Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

9 Steps to Take in Order to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Energy efficiency is on everyone’s minds as climate change and electricity bills increase. Fortunately, improving your energy consumption at home takes little effort and always results in impressive cost savings.

 

If you want to save money and reduce your environmental footprint, these nine energy-saving steps can help you achieve optimal efficiency with less power.

1.  Conduct an Energy Audit

You have two options for a residential energy audit: Hire a professional or do it yourself. The benefit of conducting an energy audit yourself is you can learn more about your home’s energy inefficiencies using everyday tools free of charge.

 

Conversely, a professional energy auditor will provide a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of your current energy consumption with actionable recommendations. Although professional home energy audits are costly at about $100-$2,000, the experts have a much better grasp of hidden inefficiencies you might be unaware of.

2.  Switch to LED Light Bulbs

Considering 15% of your home’s electricity consumption comes from lighting, swapping out incandescent light bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can save you a lot of money.

 

LEDs expend 90% less energy, with $225 in annual savings on electricity bills. Energy isn’t the only place you save with LEDs, though — because they last 25 times longer than conventional bulbs, you’ll buy far fewer replacements.

 

Incandescent light bulbs last about 1,200 hours over their lifetime, meaning they usually need replacing every 1.64 years if you use them for two hours daily. LEDs work for 25,000 hours, requiring a replacement every 34.25 years. Do the math: You could spend $1,000 on incandescent bulbs over an LED’s life span.

3.  Reinsulate

If your home hasn’t been reinsulated for some time, you could miss out on energy efficiency and cost savings. Insulation is a barrier to heat flow, locking it in, lowering your heating and cooling expenses, and improving indoor comfort.

 

It is best to insulate everything in your home, from the walls to the ceilings and the floors. Even the garage door can be insulated. Proper insulation is measured by R-value — the material’s thermal resistance. Save 10% on heating and cooling costs annually with the right amount of R-value insulation.

4.  Seal Air Leaks

While insulating your home, identify air leaks from windows, doors, crawl spaces, attics, basements, vents, outlets and baseboards. Often, you can find an air leak by sensing a cool draft.

 

A technician can do a blow test to determine where air leaks are occurring and the severity. If you choose not to hire someone, conduct a less-detailed blow test yourself.

 

Turn off combustion appliances when the weather turns cold and windy. Ensure all the windows, doors, and fireplace flues are closed. Then, turn on all the exhaust fans in your home and light an incense stick near potentially drafty areas. If the smoke gets sucked out or blown away, there is an opening in need of weatherstripping.

5.  Install a Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat is a Wi-Fi operating system capable of controlling heating and cooling for optimal indoor comfort. The benefits of using smart thermostats are as follows:

 

  • Allows you to manage your home’s temperature remotely using your smartphone
  • Learns your preferred temperature and schedule to adjust your settings automatically
  • Uses geofencing to detect when you are on your way home, so it automatically adjusts
  • Enable low-power standby mode when there is little activity
  • Tracks energy use and monitors indoor humidity
  • Uses sensors to detect room occupancy and adjusts the temperature accordingly

 

Save 8% on heating and cooling bills with an ENERGY STAR-certified smart thermostat, amounting to $50 annually.

6.  Replace Appliances With Efficient Models

Unquestionably, you couldn’t live without your microwave or refrigerator. When older appliances start breaking down, replacing them becomes your top priority.

 

Nowadays, efficient models of everyday home electronics — stove tops, ovens, washing machines, dishwashers and more — must meet the most current federal energy standards. While initial investments tend to be expensive, newer models reduce your carbon footprint and help you save money long-term.

 

You can always count on the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR appliances to do the job correctly with less power consumption. Just be sure to dispose of the older ones correctly — many stores will recycle old appliances for you when they drop off your new models.

7.  Invest in Water-Saving Fixtures

In addition to upgrading appliances, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency by installing water-saving fixtures, including faucets, showerheads and toilets.

 

Toilets account for 30% of residential water usage, with many conventional models using six gallons of water per flush. However, new WaterSense-labeled models only use 1.28 gallons per flush — still 20%-60% less than federal regulations.

 

Investing in water-conserving toilets saves up to 13,000 gallons annually, amounting to $140 in yearly water bills and $2,900 throughout the product’s life span.

8.  Use Smart Plugs

You may not realize it, but your television and other electronic devices consume a ton of energy just by being plugged in. Phantom devices can add $100-$200 to your annual electricity bills — a 10% increase in total energy use.

