Fiberglass vs. Spray Foam Insulation

Insulation may be hidden behind the walls, but it plays a big role in keeping you comfortable all year long. 

The job of insulation is to keep the house warm during the winter and cool during summer. With heating and cooling accounting for about half of the energy used in the home, proper insulation can cut back on energy usage and save homeowners money. 

Keep reading for a comparison between two types of insulation: fiberglass and spray foam. 

Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is the more traditional form of insulation. This type of insulation comes in pre-cut rolls or blown-in loose fill. It works to regulate air temperature by trapping air inside tiny glass fibers, slowing the transfer of heat. 

Pros of Fiberglass

Fiberglass insulation is inexpensive to install when compared to other types of insulation. It comes in pre-made R-Values, and it maintains performance levels for an extended period of time. Fiberglass is also easy to install.

Cons of Fiberglass

Though commonly used and easy to install, fiberglass is not as effective as spray foam at maintaining comfortable temperatures. Fiberglass cannot fit into every crevice, which can allow for air leaks. This is especially true in colder regions.

Spray Foam

Spray foam insulation is newer than fiberglass and is becoming more popular in homes. Spray foam is installed by spraying a polyurethane foam into walls and ceilings. The foam expands to create an airtight seal. Spray foam can be used as the primary method of insulation or as a supplement to existing insulation.

Pros of Spray Foam

Since spray foam creates an airtight seal, it protects against pests, rodents, and mold, in addition to its insulating properties. It is more energy-efficient than fiberglass, sealing off any crevices so air cannot leak in. It also has a longer lifespan, because it does not break down or sag over time.

Cons of Spray Foam

Spray foam is more expensive than fiberglass. In addition, spray foam should be applied by a professional, which increases the cost even more. The installation process can be messy, so make sure you work with a professional who has experience with spray foam.

If you are ready for new insulation, speak with your contractor to determine what type is the best option for your home. 

 

Solar Roof Panels vs. Solar Shingles

As solar roof technology becomes more advanced, homeowners have more options when making the switch to solar energy. 

Solar roofs are enticing because they harness the sun’s solar energy to generate electricity for the home, potentially saving money and energy. While solar panels have become a common sight in neighborhoods across the country, solar shingles are also becoming more mainstream. 

What is the better option for your home? Below, we compare solar panels and shingles to help with the decision. 

Solar Roof Panels

Solar panels are large panels that are installed on top of the shingles on the roof. Several panels are installed on the roof, generating electricity that can be used by the household. 

Pros of Solar Roof Panels

  • Solar panels maximize electricity production. 
  • Solar panels can be angled to gather sunlight. Some types of panels can swivel and adjust throughout the day.
  • Solar panels can be placed on your property, as well as the roof.  
  • You can have the panels removed and bring them with you to a new house.

Cons of Solar Roof Panels

  • Panels appear bulky. 
  • The installation of solar panels involves many steps and requires electrical inspections.

Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are a more recent technology than solar panels and are designed to look to typical roof shingles. Solar shingles have two functions: to protect the roof and to generate electricity. 

Pros of Solar Shingles

  • Solar singles are more aesthetically appealing, blending in with other shingles of the roof. 
  • Solar shingles can double as shingles, so if replacing the entire roof, it can be cost-effective.
  • Solar shingles are easier to install than panels. 

Cons of Solar Shingles

  • Solar shingles are less energy efficient than solar panels.
  • The roof needs a particular slope with ample sunlight exposure.
  • The lifespan of solar shingles is less than panels. 
  • Removing solar shingles is not an option because they serve as the roof shingles.

Solar energy can save money and energy over time. When making the switch to solar energy, always consult a professional to determine what your options are. 

What is MEP Engineering?

When building, people are often amazed at the floorplan, visual aspects of the structure, and the timeline.

The behind-the-scenes (or in our case the behind-the-walls) elements don’t garner much attention. Yet the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems keep people comfortable. 

What are MEP Systems?

MEP stands for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Let’s break down each system here:

  • Mechanical. Mechanical systems include heating and cooling systems, allowing people to stay comfortable inside, no matter the temperature outside.
  • Electrical. Electrical systems keep us connected. We all know how inconvenient it is when the electricity goes out. Electrical systems keep the lights on and other systems running.
  • Plumbing. Plumbing systems provide clean water for drinking, bathing, and cleaning while removing wastewater. 

 

What is MEP Engineering?

MEP Engineering is the design and construction of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems in a building or residence. MEP engineers, or consulting firms, are often used when large buildings are being constructed. They design, estimate costs, and build MEP systems so that the interior spaces are ideal for comfort at home or work.

