What is the best location for HVAC condensing units?

With the official start of spring, temperatures will soon be rising again. If you are installing HVAC, efficiency should come before the appearance of the unit. With advanced technology and a multitude of options, it’s becoming easier to find an HVAC system that keeps your home a comfortable temperature, doesn’t make your electric bill skyrocket, and is not an eyesore.

When choosing a location for the condensing unit of an HVAC system, people often try to “hide” it from view. But the location of the unit, when placed correctly, can actually help it run more efficiently.

Condensing units, like air conditioners, help cool down your home. The condensing unit is the part of the HVAC system that goes outside your home. To make sure it is not working too hard in the summer months, consider where it will be placed. Here are a couple of tips when choosing a location:

 

  • Stay out direct sunlight. The cooler the air around the unit is, the less it has to work, lowering both energy use and costs. Opt for a shady, cool area whenever possible.
  • Keep the area clear of debris. Hiding the unit by planting shrubs or bushes could cause filters to get clogged. Keep the area directly surrounding the unit clear of leaves, long grass, and other debris to avoid this.

 

This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative when placing your condensing unit. Many people place their condensing unit under a deck to hide it from view. Another option is putting up a wide-slotted fence around the unit, which allows for airflow and muffles noise.

Work with your heating and cooling contractor to choose a place that ensures efficiency and doesn’t block any views of your yard.

What are HOA fees?

When looking for a condo, townhome, or a property in a planned or gated community, be sure to take a look at the Homeowners Association (HOA) fees. HOA fees are included for all common areas of the property. Since there are multiple residents in the same complex, all are required to join the HOA and help cover the costs of common areas.

Monthly Expenses

HOA fees cover monthly expenses for upkeep and maintenance of the property and common areas. This can include landscaping, pool area, fitness room, parking lots, and hallways. In addition, utilities and insurance for these common areas are covered through HOA fees.

Reserve Fund

Along with covering monthly maintenance costs, part of the fee goes into a reserve fund. This fund can be used for larger, planned expenses, such as plumbing or a new roof for a building. Reserve funds may also be used for emergency situations, like the expenses that occur from a natural disaster.

Are HOA fees worth it?

That can depend on what you are looking for. The amenities that come with complex living can be unbeatable, especially when you don’t have to deal with the day-to-day maintenance or the stress when an unexpected cost arises.  Generally speaking, the more upscale a complex and its amenities, the higher the HOA fees are. The cost of fees can also depend on where you live. For example, living in humid, subtropical Florida can raise the HOA fees for the price of landscaping alone. Always be sure to find out what the fees are and exactly what they cover before making a decision to purchase a condo or townhome

Benefits of Garbage Chutes

If you live or work in a building with multiple levels, it is neither convenient nor sanitary to go down the stairs or elevator carrying a bag of trash. Garbage chutes in these buildings go far beyond convenience – they are beneficial to all involved.

With garbage chutes, residents only need to walk a few steps to their floor’s chute drop off. Garbage goes down the chute, or large tube, to a central location in a building. Typically, the garbage chute has an entrance and is covered with a door for safety.  Residents do not need to worry about taking out the garbage for a certain day or time, and do not need to lug garbage bags to a dumpster.

Building management also benefits from garbage chutes. The Residences at 66 High Street have garbage chutes in the multi-level buildings The Whitfield, The Leete, and The Chittenden. This means management does not need to go around the entire building collecting garbage – it is all in one centralized location. In addition, the garbage collector only needs to go to one place to collect trash each week.

Garbage chutes may seem like a small convenience that can be overlooked when designing a building, but the benefits make it a must-have in commercial and residential buildings with multiple floors.

Countertops: Granite vs. Quartz

In addition to appearance, there are several factors to consider when choosing a material for your countertop. A handful of materials can be used for countertops, which offer various aesthetic qualities and functions. Two of the most popular materials used for countertops are granite and quartz.

Having a general understanding of granite and quartz is important. Granite is a 100% natural material. It is mined from quarries, cut and then polished. Quartz countertops are a 95% natural material; the other five percent is binder and color. With this basic makeup in mind, we can compare qualities of both.

Look of Countertops

Granite is slightly more natural looking due to its 100% natural composition. It can be found in a variety of unique colors and patterns. Though not quite as organic in nature, quartz still provides a stone aesthetic. Since it is engineered, quartz may be more easily found to fit a particular color.

