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5 Ways New Homes Help Conserve Energy in the Summer

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: June 19, 2018

Summer’s finally rolling around, and we all know what that means: crazy high energy bills from blasting the A/C. But if you’re living in a home built within the last few years, those costs may not actually be so high.

Did you know that newer homes tend to be more energy efficient? This is true for new homes even without investing in smart thermostats or high-end appliances. Homes built in the last five years tend to have better insulation, are constructed with higher-end materials, and often have state-of-the-art ventilation systems to improve air quality.

1. Energy-Efficient Window Panes
New homes are often built with double- or triple-pane windows, which can help prevent heat from coming through or going out. Since many older homes were constructed with single-panes, sunlight beaming through those windows can raise those cooling costs. With a new home, you won’t have to worry about keeping your drapes closed – let all that sunshine in!

2. Cooler Lightbulbs
No, we’re not talking about multi-colored or glow-in-the-dark bulbs. Energy-efficient light bulbs can keep your home cooler than traditional ones. Did you know that 90% of the energy coming off of regular light bulbs is wasted as heat? Many newer homes come equipped with CFLs and LEDs, offering a cooler lighting option for homeowners.

3. Improved Insulation
We mentioned this one before. Newer homes have better insulation, which helps keep your home cool longer. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature is much easier with improved insulation, meaning you’ll run that air conditioner less with a newer home.

4. More Efficient Home Appliances
New appliances perform now better than ever with highly efficient systems that offer features like quieter operation and moisture control. These high-performing appliances quickly cool down your home and then switch off, saving you money and keeping your new home at its optimal temperature longer.

5. Solar Panels
This one may be cheating a little – not every new home comes equipped with solar panels. However, solar panel installation in the U.S. nearly doubled in 2016 with over 1.3 installations across the country. With the energy saving potential (up to $30,000 over a 20 year period!) it’s no wonder many new home builders are investing a little up front for some pretty hefty savings down the road.

There are many advantages to buying a new home, like improved ventilation and air quality, but in the summertime, those benefits really shine. You can keep your home cooler and your energy costs lower with a newer, more energy-efficient house.

Hot Tips for Outdoor Summer Living Made Easy

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: May 31, 2018

Is there anything better than a summer BBQ in the sun? When summer rolls around, it’s impossible not to get excited about pool parties, sun bathing, grilling, and playing in the backyard with your family. If you’re planning on spending some serious time outside this summer, here are some helpful tips for making your backyard THE place to be.

Grow Your Own Produce

You don’t know “fresh” until you’ve eaten a tomato straight from your own garden. Spice up salsa, freshen up pasta salad, and surprise your guests with a tasty salad of veggies you grew yourself! Plenty of plants thrive in the heat and make an excellent addition to your summer meals. Try growing some sweet potatoes, hot peppers, green beans, sunflowers, and zucchini.

Cool Down with Kiddie Pools, Sprinklers, and More!

If you don’t have a pool in your backyard, consider investing in a temporary water feature. They’re fun for all ages and a great way to cool down. You can buy kiddie pools in various sizes (some even large enough for adults to sit in), goofy sprinklers, and even hot tubs or saunas.

Add Ample Lighting for Late-Night Partying

On a 90-degree day, it’s hard to do anything but lay in the shade and drink lemonade. When it gets to be that hot, why not plan a party later in the night? Set up lighting on your deck, patio, and around the yard, and invite friends over. As the sun goes down, you and your guests will be much more comfortable.

Set Up in the Shade

Summer fun comes to a screeching halt when you and your family are burnt to a crisp. Avoid staying out in the sun for too long by setting up in the shade. If you don’t have a covered porch or trees in your backyard, invest in an umbrella or two to keep everybody nice and cool while they’re enjoying the sunshine.

Create an Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor kitchens have been all the rage lately – from traditional charcoal grills to tricked-out gas ranges and ovens. Whether your budget allows for an extravagant outdoor kitchen or just a few appliances, setting up an outdoor kitchen is a smart idea for hosts. Cooking outside is much cooler than crowding around a hot stove, and preparing food for guests is easy. Just make sure you’re keeping kids away from any open flames or heat sources.

