It’s that time of year when feed stores like J&T Feeds, in Greeley display their oh so fuzzy and adorable baby chicks. Be forewarned if your kiddos tag along on the next shopping trip – you just may end up loading the vehicle with a crate full of chicks. Not to mention blueprints for a hen house. It nearly happened to my friend in Brighton.
Before you make any rash decisions about raising backyard chickens, always check local ordinances to determine whether chicken keeping is allowed in your area. If you have a fondness for roosters, just know they’re not welcomed creatures in many towns.
Wondering how to build a chicken coup? Larimer County Planning Department is good resource to learn about permits and state regulations since the rules vary widely. The Humane Society is another valuable resource.
“People who live in City of Fort Collins and Loveland can contact Larimer Humane Society Animal Protection and Control for questions about raising urban chickens,” said Rigo Neira, director of animal protection and control with Larimer Humane Society.
Part of the permitting is designed to keep predators like fox and hawks out of chicken enclosures, he said. A proper enclosure not only protects your flock but also keeps them covered.
J&T Feed carries many of the supplies needed to keep your chickens happy. Knowledgeable staff can help answer questions you have and steer you away from common pitfalls.
Experienced in keeping chickens, staff associate Teri Segelke with J&T Feed said constant handwashing before and after handling chickens is crucial. That’s because infected chickens can transmit salmonella to your family – and you can also transmit diseases to them, she said.
Another tip is to keep tabs on your outdoor footwear. Chicken droppings are highly toxic and you don’t want to track it through your home.
> J&T Feeds, 4835 West 10th St., Greeley, 970.378.0240, jtfeeds.com.
Adopting a series of small eco-friendly habits at home isn’t just great for the environment. These sustainable strategies can also save you money on your utility bills, and, in some cases, lessen health risks.
From radon testing to detecting water leaks and taking energy-saving measures, we’ve rounded up ways that you and your family can lead a more sustainable and safer lifestyle, starting at home. Ahead of Earth Day (it’s April 22 this year), here are some easy-to-implement tips that are good for you, your wallet and Mother Earth.
Saving Energy (And Money) At Home
A home that runs on natural gas uses three times less energy than an all-electric home, according to Atmos Energy, which delivers natural gas to roughly 120,000 customers throughout Colorado, including Greeley and surrounding areas in the northeast.
An efficient energy source, natural gas will give you immediate heat for cooking, bathing and drying clothes. To help you trim back on your utility bills and conserve even more energy, you can make some easy adjustments at home. Here are some energy-saving tips Atmos Energy provided the Greeley Tribune:
Avoid blocking vents with furniture, area rugs or draperies. Have your heating contractor inspect and seal ductwork to make sure your home has adequate air flow. Leaky ducts can lose up to one-fifth of the air passing through them.
Use a programmable or smart thermostat to turn down temps automatically. For example, lowering your thermostat from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees at night can save you $10 for every $100 of heating costs.
Insulate older windows using storm or thermal windows with double-paned glass. You can also seal leaks around windows, doors and openings by using caulking and weather stripping.
Take advantage of Colorado’s famed sunshine! Let in the sun’s warmth on sunny days by opening draperies and blinds. Just remember to close them at night to insulate against cold air.
Put water-flow restrictors in showerheads and faucets to scale back on your hot water use. Did you know that water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators can save up to 50 percent on your hot water use.
Test for Radon
Did you know that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer? Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless radioactive gas caused by the natural breakdown of uranium. The state of Colorado has abundant uranium deposits, and nearly 50 percent of all homes in the state have high radon levels, explains Gabri Vergara, consumer protection manager with the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment.
“The only way to know if your home has radon is to test,” Vergara says. “High radon levels can be easily reduced by installing a radon mitigation system, which typically costs no more than the cost of replacing your hot water heater.”
Weld County offers free-short term radon test kits. These are available one per household while supplies last. Kits can be requested online at: drhomeair.com/weld. Additional test kits can be purchased at a reduced cost at drhomeair.com/colorado.
“Testing your home is easy and doesn’t require a professional,” Vergara says. “Reducing the radon level in your home could reduce your and your family’s cancer risk.”
