Top 5 Features Millennials Look For in a Home

(BPT) – For generations, homeownership has been part of the American dream. For most Americans, it’s the largest, most significant investment they’ll make, and because homeownership is the best way to grow their wealth, the most important investment as well.

As the youngest generation of new homeowners, millennials are entering the housing market and are eager to get a home to fit their unique lifestyles. Just as every generation has its own music, its distinct style and look, the new generation of homeowners has different expectations than buyers did a few decades ago. To shed some light on these evolving home trends, here are five of the most popular features millennials look for in a home.

1. It Needs To Be Energy Efficient.

More than other generations, millennials are particularly concerned with their impact on the environment. As such, they want to be sure the home they buy will have a minimal carbon footprint. Some energy-efficient features that are a priority for homebuyers are UV-protected windows, programmable thermostats, efficient appliances and upgraded insulation.

2. It Needs To Be Customized To Their Tastes.

It’s not enough to find a home that is merely “livable”; millennials want a house that is an outward and inward expression of who they are. Translation: The one-size-fits-all model is no longer sufficient. This is one reason manufactured and modular homes from Clayton Homes have become so popular. They offer diverse floor plans with a number of customizable options to suit individuals’ needs and unique styles. There are even built-in home features for pets!

3. Rethinking Space Usage.

The era of buying a house as big as you can afford is on the way out. Many millennials are forgoing the extra bedrooms and enormous living rooms. These homebuyers prefer smarter ways to utilize space for their family’s needs, while keeping a cozy and intimate atmosphere.

4. Open Floor Plan.

In a world where everyone seems to be plugged into their phones and staring at their individual screens, the open floor plan has emerged as a way for families and guests to come together and share the same space. Basically, the fewer walls between the kitchen, dining room and living room, the better. This floor plan also aids homeowners with their entertaining needs and provides more natural light, which is very big for this young generation.

5. A Room For a Home Office.

The millennial workforce is a mobile workforce, and just as this generation is transforming the home market, it is also transforming the workplace. Millions of Americans work from home, and many more are often given the option to work a day or two a week from home. With this shift, many potential homeowners want to be sure there is a suitable workspace for an office.

With evolving needs and different tastes, many millennials worry that they will spend a lot of time searching for that one, perfect dream home. At Clayton Homes, we provide a range of green, energy-efficient home models that can be customized with a range of affordable options. From the kitchens to outdoor living areas and multifunctional spaces, millennials and everyone else can find the choices that will allow them to tailor their home and their living space to suit their lifestyle.

4 Things You Might Not Know About DIY Home Security

(BPT) – With the holiday season approaching, you may be thinking about giving your family the gift of home security – especially if you know you’ll be traveling over the holidays.

A growing number of homeowners are turning to do-it-yourself smart home security systems to address their security concerns. Installing your own home security system can be well worth the investment; while the average system may cost hundreds of dollars to get started, monthly fees are low, and when a home security system is present, 60 percent of attempted burglaries fail, according to StatisticBrain.

Crime doesn’t take a holiday.

During the holidays, burglars know many families travel to visit distant loved ones. Plus, homes filled with gifts can be a treasure trove for thieves.

Here are ways DIY home security systems make it easy to keep your smart home safe and secure during the holiday season and throughout the year:

Affordable and Flexible

Professional monitoring of a smart home security system from traditional players and well-known brands can cost nearly $50 a month – and then lock you in for four years or longer. When you’re already spending on holiday shopping and celebrations, the extra cost of monitoring can seem daunting. DIY systems typically offer the same components, such as security cameras, motion sensors and smart locks, without the costs and contracts of professional installation. Plus, you can still get affordable 24/7 monitoring; Iris by Lowe’s Professional Monitoring is $14.95 per month.

Customizable For Your Needs

DIY home security systems typically offer starter packages that contain the basic components you need to set up a simple system in your home, such as a smart hub and sensors. Once installed, the smart system is scalable, and you can add products or solutions that meet your needs by just shopping at your favorite retailer – no need to call up a security company to come out to your house for an expensive visit. For example, Iris offers a catalog of more than 150 devices that pair with its smart hub, including cameras, motion sensors, locks, light switches, thermostats, smoke alarms and more. Whether you want to secure and monitor a door or window shielded from sight, or you want to turn lights on and off automatically to make your home look occupied while you’re out, a smart home security system can do that.

