Gunning Daily News

Move to Nationwide Dynamic Building Codes Gaining Traction

July 14, 2013 3:08 am

I have been following developments related to new dynamic building codes, as a way of moving new home building and retrofitting toward peak energy efficiency practices.

The Buildings Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) recently released its 2012 Annual Report. With the creation of the National Energy Codes Collaborative, groups have ensured the future success of code adoption by maintaining strong lines of communication and coordination among the many entities working to advance dynamic building energy codes, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.

It took no fewer than eight organizations to create this informal coalition to ensure better coordination and communication by sharing technical resources, knowledge, and best practices.

From January 2012 to January 2013, the number of states adopting the 2009 standards for residential construction grew from 22 to 28. BCAP staff will be continuing efforts to add more 2009 code adoptions in 2013, while assisting several states that are considering adoption of the most recent 2012 codes.

BCAP will also continue to build its new strategic direction by working with its partners to create practical solutions addressing barriers to energy code adoption and compliance.  

Those 2013 initiatives include:

  • The application of energy codes in existing buildings;
  • Raising energy code compliance rates through outreach to design professionals, code officials, and consumers to shape collective and holistic efforts towards building energy efficiency;
  • Expanding collaborative and comprehensive partnerships with diverse stakeholders;
  • Sharing these visions and resources with a wider audience through OCEAN and showing that energy codes improve building energy efficiency when stakeholders move forward together.

By continuing to hone its means of identifying Energy Star homes and products, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed the transition to new, more rigorous requirements for homes to earn the Energy Star label.

Homes certified under the new requirements are at least 15 percent more efficient than those built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and include additional energy–saving features to deliver a performance advantage of up to 30 percent compared to typical new homes.

Green Ways to Make Summer Sun Work for You

July 14, 2013 3:08 am

(BPT)—When summer sun has you slathering on sunscreen and retreating indoors to air-conditioned rooms, it's easy to forget the winter doldrums that made you eagerly anticipate sunshine and warm temperatures. Winter snow and dreary days seem far away, and you find yourself craving a respite from too much sun.

But all that summer sun can work in your favor. From powering your hot water heater or fresh air skylight to saving money by running your clothes dryer less, here are a few ways you can put the sun to work for you this summer.

Solar water heating

Replacing an old water heater proactively is a good idea for a number of reasons. First, if it's older, it's probably not as energy efficient as newer models. And, when hot water heaters die, they can do so spectacularly, flooding the room where they're housed and leaving your family without the water they need to shower off summer sweat and keep clothes and dishes clean.

Consider replacing your current water heater with a solar water heating system. While such systems may cost more to purchase and install than a conventional one, various federal and state tax credits and other green product incentives mitigate those costs. Plus, solar hot water systems reduce energy costs in the long run.

"The cost of a solar water heating system will vary depending on the size of the home and the volume of water you need to heat," says Ross Vandermark of Velux America, marketers of solar-powered fresh air skylights and solar water heating systems. "On average, however, they can cut your water heating bills by 50 to 80 percent, which is pretty impressive when you consider that the U.S. Department of Energy says water heating can account for up to 25 percent of a home's energy consumption."

Solar-powered fresh air skylight

You can also save money and improve your indoor air quality by opting for a solar-powered fresh air skylight. Energy efficient solar powered skylights and accessories like solar powered skylight blinds, which can increase energy efficiency by another 45 percent, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit, as is the installation cost.

Energy Star-qualified, no leak solar-powered fresh-air skylights improve indoor air quality by allowing excess moisture and unhealthy air to escape your home. They also passively vent hot air that rises to your ceiling in summer, reducing the load on your mechanical cooling systems while reducing your power bill. In rooms where a fresh air skylight isn't an option, tubular skylights like Sun Tunnel products allow light inside, reducing the need for artificial light and brightening areas like hallways, closets, and other interior spaces both large and small.

Clothes drying

Humans have been using solar power to dry clothes for about as long as we've been wearing fabric. Hanging clothes to dry in the sun allows you to trim your electric or gas use (depending on how you power your clothes dryer) as much as $85 a year, plus it reduces the wear clothes experience tumbling in a dryer, the website The Daily Green points out.

