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Shrug off that winter chill with smart home improvement projects

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Updated: 6/10/2013 4:03 pm

(BPT) - Spring is drawing nearer and, for homeowners, now is the time to shrug off the winter chill and think about home improvement plans. Building industry experts say that it's an ideal time to carefully consider and prioritize your plans - both cosmetic and structural.

Understanding what is an essential home improvement and what is purely cosmetic is fundamental for those looking to make a smart investment in their homes. The foundation, for example, is a key investment area during a renovation project. Hiring an energy rater, inspector or appraiser to examine the home will give a better sense of the required work and avoid any subsequent costly headaches.

If you're thinking of going green, small changes such as using compact fluorescent light bulbs can contribute to reducing your home's carbon footprint. Fluorescent light bulbs typically have a longer life and use less energy thereby reducing excessive energy waste as well as monthly energy bills.

Investing in energy-efficient appliances is another effective way to live green and add value to your home. Many modern air conditioners use 30 to 50 percent less energy to produce the same amount of cool air as air conditioners from the 1970s, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Homeowners with an old central air system can consider having a new, more energy efficient HVAC system installed. While these may come with an expensive up-front cost, the savings on energy bills over the long term will prove to be a wise investment. Additionally, the inclusion of other energy efficient appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and dryers will contribute to lower energy bills.

Another significant way to reduce energy consumption is to adequately seal the home to stop air leaks by opting for a smart insulation material. Insulation experts say that homeowners should survey their house from top to bottom, and assess any trouble spots such as drafty areas or cold zones which could be caused by air leakage. Air leakage can limit the effectiveness of heating systems and leave you with higher energy bills. According to InsulationSmart.com, floors, walls and ceilings can account for up to 31 percent of air leakage in a home. Spray foam insulation, which can help combat air leakage, is growing in popularity amongst homeowners since it is an energy-efficient material that delivers year-round benefits. Spray foam insulation, like that available from Icynene, works well in all types of homes across the country, regardless of climate.

Spray foam insulation performs for the life of the property, ensuring that homeowners enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures all year round without overrunning their heating and cooling equipment. Insulation experts from Icynene note that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent. Additionally, spray foam insulation helps minimize random airborne moisture and pollutants from entering the home, ideal for allergy sufferers. More information on the effectiveness of spray foam insulation is available online at www.icynene.com.

Updating your home with cost- and earth-conscious improvements will provide a multitude of benefits. Not only will your home be more comfortable, but you'll be saving money and doing right by the environment.

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