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Window sill of a house in rural

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready

Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long-run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents

Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed

Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect—sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work over-time, which in turn will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates

Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there. To see if you live in a deregulated area, just enter your address here.

5. Time Your Thermostat

If you want to be cost conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs

While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern

If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan

In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips

Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule

Irrigation schedules or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips, we promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Rob Caiello is the Vice President of Marketing over at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and setup of home utilities and services (like internet, TV, and electricity) for millions of movers relocating across the United States.

http://blog.rismedia.com/2017/10-ways-save-utility-bills-summer/#.WSMTRZcpIU8.facebook

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Hope that you have a fantastic weekend, whatever you choose to do!
If you are thinking of remodeling or updating your house or yard, this is a great event to attend for ideas and to see the newest products.
Tampa Bay Home Show (All Weekend)
Home improvement experts will be at the Tampa Bay Home Show this weekend.  Exhibits, giveaways, door prizes, seminars, and  the latest trends in home remodeling: from kitchen and baths to flooring, to windows and home protection. Friday and Saturday from 10am-6pm, Sunday from 10am-5pm. Free admission and parking. Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive. St Petersburg, Florida
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Pub Crawl and Pokemon GO Day @ Jannus Live. (Not sure I feel about this-could be interesting.)
Pokemon GO has quickly become an international sensation. This Saturday, players from all over Tampa Bay will gather downtown for a huge Pokemon Pub Crawl. The festivities begin at Jannus Live at 2pm and will move to designated zones beginning at 3pm. This event is 21+ and is free to attend. Check with Jannus Live for details, 200 1st Avenue N.

Girls Rock Camp at The Local 662. (This is cool.)
The campers from the very first Girls Rock Camp St. Pete will be performing LIVE in front of an audience of friends, family, supporters and fans! 2-6pm. $10 for adults, $5 for kids 13 and under (cash only at the door). The Local 662, 662 Central Avenue. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chef’s Summer Tasting Menu at Stillwaters Tavern (next to our office-238 Beach Dr. NE. Great smells come drifting from the there. Oh, yum.)
Enjoy the new Chefs Tasting Menu at Stillwaters Tavern with 3 courses for just $19.99 Starter: House or Caesar Salad; Main: Grilled 5 oz Tavern Steak, Fish of the day, or Char Siu Chicken Ramen; Dessert: Brioche Bread Pudding, Almond Tart with Citrus Curd and Pears, or Summer Berries with Ice Cream. Available 4-7pm. Call 727-350-1019 for reservations. Stillwaters Tavern, 224 Beach Drive Northeast.

The Florida Bjorkestra: The Music of Bjork and Kate Bush, with Jamie Perlow and Whitney James at Palladium Theater. (This is something new and different to attend.
 Fifteen piece ensemble of local luminaries known as The Florida Björkestra bring the sound, arrangements and quirky harmony of Icelandic artist Björk delivering chamber-pop renditions of songs such as Human Behaviour, Army of Me, Hyperballad and I’ve Seen It All. The orchestra features strings, horns and chorale backed by bass, drums, guitar and piano. Vocalist Jamie Perlow fronts the group. 6pm. $15 in advance, $18 day of show. Palladium Theater, 253 5th Avenue North.

Architects, developers, and designers are moving past green homes and open floor plans. Here’s what trend-conscious buyers need to know.


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Much of the hype around healthy living these days centers on whether you’ve eliminated gluten from your diet or walked 10,000 steps today. But lasting health benefits may be better derived from fundamental changes in how we live. That’s the tack savvy building and design professionals are taking as they draw on technological advances and changing demographics to create a new vision for the home. It’s not enough to just be green anymore; tomorrow’s homes—both single-family and multifamily buildings—will be more sustainable and resilient to natural disasters. And we’re moving beyond open floor plans. Flexible spaces are giving way to homes that can accommodate multiple generations, communal gatherings, and universal design. These preferences will influence the size of homes and how they look—and function—outside and inside. In addition, they reflect where homes are built, as an increasing number of buyers—from millennials to boomers—want to shorten their commutes and walk more. You can become an expert resource for buyers and sellers by tuning into the forward-thinking trends that design and architectural pros are buzzing about.

While suburbia isn’t dead or dying, it’s clear that a groundswell of home buyers is heading downtown. For some, that means a dense urban metropolis like New York or Chicago where work, home, and retail are at their doorstep. But for others, what’s appealing is a suburb with a downtown core that offers walkability such as Highland Park, Ill., or Clayton, Mo. Even a more rural outpost like bucolic Red Hook, N.Y., with its robust town center, fits the bill.

The common denominator: People of all ages are tired of their car-centric lives and care less about square footage than finding a home in a location that’s compatible with their interests and values, says Bruce D. Snider, a building designer and architectural writer based in Belfast, Maine.

Healthier, Smarter Materials

The construction of houses and multifamily buildings is evolving. Designers and architects are seeking to make buildings that are weather-resilient, sustainable, safer, and primed for the latest technology.

