Not everyone cares about being green, but everybody likes to save money. No matter what your motivation is, a home energy audit can do both for you. Both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Alliance to Save Energy recommend a home energy audit to see where you could be wasting electricity. You can hire a professional to perform the audit or, you can do it yourself.
If you're a homeowner looking to go the DIY route, you'll have to inspect the insulation, look for air leaks, check your heating and cooling equipment and review your past energy bills. Here's help to get you started:
If your home is more than 20 years old, the insulation may not meet current minimum recommended insulation levels. Places to inspect insulation include the attic, the exterior walls, the basement, the crawl space, an attached garage and any utility closets. Give particular attention to the attic, because that is where most conditioned air is lost in older homes.
The DOE offers these suggestions:
- Check pipes, duct work and chimneys to see if they are sealed with foam caulk or some other sealant.
- Check to see if there’s a vapor barrier under the insulation, such as tar paper or plastic sheeting. Vapor barrier paint is acceptable as well.
- Check attic vents to make sure insulation isn’t blocking them.
- Check to see how deep the insulation is. If you can see floor boards or rafters through the insulation, it may not be thick enough. Use the DOE's zip code insulation calculator to determine if your insulation is thick enough.
- Check insulation in exterior walls by removing outlet covers. Insulation should be visible around the inside of outlets.
Air leaks account for up to 30 percent of energy loss per year, according to the DOE. Air commonly leaks around windows, doors, light fixtures (inside and outside), dryer vents and oven vents. First look for visible gaps, and then try this trick: Have someone stand on one side of the window or door with a hair dryer running around the frames. See if you feel air coming through, and if you do, weatherproof everywhere you feel the air.
Heating and Cooling Equipment
Perform regular maintenance on heating and cooling equipment to ensure proper operation, extend their life and save energy. Inspect equipment for dirty filters, rusted metal, dirty coils and vents and clutter on top of or around the base of equipment. Blocking equipment vents can cause motor and compressor burnout and create a fire hazard.
Review three to five years' worth of bills from your electricity provider. Look for trends and spikes in usage. Check your utility company's website for more tips on saving money and energy. Some utility companies offer free audit services and resources.
Ceiling fan direction: Does it make a difference?
I was told that I should change the direction that my ceiling fans spin in during cooler months. Since I’ve never done this I’m not sure in which they should be set to spin. - Ashley Leftwich
Hi Ashley. Thank you for your question.
Today, ceiling fans are a common fixture in most homes. Spinning counterclockwise, they move air around the room. Not all energy experts feel it's a good idea to use them in the heating season (doubters says they cool the air too much), but the fans do help bring heated air down to earth in rooms with cathedral or high-sloped ceilings. However, that's only if you slide the reversing switch on the side of the motor housing to the winter (clockwise) position. Then run the fan at its lowest speed. If you can't reverse the blade rotation or if you think the fan is cooling off the room too much, leave it off.
How to Protect Your Home While Renovating
Home renovations, whether done DIY or with a contractor, can be an especially exciting time. Finally, after months or even years, you’re turning that small, unused bedroom into an expansion of the living room, or you’re adding the sunroom you’ve been dreaming about since you bought the house. No matter what changes are being accomplished, you should double-check that your home will be protected before and during the renovations.
Minor renovations likely won’t affect your home’s overall security, but there are some changes you should think twice about before going right ahead. For example, you may be ecstatic about the possibility of a high, wraparound fence that gives you complete privacy from neighbors. However, high fences are one of the first features a burglar looks for, since they know that no neighbors or police driving by will be able to notice anything abnormal occurring at your home from the other side of the fence. For the same reason, if you’re considering heavy landscaping, any large shrubberies or trees should be kept away from the side of your house, otherwise they’ll provide the perfect cover for burglars.