If you determine you have radon levels of 4 or greater picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air, you can install a mitigation system.
Check for Water Leaks
The average American household wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water each year from easy-to-fix water leaks. To put that in perspective, you could wash 270 loads of laundry with all of that wasted water. The City of Greeley Water Department participates in a Fix a Leak Week, a March event that helps educate residents on the easy steps they can take to save water.
Here are three easy steps the city recommends for conserving water:
Check for leaks. A simple way to detect toilet leaks, for instance, is by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Wait 10 minutes and then see if it appears in the toilet bowl. You’ll also want to look for leaky faucets.
Twist and tighten hose and pipe connections. Grab a wrench and firmly turn any leaking faucets or showerheads. To save your household more than 500 gallons each year, add a WaterSense labeled aerator onto each bathroom faucet to conserve water without noticing a difference in flow.
Replace fixtures with WaterSense labeled models if you can’t fix the drips. These models are certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well or better than standard models. Replacing a showerhead along can save you up to 2,700 gallons.
Preparing Your Sprinklers for Summer
Leaks in your sprinkler system can cause your water bill to skyrocket. Ahead of summer, you can get a courtesy sprinkler inspection from Conserva Irrigation of Fort Collins, a company that provides sprinkler repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. If you’re looking to install or upgrade your sprinkler systems, Conserva Irrigation’s system can help you reduce water waste by up to 60 percent, which will yield you savings on your monthly water bill.
> Atmos Energy: For more information about natural gas, contact Atmos Energy, 1.866.286.6700, atmosenergy.com.
> Greeley Water and Sewer: For more water-saving tips, visit greeleygov.com/services/ws/home.
> Conserva Irrigation of Fort Collins: For more information about sprinkler inspections and other services from Conserva Irrigation of Fort Collins (which serves the Northern Colorado area, including Greeley), call 970.633.3083 or visit conservairrigation.com/fort-collins.
Technology is bringing heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems out of the dark for today’s homeowners who are increasingly involved in making sure their homes are safe and comfortable.
Following are five HVAC innovations that are changing the future of our homes, according to Scott Butterworth, owner/operations manager of McCreery and Sun of Colorado, which is located in Greeley.
1. “Probably the most common concern and the one people are talking about right now is indoor air quality,” primarily out of concern for COVID-19 transmission and allergies, Butterworth said. New air-quality systems are made for today’s homes that can trap allergens and germs because homes are better insulated. One air purifier by Honeywell, for example, uses ultraviolet light to help clear the area of allergens, mold and even odors. Another company, Global Plasma Solutions, uses technology to produce positive and negative ions to rid the air of viruses, bacteria, volatile organic compounds, smoke and other airborne issues.
Butterworth said he tested the GPS equipment in his own home prior to offering it to customers. He noticed the system filter became quite dark in the first few weeks, indicating that it was pulling particles from the air efficiently. After running the system for six months, the filters were light gray, which showed that the air was much cleaner.
2. It’s no surprise that homes are becoming smarter, as in smart technology. And that applies to heating and air conditioning, as well. Programmable thermostats have given way to smartphone apps that allow homeowners to control heat, air and timing from a distance. “Home automation is another big thing. Originally, we got into it through WiFi thermostats – communicating on your phone to see what your house was doing,” Butterworth said. But technology now allows even more control by alerting homeowners to issues such as water leaks. And customers are requesting more connections to services such as Alexa to keep tabs on their heating and cooling in a more targeted and personal approach that matches their needs.
3. High-efficiency equipment is becoming increasingly important in today’s home. The idea of saving energy and being kinder to the environment is appealing to many customers. Butterworth said, “I think there’s a lot of people who don’t quite understand it. But this new equipment saves on utility costs,” he said. “This efficiency helps with comfort in the house, and the heating system can run a little longer as far as the blower operating, and it saves you money.”
He said he recently led a training class on a high-efficiency tankless water heater. “Right now, a traditional water heater will try to keep 40 or 50 gallons of water heated, which is not efficient. But we now have the ability to go to 96 percent or even 99 percent on a tankless water system that only heats the water that is being used. It saves money and reduces carbon emissions.”