  • Well buildings: Green buildings that steer clear of harmful paints and adhesives and highlight water conservation are well-regarded, but the newer focus is on design that enhances the quality of life for occupants. “Biophilic” planning involves placing windows to showcase outdoor greenery and doors that strive for seamlessness between the great outdoors and a home’s interior. An emphasis on natural light, along with LEDs controlled by dimmers and in colors that can be changed for nighttime and gray days, simulates circadian rhythms in the body to improve sleep patterns, another boon for healthfulness. Upcoming software will harvest daylight to provide more natural light since some multifamily building codes dictate smaller glass expanses and restrict certain lightbulb types, says sustainability consultant Brian Lomel, cochair of the Urban Land Institute’s South Florida Building Healthy Places Committee. In areas with small yards, pocket gardens are popular, and more rooftops will be planted on multifamily buildings and townhouses. And look for more landscapes with trees featuring interesting branch structures, even without blooms or berries, says Betsy Williamson with Williamson Chong Architects in Toronto.
  • Less maintenance: Whether it’s due to the financial burden or the lengthy time commitment of tending to yards and repairs, consumers are eager for materials and systems that are more durable and require less maintenance than in the past. “Many boomers and their offspring are less inclined to mow lawns and perform other tasks,” says architect Duo Dickinson, author of Staying Put (The Taunton Press, 2011). At Aventura ParkSquare, realistic-looking artificial turf will be installed, which will help conserve water. Other systems and materials there will need to be replaced less often. Individuals like mason and builder Clay Chapman of Atlanta’s Hope for Architecture also focus on materials with greater longevity, which is influencing the thinking of both design professionals and home owners. “Hand-built brick walls are labor-intensive but will last for centuries rather than for just one home owner,” he says. Architect Jon Handley of Pulltab in New York concurs. “The best way to be green is to build with quality that lasts,” he says.
  • Weather and energy: Communities on the forefront of energy and weather efficiency are setting guidelines for better waterproofing and strategically placed insulation. “The goal is to go beyond what’s required, not use energy at all and get off the grid,” says Philadelphia developer Nino Cutrufello. Going the energy-efficient route can be less costly than adding features such as solar panels and geothermal heating, he says. Structures are also being better designed to withstand severe weather. Aventura ParkSquare, outside Miami, is being designed to include well-insulated windows that block harmful ultraviolet rays, says principal Victor Ballestas. In parts of California where fires have raged, noncombustible concrete tiles, brick, and composites that imitate wood are favored, says New York architect Chris Garvin.
  • Healthfulness: Encouraging healthy living goes beyond including bicycle racks and gyms in multifamily buildings, Lomel says. To build Aventura ParkSquare, a community within a community, its developer Integra Investments heeded ideas from “Fit City Miami,” a collaborative effort with ULI to incorporate The American Institute of Architects’ “Active Design” guidelines. Results at the condominium development are retail options such as a boot camp and yoga studio, restaurants with rooftop gardens for growing produce, medical offices, an assisted-living facility, wider sidewalks, and a 131-unit condo building with glass-enclosed stairways to encourage walking rather than riding in enclosed elevators, says Ballestas. ULI’s South Florida group will showcase the project as a case study for healthy-living initiatives, Lomel says.
  • Smarter technology: Managing power needs will continue to be huge as more home owners seek to stay connected 24/7. Forward-thinking techies will develop more robust wireless hubs to provide power from a central source and make it easier and less costly to control everything from one app on a smart phone, says Garvin. Already, developers like Washington, D.C.’s EYA are bringing on board an automation consultant.

A Greater Sense of Belonging

The size and layout of single-family homes, condos, and rentals are being reconfigured with an eye toward fostering community and adapting to space challenges and changing demographics.

