Tips to stop drafts, save money and improve your home

September 13th, 2016 by Emil No comments »

(BPT) – Can you imagine keeping your windows open all winter long? The heat loss, cold drafts and all that money spent on wasted energy would be staggering. But if your home has folding pull-down attic stairs, a whole-house fan, a fireplace or clothes dryer, you may be doing the equivalent of leaving the windows open every day.

Drafts from these often overlooked spaces waste energy and cost you big in the form of higher energy bills. They are also the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home.

Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits that caulk and weather-stripping provide to minimize energy loss and drafts. But what can you do about drafts from the four largest energy leaks in your home — the folding attic stairs, the whole house fan, the fireplace and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these areas.

Attic stairs

When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Because your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors, the attic space can be very cold in the winter, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? Only a thin sheet of plywood.

Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door. If you see any light coming through, it means your heated and air-conditioned air is leaking out of these large gaps in your home, 24-hours a day.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an insulated attic stair cover that seals the stairs and stops drafts and energy loss. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

Whole-house fans and air-conditioning vents

When whole-house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only the drafty ceiling shutter between you and the outdoors.

An easy solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan shutter seal. Made from white textured flexible insulation, you simply install the seal over the ceiling shutter, secure it with Velcro, and trim it to fit.

The shutter seal can also be used to seal and insulate air conditioning vents, and is easily removed when desired.

Fireplaces

It’s ironic that while fireplaces are intended to heat up a house, they can create some seriously cold drafts.

Fireplaces, especially during the winter heating season, are energy losers. One study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent. Another recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher each winter because of the drafts and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Even if the damper is shut, it’s not air-tight, and glass doors don’t stop the drafts either. Your chimney is an opening that leads directly outdoors — just like an open window and like a giant straw sucking your expensive heated or air-conditioned air right out of your house!

A simple way to avoid this problem is to add a Fireplace Plug to your fireplace. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, the Fireplace Plug is an inflatable pillow that seals the fireplace damper, eliminating drafts, odors, and noise. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

Clothes dryer exhaust ducts

In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. In the winter, cold drafts come in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house. Many dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce these drafts. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the drafts.

Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve, causing it to stay open.

A surprisingly simple solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted drafts, and also keeps out pests, bees and rodents. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

For more information on Battic Door’s energy conservation solutions and products for your home, visit www.batticdoor.com or, to request a free catalog, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to P.O. Box 15, Mansfield, MA 02048.

Share

3 things to look for when buying a new home

September 13th, 2016 by Emil No comments »

(BPT) – Purchasing a new home is an exciting and sometimes stressful experience. Whether you’re moving to a new town or looking to upgrade from your current space, finding a new home requires patience, expert guidance and a keen eye for detail.

As a home seeker, the first thing you’ll evaluate is location, space and amenities such as fireplaces, granite countertops, a finished basement, deck or a swimming pool. The next thing to consider is cost, shopping for the right mortgage, making your down payment and negotiating other fees. Finally, you look at the various features inside and outside the home that make it safe, convenient and energy-efficient for you and your family.

To ease some of the stress of house hunting, here are a few top considerations to keep in mind throughout the process:

Always start with an impartial home inspection. Home inspections can help potential buyers uncover the structural issues of a home, while also examining if electrical wiring and devices are up to code, plumbing lines are performing correctly and HVAC systems are running efficiently. In order to locate and properly evaluate any concerns, it is crucial that you research the best impartial home inspector in the area, be present during the inspection itself and thoroughly read the inspection report on the property. Sometimes issues identified are quick fixes which you can address yourself, such as replacing older electrical switches and outlets. You can evaluate if you’re able to make these quick updates safely yourself by viewing sample installations at www.youtube.com/leviton. However, other conditions may require more labor-intensive repairs and outside contracting, which should be included in your budget or negotiated with the seller before purchasing your new place.

Determine any value-add features you want that are already in the home. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, a home buyer’s expected tenure in a newly purchased home is approximately 14 years on average. While it’s not uncommon to change things the longer you live there, it’s equally important to note the features that certain properties already have during your initial home search to avoid costly replacements and construction projects down the line. As you’re searching, keep the long-term in mind and consider what you may want in the future. Be sure to ask a lot of questions during each walk-through. For example, are there enough bathrooms to meet your family’s needs? Will your family grow? Does the kitchen have a gas line for appliances? Is there a properly-installed and updated heating and cooling system? Does the master bedroom have a walk-in closet? What amenities will make you and your family feel safe, happy and comfortable from the moment you walk in the door and for years to come?

What measures have been taken to make the home safe? It’s important to consider a home’s safety features, especially if you’re moving into a new residence with children or pets. So, what classifies as a safety amenity? Depending on the home and location, safety features should include alarm systems, working door and window locks, working carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) Outlets. Especially when it comes to electrical outlets in areas like the living room and bedroom, products like Leviton’s SmartlockPro AFCI Outlet should be installed. These AFCI outlets prevent electrical fires in the home and are tamper-resistant, providing added safety for all members of the family.