4. Solar systems also are becoming more accessible in homes, McCreery said. New technology allows energy generated from solar to be stored, so concerns about reliability due to cloudy days or low sun exposure no longer exist. McCreery and Sun installs solar water heating systems and offers a variety of solar services, such as panel repair via certified technicians. Innovation in photovoltaic systems is allowing customers to craft energy sources to their needs. Butterworth said he had a customer use a photovoltaic system to heat their floors in addition to providing their lighting.
McCreery and Sun works with the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and Xcel Energy to help customers quality for solar rebates, which can offset additional front-end expenses for equipment and help homeowners save on utility costs.
5. Innovation also has reached customer service. The COVID-19 pandemic, out of necessity, prompted additional safety measures, Butterworth said, such as more attention to cleaning and wearing masks. Some of those safety measures will continue, such as asking customers if they prefer that technicians wear masks and using bags to remove air filters to reduce contamination. That attention to detail is being used to keep customers safe as well as employees.
Advances in technology also are prompting customers to become more savvy consumers. Online information and social media bring more attention to new products for the home. “Out of 100 customers, 10-15 of then, when they call, they are looking for one-specific product, such as a WiFi stat that is compatible with Alexa. They know what they want,” he said. “It’s refreshing when you do get a phone call from a customer in that 15 percent who says they are looking for a specific product. We can help them facilitate their goals.”
> McCreery and Sun of Colorado. Contact the company at McCreeryandSun.com, call 970.339.5740; or follow them on Facebook. The company offers 24-hour emergency service.
When it comes to finding the right home loan, there is no shortage of choices, and making the right decision can seem overwhelming. Some types of loans are better than others – especially when it comes to a specific project like a home remodel.
Barry Durhman is a mortgage loan originator with Guardian Mortgage, a division of Sunflower Bank. We sat down with Durhman, a true expert in home loans, to get his advice on the best loans for your next home renovation project. Here are his tips:
DECIDE ON A LUMP SUM OF CASH OR INCREMENTAL PAYMENTS
If you are looking to renovate your home, Durhman says the first thing to ask yourself is this: Do I need all the cash upfront or in increments? This primary factor will dictate what loan options are available to you.
CHOOSE BETWEEN REFINANCING AND LIQUIDATION
Once you know how you need the money – lump sum or incremental – you can decide whether you want to refinance your first mortgage or liquidate the equity in a “cash-out” refinance. “The good news is that financing the renovation costs into your primary mortgage makes the interest paid tax deductible,” says Durhman.
Durhman adds that some homeowners can look into a second position mortgage, where you will receive all the funds upfront or in a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) and then advance the funds as needed throughout your home improvement project. But this option comes with drawbacks. “If considering a second position mortgage where your first position mortgage remains as is, you will be subject to higher rates than refinancing your first mortgage and the interest may not be tax deductible,” says Durhman.
CONSIDER THE TIMELINE
“Renovation loans can take longer to get approved than a traditional refinance loan,” says Durhman. This is because the approval process must include not only the borrower’s credit approval, but also approval of the general contractor and the renovation project. “This requires added documentation about the general contractor and project,” says Durhman, “which is submitted to the appraiser to determine the as-completed value of the home. After the renovation loan closes and funds, the renovation project begins and there is a detailed process followed to fund the project.”
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CURRENT LOW RATES
If you have the equity in your home, Durhman says the best route right now, with current low interest rates, is to get a traditional cash-out refinance or add a second mortgage, like a HELOC. “This avoids the need to have the more detailed approval project and post-closing draw process,” he says. “However, renovation loans meet a valuable need in the market when you do not have the equity present in the home to access the funds through a cash-out refinance or HELOC.”
Above all, Durhman advises loan shoppers to consider three components of their renovation loan: rates, fees and turn-times on the underwriting. This will give you a clear idea of how much the project is going to cost you, and how long it’s going to take, so there won’t be any surprises. These will vary between loan providers, so it’s important to do your research and find the best match for your needs.
Many Northern Colorado families have ended up in hot water in the past year and there is a simple explanation.
“Homeowners looked at their backyards a lot and decided they needed to have a spa,” says Cindy Strick, finance and human resources manager for Aqua Spas.
