Living Off Grid in British Columbia

Going off grid is becoming increasingly attractive, especially to people who haven't done it yet. There are ls of reasons to consider going off grid.
First, it's more sustainable and has less impact on the environment (most of the time) than modern, urban living.
Second, it offers a simpler lifestyle.
Third, it requires less money.
Fourth, it may offer more security, especially if the current financial crisis becomes worse.
Fifth, its kind of romantic.
All that said, its not easy. If you're ready to take the plunge, British Columbia is a great place to do it if you like fantastic scenery, you aren't afraid of bad weather from time to time, you like wild and remote areas, freedom and hard work.
BC has many different areas where you can go off grid. The first is the coastal area, either on the Mainland or on Vancouver Island. You can be by the sea and enjoy a moderate climate. Temperatures will seldom go below freezing, but there will be lots of rain coming in off the Pacific during the winter. As a plus, marine scenery is outstanding, and there is plenty of opportunity to enjoy crabs, salmon, cod, halibut and prawns (you'll need a boat).
Once you cross the Coast Range and get into the Interior of the province you will experience more blue sky, but in the winter you'll also get colder temperatures, and in some areas, much more snow.
The Okanagan/Kamloops area is dryer, and warmer, year round, with the understanding that as you climb in elevation it will get colder.
The Kootenays are snowier, generally, and more remote. Large valleys between mountain ranges define this area, which is fairly remote even though its in the southern part of the province.
The Cariboo/Chilcotin is in the center of the province. Winters are long, but the area is huge, with thousands of lakes and rivers. Its great cowboy country. If you want horses and a log cabin, this is the area for you.
North of Prince George the province becomes very remote, in ways that someone from the Lower 48 of the US or Europe might find hard to imagine. Let's just say its really remote, with few roads, and really long winters.
Let's say you pick an area. Now what? If you're going to live off grid you need shelter, heat and water, not to mention food. Water and heat aren't a huge challenge in most of BC. There is lots of fresh water and that creates lots of potential heat on the mountain side in the form of trees. That means lots of wood cutting, however, and splitting and stacking. Wood that you cut in the summer and let dry is more enjoyable than wet winter wood.
Shelter is a different challenge. No matter where you are in BC you can die from the cold in a few hours during the winter if you are not prepared. You absolutely require somewhere to get warm and dry. That could be a tent, or a trailer, or a camper, or a cabin, or a yurt, but you will need something. If you don't bring it you'll have to build it. Building off grid is very hard.
Here are a few things to remember: most off gird sites in BC are not within walking distance, or for that matter, easy driving distance, to a building supply center. If you're driving off grid in a pick up truck with a trailer, then you're halfway there. You can load up on tools, nails, chainsaws, generators and redi-mix. However, if you're using a boat to access your build site, or worse, a horse, a plane, or walking, it can be very hard to get heavy stuff where you need it to be. You'll either do without or be very creative.
Don't get me wrong - people have done it many times, and you can too, but its hard, and progress will be slow.
Some options are:
Finding a property with existing buildings.Building in stages before you take up permanent residence.Using a trailer, bus or camper as a base.Making a small shelter that is weather tight and then making use of tents and taps to keep equipment and supplies dry.
Other things to consider are that you won't have power tools off grid unless you bring a chainsaw or a generator, at least until you get your micro-hydro, solar or wind system set up. You also won't have electric lights or satellite access to the internet to get questions answered (unless you plan for that).
On other words, don't under estimate the challenge.
If you're still willing to try it you have to ask: where do you get the land?
Can you just squat? As a matter of fact, yes you can. BC is huge, and you can easily get yourself lost. However, if someone owns the land, or wants to log it, or guides in it, you might get kicked out. Its a risky business.
You can also rent a place, but the market for that is very unorganized. It isn't easy to find someone who has property who will rent it to you for a long enough term for you to make the improvements you'll want.
That leaves buying, which you can always do. The issue is price. Waterfront properties can be expensive, but they can also be very reasonable. Smaller places cost more per acre, but large remote acreages can sell for less than $1000 per acre. You can find out about property for sale by simply starting with Google. There are lots of for sale by owner sites catering to rural BC. You can also contact me for help - again, google me; I'm easy to find.
Rob Chipman is broker owner of Coronet Realty Ltd,a Vancouver BC, area real estate and property management company specializing in residential rental real estate and non-resident taxation for offshore investors.
He also specializes in off grid, fly in, waterfront or otherwise unique properties in the Cariboo Chilcotin region of British Columbia. He has a blog at Off Grid BC as well as Bush Pilot Properties.

What Is the Correct Way to Make Green Homes Increase in Value?

Every once is a while I get to appraise some type of energy efficient home with built in solar panels, wind turbines, light bulbs, furnaces, and home construction. Most of the time, these types of items will bring you nothing in extra value to your home in the Northwest. Do you know why? There is a disconnect from the Realtor databases and a lack of data in the MLS databases, and a sheer lack of similar sales for these "green" items.
I understand that the market will consider these types of improvements positive. With my professional appraisal experience and after speaking to several Realtors that have listed or sold these types of properties, it is clear that is could take the home owner 8 to 20 years to get their money back out in the terms of energy savings.
In terms of home value, your home will be appraised like any other home. If the real estate appraiser can not prove that the market is willing to pay for these types of homes, the value will not increase, nor decrease. In these cases, green homes are trumped by the next best thing in the market, similar homes.
Here is one of the few ways I see green homes increasing in value. There must be an entire development that is significant is size that makes up an entire community of green homes. Let's say a developer put together a development that only offers green homes. One part of the land is used for both RV storage, but on top of each building there are solar panels. Around the entire perimeter of the 10 acres development, there were wind turbines. On the roofs of every home in the development, there will be more solar panels. All homes in the development are made from green products and energy efficient items. Do you get the idea? With a big enough development, hopefully, there will be at least one or two sales to support the value.
The cost of the initial development for this type of development may be 30% more than the cost of a regular built home. If the market is willing to buy into a development like this, they will pay more for homes like this. There benefits will be energy reduction, environmental reasons, and money savings. The negatives may be ugly wind turbines around the property and acceptance of solar panels located on everyone's home and the cost to maintain something like this.
But when it came time to appraise homes like this, there will developments that support this type of technology. There will be comparable sales to select and compare to the subject and an appraiser can clearly conclude what the market is will to pay for homes in this type of development and outside the development. In other words, the appraiser can prove it. That's how to make green homes increase in value.
Would you like to learn more about buying, selling, and refinancing a home from a real estate appraiser

