Upgrading Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

by Gail Brumfield

If you own a home, improving its energy efficiency is likely to be an ongoing, gradual process. There’s so much you can do to make your home more efficient –  too much work and expense for most of us to accomplish for most of us in less than several years. But when elements of your home need to be replaced, making a commitment to upgrading to more efficient solutions can pay huge dividends for you.

Energy-Efficient Appliances

If you have an old appliance or two in your home, it may be costing you more than you realize. That’s because today’s appliances are so much more efficient than those of a generation ago. Let’s look at refrigerators, for example: Per ENERGY STAR, a refrigerator made in 1980 would cost more than $200 a year to run; a new, ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator would cost only $50. Even when compared to today’s standard models, ENERGY STAR refrigerators are about 20% more efficient.

Upgrading the other major appliances in your home also offers the potential for big energy savings. Dishwashers, clothes washers, freezers, water heaters all use a lot of energy – but ENERGY STAR models use a lot less. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, your local government agencies and utilities may also offer tax credits, rebates, or other incentives to support your efficiency-enhancing upgrades.

Replacement Windows

Appliances aren’t the only household devices that have greatly improved in energy-efficiency: Replacement windows have, too. Today’s windows offer glass coatings that manage the sun’s rays, allowing some through while reflecting others away. These coatings allow windows to play an active role in managing the temperature in a home, and reducing the workload on heating and air conditioning systems.

Like appliances, windows can also be ENERGY STAR qualified. Replacing your windows with ENERGY STAR models can greatly reduce your energy usage and cut down on your power bills. Per ENERGY STAR, replacing a home’s single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR qualified windows can save between just over $100 to almost $500 per year. Savings like these can pay for your window replacement in just a few years, while keeping you more comfortable.

Heating & Air Systems

Chances are, you’re not going to replace your entire heating and air system before you have to do so. But there are things you can do to reduce the energy it spends. Changing your air filter on schedule, for example, will improve the air flow to your system and reduce the energy required to keep you comfortable. Scheduling tune-ups from a heating and air professional will also help your system run more efficiently.

If you want to upgrade your heating and air system on a budget, consider a programmable thermostat. These thermostats maintain a comfortable temperature while you’re at home and awake; when you’re away or asleep, the thermostat can be programmed to maintain a temperature that demands less from your heating and air system. For example, your thermostat may be programmed to let your home stay cooler in winter, while you’re away at work; adjustments like these can reduce your power bill by as much as 10%.

Interlocks & Transfer Switches –
What’s the Difference?

by Gail Brumfield

If you’ve got a portable generator, and you want to safely connect it to your home’s electrical system, you and your licensed electrician have a choice to make: Whether to install a transfer switch or an interlock. There’s just one problem: You don’t know the difference. Don’t worry – we’ll fix that!

What’s a Transfer Switch?

Simply put, it’s a device that allows you to safely run power to your home’s electrical system. Transfer switches force you to choose between using utility power and generator power; they prohibit you from connecting your household electrical system to both at the same time – a dangerous circumstance that can severely harm devices, household systems, and utility workers.

In addition to controlling the connection between home, generator, and utilities, transfer switches also dictate which circuits are powered. Because most portable generators can’t power entire homes, transfer switches restrict power to the circuits (and their connected devices) that you’ll need most during an outage. You and your electrician will agree upon these circuits (and devices) prior to installation.

Transfer switches look like smaller versions of your home’s electrical panel. Because fewer circuits will be powered, you’ll see fewer breakers. You’ll also see a switch that allows you select whether you want to connect to the utility, the generator, or neither one. Once you flip the switch to the generator setting, the pre-arranged circuits will receive power as needed.

Depending on where your electrical panel (and transfer switch) are located, you may be able to plug your generator directly into an outlet on the switch; this will be the case if your panel and generator are located outside of your home. If your electrical panel is located inside your home, a power inlet box will also need to be installed on the outside of your home; your switch will connect to the generator via the power inlet box (which is basically an outlet).