The California Energy Commission says on average, it costs 30 to 40 cents per load to dry clothes in an electric machine, and 15 to 20 cents if your dryer runs on gas. By comparison, line drying requires an initial outlay to cover the cost of the line device, and then the sunshine and fresh air are free.


Sure you love cooking outdoors, but when summer really heats up, no one wants to slave over a hot grill. Why not use the sun's power to cook food without the need to hover over and watch it? Solar cookers are the answer.

One popular type, box cookers, can accommodate multiple dishes at once and are used in countries around the world where the sun is the most reliable source of energy. They cook at moderate to high temperatures and require less supervision than your gas grill. You can buy one online or build your own - a great family project that can help teach kids about solar power and greener living.

Finally, if you're not ready to learn a whole new way of cooking, why not simply borrow a page from great-grandma's recipe book and use sunlight to brew tea? Just place a few bags of your favorite tea in a glass jar with water (make sure to keep the tags and strings hanging over the rim of the jar), cap the jar and place it in the sun until the tea steeps to your desire flavor level.


Word of the Day

July 14, 2013 3:08 am

Point.  Fee charged by a lender to get additional revenue over the interest rate.  A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.

Q: What is the first step to buying a home?

July 14, 2013 3:08 am

A: Make sure you are ready – psychologically and financially. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have steady income?  Is my debt lower than my total income?  Do I have enough money to pay for the down payment and closing costs? Am I working hard enough to improve bad credit?

A house needs constant care and attention. Also ask yourself if your budget will allow for unexpected repairs and upkeep.  Once you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, you are several steps ahead of the game and that much closer to becoming a homeowner.  

Know The Facts, Don't Get Trapped In A 'Pocket' Listing

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

With the tight availability of homes for sale, and the recent uptick in home values, those searching for a first or new place to live are facing a lot of challenges. One of the ways savvy prospects may try to tap into available home inventory is through so-called "pocket listings" - basically off-MLS listings.

Recently, both a California and a Florida REALTORS® association has distributed warnings or advisories about these marketing tactics.

While they are not illegal if the listing agent fully discloses the pros and cons to the home seller and follows the rules, CAR says pocket listings “may not be in the best interest of the property owner — particularly if a client does not know about the benefits of marketing his or her property through the MLS.”

Since an MLS exposes a home to areas far and wide, it creates competition and can maximize profit for the seller. However, some sellers don’t want that kind of exposure, and they see a bigger advantage in keeping their home out of the MLS.

The Florida REALTORS® memo states that a broker could face allegations that their failure to put the property in the MLS deprived the seller the ability to attract the highest and best price for their property.

Florida REALTORS®’ Vice President and General Counsel Margy Grant says, “In some cases, a non-MLS listing could lead to allegations of discrimination. REALTORS® would turn down a seller who wants to withhold a listing from MLS in order to keep a specific race or other protected class out of his neighborhood. However, the fair housing laws go a step further, and these listings could break the law even if discrimination isn’t intended.”

Since a non-MLS listing is marketed to a private and usually small group, the makeup of that group becomes important. If the makeup of the listing group tends to mirror the makeup of the neighborhood, it could appear to perpetuate discrimination without meaning to do so.

So if you are utilizing pocket listings as a seller, the Florida association warns you to be careful because multiple pocket listings in a single neighborhood could be seen as a way to discriminate without being obvious.

5 Reasons to Get Flight Insurance

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

In an age where checked bags are rarely free, flight insurance seems like one of those superfluous added costs that airlines try to shoehorn onto tickets. But despite a completely valid suspicion about added costs, flight insurance can be a really smart investment, and it can pay off for passengers.

Consider these five scenarios in which flight insurance can come in handy:

1. Trip Cancellation.

Airlines understand that travelers often have to cancel their flights for unexpected reasons, but they tend to be somewhat mercenary in charging cancellation fees. A discount-rate ticket or one purchased through a discount travel site generally has an inflexible cancellation policy, one that can be mitigated by purchasing travel insurance. Most basic flight insurance plans will cover last-minute cancellations due to family member illness, injuries, or even political unrest.