Are FITs Going To Pay Long Term?

If you generate your own green power then you could be earning yourself some cash as well as being eco-friendly. The government feed-in tariff (FITs) was launched last April and allows homeowners the chance to sell their home grown electricity and get paid for each unit that they produce. Payments are around 41.3p per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and this is more than three times the average consumer price. Some investors have taken note of this and bought wind turbines and solar panels to cash in. This has made to levels of subsidy unsustainable; investors have purchased large fields and covered them with photovoltaic (PV) panels. Cornwall council has just granted permission for the first scheme of its kind, the site is a former tin mine near Truro and many more look to be planned. These sort of projects look to be 2,000 times the size of small domestic ones and so there is a lot of money to be made.
The energy secretary Chris Huhne has now ordered a comprehensive review of FITs and so this may change the way homeowners generate their electricity. Homeowners receive payment for the electricity they produce whether they use it or not. Small domestic generators earn more per unit than the larger ones. Of the power that is fed back into the grid, homeowners earn an extra 3p per kWh. In the UK 22,000 households have signed up for FITs and of these 22,000 95% of them are using PV panels.
Payments for FITs do not come from the government but from the levy on electricity bills. A spending review conducted last year placed a cap on FITs at £360million by 2014-15 and so as a result the energy departments are now taking action. It does not just affect solar power but all categories that come under FITs. These are wind, combined heat and power, biogas, hydro and of course PV. They will all be reviewed by the end of the year and if any changes to the tariff will occur it will take effect in April 2012. Mr Huhne has asked for a fast track system, to be completed by the summer, in regards to PV installations and anything over 50kW. The payments may be cut for these large scale projects.
That does not mean that domestic tariffs are exempt, FITs were supposed to be fixed until April 2013 but this has already been brought forward a year. Once you have joined the scheme you will continue to receive payments at your initial rate for the entire time of the scheme, although inflation may lead to adjustments. Therefore the message is that if you are intending to install solar panels it is better to do it sooner rather than later. The tariff for newly fitted solar systems falls by 8.5% every year so by 2021 it may be 18p per kWh instead of the 41.3p until 2013. So as the government reviews its incentives green households may be losing out in the future, even though the government promotes green living as the ideal way.

Prince Charles's Natural House

Prince Charles has spoken for years about the importance of both sustainability and tradition. He hopes that the two can work side by side in towns, cities and villages to reflect a fundamental harmony between nature and human beings. Through developments such as Poundbury and Newquay he hopes to have put some of his ideas into practice.

The Prince has The Foundation for the Built Environment which is the architecture, design and educational charity wing of the Duchy of Cornwall. Through these he hopes to build places which are versatile and have enduring appeal, he wants villages where people can walk from their house to the shops or to the school where design is rooted in local identity. Prince Charles thinks that these sorts of principles should be the basics of design but they are often not by professionals, but he hopes that times are changing.

Prince Charles's main concerns are that the planet is becoming more and more urban therefore its resources are becoming scarcer. Even though we are adding solar panels to our homes to try and save energy, this is not enough. He feels that we should rethink the way we plan our homes, shops and schools and their relationship with one another. Eco-engineering can learn from Nature and we need to put emphasis on the design of our homes within our communities and use natural resources. Wind turbines and solar panels do not solve the fundamental problems, we need to be building homes designed to demand little or no energy from the beginning.

Prince Charles has worked with his foundation and the Building Research Establishment and Kingerlee Homes to produce the Natural House. It is designed to demonstrate the most effective route to low-energy and low carbon homes built with longevity in mind but with a traditional appeal. Prince Charles admits to being very proud of the Natural House.

The emphasis of the Natural House is on natural low impact materials that not only work well together but can be produced in this country. Although it is based on a traditional approach it has the best new technologies and it built on site by local workforces. The Natural House uses clay blocks and lime based plasters. These reduce the risk of poor air quality and the House also has a breathable wall system which stops mould and damp accumulating. This is blamed on many asthma and respiratory problems so the design in the Natural House helps both the environment and the health of those in it.

The Natural House is being shown at The Ideal Home Show and will be centrepiece there. Prince Charles hopes to show those who visit the House that not all eco homes are strange looking and out of the ordinary and that eco homes are a nice place to live in.
So what are the benefits of his Natural House:
· The House has natural clay tiles which will make the roof last longer and the tiles will not fade in the sun.
· The roof and also the floor will be insulated with sheep's wool.
· Honey-comb like clay blocks will make up the walls which will keep the Natural House warm in the winter but also cool in the summer.
· Heat is retained through the chimney flue which is made of insulated volcanic pumice rock from Iceland.
· The Natural House has triple glazed windows and high ceilings to flood the house with daylight.
· No fans are needed in the house in the summer due to the natural "stack" ventilation which promotes air flow.

