Winter Home Improvement (January 2023)

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2023 Winter Home IMPROVEMENT

Home sweet hemp

Lower Sioux to build environmentally-friendly homes with hempcrete

MORTON — There has been a buzz growing around hemp the last several years as loosening regulations in the United States have started to make it easier to grow, process and use the plant in a variety of products and projects. At the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton, the focus has been on using hemp as a building material, to help construct not only higher-quality but environmentally-friendly homes for members.

“There are 20,000 uses for the plant. I can’t think of a better one for our community members than to give them a home that will last forever,” said Earl Pendleton, Lower Sioux Tribal Council vice president.

Hempcrete and its benefits

For more than 12 years, Pendleton has been learning about a product call hempcrete, which can be used as a building material. The recipe is simple enough. It is just the woody core of the hemp plant stem called the hurd, lime and water. Mix it all together, and you have a compound that can either be formed into blocks or poured into forms around a wooden frame to create entire wall sections of a building.

“It is a simple product to build with,” Pendleton said.

It can replace the many layers of insulation materials in a home, while simultaneously creating a structure that is fire-, pest- and mold-resistant. It is a vapor-permeable product, meaning it can hold moisture and then allow it to evaporate. It has also been shown to be a better insulator than normal concrete and similar to conventional fibrous insulation.

While it is not as strong as concrete, and usually can’t be used for load-bearing foundations or walls, hempcrete does get stronger as it ages and, in some cases, structures using hemp have lasted hundreds of years.

Hempcrete also has various environmental benefits. The hemp plant takes carbon out of the atmosphere, has been shown to be beneficial to the soil in which it is planted and, because it grows a canopy with its leaves, weed growth is greatly reduced as is the need for chemical weed control. It grows much faster than trees, is 100% recyclable and, if grown locally, it may not have the carbon footprint associated with transporting.

“Hempcrete is an environmentally safe, sustainable alternative,” Pendleton said.

Those people who live in hemp homes who have spoken with Pendleton said their families get ill less frequently and that the home seems to be healthier place to live.

“It feels different, it feels natural,” Pendleton said.

Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community

Pictured in Circle: The finished hempcrete shed at the Lower Sioux Indian Community. The community hopes to one day build a development of hempcrete constructed homes on tribal land.

Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community

The Lower Sioux Indian Community hope to one day transform hundreds of acres of hemp into highquality and environmentally-friendly homes. The hemp can be used for the creation of hempcrete, a building material a bit like concrete.

The ‘weed’ problem

It has only been in the last few years that Pendleton and the Lower Sioux have really started to make progress in their plans for a completely tribe-driven hemp-building industry. It was only in 2018 that the United States even allowed for hemp to be grown for various commercial enterprises, such as food, clothes and building products.

“It has been a long process. Hemp is so hard to get going,” Pendleton said.

The No. 1 reason for all the red tape and hoops one has to go through to grow hemp is its relationship to another plant. Hemp is a variety of cannabis, just like marijuana, but hemp’s levels of the mood-altering component THC are much lower. To be considered hemp in the United States, the product must have THC levels less than 0.3% by dry weight. The hemp being grown and used by the Lower Sioux is even lower, at 0.001%, Pendleton said.

“It gets associated with its wild cousin marijuana all the time,” Pendleton said. “It has nothing to do with it, and I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Lower Sioux’s plan for hemp

It has taken some time for the tribal council and the community at large to get behind the hemp-building project, but now there is a lot of energy, support and excitement around it.

“The current council is really behind it,” Pendleton said.

In September 2022, the Lower Sioux Indian Community constructed a shed using hempcrete. It was a practice project to show the community how hemp can be used as a building material.

Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community

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From Page D3

About three years ago, the tribe took back control of more than 300 acres of tillable farm land it had been leasing and now grows hemp on those acres. Pendleton said they are looking for more farmers interested in growing hemp.

“We had to start a farming program, which we’ve never done in 80 years of existence,” Pendleton said, due to the opportunities hemp has brought for those wanting to get into farming.

A $1.5 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development allowed the Lower Sioux to purchase the processing equipment it needed to separate the hurd from the rest of the hemp plant. With this equipment, the tribe can process about a ton of hemp an hour, or around 2,000 acres worth of hemp a year. It takes about 3 acres worth of hemp to build a 1,200-square-foot home.

Currently, the equipment is being stored in Olivia, but this spring the tribe will start construction on a 20,000-square-foot hemp campus, where the hemp processing will take place. The tribe might also one day produce hempcrete blocks which could then be sold and used in building projects across the region.