What’s an Interlock?

Interlocks perform the same role as transfer switches, but they use a simpler method to do it. Interlocks are sliding metal plates that are installed onto the electrical panel; where these plates are positioned dictates whether or not the panel is connected to the generator or to utility power.

Unlike transfer switches, interlocks don’t require your electrician to perform any rewiring; overall, a bit less installation time is required for interlock kits. Again, depending on where your electrical panel is located, a power inlet box may also need to be installed.

Interlocks don’t dictate which circuits are powered; this is something that you’ll need to do manually. As mentioned above, portable generators are limited in which household systems they can power. You and your electrician will want to confirm what your generator can – and can’t – safely power. This will determine which circuits you’ll engage in the event of an outage; engage too many, and try to power too much, and you’ll risk overloading your generator.

There you have it: Relative to interlocks, transfer switches offer slightly easier operation, but more expense. What matters most to you?

How to Save Money on Renovating Your Home: 7 Cost-Saving Tips from the Pros

How to Save Money on Renovating Your Home: 7 Cost-Saving Tips from the Pros

Your dream home at a price you can afford? If you think that sounds more like a fantasy than reality, think again. You can definitely save on your home remodeling projects if you know the smart ways you can cut on costs.

Here are some suggestions on cost-efficient home renovation ideas that can save you thousands of dollars.

1. Don’t transfer the toilet or kitchen sink.

Moving the toilet or kitchen sink can increase your plumbing costs (which can go up to a thousand bucks)—so do away with it if it’s not necessary. But if you really have to do it, take the chance to have your pipes upgraded, too.

2. Seek the help of a contractor.

If you’re a skilled DIYer, chances are there’ll be some costly mistakes along the way if you’re doing everything on your own. Consider hiring the coaching services of a contractor for mentoring and consultation. You’ll then realize how much you’re going to save taking this route rather than relying only on yourself.

3. Pick up your materials yourself.

For your own DIY projects, having your needed materials delivered to your doorstep is convenient—but delivery fees can stack up and cost you much. You can save by picking them up yourself. No pickup truck? No problem. For just less than 500 bucks, you can get a utility trailer online that you can use for hauling your materials for your DIY home renovation projects.

4. Purchase your building supplies at auctions.

Rather than shop at home centers where prices can get really expensive, you’ll be better off buying your needed home renovation supplies at building-supply auctions. There, you’ll find items that cost only a few bucks as compared to home center items that can cost you thousands of dollars.

5. Engage an architect in a one-time design consultation.

If the scale of your project is not that big, it’s not practical and cost-efficient to get a full architectural service. Look for architects who are willing to provide design consultancy-only services. Make sure the service includes inspecting the problem and drawing out some solutions. Then you can give the architect’s drawing to a builder for execution.

6. Demolish and rebuild.

While this may sound like the craziest idea in the world, but starting from scratch can actually save you tens of thousands of dollars if you’re going to do a major home remodel. Demolishing your entire house and constructing a new one will result in a living space that’s stronger, sturdier, safer, and more energy-efficient.

7. Prioritize efficiency.

This is especially true in kitchen remodeling where size isn’t as important as efficiency. It just makes sense if you’re working with a small space. For example, you can change your space-consuming shelves with pull-out drawers that have racks for your various kitchen items and food. Kitchen upgrades such as lazy Susans, dividers, and pull-out trays can maximize your space and save you on remodeling costs.

Home renovation projects don’t have to involve wiping out your bank account. With some cost-saving ideas, you can make sure that you’ll have an excellently renovated house while keeping some of your savings intact.

8 Hottest Kitchen Trends in 2017: Great Ideas for Your Kitchen Remodeling Project

by Gail Brumfield
8 Hottest Kitchen Trends in 2017: Great Ideas for Your Kitchen Remodeling Project

Looking to upgrade your kitchen to make it look trendier and more functional? Consider some of these latest trends in kitchen design for your own remodeling project.

