• Uncategorized
  • What is district energy?

    connectionsI thought this would be a good time to write about district energy. It has been awhile and I actually had some trouble this week convincing a lender that there is such a thing.

    Most of downtown Saint Paul receives heat and cooling from District Energy on Kellogg Blvd. That is where the plume of steam that you see coming from downtown originates. Buildings are connected to the plant by pipes that carry water to heat exchangers in the buildings.  In the condo buildings the bills are divided up by square footage and split among the residents.

    The hot water district heating system is twice as efficient as the previous steam heating system in downtown Saint Paul; we now heat twice the square footage of building space with the same amount of fuel. The buildings don’t need boilers.

    Heat is generated by hot water and cooling by cold water that is chilled during the night when electric energy costs are the lowest. The plant uses electricity and generates electricity that is sent back to Excel energy. They burn wood waste (biomass) too and sometimes I can smell it.

    Learn more by looking at the District energy web site and remember boys and girls that just because you have not heard of something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. 🙂


  • For Home buyers
  • Energy costs matter

    coinIt wasn’t long ago that most anyone could call Xcel energy and ask about average gas and electric costs for any home. Excel will now only give that information to homeowners. Buyers want to know how much it costs to heat a home during a Minnesota winter. Unfortunately the average costs don’t give us too much information unless we know what the thermostat was set at most of the time.

    Sometimes people shopping for a home think that a home costs more to heat than it actually does and that can cost the homeseller. Home Buyers often decide that homes with older windows cost a lot to heat. It is true that older windows can make a home less energy efficient but they usually don’t cause as much heat loss as poorly insulated attics or crawl spaces that the potential buyer can’t even see.

    Insulation is inexpensive and can often be installed by the homeowner and is often the one thing that will do the most to cut energy costs. A little caulk in the right places can also help reduce heating costs and it is also inexpensive and doesn’t require professional installation.  Heck it might even make sense to buy the house and add insulation. Xcel Energy offers some other helpful tips.

    Homebuyers should ask for average utility costs but should also keep in mind that people use houses differently and costs will go up if more people live in the house or if thermostat is set higher.

    The other challenge home buyers face is understanding what average heating costs are.

    Our home energy costs are slightly higher than average because of my home office. That means that the house is heated and lit more hours of the day than our neighbors who work in offices or buildings away from home.

  • Uncategorized
  • Bad windows

    windowsI have had home buyers have an inspection and ask to have all the windows replaced or ask for a significant amount off the asking price of one of my listings because they didn’t like the windows.

    Most of the homes I sell are old and have old windows. Most of the windows on my own house are 100 years old or more. I know the difference between a good window and a bad one but as a homeowner and a real estate agent it isn’t always clear to me when they have to be replaced.

    Sometimes new storm windows are all that is needed and sometimes windows can be repaired at a fraction of the cost of having new windows installed. Other times it is a matter of caulking and making other repairs.

    Installing new windows in an old house rarely pay for themselves in resale value and may pay for themselves in energy savings in a few decades.

    Homeowners who have replaced windows should not expect to see an increase in the resale value of their house. Home buyers who don’t like the windows in a particular home may be better off buying a home with windows that they do like.

    I have had home buyers make offers on my listings and ask to have all of the windows replaced. I can’t imagine any home owner agreeing to that unless the buyer wants to pay for the windows.

  • Uncategorized
  • Fresh Paint

    paintbrushWhen I am looking at a house I am always a little suspicious of freshly painted basements. I wonder what the seller/owner is trying to hide. Sometimes fresh paint is just fresh paint but not always.

    Occasionally I see rooms that are partially repainted. That always makes me wonder what is under the paint and why part of the room is painted and the other part isn’t. Sometimes there are water stains on a wall that need to be covered and the leaks have been fixed. If that is the case it should be noted on the sellers disclosure.

    Fresh paint is a great way to make a home more salable but hiding damage under paint and not mentioning it on the seller’s disclosure is not a good idea.

    Too many air fresheners and open windows are also a cause for concern, but sometimes the air fresheners are just used to hide the odor of the fresh paint. 🙂