Maximizing your backyard for the summer doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a few additions, you can set your family and friends up for a summer filled with BBQs, pool parties, and outdoor fun.

The Cost to Hire Movers

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: May 14, 2018

Moving to a new place is exciting, whether you’re moving into your first home across town or a bigger home across the country. But moving can also be stressful, and it can seem like there are a million things to do before you pack. One of the most important things to plan is the cost of moving. More importantly, how much will it cost to hire movers? We put together a short guide to help you understand what goes into the high cost of moving, how much to budget for professional movers, and other considerations.

Overview of All Moving Costs

Deciding whether you’re going to DIY it or hire a professional mover is only one of the considerations that go into the high cost of moving. There are many other factors to moving costs, including:

  • Cost of living changes, if moving to another state or city (Use this handy tool to compare costs of utilities, groceries, transportation, and more)
  • Paying double rent or mortgage if move-in dates don’t line up
  • Renting a moving truck (fees generally run $20 a day, not including gas and mileage costs)
  • Storage units if you need to store furniture or belongings before moving

You can reduce some of these costs by moving into your new place quickly. Taking too long to move from one place to another can rack up costs surprisingly fast.

Cost of Hiring Professional Movers

According to Home Advisor, hiring a local professional mover costs between $80 and $100 an hour. You may be charged additional fees if movers need to take items down stairs or a considerable distance.

For long-distance moves, companies charge by weight and distance rather than time. With this type of move, you may be charged a flat rate as high as $10,000, not including gas and mileage costs. These costs do not factor in additional movers or truck fees.

Booking Professional Movers in Advance

For local moves (under 100 miles), book movers between 2 and 4 weeks ahead of time. When you book early, you’re more likely to get a time and date that best fits your moving schedule. For local moves during the busy season – between May and September – consider booking at least 4 weeks early.

For cross-country moves (over 100 miles), book as soon as possible! Try to book at least six to eight weeks ahead of time. Moving can be stressful, so book ahead of time and save yourself the worry.

How Many Movers Do You Need?

Depending on the size of your home, you may need to hire up to four movers. Moving Labor’s chart below shows roughly the amount of movers and time it will take to move for each home type:

Studio Apartment: 2 Movers / 3-4 Hours

1-2 Bedroom Apartment: 2 Movers / 4-5 hours

2-3 Bedroom Home: 3 Movers / 5-7 hours

3-4 Bedroom Home: 3 Movers / 7-9 hours

4+ Bedroom Home: 4 Movers / 7-10 hours

You will need to factor in the additional cost of movers ($25 to $25 per mover) and moving time into your schedule.

Make Preparations in Advance and Move ASAP

Moving doesn’t have to be stressful, and with a little preparation, you can put your mind at ease. To limit moving costs, book movers as soon as possible. Check the company’s rates and reviews online before hiring and try to move quickly. Storing items, paying double rent or mortgage, and renting supplies is expensive. The sooner you get to your new house or apartment, the less outgoing costs you will have!

Decorating for Spring – On a Budget!

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: April 27, 2018

After the cold, dark months of winter, is there anything more exciting than Spring? These warmer months bring vibrant colors, cool breezes, and sunshine. What better way to usher out the snow and welcome the season with an indoor makeover? Celebrate Spring with these budget-friendly indoor decorating tips.

De-clutter your home. During the winter, homes tend to accumulate a lot of extra stuff. Holiday decorations, cold-weather gear like boots and hats, and extra blankets can make your home feel small and cluttered. Now that Spring has arrived, it’s time to de-clutter these spaces and simplify things. You can also try for a monochromatic feel with soft whites and light colors. Your home will feel bigger and brighter with that extra space.

