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Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Tom's Blog

News in Skylights: Let the Sun & Passive Solar Heat In

August 23, 2013 6:33 pm

In our previous two segments covering skylights, I have learned that a skylight installation project is not for casual DIY-ers. In this final report, we'll cover the few remaining issues to consider if you plan on letting the sunshine and its passive solar energy shine in this winter.

Our sources at the US Dept. of Energy say that in addition to following the manufacturer's guidelines, it's also important to consider slope and moisture control during installation.

The slope or tilt of the skylight affects solar heat gain. A low slope will admit relatively more solar heat in the summer and less in the winter, exactly the opposite of what is desirable.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to achieve a slope equal to your geographical latitude plus 5 to 15 degrees. At least one skylight manufacturer makes a prefabricated, tilted base that increases the angle of a skylight above the roof.

Water leaks are a common problem with improperly installed skylights. Avoid water leaks by:

  • Mounting the skylight above the roof surface
  • Installing a curb (a raised, watertight lip that helps to deflect water away from the skylight) and flashing
  • Thoroughly sealing joints
  • Following the manufacturer's guidelines.

It is also prudent to apply a layer of sheet waterproofing over the flanges/flashing of the skylight. This is generally installed under the finish roofing material as an aid in protecting against ice dams. Avoid water diversion devices such as roof crickets or diverter strips, as they often create more problems than they solve.

Again, the DOE experts say. Even the most energy-efficient skylight must be properly installed to ensure that it achieve its energy performance, so they say it's best to have a professional install your skylight.

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Credit Cards and Your College Kids: Tips for Those Entering the World of Credit

August 23, 2013 6:33 pm

While parent’s mail boxes are filling with credit card bills from summer vacations and back-to-school shopping, their college-aged child is likely receiving offers for credit cards of their own.

Due to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), young adults under the age of 21 applying for credit now must demonstrate the ability to pay or have a co-signer in order to be approved.  Thus, the 21-year-old college student has replaced the entering freshman as the likely target for credit card marketing.

“Building a positive credit history while in college can certainly help the young professional move on with his or her post-graduation life,” says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). “On the flip side, abusing credit can work against a person when trying to land a job, lease an apartment or buy a vehicle.”

The NFCC’s 2013 Financial Literacy Survey found that 33 percent of respondents indicated they learned the most about personal finance at home. Although at first glance this can appear as positive, problems often arise if the parents have poor financial habits which the children observe and subsequently carry into their own financial lives.

Further, the survey revealed that only five percent attributed their personal finance knowledge to what they learned at school.  This number is not surprising, as many states do not include a personal finance course as a requirement for graduation from high school.

Stepping into the world of credit without adequate personal finance training is asking for trouble, as responsibly managing credit is critical to building a solid financial future. The NFCC recommends that young adults consider the following tips for successfully navigating credit:

• Start slowly. Don’t apply for more credit than is needed. A little plastic can go a long way, particularly in the wallet of someone new to credit.

• Don’t act like a kid in the credit candy store. It can be tempting to splurge on music downloads and late-night pizzas, but small purchases can add up quickly.

•   Never, ever charge more than can be paid in full when the bill arrives. This is the cornerstone to successfully managing credit. Use this financial trick: Record each charge in the check register and deduct the amount from the balance just as though a check had been cashed. This method guarantees that the funds will be available when it’s time to pay the bill.

•  Choose the right card. New homework assignment: Research what’s behindthe credit card offers. Fully understand the terms, interest rate, fees and credit limit, as these features will impact the final decision.  Some student cards also offer rewards such as miles or points that can be redeemed, but read the fine print before signing on the dotted line.

• Think long term. Negative marks on a credit file can follow a person foryears. Evaluate charging decisions in light of tomorrow, not today.

• Protect the card. Identity theft is rampant on campuses, and a credit card lying on a desk is as good as gold to a thief. Since studies show that identity theft is often committed by someone the victim knows, don’t be naively trusting.

• Don’t allow others to use the card, as regardless of who runs up the debt, payment remains the cardholder’s responsibility.

• If things get out of control, remember that businesses still accept cash, and a debit card can be used for payment in most locations. Don’t hesitate to put the credit card away if things get out of hand.

“The college student potentially has 50 years or more of credit life ahead of him or her, making it critical that sound financial habits are established at a young age,” continues Cunningham. “Credit can be a friend or a foe. That outcome is determined by whose hand is holding the plastic.”


Source: www.DebtAdvice.org.

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Word of the Day

August 23, 2013 6:33 pm

Planned Unit Development (PUD).  Individually owned houses with community ownership of common areas, such as swimming pools and tennis courts.

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Q: What Basic Services Can I Expect an Architect to Provide?

August 23, 2013 6:33 pm

A:  Most projects require a set of basic services.  They are as follows:  preliminary, or schematic, design; design development; preparation of construction documents (drawings and specifications); assistance in the bidding or negotiation process, and the administration of the agreement between you and your builder or contractor, if needed.  Some projects will require other services, such as pre-design work, which includes budgeting and financing packages, as well as planning and zoning applications.  Projects may also include special cost or energy analyses, models and tenant-related design.