Benefits of MEP Engineering

It may seem pretty straightforward to install heating, cooling, lighting, and plumbing in a building. When done poorly, it can result in uncomfortable conditions: too hot or too cold, poor lighting, noisy HVAC systems, and inefficient use of energy. 

When strategically designed, MEP engineering can:

  • Lower costs
  • Improve lighting
  • Improve heating and cooling
  • Solve water or plumbing issues
  • Conserve water
  • Conserve energy
  • Automate building systems
  • Improve concentration and mood in the workplace
  • Increase comfort

While MEP Engineering may not be necessary for a single-family home, thoughtful planning and design in offices and multi-unit residences is essential. 

Builder Confidence Reaches 20-year High

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, you may have heard that at the end of 2019, the national inventory declined by 9.5%, according to realtor.com

What does this mean? With fewer homes on the market, and buyers actively searching for their next house, experts predict inventory will remain low into 2020. 

It also means that builder confidence levels are breaking records.

National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index

Every month for the past 30 years, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) conducts a Housing Market Index survey. This survey gauges builder perceptions of current single-family homes sales and sales expectations for the next six months.

The last two monthly surveys – December 2019 and January 2020 – have the highest confidence levels for builders since 1999. The confidence level reached 76 points in December and decreased by just one point in January. To compare, builder confidence in January 2019 was 58 points. 

What does this mean?

With low inventory levels, low mortgage rates, and a strong labor market, builders are going into 2020 with high levels of optimism. 

NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde said,

“Low interest rates and a healthy labor market combined with a need for additional inventory is setting the stage for further home building gains in 2020.”

Builders are prepared to tackle the problem of low housing inventory, particularly for single-family homes and starter homes. Buyers who are frustrated with a lack of housing options can work with builders or search for new development projects in the area. 

Are you considering building in 2020? Contact us today!

 

 

Tips for an Eco-friendly Bathroom

Bathroom remodels are one of the most sought after renovations. A simple update can make a home feel more luxurious. 

Although small in size, the bathroom can also waste more water and energy than other areas of the house. When the time comes to renovate your bathroom, follow these tips, so it is eco-friendly, as well as visually appealing. 

Be Water Conscious

It’s no secret that a lot of water is wasted in the bathroom. Flushing the toilet, taking a shower, drawing a bath, and using the sink each day adds up. Inefficient water fixtures can add up to hundreds of gallons of wasted water each day. Some people are opting to ditch a tub altogether and use the extra space for a beautiful walk-in shower. When selecting new items for the bathroom, pay attention to:

  • Toilets. A conventional toilet uses 1.6 gallons for every flush, but an old model could be using up to 7 gallons per flush, according to the EPA. A low-flow toilet works with less water and has dual flushing options. One button flushes liquids, using under one gallon of water per flush. The second button flushes solid waste, using the full 1.6 gallons per flush.
  • Faucets. Many people leave the water running when brushing their teeth, washing their hands, or washing their face at the sink. Consider motion-sensor faucets to cut back on water waste.
  • Showerheads. When installing a new shower, select an environmentally friendly low-flow showerhead to reduce water usage. Look for the EPA WaterSense Label to be certain you are purchasing water-efficient products. 

Install an Efficient Water Heater

A lot of energy is used to heat water in the home. Replacing the water heater can aid in making your showers and baths more eco-friendly. There are several options to choose from: heat pump water heaters, tankless water heaters, solar water heaters, and condensing storage water heaters can all help to save energy. ENERGY STAR ratings can help you determine which equipment is most efficient.

Choose Eco-Friendly Materials

Eco-friendly materials are not only sustainable, meaning they last a long time, but they also do not harm the environment. Often, eco-friendly materials are renewable or recyclable. Many tile options are eco-friendly. Other eco-friendly materials include glass, metal, bamboo, and cork. You can take it a step further than flooring and cabinetry and opt for eco-friendly towels and shower curtains. 

Install LED Lighting

If you have not brought in LED lighting to your home yet, it’s time to make the switch. ENERGY STAR LED lights use up to 90% less energy than standard bulbs and last at least 15 times longer. 

Opt for VOC-free Supplies

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, emit gasses and chemicals into the air. If you have ever gotten a headache from the smell of your cleaner, chances are it was filled with VOCs. Select paint and cleaners that are VOC-free. 

Do you have more tips for becoming more eco-friendly in the bathroom? Let us know in the comments!

 

What is Transit-Oriented Development?

With a pressing need for sustainable metropolitan and suburban growth, a trend toward transit-oriented development, or TOD, has become increasingly popular among planners and developers. Particularly in the United States, where most people are reliant on automobiles, TOD can help create more sustainable communities.

