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Home Improvement

You’ve probably noticed this topic popping up a lot recently, and for a good reason. With all the consequences of global warming that we’re already experiencing, reducing our negative influence on nature is more important than ever before. Of course, there are many ways to do it – some simple, some a bit more demanding, but the best place to start is at your own home. With that in mind, here are a few ways to make your home more energy efficient.

Insulate your home

For starters, you want to make sure your home is well insulated. Otherwise, you’d be letting out a lot of heat through the walls and windows during winter, and it would take a lot more energy to keep it cool during summer. In other words, your utility bills would be much higher than necessary due to using more energy to keep your home’s temperature at a comfortable level. There are many different insulating techniques, some of which you can even do on your own, like putting up thicker curtains during winter. Also, if you have an attic and/or basement, don’t forget to insulate them as well, as a lot of warm and cool air can escape through the roof and floor.

Install quality windows and doors

window

A lot of heat and cool air can escape through windows and doors, especially if they are older types, as some of them are not very energy efficient. This is why you should invest in better quality ones. For example, you can find good double glazed windows, and be sure that no air, hot or cool, would escape through them. The same goes for doors. Even though wood is the most typical material for doors due to its price, convenience, and cozy appearance, it’s a very poor insulator. There are many better options on the market, so do your research before you choose. Finally, you can always do some weatherstripping and tinting of your windows as well.  

Choose better lighting

home lighting

Most of the typical light bulbs that you see are incandescent, which means that they emit light because they are hot. This also means that while using them, you are inevitably heating up your room, which is probably the last thing you want to do in summer. It’s one of the reasons why, even though they are fairly cheap, they actually cost you a lot more in the long run. With that in mind, you should consider switching to either LED lights of fluorescent lights. They cost a bit more initially, but they last a lot longer, and they don’t emit any heat, so it’s a small investment that would pay off in time.

Replace old appliances

If you want to make your home more energy efficient, you should also consider replacing your old kitchen appliances. Look for those with the Energy Star logo on them, as they are made to use a lot less energy than the standard appliances. Also, just like the above-mentioned lighting, these appliances do cost a bit more, but again, they would pay off in the long run through your utility bills. You can find lists of essential energy efficient products for your home online. 

Think about solar panels

solar panels

If you want to go the extra mile, you can harness the sun and create your own electricity by installing solar panels. It can greatly reduce your bills, and it can come in handy in case of a power outage. You can install them on your rooftop, or you can install the whole system in a sunny area of your backyard. They aren’t that difficult to maintain, but they do require regular maintenance if you want them to last longer. All in all, they aren’t for everybody, but if you’re determined in your preservation of nature, solar panels are something to consider.

Install a smart meter

Installing smart meters is a great way to track your energy usage. They are easy to install and use, and they can give you a good idea of how much energy you’re using and how you can cut on that use. Also, since a smart meter would send the readings directly to your energy supplier, there would be no need for any manual meter readings. Also, your supplier would know exactly how much you need to pay instead of sending you estimated bills. Finally, it would also be easier for you to change your energy supplier for whatever reason. All in all, it would allow you much more control over your energy usage.

If you care about the environment, you should do whatever you can to preserve it. One thing you definitely can do is make your home more sustainable. There are many ways to do so, both affordable and costly (but worth every penny). Therefore, think about the listed suggestions, opt for those that suit you the most, and you’re bound to feel much better about the difference that you’re making.

Guest post by Will Sandford.

Electrical systems are complex and potentially dangerous, which is reason enough to let an experienced and knowledgeable electrician do the work instead of you. Although homeowners are never advised to try to DIY repairs, Australians know that amateur repairs are even illegal. The law here is much tougher than in other countries, and under the Electrical Safety Act of 2002, unlicensed electrical work includes”the manufacturing, constructing, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing, altering, removing, or replacing of electrical equipment.” Apart from dizzying fines, rest assured that your home insurance provider won’t have much sympathy for your heroic DIY buzz work. Let’s look into a few situations when an electrician’s expertise can save the day.

