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Understanding home insulation

Categories: Blog | Posted: December 7, 2017

Every homeowner knows that insulating a home is important for comfort and energy efficiency. But it’s equally important to understand how home insulation works so you ensure you’re taking the right steps to effectively prevent the swap of interior and exterior temperatures.

Insulation provides resistance to heat flow. Heat flow is the movement of warm or hot air to cooler air. The flow continues until there is a balance of temperatures. For example, hot air will continue to flow into your home on a hot day until the inside temperature is equal to the outside. On a pleasant spring or fall day, you might open up the windows to take advantage of the ideal temperature. When the weather is more extreme, however, you need to manage the heat flow.

When you buy a new home, insulation is installed to slow down the movement of heat. Now, heat flow moves in three ways:

  • Conduction: Heat moves through a material, like a metal pot absorbing heat.
  • Convection: Heat circulates through liquids and gases, and since hot air is lighter, it rises above cold air.
  • Radiation: Heat travels along a straight path and absorbs energy from anything along that route.

So, your home insulation is installed in any place with exposure to heat flow: exterior walls, around the foundation, and in the roof, to name a few. Without insulation, the heat will move through the walls, floors, and ceilings—up from the basement, down from the attic, and in through the walls, doors, and windows. The goal of insulation is to produce resistant to the natural flow of heat.

R-value: The resistance factor

Home insulation products are rated for their thermal resistance factor, commonly known as R-value. This measurement is determined by the insulation type, thickness, and density. To determine how much home insulation you need, refer to a map that shows the R-value zones, rated on a scale from 1 to 7, with colder climates on the high end. Southern Florida and Hawaii score a 1 rating, while Alaska and northern Minnesota earn a 7.

You probably hear about radiant barriers. This reflective material doesn’t absorb heat, like insulation does. Instead, it reflects the heat. Radiant barriers are commonly installed on roofs to deflect the heat away from the roof (where it can be absorbed and potentially pass into the main part of the home). According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a radiant barrier on a home in a sunny climate (e.g., Zones 1-3) can reduce cooling costs by 5% to 10%.

Retrofitting an existing home with the correct amount of insulation could require a professional, depending on where and what type of insulation you need. New homes incorporate the standards for home insulation. They also improve the comfort and energy efficiency in a new home by installing moisture control and air sealing.

Spend a little time learning about your home’s insulation and you’ll spend much less later on the energy costs.

Tuskes Homes Wins Big at the 27th Annual LV Builders Awards

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: December 5, 2017

The team at Tuskes Homes took home three awards at the 2017 Lehigh Valley Builders Awards on Monday night. Celebrating with the Lehigh Valley Builders Association (LVBA) at historic Hotel Bethlehem, Tuskes Homes won awards for Community of the Year Over 50 Units for its popular Bethlehem-based Hanover Oaks community, Community of the Year Under 50 Units for the luxurious estate-style new home community at Saratoga Farms in Lower Nazareth, and Model Over $350,000 for the brand-new Meridian model home design located at Hanover Oaks.

Both of the winning communities feature numerous amenities and are located in scenic neighborhoods with convenient proximity to the best the Lehigh Valley has to offer. Hanover Oaks, which opened at the end of 2016, has only 17 home sites remaining in the community, while Saratoga Farms is selling in the final phase of the community, with 70 percent of home sites already sold.

The Meridian home design was awarded for its spectacular open-concept floorplan, which features a spacious kitchen with modern amenities and classic white color scheme. The kitchen is a cook’s favorite thanks to the granite countertops, overhanging kitchen island, morning room, breakfast bar, and stainless steel appliances. Leading from the kitchen is a well-lit great room with a gas fireplace. Up the curved wooden staircase, you’ll find three bedrooms and an owner’s suite with a double-door entry and two walk-in closets. Back down in the partially finished basement, this home features a wet bar and entertainment room, finished bathroom, and a yoga loft or meditation room, along with plenty of additional room for storage and utility needs.

