Keep Your House Cooler This Summer Without Air Conditioning

In 2017 most of us are making an effort to live a greener lifestyle. We also love to save money! Lisa Kaplan Gordon writing for Houselogic.com shares some great tips to keep our house cooler this summer

Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips on how to keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.

You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer.

These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family.

Block That Sun!

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out. Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement. Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair. Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in. Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer. To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Fire Up Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air. Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too. Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip. Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest. Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly. Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house. Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio. Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights. Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Welcome to your Smart Home

Imagine it has been a long and difficult  day at work.  You come home to find  the porch light on and  your garage door opens automatically as your car pulls up.  Inside the lights are on, temperature  is a perfect 72 degrees, your favorite music is playing, pets have been fed and your dinner has been started. Welcome to your smart home!the-smart-house

What is a “smart home”?

“Smart Home” is the term used  for a home that has devices such as security systems, lights, thermostats, computers, entertainment systems and even appliances  that can communicate with each other and can be controlled from just about anywhere in the world using the Internet, blue tooth and your cell phone. The true smart home will even anticipate your needs.  If a device uses electricity it can be put on the network.  Smart home technology is available today for not only brand new homes but for older homes as well and for virtually every budget.  There are 100s of products to choose from and more are coming to the market daily.    There are products that unlock doors as you get close, light bulbs that you can program to change color and brightness, cameras that let you view your home from anywhere in the world and motion detectors that send an alert to your smartphone.  Smart home technology is making our lives easier, safer and saving us money by making our homes more energy efficient.    Here are a few widely available and relatively inexpensive  products that you can install yourself  to start you on the road to a smarter home:

One of the simplest and least expensive ways to incorporate smart technology is with a “smart outlet” The The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch,  which goes for around $50, is one such device.  You simply plug it  into any electrical outlet and then plug in your lamp, tv, coffee pot etc.  These outlets use your home Wi-Fi network and enable you to use  your smartphone to turn the outlet on and off whenever you choose and wherever you are.  Are  you at the airport and wonder if you turned off the coffee maker?  It’s not a problem as long as your coffee maker is plugged into a smart outlet, you can just use the app on your cell phone to turn it off.  Belkin also has a motion sensor available for an additional cost that will alert your phone if motion is detected or if it not detected for a period that you can specify.  This might be especially valuable to an elderly person living alone and those that care about them.

Home Security is a big reason many people begin to look into smart home technology.  The  iSmart Alarm has several different packages starting at around $200 which include motion detectors, contact sensors and  a panic siren.  Your cell phone is alerted if the system detects an intruder.

The Nest Thermostat  learns your schedule and automatically adjusts its settings based on your preferences.  It also  keeps track of your energy usage.  You can  control the temperature from your smartphone wherever you are so if you are going on vacation you can turn the heat down and save.   Nest also makes a security camera and a smoke/CO detector that will alert your phone if it goes off.  Many other products work with Nest  from keyless door locks to Whirlpool appliances.  A Lutron app will turn on the lights if it detects the smoke detector is activated.  

For all of the positives of a smart home there are also some negatives.  One of the biggest downsides is that the different platforms  used by different systems  don’t communicate which each other.  This means you might  need to use several  different apps  to monitor and  connect  to your home.   Several companies are working on this connectivity issue now.   Wink and Samsung’s   Smart Things  both have several major manufacturers -( Belkin, Honeywell, Sonos, Yale, Logitech for Smart Things and Philips, Honeywell and GE for Wink) who are offering compatibility with their products.

Google  ( the owner of Nest) and Apple are also  trying to solve the connectivity problem.  Both companies are working on creating a common language that any device,  no matter who manufactures it, can talk to .  Google is using a form of its Android platform and the Apple HomeKit is already built into its iPhone operating system.   Right now there is no clear leader in the field so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

Quick and Easy Bathroom Makeovers

Now that the winter weather has set in you are probably spending more time in your home.  Are things looking a bit dated?  Here are four quick and easy ideas from Century 21 to freshen up your bathrooms without spending much time or money.

Replace Showerheads

Still stuck with the same showerhead that was there when you moved in? Consider replacing it. It’s an easy installation that may make all the difference. Look for a showerhead with settings for water pressure and flow so that each member of your family can choose their own preferences.

Update Towel Racks

While towel racks and other hardware in your bathroom don’t exactly expire, their styles might. Browse options available across all types of racks, such as free standing, wall mounted, and over the door, to find a more current look that fits your home decor personality. Visitors may notice that new pieces give an updated look to the entire room.

