Save Money and Energy This WinterThe warm summer days are behind us.  Western North Carolina in the fall is absoutely breath-taking.  Soon, however, the leaves will fall from the trees and the cold reality of winter will set in.  With the price of natural gas and propane going up, it is important to cut costs as well as energy loss wherever you can.  Since not everyone can afford to go completely green (ie solar or wind powered), we have to find other ways to cope.  If you want to save money and energy this winter, I’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Shop around.  There may be more than one company available in your area to provide natural gas, propane or even electricity to your Hendersonville home.  Ask each company for their rates and compare them to what you are paying now.  Also, check with your current provider to see if they have programs available that you may qualify for.  It never hurts to ask and you may be surprised at the savings you can find.

Insulation.  This can be a relatively inexpensive way to keep you warm during the cold winter weather.  Check the insulation in your attic and walls, especially if you are in an older Hendersonville home.  You may need to add or replace what is currently there to get the most bang for your buck.  Look into purchasing insulated curtains for your windows as well.  These can help keep cold air out and warm air in.

Look for Leaks.  Windows and exterior doors are notorious places for cold air to creep in.  Sometimes, simple caulking or weatherstripping can do the trick.  However, if your windows are especially worn and in need of replacement, buy energy-efficient replacements.  You may even be eligible for a tax credit by doing so.  Storm windows and doors are also great forces against the elements.

Additional ways to stay warm during cold Hendersonville winter months are to use extra blankets and wear warm clothing while indoors.  Add an extra blanket at night or put on a wool sweater instead of turning up the thermostat to help keep your costs down.  Follow these tips to save money and energy this winter.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Active Rain blog here: http://activerain.com/blogsview/2532533/save-money-and-energy-this-winter.

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Keep Your Home Cool in the Warm Summer MonthsThe winter chill is behind us.  Bring on the beautiful springtime sunshine in Hendersonville!  However, with warmer weather comes higher cooling costs.  That doesn’t have to be the case, though.  Here are a few simple ways to keep your Henderson County home cool in the warm summer months without spending a ton of money.

Thermostat – Turn your programmable thermostat up to 78 degrees.  For an idea on how much energy air conditioning can cost, keeping your thermostat set to 72 rather than 78 will increase your cooling costs by 12-47%.

Ceiling Fans – Easy to install, ceiling fans will help circulate your home’s interior air to help you feel cooler without having the costly air conditioning on.  While it won’t dramatically decrease the ambient temperature of a room, the air circulated by the ceiling fans helps your body cool off better than stagnant air does.  Another option would be to use oscillating floor fans or desk fans in your home office.

Microwave and Grill More – Heating up the oven also heats up the house.  One way to avoid this is to use your microwave more often or embrace the outdoors by cleaning off and using the barbecue.  Grilling can be a fun, healthy way to enjoy family time together as well.

Window and Door Leaks – Check for and plug up any air leaks around windows and doors.  Replace old weatherstripping or add caulking if necessary.

Filters – We don’t worry about these much during the winter months, but during the summer, you should consider changing out your air conditioner’s filters on a monthly basis.  A dirty filter causes an air conditioning unit to use more energy to work properly.  Changing out your filter more often costs mere pennies but will save you many dollars in the end.

Blinds/Drapes – Streaming sunshine through your Hendersonville home’s windows is welcoming, especially after the dreary winter months.  However, that same sunshine can heat up the interior of your home quickly.  Keep your blinds or drapes closed, especially during the hottest part of the days.  An alternative to closing out the sun would be to add a reflective film to the windows, which keeps the heat out while allowing the sunshine in.

You can keep your Hendersonville home cool in the warm summer months without spending a ton of money.  Get out and enjoy the beautiful Western North Carolina weather.  If you need help with buying or selling your Hendersonville home, please contact me today.

Rich Cooke, your Hendersonville real estate specialist

Hardwood floors are beautiful.  Many homes today have hardwood floors installed in them made from all sorts of materials: bamboo, oak, maple, cherry, etc.  They continue to be highly sought after as well.  Whether you currently have them in your Hendersonville home or are considering installing them in the near future, you need to know how to take care of your hardwood floors to keep them beautiful for years to come.

How to Take Care of Your Hardwood FloorsDirt – Any form of dirt, ie: sand, grit, etc, is a natural enemy of hardwood floors.  Even the smallest grains can scratch or dull hardwoods eventually.  Keep your hardwoods free of dirt by sweeping often with a broom, wet mop or Swiffer sweeper.  Laying area rugs on top of hardwood floors is smart.  But you want to make sure that they are vacuumed and taken outside to shake out any remaining dirt often, since dirt can be transferred from a rug to the wood easily.

Furniture – Anytime you move furniture around without lifting if up first, you run the risk of scratching your wooden floors.  Attach protective pads to the bottom of any furniture legs that come in direct contact with your wooden floor.  These pads can be purchased inexpensively at many home warehouse stores.  They make moving your furniture easier as well, especially if you have difficulty lifting it.

Shoes – High heeled shoes are the worst.  But, any shoes can leave scuff marks or track scratchy dirt across your home’s beautiful floors.  Set aside a place near the entrances to your home so that your family and guests can store their shoes when they enter.