What is Transit-Oriented Development?

Transit-oriented development is a mixed-use development that includes commercial, residential, office, and entertainment properties. The development is also located near a transit station for easy access to transportation.

When successfully designed, TODs bring together people, activities, living space, and public space. Walking paths, cycling lanes, and easy access to transit services eliminates the need for daily vehicles and increases nearby resources for residents. 

Benefits of Transit-Oriented Development

TOD can positively impact lifestyle, the environment, and economic factors. Here are some of the benefits of transit-oriented development, according to the Transit-Oriented Development Institute

  • Reduce dependence on driving
  • Allow residents to live, work, and play in the same area
  • Reduce the area’s negative impact on the environment
  • Provide access to better life services
  • Stimulate the local economy
  • Provide better access between urban and suburban areas
  • Provide access to better entertainment and recreational services
  • Provide access to better jobs
  • Revitalize urban areas

Is Transit-Oriented Development only for large cities?

Trends toward TOD extend beyond the urban center. In cities, TOD can provide more affordable housing and connect people to resources in the area. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the Overland Lofts is a part of the revitalization efforts of the city, providing market-rate housing and commercial space downtown.

Development in suburban towns can play an integral role in building a more vibrant, safe, and sustainable community. The Residences at 66 High Street are located in the heart of Downtown Guilford and are only a half-mile from the Shoreline East Train Station. Residents love being a part of a larger community, the ability to walk to shops and restaurants, and easy access to the train station. 

What lifestyle factors are essential for your next move? Let us know in the comments!

 

Mixing Metals: Dos and Don’ts

Cool metal tones have been the norm in homes and offices for years. Now, stainless steel, nickel, and chrome are starting to take a backseat to warmer finishes. 

Gold, copper, and bronze are appearing in kitchen and bathroom designs, but not in the polished and shiny way of the 70s. Brushed brass is a fresh look for all who are tired of the cool metal tones. 

The new trend doesn’t mean you should swap all your hardware, light fixtures, and plumbing over to gold or brass – especially if you are not sure if you love the look. Mixing metals allows you to incorporate warm and cool tones. When done right, mixing gold and silver creates eclectic spaces, making it look like items have been collected over the years. 

Keep reading for the dos and don’ts of mixing metals in interior design.

Do: Choose One Dominant Metal

One metal should stand out as the most prominent in any space. To keep the balance, select one metal for larger features or decor pieces and then choose one to two metals for accent pieces. 

Don’t: Mix More than 3 Metals

Matching all finishes creates an outdated, monochromatic look. On the other hand, mixing too many metals creates a distraction for the eye. In a smaller space, select two metals: one dominant and one accent. In a larger room, you can go up to three metals, especially if the third is for a statement piece. 

Do: Mix Warm and Cool Tones

Warm metals include gold, brass, and nickel. These rich colors add a pop to any room. Cool colors, such as silver and stainless steel, can be mixed with warmer hues. All metals can go together, as long as each finish is a thoughtful addition to the overall decor. 

Don’t: Forget about Texture

Polished, hammered, and matte finishes change the look and feel of each metal. Consider changing up the texture of the metals throughout the space, as well as the metals being used. 

Do: Space Metals Out

Metal on top of metal can make a room feel too industrial and cold. Spread out metals throughout the room, both horizontally and vertically, for a finished look. 

Don’t: Disregard Small Accents 

If you are easing into the thought of mixing metals, you can begin with small decor pieces like a small sculpture or understated light fixture. This keeps it subtle while adding a new dynamic to the room. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you love the look of mixing metals or do you think it’s just a fad?

4 Benefits to Nest Thermostats

Smart and green.

More and more aspects of the home are becoming advanced. Smart appliances coupled with sustainable products allow homeowners to increase efficiency, decrease energy usage, and save money. 

Thermostats and heating systems are a major player in the home’s energy usage and costs. Nest Thermostats take the guesswork out of saving energy, making it the first thermostat to become ENERGY STAR certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s why we decided to install Nest Thermostats in all the units at the Residences at 66 High Street

No Programming Required

Programmable thermostats help you become more efficient with energy and save money. The problem is they can be complicated to figure out, and only allow for 2-3 changes throughout the day.

Nest Thermostats learn your schedule, your preferences, changes in the season, and even your home’s heating and cooling system. After a few days, the thermostat knows when to turn the temperature up or down. Once it learns your preferences, you don’t have to make any adjustments. The best part? You start seeing your monetary savings right away. 

