Use Solar Shades to Save Money and Enhance Your Home

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.25.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Large windows make homes feel airy and open -; but windows also let in sun and allow heat transfer, damaging furniture and raising energy bills.

Solar shades
Controlling the way light enters the home can make homes more comfortable and less expensive, not to mention more attractive. The experts at Durasol (, a 25-year-old business that specializes in retractable awnings, solar screens and stationary awnings, offers these suggestions to common problems:

- Reduce solar glare -; Bright sun can fade furniture and carpets. Consider closing the blinds on one side of the house in the morning, as the sun rises, and on the other side of the house when it sets, to help avoid the brightest rays.

You might want to consider installing interior solar shades. Durasol's DuraShade retractable solar screen systems offer indoor comfort, increased privacy and protection from interior fading. Better yet, they blend in with any home while offering protection against solar glare and heat gain. You can even motorize them, so you can lower the shades in an entire room with the push of a button. Solar screens that are installed and used in Southern- and Western-facing windows can cool the home by as much as 8-16 degrees F, helping to lower energy costs. Unlike drapes, solar screens are see-through -; so you can enjoy the view without letting in glare or heat.

- Reduce heat gain -; If the glaring sun makes rooms too warm, consider installing exterior solar shades. Exterior-mounted shades offer some benefits over interior shades, because they block the heat before it enters the home. In the winter, exterior shades help protect against winter glare from snow and ice.

- Increase outdoor living space. Retractable window and roof awnings help keep the sun from entering your home, and also add shade to outdoor living space. With an awning over a porch or deck, homeowners can make a wonderful outdoor entertaining space. Awnings are more flexible than building a permanent roof over your porch, which permanently blocks light. Durasol awnings allow you to control how and when light enters your home.

Insulation Keeps Heat In, Cold Out

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.23.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Heating accounts for 30 to 50 percent of the energy used in the average American home. Unfortunately, many Americans pay for heat only to send warm air billowing out windows, attics, ceilings, floors, doors and garages.

Poorly insulated homes prove more difficult, and more costly, to keep comfortable. But choosing and installing insulation can be a simple, do-it-yourself project that pays for itself.

How does insulation work? Heat naturally moves into cooler areas. When it's colder outside than inside, the heat inside the home tries to move outdoors. Insulation slows down heat flow, so home heating systems stabilize temperatures without using extra energy.

How do you know what insulation to use in your home? The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Saver Web site,, gives these tips to homeowners considering insulation projects:

- Know what factors to consider when choosing installation. The "best" insulation for your home depends on how much insulation you need, the location that needs insulation, and the local availability and price of insulation. Check to see whether an insulation needs professional installation or if it will work in its intended space.

- Choose your insulation based on its R-value. Insulation is rated by R-value, or resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.

But the R-value doesn't tell the whole story - how and where you install insulation affects its performance. For example, compressed insulation, which happens when you place denser insulation over lighter insulation, won't give you its full R-value. Also, insulation placed between joists, rafters and studs does not slow heat flow through those joists or studs.

- Read the insulation's label before installing the insulation. No matter what kind of insulation you buy, check the product label. The Federal Trade Commission insists that labels include a clearly stated R-value and information about health, safety and fire-hazard issues. Insist that any contractor installing insulation provide the product labels from each package.

- Know how much you need. Manufacturers now make thinner insulation materials with high R-values, but some materials will settle, so you need to install more insulation at the outset.

- Install for efficiency. Insulation must be installed correctly to work properly. Some products are not meant for do-it-yourselfers and should be installed by competent, trained professionals.

For more information, visit to find no-cost, and low-cost methods to help save energy and keep you warm.

Mix Modern and Rustic Pieces For a Stylish Feel

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.16.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Good home design feels effortless. When inhabitants style rooms to reflect their personalities, rather than the latest design trends, they create thoughtful, comfortable homes. Rather than design "themed" homes, many homeowners blend modern and rustic elements.

But there's an art to eclectic design. Some Americans focus entire rooms on a single, prized possession, while others design more neutral spaces. Either way, mix-and-match types must contrast décor styles to create balanced looks.

