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Paint-On Insulation: Is It Truly Green?

Winter is here, and if that utility bill is high, you are probably already troubleshooting problem areas of your home.

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Winter is here, and if that utility bill is high, you are probably already troubleshooting problem areas of your home. One of largest contributors to drafty rooms is a lack of insulation. Insulation is designed to stop air passage through ceilings, walls, and the floor. The intention is to keep the right air where you want it in each season. Obviously, the windows and heating source are also important to maintaining an overall energy efficient program, but having the right insulation is a key factor.

In existing homes, it can be difficult to go back and insulate after the fact. If attic space allows, you can blow-in insulation. Under-floors and in-between walls can be difficult as well. Even with your best efforts, there is bound to be some location that is hard to reach. What if you had a product that you could apply from the exterior?

Sound a bit like science-fiction? SFGate highlighted the ingenious concept of Nansulate this past November. It is a paint-on insulation that suspends specially engineered particles with low-conductivity in an acrylic base. The particles are water-resistant, making the paint a weapon against mold and mildew. Unlike traditional fiberglass insulations, this new product is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

So how green is this product? The company promotes it as a major breakthrough in green endeavors. Not only does it contribute to creating more energy efficient homes, but they also make this statement regarding the safety of the ingredients: "Nansulate® coatings contain none of the ingredients contained on the EPA listing as Class I or Class II Ozone Depleting Substances, nor do they contain any ingredients on the listing for Global Warming Potential (GWP) that are non-ozone-depleting." The company is anxious to become accepted into the green marketplace. "We are pleased to see that our Nansulate coatings are becoming a brand name in the sector of Green Nanotechnology," stated Francesca Crolley, VP Operations & Marketing. (Nano Science and Technology Institute)

Sounds like a pretty good idea, but is it affordable to the average homeowner? Surprisingly, it is actually quite affordable. At $66 for 150 sqft of coverage, it is an inexpensive alternative to other forms of insulation. Especially if you take into account the ability to avoid opening up walls or crawling under houses. The paint can be applied with a brush, sprayer, or roller. It is applied to walls, windows, pipes, and water heaters, and can even be applied over existing paint.

Because this is a fairly new product and its composition is so different from traditional insulation materials, it is hard to do a straight-across-the-board comparison between the two. So far, however, those who have already used it report a 20-40% savings on their utility bills.

A relatively new product, the company is working hard to bring awareness to its presence. I, like many, was initially skeptical. It sounds a bit too easy to be effective. They offer several case studies to promote its efficiency, but each of us will probably have to try it firsthand before we are believers. It definitely sounds like it is worth trying-out. Fairly easy to install, why not see how it can help your energy efficiency this season? Request free estimates from a skilled painting contractor in your area to see what this product can bring to your home. More information at: CalFinder Remodeling