  • Seed to feed: Don’t call it a garden: Edible landscaping is appearing in single-family yards and multifamily building rooftops. Lomel predicts consumer and developer interest will lead to demand for organic gardening consultants. “They’ll satisfy people’s food-growing needs rather than [feature] nonedible plant materials,” he says. Communal space for cooking and dining are expected to be part of more development projects. “People want that sense of connection,” Garvin says. An even bigger trend is the “agrihood,” which makes a farm a key amenity in a residential development. Developer and architect Matthew “Quint” Redmond of AgriNetx in Golden, Colo., conceived the idea back in 2003, but the recession stalled construction. Ground will be broken this fall for his newest—Adams Crossing in Brighton, Colo., which will include 438 residential units on 101 acres with about half the land devoted to farms. Redmond says his two prime buyer targets are “boomers who would rather work in orchards than play golf and millennials who don’t want to live in a cubicle as their parents did.” Many sites are former golf courses, and he expects more little-used courses to be transformed.
  • Multigenerational togetherness: Multiple generations living together isn’t new; cultural traditions, economic pressures, and elderly and child care needs have long made such arrangements desirable for some. In the past, families had little choice but to offer up a spare bedroom when they needed to share their space. But architects are dreaming up new options for the 21st century family. Designer Marianne Cusato became an early proponent for planning ahead with her “New Economy” house; its first-floor suite with a private entry offers independence for older adults and boomerang children. EYA is designing townhouses with private quarters on one floor that can be converted to other uses as needs change.
  • Open plans on a smaller scale: Open floor plans still dominate, but to differentiate smaller spaces, designer Seth Grizzle of Graypants in Seattle likes to add whimsy, reflecting the desire for customized spaces. “People want a fun edge that makes them smile, and they’ll give up space to get some uniqueness,” he says. Examples can include a door that becomes a bookshelf, a phone charging station in a desk, or a softly glowing wall lit from behind. In multifamily buildings, developers are including larger shared and mixed-use spaces to make up for smaller-sized dwelling units. David Baker Architects’ 1178 Folsom Street building in San Francisco will include units that average just 290 square feet but have access to large common areas such as a rooftop deck and ground-level retail. Sarah Barnard, a designer in Santa Monica, Calif., sees the trend mushrooming as millennials shift from renting to buying. “They’re a generation that is less materialistic and more concerned about the environment and that has a debt burden, so they have less to spend,” she says.
  • Universal design: A recent AIA Home Design Trends Survey found respondents were interested in having greater accessibility inside their homes including wider hallways and more visible handrails. Yet, many still resist features, such as grab bars in showers and bathtubs, that signal that residents are aging. Future designs are expected to incorporate such adaptations in more subtle, creative ways. As the built environment evolves, how it looks will reflect a more contemporary sensibility.”We won’t look to the past. Modern design is the future,” Williamson says. “All this amazing technology and other changes go part and parcel with much more forward-looking designs.”

Easy and cheap ways to make your water heater more energy efficient.  By: Joe Bousquin  Houselogic.com

In the saving energy fight, the hot water heater is a born loser. That’s because most of us have a conventional storage-type water heater.

That water storage tank works constantly to keep water hot and ready whenever you want it. But as the water sits, it naturally cools down, a process known as “standby heat loss.” When the water cools, the burner or heating element kicks on to warm it up again, in a constantly repeating cycle.

Water heating is the second largest energy hog in your home, accounting for 14% to 18% of your household’s total energy costs — between $400 and $600 per year. (Heating and cooling is the #1 energy hog.)

Here are 5 tips to trim your water heating costs:

#1 Turn Down the Tank’s Thermostat

For every 10 degrees you turn it down, you’ll save 3% to 5% on your bill. Most water heaters come preset at 140 degrees, which has the added risk of scalding. The Energy Department recommends most households lower it to 120 degrees. That’s high enough for your needs, and high enough to reduce mineral buildup in your tank and pipes.

Here’s how to ensure you get 120 degrees:

  • First measure to see what temperature your water is at now. Don’t trust the thermostat. They are often inaccurate. Instead, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the hot water at the faucet farthest away from the heater.
  • To remember this setting, mark that temperature on your thermostat.
  • Now turn down the thermostat to what you think will be 120 degrees, based on your earlier measurement.
  • Wait at least 2 hours. Measure the water temperature again at the same far-away faucet. It may take a few attempts to get it right.
  • Once it’s right, mark that spot on your thermostat so you’ll remember it.

If the thermostat on your water heater doesn’t have a numbered gauge, put it midway between the “low” and “medium” marks. Wait a day, and then measure the tap temperature as described above. Keep adjusting until you hit your target temperature.

Keep in mind that some water heaters have two thermostats — one for the bottom heating element and one for the top.
#2: Use Less Hot Water

One sure way to cut hot water costs is to use less of it.

A family of four showering five minutes a day uses 700 gallons of water each week — a three-year supply of drinking water for one person!

Simply by installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators ($10 to $20 each), you’ll cut your hot water consumption by 25% to 60%. Plus, you’ll save on your water bill. That family of four using low-flow fixtures can save 14,000 gallons of water a year.

Also, make sure you use the “economy” setting on your dishwasher, and break the pre-washing habit. Modern dishwashers can handle a dirty dish. Scrape what’s left of dinner into the trash or compost bin and then load.

#3: Drain the Sediment

Tanks naturally build up sediment, which reduces efficiency and makes saving energy a challenge. 
Draining the tank will keep it running efficiently. And it’s really easy to do:

  • Turn off the water and power to the unit. On a gas unit, set the burner to “pilot.”
  • Connect a garden hose to the spigot at the base of the tank.
  • With the other end of the hose pointed at your floor drain, carefully lift the tank’s pressure-relief valve and turn on the tank’s spigot; water should begin to flow.

Tip: While most manufacturers recommend draining the tank once or twice a year, you don’t have to drain it completely; in fact, the Department of Energy recommends draining less water more often — just a quart every three months.
#4: Insulate Exposed Hot-Water Pipes

By insulating your hot water pipes, water will arrive at the faucet 2 to 4 degrees warmer, which means you won’t have to wait as long for it to heat up, thus saving energy, water, and money.

