How to Protect Your Home From Burglars

shutterstock_102365767The statistics on home burglaries are sobering. According to the FBI, in 2014, there were more than 1.2 million residential burglaries with an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses in United States.

Most residential burglaries happen during daytime hours when the house is unoccupied, with the highest rate of burglaries in the summer months. The typical time needed to complete a break in is between 8 and 10 minutes. If your home is broken into, the chances of the criminals being caught or recovering your stolen possessions are small.

However, the good news, according to the FBI, is that almost 90% of home burglaries can be prevented by taking some basic steps to make your home less attractive to thieves. Here are 11 steps you can take:

Think like a Burglar

Take a walk around your home during the day and at night. Is the exterior well lit? Are expensive items visible through windows? Do you have adequate locks on all doors and windows? Do you typically leave windows open or doors unlocked when you go out?

Install a Home Security System

shutterstock_176880836-bA centrally monitored alarm system is your best bet to reduce the likelihood of a burglary. Alarm company lawn signs and window decals provide an added deterrent. A home without a home security system is three times more likely to be broken into than a home with a security system.

However, even an alarm system does not provide 100% protection which is why it’s important to take other protective measures. Roughly one in three burglars will either cut alarm and telephone wires prior to breaking in or simply gamble that they can get in and out before police respond.

If you have an alarm system, use it. Many homeowners have a system but fail to arm it whenever they go out.

Let There Be Light

shutterstock_95175118-bGood exterior lighting helps deter prowlers. All entrances, including garages, should have exterior lighting controlled by either a timer or a sensor. Some people find motion-sensing lights to be overly sensitive to the slightest motion; heat-sensing lights only turn on when they detect human body temperature.

Prune your shrubs

Overgrown shrubs and trees, especially in front of windows can provide an intruder a place to hide while gaining entry to your home as well as conceal signs of a break-in. Windows, doors, and porches should be visible to neighbors and passersby.

Secure Doors and Windows

Deadbolt googleDoors and windows are the primary way criminals get into your house. The amateur burglar often gains entry by simply kicking open one of your doors.

All exterior doors should be solid wood or metal with deadbolt locks. The weakest point of a lock is the strike plate on the frame of the door. All exterior doors should be equipped with heavy-duty strike plates with 3-inch screws that penetrate well into the door frame.

Ventelating lock3While most people lock their doors when they leave home, windows are often left unlocked and open providing easy access to your home.

If you have older wooden windows they most likely have crescent latches which can easily be slid open from the outside. These should be replaced with cam locks.

First floor windows should also be equipped with vent locks that allow a window to be open for ventilation but prevent it from being opened wide enough to gain entry.

Secure Your Garage Door

Attached garages provided another opportunity for thieves to enter your house. It’s not enough to lock the door from your garage to the house. It is equally important that the garage door is securely locked. Once inside your garage, a burglar can break into your house undetected.

Sliding-Glass Patio Doors

sliding-door-lock--2The latching mechanisms that come with most sliding doors can be easily forced. Installing a hinged “Charlie Bar” or simply placing a wood pole on the door track prevents the door from being opened.

However, this may not be enough. Older sliding glass doors can be lifted up and off their track. A pin lock that extends through both the sliding and fixed panel of the door prevents the door from being opened or removed from its track.

Don’t Keep Valuables in the Bedroom

shutterstock_108451901-bThe master bedroom is typically the first place a burglar looks for cash and jewelry. If you keep valuables in your home, find another place to store them. Better yet, keep valuable items that you don’t use regularly in a safe deposit box or home safe.

Makes Sure You Have Adequate Insurance Coverage

If you own expensive items, such as jewelry, silverware, antiques, or original artwork, you may need a rider on your homeowner’s insurance policy that provides additional insurance coverage. For example, most basic homeowner policies only cover up to $1,000 for jewelry. You should also keep a record and photos of your valuables, ideally in a safe deposit box.

Protect Your Digital Information

What would you do if your laptop computer, tablet, or smart phone were stolen? Back up your files regularly and keep copies of your files in a separate location. There are many ways to accomplish this using cloud-based backup services, portable external hard drives, or removable flash drives (memory stick).

