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Save Green Indoors and Out with Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades

Spring is the perfect time to think green. For some it’s spurred by the coming of Earth Day, others the renewed greening of our lawns. And many are motivated by the desire to save a little green in their wallets with a fresh new season of home repairs. If you’re one of these people, you can help save some green for the planet, as well as your hard-earned cash, by making energy efficient upgrades throughout your home.

Helping the world stay green gained traction with the first Earth Day held March 22, 1970, as declared by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. As a nation, much has been accomplished with the environmental movement, yet there are also easy things you can do at home to “go green” and save money at the same time. Here are some tips for home energy-efficient upgrades indoors and out.

    1. Cool efficiently.

      When it comes to home energy bills, heating and cooling accounts for as much as half of the average home’s utility costs, according to energy.gov. Get ready for the hottest days of summer by tuning up your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system so it’s operating efficiently. Change your HVAC filters regularly. In addition, if your cooling system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with one that has a Seasonal Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 20.00 for better savings. Trane’s XL20i, for example, can mean a savings of up to 60 percent on your annual cooling costs – that’s cool cash in your pocket.

    2. Programmable temperature controls.

      A programmable HVAC control can reduce energy consumption by up to 15 percent compared to traditional nonprogrammable thermostats. Today’s HVAC control systems, like the Trane ComfortLink II Control, now monitor indoor and outdoor temperatures, plus home energy use over time, to help you manage energy and comfort even further.

    3. Conserve water.

      Remember, water isn’t free. Indoors, lower water bills by installing low-flow water fixtures including toilets, showerheads and faucets. Outdoors, add a water-saving spigot for the garden hose. To avoid water evaporation, water your plants early or late in the day, and when your green lawn starts to grow, don’t mow too low. If you have lawn sprinklers, double check that they are set to water grass and shrubbery instead of the driveway or sidewalk. Rather than hose down your deck to clean it, save water by sweeping instead.

    4. Lighting.

      About 10 percent of the energy your home uses goes to lighting costs, according to energy.gov – in fact, by just replacing five of your home’s most frequently used lights with energy efficient ENERGY STAR bulbs, you could save $75 a year in energy costs. Compared with traditional incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescents can yield as much as 75 percent energy savings and last six times longer. You can save even more energy and wasted heat by switching to LEDs. Outdoor lights using CFLs or LEDS save energy, too, so look for ENERGY STAR qualified fixtures designed for outdoor use.

By taking these steps, you can help make the world a little greener, keep your home a little greener, and save even more green where it really hits home – in your wallet.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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Spring Fever? Here are Five Ways to Turn your Deck into a Dream Outdoor Oasis

It’s easy to dream of perfectly pristine outdoor spaces when looking at the decks in magazines and online, but too often what we want and what we have don’t align. If your deck suffers from weathered wood, loose railings or dated balusters, you’re not alone. The good news is there are surprisingly simple ways to give your deck a facelift and transform it into the outdoor oasis you want in as little as one weekend.

 

Consider these five ways you can update your deck and grow your real estate value:

1. Add or update post caps

One of the easiest ways to add a dash of design and even some color and light to your deck is to update your post caps. If you currently have post caps, most can be removed by gently tapping them with a mallet. Then it’s an easy DIY project to add new post caps simply by using exterior construction adhesive. These decorative caps come in a variety of styles, including basic wood that can be stained to perfectly coordinate with your existing color scheme. If you want to add a bit more pizzazz to your outdoor space, try classic copper post caps or solar powered caps that illuminate once the sun sets.

2. Replace balusters

Balusters are connected to the railing vertically and provide an important safety feature. But they also add to the visual appeal of the deck and are a main feature in your line of sight. If your wood balusters are worn, you can instantly upgrade your outdoor space with new options. Metal balusters, for example, come in a variety of designs to match any home’s style – from contemporary to traditional. Have a stunning view from your deck? Enjoy uninterrupted sight lines with glass balusters that simultaneously maintain a deck’s safety and visual appeal.

