7 Summer Energy Saving Tips

7 Summer Energy Saving Tips

off-white curtain fabric
The sun is shining down this summer and the weather is heating up out there. I’m suddenly more aware of my AC system… and the large amount of money it might be taking out of my wallet. These 7 tips can help you stay comfortable in the hotter temperatures and save money on your electric bill.

7 Tips to save energy and money:

  1. Adjust your thermostat up a few degrees. This is one we hear a lot. The Department of Energy recommends that you keep the temperature at 78 degrees while people are indoors. It may not be realistic to keep your thermostat set this high for everyone, but try raising the temperature by just a few degrees and see what it feels like. When the temperature inside is close to the outdoor temperature, the less your HVAC system needs to run, saving you money.
  2. Use those curtains! The sun beating through those gorgeous wide windows of yours can create significant heat in your house. On especially sunny days, draw the curtains and pull down the blinds to block the heat.
  3. Let your shrubbery grow. The shade from outside landscaping (or inside, pictured left) can block the sun from sunny windows. Plants who prefer full sun do well on the South-facing side of your house, the side that gets the most sun and heat. Their flourishing growth will block your windows from the hottest direction. Your plants will love you and you will feel more cool!
  4. Replace your HVAC filters. It can take about 2 minutes. Simple as that.
  5. Use a clothesline instead of a dryer.
  6. Take shorter, colder showers to save on the water and electric bill. Better yet, install a low-flow shower head.
  7. Use a ceiling fan instead of turning on the air conditioner. The air moving around the room improves comfort without using a lot of energy.
close up of lemon tree in front of window. small green lemons are forming.

Meyer lemon tree from Edible Landscaping grown indoors.

Aging In Place – Part 1: Where to begin?

Aging In Place – Part 1: Where to begin?

Charles recently joined Beth Bland of Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) on the WSVA Early Mornings podcast to talk about Aging in Place. As a certified Aging in Place Specialist since May 2012, Charles has had many years of experience making these considerations, both professionally and through personal experience with family. In the episode, he addresses questions regarding everything from the basics of what Aging in Place is to specifics of what you can do to implement these modifications.

We begin this Aging in Place blog series with definitions and ways to begin, summarized from the episode, and will expand on the process of design implementation in further blog posts.

 

What is Aging In Place ?

Aging in Place is all about making a home adaptable as we all inevitably age and have abilities that change. Not only is this design approach about aging but it’s designing for a wide range of abilities. This sort of design can be added to your existing home or built into a new one. It doesn’t have to be a large-scale renovation and can be as simple as adding a towel bar to your bathroom that functions dually as a grab bar.

How does this differ from ADA compliant design?

Often ADA design and Aging in Place modifications overlap, but Aging in Place is centered around customizing for you and your experience. It expands beyond simply meeting the bare minimum requirements of basic building codes to creating something unique and beautiful for your day to day life (In another blog, we will discuss the misconception that Aging in Place design can’t be aesthetically pleasing).

Not only is Aging in Place customized around each individual’s physical design needs, but the entire process can be customized around your needs and might include financial, location, and relational considerations.

Why might I need an Aging in Place designed home?

All of us experience changes as we age and simply through life’s ups and downs. When possible, it’s better to plan ahead for life’s variability and unexpected times. Some things you might consider adaptations for are:

  • balance issues
  • reduced vision
  • reduced hearing
  • decreased mobility
  • reduced mental capabilities
  • loss of strength or endurance

The Planning Phase:

What questions should I consider for where to begin?

  1. What are the needs for your specific situation and what might you need in the in the future?
  2. Can your current house be adapted to what your needs will be?
  3. What are you able to do financially?
    1. Do you want to renovate or move to a new house?
    2. Do you have a budget?
  4. Do you live in a location that can support transportation needs changing, such as being near a bus station?
  5. Could a family or nurse live with you in this place?

Who can I talk to in advance to answer these questions and help start the process?

Because Aging in Place is so customizable, not all of these people will be pertinent to you, but these are some options to begin.

  • Architect: to assess how adaptable your house is
  • Contractor: for pricing
  • Professionals for more specific needs:
    • Occupational Therapist: for specific/personal adaptations
    • Financial Advisor: to discuss budget
    • Realtor: if moving location

 

Making things even easier, we have a wealth of knowledge right here in the Valley with many professionals that are experts on Aging in Place! Here are some places to go for more information on making a home aging friendly


You can listen to the full episode here: Issues in Aging with Beth Bland of VPAS and Charles Hendricks of The Gaines Group talk about Aging in Place. It’s a short 25 minutes that is definitely worth a listen. #DesignMatters

Site analysis before you buy

Site analysis before you buy

When should I do a site analysis?: A real-world example

We were asked to do some site analysis before our client put in an offer on a beautiful building lot. We often start a project with a client that has already purchased their dream lot, and we are able to sculpt the building site to make their home just right. If the lot is large enough or their home is small enough, it works without any major challenges. However, if you are evaluating multiple lots that seem perfect, have a lot that might have some challenges to fit your dream home, or you are just unsure of what to look for in a perfect lot, we can do site analysis before you buy the land.