While this isn’t an expensive DIY job — 6-ft.-long, self-sealing sleeves ($2.50) easily slip over pipes — it could take effort, depending on where your hot water pipes are located. Exposed pipes in the basement are easy targets: Hard-to-reach pipes in crawl spaces or walls might not be worth the trouble.

#5 Insulate Your Hot Water Tank

If you have an older tank, and especially if it’s located in an unheated space, wrapping it with an insulating blanket is a cheap and easy way to reduce costs.

Manufacturers have figured this out, so most newer models already are insulated. It’s easy to find out which one you have. Look on its label to see if it has an R-value of at least 24. If not, you should insulate your tank.
With these older models, an insulating blanket can cut heat loss by 25% to 45% and save 4% to 9% on the average water-heating bill (source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy).

Insulating blankets are easy to install and inexpensive ($20). When dressing your tank for saving energy, be careful not to block the thermostat on an electric water heater or the air inlet and exhaust on a gas unit.

If you have a newer model that’s already insulated, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get additional savings by adding a layer of insulation. It can block critical components and become hazardous. Check with your manufacturer.
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/water-heaters/water-heater-energy-saving-tips/#ixzz3D93vXMzy

 

Well, here’s a cheery way to start the week. No, actually, this is one of the best infographics I have seen on preparing your home for natural disasters. I like that it is concise & full of information as well as debunking some myths. Which natural disaster causes the most damage? 6 of the 7 people I asked, responded with the wrong answer. See how you fare.

 

how-prepare-natural-disaster-infographic_a68c15f98be8b356a3f056f52359b994

 

 

 

 

 

What an informative article!! Please take the time to read this wonderfully written article if you think that you might remodel your kitchen in the next few years.

By: John Riha  from Houselogic.com
Afraid your kitchen remodeling choices will look so 2013-ish in a few years?  Relax, we know how to make your kitchen timelessly gorgeous and functional.

Fiesta ware displayed on open shelves in kitchenA white kitchen is the perfect backdrop for showcasing Fiesta ware on open  shelves. Image: Kim Woodward/NewlyWoodwards.com

We see lots of kitchen trends at HouseLogic, so we know it’s easy to get  swept along with what’s in vogue, only to get bummed out by your faddish design  choices a few years later. Thank you — and damn you — Pinterest.

But chances are you’re only going to remodel your current kitchen once. After  all, the annual Cost vs.  Value Report from Remodeling magazine pegs the average price of a  major kitchen remodel at about $54,000. With that much on the line, you want to  make all the right moves. If you do, you could recoup nearly 70% of your  investment if you sell.
So we’re here to future-proof you from angst by  naming the seven definitive kitchen features that will retain  their beauty, marketability, and value — all while giving you lasting enjoyment.
#1: White is the Dominant Color
Bottom line:  White is the most marketable color. You’ll always find it atop the National  Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual survey of most popular kitchen colors. It  simply doesn’t go out of style.
White’s mojo:

  • Throughout history, it’s been associated with happiness, purity (think Snow  White), and new beginnings.
  • It’s a bright color that reflects light and makes even small  kitchens feel larger.
  • It’s a neatnik’s dream — dirt has no place to hide.

Even better, it’s uber-tolerant of both your budget and taste: A standard  color for any manufacturer, you’ll find white cabinets, tile, counters, faucets,  sinks, and appliances at any price point.

Vintage stove

Credit: Ken Clark, Realtor

Related:

  • White:  The Savvy and Chic Kitchen Color Choice
  • Before  and After Pictures of White Kitchens

And with a white backdrop, you can be as conservative or expressive as you  want. After all, it’s about your enjoyment, not just dollars and cents. For  example:

  • Add your personal touch with colored glass knobs and pulls.

Glass knobs

 Credit: Allessia of Little Lessy

  • Show off antique Fiesta ware on open shelves or in upper cabinets with glass  fronts.
  • Paint walls the color du jour — even off-white!

Paint walls

Credit: Lisa Damrosch

Heck, with a white palette, you can change your mind about paint color on a  whim. Those all-white basics will make any hue you choose look fresh and  contemporary.

Related: Using  Color to Personalize Your Kitchen and Home
#2: Hardwood for  Flooring

Wood floor

 Credit: RJK Construction, Inc.