Also this spring, the tribe will start construction on a hempcrete test home pilot program. The 1,400-square-foot home will have four bedrooms and be outfitted with testing equipment. This will allow the project team to see how the hempcrete reacts to Minnesota’s temperamental climate and see if the benefits of hempcrete can be proven. The Lower Sioux obtained another grant, this one from Housing and Urban Development, to help fund the pilot program

Once all the pieces are in place, the Lower Sioux will have a seed-towall hemp-building industry right on tribal land.

Pendleton envisions the industry providing job opportunities for members, from farming to processing to construction.

Earl Pendleton, vice president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community Tribal Council, has been researching hempcrete as a building material for 12 years. All the research is starting to pay off as the community begins creating its own hempcrete industry. Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community The canopy created by the leaves of the hemp plant help stamp down weed growth in the fields. Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community


The main goal is to one day build a housing development at the Lower Sioux full of high-quality hempcrete homes that not only last but are healthier and environmentally friendly. Just like so many communities across the state and country, the Lower Sioux is struggling with a housing shortage. But the tribe also wants to do what is best for the environment. According to the 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, 40% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions come from building and construction.

“We need more (houses), but we also need better — the planet needs better,” Pendleton said. “There is a huge opportunity here I think.”

Pendleton said it make sense that a Native American tribe would be one to create a locallysourced hemp construction business. It can be seen as a modern equivalent of when the current members’ ancestors were living on and with the land.

“We have been historical caretakers of the land,” Pendleton said. “Here we are, trying to use a plant for all its worth and eliminate the problems with current products.”

With all the attention being put on climate change, sustainability, jobs and housing needs, Pendleton feels the time is right for hempcrete.

“It has become the perfect storm for hemp to take a foothold in the construction industry,” Pendleton said.

To create hempcrete you need to separate the hurd, or woody inner core of the stem, from the rest of the plant. Pendleton said the remaining fiber and seeds from the plant could be sold to other businesses. Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community

Once mixed, the hempcrete mixture is placed in a form that surrounds the wood frame of the building. The hempcrete then cures into a solid structure and the form can be removed.

Contributed / Lower Sioux Indian Community

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job like this,”
really fill themselves up with a
Pendleton said.

Help banish winter blues with these home improvement fixes


Preparing your home for cold weather can lower your energy bills; promote a more comfortable, healthier environment; and even help banish winter blues. Here’s what to know:

► Call a professional: “Waiting until it gets really cold to run your heater is like not stretching before you run,” said Mark Woodruff, senior product manager, Outdoor Products at Trane Residential, who advises running your heater early in the season for a good hour or so to ensure it’s working. “Scheduling a service appointment now is a much better, and often cheaper option than trying to book an emergency appointment in extreme temperatures or well into winter.”

► Change air filters: For better indoor air quality (IAQ) and to extend the life of your HVAC system, change filters every 30-90 days. If you have pets or household members with asthma or allergies, change filters more often.

► Try zoned heating: Zoned HVAC systems let you keep a consistent temperature throughout your home, or heat one zone for individualized comfort that helps you save energy and directs heat where it’s desired.

► Consider an upgrade: Fortyfive percent of Americans deal with “shockingly high” energy bills, according to a Trane Residential survey conducted by OnePoll. A heating equipment upgrade, however, can help you enjoy consistent warmth without wasted energy. Consider the XC95m furnace from Trane. Its AFUE rating of up to 97.3% means nearly all of the fuel it uses goes to warming the home. When paired with the energy-efficient XV20i Variable Speed Heat Pump, you can enjoy the reliability of a hybrid or dual fuel system. To learn more, visit: trane. com/residential.

► Set your thermostat: Newer technology can help maximize energy savings. With the Trane Home app, for example, you can program your smart thermostat and control your home’s temperature from anywhere. Its geofencing capabilities regulate temperature based on your location.

► Monitor indoor air quality: In the same Trane Residential survey, 57%

of respondents said they suffer from indoor stuffiness and lack of fresh air. Improving IAQ can help alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms and reduce the spread of colds and flu.

First, determine what airborne particles may be negatively affecting the air. You can also contact an HVAC dealer who can test your IAQ and offer recommendations to improve it. They may recommend installing a whole-home air cleaner like the Trane CleanEffects, which is certified asthma and allergy friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and has been documented to remove 99.9% of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus. The Awair Element is a great way to monitor your IAQ by measuring temperature, humidity, etc.

