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Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.

Metal Roof Retrofitting: Is It Worth Your Time?

Suitable for use in both residential and commercial construction, metal roofs have seen explosive growth over the past few years. Although it's still a relatively recent innovation, consumers have been quick to embrace the new style and retrofit their own traditional roofs. Is it really worth your time, or is the trend of metal roofing nothing more than the latest fad?


Source: Pexels

A New, Lightweight Material

With most metal roofs weighing approximately 100 pounds per square, the material is significantly less than standard tile or concrete roofing. The reduced weight also makes installation quicker and easier, especially considering many metal roofs are installed over preexisting, traditional structures.

One of the biggest drawbacks of today's metal roofs is the difference in pricing. Costing upwards of $200 per square, with some installations reaching as high as $600 per square, the initial project isn't financially feasible for everyone. However, the fact that your new roof will last longer with less maintenance requirements means there is a potential for some serious cash savings in the end.

An Investment in Your Future

Because traditional roofs need to be replaced every 20 to 30 years, there is quite a bit of expense involved in maintaining them. Conversely, metal roofs that have been properly installed and maintained are capable of lasting 50 years or even longer. Many homeowners will be able to install a metal roof once and never have to worry about it again.

Some homeowners — and neighbors — simply don't like the aesthetics of the modern metal roof. However, metal roof styles have come a long way. With the variety of options available, including those made to look like wood or stone, you’ll likely find something that appeals to you.

Some installations are also rather noisy, which can create even more of a nuisance for your community. It's worth taking the time to consult with your closest neighbors, ask for their input and let them know your plans. This simple gesture can go a long way in avoiding future problems.

Metal roofs that become dented or damaged are even uglier. Minor repairs can be done relatively easily, but it will cost you. Moreover, it might be difficult to match the original shingles or materials used 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. Proactive homeowners might consider purchasing additional metal upfront to avoid this issue, but that adds to the overall bill of your new roof.

It's recommended to check with your local code authority to determine if one or two layers of shingles are allowable for recover, as well. Some cities and municipalities require specific approval via special inspections, permits or standards that must be met when upgrading your roof. Failure to abide by any established rules or regulations could result in serious fines as well as the complete removal of any new metal you've installed thus far.

Not only could this result in serious damage to your existing roof structure, but the added amount of time and money spent in this scenario could also put a serious wrench in your home improvement plans.

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Source: Pexels

Not a DIY Job

Installing a metal roof is not a do-it-yourself job that can be completed in a weekend. Unlike traditional roofs, which can be installed with little difficulty by a team of novice laborers, metal finishes are best left to the professionals. Some DIY kits and metal shingle packages are available, but these still require the supervision of a metal roofing expert.

Traditional roofing utilizes a very basic set of construction tools and hardware. Hammers, nails, pry bars, shovels, caulking and various wood saws are enough for most residential applications. Metal roofs, on the other hand, require all of these tools plus various snips, benders, seamers and clamps that might not be found in the average roofer's toolbox.

You Will Enjoy the Benefits of Your Metal Roof for Years to Come

The benefits of metal roofs far outweigh the negatives. While there is a bit of maintenance and upkeep to stay on top of, as well as significant upfront costs for the initial construction, these expenses are offset by the increased longevity and durability of metal roofs. Most homeowners will be able to enjoy their new roof for decades to come.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

What's So Hot About Infrared Grills?

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Cooking our food over an open flame is something humans have been doing since we discovered fire. In the ensuing millennia, however, little has changed about the basic process of outdoor cooking. That is until the 1980s came along. That’s when infrared cooking technology was developed by Bill Best, founder of the Thermal Engineering Corp.

Infrared cooking employs radiation to help gas grills cook food faster and more evenly. Gas burners super heat an emitter plate, made from ceramic or stainless steel, which sits just below the grill’s grates. Heat from the plates then radiates evenly to the food on the grill, rather than flickering and flaring as can be the case with standard gas grills.

