Looking For A Home Automation Company In Houston Texas?

Home automation represents a rising and rapidly evolving industry. Home automation installers are highly trained professionals who are equally savvy as technical experts, licensed electrical contractors, and creative designers. Illuminations Lighting and Design, Houston’s premier lighting design and electrical consulting firm, heads up the city’s most impeccable home automation department, with installers trained and cross-trained in every nuance of equipment selection, installation, and project development strategy.

Home automation clients can be new homeowners or existing homeowners who decide to take their lifestyles to the next level. Often we encounter new clients who have already installed or had installed a measure of home automation from either a retail source or a competitive entity. The first thing these clients usually tell us is that their existing home automation network fails to deliver control over every element of life. A client with a state of the art home theatre system may suddenly realize he or she has to get up and walk across the room to close the shades or dim the lights. Clients hosting parties at home quickly realize that remote control of the air conditioner would not only add convenience to the event but help them save on energy costs as guests fan the doors all night and move back and forth between the home theatre, the garden, the patio, and the spa. Such integrated and centralized control is the difference that sets a custom home automation project by ILD apart from competitive entities specializing only in the equipment itself or limited home automation installation specific only to segments of the lifestyle rather than comprehensively accommodating the entire lifestyle.

When our home automation installers step into such an arena, they carefully evaluate existing technology and retrofit the very best in new technology for a home automation network that leaves room for future growth and evolution of technology. Since most home automation installation in today’s market requires customizing or creating a home theatre system, we require all of our home automation installation consultants to train and certify in high-end home theatre systems by Sony, Boston, and Vienna Acoustics. This way, our clients are assured that every element of living is not only automated, but also fully optimized to manufacturer standards and equipment specifications.

ILD’s home automation installers spend many years in training and continuing professional education programs to develop the knowledge base required to meet the high demands of this intense, technically demanding industry. Additionally, each ILD technician mentors as an apprentice under a veteran technician to learn the proprietary methodologies exclusive to Illuminations Lighting and Design. The result of our intensive training and apprenticeship programs is a knowledgeable, experienced team of home automation installers whose expertise in current and upcoming technologies enable us to install home automation networks that are completely unique and individualize to each specific client we service. The safety, reliability, and exceptional value of our work are backed up with tangibles every time at the end of the day. Our home automation installation specialists carry design certifications and undergo frequent cross-training with other industries such as architecture, construction, and landscaping as well to ensure that our solutions truly address every aspect of home build and home living.

Throughout Houston and now Greater Texas, our division of home automation installers is rapidly gaining not only notoriety, but also an outstanding reputation for being the single source of the most comprehensive home automation designs that apply only the very latest and advanced technology in a one of kind design. Best of all, our home automation installers are good communicators and even better listeners who know how to make a project not only a technology upgrade, but a lifestyle upgrade as well that exceeds the expectations of clients. Call today 713-863-1133 to see what our team can do for your world starting now.

The Home-Buyers Guide to AC Systems – Part 3 of 3

Homeowners your hands one of the most important documents you can possess before you purchase a home! What every homeowner or potential homeowner absolutely needs to know and understand is this, you as a homeowner have ALL the responsibility to make sure your new home is going to function and be an energy efficient home.

This document is written for the homeowner to understand the city inspections. This article is not referring to the third party inspection completed by a licensed Professional Home Inspector.

If you are concerned about the energy efficiency for your new home the single most important item that impacts energy usage and monthly energy bills is the size of the home. The energy cost to operate your home is directly related to the size, shape and volume of your home. Home builders today are not supplying potential home buyers with two critical pieces of information you need to understand the energy efficiency of a particular home or if you are comparing the homes from two different home builders.

When an engineer designs and sizes the AC equipment for a building large or small he uses a load calculation method to determine how much heating and air conditioning capacity is needed to serve the new building. The same approach and method is supposed to be used today in new homes built in Texas. The home builders in Texas have been building homes in Texas since 2001 that will not meet the required energy code standard and design guides. The load calculation step is the very beginning and most important step in building a home for energy efficiency but is not being performed by builders today. This is simply because most builders do not pay attention, understand the energy code or understand load calculations.

The other problem or issue is that most homeowners have never heard about it and do not care as well. Most homeowners believe that someone else is taking care of this for them. As I stated earlier in this guide this is simply not true or being done.

