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Earth & Arbor Day

by Allyson Hoffman

April 25, 2015

The Village Green, Northbrook, Illinois

Earth Day 2015 was recognized this past Wednesday, but this weekend Northbrook will celebrate a-bit-belated Earth & Arbor Day event.  While participating in on-going fun, you’ll also find environmentally-conscious ways of conserving energy and saving money.  The Northbrook Village Green will bustle with activity as visitors join in the festivities.

The day begins at “The Green” with a Community Clean-up effort followed by touring up to 50+ exhibits. All participants will arrive with the same cause in mind … promoting Earth-friendly ideas and concepts to implement at home or in your business. Expect to acquire valuable information on weatherization measures, renewable energy ideas, resources for regional organic farmers, and environmentally-friendly products that can be used in our daily lives.  Live music will be provided courtesy of local musicians.  There will also be an abundant amount of food available for purchase.  Bring the children to enjoy activities including a live reclaimed wood sawmill demonstration and much more.

The Earth & Arbor Day commemorative event is free for all attendees.  So, this Saturday, don’t miss the opportunity to help clean up “The Green”, prior to enjoying the exhibits, games, food, and live entertainment.  This special occasion will be fun for the whole family and offers solutions for a brighter tomorrow!

Where: The Village Green, Northbrook, Illinois

When: Saturday April 25th from 9:30 AM-1:30 PM

For more information regarding the Earth & Arbor Day event, please click here.

Allyson Hoffman, ABR, ACRE, CDPE, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SFR, SRES
RE/MAX Villager

Serving Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs

847-310-5300

allyson@allyson.com

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Allyson Hoffman is your ultimate real estate resource for Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

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Investing in Solar Power for Your Home

by Allyson Hoffman

Solar is a renewable, environmentally-friendly source of energy, and solar power systems have been available to homeowners for decades. Advocates for solar power contend that a lot of money in power bills can be saved over the lifetime of such a system and may even improve the value of a home.  But, while sunlight is free, solar power systems are not. So before you commit, it is best to research the costs and benefits of this potentially-large investment.

The first thing you’ll want to check is if you will receive ample sunlight.  The panels need to face south, or as close to that orientation as is possible. They also require precise angles to properly catch maximum sunlight.  So, roofs heavily shaded by surrounding trees, simply won’t work.

Comly Wilson, the managing editor of the CleanEdison Blog, says there are five things to think about when considering solar power. Number one on his list is reducing the amount of electricity you use before you install a solar system. By using energy-efficient appliances and making smart choices, power demand can be lowered by up to 30%.  For additional power-saving suggestions, check other ideas here.

Keep in mind that solar power systems should be installed by licensed contractors with experience in solar systems. The systems use an inverter to convert solar energy to the AC current that is required by home appliances, lights and electronics. To directly use power generated from a solar system, it may necessitate supplementing with a generator or batteries for periods when the sun isn’t shining. Batteries, which have to be replaced on a regular basis, can add substantial cost and maintenance to the solar system.  Another solar option includes attaching the solar power to the local power grid.  Some utility companies will lease solar equipment to you, and with the right set-up, you can sell excess energy back to them.

Even a modest energy savings can be a powerful incentive for potential buyers.  So if buying a house with an installed solar system interests you, be sure to request copies of the energy bills and records for the costs of maintaining the system. Sellers of homes with solar systems should be prepared to provide that same information.

For additional facts regarding the buying or selling process, feel free to contact me today for a consultation. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about buying or selling a home in Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs.

Allyson Hoffman, ABR, ACRE, CDPE, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SFR, SRES
RE/MAX Villager
Serving Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs
847-310-5300
allyson@allyson.com

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Allyson Hoffman is your ultimate real estate resource for Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Image courtesy of Chris Kantos/Flickr.com

Why Your House Needs Solar Power

by Allyson Hoffman

Solar panels have existed for more than 50 years, but only recently have they gained enough notoriety to be considered a power source for an individual home. In the past four years, panels became more efficient while installation became less expensive. As a safe, renewable energy sources, you want to consider what solar power can do for you and your home.

Price Barrier

Sometimes saving money means spending upfront. Were you to purchase a solar panel system big enough to power a house for a family of four, it would likely cost about $24,000 including permits and installation. Depending upon where you live, there may be rebates or incentives available to offset as much as 50% of the expense. This depends on your local, state and federal governments. Tax credits may also be available providing as much as a 30% tax credit on the price of your system.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow ...

