How to Choose Energy-Efficient Windows for Your Home

Replacing the windows in your home might not be the most eye-catching upgrade you can make, but it is one of the most cost-effective ways to touch up your home. Invest in energy-efficient windows to save money on energy bills and receive numerous other benefits. Check out the infographic below to help you select the right windows for your home.

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Carrier Heating & Cooling

Willis Carrier, the founder of Carrier Heating & Cooling, invented the first modern air conditioner in 1902. Today, Carrier is the world’s largest HVAC manufacturer. They’re an industry leader in environmentally-friendly practices, building the world’s most energy-efficient air-conditioning and heating systems and phasing out ozone-depleting refrigerants.

HVAC unit outside of home

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Carrier AC and Carrier Furnace Products

The company offers several different products, including Carrier AC systems, Carrier furnace and HVAC systems. Here are some of the most popular Carrier product lines.

Carrier AC

Infinity® Series

This Carrier AC series is the top-of-the-line Carrier AC system. It’s the quietest, most efficient line of AC units they make thanks to the Silencer System II™.

These units would work well in any home, especially one with infants or light sleepers where a unit’s noise would disturb their sleep. The system is equipped with a dehumidifier, making it perfect for humid zones.

Performance™ Series 

The Performance™ Series is perfect for homeowners with a mid-range budget. Five capacity sizes are available including a compact AC unit for smaller homes with limited installation space.

Choose the Performance™ Series if you’re living in a smaller home or apartment. The compact unit is smaller, yet still quiet and efficient.

Comfort™ Series

The Comfort™ Series is the most economical Carrier system. You’ll save on both the system and your utility bill costs because of their impressive SEER efficiency ratings, which range up to 16.

The Comfort™ Series is perfect for a starter home or in situations where your budget may be limited. 

Carrier Furnace

Infinity® Series Gas Furnace

This Carrier furnace series features both variable speed and two speed gas furnaces. There is also an Infinity® gas furnace with Greenspeed® Intelligence technology that monitors temperature and humidity both indoors and outdoors to automatically adjust the furnace operation for maximum comfort and energy efficiency.

Great for homes in regions where day-to-night temperatures vary dramatically.

Performance™ Series Oil Furnace

An efficient and quiet furnace with a high-efficiency (86.6% AFUE) rate. Best for very cold climates where a powerful furnace that can heat a home in the coldest weather is important. 

Carrier HVAC

Infinity® Series

A smart system designed for superior comfort and efficiency in either heating or cooling mode. Homes in areas that experience four-season weather extremes would benefit from this series.

Comfort™ Series

The most economical way to get a more energy-efficient HVAC system. This series includes summer dehumidification. Perfect for homes in humid, temperate regions where both heating and cooling are needed.

Why Choose Carrier?

Carrier is the leader in energy-efficient systems and earth-friendly practices, like eliminating refrigerants that destroy our ozone layer. Plus, some of the world’s most famous historic sites and landmarks trust and use Carrier AC and heating, including:

  • The Sistine Chapel in Italy
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia
  • Galleria Degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy

The company also has a rebate center to help you save money through state and local rebates. They offer flexible financing with many payment options and have a unique Lease-to-Own program.

Carrier HVAC Warranty

Carrier offers a 10-year Carrier parts limited warranty for Infinity, Performance and Comfort series units for residential installation as long as the homeowner registers the unit within 90 days of installation. 

The warranty can be transferred to a home’s new owner as long as the new owner registers the Carrier AC within 90 days.

Who Is Carrier Best For?

Homeowners looking to upgrade their current HVAC system to something more energy efficient can choose from wide product range with Carrier. Homeowners that are bothered by the noise levels of standard systems would also appreciate how many Carrier AC systems incorporate quiet technology like the Silencer System II™.

Frequently asked questions

How much does a Carrier HVAC system cost?

Pricing for a Carrier HVAC system depends on both the type of system you choose and the size of the unit. For the most accurate pricing information, it’s best to contact a Carrier dealer to request an estimate for your home.

How long do Carrier furnace systems last?

According to Carrier: “A gas furnace can last 20-25 years. There are many variables that affect the life expectancy of your specific equipment, including the frequency of routine maintenance.”

Where can I buy a Carrier HVAC system?

Visit and enter your zip code to find a dealer near you.

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Lennox Heating & Cooling

In business since 1895, Lennox Heating and Cooling offers furnaces, air conditioners, thermostats, air purification systems, filters and more for homes and businesses. Based in Texas, they have manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and dealers all across the U.S.

HVAC maintenance

Christian Delbert / Shuttershock

Lennox products

Lennox offers a range of HVAC products, including air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, packaged units and boilers. Their AC units, furnaces and heat pumps are organized into three different lines of products:

  • Dave Lennox Signature Collection
  • ELITE® Series
  • MERIT® Series

Lennox air conditioners are known for their top-of-the-line technology such as SilentComfort™, which is 50% quieter than standard air conditioners, and Humiditrol®, a whole-home dehumidification system which cuts down on humidity levels. Lower humidity levels can make a home feel cooler.

Many of their furnaces have very high efficiency ratings that can add up to big savings every year. Some also have ultra-low emissions as well as variable speed motors, which ensure a consistent temperature while using as little fuel as possible, thus reducing utility costs.  

