Energy Saving Tips for the Winter

Summer is long over and we are quickly nearing some fun festivities like Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. which usually are indicator that the winter seasons is in full effect. And what do these seasons bring besides peppermint mochas and holiday gifts? The answer is short days, dark evenings and bigger electricity bills. But it always doesn’t have to be this way, because there are things that you can do to decrease your energy consumption at home and save money. So lets get these energy saving tips rolling and see our electricity bills in the fall and winter shrinking.

Seal It Up

A common reason why people complain about insufficient warmth in their homes even though they still are paying huge heating bills is that they are loosing heat through cracks around their windows. So weatherstrip around your windows to reduce heat loses. That will help to keep your home warmer and use less energy to heat it, therefore it will let you pay less for the energy utilized to keep your house nice and cozy.

Lower the Temperature

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Although to some this might seem like a weird tip, since thermostats and heating systems are installed in our homes for the sole reason of keeping us warm, you might want to think about lowering the temperature on your thermostat to around 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit or even lower if you are comfortable with your home being a bit cooler. This will let you save on energy, since your heating won’t be blasting all the time, but you will still be living in a home that is comfortably warm.

Let the Sun Warm You Up

Sun is an amazing energy source, because all the best solar lights and solar panels are able to produce a ton of electricity and very bright lighting when the sun is out. The same also goes for heating, because natural sunlight is a great heat source, too. So use it, keep your curtains and blinds open during the day and let the sunshine in. On a sunny day, even if it is cold outside, the sun will warm up your house or apartment and you will be able to turn your thermostat down and save energy on heating.

Switch to LED

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You maybe have heard people talking about switching their incandescent and CFL bulbs to LED ones, and for good reason, because LED bulbs consume up to 10 times less electricity, yet provide the same if not better illumination than other types of light bulbs. So exchange all of your light bulbs to LED ones and see your energy consumption dropping. On top of that, also think about getting LED holiday lights instead of ones with incandescent bulbs. A lot of us break out the Christmas lights as soon Halloween is over, and LED holiday lights will make sure that in those two months that they will adorn your home you won’t have huge electricity bills just for the sake of having festive home decor.

Unplug – Not Standby

Did you know that even if you leave electronic on a standby mode, which essentially looks like the devices are tuned off, they still continue to consume quite a lot of electricity? In fact electronics on standby make up  even up to 10 percent of your total household electricity load. So start saving on energy and fully turn off and unplug your electronics whenever you are not using them.

Cool the Water

And lastly also make sure that you lower the temperature of your water heater, since water heating racks up around one fifth of all the energy that is consumed within your household. Use the warm not hot setting and adjust the temperature to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This way you will be saving more on energy and also there will be less risk of you scalding your hands by accidentally turning your  water faucet to hot.

We would love to hear your tips and tricks of how you save energy during the winter months!

 

**Arthur Smith has been working in solar and lighting industries for a long time, and now he shares his experience and knowledge on renewable energy, lighting and energy efficiency on his blog LEDwatcher.com.

 

 

Happy Homeowners: The Pence Family

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M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I Home and what convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Tina and Lorenzo: Yes, this is our first M/I home.  We were able to see these townhomes being built from the ground up and felt that a quality home was being built.

M/I:  Are you happy with how your home turned out?

T&L: Yes, extremely happy and our home has exceeded our expectations.

M/I: What is the name of your floorplan and what features of your home do you especially love?

T&L: We have the Cardiff floorplan.  There are so many things about the home that we love, the hardwoord floors, upgrades in kitchen and bath, fireplace, full basement (we really needed after 34 years of marriage and 2 children) and the extra large 2-car garage.

M/I:  Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes? Did you get to pick out your homesite and the floorplan you wanted to build, or had the home already been started?

T&L: We had a great experience in all aspects of the home purchase.  Our home was a spec house that was move-in ready so not a lot of choices from us but couldnt be happier with the end product.

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from the buying / building process?

