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Weather Got You Steaming?

Here's How To Cut Your Home Energy Bills

(NAPSI)-Think of the electric bills those poor souls living in much of the East Coast must have run up recently. Even if you didn't sweat through those record-breaking, 100-plus-degree days yourself, it should've been a reminder of the one thing every homeowner needs to know: If you really want to cut down on your own costs--and who doesn't in this economy?--look skyward.

To your roof, that is.

During the home-buying frenzy, one of the more popular statistics thrown around was how a roof represents about 40 percent or more of a home's "curb appeal" to potential buyers. That's still true. Less discussed, though, was how the components of the entire roofing system--particularly the shingles and proper attic ventilation--can actually save you big bucks year-round on both your cooling and heating bills.

"In the summer, I've seen some attics get so hot the shingles actually fry," says JoAnne Liebeler, former co-host of PBS's "Home-Time."

How hot might that be? Without the right intake and exhaust vents in your roof, shingles can reach temperatures hotter than 160 degrees.

"Moisture can seriously reduce the effectiveness of your insulation," says Liebeler. "That means higher energy bills--and who needs that?"

Okay, so now that you know why yours may be among the nine out of 10 homes in North America that have been needlessly feeding the utility companies' profits, here's what you need to do to fix it:

Check the insulation levels in your attic. Find out the current building codes in your area and make sure that your attic contains at least the minimum recommended levels. Updating would immediately help maintain comfortable temperatures.

Embrace the new world of shingles. Liebeler is high on the Timberline Cool Series line of shingles from GAF Materials Corporation (www.gaf.com), North America's largest roofing manufacturer, which can shave another 7 to 15 percent, on average, off your air-conditioning costs thanks to its new reflective technology. Plus, since both the white and color shingles are Energy Star qualified--traditionally, only white got that nod--you could be eligible for a tax credit to boot.

• Think ridge vents. They may not sound sexy, but they can help remove excess heat and moisture when installed on a roof's peak. The same applies to solar-powered, roof-mounted attic fans, which have a higher "sexy" factor. And remember that intake venting is required for your ridge vents to work properly.

In the meantime, you just have to get by the old-fashioned way: Close your shutters and blinds when the sun streams in.

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CFL 101: Selecting Energy-Efficient Lighting

For Your Home Just Got Easier

(NAPSI)-With so many lighting choices on the shelf at your local retail store, it's not always easy to decide whether you should replace your burned-out bulb with an incandescent, halogen, LED or other style. One variety that's growing in popularity is energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Take GE's quick course on CFLs to better understand the facts, myths and more and to learn how smart lighting choices can be one of the easiest ways to save on energy costs.

Lesson One: The Basics

CFL stands for compact fluorescent light, but more importantly, it serves as an energy-efficient bulb that uses two-thirds less energy, produces 70 percent less heat and lasts up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. While a standard incandescent bulb uses heat to produce light, a CFL creates light using an entirely different method that is four times more efficient.

This means that you can buy a 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt regular incandescent bulb.

Unlike the first models, modern CFLs don't produce the same flickering, humming or dim light when initially turned on. CFLs also come in a variety of wattages, shapes and sizes to deliver the same light as a standard bulb and fit almost any fixture in the house.

Lesson Two: The Types

CFLs are ideal for everyday lighting. They can replicate cool, natural light or simulate midday sunlight for warm, comfortable lighting. Most CFLs are available in three-way and dimmable bulbs for adjustable light levels and provide application versatility with a host of bulb options including floodlights, chandelier, ceiling fans, globes, corkscrew-shaped and even outdoor post lights.

One newer CFL option is a covered or incandescent-shaped bulb, such as GE Energy Smart® CFL bulbs, where a corkscrew-shaped CFL is covered with glass to give the appearance of a standard incandescent bulb. Covered CFL bulbs can be seen as more aesthetically pleasing and fit in more lamps and fixtures than standard corkscrew-shaped bulbs.

