The Essential Elements of Spanish Décor

You feel your house is boring? You want to give it a breezy Mediterranean feel? Well, have no fear! I’m here to show you how to turn your house into a home that a Spaniard would want to make his own. Here’s how you do it:

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  1. 1.     Stucco walls

Quick! Picture the exterior of a Spanish house. You’re probably picturing a raw stucco wall in a stark white or beige color. If you are, you’d be spot on. Walls covered with stucco, which is basically a kind of plaster, are common in Spanish homes.

 

  1. 2.     Paint the town

With neutral colors, splashes of bright colors like ocean blue, red and ochre will do well for the interiors, especially your family room. Make sure the colors are complimentary and you’re good to go. Remember not to overdo it!

 

  1. 3.     Using fabric

Woven textiles are a common site in a Spanish house, usually in bright, deep colors. Whether it’s a rug, table runner or tapestry—adding them would give your house a splash of Spain without the pain of remodeling.

 

  1. 4.     Tiles for style

Decorative tiles as a part of the flooring are also an important part of the scheme. Brightly colored mosaic tiles are definitely an option. You could also go withterracotta or hand-painted tiles for an earthier feel.

 

  1. 5.     Wood and Metal

Dark mahogany furniture is important to give your house that rustic appeal that’s the best part about Spanish homes. You could even use wooden flooring in some rooms to create the same effect. Adding a dash of wrought iron furniture to the look will enhance the appeal. You could also use wrought iron grilles to create interesting designs on the wall.

 

  1. 6.     Arches and windows

Arches were an important feature of Spanish architecture. If you’re not remodeling your house from the ground up, you could use arched windows to give the same effect. Usually, Spanish homes incorporate picture windows like this one from Champion.

 

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Buy yourself a gift that keeps on giving

Gifts bring great joy to all of us. To receive a gift or to give a gift is something everybody looks forward to.

Whether it is a birthday, a wedding or Christmas deciding the right gift is not easy. You want to be creative, unique and the want to make the occasion special for your loved one. There are lots of ideas going around and countless gift shops. You can even order gifts online. But it is not just the gift but the thought you put into it that makes all the difference. So instead of buying something which gives momentary pleasure and is a gift like everybody gives, why not try something which will keep giving, especially in the form of saving money in future? For example you can gift Energy Star rated home appliance to your friend. This would not only be useful but save energy too and be a small step in reducing her home energy bill. There are also some options where a small amount of the cost of the gift goes to a charity organization. Each gift you buy helps in providing a need of someone you don’t know.

But this Christmas season, how about gifting yourself and your home an unique gift which gives as long as you live in your home? Wondering what I am talking about? So here is what you can gift yourself- energy efficient windows. But my house has perfect windows you would say. Why change them? The answer is they make your home energy efficient.Again don’t be surprised. What have windows to do with energy efficiency? Let me tell you how replacing your old window with new energy efficient ones helps-

  1. Prevent loss of energy and air infiltration:  It is estimated that apart from the gaps in the roofs and walls due to the penetrations caused by plumbing and electric wiring, almost 50 percent of heat gain or loss happens through windows. This naturally puts a strain on your heating and cooling systems increasing the energy consumption and resulting in high energy bills. Heat loss and air infiltration also makes your home uncomfortable and even unhealthy in the long run. Foam enhanced window frames made of wood, fiberglass and vinyl with weather stripping ensure better sealing and additional insulating properties against hot /cold air.
  2. Long lasting and easy maintenance:  The window frames are sturdy,durable and don’t warp or rot easily. They are easy to open and close and can be cleaned easily.
  3. More light and energy efficient glass: The windows come with special glass which brings in more light in to your home. Champion windows come with exclusive high performance glass which helps keep the heat in during winter and the heat out in summer. This not only saves energy but keeps your home comfortable all through the year. Fading of carpets, furniture and drapes is also avoided because the glass shields the interior from the harmful ultraviolet rays.
  4. Excellent insulation and reduced noise: The windows are double pane or multi pane and filled with non toxic argon or krypton gas between the panes. This ensures excellent insulation preventing condensation and a quieter home with the sound kept out.

You can then considerably reduce the operating cost of your home by lowering your utility bills and even enhance the look of your home. Plus you get tax credit from the government helping you save more money. Then, go ahead and call Champion. They will offer you a no obligation free consultation and once you choose the right style from all the options available, they will come and install it for you.

So this Christmas, gift yourself this unusual gift and be glad every time you see your energy bill. Enjoy the comfort of your home, the bright light streaming in and be thankful for the gift that kee

5 things you should do to make your home energy efficient.