Sun Damage – When wood is left in sunlight for extended periods of time, it can become discolored.  This is especially true for direct sunlight.  Make sure to hang drapes or put up shades or blinds in windows that let sunlight spill onto your floors.

Water – Why do you put a coaster under a wet glass on your wooden coffee table?  To keep it from ruining the wood.  The same goes for water on a hardwood floor.  It can do severe damage.  Anytime you spill something wet on your hardwood floor, make sure to mop it up as quickly as possible and dry the area thoroughly.

Cleaners – Stick to using cleaners that are made specifically for cleaning hardwood floors.  Products with ammonia, petroleum-based products, waxes, soaps, oils and urethane finishes are definite “No-No’s”.  They can leave a residue behind or may even damage your floors.  For a gentle clean, a damp mop may be your best choice. 

By following these simple tips on how to take care of your hardwood floors, they will stay beautiful for a very long time!  If you or someone you know is interested in buying or selling their Hendersonville home, please feel free to contact me.

Rich Cooke is your Hendersonville NC real estate specialist

Simple Tips for Living Green in 2011You’ve probably heard about “going green” at some point in your life.  That can mean everything from recycling to where you purchase your food.  However, you don’t have to shower every other day or install solar panels that cost a hefty sum up front (although, they do save money over the long run).  Here are five simple tips for living green in 2011:

1. Recycle – Many cities provide recycling programs, including the City of Hendersonville.  Contact them via pone at 828-697-3084 or email at recycle@cityofhendersonville.org to find out how you can get your own recycling bin.  Articles that can be recycled are metal cans, plastic, glass, newspaper, cardboard and mixed paper (paper grocery bags, catalogs, cereal boxes, junk mail, magazines, etc.).

In Hendersonville, yard clippings can be placed in residents’ regular trash bins.  Just make sure they are not bagged, but placed loosely in the bin.  Dried paint and tires that are not on rims can also be put out with the regular weekly trash collection.  Used motor oil and antifreeze as well as used car batteries must be turned in at appointed facilities, such as the Henderson County Transfer Facility (802 Stoney Mtn Rd) for motor oil, antifreeze, used batteries and electronics (fax machines, VCRs, steros, telephones, computers, TVs, etc).  Anywhere you buy a new car battery will also recycle the old one for you, usually for a small fee.

2. Check Your Home for Air Leaks – Check that the insulation in your home, window and door frames and window seals are all up to standard.  Any cracks around doors and windows will increase your energy consumption.

3. Change to “Green” Cleaning Supplies – “Green cleaners” use much less harsh chemicals to do the same job.  Clorox has a line of great “green” products for windows, bathrooms and toilets.  If you want to save money AND the environment, you can even make your own chemicals to clean using everyday household items, such as baking soda, cornstarch, vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and more.  To find out how, click here.

4. Share a Ride – Using mass transit or even carpooling with other workers in your office or area can help reduce the amount of emissions and save you money.  If you live close enough, consider walking or biking to work.  It’s great exercise and reduces your carbon footprint.

5. Set the Thermostat – By lowering the thermostat by 1 degree, you will not only lower your energy costs, but you will hardly notice a difference in the household temperature.  Lowering it by 3 degrees can save approximately $74 every winter.  If you get cold, put a sweater on.  Consider lowering it even more at night.  Your body regulates its temperature during sleep, so you won’t even notice it.  Consider purchasing a programmable thermostat to help regulate when you want it higher (when you’re at home) and when you want it lower (when you’re asleep or at work/school).

Reducing your carbon footprint here in Hendersonville doesn’t necessarily mean drastically changing your life.  These five simple tips for living green in 2011 are easy enough to do and can make a huge difference in the amount of energy you consume.

Rich Cooke, your Hendersonville real estate specialist

If you’re like alot of people nowadays, you may not be able to sell your Hendersonville home right now.  Instead, you are looking at updating your home’s look for the possibility of making a larger profit later.  Here are a few tips on how to get the most bang for your buck in remodeling projects:

Adding crown molding or a chair rail to a room like the dining room makes a dramatic difference in the room's appearance.1. Crown Molding – Easy to install, adding crown molding to the ceiling or a chair rail along the wall can instantly transfer a drab room into a fab room.  You can even dress up a light fixture with a simple medallion.

2. Wood Floors – Are your wood floors looking a little worse for wear?  Refinish them for a fresher look.  If they are completely worn out, opt for replacing them.

3. Light Fixtures – Are you still using fluorescent lights in the kitchen or bathroom?  Recessed lighting or updated light fixtures can increase the warmth and feel of any room for a reasonable price.

4. Entryway/Foyer – If your entryway/foyer area is stuck in a bygone era, you may want to freshen it up with a fresh coat of paint, newer wallpaper, refinished stairway and/or new flooring.

Adding a kitchen island increases your surface area and storage space.5. Kitchen Island – Storage is one of the toughest things to accommodate in a kitchen.  Adding a kitchen island with shelves or cabinets included in the design not only increase your storage capacity, but also your surface area.   Try using butcher block or concrete for the kitchen island’s work surface as an alternative to expensive granite or marble.

