How to Powerwash Exterior Siding Safely

Homeowners might want to power wash the exterior siding of their house for one of two reasons: to remove the dirt, grime, mold or mildew that’s adhered to the side of the house over time; or to prepare the siding to be repainted. In either case, it’s important to know how to safely and correctly powerwash – to protect yourself, your home’s exterior and the plants around your home.

b2ap3_thumbnail_powerwashSince some washing requires the use of chemicals, homeowners must understand that not all power washers are made the same. Before adding any chemicals or cleaning solutions to your power washer, refer to your owner’s manual to make sure it is built for this. Further, if you are washing above vegetation, consider cleaning solutions that are environmentally friendly – since water (and chemicals) will drip down onto the plants. Additionally, make sure your skin and eyes are protected.

Common siding materials include wood, cement fiber and vinyl. Wood and cement fiber siding are known for attracting mold and mildew, so you will want to use a cleaner that will help to prevent this recurring issue. Typically, a half-cup of bleach in a normal-size bucket of water will do the trick. And when you are finished with the power-washer, be sure to rinse out all of the bleach before storing it.

Vinyl siding, which doesn’t need painting, is much easier to maintain. Cleaning using a mild soap solution is the only maintenance that should be required. But keep in mind that you’ll need to rinse the soap from the siding thoroughly. Dried-on soap can ruin siding when the sun hits it day after day.

The biggest issue with cleaning exterior siding is safety. If you have a two-story house or higher, it may be in your best interest to hire a contractor to do the work for you. Since most power-washers have a powerful force, the chore isn’t conducive to using a ladder. For safety reasons, many professionals will use a bucket truck to hold the person cleaning, and your professional contractor will also take precautions to avoid breaking any lighting fixtures or damaging any shrubbery during cleaning.

Whether you’re just looking for a good cleaning or are prepping to repaint your house, when it comes to powerwashing, safety should be your number one concern — for you, your home and the living elements so important to your home’s exterior environment.

Learn About Energy Efficient LED Light Bulbs

Light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs have been used for years in the electronics field, but over the past decade they have become a popular choice for the home – as they are energy efficient, and help people save money and preserve the environment. The problem is, many homeowners just don’t know what kind of LED to buy for their light fixtures. It can be a tiresome and frustrating process, as many manufacturers don’t tell you what wattage their LED bulb is equivalent to.

b2ap3_thumbnail_LED-lightingThough most of the time you will use LED bulbs for spotlights, tract lighting and recessed lighting, you can also use them for lamps. Companies are slowly improving the bulbs available, and you can usually find bulbs that will fit your reading and ceiling lamps, along with other types of lighting fixtures you may have. That means that you can replace you whole home with great energy-saving lighting!

Before you replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs, however, make sure the new bulb is suitable for your area. LED lights do not create that warm glow; instead, the light is bluer in color and can be brighter looking then incandescent lights.

Additionally, if you have never bought an LED light, start by replacing just one or two bulbs at first to see if you like them. Unfortunately, only after spending a lot of money on LED bulbs do homeowners find they don’t like them in their home – or in certain rooms of their home. A trial run in each room of your house will avoid this situation.

If you do find you like them, however, LED lights do last a long time – so you don’t have to replace them as often as you would a regular light bulb or a fluorescent bulb. Not only do you save money and use less power, but you also are helping to keep less waste in landfills, making the price of an LED bulb worth every penny for the environment.

Home Security: DIY or Hire a Professional?

You want to protect your home and family, but you are unsure whether or not you should hire a security service or simply install one of those do-it-yourself (DIY) kits. The DIY option is certainly more appealing to the wallet, but … should you really be in the business of home security?

Before making a decision based primarily on price, look at what’s involved with each option.

b2ap3_thumbnail_do-it-yourself1Let’s begin with installation. It is true that home security installation isn’t as complicated as it once was. With the advancement of technology – specifically wireless technology – a homeowner can install a wireless home security system in a weekend, or less. In fact, it is one of the top installed systems on the market today. Most wireless systems have easy-to-follow instructions and are practically ready to go from the box. Additionally, if you choose a hard-wire system, you will need to hire an electrician to connect the system to your electrical. This is not something that you should attempt yourself.

Monitoring your home is also a critical component of your overall home security. The traditional approach is to hire an alarm company to monitor your home. There are also stand-alone monitoring options where if the alarm is tripped, the system automatically dials a per-programmed number; a technology-based monitoring system sends either a text message to your cell phone or an email. The latter two options do not require monthly fees.

On the other hand, when you hire a contractor to install your home security system, you are getting a professional. Your contractor will be highly knowledgeable in home security and can evaluate your home, listen to your concerns and provide you with many options. Most companies are not one-size-fits-all and will be able to tailor your security to your specific needs. Some homeowners, for example, may elect for video surveillance along the perimeter of the property, while others need a more basic security package.

Additionally, when you work with a professional, you’ll have the peace-of-mind that you have a reputable company installing the system and monitoring your home. Today, home security is much more than simply monitoring entry and exit points of your home. Systems offer full protection of your family, which can include carbon monoxide detection, fire and smoke detection, and even medical alert systems, to name a few.

Also, should there be an issue with the system, reputable contractors will offer warranties, upgrades and replacement systems (if it were to come to that) – something you may not get with a DIY system.