T&L: This home was a spec home so we were actually not a part of the building process,  but we have been very pleased with the outcome of our home.

M/I: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

T&L: Yes, we loved that it was a brand new home as well as the common area and gardens with a pond make our community, English Rows, so unique and beautiful.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

T&L: Again, the common area is very inviting.  We have frequent outings with all the neighbors.  It is a very mixed community with everything from empty nesters to brand new families – something for everyone.  We were new to the area and this community fit our needs perfectly.

M/I:  Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

T&L: We would definitely recommend looking at an M/I home – their diversity in everything from single family homes to condos and townhomes, with quality building,  is wonderful.

M/I:  What is your favorite memory in your new home thus far?

T&L: The community get togethers, especially the summer Regatta where the “boys” were able to race their remote control boats.

M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home? Do you have any pictures of that space you would like to share?

T&L: There are many spaces that we love but have really enjoyed the front porch (with a couple rocking chairs) and the front living area.  Both areas give us great views of the garden and pond.

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M/I:  What was something that surprised you the most with building / moving into a new home?

T&L: The great sense of community and how smooth and quick the closing process was with M/I Financial.

M/I: Any suggestions you would give to someone building a new home with M/I Homes

T&L: Customer service has been amazing – any needs you may have with a M/I home will be addressed. We are now at our 1 year anniversary and the customer service has continued.

M/I: Any additional items / stories you would like to share about your new home?

T&L: We downsized our home (by half) and have found this is perfect for our needs, very quiet, energy efficient and great location.

**Tina and Lorenzo purchased their new townhome in our English Rows community in Naperville, Illinois in September of 2015.  They enjoy spending time in the community with their neighbors, as well as relaxing on their front porch of their new home.  They have 2 children and have been married for over 34 years!

Happy Homeowners: The Carter Family

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M/I Homes: Is this your first M/I Home and what convinced you to choose M/I Homes over another builder?

Tom & Maureen: Yes, this was our first M/I Homes experience. We worked with a Realtor to help us find our ideal retirement home. After seeing several homes, we preferred the open floorplan of the Newport more than any other we had seen. Also, the New Home Consultant Michael Colo and later, Beth Vogl, were great. They were very nice, helpful, and informative.

M/I: Are you happy with how your home turned out?

T & M: Yes, the home has worked out well for us. There are some items that we will have to go back and do on our own but we are very impressed with our home overall. The space has worked out well; we have our things laid out where we like them. We purchased some new furniture and we were able to put our own touch on it so that it is different from the place we came from and it is very enjoyable.

M/I: What is the name of your floorplan and what features of your home do you especially love?

T&M: The Newport– We loved this ranch plan immediately. It was perfect because we knew we did not want a two-level home. We are able to get around well but wanted a home that was prepared for 15+ years down the road. We loved the open concept of the kitchen flowing to living room. We came from a condominium so space was very important to us. It was also great to have the master bedroom on one side and the three secondary rooms on the opposite side of the home.

M/I: Overall, how was your experience with M/I Homes?  Did you get to pick out your homesite and the floorplan you wanted to build, or had the home already been started?

T&M: Our overall experience was positive, our community had some restraints on interior design choices at the time but the individuals made up for it. Customer service was and continues to be spectacular. Kelly in the Charlotte Design Center was able to make a lot of our interior desires happen and she was very professional, Dax, our Personal Construction Manager had great communication with us, and Beth was the helping hand along the way. We were able to pick a homesite and we chose one that backed up to woods.

M/I: Do you have any fun memories from the buying / building process?

T&M: Our homebuilding experience was probably different from most because we were relocating from Boston. We only came down to Fort Mill twice and that was the Design Center appointment and Closing. Everything else was done remotely. Dax would walk through the house with his iPhone showing us the progress. Once they began construction, we could visit the website and see the progress which was helpful.

M/I: Was there something about your home that made you immediately know you wanted to move in?

T&M: We really liked the Newport floorplan and the community. The floorplan flows from the kitchen, to the great room, out onto the deck giving us maximum space when entertaining. Nobody feels overcrowded and if guests want to step outside, they can do that.

