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Heating and Cooling Terms Every Homeowner Should Know

Being a homeowner means you sometimes have to make decisions about things you’re not so familiar with. When it comes to your home, understanding the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can be overwhelming. To help you make more educated choices about the products you choose for your home, we’ve outlined some terms we feel every homeowner should understand.

What is SEER?

HVAC Terms You Should Know SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, is used to rate the efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps on a seasonal basis. The higher the SEER, the more efficiently the unit will run. Today, all air conditioners or heat pumps sold in the United States must meet a minimum SEER rating of at least 13.

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What is AFUE?

AFUE, or annual fuel utilization efficiency, determines the efficiency of a furnace by measuring how well a fuel source is used by the unit. Any new furnace installed today must have an AFUE rating of at least 80. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the unit will run. For example, a furnace with a AFUE rating of 90 means it will use 90 percent of the total fuel burned to heat the home. The remaining 10 percent is lost.

What is MERV?

MERV, or the minimum efficiency reporting value, is used to rate the efficiency of air filters. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles the filter will successfully capture. The scale is established using captured particles measuring between less than 0.3 micrometers and greater than 10 micrometers. The higher the rating you opt for in each particular unit can result in lower energy costs, but the unit will cost more up front than a less expensive unit with a lower rating. Selecting the right efficiency rating for your home will depend on the amount of money you wish to spend on a new unit, the time you plan to run the unit and the energy savings you hope to achieve with the purchase of a new system.

What many homeowners don’t know about efficiency ratings can end up increasing utility bills and wasting energy. For being such a little instrument, thermostats play a pretty big role in your overall comfort and the cost of thermostatically and cooling your home. Consider the following thermostat myths and facts when you use your thermostat. Doing so may just help you maximize the benefits you get from controlling your indoor comfort.

Problems With Your HVAC System? Could Be Your Thermostat

Does it shut off before reaching the desired temperature? Does  it continuously continuously turn on and off in short cycles? Don’t immediately blame your heater or air conditioner. The true culprit could be your thermostat.

Although small, your thermostat plays a significant role in your home’s comfort and it could be the real issue is one of these three common thermostat problems.

Bad Location

By far, the most common thermostat problem is improper placement. It sounds minor, but where you place your thermostat in your home plays a large role in your comfort level and your system’s efficiency. If a thermostat is placed too close to a vent or in direct sunlight, it will give inaccurate readings or cause your heating and cooling system to work harder than it needs to.

Where to place your thermostat:

Out of direct sunlight – If the thermostat is getting a lot of direct sun, it will register a higher temperature than the rest of your home. That means in the winter during the day your heater won’t turn on, and in the summer your air conditioner will work overtime.

Away from vents – Thermostats that are placed too closely to vents often shut off your comfort system prematurely. For example, a thermostat may turn on your cooling system, but the vent quickly cools the area around the thermostat, causing it to turn off the air conditioner before the rest of the home is cooled.

Near the center of your home – Ideally, your thermostat should be reading the median (average) temperature of your home. This ensures more even heating and cooling throughout your home. Hallways just outside bedrooms are usually good places. Keep it away from kitchens and any appliances that give off heat.

Accumulation of Dirt or Dust

Over time, dust and dirt accumulate on the inside of your thermostat. This can lead to inaccurate temperature readings that cause your cooling and heating system to function incorrectly. To fix this common thermostat problem, remove the housing and use a soft brush to gently clean the moving parts.

Old, Inaccurate Model

It may be that your thermostat problem is simply a result of an older thermostat that could benefit from being replaced. Older mercury-based thermostats are less accurate than today’s digital, electronic thermostats. Modern programmable thermostats regulate your temperature within one or two degrees of accuracy and help you save up to 15% on your energy bills by only running your system when you are home and awake.

Saving Energy When Heating Your Home

Looking around your home for ways to be proactive and make a difference on your heating system’s energy consumption can have a huge impact on your monthly utility bills, as well as help you do your part with conserving natural resources. Making the effort to carry out energy efficient practices can be overwhelming, homeowners often don’t know just where to begin and what will make the biggest difference. Below are a few tips on how you can get started with offsetting your carbon footprint while saving money:

Apply weather stripping or replace stripping that is worn out. If you are not able to weather strip for any reason, try to block off the drafts as best you can. Heavy drapes at all windows and the patio door can help. Also filling in cracks on window frames with sealant or utilizing blockers such as the beanbag draft snake at the bottom of your doors.

Yearly maintenance of your heating and cooling system. If you are not having your heating and cooling system serviced and cleaned by a professional at least once a year, you can be sure that your equipment is wasting energy. This not only wastes energy, but also costs you more in higher utility bills. Make your appointment today.

