Electric cars help lower emissions and fuel costs, improve fuel economy, and bolster energy security. And considering the volatility of gas prices—and their general skyward trajectory—electric fuel shows promise as an economic alternative.
But switching to an electric vehicle entails more than new driving habits and a conversation piece with strangers. It’s also a lifestyle update.
From setting up a charging station in the garage to maintaining optimal temperatures therein, check out these useful garage preparation tips to assure your electric vehicle battery is in tip-top shape.
Selecting a Charger: Level 1 vs. Level 2
Unfortunately, charging an electric vehicle might be a tad more involved than charging your smartphone. And unless you own a Tesla Model X, which can travel upwards of 300 miles on one charge, your electric plug-in vehicle could benefit greatly from a home station charger. That said, make sure you familiarize yourself with the two main levels of electric vehicle chargers supplied by home-based charging equipment and most public charging stations.
Level 1 Chargers
A Level 1 cord set charger delivers a standard household current of 110 or 120 volts and comes with most plug-in vehicles upon purchase. It’s outfitted with a three-pronged, household plug at one end that’s connected to a control box by a short cord. A longer 15-to-20-foot cord running from the other side of the box connects directly to the vehicle itself.
- If time is not of the essence, a Level 1 could be the way to go. But be forewarned: What you get is, more or less, a trickle charge that affords roughly three to five miles per charging hour. For instance, the Nissan Leaf takes around 24 hours to fully charge on a standard 120-volt household outlet.
- The upside is, Level 1 equipment doesn’t entail an elaborate setup of high-power circuit breakers or dedicated electrical lines, which are required by major appliances like stoves and refrigerators.
- Because cord sets are portable, plug-in vehicles can be charged virtually anywhere there’s a standard outlet, provided it isn’t a household outlet that’s patched into the same circuit as other demanding appliances—in which case the excess amperage could trip a circuit breaker.
Level 2 Chargers
If time is of the essence, consider installing a Level 2 charger, which delivers 240 volts and replenishes pure electric vehicles in about three hours—which is about seven to eight times faster than Level 1 equipment. Unlike the simplicity of Level 1 setups, though, Level 2 chargers may warrant the services of a professional due to the rigmarole of electrical codes, equipment setup, and necessary inspections.
- Level 2 chargers cost anywhere between under $300 to over $1500, the price ultimately depending on cord length and amperage.
- Level 2 outputs typically range between 16 to 30 amps, but professionals often recommend around 30- to 40-amp systems—an adequate overnight charge for most plug-in electric cars.
Installing a Charging Station
It’s worth mentioning that the “charger” you’re installing is technically referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE). This is the wall-mounted box with cord and plug that delivers electricity and functions as a communication and safety unit for the actual charger situated inside the vehicle itself. The EVSE ensures the battery doesn’t overheat and shuts the charging session down if there’s a short circuit, power surge, or any other type of faulty hardware.
If you’ve opted for a Level 2 ESVE, you’ll likely need to reach out to a professional electrician to wire up equipment and determine where the ESVE should be situated in regards to where your vehicle is parked. Notwithstanding factors like outdated wiring, meters, and breaker panels, updating the garage for your electric ride should actually be pretty straightforward.
For instance, I gave my electrician the specs for a Tesla—a 14-50 NEMA charger that delivers 40 amps at 240 volts. And even though I have an older house, by setting up a dedicated circuit, my electrical panel handled the load without a hitch.
In rare instances, old wiring may need to be replaced. But by and large, the process is fairly easy and uncomplicated. What’s more, the plug itself isn’t any more difficult to install than a standard dryer outlet. For electric vehicle owners, installing a Level 2 ESVE is definitely the way to go.
Cost of Installation
The installation cost generally hinges on the work involved—such as the amount of wire that needs to be run, whether additional or replacement breaker panels are necessary, and the cost of labor in your area. This could vary between just a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. However, you may be able to snag special rates from your utility company for installing an EVSE, so make sure you inquire.
Thank you to guest author Eric Madia.