Homeowners Have To Take Responsibility

How do homeowners know that one home is more efficient than another? The method used to
understand the efficiency of a home in regards to the heating and air conditioning systems is based on a unit of energy known as a “British Thermal Unit” (BTU). I am not going to get real technical here but I will give you the homeowner the information you need to go home shopping with and it is really very simple.

Three Efficiencies Regarding Home Building

1. Thermal Efficiency- Determined by the home construction methods and materials
used to build the home. It is the most important efficiency in home building.

2. Energy Efficiency – Measured and calculated by the conversion of energy input
(KW/BTU) into useful work output cooling/heating BTUH.

3. Overall Efficiency – Is the combination of both efficiencies above. Thermal Efficiency
has a huge impact on the Energy Efficiency rating and therefore will impact the
overall efficiency of the home.

As a homeowner this is what you need to know. The amount of energy required to heat and cool your home is directly related to the amount of heat gain your home experiences when it is warm outside and how much heat loss your home experiences when it is cold outside. This heat gain and heat loss is measured in BTUS. The amount of heat gain and heat loss is measured and defined on an hourly basis so the measurement is in BTUH. This stands for British Thermal Units per Hour. The higher the thermal efficiency of the home the lower the energy use is. As a homeowner you will receive a better return on investment for each dollar you spend to make your new home more thermally efficient than to build a very poor thermally efficient home and try to make up the overall efficiency with very expensive high end heating and air conditioning equipment. This approach simply does not work over the life of the home.

As a homeowner you have another measurement or consideration to think about and that is the “Return on Investment” (ROI) for your money. If you to take short cuts on the home construction side and purchase very expensive high end AC equipment to make up you may cost your self a lot more money over the life of with expensive repair bills. The cost to repair the high end AC systems is very expensive.

Below is a simple but real example.
– 14 SEER AC System – Replace a failed indoor fan motor. Cost= $250.00
– 20 SEER AC System – Replace a failed indoor fan motor. Cost= $1200.00

The newer systems are very complicated with a lot of electronic components that are very susceptible to power problems and lightning strikes during storms. As a homeowner you need to consider this when building a new home with the least cost to maintain and operate. Homeowners need to spend their money making their home more thermally efficient and use AC system(s) rated at 14-15 SEER instead of 20 SEER systems.

The Questions a Homeowner Needs to Ask a Home Builder

– Mr. Home builder what is the heat gain for this home on July 15th at 3:00 PM in the afternoon?

After he regains his thoughts he will probably reply with; what do you mean? This will give you a real clue here. He does not know anything about the thermal efficiency for the homes he is building!

“You might want to consider a new home builder at this point!”

– Mr. Home builder what is the heat loss for this home on January 15th at 3:00 AM in the morning?

These are the questions that any potential home buyer should ask if they are concerned about energy efficiency and the monthly energy bill for their home. If you are a homeowner who operates on a monthly budget then energy efficiency is very important for your new home. Let us use the example below to demonstrate how the real energy efficiency of two homes should be compared.

– Home A- single story with 2500 square feet of air conditioned living area, all electric home, all energy star rated appliances, and all the lighting fixtures are compact fluorescent and the high efficiency type. The home has a 5 ton 14 SEER rated AC system.

– The heat gain for the home in July is 49,500 Btuh.
– The heat loss for the home in January is 72,000Btuh.

– Home B- single story with 2700 square feet of air conditioned living area, all electric home, all energy star rated appliances, and all the lighting fixtures are compact fluorescent and the high efficiency type. The home has a 4 ton 13 SEER rated AC system.

– The heat gain for the home in July is 44,000 Btuh.
– The heat loss for the home in January is 66,000 Btuh.

Which home is more efficient? Many homeowners would choose Home A simply because it has the largest AC system and highest SEER rating of the two homes. The most efficient home is Home B. This home is larger and is being served with the smallest AC system. Even with the lower SEER rating for the AC system the system is rated at 4 tons and is able to cool the home adequately. The difference in heat gain and heat loss values is what makes home B the most thermally energy efficient. The size of the AC system does not make a home more thermally efficient. The AC systems in homes are sized to meet the heat gain and heat loss values of the home. The lower the heat gain/loss number the higher the “Thermal Efficiency” is for the home. What makes the home more thermally efficient is size, construction, direction the home faces, window type, wall construction and insulation values to name a few. The thermal energy efficiency of the home is determined by the construction methods and materials not the heating and air conditioning equipment. The AC equipment only makes a difference in the conversion of electrical energy or the conversion of fuel into useful work- cooling output (Btuh) or heating output. When the SEER rating is higher the conversion of electrical energy is more efficient and therefore the energy bills are lower for the home. A home that only requires a 3 ton AC system to meet the cooling load will be less efficient if the same home has a 5 ton system installed no matter what the SEER value is.

