Ask This Old House host Kevin O’Connor travels to Portland, Oregon to learn how to protect homes from earthquakes.
The work involved with a seismic retrofit often requires a consultation with an engineer, and any work involving gas must be done by a licensed professional. Consulting with a person who is licensed to do seismic retrofits can help identify key areas to work with in order to minimize damage.
The house can be secured to the foundation by securing metal L brackets into the rim joist and the sill plate at locations determined by the engineer with a palm nailer and 10 penny nails.
To connect the sill plate to the foundation, drill screw anchors into the anchor plates and the foundation, and wood screws through the anchor plates to the sill plate. Predrill the sill plate to prevent it from splitting.
To prevent gas from leaking into the house during an earthquake, an automatic gas shut off valve can be installed by a licensed gas fitter.
Shut off the gas to the meter.
Disconnect the gas pipes starting from the meter until you reach a level gas pipe.
Thread the gas shut off valve into the pipes using pipe dope and nipples.
Reconnect the remaining gas pipes to the meter and turn the gas back on. Check for any leaks in the new gas work.
Secure any valuables and nick knacks to the wall, shelves, and floor using museum putty and zip ties.
Secure the water heater to the surrounding walls using straps.
While the specialty hardware that was used to secure the house to the foundation can be found at most home centers, determining the proper location for that hardware may require a consultation with an engineer.
The seismic gas shutoff valve installed was a Northridge Valve, which is manufactured by Seismic Safety Products (http://www.seismic-safety.com/). Gas work is extremely dangerous and should always be left to licensed professionals.
The museum putty used to secure valuables to the shelves is manufactured by QuakeHOLD (http://www.quakehold.com/emergency-ma…).
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The likes of Amazon, Google, Samsung, Apple and others are all competing for smart home dominance – but what drove so many of us to invite these multinational corporations into the highly personal spaces where we live?
In a world that is more connected than ever before, millions of us have welcomed leading technology giants into our properties for entertainment, to adjust the heating and even answer the door.
Now a major market in its own right, the likes of Amazon, Google, Samsung, Apple and others are all competing for smart home dominance.
But why do these businesses care so much about where we live? Why are they developing such useful systems? What does this new world mean for our built environment? And what drove so many of us to invite these multinational corporations into the highly personal spaces we call home?
Credits: The B1M, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Apple, Philips, iRobot, Sonos, Honeywell, Ford, Behance, Facebook, Sidewalk Labs, Daikin and Ring.
Buying your first home comes with many big
decisions and can be as scary as it is exciting. It’s easy to get swept up in
the whirlwind of home shopping and make mistakes that could leave you with
buyer’s remorse later.
If this is your first rodeo as a homebuyer or
it’s been many years since you last bought a home, knowledge is power. Here are
the 14 most common mistakes first-time buyers make — and how to steer clear of
1. Get Pre-Approved Before You Begin Looking for a Home
Many first-time buyers make the mistake of
viewing homes before ever meeting with a mortgage lender. This puts you behind
the ball if a home hits the market you love, or you look at homes that you
In some large markets, housing inventory is
still tight and competition is fierce. You might find yourself willing to
stretch your budget to buy a property or lose a property because you aren’t
preapproved for a mortgage, says Alfredo Arteaga, a loan officer with Movement
Mortgage in Mission Viejo, California.
What to do instead: “Before you fall in love
with that gorgeous dream house you’ve been eyeing, be sure to get a fully
underwritten preapproval,” Arteaga says. Being preapproved sends the message
that you’re a serious buyer whose credit and finances pass muster to
successfully get a loan.
2. Shop Around with Different Lenders for Loan
This one is a biggie. First-time buyers might
get a mortgage from the first (and only) lender or bank they talk to,
potentially leaving thousands of dollars on the table. The more you shop
around, the better basis for comparison you’ll have to ensure you’re getting a
“A good mortgage loan officer can look at
your situation and diagnose any potential roadblocks ahead to give you a clear
understanding of your home-buying options,” Arteaga says.
