9 ways to keep lid on energy bills

Air leaks can infiltrate surprising places

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

No one likes wasting money, especially in these tough economic times. So it certainly makes sense — dollars and cents — to make a small investment of time and supplies to close up those heat-wasting air leaks around your home. It’ll pay back big dividends in reduced energy bills and a warmer, more comfortable house this winter. So let’s look at some of the areas where those drafts may be lurking, and see how to take care of them.

1. Doors and windows: This should be an obvious one. If you can see gaps between your siding and your windows or exterior doors, close them up with a bead of clear or paintable acrylic latex caulk. Larger gaps can be filled with foam backer rod before applying the caulking.

2. Exterior penetrations: Some of these areas are going to be obvious, while some may take a little bit of searching. Some examples of exterior penetrations where air can leak into the house include exterior faucets, dryer vents, exterior electrical outlets, exterior light fixtures, holes that have been drilled for phone and TV cables, conduit penetrations, exit points for plumbing drains, and penetrations for air conditioning lines. Closing these penetrations may require a variety of different techniques, including caulk, expanding spray foam, or, in the case of electrical boxes and fixtures, specific gaskets that are designed to fit the boxes.

3. Exhaust-vent covers: Dryer vents, range hood vents, bath fan vents, and other interior ventilation equipment typically terminate outside the house in a plastic or metal cover that has one or more louvers on it. The louvers are designed to be in the closed position whenever the fan is not in use, so that outside air doesn’t leak in. Check all of these louvers to be sure they’re closing completely, with no air leaks. If they aren’t, you can adjust the spring tension to hold them closed more tightly; add foam weatherstripping tape for a more air-tight seal; or replace the entire vent cap with a new one.

4. Gaps around interior vents and recessed lights: Inside your home, heated air can be leaking out around that same ventilation equipment, where vent pipes pass through the walls or ceiling, or where vent covers meet wall and ceiling surfaces. Recessed light fixtures can also be real air-leakers. Around the vent pipes and recessed light cans, seal any gaps with caulking. For the vent covers and recessed light covers, remove the covers, then adjust the springs and/or add foam weatherstripping tape to create a tight seal between the cover and the ceiling.

5. Heat-duct penetrations: Gaps around heating-duct cans where they pass through the floor or wall allow cold air to enter from the crawl space, while gaps around ceiling-duct cans allow heated air to escape into the attic. To close those drafts, first remove the register, then use a combination of caulking and/or metallic duct sealant tape to close any gaps between the sheet metal cans and the floor, wall or ceiling surface.

6. Fireplaces and woodstoves: Lots of gaps can occur around these appliances. With a conventional fireplace, keep the damper closed except when burning a fire to prevent heated air from escaping up the chimney. Consider investing in a set of air-tight doors, which close off the air leaks and also make your fires more efficient. Look for gaps around woodstove and gas fireplace flue pipes, and air leaks around masonry chimneys. Use a metal collar if necessary around flue pipe penetrations, and seal gaps with heat-resistant sealant specially formulated for this application.

7. Attic and crawl space hatches: These can be real air losers if they’re not weatherstripped, so take care of that with some foam tape. Make sure the hatches are insulated as well.

8. Interior doors to unheated spaces: If you have any interior doors that lead to unheated spaces, including basements, garages or attics, be sure the doors are weatherstripped to prevent air leakage. If possible, replace older, hollow-core doors with solid-core or, better yet, insulated metal doors.

9. Sill plates and penetrations: This one’s not as easy to deal with, but it’s well worth the effort to try to do whatever you can with it. Air can leak both into and out of the house through gaps where the sill plate meets the foundation or the siding, and around plumbing and wiring penetrations drilled through wall plates in various areas. If you have a gap between your siding and the bottom of your exterior wall, especially in older homes where the use of sill sealers was not a common practice, consider closing up this big air gap with a bead of caulking or expanding foam. In the basement, crawl space and attic, if you can access any of the pipes and wires that pass through the wall plates, seal the penetrations with expanding foam.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

Realtors Applaud Congress for Reinstating FHA Loan Limit

November 18, 2011

Realtors® Applaud Congress for Reinstating FHA Loan Limits

WASHINGTON (November 17, 2011) – The National Association of Realtors® commends Con­gress for reinstating the loan limit formula and maximum cap for Federal Housing Administration-insured loans for two years.

