Posts Tagged ‘ austin home builder ’

Exploring Geothermal Heating and Cooling

With people becoming more conscious of the environment, and wanting their dollars to go further, companies around the world are coming up with new technology to satisfy consumers. Enter Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems. These systems are both environmentally friendly and have lower operating costs.

Geothermal Systems use the Earth to heat and cool air in the home using a series of pipes, called a loop, which is installed below the surface of the ground. During the winter, Earth’s natural heat is collected as fluid circulates through the loop. It is then carried into the house where an electrical compressor and heat exchanger concentrate the Earth’s energy and releases it inside the home at higher temperatures. In summer, the home is not cooled by blowing in cold air, but rather drawing the heat from inside the home and cycles through the loop where it is absorbed by the Earth.

These systems also produce much less greenhouse gases than air conditioners, oil furnaces, and electric heating. The US Environmental Protection Agency has called ground source heat pumps the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available. Further, geothermal heat pumps are durable and require little maintenance. The underground piping for the system is often guaranteed to last 25 to 50 years. And with no outside condensing units like air conditioners, they are quieter to operate.

All in all, geothermal heating and cooling is a good way to go. While the upfront cost may be a little more, the long term benefits make up for it. By using a renewable resource (the Earth’s heat) and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, there is a much smaller environmental footprint left behind.

Thank you for reading.

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Simple Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is critical in maintaining your health.  The source of pollutants can be broad and difficult to identify.  Signs that your home has poor air quality is if you notice a change in your health after moving into your new home or harsh odors can also be an identifier of poor indoor air quality.    When compared to outdoor air quality, indoor air quality can be 2-5 times more polluted which is alarming as people spend a majority of their time indoors.  

There are three categories for improving indoor air quality:

  • Source Control
  • Improved Ventilation, and
  • Air cleaners

Here are some simple steps that can be taken to improve the overall air quality in your home:

1.  Air out all furniture and carpet for 48 hours prior to bringing them indoors.

This is the time where the new items off gas the chemicals that they obtained while being manufactured.  The smell that comes from new furniture or carpet is the slow release of VOCs (Volatile organic compounds), it is best to prevent those chemicals from ever entering your home by letting the toxins escape from the fabric.

2. Install a carbon monoxide detector

Carbon monoxide levels can rise quickly in unventilated areas without anyone noticing as there are no signs of the colorless, odorless, toxic gas.  The carbon monoxide detectors need to be installed close to the bedrooms and there needs to be at least one on every level.  Gasses in a home such a carbon monoxide need to be carefully managed by making sure proper ventilation over stoves and fireplaces is in place to control the potentially hazardous gasses.

3. Prevent any Water From Entering Your Home

Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from your home’s foundation.  Leaks need to be fixed in a timely fashion to avoid moisture from spreading and gaining momentum which could potentially lead to mold and other issues compromising the air quality in your home.   Ventilating the bathroom can also help draw out moisture in an otherwise damp environment.  Moisture can be a leading culprit for harboring bacteria, when higher humidity levels are reached your walls are liable to start producing condensation.  Damp environments are harmful as bacterial thrives in a wet environment and ultimately those toxins can be released into the air.

4. Proper selection and maintenance of your air filter

Filters are measured by (MERV) minimum-efficiency reporting value based on their efficiency to remove particles from the air.  It is recommended to start with a MERV 9 rated filter or better.  A general rule of thumb is to change your air filter every 30-60 days depending on the level of occupancy and if you have pets in your home.

We hope this information has been helpful in the quest for breathing clean healthy air in your home!

Thank you for reading.  You can find our website at: www.masterstch.com

Products For Health and Safety in Your Home

Throughout the years of building houses we have come across a few items that help improve health and safety in your home.

1. Kiddie Smoke  Detector

A lithium battery operated smoke detector allows you to never have to worry about replacing batteries as it self charges off the home’s current.  This smoke detector is particularly helpful with houses with high ceilings, making it very difficult to change the batteries.   Kidde 0910 10-Yr Sealed Lithium Battery-Operated Smoke Alarm is made up of a sealed-in lithium energy offer that lasts the lifetime of the unit.  Trusted and straightforward to install, this no-maintenance alarm saves on labor and battery charges in excess of its lifetime.  This smoke detector is standard in all homes built by Masters Touch Custom Homes.