Home decoration
Small details change the way homes feel. For example, updating door and cabinetry hardware can immediately inject a room with new style.

"Door hardware has undergone a metamorphosis from merely functional to both architectural and decorative," said Chas Seymour, general manager of Baldwin Hardware, a company that has been manufacturing hardware for more than 60 years. "In addition, we must remember that customers want to know that their home investments, hardware or otherwise, combine a commitment to quality, workmanship and style, with both classic and contemporary cues."

For a modern touch, choose "sleek" and "clean" design elements. Silver and chrome accents help create a streamlined feel. Baldwin Hardware's Minneapolis and Lakeshore collections appeal to modern tastes. The company also offers the Soho entry set, named for the New York neighborhood known for its modern design boutiques, as well as its history with cast iron architecture.

As demand continues to grow for contemporary styling in door hardware, so does demand for what's considered rustic. With that in mind, Baldwin introduced its Baldwin Bronze collection of cast bronze lock, bath and general hardware. Since earliest antiquity, bronze has been an important and revered material with a distinctive look and feel.

For more information from Baldwin Hardware, visit

Upgrade Your Lighting With These Simple Tips

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.11.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - When it comes to home decorating, lighting proves just as important as paint color. Quality lighting allows residents to perform tasks without eyestrain and creates a warm, comfortable feel.

When lighting a room, remember that you will need more than one type of light. You will need to use general lighting, or overall illumination, and task lighting, which helps you perform tasks like reading or cooking without eyestrain. Many homeowners also use accent lighting to spotlight paintings, shelves or other areas of visual interest. Using all three types of light will help homes look more attractive.

The American Lighting Association offers these tips for Americans looking to update their lighting in the different areas of their home:

- Use light to create an attractive living room. To make a focal point, consider using recessed downlight above the fireplace mantel. The light will make stone and brick surfaces look more intricate. Place floorlamps behind arm chairs to provide light for reading or other activities. Highlight paintings with low-voltage, tungsten-halogen picture lights, which shine white light directly on the painting.

- Brighten up your kitchen. A large ceiling light will provide adequate general lighting but might not let you see into cabinets or on your stove range. Add supplemental lighting where you need to perform specific tasks. Track lights over the stove and the sink, for example, will help you see when your onions are browned and when your pots look clean.

- Create an elegant feel in the dining room. Use a chandelier above the dining room table to provide functional light and to highlight any centerpieces.

- Use light to create a calming bedroom. Use wall sconces, chandeliers, fanlights or downlights to create enough light for you to get dressed, then add additional lights near your vanity and in your closet. Consider installing swing-arm wall lamps on either side of your bed. The lights will provide enough illumination for reading but won't take up space on your nightstand.

For more information, visit

Designing the Home of Your Dreams, California-Style

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.04.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Each year, many proud homeowners set out to increase the "dream" appeal of their homes - a task that can be made easier and more exciting with inspiration from the annual HGTV Dream Home. The 2009 home, located in beautiful Sonoma, Calif., is full of ideas that can help you amp up the dream quotient of your existing home. Investing time and love in your home can prove to be a rewarding experience whether you're dreaming of a wine-country Victorian home, a Manhattan high-rise or an inviting log cabin. Here are a few tips:

Dream Home
- When choosing a color palette for your home, look at the colors in your area. Do you live in a desert or by the beach? Using color to connect your home to the outside environment will create a more natural feel.

- Identify the strengths of your home, then play them up. If you see natural focal points, make them pop with eye-catching art.

- Consider how you will use your home. Plan spaces where you can have fun with family and friends along with secluded places in which to relax.

- If you have a home office, and clients visit often, consider creating a separate entrance to maintain privacy in your home.

- Think about things you really love and are passionate about and include them in your home. Find a space for what makes you happy.

- Use your rooms. If you never use the formal dining room, turn it into an art studio or office so you can enjoy all of your home.

- Give yourself the luxury of a fabulous master bedroom. This is the ultimate DREAM and you can find inspiration on air and online at HGTV.

