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May 5, 2014

Sunroom Semantics

Filed under: Business News,Solarium,Sunrooms,Tips — marco @ 4:33 pm

Creating an elegant design may become much simpler, once you know how to ask

Among those who prefer to have a more precise understanding of the terminology, and do not mind a bit to split hairs on the shades of meaning among synonyms, sunrooms can present a few variants that may leave you wanting to clarify your vision, or at least be able to refer most appropriately to those installations that you see as you are cruising through the neighborhoods.  The semantics of sunrooms are not as set in stone as many of the terms you will find in the architectural landscape, but if you take this opportunity to explore, new ideas may present that you had never really considered.   

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In discussing “sunrooms” specifically, one is generally referring to any of a variety of styles of rooms or porches or decks that are attached to the home or business, and enclosed with glass and windows designed to admit and retain the sun’s heat during colder times and reflect more away in hotter times.  Without the latter abilities, the enclosure is not much better than a standard greenhouse or a cold frame at controlling the internal climate and would not be suitable as a living space for much more than the shoulder seasons of the year.  “Greenhouses” are more typically freestanding and are often intended more for plants than for living space and are therefore unlikely to require the quality of materials one ought to use in the construction of a sunroom that is attached to the home.   

“Solariums,” however, are often envisioned as a more contemporary style of sunrooms with curving eaves along the exterior.  There are those, on the other hand, who prefer instead to divide sunrooms and solariums into separate groups altogether.  In this case, “solariums” would be those enclosures whose roofs are made of glass, whereas a “sunroom” would be those with solid roofs that may or may not include operational skylights.    

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While the curved-eave style of the more contemporary “solariums” is one style very popular, especially among commercial properties, there are a couple of other styles well worth mentioning here too.  The first of those is the “orangery” or “orangerie,” a particularly boxy style that combines the partial shade of a solid, flat roof around the edges of the structure with a more centrally positioned glass gable or peak, occasionally decorated with a row of iron fleurs-de-lis or more intricate roof patterns.  This post-Renaissance style is one that had originated among the more disgustingly opulent estates in Europe as a modified structure, intended to house tropical fruit trees like citrus and pineapple through the winter months, before the process of importing fruit became faster and more affordable.   

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Last but not least, while the orangery is a more distinctive style of construction, the Victorian-associated “conservatories” encompass a much wider range of less traditionally shaped enclosures.  This might refer to those rooms that have a footprint whose corner are not set at right angles, such as a more octagonal format or in a rectangle whose corners are clipped.  Modifications like these would then translate above into panels, glass or otherwise, that could no longer be rectangular either, potentially resulting in a roughly conical pattern of triangular cuts.  This concept could also extend potentially into the realm of those with more standard rectangular footprints, yet with roof styles other than flat or gabled, such as many hip roofs.   

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No matter how you slice it, sunrooms of any shape or style are intended bring in much more light than your traditional construction, warming your home and balancing your life by setting your internal clock by the sun, as nature had always intended.  If this is the time to begin discussing which style is best for your home, I can guide you in designing an addition that suits your home and your needs, retains the value of your investment and will provide comfort for years to come.

February 7, 2014

Can A Sunroom Actually Help Your Winter Health?

Filed under: Health,Solarium,Sunlight,Sunrooms,Tips — marco @ 11:13 am

 

Beating The Winter Blues

If you are affected by seasonal depression, you’re not alone. Millions of others who live in places with long winter nights are also at a high risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  To extrapolate from CNN’s estimate, around 5 percent of the population in the Northeast could be clinically diagnosed with SAD but as much as 20 percent could be affected to at least some lesser degree.

In trying to alleviate the issue, people have tried numerous solutions.  Nutrition-based solutions are among the most common, given that even neurological conditions relate back to diet in some way.  Of course, everyone’s body functions differently so that even the same problem could have a somewhat different cause in different people.  That means that no single treatment, whether natural or man-made, always works for everyone. 

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Many who have tried prescription anti-depressants find they numb the mind to a point where they perceive feeling better. However the risks involved in not being in full control of your mind can greatly outweigh the benefits. The herbal remedy St. John’s Wort has done very well for centuries for thousands of people affected by different forms of depression.

