Robots in the Home?

by seacoast_ashley 4. May 2015 16:31


How do you feel about the idea of having robots in your home? I’m not talking about the ones that a child left laying in the hallway, but rather an actual robot with an actual job to do? Many of us have tried and either loved or hated robots in the past.


My first venture into robots for the home was the Roomba robot that vacuums. http://www.irobot.com/For-the-Home/Vacuum-Cleaning/Roomba.aspx

I loved Roomba until my anxious dog decided that there was room for only one thing, namely her, under the dining room table. Sure, the Roomba didn’t do the job quite as well as I do with the stand up vac, but it did allow me to go for longer times between actual vacuuming. Now there are also a variety of floor cleaning robots that mop, this could be a total game changer in my house, and I look forward to trying one...as soon as the price drops a little on them.

http://www.irobot.com/For-the-Home/Floor-Mopping/Braava.aspx

roomba.png


For cat owners there is the Litter-Robot. Yes, a robot that scoops out the used cat litter and stores it in a baggie for you to dispose of. http://www.litter-robot.com/litter-robot.aspx?id=13 It is a little pricey, but if you really really hate scooping the litter box you might just find a way to buy one! If you go on vacation there is the automatic pet feeder.


Robots have invaded our outside space as well. There is the Robomow. This is a robotic lawn mower. You can read more about them here http://usa.robomow.com/explore-robomow/. Even the gutters are getting a helping hand from robots. The iRobot Looj is comes with a remote that allows the user to just point and shoot and the little Looj will do its job! My husband has now left to look for a Looj. http://www.irobot.com/for-the-home/outdoor-maintenance/looj.aspx


There are pool cleaning robots, alarm clock robots, smartphone robots, robotic animals for kids (or people who can’t deal with the litter box even if a robot is scooping it).

As a kid, I remember thinking that the cartoon The Jetsons was just one flying car away from becoming total reality. We aren't quite there yet, but I do see robots creeping more and more into our everyday existence.

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Soon Amazon’s Echo will begin showing up in homes. The release date on Amazon is July 8, 2015, and you must request an invitation to buy one. http://blog.coldwellbanker.com/will-echo-game-changer-homes/

Echo is a voice activated computer, much like Siri is to iPhone users. Echo is simply there to scour the Internet and find the answers to questions for its owners. Sorry kids, Echo isn’t going to do your homework - or will it? Will she roll through the kitchen with a plate of freshly baked cookies that she baked in a slot on her chest? No. Will she find the recipe for the cookies? Maybe. Will I still ask for an Echo for my birthday? Absolutely. I am almost 100% positive that Echo will decrease the amount of times that I am asked to spell something from my first grader. http://www.amazon.com/oc/echo/ref_=ods_dp_ae

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Smart homes (though not entirely robot reliant) are all the rage. The Nest thermostat is evidence of that. https://nest.com/thermostat/life-with-nest-thermostat/ I am seeing Nest in more and more homes and it was even suggested that I install one as a selling point when listing my house on the real estate market. Buyers are aware that a change is occurring. Here is a great list of 25 Smart Technologies that Matter Most to Home Buyers http://blog.coldwellbanker.com/selling-a-smart-home/


A few days after the completion of this blog post (I thought) Tesla made a huge announcement. Tesla unveiled a home battery system. Yes, a battery that powers your entire home! The battery is charged with the use of solar panels. This may be a huge game changer in the energy sector. The battery is called Powerwall and is reported that it will cost around $3000. Tesla is taking reservations for the system, which should be delivered sometime in the summer of 2015. You can read more about the Powerwall here http://www.teslamotors.com/powerwall


Are you an open and willing participant in the robot, smart homes, tech tech everywhere movement that is happening? Do you believe that a change is occurring at all, or are all of the adults just attempting to create another Jetson fantasy that is still decades away? Let us know what you think! And, if you have tried any of the products listed above please give me your take on them! You can communicate with us via Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/seacoastrealty


Via Twitter at

@InsideSeaCoast


If you are looking for a home that has smart features or if you are looking for a regular house with regular features you can find them all here!

http://www.seacoastrealty.com/

February 2014 Coast In & Win Open House Weekend

by seacoast_ashley 13. February 2014 03:38

Open House Weekend Real Estate Coast In & Win

Have you heard about our “Coast In & Win Open House Weekend”? Here’s how it works:

Enter To Win $500 Cash

Attend any of our open houses during our “Coast In & Win Open House Weekend” (every THIRD weekend of each month) to be entered to win a drawing each month.  One lucky winner will take home $500! This is open to ALL of our open houses, from Southport to Jacksonville and everywhere in between. 

money

Our open houses range from oceanfront homes in Carolina Beach and Oak Island, to sprawling ranches in Hampstead and Jacksonville. Here at Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, we’ve got a home for everyone!

Some of our previous "Coast In & Win Open House Weekend" winners include Cindy & Monte Wagner, Tommy & Marty Younts, Anthony Craig, Rick Pearce and Lisa Brown.

YOU could be next! Come find your dream home with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage!

(Oh, and don't forget to follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+ to stay updated in real time!)

Official Rules for Coast In & Win Promotion

1. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. Drawing will be held and the winner announced on the following Thursday after each Promotion (the “Promotion”) at the offices of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage – 1001 Military Cutoff Ste 101 Wilmington, NC 28405 – at or about 2:30 EST.

3. Drawing is open to all individuals who are residents of the U.S., are 18 years of age or older and who are registered in the Promotion. Employees and Agents of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage and their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotions agencies involved in the promotion and their immediate family members and persons residing in the same household are not eligible.

