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Solar Power’s Sunny Outlook

Sunlight is a form of electromagnetic radiation, originating from our nearest and dearest star, the Sun. Moving at the speed of light, or about 186,282 miles per second, this hefty dose of radiation travels outward in all directions from our star. A tiny, tiny, tiny percent of the total sunlight reaches the Earth, taking a little over eight minutes to get here after leaving the Sun’s surface. A portion of this percentage is absorbed by the plants and other organisms capable of converting the light into energy, fueling the basis of nature’s food chains. Without this light, plants could not photosynthesize. Likewise, most life would not exist without the solar radiation we all depend upon so much from the Sun.

This near infinite form of energy has been harnessed in one way or another for millenniums, with ancient humans using magnifying glass to ignite fires. The first modern usage of “solar power” came from a French inventor named Augustin Mouchot. He famously demonstrated an invention that could take solar energy and turn it into mechanical steam power. That steam power would then be used by a machine to create ice cream at the 1878 Universal Exhibition, hosted in Paris.

Now, the technology is almost everywhere. Some calculators still have solar cells atop the screen for power, though many are simply there for the look nowadays. On a larger scale, many homeowners around Joplin have made solar panels the next “big” upgrade to their houses. Apartment complexes continue to add more to their solar arrays atop their buildings as well. Local providers of solar panel installation include Solar Masters, Home Pro, Arrow Point Solar, and Sun Solar.

The futuristic-looking additions often sit on a home’s roof and are almost always on the side that receives the most sunlight year-round. Sometimes they’ll appear in tidy rows in a home’s yard or close by on the property. The fancy additions come with multiple benefits: many retailers, including local ones such as Spire Energy and Liberty Utilities, offer rebates to those who make the upgrade. Likewise, states often offer tax credits to homeowners that add solar panels to their homes.

As a cherry on top the Federal Government provides a tax credit of 26% for installing a new solar system on a house. For example, if you were to spend $10,000 on a system installation, you’d pay $2,600 less in taxes the subsequent year. Even if you made the switch in the latter half of the year, the remaining credit rolls over into the next year for usage. These benefits truly make it worthwhile to switch to solar.

With several months remaining of summer, before the Sun regresses in its annual solar cycle, it is best to start now on making the solar switch. If you’re ready to have a solar system installed, give the Home Builder Association of Southwest Missouri a ring at 417-623-5205. We have a network of solar panel installation experts to connect with you, ready to give a helping hand.

Smart Home Tech and You

2020 is not quite the futuristic spectacle writers have depicted via written stories and movies. Some hypothesized we would all be in little pod cars, zipping across the sky above our cities. In the science-fiction monster movie Pacific Rim, the year 2020 features massive monsters that come from the seas. Humans combat these threats with huge mechanical suits called “Jaegers”. Likewise, the science-fiction action movie Edge of Tomorrow shows a world engulfed in space conflict with an alien species known as “Mimics”, a world in which the protagonist is repeatedly set through a loop each time he perishes. Movies are sometimes exaggerated.

The reality is, 2020 isn’t some futuristic world with massive mechanical suits to battle off sea monsters. We’re all stuck at home for the most part, wondering what to do next in the midst of a global pandemic. There is a variety of things someone could do: I know plenty of people who have begun taking walks or riding bikes, likewise, I know plenty of people who have donned their “quarantine fifteen” over the past few months. One thing we always encourage at the Home Builders Association is to do home upgrades when possible.

In recent years, technology around the house has continued to upgrade. TVs have turned from large boxes weighing far too much to extremely thin 4k displays. Doorbells upgraded into Ring Doorbells capable of recording whoever shows up at the door. So why do smart home thermostats get forgotten about?

One reason is the technology’s age. The Nest Thermostat only came out in 2011, less than a decade ago. Now smart thermostats can control humidity throughout the house, adjust the temperature automatically, turn lights on or off depending on if people are in the room or not, and more. You can be across the room (or the world) and turn your air conditioning up or down, it is truly a slice of the future! Brands such as Trane, Ecobee, Honeywell, and Nest dominate much of the smart thermostat market. The installation typically only takes about 30 minutes to a few hours in some cases, and then you’ll be on your way to having your own piece of the future.