Even with the high initial price-point, energy cost savings can return your investment in about eleven years. So if you plan to remain in your home a long time and given the average system lifespan of about 25 years, a system installation could generate nearly 14 years of revenue through energy savings or possibly more depending on local electrical rates in your area.

An alternative to consider for those whose budget cannot absorb the initial high costs would include leasing a home solar energy array. Generally, this method requires a long-term lease of 15-20 years with payments covering the solar-generated electricity used. Even leasing should produce a 10-25 percent lower energy cost than your average utility provider, but will not add the ultimate benefit of free electricity that can be realized by those who purchase instead once their expenses are returned through energy cost savings.

If You Can Afford It, Do It

Solar energy systems can add value to your home.  Real estate appraisers estimate that this single home improvement can yield a 20-to-1 valuation, meaning if your solar panels were to save you $1,000 per year, you could expect your home's value to increase $20,000. In terms of kilowatts, you would, theoretically, add $17,500 resale value to your home by adding an average 5KW system.

Solar-powered homes are no longer a concept for the future. They're here and they're setting the bar high for clean, renewable energy. Contact me today for a consultation. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and/or help you determine the value of your home.

Allyson Hoffman, ABR, ACRE, CDPE, CRS, e-PRO, GRI, SFR, SRES
RE/MAX Villager
Serving Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs
847-310-5300
allyson@allyson.com

Get your latest Home Value
Receive Your Personalized Listing Alerts

Let’s Connect, Socially!

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google +1

Allyson Hoffman is your ultimate real estate resource for Chicago's North Shore, North and Northwest Suburbs and surrounding areas. Visit my website for detailed information regarding today’s real estate markets.

Photo courtesy of Dave Dugdale/Flickr.com

Top 5 Trends of the Modern Home

by Allyson Hoffman

Potential homebuyers in today’s real estate market have made it crystal clear that extravagant, over-the-top homes are a thing of the past. Today’s buyers want their Northern Illinois homes to be affordable comfort zones with efficient and sustainable materials. They want combined elements of indoors and outdoors lifestyles, thoughtfully planned living space, and room to make a nice home office. Listed below are some of the top trends that homebuyers are looking for these days:

  1. Green building and sustainability – from recycled materials to water wells and water collection systems, today’s home buyer is concerned with organic, sustainable features. While green building can sometimes be expensive up front, even the cost conscious know that the results may save money in the long run.
  2. Energy efficiency – those who go green are also concerned with sustainable, efficient resources. Buyers want energy efficient appliances and the latest in insulation techniques using spray foam and gels. Not only do they reduce current energy costs, but energy efficient homes help with resale.
  3. Outdoor living areas – more people are staying home these days, and one of the hottest trends is outdoor living areas that create a seamless indoor to outdoor space and include living room style features. From comfortable sofas to televisions and sound systems and creative outdoor cooking areas, the right outdoor space becomes a natural extension of the interior.
  4. Main floor master suites with luxurious baths – now more than ever, home is an oasis for hardworking homeowners, and large masters on the main floor (away from kids rooms or play areas) are key to a homeowner’s satisfaction. Along with the master, buyers are interested in soaker tubs, walk-in showers with seating and dual showerheads.
  5. Home offices – more and more people find themselves telecommuting or working from home in the evenings, and space for a home office has taken priority over traditional home features like formal dining and living and even media rooms. Home buyers seek that unique space that separates work from family living areas.

Home buyer's priorities have shifted to reflect changing economic times. The top trends reflect a new desire for comfort and flexible lifestyles, along with an ever growing concern for sustainability and efficiency.

Image courtesy of Nick Keppol/Flickr.com

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Learn to Save on Energy

by Allyson Hoffman

The Department of Energy tells us the typical US family will spend in excess of $1600 a year on energy costs. This amount could be lessened as a large portion of the energy we use is wasted. Here are a few simple steps to take to conserve energy and money.

  • Set your thermostat comfortably low in the winter and comfortably high in the summer in your Northern Illinois home. Install a programmable thermostat that is compatible with your heating and cooling system.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle.
  • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power).
  • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater in your Chicago North Shore home
  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on home appliances and products. ENERGY STAR® products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.