Early malfunction signs

To an amateur, diagnosing an electrical problem might appear complicated and abstract. Still, there are several early warning signs that can tell you something’s wrong. For example, the smell of burning plastic at a power outlet, appliance or a switchboard. The second level of emergency is discoloration of any outlet cable or appliance. Situations like these might be so urgent that you can’t wait for the electrician to arrive. As soon as you notice signs like these, turn off the electricity in your home by flipping down the three main circuit breakers on your switchboard. This is something every member of the household should know how to do. Ideally, you should know which breaker shuts down what, but in an emergency, there’s no time for taking chances.

Hazards of DIY repairs

electrician
According to Fire & Rescue NSW report, in 2014 there were 150 home fires and five deaths, with electrical malfunctions being the top cause, after unattended cooking. In the short period between 2002 and 2004, about 1,500 people in Australia were hospitalized for electrical injuries, with 162 electrical-related deaths between 2001 and 2004. Although these figures may seem low when compared to other household dangers, they are not to be ignored. Apart from immediate physical injury, any kind of amateur repair attempt can result in serious property damage. AT the very least, an inexpert intervention can damage the appliance or the electrical fixture you are trying to repair. However, there is always a risk of fire, with damages that definitely outweigh the expenses of a professional electrician you should have called in the first place.

Skills that keep electricians in business

Aside from understanding electric currents, voltage, power ratings, etc., a professional electrician understands the mechanical aspects of the components they need to install. Pinpointing the problem in the shortest time frame largely depends on the electrician’s understanding of how the system operates. In many situations, complex components need to be taken apart in order to access the problematic area. Finally, an electrician should understand and apply various electrical codes and laws by which they’re regulated. Some projects you had in mind will require permission from city planning offices. When a home inspector comes by, they need to make sure that everything your licenced Sydney electrician has done meets all the code requirements and regulations of the trade.

Knowledge you can’t buy

home repair
Experienced electricians can perform a wide range of electrical jobs. Apart from being familiar with all sorts of electrical components and their function, they possess a vast knowledge of electrical currents, their properties and side effects, such as electromagnetic and thermal. By knowing how electrical circuits interact with one another, and how they need to be grounded properly, an electrician can ensure that your whole system functions seamlessly. Anyone can purchase a new part or cable, and even learn how to replace a broken one, but only licenced electricians can see “the big picture” and can guarantee the safety of their work.

After all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, unless you are a commercial licensed electrician yourself, better leave everything to professionals. Apart from changing the light bulb and manipulating circuit breakers in an emergency, anything above isn’t worth risking injury, property damage and voided insurance policy. Your best course of action would be to learn how to recognize a problem early on and contact an emergency electrician who operates in your neighbourhood.

The year 2019 is perfect for renovations that will boost the aesthetic appeal of your home or rental property. You can incorporate the latest design trends and thus effectively raise the value of your property as well. In order to help you achieve this in no time, we have singled out our top tips and tricks for getting the best resale value out of your remodelling project.

Invest in a new exterior

First things first, rejuvenating your exterior is one of the best ways to instantly beautify your home at a great resale price. Begin by enhancing the facade with tough composite decking which is available in a variety of different styles and finishes allowing you to produce a creative look. Don’t forget, you should also construct a spacious porch which you can decorate with greenery and illuminate with smart ambient lighting. This will provide you with a valuable home expansion and a relaxed outdoor seating area. Keep in mind, homeowners who build luxurious exteriors will be able to create an amazing resale value out of this investment and attract potential buyers more easily.