► Assess humidity: Maintaining a home humidity level between 35 and 60% is one key to improving IAQ and ensuring comfort in colder weather. Mold, dust mites and other air pollutants tend to thrive outside that range, and the body’s natural immune system can be compromised in dry air.

“Monitor humidity with a reliable

HVAC thermostat. Then, manage it with a whole-home humidifier or dehumidifier,” Woodruff said. “These units are installed professionally and tie into your HVAC ductwork system.”

► Check insulation: Poor insulation is an often-overlooked escape route for heat that forces your heating system to work harder. Homes built in the 1970s or earlier should be checked by an expert, as insulation quality has come a long way since then. Also, foam insulation can settle after a year, so it’s best to inspect insulation annually. Certain insulation jobs can be accomplished by a handy homeowner; however, you may prefer hiring a contractor. The average insulation upgrade costs $2,400, according to the National Association of Realtors, but will save on utility costs in the years ahead.

“For many, wintertime is unpleasant indoors and outside. While we can’t control the weather, there are many things we can do to improve conditions at home to feel cozier and more comfortable,” Woodroof said.

StatePoint Shutterstock


outside in with all-season rooms

Metro Creative Connection

Many homeowners express interest in creating fewer barriers between the interior and exterior of their homes. Some may have backyards built for entertaining and want to facilitate the transition between the inside of the residence and the outside when guests arrive. In other instances, homes may back onto a nature preserve that homeowners want to enjoy more readily. Whatever the reason for bringing the outside in, all-season rooms can serve as a welcoming bridge between indoor and outdoor spaces.

What is an all-season room?

Also known as a four-season room, all-season rooms are specially engineered spaces that provide a connection to the outdoors no matter the season. They are like sunrooms, but climate-controlled so that they will be comfortable throughout winter, spring, summer, and fall.

What is the difference between a three-season room and an all-season room?

The biggest difference between these two spaces is the level of usage and the capacity of the room to be heated and cooled. Individuals who reside in climates with moderate year-round temperatures may get by with a three-season room. However, those who experience all four seasons may need a more insulated space to make the room usable throughout the year.

Features of all-season rooms

One of the more notable features of an all-season room is an abundance of windows, which allow plenty of natural light to shine in. All-season rooms also can feature creature comforts like a reading nook, outdoor kitchen spaces and televisions. Retractable screens can be installed when privacy or shade is desired.

Maintaining a comfortable temperature

All-season rooms can be built with adequate thermal insulation and energysaving features. Insulation will be installed in the walls and roof, and homeowners may have a choice of window ratings for efficiency. Some all-season rooms are specially equipped with HVAC systems that may or may not be tied in to the home’s general heating and cooling system. Some people use portable heaters or air conditioners to control the temperature in all-season rooms. It’s best to speak with an all-season room contractor to identify heating and cooling needs.

How much does an all-season room cost?

Prices vary by region and are contingent on the features homeowners desire. According to the outdoor resource Garden Center Care, a three-season room can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $50,000 to build. A four-season room can cost $20,000 to $80,000 to add. If there is an existing three-season room, it may be

more affordable to upgrade the space into an all-season room, but an architect and contractor should inspect the space to determine the scope of the project.

All-season rooms can be an ideal addition to a property, providing extra space for entertaining or lounging and a connection to the outdoors.

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Does solar power still work in the depths of winter?

Minnesota winters are long, cold and dark, which don’t sound optimal when it comes to saving money on a power bill. But industry experts agree that even with shorter days, solar power could still be a cost-effective measure to reduce expenses for residential, commercial and industrial consumers.

The amount of sunlight that reaches the ground in Minnesota drastically varies depending on the time of year. On the summer solstice in June, the state sees roughly 15-16 hours of sunshine whereas on the winter solstice in December, Minnesotans will only see about eight to nine hours of light.

In a state that’s rapidly increasing both its solar power capacity and consumption, it’s worth wondering what impact shorter days have on solar power. But according to Logan O’Grady, executive director of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association, it’s less than one might assume.

“Do we have as much sun as Florida?” O’Grady asked rhetorically. “We don’t have quite as much but we do compare in terms of days of sun and hours of sun to other southern states.”

Though the National Weather Service no longer tracks the amount of sunshine that falls on their stations in a given time period, a 2004 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracked the percent of possible sunshine that fell on larger U.S. cities.