1. Dark-colored kitchens

Use one dark color as the main focus and complement it with brighter or lighter hues for that attention-grabbing color contrast for your kitchen. We’re not just talking about walls—you must include the appliances, flooring, furniture, and utensils in your overall color theme.

Some of the color combinations in recently remodeled kitchens include the following:

  • Black with white and gray
  • Ebony and white
  • Dark charcoal gray with white
  • Black and white

2. White appliances

White is one of the hottest colors of the kitchens in 1980s—and it’s back in 2017. The timeless appeal of white is evident in its fresh, clean vibe—which is ideal for the kitchen. The modern version of white appliances includes innovative touches and advanced surfaces such as glossy white finish and stainless steel handles.

3. Pet areas

Pets are part of the family, so they deserve their own space in the kitchen, too. In a recent survey, 35% of designers include pet spaces in the kitchens of their clients. Here are some kitchen pet space ideas to explore:

  • Special pull-out drawers for food and water bowls (this design aids eating and digestion for your dogs)
  • Racks for food and toys
  • Built-in feeding station and bed

4. Coffee stations

Who doesn’t need their daily caffeine fix? For the hardcore coffee lover in the family, it’s a great idea to set up a coffee station that will contain everything that’s needed for enjoying a good brew. Even a simple countertop for your coffee maker and drawers for your coffee beans, mugs, and spoons will work.

5. Induction cooktops

Sleek and stylish, built-in induction cooktops are ideal for a modern-style kitchen. Aside from excelling in the looks department, this kitchen appliance is also safer to use than the conventional stove.

6. Charging stations

In this interconnected world, we can’t live without our smartphones and tablets. This is why it’s not an outrageous idea to incorporate a charging or docking station in an unlikely area at home such as the kitchen. If you love experimenting with cooking and baking, you can watch those YouTube tutorials on your laptop while prepping the ingredients in the kitchen. A charging station for your laptop and other electronic gadgets will be helpful for that purpose.

7. Smart appliances

Getting a text message from your oven telling you that your food is ready to serve doesn’t sound like an absurd idea anymore. The future of kitchen appliances has come. If you have the budget for it, invest in some smart kitchen appliances that not only makes your space high-tech and advanced but also makes cooking and other kitchen activities more convenient and efficient for you.

8. Industrial-style kitchens

The simplicity and ruggedness of an industrial-designed kitchen will never go out of style. Woods and textured metals are the prime elements of an industrial kitchen.

Is there a kitchen trend that appeals to you? Share them with us!

4 Paint Color Tips that will Take Your Home Interior from Drab to Fab

by Gail Brumfield
4 Paint Color Tips that will Take Your Home Interior from Drab to Fab

When you enter a house, what’s the first thing you often notice? Right—it’s the colors. Studies show that color elicits majority of a person’s reaction to a place. So it pays to give your home’s color scheme a careful thought in your home remodeling project. Here are some paint color tips to make your home an impressive one for your family and guests.

Consider the mood of the room.

Dining room – For a formal atmosphere, use neutral colors such as gray, white, brown, and beige or deep blue-greens. If you like inviting guests over dinner and lunch, use warmer, contrasting colors to create a more sociable effect.

Bedroom – Go for cool and soft colors if you want to create a relaxing and calming effect. But if you like a dramatic and intimate mood, use stronger or darker colors.

Consider the lighting in the room.

Your choice of color should match the prevailing light source of the room. Keep in mind that fluorescent lighting leads to a blue tone, while incandescent lighting shows yellows and warm tones. On the other hand, lighting that comes from the windows reveals the paint’s true color. Consider such lighting effects when choosing a paint color for areas near your windows and other direct or indirect light sources.

Refer to the color wheel.

