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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Energy-Efficient Appliances: Where to Find Real Savings

April 16th, 2012 by gaelite

In the average U.S. home, the electricity used to power household appliances and electronics can amount to as much as 20 percent of your annual utility costs. The energy costs associated with a single device may not seem significant, but together, providing power to our TVs, DVD players, computers, stereos, dishwashers, fridges, washers and dryers, water heaters, air conditioners, and more can really add up. Read on to learn which of your home’s appliances and electronic devices consume the most energy and what you can do to try to bring your electric costs down.

Furnaces and Water Heaters

These two products consume more energy than any others in your home, making it especially important to consider efficiency when you choose which models to install.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ENERGY STAR qualified oil and gas furnaces have annual fuel utilization ratings of 85 to 90 percent or greater, which makes them 15 percent more efficient than standard models. Water heaters are next in terms of energy consumption, and the average household spends between $400 and $600 each year to run them. Again according to the EPA, today’s new ENERGY STAR qualified water heaters include smart design enhancements that increase efficiency and can cut your water heating costs in half.

Refrigerators

Next to your furnace and water heater, your refrigerator is the biggest energy guzzler in your home. To help cut costs, be sure that the fridge you select is the smallest it can be while still providing adequate storage space for all of your family’s food needs. Note that models with freezers on the top or bottom are generally more efficient than side-by-side models. Here, too, look for the ENERGY STAR label, which can reduce an energy expenditure of more than $100 a year to run the fridge to just half that.

Stoves

Consider how often you really cook when choosing between ovens and stovetops. Today, there is little difference between gas and electric stovetops in terms of cost. You should make your decision between the two based on your cooking comfort – but do bear in mind that gas stovetops require less energy than electric stovetops. In the case of ovens, though, an electric model makes more sense if you do a lot of baking or other oven cooking. You might consider purchasing the units separately, which gives you the flexibility to choose a gas range and an electric oven.

Clothes Washers and Dryers

According to the EPA, front-loading horizontal-axis washers use 50 percent less energy, less water, and less soap, which can translate into savings on average of about $95 a year for the average household. And by choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified washer, you’ll save enough over its lifetime to cover the cost of a matching drier. ENERGY STAR does not label dryers because most consume around the same amount of energy. But to cut costs and energy waste, look for one with a moisture sensor that will cause it to shut off automatically as soon as clothes are dry.

Air Conditioners

Once again, ENERGY STAR is the label to look for when selecting room air conditioning units. Models that bear the label consume 10 percent less energy than models that don’t. In fact, the EPA reports that if every room air conditioner sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR qualified, it would prevent 1.3 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of 115,000 cars. Also be sure to select an air condition that is the right size for the room you are trying to cool and not too big.

 

 
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Down Payment Options

 

One of the components a lender uses to help determine what loan amount to approve is your down payment. A down payment not only serves as a commitment on a borrower.s behalf to make good on a loan, but acts as a lender.s guarantee to minimize risk in case a borrower defaults on a loan. The more of your own cash that you can put down for a loan, the easier it is to qualify for a higher loan amount or a lower mortgage payment.

Alternative sources of funding

Since most borrowers do not have large cash reserves on-hand for a down payment, there are other alternative sources for funding. Besides tapping into your own savings accounts, other resources may include friends, relatives, 401(k) plans, proceeds from stock sales, appraised assets, even a co-signer.

Many cities, looking to expand their communities, even offer their own down payment subsidy programs for cash-strapped buyers. It.s not uncommon to be gifted $5,000 to $10,000 without expectation of re-payment.

Loan-to-value ratio

A down payment is always expressed as a percent of the sales price and often referred to by lenders at the .loan-to-value ratio. or LTV. For instance, a $250,000 mortgage with an LTV of 80 percent would require 20 percent down or $50,000. Using a down payment calculator can help you see what influence a different down payment can have on your monthly mortgage.

Other down payment options

Some banks even offer zero-down percentage loans which require no down payment. These types of loans are typically directed at first-time buyers with good credit who are qualified to make the monthly payment but cannot come up with a down payment. However, without a down payment the buyer has no equity in the house and the lender is at greater risk, so the interest rate could be higher.

Another alternative to buying a home without committing to a down payment is to consider a lease option to buy. As a renter, you have an option anytime during the term of the lease, to buy the property at an agreed upon price from the owner. In some instances, the money you.ve put toward rent can be fully or partially applied toward the down payment.

Sellers can also assist buyers with their down payment. By offering a carry-back mortgage, sellers can sell their house faster in a competitive market and buyers can purchase a home they otherwise might not be able to afford.

 
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