4. You must be registered in the Promotion no later than 5:00 P.M. on the date of the Promotion to be eligible. For the purpose of registration and winning, each individual date of the Promotion shall be deemed a separate event so that registration for a prior promotion will not automatically register for the current or future promotions.

5. Only one entry per family per promotional property per promotional date. Registrants must provide either a daytime telephone number or email address to qualify for the prize drawing. Sponsor assumes no responsibility for lost, late, misdirected or incorrect entries, for malfunction of electronic equipment, computer hardware or software, problems related to transfer of registration information or other technical problems. All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be returned.

6. Winner will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries actually received. The drawing will be conducted by Sponsor or its designee, under the supervision of Sponsor, the judge of the Promotion, whose decisions are final and binding in all respects. The winner will be announced at or about 2:30 p.m. EST. Winner will be notified by either telephone number or email address (or both) provided on form by winner. Initial notification will be deemed to have occurred at the time of any one or more of the following: a) 12 hours have passed after initial email transmission and Sponsor has received no delivery failure notifications from Winner’s email provider; b) time of voice message on any recording device used by Winner at phone number provided. Winner has seven (7) calendar days from initial notification attempt by Sponsor to accept prize. Acknowledgement of notification by Winner is deemed to have occurred when Winner notifies the Sponsor’s contest administrator at 910.799.3435

7. Winner will be required to appear in person at Sponsor’s corporate office (1001 Military Cutoff Ste 101 Wilmington, NC 28405) to accept prize and to sign an affidavit of eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release (except where prohibited) within ten (10) calendar days of prize notification but before receipt of prize or risk forfeiture of the prize. Winner agrees to be available for photography purposes at time of prize acceptance. Winner is responsible for all travel expenses incurred in appearing to accept prize. If winner is 18 or older, as required, but a minor in his or state of residence, winner’s parent or legal guardian must sign all required documents.

8. Prize: each Promotion event will award a prize of Five Hundred Dollars and no cents ($500.00). Odds of winning depend upon number of eligible entries received. Taxes, fees and all other expenses are the sole responsibility of the winner. Prize is not transferable. No prize substitution, except at Sponsor’s sole discretion. If prize become unavailable, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to award a prize of equal or greater value. Winner will be issued a 1099 tax form the value of the prize.

9. By accepting a prize, winner agrees: (i) to be bound by these Official Rules; (ii) that the decisions of the judges are final and binding; (iii) to use winner’s entry, name, likeness, photograph and any statements regarding the Promotion’s giveaways and prizes attributed to the winner for editorial, public relations, promotional and advertising purposes on behalf of Sponsor in all media worldwide, except if winner is a resident of Tennessee or otherwise prohibited by law and (iv) to release Sponsor, their parents, affiliates, subsidiaries, the service agencies and independent contractors of any of the above organizations and their respective directors, officers, employees and agents, including advertising and promotional agencies, from any and all liability, loss or damage arising out of their participation in the Promotion and with respect to the awarding, receipt, possession, use and/or misuse of any prize. Sponsor reserves the right to modify, suspend or terminate the Promotion, in its sole discretion, for any reason whatsoever including but not limited to, in the event it becomes infected by a computer virus or is otherwise technically impaired or in the event of any fraud by a participant or any other party. Subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. This Promotion is governed by the laws of the State of North Carolina, with venue in New Hanover County, North Carolina, and all claims must be resolved in the state and federal courts of Wilmington, North Carolina.

10. For winner’s name, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for receipt not later than 10 calendar days after the award of any individual Promotion to:

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage
1001 Military Cutoff Ste 101
Wilmington, NC 28405
Attn: David Benford

11. Sponsored by Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, 1001 Military Cutoff Ste 101 Wilmington, NC 28405

12. These Official Rules are available at www.SeaCoastRealty.com

Meghan Riley

Appliance Buying Guide: Washing Machines

by seacoast_ashley 7. November 2010 15:03

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Douglas Trattner

Published: August 28, 2009

Confidently purchase a new washing machine that makes sense for your particular budget and level of green-mindedness.

Thanks to tougher federal guidelines, clothes washers have never been more energy efficient. Simply replacing a more than 10-year-old washer with a new Energy Star-approved model will save about $135 per year off water and utility bills, says Energy Star. Similarly, buying an Energy Star-qualified model rather than a non-qualified model will save you an average of $50 a year on your utility bills. Over the life of your new washer, you'll save enough money to pay for the matching dryer.

But not all washers are created equal. To capitalize on those improved efficiency ratings, you'll have to bypass the least expensive machines, which lack Energy Star approval, in favor of higher efficiency top- and front-load models.

Cost range: $300-$1,000 and up

Likely additional costs:
Delivery, installation, haul away

Average life span:
12-14 years

Type: The modern clothes washer comes in three basic types: conventional top-loading, high-efficiency top-loading, and front-loaders, which are all categorized as highly efficient. Not surprisingly, each category is blessed with its own set of positive and negative attributes. Choosing one over another often comes down to your budget, convenience, and appetite for energy efficiency.

CONVENTIONAL TOP LOADERS
If you're looking for clean clothes at a budget price, conventional top-loading washers are impossible to beat. With models starting under $300, it's easy to see why these types remain the most popular. Price isn't the only thing these appliances have going for them. They get clothes reliably clean and do so in about half the time of high-efficiency top- and front-load models.