This is the first step in making your home “energy efficient” and will also save you money. For more information on any of the tips listed here, or to learn how you can cut your energy use up to 25%, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website for consumer tips.

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Image courtesy of Advanced Telemetry/Flickr.com


Going Green With Tankless Water Heaters

by Allyson Hoffman

More and more homeowners are starting to go green in many ways, both for the environmental benefits as well as the economical savings. In addition potential homebuyers are looking for houses that offer efficient and economical operating systems. Tankless water heaters are the latest technology to help save money and the environment.

The DOEtells us that hot water usage, specifically heating the water, is the 3rd largest day to day expense in the home. If you are looking to be more energy efficient and cut back on utility expenses, you may want to go tankless.

Conventional water heaters keep your water hot 24/7, while an on-demand system, using the tankless approach, only heats water when you need it. An efficient gas burner quickly heats cold water traveling through the system to a preset temperature.

There are several common manufacturers of tankless water heaters – check out www.smarterhotwater.com, sponsored by Rheem. They tell us that annual costs for conventional water heating and storage (average) can be as much as $285, where the costs for tankless are more than $100 less per year on average.

So why haven’t we all converted? Tankless water heaterscost more up front – sometimes as much as twice more than traditional water systems. But adoption is growing as consumers become more and more concerned with efficiency and long term value for their dollars. Here’s a few reasons to consider going tankless:

1. Energy friendly and efficient. On demand systems can reduce energy costs as much as 25%.
2. Reliable and convenient. You get a continuous supply – imagine never running out of hot water!
3. Sleek and small. No more bulky tanks taking up valuable storage. Typical tankless heaters aren’t much bigger than a small suitcase.
4. Life expectancy.  Tankless water eaters are built to last  - 20 + years or more.
5. Versatility. It’s size and operating system allow you to place nearly anywhere in your home that is convenient for you.

Tankless water heaters are expensive, as noted and can be expensive to retrofit. If you are purchasing a new home, or buying a home that you plan to say in for a long time, the savings and benefits are worth the expense. If you are in a short term arrangement, the conventional water heaters may still be all you need for now. Also, avoid electric style tankless heaters – the gas units are much more efficient and affordable.

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Image courtesy of Roger Mommaerts/Flickr.com

Earth Day Chicago 2010

by Allyson Hoffman

Earth Day is celebrated in the US on April 22 and is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. First celebrated in 1970 as a global day of observance of the need to protect the earth, this year marks the 40th anniversary of this holiday. The Chicago area hosts many events each year to celebrate Earth Day. Below are some of the exciting events planned in the area!

5K for Earth Day
This run/walk event takes place on Saturday, April 24th at 8 a.m. along Humboldt Park and Logan Square. Registration fee for runners and walkers is $30 and $35 the day of the event. Fees for children ages 11 to 17 are $20 and children under 10 are free. Stick around after the Earth Day 5K for an all-day Green Living Expo that includes entertainment for the whole family, great food, educational booths on saving the environment and a farmers market. For more information, go to the 5K for Earth Day event
website here.

Chicago Kayak Earth Day 2010 Skokie Lagoons
The Chicago Kayak Club will once again be holding their clean up day in celebration of Earth Day. This year's event will take place the Sunday before Earth Day on April 18th from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. The group will be cleaning up Skokie Lagoons. The club will be clearing all trash and debris in the surrounding areas of the Lagoons and along the water's edge. Those with kayaks or canoes are encouraged to participate and will have the opportunity to do their clean up from the water. Gloves, pick sticks and garbage bags will be provided. These items have been generously donated to the club by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Green Your Footprint
GO Green Management will be hosting their
3rd annual Earth Day Celebration on Thursday, April 22nd starting at 5 p.m. with an educational mixer. At 6 p.m. the excitement begins with Veev cocktails, food from local Chicago eateries and great entertainment. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. The Earth Day event takes place at Flai.

Scout Seasonal Workshop
If your looking for a great event for the children, then this is the place to celebrate Earth Day. The Scout Seasonal Workshop will be held April 24, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chicago Botanical Garden. The event will include a scavenger hunt, craft projects and other hands-on activities. Tickets for the event are $12. To find out morer Tower located at 222 West Erie, Chicago.