Go Green, save energy, save the environment- you read about this everywhere, banners, posters, television. And forget about it. You think, saving energy is for others. But with the growing energy crisis, environmental pollution and erratic climates, it is high time each one of us takes it to heart and pledges to save the environment by saving energy. Every step you take will  make a difference. Start by making your home energy efficient. It also helps you save money by cutting down the energy bills. Here are some ways you can start-

Switch off and unplug: Switching off the lights and appliances and gadgets when not in use may sound very simple, but that is a habit we need to seriously cultivate. Unplug the devices to save more energy. Neglecting this costs a US household approximately $ 100 a year. Also use daylight whenever possible.

Thermostat:  Install a programmable thermostat to control the heating and cooling systems of your home and lower the thermostat of your water heater to 120 0 F.

Home appliances and light bulbs: Replace all old appliances like refrigerators, ovens, washing machines with latest energy efficient models. Buy products with the Energy Star label. They are energy efficient and meet the guidelines set by U.S Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Department of Energy. Lighting consumes 10 percent of the energy in your home. Using energy efficient LED lamps can save energy. You also save money because they last longer and don’t need to be replaced often. Regular maintenance of the air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps will also help save energy.

Water heating: About 14 to 25 % of energy is consumed by water heating and it amounts to almost 12 % of the home utility bills. By reducing the water temperature to 120 0 F, you can save considerable energy. Insulating the pipes connecting the water heater will prevent heat loss and again save energy. Use cold water for washing clothes and dishwashing and wash only full loads to save water too.

Air leakages: The most overlooked and underestimated aspect is the loss of energy through gaps in windows, doors, recessed lightings, HVAC ducts etc. in your home. Air sealing and proper insulation will cut down the loss of energy and put less strain on the heating and cooling systems. Cutting down the energy consumption will bring down your energy bills significantly. Another important thing you can do is to replace your old windows with energy efficient windows. Energy Star rated windows like Champion windows come with excellent air sealing and insulation. These windows are double paned and have special energy efficient glass which helps to keep the heat out in summer and heat in during winter. This automatically reduces the energy used for heating and cooling. The glass not only lets in more light but also protects your interior from harmful ultraviolet rays which can damage the curtains and upholstery.

While it is possible for you to follow most of the steps on your own, getting a home energy audit to thoroughly assess the leakages and the loss of energy in your home as a whole will be extremely beneficial. The auditor will inspect every part of your home, assess the energy usage of your appliances and analyze your energy bills. He will then suggest the necessary changes and upgrades you have to do to make your home energy efficient. You can then be sure that the money you are investing now will help you save money later in energy bills.

An energy efficient home is a comfortable and healthy home. Making your energy efficient is no more an option. It is a duty and responsibility every person has to take. See that you use every resource water, electricity and even food carefully.

Types of roofing materials to choose for your house

It’s that time of the year when you have to change your old roof which has been leaking and creaking all this while and you’ve been consciously ignoring it for god knows how long. It’s reached that critical stage where it might rain indoors! Either that, or you’re one of those lucky people who’re designing their new homes and need to start from the bottom up and you’re looking to put a roof over your head.

I recently changed my roof and I’m guilty of the first charge. I had a pretty tough time choosing a material for roofing and I’m here to give you a heads up about all the materials that you could select for your own house. I went back and forth between a couple of materials, weighing their pros and cons when it comes to cost, look and even energy efficiency. Here are some roofing materials available in the market that I looked at:

  • Asphalt

Shingles made from this material are more widely used because they are relatively cheaper than the others. It’s fire resistant and quite easy to install which is a plus for a do-it-yourself home remodel. These shingles can last up to 25 years and can cost as low as $50.

On a personal note, I gave asphalt the top spot because this is the material that I ended up using. I chose the Camelot II shingles from Champion because I’m a huge nature-lover. These shingles are eco-friendly as they use less asphalt. They are also more energy efficient as they are more resistant to extreme weather which spells in lower power bills.

  • Wood

You can use wood shingles to give your home a more earthen, classy appearance. They’re usually made of cedar, redwood, or southern pine. They might look beautiful but are pretty hard to maintain and last up to 25 years. Also, they’re not fire resistant which is a huge downer. Another negative is that they cost twice as much as asphalt shingles.

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  • Metal

Different metals such as aluminum, steel and copper could be used. This material is extremely durable, fire retardant but also really expensive starting at about $250 per square. The maintenance cost is an additional headache. One advantage of using this material is that its energy efficient and recyclable. The only thing that stopped the nature buff in me from using it was its high cost.