Maintenance

Granite is more porous than quartz. For this reason, it requires more maintenance. It is suggested that granite countertops be resealed annually to ensure longevity, while quartz does not need the same care.

Durability

Both granite and quartz are incredibly durable. Because of granite’s porous nature, spilled liquids can cause staining. While quartz will not stain, it can be damaged by excessive heat.

Price

While the cost of granite and quartz are similar, quartz can run slightly more expensive. Based on estimates from HomeAdvisor, the national average cost to buy quartz without installation fees is $75 per square foot, while slab granite can typically be purchased between $40 and $60 per square foot without installation. We suggest getting quotes from two to three professionals, with installation fees factored in, so that you are able to get what you want for the best price.

In deciding between granite and quartz, there is no right or wrong decision. In the end, it comes down to personal preference, and you cannot go wrong with either.

General Contractors, Subcontractors, Builders: Who should I hire?

When constructing a new home, deciding who to hire can be a time-consuming process. You want to be sure you hire someone who is trustworthy, does quality work, and sticks to budgets and timelines. But who exactly do you need?

General Contractors

General contractors (GC) can be an individual or an entire company, and oversee the entire construction site. They are hired for both residential and commercial projects. The first responsibility of a GC is to make an estimate of the entire project including the cost of materials, labor, and any subcontractors that will be needed. From there, a project manager will oversee the project, communicate with the homeowner, ensure materials are ordered and delivered on time, and oversee subcontractors. A big benefit to hiring a general contractor is they already have built a pool of subcontractors they trust. In addition, subcontractors will often consider projects for a contractor as a priority over a job for a homeowner. To learn about Horton Group as a general contractor, click here.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are typically skilled in one specific trade, such as tile, drywall, insulation, or roofing. Subcontractors fill their contract directly with the contractor, so you do not need to worry about hiring each different subcontractor if you have a general contractor. If you are only updating one part of a room, such as installing new tile flooring, you may want to hire a subcontractor to complete the job.

Builders

A builder, like a general contractor, will see the project through from start to finish. The difference is that a builder often has a crew to complete the construction work, from foundation to roof, subcontracting only for specialists like electricians and plumbers. They also manage the project and communicate with the homeowner throughout the process.

No matter who you hire, you are entrusting another person or company to carry out your vision. Be sure to communicate your vision, budget, and timeline clearly so the outcome is what you want.

Commercial Grade Elevators – What is best for your building?

Horton Group has built and renovated many commercial buildings, including offices, banks, and retail shopping centers. We put an emphasis on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards in all our projects. Commercial buildings with more than one floor generally require an elevator according to ADA standards.

Depending on the size of the commercial building, there are different types of elevators that may work for your building. Passenger elevators and LULA elevators are what you see most often in commercial buildings.

Passenger Elevators

Passenger elevators are what you typically think of in high rise buildings. As the name suggests, these elevators are designed for carrying passengers. Most passenger elevators have up to a 5,000lb weight limit, although they can hold up to 10,000lbs. Passenger elevators can be in-ground hydraulic, hole-less hydraulic, or MRL.

LULA Elevators

LULA stands for Limited Use/Limited Application. LULA elevators are similar to full-size passenger elevators in design, with two sliding doors as an entrance. They can typically hold up to 1,400lbs, travel up to 25 feet high, and have up to 18 square feet of floor space. LULA elevators are a good option in a low rise commercial or residential building, as they save both space and money.

Consider how many floors in the building, as well as the number of people who will utilize the elevators each day when choosing which elevator to use in your commercial project.

What are Common Areas?

Common areas are the areas of a condominium, apartment, or townhouse complex that are shared by all residents.

Some of the most basic common areas include parking lots, hallways, and shared laundry facilities. Depending on the complex, common areas can also include a fitness center, pool, or clubhouse. Because these areas are shared between all residents, the cost of upkeep and repair comes from Condo Association or HOA fees.

When setting our vision for Residences at 66 High Street, we knew we wanted to provide luxury condominiums with luxury common areas. Great care has been given to creating the outdoor environment. The landscaping and underground utilities allow for unobstructed views of the salt marsh and Long Island Sound, with thirty-foot trees strategically placed for privacy. All units face an intimate courtyard to create a sense of unity throughout the community.