Since 1950, the Lehigh Valley Builders Association has represented builders and professionals in the homebuilding industry in Lehigh and Northampton counties. As one of the largest trade associations in the area, the LVBA is the authority for homebuilding in the Lehigh Valley, serving the region through the mission of enhancing industry professionalism standards and promoting its members’ abilities to meet the needs of the community for quality housing. Tuskes Homes is proud to partner with LVBA in providing excellent craftsmanship and customer service to the Greater Lehigh Valley.

 

 

2017 Homeowner Holiday Decorating Contest

Categories: Blog | Posted: November 24, 2017

 

Homeowners, it’s time to turn it up this holiday season!

For the fourth straight year, we are hosting our annual Homeowner Holiday Lights Contest exclusively for Tuskes Homeowners! Join us as we spread joy around our communities and light up the Lehigh Valley and Sand Springs. By sharing photos of your decorated homes with us, you will be entered to win prizes, which will be given to the top three submissions:

  • First Place: Win a $250 Visa gift card!
  • Second Place: Win a $100 Visa gift card!
  • Third Place: Win a $50 Visa gift card!

If you’re already decorating, why not enter to win some great prizes while you’re at it? We are accepting submissions from now until December 31st! Send your submissions to alyssap@tuskeshomes.com, and the winner will be announced on Facebook in January. In your submission, please include your exterior photo, the community you live in, house number, name, and phone number.

And be sure to check out all of the amazing decorations around your community this holiday season!

Thanksgiving in the Lehigh Valley

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: November 21, 2017

 

Of all the things to be thankful for this season, the Lehigh Valley should be right at the top of the list! At Tuskes Homes, we are so grateful to build homes in some of the most amazing communities in the country (though we may be a little biased!). One of the best benefits of living in the Lehigh Valley is the huge array of events there are to attend during this holiday-filled time of year. From 5Ks, to food fights, to football and more, here are Team Tuskes’ favorite Thanksgiving weekend events in the Lehigh Valley.

 

Lehigh Valley Thanksgiving Weekend Events

 

Thanksgiving Food Fight

When? November 24-27

Where? DaVinci Science Center

What is it? If you like to play with your food, but don’t like the clean-up, come to the DaVinci Science Center this Thanksgiving weekend! This is the only place in the Lehigh Valley where you’re allowed to eat AND play with your food. There will be a marshmallow shooting gallery, carrot cannons, flying turkey, and more!

How much is it? $13 per person

 

Turkey Trot 5K

When? Saturday, November 25

Where? Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites

What is it? Work off those Thanksgiving calories with this timely Turkey Trot 5k. Held the Saturday after Thanksgiving, this run is a local favorite held in the picturesque Industrial Quarter of Bethlehem. Don’t forget to dress warm!

How much is it? $45 to compete, $30 for fun

 

Annual Easton-Phillipsburg Football Game and Bonfire

When? November 22-23

Where? Easton Area High School and Lafayette Stadium

What is it? Come celebrate one of the biggest high school rivalries in the world, held right here on the Lehigh Valley border! For over 100 years, Easton and Phillipsburg have gone head-to-head in a Thanksgiving rivalry game that will have you cheering. Visit Easton Area High School on the night before Thanksgiving to see their annual huge, record-breaking bonfire and pep rally. Whether you’re new to the LV or are a long-time local, you can’t miss this Thanksgiving tradition!

How much is it? $10 per ticket for the game, bonfire is FREE

 

Christmas City Tree Lighting Ceremony

When? November 24

Where? 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA

What is it? Mayor Bob Donchez will kick off the Christmas season with Bethlehem’s annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. There will be live performances, as well as free hot chocolate and cookies. Santa will also be in attendance. And make sure to stop by and support the small, local businesses on Main Street Bethlehem – from Moravian Book Store to the Brew Works, there’s so much to see and do to get in the holiday spirit!

How much is it? FREE

 

Now that you have some great options, we hope you find the best activity for you and your family to enjoy! If you’re new to the area, talking to your neighbors is another great way to discover even more local activities to partake in. There’s always something to do in the Lehigh Valley, and an amazing community of people to do them with!