The Cleaner Home

Make your home environmentally green

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The old days of harsh bleach and chemicals used to clean around the house are slowly fading out. Along with this trend is a desire of many consumers to adopt more environmentally friendly products for their home. This can be anything from the new countertops and floors to the groceries bought at the local supermarket. In addition to what you bring in (and take out) of your home, the maintenance of your home can is a way to become more green. According to the energysavers.gov website, "Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool, light, and live" in their homes. Everyone may not try every option or may find their budget does not allow for all of the products available. However, a few home improvements and informed purchases can not only save you money in the long run, but these changes can also provide a healthier home for your family and the planet. Initially, all the options to create a greener home can be overwhelming. But some tasks are good home maintenance and a few only need to be done once. The headings below is just one way to break down some of the improvements and updates you may make to your home which will effect its impact and performance. Did we say performance? You bet! Making sure your home is running efficiently and smoothly is the number one way to helping the environment! How efficient is your home? Making your home work efficiently to keep you warm, cool and provide you with creature comforts is the perfect way to help other creatures of the world. Taking time to keep your home updated will help reduce the amount of energy you need and ultimately be easier on your wallet as well. Lighting: You can cut electricity costs by taking advantage of natural lighting and choosing carefully the lighting you purchase. Natural light is a great way to improve your home's efficiency. Skylights and easy to open window treatments can help you better regulate where you get your light during the day. Windows facing north and south can offer a great source of natural light and heat. West and east windows will offer light but may produce too much glare as the sun rises and sets. Choose your artificial lights carefully. Selecting a few accent lights and then a concentrated task light for an activity such as reading is a better alternative to lighting up every square inch of the room with florescent bulbs! Using environmentally efficient light bulbs can help reduce energy costs. However, research the bulbs you buy. Some may not work as well for task lighting. Others may not work with your older lamps and you may be better buying a new lighting fixture at the same time. Keep your artificial lights working at their best. Even the simple task of keeping your lamp shades free of dust can improve the light quality in your home. Windows: The windows of your home can be a great ally. Getting the right type of window treatments can help regulate your home temperatures. Drapes: Drawn closed in the winter, these window treatments can help prevent heat from escaping by as much as 10%! Drapes can also help decrease heat coming into the home if closed against direct sunlight in the summer. Blinds or Shades: These can help reduce the amount of heat coming through the window because of direct sunlight. Dual shades can be very useful. Use the light side to help reflect and keep out the warming sun in the summer and the dark side can be used in the winter to draw in more heat. Shutters: Both exterior and interior shutters can be used to keep heat out in the summer. They do not work as well at keeping heat in during the winter. Another perk of having exterior shutters is that they can provide extra security for your home as well. Window Panel: Similar to a shutter, a window panel is a product that pops into the window frame and provides extra insulation in the winter. An inexpensive addition, this may be ideal for windows not used for their light in the winter. Screens: Although these don't really keep any heat in place, using screens on your windows allows for better cooling and airing of your home in the summer. Screens allow you to keep windows and doors open encouraging a natural movement of the air. Using open windows well in the morning and evening can drastically reduce your air conditioning bill. Thankfully this can be done without letting in all the bugs and critters! Awnings: Window awnings can help keep the house cooler in the summer by reducing the amount of heat that is adsorbed. Air Leaks: Get rid of air leaks! Insulation works to improve both the heating and cooling of your home. Check around your doors and windows first. Many leaks escape through these portals the most. Replace weather stripping and caulk where needed. Besides the doors and windows, also check for air leaks around vents, fans, phone and cable lines, and electrical lines. Depending on the materials used in your home, you may also need to check any brick, stucco or cement construction for needed repairs. Not sure if you have a leak? One option is to use an incense stick. The smoke will show any movement caused by air leaks. Another method is to have someone stand on the other side of the possible leak source while you shine a flashlight at the edges. If they can see the light on the other side then some updates should be made. Insulation: Updating or adding insulation to your home, especially an older one, can help reduce costs associated with heating and cooling your home. The attic, crawl space, basement, exterior walls and space around service ducts are the areas that will need the most attention or improvement. Reduce Water Usage: There are many ways to reduce your water consumption around the home. The hot water heater can be an energy hog. Try insulating it if it does not already have at least R-24 insulation. You can also lower the temperature of the water from 140°F to 120°F to save on cost. Make certain to fix any leaky pipes or faucets. Over time these will not only consume water but will also cause damage to the surrounding area. To get better use of water for your money, consider installing low-flow water faucets and showerheads. You may also consider a water (and energy) efficient clothes washer. What do you bring into your home? Whether building a new home or shopping for the weekly groceries, the products you choose to bring home have a great impact on the environment. Taking some time to consider your choices before you buy is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Renewable Construction: If building or remodeling a home, consider renewable sources for some of your construction needs. You do not have to use all or any of them, however, if you take the time to research some of these options, you may be surprised and find a good fit. Hardwood floors are great in that they keep allergies as bay and are easier on the environment then synthetic carpet manufacture. However, a renewable wood is key here. Renewable floors such as bamboo or cork are much easier to replenish. Another option that has gained in popularity is reclaimed wood. This product is taken from demolition sites - everything from an old house to an old gymnasium floor. Research the product's history as some sealants and paints used on the wood may be toxic. There are more renewable sources available. From recycled glass used as tile to recycled jeans used as insulation. Take a look at our links to the right for more information about these items and possible vendors in your area. Buy Local: There has been a lot of encouragement for consumers to buy local recently. Buying locally should help cut down on shipping and packaging costs. Doing so can also help local farmers and businesses. Not always the cheaper option, trying to purposely buy some items locally can help the economy and ultimately the environment. In fact, some believe buying groceries from local sources provides fresher produce that ultimately could be better for your health. Quality of Product: Being a savvy consumer who expects the best quality in their products is helpful to the environment as well as your pocketbook. Move away from cheaply made items; instead research your purchases and get ones that will perform well for a long time to come. Check Labels: On anything you buy, take time to check the labels and be aware of any impact it may have on your environment - including at home. Consider carefully your choice in chemicals used for cleaning. When working on home improvement projects consider the options you have for glues, paints and other possible hazardous materials. THERMOSTAT: Lower your thermostat by a few degrees. Get a controller where you can specify different temperatures for day and night. LIGHTS: Turn off incandescent lights when not in use. Turn off florescent lights if you will be gone for more than 15 minutes. Optimize your use of natural light with work or reading places near northern or southern windows away from eastern and western sun glare. ELECTRONICS: Turn off power strips if nothing on the strip is in use. Unplug unused electronics. COMPUTERS: Turn off your computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 20 minutes. Turn off both your computer and computer monitor if you will be gone for more than 2 hours. Use the sleep mode if your computer has one. ENERGY: Consider purchasing green energy from your power company such as solar power, wind power, biomass power, geothermal energy or hydropower. If your power company does not have one of these options available, you may still be able to invest in future programs. LAUNDRY: Wash your clothes in cold water when possible. Clothesline dry your laundry on sunny days. Shop for detergents that list which toxic chemicals are not in the product. A generic statement such as "non-toxic" may be gimmick so read the label carefully. GROCERIES: Shop locally. Use a cloth reusable bag for groceries. COOKING: Use cookware that cooks at lower temperatures such as cast iron or clay. Save your baking for cooler hours. DISHES: Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Run the dishwasher at night. GARDEN GREEN: Check out our article on environmentally green gardening. Or see our article about pet safe gardening.

Don't break the bank!

Recession survival tips for the household budget

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Now is the time of New Year's resolutions and an artificial restart for many of us.  This is a time taken to reflect on what goals we may want to achieve in the year ahead.  In many cases, financial security will be a primary objective for individual households as the recession continues through 2010.  Many people are grateful for the beginning of a gradual stabilization and cautiously hopeful for the recovery of the economy.  Although the majority of us do not have direct influence on the big companies and banks, we do control how we run our individual households, and many of us will be tightening our spending budgets and looking for ways to save.  Below we have provided some online resources for everything from keeping a balanced budget to finding ways to shop a bit smarter.

Know your budget: Before you can adjust your household budget to save, pay off debt or get ahead in your payments, you have to have a realistic look at what you owe and what you earn.

  • Bankrate: This site offers numerous online calculators from home budgets to which saving options will give the best returns. You can also begin to look at whether a home equity line of credit would be a good way to get rid of your debts or if now would be a good time to refinance under a lower mortgage rate. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/rate/calc_home.asp
  • BBB Develop a Working Budget: A printable worksheet that comes with other details to consider when calculating and understanding your budget. http://www.bbb.org/alerts/article.asp?id=709
  • Kiplinger.com Budget: An online budget form that will help you get started figuring out where you stand for the current month. http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/budget/
  • Microsoft Budget Templates: If you already use Microsoft Office, consider downloading one of their free budget templates. One of these Excel worksheets can help you keep track of your monthly expenses and be altered to fit your specific needs. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT101172321033.aspx

Revisit your grocery list: Reconsider how you buy groceries and what you buy.

