All posts by fcoes

Backup Power Options for Your Home

If you live in the Southeast, as I do, you can count on experiencing severe weather several times a year: thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and snowstorms are all a part of life here. And if you also happen to live in an older city filled with thousands of mature trees and vulnerable above-ground power lines, as I do, you’re almost certain to be out of power multiple times per year.

Spend enough time without power, and you’ll realize the value of having a generator. At the least, a generator can help you save the food in your refrigerator or freezer. You may also be able to power a toaster oven, microwave, small furnace, or window air conditioning unit. For some, this might be enough to make the other inconvenience bearable; for others, being able to power their entire home during an outage is worth the investment.

So what do you need to power a home? Some homeowners opt for standby generators. These heavy-duty models are built-in, and always connected to your home. If power goes out, you’ll notice it only momentarily; the standby generator will almost instantly replace the power line as your home’s source of power. Generally speaking, these generators will be able to power anything and everything you need in your home.

This kind of backup power requires an investment. Standby generators start at around $4000, and can easily cost more than that. In addition to the cost of the generator, you’ll also need an experienced electrician to safely and correctly connect the generator to your home’s electrical panel. You may already be wondering: What about backup power for someone with a smaller budget? Another option is to connect a portable generator to your home.

Connecting a portable generator to your home probably won’t allow you to power everything in it. But it can allow you to power devices using your home’s electrical system. This means that you won’t need to connect devices directly to the generator, and that you will be able to use your power outlets. Depending on the power of your generator, you’ll also be able to use devices such as your water heater or your dishwasher.

Connecting your generator to your home isn’t as simple as connecting devices to your generator. Here’s why: Your home’s electrical system and the power lines connected to your home should have only one source of power at all times. Usually, this is the power from your utility company; in the event of an outage, this source could be your generator. To avoid dangerous power overloads and back-feeds, your generator will need to shut off the second that utility power is restored; you’ll need a manual transfer switch or an interlock kit.

Both manual transfer switches and interlock kits perform the same role: they are designed to ensure that the utility and generator breakers cannot be turned on at the same time; this isolates the household and utility systems so that power from one system cannot enter the other system. Both manual transfer switches and interlock kits should be installed by a professional electrician. While a visit from a professional will add to the cost, you won’t be able to safely connect your generator to your home without one.

Granite Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

Recently there has been a huge upswing in the numbers of people buying quartz countertops for their kitchens and bathrooms. For many years Formica and other laminates have by and large been the most popular substance for making countertops, since they’re cheap, reasonably durable, and can be made to look like real wood, but recently stone countertops have been much more popular. Stone countertops are much more durable than laminates, can be obtained in a wide variety of colors, and tend to look far nicer than any kind of laminate countertop.

Now the big decision when choosing a countertop is picking between granite and quartz. Granite was the stone of choice for many years, but recently engineered quartz has been popular for a number of reasons. Both make excellent choices for a kitchen or bathroom countertop, but which one makes the best choice for your home?

Granite countertops are beautiful and durable, and made from natural stone. Due to their incredible size and weight, they are incredibly difficult to install on your own, so you should always go with a professional installer. One of the main downsides to granite is its porous nature. With a granite countertop you have to remember to seal it at least once a year to keep it from getting stains. Without a proper seal, anything you spill on your countertop can seep into the granite and leave a permanent stain, marring your investment permanently. That being said, a well maintained granite countertop can raise your property values immensely.

Granite comes in a wide variety of natural colors and patterns, which means you can generally find a good color and pattern that will accentuate the style of your kitchen or bathroom. Though be careful when shopping for a granite color and pattern, because the actual slab can vary greatly from the sample, make sure you get to see the actual slab itself before you buy.

Quartz countertops have been wildly popular lately, with sales increasing dramatically over the last ten years. While granite is natural stone that is cut from large slabs, quartz is factory engineered. It’s usually made from 95% ground natural quartz and 5% polymer resins that hold it all together. This makes for an incredibly hard, non-porous surface, that’s great for just about anything you can think of. Since it is non-porous, you don’t have to worry about it getting stains or absorbing any harmful bacteria. This is one of the major reasons that many people choose quartz over granite. Granite can harbor bacteria because of its porous nature, but quartz can be sanitized quickly and easily.

Another factor that has contributed to quartz’s widespread popularity is the ability to dye the engineered material. Quartz can be purchased in a vast array of colors, ranging from dull olive greens, to bright oranges and pinks. This allows for much greater customization of your new countertops aesthetic. Granite is mostly found in natural neutral colors, though there are some exceptions to that rule, but quartz has virtually no limitations on the amount of colors available.