Summer is here, which means vacations are on the mind, but as always the cost can feel prohibitive. As folks take less and less time off work, people shortening their vacations, staying closer to home, or going nowhere at all for “staycations”. Another way to save money, while still getting away, is to leverage your own home for a home exchange.
A home exchange—often called “house-swapping”—is a money-smart vacation idea that’s been around for a long time. The concept is more popular than ever, with home-sharing plans like AirBnB becoming ubiquitous, but a unique one-to-one swap can be an even more affordable option.
Why a home exchange? Since accommodations are usually the priciest part of a vacation, a home exchange saves money, allowing travelers to take longer vacations and perhaps splurge a bit on dining, tours, or shopping. Larger families appreciate how homes meet their needs for space, meals, and a good night’s sleep. And, home-swappers often say they enjoy “living like the locals,” especially when traveling internationally.
How it works. The basic idea of a home exchange is that two families agree to live in each other’s home (usually at the same time) at no cost—it’s considered an even trade. Exchangers find one another via home exchange website that provides detailed listings of available homes. Exchanges take place within the United States or internationally, and the length of stay is whatever the parties agree upon. Exchangers typically do not meet in person but get acquainted via phone calls and emails before the exchange happens. Details, including pets, the use of a car, and cleaning are all agreed upon ahead of time, usually in a written contract provided by the website.
What makes a house desirable? You might be surprised! As a general rule, home exchangers are looking for location, location, location. They want to explore attractions in your area, attend an event, or visit family. A beachfront house in California is highly desirable, as is a condo in an exciting city—and even a home in the suburbs will appeal to the right travelers. Because swappers are primarily looking for a convenient jumping-off point for their adventures, your home’s age, floor plan, and furnishings don’t matter too much, as long as it’s clean, comfortable, and accommodating.
Vacation homes are ideal. Whether it’s a rustic cottage on a secluded fishing lake or a condo at a popular ski area, a second home is ideal for exchanges. Logistically, you don’t have to vacate your primary residence, and you have more flexibility as to when the swap can happen. For this reason, many retirees—who often own second homes and enjoy freer schedules—find home exchanges especially appealing.
First steps. If you’re intrigued, start by exploring a few websites; you can view a lot of information for free. Home exchange websites typically charge an annual membership fee of $50 to $100 to list your home. If you decide to join a service, you’ll provide several photos and a detailed description of your home. You’ll also post your desired destination(s) and travel dates, and you’ll be able to peruse the homes that meet your criteria. It’s common to trade information with several homeowners before finding just the right match, and the process may take several months.
Focus on the basics. Once you’ve agreed to an exchange and are preparing your home for guests, think about what makes a hotel room enjoyable. A clean, clutter-free home is universally appealing, and comfortable mattresses and attractive bedding are a must. Your kitchen should be well organized, and internet access is a big plus. Your guests know they’re staying in someone’s home, so don’t worry about scuffed baseboards and well-worn furniture. Likewise, don’t expect five-star accommodations when you step into your host’s home.
Is a home exchange right for you? If the very thought of others living in your home and sleeping in your bed—or you in theirs—makes your palms go clammy, an exchange is probably not for you. But many travelers are hooked!
Most people dream of working from home but ask anyone who does it on a regular basis, and they’ll tell you how hard it can be to stay productive when you work where you live. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.
Having a designated workspace is quite possibly the most important piece to the work-from-home pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall wellbeing. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
A month ago the nation’s largest home-building company, Lennar, announced they would begin including Amazon’s “Alexa” smart speaker system as an integrated function in new homes they construct. In the United States alone there are reportedly at least 39 million privately owned smart speakers, and the growth seems likely to only continue. With an eye to the future, we decided to shine a light on a few other “smart” products that can help enhance your home.
- While the iconic heavy door-knocker of 19thcentury Victorian may hold its appeal, high-tech doorbells are an increasingly popular option.
- The Amazon-owned Ring Doorbell is the pace-setter for this rapidly growing industry, allowing for remote monitoring of your home via video, two-way talking functionality, and WiFi-connectivity to allow homeowners to keep tabs on their property no matter how far they roam.