 

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Skylights: Positioning for Energy Efficiency

August 22, 2013 4:24 pm

In this post, I continue to look at the great end-of-summer home improvement project -- installing a skylight.

The U.S. Dept of Energy says when homeowners consider adding a skylight they need to determine what type of design will work best, and where to place it to optimize its contribution to their home’s energy efficiency, daylighting, and ventilation.

So the DOE experts suggest selecting your skylight based on the local climate and your home's design. For labeling energy-efficient skylights, Energy Star has established minimum energy performance rating criteria by climate.

As a rule of thumb, a skylight size should never be more than 5 percent of the floor area in rooms with many windows and no more than 15 percent of the room's total floor area for spaces with few windows.

You should also consider a skylight's position if you want to maximize daylighting and/or passive solar heating potential. Those on east-facing roofs provide maximum light and solar heat gain in the morning, while west-facing skylights provide afternoon sunlight and heat gain, the agency says.

South-facing skylights provide the greatest potential for desirable winter passive solar heat gain than any other location, but often allow unwanted heat gain in the summer. But you can prevent unwanted solar heat gain by installing the skylight in the shade of leaf-shedding trees or adding a movable window covering on the inside or outside.

Without this seasonal natural cover, skylights can result in unwanted seasonal heat gain or loss. So manufacturers offer heat-absorbing tints, insulated glazing, and low-emissivity (low-e) coatings, or install a translucent insulation material between several glazing layers to create a more thermally efficient assembly.

In our final report, we'll take a look at other important considerations if you're planning to tackle a skylight installation.

 

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Fall into Better Sleep for the Whole Family

August 22, 2013 4:24 pm

School is right around the corner, and as families switch from the looser schedules of summer to the schedule-driven fall, sleep is a critical factor of that transition. ResMed, a company working toward developing solutions for treating sleep-disordered breathing and other respiratory conditions, offers tips for getting the whole family on a successful sleep schedule that will set them up for sound sleep in the year ahead, as well as a host of solutions for combating sleep issues.

"Bedtime is one of the first things to change as school starts, and one of the smartest things parents can do with the summer-to-fall sleep schedule transition is to follow a routine themselves," says Susie Justus, sleep coach and licensed vocational nurse for ResMed.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The first step to setting a family sleep schedule is figuring out how much sleep each person needs for their age group. According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers ages 3-5 years old need 11-13 hours of sleep per night; school-aged children ages 5-10 years old need 10-11 hours of sleep per night; preteens and teens ages 10-17 need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per night; and adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Setting the Schedule

With long, lazy summer days, kids are used to staying up and sleeping in later—as are their parents. Here are some tips that can help smooth the transition into fall.

  • Start early. Don't wait until the weekend before school starts to move up bedtime. Start two weeks early to ease everyone into the routine.
  • Tell the summer sun goodnight. At the beginning of the school year, the days are still long: To counter this, create cozy sleeping spaces for the whole family using blackout shades. White noise in the form of fans can also help encourage rest by blocking distractions and keeping warm rooms closer to the ideal sleeping temperature of 65-72 degrees.
  • Set and enforce a bedtime ritual for everyone. Universally turn off screens an hour before bedtime—that means you, too, Mom and Dad—and establish wind-down plans that work.
  • Promote days that will promote sleep. Welcome the sun in the morning by pulling back drapes or enjoying breakfast outside. Exercise, limit excessive caffeine intake and avoid daytime naps. Don't go to bed too hungry or too full, as that can disrupt sleep.

Source: www.resmed.com.

 

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Hurricane Safety Tips

August 22, 2013 4:24 pm

The period from mid-August to late October is considered peak hurricane season. Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the 2013 season will be even more active than last year. NOAA projects up to 20 named storms, including 7 to 11 major hurricanes that will be greater than a category three.

"Research suggests that there is a 70 percent probability of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline this season, compared to the historical average of 52 percent," says Mark R. Desrochers, president, personal lines at The Hanover. "The good news, however, is that with the right preparation, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of personal injury or having their property damaged in a storm."

With hurricane season approaching its peak,  here are several  tips to help individuals keep themselves, their families, and their property safe during a storm.

Preparing Well in Advance

  • Review your homeowners policy with your insurance agent to determine whether you have adequate protection. In particular consider whether you have flood insurance and if your policy will cover current rebuilding costs.
  • Secure your home: Repair loose boards, shingles, shutters, down spouts—the kind of things that could become greater problems in high winds or torrential rain.
  • Consider making improvements to protect your home, especially if you live on or near the coast. These could include protecting windows and doors with storm shutters.
  • Make a home inventory so that you can easily offer a list of damaged possessions to your insurer in the event that you are impacted by the storm. Be as detailed as possible, listing all personal items and including photos and videos where possible. Keep your inventory list in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box.
  • Stock emergency supplies including: a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, medicines, first aid handbook and kit and a week's worth of non-perishable food and water. Other items to have on hand include: tools, blankets and/or sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, pet supplies, paper plates and cups, boards, plastic sheeting, tape and toiletries such as soap, bleach (for disinfecting), and diapers, etc.
  • Develop an evacuation plan including how you will notify family and friends and where you will be staying if forced to evacuate. Share everyone's cell phone numbers and compile a list of key numbers (fire, police, etc) you might need in the case of an emergency.

