Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Think Of Solar Energy When You Remodel

This steady increase in energy costs is making the use of solar energy in homes increasingly attractive. With everything in the home, from washing to cleaning, cooking, climate control, entertainment etc. all dependent on electricity, and new appliances becoming available every day, the demand for electricity will only increase. And while the demand increases, so do the costs. The price of electricity has been steadily increasing over the years and this trend will continue. Solar power for the home is the wave of the future to reduce utility costs, provide some degrees of insulation from grid power outages and to reduce a home's carbon footprint. The best time to add solar power to a home is during a remodel because the installation of the solar panels, wiring and other aspects of the conversion can be integrated into the remodel, saving of money and time.

The Advantages Of A Solar Powered Home
  • Solar energy is an excellent long term investment offering a 200% Return on Investment (ROI) over a period of 25 years. A CD will get you an annual return of 2.5% and even blue chip stocks will offer an average return of only 11%.
  • The value of your home increases significantly. On an average, the increase in the home's value will be around 20 times the annual electricity savings. In most states, the increase in property value due to the installation of solar power systems is fully exempt from property tax. In addition, should you ever plan to sell the home, studies show that the demand for homes with solar power is growing rapidly and they sell 15% faster than homes without it.
  • The life of a solar power system is 30 years and once the system is installed, there are no running costs and virtually no maintenance or upkeep required.
  • You can control your energy costs. Electricity rates, nationwide, increased by about 21% over the last 5 years. With fossil fuel supplies dwindling, the costs will continue to increase. With solar power you can insulate yourself from these increases.
  • It can happen that there will be times when your home produces more solar electricity than it needs. For example, during the day when the home is empty and power is being produced. At such times, it is possible to sell the excess back to the power company and have them pay you.
  • With blackouts due to grid failures increasing in frequency, either due to breakdowns or natural causes, having a solar powered home means that you will remain if not completely, at least largely unaffected by such occurrences.
  • By reducing your home's utilization of grid electricity, you are reducing its carbon footprint and are being a good eco-citizen.
Solar Power Is Not A Magic Bullet

The facts enumerated above and all the other positive information on solar power in homes makes it obvious that including a solar power system in a remodel makes a lot of sense. But many homeowners have unrealistic expectations of the results, leaving them feeling that the investment has not been worthwhile.
  • In many cases, a home will not be able to produce enough solar power to meet all its energy needs and some dependence on grid supply will remain.
  • In cloudy weather the electricity production will drop, resulting in an increased use of commercially produced electricity.
  • Unless batteries are installed with the system to store excess power during the day, solar electricity will not be available once the sun sets.
Even with these few drawbacks, the advantages of solar power are clear and incorporating solar energy into home remodeling plans is something that will begin to pay for itself from day one.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Creating a Family Friendly Kitchen

Having a kitchen that dishes out gourmet meals easily or facilitates entertaining is always a welcome feature in any home. But in most cases the kitchen is more of a family room than anything else. Remodeling your kitchen to give yourself the space and features you want does not mean that it cannot also be a room that everyone in the home can enjoy. Here are a few ideas that can help you create a truly family friendly kitchen.

What is the Kitchen Used For?

It’s not just for cooking. Make a list of who uses the kitchen and what they use it for. Do the kids do their homework there? Is this where you have a cup of coffee with friends? Does Dad create one of his “gourmet” meals on Sundays? Do the pets eat here? List out everything that is done in the kitchen and you will find that room is used by more people for more things than anywhere else in the home. The next step is to list out the special requirements of each activity. Do the kids need a large table for their homework?  Does Dad need a special place to store “his” utensils? If anyone else uses them, his cooking could be ruined! Where are the pet food and the bowls going to be stored? By the time you finish this exercise, it may appear that 2 kitchens will be required to accommodate everything. This is where you have to get creative. Consider every possible space saving idea. What activities can be moved out of the kitchen without making those involved in them unhappy? If your remodeling contractor specializes in design-build projects, he will be able to help you design and create a kitchen that can give you as much of what you need as possible.


Keeping It Clean

The more people use the kitchen, the more cleaning it needs. Use easy to clean surfaces wherever possible. Granite and marble are great, but man-made quartz surfaces are the least porous and so the easiest to clean. If you are on a tight budget, laminates offer a good compromise. If you need surfaces that will not break glasses that are carelessly banged down on them, avoid rigid materials like glass tiles. 

Maximize Storage

It is a rare kitchen that has excess storage. Maximize the storage and incorporate features like fully extendable drawers to make reaching things in the back easier. Having low level cabinets and drawers where the kids can access parent approved foods is important.

What about an Island?

An island is not just more work area. It can serve as a snack bar, a dining area and a place for children to do their homework. With enough stools around it, it’s a great place for family meetings.

Install Space-saving Appliances

Without compromising on quality or functionality, look for and install appliances that occupy the least floor area or those that can be wall mounted. This will free up room to move around and make the kitchen seem less cramped.

Use these concepts to form an outline of what your family friendly kitchen should be. Add your own ideas and those of other family members to create a design that incorporates everyone’s needs.

One of the biggest kitchen remodeling mistakes is to fall in love with a kitchen design seen in a magazine and blindly adopt it. The concept may be exactly what you have been dreaming of, but will it work for your family? The right thing to do is to find a few designs that appeal to you. Use the list of family specific requirements to prioritize the features you must have. Go through all of this with a design-build remodeling contractor. Use his/her design abilities and technical knowledge to develop a design that will give you a kitchen that works for your family. The end result may be different from what you saw in the magazines, but it will give you a kitchen that will make everyone in the family happy.