 

Like other smart devices, smart plugs are Wi-Fi-enabled and controlled through a smartphone or tablet app. You can also integrate your smart plug with a voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Echo.

 

Smartphone control especially comes in handy when you’ve left devices plugged in by accident while traveling. One button can turn off home electronics remotely and save you money.

9.  Install Solar Panels

Solar panels have become more popular in recent years, especially with 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act extending tax credits on residential renewable energy projects.

 

Although solar panel systems are an expensive investment — even with incentives and rebates — homeowners usually save $42,000 over their 25-30-year lifetime, depending on your state’s electricity rates.

 

Of course, while solar panels still absorb energy in a rainy, cold or cloudy region, they work best where there is the most sun throughout the year.

Live Comfortably in an Energy-Efficient Home

An energy-efficient home enhances your comfort and helps ease the financial burden of rising utility costs. Even minor changes make a significant difference. Take a step-by-step approach to improving at-home energy use and reap immediate rewards.

 

Better Your Home’s Air Quality

How to Better Your Home’s Air Quality in 2024

Often, you’ll hear about poor air quality on the news — Beijing may be covered in smog while Canadian wildfires send billowing smoke down the east coast of the United States. But if you thought locking yourself indoors offered the best protection against outdoor air pollution, think again — indoor air is just as bad for you, perhaps even worse. Fortunately, you have greater control over it than you do outside.

 

Enhancing your house’s air quality should be your top priority this year. By filtering out pollutants, you can improve your health and comfort. Here’s everything you should know about indoor air and tips for creating a clean, breathable space.

What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American is inside 90% of the time, making indoor air quality of the utmost importance. There are numerous sources of air pollution in your home — some unexpected — like the following:

 

  • Household cleaning and personal care products
  • Humidity and moisture
  • Paint, sealants, air fresheners and other products with volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Building materials — new flooring, carpet, upholstery, cabinetry and insulation with asbestos
  • Fuel-burning appliances
  • Central heating and cooling systems
  • Cigarette smoke

 

Of course, outdoor sources around your property — radon, pesticides and ozone — can also get inside when you open doors and windows, or have cracks in your house. Ultimately, your air quality health depends on how old and hazardous emissions sources are. Indoor pollutants will remain for some time, though.

7 Tips to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

Improving your home’s indoor air quality in 2024 doesn’t have to be a challenging endeavor. A few adjustments can make a significant difference. Here are seven easy ways to make your air quality healthier.

1.    Change Air Filters

When was the last time you changed your air filters? They’re hard at work, preventing dust, pollen, mold, pet fur, bacteria and dirt from circulating throughout your home. In fact, high-efficiency particulate air filters capture air pollutants under 0.3 microns, making them among the most effective on the market.

 

Experts recommend changing your air filters every three to 12 months, depending on their thickness, how often you run your heating and cooling systems, and where you live. Those living in very hot or cold climates will run their HVAC unit often, requiring them to change their filters more often.

2.    Clean the House

Look under your bed — if you’ve forgotten to vacuum out the dust bunnies for some time, you’ll be in for a surprise. Dust accumulates everywhere, including window blinds, on shelves and dressers, air vent covers, in the back of your closet, and behind the stove and refrigerator.

 

Yet, according to the American Lung Association, some generations are worse at prioritizing dusting than others. For instance, 66% of Gen Z and 73% of Baby Boomers avoid dusting their homes, while 38% of millennials and 63% of Gen X do the same. Deep cleaning your house to remove unwanted dust, dirt, and dander is better for your respiratory health and overall well-being.

3.    Avoid Scented Items

Indoor VOCs are two to 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels. Without realizing how prevalent they are in your home — many are odorless — you may experience more frequent headaches, migraines, fatigue and allergies.

 

Other VOC-emitting products are scented, though. Candles, air fresheners, essential oils and perfume are items you may want to rid your home of. Many cleaning supplies, paints and sealants also contain VOCs. Always check product labels to ensure they don’t have VOC ingredients like ethylene glycol, formaldehyde and benzene.

4.    Ventilate

Opening the windows may seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to rid your house of air contaminants. However, under the right conditions, ventilation helps improve indoor air. Of course, those with allergies or asthma should check outdoor air quality before opening up their home.

 

Allowing fresh air in can kill viruses and prevent the spread of diseases, including COVID-19. If it’s beautiful spring weather or a brisk fall day, open your windows or leave them cracked, then turn the ceiling fans on to push the indoor air out. You should do the same for doors with screens.