Vacation Precautions

shutterstock_307602401-bThere are several extra steps you should take when away for extended periods of time. Put a hold on newspapers and mail delivery while you are away and ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house and take in any packages that are delivered.

Set inside lights in several rooms on timers that go on and off at different times in the evening. Leave shades, curtains and blinds in their normal positions. Covered windows during the daytime indicate an empty house.

If possible, leave a car in the driveway or ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway.

Choose Gallagher Remodeling

025b-webIf you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a home addition, or replacing doors or windows, Gallagher Remodeling can help make your home more beautiful, comfortable and energy efficient.

JPStairs-edited1-32kRoger Gallagher is a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Certified Remodeler and a NARI Green Certified Professional in sustainable, energy-efficient design and construction.

Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project at 617.489.1959, email us, or fill out our contact form.

And be sure to visit our portfolio pages to see more examples of home improvement projects including kitchens, bathrooms, additions, and more.

 

Should you consider installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on your home? Sooner rather than later? For many home owners the answer is yes. There are several factors that make solar a good investment.

  • Home with Solat PanelsMassachusetts electric rates (cost per kilowatt hour) and the average annual increase in rates are among the highest in the nation.
  • In recent years, the cost of solar panels has decreased significantly and efficiency has increased.
  • A federal tax credit, available through 2016, covers up to 30% of the cost of purchase and installation of solar PV panels.
  • Massachusetts offers one of the most aggressive solar adoption incentive programs in the country.

As a result the return on investment is one of the shortest of any state; an average of 6.6 years. And the average life of solar PV panels is 25 years or more. Few investments can match this return.

Lease programs and purchase power agreements (PPAs) provide alternative ways to take advantage of solar power to reduce your electric bill with little or no upfront costs.

Solar-Panel-Installation-2bThere are many factors that affect the cost of installing solar panels and how long it will take to recoup your initial investment:

  • The suitability of your home and location for a solar installation.
  • The size and initial cost of the solar installation.
  • The savings you can achieve
  • The decision to purchase versus lease or PPA

An additional consideration is the age and condition of your roof because the panels would need to be removed if and when the roof needed to be replaced.

Let’s take a deeper look at the facts. First we will look at cost and benefits of purchasing, then leasing and PPAs.

How Much Electricity Do You Use and How Much Does it Cost?

Electric MeterAccording to the U.S. Energy Administration, in December 2014, the average residential cost of electricity in Massachusetts was $0.196 per kilowatt hour (KWH).

The average home consumes an estimated 630 KWH of electricity a month. On an annual basis, this works out to 7.56 megawatts used at a cost of $1,482 per year.

The Suitability of Your Home and Location for a Solar Installation

Solar Photovoltaics (PV) panels convert light into electricity. The actual amount of electricity generated is dependent on how many panels are installed and how much sunlight reaches them. This is affected by:

  • Saving Money with SolarUsable surface area on your roof.
  • The pitch of the roof.
  • The direction the roof faces. (Southern exposure is best.)
  • Obstacles such as trees and tall structures can reduce the hours of sunshine reaching your solar panels.

Size and Initial Cost of the Solar Installation

The average size of a residential solar PV array is 5 KW and generates approximately 6,000 MWHs of electricity annually. The total cost of installation including all labor and materials is typically between $15,000 and $25,000 before incentives.

Savings Achieved

Upfront Savings and Incentives

  • The Federal Energy Policy Act provides a Tax Credit of 30% with no maximum limit for qualifying residential solar installations. However, this credit is set to expire at the end of 2016.
  • The Massachusetts Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit provides a tax credit of 15% of the total cost of the solar PV system up to a maximum of $1,000.
  • Under the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Equipment Sales Tax Exemption, homeowners and installers are exempt from paying sales tax on the purchase for residential solar equipment.

If the cost of installing a 5 KH solar PV array was $20,000, Federal and state tax credits would reduce the net outlay to $13,000!

