Energy-StarENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to help consumers save money, and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

In 1992, the (EPA) introduced ENERGY STAR as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Computers and monitors were the first labeled products. By 1995, the EPA had expanded the label to residential heating and cooling equipment. The ENERGY STAR label is now on major appliances, lighting, home electronics, and has been expanded to cover new homes and commercial and industrial buildings.

Whole Home ENERGY STAR Rating

For an entire home to be labeled ENERGY STAR, it must be built by an ENERGY STAR builder-partner to meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes.

The ENERGY STAR label is rapidly becoming more of a selling feature. Home buyers are now very conscious of a potential home’s energy efficiency. The Multiple Listing Service has specific sections where ENERGY STAR rated systems and appliances can be highlighted so that buyers can easily determine if there is ENERGY STAR rated equipment in the home they are considering. However, as the whole-house Energy Star rating is fairly new, it doesn’t yet appear often.  As more and more homes get the designation, you will see it more often and consumers will look for the whole home rating.

The ‘No Cost Energy Assessment’ & Benefits

Locally, the ENERGY STAR program is partnered with a program called Mass Save. This initiative is sponsored by several local energy companies and administered by a company called Conservation Services Group. Through Mass Save you can schedule a no-cost “Energy Assessment” on your home or even your rental property. Depending on the results, homeowners are then eligible for an instant rebate of up to $2,000 for 75% of the cost of installing insulation, and a zero percent interest loan on new heating equipment. The website also contains a wealth of information on saving energy as well as information like current tax credits available for energy efficient home improvements.

As energy costs continue to rise, taking advantage of the Mass Save program, and looking for ENERGY STAR rated appliances will not only benefit you in the short term, but add value to your home when it comes time to sell.

Resources:  www.masssave.com, www.energystar.gov

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A Tale of Three Roofs

In the course of a day or a week, how many houses do you think you pass and observe? Homes can be unique in their style and architecture, but roofs generally fall into one of three broad categories: gabled, hipped and flat.

The type of house usually referred to as “Gambrel” or “Dutch Colonial,” is a prime example of a house with a gabled roof. The gabled roof is characterized by two or more sloping planes supported at each end by triangular wall extensions, known as gables, which occur at varying angles. The actual “gable” is the part of the wall between the sloping roof lines.

Side Gable Roof
Cross Gabled Roof
Front Gable Roof


The key to recognizing a hipped roof is that all the roof surfaces slope downward to the walls.  It usually results in the roof having a pyramid-like appearance.

A hip roof on a rectangular plan

A square hip roof (also known as
a “pyramid roof”)

Flat roof with parapet walls


The last major type of roof is the flat roof.  This roof is fairly self-explanatory and is evident in so many of the triple deckers found locally. Flat roofs are normally built with parapet walls or eaves. A parapet wall is a continuation of the side walls, or a separate structure around the perimeter of the roof that rises higher than the roof.

Italianate eave with brackets

Eaves are simply that part of the roof that over hang the supporting walls:

Although there are many variations and combinations of these three roofs, if you look closely at any building, you can easily deduce the basic roof type from which it originates.

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Do You Know Your Own Boundaries?

Transit Level – Surveying Device

I am referring to your property boundaries of course! As an owner of a single or multi-family home knowing your property lines with certainty is essential in several situations.  First, you may need them to obtain a building permit if you want to build a fence, repave your driveway, put in a driveway, add an extension to your house, or build a new structure, like a garage, on your property. Second, it is also possible that when you sell your house, a prospective buyer may harbor these future ideas and want to know the true property lines before negotiating a final deal. And last, if you suspect that your neighbor’s fence or garage etc. may be encroaching on your property, a survey can protect you from a future claim of ‘adverse possession,’ where your neighbor claims he owns your property because, essentially, you never objected.

If you own a recently built or developed house, you might be lucky enough to find some surveyor pins (small metal or wood posts) near the corners of your property. If you cannot find those, you probably have a “plot plan” with your mortgage documents. These can be helpful, but be careful because they are not definitive. Your town or city zoning maps (usually available on-line), or the maps kept by your city or town’s assessor’s office (also available on-line), can also have helpful boundary information

To know your property lines with legal certainty, you need to hire a surveyor. For relatively simple projects, you can expect to pay about $1500 in the Boston area. Be aware that you cannot hire a surveyor to figure out just one property line (e.g. your driveway boundary). Once you hire a surveyor, he or she has to do the whole property.

If you have had a good experience with a surveyor please let me know, I am always interested in adding to my list of recommended professionals in real-estate related fields so I can recommend them to others!

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