Lennox smart technology thermostats allow you to control temperatures even when away from the house or from the comfort of your couch. Depending on the model, they can interact with Amazon Alexa and with any Google Assistant device.

Lennox reviews, ratings and customer satisfaction

Consumer Reports gives Lennox air conditioners a rating of Excellent. This rating is based on owner satisfaction and the percentage of members who are extremely likely to recommend their central air conditioning brand to others. 

The average rating on the Lennox website for furnaces is 4.7 out of 5.

Reasons why Lennox is a great option

Lennox products may cost more up front, but their energy saving technology can mean lower utility bills in the future. They have also won multiple green product awards, including one for introducing the industry’s first ultra-low emissions furnace to the market.

Another advantage is the multitude of products with various price points and options. This allows consumers to work within their budgets and needs.

Lennox also offers long warranties. Air conditioners have a 10-year limited warranty on covered components, including the compressor, and their furnaces have a lifetime limited warranty on the heat exchanger and a 5-year limited warranty on all remaining covered components. Their thermostats have a 5-year limited warranty.

 Frequently asked questions

How much does a Lennox HVAC system cost?

Prices vary depending on the products chosen, the size of the home, and the area in which you live. Lennox offers an overview of all the factors that can go into the price of an HVAC system.

 How long do Lennox furnace systems last?

A Lennox furnace should last about 15 to 20 years.

 Where can I buy a Lennox HVAC system?

You can go to their website and enter your zip code to find a dealer near you.

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Andersen Windows

Andersen Windows is the largest window company in the world. Founded in 1903 as a lumber company, it was named the top window brand for wood and wood-clad windows by Builder Magazine.

Second story window shot above garage

romacoma / Shuttershock

Andersen Windows products

Andersen has six main product lines of windows. Here they are, listed from least expensive to most expensive:

100 Series

Featuring the lowest Andersen Windows prices of all the collections. Available as a window replacement or new build, 100 Series windows are made of Fibrex composite, which is more durable than vinyl. The perfect entry-level window for a starter home that doesn’t skimp on quality.

200 Series

Quality windows that keep the cost down because they’re only available in the most popular sizes and options. They feature a wood interior frame with a vinyl exterior that holds up to the elements. The wood interior casing of the 200 Series windows work well in traditional homes.

400 Series

Andersen’s most popular series. It’s similar in construction to the 200 Series but offers more size, finish and hardware options. The perfect choice if you want quality, lasting windows when you have unusually-sized windows that require specific dimensions.

Renewal by Andersen

This replacement window line comes with an at-home design consultation and installation by Andersen for a full-service experience.  

Architectural Collection E-Series

These windows are made to your exact specifications and have a contemporary design for homes that are more modern in style.

Architectural Collection A-Series

Andersen’s top-of-the-line collection featuring all-wood construction and the highest efficiency of all. Other features include:

  • A selection of natural wood species
  • Painted or factory-finished stain options
  • Designed to hold up against hurricane-force winds

The A-Series window collection is durable enough to withstand the harsh weather of coastal regions.

Andersen Windows reviews, ratings and customer satisfaction

Renewal by Andersen wins J.D. Power’s highest rating in customer satisfaction.

Reasons why Andersen Windows is a great option

Whether you’re replacing your windows or working on a new construction project, Andersen offers a wide variety of windows including awning, bay, gliding and casement styles. Here are some of the features that make Andersen a great choice:

  • They can be further customized by choosing from the many hardware options.
  • Art Glass is available as an upgrade to add color or a unique look to your windows.
  • All Andersen windows are energy-efficient.

Andersen Window Prices

Prices can vary dramatically according to style, hardware options and area. The average cost below is for the most popular size and hardware option, according to Andersen Windows. Prices will vary depending on the authorized dealer in your area.
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Window style  Average Window cost Average Installed Window cost
100 $250 $380
200 $270 $360
400 $395 $500
Renewal N/A $975
E-Series $975 $1100
A-Series $1090 $1250

Andersen Windows Warranties

Andersen breaks their warranties down into three categories:

  • Materials/Frame: 10-year transferable warranty.
  • Glass: 20-year transferable warranty against defects. 
  • Labor: Renewal is the only series that covers labor for 10 years.

Frequently asked questions

How much do windows from Andersen Windows cost?

Andersen makes windows for every style and budget. Windows cost as low as $100.

What types of windows does Andersen Windows sell?

They’re known best for their quality wood windows but also offer a 100-Series fiberglass composite style that’s budget-friendly and more durable than vinyl windows.

Where can I buy Andersen windows?

Enter your zip code in their dealer finder page to find where you can buy Andersen windows near you.

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Pella Windows

Pella has been in the window and door industry since 1925. They provide a wide range of wood, fiberglass and vinyl window options. They also offer top-of-the-line windows with smart home technology that continues their tradition of industry innovation. Their Insynctive technology adds security sensors to every window and door in your home. You can monitor your home with their free app on both Android and Apple devices. Whatever your needs, Pella will have the right style and type of window for your home, including completely customized pieces.

Table with windows in background for pella

S_Photo / Shuttershock


Pella Windows products and pricing

Pella offers three different frame materials and several style options, including completely customized windows. The first step is to choose between wood, fiberglass and vinyl windows. 