 More recent research turned up a newer remedy: a lesser known amino acid compound naturally synthesized in your body and mine, as it is in most mammals, named S-Adenosyl Methionine or SAM-e.  The concept is that the brain requires SAM-e, along with folic acid (B9), B6, and B12, to synthesize certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that are linked to mood, including specifically dopamine and serotonin. Interestingly, mega-doses of folic acid (alone or combined with B6 and B12) have been successfully used to remedy depression as well.

Another popular remedy is a different amino acid called L-Phenylalanine. Basically, Phenylalanine is brought straight to the brain, converted into the amino acid Tyrosine and then directly converted into the neurotransmitter, dopamine. A Tyrosine supplement may be equally effective. Either way, these combat the type of feelings caused by a lack of dopamine which is a very low energy depression, with a complete lack of motivation.  You probably won’t have trouble sleeping, but you will have trouble getting going in the morning.

One easy way to tell whether one or the other of dopamine or serotonin might be your problem is to listen to your cravings.  If you are low serotonin, you would be craving carbs, dairy or even bananas as your shortcut to quick energy.  If you are low dopamine, then you tend to reach for stimulating foods such as coffee or chocolate.

Since the cholesterol in our skin produces vitamin D when one is exposed to enough sunlight, and since there are many fewer hours of sunlight in the wintertime, finding ways to raise your levels of vitamin D have long been indicated as a potential solution for seasonal depression. It is true that brain cells all have vitamin D receptors and there is some evidence that increasing your vitamin D might be another way to stimulate your brain to produce more dopamine.  A related link has been suggested between seasonal depression and the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, especially since D is a fat soluble vitamin.

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Research and our current experience tells us that the best solution in this case is not fish oil but cod liver oil, which is much higher in natural vitamin D, but must be cold processed if you do not want the vitamin D to be deteriorated before you even purchase.  Nevertheless the big advantage of vitamin D is really its boost of protection against winter colds and long term health problems as well as being essential for your body to maintain strong and healthy teeth and bones.

This must have something to do with sunrooms, right?!  Well, it turns out that anywhere above 37 degrees N latitude, the sun’s angle in the sky is too low for at least part of the winter to generate that vitamin D effect in your skin.  This means that, sunroom or not, you will not necessarily be getting enough D in the wintertime. 

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However, where a sunroom CAN help is with seasonal affective disorder is with your brain’s pineal gland.  My what?  The pineal gland actually makes melatonin so that your body can fall asleep, a process controlled by the light-sensitive ganglion cells in your retinas.  This is how light controls your circadian rhythms, and if our daily functioning is not in tune with those rhythms, you are at a much higher risk for seasonal affective disorder.

In other words, if you are affected by SAD, you might have a higher light set point needed to shut down your pineal gland and trigger the “awake state” and your body would stay drowsy when the days are shorter.  This is reasonably enough to irritate and depress anyone.  A sunroom is the best spot in the home to soak in that morning blast of sunlight throughout the year, to switch off your pineal gland and keep your circadian rhythm on track. 

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Whatever your experience, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be a real and recurrent emotional challenge each winter for you or your loved one especially in homes without a sunroom, and with a lack of as much exercise due to the colder weather, until one has discovered which types of foods or nutrients can be used to best address these symptoms.

References:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060501113832.htm 
“Melatonin Improves Mood In Winter Depression.”  May 2, 2006
http://blog.lef.org/2012/01/link-between-vitamin-d-depression.html 
Rodriguez-Paez, Maylin.  “Is There A Link Between Vitamin D And Depression?”  January, 2012.
http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/5/1151S.full 
Bottiglieri, Teodoro.  “S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe): From the Bench To the Bedside—Molecular Basis of a Pleiotrophic Molecule1,2,3.”  2002
http://drwardbond.weebly.com/1/post/2013/05/depression-low-dopamine-not-low-serotonin.html 
Bond, Dr. Ward W.  “Depression: Low Dopamine, Not Serotonin.”  May 4, 2013

January 30, 2014

How To Finally Afford The Sunroom You Are Aching For!

Filed under: Business News,Solarium,Sunrooms,Tips — brady @ 10:42 am

 

Not Paying Up Front? How To Navigate the Muddy Waters Of the Financing World

If you are a homeowner considering investing in a sunroom addition or any other home improvement project and you have not saved up enough cash to pay outright, this message is for YOU.

