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Natelli Homes Blog

energy-efficient-features-to-insist-on-when-planning-for-home-additions-potomac-mdPlanning for an addition to your home may be as a result of needing more space for a new baby, your senior parent moving in, or to make some extra money by renting out. Whatever the reason may be for home additions, it’s crucial that you look into how to keep your home energy-efficient and increase property value at the same time. The following features are all great examples of features that will keep the home addition as energy-efficient as possible.

Dual-Pane Windows

Older windows can be the source of a heating and cooling loss throughout the year, resulting in disappointment with your energy usage. Luckily, newer dual-pane windows solve this problem entirely. By opting for these types of windows with the home addition, you can ensure that no air is being loss through the windows.

Modern Heating and Cooling

Keeping your home comfortable throughout the year is as easy as ensuring that the addition to your home has a quality heating and cooling system hooked up.

Upgraded Plumbing Fixtures

If the new addition is going to have a kitchen or bathroom space, it’s important that it has plumbing fixtures which have modern water usage features included.

Solar Panels for Extra Savings  

To reduce the amount of energy that heating your home costs, you can get solar panels installed on the roof. This will help provide extra heating to your home without the need of reworking any of the existing roofing.

For more ideas on making your new home addition energy-efficient, contact us.

Windows are definitely one of the "glass half full / half empty" situations (pun intended). The views, the ambient light and architectual relief windows that windows provide cannot be replaced. Windows let us experience the outside elements without sensing the heat or cold - but how do yours feel?

If your windows are 5 to 10 years old you might start looking at them. Changes in technology for windows and exterior doors have been dramatic in the past decade. There are compelling reasons to consider changing older windows in your home. Consider the following examples.

altThe photo on the left shows a window with a broken seal. Windows are made with two panes of glass and the air between the two panes acts as an insulator and is often filled with argon gas, which is effectively a super-insulating gas. When the seal fails, the insulating gas is released and air can freely flow in and out of the space between the two panes. This invading air between the panes of glass can contain varying humidity and pressure. The result is what appears to be condensation or clouding between the two panes that cannot be cleaned. The only solution is replacing the entire window.

altThe photo on the right shows a door jamb with excessive rot. Old and rotten wood parts are often the primary reason to replace windows and exterior doors. Water can easily get into the home causing mold and mildew. One might consider repairing the bottom of the door jamb with a synthetic material but one should determine if any function of the door has been compromised by the rot and water intrusion first.

The most obvious evaluation is simply to feel if there is cold air coming through your windows. Clients say they could see their curtains move on a windy day before we replaced their windows. If you feel that your home is significantly more comfortable when you pull curtains or window treatments over the windows, then you really should consider replacing your doors and windows. All this plus the evident energy savings make replacing your doors and windows an easy decision.

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Natelli Homes is finishing a replacement window project in Potomac, MD.  The painters are touching up the new trim and casings and the windows are being cleaned, soon ready for the installation of the window treatments.  I asked the client how things were going.  Without hesitation he said, "I immediately felt the difference".  The house is measurably warmer in every room.  The cold air whistling through the old french doors is gone and the storm windows filled with bugs and dirt are no where to be seen - the house is quieter, warmer and feels like new.

altIn this home, rather than install insert windows, we did full replacements because the existing windows were so poorly insulated around the perimeters. We filled the jamb-space with expanding insulation and then applied new trim on all the interior surfaces.  Rather than "picture frame" the windows with casing, we installed proper sills with returns and a back-band on the casing to really make the trim punch.

altOne of the aesthetic benefits is without a doubt the architectural improvement of the windows.  In the photo on the right, look at how the grilles add significance to the window.  We elected to space the lite opening of each window a bit larger than the standard sizes offered by the manufacturer.  Having larger openings enhances the view but still gives the window the detailing it needs.  The grilles have clean profiles and the arrangement resonates with tradition.  Even the shadows from the muntins add character to the room.

It's easy to justify replacing windows and doors in a home.  Just make sure you sweat the details or your investment may not reach its full potential.

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Full window replacement systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Marvin Window's system using a Kynar jamb extension is a nice way to provide a clean and maintenance free exterior application.

altIn the photo on the right, the old window has been completely removed and a new Marvin full replacement window has been installed in the opening.  Note how the minimally expanding foam fills the entire cavity between the window frame and the rough opening.  Nothing can get though the gap - not wind, not water nor bugs.

altBut to cap it off, literally, Marvin has a clean system that snaps into the exterior window frame and butts against the existing brick opening.  This jamb extension using Marvin's extremely durable extruded aluminum is substantially stronger than roll-form aluminum and features a protective 70% Kynar® 500 paint finish for superior resistance to fading and chalking.  Kynar, in particular resists fading and comes in 19 colors.

I am very impressed with this replacement system from Marvin and encourage anyone who is ready to consider new windows to look at Marvin.

