Tag Archives: Home Theater Ideas

Conserving Water In Your Home (Part 1)

Conserving water means conserving energy. To process, pump, and heat water imposes a heavy burden on our already-pressured energy system. The more water we use, the more energy we demand, and the less we have of both to go around.

Implementing just a few small changes to your home can dramatically influence water supply, and it may even save you a few bucks as a result. So why wait, let’s get started on ways you can save water indoors.

Install a water meter. This handy device indicates how much water your home is using, often a very surprising number. Water meters are also helpful in detecting leaks, which can cost you a sizeable amount over the course of a year.

Check for leaking toilets and faucets. Did you know a silent leak can waste anywhere from 30 to 500 gallons every day? Fix leaks without delay.

Corner Shewr Glass Enclosure, Water Saving Shower Head

Take (shorter) showers rather than baths. Showering uses less than a third of the amount of water it takes to fill a bathtub. Turn off the shower while you shave, or install a valve that fits behind the showerhead. This preserves the temperature of the water while you soap up, so you can turn on again to rinse.

Catch the cold water while waiting for the hot. Whether from a faucet, tap or shower, use that cold water for plants or to pour into your toilet reservoir after flushing.

Install low-flow showerheads and faucets, or faucet aerators. At just $10-$20 for a showerhead and less than $5 for a faucet aerator, these low-flow devices are an inexpensive way to maintain the pressure and feel of the flow you’re used to while using less than half the water of conventional units.

Turn off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, washing hands, doing dishes, etc. This step costs no money, but saves a tremendous amount of water in just minutes.

Wash full loads. Whether using the dishwasher or the washing machine, wait until you have a full load. If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, choose a front loader instead of a top loader as it uses far less water.

Reuse water on the garden. Keep water after rinsing vegetables or boiling pasta to use on your garden. You can even repurpose bath water if you use garden-compatible soaps and cleaning products.

Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Save the solids for the trash can since they require more water and energy to dispose.

Be mindful of flushing. Every time you flush the toilet, you use up to 9 liters of clean water. Consider upgrading to a low-flush toilet, which uses 6 liters of water or less. Dual-flush toilets are equipped with a half-flush button, or you can make your current toilet perform similarly by installing a dual flush conversion kit.

Whether you take some or all of these measures, you can make a noticeable impact on the way water is used in your community and around the globe.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss several ways in which you can conserve water outside your home, an even greater way to help preserve one of the most scarce and limited natural resources on the planet.


4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now (Part 4)

Custom Design and Remodeling, Finished basement with Home Theater, Wet Bar, Pool Table, Play Room, Lighting, Foyer, Hidden Speakers, Ceiling Design, Interior Design, Bold Colors, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Washington DC,Still looking for ways to spend less on utility bills? Improving the rate at which your home uses energy is one of the most important concepts you can put into action right now, especially as demand and prices increase.

If you’ve been following our series on 4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now, you’ve learned about reducing energy consumption in three major areas of the home:

  • Air leakages, insulation, and HVAC
  • Water heating and conservation
  • Appliances

In part 4, we’re looking at improvements you can make for the final areas of the home: windows, doors, and lighting. While there are various types of changes you can make to existing fixtures, you might also consider upgrading to newer, more energy efficient ENERGY STAR products to take advantage of significant, long-term savings.

Improvements for Windows, Doors & Lighting

On average, windows and doors account for 10-25% of heating bills in the U.S.  Lighting occupies equal space on the grid at about 11%. So how can you take measures now to reduce the energy consumption of these specific fixtures?


The most effective way to reduce energy usage here is to replace single pane windows with double pain, high-performance glass – making sure they carry a low-E or spectrally selective coating to reduce heat loss/gain. Manufacturer rebates and government incentives can make this type of purchase more feasible, while helping you realize energy savings right away.

If you’re not replacing windows just yet, here are some ways that you can save on utility bills with existing features:

  • Close curtains and shades during the day
  • Install insulating window shades
  • In winter, use heavy duty, clear plastic sheets on window frames, or tape clear plastic film to the inside of frames
  • Keep windows on the south side of the house clean to let in winter sun


Entry doors are notoriously ineffective at stopping drafts, primarily because of the constant opening and closing that affects the weatherstripping and door bottoms. Rather than foam tape as weatherstripping, have a professional install vinyl bulb weatherstripping, which is more effective. If you’re financially ready, consider purchasing storm doors, which have adjustable door bottoms to prevent heavy drafts.


Investing in new lighting technology, such as CFL and LED fixtures, is one of the fastest ways to cut your utility bills. In fact, CFL bulbs use up to 75% less energy than standard, incandescent lighting, use 75% less heat, and lasts up to 10 times longer. Even more effective than CFL bulbs are the new LED fixtures, lasting 25 times longer, delivering better light quality, and using less energy.

Because the most significant savings with CFL bulbs are realized in fixtures that are left on for longer periods of time, it’s a good idea to use CFL bulbs in outdoor fixtures that stay lit overnight. CFL bulbs are also available for use in floodlights, and ENERGY STAR rated fixtures now come with automatic daylight shutoff.

