4 Benefits To Installing Low-Flow Appliances In Your Home

It’s never a bad time to make your home a little bit greener. The benefits are overwhelming, and most common upgrades will pay for themselves within a year or two, and then again when it comes time to sell your house. One easy way to make your home more efficient is to install low-flow fixtures and appliances.

Low-flow fixtures come in many different shapes. Some, like aerators for showers and faucets, are either screwed right on to the opening or installed somewhere in the plumbing near the actual faucet or shower head itself. Others take the shape of full appliances that can be replaced wholesale. No matter the shape, though, low-flow upgrades offer many benefits for your home.

1 – They Save You Money

This is doubly Low-flow water fixtures help to save on energy coststrue for appliances and fixtures that are used all the time. Showers and faucets, for example, which are used multiple times per day, will pay off the cost of upgrading in less than a year. The EPA estimates that if everyone in the country switched to water-efficient appliances, the country would save $8 billion annually.

2 – They Save Energy

When most people think of conserving with low-flow appliances, they generally think only of the savings on the water bill. That’s not the whole story. In fact, switching to water-efficient appliances and fixtures will also save money on energy costs, as you end up using significantly less hot water. You also extend the life of your water heater.

3 – They Save the Planet

Few people realize that one of the biggest quality of life issues facing the world today is a severe shortage of fresh water in many regions. Switching to low-flow appliances and faucets lets you do your part to help out. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make sure that we leave the planet a little better off than when we found it.

4 – Many Communities Offer Incentives

If all of these reasons weren’t enough, many communities, municipalities, counties, and even states offer incentives for installing low-flow and water-efficient appliances and fixtures. And since the EPA claims that ultra-high-efficiency WaterSense products perform better than traditional counterparts, a tax incentive is basically free money to upgrade to higher quality fixtures and appliances.

The expert craftsmen at Handyman Matters can help you save energy and money by installing low flow fixtures and appliances. Enter your zip code above to find a Handyman Matters in your area or call us today at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME to schedule your appointment.

Seven Ways to Modernize Your Home

Modern design, with clean lines and a good connection to the outdoors, will be the leading housing trend for the next few years. In response to a more complex world, homebuyers respond to spaces that are simple, light, and soothing. They watch home makeovers on television, get décor catalogs in the mail, and have a wealth of online resources. Homebuyers today are aware of current design trends, and they love the clean lines of modern homes.

Simplify & De-clutter

A minimalist interior is the first step toward the modern style that today’s buyers love. Smaller spaces can be overwhelmed with stuff. Fewer things are easier to display and keep the focus on the architecture. Mid century modern furniture, with clean lines and functional design, is very popular. It is a perfect combination with a light, open interior. Sparse décor, hard surface floors, white walls, and lots of glass give a cleaner, simpler look.

Space for Living & Working

The downturn in the economy and the trend toward green living has led to more efficient use of space in homes. There is an interest in livability, rather than showiness. Bathrooms are smaller and more sensible, but closets are still generous. Formal living, media, or exercise rooms that are unconnected to other core areas tend to not be used. These spaces may be converted to recording studios (you need a place to play with that new USB microphone you got for podcasting) or home offices. Buyers who work online are growing in number, and they need work space at home.

New Countertops

In the recent past, to upgrade a house was to “granitize” it. Today, granite is moving aside in favor of new choices. Recycled glass and engineered stones are growing in popularity, in line with the green trend. Soapstone, long used in labs, is in demand. The organic look of limestone, concrete, and marble have a following. Stainless steel is a good fit with modern styles.

Retro Is Back

Updated mid-century modern homes are very much in demand. Geometric patterns and big flower designs from the 1950’s and 60’s are in. Marimekko, Danish modern, IKEA, Eames, and early modern furniture are a perfect fit with today’s styles. Older traditional homes can be updated with sleek finishes, such as industrial light fixtures, flat cabinet doors, hard surface floors, and exposed windows. Open shelving in kitchens are a good fit. Today’s flat screens fit in easily, and the trend is to have more of them in places like kitchens or baths. Modern design with a retro feel will be the leading edge in the next five years.