2. Flight Life Insurance.

As relatives of victims from any tragic plane crash know, there are potential dangers to health and life when stepping on a plane. In the event of a flight passenger's death, she may already have life insurance through her employer or individual policy. But flight life insurance can often pay up to $1 million to a passenger's beneficiaries, at a cost of less than $100 per passenger.

3. Lost Baggage.

If your baggage is lost during a trip, flight insurance can often pay for you to buy necessary replacement items like clothing or even prescription medications.

4. Trip Interruption.

Vacations can often be cut short due to inclement weather, unexpected injuries and illnesses, or even a cruise liner losing power. Many flight insurance plans will cover the costs for returning early due to an unexpected event, and may even supplement existing health insurance in the event of an injury.

5. Stolen Passports.

Having a passport stolen is a nightmare for any international traveler, but some flight insurance policies will cover a replacement. Ultimately, passengers should base their insurance needs around their expectations for travel, making flight insurance a better buy for international or cross-country flights and not for commuter flights.

For more information, visit


Get your Manners Fit for Summer

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

BPT—Summer is the season for reconnecting with friends, spending time with loved ones and maybe even igniting a summer romance. From shared vacation houses and dining out to concerts and ball games, one or more people usually feel they paid more than their fair share for group outings. Don't let sticky financial situations put a chill in your relationships. With some easy-to-remember tips, you can breeze through summer and focus on what's really important: time with those you care about.

Lizzie Post, etiquette expert, author and great-great-granddaughter of etiquette pioneer Emily Post, has some tips on how to get your manners in shape for the summer, along with ways to get cash back:

Be a gracious house guest

If you're a guest in someone's home this summer, don't forget to bring something for the host. You can purchase a gift, or take them out to dinner during your visit.

Wedding season in moderation

Sharing the cost of a wedding gift with friends is a great way to give the couple a memorable gift without draining your bank account.

Wedding parties (showers, luncheons, etc.) don't always require a gift. Local custom often dictates what's expected. If you're invited to more than one event, you can give a gift at one party and bring small token gifts to the others. Ideas include: a favorite photo in a nice frame or a homemade collection of recipes.- If you're not sure whether to bring a gift, ask the host.

No more I.O.U.s

If you owe someone money, it's rude to make them ask for it. So when the ballgame tickets are purchased or the house rental contract comes through, be the first friend to pay.

Settle up by transferring money to friends and family via your bank's mobile app. All you need is their email or mobile phone number to securely send money - no need to find an ATM or mail a check.

Avoid family flare-ups

Identify your role in any summer social situation. When it comes to family, make sure you know: are you the host, guest or is this a joint venture? If you're unsure, you may unintentionally make a faux pas by not paying your share for an outing.

If you follow these tips this summer, you'll be sure to stay on the right side of etiquette expectations, earning appreciation from friends, family and as an added bonus, your wallet.



Word of the Day

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

PITI.  Acronym for “principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.”  Frequently used to describe a loan payment that combines all four items.

Q: What types of foreclosures are there?

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

A: There are two types – judicial and non-judicial. A foreclosure that results from a court action is a judicial foreclosure.  The mortgage deed or trust does not have a power of sale clause, therefore the lender, trustee or another lienholder must take the borrower to court to recover the unpaid balance of a delinquent debt.  By contrast, a non-judicial foreclosure is one in which a foreclosure can be completed outside the court system.  Real property can be sold under a power of sale in a mortgage deed or trust that is in default, but the lender is unable to obtain a deficiency judgment.  

Q: How can I protect my home from creditors?

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

A: Check with your state. It may provide special protection through the filing of a homestead exemption, which exempts some or all of the value of your equity in the homestead – the home that you live in and the land on which it sits – from claims of unsecured creditors. Whether to file a homestead exemption will depend on your situation. Contact your county recorder's office for details.