If you’re considering a home improvement project over the next few months, I would highly recommend upgrading your thermostat to smart home technology. Not only could it make your home more energy efficient, but you could also save money in the long run by switching sooner rather than later. Some businesses even offer rebates for smart home technology, like solar panels and water heaters.

If you do decide to upgrade your current thermostats, or any other appliance in your home, feel free to give the Home Builder Association of Southwest Missouri a call. We can connect you to a variety of builders, associates, and contractors who are capable of taking care of your upgrades, big or small. The Jetson’s predicted flying cars by 2062, so I suppose technically we do have a bit more time to get to the future; but why wait?

Backyard Makeout

Do you have a backyard oasis? If not, it is the perfect time to make one!

We have all probably spent more time at home lately and that includes our outdoor space. If you have a plain, boring backyard with grass and maybe a deck, it is time for a makeover. Turn your outdoors into an outside living space! We have a list of ideas that vary in cost from a little to a lot!

Let us start with some simple ideas: fire pits, water features, or walkways make great additions in the summer months. The time and money you put into these ideas can vary depending on how far you take it. You can create a fire pit easily, but why not incorporate an outdoor seating space around it? Put down some gravel or river rock and create a cool place to relax, kick back, and make smores in the evenings!

A water feature can range from a simple fountain made of recycled items to a giant wall-sized fountain that easily drowns out road noise. You can also add a stone or paved walkway through your yard to a pergola covered second patio. Along your pathway, you could incorporate a bench and give yourself somewhere to sit and have a quiet moment.

More simple ideas: hang a hammock, add some landscaping and include bright flowers, or put out lawn games in your yard! You could also paint a mural on your fence to add a little something extra or hang twinkling lights. Add some evening entertainment and an outdoor movie theater or portable bar to enhance the experience. You can also add a trellis or grow a vertical garden; herbs can easily grow in planters mounted to a fence too. It will smell beautiful and create a feature wall.

You can go all-out and add on an enclosed sunroom that can be enjoyed year-round! This will cost you, but it can also become a space that your entire family enjoys, no matter the weather. You can also add an outdoor kitchen and dining area. Covering this space will make it easier to use and provide shade for evening meals.

Do you need a kid-friendly space? The trendy item I keep seeing for ponds or a small swimming pool is a stock tank. It is enough room for kids or fish to swim but can also be decorated to fit into the landscape of a backyard.

Another option is to xeriscape. This requires little to no irrigation and can really be a statement piece. This type of yard is seen in the Southwest but can easily be incorporated into your space here in the Midwest. If you are allergic to grass or really do not care for yard work, this is a great option for you.

As always, take your time and do your research before starting any big project. You want to increase the value of your property or add space that will actually be used. If you find yourself overwhelmed with a large project, it might be time to call a professional. We can help with that. Call us or visit our web site, hbabuilders.com.

Is It Time to Renovate?

I have been messaging with friends who are stuck at home. No matter who I am talking with, the conversation turns to all the things they dislike about their home now that they are stuck in it. I think most of us can understand this feeling these days. But, should you renovate or remodel now? Let us ask a few questions:

  1. What projects do you want to do? How big is the project? If you simply want to paint the walls, then this is a great time for that. However, if the project is time intensive and needs professional help, you might want to wait, or at least plan more, before you get started.
  2. Do you have the money? This is a great question no matter what is going on in the world. With many people losing their jobs or temporarily laid off, this is a very important question right now. You always need to consider the cost though. Again, how big is the project?
  3. Do you understand the time commitment? Most people are working from home, but do you truly understand how much time the project will take? What if something goes wrong? Let’s say you are remodeling your bathroom and you only have the one bathroom for the whole family. Do your research before you start to know your water pipes and what to do if one breaks or leaks. Do you know what order you are going to take each step of this project? Painting, flooring, new vanity, etc. Time is important in this example, so make sure you are ready for something to go wrong.
  4. If everyone is home, will they get in the way? Can they help? If you have kids and they are old enough to help, let them! What a great lesson! However, kids and pets can easily get in the way of efficiently taking on a project. It might be best to take advantage of a nice day and put everyone else outside.
  5. Will this add value to my home? Again, this is a question to ask no matter the situation. You want your home to function better for you, but you also want to make sure you are adding value. If you switch out flooring, make sure you are taking it up a notch and not downgrading your flooring. Same with windows. You want to make sure you are putting quality products in your home that will last.
  6. Is now really the best time? If you are unsure, sleep on it. Being in our homes more makes us aware of the things we do not like. It does not mean now is the best time for a project though. Really take some time to think about your expenses and flexibility before you start a big project.