3. Bring back deck boards

After seasons of changing weather and lots of foot traffic, your wood deck boards may be showing wear. Protect the integrity of the wood and refresh the look of your outdoor space by cleaning deck boards and giving them a new coat of paint or stain. Start by scrubbing or power spraying off dirt and grime, and then let wood dry thoroughly. Next, use stain or paint made specifically for decks to help protect the wood from the elements. Just as indoor paint transforms a room inside your home, new stain or paint on your deck boards will make your outdoor area look new and refreshed, making you feel like you have a whole new outdoor area.

4. Refresh railings

When it comes to deck railings, there are endless options to match any style or price point. You can go with an off-the-shelf product or customize one to fit your personal design aesthetic. For example, Deckorators co-extruded composite CXT railing is ultra-low maintenance and gives you the options to mix-and-match railings, posts, balusters and caps for a look that’s entirely your own. Not looking to do a full railing replacement? Sand down wood railings and apply a new coat of stain for an instant update.

5. Install lighting

A great deck will serve as an extension of your home both day and night, but if you don’t have proper lighting, you’ll be heading indoors once the sun goes down. Add visual appeal and an element of safety to your deck with easy DIY lighting options. Lighting on your stairs adds a splash of drama and makes it easy to get around. Balusters are an often-overlooked item that can provide a great lighting location too. Solar Baluster Lights install around 3/4-inch round balusters with nothing more than a Phillips screwdriver. Finally, Solar Accent Lights can be placed on posts to illuminate pathways and deck edges.

Expanding a home’s livable space to the outdoors is a top home improvement trend. With these simple tips, your deck will find new life and you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of time outdoors with Mother Nature.

Source: www.deckorators.com

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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Top Cold Weather Tips to Help Save Money & Energy This Winter.

by Courtney Soinski

prepare-home-for-winterAs outdoor temperatures drop and home-heating costs are on the rise, it’s now more important than ever to make sure your home is properly prepped for winter.  Here are some cold weather tips and easy DIY projects to help save money and energy this winter:

  • Attic:  First, check to see if there is any missing or damaged insulation that can be readily replaced.  A lower-cost alternative to block unwanted airflow is to place sheets of foam polystyrene plastic on top of existing insulation.  You can also keep the cold air in the attic and out of the living area by installing some plastic foam weather stripping around the attic door.
  • Fireplace:  Although a fireplace is meant to heat a room, it often allows cold air to enter a house.  An inexpensive product known as a “chimney pillow” or “fireplace plug” can reduce airflow when the fireplace isn’t being used.  After installation, the pillow’s inflation tube hangs down into the fireplace as a reminder to remove it before lighting a fire in your living room.
  • Windows & Doors:  Make sure your home is properly insulated by inspecting doors, windows, and apply caulk or weather-stripping where necessary to keep cold air out.  You should also close drapes, blinds and garage doors to preserve heat and prevent cold air from sneaking inside.  There is a wide variety of low-cost weather stripping you can purchase that helps trap air, providing a barrier between indoors and out.
  • Switches, Outlets & Ducts:  Less obvious places that can waste energy are electrical switches and outlets.  You can easily prevent air from sneaking in and out by placing pre-cut, inexpensive plastic foam insulation sheets behind switch and outlet covers.  Check your home’s unheated areas for leaks in heating ducts, including your basement, attic and garage.  If you find leaks, they can be easily sealed with plastic caulks or polyurethane foam sealants.  These low-cost products are designed to fill cracks and crevices while keeping away moisture and mildew.

Follow these energy and money saving tips for a cozy home this winter and all year round.  Many homes have areas that are not properly sealed, letting warm air escape your home and allowing cold air to sneak in.  Helping to seal these leaks in problem areas can provide a quick and easy return on time and money invested.

 

 

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