Mobile Monitoring

Being able to monitor your home security system from your smartphone gives added peace of mind, and many DIY systems also provide apps that allow you to remotely control and monitor home systems. Whether you’re out shopping and realize you forgot to arm the system, or visiting out-of-state relatives, you can manage your smart home security system as if you were at home.

Smart Home Compatible

If you’re already using smart technologies like Google Home or an Amazon Echo smart speaker, these components may work with and even enhance your DIY home security system. Systems allow you to create a fully integrated smart home experience. For example, you can use the smart system’s mobile app to turn on lights and the home security alarm when you’re away from home and control it by voice when you are home.

To learn more about home automation and DIY security systems, visit www.irisbylowes.com.

Insulation Tips: Give Your Home Its Own Winter Coat

(BPT) – In fall’s natural progression toward hibernation and all things cozy, preparation for your house is often forgotten. Insulation for the home can seem intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from digging deeper. You’ll find that proper insulation is key for superior home comfort and increased energy savings. Read on for some information on why your home may need its own new coat this winter to help you stay warm.

Why Is Insulation Important?

Two words: consistency and savings. First, insulation helps keep your home at a consistently comfortable temperature. Second, insulation creates a more energy-efficient home, saving you up to 20 percent in heating/cooling costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). To put that in perspective, the typical U.S. home heating/cooling bill accounts for almost half of its energy costs each month – meaning you could save 10 percent of your overall energy bill.

What Type of Insulation Do You Need?

As for most things in life, it is important to know your options. Three of the most common types of insulation for home DIY are fiberglass batts, rigid foam panels (such as expanded polystyrene, or EPS) and mineral wool. Look below for the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Fiberglass

* Pros – non-flammable, inexpensive

* Cons – difficult to install properly without leaving gaps, which renders the insulation much less efficient; handling danger due to glass powder and small glass shards

EPS Rigid Foam Panels

* Pros – excellent sound and temperature insulation; inexpensive; easy to install

* Cons – must cut pieces to fit around pipes, etc.

Mineral Wool

* Pros – easy to install; flame resistant

* Cons – more effective when combined with other forms of insulation (meaning more work to install); higher price

For self-installation in your home, EPS offers many benefits other forms of insulation do not. Other forms of insulation (like fiberglass or mineral wool) require more safety precautions, like protective wear and training for proper installation.

“EPS provides the best insulating performance – ‘R-value’ – per dollar of any insulation,” says insulation expert Paul Kopelson, regional sales director for Insulfoam. “Other forms of insulation are challenging to install without leaving gaps and wrinkles that can cut the efficiency of the product in half. It’s important as a homeowner to know that your insulation will do what it’s supposed to, and do it well.”

What’s Next?

Inhale confidence, exhale doubts. With your new knowledge of insulation types, a quick trip to a local home improvement store will arm you to better understand the options. Home improvement stores and lumber dealers stock a wide range of insulation products, including EPS options such as R-Tech insulation. Check them out, and get ready for a warmer winter. Your house (and your energy bill) will thank you.

 

4 DIY Tips to Save Money and Get Your Home Ready For Winter

(BPT) – Many people look forward to the cooler weather. The brisk autumn winds and colorful leaves signal that once again it’s time to take out the sweaters and scarves. There are the hot soups and pumpkin-flavored drinks to keep one warm as the weather gets cooler, but for the conscientious homeowner and dedicated DIYer, it’s time to start winterizing your home.

Sealing out pesky drafts around your home helps save energy while also making your home more comfortable. It also prevents water damage from rain, ice or snow and blocks out pests that might be trying to find a warm place to spend the winter.

As you’re deciding where to get started, here are four projects that will go a long way to save you money and make your home ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at it this winter.

