Courtesy of BPT
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Courtesy of BPT
(BPT) - When it comes to home improvement, you can spend money in two basic ways: on things that make your home look better and things that make it function better. Under the first category, you'll find all the things you want to do, like replacing narrow casement windows with a lovely bay window. Under the second, falls all the things you must do, like replacing those drafty windows with something more energy-efficient.
When "want to" and "have to" meet, they create the opportunity to make a smart buying decision - and choose an upgrade that will look good and improve the livability of your home. The key to making smart home improvement decisions is to recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them.
Here are a few "have to" improvements that have the potential to turn into a good-looking, energy-efficient, enjoyment-enhancing "want to."
Replacing the hot water heater
You probably don't care what a new hot water heater looks like sitting in your garage or basement - or wherever it resides in your home. But the right replacement water heater can help your house achieve a lovely shade of green. High energy-efficiency water heaters can help reduce energy usage, thereby trimming your energy bills and your home's environmental impact. Solar water heating systems take the beauty a step further by using the power of the sun, collected through low-profile solar panels on the roof, to heat water - at a monthly savings that's about 80 percent less than the cost of traditional heaters.
Getting some light in here
Do you really need a bunch of scientific studies to tell you that a home filled with natural light just feels better? Probably not. Illuminating your home with natural light is a smart buying decision on multiple levels. First, you don't pay to power the sun. Second, natural light delivers a host of mood-enhancing benefits. If you have the wall space, by all means add some windows.
But for rooms where a window is impossible (like a powder room) or where you don't want to sacrifice privacy (like a master bathroom) a tubular skylight is a good alternative. Some are easy enough to install that a seasoned do-it-yourselfer could accomplish the task. They cost less than traditional skylights and bring natural light to hard-to-light areas like closets, hallways and other small spaces.
Getting some air in here
Just as natural sun is good for your mood, ventilation can be good for your health. An Energy Star qualified venting skylight is a great way to passively vent stale, moist air from inside your home, especially from baths and kitchens. While some skylights are "fixed," those that do open can be controlled by a remote to open when you want fresh air and close when you want to retain warmth. They can also close automatically in case of rain. In addition, they introduce free light into your home. Adding blinds - also remote-controlled - can help you better control the amount of sun a skylight admits into your home. And blinds are not just functional - you can get them in colors and patterns to complement your decor while increasing energy efficiency. Compared to other venting solutions, a skylight is a relatively low-cost, great-looking way to address ventilation issues while adding drama to a space. Log on to www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.
When one door opens ...
Beat up, weathered garage and front doors not only look bad, they can be a source of air leaks that make your heating, ventilation and cooling system work harder. Exterior doors aren't something you buy every day, but they can have a big impact on how your home looks and on its energy efficiency. They can definitely be a smart buying decision if you opt for doors that not only look good, but are also highly rated for energy efficiency. If you're not sure how to choose, look online, where you'll find guides for buying garage doors and front doors.
Courtesy of BPT
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
(BPT) - It's one piece of mail homeowners dread every month: the utility bill. Considering the average annual utility bill is $2,200, according to energystar.gov, it's no wonder homeowners cringe every time it arrives. What if you opened your bill and, to your surprise, it was lower than expected? With a few simple steps, that is possible, even when the temperature drops.
Heating, cooling and water heating are the top three energy drains in a home, accounting for 60 percent of a home's energy bill according to ENERGY STAR, so it's wise to focus your home improvement efforts on those areas. A few simple steps and some strategic investments can lower your monthly bill significantly, plus you'll reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some tips for giving your home an energy-efficient facelift:
Change your home's air filter regularly
Smart homeowners will check their home's air filter every month to see if it needs replacing. How can you tell if it's time to swap in a new one? Look at the color - if it appears gray or brown, or you can visibly see particles or pet fur, it's time for a fresh one. A filter helps keep air flowing in your home and takes out dust, dander and other microscopic debris floating in the air. A dirty filter slows air flow, making your heating and cooling system work harder, costing you more money. Air filters should be replaced every one to three months.