Grey is the new Neutral

Red and gold are out. Thick texture on walls is out. Heavy faux is out. White and off whites are in. Pastels are in. Taupe and grey are combined with white for a sophisticated look. Add a splash of deep color – turquoise, chocolate brown, plum – and you have today’s look. A soft organic pallet, such as cream, sisal, and raw wool is in. On wood, both the natural bare look and dark stains are used.

Hard Surface Floors

Hard surface floors are a part of the green trend. Carpets hold dirt, dust mites and other allergens. Concrete, stone, cork, natural linoleum, bamboo, and wood are popular floors today. Bamboo, which grows a foot per day, is attractive and sustainable. Ceramic tile continues to be a good fit for baths, and is being explored for kitchen counters. Large ceramic pieces set tightly together offers a new look with lots of new colors.

Outside is In

More than ever, buyers want to experience the outdoors. Large, sliding glass doors and screened porches have made a comeback. On tight urban lots, glass walls open the interior to a private yard. Backyard gardens, covered patios with outdoor kitchens, and pools are all desirable to today’s buyers.

Landscaping Ideas that will make your Backyard a Summer Getaway…

One of the biggest perks of owning your own home is being able to have a private outdoor space.  Your dogs can run free, you can host barbecues, or you can soak up some rays with your family.  As the weather gets warmer, step outside for a breath of fresh air.  Turning your backyard into a summer getaway will make staycations and spending time at home with family that much more fun.  Perhaps you’re wondering how to go about landscaping an outdoor space – well we have some ideas for you.  Explore your options so this summer can be one for the ages…

 

image via Better Homes and Gardens
    • Pergola

Decks aren’t the only option for finding a shady retreat.  Pergolas are the affordable alternative to a deck, providing just the right amount of relief from the hot sun.  While practical, structures like these also have a decorative element.  With the right green thumb, a vines can grow along your pergola like a Tuscany.  For the beer enthusiasts out there, this may be a great excuse to grow your own hops for home brewing.

 

 

 

  • Stone Walkways
image via houzz

Follow the yellow-brick-road, or something like it.  Stone additions to your home add a magical element, invoking stories of old roads, tired travelers, and a hopeful destination.  Visually and physically guide your guests through your backyard. Circle exceptional plants, walk visitors past your English gardens, or visit hidden ponds with your walkways.

 

 

 

 

 

    • Lawn Free
image via This Old House

There’s a lesser known fact that you don’t need a lawn to have a backyard (or front yard for that matter).  While the word lawn and backyard may be interchangeable their functions are not.  Especially in drier climates, opting for natural grasses and stonescaping may be preferable to grass.  Feathered plants like fine fescue, buffalo grass, or blue grama make take the typical lawn to a more interesting and whimsical place.

 

 

    • Raised Gardens
image via Sunset

Having a lush garden doesn’t mean having to overhaul you backyards current soil situation. Pack yourself a fertile, raised garden.  Up and out of reach from some of the typical culprits of plant damage, these gardens are the perfect solution to growing a healthy crop of vegetables or flowers.  Starting a controlled garden can also be a fun activity for the kids to learn about science and biology!

 

 

 

 

Does your backyard have a plan?  Get a free quote from the experts and begin to plan your summer getaway today – just call 866-FIX-MY-HOME or head to handymanmatters.com.

You Don’t Need to Wait Until Spring to Start Your Garden!

Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 more weeks of winter.  Does this mean we should restrict ourselves from sunbathing and gardening? Handyman Matters doesn’t think so.  Here’s our guide to creating springtime indoors.

  • Kitchen Herb Gardens

Notoriously small, notoriously helpful.  Herb gardens are the tiny bits of life that can be squeezed into almost any home space.  If you have a window in your kitchen, hang a small rack to place these small pots in.  Improve your cooking and your kitchen aesthetics!

  • Seeding a Vegetable Garden

Start your outdoor garden, indoors!  Seeding a garden before you plant one outdoors will help insure its success.  To get started, install a large shelf and hang grow lights at the top.  Make sure the seedlings are getting enough light and position their trays accordingly.  Here’s some more information on planting techniques and shelf examples.

