Tuesday, November 30, 2010

10 Mistakes Not To Make When Heating Your Home

Even with a constant flow of information about energy efficiency, homeowners make major heating mistakes that end in higher electric bills and larger environmental footprints. Here are 10 of those errors, with the cause and effect of each decision.

1. Maintaining a constant temperature
Cause: A persistent myth suggests that you can save energy by leaving the house at a comfortable 68 degrees (a widely recommended winter setting), even when you are sleeping or away at work.
The idea is that it takes more energy for the furnace to reach a comfortable temperature than to maintain that temperature.
Effect: You could miss out on significant potential energy savings by not using a programmable thermostat and adjusting the temperature overnight and during the workday.
Though the impacts of adjusting the thermostat vary based on your climate and other factors, studies show that knocking the temperature down by 10 degrees for eight hours per day can cut heating bills by 5 to 15 percent.
Sure, the furnace will cycle on for a longer period to return to the more comfortable temperature, but it will be far outweighed by hours of savings when it didn't have to work as hard.

2. Cranking up the temperature to warm up the house
Cause: You come home in the middle of the day to a cold house. You want to warm back up to 68 ASAP, so you crank the dial up to 78 to get the furnace working harder and faster.
Effect: No time is saved in reheating the house. Most furnaces pump out heat at the same rate no matter the temperature. They just cycle on for a longer period to reach a higher temperature.
The furnace will take the same amount of time to return to 68 degrees regardless of the thermostat setting. By cranking up the thermostat, you are likely to overheat the house past 68 degrees and waste energy. Just reset the thermostat to 68, make some hot chocolate, and wait.

3. Closing off vents in unused rooms
Cause: You don't want to waste energy heating rooms you aren't using.
Effect: Again, this just wastes energy and makes your furnace run inefficiently because it changes the air pressure in the whole system.
Experts recommend never shutting off more than 10 percent of vents. Sealing your ducts is a more efficient way to save energy.
4. Using the fireplace
Cause: You found some free firewood on Craigslist and think you can burn up some free heating energy while enjoying a romantic fire.
Effect: While we can't make any promises about increased romance, we can predict increased energy bills. An open fireplace flue may suck more cold air into the house than the fire can radiate into the living space.
5. Using electric room heaters
Cause: You spend most of your time in a couple of rooms, so you figure you will just heat them with space heaters.
Effect: This could lead to higher energy bills and greater fire risks. Generally, a central gas heating system is cheaper and more efficient than a set of electric room heaters. Electric heaters also can be a fire hazard.
There are exceptions. A single energy-efficient space heater in a small, well-insulated room can save energy if the central heater is switched off. 

6. Switching to electric heating
Cause: Electric heaters are more efficient than fuel-based systems, so they must be cheaper and better for the environment, according to this popular idea.
Effect: In most areas, simply switching to electric heat leads to higher energy bills and a bigger carbon footprint. Your heater may be more efficient, but most U.S. homes are still linked to coal-fired power plants. These coal plants and their transmission systems are extremely inefficient.
Of course, it's a different story if you have a large photovoltaic solar array or your utility company uses renewable energy.
Cause: Those big pieces of glass get so darn cold. They must be the reason your house is so drafty.
Effect: You could spend a lot of money to only take care of part of the problem. Windows must be installed properly to avoid drafts, gaps, and leaks.
8. Replacing the furnace first
Cause: You blame high energy bills on an old, inefficient furnace.
Effect: Your energy bills will still be higher than necessary if you don't start with cheaper, smaller upgrades to improve the energy efficiency of your home, such as caulking around windows and doors and adding insulation.
9. Upgrading to the most efficient furnace on the market
Cause: You want the sleekest, most energy-efficient furnace available because it will be the most cost effective as well.
Effect: You may end up replacing an over-sized furnace with another (albeit more efficient) over-sized furnace. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that most U.S. homes have over-sized HVAC systems.
Again, insulate and weatherize to maximize efficiency, then get the smallest system that will comfortably meet your heating needs, which will be substantially reduced. Also make sure it is professionally installed.
10. Using incandescent light bulbs for heating
Cause: Incandescent bulbs give off more heat than light, so they must be warming up the house.
Effect: It is hard to see this logic as anything but a weak excuse for holding on to the Edison bulbs rather than switching to CFL and LED lighting.
In fact, one German entrepreneur is marketing incandescent bulbs as "heat balls" to skirt EU laws against the old-style bulbs. However, I doubt he is keeping cozy this winter simply by sleeping with the lights on.
Where DOES Your Heat Go?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Latest Kitchen Remodeling Color Trends