Marketing Energy Efficient Features and "Green" Attributes of a Home to Increase Its Market Value

How many times have you purchased a new home without reviewing a 12 month history of the utility bills for the home? If I were your agent, the answer would be "NEVER"! As a Certified EcoBroker. I have learned to market one of a homes most valuable features, its monthly expenses! In my opinion, many agents miss the mark on this issue. How many times has a new homeowner received the shock of their life in the form of an overwhelmingly high gas bill during the dead of winter or a sky high electric bill during the summer time when the air conditioner is running at its highest level?
It is very important for a prospective buyer to understand that the seller has taken the necessary precautions to guard against the highs and lows of a utility crisis. This could be a major selling point when buyers are making a decision between two very similar homes.
There are several ways that sellers can take advantage of energy efficient features to increase the value of their home, some of these items include:
1. Programmable Thermostat - lowers your heating and cooling expenses by 30-40% annually
2. Energy Efficient Appliances - decreases consumption of electricity, gas and water up to 50%
3. Energy Efficient Windows - decreases heating loss or gain and lowers annual heating costs up to 40%
4. Energy Star Certified products - homes tend to be 20-30% more efficient and can generate a federal tax incentive up to 25%
5. HERS index - A rating system for the Home Energy Rating System
6. Insulation with a greater 'R' value - could increase your heating savings by 20-30% monthly
7. Lighting - CFL's and LED's offer an average savings of $30 over the life of the bulb.
8. Site Design - including natural daylight, landscaping and shade trees as a factor on natural heating/cooling
9. Plumbing - low flow toilets, showers and faucet aerators
10.Indoor Air Quality - increased ventilation, low VOC paint, lead
If you'd like to get an edge on your competition, make sure you hire an agent who is well educated in these area's and can orchestrate a proper marketing approach to making your home stand out in a sea of similar homes. An agent with the designation of Certified EcoBroker is your best option but if you can't locate someone in your market, simply interview each agent by asking what features they would highlight to showcase your home's Energy Efficiency and 'Green' attributes.

'Lost Tribe' Discovered Living Off The Land In Wales

Lost middle-class tribe's 'secret' eco-village in Wales proves that Eco Straw Bale homes embody the essence of living simply and sustainably.
The Preseli Mountains of West Wales: Brithdir Mawr, a community of roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit Land).
Pioneering: Eco-dweller Emma Orbach is delighted planning has been approved
Who would have thought that a 'secret' eco-village could exist in the countryside of Wales, for years, without anyone knowing!? Well, it did and has! Unbeknown to anyone until recently, this village was undiscovered and is occupants lived their lives without any interference from the outside world.
That is the simplicity of this style of building and living: very minimal cost, using local, natural resources available, growing their own food, using only solar power and living off the land.
Discovered by a survey plane, happening on the area, and likely a very observant pilot, they were finally exposed. After close scrutiny by the planning department, it was realised that planning permission had never been applied for in the past. So, a long drawn out battle ensued and the residents were facing being evicted and having to bull doze their homes.
Thanks to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority's 'sustainability' policy, these roundhouses have, after a decade of battling with the authorities and red tape, been given the green light, so to speak. They no longer have to demolish their homes that they have been living in for over a decade.
This style of building, although very primitive, does certainly embody the essence of 'simple' living. So, it is possible, depending on how much you want to do it and what you are willing to give up in the form of 'creature comforts'. This group of people were living their dream of reducing their 'carbon footprint' on the earth and living as simply as possible. They built their own straw bale homes with living roofs and lived off the land. They likely would have remained 'secret', had the survey plane not happened upon them.
It begs the question how many other people my be living 'under the radar' so to speak, and out of the prying eyes of building officials. If there are other communities like this I say "Good on them" and just leave them alone. These people were not hurting anyone and by the looks of it, not dependent on society to sustain them. Maybe more of us could take a leaf from their book and try to live more simply?!

Tips To Zero In On That Perfect Farm For Sale

Zeroing in on that perfect farm for sale amongst the countless thousands that are up for grabs is not just a matter of luck but depends more on your foresight and the ability to distinguish a fertile tract of land from a wasted one. So how do you go about looking for a farmland that is just apt for your needs and will also bring you riches? Here are some tips:
* Assess your needs. Why do you need a farmland? Will you raise crops on it for selling or will you use the tract as grazing land or pasture? To raise crops, you need to buy a high-yielding piece of arable land that will keep producing crops year after year. The kind of crop you want to grow will also determine the farm for sale that you must choose. This is because specific crops demand specific soil and weather conditions.
If you intend to raise crops on your piece of farmland, then you must also have an idea about the amount you want you grow in a year. This will determine the area of the agricultural land that you need to buy.
If you plan to also live on your farm, choose a piece of land that leaves you with ample room to construct your house after devoting a sizeable chunk for the crops. The farm for sale that you choose may come with a farmhouse; in that case, you will need to consider the condition of the house. If you have to spend a fortune on making the house livable, then buying the farmland may not be an economically viable option.
* Scrutinize the farm for sale. Once you have shortlisted a few farms for sale, it is time you peered more closely into their specific properties. Analyze the condition of the soil. Keep in mind that a low pH value indicates low fertility and you might need to put in more efforts to grow crops. Sparse vegetation also indicates that the land might be infertile and thus not conducive to grow crops.
While considering the economic feasibility of buying a farm for sale, also take into account factors like proximity to a water body or the presence of streams or rivulets in the property. Nearness to a water body will aid farming.
Are you now feeling a bit apprehensive about how to spot that perfect piece of farm for sale? Trust Dalhart Real Estate to spoil you with lucrative choices. In farm management and real estate business for more than 35 years, they have the expertise and the experience to steer you to that Dalhart farm for sale that you have been looking for.