Sunroom additions, like nearly any home improvement project, tend to require a healthy budget and of course we all know you can save a good chunk of money by avoiding borrowing altogether.  However, many that are considering this type of a project today – whether or not their income has been directly affected by the Fed’s policies regarding our money supply – are not entirely sure where the balance of payment for such a project will come from.  In response to this common uncertainty, many financing options exist that you should know about.

The source of financing that suits you best will depend on many factors, including how much your project will cost vs. how much cash you have on hand, the length of terms you are seeking, whether you will be doing other home improvement projects in the future, how much equity you have in your home and other questions of risk and collateral.  If you remain convinced that the personal return you will get in your quality of life by transforming your environment one step closer to your dream home will outweigh the purchase costs, below I will review some general and more specific DOs and DON’Ts that you ought to consider in rounding out your payment.

Of course in the land of lending there are no guarantees.  We at Brady-Built Sunrooms cannot promise that you will necessarily have success or good handling by any of these third parties.  However, it is important that you are aware that home improvement projects can come to life under a wider variety of circumstances than you might have thought. We wish you all the best in the pursuit of your remodeling dreams.

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 First of all, if it is even being offered, we would generally warn against getting financing from your contractor.  Some contractors even unwittingly negotiate shady deals from sub-prime lenders that are loaded with hidden costs and fees.  It is usually in your best interest to negotiate the project price with your contractor and then get financing on your own.

Then, unless you have nearly enough cash on hand to complete your project we would certainly not recommend paying with a credit card, since anything more than a few thousand dollars is rarely worth the high interestrates those companies charge. Although you will not pay any loan fees or closing costs on credit card transactions, you should use this option only if you can pay off the balance in under a year.

Your consideration might be an unsecured personal loan, in which you borrow money without using your home as collateral.  That means that if you fail to pay, your home is not at risk for foreclosure. Banks tend to offer unsecured personal loans for small sums of money, for example, under $10K and these are generally considered purely based on one’s income and ability to consistently repay.  Of course, beware of personal loans offered by non-bank lenders since many have exorbitant interest rates.

We have recently discovered that whether for kitchen or bathroom remodeling, or asunroom or a swimming pool, HFS Financial has been helping clients in all 50 states get unsecured remodeling loans.  At their website, YourProjectLoan.com, you can fill out their 60 Second Loan Application and one of their team members will contact you with information within 24 hours.  One big advantage here is that your credit will NOT be pulled so there is no impact on your credit score regardless of the decision.

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Next up is a home equity loan from a credit union or elsewhere, that uses your house as collateral, just like a primary mortgage. With a home equity loan, you borrow once against the equity you have already paid into your home, in other words, its current value less the amount of the existing mortgage.  This can be an especially good option for financing a one-time project, since the borrowed amount is fixed.  The interest rate is also fixed, which can be an advantage since today’s low interest rates are fairly likely to rise over the life of such a loan. One major plus with home equity loans used for home improvements is that the interest you pay back to the lender is typically tax deductible under both state and federal guidelines up to $1,000,000.  The down side is that, in most cases, you will have to pay a closing cost.  And, as with any loan secured by your home, you risk foreclosure if you cannot make the payments on top of your regular mortgage. A few local Massachusetts options currently advertising their home improvement lending programs are IC Federal Credit Union with branches in Fitchburg, Leominster, Ayer, Westminster; Spencer Savings Bank with branches in Spencer, Leicester, Rutland, Warren, Worcester; Metro Credit Union offering services to all Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable or Worcester county residents, and Salem Five.

Alternatively, you may decide to refinance your original mortgage for a larger amount while interest rates are low and home prices are rising.  You will simply get the difference back in cash and, as with a home equity loan, you will pay closing costs and fees.

If you are ambitiously planning to stack a sunroom alongside other home improvement projects instead, you might consider a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which, like a home equity loan, uses your home as collateral to guarantee payment.  The idea is that a HELOC allows you to vary the amount of your withdrawal over time up to a maximum point based upon the available equity in your home.  The other big difference is that the interest rate for a HELOC is usually variable, which means it can rise and fall along with the prime rate set by the Fed.  Like home equity loans though, the interest you pay on a HELOC is also tax-deductible.