Inside the home, consider CFL bulbs and linear fluorescent tubes, which provide drastic energy savings and greater efficiency. Recessed lighting is also very effective at reducing energy consumption.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

My dear clients, friends and colleagues,

May joy and fun, wish fulfillment and blessing,

Come to your home this Thanksgiving!

4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now (Part 3)

Custom Kitchen Design and Remodeling, foyer, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Washington DC, lighting, corner window, track light, granite counter,Over the last decade, the rising cost of energy has been the inspiration for some rather interesting concepts: shag carpet refrigerator insulation, foil-umbrella solar stoves, and growing your own furniture using backyard trees (we’re not kidding!).

But what about ways in which you can improve your home’s energy efficiency today, without altering the products you’re currently using?

In part 3 of 4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency, we’re looking at how household appliances affect your energy consumption, and what you can do to use those appliances more efficiently.

We’ll also discuss what you need to know if you’re ready to upgrade your appliances with more energy-efficient models, and why it’s a good idea to do so sooner rather than later.

Improving Energy Efficiency of Household Appliances

Considering that appliances account for about 17% of household energy consumption (carrying a cost of roughly $1,000 per year for homes in the U.S.), now is an ideal time to learn how to better manage the ways in which they use energy.

With dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines/dryers as the top energy consumers, utilizing their existing features and controls not only reduces consumption but also saves you money on household bills.


  • Unless dishes are extremely dirty, refrain from soaking, pre-washing, and rinse-hold cycles, which can use up to an additional 7 gallons of water for every load
  • Avoid using the heated dry setting; air dry dishes instead
  • If internal heating elements allow, lower your home’s water heater to 120°F


  • Use the automatic moisture control setting, if available
  • Regulate internal temperatures: 5°F for the freezer, 37-40°F for fresh food
  • Perform regular, manual defrosts once ice is more than ¼-inch thick
  • Cover leftover foods; uncovered items release moisture and make the compressor work harder

Washing Machines and Dryers

  • Opt for warm water instead of hot to reduce energy consumption by 50%
  • Use less water for smaller loads
  • Use cooler water for all loads, if possible
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons separate from lighter-weight materials
  • Clean lint filter after every load
  • Periodically inspect dryer vent and clear blockages

Buying New, Energy Efficient Appliances

According to a 2009 study by McKinsey & Company, replacing appliances is one of the most efficient global measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Before making a purchase, consider the following:

  • Always look for products labeled ENERGY STAR. This ensures that your appliances will exceed the minimum federal standards by a significant amount.
  • The ENERGY STAR label includes two price tags: the purchase price and the operating price. Consider both before making a final decision.
  • An ENERGY STAR model will use 40-50% less energy than conventional models.
  • Some tax incentives for purchases of energy-efficient appliances expire this year, so make your decisions accordingly.

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4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now (Part 2)

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Creating a more energy-efficient home is the best way to save money on your utility bills by reducing the amount of resources consumed. But it isn’t just about replacing older fixtures and appliances; much of the saving can begin today with simple, do-it-yourself tasks.

In Part 1, we laid out four main areas of energy efficiency improvements for the home, which included: air leakage, insulation, and HVAC; water heating and conservation; appliances; and windows, doors, and lighting.

In addressing the first area – air leakage, insulation, and HVAC – we detailed a logical progression starting with sealing cracks and holes, to reinforcing or replacing insulation, and upgrading to energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

Finally, we discussed the importance of developing a whole-house energy efficiency plan to enable a collaborative effort from all parts of the home. A whole-house energy efficiency plan accounts for all areas of the home that require energy in order to function, and ensures that the dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.

In Part 2, let’s take a look at how improvements in water heating and water conservation can contribute to the success of your whole-house energy efficiency plan.

Improvements for Water Heating and Conservation

As the third largest utility expense in the home, water heating accounts for about 12% of energy bills in the U.S. Perhaps you’ve already taken the steps to reduce your hot water usage, and these improvement ideas can enhance those actions. Or, if you’re just starting out, then you can greatly benefit from following these four steps:

  • Water heater insulation
  • Tank draining
  • Reduced-flow fixtures
  • Energy-efficient products

Water heater insulation

Insulating your water heater eliminates heat from escaping the tank, and uses less energy to keep the water heated. You can purchase a water heater blanket from your local home center. Electric water heaters can be covered from top to bottom while gas water heaters cannot be covered on top or along the bottom. No matter what type of water heater you have, be sure not to cover the end of the pressure valve or the temperature relief valve pipes.

Tank draining

Drain about a quart of the water from your water heater’s tank every three months. This helps eliminate sediment buildup from hard water minerals and debris, which can lower the efficiency of the heater and impede heat transfer.

Reduced-flow fixtures

If your faucets and showerheads were installed pre-1995, consider replacing them with newer models that meet modern flow rate standards. For example, aerating faucets add air to the water, making the flow seem fuller while using less water. Reduced-flow showerheads reduce flow from 6 gallons per minute to 2.5 gallons per minute; a significant difference considering that half of all hot water used in a home is for bathing.