6. Pantry – Adding a simple pantry to your kitchen can increase your food storage in a small area quickly and easily.

7. Shower – Simply changing the showerheads in your bathrooms can make a dramatic difference.  One of the more popular fixtures is a large pan showerhead that simulates a rainfall.  Also, you may want to consider adding a multi-head or second showerhead in your master bath.

8. Fixtures – Updating the fixtures for your kitchen or bathroom sinks increase the room’s appeal.  In the kitchen, consider adding a pull-out sprayer with a retractable hose to help clean the sink and reach those pots or pans that are too big to sit in the sink under a traditional faucet.  While you’re at it, update the cabinets and drawers with new handles, knobs or pulls.  If your cabinets don’t include any fixtures, the look can be dramatically altered quickly.

9. Porch – Adding a porch creates a more welcome appearance and brings your living space to the outdoors.  You’ll need to make sure to check the building codes in your area first for setback requirements and obtain a building permit, if necessary.

10. Siding – Check your home’s siding for any damage.  If your siding is in good condition, you can find products at your local home supply store to restore the finish to its original condition.  If it’s time to replace, vinyl siding is the most affordable in a variety of colors and styles.  It’s not your parents’ ugly siding anymore.

These are just a few of the simpler ways to get the most bang for your buck in remodeling projects.  I’d love to hear what projects you have done to increase the value of your Hendersonville home.  What you do now will help you when you decide to sell your Western North Carolina home later.

Don't get a lemon.  Contact Rich Cooke for all your Hendersonville real estate needs.

We all know that you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression when you go to sell your home.  Curb appeal is the first introduction any buyer will have to your home.  That’s why it’s important to dress your nest to its fullest potential from the outside in.  Here are some quick ways to boost your curb appeal that won’t take you longer than the weekend to accomplish:

1. Use symmetry – Symmetrical compositions are not only appealing to the eye, but they are easy to create.  Having identical floral arrangements on either side of a front door creates a lovely frame to your entryway.  Likewise, hanging identical light fixtures on either side of the door enhances the front door’s appeal.

2. Update the hardware – Kitchens and bathrooms aren’t the only places where fixtures need refreshing.  Doorknobs, door knockers, doorbells, house numbers and even mailboxes could use a freshening up as well.  Replacing the door hardware can make an old door appear new again and at much less of an out of pocket cost, too.

3. Garden in a box – Liven up the front entryway or windows instantly by adding flowers or plants to simple garden boxes or containers.  Visit your local garden center to get whatever flowers are currently in bloom, add them to a decorative container and place them around your front door, porch and windows.  This is a simple and quick way to brighten up a drab entrance.

4. Art isn’t just for your walls – Create a beautiful focal point by adding a water fixture, birdbath, sculpture or even wind chimes.  This is beautiful art for the outside of your home.

5. Frame your home – Replacing worn out shutters, repainting aging shutters or even installing shutters on the windows where there weren’t any before gives your home a nice facelift.  Paint the trim and shutters a bright color to make them pop out.

These are just a few of many quick and easy projects that you can do over a weekend to increase your curb appeal.  Even if you aren’t looking to sell your home soon, it’s a nice time of year to brighten up your home after the winter doldrums.  If you’re ever in the need for help with your Western North Carolina real estate needs, make sure to give me a call.  I’m always happy to help.

Contact Rich Cooke and the Cooke-Knapp Team for all your Western North Carolina real estate needs!

Fresh cut flowers bring beauty and wonderful fragrance into your home.Are you ready to say “goodbye” to Winter blahs and “hello” to Spring?  Here are some quick, inexpensive ways to spruce up the interior of your home to welcome in the renewal Spring has to offer:

1. Rearrange: This means furniture, accessories, artwork, etc.  Try moving the furniture around in a room to create new and interesting conversation areas.  Maybe take some books off the shelves and put them on the fireplace mantle.  Even moving artwork from one wall or room to another can create a whole new look and feel for your room.

2. Fragrances: This doesn’t just mean candles or diffusers.  You can bring fragrances in through fresh cut flowers or fragrant branches from your outside foliage.  If you must have fresh cut flowers and don’t have anything outside you can use, pick up a bouquet from the supermarket, separate the bouquet into different groups of flowers and spread them around the house in a variety of smaller vases.

Use brightly colored throw pillows to freshen up a room's interior.3. Bedding: New bedding can brighten a room in no time.  Get rid of the heavy winter comforter and bring in a lighter coverlet for the warmer evenings ahead.  Bring in more color with accent pillows in fun, springtime colors.

4. Good Day, Sunshine: Open up the windows.  Pull those heavy drapes back and add a shade or even sheer fabric that will allow the sunlight to come in.  And, for goodness sakes, clean the windows!

5. Accessorize: Simply changing the little things can create a whole new atmosphere for a room.  Buy throw pillows in bright fabrics.  Get a festive colored vase to hold those lovely tulips or daisies.  Use brightly colored candles to relay a feeling of Spring renewal.

These are all quick, easy and inexpensive ways to spruce up your home for Spring.

Contact Rich Cooke for all your Western North Carolina needs.