Sunday, June 28, 2009

Get more for your money when purchasing replacement windows

(ARA) - Energy efficiency has gained national importance and window replacement is recognized as one pathway to aid in energy independence and the reduction of harmful global emissions.

Choosing replacement windows with energy-saving benefits is simple and the federal government also made it less expensive for homeowners with the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The bill includes the opportunity for homeowners to claim a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of eligible energy-efficient products to a maximum of $1,500 per household for 2009 and 2010 combined when used for remodeling and replacement. According to the IRS, a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability and can be deducted directly from your taxes owed.

While energy efficient replacement windows are included in this tax credit, not all replacement windows will qualify. Paul Delahunt, president of Renewal by Andersen, says, given the new tax credit, now is the best time to replace your leaky, worn-out windows. But he also cautions homeowners to do their homework to make sure the windows they purchase will qualify.

To qualify, windows must provide high levels of energy efficiency in two categories: reduced heat loss and reduced heat gain. The measurement for heat loss is called U-Factor and the measurement for heat gain is called Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, or SHGC. To meet the performance requirements, the window or door must have both a U-Factor and SHGC rating equal to or less than 0.30 in all climate zones in the U.S.

When comparing windows for energy performance -- and the 2009/2010 tax credit -- be sure to check the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label that is displayed on the product. This label displays the U-Factor and SHGC ratings for the window or patio door. If the product does not have this label, then the unit does not have a certified NFRC value.

Qualifying replacement windows must be purchased and installed in a primary residence between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010. While quality installation is a critical component of any successful window replacement project, installation costs are not included in the 2009/2010 tax credit. Your sales receipt should break out qualifying product costs separately.

In addition to your sales receipt, you will also need to save the NFRC label from each window or the Manufacturer’s Certification Statement with your tax documents.

Renewal by Andersen makes it easy for homeowners to take advantage of the new federal tax credit with its extensive selection of windows and patio doors with glass packages that meet or exceed the performance criteria to be eligible for the credit.

In fact, Delahunt says, virtually all Renewal by Andersen windows with High-Performance Low-E4 SmartSun glass are eligible for the tax credit. These same windows with SmartSun glass are up to 47 percent more energy efficient in winter and up to 70 percent more energy efficient in summer compared to ordinary dual pane glass -- making a big impact on reducing your energy bills.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The lighter side of nature-inspired home decor

(ARA) – If the words “nature-inspired decor” make you think of muted wall hues or overwrought floral fabrics, it’s time to rethink your take on this hot design trend.

Nature-inspired design can certainly be soothing, sedate and traditional, but a plethora of new products and techniques is also bringing the bold, bright and fun side of nature indoors. Whether it’s a throw pillow that looks like birch bark or a full wall mural of green bamboo, nature’s brighter side is spicing up modern American decor.

If you’re looking for fun, funky ways to bring the brighter side of nature-inspired design into your home, here are a few ideas and items to look for:

“Woodn’t” it be good …

Wood has been a beloved design element in home interiors for centuries. But you don’t have to invest in expensive hardwood floors or put up with dated wall paneling to enjoy wood’s rich beauty in your decor. Logs are the latest, and not just in log homes.

From glass tabletops perched delicately atop natural twig and branch bases, or a faux wood-grained area rug to plush throw pillows in fabric that mimics the grain of natural wood, you’re barking up the right tree by incorporating the look of log into your decor.

You don’t have to spend a dime to bring this trendy yet timeless material into your home, either. Simply take a stroll in the woods, gather some eye-catching branches, bring them home, tie with your favorite colored ribbon and use them as an accent piece above mantles, windows or doorways.

Way to do a wall

Wall murals have been around for thousands of years, and the latest twist on nature-inspired murals is bold. Forget the walls of idyllic woodland scenes that were ubiquitous during the 1970s. Modern nature-inspired murals amplify the graphic qualities and bright hues found when you take a closer look at Mother Nature’s artistry.

Zoomed in close-ups of a pebble-filled beach, bright green bamboo stalks and graceful birch trunks turn familiar natural scenes into graphic design elements that emphasize color and pattern. Each look adds a unique touch of nature-inspired drama to a room’s design. You’ll find all three murals for just $99 at, which sells easy-to-install wallpaper murals.

Whimsy away

Some nature-inspired decor is anything but serious. From parchment votive holders made out of real vegetables (at to lamps that resemble a tumble of glossy stones (, it’s easy to find the fun side of nature-inspired accessories.