Architect Series®

Wood windows come in traditional and contemporary styles. Their Architect Series® Traditional Windows were also voted an ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2019 product and are compatible with their smart home technology.

Price range: $136 – $355 (for Pella Lifestyle Series Double Hung Windows)

Impervia® Series

If durability is important to you, their Pella® Impervia® fiberglass windows are a good option. They include Duracast®, “The most durable material available in windows.” Duracast is made of five layers that protect your windows from both extreme heat and cold.

Price range: $131 – $240 (for Pella Impervia Series Double Hung Windows)

350, 250 and Encompass Series

Vinyl windows are a great option if you’re looking for something simple, affordable and that are easy to maintain. Pella offers three options, including their 350 Series, 250 Series and Encompass by Pella® series — one of their most affordable options. And they’re not just affordable. They are some of the easiest windows to maintain, also making them one of the longest-lasting.

Price range: $109 – $220 (for Pella Encompass Series Double Hung Windows)

Note that pricing for windows varies based on each individual project. To find out what your windows will cost, it’s best to contact a local dealer and get an estimate. They will also be able to tell you about specific warranties for each product.

Pella Windows reviews, ratings, customer satisfaction

Pella is well-known in the industry. They have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and received a “better than most” score in operational performance and durability in the Windows and Patio Doors Satisfaction Study (Manufacturer) (2018) by J.D. Power.

Reasons why Pella Windows is a great option

Pella replacement windows can offer homeowners a ton of benefits, including windows that exceed ENERGY STAR requirements in all 50 states, enhanced noise reduction and innovative technologies like integrated blinds and built-in security sensors. Few companies have as big of an impact in the industry with prices that are affordable and materials that stand the test of time.

Pella offers a limited lifetime warranty on many of its products, including wood, vinyl and fiberglass windows. Pella replacement windows also come with the Pella Care Guarantee for customers who purchase and install through a local Pella Window and Door showroom.

Pella windows FAQs

  • How much do windows from Pella cost?

The cost will depend on the size of the project. You can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $1,325 per window installed, depending on your choices and the price of installation. 

  • What types of windows does Pella sell?

Pella sells wood, fiberglass and vinyl windows in a variety of styles. For more information, click here.

  • Where can I buy Pella windows?

To find a local dealer, visit this link and enter your zip code.

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The Best Renters Insurance for 2019

Having the best renters insurance is a crucial protective hedge for preserving all of the things you love about your home. Choosing the right insurance on your own can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve crafted the definitive one-stop guide to finding the very best renters insurance on the market.

Our Renters Insurance Top Picks Are the Following:

Find the Best Renters Insurance Rates

Renters insurance rates can vary greatly depending on where you live, so it is important to compare all of your options. To quickly find the best rates in your area, simply enter your ZIP code below.

Enter Your ZIP Code:

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Best Renters Insurance

American Family – #1 Choice for Renters Insurance

After poring over mounds of reviews, customer ratings and speaking with an insurance agent of over 15 years, we found American Family to be the clear #1 choice for renters insurance, according to J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Home Insurance Study of Renters Insurance. American Family’s affordability, paired with its unrivaled customer-service interaction, policy offerings, price, billing processes and policy information, set it apart from the crowd.

In our research, much like with home insurance, we found that local and regional options like state Farm Bureaus can often be the best fit, since these companies offer unique insight into the region they cover. However, for this article we chose to focus solely on national companies, available to the majority of Americans.

Although American Family ultimately shined the brightest, many outstanding companies were in the running. Here are a few that excelled in specific areas.

State Farm – Best for Most People

Although rates are largely dependent on geographic location, State Farm tends to offer better-than-average premium rates in the United States. With a huge share of the market, rock-solid financial standing and low premiums, State Farm is a good option for anyone looking to insure their home at a great price. The only area they seem to fail a bit is customer satisfaction with the claim process. Other than that, they are right up there with American Family.

USAA – Best Overall If You Qualify

USAA is often considered the gold standard for insurance companies. The company boasts excellent add-on coverage, including identity-theft protection and flood protection, something that’s next to impossible to find elsewhere. To take advantage, you must be enlisted or have served in the United States military, but if you qualify, it’s hard to find a better option on the national market. USAA ranks high in all areas of coverage, including the claim process.

Allstate – For Online Resources & Digital Experience

Allstate comes out on top when searching for renters insurance online. For the most part, the premiums are at or below average, but if you live in a high-risk area (for theft, arson, flooding, etc.), the policies can be far more expensive than other companies. Coverage, pricing and customer service all rank high, as does the convenience of online resources. The one place Allstate’s coverage falls short is on electronics, which reimburses $1,000 per item. That means that $5,000 computer and printer won’t be covered for more than $1,000 if stolen. Even so, you can talk to an agent about additional coverage.

Nationwide – Best for Discounts

Nationwide came in below American Family in most areas of coverage. However, Nationwide’s renters policies are top-tier when covering the contents of your home or apartment. They even provide coverage for loss of use — or the out-of-pocket expenses you’ll encounter if you need to find another place to live.