  • Building a Greenhouse

Are you looking to grow less practical plants?  Would you prefer to fill your home with flowers, succulents, or trees?  Greenhouses are perfect for creating the humid, tropical forest you’ve always wanted.  Green houses can vary from small home installations, to large backyard structures.  

  • Creating a Sunroom

It’s the living room version of the greenhouse!  When you want to live amongst the flowers and the sun – you build a sunroom.  Typically added as a home extension, these living spaces are glass enclosed rooms that allow you to enjoy the warmth of the indoors while also soaking up some rays.  Plants thrive in this kind of set up, so the more the merrier.

It may still be winter, but that doesn’t mean your home has to reflect that.  Spring can come early to your home with a few simple steps.  Thinking about adding on a sunroom or greenhouse to your home?  Looking to install an indoor garden?  Handyman Matters can help.  Call us today for a free quote (866-FIX-MY-HOME) or fill out the free quote form above.

4 Green Ways to Illuminate your Home

Dark evenings are a staple of the fall and winter.  The sun sets early, around 6pm or so, taking us from day to night much earlier than we’re used to.  But that doesn’t mean that we’re staying in.  Especially with events like Halloween and Thanksgiving on the horizon, the fall is a time of dinners and fun. Consequently, it is essential to have a well-lit entryway.

 Outdoor LightingSolar lights are the more efficient fix to this problem.  Not only will you save on your electrical bill, but you will also have a very easy installation process, as these guys don’t wire into anything.  Below, Handyman Matters has 4, green, solar ideas to keeping your house well lit, and your guests safe.

  • Step & Fence Lights

These lights are small, and mountable – which is why they are perfect for steps or a fence!

Step lights are cool, especially if you buy motion sensor.  Place them every other step, so as guests walk up, the lights gradually turn on.  Talk about a stairway to heaven!

For your fence, place them about 5-6 feet apart towards the middle of the fence post to light up the edges of your lawn.  This is especially great for houses near open space, a clever life hack to keep an eye on pets and steer away predators.

  • Lawn & Path Lights

Illuminating the path to your door not only helps guests navigate your entrance, but it can also add curb appeal.  These particular lights are installed through posts, and are a great way to highlight parts of your lawn.  Space them out in pairs around your pathway, or place them closer together to add a sense of enchantment.

Solar, lawn lights are great for strategically decorating.  Around an outdoor table, for a romantic, moonlit dinner; or near a particularly scary Halloween decoration.  Their solar feature makes them very low maintenance, as they come on as soon as the sun sets.

  • Porch Lights

Every main entrance into your home should be framed a light.  Porch lights come in a variety of kinds: our favorite being the solar, motion sensor option.   This light can be mounted anywhere, because it does not need a power source.   There’s also more decorating options as you are no longer restricted where you put them.

  • Flood Lights

Flood lights are the most essential lighting fixture for your home.  However, they are not meant to stay on throughout the night (they are very bright).  Motion sensor is the only way to go.  As people come in and out, the light will turn on, making your entryways more welcoming and your house more alert.

Installing flood lights can be tricky.  They are meant to be placed centered over the garage door, or towards the roof over the entrance. You will need a tall ladder for this DIY task.

Handyman Matters is here for all your home installation needs.  For more information, or to find a handyman in your area just call 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above.

Central and South American Hardwood: Preserving Your Wallet and Your Planet

In the clutches of winter, most of us count down the days to the first spring thaw and undertaking exciting new home projects. Whether it’s building a new deck, working on the bathroom or putting in new hardwood floors, something always needs doing.

If you’re thinking of doing anything with hardwood when planning for this year’s home improvement season, it would behoove your wallet, your planet and your sanity to install wood with a longer shelf life. “Of course,” you say to yourself. “That’s why I prefer cedar.”

But what if there was another type of wood that lasted twice as long as the toughest wood grown in North America? What if there was a type of wood that withstood the elements better, was more resistant to bugs and termites, and was more reluctant to bend and warp over time?

We may have to get our passports for this one.

Key Benefits of Central and South American Hardwood

Ipe. Cumaru. Garapa. Jatoba. Tigerwood.

These are just a few of the more well-known varieties of natural hardwood grown in Central and South America that have the potential to save you money and time in your next home improvement project.