Go beyond tankless: consider an integrated heating and water heating system
Many homeowners have heard about the advantages of tankless water heaters, but now there's a way to be even more efficient by using the Rheem Integrated Heating & Water Heating System, which uses a Rheem tankless water heater to heat both the air and water in your home with maximum efficiency. How does it work? The system matches a hydronic air handler with a tankless gas water heater.- When there's a demand for heat, hot water is circulated through the air handler to produce heat and is then re-circulated back to the tankless water heater to ensure that no water is wasted. This pairing of products provides a soft, comfortable heat to the home while maintaining comfortable humidity levels regardless of the climate. Also, the heating function of the system operates at the same efficiency as the tankless water heater - which could be as high as 94 percent efficient.
Lower the temperature on your water heater
To lower energy costs, consider lowering your water heater's temperature setting. Try somewhere around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and see if that is sufficient in supplying your home with hot water for showers, laundry, dishes, etc. Each 10 degree reduction in water temperature can save 3 to 5 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. If you go on vacation, remember you can turn your water heater down to the lowest setting to save even more while you're gone and it's not in use.
Install a programmable thermostat
Adjusting your thermostat a few degrees during the day can have a big impact on your utility bill. For example, during cold months, turn your thermostat down when you're away from the house, such as during work. Programmable thermostats work perfectly for this - you can set your preferred temperatures throughout the week to fit your schedule and it adjusts automatically. About one-third of American homes have programmable thermostats, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. If you turn back your thermostat 10 or 15 degrees for periods of 8 hours or more, such as when you're at work, you can save 5 to 15 percent a year on your heating bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
From changing your air filter on a regular basis to selecting an integrated system to heat your home's water and air supply, these changes can have a big impact on your utility bill, plus they're environmentally friendly too.
Courtesy of BPT
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
When a data breach occurs at a large firm or government agency, it winds up all over the news. If one occurred at a small business down the street, those unaffected would probably never hear about it. But a recent report released by Verizon found that nearly three-quarters of data breaches analyzed last year involved businesses with 100 employees or fewer.
Courtesy of BPT
Is your living space a place for show, only utilized when you are entertaining? Living rooms, as their title suggests, should not only reflect who you are towards the outdoors world, but they should also be lived in. Here are some recommendations for getting your living space warm and inviting for visitors as well as functional and comfy for household members.
In case your living space is large, divide it into smaller locations through the positioning of furnishings. You would like the "conversation pit" to become cozy - a couch and loveseat and a couple of chairs close to a large cocktail table will seat many people, yet they'll all have the ability to hear what the others are saying. A great place for household meetings as well as for entertaining. Make certain all seats are within reach of a table - someplace to arrange those drinks and chips!
Face the couch to an architectural focal level, something like a fireplace or a large window that looks out to your garden or even the city lights. If you don't have an architectural component to work with, produce one by hanging large photos or a mural on a wall. This allows people to admire the artwork and it's safer than hanging something large over the seating (especially in locations susceptible to earthquakes!). Hang cloth wall hangings or little photos on the wall behind the couch. Don't, however, hang a mirror where people will see their reflection all of the time. Not everyone is thrilled by his or her picture.
If you divide your living space in two or 3 seating and/or eating locations, use rugs to outline the talking space, another beneath the eating table, and another space to exhibit the Buddha you brought back from Thailand, or a wall of bookcases that not only maintain your books but additionally display your assortment of antique toys. Area rugs work well, more than waxed hardwood floors or neutral, wall-to-wall Berber-style carpeting.
An ornamental space divider, like Japanese shoji screens, can be utilized to separate a large space right into a living space and a Tv space. In a smaller place, face the couch to a wall unit that holds the television - it's certain to turn out to be a preferred gathering spot for the household.