For a 100% score on the NOAA report, a city would need to experience virtually no cloud cover during regular daylight hours. The report found that in the five decades leading up to 2004, Minneapolis saw 58% of possible sunshine reach the ground, comparable to cities like Atlanta Houston.

Minnesota solar industry forecasts growth

Public continues to turn toward cleaner energy sources

A steady climb in Minnesota’s solar power capacity since 2013 is just the beginning of the industry’s growth, experts predict, as more Minnesota residents, communities and businesses continue to turn toward cleaner energy sources.

Solar power accounted for 3.2% of Minnesota’s energy capacity in 2021. While it may not sound like much, the Minnesota Department of Commerce reports that number represents a 217% growth in solar power capacity from just five years ago.

Serving as executive director of the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Logan O’Grady said a combination of the state’s energy consumers, community initiatives and legislative policy will all lead to continued growth in the renewable energy’s industry.

Is solar power reliable?

Before the solar industry can continue to grow, consumers must first know that solar power is a reliable option. For that, O’Grady suggests taking a look at who is already using it.

“If solar power wasn’t a feasible option we wouldn’t see Minnesotans, communities, small businesses, family farms and large corporations making investments into solar,” O’Grady told Forum News Service.

He’s quick to point out that solar power is no longer just a single panel on a residential home, and has instead grown to help power entire commercial and industrial ventures.

“Here in Minnesota alone, Flint Hills Resources — the largest oil refinery in the region — is making the largest investment into solar of its kind. It’s a 40 megawatt (MW) solar project that will help reduce their electricity bill,” O’Grady said. “Then there’s Target, Cargill and plenty of other big companies making big investments into solar.”

Though just across the border in River Falls, Wisconsin, O’Grady also looks to Tattersall Distilling, which in January installed more than 1,000 solar panels to offset all energy consumption on its production facility.

In fact, entire cities can almost rely on solar.

In January 2019, the Minnetonka City Council kicked off an initiative to power city facilities by solar. According to the city’s website, all city buildings, street lights and water systems receive energy through community solar gardens. The city’s public works department told Forum News Service that 74.8% of power consumed comes from solar, saving the city an estimated $12.5 million over a 25-year period and offsetting carbon emissions by an equivalent of removing 700 cars from the road each year.

Subscription-based solar power offers consumer savings

Though spotting a solar panel on the roof of a home isn’t necessarily rare, not all properties are ideal for solar power. Positioning of trees, the directional bearing of structures or lack of flat, open areas can all play a role in determining if a property is fit for a solar array.

Community solar gardens, however, can solve that problem. Located off-site from the consumer, community solar gardens are expansive arrays of solar panels that customers can buy or lease the rights to solar power captured by the array.

The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERT), which operates across Minnesota, identifies 39 community solar gardens across the state, owned by a mix of cooperatives, municipalities and investors.

The Runestone Electric Association (REA), based to the south of Alexandria, said their community solar garden offers solar power to subscribers in seven counties.

These solar panels are part of Runestone Electric Association’s community solar garden south of Alexandria. The panels convert light to power, which is distributed to subscribers across parts of seven west-central Minnesota counties.

“Our first community solar garden went in in 2015. We started with a 50-panel array, and were able to sell that to members pretty quickly,” said Ryan Rooney, energy services and business development manager of REA. “In 2016, we decided to expand that, adding 100 panels.”

Rooney explained that in REA’s garden, subscribers will purchase the rights to a solar panel and be entitled to the energy that panel can capture across its 20-year lifespan. Any energy derived from the solar panels is credited to the consumer’s account.

Contributed / Runestone Electric Association Tom Griffin, of Duluth, sweeps away snow from the solar panels in his backyard in 2019. He had nine solar panels installed to help provide electricity to his home. Duluth News Tribune file photo Logan O’Grady

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of electricity in Minnesota was 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in November. Rooney said that after subtracting any credits from solar power captured from the cost of purchasing the rights, solar power would cost about 10 cents per kWh. REA subscribers save an estimated $5 per panel per month — but multiple panels could see those savings could climb to hundreds or thousands of dollars annually.

“The biggest piece is that it allows [subscribers] to avoid the hassle of maintenance and performance monitoring for an [at-home] array,” Rooney said. “It also gives you the ability to transfer. If you purchase the output for the panels, you can sell it to the new owner if you move, or you can transfer it to a new account or even gift it to others. It’s the flexibility to do what you want with it in the future.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, solar panels in Minnesota produced enough energy in 2021 to fully power approximately 200,000 households.