An Eco Friendly Home In The Shetlands With No Heating Necessary

A couple, Michael and Dot Rea, from Wiltshire decided to buy a house on the island of Unst, one of the most northerly inhabited Shetland Islands. It is on same latitude as Alaska and Southern Greenland, yet it is extremely cosy inside. The outside temperature in August barely gets above 14c and there is often a 100mph gale coming in off the North Sea. So how do they manage to keep the house so warm with relatively little costs?
The couple admit that even when there was snow on the ground they did not need to put the heating on, the timber framed house has sunlight streaming through its windows and Michael explains that insulation and heat recovery is the key. He believes that the easiest way to become zero-carbon is to use less green energy and not harness it. He wants to light the whole house with just 100 watts, the same amount used by a single traditional bulb, but in extreme weather conditions on the Island he hopes to use the same as having just three 100 watt bulbs on.
Michael's home is generating interest due to the high energy costs and the oil crisis, so much so that the housing and regeneration branch of the Scottish Government are using his house as a model for sustainable building and living. Officials in London are also monitoring the house as they want all new builds to be carbon neutral by 2016. China has also expressed interest as the area Guanzhou is to have 5,000 eco houses built there and may want to utilise some of Michael's innovations.
The house cost very little, the off the shelf timber frame flat pack cost just £37,000 to which they added a customised sun room at £3,500. It is made from Scandinavian redwood which is a renewable resource and chosen by Michael because it is lightweight which makes it easy to heat compared to traditional stone. Labour costs and the green technology used took the overall cost to £210,000. They did win sponsorship from companies so Michael estimates that the true cost would have probably been £270,000 without those.
He hopes to have all his energy for free, apart from maintenance costs. The couple stumbled upon their idea after talking with someone from the Energy Sustainable Development who suggested using their new project as a demonstration. The insulation is 140mm of Celotex foam that lines all of the walls and has aluminium foil on each face. This means that no heat is left in or out of the house. The windows of the house are filled with argon which is a gas that acts as an insulator, he only paid an extra £1,500 for this. The windows are also very large to allow radiant heat from the sun.
Planning caused rome problems for the couple and the weather added to them, also because of how remote the Island is they have to wait for certain things that anyone would take for granted when building a house. Such as their need for a digger, there is only one on the neighbouring Island of Yell and at the moment it is being used to build a car park for their Nature Reserve and so the couple just have to wait.
The quickest way to get to Unst is by flying to Sumburgh and then a further three hour drive, there is an airport there but the other way is quicker. Locals did think that the couple from Wiltshire were a bit strange but they were years ahead of many developers in terms of going green. Michael believes that new builds will never reach the new energy targets without having heat recovery systems which involves a heat exchanger. It replaces the used air from inside with fresh air from outside and therefore no heat is actually lost.
The house also has a fuel cell storage system which can store four and a half days of energy for the house. The house has LED lights instead of light bulbs and rainwater is used for the garden, washing machine and toilets. Wind turbines allow the house to be totally self sufficient which he believes gives the house 95% of its energy.
If you wanted to be totally self sufficient this house is a shining example of how it can be done. Michael grows his own food in the garden and even though it took a long time in the making it is now completely finished.

Your Guide to Green and Eco-Friendly Leases

With all that is happening in the world today - global warming, hurricanes, typhoons, flash floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, one can easily feel alarmed about the condition of Mother Nature. We do not need to be superheroes and have super powers to save the Earth because we can help with our own little ways. One way is by making sure that we are living as concerned as we can be to our environment.
Good thing that there are increasing numbers of people including public officials, athletes, musicians and celebrities trying to spread awareness about living green or eco-friendly. You can follow this act in various ways - avoid using plastic bags, using hair spray nets, heavily polluted car and others. Well, this article will focus on helping you find and decorate an apartment to be green and eco-friendly. This is one way to start your quest to do your part to help Mother Nature.
1. Consider eco-friendly furniture - It is recommended to avoid big warehouse brands and instead settle for materials that are made of organic materials such as bamboo, organic cotton and other recycled items. This is not only helping the environment but also a good way to help you save lots of money. Let us admit it, it is far more expensive to buy big warehouse brands compared to those that are made from bamboo and other organic products. However, we cannot say that eco-friendly furniture downgrade your standards because in fact there are lots of manufacturers out there who come up with real piece of arts using organic materials.
2. Paint your walls with soy paint - Do you want to renovate your apartment by coming up with new paint colors? Then why not consider using soy paint? Soy paint is non-toxic, durable alternative that is perfect alternative for commercial paints. This reduces indoor pollution thus make your house green and eco-friendly.
3. Reuse things that you can - Let us not only be eco-friendly but also practical by using things that can be recycled and used afterwards. It is advisable to use washable towels compared to paper towels as one good example.
4. Conserve water - Sometimes we take for granted simple things like running water while we are brushing our teeth or while we wash the car using water hose. This may sound shallow but if we will calculate every ounce or litre of water that was wasted in a year, we would be surprised to know that it can suffice to a family's one-year supply of water. So, make sure to conserve water, use glass when you brush your teeth and use bucket and tub instead of water hose when watering the plants or washing the car.
Based on some surveys, 86% of Americans would prefer to live in a green and eco-friendly apartment. Therefore, it is truly advisable to start considering the tips mentioned in this article and help increase the 86% numbers who are willing to do their share to help the environment. This is not only for our own sake but this is most importantly helpful for the next generation.

