A blanket for your house: energy-efficient, insulated siding

Charlotte home sidingWith a growing emphasis on eco-conscious living, homeowners recognize the importance and value of having an energy-efficient home. One essential factor for saving energy and maintaining indoor air comfort is sealing the exterior of the home. Insulation and energy-efficient windows play important roles in preventing air leaks where obvious holes are present, however, one hidden area susceptible to energy leaks is the home’s framing.

“Homeowners are looking for ways to improve their home’s energy performance,” says Jery Y. Huntley, president and CEO of the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), the trade association for manufacturers of vinyl and other polymeric siding and suppliers to the industry. “A common problem with homes today is the thermal bridging effect, which can rob a home of heat and waste energy and money.”

In thermal bridging, the studs act as a passageway for heat to escape. Most insulation helps seal wall cavities, but the wall studs on either side of the cavities are often left exposed, reducing the insulating value of the entire wall.

“Continuous wall insulation is crucial to fully seal the exterior and protect against heat loss,” says Jerry Blais, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem, a leading manufacturer of home remodeling and building products. “Insulated siding is one solution that helps reduce the impact of thermal bridging, adding a blanket of insulation over the exposed wall studs.”

Backed with polystyrene foam insulation that is integral to the panel, insulated siding can increase a wall system’s R-value, or thermal resistance. The continuous insulation the siding provides over the entire wall can contribute to reducing the energy needed to heat or cool a home.

In fact, ENERGY STAR and other programs now recognize insulated siding as a valid material to reduce thermal bridging. Therefore, insulated siding is included in the checklist of products that help homes qualify to earn the ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes label.

“The recognition of insulated siding as home insulation in energy codes and energy efficiency programs legitimizes a benefit we’ve known for some time,” says Huntley.

Beyond energy efficiency, insulated siding offers many other benefits:
* Because it is made with vinyl, insulated siding is low maintenance. It provides the look of real wood, but does not require painting or staining.

* Insulated siding is an exceptionally dry wall system, making it resistant to mold growth and deterioration due to moisture absorption.

*The foam insulation backing and wide-style clapboard design options make insulated siding an extremely durable and impact resistant cladding, while improving the exterior wall flatness for added aesthetic appeal.

Today’s vinyl siding manufacturers offer insulated siding options at various price points and in an assortment of colors. Blais recommends Mastic Home Exteriors by Ply Gem Structure EPS for superior performance and a wide selection of coordinating designer accents and accessories, which can be found on www.mastic.com. Options such as Napco by Ply Gem American Essence or Variform by Ply Gem CSL 600 also offer classic styling in numerous colors.

If you are considering insulated siding for your next home improvement project, ask your contractor to download a free copy of Insulated Siding as Home Insulation: Guide for Users and Energy Raters, published by the VSI. Available at www.insulatedsiding.info, this guide offers information on how insulated siding contributes to building energy performance, as well as proper installation techniques.

Tips for Staying Fit Over the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for fun, family, and – let’s not forget – food. Between work functions, family get-togethers and endless holiday soirees, the sheer amount of cheesy appetizers, buttery entrees and sugar-laden desserts can be overwhelming – especially when you’re trying to maintain or lose weight.

Don’t let the holidays weigh you down; here are a few tips for how to stay fit and energized throughout the harried holiday season.

Smart snacking
The first rule to staying fit throughout the holidays is never arrive at a party hungry. With the abundance of tempting, fattening treats available, choosing an appetizer or dessert that fills you up and not out, can be a challenge. Satisfy your hunger beforehand with a protein-rich snack, like Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef or Jack Link’s Cholula Hot Sauce Beef Jerky, to help you curb your desire for calorie-filled treats at the party. Made with premium cuts of beef, pork, turkey or chicken, these snacks are naturally high in protein and low in fat, calories and carbs, making it a smarter snacking choice. And because jerky requires no refrigeration, you can easily toss a bag in your purse or gym bag for on-the-go noshing or a pre- or post-workout snack.

Jack Link’s Jerky is available in grocery stores, mass retailers, convenience and drug stores nationwide or at Jacklinks.com. (Suggested retail price per 3.25-ounce bag: $5.99.)

Hit the gym
As any personal trainer or nutritionist would tell you, the key to seeing results with any diet is exercise. But, you don’t have to be a heavyweight champion or triathlete to stay fit. Fitness centers across the U.S. make fitness affordable and accessible to people of all abilities and fitness levels. Hit the treadmill for a long walk or run; strengthen your muscles through weight training; find your “zen” during yoga; or improve your cardio through conditioning while cycling. Whether you’re looking to tone up or slim down this holiday season, there is sure to be a fitness center near you that will meet all your exercise needs. Many fitness centers are open 24 hours a day, so you can slip in your 30-minute workout when it’s convenient for you. As always, check with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen.

Visit a fitness center near you for more information on how to become a member.

