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Home Care

Practical tips to improve your home’s function and ambiance

If a kitchen or bathroom renovation is in your future, take a holistic approach that considers how the space will be used now and in the future.

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Homeowners tackling interior upgrades often focus their attention on two of the most-used rooms the in the house: the kitchen and bathroom. Tailoring these rooms to your personal preferences may enhance your enjoyment of the space, but most experts recommend thinking long term for the biggest return on your investment.

If a kitchen or bathroom renovation is in your future, take a holistic approach that considers how the space will be used now and in the future.

Kitchen Considerations

As the hub of activity for many households, the kitchen is a space that commands efficient, functional design. Aside from the practical issue of losing access to the space while it’s under construction, there’s another important challenge for homeowners to consider when tackling a kitchen remodel: for maximum return on your investment, avoid making choices that are too trendy or personal.

Design trends come and go, so while a contemporary update is almost always a good idea, many design experts recommend sticking with classic looks and styles that have broad appeal, especially for big ticket (and big price tag) elements like cabinetry. Save your flair for aspects like the backsplash tile or wall color, which can be relatively easily changed by a new owner or even yourself when you want a refresh down the road.

Another area to give special attention is the overall ambiance of the room, which is largely influenced by the light from natural and electric sources. For a room that needs brightening, skylights are a smart option because they free up wall space for more storage and cabinets while adding abundant natural light.

However, natural light from above isn’t the only advantage of adding skylights. Some models, such as a Velux solar-powered, fresh-air skylight, can be opened with a remote control to bring fresh air inside, which helps keep the kitchen fresh and rids indoor air of pollutants from daily activities like cooking and cleaning.

Skylights can be ordered with light-filtering or room-darkening blinds, which give homeowners maximum control over the exact amount of light they want. Plus, solar-powered blinds come in over 75 colors and patterns for customizable design options that allow you to truly make the space your own.

Be sure to ask whether the line you’re considering qualifies for a federal tax credit. Solar-powered skylights and blinds are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit on product and installation if purchased and installed by the end of 2020. The credit decreases to 22% in 2021.

A Better Bathroom

In the bathroom, modern upgrades are also a smart investment. However, many experts actually recommend thinking not just about what’s in vogue right now but considering needs far into the future.

Universal design is especially relevant in the bathroom, where simple adjustments can provide added accessibility as you age, and these updates can flow seamlessly into the design. This means considering a vanity with a raised counter height and a taller toilet base, which can add stylish enjoyment no matter your age. Other features like a zero-entry shower deliver high-demand design and safety simultaneously.

Outside of accessibility-oriented updates, upgrading your fixtures, fresh paint and contemporary tile can go a long way toward transforming a bathroom. If you find your space is still in need of a boost, a skylight may be the answer. Natural light can be that last touch to bring your space from just OK to perfect, and skylights in the bathroom allow homeowners to maximize their natural light without losing any privacy.

In a space like the bathroom, where ventilation is a top concern, a choice like Velux No Leak Solar-Powered “Fresh Air” Skylights provide natural light as well as fresh air ventilation to make the environment healthier. They help rid indoor air of bacteria, volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide.

Smart Climate Control

Fresh air ventilation is one way homeowners can promote better indoor air quality, especially in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms which are especially vulnerable to poor air circulation.

A smartphone-controlled skylight automation system such as Velux Active with Netatmo can help improve indoor climate from the convenience of your mobile device. It allows homeowners to automate when they open and close their skylights and blinds. The system monitors an online weather station and uses indoor sensors to measure temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels in the home. Based on a homeowner’s settings, the system will automatically open the skylights or extend the blinds as needed to improve air quality and temperature inside the home.

Explore more design ideas to enhance your kitchen and bathroom spaces at whyskylights.com.

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Home Care

DIY home upgrades to add style and beauty

Consider these DIY ideas to spruce up your home’s aesthetics and create a more attractive place to live.

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Photo by @spacejoy from Unsplash.com

Home upgrades are necessary for a variety of reasons, but many homeowners look to update their homes to add comfort and beauty. While a complete renovation can be appealing, it can also be costly and time consuming.

However, if you’re willing to take on some of the work yourself, there are ways to upgrade your living spaces to add style (and value) without the assistance of a contractor. Consider these DIY ideas to spruce up your home’s aesthetics and create a more attractive place to live.

Freshen Up Paint

When it comes to simple DIY projects, a new coat of paint can drastically update your spaces without making major renovations. Light colors like gray, beige or white can make smaller spaces feel more open while darker shades like navy and purple can create a dramatic look. If you don’t want (or need) to paint the entire room, adding a pop of color with an accent wall or touching up the trim are quick and easy improvements. Adding paint to a less traditional spot like the ceiling or refreshing cabinets with a new color can also help bring your spaces to life.

Install Mess-Free Stone Accents

If you’re looking to add warmth and texture, easy-to-install stone veneer can provide the look of natural stone without the expense. A mortarless option like ClipStone is designed to be installed with screws and common tools, making it easy to achieve the look of traditional masonry without the hassle and mess. Durable and low maintenance, you don’t have to worry about sealing or painting and it’s a perfect option for exterior or interior installation that can be installed in any weather conditions. Available in a variety of styles and colors, homeowners can mix and match to create a custom look. Plus, it features a built-in water management system, overlapping edges to minimize gaps, reversible outside corners and a variety of available accessories.