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Faced with the task of heating and cooling a home of any size, geothermal systems make an incredible contribution to energy efficiency and practical applications.  Not only will they save money over time but they significantly reduce the demand on the electrical grid and the gas services in a community.   Given the energy issues in our world, its good to know that there are ways to make tremendous reductions in the carbon footprint of any new home or renovation.

In this project five wells were drilled to provide the heat exchangers with a water inflow that is roughly constant in temperature, about 50 degrees F.   Heat pumps work like a reversible refrigerator, sending the heat from ground water to the home in winter and swapping the heat from home back to the ground water in summer.alt Boilers work to boost the temperature of water. One of the wells prior to being connected to the home appears in the adjacent photo.

The following photos depict the installation of radiant heating systems that, by concept, date back to the Roman Empire.  When combined with geothermal systems, and today’s technology, radiant systems can drastically improve the comfort of modern living areas at a much lower energy cost.  Small tubing filled with heated water is recessed into prefabricated panels. altThe panels are mounted on the subflooring and contain an aluminum backing that radiates the heat of the water upwards.  The rooms will warm from the floor to the ceiling, heating the entire space. This will allow the owners to be comfortable at lower thermostat settings on the primary heating system.  This installation also helps eliminate cold feet syndrome – that malady that occurs when your body is warm, but your feet are freezing.alt

This system is installed in the kitchen and dining area, spaces where families and friends often congregate.  These flooring elements should be carefully coordinated with the cabinets, floor supply ducts and even flooring patterns in the tile and wood.

A great link that explains the physics behind geothermal: http://smart-nrg.com/geothermal.php Not only is this the "green" thing to do but it saves a lot of money in the long run.  You might check with your tax advisor about the incentives available for these installations.

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Take a walk around the outside of your home this weekend.  altThis is a great time of the year to replace your old rotting windows.  It's pretty easy to find the problems.

Look for peeling paint in the corners of the windows, obviously rotted wood parts and glass that has clouded over.  altGlass that is clouded indicates that the seal has failed , a common issue with older windows.

One of the more interesting problems that occurs with windows is the result of the a carpenter bee commonly known as the wood borer.  Carpenter bees don't actually eat the wood but bore holes for their nests.  altThe resulting holes are surprisingly large.  If cracks and holes are not filled, water can enter these holes and freeze in the wood.alt The expansion properties of the ice will cause further deterioration of the wood parts and the window will be in much worse shape the following spring.  If your windows look like any in these photos, they should probably be replaced altogether.

A few minutes of observation now will identify these problems before you are faced with dealing with them in the cold of winter.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail - Benjamin Franklin

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It must be hard for a consumer to decide how to select replacement windows or windows for a new home.  How do you start, where do you start and who do you trust for such an important investment?  All the manufacturers claim high efficiency glass, tax incentives and new and improved technologies.  In my career at Natelli Homes, which is going on 25 years in residential construction, the window and door industry has grown and improved the most.  The standards for all the major manufacturers are so much improved that I would venture to state that there are arguable financial and performance benefits to replacing windows that are only 10 years old.

Windows and exterior doors are the biggest contributors to heat and energy loss in a home.  People notice it more in the winter when we can feel the cold spots and drafts around windows and doors, but imagine how much is also lost in the summer when we are not quite as sensitive.  Poor performing windows and exterior doors contribute to an immeasurable amount of energy loss in our world.

altAgain, where does one start?  You might start with the U-value of a window which is a measurement of 4 combined ways windows lose heat.  This is a standard by which a homeowner can evaluate the performance of manufacturers on an even playing field.  Simply put, the U-value of a window combines the heat loss of a window through (1) radiation, (2) convection, (3) air leakage and (4) conduction.  The lower the U-value the better performing the window is.

I found a great sketch in an article by Paul Fisette in Fine Homebuilding.  Paul Fisette is director of the Building Materials Technology and Management Program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA (www.umass.edu/bmatwt). Chart information courtesy of W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., except where noted. Photo: Brian Vanden Brink; drawings: Dan Thornton.

To me, this represents the best way to understand what U-values are all about and your first step in selecting a new or replacement window.
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Natelli Homes recently completed a full window replacement, also called a full tear-out, on a home with a Mansard slate roof.  This was particular difficult because a Mansard roof-line flares out at the bottom of the window, which allows significant potential issues with water and air infiltration.  If not done properly, water could easily get in the bottom of the window beneath the sill and cause leaks in the home below the windows.

As you can see in the photos, the existing windows were old aluminum frames which conducted large amounts of cold air into the room.  These older aluminum windows with single pane glass are an enormous source of heat and energy loss in the home.  I expect the client to feel an immediate difference in the temperature of the room.

We installed Jeld-Wen premium siteline EX windows with Dual Low-E Argon gas.  This is a window with a U-value of 0.30 compared to maybe 1.5 or more for the old single pane aluminum framed windows.  In layman's terms the new windows will improve energy efficiency by 5 times plus the improvements in the installation methods which adds another level of energy savings which cannot be quantified, but may be equally significant.

We worked carefully with the client's roofer to ensure the windows were flashed and water was properly mitigated.

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