At this time of Thanksgiving celebration, our thoughts turn gratefully to our families, friends, and customers with warm appreciation. We wish you and your families a happy, safe, and fun Thanksgiving!

Garage organization: De-cluttering and storage tips

Categories: Blog | Posted: November 10, 2017

The garage is probably one of the most preferred stash places in your home. The attic is great, but it can be difficult to access. The basement is good, if you have one, but you might worry about dampness. Or you have a finished basement that’s already full.

Rather than continue to pack and stack boxes and bury items so deep that they are essentially lost, spend some time reorganizing your garage. Take back the space! Here are some de-cluttering and storage tips for garage organization.

  • Start with a blank canvas. Remove all the clutter from the garage. Otherwise, you will be shifting things around, not truly organizing them. Sort things out as you go. Set up bins for “Discard”, “Donate”, and “Keep”. Eliminate all items that really aren’t worthy of valuable space (like your t-shirt collection from the 80s). Will you ever repair that broken thingamajig? Be honest with yourself. If these things are buried in your garage, are they worth keeping? Once the garage is empty, sweep and clean the floor. An empty garage is perfect for cleaning the various stains and repairing cracks. You might even consider painting the floor for a really fresh start.
  • Plan the storage zones. Think about the uses of your garage: tools, car care supplies, seasonal décor and clothing, sports gear, lawn and garden care, and paint/home repair, to name a few. You probably also need an area for your trash and recycling. Once you determine the storage zones, choose the most suitable place for each, based on the frequency of use. Label each area so you know where everything will go, and you can visibly see the flow from zone to zone.
  • Design the storage spaces. Your garage offers many options for creating storage zones. In addition to the walls, you have the overhead area where you can attach hooks and shelves. You can install cabinets and pegboards. Explore the local home centers to get ideas for smart storage systems. Invest in a lockable cabinet to store potentially hazardous items (chemicals, sharp tools).
  • Respect the new and improved space. Place the items from your “Keep” stash in the designated storage zones. Give all household members a tour of the new and improved garage and remind them that your garage storage system must be maintained.

Look at your calendar and schedule a weekend for garage organization. Use the reward of not just having a perfectly organized garage but also finding the treasures that have been long lost in the clutter!

Look ahead at kitchen cabinetry trends for 2018

Categories: Blog | Posted: October 26, 2017

One of the first things people notice when they walk into your kitchen are the cabinets. Your choice is a major factor in both the aesthetics and the function of this all-important room. Before you decide on the kitchen cabinets for your new home or renovation, consider some of the style shifts happening. Here’s a look ahead at kitchen cabinetry trends for 2018.

You can never go wrong with white or light. White, off-white, and light gray continue to dominate kitchen cabinet colors. The brightness these neutral tones bring to your kitchen is unbeatable, and they work with just about any color you want in the room.

Mix and match. You don’t have to choose just one color for your cabinets. Kitchen designers are leaning toward one color for the base and another for the wall, or a complementary color for the island.

Put more behind the doors. Today’s (and tomorrow’s) cabinets are more efficient than their ancestors were. Pull-out drawers and shelves enable more efficient usage. A narrow, vertical cabinet door can hide a sliding spice rack or pull-out holder for trays, cookie sheets, and racks. Deep drawers provide more convenient access to your dishes.

Raise your cabinet standards. You know that gap between the top of your cabinets and the kitchen ceiling where you either display things or stash them? Cabinetry is now reaching to the ceiling, a design trend that gives the perception of a bigger room.

Show-offs. Glass doors on some of your upper cabinets allow you to proudly display your most eye-catching pieces, like crystal, pottery, dishware, and kitchen collectibles.

I know the fridge is here somewhere. If you find the front of your refrigerator or microwave a bit disruptive, you’ll appreciate the trend toward masking them with a door that matches your kitchen cabinets.

Mix in a few shelves. Open, “floating” shelves in a contrasting material—like rustic wood with white cabinetry—and a few less cabinets add an airy feeling to the kitchen.