Upgrade Window Treatments

Windows can often be overlooked or left with the simple paper shades or aluminum blinds the builder initially installed. Consider replacing them with plantation shutters, wooden blinds or drapes that better suit the style of the room. In addition to blinds, curtains provide another opportunity to add design elements that align with your tastes. From geometric panels to sheers, the possibilities are nearly endless. Or simply match the curtain panels to the color of your walls or an accent color for a look that can match almost any style.

Update Accessories

Cabinet pulls, outlet covers, curtain rods, switch plates and doorknobs are easily ignored, but replacing them can be an inexpensive way to add small touches of elegance to your home. With a variety of designs and finishes to choose from, including bronze, brushed nickel, copper and stainless steel, updating worn pull handles and knobs can create an affordable look that appears expensive. The same is true for metal switch covers and outlet plates. While decorative curtain rods may be on the pricier side, adding a coat of paint in a metallic finish could provide a cheaper alternative.

Improve Curb Appeal

There are a multitude of inexpensive ways to give your home’s exterior a makeover. Start by pressure washing your siding and windows, which can make your house look almost as good as a fresh coat of paint for a fraction of the time and money. Remember to also clean your driveway, patio and walkways to maximize your investment. Pulling weeds, trimming trees and bushes, and patching bald spots in the yard can also go a long way as can planting greenery in front of your home and making landscaping upgrades like adding mulch beds, water features or decorative edging. Another idea: replace your front door or give it a fresh coat of paint to add a pop of color to your porch.

Find more ideas for improving your living spaces at myclipstone.com.

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Home Care

Tips to homeowners seeking a reputable contractor

Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire. An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.

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Photo by christian koch from Unsplash.com

Contractor fraud often occurs after major natural disasters which impact large numbers of homeowners, with some contractors initiating contact with homeowners long after the disaster occurred. Unethical contractors frequently use flyers and door hangers to generate business. In Florida, there are contractors who solicit roof replacement claims door-to-door even when no storm has occurred. Homeowners, however, have ways to determine a contractor’s credentials and reputation.

“Disasters can bring out the best in people as they rush to help those in need. Unfortunately, disasters also attract predatory contractors looking to defraud and deceive disaster victims,” said David Glawe, president and CEO, NICB. “After most disasters, these shameful contractors use well-rehearsed, predatory practices to exploit stressed disaster victims when they are most vulnerable. As a result, survivors pay these bad actors who do little or no work.”

Triple-I and the NICB offer these five tips to homeowners in the market for a reputable contractor.

  1. If you didn’t request it, reject it—Homeowners should proactively seek a contractor when their property is damaged due to a windstorm (e.g., hurricane, tornado) or fire.  An unsolicited offer from a contractor with whom the homeowner is unfamiliar should be treated with skepticism.
  2. Get at least three written estimates for the work and compare bids—In the aftermath of a major natural disaster, contractors are in high demand.  The pandemic and supply chain disruptions also have put additional pressure on labor and building material costs.  Homeowners should solicit at least three written estimates from three different contractors.
  3. Check credentials, including licenses, references, and insurance—Reputable contractors will provide homeowners with their state and local business licenses, physical business address and telephone numbers, and references.
  4. Make sure your contract includes estimated construction schedules and prices for labor and materials—If a contractor requires full payment upfront for a job, homeowners should think twice about doing business with them. It is common, however, for a contractor to request some money upfront after signing a contract with a homeowner as the contractor needs to buy supplies. 
  5. Contact your insurer to make sure your policy is up to date— If a contractor offers advice on what a homeowners insurance policy covers, the property owner should have this interpretation double-checked by an insurance professional affiliated with the insurer who covers the damaged home.
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Home Care

Tips, tools to help customers save energy, money as temperatures rise

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

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Photo by Ilse Orsel from Unsplash.com

As the mercury rises today and over the weekend, Duke Energy is providing tips and tools to help customers save energy – and money – while trying to stay cool.

Duke Energy has sufficient resources to meet customers’ energy needs and continues to monitor its power plants, power lines and other equipment to help ensure customers receive reliable service during the heat wave.

High temperatures bring higher usage for customers, which can translate into higher bills. But a few smart, simple tips can help energy users take control of their bill and save money.

Low- to no-cost energy efficiency tips

High temperatures can lead to higher energy usage and bills as customers combat the heat. Below are some tips to help manage your energy use.

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.
  • Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy usage and bill will be.
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Keeping your blinds, drapes and curtains closed will help prevent the sun’s rays from heating your house.
  • Use a ceiling fan in occupied rooms to supplement your air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction to push cool air down into living spaces. Only use ceiling fans in rooms that are occupied; fans cool people, not things.
  • Grill outdoors. Using your electric oven and stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don’t require cooking.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.

Track, manage your energy usage

Energy use typically spikes in the summer since air conditioning is one of the biggest energy users in your home. Customers can also easily track and adjust their usage during this week’s heat wave.

  • Customers with smart meters can check online to view their daily usage. Smart meters collect usage information by the hour, so checking spikes throughout the month – by day and even hour – can show what appliances and behaviors are increasing their bills. Video available here.
  • Duke Energy customers with smart meters also receive usage alerts through email and/or text halfway through their billing cycle, well before their bill arrives, with their current usage amount and a projection of what their final monthly bill could be.
  • Customers can also set budget alerts, so they know when their bill reaches a specific dollar amount of their choosing, allowing them to adjust their usage and help save money on their bill.
  • Customers without smart meters can sign up to receive high bill alerts for when adverse weather is projected to increase their electric bills by at least 30% and $30 compared to historical usage.

Other energy-saving programs, tips and guidance to help you manage higher energy bills that can result from increased energy is available at duke-energy.com/Summer.

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