If you’re considering adding a sunroom you should recognize that, with so many breakable windows, this room will be a main target point for intruders. Treat any sunroom like a back patio, and lock entryways between the sunroom and the rest of your house with deadbolts or automatic locks. Don’t forget to add exterior lighting, specifically motion lights, just as you would for the rest of your home’s exterior.
Don’t skimp on materials. If you’re adding new rooms, you may already be investing a hefty sum in building costs, but skimping on proper windows and doors (which should be shatter-resistant and steel, respectively) will only leave you with regrets later. That also means your window and door frames should be built from strong material that an intruder can’t wedge open with a crowbar. Chances are, your home insurance agency will help cut your costs if you inform them of any security updates by reducing your monthly bill.
If you haven’t already, install a home security system. During renovations, doors will be open, unknown people may be walking through your home, and you might not even be home to supervise as often as you should be. Luckily, most well-known, national security systems, like ADT Security offer the option of installing surveillance equipment. If yours doesn’t, you can always take the initiative and plant a few cameras yourself. Not only will this incriminate any thieves, it will also allow you to keep an eye on kids playing too close to construction areas, as well as any workers who may be taking advantage of your dime.
It’s important during renovation to keep the construction in one area of the house at a time. That way, if walls are coming down, or windows and doors are left vulnerable, you can lock up the rest of the house, so that any intruders won’t have immediate access to your entire home.
When replacing doors or windows, instead of leaving paper thin plastic to guard your home against weather and burglars, consider purchasing stronger door and window guards. These are usually used for vacant homes, but if you have open entrances to your home for more than a night, chances are you’ll want a little more protection.
One of the most important things to remember is to only acquire help from contractors with a well-known, positive reputation. After all, you’re letting a stranger (or strangers) into your home, and unless you’ve seen previous, positive, customer reviews, you shouldn’t consider them safe. It’s wise to go the extra step and call one or two previous customers, just to make sure no funny business occured. You may think you’re being paranoid, but any thief will tell you that they might act like professional repairman, then use the inside knowledge on your home later. This goes for any additional workers they may also hire.
Lastly, double-check that at the end of the day, everything is locked up, and your security system is set. This means that any open areas of your home are shut as best as possible and any equipment that needs to be left outside is tagged with an alarm to prevent theft.
Are you looking for a home remodel contractor in the Indianapolis area that you can trust? Call Gettum Associates
Since 1987 Gettum Associates has completed hundreds of projects in the Indianapolis area. And you can feel comfortable knowing they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
There are many common mistakes homeowners make when rolling their sleeves up and tackling a home improvement project. To avoid making basic DIY errors, you can watch a Google Play funny video app — as a cautionary tale of what NOT to do — and pay attention to these common home repair blunders:
1. Buying Substandard Materials — One of the biggest home renovation mistakes is being cheap with materials. Over time, you will get what you pay for. Buy quality materials and products instead of scrimping.
Photo by Achmie Hering via Wikimedia Commons
2. Inaccurate Measurements — While half an inch one way or the other doesn’t seem like it can make a difference, when it comes to projects like installing flooring or molding, being off even a small amount can set your project up for failure. If in doubt, consult a home improvement website like Homedepot.com for instructions before beginning. There’s a reason for the phrase “measure twice, cut once”.
Photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons
3. Not Doing Prep Work — It’s tedious, but proper prep work will save you time and money. Even a simple thing such as vacuuming your subfloor before installing flooring can be the difference between a flawless finish and a funky finish.
Photo by che via Wikimedia Commons
4. Using the Wrong Tool for the Job — When you use the wrong tool, you can end up wrecking the project, wrecking the tool or wrecking yourself. Before you begin a project, check out familyhandyman.com to find out exactly what tools you will need.
Photo by toolstop via Flickr
5. Applying the Wrong Paint Type — Choosing the correct type of paint for the application and finish is just as important as choosing the perfect color, according to HGTV.com. Using flat paint, gloss and semi-gloss on the proper surfaces will help avoid problems with wear, coverage and adherence.