It’s been our foot fetish for years. That’s especially true ever since  hardwood flooring was mass-produced during the Industrial Revolution, making  beautiful flooring readily available at a reasonable cost.
Today, more  than half of home buyers who purchased a home without hardwood floors say they  would have paid an extra $2,080 for them, according to the 2013 Home Features  Survey from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And among buyers of any age,  upwards of 80% say hardwood floors are “somewhat” or “very  important.”
“It’s the one feature men and women agree on,” says Debe  Robinson, NKBA treasurer and owner of Kitchen Expressions Inc. in Sheffield,  Ala., who’s also worked in the flooring industry.
Why? The love of wood  is in our genes. Our nesting instincts know that hardwood has warmth,  personality, and makes our homes cozy and inviting. That’s why this clever  chameleon pairs well with any kitchen style — from casual cottage and sleek  contemporary to the most chi-chi Park Avenue traditional.
More reasons  why wood flooring is the goof-proof option:

  • Perfect for open floor plans. It flows beautifully from the  kitchen into adjoining rooms.
  • It’s tough. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, and maple will  shrug off your kitchen’s high-traffic punishment for years. Solid hardwood  flooring can be refinished 10 to 12 times during it’s typical 100-year  lifespan.
  • It’s eco-friendly. Hardwood is considered a green building  material when it’s certified  by the Forest Stewardship Council and comes from sustainably managed  forests.

Related: The  Best Choices for Kitchen Flooring

#3: Shaker Style for Cabinets

Shaker cabinets

Credit: Stacey Collins Design

Thank heaven for the Shakers. While they were busy reducing life to its  essentials, they made cabinets with clean, simple lines that will  forever be in style.
Shaker cabinets are an enduring legacy of American  style and, like wood flooring, have the knack for looking good in any setting.  Their simple frame-and-panel design helps reduce the amount of busyness in a  kitchen, making it a soothing, friendly place to be.
“In a kitchen with a  timeless look, you want the cabinets to be part of the backdrop,” says Alan  Zielinski, a former president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. “You  don’t want to be overpowered. You’re looking for plain, simple, clean  lines.”
Those plain, simple, clean lines are a perfect fit for  transitional style — a beautiful combo of traditional and contemporary styles.  In fact, the National Kitchen and Bath Association says that after creeping up  on traditional for years, transitional is now the most popular kitchen  style.

As our families grow more diverse, transitional style will only get more  popular. It lets us personalize and blend cultural influences — Latin, Asian,  Mideastern — into our homes; it’s the perfect balance of old and new, just like  Shaker-style cabinets.

Related: How  to Choose Kitchen Cabinets for the Best Value
#4: Carrara  Marble for Countertops

Carrara marble

Credit: Jennifer Thompson

Carrara marble is a timeless classic that’s been used in homes for thousands  of years. (Michelangelo’s “David” was carved from Carrara.) It’ll look as good  in the next millennium as it does now.
Here’s why:

  • Carrara’s lacy graining and subtle white colors look terrific in a white  kitchen (or any kitchen, for that matter).
  • It has a whiteness you won’t find in other natural stones.
  • It’s readily available, making it less expensive than other high-end  choices, such as quartz.
  • It’ll last for generations.

If you Google it, you’ll find a lot of debate about it (and marble in  general) because it stains easily. But if you want something truly timeless,  Carrara is the answer. And with today’s sealants, the problem of staining is  almost moot if you reseal once or twice a year.

Related: How  to Get the Look of Marble Without the Cost
Still not sold? Or don’t  have the budget? Laminate  countertops are relatively inexpensive and can be upgraded to stone when you  do have the budget.
#5: Subway Tile for the  Backsplash

Subway tile

Credit: A Lo and Behold Life

Subway tile goes back to the early 1900s, when it was used to line New York’s  first subway tunnels. Classic subway tiles are white, 3-by-6-inch rectangles — a  look that became popular in American kitchens and baths, and has stuck around  ever since. Now it’s an iconic part of the American design vernacular, destined  never to go out of style.
In the kitchen, ceramic tile excels as a  backsplash, where it guards against moisture, is a snap to clean, lasts forever,  and always looks classy.
Sure, a backsplash can be an opportunity for a  blast of color and pattern, but neutrals will always be current and blend with  any look. Plus, a subway tile backsplash and a marble countertop make a dashing  couple that will stand the test of time.
To make it even more enduring,  keep it achromatic and camouflage dirt with gray or beige grout.

Related: Classic  Backsplashes for Any Budget
#6: Ergonomic  Design
Adaptability and universal  design features mean easy living at any age. A recent survey on kitchens  from the American Institute of Architects points to the growing popularity of  smart ergonomic design, a sign that kitchen adaptability will stay in vogue.
Smart ergonomics simply mean convenience — for young or old, party  people or homebodies — a key factor when remodeling  a kitchen that will function well, retain its value, and always feel  right.
No matter you or your buyer’s current or future needs, everyone  wins with these approaches:

  • Create different countertop heights. Standard height is 36  inches, but you can raise or lower sections of cabinets by altering the height  of the base. Add color-match shim strips to the bases of countertops that don’t  include sinks or appliances. You (or a new owner) can easily remove them or add  to them to adjust the height.
  • Swap a standard range for a wall oven and a cooktop. Ranges  have fixed heights. There’s no getting around the fact you have to bend to  access the oven. But a wall  oven conveniently installs about waist-high.
  • Add pull-out shelves to base cabinets. Lower cabinets with  doors mean having to twist like a pretzel to see what’s inside. Pull-out shelves  put everything at your fingertips.