Nationwide has coverage for medical payments to others, personal liability, credit card coverage for unauthorized usage and building additions and alterations. It’s website also does a nice job stating what you need to know about renters insurance. It didn’t outdo Allstate or American Family in those areas, but might give you the cheapest quote thanks to its many discounts

American Family – A Full Review

Whether you’re buying your dream house or renting your first apartment, there’s no place like home — and we believe that’s worth protecting.

In our research, we unequivocally found that American Family offers a fairly standard renter’s policy. But, their optional coverages and discounts are worth noting and quite comprehensive, fully customizable and backed by a solid company. Overall, according to Consumers Advocate, on a scale of 1 to 5, American Family renter’s insurance ranked:

  • 4.0/5 – Coverage Options
  • 4.3/5 – Add-Ons & Discounts
  • 3.5/5 – Customer Service
  • 4.3/5 – Financial Strength


American Family offers all of the standard coverage options you’d expect for a top-ranked company, including liability, loss of use and property damage. They also have a wide selection of policy options and add-on coverages, which include travel insurance, identity theft protection, home based-businesses insurance and pet insurance.

Add-ons and Discounts

American Family Insurance offers a wide range of discounts for customers who opt to bundle their renters insurance with other policies. You’ll also receive a discount if you have been claim-free for at least five years, and started using smart technology, like devices that monitor air quality, fire, temperature, humidity, intruders, etc. You can even qualify for additional discounts if you opt for a preferred method of payment, if you become a loyal customer, or if you have a parent that is also a member of American Family Insurance.

Customer Services

On the topic of customer service and claims, data collected by the NAIC reveals that American Family received less than the national median ratio of complaints regarding their renters/homeowners insurance product in 2017. However, they do only hold an A rating with the Better Business Bureau. This is based on 42, mostly negative, customer reviews. Still, when compared to most other renters insurance companies, Americna Family ranks well within the top.

Financial Strength

Although American Family does not have a financial strength rating with Moody’s Investor Services or S&P global, the company holds an A (Excellent) rating for stable long-term issuer credit outlook and financial strength with the insurance-centered credit rating agency A.M. American Family also has over 8.3 million active members, making them financially stable with a proven ability to fulfill future policyholder obligations.

One customer we spoke with said, “The customer service is great. I even spoke to a real human. My claim was handled fairly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for more.”

As with any kind of insurance, we would recommend consulting with a personal agent to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. In general, talking with an agent about your insurance policy can help you avoid financial pitfalls and find one to fit your individual needs.

Who Should Skip

American Family does not have coverage in every city or state in the nation. And, although their website is comprehensive and easy to navigate, it cannot give you a complete quote. (this is due to so many factors that determine each renters rate, discounts, qualifications, etc.). Therefore, it’s better to consider this insurance company when you have the time to sit down and speak with a local agent. Nonetheless, its comprehensive coverage at competitive prices make American Family our #1 pick.

What made American Family stand out:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Competitive rates across the board
  • Consistently fair payouts of claims
  • Discounts and bundling opportunities
  • Top-of-the-line company with strong financial backing

How We Chose the Best Renters Insurance

We spent more than 50 hours breaking down dozens of reviews and independent ratings to get a grasp on the companies that had the most to offer. We spoke with customers of various firms to get a sense of how large enterprises treat their customers when it comes time to file a claim. Finally, we sat down with an experienced agent to gain insight on the intricacies of purchasing renters insurance, and what to look for in a policy.

Overall, we learned that renters insurance is extremely individualized. Insurance, in effect, is purchasing the peace of mind that your belongings will be protected should tragedy strike.

An important note for any renter to know: Your landlord’s homeowners insurance policy will typically only cover the actual building you live in. This essentially means that everything inside those walls is your responsibility to protect, which is why choosing the very best insurer is a must.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re renting a house or hopping from apartment to apartment to find the perfect fit, your home is your sanctuary. It’s where you live and thrive, and we love helping you make it the best it can be.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all choices for insurance, we (along with many other reviews and reputable companies) believe that American Family is the best overall choice to shield your home and your wallet. Given how regionalized and individualized renters insurance is, we encourage you to speak with local agents and educate yourself on the specific insurance needs of a home in your area.


Interview: G.K. Pippin, North Carolina Farm Bureau insurance agent
J.D. Powers U.S. Home Insurance Study – Renters Insurance (2019):—Renters-Insurance/10184ENG

Consumer Advocate:

American Family Insurance:

Dorothy Wilson, American Family customer

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Best Outdoor Security Cameras

In 2017, there were roughly 1.4 million burglaries across the United States according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting report. In the same report, it is stated that victims of these offenses lost an estimated $3.4 billion in property. It is increasingly clear how important it is to adequately protect your home, no matter where you live, to avoid property loss and potential harm to your family. 

The hard part begins when you initiate your first search online in quest of the best outdoor security systems and find so many choices that you don’t know where to begin. We have remedied that for you by reviewing and selecting the top factors to consider and providing our top five recommended outdoor security systems. 

Home Security Camera Shot

Photographicss / Shuttershock

What to Look For in an Outdoor Security System

First, in establishing your outdoor security options, it is important to know what factors to consider. 