 Here are the top 6 reasons these types of wood are better for you than their North American counterparts:

1. More Resilient

Central and South American hardwoods are more resilient in the face of adverse conditions and less prone to rot and decay – Central and South America are much harsher climates where the trees have to endure standing water for months at a time in addition to ravenous attacks by insects that put termites to shame. Let this hardwood turn the laws of Darwin in your favor.

2. No Annual Maintenance Required

Conventional hardwood requires annual pressure treatments with toxic chemicals to ensure long-lasting effectiveness. Central and South American hardwoods are much more durable and naturally last twice as long as North American hardwood without chemicals.

3. Better for the Environment

In the same vein, they are better for the environment due to this lack of chemicals. These toxic chemicals are harmful to the health of your family as well as the environment in the form of run-off – when it rains, the chemicals get into the groundwater and, ultimately, into rivers and lakes, poisoning natural wildlife in addition to our own water supply.

4. Last More Than Twice as Long as Conventional Hardwood

They are also better for the environment because they last more than twice as long – some for 40-75 years. The use of natural, longer-lasting materials helps to reduce waste accumulation, easily trumping woods like pine, cedar and redwood.

5. Fire Resistant

Some types of Central and South American hardwood, like Ipe, have a “Class A” fire rating – the same fire rating as concrete.

6. More Custom Color Options

A larger variety of shades and colors, like those offered by Brazilian hardwood, allow homeowners more choices to get the most custom look possible. Hardwoods like tiger wood have a unique texture with striking black and brown streaks – hence the name.

Composite wood substitutes, and what marketers have for years tried to pass off as the equivalent of natural wood, have largely been successful because they have only been compared to North American hardwood, so they tended to last longer and were less expensive.

But now it’s time to up the ante on your home improvement and go green with a more durable, longer-lasting and more attractive look. This can only be achieved via the preferential use of  Central and South American hardwood.

Jeff Hirz is a guest contributor to Handyman Matters and part-time DIYer. He contributed this article on behalf of www.bwdepot.com to promote healthy wallets and a healthy planet.

4 Reasons You Should Switch to CFL Lighting in your Home

CFL lights have gotten lots of exposure lately due to their cost-saving abilities and their environmentally friendly energy usage. Given that they use, on average, 80% less energy than a normal light bulb, they’re a much better option for cost and energy conscious homeowners. But there are many other reasons for making the switch over from standard incandescent bulbs to CFL lighting.

1. Reduce your carbon footprint. A single CFL bulb can reduce a half ton of CO2 over the light bulb’s life. That’s a huge environmental benefit and helps you cut your carbon footprint without almost any work involved.

2. A variety of shapes and sizes. At one time, it was difficult to find CFL bulbs that would match up to certain interior specifications. But now, CFL bulbs can be found that work with all types of lighting, including lamps, overhead lighting, track lighting, etc.

3. They’re higher quality. A common complaint when CFL bulbs were new to the market was that they didn’t have the soft light that incandescent bulbs provided. Nowadays, they offer CFLs with all different levels of brightness, including soft white, and many people have said that the quality exceeds that of a standard bulb.

4. They last longer. CFL bulbs typically burn for 10,000 hours – but they’ve been known to last up to 50,000 hours. Compare that to a typical incandescent light, which burns from 800 – 1,500 hours, and you can see why CFLs are an obvious choice.

CFLs are a great option for homeowners who are concerned about their environmental footprint and who want to cut down energy consumption. For more information about how CFL bulbs can improve your home’s energy efficiency, contact Handyman Matters at 1-866-FIX-MY-HOME or enter your zip code above to find a location in your area.

How to Air Your Home

 A simple, eco-friendly way to live green and healthy is to periodically air out your home. Taking advantage of this routine releases out the reused, polluted air, and lets in a bath of fresh, cleaner air.

If not enough outdoor air gets inside a home, wafting pollutants and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) can accumulate and rise to levels that can pose health and comfort problems, such as increased allergens and asthma attacks. High heat and humidity also contribute to the problem of indoor air pollutants.

Begin by checking the air circulation system already in your home. Start with a clean, up-to-date, energy-efficient ventilation system. A number of mechanical ventilation systems built into homes successfully and consistently circulate the air. Many homes also have outdoor-mounted fans that intermittently remove air from a single room, and intricate air-handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air while filtering in air-conditioned outdoor air. (Hint: These are air conditioners).