If you do not have a lot of equity in the home, you can still apply to certain banks for Title 1 loans which use your home as collateral and pay interest and closing costs just like home equity loans and HELOCs, but the risk is insured by the federal government.  They are meant to help finance light-to-moderate rehab projects on either private homes or nonresidential buildings and the maximum loan amount for a single family home is $25,000.

Sunrooms by Brady

Regardless of whether you have reached the 59½ threshold for tax exempt withdrawals, most employer 401(k) plans allow you to borrow money to pay for home improvements.  It is usually worth checking since the rates are usually low, the term is generally five years and you don’t have to pay fees or qualify for a loan.  The biggest risk here is if you change jobs while carrying a remainder, you will have to pay back as much as possible in only 60 days or get hit with penalties and taxes on the balance.

For those not necessarily planning an immediate home improvement project but who have a good amount of free cash flow and who are looking for long term liquidity, there is also a concept know as Bank On Yourself.  This is a super-interesting twist on a few technical aspects of a whole life insurance policy that takes all the standard death and equity benefits and adds the ability to borrow tax-free once your equity builds up without ever losing the interest growing in the cash value of the policy, as you would in borrowing from the 401(k). 

Lower on the scale, Massachusetts has a Home Modification Loan Program that provides low- and moderate income residents no-interest loans to elders, adults and children with disabilities. Such home modifications allow individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes and continue to live independently in their communities. Any homeowner who has a disability or has a household member who has a disability, or rents to an individual with a disability may apply for this loan. Contact Susan Gillam at (617)-204-3739 or Susan.Gillam@MRC.state.ma.us if you believe a sunroom can help improve the life and health of a disabled family member.

Another low- and moderate-income option for residents of Massachusetts lies with Mass Housing, the state’s most affordable housing bank. They lend money at rates below the conventional market to support affordable rental and home ownership opportunities. Their Home Improvement Loan Program provides funds to make general, “non-luxury” improvements to your property, which include necessary home modifications.

Low income rural homeowners may receive Rural Development funds from the USDA at a 1% interest rate to make substantial home repairs, or to remove health and safety hazards.  The Home Repair Program also provides funds to improve accessibility for someone with disabilities.  Homeowners 62 and older are eligible for grants and low income families and individuals may also apply.  USDA regional offices: Western MA 413-585-1000, Central MA and the North Shore 508-829-4477, Southeastern MA, Cape and Islands 508-295-5151.

Windows are obviously a very important part of sunrooms!

Copyright © 2014 Brady-Built Sunrooms, All rights reserved.

June 18, 2013

Three Easy Plants to Grow In Your Sunroom

Filed under: Tips — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Sunrooms by Brady @ 1:23 pm

Three Easy Plants to Grow In Your SunroomOne of the biggest advantages to owning a sunroom is the natural light that comes in through all those windows. Sunrooms make perfect environments year-round for growing flowers, herbs, and even some vegetables. If your sunroom gets chilly in the wintertime, you can use heat lamps to keep your little garden thriving. Growing plants indoors means you won’t have to worry about pests interfering with your crops so much. As you can imagine, the wonderful scents from these plants can truly enhance any sunroom, not to mention save you a couple bucks at the grocery store! Here are a few suggestions on plants that you can grow in your sunroom without turning the whole place into a greenhouse. (more…)

April 4, 2012

Why does condensation form around the edges of old insulating glass and not usually in the middle?

Filed under: Condensation,Solar Glass,Tips,Windows — Sunrooms by Brady @ 9:52 am

Condensation on glassCondensation is the process by which water molecules change from a gas into a liquid. This process can only happen when two conditions are present, the first being high relative humidity and the second, cold temperature.

Insulating glass is typically made from two or three layers of glass with a spacer between them. The spacer is typically made from aluminum tubing or structural foam, which assures a gap between the sheets of glass that is filled with dry air or another gas. (more…)

November 10, 2010

Laminated Wood vs Aluminum

Why Laminated Wood?

When considering the purchase of a sunroom, there are many decisions to make.  What the sunroom’s structure is made from is one of the most important from a practical as well as an aesthetic perspective.

Extruded vinyl or aluminum are commonly used to build the frames for sunrooms.  Both materials are very resistant to rot and require little maintenance but have the look and feel of a poor quality product.  Furthermore, sunroom built from vinyl or aluminum are “stick” built on-site with very little control over quality due to the variability of the skills between one technician and another.

