but you save money on annual operating costs.
Energy Guide
OK, one more rating label to add to the mix. You've probably seen the ubiquitous yellow Energy Guide sticker on new appliances in stores.

What it means: Energy Guide lists the manufacturers' self-reported performance numbers, not the results of independent third-party testing. Plus, those numbers may not reflect how you'll use the product in your own home (do you make a special effort to use the most energy-efficient settings at all times, or do you dry tons of laundry on high heat?) or the rates your utility charges.
So if you use Energy Guide labels at all, use them to compare models in the store in terms of up-front cost vs. annual operating cost. But the labels don't provide enough context to tell you whether a product is really the best energy-saving deal you can get for the price. That's where Energy Star and CEE come in.

Pricing: Energy Guide labels are government mandated and appear on all products in all price ranges. So it's not a way to sort by price.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Monday, April 18, 2011

A $3 Tip to Stop Squabbles About Water Usage

A $3 Tip to Stop Squabbles About Water Usage
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Nicolette Toussaint
Photo: Flickr CC License: D.H.Parks
Confession time: my husband, Mason, and I have been known to squabble over the kitchen faucet. He likes to leave it running while he cleans up, while I fret about wasting water.
My HouseLogic colleague Lara tells me she was cleaning up after a dinner party when a guest scolded her for the same behavior. And my interior design friend Pam, who lives in southern California, says, "We have this 'discussion' often at my house. It's usually the ones who are paying the water bill against the ones who aren't."

There are tech fixes  large and small for this human foible. For example, I could buy a smart tap with a touch sensor  or a motion detector. There are a host of handsome smart taps, priced from $150 to over $1,000, but these electronic marvels have a downside: Because they need juice from my home electrical system to run, they will be using energy to save water--not necessarily a green choice--and they won't work during a power outage.

This choice is even less green if the problem lies not with the tap, but with the user, and that's usually the case. (My daughter-in-law Erin says there's just no way she's going keep turning that tap on and off--her hands are full, for heaven's sake.)

While a faucet with a motion sensor would solve her problem, I don't think it's right for me. When I choose to replace something that "ain't broke" with something new, I'm not only junking the metal and other materials in the tap, I'm also wasting all the energy spent to manufacture and ship the tap. That's not smart.

A better tech fix--short of turning the water off--would be to install an aerator. This handy gadget, which will fit into any faucet fitted with screw-in threads, saves water without reducing water pressure. You can buy an aerator at a hardware or home improvement store for less than $3. The flow rate you'll achieve with it, measured in gallons per minute (gpm), will be inscribed along the side.

Does all this matter? Doesn't the water coming out of a single kitchen faucet add up to just a drop in the ocean, metaphorically speaking? Not really. You'd be surprised at how much water our daily tasks use.

Try out this calculator the U.S. Geological Survey put together for schools. I tried it, and found that one faucet leaking 10 drips a minute wastes enough water for six baths. So imagine how much water is going down the drain while running the kitchen faucet during cleanup.

Who's going to give Lara, Mason, Pam, and Erin the bad news?

Have you had this debate at your house? Have you solved this problem, short of recycling family members? What water saving tips or tricks do you have to share? Let's hear from you.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Sunday, April 3, 2011

How to Buy a Dryer

How to Buy a Dryer
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Douglas Trattner
Photo: Flickr CC License: homespot hq


When deciding on a new clothes dryer, here's what you'll need to know about features, style, price, and performance.
Essentially a box with a heater and fan, a clothes dryers is a surprisingly uncomplicated machine. But that doesn't mean that purchasing one is equally straightforward. Despite the fact that every dryer sold today reliably dries clothes, there's great range in terms of price, design, and features. The good news is that there's often little difference in terms of performance.
Because there isn't much disparity in energy consumption among dryers, these appliances aren't required to bear Energy Guide labels, nor are they included in the Energy Star program.

Cost range: $280-$1,200 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, haul away, gas line hookup, or 220-volt electrical outlet installation if none exists

Average life span: 12-18 years

Gas or electric: The heat that dryers generate to dry clothes comes either from an electrical heating element or a gas-fired burner. As is the case with ranges and cooktops, home setups often dictate which to purchase. Although roughly $80 more than identical electric models, gas dryers can trim as much as 50% off operating costs, depending on the price of natural gas in your area, according to the Consumer Energy Center.

In addition to a gas line, gas dryers require a standard 110-volt electrical outlet. An electric dryer, however, requires a dedicated 220-volt outlet.