5.    Use Your Range Hood

Research shows natural gas stoves emit harmful methane gases into your home even when shut off. For perspective, if you combined the yearly methane emissions from every gas stove in U.S. homes, it would amount to emissions from 500,000 cars annually.

 

Particulate matter is especially harmful during cooking. Always use your range hood when preparing food using a gas or electric stovetop. Just five minutes of cooking can emit 36 milligrams per cubic meter of air in single-family homes.

6.    Purify With Plants

Plant parents rejoice — some houseplants are effective air purifiers you can fill your home with, such as spider plants, peace lilies, Boston ferns, echeveria succulents, pothos, lady palms and monstera deliciosa.

Studies have even shown the purifying effects of Boston ferns and peace lilies on formaldehyde. You may not realize how prevalent formaldehyde sources are in your home — gas appliances, electronics, rubber, lubricants, adhesives, plywood and MDF, water-based paints, and makeup. Yet inhaling this VOC can cause severe respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal disorders and cancer.

7.    Maintain Proper Indoor Humidity

When your home’s indoor humidity levels are too high, it could create the perfect conditions for mold and mildew. They can cause severe respiratory symptoms, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, headache and fatigue. Meanwhile, dry air could lead to skin, throat and eye irritation.

 

Ideally, indoor humidity should be 30%–50%, which you can measure with a simple moisture gauge from your local hardware store. If your indoor humidity is too low, purchase a vaporizer or humidifier. Opening windows can also lower humidity as long as outdoor temperatures aren’t too warm and air moisture content is low.

Rid Your Home of Air Pollutants Today

Air contaminants hide in the most unexpected places — but removing the sources and tweaking your lifestyle habits can improve indoor air quality and your household’s health. Take this year to breathe easier in the comforts of your home.

Transforming Your Balcony or Rooftop

Transforming Your Balcony or Rooftop with Urban Gardening

There is an untapped potential for creating green havens of serenity and beauty on balconies and rooftops. As cities continue to grow and space becomes scarcer, transforming small, overlooked spaces with urban gardening has gained momentum. Transforming your balcony or rooftop with urban gardening offers many benefits, from providing a source of fresh produce and herbs to creating relaxing retreats and improving air quality. Luckily, the possibilities for creating a lush, green oasis amid urban chaos are within your reach.

Assessing Your Space

Start by measuring your space. Is it cozy or spacious? Consider how you want to use it – for dining, relaxing, or growing your garden. Visualize the layout to make the most of every inch. Also, pay close attention to the sun’s path. Is your space a sun-soaked spot or a shaded nook? Different plants thrive in different light conditions, so understanding your space’s microclimates will help you pick the perfect green companions.

Ensure your balcony or rooftop can support the weight of your garden. Check for sturdy railings, and consult with a professional if needed. We want your urban garden to be a safe and enjoyable retreat. Remember, assessing your space sets the foundation for a flourishing urban garden. Therefore, grab your measuring tape, study the sunlight patterns, and ensure safety.

Start Planning Your Space

Firstly, think about what you want from your garden. Are you aiming for a lush green oasis or a practical herb garden? Setting clear goals will help you stay focused and satisfied with the results. So, grab a piece of paper and sketch your vision. Where will your plants go? Where’s the seating area?

In addition, picking a color scheme or theme will give it a harmonious and inviting feel. At the same time, remember that different plants have different growing seasons. Plan your planting schedule to ensure a continuous display of beauty throughout the year. Planning is the key to a successful urban garden. So, dream big, sketch it out, pick your colors, and time it right – your urban oasis is about to come to life!

Start with easy-care plants that won’t take too much time.

Selecting the Right Plants

Find your local climate zone to pick plants that can handle the weather. Not all plants are pot-friendly. Go for container-savvy varieties, ensuring they’ll flourish in the limited space of your balcony or rooftop. Ask yourself – are you after fresh herbs and veggies or simply looking to add beauty? Decide whether you want to satisfy your taste buds or soothe your soul.

If you’re new to gardening, start with easy-care plants that won’t require too much time. In addition, don’t let a lack of space stop you. Embrace vertical gardening using wall-mounted planters and shelves to maximize your garden’s potential, turning your space into a lush, green haven. Your plant choices define your urban garden’s personality, so pick wisely, and soon, your balcony or rooftop will be bursting with life and color.

Furniture and Decor

Now, let’s talk about furniture and decor, which turn your urban garden into a cozy oasis that reflects your personality. Your outdoor space deserves a seating arrangement that’s as comfortable as chic. Choose furniture that suits your needs, whether a cozy lounge chair, a bistro set for two, or a spacious dining table. At the same time, make it an extension of your indoor style. These are the details that add character and charm to your garden. Mix and match different-sized pots, experiment with unique planters, and hang baskets to create levels of greenery.

