FAQ: Questions, Answers, and Interesting Facts

How do I choose a contractor?

The best way to find a competent, reliable contractor is to check with friends, neighbors, relatives and acquaintances. They can tell what you need to know firsthand.

If you have no one to give you firsthand information be sure to get at least 3 good references. If you can go and look at their work and/or see photos that is always a good idea. You should always check that they are licensed, insured, and have no complaints against them. Your state’s department that regulates contractors is a good place to check. In California, it is called the California Contractors State License Board. (800) 321-2752

I want to buy a house. How can I make sure it is in good condition? Also, how do I figure out how much it would cost me to make any repairs and/or renovations?

Check with an experienced consultant or expert who can inspect the properties and work a budget for you can provide this information. Your realtor should able to recommend someone to you. Get as much information as you can before you buy.

Do you do long distance consultation via the internet? How would that work?

Yes. I can answer questions and also look at your project or problem via web camera and talk via Skype. I can speak with your contractors, architects, and other personnel. On larger projects, I can fly out to talk with all players and inspect the property firsthand. I get lots of calls from former clients outside California regarding the work they are doing.

How often should I paint my house?

Your house should be painted every 4 to 6 years. If you wait longer than that you will have to do more preparation and it could cost up to 3 times as much. Each time you paint it adds another layer of protection to prevent future damage such as dry rot or peeling paint.  

My homeowner’s insurance wants to pay less for my fire damages than I need. Is there anything I can do?

You need someone to advocate for you. An expert or consultant can figure actual costs versus what the company is offering and negotiate a fair settlement for you. They may also be better able to see things that need to be done than the insurance company adjusters do.

I’ve been told my house has dry rot. How do you get rid of it?

Dry rot, which is common in Northern California and other rainy places, is due to the absorption of water into wood siding, trim, or structure. The wood softens and its cellulose breaks down. The affected area loses its structural integrity. You can recognize dry rot in your house if you see holes or wavy or buckling wood in trim work, beams, porches, roof edges, and any other area made of wood. 

You get rid of dry rot by replacing the damaged area with new materials. People often ask me to estimate how much this would cost, but it’s difficult because you can’t see the hidden dry rot. There will on average about 1.5 to 4 times more dry rot than you can see on the surface. Contractors need to inform their clients about this upfront in order to avoid problems. Be sure to talk at length with the contractors to be sure that you will relate well. 

What are easy things I can do to make my house more energy efficient?

Every time a light bulb goes out, replace it with a compact fluorescent light bulb. Open shades for natural light. Keep electrical devices off when not in use. My family and I wear sweaters in the house when it is cold and try to keep the heat no higher than 68 degrees. It is quite comfortable. 

Can a green house really heat and cool itself without any electricity?

Absolutely. Convection currents, constantly cool underground temperatures, and natural heating by sunlight do all of the work.

A basement is required for the geothermal heating and cooling cycles to work. How is it possible to have a basement in South Florida?

Soil removed during the construction of the foundation can be built up around the lowest floor of the house in order to create an above ground basement, which will allow the systems to operate. 

Is there a backup just in case the no-electricity system can’t keep up with temperature change?

Yes, a low-power air conditioner and heater can pick up the slack during extreme conditions. 

What happens to inside temperatures during and after a hurricane?

The insulating properties of the outer wall will prevent temperature change while a hurricane passes, and after the storm the cooling cycle will resume even if electricity fails.

What does it mean to be a LEED Accredited Professional?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifies members based on their knowledge and application of the Green Building Rating System, which helps classify environmentally friendly construction. 

Can I afford to put solar panels on my house?

The great thing about solar panels is that one or a couple of panels will reduce your electricity bill and help the environment. Solar panels are also a solid investment because they generate valuable electricity, which Florida Power and Light is happy to exchange for a lower electricity bill.

If I go completely solar, what will happen to the systems in my house during days of heavy cloud cover?

The house will pull its electricity from the power grid instead of the sun, and your backup electric or gas water heater will keep your showers hot while your solar system is offline.

Is a gas-powered heat appliance, such as a stove or water heater, better or worse for the environment than a similar electrical appliance?

In most cases, the electricity for your stove comes from burning fossil fuels to boil water, spin turbines, and produce DC electricity, which is then transformed to AC electricity and transported to your home, where it is pumped through the elements in your stove to produce heat through electrical resistance. As you can imagine, it is far more efficient to simply burn the fossil fuel in your home to cook your food or heat your water.

Still have questions? Contact us and we’ll be happy to give you the answers!

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