Walk On Wood

Hardwood flooring is one of the most sought-after features in new and existing homes. This eco-friendly feature can turn your home into a warm and inviting space to relax and entertain. Selecting the right flooring can be a challenge, however, depending on your design style, budget and personal preference. Before choosing a wood floor for your home, here are a few things to keep in mind, courtesy of the National Wood Flooring Association:

There are two basic types of wood flooring. Solid wood flooring can be sanded and refinished many times and can be used in all rooms, including kitchens and powder rooms. Engineered wood is manufactured with multiple layers of wood veneers, so it expands and contracts less than solid wood flooring when temperatures and humidity fluctuate. Engineered wood is a better alternative for basements and other below-ground living areas.

Hardwood floors come in different finishes. Satin gloss offers the most shine and reflects the most light, so scratches and normal wear and tear are less noticeable, while matte finishes offer the least shine.

Light woods like ash or maple help make a room appear more open and airy, while darker woods like walnut or mahogany can give a room a more stately and refined appearance.

To keep floors looking new, clean them frequently using a dust mop or vacuum. Avoid using a wet mop as water can dull the finish or damage the wood over time. To prevent scratches, place scatter rugs at all entrances and floor protector pads on the bottom of furniture legs.

When spills occur, wipe them immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth. When floors begin to look dull, use a wood flooring cleaner to renew the luster. Use only products that are compatible with your wood floor type. The wrong cleaning product can damage the finish and possibly the wood itself.

With these simple tips in mind, hardwood floors can provide comfort and enjoyment for many years.


Ceiling Fan Provides Relief In 2 Ways

One of the basic things we all understand about heat is that it rises. As air molecules warm up, they expand and become lighter, and that causes them to head up toward the ceiling of a room, which isn’t necessarily where you want them.

This natural rising can create layers within a room, with cooler air down near the floor, and warmer air trapped up near the ceiling. That’s especially true if you have ceiling-mounted heat registers, where your heat is entering the room at a higher level to start with. And of course, the higher the ceilings, the more that heat can rise, and the warmer the temperatures will get up near the peak.

The same is going to be the case with cooler air. When summer finally gets here and we switch back to air conditioning, cooler air is going to want to fall and settle near the floor of a room, to the detriment of those spaces on the upper levels. And here again, if you have air conditioning ducts in the floor, the effect is going to be that much more pronounced.

Stirring things up

One possibility for getting that hot air down from the ceiling and back into the room when it can do some good is to install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans utilize large, angled, rotating blades to push air down or pull air up, which creates currents that can stir things up and move stagnant air off the ceiling. They also help draw cool air up off the floor during the summer, as well as creating cooling breezes.

Sizing things up

When considering a ceiling fan, the first order of business is deciding on the size. Fans are sized by the overall diameter of the blades, such as 36-inch, and will have anywhere from three to five blades. For the most part, the more blades and the larger the diameter, the more air movement you’ll have, although some large-diameter, industrial-style fans move quite a bit of air with only three blades.

As a general rule of thumb, a fan with a diameter of 36 to 44 inches will handle a room up to about 225 square feet, and a fan with a 52 or 54 inch diameter will handle about 400 square feet. For rooms that have more square feet than that, simply use more fans.

Ideally, the fans should be installed with the blades about 7 to 10 inches from the ceiling. Any closer than that and you won’t get a good air movement to stir up the stagnant air along the ceiling. Also, the blades should be at least 18 inches away from the wall.

Most ceiling fans have the option of multiple speeds, so this is also a consideration when choosing a size. Larger blades have the capability of moving more air at a slower speed, so if you have relatively low ceilings, that can be a real advantage when you don’t want the fan to be blowing loose papers around!

So which way is up?

If you look at the fan blades from the end, you’ll see that they’re angled in relation to the floor, rather than being exactly parallel. It’s that angle that allows them to move air as they turn, like a horizontal airplane propeller. Most fans have a reversing switch, which allows the motor to run either clockwise or counterclockwise. In one direction, the angle of the blades will pull air up from the floor toward the ceiling; in the other direction, the blades will push the air down from the ceiling toward the floor.