- If you’d like to go elsewhere, the market is flush with alternate options. SkyBell’s ringer allows for free cloud storage of video, while the Zmodo Greet Smart model allows for easy installation using your previous doorbell’s hardware, and comes at a price over $100 under most of the notable options.
- Much has been said of the lamentations regarding the loss in popularity of the family dinner around the table. If your family is drawn to their phones when it’s time to get meals going, a smart refrigerator may be the trick to centering things around the kitchen and dining room again.
- The brands may be familiar but the appliances are all-new. GE, Kenmore, Samsung, and Whirlpool are just a few household names involved in the exciting world of smart appliances.
- The options are wide-ranging in functionality – from Alexa-connected Kenmore smart fridges to Samsung’s full home command center, you can control temperatures in the fridge and in your home, play music and videos, and even pull up recipes on-screen to help your tech-savvy family follow along step-by-step.
Smart Energy Monitors
- Most people like doing things that are energy-efficient, but when it’s financially challenging it’s tough to make that choice. The best products, then, are those that check both boxes.
- Energy monitors like those from Sense, CURB, and Neurio offer the ability to connect into your appliances and circuit board, monitoring energy usage from your smartphone.
- How often are you likely to check your appliances unless they suddenly break down? With these monitors, not only can you maintain appropriate energy usage, you can identify issues before they become disasters.
The value of a home is more than what it can be bought and sold for – it also lies in how it makes you feel. Security and comfort are vital components, as well as convenience; however, what many buyers are looking for in a home in 2018 are amenities that deliver a luxury experience. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at a few ways a home can add an “experience” that sets itself apart.
- In much of the country, an outdoor swimming pool isn’t that uncommon. The simple luxury of a private space for recreation can be the centerpiece of a home’s charm.
- Expanding that possibility is the indoor-outdoor pool, which segments a pool into a covered, indoor region, as well as an outdoor area.
- Anyone who loves spending time in the water but lives in too cool a climate to use a pool year-round can enjoy an indoor oasis in the winter that flows seamlessly into an outdoor space in the warmer months.
Creative Wine Cellars
Credit: Spiral Cellars / SpiralCellars.com
- Who among us wouldn’t love a wine cellar? It’s an opportunity for self-expression that echoes back upon centuries of vintage creativity.
- Not every home has the space to build a traditional wine cellar, but a bit of creativity can open the door to other possibilities.
- The underground, spiral cellar, as pictured above, is one way to add a stylish centerpiece to your home that will undoubtedly create a unique experience for your guests.
Outdoor Home Theater
Credit: Pinterest / Realtor.com
- The indoor home theater is far from passé but building upon that experience with an outdoor theater can take your movie nights to the next level.
- The key to this design is versatility. If you live in a sun-kissed state you can construct a lightly covered space for viewings. An artful canopy or raised trellis can be the enclosure.
- Wetter or dustier climates pose a greater challenge, but a retractable awning is a multi-functional feature that can transform your yard into a private cinema no matter the weather.
Grab the sparklers, clean up the grill, and don your red, white and blue! A fourth of July theme barbecue is the perfect way to ring in summer and celebrate. Here are some fun tips for a fun and safe holiday shindig:
Get the décor right: We love a good theme party, and nothing screams Independence Day more than red, white and blue; you can find decorative plates just about anywhere these days. Make your own fancy decorations. Go above and beyond with holiday lights and a decorative place setting. Just make sure your flag flies right.
Make the menu: Keep the theme with your food with a festive fruit salad and decorated cupcakes. While everything cannot fit within the color theme, mixing traditional BBQ goodies with some fancy appetizers will add interest. And don’t forget the libations; whip up some fun red and blue adult beverages. *
Fire up the grill: Get your grill ready with a good scrub down and set up a grill station with all your tools; grill brush, utensils, seasonings, and plates so you don’t have to run to and from the kitchen and risk charring the burgers. Make sure to keep the grill safe with this easy guide.