  • Always shop with a list - Some suggest a list for any shopping trip you take. Always have a clear idea of what you need. This will help you find the best deals and not get distracted by impulse buys.
  • Buy generic brands - When you compare ingredient labels you may be surprised how similar or exact the name brands are with the generic. Try a couple taste tests, not everything generic will be ideal for your pallet, but some may surprise you, and savings could sweeten their flavor all the more!
  • Buy in bulk - Many stores now offer you the option to save by buying in bulk. Never use enough of it in time? Consider teaming up with family or neighbors and splitting your purchases. Maybe you don't need 10lbs of chicken, but 5lbs at $2 less per pound is savings to the bank.
  • Pack more snacks - When shopping, look for items you can easily put in the car, at the office or anywhere you might get the munchies. This way you can curb you hunger before you decide to hit the fast food on the way home.
  • Home Ec 101: Bake and Cook - Take on the personal challenge to become a better chef. Don't have the time? The internet is full of quick and easy casseroles, muffins, and other recipes that can help you get through your day. You will save money in the 15 minutes it takes to make these meals and you may find them more satisfying than microwave dinners.
  • Home brewed coffee - If you are addicted to your caffeine, then it is time to invest in a coffee pot with a clock and timer. You can still grab the coffee on the way out the door without being slowed down. Need it at work? Consider a French press where you can brew coffee conveniently at your desk without any machines, filters or mess.
  • Find your green thumb - If you have the property consider making a garden with your favorite greens. Fresh tasting rewards combined with natural stress relief. Don't have the property? Consider a container garden (or even an indoor container like the Aero Garden) for some of your basics. Maybe get to know you neighbors and join in a community plot.

Coupons, discounts and closeouts: Many sites online now offer ways to compare the best deals by product or store. Whether looking for new electronics or ready to head to the grocery store, check out these sites before you buy. Also take time to review the forums with customer input and reviews. A bit rough around the edges, the customer reviews on these sites are often short and to the point.

  • The Bargainist: This site lists both sales and coupons. Easy to use search - just type in the product you are looking for and it will check for any deals currently available. http://www.bargainist.com/
  • Cool Savings.com: A membership is required. If you don't mind printing your own coupons, this site is ideal for the busy shopper who knows what they want but does not want to sift through mailers, the newspaper and magazines to find a good deal. http://www.coolsavings.com/
  • Coupon Mom: A list of coupons, free offers and much more. A great way to search out grocery coupons. There is a membership but as with similar sites, this is free. http://www.couponmom.com/
  • Deal Catcher: Coupons, sales and rebates galore. Review sales by stores as well as by item rather than brand. http://www.dealcatcher.com/
  • Fat Wallet: The savings here can be found in the online forums. Savvy consumers share information and special deals. There is also the plethora of coupons and discounts listed by store or category. http://www.fatwallet.com/
  • RetailMeNot: A twist to the coupon frenzy, this site offers the coupons for online retailers. Many online retailers or stores with online shopping offer discounts or special deals with certain coupon codes or key words. RetailMeNot searches for these codes for you so you can use them on your next purchase. http://www.retailmenot.com/
  • SlickDeals.net: Mostly user driven, this site helps to create a community where bargain hunters can congregate and share what they have found. The latest deals page can be fun to review but you can also search for products by name. http://slickdeals.net/  

Be an educated consumer: Be more particular about the products you buy. Taking time to read reviews and learn the pros and cons others have experienced before you buy will help you choose better products that will last longer.

  • Buzzillions.com: After compiling reviews from customers that are sent to major retailers in response to the products they sell, Buzzillions then puts all those reviews together into an easy to read snapshot with an overall rating. You can then read the individual reviews from other consumers like you. http://www.buzzillions.com/
  • Epinions: This site is user driven with opinions on everything from products to entertainment. Perhaps you want to know more about a book, video game, movie or iPod? Most likely someone has given their two cents about it here. http://www0.epinions.com/
  • PriceGrabber.com: This site helps the consumer compare prices between online retailers. Many popular products also come with reviews and ratings. The price comparison also includes some of the used markets such as Amazon Marketplace. http://www.pricegrabber.com/

Rack up rewards: There are many programs out there to reward shoppers. Take the time research them and find one that works for your shopping style. If you shop online there are shopping portals that offer rewards. If you shop a little bit everywhere, consider a credit card with flexible reward points. If you shop at one store the most, get a rewards card with them. *A thing to remember with reward credit cards is that they usually come with a higher APR. It is better if you can charge and then pay immediately and not rollover this debt. That way you can get the rewards without the extra interest.

  • CreditCards.com: If you use credit wisely, then you might consider a credit card rewards program. This site offers an easy glance through some of the programs available. Also consider looking at individual card company sites. http://www.creditcards.com/reward.php
  • Ebates: An online shopping portal that received favorable reviews from some bigwigs like Good Housekeeping and CNN. Not only do you get a discount when shopping, but you can get bonuses as well. http://www.ebates.com/

Buy and barter used: Flea markets and garage sales can be great if you have the time and the weather to get one going. Maybe you don't have either? Then how about trying the same bartering and selling online? Besides the already popular eBay, you may be surprised at how many sites there are that will allow you to exchange, sell and buy cheap!