Unjunk your junk drawers. The kitchen drawers are now featuring dividers and even multiple tiers to make organization easier than ever. Whether you’re separating silverware or the mounds of miscellany, these new and improved kitchen drawers are the clutterbug’s new best friend.

Park your appliance in a cabinet garage. Homeowners want a tidier look to their kitchen, so a place to store your small appliances (toaster, coffee maker, mixer, juicer) out of sight, but not out of reach, is essential.

Accessorize. Kitchen cabinets are being finished with more accents that resemble fine furniture. Decorative corbels, carved feet, moldings, and arches are easy ways to embellish your kitchen’s style.

You spend a lot of time in your kitchen. Why not make it as stylish as every other room in your home?

Tips for choosing the right wall colors for your home

Categories: Blog | Posted: October 13, 2017

For some people, changing colors in a room is like changing your hairstyle. It’s nice to try something different—and it’s easy enough to change back if you don’t like the result. For others, the prospect of switching is a scary proposition.

Painting a room is one of the most affordable ways to make a big change in your home. The only hard part can be the color choice. Looking at the array of paint chips in the store can be overwhelming. Before you head there, narrow down your choices.

Here are some tips for choosing the right wall colors for your home.

Look at your wardrobe. What colors do you like to wear? That’s a big clue to your color preferences. If you’re drawn to neutral colors, you’re comfortable with those soft shades, making this palette a smart choice for your interior walls. If your penchant for lime green or sunshine orange feels too daring for your walls, tone it down a bit.

Inspect your photos, artwork, and other accents. What colors prevail? You chose these decorative pieces for the message they communicate, but was color a factor as well?

Pull the paint color from a print. You might have a favorite pillow, upholstered chair, or even table linens. Zoom in on the shades that might work well on your wall. Take the fabric to the paint store and ask them to match it.

Use a color wheel. See how colors relate to each other. A color wheel gives insight into the hues that work harmoniously together. You might like a monochromatic color scheme, with variations of a particular color (lightness and saturation). A complementary color scheme uses colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, usually a warm and a cool one (yellow and blue, for example). An analogous color scheme combines colors that are next to each other, like blue and green, or orange and red, and varying shades of those colors. There are several other options for color schemes, but this will get you started. Once you choose the color scheme, you build your palette of specific colors.

Check out color trends. Home décor colors are like fashion. They change with the seasons and the years. Greenery was the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year. The foliage-inspired shade is like a springtime refresh. Home décor watchers are expecting 2018 interior color palettes to move from pastels to more intense hues. With palettes named “Far-fetched”, ”Resourceful”, and “Resourceful”, you might find one to suit your taste.

Think holistically. Your house is a sum of its parts, which includes your wall colors. Make sure you have smooth flow from room to room. This is where organizing a whole-house color palette will help.

Donate to Toys for Tots with Tuskes Homes!

Categories: Blog | Posted: October 12, 2017

We are collecting gifts on behalf of Toys for Tots of the Lehigh Valley now through Monday, November 27th at our model homes! To donate, please bring a new, unwrapped toy to any one of our model homes at the following communities:

  • Hanover Oaks: 6877 Gwenmawr Road, Bethlehem, PA 18017
  • Maple Shade: 3796 Bethman Road, Easton, PA 18045
  • Saratoga Farms: 4314 Belmont Drive, Lower Nazareth, PA 18020
  • Sand Springs: 14 Reserve Drive, Drums, PA 18222

All toys will be donated locally to Toys for Tots in Northampton and Lehigh Counties. This is a great way to give back to the communities in which we build our homes. We are proud to have partnered with Toys for Tots for nearly 20 years, because We Live Here Too!

The Toys for Tots Foundation is a program by the U.S. Marine Reserve Corps. Its mission is to help less fortunate children throughout the country experience the joy of Christmas, and to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources: our children. The program seeks to unite all members of local communities in a common cause during the holiday season through their annual toy collection and distribution campaign, and to contribute to better communities in the future.

Thank you for considering donating! We hope to see you soon!

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.

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