  • Cost – As with any investment, it is important to first determine your budget. With a large number of outdoor security camera options available comes a large variance in prices. Decide what you can afford to spend, both upfront and ongoing, before you begin.
  • Video quality – We’ve all seen the news clips of a burglar caught on tape – but the video quality is so poor you cannot determine the color of the burglar’s hair, much less their identity. With today’s technology, you can avoid this dilemma by selecting high-resolution outdoor security cameras. Look for cameras with 1080p or higher resolution.
  • Night vision – Look for cameras with infrared technology and at least 100 feet of vision so you can keep a close eye on the perimeter of your home even in the dark.
  • Camera operating functions – If you want the capability for your cameras to pan, tilt and zoom, it will be important to select cameras with those specific functionalities. Camera panning means the camera moves horizontally from left to right. When you think of camera panning, think of taking a panoramic picture except in video format. Panning, tilting, and zooming are important to capture a greater range around the camera.
  • Mobile accessibility – If you are interested in the ability to view your home security camera footage from a mobile device and receive motion alerts, it will be important to look for outdoor security cameras that offer this capability and be sure they will work with your specific mobile devices. There may be extra fees involved in this feature.
  • Customer reviews – Look for unbiased customer reviews whether through friends and relatives or third-party sites like Filter out the one-off outlier type of reviews and look for the reviews that are consistent.

The Top Five Outdoor Security Systems

1. Nest Cam Outdoor

Now owned by Google, Nest home security products aim to simplify yet expand your home security needs. The ability to combine Nest with your other Google devices gives you one simple Google login to manage all devices from anywhere in the world. Nest offers doorbell cameras called Nest Hello, other outdoor cameras called Nest Cam Outdoor, smart thermostats called Nest Hub, and a variety of other smart home products. 

Nest Outdoor Camera Options:

Nest Cam Outdoor – The Nest Cam Outdoor is one of the more affordable outdoor security camera options, starting at around $200 each. This discreet and compact camera offers 1080p video resolution with continuous recording and up to 20 feet of night vision. All videos can be stored in the cloud and are accessible using the Nest mobile app. The Nest app also allows you to receive alerts and view your home’s outdoor activity at any time, right from your mobile device.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor – A close relative of the Nest Cam Outdoor and offering many of the same features, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor also offers a built-in 4k sensor that allows up to 12x zoom for clear close-up views. It is also IP66 certified which means it is dust-tight and protected from water. This outdoor security camera comes at a starting price of around $399 each.

Nest Hello – Nest’s doorbell camera is a tiny but powerful gadget measuring only 4.6 by 1.7 inches. It fits right into your doorbell providing an up-close view of anyone who approaches your door. True to all of Nest’s cam products, it offers high-resolution 1080p HD video that you can monitor from your Nest App at any time. This doorbell camera is priced starting at around $229.

All Nest cams come with a 2-year limited manufacturer’s warranty. 

2. Arlo 

Arlo’s purpose in the home security industry is to provide the ability to “protect and connect with the people and places we love”. They offer indoor and outdoor cameras, cellular cameras, baby cameras, security lights, and more. 

Arlo Outdoor Camera Options:

Arlo Ultra – The Arlo Ultra is Arlo’s top indoor/outdoor security camera. A two indoor/outdoor camera kit can cost around $599. It offers 4K video quality, color night vision up to 25 feet, continuous recording, and up to 12X zoom. There is a built-in siren for additional protection against intruders. These devices are IP65-certified and offer noise-reduction technology so your videos are not impaired by wind and other noises. Using the Arlo app, you can see what’s going on outside your home at all times and view previously recorded videos stored in the cloud. The Ultra also comes with a 1-year trial subscription for Arlo Smart.

Arlo Pro – Sold as a 2-camera kit, the Arlo Pro can be purchased for $499, with each additional camera costing $190 each. It offers 2K high-resolution video and color night vision. Like the Ultra, it also includes a built-in siren and LED spotlight. The Pro 3 comes with a 3-month subscription trial to Arlo Smart.

Arlo Pro 2 – The Arlo Pro 2 comes in a 2 camera kit for $324. Additional cameras cost $144 each. The Pro 2 offers 1080p video resolution and night vision, but only in black and white. It does not offer the siren or LED spotlight and does not come with a trial subscription to Arlo Smart. 

All Arlo cameras are wireless, can be used with the Arlo mobile app, and come with a minimum 1-year manufacturer warranty.

3. Ring 

The inventor of Ring shares that his idea for the Ring Video Doorbell was coined by his wife as, “like caller ID for the front door.” This began the launch of the Ring Video Doorbell which later grew into security cameras, smart lighting, security systems, and televisions. Their mission, simply put, is to reduce crime in neighborhoods. 

Ring Outdoor Camera Options:

Stick Up Cam – Ring’s Stick Up Cam is a small device measuring only 3.82 X 2.36 X 2.36 inches. It offers 1080p HD high-resolution video and can be put up anywhere with or without hardwiring. The Ring app allows you to view what’s going on outside your home from your mobile device. It includes a built-in siren to dissuade intruders and is waterproof to withstand outdoor precipitation. Starting at $179.99, the Stick Up Cam is an affordable option. You will also need to pay for cloud storage, but this will only add about $3 a month to your cost.

Spotlight Cam – The Spotlight Cam features 1080p HD video and is known for extra bright lights which provide for clearer video playback. If a potential intruder approaches the area within the range of the device, a bright light will shine and a siren will sound. It can also be used with the Ring app with storage costing $3 per month. You can purchase a Spotlight Cam for starting prices of $199 depending on whether you choose a wired, wireless or solar-powered model.