“As the nation’s leading advocate for homeownership, we applaud members of Congress for restoring FHA’s previous loan limits, which will help reduce consumer cost burdens, stabilize local housing markets and allow qualified, creditworthy borrowers to access affordable mortgage financ­ing,” said NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami. “The reinstated loan limits will help provide much needed liquidity and stability to communities nation­wide as tight credit restrictions continue to prevent some qualified buyers from becoming home own­ers and the housing market recovery remains fragile.”

The provision reinstates the FHA loan limits through 2013 at 125 percent of local area me­dian home prices, up to a maximum of $729,750 in the highest cost markets. The floor will remain at $271,050. The loan limits for Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages will remain at 115 percent of local area median home prices, up to $625,500.

NAR believes the reinstated loan limit formula and cap change will help make mortgages more affordable and accessible for hard-working, middle-class families throughout the country, not just wealthy individuals or those in costly markets. Nearly two-thirds of buyers who will be helped by the loan limits provision have incomes below $100,000.

“It’s a misconception that only wealthy borrowers benefit from the maximum cost loan lim­its; middle-class home buyers living in all areas of the country deserve the same access to affordable mortgage financing and the same opportunity to achieve homeownership that home buyers enjoy in the most affordable regions of the country,” said Veissi. The legislative action will have an impact even in communities with loan limits well below the maximum cap; the reset last month impacted 669 counties in 42 states and territories, with an average loan limit reduction of more than $68,000.

The bill also provides for a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program through December 16, 2011. NAR strongly urges Congress to use the additional time to complete work on a five-year reauthorization of the program, which ensures access to affordable flood insur­ance for millions of home and business owners across the country.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.


Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. 


Freddie Mac Launches Winter REO Sale

Freddie Mac Launches Winter REO Sale

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HomeSteps, a Freddie Mac real estate sales unit, kicked off a sales promotion this week to unload some of its inventory of foreclosed homes in several cities.

Its Winter Sales Promotion for owner-occupant buyers includes:

  • Paying up to 3 percent of the final sales price toward the buyer’s closing costs for initial offers received between Nov. 15 and Jan. 31, 2012. Escrow must be closed on or before March 15, 2012, to qualify.
  • Two-year Home Protect limited home warranty, which covers such things as the heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, and other major systems and appliances. Home Protect also will offer a discount of up to 30 percent on the purchase of appliances. (For eligibility requirements, visit www.HomeSteps.com/smartbuy.)

For more information on the HomeSteps Winter Sales Promotion, visit www.HomeSteps.com.

Source: Freddie Mac


New Castle County Launches Effort to Boost Sales of Vacant Houses

Home buyers who purchase a vacant property in certain ZIP codes in New Castle County may qualify for up to $10,000 in down payment and settlement assistance under a program launched today by the county.

The goal of the federally funded New Castle County Vacant Homebuyer Assistance Program (VHAP) is to stimulate sales of homes vacant for at least 90 days.

“Providing housing options and enhancing communities are two key elements of our vision for keeping New Castle County a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” said County Executive Paul Clark. “This program will be an important motivator for qualified buyers to turn vacant properties into stable homes that contribute to attractive, safe and welcoming neighborhoods.”

Loans are available for properties in New Castle County ZIP codes 19702, 19701, 19805, 19802, 19709, and 19720 and in some areas of Claymont and Edgemoor. The city of Wilmington has a similar program for houses there.

A family of four must make no more than $96,500 a year to qualify for a loan. Applicants are not required to be first-time home buyers, and the loan will be forgiven after five years if the home remains the owner’s primary residence.

Funding for the program comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority. Following approval by County Council in September, the county set aside $200,000 of the federal grant money for the vacant housing program.

“This program is a ‘big win’ for the buyer, and we really hope once people start hearing about it, the VHAP will stimulate home sales in New Castle County,” Marcus Henry, General Manager of the county’s Community Services department, said at today’s kickoff, which was attended by real estate agents, lenders, non profit housing developers and housing counselors. Henry said that in the last three years the county’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program has purchased nearly 60 homes, worked with nonprofit developers to rehabilitate the properties, and then worked with others in the housing industry to find eligible buyers. “Many of these once blighted properties have now been sold to eligible homebuyers. Now, with this buyer driven program, we hope to incentivize additional home sales of vacant properties.”