Drink up
Most holiday get-togethers offer a variety of beverages to satisfy every guest, such as wine, spirits, eggnog, soda or coffee. In moderation, these beverages can be a festive treat; however, they can also leave you dehydrated and consuming more calories than you intended. This year, pair your beverage of choice with a healthy glass of water. Recent research shows, drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while also cutting back on portions, can help you meet your weight loss goals. While each person’s hydration needs are different, the Institute of Medicine advises that men and women try to consume about 3.7 and 2.7 liters of water a day, including water that can be found in food and other beverages, such as fruit, vegetables or even coffee.

Tally it up
Wearing a heart rate monitor, fitness watch or pedometer is a great way to track your progress before, during and after your daily workout. In preparation for the holidays, choose a tool that allows you to track calories consumed and calories burned all day long. Personal calorie management devices are available at a variety of price points and offer a wide array of capabilities. For example, through the use of an armband and a compatible smartphone, many calorie management devices will allow you to log calories consumed, track calories counts and even track how many steps you take all day long. Tools like this are essential in maintaining your weight loss goals all the way through to the new year and beyond.

Visit a local or online sporting goods retailer for more information

Technology Gifts For The Whole Family

charlotte home inspectionBuying holiday gifts can be a fun and easy experience when you go to the right place, and there is a certain joy that you get when you see someone opening a gift they’ve been waiting for all year. No matter the age of the person you’re buying for, there is one kind of product that is perfect for everyone: technology. Whether it’s new headphones, a USB flash drive for a stocking stuffer, or an e-reader, there is something for everyone.

Digital lifestyle expert and TV personality Mario Armstrong suggests making the shopping experience easy by finding one place shoppers can turn to for all their technology-gift-shopping needs. “Staples is a great place for that,” says Armstrong “they offer customers a great in store experience where shoppers can test products to ensure they are getting the best one for them. Also, if anyone is confused or needs a little guidance, their EasyTech Associates can help them decide, purchase and even help set up their new technology gifts.”

Here are some of Mario’s must-have picks for this holiday season available at Staples:

Tablets and e-readers: Smaller and more portable than a laptop, the tablet has become the ultimate tool for anyone who wants the functionality of a computer on the go. It can serve any purpose, whether you need an easy alternative for a business presentation, a great tool to play games or a movie-player to keep your kids busy when you’re traveling. Depending on what feature you’re looking for there is a wide range of models and accessories to meet almost any price point. With another great portable device that is all the rage this year, e-readers, paper books are a thing of the past. Now, the best way to get into your favorite book is to download it, the new Kindle Fire has a seven inch color touch screen that can download countless books in addition to movies and TV shows!

Stocking stuffers: There are some fun tech items at Staples that make great stocking stuffers. These days everyone has multiple flash drives in their life, but they don’t need to be those basic, boring black cubes. Now, drives come in fun shapes, colors and themes such as animals and even Looney Tunes characters.

Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be time consuming, once you find the right place that has everything, you get the gifts that will make everyone in your family smile this holiday. Staples is teaming up with Mario Armstrong this year to give everyone insider information on the best technology gifts this holiday season, be sure to check out www.staples.com/techdoutsweeps where you can get more information and tips directly from Mario and have a chance to enter to win an amazing tech prize package.

Fire Safety Tips To Protect Your Family

House fires happen more frequently during the winter months each year due to holiday decorations, malfunctioning furnaces and increased use of cooking appliances and fireplaces, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

As winter approaches, now is a good time for homeowners to make fire escape plans and take steps to prevent house. Every member of your family, from your youngest child to the oldest senior, can help to protect your home from fire and learn how to assist others in getting out in case a fire does occur.

Here are some actions you can take this fall to protect your house and family.

* Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Go through your entire house and make sure you put new Duracell CopperTop batteries in every detector. You should have a smoke detector on every floor in the house, as well as just outside of every bedroom.

“Installing a smoke detector is one of the strongest defenses for a family to prevent devastating fires and ensure loved ones are alerted and escape a potentially dangerous situation,” says Philip Stittleburg, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “A good habit to develop is to replace your batteries in your smoke detector every fall to ensure the detectors will work in the event there is a fire in your home.”

* Have your fireplace cleaned and inspected. Residue from previous fires can build up in the chimney, and if the conditions are right, catch on fire. Schedule a chimney cleaning every year if you plan to use your fireplace.

* Unplug holiday decorations when you’re away from the house or have gone to bed.

* If using space heaters in your home or garage, keep them at least three feet away from any objects, and don’t leave them running and unattended.

* With all the holiday cooking you’re bound to do, be sure to practice safe cooking methods. For instance, keep anything flammable away from the stove and oven, always roll up your sleeves when working around a hot range and never leave the kitchen unattended when cooking.

* Store lighters and matches out of reach of children and pets, and never leave a burning candle unattended.

* Establish escape routes for second story and higher rooms. You may need to purchase escape ladders that can be stored under the bed in case a family member would need to leave the house through the window.

* Organize a family escape plan. Put the plan down on paper, and then run through it several times so everyone – including your youngest children – knows exactly how they’re getting out of the house, and where they’re supposed to meet outside. Review this plan yearly.

All members of your family can work together to prevent fires. With a fire safety plan in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy the fall and winter months without worrying about your family’s safety.