Energy efficiency: Because the bulk of a washing machine's energy consumption goes to fuel the home's hot water heater, any reduction in water usage is a good thing. Sadly, these top loaders are the thirstiest in the bunch, gulping down about 40 gallons a cycle, roughly double that of high-efficiency types. Yearly operating costs (energy and water) for these models are about $41 if you use an electric water heater; $22 with gas heaters, according to EnergyGuide labels.

If you plan on using the appliance for at least five years, it likely pays to upgrade to an Energy Star-approved washer. You'll save about $50 per year on utility bills compared with a new non-Energy Star model, according to Energy Star, or roughly $650 over the life of the machine.

Performance:
Because conventional top-loaders use a large central agitator to clean clothes, these machines generally have smaller capacities. And while they get clothes reliably clean, they are tougher on fabric, shortening the life of items more so than other machines.

Reliability:
These machines have more moving parts than the other configurations. What they lack is sophisticated electronics and controls. The upshot: You may experience more repairs, but those repairs are generally easier, cheaper, and quicker to remedy.

HIGH-EFFICIENCY TOP LOADERS
These washers combine the increased water and energy efficiency of a front-loader with the convenience of a top-loader. You can expect to pay considerably more for these types over conventional top-loaders, however, with most models in the $700 to $900 range.

Energy efficiency:
Because these machines don't fill with water like conventional top-loaders, they use about half the water and, thus, energy. Consumers can expect to see average yearly operating costs in the $20-$30 range for electric water heaters and about $17 for gas. The latter figure nearly approaches the efficiency of a front-loader. Also, thanks to super-fast spin cycles, clothes don't take as long to dry in the dryer.

Performance: Because they lack a large central agitator, these machines boast some of the roomiest capacities of all washers. That design also makes them gentler on clothing, eliminating much of the twisting and tugging that occurs in conventional washers. But depending on the make and model, that design can also decrease clothes-cleaning ability.

Reliability: Early adopters often suffer for the rest of us, and that may be true for some who invest in these machines. As the newest entry into the washer category, high-efficiency top loaders may experience more repair issues than more established machines. When they do, it's often owing to the high-tech electronics that control them.

FRONT LOADERS
Front-loading washers continue to enjoy increased market share thanks to an earned reputation for high performance, efficiency, and style. Their unique design allows them to be fully integrated into a laundry room, fitting snugly under countertops and into cabinetry. In return, you'll have to spend north of $750 for reliable brands.

Energy efficiency: There's no question these appliances use the least water and energy. Many boast annual operating costs as low as $14 with electric water heaters and $11 with gas, making them three times as cheap to run as non-Energy Star top-loaders. And like high efficiency top-loaders, these models employ high-speed spin cycles that significantly shorten dry times.

Performance:
Most front-load washers clean clothes better and do so more gently than any other type of machine. Their agitator-less configuration means bulky items are a snap to load. But it can't all be good, right? To eke out that efficiency, front-loaders require the longest wash cycles. It can take more than an hour to wash a load in one of these machines versus about half that in a conventional one. (Still, because they use less water and therefore less energy to heat the water, they're particularly efficient.)

Reliability: Like high-efficiency top loaders, front loaders almost always employ sophisticated electronics and push-button control panels. These can be difficult and costly to repair when they fail. The major difference, however, is that these machines have been around long enough to work out most of the kinks.

Additional features
All but the least expensive washers on the market offer multiple cycles that allow you to tailor the wash to the type of clothes and/or level of grime. For those sensitive to detergent and bleach, it may be worthwhile to upgrade to a model that offers an "extra rinse" feature. Found on many moderately priced machines, the process does a better job removing cleaning agents.

Some features, like steam cleaning, may or may not be worth the money. Although reviews show that the deep-cleaning booster does a great j
ob removing stains, the convenience can add hundreds to the price of a washer.

One of the biggest complaints regarding front-load washers is the bending required. For some homeowners, the inconvenience is enough to warrant the purchase of a pedestal that not only raises the machine, but also provides additional storage. These accessories can add $200 or more to the price.

Designer colors have finally reached the laundry room, transforming drab white units into vibrantly hued machines. But be forewarned that those arresting red, blue, and metallic silver finishes will add hundreds to the tab.

Expected maintenance/repairs: Frequently check washing machine hoses for leaks and cracks. They may need to be replaced every few years. Always make sure the washer is perfectly level, adjusting whenever it isn't. Owing to their particular design, front-loaders require more maintenance than other washer types. They all possess watertight door seals that can trap unwanted moisture and lead to unpleasant odors. Leaving the door open between loads and routine wipe-downs may be necessary. Washers with porcelain tubs rather than plastic or stainless steel can chip and corrode. Motors and drives can fail. Electronics and circuitry can go on the fritz.

Where and when to shop:
It's best to shop at a retail appliance store where the staff understands the product. A conscientious salesperson will guide you to a model that doesn't exceed your needs and thus saves money. Also opt for a store that offers delivery, installation, and haul away-you may be able to negotiate the transport and install into the cost of the appliance.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no "best time" to buy. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla.com to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mike Neimeier, a residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75%-90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-efficient front-load unit.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Appliance Buying Guide: Refrigerators

by seacoast_ashley 5. November 2010 13:49

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Douglas Trattner

Published: August 28, 2009

When you buy a new refrigerator, arm yourself with the facts, so you'll be sure to make the right decision for your budget and space needs.