The future of solar in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s annual solar report shows solar power is becoming a broader energy choice in nearly all aspects. O’Grady believes those increases will be furthered by some past and future legislative initiatives.


The Minnesota Department of Commerce reported that in 2021, solar panels in the state captured enough energy to power 200,000 homes.

Contributed / Minnesota Department of Commerce

Yuma, Arizona, topped the report with a score of 90%, while Juneau, Alaska, scored lowest at 30%.

The percentages do not reflect the number of actual sunlight hours experienced, as cities in the southern United States have longer winter days than cities to the north.

“Clearly Minnesota’s not the sunniest state in the union, but we’re definitely not the darkest,” O’Grady said. “Just because it’s cloudy or darker doesn’t mean that your system won’t deliver decent results at any given time of the year.”

Beyond the amount of sunshine in the state, O’Grady said colder temperatures actually make solar panels more efficient.

“One thing that people don’t know is that winter is good for solar,” he noted. “Keeping the panels colder, keeping the infrastructure under the panels colder is actually more efficient. It transfers energy more efficiently with less loss.”

Most solar companies agree that solar panels begin to operate less efficiently in temperatures higher than 77 degrees, as energy can carry a stronger flow without overheating.

However, whether it’s snow, ice or trees, O’Grady recommended keeping solar panels free from anything that may obstruct sunlight from falling on the array.

“It’s very rare that [solar panels] won’t work,” O’Grady said.

In 2021, solar power made up roughly 3.2% of all power produced in Minnesota, enough to power 200,000 homes for the year. Industry experts forecast growth in both production and consumption in the years to come.

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This 50-panel solar array was first built by the

in Alexandria in 2015. After consumers bought the rights to these, the association erected 100 more in 2016.


From Page D9

It all started when the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 was signed into Minnesota law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. O’Grady said the legislation was the first time specific goals of reducing carbon emissions had been laid out in the state, and that utilities’ action plans helped boost the solar industry.

The Next Generation Energy Act called for an emissions reduction in the state by 30% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050. But Minnesota did not meet its 2015 goal of 15% reduction, and is not on track to meet the 2025 goal, according to a state agency.

In 2019, Gov. Tim Walz signed the Climate Change Executive Order, emphasizing the need for cooperation between state agencies to tackle climate change

and drive innovative policies. It also created the Climate Change Subcabinet and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Climate Change, which work together to identify policies and strategies to right the carbon emission reduction trends.

Plenty of other state and federal programs have also pushed carbon emission reductions and increased funding for the industry.

O’Grady said this year’s election in Minnesota gives him even more optimism for the future.

“We weren’t prepared for the results of the election. For whatever reason, Republicans tend to be less friendly toward solar, and it shouldn’t be that way, because we’re talking jobs, economic development and small businesses,” he said. “Some legislators tend to like their utilities, because they provide their constituents with electricity. Some of the greater Minnesota legislators have co-ops instead of investor-owned utilities. … You’d be shocked at how many legislators sit in committee and say ‘this is a complete fraud, solar doesn’t work in Minnesota.’”

Despite that, with the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party controlling the legislative and executive branch of state government, O’Grady looks forward to certain legislation that would increase funding and capabilities for solar energy to power more public buildings and school districts across the state. Bills addressing those topics are expected to see legislative debate in the state’s upcoming legislative session.

“I think the future of solar in Minnesota can be described in one word, and that’s growth,” O’Grady summarized. “It’s going to be an exciting year to see what other great public policy is coming out, and it’s all pointing toward growth — and that’s great news for Minnesota because it means more businesses here and more workers.”

O’Grady said that anyone who might be skeptical of solar power should contact three different companies to evaluate whether solar power might be beneficial to them. A list of resources on solar power in Minnesota can be found on the websites of the Minnesota SEIA, CERT or the state’s Department of Commerce.

Runestone Electric Association Contributed / Runestone Electric Association Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Welcome home with these unexpectedly useful housewarming gifts


Attending a housewarming is a great way to celebrate a friend’s new home, but how do you find the perfect present to accompany the visit? These unique gift ideas are not only bound to make a statement, they’re incredibly useful to boot.

► Fix-it essentials: For practicality at its absolute best, pack up some must-haves for the house. Include a hammer, screwdrivers and some Original Duck Tape brand duct tape to help your friends get all those initial DIY projects handled – and cover bases for any future projects and everyday fixes that may pop up.