Appearance: Most customers select a particular model clothes dryer not for its performance, but for its appearance, says Lenny Kaminski, sales manager at B & B Appliances, an 85-year-old retail outlet in Cleveland. Simply put, many homeowners want their dryer to match their washer.

To match the shape and style of a modern energy-efficient front load washer, expect to pay at least $650. Designer colors have reached the laundry room, with vivid reds, blues, and metallic finishes available as options. To purchase a dryer in shades other than white, beige or bisque, plan on spending $600 and up.

Size and capacity: The standard width of a clothes dryer is 27 to 29 inches. Trimmer models are available for compact spaces. Drum capacity is measured in cubic feet, with most models ranging from 5.5 to 7. Higher-end models stretch up to 8 cubic feet, but experts say that much of that room is wasted. Look for one with about twice the capacity of your clothes washer.

Variable settings for time and temperature: Shoppers need not pay extra for a machine with multiple temperature settings--even the most basic models have low, medium, and high. The same is true for timed dry sessions. As shoppers move up the product ladder (starting around $350), additional options such as no-heat "air fluff" for delicates and heavy duty for jeans start to appear.
The same is true for models with "wrinkle shield," a feature that intermittently tumbles the clothes following a dry cycle to prevent wrinkles. Pricier machines have double the settings, but most are rarely used.

Moisture sensor: A dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in the house, a fact made worse when these appliances run longer than necessary. Dryers with moisture sensors in the drum automatically shut off when the clothing is dry, trimming about 15% in operating costs, according to the Consumer Energy Center. The good news is that this feature is pretty much standard on all modern machines. Make sure to look for it.

Removable dryer rack: Dryer racks protect hats, sneakers, and other delicate items from getting knocked about by suspending them above the drum for tumble-free drying. The feature typically is unavailable on machines under $450. Says Kaminski: "People don't wind up using them as much as they thought they would."

Noise dampening: Depending on where the dryer sits in the house, this feature can be quite valuable. For dryers positioned near living areas and bedrooms, the extra money spent for noise reduction is easily justified. Quiet dryers, which start around $600, contain special sound-dampening materials on the top and sides of the appliance.

Steam: Shoppers comfortable spending at least $900 on a clothes dryer can opt for one with steam technology, a feature designed to remove wrinkles and odors. Some steam-equipped dryers require a water hookup, while others rely on a reservoir that the homeowner fills manually. Cost-conscious consumers claim to achieve similar results by adding a damp washcloth to a wrinkled load.

Stainless steel drum: Unlike ceramic-coated steel drums, stainless steel ones stay free of nicks and scratches caused by metal zippers, buttons, and rivets. Additionally, stainless drums will remain rust-free, preventing wet clothes from becoming stained. Clothes dryers with stainless drums start appearing in the $500 range.

Expected maintenance/repairs: Lint trays should be cleaned before every load. Vent hoses and exhaust lines should be cleaned and inspected once a year. The drive belt that turns the drum may wear out and snap, necessitating replacement. The electric heating element can burn out, requiring a $125 replacement part plus labor. Digital control panels, while reasonably reliable, can cost up to $250 plus labor to repair.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Save Money with Energy-Efficient Window Coverings

Save Money with Energy-Efficient Window Coverings
Article From HouseLogic.com By: Alyson McNutt English
Photo: Flickr CC License: casually, krystina
Energy-efficient window coverings help reduce heating and cooling costs and may qualify for the federal energy tax credit.
Many of today's window coverings are more than pretty--the shades, shutters, blinds, and films currently on the market offer homeowners a variety of sunning and shading options that make a room look nice while giving your heating and cooling bills an extremely green makeover.

Many energy-efficient window coverings have insulating values of R-2 to R-4, effectively doubling the insulating value of a standard, premium vinyl window with double-pane glass and a low-E coating. An average house featuring 15 windows outfitted with energy-efficient window coverings can achieve an annual energy savings of $150. Expect payback in about 15 years.

In addition to cutting energy costs, some window coverings qualify for the energy-efficiency tax credit. The tax credit offers a 30% rebate on the cost of the coverings, up to a $1,500 limit. The credit doesn't apply to the cost of installation.

To qualify, download a certification statement from the manufacturer's website. Note that not all window covering products qualify; you'll have to research to find a manufacturer whose products qualify for the energy efficiency tax credit.

You won't have to submit the statement with your tax return, but you'll need it and a copy of the sales receipt for your records. File IRS Form 5695 with your tax return.

Honeycomb shades
If you'd like to combine privacy and energy efficiency, honeycomb shades are a good choice. These shades feature a layered design that traps air in individual cells. Because inert air is a poor conductor of heat, a honeycomb shade creates an effective temperature-transfer barrier between the window and the room.