Initially, due to its high cost, this technology was only used in high-end commercial kitchens. But in 2,000, the expiration of Thermal Engineering Corp’s patents opened up the technology to home chefs. While early consumer infrared grills were eye-wateringly expensive, that’s no longer the case. Today, infrared grills are similar in cost to standard gas grills. In many higher-end grills, an infrared burner is incorporated in the design along with the standard burners, giving you more options for cooking your meats and veggies.

So why would you want to incorporate infrared into your grilling arsenal? Because it cooks meat faster and more evenly for a juicier result than its traditional gas grill counterpart. Here’s a rundown of the benefits of infrared grills.

Infrared vs. Convection

Gas and charcoal grills cook primarily through convection: hot air circulating the food, trapped by the lid of the grill. This can lead to food drying out. With infrared, the heat radiates directly into the food, cooking it more quickly so that it stays juicy. It also means you can leave the lid open when cooking, helping you keep a closer eye on how your food is cooking.

Faster Cooking

Infrared grills can heat up to extremely high temperatures in two to three minutes (compared to 10 minutes for traditional gas and closer to 20 for charcoal grills). Food also cooks in around half the time. Because consistent heat is given off, the ambient air temperature has no effect on the grill—meaning you can cook the same way in the dead of winter as you do at the peak of the summer.

Need even more convincing? Quick preheat times and half the cooking time mean less fuel used overall, making infrared grilling a very energy-efficient method of cooking.

More Even Cooking

In many infrared grills, the ceramic or stainless steel emitter plate are layered with glass plates that direct air flow away from the food, providing more evenly diffused heat. That consistent heat flow results in more evenly cooked foods than traditional convection-based grills.

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Fewer Flare-Ups

While some people might like the charcoal-y taste of burnt skin, with infrared those meat-charring flare-ups are a thing of the past. Because of the design of the burner, dripping fat is less likely to reach the open flame, preventing those unexpected flare-ups.

Adapting to cooking with an infrared grill can take some time, so don’t be surprised if you burn a few steaks at first. It cooks so much faster that you will need to stay with the food until you’re used to the differing cooking times. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find cooking with infrared means far less time hovering over the grill and far more time to spend hanging out with friends and family over a good home-cooked meal.

Jennifer Tuohy writes for a variety of publishers, including The Home Depot, on several subjects, but her passion lies with technology. She is fascinated with topics such as infrared grilling and home automation. To find more grilling options like the infrared grill Jennifer talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The ABCs of LED Lighting (Infographic)

We can all agree that the shift from energy-sucking incandescent bulbs to the clean, green power of LED lighting has been a great boon to the planet. But when it comes to buying a bulb, it can feel like you need a textbook to navigate the myriad choices. From the collection of numbers and letters on the packaging that resembles an algebra equation, to all the new vocabulary (just what’s a Kelvin got to do with your bathroom light fixture?), confusion creeps in quickly.

Help is at hand. Use this infographic to brighten your mind (and your bathroom) by cutting through all the jargon and soaking up just the facts in your quest to flip the switch from incandescent to LED.

LED Lighting Infographic

Jennifer Tuohy shares tips on green living and sustainability. She writes for The Home Depot on topics ranging from upcycling old rainboots to replacing your incandescent light bulbs. If you are switching over to LED light bulbs, you can find a large assortment here at The Home Depot. Read all of Jennifer’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Get Money for Your Green Upgrades


For first-time home buyers who are willing to put in a little sweat equity, and make their new homes more energy efficient in the process, here are a few financial resources to help fund renovations:

- Tax Credits
- Rebates
- Grants
- Loans 

Tax Credits

Beginning in 2017, only solar panels and solar water heating projects will benefit from an IRS tax break. But, homeowners may receive up to 30% of costs associated with installing one of these solar energy systems, in the form of a federal tax credit. This credit is scheduled to expire on December 31st, 2021.