Lesson Three: The Applications

Lighting plays as big a role in home design as furniture, wall paint or appliances. There are three main types of lighting: ambient (general overhead), task and accent (decorative). CFL bulbs can be used for all of these lighting functions to enhance the mood, improve visibility and offer energy savings. Since color is key in home design, select CFLs that filter out dull yellow rays and make colors "pop," such as GE Reveal® CFL bulbs, which can help bring out patterns that may go unnoticed under ordinary incandescent light.

The tutorial doesn't end here--there's much more you can learn about CFLs or lighting design by visiting Whatsyourlightingstyle.com. Class dismissed!

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A Cooler Attic Gives Year-Round Benefits

(NAPSI)-The blazing heat of the sun can raise the temperature of a roof to as high as 190 degrees during the summer. For years, solar-panel makers have been harnessing that energy to reduce and supplement the use of traditional energy sources like coal, electricity and natural gas.

Now that same technology is being used to reduce some of the heat that makes it from the roof into your attic. New solar attic vents can not only cut cooling costs but may prolong the life of your roof. Proper ventilation may extend the life of roof shingles and can help prevent ice dams. And solar models accomplish it all without using any energy except what the vent collects from the sun each day.

The solar vents start collecting energy as soon as the sun rises and can operate from dawn to dusk without any other power source from the homeowners. The latest versions of these solar-powered vents are made from durable materials including tempered glass and UV-stabilized ABS color-dyed plastic. Newer models can also be painted to match the roof color.

If you decide to install a solar attic fan, you may want to follow these tips from the experts at TAMKO Building Products, Inc.:

• Make sure your attic is adequately vented as it can be the key to an energy-efficient home. In the winter, allowing a natural flow of outdoor air to ventilate the attic helps keep it cold, which reduces the potential for ice damming (snow that melts off a roof from an attic that is too warm and then refreezes at the gutters, causing an ice dam that can damage the roof).

In warmer weather, natural airflow in a well-vented attic moves superheated air out of the attic, removing moisture and protecting roof shingles.

• Don’t block the flow of air. Attic fans are intended to cool hot attics by drawing in cooler outside air from attic vents and pushing hot air to the outside. If your attic has blocked soffit vents and is not well sealed from the rest of the house, attic fans will suck cool, conditioned air up out of the house and into the attic. This will use more energy and make your air conditioner work harder, which can increase your utility bill.

• You don’t have to forgo aesthetics. When buying a solar vent, look for one that can get the most out of the sun while preserving the aesthetics of the house. Look for a heavy-duty, whisper-quiet motor. The TAMKO Solar Attic Vent features a 20-watt solar panel that ventilates up to 1,600 square feet and can be placed out of the line of sight while still absorbing plenty of the sun’s rays.

Learn More

For more information, visit www.TAMKO.com or call (800) 641-4691.

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Use Neutral Shades To Create A Softer Look

(NAPSI)-A growing number of decorators are using complex neutral shades to create a look that they say is not too bold and not too loud, but just right.

Running the gamut from the grays, khakis and beiges that most people associate with neutrals, to some surprisingly deep and rich colors--such as pinot noir purple or cappuccino brown--they are softer colors that whisper quietly and blend seamlessly into a space.

Complex neutrals are created by adding gray tint to the paint, resulting in hues that are veiled, misty and chameleonlike. They react to other colors present in a room and can vary in appearance based on the lighting conditions. This flexibility helps neutrals to blend seamlessly with the variety of fabrics, flooring, furniture and colors that are already in a space.

Only Use White If You Mean It

Oftentimes, homeowners are looking for a neutral to create the perfect atmosphere but end up defaulting to white. According to color expert Dee Schlotter from PPG Pittsburgh Paints, The Voice of Color, "White should only be intentional." Schlotter says that when the use of white is not intentional, it can make a room look unfinished. "Instead of using white or being overwhelmed by selecting a bold, bright color, homeowners should try a complex neutral," says Schlotter.

Additional Tips On Color

Homeowners can consider the following tips when choosing a color:

• Pick paint color last--Select paint color based on everything that is in a room: furniture, floors, tiles, curtains, etc. Selecting the wrong paint color is easy to correct--just paint over it--while the wrong granite countertop, carpet or furniture is more difficult to change.