Made slice by slice from fresh produce, sculptor Margaret Dorfman presses veggies into durable parchment, then fashions them into flower shapes to create inventive votive holders.

Bamboo is another versatile material that’s finding fun applications in American homes. A serene stand of miniature bamboo shoots elegantly displayed on a coffee table is a perfect foil to the vibrant, joyful color of a bamboo wall mural. A spritely bamboo window film ( can balance the rich, practical presence of bamboo flooring.

Americans’ continuing interest in the environment and eco-friendly living is sure to keep the nature-inspired home decor movement going strong. Colorful, whimsical decorator items that remind us of Mother Nature’s sense of humor are finding their place beside the more serene staples of this decorating trend.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mortgage Rates are Rising

Mortgage Rates Reach 7-Month High
Higher interest rates put the brakes on mortgage refinancing this week, according to Freddie Mac.

The firm's weekly survey pegged interest on 30-year fixed mortgages at an average of 5.59 percent -- up from 5.29 percent last week and the highest rate since November 2008.

Other rates also climbed:

Interest climbed to 5.06 percent from 4.79 percent for 15-year fixed loans;
5.17 percent from 4.85 percent for five-year, adjustable-rate mortgages;
5.04 percent from 4.81 percent for one-year ARMs.

Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft says the gains are not affecting home purchase loans.

Source: Boston Globe (06/12/09)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Adding deck lights a simple way to enhance outdoor living

(ARA) - As summer rolls in and guests show up, the benefit of having outdoor living space for relaxing and entertaining becomes readily apparent. Homeowners love having extra space where they can hang out, and outdoor environments are a huge plus for those trying to sell or rent out a home.

Overall home improvement project budgets are shrinking in 2009, while low-cost improvements are growing in popularity with both residential homeowners and landlords who want to give their properties a little added boost, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Outdoor lighting is a popular improvement. In addition to traditional landscape lighting, deck lights, post lights and recessed path lights extend the livability of outdoor decks and patios, and offer a low-cost update with the benefit of improving the usability of outdoor spaces.

"Today it seems that the more practical the upgrade, the better. And lighting is an easy upgrade that adds instant function, ambiance and value," says Jay Savignac of Aurora Deck Lighting.

"In a down economy, people stay home more. They entertain at home more. This makes usable spaces more important than ever, and outdoor living areas remain one of the top areas for home improvement," Savignac says.

Taking your backyard deck or patio from daytime roost to night time entertainment space is easy. In fact, there have never been more product options available to homeowners for lighting up their deck or fence, and creating an inviting and usable outdoor area for night time enjoyment.

Savignac says homeowners can easily install outdoor lighting in just one weekend, or even less time if they opt for lights that don't require wiring, such as solar options.

Best of all, outdoor lighting products can be installed without the aid of an electrician and, in most communities, no permits are required. Homeowners have a variety of options to consider:

* Post lights are easy to install on the tops of deck posts and fence posts. They can be positioned directly on top of posts or mounted on the rails using special mounting brackets. Their distinctive "lantern look" offers an elegant finish to decks, and post lights are available in a variety of styles, sizes and colors that work with all sizes of posts on both decks and fences. Matching post caps are also available.

* Post lamps mount vertically on deck or fence posts and offer spot lighting, which can add security and safety in dark areas or near stairs. Post lamps on fences are a popular addition that fence builders say add value and security, as well as dramatic effect.

* Special "stair lights," like the Pyxis from Aurora, mount easily into the vertical riser on a stair to provide downlighting for safety and sure footing.

* Recessed deck lighting, like the Aurelle from Aurora, is a new product that can install under seating, in deck floor boards, or even overhead inside patio covers to add lighting using the same concept as recessed lighting indoors.

Outdoor lighting projects are easy to complete. Homeowners can choose from solar options that have no wiring requirements, or low-voltage lighting that works off a transformer and operates from a standard 110 volt power source. Outdoor lights can run off a timer or can be wired into light switches in the home for maximum control.

Your own outdoor lighting plan can be as simple or as complex as you desire. Aurora has transformers that can handle up to 50 lights, although accent lighting using as few as four or five lights can make all the difference in creating an outdoor living space that can be readily enjoyed at night.

Best of all, you can create a custom look that works for you, adding light in cooking areas, near stairs or gates, or along bench seating where guests congregate.

Courtesy of ARAcontent