Blog

Blog Archive for September, 2017

Which is the best smart home assistant?

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 30, 2017

If your name is Alexa and you’re an actual person, you’re probably getting asked a lot more questions these days. ”Alexa, what time is it?” “Alexa, when is the next full moon?” “Alexa, how far is it to the nearest coffee shop?”

And you can thank Amazon for this annoyance.

Amazon launched the Echo in 2015 in the U.S. This cylindrical speaker connects to a voice-activated, computer-generated, smart home assistant named Alexa. Alexa is capable of answering questions (when properly phrased), playing music, acting as a timer or alarm clock, requesting an Uber ride, checking your calendar, making lists, reading audiobooks aloud, and reciting the news and weather updates. Of course, Alexa can also place your Amazon orders, too.

Yes, Alexa is smart, but is she the best smart home assistant for you?

Google Home emerged soon after Echo, and at a lower price point, while offering the same type of assistance. The Echo Dot, a hockey-puck-sized version of the larger Echo, gives you a very affordable entry into the smart home assistant experience.

If you want the most accurate “intelligence”, Google Home appears to have a slight edge. Digital agency Stone Temple quizzed both devices. Google Home was able to answer 3,383 questions, while Alexa was only able to answer 1,030. Of those responses, Google Home was correct 89.5% of the time, and Alexa achieved 86.9% accuracy. Alexa relies primarily on Wikipedia for information, while Google reaches a wider range of third-party sources, like Google Maps for checking traffic conditions.

Google Home can also remember your last question. So, if you ask, “Who won the last Super Bowl?” and followed up with “What was the score?”, you’d get both answers. With Alexa, your second question would have to be, “What was the score of the last Super Bowl?”

Amazon Echo, however, currently has the edge on managing your smart home devices, like your thermostat, lighting, security, home entertainment, and appliances, but Google Home is gaining ground. Compare the Alexa-enabled smart home devices with Google Home’s list of supported devices and partners.

Google Home will also connect your videos, photos, and television, via Chromecast. You can even tell it to skip ahead 30 seconds on a video, and show photos of a selected person, location or time period. Alexa isn’t quite as savvy.

Both Google Home and Echo offer hands-free calling. Tell them to call a contact from your list or ask your smart home assistant to find a phone number.

Apple is finally responding to the demand for the smart home assistant. The Apple HomePod is scheduled to launch before the end of the year. It promises to have superior audio, but like all Apple products, will also emerge in limited quantities and at a higher price than Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Home energy efficiency ratings, explained.

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 15, 2017

Energy efficiency is one of the top priorities for homeowners. No one wants to waste energy (or money) on a home, appliances, or systems when there are ways to avoid it.

You’ve probably seen many of the ratings systems and codes tossed around, but do you know what they mean? Here’s a quick guide to the most common energy efficiency ratings and how to interpret the scores.

HERS. The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) measures the energy efficiency of a home and assigns a performance score. This rating is based on the efficiency of a standard new home. A home that was built according to the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code receives a HERS score of 100.

The survey, which must be conducted by a certified HERS professional, examines your home’s construction and systems:

  • Ceilings and roofs
  • Exterior walls, both above and below grade
  • Attics, foundations, and crawl spaces
  • Garage and basement floors (over unconditioned spaces)
  • Windows, doors, vents, and ductwork
  • HVAC, water heating system, and thermostats

A score of 70 indicates that your home is 30% more energy efficient than a standard new home. U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an average resale home has a score of 130, meaning a home that is 30% less efficient than the standard.

The program was developed by RESNET (The Residential Energy Services Network), which created the training and certification standards for HERS Raters and Home Energy Survey Professionals. Look for a RESNET qualified home energy professional to conduct a HERS survey.

What this means to you: The lower the HERS score, the greater your energy savings. A score of 80 or below might qualify you for an energy-efficient mortgage and increase your home’s resale value.

ENERGY STAR. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed this program in 1992 to assess the energy efficiency of products, systems, and even buildings. ENERGY STAR certification can be awarded to anything from a major appliance to a light bulb, from your central air conditioning system to a ceiling fan. Even those strings of holiday lights are measured for energy efficiency. Your home’s electronics account for 21% of your annual energy usage, so all those televisions, external power adapters, printers, and small appliances account for a significant amount of the overall expense. Compare that to your major appliances, which constitute about 12% of the annual usage.

ENERGY STAR certification is awarded after a third-party organization tests and verifies that the product or home meets the stringent requirements of the program. An ENERGY STAR-rated home is evaluted with a HERS index, as well as other criteria.

What this means to you: The average annual energy cost for a single-family home is estimated at $2,060. By investing in ENERGY STAR products and systems, you can lower your cost and contribute to preserving our natural resources.

SEER. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) was established by the U.S. Department of Energy to identify the efficiency and operating costs of air conditioners. SEER is a measurement of the total cooling output (measured in BTUs) divided by the total energy used for that output—similar to the MPG rating for a car. A higher SEER rating indicates a more efficient air conditioner.

In 1992, a SEER 10 was the standard, but that rating was increased to 13 in 2006. A central air conditioning system was required to have a minimum 14.5 to qualify for ENERGY STAR.

What this means to you: The higher the SEER, the greater the energy efficiency. A higher SEER will cost more to purchase, but can save you up to 40% in cooling costs.

