Weekly home help with items on energy-efficient windows, seasonal decorations and how to remove mildew.

On Dec. 31, the federal tax credit worth up to $1,500 for energy-efficient home improvements will expire, which means waiting too long for some home improvements can be detrimental to your wallet.


October also happens to be National Energy Awareness month. A survey conducted by the Alliance to Save Energy found that 64 percent of homes in the U.S. have single-pane windows, which contribute up to 35 percent of energy wasted in buildings.


In cold climates, energy-efficient, dual-pane windows with low-e coatings can reduce heating bills by as much as 34 percent. In warm climates, they can cut cooling costs by 38 percent.


"The timing couldn't be better for value shoppers to make the investment into new energy-efficient windows for their homes," said Erin Johnson, window expert for Edgetech I.G. "Special offers and tax credits will add up through December, but the long-term savings on energy bills will be long-lasting if consumers do their homework to find the right windows to meet all of their needs."


Shopping for windows


Understand what the labels mean. Windows that bear the Energy Star label are proven to reduce heating and cooling costs. The National Fenestration Ratings Council also approves them for U-factor (the rate of heat loss through the window) and solar heat gain (how well the window blocks heat from the sun).


To meet the federal tax credit requirements, windows must achieve a .3 U-factor and .3 solar heat gain coefficient. This information should be clearly marked on the windows.


Condensation resistance should also be considered.


"This will lead to other problems, including mold and damage to curtains, walls, carpet and the window itself. Most importantly, moisture can lead to seal failure and the need to replace the entire window system," Johnson said.


Some NFRC labels include condensation resistance, which is reported on a scale from one to 100 and measures the ability of a product to resist formation of condensation on the interior surface. The higher the CR rating, the better. This rating is not required on labels, so be sure to do your homework.


To best prevent condensation, use a spacer, the window component that separates and seals the two panes of glass. According to the NFRC, the use of a warm edge spacer system that reduces the conductivity through the edge of the window is best.


According to Johnson, all-foam, dual-sealed edge spacer systems are the best.


"Rigid, metal spacers do not bend, so over time stress from wind, snow and barometric pressure changes can cause the seal to crack. A flexible spacer will expand and contract with weather changes, keeping the seal intact and the window performing longer," Johnson said.


-- ARA


Decorating Tip: Warm colors outlast Halloween décor


Skip on the costly Halloween decorations this year and, instead, go for the inviting decorations of autumn. If you dress the outside and inside of your home in warm, natural colors, you can leave decorations up until the very end of the season. Start off with pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, baskets and ribbons. Arrange them in your own creative style and leave on display.


-- DoItYourself.com


Home-Selling Tip: Minimize holiday decorations


Going all out with holiday decorations could be a way to scare off potential buyers. Whether it is Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas, keep your decorations tasteful, complementary and to a minimum. Use decorations that enhance your home’s features and be sure to take them down as soon as the holiday is over.


-- EnergizedSeller.com


How To: Remove mildew


Mildew grows in damp areas like bathrooms and basements. The black, speckled growth needs to be removed and you may need to repair the sanded spots with spackling compound.


Start by washing with warm water and mild soap to get all the stains off the entire wall. Mildew stains won’t wash off, so sand down those spots with 150-grit sandpaper.


Then put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Wash the spots with bleach, which will kill the mildew spores. Afterwards, wash the area with phosphate-free solution. Finally, rinse off the entire area with clean water.


-- HomeDepot.com


Did You Know… Home ownership still American goal


According to an annual Housing Opportunity Pulse Survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, eight out of 10 Americans still believe that buying a home is a good financial decision. In addition, 68 percent of the 1,209 over-the-phone respondents say that now is a good time to buy.


Home Improvements: A focused fireplace


A fireplace should be the focal point of any room and there are simple ways to make it shine. Add small pictures or sentimental items to the mantel for an eclectic feel. Try one large piece of art hanging over the fireplace for a dramatic appearance. Or try two urns, vases or flower pots on each side of the mantel for symmetry.


-- HGTV.com


Garden Guide: Turning up the heat


Now that you have worked hard on your garden all summer long, it is time to sit outside and enjoy the scenery. Don’t let the cold weather hold you back from admiring your accomplishments. Consider different options for keeping you and your family warm outside.


First, consider a fire pit. Although they can be messy at times, they come in a variety of heights, widths, materials and styles. You can easily find one to blend in with your garden’s ambiance.


Another option is a patio heater, which can use electricity or propane. It can be a free-standing, table top, pole-mounted, wall-mounted or umbrella-mounted unit. You can choose from a variety of finishes and sizes, depending on the space you are trying to heat: 4 to 5 feet, 9 to 12 feet or 20 feet or more.


-- WeekendGardener.net


Backyard Buddies: Snakes move as climate increases


During the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting on Oct. 10, scientists revealed that rattlesnakes will be facing dramatic relocation as the climate continues to increase.


If the global temperatures increase by even 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2100, which is a conservative prediction among scientists, then 11 species of rattlesnakes in North America will be dislocated by 430 meters per year on average, said researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington.


Some scientists raised the question of whether the snakes would be migrating north, as seen in some marine organisms. But land precipitation changes are also a factor, and snake ranges appear to be shrinking as well as migrating.


-- ScienceNews.org


GateHouse News Service