• To make a room and space cohesive, use colors at least twice. This will help to merge the walls, furniture, accessories and flooring.

• Our response to color is subjective and comes from our life experiences and emotional associations, so select the colors that are personal to create the right atmosphere.

To find your color personality, try the online color tools at www.voiceofcolor.com.

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Five Reasons To Buy A New Home

(NAPSI)-Increasingly, to get the home of their dreams, homebuyers are purchasing a newly constructed home.

With advances in design and construction coupled with low mortgage rates and historically low prices, many shoppers are finding new-construction homes offer an opportunity to get more for their dollar.

With the affordability of new construction today, buyers are increasingly weighing the benefits of new vs. resale homes. With that in mind, the experts at Pulte Homes share the top five reasons buyers are choosing new:

1. Customization and decoration. One of the biggest advantages of buying a new home is the ability to decorate it from the beginning exactly the way you want. As the homeowner, you set the rules. Just ask Ashley and Steven Kitzberger, who bypassed 15 used homes before purchasing a new home in Pulte Homes’ Montrose Park community in Copley Township, a suburb of Akron, Ohio. Their deciding factor? The ability to hand-select interior finishes and features.

“We really liked being able to pick out our cabinets, countertops and flooring and having everything just the way we wanted it when we moved in,” said Ashley Kitzberger. “We also purchased a new home because of the floor plans, which were open, airy and made good use of the space within the home. Nine-foot ceilings were also standard, which is something we wanted and were not able to find in many older homes.”

2. Latest architectural designs and modernization. According to Scott Thomas, national director of product development for Pulte Homes, as consumer trends and tastes evolve, home builders can nimbly respond with new floor plans that provide open kitchens, great rooms and walk-in closets to accommodate customers’ needs and even provide customization in many cases. Said Thomas, “People’s lifestyles are different today, especially given how much technology has impacted the way we use space.”

3. Energy efficiency. Advances in key components such as windows, heating and cooling systems and insulation mean that new homes consume roughly half as much energy as homes built prior to 1980. This translates into lower utility bills, higher resale value and a more eco-friendly home.

4. Builder warranty. Reputable builders will provide a builder warranty when you purchase a new home, which is a commitment that materials and workmanship are warranted for a specific period of time after closing. The warranty typically covers the overall structure, mechanical systems and other elements of the home. Warranty periods can last up to 10 years.

5. Better quality and value. New homes require less maintenance and offer the quality of advanced building materials, such as roofing, flooring, plumbing fixtures and countertops, with enhanced performance characteristics and lower maintenance costs.

For more information, visit www.pultehomes.com or call (866) 460-0553.

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A Simpler Solution To Building A Garden Wall

(NAPSI)-Homeowners looking to introduce color, texture and unique design elements to a house’s exterior may consider building an accent or garden wall. Fortunately, if the thought of a block-and-mortar wall seems a little daunting, there’s an easier solution.

Using dry-stacked concrete blocks and a surface-bonding cement, it can be easier than many homeowners realize to build a low-maintenance, affordable accent wall.

The one-coat application of Quikrete Quikwall Surface Bonding Cement provides structural strength and a textured “stucco” finish. The Surface Bonding Cement is also excellent for rehabilitating and waterproofing unpainted concrete walls.

Adding color to the wall can be simple with a liquid pigment additive available in 20 standard color choices, Quikrete Stucco & Mortar Color, that can be added to the mixing water during the mixing process.

To build the wall:

• Begin with the construction of a footing slab. Once the footing has cured, dry-lay the first block row on top of the footing and chalk mark the block positions using a level and mason’s line for accuracy.

• Remove the blocks and apply a 1-inch-thick bed of prepared surface-bonding cement on the footing to bond the first course to the footing and correct any irregularities. The mix should be stiff enough to support the weight of the first row of blocks.

• Place the first row, embedding the block to the mortar bed, to a final thickness of about ⅜ inch. Remove any excess material.

• Check the alignment and level after positioning every three to four blocks.

• Start the second course with a half-block to create a “running bond” pattern. Continue dry-stacking the remaining blocks to the desired height; nonstructural dry-stack construction can go as high as six to eight feet for privacy.

