Single Stage vs. Two Stage Furnaces

HVAC Technician Looking at Gas Furnace
© indyedge / Adobe Stock

An energy efficient furnace keeps you comfortable without running up high heating bills. Because the number of stages your furnace can operate in affects both its efficiency and its performance, it’s an important factor to consider when upgrading your heating equipment.

A basic single-stage furnace is a reasonable choice if you’re on a budget, especially if you live in a mild climate. If you’re in a cold-winter climate and want to keep your heating costs down, a two-stage furnace might be a better way to go.

Single-Stage Furnaces: Low-Cost Equipment for Basic Home Heating

In furnace terminology, “stages” refers to the levels of heat output a furnace can provide. A single-stage furnace, the most basic design available, has a fixed gas valve and a single-speed blower fan motor. This furnace has only two settings: off and high. As soon as the furnace turns on, it starts running at full blast. Whether it’s a mildly chilly fall evening or a bitter cold winter night, the furnace runs at the same setting.

If your furnace was manufactured before 1992, there’s a good chance it’s a single-stage model. While these furnaces perform the basic job of heating your house, they leave something to be desired.

Pros

Low purchase price – Single-stage furnaces are the least expensive models available. If your existing furnace fails suddenly and you can’t wait to save up for a more advanced model, a single-stage model is an acceptable replacement.

Improvements over old technology – Single-stage furnaces are among the least energy efficient models manufactured today, but a modern single-stage furnace is still more efficient than one built 20 years ago. If your furnace is decades old, but a high-efficiency upgrade isn’t in your budget, you can still lower your energy bills by investing in a new single-stage furnace.

Cons

Wasted energy – If you live in a mild climate, for most of the year, you don’t need to run your furnace at full capacity. In fact, the gas valve and blower fan’s maximum capacities are designed to make sure they can keep you warm in your area’s coldest winter temperatures.

Throughout much of the late fall and early spring, a lower, energy-saving setting would be more than enough to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.

Because a single-stage furnace has no other option, though, it spends a lot of time burning energy unnecessarily. These furnaces also cycle frequently, so the motor also has less time to reach its optimally efficient speed, similar to a car in stop-and-go traffic.

Inconsistent temperatures – In mildly cold weather, a single-stage furnace will kick on, quickly push out a large amount of warm air, then shut off. These sudden blasts contribute to fluctuating temperatures as well as hot and cold spots in your home.

Two-Stage Furnaces: Heating That Adjusts to Your Needs

Two-stage furnaces, also known as dual-stage furnaces, can run at two different settings. These furnaces have a two-stage gas valve and a variable-speed blower motor. Instead of being either open or closed, the gas valve can also be partly open. The blower fan can adjust its speed to meet your heating needs efficiency.

These two factors allow your furnace to operate at full capacity when you need a lot of heat, and at around 60 to 65 percent capacity when you need just a little heat.

Pros

Energy savings – In most climates, a two-stage furnace runs on the lower setting around 75 percent of the time. During those times, it uses less energy compared to a furnace that doesn’t have the option of a lower setting. Keep in mind, though, that this doesn’t change the furnace’s annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which tells you how fuel efficient the furnace is over the year.

A 95 percent AFUE furnace is 95 percent efficient throughout the year regardless of what setting it runs at. Likewise, a 95 percent AFUE single-stage furnace is more efficient than a 90 percent AFUE two-stage furnace.

More stable temperatures – When running at its lower setting, a two-stage furnace provides a lower volume of warm air over a longer period. You’ll get a gentle, steady flow instead of intermittent blasts. This keeps your indoor temperature more stable and allows the warm furnace air to mix with the cold room air for more even heating. It’s especially beneficial in small houses where temperature fluctuations are more noticeable.

Improved indoor air quality – Because these furnaces run for longer periods than single-stage models, they circulate your home’s air through the air filter more often. This helps the filter remove more airborne contaminants, such as pet hair, pollen, and mold spores, from your air.

Reduced noise – When the blower fan runs at a lower speed, it makes less noise. These furnaces don’t do much to cut down on noise from air moving through the ducts, though.

Cons

Higher upfront costs – Two-stage furnaces are more expensive to buy than single-stage models. You’ll save on monthly heating bills, but unless you live in a cold climate, you might not recoup your investment as fast as you hope.

Possible maintenance concerns – Two-stage furnaces have a reputation for being more prone to breakdowns, but evidence is inconclusive. While they run for longer periods than single-stage models, which puts a certain amount of extra wear and tear on the motor, they also cycle less frequently, which protects the motor from the wear caused by frequent starting and stopping. When parts do fail, replacements are often harder to find and install, so repairs are more expensive.