Image courtesy of WikiImages/Pixabay.com

Chicago is A Green City!

by Allyson Hoffman

In a recent article, Realtor.com featured 10 top "green" cities that put clean air, clean water, renewable energy and green public transportation first. Chicago was on that list!

Chicago offers it's residents renewable and sustainable energy as well as a commitment to improve the standard of living. Our city also has 42 green-certified building projects, with more to come.

Eventhough Chicago is already green, the city aspires to improve even more and hopes to buy 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources this year. Local officials also will offer tax incentives to homeowners who invest in Chicago’s many historic homes and retrofit them with energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

Tourism is also "green". Many people are unaware that all of the city’s nine museums and the Art Institute of Chicago have been converted to run partially on solar power. Boaters and swimmers who enjoy the city's lakefront will be happy to know that the water quality is rated as excellent by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Image courtesy of p.Gordon/Flickr.com

Going Green At Home - A Home Recycling Plan

by Allyson Hoffman

Everyday we hear of new reports and statistics regarding climate change and global warming. These reports indicate how imperative it is that we all do our part to help preserve this fragile planet we live on. Not everyone knows what they can do, or how to start.

The easiest place to start would be at home. Listed below are few simple things that all homeowners can do to kick start a home recycling plan. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once, unless you want to, which would be great. Implementing a home recycling program  will change some of the current processes in your home, but it shouldn't take long to get use to these new ways of doing things and change your habits.

Curbside or Drop-off Recycling
According to Earth 911, curbside recycling is offered to half the U.S. population which provides homeowners a convenient way to recycle a variety of different materials such as, plastic, paper, aluminum cans, glass bottles and steel/tin cans . For those areas where curbside recycling is not offered, recycling drop-off locations are a fabulous alternative.

Stop Using Plastic Shopping Bags
Plastic bags are not biodegradable and are threatening our marine life and clogging our landfills. A simple step in your home recycling plan would be to stop using plastic shopping bags. There are so many alternative shopping bag sources out there now with many large, and small, stores offering canvas reusable bags for less than a dollar each.

Composting
Composting is a fabulous way to limit the amount of garbage in your garbage cans and ultimately the amount of garbage you add to our landfills. An added benefit of composting is the nutrient-rich fertilizer you will create for your gardens using organic  materials from your home.

For additional information visit Earth 911 or contact your local home waste collection service provider.

