Air Conditioning and Beating the Summer Heat

Everyone likes being comfortable, yet not all people have air conditioning. Those that do have air conditioning often neglect yearly maintenance, which can add up in repair costs or cause A/C fails.

According to AAA Heating and Cooling, out of the 113.6 million homes in the U.S. 86% (or 94 million homes) use some sort of air conditioning unit. Only 4% have air conditioning and don’t use it. Of the 94 million that have A/C, 71% of that equipment consists of central air units. Forty-one percent of those owners don’t perform routine maintenance on their cooling units. Thirty-six percent of owners that have A/C don’t use programmable thermostats to control their central air systems.

Approximately 3 million homes will experience an air conditioning fail before the summer ends. The cost of performing yearly maintenance will easily pay for itself in energy savings. Without regular maintenance, an air conditioner loses 5% of it’s efficiency for each year in operation.

The compressor units of air conditioners have a life span of 10-12 years. Improper installation can reduce efficiency by up to 30%. Recharging your systems refrigerant can improve efficiency by 20%.

Where your A/C unit sits also has an effect on the efficiency. Brush off any dirt or debris that builds up on it’s outer walls. Just don’t use a garden hose.

Curious to know more? See the infographic below.


The cost of renting in New York City

Everyone knows that the Big Apple is expensive. But according to the NYU Furman Center and Capital One, the percentage of New Yorkers paying excessive shares of their income on rent has increased since 2000. Since 2008, more than half of all renters have become “rent-burdened” meaning the renter is paying 30% or more of their total household income on rent.

Approximately two thirds of New York City’s three million households rent. More than one million households were rent burdened in 2012. Of those, nearly 600,000 were severely rent burdened.

The hard part is that rents are rising faster than income which means the problem isn’t going away. The median rent in NYC rose 11% from 2005 to 2012 while the median household income rose only 2%.  Of the boroughs in New York, four out of five rose. Manhattan outpaced them all, rising a hefty 19%. The Bronx rose 10%, Queens rose 8% and Brooklyn rose 12% while Staten Island decreased 3%.

The rent income gap affects a lot of people. In 2000, a rookie firefighter married to a substitute teacher with one child could have afforded more than 70% of available housing units. This same family saw their pool of affordable housing units shrink to less than half from 2007 to 2012. That’s a huge change in a short amount of time.

In 2012, 88% of extremely low-income households were rent burdened. This sector makes less than $22,420 per year. Eight-one percent of very low-income households were rent burdened. This sector makes between $22,420 to $37,350 per year. Sixteen percent of middle-income households were rent burdened. This sector makes between $89,650 and $149,400 per year.

There’s more. Read in the infographic below.


Design Tips for Outdoor Kitchens in Portland

A rather specific infographic from Landscape East & West today tells us about how to design an outdoor kitchen in the Portland and surrounding areas. The Pacific Northwest has a different climate than other areas and your outdoor living arrangements should reflect that.

Outdoor kitchens are the new “must have” for increasing home comfort and value. The fresh air is good for everyone, and the outdoor/indoor living trend will only rise.

In Portland, you can see an average of 40.5 inches of rain per year which calls for a patio cover. There are 118 days below 40 degrees, which also calls for outdoor heaters. While it doesn’t often get below freezing, you still want to be warm and dry in your outdoor living space.

Outdoor lighting and music systems are also a must in your new outdoor kitchen. Some background music while you cook is essential just as it is essential to hosting a party. Prep areas that are weather resistant are also crucial for your outdoor kitchen. Why prep inside, when you can do it outdoors? Build a grill island in to your weather resistant countertops for optimal look.

You should also think about your outdoor garden. Place some pots with herbs or vegetables close by for fresh fare!

There’s more! Read it in the infographic below.


American Families and a Multigenerational Household

More than 51 million Americans live in a multigenerational household. That’s about 1/6th of the population according to Mascord House Plans.

Since the Great Recession in 2007, the prevalence of mutiple generations living in the same household has increased by 10%. It was much more common before WWII for multigenerational households, but it declined until bottoming out in the 1980s.

In 1940, 25% of American households were multigenerational. This declined to 15% in 1960, 12% in 1980 and has slowly increased, hitting 15% in 2000 and 16% in 2010.

There’s a few causes of the shift. First cited is economic challenges. Two thirds of people provide economic reasons for living together. Second are the “Boomerang” children. There percentage of adults 25-34 living with their parents has increased significantly. Lastly is middle generations caring for their parents, which will only increase in the coming years. In 1970 26% of those older than 85 were living in nursing homes, but thats down to 13% now.

Read more in the infographic below.

American Families & Multigenerational Home Plans

Is there something hiding in your air ducts?

Forced air heating and cooling can become overcome with dust, mold or even rodents. This contaminates your air!

AAA Heating and Cooling has provided a great resource that details the reasons why you should have your forced air system cleaned out regularly.

A 1600 square foot home accumulates 40 lbs of dust per year! This can include pet dander and any other dust particles. Rodent feces (yech!) can be deadly to your health, particularly if they carry the hanta virus.