  • Slate

It’s fire-proof, easy to maintain and also gives your home a Mediterranean vibe. But this vibe comes at quite a high cost of about $500. It’s also pretty heavy which makes it difficult to install. Leave the installation of these shingles to professionals. These shingles will, however, outlast the rest of your belongings so they might just be quite an investment.

  • Clay

If you’re choosing shingles only for their appearance, this one would be your best bet because they look great. Clay tiles last long and are easy to maintain and are also flame retardant. But they are also slightly on the expensive side starting at $300—looks come at a price.

  • Grass

Here’s one quirky option for those of you are willing to think out of the box and want to experiment. Grass! I’m not kidding, by the way. You can design your roof in such a way as to support a garden with living plants. It will provide your home with great insulation. A lot of modern cities are adopting this trend. The only problem is that green roofs are on the heavier side and some existing buildings cannot be retrofitted with a green roof, which is why I didn’t choose this option.  But this is a great idea for those of you who are planning to build your homes from scratch.

 I have given you quite a number of options with their pros and cons. Now it’s up to you to decide which one these suits you best depending on your requirements. Remember that choosing the right material is only the first step. It’s important to install the shingles correctly in order to avoid leakage. Different materials will give your home different appearances—so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I hope my experience helps and you have a great time remodeling your home!

Replace your windows and save energy

When you talk about saving energy and going green, replacing windows is the least you would think about. Replacing windows costs a lot of money but will prove a boon in the long run. You will have a healthy, comfortable and quite home apart from the lowering of your energy bills.

Like most of the things, windows wear out with time. A thorough inspection of your windows will give you a fair idea about the condition of your windows. You can do a simple check for drafts by holding a lighted candle in front of the window edges. A flickering candle indicates drafts coming in. Inefficiently working windows which are difficult to open or close, deteriorating or warped frames, condensation on the glass is an indication of more air infiltration into your home or leakage and lack of proper insulation. This will overload your heating and cooling system, shooting up your energy bill. Weather stripping or caulking help in sealing to some extent, but are temporary fixes. They too wear out with time. Windows are said to account for almost 50 percent of heat gain or loss through your home. Replacing windows is the best option especially if you house is old and is fitted with old non energy efficient windows.

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So as you replace your windows, the most important aspect you should consider is the energy efficiency apart from the aesthetics. Here are some things you would look for in an energy efficient window.   Wood, fiber glass or vinyl frames provide better sealing and insulation and are more efficient than metal frames. Ensure that the windows fit tightly into the opening to avoid air infiltration. Since windows bring in light into the home, the glass used should let in more light. Look for double pane argon enhanced special purpose energy efficient glass . This helps to keep your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter . Your home will also be quieter due to their sound reduction property. The most common problem of the curtains and upholstery fading due to harmful ultra violet rays is also eliminated with this glass. Champion windows have all these features and also have the Energy Star rating which means they meet all efficiency guidelines set by the Department Of Energy. They also have the Good Housekeeping Seal for quality and reliability. The windows carry lifetime warranty and you will have no contractor headaches as their professionals come and install the window for you.

Since replacing windows costs money, it is wise to have a home energy audit done for the whole house to eliminate other causes of heat loss or gain. Apart from windows, heat enters or escapes through attic floors, recessed light fixtures, ducts and other penetrations in to the roof or walls. Proper weather stripping, air sealing and good wall insulation is necessary along with replacing the windows to make your home energy efficient and comfortable and save significantly in your energy bills.

If you are hesitating to replace the windows because of the high cost, you need to know that the government offers low interest loans and even tax credits for installing energy efficient doors and windows and buying energy efficient appliances. With all these benefits, you will have a healthy, peaceful, energy efficient home not to forget the reduced energy bills.

So go ahead and replace your old windows with new energy efficient ones and experience the difference in your home. Enjoy the good light, quietness and warmth in your home. And then you will also have peace of mind, because you don’t have to worry about your energy bills.

 

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Ouch! My energy bills are too high

OUCH!!! This is what Vivian exclaimed every time she got the energy bill. But then she did nothing about it ….till one day she finally decided she had to do something about it. She had heard all about energy conservation, energy saving tips for homes, but cared less. She was too busy working and wanted to have a comfortable home with all amenities. She never thought that all the little things she did at home to save energy, would make a difference.

Right away she decided to make the behavioral changes needed, like turning off the lights, TVs, music players etc. when she did not need them.  She also unplugged the chargers and other appliances after tuning them off. Instead of putting her computer on screen saver mode, she put it in sleep mode. The more she read about energy saving tips; she made changes in her habits, convinced she had the power to save energy at home.