To see what other electrical safety and home products you should look for or look to install in your potential home, check out www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety.   

Share

Lights out: 4 ways to prepare for a long outage after the storm

September 12th, 2016 by Emil No comments »

(BPT) – As winter storm season arrives, homeowners should be ready for power outages that last for days or even weeks. 

In recent years, storms have become more intense and frequent, resulting in extended power outages, which is disruptive to daily life. A recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University looked at 13 years of weather and utility data. The study revealed power interruptions last 75 percent longer in years that were both abnormally windy and had a major weather event.

Blizzards, heavy snow, ice storms and strong winds can all conspire to cut off the power supply to your home, leaving your family in the dark and in the cold. It is impossible to predict when an extended power outage will impact your community, however, there are things you can do today to keep your family safe and comfortable. Now is the time to prepare before the first winter storms settle in.

“An extended power loss in the winter can damage your home and put your family at risk,” says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement TV host, author and syndicated columnist. “Water pipes can freeze. Houses can quickly fill up with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide from alternative heating and cooking sources. And food can spoil quickly in the refrigerator. That’s why it’s smart to plan ahead for a power outage so you can get through the days safely and comfortably.”

Here are some tips to help homeowners prepare for an extended power outage:

Have enough food and water.
Store enough to eat and drink for one week. Even if the stores are open, you’ll want to keep outside travel to a minimum, especially in tough road conditions. If you are using well water, be ready for the fact that a power outage will stop your water pump. Have an adequate supply of water on hand — about one gallon per person per day. Stockpile plenty of non-perishable food, such as canned meats and vegetables, protein bars, dry cereal and nuts. Be sure you have a manual can opener and a means to cook, such as a propane-operated camp stove — just be sure your cooking space is properly ventilated.

Have safe backup lighting.
To reduce risk of fire, swap out candles and kerosene lanterns for battery-operated flashlights and lamps. Stock up now on batteries before people deplete local supplies in the pre-storm rush.

Invest in a generator.
A ready power source could help your family get through longer outages in safety and comfort, in spite of the cold temperatures outside. During a winter storm, especially a bitter cold one with strong winds, the temperature inside your home can drop quickly. There are two backup power options for the home: a portable generator or an automatic standby generator.

A portable generator can be moved from place-to-place and is designed to power a handful of items in your home via extension cords. It must be manually operated and placed outdoors away from the home to avoid the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A standby generator turns on automatically when the power shuts off and is permanently installed outside the home similar to a central air conditioning unit. It runs on natural gas or propane and hooks up to existing fuel lines in your home. A standby generator will keep all your appliances running, as well as everything else you take for granted: lights, television, computers, water heater, furnace and more. If you’re interested in learning about automatic standby power systems, visit www.KohlerGenerators.com for informational videos and other helpful details.

Plan for being cut off.
When the power goes out, it can be hard to anticipate all the implications. Stores may reopen, but they may not be able to process your debit or credit card right away. So keep enough cash to see you through a few days. Think of any medications your family would need and set aside a week’s supply. Finally, transfer essential information you have stored in your mobile phone to paper, such as phone numbers and addresses. You may have to go manual with navigation, so pick up paper road maps of your state or region from the service station. 

“Despite all the forecasting technology we have today, storms can pop up with little warning,” Del Grande says. “Getting ready today is the key step to protecting your loved ones when the storm hits.”

 

 

Share

Secrets to marrying style, eco-sense and luxury in any bathroom

September 11th, 2016 by Emil No comments »

(BPT) – When you’re improving a bathroom, do you assume that luxury upgrades may look good but aren’t always good for the environment? Or that sensible, eco-friendly fixtures, finishes and materials will lack the aesthetic of more luxurious ones? Just a few decades ago, the assumptions might have been accurate, but today a plethora of luxury bathroom options perfectly marry good sense with great style.

Whether you’re planning a bathroom renovation, or just looking to make one or two stunning yet sensible upgrades, here are some improvements that can turn your bathroom into a luxurious, savvy and stylish oasis:

Elegant and eco-friendly fixtures

Water-conserving bathroom technology has come a long way since the earliest low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets appeared. Yet the stereotype persists that in order to conserve water, a fixture must deliver a less satisfying experience and graceful appearance. That’s far from true of modern luxury toilets, showerheads and faucets from manufacturers like TOTO.

High efficiency toilets can help homeowners make significant strides in water conservation; saving nearly 13,000 gallons of water per year, according to the EPA. And while early iterations of water-conserving toilets may have lacked in power and beauty, modern iterations combine eco-sense with style sense. For example, the ultra high-efficiency NEOREST 500H from TOTO uses a conservation-minded 0.8 or 1 gallon of water per flush, yet excels at removing waste and cleaning the bowl’s surface and rim thoroughly.

With a design inspired by long-view trends in architecture and global design, this high-tech commode’s look is modern yet timeless. An integrated Washlet personal cleansing system is long on luxury with warm aerated water, a warm air dryer, heated seat, auto open/close, auto-flush and in-bowl catalytic deodorizer.

