Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day! Tips for Digging Out

As I sit watching rapidly accumulating snow, I realize I am already breaking maybe the most important rule of snow removal. I definitely should have made a pass...or three...over the walk out front to stay ahead of this thing. This storm is going to be a tough workout for our shoveling muscles.

There are a few other things to think about to protect your property. Avoid leaving snow piled up around foundation walls. The melt and refreeze cycle can create cracks, and once they start they will gradually get worse. Also clear piles away from wood siding so that it doesn't eventually create water damage as it melts. Use a plastic shovel on wood or composite decking. A metal shovel (or shovel that has a metal blade) can dig into these surfaces and make damaging grooves. Finally, pulling a metal rake over your shingles along the edges of your roof can help prevent ice dams from forming. Just be sure you are in a safe position when you do this!

Plants and landscaping can also be damaged.  It may sound odd, but shrubbery that has become loaded with snow is more likely to be damaged by attempts to remove it than by leaving it there. The deicing agents you use can be hard on grass and landscaping. Certain plants are more sensitive to these, you may want to choose an alternative for traction in the area, or apply salt products sparingly near the plants that require special consideration.

I always dread shoveling the snow, and invariably once I get started I feel invigorated by the activity and the cold air. Hopefully I can talk myself past the dreading stage and out to the endorphins sooner rather than later! Best of luck and stay safe out there.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Windows and Indoor Comfort

As I sat here without electricity, I found myself (for at least the tenth time this winter) glad for our lucky timing. We replaced our old nearly 100 year old windows for modern, low-E, double paned ones just this past summer. Ahhhh. Summer. But I digress. Immediately afterward, I was trying to convince the kids that they didn't need the shades open for the light so much as they needed to leave them closed and keep the heat in the house.

In our situation, better windows were worth the expense. They will provide excellent value over time if you are in a drafty old home. If you have decent windows already or are making decisions for new construction, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the effects of your window coverings. They can make a difference in reducing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer, and they are are great way to add color, texture and style to your home decor.

For the winter, insulated cellular shades are optimal for keeping the interior warm. Conventional roller shades offer some modest benefit as well, especially if you combine them with lined draperies for a layered effect. An interesting tip when you are in a pinch, your power is out, and aesthetics aren't your first concern--even lining the windows with bubble wrap will be a help. As a bonus, you can still get the natural light, too.

Planning for your needs during the summer months offers some interesting style options to shade your windows that you may not have considered. Awnings can add unique curb appeal and are a great way to reduce heat gain. Metal awnings aren't adjustable, but can be built to suit your taste and are more durable than canvas types. Adjustable canvas awnings come in many styles allow you to control the light so that you can still let it in on chilly winter days like we are experiencing. For an inexpensive benefit that will not dictate any style choices, even a discreet surface film will have modest benefit. Indoors, louvered blinds are popular, but don't offer much thermal protection. If you like this style best for your window treatments, consider solar screens on the outside.

Have fun thinking about what you would like to choose for your warm weather comfort. Maybe enjoy your design magazines with a cup of hot chocolate!