While all this was good, she realized that she had to look in to other aspects and take the whole house approach to make that substantial cut in the energy bill. Taking advice from her friend and reading about it on the internet, she scheduled for a home energy audit. Vivian was surprised to hear what the auditor had to say. The auditor inspected her home thoroughly for insulation, air leakages through windows, ducts, and roofs and even checked her appliances. He analyzed her energy bills and explained how much of energy was lost from her home because of all these almost invisible problems. He then suggested some cost-effective upgrades she should do to cut down the energy bills.

Being convinced that the investment she made will pay off in the long run, she followed the suggestions of the auditor. She replaced her old refrigerator with a new energy efficient model. She also installed a programmable thermostat and put up compact fluorescent bulbs.

She couldn’t do all the up gradation immediately for lack of funds, when voila, she discovered about the low interest loan available through a program supported by the Energy Department. She then decided to replace her windows with new energy efficient ones. With her friend’s recommendation, she contacted Champion. After taking the necessary measurements, the installation crew arrived, removed the old windows and fixed the new ones. Not only did the windows add style to her home, there was more light in her home. She felt her home warmer and comfortable in winter.

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She also washed clothes in the washing machine only when it was full load. She cut down on the hot water usage for washing and dishwashing. She air dried the dishes to cut down on energy usage. She lowered the thermostat setting on the water heater to 1200 F. She called for the maintenance of the air conditioner, furnace and the heat pump.

It’s more than a year since Vivian made all these changes in her home. Of course she continues following all those energy saving tips more as a habit now. She shares her experience with everybody and encourages them to be energy savers. She is happy that her energy bills have come down and that her investment is paying off. She feels more responsible for the environment and is serious about conserving it. To top it all, she also gets Federal tax credits and state incentives as she buys only energy efficient products.

Like Vivian why don’t you take the step to make changes in your habits and your home? Don’t wait for tomorrow …..START TODAY.

How to Choose the Right Roof for Your House

Nothing is as important as choosing the right roof for your house, whether you are building a new house or putting a new roof on your existing house. Improper roofing can cause you great inconvenience and the cost of maintenance of may go through the roof. Of course there is no point in hitting the roof once the job is done. So it makes sense to research and explore all options carefully before making the choice.

What you choose depends mostly on the style of your house, climate and the cost of the roofing. In the present day market, there are many options like asphalt, wood and composite shingles, slate, concrete and clay tiles. Whatever you choose, ensure that the roofing system will result in an energy efficient home. Here are some things to consider while choosing the right roof.

Material: The material you choose will depend on the climate and the style of your home and will in turn; determine the cost of your roofing.

Roof integrated flat plate collectors on house in Denmark.

  • Asphalt Shingles are the most popular and widely used roofing material. It is made of woven fiber glass and covered with asphalt coating which is waterproof. This is further coated with ceramic sand-like granules to protect the roofing from the harmful ultra violet rays. They are of two types-standard type and the laminated ones with a textured appearance, and  match with most of the architectural styles. Available in variety of colors and styles, these can have a guarantee of up to 30 yrs. They can be installed with minimum skill and are the least expensive of all materials.
  • Wood has been used since olden days and is still is a good option, especially for traditional style homes. There are two types available in this – machine cut shingles or hand-split shakes. Lasting for about 25 yrs, these are quite expensive.
  • Slate is one of the toughest and most durable roofing materials requiring almost no maintenance. It is waterproof, noncombustible and lasts a very long time. It is also available in a wide range of colors but expensive.
  • Composite Shingles roofing is one of the modern methods which can give you the look of tile, slate or wood without spending much on the maintenance and installation. They are polybased, and are light weight and can last even up to 50 yrs.
  • Clay and Concrete tiles are also very durable and add beauty to the roofing.
  • Metal roofs are made of steel, aluminium or copper. They are light weight, durable, energy efficient and capable of protecting your home from wind, rain, hail etc. They also help prevent fire from spreading during forest fires. Unlike the old day corrugated panels, they are now available in a wide range of styles to suit any architectural style.

Roofing system: While the material and the style you choose will add beauty to your home, you need to consider the roofing system as a whole. A good roofing system will have proper leak barriers to prevent any leakages that can be caused by extreme weather. It should incorporate proper attic ventilation to remove excess heat and moisture from the attic to ensure energy efficiency. Improper ventilation can damage the shingles, the siding and even the interiors of the home. Mildew growth on the walls can be pose a health risk to the residents. It should have roof deck protection, so that the roofing is able to withstand extreme weather conditions. Champion provides roofing systems including all these features to ensure safety, durability, protection and beauty. This also makes your home energy efficient, saving a lot on the energy bills.

Finally be sure to buy the whole roofing system from one manufacturer and get it installed from them. And then, let the roof you choose be the last roof. At least you don’t have to worry about the roof over your head.