What to do instead: Shop around with at least
three different lenders, as well as a mortgage broker. Compare rates, lender
fees and loan terms. Don’t discount customer service and lender responsiveness;
both play key roles in making the mortgage approval process run smoothly.
3. Buy Only Enough House That You Can Reasonably Afford
It’s easy to fall in love with homes that
might stretch your budget, but overextending yourself can lead to regret and
worse later. It can put you at higher risk of losing your home if you fall on
tough financial times.
What to do instead: Focus on what monthly
payment you can afford rather than fixating on the maximum loan amount you
qualify for. Just because you can qualify for a $300,000 loan, that doesn’t
mean you can afford the monthly payments that come with it. Factor in your
other obligations that don’t show on a credit report when determining how
much house you can afford.
4. Take Your Time Don’t Rush Things
Buying a home can be complex, particularly
when you get into the weeds of the mortgage process. Rushing the process can
cost you later on, says Nick Bush, a Realtor with TowerHill Realty in
“The biggest mistake that I see [first-time
buyers make] is to not plan far enough ahead for their purchase,” Bush says.
“This doesn’t allow them to save (for a down payment and closing costs), fix
items on their credit report, and debunk some of the myths about the process
with a realtor and lender.”
What to do instead: Map out your home-buying
timeline at least a year in advance. Keep in mind it can take months — even
years — to repair poor credit and save enough for a sizable down payment. Work
on boosting your credit score, paying down debt and saving more money to put
you in a stronger position to get preapproved.
5. Hold Some Savings in Reserve
Spending all or most of their savings on the
down payment and closing costs is one of the biggest mistakes first-time
homebuyers make, says Ed Conarchy, a mortgage planner and investment adviser at
Cherry Creek Mortgage in Gurnee, Illinois.
“Some people scrape all their money together
to make the 20 percent down payment so they don’t have to pay for mortgage
insurance, but they are picking the wrong poison because they are left with no
savings at all,” Conarchy says.
Homebuyers who put 20 percent or more down
don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance when getting a conventional mortgage.
That’s usually translated into substantial savings on the monthly mortgage
payment. But it’s not worth the risk of living on the edge, Conarchy says.
What to do instead: Aim to have three to six
months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Paying mortgage insurance
isn’t ideal, but depleting your emergency or retirement savings to make a large
down payment is riskier.
6. Be Mindful of Your Credit
Lenders pull credit reports at preapproval to
make sure things check out and again just before closing. They want to make
sure nothing has changed in your financial picture. Any new loans or credit
card accounts on your credit report can jeopardize the closing. Buyers,
especially first-timers, often learn this lesson the hard way.
The goal: keep the status quo in your
finances from preapproval to closing. Otherwise, you could lower your credit
score, run up your debt-to-income ratio and imperil your final loan approval.
What to do instead: Don’t open new credit
cards, close existing accounts, take out new loans or make large purchases on
existing credit accounts in the months leading up to applying for a mortgage
through closing day. Pay down your existing balances to below 30 percent of
your available credit limit, and pay your bills on time and in full every
7. Be Flexible with Home Style and Design, Focus on Location
Sure, you want a home that checks off the
items on your wish list and meets your needs. Being nitpicky about a home’s
cosmetics, however, can be short-sighted if you wind up in a neighborhood you
hate, says Alison Bernstein, president and founder of Suburban Jungle, a real
estate strategy firm.
“Selecting the right town is critical to your
life and family development,” Bernstein says. “The goal is to find you and your
brood a place where the culture and values of the (area) match yours. You can
always trade up or down for a new home; add a third bathroom or renovate a
What to do instead: Ask your real estate
agent to help you track down neighborhood crime stats and school ratings.
Measure the drive from the neighborhood to your job to gauge commuting time and
proximity to public transportation. Visit the neighborhood at different times
to get a sense of traffic, neighbor interactions and the overall vibe to see if
it’s an area that appeals to you.
8. Try to Be Objective in the Decision Process
Buying a house is a major life milestone.
It’s a place where you’ll make memories, create a space that’s truly yours, and
put down roots. It’s easy to get too attached and make emotional decisions, so
remember that you’re also making one of the largest investments of your life,
says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified in New York City.