Whether a single-stage or two-stage furnace is right for you depends on your climate, your home’s size and floorplan, your personal preferences, and your budget.

Before you decide, talk with an HVAC professional who can give you a personalized recommendation. Get the right furnace model, have it sized and installed correctly, and you’ll enjoy reliable comfort for a reasonable price.

Before you decide, talk with an HVAC professional who can give you a personalized recommendation. Get the right furnace model, have it sized and installed correctly, and you’ll enjoy reliable comfort for a reasonable price.

Posted on Categories HVAC

Should You Dye Your Carpet?

Colorful Carpet Samples
© Photogalia / Adobe Stock

A sad-looking old carpet can make the whole room look dated, but a replacement isn’t the only way to get the floor back into shape. Dye can breathe new life into a carpet and save you both money and time compared to a replacement. It’s an especially practical choice if your carpet’s pile is still in good condition, but the surface is faded or stained.

Consider Your Options

For all its benefits, dyeing a carpet still takes a fair amount of work, and it’s irreversible. Before you start picking out dyes, make sure re-coloring is really the best solution to your problem.

If your carpet has stubborn stains, ask a professional about deep cleaning. If you have just a few stains on new carpet, it might be easier to cut out the stained sections and patch them with carpet remnants.

If you do decide to dye, you’ll need to choose between spot dyeing to re-color stained or faded areas and dyeing the whole carpet to change the color.

Think Through the Pros and Cons

Dye is a relatively fast and inexpensive way to rejuvenate a carpet and a skilled application can give you beautiful results. It can’t always produce the color you want, though, and depending on the dye used, you might find it fading faster than you hoped.

Pros: Like-New Carpet for Less

Restored beauty – Especially with kids and pets in the house, carpets can quickly pick up stains that even deep cleaning can’t remove. In sunny rooms, the carpet can fade within just a few years.

In both these situations, the pile might still be perfectly fine, so replacement isn’t really necessary. Dye can restore your carpet’s beauty, so you’re not stuck looking at a splotchy floor. 

A fresh new color – Maybe your carpet isn’t faded or stained, but you’re tired of the color. Dyeing lets you get a new, on-trend color without the cost and waste of tearing out your existing carpet and buying a new one.

Cost savings – Dyeing a carpet costs between 20 to 60 percent less than replacing it, including the cost of labor. If you’re willing to do the job yourself, you’ll save even more. Your only costs will be the relatively inexpensive dye and rental of a sprayer.

Dye is also a cost-effective option if you’re planning to sell your house and want the interior in top form, but you don’t want to invest in brand new carpet.

Less odorNew carpet has a distinct odor that typically comes from the compound 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC). It not only smells bad, but can also irritate your eyes and respiratory tract.

You can reduce your exposure by choosing a low-VOC carpet, but even then, you’ll want to stay out of the room for a day or two after installation. Dye produces less odor, and you can use the room the same day. Some dye manufacturers even claim their products are entirely odor free.

Cons: Fewer Color Choices and Potential for Wear

Doesn’t work on all carpets – Dyeing works best on nylon, wool, and silk carpets, but fortunately, most modern carpets are nylon or wool. Acrylic, polyester, and polypropylene fibers don’t absorb dye well and can end up unevenly colored. Some stain-resistant and high-pile carpets, such as shag carpets, don’t dye well, either.

Older, worn carpeting might have to be replaced soon even with dyeing. If you’re unsure, take a sample to a carpet store or have a professional visit your home and help you choose a coloring method.

Limited color choice – A carpet can only be dyed darker, not lighter. The darker the stains you want to hide, the darker the dye you’ll need, and that color might not be exactly what you want. If you have a beige carpet, dyeing it light tan might not be enough to hide all the stains.

Takes some effort – Dyeing a carpet is cheaper than replacing it, but it’s not a quick and easy job. First, there’s the time it takes to find the right color to hide any stains. Then, for the dyeing work, you’ll need to spray the dye onto the carpet with a pressure sprayer and scrub it into the fibers by hand. On the plus side, most dyes dry within an hour.

Potential for staining – Some homeowners find the dye transfers to their socks when they walk on the carpet the first few weeks after dyeing. That also means dye can end up on your pet’s paws and the hands of any small children who play in the room. While most residential carpet dye is non-toxic, the idea of it getting onto your kids and pets can be unsettling.
 
Unpredictable longevity – How long your newly dyed carpet stays looking good depends on the quality of dye, the application, and the condition of the carpet.

Even if the dye is formulated to last for years, if it’s applied incorrectly, you might start seeing stains or uneven coloring show through after just one year. A high-quality dye applied by a knowledgeable professional can last 10 years or longer.