  • BarterBee.com: A site specifically geared towards recycling CDs, DVDs and computer or consol games between households. Once you sign up for a membership you list your used items for sale. Sell items to get points. You can then use those points to buy other CDs, DVDs or games that you want to try out. Of course you wouldn't use this site to make cash - points are used for like items. http://www.barterbee.com/
  • Craigslist: An online mismatch of services, used goods and announcements by city location. Here you may be able to find used items cheap. It can be the ordinary like used furniture to the not so common. For example, I once found someone who had new pavers left over from a patio project that they are willing to sell at a discount just to get them off their lawn. You may also be able to find cheap services such as yard work. However, users beware, there are no regulations on this site and you should take precautions when working with anyone on this list. This site definitely has a mixed history of great successes and terrible wrongs. Be careful. http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites
  • eBAY: One of the most popular and well known online auction stops, eBay has been around since 1995. Users have the ability to rank other users for the ease of trade transactions. Probably the biggest garage sale on the internet. http://www.ebay.com/
  • SwapThing: This site allows for consumers to trade and barter items or services. There is also the option to do flat out sales. Unlike an auction site, you can barter privately and do not have to list items for auction. You enter what you want and it will match you with others who have it available. http://www.swapthing.com/home/index.jsp

Get it FREE: There are some sites that will help you sift through the spam to get free items. Be warned that some of the free items still come with many "free" emails.

  • Coupon Mom: Already mentioned above, this site also lists ways to get free samples of many products. http://www.couponmom.com/
  • Free Shipping.org: This site lists all the free shipping deals and codes. If a site offers a free shipping offer, they have it listed. If you need a code to get free shipping, they have most of those too. http://www.freeshipping.org/
  • Hey, It's Free: This blog website run by Goob works to find out the real freebies on the internet. Goob goes out there and finds out if a site is just spamming or if there really is something for free at the end of all the forms. That wisdom is then passed on to the readers of this sarcastic but informative blog. http://www.heyitsfree.net/

Compare Insurance Carriers: It is true, if you have been accident/incident free for a while you may be able to save by switching to another insurance carrier. Every company may offer something different in incentives, but take a look and see if a switch can't save you some money this year.

  • InsWeb: Recognized by sites like Kiplinger and Forbes, this online insurance comparison site will help you by getting quotes from agents after you supply your information. http://www.insweb.com/
  • NetQuote: An insurance comparison website. You fill in the information and the agents work out your rate with their company. http://www.netquote.com/

Be your own travel agent: Consider your vacation plans carefully in advance. When shopping for tickets, shop around to more than one vendor. It is not unusual for some airlines to give better deals then the online travel agencies. If you are a spur of the moment type of traveler, you might consider researching a couple major cities before tempted by last minute weekend travel deals. Like consumer reports, travel blogs are a great way to get more information before you go. Did you know you could see an opera in Vienna for $5? Well, now you do…

  • Budget Travel: In print and online magazine from Frommer's Travel, the site also offers free articles on featured destinations, trip ideas and advice from other travelers. http://www.budgettravel.com/
  • Kayak.com: This travel search engine is different in that it does not sell you the deals, it just works to find them for you. This is one of the easiest ways to search online travel agencies (i.e. Expedia) and the travel companies (i.e. airlines). http://www.kayak.com/
  • Lonely Planet: Supplementary to the printed books, this website offers information about popular travel destinations as well as tips from other like-minded travelers. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
  • USA.gov: Want to stay close to home but still get away? Check out the official state travel sites for the 50 United States and U.S. territories. http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel_Tourism/State_Tourism.shtml

Home Improvement TV Shows

When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television.