“With this being a strong seller’s market, a
lot of first-time buyers are bidding over what they are comfortable with
because it is taking them longer than usual to find homes,” DiBugnara says.
What to do instead: “Have a budget and stick
to it,” DiBugnara says. “Don’t become emotionally attached to a home that is
9. You Do NOT Need 20 Percent Down Payment
The long-held belief that you must put 20
percent down payment is a myth. While a 20 percent down payment does help you
avoid paying private mortgage insurance, many buyers today don’t want (or
can’t) put down that much money. In fact, the median down payment on a home is
13 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Delaying your home purchase to save up 20
percent could take years, and you could limit cash flow that could be put to
better use maximizing your retirement savings, adding to your emergency fund or
paying down high-interest debt.
What to consider instead: You can put as
little as 3 percent down for a conventional mortgage (note: you’ll pay mortgage
insurance). Some government-insured loans require 3.5 percent down or zero
down, in some cases. Plus, check with your local or state housing programs to
see if you qualify for housing assistance programs designed for first-time
10. Be Realistic with You’re Wants, Don’t Wait for That ‘unicorn’
Unicorns do not exist in real estate, and
finding a perfect property is like finding a needle in a haystack. Looking for
perfection can narrow your choices too much, and you might pass over solid
contenders in the hopes that something better will come along. But this type of
thinking can sabotage your search, says James D’Astice, a real estate agent
with Compass in Chicago.
What to do instead: Keep an open mind about
what’s on the market and be willing to put in some sweat equity, DiBugnara
says. Some loan programs let you roll the cost of repairs into your mortgage,
too, he adds.
11. Check out All Financing Options; FHA, VA and USDA Loans
First-time buyers might be cash-strapped in
this environment of rising home prices and higher mortgage rates. As a result,
it can be harder for them to qualify for a conventional loan and they might
assume they have no financing options. That’s where government-insured loans
enter the picture.
What to do instead: Look into one of the
three government-insured loan programs backed
by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA loans), U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA loans) and U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA loans). Here’s a
brief overview of each:
FHA loans require just 3.5 percent down with
a minimum 580 credit score. FHA loans can fill the gap for borrowers who don’t
have top-notch credit or little money saved up. The major drawback to these
loans, though, is mandatory mortgage insurance, paid both annually and upfront
VA loans are backed by the VA for eligible
active-duty and veteran military service members and their spouses. These loans
don’t require a down payment, but some borrowers may pay a funding fee. VA
loans are offered through private lenders, and come with a cap on lender fees
to keep borrowing costs affordable.
USDA loans help moderate- to low-income
borrowers buy homes in rural areas. You must purchase a home in a USDA-eligible area and
meet certain income limits to qualify. Some USDA loans do not require a down
payment for eligible borrowers with low incomes.
12. Be Mindful of All Costs of Home-ownership
If you had sticker shock from seeing your new
monthly principal and interest payment, wait until you add up the other costs
of owning a home. As a new homeowner, you’ll pay for property taxes, mortgage
insurance, homeowners insurance, hazard insurance, repairs, maintenance and
utilities, to name a few.
A Bankrate.com survey found that
the average homeowner pays $2,000 annually on maintenance services. Not having
enough cushion in your monthly budget — or a healthy rainy day fund — can
quickly put you in the red if you’re not prepared.
What to do instead: Your agent or lender can
help you crunch numbers on taxes, mortgage insurance and utility bills. Shop
around for insurance coverage to get compare quotes. Finally, aim to set aside
at least 1 percent to 3 percent of the home’s purchase price annually for
repairs and maintenance expenses.
13. Take Advantage of “Gift” Money
Many loan programs allow you to use a gift
from a family, friend, employer or charity toward your down payment. Not
sorting who will provide this money and when, though, can throw a wrench into a
“The time to confirm that the Bank of Mom and
Dad is ready, willing and able to provide you with help for your down payment
is before you start home shopping,” says Dana Scanlon, a realtor with Keller
Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, Maryland. “If a buyer ratifies a
contract to purchase a home with an understanding that they will be getting
gift money, and the gift money fails to materialize, they can lose their
earnest money deposit.”