Home exterior

A refurbished kitchen with a personality

A small to mid-range kitchen remodel is a sure-fire way of raising your return on investment rates. However, buying brand new cabinets and countertops can set you back a lot. Instead, feel free to refurbish your entire kitchen with simple DIY tricks that will add more personality to it. Start by sanding down your cupboards and getting rid of chipped paint and broken handles. Afterwards, you can apply a base layer of linseed oil to preserve the natural glow of the wood and then build in robust aluminium knobs. When it comes to choosing a perfect colour scheme, be sure to try out a mixture of mint green for the wood and brass or bronze for the handles in order to establish a timeless look. Finally, make sure to go for light marble countertops to finish the combination off with an elegant feature.

Kitchen and dining room

Replace your windows

Another important step of your 2019 remodelling project would be to replace your regular windows with energy-efficient ones that can provide you with a return on investment factor of up to 78%. The most popular ones on the market today are made from durable PVC with built-in characteristics such as low-E glass and argon gas. These are responsible for reflecting the harmful UV rays and insulating the house. What’s even better, such great insulation offers you the possibility to be less dependent on conventional heating systems and your monthly energy bills will be lower. If you like the idea, be sure to complement the look with high-end plantation shutters which can be custom-made to fit any type of window design and enhance the quality of your home’s indoor and outdoor decor.

Modern living room

Manufactured stone veneer additions

Manufactured stone veneer has an estimated ROI factor of an astonishing 97% which makes it the most lucrative renovation idea yet. The reason for this is that this material is highly durable, adds instant curb appeal and represents an exceptional cost-effective alternative to natural stone. Apart from being used for the facade, it also displays considerable versatility indoors and works well for designing stylish statement walls, archways, fire pits or even stairwells. Lastly, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, masonry veneer can fortify the exterior retaining barriers by strengthening them against erosion.

Front door replacement

Last but not least, a great and affordable way to improve the security in your home and watch it gain more value is to switch out your current front door with a steel one. This metal is highly resistant against warping, bending or cracking due to moisture or excessive heat. Such doors do not only provide homeowners with extended safety, but are great for the environment as well since steel is one of the most recycled metals on the planet. You can also design it to fit your preferences with custom features such as paint, stained glass and textured-patterns.

Front door

As you can see, enhancing the value of your home by utilizing up-to-date design trends with high ROI rates can be a real walk in the park. Simply make sure to explore all your options and remember to always go for creative decor choices. Good luck on your remodelling project!

Apart from being incredibly stylish, shutters are among the most practical ways to protect your windows and yourself. Say goodbye to tangled curtains and tedious processes of taking them off, washing them and then having to hang them up again. Not only are shutters easy to use, but they also protect your windows from stains and various cooking smells. Many people are reluctant to embark on the adventure of buying shutters due to ignorance on how easy the maintenance process actually is. This is where we come in to make your life easier and persuade you to make the right choice.

Dusting slats

In order to keep them tidy, you just need to dust the louvres or panels using a microfibre cloth or even a feather duster. Just manipulate the position of the slats to flat and you’ll be able to reach both sides well. It’s important to keep your shutters away from water, especially if they’re made of wood as this is not the best combination. You can also use tiny vacuum cleaners instead of cloths if it’s more your cup of tea.

Wiping more serious stains

The amount of dust or dirt on your shutters depends greatly on the room you put them in. They can catch more dust if they’re in a room with a fireplace or even become greasy if placed in a kitchen. Regardless of how careful you are, grease gathers on surfaces simply via air and there’s nothing you can do about it. Luckily, the cleaning process doesn’t get any more complicated than dusting. Simply use a damp, not wet, cloth and wipe the surfaces.

Opening and closing

It’s important to obey the instructions in order to keep your shutters functional. Never pull the panels open by using the rod for tilting. It can cause serious damage. Instead, tilt the louvres and use the stile to tug them open. There are some variations on the matter. For instance, archtop shutters can close only in the up position. If you try to close them otherwise, they will break. However, if you stick to the instructions, there should be no harm done.

