Plumbing Upgrades to Save you Money

custom home construction, new bathroom

Looking to find ways to save money on a custom home build or even your current home? Have you thought of upgrading or replacing plumbing fixtures as a way to add immediate value to your home, save money, provide ease of use, keep the kitchen and bathroom more sanitary, and reduce your impact on the environment? The latest advances in water-saving technologies can do all of this and more.

There is no need to wait for Cal Tech’s award-winning solar-powered toilet design that can “turn human waste into hydrogen, water, and electricity” to come on the market before you can build your new home or retrofit your existing home with innovative plumbing designs that are available today including:

  • Hands-free technology
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Low flow toilets
  • High-efficiency faucets
  • Gray water systems

Hands-free technology
A healthy home can be accomplished in a variety of ways, especially with hands-free fixtures. Hands-free faucets are designed for both bathrooms and kitchens, significantly reduce germ contamination and are very well-loved by parents with children who’ve been known to get distracted while the water’s running.  In the bathroom, the installation of a touchless toilet kit enables the user to wave their hand above the toilet tank to flush it. With some kits, the toilet lid will automatically close without slamming shut.  You can round out your kitchen and bath décor with soap or lotion dispensers that are also hands-free.

Tankless Water Heaters

The Best of 2017: Tankless Water Heaters

More and more homeowners are replacing their hot water storage tanks with the newest tankless water heaters.  Tankless water heaters supply hot water on demand and save the homeowner both the time and expense of storing hot water and constantly reheating it.  Unlike a storage tank with a limited supply of available hot water, the heat exchanger technology can provide you with an endless supply of hot water no matter the number of tasks.

Low Flow Toilets
High-efficiency, low-flow toilets are one of the easiest ways to cut down on household water consumption.  All home improvement stores and plumbing suppliers stock these high-efficiency toilets.  If the toilets in your household were installed before 1994 or if they use more than 1.6 gallons of water with each flush, there are better options today with toilets using about 1.28 gallons per flush.  Dual Flush toilets using even less water for liquid waste!  A family of four could save more than 15,000 gallons of water per year by replacing an inefficient toilet with a 1.6 gpf (gallon per flush unit) and even more with a toilet rated 1.28 gpf.

High-Efficiency Faucets
To save the average family more than 700 gallons of water year, simply replace old fixtures for new high-efficiency WaterSense labeled fixtures.  High-efficiency faucets and showerheads not only reduce water use but save energy by reducing the demand for water heaters.  WaterSense labeled bathroom sink faucets and accessories reduce water use without reducing performance. They are not the low flow products of a generation ago.  Today’s high-efficiency showerheads combine water savings with high performance.

Gray Water Systems

Not everything requires potable water.  Being able to reuse water is important to not only the environment but your budget and since no one can recall the last time the cost of water ever decreased, reducing water use is even more important.  You can reduce your non-potable water use with the implementation of a gray water system.  The State of Colorado allows water from bathtubs, showers, washing machines, as well as water from bathroom and laundry room sinks to be harvested for gray water systems.   If you are considering a new home, please talk to your Builder about integrating a gray water system into your design and make the most of every drop of water.

What is WaterSense?

The Federal Government EPA’s WaterSense program labels plumbing fixtures for efficiency and performance.  The labels indicate whether low-flow fixtures perform as well or better than similar counterparts.   Their website has tools that allow you to search for WaterSense labeled products.  WaterSense labeled products are certified to meet EPA criteria for water efficiency and performance.  Ask your local plumber or homebuilder about WaterSense labeled products.

WaterSense logos will show up on certified WaterSense products.

Plumbing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about technology and its impact but these innovations can immediately impact your home’s aesthetic and impact and your budget and comfort.  Talk to your local plumber or homebuilder today.  And best of all, updating your plumbing fixtures or building with the latest technology provides you the opportunity to take advantage of multiple rebates that may be available from your local utility companies and local and state government.

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Surviving Your Custom Home Build

Over the years, we’ve built many custom homes and know what a stressful time it is for our clients. Below we’ve compiled a “Do” and “Do Not” list to make surviving your custom home build a little easier. However, we’ve also found that time and again, the best tip is assembling your Dream Team!  Each professional on your Dream Team’s job is to bring their expertise to the table to make your dream of owning a custom-built home in beautiful Durango a gratifying reality.  Each professional is filled with their own tips and tricks specific to every part of your new labor of love.