Save Your Money/Energy With Solar Panels!

In troubled times like these when saving money can be essential to keep your head above the water, a long-term solution for a French property has revealed itself to be successful: solar panels. With greenhouse effect campaigns, it is worth introducing green technology to save money as well as energy.
There are two sorts of solar panels:
-> Photovoltaic solar panels
It produces renewable solar electricity for either stand alone or grid feed systems. These tools are easily connected making them ideal for battery charging, camping and remote power applications. The photovoltaic may be connected in strings for higher voltage. If you invest in your home and your energy future with on-grid connected PV solar panels, their typical life span is of 30-40 years. But solar panels in general have never made much financial sense as their purchase is very pricey.
-> Solar Water Heating
Unlike PV solar panels, solar water panels are far cheaper. Furthermore, they look discreet (as you can see on the photo opposite). These panels heat domestic water; they are reliable and provide unrivalled performance. For the average household, a 2sqm solar panel is sufficient to produce domestic hot water for the majority of the year. For hot tubs and swimming pools, larger or multiple solar panels systems can be used for larger cylinders. A solar panel's installation is like converting a car into a hybrid. After the initial investment, your car or in this case your home will run efficiently and cheaply for the next 30 years.
Cost comparison: taking into account that a given house has electricity, is equipped with an oil heating system and a wood-burning stove:
Price* without solar panels: ?1,100 per year
Price* with solar panels: ?472 per year
-> Cost of installation
It is by no means expensive contrary to what we use to hear everywhere. Depending on the brand of panels, a couple of solar water panels could cost between £4,300 and £5,000 (between ?5,000 and ?6,000). You should receive a grant of around ?1,000 and ?2,200 in the form of credit d'impots
*. It's similar to a heat pump: the installation cost is about ?13,000 but you are granted ?4,000 of credit d'impots, meaning it'll really cost you ?9,000.
Energy-efficient systems still need to be improved in terms of their characteristics and efficiency but are definitely opening a new era for energy saving and the development of green properties.
*Depending on the conditions of the company you buy your solar panels from.
Sextant French property is a network of more than 160 estate agents and 50 developers in France offering a selection of 12,000 French property for sale.
They also offer French property investment such as French Leaseback properties
In order to improve their service to their customers they set up a French mortgages division who can also help customers who bought through a different French estate agent.

Creating Privacy and Shade

The great thing about a brand-new home in a brand-new subdivision, is the brand-newness of it all. The not so great thing is the lack of privacy and shade. While Colorado is rather temperate, the sun is hot, the elevation is high, and our likelihood to burn sitting outside for more than 15 minutes is higher yet. Especially that left arm hanging out of our car window as we race around doing errands!
To be able to completely enjoy your outdoor space, here are some privacy and shade-y tips for you to consider. After all, now is the time to start planning and organizing your spring projects!
Privacy
In new subdivisions you sometimes wonder why the developer didn't leave more than 10 feet inbetween each house, and why on earth they designed the subdivision to allow 4 other houses look in on your dining room while your family, for once, is sitting down together eating.
* Before digging in your new yard, please call the utilities company to spray for you where your power and gas lines lay.*
To create privacy it sometimes meaning creating borders. Fencing is common, and if you bake your neighbors some cookies and propose a plan to put up a nice wooden fence, they too may want to go in on the expenses with you to have it match. Some HOA's (Home Owners Associations) only allow certain types of fences, at certain heights, colors, and more. Please verify with your board before building.
Want to go green? You could buy green materials for your fencing, or you could plant green. Tall shrubs which grow quickly can provide a natural barrier between you and your neighbors, while also providing a little shade and a nice wind block.
Trees are another great green and natural privacy blocker. Trees also provide a lot of filtered shade. Conifers grow exceptionally well in Colorado, although as I've seen in older neighborhoods, if you give them time, deciduous (leaf bearing) trees also thrive.
Bamboo is an overlooked plant that grows very fast, spreads fast, and makes a great fence. If you feel industrious, you can also cut some and weave baskets, burn it for kindling, or make furniture out of it.
Swings attached to pergolas don't necessarily create a large privacy barrier, but they do set a tone for, "This is where your eye needs to stop looking."
Large pots of varying sizes placed near patios can create a more private setting for those sitting on the patio, but won't necessarily block your neighbor's yard. These can be really nice features to add to your space by bringing in colors, tall grasses, and colorful flowers.
Shade
We already covered trees, as an obvious solution to producing or creating some shade in your yard. One thing I haven't mentioned yet, is your grass will thank you for some relief during the afternoon. So many new homes put down sod. The sod undoubtedly fries in the hot sun and the new yard looks bad. By planting trees in your yard you are providing some shelter for your grass as the sun passes over it. The shade provided by trees, especially as they get taller, can help you reduce energy costs in your house. During the winter months, the trees can act as wind barriers, and in the summer, the trees provide shade helping keep your house a few degrees cooler.
Arbors and trellises can make a lovely addition to any backyard or patio. If you are a gardening buff and want a nice place to sit amongst your plants, an arbor can be a great touch. Place a bench under and allow roses or other climbing vines to grow on it. Placing a trellis above a deck can provide nice shade, and if it is a lower deck, growing vines on it can help provide more wind breaks and shade. Some people have grown grape vines and used the grapes to create their wine! Imagine sitting in the shade on your patio sipping wine that came from the very vines amongst you! I've also seen hops grown and the hops used in home brewing. A win-win!
Pergolas are just like arbors only they are comprised of wooden beams instead of trellising. These can be very nice for a eastern or northern facing deck that doesn't see much sunshine, but you are looking for an architectural feature.