Viva Green Homes provides a year-by-year update on energy efficiency federal tax breaks. Before you submit your 2016 tax return, visit the VGH report, to make sure that you didn’t over-look a potential tax credit.


ENERGY STAR claims that households could save about $8,200 and 72,000 pounds of CO2 over the lifespan of the products it certifies.

ENERGY STAR products may no longer be eligible for tax credits starting in 2017, but there are still rebates available such as furnaces and thermostats. And the energy efficient certification program offers a handy database of rebates that may be available in your area:


Federal and State agencies offer money—for free! State-level grant programs for residential, agricultural, and commercial energy efficiency projects can be found in this remarkably easy to use database

The two federal energy efficiency grants to look into are the WAP and REAP programs.

WAP grants up to $6,500. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) offers a weatherization grant that includes a computerized assessment of your home’s energy use by a professional, non-profit, energy auditor. The auditor makes recommendations of the most cost-effective energy conservations measures that would benefit your home. If you approve the recommendations, a work crew is provided to install these upgrades and WAP covers the costs up to $6,500. The grant does not include new roofing, siding, or similar structural improvements.

Participants must apply with their state’s program administrator and there are restrictions for eligibility; one of the primary ones is income. To see if your state is participating and to apply, visit the WAP website.

REAP grants from $2,500 - $250,000. The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is aimed towards agricultural producers (at least 50% of income from agriculture) and small rural businesses. States participating in REAP offer:

Renewable Energy System Grants:

- $2,500 minimum
- $500,000 maximum

Energy Efficiency Grants:

- $1,500 minimum
- $250,000 maximum

The application deadline for this grant program is March 31st, 2017.

PowerSaver Loans

The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy offers PowerSaver loans for homeowners to make home energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades or improvements.

To see which loans and qualified lenders are available in your state, check out the agency’s map here.

POWERSAVER energy upgrade loan up to $7,500. This type of loan is for smaller projects such as insulation, air and duct sealing, water heating, and upgrading or replacing heating and cooling equipment. This is an unsecured consumer loan—no home appraisal is required.

POWERSAVER first mortgage up to FHA loan limit. This loan is for a home purchase or refinance. It can be used for energy efficiency improvements as part of an FHA 203(k) rehabilitation first mortgage when purchasing a home or refinancing an existing mortgage. For loan limits visit the HUD website's FHA Mortgage Limits page.

POWERSAVER Home energy retrofit loan up to $25,000. This is a second mortgage for primary residences made available by the DOE to help fund: solar PV, solar hot water, geothermal, or other energy efficiency projects.

For more information about the PowerSaver’s Home Energy Retrofit Loan criteria, go to

Private Loans

PACE loans $5,000 - $100,000. PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, is an innovative loan consisting of long-term private financing, that has recently received some controversial attention in an article from the Huffington Post.

While these funds are relatively easy to obtain, homeowners should make sure they understand the terms of the loan before committing. Homeowners are advised that the amount of the loan is added to their property tax assessment value. When weighing the total costs of this loan, homeowners should be aware that in addition to the loan’s interest rate, they will most likely be paying more in property taxes as well.

To see if a PACE program is available in your state, visit PACE Nation.

Lyra DeLora is Content Contributor for Connect with Viva Green Homes on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

10 Ways To Use A 'TubTrug': a Flexible, Handled, Carrier


Tubtrug by Tony Wodarck

Through The Water Effect Campaign, The Ecology Center advocates simple solutions to conserve water and reimagine our relationship to this precious resource. One of our very favorite tools for change? The Tubtrug, a sturdy-handled, flexible bucket that is a water-wise gardener’s favorite companion. Here’s how to put this tool to good use:

Reimagine Rinsewater

Cleaning dishes by hand with biodegradable soap? A Tubtrug in the kitchen sink collects rinsewater that you can reuse to nourish your garden.

Harvest Vegetables. Carry a Tubtrug at your side as you gather your garden harvest.

Mix Soil. Use your Tubtrug to mix together the core components of a nutrient-rich soil.