Example:
– Home C- Has a 12 SEER 3 ton AC system that is properly sized and works properly
– Home C- with a 16 SEER 5 ton AC system will not function correctly and will make the home uncomfortable because the system will short cycle and this reduces the energy efficiency (SEER) of the AC system.

Homeowners do not fall for the bigger is better sales pitch! Bigger is not better regarding AC systems EVER!

Let’s talk about heating systems now. If you are building a new home, buying a new home or purchasing an existing home you need to consider how your new home is heated. The method of heating a home today is not quite as simple as it once was. My personnel first choice for heating a home is by using a natural gas or propane system. I like the warmth and feel of the gas systems. At one time it would have been considered the most economically method to heat a home. In today’s constantly changing energy markets the price of a MCF of natural gas is not always the least cost to operate. I will list the methods of heating a home in order based on cost, comfort and reliability below.

The Southern Part of the Country

1. Gas Heat- If the price of natural gas or propane is least expensive on a consistent basis

2. Heat Pump System- If the home is total electric a heat pump system is a must for energy
efficiency.

3. If the home is total electric the last choice would be electric resistive heating. This is a very
expensive choice for heating.

The Northern Part of the Country

1. Fuel Oil – If the price of fuel oil remains less than natural gas or propane on a consistent basis

2. Natural Gas – Would be the second choice over electric heating.

3. Heat Pump System- If the home is total electric a heat pump system is a must for energy
efficiency.

4. If the home is total electric the last choice would be electric resistive heating. A very
expensive choice for heating.
5. In areas where wood is available and the home has a good wood heating system.
Home AC System Design

Questions to Ask Your Builder

1. What is the heat gain for the home? July 15th 3:00 PM _____________ Btuh

2. What is the heat loss for the home? January 15th 3:00 AM ______________Btuh

3. How many units (systems) are in the home?

Recommendations
– Single Story Homes less than 2000 sq ft- Single System
– Two Story Home less that 2000 sq ft- Two Systems, One Up and One Down Stairs
– Single Story Homes > 2000 but 5000 sq ft- Need to consult with a mechanical engineer with experience with
energy efficiency designs and energy conservation. Ask for references. Suggest
someone not in relation to the AC contractor to get the best objective design and solution.
– Discuss the heat gain/losses with your AC contractor or mechanical engineer to find out
what you can do to lower these values by making changes in the design and materials for
your home.

4. 6. Ask for the AC contractor’s name and for references. Talk to homeowners who have been in their home more than two years or so. This will give you a better understanding of how well the contractor designed the AC systems and how they performed in both the cooling and heating seasons.

5. Ask the contractor to give you some estimates in writing to replace the indoor fan motor and the compressor for the AC systems you are considering. If you are trying to decide between a system rated at 15 SEER and one rated at 20 SEER this will help you understand what the overall cost is and what your ROI could be over the life of the system(s).

6. If you are looking at purchasing a home that will require major remodeling and the heating and air conditioning system to be replaced you need to make sure you understand the following about the AC contractor you hire.

– Is the contractor licensed?
– Is his licensed current?
– What level of general liability insurance does he have?
– Is his insurance policy current?
– How many technicians will be working in your home?
– Have these technicians been registered with the state? A state of Texas requirement
– Have you checked the contractor out with the Better Business Bureau?
– Ask for a copy of his license and insurance policy.
– Verify the insurance policy is current with the policy provider, this is very important.

Insurance Requirements for AC Contractors Texas (Verify Requirements for Your State)

Homeowners AC contractors in Texas are required to carry a general liability insurance policy in order to perform work in the state of Texas. In 2003 the state of Texas stopped requiring AC contractors to prove they have general liability insurance prior to renewing their license each year. This puts homeowners at risk all over Texas when using and hiring AC contractors. You as a homeowner have to take the initiative to verify the AC contractor you are working with has a current general liability insurance policy.

