Build Omaha Builds Two Homes for Habitat for Humanity

Once again this year, Build Omaha had the privilege of building two homes for the Omaha Habitat for Humanity in their 2014 Builder's Blitz. Part of our initiative in "Building a Better Omaha" means taking the skills we have and using them to better the lives of families in need that are in in the community. Check out the photos below from our two Blitz homes.

Upgrades to Consider When Building a New Home

As I mentioned in my last post, when building a new home, the decisions seem endless. Many times it can be difficult to determine how to best spend your upgrade dollars and where to invest a little extra versus scale back to fit your budget.

When making selections and choosing your upgrades, focus on items that are more "permanent" in your home. I use permanent in a loose sense, but the following items are areas you may want to consider investing a little extra in because they will be much more difficult or costly to upgrade in the future. While I always recommend exercising good judgment and staying within your budget, it may be valuable to spend money in these areas to get it right the first time around, particularly in today's low interest rate environment:  

  • Kitchens and bathrooms - Kitchen and bathroom remodels can be some of the most expensive updates you can make in a home. I would recommend picking something style-wise that will stand the test of time - both functionally and visually. This goes for cabinetry, countertops, hardware and fixtures.
  • Structural elements - Think floor plan, windows, beams to eliminate poles, architectural interest, additional outlets, etc. Things that are the core structure of your home that may require more extensive construction down the road in order to change/add.
  • Flooring selection - These may be something you feel you can easily change, but down the road, you will do everything to avoid it. Don't skimp on these items, particularly if they add to the functionality of your home.
  • Trim and moldings - If you have the option to upgrade your trim and/or moldings, it will be to your advantage to do so in the home building stage.
  • Lot location - You could build the most perfect-to-you home, but if it's not in a location where you want to live or where you spend most of your time, you likely won't be happy in the long-run. Consider your lifestyle, job location, school district, etc. before picking the right lot to build your new home.

Remember, you don't have make all your upgrades immediately - especially if you plan to live in your new home for the long term. Therefore, if you need to scale back on some decisions, choose those items that will be easier and more cost-effective to upgrade on your own down the road {light fixtures, wall color, closet organizers, etc.}. 

Lastly, be sure to make upgrades that will make YOU happy. Remember, you're the one living in your new home!

What is a Heat Pump?

Ground Source Heat Pumps, or more commonly referred to as geothermal heat pumps are one of the most talked about heating and cooling systems in the consumer market today. Consumers are excited about the incredible energy savings that can be had by installing one of the most efficient heat pumps on the market. The problem you ask? Most contractors and homeowners don’t understand this “new technology” and the benefits they can get by installing geothermal. I will give you some history of the technology and some tips for selecting the right contractor for the job. 

Ground source heat pumps have existed for well over 60 years. There is a myth of it being a new technology, the truth is, it is just misunderstood and some HVAC contractors just choose to not install them for fear of how they actually work, or don’t have the knowledge to design it. These systems can achieve energy efficiency ratios (EER) of 41, and a coefficient of performance (COP) of 5.3. The higher the numbers the less money you spend running it, similar to the gas MPG of your vehicles. Air source heat pumps cannot reach 50% of that efficiency and don’t perform well when the temps drop in the single digits. The rate of return on most ground source heat pumps is 3-10 years or sooner with the benefit of tax incentives or power company rebates. These rebates change yearly so be sure to research these costs as they can save you thousands off the initial investment.

The key to selecting the right contractor for your ground source heat pump is to make sure they are designing the system properly.  Otherwise, the expected energy savings may not be attained. Make sure installing contractor does the at a minimum calculations called: Manual J and Manual D. Manual J is a calculation which determines the heating and cooling loads on your home based off your homes orientation, outdoor design temperatures, R-Values of the building shell, interior loads, and window performance. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for a copy of this Manual J load calculation report. If your contractor doesn’t ask questions about those design values, he may not be sizing it correctly. Manual D takes the design a step further, and designs the ductwork for optimum velocities and pressures needed for correct air delivery. This calculated by using design parameters from the equipment’s blower performance charts and pressure drops on the duct system. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for a copy of the Manual D calculation report. The final crucial step for a high performing geothermal system is to ensure the water loop field is designed correctly. Your contractor designing the well systems must research and understand soil types and the ability of the soil to transfer energy. Rock and clay type soils hold more energy therefore the loops may be shorter. Sandy soils absorb less energy therefore your loop field will need to be deeper or more loops may be added.

If done right on new construction, geothermal systems can reduce the HERS score by up to 25 points.  With current tax incentives and rebates, they typically cost $4000-$6000 more than a high performing standard system can pay for themselves in less than 5 years.