In addition, a state of the art Fitness Room is located in the Whitfield Building and features top of the line equipment from Peloton, Life Fitness, and Hammer Strength. Residents will soon be able to enjoy a pool, which has the final approval to be built.

Common areas are also found in office buildings. The professional campus at 350 Goose Lane Office Park features three buildings of office space. The outside common areas include the parking lots, outdoor courtyard, and landscaped property. Formerly home to Wilber & King Nursery, the Horton Group kept the integrity of the grounds for ample green space, complete with a pond. Inside, the common areas of the buildings include the hallways, staircases, elevators, and bathrooms.

Common areas can be as important to residents and business owners as the individual units. By creating common spaces that are both functional and beautiful, people are more apt to feel like they are part of a community.

What is Radiant Heat?

Stepping out of a relaxing hot shower or bath onto a cold tile floor can send chills up anybody’s spine. Imagine, instead, of stepping onto heated tile that keeps your feet and toes warm and comfortable. With radiant heated floors, this is possible.

Radiant heating systems lie under tile or stone, allowing heat to be directly supplied to the floor you walk on. This is the ultimate way to give your bathroom a spa-like feel. In our luxury condo units at 66 High Street, every bathroom has radiant heat under tile from Tile America.

There are three types of radiant heat systems: hydronic-based, forced air, and electric radiant heating. Hydronic based is the most popular and efficient and works by carrying hot water through tubes installed under floors. One nice feature about radiant heat is that it can be installed in a portion of a room, for instance, just in front of the bathroom vanity.

Although radiant heat can be pricey to install, the benefits may outweigh the cost. Benefits include:

Evenly Distributed Heat

With radiant floors, heat is more evenly distributed throughout the room. With typical forced hot air, the heat quickly rises, leaving the bottom of the room and floors cold. With radiant heated floors, the heat begins at the ground and naturally rises to heat the rest of the room, which keeps your feet and toes warm.

No Noise

Radiant heat is completely silent. No sounds are coming from the radiator or forced air vents. You feel the warmth, without hearing the heating system.

You Can Install in a Portion of the Room

You can choose to install radiant heat in an entire room or just a portion with a pre-sized heating mat. If you want heated floors when you step out of the shower, you can opt for a rectangular space of radiant heat right in that spot. You could choose a different tile to highlight this heated area for a visual cue. This will also allow you to repair without ripping up the entire floor, since the heating system is permanently under the flooring.

Radiant heat adds a luxurious feel to any space. With options for installation and pre-selected sizes, it becomes an affordable addition.

What room do you want to install radiant heated floors in? Let us know in the comments!

How Secure is a Multi-Home Building?

Despite the advantages of moving into a multi-home community, it is natural for residents to have concerns about security. With a steady flow of residents, visitors, workers, or mail and delivery services in close proximity to your home and belongings, it is important to be sure you and your belongings are safe.

In condominiums and apartment buildings, there are various ways to ensure a true sense of security. As listed on the Peace of Mind Technologies (POM) website, these might include:

  • Establishing a cooperative culture of security: All residents should establish clear expectations regarding security measures and take responsibility for the health and safety of the entire residential community. Cooperation is key.
  • Landscaping: Carefully manicured landscapes and green space help signal to visitors that the property is cared for and monitored.
  • Access control: POM suggests that key cards, rather than keys, are a great security measure as they can digitally log entry and exit into a given building.
  • Remote monitoring and remote access for deliveries: Security personnel can manage the flow of vendors or package deliveries and grant them access to a designated room for deliveries. Separating delivery traffic from residential traffic improves overall security.
  • Motion detectors: Similar to security measures like cameras and lights, motion detectors can be monitored remotely and sense intruders.

Our ongoing luxury condominium project – The Residences at 66 High Street – has adopted similar methods for enhancing security.

For one, current and future residents at High Street make up an unbelievably caring and trustworthy community. The landscaping is also constantly maintained. As far as the building is concerned, there are cameras throughout the buildings to monitor all points of entry. In order to enter the building, residents are given a unit-specific code to enter on a keypad. Additionally, each residence comes equipped with cameras in the foyer and security systems.

The opportunity to live at The Residence at 66 High Street and be within walking distance of historic downtown Guilford and the train station is one to be enjoyed. As it is our job to ensure this enjoyment, we want to do all we can to give residents peace of mind and make them feel safe in and away from home.

 

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