Energy-efficient products

There are many ENERGY STAR rated appliances that will lower your utility bills over their lifetime, including dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters. Many states offer incentives to homeowners that install energy-efficient models, so check with your local construction firm for more information.

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4 Ways You Can Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency Now (Part 1)

With gas prices hitting record levels this summer, there’s never been a better time to make some changes to the way your home consumes energy. Not only will it reduce energy demand by cutting the amount of resources it takes to create energy; enabling your home to be more efficient will also save you money on utility bills and increase energy security on a national level.

The best way to approach this is by developing a whole-house energy efficiency plan, which will allow all of the different “parts” of your home to work together in reducing energy usage. You can certainly make a difference by making small changes here and there, but the greatest impact will be recognized once you have improved all the areas of your home that affect how energy is consumed.

A whole-house energy efficiency plan will ensure that the dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely. Start with a home energy audit from an independent energy auditor, or learn how to conduct one on your own by visiting www.energystar.gov. The home energy audit will help you understand which parts of your home use the most energy, and give you suggestions for cutting costs.

While the results of home energy audits are different for every home, in this four-part series we will focus on the main areas that are most likely to require improvements:

  • Air leakage, insulation, and HVAC
  • Water heating and conservation
  • Appliances
  • Windows, doors, and lighting

Improvements for Air Leakage, Insulation, and HVAC Systems

According to the 2007 Buildings Energy Data Book, heating accounts for the biggest portion (31%) of utility bills in the U.S. Annually, the typical American family spends $1,900 on home utility bills. That means that over the course of just a year, you could be spending nearly $600 to heat your home. And some of that is most likely compensating for heat that escapes through cracks, holes, and other leakages.

The most cost effective way to improve this statistic is to check insulation levels in your attic, ceilings, floors, crawl spaces, and exterior and basement walls. It’s also important to check for holes and cracks in walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets. These are all areas where air leakage can occur and contribute to higher energy bills.

Once you have an idea of which areas need improvement, seal and insulate them. Be sure to complete both of these tasks to maximize air leakage reduction. If you don’t have a lot of readily available resources, you may want to consider insulating the attic first, as it’s much less expensive than insulation for your walls.

After you have sealed and insulated all of the areas, it’s time to consider upgrading your HVAC system. Even a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient furnace and air conditioner will waste energy if your home is not sealed and insulated properly. Look for heating and cooling equipment that is ENERGY STAR rated, and that offers both high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings and a higher Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER).

For assistance in solving air leakage, insulation levels, or HVAC systems, be sure to consult a professional design or construction firm that has proven experience in implementing energy-efficient improvements.

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How to Hire a Home Improvement Contractor – The Contractor’s View

Things You Will Need:

Custom Design and Remodeling, Master Bathroom, Corner Shower, Corner Tub, Corner Window, Heated Floors, Pendant Lighting, Granite Counter Top, Custom Tile Design, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Maryland, Washington DC

Master Bathroom

First of all, do your homework and be prepared. Collect pictures from magazines etc. Write down what you would like to have the contractor accomplish. Be as specific as possible.

Get your family together (as appropriate) and discuss how much money you are willing to invest in your remodeling project. Make a list of priorities for the project and share both with the contractor.

Custom Design and Remodeling, Finished basement with Home Theater, Wet Bar, Pool Table, Play Room, Lighting, Foyer, Hidden Speakers, Ceiling Design, Interior Design, Bold Colors, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Washington DC,

Home Theater and Bar

Ask your friends and neighbors who they would recommend. BBB is of little value, many good contractors are not members of BBB. Check the company website and industry affiliations. Being a member of NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) is a plus, but again, many good contractors are not members of NARI.  Don’t use the various online contractor referral services. They charge contractors for every name of a potential customer while providing very little value.

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Gourmet Kitchen

Talk to 2-3 companies referred to you. How do you feel about them? Do you connect or are you comfortable with some of them, is there good chemistry? If the company going to spend a few months in your home, good fit may be more important than a few hundred $$.

A good contractor will have a well written contract with all details spelled out, including start and finish date, payment schedule etc. Read it carefully and do not hesitate to ask questions.

Custom Kitchen Design and Remodeling, foyer, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Washington DC, lighting, corner window, track light, granite counter, gourmet cooking

Kitchen Design and Remodeling

References don’t have much value because nobody gives bad ones. Call the references of the contractor you decided to work with if you wish. Ovoid casual calls to the references of the contractors you are not planning to hire. Remember, their references are regular people, just like you and me; they will invest their time to talk to you. Don’t waste it.

Be direct, but understand, nobody if perfect (even you) things happen in remodeling. Whatever comes up, address it on the spot and work with your contractor to resolve any issues immediately. A good one will have no problem with that.

And most important, have fun in the process and you will get a beautiful project!

Tips & Warnings

Remember, the process of selection is mutual. You are being selected as well.

Trust your gut, if it does not feel right, don’t do it!