All refrigerators keep food cold. The major differences lie in the configuration, dimensions, and features. What particular model works best for you often comes down to size, budget, style, and energy efficiency. In terms of efficiency, Energy Star-qualified refrigerators are required by the U.S. Department of Energy to use 20% less energy than other models. A qualified fridge can curb your energy bills by $165 over the lifetime of your fridge, says Energy Star, roughly $9-$12 a year.

Cost range: $450-$2,000 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, haul away, water line hookup for ice maker

Average life span: 14-17 years

Size: Because there are numerous refrigerator styles, each requiring specific footprints, door clearances, and height and width allowances, the place to start your search is in your kitchen. Take careful measurements of the space, including height, width, depth, and distance to nearby obstructions. "Pay special attention to upper-cabinet height," says Anita Wiechman, a Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler with Omaha's The Interior Design Firm (http://www.idfomaha.com/). "Many of today's fridges are taller than they used to be."

Type: Fridges come in three main configurations: side-by-side, top-mounted freezer, and bottom-mounted freezer, which includes the newer French door style-two opposing half doors.

TOP-MOUNTED FREEZER
The most economical fridges are the top-mounted freezer models. These largely basic machines offer the most storage capacity for the money, with models falling in the $500 to $700 range. If you're tall, especially, you may not appreciate bending over every time you need something from the more heavily trafficked fridge.

Energy efficiency: What these models lack in convenience they make up for in energy efficiency. Compared with side-by-side fridges, even those bearing the Energy Star (http://www.energystar.gov) seal, top-mounted fridges consume about 10%-25% less electricity thanks to their straightforward design. The difference can add up to about $14 per year.
Reliability: As an added bonus, fridges in this class require the fewest repairs. Their basic design, coupled with the fact that few if any are outfitted with troublesome water dispensers give them solid reliability ratings as a class. The most likely component to cause trouble is the automatic ice maker.

BOTTOM-MOUNT FREEZER
Bottom-mount freezers, including the popular French door style, are near the top of the fridge price pyramid. Both the single-door and French door configurations offer the convenience of a fully accessible upper fridge compartment above a roomy pull-out drawer freezer. Most bottom-mount freezers start at $1,000 and climb from there. French door models start at around $1,200 and climb even higher.

Energy Efficiency: Like top-mounts, bottom-freezer models are among the most energy efficient in the group. Typical Energy Star models consume 16% less energy than their side-by-side Energy Star counterparts, saving you more than $15 per year, estimating 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Although considered bottom-mounts, French door-style fridges behave more like side-by-sides when it comes to efficiency. Having two doors where there's normally one decreases overall efficiency, raising average annual operating costs by about $10.

Reliability: According to Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org), bottom-freezer types tend to experience more repair issues than top-freezer models, particularly in units with automatic icemakers.

SIDE-BY-SIDE
Because side-by-side fridges feature a pair of tall, slender doors, they require much less door-swing clearance, making them a good choice for tight spaces. These models also offer equally convenient access to portions of both the freezer and the fridge, making them a good compromise between top freezers and bottom freezers. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for most models.

Those narrow doors may save clearance space, but you'll have to sacrifice horizontal shelf space in return, especially in the freezer. The slender compartment means that wide items like pizza boxes and sheet pans likely won't fit.
Energy Efficiency: Side-by-side fridges consume more electricity than both top- and bottom-mount configurations (discounting French). Most Energy Star models cost approximately $60 per year to run compared with roughly $45 for those in the other categories.

Reliability: Because it's difficult to find a side-by-side fridge without a through-the-door water-and-ice dispenser, these models tend to suffer more repairs. These components have a less than stellar track record. Worse, the dispensers can increase the appliance's energy consumption by as much as 20%.

Features
As with most appliances, more features correlate to a higher price. You'll pay a little more for adjustable shelves, conveniently placed compartments, and fully extending bins and baskets. You'll also shell out more for sleek designs and stainless steel. In most cases, you won't have to pay extra for well-lit interiors, easy-access temperature controls, and reasonably quiet operation.

Top-of-the-line models with individually controlled crisper drawers, digital fingertip controls, and whisper-quiet operation will cost you well above $2,000.
Expected maintenance/repairs: The fan and condenser coils on the rear of the machine need to be vacuumed periodically. Door seals should be checked for tightness and replaced when loose, cracked, or torn. Water filters may need replacing. Icemakers are notorious for needing repair. The compressor can blow, requiring replacement.

Where and when to shop: It's best to shop where salespeople truly understand the product, such as an independently operated retail appliance store. Shoppers at big box stores may find themselves dealing with an employee from another department. Also, independent shops may have more latitude to offer free delivery, installation, and haul away.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no best time to buy them. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mi
ke Neimeier, a certified residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75% to 90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-efficient front-load unit.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Tags:

Energy | Tips

Appliance Buying Guide: Dishwashers

by seacoast_ashley 3. November 2010 13:37

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Douglas Trattner

Published: September 01, 2009

When you buy a dishwasher, hone in on the model that's right for you by considering your needs: size, fit, features, and performance.

"Almost every dishwasher on the market will wash dishes better, do so more quietly, and use a fraction of the water and energy than the one being replaced," says Don Cochran of Babin Building Solutions in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Because 80% of a dishwasher's energy consumption goes to heating the water, any reduction in the amount of water used saves money. Replace a pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model and you'll save $40 per year on your utility bills, says Energy Star.