What to do instead: Have a frank discussion
with anyone who offers money as a gift toward your down payment about how much
they are offering and when you’ll receive the money. Make a copy of the check
or electronic transfer showing how and when the money traded hands from the
gift donor to you. Lenders will verify this through bank statements and a
signed gift letter.
Check out B1M’s Essay to see how Architects are reinventing older disused structures.
In an effort to retain heritage, reduce waste and overcome the challenge of finding sites in urban areas, architects, engineers and developers are breathing new life into existing structures and the communities around them.
From historic grain silos that are now museums to congested elevated roadways that have evolved into calming green parks, these are some of the greatest examples of reinvented structures.
THE FRØSILO – DENMARK The ongoing revival of Copenhagen’s industrial waterfront has seen a number of existing structures re-purposed to serve the city’s growing demand for apartment living.
The most impressive of these is undoubtedly Frøsilo, the adaptation of two silos formerly used by a soybean processing plant into a single unified structure that features 84 apartments.
Balancing their desire for waterfront views with the need to minimise penetrations in the silo and preserve the integrity of its superstructure, architects and engineers hung apartments from the exterior of the silo structures.
This approach enabled the silo interiors to be remodelled as full height lobbies, creating open and naturally lit atria for residents.
SEOULLO 7017 – SOUTH KOREA
Following in the footsteps of Paris’ Promenade Plantée and New York City’s High Line, Seoullo 7017 – widely known as the Seoul Sky Garden – adapts disused transport infrastructure to deliver much needed green space within densely a developed urban area.
With a number of elevated highways being decommissioned, city planners elected to repurpose some overpasses for pedestrian use, improving connections while providing much-needed green space.
Opening in 2017, the Sky Garden runs adjacent to Seoul Station and now consists of more than 24,000 individual trees, plants and shrubs along its kilometre route through the city.
Standing 17 metres above its surroundings, a number of bridges and staircases have been installed to link the structure with surrounding shops, hotels and neighbourhoods.
ZEITZ MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART AFRICA – SOUTH AFRICA
First constructed in 1921, the grain silo on Cape Town’s waterfront stood as the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa for over half a century.
Now, the structure’s interior has been impressively carved open, to create one of the continent’s leading contemporary art museums.
While the building’s exterior remained largely unchanged, internally some 73% of the concrete silos within the structure’s storage annexe were demolished, while much of the 58-metre elevator tower’s interior was removed.
These adaptations created space for numerous gallery spaces along with a luxury hotel, restaurant and rooftop sculpture garden.
At the museum’s core, a number of the remaining silos have been retained but carved away to create a breath-taking cathedral-like atrium, that stretches up 27 metres through the building.
Nodding to the structure’s heritage, the ovoid form of this space mirrors that of a grain of corn, that was digitally scanned at the design stage to inform the plans.
OPTIMO HEADQUARTERS – UNITED STATES
Outgrowing their original premises, bespoke hat-maker Optimo converted the City of Chicago’s historic Firehouse in 2018, consolidating all aspects of their design and production operations into a single building.
Shunning the idea of a new build industrial facility and instead, making use of the century-old building, Optimo selected the site for its location, reaffirming their commitment to the local community.
The ground level now serves as a factory, while the first floor has been refurbished to house offices and design studios.
Despite these adaptations, many of the building’s original features have been retained. Openings in the floor where fire poles once stood are now portholes offering views into the factory, while marble from the original firehouse has been repurposed in the kitchens.
LIBRARY, MUSEUM AND COMMUNITY CENTRE – NETHERLANDS
Built inside a historic church dating back to 1884, this library, museum and community centre has become a vibrant part of the city of Vught in the Netherlands.
Opened in mid-2018, the conversion has already garnered significant acclaim for its impressive, multifunctional use of the internal space, that remains respectful to the structure’s original design and purpose.
While much of the church itself has been preserved in its original form, modern additions, both internally and externally have added new layers to the building.
External pavilions provide new space for shops and restaurants while a new internal mezzanine floor creates unique spaces within the church for studying and community use.