Much like granite though, quartz is incredibly heavy and cumbersome to install. It generally takes a team of several people to ensure that it gets done right, and can be very dangerous to try and tackle this project by yourself, or even with help from your family. You should take into account the structural supports that hold up your current countertops, and make sure that they are stable enough to support the weight of a granite or quartz countertop well before you make the decision to buy one. Many respectable granite contractors will assess this for you as part of your quote when they come to measure your counters.

When trying to choose between a granite or quartz countertop there are many different pros and cons to consider between the two options. Every space is different and while granite might be perfect for one person’s home, quartz might be better for someone else. It all comes down to personal preference. Make sure when you are shopping that you choose a granite distributor that has a large selection of stones to choose from, to make sure you are getting the most options possible. There are thousands of different types of stones out there, both natural and engineered, and you want to make sure you get the perfect one for your home.

6 Reasons to Get Energy-Efficient Windows

 

Windows play a key role in enhancing the functional and aesthetic aspects of buildings. For example, they allow natural light to stream indoors, as well as enhance the décor. However, windows can act as conduits for unwanted energy gains or losses, thereby leading to higher home heating/cooling costs. An effective way of resolving this problem is by replacing old windows with modern energy-efficient ones. Below are six reasons for choosing energy-efficient windows.

 

Cut Energy Losses

According to an article published by Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, windows occupy 15 to 20% of the surface area of the average American building. However, they account for more heat loss per square foot of surface area than any other building feature in the winter (irrespective of whether the walls are properly insulated or not). In fact, figures from the US Department of Energy (DOE) show that windows account for 50% of energy losses in American residential/commercial properties. This is because windows in the past were manufactured to be functional, not energy efficient. Moreover, some of the technologies deployed by the manufacturers of energy efficient windows are relatively new. With this in mind, the DOE reckons you can reduce these energy losses by 40 to 70% by simply using energy efficient replacement windows. If your windows are not energy efficient, you should consider window replacement today.

 

Reduce Energy Expenses

The energy losses discussed above translate to unnecessary expenses that can go as high as $900 per residential property annually, the DOE reports. Throughout the US, these losses add up to an eye-watering sum of $20 billion every year, according to the Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering. From these figures, it is clear that the average homeowner could lose thousands of dollars in energy expenditure over a span of five years only. By installing quality and energy efficient windows, you will lower your home’s energy costs substantially.

 

Environmental Protection

Environmental awareness among American consumers has improved significantly since the 1970s due to the tireless efforts of scientists, concerned individuals, and government bodies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This has led to the emergence of a “green” or “eco-friendly” property niche that specifically caters to environmentally conscious buyers and investors. If you are passionate about conserving the environment, purchasing and installing energy efficient windows will reduce your home’s carbon footprint by a significant percentage. In fact, the DOE reckons that windows manufactured with energy efficiency in mind could cut your home’s carbon footprint by 1,147-3,839 pounds of CO2 every year.

 

Boost property value

A growing number of homebuyers are willing to pay top dollar for properties that have been optimized or built from the ground up to be energy efficient. This means investing in energy efficient appliances and features is a great way of boosting your property’s value. In fact, figures from the National Association of Realtor’s 2015 Remodeling Impact Report show that homeowners can recoup as much as 80% of the cost of installing energy efficient windows. In some cases, windows can make the difference between finding a buyer quickly and languishing for months with an unsold property. Remember, most property hunters are unwilling to spend their hard-earned money on properties that are “energy hungry.” Nevertheless, it is important to note that windows are just one of the value propositions that buyers consider during real estate transactions.

 

Improve Curb Appeal

Besides energy efficiency, modern windows are designed to be aesthetically appealing meaning they can boost your home’s curb appeal as well. This can be beneficial in several ways even if you do not intend to divest in the near future. For instance, you could leverage curb appeal when applying for a loan with your home as the collateral. In addition, neighboring properties will also get a value boost because buyers tend to shun houses in locations where residents do not care about curb appeal.

 

Improve Indoor Comfort

Depending on where you live, winter temperatures can drop well below zero degrees meaning heat loss via windows can compromise your home’s comfort. For starters, cold drafts seeping indoors could make your home uninhabitable. In turn, your home’s heating appliances are likely to consume more energy leading to higher bills throughout winter. At the same time, low temperatures support mold growth, which in turn could exacerbate health conditions such as asthma. This is in addition to increasing the risk of cold and flu like diseases, the Mayo Clinic explains. Moreover, James Wedner, an asthma expert based at the Washington University in St. Louis says inhaling cold air alone could lead to an asthma attack. For this reason, consider installing energy efficient replacement windows to prevent health complications and improve indoor comfort.

