Way back in 2012, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was being phased in. One of the most useful — and controversial — results was that old fashioned light bulbs had to be reinvented. All light bulbs manufactured after the phase out dates, which varied from state to state, had to use 25 percent less energy than their ancestors.
With that one change in the way light bulbs would be made rose three major options for homeowners: the curly compact fluorescent bulb, halogen incandescents and the light emitting diode. Although there are some specific uses for halogen incandescents, the most commonly used bulbs in residential settings are CFLs and LEDs. Of the two, the LED is currently the most cost-effective option, even when adjusting for the difference in price.
What is an Light Emitting Diode?The part that actually creates the light in an LED bulb is a tiny cell the size of a fleck of pepper. Using a mix of blue, red and green LEDs, a bulb manufacturer is able to create white, directional light that costs almost nothing to power.
Unlike incandescent bulbs that waste electricity by converting up to 90 percent of the energy they use into heat and CLFs that release about 80 percent of their energy as heat, LEDs release so little heat that they’re often cool to the touch even after hours of use.
An Energy Star rated LED bulb uses significantly less electricity (up to 75 percent!) and lasts up to 25 times longer than traditional lighting. This is no small thing, especially when you consider that every home, every business, every street light, may eventually sport these bulbs.
Doing the Math: Cost Savings With LEDs
The United States Department of Energy already did the math, a lucky break for bulb-shoppers everywhere. When new bulbs are compared to a traditional 60 watt bulb, the 12 watt LED outshines them all.
According to the Department of Energy, those LEDs use 75 to 80 percent less electricity than the 60 watt bulb and only costs about $1.00 to use for two hours each day for a year. Oh, and the bulb life is approximately 25,000 hours, compared to 1,000 hours for the old reliable.
This means that if you have, say, 50 bulbs in your house and they’re all running for five hours a day (a more realistic number than two hours), your cost to light up with an LED is about $125 each year, for 13.7 years, provided energy costs remain stable.
The same lighting use with the old fashioned incandescent would cost you $600 each year, plus you’d be replacing bulbs every 6.57 months. Sure, maybe they cost a buck or two each, but the constant replacement and increased electricity costs certainly can make a big impact on your pocketbook.
Choosing the Right Bulbs
Along with better lighting standards came a way to compare bulbs across platforms. After all, who really knows which CFL is equivalent to that LED or halogen incandescent option? The Lighting Facts Label solved that problem. Instead of measuring bulbs by the power they consume, it measures them by the light they produce.
Now, a 1600 lumen CFL, LED and halogen incandescent are easy to price compare. This label also includes information on how much energy the bulb uses annually, its lifespan and what color the light is that it produces, measured by the correlated color temperature on the Kelvin scale. It’s an easy way to know that you’re getting exactly what it is that you want in a bulb.
You found the perfect home. It’s gorgeous, energy efficient, in a great neighborhood and well within your budget. You wonder to yourself, “why is this perfect home still on the market?” Then you read the disclosures. Your perfect pad has a serious radon problem.
Radon and You: 7 Things to Know
Radon is a reasonably common problem in homes, so if you come across a house that you absolutely adore, you’re not even remotely out of luck. Instead, you may reap the benefits of someone else’s lack of information about the gas. Here are seven things to know if you’re considering a home with a radon problem:
Just because radon is everywhere doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Radon mitigation systems are very good at removing large amounts of radon from any home. Most work by literally sucking the radon right out of the crawlspace or from underneath a poured concrete slab like what you’d find in a basement.
Slabs must be sealed and barriers installed in crawl spaces to ensure that the radon has no place to go but up and out the vacuum system. Once released into the air above your home, it’s no longer a threat and you can breathe deeply once again.
If you need a radon vacuum, make sure yours comes with a continuous monitoring system as well. It might cost a little bit extra, but you’ll know exactly if or when radon levels are unacceptable. Since levels vary throughout the year, this is a good investment in your future.
When you moved into your new house, the neighbors were so friendly. You almost felt bad about putting up a fence, but you promised your dog he’d have plenty of room to frolick when you finally owned your own little piece of land. So you did, and now those same neighbors are giving you the cold shoulder, along with a letter from their attorney.
What in the world caused them to turn from the nicest people you’d ever meet to ice-in-their-veins cold? According to their lawyer (they’re not speaking to you anymore), you’ve encroached on their property with your fence.
Property Line Disputes: The Basics Please note: the laws that revolve around property line disputes vary wildly from state to state, so this topic can only be addressed in broad strokes. I’ll give you a good place to start to understand why your neighbors are so angry, though.