Tightening and loosening louvres

Louvres can become loose over time and they may not be able to stay in the position you’d want them in. This surely isn’t the time to call for outside help. You just need an appropriate screwdriver to tighten shutter panels on both sides and your shutters will be as good as new. You can also loosen them in case they are too difficult to move.

Paint scratches

The probability of the paint getting scratched is very high, unfortunately, especially if there is a lot of human interaction in the close proximity of the shutters in the room. It simply happens sometimes, but it’s nothing to stress too much about. It is a custom to get some extra paint during the installation of the shutters, if this is not offered, you can and should always ask for extra paint in case scratches occur. After that, you just need a small foam brush and a bit of paint to mask it and it will be undetectable.

Basically, this is all you need to know about the maintenance. You must admit it’s super smooth. Of course, there’s always a chance of a malfunction that requires a bit more savvy and tools other than a screwdriver, but that’s when professional help comes in, just like with anything else in the house. So, go ahead and take that leap of buying shutters, you’ll get rid of tedious chores and be able to enrich your room design, as well.

The personality of every home is heavily influenced by its relationship with the exterior. And is there a better way to create indoor-outdoor connection than to turn your terrace into a place for real relaxation and pure enjoyment? If you decide to do this, you first have to get the design of your terrace right and make sure it stays in strong contact with the rest of your home. We have come up with 5 tips that are guaranteed to help. Make sure you check them all out.

Image source: houzz.com

Use light for setting the scene

Right lighting options are always going to help you create a perfect setting for your terrace. Recessed floor lights are one of the most popular options today as they can make almost any space appear more inviting. But of course, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also introduce a sconce or two to your terrace walls. No matter which lighting option you go for, make sure you use LED lights since these both last longer and use less energy than the standard incandescent ones.

Image source: styleestate.com

Add a protective roof

By adding a protective roof to your terrace, you’ll get a chance to embrace it all year long. As long as there is a comfy chair, you’ll be able to dine or read on your terrace, regardless of the weather conditions. Roofs made of glass or transparent plastic are usually the best choice, since they don’t block sunlight completely. Furthermore, a protective roof will also shield your terrace and all the furniture on it from excessive rainfalls and snowfalls.

Image source: mydecor.org

Use no more than three colors

Using too many colors on your terrace is hardly going to do you any good. In most of the cases, this will make your terrace look just too busy and cluttered. Therefore, you won’t need more than three colors in order to make your terrace as stylish as possible. Choose one focal color and two more that are going to accompany it. Ideally, this will be one color, accompanied by two neutral colors such as white, gray, and beige. When it comes to your focal color, orange, yellow, or blue are guaranteed to do the trick.

Image source: markatosdesign.com

Choose the right doors

With so many different door types available today, choosing the one that will complement your home’s architectural style can be quite difficult. Not only this, but you also have to find doors that will fit into the space nicely and won’t take up too much space. The perfect option for your terrace might be the stylish timber sliding doors that will allow you to let in as much air and natural light as you want.

Image source: mit24h.com

Create privacy

If you want your terrace to be a place where you can completely relax, you’ll also want to do whatever you can to create some privacy. Greenery is always a great solution, as there are plenty of potted plants that can provide you with some additional privacy. Installing reed or bamboo fencing can also be a great idea, but bear in mind that these will block your view almost entirely. And if you want to go for a different look, you can also a put up sheer curtains and create little den of your own.

Follow all of these tips and your terrace is guaranteed to look great. Once all the work is finished, you can finally take some time to relax on your new terrace and enjoy fresh air.

If you want to completely change the look and feel of your kitchen, consider refinishing your cabinets. Cabinet refinishing, or cabinet painting, is when you keep all the components of your existing cabinets but simply change the finish or colour of them. There are a few different options for a kitchen cabinet upgrade. Here are some tips to help you along the process and bring professional results.