Store Equipment. Stash gardening tools such as hand spades and gloves in your trusty Tubtrug.

Collect Cold Shower Water. As your shower warms up, use a Tubtrug to collect cold water that you can then use to water your garden or houseplants!

Shop The Farmers’ Market. Short on reusable bags? A sturdy Tubtrug is great for stowing your seasonal haul when you shop the farmers’ market.

Carry Materials. Whether you are organizing a community art project or coordinating a workday at the local garden, a Tubtrug is a simple way to carry materials across sites.

Hand Wash Laundry. Use biodegradable laundry detergent to wash clothes by hand.

Hold Mulch. A Tubtrug helps with the heavy lifting when you’re mulching your garden, creating compost, and carrying soil to refill beds.

Container Garden. Convert a Tubtrug into a miniature thriving garden!

Evan Marks is founder of the The Ecology Center, a non-profit eco-education center focused on creative solutions for thriving on Planet Earth. The Center works to inspire communities around simple solutions that empower individuals everywhere to be part of the solution. Follow The Ecology Center on Instagram and Facebook to learn about what you can do to build a thriving world. Read all of Evan’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Effectively Advertise a House With Solar Panels

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Hosting an open house for a property with solar panels is an excellent opportunity to establish yourself as your community’s expert in green homes, sometimes also known as eco-friendly or energy efficient homes. Here are a few tips to help set the stage for a successful sale, and possibly earn a new client or two.

If you’re a pro, it’s likely you already know how to prepare for an open house; but, before slipping that sheet of cookies into the oven, consider putting a little extra preparation into the following areas:

Types of Questions People Will Ask

Get ready for a unique set of questions that your guests will be asking. They’ll want to know about the maintenance requirements for solar panels and how to scrape off the snow if you live in a heavy winter climate. Cautious buyers will want to know if the panel installation voids any warranties or lessens the lifespan of the roof. Everyone will want to know how much solar technology can save on energy bills, so make sure to have past utility bills handy to show at the open house.

And brace yourself, it won’t be a complete love-fest. You might encounter some zingers as well, like ‘can those solar panels be removed?’ ‘I heard leases aren’t a really good deal!’ Or, ‘Gee, those are ugly!’

 smaller image solar home

Don’t be thrown by the negative comments, especially if you live in a community where solar technology and the concept of green homes isn’t firmly established. These are just signs that you are in the right place at the right time, so think of these comments as fortuitous conversation starters.

Costs and Benefits of Solar Panels

Once the property is under contract, you’ll need to provide the buyer with any warranty or lease transfer and buy-out options on the solar panels, but you don’t have to withhold those details until the crack of a contract deadline. Providing these documents beforehand, either as attachments on the MLS listing or available in a thoughtfully assembled sales packet at the showing, can go a long way in establishing trust and credibility with buyers and other agents.


Take an extra minute to read through the lease and warranty as well, that way you’ll be able to confidently answer any questions about maintenance services that might be included and the expected life-span of the product.

You may even want to contact the company who leased or originally sold the solar panels. They will likely have professionally produced marketing materials that cover the questions your guests might have. And if they don’t, companies like Savenia Labs offer solar system estimates that can help determine the value of the solar system. Savenia Labs also provides marketing materials with all this customized information for your potential buyers. That way you can focus more on selling the house, not someone else’s business.

Don’t Get Sued 

Everyone loves to see a dramatic decrease in energy costs. Who wouldn’t be impressed to see how a 2,600 square foot house with a pool goes from $350 a month in energy bills to $160 a month with a solar panel lease? But since there are so many variables involved, such as climate and energy market fluctuations, making any kind of claim about cost savings could open you up to a lawsuit for misrepresentation.

Check with your employing broker about potential liabilities and how best to avoid them.

Try to be helpful in answering questions, but always have good resources to point to. Remember you are not a solar expert and don’t try to be!