If you have a very high ceiling, such as a room with a two story vault, you’d like to get the warm air that’s trapped up there pushed down, so the lower floors can take advantage of it. Typically, that means that the fan rotation should be such that the blades are pushing the air down. However, in homes with lower ceilings, that downward push of air, even though it’s pushing the heat down, may also create an unpleasant breeze that actually makes you feel cold.

In that case, reverse the motor so the blades are pulling the air up. That will create a convection current of air against the ceiling, and push the warm air that’s up there outward and down the exterior walls, which again stirs things up.

The bottom line is that getting things where you want it from a heat distribution standpoint may take a bit of trial and error, with a combination of both blade rotation and blade speed.

For cooling, things are usually a bit more straightforward. Most people prefer to have the fan rotation set so the blades are pushing the air down, which stirs up the air and creates a nice cooling breeze. Set the speed at whatever level you’re comfortable with, and you should find that you can save money by cutting back on how often you run your air conditioning.

– See more at: http://lowes.inman.com/inmaninf/lowesnewsletter/news/210333#sthash.HQLACb6R.dpuf

Programmable Thermostats Enter The Mobile Age

By Paul Bianchina  Inman News®

January 18, 2013

It certainly comes as no big surprise to anyone that the heating and cooling systems in our homes consume huge amounts of power, and typically account for the lion’s share of our utility bills. So anything we can do to conserve on the amount of power these systems use will help lower those bills each month.

Programmable thermostats are one of the best ways to do that. Using internal computer circuits that raise and lower the thermostat set points at various times during the day in accordance with our occupancy and habits, they help keep the furnace or air conditioner from running when it doesn’t need to.

Programmable thermostats have been around for decades, but it’s only been recently that they’ve caught up with the Internet and smartphone age. Now they’re more intelligent than ever, and, used correctly, that can translate into even more energy savings.

Nest Learning Thermostat

One of the most talked about thermostats on the market today is the Nest Learning Thermostat. You probably don’t think of “attractive” when you think of thermostats, but this one definitely is, with a small round shape that glows blue when it’s in cooling mode and orange when it’s in heating mode.

Beyond its appearance, there’s the lack of buttons. Adjustments are done with the outer ring, and you see programmed settings on a screen in the center of the thermostat. As you make the various adjustments throughout the day, the Nest “learns” your habits, and programs those habits into its circuitry. Soon, it’s set up a temperature schedule that meets your specific lifestyle.

The Nest also has sensors in it that detect when no one is home. It switches into Auto-Away mode, automatically turning itself down to save even more energy. In that mode, the face switches to black. As additional motivation, there’s even a leaf symbol that appears periodically to show you when you’re saving more energy than what you’d originally programmed it for.

There are currently two generations of Nests. The first generation retails for around $198, and works with about 75 percent of the heating and cooling systems. The second generation retails for $250, is 20 percent thinner, and is compatible with an estimated 95 percent of systems. Both generations offer Wi-Fi remote control so you can control your thermostat remotely from your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Ecobee EB-STAT

This thermostat takes programmable to a whole new level. At around $295, it’s not cheap, but with the flexibility it offers you should have the opportunity to recoup that investment within a couple of years on average.

The Ecobee is rectangular, so it looks a bit more like a conventional thermostat, but with a full color screen and animated icons it’s pretty cool, and very easy to program and adjust. It offers connectivity to the Internet, as well as control through a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. It offers 365-day scheduling, free over-the-air software upgrades, and downloadable system reports. It’s compatible with most types of heating and cooling systems, including heat pumps, and can also be used to control humidifiers, dehumidifiers and ventilators.

Hunter Universal Internet Thermostat

At less than $100, this is a more affordable option, available from most home centers. Installation is quick and easy, with clear instructions. Everything you need except a screwdriver is included in the box. Once installed, it has an Internet gateway that connects to your router, and allows Internet access to the thermostat.

You can program the thermostat from your smartphone, tablet or computer. As with the other programmable thermostats, you can call it to change settings from a remote location, making it perfect if you’re delaying getting home from work, or for situations such as warming up the vacation home before you get there. It will also send you email alerts for low batteries and when it’s time to change the filter.