Some homebound folks needed the stress relief of a hot tub and its multiple massaging jets, but many other customers ordered above-ground swim spas as a new way to exercise at home for themselves and their children who are high school and college athletes.
With 25 years of experience in hot tub sales and service, Fort Collins-based Aqua Spas is the exclusive Master Spa Dealer for the state for over 25 years as well as Nebraska and Wyoming. Aqua Spas also features the line of spas and swim spas from Olympic gold medal legend Michael Phelps.
For homeowners considering the purchase of a hot tub or swim spa, Aqua Spa’s Cindy Strick suggests considering a few questions first:
How much space do you have available on your deck and in your backyard?
How many people will regularly make use of the spa?
Will they use it for relaxation, therapy, exercise or maybe all of the above?
What is your total budget, including a budget for ongoing maintenance?
“We have four different levels of hot tubs depending on your budget needs and the features you want,” Cindy Strick says. For instance, the top-of-the-line Michael Phelps Legend Series spa is a spacious 108- by 94- by 38-inches with four powerful pumps supplying an array of 72 jets. This spa seats eight adults comfortably.
“Swim spas have been especially popular. We have customers who are training for the Ironman. Parents have gotten them for their kids who are swimmers in high school and college,” Cindy Strick says, noting that swim spas are much less expensive to install than a full-size swimming pool because they don’t involve excavation and require less maintenance.
Strick notes that swim spas are not just for swimming. For instance, the Michael Phelps Swim Spas include a Therapy Seat with jets in a therapeutic “X” pattern on the hot tub end of the spa.
Security and safety are a paramount concern for spa owners, especially those with young children. Aqua Spas offers covers secured with multiple locks and Auto Covers that open and close themselves with the flick of a switch. The new generation of smart spas can be programmed and controlled using an app on a smartphone or tablet.
Regular maintenance of filtration systems and surfaces is ongoing as any owner of a home hot tub or swim spa knows. Aqua Spa provides detailed training for new owners and all of the spa owners’ manuals are available at the Aqua Spa web site. “We can also provide regular scheduled maintenance services for any spa,” Strick says. The company’s website provides a catalog of essential spa chemicals, supplies and accessories.
A longtime Colorado company, Aqua Spa products are proudly made in the U.S. and no-money-down financing is available.
> Aqua Spas, 4731 W. 10th St., Greeley, 970.352.7140, aquaspasinc.com (Additional locations in Fort Collins, Longmont and Castle Rock).
Being a homeowner means never finishing your long checklist of building and landscaping tasks to get done each season. However, that doesn’t mean you have to contact a dozen Northern Colorado companies whether you need a wall removed, a dumpster delivered or the best battery-powered equipment to cut and trim that lawn.
Greeley’s NS&S Service originally focused on landscaping and installing sod and sprinklers, but as customers requested other services, they expanded the nearly 20-year-old family-owned company.
“Now we specialize in doing a little bit of everything,” says Maria Martinez, a manager at NS&S.
“Everything” includes fencing, painting, cleaning, demolition, property maintenance and more.
NS&S Service also rents roll-off dumpsters for clean-up jobs of all sizes. “A lot of people rent a small 6-yarder for a bathroom demo or a garage clean-out. Unlike trash companies, we rent them by the day and week, not just by the month. We also have pickups for bulk items like couches if you don’t want to go to the dump,” Martinez says.
In the past year as home-bound homeowners took on new building and landscape improvement projects, many realized their old power tools just weren’t up to the job.
As a result, it has been a hectic 12 months at Longmont Outdoor Power Equipment, a family-owned authorized Stihl Dealer that sells new and used equipment and services all makes and models.
“What we have seen is a lot of customers transitioning to equipment powered by newer lithium batteries from gas-powered or corded equipment. The new equipment is more powerful, cleaner and quieter,” says Ryan Brown, manager of Longmont Outdoor Power Equipment.
The Longmont company sells more than fifty pieces of equipment that all can use the same quick-charging battery. “There are several different platforms and price points depending on what you need,” Brown says. His biggest piece of advice for homeowners is to make sure your power equipment is clean, lubricated with cutting surfaces sharpened regularly.