Jennifer Franz, an energy efficiency expert at Lennox, a home heating and cooling manufacturer, says homeowners need to take a close look at how they heat and cool their homes if they truly want to make a substantial dent in their energy bills.
(BPT) - With temperatures - and therefore, electric bills - on the rise, American homeowners are looking for the most effective ways to make the biggest dent in their energy bills; however, many may be overlooking some of the most important energy-saving strategies.
Homeowners are more likely to do simple things around the house to conserve energy, according to the Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey. Those simple things may include changing air filters in a heating and cooling system on a regular basis, unplugging electronics when not in use and turning down the temperature setting on a hot water heater.
While these activities can certainly help save energy and money, Jennifer Franz, an energy efficiency expert at Lennox, a home heating and cooling manufacturer, says homeowners need to take a close look at how they heat and cool their homes if they truly want to make a substantial dent in their energy bills.
"More than half of a home's energy costs comes from heating and cooling the house," says Franz. "If you can heat or cool your home more efficiently, then you'll be well on your way to seeing lower energy bills."
The first step is to have a professional evaluate the age, performance and efficiency of your heating and cooling system. The Lennox survey found that only slightly more than half of homeowners (51 percent) had taken the proactive step of replacing an old, inefficient heating and cooling system with a new, energy-efficient model, yet doing so can dramatically help conserve energy and reduce utility bills.
Franz says if the air conditioning system is more than 10 years old or the furnace is more than 15 years old - the average life spans of cooling and heating equipment - then it's time to consider replacing the aging unit with a new high efficiency system.
Significant advances in energy-efficient technologies have enabled homeowners to save hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills. One example is the Lennox SunSource Home Energy System - a solar-powered central heating and cooling system - that uses energy from the sun, collected from roof-mounted solar modules, to reduce the electricity consumed by a high-efficiency heat pump or air conditioner.
When the SunSource heating and cooling system is not in use, the solar energy can operate other appliances and electronics. Any excess energy that's not needed is sent back to the utility company, possibly entitling the homeowner to a credit on their utility bill.
Other energy-efficient ways to cool and heat a home
In addition to replacing an old heating and cooling system, Franz says there are a number of other ways to make heating and cooling your home more efficient. She offers the following energy-saving tips:
* Seal cracks around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping to prevent indoor air from escaping.
* Keep blinds, shades and curtains closed during the day in the summer to block sunlight from entering the home, but open them up in the winter to naturally warm the house.
* Install a smart thermostat, which can be controlled via an app from anywhere at any time, to adjust the temperature based on when residents are at home or away.
* Add extra insulation to the attic, which will help prevent your home's heating and cooling system from having to work harder to regulate the indoor temperature.
For more energy-saving tips, visit www.lennox.com.
When it comes to remodeling, there are dozens of ways to improve your home’s overall value and appeal without breaking the bank. Opt for projects such as these that are manageable in scale, affordable and deliver benefits in multiple ways, such as aesthetics and energy efficiency.
Small-Scale Home Upgrades with a Big Impact
(Family Features) When it comes to remodeling, there are dozens of ways to improve your home’s overall value and appeal without breaking the bank. Opt for projects that are manageable in scale, affordable and deliver benefits in multiple ways, such as aesthetics and energy efficiency.
Ditch uninviting doors
Take a fresh approach to lighting
Give your lighting and home value a boost with an Energy Star-qualified option such as Velux solar-powered fresh-air skylights, which let you adjust natural light and air flow, reducing dependence on artificial lights and fans, with the touch of a programmable remote control. For expanded control over the amount of light and warmth that enters or leaves your rooms, solar-powered skylight blinds are available in designer colors and patterns. Like the skylights, Velux solar-powered blinds are operated with the remote. The solar products and installation costs are also eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit. Learn more at whyskylights.com.
Expand livable space outdoors
Whether you’re looking to make improvements for your own enjoyment or seeking ways to enhance your home’s appeal to potential buyers, there are simple but effective options that allow you to make a meager investment for a great impression.
High-End Home Upgrades
Home upgrades come in all shapes and sizes, from minor landscaping projects to large-scale security installations. When looking to make an impact, it’s smart to opt for high-end upgrades such as those that boost security or enhance the technologic features of your home. These upgrades not only lend an upscale feel, but can bring families peace of mind while enhancing the ways to enjoy their home.