2. Great Ways to Collect Dust In Your Home: 

New Construction Homes commonly have a lot of dust in the air in the initial few weeks.  Taking an air filter and attaching it to a box fan is a great solution to trap some of the dust.  This is also a great device to put in place for people who suffer from dust allergies.  A simple contraption to enhance the air quality in a house with items that are easily accessible.

3. Enviro Coat-Premium Interior Zero VOC Paints:

 

Some paint companies have started manufacturing paint formulas that do not emit VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds).  This product will maintain healthy indoor air quality versus using  some of the traditional paints.  This paint also eliminates compounds that affect exterior air quality.  Using zero VOC paints is critical is highly sensitive area where some people are  have low tolerance for irritants that are present in standard paint products.

 

 

Thank you for reading.  Our website can be found at: www.masterstch.com

Passive Cooling–An Efficient Way to Cool your Home

 

Passive Cooling:

 

With the number of 100 degree plus days in Texas, passive cooling can be considered to more easily get the indoor temperature inside the comfort range.  Passive cooling can be described as the use of the sun’s energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces.   The building takes advantage of natural energy characteristics in materials and air created by exposure to the sun. Passive systems are simple, have few moving parts, and need minimal maintenance and free of mechanical systems.  A few critical decisions during the design process could allow a building to be naturally cooled with less burden and to the cooling systems in a building.

Passive Cooling Guidelines:

  • The building should be elongated on an east-west axis.
  • The building’s south face should receive sunlight between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. (sun time) during the heating season.
  • Interior spaces requiring the most light and heating and cooling should be along the south face of the building. Less used spaces should be located on the north.
  • An open floor plan optimizes passive system operation.
  • Use shading to prevent summer sun entering the interior.

Cross Ventilation:

Making a building permeable is the easiest way to encourage cross ventilation.   The building has to have several places where air can enter and exit a building.   For the most effective ventilation, there should be openings on the prevailing wind (windward) side of the building and, likewise, the opposite (leeward) side of the building.  This arrangement will allow the air to be pulled through the building.

Chimney or Stack Ventilation:

Another form of ventilation is through stack ventilation. In this method, the same principles of cross-ventilation apply, except a height factor is included. Since hot air rises, creating a high exit on an upper floor of a multi-story space will be more efficient at exhausting the rising heat. The hot air at the top and cool air at the bottom create a natural convection of air flow, which will also aide in the movement of air through the building. An exhaust fan can also be used if more air flow is desired.

Shading:

The photo (above) is a remodel by Masters Touch Custom Homes, this photo illustrates how both exterior decking and vegetation help to prevent direct sunlight from entering the windows.

Shading devices over windows and doors prevent direct sunlight from entering the home.  Awnings, shutters and blinds will help to minimize a building from over heating.  Quality windows and doors will also prevent the compromise of the exterior envelope of a building.  Trees and other greenery strategically placed can be beneficial in preventing direct sunlight from entering the building.

Thank you for reading.  Visit our website at www.masterstch.com

Hazardous Waste Collection In Lakeway Without The Lines! The First Steps To Lakeways Own Hazardous Waste Facility!

After reading over numerous articles about hazardous waste collection in Lakeway, TX;  I can see why the city has decided to make some changes.   It’s been a long time coming for so many residents that have been living in the Lakeway area.  Here’s to hoping that waiting in lines are in the past!

Starting with the earliest development in Lakeway in 1971;  when there were 300 homes, and 1,000 acres had been developed.   Now with the population at 11,830 (taken from Census 2011) it is clear there is an eminent  need for hazardous waste collection in Lakeway.   The City began providing local collection of household hazardous waste (HHW) in 2003.  Each year, the City of Lakeway plans a special event for their residents who have hazardous waste to dispose of.  If you are unable to wait for their local annual Household Hazardous Waste Event, you would have to drop off your items at the City of Austin & Travis County Household Hazardous Waste Facility.

In the past the city has been able to handle the collection; well not this year  in May lines of vehicles was overwhelming.  They had to immediately take notice of the rising demand, and  Lakeway officials  turned cars away at an increasingly cost-prohibitive annual event. The event served 677 vehicles this year, 545 in 2011, 730 vehicles in 2010.