M/I: What do you like about your neighborhood / community?

T&M: We had two sets of friends that moved to the Fort Mill area before us. When we came to visit them, we loved the area and started looking at the quality of homes that you could get for your money and decided this was the community for us. It isn’t a huge community which we liked and we also liked that it was new. It has made it easy to make friends and know everyone in the neighborhood. There is another couple in Sutton Mill that we have become close to and several others who are friendly acquaintances. The people have been very friendly and daily walks with our dog, Savannah, has allowed us to meet many people. We love that the community is diverse and that there are young families, retired families, and everyone in between.

M/I: Anything you would recommend to someone looking for a new home?

T&M: Take in consideration the lifestyle you’re looking for as far as location. It is important to see what surrounds you and if it matches your interests. Also, make sure it fits not only your current needs but your potential needs in the future.

M/I: What is your favorite memory in your new home thus far?

T&M: Getting all the rooms painted was very exciting for us. We painted ourselves and it gave the home a nice personal touch.

M/I: What is your favorite space in your new home?  Do you have any pictures of that space you would like to share?

T&M: There are a lot of them. The deck is lovely. We asked for and got permission to put in a larger deck as part of the construction process. So it is quite large and it looks out onto the woods. It’s really quite nice, especially as the weather gets a little cooler. We sit out and eat breakfast and dinner out there a lot.  It is also good for entertaining, which we do a frequently.

M/I: Any suggestions you would give to someone building a new home with M/I Homes?

T&M: Aside from assessing your individual needs and making sure the location fits your interests, figure out what you want interior-wise and make sure that the homebuilder and community you choose offers it. We dove in head first and fortunately it worked out in our favor. Also, take a look online to figure out what you like because the Design Center consultation can be an overwhelming experience. We narrowed down our options before our appointment to ensure we could pick everything out in a day.

M/I: Any additional items / stories you would like to share about your new home?

T&M: We’ve been very happy in the home. The space has worked out well for us. Now that we’ve got everything laid out, we have our own touch on it so that it is different. We’ve explored the area and there are a lot of good restaurants.

 

**Tom and Maureen Carter recently retired from Massachusetts to South Carolina.  They are very pleased with their decision on relocating to the Fort Mill area. They spend time hanging out with friends, trying local restaurants, walking their dog Savannah, and Maureen has a passion for designing custom jewelry, which they have dedicated a room in their home to.

 

Countertops: The Granite Alternatives

With its bold veining, endless colors and durability, granite has been the star of kitchens for the past 10- 15 years. Though it does its job well and continues to look great for years to come, granite countertops have decreased in popularity with the rise of alternative options. From natural soapstone to high-tech laminate countertops, there are new materials available for every kitchen that strays away from the been-there-done-that granite option. Let’s take a peek at a few alternatives that still provide the durability, function and beauty we all love to see in a kitchen countertop.

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Quartzite

Quartzite is a natural stone produced when sandstone is pressure-cooked in the earth’s crust. The end result is a beautiful stone with a wide variety of streaks, patterns and rich colors. Some varieties, like Taj Mahal and Mother of Pearl, offer a similar look to traditional marble without as much maintenance and upkeep.

Quartzite can withstand heat, but not for an extended time, so make sure to use trivets for prolonged exposure. Though slightly more durable than granite, some quartzite does still require sealing once or twice a year for stain resistance so make sure to check with your stone fabricator on the details, as it varies by type. The beauty of quartzite is all its variations: vein-cut styles look more contemporary and sleek, while cross-cut styles have a more organic feel. Depending on the fabrication, expect your quartzite countertops to start from $80 per square foot and up.

