A User’s Guide To Fairfield County Wells

Compared to town water, owning a well may sound difficult or inconvenient. In reality, owning and operating a well system is as simple as following a few easy rules of thumb. Like most of the components in a modern house, wells are optimized to be relatively low-maintenance and easy to use.

Modern residential wells typically bottom out at around 60 feet below the ground. To combat potential surface contamination, wells are generally sealed with clay or another sealant material. The pipes that travel down to the water are usually of steel or PVC piping. However, the materials and specifics of each well will vary by driller. Generally speaking, the exact materials in your well will not affect the types of safety and maintenance precautions that you should take on a daily basis.

A yearly well check-up is the best form of preventative maintenance. Replacing the well pump alone can cost in excess of $4000 and a new well system can cost around $20,000 in areas with rocky soil like Ridgefield. The good news is that a well-maintained well will last more than 20 years. By following just a few simple tips, your well and the water it produces will remain potable and plentiful for years to come.

The yearly check-up should cover four basic points. It will test the flow and function of the mechanical components through checking pump performance, water levels, and the function of the pressure tank. Second, the system will be checked to ensure that it meets sanitation and local requirements. In addition, the water will be checked for a variety of contaminants such as bacteria, nitrates and non-biological contaminants like iron, manganese, high mineral levels, and sulfides. Finally, the inspector will give you a concise report of his findings that, by Connecticut law, will be given to you and archived by both the well company and government. Store your well records to ensure that you have proper documentation in the event that a problem arises.

Unlike a septic system, there are relatively few ways that the average homeowner can accidentally ruin his well. The most common way of disrupting the well’s function is by exceeding its capacity and running the well dry. Connecticut law proscribes a number of acceptable combinations of production and storage capacity. These regulations are designed to allow homeowners to use reasonable amounts of water without running their wells dry. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid doing multiple water-heavy activities at once. For example, avoid doing laundry, taking a shower, and using the dishwasher simultaneously.

In addition to guidelines for water usage, remember these tips about maintaining the safety of your water. Find out precisely where your well is and avoid storing and using toxic chemicals within 50 feet of the well. Paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil are just a few examples of materials to be avoided. In addition, avoid back-siphonage by keeping hoses out of receptacles that are being used to mix contaminating materials such as lawn fertilizers. Also, ensure that your home, waste systems, chemical storage, and well are properly separated. Periodically check that your well cap has remained properly sealed. When rodents or other small creatures become lodged in the system, the quality and taste of your water may be compromised. Also keep your well cap clear of excess snow, leaves, and other detritus.

By following just a few simple guidelines about the care of your well, you are sure to enjoy plenty of high-quality water for years to come.

For official documentation about well specifications and stipulations, please see the following laws, hosted by the University of Connecticut.

For additional information about wells and their maintenance, see this article from On Tap.

Should You Buy A Home With A Septic System?

Septic systems are ubiquitous in Ridgefield and the surrounding towns and are simple enough to maintain that anyone can successfully navigate one. Often, the idea of a septic system may be unfamiliar – and even daunting – to new buyers, but in truth, following a few basic rules will keep your system healthy for years to come. Having a detailed home inspection – including checking the septic system – will ensure it is in good working order when you purchase the home. Here are 5 tips every septic system owner should follow:

1. There is a large financial incentive to maintain your septic system as yearly maintenance generally costs around $200-300 per year, while replacing a whole septic system usually costs up to $15000 or even more depending on the size and location of the system. An average system should be pumped every 2-3 years depending on the size of the tank and number of people in the house. Calling a reliable septic company will ensure your tanks are properly attended to.Poorly maintained septic systems can create hiccups in selling a home and may delay sale or require fixing to meet code.

2. Avoid introducing large amounts of water into the system at once. Draining a hot tub, for example, can disrupt the chemistry of the system and should be avoided or done slowly. The same goes for long showers, doing multiple loads of laundry in sequence, or any other water-heavy activity.

