Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NJ Home Energy Summer Promotion Extended!

We're happy to announce that the 2011 New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star Summer Promotion has been extended this fall through December 31, 2011.  So you may be wondering what discounts you get now?

This means you have another 4 months to get savings up to $15,000 on home energy improvements. If you've been thinking about upgrading washer or dryer, dishwasher, and other appliances this is the best time to act for getting a huge discount on energy efficient appliance installations. 

Home improvements resulting in reduced energy loss and lower bills can also earn you incentives for performing work on your home.

Check out the chart for some details on how you can save:
NJ HPwES Fall Discount
A&E Construction has performed several local Princeton area home energy improvements and our team of experts can guide you through energy savings and huge discounts on your home improvement.  The first step to obtaining the HPeWS incentives is to have your house assessed with a comprehensive energy audit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Reason to Go Green

Going Green has been touted for its ability to decrease energy bills as well as reduce your impact on the environment. But there's more that meets the eye with energy efficient upgrades. EcoHome’s second annual design awards prove that eco-friendly isn’t just functional, it’s beautiful.

Here are two picks from EcoHome’s winning homes that we found especially innovative.

The Celo House utilized natural materials both on the inside and outside of this North Carolina house.  EcoHome praised this home for tree preservation, patio and driveway construction that controlled water runoff, rainwater storage for irrigation and more.  The windows and doors use low thermal emissivity argon-filled glass.

The Caterpillar house features a modern design that utilizes traditional methods like ceiling fans and cross-ventilation to eliminate the need for air conditioning.  According to the article, “Its east-west, slightly curved layout maximizes passive solar gain, and additional energy savings come from concrete floors and rammed-earth walls that act as a thermal mass to protect against temperature fluctuations”.  This California home also has sustainability-certified cabinetry and reclaimed cork flooring

So if there wasn’t enough reason to go green with the incentives from NJ Home Performance with Energy Star, there’s a bit more with all of EcoHome's eye-catching designs that also happen to be eco-friendly.

A&E specializes in home energy efficient improvements and is a Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified contractor.  We know how to help you make the upgrades you want for your house while also creating a design you'll love. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Preventing Flooding Part 2: Installing a Sump Pump

Now that you know how to search for and correct problems dealing with where water originates in your basement, we want to talk about utilizing sump pumps. If water still accumulates in your basement after you’ve addressed drainage problems, sump pumps will need to be included in your drainage strategy.

What to be Aware of Before Installing:

In order for your sump pump to work well, there must be good communication under and around the basement concrete slab.   Most houses today are currently built with crushed stone and perimeter pipe tying into the sump pit that is installed before the basement concrete slab is poured.

French Drain with 2 pipes          
Older homes often have sump pump problems because their basements do not include either open or closed perimeter drains (sometime referred to as “French Drains”).

An open French drain is simply a slot of concrete cutout to the subsoil level around the outside of the basement that routes water to the sump pit for pumping to the outside of the house. 

A closed French drain is designed the same way but may include drilling of the lower wall block to relieve water pressure.  Closed French drains are also effective because they contain corrugated plastic that captures and directs water into the trough slot.  Another non-drainage benefit of the closed French drain system is that it contains possible radon gas.

A basement without the French drain system is prone to poor drainage under the concrete slab. The concrete slabs in older basements generally lack good communication to the sump pit because they are poured directly on top of subsoil.

Photo Credit: Google Images
Setting Up your Sump Pump System:

If you have good drainage to the sump pit, we have a few steps to guide you in setting up your system.  For an emergency backup system to be effective, it requires a consistent setup throughout the system.  

A&E Construction recommends 2 submersible pumps, set at 2 levels with 2 separate discharge pipes and on 2 separate electrical circuits. Setting up your system like this can protect your basement from the many pitfalls that result in sump pump failure.

How this Works:

  • Installing 2 sumps at different levels protects your house against single pump failure and doubles the pumping capacity if flooding should occur.

  • Putting 2 separate discharge pipes protects against possible line blockage from snow, ice or leaves.  These pipes will also increase the water discharge volume by reducing back pressure in the case that flooding occurs and both pumps are running.

  • Plugging each pump into a separate electrical circuit protects your home against electrical failure.  If your pump should fail, you run the risk that it will likely trip the circuit breaker.  Should this happen when your pumps are connected into just one circuit, you will lose both pumps, hence using a separate circuit prevents this.