Smart storage

Credit: Autumn Clemons of MyDesignDump.blogspot.com

  • Keep wide clearances. Kitchens attract people, and with  open floor plans, you’re apt to have folks hunting for snacks, helping you cook,  or just hanging out while you prep meals. Keep traffic flowing with a minimum of  42 inches between counters and islands.

Related: Find  Out How Stylish Ergonomic Design Can Be

#7: Smart Storage
Today’s families store about 47% of  their kitchen stuff outside the kitchen — in laundry  rooms, basements, even sheds — according to data released at the 2013  Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.
We blame it on the fact that kitchens  have evolved from a tucked-away place at the back of the house into a  multiple-chef, multi-tasking space that’s the hub of family life. Plus, our love  of open kitchens and stocking up at warehouse stores means less wall space and  more stuff, kitchen design expert Robinson says.
The solution: smart  storage. Cabinet manufacturers have you covered with nearly unlimited storage  options — shelves and compartments that unfold, turn, extend, and  slide.
But it’s not just about having storage, it’s about designing it  smartly. Follow these guidelines to make your storage  timeless:
Create a primary storage zone. This is an area  30 to 60 inches high and within two feet on either side of your body. Store your  most-used items here — your favorite work knives, measuring cups, salt and  pepper for cooking, your trusty pots and pans. With one easy motion, you can  grab what you use all the time.
Plan for the unknown. A  truly timeless kitchen anticipates and adapts to future needs, such as:

  • A space that can easily convert to an office, wine  storage, or a closet.
  • Lower cabinet spaces that can accommodate a wine cooler, under-counter  refrigerator, a second  dishwasher, or new must-have kitchen appliances on the horizon. (Remember  when microwaves didn’t exist?)
  • An open space that fits a freestanding desk or favorite antique that can  personalize the kitchen — no matter who owns the home.

See Storage Options  that Pack More Space in Your Kitchen

Related: Smart  Kitchen Remodeling Strategies to Get You Started
We feel strongly  about these kitchen features, but we love your strong opinions, too. So tell us  what you think! 

John_Riha   John Rihahas written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on  home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of  the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of  Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

I think that this is the home that I’ve been looking for.

NEW YORK – Aug. 15, 2012 – The HGTV cable channel will construct its first HGTV Smart Home in Paradise Key South Beach in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. Designed to fit into the coastal Northeast Florida architecture, the home will feature the latest technology and incorporate many of energy-saving features.
HGTV viewers can enter for a chance to win the home next spring when the HGTV Smart Home Giveaway opens for entries in April 2013. They can follow construction progress at www.hgtv.com/smarthome.
Smart home technology connects many appliances and devices, and allows homeowners to monitor energy use and control systems such as security, interior climate, lighting and other electronics.
Designed by architect Mike Stauffer, AIA, and constructed by Glenn Layton Homes, the HGTV Smart Home will measure about 2,400 square feet with over 1,000 square feet of covered porches, decks and a pool. The project will use primarily local labor and materials.
“This community’s thoughtful design vision and refreshing coastal architecture make Paradise Key a remarkable place to live and a wonderful setting to showcase the first HGTV Smart Home,” says developer Lon Walton. “We have an outstanding beach community, and we are very excited about teaming with HGTV and having the First Coast as the first location for the HGTV Smart Home.”
© 2012 Florida Realtors®

also see:     http://www.hgtv.com/video/the-hgtv-smart-home-2013-video/index.html

5 Smart Home Products from a Cool Trade Show

By:  John Riha

Published: July 2, 2012

The 2012 Pacific Coast Builders Conference has a dazzling array of brainy products that take the worry out of having to think for yourself.

I’m a sucker for home products that are smarter than I am. OK, maybe that’s setting the bar too low, but when looking for intelligently designed stuff that has a little techno-pop to it, the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco is a great place to start.
PCBC trots out some of the slick-but-common-sense innovations in the industry. Here are a few of the products I saw at the recent 2012 PCBC that I’d buy for my own home. A couple are a bit pricey, but expect costs to come down as demand increases.
1. Windows that let you know if they’re locked

Window lock

In this peanut butter-and-jelly corporate pairing, Andersen Windows teamed up with Honeywell to create a home security system. Wireless sensors embedded in Andersen’s Verilock-equipped products (marketed through their Eagle and Silver Line windows and doors) know if windows and doors are open or closed, and if they’re locked or not.

The info is displayed at a centrally located control panel, or you can check from your smartphone or tablet.
The setup and a couple of 2-by-5-foot casement windows is about $2,500. Windows with Verilock are 20% more expensive than without.
2. Shingles that give you solar power

Solar shingle

A grail of the solar energy industry has been to create a good-looking residential roofing shingle that’s also a solar panel. The Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingle comes close. It looks like a regular asphalt shingle, albeit a real shiny one, and it’s designed to integrate with regular asphalt shingles.
The manufacture claims:

  • They’ll withstand 110 mph winds and 1-inch hail.
  • For $31,000 worth of new roofing featuring both Powerhouse and regular asphalt shingles, a 2,550-sq.-ft. house would see $76,000 worth of energy savings in 25 years.