Photo by Daniel Case via Wikimedia Commons
6. Ignoring Your Home's Style — Keep the style of your home in mind when planning remodeling projects. Installing stainless steel countertops in a Spanish style home will look just as out of place as shag carpeting in a Craftsman home. You bought the home because you liked its style, so continue the theme.
photo by Charles & Hudson via Flickr
7. Avoiding Permits — It might seem like an insignificant thing, but permits are important. You may be required to rip out improvements performed without the proper permits and, if something serious happens, such as a fire or water damage, your homeowner's insurance will not cover it.
8. Taking on More Than You Can Handle — Do your research. Make sure you know exactly what the project will cost, what materials will be needed, and the time frame necessary to complete the job. Then assess whether you can actually do the work, or if you need to call in a contractor. When you don’t know your own limitations, you’ll be more tempted to cut corners and take shortcuts.
Photo by Heather Elias via Flickr
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Not Your Typical Exterior Project
On the shores of Cordry Lake stands an unusual home. At the front, it is a mere 8 feet wide, but it slowly expands to nearly triple its size to 22 feet at the rear. Yes, this vacation home on Cordry Lake is anything but typical … and it was our intention to keep it that way.
When our past customers contacted us to redo the exterior of their lake home, we were excited to see the home for ourselves because a verbal description simply wasn’t enough to completely understand how this 30+ year home was built and situated on the lot. The rear lakeside and left sides of the home provide a three-story vantage point of the lake, while the front and right sides of the house are nestled into the woods.
The exterior was in decent shape, but the homeowners wanted to enjoy their time at the lake – and not spend their weekends repainting the outside of the home every few years. They wanted a low-maintenance exterior and no more painting, so we recommended a high-quality, insulated vinyl siding and stone veneers.
The lake house’s original exterior was a fairly drab “goldenrod” color that did not highlight any of the characteristics of the home. To achieve interest and appeal, we suggested using a variety of finishes to accentuate the unique details of the home. We used both horizontal and vertical siding in complimentary colors, almond colored trims and stone veneer to increase curb appeal and break up the height of the home. This made the home look more like a family’s retreat and less like an odd-shaped box, particularly from the right side, where the home is almost four stories tall.
The biggest challenge of this project was the grading of the lot, which drops dramatically from front to rear. It may be perfect for a billy goat, but not so much for siding installers and masons! To safely install the siding, our team had to set up extensive scaffolding, which at spots was almost four stories high.
Structurally the exterior of the home was sound. Rotten wood and insect infestations can be expected with an old wooden exterior – especially one located on a lake – but we didn’t discover any. In fact, the wood was in such good shape, we were able to house-wrap and install the insulated vinyl siding over the existing wood exterior.
Perhaps the biggest enjoyment from this project, besides giving our customers a beautiful low-maintenance exterior, was being able to work in such a beautiful setting. It’s not often that our crew gets to work alongside of nature. From all vantage points, it certainly was not your typical exterior project.
Budget kitchen remodel ideas
The kitchen is referred to as the "heart of the home," and the "gathering place" for good reason. It's one of the rooms in your home that sees the most activity. If you're looking around your kitchen and feel like it needs something to bring it back to life, you're not alone. The kitchen is an oft-remodeled room, and with good reason. According to Realty Times, the condition of the kitchen impacts the overall appearance of your home, and can be the make-it or break-it feature when it comes to selling. In fact, US News and World Report says approximately 66 percent of the money put into updating your kitchen will be recouped if you do ever decide to sell.
Even if you have no intention of selling, updating your kitchen is the fastest way to change the vibe of your home. Remodeling on a budget is possible. It's all about putting your money into the right features.
Paint is the most cost-effective way of making a dramatic change to any room. If you want a color that stimulates hunger, think red. You can paint the entire kitchen a more soothing tone and use red accents if you'd like, or simply paint the entire room red. According to ThinkQuest, the color red triggers the pituitary and adrenal glands, and may stimulate the sense of smell and appetite.
