Posts Tagged ‘ custom home builder in texas ’

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.

How The Lacey Act Affects Home Builders

All around the United States, builders of all trades  are in limbo awaiting the final judgement.   The Lacey Act, first passed in 1900, was amended in 2008 to bar importing wood that is illegally exported under another country’s laws.  Lawmakers are now discussing revisions to the Lacey Act, while the buyers of such materials are on both sides of the fence.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has called on Congress to amend the Lacey Act so that individuals and businesses that unknowingly purchase illegal wood products from overseas do not have their property seized and are not exposed to civil and criminal liability.

Barry Rutenberg of the National Association of Home-builders said that the provisions of the Lacey Act that allow for the forfeiture of improperly sourced woods would have devastating consequences for the housing market. He stated that if innocent owners, builders, and resellers of wood products used in housing were not immune to prosecution and forfeiture, banks would be reluctant to provide construction loans or mortgages.  Testifying before the House Natural Resources  Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, Barry Rutenberg, chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., said that NAHB supports the goals of the Lacey Act and the prevention of trade in illegally harvested plant and wood products.

“Unequivocally, we do not support illegal logging in any place at any time,” Rutenberg added. “However, honest business owners, including home builders who exercise due care and had no knowledge that a seized product contains illegal wood, should have the right to seek the return of those goods.”

Under the current statute, innocent companies are left without legal standing to challenge a government taking in court. As a result, both builders and consumers who buy products that encompass the entire supply chain dealing with imported wood products (lumber, cabinets, guitars, etc.) are held personally liable to certify that the timber product did not come from plant material that was taken, transported, possessed or sold in violation of any foreign law.

The environmental impact of revising the act has many concerned.  ”  Eileen Sobeck, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, said the RELIEF Act would weaken environmental protections.

“Limiting prosecutions to only those who knowingly violate the law would provide an incentive for importers to be ignorant or claim ignorance of the contents of his or her shipments and undermine the administration’s efforts to combat the trafficking of protected wildlife,” said Sobeck.

A prominent group of scientists have published a report that claims the Lacey Act legislation curbs deforestation and enhances the competitiveness of US logging and wood processing industries. The new report urges Congress to leave the law alone and provide enough money to enforce it.

A report was released on April 16, by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), it is titled “Logging and the Law: How the U.S. Lacey Act Helps Reduce Illegal Logging in the Tropics. ” The report outlines how illegal logging poses a significant threat to the US economy and endangers tropical ecosystems around the world.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper testified before the  House subcommittee  about his bill to clarify a broad federal law so that musicians, instrument retailers and resellers would no longer be subject to penalties for unknowingly possessing illegal woods. Cooper introduced the Retailers and Entertainers Lacey Implementation and Enforcement Fairness (RELIEF) Act in Oct. 2011 with Reps. Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) and Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) to clarify the Lacey Act. The RELIEF Act (H.R. 3210) has drawn support from music, hardwood, business, retail and environmental groups; a full list of supporters.

In addition to protecting innocent people from the government’s confiscation of their property, the RELIEF Act also requires the federal government to create an Internet database of forbidden wood sources, thus providing a fair warning that currently does not exist.

Another bill discussed at the hearing, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, both Republicans, would repeal the requirement that U.S. companies comply with foreign environmental laws. Paul said forcing U.S. companies to comply with foreign laws is “absurd on its face” and may not be constitutional.

So no matter the side you are on this is going to take some time to resolve itself.   They have made some amendments to the Lacey Act in February http://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/lacey_act/downloads/faq.pdf. 

It’s unfortunate that some builders have had property  seized by the Lacey Act. Perhaps the industry should consider paying more attention to the NAHB’s concerns and consider following its lead in supporting the RELIEF Act.

The information in this article provided by: NAHB , USA Today , and Mortgage Orb.com

A Story of a Retirement-Ready House

When Ronald Knecht began house hunting two years ago, he had a promise to keep. Before his wife passed away from a battle with cancer, she had asked him to move to Nokesville, Va., to be close to their daughter so that the two could look after each other. But at 73 years old and having just watched his wife go from healthy to a walker to a wheelchair, he wasn’t looking for just anything.