Long Term Savings and Incentives

The average solar installation can provide up to 80% of your electricity and can reduce your annual electric bill in the first year by about $1200. As electric rates go up, savings go up as well.

Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)

In a nutshell, the Massachusetts Solar Carve-out Program rewards you for generating your own electricity.

The program, has been designed to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners, and to incentivize utilities to step up their investment in solar energy.

Utility CompanyElectric utilities must meet state defined solar electric generation mandates or face penalties. They can meet these mandates by either developing their own solar energy generation capabilities or by purchasing Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) from generators of solar electric.

For every megawatt of electricity you generate, you earn one SREC. These certificates are bought and sold in a market administered by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER).

The current value of an SREC is about $280. The average solar powered home can earn about six SRECs this year or about $1700 in annual income.

The traded value of SRECs is expected to decline about 5% per year based on supply and demand. However, the average homeowner can expect to qualify for about $13,500 in additional savings over the first 10 years of their investment in solar panels.

Additional Incentives

The addition of solar panels can increase the value of your home by as much as the amount of your initial investment. In addition, for the first twenty years, the added value is excluded from consideration when assessing the value of your property for tax purposes.

Net metering programs enable you to sell back unused electricity to participating utility companies. At times, you will likely generate more electricity than you can use. Unused electricity that you generate can be automatically returned to the grid. You will be credited by your electric company at approximately the rate per KWH that they charge you. Yes, your electric meter can actually run backwards!

Alternative to Purchasing: Leasing and Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs)

Solar-Panel-Installation-bThe primary advantage of leasing and PPAs is that they require little or no initial investment and will reduce the effective rate you pay for electricity by 30% to 50%.

With a lease program, you pay a fixed monthly fee to the provider of the solar PV system and there is typically no upfront costs.

With a PPA, you pay a fixed price per KWH for power generated by the Solar PV system. There may be an upfront cost of around $1000 or more.

With both leasing and PPAs:

  • The length of a typical agreement is for 15 years or more.
  • Rates may be locked in or have a built in escalator of 3% to 4% a year (This is roughly the average amount that utility rates increase annually.)
  • You usually have the opportunity to purchase the system at the end of the agreement.
  • When you sell your home, your lease can be transferred to the new owner. If they are not interested, you will have to pay a termination fee.

Leasing and PVAs provide an almost immediate savings whereas a purchased Solar system requires a significant initial investment. However, once the purchase cost is recouped, the electricity produced by the solar PV system is essentially free.

The Bottom Line

Turning Sunshine into ElectricityThis article has attempted to provide an overview of incentives, options, average costs and savings. However because of the large number of variables there really is no “average”.

The potential savings you can achieve are a function of your usage patterns and requirements, utility rates, suitability of your home and location, and the size of your installation.

Timing is important. Some rebate programs (not included in this article) have already expired, and the federal tax credit of 30% expires at the end of 2016.

The company that you choose to install your Solar PV panels will calculate your requirements, efficiency of your installation, and potential savings for purchase, lease, or PPA. The installation company will also typically help you with the various paperwork needed to take advantage of federal and state incentive programs. Always get more than one quote and check references!

Additional Resources

A Google search using the term “Massachusetts residential solar power” will bring up many government and commercial information resources. Here are some resources to get you started:

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Programs Solar Website

http://www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/renewable-energy/solar/

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center

http://www.masscec.com/technology/solar-electricity

Solar Power Rocks

http://www.solarpowerrocks.com/massachusetts/

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency ®

http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program?state=MA&technology=7&

Choose Gallagher Remodeling

If you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a home addition, or replacing doors or windows, Gallagher Remodeling can help make your home more beautiful, comfortable and energy efficient.

Roger Gallagher is a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Certified Remodeler and a NARI Green Certified Professional in sustainable, energy-efficient design and construction.

Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project at 617.489.1959, e-mail us, or fill out our contact form.

And be sure to visit our portfolio pages to see more examples of home improvement projects including kitchens, bathrooms, additions, and more.

10 Tips for Preparing Your Home for Winter

House-in-AutumnFall is officially here. Temperatures are starting to drop and it’s time to start thinking about getting your home ready for cold weather. Here are ten tips to prepare your home for winter.