The days of covering the "good" living space furnishings with plastic are over! Leather or even the new microfiber fabrics are simple to clean, look great, and can survive visitors, children, and pets. If the furnishings are in neutral colors, add colorful ornamental pillows. Remember to keep a couple of throw blankets close to stay cozy on cool nights.
In case your living space walls are painted in mild neutral shades, you'll have the ability to change the furnishings and ornamental touches easily. Other ways to change the look of one's living space are by including tall plants or a silk tree, a permanent flower assortment in a basket or tall vase, and even a fountain or little pond in asufficientlylarge area.
Don't overlook lighting! Floor lamps, especially in darkish corners, can brighten large locations, while desk lamps can provide good light for the preferred reading/knitting chair. An assortment of candles on the mantelpiece or a desk adds ambiance to your living space. Now go ahead, live inside your living space.
by: Amy Wells
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
(BPT) - Home cooling costs rise with the temperature, making many homeowners dread the arrival of their monthly electric bill during the good ol' summertime. Fortunately, with a few simple strategies, it's easy to cut down on cooling costs so you can enjoy summer, even through record-high temperatures.
"Air conditioning is the main way homeowners cool their home, but it's far from a one-size-fits-all solution," says Laura Johnson, home economist for LG Electronics USA. "How you choose to cool your home can make a big difference in comfort levels and energy costs."
She suggests starting by asking yourself a few simple questions:
* How hot is it likely to get in the region where you live?
* What is the square footage you want cooled?
* Do you have one room that just doesn't cool effectively while others are fine?
* Do you have an existing duct system?
* Do you want to install a whole home system, but don't have months to work with a contractor?
If you have an existing system that doesn't seem to be cooling your home as well as it should, it's time to explore other options. If your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system is more than 12 years old, it's likely not working as efficiently as it could. Have a professional HVAC contractor evaluate the system. A tune-up may help the system work better, or reveal that it's time to consider a replacement.
Heating and cooling costs the average homeowner about $1,000 a year - nearly half the home's total energy bill, according to EnergyStar.gov. When researching new air conditioners, always look for the Energy Star label. If your air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an Energy Star qualified model could reduce cooling costs by 30 percent.
A variety of air conditioning systems are available. If you have an existing duct system, installing a central air conditioning system is a good option. Those without ducts aren't stuck choosing between inefficient window units or extensive construction - newer duct-free systems provide efficient cooling with high energy-efficiency ratings.
For example, duct-free systems like ArtCool models from LG, allow you to cool your entire home or just a single room without the need for invasive ductwork. There's no tearing down walls or altering your home's appearance. In most cases, a professional contractor gets the job done in less than a day. The contractor will help you determine if you need a single- or multiple-room system. Be sure to research your contractor carefully, because proper installation is key to achieving maximum energy efficiency. Plus, some duct-free systems qualify for a tax credit of $300 if you install your system before Dec. 31.
No matter what air conditioning system you choose, be sure to check the "SEER rating." SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is the industry-wide performance rating. The higher the number, the more efficiently a product will perform. The average air conditioner rating for an Energy Star-qualified window unit is a 9 to 11, while duct-free systems like the Art Cool Premier have SEER ratings up to 28, which can translate to bigger energy savings.
You can also take steps to conserve energy in other areas. During sunny, hot periods of the day, use appropriate window coverings to block heat and conserve the cool air. Avoid using the oven or excessive electronic devices - like TVs or computers - which can put off a lot of heat.
Always adjust the thermostat to the highest temperature that is still comfortable during summer. A smaller difference between the indoors and outdoors means a smaller energy bill. Use a programmable thermostat that increases the temperature setting when you're away from your house, such as during work hours. Set the system to automatically adjust to a cooler temperature setting an hour before you return home and you won't even know the difference.
"By evaluating your air conditioner and taking a few efficiency-improving steps to cooling your home, you'll stay comfortable and help lower your energy bills," says Johnson.
Courtesy of BPT
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