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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.

 

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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

By Paul Bianchina
Inman News®

No one likes wasting money, especially in these tough economic times. So it certainly makes sense — dollars and cents — to make a small investment of time and supplies to close up those heat-wasting air leaks around your home. It’ll pay back big dividends in reduced energy bills and a warmer, more comfortable house this winter. So let’s look at some of the areas where those drafts may be lurking, and see how to take care of them.

1. Doors and windows: This should be an obvious one. If you can see gaps between your siding and your windows or exterior doors, close them up with a bead of clear or paintable acrylic latex caulk. Larger gaps can be filled with foam backer rod before applying the caulking.

2. Exterior penetrations: Some of these areas are going to be obvious, while some may take a little bit of searching. Some examples of exterior penetrations where air can leak into the house include exterior faucets, dryer vents, exterior electrical outlets, exterior light fixtures, holes that have been drilled for phone and TV cables, conduit penetrations, exit points for plumbing drains, and penetrations for air conditioning lines. Closing these penetrations may require a variety of different techniques, including caulk, expanding spray foam, or, in the case of electrical boxes and fixtures, specific gaskets that are designed to fit the boxes.

3. Exhaust-vent covers: Dryer vents, range hood vents, bath fan vents, and other interior ventilation equipment typically terminate outside the house in a plastic or metal cover that has one or more louvers on it. The louvers are designed to be in the closed position whenever the fan is not in use, so that outside air doesn’t leak in. Check all of these louvers to be sure they’re closing completely, with no air leaks. If they aren’t, you can adjust the spring tension to hold them closed more tightly; add foam weatherstripping tape for a more air-tight seal; or replace the entire vent cap with a new one.

4. Gaps around interior vents and recessed lights: Inside your home, heated air can be leaking out around that same ventilation equipment, where vent pipes pass through the walls or ceiling, or where vent covers meet wall and ceiling surfaces. Recessed light fixtures can also be real air-leakers. Around the vent pipes and recessed light cans, seal any gaps with caulking. For the vent covers and recessed light covers, remove the covers, then adjust the springs and/or add foam weatherstripping tape to create a tight seal between the cover and the ceiling.

5. Heat-duct penetrations: Gaps around heating-duct cans where they pass through the floor or wall allow cold air to enter from the crawl space, while gaps around ceiling-duct cans allow heated air to escape into the attic. To close those drafts, first remove the register, then use a combination of caulking and/or metallic duct sealant tape to close any gaps between the sheet metal cans and the floor, wall or ceiling surface.

6. Fireplaces and woodstoves: Lots of gaps can occur around these appliances. With a conventional fireplace, keep the damper closed except when burning a fire to prevent heated air from escaping up the chimney. Consider investing in a set of air-tight doors, which close off the air leaks and also make your fires more efficient. Look for gaps around woodstove and gas fireplace flue pipes, and air leaks around masonry chimneys. Use a metal collar if necessary around flue pipe penetrations, and seal gaps with heat-resistant sealant specially formulated for this application.

7. Attic and crawl space hatches: These can be real air losers if they’re not weatherstripped, so take care of that with some foam tape. Make sure the hatches are insulated as well.

8. Interior doors to unheated spaces: If you have any interior doors that lead to unheated spaces, including basements, garages or attics, be sure the doors are weatherstripped to prevent air leakage. If possible, replace older, hollow-core doors with solid-core or, better yet, insulated metal doors.

9. Sill plates and penetrations: This one’s not as easy to deal with, but it’s well worth the effort to try to do whatever you can with it. Air can leak both into and out of the house through gaps where the sill plate meets the foundation or the siding, and around plumbing and wiring penetrations drilled through wall plates in various areas. If you have a gap between your siding and the bottom of your exterior wall, especially in older homes where the use of sill sealers was not a common practice, consider closing up this big air gap with a bead of caulking or expanding foam. In the basement, crawl space and attic, if you can access any of the pipes and wires that pass through the wall plates, seal the penetrations with expanding foam.

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.


By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine, Home Trends, by Melissa Tracey

Color experts are already giving their forecasts for the hot hues for 2012. And next year, the inspiration for color is mostly being drawn from the great American outdoors.

“Native plants and flowers, oceans and lakes, and rocks and minerals are the sources of inspiration for the paint colors that will be ‘in’ next year,” says Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.

Here’s an overview of the 2012 color palette, according to the Paint Quality Institute.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Bold Blue

“From sparkling sea-glass blue to colonial blue-grey, blues are suitable for all living spaces, being a naturally soothing color that is loved–in one iteration or another–by almost everyone,” says Zimmer.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Vibrant Green

A variety of green shades are expected to make it into more interiors next year, from dining rooms and kitchens to family rooms and bedrooms.

Bringing the outside in, these greens range from celery and asparagus colors to fir and fern, Zimmer says.

Courtesy of The Paint Quality Institute

Majestic Violet

“A harmonious combination of patriotic blue and red hues, violet can add ‘punch’ to any room when used as an accent color, or serve as the dominant color in a bedroom,” says Zimmer.