Cleaning your forced air system improves the HVAC efficiency. If .42 inches of buildup accumulate, it reduces HVAC efficiency by 21%! Not only is the air quality reduced, but it causes havoc on your electricity bill as well. In addition, 90% of all HVAC failures are caused by dust and dirt.

Half of all allergy problems are caused by polluted indoor air. This can include human skin cells, since we shed an average of 500 million skin cells every day. Dust mite feces, cockroach particles and arsenic and lead are common substances found in dust particles.

There’s a lot you can do to prevent your forced air heating and cooling system from failing or circulating polluted air. Read on in the infographic below.

Stop running from your home energy bill

Did you know that ten years ago, the average monthly home energy bill was $78.24? Now it’s up to $107.28! It’s crazy that it’s jumped $30 per month, that adds up to an extra $360 per year.

Though some is undoubtedly due to inflation, much of the increase is a result of an increased number of home appliances and electronics. According to ADT Security, energy bills have risen by 37% in the last three years.

The top five states with the highest energy bills are Texas, Hawaii, South Carolina, Alabama and Maryland. Homes that are built post 2000 consume 2% more energy than homes build prior to the Y2K.

Another interesting fact is that most homes have 50+ household items that use electricity or natural gas. It makes sense given that there are so many new gadgets and electronics, the US seems to love every new invention.

During colder months, you can save money by lowering your thermostat. Every degree drop in temperature saves 5% on your energy bill. If you left one light on all night, it racks up $21 throughout the year or $35 for a ceiling fan left on high.

ADT has created a way to manage this, it can be used to save money on your power bill. Check out the ADT Pulse.


DIY Home Improvement: Powering Up with BLDC Motors

The brushless motor has enabled the DIY crowd to successfully conquer many home improvement projects; this infographic from Sinotech looks at just what home improvement projects are the most popular in the US. According to the infographic, more than half of all home improvement projects cost at least $1,000. Further, new home buyers spent $19 billion on home improvement projects last year. Looking at what types of projects home improvement enthusiasts take on, bathroom remodels are by far the most popular, followed by kitchens, additions, floor coverings, painting and wall coverings. The infographic claims that of home improvement projects that are planned, gardening and landscaping projects are the most popular, followed by bathroom, kitchen, and family/living room improvements.  To learn the nuts and bolts of these projects, read the full infographic below.


As America’s energy use continues to grow; its innovation in home design grows as well. New home design advancements an significantly help reduce energy costs associated with homes. This is significant for two reasons: Homes account for about 20% of energy usage in the United States; and this technology helps put some green back in home owners’ pockets. This infographic from H Hudson Homes looks at modern home design vs older homes and the impact on energy usage.

In the average home, the biggest uses of energy in homes are: space heating (45%), water heating (18%), space cooling (9%), and computers and electronics (6%).

Further, this infographic claims that (as expected) older homes are less energy efficient. The infographic claims that 42% of waste and inefficiency is through the attic, 14% through windows and doors, 16% through heating and air, 8% through non-programmable thermostats, 4% through incandescent light bulbs, and 4% over improperly set appliances such as water heaters, refrigerators, and freezers.

To find out about all the ways that homes can be inefficient as well as advantages of modern home designs, check out the entire infographic below.


Everything we need to know about autumn

While we all know that autumn comes after summer and the leaves fall off trees and the temperature drops, how much do we really know about this well regarded season? Autumn is a fascinating time of year. The leaves are turning and animals are busying themselves with collecting enough food to keep them going over a long winter.

This infographic from Center Parcs looks at the details of autumn. Let’s start with the birds – many birds begin to migrate away to warmer climates as the summer comes to an end – Lots of migratory birds arrive in the UK from North America to settle in the warmer climates. As a result, many Geese start to arrive in England’s ponds and lakes in the beginning of Autumn. Other animals, such as squirrels have to start storing up provisions for the winter. For squirrels, this means building up large cache’s of nuts. Similarly, bees store up their honey all through summer so that they can hide away when autumn comes. Additionally, hedgehogs start their hibernation at the end of autumn. To get more fun facts on autumn and to learn how to make a bug hotel, read the infographic below!


What to Look For When Buying A Home

Buying a home, whether for your first to fifth time, can be overwhelming. There are so many facets to consider all while determining what’s most important for you and your family. Fortunately, Citizens Bank has released an asset to help you figure out what to look for when you buy a home.

First, you should identify what type of home you are looking for. There are many different styles common in the United States and you should look for one that matches your style and taste.

A ranch style home is great for young couples, single homeowners or residents with limited mobility. They are usually easy to care for and maintain and generally affordable. A colonial style home is great for large families. They are usually spacious and elegant, featuring a first floor living space with a family room, kitchen and dining. Bedrooms are usually on the second floor with multiple bathrooms. Victorian and Tudor style homes are also great for families. These multi-level homes are usually older and may need more maintenance. Contemporary homes feature open floor plans and are a mix of many different styles with a lot of light. Townhomes are usually economically priced as well as efficient. They can be two to three stories high with 16-24 feet wide. Craftsmen homes usually feature stucco, stone, or wood siding, beamed ceilings and a low roof and wide porch.

See more in the infographic below.