Building A Self Built Green Home

More Britons are now being encouraged to build their own homes. Housing Minister Grant Schapps has promised us that he will make it easier for us to build as planning constraints will not be as severe. On average about 10,000 of us self build every year and it requires tenacity and a drive to complete the project. Of course the end result is your dream home which is everything that you want in a home. All fixtures and fittings are to your taste and you can make your home as green as you want it to be because it is a new build. All of the green credentials can be incorporated into the design from the beginning stages of the drawings. Best of all is that at the project you will have probably made a profit if you have not gone overboard with your designs.
Later this year The Localism Bill is likely to come into effect which will give communities greater powers and take away the powers from the councils in regards to how our neighbourhoods are formed. Neighbourhood groups will be able to approve developments without having to go through the usual channels of gaining planning consent from the council. So it looks as though next year more and more of us will decided to venture into self builds as planning laws will be more lenient, well that it what self builders hope.
Marcus Copeland is a mortgage broker from Cwm in North Wales. He built a five storey, six bedroom house which has panoramic views of the valley stretching down to the coast and the house is only a 30 minute drive from Chester. The house is fabulous and costs Mr Copeland around £1million to complete which includes land value and build costs. He admits that if could do it all again he would curb his spending. He used a stone for the exterior walls from Scotland when he could have settled for a cheaper option but he admits that this house was going to be his dream home and so he spared no expense. He has now decided to put the house on the market for £1.5million, so he is still in profit.
It took 18 months for him to complete the build. He has included highly insulated windows, two mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MhVr) systems and of course under floor heating on each of the five floors of the house. He grew up in the area and managed to persuade a local farmer to sell him a plot of his land. Once this was agreed then obtaining the planning permission was very straight forward. The land that he had purchased already had planning for a small house and so the revised plans that Mr Copeland submitted had all the necessary eco-credentials that planners like and he also communicated with all of the neighbours. This meant that there were no objections to the plans and the planning permission was granted. The plans included rainwater recycling, solar panels, green roofs and ground source heat pumps. So it seems that the more green credentials in your proposed home the better. In June self builders can also earn an income via Feed-in tariffs whereby you sell surplus electricity back to the National Grid.
Many believe that green homes are a better quality because they are built with extra care. The finish of the houses tends to be superior to traditional builds and of course because they are much more energy efficient the energy bills of these houses is much lower. So for self builders beginning at the design stage, the more green credentials included in your new home the cheaper it will be to run in the long term.

Work Together for a Future Eco-Friendly Office!

Having an eco-friendly office can be very simple. It will eventually bring great savings for any company as it will cut down on waste and the conservation of resources will cut down on office expenses. This process does require teamwork. The implementation of "green" ideas provided by some federal institutions and eco-friendly advocates can be applied to most companies work practices. The following are some helpful ideas to bring an eco-friendly office into any company's future!
Power Conservation
Form a habit of turning off any equipment that is not being used. For instance, shutting down computers when they are not in use will eventually reduce the energy consumption of a business by up to 25 percent; doing this at the end of each work day will save an additional 50 percent. Turning off equipment can be easily accomplished by plugging all desk equipment into one power strip so that all devices can be turned off when leaving the area. With one device, all of the equipment that is plugged into that strip can be turned off.
Paper Conservation
Employees should be encouraged to communicate with e-mail and read the messages on the screen, printing only important messages. Utilize both sides of the paper when printing if possible and use paper with a high recycle content.
Reduce paper waste by using a fax cover sheet only when necessary; send important documents directly from the computer whenever possible to eliminate the necessity to print a hard copy.
Eliminate paper files by converting them into electronic files; this will reduce storage space, and make it easier to search for a document on the computer. This will certainly save a large amount of time than searching for a document in a filing cabinet.
Equipment Upgrades
If the budget allows, upgrading old equipment to newer models will increase energy efficiency. Replace old CRT monitors with LCD or LED monitors that are energy efficient and save on desk space.
A copier consumes more energy than any other piece of office equipment. Upgrading to a copier with duplexing capabilities and printing on both sides of the paper whenever possible will help cut down on energy usage as well as the usage of paper.
Water Conservation
Be sure to shut off faucets securely and not leave any dripping. So much water is wasted this way that as little as one drop per second could add up to as much as 2,642 gallons per year.
Displacement toilet dams can be installed in the toilet water reservoirs that will displace about four liters of water every time the water release valve is open. Placing one or two plastic containers filled with stones in the tank will allow for a huge reduction in water usage per year as well.
Buy Locally
Whenever possible, search for products and services that are more "green" within the local community, since supplies from a provider that is a considerable distance away will use more energy in transporting the product.
Before replacing any office items, be sure to initially consider if repairs can be done. When planning to purchase new furniture, see if the existing furniture can be refurbished; that would be less expensive than buying new.
Implementing an eco-friendly office should be done gradually so that it does not have too much of an effect on normal employee routines. Instead, small changes such as a reduction in the amount of power, water, paper, and other resources being consumed can really make an immediate difference in company expenses. Then working together to have an eco-friendly office can be in every company's future!