DIY Dyeing Versus Hiring a Pro

Dyeing your carpet yourself is doable, but you’ll need to approach the job carefully. First, make sure your carpet can be dyed and choose the right type of dye for the carpet. For example, if you have a stain blocker carpet, look for a dye formulated to work on these carpets.  

Before you get to work, you’ll need to move the furniture out of the room and cover the baseboards and at least 6 inches of the walls above them to protect them from dye.

During the application itself, there’s a risk of getting an uneven or oversaturated color. This is even more likely if you use a basic, consumer-grade pressure sprayer, which won’t offer the same level of control as a commercial-grade model.

Spot dyeing is even trickier because it takes a good eye for color, an understanding of how to use dye to counteract stain colors, and skill at blending dyes.

 A professional can get attractive results within one to six hours, depending on the room size. They’ll clean the carpet, remove stain blocking agents as needed, then perform a dye patch test. After applying the dye, they’ll reapply the stain blocker and dry the carpet.

A skilled dye job can restore your stained or faded carpet to the beautiful floor covering it once was. As long as you don’t mind having a darker carpet and you can tolerate some risk of dye transfer or early fading, you’ll save both money and time.

You can do the job yourself if you’re on a budget, but for flawless, long-lasting results, consider hiring a professional

Posted on Categories Flooring

Home Window Tinting 101

Installing Home Window Film
© bignai / Adobe Stock

Your windows might give you a great view, but they also let in summer heat, glare, and damaging UV rays and give would-be thieves a chance to browse your valuables. With window tinting film, you can enjoy your view without the downsides.

While window tinting can keep you cooler and protect your privacy, not every tinting film works the same way or is suitable for every home. To get the results you want, take some time to learn how residential window tinting works.

Pros: Lower Cooling Bills and Improved Home Security

Model House Bathed in Sunlight
© tomertu / Adobe Stock

Tinted windows let you enjoy you home more in summer, discourage burglars, and help your furniture last longer.

Cooler summer temperatures – Home window tinting can block up to half the sun’s heat in summer, potentially reducing your summer utility bills by as much as 30 percent. Tinting is an easy, inexpensive alternative to replacing your existing windows with low emissivity (low-E) or triple-pane models.

In certain locations, such as California and Arizona, some utility companies offer rebates to customers who install home window tinting.

Less glare – In addition to holding back the heat, window tinting also tones down the light that enters. You can keep your curtains open without irritating bright sun in your eyes.

Better home security and safety – Dark home window tinting obscures the view into your home so potential burglars can’t easily see your valuables as they walk around casing the neighborhood. You can keep your curtains open to enjoy the daylight and the view, but still feel safe.

Tinted security film adds another layer of protection by preventing broken glass from shattering. A potential burglar would need to tear their way through the film, rather than quickly stepping through the broken window. It also keeps you safer in an accident and after storm damage.

Protection for carpets and furniture – By blocking 99 percent of the sun’s UV rays, solar window tinting protects your carpets, walls, soft furniture, and other surfaces from fading and early deterioration. This is especially helpful if you have dark furniture, which tends to show fading quickly. You won’t end up with a bleached out spot on the carpet just because you didn’t close the curtains on summer days.

Cons: Visible Wear and Less Winter Warmth

Model House Covered in Snow
© zoomingfoto1712 / Adobe Stock

In a cold-winter climate, you might not always appreciate the reduced sunlight. Getting window film installation right is tricky, and a small error during a DIY installation job can mean failed film.

Fewer benefits in cooler climates – In a cool climate, solar film can reduce the amount of winter sunlight and warmth coming through the windows so much that you’ll need to raise your thermostat to compensate. That can counteract any savings you might have gained in summer.

No extra privacy at night – If you’re considering window tinting for security reasons, remember they offer much less protection after sunset. Even with tinting, if you have your lights on and curtains open at night, passers-by can still see into your home.

Installation difficulties  – Installation is more difficult on windows with multiple small lites (panes of glass). Thick window frames and protruding latches can also interfere with installation. On windows like these, the film is more likely to crease or bubble.

Maintenance and wear – Home window tinting typically lasts for at least 10 years, but can often keep doing its job for up to 30 years. Within the first five years, though, it often develops minor creases and bubbles. These flaws don’t impair the tint’s function, but they can look unsightly. Even if the film is installed correctly and well maintained, you’ll eventually need to replace it.

Risk of thermal breakage – Window film increases thermal stress on the window. If the film is installed incorrectly or the window has a slight crack or another flaw, the glass can crack. Even a barely visible fracture puts your window at risk, so if your windows are older, inspect them thoroughly before you apply a film.

What’s more, some windows and films just aren’t compatible. Solar film isn’t recommended for single pane windows larger than 100 square feet, and not all films can be applied to metal-frame windows.

