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Friday, October 18, 2013

10 Money Saving Tips pertaining to Indoor Lighting

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde Craig

Indoor Lighting: 10 Money Saving Tips

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Lighting is critical for comfort and security and would you believe that it accounts for up to 15% of your annual electricity costs? By reducing lighting energy consumption
is one of the fastest and most effective ways to lower your utility bill. There are many things you can do to improve the energy performance of your home's lighting, including the following:

1.Turn the lights off in any room you are not using and throughout the house when no one is home.

2.Instead of lighting an entire room, focus low-power light exactly where you need it aka task lighting. For example, try using a portable lamp for your home office, or use under cabinet lighting in your kitchen area.

3.Use high-efficiency fluorescent tube lights in garages, work rooms & laundry rooms.

4.Clean light bulbs regularly to maximize light output. Who would have thought to clean their light bulbs?

5.Taking advantage of natural light during the day is one of my favorites. You can open blinds, shades and other window coverings.

6.Use three-way lamps as they make it easy to save energy by reducing light levels when a bright light isn't needed.

7.Install dimmer switches to reduce the intensity of light in a room which will always helps to save energy.

8.Replace low-efficiency incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). They use a lot less energy and last up to 10 times longer.

9.Use high-performance, light-emitting diode (LED) lamps for decorative lighting, holiday lighting & under kitchen cabinet lighting.

10.Consider installing occupancy sensors to control when & how long the lights in garages, storage rooms and other areas of the house will stay on.

When shopping & purchasing light bulbs....Think Lumens, Not Watts.

Lumens measure the light output of a bulb, while on the other hand, watts measure the amount of energy they use. For decades, consumers have purchased bulbs based on watts. In today's lighting market, with such a large variety of energy efficient lighting products available, it is more economical to compare lumens rather than watts.

Source: http://www.energystar.gov/

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

5 Tips to Make Your Yard the Greenest on the Block and Keep It That Way

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Transform a so-so lawn into the kind of lush, green expanse any neighbor would envy. Five simple tips can help you get there:

1.Give it some air: Each spring, when the soil temperature is above 65 F, aerate your lawn. You do this with an aerator, a machine that punches small holes into your soil to let air, water and nutrients reach the grass roots. Many hardware and home improvement stores offer aerators for rent.

2.Mow often, stay sharp and follow the "one-third rule": Mowing stimulates growth. So the more you mow, the faster and thicker the grass will grow, choking out weeds. Be sure to check your lawnmower's blades, and have them sharpened at your local hardware store when they begin to dull. Dull blades that don't cut cleanly can leave grass damaged and more vulnerable to disease. For a healthier, greener lawn with deep roots, mow no more than the top third of your lawn's height; so if it's three inches high, cut off no more than an inch.

3.Water only as needed: Watering too often can lead to shallow, unhealthy roots, which form thatches of unsightly tangles above the soil. If you can see your compressed footprints on your lawn after walking on it, it could use an inch of even sprinkling (use an empty tuna can to measure when it's had enough). Otherwise, let it be.

4.Apply elbow grease—not chemicals—to weeds: If you use a weeding tool to pull up weeds by the roots, you shouldn't need to use any chemical herbicides, which can damage your lawn.

5.Embrace science: By getting your soil tested in a laboratory every few years, you can find out if it has appropriate levels of organic matter, phosphorous, nitrogen and other materials for your local climate. A garden or landscaping shop can help you find a lab (soil tests usually run about $20), and can review the results with you to see if a particular kind of fertilizer or treatment might help keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tips on Reducing Your Homeowners Insurance!!

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

With consistent increases to our insurance premiums, we are always looking for ways to reduce the impact to our wallets.

Many insurance carriers offer credits for wind mitigation.

Recently, a client was able to save $1500.00 on a LA Citizens Fair Plan Policy. Keep in mind the credits may not always be this high depending on what credits are applicable.

It is recommended that you acquire this wind mitigation form for a newly built home or a fully renovated home as they SHOULD be built to code.

Each Insurance Company has their own wind mitigation form and it must be completed by a qualified professional.

If a wind mitigation form cannot be completed, some insurance companies are providing credits for having a “Hip” Roof. Description attached. (See 'Hip VS. Gable Roof, What's The Difference')

The cost is between $95.00-$175.00 to have the wind mitigation form completed. Keep in mind there is no way to guarantee any credits until a wind mitigation form is complete.