 As kitchens cement their role as the central gathering place in the home, they're taking on more vibrant, energetic colors. "The kitchen is absolutely a key place for color," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, one of the premier color forecasters in the country. "It's the place where people gather, so it's apt to have some mixing and matching of colors to create high energy."

Bold Is Beautiful
Since most appliances are basic black, white or silver, people are adding bursts of color on other surfaces. "Most kitchens have minimal wall space, so it's a good place to splash some bold color and make a statement without overpowering the room," says designer Jamie Drake, author of New American Glamour, whose clients include Madonna and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"We're seeing bolder colors that complement stainless steel, as well as the darker cabinet colors that are in style," explains Becky Ralich Spak, senior designer at Sherwin Williams. "Aztec clay colors — such as copper, henna and ginger — as well as gold tones, are popular options."  

Read On Here...(More Kitchen Remodeling Color Trends)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Is Remodeling Worth The Cost?

By Shira Levine For AOL.COM

   Is remodeling your home still worth the investment? Since refinancing isn't what it used to be, and because there are so many homes on the market, there's a new school of thought about remodels.

A recent
article in CNNMoney said no, because remodeling your home now doesn't necessarily give homeowners the greatest of returns if they want to turn around and sell: Only 60 cents on the dollar, according to Remodeling Magazine's "Cost vs. Value" survey on remodels. But not everyone is convinced.

"With interest rates at historic lows, this is a great time for people who are not planning on selling right away to take advantage of these low rates on home equity loans to do the projects that they have long been putting off," says Seth Levin, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York City.

Even for those who are looking to sell,
home remodeling still might make sense -- in terms of personal psychology and marketing. "People will be much quicker in making an offer when they see the home is already done," says Sarah Fatima Parsons, a broker at Halstead in New York. "People don't initially want to take on a renovation. Even if they end up ripping it all out later, it was done to begin with."

If you're sitting on the fence about home remodeling, the following can help you decide, and can help you remodel efficiently and economically.
1. Seek the bargains, steals and deals.

Materials are much more affordable for remodeling because retailers are looking to make a sale.

"If you're investing in your home, and you're planning on staying there for a while, then why not spend the money to have the perfect space?" says Glen Seidlitz, a carpenter and interior home remodeler based in Austin, Texas, who owns the company Six23. "If you're looking for resale, you'll probably never make back your entire investment, but it might be the thing that helps sell your house and not take a huge hit on the sales price."

2. Speak with home improvement experts and real estate sales brokers and agents about what is worth doing, and what isn't.

Low-end-of-the-market-buyers may simply discover that there are finishes that they will do that won't enhance a sales price at all.
"However, in the high-end market, my clients looking for multi-million dollar homes are passing on properties that do not have a high enough level of renovation," says Levin, who adds that they prefer "new constructions and newly remodeled resale properties -- even if the unrenovated properties are priced considerably lower.

"In the high-end market a seller should seriously consider updating before placing their apartment on the market," he says. "Buyers still believe that they have the luxury of time to see what else is out there before jumping on properties that they deem mediocre."

3. Choose simple-yet-sleek affordable home brands for your renovations, if on a budget.

Going over the top with personal style may mean a lot to you, but your personal taste doesn't translate well with that of a buyer's personal taste. If researched and done right, home remodeling can cost much less than expected.

4. When remodeling, prioritize those home renovations room by room, project by project.

Typically, kitchens bring the most value, then bathroom renovations.

"You always get more than you put in with a kitchen renovations," says Parson. "I've seen sales where a renovated kitchen brought back 10 times more than was invested. This especially works if you put in a little sweat equity and do your kitchen all yourself. You should never leave in those old appliances, tiles and formica countertops. They look unappealing and nasty and can make a place look uncared for and sad. Never buy black or white appliances. It looks cheap. Silver aluminum looks the best for appliances and it will cost just $100 more for that better image.