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When it comes to home improvement projects, visual examples can teach volumes. Thus enters home improvement television. These TV shows have been around for over two decades and recently there has been an increase in the number of these shows available. However, viewers be savvy, some of the new shows are more interested in entertainment than thorough craftsmanship. Loosely grouped, there are two styles of home improvement television: Classic - shows based on a model that details and examines craftsmanship and the tools craftsmen use; and Entertaining - shows that focus on the entertaining their audience with quick flashy project run-throughs that end in "before and after" snapshots. What follows is a quick review and guide to some popular home improvement television shows and their web sites. ________________________________ Contents: Introduction Part I: Professional Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television - Web Site Summaries & Links Conclusion & More Programs ________________________________ Part I: Classic Home Improvement Television The Classic home improvement television shows are based on a more traditional model of a television show that concentrates on craftsmanship and itemizes the details for many of the toughest home improvement projects. Viewers gain confidence that they can build the home they want or remodel that old home with personality. These educational programs are some of the longest running home improvement television shows; perhaps the classic model speaks for their longevity. The formula for these shows usually includes: knowledgeable host or hosts, experienced and professional crews, the best or the latest tools and/or materials and finally, a large project that spans over many episodes. This Old House is probably one of the most famous and longest running of the home improvement shows (this year is the show's 25th anniversary!). This program covers two major projects every year. During the larger projects, smaller projects are shown in detail and the latest tools and materials are examined. This Old House encourages homeowners to be creative and see the potential in their property. However, this program still utilizes the use of professional crews. This should not be lost on the viewer; if you are tackling a whole home makeover, it is best not to do it alone. Even the hosts of this show bring in outside experts to show them particular stages of the project. This Old House does demystify the renovation process and provides the homeowner with an inside look to what contractors, electricians, plumbers, and other building professionals do for various home improvement projects. This program gives the homeowner the confidence to hire and work with professional craftsmen on their dream home. Whereas This Old House examines home improvement on the larger scale, its recent counterpart, Ask This Old House, has the smaller do-it-yourself projects in mind. Most of the same crew from This Old House run this show as well: general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook. Here they showcase their individual strengths and use the host of both shows, Kevin O'Connor, as their Guinea Pig and/or punch line. The jokes can be rather quirky and there a few groaners mixed in; however, the information that comes from this show is professional, thorough and easy to follow. The main scheme of the show is to answer questions that come from their viewers. They may answer questions in their studio or as a house call. The house call really illustrates how one may become a do-it-yourselfer as these gentlemen always make the homeowners get their hands dirty. Many times the homeowner does most of the project or completes it themselves after the foundation and technique are covered. This show also takes time to showcase the latest tools and materials. The short segment of 'What Is It?' challenges all the hosts to identify odd tools that can be used in home repair/improvement (enter the quirky jokes). Overall, this classic program gives homeowners a real thorough run-through on some common home repairs and improvements. Another show that uses the classic method approach to home improvement is Hometime. This show again tackles larger projects and showcases individual aspects of those projects. Viewers are encouraged to try home improvement projects but educate themselves first. Projects are covered in detail with tools and materials discussed. The techniques for completing the project are covered in detail as well. This serves to give the viewer a good knowledge base. There are only two aspects for viewers to keep in mind about this program. First, many of these projects work with a professional crew; however, the crew is not showcased. Instead the hosts spotlight most of the projects themselves. Many tasks highlighted can be completed by individual homeowners. However, because the professional crews are not as highlighted, some viewers might be mislead about the amount of work they will have to complete on their own. Second, viewer questions and projects are not answered individually. Instead, viewers may send in videos of projects they have completed which may or may not have been inspired by the show. Neither of these aspects are detrimental to the knowledge provided by this program. Hometime has been around for 19 years, it obviously has a format that works for educating viewers about home improvement. Home Again, hosted by Bob Vila, is another classic program that examines craftsmanship in home improvement. Similar to This Old House, which Bob Vila hosted from 1979-1989, this program covers roughly two major projects per season. Parts of the projects are shown in greater detail to showcase craftsmanship and/or technique. The professional crews that complete the large projects are at the forefront and the various specialists are interviewed throughout the show to help explain why they do a tasks a certain way, use this particular material, etc. This show again strives to educate the homeowner and encourage them to think of the possibilities for their home. As quoted from Bob Vila's site, he encourages the homeowner by letting them know, "You CAN build what you want. You CAN revive an older house to suit your personality. You CAN give your family more space. You CAN express your individuality through color and style…as long as you have the knowledge to use what works!" Thus, this show provides both knowledge and encouragement to the homeowner looking for home improvement help. These are only a few examples of the Classic home improvement shows on television. These shows are aimed at educating the viewer in the use of tools, types of materials available and the nitty-gitty facts about how to get some complex tasks done. It would be difficult to cover all the shows here. At the end of this article is included a list of more home improvement television shows and their web sites, take time to check them out and you might find a new favorite! Classic Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/ This show has been around for 25 years. On the main site you may see current or classic projects where the crew has worked on renovating and building homes inside and out. This show is not about quick fixes and flashy facades. Instead this show details good craftsmanship and the latest materials on the market to renovate a home meant to last. The web site does have web cams of current projects in the making. To check one out click here. Ask This Old House www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tvprograms/asktoh A fun offshoot of This Old House is Ask This Old House. Although the humor is a bit quirky, there is great information for small home improvements and repairs. The show is great if you can catch it. Like all the other home improvement shows you can use the web site to get more detailed information about certain products or services highlighted in the show. However, if you want to look at the detailed how to information, you will have to subscribe to the magazine. Have a question of your own? You may send a question directly to them online. This question may be answered on the television show or in the magazine. Hometime www.hometime.com This site has project advice, information about the show and a variety of products to help you with all your project needs. Also find lists of vendors and their contact information for materials you see used on the show. The how-to tutorials on the web site are basic, however, they do offer more free information than many of the other home improvement shows. Check out the archives to find