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HAPPY 2011!

by Desi Sowers

Happy New Year!!!

Never let yesterday's disappointments overshadow tomorrow's dreams.

8 Tips to Lower Your Heating Bills

by Desi Sowers

Thermostat issues among common energy-wasters.

Q: We received our heating bill (gas) today in the amount of $266.74. We keep our thermostat set on 70 degrees during the winter and turn it down to 60 degrees at night. When we leave for any period of time during the day, my husband turns it down to 60 degrees.

My friend has a two-story house and keeps her thermostat set at 66 degrees during the winter. Her gas bill is much lower than ours. What might we be doing incorrectly? We have a fairly new energy-efficient heating system, the filters are changed, and the system is cleaned. --Ruth A.

A: There are lots of factors that can affect the difference in heating costs between two homes, including insulation levels, the efficiency of the windows, the amount of weatherstripping, how much air leaks into and out of the house, even how often you open and close exterior doors.

I would offer the following suggestions:

Have a heating technician come out and check the accuracy of your thermostat. If it's calibrated incorrectly, you might be heating the house to a higher level than you realize, which can waste energy. While the technicians are at the house, be sure to have them check the condition of the ducts. A broken or loose duct can lose a lot of heat into the attic or crawl space, which really wastes energy. Finally, be sure that they check the furnace itself. A cracked heat exchanger or other problem with the furnace can also lead to high energy bills.

Try a heat setting of 68 during the day instead of 70 and see if you're comfortable with that. Also, try setting the thermostat to 62 instead of 60 when you go out. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but a 10-degree temperature swing is a lot for the furnace to make up, and it make be making it work harder than it needs to.

If you tend to stay in one part of the house during some parts of the day -- for example, if you tend to stay in the living room during the evenings -- then consider lowering the thermostat below 68 and adding an energy-efficient portable electric or other type of heater in the living room. Known as "zonal heating," this helps confine the heat to the rooms you use instead of heating the rooms you're not occupying. Do not, however, shut off ducts in unused rooms, as this can unbalance the air flow in the heating system and potentially damage the furnace.

Consider the installation of a ceiling-mounted paddle fan, especially if you have high ceilings or a two-story house. This will move heated air off the ceiling and back down into the room, helping to make the rooms feel warmer. Finally, have an insulation or weatherization contractor examine the house and make recommendations about insulation levels -- including floor and duct insulation -- as well as weatherstripping and other measures to prevent heat loss.

Q: I have recently done extensive renovations on my 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment in New York City. I am on the 14th floor and have great views [and] have worked hard to make it look as beautiful as I can. The problem? My neighbor below smokes in his bathroom and it unfortunately is rising up into my bathroom. I cannot figure out how it is getting into my bathroom, but every time I open my bathroom door after being closed for a while it hits me in the face! The smoke odor is nauseating to me, as I do not smoke and it's extremely frustrating because I don't know what to do about it! Any suggestions? --Kathy D.

A: Every building has a number of penetrations in the walls and ceilings where pipes, wiring and building components are run. This is especially true with multistory buildings, where large chases are created for water lines, drain lines, air ducts, etc. I suspect that what's happening is that your neighbor's smoke is getting into the walls and/or the ceiling through penetrations in his bathroom, coming up through one of these chases, and getting into your bathroom through similar openings.

The first thing I would suggest is that you seal up everything you can find in your bathroom. This would include caulking the joint between the floor and the baseboards; getting behind the trim rings where pipes come out of the wall and sealing between the pipe and the wall; sealing around any heating ducts; sealing around medicine cabinets and light fixtures; even installing foam gaskets at the electrical outlets and switches.

In other words, close off any access from the walls, floor or ceiling that could be opening into your bathroom. Depending on the location and the size of the gaps, you can use clear silicone sealant, colored acrylic latex caulk, or even expandable foam.

I assume you have an exhaust fan in your bathroom. I would suggest putting it on a timer, and having the timer operate the fan daily at a time when it's convenient for you -- perhaps while you're away at work during the day, or late at night when you're asleep. This will flush out the stale air, along with any excess moisture, and keep the odors from building up.

Finally, if you're on good terms with your neighbor (or if you have a good building superintendent or condo association), perhaps you could explain the situation to your neighbor, and ask if he would consider the same steps in his apartment: sealing penetrations and installing a fan timer.

Written by Paul Bianchina

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas!

by Desi Sowers

At this time of year more than any other we are reminded of the things in life that truly matter, such as family and friends.

From my family to yours, we wish you and yours a happy, healthy and joyous Christmas season.

Rising Rates Could Get Buyers Moving

by Desi Sowers

Rising Rates Could Get Buyers Moving

Ironically, it could be rising interest rates that finally push home buyers off the fence

and into the market.  While Congress is debating the tax-cut compromise, the financial markets have interpreted the proposal as a development that will likely push mortgage interest rates higher than they have been for months.

Analysts are predicting that buyers will move quickly when it looks like rates are going up and are unlikely to come down. "Once people see this might actually be the bottom, they’ll go for it," says Paul Dales of Capital Economics.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan increased to 4.61 percent in the week ended Thursday, Dec. 9, from 4.46 percent the previous week. The average 15-year rate rose to 3.96 percent from 3.81 percent.

Source: Fortune, Nin-Hai Tseng (12/10/2010)

Pending Home Sales Make Surprise Jump

by Desi Sowers

Pending Home Sales Make Surprise Jump

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes unexpectedly surged in October, data from a real estate trade group showed on Thursday, despite concerns that problems in the foreclosure process might curtail activity.

 

The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in October, jumped 10.4% to 89.3 from 80.9 in September.

 

Economists polled by Reuters ahead of the report had expected a decline of 0.5%.

 

The index remains 20.5% below a cyclical peak of 112.4 notched in October 2009, when a government tax credit lured first-time home buyers.

"It is welcoming to see a solid double-digit percentage gain, but activity needs to improve further to reach healthy, sustainable levels," Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, said in a statement.

 

Several major U.S. mortgage lenders temporarily halted foreclosures in October 2010 as attorneys general in all 50 states investigated whether banks had submitted faulty paperwork to back evictions.

 

Published December2, 2010 / Reuters



Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/12/02/pending-home-sales-make-surprise-jump/#ixzz16y9RttDC

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