No matter what color you choose, make sure you purchase a scrubbable paint finish, so messes can easily be washed off the walls.
Another inexpensive way to update the look of your kitchen is to add new hardware to the cabinets and drawers. You'll be surprised by how much this little change helps set the tone of the room. For example, if your old hardware was ornate, new clean lines can modernize the room.
Think of window treatments as the personality of the room. It's easy to spot a country kitchen by a set of gingham curtains, whereas a simple blind can accentuate an industrial kitchen. The roller shades at justblinds.com have incorporated the many different styles of kitchen decor into their shades and blinds, making it easy for you to choose one that speaks to the overall mood of your kitchen.
While curtains were once a nice, flouncy touch, many people found they collected dust and had to be frequently laundered. A roller shade or blind not only addresses the decorative elements of your kitchen, but can also be wiped down when needed for ease of cleaning.
Switching out old tired kitchen lights for something new and exciting will give your kitchen an automatic face lift, suggests Better Homes and Gardens. You may be surprised by the options available online and at your local home improvement store. Unless you're installing something complicated, replacing a light fixture is normally a task you can take on yourself.
If stone countertops are not in your immediate future, take note. Tiles of all types make for a beautiful countertop surface, and you can easily learn to install them yourself. Call your local home improvement store to ask about their classes on tile installation. All that's left to do is choose a style that works with your overall design scheme.
Flooring options have never been so wide open or so reasonably priced. If you've always wanted tile or hardwood floors but couldn't afford them, consider one of the new laminates that mimic the look with surprising detail.
Curb Appeal: Landscaping That Boosts Your Home's Value
They say that first impressions count and that is certainly true when it comes to houses. If you can create an instant curb appeal for your home then you are pretty likely to boost its value, as well as enjoying the fact that you live in a great looking property.
Money well spent
The National Association of Home Builders has reported that many homeowners are spending a lot more money on the outside of their houses than ever before, a trend supported by statistics that strongly suggest that a property with good landscaping will command a higher sale value.
Real-estate agents love curb appeal
A study carried out by Arbor National Mortgage concluded that an overwhelming 84% of Real-estate agents believed that a property with an abundance of trees and shrubs would fetch as much as a 5% higher premium on the sale value compared to a similar property that had not had any landscaping done.
The big question for many homeowners looking to improve the outside of their property by landscaping is how much to spend and what are the best things to spend your money on. You need to set a realistic budget and try to be as creative as possible with what you buy, but bear in mind that transforming the look of your garden is a work-in-progress and you don’t have to do it all at once.
Getting some ideas
There is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from other gardens that you like the look of and looking through books and magazines to see which plants, trees and also what style of decking and fencing might be best suited to your property.
You may find that some local nurseries as well as some of the major garden retailers offer a design service to help you create the perfect look and some of these offer their design service for free if you are buying the plants from them.
If you are on a tight budget then you might want to consider making an instant impact by planting a large-caliper shade tree which will instantly give your front yard a more established garden look which might otherwise take a lot longer to create.
Remember that small plants and shrubbery can quickly grow so when planting your beds and borders make sure you allow enough room for them to reach maturity and to avoid suffocation which can kills some of the plants off if they are too close together.
Keeping bushes trimmed
A border of bushes and trees helps to create curb appeal and smartens the overall appearance of your property but just remember to keep them trimmed to a reasonable height. Home security companies such as selecthomesecurity.com say that screening your property from view by letting the bushes and trees grow too tall will present a potential security risk as an intruder could be able to break-in undetected if their actions are covered by overgrown foliage.
Other simple ideas to consider when landscaping your garden include using mulch to tidy up bedding areas and use some planted tubs on the decking area or patio if you have one.
With a bit of creative thinking and even if you are on a tight budget you can quickly add to the curb appeal of your property with some attractive landscaping.