3. Do not send certain chemicals and materials down the drain. The rule of thumb to use is that only water, toilet paper, and waste should be flushed. Most house cleaning supplies are also okay when used in moderation and according to the product guidelines. Drain cleaners, though, must be universally avoided as they can destroy the delicate chemical balance of your septic system almost immediately. In addition, many products that you might have around the house, such as paint, varnish, or antifreeze can ruin your system’s chemistry and should not enter the system. Septic systems rely upon the health of their bacteria, so anything that will disrupt the lives of these simple organisms, even unexpected things such as chemotherapy drugs or large quantities of anti-bacterial soap, can cause problems.

4. You should know about your septic system’s location. If the system was constructed in the last 30 years, the town should have files that will show you the locations of each of the components. It is important to know where your leaching field and main tank are. Waste flows into the main tank, where materials that are lighter than water rise to the top and materials that are heavier than water sink to the bottom. In between is a layer of mostly water. Every time one gallon of water enters the system main tank, another gallon will exit out into the leaching field, which is a set of underground pipes that drain water into the ground. In a properly maintained system, only liquids will ever leave the tank. However, when certain elements are introduced into the system, it can fail, causing solids to either back up or enter into the leaching field. Fixing a malfunction such as this can be very expensive.

5. Your septic system’s health is not merely a function of what enters it. Most importantly, the leaching fields require special attention. Avoid planting plants directly above the leaching fields. Roots, for example, can enter the field and disrupt its functioning. Also try to avoid driving over the field as this can compress the soil and make it difficult for water to leach out. During the winter months, avoid shoveling snow off of the leaching field. Snow acts to insulate the ground, making the field less likely to freeze and fail. The leeching field can also be damaged directly, such as by accidentally severing one of the pipes or other physical damage. Knowing the location of each of the system’s components is vital to maintaining the system.

Although septic systems may seem difficult, in reality they are quite simple to maintain and own. Maintenance is as easy as keeping some simple rules in mind and calling a septic company to inspect and pump the system regularly. Although transitioning to a more rural suburban life might be tough at times, your septic system will be a breeze. For more detailed information about the maintenance and science of your septic system, you can consult the following in-depth sources from the New Hampshire DES and West Virginia University’s National Environmental Services Center.

How Do You Know You’re A Luxury Real Estate Agent?

For me, a key indicator of my achievement as a luxury realtor was to receive the distinction of being awarded “Christie’s International Real Estate Luxury Specialist for 2014.” I was honored to be the recipient of the Christie’s International Real Estate and Christie’s Education specialist designation when I recently attended the Top Agents Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Along with 140 other Realtors from around the world, I was lucky enough to be invited by Christie’s International Real Estate to participate in the conference focused on luxury real estate marketing. Criteria for the invitation included a requirement that each attendee be among the top 10% of sales for his or her Affiliate brokerage.

The two-day networking and educational event featured seminars led by top industry experts and senior executives of Christie’s and Christie’s International Real Estate. Topics included how to position a listing to attract buyers worldwide; negotiation strategies in the luxury end of the real estate market; how to take advantage of state-of-the-art global marketing techniques; and Christie’s perspectives on the art market and its connection to the luxury real estate sector.

I’m looking forward to implementing the new concepts and strategies garnered from my experience at the conference. My recent 2013 Year In Review Market Report showed that in 2013 Ridgefield experienced almost double the number of sales of luxury homes as compared to 2012, and I expect this segment to also show steady growth as the overall market value increases in 2014. I’m always striving to improve my knowledge and my marketing options for my clients, so this conference really gave me a leg up – networking with like-minded individuals and expanding my horizons in terms of marketing.

I’m so pleased to have had this opportunity. As the spring market gets going, call/text me or sign up for my weekly emails to keep abreast of market trends. I’d also be happy to give you a complimentary What’s My Home Worth evaluation.

*Photo : Karla Murtaugh of Neumann Real Estate, Ridgefield, and Lisa Murphy of Houlihan Lawrence, Rye

7 Tips for Creating a More Energy Efficient Home

With one of coldest winter’s on record upon us, energy costs are a major concern for most home owners in Fairfield County. Not all homes were designed with energy efficiency in mind, but there are many simple ways to cut down on electricity costs and reduce your carbon footprint. Below are a few tips to get you thinking about how easy it is to help the environment and your pocketbook.