Depending on your window manufacturer, applying window film could void the warranty. Some tinting manufacturers offer to match the window manufacturer’s warranty, though, so you’ll still be covered.

Potential fire hazard – Highly reflective window film can create glare that can annoy your neighbors and produce concentrated heat that can burn their lawns and damage their property. Some evidence suggests these windows can even start fires.

Choosing the Right Tint for Your Needs

Window Film on Home Office Windows
Window Film on Left Hand Side Windows
Photo Credit: Mackenzie Kosut

Before you start shopping around for home window tinting, get clear on your goals. Many window films can do multiple jobs, but they don’t all work the same way.

The most basic window tinting film reduces sunlight and glare, but does nothing else. If you want to control both the light and heat coming in, look for solar or low-E film. Want to let visible light in, but keep UV rays out? A spectrally selective film lets you do that. This film is even available in completely clear designs that won’t dim your view at all.

If you’re aiming to improve your light and heat control, look for a film that carries the NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council) label. The NFRC is an independent, non-profit organization that tests and certified window products for energy efficiency.

On home window tinting products, the NFRC label tells you about the product’s energy efficiency based on its solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) and visible transmittance, which indicate how well the film blocks heat and light respectively.

If strengthening and shatter-proofing your windows is one of your goals, you’ll need security film. Unlike ordinary window tinting film, this film is designed to resist impact and tearing. Combined solar and security film isn’t uncommon.

If you’d like more privacy and want to add visual interest to your room, look for a decorative window film with a frosted or stained glass pattern.

Correct Installation Matters

Window Film Being Installed
© Missyphoto / Adobe Stock

You can install window film yourself, but the job requires close attention to detail. First, you’ll need to thoroughly clean the window. A mixture of 1 qt. water and 1 tsp. baby shampoo is ideal for cleaning because it dries clear. You might also need to scrub the window and clean dirt from the frames. Any traces of dust, grease or cleaning products on the window can prevent the film from adhering correctly.

Wet the clean window with the water and soap mixture, apply the film from the top of the glass downward and the liner outward. Once the film is on, remove the liner while spraying it down to prevent static. Then carefully squeegee the window from the center outward to remove the water and air bubbles.

Finally, use a razor blade to trim the film to fit the window, leaving a 1/16th inch gap between the film and window frame.

Follow the application instructions precisely, or you’ll end up with dust specks and air bubbles, which are unsightly and, in more severe cases, can cause your film to fail early. If you want a flawless application without the hassle, talk with a window film or residential glass specialist.

With the right home window tinting, you can enjoy your home’s view without uncomfortable summertime heat buildup or glare in your eyes. Solar films with security features help reduce the risk of break-ins, too. Before you buy, though, do your research to make sure you get the film that performs the way you want.

Posted on Categories Windows

10 Best Plants to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Overlooking City Skyline Obstructed by Smog
© Travpher / Adobe Stock

Your home’s air might smell fresh, but if it’s like the air in most modern homes, it still harbors airborne contaminants that can harm your health. Some of the worst offenders are chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which come from a wide variety of household materials.

By absorbing and neutralizing some of these chemicals, certain plant species can effectively clean the air around them. Choose species known for their air purification abilities, and you’ll get improved indoor air quality along with a more beautiful and relaxing home.

Upright Plants

Variegated Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Sansevieria Trifasciata
© saveea / Adobe Stock

This plant takes its name from its tall, narrow, green-and-white leaves. Widely popular for its minimal maintenance requirements, it’s easy to keep alive even in dry, low-light conditions. In addition to being an efficient air purifier, the snake plant is unusual because it continues to converts carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen at night when most other plants are doing the opposite. This makes it an ideal bedroom plant.

Give your snake plant indirect sunlight and let its soil dry in between waterings, and it might even produce one of its rare stalks of pale white flowers.

Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Chamaedorea Seifrizii
Photo Credit: Jungle Rebel

A lush, graceful plant that grows from 5 to 7 feet tall, this palm will bring a tropical air to your home without making too many demands. In a well publicized NASA study on using plants to reduce indoor air pollution, the bamboo plant ranked as one of the most effective air-cleaning species. Unlike many plants, it can remove trichloroethylene, which can evaporate into the air from contaminated water.

It prefers warm temperatures and indirect light, but tolerates low light well. Take care not to overwater it or let its soil get soggy, though.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

Aglaonema Modestum
© bugtiger / Adobe Stock

Although not particularly showy, the Chinese evergreen’s large, oval variegated leaves do a fair job of clearing away the VOCs benzene and toulene. The plant thrives in indirect sunlight, warmer temperatures, and moderately high humidity, but it’s flexible and will do just fine in less than ideal conditions.