If you are just getting started with a new garden or exploring new methods to help it thrive, understanding how to safely manage pest control options is essential. While some pests are pesky and end up eating more of your tomatoes than you will, other garden bugs such as pollinators are essential for producing nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. Identifying what pests are living in your garden and understanding their life cycle will be a helpful guide for you to troubleshoot an effective pest control plan.
Identifying Harmful & Helpful Pests In The Garden
As you dig into the dirt, a myriad of little bugs start crawling onto your garden shovel. Along with those, there are also bugs you can't see living in your garden. These may be egg sacs of spiders or flies not yet hatched. Spiders, scorpions and beetles will be easier to see and can be identified by their color, shape and webs, while flies and newly hatched pests may evade the eye. Knowing what pests should be eliminated can largely be gauged based on what produce you are actually growing since some pests have an affinity for eating or laying eggs on particular plants such as peppers, beans and tomatoes.
- Spiders: Yellow and orange garden spiders can lay several hundred eggs and trap other, beneficial bugs.
- Scorpions: More common in the Southwest, these light brown pests may be hard to see, but lurk along the dirt in gardens.
- White flies: With a rapid lifecycle, white flies damage plants and other helpful garden bugs.
- Slugs: Found at dusk, slugs will eat your tomatoes and peppers before you.
- Japanese beetles: These pests can decimate leaves and quickly defoliate plants.
Photo by Flickr user Patty O'Hearn Kickham
Some bugs are revered by gardeners as natural helpers because they eat other pests and help pollinate to ensure a nutrient dense crop. Before you pick up the insecticides, observe to protect the following:
- Lady beetles
- Praying Mantis
- Ground beetles
Photo by Flickr user miheco
How To Safely Manage Helpful & Harmful Pests In The Garden
Plant border flowers
Each season before you bury your seeds, line your garden border with flowers to discourage pests from entering. Because of their bitter nature, marigolds are an effective solution to manage pests such as moles, slugs and Japanese beetles. Because some pests are helpful, marigolds help distract other harmful pests from eating both them and your newly growing plants.
Spray the garden with a safe insecticide
The use of safe insecticides that eliminate living pests and their lifecycle by targeting egg sacs is essential. When the exterminator from Orkin.com arrives, you'll receive a family safe source of pest control that won't disrupt nontarget organisms and helpful pests. You can feel confident that their insecticides also break down quickly ensuring longevity of your garden. The EPA has suggested that this is a safe method of eliminating garden pests without creating damaging effects to what you eat.
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About the author:
Francine is a stay-at-home mom who likes to write about her adventures with DIY projects and modern parenting.
Tips for tempering roof leaks until a pro arrives
Creative Commons image by Dana Dean Roofing Company
Unless you live in a comic strip, rain dripping on your head indoors is major cause for concern. But what may look like a hole in the ceiling to some, will look to a homeowner like a quickly emptying bank account.
As tempting as it may be, you should not ignore the problem. In a perfect world, right after the leak is discovered, you would get on the phone and call a reputable roofer, who would come over right away, fix the problem, and you could write a check immediately. But the world is not perfect and you may have to wait a couple of days.
Maybe payday is a few weeks away and cash is short. Or maybe the leak was discovered on the weekend and you wanted to wait a couple of days to avoid an emergency service fee. Or maybe you feel you need some time to research reputable and responsible roofers in the area. If you do wait, it is imperative you do as much as you can to prevent further damage.
- Collect the water coming into the house. Catch it as close to the leak as possible. Right now you have a roof problem. If the water gets out of control you could end up with wood rot, mold, warped flooring or some other equally troubling issue. Use what you have — buckets, pots, pans, bowls and vases to collect the water. Empty them frequently.
- If the roof is safely accessible (it's not too slippery or steeply pitched) you might try patching or covering the hole to slow the leak. Visqueen or a tarp can temporarily cover the leaking area, CollierGov.net suggests. It is also possible to patch small holes with roofing cement.
