Home Improvement Ideas
Home Improvement Ideas for the 21st Century
21st Century home improvement ideas are not about the latest in gadgets and wireless alarms, internet connections, or top-of-the-line intercom systems. It is about strength, comfort, and energy efficiency.
Home Improvement Projects
On-Demand Tankless Water Heating
With the rising energy costs, there has been an increased interest in energy-saving appliances. Efficient “tankless” water heaters have become very popular for their capability to heat hot water on demand, with no storage tank required.
Instead of holding water in a traditional water tank, they circulate the cold water through a series of electrically heated coils that warm the water as it moves pass this heat source.
This newer process of warming water requires more expensive equipment than the conventional water heater, but this money is regained in the long term with energy efficiency savings. The energy savings is mainly gained from no longer needing to heat an entire tank of water.
Since the tankless water heaters do not store hot water but rather constantly heat water as it is demanded, they do not run out of hot water.
There is one exception, to this “endless” supply of heated water. The flow rate is limited. In other words, if you simultaneously use more water than the flow of the water heater (i.e. 3 people showering at one time) you will receive unheated water.
Since a conventional water heater stores the water together in a large tank it is able to provide water at a set temperature. Tankless water heaters differ in this aspect since they are dependent upon the incoming water temperature and the flow rate.
The incoming water temperature can vary greatly from summer to winter. The capacity of a tankless water heater is generally measured by how many temperature degrees it can increase water temperature by gallons per minute (GPM).
Most tankless water heaters are powered by gas to better handle the heat output and response time required. These gas-powered water heaters require proper venting, normally more venting than the older, conventional water heaters required.
If you are replacing a conventional electric water heater tank, you may want to add a power vent on the side of the wall. This would be the less costly alternative if there is no existing roof vent. Some of the smaller and more portable single-fixture units are powered electrically.
Home Improvement Tips – Green Building
When building a new home, adding on an extension or even just a simple remodel within your home, you should always consider your local environment to maximize the efficiency of every aspect of your project.
There are four main areas that need to be focused on when planning your building project. They include:
* Building materials
Each of these areas contains specific products and methods that can really benefit your home lifestyle and increase the capital on your house to.
The first area to cover is water, which may or may not be relevant to your project. However, where ever there is plumbing or an outside wall where gutters can be fixed the optimal water conservation methods should be utilized where possible.
There are many interior products that can really help to reduce water wastage and improve efficiency which include:
1- water saving taps
2- water efficient showerheads
3- composting toilets
4- water diverters (diverters that hold the water while the hot water reaches your tap to save wasting all that water whilst waiting for the hot water to arrive)
Furthermore, by installing a Greywater system you can use all the water that usually runs down your drain, on your garden, or lawn.
For the exterior, high quality gutters and water storage devices such as water tanks are ideal for harvesting hundreds of litres of water that can be used for a variety of applications.
A strong water budget mixed with an overall highly efficient water system can save you heaps of money on water bills and reduce the impact on your local catchment system.
The second part of this article focuses on energy. Most people immediately think solar and then think “I can’t afford it!” but there is much more that can be done to improve the efficiency of the energy usage in your home.
If you are doing large scale renovations, the position of your home/room in regards to sun direction is vitally important. A north-south facing house is a much more energy efficient in terms of temperature control as the sun has a less direct focus on the rooms.
Many different products exist to generate energy or improve the energy usage and overall efficiency of your home. Some of these include:
1- A solar panel system, either stand alone, grid connect, or hybrid with wind turbines to generate electricity
2- High quality insulation, including batts and foil boards
3- Solar hot water systems
4- Ventilation and extraction fans
5- Energy efficient appliances and white goods
6- Lighting, including CFL’s (compact fluorescent lamps)
7- Hydronic heating
8- Air conditioners with inverter technology
All of these products will either generate free electricity, use much less energy than other products on the market, or control the temperature of your home to save on running costs to maintain comfort.
Building materials is another important consideration when starting your project. Many materials have good qualities, while others can contain harmful chemicals which can be dangerous for your health. Knowing all these risks is almost impossible, but there are certain things to look for when making these decisions.
– Use as many untreated materials as possible. Most treated materials use very harsh chemicals which contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and formaldehyde. Over time, these compounds break down and become part of your indoor breathing space.
– These VOC’s can also be found in conventional paints and finishes. Always ask your supplier for brands that use little or no VOC’s in their products.
– Concrete that contains high levels of fly ash is much better for the environment and lowers the use of toxic concrete powder in construction.
– Conventional termite control utilizes the harshest of all chemicals and can be extremely carcinogenic. However, there are many new products that can remove termite problems without the use of harmful chemicals. Always ask your provider about their environmental policy and research the chemical they use.
– Many insulation companies still use resin based fiberglass insulation which contains high levels of formaldehyde and is damaging to your health. Look for insulation that is glass wool or made from cellulose fibre is your best bet for your family’s health and the environment.
– Double glazed windows and the utilization of roller shutters and blinds is the best way to reduce heat build up within your home.
– Strawbale and compressed earth homes are becoming more and more popular due to their constant interior comfort levels, and no they don’t look like “mud huts”, in fact, they are fast becoming a distinguished and stylish home design
– Finally, cabinets and draws often use the cheap particle board over the solid wood varieties to save money. However, the particle board contains formaldehyde to bind the particles together.