"Painting, both interior and exterior, is an easy and inexpensive way to change the look of your home," says Seidlitz.

5. Allow for a decent time-frame to get the remodeling done before putting the property on the market.

Every job is different and planned renovations often take longer than anticipated, so factor those random, unexpected hiccups and delays if you're in a hurry and like to be in control of the process. Communicate a reasonable time frame with your contractor.

"If you're doing a full renovation of a 10-foot-by-10-foot kitchen, budget six to eight weeks," says Seidlitz. "A bathroom is about four weeks. Fully painting a 1,500-square-foot house could take up to two weeks, depending on how much prep work needs to be done and how many coats you want."


The right time to remodel is simply the time when you have some extra cash. But if you're going to do it, give yourself some time before listing the property.

"Allow yourself three to six months before you put your property on the market," says Parsons.

6. Most of all, while you're living in it, enjoy your home.

Even if you bought your home at the top of the market and don't plan to sell in the near future, says Levin, investing in a remodel to make your home an enjoyable place to live is never a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

7 Winterization Tips to Keep Your Money from Going Out the Window

   With winter just around the corner, now is the perfect time to make sure that you are well prepared for the colder months, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and below zero temperatures. Last year’s winter clothes are checked and extra hats and mittens are purchased. But what about your house? Is it prepared for the winter? There a few things that you, as a home owner, can to do make sure that your house is winterize and will be well heated during the winter months.

Extra Insulation
By dishing out a few dollars and adding some extra insulation in your attic you can keep your house well heated and save on money in the long run. Heat rises and if your attic isn’t well insulated, the heat will rise right out! Even a house that has the proper amount of insulation in the attic can still lose heat and money. This is definitely one area where more is better. (See AK's Home Maintenance For This And Similar Services)

Weather Strip Your Door
You would be amazed at the amount of heat that can escape through the bottom of your doors. Even if you have good storm doors on your house, there may be air leaking out the seams where your door meets your house. Put weather stripping on your doors and you will make them airtight, stopping any drafts. If you have a door between your house and your garage, weather strip that, also. Since your garage is most likely not heated this could be an overlooked source of heat loss. (See AK's Home Maintenance For This And Similar Services)

Clean Your Gutters
What do clean gutters have to do with winterizing your home? Quite a bit, actually! If your gutters are cluttered with dead leaves and debris, then rain and snow has nowhere to go. You could end up with a buildup of ice. This ice buildup could extend under your roof shingles, causing unwanted and expensive leaks in your home when it melts. 

Get Your Heat Sources Checked
Whether you have a furnace, woodstove, pellet stove or something else that heats your home, it’s always a good idea to get them checked out or inspected yearly. If they aren’t working to their capacity, you could find yourself losing money and heat during the winter. (See AK's Home Maintenance For This And Similar Services)

Plastic on Your Windows
If you’re windows are drafty, you can buy winter window kits. These plastic window kits go on easily and can stop the cold air from getting in and the hot air from getting out. Basically a plastic shrink wrap for your windows, they don’t cost a lot and can make quite the difference if your windows are in good shape. 

Storm Windows
If you have storm replacement windows for the winter, use them! Storm windows can drastically cut down on the amount of heat escaping from your home. They can also stop snow and sleet from getting into the inside window frames, damaging the windows.

Even with storm windows and plastic winter covers, your windows may be a source of heat loss in your home. If this is the case, then you will want to look into replacement windows. Replacing your windows with better, thicker, stronger ones can drastically cut down on your heating bill, especially if the windows you are replacing are in the second story of your home. You may think that it’s too expensive to replace your windows, but in the end you’ll definitely save more then you spend. 