For more information on how you can enter for a chance to win the HGTV Dream Home visit

Linda Woodrum has served as HGTV's Dream Home designer for the past 12 years.

By Linda Woodrum
For NewsUSA

Five Common Carpet Myths Debunked

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 12.02.2008 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - Carpeting has been the most popular floor covering in America for decades for good reason -; carpets feel soft, reduce noise and insulate rooms.

But some common misconceptions deter people from buying carpets. Before purchasing flooring, consider the following information from Shaw Floors:

Myth 1: Asthma and allergy sufferers should not have carpet in the home.

Fact: EPA scientists concluded that carpet fibers, in trapping and immobilizing potential allergy-causing particulates, help people with allergies. If allergens are in the carpet, they're not circulating in the indoor air stream. Shaw recommends using a HEPA-filter vacuum to fully remove such particles from the indoor environment.

Myth 2: Carpet is hard to maintain -; it stains and wears out very easily.

Fact: Simple steps can extend the life of your carpet and keep it looking new. Frequent vacuuming removes soil particles before they get below the surface of the pile, where they are far more difficult to remove.

Carpet in a typical household should be thoroughly cleaned every 12 to 18 months. Hot-water extraction systems provide the most effective cleaning. Professional carpet cleaners generally get the best results.

Myth 3: Carpet is outdated and boring.

Fact: Carpets come in patterns ranging from traditional hounds tooth to exotic zebra, and in stylish colors like chocolate or mint green. Many consumers use a mix of carpet, hardwood and tile in their homes.

Myth 4: Carpet emits harmful chemicals that cause health problems.

Fact: Carpet is one of the lowest emitters of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) among household furnishings and building materials. Shaw carpets meet the industry's highest VOC standard, the Carpet & Rug Institute's Green Label Plus program.

Myth 5: Carpet is bad for the environment.

Fact: Floor manufacturers now provide many eco-friendly options for environmentally conscious consumers. Shaw carpets made of Anso or EverTouch nylon can be recycled at Shaw's Evergreen Nylon Recycling Facility, where they are broken down and remade into new carpet fiber. The process helps turn carpet into a renewable product and keeps carpet waste out of landfills. In fact, Shaw has collected 178 million pounds of post-consumer carpet since 2006.

For more information about Shaw's various carpet and hard-surface flooring options or to view the company's online product catalog, please visit

Save Energy, Save Money, Stay Warm

Posted by Héctor H. Zorrilla On 0 comments

(NewsUSA) - As temperatures dip lower, families can save money and keep warm by making energy-efficiency improvements to their homes.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released essential tips for saving energy and money this winter to help Americans best prepare and manage their energy usage in a variety of ways.

According to DOE, on average, energy-efficient improvements reduce heating bills by 32 percent, estimating a threefold return on money invested. DOE offers these tips to help families cut their energy consumption this winter:

- Seal and insulate your home. Many insulating projects are inexpensive and easy enough for the average homeowner to complete. Filling air furnace leaks, adding more insulation and sealing off exposed ducts can sharply reduce heating and cooling bills.

- Perform routine maintenance. Replace your home's air filter every month. Hire a contractor to tune-up your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit once a year. Regular maintenance will reduce immediate costs and help units last longer.

- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat will keep your home at a lower temperature when you are not home, helping to reduce your energy bills.

- Conserve hot water. Air-dry dishes instead of running your dishwasher's heat cycle, take short showers instead of baths and wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Saving water also saves money on energy used to heat it. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F.

- Look for ENERGY STAR appliances. DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the ENERGY STAR program, which evaluates buildings and home products for energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR products meet strict guidelines and can help save money and energy. If every homeowner installed just five ENERGY STAR lightbulbs, America would save $8 billion a year in energy costs.

- Watch your electronics. Turn off computers and monitors when you're not using them. Plug TVs and DVDs into power strips, then turn off the power strips when home electronics are not in use.

- Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving wastes gasoline. Using overdrive gears and cruise control are easy ways to save gas. Go to for more gas-saving tips.

For more tips from the Department of Energy, visit the Web site

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