Wednesday, 27 October 2010
In home design, the exterior is as important as the interior. The exterior are your home’s first impression while performing the double-duty of protecting living space from damage and Mother Nature.
And, occasionally, you may want to make upgrades.
For some people, visualizing changes to a home’s exterior is easy. For others, though, there’s the Better Homes and Gardens Color-a-Home tool.
Color-a-Home is a website via which homeowners can test different exterior home designs and color combinations. Using a series of drop-down menus and mix-and-match swatch colors, homeowners can build home exterior mock-ups featuring:
- New roofing
- New siding
- New windows
- New shutters and doors
Better than a mental picture of your home — get an actual picture.
The Better Homes and Gardens site requires basic site registration to use its Color This! product suite. Color This! is also available for home interiors and window treatments.
Monday, 04 October 2010
With the start of autumn comes a chill in the Canonsburg air, plus a simple way to drop your home’s energy bill. For homeowners with ceiling fans, it’s as simple as moving a button.
In this vintage video from The Weather Channel, you’ll learn how the blades of ceiling fan are meant to work, and how they amplify a home’s heating and cooling systems. You’ll also learn the optimal settings for blade rotation, and how to reverse your room’s air flow to take advantage.
A quick “cheat sheet”:
- When a home’s heating system is on, rotate fan blades clockwise
- When a home’s cooling system is on, rotate fan blades counter-clockwise
Running a ceiling fan consumes a nominal amount of energy as compared to adjusting your home’s overall temperature. On a warm day, for example, running a ceiling fan creates a “windchill effect”, reducing a room’s effective temperature by 4 degrees — all with the equivalent power of a 100-watt light bulb.
On a cold day, the fan pushes hot air back from the ceiling where it tends to collect.
If your home is without ceiling fans, installing them is inexpensive and easy. There’s videos online to walk you through the steps, or you can call a qualified electrician. Need an electricians name? Call or email me — I’m happy to offer a referral in Pittsburgh.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Supermarket aisles in the Washington area are filled with specialty cleansers — some for the kitchen, some for the bathroom, some for the carpets. Loaded with chemicals, these cleansers can be tough on the environment and costly, too.
If you’re in search of an alternative, consider white distilled vinegar. It’s inexpensive, safe to store, and highly effective as a household cleanser.
White vinegar’s strength comes from its acidity, roughly 8%. It’s acidity kills most mold, germs, and bacteria, and can remove minerals deposits from coffee makers and glass surfaces.
Some uses for white distilled vinegar include:
- Cleaning the garbage disposal : 1/2 cup hot white distilled vinegar + 1/2 cup baking soda. Pour down drain and let sit for 5 minutes. Run hot water to flush it.
- Removing lunch box odors : Soak bread slice in white distilled vinegar. Place it in lunch box overnight.
- Remove dark spots on aluminum pots : Mix 1 cup white distilled vinegar + 1 cup hot water. Boil in pot.
- Brighten carpets : Mix solution of 1 cup white distilled vinegar + 1 gallon water. Test on inconspicuous area first.
- Remove water rings from wood : Mix solution of 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar + 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Rub with the grain.
White distilled vinegar is extremely versatile, but it can strip finish from counter-tops and floors if left to soak. Be sure to exercise care, therefore, when using vinegar at home.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
With Labor Day looming, the autumn and winter months aren’t far behind. It’s a good time to reflect on your home’s heating and cooling costs, and take steps to lower your energy bills. Finding air leaks may be a perfect first project.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30 percent can be cut from a home’s energy costs just by reducing drafts. For example, a 1/16-inch gap unsealed gap around a window is equivalent to leaving the window 3 inches open.
That’s a lot of wasted Pittsburgh air.
The good news is that air leaks are rather simple to identify, and simple to fix. The key is to know where to look. And, to make the job easier, the government offers a complete DIY Guide To Sealing and Insulating a home.
Some of the key tips include:
- Focus on the attic and basement, where most air is lost
- Locate problem areas on a chimney
- Check recessed lights which allow air flow between conditioned and unconditioned air
The government’s website also provides a 13-page PDF with detailed images, instructions, and recommendation to help you with the work.
However, if the job is beyond your skill set, be sure to call a qualified contractor. Sealing your home from air leaks will reduce your monthly energy bill and the money spent to pay a professional will be just a fraction of what you’ll save over time.
(Image courtesy: US Department of Energy)