Cost range: $250-$1,000 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, and haul away

Average life span: 10-13 years

Size and fit: Because there are so many dishwashers on the market, pare down choices according to specific criteria. Size and fit is a great place to start. Common dishwasher widths include 18" and 24", so measure your current appliance to see what size to shop for. Also, dishwasher heights can range from 32 to 34.5 inches, so make sure the new one doesn't exceed the height of the cabinet opening. Kitchen floors that have been updated with tile, laminate wood, and even vinyl can affect the fit of the new machine.

Most dishwashers are mounted to the underside of countertops, making those models a poor choice for solid surfaces like granite, quartz, and concrete. In those cases, choose an appliance that gets anchored to side cabinets.

Noise: New dishwashers are considerably less noisy than those made just five years ago, thanks to improved insulation. But for the quietest appliances on the market, expect to pay a premium of $500 and up. A far less expensive alternative is the delay wash setting, which can start the machine after your family has gone to bed. This feature is on all but the most inexpensive models.

Appearance: Will you be matching existing appliances or making a change to something new? It's easy enough to match "appliance white," a standard color, but few stainless steel finishes are identical, says Cochran. To do so may require sticking with a particular brand. You can expect to pay a premium of $150 for a stainless dishwasher.

You'll also pay about $150 more for a stainless tub, the interior liner of the machine. The upgrade is a purely cosmetic one, notes Cochran, as a plastic tub may discolor over time but it will rarely fail.

Completely hidden controls are another popular aesthetic upgrade. The control panels sit on a portion of the door that's invisible when closed. Expect to pay at least $600 for models with this design.

FEATURES AND PERFORMANCE

Energy efficiency: Energy Star-qualified models use 31% less energy and 33% less water than conventional machines. Energy Star-qualified dishwashers today are required to use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle or fewer, down from the 6 to 10 gallons per cycle in 2000. The good news is that most dishwashers on the market now bear the Energy Star stamp of approval, and you need not pay a premium to purchase one.

Racks: Although unnecessary, adjustable racks, tines, and silverware storage can be useful when washing oversize or unusually shaped items. Adjustable racks are on all but the most basic models, but for truly customizable interiors, you'll have to spring for pricier machines.

Cycles: Even the most basic dishwashers come with multiple wash cycles. Shorter cycles can save water and energy when washing average loads, while longer settings can be reserved for more heavily soiled ones. Beyond that, there seems to be no end to available cycle options. Sanitary wash cycles raise the heat, killing more than 99% of bacteria. Glass cycles can speedily clean a rack of dirty glasses. Some models even have a variable-speed motor that increases pressure for pots and pans and decreases it for delicate china. Consider your need; these additional features raise the price and are rarely used.

Sensors: Soil, or "turbidity," sensors are becoming more common on midrange dishwashers. They measure the clarity of the water and then shorten or lengthen all cycles accordingly. Models boasting this technology are available for as little as $350 to $400 (though the folks at Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org) say you'll need to go higher to get units that also offer better noise reduction and other features.)

Drying: Almost every dishwasher comes with a heated dry option, which speeds along the dish-drying process. If you're energy conscious, look for machines that allow you to disable (or simply not activate) that feature. Doing so can reduce the machine's electricity consumption by 15% to 50%, according to the California Energy Commission (http://www.energy.ca.gov/).

Expected maintenance: In some models, filters need to be cleaned periodically. A hose may leak and door hinges can loosen or fail, all of which require tightening or replacement. A broken door latch will cause the machine to stop working. The part may need to be replaced.
Where and when to shop: Babin Building Solution's Cochran says to only shop at a retail appliance store where the staff understands the product. A conscientious salesperson will guide you to a model that doesn't exceed your needs and thus saves money. Also opt for a store that offers delivery, installation, and haul away-you may be able to negotiate transport and install into the cost of the appliance.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no "best time" to buy them. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mike Neimeier, a residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75%-90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-efficient front-load unit.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyri
ght 2010. All rights reserved.

Tags:

Energy

Appliance Buying Guide: Ranges

by seacoast_ashley 1. November 2010 13:30

Article From HouseLogic.com


By: Douglas Trattner


Published: January 15, 2010


When deciding on a new range, here's what you'll need to know about features, style, price, and performance.

Most ranges do a fine job of boiling water, baking cookies, and roasting the holiday bird. The major distinguishing factor will be whether the one you buy does so using gas or electricity. In general, a gas range with electronic ignition (instead of a gas-fired pilot light) can cost up to 50% less to operate than an electric model, depending on the price of utilities in your area.

Because there's very little difference in energy consumption among ranges, these appliances aren't required to bear EnergyGuide labels, nor are they included in the Energy Star program. Other than by fuel type, homeowners typically select ranges based on budget, ease of cleaning, appearance, and performance.



Cost range: $350-$2,000 and up



Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, haul away, gas line hookup, or electrical outlet installation if none exists



Average life span: 11-15 years



Gas or electric: "When a customer comes in for a new range, the first question I always ask is 'Gas or electric?'" says Lenny Kaminski, sales manager at B & B Appliances, an 85-year-old retailer in Cleveland. Typically, it's the home rather than the homeowner that will make this decision. Buyers who have a natural gas line in the kitchen will inevitably purchase a gas-powered range, while those without choose electric.



The one major exception is when a kitchen is undergoing a major remodel, allowing a homeowner to switch to gas with relative ease (assuming the house has a main line). Electric ranges typically require a dedicated 220-volt outlet.



Size: The standard width of a residential range is 30 inches. Those boasting side-by-side ovens and high-end "commercial-style" models can extend to 36, 40, and even 48 inches wide. However, smaller 20- and 24-inch models are available for kitchens short on space. The oven compartment on a standard-size range is 5 cubic feet, large enough to cook a 30-pound turkey.