Fresh flowers. Flowers add a pop of color and life to any room. But not everyone has a green thumb or the garden space to plant a variety of flowers. Visit your local supermarket for fresh and pre-arranged bouquets to liven up any room in your home. To keep flowers looking fresh longer, use room temperature water and cut the stems (about 1 to 2 inches) before putting them in a vase. Look for flowers at your local grocery store, co-op, or farmer’s market.

Create an edible centerpiece. Spring brings with it a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. This produce is beautiful on its own, so why not use it as a centerpiece? Find your favorite serving bowl, or go shopping for one, and fill it with bright oranges and fresh apples. The best part about this decorating tip? You can eat it!

Swap out or put away throw blankets. In the fall and winter, there’s nothing better than curling up under a fuzzy blanket. But we’re saying goodbye to cold weather, so it’s time to put away or swap out those thick, dark-colored blankets. Look for thinner blankets in vibrant colors, like pastel blues or yellows, to give a spring-y look to your living room. For an even more budget-friendly option, repurpose leftover light-colored fabric and drape it over your couch. You’ll be surprised how much this simple action changes the entire feeling of a room.

Buy or make pillow covers. Pillows are an excellent way to decorate on a budget. You can instantly change a room by switching up a pillow cover, which is an easy cost to manage. This has to be one of the easiest ways to decorate a room – no fussy arrangement needed. Just throw a few pillows onto your couch, chair, or bed for a new look. These covers aren’t expensive to buy or make, and storing them takes almost no room at all.

Faux plants or flowers. Fresh flowers are relatively affordable, but maintaining the look can be a hassle. Faux plants or flowers have only an upfront cost and can add a nice natural look to your home. You can change the pot or vase for a fresh décor and never have to worry about cleaning up wilting or dead flowers left out too long. Craft stores often carry these plants and flowers at an affordable rate.

These easy options help your home look brighter and more vibrant without breaking the bank. Preparing your house for Spring will help you bring in the new season and transition from the darker months with ease. Brighten up your home with flowers and new fabrics, and enjoy the sunshine.

Quick Tips to Help with Spring Cleaning

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: March 22, 2018

Winter is finally slipping away and we’re starting to feel refreshed, and ready for the change that spring brings. One of the most popular rites of spring is doing an overhaul of your home’s interior—cleaning, purging, reorganizing, and perhaps redecorating. But before you launch into a full-scale attack, here are some helpful spring cleaning tips for your home.

Make a plan. If you just dive into spring cleaning without a plan, you’ll waste time and probably miss certain areas that you’ll regret later—after your energy has been depleted. Decide where you need to purge—closets, attics, and basements are a great start. Determine how you’re going to approach each task. Set aside boxes or bags for “Keep”, “Donate”, and “Toss” in the area you’re purging so you don’t have to carry out piles.

Include the tiny places that seem to get ignored during normal housecleaning, like sliding door tracks, baseboards, door frames, behind the kitchen appliances, and cabinet doors.

Next, prioritize the spaces that need your attention. If you have a dreaded area, put it at the top of the list. Don’t procrastinate. Tackle it first. You’ll feel better about getting it out of the way.

Organize your supplies. Now that you have your spring cleaning plan all ready, gather up the supplies, like rags, paper towels, various solvents, sponges, brushes, squeegies, gloves, drawer liners, and replacement batteries and light bulbs. Sort them into categories. Make a bucket for window washing, use another container for dusting supplies, and so on. Then you can just grab the right bucket and head off to tackle the cleaning.

Make a checklist. Keep a clipboard with you and make notes of things you need to get, replace, clean, or fix as you move from room to room. Don’t stop during your cleaning frenzy to run to the home store because you’ve decided you need to change your cabinet hardware or bathroom accessories. The distraction will slow down your progress. Instead, at the end of the day, review your clipboard and make a shopping and errand list to tackle all at once.

Start at the top. In every area of your house, start your spring cleaning from the top. Sweep away cobwebs and dust the light fixtures. Then move to the windows and walls. All the dirt, dust, and debris will fall to the floor, to be cleaned away last.