1. Tune Up Your Heating System

For maximum efficiency and to extend the life of your heating system, it should be inspected and serviced annually. If you have a furnace, ducts should be checked for mold and filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly. Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment with your heating service – or you might be at the end of a very long waiting list.

2. Change the Batteries on Your Programmable Thermostat

Don’t forget to check the batteries on your programmable thermostat. If you don’t already have one, a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest and least expensive investments you can make to significantly reduce heating (and cooling) cost. And, they are easy to install.

3. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

Ceiling-fanFew people realize that ceiling fans can also make your home more comfortable and reduce heating costs in the winter, especially if you have high ceilings.

Most fans have a reverse switch to change the direction of the fan. Warm air rises. Run the fan at a low speed, in a clockwise direction, to produce a gentle updraft. This will circulate warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.

4. Clean Your Gutters

GutterOnce the leaves have fallen, gutters and drainpipes should be cleaned. Clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams in which water backs up, freezes, and can cause water to seep into the house.

5. Turn Off and Drain Exterior Faucets and Lawn Irrigation Systems

Frozen-pipeUndrained water in pipes can freeze which can cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses, drain them, and store them indoors.

If you do not have freeze-proof outdoor faucets (typically found only on newer homes) Find the indoor water shutoff for each outside line and turn it off. Then turn on the outside spigots to drain any remaining water.

If you have an irrigation system, it’s better to have an irrigation service drain the lines. To prevent damage from freezing, an air compressor should be used to empty the water lines.

6. Have Your Chimney Inspected

chimneyThe National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents should be inspected at least once a year for soundness, freedom from deposits, and blockage.

Even if you do not use your fireplace and heat your house with gas, a relatively clean burning fuel, the chimney can still become non-functional from deterioration of the lining, bird nests, or other debris blocking the flue.

7. Prepare the Outdoors

Ice, snow, and heavy winds can bring down trees and branches. Check for overgrown tree limbs that could potentially fall on the house or electrical wires. Clean and cover or store outdoor furniture before the first frost to prevent damage.

8. Get Ready for Snow

Snow-ThrowerDon’t wait for the first snowstorm to buy a new snow shovel. You may find the shelves to be empty! Check your snow thrower to see if it is in working order. When was the last time the oil was changed or it had a tune up?

Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway. Don’t forget the ice scrapper and snow brush for the car!

9. Keep Out the Cold

Switch out summer screens for storm windows. Check doors and windows for drafts. Replace cracked window panes. Weather stripping and insulated curtains can help keep warm air from escaping and cold air from getting in. If doors or windows are very old and drafty, it may be time for energy efficient replacements. You will be warmer and reduce your heating costs.

10. Get a Humidifier

HumidifierIf you don’t already have a humidifier, get one. A humidifier will make your home more comfortable in winter. Without a humidifier, heated indoor air can become very dry, well below the 30% -50% range recommended by the Mayo Clinic.

This can result in dry skin, sinuses and throats, and chapped lips. A humidifier will also reduce static electricity in your home (No more clingy clothes or shocks when you pet the cat!) and it can prevent floors and stairs from creaking during winter months.

A humidifier also can help lower your heating costs. You’ll feel warmer when the relative humidity is within the recommended range. Regardless of which type of humidifier you choose, keep in mind, it is very important to replace the water and filters regularly, and clean the device according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Stay warm and be well!

Choose Gallagher Remodeling

If you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a home addition, or replacing doors or windows, Gallagher Remodeling can help make your home more beautiful, comfortable and energy efficient.

Roger Gallagher is a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Certified Remodeler and a NARI Green Certified Professional in sustainable, energy-efficient design and construction.

Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project at 617.489.1959, e-mail us, or fill out our contact form.

And be sure to visit our portfolio pages to see more examples of home improvement projects including kitchens, bathrooms, additions, and more.

Remodeling-ideas-1b-W-MAre you considering remodeling? Popular projects include kitchens, bathrooms, attic and basement conversions, and additions for family rooms and master suites.