Ease of cleaning: All but the least expensive electric ranges now feature smooth, ceramic glass cooktop designs rather than traditional coil burners, making them easy to clean. The jump from entry-level coil-burner electric ranges to those with smooth tops is roughly $150. Sealed-burner designs are present on almost all gas ranges and are relatively easy to clean.



Self-cleaning ovens are standard, appearing in models starting as low as $350.



Convection: One of the first major upgrades a buyer often makes, says Kaminski, is choosing an electric or gas range with convection heat. With convection, an internal fan circulates the hot air throughout the oven compartment, improving heat distribution and generally reducing cook times. Many home and professional cooks swear by the technology. Customers can count on spending an additional $200 to get the feature.



Burner quantity and type: The standard quantity of burners on a typical range is four, but buyers need not stop there. Stepping up to a mid-range gas or electric stove often comes with an additional fifth burner. Depending on the make and model, that burner could be an ultra-low "melting" burner or a centrally placed oval burner that accommodates griddle pans.



Likewise, a "bridge" burner is a smaller element located between two larger ones that, when on, creates one large heating element ideal for griddles and roasting pans. Five-burner ranges generally start around $800.



Burner performance: "BTUs absolutely affect performance, with some of the higher-powered burners boiling a pot of water in half the time of standard one," says Kaminski. Both electric and gas burners have gotten more powerful over the years, offering increased performance at a relatively modest extra charge.



While 9,000 BTUs is standard, so-called "power" burners can climb up to 15,000 BTUs. Conversely, ultra-low "simmer" burners prevent stove-top scorching thanks to their scaled-back BTU output. Expect to pay around $200 extra for these well-equipped appliances.



Going pro: Avid home cooks--or those who follow current trends--often prefer the look and feel of a commercial-style range. Like the restaurant appliances they emulate, these residential versions boast ultra-high-powered burners, multiple large-capacity ovens, and convenient grill/griddle inserts.



Homeowners should expect to pay between $4,000 for a 30-inch unit up to $10,000 for a top-of-the-line 48-inch model. Likely additional expenses will include the installation of an equally high-powered exhaust hood and possibly some enhanced structural support.



Warming drawer or extra oven: Many contemporary ranges replace the conventional lower-level storage drawer with either a smaller second oven or a warming drawer. A variable-temperature warming drawer is ideal for keeping prepared food hot or warming chilly dinner plates. Expect models with this feature to start in the $1,000 range.



Second ovens, even the smaller ones that take the place of the storage drawer, can be very useful when cooking multiple items. Though shorter than the main compartment, the additional oven easily accommodates casseroles, cookie sheets, and platters. Configurations are available that position the smaller oven above or below the main compartment. Models start at $1,200.



Additional useful features: Temperature probes that monitor the progress of cooking items ensure the turkey will never again be overcooked and dry. Unfortunately, the technology doesn't appear on many models under $1,300. Battery-powered countertop probes, in contrast, sell for only $30. Smooth-glide oven racks, porcelain-coated racks and grates, and halogen lighting all make the cooking process less of a chore. The question is whether the additional hundred dollars each is worth it.



Expected maintenance/repairs: Oven bulbs will need to be changed periodically. Coil-style electric burners often fail, but they're easily replaced for around $30. Glow coils that ignite gas ovens can fail, requiring a $50 part plus labor. More costly is a cracked glass top on a smooth-top electric range, which can cost $250 to replace. Electric control panels, while reasonably reliable, can cost up to $250 plus labor to repair.



Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, DIYNetworks, and HGTV.com. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-effici
ent front-load unit.


Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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Appliance Buying Guide: Water Heaters

by seacoast_ashley 31. October 2010 06:00

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Joe Bousquin

Published: June 14, 2010

When it's time to replace your water heater, you'll find a wide array of high-efficiency models offering big energy savings.

Since hot water accounts for as much as 25% of your home's energy use, when your water heater dies, the replacement you choose will have a big impact on your monthly bills. New technologies make many of today's models far more energy efficient than that old tank you're getting rid of. Some of the greenest options are tankless units that heat water on demand, but even conventional water heaters--the classic metal cylinders that are by far the most popular in the U.S.--have gotten less expensive to operate.

Water heater basics
Most households need a 50-gallon tank, according to Jeff Haney, a product manager at manufacturer Rheem. That'll cost $900 to $2,000, installed, depending on which model you choose. Your plumber will put it where the old tank was, with the cold water supply pipe attached at the bottom of the tank and a hot water outlet pipe on top.

Inside the tank, a thermostat constantly assesses the water temperature and fires up a heating mechanism when it falls below the desired setting (120 degrees is standard). When you turn on a hot water tap, heated water flows from the tank and gets replaced by more cold water from the supply line below.

To do this work, water heaters use electricity, oil, or natural gas. Choosing a new water heater that uses the same fuel type as your old unit is the easiest way to keep replacement costs down, says contractor Andy Wargo of Marcellus, N.Y.

What to look for on the label
Within each fuel type, you'll find a range of models and price points. To compare, look for these key differences, marked right on the label:

First Hour Rating is a measure of how many gallons the unit can produce in one hour (which is more than its tank capacity since it starts making more hot water as soon as you draw some out). With the average shower using 20 gallons of water, a shave using a couple more, and washing breakfast dishes another 5 to 10, a busy family might need an FHR of 60 to 70 gallons to handle the morning rush. Your plumber can help you analyze your needs.