High-End Home Upgrades
(Family Features) For most people, the home is their family’s most significant asset. Upgrading is a smart approach to protecting and growing the value of that investment.
Home upgrades come in all shapes and sizes, from minor landscaping projects to large-scale security installations. When looking to make an impact, it’s smart to opt for high-end upgrades such as those that boost security or enhance the technologic features of your home.
These upgrades not only lend an upscale feel, but can bring families peace of mind while enhancing the ways to enjoy their home.
For example, Briggs & Stratton Fortress standby generators are equipped with Symphony II Power Management, which lets homeowners prioritize what in their home they need powered by proactively monitoring and managing the home’s backup power needs, allowing for whole-house power with a more affordable generator. This power management system also uses remote power-switching modules that are installed directly to a home’s existing wiring, to help reduce installation costs.
The options are nearly endless when it comes to elevating your home’s features. By combining practical functions and indulgent improvements, you can take your homeowner satisfaction to new heights.
For more information about standby generator systems and their features, visit powernow.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Plan Ahead for Power Outages
Summer storms are often accompanied by damaging hail, high winds, heavy rain and lightning that cause widespread power outages affecting homeowners’ peace of mind, and their pocketbooks. Get ready for the chance of inclement weather and power outages ahead with these tools and resources.
Plan Ahead for Power Outages
(Family Features) Summer storms are often accompanied by damaging hail, high winds, heavy rain and lightning that cause widespread power outages affecting homeowners' peace of mind, and their pocketbooks. Homeowners can prepare for possible power outages by establishing an emergency plan for their families.
"The coming of storm season often motivates homeowners to start thinking about how to keep the power on and avoid the costs and inconvenience associated with power outages," said Dan Roche with Briggs & Stratton.
Get ready for the chance of inclement weather ahead with these tools and resources:
First aid. Assemble a basic first aid kit with assorted sterile, compression and adhesive bandages, rolled gauze, adhesive tape, disinfectant, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, scissors and instant cold packs. Add pain relieving medications (including children's strength, if applicable) and a few days' worth of any regular medications you take.
Emergency kit. Include items such as a flashlight, battery-powered weather radio, bottled water, non-perishable snacks and personal hygiene items. Don't forget extra batteries that fit your devices and keep a portable cell phone charger on hand. The compact Rayovac Phone Charger, which is compatible with most USB-powered devices, holds enough power to recharge a mobile phone up to three times (depending on device) and holds its charge up to four months. Find more devices ideal for your emergency kit at rayovac.com.
Comfort items. What constitutes comfort likely varies depending on your family composition, but may include things like stuffed animals, soothing blankets or small toys for little ones and more practical items, including pillows and sleeping bags, for older family members. Remember that a storm may leave you huddled in a confined space or without power for an extended period, so diversions such as travel-size games and cards can help pass the time.
Backup power. Portable generators provide a solution during an emergency power outage to power essential items, such as refrigerators, sump pumps and lights. An option such as Briggs & Stratton's Storm Responder Portable Generator is equipped with a digital control panel that provides everything owners need to know, including the amount of power being used, total lifetime hours of the generator and maintenance reminders. Ideal for first-time buyers, the Storm Responder features step-by-step start-up, shutdown and storage instructions, as well as a safety guide printed directly on the unit. Be sure you have a transfer switch installed in your home so you are ready to safely restore the power to your home in the event of an outage. To learn more, visit briggsandstratton.com.
While portable generators can provide users with flexibility and comfort, homeowners and renters should only use portable generators outside in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Visit TakeYourGeneratorOutside.com to learn more about portable generator safety.
Information guide. In the aftermath of a storm, having emergency information at your fingertips is one less stress to fight. Compile contact information for family members, friends and close neighbors, along with your insurance agent. Also include any relevant medical contacts or information. Stash your guide along with your emergency and first aid kits so it will be within easy reach if you need it.
Seasonal weather can bring unpredictable dangers to your home and family, but assembling the right materials ahead of time will help ensure your family is well prepared to ride out the storm.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (storm)
Summer party themes that sizzle
Here are six unique themes and some ideas for implementing them with style this season.