past episodes that relate to your own projects. Copies of programs can be bought and usually cover one individual tutorial or the whole series related to construction of one house project. This show is interested in the thorough education of its viewers and avoids quick fixes. However do not expect individual attention to your particular project; this show does illustrate how projects (i.e. tiling a bathroom) are done but does not tackle individual, viewer submitted homes/projects. There is a chance to submit video of your own projects as examples of creative improvements and modeling; to find out more click here. Home Again www.bobvila.com/BVTV/HomeAgain/ This web site provides a summary of each project. Also included are materials used and information to find vendors. A selection of video clips are available online to view segments of the show. These video clips are some of the most thorough and helpful out there on the web. It is a great way to catch bits of the show you missed. The entire project on video is available for purchase as well. Check around to the rest of Bob Vila's site, he showcases other programs he has done such as his Guide to Historic Homes of America on A&E and Restore America on HGTV. Also, his site gives great home improvement information all around and is worth the exploration. Part II: Entertaining Home Improvement Television Entertaining home improvement shows have followed the trend in reality television. They are fast paced and include someone who is real (for lack of better definition); a real homeowner who has asked for help. The projects vary in size from one room or area of the home to the entire house itself. These shows strive to be different from the other shows causing some pretty wild and exciting projects. However, attention to details are not the strong point; in fact some shows are in such a hurry to meet the show deadline that the craftsmanship for the project can suffer. However, these shows do offer splashes of ideas and push viewers to be creative, to keep thinking "outside the box." Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a great example of entertaining home improvement. In this show the entire home and landscaping is made over. Professional crews have one week to makeover a home for deserving families that really need drastic improvements to their home because of a major life event. The show provides small hints on topics such as how to improve space or what can kind of add-ons can be done on certain homes. Each member of the design team takes the viewer through their area of the home and explains why certain things were done to improve the home. Most of the show covers the design aspect rather then the nitty-gritty of how the space was remodeled, walls taken out, etc. This show entertains the viewers showing them what home improvement can accomplish but it does little to give an actual foundation in any home improvement projects they may encounter. Another extreme makeover style show is Monster House. This show truly aims to push home improvement to the extreme. These homes are changed by a team into stylized theme homes; not theme parks, but pretty close! Those who volunteer to be on the show want a drastic remodel to their boring home. Be careful what you ask for! They get a home based off an interest or passion of theirs. This may include a roman villa retreat, a jurassic find or maybe even treating their dog to the ultimate doghouse! This show doesn't show too much on how too. There are a lot of ideas and you do get to watch some of the challenges the crew faces working on the home and with each other. An added bonus is the teams that work on the house vary. The teams must work together and under the time limit in order to receive prizes of their own. Entertaining to say the least! Home "improvement" is up to the viewer to decide. One of the most popular home improvement shows (and considered one of the reasons there are so many of theses shows today) is Trading Spaces. This show isn't traditional home improvement that learns how to fix plumbing or update wiring in an old home. This show is all about the surface elements. In the show two neighbors agree to renovate one room in the others home. With a limit in budget and time it is a mad dash to make renovations and add stylish design. One guest designer directs the project room for each house. Under their guidance, decorative and improvement features are added to the space. Sometimes there is a larger home improvement project involved, such as new flooring or counter tops. However, there is little detailed guidance to these projects and the neighborly teams just "go for it" as there is more concern for deadlines and looks than craftsmanship built to last. There are good aspects to this show as it has encouraged viewers to try new things and view their living space potential rather than limitations. The entertainment value is definitely there as the before and after on these projects are highly entertaining and the reactions of the homeowners are priceless. Finally, another example of an entertaining home improvement show is While You Where Out. In this program a family member sends a loved one away while they secretly renovate a part of the house for them. Like Trading Spaces, this show is more about design than classic home improvement. However, here the designers really look to please the family rather than shock them. In this way the homeowners really do a get a home improvement to their living space. However, due to budget and time constraints, many projects are done on the surface. Additions to the room that require intensive remodeling can unfortunately be rushed and given rough surface treatment. An extra human element is added to this show when loved ones must answer questions correctly to gain extra features for the redesign. This entertaining show can give viewers ideas but some of the rushed means-to-an-end should be viewed with caution. Entertaining home improvement shows have found a niche on television. They are fast paced and a final project is revealed for viewers in an hour or less. These shows do not illustrate traditional home improvement projects. They often cut corners or do surface fixes that are more concerned with appearance than lasting craftsmanship. Viewers should be careful not to be tricked into the "simplicity" of home improvement projects. However, these programs do offer encouragement to homeowners looking at tackling home improvement projects. In fact, these shows really encourage viewers to consider splashing their personality on the property they own. Homeowners are told not be afraid to try something new and push the conventional ideas they may have of what a home should look like. Entertaining Home Improvement: Web Site Summaries & Links Same order as article. Descriptions from show web site. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/ Put together one very run-down house, a deserving family, several opinionated designers, seven days and what do you get? The answer is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show's successful first season garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Reality Program. As this ratings-rich reality series enters its second season, each self-contained episode features a race against time on a project that would ordinarily take at least four months to achieve, involving a team of designers, contractors and several hundred workers who have just seven days to totally rebuild an entire house — every single room, plus the exterior and landscaping. Monster House http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/monsterhouse/ So. Tired of that same old living room? Well, you could slap a little paint on the walls, maybe. Or jazz things up with a brand-new throw rug. You might even slipcover that chewed-up old couch. Or ... you could call in Steve Watson and theMonster House crew. Sure, you and your family will have to move into an RV for a week and look on as a bunch of strangers tear apart everything you know and thought you didn't love. But remember: They have talents galore, sensitivity to your interests and an unlimited budget. Trading Spaces http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/tradingspaces/ Ever sit in someone's home and wonder what would happen if you stripped, ripped and painted as you pleased? Find out during this one-of-a-kind decorating show when two sets of neighbors swap keys to transform a room in each other's home. They have two days, a set budget, and they're not allowed back into their own homes until the moment of truth. This is how-to with a neighborly twist. While You