Delaware House Cooling via an Old-Fashioned Strategy
As summer approaches, Delaware homeowners may also recall the challenge of retaining a reasonably comfortable home environment during the inevitable spells of hot weather. Everyone has a different relationship to heat and its evil twin, humidity, which dictates how much attention and budget needs to be dedicated to house cooling.
One old-fashioned solution is out there that many Delawareites may not have considered.
For most heat-sensitive Delaware residents, house cooling is synonymous with some form of air conditioning—if not central, then some assemblage of window A/C units. Evaporative coolers have economic and environmental advantages, but are really most effective in dry conditions: in other words, when the air gets soupy, their effectiveness fades. These were the “swamp coolers” of yesteryear—and they do have plusses that keep them around today. They allow open windows, so unlike air conditioners, fresh air is part of the house cooling action. They also use relatively little energy.
Swamp coolers used to be more popular in pre-air conditioner days—but there’s another cooling solution that is sometimes overlooked today. It’s the “Whole House Fan” system.
The basic idea is to fight the buildup of heat inside the home by pulling air up and out of the structure, expelling heat and allowing cooler breezes to enter. The house cooling is forced by a powerful fan in the attic combined with appropriately installed ventilation ports. It’s the fan that was the culprit behind the unpopularity of yesteryear’s versions. They were called “attic fans,” and they earned an unfortunate reputation for being extremely noisy. Sounded like a helicopter was taking off on the roof. Not okay.
Today’s whole house fans are the exact opposite: engineering advances make them whisper quiet, yet powerful and effective. Because they are quiet, homeowners don’t mind leaving them on for extended periods, which maximizes their effectiveness in ridding homes of summer heat buildup. It is true that on really hot days—when the outside air, even in shaded areas, can become oppressive—air conditioning is simply more effective. But for Delaware residents who don’t mind an occasional heat spell, the savings in electricity consumption can make whole house fans a modern strategy worth considering.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Delaware Home Equity & The Law of Retirement Motion
You might have had a science teacher who explained to the class why perpetual motion machines aren’t possible. He would have had some common sense to back up his point (everybody knows nothing lasts forever). But the actual scientific explanation had to do with physics and Newton’s Laws: in the end, perpetual motion just isn’t in the cards.
When it comes to real estate, however, for a lot of happy residents, their Delaware home equity comes awfully close to being a kind of perpetual income machine.
There may not be a Newton’s Law of Retirement Motion, but for anybody planning their long-term future security, there should be. It would be straightforward:
For every mortgage principal payment, there is an equal and opposite addition to your home equity.
This simple Law has a profound effect in the real world. The PEW Research Center tells us that the typical median family’s expenditure for housing = 23% of after-tax income. That figure is for households with two earners and two children. If retirement will mean a reduction in those two earners’ income (as is usually the case), unless they reduce the size or quality of their housing, the percentage of income it claims will have to rise further. Not a very desirable outcome.
But apparently the majority of Americans have already taken our fanciful Law of Retirement Motion into account. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, among American homeowners who are 65 and older, a whopping 65.3% have no mortgages payments to make. They own their residences free and clear. For them, the home equity effect is, as financial adviser Robert Christman describes, “…almost as if you had saved enough extra to provide a monthly income equal to your mortgage.” It’s like a Newton’s Law of Perpetual Income.
The practical effect of owning your Delaware home outright isn’t as fanciful as are the non-existent Newton’s Laws—it’s darned real! Which is one reason my job helping clients land the right home at the right price ends up being so satisfying.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Home Design Trends Reflect Changing Environment
Delaware real estate—like all real estate—is a supremely local activity. Area homeowners who like to keep an eye on Delaware and national trends do so because some of them may surface in future buyer preferences. For Delaware homeowners in a remodeling frame of mind, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of “what’s hot.”
When it comes to nailing down the latest home design trends, there’s no shortage of commercial firms whose publicity departments are determined to make convincing arguments that their products are in the vanguard. Since the National Association of Realtors® isn’t selling anything, that’s one good reason to give special attention when Realtor Magazine puts out its annual “Home Design Trends” roundup.