3. Soil guru waters your lawn when needed

Irrigation controller

One thing that makes a lot of sense when it comes to home automation (not everything does) is smart irrigation control, and the ESP-SMT Irrigation Controller from Rain Bird seems to have a lot going for it in the smarts department. Input your ZIP code and the integrated sensor monitors daily weather conditions and turns on the irrigation system only when needed. Rain Bird claims 30% to 50% less water consumption than a conventional controller.
It also factors in the slope of your lawn, the amount of sun exposure, and soil type; and it handles up to 13 individual zones and meets EPA WaterSense criteria for irrigation controllers. $135.
4. A bathroom fan that lights up when it sees you

Home vent fan

Our bathroom fan sounds like a 747 taking off — you flinch and duck when you turn it on. Thankfully, fan engineering is getting quieter, and Panasonic’s WhisperSense-Lite bathroom fan adds motion sensors, a humidity sensor, a delay timer, and a night light. Plus, it’s Energy Star qualified and really quiet — great for concentrating on that crossword puzzle. $350.
5. Chic — and safe — shower stall

Curbless shower pan

This isn’t necessarily high-tech, but I’ve been looking for a curbless shower pan for our own (endless) bathroom renovation; this one could fit the bill nicely.
The barrier-free shower is standard for universal design installations, but walk-in showers are tres chic for today’s bathrooms, and by golly we want one. The Tuff Form Shower Base from Design Without Barriers has a slight slope to drain water — no need to pitch the subfloor — and it works with either ceramic tile or vinyl flooring.
A 3-by-3-foot shower base is about $1,000.
Which product would you buy? Are you a must-have-the-latest technology person or someone who’ll wait until prices come down?

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2012 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

When was the last time you checked your foundation vents?By Paul Bianchina, Inman News®

The sun is peeking out and the plants are starting to blossom, so it must be about time for spring chores again. Here’s my annual spring checklist of important issues to tend to around the house.

1. Roofing repairs: If you suspect winter storms may have damaged your roof, it needs to be inspected. (If you’re not comfortable with the height or steepness of your roof, hire a licensed roofing contractor for the inspection.) Look for missing or loose shingles, including ridge-cap shingles.Examine the condition of the flashings around chimneys, flue pipes, vent caps, and anyplace where the roof and walls intersect. Look for overhanging trees that could damage the roof in a wind storm, as well as buildups of leaves and other debris.If you have roof damage in a number of areas, or if older shingles makes patching impractical, consider having the entire roof redone. Also, remember that if the shingles have been damaged by wind or by impact from falling tree limbs, the damage may be covered by your homeowners insurance.

2. Check gutters and downspouts: Look for areas where the fasteners may have pulled loose, and for any sags in the gutter run. Also, check for water stains that may indicate joints that have worked loose and are leaking. Clean leaves and debris to be ready for spring and summer rains.

3. Fences and gates: Fence posts are especially susceptible to groundwater saturation, and will loosen up and tilt if the soil around them gets soaked too deeply. Check fence posts in various areas by wiggling them to see how solidly embedded they are. If any are loose, wait until the surrounding soil has dried out, then excavate around the bottom of the posts and pour additional concrete to stabilize them. Replace any posts that have rotted.

4. Clear yard debris: Inspect landscaping for damage, especially trees. If you see any cracked, leaning or otherwise dangerous conditions with any of your trees, have a licensed, insured tree company inspect and trim or remove them as needed. Clean up leaves, needles, small limbs and other material that has accumulated. Do any spring pruning that’s necessary. Remove and dispose of all dead plant material so it won’t become a fire hazard as it dries.

5. Fans and air conditioners: Clean and check the operation of cooling fans, air conditioners and whole-house fans. Shut the power to the fan, remove the cover and wash with mild soapy water, then clean out dust from inside the fan with a shop vacuum — do not operate the fan with the cover removed. Check outdoor central air conditioning units for damage or debris buildup, and clean or replace any filters. Check the roof or wall caps where the fan ducts terminate to make sure they are undamaged and well sealed. Check dampers for smooth operation.

6. Check and adjust sprinklers: Run each set of in-ground sprinklers through a cycle, and watch how and where the water is hitting. Adjust or replace any sprinklers that are hitting your siding, washing out loose soil areas, spraying over foundation vents, or in any other way wetting areas on and around your house that shouldn’t be getting wet.

7. Check vent blocks and faucet covers: As soon as you’re comfortable that the danger of winter freezing is over, remove foundation vent blocks or open vent covers to allow air circulation in the crawl space. While removing the vent covers, check the grade level around the foundation vents. Winter weather can move soil and create buildups or grade problems that will allow groundwater to drain through the vents into the crawl space, so regrade as necessary. Remove outdoor faucet covers. Turn on the water supply to outdoor faucets if it’s been shut off.