Just keep it away from drafts, which can damage the leaves. Keep it away from dogs and cats, too, because the plant is toxic to them.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Ficus Benjamina
© Julija Sapic / Adobe Stock

Also known simply as a ficus, this small tree produces a profusion of shiny leaves in a compact form that reaches up to 8 feet indoors. It does moderately well at reducing airborne VOCs, and its large size at maturity helps even more.

Caring for a ficus can be tricky, but in the right conditions, this tree can live 50 years or longer. Put it in a draft-free location with bright, indirect light and relatively high humidity, which might require misting. The weeping fig is a creature of habit, so find a permanent place for it, then establish a care schedule and stick to it.

Trailing and Basket Plants

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Nephrolepis Exaltata
© sirikornt / Adobe Stock

The elegant Boston fern can neutralize a wide variety of VOCs, but it’s particularly effective against formaldehyde, removing more of this chemical than any other plant in the NASA study.

It’s not a highly demanding species, but it does need the right environment and care to survive. Place it in a cool spot with indirect sunlight and high humidity, and keep its soil damp.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Chlorophytum Comosum
© bigy9950 / Adobe Stock

From within a mass of long, narrow leaves, the spider plant sends out runners with “babies” and occasionally with delicate white flowers. Although popular for its striking looks and undemanding nature, this common houseplant also happens to be an excellent remover of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

Give it moderate to bright sunlight and water when the soil feels dry, and it’s happy. For low-light conditions, choose the less common all-green variety, rather than one of the variegated varieties.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Hedera Helix
© Myimagine / Adobe Stock

As an air-purifier, this timeless favorite removes not only VOCs, but also mold spores and feces particles. In fact, it can improve the quality of the air around it within just six hours.

It grows best in moderate lighting conditions, temperatures, and humidity, but it’s somewhat finicky about watering. Water the plant when the top inch or first quarter of the soil is dry. Don’t let it dry out more than that, but don’t overwater, either.

Flowering Plants

Scarlet Star (Guzmania lingulata)

Guzmania Lingulata
© kendonice / Adobe Stock

Although its name comes from its spiky, brilliant red floral bracts, this plant is also a star among natural air purifiers. It can neutralize more types of VOCs than any other plant studied. It flowers only once every three to four years, but still cleans the air between flowerings.

As a tropical plant, the scarlet star likes bright, but indirect light and moderate temperatures with high humidity. Place it near a window, but make sure it doesn’t dry out. It’s sensitive to chlorine, so use rainwater or distilled water when possible.

Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

Gerbera Jamesonii
© katrin_timoff / Adobe Stock

If you love big, bright flowers, this is the houseplant for you. It’s not the easiest to grow, but with a little effort, you’ll get cheerful, colorful blossoms and cleaner air. Like the bamboo palm, the Gerbera daisy is especially good at removing trichloroethylene.

It needs bright light, but moderate temperatures that never reach above 70 degrees. A window that gets bright morning sunlight, but little hot afternoon sunlight, is an ideal spot.

Florist’s Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Chrysanthemum Morifolium
© gemphotography / Adobe Stock

This classic autumn beauty ranked highly in the NASA study, but it’s most effective during its blooming period, which lasts just 6 to 8 weeks. Fortunately, that period arrives sometime from late summer to early winter, just when you’re starting to close up the house and need a little extra air purification.

Regular watering is the most critical part of the Chrysanthemums’ care requirements. These plants are perennials, but getting them to bloom again indoors is a challenge, so they’re usually treated as annuals.

While a few of the right houseplants can clean up your air, don’t overdo it. One or two medium-sized plants per 100 sq. ft. of space is enough. Too many will raise your home’s humidity levels, which encourages the growth of mold and bacteria that worsen your air quality.

Exactly how much plants improve indoor air quality outside a laboratory environment isn’t well studied. If you have concerns about your air quality, bring in some plants, but also look into improving your ventilation and having a whole-house air purifier installed.

Posted on Categories Interior

12 Tips for Creating a Cozier Home

Cozy Home Interior
© topotishika / Adobe Stock

A cozy, inviting home gives you a relaxing place to unwind after a long day, a comfortable spot for small family gatherings, and a welcoming environment for entertaining friends. Creating that cozy atmosphere takes more than some throw pillows and candles, though. The right lighting, furniture layout, and decor choices also play a role in turning a house into a snug and comfy home.

Layer Your Lighting

Hanging Interior Lightbulbs
© sutichak / Adobe Stock

Lighting has a major influence on the overall ambiance of a room. By layering your lighting, you’ll get enough light for day-to-day tasks but still have the option of turning the lights down to a soft, gentle glow for cozier moments.

