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Archive for September, 2012

Here in the valley we’re always looking for ways to cut our utility bills.  I’ve often wondered how much window coverings really help to conserve energy and have to admit up front, I always doubted there was much of a tangible savings based on what you put over your windows, black out style treatments included. But this past summer I saw proof-positive that you can save greenbacks with the right window coverings.  In our home it was a progression over the past year, adding one thing at a time as the budget permitted but this summer we finally saw some tangible savings.

When we bought our home it had few window treatments and what did exist were the little metal 1″ blinds.  Nice.  I tore most of them out post-haste as I’d rather have nothing on the windows vs. those things. It was winter and the fact there were no window coverings didn’t matter much. Then came June.  Because there are so many windows the house heated up quickly as soon as the summer months were upon us.  It wasn’t in the budget to get the window treatments we wanted so we started with a film over the windows to prevent the fading of furnishings, wall hangings and the carpet.  At the same time we opted for sunscreens on the NW side of the home where it was MEGA hot (happened to be the master bedroom & bath) because it took the late afternoon/evening sun. The window film has made a huge difference in preserving the color of furnishings and wall hangings but it did little to cut the cost of the utility bills.  It was a fight to keep the utility bills under $300, resorting to tactics not fit to print. While we never topped that $300 number, we did lose water weight (literally) sweating it out.

So, I swore the next project would be to get something over the windows to help with this problem come the following summer.  But, in the back of my mind I still had little faith that alone would help and started mentally budgeting to add another full a/c unit to the house as it only has one now.

At the start of the year we finally got estimates and while I’d said all along I didn’t want shutters, I learned they were the most efficient at keeping out heat than most other options. There were other treatments I liked better but they wouldn’t have worked as well with the heat factor.  So we opted for 5″ wood shutters with hidden hinges in an alabaster for the bedrooms and a rich dark wood for the family and living rooms that are adjacent to the kitchen and have the same color cabinets. They were installed by May and ever since then the a/c has been set at a much lower setting and we’ve yet to pass a high of $270 on the electric bill.

The downside to shutters (for me) is they really can darken a room, which is why they’re effective at keeping out the light/heat. I prefer bright but with pretty much 365 sun here in the valley a reprieve in July and August is NOT a bad thing. They really do dress up a room as well and the natural wood tones are exceptionally pretty. One corner of our family room is a little darker than I like with the shutters but again, they serve an important function and they are very “handsome”.

Here are some before and after photos.  Two sources to get estimates from are Wes McLaughlin at Arizona Blinds (480-234-7209) and Larry Black with All About Blinds (480-507-3333).  I’ve used both and they’re competitive, professional and all-around good guys.

Bedroom after.

Bedroom before.

Family room after.

Family room before.

Dining room after

Dining room before.

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Fireplace Face-Lift

The surround of my fireplace is a faux pink brick that needs to go but there are lots of other projects ahead of it.  So, in the meantime, I elected to paint it.

The first go-round didn’t go so well. I tried for a natural stone look and it just washed it out. Then I went the route of painting it the same color as the walls around it and it disappeared into the wall – as one should expect.  Having little patience when it comes to painting I was about done with this ‘little’ project by now.  Then I came across some of the dark glaze left from the Rustoleum refinishing kit that was used on the dresser and armoire re-do so I applied that over the paint.

While it’s not the fireplace or the neatest project I’ve done, it makes the room more bearable till I can get to it. Who knows, once I find the right mantle it may end up looking ok just as it is.  In the meantime it’s an improvement and all it took was some extra wall paint and a glaze. Here’s before, in-between and the after shot.  It actually came out better than the after shot indicates.

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