1. Create a Thermal Barrier.

The best way to keep your family warm and toasty while the wind, snow and sleet rage outside is to ensure your home and its building envelope – the thermal barrier between the interior of a home and the exterior environment – is properly sealed. How well the “shell” of the building (walls, roof and foundation) is sealed against the exterior environment directly impacts the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Maintaining a well-sealed building envelope means you’ll use less energy to heat and cool your home, saving you money. Take the time to check for and seal the following common air leaks around your home, both inside and out:

* Interior windows and doors: Slowly move a lit incense stick around the edges. If the smoke drifts to the side, it indicates an air leak that needs to be sealed.

* Interior baseboards and trim: Check for cracks and gaps where walls meet floors and ceilings.

* Exterior windows and doors: Check for gaps and cracks where the frame meets the wall. Replace cracked or missing sealant around frames with an exterior grade sealant.

* Pipes and vents: If there is a gap between the pipe or vent and the surface it goes through, it needs to be sealed.

2. Seal Air Leaks.

Most cracks and gaps less than a half inch in width and depth can be filled with a sealant like DAP Extreme Stretch. Designed to stretch over 600 percent, Extreme Stretch can withstand the elements as your home expands and contracts, plus it is easy to apply on virtually any interior and exterior surface such as windows, trim, pipes, vents and siding. It will not crack or lose adhesion, saving you money and preventing nasty drafts. And remember, before you apply, make sure to remove any old sealant that remains to ensure the new sealant can adhere properly.

3. Move Beyond Window Wrap.

We all know that a traditional way to seal in the heat and keep out the cold is to insulate your windows with plastic film. This is an unsightly solution and leaves your home looking shrink-wrapped. A more effective and less obtrusive method is to use DAP SEAL ‘N PEEL, a temporary, removable weatherstrip caulk that’s great for sealing up windows for the season. It applies easily like a caulk around windows, doors, attic hatches, pipes and vents to keep out drafts. Once spring comes, it easily peels off to let in the fresh air.

4. Seal Off a Room.

If you live in a large house and have a room or two that you don’t use, consider sealing it up for the winter. Simply turn off the heating vent or radiator in the room to avoid paying to heat a room you aren’t using. Then use a door draft stopper or decorative long pillow along the door floor to prevent any drafts.

Whether you like the cold weather or not, the coming winter is a great opportunity to check up on your home and prepare it for winter. For the novice or the die-hard DIYer, it’s an important time to assess and address your home’s defenses against winter weather.

Home Smart Home: Boost Your Home IQ With Smart Appliances

(BPT) – If you think a Jetsons-like home of the future is still a ways off, think again. Today’s smart home is here offering simple ways for consumers to operate their home, adding the ultimate in efficiency, convenience and enjoyment. It’s easier than you think to create a connected home that lets you operate devices throughout your kitchen, living room, laundry room and more – and you can do it all from the palm of your hand or with simple voice commands. In fact, some of your appliances might already be able to help you cook, clean and entertain in ways never thought possible.

Here are five things smart appliances can do to make your life easier right now:

1. Serve As Your Sous Chef

Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth, but one extra helper sure could make the food prep a lot easier. Consider the SmartThinQ app for LG appliances your sous chef and use it to tackle all those extra jobs that come with meal preparation.

It can preheat the oven at a designated time – perfect for when you’re sitting in traffic and need to have dinner ready in a pinch. Plus, it can download recipes and let you monitor the remaining cooking time from your phone – letting you enjoy time with your family without worrying about a burnt meal.

2. Help With Housework

If you have a load of laundry in your LG TWINWash with SideKick, your phone can provide cycle status updates and alert you when the cycle is complete, helping to avoid forgotten laundry in your washer. Plus, you can even start or stop the cycle remotely when you’re out of the house.

3. Speed Clean Your Home

Cleaning the oven may be one of the most mundane and dreaded tasks. Now with your smartphone you can easily start your oven’s EasyClean cycle from the palm of your hand, ensuring one of cleanup’s most difficult jobs is done while you’re off enjoying life’s other adventures.

You can also use the app to start your robotic vacuum on your way home from work for a quick refresh or when you forget the in-laws are coming over for dinner.

4. Help You Entertain Effortlessly

Hosting a party or even a casual group of guests heightens the need to clean, but let’s be honest, there’s always a chore or two around the house that you run out of time to tackle. Your smart home can help save the day. While tackling another chore, simply use your smartphone app to tell your refrigerator to make more ice to save you a trip to the store. Or turn on your air purifier to rid the house of cooking smells or seasonal allergy culprits. Likewise, a quick touch of your phone allows you to control air conditioners in your home to set your place to the perfect temperature or adjust the temperature as guests come and go.