Most of the affluent insurance carriers will allow their form to be completed by a licensed residential contractor or licensed engineer.

Hip VS. Gable Roof, What's the Difference

A gable is the triangular portion of a wall between the edges of a sloping roof. The shape of the gable and how it is detailed depends on the structural system being used (which is often related to climate and availability of materials) and aesthetic concerns. Thus the type of roof enclosing the volume dictates the shape of the gable.

A hip roof, or hipped roof, is a type of roof where all sides slope downwards to the walls, usually with a fairly gentle slope. Thus it is a house with no gable or other vertical sides to the roof. A square hip roof is shaped like a pyramid.

The first mandatory statewide building code, the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code, was passed during the 2005 First Extraordinary Legislative Session, immediately following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Act 335 of the 2007 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature provides resources for training and enforcement of the code. The Legislature sought to encourage implementation of the code by providing incentives to home owners who are willing to strengthen their homes against storms and hurricanes.

Mitigation Incentives Include:

*Insurance premium discounts when a homeowner builds or retrofits a structure to comply with the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code, or installs mitigation improvements demonstrated to reduce the amount of loss from a windstorm or hurricane.

*Tax deductions for voluntarily retrofiting an existing residential structure to bring it into compliance with the new building code.

*Exclusions from local sales and use tax when purchasing storm shutter devices for hurricane protection.


Act 323 of the 2007 Regular Session provides insurance premium discounts for insureds after insurers file rates with the Louisiana Department of Insurance between March 31, 2008 and January 1, 2009. This rate filing will include the new premium discounts when:
* an owner builds or retrofits a structure to comply with the requirements of the State Uniform Construction Code, and/or
* an owner installs damage mitigation improvements or retrofits their property utilizing construction techniques demonstrated to reduce the amount of loss from a windstorm or hurricane.

Premium discounts apply to one or two-family owner occupied homes and modular homes. They do not apply to commercial or commercial residential properties with three or more units, or to manufactured or mobile homes. Discounts are granted based on damage litigation improvements and construction techniques listed on the Louisiana Hurricane Loss Mitigation Form. Contact your insurance company or agent for more information.

These damage mitigation improvements and /or construction techniques include, but are not limited to:

* building design
* roof bracing
* secondary water barriers
* opening protection
* roof-to-wall strength
* roof deck attachment
* roof covering and roof covering performance
* wall-to-floor-to-foundation strength
* window, door and skylight strength
* other mitigation improvements and/or construction techniques that the insurer may determine to reduce the risk of loss due to wind.

Inspection and certification must be performed by a building code enforcement officer, registered architect or engineer, or a registered third-party provider authorized by the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council to perform building inspections. For a list of registered third party providers, visit www.dps.louisiana.gov/lsuccc or call (225) 922-0817.

Proof of eligibility for premium discounts must be provided by the insured. The insurer may require completion of the Louisiana Hurricane Loss Mitigation Form or other documentation to demonstrate compliance with the State Uniform Construction Code, such as permits, certificates of occupancy, inspection reports or receipts. If deemed necessary, the insurer may also perform its own
independent inspection.

Act 467 of the 2007 Regular Session allows tax deductions for insureds who voluntarily retrofit an existing residential structure to bring it into compliance with the State Uniform Construction Code. This construction code retrofitting deduction is an amount equal to 50 percent of the cost paid or incurred for the retrofit on or after January 1, 2007, less the value of any other state,
municipal or federally-sponsored financial incentives for the cost paid. The taxpayer must claim the homestead exemption for the home being retrofitted and the home cannot be rental property.

The tax credit can be no more than $5,000 per retrofitted residential structure and is claimed on the tax return for the year in which the work is completed. Proof that the retrofit complies with the State Uniform Construction Code, documentation of the cost of the project, and assurance that the project was voluntary as defined by the law, must be submitted with the state tax return. This became effective in the 2007 tax year.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Money Saving Tips for Heating Your Home During the Winter

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde-Craig

Money-Saving Tips for Heating Your Home

Space heating accounts for more than 40 percent of annual energy use in a typical home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By taking action before and during the heating season, you can reduce your heating costs and make your home more comfortable during those cold winter months.

