Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Protect Your Home From Lightning Strikes

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges home and business owners to protect their property from lightning strikes.

"Lightning strikes are one of the major sources of external power surges that can severely damage electronic equipment and cause fires " either of which can be a huge disruption to a family or business," said Julie Rochman, IBHS president & CEO. "Fortunately, relatively simple, inexpensive steps can be taken to substantially reduce the chances of lightning-related destruction and interruptions."

For lightning protection, a whole-house/building surge protector is the best starting point for reducing the risk of damage. The utility company may provide and install whole-building surge protection systems. If not, consult a licensed electrician about having one installed.

It is important to note that a whole house/building surge protector will not protect against a direct lightning strike. Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of a lightning bolt. The system works by receiving the strike and routing it harmlessly into the ground thus discharging the dangerous electrical event. IBHS recommends that lightning protection systems be installed by a UL listed installer and meet the requirements of NFPA 780 and Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) Standards.

In addition to whole-building surge protection, IBHS strongly recommends the following:
Unplug electronic equipment. It is the most reliable means of protecting that equipment from a power surge.

  • Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip does not protect equipment from being damaged by a power spike. A surge protector also gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, but it also serves another very important function in that it also protects your electronic devices from a power spike. 
  • Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.
  • Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly.
  • Ensure the surge suppressor has been tested to UL 1449.
  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand " the higher the number the better.
  • Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground) between 330 v, which is typical, to 400 v.
  • Purchase a surge suppressor with a response time less than 1 nanosecond.
  • Do not cut corners. You don't want to protect a $1,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector, for $25 and up you can provide much better protection.
  • Have a licensed electrician or home/building inspector review the power, telephone, electrical and cable/satellite TV connections to your building. Have them check to make sure that you have adequate grounding of the power line connection and your power distribution panel. All of the utilities should enter the structure within 10 feet of the electrical service entrance ground wire and be bonded to that grounding point. 

For additional guidance, please visit DisasterSafety.org/lightning.
IBHS is a leading national expert on preparing for, and repairing and rebuilding structures after a catastrophe to make them more disaster-resistant. To arrange an interview with IBHS, contact Joseph King at 813-675-1045/813-442-2845, jking@ibhs.org or via direct message on Twitter @jsalking.
Visit DisasterSafety.org for more information about how to make your buildings more resistant to a variety of disasters, big and small. Follow IBHS on Twitter at @DisasterSafety and on Facebook.
About the IBHS
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks on residential and commercial property by conducting building science research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparedness practices.  

Tips for Using Water Efficiently

Ideas and Tips for Home and Commercial Businesses to Save Water


  • Install ultra-low flow toilets, or adjust flush valves or install dams on existing toilets.
  • Install faucet aerators and high efficiency showerheads.
  • Use water-conserving ice makers.
  • As appliances and equipment wear out, replace them with water-saving models.
  • Eliminate "once-through" cooling of equipment with municipal water by recycling water flow to cooling tower or replacing with air-cooled equipment.


  • Detect and repair all leaks.
  • Minimize the water used in cooling equipment in accordance with manufacturers recommendations. Shut off cooling units when not needed.

Kitchens and Laundries:

  • Turn off dishwashers when not in use. Wash full loads only.
  • Scrape rather than rinse dishes before washing.
  • Use water from steam tables to wash down cooking areas.
  • Do not use running water to melt ice or frozen foods.
  • Handle waste materials in a dry state whenever possible.
  • Wash only full loads of laundry or select the appropriate washing cycle provided on the washing machine. Use a rinse water recycle system. Consider purchasing high efficiency equipment.


  • Wash vehicles less often; use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter.
  • Lower pool water level to reduce amount of water splashed out.
  • Use pool filter backwash for landscape irrigation.
  • Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation when pool is not being used.
  • Sweep or blow paved areas to clean, rather than hosing off.
Source: EPA

Friday, March 22, 2013

Houston Home Show This Weekend: March 22-24

Houston Home Show this weekend 3/22/2013 - 3/24/2013 at George Brown Convention Center

Explore a wide range of the newest home products - From windows and doors to ceilings and floors. If it belongs in a home you'll find it at the Original Houston Home Show!!!

Location: George R. Brown Convention Center - Click here for driving direction

Show Hours:
Friday, March 22        2:00 pm - 7:00pm
Saturday, March 23    10:00 am - 7:00 pm
Sunday, March 24      11:00 am - 5:00 pm

Ticket Costs:
Adults $9.95
Seniors $8.95 (65 and above, Other discount cant be combined)
Children 14 and under Free.

Look in your Randalls Weekly Circular closer to the show for a $1.00 off coupon!