As always, we are here to help if you need a professional for the job. Just give the HBA a call at 417-623-5205 or visit our website, hbabuilders.com. We are helping to connect you to a local professional.

Foundation Repairs

The HBA receives many calls about foundation repair. It can be simply needing someone to look at the foundation or that there are obvious signs of severe damage to the foundation of your home. It can be scary to see cracks and shifts but there are solutions.

Sometimes the age of your home is the biggest factor in serious foundation damage. We have quite a few homes in our community built in the 1920s. These homes will most likely need foundation repair due to erosion, tree roots, the amount of moisture over the years, and simply time. Homes were also built with different materials and systems in those times. If you live in an older home, take regular note of any visible signs of foundation damage.

No matter the age of your home, there are several ways that you can get foundation damage: your home was built on improperly compacted fill soils; poor drainage on your property; you experienced a plumbing leak below your home; tree roots are growing too close to your home; or mother nature takes a toll with an earthquake, flood, drought or other natural disaster that affects the foundation. These issues can cause tripping hazards, visible cracks, decrease in value, or structural damage that can turn very costly.

It might seem difficult to tell the difference between your home settling and actual foundation problems. A few signs to look for foundation damage are separation around garage door or windows, large cracks in brick or foundation, displaced moldings, uneven floors, or cracked sheetrock. Hairline cracks should be watched but are not necessarily cause for worry. Larger cracks or cracks that show up quickly are what you want to have checked out.

The good news is that there are many ways to fix your home’s foundation. You will need to call a professional to confirm the issues, find the cause, and then to proceed with a plan of action. There are different ways to repair your foundation whether it is a slab or a basement. Some homes might simply need basement waterproofing while others will need reinforcements. Piers, jacks, anchors, and bracing are different methods and a professional will know what is best for your home. You might also need to change the elevation of your property if it is water/flooding caused damage.

No matter the cause of the foundation damage, you want to make sure it is fixed correctly and that your home is in the best shape. If you have concerns, give our friends at Foundation Recovery Systems a call. As always, your home is an investment. Start with a great foundation and protect it.

What’s Trending: 2020 Style

Looking at predicted design trends in 2020, it is a century throwback to the days of Art Deco. It will highlight modern craftsmanship, soft lines, curves and arches, rich textures, patterns, pops of color, and geometric patterns. However, there is also a push for individuality and uniqueness, so it’s really anything goes!

Furniture and décor will be made with natural materials and be imperfect. You’ll see more cane, jute, rattan, ceramic, stone, and metal. Natural ceramic mugs or vases will have imperfections and be (or at least look) handmade. Items will be round in nature and really feel soft, inviting, and grounding.

Colors will be a mix of natural earth tones and bold, dark, rich shades. Think midnight blue cabinets in the kitchen with a natural wood island. Or, to add a pop of brighter blue, think classic blue built-ins against a desert fortress or creamy mushroom wall.

You might be getting the feeling, but in case you missed it – naturals will be taking over. From earth tones to the materials of the products to green house plants. There is really a growing influence of organic feeling.

To help influence that, get ready for Countryside Chic. Farmhouse Chic has been all the rage, but think less shiplap and more British farmhouse, but not stuffy or dusty. It’s a mix of patterns, antiques, and new. Again, don’t forget to add in the botanicals to complete the look. It really feels like a nostalgic design trend.

To counter all the neutrals and handmade items, you’ll see more color on ceilings with paint or wallpaper. Bold, rich patterns of wallpaper will be popular. Pattern on pattern on pattern will be trending. The best place to try all the fun new peel and stick wallpaper patterns is in your powder room, not a bathroom with a shower of steam. However, the small powder room lets you go wild in a small space and the peek and stick wallpaper lets you easily change the décor when you are ready for something new.