Be patient and schedule the time

This job will take time and might not turn out as good if you rush things. Removing, preparing, cleaning, sanding, painting or refinishing your cabinet doors and drawer fronts will seem like a tedious task, but the results will be worth it. The best way to go about this project is to hire a painting company that offers cabinet painting in Edmonton, but if you’re handy with a brush, you could do this job yourself. Be patient and plan to spend two full weekends on this kitchen renovation project.

Label your cabinet doors and drawer fronts with tape 

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As you take down the doors and drawer fronts, label them with tape so you know which door goes with which opening after the finishing is complete. Although the doors might appear to be the same shape and size, they could have slight variances. Put a piece of painter’s tape on each cabinet opening and door front with corresponding letters or numbers. You’ll have to remove the painter’s tape when spraying or painting the door fronts but be sure to put it back on once they’re dry for reinstallation.

Some varnish can stay

Typically, you want to remove the old finish of your cabinets before you paint them. Check with a local building supply store for a stain blocking primer and it could save you the hassle of sanding off the all varnish. Quality stain blocking primers can stick to almost anything. If the primer you bought isn’t adhering to your cabinets, then you’ll have to give it a light sanding to rough the surface and allow it to bond.

Don’t cheap out on brushes and rollers 

If you’re not going to spray your cabinets, invest in high-quality paint brushes and rollers. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bristles or bits of roller lint in your finished paint job. This will cause frustration and more time to the project as you’ll have to remove the debris or even redo the job. This easy tip will help you to really make a difference and finish this project successfully.

Consider gloss paint 

Many people choose a glossy paint for kitchen or bathroom cabinet painting. This is because it is more resistant to moisture, dirt and random spills compared to paints with a matte finish. This will make your cabinets easier to wipe down and clean.

Energy-efficiency is a way of handling energy needs more sustainability. It doesn’t mean lowering your energy needs, but using less energy to produce the same effects. As a result, human greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and our utility bills are minimized. Making our homes more energy efficient is one of the best things we can do to address global warming and fossil fuel depletion. Financial savings are a more immediate reward for homeowners. Making your home energy-efficient requires significant investment in the beginning and some pretty extensive projects. However, if you are considering it, we’ll give you a few advantages to push you in the right direction.

Improving comfort

As one of the staples of energy-efficient home design, insulation will keep you warm when the weather outside is cold, and maintain a pleasant chilly indoor vibe during the summer. This happens because insulation prevents the warmed or cooled air from leaving your house through thin walls. However, to achieve maximum comfort and savings, you should also seal the air gaps around the doors and windows, and replace your weathered windows for new Energy Star-rated models.

Top 5 Advantages of Energy-efficient Home Design

Image source: freshome.com

Saving money in the long run

Here are some interesting facts about energy efficiency and money savings we’ve picked up from Evergy.gov:

  • By replacing five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs, you can save about $75 a year.
  • By fixing leaky faucets, you will save 1,661 gallons of water and $35 per year.
  • Low-e storm windows can save up to 33% on heating and cooling bills.
  • Installation of a water heating tank can save up to 16% annually on water heating bills.
  • Replacing an old toilet with a low-flush model can save up to $100 per year.
  • Sealing uncontrolled air leaks around the doors and windows lowers your cooling and heating bills for up to 20%.

Of course, all the actual savings will depend on your home, climate, and other actions you decide to take (e.g., buying Energy Star-rated appliances, reducing electricity use, opting for smart devices, etc.). For example, the factor that contributes to increased energy use in Australia includes high temperatures, which have broken several records in the last couple of years. All this happened while electricity prices were on the rise. Australians had the perfect response and turned to energy-efficient practices.

Top 5 Advantages of Energy-efficient Home Design

Image source: freshome.com

Vanquishing the energy vampires

Do you know what the first step toward achieving energy efficiency in your home is? It might seem at the first glance that it includes buying entirely new appliances, but sometimes that could create unnecessary waste and cause harm to the planet. However, some energy vampires such as old refrigerators are not supposed to be kept in the house, since they use much more energy than new units, because they need more effort to maintain the proper temperature.

