Archive for July, 2016

Are Solar Panels Really Green?

Are Solar Panels Really GreenThe standard assumption by most consumers is that solar panels along with wind technology is that they are green and make a positive contribution to the reduction of pollution around the world. But, are solar panels really green? While the technology has been around for years, it is only recently that solar panels have been produced in large numbers and also touted as a green technology that will change the way that electricity is generated. Reductions in coal based generated electricity will put many people out of work and will also reduce the amount of pollution. This is the argument of most environmentalists. What are the facts and will this trend really help us in the long run?

Are Solar Panels Really Green?

The jury is actually still out on this question, Are Solar Panels Really Green, believe it or not. This is still a relatively new industry and many improvements need to be made before we can definitely say that there will be reductions in pollution based on solar panels. Here are a few examples.

Coal Fired Electrical Generation Plants – Switching to solar panels will reduce the amount of electricity needed from these plants, therefore reducing the amount of coal burned and the amount of local pollution which is a good thing from an environmental perspective. Switching to natural gas will also reduce pollution.

Solar Panel Farms – They take up a large area and nothing else can be done with the land they occupy. Much more space is required for solar panels than traditional power plants. These panels need to be washed at least once per year which wastes a lot of water. And water is becoming a short supply issue for many areas.

Manufacturing Solar Panels – They are predominantly manufactured in China which has very lax standards in terms of control of toxic chemicals used in the process. It takes a great deal of energy to make a solar panel and the toxic waste is not disposed of properly. While there is less pollution in the predominantly western nations where solar panels are being installed, China and other countries are having to deal with significant levels of pollution in their countries.

Recycling – Not enough solar panels are being recycled as of yet so there is no business that has yet developed to deal with the toxic chemicals in solar panels. They are ending up in land fill sites.

A lot more work in this industry is needed before we can truly say that solar panels are a green technology.


Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC UnitWe contacted our Real Estate Agent about whether we should purchase or lease furnace and AC unit. His answer follows and is quite enlightening. Basically you are going to pay for it one way or the other and it is up to you just how you want to do it. Some alternatives are more economic than others. After reading his answer decide for yourself based on your own situation.

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit

In terms of the real estate sales side of things, it is presumed that the furnace and A/C are bought and paid for by the seller.  If they are rented then the buy out is the key # required. At time of transfer of the deed it is expected that the seller will pay for it.  I think that you need to examine that and look at different scenarios. What if I had to sell the house in 3 years, 5 years 7 years or 10 years, what is the cost to ‘pay off’ the contract.
You are suggesting that you will remain in the house for the next 10 – 15 years. Life changes on a dime and maybe you will be facing family or personal instances where you must sell.  So somehow you have to factor that into your decision making.

Purchase or Lease Furnace and AC Unit – Buyers Agent

As a buyer’s agent when showing homes, we take into account the furnace and A/C are 10 years or more. I emphasize to the buyers that they are going to have to budget for a new furnace and A/C  in the short term.  So if your contract is 10 years AND you actually expect to be living there for that time then maybe a rental plan would work to your favor.  (is the equipment free and clear and paid for after the rental contract?)
Bottom line is that everything boils down to price.  Your home would be priced accordingly – to market conditions. Also conditions of the home along  with the features and chattels etc. so, you are going to end up ‘paying’ either now or later.
Many of the homeowners on our street used the same guy someone had found.  He is a one man band so to speak, and he sells, installs and services the Goodman brand.  When we bought, it had a 10 year guarantee which has paid off for us. We had the burner unit replaced in the furnace at about year 9.  It works for us and him because he gives us all a great price on annual cleaning etc. and does everybody the same day for cash.  So that’s another bonus for him.
It’s a tough question to deal with – as the homeowner you are looking at a good chunk of change to make it happen. Just be sure that on the rental lease scenario, you are well aware of the buy out costs.  Also transfer costs / obligations conditions etc.
Hope this helps and hasn’t muddied the waters!