Hand out the assignments. Spring cleaning should be a shared challenge for everyone in the household. Once you have your plan, share it with your “helpers” and decide who will do what and when (yes, make sure there are deadlines).

Plan to be tired. At the end of your spring cleaning day, reward your hard work by putting your feet up, letting someone else make or deliver dinner, and kicking back to enjoy your fully refreshed surroundings!

Tips for Your Selections Meetings After Purchasing an American Classic Home

Categories: Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: March 8, 2018

Your new home floor plans are finalized, and now it’s time to choose the details—colors, flooring, countertops, cabinetry hardware, lighting, and so much more. It can be a bit overwhelming if you’re unprepared, so follow these tips for working with your home builder’s design center to get the look you’re going to love for many years.

Set a budget for upgrades. You can select choices among the standard features that American Classic Homes offers—type of color of flooring,  cabinet colors, lighting and plumbing fixtures, to name just a few. These are included in the price of your home. However, you will also be presented with some choices for upgrades. Maybe you want granite over quartz countertops, or more hardwood in your home. Before you walk into your home selections meeting where you will should aim to determine how much you want to spend fpr adding upgrades to your new home. Be sure your selections professional understands you have a limit and then they should work with you to provide you with cost of each custom request.

Determine your priorities. Along with coming to the selections meeting with a budget, be clear about how you want to use those funds. Think in advance—before all those shiny choices are staring you in the face—what’s more important. For example, can you live with certain fixtures in your powder room in order to upgrade the light fixture in the foyer? Consider which details will deliver more satisfaction in the long run—and stick with that decision.

Bring pictures and swatches. You probably have ideas in mind for your interiors. Maybe you’ve pinned photos on Pinterest, torn pages out of magazines, and collected fabric and paint swatches. Bring everything you’ve gathered so you can share it with the designer. Snap photos of furniture you’ll have in your new home, with measurements, too. You’ll be able to better envision your new space when you have all these details together.

Describe your lifestyle. When you meet with your selections professional talk about the way you’re going to live in your new home. Offer details like how often you entertain, the age of your children (and whether your home is the “fun place”) if you have any, and where you like to eat your daily meals. Are there bottleneck places in your home, like the bathroom or kitchen? How often do you do laundry, and do you fold it in the laundry room? The more you share, the better this pro can guide you toward smart choices.

Take your time. The decisions you make at the selections meeting will have a lasting impact on your new home. Photograph swatches and samples you need, look at them at different times of the day (bearing in mind it might be different in your new home), and then return to finalize the design details on your new home.

Tips for House-Hunting in the Winter

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: February 22, 2018

There’s no need to postpone the search for a new home just because it’s winter. While you’re hibernating, you could be missing out on the home of your dreams. You probably start your new home search online, browsing real estate listings in the warmth of your cozy home. Once you have narrowed down your list of homes to see, follow these tips for house-hunting in the winter.

Consider the accessibility. Seeing a home in the winter gives you valuable insight into features like the way the roads are maintained. Are the streets and driveway plowed well? Think about coming home here on a wintry night. Will you be able to access drive up your street and driveway to get home? As you walk to the front entry, do you find slippery spots?

Look at the curb appeal when it’s not pristine. When the garden, shrubs, and trees are in full bloom, you might not get the true picture of the home’s exterior. Without the leaves on the trees, will you have privacy here? How does the foundation look? Seeing the home in the dead of winter is like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning.

Check for leaks and drafts. You’ll feel the cold air seeping in from the outside a lot more in the winter than on a spring day when the windows or open or during the summer with the air conditioning running. As you walk through the home, place your hand on the window sills and frames, the door jamb, and wall outlets. Do you feel drafts? These issues are tips about the home’s maintenance as well as the leaks. If you find drafts, you should also look into frozen pipes, roof leaks, and the quality of the insulation.

Gauge the natural light. The days are shorter in the winter. By touring a new home during the afternoon, you will see how much sunlight streams into your home. Is it sun-drenched or dark and dreary? Sunlight provides vitamin D, which is essential to maintaining a happy mood through the short days. Will this home replenish you?