5. Remember Your Preferences

Do you ever wish your appliances knew what you were thinking? The more you use your smart appliances, the smarter they get by remembering usage habits and data to better anticipate your needs.

Home Smart Home

Gone are the days of wondering if you left the oven on when you leave the house or constantly checking on the laundry. Chores may be a mainstay, but with new ways to control your home, you no longer have to tackle them all on your own. Each of the examples above presents an opportunity for you to get more from your house with the touch of a button. And for added convenience, many of the latest smart appliances can also be controlled from other devices, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. So let your touch or your voice be heard and get the most out of your appliances as efficiently as possible. You’ll be glad you did.

5 Myths About Solar Panels, Debunked

(BPT) – Home solar panels can drastically cut or even eliminate electricity bills, reduce a home’s carbon footprint, increase resale value, and may even help a home sell faster.

The cost of rooftop solar systems has fallen dramatically in recent years, and most homeowners have the option of buying the system, leasing it on reasonable payment terms, or having a third-party pay for and install the system at no up-front cost at all for the homeowner. Plus, home solar systems are eligible for federal tax credits.

All of this explains why the number of homeowners installing solar has sky-rocketed across America. Nevertheless, many homeowners remain skeptical about taking control of their energy use and installing solar. Why? The various myths that still persist around solar power could be the reason.

“Solar technology has been around for a long time, but even though it’s entered the mainstream, many homeowners are still skeptical,” says renewable energy expert Roger Ballentine, president of Green Strategies, a leading Washington-based consulting firm. “That’s because a number of myths persist, pointing to the need for better consumer education about the benefits of home solar installations.”

Ballentine points to private and government studies providing real information that debunks the myths surrounding solar power. For example, research by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found solar panels help homes sell faster and for more money than those without solar.

If you’re considering installing a solar panel system on your home, here are five common myths – and why you shouldn’t believe them:

Myth 1: Solar panels only work if you live in a warm, sunny climate.

While solar panels work best when they get a lot of sun, a lack of bright sun doesn’t mean they’re not working. Panels can still absorb ambient sunlight, even on cloudy days or in regions that get less bright sun. What’s more, today’s solar panels are more energy efficient than ever. Newer systems like the “LG NeOn R” maximize sunlight absorption and generate the maximum possible output – as much as 26 percent more than other comparably sized solar panels. This higher efficiency means that solar panels can work in virtually any climate and every season.

Myth 2: You need a lot of roof space for solar panels.

Just like other amazing technologies (think microchips), solar panels are getting smaller, more powerful and more efficient. High-efficiency panels take up less space because fewer panels are required to produce the electricity needed to power your home. So even a smaller home could have enough roof space to fit the number of panels needed to generate the necessary power and save you money.

Myth 3: Installation is a long, drawn-out hassle.

While adding solar panels to your home isn’t a DIY project, installation usually takes only a day or two. New models streamline the process further, eliminating the need to install a separate inverter. Most solar panels require a separate inverter to bring electricity into your house, but new panels from LG, for instance, incorporate the inverter, simplifying and accelerating the installation process.

Myth 4: If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.

As with any major investment in your home, you should make sure you understand the manufacturer and installer warranties for your solar panels, including how long the coverage lasts and what types of problems are covered. One leading solar player, LG, even offers an industry-leading, 25-year product and power warranty. And unlike a furnace or an air conditioning system, a solar installation has no moving parts to wear out and typically requires little maintenance and repair.

Myth 5: Solar panels will look big, bulky and ugly on your roof.

Solar panels are becoming smaller, sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing. Higher-efficiency models are also offering increased flexibility of configuration. Instead of having to cover an entire roof with panels in a specific arrangement in order to generate power, modern options allow you to arrange panels to meet your sense of aesthetics.