Nothing’s perfect

As with any technology, none of these thermostats are perfect. Online reviews from actual users of all of these thermostats are mostly positive, but they do indicate some compatibility issues and software glitches in some instances. Not all thermostats are compatible with all systems, and while they’re all OK for do-it-yourself installation, depending on your skill level you may still need the help of a pro to get them installed and operating correctly. And, of course, there’s always a learning curve involved.

In general, I like what these thermostats have to offer. I like the additional control options, particularly for vacation homes, and the flexibility of smartphone control. But do a little homework when selecting the right model for your home and your lifestyle. Make sure it’s compatible with your system, and that it has the features and operating modes that you like.

Source: http://lowes.inman.com/inmaninf/lowesnewsletter/news/208571

MERV Scores Help Consumers Evaluate Air Quality

When you hear about MERV, do your thoughts turn to day-time talk shows or night-time air quality? MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) is actually an acronym for numeric values applied to air filters, based on their ability to remove particles from the atmosphere. Using this rating system, consumers can select a particle-removal air filter by viewing the efficiency with which it removes airborne particles from the air stream. This scale was developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and rates filters ona a scale of one to twenty.

One of the best ways to address residential indoor air pollution is to control or eliminate the source of the pollutants and to ventilate the home with clean outdoor air. But ventilation can be limited by weather conditions or the levels of filtration devices. Additional air filtration can be achieved with filters installed in the HVAC ductwork that can clean the air in the entire house.

Flat or panel air filters with a MERV score of one to four are most commonly used in residential furnaces and air conditioners. These filters are designed to protect HVAC equipment from the build-up of unwanted materials on surfaces including fan motors and heating or cooling coils, not for direct indoor air quality reasons. They have low efficiency ratings on smaller airborne particles and medium efficiency on larger particles. (Smaller particles commonly found within a house that are not affected by these filters include viruses, bacteria, some mold spores, a significant fraction of cat and dog allergens, and a portion of dust mite allergens).

Medium efficiency filters with a MERV of five to thirteen are considered reasonably efficient at removing small to large airborne particles. Filters with a higher MERV score (between seven and thirteen) are considered almost as effective as true HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles and are generally quieter and less expensive than a HEPA filter. (HEPA filters are composed of a mat of randomly arranged fibers. The fibers are typically composed of fiberglass, with diameters between 0.5 and 2.0 micrometers.)

Most MERV air filters are good at capturing larger airborne particles, such as dust, pollen, dust mite allergens, some molds, and animal dander. However, because these particles settle quickly, air filters are not completely effective at removing them from indoor areas. (Although activities such as walking and vacuuming can stir up particles, most of the larger particles will resettle before an air filter can remove them).

In addition, some residential HVAC systems may not have enough fan or motor capacity to accommodate higher efficiency MERV filters. Therefore, the HVAC manufacturer’s information should be checked prior to upgrading filters to determine whether it is feasible to use more efficient filters.

Source: Huffman Inspections http://www.huffmaninspections.com

End-of-Summer Checklist for Home Sellers

By Dan Steward

As we near the end of summer, it’s time to look ahead and plan out home maintenance projects that have to be done before the cold weather strikes. Real estate agents can help homebuyers understand which home fixes take priority if their new home isn’t quite new. Likewise, agents can help sellers prioritize their last warm weather fixes to increase a home’s curb appeal. While the weather is warm and before the peak months of September and October, encourage clients to walk around the exterior of their home and make a list of problematic areas. Some can be fixed by the current owners and others will require assistance from an expert. To help locate any issues and take care of them before winter arrives,

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What’s New In The Kitchen

by Huffman Inspections

What are contemporary kitchen designers doing in the kitchen these days? For starters, they are hiding appliances, adding color and using range hoods to make a statement!

In the 50’s, a homeowner could purchase aqua or pink refrigerators and no eyebrows were raised. Sixty years later, refrigerators and stoves are generally neither seen nor heard, hidden behind panels that match painted or stained wooden cabinets in a kitchen.

Identifying the dishwasher might be difficult as well, especially when it pulls out like a drawer from one or possibly both sides of the sink. Even if a dishwasher has a more traditional style, new units are often installed ten inches off the floor, making them easy to open, load an unload.