In addition to the mechanical processes, here are two simple, home-airing methods endorsed by allergists and environmentalists.

1. Passive method: Choose an afternoon when the temperature is above freezing, turn off the heat (if applicable), open the windows, and allow your home to air out for an hour and a half. If you’re home, open more windows or doors. Don’t cook anything. Let the house breathe for a bit, without wasting much natural energy.

2. Active method: Like the name suggests, this airing-out practice takes more effort. Again, pick an afternoon when the temperature is above freezing. In addition to turning off any heat sources, extinguish any fireplace or stove fires and close any flues. (If you heat your home with an unsealed furnace, stove, or fireplace and the air source is your home, you can only use the passive method.)

Begin by installing a fan in a window or attic to exhaust the air. Clean your home thoroughly, and wear a mask when vacuuming. After cleaning, open a window where the fan is not located, and then open the window with the fan and turn on the fan.

Go into another room and open a window, and then return to the original room with the open window, and close it. Continue this until you have consecutively done each room, but leave the last window open. Go back to the fan, turn it off, and close the window. Return to the final room and close that window.

This active method’s advantage is that less home energy is wasted and if it’s cold out, albeit above freezing, the house warms up faster than when you use the passive method.

More tips to consistently keep your home’s indoor air cleaner: Reduce the number of VOC emitters, such as wood furniture and vinyl shower curtains. Only use low-or-no-VOC paint. Eliminate cleaners that release toxins into the air, re-polluting it; instead use homemade cleaners. Don’t smoke indoors.

Just think about how good it feels to go outside for a breath of fresh air after being cooped up indoors. Your home feels the same way.

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Decorative Concrete Resurfacing

A concrete driveway has become an essential part of the landscaping plan that imparts an inviting image. The wide variety of texture, color, and patterns of concrete available today has elevated the driveway to the status of a landscape design element meeting today’s homeowners’ exacting demands. However, these have a tendency to develop cracks and potholes over a period of time. Concrete driveway resurfacing involves revitalizing and fixing concrete to add curb appeal and value to a home.

Not only is concrete functional, it lends itself to a wide variety of design options which can make a dramatic difference in home landscaping plans, as well as enhancing property values. In addition to the traditional look, concrete can have the decorative appearance, feel, and color of brick, tile, slate, or stone. Today concrete finishes have expanded to include an astounding array of decorative options. Sometimes referred to as a cement driveway or painted concrete, decorative concrete is one of the most reasonable ways to spruce up the entrance to a home. Although plain gray concrete is still installed most often, more people are catching on to the dazzling effects possible with decorative concrete, and seeing the instant curb appeal a decorative driveway can give to any home, no matter what the style.

The growing demand for decorative concrete has been fueled by pragmatic considerations, including green building benefits, relatively low cost and simple maintenance requirements that eliminate the use of harsh chemicals. Concrete is also one of the greenest materials to build a driveway. Good driveway paving contractors work towards maximizing the green attributes of concrete pavements.

Concrete provides the perfect canvas for creating an economical replica of more expensive materials, and yet still maintaining a very natural, authentic look. An endless array of decorative effects are available to have the concrete floor colored and textured to resemble almost anything.  Check online or consult with a local home maintenance provider to get more information.

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The Risk from Chemical Odors

Chemical odors in the home can be harmful to your health. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 50% of Illnesses are Caused or Aggravated by Pollutants. Chemical odors are given off from a wide variety of products. They include mothballs, paint, solvents, pesticides, fragrances such as perfumes and air fresheners, adhesives, smoke, dry-cleaned clothes, and cleaning agents, to name a few. Researchers say that these types of odors can cause a number of medical problems, including respiratory problems.   

Effective green deodorizers will break down harmful chemical odors into harmless byproducts without masking them and result in a safer and healthier environment. By continually destroying chemical odor, you will improve your indoor air quality and prevent exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals.

With a little investigative work, and using safe, non-toxic products, you can eliminate harmful odors and chemicals. The end result is a safe home that is healthier for you and your family. 

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