On top of that, take the theme up a notch with decorative elements like outdoor art pieces. Let your imagination run wild, making your space truly one-of-a-kind. Extend your outdoor enjoyment into the evening by adding lighting. String lights, lanterns, or solar-powered fixtures provide functionality and create a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Carefully consider how much sunlight your apartment or rooftop gets before you purchase plants.

Moving Your Urban Garden to a New Urban Home

Just like packing up for a trip, ensure your plants are ready. Prune them if needed, secure them in sturdy containers, and ensure they’re well-watered before departure. Treat your green buddies with care during the move. If you want to ensure you are moving your plants safely and securely, avoid direct sunlight and strong winds and cushion them with padding to prevent damage. Once at your new place, give them time to acclimate to their new surroundings before replanting them.

Each urban spot has unique quirks, so be patient as your plants adapt to their new environment. Monitor sunlight, temperature, and humidity levels and make any necessary adjustments to ensure they thrive. With a little extra attention and care, they’ll settle into their new home and continue to flourish.

Maintenance and Care

Just as you need nourishment, your plants crave it too. Therefore, develop a watering schedule tailored to your plant’s needs when transforming your balcony or rooftop with urban gardening. Don’t forget to feed them with the right fertilizers to keep them lush. Furthermore, regularly prune to encourage healthy growth and keep an eye out for pesky insects. Swift action can prevent infestations from taking over.

Seasons change, and so do your plants’ needs. So, be attentive to shifts in weather and adjust your care routine accordingly. Consider rotating plants to different spots to ensure they all get their fair share of sunlight and attention. Like reducing, reusing, and recycling in your daily life, embrace sustainable practices. Collect rainwater for irrigation, compost kitchen scraps, and choose eco-friendly pest control methods to minimize your environmental footprint.

Choose the right plants for your area when transforming your balcony or rooftop with urban gardening.

Final Thoughts on Transforming Your Balcony or Rooftop with Urban Gardening

In the ever-expanding world of urban living, transforming your balcony or rooftop with urban gardening is a project worth trying. Now, you can create an urban garden that brings beauty and fosters a sense of belonging to the green world around you. Remember, you can create a garden space to reflect your personality and introduce a functional feature in your home.

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Transforming your balcony or rooftop with urban gardening can be fun! Learn how to pick plants, care for them, and create a green oasis.

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Transforming Your Balcony or Rooftop with Urban Gardening

 

A Longfellow Goodbye

Castle Building & Remodeling is closing our Longfellow Showroom at 4020 Minnehaha Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406 effective February 28th, 2024 when our lease term expires.  ‘Castle made this decision after analyzing the space and realizing it no longer fit our needs as a design/build firm.  We are thankful to have three other showroom locations in short proximity to Longfellow, which will allow us to continue to serve our customers for years to come.

Castle is committed to serving the Longfellow neighborhood and all of South Minneapolis and will continue to have a presence in the neighborhood with our World Headquarters and operations hub remaining at 2710 E. 33rd St., Minneapolis, MN 55406.  We look forward to continuing to participate, give back, and be a part of this vibrant community.  Our designers will be available to meet with clients at any of our other three nearby Minneapolis and St. Paul showrooms.

 

7 Ways Winter Weather Can Wreak Havoc

7 Ways Winter Weather Can Wreak Havoc on Your Home

Winter is a beautiful season with enchanting snowfall and crisp, cool air. However, it can also be fierce and unforgiving, bringing below-zero temperatures and strong winds that can cause severe damage to your home. Left unchecked, you could be dealing with some expensive repairs come springtime, so it’s important to know what kinds of issues to anticipate and how to prepare adequately. From the roof to the foundation, here are seven ways winter can wreak havoc on your home.

1.  Chimney Cracks

Your chimney’s masonry can withstand extreme heat conditions, but not so much the freezing cold. When the bricks absorb water, the moisture inside freezes, causing the masonry to expand. The ice then thaws when the sun comes out and causes the masonry to contract. This continuous loop of expansion and contraction can quickly lead to spalling and delamination — or cracks in the concrete in lay terms.

 

Over time, the crumbling masonry can make the chimney structure unstable, increasing the risk of a full-on collapse. You might spend anything from a few hundred to thousands of dollars to fix a cracked chimney.