For more information on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and the county’s new Vacant Homebuyer Assistance Program, contact Brian Doreste today at 302-753-6398

Open Houses: Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, 2011

There are many, many open houses this weekend!!! The following properties will be holding open houses in the Brandywine Hundred, North Wilmington, Newark, Hockessin, Pike Creek, Newark, Bear, and Middletown, Delaware areas on Saturday and Sunday, November 5-6, 2011:

Can’t make the open house? No problem! Contact Brian Doreste today at 302-753-6398 to schedule your own private showing.

The most current open house list for New Castle County, Delaware can always be found at: http://deerhurst.net/category/upcoming-open-houses/, and is usually published every Thursday morning.

5948146 $370,000 205 University Dr Newark DE Academy Hill
5804746 $189,900 3653 Naamans Dr Claymont DE Ashbourne Hills
5876711 $200,000 20 Keats Dr Claymont DE Ashbourne Hills
5934604 $430,000 1204 Glossy Ibis Ct Middletown DE Augustine Creek
5912982 $289,900 41 Phoebe Farms Ln New Castle DE Bayview Manor
5952528 $390,900 12 Knights Crossing Newark DE Beaulieu
5932062 $145,000 5 Holloway Cir Newark DE Birchwood Park
5921119 $220,000 4403 Washington Blvd Wilmington DE Brandywine Hills
5919117 $148,900 78 W Stephen Dr Newark DE Chestnut Hill Ests
5946744 $149,900 2503 Lincoln Ave Claymont DE Claymont Hgts
5896316 $229,900 506 Benham Ct Newark DE Clearview Ridge
5935040 $224,900 11 Coach Hill Dr Newark DE Coach Hill
5955357 $189,000 402 Roseanna Ave Wilmington DE Concord Manor
5949146 $249,900 27 Green Meadow Ct Newark DE Country Hills
5963548 $462,900 118 N Landis Way Wilmington DE Courtyards at Brandy
5911613 $399,900 99 Covered Bridge Ln Newark DE Covered Bridge Far
5956961 $196,000 238 Gladstone Way Bear DE Crossings At Chris
5952761 $249,900 2 Neponset Rd Wilmington DE Dartmouth Woods
5964184 $99,900 1301 N Harrison St 1102 Wilmington DE Dorset
5960833 $237,900 2117 Othoson Ave Wilmington DE Eastburn Heights
5942301 $575,000 720 Kilburn Rd Wilmington DE Edenridge
5867640 $409,900 4 Sebastian Dr Newark DE Est Of Corner Ketc
5961315 $219,900 3235 Brookline Rd Wilmington DE Fairway Falls
5920191 $425,000 33 Berkley Dr Newark DE Farmington
5966218 $329,900 1102 Greenway Rd Wilmington DE Forwood
5967591 $269,990 8 Elmer Ct Townsend DE Goldsborough Farm
5967892 $239,990 118 Abbigail Crossing Townsend DE Goldsborough Farm
5959708 $207,500 827 Montico Rd Wilmington DE Green Meadow
5962124 $240,000 2500 Emerson Dr Wilmington DE Heritage Park
5956657 $305,000 559 Cabot Dr Hockessin DE Hickory Hill
5966737 $269,900 110 Whitekirk Dr Wilmington DE Highland West
5953797 $379,900 2411 W 16th St Wilmington DE Highlands
5958879 $699,900 1901 Greenhill Ave Wilmington DE Highlands
5953916 $519,900 28 E Periwinkle Ln Newark DE Hitchens Farm
5935473 $149,900 2438 Hammond Pl Wilmington DE Kirkwood Gardens
5962477 $219,500 20 Whitehall Cir Wilmington DE Klair Estates
5964880 $178,000 4203 Harris Pl Wilmington DE Klair Estates
5962191 $299,900 8 Laurel Ct Wilmington DE Limestone Hills
5967761 $347,500 219 Charleston Dr Wilmington DE Limestone Hills
5967788 $229,000 6 Degas Cir Wilmington DE Limestone Hills We
5899864 $184,900 225 Gordy Pl New Castle DE Llangollen Estates
5960414 $314,900 1418 Marsh Rd Wilmington DE Mayfield
5775960 $193,500 108 Meadowood Dr Newark DE Meadowood
5959724 $269,900 105 Stardust Dr Newark DE Melody Meadows