► Plant some love: Flowers are always a great way to brighten a day, but why not offer something that can brighten a space for years to come and grow with the household? Bring over a gorgeous houseplant or orchid for a gift that lasts and makes your friends think of you every time they see it. Tie on a sweet note and a ribbon for a fun, personal touch.

► Organization must-haves: Create a welcome home gift that will prove useful for years to come. Put together a basket that includes all those essentials we sometimes forget, like

high-quality hangers, drawer organizers, rubber bands and paper clips for paperwork. Include additional essentials, such as Duck Max Strength Nano-Grab Gel Tape for securing miscellaneous items, photos and temporary seasonal décor, along with EasyLiner Brand Shelf Liner with Clorox for upgraded home organization.

► Stock the bar: Wine is fine, but why not equip your friends with what they need to entertain in the future? Bring over a favorite spirit, mixer and cocktail recipe book to keep the party going. Round out this gift with a cute set of rocks glasses or drink shaker.

► Take a photo: In the age of digital photography, you can help make memories more permanent. Bring your newly relocated friends a large empty photo album and toss in a few disposable cameras or instant film camera to start capturing the fun right away. Kick off the entries by including a cute photo of yourself!

Gift giving at a housewarming doesn’t have to be stressful. By getting creative with a variety of useful items, you can help make a house a home while making a lasting impression on those you love.

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Tips to assess your furnace and save on heating costs


Now that cooler weather is here, homeowners are advised to evaluate their furnace to see if it needs to be serviced or replaced. By planning ahead, you can potentially save money on heating bills or dodge a breakdown in the middle of a cold snap.

According to the experts at Carrier, here’s what you need to know about your home’s heat source:

Maintaining your furnace

Undue strain can shorten the lifespan of your furnace. Regularly replace the air filter as recommended by the manufacturer, as dirty, clogged filters can restrict airflow, making the furnace work harder and for longer hours.

An annual furnace tune-up from a heating and ventilation professional can also go a long way towards minimizing issues caused by dirt and debris buildup. What’s more, inspections allow your contractor to monitor longerterm issues and take proactive steps to help prevent premature failure or inconvenient breakdowns during the heating season.

Keeping your home properly insulated and sealed can also help by preventing thermal loss and cold air infiltration and may reduce heating bills this winter. Finally, maintain thermostat settings at Department of Energy recommendations or try a degree or two lower.

Replacing your furnace

Regardless of how well the furnace is made and how well you maintain it, the day will come when it’s reached the end of its usefulness. You’ll know it’s time to replace your furnace when you’re making frequent service calls, dealing with expensive repair bills, or when your unit is blowing cold air, making unusual noises or not operating as efficiently as it once did.

In a challenging economy, it can be tempting to buy the cheapest model, however a furnace replacement is a decision that can affect your family’s comfort and energy bills for years. So how do you make a sound choice?

The first thing to know is that there are many types of heart sources for your house, including gas furnaces, electric heat pumps and newer variable

refrigerant flow (VRF) systems. Your easiest, and probably least costly path, will be picking a furnace that uses the same fuel source as your current one.

If energy efficiency is a priority, you’re in luck. Comparison shopping is easy today, as all furnaces sold domestically are required to display estimated annual operating costs on the EnergyGuide label. Beyond reduced energy bills, federal tax credits for high efficiency equipment have been extended into 2023. Check with your utility company or manufacturer to see if they offer a rebate. All combustion-type furnaces are rated according to annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The minimum allowed rating for any furnace in the United States is 80%, however, some of the most efficient models available go well beyond that. For example, Carrier’s Infinity 98 gas furnace with Greenspeed Intelligence offers up

to 98.5% AFUE performance. It also has the most efficient ENERGY STAR 2022 rating, humidity control and air purification options.

Another factor to consider is heating

capacity. Improperly sized furnaces can result in loss of comfort, loss of efficiency and even reduce the lifespan of the furnace. Be sure to have a qualified heating and ventilation professional assess your square footage, number and quality of windows, insulation and other factors to make a recommendation.

Beyond the basics, today’s furnaces offer new comfort-enhancing, energysaving features that could help you reduce your heating costs. To learn more and to get an estimate, consider contacting a Carrier Dealer at carrier. com. The company has over a century of experience and offers furnaces for nearly every home and budget.

No one wants to be dealing with a furnace repair or replacement when demand is high and temperatures are low. Take steps now to ensure you’re set for a cozy, comfortable winter season.

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Want to give your home a fresh look but don’t have a lot of time to spend?

Check out these five home projects that can be completed in just one day.