Many of the library’s bookcases are fitted on tracks, allowing them to be moved aside to create an open multi-use space in the heart of the church.
FONDAZIONE PRADA – ITALY
Completed in 2015, the conversion of this disused gin distillery in Milan created an exhibition, gallery and event space for the Fondazione Prada; an institution dedicated to contemporary art and culture.
Consisting of several existing buildings and three new structures, the converted distillery now provides more than 19,000 square metres of space around a central courtyard.
While appearing relatively modest from the exterior, the facility is easily identifiable by its striking four-storey tower clad in 24-carat gold leaf.
Discover how New York’s iconic Woolworth Building was reinvented in B1M Documentary
According to Housingwire.com in 2018 Mellinals were paying all time high rental rates. Here’s what David Bach has to say to them.
If you’re not prioritizing home ownership, you’re making a costly mistake, says co-founder of AE Wealth Management, bestselling author and self-made millionaire David Bach.
In fact, not buying a home is the single biggest mistake millennials are making, he tells CNBC Make It: “The most important advice I can tell you right now if you’re young is: Don’t listen to these people that tell you should rent versus buy.”
Even with the tax law changes, he notes, “buying a home is the escalator to wealth in America. Homeowners are worth forty times more than renters.”
You have to live somewhere for the rest of your life, Bach points out, so you might as well invest in a home that you could own permanently.
He crunches the numbers in his bestselling book, “The Automatic Millionaire”: “As a renter, you can easily spend half a million dollars or more on rent over the years ($1,500 a month for 30 years comes to $540,000), and in the end wind up just where you started — owning nothing.
“Or you can buy a house and spend the same amount paying down a mortgage, and in the end wind up owning your own home free and clear!”
“Let’s be honest: Renters make landlords rich,” Bach tells CNBC Make It. “I want you to make yourself rich, so start by saving money for a down payment now.”
He recommends having a down payment of at least 10 percent, though 20 percent is ideal. The easiest way to reach that amount is to have money automatically taken out of your paycheck or checking account on a regular basis and moved directly into a savings account earmarked specifically for your first home.
Buying that first home probably means you’re not buying your dream home, Bach says, but the way you reach that goal eventually is by prioritizing homeownership now.
“The way you build financial security is through real estate, and it starts by buying your first home,” he tells CNBC Make It.
Contact Us Today to learn about Affordable Financing Options. Many Financing Options are Available.
Comfortable, Walk-able, Family Friendly, Great Schools, Surf, Beach, Shopping, New Light Rail line makes commuting to work on the east side easy and relaxing. Great community parks and entertainment and family friendly activities. If you are looking for a home in the Santa Monica area, give us a call we know the area well and we can help.
Santa Monica is in fact home to one of most iconic beaches in California. But did you know that Santa Monica is also home to eight different neighborhoods all with their own personality? Below we give you a rundown of every neighborhood, how the neighborhoods differ, and what you can expect from visiting each. (* see end for details) Santa Monica, California offers more than its beach and year-round warm weather. Its proximity to the greater Los Angeles area makes Santa Monica the perfect base for vacationers and business travelers alike.
Stretching over 3.5 miles of pacific coastline and is a walkable 8.3 square miles (21.5 km²). A laid-back beach town atmosphere with big city sophistication. Eight neighborhoods offering a diverse mix of shopping, dining, entertainment, outdoor recreation easily accessible public transportation and rentals making it easy to go car free.
For travelers aiming to discover the rest of Los Angeles and the greater Southern California region, Santa Monica serves as a convenient hub for broader exploration. Being only eight miles (13 km) north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and only 13 miles (21 km) from the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Easy access to neighboring areas and attractions and close to other popular Southern California cities such as Beverly Hills and Hollywood, Mar Vista, Marina Del Rey, Culver City.
NEIGHBORHOOD DESCRIPTIONS Downtown Santa Monica (DOWNTOWN / THIRD STREET PROMENADE) Downtown Santa Monica is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Santa Monica, largely because it’s home to the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place, two of the largest shopping areas in Santa Monica. The weekend finds the Third Street Promenade bustling with foot traffic of both locals and travelers. However, while Downtown Santa Monica is home to the highest concentration of shops, restaurants, and hotels in town, it also gives off a local vibe with its twice-weekly farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and lively street performers.