Photo Credit: Statesman.com

In early July the Lakeway Municipal Utility District agreed to lease a half-acre of its cedar tract on Stewart Road to Lakeway for a recycling center.  Lakeway put $40,000 into the pot and secured a $45,000 Capital Area Council of Governments grant and $50,000 in funding from Water Control Improvement District No. 17 and $10,000 from The Hills and Hurst Creek MUD. Bee Cave and the Lower Colorado River Authority may contribute funds for the construction cost that is estimated at $180,000 for a 1,800 square foot building.

LMUD board member Jerry Hietpas advocated for a full-service collection facility that would allow residents to make one drop off rather than traveling to multiple locations to recycle their household goods.

“Lakeway is about first class, and your plan is not first class,” Hietpas declared to Lakeway finance director Julie Oakley during her presentation to the LMUD board. “Is there any reason why you are backsliding here on the amount of service that’s been provided in the past? What does it take to do a full-service?”

Under the proposed plan, the collection events would accept household cleaning, paint and auto products from residents and customers who live in the partnership’s service areas, but would not take electronics or paper products and would not shred paper.

The city is still open to other ideas but at the moment this is where it sits, Lakeway should finally have one local place to dump their hazardous materials.

Visit our website on how to Recycle Construction Materials!

Research from this article taken from: City of Lakeway , Lake Travis View, and  Travis County agenda notes.

Masters Touch Custom Homes – Recycling Building Materials

Brought to you by Masters Touch Custom Homes. Masters Touch Custom Homes has a new approach to waste recycling on the job-site. Here Matt Bailey of Masters Touch Custom Homes tell you how they recycle.

A New Approach to Recycling Building Materials

There is almost nothing that can’t be recycled these days including building materials.  Matthew Bailey VP of Masters Touch Custom Homes has found a new approach to

waste recycling on a job site.

The green building movement is changing the way custom home builders think about what they should do with leftover materials.  And thanks to the green building movement, home renovation, building, and restoring gets greener everyday.

In this short video Matt describes how to recycle leftover building materials.  Recently they hired a construction waste recycle r here in Central Texas.  All of the scraps or construction remnants are ground into a bark.  The nails are then separated out of the pile, and the bark is ready for use. The bark can be used for erosion control; it can also be used for soil amendment for composting.  With other debris like rock and stone, it is chipped and used for road base.

Trash is also a big part of the recycling.  It is first put all together, and then separated into what can be recycled.  This saves approximately 4 tons of trash from the landfill from each job-site.

Recovery of building materials for reuse, as well as incorporation of reused materials in a new design, both help to close the loop of materials use. Millions of tons of building materials from demolition and remodels are currently dumped in landfills every year, not serving any further purpose. Salvage of materials preserves much of their embodied energy, the energy invested in extracting the materials and producing an item.

How To Protect Your Homes Foundation through a Drought

Most people in Central Texas are constantly hearing news about our still current struggle with the droughts.  While most are thinking about the lake levels, overall water supply, and how to try and keep your lawn green, they left out what it can do to your homes foundation.

For homes already built the most common cause for foundation issues is expansive soil.  Because foundation soils are expansive, they will “heave” which can move the structure up when there is a high amount of moisture, causing it to “float”. On the other hand, when there are long periods of drought, the expansive soil will “break down”, causing settlement.  Common signs that there is foundation movement are cracks down interior or exterior walls, cracks in ceilings, or cracks on the concrete floor.

If you are purchasing some land consult with your builder about how the drought will affect your new foundation.  With the current drought that we are having, the soil underneath a home’s foundation can become dry and lose which can make it difficult for a house to be level.

Photo by LCRA

Photo by LCRA

So if your thinking of buying land, or already own an existing home here are some tips to help keep your foundation intact:

1. Water your foundation.
Run a soaker hose around the exterior of your home and let it run for a few hours each week (REMINDER TO OBSERVE WATER RESTRICTIONS). This will help you maintain the moisture levels in the soil around your home, keeping it from pulling away from your foundation.

2. Clean out or install guttering.
Maintaining moist soil around your foundation is important, but occasional downpours from a Austin thunderstorm can provide too much moisture too quickly. This causes soil to erode away from your foundation and creates problems.

3. Install Root Barriers.
Beware of large tree roots which can absorb a lot of moisture in the ground near the tree. If you have very large trees near your home, a drought can force tree root systems to reach further underneath your foundation in search of moisture. You may be able to install root barriers to prevent the roots from causing problems with your foundation.

Remember prevention is always better than a cure!