Fun for the kids: Everyone loves a good game of horseshoes. Set up a game area with some fun lawn sports, including lawn twister, Jenga, and bean bag toss. We have more ideas where those came from, find them on our “outdoor entertaining“ Pinterest board.
Plan for the pets: Pet’s don’t typically enjoy Fourth of July as much as their humans with the loud noises and intense heat. Keep your furry friends safe by creating a comfortable and cool place for them to lounge indoors, that way they can retreat from the heat and the crowds. Make sure they get plenty of water in the intense summer heat.
We hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend. You can find more fun Fourth of July tips on our Pinterest board.
*Photo courtesy of Windermere Camano Island.
The following analysis of the Metro Denver & Northern Colorado real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
It’s good news for the state of Colorado, which saw annual employment grow in all of the metropolitan markets included in this report. The state added 63,400 non-agricultural jobs over the past 12 months, an impressive growth rate of 2.4%. Colorado has been adding an average of 5,300 new jobs per month for the past year, and I anticipate that this growth rate will continue through the balance of 2018.
In February, the unemployment rate in Colorado was 3.0%—a level that has held steady for the past six months. Unemployment has dropped in all the markets contained in this report, with the lowest reported rates in Fort Collins and Denver, where 3.1% of the labor force was actively looking for work. The highest unemployment rate was in Grand Junction, which came in at 4.6%.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
- In the first quarter of 2018, there were 11,173 home sales—a drop of 5.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017.
- With an increase of 5.3%, home sales rose the fastest in Boulder County, as compared to first quarter of last year. There was also a modest sales increase of 1.2% in Larimer County. Sales fell in all the other counties contained within this report.
- Home sales continue to slow due to low inventory levels, which were down 5.7% compared to a year ago.
- The takeaway here is that sales growth continues to stagnate due to the lack of homes for sale.
- Strong economic growth, combined with limited inventory, continued to push prices higher. The average home price in the markets covered by this report was up by 11.7% year-over-year to $448,687.
- Arapahoe County saw slower appreciation in home values, but the trend is still positiveand above its long-term average.
- Appreciation was strongest in Boulder County, which saw prices rise 14.8%. Almost all other counties in this report experienced solid gains.
- The ongoing imbalance between supply and demand persists and home prices continue to appreciate at above-average rates.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by three days when compared to the first quarter of 2017.
- Homes in all but two counties contained in this report took less than a month to sell. Adams County continues to stand out where it took an average of just 17 days to sell a home.
- During the first quarter, it took an average of 27 days to sell a home. That rate is down 2 days from the fourth quarter of 2017.
- Housing demand remains strong and would-be buyers should expect to see stiff competition for well-positioned, well-priced homes.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. In the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle where it was in the fourth quarter of last year. Even as interest rates trend higher, it appears as if demand will continue to outweigh supply. As we head into the spring months, I had hoped to see an increase in the number of homes for sale, but so far that has not happened. As a result, the housing market continues to heavily favor sellers.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too. Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in products for the home has increased drastically, while at the same time, homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that indoor pollutants today are anywhere from five to 70 times higher than pollutants in outside air.
Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.
How pollutants get into our homes
Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. The “new car smell” is another example of this. The smell seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can actually “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.
We all know to use paint and glue in a well-ventilated room, but there are many other materials that don’t come with that warning. For instance, there are chemicals, such as formaldehyde, in the resin used to make most cabinets and plywood particle board. It’s also in wall paneling and closet shelves, and in certain wood finishes used on cabinets and furniture. The problems aren’t just with wood, either. Fabrics—everything from draperies to upholstery, bedding, and carpets—are a potent source of VOCs.
The good news about VOCs is that they do dissipate with time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.
How to reduce VOCs in your home
Make smart choices in building materials.
- For floors, use tile or solid wood—hardwood, bamboo, or cork – instead of composites.
- Instead of using pressed particle board or indoor plywood, choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
- Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes.
Purify the air that’s there.
- Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, and air out newly renovated or refurnished areas for at least a week, if possible.
- Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly.
- Install air cleaners if needed.
- Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals.