Refresh the wall paint

If there’s one area in desperate need of a refresh, painting is a great place to start. With the right planning (and an early start), you can easily paint a room in a day. Purchase the materials you need, including primer, the paint color of your choice, brushes and rollers, and a high-quality painter’s tape like FrogTape Multi-Surface painter’s tape. Made with PaintBlock Technology, FrogTape ensures crisp and professional paint lines, so there will be no time wasted on touch-ups.

Once you have your supplies, tape the walls, apply primer and paint away. In just one day, a fresh coat of paint will have the room feeling brand new.

Enhance the entryway

Your entryway should give your guests a warm welcome. A few simple solutions for sprucing up this area are organizing shoes, hanging up coats and adding a pop of color by laying a rug at the door. If you have the space, time and budget, you could consider larger improvements such as adding a bench, shoe storage or a coat rack. Complete the look by adding decorative pillows to the bench or adding frames to the wall.

Replace bathroom accessories

One way to make a space look more contemporary is to update the hardware and fixtures. This works particularly well in bathrooms where showerheads, faucets, towel bars and cabinet handles can be swapped out for matching, on-trend matte black or gold finishes. Other small, easily replaced items include shower curtains, towels, bathmats, soap dispensers and toothbrush holders. These swaps may

seem minor to make, but they can make a big difference in the look and feel of the room.

Organize cabinets, drawers and shelves

Once the hardware has been replaced on cabinets and drawers, open them up and get things in order. Start by going through what you have and deciding what can be eliminated. Clearing out clutter is particularly important for open shelves that are visible in the room. Once you’ve decided on what to keep, replace items in an organized manner so they’re easy to find going forward. Sorting out these small spaces can help keep things running smoothly.

Rearrange a bedroom

Sometimes you just need to look at what you already have with a fresh perspective. Rearranging the furniture in a room can make it feel brand new. It can be as easy as switching which

side of the bed the nightstand is on or moving the dresser to another spot on the wall. Best of all, this approach doesn’t require spending money on new items or supplies – all you need is your creativity and imagination!

For more DIY inspiration, visit

With so many DIY projects that can be done in just one day, there’s no need to put the task off. Consider giving your home the refresh it deserves now.

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Dale Sweep, Owner
Dale Sweep, Owner
Dale Sweep,
One-day home projects to transform your spaces

Styles on the horizon for your home in 2023


With travel returning to normal, there’s a renewed interest in seeing the world but you don’t have to go far to bring the beautiful details of faraway destinations into your home’s spaces.

With this in mind, FrogTape brand painter’s tape and celebrity interior designer Taniya Nayak have identified the top design trends for 2023, all with an eye to how travel can inspire home décor.

1. Redrock Renewal: Breathe fresh air and renewed energy into your space with “Redrock Renewal,” which incorporates both nature and spirit through earthy tones paired with bold influences of turquoise, clay and olive. Embrace a clean, light slate layered with simple textures to create a room that is calm, joyful, serene and spiritual. This trend can make a big impact in any space through small details like textured pillows, cozy blankets and clay vases.

2. Bohemian Bazaar: The “Bohemian Bazaar” style is about creating an environment that emboldens everyone in it to live a vibrant, authentic life. To achieve this look, add a pop of color where it’s least expected, like mixing chairs in different shades of fabric around the table or adding bright, bold hues to an otherwise small, dark hallway. Inspired by the people, culture and food of destinations like Morocco,

India and Africa, this trend merges the details of handcrafted goods with soulful experiences by encouraging the mixing of patterns and colors.

3. Nordic Nature: “Nordic Nature” encourages a pure, clean and fresh space by bringing elements of the outdoors into your home. The palette is reflective of a Scandinavian aesthetic, consisting of concrete, wood and crisp white walls to create a space with natural, modern and organic appeal. Look for unique opportunities to make nature-inspired but daring statements that balance the rustic feel with an uncluttered and contemporary vibe.

Apply a subtle concrete layer to your walls for added interest, movement and texture. Before you begin, tape the edges with Nayak’s preferred painter’s tape, FrogTape, to keep lines sharp and neat.

4. Midtown Modern: It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and excitement of a fast-paced, on-thego lifestyle, but the “Midtown Modern” movement is about turning your place into a space to pause and savor every moment of each day. Implement saturated hues like black or navy to create an urban, contemporary vibe. Elevate the look with plush fabrics like velvet, wool and satin. Complete the room by adding a special sparkle, with statement pieces that have bright, brass or metal finishes.