Floodlight Cam – The Floodlight Cam offers 1080p HD video, night vision and noise cancellation with a wide-degree field of view. Each Floodlight contains two 3000 degree Kelvin floodlights with a built-in siren and zooming and panning abilities. The Floodlight Cam’s sensors can detect motion from far away and can even detect the difference between a person and an object. This cam must be hardwired into the home and also connects with the Ring app. To purchase this camera will cost you $249 and the $3 per month cloud storage fee.

Most Ring cameras are offered in a wired or wireless version and the Spotlight Cam comes in a solar version as well. Another perk, Ring offers lifetime replacement on stolen cameras and a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty on parts and labor. 

4. Blink

Blink, recently acquired by Amazon, calls itself the next generation of home security cameras. Promising a 1-click connection at an affordable price, Blink is known for no contracts and easy DIY installation. 

Blink Outdoor Camera Options:

Blink XT2 One Camera System – The XT2 records video in 1080p HD during the day and infrared HD night vision after dark. IP65 certified, it is made to stand up to the outdoor elements. The customizable motion sensor allows you to select activity zones so you only receive alerts for those areas. Blink offers a month-to-month agreement with free cloud storage. Using the Blink app, you can keep an eye on what the camera sees at all times and receive important alerts.

5. Kasa Cam

Before creating their smart plug, Kasa Smart was TP-Link, known for all things smart home. Since then they’ve launched smart bulbs, smart light switches, smart cameras and an entire line of smart plugs. Kasa Smart promises an immersive and connected smart home experience.

Kasa Smart Camera Options:

Kasa Cam Outdoor – The Kasa Cam Outdoor offers high-resolution 1080p video and night vision up to 30 feet. The built-in siren offers extra protection to scare off intruders. Using the Kasa Smart app, you can view your home from anywhere. These start at $90 and come with an optional Kasa Care package – a $4-$7 a month subscription plan giving you some video storage space. TP-Link offers a 2-year warranty on the Kasa Cam Outdoor.

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All About Bamboo Flooring — Understand Your Options

Bamboo Flooring Guide

Whether you’re looking to improve the appearance of one room in your house or hoping to install a durable, eco-friendly flooring option throughout your home, bamboo floors combine the resilience of hardwood flooring with the easy maintenance of laminate.

Dog sleeping on bamboo flooring

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Like any type of flooring, bamboo floors bring with them a range of advantages and a couple of drawbacks. Though they are more vulnerable to being scratched, they are easy to maintain and restore. And while some bamboo floors are constructed with VOCs that can reduce air quality, you can find chemical-free options on the market as well.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks associated with installing a bamboo floor and help you find the best resources for pricing and bamboo floor reviews. Read on to discover more about the different types of bamboo floors currently on the market, as well as which homes can benefit from this type of flooring.

Your Guide to bamboo flooring

Bamboo is a quick-growing grass, the shoots and stalks of which are processed to create bamboo flooring. In fact, this process takes place without even destroying the plant itself. After undergoing a range of processes including boiling, fusing, and pressurizing, bamboo materials are formed into wood-like planks.

Bamboo flooring overview

Bamboo flooring is more water-resistant than some types of hardwood flooring, making it an appealing option for areas in the home that may incur light moisture. This is especially true if the bamboo floor is laid over proper sub-flooring or underlayment.

There are three types of bamboo flooring: vertical, horizontal, and strand-woven.

  1. 1. Vertical bamboo floors are developed by fusing stalks in a vertical manner, which produces consistent, vertical lines that yield a modern look and feel.
  2. 2. Horizontal bamboo floors utilize alternating layers of the plant to highlight the bamboo’s growth joints. This type of processing allows for a more organic impression.
  3. 3. Strand-woven bamboo flooring is created from shredded bamboo fibers, which are fused under intense heat and pressure to deliver the most durable type of bamboo floor available.

All of these bamboo flooring options can be made to resemble various types of hardwood flooring to fit the aesthetic you have in mind for your living space.

Bamboo Floor Pros

Eco-friendly – This type of flooring is derived from natural vegetation – the bamboo plant. Bamboo is a renewable resource that can be grown much faster than other types of trees used for hardwood flooring. Bamboo reaches maturity in as little as three to five years, while other trees like maple and oak can take between ten and twenty years to be fully grown.

Easy to maintain – You can keep your bamboo floors maintained with regular sweeping and vacuuming and periodic damp mopping. Though bamboo flooring is more susceptible to scratches, it is very easy to maintain. The restoration process simply includes being sanded down and refinished, leaving you with bamboo floors that are as good as new.

Durable – Certain types of bamboo flooring are just as durable as some hardwood floors such as red oak. Durable forms of bamboo flooring are made from properly processed un-carbonized bamboo. Floors made from strand-woven bamboo are even tougher.

Trendy – Bamboo floors are currently very trendy in the interior design industry. They provide a sense of luxury to any living or corporate space and have an alluring appearance similar to that of hardwood flooring.

Bottom Line: Which types of homes would benefit from bamboo flooring?