  • Purchasing a portable electric generator and several long extension cords are key to being able to run your pumps and refrigerator during a power outage.  The massive power outages that were caused by Hurricane Irene were a major cause of sump pump failure. A portable generator is often a better idea than a battery backup system because most battery backup systems don’t have the same longevity or amperage required to pump water for a significant amount of time.

  • Once you install your sump pump, a final recommendation is contacting your home owner’s insurance company and having them add “Backup of Sewer & Drains Rider” to your policy (it’ll cost you approximately $50-$75 more each year).  This added insurance covers your house in the event that electrical power goes out and/or your sump pump fails due to some mechanical failure.  This is an especially good idea that will reduce expenses if you have a finished basement and live in a flood-prone area.

If you have any further questions on protecting your home from basement flooding or sump pump installation, feel free to comment or contact A&E Construction by phone or email.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Common Basement Flooding Causes & How to Fix Them

Many people throughout the East Coast suffered from home damage caused by Hurricane Irene last month.  Even in central New Jersey, we felt the impact as several homeowners in the Princeton and Pennington area experienced basement flooding that caused thousands of dollars in damages.

In response to this, A&E will provide solutions to basement flooding and how to take preventative measures to keep your home secured and dry in common storm and flooding events. We’ll take you through all of the necessary steps that will help you provide better drainage in your home with a guide to sump pump installation following in our next post.

Checking Your Basement’s Flooding Ability:

Most basement flooding problems are simply drainage problems on the outside of your house. Therefore, the first step is to start on the outside by checking the exterior perimeter to make sure that you have a good slope in place to direct water away from the foundation walls.  

Also check your gutters to make sure that they are not clogged and that downspouts are directed away from the house so that discharged water will flow away, rather than towards your home.

After observing the perimeter of your house, if you do note any ground depressions or water puddling near the foundation, there are 3 basic steps that you can take to correct this.
Before Basement
After Basement

How to Correct the Inflow of Water Towards your House:

1.  Rake back any mulch and then add new top soil that is tamped and sloped away from your house.

2. Install 3” of landscape plastic around the perimeter of your home.  Then rake back mulch or stone to reduce erosion (this will also add some curb appeal to the look of your home)

3. Another tip that will reduce drainage issues is to connect your down spouts with underground pipes to lower areas away from the foundation. 

If you have any further questions on protecting your home from basement flooding, feel free to comment below or contact A&E Construction.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A How to Guide to High Quality Paints

Benjamin Moore Envision Color 2011

A new paint color can dramatically transform the look of a room with just an investment of a few hours of painting time and a few paint cans.  It all really comes down to choosing the right kind of paint.  Many people are afraid to buy high quality, expensive paints because of the price tag, but A&E wants to provide you with some insight on one of our go-to paint manufacturers and the 3 innovative types of paints they offer.

First off, there are several differences between the high quality paints and the cheaper, low quality paints starting with the amount of work it takes to apply on walls.

More expensive paints contain higher grades that allow for great surface coverage.  

While a cheap can of paint may take 3 coats, an efficient high quality paint like Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint is a guaranteed one-coat application on the exterior and 2 coats or less on the interior.  It’s so good that Popular Science dubbed it one of the best new products of 2007 when it was first introduced.

A Few Points about Aura Interior Paint:

Aura paint is washable in any finish from matte and eggshell to satin and semi-gloss. Unlike any other paint on the market, Aura paint features pigment particles that are embedded in binder molecules which permanently locks in color for richer hues that don’t fade. With over 3,000 hues and color-matching technology it’s also quite easy to find coordinating colors for unique colors in your home.

Benjamin Moore products regularly meet and exceed national and state safety standards across the country.  The Aura paint is a low-VOC paint that features a fast one-hour re-coat time in order to reduce the amount of labor time as well as the time you have to wait to move into a room after painting.

Recommended For: New or previously painted wallboard, plaster, masonry, wood, wallpapered surfaces, primed or painted metal, new or coated acoustic ceilings. 

Another difference between low quality paints and high quality paints is that low quality paints often show brush marks and smudges.  Furthermore, when you try washing dirt or a smudge off low quality paints, you end up washing off some of the paint as well.  Higher quality paints provide smooth coverage and a durable, washable coat on your walls. Benjamin Moore’s Regal paint line perhaps illustrates this best.