Adding solar power to a home offers homeowners many benefits, from reducing energy costs, to increasing the value of your home and helping the environment, Ballentine says. “Overall, it’s a decision most homeowners feel positively about once they’ve made it.” The NREL notes in its study: “Buyers of homes with (solar panel) systems are more satisfied than are comparison buyers. A significantly higher percentage … indicate they would buy the same houses again.”

 

Upping Your Laundry Room’s Wow Factor

(BPT) – Doing the laundry is no longer relegated to dark, musty basements where no one cares to go. Thanks to modern technology, great design and access to innovative ideas online, laundry rooms have moved upstairs and come into their own. In fact, laundry rooms today are right up there with dream kitchens and dream bathrooms – and the more style, function and “wow factor,” the better.

“Laundry rooms are no longer just utilitarian,” said Anitra Mecadon, TV personality and award-winning interior designer. “People want stylish, healthy environments where they can relax, multitask and have some fun while doing the laundry.”

Below are four ways Mecadon recommends to ramp up the wow factor, function and allure of your laundry room:

High-Tech Appliances

When looking for washers and dryers today, there are more features than you can imagine. You should consider your needs and desires before starting your search – and we’re talking about more than gas or electric, front- or top-loading, color, budget and space parameters. Today’s “smart” appliances offer custom wash cycles, wrinkle removal, steam cleaning, less noise, delayed start times, moisture sensors with allergen and sanitize cycles and more. There’s even a machine that washes two separate loads with different setting options at the same time. And nearly every machine today is Energy Star-certified for energy efficiency.

Loads of Style

Laundry rooms today can be decorated to complement other rooms in your home – and Pinterest and Houzz offer loads of pictures online to spark your creativity. Laundry rooms can be country French to modern, whimsical to multifunctional – and it’s not unusual to see them in bold or soothing colors, with comfy chairs, statement lighting, flat-screen TVs and docking stations to play music or charge tablets and phones. They also can include windows to let in natural light. If you think white and stainless are your only color options, think again. They can be turquoise, burnt orange, glacial blue, fire engine red, kelly green and even black stainless.

Function Galore

Washing and drying are only part of doing the laundry. There’s sorting, folding, hanging and ironing – and each of those steps needs its own space, supplies and storage. Baskets for sorting and carrying laundry can be wicker, plastic or wood and stored for all to see or out of sight. Counters for folding can be granite, marble, quartz, butcher block or laminate, and many people put them over their washers and dryers as well as around the room. Drying racks made of ladders or upcycled cribs can be creative and functional. Ironing boards can be stand-alone, foldable and stored in cabinets or retractable and out of sight. Washers and dryers can be big or small, stacked or all in one – and even put on pedestals.

High-Performance Drywall

When laundry was relegated to the basement, part of the dread of doing laundry was the thought of being surrounded by dampness, mold and mildew – sometimes from washing machine water hose failure causing mold to grow within the wall cavity. Because your washer and dryer introduce water, moisture and heat into the room, it’s important to use drywall with extra protection for your laundry room walls and ceilings – such as moisture-, mold- and mildew-resistant PURPLE XP drywall by National Gypsum. PURPLE XP – which stands for “Xtra Protection” – products are GREENGUARD Gold Certified for indoor air quality, while aiding in the creation of healthier indoor environments.

“I love that prettier and more functional laundry rooms are becoming places people want to hang out and do laundry, but it’s important to think about what’s behind all that style and function – and that’s their walls,” said Mecadon. “Walls and what they’re made of are important and they’re not all the same.”

For more information, go to www.AskForPurple.com.

3 Important Areas to Focus On When Winterizing Your Home

(BPT) – From the holidays to cold-weather fun like ice skating and skiing, winter promises its share of good times. Preparing your home for winter’s weather extremes can help ensure that you get the maximum enjoyment out of the season, while protecting your home’s vital systems and indoor comfort.

“Winter weather can take a toll on homes, so it’s important to take steps to protect systems like HVAC and plumbing before cold weather arrives,” says Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Luxaire(R). “Properly winterizing your home can help keep it more comfortable, prevent damage from cold and ice, improve efficiency and help reduce heating bills.”

Lewicki recommends vital winterization steps to get your home ready for the season:

1. Prepare Your Gas Furnace.

During the summer, you probably didn’t think much about your furnace, but as winter approaches it’s important to make sure all elements of your home’s heating system are in top working order. If you haven’t already scheduled a professional service appointment for your furnace, now is the time. A professional technician is best equipped to ensure that furnaces are ready for winter.