For most people, buying a home is the largest single investment they will make in their lifetime and it is also their most valuable asset.

A Remodeling project can enhance the quality of life for you and your family and increase the value of the home. It can also require a significant investment of your time and money, so it makes sense to research and ponder the decisions to be made about a project very early in the process.

Establishing Priorities

Homeowners often have a “wish list” of projects. The first step is to prioritize your wish list . Critical maintenance items (leaks and damaged material and mechanical systems maintenance) should be attacked first to maintain basic shelter and weather-tightness to prevent further damage.

Remodeling-ideas-2-W-MAfter that, kitchen and bath remodeling often rises to the top of the list. These rooms are used frequently in daily life, and the investment in improving them can improve quality of life and resale value. This investment in your home will remain in place for many years and will hold value over a long period of time.

Once you have begun to focus on a project type, it will be helpful to perform some preliminary research. This includes thinking about how you want to utilize the space, the look you to want achieve, and how much you want to budget for the project. Are you and your partner in agreement?

This information will help you and your contractor to understand your preferences, which will lead to recommendations, and to the development of a design that meets your goals and budget.

Exploring Remodeling Ideas

There are many online resources that provide excellent articles, guides, and examples of remodeling projects to inspire you, help you identify your preferences, and prioritize what is most important to you.

Houzz---W-MThe most popular resource for early-stage project planning is Houzz (http://www.houzz.com/), where you can create an Ideabook and browse thousands of pictures related to keywords of interest to you for your project.

It is the equivalent of clipping photos from magazines, but with almost unlimited sources and targeted searches! Make notes for each picture you add to your Ideabook so that you remember in the future why you chose it.

 Find the Right Contractor

Once you have done the “homework” assigned above, you will be positioned to get off to a good start with your remodeling project, and you are ready to talk to contractors, to find one who is the right fit for your project.

We will review this next step in the process in subsequent newsletters.

Photo Efficient Lighting

More energy efficient types of light bulbs are replacing incandescent bulbs

Shedding Light on Lighting Your Home

This article provides an overview of the types of lighting available and how to select the best and most energy-efficient lighting for your home.

Approximately 12% of the energy used in the average home is for lighting. New federal regulations have been phased in over the past two years that require general purpose light bulbs to use at least 30% less energy to produce the same amount of light as an equivalent incandescent bulb. By 2020, they will need to be at least 70% more efficient.

Switching to more efficient light bulbs will help lower your electric bill and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels used to produce electricity. It has been estimated that each incandescent light bulb that you replace with a CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) or LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulb will reduce your electric bill by about $6.00 a year.

Table 1 Comparison Chart

Cost comparison to produce same light output as a 60 watt incandescent bulb. Source: Mass Save website

CFL and LED bulbs use 75% – 80% less energy, generate 80% less heat, and can last 5 to 22 times longer than incandescent bulbs. These new light sources come in many sizes, shapes, and with many options available.

Have Incandescent Light Bulbs Been Banned From Use?

No. You won’t be arrested by the light bulb police for using incandescent light bulbs in your home. The law applies to the manufacture and import of incandescent bulbs, not their use by consumers.
You will probably see incandescent light bulbs on store shelves for a while until existing inventories are exhausted. There are also some types of special use incandescent bulbs that are exempt from the current law such as bug lights and rough service bulbs used in refrigerators and stoves.

Types of Light Bulbs

incandecent-light-bulbIncandescent light bulbs haven’t changed much since the time of Thomas Edison. An electric current is passed through a filament until it glows. Incandescent bulbs are relatively low cost, instantly come to full brightness, and are dimmable. However, they are very energy inefficient. Roughly 90% of the energy they use is converted to heat versus light.

Halogin-LightbulbHalogen bulbs are a form of incandescent bulb and have many of the same features. They instantly come to full brightness, and are dimmable. Halogen bulbs are available that are up to 40% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, thus meeting current energy efficiency requirements. However, they are much less efficient then CFL and LED bulbs and will not meet the new standards that go into effect in 2020. Furthermore, they produce a lot of heat and can be a safety hazard depending on where and how they are used. They can also add to the cost of cooling your home in warm weather.