Winter can be a cold, cold time. Make sure that your home is prepared for the frigid temperature. Not only will you and your family stay snuggly warm, but you’ll cut back on your heating cost. And who knows? With the extra money you could plan a trip somewhere warm.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Color Says About You

Most of us have a favorite color. Maybe you’re drawn to sky blue because it makes your eyes stand out or you find forest green particularly comforting. Whatever the case, your preferred hue can reveal a lot about what makes you tick. And the same holds true for the people you date — you’d probably have a different impression of a date if he or she said, “My favorite color is yellow” versus “My favorite color is black.” That’s because color speaks a powerful, silent language. And I can help you understand it. I’m a success coach and best-selling author of Simple Spells for Love and other books, and I’ve studied color theory. So, look up your favorite color below — then, your date’s best-loved shade — and get some colorful insights that will benefit your romantic life.

What it represents: Ah, the color of passion, anger and high blood pressure. Red is a primal color. It represents primal urges, like lust (“I must have you now!”) and fury (you know the phrase “seeing red,” right?). Yes, red is a commanding color: think of how stop signs get you to halt in your tracks and how you stand back when a red fire engine goes whizzing by.

Understanding people who love it: They act — sometimes without thinking — on immediate desires. In fact, they’re usually the poster children for immediate gratification. It’s up to you if you go for it... or proceed with caution.

What it represents: OK, orange is not exactly the easiest color to wear and it’s not the most common favorite color, but guess what? Orange is as sensual as it gets. Orange is a mellowed red — and it takes primal, lusty urges and mellows them with a softer vibe. Orange is the color of early attractions, emotional responses, and inner magnetism. Oh, and one other thing: orange is also close to gold, the color of success and wealth.

Understanding people who love it: Someone who likes orange is alive with feelings, the ability to nurture, and can intuit a path to success. If your favorite color is orange, you don’t have an “off” switch when it comes to passion. This is all good stuff, but there’s nothing casual about the connections this kind of person usually forges.

What it represents: Yellow is the color of the sun, vitality, power and ego... but it’s not a great indicator of romance. Watch out for self-centered, “me first” energy when someone prefers yellow to the rest of the rainbow.

Understanding people who love it: If yellow is your favorite color, temper your use of the word “I” when you’re interested in someone else. You can come across as too ego-centric otherwise. Now, if you’re dating someone whose favorite hue is yellow, make sure to jump in and share stories about yourself, since this person may not give you much room.

What it represents: Here is the heart of the matter: green is the color of love. (It’s no coincidence that we make our money in the same color...) Green is the color of life and abundance — leaves, grass, plants — it’s all about growing, expanding, and living. So why don’t we give ferns instead of roses on Valentine’s Day? Because green is about expansive, humanistic love and acceptance, not bodice-ripping romance. What’s more, green is a nice-person color, a “do-gooder, be-gooder” kind of color. This person has a warm heart. Passion is probably in there somewhere, buried under their integrity and honor.

Understanding people who love it: If you love green, you put the greater good before your own good — but try a little selfish behavior once in a while.

What it represents: Blue is a color of clarity, communications and charm. And regardless of the shade, this hue says: “I like to be understood.” On the downside, under stress, a “blue” person can send mixed messages, have trouble making up their mind, or just space out during conversations.

Understanding people who love it: If blue is your favorite color, you never run out of anything to say — expression is your strong suit. And if you’re dating a “blue” person? The same holds true; you should always know where you stand.

What it represents: Purple evokes the energy of illusion, imagination and fantasy. Or should we say purrrrple? Purple tends to inspire coyness, romance, flirtation and teasing — it builds anticipation with a dash of playfulness. The downside of purple is unrealistic expectations. Is it easier to live in your fantasy world than the real world? Some purple-lovers prefer it.

Understanding people who love it: If you love purple, you can be an imaginative romantic or prefer imaginary romance, depending on how you feel.

What it represents: White is light — the combination of all colors. White symbolizes purity (the traditional bridal dress, the christening gown) and spirituality. There’s a simplicity to it, too.

Understanding people who love it: People who love white are probably clean and orderly. While white isn’t the sexiest color, it is certainly healthy.

What it represents: Like white, black is a combination of all colors, but instead of purity, it represents the unknown, the unseen — mystery. Black basically holds back information... but there’s no denying that it has strong associations in our culture with “the dark side” and evil.

Understanding people who love it: If your favorite color is black, you are more hush-hush than high-strung in nature. The silence of this color lets others fill in the blanks. Black says, “I’m not telling you anything.” People who love black can be tough nuts to crack, but quite possibly worth the effort.