Soapstone

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Used in laboratories due to its resistance to stains, bacteria and chemicals, there’s no wonder soapstone is becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners looking for a durable, natural countertop. Always a dark charcoal or almost black color, its non-porous, honed surface can both hide and repel dark stains while still remaining slightly soft to the touch. Soapstone is a great choice for those who love to cook and households with little sticky fingers, as it’s unaffected by heat and easy to wipe clean. Keep in mind that like any natural stone, soapstone can chip and scratch. It also darkens over time, but sanding can easily return it to a lighter shade. Starting at $80-100 per square foot, soapstone is a slightly more expensive choice over granite, but it comes with a lifetime of durability.

Quartz Composite

Also known as “engineered quartz,” quartz composite is a material comprised of crushed quartz and polymer binders that are tinted and compressed under high pressure. The end result is a surface that is non-porous and resistant to stains, scratches and heat. Even better, a simple wipe with warm water and soap is all you’ll need to worry about in regards to maintenance. Because it is a manufactured material, quartz composite is consistent with color and patterns. This durable countertop material does come at a price—around $90-110 per square foot installed.

Laminate

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High-pressure molded plastic countertops—who would have thought that these would be a durable and long-lasting alternative to granite? Laminate countertops are a blend of acrylic or polyester resins, powdered fillers and pigments. This unique mix allows for easy buffing of scratches and marks and its surface keeps stains away. The beauty of laminate countertops is their unique ability to be molded into unusual shapes and sizes, which works especially well in sleek, state-of-the-art contemporary kitchens. Because this material is plastic, it is sensitive to prolonged heat exposure, so make sure to use trivets and cutting boards to extend the longevity of the countertop. These high-tech countertops start at around $50 per square foot installed.

What granite alternatives have you used in your kitchen?

 

***Guest Blog by Kerrie Kelly. Interior designer Kerrie Kelly is an expert on countertop materials in the kitchen and writes about her knowledge for The Home Depot. If you are interested in researching many of the materials Kerrie discusses in her article, you can visit Home Depot’s countertops page online.

 

6 Reasons to Get a Garage Security System

A typical garage doesn’t come with a complete security system. Although certain home devices already come with basic security features, a full security system is an investment that you have to make for your home.

The garage is usually the place where expensive tools and vehicles are stored. Many homeowners do not give much thought to the security of garages. However, robbers are already targeting this as it also serves as a point of entry to the entire house.

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If you are still contemplating taking the dip and making this purchase, here are the top reasons why you should get a full security system that covers your garage:

1. Peace of mind. Nothing beats the peace of mind that you get from having security 24/7 in your home. This provides that blanket of security for your family members even if you are not at home. That feeling of protection creates a safe haven for you and your family. A full security system makes your garage hard to break into, compared to a normal garage.

2. Increase in home value. Getting a full security system for your garage is obviously an investment. However, the extra security that the system provides can increase the value of your home. If you’re planning on selling your home in the future, then this can serve as an extra selling point!

3. Full control anytime, anywhere. Modern home security systems are fully integrated with smartphones. No matter where you are and what time of the day it is, you can have access to your home. This also lets you choose who has access to your garage, and from there, to the rest of your home. You can receive regular updates on the security status of your home and you can control it through your mobile device.

4. Better insurance rates. A safe and secured garage is received as good news by insurance providers. This gives them peace of mind knowing that break-ins are less likely to happen in your home because of the security, which can lead to having lower insurance rates on your home. If you have recently added a full security system, then give your insurance provider a ring and inform them that you have installed a new security system.

5. Secured storage of vehicles and equipment. The garage is where pricey items (like your vehicle, tools, garden equipment, and sporting goods) are stored. Most of the things inside your garage can be easily stolen and sold. So, beefing up your garage’s security should be something you consider. A new security system will help keep your valuables protected whether you’re at the neighbor’s for dinner or you’re out of town.

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6. Video monitoring. A full security system includes security cameras. Having video monitoring will help you feel at ease about the safety of your family. No matter what you’re doing, you can constantly check up on the status of your home and your family. You can see what’s happening any time of the day.

** Written by Kristy Jones,the blog author of A Click Away Remotes – Garage Door Opener and Remotes Blog.

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