When in doubt, consult the color wheel that shows which colors go great together and which ones are warm and cool. You’ll have fun experimenting with color palettes with the color wheel as your guide.

Go monochromatic with a twist.

To make your color choice simpler, you can opt for a single color. But how can you make it look interesting and appealing in a room? Use different paint finishes, closely related colors, or an accent color that will go well with your main color scheme.

Once you’ve decided on the perfect color scheme for one of your rooms, it’s time to get your paints and brushes ready!

5 Things that can Add Up to Your Home Remodeling Expenses: Costs to Watch Out For

by Gail Brumfield
5 Things that can Add Up to Your Home Remodeling Expenses: Costs to Watch Out For

Building your dream living space involves financial investments—that’s one of the basic realities of home remodeling. But then there are some not-so-obvious costs that can balloon your total remodeling expenses if you’re not careful and meticulous enough.

To help you save money and cut down on unnecessary expenses, here are the costs you must watch out for when remodeling your home.

Higher water and power consumption

This is an inevitable additional expense, considering that machines, power tools, and other stuff that uses up electricity and water are used for your home renovation. So don’t get the shock of your life when the utility bills arrive.

Your lost time for work or business

In the entire duration of your remodeling project, you’ll definitely spend time visiting showrooms, shopping at home centers, meeting contractors, and other tasks. That will require you to take time off your work or business. So the lost work or business hours should also be considered when you compute your total home remodeling expenses.

Changing your mind

If you change your mind a lot about the scope of work and even the tiniest details such as the knobs to use for your kitchen cabinets, you’ll stand to spend more money than what your budget allows.

Dining out

Especially if you’re remodeling your kitchen, you’ll have no way to prepare more affordable meals at home. So prepare for additional costs that come with dining out while your remodeling is ongoing. Alternatively, you can ask your contractor to build a temporary makeshift kitchen or you can opt for inexpensive no-cook meals you can eat at home.

Boarding your pets

If you have pets at home, factor in the cost of boarding them while your remodeling project is in progress. This way, you ensure the safety of your furry friends.

Be wary and keep track of these unexpected expenses so that everything is taken care of, and you’ll not get short of budget.

Remodeling Your Kitchen? 5 Expert Tips to Save Time and Money

by Gail Brumfield
Remodeling Your Kitchen? 5 Expert Tips to Save Time and Money

While updating your kitchen sounds like an exciting endeavor, you have to carefully and thoroughly plan it before you get your kitchen remodeling project started. Here are a few tips from the pros to help you save time, money, and headaches caused by the common remodeling mistakes.

Make sure your remodeled kitchen will look great with the rest of your home’s design.

Respect the architectural integrity of your home by making sure that the design of your new kitchen doesn’t clash with that of your entire home. This might mean you’ll have to leave some of your original appliances intact for the sake of keeping your new kitchen design consistent with other rooms in your house. This will ensure your home has resale value for prospective buyers.

Consider your lifestyle.

Aesthetics and functionality should both be prioritized when you upgrade your kitchen. This is why your lifestyle should be factored in when deciding, for example, what new appliances to add to your kitchen. Do you really need five-star-hotel-quality kitchen appliances when you’re not a serious or professional chef? Be realistic about your needs and make sure your choice of appliances match your lifestyle.

Do your research before you get a contractor.

Ask for recommendations from family and friends. Read online reviews. You need a contractor that you can fully trust to get the work done right.

Don’t scrimp on kitchen cabinets.

If there’s anything in your kitchen that’s worth investing in, it’s the cabinetry. Go with cheap cabinets, and you’ll find yourself replacing them more often than necessary.

Keep it functional.

Make an inventory of all your kitchen gadgets, appliances, utensils, and furniture and think of smart ways to store them. Your inventory will make it easier for you to create a functional design for your upgraded kitchen.

With these kitchen remodeling tips from the professionals, you can be sure that your effort, time, and money won’t go to waste.