- Know that anything you've done will not last long term. If you get down from patching the roof and think to yourself, "this should solve the problem for a decade or so," we have some transparent new clothes we'd like to sell you. The best result of a patch job is to buy you a few days to find a reliable roofer to do the real repair work.
Fixing it for Good
- Call your insurance agency. Figure out if the damage to your roof is covered on your policy and what your deductible might be. Crunch some numbers and do some research.
- Do online research, or ask your friends, relatives or neighbors to find a reliable roofer. Be sure they are licensed, bonded and insured. Call references. Get a quote. Ask how they work with insurance agencies (if applicable). Be thorough. Expect it to be expensive. The roof protects everything in your home from the elements. You need it to be awesome.
- Round up the money. If, at this point, you're dreading using the money you've saved up for a backyard pool on the roof, you need a reality check. If you cheap out on the roof, you're likely to end up with a pool — of standing pool of water in the master bedroom. If you have an emergency fund or savings, this is the time to employ it.
- Enjoy a home devoid of interior rain showers.
If your in the Indianapolis Indiana area, give Gettum Home Exteriors
a call. Gettum Home Exteriors is a division of Gettum Associates, a Greenwood, Indiana based full-service remodel contractor that has served the Indianapolis metro area since 1987. They will work with you and/or your insurance company to complete the work or repairs in a timely, professional manner.
Help with choosing a lawnmower
Summer often means investing in new lawn care equipment, but with so many choices out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. Take a few tips from the professionals to select the best equipment for your home, and then keep the gear in top shape throughout the season and for years to come. Here's some guidance when purchasing a riding lawnmower for your home:
Choosing a Home Mower
Lots of people turn to online reviews and recommendations from friends before they invest in a large purchase. This is a good idea, but not all surveys and reviews include enough information to make a sound decision.
For example, a 2012 Green Industry Pros survey revealed name recognition is often a factor. Also, some contractors are so loyal to a certain brand, they don’t consider alternatives, even if it might be better.
To help overcome any hidden bias, consumers should examine company literature and warranty information along with consumer reviews. In the Green Industry Pros survey, 21 percent of respondents rated the zero-turn Husqvarna mower as one of the top mowers on the market, but that number might not accurately rate the product if a large number of respondents did not recognize the Husqvarna brand. Compare that feedback with industry experts' takes: Mowers Direct lists four Husqvarna mowers in the top 10 for high-performing zero-turn mowers, two in the A+ category and two in the A category. Jose Castellanos, a Mowers Direct product expert, recommends these mowers for a comfortable ride, ample power on uneven terrain and a cutting deck that accommodates rear or side discharge for catching, spreading or mulching. The more research you do, the more likely you'll find the best product for your home.
Best Fit for Your Land and Your Family
Models that provide bagging and mulching capabilities and a good value based on budget and performance are the best choices for home consumers. Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal agency responsible for monitoring consumer product recalls, before buying a riding lawn mower. Other considerations include how much land there is to mow, how often the mower will be used and how long each mowing session will last. Buying a riding mower with the correct engine size, the right tires for the landscape and an adjustable seat and/or steering wheel for proper height adjustment adds comfort, safety and efficiency.
Proper maintenance keeps equipment operating and reduces downtime. Once a decision is made on the brand you'll purchase, the operator’s manual is a valuable resource for maintaining home lawn equipment. The manual provides information about which parts require routine grease applications, the correct schedule for cleaning and replacing filters and the best oil-changing routine.
Keep moving parts clean. Blow off grass and yard debris from around the console, the pumps and wheel motors. All bolts and screws should be checked periodically to ensure they are tight and secure, to prevent loose parts from causing damage while in use or loss of protective shrouds.
Buying a lawn tractor is an investment. Reviews are important, but consumers should closely examine what the numbers represent. Proper maintenance and responsible ownership practices will keep your equipment in top condition for many years.
Do you have tips for choosing the best riding lawnmower? Share them in the comments.
About the author:
Robert Carlson- Rob writes about cars, DIY home projects and sports.