Furniture will also start to look more art deco with bold colors and round design. Think dark green velvet mid-century modern couch with rounded seating and small, wood legs. Again, it seems that nostalgia is taking over design!

The design goal is for the home to feel lived-in and unique. Homes will stress the personality of the owner without abandon. I think most homes accomplish this every day. I can’t wait to see which predictions come true and if any trends take over our area!

What’s Trending: Basements

Basements. I wish we had one. The extra square footage is such a bonus. However, I also know the trouble it can cause with the flooding of a sump pump backing up. All that space is nice to have, but you must maintain it.

Why do homes have basements? They were originally designed to store water, wine, and food. Times changed and technology advanced that we no longer needed underground space to keep these items. The sump pump and dehumidifier were also invented and that has helped basements serve more purposes.

Depending on where in the country you live will determine how likely basements are to be found. The foundation of your home needs to be below the frost line to avoid freezing pipes and cracks. In the North, it makes more sense to just add a basement since you need to dig so far down anyway. We don’t have that issue here. The further South you go, basements are replaced with outdoor storage or attics.

Some reasons for not putting in a basement are that the ground is too wet, earthquakes shake the foundation, the soil/clay/rock of the dirt, or simply the cost to add a basement. If a full finished basement is put in the home, the price can obviously double due to materials. Some may argue that basements are needed in our area because of severe weather. However, that is why the popularity of storm shelters has increased. You can add a storm shelter to any home – and that isn’t true of a basement.

If you are building and want to include a basement, your contractor will know the codes to follow, best ways to insulate, and how to waterproof your basement. It might be a good idea to think about flooring or paint options that can withstand some minor flooding as well. Your basement can be used for a variety of options from simple storage to a giant playroom to another living room to a man cave. The design options are endless no matter the size.

Lighting in your basement will be important as there will be less natural light to take advantage of. Lighting will be something you’ll want to spend money on. Alternately, you can save by using standard size cabinets and basic toilets in your basement bathroom. You can also save by having one large room or less room separation, to keep the cost of lumber and drywall down.

Several homes in our area have basements or walk-out basements. When you are buying a home with a basement, make sure that the home inspection looks closely at this area. You want to make sure the foundation is solid, and that mold is not growing. Once you know the nuts and bolts are good, you can have fun with the space.

Do Your New Year’s Resolutions Include Your House?

Is your home part of your New Year’s Resolutions?

The end of a year and the fresh beginning of another is a great time to reflect. It is also a perfect time to plan. What goals do you have for 2020? For your professional life? For your personal life? For your home? Are you in your dream home? If the answer is yes, that is awesome! If the answer is no, we can help you.

As the holiday decorations come down and are put away until next season, what needed changes are you finding around your home? Is it as simple as more storage space for all your decorations? Did hosting the family bring to light the need for another bathroom? Could your cozy kitchen use more counter space for meal prep?

This is also a good time to take stock of what you have and what the positives are about your current home. Do you have all the rooms you want? Are they all the needed size? Maybe you love your layout but would simply tweak a few individual rooms. I would love a larger laundry room with a sink.

Do you have any rooms that you can repurpose? Sometimes a formal dining room can work better as an office or small playroom. There is also a chance that it might just be better to move. Maybe your home worked for you when your family started, but now you’ve outgrown the space. Maybe you bought your first home because it was close to your job, but that has since changed. Your home was once perfect for you and now it isn’t, but it might be perfect for someone else. Or, would some changes make it perfect for you again?

Now is the time to plan out the year and what you want to do with your home. Will you renovate? Add-on? Sell? Build a new home? If you sell, what needs to be done to your home to make it ready? What will your finances allow? If you build, what is your timeframe and budget?

Before you try to DIY anything in your home, check out our list of members for all your needs. From lenders at local banks to insurance to builders to roofers, we can help connect you. Take the time to plan and research. Your home is an investment. Pay to have any work done correctly the first time and it will cost you less in the long run.

So, as you look at 2020 and beyond, make sure to include plans for your home!

What’s Trending: Toilets

With Christmas right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk toilets! What a great gift idea! Plus, you’ll have family over or visit a family member’s house and will most likely use the facilities. And, we all go, so why not go in style?

In all seriousness, there are actually a lot of choices in your toilet and toilet seat. Some you may have heard about and other options might be new to you. I talked with our friends at The Galleria at Joplin Supply and Distinctive Home Products about trends and options.