Increasing the resale value

Studies conducted since the 1970s have unfailingly established that energy-efficient properties earn a higher resale value than average homes. Today, this is even more important, as millennials are stepping on the house-buying market, and they are believed to be the “greenest” generation of them all.

Top 5 Advantages of Energy-efficient Home Design

Image source: trendir.com

Contributing to a healthier planet

Through energy efficiency retrofits, the average home built decades ago has the potential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses it produces by 4.5 tons per year. This is an important step toward reducing the impact of climate change.

As you see, designing your house with energy-efficiency in mind brings a whole set of advantages that can improve the quality of your life, lower your monthly expenditures and make this world a healthier place. What more do you need to know?

 

Green home improvements have become one of the most popular remodelling projects on the design scene. Whether it comes to renovating the interior, installing new features or even decorating your space, it seems that green reigns supreme. There are actually more than a few excellent reasons why eco-friendly and sustainable improvements are the most sought-after on the market.

A positive impact on the environment

Let’s start from the most obvious benefit of green home improvements – preserving the environment. Making your home greener can actually contribute to the environment preservation in a variety of ways. You can help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by going green and installing a renewable energy system in your home. For instance, an Energy Star home produces 2000 kg of greenhouse gases less than a regular home. You can also relieve pressure on finite resources by reducing your water consumption and using recycled or salvaged materials for your home improvements. Consequently, implementing sustainably sourced natural materials and reused materials also contributes to reducing waste. All of these benefits can make a valuable contribution to the environment preservation, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

modular home

Numerous opportunities for increased savings

A great number of homeowners opt for green improvements because they can help them increase their savings in the long run. For instance, energy efficiency is one of the most important aspects of a green home that can help you reduce your energy bill. You can boost your home’s energy efficiency by installing a solar system, introducing Energy Star-certified appliances, installing energy efficient windows or switching to energy-saving lighting, such as LEDs. You can reduce your electricity bill substantially or even completely if you break off from the regular electrical grid.
Furthermore, you can also save money on your water bill by installing water-saving features. From low-flow toilets and faucets to water-saving outdoor irrigation systems, there are plenty of ways to conserve water in your home.
Finally, green homes are also more durable due to the use of high-quality materials, appliances and other features. This reduced the need for frequent repairs or replacements, which provides you with another opportunity to increase your savings.

LED

A higher return on investment

Many would argue that green improvements are more expensive than the regular ones. Although this is generally true, they are actually an investment worth making and they will pay for themselves. Green improvements offer a high return on investment, enabling homeowners to recoup their initial costs. In addition, there are numerous grants and incentives for homeowners who decide to go green, especially on a larger scale. For instance, when it comes to solar panel finance, you can find a program that will provide you with 100 percent financing without any down payments. Furthermore, some states and utility companies may even pay you or provide you with some discounts in terms of your bills for the excess energy you generate and return to the grid. Thus, you can easily find a financing option that will help you pay for your green home.

business meeting

A healthier and more comfortable home

Improving your home through green remodelling projects will also prove you with a healthier and more comfortable space. Sustainable materials and green solutions aren’t treated with toxic chemicals, which means that they can’t pollute your indoor air through the process of off-gassing. For instance, you can use VOC-free paint and products to give your interior a fresh, healthy look. Furthermore, eco-friendly homes feature a lot of greenery, including potted plants, green walls and roofs, vertical gardens and outdoor green surfaces. Since plants act as natural air purifiers, they can help you increase your indoor air quality.
Green homes are also thermally more comfortable because of their high-quality insulation. Homeowners pay special attention to the insulation of their homes to prevent air leakage and energy wastage. This provides them with air-tighter homes and a more stable indoor temperature, which create a cosier, more comfortable home environment.