Meanwhile, steps you can do yourself include:

* Remove any items that might have gotten stored near the furnace during the summer. Likewise, make sure air returns and vents are clean and not blocked by furniture or other items.

* Change the air filter. If you have trouble remembering when it’s time to replace filters, try setting reminders on your smartphone according to the furnace manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

* Update your thermostat’s programming to reflect your winter schedule. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider installing one; a properly programmed thermostat can reduce energy bills up to $180 a year, according to the ENERGYSTAR.gov website.

If your current furnace is more than 10 years old and frequently needs repair, consider replacing it before winter gets into full swing. Extreme cold can make a worn furnace work harder and possibly fail altogether when you need it most. High-efficiency gas furnaces like a Luxaire(R) Acclimate(TM) gas furnace can help ensure that you’re never without heat during the winter, while also saving money on utility bills. These ENERGY STAR qualified furnaces are 15 to 25 percent more energy efficient than standard models, meaning they require less fuel to keep your home at a comfortable temperature.

2. Protect Windows and Doors.

Up to a third of the heat lost from an average home escapes through windows and doors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Before winter arrives, take these steps to protect windows and doors from air leaks, drafts and heat loss:

* Check weather stripping on doors and caulking around windows. If any are damaged or worn, replace them.

* Install storm windows to further reduce drafts.

* Use temporary measures like draft dodgers along the base of doors and removable insulation kits over windows to help keep cold air out and warm air inside.

3. Manage Pipes and Water Sources.

Extremely low temperatures can cause water pipes to burst, causing a loss of water and possibly extensive damage to your home if flooding occurs. Uninsulated pipes can also cause heat loss, which increases energy costs.

To minimize winter’s impact on pipes and other water-related systems, take these steps:

* Place insulation on exposed pipes that carry hot water, especially if they are warm or hot to the touch. The Department of Energy says insulating pipes can increase water temperature by 2 to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower the setting on your water heater to conserve energy.

* Have outdoor water supplies like irrigation systems professionally drained and winterized to prevent freezing and costly damage.

* Flush the water heater to remove particles and sediment that collects inside the unit over time, hindering its efficiency. If you don’t have a gas-powered water heater, you can wrap it with insulation to improve its efficiency.

Finally, check on your home’s insulation in key areas like attics and basements. If your home needs more insulation, or the insulation you have is in bad shape, add more before winter arrives. The Insulation Institute offers an online guide to help you understand how much insulation you need.

“Winterizing is the best way to protect your home from cold-related damage, and ensure your home’s heating system operates at maximum efficiency throughout cold weather,” Lewicki says.

3 Paint Projects for Fall Entertaining

(BPT) – “Despite the hectic chaos that comes with the back-to-school season and adapting our family schedules, I find fall to be the perfect time to tackle my home to-do list,” explains Cyndy Aldred, the do-it-yourself paint blogger behind The Creativity Exchange. “It’s perfect because fall is our favorite time of year for entertaining!”

With kids in school and summer travels winding down, fall can be the perfect time to complete quick projects to get your home ready for fall social gatherings. Whether you’re gearing up for the big game or hosting next month’s book club, Aldred offers her favorite paint projects that are sure to wow your guests.

Add Instant Curb Appeal With Painted Porch Furniture

Aldred loves the tried-and-true trick of painting your front door, but she recommends adding an even bigger pop of color with painted furniture. For her front-porch makeover, Aldred painted her porch bench using PPG Timeless exterior paint and primer in a soothing, soft grey, Silver Reflection (50BG 54/017), and added decorative pillows to create a warm and welcoming entrance for a gathering of friends. With an open front porch, Aldred made sure to use PPG Timeless paint, available at The Home Depot, because it provides good resistance to chipping or flaking and extreme weather conditions. “I found out that this new line of paint uses UV-Protect Technology, which uses the same technology as automotive paint, so it won’t fade in sunlight or dull over time,” says Aldred.