• Home D├ęcor
• Storm preparedness
• Kitchens & Bath
• Outdoor Living
• Home Remodeling
• Pools and Spas
• How-to-Workshops
• Green Living

For more information: Texas Home Show Houston

Monday, March 18, 2013

Easy-to-fix Household Leaks Waste 1 Trillion Gallons of Water Annually Nationwide

"One in every 10 homes has a leak that is wasting at least 90 gallons of water per day"

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) WaterSense program encourages Americans to check and replace leaky plumbing fixtures and sprinkler systems, helping households save more than 10,000 gallons of water per year and as much as 10 percent on utility bills.

“Easy-to-fix household leaks waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide, which is equal to the amount of water used by more than 11 million homes,” said EPA Acting Administrator for the Office of Water Nancy Stoner. “We’re not just wasting water; families also lose money from leaks with higher utility bills. That’s why Fix a Leak Week is so important, and why we encourage everyone to take a few simple steps that add up to make a significant positive impact.”
In just 10 minutes, businesses and homeowners can: check winter water bills and fixtures for water waste; twist and tighten pipe and hose connections; and consider replacing broken or inefficient fixtures with WaterSense-labeled models. 

If winter water usage for a family of four exceeds 12,000 gallons per month, it’s likely that the home has a leak problem. Here are some easy tips:

  • Check toilets for silent leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank at the back and, if after 10 minutes, color shows up in the bowl before flushing, it may be time to make an easy repair and replace the flapper.
  • Check outdoor hoses for damage from winter frost and tighten connections at the water source.
  • For in-ground sprinkler systems, a professional certified through a WaterSense-labeled program can inspect sprinkler heads and pipes for signs of leakage and help homeowners maintain an efficient system and healthy lawn.
  • Check additional plumbing and outdoor fixtures for leaks. They may just need a quick twist or pipe tape.

WaterSense, a partnership program sponsored by EPA, seeks to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products, new homes, and services. Since the program's inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save 287 billion gallons of water and $4.7 billion in water and energy bills.

Learn more about fixing leaks, find a certified irrigation professional, or search for WaterSense labeled plumbing and irrigation products: 

Source: EPA

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Be a Smart and Engaged Homeowner: Try Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

Be a Smart and Engaged Homeowner by Following a Whole-House Approach
A Whole-House Approach
Before getting started on your home performance work, you may want to learn more about how to get the most out of your investment. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach. Rather than focusing on a single problem, like an old heating or cooling system, not enough insulation in the attic, or leaky windows, our participating contractors look at how improvements throughout your home can work together to give you the best results.

Follow these important guidelines to help ensure your energy efficiency investments pay off – not only by lowering your utility bills, but also by improving your comfort, enhancing indoor air quality, and ensuring safety.
  • Your participating Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor will conduct diagnostic tests, such as blower door and combustion safety tests, before and after the work is completed.
  • If you are not ready to perform all of the recommendations provided by your contractor, choose to make energy improvements in a logical order because they can affect one another. For instance, in most houses the attic floor should be air sealed before installing attic insulation because it will prevent warm, moist air from migrating through the insulation. Moisture in your attic insulation can reduce its performance and potentially cause mold, roof rot, or ice dams to form on your roof.
  • Ask your participating contractor about their plans for addressing combustion safety, indoor air quality, and moisture when making your energy improvements.
  • The quality of the installation is at least as important as the quality of the equipment and materials. Your participating contractor should be committed to following all manufacturer installation guidelines for insulation, heating and cooling equipment, and other components.
  • After you’ve made improvements, make sure to follow the maintenance requirements suggested by your contractor and the equipment manufacturer.
Find out if a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available in your area.
To learn more about how homeowners like you have benefited from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, read our homeowner success stories.

Source: Energy Star

Friday, March 15, 2013

Do You Have High Energy Bills? If So Read This...

According to Energy Star, one reason for high energy bills is an increase in the price of electricity or heating fuel. However, it is common to trace high energy bills to an in-efficient component (windows, heating and cooling equipment, ducts insulation) of your home or a failure of one of these components to perform as intended.

It is not always easy to pin-point the problem, but fixing it can make your home more energy-efficient and comfortable.