If you’re looking for flooring that offers a hardwood-floor-like appearance but that is easier to maintain, bamboo floors are a great option. Since bamboo can be grown more quickly than hardwood trees, it’s also a more eco-friendly option.

Bamboo Floor Cons

Volatile organic chemicals emissions – Although bamboo flooring comes from natural products, the adhesive used with it can produce volatile organic chemical (VOC) emissions, which impact air quality. However, the Environmental Protection Agency asserts that “engineered wood flooring and bamboo flooring must be certified under the UL GREENGUARD or FloorScore indoor emissions testing programs.” Some engineered bamboo floors are constructed without the use of toxic chemicals and may be available for special order

Vulnerable to scratches – As mentioned above, bamboo flooring is more likely to incur scratches than some other floor types. From shoes to pets to furniture, bamboo floors can be damaged on the surface level by a variety of culprits. However, despite this fact, the floors can be easily maintained and restored with proper care.

Vulnerable to water damage – Though bamboo is slightly more water-resistant than its hardwood counterparts, significant water damage can cause floorboards to become warped and/or stained.

No standardized grading system – Bamboo floorboards differ from piece to piece, and there is currently no standardized grading system for consumers to consider. Though some retailers sort bamboo into A or B grades based on materials used, this system is not verified by an independent assessor, and therefore may not be completely reliable.

Bottom Line: Which types of homes might not be best-suited for bamboo flooring?

Bamboo flooring should not be used in areas that are likely to be vulnerable to water damage. Therefore, forego adding a bamboo floor to your bathroom, kitchen, and other moisture-prone areas within the home.

Bamboo flooring pricing

Bamboo flooring is typically affordable, although prices range depending on the exact look and type of bamboo you prefer.

Prices for bamboo flooring can be as low as $1.99 per square foot and increase to upwards of $9 per square foot, according to the type of bamboo floor you select. For example, EcoTimber’s Natural Skin bamboo planks cost $9.76 per square foot and consist of a surface layer made from a sole bamboo stalk that has been cut and then compressed flat.

On the other hand, Home Decorators Collection bamboo planks feature “classic natural horizontal bamboo with ‘knuckles’” and cost $1.99 per square foot. You can find various types of bamboo floors that fall between those price parameters as well.

Bamboo flooring reviews

When weighing your options for bamboo flooring, be sure to read a variety of reviews to determine which floor is best for you. Review the Consumer Reports Floor Buying Guide to see how bamboo floors compare to other flooring options.

Additionally, you should research industry-leading critics and professionals who can offer detailed insights into the best bamboo flooring options currently available.

Before having your preferred bamboo floor installed, it’s also crucial to read over reviews from contractors in your local area. Look for reviews that discuss the professionalism and quality of the contractor, as well as the warranties and packages they have to offer. Shop around to find the best quality for the best price.

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3 Best Replacement Window Brands of 2019

If you’re looking for new replacement windows, there are a lot of factors to consider before deciding which is the best window brand for you. What do you value most when it comes to replacement windows? Here are some of the questions you should answer before purchasing:

  • What is your budget?
  • What style of replacement windows do you like?
  • Do you want energy-efficient windows?
  • What type of frames do you need?
  • What warranty options are available?
  • Do you need your replacement windows professionally installed? 

This deep dive into the three best replacement window brands of 2019 considers all of these factors in order to help you decide which replacement windows are right for you.

new replacement windows with green trim

Noel V. Baebler / Shutterstock

The 3 best replacement window brands

Pella Windows

If you value high-quality, energy-efficient windows backed by years of experience, then Pella is a great option for you. The company has been around for nearly 100 years and is a true leader in window innovation. Additionally, they offer an energy-efficient product line with “options that will meet or exceed ENERGY STARⓇ certifications in all 50 states.” And no matter your favorite styles, colors and materials, Pella offers the perfect replacement windows for you.

Pricing: The price of Pella windows depends on the style and material you choose. Double-hung windows from Pella cost between $124 and $355.

Andersen Windows

Andersen Windows is another best brand for several good reasons: they’re long lasting, energy efficient and low maintenance. You can trust that these replacement windows, which offer a modern style,  will hold up well over time. Best of all, Andersen allows you to design your own replacement windows so you get a good match for your home.

Pricing: The design-your-own option will vary depending on the type of window you need, but the average replacement double-hung window from Andersen costs between $409 and $674.

Simonton Windows

If you’re looking for vinyl replacement windows, Simonton is the brand you want. While they’re known for their vinyl, their customer service and impressive warranties are proof that this brand is committed to quality. In fact, they’ve won multiple awards for their quality and performance. When you’re looking for durability and customer satisfaction from your replacement windows, Simonton is a great place to start. 

Pricing: The cost for Simonton double-hung replacement windows can range from  $150 to $1000, depending on the size of the window, the type of vinyl chosen and the thickness of the glass..

Window Warranties

Even with the best window brands, there is bound to be a defect from time to time. It is essential to consider the warranties offered when choosing a replacement window brand. Without a good warranty, you could lose hundreds of dollars to remove a bad window and then reinstall a new one.

Pella offers a variety of warranties on their products. One of the best offers is The Pella Care Guarantee, which “is available exclusively for replacement customers who purchase and install Pella products through their local Pella Window and Door Showrooms.”