Laminated wood sunrooms offer several advantages.  There is little doubt that wood looks “warmer and richer” than either of it’s competitors.  In fact, wood is literally warmer because it is a much better thermal insulator than either aluminum or vinyl.  The color and grain patterns in wood are beautiful.  Laminating wood to form the beams takes advantage of the beauty of the wood and enhances its structural qualities.  Sawn timber beams are weakened by knots and other natural variations in the wood.  When wood is cut into thin laminations and then glued together to make up a full thickness beam, the knots and other “defects” are limited to only the thickness of each lamination.  Since the natural flaws don’t line up from layer to layer, the effective strength of the beam is not impacted.

To protect the beautiful wood from the elements, the exterior surfaces of laminated wood sunrooms are clad in aluminum extrusions.  This technique offers all of the advantages of wood and aluminum.

Since wood is an easily machined material, it makes customizing the sunroom easy.  Manufacturers of aluminum and vinyl sunrooms will not customize their rooms to fit special customer requirements.  Building sunrooms from laminated wood makes customization a natural benefit.

August 17, 2010

Solariums – The Glass Room

Filed under: Business News,Solarium,Sunrooms,Tips — Sunrooms by Brady @ 12:34 pm
Brady Built vs. Four Seasons

It's pretty "clear" that Brady's Glass will let in more sun

Property values have plummeted with the massive foreclosure rate that still plagues the U.S. in this current economy. Homeowners who have had the good fortune to keep their residence are looking for ways to increase their home and property value in hopes that if they do decided to move that they might get back their initial investment. There are several ways to increase a home’s value.; A new coat of paint, better insulation, and one that seem to be growing with popularity the solarium.

The word solarium is often used when talking about tanning beds, but for this purpose, that is not the case. Solarium in this instance refers to the room made completely out glass, including the roof. The floors are usually ceramic tiles to maximize the absorption of the sun. (more…)

August 4, 2010

What is a helical screw foundation?

Filed under: Glossary,Sunrooms,Tips — Sunrooms by Brady @ 4:37 pm

Brady-Built Sunrooms often recommends a helical screw foundation for the installation of
sunrooms as an alternative to a concrete pier (often called a Sonotube) foundation. What is it and why use it?

First; it is best to understand what a concrete pier foundation is. A concrete pier foundation requires the excavation of a hole large enough to accept the pier form (usually a cardboard tube).The hole must extend to below the frost line, which in most of New England is set at 48” by building code. Depending upon soil conditions and the weight of the structure that the pier will support, a flared bottom is sometimes required on the pier. This is achieved by using a plastic form under the cardboard tube form that gives the pier an upside down ice cream cone shape.The hole for this type of pier is significantly larger than a straight tube pier. (more…)

January 12, 2010

Going Green with a Sunroom

Filed under: Tips — Sunrooms by Brady @ 6:00 pm

Our friends at Your Designs LLC, an authorized Brady-Built reseller in Michigan, asked us a question about sustainability and eco-friendly materials in our sunrooms. We understand how important it is to today’s families. You’ll be happy to know that Brady-Built Sunrooms are not just beautiful, but help maintain nature’s beauty so we can enjoy it with our children and grandchildren for generations to come.

The windows (Pella) that we use are energy star rated.  The glass from Guardian exceeds energy star specifications, but the NFRC does not certify window components, so technically we cannot say that our glass is energy star rated (that’s why Guardians web site is so vague).  The wood is from a sustainable source.  The aluminum is mostly recycled content.  All factory scrap glass and aluminum is recycled. Wood scraps are given away to local residents for use as fuel for home heaters.  The sawdust is given to a local farmer for use as bedding for livestock.

January 11, 2010

Three Reasons Why You Should Add a Sunroom This Year

Filed under: Tips — Sunrooms by Brady @ 12:46 pm

Summer Sunroom StylesMore Americans are choosing to stay in their existing homes right now (rather than buying a new house) than they have in decades. The poor economy is largely to blame, of course. Instead of getting a bigger house, homeowners are choosing instead to remodel their existing space to accommodate their needs. One of the most beautiful ways to add living space is through building a sunroom. Here are three reasons why you should add a sunroom to your home this year.

1. Materials are cheaper right now

Because of the downward spiral in the building industry, basic materials have not been this inexpensive in years and years. It’s been a tough couple of years for builders, but the (more…)

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