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Increased home value

Owing to a range of benefits that green home improvements offer, they are typically the most profitable ones on the market. Green homes are among the most popular types of property in real estate and a great number of buyers would rather pay more for them. Thus, going green will not only provide you with the aforementioned benefits, but it will also increase the value of your home on the market. If you ever decide to sell your home, you’ll be able to recoup your initial investment.

house with solar panels

Thus, when remodelling your home, you should go with some of the most profitable eco-friendly improvements. For instance, replacing your old windows with new, energy efficient ones will provide you with up to 70 per cent ROI. Proper insulation is another profitable green improvement that you should consider. Installing a smart thermostat or an eco-friendly water heater will also attract prospective buyers. Finally, if you decide to go solar, you may increase the value of your home by even $18,000.

Green improvements will provide you with numerous benefits, including a healthier and more comfortable home, increased property value and numerous savings opportunities. On top of all that, they will also help you make a valuable contribution to the environment preservation.

The combination of Australia’s dry climate and latitude provides it with high potential for solar energy production. What is more, Australia’s insolation (the power per unit area received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation) vastly exceeds the average values in Europe, Russia and most of North America is comparable to desert regions of Africa and South America’s Pacific coast. Let’s take an overview of its development from the pioneering project to future prospects.

The Bos House – small steps

Back in the day, there was much talk about the energy crisis and how the oil was running out, confides Judy Bos, the owner of Australia’s first fully autonomous solar powered home. Unimpressed by the way other houses blasted their resources for heating and cooling, Judy and Michael Bos wanted to design a house that stays naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. Built in 1978, in south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne, the house draws heavily from passive design, smart landscaping, using winds turbines to pump water and collecting rainwater, but the most impressive feature were the series of solar panels that charged a cupboard of lead acid batteries. Michael Harris, who used to run tours of the house in 1980s, said that back then, people were very interested in being self-sufficient and living off the grid.

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Towards brilliant examples

Nestled in a blustery seaside village of Cape Paterson in Southern Gippsland, the 10-Star Home is a stellar example of a carbon-positive, four-bedroom home conceived with a zero-waste philosophy. The first home of its kind in the State of Victoria, this 10-star energy rated home has no mechanical heating and cooling – it uses passive solar design, cross-flow ventilation and heavy-duty insulation. With a 5kW solar photovoltaic system on the roof, the home is reported to be producing twice as much power as it needs. In order to increase the amount of outdoor space in their 200-square-metre Yarraville block, Scott and Leanne Thompson added a green roof to their century-old worker’s cottage. In addition to increasing their garden setting in infamously costly inner-city Melbourne, they’ve insulated their kitchen and living area and minimised stormwater run-off. Dubbed Melbourne Vernacular, this heritage home now uses a range of innovations to cut carbon emissions and reduce the energy use, crowned with a 4kW solar PV system.

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Solar rebates in Australia

Credit refund amounts that the government offers to qualifying homeowners and businesses depends on the size of the solar unit and the property location. However, as with all government-related matters, changes are inevitable, so it’s always good to check resources before you invest in solar energy. The government-issued STCs (Small-Scale Technology Certificates) that solar home owners receive are sold to utility companies and used to offset the cost of the equipment installation. The number of STCs a user receives depends on the solar zone of the property. For example, a 1.5kW system in Melbourne, which is in zone four that receives the least sunshine, would receive 26.6 STCs.   

Projects that unplug Australia

Backed by scaled-up production of photovoltaic components and costs that continue to fall, global solar power is growing steadily, with China, USA, and Japan spearheading the lead with the most PV capacity added in 2016. In Australia, the cost of solar power is now well below the retail power prices in the capital cities, and it keeps falling. Every year, Australia adds more solar power than the combined capacity of SA’s recently closed Northern and Playford coal-powered plants. What is more, solar battery storage for households and businesses is already gaining round in Australia, with more than 6,500 homes using the technology. Large-scale developments such as the Lakeland solar and battery storage show a full potential of combining large-scale solar and energy storage technologies that can make entire communities less dependent on the grid and highly resistant to consumption-peak blackouts.