 

2.  Roof Damage

Strong winds, heavy snowfall and accumulating ice are a destructive combo for your home’s roofing. Powerful gusts can pry up roof shingles or even blow them right off.

Large amounts of wet snow and ice build-ups can put significant pressure on your roof, causing it to sag. Usually, anything over 20 pounds per cubic foot of snow on your roofing is problematic, leading to possible cave-ins. The risk exponentially rises with older buildings or homes whose roofing structures have seen better days.

3.  Gutter Ice Dams and Icicles

Gutters are crucial in safely channeling water and snowmelt away from your roof. However, if they’re clogged or otherwise damaged by the time winter arrives, it won’t be long before ice dams and icicles start to form.

Ice dams occur when heavy snow buildup melts and refreezes in the gutters and along the roof eaves. Eventually, icicles form, adding to the pressure on the troughs.

Damage from ice dams and icicles can be costly to fix because they prevent proper drainage, causing water to seep under your roofing shingles or trickle down the walls, and pool on the ground. Sometimes, the pressure from the ice buildup can pull down the gutter and downspout, exposing your roof to water damage.

4.  Siding Issues

Your home’s siding may be susceptible to the same freeze-thaw cycle that affects your chimney’s masonry. When the siding material absorbs moisture, cold conditions cause it to expand, while warm weather causes it to contract. As the cycle happens over and over, the material can eventually crack, resulting in serious structural damage to the siding.

Additionally, siding materials like wood do not hold up well to cold weather and can quickly warp or even rot, leading to substantial damage. Heavy winter storms can loosen the siding for homes with vinyl siding, exposing the insulation and leading to a freezing cold home interior.

5.  Door and Window Damage

Freezing temperatures can cause your door and window frame materials to warp. Drafts can seep through the gaps caused by the warping, effectively ruining your home’s insulation. In some cases, the damage can become so extensive that you might need to replace the entire frame in the spring season.

Extreme cold can also cause the door and window glass to become brittle, making it easier to crack or shatter. However, you can take some solace in knowing that this issue mainly affects older, single-pane glass and improperly installed doors and windows.

6.  Plumbing System Problems

Winter conditions can spell all sorts of problems for your home’s plumbing system. Exposed or uninsulated pipes are vulnerable to freezing. Frozen water can burst the pipes, leading to bigger plumbing issues. If the line leading to the water heater is frozen, it becomes difficult for water to get into the system. Over time, this can lead to water heater failure.

Clogged drains and septic line failure are other potential problems from frozen pipes. When freezing occurs in the main line connecting the septic tank, your home’s drainage system can get backed up. Sewage leaks can occur, creating even more damage.

7.  Basement Flooding and Foundation Issues

Heavy snowfall accumulated on the ground will eventually melt and pool on the floor. If your home does not have a way to deal with the runoff, the water will seep into the ground and flood your basement.

Cold temperatures can also cause frost heave — a potentially dangerous situation caused by ice formations in the soil. When this occurs, the ice creates pressure against your home’s foundation and can cause it to shift. As a result, you may start to notice foundation damage, including cracks in the walls and uneven flooring.

Handy Tips to Prep Your Home For Winter Weather

Proactive maintenance goes a long way in helping you prepare your home for the destructive power of winter. Follow these helpful tips to stay ahead:

  • Inspect your roof. A roofing inspection before winter can reveal vulnerabilities early before they lead to more extensive damage down the line. Remember to include your chimney in the inspection list.
  • Install an ice and water shield. This shield can effectively stave off ice buildups in your gutter. However, check that your contractor is using enough — many misinterpret the 24-inch rule and only install one row where two might be necessary.
  • Recaulk doors and windows. Recaulking improves sealing, helping to prevent cold air drafts from seeping into your home. In this way, it also helps improve your heating system’s efficiency, lowering energy costs.
  • Remove nearby tree branches. Leaves, twigs and other debris are the leading causes of gutter blockage. Cut any branches close to your roof to reduce the risks of clogging when the cold winds start to blow.
  • Drain exterior faucets. This is to prevent undrained water in the pipes from freezing. Disconnect all external hoses and turn off the water supply to avoid a frozen buildup.
  • Divert water away from your property. Add extensions to your downspouts so water drainage is at least three to four feet away from your home’s foundation. Put some rocks or gravel at the end of the extension to help avoid soil erosion.

Is Your Home Ready for Winter?

Extreme cold weather conditions can wreak havoc on your home. Now’s the time to make sure your property is ready. Taking proactive steps helps you avoid costly repairs and provides peace of mind, knowing your home can withstand the challenges of winter.