Energy Factor tells you how efficiently the unit operates. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit, and the less it will cost to run. In 2010, the highest EF units qualify for a 30% federal tax credit up to $1,500 for the purchase price and installation costs--as well as state credits and local utility rebates.

Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for local details.

Here's a breakdown of your basic water heater options from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy:

Water Heater Type Installed Cost Yearly Energy Cost Life (years) Total Cost (over 13 Years)
Conventional gas $850 $350 13 $5,394
High-efficiency gas $1,025 $323 13 $5,220
Conventional electric $750 $463 13 $6,769
High-efficiency electric $820 $439 13 $6,528
Conventional oil [there are no high-efficiency oil options at this time] $1,100 $230 8 $4,777


High-efficiency options
Three types of tank heaters are eligible for the federal tax credit: high-efficiency gas, gas condensing, and electric heat pumps. Ask for a Manufacturers Certification Statement from your retailer. If it doesn't provide one, the model doesn't qualify.

High-efficiency gas storage: These are just like standard gas water heaters, but with more efficient burners, better insulation, and other upgrades that make them about 7.5% more efficient, saving the average household about $30 a year. Costs for high-efficiency gas tank water heaters start around $850 (about $175 more than a conventional gas tank unit), plus around $200 for installation (the same as a conventional unit). As long as it has an EF rating of 0.82 or higher, it qualifies for a 30% tax credit in 2010.

Gas condensing: To achieve even higher efficiency, these systems vent the exhaust from the gas burner back through a closed system of coils inside the tank, allowing the water to absorb heat that would otherwise escape up the chimney, explains Potomac, Md., contractor Jay Irwin. That makes them about a third more efficient than conventional tanks, for savings of about $100 a year for a typical household. Energy Star models, which will hit the market in mid-2010, have an EF of at least 0.8 and qualify for the 30% tax credit in 2010.

Gas condensing units are expensive--around $1,600. And because they produce condensation as the exhaust cools, they need a special drain to discharge the runoff, pushing installation costs up to around $400.

Electric heat pumps: Heat-pump models work like air conditioners, by pulling heat out of the surrounding air. But rather than exhausting the heat outside like an air conditioner, they concentrate it and pump it into the water tank. As a result, they use 55% less energy than traditional electric water heaters and qualify for the tax credit in 2010 if they have a minimum EF rating of 2.0. Since these utilize ambient heat in the air, they produce the biggest year-round energy savings in hot climates.

You'll pay around $1,400, or three times what a conventional electric unit costs, but you could save $300 a year in energy costs, meaning it will pay for itself in about three years. Throw in the 30% federal tax credit, or $420, and you'll recoup your investment even faster.

Joe Bousquin's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Personal Finance and Men's Journal. His 80-year-old home in Sacramento, Calif., has a conventional gas-fired water heater--for now.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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Energy | Tips

Energy Efficient Fireplaces: Wood-Burning and Gas-Burnin

by seacoast_ashley 13. October 2010 10:33

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Rich Binsacca

Published: September 21, 2010

Energy-efficient fireplaces, both wood-burning and gas, let you enjoy the glow of a fire without letting your home heating energy go up in smoke.

A traditional wood-burning fireplace adds warmth and romantic ambience to a home's interior. But most are energy hogs, converting only 15% of wood's energy into useful heat. Fortunately, new energy-efficient fireplace designs are helping wood-burning fireplaces achieve efficiency ratings of 75% or more. Fireplace inserts and gas fireplaces are even more efficient.

Energy-efficient wood-burning fireplaces

If you're adding a wood-burning fireplace, avoid the standard design, which sends too much of your home's heated air up the chimney. Consider these energy-efficient wood-burning fireplaces:

Rumford fireplaces feature a shallow box design that reflects more heat into the room.

EPA-rated fireplaces have good performance and high energy-efficiency ratings. They are designed to pull in outdoor air for combustion, and circulate room air around the firebox to extract as much useable heat as possible. In addition, EPA-approved wood-burning fireplaces produce much less air pollution than standard fireplaces.

Fireplace inserts are sealed metal boxes designed to fit inside masonry fireplace openings. They use outside air for combustion, and are designed to circulate and warm inside air. Inserts burn a variety of biomass fuels, including wood and pellets. Some units are rated at 80% efficiency.

If you already own a standard wood-burning fireplace, make it more energy efficient by installing glass doors. Glass doors limit the amount of room air that is sucked into the fireplace during combustion.

Glass doors work particularly well when a fire is burning down for the night and you must leave the damper open. Otherwise, glass doors block radiant heat; keep them open when your fire is blazing. Expect to pay $300 to $500 for glass doors, installed.

In California, glass or solid metal doors are required on all fireplace openings.

Energy-efficient gas fireplaces
If you want the convenience and low maintenance of a energy-efficient gas fireplace, you have two good options:

•Direct-vent gas fireplaces, which use two-way vents that supply outside air for combustion, have energy-efficiency ratings as high as 77%. That's better than the top gas fireplaces connected to a chimney.

•Vent-free gas fireplaces are even more energy-efficient because they don't send exhaust outside. But they release a lot of moisture into inside indoor air.

Tax credits for fireplaces
Some types of fireplaces qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 until the end of 2010. After that, certain states may provide tax credits for various types of energy-efficiency improvements, including fireplaces.