- Plants can help clean the air: good nonpoisonous options include bamboo palm, lady palm, parlor palm, and moth orchids.
- Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner.
Fight the carpet demons.
- Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal.
- Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet.
- Install carpet LAST after completing painting projects, wall coverings, and other high-VOC processes.
- Air out newly carpeted areas before using.
- Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors.
- Clean up water leaks fast.
- Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to keep humidity below 60 percent.
- Don’t carpet rooms that stay damp.
- Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation.
- Kill mold before it gets a grip with one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water.
We hope this information is helpful. If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.
Moving is stressful, whether it’s across town or cross-country. Once you’ve closed on your house, the reality of packing, moving, and setting up a new home can become overwhelming. While no list can make a move “stress-free”, planning ahead and staying organized can help make your move a little smoother. Here is our list of tips:
- Once you know your prospective move date set up a quick timeline to make sure you can get all the important tasks done and ready in time for your move.
- Consider how much stuff you have by doing a home inventory. This can help you decide whether you need to hire movers to help you or if you will be managing your move on your own. Many moving companies supply inventory lists to help you assess the size of truck you will need. You can use your list as double duty for insurance purposes later.
- As soon as you decide how you will be moving, make your reservations. In general, moving companies and truck rental services are over-booked at the beginning and very end of the month. If you are planning on hiring a moving company, contact a few in your area for a price quote. To find companies ask your real estate agent, family, or friends, and consult online reviews. It is also a good idea to request a quote and compare companies.
Preparing for your move:
- Moving is a great opportunity to get rid of clutter, junk, or outdated items. Set aside some time to sort through your closets, storage spaces, files, drawers, and more. Go through cluttered areas and organize items by “keepers”, “give-aways” and “garbage”. You will have less to pack and an opportunity to update after you move. Contact a local nonprofit organization for your donations; some will arrange to pick up larger donations like furniture. If you have items of value, eBay or Craigslist are good options.
- Changing your address is one of the more tedious tasks in the moving process. You will need to change your address with the United States Post Office. You can find the online form here.
- You will also need to change your address with each account you have. Here is a list to get you started:
- Utilities (Electric, Water/Sewage, Oil/Gas)
- Cable/ Telephone
- Cell phone service
- Credit Cards
- Magazine subscriptions
- Insurance companies (auto, home/renters, health, dental, vision, etc.)
- Other personal services
Let the packing begin:
- Before you start packing, it may help to visualize where everything you have will go. Perhaps furniture will fit better in a different room? Consider the floor plan of your new home and figure out what will go where. This will aid in packing and labeling as you box everything up.
- Use a tool like floorplanner.com to plan where furniture and items will go.
- When it comes to packing you have some options. You can work with a service that provides reusable boxes for moving or you can reuse or purchase cardboard boxes. Make sure you have enough boxes, packing tape, dark markers, and packing paper.
- Pack rooms according to your floor plan. Label boxes with contents and room. This will make it easier to unpack your home, knowing where everything is going.
- Real Simple magazine has some great tips on packing for your move.
- If you have to disassemble any of your furniture, make sure you keep all the parts and directions together.
- Make sure you set aside your necessities for the day you move. Being tired and unable to take a shower or make your bed can be hard at the end of a long moving day. Here are some ideas of what you may like to pack in your “day-of-move” boxes
- Clean linens for the beds, pillows and blankets
- Clean towels
- Shower curtain, liner and hooks
- Toiletries, hand soap, toothbrush, etc.
- Disposable utensils, cups, napkins, etc
- Rolls of toilet paper
- Snacks and water
- Change of clothes
- Tools for reassembling furniture, installing hardware, and hanging photos
Making your move
- Come up with a game plan with your family, so everyone has a role and a part to play.
- Once the house is empty, do a once over on your old place to make sure it is clean for the next owners/occupants. Here is a useful checklist for cleaning.
Warming your new home
- Once you have settled into your new home, warm it up by inviting friends and family over to celebrate.
- Announce your move to far-away friends and family through moving announcements to make sure you stay on the holiday card mailing list.