Add Fresh Linens

When was the last time you bought new bathroom linens? If you’re not sure, then it’s time for new ones. Set your new, fluffy towels on display (on that stylish towel rack you just installed) for a fresher look. Make sure to invest in a couple extra for any overnight guests to use.

Frost Windows

Since bathrooms tend to be smaller, they need as much natural light as they can get. While covering up bathroom windows with curtains is essential for privacy, you’re blocking precious sunlight. Instead, try frosting your windows for maximum light while maintaining your privacy.

You might be surprised with how these quick fixes can give new life to an older looking bathroom. Get started today!

Tricks for Making Your Ceiling Feel Higher

We all love high ceilings for the feeling of space and openness they give us. Unfortunately many homes in this area have standard 8′ ceilings. Here are some great ideas to help create the illusion of height in your home.

Time to Get Organized!

If you are like many people, one of your new year’s resolutions was  to get organized.  We are two weeks into 2015 so it’s time to get going.   If you don’t know where to start, Sara Adrienne Knowles , a Seattle interior designer writing for Zillow.com has some  suggestions for you.

 Learn to let things go

The first step in any organization plan is purging. This can be the hardest part, but it is also the most rewarding.

Do not keep what isn’t functional or doesn’t bring you joy. Also remember that something you let go of might bring someone else a great deal of pleasure.

If you’re not sure you can part with an item, store it in a box and see if you miss it or need it. This is a great litmus test for what’s truly necessary.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

Any organization effort is better than no organization effort. It’s best to approach a behemoth task like organizing your entire home in stages.

The house provides us with natural barriers. Think of each room as its own project and it will begin to feel more manageable.

And remember that it gets worse before it gets better, so don’t feel discouraged early on. Organizing is not something that happens in one day – it is a journey and a state of mind.

Think outside the box store

A trip to the Container Store can be fun, but unorthodox storage solutions make for a more interesting space.

Beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces can be highly practical and help make your home more functional. Make use of available and affordable materials when possible to stretch your home organization budget.

The three Bs: bins, buckets and baskets

Oh, and jars. (But that doesn’t start with a B.)

Once you’ve whittled down your belongings to favorites and must haves, you’re going to need somewhere to store them. Baskets and buckets have a wonderful visual impact in a room — filling nooks, resting against chairs, and adding texture and color.

Using jars in the kitchen to store dry goods can make open shelving a lot more appealing. Bonus: With healthy grains and goodies in plain sight, you’ll end up using them more often.

Use your vertical space

If your home doesn’t have a huge footprint, vertical solutions are essential for staying organized. These can be implemented in a more practical manner, like stacking bins and boxes under your bed or in your closet, as well as through design decisions.

Capitalizing on vertical space draws the eye to different parts of the room and creates a sense of balance, in addition to saving important real estate on the floor.

 Feeling inspired or overwhelmed?  Start with one room and you will see the difference in no time!

Is Your Home Ready for Spring?

little-spring-pack-1172078_640It finally feels like spring in the West Essex area after one of the worst winters we have had in years.  The winter not only took a toll on us but also on our homes.   The National Association of Home Builders recently published their  top 10 tips for home owners to get ready for spring.

  1. Inspect roof—Check your roof for loose, warped or missing shingles and make sure the chimney flashing and skylight seals are intact.
  2. Clean and repair gutters—Clear winter storm debris from gutters and downspouts, and check that they are still securely attached to the house. Blocked or loose gutters can allow water into your home and damage trim.
  3. Look for leaks—Common culprits for hard-to-find leaks are attics, crawl spaces and washing machine hoses. Inspect these areas, look under sinks for damage from frozen pipes and check your water heater for signs of corrosion.
  4. Clear exterior drains—Remove leaves from underground or exterior drains to clear the way for spring showers and prevent backups.
  5. Inspect siding—Inspect siding for pieces that have come loose during winter storms.
  6. Check window and door seals—Examine the exterior caulking on door and window seals to ensure it remains watertight.
  7. Patch cracks—Patch cracks in concrete driveways, sidewalks and steps to keep water out and prevent further expansion.
  8. Paint the exterior—Painting or touching up paint on the exterior of your home not only makes it look better, but will also help protect the home from the elements.
  9. Inspect the HVAC—Hire a qualified technician to service your home’s HVAC system to make sure it is running properly before hot temperatures call for air conditioning. Now is also the time to replace your HVAC filters.
  10. Check your home’s grading—Ensure the grading of your yard slopes away from your home’s foundation to keep excess moisture at bay.

 

To find a local professional remodeler, visit nahb.org/remodelerdirectory.