Astro-coach Barrie Dolnick helps people find love and happiness by understanding their stars and their karmic energy. She is the author of twelve books, including Enlighten Up! and KarmaBabe. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Kitchen Feng Shui

   We're happy to share a link to Open Spaces Feng Shui, run by Ann Bingley Gallops in New York City. Ann consults using Feng Shui’s practical and time-tested tools. Ann can change the energy of your home or office with practical and beautiful Feng Shui adjustments, both seen and unseen: colors, art, furniture and more.
   We're very proud to have the distinct honor of being Ann's first guest blogger! Ann asked AK a series of questions about designing and remodeling a kitchen for good Feng Shui - all her questions and our answers are posted here: Open Spaces Feng Shui Blog / 5 Design Questions For Good Kitchen Feng Shui

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Atlanta Luxury Homes

 In our fine city we have our fair share of exquisite luxury homes. Some old, some new...but all of these are on the market! We've heard of many people who enjoy previewing homes for sale - even if they're not looking to buy. So save your gas money for the down payment and let us give you a quick tour of Atlanta's finest homes.

  • 1867 W Wesley Road, Atlanta - $12,500,000
 Built in 2001, this home has 5 bedrooms, 7.5 baths, 7 fireplaces, a 4-car garage and even some accessible design features! The design work in the home is striking - great color combinations that accent the beautiful woodwork! Many of the walls are covered in dark luxurious fabrics instead of paint.

Enter the two story entry foyer with its gracefully curving staircase and look through to the wall of French doors opening from the formal living room to the broad stone terrace and manicured rear garden. 
There is a butler’s pantry with a wall of climate controlled wine cabinets and a wet bar with a refrigerator and ice maker. The kitchen is incredible with two large islands, top of the line appliances and a charming breakfast area with a fireplace. The family room opens off the kitchen and is anchored by a fireplace.

  • 421 Blackland Rd NW, Atlanta - $12,500,000

This stately manor has 7 bedrooms & 13 baths! Hand cut-face limestone exterior stone residence on the best street in Buckhead. The roof system is slate and has square copper gutters and gas lanterns.
It has a wine cellar, kitchen with bar, billiards room and fireplace. 

Upstairs has 4 suite bedrooms, laundry, added au pair suite with separate entrance. Or for office space with a separate entrance. The master suite and bath is its own separate wing with custom designed and large his/her closets and sitting room with a fireplace. Heated white marble floors in bathroom and closets, stone and walnut surfaces throughout.

  As we always say, "Dream homes don't have to be bought...they can be created!" Have these homes inspired you to create a little luxury in your own home? It doesn't take 22, or even 12 million, to feel like a million bucks! www.AKAtlanta.com

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fun Friday: Trivia

1. Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called 'pygg'. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.' When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a bank that resembled a pig. And it caught on.

2. Q: Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches, while pennies and nickels do not?

A: The US Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren't notched because the metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave.

3. Q: Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?

A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right! Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. And that's where women's buttons have remained since.

4. Q. Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses?

A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

5. Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called 'passing the buck'?

A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility, he would 'pass the buck' to the next player.

6. Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?

A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would then just touch or clink the host's glass with his own.

7. Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be 'in the limelight'?

A: Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and stage lighting by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, performers on stage 'in the limelight' were seen by the audience to be the center of attention.

8. Q: Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use 'mayday' as their call for help?

A: This comes from the French word m'aidez - meaning 'help me' – and is pronounced 'mayday.'

9. Q: Why is someone who is feeling great 'on cloud nine'?

A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

10. Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called 'love'?

A: In France, where tennis first became popular, a big, round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'egg.' When tennis was introduced in the US, Americans pronounced it 'love.'

11. Q: In golf, where did the term 'Caddie' come from?

A. When Mary, later Queen of Scots, went to France as a young girl (for education & survival), Louis, King of France, learned that she loved the Scot game 'golf.' So he had the first golf course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked this a lot and when she returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run), she took the practice with her. In French, the word cadet is pronounced 'ca-day' and the Scots changed it into 'caddie.'

Now, if it's questions about your home you're looking to have answered...We have those answers here: www.AKAtlanta.com