Ground Source Heat Pumps Can Work In Most Homes

Anyone can heat their home with energy that is absorbed from the ground. Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) are buried in your garden and can reduce your energy bills by heating your water and your radiators, they can also heat your under floor heating if you have that installed in your home also. The way that it works is that beneath the surface the ground stays at a constant temperature of around 10C to 12C, this is throughout the year so even if it is the middle of winter you can still be heating your home through the GSHP.
A GSHP circulates water and antifreeze around a loop of pipes which is buried in your garden, this loop of pipes is commonly known as a ground loop. The heat in the ground is then absorbed into the fluid and is pumped through a heat exchanger which is located in the heat pump. The lower grade heat is then passed through the heat pump compressor and is concentrated into a higher temperature which can then heat your home. Ground loop fluid which then cools, passes back into the ground where it then absorbs more energy from the ground. This process then begins again, it is continuous whilst the heating is required. You can have a small amount of ground loop or a larger amount depending on the size of your home and depending on the size of your garden.
The ground loop can either be laid flat in your garden, coiled or if you are limited in space you can install a vertical loop into the ground about 100 metres in depth. Although heat pumps do use electricity when they are running, the heat that they extract is renewed naturally. They do not use high temperatures like boilers as their temperature is much lower over longer periods. Radiators powered by GSHP are never red hot to touch like boiler powered radiators so in winter they have to be left on all the time in order to heat your house sufficiently.
What are the benefits of GSHP?
1. Reduces your carbon footprint.
2. Lower energy bills.
3. Needs little maintenance once installed, unlike conventional boilers.
4. If you previously used oil, fuel deliveries are a thing of the past.
Is it suitable for your home? Consider these below:
· Is your garden large enough? It does not have to be a particularly large garden but it needs to be accessible for machinery to fit the ground loop. The ground also needs to be suitable for digging the trench.
· Make sure that your home is well insulated because GSHP are of a lower temperature than your traditional boiler. Draughty homes will not make the system work to its best ability.
· If your house is a new build then it will be cheaper than installing it in a older house as the installation will be built into the cost of the build.
· What fuel are you replacing? Heat pumps are not recommended for homes just on gas. Electric and coal systems can be replaced with GSHP and fuel bills can be greatly reduced.
It costs about £9,000 to £17,000 to install a system and of course the running costs will vary due to the different sizes of homes. Also how well insulated your home is makes a difference.

Green Mortgages Are On The Increase

Ireland has begun introducing it's first equity release mortgages which will allow homeowners to borrow money so that they can introduce new green technology into their homes. This retrofitting of their homes has recently been launched in February and will enable homeowners to save money and energy by installing these eco friendly technologies within their homes.
Some Irish banks are launching these schemes. This may come as a surprise to some people due to the fact that Ireland suffered badly in the economic meltdown but it shows that green retrofitting is beginning to become noticed in Ireland. It also points towards lenders taking green issues seriously and is wiling to spend money to eventually make it back.
Many property prices in Ireland are continuing to drop but the banks are recognising that if you spend money to save energy in your home then it will reinforce and perhaps increase your property's value. The logic behind the scheme is easily explained due to the spiralling costs of gas, oil and electricity on a monthly basis in the UK and Ireland. Heating your home has never been as expensive as it is today and prices seem to keep going up and up.
How does it work?
In Ireland, as long as you have enough equity in your home and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has approved your home suitable for a retrofit grant then you qualify; it is as simple as that. It is paid to those undertaking the improvements, this could be anything from extra insulation in your roof or your walls. It also covers a more efficient boiler being installed than the current one in your home. Solar panels heating systems, geothermal heat pumps or wood chip and pellet burners are also classed as being part of an eco retrofit.
In Ireland customers can borrow anything from 5,000 Euros up to a possible 90% of the value of your home. Repayments can be anything from five years up to a possible 30 years. The benefits of this product is that when you combine the retrofit grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland with a green equity release loan the customer pays little upfront for the improvements to their home but they notice the savings on their energy bills immediately. However due to the frontloaded interest repayments you do have to make payments straight away to the bank.
In the UK there are also some mortgage lenders who are offering their clients "green mortgages".

After Renovating, Don't Waste - Recycle!

Plenty of British people want to buy a house to renovate in France either because they love a good project, or because they want their French property exactly as they wish. But when renovating or improving a house - on a large scale or not - there is one thing you can be sure of: the builders will leave a mountain of rubbish...
Here are a few tips to reduce the quantity of rubbish that will be generated:
Reuse your rubbish:
The very first thing to do is to take care of this matter in the contract by including an express clause requiring the builder to be responsible - at no additional cost to you - for disposing of the resulting rubbish. Depending on the nature and the size of your project, this may often consist of wooden floors, brickwork, roof and floor tiles, and bathroom fittings that have been replaced, among other things. Make sure you have a clear understanding with the builder and his men with regard to any items that may be reusable.
For example, wooden floor slats can be cut up and used as fire wood. Hence, you could use any floor joists of old barns or rotten beams that have been replaced if they are full of woodworm, sunken or in very bad condition. Knowing that oil prices have skyrocketed, suppliers of wood for burning have also increased their prices; so much so that you are getting a 'free' source of heating.
Remember that such items are supposed to belong to you: make sure the builder does not dispose of anything that you want to keep or reuse.
The way to deal with your rubbish is... the déchetterie:
Any items left in a barn or outbuildings that have being cleared and renovated need to be disposed of. In such cases, the builder may be reluctant to dispose of any TV sets or other unusable objects. You will have no other choice but to go to the local tip (déchetterie as it is called in France) and get rid of the items there yourself. A visit to the déchetterie could be quite an experience as you are entering another world- you'll find Christmas trees next to fridges, old sofas next to paint tins. Be aware of the opening hours, as of course it will close for lunch like every other establishment in France does. Within the déchetterie, you will need to identify yourself and say in which commune you live and give your address to the person in charge.
What to do with items made of iron
If the builder does not take away metal items, it may not be the best idea to take them to the déchetterie as it they won't always be accepted. If your French property is deep in the countryside, you may meet a well established custom: a rag and bone man (known as a chiffonnier in France). This man comes round your village once or twice a month but does not ring his bell, so you have to watch out for him! Sometimes the municipal dustman will do a special collection and take away various unwanted items left outside your property. These may include iron objects, bedsteads and fridges but don't worry, you will be notified of the times of such visits.
As you can see, the disposal of waste is a universal problem and authorities are generally quite strict on the matter. This is why it is a good thing to recycle!
Sextant French property is a network of more than 160 estate agents and 50 developers in France offering a selection of 12,000 French property for sale.
They also offer French property investment such as French Leaseback properties
In order to improve their service to their customers they set up a French mortgages division who can also help customers who bought through a different French estate agent.