(BPT) - Patriotic celebrations, neighborhood block parties, graduations, bridal showers and family reunions - whatever your summer soiree, a creative theme can elevate any gathering from fun to fantastic. If you've done the usual - luau, ethnic and red-white-and-blue - and are looking for motifs that will really make a splash, here are six unique themes and some ideas for implementing them with style this season:
1. Star-spangled movie night
Summer patriotic celebrations can be pretty formulaic if you just serve burgers and hot dogs while watching fireworks on TV. But merge patriotism with film, and you can create a memorable, magical party. Break out the red-white-and-blue bunting, rent some velvet ropes and stanchions like you see in a theater, pick up a projector, screen and popcorn machine from your local rental store, and spend the day reveling in patriotic-themed movies.
Your local rental store has everything you need to create a star-spangled movie night. Find a rental store at rentalhq.com. Not sure what to show? "Captain America" and "Independence Day" are thrill rides that both kids and adults will love. Or, tug at the heart strings with sports-themed, all-American movies like "Miracle" and "Field of Dreams."
2. A day at the carnival
Whether you're looking for an inspired block party idea or a kid's birthday party theme that will leave parents and children talking about it until winter break, you can't beat a carnival theme for summer fun! Serve up traditional carnival fare - rented hot dog and popcorn machines will come in handy - and break out the carnival games. From favorites like the ring toss, dart/balloon board and duck ponds, to inflatable bounce houses and dunk tanks, you can rent carnival games to create a one-of-a-kind backyard event.
3. Summer snacking soiree
Beach time, vacation, warm weather and sunshine are all lovely aspects of summer, but let's face it - summer snacks are the highlight of the season. Adults and kids alike will love a menu that highlights some of their favorite warm-weather snacks. Set up a s'mores station with graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate bars and a camp fire (under adult supervision, of course). Place popcorn, hot dog, frozen drink and ice cream machines around the backyard. Celebrate summer fruits like watermelon and avocado with creative recipes like watermelon fruit pops, fruit bruschetta, fruit skewers and hummus/guacamole dip.
4. Whacky water world
When the temperatures soar, everyone loves some water fun. Invite guests to bring their bathing attire and visit your backyard for some whacky water fun. Fill balloons with water and hang them from a tree branch to create a wet, wild pinata. Rent an inflatable water slide, a misting fan, dunk tank and bubble machine. As guests arrive, equip each with a water gun. Have plenty of water barrels around the yard for quick refills and don't forget to have plenty of towels on hand.
5. Karaoke dance-off
Dance party or karaoke - which musical theme should you choose? Why not combine the themes and give your guests a chance to belt out their favorites while their friends shake it on the dance floor? Your local rental store can provide the karaoke machine, juke box and dance floor - your guests bring their creativity. Escalate the fun and add a touch of competition by inviting guests to dress and perform in the musical style that was in fashion when they graduated high school (or kindergarten or grade school for younger attendees).
6. Stadium day
Watching the big game together is a great party theme any time of year. Add a singularly summery element to your game day celebration by staging it outdoors in a homemade stadium setting. You can rent bleachers and a big screen to make guests feel like they're right there in the stadium as they're watching the game together. Add in food machines to make traditional stadium fare like hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and burgers. Decorate with banners, pennants and flags. Set up a portable bar beside the bleachers and you're all set for a stadium-style experience in your own backyard.
Creative themes can add fresh excitement to virtually any summer gathering. To find a rental store with everything you need to execute a unique theme, visit www.rentalhq.com.
Demystifying Composite Decking
While most people today understand the main benefits of composite decking, the material itself is still new enough to raise questions, confusion and some skepticism among homeowners who grew up with wood decks. To help set the record straight, a pair of backyard design experts offer their insights on five common misconceptions about composite decking.
Demystifying Composite Decking
5 common misconceptions about composite material
(Family Features) First introduced in the late 1980s, composite decking quickly gained acceptance among builders and homeowners who recognized and appreciated being able to achieve a natural wood look without the ongoing hassles of upkeep. While most people today understand the main benefits of composite decking – durability and minimal maintenance – the material itself is still new enough to raise questions, confusion and some skepticism among homeowners who grew up with wood decks.