Sniff out odors. When a home is closed up, you’re more likely to notice odors, like mold and mildew or pet odors. If the home has carpet, take a deep breath.

Get an accurate figure for the heating bill. It’s easy to forget how much you paid to heat your home when you’re enjoying the low bills of summertime. During a winter viewing, those heating costs are fresh in the memory of the homeowner, so you’re more likely to gauge more correctly what it will cost to heat this home.

Ask for a spring inspection. You might need to check features like the sprinkler system and swimming pool for yourself, and it’s not possible during winter. If you have time to wait, make your purchase contingent on an inspection after the snow has melted and the ground has thawed. You can also ask for escrowed funds to cover possible repair of specific items that are unable to be inspected during the winter.

Give yourself a break from the winter doldrums and start looking for a new home during the winter, when there is less competition and motivated sellers.

Bathroom Vanity Design Trends for 2018

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: February 8, 2018

Are you thinking about updating your bathroom? The new year brings new design trends for every room in your home, from the colors to the fixtures to the style. Bathroom vanity design trends for 2018 can show you how to make a big difference here with the focal point of the room.

What will we see more of this year?

Quartz is replacing granite countertops. Granite has dominated the countertop industry for most of this century. It’s natural, durable, and available in so many colors and patterns that you can easily find one to match your taste. Quartz is an engineered stone, a combination of about 95 percent ground quartz stone and 5 percent polymer resin. Quartz looks and feels like stone, but, because it’s manufactured, you can order the pattern and color and get the consistency you want. Unlike granite, quartz doesn’t need to be resealed. Finally, quartz isn’t porous like granite, so bacteria isn’t absorbed, an important factor in a bathroom countertop!

Brass is back in the bathroom. Polished brass has returned from its exile. Designers are trending toward warmer metals, like brass, bronze, and copper. Even rose gold is making a play for bathroom presence. With trends toward richer colors in the bathroom—like navy blue and plum—the warmer hues of other metals will gain prominence in plumbing fixtures.

Sinks are taking a cue from nature. Homeowners have shifted toward natural looks throughout the home, and the bathroom is reflecting this preference. Stone sinks are popular choices, using granite, marble, and onyx that take advantage of the one-of-a-kind patterns created by nature. Wooden basins—like oak, cedar, teak, and bamboo (which is a grass but largely considered wood)—share the same natural beauty as stone.

The all-white bathroom is fading to black. Vanities are going to the dark side with designers moving away from light cabinetry in the bathroom, in favor of matte black and darker stains, like deep chestnut and espresso. The richness of these deeper hues creates a completely different look that transforms the room.

Bathroom storage gets smarter. Vanities are no longer about vanity. They have beauty, of course, but you should expect more. Manufacturers have recognized the way we use bathrooms and vanities today. Drawer organizers present a custom storage solution, along with a tall cabinet that separates the dual sinks. New vanities are incorporating electrical outlets inside drawers. Keep your hair dryer plugged in yet out of sight.

Sinks will have a splash of color. If you love color, you can get more of it in your bathroom. New ceramic and metal sinks reflect the trend toward vibrant statements, like orange and turquoise.

Every year brings more options to customize your home to the place and space you want it to be. Are you ready to make some changes?

Decorating Tips for Your Open Concept Design

Categories: Home Design Trends, Home Owner Tips, Interior Design | Posted: January 25, 2018

An open concept is a desirable floor plan for today’s homeowners. Having rooms without walls enhances the spaciousness, but it also presents a design challenge. With less definition provided by walls and doorways, how do you create your spaces within this open space?

These decorating tips for your open concept designs can guide you in the right direction.

Consider the flow. The colors you choose and the placement of your furnishings must flow seamlessly throughout your family room, dining room, and kitchen. Look at the natural flow of movement from one space to the next, like the kitchen to the dining area. Do you need a small workspace adjacent to the kitchen or would it work better as part of your family room? How much space do you need to comfortably move around the furniture, like the dining table, kitchen island, and family room’s seating?