Guess what I will be doing this weekend…yes, even in Florida, we have to rake leaves! I do have to admit that I have a lot less leaves to rake than when I lived in either northern California or Maryland. The weather is pretty nice too-sunny, clear, 72 degrees with a slight breeze-so I guess I really should not complain.  As I checked my email I strayed a little (like I have a tendency to do from time to time when on the Internet) and came across this article. I think that it gives me some kind of bonus points for doing some research before doing the actual work. Right? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta? Aww, probably not, I just need to get out there & as Nike says, “Just do it”.

4 Leaf Removal Tools that Clear Yards of Fall Debris

  • Published: September, 2011
  • By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Just for fun, take an inventory of all the leaf removal tools cluttering your  garage.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a half-dozen rakes of different sizes and  materials, a couple of blowers in various states of repair, and a couple of  infomercial gadgets that promise to make annual leaf gathering faster and  easier.

In fact, you need only a few essential leaf removal items in your landscape  tool collection to accomplish your autumn goal — removing the heavy leaves  that smother grass and make your lawn a splotchy mess in spring.

Fewer  gizmos and more elbow grease help home owners remove leaves and keep up with lawn  maintenance, says Brett Lemcke of R. M. Landscape Inc. in Rochester,  NY.

“The reality is, you can’t avoid hard work” when it comes to fall  landscaping chores, says Lemcke. “There are some tools that will help us, but  the best help is family and friends. The more hands, the better. Doing it  yourself is daunting.”
Unless you tether a mower to a stick and let it  mulch leaves all by itself.
Whether you rake,  blow, or tie a mower to a stick, you should remove leaves at least twice each  fall.
“Some people wait until every last leaf falls, and then they pick  them up,” Lemke says. “You should pick them up throughout the season. Don’t wait  until the last minute.”

Here are four essential leaf-removal tools  that’ll help you clear your lawn before winter sets in:

  • Rigid leaf rake. This plastic, fan-shaped rake is your  go-to rake for collecting leaves. Pick one with a cushion handle and a 30- to  36-inch fan. Avoid the super-wide fans that can spread to 48 inches; they’re too  big to rake between shrubs and in flower beds. Cost: $10-$20 (30-inch fan).
  • Leaf tarp. Instead of scooping leaves into a million  plastic bags, rake or blow them into a big pile on top of a polypropylene leaf  tarp. Then drag the tarp to the curb and dump. Cost: $22 for 12.5-by-10-ft.  tarp.
  • Leaf blower. Select a two-cycle, gasoline-powered blower to  collect leaves in tarps or blow them directly to the curb. If you have a large  yard, buy a backpack model, which is more expensive but more comfortable than  handheld blowers. Cost: 2-cycle handheld blower: $180; 2-cycle backpack blower:  $300.   (*** I personally don’t like leaf blowers for the most part because so many people tend to blow the leaves into my yard or their neighbors instead of picking them up. Ugh! Annalisa***)
  • Yard vacuum. This tool vacuums, shreds, chips, and bags  leaves and other yard debris. Once leaves are ground up, they’ll decompose  quickly in your compost  pile. Cost: $400-$650.

Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/blog/landscaping-gardening/leaf-removal-equipment-tips/#ixzz1bRU97ql3

After the storm we had on Thursday night, I had plenty of debris to pick up in the yard & pool. When I looked up I saw lots of branches & leaves on the roof. Yikes, time to clean out the gutters before the next rain. Wish I had seen this article before I went outside though.

By: Pat Curry

Clean gutters to protect your siding and landscape plantings, and prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your foundation.

How often to clean gutters

Clean gutters at least once a year—twice a year if you have overhanging trees. Also, clean clogged gutters after big storms. Clogs often occur where downspouts join the gutter system—check these areas closely.

How to clean gutters

  • Wear a shirt with long sleeves. Wear rubber gloves.
  • Have a good extendable ladder available. Standoff stabilizers (ladder “horns”) are ideal to keep the ladder from damaging the gutter.
  • Use a small plastic scoop to remove gunk. Buy a gutter scoop from the hardware store ($25) or try a child’s sand shovel.
  • Spare your lawn by dumping the stuff onto a plastic tarp.
  • After you’ve cleared the muck, flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose—also a great way to spot any leaks.

Cost of a professional gutter cleaning

If climbing ladders is not your cup of tea, you can hire someone to do the job for you for between $50 and $250, depending on the size and height of your house.

Gutter covers

Interested in an ounce of prevention? You can slow clogging by installing gutter covers in the form of mesh screens, clip-on grates, or porous foam. However, the cost can be more than the gutters themselves and covers need regular maintenance to keep them clear. Expect to pay $6 to $8 per running foot for gutter covers, installed.

Serial remodeler Pat Curry is a former senior editor at BUILDER, the official magazine of the National Association of Home Builders, and a frequent contributor to real estate and home-building publications.

Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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