– Class A license holders are required to carry a $300,000.00 policy.

– Class B license holders are required to carry a $150,000.00 policy.

Homeowners you need to determine if the value of your home and personnel possessions have a value higher than the required limits for the AC contractor you hire. Check with your homeowner insurance provider how this impacts you as a homeowner in the event your home is damaged or destroyed because of poor workmanship or faulty equipment. You may want to ask your contractor to provide a higher level of liability insurance before starting work in your home.

Homeowners do not become a victim of an unlicensed and uninsured AC contractor!

Third Party Inspections and Resources

Many cities and homeowners are using third party inspectors today. As a homeowner you are ultimately the responsible party to make sure your home and your investment is protected. Just because someone is a third party inspector means they are any better than the local city code official. I would recommend that you take the time to talk with two or more inspectors to find out who you believe is the best one that can help to insure you receive the best value for your money and the best AC system for your home. I always recommend that homeowners talk to their neighbors, friends and family to find out if they can offer you some good advice or to help steer you away from someone who does not understand what they are doing. A few simple phone calls or few minutes talking to someone can save you thousands of dollars and headache.

Summary

Homeowners if you are considering purchasing a new home you have a lot on your mind. The AC system(s) for your new home are a very important piece of the equation to being satisfied and happy with your new home. We covered a lot of information in the “The Home Buyers Guide to AC Systems” and I believe you probably have learned some helpful tips and a whole lot about heating and air conditioning. Do not let this overwhelm you but simply take it in a step by step approach when deciding what type of heating and air conditioning system for your home. If you take the information you have learned and start to discuss it with home builders and AC contractors you will find out they are not going to be very open and willing to work with you. When home builders and AC contractors know they are doing business with a potential homeowner that knows something about AC systems they become a little uncomfortable. This will go to show you that home builders and AC contractors have had it their way for a long, long time. It is time for homeowners to receive the best AC systems for their new homes. You can do this and be very
successful at the same time.

Good Luck with Your New Home or Next AC Project!

Texas Foreclosure Law Primer – Part 2

So you are a Texas home owner and you received a foreclosure posting – what do you do next?

This article is the second in a series of articles designed to help Texas home owners who face the threat of foreclosure.

Texas is a non-judicial foreclosure sale for non Texas equity mortgages. That is, the Trustee can conduct the sale on behalf of the lender without any court intervention. This means that the foreclosure time line is accelerated and can be completed well within 60 days if the calendar fall right.

Texas equity loans do require a court order and that process is longer.

Texas law provides that your mortgage lender must adhere to certain notice requirement contained in Texas Property Code, Section 51.002. The notices in Section 51.002 are keyed to the status of the property as a residential property, as opposed to a non-owner occupied property. Properties that serve as a primary residence receive an additional 20 day notice to cure.

While these tips are designed to Texas home owners, its helpful to home owners in other states as well. Home owners in states other than Texas are cautioned to consult their own state law.

You’re now on the clock. You must take action. This is one of those times you need to speak to someone – a confidant, a trusted family member, an attorney, a CPA, a minister – someone that will listen to you and help you through this difficult decision.

Emotions seem to taint a lot of real estate decisions. You need to speak with someone so you can bounce ideas off of them, listen to their feedback. Believe it or not, the decision you make here may not also save your home, but you may be able to save some money in the process. Each day you delay cuts down on your options and increase the costs of that decision.

Key Point 1 – Calm down and understand that you can salvage the situation. You’ve got some difficult decisions here but you can take of this situation.

So what are some of the options you should be considering?

Try to work something out with you lender.

Key Point 2 – Anything you agree to with your lender must be in writing. Do not believe a phone representative’s claim that the foreclosure will be stopped if you make a payment. It will not be stopped and you’ll lose the opportunity to save this situation. Don’t trust the lender in this situation.

File an Application for a Temporary Restraining Order

Key Point 3 – Assuming you have no other financial problems, this may be a consideration. But, the legal fees are expensive and you must provide a bond to the court. More importantly, there is no guarantee that your application for a Temporary Restraining Order will be granted. This risk-reward payoff here is not good. Texas judges are more likely to rule that bankruptcy court is a more proper forum for this action.

File Bankruptcy.

Key Point 4 – Absolutely the best option available for most people. Just get you case filed. It will give you at least 60 days breathing room, even if you filing is kicked back for some reason. It also seems to get the attention of the lender to allow you to work some out with them.