Declutter Your Home With Color

Busy fall schedules often mean more school bags, homework, sports equipment, crafts and holiday decorations around the house. Aldred recommends quickly tackling a cluttered area of your home with a fresh paint job. For example, if you have bookcases in your family room or glass-faced cabinets in your kitchen, Aldred suggests painting the backs of them in a standout color, like the PPG Timeless 2018 Color of the Year, Deep Onyx (00NN 07/000). “I love this trick because of how the eye is drawn to the color and not the clutter that might be around or behind it,” says Aldred.

Transform Your Favorite Gathering Space With a Fresh Coat of Paint

Kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms are often favorite gathering spaces for friends and family in the home, so they are ideal spaces to make a great impression with a fresh coat of paint. “People always gravitate to our dining room when we are entertaining,” says Aldred, “so I love to freshen the space each year with a new paint color. It’s one of the least expensive and easiest ways to get a new look, and I love using a one-coat product to make it even easier.” Aldred recently used PPG Timeless interior paint and primer in Bluegrass White (30GG 73/048) to update her dining room. For an on-trend look, she went with a flat finish. “Contrary to popular opinion, a flat finish in a high-traffic entertaining space is durable if you select the right product,” explains Aldred. With the paint’s outstanding washability, scrubbability and stain resistance, Aldred was sure it could withstand the wear and tear of countless social gatherings.

Perhaps it is time to embrace fall with a few fresh paint projects to impress your guests and make lasting improvements to your home. For more paint inspiration, visit Diy.PPG.com or www.TheCreativityExchange.com.

5 Easy Ways to Turn Your House Into a Smart Home

(BPT) – There was a time when setting up a smart home was a labor-intensive endeavor. You had to know which devices worked together, spend tedious days getting everything to work just right, then master complicated software to control the whole experience.

Things have changed. Nowadays, smart homes are more sophisticated than ever. You can set up your entire home right from your smartphone, and everything can be controlled by your voice.

That’s right, you don’t need to know any codes or remember any complex steps to reap the benefits of a smart home. Do you want to dim the lights for movie night, listen to your favorite album while cooking dinner or turn on the lawn sprinklers without leaving the couch? All you have to do is ask.

At the center of a smart home is a voice service like Amazon Alexa on the Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show, which allows you to control more than 1,000 devices using just your voice. You can connect to as many or as few smart devices as you want. Services like Alexa also let you access the latest news and weather, set reminders and even order dinner for the night.

For a sample of what’s possible with a smart home, here are five devices that can lead you to a whole new home experience!

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

This Wi-Fi-enabled plug can transform almost every appliance in your home into a voice-enabled device. Plug your coffee maker, lamp or fan into it, then simply pair it with your voice service. With just a simple command like “Alexa, start the coffee,” you’ll soon smell the heavenly aromas of fresh-brewed java.

TP-Link Multicolor LED Bulb

There are light bulbs, and then there are smart bulbs. This LED bulb contains multiple colors, from warm reds to cool blues, plus hundreds of other shades and tints that allow you to light your space according to the mood or occasion, all through a simple voice command.

Neato Botvac

Not too many people like cleaning, so when they hear there’s a Wi-Fi-enabled robot vacuum that automatically cleans floors for you, their ears perk up. Connect the Neato Botvac to your Amazon Alexa and voila, cleaning the floors is as easy as, “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning.”

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

Smart thermostats are wildly popular for the simple reason that they save homeowners money. If you forget to turn down the heat when you step out, you can do so from your smartphone. With sensors that manage hot and cold spots, easy programming features and more, this smart thermostat can save you an average of 23 percent on heating and cooling costs each year.

Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show. A smart home is not just about smart devices, it’s also about making your life easier. For instance, if you’re throwing a dinner party and want music to set the mood, just ask “Alexa, play jazz music.” The same is true if you want to check the weather, order food for a night in or see what’s on your calendar for the day. If you find you’re out of laundry detergent or cooking oil, you can easily order by asking Alexa to have it delivered to your home. All you have to do is ask.

The beauty of a smart home is that you can pick and choose the features you want. Whether you want to clean, adjust the lighting or listen to your favorite song, with a voice service like Amazon Alexa and Amazon Echo, you’ll experience convenience and the fruits of technology in a whole new way.