When it comes to the toilet itself, Distinctive Home Products is seeing two trends – wall hung toilets and one-piece toilets. A huge pro of the wall hung toilet is that it lets you mop and clean directly under it. However, all your plumbing is behind the wall and that makes me nervous about leaks. The one-piece toilet eliminates the yucky part to clean between the bowl and tank. You’ll pay a little more for it though. These options offer a sleek and simple design for your home.

There is also a new standard with ‘comfort height elongated’ toilets. These toilets are slightly higher than the traditional standard toilet – about two inches. This allows an easier up and down movement, but for the shorter crowd it can be less comfortable. The elongated toilet offers a bigger seat, but also takes up more space – about two more inches. This is a great toilet option that meets ADA requirements. The traditional standard toilet might fit better in a tight or small powder room though.

Let’s talk fun toilet seat features! Do you want a toilet seat with Bluetooth speakers that can remember you and your partner’s LED lighting and heat preferences? If so, you are in luck! You can also add an odor eliminator to the seat, integrated bidet, or no-touch flush. The night-light feature would be very helpful for the middle of the night emergencies. The integrated bidet is somewhat of a niche market, but very handy to have especially if it includes the warm air dryer. Our friends at The Galleria warn about the no-touch flush though. There are many more options for that from sensors that automatically flush to an indicator that you waive your hand over. These may or may not work, so it’s good to know where the manual flush option is located. Most of these interesting add-ons will require electricity, so plan for a place to plug in.

Another simpler feature that’s nice to have is the soft close toilet seat – a life saver if you have small children. This will end the slamming or dropping of the toilet seat and is probably the easiest option to find at almost any store.

These features can run a couple hundred dollars more up to $8,000 (or more) for a toilet. It seems like something silly to talk about, but we all spend time on the toilet, and we want to make sure it is a quality product that will last. Plus, there is a market for all the extra perks!

Winter Maintenance

With the weather all over the place these days, now is a good time to make sure your final quarter home maintenance is complete. If you have not already done this, there is still plenty of time to get your home ready for winter.

Some items to check this quarter are:

  • Weather stripping
  • Winterizing landscaping
  • Flushing the hot water heater and removing sediment
  • Turning off and flushing water lines
  • Checking for any ice build up
  • And since you are inside a lot, tighten any handles around your home

Weather stripping, window sealing, and winterizing your landscaping can seem daunting. Start with one room and work your way through your home. Same rule applies outside, start in one corner of your yard and work your way around it. Most home improvement stores carry items to help keep your home free from drafts and the cold. Take your time to see if your doors need sealing or your windows need covering before you purchase any specific items. You want to keep your warm air in and your cold air out!

You’ll want to take advantage of the warmer days to flush your water heater. If you don’t want to flush the whole tank, let a bucket of water drain out. It should still carry the sediment out. While you’re draining your water heater, check the pressure and temperature. Everyone will want a warm shower or bath, so you’ll want to make sure it’s operating correctly.

If you have not unhooked any hoses or outside water lines, now is the time to do it. Don’t let water freeze in your pipes and burst – that can be costly in many ways and you risk mold growing.

Once it does get cold enough, walk around outside – preferably bundled up – and check to see if any ice is forming on your gutters, walkways, or any other area around you home. If so, make note and see if you have a build up somewhere. Having pet-safe salt or kitty litter around during winter will help keep your walkways clear. An important note – if you walk around your home in the cold, make sure to reward yourself with a cup of hot chocolate!

Since colder weather usually keeps us inside, take the opportunity to test all handles and pulls in each room of your home. Now is the time to tighten any that are loose and to repair or replace any that are broken. You can also check your outlet covers at the same time and replace any that have been damaged.

If you need more than simple maintenance done to your home, give the Home Builders Association (HBA) a call for a referral. Angie’s List and Home Advisor are one source for home referrals, but please know that companies pay to be listed on the site and pay even more to be listed first. Calling your local HBA is a great way to talk with someone from the community who knows the local companies and what services they offer. As we say, it’s best to do your research before starting any project.

2431 S. Range Line Road, Suite B
Joplin, MO 64804

417.623.5205

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