In addition to general ambient lighting, provide task lighting, such as bright lamps for reading and undercabinet lighting in the kitchen. Using table lamps for task lighting helps bring the light down to a human level.

Then add accent lighting to highlight features such as cabinets, stairways, and artwork. This lighting gives your rooms depth and a finishing touch that shows attention to detail.

To lend the room a calming warmth, choose lights with a dimmer switch and use LED bulbs with a “warm white” (around 3,000K) color temperature.

Work with a Muted Color Palette

Working at Color Samples
© Beznika / Adobe Stock

For a peaceful, relaxing living space, work from a limited palette of natural colors and keep prints to a minimum. Tonal palettes, which use different shades of the same color, work especially well. For a more varied palette, it helps to start with a warm color or a color with warm undertones. Beyond that, anything from pastels to rich jewel tones can set a cozy mood.

Light colors expand a small space, while dark colors create a sense of intimacy in a larger space. The rich, earthy shades of brown, green, and red used in traditional British hunting lodges show just how effectively dark colors can warm up a room.

Invest in Natural Materials

Wood Fireplace and Throw Rug
© AlexMaster / Adobe Stock

Hard plastic and polyester might be practical, but they don’t please the senses quite the way natural materials do. Cotton, wool, wood, and even stone invite touch, lending your home an aura of comfort. Their connection to nature and traditional crafts breathes life into a space. Because they’re associated with higher quality furniture and decor, they evoke an air of timeless, relaxed luxury.

Get Creative with Your Walls

Bedroom Wallpaper Pattern
© Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Instead of playing it safe with solid-colored walls, look at your walls as an opportunity to express your personality. A single accent wall with unusual wallpaper can change the whole mood of a room. Soft watercolors contribute a lot to a cozy atmosphere, but a bold print in low-key colors can also do the job.

Wallpaper with a photo-realistic image of a forest, lakeside or ocean beach lets you create a private escape into nature right in your own home. A mural is another option.

If you’re not feeling quite that daring, the endless variety of removable wall decals out there will let you add a homey charm to your walls without the need for a long-term commitment.

Seek Out Antiques and Handicrafts

Vintage Table, Chair, and Clock
© MarkoVS87 / Adobe Stock

Much of what makes a home cozy is its sense of character and history. Antique, vintage, and handcrafted items add to your home’s character by giving the space a human touch and bringing their unique background stories into your daily life.

Even if you’re aiming for a modern look, a single time-worn or handcrafted rocking chair, coffee table, framed mirror or other distinctive item will add a vital touch of personality. You’ll get a space that looks like a cherished home, and not a retail display room. The attention to detail that goes into handcrafted items also adds a more personal feel.

Choose Comfy Furniture

Leather Couch Next to Brick Wall
© ablokhin / Adobe Stock

In a snug home, the furniture should be made to enjoy. An oversized sectional sofa, a plush chaise lounge, a cushy easy chair or an overstuffed ottoman all go toward making a home more welcoming. Your furniture should be both soft enough and large enough to invite you to curl up and relax.

Choose low-maintenance material so you’re not constantly worried about dirt and spills. Leather is easy to clean and offers all the benefits of a natural material, but not everyone finds it comfortable.

If you prefer fabric, keep in mind that synthetics are generally easier to clean than natural fibers. You’ll need to balance aesthetics with practicality here. In terms of appearance, avoid furniture sets. The matchy-matchy look feels impersonal.

Arrange Your Furniture for Flow

Open Room with Hammock
© Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Cramped spaces aren’t cozy, they’re just uncomfortable. For a space to feel inviting, it should be easy to move around in. Arrange your living room furniture so that each seat is easy to reach without the need to edge in sideways or move other furniture. Leave 30 to 36 inches between furniture you need to walk around.

Arranging seating in the tried and true conversation circle style is a good bet for encouraging friendly chats. Forming a semi-circle around a focal point, such as the entertainment center, fireplace or a picture window, works well, too. For optimal comfort, make sure every seat has a nearby surface to place a drink on and a light to read by.

Clear Out the Clutter

Well Organized and Neat Room
© Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Cozy homes are light and airy, letting you move with ease and freeing you from visual distractions. If you’re struggling with clutter, investing in good storage will make your home a whole lot more comfortable. Storage bins made of felt, cotton, sea grass or wood keep odds and ends corralled while adding an extra touch of coziness. Wood trays on the coffee table and kitchen table keep these surfaces looking neat and appealing.

If your bedroom is short on closet space, bring in an open wardrobe. If your entryway is a mess, put together an entryway station using wall hooks, trays, and cubbies to make a welcoming first impression on your visitors.