• Add a cap block to the top course of block. For additional strength, fill the cavities with something such as Quikrete Concrete Mix.

• After dampening with a fine spray, apply an ⅛-inch-thick coating of surface bonding cement to the sides, top and exposed ends of the concrete block wall with a finishing trowel. Trowel to desired texture or finish.

• Moist-cure the wall after eight hours by dampening with a fine spray. Repeat spraying several times daily for three days.

For detailed application instructions or additional project ideas, visit www.quikrete.com.

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Extend The Outdoor Living Season With A Dream Deck

(NAPSI)-While most people think about outdoor entertaining during the spring or early summer months, the late summer or cooler seasons can be a great time to transform a blah backyard into an outdoor oasis with the addition of a beautiful deck.

Here are a few tips to help.

• Keep Your Cool--Installing decking and railing involves spending a large amount of time in the great outdoors--especially if you've decided to handle the labor yourself. Try to arrange to do the work when the temperature is moderate.

• Score a Deal--Taking the time to obtain price quotes from various contractors may pay off with a substantial cost savings on labor. Just be sure to ultimately select a reputable professional to tackle your installation. To help, Trex Company, the nation's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking, railing and fencing products, recommends contractors with extensive training and product knowledge. Homeowners may locate an experienced TrexPro® on www.trex.com.

• Look for Low Maintenance--If you want to spend more time enjoying--rather than maintaining--your deck, choose materials that keep a "like new" appearance for decades without the harsh chores of sanding, staining and sealing. Wood-alternative decking such as the new Trex Transcend™ can endure harsh weather and heavy foot traffic. It will even stand up to BBQ stains, dropped grill tools and other cookout mishaps.

"For long-lasting beauty, choose high-performance decking that offers the natural looks of wood while resisting staining and fading," says Adam Zabanini, director of marketing for Trex. "Also, be sure to look for decking that may be purchased with a complementary railing--which allows for a customized look and sets it apart from others in the neighborhood."

• Prepare for Rough Weather--Homeowners with wood decks need to wash, stain and seal--a process that can take several days. If you have a wood-alternative deck, however, you'll simply need to do a basic cleaning with soap and hot water--or a mild deck cleanser. Use a plastic rather than a metal shovel to remove any snow from your deck and calcium chloride or rock salt to melt any ice collected on the surface.

For more inspiration and information to create the deck of your dreams, visit www.trex.com.

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Easy Upgrades Can Extend Outdoor Fun

(NAPSI)--Cooler weather can be a great time to transform a patio or deck into a cozy space to relax with family or entertain friends. Propane appliances such as patio heaters, fire pits and lighting extend warm-weather fun, while their portability and range of prices make it easy to customize an outdoor space to fit any lifestyle or budget.

“As families look for ways to spend more quality time at home, outdoor areas are becoming a natural extension of a home’s living space,” says Stuart Flatow, vice president, safety and training, Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). “With careful planning and safety in mind, simple upgrades offer year-round enjoyment.”

Handy homeowners who are budget-minded may want to take on their outdoor room redo as a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. Before getting started, assess your skills, patience, time and budget and decide when to bring in a professional. To ensure a smooth process, PERC offers a helpful list of dos and don’ts:

DIY Dos

Do establish a budget ahead of time, with a 10 percent cushion for unexpected expenses.

Do conduct a background check before hiring a professional.

Do keep outdoor propane appliances clear of flammables and away from structures.

Do make sure the gas is turned off during installation and check for leaks before operating.

Do have a qualified service technician inspect your outdoor appliances annually.

DIY Don’ts

Don’t install an outdoor appliance indoors—or vice versa.

Don’t assemble appliances with propane cylinders yourself unless you’ve read the manual and are prepared to follow all instructions.

Don’t move a portable appliance such as a heater or grill while it’s in use.

Don’t store or place a propane cylinder indoors, or in an enclosed area such as a basement, garage, shed or tent.

Visit usepropane.com for more tips on safely incorporating propane appliances into your outdoor remodel projects.

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