Do nothing and abandon you home.

This sounds harsh but it may be the right thing to do if you have no equity in the property. Save your money and lock up a rental before the foreclosure.

Key Point 5 – Lenders are not pursuing deficiency judgments now. Take care of your old home, don’t remove fixtures, clean it up, and make it easy for the lender to take over the property.

Under Texas law, lenders have the option of pursuing a judgment, if they so desire. This is not happening with regularity right now, but it is something that you should be aware of.

Also, under Texas law, a foreclosure of a Texas equity loan is judicial process. Also keep in mind that there is no personal liability on a Texas equity loan.

You may receive a 1099 from the lender for forgiveness of the debt. Consult with a tax professional to consider the impact on your personal return.

Foreclosure is a tough process for your entire family. Educate yourself as to your options.

Texas Foundation Repair and Soaker Hoses

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors behind watering your foundation with soaker hoses. First let’s review the background related to using soaker hoses as a form of foundation repair.

It has been well established that foundation failures and foundation repairs are widespread, especially in the State of Texas. Many experts claim that in most cases foundation failures are the result of an unregulated building industry, unskilled labor and builders cutting corners for the sake of higher profits or pure ignorance. For all those who live in a home built by a tract home builder this will not come as a surprise.

In recent years numerous experts around Texas have testified extensively about the increasing problem of home builders cutting cost corners and that the homes foundation is the first example given. It has also been acknowledged by engineers that home foundations are being designed to less stringent standards in order to build them cheaper. This lack of quality control has lead to unprecedented foundation repair work being needed.

Because of widespread homeowner complaints describing foundation failures, the American Society of Engineers (ASCE) asked for comments and recommendations from engineers across Texas. The consensus of those engineers who participated was to improve foundations by designing stiffer slabs. The results were astounding; the recommended guideline changes would increase foundation strength by 27% at an estimated cost of only a $1,000 for a 2,500 square foot one story home.

However, the disgraceful response by the building industry, to its critics, is that homeowners have a maintenance responsibility to “water their foundations” to protect the structural integrity of their homes. As if watering a foundation replaces sound engineering.

At a Texas building standards public hearing, a committee member described how homeowners are instructed by builders to put a soaker hose around the perimeter of the home, and never turn it off in order to keep the foundation from cracking, and to keep it stable. He then asked how much water was needed to maintain a foundation. The well respected engineer responded; you cannot maintain a foundation by watering because “you can never water enough.”  

The engineer went on to say that the cost of water over even a relatively short period of time would far exceed the cost of the $1,000 needed to stiffen the foundation significantly when it is initially built.

So finally we have it on good authority that the excuse for foundation failures caused by too much rain, lack of rain or trees is a fairy tale, and that these so called “Acts of God” are really acts of man in order to increase builder profits. Remember the Texas Home Builders Association has a very large lobbyist organization in Austin.

Texas has highly expansive soils, as well as many other states however, no other place but Texas are homeowners instructed to “water their foundations.” Other states officials and foundation experts laugh when they hear that in Texas homeowners are blamed for foundation repair issues because they didn’t properly water their foundations. The solution to expansive soil problems is to properly engineer foundations to withstand the adverse effects of expansive soil. This can be accomplished during construction as well as after construction is complete by trained professionals under the guidance of independent foundation engineers.

In the meantime, if nothing is done, new homebuyers are at risk, and the new home foundation problem will continue to worsen while builder profits take priority. While continuing down this road will make the new home building and foundation repair industries very profitable, the consumer will suffer.  

One solution for existing homes, that are having foundation problems, is to have proper foundation repairs done by trained professionals. There are several foundation repair methods that will solve current problems and they all have certain things in common.  

First, they install deeply beyond the active soil layers. Whether it is helical anchors or steel push piers, depth is the first priority. Secondly, correct foundation repairs use engineered systems to install. Simple bottle jacks and shims are not engineered systems, they are cheap techniques for temporary repairs. Lastly, quality foundation repairs are performed by trained foundation repair professionals under the supervision of independent engineers. Using these guidelines homeowners can be assured that they have a properly designed deep foundation system supporting their home.

In summary, do not rely on smoke and mirrors. Consult with a foundation engineer who will help develop a plan to solve your unique foundation problem.