Ann Werner, sales team supervisor for Houston-based Blinds.com, says a double-pleated honeycomb shade prevents energy loss as efficiently as a ?-inch sheet of rigid foam insulation. Most honeycomb shades have R-values between R-2 and R-5, although some manufacturers claim up to R-7.8.

The main drawback to most honeycombs and other energy-efficient shade systems is that when the shades are down and insulating your house, they're also blocking light and preventing you from seeing out. One solution is to purchase translucent shades that let light in. But Werner cautions that if you go that route and turn on interior lights at night, the whole world will see the inside of your home as if you had no shades at all. She recommends using drapes to provide privacy when interior lights are on.

For a 3x5 window, a honeycomb shade costs $55-$250.

Plantation shutters
Plantation shutters are fitted to the interior side of a window, and usually are chosen for their aesthetic appeal. However, plantation shutters are also energy-efficient: The Smart Energy Alliance reports wood shutters offer R-values between 2.77 and 3.17.

Both wood and vinyl plantation shutters act as effective insulators, although wood is slightly better at resisting temperature conductivity. Because the shutters fit tightly in window frames, they also block the transfer of heat through air movement or convection, creating a barrier between outside temperatures and your home's interior.

Purchase plantation-style shutters off the shelf, or custom-fitted. Expect to pay $165-$375 to fit a standard 3x5 window with off-the-shelf shutters. Double that price for custom work, such as fitting an arch-top window.

Draperies
Homeowners usually think about drapes as interior decor statements. But Toni Prencipe Korby, a Centreville, Va., interior designer who specializes in window coverings, says the flowing fabric is a great option when you're looking to up your energy-efficiency quotient.

Look for drapes with lining and interlining--blackout lining protects from summer sun and heat, while thermally lined drapes (which have interlining made of thick flannel or other heavy material) shut out the cold. Homeowners in climates that don't often dip below freezing can skip the interlining and save a bit of money, since the drapes and lining alone should insulate effectively.

Like shades and shutters, draperies are only efficient when they're closed. However, if they're used in conjunction with another window covering, such as a honeycomb shade or a wood blind, you can let sun in during daylight hours and effectively shut out colder air at night. When fully closed, the R-values of thermally lined drapes range from R-3 to R-5, depending on the type of fabric and the thickness of the lining and interlining.

To maximize energy efficiency, Korby recommends floor-to-ceiling drapes that fold back against the wall. This allows the drapes to seal off the window, preventing drafts and loss of heat through convection.

The price of energy-efficient drapes varies widely, depending on the quality of the fabric and construction. For a basic, off-the-shelf 36x60 panel, which would fit a 3x5 window, prices range from $100 to $140 without lining or interlining. Expect to pay 20% more for lined draperies, and 25% more for those with both lining and interlining.

Window film
Window films are sheets of self-adhering plastic that are applied directly to window glass. Some films add decorative touches, such as a crackled finish or the appearance of stained glass. Others are designed specifically to block heat transfer and solar gain, and may qualify for energy-efficiency tax credits. A few varieties of insulating films also come with options like mirror effects and privacy tinting.

Energy-efficient window films essentially add a low-E coating to regular glass, says Pete Baldine, chief development officer for Moran Industries of Midlothian, Ill., a company that produces window films. However, if your windows already have low-E glass, installing films has little additional energy benefit.

Insulating window films are most effective at blocking certain wavelengths of sunlight--reducing solar heat gain by as much as 70%. That makes them especially useful in warm, sunny regions such as the southwestern U.S., and for south- or west-facing windows. Films also block up to 95% of ultraviolet light, significantly reducing fading of fabrics and carpets caused by exposure to sunlight.

Insulating films also prevent interior heat from being lost through windows to the outside-stopping as much as 50% of radiant heat transfer. However, unlike other window coverings that cover window frames and block thermal convection around the whole opening, window films are only effective against temperature transfer on the glass itself.

When choosing energy-saving window films, you'll find several options in tinting, mirror effect, and scratch-resistance. Lower-end films cost around $25 for a 3x5 window, but peeling and scratching may be problems. The best films cost around $150 per window and will offer scratch resistance, good solar heat reflectivity, glare reduction, and excellent visibility.

Applying window film to all but the largest windows is a DIY project, so there's no additional installation costs. Window films are a good option for renters in situations where replacing inefficient windows may not be feasible.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
Blogspot - Pinterest - Twitter - Facebook - Google+