8. Prepare yard tools: Replace broken or damaged handles, and clean and condition metal parts. Tighten fittings and fasteners, sharpen cutting tools and mower blades, and service engines and belts in lawn mowers and other power equipment.

9. Change furnace filters: Now is the time to replace furnace filters that have become choked with dust from the winter heating season. This is especially important if you have central air conditioning, or if you utilize your heating system’s fan to circulate air during the summer.

10. Check smoke detectors: Daylight Savings Time snuck up early again this year, and that’s usually the semi-annual reminder to check your smoke alarms. So if you haven’t already done it, now’s the time. Replace the batteries, clean the covers, and test the detector’s operation before it’s too late.

If you have gas-fired appliances in the house, add a carbon monoxide detector as well (or check the operation of your existing one). CO2 detectors are inexpensive and easy to install, and are available at most home centers and other retailers of electrical parts and supplies.

All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers

4 models to fit your lifestyle

By Paul Bianchina Inman News®

What if I told you it would be possible to slip an extra  $180 in your pocket this year — and every year after that — and have a more  comfortable home at the same time? That should be worth a trip to the home  center, right?

A savings of $180 a year is what the U.S. Department of  Energy estimates the average homeowner can achieve by installing and  maintaining the settings on a programmable thermostat. And the great thing is,  once the settings are programmed in, you can forget about them, so your house  stays more comfortable, day and night, all year long.

Programmable thermostats are simple to understand. They  control your home’s heating and/or cooling systems by adjusting them to  specific preset temperatures at specific preset times. No more fiddling with  temperatures or forgetting to turn the heat down when you go to bed or leave  for work. Just set it and forget it.

The four different  modes

Programmable thermostats have four different time and  temperature modes programmed in, and that’s what makes them so convenient and  easy to use:

Wake: This mode  is used to select the time that you normally get up in the morning, and what  temperature you want the house to be at that time.

Day: If you  leave for work at a specific time, this setting will lower the heat down to a  specific temperature and hold it there while you’re away. For air conditioning,  it will raise the temperature setting and hold it there.

Evening: This  setting is for when you return from work in the evening, and the thermostat  will bring the temperature in the house back up to a comfortable level (or, in  the case of air conditioning, down) before you get home.

Sleep: Set this  time for when you normally go to bed. The thermostat will set the temperature  down (or up for AC) to whatever level you set and hold it there until the Wake  cycle kicks in again the following morning.

In addition to these four basic modes, there are overrides  as well. You can tell the thermostat to temporarily override the program and  raise or lower the heat or the air conditioning until the next cycle starts,  for those times when you’re home and you want it a little warmer or cooler.  There’s also a “hold temperature” mode for use when you’re on  vacation, so you can set a higher- or lower-than-normal temperature while  you’re gone and the thermostat will hold that indefinitely, regardless of the  four different cycles.

Four different models  fit your lifestyle

There are four basic types of programmable thermostats  available, depending on the needs of your particular lifestyle:

7-day: The 7-day  model allows you to program the four modes individually for each day of the  week, and often with different settings within each of the modes. These models  allow you the most flexibility, and are the best choice if you work odd hours,  multiple shifts, have children at home at different hours, or otherwise keep a  schedule that’s not really consistent. As you might imagine, 7-day thermostats  are the most complicated to program initially, and are typically the most  expensive of the four types of thermostats.

5-1-1-day: A  5-1-1 thermostat is for people who keep a pretty consistent schedule during the  week, but want some flexibility on the weekends. The thermostat can be set up  for five days all the same, typically Monday through Friday, and then Saturday  and Sunday can each be set up with individual programs.

5-2-day: These  thermostats provide for one set of program settings for the five weekdays, and  a second set of program settings for the weekend.

1-week: These  thermostats are the least flexible, so consequently they’re the easiest to  program and typically the least expensive to purchase. They have all four  modes, but utilize the same time and temperature settings for all seven days of  the week. They’re a great choice if you’re retired, or for anyone who’s home  most of the time.

Cost and installation

Programmable thermostats are available in both low-voltage  and line-voltage models, and range in price from around $35 to more than $300.  In addition to the features described above, there are other bells and  whistles, including wireless operation, exterior temperature connections,  dirty-filter warnings, low-battery warnings, and more.

Many of these thermostats are designed for do-it-yourself  installation, with clear instructions and only basic tool requirements. Most  require that you simply remove wires from the existing thermostat and reconnect  them to the new thermostat. However, some of the more sophisticated thermostats  can have multiple wire connections and complicated settings, and require  professional installation. If you have any questions or concerns, discuss them  with the dealer where you purchase the thermostat or with a licensed HVAC  contractor prior to beginning the installation.

Remodeling and repair  questions? Email Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com. All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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