Main Street Santa Monica (MAIN STREET) Santa Monica’s Main Street bears the laid back artsy side of Santa Monica, a side of the city that has been characterized by a local, surf vibe for years. Consider the many art galleries and attractions such as the Edgemar Center for the Arts and Mindfulnest, which is one-part art gallery, one-part shop. Main Street is also home to one of the highest concentrations of coffee shops in Santa Monica. A variety of different boutique shops are scattered along Main Street and a weekly farmers market takes place every Sunday.
Mid-City Santa Monica (MID-CITY) The furthest inland neighborhood in Santa Monica is known as Mid-City. This is the arts and entertainment hub of Santa Monica, and is home to a number of the largest entertainment companies. Mid-City also is where you’ll find one of the largest contemporary art collections in Los Angeles, Bergamot, which was formerly a railroad station but now houses a plethora of different art galleries. Some of Santa Monica’s best restaurants are in Mid-City, including Mélisse, which had won two Michelin stars.
Montana Avenue Santa Monica (MONTANA AVENUE) While the Third Street Promenade is the most vibrant shopping area of Santa Monica, Montana Avenue emits a more high end and local shopping atmosphere along its tree-lined streets. Though this is a largely residential section of Santa Monica, there are more than 150 boutique shops and restaurants lining the 10-block destination. There aren’t hotels on Montana Avenue, but the neighborhood is convenient to Downtown Santa Monica and is within walking distance of most hotels there or by bike or the Big Blue Bus, which runs between the Green Line Metro’s Aviation Station and downtown Santa Monica, with a number of different stops.
Ocean Park Santa Monica (OCEAN PARK BOULEVARD / SANTA MONICA AIRPORT AREA) Running southeast from the Santa Monica Pier is Ocean Park. That local, artsy aesthetic of Main Street extends here, comprising independent coffee shops, boutique stores, and art galleries. Located just east of Ocean Park is the Santa Monica Airport. Not only is this a working airport for private jet owners, but it also is the location of the Museum of Flying, which features numerous aircraft and artifacts, including a Wright Flyer replica and World War II planes, and adjacent to the Spitfire Grill.
Pico Boulevard Santa Monica (PICO BOULEVARD) Running parallel to I-10 is perhaps the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Santa Monica: Pico. The people here can vary, from college students strolling in and around Santa Monica College to locals popping in and out of the clothing boutique shops, record stores, and art galleries. Saturday mornings on Pico feature a smaller, more local farmers market than the Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market; the Pico iteration usually comprises no more than 30-40 local farmers.
Santa Monica Pier Area/Ocean Avenue (SANTA MONICA PIER AREA / OCEAN AVENUE) The palm tree-lined avenue and views overlooking the Pacific Ocean make the Santa Monica Pier area and Ocean Avenue one of the most iconic locations in Santa Monica. Unique hotels, such as The Georgian and The Shore, dot Ocean Avenue while open-air restaurants and bars, such as Blue Plate Oysterette and The Bungalow, line the avenue. Just down from Ocean Avenue is perhaps Santa Monica’s most famous attraction, the Santa Monica Pier. This attraction dates back to 1909, and features a solar-paneled Ferris wheel, amusement park, aquarium, and live concerts and movies during the summer months.
Wilshire Boulevard (WILSHIRE BOULEVARD) Beginning at Ocean Avenue and running all the way through Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and into downtown Los Angeles, Wilshire Boulevard is one of the most well-known streets in town. It borders the Third Street Promenade on its southwestern edge, borders the hugely popular Douglas Park, known for playing fields, lawn bowling, reflecting pools, and natural landscaping. Eateries catering to every palate line the avenue, with a concentration of Mexican restaurants serving both new and old favorites. Numerous designer consignment shops dot the avenue as well, catering to fashionistas on a budget. The strip ends at the scenic Palisades Park, known for its inspiring sunset vistas. – – – – – – – – – – Looking for a home in Santa Monica California, Give us a call, DM or message. Follow Us on Social Media @CompeteRealEstate Video Credit: HD Bros
California homes don’t need quite as much winter prep as homes in the colder parts of the country. However, there is a lot you can do to make your home run more smoothly in the months to come. There are even some safety matters you should address in the fall. Use this checklist to make sure you’re ready.