CFL shapesCFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) use a fluorescent tube which is curved or folded to fit into the space of an incandescent bulb. CFLs cost a little more than incandescent bulbs, but pay for themselves quickly in energy savings.

They come in many shapes and sizes. Unlike older style long florescent tubes, they produce a pleasing light and do not hum or flicker.

The chief complaint some people have with CFLs is that they can take a minute or two to reach full brightness. Hybrid CFL bulbs are now available that turn on in seconds, but they are more expensive.

  • Use 75% less energy.
  • Last up to 8 times as long (5-8 years in typical usage).
  •  Dimmable versions available but less dimming range than incandescent bulbs.
  • Not recommended for use with electronic timers, photo sensors, or motion sensors.
  • Contain trace amounts of mercury – require special disposal.
  •  Save on air conditioning – generate very little heat.

lights_leds_Energy.gov-3 copyLEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are a computer-age semiconductor light source that are highly efficient and have an extremely long life. They are significantly more expensive to purchase. However, because of their long life and energy efficiency, they provide the lowest total cost to light your home over the long term. Prices are also starting to come down.

  • Use 75-80% less energy.
  • Last up to 22 times as long  (20 -22 years in typical usage).
  • Turn on instantly.
  • Fully dimmable.
  • Save on air conditioning – generate very little heat.
  • Perform well indoors and outdoors in cold weather.

How to Choose the Right Light Bulb for Your Needs

Lighting facts labelLook for the Lighting Facts label. The new law requires general purpose light bulbs to be labeled with information on brightness, estimated annual energy cost, bulb life, and energy consumption.

Table 2 Watts vs Lumens

Light output (lumens) generated by popular sizes of incandescent bulbs

Brightness. When replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs, select a bulb that provides similar light output. Remember that brightness is measured in lumens, not watts. Most packaging will include a statement such as “equivalent to 60 watt bulb”.

The many shades of white. Different lighting products produce different shades of white. The Kelvin (K) scale is used to measure color temperature.

  •  Bulbs labeled Warm White (2,700K-3,000K) produce the same pleasing warm yellow light as an incandescent light bulb and are commonly used in living rooms, bedrooms, and hallways.

    Lighting-Chart-85kb

    Source: Energy Star website

  • Cool White bulbs produce light in the 3,500K-4,100K range and are often described as having a clean natural light.
  • Blue White (5,000K-6,500K) bulbs, also called daylight bulbs. approximate natural mid-day light and enhance blues.

Look for the features you want. Check the packaging for additional information. CFL and LED light bulbs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles including spirals, traditional bulb shapes, reflectors (used in recessed lighting), three-way bulbs, candelabra bulbs (small screw base), and more.

  • Check for desired features. Do you prefer instant on? Does it need to be dimmable? Is it suitable for outdoor use?
  •  Check the dimensions to make sure it will fit in your lamp or fixture.

energy_star_logoLook for the ENERGY STAR Label. ENERGY STAR certified light bulbs must meet stringent performance criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and must carry at least a two-year warranty.

Check for Special Pricing and Rebates

Promotional pricing is available on many ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs and LED bulbs. Visit the Mass Save website to learn about special offers, participating retailers, or to order online.

Choose Gallagher Remodeling for Energy Efficient
Upgrades, Remodeling, and Additions

If you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a home addition, or replacing doors or windows, Gallagher remodeling can help make your home more beautiful, comfortable, and energy efficient. Roger Gallagher is a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Certified Remodeler and a NARI Green Certified Professional in sustainable, energy-efficient design and construction.

Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project at 617.489.1959 e-mail us, or fill out our contact form. And, be sure to visit our portfolio pages to see more examples of home improvement projects we have completed. We hope you enjoy the pictures as much as our clients enjoy their enhanced living spaces!