 

Conclusion

If your home has old windows (more than ten years old), it is advisable to replace them with modern ones that are more energy efficient. By doing so you would be able to add curb appeal to your home, improve indoor comfort during winter, increase your property’s value, reduce your energy expenses, lower energy losses, and help to conserve the environment. Your local window representatives at Richmond Window are happy to help you find energy-efficient replacement windows if you’re ready to make the plunge but unsure where to start.

messy-home

Cleaning the House

Earlier this week I noticed how messy my home was. I decided that over the weekend that I was going to spend all day Saturday cleaning everything up.

I woke up early to get a head start on cleaning the house. I wanted to be finished with everything by 3pm.

To start, I wanted to take care of the Kitchen. I began by cleaning and putting away all of the dishes to get those out of the way. I then began to wipe down all of the surfaces to remove all the crumbs, dirt, and stickies. Once everything was wiped, I pulled out the stove and fridge to sweep up all the dirt that had been trapped underneath. I finished off the kitchen by sweeping and mopping the floor.

Next, I started on the living room. I started by putting away all of the clutter that had been left out over the past weeks. Next, I began dusting all of the surfaces including the tables and entertainment center. Just doing those two things made a world of difference! Next, I got the vacuum out and used the upholstery attachment to remove dirt and crumbs that were trapped in the couch and recliner cushions. While I had the vacuum out, I went ahead and vacuumed the floor.

I was amazed at how everything looked just seeing at the two rooms that were now organized and cleaned. Seeing how great this all looked gave me energy and motivation to clean the upstairs bedroom and bathroom.

I decided to start with the bathroom. First, I cleaned up everything that was laying on the sink surface and found a home for everything. I then did a thorough wipe down of everything, including the grimy shower walls. I finished off by wiping down the mirror with Windex and mopping the floor. It really looked so much better than before!

Finally, the last room I wanted to tackle was the master bedroom. I wanted to save this room for last because it was least messy of everything and I knew I would be running out of ‘cleaning steam’ by the time I got around to it. Thankfully, the only major things to do in this room were to fold the laundry, vacuum the floor, make the bed and wipe the end tables. It took no time at all!

Boy, my home looks so much better when its cleaned. In the future, I’ll make sure to clean more regularly in order to prevent long cleaning days like this. Well, since the day is over, I went ahead and booked a massage at my favorite local Richmond massage parlor. I figured this would be a great ending to a long and hard working day.

Post Party Carpet Cleaning

Well, I have really put myself in quite the predicament.  I had decided last minute to have some friends over to my parent’s house while I was watching it and all H-E-double-hockey sticks broke loose.  It started with just a couple people, and then in a matter of minutes the get together turned into a party.  My parents own a large mansion in Northern Virginia that seemed to attract people from all over including the Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, and Sterling VA area. I didn’t even know half the people there.  There were people everywhere jumping off the walls, dancing on the tables, and “acting a fool”. They totally made a mess of my entire house but I was most distraught from the enormous amounts of red wine spilled across our plush white carpeted floors. Gosh darn hoodlums!! I knew that I was partydesperately in need of a superior carpet cleaner as soon as possible.

I spent the entire following morning hitting the internet up for the best carpet cleaning all across Northern VA which is when I came across Absolute Carpet Care. There was a lot of competition out there but when I visited their website I was very impressed with all of their prior experience and knowledge they were eager to share. I decided to give them a ring which was probably one of the best decisions I made since throwing that little shin dig. I spoke with the representative and told her my store of how my carpets were ruined by massive amounts of red wine being saturated into my white carpets. They responded by confidently saying that this would not be a problem and they promptly set me up with an appointment for the following day. My parents were coming home in 4 more days so this was perfect time to allow for drying .

wine carpet I had scheduled the appointment for 8 PM and they were not a minute late. Our carpet cleaning service technician came fully prepared and he was really an all-around great guy. He knew a party had gone on and jokingly asked why I hadn’t invited him. He also filled me in on how safe the cleaning solutions. Evidently they are all made from plant based proteins with no added perfumes, VOC’s, phosphates, or hazardous chemicals. This is good to know next time I throw a party and have people passed out all over my floor.

After our carpet cleaning technician had left, I was relieve to find myself with a fresh and new looking carpet. I was so glad I contacted Absolute Carpet Care and hope this post helps you!