Old Versus New Home - What Is the Best for Eco-Friendly Updates?

People are the one responsible in the negative changes that we have seen in the environment today. That's why we human being should be aware of our choices every now and then. By being careful with our choices we can make the earth a better, full of life and healthier place to live in.
We created to progress and live life in advance and the modern way. Along with the progress caused negative impact and degradation to the environment. However, with the climate changes and calamities that we have experienced, people are now much concerned with the environment. The government and the rest of the world are making moves that will help lessen the environment degradation process.
Thankfully, there are so many methods to save the mother nature nowadays. We can start it with our home by transforming that into an eco-friendly property. That way you can save energy and helps preserve the environment. But what type of home is best for eco-friendly updates, is it a new home or an older one?
New Home Advantages
Insulation is very important a home must have as it helps maintain the temperature inside that could save energy. Modern homes come equipped with effective energy saver insulation.With the modern homes, bathroom equipments like, faucets and shower heads are designed to use less water compared to their older counterparts.Windows installed in the new homes will save you a lot of energy, prevent any heat leakage, damage or any problems associated with the older windows. They will remain in good condition for long time as they were built to last.
New Home Disadvantages
Formaldehyde-containing particle board are usually found in new homes.Sometimes base models of newly-built homes are with low-end features, like vinyl counter tops and wood laminate flooring.
Old Home Advantages
When looking for quality craftsmanship, real wood flooring and architectural design that much different from others, can have it all with the old homes.Parts of the house will deteriorate as the time goes by that needs a remodeling job that will greatly increase its energy efficiency.
Old Home Disadvantages
Being exposed too much to the minerals called asbestos may cause several health problems and illness. Old homes may contain this kind of hazardous minerals, and workers may put their life at risk of being exposed during remodeling process.Older homes may cost you a great amount of energy usage. Energy efficient windows, bathroom equipments and appliances are rarely found in this home.

Prince Charles's Eco Village in Newquay

Prince Charles first dabbled in property developing back in 1994 when he built Poundbury, his model town in Dorset. Soon Tregunnel Hill on the outskirts of Newquay in Cornwall will become another Duchy of Cornwall development. It looks as though the planners there will give the go ahead this month for 170 homes to be built on a 10 acre plot on the southwest edge of the town. Eventually 1,000 homes will be built there but this is just the first stage of the development.
This model village has been decades in the planning and whilst many of the big volume house builders scaled back on their construction, Prince Charles is stepping up his. So far Prince Charles has built 1,200 homes on 250 acres of Duchy of Cornwall land and in the next decade he is hoping to build 17,000 more. This time he hopes to be building all over the country. An important property fact is that Prince Charles built more homes in 2009 than the volume builder Persimmon Homes.
The development that he is building in Newquay is being nicknamed "Surfbury", it will be pedestrian friendly and materials used from local suppliers. There will be terraced cottages and grander two storey detached houses, these will be made from Trevillet slate. Everything in the village will need to have the royal seal of approval as it is well known that Prince Charles does not like modernity but favours traditional materials. The project manager of the development admits that Prince Charles has received lots of different samples of materials ranging from Hemcrete which is hemp bound with lime to blocks made from recycled waste clay and straw.
The main emphasis of the development at Newquay, as with other developments that he has been involved in, is sustainability. The architect involved stresses that the key to it is to use local materials and to build in the traditional ways. The idea is to have a house which is cool in summer and warm in winter. Ground source heat pumps and solar panels are only economically viable as long as the feed-in tariffs are maintained but the government is already thinking of reducing these in the near future.
Prince Charles knows what he is talking about after his success at Poundbury. The "eco village" is made up of townhouses, cottages, shops and businesses and is now called home to 1,500 people. There have been critics of the village, some calling it "toy town" but there are always buyers willing to live there. Three bedroom terraced properties go on the market for £249,950. Many talk of the community spirit of the village and all ages tend to settle there.
Prince Charles's other development is Coed Darcy, a development built on 1,400 acres of brownfield land between Swansea and Neath. The £1.2billion site was once the first crude-oil refinery in Britain and work began in 2008. Residents have already moved into some of the houses on the development last Christmas. Many of the residents took advantage of the shared ownership scheme offered which meant that they only had to come up with a 5% deposit. The agent looking after sales of the new homes there has spoken of how popular the traditional houses are to buyers. Prices start at £79,995 for a studio and go up to £199,995 for a four bedroom family home.
Another development is based in Knockroon near Cumnock. The 69 acre site used to be an old mining village but will now house 600 new homes, however there are tough rules to adhere to like Poundbury had. There are to be no satellite dishes allowed and the lettering of houses should be no bigger than 3in high. There are also restrictions on hedges in terms of colour and species. Prince Charles's developments are not without their critics, many architects say that his view sustainability equates to "old looking". Even if something is eco friendly but is modern they feel that Prince Charles will not approve. This has not stopped the Prince, he is now looking to re-build 50 blocks in the old quarter of Port-au-Prince after the Haitian earthquake and there are plans for an eco-town in Calcutta. This will provide 15,000 sustainable homes for the people there.