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air Conditioner

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air ConditionerOur furnace just quit working and our air conditioning unit is 27 years old! Amazing life cycle and it still works. The furnace is only 14 years old and we are trying to figure out if we should rent or buy your furnace and air conditioner or just repair it. Most people would just say replace it.

After all the AC unit does not owe you anything and it will likely quit sometime soon anyway. We could perhaps just repair the furnace and hope for the best. However we wondered what the economics would be considering repairing the furnace or replacing both the furnace and the AC unit. Also a third scenario has been proposed and that would be to rent both units. The price would include all cleaning and servicing for as long as we paid the monthly payment. My initial reaction was to always purchase however when you do the math, there is a surprising answer.

Rent or Buy Your Furnace and Air Conditioner

We assumed a 15 year study life, a cost of $9500 to purchase the units, a cost of $25 a month to provide service and warranty once the manufacturers warranty was finished. We also assumed a cost of $700 for repairs which would last for one year. The rent scenario assumes $50 a month for the furnace and $45 a month for the AC unit including all servicing and warranties.

Using these numbers it makes sense to rent if you are planning on 12 years or less to rent. It makes sense to purchase if you feel that the units will last longer than 11 years which they should. However I need to find $9500 to pay for the installation and I still need to pay $25 a month for insurance.

I can finance the cost of the furnace etc.  I could use some of my savings to pay for these units and forego any income I might get from the current investments. I am fortunate to collect 3% on my investments at the present time. This is a real cost to me which I would save if I were to rent the furnace and the AC unit.

This income when factored in changes the breakeven period from 11 years to 20 years. This is probably more than the life cycle of these new units and longer than I plan to live in the house.

I still need to confirm all of the estimates with actual quotations. However I am definitely leaning towards renting and not making a purchase at this point.


Tips to Burglar Proof Your Home

tips to burglar proof your homeMany people are traveling at all times of the year, especially in the holiday periods. Burglars know this and they are ready to take advantage of your empty home. We thought that it would be good to cover a number of tips to burglar proof your home. Avoid the frustration and invasion of privacy by following these tips. If you know of others that would benefit our readers, let us know and we will be happy to add them to the post. We have a number of other posts on this site that discuss issues around home security as well.

Tips to Burglar Proof Your Home

Make your home look like it is lived in – If you are going away, your home should still look as if someone is living in it. This can mean lights on timers, pool running in the summer, neighbors parking a car in the driveway etc.

Regular checks by Family or neighbors – may not stop them but it will let anyone know who is casing the home that people are watching.

Clear mail every day – or have someone do it for you. Newspapers and mail building up in the mail box is a sure sign of a vacant home

Maintain landscaping – whether it is uncut grass or an untidy looking yard, this can be another sign that no one is home.

Hi Tech Monitoring – alarms that go off if someone does break in are good to have. So are doorbells that trigger a call to your cell phone when someone tries the doorbell. Another is an alert whenever motion is detected in or around the house with a voice response. You may get some false alarms from local animals that roam the yard at night.

If you have added ideas, let us know, we would be glad to include them.


Upgrade Aging Air Conditioners

Upgrade Aging Air ConditionersWhen is it time to upgrade aging air conditioners? Ours is over 28 years old and is still working. Our furnace which is only 14 years old just quit. We are having the furnace replaced and wonder if we should upgrade aging air conditioner at the same time. Perhaps we will get a discount for doing both at the same time and a rebate from the government.

Upgrade Aging Air Conditioners and Furnace

There are several reasons why we decided to replace everything at this time, rather than take a chance on the old AC unit. The following is our list and you can attach importance levels to them based on your own situation:

  • If the coil on the old AC unit leaks over the new furnace, the warranty is not valid
  • Twenty eight years is a phenomenal life cycle, maybe I would get several more years at most
  • Existing AC is very inefficient compared to the new units
  • Get the job done once and they do not have to come back other than for annual maintenance
  • Replace both and obtain full government rebate
  • Energy costs continue to rise, so efficiency is important to control utility bills
  • The existing system is noisy, newer units are quieter
  • Resale value for our home will increase with new units still under warranty if we sell in next 10 years

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