Pile on Touchable Textiles

Window Seat with Pillows and Cushion
© Yuliya / Adobe Stock

Textiles add softness and warmth, invite touch, and make a space you can snuggle up to. Throw pillows, throw blankets, area rugs, tablecloths, chair pads, wall hangings, and cloth storage bins are all options. For an extra-cozy floor, give the layered carpet trend a try by rolling out a smaller area rug on top of a large one.

Too add both visual and tactile interest, aim for a variety of textures. Choose a shaggy rug to contrast with a wood floor or nubby pillows and a chunky knit throw to top off a sleek leather sofa. If your sofa is richly textured, contrast it with smooth linen or even suede throw pillows.

Soften Straight Lines

White Bedroom Interior with Throw Rug
© Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock

Softly flowing organic forms have a natural, relaxed look that fosters a soothing atmosphere. If the straight lines and sharp angles of your furniture and architecture make your space look more like a corporate office than a cozy home, softening them up will give you more comfortable surroundings.

Round pillows, casually draped throws, irregularly shaped throw rugs, vases with gentle curves, and round mirrors all help balance out harsh lines.

Bring in the Green

Contemporary Interior with Plants
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Potted plants give rooms a homey, down-to-earth touch like no other decor can. Trailing vines and bushy plants, with their carefree growth habits, are especially good choices, as are plants with soft or lacy leaves.

For plants with personality, try the cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) and asparagus fern (Plumosus nanus). Put your plants in crochet baskets, macrame hangers or other textile holders for even more coziness.

Warm Up by the Fire

Person Relaxing by Fireplace with a Drink
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A crackling fire is the ultimate in coziness, but if a wood-burning fireplace isn’t an option, consider a modern alternative for that soul-soothing warmth and glow.

A gas fireplace will supply plenty of heat, but the need to install ventilation makes this option rather pricey. An electric fireplace is a more convenient way to get the light and warmth of a fire, although you won’t have real flames. For real flames without complex installation requirements, consider a gel fuel fireplace.

Creating a cozier home is less about piling on the pillows, than about designing a stress-free space where you can stretch out and breathe easy. Start by getting your lighting and color palette right, then choose furniture that invites you to lounge for a while.

Once you’ve got comfort handled, give your home a personal touch with natural materials, vintage pieces, and other items that tell a story. Then finish the look with some quirky potted plants.

10 Signs to Watch out for to Avoid Renovating a Money Pit

Damaged Old Brick House
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A good fixer-upper home can save you money and become a tremendous source of pride, but choose the wrong one, and you’ll end up with a money pit that sucks in more work and cash than you ever imagined.

Foundation damage, worn-out wiring, hidden mold, and other expensive repair issues are common in older homes, but they’re not always obvious. Before you fall in love, spend some time checking for signs of renovation nightmares that could be lurking in your prospective dream home.

The Foundation is Faulty

Macro Shot of Cracked Foundation
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A damaged foundation is a clear sign to proceed with caution. Check the foundation for cracks wider than 1/4 inch, especially those at a 45-degree angle to the wall. Look at the house from a distance to see if it leans or bulges in any way. Windows and exterior doors that stick are another sign of foundation trouble.

If you can, have an inspector come out to look at the place after it rains. This will help you find out if rainwater builds up around the foundation, which can lead to leaks over time.

The Basement is a Mess

Water Damaged and Moldy Basement Wall
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Basements tend to betray a lack of upkeep before anywhere else in the house. Look for signs of water damage, such as cracks in the walls, water stains, patches of mold, and pooled water. Inspect the floor for heaving and cracks wider than 1/4 inch, which suggest the foundation might have issues.

Check for exposed wires and pipes that aren’t properly secured and insulated. These tell you the house wasn’t optimally maintained.

Concrete that’s honeycombed, meaning it’s pitted and crumbling, might be water-damaged or it might have been mixed or applied incorrectly, making it weaker. A powdery white coating known as efflorescence on concrete is a sure sign of moisture issues.

The Plumbing and Electrical are Out of Date

Rusted Plumbing Pipe Burst
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Replacing a plumbing or wiring system is a costly, time-consuming job and one of the most common problems that turn a house into a money pit.

Galvanized steel pipes aren’t a great sign. These tend to become clogged with sediment, reducing your water pressure. You can clean them, but you’ll need to repeat the process regularly. Ideally, the house’s entire plumbing system should be copper.

If the house was built somewhere between 1965 and 1973, have your inspector check for aluminum wiring. This is a fire hazard and should be replaced. Other signs of an out-dated electrical system are knob and tube wiring (fabric-covered wires connected to white knobs), a fuse box instead of a breaker panel, and a breaker panel with only four or six breakers.

The electrical panel should have a capacity of 150 to 200 amps, and the house should have 220-volt service. Anything less and you won’t be able to run the appliances and electronics common in a modern home.

