By Ash Stevens
When experts talk about updates and renovations, the focus is always on aesthetics and home value. They’re both very good things, but when you’re a mother herding children around, you just want to update your sanity. With that in mind, here are some smart home updates that will benefit moms and their families (but mom’s especially, because we love our moms).
If you’re a fan of “bat caves” or you live in the sunny states of the Southern down yonder, then a skylight may be the last thing you need. However, if you’re living winters out in the North and chugging down antidepressants to make it to get through the dark days of winter, a skylight may be your favorite home investment. The potential skylights have for instant vitamin D, mood-boosting sunbeams, and mini plant refuge’s make skylights an update for the soul. But should you go solar, there are IRS perks to be had, as solar-powered skylights qualify for a tax credit.
As “solar electric property,” qualifying skylights purchased between now and 2019 score a 30% tax credit upon filing the IRS form 5695. Maximize your investment further by following Green Building Advisor’s skylight efficiency tips. A skylight with multi-paned windows and high ratings for R-value and U-factor will pack the greatest efficiency with the effects the seasons have on heating and cooling. You can keep the green bene’s coming at installation by putting in skylights at a slope that’s “equal to the site’s latitude plus 5 to 15 degrees.” This will counter the sun’s changing positions in the sky and help keep summer heat gains and winter heat loss to a minimum.
Front Load Washers
Now, front-load washers and top-load washers both have perks, but front-load washers are a smart update for a variety of reasons. Front-load washers use less water, which means you’ll save water plus money. They don’t have an agitator, so they’re gentler on clothes. Their design also makes their spin more effective at drawing water from clothes (goodbye dryer, and hello energy savings).
Even better? They can be stacked onto their dryer counterpart, so they can be squeezed into the tiniest of laundry spaces. And clothes are so easy to pull out, you could turn it into a new chore for your seven year old. Now, front-load washers did have a lot of complaints back in the day because of cost, vibration, and a stinky moldy gasket. But today, newer generations of the front-loaders have pushed to address these issues. They stand to be a smart and valuable buy.
A home theater projector may be a ridiculous expense. But it could also be a totally awesome one! That’s because the benefits of a projector include (1) No more loading, unloading, and herding children for public movie outings (2) Wearing pajamas in front of a big screen (3) Seeing any movie you want as big as you want it (4) Feeling like you left the house even though you’re just sitting at home with a newborn, and (5) Making your own drive-in (by) movie theater!
Another huge perk is that projectors bring people together. They offer a great way to make friends with neighbors, and they offer an excuse for a simple yet fantastically-fun Friday night party. And since you can score home theater projectors for under $1000, they can be a valuable buy.
Radiant Floor Heat
Mom or kiddo, nothing kills the splendor of a hot shower like a chilly bathroom floor. Naturally, this makes a heated floor a total dream for the bathroom. But if you’re looking to update flooring or heating, radiant heat stands to benefit the whole home. Heat naturally rises, and radiant heated floors heat from the ground up — thus nature provides the convection and circulation of heat. Warm floors naturally make a room feel warmer because the feet are kept toasty, so there’s less need for high heat. A great thing for crawling babies.
Heated flooring is generally done via hydronic systems (heated water) or electric-heated floors. Whatever the system, they pair best with a flooring that’s heat-conductive and has high thermal mass, such as concrete or tile. Install a radiant heated floor with those traits in mind, and a “charged” floor can provide heat as much as 8-10 hours after the system is turned off. Heat during the late night “off peak hours,” and you can shave down that utility bill.
If you’re just using your garage to store cars and canned food, then you’re missing out. Weatherize the garage with some new caulking, weather stripping, and storm doors, and it will give you a perfect place to store the green tomatoes of first frost. Pull out the whole tomato plant, and hang it upside down in the garage with all the tomatoes attached. They’ll slowly redden and ripen while they’re on the wine, while the cool (but not freezing) garage keeps them content for weeks.
There’s another important factor in garage weatherization, and that’s weathering the garage so you can keep messy weather out. Turn a garage into a makeshift “mudroom” and muddy rain boots and wet snow pants can be kept out of the house until they’re clean and dry again. Cubbies, bins, crates, pegboards, old crates, hanging racks, closet beams, and heavy-duty rugs will weatherize that garage so the messy weathery days stay out of the house. The ultimate weatherization!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.