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Buttoning Up Your House

19 Oct

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: October 19, 2011
Expanded Content

By Attorney George Warshaw

Winter is approaching and the most vulnerable location of energy leakage and wasted dollars are drafty windows. It may be time to replace them.

To learn about replacement windows I spoke with certified master installer Fred LaCorte, of Climate Door & Window, (781-681-7007; climatedoor@verizon.net).

“For most people the first choice is usually whether to get single, double or triple pane windows. Single pane windows offer little or no energy loss protection. Double and triple pane obviously provide more protection, much in the way adding a thin liner into your winter gloves keeps your hands warmer,” Fred told me.

“Homeowners in choosing a window can increase their energy efficiency and save money in two ways. The first by placing a coating on the window; the second, by using a gas to create an insulation barrier.

“lowE is a coating placed on the glass that reflects radiant warming heat back into the atmosphere during summer months, while allowing the sun’s heat to penetrate into the house during the winter months, thus keeping the house warmer when it’s needed most. It also provides UV protection for furniture and carpets.

“Some double and triple pane windows have a layer of argon gas added between the panes,” Fred explained.  “Gas acts like an installation barrier and prevents heat loss in the winter and air conditioning loss in the summer.”

For the consumer, there are a number of measures that rate windows and decipher the mystery. You should find stickers on the windows that provide numerical information rating the energy efficiency of the glass. The lower the number the better.

Glass is rated by “U” value and a solar value called SHGC (solar heat gain co-efficient). For solar SHGC ratings, look for .35 or below. For U value look for .30 or less.

Here’s an example. Double pane without a lowE glass coating have a U value of about .44; with lowE glass coating around .35. Adding an argon gas barrier to a lowE coating drops the U value to around .30.

Triple pane, with double lowE brings have a value of around .20.

Not all windows are built with the same durable construction. A replacement window typically goes into an existing wood frame and is made of vinyl.  More durable windows are made of a composite, have a more rigid frame, and last longer.

Design Pressure measures the ability of a window to withstand flexing and energy loss due to wind velocity. Design Pressure uses numbers such DP 35, DP 50. The higher the number the better it can withstand stronger winds and flexing.

Lastly, don’t forget insulation. If you’re replacing the usual double hung window that used pulleys and ropes to raise and lower the window, make sure that insulation will be stuffed in the pockets where the ropes were used – otherwise the air will just channel around the window.

Home Depot, Lowe’s or the Independent Company

I’ve found the level of expertise more reliable with smaller, local companies than the big chains that merely offer a list of subcontractors. Smaller companies are more accountable and responsive if you’re unsatisfied with the work that was done.

 © 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney, estate planner and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, prenuptial agreements and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how or if the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.

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How Homeowners Make Money Installing Solar Energy

15 Jun

 Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 15, 2011
Expanded content

By Attorney George Warshaw

In addition to possibly having zero energy costs, there are a number of surprising ways a property owner in Massachusetts makes money by installing solar energy panels – including one way that generates a yearly check!

Tax Credits. Tax credits reduce your income tax. Current IRS rules permit a homeowner to claim a credit of 30% (no max amount) of the cost of purchase and installation of solar energy. Massachusetts provides a similar credit of 15% ($1,000 max) on state income tax.

Cash Rebates. Many towns have a program in which the homeowner receives a cash incentive for installing solar. Concord Municipal Lighting Company, for example, will rebate a buyer at the Riverwalk Condominiums in Concord up to $3,125 depending on the size of the system.

Yearly Income. Massachusetts, like some states, requires the power company generate a minimum percentage of its electrical power to end-users from certain renewable energy sources, such as solar. 

Right now, the power companies can’t generate enough solar power. They make up this deficiency by counting the energy generated by property owners who have installed solar.  The utility companies don’t, however, get to count it for free. They have to buy it each year – from you!

Here’s how. 

A property owner receives one (1) Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (a “SREC”) for each 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar generated power. Generate 10,000 kilowatt hours, get 10 certificates.

According to Steve Weikal (617-596-2777, steve@concordriverwalk.com), solar panels on new condos at Concord Riverwalk  by local solar integrator SunBug Solar (www.sunbugsolar.com) generate between 3 and 6 SRECs, a year, depending on the number of panels installed.

 The power companies compete for these certificates through an auction process. In the most recent auctions, Massachusetts  SRECs have been selling at over $500 each. If you acquired 3-6 certificates through your ordinary use, you would have received between $1,500 to $3,000, less brokerage commissions.

To sell your SRECs, you contact a SREC broker (they’re all over the web). SREC brokers function a lot like Fidelity or Schwab. Instead of selling your stock in Ford or GM, sign up online with a SREC broker and they take it from there.

Buy a solar-powered home, and put money in your pocket! ©2011 George Warshaw. All Rights Reserved.

References

Federal tax credit, http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US37F&re=1&ee=1

Massachusetts tax credit, http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=MA06F&re=1&ee=1

Other Massachusetts tax/credit/rebate programs see http://www.dsireusa.org and search for Massachusetts.

See also http://www.srectrade.com/background.php on selling SRECs.

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George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

NetZero Solar Living – Imagine Having No Utility Costs

8 Jun

Metro®Boston, Publication Date: June 8, 2011

By Attorney George Warshaw

Is it possible to live for free, where the cost of heating, air conditioning and the power to run every appliance is generated by the home?

Net Zero” refers to an energy sufficient structure in which the annual energy cost to operate the house or condo is produced by the home’s own mini power plant.

With a solar home, NetZero is reached by “banking” excess electricity generated by the solar panels with the electric company as a credit. The credit pays for electricity drawn from the power company in periods of intensive usage.

To reach NetZero efficiency, the amount of energy you bank annually approximately equals the amount you draw.

I toured a 13 unit NetZero condo project under construction in Concord, Massachusetts – the “Concord Riverwalk.” Each condominium is built as a self-contained cottage style structure with its own solar power plant. Owners share gardens, walkways, garage parking and other common areas.

Each house generates energy through solar panels installed on the south side of the roof, and saves energy through “green” construction techniques that eliminate air infiltration and seepage, i.e. energy loss.

Contact Steve Weikal (617-596-2777, steve@concordriverwalk.com) for more info.

Next week, the economics of solar – get cash back and credits from a number of sources.

© 2011 George Warshaw. All rights reserved.

__________

George Warshaw is a real estate attorney and author. He represents buyers and sellers of homes and condos in Massachusetts, and prepares wills, trusts, and estate plans. George welcomes new clients and questions at george.warshaw@warshawlaw.com.

Legal Advice: Laws, and court decisions interpreting them, change frequently and this article is not updated as laws change. The content and information contained in this article is neither intended as legal advice nor shall establish an attorney-client relationship. Before making any legal decision, consult an attorney to see how the foregoing may apply to your circumstances.