Building and home improvement can be very satisfying when the job is complete. However, it becomes even better if taking into consideration these factors mentioned above to make your home comfortable all year round for you and your family.
Home Improvement Trends – Newest Technologies
Enter a new type of home. A home that stands up to fire, noise, sun, wind, rain, snow, bugs, mould, and inevitable weather events, and earthquakes. A home that gives you unprecedented comfort and a breath of fresh air 24 hours a day.
Imagine an airtight, steel reinforced concrete cube with about 3 inches of styrofoam insulation on both sides of the wall and body temperature heated floors.
Fresh air from the outside enters the house through a series of pipes buried 5 feet below the ground where there is always a constant temperature – 8 Degrees Celsius.
If you really wanted you could open high efficiency Low-E Argon filled windows, but why would you want to?
During the summer the incoming air is pre-cooled; during the winter it is pre-warmed. The flow is strictly controlled, pre-conditioned, and filtered for a breath of fresh air – 24 hours a day.
Computer modeling of this type of air pre-conditioning shows that just this one idea saves 11% on heating and cooling costs compared to a conventional venting system.
This new type of luxury home is built as a combination of some of the newest technologies in modern home building: Insulated Concrete Form (ICFs), radiant floor heating, a tank-less water heater, and a low energy consumption air conditioning system (that you may need to use but very rarely).
The outside walls, which are built out of steel reinforced concrete make this home wind and fire resistant, bug and mould resistant and provide excellent protection from weather events and earthquakes.
Outside voices, traffic noises, and police sirens are muffled by the thickness of the walls which allows you to sleep soundly every night. Gone are floor squeaks, drafts, and the rattling of glass in your china cabinet.
Because of the exceptional insulation of insulated concrete forms, there are significant ongoing savings in energy costs and greatly increased comfort levels for the homeowner. The savings are anywhere from 35% to 60% depending mostly on the style of home and the size and type of windows.
Features, such as a high (92%) efficiency tank-less water heater heats the whole home while providing an endless supply of potable hot water.
It turns itself on when you turn your hot water tap, therefore there are no standby losses as with a conventional hot water heater. This equals approximately 25% of energy savings just to heat your hot water.
It is also easy to incorporate a full solar heating, so you can achieve a complete independence from the grid.
This type of home costs only about 10% more than a comparable wood framed home and considering the long term savings, comfort and security why would anyone build homes differently is a merited question.
Home Repair Tips – Water Damage
Expensive repairs from water damage might be needed in your home. Repair them before they multiply! Water damage is possible any time in the year from the weather, malfunctioned appliances, clogs, or poorly done home repair.
You can save on most home repair costs by ensuring that your home is safeguarded from water damage seasonally before anything turns into expensive repairs.
What does water damage look like? Standing water can weaken a surface, causing it to rot, rust, or mildew, and eventually turn into expensive repairs.
The most expensive repairs are foundational damage and mold growths. Such home repair can force you to vacate if the home is deemed unsafe even after treated for water damage by professionals. Take control by learning how to home repair or prevent potential water damage sites.
Outdoor water damage prevention home repair tips:
1. Do-it-yourself home repairs for gutters are simple and not expensive. Repairs can be minimized if you remember to check for water damage or leaks and clean out the gutters and downspouts each season.
2. Block debris with gutter guards, and use downspout extensions to help divert the runoff from the foundation to prevent further expensive repairs from water damage.
Indoor water damage prevention home repair tips:
1. Home repair any loose window and door caulking to prevent rain or snow from seeping in and causing water damage.
2. In below-freezing weather, keep the water running at a trickle and allow heat to reach the pipes. This will avoid having them burst, with the potential for water damage.
3. Avoid expensive repairs to your basement’s sump pump by keeping it in working order.
4. Replace or home repair the sump pump as needed, ensuring the surrounding area remains dry and water-damage-free.
5. Check refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines regularly for water damage itself, or for leaks that can cause water damage to floors or walls.
6. Avoid needless expensive repairs or home repairs to bathroom drains and pipes by using drain guards to trap hair.
7. Home repair clogged drains with a plunger or a bent wire instead of professional products.
8. Replace leaky faucets, run bathroom exhaust fans during use, and thoroughly clean and dry surfaces regularly to prevent water damage and mould from a building.
9. Don’t use carpeting in areas exposed to water damage that can occur if carpeting is damp.
When to call on professional help:
1. To thoroughly dry carpeting/floor after flooding.
2. When home repair fails to correct a problem.
3. If water damage causes you to vacate the home.
4. To service your air conditioning unit.
Before you can file a claim for expensive repairs caused by water damage to your home, your insurance company expects you to have followed through with all safeguarding measures. Otherwise, be prepared to pay for any home repair due to your negligence.
When water damage comes from floods, make sure your home insurance includes flood coverage, for it to pay for each home repair-including all of the expensive repairs caused by water damage. In Australia, the reality is that flooding and water damage can occur anywhere.
Home insurance covers home repairs needed as a result of structural damage or theft, but in most cases, you will need to purchase a separate flood policy if you want any water damage home repairs covered as a result of flooding. Flood insurance is truly a safeguard on home repairs, an affordable investment that pays for itself.