Andersen also offers a warranty on all of its products, and it can even be transferred if you sell your home.  If/when you sell your home, you can transfer your warranty to the new owner with their exclusive Owner-to-Owner limited warranty.

Simonton’s warranties have helped them win awards for customer satisfaction. Like some of Andersen’s warranties, they are also transferable. Many products from Simonton come with a limited lifetime warranty.

window open in home

Regfer / Shutterstock

Window Replacement Process

Once you decide which is the best replacement window brand for you, next you’ll have to find the right supplier/distributor to purchase them from. Some companies have local showrooms that sell their products. Another great option is to visit a home improvement store, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, or to shop their sites.

After you have purchased the replacement windows, you’ll then need to hire a qualified local installer to install the windows in your home. The companies often train their preferred contractors and dealers so that your replacement windows are installed quickly and perfectly. Before you hire anyone, be sure to search for them online so that you can read reviews from other customers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1. What is the best brand of replacement windows? 

The best option for your home will differ depending on your budget and window needs. Consider costs, available styles, energy efficiency, frame types, warranties and professional installation options.

  1. 2. How do I buy replacement windows?

The best place to start is the company’s website. They make it easy to purchase directly from them and often have contacts for qualified installers to install the replacement windows in your home. 

  1. 3. Where can I buy replacement windows?

In addition to purchasing online from the company’s website, you can also go to your local home improvement store, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. These stores often sell the best window brands.

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DIY Home Security

Home security systems may seem expensive, but there are several ways you can get around high-cost systems by using DIY home security systems that you install yourself. Each company offers different services, features and add-ons that can bolster your sense of safety.

Find out exactly what to expect from the DIY version of home security, as well as the pros and cons of choosing this route. We’ll also give you insight on how to choose the best DIY home security system for your own home.

DIY home security cameras and hardware

pratan / Shuttershock

Your Guide to DIY home security systems

Here’s everything you need to know about DIY home security systems so you can decide if this type of protection is right for you. 

DIY home security systems overview 

Home security systems that allow for DIY installation instead of professional installation can be faster to set up because you can install them on your schedule. At the same time, it’s up to you to make sure your home’s entry points are adequately covered and that all devices are properly installed.

With some systems like Canary, you can use a mobile app rather than a traditional monitoring system to monitor your home. You receive alerts when an alarm is triggered in your home, which allows you to review the incident and decide whether or not to call the local authorities for help.

Most companies also offer the option to upgrade and connect your security system to a monitoring center for additional support. You still get alerts through the app, but if the monitoring center can’t contact you, they’ll call the authorities on your behalf. Others, like SimpliSafe, automatically integrate a monitoring service into your plan so that professionals are prepared to contact the police on your behalf if necessary.

Today’s DIY home security systems operate using a central hub, like a touchscreen control pad, in your home that connects through Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. Some companies, including SimpliSafe, use cellular systems so you don’t have to worry about losing the connection if your internet goes out. 

Available add-ons include DIY home security video cameras, as well as video doorbells. Other package deals allow you to integrate additional features like key fobs, glass break sensors, sirens and smart thermostats.

DIY home security pros 

One of the major advantages of choosing a DIY wireless home security system is that you don’t have to deal with scheduling a professional installation team to oversee the process. That means you can install the system on your own terms without having to take off work or sit around waiting for the installers to show up. 

Additionally, most DIY home security systems don’t require a long-term contract. Whether you move or simply don’t want to spend the money anymore, you can typically cancel at any time with no penalty. 

Many of today’s systems also allow you to connect with other smart home features you already own, like Alexa or Google Assistant. You can use the same verbal commands to control your security system and also set automatic responses. For example, some systems let you control your lights and thermostat remotely. This would allow you to turn on all of the lights in the house if an alarm goes off.

Smart home enabled phone

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DIY home security cons

DIY home security may not be ideal for everyone. One of the downsides is that you have to figure out the monitoring needs of your home on your own, including how many sensors are required for each exterior door and window.

You will also have to install and connect the system on your own. Some DIY home security systems need to be wired directly to your router, while others connect via WiFi. If you’re not technically savvy, you may prefer the option of professional installation.

Finally, the start-up price for the equipment can add up if you have a lot of entry points in your home. Many companies offer a starter package with a set amount of alarms, but you’ll likely need more than what’s included if you have a lot of windows and doors. Plus, it’s up to you to make sure you’re covering all of the vulnerable spots in your home — there’s no professional installer to double-check your system. 

DIY home security system reviews 

When choosing the best DIY home security system, start by comparing costs on the starter kit, the costs for monthly monitoring plans and/or app use, the contract length and integration with your existing smart home products. 

Once you have found a few systems that meet both your needs and your budget, it’s time to assess their quality and brand reputation. Perform a quick online search of your top contenders to see what actual users are saying about the product. Research reviews on the installation process and the ongoing monitoring process. It’s difficult to fully understand the process for installing sensors is if you’re only relying on the company’s marketing. Instead, see how easy or difficult it was for real customers. You might even find helpful tips and tricks. 

Looking at consumer ratings also lets you see how the company handles any customer complaints or problems. You could uncover potential hidden costs and find out how helpful the customer service team is.

Your home security system, especially if it’s a DIY system, is an important investment in the safety of your home and family. Make sure you choose the right system for your needs.

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