To help set the record straight, Trex Company, the world’s No. 1 decking and railing brand and leader in high-performance, low-maintenance outdoor living products, has teamed with backyard design experts Paul Lafrance and Kate Campbell of HGTV’s acclaimed “Decked Out” series.
Misconception No. 1: Composite decking looks “fake.”
“Composite decking has evolved tremendously since its beginnings more than 20 years ago,” Campbell said. “The latest generation of products, such as Trex Transcend, look more natural than ever, featuring high-definition wood grain patterns and rich, saturated colors ranging from warm browns and pristine grey to spicy reds. There are also tropically inspired boards designed with subtle color variations and authentic streaking that mimic the look and feel of exotic hardwoods without the environmental impact – or splinters.”
Misconception No. 2: All composite decking materials are the same.
“Since composite decking was invented in the early 1990s, the market has been flooded with competitive offerings varying widely in quality, aesthetics and value,” Lafrance said. “For my projects, I use what is categorized as ‘high-performance’ composite manufactured with an integrated, three-sided shell or ‘cap.’ Capped boards feature an added layer of protection against severe weather, heavy foot traffic, fading, mold and staining.”
Misconception No. 3: Composite decking is maintenance free.
“Anything that sits outside in the elements for years on end is going to need some type of maintenance,” Campbell said. “When it comes to decking, the difference lies in how much upkeep is required. Maintaining wood decking is a downright chore with all the scrubbing, sanding and staining that wood requires – not to mention the replacement of splintered, warped and rotten boards. High-performance composite decking, on the other hand, calls for just wiping up spills when they happen and a simple soap-and-water cleaning twice a year – once in the spring when you’re getting it ready for outdoor living season and again when you close up your outdoor living space for the winter.”
Misconception No. 4: Composite decking is too expensive.
“Over time, wood decking actually ends up being more expensive than composite,” Lafrance said. “Sure, the initial cost of pressure-treated lumber is less than wood alternatives, but since a deck is a long-term investment, it’s important to consider the long-term costs, such as all the materials you’ll need for seasonal stripping, staining, painting and sealing. Add to that the time and cost involved in repairing and replacing wooden deck boards that will inevitably warp and splinter over time – even if they are well-maintained. When you factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance required with a wood deck, a composite deck ends up paying for itself in the long run.”
Misconception No. 5: Composite decking is not eco-friendly.
“Because it is made primarily from recycled content, composite decking is remarkably eco-friendly,” Campbell said. “In fact, Trex composite decking is made from 95 percent recycled content. By using plastic and industrial wood scraps that would otherwise wind up in landfills, they use more than 400 million pounds of recycled material each year in the making of their deck boards.”
For more information, visit trex.com.
Easy Home Upgrades
It’s essential to add style and function when completing any home improvement project. From adding light and ventilation to updating your home’s safety, closets, facade or backyard, you can take advantage of these ideas to enhance the aesthetics of your house and improve its livability and capabilities.
Easy Home Upgrades
Add style, function to interior, exterior spaces
(Family Features) Whether you recently purchased a new house and are looking for ways to add your own style and personal touches or are looking to upgrade your longstanding home, it’s essential to add style and function when completing any home improvement project. From adding light and ventilation to updating your home’s safety, closets, facade or backyard, you can take advantage of these ideas to enhance the aesthetics of your house and improve its livability and capabilities.
Combine Safety with Style
Upgrade Your Home with Natural Light
Enhance Your Storage Space
Refresh Your Home’s Curb Appeal
Boost Your Backyard Appearance
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (house exterior and pergola photos)
Take this year’s outdoor enjoyment to a new level with items designed to keep you and your fellow revelers safe and ready for food and fun.
Fun in the Sun
Backyard essentials for a summer outdoors
(Family Features) From a leisurely afternoon watching the kids play in the sprinkler to an evening cookout with friends under the stars, it’s the perfect time of year to bask in the comfort and beauty of your own backyard. Take this year’s outdoor enjoyment to a new level with items designed to keep you and your fellow revelers safe and ready for food and fun.
Savor the Flavors of Summertime
Help Your Skin Recover After Too Much Sun
Be Prepared for Burns, Bites and Scrapes
Keep Hot Summer Parties on Ice
Grill Up Some Goodness
Serveware with a Purpose
Photo courtesy of Getty Images(three photos: people at party, cooler, and grill)
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