Control from Anywhere

Let’s say you are off of your typical schedule – you are working late, or are getting home earlier than expected. You have the ability to control the temperature from your phone. This ensures energy savings when the house is empty and comfortable temperatures when you arrive home. 

Proven to Save Energy

Heating and cooling a house account for nearly 50% of all energy usage. Studies have shown that Nest Thermostats saves homeowners 10%-12% on heating and 15% on cooling. In addition, an Eco Temperature setting takes over when Nest Thermostat senses you are away for an extended time. This helps save even more, without the hassle of changing the programming. 

Nest Leaf 

The Nest Leaf collects and analyzes data from your home. Based on that data, Nest offers ways for you to save even more energy. A Green Leaf that appears on the thermostat is your signal – simply press it to learn about ways you can save. 

This type of technology is the future of the Smart Home: saving energy and money, without the need to program. 

Do you have a Nest Thermostat? Tell us about your experience with it!

 

10 Tips to Stay Warm at Home this Winter

Winter weather means spending more time cozied up inside. Staying warm during the coldest season of the year doesn’t have to equate to sky-high heating costs. With some preparation, you and your budget can stay comfortable all year long. 

Incorporate some (or all) of these tips for added warmth this winter.

Programmable Thermostat 

A programmable thermostat, like Nest, makes your heating more efficient. Set your thermostat to a comfortable setting for times you will be home.  Lower the temperature during times the house is empty or when everyone is asleep. An automatic schedule ensures the heat doesn’t stay on high all day long and keeps the house toasty when people are there. 

Let in the Light

Window curtains can do more than give privacy. During the day, when the sun is shining, open the drapes. Even with cold temperatures, the sun’s light is warm. Once the sun goes down, close the curtains to prevent heat from escaping through the windows. You can even purchase insulated curtains for winter use. 

Check the Furnace

Make sure your furnace is in good working order with a simple tune-up. Also, check the furnace filter. If it is dirty, replace it with a new filter to maximize the efficiency of the furnace. 

Seal Gaps and Leaks 

Doors, windows, attics, and basements can have leaks, letting the cold air in during the winter. Finding and sealing these leaks is a simple solution to retaining heat. This do-it-yourself guide from energystar.gov provides more information on how to seal leaks. You can also use draft stoppers for doors where you feel cold air sneaking in. 

Check Vents and Radiators

Vents and radiators that are blocked will produce heat that is blocked. Move furniture away from vents and heaters so that warm air can blow into the room being heated.  

Rugs on Hardwood

Bare hardwood floors can account for heat loss. Grab some area rugs for extra warmth in the rooms you utilize most. 

Reverse Ceiling Fans

We all know that warm air rises, but did you know your ceiling fan can push that warm air back down? The trick is to reverse the motion of the blades, so the fan moves clockwise. 

Radiant Floors

If you want to go a step up from area rugs, radiant floors are the way to go. While more expensive than carpet, radiant heating systems evenly distribute heat that slowly rises to the rest of the room. 

Insulation

Poor insulation equals a loss of heat and a loss of money during the winter months. Check to make sure you have proper insulation. This will help to keep you warm while keeping energy costs low. 

HVAC Zoning System

An HVAC zoning system allows each area of the home to stay at a different temperature. You can keep the most-used rooms warm while lowering the temperature in rooms that are rarely used. 

Living in a region with cold winters means you can appreciate the beauty of the season. It also means you need to prepare your home for the changing temperatures. 

How do you stay warm in winter?

 

Design-Build vs. Design-Bid-Build

You decided to build.

Do you know what type of build process you want to commit to?

Beyond choosing the right builder, you need to understand how the builder will complete the scope of work. Two methods are design-build and design-bid-build. We go over the differences between these two processes below. 

Design-Build

With design-build, the owner signs just one contract with the builder (or project manager).

Often, design-build companies have their own team to handle all aspects of the project, including design, construction, and all trades. With this type of construction process, the owner has one point of contact, making it easier to communicate. 

The contractor can also hire subcontractors for trades as needed, though they resume all responsibility for the finished project, cost, and schedule. 

Design-Bid-Build

Design-bid-build is the more traditional model in construction. Design and construction are handled by two different companies, with two separate contracts. 

Where does the bidding come in?

First, the design team works to complete a set of construction documents for the project. From there, various contractors can submit bids for the project. Usually, the work goes to the lowest bidder. This can help to ensure the cost of construction will stay low. When communication between all parties is strong, this process is effective. 

When completing new construction, it is most important to feel comfortable with who you are working with. From there, you can discuss the type of building process that best fits your needs. 

 

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