Your Dream Team:

  • The Real Estate Agent
    If you don’t already have a specific property in mind, your Realtor will prove invaluable in your search for just the right location in and among the many beautiful and diverse areas Durango has to offer. Consider bringing your builder along to give you an idea of the real cost of turning that remote land into a buildable lot.
  • The Architect
    Your architect will show you where to place the house to best take advantage of Durango’s stellar views and the varying sunlight, shadows, natural landscape and more by working through the possibilities of the site. Sharing your budget for the house with your architect will make it easier to discuss whether specific features are worth considering for your price range. Most firms have extensive libraries of floorplans that may already be ideal for your taste, needs, budget, and location. Another option includes investing in a custom home plan uniquely created for you that can fully reflect your dream.
  • The Lawyer
    Get everything in writing! This applies to subcontractors, as well. Building a home is a major investment and a small lawyer fee up front could save you thousands of dollars down the line. An extremely detailed contract will be your best friend: there to protect you, speak for you and intercede on your behalf.  If you’ve talked about it, memorialize it in writing.
  • The Structural Engineer
    A structural engineer is a licensed engineering professional who performs design services and structural evaluations. They have extensive training and can provide a wealth of knowledge when it comes to building and designing. Your Structural Engineer’s job is to ensure a sturdy and stable structure and optimal design to prevent disastrous troubles later on.
  • The Banker/Accountant
    Your banker is a critical piece of the process that can save you thousands of dollars in the beginning as well as thousands of dollars of interest over the lifetime of your mortgage. Your Accountant should not only know that Congress has passed many laws recently that are favorable for homebuyers and homebuilders but they will also know about those tax credits for the new energy-efficient windows, insulation, low-flow toilets, geothermal units and more.
  • The Builder
    A well-established local builder should have plenty of nearby subcontractors, suppliers, and resources meaning no costly delays waiting for out-of-town crews and materials. Also, choose a builder that has enough buying strength to offer you the best prices for materials. Look for a builder that has a trustworthy warranty program. And always, always check references from local vendors and previous clients.

Do and Do Not Tips:

DO:

  • Build for Your Future: When planning your home’s layout, think not only about your current lifestyle but also plan for a few years down the road. Will you have children in the home, elderly parents, or special needs? What may be right for you now, may not be right for you in five or even ten years.  And while larger houses may appeal to you now, they are also more expensive and more time-consuming to upkeep, repair, clean and insure.
  • Check References, Licensing and Reputations: Talk to previous clients in detail about how their build went. Visit the final results if you can. Was the job completed on time? On budget?  Were the materials delivered and available for the subcontractors?  Is the homeowner delighted with the design?  Did the Architect meet their needs?  What about the Banker? Or Accountant?  Was the financing in place in time? Are they satisfied with the mortgage? Word-of-mouth references from reliable sources are a good way to measure your Dream Team’s reputations so make sure you ask around.
  • Visit the site … Frequently: Survey the site for progress and assure yourself that you like the way you see things developing. Make the effort to stop by several times each week, preferably daily, to help make decisions.

DO NOT:

  • Go with the Very Latest and Greatest: The very latest technology and state of the art amenities are fantastic but may also be obsolete by the next ‘Black Friday’ sale. Save money and buy products that have been on the market for at least a year or two. And avoid obvious trends. Nothing dates a home like a trend… Have you not forgotten avocado shag carpet and orange countertops?  Consider choosing design classics so that your home always looks current.
  • Don’t skimp on the planning process. This is worth repeating: Don’t skimp on the planning process! Anything on paper is easily changed including floor plans, materials, resources, and design elements. Once you start building, deviations can become extravagant especially once the framing begins. Don’t build before you’re ready!

Many people dream of designing and building their perfect home from the ground up and turning that dream into a reality to enjoy for decades.  Choosing the right professionals can make designing and building your dream home one of life’s greatest joys.

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Off-Grid Essentials: What You Need to Unplug for your Custom Home

Durango is a charming town made up of a colorful and caring group people. Though there are a lot of things that make living within Durango a wonderful choice, many people may prefer the idea of moving beyond the buzz of our town and unplugging from the infrastructure of today. Building an off-grid home, or remodeling your current home to begin an off-grid life, is a rewarding process that will bring you the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home is self-sufficient.