Image courtesy of JohnHain/Pixabay.com

Tips For Going Green - 1 Step at a Time

by Allyson Hoffman
Minor changes at home can add up to real benefits for the planet, not to mention your own health and save money. 
It may be a cliché, but the best way to be Earth-friendly is to cut down on what you consume and recycle whenever you can. The U.S. generates about 208 million tons of municipal solid waste a year, according to the National Institutes of Health. That's more than 4 pounds per person per day. Every little bit helps; recycling just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.  
You can’t Go Green overnight, but you need to start somewhere. Here are some more easy ways to green your home: 
Green up your appliances. Do you have an old refrigerator in the garage? It could save you as much as $150 a year by getting rid of it, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Appliance use comprises about 18% of a typical home’s total energy bill, with the fridge being one of the biggest energy users. If any of your appliances is more than 10 years old, the EPA suggests replacing them with energy-efficient models that bear their "Energy Star" logo. Energy Star-qualified appliances use 10%-50% less energy and water than standard models. According to the Energy Star site, if just one in 10 homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would be equivalent to planting 1.7 million new acres of trees. 
Also, consider what you put in that energy-efficient refrigerator.  Buying local cuts down on the fossil fuels burned to get the food to you while organic foods are produced without potentially harmful pesticides and fertilizers.  
Watch the temp. Almost half a home's energy consumption is due to heating and cooling. 
  • Turn down the thermostat in cold weather and keep it higher in warm weather. Each degree below 68°F (20°C) during colder weather saves 3%-5% more heating energy, while keeping your thermostat at 78°F in warmer weather will save you energy and money. A programmable thermostat will make these temperature changes for you automatically.  
  • Clean your furnace's air filter monthly during heavy usage.  
  • Consider a new furnace. Today's furnaces are about 25% more efficient than they were in the 1980s. (And don't forget to check out furnaces carrying the Energy Star label.) 
  • To keep your cool in warmer weather, shade your east and west windows and delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening. 
  • Use ceiling fans instead of air conditioners. Light clothing in summer is typically comfortable between 72°F and 78°F. But moving air feels cooler, so a slow-moving fan easily can extend the comfort range to 82°F, according to "Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings" by Alex Wilson.
Save water. The Web site "Water -- Use it Wisely," created by a group of Arizona cities, lists 100 simple ways to save water. We’ll share just a few here:
Put an aerator on all household faucets and cut your annual water consumption by 50%.  
Of course, you don't need products to save water -- behavioral changes also add up quickly: using a broom instead of the garden hose to clean your driveway can save 80 gallons of water and turning the water off when you brush your teeth will save 4.5 gallons each time. 
Clean green. Stop buying household cleaners that are potentially toxic to both you and the environment. In his book, "The Safe Shopper's Bible," David Steinman suggests reading labels for specific, eco-friendly ingredients that also perform effectively. These include grain alcohol instead of toxic butyl cellosolve, commonly found in carpet cleaner and some window cleaners as a solvent; coconut or other plant oils rather than petroleum in detergents; and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage rather than triclosan, an antifungal agent found in soaps and deodorant. Or, skip buying altogether and make your own cleaning products. Use simple ingredients such as plain soap, water, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), vinegar, washing soda (sodium carbonate), lemon juice and borax and save money at the same time. Check out these books by Annie Bertold-Bond for cleaning recipes: "Clean and Green" and "Better Basics for the Home."  
Let there be energy-efficient light. Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use 66% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and last up to 10 times longer. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 32-watt CFL can save $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.  
Save a tree, use less paper.  You can buy "tree-free" 100% post-consumer recycled paper for everything from greeting cards to toilet paper. Paper with a high post-consumer waste content uses less virgin pulp and keeps more waste paper out of landfills.
Other tips:
  • Remove yourself from junk mail lists. Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year, which adds up nationally to 4.5 million tons, according to the Native Forest Network. About 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread, and ends up in a landfill. To stem the flow into your own home, contact the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service at P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512, or download the online form. Opt out of credit card or insurance offers at OptOutPrescreen.com or by calling 888-567-8688, a single automated phone line maintained by the major credit bureaus.  
  • Buy unbleached paper. Many paper products, including some made from recycled fibers, are bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process can create harmful byproducts, including dioxins, which accumulate in our air, water and soil over time.
Finally, here's a third answer to the old "paper or plastic" question: No thanks. Carry your own cloth bags to the store to avoid using store bags. 
Reduce plastics, reduce global warming. Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags -- from grocery and trash bags to those ultra-convenient sandwich bags. Unfortunately, plastics are made from petroleum -- the processing and burning of which is considered one of the main contributors to global warming, according to the EPA. In addition, sending plastics to the landfill also increases greenhouse gases. Reduce, re-use and recycle your plastics for one of the best ways to combat global warming. 
Use healthier paint. Conventional paints contain solvents, toxic metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause smog, ozone pollution and indoor air quality problems with negative health effects, according to the EPA. These unhealthy ingredients are released into the air while you’re painting, while the paint dries and even after the paints are completely dry. Opt instead for zero- or low-VOC paint, made by most major paint manufacturers today. 
Garden green. First, use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost provides a full complement of soil organisms and the balance of nutrients needed to maintain the soil’s well-being without the chemicals of synthetic fertilizers. And healthy soil minimizes weeds and is key to producing healthy plants, which in turn can prevent many pest problems from developing to begin with.
  • Use native plants as much as possible. Native plants have adapted over time to the local environment and support native animals. They also use less water and require less of your attention.  
  • Focus on perennials. Gardening with plants that live for more than one year means you don't have to pay for new plants every year; it also saves the resources used commercially to grow annuals. 
  • Stop using chemical pesticides. American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year, according to the EPA. These toxic chemicals escape gardens and concentrate in the environment, posing threats to animals and people, especially children. A better alternative is to try a variety of organic and physical pest control methods, such as using diatomaceous earth to kill insects, pouring boiling water on weeds or using beer to bait slugs. You can find more non-chemical pest control tips at the National Audubon Society's site.
Finally, consider using an old-fashioned push mower. The only energy expended is yours.
Image courtesy of FutUndBeidl/Flickr.com
 

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Allyson Hoffman
RE/MAX Villager
1245 Waukegan Road
Glenview IL 60025
847-310-5300
Fax: 847-400-0881

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