Pet Waste Cleanup Made Simple

Eww. No. I won’t do it. All winter, Roscoe, my dog has been doing his dirty business in the back yard and it’s just been too chilly for me to get out there and clean up after him. Now that spring is just around the corner and it’s beginning to get warm outside again, I’m becoming more active and getting outside more. Consequently, it’s becoming a never ending struggle trying to avoid all of his messes while walking around back there. And having big back yard I just can’t work up the motivation (or the stomach) to spend all day trying to pick up all the waste that’s scattered about. It’s disgusting! I’d rather have someone else do it.

Dog-wasteI thought about hiring the neighbor kid to do it for me, but rather than trying to convince (he’d flat out refuse and probably ruin my yard if he tried), I decided to find a professional. While researching pet waste removal services, I came across Doody Calls. They seemed easy enough to work with – they show up while I’m away and clean my lawn. Score! I’ll leave for work and come home to a freshly cleaned yard. No hassle!

I decided to give them a shot. Just as they promised, they showed up while I was off working away my life (so it goes), and did a thorough sweep of my yard. When I got home, being the skeptical person that I am, I wanted to make sure they actually delivered on doing a full cleaning of my yard, and to my amazement, it was spotless! I was so impressed with the job that they did I decided it would be worth having them come back every week to clean my yard.
Best decision of my life! It’s been three weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. My grass is clean and green! I no longer need to worry about trudging through Roscoe’s poop when out playing fetch with him or have to suffer a messy cleanup when playing a pick-up game of football with the guys when they come over. This is such a convenience. I love it!

I would definitely recommend a pet waste removal service for anyone who just doesn’t have the time or stomach (like me) to go through and pick up their dog’s waste every day. It’s such a convenience! However, always look for online reviews to find a quality service, or you might just be in for a smelly surprise the next time you go out in your yard!

How To Prepare Your Home For Natural Disasters

Getting Ready for Earthquakes in California

If you live in certain states, it’s important to find a home that is equipped for natural disasters or build additions yourself. In Kansas, for example, it would be ideal to have a safe place to go in the event of a tornado. Having a first aid kit on hand and rope or ladders in rooms for quick escapes are other ways to make sure you are as prepared as possible.

In California, you need to prepare for earthquakes. First of all, most homes are already built to withstand the underground waves. The force of an earthquake should pass through the house and leave the foundation and entire building intact. Another key element is to make sure your gutters are functioning properly so that it catches the water. When the soil around a home’s foundation absorbs water, the softened soil will move easily and cause more damage to a structure.

One of the main ways that people prepare their homes for earthquakes is by anchoring tall shelves, tables, and heavy items to the wall. This would mean ensuring that cupboards are locked shut so dishes cannot come flying out and TVs and bookcase are fastened to the wall. Other items that you would not primarily think of tying to the wall would be water heaters and other utilities. Water and gas pipes should be flexible so they do not rupture as the ground moves.

And don’t forget about those who can’t take care of themselves. For instance, those receiving elder care in Alameda CA will need some extra help in the event of a natural disaster. Seniors may not be able to evacuate quickly, and they could need some help with the handy work involving earthquake proofing a home.

Following all of these precautions can help keep your home safe and sound. Fortunately, most places in these areas come equipped. It’s important to make sure all of your needs are met to keep you out of harm’s way in an unfortunate situation.

The Weather Outside Is Frightful, but My Tub Is So Delightful

It’s snowing this afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving, and Vermont’s roads are no place to be. But I couldn’t be more relaxed. I’m as prepped as can be for tomorrow’s feast, and the house is neat as a pin. And in a moment, I’ll be sinking into a warm bath where I’ll enjoy a hot tea and watch the snow fall. I just might stay there a while.

I’ve been spending more time in my bathroom lately, and particularly the tub. Part of that has to do with the season: Days are short. After a long day at the office, I walk outside to pitch black skies. The hour seems later than it actually is, and I seem more inclined to wind down than I do on long, bright summer days. I discovered that the tub is a great place to wind down – especially when it’s cold and dark.

I also recently updated my bathroom pretty extensively, so everything is still a novelty to me. I like looking at all of the lovely work that was done – and there’s no better place to do that than from in the tub. Here I can enjoy the tilework up close as well as the craftsmanship of the new glass enclosure.

The glass enclosure in particular is what has made my tub more inviting. I’m a little embarrassed to say that, when soaking in my tub not so long ago, I’d be often confronted by a bit of mold and mildew on my shower curtain. My place wasn’t dirty, and I’d replace the curtain at least semi-regularly, but the image would stay with me. The idea of enjoying a good long soak would lose its appeal for a while.