It can seem intimidating at first to begin planning all that is necessary to go off-grid. In truth, building a more conventional home requires the same considerations of building an off- grid home; the real difference lies in the solution to these considerations. Power, water, sewage, these are all things that must be addressed no matter what type of home you’re building. Where the approach to these questions in a conventional build is often to hook up to existing infrastructure, an off-grid home must find solutions in other ways. These options may even save you a bit of stress in the planning process if your location were to require an easement for access to power, water, or waste disposal.

Water

Water is a huge consideration when building or upgrading a home to be off-grid. Running out of water is not a situation that anyone wants to deal with, so securing a dependable source is imperative for any home. Most houses do not have access to a natural body of water on their property, and, in some cases, even those that do may not have the right to use that water. You will likely end up either drilling a well or installing a cistern to be the main water source of your home, both of which are standard systems for conventional houses as well as off-grid homes.

In 2016, a bill was passed into law that allowed for the legal collection of rainwater. This was wonderful news for off-grid homeowners as any additional source of water, especially one was easy to set up as rainwater collection, is wholly welcome. Rainwater should only be relied upon as an auxiliary source. One of the many reasons we love the Durango area is the abundance of sunny days every year. While this is surely not something anyone would wish away, it does mean that rainwater cannot be relied upon as a main supply of water.

Waste Disposal

Much like the options for off-grid water systems, the sewage systems that you will likely consider for your off-grid home are similar to or the same as those used in most conventional rural homes. Installing a septic system with a leach field will likely be the best option to choose for your home. In reality, there is only one other option available for sewage in an off-grid situation due to practicalities and established regulations. Installing a gray water tank to handle the waste water from showers and sinks (which can be reused as flush water) and a composting toilet that drains into a black water tank is a viable option that is a bit more hands on for the homeowner as the tanks need more frequent upkeep.

Energy

One of the first and main things you’ll need to consider, whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your current one, is where you’ll be getting your power from once you’re off-grid. Of course, there is always the option to forgo power altogether and embrace an older lifestyle, but most individuals and families are going to want power in their homes. Energy isn’t just for lights, it can be the source heating (air and water), refrigeration and cooking capabilities. Add in more modern amenities like computers, televisions, microwaves, washers and dryers and you’ll be needing a reliable source of energy to keep you going.

These days, solar panels have become so efficient and affordable that they have become the go-to option for those pursuing an off-grid lifestyle as well as those who are just looking to cut down on their electricity bill. Luckily, Durango is a sunny place to live so, as long as you have unobstructed southern exposure, solar power is a readily accessible resource that you can typically rely on.

While solar power is available to most, hydropower is an energy source that is only available to a lucky few. Not only must one have a natural source of running water accessible from their land, but they must be sure that whichever water source they rely upon will produce year-round energy that won’t run out in the depths of a dry summer or a particularly frigid winter. That being said, if you have that perfect combination don’t hesitate to utilize that resource.

Maybe your new location doesn’t have reliable year-round water or consistent sun exposure but instead, has on oft-overlooked energy source gusting by. Wind energy typically brings to mind images of gigantic industrial wind turbines churning away hundreds of feet in the air, but domestic wind turbines can be a great source of home energy in a much more compact size.

Many homes benefit from using a combination of natural energy sources. In the midst of a string of overcast days in which solar energy is lacking, wind power may be abundant and ease the worries of running out of energy; being set up to use complimentary systems can be advantageous. If you do choose to stick to one source of day-to-day energy, it may be best to prepare for the worst and have a backup generator to rely upon in emergency situations.

All energy systems that rely on collecting power from a natural resource will depend on a bank of batteries to store that energy. These home batteries have developed to high levels of efficiency and storage capacity, and the technology just keeps advancing. Whichever energy system you choose to rely upon, you’ll have a wide array of battery options to choose from to best fit your needs.

It’s worth looking into alternative methods for running systems that will reduce your dependence on electric power. Natural gas can be your source of refrigeration, cooking, and heat. Additionally, a wood burning stove can help keep you super cozy during those cold stretches.

Despite the great leaps in efficiency and capacity there still exist practical limits to what any off-grid system can handle. When relying on such systems it’s prudent to embrace a lifestyle of reduced demand. Being conscientious about the amount of water or energy you use day to day is nearly as important as the physical systems that provide you with those resources. This is not to suggest that you’d be living uncomfortably in an off-grid home. Little changes can add up quickly, such things as installing efficient appliances, designing your home to take advantage of passive solar energy, and any number of smaller thoughtful actions such as turning off all the lights as you leave a room will contribute to a comfortable, care-free and happy life in your off-grid home.

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