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The Federal Government recently announced a tax credit for energy efficient home improvements Homeowners will receive 30% of the cost of an approved project up to $1500. On the list of energy efficient improvements are replacement windows. However, the guidelines for acceptable windows are very stringent and it’s very important that homeowners know which windows will get them the tax credit and which will not.

The government is requiring that the windows being installed must have a SHGC of .30 or less, and a U-value of .30 or less. SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient) determines the amount of heat gained from the sun through a window. U-Value is the measurement used to determine how well a material allows heat to pass through (it’s the inverse of R-value). The lower the U-value the better insulated a window is.

The confusing part is that not all Energy Star rated windows qualify. This can be tricky to homeowners who are not aware of the specific requirements. In the window industry right now, most double pane windows will not qualify for this tax credit and those that do tend to have extra layers of Low-E giving the glass a more shaded appearance. Most triple pane windows already qualify, but buyer beware. Not all triple pane windows are built to last. Most manufacturers are scrambling to develop new windows that will meet the federal guidelines.

How to be friendly to the environment when re-decorating and still have a beautiful and long-lasting interior paint job.

How Are Paints Changing?: Paint companies in the US and the world have been working feverishly to come up with the optimal coating to do two main things: minimize the impact on air quality and deliver maximum performance. They are also developing compositions without deadly or carcinogenic components, such as lead, in their paint products. No lead compounds have been used in paint since 1977.

 

Clean Air Act: In 1996, Revisions to the Clean Air Act demanded that paint manufacturers do something about volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOC’s are solvents that help the paint dry quickly, provide a smooth finish, flow easily and promote leveling and curing. They helped control thickness, hardness, and smoothness of a typical application.

 

What’s wrong with VOC’s?: The problem with VOC’s is that when they evaporate, they contribute to the creation of ozone, a common pollutant, and potential safety hazard. The amount of VOC’s in traditional latex paint typically falls between 200 to 300 grams per liter. Traditional solvent-based alkyds may have 400-500 g/L, and clear finishes, varnishes, shellacs, stains, and lacquers are generally in the VOC range of 350-750 g/L.

 

Paint Products to Consider: An few excellent examples of high-quality paint products with low VOC’s are:

  • Sherwin Williams® DurationTM Interior
  • Sherwin Williams® HarmonyTM Interior
  • Sherwin Williams® PrepRiteTM Primers
  • Benjamin Moore NaturaTM
  • California ElementsTM

Regarding performance, generally, as the VOC content goes down, the flowability and dried smoothness reduce and the overall ease of painting goes down. However, scrubability and abrasion resistance are much improved for the paints listed above. Products are improving rapidly and may become what we as painters desire for our customers very soon.

It’s vitally important that you consult with and only hire painters who have taken the time to educate themselves on the laws that recently changed. You as a homeowner can be held responsible if an uncertified product crosses state borders and is opened by a painter on your property. Rest assured the local health departments will be more vigilant than ever in the upcoming season. Expect to see them checking labels for old and non-local (non-conforming) products. Choose your products and painting contractors wisely.

MORE OPTIONS THAN YOU THINK

Most people assume they only have one option when it comes to replacing their roof, and that is asphalt shingles with either a fiberglass or organic base. However, there are many other less common options available for roof replacement. The question our customers ask us is, “are these roofing types right for my home?” Here is a list of pro’s and con’s for each category to help you decide.

1. ASPHALT SHINGLES:

A base material combined with either an organic fiber mat or fiberglass core. Each type is impregnated with asphalt and coated with mineral granules to add color and texture. An adhesive back combined with nails is the fastening method used.

PROS
 CONS
Largest variety of color and style, Many warranty options through certified companies, Generally the least expensive optionLess impact resistant than some other options, Does not reflect heat

2. METAL ROOFING:

Once limited to low-slope structures, standing seam steel roofs can now be used on steeper roofs as well.

PROS
 CONS
Durability, practically maintenance-free, heat reflectiveAesthetics are not pleasing to most people, more expensive than asphalt, Noisy, Limited options

3. SLATE TILE ROOFING:

One of the oldest forms of roofing in New England, it is still used today on certain more traditional homes and in specific neighborhoods.

PROS
 CONS
Traditional appearance for older homes, Long lastingRequires reinforced roof to handle the weight, Difficult to repair, Limited styles and colors, Very expensive

Start here if you’re in need of a roofing contractor in MA.

4. COMPOSITE SLATE:

The composite slate market is on the rise in the roofing industry. Lamarite® Slate composite shingles seem to be leading the pack.

PROS
 CONS
Accurately resembles slate tiles, Less expensive than slateLimited styles and colors, Few roofers in New England have experience with it

5. INTERLOCK:

Interlock roofing is a composite roof system made mostly from recycled materials.

PROS
 CONS
Durability, Longevity, more variety than other types of roofing except asphaltAesthetics, Much more expensive than other options, short track record

6. WOOD SHINGLE ROOFING:

 

PROS
 CONS
Natural aesthetic beauty for country style homesQuality and longevity can vary significantly, attracts moss and algae, more expensive than asphalt roofing


Find out how much does a new roof cost.

For years real estate agents and property professionals have been telling sellers to put more money into their kitchens and baths because it would give them the biggest return on their investment. It may have been true in the past but what does today’s data tell us? There is a chance you may not have even heard of this product yet thousands of your neighbors in New England are benefiting from it.

According to Realtor.org/Realtor Magazine, in 2008 Major Kitchen remodels did make the top ten list on their annual Cost vs. Value report but the number one improvement you can make to your house and receive the biggest return on your investment is upscale fiber cement siding. Homeowners nationally received a return of almost 87% on every dollar spent. This does not include the aesthetic value, and immeasurable value of having a low-maintenance exterior. You may be asking yourself, “What is Fiber Cement Siding?” Don’t be embarrassed. If you are living in New England, you have not been exposed to this product as frequently as the rest of the nation. However, thousands of your neighbors locally are replacing their failing vinyl, aluminum and wood siding with fiber cement siding.

Homeowners simply love this product! Here are just a few of the benefits of fiber cement siding when installed properly by a professionally trained and certified contractor:

  • Termites cannot eat through it
  • Woodpeckers won’t peck at it
  • You receive a 30-year product warranty
  • It is an environmentally friendly green product made partially with recycled materials

With today’s financial uncertainty, the best thing homeowners can do is make sure their homes are well kept and updated. Fiber cement siding replacement is a great way to improve the value of your house whether you are planning on selling or if you plan on holding on to the property for the next 30 years.