Despite the overall high potential, Australia’s often been internationally rebuked for not producing more energy from its solar resources. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that areas with the highest insolation are distant to Australia’s population hubs on the coast. Nonetheless, solar power remains one of Australia’s growing industries with predictions of reaching 20 GW of solar power in the next 20 years, which is the equivalent of the third of the current national power generation capacity.

The smart home market is ever-expanding and opening up exciting new opportunities for modern homeowners. Namely, as technology advances by leaps and bounds, we are in a position to make our living environments more awesome, functional, and safe. Then again, all products are not created equal and you want to avoid gimmicks and subpar gadgets. Instead, focus on those that add real value to your home and upgrade your daily life. To help you in your search, we compiled a list of amazing gadgets based on our tests and existing reviews.  

Amazon Echo (2nd generation)

Smart home speakers such as Echo are popping up in homes and offices across the globe. The second generation of Amazon’s flagship is smaller, cheaper, and simply better than its predecessor. It is capable of playing music, setting alarms, producing weather reports, managing shopping lists, making calls, controlling other smart devices, etc. All of this you can do hands-free, using just your voice. After all, this enhanced speaker contains seven microphones, a Dolby processing unit, as well as 360-degree, omnidirectional audio.

iSmart Alarm

The next product on our list is one of the best home DIY security systems currently in the market. It is actually an eight-piece set that comes with two window sensors, alarm hub, two door sensors, a motion sensor, and two keychain remotes. Those who go for a pricier, premium package also get an HD security camera. The system includes customizable settings, integration with an app that tracks everything, and app- or keychain-enabled controls. Users can also choose to receive notifications via email, text and phone calls.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

This one is more than just a wireless doorbell. It is also a smart video product that seamlessly connects to your smartphone. Yes, that means you can have conversations with your visitors without having to get up and stop what you are doing. Besides, you get a product that doubles as a security camera. Did I mention that recorded videos are stored via cloud and that with an optional accessory receiver, you can hear the doorbell anywhere in your home? The only bummer to speak of is the price tag. Here is the list of some of the best wireless doorbell products.

 

Ecobee4

Programmable thermostats enable homeowners to improve heating and cooling patterns and save a lot of money in the long run. Ecobee4 is a standout product that pays for itself after less than two years. It has a user-friendly responsive display and remote-control functions. Advanced sensors analyze occupancy and temperature to automatically determine the most optimal modes. There are a bunch of smart integrations, but I would say that one killer feature is a built-in Alexa speaker. This means you can control it via voice or smartphone app.

Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit

Philips Hue White is a soft light bulb you can manipulate remotely. Namely, smart controls are intuitive, a dedicated app automates the whole experience, and there is also support for Hue’s well-connected platform. What is more, you can easily add extras to your setup if you wish it so: Hue Dimmer Switch, Hue Tap, Hue Motion Sensor, etc. The product is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The right ambience for your mood is just a few taps or voice commands away.

August Smart Lock

Smart locks have revolutionized home security and August is certainly worth your while. The interface is simple and easy to put to good use. You do not have to replace your keys, which is utterly convenient. There are auto-locks and auto-unlock features that really make your life easier. Moreover, you can count on the smooth HomeKit, Alexa, Siri, and Nest integrations. The app experience is solid and the components are well-made and sturdy. Just bear in mind that there is no alarm included in the package.

Play it smart

In this day and age, the market is flooded with cutting-edge gadgets and smart devices. They span nearly every room and automate various home systems and features. Thus, they give you a chance to be in full control of your environment. Try to stick to devices that are easy to install and use, as well as those that speak to your inner “techie”. So, it is time to comb through the internet, and embark on your own shopping adventure. Put together an intricate framework for a high-tech, 21st century home.