I’d wanted to get rid of that curtain for years, but I didn’t want to cut the tub off from the rest of the room. And I didn’t want to be completely surrounded by glass while I bathed. But on a lark I visited a nearby glass retailer that specializes in tub enclosures. I discovered that even an enclosure could retain an open feel. I also discovered that I could continue to enjoy the view from my second-floor window.

I hadn’t lived in a home with a tub enclosure for years – not since I was a teenager. So my perceptions of enclosures hadn’t really changed since then. If you asked me to imagine one, I’d have envisioned something a little clunky, with ungainly metal frames supporting nearly opaque glass that closed off natural light and isolated you from the rest of the room. While I wasn’t a fan of owning a shower curtain, it didn’t seem like a bad alternative to the enclosures I knew.

When I arrived at the local showroom, I discovered that enclosures had evolved since the last time I encountered them long ago. The frames were lighter, sleeker, and more stylish than I’d remembered. Even more interesting was the glass that didn’t require frames at all, wrapping tubs and showers in a transparent, elegant wall; once I saw a frameless tub enclosure, I wanted one of my own.

Now, a couple of months later, I’ve got the clear enclosure that I wanted. No frames, no rails – just clear glass. When I open the amply-sized door, I’ve got the view I wanted and the openness that I needed.

Sometimes I take a shower in the enclosure instead of a bath. I leave feeling just a little cleaner than before, as there’s no unsightly blemish of mildew anywhere to be seen. In the interests of full disclosure, I do need to mention that I clean the glass’ interior each time I use the tub or shower. But it takes no more than a minute, and it’s already part of my routine.

I enjoy that enclosure every day – and even more when I can sink into a hot bath. Outside the snow is falling, people are scrambling, and cars are honking, but I don’t have a care in the world.

What to Look for When Choosing a Home Service

Choosing which company to hire for an in home service can take a bit of research if you want to make the best choice. Of course you want a service that is going to be friendly and treat you and your home with courteously and respect, but this is really only the beginning. It all comes down to the quality of work you are receiving for whether it’s a repair, painting service, a fence builder or cleaning. Basically, did they fix the problem you needed them to handle? This, along with how I feel when the work is over (did I get a good deal for my money) is how I judge the quality of service im receiving.

But sometimes, there is a bit more to it that how the work looks from the naked eye. For example, when you hire a carpet cleaner you may not know exactly what you are getting even though your carpeting may appear cleaner; let me explain. Basically, depending on the company you use, they will use a difference process to clean your carpets. These can vary by the chemicals (or lack thereof) used, how powerful the machines are and how much water is being put down, something that can affect how long it takes your carpets or rugs to dry.

With an increased focus on doing my diligence before hiring anyone these days I found the below comparison chart showing the Chem-Dry carpet cleaning process on the left and traditional steam cleaning on the right. You can find the location I personally use here. It was the reason I chose them over steam cleaners. After you read the chart you will probably understand why.

chem-dry vs steam clean comparison

If you were thinking about using them to or simply need a good home cleaning service I would definitely give them a try. I found them to meet my first criteria of being friendly, professional, and respectful (my dogs even liked them). I was very satisfied with the results of the cleaning too especially how quickly it took for my rugs to dry since I was having family over that same night after they cleaned them.

Anderson Window Company in San Francisco

bay window in san franciscoWhich is the best possible Andersen window replacement in San Francisco? The answer is simple: it is the company with the best reputation and the highest quality backing its work. Now it’s time to go to work identifying the company that fits that description. It’s not light work but it will give you the consumer edge well before the project is underway. Here is the sequence of activities you must go through in order to identify the most eligible company to do your replacement windows.

Targeted Research

What this means is that you must use a specific approach each time you review a company. That is the only way to accurately come up with the one name that will be awarded your contract for replacement window installation. Andersen is a big name in replacement windows, and any contractor that is associated with it is likely to know more than a little about the various types of window options; more importantly, they are likely to know what might be the best option for you.

Online Methods

You can find a surprising amount of information on just about any company on the planet when you use the internet for your research purposes, but you should make sure that the information you get is reliable. You should only be opening reputed sites such as consumer forums and professional review sites. Don’t go by the random rant or the occasional applause that you see about a company. Make sure that you see a pattern of good – or bad. Any Andersen window company in San Francisco that cares about its web presence is likely to be engaged in some sort of digital marketing initiatives, even if it’s merely hosting a blog and putting in informative articles about the industry that will help guide customers towards the right decision.

Use these two approaches to find a short list of two or three companies that are your final contenders.