Every element of your landscaping needs a little bit of work in the fall. If you plan on adding fertilizer to the garden, now is the best time to do it. Toss your leaves (if you have trees that drop them) and any dead plants in the compost to make more for next year.
Plus, cleaning up those leaves, dead branches, and other stray plants bits can reduce your risk during late season wildfires. You’ll also appreciate that a quick plant clean up will keep your property looking tidy through the winter.
Don’t forget to clean up any leaves or other debris in the gutters, so that you won’t suffer any clogs for the rainy days ahead. One other thing can get clogged too—the pool. After a long summer, it probably needs a filter clean or filter change. Also, it may need pH re-balancing and likely some pool shock to keep it clean of algae and bacteria.
Roof and Window Inspection
While you’re up there with the gutters take a peek at your roof. Are any shingles curled or missing? Is the flashing secure? It’s always better to catch a potential issue before water has the chance to find its way inside your home.
On your way down from the roof, take a look at the windows. While the weather is still nice, it’s smart to clean the exterior glass.
Before cooler weather arrives, you’ll also want to ensure the caulking around the windows hasn’t dried out and left some gaps. The better your windows are sealed, the better they can keep the conditioned air in the house. The same goes for your doorways.
Fall is a good time of year to tackle the safety tasks we too often put off. Check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector. Check the pressure of your fire extinguisher. If you’ve used any bandages or other supplies in your first aid kit over the last year, now is the time to replace them. If you keep some canned goods or bottled water in case of winter emergencies, be sure you’re stocked up.
Furnace & Airway Inspection
A Californian’s furnace has an easier life than a Californian’s air conditioner—that’s for sure! However, we still rely on our furnaces to be in good working order come winter. At Irish Heating and Air, we get plenty of emergency calls for broken furnaces on the coldest day of the year, but we don’t want you to have to make that call!
Check that your furnace is working well before the colder weather begins. If you find it’s weak, you could have a problem, or you may need a furnace clean. You can also get more efficient performance from your furnace if you get your ducts cleaned.
One of the buildings in the Phi Suea House complex in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is powered by solar panels and a hydrogen fuel cell system. All images provided by Phi Suea House.
All-day energy from the sun may sound like a green fantasy, but a team of builders and engineers in Thailand believe they may have built a home energy system that does just that. The Phi Suea House, the brainchild of CNX Construction, led by telecommunications entrepreneur Sebastian-Justus Schmidt, wants to showcase a new power system, and prove that hydrogen and solar technology is feasible for residential construction projects. The housing project seeks to be a proving ground for a new off-grid power system that utilizes solar panels and hydrogen power.
Located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the Phi Suea House project consists of four solar-powered residences, as well as a series of support buildings set on a 28,000 square meter (301,390 square foot) site. The main home and guest homes, topped with solar panels and green roofs for cooling and additional energy savings, generate power during the day, while also powering a hydrogen electrolyzer in a separate energy building on site, which splits hydrogen from water and stores the gas in a fuel cell. During the evening, or periods when the solar panels aren’t generating electricity, the fuel cell then powers the compound. According to Jan-Justus Schmidt, an engineer working on the project, the electrolyzer achieves 80 percent efficiency, and oxygen and water are the only byproducts.
While hydrogen power has plenty of skeptics due to cost, efficiency and safety issues, Schmidt says that the fuel cell system CNX has built is safe, and actually runs more efficiently than a similar setup utilizing only batteries. The concept was inspired by remote sites used in the communications industry that utilized a similar power system. The CNX team felt this system could be adapted to the residential context, and become a model, especially for homes located in remote areas.
Schmidt says that others have built homes with similar systems, but the Phi Suea home is using a system that’s more affordable and efficient.