Here are some good resources to have on hand at an open house:

Transfer and financial information
Warranty documents
Maintenance information
Resale value estimates
Past 1 year utility information

Know Thy Market

 And just as with any open house, you’ll want to review the market and make sure you know what comparable properties are currently available, which ones have sold, and for how much.

Solar panels are a formidable distinguishing characteristic. In addition to using the Savenia Solar Rating valuation, check out a leader in eco real estate listings. shows active solar listings across the country and other comparable eco and energy efficient home listings. And since listings are free, be sure to add your solar listing to the site and lure those prospective and eco-conscious buyers.

 For a successful open house, take the extra time to review your market for any updates, and prepare some of the materials we’ve mentioned, before you invite guests in and tempt them with those freshly baked cookies.

 So, how did your open house go? Let us know about any challenging questions or quirky comments you encountered in the comments below.

Lyra DeLora is Content Contributor for Connect with Viva Green Homes on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Green Clean and Organize Your Fridge

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A refrigerator can become a bottomless pit of expired food and leftovers. If you are not careful, food can go bad just based on how you are storing it and the temperature of your fridge. This creates unnecessary waste, which is bad for your wallet as well as the environment. Here are some helpful hints for keeping food fresh and lasting longer, reducing your waste and saving you grocery money at the same time.

Be Cool. Your fridge should be set to between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go higher than this, you risk your food spoiling too quickly. Go too low, and your food freezes (not to mention you end up wasting energy). Use a fridge thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature to be safe.

Use the Drawers. If you have crisper drawers, use them for produce and set the humidity controls to keep produce fresh. Use your deli drawer to keep meat separate from fruits and veggies to avoid cross-contamination.

Go High. Keep your dairy, eggs and milk on the top and middle shelves where the refrigerator temperature is coldest.

Say No to Clutter. When your fridge is cluttered, the air cannot circulate around the food to keep it cool, allowing spoilage to happen more easily. Keep food in size-appropriate containers.  Potatoes, onions, citrus fruit and tomatoes do not need to be refrigerated until they’ve been cut into. Remove these and make room for other items.

Wipe On, Wipe Off. Before each grocery-shopping trip, wipe your fridge’s shelves, drawers and door compartments with hot water and mild soap. Look for expired condiments, empty the containers and recycle them. Compost or trash any spoiled fruits or leftovers that have been in your fridge for more than four days.

Contain the Drips. Keep all meat in a separate storage container or bag them to prevent leakage from occurring and cross-contaminating other foods. If there is a spill, wipe it up immediately! Remember to freeze meat that you won’t use within a few days.

Deodorize. Even fresh foods have their scents. Keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and clean by making your own DIY deodorizer or leaving a box of baking soda open in your fridge to absorb odors.

Label Drawers and Containers. Storing your food efficiently and knowing exactly how much you have of everything is much easier to see when everything is organized. Label and date food containers to reduce your chances of losing track (and lowering your risk of waste). Consider using these free printable fridge labels.

Don’t Take Chances. My husband is notorious for saying he can eat a leftover hamburger 10 days after I’ve cooked it. But no, it is not worth taking the chance and ending up with food poising. If you’re not sure how long to store foods, check out the FDA’s handy refrigerator and freezer storage chart. It gives you a breakdown of how long different food items should be stored.

Get Down and Dirty. Once a month, take everything out of your fridge and give it a good old fashioned elbow scrub. I like to use an earth-friendly cleaner: combine vinegar, water and lemon in a spray bottle and spray generously on shelves and bins. I let my drawers soak in hot soapy water, and then I go to town scrubbing. This is also a great time to get rid of the moldy cheese and expired salad dressing you’ve neglected to toss.

Keeping your fridge clean not only looks nice, but helps you see what you have so you can plan your meals better and spend less money at the grocery store.

Sommer Poquette is The Green and Clean Mom, Sommer Poquette, writes for The Home Depot on lifestyle topics and green choices. You can find options for refrigerators that make organization simple on Home Depot's website. Read all of Sommer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.