Are your ceiling fans causing you to waste energy?

The intention of using ceiling fans is to conserve energy. But there are three ways that ceiling fans frequently cause people to waste energy and money. The most common wasteful infraction is leaving the ceiling fan on when no one is in the room. Ceiling fans cool by moving air across the skin. If there is no skin in the room it cannot work. And, in fact, the fan motor is adding heat to a room. In a recent article on Greenbuildingadvisor.com Carl Seville indicated that fan motors can exceed 100 degrees when running. But a quality Energy Star fan will run much cooler. We recommend using Energy star fixtures and appliances whenever possible.

The second way that a fan can cause energy waste is if the thermostat is not adjusted up. Ceiling fans should allow you to adjust your temperature up by about two degrees, which will reduce cooling costs in College station and Bryan by about 14%. If you do not do that, you are just increasing your energy bill by using the fans. If the temperature is set for people in the kitchen where there is no ceiling fan, then you should not run the fans in the other rooms. This becomes a design strategy that involves the zoning of the AC system and the placement of fans. For many families the optimal plan is to put fans in the bedrooms and only run them at night when people are sleeping. The thermostat should be programmed to raise the temperature at that time. Whether you are remodeling or building a custom home or just doing repairs, it is wise to design for energy savings.

The third way that people waste energy with their ceiling fans is by not having them set in the right direction. They should blow down in summer and up in the winter. While this will not completely negate the impact of the fan it will greatly diminish its benefit.

Home Maintenance – Dryer Vent

Vacuum the clothes dryer’s exhaust duct at least once a year. It is best to use rigid sheet metal ducting that goes straight out. This will reduce the fire hazard because the duct is less affected by heat and because it is less likely to build up dust.  This will also help your clothes dry quicker saving on energy costs. If you have to use a flex duct try to avoid sharp turns in it.

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Four Tips to Help You Choose an Exterior Paint Color

Summer is coming and maybe you have some house painting that you want to do. This is a chore that many homeowners choose to do themselves. While painting is much more involved than getting the paint from the can to the wall, and there is a great deal to know to get a quality job that will last, it is, nonetheless, one of the more popular do it yourself projects. So let’s get started choosing a color.

  1. Research –  Chances are that you have already done a good deal of research just by paying attention to your preferences as you look at other houses.  Once we start thinking about painting our house we tend to become more aware of other houses and their colors.  There are also good online tools for helping think about colors.  Most Paint companies have their own free service such as Valspar’s Virtual Painter.  But if you are willing to fork over a few bucks ($12/month in May 2013) you can have access to a nifty web based application that includes the color fans of most major paint companies at Colorjive.com.
  2. Don’t let yourself be tied to the color fan. You can have any color custom matched.  The technology for matching colors are greatly improved over the last few years.  The question is what do you want to match? One strategy is to create continuity from inside to out by taking an inside color and adjusting its shade.  Our design theory that we call Transitions encourages this kind of strategy as it helps pull the eye outside. Perhaps the best way to create transition is to start outside with the colors around your home, whether from nature or other buildings.  Perhaps you have a particular rose or other plant that you would like to highlight.  One way to do this is allow it to guide the pallet of your paint selections.  Of course plants change color throughout the year and other people repaint their buildings but usually such changes remain relatively within a similar complementary range.  This approach allows you to connect beyond the walls of your home in a gratifying way.
  3. Don’t depend on you’re a small swatch.  Once you have narrowed your search to a few colors invest in quarts of those colors and paint large swatches on your house.  No matter how good the technology, this is the best way to get a real sense of how the color is going to work for you.  Things such as lighting and surrounding colors play a huge part in how this color is going to look in place so, until you put it up, you will not know.  And it has to be a large swatch. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the surface first, make sure it is dry and don’t do it in direct sunlight. But, you may be thinking, what will the neighbors think?  That is the best part. It is a way to engage the neighborhood.  People will be curious what is going on when your house starts to look at bit like a calico cat. They are likely to ask you if you are about to paint.  You can solicit their input.  There will probably be at least one neighbor who will say that they don’t like any of the choices.  Don’t worry about that neighbor, the probably would not like any color but what is on their house and they would probably be unhappy if you painted your house the same color as theirs. Other neighbors will stop, look and think about it.  It will create a conversation piece in the neighborhood.  If you leave it this way too long the nature of the conversation will change but for a week or two people will have fun with it.  You may even get some good input, but don’t abdicate your own preferences for those of the most popular neighbor.
  4. Look at the colors in a variety of light.  Don’t make up your mind when you first put it up. Look at it in the morning afternoon and dusk. We would encourage you to spend a year making up your mind so that you can look at it in each season but we don’t want your neighbors talking about you. 

How Often do You Change Your AC Filters?

We have had a cool spring but that is soon to be over and your air conditioner is probably going to be running a good deal of the time. Do you know how often you should change your air filters?  It is a good idea to change them once a month, when the unit is running often.  Keeping clean filters will help your equipment last longer and reduce dust in your house. Through the cooling season, it is a good idea to mark your calendar and change your filters regularly. It is also important to have your system serviced by a licensed AC contractor at the beginning of each cooling and heating season.  It is a good idea to install an inline HEPA filter.  These filters remove 99.9% of air born particles.  This means that they remove not just dust but also pollen,  VOCs and other harmful pollutants that exist in all homes.  Also HEPA filters typically only need to be cleaned twice a year and should be a part of your regular service agreement.  A little bit of home maintenance will help you stay cool all summer long.

10 Reasons Stearns Design Build Recommends Cork

1. Sustainability: Cork flooring is made from the Bark that is harvested from the Cork Tree (Quercus Suber), which regenerates after the harvest. The bark can be re-harvested every 9-10 years without damaging the tree. Regulated forests, mainly in Spain &Portugal, are the producers for the cork industry. Unlike bamboo, cork is a true green building choice.

2. Rot Resistant: Whether you use cork as your subfloor or main floor covering, if properly sealed/finished, the flooring will not rot, mold or mildew. Water-based seal/finishing such as urethane are recommended. Cork is great for bathrooms, kitchens and wine bottles. It is a great choice for both new custom homes and remodeling projects.

3. Insulator: Cork is a wonderful insulator. It is warm in the winter and cool in the hot summers that we have in Bryan and College Station.

4. Comfort: Cork has ‘give’. It comfortable and easy on the back and knees. It is much more forgiving of things dropped than tile.

5. Dent Resistant: Similarly, cork has ‘memory,’ and will return to its previous form if a heavy object asserts pressure.

6. Durability: Cork is extremely durable. Durability is usually the first concern that people raise when considering cork because it feels soft, like it would wear easily. But because of its natural properties it is very durable. In fact cork was used for years in high-traffic commercial settings before becoming popular in homes. It is even fire resistant.

7. Acoustics: Cork has more sound deadening ability than most woods allowing for clean soft sound.

8. Healthy: Cork does not have toxic off-gassing VOCs. It has natural insect repellent and anti-microbial properties.

9. Maintenance: The easy maintenance is another benefit of cork flooring. A damp mop is all that it takes.

10. Beauty: Cork is a unique and beautiful wood that comes in a wide variety of patterns and colors. It has the characteristic warm feel of other woods. It can also be inlaid to create interesting patterns.