Although a DIY security kit probably is more appealing to the checkbook, will it be the right solution to protect your family? Only you can answer that question. But no matter what your decision is, make sure you do your homework so you know exactly what you are getting for your money. Making the wrong choice in home security could be more costly than the hardware and service.

This apply’s to anything that you are thinking about doing yourself.  You have to ask yourself this questions, is this something that I can do my self? or if I would hire a professional would I feel better about it.  Some things may seem a simple task, but then turns out to be harder than you think it is and you will need to hire a professional to finish it for you.

Eco-Friendly Paint – Giving Traditional Paint the Brush-Off the VOCs

Giving a room a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most popular ways to update it. You’ll find hundreds of paint colors and dozens of paint types at any local hardware store, so how do you pick one? Other than the color, aren’t they all the same?

The ingredients that make up paint can differ between manufacturers, and now with dozens of types to choose from, you may want to do a little research before choosing a gallon of paint.

You’ve probably heard of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are emitted as gasses from certain solids and liquids, and can include a variety of chemicals. In painting, the greatest quantity of VOCs are released during painting; however, even after the paint is dry, VOCs are still emitted into your air. These chemicals have been shown to have both short- and long-term health effects, and are a big contributor to poor indoor air quality.

When home envelopes weren’t as “tight,” this was less of an issue, because air regularly moved from the outside in. However, houses today are built and remodeled to be extremely energy efficient, and as a result, we are seeing poorer indoor air quality. Dust and VOCs get trapped inside the home, and for this reason we are seeing more building materials being manufactured with low or no VOCs.

Types of Eco-Friendly Paint

b2ap3_thumbnail_paintNatural Paint.
Natural paints will not contain heavy metals or VOCs. They are made from natural materials – waxes, oils and dyes derived from plants. These paint products can be found as stains, sealers, waxes, finishes, paints and primers. Options include clay paints, lime washes and milk or casein paint. All of these products work best indoors.

Earlier versions of natural paints got a bad reputation because of their lack of durability and tendency to fade. However, newer natural paint products no longer have this problem. These paints emit few to no VOCs and use water as a base. To be categorized as “natural,” these paints must have 200 or fewer grams of VOCs per liter of paint. This equates to less than half that contained in ordinary paint.

Paints that bear the Green Seal have 50 grams or less of VOC per liter. Zero VOC paint is a bit more expensive, but contains a mere 5 grams or less.

Clay paints are derived from minerals and offer an earthy, adobe look. Lime washes are made in the same fashion
b2ap3_thumbnail_painting2as traditional whitewash; they can be used on the exterior of a home, but will need to be reapplied regularly. Lime is also corrosive, so gloves and goggles should be used when applying, but once dry, it is safe to touch. Milk or casein paint is made from a natural protein found in cow’s milk and comes in powder form.

The downside is that it must be used quickly after mixing, but once set, it forms a tough, durable finish.

Other considerations

When reviewing the ingredients in paint, make sure to also look for acetone, ammonia or formaldehyde. Even though these aren’t petroleum based, they can still be a problem to indoor air quality. If you want to decrease VOCs, avoid anti-mildew and anti-fungal paints. They are toxic and tend to emit gas for years.

Store low-VOC paints in a stable environment, since they can go bad if they are exposed to extreme cold and heat. Make sure the lids are secure and keep the paint cans upside down. Finally, do your research and shop carefully to find the best non-toxic paint for the job you have in mind.

Your Windows: Energy-Saving Options

Our homes can consume a lot of nonrenewable resources, particularly when it comes to keeping comfortable. In fact, home heating and air conditioning are the greatest contributors to every American’s carbon footprint, and with the price of fossil fuels rising every year, heat and air conditioning are among every homeowner’s most expensive line-item.

One way to cut down on the costs and improve your efficiency is to install energy-saving windows.

b2ap3_thumbnail_window-panesIf your home has older windows, the money you are trying to save in other ways, such as installing energy-efficient appliances or buying local produce, is going right out the window – literally. Older windows are single pane, which can be a large source of heat transfer – meaning they allow the warmth out in the winter and the heat in in the summer. This will cause your HVAC system to work overtime just to keep your family comfortable.

Windows are actually the most common place for homes to lose energy. Why? Because glass is an excellent conductor. It quickly moves energy from one side of the window to the other. Think of your car and how warm and steamy the interior gets when it is parked in the sun, even though it is pleasant outside.

Besides replacing your windows with more energy-efficient ones, there are other steps you can take to make your windows more energy efficient and reduce your energy consumption.

  • Seal windows. Sealing the gaps around windows and doors can help reduce drafts (most noticeable in the winter) and heat loss.
  • Use window treatments. To keep your home comfortable all year round, use blinds and drapes that have an insulating lining. When you want the warmth of the sun inside, open up them up, and close them when you want to block the rays. Insulated drapes keep the warmth inside during cold winter months, too.

Keep in mind that although your home may not be terribly old, the windows may still have less-than-ideal energy-efficiency ratings. Check the ratings and compare those to what’s available today.

For homeowners who want to truly improve their home’s energy efficiency, your best bet is to replace inefficient windows with more efficient ones. Look for “Low-E” windows that have krypton or argon gas between the panes. The gases are invisible, but serve as a protective layer of insulation that prevents glass from being a heat conductor.

If you’d like to increase your home’s comfort level while spending less on heating and cooling, improving your windows is the answer. Seal cracks, install appropriate window treatments and replace old, inefficient windows, and soon you’ll notice a big difference.

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