5956970 $639,900 5 Reese Dr Newark DE Merestone
5944410 $399,900 356 Sun Blvd Bear DE Meridian Crossing
5896555 $489,000 654 Salem Church Rd Newark DE Millers Reserve
5899237 $454,000 662 Salem Church Rd Newark DE Millers Reserve
5899240 $559,000 676 Salem Church Rd Newark DE Millers Reserve
5899241 $429,000 650 Salem Church Rd Newark DE Millers Reserve
5896748 $325,000 304 W Bradford Ct Middletown DE Misty Vale Farm
5957383 $179,900 619 W 39th St Wilmington DE Ninth Ward
5902563 $299,900 845 Yorklyn Rd Hockessin DE None Available
5926653 $475,000 811 Branch Rd Newark DE None Available
5817670 $399,990 315 Friedman Dr BRANDY New Castle DE Northern View
5874845 $349,990 304 Friedman Dr DYNAST New Castle DE Northern View
5917748 $995,000 203 Haystack Ln Greenville DE Owls Nest
5831070 $149,900 6105 Highland Ct Wilmington DE Paladin Club
5900160 $109,900 7301 Pleasant Ct Wilmington DE Paladin Club
5952610 $378,900 254 Wickerberry Dr Middletown DE Parkside
5949887 $379,000 220 W Pembrey Dr Wilmington DE Pembrey
5941763 $304,900 1 Finn Ct Newark DE Reserve/ironside
5965033 $228,000 10 Riverside Dr Wilmington DE Riverside Gardens
5618161 $129,000 2302 Riddle Ave B-301 Wilmington DE Rockford Park Condo
5889299 $399,900 402 Topsfield Rd Hockessin DE Rolling Ridge
5966406 $129,900 313 Osborne Rd Wilmington DE Rosemont
5911597 $179,900 32 Rose Cir Newark DE Roseville Park
5961470 $229,900 723 Staghorn Dr New Castle DE Rutledge
5961562 $219,900 1130 Bardell Dr Wilmington DE Sherwood Park Ii
5934148 $413,900 42 Slashpine Cir Hockessin DE Southwood
5872867 $239,900 437 Sundial Ln Middletown DE Spring Arbor
5820748 $374,900 210 Hoyer Ct Wilmington DE Springer Woods
5836498 $389,900 214 Hoyer Ct Wilmington DE Springer Woods
5816432 $180,000 7 S Sherman Dr Bear DE Stone Mill
5896410 $364,000 151 Olivine Cir Townsend DE Stonefield
5950052 $359,900 243 Olivine Cir Townsend DE Stonefield
5830942 $279,900 7 Currant Ct Newark DE Summer Hill
5959831 $274,900 18 Currant Dr Newark DE Summer Hill
5941696 $169,000 1880 Superfine Ln 31 Wilmington DE Superfine Lane
5959027 $159,900 49 Landers Ln New Castle DE Swanwyck
5886746 $375,000 2609 Kimbrough Dr Wilmington DE Talley Farms
5800049 $279,900 122 Talleyrand Dr Wilmington DE Talleyrand
5872498 $274,000 2013 Baynard Blvd Wilmington DE Triangle
5843721 $284,000 1806 Lovering Ave Wilmington DE Trolley Square
5925018 $299,900 1907 N Scott St Wilmington DE Trolley Square
5949102 $249,900 1327 N Clayton St Wilmington DE Trolley Square
5800032 $294,500 221 Dupont Cir Wilmington DE Villa Monterey
5880147 $199,900 115 Tuckahoe Ln Bear DE Village Of Becks P
5888052 $207,900 2305 Saint Francis St Wilmington DE Village Of Lindell
5870729 $520,000 1104 Greenhill Ave Wilmington DE Wawaset Park
5955159 $249,900 2205 W 11th St Wilmington DE Wawaset Park
5955435 $349,000 717 Coverdale Rd Wilmington DE Wawaset Park
5938011 $314,900 119 Wembley Rd Wilmington DE Westgate Farms
5936349 $995,000 20 Brendle Ln Wilmington DE Williamhurst
5840558 $639,000 1402 Clinton St Wilmington DE Wilm #13
5929918 $119,900 618 N Rodney St Wilmington DE Wilm #15
5963586 $275,000 702 S Rodney St Wilmington DE Wilm #25
5962663 $179,000 202 Garfield Ave New Castle DE Wilm Manor
5919779 $199,900 3 Troy Ave Wilmington DE Woodcrest
5905162 $189,900 1068 Wagoner Dr Wilmington DE Woodland Hts
5899091 $195,000 1 Woodbury Ct Wilmington DE Woodland Park
5947931 $499,900 6 Wyndom Ct Hockessin DE Wyndom
5898891 $259,000 2219 Patwynn Rd Wilmington DE Wynnwood

Come out and see these houses this weekend!