Rich Binsacca is the author of 12 books on various home-related topics and is currently a contributing editor for Builder and EcoHome magazines. He has written articles for Remodeling, Home, and Architectural Record, among several others. He intermittently uses the wood-burning fireplace and the gas-fueled freestanding stove that came with his current home.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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Energy

Costs of Adding a Fireplace

by seacoast_ashley 11. October 2010 10:22

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Rich Binsacca

Published: September 22, 2010

Installing a wood-burning, gas-burning, gel-fuel, or electric fireplace to your house costs $400 to $10,000, depending on the type of fireplace you select.

Installing a fireplace with a brick-lined hearth and a custom mantel can easily cost $10,000 or more. It's also possible to get a similar look for thousands of dollars less. Just shop for a ready-made unit and watch what you spend on the fireplace surround.

If your budget is really tight, a free-standing gel-fuel or electric fireplace eliminates installation costs. But be aware that some bare-bones alternatives don't completely succeed in mimicking a real wood fire.

Check local building codes for possible restrictions on the types of fireplaces that can be installed in your area.

Costs of a wood-burning fireplace
An open-hearth, wood-burning fireplace-like the ones you see in mountain resort hotels-requires the help of a skilled, professional mason and a budget approaching (and often exceeding) $10,000.

For an existing home, considerable renovation work is required, including a foundation to carry the weight of the firebox and chimney, and the cost of the chimney itself.

Expect to pay $7,000 to $10,000 or more.

Cost saver tip: Go for a drywall surround and a simple, wall-mounted mantle.

Costs of a gas-burning fireplace
A fireplace unit that burns natural gas or propane runs about $2,000 for the basic materials package. Installation and finishing typically add $2,500.

Cost saver tip: Switch to a simpler surround and mantle, and get a direct-vent fireplace so you don't need a chimney. Or, opt for a vent-free gas fireplace for $400 or so. Hiring a professional to install a gas line or a connection to a propane tank adds about $1,000.

Your least-expensive option
A gel-fuel fireplace or an electric fireplace starts under $400. With a portable unit, that's the total cost since the fireplace is ready to use once you remove the packaging.

Because there's no flue or chimney, it's easy to install TVs or other electronic gear directly above an electric fireplace. If you include a mantel package, expect to pay $800 to $1,600. One perk available: sound effects that mimic the crackle and pop of a real fire.

Ongoing costs

Estimate your energy costs by using a fuel cost comparison calculator. Gel fuel, not included in the calculator, costs $3 per 13-ounce can, enough for three hours.

For a wood-burning fireplace, figure on $100 to $200 a year for chimney cleaning. Gas fireplaces need an annual service check ($100 to $150) plus a chimney inspection. Gel-fuel and electric fireplaces don't need regular maintenance.

Tax credits for fireplaces
Through Dec. 31, 2010, you may qualify for a federal tax credit for 30% of your costs, up to $1,500, if you install a wood-burning fireplace that's at least 75% fuel-efficient.

Rich Binsacca is the author of 12 books on various home-related topics and is currently a contributing editor for Builder and EcoHome magazines. He has written articles for Remodeling, Home, and Architectural Record, among several others. He intermittently uses the wood-burning fireplace and the gas-fueled freestanding stove that came with his current home.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Tags:

Energy | Real Estate | Tips

Adding a Fireplace: Return on Investment

by seacoast_ashley 9. October 2010 10:16

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Rich Binsacca

Published: September 22, 2010

Installing a fireplace is a popular project, but don't expect a significant return on your investment.

With costs ranging up to $10,000 for a traditional brick hearth and mantel, installing a fireplace is a serious investment. If you're wondering if you'll get a return on that investment, the answer is: probably not.

While intangible benefits such as comfort and ambience may make a fireplace addition worth the cost for you, consumer attitudes toward fireplaces are changing. Here are the facts:

Fireplaces no longer are preferred features
•In 2007, the National Association of REALTORS survey of homebuyers' preferences listed fireplaces as the most preferred home feature. Almost 46% of homebuyers said they would pay extra (a median of $1,220) for a house with at least one fireplace, the most popular "desired feature" in the survey. However, more recent surveys from the National Association of Homebuilders show that support is slipping, and REALTOR® Magazine recently put fireplaces No. 1 on the list of "Home Fads That Are Falling Out of Style." That means chances of receiving price support for your fireplace addition when you sell your home are diminishing.

•According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 53% of new homes built in 2008 included at least one fireplace. That's down from a peak of 66% in 1990, although the numbers may also reflect builders' attempts to save costs for development houses.

•A fireplace isn't calculated separately in a professional home appraisal, making it difficult to assign increased value from your investment.

Match your fireplace budget to your house

When you estimate how much a fireplace might add to the value of your house, consider your home's overall value. A $10,000 fireplace holds its value in a $1 million house because buyers expect this feature in an upscale home. But a $10,000 fireplace might not be such a crucial component of a $100,000 house, especially if features that potential buyers consider more important are lacking.

Get value from your fireplace investment

•Put a new fireplace in a room other than the kitchen--usually the family room or great room.

•Locate a fireplace in a smaller, easy-to-heat room such as an office, guest bedroom, or master bedroom.

•Equip your fireplace with energy-efficient glass doors and an exterior venting system that prevents heated air from being pulled out of rooms.

Rich Binsacca is the author of 12 books on various home-related topics and is currently a contributing editor for Builder and EcoHome magazines. He has written articles for Remodeling, Home, and Architectural Record, among several others. He intermittently uses the wood-burning fireplace and the gas-fueled freestanding stove that came with his current home.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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