A Few Points About Regal Interior Paint:

First created in 1956, Regal is Benjamin Moore’s longstandingpremiere quality paint.  It has constantly evolved over the years and now comes in eggshell, flat, semi-gloss, matte and pearl.  The Matte is one of the most popular and is probably one of the best choices of finish for walls because like most flat or matte finishes, it hides flaws and imperfections extremely well.

The Regal Matte possesses superb stain resistance with a 100% acrylic flat enamel. Stain-release technology and microscopic ceramic beads make this paint a durable and washable material.  Unlike low quality paints that spatter, The Regal Matte contains spatter-resistant technology that allows for easy application and fast clean up.

Recommended For: New or previously painted wallboard, plaster, masonry, primed or painted wood or metal. Interior walls and new or coated acoustic ceilings. 

Finally, an innovative, eco-friendly paint is Benjamin Moore’s Natura.
A Few Points About Natura Interior Paint:
Natura is an amazing zero-VOC paint that features Benjamin Moore’s customary washable and fade-resistant finish.  In case you’re wondering exactly what are VOC’s…better known as volatile organic compounds, they are solvents that get released as conventional VOC containing paint dries.  

VOC’s can cause minor symptoms like headaches or dizziness, while long term effects are not as certain (some VOC’s are suspected carcinogens).

Benjamin Moore’s Natura comes in waterborne prime, eggshell, flat, and semi-gloss.  Since we haven’t talked about a gloss finish yet, we’ll briefly overview the specific features of the Natura Interior Semi-Gloss.  

Unlike other zero-VOC paints, Natura stays zero-VOC even after tinting, giving you an odorless paint regardless of color. Low-VOC and zero-VOC  are especially recommended for painting baby’s nursery or children’s rooms in order to protect against potential household toxins and also create healthier indoor air. 

Recommended for: Priming and sealing new or painted drywall, wood, concrete, plaster, other porous surfaces. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer Energy Promotion Ending 9/30!

We at A&E would like to inform homeowners interested in energy efficient upgrades that the 2011 Home Performance with Energy Star Summer Promotion will be ending in just 3 weeks on September 30th.

Home Performance with Energy Star Summer Promotion
A&E Kitchen
While the original Home Performance with Energy Star rebates will still be available up until the end of this year, the additional summer discounts from $500 to $1,000 will no longer be available after September 30th.

If you are interested in qualifying for the NJ Home Performance with Energy Star summer promotion, we highly recommend beginning preparing within the next couple of weeks.

The following list details the 3 main steps that are required before your energy efficient upgrade can qualify for the HPwES promotion:

1. Get an Energy Audit (if you haven't already).  This is the first and most important step. A&E's energy audits provide a comprehensive and detailed report of your home's energy losses or problems.  We will completely outline the scope of the project as well as what bracket of savings you are in and the maximum rebate you can qualify for.  From here, you can choose which upgrades you would like to go forward with. 

Remember, if you choose A&E to perform energy efficient upgrades on your home, we will completely refund the energy audit fee

2. Financing Approval: This generally takes about two days and involves getting pre-approval for the proposed upgrades and registering your home improvement under the HPwES summer promotion. 

3. Signed Contract: Once you sign a contract with A&E, we will submit it for review by HPwES and claim the incentives for your project. 
Scheduling an Energy Audit
Check out A&E's Common House Problems for an informative diagram of common causes of high energy costs and problems in home energy loss and leakage. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hardie Siding: Design your House

James Hardie Design Your Home Tool
We like James Hardie siding for a number of's durable, it offers unbeatable home protection, and it enhances the look of any home with beautiful ColorPlus technology.  Re-siding your home is a big investment that can payoff with increasing the future resale value of your home while enhancing your home's look and sealing from the inside-out.

You can experiment with different types of siding, colors, and accents with the James Hardie Design Your Home Tool.  In the design above, we chose Hardie Plank Smooth siding in Iron Grey.  An arctic white trim with mixed stone masonry and a grey roof completes our interactive home design.  

Hardie Shingle Siding
Hardie Plank Smooth Siding is one of the most popular brands of siding that is constructed with specific performance attributes to the specific climate where the home is located.  

Hardie Shingle Siding has a uniquely warm and authentic look like that of cedar shingles, but does not crack or split.  Shingle siding also comes in different decorative styles such as the staggered edge design in our interactively designed house to the right. 

Check out A&E's Princeton siding area projects for a portfolio of our latest home re-sidings. 
Before Siding
After Siding