Where Out http://tlc.discovery.com/fansites/wywo/ ... a homeowner sneakily sends his or her partner, parent or roommate out of town for a couple of days as While You Were Out host Evan Farmer brings in a talented designer and two handy persons to work around the clock to create a new look for an indoor or outdoor space. Meanwhile, TLC surreptitiously videotapes the absent party during their getaway, gaining fodder for the pop-quiz portions of the show. Prizes are awarded based on the answers that could enhance the finished project — or not, depending on whether the at-home partner can correctly predict the answers of the partner who's "out." All of which leads to the big surprise at the end of each show, when the stunning transformation is revealed and the homeowner announces, "Look what happened While You Were Out!" Conclusion There are many home improvement television programs on the air these days. There are the classic style programs that concentrate on craftsmanship and the tools used for various home improvement projects. And there are the entertaining home improvement shows that showcase the human experience related to home projects. These entertainment programs show possibilities but relatively little know-how detail. Whichever style you prefer, there is plenty out there to choose from. If you still can't find enough there are now entire cable networks dedicated to the how-to market. These channels have plenty of home related programs to choose from. Before tackling the next home improvement project, sitting on the sofa watching TV might actually be a good place to start for education and inspiration! More Home Improvement Programs to Check Out (Descriptions provided by show web sites) American Home www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_hah05 American Home 2005 showcases innovations for the home that are so new they almost haven't happened yet. See the latest products and ideas, from materials to floor plans to appliances. Meet the builders, architects, designers and other experts who are setting the trends in the home industry. Before & After www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_baa Hosted by Pat Simpson, each episode profiles major home remodeling projects from start to finish. Past projects include turning a cramped 1950s concrete block home into a spacious New England summer home; adding a second story to a suburban ranch home from the '70s; and adding a wraparound deck to a '60s split-level. Before & After is all about turning eyesores into eye-openers. Do It Yourself Network TV www.diynet.com Again, for those of you that have cable, this station has a lot of different do-it-yourself projects and improvements for the house. Easily find all the shows that have aired pertaining to your project; you may even see when a particular project will air again. A lot of the show details from materials to individual steps are available online. For a complete list of shows go here: www.diynetwork.com/diy/pac_ctnt/text/0,2019,DIY_14161_16823,00.html DIY to the Rescue www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_dttr Got in over your head with a home improvement project? DIY to the Rescue can help finish the job! This special presentation from one of our sister networks, DIY Do It Yourself Network, brings in a team of experts to help real homeowners finish a problem project in around 48 hours. Fix It Up! www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_fix Do it yourself is the motto here, with a program that covers a wide range of self-help home projects. Topics range from tiling, refinishing projects and deck additions to landscaping and lawn care--and everything in between that today's do-it-yourself homeowner needs to know about. The early episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Amanda Rosseter, while newer episodes are hosted by Pat Simpson and Jodi Marks. Houselift http://home.discovery.com/fansites/houselift/houselift.html Houselift is a home remodeling show with a brand-new perspective — the homeowner's. Paul Hochman, the Today Show's gear expert, and his wife Tricia and their two children experience the fun, excitement, terror and tribulations every homeowner faces when they live through a major home construction project. Unvarnished, and with a healthy mix of humor and how-to, Houselift demystifies the home renovation process by putting Paul in the middle of the job. Each show features a key conflict and lots of learning for those considering a foray into this expensive, but ultimately rewarding, territory. Included in the mix are financial advisers, real estate agents, concrete experts and even a marriage counselor, who help Paul and Tricia through the process. Fun, engaging and educational, Houselift is a hit, literally in the making. In a Fix http://home.discovery.com/tuneins/inafix.html We know they mean well, those do-it-yourselfers. But what is that old saying about good intentions? The In A Fix team selects a home repair project that has gone terribly, shockingly wrong — gaping holes in ceilings and gutted kitchens. With a complicit spouse, In a Fix stages a dramatic "intervention" on the family handyman or woman in desperate need of help. During the hour, they not only fix the problem, they up the ante — a small fix becomes a major re-do. Michael Holigan's Your New Home www.michaelholigan.com Michael Holigan’s Your New House, seen on broadcast stations and cable by more than 2 million viewers every week. We promote tips and advice on how to build, buy and remodel the home through our TV show...serve as a source of expert advice and information for consumers on topics relating to: New home construction, The purchase and financing of new and existing homes, The purchase and financing of manufactured homes, Residential remodeling, Home improvement Renovate My Family http://www.fox.com/renovatemyfamily/ Hosted by best-selling author Jay McGraw, RENOVATE MY FAMILY is not just a home-improvement show - it's a life improvement program that visits families who have encountered some challenges along the way. Sell This House www.aetv.com/tv/shows/sell_this_house/ SELL THIS HOUSE™ gets inside the mind of the buyer and the heart of the seller with real life experiences and great advice on how to prepare your house for the market. Each week features homeowners desperate to sell and prospective buyers secretly videotaped as they express their observations upon first seeing the house. Enter a real estate and home decoration expert who recommends changes. In the end, the house is transformed (on a budget) and the buyers are brought back. Will the house sell? For how much? To whom? You'll learn the answers as participants experience the ups and downs of SELL THIS HOUSE™. Surprise by Design http://home.discovery.com/fansites/surprisebydesign/surprisebydesign.html As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. It also takes two — and a few willing friends and family members, if you want to get technical — when you've got a $2,500 budget and just one day to surprise someone with a redecorating or landscape project. That's where our dynamic design team of Rebecca Cole, Robert Verdi and Peter Gurski comes in. Toolbelt Diva http://media.home.discovery.com/fansites/toolbeltdiva/toolbeltdiva.html As the feisty host of Discovery Home Channel's new series Toolbelt Diva, Norma pairs up with female homeowners to tackle a variety of home-improvement projects. Toolbelt Diva proves that any woman can take on just about any home-improvement project, and it also has plenty of information and insight for the man of the house as well. Town Haul http://media.tlc.discovery.com/fansites/townhaul/townhaul.html In Town Haul, Gorder tackles the biggest challenge of her career. She's not just redesigning a living room, family room or bedroom, rather she's remodeling an entire town over the course of several weeks. In an eye-popping television event, she will oversee a team of skilled designers, carpenters and craftspeople as they work alongside townspeople to reimagine, repaint, repair and restore small towns across the United States. Weekend Warriors www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_war Weekend Warriors celebrates the do-it-yourself trend with a cinema-verite look at people planning, doing and completing weekend home-improvement projects. This series follows such do-it-yourselfers as apartment-dwellers, homeowners, couples, singles and families through the stages of a project to its successful (or even unsuccessful) completion. The focus is on the enthusiasm and the experience of the participants as they improve their home on their own.