Prescription Checklist:
  • To improve the energy efficiency of your home start with an evaluation of your homes energy use.
  • To get started today use our Home Improvement Tools to score your home’s energy use and generate a customized list of improvement. You will need one year of your utility bills handy.
  • For best results hire a contractor who is an energy specialist to do an in-home evaluation. A good specialist will use diagnostic equipment to evaluate the performance of your home and generate a customized list of improvements.
  • Improvements may include sealing air leaks, adding insulation (Home Sealing) or sealing duct air leaks. Some of these you can do yourself, but you may prefer to hire a contractor.
  • Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F.
  • Replace the light bulbs in your highest usage lights with ENERGY STAR CFL bulbs.
  • When replacing lighting or appliances look for ENERGY STAR qualified light fixtures and appliances
  • Install a programmable thermostat, and use it to save energy while you are away at work.
  • Contact your utility and ask if they offer any programs to help lower energy bills.
Source: EnergyStar.gov

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Home Layouts and Designs That Should Be Avoided

By Jennifer L. Hernandez (theSOP)

I grew up in a 1950s cape in Connecticut that completely capsized on form and function. Many family arguments were started in the small and poorly configured kitchen. We had to move the kitchen table in order to open up the oven. In all honesty, the kitchen was purely meant for one person. So when my mom would start to cook, I would evacuate the premises immediately. The presence of others in the kitchen would turn cordial mommy into Beetlejuice mommy. There wasn`t room to work!

Entering the home was a nightmare. Open the door and you`d be attacked by stairs. No foyer, just more of a FO "Foyer Obsolete." Once you made it past the stairs, you would see right into the hallway bath, which was complemented by a lovely view of the porcelain receptacle.

The driveway was to the left of the home and the back door entrance was to the far right. Carrying groceries across the yard and up the stairs became a dreaded chore. Many food items were sacrificed on the journey. Think Macaulay Culkin carrying groceries in the film, Home Alone. On the upside, my sister and I developed fantastic upper body strength. However, we are still traumatized by the day my mom was carrying cupcakes, she actually baked, across the yard. They somehow took flight and landed all over the driveway. Rest in peace, pink cupcakes!

All of this frustration can be avoided with a functional layout. Many individuals think design encompasses only sparkling light fixtures and luxurious fabrics. Design is meant to enhance our daily lives, which begins at the foundation of layouts. At Incredible Renovations you can see your design and layout before the work begins with their 3D design capabilities. Incredible Renovations is not just a home renovations company, they are a "one-stop-shop," with all the in-house expertise required to complete the job from start to finish. They are the only builder in Texas with the in-house architectural, structural engineering, and interior design capability. incredible Renovations also accepts all liability and that is why they can give you their solemn promise that every job they undertake is "On Time and On Budget.".

Here are some Loser Layouts Homebuyers Should Avoid:

The Kitchen & Bermuda Triangle
According to Merillat, one of the nation`s largest kitchen planners and cabinet manufacturers, you naturally move between three places where you do three different tasks: cleanup, cooking, and food storage "your sink, cooktop and refrigerator, respectively. Imagine a triangle that connects them. " Many first-time homebuyers may fall in love with a home`s charm, but fail to realize the function of a kitchen. You will spend a majority of your time in that space and it`s imperative to make sure it works for you. Is the refrigerator far away from the sink and cooktop? Did you notice that the sink and dishwasher are in a separate room off the back of the kitchen? Avoid kitchens with poor layouts. If not, your love for cooking will disappear faster than a ship caught in the Bermuda Triangle.

Center of Attention Dining Room
Do you really want to maneuver around the dining room table to access other rooms?  This layout usually requires you to walk through the living room into the dining room. In order to get to the kitchen, you have to walk through the dining room or adjoining rooms. I`m currently searching for my first home and I have seen properties that have this type of layout. In fact, one layout guided me through a bedroom to get to the kitchen. Believe it or not, sometimes bedrooms are off the dining room.  My advice is to look out for the dining room that wants to be the center of attention.

Aggressive Entry Stairs
Opening the front door, of your home, should feel like a warm hug. More often than not, homes place stairs facing the front entry. This aggressive placement doesn`t give off a welcoming vibe, as there`s no room to welcome your guests. And chances are this entry is a FO.  The function of normal daily routines will suffer, if there isn`t room for dropping off coats, bags, keys, and mail.

Bath, No Room
Just last weekend, I saw a 1940s ranch with a bathroom that I had to enter into sideways. Now I`m not a size zero, but I`m able to enter through regular doorways normally. Even my svelte sister had to enter into the bathroom sideways. Once inside, the space was cramped for just one person. There was no room to place linens or toiletries. And when I stretched my arms out, I could just barely touch the side walls. I couldn`t picture my mornings functioning with the limited space. Beware of the bathroom that is a bath-no room.

For More Information about Incredible Renovations, visit www.incrediblerenovations.com

Which Cities in US Have Most Energy Star Buildings?

Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, Atlanta rank in top five

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the most Energy Star certified buildings in 2012, highlighting how owners and managers of commercial buildings across the country are taking action on climate change while delivering real financial savings to the bottom line.

“Through their partnership with EPA, the owners and managers of Energy Star certified buildings are helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving on utility bills,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “With Energy Star, cities across America are helping achieve President Obama’s goal to cut in half the energy wasted by our businesses over the next 20 years.”

In 2012, more than 20,000 Energy Star certified buildings across America helped save more than $2.7 billion in annual utility bills while preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual electricity use of more than two million homes.

Energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion per year. 
EPA continues to see an increase in buildings applying for and earning Energy Star certification each year. The cumulative number of Energy Star certified buildings has increased by more than 24 percent compared to last year, representing more than 3 billion square feet of floorspace nationwide. In 2012 alone, more than 8,200 buildings earned EPA’s Energy Star certification.

For the fifth year in a row, Los Angeles continues to hold on to first place, with 528 buildings. Washington, D.C., with 462 buildings, is a competitive front-runner. In third place, with 353 buildings, Chicago has risen through the rankings each year, starting in sixth place in 2008 and increasing the number of buildings certified by an average of 32 percent each year. New York, which recently required its commercial buildings to publicly disclose their energy use, secured fourth place.

Phoenix broke into the top 10 for the first time, with 202 buildings. Boston, a newcomer to the list last year, held on to 10th place, with 11th place Philadelphia not far behind. Seventh-place Houston, with 241 buildings, is home to one in particular that stands out: Phoenix Tower, a 34-story office building, has earned EPA’s Energy Star 14 times—more than any other building in America.

Commercial buildings that earn EPA’s Energy Star must perform in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide, as verified by a professional engineer or a registered architect. Energy Star certified buildings use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than average buildings. Fifteen types of commercial buildings can earn the Energy Star, including office buildings, K-12 schools, and retail stores.

Launched in 1992 by EPA, Energy Star is a market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. Over the past 20 years, with help from Energy Star, American families and businesses have saved more than $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 65 different product categories and more than 1.4 million new homes, in addition to the more than 20,000 commercial buildings.

Complete list of Top Cities: 

Data behind Energy Star certified buildings: 

More about earning the Energy Star for commercial buildings: 

Source: EPA

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mirror Mirror on The Wall: The Electric Mirror Does it All

Electric Mirror has released a new product that can connect to their electric mirror products and enable them to stream and play music from any Bluetooth enabled device.

In other words, if you own an electric mirror from Electric Mirror, you can now make the mirror play music.
The product is called Vive, and it works with other Bluetooth enabled devices, such as phones or tablets, as long as you are within 30 feet of the mirror.

Vive is currently not available for residential purposes, but Electric Mirror plans to make it available in the near future. For now, it is marketed only towards hotels.

Vive can connect to any of Electric Mirrors framed or lighted mirror products.

Electric Mirror also produces mirrors that have LCD TV`s built into them.

For more information, visit their website at:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Reduce Potentially Harmful Pollutants in Your Home

Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes, and can also have effects on public health by negatively impacting outdoor air and water quality.

Certain building materials, furnishings, and household products (such as air fresheners) release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home (such as cleaning), release pollutants intermittently. Pollutants can remain in the air and on surfaces for long periods of time, especially in home environments with inadequate ventilation and/or high temperature and humidity levels.

There are a number of steps you can take to reduce potentially harmful pollutants in your home, including addressing sources of asbestos and lead or other materials that impact occupant health; using environmentally preferable materials; properly ventilating; and utilizing air and water filtration
Information on the major building-related toxics and indoor air quality issues, and how to avoid them, is provided below.

Reasons Why to Build Green

Why Build Green?

EPA at Research Triangle Park, NCIn the United States, buildings account for:
39 percent of total energy use
12 percent of the total water consumption
68 percent of total electricity consumption
38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions
The built environment has a vast impact on the natural environment, human health, and the economy. By adopting green building strategies, we can maximize both economic and environmental performance. Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction. However, the most significant benefits can be obtained if the design and construction team takes an integrated approach from the earliest stages of a building project. Potential benefits of green building can include:

Environmental benefits

  • Enhance and protect biodiversity and ecosystems
  • Improve air and water quality
  • Reduce waste streams
  • Conserve and restore natural resources

Economic benefits

  • Reduce operating costs
  • Create, expand, and shape markets for green product and services
  • Improve occupant productivity
  • Optimize life-cycle economic performance

Social benefits

  • Enhance occupant comfort and health
  • Heighten aesthetic qualities
  • Minimize strain on local infrastructure
  • Improve overall quality of life
Source: EPA