The Roof is Deteriorating

Heavily Damaged Wood Shake Roof
© sheilaf2002 / Adobe Stock

A bad roof is a classic sign of a money pit. The cost to replace a worn-out roof starts at around $5,000 for a simple 3-tab shingle roof on an average-size home and can rise to $20,000 or more if you want premium materials, and your roof includes dormer windows, skylights or other complex features.

The roof itself isn’t the only thing you need to worry about, though. A deteriorating roof can let water leak into the attic, creating ideal conditions for rot and mold. If left too long, these issues can weaken the wood frame of the house and leave you with major renovation bills.

If the roof shows signs of damage, such as curled shingles or missing gutters, check the attic for water damage.

The Heating and Cooling Features are Lacking

Old and Rusty Radiator
© Karrrtinki / Adobe Stock

If the home’s heating and cooling system is more than ten years old, chances are you’ll need to replace it soon. It might keep running for another five or ten years, but it will use more energy than a newer system, so either way, it will cost you money.

Also, consider the house’s energy efficiency. Many older homes were constructed with gaps to allow airflow. The modern, energy-efficient solution is to seal these gaps, which is a simple, low-cost job, and install a ventilation system, which is not so low-cost.

What’s more, if the house lacks insulation in the walls and floors, you’ll need to add some or put up with high heating and cooling bills.

The Rooms Smell Funny

Black Mold in Corner of Old House
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It might seem perfectly understandable that an old house would have some funky smells lingering, but don’t write off unpleasant odors too quickly. The smell of sewage often means there’s a problem with the sewer line, septic tank or another part of the waste water disposal system.

Pet urine odor, in addition to being hard to get rid of, suggests there could be rot in the floors where the pets left their marks.

A musty smell means mold is growing somewhere. Rotting wood, particularly around the windows, warped flooring, and stained drywall also indicate moisture problems that can lead to mold growth. Because mold can be hidden inside walls and under floors, you’ll need an inspector to accurately assess the extent of the mold growth.

You Spot Signs of Pests

Close Up of Termite Damage
© Mel Stoutsenberger / Adobe Stock

Insects and rodents can do a lot of damage to a house, but even extensive damage can remain hidden unless you know what you’re looking for. Ultimately, you’ll need to hire a professional to make sure the house is pest-free, but there are a few clear signs that trouble is lurking.

Buckling floorboards and loose floor tiles, pinholes in drywall, and wood that sounds hollow when you knock on it are all signs of a termite infestation. Little brown waste pellets and urine puddles inside cabinets and drawers mean mice or rats. Tiny holes and tunnels in wood suggest woodworms are at work.

The Grounds are Unkempt

Old Leaning Wooden Fence
© mega / Adobe Stock

If the grounds have been neglected, chances are the house has been, too. An overgrown garden, cracked or crumbling walls, deteriorating fences, and areas of collapsed paving all tell you that the property has been suffering from poor upkeep for several years at least.

Some features, such as swimming pools and decks, can pose a legal liability if they’re not up to code. If the house you’re considering has any major hardscaping features like these, make sure they were built with the proper permits and that you know what it will take to get them back into a safe condition.

You Don’t Like the Floorplan

Staircase in Abandoned House
© pixs4u / Adobe Stock

A floorplan that doesn’t suit your preferences suggests renovating the house could end up costing you more than you expect. Altering a floorplan often involves moving load-bearing walls, which is a tricky and labor-intensive job. In addition to demolishing the old wall and building a new one, the contractor will also need to reinforce the foundation.

All this can easily make moving a wall the most expensive part of your remodeling project. If you’re considering buying a house and then changing the floorplan, first check if the floorplan you want is possible, then get an idea of how much it will cost.

The House is Vulnerable to Floods

Severely Flooded Houses
© Wildcat / Adobe Stock

A home by the river isn’t so romantic when the river ends up in your living room. Before you set your heart on a house near any body of water, check the location’s flood risk. Water levels can vary dramatically with the seasons and from year to year, so don’t rely on your own estimation.

For an accurate risk assessment, take a look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Flood Maps or check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources, Department of Water Resources or equivalent.

A house that sits lower than the ground around it is also at risk for drainage problems and flooding. If you notice the house is set low, ask your realtor or the local Planning and Zoning Department about the site’s flood risk.

No matter how much you love the view or that charming breakfast nook, don’t let it distract you from the fundamentals of what makes a house a good financial investment. Keep your eyes open for signs neglect, deterioration or outdated building systems.

Before you make an offer, have the house professionally inspected and collect estimates for any major repairs it will need.

Viewing each house with a critical eye before you become emotionally invested is the key to finding a valuable, enjoyable fixer-upper instead of a disappointing money pit.