Three green trends for 2012 home remodeling

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For some homeowners, remodeling projects are regular occurrences to keep their homes looking fresh. Sometimes, that means smaller changes like a new coat of paint or changing a light fixture. Other times, more substantial changes are needed. Determining those changes can be a challenge, but looking at the potential return on investment is a great way to prioritize.

Bathroom remodeling offers a 68.7 percent return on investment, according to a National Association of Realtors survey. One way to add value to a bathroom remodel is to pick bathroom fixtures that are more efficient than what you currently have installed. Americans are going green in many areas of life, whether with more energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars or by recycling more regularly. Bathroom fixtures are no different.

Here are three reasons why you should consider going green with your bathroom modeling project:

* Products may be outdated. Toilets made before 1994 use anywhere from 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons per flush (gpf), while new EPA WaterSense labeled high-efficiency toilets can work beautifully on a modest 1.28 gpf. Not sure of your toilet’s vintage? Look at the underside of the tank lid – the date of manufacture is often stamped into the porcelain. In the shower, the typical showerhead installed in California homes built after 1994 uses as much as 2.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, your eight-minute shower consumes a whopping 20 gallons of water.

* Savings to be had. Compared to 3.5 gpf toilets, TOTO’s Aquia One-Piece Dual Flush High-Efficiency Toilet has a flushing system that enables homeowners to select the level of water used each time the toilet is flushed – 1.6 gallons for bulk waste or .9 for liquid. The approach provides exceptional water savings paired with outstanding performance. A family of four can save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If you replace a typical 2.5 gpm showerhead with a TOTO high-efficiency Trilogy Showerhead, you will experience the same luxurious shower, yet consume a responsible 14 gallons, saving 20 percent of the water used by older models.

Even something like a faucet can contribute to water savings. TOTO’s Silas Widespread Lavatory Faucet is a WaterSense labeled lavatory faucet that consumes a responsible 1.5 gallons per minute without sacrificing an ounce of performance. Its design has a classic contemporary elegance with a graceful, curved spout.

* Be a trendy homeowner. A whopping 68 percent of builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that energy-saving technologies and features including low-E windows, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting will be common along with other green features like engineered wood products, and water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets by 2015. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Items to put on your home winterization checklist

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Preparing your home for cold weather is important for your comfort this winter as well as your utility bills. When you’re making your winterization to-do list, be sure to include these simple updates that will help prevent costly damage to your home and provide you with the peace of mind that you’re saving energy, water and money.

Give your furnace a tune-up: Schedule an appointment to have your furnace inspected and serviced. Annual maintenance by a professional will help ensure your furnace is in prime condition for the long winter and operating as efficiently as possible. Plan ahead and get a preseason check-up before HVAC crews get backed up during the busy winter months. In addition to a professional inspection, don’t forget to inspect the furnace filters on a monthly basis. A dirty filter obstructs air flow in the home and reduces efficiency.

Check your insulation: Snuggling under a heavy blanket or layering on extra socks and sweaters may feel like a cozy way to watch your favorite holiday movie, but it could also be a sign that it’s too cold in your house. You may need more insulation to keep that warm, conditioned air your furnace is cranking out in all the right spots.

A good place to start is the attic. All it takes is a quick peek at the floor of your attic to know if you need more insulation. If your attic floor is insulated, but the floor joists are still visible, then you probably don’t have enough. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that the recommended level of insulation for most attics is approximately 10 to 14 inches or an R-value of R-38, depending on insulation type. Check out the Energy Star website to find a chart indicating the recommended level of insulation per region.

Install energy-efficient windows: A significant amount of heat can escape through older, less efficient windows. Installing Energy Star-qualified windows can reduce heat loss and increase comfort during extreme weather. According to the DOE, some Energy Star-qualified windows feature more than three panes for increased efficiency and sound insulation. Take the time to research which type of window is the best fit for your climate before making a purchase, as different models are available to fit the needs of different performance zones.

Install a water-efficient showerhead: A warm shower during the winter doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense Program water-saving specifications for showerheads require a flow rate of no more than 2 gallons per minute (gpm).

As the 2011 WaterSense Manufacturer Partner of the Year, Delta Faucet Company strives to help people use water in smarter and more environmentally responsible ways. A 1.5 gpm Delta showerhead featuring H2Okinetic Technology uses up to 36 percent less water than the industry standard of 2.5 gpm.

“We understand how much people value their shower routine, so we worked hard to develop a technology that can make the showerhead water-efficient without sacrificing the user’s experience,” says Paul Patton, senior product development manager at Delta Faucet Company.

Patton says the H2OKinetic Technology employs fluid dynamics to produce larger droplets that retain heat longer and create a denser spray pattern. Together, these effects create a feeling of a drenching, luxurious shower while using less water. Using less hot water not only conserves Earth’s most precious resource, but also helps manage utility costs by using less energy from the hot water heater.

Prevent plumbing freezes: Insulate the water lines that run along any of the exterior walls in your home so the water will be less likely to freeze and cause the pipes to burst. It’s also a good idea to make sure your entire family knows where the main shut off valve is located and how to turn it off in the event that a pipe develops a leak or bursts.

Winter forecasts look grim with many meteorologists predicting harsher weather conditions compared to what we experienced in many regions across the U.S. last year. A few updates to the interior and exterior of your home can safeguard it from potential damage and keep you and your family comfortable throughout the season.

Tips For Mounting That Greatest Of Holiday Gifts: A Flat Screen TV

Flat screen TVs are sure to be a popular holiday gift this year, as they’ve been for the past several holiday seasons. Last year, flat screen prices tumbled before the holiday shopping season, and retailers are likely to offer deals again this year.

If a flat screen is on your wish list, or you’ll be giving one as a gift, you should keep in mind that how you mount a flat screen is almost as important as the quality of the unit itself. A properly mounted flat screen can offer many hours of safe, quality entertainment. Mounting your TV in the wrong location or at the wrong height could mean a poor viewing experience.

Fortunately, your mounting options are nearly as varied – and definitely as high quality – as your choices in TVs. So after the wrapping paper is tossed, and you’re ready to set up your flat screen, keep these mounting tips in mind:

* Don’t wing it. You may be tempted to try perching an ultra-slim flat screen on the mantle above your fireplace, or place a more compact model on top of your bedroom bureau. But even the lightest flat screen can pose a safety hazard if it’s not properly secured. Whether you’re wall mounting the TV or want to put it on top of a piece of furniture, stick with products that are made to accommodate a flat screen.

* Wall mounting is a great way to show off a flat screen, and one of the safest ways to reduce the risk of the TV falling on someone. For situations where you’ll be watching the TV from right in front of it, a stationery mount works well. If you need to expand your range of possible viewing angles, look for a full-motion mount that locks securely to the wall, like the Sanus VisionMount series, which are rated by Underwriters Laboratories.

* Consider the size of the TV and the size of the room where it will be used. You may fall in love with that 52-inch beauty, but is it really going to be that enjoyable crammed into a 10-by-12 bedroom? Keep scale in mind because the larger the TV, the more viewing distance you’ll need to have an optimum experience. You’ll need to consider this when choosing where and how to mount your TV.

* Avoid component chaos. Of course, you’ll want to connect your home theater system, Blu-ray player and game system to your new flat screen and that can lead to a mishmash of cables and components. Consider a specially designed storage unit for components and opt for cables, like the Sanus Elements ELM4308 Super Slim HDMI cable, that are specially designed to work in tight spaces while preserving a neat appearance.

For more ideas on how to mount your flat screen TV, visit