1. Find out where your inefficiencies are. Performing a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit is one great way to find out how to make your home more efficient. These tests will find areas of inefficiency, among other things, which will allow you to understand the extent to which you’re wasting fuel and electricity on a daily basis. A Professional Energy Audit is another alternative if you are really looking for concrete solutions to an aging home, or one that is extremely inefficient.

2. Replace home utilities with more efficient versions. Tankless water heaters, for example, are considerably more efficient than those with tanks. Replacing just one light bulb with an LED light bulb could save up to $125 over the course of the bulb’s life. Alternately, Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) provide smaller but comparable savings to an LED bulb. Large appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, and stoves usually constitute 20% of a home’s energy usage. Upgrading to new Energy Star appliances can result in considerable savings to you in the long run.

3. Improve the efficiency of the fixtures already in your home. Replacing air conditioning and heater filters is one easy way to increase the efficiency of these high-energy systems. Another simple way of reducing energy costs is installing more efficient shower-heads and other water infrastructure. Using less water generally means heating less water.

4. Increasing the efficacy of your insulation can also be a moderately easy fix. Exposed insulation, as is likely to be found in your attic, will often visually demonstrate the problems that it may have. Look for darkened areas in the insulation. This may indicate that there is a leak or hole near this area of insulation, which not only reduces the efficiency of that area, but may indicate that outside air and/or water is penetrating into unwanted places. Any part of your home that is not insulated is money out the door and should be addressed.

5. Sealing cracks and areas where warm or cool air can escape to the outside is a definite energy saver. Adding weather-stripping around your attic opening can increase the efficiency of your home. Around doors and windows, check to make sure that the areas between your home and the outside are properly separated. Your baseboard, attic hatches, mail slots, and window frames are all likely suspects for inefficiencies in your house.

6. Installing double-paned skylights is another great way of reducing energy usage while also increasing the beauty of your home. Replacing a few hours of light per day with sunlight is good for both your energy costs and resale value. Also look into light shelves, clever installations that can move natural light deep into your home where it would otherwise would not go.

7. There are also high-tech options for reducing your home’s energy usage. Some modern thermostats can be controlled by a number of devices such as smart phones, and can be programmed to help your energy usage become more transparent. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat can learn your schedules and habits to automatically adjust your home’s heating and cooling to be more efficient. As heating and cooling your home is one of the largest energy expenditures, products such as geothermal heat pumps now have strong tax incentives and can keep your home comfortable for a fraction of the cost of heating oil.

Although making major changes to your home can be difficult and initially expensive, the savings you earn in the long run and during resale can justify many home improvement costs. If you have made specific green improvements to your home, be sure to tell your realtor about them when listing your home for sale. Don’t forget to sign up below to receive more informative articles, listings and community happenings.

Fairfield County Schools Produce High Marks and High Prices

The old adage that says “education is the best investment” may not only be true about investing in learning. Realtor.com’s recent survey shows that parents are willing to pay a sharp premium to be in towns with great schools, which is great news for homeowners in Fairfield County.

According to the survey, 63 percent would go without a pool or spa, 50 percent would give up accessible shopping, and about 40 percent would be willing to give up an extra room or nearby trails and parks. A full 90 percent of home buyers ranked school boundaries as a top concern when purchasing a house. While housing values are still down, but quickly rising, it means that moving to a town with great schools is not only good for your kids, but it might also be great for your finances when the time comes to sell.

Fairfield County, beyond its rustic charm and convenient location, is home to some of the best schools in the country. Ridgefield High School was ranked #4 among Connecticut high schools, just behind the other Fairfield County towns of Darien and Weston. Ninety-nine percent of seniors graduate each year – a sterling record by any standard – and 91% of its 2013 graduating class went on to 4-year colleges, among them the Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and MIT. The entire Ridgefield Public School system is ranked top 10 in Connecticut. Between the beautiful town, plentiful parks, and educational excellence, Ridgefield emerges as an optimal place to own a home.

As the world becomes more connected, education has become an invaluable commodity. As such, places like Fairfield County, whose schools are truly among their greatest assets, are sure to rise in value. Ridgefield and the surrounding towns have a long history of producing excellent students and providing an ideal environment for young minds.

If you’re interested in moving to Ridgefield, sign up to receive the latest new home listings delivered right to your inbox, or contact me to see how I can work with you to find you a great home in Connecticut’s Number 1 ranked town.