All you wanted to do was build a fence. You thought the place you stuck it looked right — it was kinda along the middle of the space between the two houses. You kind of figured that if you were off by a foot or two, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. As it turns out, people get really touchy about a foot of land these days.
What’s happened here is that you’ve accidentally taken the first step to adverse possession of the neighbor in question’s land. This threatens to decrease their property value, since you could, in theory, become the legal owner of that land given enough time and effort. Of course, you didn’t mean to do it, but they can’t see that right now. Right now they’re just angry.
What is Adverse Possession?
Adverse possession, as defined legally, is when a random person occupies your property in an open, hostile and continuous way. Breaking it down:
The open: The occupant made no secret of being there. They’re not hiding or trying to be sneaky.
The hostile: You didn’t tell this person it was ok to hang out, they didn’t seek your permission anyway, maybe they thought it was theirs or maybe they just didn’t care who owned the place.
The continuous: The usurper is there for a long time without stop. In some states, this can be as little as about five years, in others it might be 20. It’s important for affected owners to act fast if they don’t know which category their state is in.
By not having your property surveyed before putting up your fence, you’ve done all of these things, though obviously not intentionally. But now that you know, it’s time to do something to clear the air.
Some Solutions to Boundary Woes
In this scenario, you’re the accidental assailant, but it could just as easily happen in reverse, where you’re the one whose new neighbor built a fence that you weren’t happy about. Either way, the approach is similar.
Step 1. Talk to the neighbor. If you did the encroaching, apologize profusely and throw yourself on the mercy of your neighbor. Explain that you didn’t realize you needed a survey or that you thought you were putting the fence in the right spot. Often people will surprise you with their ability to forgive if you’re willing to meet them part of the way.
Step 2. Figure out your options. With the neighbors warmed up again, it’s time to figure out how to solve the problem. You could simply have a survey, dig up the fence and move it to the proper location. But, let’s say that’s currently cost-prohibitive, what with the recent house purchase and fence erection both taking up a lot of your free cash. To protect your neighbor’s rights, start with one of the following:
* A notarized letter granting you permission to use the land. This way, you’re openly declaring that your intentions are not hostile and the owner is giving you permission to be on their land. You can leave your fence in place — at least for now.
* A rental agreement. By agreeing to a small rental fee (even as low as a few bucks a month), you immediately acknowledge that your fence is on the neighbor’s property. Should they want to sell their home, they could simply terminate the rental agreement and you’d have to move the fence. It might be a good idea to stipulate a deadline for moving the fence just to protect everyone.
Whatever you choose, make sure to file a copy with your county recorder so that it becomes a public agreement. This will help your neighbor by creating a permanent record that any appraiser or title researcher could pull up later should the fence problem threaten to cloud their title.
What If You Can’t Come to Terms?
If you’re in the situation where the shoe’s on the other foot — your neighbor built his fence on your lot and you sent the letter from the attorney, then you’re the one that’s angry and frustrated at such ruthless behavior. Remember that it could have been a simple oversight, but definitely try to work it out with minimal bloodshed initially.
If, on the other hand, you went to chat with the neighbor and he told you he liked your lot and wanted to keep it for himself like some sort of real estate pirate, well, you can’t just leave it like that. You may have to take him to court to settle the issue (if you live in a planned neighborhood with an active HOA, they may have a mediation process in place to handle these problems).
In the weeks leading up to court, you may be given any or all of these options by the neighbor’s attorney as a settlement: sell your property, split the difference or give up and let the pirate win. Likely end results of these choices include:
Sell: You lose a piece of property that could affect your real estate values. If it’s a few inches, maybe it’s not a big thing, but if it’s several feet all the way down your 200 foot long lot line, it could be an issue. Consult with a Realtor or appraiser for more on the value impact, as well as how much compensation to seek.
Split the difference: You’re not admitting defeat, but it’s still not the outcome you’d hoped for. You still lose something, though not as much as you would have if you hadn’t gone to court. If the neighbor will pay you something for your loss, consider it.
Give up: Don’t do this. It’s just like selling, except you don’t get any compensation for the property you’ve lost.
Always consult with your lawyer before making a final decision on how to handle a property line dispute.
It Might Not Be Too Late to Avoid Trouble…If that fence hasn’t gone up yet, it’s not too late to avoid all this hassle by hiring a surveyor. They’ll locate the pins planted at the corners of your lot and mark the line clearly, so both you and the neighbor know exactly where the boundary is located.