Switching out standard light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. Although you may think these are a more expensive alternative than standard bulbs at first, after continuous use you will find that they use less energy and last longer over time and will end up paying for themselves.

Lower your home’s water heater temperature. Many homeowners find that their home’s water heater temperature is set much too high, which is not only a waste of energy, but can pose a hazard in homes where there are young children exposing them to scalding tap water. Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, most households only require the temperature set at 120ºF. You should also ensure that your water heater is wrapped properly in insulation.

Inspect your attic and heating duct insulation in both new and older homes. If your home is older you may find that your insulation has not been replaced since the home was built. Insulation has changed greatly over the last 20-30 years and addressing any issues will make a significant difference in your home’s efficiency. A newer home can also benefit from an inspection, as you may find that your builder has not done all that they could to insulate your attic and ducts, as they should be.

Install a programmable thermostat for better control. This device can be programmed to adjust the temperature settings in your home so that you can conserve energy during off hours, when running the heat or AC might be a waste. Program your thermostat so that your system will kick on before you return home to ensure comfortable temperatures.

Simple, yet easy ideas that we all know but may forget to practice. Turn off the lights when you leave a room in your home or office. When doing the dishes or laundry, stick to running full loads to conserve water and electricity; partial loads are a waste of resources. Skip the preheat cycle on your oven, except where food requires it. Put on socks and a sweater instead of raising the thermostat when it’s cold, and in the summer, use fans for additional cooling. Contact us today for more ideas on how to save you money and make your home operate more efficiently!

Leasing Retail Space – The True Costs of Leasing Space

Occupancy Cost

After obtaining information regarding the cost of tenant improvements, you should be able to estimate the cost of occupancy for your retail space. This will include rent, CAM charges, utilities and the amortized cost of tenant improvements.


CAM charges referred to comment area maintenance. Practice may vary from area to area, but in most areas this includes not only maintenance expenses but also the cost of taxes and insurance. Most leases for retail space include a partial or complete pass through for basic operating expenses, insurance, management, and property taxes. The landlord or leasing agent should be held to provide an estimate of these charges for your space.

Amortized TI

The amortized cost of your tenant improvements will be the cost over the term of your lease. To keep matters simple, if you are spending $60,000 to renovate your space, and your lease is for five years (60 months), include $1000 per month for the cost of tenant improvements.

Are You Paying Too Much?

Next research the occupancy cost compared to what others in your industry are spending. You may want to review occupancy cost on a dollar per square foot basis, percentage of sales basis and a dollars per month per location basis. If possible, determine what other similar businesses in your area are spending monthly for their total cost of occupancy.

Occupancy Cost Data Sources

Research the information available from industry associations and related publications for information on occupancy costs. It is sometimes referred to based upon dollars per square foot per year. It is more often referred to as a percentage of sales. If this is your first store, it will be difficult to estimate your sales. If you have other locations, you should be able to make an educated guess regarding the probable level of sales for this location.

Dollars per Month per Store?

In some cases, it may also make sense to review the cost of occupancy on a dollars per month basis. For example, if your existing stores tend to have a similar level of revenue, focus on locating retail spaces which meet minimal criteria and have the lowest monthly occupancy cost. Conversely, perhaps any store will have an excess amount of space for your real needs.

Rent per Month Example

Based on previous experience, there are no locations which will provide the minimal amount of space you truly need. Further, since you are only leasing a modest amount of retail space for 4 months per year, landlords have not been particularly accommodating. Hence, a location which meets minimal criteria and has the lowest cost for the tax season may be your best option.

Criminal Activity?

Finally, research criminal activity in the area for the retail space you are considering. In many cases, it is apparent whether an area is likely on the low crime rate or high crime rate end of the spectrum. However, considering the investment of time and capital necessary to open a store, it would be very disappointing to learn your retail space was near a hotbed for criminal or gang activity shortly after opening.


Consider the following example. A retail center in north Houston had been a prosperous shopping center on a major thoroughfare for 15 years. Shortly after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many evacuees from New Orleans settled in Houston. For whatever reason, a large number of New Orleans residents who were criminals located in the adjacent apartment complex. During the next 12 months, there were three murders on the retail center property. Occupancy fell from 80% to 30% because of the problems.

Crime Data Sources

Options for researching criminal activity within an area include online crime reports, discussions with tenants at the property, and discussions with police officers who are active in the area.

Speak to Tenants

Tenants at the property where you’re considering leasing retail space can be a wonderful resource. They can provide information regarding crime in the area, tenants who have left the center, problems with traffic, problems with ingress and egress, problems with parking, and the trend in the center. Retailers within a retail center typically trade notes or visit with each other. Ask if business has been getting better, or is business declining for the businesses within the center?

Area and Property Criminal Reports

Area police officers are another excellent resource regarding criminal activity in the area. In most cities, you can obtain information regarding criminal records for any address. The records are public information. All you have to do is request the information and pay for the cost of copies.