Tuskes Homes Joins Fig Magazine to Celebrate the Lehigh Valley’s MAKERS

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 8, 2017

 

Tuskes Homes joined Fig Magazine on Thursday night to celebrate the launch of their Fall 2017 issue, the MAKERS issue. Hosted by Lehigh University Art Galleries, the launch party featured a preview of the community’s latest art exhibit and celebrated the Lehigh Valley’s most innovative artists, creators, and makers—including Tuskes Homes’ own residential architect, Marci Werley.

“It was wonderful to meet with such an incredible group of individuals,” said Marci of participating in the Fig MAKERS edition. “The creativity and innovation that they are bringing to Bethlehem is what makes this such an exciting time to be building homes in the area.”

As lead architect, Marci designs the beautifully handcrafted, custom homes for which Tuskes Homes is known. A Lehigh Valley resident herself, Marci envisions home designs that combine the region’s preference for classic styles with the modern conveniences local residents love. She meets with homeowners to discuss their plans, and devises a floor plan that suits their needs and brings to life the dream home that they’ve worked so hard for.

Joining Marci in the MAKERS issue are local chefs, artists, jewelers, distillers, glassblowers, woodworkers, luthiers, designers, and more. One common theme among these local cultural icons: their commitment to cultivating a sense of community in Bethlehem.

“A sense of community is so important to us as home builders, but also as people who live here,” Marci said. “The Tuskes team lives here too, we have families here, and there is nothing more important to us than building our homes in a strong and growing area like Bethlehem.”

For more information about local home design trends or to inquire about building your dream home, contact Martha at 484-626-1616 or visit www.tuskeshomes.com.

Want to keep up with the local events and happenings in Bethlehem? Follow Tuskes Homes and Fig Bethlehem on your favorite social channel!

  :                 

 

 

Save Your Energy! 4 Simple Tips for Energy-Efficiency at Home

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 5, 2017

Conserving energy at home does more than just protect the planet—it can also save you money. The costs of using excess electricity, water, and fuel add up over time, and decreasing your usage is often as easy as flipping a switch or turning a dial. Try a few of these easy ways to cut down on energy usage at home. Your wallet (and Mother Nature) will thank you!

Do laundry less often. Wait until you’ve accumulated a full load of laundry before running your machine. Running full loads rather than smaller ones means that more clothes are being washed with less water—plus, you won’t need to do laundry as frequently! In addition, wash clothes with cold water whenever possible. According to Treehugger.com, only 10% of the energy your washer uses goes toward running the machine; the other 90% is used merely to heat the water.

Unplug unused chargers. Cell phone and battery chargers consume approximately 0.26 watts of energy when not in use, according to Energy.gov. Leaving one charger plugged in won’t break the bank, but a whole family’s worth of chargers can add up to 10% of your energy bill.

Buy new, not used. In general, new homes tend to be much more energy-efficient than older ones. Modern appliances use less energy, newer toilets waste less water, and the latest HVAC systems require less fuel. If you’re looking into moving to a new location, consider buying a newly constructed home or working with a home builder that designs homes with energy-efficiency in mind. Here at Tuskes Homes, we love power-saving products such as energy-efficient GE appliances, which are installed in our new homes.

“Daylight” your home. Rather than using artificial light, open up the curtains and let the natural light illuminate your living space. Not only does daylighting conserve energy and save money, but it also beautifully highlights your home’s interior. Natural-light lovers will adore Tuskes Homes floor plans such as the Kingston and Monocacy, which feature numerous windows throughout the home, plus additional window options in the great room. Tuskes Homes’ open-concept floor plans help natural light flow throughout the home, and unique features such as transom windows and French doors make daylighting a natural part of living.

 

Yes, you DO need a home theater system

Categories: Blog | Posted: September 1, 2017

Televisions keep getting bigger and “smarter”. Video streaming selections keep getting broader and better. Siri, Alexa, and Google make it easier than ever to find the movies and programs you want,

A home theater system is no longer a matter of enjoying the occasional movie in the comfort of your home. Today, it’s how people are experiencing entertainment—from sports to movies to everyday programs

So, if you’ve been wondering whether you should invest in expanding your viewing quality, the answer is, yes, you DO need a home theater system.

To retrofit your current home with an integrated home theater system, you’ll need more than televisions. Preferably, speakers are fit into the wall, rather than exterior speakers mounted on them, and cables must be run to give you the connectivity. For true surround sound, you’ll be installing a speaker in the ceiling as well.

Are you considering a move to a new home? If you’re building from the ground up, adding a home theater is not complicated. Your builder can work the design and infrastructure into the plans so that it fits seamlessly. This opportunity also allows the homebuyer to expand the system into more rooms. For example, add the viewing to your kitchen, where your family and guests often congregate, and install a wall-mounted television for your outdoor living space.

A home theater system isn’t as complicated or expensive as you might think. In addition to the televisions, you’ll need a home theater receiver (also known as AV receiver or surround sound receiver) with Bluetooth connectivity, and the speakers. You might also want to consider the lighting in your media room. It’s easy to add dimmer switches for the existing light fixtures. Do you need room darkening shades?

You can expand your technology from the basics, depending on your desired home theater experience. Here’s a great guide to all the bells and whistles.

ask martha

Ask Martha!

email phone chat