What he found was a whole lot of old mansions, “99% of which were junk,” he says. With too many stairs and maintenance issues that would have been unthinkable. Beyond that, he was looking for efficiency. “The Realtors wanted to show you the granite in the kitchen. I wanted to go to the basement, and when you’re looking at daylight through the band boards, there’s no way you can possibly heat that house.”

After months of searching, Knecht decided to have one built. Working with  a local green builder that had experience with universal design, Knecht spent the next few months extensively researching accessible design. Together, what he and the builders came up with is the equivalent of a super-house. Ultra efficient, universally designed to a T, and virtually maintenance free, evidence of careful research and planning is everywhere.

Driving in, the garage is extra wide, with a 9-foot door to accommodate lift-equipped vehicles. The bumped-out walls provide enough space on either side for someone in a wheelchair to get out comfortably. “That was something my wife always hated,” Knecht says, “when I would have to make her get out in the rain and wheel her inside because the garage was too small.”

Paths leading up to the home are 6-feet across, allowing enough room for a wheelchair and another person to approach the home side-by-side. At the front entry, the plan includes a small shelf for packages, so that it isn’t necessary to bend over to pick parcels up from the ground—one of the many features Knecht insists would be useful to anyone, whether or not they have full mobility. “Who wouldn’t want a shelf by the door when you’re coming home with groceries and kids and you got a purse and keys to deal with?”

And then there is the door itself. “A lot of builders will throw in a 32-inch door and call themselves universal design, but that’s useless if you can’t operate the door handle,” says  the building designer . Beyond using levered handles or specialized knobs, he says, a home’s design needs to include at least 18 inches of clear space on the pull side of the door to ensure that a wheelchair or a person on crutches can get up to the side of the door and make it through comfortably. “I was working with [a universal design specialist], and you wouldn’t believe how many mothers call her saying that their kids with sports injuries can’t get through the front door,” Knecht says.

Inside, the entire kitchen is tailored with accessibility features that encourage mobility without looking institutional. Counters sit at 34 inches, with space underneath so they can be accessed from a seated position. Space is also cutout underneath the cooktop, which features knobs at the front of the unit covered by a panel that prevents children from accessing them. Kickspaces are 9 inches high and 6 inches deep, to accommodate wheelchairs. And all light switches, outlets, and thermostats sit at a 44-inch height.

Bathrooms are fitted with out-turning doors and low-in showers. Counters, set at 34 inches, have free space underneath to make them wheelchair accessible. To make up for the lack of undercounter cabinetry, each bathroom is fitted with a closet accessed through bi-fold doors.

In the bedrooms, closet bars can be set at multiple heights, not only to adjust for someone in a wheelchair, but also so that they can be made available to a child and then adjusted for height as the child grows.

And everywhere in the home, lighting was a top priority. “Shadows cause falls,” Knecht says. So his plan meticulously eliminates them by flooding the home with natural light through windows and sun tunnels, including a sun tunnel in every shower. Path lights illuminate the hallway, and the kitchen is outfitted with undercounter lighting.

Often overlooked as an aspect of universal design, home maintenance was a big priority for Knecht, who not only wants to avoid having to deal with home upkeep as he ages, but also doesn’t want the home to be a bother for his daughter, who will take it over after he’s gone.

“Someone tried to talk me into a black shingled roof,” he says. “They look good, but I said no because of all the heat they absorb. I wanted to use white shingles, but those only had a 30-year warranty. So what, in 30 years I’m dead and my daughter is 70 years old and has to worry about putting in a new roof? I don’t think so.” Instead, the home is outfitted with a white metal roof with a 55-year guarantee.

The windows and doors are all done in maintenance-free fiberglass, and the home itself is clad in cement board, “so it will never rot,” Knecht says.

While the home is 4,000 square feet, Knecht estimates that less than 200 of that was added because of universal design features. And while the home hits a higher price range, Palladino says that is due to the extra energy-efficiency features that are included, such as the geothermal system and top-of-the-line insulation. The universal design features, he says, are accessible at just about any price point. “When you compare the cost difference between a standard door and a 36-inch door, you’re talking a difference of $24.”

The information is this article is from http://www.builderonline.com