Showering accounts for about 17 percent of a home’s water use, and switching to a low-flow shower head could save the average household nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year, the EPA says. Yet the shower is also one of the most cherished features in any bathroom; it’s not just where you get clean, it’s also a place where you relax and wash away the day’s stresses, or get invigorated for the day by washing away early morning drowsiness.

Today’s water-conserving showerheads not only reduce the amount of water you use per shower, they can be elegant design statements that also deliver a satisfying experience. Features like air-injection technology in TOTO’s AeroJet Rain Shower infuse air into the water stream to create larger droplets, allowing you to enjoy a fuller shower experience while still saving water. You can find eco-friendly showerheads in virtually every style, from rainfall to hand showers and even multiple jets.

Fabulous features

Luxury and environmental awareness can also meet in other aspects of a well-appointed bathroom, including design, decor and accessories. For example, adding a skylight can fill a bath with wholesome natural light that nourishes the body, mind and spirit while also helping reduce dependence on artificial light sources. The skylight can also provide passive ventilation — all while preserving much-desired privacy.

Flooring is another area inspiration for your senses doesn’t have to take a back seat to green considerations. From tiles made of recycled materials like reclaimed ceramic, to foot-massaging pebble tiles made of recycled glass, it’s easy to find flooring material that meets your expectations for luxury and beauty while still minimizing their impact on the environment.

While traditional luxury countertops like granite require materials to be mined from the ground, luxurious eco-friendly options can be just as beautiful. For example, countertops made of cement embedded with recycled glass come in a variety of hues and patterns to fit any decor theme. Or, go for a more ethereal look with countertops made of 100 percent recycled glass.

Luxury, style and eco-sensibilities can meet harmoniously in your bathroom when you choose the right fixtures and finishes.

Share

6 simple ways to freshen your home inside and out

September 8th, 2016 by Emil No comments »

(BPT) – Looking for some easy ways to breathe new life into your home? Whether it’s the air inside or the decor itself, freshening things up can make your home look and feel more welcoming at any time of year. You don’t need a lot of time or money to reinvigorate your home; just a few simple and affordable, yet high-impact DIY projects will do the trick.

Here are a few projects you can easily accomplish in a single weekend:

* Paint an accent wall, trim or ceiling. Decorators often say painting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to freshen your home’s appearance. You don’t have to redo an entire room in order to leverage the freshening power of paint. Simply painting a single accent wall for a pop of color, using paint to create graphic wall art, or repainting the trim or ceiling will create a whole new look. If you’re looking for inspiration or simple solutions to help seamlessly transform your space, Dutch Boy Paint offers unique project ideas and easy-to-follow how-tos that will make the process a breeze.

Choosing the right paint for the job can also ensure the painting project is a breeze, from start to finish. Dutch Boy Refresh paint + primer with Arm & Hammer odor Eliminating Technology, eliminates the need for a separate primer. It saves time since you don’t have to take that extra step of priming first. Plus, it’s great for reducing common household odors. Refresh paint is a perfect choice for laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, mudrooms and even kids rooms. It gives you added assurance that your home will smell fresh and clean.

* Don’t forget about your furry family members. You may love your pets, but the truth is they can contribute to a stuffy atmosphere in your home. Wash pet bedding, litter boxes and cloth toys regularly. Contain pet clutter by placing your pup’s or kitty’s toys in a pretty basket where he or she can reach them.

* Add some indoor greens. Plants not only make a room look bright and homey, their ability to filter carbon dioxide and other airborne pollutants can help make your home smell fresher, too.

* Give your kitchen some TLC. Like most, you probably spend a lot of time in your kitchen. However, you don’t need to do a complete makeover to give your kitchen a fresh look. Start by decluttering countertops and dropping some lemon rinds down the garbage disposal. Next, replace dated cabinet hardware with new handles, knobs and pulls. Adding in a faucet in a contemporary finish will go a long way too; as a focal point of the kitchen, it will help tie everything together in a subtle way.

* Upgrade your entryway. The front door is one of the first things visitors notice. If yours is old, worn and outdated, replacing it with a new one can be an easy, cost-effective way to improve the appearance of your home’s exterior. Even if your door is in good shape, painting it a bright, appealing color can make your home’s facade look fresher and more inviting. Be sure to use a paint formulated for doors, such as Dutch Boy Cabinet, Door & Trim paint. Add decorative lighting fixtures like sconces or a hanging light, dress up front steps with potted flowers and wash sidelights and windows around the entry.

* Some sources of stuffiness may surprise you. That old shower curtain not only makes your bathroom look shabby, it can detract from the air quality in the room as mildew builds up over time. Replace old shower curtains with something bright and appealing, and be sure to clean the grate on the bathroom vent fan. Stuffiness hides in the laundry room, too. Cleaning dryer vents and the washing machine regularly, and keeping laundry items and accessories organized can help make even a small laundry area feel fresh.

Freshening around the home doesn’t have to be a seasonal project. With a few simple steps, you can create a new look and feel in and around your home at any time of year. For more on these products and inspiration for your next paint project, visit www.dutchboy.com

Share