Speak to the Source

In addition, in most cities the police are willing to visit with you if you are considering opening a business. Expect them to be very direct regarding criminal activity and trends in the area. It is possible they will discourage you from opening a store in a location you’re considering. However, is much better to not open a store in a poor location then to open the store and have to close the business.

Following The Rules With You Next Rental Can Save You Money

There are many people who simply do not like being told what to do and if you are a person of that nature, then you may not like it when the rental company gives you a list of rules you must follow when borrowing a vehicle. It is imperative, however, to abide by these rules if you want to make sure you do not end up overpaying for your next rental. There are many people who simply do not like being told what to do and if you are a person of that nature, then you may not like it when the rental company gives you a list of rules you must follow when borrowing a vehicle. It is imperative, however, to abide by these rules if you want to make sure you do not end up overpaying for your next rental.

DRIVERS – For most of the person who rents the vehicle is what should be the driver at all times. If you want to add an additional driver to the lease so make sure you leave the rental company know in advance. While most rental companies will cover the spouse, on the agreement at no additional cost, each company is different so it is important to ask if someone else can drive the vehicle, because if they are not covered then you could be liable for any damage caused by this additional drivers.

READ – Ignorance is truly bliss and if you travel around your rental vehicle in a different region of the world you are still responsible to drive according to their laws. If you are unfamiliar with the area, then it is important to obtain a manual driving or doing some research online to discover the laws where you are driving. Most leases say that you follow the rules of the road and expects to drive the speed limit, wear your seat belt, and have children properly restrained. If you choose not to follow the laws, or simply ignore them and something happens you can be held responsible and not knowing the law is no excuse.

Little Things Mean a Lot – There are other rules you can follow that can help you save money off your next rental. Little things like not filling the gas tank, not staying within the required number of miles, or return your vehicle after the end of the holidays are all things that you will be charged.

Make sure that you follow all the rules as they are outlined in your rental agreement and you will find that you are able to not only have a wonderful holiday, but a less costly one. When the rules are followed everyone comes out a winner.

Rental Property Secrets

That being said, one of the biggest mistakes that I see other landlords and rental property owners make is that they are reluctant to or just flat out won’t put any money into their properties because they don’t think they will see a return for that investment. When I tell some of my counterparts that I put new kitchens and bathrooms into all of my rental units they think I am nuts. To quote one of my friends who has some properties, “Why would you spend $4,000 on an apartment that is just going to get destroyed by the next people that rent it?”. To answer his question, I thought I would write this article.

First, let’s think about the mathematics behind it. Granted each market or city is going to have a different result, but for where I live in the Philadelphia area this holds true. By doing a little research and finding comparable apartments in your market, you can find out what the magic number is. What are the three features that are going to stick out about any apartment? The condition of the rugs, the bathrooms, and the kitchens. If any of these items look worn or beat up, it is going to be harder to rent and you won’t be able to get as much for it… that is just a fact of life. So let’s say you spend $3,000 to upgrade the kitchen and bathroom(s). Yes, it is possible to spend that little on upgrades and I will show you how later on. Assuming the rest of your unit/building is in good condition, that $3,000 investment can produce an extra $200 a month in rent for me per unit. At $200 a month, you made your investment back in just over a year and you are now making more money per unit. Think about it. If a prospective renter is looking at two apartments or offices for lease: one with a dated kitchen and one with a modern kitchen and bathroom, which one is he/she going to choose? Not only that, but a nicer apartment is going to command a higher rent which in turn brings in a higher income renter who is less likely to abuse and destroy the apartment.

For some of you, I am sure that $3,000 to renovate a kitchen and bathroom(s) probably made you chuckle. If you are still shopping at the big box stores for your supplies, then you have a reason to laugh. To update both the kitchen and the bathroom in an apartment using their cabinets could easily cost you double if not triple. After doing a lot of research, I found a source for cabinets that saves me at least 30-40% per apartment. I started buying my cabinets on-line. If you do a search for RTA Kitchen Cabinets, you will find my secret. Not only are they cheaper, but they are also made of stronger materials and easier to assemble and install. By buying cabinets on-line, direct from the importer/manufacturer you can get them much cheaper because they don’t have the high overhead cost of a retail store. I have been using them for years now in my apartment, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if you put them side-by-side with store bought or store ordered cabinets. The biggest benefit is that you don’t have to wait 6-7 weeks for cabinets like you do if you go to Home Depot or Lowes. These are delivered straight to your office or property in around 2 weeks.

So the next time you are trying to figure out why you empty units, or the guy across the street is renting his units for hundreds more, take a look at your kitchens and bathrooms. I simple upgrade will not only get you a quick return on your investment, but it will also continue to generate more revenue for years to come.