Click here for print friendly version or to download

Typical Home Energy Usage Table

National Averages for Home Energy Use. Source: EPA Website

The average US home spends about $2,200 on energy costs per year.  The amount spent on heating our homes in Massachusetts is up to 59% of our total home energy costs according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

This is significantly higher than the national average because of our colder winter weather. (Fortunately, air conditioning costs are much lower than the national average.) It is also estimated that as much as 30% of the energy used in the average household is wasted.

Equally important is the impact on the environment. The average home is responsible for generating twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car because of the fossil fuels used to heat homes and to generate the electricity we use in our homes. By using less energy, you save money, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

Here are five ways to reduce heating costs and make your home more energy efficient.

1. Programmable Thermostats

Nest-ThermostatA programmable thermostat is one of the simplest and least expensive investments you can make to significantly reduce heating (and cooling) cost. And they are easy to install. However, less than 40% of Massachusetts homes have a programmable thermostat.

For an investment ranging from $30 for a basic model to $250 for deluxe models, a programmable thermostat can save you as much as $180 a year.

Most programmable thermostats have a seven-day programming capability, allowing you to set the desired temperature for when you are home, away, and when sleeping. The newest generation of thermostats such as the Nest Learning Thermostat automatically programs itself based on when you raise and lower the temperature and can be controlled from your Smartphone, tablet, or laptop. (Rebates of up to $25 are available from Mass Save®.  (See below.)

2. Annual Servicing of Your Heating System

Annual Service of Heating SystemThe average cost of a heating system “tune up” is about $200. If your heating system has not been serviced recently, your annual savings can be roughly the cost of the service. You are also reducing the risk of running into problems during the heating season requiring emergency service and you are potentially extending the life of the furnace or boiler.

If your heating system is over 20 years old, the odds are its not very efficient. The payback period for replacing your boiler or furnace is relatively long; however, if you plan on staying in your home, you should consider replacing it with a new energy efficient unit. It can also increases the value and desirability of your home when it comes time to sell.

3. Mass Save® Rebate Programs

MassSave LogoMass Save, a consortium of Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities including NSTAR and National Grid, offers rebates for many qualifying heating systems and energy saving upgrades. This includes:

  • Rebates of up to 30% of the cost of a new high-efficiency boiler or furnace.
  • A $25 rebate on programmable thermostats.
  • Rebates of 75% up to $2000 for the installation of approved insulation upgrades.

Special pricing and rebates are also offered for many other qualifying energy saving products including water heaters, lighting, lighting fixtures, and room air conditioners. For more information:

http://www.masssave.com/residential

4. Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency

Energy Star Logo Federal tax credits for many categories of energy saving products have been extended through 2013.

  • A tax credits of 10% of costs up to $500 or a specific amount from $50–$300 are available for qualifying Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, insulation, roofs, water heaters (non-solar), windows and doors.
  • A tax credit of up to 30% of cost with no upper limit is offered for solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps.

For more information:

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index

5. Free Energy Audit

Energy AuditThrough Mass Save, you can schedule an appointment for an energy audit of your home. An Energy Specialist will assess your home’s current energy use, provide you with a personalized report outlining recommended energy efficiency improvements and will help you develop a plan to make your home more efficient. Your audit may also include, at no charge, installation of energy savings devices such as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), programmable thermostats, and water saving devices. For more information:

http://www.masssave.com/residential/home-energy-assessments

Choose Gallagher Remodeling for Energy Efficient Upgrades, Remodeling, and Additions

Gallagher Remodeling Green Project RecognitionIf you are thinking about remodeling your kitchen or bathroom, a home addition, or replacing doors or windows, Gallagher remodeling can help make your home more beautiful, comfortable and energy efficient.

Roger Gallagher is a NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Certified Remodeler and a NARI Green Certified Professional in sustainable, energy-efficient design and construction.

Gallagher Remodeling was the recipient of the 2010 NARI National Green Recognition award for a whole house remodeling project that met or exceeded green standards for home performance, insulation and air sealing, lighting, appliances, material selection, and more.

Please contact us to discuss your upcoming project at 617.489.1959, e-mail us, or fill out our contact form.

And be sure to visit our portfolio pages to see more examples of home improvement projects including kitchens, bathrooms, additions, and more.