Get your home ready for winter

•Have a qualified technician inspect and clean your heating system before the start of cold weather to ensure your system is running efficiently.

•Inspect the ductwork in exposed areas such as the basement or attic, and repair any leaks or disconnections.

•Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows to prevent heat loss.

•Make sure your home is insulated to levels recommended for your climate zone.

•Seal gaps and air leaks in your chimney, plumbing access and other often-overlooked areas of the home. For more information, see Hidden Sources of Home Heat Loss.

•If your heating system is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient unit. If you install a new system, make sure it is ENERGY STAR qualified. ENERGY STAR, which is a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, tests and certifies products for energy efficient performance.

Saving energy during the heating season

•Change the air filter on your furnace once per month during the heating season. A dirty filter restricts air flow and causes the system to run less efficiently.

•Save energy by setting your thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature. Optimize savings by lowering your thermostat setting when you are sleeping or away from home. Afraid you might forget? A programmable thermostat can make the adjustments for you.

•Reverse the airflow direction of ceiling fans, forcing warm air to bounce off the ceiling down into the living space where you need it.

•Open window treatments on south- and east-facing walls during the day to let in warming sunshine. At night, close them to keep cold air out and maintain the heat inside your home.

For Market Information in your Neck Of The Woods, visit: http://www.mynolahomes.com/mimarket

If you or anybody you know needs assistance with real estate, please call me at (504)382-3724. Thanks, Alicia

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five Great Things about Homeownership

Blogging From The Desk of Alicia Lagarde Craig

If you've been on the fence about homeownership, now is the time to take a leap! Don't let the negative press deter you from one of life's greatest joys.

Take a look at five short and sweet reasons that homeownership is great!

1. Equity: When you pay rent, you never see that money again. It is lining the landlord's pocket. Yes, buying a home may come with some hefty initial costs (downpayment, closing costs, inspections), but you will make that money back over time in equity built in the home. Historically, homes appreciate by about 4 to 6 percent a year. Some areas are still experiencing normal appreciation rates. For the areas that have seen harder times since the recession, experts feel that the housing market will recover. Homeownership is about building long-term wealth. A home bought for $10,000 in 1960 is most likely worth 10 times that in today's market.

2. Relationships: Renters tend to see their neighbors come and go quickly. Some people sign year leases while others are in the community for much shorter terms. Apartment complexes also tend to have less common shared space for people to meet, greet, and socialize. Homeowners, however, have yards, walking trails, or community pools and clubhouses where they can get to know each other. Neighbors stay put much longer (at least three to five years if they hope to recoup their closing costs). This means more time to develop relationships. Research has shown that people with healthy relationships have more happiness and less stress.

3. Predictability: Well, as long as you have a fixed-rate term on your mortgage it's predictable. Most people buying homes today know that a fixed-rate is the way to go. This means your payment amount is fixed for the life of the term. If your mortgage payment is $500 today, then it will still be $500 a month in 10 years. This allows for people to budget and make solid financial plans. The sub-prime crisis meant many homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages saw their monthly payments rise and then rise some more. Homeownership, though, generally comes with a predictable table of expenditures. Even the big purchases are predictable. You know most roofs last just 15 years (or so). You know that each year you'll need to pay for the gutters to be cleaned, and so on.

4. Ownership: Okay, this is a given. Homeownership means you "own" your home. That comes with some incredible perks, though! You can renovate, update, paint, and decorate to your heart's desire. You can plant trees, install a pool, expand the patio, or do holiday decorating that would rival the Kranks (if the HOA allows!). The bottom line is this is your home and you can personalize it to your taste. Most renters are stuck with the same beige walls and beige carpet that has been standard apartment decor for 20 years. Now is your chance to let your home speak!

5. Great Deals: It's a great time to buy. Interest rates are at historic lows. We're talking 3.25 percent instead of 6.0 or higher. This means BIG savings for today's buyers. Home prices have also taken a dip since the recession, which means homes are more affordable than ever. If you have steady income and cash for a downpayment, then be sure to talk to your local real estate agent about what homes in your area could be a fit for you.

Homeownership is a real joy. It's time to get off the fence and into a home that is right for you!

For Market Information in your Neck Of The Woods, visit: http://www.mynolahomes.com/mimarket

If you or anybody you know needs assistance with real estate, please call me at (504)382-3724. Thanks, Alicia