Use color consistently. Decide on one color palette to pull it all together. Start with your foyer, which is the entry to this open floor plan. Expand that color spectrum by incorporating a few shades of your chosen colors.

Plan the lighting. The lighting design for your open floor plan must take into account the wide array of uses in this space. Task lighting will be critical in the kitchen and any other work areas. Be sure to incorporate dimmers on every wall switch to give you control of the room’s overall ambience.

Define task areas. You don’t need walls to create rooms. Use your furniture and decorative accents to establish smaller purposeful spaces within the open floor plan. Make a reading nook by setting a comfortable chair, ottoman and occasional table near a window, with its own area rug. Set up a small workstation for managing bills, sorting mail, or doing homework by placing a small desk or console table near the breakfast nook. Be sure you have good lighting here. You can expand the workspace by adding a bookcase or wall-mounted organizer.

Use area rugs. Define nooks and gathering spaces with area rugs that complement one another with a consistent blend of colors and styles. They don’t have to match, but avoid drastically different designs, like bold contemporary with traditional.

Don’t “arrest” the room. Placing your furniture up against the wall leaves a tremendous gap in an open floor plan. Since you don’t have walls, add boundaries by using larger furnishings, like bookcases and sofas. Break up your seating by building a large section (maybe near the television) and a smaller, more intimate conversation space.

Complement with curves. If your open concept features angular lines, soften them with rounder shapes, like an oval or round dining table, rug, or occasional tables.

An open floor plan presents a creative challenge for decorating, but also gives you plenty of room to create the space that perfectly fits your lifestyle.

Understanding home insulation

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: December 7, 2017

Every homeowner knows that insulating a home is important for comfort and energy efficiency. But it’s equally important to understand how home insulation works so you ensure you’re taking the right steps to effectively prevent the swap of interior and exterior temperatures.

Insulation provides resistance to heat flow. Heat flow is the movement of warm or hot air to cooler air. The flow continues until there is a balance of temperatures. For example, hot air will continue to flow into your home on a hot day until the inside temperature is equal to the outside. On a pleasant spring or fall day, you might open up the windows to take advantage of the ideal temperature. When the weather is more extreme, however, you need to manage the heat flow.

When you buy a new home, insulation is installed to slow down the movement of heat. Now, heat flow moves in three ways:

  • Conduction: Heat moves through a material, like a metal pot absorbing heat.
  • Convection: Heat circulates through liquids and gases, and since hot air is lighter, it rises above cold air.
  • Radiation: Heat travels along a straight path and absorbs energy from anything along that route.

So, your home insulation is installed in any place with exposure to heat flow: exterior walls, around the foundation, and in the roof, to name a few. Without insulation, the heat will move through the walls, floors, and ceilings—up from the basement, down from the attic, and in through the walls, doors, and windows. The goal of insulation is to produce resistant to the natural flow of heat.

R-value: The resistance factor

Home insulation products are rated for their thermal resistance factor, commonly known as R-value. This measurement is determined by the insulation type, thickness, and density. To determine how much home insulation you need, refer to a map that shows the R-value zones, rated on a scale from 1 to 7, with colder climates on the high end. Southern Florida and Hawaii score a 1 rating, while Alaska and northern Minnesota earn a 7.

You probably hear about radiant barriers. This reflective material doesn’t absorb heat, like insulation does. Instead, it reflects the heat. Radiant barriers are commonly installed on roofs to deflect the heat away from the roof (where it can be absorbed and potentially pass into the main part of the home). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a radiant barrier on a home in a sunny climate (e.g., Zones 1-3) can reduce cooling costs by 5% to 10%.

Retrofitting an existing home with the correct amount of insulation could require a professional, depending on where and what type of insulation you need. New homes incorporate the standards for home insulation. They also improve the comfort and energy efficiency in a new home by installing moisture control and air sealing.

Spend a little time learning about your home’s insulation and you’ll spend much less later on the energy costs.