Kitchen islands are still popular, especially with the addition of a warming drawer in the center. The drawer keeps food at the appropriate serving temperature and allows for easy access. Pull-out shelving in the island and throughout the kitchen eliminates hunting for items located in the back of cabinets.

Range hoods are being installed not only for function, but for style, whether they appear underneath cabinets, against the wall or in a downdraft position. Range hoods are available in a variety of materials including copper, stainless steel, wood, glass, limestone and even marble and may more closely resemble mantles or fireplace hearths rather than the older metal range hood.

Kitchens and great rooms continue to be the gathering and entertainment centers in the home. To accommodate extra guests, seating that can double as storage is a sought-after accessory. Benches with underneath storage, bins, baskets, organizers and appliances garages are also incorporated into kitchens to reduce clutter and add efficiency.

Because kitchens have moved to the forefront and are no longer considered “the back of the house,” homeowners are paying close attention to style, color and design. Popular kitchen colors are bolder than in the past, and include shades such as apricot, yellow, red and turquoise, which are considered comforting and appetite stimulators.

Although granite’s popularity has shown no sign of waning, some consumers are individualizing their kitchens through the use of alternative materials such as concrete, glass, aluminum and slate for their countertops.

Lighting in the kitchen needs to do double-duty, illuminating countertops while creating an inviting atmosphere. Layered lighting is the answer in some kitchens, combining ambient (overhead) lighting with a task lighting layer and a decorative layer on top, used primarily to enhance the interior design.

Track-style lighting is still popular, but tracks often curve, rather than radiate in a straight line. Some contemporary tracks also allow for different individual lights to be hung. Under cabinet lighting is popular, and can give a kitchen new energy. Two or three pendant lights over the sink can also make a dramatic statement.

Many of the newer fixtures can accommodate LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which are popular for their durability and energy-efficiency. The initial cost of LEDs is more expensive, but the light bulbs are rated to last up to 60,000 hours or up to seven years.

10 Home Improvements That Are A Waste Of Money

By Jason Notte

Want a summer home improvement project? Dig a big hole on your property, throw a bunch of money in it, throw a match in and bury it once the flames subside.

This is basically what a select, wrongheaded number of Americans do every year when they see the sun peek out in June and head to Home Depot, Lowe’s or Sears without much of a plan. That yard may seem like it’s begging for a pool and your front porch may look inferior to a sunroom, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good ideas.

In some cases, it’s never a good year to make those ideas happen. We asked those in the know which projects homeowners should stay away from this summer. The following is a list of home “improvements” in which the return on the investment is at best subjective and, at worst, a money- and time-draining waste of warm weather:

A pool
An in-ground pool is a $25,000 to $50,000 gamble before a homeowner even considers tucking into their first cannonball.

That same pool costs about $2,000 more a year to maintain, hundreds more to heat and insure and hundreds more in filter and pump repairs within less than a decade. When cracks inevitably appear, resurfacing can cost upward of $10,000 shortly after that first decade.

Sure, the National Association of Realtors’ National Center for Real Estate Research says an in-ground pool can add about 8 percent to a home’s resale price, but that value swings from 6 percent in the frosty Midwest to 11 percent in the most toasty Sun Belt. An above-ground pool with have cheaper upfront costs, but the Center for Real Estate Research says it adds no value to a house and can actually subtract 1.9 percent of a house’s value if the buyer decides the eyesore needs to come down.

An outdoor kitchen
Installing steel grills and gourmet pizza ovens outside in a fenced-in area in Arizona or California adds to your square footage and optimizes great year-round weather. In Traverse City, Mich., it does neither. If your outdoor kitchen is considered an actual kitchen, the return on a major remodel — in this case, 65.7 percent — would be roughly the same. While such things as range hoods and portable heaters make outdoor kitchens year-round propositions in markets as seasonally chilly as Nantucket and Northern Michigan, it’s never quite as comfortable and can cut your returns in half if residents start to shiver during a February pig roast.

Read Entire Article: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11597706/1/10-home-improvements-youre-wasting-time-and-money-on.html