During a Hurricane Watch

  • Listen for advisories on the radio or TV. Follow advice from local officials on how to best protect yourself for the upcoming storm.
  • Charge your cell phone and tablet battery or batteries.
  • Fill the gas tank of your car(s).  You'll need it if you have to evacuate. If there is a power outage, gas pumps may not be functioning. If you have a generator, ensure you have gas for that as well.
  • Bring items inside your home that could become dangerous as flying objects including all toys, and lawn furniture.  Make sure that sheds, cabanas and similar detached structures are securely anchored.
  • Protect glass windows with boards, shutters or tape. Otherwise they could be broken from wind pressure.
  • Move important papers and valuables to the second floor if you expect flooding.
  • Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting so food will last longer if the power goes out.
  • Fill your clean bathtub with extra water.

During the Storm

  • Get inside immediately and stay calm. Don't panic. Stay tuned to weather updates.
  • Check on family members and friends.
  • Evacuate motor homes and take shelter in a grounded building.
  • Windows and doors should be closed at all times and boarded up with wooden or metal shutters if possible.
  • Stay away from windows. Stay in the center of the room, or in an inside room.
  • If flooding begins, turn off electricity.

If you have an Evacuation

  • Communicate with all family members so that everyone knows where to go.
  • Turn off utilities, including gas, water and electricity.
  • Lock doors and windows.
  • Leave a message for authorities notifying them where you will be.
  • Take important documents, including your insurance policies.
  • Bring emergency supplies, such as battery-powered radio, cell phones, flashlights, extra batteries, prescriptions, first aid kit and non-perishable food and water.
  • When advised to leave, go as soon as possible. Follow recommended routes only and keep your radio on for current storm information.

After the Storm

  • Check to be sure all family members are safe.
  • Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible if you have experienced damage.
  • Wear shoes around debris to avoid injuries.  And when beginning the cleanup process, use protective gear such as eyewear or gloves.
  • Dispose of any impaired items touched by floodwater such as food, drinks, and medicine.
  • Check utilities. Turn them off if you suspect damage, and let the power company handle.
  • Create a list of damaged property and if possible take photographs and/or video. Do not dispose of damaged items without prior approval from your insurance claims adjuster.
  • Keep an accurate record of any temporary repairs or expenses so that they may be considered in your claim.
  • If there was an evacuation, wait for official notice that it is safe to re-enter your home. When returning to your home, be cautious when entering a damaged structure.  Stay away from damaged or weakened walls.

Source: www.hanover.com.

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Word of the Day

August 22, 2013 4:24 pm

Restrictive covenants.  Clauses placed in a deed to restrict the full use of the property by controlling how future landowners may or may not use the property; also used in leases.

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Q: Should the Architect and Contractor Have a “Vested” Interest in One Another?

August 22, 2013 4:24 pm

A: It does not hurt to have a situation where the architect and contractor already have an existing working relationship.  In fact, such an association could benefit a project by ensuring the smooth integration between the design and implementation.  In a residential project, there is sometimes a triangle of tension between the architect, the contractor and the homeowner in terms of finger pointing and assigning blame.  There is greater coordination of efforts, and generally less stress, with a design/build firm where the architects and contractors are accustomed to working together and are knowledgeable about construction costs and can fit design plans and specifications to your budget.

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Where the Deals Are in September

August 21, 2013 6:24 pm

School supplies and back-to-school clothing and accessories are on sale all over the place right now – and there are good deals available on 2013 model cars as dealers prepare for the arrival of 2014 models.

But, says Lifehacker, a website dedicated to making positive lifestyle changes, there are other good buys to be made in the month of September. At the top of the list:

  • Bicycles – Cars are not the only wheels with new models due out in September. Manufacturers are lowering bicycle prices now as the summer cycling season comes to a close.
  • Grills, mowers, and patio furniture – It’s a no-brainer that these summertime accessories are on sale right now at home stores everywhere to make room for snow blowers and fireplace accessories.
  • Holiday airfare – The best airfare deals come eight weeks before you travel, which means September is the month to start buying plane tickets for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other end-of-year holiday travel.
  • Wine – Harvest is in full swing in September, and many winemakers release their new offerings now at attractive prices. It’s a good time to stock up for the holidays.
  • TVs and home appliances – With back-to-school sales slowing down, and the Christmas rush still months away, many retailers offer deals on HDTVs and home appliances, especially if you are willing to “bundle” your purchases, buying two or three items at one time.
  • Bed and bath – For the same reason, bedding and towels – especially leftover beach towels – may be available at discounted prices during Labor Day sales in September. Save even more by clipping coupons offered by Bed, Bath and Beyond and other home goods stores.
  • Summer fruits and veggies – Of you’re into canning or preserving, you can take advantage of the last of summer’s bounty with great buys now on all summer produce, but especially berries and tomatoes.
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