Online Insurance

Is online insurance right for you?

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The Internet is a powerful tool for the savvy online consumer. You can review products, compare prices, research companies and purchase almost anything. Following this trend is the increase availability of insurance online. Insurance companies are providing coverage information, quotes and even contracts online. This includes automobile, homeowners, life, medical and even pet insurance. Insurance has traditionally been a high customer service field with direct human contact with your insurance agent. Because of the change in customer contact, the migration towards providing insurance online has not always been a smooth one. Instead companies are finding some tools work and others only cause frustration or confusion. Indeed, the availability of insurance online is still fluctuating and developing. Below we have compiled a few of the ways you can utilize online insurance options and determine if it is the right tool for you. Researching and obtaining insurance online is much easier today. Many websites now offer comparison tools that will provide quotes and coverage information (some of these sites are listed below). Keep in mind if you choose a carrier from these searches, you will then be contracting with that carrier for your insurance, not the original site. This will either be done by forwarding you to the carrier's website or the comparison site will forward your information to the insurance company and they will then contact you. Many insurers still prefer to have a representative call you and discuss your coverage over the phone. Although not the same as meeting with a personal insurance agent, it allows them to make certain you understand the coverage provided. Also, because buying insurance online is new, many companies believe that individualized customer care is still the best way to get your business and a follow up call still provides some of this customer service. The Pros There are many benefits for utilizing online insurance: Easy comparison shopping: Using insurance comparison websites you can compare coverage and prices on almost any type of insurance. You can also browse the individual insurance carrier websites once you have narrowed your search. Almost all companies now have libraries and tools for you to learn more about their services online. Your time is money: Shopping for insurance online can be done at any time of day. It is hard to get time away from your daily schedule to sit down and comparison shop with insurance brokers, or indeed, individual agents. Low pressure: Let's face it, many people find it easier to stand firm without the person-to-person contact. Users feel they can be more savvy and better informed when every option is at their fingertips rather then relying on an agent's account. Save money: Due to the time needed to comparison shop, the pressure to stay loyal with one company, and the uncertainty about other companies, some may lose money by staying blindly loyal to one insurance carrier. The online market allows for easy comparison shopping, less pressure, and research tools to learn more about other companies. By becoming well informed, you can either work out a better rate with your current provider or move to a new provider who offers better coverage for your dollar. Buying Auto Insurance? Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Click hereThe Cons Be aware of these complications when purchasing insurance online: Understanding coverage options: Without an agent to explain 'insurance speak' you may not know all the coverage you may need. This is especially the case for those getting insurance for the first time. However, if you have discussed options with an agent before and have a generally good idea of the type of coverage you will need, this may be something that is manageable with a little extra research. Is that quote really a deal: All quotes may not be equal. Take care to examine all the coverage included with quotes. The online quotes may help you narrow your search, but should not be taken at face value as not all companies offer the same 'comprehensive' coverage. Buying insurance coverage in your state: Not all states will allow you to purchase insurance online. Some allow you to get quotes but still require you to meet with an agent before signing any contracts. Also, because the internet clouds locality, you will need to make sure the insurance carrier is licensed in your state. Individual customer care: Do you really want to push 1, then 2, then 4 to talk to someone about your insurance coverage? Working with a local agent still offers the advantages of individualized customer service. This agent can offer coverage that speaks to your locality as it is more likely they live in your community. They will also have a better knowledge of the coverage their carrier provides and can help you understand all of your options. They may also be aware of more discounts available to you that you may not know to ask for online. In this way they can offer better individualized care. Whether you choose to shop for insurance online or not, you should look at your insurance carrier websites. Insurance carriers now offer detailed information about coverage online. In fact, once you have settled on a carrier you can often answer coverage questions, pay bills, get updates on claims and find useful tip sheets and information on how to better protect yourself and your property. A primary example of this is your health coverage. Most health insurance carriers still prefer you to sign up through your employer or an agent. However, once you have your coverage, they offer information about doctors, medical options, prescriptions, and claims. Considering health care is one of the most complex types of insurance used, their increasing online presence is an invaluable tool. To explore online insurance options more, please see the links below. More Information Online Insurance Comparison Sites Insurance.com http://www.insurance.com/ Quicken https://secure1.insweb.com/cgi-bin/gic.exe?id=UzB94xbaYQ-wpGWHlZbh8l8ZtxL&page=/gic/Quicken.htj InsWeb http://www.insweb.com/ Insure.com http://www.insure.com/ Insurance Company Rankings AM Best Company - Insurance Reports http://www.ambest.com/homepage.asp Consumer Reports (requires membership for ratings) http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/insurance/index.htm Standard & Poor's Ratings http://www2.standardandpoors.com/portal/site/sp/en/us/page.topic/ratings_fs_ins/2,1,5,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0.html?lid=us_fo_ratings_insurance US News & World Report - Top Health Insurance Companies http://health.usnews.com/sections/health/health-plans/index.html State Insurance Regulators http://www.consumeraction.gov/insurance.shtml Online Insurance articles. http://www.onlineinsurance.com/ When purchasing any product online you always want to make certain it is an authentic website representing a verifiable company with a good reputation. Here are some tips for a safe and rewarding online shopping experience: Be assertive in getting answers about an online company you have not worked with before. Learn as much as you can about them and ask tough questions. Check reviews online, in magazines, with your Secretary of State/Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, or by word of mouth. Call them up and talk to their customer service. If they don't list a contact number be careful. Review posted company information, policies and the privacy policy. If they do not provide this online, you can move on or call them up to ask why. Make sure any payments are made in a website with https or other secured system. Keep a printed copy of every online transaction. Consider using one credit card for your online purchases/payments. This way you know which to cancel in case of fraud. Also, make sure the card is not linked to any bank account. Some prefer getting a pay as you go credit card for any online transactions. These can be found at any grocery store and can be refilled as needed. Keep your computer updated with anti-virus software, browser updates and spyware programs. NEVER provide personal information from an email they supposedly sent to you. This is a common phishing scam. Everything in the email will look legit but lead to a false site collecting your information. Instead call the company with the number on your contract - not the number given to you in that email! Initiate contact yourself. Go to their website yourself from the address they gave you on your contract. To be on the safe side, never go to their website from an email. Don't give account information to anyone. Your online providers have this information and if anything will be emailing you a forgotten password - never vice versa! Change your account passwords often; every six months to once a year. Use strong passwords with numbers, symbols, changes in case and at least 6 characters.

Galvanized Pipes in Older Homes

My husband and I are buying an 80 year old home in Columbia, South Carolina, but we are not sure about the galvanized water pipes under the house, What is the life expectancy of these pipes?

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Galvanized pipes have a general life expectancy of 50 years, but this can be shortened considerably by the amount of minerals in the water supply. Columbia has naturally soft water, and galvanized pipes here tend to last longer. Other areas of the country such as Southern California have rather hard water, and as a consequence, galvanized pipes won’t last as long there. Two things happen to galvanized pipes as they age.

First, minerals tend to slowly build up on the inner walls of the pipe decreasing the inside diameter. In extreme cases, this can slow the water flow to a trickle.

The other common problem with galvanized pipes is corrosion at the joints. In the process of cutting the threads for the pipe fittings, the protective galvanizing is cut away exposing bare metal. Over time, these threaded joints will corrode and eventually break. In the case of your 80 year old house, if the pipes are original I would definitely consider replacing them. If you are not sure how old they are, I recommend that a qualified home inspector examine them and look for signs of corrosion at the fittings, and check for low water flow at all of the faucets.