“If your hardware is losing its luster, remove it and

spray paint it with a new finish for a fresh new look,” Nayak recommends.

Interested in refreshing your home’s interior with the latest trends? Visit https://www.frogtape. com/inspiration/2023-trends for more information and ideas.

Let the sights and experiences of the world not only inspire your adventures, but also your home.

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A homeowner’s guide to ice dams

Metro Creative Connection

Cold weather contributes to many different conditions that can affect homes. When winds are blowing fiercely, homeowners may soon discover deficits in insulation or in caulking around windows and doors. Icy conditions can cause walkways and stairs to become slick.

One winter condition can cause extensive headaches and damage and could be a mystery to many homeowners.

Ice dams occur when warm air in the attic heats up the roof and melts accumulated snow. Water from this melt runs down the roof and refreezes when it reaches the colder roof edge. A mound of ice forms at the lower edge of the roofline as a result.

Ice dams may help create a picturesque winter vista, with icicles hanging and glinting in the sunlight, but they can cause significant damage. According to experts, ice dams can weigh hundreds of pounds if they get large enough, potentially affecting the structural integrity of roof eaves. In addition, ice dams can cause melted runoff to back up under roof shingles. This water can eventually make its way

inside, ruining ceilings and walls. The roof, gutters, insulation, interior drywall, and other home surfaces can be damaged if ice dams are left unchecked.

The following are some conditions that make a home vulnerable to ice dam formation:

► The presence of snow on the roof.

► An average outdoor temperature that is 32 F or lower.

► A roof surface temperature above 32 F at its higher points and below 32 F at the lower end.

► Indoor heat making its way to the underside of the roof.

Homeowners should take a few steps to address ice dams. The first is preventing future ice dams from forming. According to First American Roofing and Siding, LLC, improving insulation in the ceiling below the attic and addressing any inefficiencies in the home is necessary. A professional can do a blower door test, which works by depressurizing the home and using a thermal camera to find areas where insulation is poor. In addition, adequate ventilation under the roof deck is necessary so cold air can circulate and prevent the attic from getting so warm that it will melt the snow on the roof.

The next step is to remove excess snow from the roof with a roof rake and keeping gutters clear. If ice dams have already formed, hire a professional to remove them, as it can be dangerous to do it oneself.

Snow-covered roofs and landscapes can be beautiful, but also dangerous if conditions that cause ice dams to form are not addressed.

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If you’re feeling stressed about rising rents and interest rates, you are not alone. Most American renters say their rents increased in the past 12 months, and for many, their wage gains didn’t keep pace. In addition, mortgage rates have reached a twodecade high.

This means that for those in the market to rent or buy a home, there is a lot to consider. According to Freddie Mac, deciding whether to rent or buy depends on your financial situation, future plans and lifestyle. You should also carefully assess the benefits and financial commitments that come with each option.

Why buy?

If you plan to stay in your home for at least five to seven years, buying can make financial sense. Homeowners may be eligible for certain tax benefits, and increases in home equity are important to building long-term financial independence. Plus, for those with a fixed-rate mortgage, stable monthly payments provide important predictability when creating a budget. Another benefit to homeownership is the freedom to make decisions about your house that best suit your needs without the approval of a landlord.

Why rent?

Compared to owning, renting is flexible and is usually low risk. Renting can require less money up front and provides you immunity to declining home values. It’s also a good option if you enjoy the ability to move relatively quickly. Not handy? Renting is also great if you prefer to leave home repairs to someone else.

Next steps

As you make your decision, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Am I ready for homeownership? Mortgageready homebuyers typically have not had a foreclosure or bankruptcy in the past seven years and no severe delinquencies in the past 12 months. Potential buyers are also often required to have credit scores and debt levels that meet certain criteria. To learn more about credit scores and managing credit, consider using free educational resources from Freddie Mac.

2. How much can I afford? Free online tools can help you get a better idea of how much you can afford based on your personal financial situation.

3. Do I have enough saved? Determine how much you have saved for a security deposit or down

payment. Look into down payment assistance programs, low down payment mortgage programs and learn more about budgeting for upfront rental costs.

If you’re still unsure which path is right for you, check out My Home by Freddie Mac, which offers financial education resources. Compare costs with the site’s Rent vs. Buy Calculator, and explore the tips and tools geared to those who are renting or buying. Visit to get started.

Whether you choose to rent or buy, it’s important to keep an eye on your long-term financial goals. Building good credit and making a savings plan today can better position you for the future.

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