This year, though, much of what they reported had more to do with American community and social environments than with the kind of details Delaware homeowners will find very useful. Those wider trends included a continuation of consumer preferences for “walkability”—in suburbs as well as in urban areas. Homes “far from everything” lose out in the “walk scoring” calculation. In a similar vein, as more and more people spend more and more time on social media and in front of computer screens at work, there is growing awareness that typical Americans crave more actual live human interaction: hence, proximity to social gathering places (clubs and clubhouses; community centers) is being newly emphasized in real estate sales materials.
But some more traditional kinds of home design trends were mentioned, as well, such as the finding that “taupe is the new gray” and a movement toward “naturally renewable, warmer surfaces.” Taupe’s slightly rosier tone conveys a friendlier feel than plain gray, which fits in with the turn away from colder black, white, and metallic palettes. Natural cork is one low-maintenance material offered as an example: it adds aesthetic appeal to walls and flooring. (Besides, it bounces back when dented)!
Other specifics include a shift toward away from traditional log-burning hearths to natural gas and even alcohol-burning fireplaces. Delaware homeowners who have done without fireplaces entirely may take note: since they don’t require vents, alcohol burning hearths can be installed just about anywhere with minimal construction expense.
One home design trend that is definitely applicable in Delaware is a consequence of the ever-diminishing size of today’s electronic technology tools. For those whose careers make working from home at least part of their professional work week, it means that the necessity for a full-room home office is gradually waning. Now almost any corner of the home can suffice. When designers speak of “dual-purpose areas” with “dual-purpose furnishings,” they probably have this trend in mind. A further step into the future is the “movable wall concept.” That’s not here yet: it’s projected for the futuristic Home of 2050. (I, for one, am willing to wait).
- Written by Russell Stucki
Worst 9 Delaware Home Improvement Notions
When it’s one of those weekend days when the Delaware weather has refused to cooperate with outdoor plans, one way to fill the idle time is to go online in search of home improvement ideas. You may not follow through with any for your own Delaware home—but it’s amusing to review the almost unlimited number of clever and inventive notions people have put online.
When it comes to the kitchen, for instance, there are bounteous home improvement ideas. There’s the herb garden wall (in addition to a green thumb, a powerful sunlamp in the ceiling is required) or the pool table top that slips right over the center island. That one wouldn’t work if your kitchen’s island is plumbed: the water faucet would stick up and ruin everything.
But among the clever and innovative home improvement ideas you will also find some that are totally impractical—or just plain terrible. Here are nine of the silliest I’ve found—
- Hammock Over the Stairs. A space-saver, yes. An attractive idea? Just, no.
- See-through Bathtub. Glass walls for the tub = a housekeeping nightmare (among other drawbacks).
- Fire Pit Coffee Table. Again: just, no.
- Ping Pong Door. This one is complicated: the closed door has pins halfway up that allow it to tilt horizontally, whereupon the plastic net is slid into notches provided in the door frame…anyway, it’s a really small ping pong table.
- Cat Transit System. A CTS consists of 8” diameter tubes running throughout the house just below ceiling level. Exit openings are provided at various points. Added feline-pleasing features: windows cut into the tubes at various key viewpoints.
- A Wall That Plays Music When it Rains. This is an exterior wall idea. You install metal tubes, funnels, bamboo water chimes and tin pans to route rain water down the side of the wall as noisily as possible to splash and bang through twists and turns and waterfalls. This looks to produce the same quality of music a vacuum cleaner makes.
- Beach Sand Under Work Desk. Like an on-the-job vacation; facilitates barefoot computer working. But—alas—another housekeeping nightmare.
- Forest Chandelier. This one is a chandelier that looks like dozens of snakes coiled around one another: when lighted, it casts creepy shadows on ceiling and walls that “turn your room into a forest.” In a bedroom, certain to cause sleepless nights.
- Glass Floor Over an Open Shaft. This home improvement idea is available only to Delaware condo dwellers in buildings with abandoned elevator shafts. Since there aren’t any, we’ll never have to experience the horrendous effect (there’s actually a picture of this, in a bathroom, on a site called boredpanda).
- Written by Russell Stucki