“All the technologies used here are existing technologies,” says Schmidt. “There’s a 15-year return on these technologies, but the savings aren’t the point. We’re trying to show that these technologies, which exist right now, work.”
While the buildings were completed last year, the grand opening for the site, scheduled for January 29, will be the official beginning of the testing period for the new energy system. Over the next few months, sensors installed by researchers at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore will record data on energy performance, to verify if the Phi Suea Homes are living up to their promise.
A video that explains the energy storage system of Phi Suea House.
Fortunately, that’s not the only change in their building regulations.
The California Energy Commission has just changed the building standards to require solar photovoltaic systems on all houses built after January 1, 2020. Here I would cue up my usual response and say “reducing demand is more important than increasing supply” but they do that too; Insulation in walls and attics is increased, window performance is improved, LED lighting is mandated and ventilation is improved. Commissioner Andrew McAllister says:
The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy. They will cost less to operate, have healthy indoor air and provide a platform for ‘smart’ technologies that will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.
There are the usual objections that it will increase the cost of housing (estimated to be $9,500 per house) but California houses go up by that much every month due to land prices, President Trump’s tariff on Canadian lumber caused a 7 percent increase, and you probably heard the same thing when indoor plumbing became mandatory. At least energy savings from building efficiency and solar panels pay for themselves eventually. In the FAQ they write: “Based on a 30-year mortgage, the Energy Commission estimates that the standards will add about $40 per month for the average home, but save consumers $80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.
OK, so California isn’t the only state going through a water shortage. At least 30 states in the U.S. currently have some level of drought, ranging from “abnormally dry” conditions in Florida and Massachusetts to the “exceptional drought” currently happening in California and Nevada. (How’s your state faring? You can check using the NOAA’s U.S. Drought Monitor.)
If you live in more one of more than half of the states on the list, water conservation is probably a high priority for you, but honestly, conserving water doesn’t mean you have to live with a dry and neglected garden. And it’s not the only reason to swap your water-loving lawn for a more drought-tolerant landscape. Today’s low-water gardens aren’t just smart and in vogue; they’re downright gorgeous.
These 5 drought-tolerant landscaping ideas look so fresh and modern that they’re an inspiration — even if water conservation isn’t your first goal.
1. Replace your grass with artificial grass.
Grass is the largest water waster in the yard and it’s the most high maintenance item. On top of the watering there’s the mowing, mulching, aerating, fertilizing and re-seeding or re-sodding. Artificial grass doesn’t have to look like a neon green professional football field, either. There are a lot of realistic artificial grass options with varying amounts of multi-colored hatch.
2. Replace your grass with gravel and stone.
Artificial grass looks more like the real deal than ever before, but a gravel, stone and paver garden gives the garden a contemporary, minimalist look. It’s still low maintenance (and requires zero water) and is a great counterpoint to succulents and a fire pit.
3. Use succulents in your garden design ideas.
We can’t get enough of them and the way combining many different types in the same garden adds amazing texture and color.We’re particularly obsessed with aloe, burro’s tails, and hens and chicks.
4. Plant ornamental grasses.
Many types of grasses that aren’t your average green blanket lawn grasses are drought-tolerant and perfect for a low-water garden. Some of the most beautiful and low water ornamental grasses worth adding are:
Little Bluestem (grey-green blades that go to shades of purples and red)
When planting grasses, mix it up: Use both tall and short grasses along with a few of the more colorful grasses thrown in for pop.
5. Add Color with flowers, go with perennials.
It’s possible to create a colorful drought-tolerant landscape simply by selecting the right assortment of succulents and colorful grasses. But if you love seeing flowers in your landscape, go for perennials that are sturdier and require less water:
Blanket flower (red, yellow and orange daisy-like flowers)
Russian Sage (fragrant, delicate silver leaves with fine lavender-color flowers)
Yarrow (normally yellow flowers, but there are other color varieties available)
Salvia (bold crimson-red blooms)
Lavender (fragrant and colorful)
Kangaroo Paw (exotic plant with beautiful, bright red, orange or yellow velvety flowers)
How lucky for us that drought-tolerant landscaping can be modern and inspiring? Which will you be trying in your backyard or landscape design?