Working with Realtors

Many realtors hesitate to bring in another voice into the purchase process, but the ones dedicated to serving their clients the best will always call on other experts to help answer questions. Michael Kalman, REALTOR® with Valley Realty Associates, gave us a call to find out if we had time to assist his clients that wanted to see if the lot they found was the lot for their dream. With Michael’s help, we gathered the survey, evaluated the site virtually, read the neighborhood covenants, and discussed the building goals with our client. From that meeting, we were able to develop a schematic layout for their future build. Next we traveled to the building site to confirm our assumptions – it is important to see the land and spend some time on the land when doing this evaluation.

What happens after the visit?

After this visit we made some changes to the layout, made some calls to learn more about available utilities, and did additional virtual evaluation. From that data collection, we were able to give our client a good idea of the potential of the lot and some preliminary budget costs to do the development. While this can mean time (and money) spent on a site that our client decides not to buy, it also gives peace of mind when negotiating the price they are willing to invest in this land.

Energy Efficiency is Key for a Comfortable Home

Energy Efficiency is Key for a Comfortable Home

Fall weather and the smell of pumpkin spice has us thinking about insulation and air sealing. We know the cold weather will soon be setting in and now is the time to ensure energy efficiency in your home and prepare for the colder temperatures ahead. No one wants to suffer through an uncomfortable home nor be wasteful as energy prices continue to increase. Below you will find some ideas of how to achieve a more energy efficient, comfortable home.

Identify air leaks and protect your home for the colder temperatures.
    1. Caulk can be your best friend when it comes to air sealing, but which one should you use? Read up on the blog here.
    2. Find the air leaks by scheduling a free energy audit. Learn more here.
    3. Did you know that your attic door needs to be insulated? Learn why here.
    4. While you are checking out your attic door, take a look at the insulation while you are there. Learn more here.
    5. Is your heating system working properly? Here are some resources to help you out.
    6. Conserving energy is key, see the impact on the roof of our design project here.
Notice the difference between the two roofs? Energy efficiency is visible on roofs after a snowfall.

We want to see more families saving energy and money. Feel free to give us a call or reach out with any questions regarding the comfort of your home.

    1. Caulk can be your best friend when it comes to air sealing, but which one should you use? Read up on the blog here.
    2. Find the air leaks by scheduling a free energy audit. Learn more here.
    3. Did you know that your attic door needs to be insulated? Learn why here.
    4. While you are checking out your attic door, take a look at the insulation while you are there. Learn more here.
    5. Is your heating system working properly? Here are some resources to help you out.
    6. Conserving energy is key, see the impact on the roof of our design project here.
Notice the difference between the two roofs? Energy efficiency is visible on roofs after a snowfall.

We want to see more families saving energy and money. Feel free to give us a call or reach out with any questions regarding the comfort of your home.

Reduce your energy bills with these easy changes

Reduce your energy bills with these easy changes

You can reduce your energy bills with these easy changes:

Albemarle Farm

While we continue to see energy bills rise and the cost of our energy increase we can reduce the impacts with simple changes.

Decision Overload: How to avoid decision-fatigue in your project.

Decision Overload: How to avoid decision-fatigue in your project.

If there is one thing we can all count on, it’s the inevitability of the numerous decisions we will navigate daily. From the moment we decide when to get out of bed, the average person will make thousands of decisions throughout the span of their day. Most of us love having options, but we commonly make our best decisions earlier in the day when we haven’t been inundated with countless, weighted choices. The same logic is applied to a custom home or renovation project and avoiding decision-making fatigue is achievable. Our team has collectively designed over 1,500 projects and we are here to offer guidance on how to avoid the inevitable creep of anxiety caused by making too many decisions. 

First, it’s important to create a plan with a solid vision and commit to it (this might be a collective commitment if you are designing with a spouse or partner). This process of working out the plan to fit your vision for your dream house is the foundation of why you hire an architect. Our team has a process of asking questions to figure out the solutions to bring your dreams to reality.

One of the most important components in creating a plan is to develop a realistic budget. Often in the planning stage, the average homeowner doesn’t always know the cost of their design selections. This is where our experienced team brings huge value to your process. We can help guide you towards your budget and help you pick out the special elements in just the right places and elements to conserve on budget in others.

Your ability to make decisions can directly influence the length of time it takes to complete your project and therefore, the budget! During the design process testing options early on is relatively inexpensive, but simple changes made late take a lot of coordination and budget. In the same line, testing out design options on paper is way less expensive that doing it during the construction process. 

Time is valuable; therefore, we recommend trusting an expert who has already put in the time and has up-to-date knowledge on the best and most efficient selections. Professional designers and architects are trained to focus on the details and guide you in the decision-making process. Experts will also often utilize industry-specific software that will allow you to see renderings of your space with your design selections. The ability to visualize a space can greatly help you make decisions and ease worries over how a project will turn out.  

There are thousands of decisions involved in creating a dream design. Planning ahead, prioritizing decisions that emphasize function, and seeking guidance from a professional are critical in avoiding decision burn-out and completing a successful project.